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Random Thoughts

28 March 2005

out of breath ... out of gas

had choir practice again tonight and with the concert less than 2 weeks away, it was crunch time. i noticed during the warm-up that my voice wasn't feeling as strong or as crisp as usual, which was a bad sign. i was ok until we started the gloria movement, which i had a solo in, and i did not feel completely secure in hitting my notes. furthermore, my throat felt really dry and it seemed that drinking water was not really helping. when we reached the break halfway through the practice, i was already feeling winded and my voice started feeling a little hoarse.

i somehow managed to make it through the second half without losing my voice. of course, when i reached another solo, the conductor told me to sing it more loudly and use a more operatic sound, not knowing that i had already sung it as loud as i could. according to henry, it's important to be properly hydrated, so for next practice, i think i'm going to need two bottles of water instead of just one.

by the way, if you'd like to come see our concert, click here for more information!

27 March 2005

movie night: a beautiful mind

rogers video was one of the few places which was open today. so, with nothing else to do, i rented a beautiful mind and good will hunting.

"a beautiful mind" was quite interesting. i'm not too familiar with schizophrenia, but if the portrayal in the movie was accurate, it makes all of us ask the question: what is real? how do i know that the person standing in front of me is real, any more than john nash knew that the people around him were real?

i did notice that nash and his colleague played some go at the beginning of the movie. hmm ... i wonder if the real-life nash played go, and if yes, what his strength was ...

24 March 2005

fun as long as you're getting a refund!

on this lovely day before the easter long weekend i found myself working on the one thing i had wanted to do for several weeks running ... my annual income tax return. i had put it off because i thought i needed my T3 slip to proceed, but it turned out that the reason i didn't receive a T3 slip in the mail was because i didn't earn any income off of my investments this year. so, i sat down at my desk, and an hour later i managed to reward myself with a nice little refund courtesy of revenue canada. and yes, i do my income tax return the old-fashioned way - with pencil and paper!

i guess the thing i wanted to debunk today is the common misconception, propagated by accounting firms (like h+r block), greedy accountants, and software companies (like softron), that doing one's own income taxes is of the same difficulty as completing a PhD in rocket science. ladies and gentlemen, it isn't that hard. anyone with a grade 8 education who knows how to follow instructions can do their personal tax return in one hour. it just kills me to see h+r block charge people upwards of $50 per return, and software companies charging $20-something for their little software packages. if this software package could be re-used year after year, the cost might be justifiable. but, these companies come out with new software every year, using the excuse that "since revenue canada changes their taxation rules every year, we need to update our software accordingly". what a crock.

(i'm not trying to disparage accountants. they do serve a useful purpose in our society.)

try doing your own income tax return this year. take ownership of issues with regards to your personal finances instead of delegating them to your accountant or whomever. do you know what percentage of your charitable donations can be deducted? do you know how to claim unused RRSP contributions? learn how federal and provincial income taxes are calculated and try to see how you could pay less income tax next year.

learn how to do your own tax return and you will never have to pay another person to do it for you, for the rest of your life. if you like, think of it as an investment - an investment in yourself.

17 March 2005

sore all over

after almost a year of inactivity, i started making trips to the gym at the office again. and oh boy, did i ever pay for my inactivity! after my visit, i was feeling sore all over (and i mean, ALL OVER) ... everywhere from my diaphragm, to my groin, to my upper chest was aching. bad bad bad!!

now that the weather is improving, i should be able to start jogging along the waterfront again in a few weeks. even though i'm really rusty, i'll try to pick up badminton again this spring.

14 March 2005

tips for renewing car insurance

here are a few tips when it comes time to renew your car insurance policy:

first, be sure to shop around with as many different insurance companies or brokers as possible to ensure that you aren't getting a raw deal. a company may tell you that their deal is the best deal that you're going to get, but don't take their word for it.

second, make sure that your deductible is as high as possible. basically, if you report an at-fault accident, you pay the amount of the deductible and the insurance company pays the rest. so, if you report a $3000 accident and your deductible is $500, you pay $500 and the insurance company pays $2500.

why is a high deductible good? well, higher deductibles result in lower premiums. and second, since one should never report an at-fault accident to the insurance company unless it involved personal injury or was a write-off (see my rant from last february), you'll never have to worry about paying that extra deductible amount anyway.

third, be aware of personal anniversaries which will factor into reduced premiums. the most well-known of these is the 25th birthday - premiums will drop by as much as 30% after this date. other big anniversaries are: 6 years after an at-fault accident, 3 years after a traffic ticket, or marriage. all of these events will cause your premium to drop significantly. if you are in the middle of a one-year contract and one of these anniversaries falls within that year, it may be worth it to terminate your contract after the anniversary and get a deal elsewhere ... the savings will often be greater than the cost involved in breaking the contract.

anyways, after doubling my deductible, my insurance premium came down another $8 per month, making the total decrease $16 per month. since my lone at-fault accident occurred in september 1999, i'm going to be doing this all over again in october ... oh the joy ...

08 March 2005

circles of four

hmm ... instead of talking about myself today, let's talk about circles of four!

what's a circle of four? it's a group of four people, A, B, C and D, such that: