Thursday, April 29, 2010

Edjamacated

I'm going into my last day of census training. I would recommend census work to anyone who wants to know why our federal government is completely broken. We haven't even started the actual work yet and I've already lost track of the number of out-right screw-ups. But the pay is awesome. One of the guys I worked with during tax season is in the same class. We spend most of the time passing notes to each other with little dollar signs on them while we sit through yet-another scramble over contradictory instructions, missing forms and people from HQ (and yes, they actually talk like that) bursting in and disrupting our training for no discernible reason.

These same people want to run health care.

The training part will be over in about 19 hours, then I'm off Saturday and Sunday, and starting the real deal on Monday. Maybe. Last word was that all the paperwork we need is in a big pile somewhere in another state waiting to be assembled. Someone is working on it. They'll let us know.

And I get paid for this.

No real plans for the weekend; Debbie is working Saturday, but we may take advantage of the 80 degree weather to take more photos on Sunday and maybe bike down to the ice cream shop. We figure that cancels out, right?

Google goes completely to the dark side:

Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide.

And yes, I realize the article is from The UK Register which is sometimes hard to distinguish from The Onion. I sincerely hope this is one of those times.

Again, why are cuts to government employees always, always, always directed at police and firefighters, but never the mayor's personal staff, or any of the hoards of over-paid bureaucrats sucking the life out of taxpayers? This is blackmail, plain and simple.

I see that Noah's Ark hasn't been found. Again. It's getting a bit tiresome, guys. I'm sure if you bothered to actually read a Bible, you could find a long list of ideas to spend time and money on other than tramping around Turkey.

I haven't said anything about the new immigration law in Arizona for a couple reasons. The big one is that I have no idea what the law actually says. I suspect that's true of most everyone who is talking about it. Just like always. But this is what I do know. I hate to agree with Pat Buchanan, but he's right in at least one respect: a nation that does not control its borders is not a sovereign nation. Period. Full stop. Our military is, for better or worse, fighting a war in the deserts of Afghanistan. What better training than deploying a significant force along the Mexico/US border? What a better test of equipment and tactics than disrupting the human and drug trafficking in our Southwest deserts? I'm willing to bet that a permanent training exercise on our southern border using all those fancy toys being used in the 100+ nations we have troops in, would put a serious dent in both the numbers of illegals and the drugs coming from Mexico. Would it work perfectly? No. Would the traffickers just find other ways. Yep. Would it be anywhere near the levels we're seeing today. Absolutely not. Will Mexico throw a hissy fit? That's pretty much a given.

Should any American citizen give a shit what Mexico thinks? N. O.

The flip side is that this law will be enforced by Sheriff Joe, someone so corrupt and greedy for power that he stands out even in Arizona. Given what he has done under existing law, I shudder to think what he will do when the new one kicks in. But just as murders were hired by Arizona towns tired of lawlessness in the early 20th century, residents of those same towns today are tired of the constant tax burden and crime caused by the unending flood of unskilled illegals and drug runners, and are willing and eager to give free rein to anyone with a plan.

So they pass a law that says that it is illegal for illegals to be in the US illegally. Only in America would such a law even be necessary. But the brain trust in D.C. has for decades said that it is illegal for anyone to prevent illegals from coming into the US illegally, or stop them from enrolling their illegal children in public schools or illegally using hospital ER's as a substitute for a primary care doctor or standing in large groups on street corners to make it easier for contractors to illegally hire illegals even as real unemployment among actual US citizens is running close to 20%. After a while, people become fed up and resort to drastic measures. Like hassling anyone vaguely Hispanic-looking and arresting any that can't cough up papers on demand.

Well, it's late and I need to get ready for a test tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Funky Weather

Feels like we are in Michigan again! Snow flurries today then up to 80 for Sat and Sun!
Don't cha just luv it?!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Photos

The photos from this weekend (and some old ones that had been forgotten on the camera) are up on our Flickr account.

Enjoy!!

House-bound Sunday

Decided today was the day to do filing, accounting, resume updating, filling out endless paperwork for some doctor, dentist, whatever, and staring at the bookcase thinking about what I want to re-read and what I might dump into the community book bin at Hannaford's. The thought of packing and hauling all this crap always gets me thinking about ways to reduce bulk. At least we weren't here long enough to accumulate anything other than what we came here with. We've also been moving a lot of things into those plastic drawers you can get at Target and WalMart; that way, we just shrink-wrap the drawer and move it as-is instead of taking the stuff out of whatever it's in, pack it in a bin, then do the reverse when we get to the next place.

