Taxes. Always an adventure.

Moved all this
Moved all this
Studio to be
Studio to be
Garage. The gNash is out front.
Garage. The gNash is out front in the glare.

Seattle has had the balmiest weather we’ve enjoyed in summer. It has been pleasant. Trailer life is comfortable. This job is in a quiet neighborhood nestled in the metropolitan area. We are parked as close as we have ever parked to the actual work. The Gypsy Carpenter saw horses are right outside the trailer door. The neighbors have been nice but hardly seen. I don’t have much work because it is a small job. I’ve used my free time to catch up on the trip to Europe and do our taxes.

Speaking of the IRS, I’ll relay this here for the record and your enjoyment. In April I tried to file an extension with not one but two on-line services. Both times I got notices that the form was rejected by the IRS because they could not verify my identity. The IRS uses a combination of factors to verify filer’s identities. In this case they said I was using the wrong 2015 Adjusted Gross Income. It happens that I, and thousands of other filers, was using the right figure. The IRS had a problem at their end.  But I didn’t know that yet. I called TurboTax from Mexico. They said file a paper return. From Mexico? I searched the internet for a way to resolve the discrepancy. All I found was file a paper return. I called Dad. I asked Dad to file a paper extension on my behalf. He sent me a link on how to fill out the form. While I was reading it I discovered that if I paid what I owed I did not need to file an extension. Dad read it the same way. I sent check to the IRS and the Montana Department of Revenue.

Two days ago it was time to face the music and do our returns. Burt had been mentioning them every time I asked if he needed my help at work. Need help? No, but you could walk the dogs and do the taxes. I pulled up TurboTax and dug through our records. I hoped I had paid enough back in April. I spent a few hours on on-line. It all looked nice. I had paid enough to both the feds and the state. I e-signed and sent them in. An hour late I received a rejection notice in email. Deja Vu, all over again. I started googling the AGI issue hoping it had been resolved in the meantime. I called TurboTax. They suggested a paper filing. It’s 2017. It seems like a stupid way to go so I called the IRS.

Calling the IRS is not a simple thing. They do not want you to call. Even if you find their number the recorded voice tries to convince you the answer to your question is more easily found on-line. I called and held for 20 minutes. I listened to multiple versions of try on-line and DO NOT HANG UP YOUR CALL WILL BE ANSWERED IN THE ORDER IT WAS RECEIVED. Bad music in between. Suddenly a new voice: We are experiencing technical difficulties. Good-bye. And like that they hung up on ME. Outraged, I called back. I hit 0 until a human got on the line. I asked about identity verification and the AGI discrepancy. He said, “Let me transfer you.” I waited 22 more minutes and heard all the same things. I started to wonder if they were brain washing me. I began to think I could find the answer on-line. I wanted to hang up. Then a woman answered. I listened to her give her name and her bazillion digit long ID code. Did I write it down? No. This is how they get you. I wasn’t really mad, yet. Once I became mad I couldn’t think straight.

I gently explained my ID verification issue. The IRS said: Maybe you need to try a different software program. ME: Are you denying that this is an IRS problem? I read on-line that the IRS has admitted that they have this problem. IRS: I haven’t heard of this problem. ME: You haven’t heard there’s a problem with the AGI and verification? And you want me to redo all my work? IRS: I haven’t heard of the problem. ME: Can I speak to your supervisor? IRS: They aren’t available. ME: Is this call being recorded? IRS: (awkward pause) Yes. Me: Good. Tell me how to fix this verification problem. IRS: File a paper return. ME: So now you know about the problem. IRS: Yes. ME: I don’t have a printer. IRS: (Nasty condescension) You don’t have a printer? ME: No, I do not and there are a lot of people in this world without printers. How can we solve this problem. IRS: I’ll send you the hard copy form to fill out. ME: I just spent hours filling these forms out on-line. Give me another solution. IRS: I don’t have one. ME: You haven’t solved the AGI discrepancy, yet? IRS: No. ME: Where can I print this? IRS: I don’t know. ME: (I KNOW WHERE BUT AM NOT SAYING) I’m not hanging up until you help me figure out where to print my tax forms. IRS: I can mail you the forms. ME: No. IRS: You can print at the Library. Me: Thank you.

