Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sports Figures!

Here's something for you sports fans:

As if the mall wasn't already jam-packed on a Saturday. Nothing like former OU footballers to bring out the true-believers.

Since I didn't want an autograph, I was free to wander to the front of the line and grab a shot of the principals:

They seemed like good guys and the crowd was orderly and well-behaved. A good way to celebrate the holiday season.

The Dogs Visit Santa

Emily found out that Saturday was the last day to get your dogs' picture taken with Santa at Petsmart. Well, then, off to Petsmart we went.

I don't know what Pepper and Lucky told Santa they wanted for Christmas but they seemed glad to see him:

They took a couple of pictures so one had to choose carefully:

The dogs were well behaved and Emily was glad they had their chance with Santa. I'd say that made for a pretty good outing, wouldn't you?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Emily and Pepper's 7th - And Last - Obedience Training Class

It's time for final semester tests at school so why should obedience training be any different? Emily and Pepper will be faced with the challenge of showing off all of the commands they've learned over the last eight - okay, for Emily and Pepper it's just been seven - weeks. But they're up for it.

First, we have to make our way through one of the dreariest nights of the season:

Fog, mist, just general wetness. The halos around the streetlights aren't an effect of the my cell phone's camera. They're just that halo-y:

Inside, it's warm and dry. Emily and Pepper are ready to get down to business:

And get down to business they do:

Heeling, staying, lying down, sitting - you name it, they did it. Nearly flawlessly.

That's the instructor at the far left and the black blur is his dog, Josey, a standard poodle. He asked me to look after Josey while he took a quick bathroom break and I gladly did. An opportunity to show off to Emily just how things were done. I called my command over the dog awesome; Emily called it bogus.

Emily and Pepper passed with flying colors and earned their certificate. Yay!

Next up: more classes? Maybe. Emily's booked with some other things in the next few weeks so it might be hard to make time. But these last eight weeks have been a tremendous learning experience. Emily did very well. Pepper, too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rachel's Christmas Concert

Rachel had her Christmas concert with the Westmoore Band and, boy, did they sound good. (And, of course, Rachel sounded the goodest.) They were joined by the two junior high bands - Brink and Moore-West - though not on the stage at the same time but, rather, following the younger bands. The other two bands sounded great as well. All of them played a showpiece from their competition repertoire and then a Christmas-themed piece. Great stuff.

Video? Yep, I've got video. The format just won't upload to Blogger or Youtube.

Still pictures? Clara worked that and I haven't uploaded them, yet. I think they're post-concert anyway. I did have my cell phone camera and both pictures are awful. See?

That's Rachel yawning in the middle.

And that's Rachel all washed out in the stage light.

Well, the best I can do for now. Take my word for it: it was a wonderful evening.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Shopping 2008

We spent the day Saturday Christmas shopping. Did we get it finished? Ha! We barely scratched the surface. But if someone tells you the economy is in the tank, I invite them to come out to the mall parking lot and hike with me from the hinterlands of where I had to park. Good and crowded and that's, well, good.

The reward for putting in a hard day? Lunch at The Cheesecake Factory! Great idea! Too bad everyone else thought it as well. The wait could be long:

Well, it wasn't that long. Besides, no matter how long the wait, it's always worth it at The Cheesecake Factory, isn't it? And this time was no exception. We all had our favorites with Clara actually trying something new: Taquitos! A violation of the cardinal rule of restaurants to never try anything new. Doesn't prove the rule wrong. Just a lucky break.

The perfect end to a great day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rachel and I Saw a Shooting Star!

On our way home from Winter Guard, Rachel and I saw a shooting star! We both whooped with surprise! A glowing blue arc across the sky that began out of nowhere and ended the same way.

Rachel says it's her third. It's my second with her in the car and headed in the same direction - South. I guess she's kinda lucky. Me, too.

Nope, no pictures. It was there and gone just that fast. Incredible.

