some interesting math

Given my recent tax woes, I happened across an old news story that lent an interesting perspective to the situation. It seems that when Michael Eisner of Disney let go of his No. 2 man, Jeffery Katzenberg (now the ‘K’ of Dreamworks SKG) in the mid-90’s, he did so without forcing Katzenberg to forfeit his rights to bonuses and royalties totalling $250 million. A lawsuit followed, which Katzenberg eventually settled out of court… for reportedly about $250 million.

That got me thinking about how much money $250 million is. In practical terms, I can’t wrap my brain around it. If I was somehow the beneficiary of that kind of money through some bizarre act of God, even trying to spend it would be hard. Assuming that the IRS took about half of it right off the top and I got a nice house, furnished it, and bought a couple nice cars, I would still be left with about $120 million in the bank. If I was able to get only a modest amount of return on it annually, say two percent, I would be able to spend $2.4 million a year before I had to even touch any of the principal. If I assume that the government again took half of the interest in tax every year, I would be left with $1.2 million to spend. Spread out over a year, I would have to spend an average of just over $3000 a day, every day to spend it all.

Spending that kind of money has got to be hard. How many times do you need to buy a new sofa or get a plasma screen TV? Travel can suck up a lot of money I suppose… as can messy personal relationships. I’m 36 years old, however… I like to hope that I’ve figured out enough about life that the money wouldn’t completely warp my middle class sense of taste or values. Ok, so I would want to drive a reasonably nice Infiniti… but I’m not sure I would feel the need to drive a Ferrari with a six figure price tag all the time.

Then again… I could just be deluding myself. I could invest in bad land deals. I could run for office or produce films with my own money. I could buy a winery whose grape stock is destroyed by a fungus just as I am getting ready to produce my first vintage. I could procure prostitutes for every member of Congress who wanted one. Mrs. Geek and I could raise a bunch of spoiled brats who would do nothing but fight over money. I could try to create a trendy chain restaurant called “Watchootalkinbout, Willis?”

Yeah, a Gary Colman-themed restaurant… that would be my undoing. I guess I’m better off doing without all that money. I’ll just have to soldier on tryin’ to make an honest buck workin’ for The Man.

Update: To the individual who used Altavista to do an image search on the keywords “kahlo thong image” to find my diary, I’ve alerted the local authorities. They should be arriving with a needleful of thorazine and a ticket to the “magic kingdom” shortly.

perfect madness

Parenting issues seem to be more on my mind these days. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it is because Mrs. Geek and I are surrounded by other couples who either have kids, couples who are currently expecting a child, or are talking about having children(though not seriously) ourselves.

In any case, when both crazedparent and harri3tspy both mentioned Judith Warner’s new book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, I was immediately curious about what all the hubbub was about. After a glance at the New York Times Book Review and MSNBC articles mentioned by these fellow diarists, I see that young mothers are slowly going insane. Raised on the notion that women can be both effective mothers and powerful, persuasive professionals at the same time, Ms. Warner points out that women themselves are too tired and over-taxed by assuming both these roles to do anything but be swallowed up by the chaos of it all. There are many reasons for this, she goes on to say. Chief among them: the lack of state support for cheap day care and other services (available in Europe) that would make a professional life for a young mother much easier to bear. The competitive nature of modern mothering is not far behind she also says. She lists a myriad of examples: no four year old’s birthday party is complete without a professional party planner and engraved invitations, not just any ballet class for your daughter will do, if getting into the best pre-school requires camping out in the school parking lot at 5am so be it, and no child can be intelligent unless they have a vocabulary of at least 50 words in each of three languages spoken outside the home by the age of five. (Well, ok… maybe not that last one, but close.)

I fear that modern life as it has developed in the last half of the 20th century has significantly changed what it means to be a parent and have a home. We’ve changed from the largely agrarian society of 100-150 years ago where life in the home was absolutely central to the daily routine to one where a home serves two communal purposes: to sleep and store stuff. Everything else seems to have become secondary through eating on the go, violin lessons here, soccer practice there, spinning class at the gym, and long hours at the office. We live in a largely urban society that seems (in some ways) to be more headquartered out of our SUVs than our homes. It is therefore somewhat ironic and only makes matters worse that real estate prices in most urban areas are so high that housing is only affordable if both parents work.

