SPRING CLEANUP

I had a landscaping service clean up our yard yesterday since spring seems to be putting a tentative toe in the water these days. Good timing I think because it has decided to rain today and I hear that there is wet snow in the forecast. If we ever get some sun and warm temps, the lawn should look great. Speaking of lawns and lawn mowing, I made the huge switch this year. For about 8 or 9 years I have been using a push mower. I got rid of the gas powered beast in order to lower the noise and air pollution in the area but the real reason was because I simply got tired of repeated pulling on the cord to get the damn thing started. The push mower started first time, every time.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I bought a cordless machine – battery powered – I’m such a tree hugger! I haven’t had a chance to use it but I have high hopes for it being powerful enough and pollution free enough to justify the cost. I could continue to use the push mower but frankly, I’m getting a bit tired of having to constantly pick up pine cones and finding that the cut is not all that even if the grass is wet. Such are the problems of those of us surviving in the first world.

BOOMER TUNE ALERT

39 years ago, this weekend, The Blues Brothers made their debut on Saturday Night Live. John Belushi was a recent convert to the blues at that time but Dan Akroyd had spent many years roaming the blues clubs in his hometown of Ottawa and had already jammed with some of the greats like Muddy Waters. We all know the success that the Blues Brothers reached with albums and movies and since Belushi’s death on March 5, 1982 others, including his brother Jim, have filled in the spot. One of my absolute favourites is their cover of a Sam and Dave hit, Soul Man

Speaking of the first world, the border wall between Canada and the US seems to be getting harder to climb every day. On the south side, we have a leader who seems to want to make an enemy of everybody he comes into contact with. Nothing but conflict, imagined anger and threats. On the north side of the border, we have a leader who is constantly kissing ass with everyone he encounters regardless of their intentions or reputation. Approval ratings for both of these clowns are dropping every day with good reason. It’s too bad that people of talent and ability are no longer willing to subject themselves to the poisonous atmosphere of politics – only the narcissistic ego maniacs are willing to run. Perhaps we should be a bit more selective with our votes.

Simon Winchester is the person we all should have had as a history teacher. He takes one dimensional facts and information and turns them into living breathing books. I just finished reading Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers. Clearly one of the best books I’ve read this year, it is the third one of his I have thoroughly enjoyed. He has a knack for finding the story behind the facts and creating human interest in geological or political information. If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I firmly believe that there is a story behind everything and that’s what makes life interesting. Winchester makes history, events and circumstances come alive with incredible research to reveal the causes and effects behind some of the biggest stories of our planet.

Given the scary threats and posturing currently unfolding around the Pacific (which covers 1/3 of the planet’s surface) I found that reading Pacific by Winchester was timely and gave me an excellent background on what is in the headlines today.

OF DEATH AND TAXES

Well, it’s that weekend again. Time to pull “that” file folder out of the cabinet, separate and create piles of receipts, papers and other paraphernalia on my desk top and start entering numbers into the tax software. I know that most people dread the thought of having to file a tax return but if you are organized and have the ability to read and follow instructions, it is not really all that bad. There is however, a bigger picture to consider here and I wish that parents, schools and politicians would spend more time explaining the benefits and purposes of income taxes so that people could rethink the negative stigma of “doing their taxes.”

I’ll touch on misguided tax applications later but it is important to remember that taxes create roads to drive on, schools to teach our children, hospitals to heal our sick, armed forces to protect our freedom, police to keep us safe, libraries to encourage reading, parks to play in, and so much more. A fair and reasonable process for collecting taxes and using them is the hallmark of a civilized society. Of course, we could revert to the good old days where the toughest son of a bitch in the surrounding country would simply bang on our door and demand a portion of our worldly goods. It’s still done that way in some parts of our planet, so be grateful.