Then instead of taking this lying, lazy, incompetent person’s name and number I hung up. I could not get over the fact that they pretended not to know about the identity verification problem. It’s all over the internet. The TurboTax guy knew about it. It’s the IRS’s new identity program and it’s got a major bug. Anyway. This is my documentation (again) of how I tried to get help from the IRS. As a former public servant I get very testy when other public servants are rude and unhelpful.

New sky light.
New sky light. You can see the gNash here.
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Work Photos

Alsea Falls and Marla
Alsea Falls and Marla

The shock of travel keep hitting our systems. Leaving the Baja desert and going to Europe and then the Pacific Northwest wreaked havoc on my inner compass. I’m still waking up in the morning wondering where I am. I’d say we have earned our gypsy credentials in the last 2 month. We’ve been in the Seattle area for a little more than a week converting a garage into a painter’s studio. It is a very urban location but tucked away on a quiet street. The dog park is only a ten minute walk away and there’s a fenced backyard. Olive has managed to dig up the lettuce so she’s no longer allowed in the yard unsupervised. Despite that the job and location are great.

We plan to drive back to Alpine, OR via the Olympic peninsula in time to catch the solar eclipse. Flat earthers beware. I have no patience for such nonsense. Below are some scenes from Alpine. More to follow. I got the taxes done.

foundation
foundation
poppies
poppies
We found a nice Bridge game about a half hour away.
We found a nice Bridge game about a half hour away.
Tent platform frame.
Tent platform frame.
Hashtag and lunch
Hashtag and lunch. Best watermelon ever.
My new skill
My new skill
gNash parking
gNash parking
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

This is what it looks like

Who is the real blogger?
Who is the real blogger?

It’s been three weeks and I am still not caught up on this blog. The European trip takes so much time for just a little bit of research. Meanwhile my knee hurts and so does my hip. We averaged more than 8 miles a day for two weeks. I’ve been trying to rest the legs and, still, I cannot catch up to present life.

We already worked in Alpine, OR. Currently we are working for Baja friends in Seattle. Burt is working. I am typing. I help some. Seattle is nice and cool. We’ve played some Bridge and some music. My mandolin went in for much needed maintenance and it is way more fun to play. The dogs have a good yard to visit. There is also a dog park 10 minutes away. Elvis thinks he is the doorman. Nobody can enter without a thorough nose frisking.

Mimi wasn’t eating when we got back from Europe. It was also in the high 90s. She has resumed eating but is noticeably odd and smelly. I wonder how many years she can hang on as odd and smelly. I remember that tune from the TV show Friends, Smelly Cat. It might be time to learn it. HERE it is. According to the song it’s all my fault.

When we finish this artist’s studio here we will return to Oregon. We have more work in Alpine and Oakridge.

Back to European vacay mañana.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Backtracking. Everything that could go wrong and didn’t.

Here's the back of the truck from 3 weeks ago. Add to it most of my mother's clothes and a few odds and ends.
Here’s the back of the truck from 3 weeks ago. Add to it most of my mother’s clothes and a few odds and ends.

Burt and I perched an hour from the border between the USA and Mexico. Tomorrow we plan to meet Rosemary and Ed and cross over into our winter in Baja. More and RR and Ed later. Today I want to try and cover a subject that was set aside when my mom died: What could have gone wrong working in Virginia and did not.

When we agreed to take on the rehab and remodel of a home in Alexandria, Virginia we did so with a couple of caveats. One, we bid the job high because we had no idea what we would find when we physically arrived on site. We had a home inspection report but those are not reliable and certainly not geared towards home remodeling and repair. They are for home sales and negotiation. Burt and I are not impressed with the industry on a whole. Both of us have had home inspections fail to turn up fundamental flaws and over blow minor problems. Two, we could get kicked off the job at any time by either the building department for not having permits or the police for illegally camping on the street. A quick perusal of Fairfax county building codes revealed only a couple of areas where permits were required. Small, inconspicuous areas. When we learned that the most disruptive and visible work (replacing all windows) was permit-exempt we thought the job was a low risk enterprise. Still, we can’t guarantee a neighbor won’t turn us in. Our client was ready to take that chance. She knew we were fast and reliable. Her efforts to manage local builders from 2,000 miles away had been frustrating and expensive.

