David Lewis

David J. Lewis, CPA
juggler; tax software developer (UltraTax)
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tottered on: 3 May 2008
Temperature: 67 F
Ceiling: 50+ feet, netting
Ground: indoor soccer turf; fake dirt granules
Wind: calm

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TT with HD: Dave Lewis

juggling teeter totter
Totter 2.0 on location at Wide World Sports
2008 Ann Arbor Juggling Festival

[Ed. note: Future potential guests on the totter need not be daunted. There's no requirement to stand, or to juggle, or to wear the same gloves that Bill Clinton wore during his totter ride. But it's worth noting that Dave Lewis did all of those things.]

DL: Which end did Bill Clinton sit on?

HD: Well, Bill Clinton didn't ride this model.

DL: He didn't?

HD: He rode Totter Classic, not Totter 2.0. But if you'd like, I can get you the official Bill Clinton teeter tottering gloves that he wore. And you can wear those, too, if you'd like to wear those during your ride. They are right over there in the bag.

MK: Okay, so can two people stand on there and pass clubs and move in and out to make it teeter totter?

HD: Hell, yeah. Bruce and I were just doing that, didn't you see us? [Ed. note: HD is kidding, because he figured that was just crazy-talk on MK's part and was responding in kind. But it was not crazy-talk and later MK actually managed to pull this off. It's documented on YouTube.]

MK: No!

HD: You missed it!

MK: Sorry! I would've got it on videotape if I had seen it!

HD: Is that going to work? Hang on one second.

DL: You want me to juggle, or just hold the props? [Ed. note: Photography ensues. HD requests, and DL obliges. There is a drop of a club.]

HD: You see, I'm kind that way, I would not take a picture of you right now.

DL: I always thought that would be funny to put together a bunch of video of people just picking up their props. Because at this sort of festival, sure there's the juggling that's cool, but 90 percent of the time people are standing around while they're picking up their props!

HD: Let me ask you then, are there like apparatuses that you can either build for yourself or just purchase, for catching stuff? Like nets and whatnot? Because I tried to learn how to do five, and I discovered that practicing against a wall to keep things in front of me so that I wasn't running forward chasing things, that was okay. But still, the tedium of picking things up was really the main obstacle to progress.

DL: When I learned, I spent a lot of time practicing three balls against a couch that was against a wall. So they'd just fall on the couch. Maybe they'd hit the wall and bounce onto the couch, but I didn't have to ...

HD: ... you didn't go all the way to the floor, just to the couch, right.

DL: But as you get into more complicated tricks and bigger patterns, you want more area to move around. I never figured out a good way, unless you hire some little kid to come around.

HD: Is that done at all, where somebody would say, I'll be the guy who picks up stray things?

DL: There was this one juggler named Anthony Gatto, who was a child prodigy juggler--now he is in his 30's and he's an adult prodigy juggler!

HD: So he is still juggling?

DL: Yeah, he has done shows in Vegas and Paris. And he is known amongst the juggling community. And once in a while he would show up at the National Juggling Convention, and his dad was his coach. He would be practicing six or seven clubs in the gym and everyone would be sitting around watching him practice and his dad was there. And when Anthony would drop one, his dad would come over and pick up the prop for him, so he didn't tire out from picking up the props. But that is the exception to the rule. And I don't know if you are familiar with bounce juggling, where you've got these balls made out of silicone and they're made specifically for bouncing off the floor?

HD: Yeah, I saw a guy on TV once use that technique to play like a piano, an electronic keyboard?

DL: Right.

HD: And he played some amazing tune, it was quite dramatic.

DL: Search for Dan Menendez.

HD: Dan Menendez is the guy?

DL: Yeah, if you search the juggling forums for that name. It's a very creative act. You have probably heard of the flying Karamazov Brothers?

HD: Yeah, as a matter of fact I saw them in person in Bloomington, Indiana about 20 years ago.

DL: They built one that actually played. And they weren't playing anything complicated with a ...

HD: ... like Row, Row, Row Your Boat or something?

