Archive for March, 2007

Write It Off

March 30, 2007

Laura Garcia Cannon

As I sit down this week to actually work on taxes, I dread the pile in front of me. A box full of receipts, stubs, W2s, mortgage interest statements, etc… it’s hard to imagine a year of our tax life in this box. Why do I not feel like sorting through it? Maybe because I’ll most likely be paying out more to Uncle Sam this year than he cares to give me. Anyway, the annual ritual of taxes is upon us once again, and it actually made me think back to the first year Brent and I were married. Combining our incomes, buying our first house, actually ‘itemizing’ together for the first time we went to see a tax specialist recommended by a co-worker. (For the purpose of this blog by the way, anyone mentioned from this point on will have their names changed to protect the innocent, or guilty for that matter). We’ll call her “Trish the Tax Lady.” Young and naive we laid out our W2s in front of her, our union dues, agent fees, the small things we understood we could claim for a consultation we set up prior to hiring her.

“Wow, you guys should ask for a raise” was the first thing she said to us. “You know, that guy Peter you work with? He makes $$$$$, you should ask for a raise. Oh yeah and Mary, she makes more than you too. She makes $$$$$$.”

We were shocked she just blurted out what our co workers made! She then went on to look at our mortgage interest papers. “Geez, Mark has a bigger house than you guys, you know Mark right? He works at the competition? He bought a big house. He’s got two kids. I told him he could write off their bikes,” she exclaimed.

“Uh, excuse me? Write off their bikes?” we were feeling uneasy.

Trish answered us with confidence as she brushed off a small crumb of the McDonald’s hamburger she was eating off a notebook, “Yeah, I figure, Mark gets stressed at work right? His job in television is tough right? So, when Mark gets home from his long stressful job the last thing he needs is two kids running around the house all crazy, I mean he needs his sanity right? So, I told Mark when your kids are outside playing, don’t you feel calmer, and a calmer you would be a more restful you, so we can write off the bikes the kids ride so you can be calm and do a good job. It’s a business expense those bikes.”

“Excuse me?” Trish looked me up and down as I questioned her write offs.

“Hey sure Laura, I mean what do you do to keep calm? Go shopping, get a facial? How about your toes?” she looked down to inspect my feet. “ooh that’s a pretty color, let’s write it off.”

“You actually think you could or even would write off my nail polish?” we had already started gathering our things.

“Sure, I mean having nice toes makes you feel good right? Feeling good about yourself could make you more confident in your job right? Being more confident could make you ask better questions interviewing right? So, I can write off your nail polish. Maybe even the nail file.” Trish was actually serious, and we were seriously scared.

We thanked her for her time, and said we’d decided to go in a different direction. “Yeah, an honest direction” we said in the car. Trish actually thought you could write off anything, and had this bizarre way of rationalizing it all. It really opened our eyes at who you should trust. We went on to find an honest CPA who is trusted and true. As for Trish, we just wrote her off as one of those life experiences… and then started to think about how we should ask for that raise….

Laura Garcia Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

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Aging ‘Gracefully’

March 19, 2007

Laura Garcia Cannon

I recently had a birthday. Another year older. Don’t ask, it’s not polite ha ha. Just know I’m investing in more eye cream and serums as my ‘aging skin’ matures.

Sadly enough, I also realized marketers consider me now ‘middle aged’!! What? Middle aged? That sounds old. No disrespect to those of middle age age range, but I always thought middle age was well, in the middle. I mean my Grandfather lived to 100 so wouldn’t middle age be 50? I’m 30 something!

I found out I’m officially now ‘middle aged’ while reading the morning paper. There was a story about Gap closing its clothing chain Forth & Towne. It said Gap hoped to develop it into a specialty chain catering to middle aged women 35-54. Somebody get me my spectacles!! That is a big age gap, Gap! It went on to say Gap had hoped to woo boomers who are at the peak of their earning and spending power (shhh don’t tell Brent but I’ve been at my spending power for some time well before middle age). The article also went on to say they were catering to middle aged women who were looking for a more forgiving fit… hey – watch it buddy or I might hit you over the head with my pocketbook! You wipper-snapper! First you call me middle aged sonny, now I’m hippy? Maybe I am getting old, because I sound so sensitive about it right? I think I’ll just take myself out for a senior early bird special to cheer myself up.

