Monday, March 30, 2015

Villisca Axe Murders


On our drive out to Omaha, I happened to notice a sign for the small Iowa town of Villisca which for older history inclined Iowans brings back images of axe murders. I remember reading about the famous unsolved axe murders in a Iowa history book that I had in 5th grade and from which are teacher Mrs. Bradfield made us copy down huge portions into a notebook as assignments. I'm not sure if it was meant to improve our handwriting or a learning tool to make us remember the subject matter but if it was the latter, it worked.

While in Omaha, I looked it up online and saw that the house was still standing and there was a museum there. Not expecting much from the museum, I thought it would be neat just to stop and view the house to possibly spark conversation in our car on the remainder of our journey home. We pulled into Villisca and found the house without problem and saw that it and the museum were closed for the season. It is probably just as well because the museum didn't appear to have much of anything in it except for some lawn care items and the house turns out to have a virtual tour online in which you can visit it from the leisure of your home.

As for the murder, an unknown person sneaked into the house on June 9, 1912 after grabbing an axe out near the woodpile and killed prominent businessman Josiah B. Moore, his wife, four children and two visiting girls as they slept. There was a whole list of people suspected of the crime, several that were tried but nobody was ever convicted and the crime remains unsolved to this day. For historically inclined Iowans, the house is distinctive much like the one Grant Wood used in his painting 'American Gothic' and very recognizable.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Museum Lite


While researching places to visit in Omaha, I kept trying to find out information on the Durham museum. It was listed as being a partner with the Smithsonian and received traveling exhibits of their artifacts but not much else was talked about it. Figuring it was probably a historical museum from what little was said about it on its own website, we decided to give it a try. It is housed in an old grand central train station and the main hall is rather spectacular to look at. But once you go down a floor to the exhibit halls, everything changes.

For some reasons, museums across the country have been desperately trying to attract younger audiences to supplement the older generations who visit. They have been ripping out displays and putting in interactive displays for kids. It seems to me judging from my children's experience and mine, that they are effectively ruining the experience for everyone. Despite the interactive displays, the kids don't have enough to keep them engaged and the displays are so terribly dumbed down, that the adults have the same problem. Durham Museum, like so many others, has fallen victim to this phenomenon.

Half the museum contained some stripped down train cars geared towards kids running around and playing on them. It keeps them engaged for all of about ten minutes before they are bored. The rest of the museum has a half dozen rooms of disjointed displays of random objects loosely themed and appropriately placarded as to why we should care about them. They had a medical exhibit which due to my wife's profession, attracted us to the museum until we discovered that the entire display was a half dozen letters about medical related stuff hung in the corner of one room and a glass display box with a couple dozen medical instruments. Hardly the promised exhibit to take us back to the days of blood letting and magical cures that their website touted.

Also on our list of museums to see was the official Lewis and Clarke visitor's center which is located in Omaha. We walked into a massive four or five story building with great anticipation only to find out that the 40 feet of hallway we walked through to get to the information desk, a third of it formed into a gift shop, was essentially it. The rest of the building was just office space for the Department of Natural Resources. A small room off to one side had been converted into a movie theater so you could watch a heavily edited 20 minutes of the original 240 minute documentary film by Ken Burns entitled Lewis and Clarke: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery which I had seen many years ago. Again, most of the displayed items were geared towards children to play with, put on or touch.

Where are the days when you could see displayed focused on enlightening us on a particular aspect of our world? I can still find plenty of books that do this just fine but museums no longer count as a source of information in my opinion. Instead, they are nothing more than daycare centers for bored children. It truly is a shame.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bridge Over River Missouri


Killing time waiting for a museum to open, we drove down to the waterfront and decided to check out the Bob Kerry pedestrian bridge of the Missouri River. The rest of my family being poorly dressed for the weather, made it about a third of the way over the bridge but while they waited in the car, I walked over to Iowa and back. For those who don't know, Bob Kerry was a former Nebraska Governor, U.S. Senator and former Democratic Presidential nominee. If I was someone of his stature, I would be honored to have such a beautiful pedestrian bridge over a river linking two states and hundreds of miles of trails.