Dear readers might wonder why the owner didn’t simply get a permit. It’s not that easy. There are many reasons. Permitting a kitchen remodel can add significant time. Time means money. Also, permitting required an application by the actual owner. The boss on the job was the owner’s child. The actual owner is 89 and in poor health. No chance the owner was coming to Virginia to fill out paperwork. The only work requiring a permit was minor electrical and plumbing for the kitchen. Demolition, cabinets, windows, floor, painting, cleaning….all of this did not require a permit. Weighing the options it was worth the risk to the owner. Remember, a permit issue is the owner’s problem. We can legally work for anyone, anywhere. But as responsible business people we don’t want to knowingly get a client in trouble. We let them make the choice.

So there we were enjoying our season of no work when this job offer came our way. Consciously we debated the sanity of taking a job in a place far away with cold weather coming. A job in a place notorious for rules, crowds, Type A personalities. We discussed my mother’s health. We knew we could tack on a visit or two to see mom and dad. My brother and his family were near. The job was in a new area of the world. Google earth photos showed room for us to camp in the back yard. We could say we worked coast to coast. Mom’s health and our interest in the area tipped the scales over to, “Let’s go!”

Here’s what we worried about:

The camping situation.

Building inspectors.

Ordering windows, cabinets, counters, appliances. How long would it take? Could we get done by Christmas? Could we do it under budget?

Disposal of debris.

The size of the job.

How much could I work on my new heart meds?

On this job, nothing went wrong.

At first it looked like our camping situation was destined to cause problems. The Google Earth photos didn’t show the fence around the yard. For the first two weeks we parked road side. It felt like everybody was staring at us. The neighbors were watching but they were watching with delight as we made the worst eyesore in the neighborhood look clean and welcoming. They were thrilled we were in town and on the job full time. After 2 weeks we took a week off and towed away to visit my folks. This was the last time I saw my mom. Our timing was good. Some might say miraculous. After the visit we figured out a way to pull into the driveway and become less conspicuous.

Building inspectors never showed. Happy neighbors? Discrete work? We kept all debris out of sight and hauled it away frequently. We were quiet. The job was mostly unpermitted work.

After decades of working in the wilds of Montana and the intermountain west the ordering of supplies in the east coast megalopolis was a revelation. Everything is seemingly available at your finger tips. Things that take 6 weeks in Montana take 10 days in Virginia. Half the windows we needed were in-stock. The furnace had to be replaced and they had a new one in two days. Granite counters showed up five days after the cabinets were installed. This job had a coefficient of efficiency we never imagined possible. We had time to play bridge.

The job was just big enough and not too big for two. My heart meds slowed me down but I could work. Overhead stuff is really hard with low blood pressure. I grew frustrated changing light fixtures when my hand and arms didn’t have enough blood and I was gasping for oxygen but I got most of it done.

And then the real miracle. As we closed in on the last week of work my mom began to die. She could have gone mid-job and caused a ruckus. Surmountable but logistically hard. She could have waited until we were three weeks down the road. When turning back would have been costly and time consuming. Nope. She died two days before the job was done. Mighty convenient mom. Thanks for thinking of us. Living this wandering life makes traveling easier and harder. Timing a person’s death and the upheaval it causes is never convenient and always troubling. My mom could not have made it easier for us. It’s crazy that way back in August we thought about how nice it would be to be nearby and we could visit. We even thought about the end. We wondered if she might die while we were there. Someone somewhere was listening. Mom heard us? We heard mom? Our client heard that thing called god? I’ll never know.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Wrapping up

All new windows everywhere.
All new windows everywhere.