Emily and Pepper's 6th Obedience Training Class

Sure, it's Emily and Pepper's 6th class but you'll recall we missed one and it's actually the 7th class, which means there's only this evening and next week's lesson to go. Game face: on!

Pepper's excited herself to a blur:

It's best get yourselves composed before the session starts. Let's put ourselves in the right mind to receive training. It's Zen-like:

Time to gather:

Since it's the penultimate session, they worked on a lot of things they'd worked on before, so nothing really new. Pepper had a bit of a time paying attention but after the break she got more into her stride. Overall, Emily and Pepper did very well.

On to the next lesson. Next week is graduation. I imagine they'll have caps and gowns for the dogs, don't you?

(The training sessions take place in the Oklahoma National Guard's Armory, near the capitol. Where else can you find a wide, open space where it's sort of okay if your dog poops or pees? But I don't know if I've been able to capture the sense of openness about the place. Here's a slightly different shot that might give you the sense of it. Me, I like the wooden roof.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Emily's Christmas Concert

Emily had her junior high Christmas band concert this evening - the first concert of many to come, if Rachel's career-arc tells us anything. A big occasion. She's been practicing hard though we're clueless of what we exactly we can expect.

The weather turned off bitter - temperatures in the mid-20s with wind speeds at least twice that number, and a needling of snow, just for good measure. Which meant no Grandma and Grandpa. Rachel had too much end-of-the-semester homework to contend with so that meant only me and Clara in attendance. That was okay. We carried the Emily fan-club load.

Let's start with some embarrassing photos, shall we?

Since it's just the one junior high - usually these things are held jointly with another school - we're in the Brink gymnasium. Not bad seats. We've got a good view of Emily:

That's her right behind the girl in the red. Can't see her? I'll get closer:


Ah. See her now?

Note for next time: Emily should wear red.

They were under the guiding hand of the ever-patient Mr. Ortega, who addresses the crowd here:

Mr Ortega's been teaching these kids a long time - he taught Rachel and his wife gives private lessons to the girls. We love both of them and tonight was another fine example of just what Mr. Ortega can do with these kids. (I liked him from the minute he addressed the parents of Rachel's sixth grade class when he said that any child who wanted to play an instrument could learn to play an instrument. And he's proven himself right ever since.) He trotted them through some of the lessons they'd learned this semester - some Christmas-themed, others not - and then finished with an amazingly good rendition of Winter Wonderland. The perfect sendoff to a chilly night.

Emily was very good and it was thrilling to see her perform. She's got quite a future ahead of her.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Post-Election Tax Advice

OKC Business contacted me the other day about what to expect, tax-wise, from an Obama presidency. The link should work but in case it doesn't, here's the whole thing:

"President-elect Barack Obama campaigned on the need for change. Now that the election is over, one way or another, business owners will likely see just that.

“I don’t know if it’s first on everyone’s mind, but that was one of the big differences between him and (Sen. John) McCain was their tax plans,” said Oklahoma City CPA Peter Terranova. “With Obama’s [tax plan] in place, I guess there may be some changes coming down the road. [People] think taxes will go up, and I think they will.”

Terranova said one of the first ways taxes are expected to rise is by allowing President George W. Bush’s tax cuts to expire and revert to prior rates. The cuts were part of this summer’s stimulus package.

With the national debt of the United States increasing approximately $4 billion per day to more than $10 trillion in November, the federal government will have to do something to back off the slippery slope.

“We know that our country will be looking for dollars,” said Nancy Hyde, CPA. “I think everyone is agreeing that is going to happen and that it has to happen.”

Currently, tax experts agree businesses enjoy a relatively low 15 percent capital gains rate. The rate is applied to profits arising from the sale of things such as stock and other appreciable (generally) assets.

Hyde said the rate is expected to go higher.

Another issue the new administration will be forced to deal with is the federal estate tax.

The federal estate tax is a tax on the right to transfer property at death and is reported on Form 706. The tax is applied to estates exceeding $2 million at death in 2008 and $3.5 million in 2009, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

With a top-bracket rate of 45 percent, taxable items in estates include real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, businesses and decedent-owned life insurance policies.