DL: It was a song they had made up themselves. And the other thing about retrieving props--the reason I brought up ball bouncing, is because some guys have in their basements, they set up little fencing. Or sometimes you go to a juggling festival, and it's a high school gym and there might be some lacrosse nets around, and they will just set up areas where the balls won't roll away. I tried a little bit of ball bouncing a while back, and the balls were always rolling away and I got frustrated chasing them.

HD: So I asked Bruce the standard question, the annoying question, How many can you do? So instead of asking you that question per se, I'd like to ask you, How do you handle it? Because I imagine it must get annoying when you guys are out on the Diag, surely every once in a while at least--or even on a regular basis--some guy says, Yeah, that's pretty good, but how many can you do? In my very brief experience with juggling, that was the thing that annoyed me the most. I never really developed a very polite response.

DL: N + 1.

HD: N + 1? [laugh] Is that a response you would actually give to someone? Just say N + 1 and see if they can deal with that?

DL: On occasion, yeah. When I was younger I was more put off by those types of remarks. Now, I try to be gracious about it, because I think about, What if I go and watch somebody do something that I don't do, like go and watch ice skating. Oh, you do a triple Axel? Can you do a quadruple Axel?

HD: Yeah, why can't you do a quad?

DL: I mean, if I'm with my friends I might be making smart aleck remarks amongst ourselves, so I've kind of thought about that--that I've done the same thing in the past for other hobbies. I came to realize I should just be gracious about it. Or say something that will make them laugh. If I am juggling five clubs, How many can you do? Four.

HD: [laugh] Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that it just takes more to impress people nowadays than it maybe used to? I mean, if you are the only guy who could juggle in your little small town, and there was no television and there was no internet and people had no standard against which to judge it, then they would be impressed by three-ball juggling.

HD: And some people are! That is a very valid point. Twenty years ago you could walk into a juggling festival and if you could juggle five clubs everyone would ...

HD: ... would gather around?

Heckler: Dave, get up and juggle on that thing!

DL: Yeah. And now, so many people juggle five clubs that it's not that interesting to jugglers themselves, that someone is juggling five clubs. Although people might still respect the skill of it.

HD: You are being challenged, by the way, by the woman in the yellow T-shirt to stand up and juggle.

DL: Oh!

HD: Which, I am happy to accommodate that. Hang on one second.

DL: I was kind of enjoying the ride.

HD: No, you have to work for the ride! Do you want to climb up and stand up?

DL: Do I want to stand on this?!

HD: Yeah, stand up right on that! I will remain seated, of course.

DL: Please, I must have complete silence for this. With the gloves? With the Bill Clinton gloves?

HD: With the Bill Clinton gloves! Okay that's good, that's really good! Now are you going to be okay if I teeter you up and down a little bit?

DL: No!!

HD: [laugh] Well done!

Heckler: No, he's gotta teeter totter while you're doing that!

HD: Why don't you come over here and take a turn?

Heckler: Yeah, right. You just want to see how far the floor will bounce me up!

HD: Yeah, get back on.

DL: Where was I sitting?

HD: The nice thing is you can scoot back and forth.

Heckler: Can you actually juggle while teeter tottering?

HD: Yeah, Bruce and I were passing three round objects back and forth before, you missed it. You'll have to wait for the YouTube video! [Ed. note: Although that sequence of three-ball passing while sitting on the totter did not make it into the YouTube montage, HD is actually speaking the truth here.]

Heckler: I will, too. I'll watch it.

DL: Speaking of YouTube, that goes along with what you were asking, Are people less impressed these days? Again, 20 years ago it was a treat to see some sort of juggling video. And you would typically only get to see these at a juggling festival, and you would go to the party in the evening and people would have the TV running, playing videotapes of incredible juggling acts. And now you see a lot of the stuff on YouTube all time.

HD: So in addition to, I saw a guy on TV do 13 clubs! or whatever, you've got, I saw this thing on YouTube! What is the world record for clubs?

DL: For clubs? I think for a juggle maybe 10. Did Bruce tell you the difference between a juggle and a flash?

HD: I've read about it. I was never clear about exactly what it was. A flash means to just get them all in the air?

DL: Yeah, if I have five clubs and I make one catch of each club, that qualifies as a flash. If I catch each one twice, for a total of 10 catches, that qualifies as a juggle.

