Tax Software

It’s that time of year again…  I’d asked around on my interwebs about the best software to use (Turbotax won, though the sample size was small).  Today, The Consumerist pointed me to Lifehacker who pointed me to this pretty comprehensive rundown of the actual costs of tax prep software (purchase price + filing costs + other fees) and I figured I’d share it.

My plan is to run the numbers through TaxAct’s deluxe+state and, if I like what I see, cough up the $16 to file.  If not, I’ll probably run through TaxCut online, since I apparently don’t have to pay for that until I’m ready to file either.

I’m gonna have to ask you to go ahead and…

Gary Cole scares the crap out of me.

Ever since Office Space, I can’t see him in a movie without my skin starting to crawl. Even when he’s a good guy I find myself rooting against him and his coffee cup holding, Jennifer Aniston leg spreading creepy-ass self. This is especially a problem in movies like Breach, where he plays a very minor character, yet still almost manages to out-creepy the main character who is supposed to be creepy. It becomes easy to forgive Chris Cooper’s Robert Hanssen for secretly taping he and his wife having sex simply because he doesn’t have a cup of coffee in his hand while he’s doing it. I felt like I needed a shower after watching that movie last night, and it wasn’t just because Hanssen betrayed his country, jerked off to Catherine Zeta-Jones in his office, and had the audacity to cry about how hard life was on him. It was because of Lumbergh.

But you know what? Breach was a damn good movie, despite Lumbergh and Ryan Phillipe (who is a useless actor playing a useless FBI peon). You know why? Because Chris Cooper is f-ing brilliant, as is Laura Linney (who is creepy in her own right COUGHtrumanshowCOUGH). There’s no action, which is fine by me since this is more of a Le Carre spy story than a Ludlum one, the plot moves quickly enough, and there is even 5 minutes of pure geek love in which OC-48s and dynamic IPs are discussed by actors who obviously have no idea what they are.

The last time I mention Oscars that are not grouches or fish for a while…

Yesterday was the Oscar party. Despite my storm fueled concerns, attendance was pretty good with about 10 co-workers + roomates showing up.

One of my goals for this party (on top of the perernnial show my friends a good time goal) was to do more myself. The past few parties I’ve thrown, I ended up spending so much time on cleaning and decorating that I decided to take shortcuts on the food. Chef Costco is a great party assistant, but he is expensive and boring. To that end, I resolved to make the following from scratch:

  • Chocolate Chip cookies (from my trusty recipe)
  • Olive Penguins (this is the recipe that was all secretive about before)
  • Shrimp Cocktail (bought the shrimp, mixed up the cocktail sauce myself)
  • Cajun Sushi (from Penzey’s One Magazine)
  • Pie Pie – not quite as good as sex, but close.
  • Swedish Meatballs (they ended up not being so swedish by the time I was done — I don’t think the swedes use all that much cumin — and they didn’t end up getting served due to the overabundance of other food).

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend. And you know what? I loved it. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I’ve never really catered a whole party before. From the planning, to the shopping, to the days of prep, it’s been a while since I worked so hard on something and actually had fun in the process.

Of course, it did help that all the recipes turned out great (I was even able to spin a penguin disaster into creative presentation (thanks to a rubber devil ducky and some strategically placed salsa), and I did let Chef Costco do some of the work (he’s much better at milking goats, aging cheese, and making tortilla chips than I am). And, it never hurts to have a roommate who considers shoveling a foot of snow from a 60ft driveway to be “good exercise”, and friends who don’t mind coming over early, just to be put on chopping duty.

As for the actual Oscars, Ellen was predictably unfunny (but they didn’t seem to let her talk too much which was nice), I was disappointed that Children of Men was shut out, and surprised that The Departed took best picture, but all in all, it was a good show…I might even watch again next year.

Of course, I will have totally forgotten about this by the spring…

Every fall since I purchased this house, I’ve thought to myself: Self, why don’t you go buy a snowthrower?