I've also been working on "ripping" all our VHS tapes to digital files, which will eliminate one full (and very heavy) plastic moving bin. I'm using the latest incarnation of the Dazzle and the Pinnacle Studio software that came with it. It's brain-dead simple, but takes forever as the movie is digitized at real-time speed. I'm also using up stupid amounts of disk space doing it because all the compressed formats introduce all sorts of artifacts that drive me nuts, so I'm ripping VHS to DVD-quality MPEG-2 files. Wretched excess, I know, but I have lots of disk space. At least for now; completing this project will pretty much fill my 1.5TB Drobo. Guess I'll have to buy another Drobo and a couple 2TB drives. Anyone got about $700? I'm good for it. Really. I could upgrade the existing Drobo with larger drives, but some decisions forced on me when setting it up under XP means that I would pretty much need a second Drobo to bump it past 2TB anyway. And if one geek toy is cool, two of them is cool2! Right?

The next step is e-books, but I'm not going there until things shake out a bit more. Specifically, the proprietary formats need to go. Apple has a compelling device for serious reading with the iPad, and Amazon's decision to allow people to run the Kindle software without owning a Kindle is a huge step in some direction; it's just not clear what direction. I'll be sticking to dead, flat trees for another year or so. In my view, digital books will explode when the e-book equivalent of the MP3 file format steps onto the stage.

Because Comedy Central hacked the latest episode of South Park to death in a vain attempt to appease some loud-mouthed raghead, May 20th has been declared "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." I'm certain the general public will come up with far more insulting depictions of Mohammed than anything even the South Park crew came up with. And it will be fully deserved.

Another Friday, another seven banks flushed away. The commercial real estate bubble is starting to really kick in now. The FDIC has over 700 banks on its "problem" list and expects more banks to fail this year than last. It also expects this to drag on for several more years.

Lore Sjöberg takes on the question of whether video games can be art in his usual tongue-in-cheek way. In the process, he stumbles on something that is probably more than a little true:

...what’s generally considered True Art by academics and critics is a simple matter of the age of the creation....

0 to 25 years old: Almost nothing is true art. Certainly nothing common or popular. Art is created by a few geniuses denied popular acclaim by their own uncompromising vision.

25 to 100 years old: Not everything is art, but a lot is, even some of the popular stuff. At the time, people thought they were just enjoying something fun and entertaining, but actually they were in the presence of true brilliance.

100 to 2,000 years old: Any creative work made by anyone is worth investigation, preservation and in-depth academic criticism. Every painting, poem and rustic folk song is indicative of the ineffable zeitgeist of the cultural disposition. People were surrounded by art all the time and didn’t even realize it.

2,000 to 30,000 years old: Everything is art. Not just words and pictures, but pottery and baskets and huts. Even if they just wanted to make something to boil the tannins out of their acorns, these artists were actually participating in an age-old ritual where the creative soul and utilitarian necessity united into a singular expression of their culture’s unique viewpoint. And if they scratched a little picture into the rock that meant “stand here to watch the women bathe without them seeing you,” they were the Michelangelo of their time.

That last one would certainly explain the popularity of women with enormous breasts in ancient rock art....

A couple forgotten stories: People are still stranded due to the volcanic eruption, and the Euro-zone is in no less danger than it was two months ago. Just because the ADD news media types quit reporting on a story, doesn't mean the problem just went away at the wave of some magic wand.

I should get back to something more constructive than inconveniencing large numbers of electrons with my blathering.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The End

I made it through my last day as a tax preparer. A looooong slow boring day of doing not much of anything. I still have my key and may work the occasional day if needed. Depending on timing, I may even be teaching some of the tax classes over the summer. But for now, I'm all done with taxes. Now I need to follow up on my ERO application and get myself subscribed to the IRS bulletins and see what they have for online training and certification. And I'll still probably try to pass the last test now that the job I needed it for is over. Just to say I finished it. And I need to get my resume up to date for the meeting Monday. Why is being unemployed so much work?

We don't have any plans for this weekend (other than all the above); we may just grab the good camera and head out to several places we've had our eye on. I need to find where the training for my census job is being held as well, so we can kill two birds with one stone. The weather looks like it will cooperate at least one of the days we both have off.

