Once Upon a Time in Alternate History

10050 Cielo Drive, Site of the Sharon Tate Killings

One of my favorite novels by Philip K. Dick is The Man in the High Castle (1962), in which the United States has lost the Second World War. Germany occupies the Eastern U.S.; and Japan, the Western U.S. In his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Quentin Tarantino dishes up an alternative view of the Sharon Tate killings at 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills.

I don’t want to spoil the film for any of my readers, so I will hint that in the movie, all the killing takes place next door. Involved are not Sharon Tate and her guests, but Western star Rick Dalton and his stuntman buddy Cliff Booth.

The odd thing is that I actually know the person who occupied the house that is either next door or almost next door. That person was film actor Richard Anderson.

Richard Anderson (1926-2017)

The resident of 10120 Cielo Drive was an actor best known for his role as Oscar Goldman in the TV series The Six-Million Dollar Man. He also had a supporting role in such films as Forbidden Planet (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), The Long Hot Summer (1958), Seven Days in May (1964), and Ted Turner’s Gettysburg (1993). He was our client in the accounting firm in which I worked, and was probably our staff’s favorite client for his lack of pretense, honesty, and overall aura of kindness. When he died in 2017, shortly before I retired, we were all devastated.

So I was amused when Tarantino turns Sharon Tate’s neighbors into wish-fulfillment he-man heroes. I never had a chance to ask Richard about the Manson killings, since it was not considered kosher to pry about painful moments in the life of our clients. But I thought about it from time to time.


A Checkered Career

Starting at the End of This Month

I have been working now for just a few months shy of half a century. At the end of this month, the accounting firm for which I have been working will close its doors. At this point I am not sure whether I will continue to seek part-time work. I thought you might find it interesting to follow my work career from beginning to end:

  • 1968 – Work at System Development Corporation in Santa Monica proofreading a digital version of the Merriam-Webster 7th Collegiate Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster New Pocket Dictionary. A film student at UCLA, I was hired to replace a young woman who just so happens to have been murdered by a film student at UCLA (whom I didn’t know, honest!)
  • 1969 – Picked up computer programming on my own and worked as a programmer for Research & Special Projects Statistical Services at System Development Corporation.
  • 1971 – Worked at programming to process the 1970 census tapes at Becker & Hayes, a subsidiary of John Wiley & Sons, Publishers. Programmed the first version of CENSAC, which accessed a full but highly compressed set of 1970 Census tapes.
  • 1973 – My census programming job at Becker & Hayes morphed into Urban Decision Systems (UDS), where I continued to work on demographic data retrieval systems for research and site location. Worked on the ONSITE system, wrote technical documentation for it, and put together a marketing program for the company’s sstems and services.
  • 1991 – UDS folded. I worked to help create a new company called Desktop Marketing Corporation, but it never really went anywhere.
  • 1992 – Worked as an IT specialist for Lewis, Joffe & Company, a tax accounting firm.
  • 2008 – When Lewis, Joffe & Company split into two pieces, I went to work for Brian Lewis & Company doing tax accounting support and IT.
  • 2018 – ?

What with Martine’s desire to leave (she’s still with me for now) and the possible end of my working career, I am facing new challenges. I can promise you one thing, however: I will not put on weird multicolored pants, put on weight, and play golf.

Wish Me Luck!

“This Must Be Thursday”

The Richard Riordan Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles

The entire quote is from Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” And that’s the way I felt when I was working full time in an accounting office. I never did get along very well with my boss (nobody could), so when he cut me back to two days a week, I saw that as an opportunity. I said, “Okay, I’ll work on Tuesdays and Fridays.” Those were days when our late tax manager worked, so my boss couldn’t use me as a highly unqualified tax manager, which he was not above doing.

One Thursday in June 2016, I took the Expo Line downtown and hung out at the Central Library on Fifth Street. Just by chance, I noticed that there was a regular Mindful Meditation session conducted by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), and I attended.  And I’ve been attending ever since. I read for a couple of hours in the Literature and Fiction Department on the top floor, and usually check out a couple of books. Then I go to Meeting Room A on the ground floor where the sessions are held.

In more ways than one, the Central Library has become a part of my life. I feel energized by these meditation sessions. Afterwards, I go for lunch either to the Grand Central Market on Hill Street, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, or Olvera Street. Then I take the Big Blue Bus R10 freeway flier back home.

So now I can say I get the hang of Thursdays. It’s one of my favorite days of the week. That leaves Mondays and Wednesdays for doctors’ appointments and miscellaneous explorations of this gigantic city of which I am becoming more of a part as time passes.


The Calm Before the Storm


Tulips at Descanso Gardens

Tulips at Descanso Gardens

Since the beginning of May, I have been semi-retired. Now, with the passing of our tax manager on Tuesday, I am being asked to come back full time—at least until the end of tax season. I had hoped to avoid another high-pressure tax season, but I pretty much had to agree to help out; else, I might have been forced to look for another job at my advanced age. So I can expect the next six weeks to be highly stressful. Life is like that sometimes.

But before I started in on the heavy-duty work, I decided to go to Descanso Gardens with Martine. The tulips were planted, and this was the first weekend of a two-=weekend Cherry Blossom Festival. Only some of the cherry trees were in flower, but the gardens were crowded, mostly with Japanese-Americans looking for an American equivalent of their own cherry blossom festivals. Fortunately, Descanso is large enough that one can easily escape the crowds and still find beauty.

The beauty of the tulips, and even of the lone lilac that came into bloom early, will help me in the weeks to come. Unfortunately, the tax deadline this year is Tuesday, April 18. That happens whenever April 15 falls on a Saturday or Sunday. This year it is on Saturday, and Monday is a holiday (Emancipation Day) in the District of Columbia; so, Tuesday is the tax deadline.