HD: So a flash is not what I thought, just being able to throw them all into the air before the first one falls.

DL: No, you have to catch all of them. And that's more when you're getting into the higher numbers. It's no big deal to flash three, or even juggle three.

HD: So how long is this [festival] going to go on? Till six o'clock is that the deal?

DL: Six o'clock is pretty much when we'll start clearing out.

HD: So is this a major money-maker and stuff for the club?

DL: No.

HD: So the one dollar admission is sort of an honorific, a symbolic kind of thing?

DL: Wide World Sports, we make a contribution to them based on how much we take in at the door. They could make a lot more money renting this field out to someone else. It's just we have a history with them. One of our jugglers used to work here. That was how we got this facility in the first place. One of our members was working here and he always wanted to have a festival in Ann Arbor.

HD: So I imagine that most of their business comes from leagues, right? I mean it's the ongoing league play that keeps a place like this open, it's not like one-off rentals for a juggling festival?

DL: Yeah, maybe you can get one of them to come down and talk to about it. [laugh] Yeah, I think you would really have to talk to them. My impression is there are more indoor leagues in the spring now than there were when they first started this 8 years ago.

HD: So this place, Wide World Sports, has been here for 8 years?!

DL: At least. I was first aware of it in 1999 or 2000.

HD: So what is the furthest away that anybody will come from this festival, do you suppose?

DL: For this one, maybe a few hundred miles. There's lots of juggling festivals these days. And again, comparing it to when I started juggling back in the 80's where there were a handful of juggling clubs, people would come a long distance from a few states away just for a juggling festival. A lot of times people will come in from out of town to see family, and they will time it for this weekend. There's a guy here who lives in Kansas but he is from the area originally. A year or two ago we had a guy visiting from Texas, known amongst the juggling community--it turns out he's from this area originally, the Detroit area.

HD: So, looking around, is that table right there is that going to be for vendors of juggling stuff?

DL: Yeah it looks like this guy--I don't know where he is. I sort of expected him to be here by now. We usually get a couple of vendors.

HD: I know that there's bound to be comparisons based on skill, sort of, How many can you do? And, What kind of things can you do? Can you do knives and chain saws and whatnot? But then the quality of the equipment itself is one point of possible comparison. Thinking about the bicycling community, for example, if you show up to any group ride, typically people are going to fawn all over the brand-new machine with the carbon fiber frame and aero handlebars and whatnot. So there is a whole other dimension of competition and comparison. Do you have the coolest equipment or the lightest equipment. Is there any sense of that at all in the juggling world? Like, I've got Brian Dube clubs, ooooh look at me!

DL: Not so much. I would say there is equipment that is made for beginners, bean bags or what-have-you, and I think there's a company--I don't think they're still in business--that specifically made equipment for beginners. And then there's the prop vendors that jugglers know. There are more and more of them every year. There were only a handful of them when I started out. Now there are different suppliers all across the country and you can get stuff on the internet.

HD: So is there any place locally you could buy really high-quality juggling equipment on a retail basis? Or do you just have to ...

DL: ... not really. Typically you order them through the vendor. Every once in a while someone shows up with a really cool prop--like there is a guy here who has some--I think they're called Aerotech--they are clubs that light up. They are super-expensive and you can program them for various light patterns.

HD: So is it based on when they strike your hands?

DL: Part of it is when they strike your hand.

HD: Oh, you are kidding me!

DL: He showed me how you program them. You take the club and you tap it to set a certain timing. Like you tap it four times and you wait, and then you tap it three times, and that would set it to a certain pattern. You know, like it will flash red, or it will flash blue, or it will flash solid.

HD: Wow. So is he here?

DL: Yeah, he's over here standing next to the Hunker Hauser.

HD: Standing next to the what???

DL: The Hunker Hauser, the rope game where you try to pull the other guy off the platform. Chris is the guy standing there.

HD: With his hands on his knees?

DL: Yeah. I don't know if he brought his Aerotech clubs or not.

HD: So is he the guy who just stepped off the platform?

DL: No, he still standing there with his hands on his knees. So I don't know if he brought them this year or not.

HD: It would be very cool if he brought them. I would really like to see them. [laugh] Maybe we could yell over to him?

