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Time for the Henry Miller tax avoidance strategy

SEATTLE, Washington - Henry Miller didn't know how to manage the piles of money he started making when his juiciest works were finally published in the United States in the early 1960s. He had been poor most of his life, sometimes getting by by sending out letters to friends, begging for food, clothes, whatever.

In 1963 he had high tax bills and a less-than-optimal liquidity situation and sought advice; some of his accountants mentioned that he could get tax write-offs by donating his watercolors to museums and universities. Upon hearing this, Miller (73 years old at the time) tossed aside any notions of making a painting when inspiration struck, and cranked out scores of watercolors which were promptly donated off.

Massive tax write-off
(writer painting)
I wish I had known this a few weeks ago, when I donated an old television to a nonprofit. I didn't even bother with donation paperwork for giving away that old dinosaur, but perhaps I could have thrown in one of my paintings, like the one pictured here.

"Yes, I'd also like to donate this painting to your organization. It's worth ten thousand dollars. Yes, yes, I'll need a receipt."


Football Lock of the Week


Record: 2-5

This week: Missouri (-4) @ Colorado

UPDATE: big win for Missouri moves me to 3-5.


Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 2-4

This week: USC (-20.5) vs. Oregeon St.


Notes on the Las Vegas cupcake scene

SEATTLE, Washington - I'll leave it to others to review Vegas strip clubs and escort services - I'll talk cupcakes instead. I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas (no, I didn't stay at the Mint, it was long ago integrated into Binion's) and while there I decided to survey the cupcake situation.

It's a tough job, criss-crossing the vast Las Vegas Valley with its ubiquitous strip malls and endless tracts of identical houses with identical tile roofs. The only rewards were the cupcakes and the occasional sighting of a trashy-hot woman leaving a Fuddruckers or Chili's.

Cupcake shop is in a strip mall unless otherwise noted. Actually, nothing to note, they're all in strip malls.

My first stop was Mad Hatter Cupcakes. The distinctive thing about Mad Hatter is that they frost and fill every cupcake to order. There's a few display items, but whatever you order gets put together right in front of you.

I went with a chocolate banana cupcake, which was a bit better than adequate. The cake was a bit on the spongy side, but that seems to be a frequent feature of banana cake. This store (unlike all the others I visited) actually had a few places to sit down.

As it happens, the strip mall right across the street from the Mad Hatter strip mall is the home of Cupcake Lane. They go with a geography-based theme for their flavors, so I went with Pike Place, which has a caramel-latte theme.

When I purchased the cupcake, the $0.30 in change I received was freezing cold, which was an ominous sign. There was no seating so the cupcake and its container are pictured below in my car. I thought putting the cupcake in a Pork Fried Rice container was odd, but I later found they weren't the only place that does this.

Well, the cupcake was a deeply refrigerated brick. I detected no espresso flavor. It's debatable at best whether a cupcake should ever be refrigerated, but this was absurd. Even if it was room temperature, both the cake and the frosting were of a density that suggested long shelf life more than sensual pleasure.

Next up, in some other anonymous part of the valley, was The Cupcakery. This place really pours it on as far as unique presentations and flavors. Pictured is the Strawberry Shortcake flavor, the cake color was a bit artificial-looking for my taste (and other flavors had other garish cake colors) but the taste and texture were decent and the two frosting textures was a good touch.

I also tried The Cupcakery's Elvis-inspired Trip to Graceland flavor (banana, peanut butter, bacon, and if you look real close there's some glitter-type stuff in the bacon); I will comment on bacon later.

When I left The Cupcakery, I started talking up a waitress at a Greek restaurant next door, telling her who I was, that I was researching Las Vegas cupcakes, and maybe she has some information she'd like to volunteer to me?... and she immediately pointed me to Retro Bakery.

This bakery was the best of the shops I visited. They have variety that doesn't descend into absurdity and the cake was moist without being too soft or spongy.

Below is the Coffee and Donuts flavor, which has donut glaze and a dollop of coffee buttercream. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it until I had already started consumption.