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 reduced death tax rates and has increased the exemption every year, and will until the tax is repealed entirely in 2010. However, the repeal wasn’t permanent; the tax will be restored to its full 55 percent rate in 2011.

Some 90 businesses have come together to form the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition with the sole purpose of doing away with the so-called “death tax.”

Before 2009, Terranova said businesses should be taking advantage of Section 179 depreciation limits.

There is good news, however: Historically, the maximum depreciation on capital purchases – such as equipment, furniture and computers –was $150,000. In 2008, that figure has been doubled, but will expire for 2009.

“If businesses are out there contemplating purchasing new assets, they ought to be taking advantage of them by the end of the year,” Terranova sald.

The future is uncertain, but Hyde says she always has a good rule of thumb for her clients: “Taxes are always subject to change.”"

Whoops. That's not quite right about Section 179 depreciation. The limit was $125,000, increase to twice that and due to expire in 2009. I've e-mailed the reporter about it. The print version has a picture of me at my desk. If I can get a copy, I'll be sure to post it.

Christmas Lights

On my way to pick up Emily from Winter Guard, I saw the Christmas lights were on at Chatenay Square. A burst of joyful color in the night. I stopped for a quick picture:

Yeah, those're raindrops on the window. Some light rain, possibly turning to snow later this evening but not anything to worry about. The evening's warm for now. We'll enjoy it while we can.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rachel Rides The Range

Clara and I were recounting our first date to the girls - we were supposed to go horseback riding but the weather turned off bad so, instead, I ended up cooking her something and the rest, as they say, is history. With that in mind, and with a sign posted at a stoplight about horseback riding, Rachel thought she'd like to go sometime. Why not? Emily politely declined so I booked Rachel and me for an outing on Saturday.

Not the stables that Clara and I had intended to use so many years ago but Thunderbird Stables, which right outside the state park at Lake Thunderbird, some miles east of Norman. A slow day - I think we were the only riders out - but a beautiful one and warm and a great way to spend an hour from the hustle and bustle of the holiday. Also, I couldn't beat the company.

Rachel rode Banjo; I had Buzz. The wranglers - both girls about Rachel's age - took good care of the horses and getting us on them without any trouble. A long drink of water for the horses and the wranglers led us to the trailhead. We were on our own from there on out.

Only the cell phone camera on me. I lead the way so it was difficult to turn and get a good shot of Rachel. Why not just turn the camera around and hold it over my head and see what I get? Great idea!


Okay, okay, let's turn around and see what I can do:

Ah, much better. And this one:

Not a soul on the lake but then why would they? I can't imagine the fishing's any good this time of year:

We saw some deer. See 'em?

Almost tame.

No shots of me, thankfully. Oh, all right. Here's proof I was there:

We were back at the stables in an hour and the friendly folks there took care of Buzz and Banjo. We waved goodbye and headed back on civilization. A wonderful time!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Emily and Pepper's 5th Obedience Training Class

I say it's Emily's and Pepper's 5th lesson but the instructor says it's their 7th. (With two more to go.) Hmmm. I know we missed one so we could go to Career Night so I've lost count somewhere. Well, whatever lesson this is, it's Obedience Training Night and Emily and Pepper were there and ready to go.

Man, the pictures are getting worse:

That's because Emily doesn't like me taking her picture so I have to do it without her knowing. That means using the zoom. On my camera phone. Without flash. So there.

They worked on turning circles and staying and coming on command. Pepper was a little distracted though so after the break, one of the trainer's suggested a change in collars: a smaller choker with prongs. Prongs! Yikes! Not needle sharp but enough to get Pepper's attention and get it the collar did. Much better the second half of the session.