Everybody remember inflation? Well, guess what. And I know I'm repeating myself, but I cannot figure out why the price of iPods is more important than the price of food and gasoline:

Still, there was little sign of budding inflation in the report. Excluding volatile food and energy costs, wholesale prices rose by 0.1 percent, matching analysts' expectations. [Emphasis mine]

So as long as you don't eat or use electricity, natural gas, propane, gasoline or diesel, inflation is running at a manageable rate.

Comedy Central has cut off their collective balls, put them in jars and mailed them off to the impotent bastard running revolutionmuslim.com. Once again, it's not what they can do to us; it's what they can make us do to ourselves.

To deal with budget shortfalls, Los Angeles is gutting its court system. Teachers, fire fighters, cops, EMS and courts are on the chopping block. Yet oddly, no word on layoffs from the mayor's staff, non-teaching school staff, the legions of political appointees in the police and fire departments or any of the other non-productive government tit-suckers.

From the no-big-surprise department, if more people are covered by health insurance, and it covers more per person, it's going to cost more. Only a morally- and/or mentally-defective politician would try to say otherwise.

We can chalk up eleven more deaths to fossil fuel. That's 51 deaths so far in 2010 directly attributable to fossil fuel extraction, refinement and power generation. Number of deaths from nuclear power: ZERO. But never forget; nuclear is too dangerous.

Like the White Queen who prided herself on believing six impossible things before breakfast, many (including the King of the Self-Deluded, Al Gore) believe in something called "carbon offsets" which basically means putting money into a black box and expecting the carbon emitted by one's daily activities to be magically sucked from the atmosphere. It turns out that, as many suspected all along, the entire carbon offset "industry" is a scam. It seems the best way to reduce one's carbon footprint is to turn off the damn light when you walk out of the room and drag your lazy ass off the couch and plant a tree yourself instead of paying someone else to (mostly not) do it for you.

And speaking of clueless moral defectives: have any of the greenie weenies bothered to calculate the carbon footprint of the Obama/Biden Forever Campaign? Is anyone else becoming nostalgic for the "imperial" Clintons?

I think I'm going to watch a brainless moving, then toddle off to bed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interregnum

The tax job continues to wind down. I've called over one hundred people to tell them to come get their crap out of our office before it closes up, but to little effect. And all the phone calls have forced me to endure what has to be one of the most irritating things that people do with their cell phones. I call. You don't answer. I leave a message telling you exactly why I'm calling and include all relevant information. You call me back without listening to said message. Worse, when I answer, the only thing you say is, "You called me." Now, I understand that you think the world revolves around you. The fact that I've called you a minimum of three times over a period of several weeks trying to get you to act like an adult and come get your crap out of my office tells me that. But I'm not psychic: if you don't tell me who you are, I'm not going to have any idea who you are. I know; profound. So don't whine like a 7-year-old girl when I ask who the hell you are. And don't give me that juvenile heavy-sigh routine you use on your mom (whose basement I'm sure you still live in) when I have to look up who you are and why I called you. It could have been one of several reasons and, sorry, you're not important enough to me to remember which it was. Next time, listen to your voice mail before calling back.

Friday, 4pm cannot get here soon enough.

I called a placement agency this morning and set up an appointment to meet with them on Monday morning. I don't know what they have or what the time-frame is, but a full-time temporary position starting in June and running into the fall would be perfect. Fingers and toes crossed. We still don't have the exact timing on our move to Florida. Our lease runs out around the end of October/early November, but we may scram before that and leave the apartment here empty. Given that this place is running around 70% occupancy right now, I doubt they will give us a break on the lease, so we'll have to pay for it anyway. A lot depends on the job that is supposedly waiting for Debbie down in Florida.

Some quick links before I have to scamper off:

US consumers are not consuming enough. It's always something; either we're greedy bastards that are using up the planet, or we're greedy bastards who are saving and paying down debt instead of using up the planet.

Is all CO2 created equal? It seems volcanic CO2 doesn't contribute to global warming, only SUV CO2. This is science at its best.

Will the humor-impaired ever figure out that suing people because they are making fun of them only gets their insults far more publicity than they would ever get on their own. And it makes them look stupid in the bargain, whether you are a World Famous Climatologist or yet-another brainless raghead spouting religious nonsense and empty threats.

My prophecy is beginning to come true. Let's all hope my tea leaves are muddled.