It bothers me how many people turn this element of their life over to complete strangers because they think, or at least say, that preparing and submitting taxes is too complicated. This is a straight out opinion on my part, but often those people say that because they simply haven’t tried or are lazy enough to believe what someone else has told them. I am more than shocked by the number of people who have a simple income slip or perhaps just a social assistance slip and run to a tax preparer and pay money (which is obviously a scarce commodity for them) to have somebody with a few hours training submit their return. It would take about 2 minutes on the phone with the tax department to explain how to do it themselves. Seems like an appropriate time to offer this week’s

BOOMER TUNE ALERT

There are several versions of the song, “Money,” the first of which was written by Berry Gordy, the legendary head of Motown, in 1959 and released by Garret Strong. It went on to become the first hit song from Motown. It has been covered by absolutely everybody over the years. For me, the best rendition was created by the British alt rock band Pink Floyd on the mega hit album, “The Wall.” It was unique because of a 20 second loop they included that had the sound of an old fashioned cash register, the tossing of a roll of coins into a container and the iconic sax solo. Give it a listen:

When it comes to most people, taxes make sense when they think about it but their chief concerns are twofold, 1) the amount of taxes they pay and 2) how their taxes are spent – hello Bombardier. These two concerns are directly linked as we give the power to spend to our politicians who turn around and constantly bribe us with our own money. The sad part is that as an electorate we continue to fall for this scam and think that the “government” giving us some of our own money in the form of pensions, social benefits and other tax inducements is a good thing. We then proceed to complain about how much tax we pay.

I started doing my own taxes a long, long time ago and then enlisted the aid of a tax software program about 10 – 15 years ago and I have some tricky parts on my return – foreign income/business income and expenses – thanks for buying my books – but the process is pretty painless. My point about taxes is that it is such a vital part of our financial lives and represents such a large portion of our earnings that I can’t understand why otherwise intelligent people would turn over this process to someone else. Honestly, you will have a much better understanding of your own money by taking on the task yourself. There is all sorts of help available including tutorials and videos – if you are in Canada, go here if you need it.

OK, time to sit down, haul out the file folder (you have one don’t you?) and assemble your tax return, submit and relax. You are making a difference in your life and the lives of others with your contribution to the greater good. Once you finish, perhaps you would like to join me in this celebration recipe for dinner.

FIRE + MEAT + WINE = DINNER

HOW DO YOU WRITE A BOOK?

It’s been awhile but I got asked this week, “How did you write your book?” The best part of the question was the fact that the inquirer was actually interested in the answer which is a nice bonus. I’ve answered this question in a number of different ways in the past including actually writing a book about well, writing a book. I’ve also answered or addressed this question in various seminars, workshops and coaching sessions with aspiring authors. However, in the off chance that you, dear reader, are interested in how I wrote, THE WEST COAST TRAIL: One Step at a Time, following are some of the basic ideas of how I did it.

Now if you are not interested in how to write a book (and I completely understand and forgive you your trespasses), you might be interested in what I’m making for dinner tonight and that recipe is here. On the other hand, if you don’t read on past the recipe, you will never know what this week’s Boomer Tune Alert is. Here’s the recipe for

Pollo Alla Romano:

serves 4

  • A nice plump chicken weighing about 1.5 kg / 3 lb
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 50 g pancetta, diced (optional but I used it)
  • salt and pepper
  • a plump clove of garlic (optional – never spare the garlic)
  • a glass of dry white wine (and another for the cook)
  • 300 g tomatoes or passata
  • 4 large red peppers (I used red and yellow)

Clean the chicken and cut it into 8 eight pieces.

In a large heavy based pan fry the diced pancetta in the olive oil until it renders its fat. Add the chicken pieces skin side down and cook until the skin forms a golden crust, then turn them and fry the other side.

Add salt, several grindings of black pepper and the garlic and turn the pieces over three or four times. Add the wine and let it bubble away until most of it has evaporated.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and deseed the peppers and cut them into chunky pieces. Add the tomatoes and the peppers to the pan, stir, cover the pan and leave over a modest heat. Keep an eagle eye on the pan for the first 10 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking. Once the peppers release their juices, half cover the pan and cook for another 45 minutes or until the tomatoes and peppers have collapsed into a dense, rich sauce and the chicken is tender.

Allow the pan to sit for about 15 minutes or better still a couple of hours or overnight (in which case you can just reheat it very very gently over a low flame until it is warm but not hot.) Serve with good bread and a glass of wine.