Emily's a good trainer. She worked hard this session and so did Pepper.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bella - Movie Review

Clara and I saw this when it first came out - a sunny Saturday morning in Bricktown last Fall with a nice slice of pizza afterward, both of us glowing about the movie. Yeah, it hits close to where we live - it's pro-adoption but more than that, it's pro-Life, in the bigger sense of the word. Not perfect, I expect, but it's heartfelt so who cares? The girls liked it - Rachel had seen it in Spanish class and it had been her choice to see it again, and Emily, like Emily does, got caught up in the story and managed to not cry. Highly recommended, especially for people who think that Hollywood doesn't make good, family fare anymore.

Kung Fu Panda - Movie Review

The girls rented two DVDs on Saturday but I'll make separate posts for a quick review of each one.

The first up was Kung Fu Panda. Pretty good stuff. Not anything ground breaking but clever in its execution and some of the fight scenes defied gravity. It's hard to remember sometimes that someone somewhere sat at a computer and animated all of this. Nice little Zen message, too: today is all you have and you're already the hero you need to be. Everyone enjoyed it.

Next up was the luminescent Bella, reviewed in the post above.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Emily and Pepper's 4th Obedience Training Class

We laid off a week because of last week's career night but Emily and Pepper were back at it this week.

This week's lesson? The "leave it" command, and then some change ups in the pacing of the "heel" command. Lots of stopping and starting and walking fast and walking slow. They worked pretty hard for about 30 minutes and Pepper was ready for a water break. They finished up the next 30 minutes equally hard and both Emily and Pepper were tired when they were through.

Emily's doing a great job with Pepper. No cool tricks yet but that doesn't come until the next series of lessons. For now, it's still the basics.

No class next week. It's Thanksgiving!

Gas Continues to Plunge

Around here, at least. I filled up at $1.66:

Strange to be able to fill up and not crack $30. Not that I'm complainin'.

New Music

I'd signed up with eMusic some time ago - more than a year ago, I imagine, since that's where I got all of my Hem tracks for free, during a their sign up promotion - but soon quit when I couldn't find much of anything I wanted. I gave 'em another try the other night and found their selection just as limited and their downloading process just as clunky as before. (Though their prices are right! about 50 cents a track! Dang!) So I quit them again. Sorry eMusic. (And am I even spelling their name right? Ah, who cares?)

Back to the iTunes store then. One of my guilty pleasures is scrolling through the celebrity playslists and see what they recommend and over time I've put together a list of tracks I'd like to actually pay cash money for. So, whacky guy that I am, I actually purchased a few songs:

Alton Brown, from The Food Network, has a pretty good list, so I picked up Mexican Candy by The Iguanas from him. The coarse Sarah Silvervman had a surprising number of interesting picks: Wild Is The Wind by Cat Power and Must I Paint You a Picture? by Billy Braggs. Amy Grant led me to Shawn Colvin and I Don't Know Why. Finally, on my own, I got to Laura Veirs and her Cast a Hook. All great choices.

Now playing: The Iguanas - Mexican Candy
via FoxyTunes
Now playing: Cat Power - Wild Is the Wind
via FoxyTunes

Now playing: Laura Veirs - Cast a Hook
via FoxyTunes

Now playing: Shawn Colvin - I Don't Know Why
via FoxyTunes

Now playing: Billy Bragg - Must I Paint You a Picture
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Well, stampede of sorts.

When we were in South Florida last, we noticed the delightful figure inlays in the concrete retaining walls along the Interstate. In keeping with the culture of South Florida, they have dolphins and palm trees. Here in Oklahoma, we have our own figure inlays only they're of buffalo:

They're laid out on the panels so that you get a sense of movement no matter which direction you're traveling. The dual tones are a nice detail.

A nice reminder of just where we are.

Mad Max and the Meltdown

Daniel Henninger thinks the current financial crisis is linked to the trend of secularism taking over the country:
This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

One had better explain that.

Yes, one better. Click through this post's title for the whole thing - he makes a pretty good case. But the best part of his post may be the caption to this picture:

Mortgage-backed security survivor.

Ain't it the truth?

Lileks Gives More Oklahoma Shout Outs

Lileks' update of his restaurant site today includes the over-the-turnpike restaurant in Vinita, Oklahoma. I'd seen this before on the old version of his site and I've tried to find it before but couldn't. Glad to re-visit.