DL: Okay, maybe we can wait until the Hunker Hauser round is done.

HD: How do you spell that?

DL: H-U-N-K-E-R H-A-U-S-E-R. And how this got included in the juggling festival, we saw this game at a national juggling convention about 15 years ago and the one guy, he brings it every year now.

HD: So basically, you pull the other guy off his platform, you win?

DL: Right. You have to squat down and it's like 1-2-3 go and you just kind of yank the other guy off the platform.

HD: So that guy has maize and blue clubs!

DL: That's blue??

HD: Isn't it?

DL: I see it as black, but I have a slight color blind deficiency, so.

HD: Hey, Bruce, are those maize and blue clubs?

BF: Are they what?

HD: Are they maize and blue?

DL: I think they are more like Iowa Hawkeye colors.

Different Dave: Yeah, they're just my clubs. They are bumble-bee clubs, black and yellow.

HD: Oh. I was seeing them as blue and yellow. I thought it was a University of Michigan thing.

Different Dave: I just got the black, and I like the yellow, so. I should get red and white.

HD: Because?

Different Dave: Cream and Crimson.

HD: Wait up, are you from Indiana?

Different Dave: Yeah.

HD: Really? Where in Indiana are you from?

Different Dave: Bloomington. I live in Bloomington. I am from Ann Arbor originally.

HD: Ah really! But you live in Bloomington now! I grew up in Columbus, Indiana.

Different Dave: All right! I have been there many times.

HD: Wow. Go Hoosiers!

DL: The company I develop tax software for, I work on the state products. And every year I have been doing this I've worked on the Indiana product. That's UltraTax! Ultra Tax CS Professional Suite!

HD: UltraTax, huh. So does Indiana as a state have any extra wrinkles as far as tax code that you as a software developer just hate?

DL: Yes. I'm glad you asked that, Dave! They have the most complicated net operating loss calculation you could imagine. We've got these calculations in our system and we try to get it in advance for our tax software so that we would calculate this for the user, rather than have the user calculate it themselves.

HD: This is the whole point of software, right?

DL: Well, I mean it's still up to a preparer to check the return, and make sure they understand the law. But after we spent the one year putting it in, they completely changed the legislation and made it twice as hard to bring it up to spec for the next year. And the Legislature has introduced an anomaly. We were always complaining for years that under certain circumstances you could have positive taxable income and net operating loss in the same year.

Sometimes the deduction could be used to reduce taxable income, it could also be used to create a net operating loss, carry forward, and we don't think that was the intent of the legislation. But we've contacted the Indiana Department of Revenue and they say Yeah, you know, you're calculating it right, you are following the tax law. That's just an unintended side-effect of the legislation, so. Having to explain that to our users why you are seeing this anomaly ...

HD: ... so do you ever have to go down to Indiana physically?

DL: No, everything is either over the phone, or ...

HD: ... that's too bad, it's a beautiful state.

DL: Oh, I know. I love traveling through Indiana. My brother is a musician, Rob Lewis. He lives in California but every once in a while he comes back here and sometimes he does gigs on the west side of the state. He comes to Ann Arbor and he stays with me, and then we'll drive over to say, Three Oaks, Michigan, the very southwest corner of Michigan. And instead of taking the freeway over there, we'll go down and take US 20 and take the back roads across northern Indiana and then come back up into Michigan at the last minute, so to speak. No, I'm right there with you on that.

HD:So that guy, his name is Dave as well?

DL: Yeah.

HD: So he moved to Bloomington for?

DL: For grad school.

HD: What's his field?

DL: Computer science.

HD: [to Different Dave] So at Indiana University, they have a School of ...

Different Dave: ... Informatics.

HD: What do you think about that, the School of Informatics?

Different Dave: I graduated just before. I was in College of Arts and Sciences computer science. And now they have a School of Informatics. I haven't been there but I think it's a good idea.

HD: You think it's a good idea to have a whole School of Informatics?

Different Dave: It kind of works. Some of it doesn't go together, it's kind of jammed together. What's information? If I knew what information was, I could tell you whether the School of Informatics is a good idea.

HD: I have heard that information wants to be free.

Different Dave: That's it. Information does not imply its own meaning.