Christmas in CA

It’s closing in on the final two weeks to Christmas, and I still don’t feel the holiday spirit. It was 64 degrees Fahrenheit (~20 degrees Celsius) today! There’s no snow. Heck, the grass on the hills south of 280 just finally turned green. We’re in California, what holiday spirit?

Living in California is like being an insomniac. You get loopy without a perceptible change in seasons. It’s always sunny – not that there’s anything wrong with that. But sometimes you’d just like to lay about the house and not have to close all to blinds to avoid feeling guilty about choosing to miss out on the sunshine. I’m such a Vancouverite – the temporary appearance of rain last week was cause for minor jubilation on my part at work:

Co-worker: Boy, it sure is coming down out there. I can’t believe the miserable weather we’re having!

Me: I know! Isn’t it fantastic?!?

Co-worker: ???

The really weird part about the impending arrival of Christmas in California is all the traditional imagery used to sell the season to shoppers. White Christmas? Are you kidding me? Eggnog lattes? Dude, those are meant to be spiked with rum, and their true purpose is to ward off frostbite. Take it from the son of a Scot, I know.

The pinnacle of this surreal experience has been the “Christmas in the Park” display in downtown San Jose. Picture this: a good acre of park covered in some kind of white mesh, surrounded by miniature displays of Santa’s elves throwing cotton-ball snowballs at each other, and other Christmas schtick. I feel sorry for the kids.

Good-Bye Student Loan!

Funny story: the Government of Canada issued me a tax refund check. For tax year 2000. For roughly twenty-eight thousand dollars! Whoa, good-bye student loan payments!

How did this come about?

Well, a couple years ago I was working in Anguilla. It was only for a short period of time, and I was pretty surprised when I got back to Canada and I had to pay tax (given that I’d been out of the country for the majority of the year). Though I looked through all the documentation, I was pretty sure I had to pay the tax – so I rolled up my sleeves and paid it over the next year. Ouch.

Then in 2002 I got a notice from Revenue Canada regarding the GST credit (in Canada, you get a refund for Goods and Services Tax if you’re in a low income bracket). Previously, you had to specifically apply for a GST credit, but that year they started automatically checking GST credit eligibility for everyone who filed a tax return. Two months after I filed my tax return and had already gotten my refund, I received my GST credit notice which stated:

Please keep this notice for your records

We have established that you are not eligible for the GST/HST credit because:

– you are not a resident of Canada.

“Hmm…interesting – because that’s what I thought too!” I thought, “So how about you give me all my damn tax money back?”

And now, after a bunch of adjustment filings, updates, and a strike by the union responsible for processing the paperwork, I got the money back. With interest (at a better rate, I might add, than any bank account).

Now, if only we could just finish putting the Sauder School of Business through the legal wringer for breach of contract (they quadrupled the MBA tuition, among other things), the majority of that money would end up back in my long-term savings.