One of the owners, Kari, served me, so I got to talk to Kari a bit... discussing cupcake issues theoretical and practical, the New York cupcake scene, the Seattle cupcake scene, etc. Kari is clearly a true believer... that's what I like to see.

Retro donates unpurchased cupcakes to a food bank nightly, just like Cupcake Royale, so there will be no refrigerated debacles at Retro Bakery. (update: due to distance, cupcakes are not donated every night to a food bank, but some days are simply dispersed to lucky people at other businesses, etc.).

The most notable thing to me about the Vegas shops, compared to other places, was the sheer variety (sometimes over-variety) of flavors and presentations. I don't know if this is a regional thing, or just new places trying to out-do each other. It certainly contrasts sharply with some of the Seattle shops and New York places like Buttercup, Two Little Red Hens, and Sugar Sweet Sunshine, all of which have a much more traditional vibe to their offerings.

bacon codicil: I had both the aforementioned Trip to Graceland cake from The Cupcakery and the Maple Bacon at Retro. In both cases, the bacon was in a chewier, more jerky-like state than I was expecting, and was a bit under-represented in the overall flavor. I don't think that texture works for me, but perhaps if you go with a crispy-bits bacon approach then other problems emerge.


Did balloon boy Falcon Heene get the Ludovico Treatment?

Troubling question
(balloon boy puking)
SEATTLE, Washington - Allegations that the off-kilter Heene family staged the balloon-boy incident were bolstered by little Falcon stating that "you said we did this for a show" when asked why he did not come down from the attic.

Unfortunately, the next two times little Falcon heard questions about why he hid, he immediately vomited!.

What could cause this? It's almost as if he has been conditioned to have a horrible physical reaction upon hearing the very words...

Can we account for the whereabouts of Pat O'Day in the last 48 hours? Has he been to Colorado?


Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 2-3

This week: Wake Forest (+7) @ Clemson

UPDATE: Wake was getting pummeled so badly, I'm not even going to look at the final score, but that drops me to 2-4. Already more losses for me than the entire 2006 season.


How much stuff survives 13 address changes?

SEATTLE, Washington - While working on a sink in my house I found a bowling ball towel (pictured below) that I knew dated from way way back, back before I even moved out on my own in October 1992, seventeen years ago this month.

Which got me wondering, how much of my stuff, my physical possessions, dates all the way back to my first apartment? We accumulate so much stuff, most of it seems somewhat important when we acquire it, but how much has made it with me for 17 years, which includes 13 address changes in six states?

There is the towel and other items from my job at that time:

I still have the license plate from my truck:

My father's M5 Bayonet from his time in the USMC:

I over-did it a bit with gear in my first apartment, a bad move considering my income at the time; of all the furniture and kitchen gear the only survivor is this humble blender:

When I moved out, I figured a responsible fellow keeps track of his paperwork, so I got an accordion-style folder. It has assorted stuff like 15-year-old credit card statements, receipts, the kind of stuff I routinely throw away today. It also contains a small newspaper clipping, folded up, that my mother gave me when I moved out (she seemed convinced I hated her and the world was ending, what son moves out of the house before marriage?) and that I was instructed not to read until she dies. It is still in there, unread, awaiting her death.

Only a tiny crumb of the 450 or so books in my house have been with me 17 years. A few old college books, and a tiny selection of other stuff. I was not a reader then.

How has this survived the ages, this is a recording of a Dungeons & Dragons session I ran. It must date from 1984 or 1985. I don't have any technology to play it on, thank goodness.

And, my old Dungeons & Dragons dice have never left me. (My old favorites, the yellow d8 and the clear d20!)

I think that's it.


Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 1-3

Gotta go with home town love this week: Seattle Seahawks (-1) vs. Jacksonville

UPDATE: 41-0 Seahawks. The AP story on the game said the Jags looked "bewildered". Record: 2-3


(Alleged) West Seattle pimps took notes from American Pimp

SEATTLE, Washington - From the 1999 Hughes Brothers documentary American Pimp, pimps in response to the question of what "cut" their prostitutes get:

Schauntte: "What cut they get? Oh no. They ain't get no cut."
Charm: "No percentage."
Bishop Don Magic Juan: "Zero Percentage."
Payroll: "Zero."
Kenny Red: "A bitch of mine better not keep a dime."
Fillmore Slim: "None. None."
Danny Brown: "If one of my women had proven to be stronger than me, a better manager than me, then she could have been the leader. But I was the master of the house, I was the leader of the program, so all the money came to me. It wasn't like I had part of the money, she had part of the money - that's like, a divided situation."
And now in an trial that opened yesterday of an alleged West Seattle pimp:
Clark is accused of pimping out three women, including two girls, through a prostitution ring run by a West Seattle gang, the West Side Street Mobb.

That, [Prosecutor Sean]O'Donnell told jurors, is Mobb with two Bs.

"Mobb is spelled M-O-B-B, and it stands for Money Over Broke Bitches," O'Donnell said. "And you will find that money is a recurring theme in this case. …

"You will find that this gang has an almost singular purpose. Money, money, money."


New Mad Dog Radio host having pot-and-kettle issues

SEATTLE, Washington - Sirius XM's Mad Dog Radio sports channel has juggled its lineup and brought in a new host, Dino Costa, to work the evening shift. In his first hour of his first show, Costa noted how he thinks that sports talk radio has fallen on hard times in this country, how it's pandering to the lowest common denominator, it's not smart enough, on and on. I thought, okay, sounds good. Bring on the more thoughtful, eloquent sports talk radio.

The next night, Costa said he was going to call out a particular man who was dumbing down sports talk. The target was Jim Rome.

Can't ad-lib
(Jim Rome)

Costa went on an extended, screaming rant about Rome and his listeners. He bellowed, over and over, that Rome SCRIPTS HIS ENTIRE SHOW and has NO AD-LIB ABILITIES whatsoever! Over and over! Rome panders to the frat-boy, sideways-baseball-cap, moron portion of the country! That his listeners are idiots by definition! That the show is all ATTITUDE and no SPORTS ANALYSIS! NO AD-LIB ABILITIES! The callers script their calls! Rome always talks in STATEMENTS! He SCRIPTS THE SHOW!!!

He then decided to take callers who wanted to defend Rome, and as soon as some came on he called them morons, idiots, and punks, shouting over the callers. Must have called one guy an idiot and a punk dozens of times.

This is the new cerebral sports talk radio? Shouting down callers as morons and punks?

I've been paying to listen to The Jim Rome Show since 2002, I've heard at least part of almost every show in that time, and one thing I can tell you about it is this: Rome has never shouted down a caller, never told a caller he was a moron or idiot to get a rise out of them, in all the years I've been listening. If a caller his bad, he hangs up on them (accompanied by a buzzer sound effect.) Once in a while, he'll say a thing or two about a caller after they're off. If a caller is really profane, nervous, or incompetent, their flameout becomes a part of the lore of the show (like Vinnie Mac).

As far as Rome's show: Look, talk radio shows tend to establish their own ecosystem, a show culture, and some people get it and some people do not. Many shows have done this, from Rome, to The Howard Stern Show, the old The Don and Mike Show, on and on. People are welcome not to like Rome's show. Rome's wife didn't like it the first time she heard it. Even Rome admits he didn't like his show when he first heard it. You have to merge with the culture of the show.

Rome does script out some of the set pieces on his show, but he doesn't "script the entire show." Yes, callers will sometimes write out their calls, but understand it in the context of the culture of the show: this is itself a nod to Rome writing out some of his stuff (thus the listeners are known as "clones") and callers who are obviously reading are subject to derision. The Jim Rome Show airs from 9am to noon so there isn't much going on in sports at that time to ad-lib about.

I don't qualify as a punk or moron, and the list of past champions of the show's annual invite-only caller contest includes a dentist and a composer-turned-rabbi.

As far as hardcore sports analysis (and I just heard Costa mention how great Derek Jeter's "pitch recognition" is), this is not stochastic thermodynamics, it's sports talk. I'm listening for light entertainment. I only listen to sports talk all day because I've become so radical from an ideological standpoint, I can't stomach any current political talk offerings. The best parts of Rome's show usually don't have too much to do with sports. In fact, I don't listen to most of the interviews, because coaches and athletes tend to give lifeless, jejune interviews.