Would someone explain to me why gays are Democrats? It would only take me being thrown under the bus once to figure out who are not my allies. I must be smarter than the average gay.

Whoops! Gotta go.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Great Idea

Tourism as a human right. (And subsidized by the government, of course.):

Under the scheme, British pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe.

Another great idea from the European Union. Why do we want to be like these people? How does such an obvious dolt find his way into the position of "European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry" anyway?

The gods help us all. Maybe that volcano is doing the world a favor by keeping this idiocy in Europe.

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

We currently find ourselves as a society faced with the following challenges:

Facts Uncertain...
Values in Dispute...
Stakes High...
Decisions Urgent...

No, this isn't another climate post. This is about the volcanic ash circulating in the high-altitude jet stream. How much is too much to fly a plane through? There have been successful test flights, but given that the ash dispersal is not being measured directly and instead being inferred by computer models, does this really prove anything? Two hundred million dollars a day is a huge incentive to pressure some poor sot sitting in front of a computer to fudge some numbers and get the planes back in the air.

Prediction: The eruption will follow its historic precedent and continue to blow a column of ash into the atmosphere on and off for months. The envelope will be pushed on air travel. (Not really a prediction as it is already happening, just not with air passengers. Yet.) The computer models will suddenly show that it really is safe to fly, or the regulations will be eased, or some combination of those two until a plane-load of passengers finds themselves free-falling 10,000 feet into the North Atlantic. It will all be our poor sot's fault, of course, when a comment in his computer program is found stating that a given block of code is using "Bob's trick" to "hide the decline" in air quality.

[Surgeon Generals Warning: Do not make important decisions based on predictions made on this blog; my record is like 2 for 2,000 with my only successes being the tech bubble and the housing bubble, which a roomful of chimpanzees pounding on calculators could have predicted. You have been warned.]

Monday, April 19, 2010

Transition Week

This week, I will be transitioning away from taxes and moving on to Census work. I was scheduled to work half-days at my tax office, but a scheduling mix-up means I will be working at the office just up the road from our apartment instead of making a 30-mile round trip every day. Woohoo! I have Saturday, Sunday and Monday off, then start training for Census 2010. It's temporary, but at least I get some of our federal taxes back. Given what I've seen of the locals, I expect to encounter a great deal of hostility. I may be wrong about that, but it seems reasonable based on our experiences so far.

We didn't end up doing much this weekend; the weather was cold and wet. Debbie was working Saturday anyway, so we just stayed in. Sunday we had a bit of a break in the rain, so we scurried out to do some driving around the Brattleboro, Vermont area. We've identified several places we will be going back to visit once the weather improves and the trees leaf out.

The big news, of course, is the volcano in Iceland (I am not even going to try to type the name of the thing), and the havoc it is playing with air travel. I looks like some flights will resume and several test flights with empty planes have been successful. But I wouldn't be planing any trips to Europe anytime soon. I do love the cluelessness of those who insist that something must be because they want it to be. All flights canceled means just that. One wonders how Westerners would fair in a real crisis. So far, this has been merely an inconvenience. And it's all caused by global warming. You knew that was coming, didn't you?

We had a Friday last week, so that means eight more banks implode. Again, at any other time, this would be alarming, but after last year, it almost seems anti-climatic. Foreclosures are also up, but that's also not unexpected. Most banks figured foreclosing last year would accomplish little or nothing in many housing markets. Why bother going to the expense of kicking people out of their house so it can set empty waiting for a non-existent buyer? The fact that they are now following up on non-performing mortgages can be seen as at least a signal that a temporary bottom has been reached.

In other economic news, OPEC promises to "step in" if oil hits $100/barrel again. I'll just bet they will.

It's been an open secret for years that whenever a city installs red-light cameras, they shorten the yellow light in order to increase revenue. In other words, red-light cameras have nothing to do with safety. It was only a matter of time before someone went too far and made it impossible to stop in time for a red light. It's never about public safety; just simple greed.

Anytime the government tries to force people to act in a certain way, it must, by definition, provide perverse incentives. Solar and wind cannot compete with fossil fuel, otherwise, we would be using solar and wind, not fossil fuel. Because solar and wind are viewed as "better", government distorts energy markets to induce people to use them. With perverse incentives, you get perverse outcomes.

