George Washington’s Birthday

Today marks the 292nd anniversary of the birth of the “Father of the Country,” George Washington. He was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Washington died in 1799 at Mount Vernon, VA, where he is laid to rest.

Like last year, our sentiment remains that “President’s Day” is a sham and a disservice to both President Washington and President Lincoln whose birthdays/holidays were dissipated into the current holiday. Both men remain, in our opinion, entitled to their own holiday. We continue to celebrate them both even though I missed Mr. Lincoln’s again this year. I made a reminder to post next year in my on-line calendar.

Since the last posting a couple weeks ago, we have been busy with several routine things (there are so many retirement chores) and have also begun detail planning for our upcoming excursion to Waco for the April 6th total eclipse. See the Eclipse Countdown page in the sidebar.

We hope everyone is doing OK out there. We’re doing well and we keep on keeping on.

Imbolc – 2024

Imbolc Cross-Quarter Day

Celtic Feast today: Irish Beef Stew with Soda Bread. The stew had low-carb vegetables (i.e. Turnips, not Potatoes, Butternut Squash, not yams, etc.). The Soda Bread was made with Keto-friendly ingredients. The feast was delicious and served with an Irish Coffee on a cool, windy day. Click on the image to open in the image viewer.

About Imbolc:

Celts celebrated Imbolc as the beginning of Spring. Imbolc corresponds more or less to Groundhog Day in the USA, February 2, when tradition has it that if a sleepy groundhog creeping out of its burrow at dawn sees its shadow, there are 6 more weeks of winter. (If not, we surmise, only 42 days remain.) Christians celebrate this holiday as St. Brigid’s Day.

Spam Filter

When we upgraded this blog to later versions of WordPress a couple of years back, we also upgraded our Spam Filter to Askimet. The package does a pretty good job of filtering spam while allowing normal comments. Thus far, (since the upgrade) Askimet has stopped over nineteen thousand spams. I note that most of the spam seems to be trying to sell pharmaceuticals. There are also some Russian-language spams and a few others promoting p0rn and such. Fortunately, none of that seems to get through.

2023 Tax Preparation Now Complete

UPDATE: 02/01/2024 — Not a record, but the small refund hit the bank account today. So the 2023 tax season is now officially concluded and we can now devote our energies elsewhere.

Well, it’s all over but the reimbursement as far as the 2023 Tax Season is concerned. We obtained (electronically) all the necessary financial reports and have concluded the preparation of our submissions to the collective thievery of the US Internal Revenue Service and the Arizona State Department of Revenue (ADOR).

As I posted earlier this month, I have a spreadsheet that allows us to forecast our financial numbers with regard to the Tax Reporting cycle. There is a little guesswork, but the initial guesses usually get us within a few dollars of the final figures. This year was no exception and when the 2023 1099s and other forms were available, it was just a matter of “tuning up” the tax program. We’re now ready to file when the IRS and ADOR open up for the 2024 tax reporting season. The Feds will be accepting inputs next Monday 01/29/2024; I’m not sure when ADOR will be open for business, but it’s of little consequence since there is neither a refund nor tax due.

We will be getting our usual small refund from the IRS. Last year, the IRS had our refund in the bank account a mere three days after we filed. Since we’re filing early, maybe we’ll be as lucky again.

2024 Financial Forecast Tools

I usually start setting up for the next years’ financial considerations in late November which was the case this past (2023) November. I have a spreadsheet that I have developed (and continue to develop as things are dynamic to an extent) which allows me to do several things to manage our money:

  1. Forecast Gross Income
  2. Forecast IRA Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)
  3. Forecast Federal Tax Withholding Rate
  4. Forecast Taxable Portion of Social Security Income
  5. Forecast IRS Adjusted Gross Income
  6. Forecast Effective IRS Tax Rate Percentage
  7. Forecasts for Dividends, Capital Gains, etc.

The year-end use of this tool allowed me to prepare our 2023 IRS Tax in advance of the receipt of tax forms from financial institutions, etc. It also allowed me to forecast (to within a penny, as it turns out) the amount of my IRA that I must take as a distribution in 2024.

Inputs to the spreadsheet come from several sources. Forecast income numbers come from pension plans, investment brokerages and the Social Security Administration. These turn out to be actual numbers while other income items are based on past experience with the sources and our knowledge of how those numbers are likely to increase (or decrease). The latter aren’t usually nailed down until the end of the year.

The first important item that I calculate from the tool is the RMD forecast which allows me to set up the distribution schedule and amounts for my IRA. It also allows me to set the Federal Withholding amount for the coming year.

The second important item would be is to use the numbers from last year to prepare our 2023 IRS Income Tax in advance of receipt of the 1099-R and other IRS forms. We’re pretty confident that we know the approximate amount of our tax refund which we expect to get back from the .gov in February. As usual, it seems to be a relatively small refund which means we didn’t allow the Fed to enjoy having a lot of our money interest free for the year.

Happy 2024

Ringing in the new and ringing out the old. So long 2023.

We continue to be in good health. We both got annual eye exams in October and new eyeglasses were issued. Our prescriptions haven’t changed in the last several years but we both needed new eyewear since the old ones were scratched and getting worn out. I have my usual visits with the specialists and there was nothing to worry about save for a few skin lesions (some were cancer) which the dermatologist removed.

Over the last few weeks, we did a first cut at the 2023 taxes and no surprises. It looks like we’ll be getting a small refund. We also calculated the 2024 Required Minimum distribution for the IRA, and it will increase a bit since the IRA fund did better these last few months. Damsel also switched her Social Security on for the coming year and we will be getting a modest increase in benefits which is completely offset by the current ruination of the Nation’s economy.

Over the last several years, we have seen relentless attacks on our God-given rights as guaranteed by the Second Amendment. We continue to monitor our favorite You-Tube® Pro-2A channels and the Pro-2A blogs to stay informed about the state of gun-grabbers efforts.

So that’s it for our New Year’s message. We’re wishing you good health and providence from The Almighty in the coming year. God Bless!

Winter Solstice 2023

Image – an unusual snow day in Wickenburg (2014-12-31)

Solstice Notes

The first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is marked by the winter solstice, which occurs on Thursday, December 21, 2023, at 8:27 P.M. Arizona time or 0127Z if you’re into Greenwich mean time. Today is the shortest day of the year with only 9 hours and 53 minutes of sunshine at our latitude here in Wickenburg.

We’re not expecting any snow of the magnitude depicted above this season. The snowfall in Wickenburg on New Year’s Eve 2014 was the most snow we have ever seen in town since we moved here in early 2011 when our house was finally completed. As a matter of fact, we can count our snow days on one hand over our nearly 13 years of living here.

Music Notes

The 61-key digital keyboard shown below is the replacement for an older version of the same thing that I’ve had since March of 2010 (and there were many before that). This one has much more capability and I have been enjoying exploring the different voices, songs and styles included in the unit.

I have been playing keyboards (without much formal training) since age 5 or so. I have messed with MIDI quite a lot although that isn’t my peak interest now. I’d much rather play favorites and try to compose some things now and then.

The new keyboard is a Yamaha PSR E373 which is still considered an entry level unit, but it has a lot more features than I probably can figure out how to use. I have an app for the Smart Phone which allows me to record sound and video from the unit. Maybe I will post some of it on social media and link it here one of these days.

Here is the new unit in my studio (a.k.a. Master Bedroom):

This is Yamaha’s Blurb about this keyboard:

The PSR-E373 features a newly developed tone generator that delivers stunning improvements in sound quality as well as high-quality effects. You can enjoy a comprehensive library of 622 instrument Voices perfect for playing in any genre you choose, as well as unique Super Articulation Lite Voices that reproduce the subtle nuances of stringed instruments such as the cello and mandolin that are typically difficult to emulate on a keyboard instrument, delivering realistic and authentic performances.

The old keyboard will be retired to the Motorhome for practice when we’re on the road.

Camping Day 11 – Last Day Out

We’re still in South Tucson today, relaxing and dining. We had a delicious Chicken Pepper Casserole for late lunch today.

Since it is warm outside here (95°), we spent most of our day inside the RV. There was a power failure for about an hour but, luckily, we were able to run the 6KW generator to keep the A/C and other appliances going.

We will be heading for home tomorrow morning with a rest stop and visit at Casa Grande on the way. Our route takes us through Coolidge, AZ where the ruins are located. Then, its about two more hours to home.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our outing, particularly watching the eclipse on Saturday 10/14. We’re already thinking about another outing before the big trip to Waco, TX to watch another eclipse next April.