I fear that we’ve also become far too competitive and shallow. We don’t belong to as many communities or organizations as a collective anymore. Now, we must compete at everything: our careers, the sizes of our houses, and the accomplishments of our children. Appearance and materialism is the goal; one need look no further than the celebrities of the moment to see that deeper spiritual qualities are unnecessary. You’ve just got to be young looking and rich. Actually, you just have to be rich — the appearance of youth and beauty can be created if you have enough money to spare.

It’s a mess, logistically and emotionally. In their particularly divided lives as both care giver and career woman, mothers must feel like deer caught in a particularly bright set of headlights. The only ray of hope that I can see is that Ms. Warner notes that we men are doing our part — increases in the average amount of time spent with a parent per day are largely due to fathers spending more time with their children.

I think that in order to truly resolve the situation, something must change. Either cheap, reliable childcare for all must be made into a reality, or we must abandon some of our ideas about being able to have both a family and a career.I would love to see true equality between the sexes in that change. Let women be free of stigma if they chose to forgo children in favor of a career. Let there be both “Daddy” and “Mommy” career tracks. Mostly, I think we need to intrinsically recognize that the important thing about families is the time we spend together and the bonds we develop with each other. To live in a house that’s worth half as much money but to have twice as much love, that is to be rich indeed.

water, wine, shoes, and taxes

Oh, how I wish that today was a paid holiday for Company O. Alas, President’s Day is not on the list. No paid holidays for me between New Year’s and Memorial Day. I don’t doubt that I’ve mentioned this before. It starts to bother me every year starting around the month of February.

Saturday was devoted to getting together with friends and going to an open house for a winery. The winery sponsoring the event was Winery R., a specialist in Zinfandels, Syrahs, and Petite Sirahs. I was told that they open everything when they have an open house, and these reports were not exaggerated. There were about 50 wines available to taste, of which I had 23. The bulk of those were Zinfandels. Even with the copious amounts of food they had on hand, it made for a rather long 3 hours of tasting. The wine was nearly all excellent however, and made the effort more than worth it.

The real down side of the afternoon was the weather. It was raining hard most of the day. This was not a problem as long as we were tasting in warehouse space normally used for barrel storage. The problem occured when we moved out to a tent in the parking lot taste wine. As the tent was sitting on asphalt that had a couple degrees of grade, water was flowing across the floor of the tent in shallow sheets. I’d worn a pair of Rockport leather dress shoes with artificial soles. It turned out that the soles of both shoes were cracked. Water just loved to wick up into my shoes whenever I stepped on wet ground. I could feel water pooling between my toes by the time we left.

(Needless to say, I went out and bought new shoes on Sunday. I also got new cross trainers, as my current pair were also showing their age.)

On Sunday, I finally decided to bite the bullet and do our taxes for the year. It was not a pleasant experience. Mrs. Geek and I both used Turbo Tax last year. I was sorely disappointed when I changed my status from “single” to “married filing jointly” because Turbo Tax did not ask to import last year’s return for Mrs. Geek. That meant locating additional paperwork for the both of us for last year. The end result was also not very desirable. We’re going to end up owing the IRS good sized chunk of change. It seems that I did not correctly estimate how many Personal Allowances to take after we got married last year and took too many. The automatic withholding from my paycheck was too small, and we ended up owing the government some money. It was disheartening.

We shall survive. The amount is merely going to be an inconvenience. No kidneys will need to be sold on the black market. It just means that cancelling some plans Mrs. Geek and I had to travel around Easter.

Oh, how I’m looking forward to the end of the year. Except for a few student loans, Mrs. Geek and I will finally be debt free… and making payments like this will be much easier to manage.

pet names and the habits of annoyingly cute couples

I fear that Mrs. Geek and I are an annoyingly cute couple at times. Surely you know the kind I am talking about. Not the kind that wear matching sweaters. Rather the kind who have pet names for each other, hold hands in public often, are unafraid of public displays of affection, and sometimes employ the most saccharine sorts baby talk to communicate. You know, the kind who drive both single people and longer-term couples nuts.

