Our Brains: What We Really Have

You’ve put the cat in his room and have closed the door, so he won’t get into things while you sleep. All you had to do was to close the door. Then, later that night, there’s the smell of smoke. It wakes the cat, but he can’t get out of the room to warn you. Luckily, something else wakes you and you smell the smoke, locate its source, and prevent the fire.

Now, let’s say you had no cat but a 5-year-old child. And, like the cat, you’ve closed the door to the child’s room. Like the cat, the child wakes up, smells smoke, and opens the door and wakes you in time, something the cat could not do or think of.

That’s because of our brains. We’re so caught up in our lives, that we seldom think about the advantages that our brains give us over the other animals.

Oh, they’re obvious enough to us to the point that we never ask our pets to bring us a glass of water, but we don’t really think about it. Especially when it comes to comprehension, which I believe might be the true 6th sense.

And yet it can be seen in even seemingly unimportant things.

For instance, when I was much younger and living at home, we had various dogs, including 3 greyhounds at one point. It was quite cold one night and my folks put blankets over the dogs so they could keep warm. Of course, overnight, the dogs would move and the blankets would come off.

So, when I awoke first that morning and noticed the now uncovered dogs still sleeping, my thought was that I wished that they could think of grabbing the blankets with their mouths and pull the blankets back up over them.  A human child would have thought to reach for the blanket and cover himself again. The difference amazed me then and still does now. And I realized just how powerful this ability, that we humans have, to think and comprehend really is.

And while chimpanzees and dolphins have shown signs of having greater comprehension than other animals, they still don’t have it to the extent that humans do.

And it’s quite a gift. To see a stick and know immediately that you can use it to pry up a rock, or to see the notepad that you have and immediately know to use it as a temporary shield against the sudden rain as you run to your car.

Just something to think about.

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Friday the 13th – An Unlucky Day?

Well, today is Friday the 13th, 2015. And it’s the second Friday the 13th this year. It’s generally considered to be an unlucky day. Sure, it’s just superstition, but some people really believe it!

When I was a kid, I knew someone who at least acted like it was an unlucky day for him. If he was riding his bike and it was Friday the 13th, he would crash. I don’t know, in retrospect, if he was just using the date to get attention, or if he really believed in the unluckiness of the date and was inadvertently setting himself up for misfortune as a result.

So, is Friday the 13th really unlucky? I don’t think so, except possibly for those who do believe it. What about for those whose birthday happens to be on Friday the 13th? Well, it turns out that if Friday the 13th happens to be your birthday, it’s supposed to be a lucky day for you.

But in reality, the myth of Friday the 13th is just that. A myth. Just like broken mirrors supposedly bringing 7 years’ bad luck and black cats crossing your path bringing bad luck.

So stop worrying and enjoy your day. Even if it is Friday the 13th.

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Think You’ve Seen All of Your Home Town?

So, you’ve lived in your current home town for a long time now, and you think you’ve seen all there is to see, right? Well, guess again! Chances are you probably haven’t. Just pick up a local map.

If you look long enough, you’ll probably see lots of little places right in your town that you’ve never really seen. You may have passed by them many times, but you haven’t really seen them. And they can make great local trips. Some of them might be less than 5 minutes away from you!

Kelly Point Park

Kelly Point Park


I’ve lived in the Portland area for over 11 years now and I’m still finding little spots, like Kelly Point Park, pictured here, that I hadn’t seen before. Before moving to the Portland area, I lived in the Los Angeles area for over 40 years and there are still places I haven’t seen there!

Confluence of the Willamette & Columbia Rivers from Kelly Point Park.

Confluence of the Willamette & Columbia Rivers from Kelly Point Park.

So, how to find these places and add them to your day trips planner? Just pick up a map from the AAA or your city offices, and really look at it. That’s what I do from time to time, and I always find something new I haven’t discovered before.

Now that spring is just about here, with summer not far behind, it’s time to rediscover your home town area!

Happy traveling!

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Stop Paying to Pay Your Taxes!

Last year (2014) was the last straw! I went to the same tax preparation company that I’d gone to for the last ten years and ended up paying $608 to have my return prepared and filed!


And this for a relatively simple return!

To start at the beginning, when I used this preparer, a very well-known chain, I paid maybe $250 and was also sent a coupon that took $20 off my bill. But each year, the price kept going up! Last year (2014) it was $608, a steep rise from the year before, when I paid roughly $450! And, to top this off, the preparer stopped sending their discount coupons.

Well, I asked why my return, (which was fairly simple with some self-employment income, but certainly nothing like what a decent sized business would generate),had cost so much to prepare.

I was told that it was due to my number of w2’s and the division of my self-employment income generating more forms, each of which added another $100 to the cost! And I think I only had 3 w2’s and one 1099!

So, did they protect me and go to bat for me with any problems with the IRS? Well, yes, on two occasions. But, it was for mistakes they made! Not for anything I forgot to include or miscalculations I made!

So, this year, (2015) I decided enough was enough! I found a service, partly supported and endorsed by the AARP, which does tax returns free of charge. They also provide resources that can help you if you are audited. And they do a good job!

Luckily, in most of my past years, I had gotten refunds that were enough to cover the cost of preparation. However, I guess that had I gone to a tax preparation business, I may have paid $700 or more this time! With the $200 refund I’m getting this year, I would have ended up $500 in the hole, if not more!

Is there a down side or catch to using this free service? Sure. There are requirements, such as income levels. If too high, then you’re not eligible, although, the threshold is fairly high. Also, there are some things that they cannot do regarding tax returns, mostly things that are in much more complex returns, unless you’re willing to forgo the deductions, but, in many cases, the taxpayer will still save more by not going to a standard preparer.

In my case, the actual organization doing the free tax returns is called “Cash Oregon”, and is endorsed by the AARP. Oh, and by the way, there are no age restrictions, even though the AARP is involved.

And, depending on your area and how the organization you find works in your area, you may have to make an appointment well in advance, or, if they only do walk-in service, you may have to get up very early in the morning, arrive very early, and wait half the day or more. But, it’s well worth it! And unless you have the kind of return that is very complex and has a possibly greater chance of being audited, you should be just fine using a free service.

Just be sure to make sure that it is supported or endorsed by a reputable organization such as the AARP.

Oh, and what about the possible suggestion that I simply find another provider, one of the other well-known tax preparation companies? Well, while I was waiting, another guy came in and told the clerk he was trying Cash Oregon’s service because he was tired of paying exorbitant costs to have his taxes prepared by one of those other well-known companies!

So, if you’re seeing your tax refunds getting chewed to pieces by your tax preparer’s high costs, or even worse, having to pay that high cost on top of any taxes you owe try looking for a free service!

And support the FAIR TAX! (See my post, FAIR TAX! IT’S WAY PAST TIME!)

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