Burt just told me to tell my dad that we might be there on Monday. This job is almost over. It’s a little early to go over the things we worried that might go wrong taking on a job like this from 2000 miles away in a place full of people and rules and complications but I think it’s safe to say nothing has gone wrong or even been difficult.

One example from the list possible difficulties is the photo below. Trash management. Rules are variable. Disposal fees can be every high. The logistics of moving the waste arduous. This job had a massive volume of demolition debris because of the full house window replacement, the rotten kiddie playhouse and the abandoned homemade swing set. We debated a roll off container but a massive curbside trash bin would call attention to our work. We discussed hiring somebody to come and get the debris when the job was done but a huge pile of trash might call attention to our work. We worried. Calls were made. Internet searches done. It turned out with just a piece of mail to show we lived here we could transport the waste to the dump ourselves and pay reasonable resident disposal fees. Over the course of 7 weeks we made three dump runs. We kept the work in-house (more money for us) and kept control of the job site and there were no large piles of refuse to call attention to our work. It’s smart of the urban planners to make waste disposal easy. This gets waste to the dump instead of a gully. We’d never do that but some might.

The waste here goes to a solid waste incinerator and is used for energy production. Over 2 million gallons of crude oil is replaced by burning garbage energy. You can read about it here. I was geekily delighted to see the incinerator in action as we dropped off our largely wood filled load. Our refuse from this job helped generate more than 1500 kilowatts of energy. Another reason to promote easy of disposal.

Last haul to the dump.
Last haul to the dump.
A very old house in Alexandria.
A very old house in Alexandria.
Down Mordor Road you will find the Fairfax County Waste Incinerator. Somebody has a literary sense of humor.
Down Mordor Road you will find the Fairfax County Waste Incinerator. Somebody has a literary sense of humor.
Details for a rental.
Details for a rental.
New door pulls.
New door pulls.
New door stops.
New door stops.
New vent covers.
New vent covers.
Rehanging the miniblinds.
Rehanging the miniblinds.
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Working all night long

Looks like he's reading but he is sound asleep.
Looks like he’s reading but he is sound asleep.

With the gNash parked mere feet from the front door of our current project Burt takes full advantage of his early mornings and the accessibility. Recently he’s been going in as early as 3:00 AM. Now back on the west coast that’s midnight. I’ve been pondering what this means for Burt’s internal clock and our lark/owl interpersonal relations for weeks and then this morning happened. Burt woke up and misread the 11:00 PM as 1:00 AM. Our clock is two hours behind. He thought oh, it’s 3:00 I might as well go to work instead of trying to sleep. But it wasn’t 3:00, it was 1:00. Got that? So Burt showed up for breakfast at 8 AM after putting in nearly a day’s worth of work. In the meantime I was sleeping soundly in the spacious bed. We were both awake for breakfast of pea soup. Now it is 11:55 AM and Burt is sound asleep. I’m doing computer updates and backing up writing and photographs.

I made a pumpkin pie but I can’t bake it until Burt wakes up and lights the oven. As of yesterday we have been living in this 22′ box for seven years and I still can’t light the oven. Co-dependency is what they call it. We’re off to my brother and sister-in-law’s place for the holiday. We haven’t settled on a meal plan. I was supposed to bring my pie but Christian won some pies in a raffle and so I get to keep this one. There’s no such thing as too much pumpkin pie in this trailer.

Yellow room will be white soon. I find this shade of yellow hostile and jarring in a bed room.
Yellow room will be white soon. I find this shade of yellow hostile and jarring in a bedroom.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

