Friday, August 26, 2011

All Eyes on Irene

Looks like all we'll be getting from Irene is rain and a bit of wind. I'm skipping my morning bike ride because it looks like a line of severe storms will be passing over us just about when I would be farthest from the apartment. [Later: Four hours gone by and it still hasn't rained a drop. There are large storm bands being thrown off by Irene, but they fall apart before they get this far inland.] But it looks like the weekend will be interesting for everyone around the Imperial City and NYC. The current predicted track looks pretty solid; NOAA hasn't made significant changes to it in a couple days.

I scheduled my first of three Enrolled Agent tests yesterday. I'm still not entirely comfortable in a couple areas, but I have a bit over a week to keep reviewing tax code before I have to head over to the IRS office. Got all my fingers and toes crossed, especially since the test costs a hundred bucks whether I pass or not.

And just because the gods enjoy screwing with us, I have an outside chance at a job at the library I volunteer at. I'm not really expecting to get it, but just because we have already spent money we can never get back on this whole Tax Geek thing, it will come through.

Anyway, today will probably be a day of catching up on everything that I've been ignoring while I've been buried in tax code. I still have pictures sitting on the camera from our trip to the beach, and the apartment needs some serious attention. The dust on the TV stand has piled up high enough to block the bottom of the screen. Yesterday, I saw a spider the size of my palm patrolling the living room. Not that I mind having spiders around to keep the cockroach population in check, but my arachnophobia starts kicking in when they get to be the size of Aragog. Time to hit all the dark corners with the vacuum.

Speaking of giant bugs, I've had a rash of recent encounters with some of the Florida's larger six-legged residents: Six-inch metallic grasshoppers, two giant (4-5") beetles in our apartment that the Googles say don't exist, and three-inch cicadas in addition to our eight-legged house guest. Along with my daily encounter with Sandhill cranes that are as tall as I am when I'm on my bicycle and have a prehistoric-sounding call, I feel like I'm living in Jurassic Park.

While wandering around the internets in a tax-induced fog earlier this week, I ran across an interesting critique of the Four Spiritual Laws (in five parts; I, II, III, IV and V). This was something frequently debated when I was in high school and was still being debated during my last year of college in 2009. My opinion on that particular religious issue has always been the same: if God is such a fussbudget about how one goes about avoiding an eternity of torment, then He should have made his intentions clearer, or picked better spokespersons. That's not to say Infamous Brad doesn't make a good argument against a particular form of evangelicalism, but rather that if its popularity has truly "condemned tens of millions of people to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell", then God cannot be said to exert much authority over his creation, and maybe we're all better off just finding out own way after all.

Speaking of gods and their messages to humanity, we had some wind blowing from Jackson's Hole in the form of a speech by Ben Bernanke. Expecting to hear the economic equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount, markets cratered when Uncle Ben revealed that the secret ingredient is that there is no secret ingredient. Then the markets shot up after Helicopter Ben shut up because, what the hell? If the apocalypse is coming, we may as well party like it's 1999.

The Rolling Stone has Matt Taibbi's latest revelations of massive market fraud and manipulation by Wall Street and the government agencies tasked with keeping them in check. If anyone can read that and still believe the average retail investor has a snowball's chance in hell of coming out ahead, you may want to check your meds. Oh, and someone just dug up another $1.2 trillion handed out to multi-national banks. Given the amount of money dumped into the banking industry, I'm not sure it wouldn't have been cheaper to just pay off every mortgage in the US, personal and business. Instead, trillions to the banks, trillions more over the next decade(s) for Fanny and Freddie, and we still have a collapsing housing market and 9%+ unemployment.

Meanwhile, politics gets crazier by the day. The SEIU has been plastering anti-Republican ads all over the TV and cheering for left-coast politicians who think dialog means screaming "the Tea Party can go straight to hell" during a speech. (Everyone remembers the conduct of those gentle SEIU folks at the last election, right?) Meanwhile, on the Republican side of things we have Snow White and the Seven Dwarves being stalked by the Wicked Witch of the West, who refuses to either shut up and let the adults talk, or put up and run for office. A serious candidate could give Obama the race of his life, but it seems the opportunity will be squandered in favor of continuing the destruction of the very notion of "conservative".

In local news, we may be getting a train station and routine commuter train service. We've been hearing talk of this since we moved here, but this looks a bit more concrete. The construction jobs will all be taken up by illegal Mexicans and the permanent jobs will be filled by people shipped in from other parts of the country, but at least people using their car as an apartment will be able to get to Disney easier.

In cheerier news, we have more photos from Opportunity. The rover is in good shape all things considered and we should be seeing some data on its first target soon. Meanwhile, the dolphins in Shark Bay have been observed using conch shells to catch fish. Only a few are currently doing it, but it seems to be catching on. Maybe dolphins have fads; anybody seen one sporting a mullet?

Off to be productive-ish.

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