Being a pedestrian bridge between two states, probably something of a rarity, it was duly annotated to let you know when you were leaving one state for another. It was a fairly windy day and standing out in the middle, you could really feel the bridge moving which as an engineer, made me think of the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Fortunately for me, on this day it had a much better outcome.


The river here was making a great bend and Iowa fell on the inside of the bend so there were lots of sand bars and scrub trees. There have been time lapse photography technology for many years that allow you to see changing scenery in a particular location over time. There has also been time capsule technology for hundreds of years to give one a sense of what was happening in the past over longer periods of time. Perhaps someday they will come up with the technology to merge both into the best of two worlds, time lapse photography over centuries. I would love to see a river channel like this changing over that period of time.


Monday, March 23, 2015

How Great Thou Art


When vacationing with the kids, we try to alternate a stop for them with a stop for us. The first stop for us was the Joslyn Art Museum. I am the first to admit that I don't have an eye for art. Most of the classic works from bygone eras bore me and I wouldn't pay much money to have displayed on my walls. Modern art gets the juices flowing a bit more but often I find myself pondering how much money people are willing to throw away for a painting of splattered paint like the one above done by Jackson Pollock. I like the painting and I would hang it on a wall in my house but I would rather do it myself than shell out however much money people thing the painting above is worth.


After walking around this museum for over an hour, I sat down on a bench to rest my legs and those of the eight year old who was tagging along with me asking non-stop questions. For the first time during our visit, I happened to actually 'see' the floor. I was immediately pulled into its simplicity and beauty. They had sliced a 4 by 4 inch piece of lumber into half inch slices and created the world's largest end grain butcher block floor. It was quite stunning. It got me to thinking that perhaps I should shy away from the conventional when it comes to reflooring our house, a project that is getting nearer to the top of my master list.


Below is a tiny portion of a huge art display of colored blown glass anchored into a curling wave nearly 40 feet tall in the atrium. Much of it was in shadows but if I zoomed in on the top most part still partially in the sun, I could get a pleasing to my eye photo. It is an great example of modern art that I don't think I could do and one that I would probably find well worth the price they paid for it.


Finally, alongside an art display of a particular artists work was a large map showing some of the areas that the artist traveled too. Me being a lover of maps, found myself drawn to the map and couldn't help but take a picture of my native state. When I get our home office remodeled, I have great designs to obtain various maps that I can frame and hang from its walls. Since I can spend hours just perusing maps like some might do a magazine, my wife might not buy into the project but if I tell her that will be my man cave, perhaps I can sneak it by.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Zoolander


Having two young kids necessitates that our vacations include something for them as well as for us adults which has limited our vacations to urban centers around the midwest for the most part. As they get older, we hope to change that a bit but for our mini vacation this time, we chose Omaha, Nebraska. We've spent a couple odd days there over the years but decided to go spend a few this time while visiting some friends of ours that live there. The first touristy thing we did was go hit up the zoo for the kid's benefit. Omaha has a fine zoo and you can see lots of things in it that we don't see in our local zoo, including the aquatic humans seen above. I watched them for awhile and with their garbage bag, I suspected they were removing a dead fish from the exhibit but after ten minutes, the two men mostly just struggled to get their girth underwater. We finally moved on so I never did figure it out.


I loved zoos as a kid but as I got older, I really hated to see all these animals locked up in cells so humans could gawk at them. I know that some good and awareness comes out of zoos and since my children are in the loving them stage, we do take them but I hope as they get older, they too will realize the downside to zoos. One benefit is that it gives me a chance to practice my photography skills which have been rusting away these last few years.


When I photograph animals in the wild, they are alert and moving around which makes them hard to photograph. Zoo animals on the other hand are mostly inactive and asleep. The above tiger however did suddenly rear up onto the glass separating him from a meal causing the prospective bipedal meals to scatter in a hurry before crushing back towards the class to see who could get a photo-op.