I’ve already filed my taxes, so at least I don’t have to worry about that.


Don’t Be Late Or Else …

I Take My Vengeance on Clients Who Bring In Their Tax Info Late

I Take My Vengeance on Clients Who Bring In Their Tax Info Late

This weekend, my ire is being highly concentrated on those clients who bring in their data late. The worst are landlords who own multiple commercial properties and who like to play with the numbers until the last possible minute. It’s a sort of game for them, and a misery for anyone who works in an accounting office.

Well, I took my revenge on one of the worst. I had to enter an occupation code and wound up entering “cattle feedlot operator”—but only because here was no code for people running houses of prostitution.

I hope the Department of Agriculture comes after this clown and asks him, “Where’s the beef?”




Why the Tax Deadline Is Next Monday

Talk About the Tail Wagging the Dog!

Talk About the Tail Wagging the Dog!

You may wonder why your taxes are due on April 18 instead of April 15 this year—even though April 15 falls on a Friday. You can blame it on (or otherwise, if you’re so inclined) the District of Columbia, a Federal District that is free of Congressional representation. (So lucky!)

They have a holiday each April 16 that commemorates President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. It is actually an international holiday and, in my opinion, probably better than most holidays. I mean, who gives a cracker about Columbus Day? The man didn’t discover America: the Icelander Leif Ericsson did. And both Memorial Day and Labor Day are a bit sketchy; but I am wholeheartedly for Emancipation Day. The freeing of the slaves is one of the few good things that have happened in world history during the last two centuries.

Because April 16 is on a Saturday this year, it is observed on Friday, April 15, where it is a widely observed public holiday. Consequently, taxes are not due until Monday, April 18. Due to this little quirk, together with an additional day for Leap Year, tax season is four days longer this year.


Keeping Track

QuickBooks Online: A Valentine

QuickBooks Online: A Valentine

I don’t usually have too much good to say about accounting—seeing that I’m kind of trapped in the profession for now. At the same time, I do believe that people should carefully take care of their own accounting. There are several reasons for this:

  1. If one keeps track of financial accounts and transactions on a regular basis, there is less chance of becoming susceptible to identity theft.
  2. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have trust in banks, so I regularly do bank reconciliations every month. I have spotted errors at least twice a year which I have had the banks rectify.
  3. Thanks to those same reconciliations, I know how much money I have at any given time.
  4. When tax time comes around, a nice detailed General Ledger report will make filling out your 1040 relatively fast and easy.

For my personal accounting, I used to use QuickBooks Pro 2008, which was stored on my home computer. About this time last year, I switched to QuickBooks Online, which costs me $19.99 a month. It’s worth it: My data is in the cloud, making it accessible from any computer with Internet access. And I no longer have to worry about the program becoming outdated, as the online program updates itself at frequent intervals.

There are a few wrinkles, such as occasional weekend downtime for upgrades and occasional bugs, which always seem to get ironed out within a couple of days. Still and all, I feel in better control of my own finances than ever before.

How To Survive Tax Season

Classical Music Is the Key

Classical Music Is the Key

Now that I am working seven days a week (at my advanced age), there are several methods I use just to survive to April 18. (Yes, that is the deadline date this year. Don’t ask why!)

First of all, I no longer listen to the news on the radio on my way to and from work—especially in a presidential election year, when the news is likely to be all bad. Instead, I turn the dial to KUSC-FM at 91.5 and listen to classical music. Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Dvorak, Bruckner, Wagner—that’s what I need to calm me down.

The last time some  guy tried to sell me a hip-hop CD on the beach, I told him I only listen to music by dead white guys who wore powdered wigs. And that’s not far from the truth.

My second coping mechanism is to read a good long book, preferably humorous. This year, that role is being filled by Albert Cohen’s magnificent Belle de Seigneur, which I am reading for the Yahoo! French Literature group. It is a near perfect selection.

It’s Over!

Finally, I Can Live a Normal Life!

Finally, I Can Live a Normal Life!

For me, April 15 means I can take weekends off, go visit my doctor and dentist, and not have to endure stress caused by selfish rich people who feel they don’t have to give us their tax data until April 14. I filed my own 1040 way back on January 31 and got my refund within two weeks. (Ooh, I just noticed the illustration above shows a 1040 from 2010. That should be good for some nice late interest and penalties!)

Today was particularly rough, as one of our accountants was sick and had to leave early; and the other one did not come in until 1:30 pm. Until his arrival, I was requested to pretend I was an accountant on doing an extension for a California Limited Liability Corporation, about which, of course, I know absolutely nothing. Although I work at an accounting firm, I serve as the office manager and data processing manager.

So at least it is done. I hope this is my last tax season. They don’t get any easier.


Yummy! Fried Brains!

Some Days You Just Can’t Describe in Any Other Way

Some Days You Just Can’t Describe in Any Other Way

Today was the most brutal day of tax season so far. In addition to continuing securities analysis on our biggest client, there were a half dozen 1099s to print, tax returns on partnerships and fiduciaries (neither of which entity types I understand), installation of a new version of our tax program, filing our 4th quarter 2012 payroll tax returns to the IRS and California Employment Development Department, and miscellaneous other administrative duties. The net result: At least another half day or more tomorrow just finishing up today’s work.

In the next three months, there will more more days like this. I just want to hang it up, go home, eat dinner, drink some iced tea, and finish reading Jason Goodwin’s Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire.

There will be better days to come. And there will be worse days. May the latter be few and may they pass quickly.