The frugal (read: cheapskate) side of me then kicks in and reminds me that fall is the worst time to buy a snowthrower (I should have done it in the spring), $300-700 is a little spendy for a tool that I’ll use a half a dozen times a year, and my LORD, how lazy can you be that you can’t pick up a shovel and spend 20 minutes clearing the driveway?  Think of the fossil fuels!  And the fact that you don’t get enough exercise anyways!  So, I don’t buy one.  It would be one thing if I had a sidewalk to keep clear so I had to have the snow removed promptly after a snowfall, but if it’s just the driveway, I can take my time and clear it when I really need to (i.e. when I run out of beer, or have to go to work).

A couple of times each winter, I end up looking out my living room window and rue my oh-so-very-righteous-at-the-time decision to clear my driveway with shovel power.  I was doing pretty good this winter – I’ve only had to shovel once that I remember, and that wasn’t even all that much snow.  I had thought, earlier this week, that my non-purchase of a snow blower was an excellent investment in the booze fund. Like I said, that was earlier this week.

As I watched the white stuff come down last night, I knew it was going to be bad. I looked out my back window this morning, and I can’t see the ring around my firepit in the backyard (I’m pretty sure it’s at least a foot high). That’s at least 12 inches of snow, a good chunk of which is sleet covering a layer of ice.  NWS is telling me to expect another 2-4 inches today (even though it looks beautiful out right now).  I still need to finish prepping at least 4 dishes for the party, and the house is desparately begging to be vacuumed, and, since there will maybe be people coming over (hard to say how many will actually make it), I need to have the driveway cleared by 5.  Sigh.  At least I have roommates ;)

Needs more cogs

If I had to pick a sci-fi subgenre in which to live the rest of my life, it would have to be steampunk.

I can’t write it worth a damn, but I love reading it when it’s well done (see: Mieville, Gibson/Sterling, etc).

So, needless to say, I love this keyboard mod.  A lot.   It appears as though the original site is suffering from the ill-effects of sudden popularity, but I’ll certainly be heading back there again, since I’m honestly considering doing something like this.

From the so-wrong-it’s-right files…

I’m sure everyone knew this but me, but just in case: Wil Wheaton apparently does reviews of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes for TV Squad.

Yes, my mind is blown too.  He even makes jokes about the homoeroticity (is this a word? IT IS NOW!) of the Traveller-Wesley dynamic.



Life imitates art.

I feel a lot like T-Rex this morning.

A few weeks back, I decided that I was going to budget $500 to redecorate my bedroom.  It’s not a huge amount of money (I probably won’t be buying any new furniture), but it’s enough that I can splurge a little on high quality sheets and drapes and fancy paints, etc. C. & K. (my personal design consultants) had already helped me pick out some ideas for a colour palette, and on the advice of everybody, I decided to go buy some bedding so that I can choose paint to match.

It sounds simple right?  Buy some bedding – in this case: a duvet, duvet cover, sheets and pillow cases (I’m still a little intimidated by the idea of coverlets and throw pillows, so we’ll save those for a later phase of Project Slumber).  The duvet was simple at least — I knew IKEA had a great selection of them, and I was in the area, so I stopped by and picked up a king sized down alternative dealie from their “warm” line (as well as $30 worth of wine glasses, so I now have more wine glasses than any normal person needs, really).  Nothing else was so easy.  First of all, IKEA was out of stock of the king size of the only duvet set that they had that I liked, so I ended up buying a cheap set that I wasn’t so impressed with, just so that I’d have something.  Sunday, after broomball, I ventured north to Riverdale Center which is this sprawling big box store monstrosity in Coon Rapids. As much as I hate that place, I was glad I went, because in order to finally choose some sheets, I visited the following stores (and walked at least 2 miles):

  • Bed Bath and Beyond
  • Linens-N-Things x 2
  • Sears
  • JC Penney
  • Kohls x 2

I finally ended up with a taupe duvet cover from Linens-N-Things, and a set of beautifully comfy 600 thread count wine-coloured damask-striped sheets from Kohls.  Both of which were on sale, so including the duvet, I’ve only eaten through $250 of my budget thus far.  When I got home, I was almost too tired to switch the sheets on my bed, but I’m certainly glad I did…I haven’t slept that well in ages.

I promise not to call you “sweetcheeks” though.