A pair of the rare alert animals playing under the supervision of their lioness mother just off the picture.


The Omaha Zoo has an aquarium too as part of their exhibits and I really enjoyed that part. I am tall which allows me to stand up above the extremely smudged lowers glass portions and get some decent photographs.


This is perhaps my favorite photo that I took during our visit. I just never tire of watching jellyfish do their thing.


We spent a long morning at the zoo mostly seeing all the inside exhibits. Despite me warning everyone to dress appropriately since it was still officially winter, all the girls only brought light jackets and were cold the entire time out in Nebraska. So we didn't get a chance to walk around and see all the outside animals like elephants, bears, giraffes and such. Makes me wonder who the truly caged animals were.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Gone Baby Gone


With a week of good weather ahead of us and a week of head colds behind us, we decided it was time to get out of the house and go for a small vacation. Above is our destination where we have some friends we would like to visit with and perhaps do a little exploring. I'm sure I'll have something to write about it when we get back.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Recovery


I'm a two colds guy. It seems as if I catch the cold sometime in winter and sometime in summer without fail and that is just about it for ailments. This year has been brutal. I caught my summer cold and an early winter cold. Then despite the flu shot, I got the flu followed with a cold. A couple months go by and I get another flu-like illness that put me down for a week. I thought I had it licked with March here and warm weather having arrived but darn if I didn't catch another bad cold. After two days of mostly napping and taking medicines to alleviate my symptoms, I felt good enough to get outside for a bit. I took my camera along with me. My first stop was the gravesite of Chief Wapello who is buried nearby and is pretty much responsible for many of the Indian names around the area and the relatively peaceful taking of our state from the hands of the Indians. I would have taken a picture of his grave but it is surrounded by ugly chain link fence to keep out vandals so I declined. Instead, I drove back down to the river and took the above picture of the hydro dam.


Immediately downstream is one of the city's four main auto bridges over the river. There is also a pedestrian bridge and the dam. This one was taken out of commission in early 2014 to be refurbished and reopened in fall of the same year. As you can see, it is a long ways from being refurbished and we will be lucky to see it open this fall. About a month ago, an article in the paper said they were done with fixing the piers so work could progress come hell or in this case high water without delay. Yet here a month later, there is still plenty of equipment down in the river. I won't complain because about the only time I ever used this bridge was when I was going to a show at the local civic center in the background. That only happens a couple times a year so it really isn't an inconvenience taking the long way around.


This charred log was bobbing around in the choppy waters below the hydro dam and much be connected to a much larger chunk of the tree because it was only bobbing and not going down the river. Nearby is a raised concrete platform that local anglers use to fish below the dam and where I took this picture. I'm guessing there are a lot of snagged lines and hooks attached to this tree.


On my way back home, I swung through the local cemetery where I tied up a loose end that I mused about on this blog almost a year and a half ago.  Back then, I only noticed the canon when I got home and was looking at the picture and theorized that it was someone's gravestone and I figured that particular someone would have a good story behind him. Well it turned out to be a Civil War Memorial among the Civil War section of the cemetery.


Finally back home, I looked around but couldn't find anything yet to catch my photography muse. There were a few bulbs just starting to poke up out of our flower beds but that is it. I'm guessing in another week, there will be a much different story to see. I did take a picture of this burl up in one of our trees on the edge of our property. Years ago I wouldn't have paid any attention to it but now I realize how burl wood can be very prized for its grain patterns when used in furniture and other wooden creations. However, prized or not, I'm not one to go kill a tree just for something like that so I just monitor it so when that tree does die, it's death will not be in vain.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Love In an Elevator

During my first year and a half of college, I lived in the dorms. I hadn't been crazy about the idea but our college had a dorm assignment system that gave preference to two people who requested they share a room together over two strangers. The twin boys in my high school class and the only other males in my class besides me, had an older brother who went to the college I was going too and didn't like the roommate he had the first year. Their older brother was a quiet guy who always studied and never did anything wrong in his life and not really my cup of tea, but I thought it would be better than the opposite. Besides, he was a farm boy like me and likely to get up early and go to bed early and not the other way around. We were paired up which is how I ended up in the Quiet Floor.

Each dorm had a quiet floor which as far as I could tell only meant that you had to be quiet after nine in the evening as opposed to whenever you might pass out from exhaustion. During the daytime and on designated party nights, we were as loud as any other floor. However, none of this really pertains to love in an elevator so I digress.

Our dorm floor had a sister floor (which wasn't a quiet floor) which meant that a couple times a year, we got together and had a big party. On this particular occasion, it was our turn to go to our sister floor so we all got spiffed up and walked across the commons to the female dorm. We crowded into the elevator like a bunch of sardines, hit the button for the sixth floor and away we went.

The light above the door flashed to two, then three and then we felt an obviously slowing down of speed. The light flashed to four and I think five might have even flickered before four showed back up followed at an increasing speed three, two, one. The elevator hit the bottom hard and quite a few of those around me went down to their knees hard. It would have been worse had we not all been packed in there like sardines and really didn't have anywhere to move had we wanted too. After everyone was able to get back on their feet and we were assured that nobody had been hurt, we started hitting the buttons but the door wasn't opening. We were stuck.

Here is where the love part comes in. There were probably twenty of us in that elevator and all of us around 18 to 20 years old. We were going to meet a floor full of women who were 18 to 20 years old and wanted to improve our odds of maybe getting laid. So we were all well scrubbed and well scented and now sealed in a sardine box of an elevator with no ventilation. Time passed as our eyes watered, our lungs burned and temperatures climbed. We probably were in there for over an hour when help finally arrived and they started working on getting the doors opened.

After a few minutes, the doors opened and I saw why we hadn't been able to get out. When the elevator had slipped and fell to the bottom of the shaft, it had been about four feet below ground level so we all had to pull ourselves up to get out of the elevator. Once out, there was an official looking person who started asking all of us our names which I would assume would have led to disciplinary action since there were obviously more than ten people in the elevator. So I did what anyone would have done, I ran. I wasn't in my dorm and they didn't know me from Adam so my chances of them finding me later were slim to none. I took those odds along with all but two or three of us.

We scattered and regrouped, this time taking six flights of stairs to avoid the officials still working near the bank of elevators and I don't remember the details of our party with the sister floor other than I know I didn't get laid. But every time I am in an elevator with a group of people heading up to the upper reaches of a building, I always think of that time when I was in an elevator that fell five flights.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hooked On Crack

I've been reading about a smart phone app called Trivia Crack on another other blog that I read for awhile now. It appealed to me because I like trivia and have always been pretty good at it since I do a lot of non-fiction reading and try to stay caught up on current events through newspapers, magazines and television news shows. Finally my younger brother asked me if I played Trivia Crack because his wife was tired of whipping up on him and was looking for some fresh blood. I bit the bullet and downloaded the app which was free anyway.

I played my brother a few times and he whipped up on me as I learned the ropes and learned how to effectively use the boosters that you collect with time. They have a skip booster which allows you to skip a particularly hard question, a 50/50 booster that reduced the four possible answers down to two and a double guess booster which allows you to make two attempts to answer. Normally you have to play at least one game to earn enough to use one booster so most of the time, my booster account is at zero unless I unlock some level award.

Once I had learned the ropes and was beating my brother regularly, my brother's wife challenged me and I routed her in both games we played. She hasn't challenged me again. I still play my brother on occasion but due to his work schedule, it only amounts to a few games a week. By then I was firmly addicted so I decided to branch out.

The app allows you to play random people so I started a few games with random people. The problem seemed that most people didn't want to play a stranger and just ignored the games or declined them. I eventually found one person who would accept my challenges but he has to be the worst trivia player in the world. Out of the dozen games we have played, he has won zero of them. Out of the six points you can obtain per game, the most he has obtained was two once and zero about 75% of the time. Still he accepts my challenges so I keep him around.