Jim Rome is at the top of his profession, and Dino Costa (who is several years older than Rome) has bounced from market to market and apparently once livened up his sports talk show by interviewing David Duke, so feel free to connect the dots on the reasons for Costa's attack.

UPDATE: Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton is back on the air at a Mexican border-blaster. Let's face it - nobody blends the scripting skills with the ad-lib skills like Hacksaw. NOBODY


Speed of reading

To be savored slowly... or not so slowly
(fear and loathing)

SEATTLE, Washington - Sometimes I think I read too slowly, slower than my capabilities allow, given my genius-level intelligence. Can something be done? I recently stumbled upon the video below, where the host reveals the secrets of this matter. Our reading is slowed because of subvocalization - when we read a word, we move muscles associated with saying the word. This slows us down. Train yourself to stop doing this, and you'll start flying through texts.

It all sounds very straightforward and scientific, except that it may all be hot air. Subvocalization is real (it can be detected with subvocalization-detection equipment) but many experts call bollocks on the idea that it negatively affects reading speed.

I tried the exercise in the video a bit, and I don't think it was helping much, and like any practice exercise in anything (e.g. painting) I bail out quickly.

Even proponents of various speed reading schemes usually concede that it's useful for absorbing information but doesn't let you appreciate style.

Video found here


Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 1-2.

This week: BYU (-24) vs. Utah State

this game starts in 20 mins! Lay the lumber RIGHT NOW

UPDATE: Utah State scores a touchdown with five seconds left to cover the number??? 35-17. Jesus mary and joseph. Mark down the Utah St. coach as a guy who knows the pointspreads. Record: 1-3.


On the Roman Polanski situation

You know what happens to nosy fellows?
(pic of Polanski)
SEATTLE, Washington - When the French government bails out on you, that usually means your goose is cooked - at least that's what Roman Polanski should be thinking right now.

Now, I have not exactly been calling for Polanski's head on a spear for the last fifteen years, so I've asked myself - should I have been doing just that?

If you asked me two weeks ago, "why did Roman Polanski flee the United States?", I would have said something to the effect that he kinda-sorta got down with a just-short-of-legal girl, and it came to light, and he left rather than deal with the static.

Polanski in fact had negotiated a guilty plea in 1978 on "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor"; when you read that it kind of settles the issue of whether he had sex with her. So perhaps I have simply been Jedi mind-tricked whenever reading old accounts of why he left the country. Not even old accounts: the story linked above, written today, puts it thusly:
He is accused of having unlawful sex with 13-year-old Samantha Gailey in Los Angeles in 1978, before fleeing the country and spending the intervening period as a fugitive, mainly living in Paris.
That's a bit of a tinted view of the facts, and I suspect everything I've casually read about the circumstances of his flight had a similar ring.

The word "rape" had not entered my thinking, but if it had, I think I (like Whoopi) would have assumed it was a-few-weeks-short-of-legal rape, not "rape rape."

Once you read the details of the legal wranglings, and Gailey's testimony, it certainly puts Polanski in a rotten light. Sounds like "rape rape".

Now, I have also thought about taking a more libertarian perspective on this - specifically, the fact that Gailey has stated that she'd like the dogs called off. Crimes, even a person-on-person crime, are technically regarded as crimes against the state (Polanski v. California, as opposed to Polanski v. Gailey), so Gailey doesn't really have such power. Should she? It is a mainstream libertarian position that her wishes should override the wishes of the state?

Are we (through the government) sticking our nose where it doesn't belong? As Polanski himself said - "You're a very nosy fellow, kitty kat. Huh? You know what happens to nosy fellows?"

Turns out, it doesn't seem to be - I can only find evidence of the most hard-boiled anarchists (and a few Hollywood types) clamoring for a reduced role of the state. Mainstream libertarian opinion (if I may use the term) is much more sympathetic to the government than usual in this matter.