Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taxes: check

After catching up on my finances last night, I completed the first draft of my taxes tonight (ending around the same time... one of these days I'll get sleep).

I was pissed off to find out a rather significant RSP contribution wasn't processed by my bank prior to the deadline (and I don't know if they ever even received it!).

Claiming Ontario tax credit for renting is a lot more convoluted this year than it was previously. On top of the Ontario Credits form, you have to fill out the ON-BEN form at the back of the book (which isn't colour-coded pink like the other Ontario forms) whose goal is essentially to write the same numbers, without any arithmetic manipulation, that you then write again in the Ontario Credits form. (there's no addition of the numbers). On the Ontario Credits form, you then have to complete the "occupancy cost", "energy component" (for "long term care home and home energy costs on a reserve"), and "property tax component", even if, for example, you didn't pay property tax or live on a reserve.

It was sort of similar last year, but much more straightforward. Instead of being on two sheets at opposite ends of the forms book, it was all included in the Ontario Credits form, and in the "property tax credit" section it clearly asked you to enter "Rent paid in Ontario in 2009", so you wouldn't have to wonder, as I did, I didn't pay property tax; do I still have to fill out the "property tax component"?. And even though the ON-BEN form is now on a separate page, it still only gives you two lines to fill out residence information. (Not that I've had to use more than one for many years, but I've bounced around in the past).

I guess it's the bottom line that matters. I'm getting a refund, and it's not too much smaller than what I got last year, despite making more money and having fewer credits to claim. It'd have been even bigger if I tended to donate money to groups with charitable tax status, instead of contributing time and money mostly to groups that are too small (efficient; less red tape) or advocacy-oriented to qualify for status.

And with my finances and taxes done, and their respective piles of paper cleared from atop my desk, I can move on to the next pile of things to file.

- RG>

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Le fin

I did it! I finally got caught up on my finances!

I'd been months behind for the last year or so. When I did my taxes in April 2009, I remember I only did my finances as far as December 31, 2008, and I didn't really do much to get caught up since then.

In the last month or so, I've been whittling away at it, taking bigger and bigger bites out of the pile, and now I've finished!

I made a couple of interesting observations:

- Over the last year and a half, I've had three mysterious withdrawals for which I don't have the bank machine slip. I always take the slip, so this is strange. Also strange is that these are only at the Somerset and Bronson bank machine. There's no conclusive evidence to conclusively say that I did or didn't make these withdrawals. I checked my e-mails, my photos, my Blackberry calendar (including backups of my tasks, notes, and appointments), and my known cash expenditures between the previous and next withdrawals, but nothing conclusive.

- Adjusted for contributions, my RRSP fluctuates each month as much as the equivalent of a plus or minus 20% APR (and as much as +47% in one month, if my math is right).

- I have not yet made any credit card purchases on a Saturday this year.

Of course, things are never always done. I have yet to do my taxes, and seeing as it's 2am and I have a couple other things to do, that can wait until closer to the April 30 deadline.

- RG>

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's that hour again...

Well, it's time for my fourth annual Earth Hour-bashing post. As I've said in past years, I don't like to celebrate events that consider it special to turn the lights off for an hour; it's something I do for many hours every night. Twenty-four hours for Earth Day is enough in my books.

Some self-promoting environmentalists are promoting a candlelight vigil on Parliament Hill. Of course, candles are a much less efficient way to convert energy into light than electric lights are, and paraffin candles, being pure hydrocarbon, produce considerably more CO2 emissions than whatever the hell was burned to power that light you turn off. I'll laugh if some people end up driving downtown to get to the vigil.

So then people use beeswax candles, which they claim are 'carbon neutral' because it's from honeybees instead of million-year-old dinosaur bones. Notwithstanding that honeybees are producing less and less each year, if you want to reduce your CO2 emissions, you'd toss the beeswax candle into the trash. Once it gets to the landfill, its carbon will be stored and sequestered, which is much better than releasing it into the air by burning.

Then there are those who turn off the lights but still watch TV in the dark, because they're so superficially environmentalist that they can't even peel their arses off the couch for an hour to spend some time with the kids. Or there's the people who use battery-powered flash lights or unplug their laptops--apparently oblivious to the fact that they're simply using the electricity (converted and stored less efficiently in batteries) merely at a different time. These ones are the worst because they don't even get the theoretical message the Earth Hourers are trying to spread with this overhyped event. Does Jim Watson really need yet another event to pack into his agenda?

Speaking of the hype, I wouldn't be surprised if the energy "saved" by people turning off their lights is less than all the energy that goes into producing all the advertisements, posters, candles, publicity events, and three-fucking-storey-tall banners (below), plus the hot air from those of us pointing out how inane it is to celebrate a holiday that lasts only one hour. People are so disconnected from reality that the greenwashers have them convinced that electricity is the only form of energy that counts toward CO2 emissions.

In previous years, Earth Hour has gone by so quickly I didn't even get a chance to turn on all my lights and appliances in protest. This year I've got plans outside the house in the evening, so instead of leaving my house dark as it normally would be when I'm not inside it, I'll have to leave my lights on all day to make sure they'll be on during Earth Hour.

I wouldn't want someone walking by to see a dark window and think I'm an Earth Hour sycophant.

- RG>

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

I'm on a new drug (which hopefully does what it should)

So after I wrote the previous post in which I 'came out' as depressed, I learned why most people hide depression.

The Oatmeal summed it up nicely in his explanation of the worst thing about Valentine's Day: people say they don't celebrate/recognize Valentine's Day, yet they won't shut up about how they don't celebrate/recognize Valentine's Day.

The analogy doesn't translate perfectly, but essentially many people hide depression in order to carry on somewhat with social activities. When you make it known that you're depressed but that you're working to get over it, people feel all sorry for you and shit. "Oh, yes, RG! I've suffered from depression, too! Was your form of misery similar to mine? Let's talk about how miserable you are some more and focus on that." So you end up engaging in fewer social activities because everyone treats you like you have a terminal disease instead of partaking in the social activity that you're trying to do in order to feel better.

I'll have to edit the list of advice from the previous post:

If you are also depressed, what you choose to do with this knowledge is up to you:

- buck up and stop acting depressed

- take solace in knowing that you're not as alone as things might look

- realize that maybe your depression isn't prominent in others' eyes

- for god's sake keep it to yourself (and your doctor)
As for the meds my doctor put me on, at the 4-week checkup we decided to change drugs. I was on a fairly low dose and my doctor hadn't encountered itching as a side effect.

I also raised the prospect of ADHD, fearing my doctor would instead diagnose me with hypochondria, and to my surprise my doctor didn't dismiss the idea. They're all to do with something wrong in your brain, and the names we give them aren't black-and-white.

So we split the difference: she put me on something else that isn't as strong on depression, but has an off-label use for ADHD. Without the side effects, I could at least bullshit myself into a psychosomatic recovery. Being a mechanically-oriented person, I have a hard time grasping how a drug can affect your mood (or the concept of "mood" to begin with), so I was hoping that at least my subconscious would fall for the placebo effect.

I think the new drug (or the placebo effect) is working. Or maybe I feel better because the absence of the first drug's side effects makes me feel better.

I do notice that I've been more productive at work and at home, and I've had a natural urge to get many things done, instead of simply feeling guilt for not getting it done. When I would previously put something off to the next day, I've found there are more instances when I just do it and get it out of the way. That's been coupled with a few good days where I thought or feared that it would be a pain in the arse, but things went smoothly or something I didn't want to do was cancelled.

I actually woke up in the morning last weekend, instead of staying in bed.

As for the ADHD thing, I don't know too much about it, and haven't even read up on it on the web (which my doctor suggested. Fancy that.). It's hard to know if I'm feeling "worse than normal" because my lifestyle is too all-over-the-map to have a sense of what "normal" is supposed to feel like.

But what I do know is that I have a tendency to start big, ambitious projects and leave them very shortly thereafter. shorter projects are more likely to get done. It's a miracle I still blog instead of Twittering.

Also, I might be confusing ADHD with OCD. When I do get onto something, I often can't stop in the middle of it. That's why there are so many gigantically long posts on my blog posted in the wee hours of the morning (which, in my book, is anything before 9am). Like the first post in the Ken Gray series. I woke up at 6am and couldn't get back to sleep until three hours later after writing out the blog post. By 11am that day I was very tired. Or how a quick impulse purchase of a digital projector turned into a month-long bout of depression.

A couple of nights after switching to the new pill, I reorganized my cutlery drawer. See?

I was up until 2am doing it and two of the other kitchen drawers. I'd have vacuumed, too, if I knew it wouldn't disrupt the neighbours. My latest theory (which I propose tongue-in-cheek) is that I must have had underlying OCD, but the depression was keeping it at bay because I could never motivate myself to bother.

More rationally, the new drug isn't supposed to have an effect until 4-6 weeks in, so I assume the different behaviour is either from withdrawal from the first one, or from the placebo effect, or possibly from the first drug no longer making me feel worse.

What's the point in all this? I dunno. Maybe you find it interesting. Maybe it's just to spite Ken Gray by pointing out I don't give a flying fuck if my blog posts are so long that nobody in their right mind would read it (helps that most of my friends are crazy). Or maybe it's to say that there's a very real possibility that RealGrouchy's back.

- RG>

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Ken Gray comeback tour

[Edit: added Ken Gray image. How could I forget!]

Beware of the Bulldog. He's a Serious JournalistKen Gray has returned from retirement. Last week, the 33-year veteran of old media announced that he was done with telling bloggers how not to blog.

He reiterates the old hyperbolic themes in this latest single, Truth through the mob. Read it now while it's still there!

This makes it awkward for the Ken Gray cover blogger (Ken Gray, an Ottawa citizen), who nevertheless appreciated the paranoid shout-out.

Me, I'm still working on sorting out the various different things said by Ken (and others), in order to write up at least 5 posts (so far) pointing out the many uncorrected (and certainly unapologized-for) errors, contradictions, ironies, and dare I say it, lies by Ken Gray.

At the moment, my screen looks like a web browser equivalent to this:

Once I get all the arguments sorted out, the jabbing puns put in the right place, and the references properly cited (something that Ken Gray says bloggers don't do), I'll post them up.

I've also been saving backup copies of all of Ken's posts and the comments thereon, lest some of them mysteriously disappear...

Unfortunately, I've been pretty busy lately at work. You see, I deliver little baggies of bulldog poo to mailboxes citywide, and lately there has been a mysterious increase in shipments... So I'm just squeezing out this little update in my lunch break.

- RG>