All this trivia has gotten the juices flowing and I actually drug out my Trivial Pursuit game during family game time a few weekends ago but found that it was almost impossible since I'm pretty sure all the questions were over 30 years old and some no longer even true anymore. I looked online to see if I could find more current questions but it seems as if Trivial Pursuit quit making their classic board games a long time ago.

Now that I am addicted to Trivia Crack, I've been branching out and trying to play games with other people I know. I found one person whom I played and beat pretty badly in the first game and then the declined to play me again thinking I was a total stranger. I let them know who I was since my username really doesn't identify me and played a second game only to run the game six straight answers which was a first time for me. I thought that might have scared them off but fortunately the third game went a lot different and after many rounds, I think I eeked out a one point victory. They beat me six straight points to zero on the fourth so I think I have a keeper.

Finally last night at a dinner party, I found a lull in the conversation and mentioned that I was addicted to Trivia Crack and right away, one of the other participants downloaded the game and started to play a random person. Does that make me a Crack dealer now?


Friday, March 6, 2015

S Corporation ESOPs

Twelve years ago I was working at my second nine to five job post college graduation. My first job I had lost due to most of my work being shipped overseas and then closely followed by the tech bubble crash of 2001. Two weeks after getting laid off, 9/11 happened and jobs dried up except for those companies truly desperate to hire someone. I found one of those truly desperate companies and put in two years. The problem was that my boss was an alcoholic and was disappearing for weeks at a time on benders leaving me to shoulder his burdens as well as my own. His boss, desperate to keep me happy and perhaps to eventually unsurp my boss, asked what I wanted to do long term for this company and I told him. I received training from the company and pitched them my idea of how I could use my skills to increase their business. They must have agreed because they hired someone else to fill that position, leaving me to do a job I was extremely over qualified to do. My boss still kept coming back from his mysterious benders and his boss continued to just look the other way. Disgusted, I started looking elsewhere.

I was making decent money at the time and found lots of companies in 2003 that were looking to hire people but most were only paying a fraction of what I was earning. More importantly, all of them seemed like I would just be another number and I desperately wanted to work for a company where I was a name and not just a number on a resource sheet. Finally a company of which I had never heard just 40 miles up the road from where I grew up found my resume online and gave me a call. I went down a few days later for an interview.

The company seemed exactly like what I was looking for. It had a small group of people creating a product that a much larger number of people down on the factory floor built. I could be as hands on as I wanted and everyone knew each other's name. They must have really liked me because before I completed the two hour drive back to my home, they had left a message offering me the job and a second message increasing the offer in the first message by another $5k. It was still about $10k less than what I had been making but it seemed like the right move at the time. I accepted and gave my current boss fresh back from one of his benders my two weeks notice. Perhaps not coincidentally, my boss was fired two weeks later.

While signing paperwork and going over benefits at my new employer, the Human Resources manager happened to mention that they were an S Corporation and were an ESOP. I had never heard of either of those terms and figured as long as I got a paycheck it really didn't matter what kind of company they were. It was only later that the gravity of that statement hit me and in a very surprising way.

S Corporations were signed into law in 1996 and they are a closely held company that does not pay any federal taxes. Instead, they pass on their income or losses to its shareholders who then must report it on their federal income taxes. This brings me to ESOP which stands for Employee Stock Ownership Plan. S Corporation ESOPs have to have less than 100 share holders to meet the definition of closely held. Unbeknownst to me, I was joining a group of about 50 such people and was going to be one of 50 employees who owned 100% of this company.

I started in the fall and because I had to work a full calendar year before I officially became eligible to receive profits (or losses) into my company ESOP account, it took awhile for me to grasp the benefits to being in such a position. But nearly 18 months after I started when I received my first statement, everything became crystal clear. I was paid a salary and like normal, it came every couple weeks with federal and all the other taxes withheld from it. However, once a year, the company divided up its profit to these 50 shareholders according to a complex formula and put these into an account for us in the form of company stock. If my share of the pie was $1000, they put $1000 worth of company stock into my account. Except it wasn't just a $1000. The first year I received an ESOP allotment, it amounted to about 75% of my salary.