In health-care-related news, everyone is shocked, shocked that forcing insurance companies to take every person who applies and charge everyone the same rate will cause rates to increase. The bastards! There oughta be a law! Translate this into auto insurance: What would you expect to happen to insurance premiums if every company had to insure every driver that applied at the same rates regardless of their driving history? Maybe people should think about that while they munch on the latest slow-suicide product to come out of the fast food industry.

And that's probably enough fun for one day. I need to go put some clothes on and get ready for work.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tax Season Post-Mortem

I managed to muddle through my first tax season in 20 years or so. Luckily for my clients, the software does all the heavy lifting, especially on the state returns. I'm used to one- or two-page tax forms like they have in Michigan or Arizona. Out here in the colonies, they take their taxes seriously; a Vermont or Massachusetts tax return for someone with a single W-2 is eight or ten pages long when printed out. And gods help you if you have to file multiple state returns (which almost everyone out here does). Add in the defects in the software because the particular organization I worked for only has one other office in Vermont, and you have a grand ol' time. And a lot of screwed up tax returns. Be warned; if you pay any of the big name tax prep places to do your taxes, the odds are that the person doing them doesn't have a clue and your taxes are probably wrong in some way. That's not to say that a local CPA firm is going to do any better. I did Land Office business charging a couple hundred bucks fixing prior year's returns with "Joe the Plumber, CPA" as the preparer signature. The bottom line is a) know something about your taxes, and b) if your refund is drastically higher or lower from previous years, demand an explanation. If one is not forthcoming, take your stuff somewhere else.

Doing taxes was also instructive in a sociological way as well. Over the six years or so I've been doing this blog and the previous four or five that I was doing the day-book website thing, I've linked to countless stories about adults acting like they are twelve because they were disturbing, funny, annoying, used to justify yet-another intrusion by the government into our lives, etc. But I've always assumed that those people were a small minority of the adult population. I was wrong. Based on the clients (and several employees) who walked through my door, I'd say they are about a two-thirds majority. I could go on for pages and pages with examples, but I think a single stand-out will make my point.

Baby Factory and Useless Hubby show up, brood in tow. I do their taxes as quickly as possible because the brood is dismantling my office while Baby Factory whines at them to "Please stop," and Useless Hubby stares at Thumbelina on the boob tube. I couldn't swear to it, but I think he actually drooled. Thanks to various refundable tax credits for brood mares, they get a $10,000+ "refund" after paying in less than $500. Was their response a thank-you or a wow or a that's-great? Nope. "That's it?" Yea Baby Factory, that's it. But it gets better. They wanted their money in 24 hours. Normally, we can do that, but the bank caps those at $9,999, so they will have to wait 8-15 days. At this point, Useless Hubby begins thrashing around in his chair yelling incoherently. I'm not sure if he's angry about having to wait a week or two for money he did nothing to earn other than repeatedly screw his wife without a condom, or if he's having some sort of seizure. Baby Factory tries to calm him by whining at him in the same voice she uses with her brood, and to about the same effect. I quickly print the signature forms which Baby Factory signs and then (I swear this) puts the pen in Useless Hubby's hand and guides it across the paper. I start thinking about the male-female relationship of anglerfish. I finish up the paperwork and herd them all out of the office with a huge sigh of relief.

But we're not done yet. Now the phone calls start. Daily. I guess they don't teach kids how to read a calendar in school these days. Or that "8 to 15" doesn't mean "guaranteed in 8." The check finally arrives on day 10 and the entire herd shows up to collect their booty. The check is $4,000 short because one of them owed money to some government agency. Because of privacy laws, I don't know anything other than which of two numbers they need to call to find out who and why. Useless Hubby begins his epileptic-like seizing again and yelling, "It's all your fault! You must have screwed something up! We don't owe anything to anybody!" blah, blah, blah. I decide to treat him like his wife does, as one of the children. I don't acknowledge his ranting and address myself to the nearest thing to an adult in this little domestic train wreck. As I begin listing some possibilities, Baby Factory gets a strange expression on her face when I get to "delinquent student loans." Now Baby Factory starts to go all psycho and joins Useless Hubby (who is still seizing and ranting to no one); "That wasn't in Vermont! That was in Texas! How can they do that! That's not fair! I moved here so they couldn't do that! Who can I call?!? I want my money back! You get me my money back right now!" I manage to get them calmed down without involving law enforcement, and they finally agree that, while $10,000 of someone else's money would have been nice, they'd settle for $6,000 of someone else's money with the other $4,000 of someone else's money going to pay off Baby Factory's college education that she had skipped out on assuming (rightly, as it turns out) that someone else would pay for it. Then the pièce de résistance from Baby Factory: "We need to get the kids to the doctor. If we sign the check, can you take it to our bank for us?"