Click on the title of this post to get to his pages but, hey, while you're here, I might as well grab his images and post 'em and give you an idea of what you can expect.

Amazing, huh? Lileks has more links, and more restaurants, so head on over to his place and give yourself a treat. You deserve it.

Obama Pledged Change, Picks Insiders

Change you can believe in:
President-elect Barack Obama promised the voters change but has started his Cabinet selection process by naming several Washington insiders to top posts.

Obama is enlisting former Senate leader Tom Daschle as his health secretary. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a well-known Washington personality, seemed more likely than ever to be his secretary of state. Clinton is deciding whether to take that post as America's top diplomat, her associates said Wednesday.

Obama is ready to announce that his attorney general will be Eric Holder, the Justice Department's No. 2 when Clinton's husband was president. Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, is another veteran of the Clinton White House.

That's from MSNBC so you know it's not just Conservatives that are noticing. Though MSNBC can't resist this:
Republicans sniped at what they saw as an unwelcome trend. Alex Conant, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said, "Barack Obama is filling his administration with longtime Washington insiders."

Right. We're "sniping" if we point out the obvious.

I'm not saying McCain wouldn't have done the same thing. Sure, he ran on being a maverick, and he likely would have chosen his staff from a pool of political hacks, like politicians do. But it's Obama who pledged the more mavericky administration and many people believed him and voted accordingly - at least, voters didn't believe McCain was capable of the change Obama promised.

Well, here's your change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Set Loose The Hounds!

My sister, Toni, sends along this link to the place where her daughter, Shannon, works as a Farm Trainter and Professional Whipper In. Interesting stuff about what Shannon does and pictures of her doing it but there's some kind of Internet mojo working that prevents me from downloading them. Click on over and see for yourself.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Prince = Christian Conservative

Is Prince a conservative at heart? Sound like it:
Recently, Prince hosted an executive who works for Philip Anschutz, the Christian businessman whose company owns the Staples Center. “We started talking red and blue,” Prince said. “People with money—money like that—are not affected by the stock market, and they’re not freaking out over anything. They’re just watching. So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”

When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’

Despite his naughtiness, I enjoy the funk of some of his music. It must be interesting how he reconciles his artistic vision with is faith.

Quantum of Solace - Movie Review

We'd tried to catch a Friday night showing of Quantum of Solace but a combination of opening night and a long dry spell of "guy" movies mad that an impossibility. We managed to catch a late afternoon showing on Saturday and we weren't disappointed. Er, at least, I wasn't. Clara's not the fan I am so liked it slightly less - the blurry, too-close edits of the chase and fight scenes left her a little queasy and she didn't like the theme song. I'm with her on the blurry quick cut editing but I liked the theme song well enough.

Daniel Craig's doing a good job making the character his own and the producers have made the right decision to go off on a grittier, more realistic tone to the series. So many of them have been made now, it's about time the franchise was shaken, not stirred, and I think this second installment is a worth followup to the first.

Paul McCartney to Release Experimental Beatles Track From 1967

Sorry, but this rabid Beatles fan can't get behind this:

(Paul)McCartney says he wants to release "Carnival of Light," a 14-minute experimental track the Fab Four recorded in 1967 but never released.

The band played the recording for an audience just once, at an electronic music festival in London. It reportedly includes distorted guitar, organ sounds, gargling and shouts of "Barcelona!" and "Are you all right?" from McCartney and John Lennon.

How many times have you listened to Revolution 9 on The White Album? Yeah, me neither. As all of us Beatles-philes know, this Carnival of Light track was a precursor to Revolution 9, and was unreleased for a good reason.

Still, that doesn't mean I'm not curious to hear it. Once.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

5 Myths About an Election of Mythic Proportions

The election may not have been everything you thought it was. A quick summary of the myths:

1.) The Republican Party suffered a death blow,

2.) A wave of black voters and young people was the key to the Obama victory,

3.) Now that they control the White House and Congress, Democrats will usher in a new progressive era,

4.) A Republican candidate could have won the presidency this year, and

5.) McCain made a huge mistake in picking Sarah Palin.