Mrs. Geek and I often try to keep this sort of behavior under wraps. Being single ourselves for most of our twenties, we know how disgusting overly cute couples can be. We want to be responsible members of society and therefore practice baby talk and other child-like behaviors behind closed doors.

We do occasionally get caught, however. One such occasion happened this past Monday. Mrs. Geek got me two separate gifts. The first she was able to give me on Sunday night when I gave my gift to her (it was a sterling silver-plated yoyo with my name engraved on it… it’s a long story.) The second, I discovered on Monday afternoon, was a box of chocolate-dipped Chinese fortune cookies from fortunecookiedepot.com. It is those fortune cookies that got me caught.

You see, Mrs. Geek had them sent to me at Company O. She’d been hinting that she was doing this for a week or two before Valentine’s Day. So, when a box suddenly appeared in my cubicle after meeting with a colleague, all I could think was “oooh… PRESENTS!!!!”. That was all fine and good. Inside the non-descript cardboard box used for shipping was plain white box with a large red bow. This was also just fine. In fact, it was almost picture perfect. Upon opening this inner box, I found 50-100 individually wrapped chocolate-dipped fortune cookies. After trying one, I found that they were delicious and had customized fortunes in them. The fortunes said things like “Happy Valentines Day 2005″… or so I thought.

I got into trouble when I offered some of these cookies to some of my co-workers of Asian extraction… who just happened to be gabbing the next cublicle. I hand out around two of the cookies… the first one has a relatively non-descript fortune. The second guy gets to his fortune, looks up and says “Hey… what does this mean?”

Oops. Busted. The fortune said “I wubba you” which is how Mrs. Geek and I sometimes say “I love you” to each other.

Needless to say, I didn’t share any more cookies with co-workers. None of the I’ve seen so far (I’m told that there are six different ones) are in any way tasteless… but many of them are very cute. Too cute for a couple who wants to be responsible members of society to share with everyone.

lingerie shopping

Valentine’s Day this year afforded me the opportunity to do something I’d never done before: buy lingerie for my wife. In fact, I’d never bought lingerie for any of the women in my life. So venturing out to Victoria’s Secret for something lovely and lacy for the special woman in my life was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, but never had a chance to do before.

I did my best to make sure that I had my homework done prior to making the trip.I did not want to be one of those “oh, she’s about your size” husbands seen in movies and television. I had a card from Victoria’s Secret that Mrs. Geek had given me way back when with her measurements on it. I made sure to note her dress size when she mentioned it last. I even managed to copy down some more recent measurements she had taken.

Still, the store felt like unfamiliar territory and that made me a little self conscious. Would a man shopping for lingerie by himself look odd? I didn’t think so… but it was all rather new to me.

I decided to take a self effacing approach. I browsed around for a bit, just to see what was available. Once I found something that I thought Mrs. Geek would like and make her look great, I asked a clerk about sizing. I prefaced my question with “Hi. I’m yet another of the clueless husbands who is here to buy something for his wife…” That got a smile from the clerk, and she was very helpful.

I think the whole thing turned out well. Mrs. Geek seemed to like what I got her. I’ll have to find a reason to get her something else… once Victoria’s Secret get away from Valentine’s Day colors; everything was either red, pink, or black.

going sideways

Mrs. Geek and I caught the film Sideways last night for a Valentine’s Day Weekend date. All I can say is: wow.

I’ve seen movies before that center on food and drink. Many of them (like Chocolat) either skimp on the food and drink, the characters, or both. In spite of the fact that Sideways is a tiny little film, it does neither. As the characters talked about wine and the spell it wove in their lives, I found myself wanting a wine glass in my hand so I could feel delicate and complicated flavors occasionally move across my tongue. In that and its very humanly flawed humor, it was a feast for the senses.

I found myself strongly sympathizing with the main character, Miles (played by Paul Giamatti.) Miles’ buddy Jack (played by Thomas Haden Church) is the charming cad, the somtimes shallow, good looking guy who knows instantly how to connect with others around him — especially women. Miles is good hearted and charming too, in his own way… but getting to know him is a slower, slightly harder thing to do. So when Miles and Jack meet two women (Maya and Stephanie) and go to dinner together, it is Jack and Stephanie who end up having noisy, enthusiastic sex right away… while Miles and Maya remove themselves to a couple of chairs on a front porch and discuss their mutual passion for wine. As the evening ends, yes they do kiss, but Miles also gives Maya a manuscript for the novel he’s been writing for the last three years.