These people vote. I used to think that the United States could operate under a more-libertarian style of government. I was wrong. We need a nanny state; otherwise, 2/3 of the population would wind up dying in the streets, unable to care for themselves. How did we get here?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Tax Day

Ric has been slammed this week at work --- really fun when you are the only person in the office from 8a until 2p (or so). He mentioned not being able to eat or use the bathroom! Last night it was near 630p before he was able to pick me up in the parking lot at my work. Today we planned on him possibly working really late (they are open until midnite!), so I got a coworker to drop me off at the apartment.

I"m sure he will be happy when tonite is over! Next week he has a short schedule 11a-4p M-F and then the next week he starts training classes on Tuesday for the Census job. Busy boy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Bike Ride

This afternoon we went out for our first bike ride. Just a short ride around the big block -- Ric thinks it is a mile -- will have to drive it and see for sure one of these days.

Earlier today we were out and about doing some Mobile mystery shops (5 within a 10 mile radius of our apt), yesterday after Ric got home from work we went to do our mega shopping. Our freezer was completely empty except for the Koegel hotdogs and bologna I brought back from Michigan. Right now we have some spare ribs in the slow cooker --- mmmm, smells good!

Hopefully the rest of the week stays sunny --- it is expected to be a bit on the cool side (high 60's), but that should be good for a bike ride when we get home from work or right after dinner.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mom update

I talked to my Mom this morning. All is still going as to be expected. She is up to 8 minutes walking already! (from the playroom to the garage door and back 4 times) She is wishing for better weather so she can walk on the back deck. Her right leg is still "numb", but isn't hampering her getting her walking in to strengthen her heart.

One of the chest tube incisions is still infected, the visiting nurse seems to think it looks okay still. Maybe her regular Dr will say something different when she sees her on Tuesday. The hard spot in the middle of her thigh bruise is getting smaller -- so that sounds like good news.

She sounds in good spirits and has Aunt Mary with her now. She said she is STILL working on going through her emails --- I'm sure she was overwhelmed with all the emails and cards/notes in the mail.

I thank everyone for their prayers and support. It really helped and lifted my heart knowing she had such a GREAT and AWESOME family and friend support group.

Different job?

As Ric mentioned in his earlier post -- I have a chance at another job within AAA Northern New England. It involves a different office -- in Nashua NH, but it would be a travel agent position. After weighing all the pros and cons, I've decided against it. I would love to get back into the real travel agent job, but money wise, this offer was not going to work out for us.

We are also still highly considering moving again before the end of the year. Between Ric not really liking the cold and snow up here, the expensiveness of everything in our "Live Free or Die" state, and me not being in a job I like; we are hoping a job offer I had in January will be available again this fall. (More on that later -- keep those fingers crossed for us -- I'm sure family/friends will like it because it will be in Florida!)

Friday, April 09, 2010

More On Nudie Scanners

I have to share this wonderful bit titled "Airport Worker Caught Taking Picture of Scanner Screen Showing Female Worker 'Naked'" from Lowering the Bar:


Hold it -- I distinctly remember being told that under TSA rules this could not happen.

It did?

Well, at least we can be thankful that the scanners aren't actually capable of storing or sending the images they take of your virtually naked body, because what a nightmare that would be.

They can?

Okay, this is disturbing, but at least it is making us safer.

It isn't?

Yea, gotta love it. Remember when we used to joke about the TSA making everyone fly naked?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Getting Closer

The end of tax season is getting closer. We are still relatively slow compared to what I would expect a week from the deadline. Tomorrow, we will have a couple DJ's from a local radio station hanging out in front of our office with the owner and a couple wavers. The office won't be open, so anyone stopping by won't be able to get their taxes done; guess I'm a little unclear on the strategy. Counting down the days.

And still not much going on other than working. We have to decide about some stuff with Debbie's work over the next couple days. She could make more money during the rest of our time in New England, but it would involve a lot of extra driving that would probably use up all the money she would make. We would still be leaving in the fall for Florida, so it most likely isn't worth it. But we haven't made a firm decision yet. Nothing like a little monkey in the wrench. The biggest argument against it is that we would have to buy a second car, which I'm dead set against.