You don’t have to put on the red light…

Friday night, I went out to dinner at Bella with some friends.  Bella kind of freaks me out a little — it’s owned by the same people as Bellanotte downtown, and the food and atmosphere are quite similar (right down to the valet parking).  The only problem is that it’s in Blaine…in a strip mall.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind fancy dining that’s 5 minutes from my house, but why do you need valet parking when your restaurant is in the middle of a parking lot?  sheesh.  It was surprisingly busy (again, only surprising because it was Blaine, it’s not really surprising that a restaurant would have trouble seating a party of 10 at 7pm on a Friday).  Food-wise, my reaction this time around was mixed.  The appetizers we had (calamari, and bruschetta) were both great, but my entree (lobster ravioli) was a little greasy, and not quite lobstery enough for me.  Our entirely too friendly, but kind of cute in that dimly-lit-room-where-there-is-also-alcohol way, waiter had never heard of Hendrick’s gin (and had to ask the barstaff if they had it).  After he brought my martini, he called me Ms. Hendrick’s for the rest of the evening.  I wasn’t sure whether to flirt back, or hit him.

After the movie, I went to go see The Last King of Scotland.  A. had warned me that it was scary but she “DID NOT PERSUADE ME!” so I was surprised by how freaked out I was by it.   The geek in me was pleased to see Gillian Anderson, though I was disappointed that her role was so…meh.  I also had very little sympathy for James McAvoy’s character, rich boys who think with their genitalia don’t interest me much (ok, maybe they do…but that’s different).  Everything else about the movie though?  Wow.  Forrest Whitaker blew me away, the camera work and score really served to create an feeling of “something’s not quite right here”.

Saturday morning, I slept through my alarm so ended up showing up a few hours late for my shift of KVSC trivia.   I arrived at S.’s bearing hashbrowns and cocaine (fun dip), and sat down and got to work around noon. A funny thing about 50 hour trivia competitions: when questions are coming at you 9 times an hour, you start to lose track of the passage of time.  All that matters are which questions are still open, and whether you can get a partial on “Jessica”.  I finally crashed sometime around 5am on Sunday morning – I think I might have been mumbling gibberish about Phileas Fogg and my burning hatred of audio trivia.  All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I wish I had planned my weekend such that I could have stayed down their longer — S. lives in Apple Valley, I live in Blaine, I could really only justify doing one 70 mile round trip this weekend.  I’m definitely in for next year, and will see if I can’t just recruit a few more people.

Sunday afternoon, I did chores and watched the first hour or so of the Grammy’s.  It was as awful as I expected, but it was worth it to see the Police regrouping and doing an excellent version of Roxanne, and Gnarls Barkley doing a great militarized version of Crazy (which I am annoyed isn’t on YouTube yet).  Also, Christina Aguilera…I always forget how much talent that girl has…why doesn’t she have to be such a skank when she’s got a voice like that?

This week, I’m going to see if I can’t get parts ordered for a new media center pc for my living room.  I haven’t built a machine since I quit working at the computer store in undergrad, so this should be interesting.  I’m going to try to see if I can use some flavour of linux (probably ubuntu) for the OS, in keeping with my whole not pirating (and also not paying for) software thing.


Not sure why, but when I first saw this, I felt a deep, burning need to have it.  For about 4 seconds, until I started to actually think about silly things like the impracticality of carrying a 2 lb knife on a belt loop. 

Still though.  Doesn’t it just scream “COVET” to you?

Does she have anything besides the Oscars to talk about?

Not today!!!!

First of all, for those of you who are having trouble getting to the theater to see the nominated movies, AMC is trying to help you out.  On Saturday 2/24, AMC theaters around the country (including 2 in the Twin Cities) will be showing all 5 Best Picture nominated films for $30, including unlimited popcorn and drinks.  Here’s the link.

Secondly, for those of you wanting to be a little more obscure,  starting Friday, Feb 16th, the Lagoon Theatre in Uptown will be showing the nominated short films (live action and animated).  No info available as to times yet, but I’ll try to keep you posted.

Lastly, I just got my hands on a recipe for the CUTEST hors d’oeuvres I’ve ever seen.  No, I’m not going to share it now, because at least one of you will die when you see them, and I want to be there for it, so I’m making them for the Oscar party. I promise I’ll post it apres the big night.