I am not Miles. I do not have his neuroses and his almost crippling sense of depression. Yet I understand some of his struggles. I’ve been the Sancho Panza sidekick to more than one charming Don Quixote friend who can light up a room when he walks in. I can also understand how damaging it can be to pour years of your life into writing something… knowing that then must be accepted and approved before you can successfully move on. Lastly, I know the desire to be among people who really understand you, the frustration of how difficult it can be to find such people, and the elation that is felt when such a person is found and a connection is made. The movie is but a very thin slice of Miles’ life… and I found it rather easy to fill in the untold parts of Miles’ story with some of my own.

It is therefore no surprise that I felt glad that I have found Mrs. Geek as the movie progressed. Miles seems the sort of fellow who can feel alone in a crowded room. I’ve felt that way over the years too. With Mrs. Geek, I know I never need be alone again… because she is with me. There can never be just me in a crowded room anymore, we are together.

call me swami rama-bindu-vedanta-kabbulah-bob

Welcome believers, to my new religion! In spite of any names I might formerly possess, you may now call me Swami Rama-bindu-vedanta-kabbulah-bob (or just Bob for short.) As a part of your welcome orientation to the Spiritual Center of the White Lotus (Burbank, Paris, London), I would just like to review a few of the basic precepts of the White Lotus Faith that I teach to all who will listen:

  • For those whom much has been given, much is required. Being famous is hard, and very taxing on the soul. A Spiritual Center is required to help you find a center of the spirit. You need quiet. You need peace. You need 600 thread count sheets. You need custom tailored silk armani pajamas and calorie controlled, gourmet meals prepared in cooperation with your dietician. We will even groom your pets. We know you need these things and are ready to provide. Just ask any of the disciples on the grounds. You’ll know them by their black Armani pajamas with the White Lotus logo.
  • There are many onramps to the Interstate of Enlightenment. The first step on the path of Enlightenment is unimportant, except that it is followed by another and another. This is because all streams eventually join a mighty river. You want yoga classes, we have them. You want to lay on a bed of freshly imported rose petals and be covered in colored crystals to feel their healing energy, we can do that too. If you want to wear all kinds of mood rings or have your spiritual purity measured by odd-looking electronic devices, we can even do that. You can drink spiritually-infused $10 bottled water if you want to. Don’t worry. You’re part of a community here. The traditions of others may seem odd at first, but they are merely leaves on the same mighty tree. You will eventually become one with the root of all.
  • Blessed silence must reign. Silence is emphasized in all non-classroom public spaces at the Spiritual Center of the White Lotus. Meals will be taken in silence; menus are located in each guest room and may be relayed to the kitchen by the in-house intercom system. Conversation is permitted in all guest rooms. Use of cell and satellite phones is discouraged — though our staff will be glad to answer them for you and take messages.
  • Enlightenment rules all, but Joy is her Handmaiden. Low key social gatherings on the grounds are permitted and encouraged. Guests may check in alone, or with partners. Walls are heavily soundproofed. If you arrive at the Spiritual Center of the White Lotus alone, carefully administered compatibility tests can allow us to place you in a group of others with similar attitudes, preferences, and sexual pecadillos.
  • By these stripes, we will all be healed. Believers of the teachings of the Spiritual Center of the White Lotus are encouraged to quietly show their solidarity by carrying a token bearing the White Lotus emblem wherever they go. We have a line of lovely silk and cashmere scarves that we think look absolutely smashing with most every look. Other designer accessories are available however. A licensed tattoo artist is available on premises if a more permanent symbol is desired.
  • There is no greater gift than giving itself. We have a number of high priced luxury items (illustrated scriptures, for example) available for sale. The net proceeds of these purchases will be used to feed poor unfortunates in other parts of the world who are faced with hardship and disaster. A portion of the price of these items will be kept by the Spiritual Center of the White Lotus to cover costs. You will feel better and more spiritually at peace knowing that $25 of the $200 you gave us for a scroll will be used to feed a family of six in a poorer part of world… like Cleveland.