Laura Garcia Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

Favorite Notes

March 15, 2007

Scott McGrew

I keep little notes around my desk about stuff that interests me. I used to put them on the back of my business cards (because I can make them into little piles) but got the official word from the adminisphere to knock it off – it turns out I’m supposed to give my business cards to other people, not use them for notes. So now I use scraps of paper.

What you might find in my notes:

This is the recent lunar eclipse caught by photographers and posted to Flickr. Great stuff.

Will someone please please please buy me one of these? Thanks.

Interesting fact: The word armada is simply Spanish for fleet. Spanish Armada sounds pretty threatening. Spanish fleet lacks a certain something, doesn’t it?

One of my favorite blogs, Defective Yeti, has a list of cliches and their suggested replacements. Such as instead of saying “it’s a win-win situation”, you can say “everyone gets ice cream!”

This was one of my favorite toys from childhood.

Stuff that I make every effort to attend each year ’cause they’re sooo cool:

  • The Indianapolis 500. There is no single sporting event in the world that is so exciting or so big.
  • The Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival in Oakland. Note the website talks about the 2006 event. This year’s event is July 11-14.
  • San Francisco’s Chinese New Year’s Parade (you just missed that one)
  • The Reno Air Races in the fall.

If you remember the movie WarGames, you may find this game, DefCon, highly addictive (free demo).

I have these computer speakers and really recommend them.

Finally, don’t miss the Worst. Dad. Ever.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter

Daylight Saving

March 14, 2007

Brent Cannon

Since so many people are weighing in on the new daylight saving time – I might as well add my perspective to the mix. As a morning show person – daylight saving hurts. My eyes are burning, my body aches, and I’m in a mental fog, all because I get a lot less sleep. (or at least that’s what I am using as my excuse these days). I wasn’t always this way. As a kid I loved daylight saving time. It was a signal that spring had sprung. Summer was right around the corner. There was more time to play outside after school. I remember thinking, “why don’t we do this all the time?” Well, times have changed. I now wake up in the middle of the night to come to work. Which means I go to bed before many people even begin having dinner. During the winter months it gets dark around 4:30 or 5:00, which is perfect. They say your body’s clock is influenced by sunlight. So, when it’s dark, it makes sense to my body, and I begin getting tired and ready for bed. Since becoming a morning anchor nearly ten years ago, I began dreading the whole “spring forward” thing. I actually began embracing “fall back” and the beginning of the winter season. But now, things are even worse. We fall back later, and we spring forward sooner. I have lost several weeks per year of good sleeping days. But I guess daylight saving still signals the promise of sunny days and warmer weather. On the weekends, it’s light long enough for me to drive to the high country and still have plenty of light for evening fly-fishing. I can be on the river as late as 9:00 in the evening. So, I give something up, but I gain something else. And there is always afternoon naptime.

Brent Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

Running (or Shopping – let’s get real!) My Way Through Asia

March 12, 2007

Shannon O'Donnell

Laura and I were joking around on the air the other day about how hard it is to get motivated to go running. There was a story on about fulfilling one’s ‘dreams of running a marathon,’ and I responded that for me, that would more likely qualify as a nightmare. However, I actual DO like running quite a bit. Maybe not 26 whole grueling miles, but a nice 3 mile jog a few times a week is actually my exercise of choice (mostly because one can also strap down and contain one’s children in the jogging stroller for 45 minutes at the same time, thus at least enjoying mental peace while engaging in physical anguish). And believe it or not, I used to be a competitive distance runner way back in the day.

Not that I was any good. Very middle-to-back-of-the-pack. However, unable to find much success playing tennis like my more coordinated friends, and subject to scorn on the softball field (I can still hear the junior high boys screaming, “easy out!” when it was my turn to bat in PE class), running was actually something I could DO. Not much coordination required to run long distance—just a strong will to keep on going.

I participated in distance running via ‘track’ in the spring and ‘cross country’ in the fall. Our high school coach was involved in a program that took U.S. runners abroad to Spain and Southeast Asia to compete. Now, you didn’t have to be any good, mind you (or I never would have been chosen). You just had to raise the cash and you were in! So after hitting up enough relatives for money instead of gifts around Christmas, I had the needed funding to join the team. Just before New Year’s 1990, I was off to the races—literally!

Now, I mentioned that this was way back in the 20th century, right? So my memory is a little fuzzy on the racing part. I recall running through the streets of Hong Kong before sunrise each morning, but it was my sense of smell affected more than anything–Hong Kong is pure olfactory overload. It seemed that with each turn down a different street, a strange, thick new odor would waft your way and practically knock you over.