In climate news, cyclical changes in earth's orbit may have an effect on the climate. And here all this time I thought it was those dinosaurs and their twice-damned SUV's.

Just in time for tax season, we have another article pointing out a fact that is obvious to anyone not willfully blind: the rich pay far more than their fair share of taxes. That isn't the slant the article takes, but the only way for over half of the "taxpayers" to not, in fact, pay income taxes (or pay negative income taxes) is for everyone else to pay taxes by the truckload. Of course, income taxes are not the only kind of taxes. The poor pay more than their share of sales taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, as well as really creative taxes, like some local governments billing people who are involved in accidents if 911 is called. I think the proper term for that is baksheesh, something familiar to anyone who has traveled in certain parts of the world that are considered not quite civilized. As state and local governments continue sliding into the fiscal abyss, expect more of this.

The geniuses behind our "recession" insist that a) they are so very sorry, and b) they had no way of knowing that loaning $450,000 to some guy with 5 part-time jobs making less that $20,000 a year, then building an enormous inverted pyramid of derivatives (and derivatives of those derivatives, then more derivatives on those derivatives, ad nauseam) on top of that "sub-prime" mortgage would end badly. Anyone else think these fools should be forced to live the rest of their lives on what they would make as part-time Walmart greeters?

John Mauldin has a bit about what muddling through the next decade will look like. Anyone who lived through the 1970's will feel a twinge of nostalgia. Or more likely indigestion. It won't be fun, but it doesn't sound too bad, as long as there are no more bumps.

And I think I'll wind up with a heart-warming tale from Mississippi. It all starts with a lesbian couple who actually took all the diversity crap seriously and tried to go to prom together. The school told them they couldn't because they would be "disruptive," then canceled prom completely when the lawyers got wind of it. Then prom was back on. Sort of. The school-sponsored prom was a gay-and-other-undesirables-only event while a secret prom was held for all the "normal" kids. Now everyone knows that Mississippi is nothing but a bunch of retarded religious rednecks, so it's hardly surprising when they act like retarded religious rednecks. But if anyone on the school's payroll aided this whole farce, or any government resources were used, I'm assuming there will be legal consequences. Or maybe that's too much to expect from Mississippi.

And it's bed time.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Not Much to Say

I haven't found much to talk about in the news lately. Sure there are earthquakes and shootings and subway bombings (complete with a level of over-reaction in New York City that sets some new kind of record even in the US). But I can't think of anything to say about them that I haven't said a hundred times before.

And I so want an Infini-tee:



Unfortunately, I don't think I'm quite famous enough to have one with my mug on it.

Not much else going on. Debbie's mom is back home and doing well. The whole thing had nothing to do with a stroke or her heart surgery, but was the result of too many prescriptions written by too many different doctors who paid insufficient attention to what they were collectively doing. Got a problem? We got a pill for that. The side effects may be worse that the original problem, or it may interact with some other med you're already on, but don't worry; we have a pill for that too.

Well, I need to quit messing around and do some work.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Some Inconvient Truth

Windmills kill birds. This one got lucky.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

March Roundup

April 1st landed at an inconvenient time for me, so this is a couple days late. I know how much everyone looks forward to these posts.

March was slower than the last fewer months with 291 visits. The difference is pretty simple to explain: Not posting links on Facebook has cut into my repeat visitor traffic. New visitors consistently out-numbered returning ones nearly every day in March. Some were following track-backs or landed here from search results, but most came straight to the home page. I'm not sure how. Or why.

Operating system results were similar to previous months with Microsoft OS's accounting for 86% of visits, Mac bringing in 6.2% and Linux at 2.1%. Various mobile OS's accounted for the balance. I am once again surprised at how badly Win7 is doing relative to WinXP and even Vista. XP will be 9 years old in October; that's like 209 in OS years, and yet it still accounts for 70% of our visitors who run Windows. If that is in any way representative of Windows users in general, Uncle Bill is in some deep doo.

But Uncle Bill must be doing something right on the browser front: IE8 is a run-away favorite among our readers at 44.3%. Combined with the smattering of other IE versions, Microsoft's share of browser mind-share is 55.3%, followed at a vast distance by Firefox (25.8%), Chrome (9.1%), and Safari (4.8%). Unlike IE6, which was the best thing to ever happen to Firefox, IE8 seems to be firmly in good-enough-to-not-bother territory, which is bad for alternative browsers who seem, at least among our readers, to be cannibalizing each other for an ever-shrinking piece of pie (to make an odd mix of metaphors).