(Ouch. Number 4 hurts. The truth usually does.)

Click the title of this post to get to the more debunking of the myths.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NASA Restores Historic Photos of Moon From Space

The technology that stored these photos had grown outdated and we very nearly lost them:
Mankind's first up-close photos of the lunar landscape have been rescued from four decades of dusty storage, and they've been restored to such a high quality that they rival anything taken by modern cameras.

NASA and some private space business leaders spent a quarter million dollars rescuing the historic photos from early NASA lunar robotic probes and restoring them in an abandoned McDonald's.

The first refurbished image was released Thursday — a classic of the moon with Earth rising in the background.

Will that be the fate of all of these digital pictures we take today? Sometimes, paper is better than digital; we concern ourselves with that at my tax practice since we store much of our documentation electronically. What will happen to that stuff when the technology to read it becomes outdated?

Oh, you remember the picture, don't you?


Number 1 in Music Tune Widgetry

In case your wondering what comes up first in a Google search of music tune widget, it's this post.

In Korea, that is. The Googler launched his search from their and I have no idea why I'd be the number one hit. But there it is. Glad to be of help.

Stone Age Temple May Be Birthplace of Civilization


The elaborate temple at Gobelki Tepe in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is staggeringly ancient: 11,500 years old, from a time just before humans learned to farm grains and domesticate animals.

According to the German archaeologist in charge of excavations at the site, it might be the birthplace of agriculture, of organized religion — of civilization itself.

"This is the first human-built holy place," Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute says in the November issue of Smithsonian magazine.

I think it's not only telling that from the very beginning, humans felt not only a need to build altars to God but to recreate the environment around them in their own terms. Here's the accompanying picture to the article which shows a relief of a fox chipped into the rock:

Art, religion. They go hand in hand with civilization.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Video! Of Rachel's Color Guard Performance!

From the Westmoore Band Booster's website, I was able to download, then upload, the video below. It's 11 minutes long but you can use the slider doohickey thing (I know, I know: technospeak.) to scroll through it. Rachel's one of those in the turquoise suits, skittering around in the back somewhere. That's the only thing you'll want to see. All that other band stuff is just noise. Beautiful noise but noise nonetheless.

(I kid. The band really is good so watch the whole thing. Why, what else were you gonna do?)

Emily Goes to Career Night

No dog obedience training this week for Emily and Pepper. Instead, Emily had an opportunity to earn some extra credit points by attending career night at the Moore-Norman Vo-Tech. The catch: she has to interview three people and turn in her report as proof she actually attended.

It began at 6:00 and we got there a little before that. The traffic was already backed up at the four way stop outside the Vo-Tech - this was a Moore Public School promotion and, I suspect, the same thing could be said about the Norman Public Schools. We parked, hustled into the nearest entrance, grabbed a map, registered, and we were on our way. (We sort of knew our way around since Emily has attended some of the summer courses for the last three summers.)

Emily takes this interviewing stuff pretty seriously:


Let's take a step back and see who she's interviewing:


We thought the lady was a vet since this was the veterinarian's station but it turned out she was a physical therapist. Close enough. One down, two to go.

Emily talked to an AT&T rep and web-page designer and then we attended the reality check station, where we got to plan a budget and compare it to the estimated income her chosen profession would earn. Emily selected a vet and we estimated the salary too low - our budget had a monthly shortfall of over $500 - yikes! Emily thought she'd have to live in a cardboard box. But then one of the folks at the computer pulled up a more realistic salary estimate for a vet in Oklahoma and suddenly we were in the positive monthly income area. Yay!

Finished, we threaded our way back out. The crowd had grown almost impenetrable. The four way stop sign now had a traffic cop directing things. But Emily had earned her extra credit and the rest of the evening was hers. (Er, that is, after she finished her homework. It never ends, does it?)