The shopping is still supposed to be amazing, but it was INSANE back in the early 90s before China took Hong Kong back from the British. The American dollar went very far in that day. With the Gap and my then beloved ‘Limited’ retail chain having their factories in Hong Kong, you could buy the same sweaters you’d just seen in the malls back home, but for only 10 Hong Kong dollars. This was the equivalent of ONE American dollar. Needless to say, I honestly had to buy two more suitcases to bring home all my loot.

The big race for which we were training was an 8K through the streets of Guangzhou (Canton), China. I remember two things about it…1) I paced myself with an elderly Chinese man and ran with him the entire race (again, I’m not claiming that I was any GOOD), and 2) afterward, our American team was mobbed as if we were movie stars. I had the lightest hair in our group, and I was honestly scared for my life as the crowds squeezed around me and hands came in from every which way to touch and yank at chunks of my light hair, which apparently many in this part of China had rarely seen.

The other part of visiting southeast China that has stuck with me all of these years is the tour we took of the open-market. Not only was it full of beautiful, fresh produce like the markets we have here in the U.S., but it was also well-stocked with meat to suit every taste. This included snakes, squirming and slithering madly over one another in a big wash-tub, waiting to be picked out and then skinned alive for any interested party craving a reptilian dinner.

Our last stop in Asia was in Seoul, South Korea.
The Summer Olympics had recently been held there, so we participated in a race that ended in one of the stadiums that had been used for the track and field events. Shopping in Seoul was even more fun, as it was all about the bartering, and I was getting better at it as the trip progressed. In fact, having gone out on my own one afternoon to bargain my way through the back alleys, I was apparently gone long enough for the coaches to worry and start searching for me. Looking back, it was pretty stupid of me to go out alone like that, but I was just having too much fun gathering more goods. Ignorance was bliss!

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Moon Walker On The Line

March 2, 2007

Scott McGrew

“Hi, this is Scott.” I answered my cell phone in the 7-11 as I poured a Slurpee for my five year old (a potent mix of half cherry, half banana).

“Scott, it’s Harrison Schmitt.”

I had been warned he might call, but the call came as a shock nonetheless. The name Dr. Harrison Schmitt may mean nothing to you. You probably don’t even know who he is if I tell you he’s a geologist. Even the hint that he usually goes by his nickname “Jack” probably doesn’t help you any.

The cherry/banana Slurpee overflowed its container.

“Hey, everybody be quiet!” I wanted to yell across the convenience store. “You, making the hot dog of questionable origin! Hush.. do you know who’s on the phone? Jack Schmitt.”

Jack Schmitt was the last man to set foot on the Moon.

Now, I don’t want to sound full of myself, but I talk to famous people all the time. Just recently, I got into a long discussion about muscle cars with Billy Bob Thorton. Steve Wozniak, the creator of the personal computer, is a amiable fellow I run into every few months. Bill Gates and I can’t seem to find anything in common, but I’ve talked to him frequently enough that I don’t see it as particularly remarkable. But none of those men can measure up to an Apollo astronaut.

It’s all just history to some, but for me, the Moon landings were a major part of my childhood. I was too young to remember the first, but I can vividly recall watching later landings, several at a neighbor’s house-turned daycare in Madison, Wisconsin. Mrs. Smith would roll out a giant black and white television on a cart and we would gather around and watch three men sit on top of what was fundamentally a giant bomb as we counted down “10, 9, 8…”

I memorized all the spaceship names. Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Eagle and Columbia. America and Challenger. I wore out my pop-up book “Astronauts on the Moon” pulling the tab to move the CSM (which I’m sure you’re fully aware means command service module) while at the same time spinning the paper wheel to rotate the LM (lunar module, of course) into proper docking attitude.

Schmitt was the only scientist to ever set foot on the moon – all the others were pilots. After Armstrong proved it could be done, after Lovell brought his crippled ship back, after Shepherd hit his golf ball, NASA finally sent a scientist to the moon. And then cancelled the Apollo program.

So, when I saw a rather obscure press release saying that geologist Harrison Schmitt would be through town on Saturday, I knew immediately who he was. I called NASA and asked if we might set up an interview. We’re still working out the details — I’ll let you know in coming weeks if we can get it done.

One way or the other, though, I talked to a man who walked on the moon. HE called ME. And that’s pretty darn cool.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter