Sunday, July 24, 2011

Taxes, Taxes and More Taxes

I've been spending most of my time over the last week learning more than I ever wanted to know about the tax treatment of the gain on the sale of Section 1244 stock acquired through a like-kind exchange with your brother. The IRS is kind of like Apple: Yea, there's a law for that. I'm giving myself another couple weeks to get ready, then I'll take a crack at the first of three tests I need to pass to be an enrolled agent. We'll see how that goes.

Other than that, about all I've been doing is my morning bicycle ride and a bit of light reading when my brain turns to mush from too much tax code. I'm still riding my same 10.4 mile loop and seem to have finally broke through my 12mph barrier; I managed 12.1mph average speed Friday and Saturday. I'm taking today off, so tomorrow we'll see if this is real or if I fall back into the 11's.

The light reading has been a re-reading of John Michael Greer's The Long Descent and The Ecotechnic Future before reading his third in the series, The Wealth of Nature. All three are fairly quick reads at about 250 pages each. The Wealth of Nature gets into a bit of economics, but nothing as heavy as a typical Econ 101 text book and great deal more logical. If you care at all about your grandchildren, read these.

Like Debbie posted, we were originally planning on heading down to Disney on her day off, but we didn't get up and around until after 10am. The weather liars said is was going to start storming around 2pm, we really really needed to do some grocery shopping, and it was supposed to be in the mid-90's, so we decided to skip it this time. Of course, the rain was a no-show, but at least we now have something more for food in the house than Ramen, Cap'n Crunch and Klondike bars.

Nothing special today other than my usual stint at the library shelving books. I've started another purge, so I have a couple bags of books to donate while I'm there. I'm trying to get rid of our 5-foot-by-7-foot bookcase that takes up half the office as part of the on-going Shrink-the-Crap-Pile project. We've been working on this for five years now. We're slowly making progress, although more Crap appears every time we turn our backs. I swear it breeds in the corners when we're not looking. Moving a lot certainly helps with motivation; it's easier to sell/donate/dumpster than it is to pack/haul/unpack.

The big news of the week is the terror attacks in Norway. Bombing government offices is bad, but hardly anything new. What makes this incident truly horrifying is the second attack at a youth camp; nothing more than the pointless slaughter of a bunch of kids at summer camp. They have the guy and he supposedly has some diatribe he wants to deliver through his attorney. I expect it to have the usual anti-government ranting, but I'm morbidly curious to see what twisted logic makes shooting a bunch of kids at camp "atrocious" but "necessary".

The Space Shuttle Atlantis has landed without incident. There's a lot of people both inside and outside of NASA that keep trying to put a happy face on this. I'm not one of them. The United States will never again launch another manned vessel into space. From walking on the moon to bumming rides into low earth orbit from our former mortal enemies in my lifetime. I'd have never believed it. At least our little remote control car is still chugging along on Mars. It's getting a little glitchy, but it continues to trundle along towards Endeavour crater.

One of the problems of "progress" is that at times it doesn't feel that way. Scott Adams has a short bit on cell phones. I have to say, the more I hear about smart phones, the more I'm glad I still have my $30, four-year-old flip phone that I can't make phone calls with instead of blowing several hundred bucks on something I can use to run an app that makes fart sounds but still can't make phone calls with.

Speaking of progress, here is a good TED Talk on the fight against computer viruses and how it has changed since the days of the Centipede virus. The discussion of the implications of Stuxnet is a bit... um... terrifying?

Most everyone believes we are screwed. There are still one or two optimists left, but the current stupidity in the Imperial City is steadily eroding their ranks. What is being debated is who we should point the finger at: Democrats? Republicans? Bush? Obama? Osama? Banks? Hedge funds? That dude staring at me from my mirror every morning? (Note that piece was written in 1936.) Nah. Can't be that. Must have something to do with the Mayan calendar.

Poverty ain't what is used to be:

Each year for the past two decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty.” In recent years, the Census has reported that one in seven Americans are poor. But what does it mean to be “poor” in America? How poor are America’s poor?

...if poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the more than 30 million people identified as being “in poverty” by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor. While material hardship definitely exists in the United States, it is restricted in scope and severity. The average poor person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines.

...In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

...the typical poor American had more living space than the average European.

...Poor families certainly struggle to make ends meet, but in most cases, they are struggling to pay for air conditioning and the cable TV bill....

Real poverty certainly exists; for being the wealthiest nation in human history, the number of people living under bridges and in cardboard boxes ought to be a source of deep shame (not that Americans even know what that word means). But if I see one more "poor" person bitching into her iPhone about how unfair it is that the school is only giving her brat free breakfast and lunch and not free dinner as well, someone's gonna get hurt.

Bob Seger is going to be in Florida in November. Unfortunately, he is part of one of those two-day Lollapalooza-type things along with several dozen other bands playing on four separate stages. Just going for the one day that Seger is supposed to be playing is $80 a person, plus having to hang around for 12 hours just to get to hear him play for maybe and hour at the most. We're not jumping all over the tickets just yet. We have no idea what will be happening next week not alone in four months, so I'm not anxious to blow $160 on something we may not even be able to go to.

Well, I need to get ready to go shelve some books.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sleepless again

Wow, what a hectic week and a half at work. Good for cabin counts, bad for my sanity.

I feel exhausted, but can't seem to sleep. I got up and did some quotes for work from home and checked my emails. We stayed up til almost midnite watching stuff on Hulu since I didn't get home until after 9p tonite and was trying to wind down.

Tomorrow we have a few errands to do in the morning and then we are running down to Disney World to be care free and worry free for part of a day.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I seem to have hit some sort of wall with the whole bike riding thing. All week I've been trying to break through an average speed of 12mph and cannot seem to get past it. I suspect it's one of those pesky physics things that have to do with air resistance, or at least that's what I keep telling myself. It can't possibly have anything to do with the extra 40 pounds around my still-rather-squishy center. (I've been called many things in my life; aerodynamic has never been one of them.) Or that I'm not 15 years old anymore like I was when I rode my bike 30 miles round trip to and from summer soccer practice five days a week. Nah. It's physics. Yea. That's it.

Not much else going on other than me trying to get the whole Tax Geek thing going and Debbie working. That's mainly due to summer weather in Florida. The 10-day forecast never changes; high in the 90's, humidity at 100%, scattered thunderstorms from 3-7pm. Every. Single. Day. We are currently planning to venture out somewhere on Debbie's day off next week. We'll see if we actually do it, or if we chicken out and stay in for a Sliders marathon. The stereotypical lethargy of southerners isn't a character flaw; it's a survival mechanism.

A woman rams the vehicle of someone she thinks is Casey Anthony causing her vehicle to roll over twice. Looking at the photos of the victim and Casey Anthony, I can't see any resemblance other than they are both white females with dark hair. And the attack happened in Oklahoma which, unless they moved it recently, is a fair distance from Florida. The police suspect drugs may have been involved. May?

Do you ever feel like the people who run things are completely out of touch with reality?

According to the Times' "cold hard math," this [living on $500,000 per year] is virtually untenable given expenses that include $32,000-a-kid private school bills, $96,000-a-year mortgages, $96,000-a-year co-op maintenance fees, $45,000-a-year nanny tabs and, of course, the undebatable requirement that very rich people take "at least two vacations a year, a winter trip to the sun and a spring trip to the ski slopes." And mind you, the Times was quick to inform us, this doesn't even include other "prerequisites" to living in New York City like "restaurants, dry cleaning... kennels for the dog when the family is away, summer camp, spas and other grooming" and $1,000 suits from Brooks Brothers.

Median household income in New York City is $38,000. I'm pretty sure their idea of necessary expenses doesn't include private schools, nannies, or Aspen ski trips. No fracking clue.

Ten reasons why we are already circling the drain of the next financial crisis. I can't think of anything to add.

Geithner says that the hard times will continue for many. Not for him, of course, or any of his buddies at Goldman Sachs. Just us little people. Thanks for the sentiment Timmy, but it don't buy my increasingly-expensive groceries.

Minnesota is still shut down. The world hasn't ended and I don't see mushroom clouds or dead bodies stacked like cord wood in the streets of St. Paul. Which tells me Minnesota could probably get by on a lot less government. That's likely true of other states as well in spite of the breathless articles about cuts to the number of state employees that reduces the number of jobs back to those horrifying times in the early 2000's. Because government must always expand. Budgets, laws, taxes and debt  are all one-way ratchets that can only be increased. Suggesting otherwise makes you Hitler.

Well, I need to go study for the Enrolled Agent exam. I received the materials Wednesday and started working through the stuff for the first of the three tests. It's supposed to take 100 or so hours of study for each test, and I only have about 8 in so far. Don't expect much from me for the next few months.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I'm not at all into skiing mainly because it involves snow, but this is just wicked. You'll want to watch this one full screen with the volume on max:

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The End

For the first time since Alan Shepard flew the Mercury Freedom 7 capsule into orbit on May 5, 1961, the United States has no manned space launch capability. I watched the last shuttle launch yesterday live on NASA TV, and it just seemed surreal to think that I may be watching the last human to ever go into space from American soil. I realize there are plans for shuttle replacements, but none can fly people today and several still only exist on paper. Now Congress is aiming its budget ax directly at NASA. As much as I hated the shuttle (a motor home with a dump truck welded to the back end) and as little use as I have for NASA's wasteful bureaucratic approach to space, I fear that without those things our space ambitions will be reduced to sending out probes and running RC cars around on Mars and maybe the Moon. From there it's a short hop down to no NASA at all. The Peak Oil folks will shrug and say that it's inevitable, but I never expected to see it happen in my lifetime.

I'm still putting a lot of miles on my bicycle. I've stuck with my 10.4 mile route and trying to up the pace. In a week, I've managed to add one mile-per-hour to my average speed (hit 11.6mph average speed this morning), and two and a half to my max speed (17.9mph). The problem is that nearly all the gains were over the first three days, then I seem to have hit a wall. Part of the problem is the weather. Not only is it 80 degrees when I head out, the humidity has been a killer. Wednesday was the worst; I came in looking like Tony and Leo after six hours of non-stop polka dancing. The last couple days have been better, but it still feels like I'm riding at the bottom of a swimming pool.

As Debbie mentioned in her last post, we hadn't experienced nearly enough narcissism and sociopathology in our day-to-day lives, so we went to the Magic Kingdom on the Sunday before July 4th. The fireworks were good. Not much else was. We had planned to head to the waterfront in downtown Sanford for fireworks on Monday, but we just couldn't convince ourselves it was a good idea. We were able to see most of the fireworks from our parking lot with the added bonus of watching all the amateurs try to set the apartment buildings on fire. Good times!

I have intentionally avoided talking about the Casey Anthony trial because a) I wasn't all that interested in it and b) I figured most people reading this were not from Florida and would likely be even less interested. I'm only bringing up now after the verdict to say that, as I suspected from what little news of the trial that was forced into my eyeballs while trying to watch something else, this was OJ Lite with an incompetent defense team that won merely because the prosecution team was even more incompetent. As a result, a woman who at the minimum was criminally negligent in caring for her child and who likely killed her, walks away with time served plus one week. If this is the best that can be done in a high-profile, money-is-no-object show trial, imagine how piss-poor the routine level of courtroom activity is.

Richard Dawkins has stuck his foot into it big-time. I'm not surprised. Dawkins is a schoolyard bully who beats up on whoever he thinks his audience will enjoy watching him beat on (verbally, of course; physically, Dawkins couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag). This time he simply misjudged his audience. Maybe those who have supported him in the past will finally see him for what he is.

Since the 1970's, the middle class has been going backwards in terms of real wealth. That reality has been papered over with debt for the last thirty years, but now the party is over. There is no quick fix for where we are; most people will have to get used to having less for at least a couple generations.

The talking heads are all in a tizzy because the June jobs numbers sucked dead bunnies when all their spreadsheets told them otherwise. This is one of those cases where the only people surprised are the reality-challenged who live in the bubble that most economists reside in.

The Atlanta public schools have been cheating on student tests. If anyone believes that Atlanta is alone in this, let me know; I have a Rolex I'll sell to you for five bucks. If anyone bothered to look, I'm certain that nearly every school district in the country would have some measure of administration-organized test fraud going on.

It's pretty well accepted fact that the stimulus bill did no lasting good for the American economy. Now even Obama's own people are saying so.

Well, it's getting late so I'll just stop there.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy 4th of July

Hope everyone is enjoying the long holiday weekend.

We couldn't find much online down here about any happenings like parades and such. Maybe they don't do parades around here. Oh well. We did hit Magic Kingdom last nite after Ric got done at the library and got to see the special fireworks display for the 4th of July. Awesome -- even being behind the castle -- they were great. Tonite we hope to catch the Sanford fireworks. We'll venture out later today to scope things out and try to figure out where things are happening at around here. Ric found something else online that said it was from 5-10p. This is all I found online about it: A July 4th family-oriented extravaganza full of live entertainment, games, family activities and concessions, the Festival on the Fourth culminates with one of the largest fireworks shows in Central Florida. The festivities take place along the city’s brand-new RiverWalk overlooking Lake Monroe in historic downtown Sanford.

After seeing the fireworks for the Cherry Festival in Traverse City so many times, I compare all others to that. So, it will be interesting to see "one of the largest fireworks shows in Central FL" and compare it to Cherry Festival's and DisneyWorld's.

Happy 4th of July to everyone in this great country!

Saturday, July 02, 2011


I made it in one piece -- shaky and sweaty -- but I made it.

I went out with Ric this morning on a bike ride. I didn't do his whole trip (10.6miles), but I did do about 6 miles. This is the first time I've gone that far in one trip, and the first time on my bike since hmmm.. April? or so. Not too bad. Also after I got back, Ric checked my tires since I said it felt squishy. My back tire had about 5 lbs of air in it. No wonder it felt sluggish! I told him I get extra bonus points for riding with a low pressured tire.

Luckily today was not too hot or humid out yet. We've had a line of thunderstorms and torrential downpours almost every day this week. It's funny to look at the 10day forecast and see T showers every single day for 10days. Oh is hurricane season!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Rain, Rain...

The dry spell in Florida is officially over. It's been raining mostly non-stop for the last three days. I picked a good week to be bike-less. Speaking of which, I no longer am. Bike-less, that is. During a brief respite in the rain, I stopped by the bike shop and picked up my now-noiseless bike. While it was there, I had them install a taller riser for the handlebars. HUGE difference!! Way more comfy and better for seeing down the road now that I'm not all hunched over. While they had everything in pieces, I had them stick one of those cool little doohickeys on it that tracks miles, speed, time, etc. so I can keep better tabs on how far I'm riding and what kind of pace I'm setting. I also looked at luggage racks, which are way cheaper than I thought they were going to be, but I'd already dropped a C-note and a half, so I didn't pursue it beyond a bit of tire-kicking. Maybe I'll blow my Christmas money on that stuff.

We were planning on a possible Disney trip over the weekend, but it looks like at least Saturday is going to still be rain. I hope to catch a break in the morning so I can at least get in a couple rides this weekend to make up for the week of couch-sitting. Between the Michigan trip and a broken bike, I probably only rode ten days in all of June. Gotta do way better than that.

Taibbi on Bachmann and the attention she's been getting in the press:

This to me reflects a few things, but most notably it shows the fascination that the mainstream media (including jerks like me, of course) has with Bachmann. Which is theoretically meaningless, except that voters pick up cues from reporters. If the national press treats Bachmann like the alpha dog in the Republican pack, voters will catch on to that. Subconsciously, she begins to be thought of as a frontrunner. I think all this attention actually enhances her credibility, unfortunately.

We've been here before; Democrat in the White House looking rather vulnerable but who wins re-election by a wide margin because the Republican candidate was chosen from the Seven Political Dwarves. So what's it going to be, GOP? 1980 or 1996? You need to decide fast, because right now it's lookin' a lot like 1996.

The job market is so good that 55-year-olds are sucking up (mostly-unpaid) internships that are traditionally taken by college students and recent graduates. This is going well. And note that even mainstream publications now readily admit that unemployment is over 15%, not the government's official rate of 9.1%.

Public-sector unionized workers view the rest of the population as a resource to be mined for high pay, extravagant benefits and a guaranteed, inflation-adjusted pension for life after working for 1/5 their expected lifespan. The rest of the population is less than enthusiastic about the role they are supposed to play. As the decline in real household incomes continues, the situation will only become more insupportable than it already is. We should all hope that what's happening in Minnesota is an aberration rather than a fiscal Lexington and Concord. What we desperately need right now is for everyone, public-sector employees, their unions and politicians, to act like adults for once in their lives. I know that's asking a lot. But try.

Lore Sjöberg's Alt Text column at is usually humorous, but not this week:

Google+ might hit the big time by surfing the wave of Facebook resentment while eluding dead rats and discarded styrofoam cups. If so, its time will eventually come to an end as people realize that it, too, fails to provide the sense of community and closeness that we keep expecting to find on the other side of our keyboards.

Is the solution to somehow recapture the personal ties of years long past, when we knew our neighbors and the front porch was the main locus of information exchange? Will we create true community by embracing our humanity rather than our technology?

Nah. As soon as they invent a sexbot that can pretend to care about how many plots of tomatoes we planted in FarmVille, we won’t need other people anymore.

We have become seriously pathetic.

Debbie should be calling soon for me to come pick her up from work, so I need to wrap this up. Later.