Nearly 1/3 of the March traffic was through referrers. We seem to be the new darlings of Google who sent us nearly 10% of our visitors this month. There was also a good deal of traffic from mutual links and track-backs, but fewer than previous months. I find that a bit odd given that I've been more active in commenting and linking over the last month. (shrug) Who knows? The most frequent search term was "bob has surprise visitor" which has nothing to do with anything we've ever posted. Given that all those searches originated in Europe, I assume it must have something to do with something on the boob tube over there. And this month there is a tie for the most humorous search terms: "rainbow farting unicorns" and "chasing the rainbow fart". Which is as good a place as any to end this post as any.

Friday, April 02, 2010

TGIF Again

This week, my TGIF is for real; two whole days of no income taxes.

We got a call yesterday afternoon that Debbie's mom had been taken by ambulance to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. Still no word on if it really was a stroke, but we do know that her potassium was very high and blood pressure was very low. The doctors think it may be medication-related. By evening, they had gotten her potassium down and BP up. She's been admitted to St. Mary's in Saginaw and the family is posting updates to her status page. Like before, no phone calls and visitation is very limited. More when we know more.

Tax season is coming to an end. Business has picked up a little bit; we are completing 4-5 returns a day instead of the 0-1 we've been doing the last couple weeks. This is still nothing like the tax rush I remember. I'd blame it on working in a new office where the company I work for is completely unknown, but the other office that is in its second year is doing far fewer returns than last year. Even the IRS is reporting that only about half of the people who should be filing have done so as of last week (should be around 80%). If everyone waits until the last minute, my office could be in some deep doodoo; there is only one other tax preparer in my office other than myself. In any case, there is only two computers, so it wouldn't matter if we could somehow wave a magic wand and hire more people; we would still be screwed. The good news is that there is only two weeks left and, no matter what, it's over.

I've been spending a lot of time reading all the posts over at The Archdruid Report. It's been interesting catching up on just what the Peak Oil folks have been up to since their heyday in the 1970's. It has been especially interesting to read about the various opinions inside the movement of just what impact declining fossil fuel stocks will have; from grim apocalyptic visions where we are all Mel Gibson living in a Mad Max world, to a burst of technical innovation that will replace fossil fuels with a clean, infinite power source that will allow mankind to finally reach his destiny among the stars. As always, the reality will be something very different and much more boring. Anyway, with all that as background, I found three energy-related items this morning: The first is a graph showing how higher energy prices squeeze out entertainment spending. Duh, but an important duh given the weighting of entertainment-related stocks in most funds. The second is how declining output from existing oil fields and higher prices are pushing off-shore drilling into deep water. Literally.Will it help?

US domestic oil production notoriously began to decline in the 1970s and the hope is that these renewed efforts will lead to something of a resurgence for the country’s output - although it will be fairly fleeting.

Expensive. Risky. Temporary. Not much of a "solution" in my book. So lets do a lot of it. No chance that will end badly. Which brings us to the third item which claims renewable energy will save us all. As long as we do several impossible and/or insanely expensive things: completely change the political structure of an entire continent; stop spending money on everything else and spend it all on renewable energy; reinvent capitalism into a form more amenable to investments that will likely never pay out; and replace the entire power grid. And if I had a magic wand....

And just when you thought a stake had been driven into the heart of that ugly beast called The 1970's, inflation is back. Maybe. Or maybe deflation. Something bad for us ordinary schmoes, in any case. And a beautiful liars-damned-liars-and-statistics quote:

...the government tends to understate inflation and has changed the way the CPI [Consumer Price Index] is calculated nine times since 1996.

Another common inflation metric is the Federal Reserve's core inflation, which it uses to measure overall inflation. The Fed excludes food and energy prices to smooth out short-term volatility. However, based on government data, food and energy purchases make up 36% of the average consumer's budget. The Fed's inflation graph might look nice and smooth, but it's probably not the best indicator for how your wallet feels when paying bills or buying groceries.

Yea. Our government lies to us. There's a shocker. And no matter what, I'm not wearing bell-bottoms.

I need to get ready for work now. We're supposed to have sun and temps in the 70's and 80's the next few days and I intend to enjoy them thoroughly, so it may be a quiet weekend here.