More Progress

Todd and me
Todd and me

The other day a blast from the past came to see me. Todd is a helicopter simulator designer, hang glider, tall ship sailor, and contra dancer, and a friend from college years at Georgia Tech. Todd lives in Connecticut. We haven’t made it to the north east in our seven years on the road so when he noticed his work and our work placed us in the same metropolitan area, he got in touch. Back in the day we rock climbed a lot. Todd was the classic climbing bum. He could get straight As in aerospace engineering and virtually live out of his truck and rock climb when he wasn’t in school. Sometimes he kayaked, too. Once we drove back from Yosemite together. Todd had just climbed the face of El Capitan in a multi-day siege while Penny and I had climbed Mount Whitney. Both Todd and I lived on the cheap. Penny flew back to Georgia and I took a free ride back with Todd. I’m pretty sure I promised to keep him good company if he would let me ride for free. Otherwise it was $100 for a one way ticket back with Penny. Todd begrudgingly made room for me. Todd was so wasted from his efforts on the 3,000′ climb that I hardly had to say a word. I remember piping up significantly when we accidentally arrived in Las Vegas, NV instead of Boulder, Colorado. Somewhere in the night we’d missed a turn. The high desert did not have many signs back then.

Meanwhile work continues. Mostly it’s Burt working and me cooking or helping here and there. I was supposed to install the laminate floor in the kitchen while Burt did other things but it turned into a two person job. Every laminate product is different. This Home Depot Ultra something was very recalcitrant. I’d no sooner get one end fitted and the other end of the plank would disengage. Over and over. Burt helpfully said, “I think you need to get more together.” I did not find this statement helpful. I went and googled for ideas. All I could find were people saying, “It was hard at first and then I figured it out.” No clues as to what ‘figured it out’ might mean. Links to videos ended up in dead ends of ‘vodep not available’.  Finally Burt tried. No luck. Then both of us tried. And tried and tried. Cussing, stomping, more internet searching. Eventually we developed a two person system of lift, hold, push, lift, hold, push.

Once the floor was installed we started on the cabinets. That went smoothly. No errors in ordering or construction. The granite counter guy came today to measure. The tops should be done in a week. In the interim more light fixtures and painting and new windows. It looks like we will get out of here without much trouble.

Tunnel in Alexandria
Tunnel in Alexandria
Kitchen cabinets
Kitchen cabinets
Kitchen cabinets and floor
Kitchen cabinets and floor
Island spacing?
Island spacing? 36″ to 42″ is normal.
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Moving Along

Trimming the new windows
Trimming the new windows 

I’ve been painting and installing light fixtures and doing the Home Depot runs. Burt is doing the hard work. Today he started at 3:45 AM. He’s been a bit of an insomniac since November 9th. I have been sleeping fine. Maybe I’m catching z’s because my snorer-in-chief leaves for work in the middle of the night. The earlier hours and long days are catching up with him. At bridge he looked like a zombie. Most nights he’s out by 8 or 8:30.

The counter installers come on Monday to measure for the granite tops. There should be some good progress made in the next few days. The whole job will wrap up faster than expected. Yay for us. Mexico is calling.

New light fixture
New light fixture
Homemade task light.
Homemade task light.
Sometimes I get scared just changing a fixture.
Sometimes I get scared just changing a fixture.
Annoyed and worried.
Annoyed and worried.
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Amateur Hour

A little public service announcement.
A little public service announcement.

This is just a sample of the stuff unwitting Do-it-yourselfers do. Here we have an outlet somebody painted over. Perhaps it was several somebodys. Layers of paint held this ancient outlet in place. It was time to update the outlets for safety and aesthetic reasons. What a pain in the buttinsky for our fully licensed and permitted electrician. Or homeowner. You fill in the blank. Sparky turned off the circuit and then attempted to remove the old outlet. She scored the edges of the old plate to try and cut the paint. It was too thick. Sparky’s boss came by and helped. Eventually the whole thing came out in pieces. If you want your faceplates to match the walls remove them and paint them individually. Reinstall after wall and faceplate paint is completely dry.

Autumn colors are elusive here in the Potomac River bottom. Leaves appear to be browning and falling. There isn’t much to peep at. Some photos below.

Moisture got back there.
Moisture got back there.
Glad I wasn't using this.
Glad I wasn’t using this. It disintegrated.
New outlet
New outlet
Watery spot near here.
Watery spot near here.
Maryland is across the way.
Maryland is across the way.
Not much fall color.
Not much fall color. Here’s a tree.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest