Archive for July, 2007

Bad, bad chicken!

This site is certified 85% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Well, actually they rated it at 29% evil, but I figure I get extra points for photoshopping the rating and hacking the link.


A Century!

I’m in training yet again for the “Around the Bay” bike ride in October. It’s 210km and I’m by no means confident of my ability to finish it.

On Sunday, I took time off from the usual leisurely 40-60km ride with the club and hit the road for a solid session at a good pace instead. My route followed the worst part of the Around the Bay ride – from my home down to Beach road, then over the hills from Frankston to Dromana. And then back again (which you don’t have to do on the real ride)

It was 106km by my odometer, and it took me 4-1/2 hours of riding, with one short stop at Mt Martha for a coffee and sticky bun. That’s not exactly a cracking pace, but given that there was a lot of hill climbing, I’m not unhappy with the average speed of 23.5 km/hr. Presumably with a bit more training I should be able to improve on that. I’d be very happy with a 25km/hr average for the real ride.

Taxing times

Death and taxes, are, of course, inevitable. Fortunately, you don’t die every year.

Tax time, of course arrives all too regularly . In Australia, our financial year is July through June. I decided to do both my personal and company tax last week.

Over our married years, we had been using a tax accountant to compile our returns.  (OK, credit where credit is due. My ex spouse is much better organised than I and deserves considerable thanks for keeping track of the finances and sorting out the mountain of paperwork that comes with shares in particular!  )

Twenty years ago the accounting business was a small shopfront in the local street.

Then, about 10 years ago, they merged with a larger company, changed their name and moved to some swankier offices further away. Two years ago they moved to a suite in St Kilda Rd – really upmarket. Every move heralded a ferocious hike in the fees they charged.

Last year, as a result of the separation and no longer having any shares, my personal tax affairs simplified somewhat. I handled my own personal income tax return via the E-tax online system but still got the accountant to do my company tax. I think they might have been a bit miffed. But they still hit me for $900 for a rather junior accountant to prepare the company return. Even after I’d done everything in my power to keep the bill down – I even scanned all my own financial documents and supplied them in PDF form. (The accountant normally scans and files all the documents, and charges me for the time taken to do so).

This year, I decided to bite the bullet and see what preparing the company return was really worth. Last week I took the last couple of years of business tax folders that the accountant prepared and went into forensic mode, analysing the relationships between all those numbers and the output from my accounting program. I generated spreadsheets to produce identical results and validated them against some earlier years. I then produced equivalents of the formal declarations and stuff to produce form letters. Then I plugged in this years’ figures.

Lo and behold, this years tax return and associated company memorandums and motions is complete. It would probably have cost me about $800 if I’d had to pay for my own time at a mid-level accountants rates. But at the end of the day, I have generated everything I need to do next years company tax inside an hour or two.

Why didn’t I do my own company tax some years and some thousands of dollars ago?

Perhaps I’m the victim of the insidious “write-on” practice. A write-on occurs, for example, when an accountant continues to charge a high price for services even if that service has since been streamlined and now costs him (sometimes far) less to perform. Or perhaps the customer has been led to believe that a particular service is normally charged at about a certain rate. The accountant charges this price anyhow, even if the clients’ job ends up being trivial.

In my case, it may well have been a reasonable charge when I first formed the company. But my tax affairs are not complex and I supply my business accounts in a well-organised form to the accountant, who gives it to a junior to process. Realistically, given that they have all their spreadsheets and form letters from last year, it should take the junior accountant less than an hour to plug in my new figures and less than another hour to print out and collate the standard output (It’s the same every year).

See what the accounting profession themselves say about write-ons ….below the fold.

Continue reading ‘Taxing times’

Fatherly advice

Appropos of a post at Doug’s place

Who’s the mum…. here’s a hint. follow me below the fold Continue reading ‘Fatherly advice’

The book I’d love to read?

I’ve often wondered:  if I were a writer, what would I write?   The answer, I guess, is a book I’d have loved to read if someone else had written it.

For example, I’ve never read the definitive  time travel novel. Every one I’ve ever read has left me just that little bit unsatisfied. So I guess that’s where I’d start.

Maybe I don’t have to.

Gentle reader, if reader there be,  recommend a good time travel novel for me…

Degrees of separation

Offspring #1, who is in a University class in creative and professional writing, was recently bemoaning the lack of input from actual, working, published authors that her class has received.

Oddly enough, I have one of those”degrees of separation” things going with a number of working and wannabe authors. Maybe it’s something worth exploring.

I follow the blogs of a couple. Doug Hoffman, by day a not-so-mild ENT surgeon, is a popular, enthusiastic and amusing blogger; he’s in the never-ending process of writing of all things, a romance. Dean Cochrane, Canadian (published!) writer of short fiction, has a not-so-secret identity as a frustrated Database Administrator for a company he refers to coyly as “Tombstone”. From the blogrolls of these two you can leap off into the airy reaches; to the blogs of writers like the intriguing (if sometimes snarky) Erin O’Brien or romance author Kate Rothwell, to name a couple of extremes.

But closer to home, many years ago I worked with Jenny Blackford, who is married to Russell Blackford, Published Author and lecturer in the School of Philosophy and Bioethics at Monash University. They ran a small publishing empire for a while. This got me introductions to folks like Damien Broderick and Lucy Sussex; and they convinced me and the ex to visit Aussiecon II in 1985 which is why I know Comic Book Guy in the Simpsons is not an altogether inaccurate stereotype. So many fat Starfleet captains!

And Ms Canada has some cousins who live in the hills up behind Foster in Gippsland. We were visiting up there a couple of months back and they offered to introduce me to Jack Dann, who just happens to live in the house across the road…… Sadly we had a family emergency and couldn’t take up the offer.

The one author I’d prefer to keep as much separation as possible from is of course,  Matthew Reilly

Yes, I’m still here!

Events in the Chickens coop have mostly conspired to keep me from this blog; not that there hasn’t been time, but psychic energy has definitely been flagging.

Mostly it’s been work.   Just as I had determined that I needed to do a major rethink of the whole business, along comes enough orders to keep me bone-tired but sleepless every evening for a month.  Sadly, it’s not very lucrative work so an underlying business problem still remains. Maybe it’s time to move on.  I’ll possibly have more to say on that in a later post, I guess.

The weather doesn’t help.  It’s just passed the winter solistice, so cold, damp and fog greets me each morning. That’s never a great start for my day, especially in an essentially unheated workshop.

We (me and Ms Canada) are off to Tasmania in October for my sisters’ 50th birthday.  It’s the second 50th for me and the sibs. The whole crew landed on my doorstep a couple of years ago to hold a wake for my first half-century.  We promised then that we’d do it every time one of us passed the milestone. As a result  I have three trips to Queensland to schedule over the next 7 years.

Scattered to the four winds, we don’t see each other all that often.  We don’t live in each others’ pockets or get the chance to get on one anothers nerves.  As a result, it’s generally a pleasure to get together, compare  offspring, prosperity and waistlines.