But there is a rub. Since this money isn't federally taxed, I must pay the taxes but because it is in shares and treated similar to a 401k, I don't pay taxes on it until I withdraw the stock/money from the tax advantaged retirement account it is parked in. In short, it is treated like a 401k in that I can't touch the money until I retire or pay enormous tax penalties.

Another advantage/disadvantage depending on which side of the coin you are on is that because it is tied up in company stock, the way your stock price goes, so too goes your ESOP account. Because we were 100% employee owned and thus were a private company, our stocks weren't traded publicly. Instead, once a year we hired a company to come in and evaluate our entire company assets minus our liabilities to see how much we were worth. That was divided by the number of outstanding shares of stock and directly determined our stock price per share.

Someone at our company however figured out a way to work the system. If we bought another company with cash and its assets minus liabilities was greater than what we paid for them, then our combined companies would be worth a lot more and thus our share values would increase. Over the next decade, we would buy a half dozen of such companies. Due to this and the fact that we were profitable as individual companies, over the decade that I worked for this company, our average annual stock share increase was 26%. For comparison, the S&P500 during the same time averaged only 7.34%. Put another way, at 7.34% growth, your money doubles every 10 years. At 26% it only takes 3 years.

I watched my ESOP statement grow exponentially as the years went by. As our companies did better and made more money, the amount being put in our ESOP accounts dwarfed our salaries. I should have been ecstatic but I wasn't. While our retirement accounts were getting fat, our salaries were stagnate and it felt to me that we were being enticed with a proverbial carrot on a stick. Eating a portion of that carrot right now would be nice but instead we were chasing it until our retirement and making what we had stretch further every year. It seemed like our company was being driven out of greed to do everything to fund our ESOP accounts and make us wealthy down the road while starving those of us who were rank and file members in the present tense. I also worried that because some tax code law changed in 1996 to make these companies exist, it could also go back the other way. What especially worried me was lots of talk of massive tax overhaul if ever there is a congress willing to work with each other. (Far fetched but could happen.) It got to the point where our company was joining other such companies to create a lobby group to make sure their S Corporation ESOP status wasn't revoked. If that happened, all that was in our accounts could disappear as stock prices plummeted from having to pay federal taxes before determining profitability. To complicate this even further, due to such a large number of account balances in our ESOP plans, the company made the decision to stop paying out this money in one lump sum but distribute it over five years. Essentially that meant that if the company went tail up, we had to see it six years in advance in order to fully get paid out. (You have to have a full year of ESOP ineligibility before you get your first check.)

At the end of ten years, my account had grown to the point where I could retire very comfortably when I reached the age of penalty free withdrawals of 59-1/2.  Trouble was, I wasn't 59-1/2 years old and wouldn't be for another 20 years. I began toying with the idea of getting out while the getting was good. Also causing me to toy with this idea was that because we bought all these companies, I was becoming a number again and though I was still a member of the original 50, there were signs that getting rid of these original owners, especially the lower rank and file ones like myself, would be greatly beneficial to those higher ups that remained. I wanted to quit but when you are sitting behind the goose that lays the golden eggs and the goose keeps popping them out, it is hard to not just say one more egg. Eventually as I predicted but didn't heed, I was laid off along with quite a few of the original 50.

I will soon receive the 3rd of my 5 installments of my ESOP account and like the previous two, I just roll them over into a self directed IRA account towards my retirement. Since I left, I no longer get new shares issued into my account but the uncashed out stock still receives any stock increases and the last three have averaged 29% which means my account more than doubled without working a day. I am getting confident that the company will be around for at least two more years at which point I will fully be cashed out from them.

Looking back, all this seems too good to be true and indeed if you search for S Corporation ESOPs online, there are numerous sites that say they are essentially a tax evasion scam. Although while working there, it all seemed on the up and up, now not having the pressures of money sitting in an account with a promise I'll see it when I leave the company if the company still exists, it does have a scam like feel to it. I get lots of questions about ESOPs from various people I know asking how it worked and I struggle at times on the best way to answer. This post is essentially my answer. I did very well and was able to essentially retire 25 years before most people do as long as my wife keeps working and paying for our health insurance and current expenses for the time being and bless her heart, she does want to do that. But I have no doubt that eventually this house of cards will come crashing down. Instead of the federal government getting lots of money in taxes now, former employees of S Corporation ESOPs will eventually be paying it back to them in small amounts because our incomes upon retirement are significantly lower. The only question in my mind is who will be left in these corporations holding the bag when the end comes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Civil Service and Perhaps Politics

One of the perks of being somewhat retired and a stay at home dad is that I now have time to give back to a society which has been so generous to me over the years. Not only have I become more active in my church and a fraternal organization that I belong too, but I have also managed to get myself elected to the board of a community organization. When I threw my hat in the ring for the board, I thought it would be all kumbaya and reviewing the reports of the president of the organization but it has been nothing like that. I should have known having worked in societal groups for so many years that you just can't put that many people together and not expect personality conflicts. Still it is interesting and I enjoy the work.

Unlike others, I couldn't just be a board member who showed up once a month and voted. I have to be a hands on kind of guy which is why lately it seems, I have been spending a lot of time at the organization getting my hands dirty. All the employees see me and are thrilled to see that someone on the board is willing to step up to the plate and help out instead of just being someone who does not grant all their desires when it comes to their jobs. Like when I was an engineer, I found I learned a lot from the people whom I was affecting with my actions by just being among them and not acting their superior. I have always felt the people down in the trenches have the best knowledge or the inner workings of the organization and thus have really good ideas on the short term of how to make it better. My job as a board member is to help implement many of those ideas while keeping my eye on the long term so that we are around for awhile.

I keep joking with the wife that this is the first step towards getting into politics and sometimes she jokes right back about when I am going to run for mayor or some such office. Right now, being a board member of a local organization feels like I am giving a lot more back to my community than being in a political office so I'm content to stay where I am. Perhaps when my kids are older, I might consider politics though I think I would have to move since the area where I live is extremely polar opposite to many of my political views. However, before that would happen I would have to practice up on my lying because everyone knows a politician is lying when their lips are moving!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Purging

I've heard that the best time to purge is after you move from one house to another. We moved into this place in the dog days of summer in 2012 and had a garage sale in spring of 2013. While we were manning the checkout table and selling our discarded wares, several people kept mentioning that they had thought we were the house down the street. Later our neighbors who owned that house stopped by and told us that they hold a multi-house garage sale every year and politely chided us for not holding ours at the same time. We apologized and said we would certainly do so the next time we had a garage sale. Despite being on the very outskirts of town and off the main drags, we had a lot of traffic due to the misbelief that we were our neighbors well known multi family garage sale and made quite a bit of money.

The following years, the neighbors that put on the large garage sale had to have some unplanned for surgery that would keep them down for a few weeks so they moved up their garage sale to be before the surgery and we ended up with about two days notice. Since we didn't have a lot of stuff to purge at the time and didn't have the time to get everything ready in just two days, we opted to skip having one.

Two years have gone by and our baby is now out of toddler phase and into young girl phase. Since we are officially out of the child rearing business, we have a mountain of baby stuff that we need to purge. I have also remodeled a lot of the house and with that meant a fair amount of refurnishing things which has also added to that mountain. That mountain has grown and consumed the vast majority of the unfinished portion of our basement to the point, where I don't want to finish that portion until it is gone. So this year we have told the various neighbors that we are in with the garage sale this year and a date has officially been set for late May. It will be our neighbor who holds the large multifamily sale every year, ourselves and another neighbor just down the street and possibly another neighbor as well. It will be a crazy week for sure. So from now until then, I expect that there will be a lot of sorting, soul searching and purging going on in our household.

I should note that we aren't large consumers and our mountain may be the average garage sale molehill but it still feels nice to purge those items. It frees up space, recycles the stuff so it doesn't end up in the landfill (at least by our hands), and makes a fair amount of pocket change to boot.