Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crunch Time

I have exactly one week to cram as much corporate tax information into my head as I can before I attempt to set another $100 on fire... er... pass the SEE Part Two test. There are still some parts that I'm a little shaky on; either I get them down in the next seven days, or hope whatever software algorithm selects which 100 questions I draw from the pool goes light on the parts I'm weak in. Fingers crossed.

We spent a Friday and Saturday visiting my parents' snowbird home. Last winter, my mother asked us to bring our bicycles next time we came to visit so we could all go for a bike ride around their park. I figured my parents' idea of a bike ride would involve a slower pace than what I usually do, but nothing could have prepared either of us for the creeper-gear pace combined with random stops in the middle of the road. Debbie actually went down trying not to ram the back of my mom's adult-sized tricycle when my mom made a sudden stop to snoop on a neighbor. When we started out, my dad had told us that he had switched from two to three wheels several years ago out of self-defense; now I understand what he meant.

Friday night, we took them out to Carrabbas for my birthday (yeah; we take my parents out for our bithdays... long story). My dad is generally not a big Italian food fan, but they had spaghetti and meatballs without "stinky cheese", so he was happy. My seafood cannelloni and my mom's manicotti were both good. Debbie's BBQ ribs were a bit of a disappointment; instead of sauce, they were cooked with a spice rub. They were OK, but not something we are likely to get again. As the Birthday Boy, I got a hunk of free tiramisu more than large enough for myself and my parents. Debbie, not being a big tiramisu fan, snagged one of the dessert shots. We rolled ourselves out to the car and went back to the parental units' trailer for Chicken Little. Saturday was more eating, visiting with some family I hadn't seen since middle school, another bike ride, UP!, and the drive home. It was a nice two-day break from the ghetto.

Finally. A political party I can get behind: The Futility Party:

The best thing — the brilliant thing — is that in the end, the Occupy movement will fail to make any lasting changes in politics, thereby proving its own point.

Follow along. If the vaguely defined “1 percent” have all the power, then no amount of sign-waving, slogan-chanting or locale-occupation will have any influence. It’d be like trying to get the Pope to let someone else be infallible once in a while. So if the protests end in any status other than quo, then the 1 percent is a myth, normal people have plenty of influence, and the protestors were just wasting everyone’s time.

...I’m officially founding a new political party, the Futility Party. Our main platform will be a commitment, once elected, to ending the corruption and cronyism that keeps us out of office. We will reject any funding that might help us get the word out, avoid coalitions and compromises that will turn us into a viable political entity, and make sure our candidates and backers lack the influence to disrupt even the closest election.

Our slogan will be “Unimpeachable. Unassailable. Unelectable.”....

That should be made into a bumper sticker. It could double as the slogan for the Libertarian Party.

[Aside: The brilliant coders behind Blogger have now managed to screw up block quoting. Yes, block quoting. If I have to hand-code all the HTML for this thing, I may as well go back to a straight-up hosting service and writing my posts in Notepad. Is it really that hard to not break things that work?]

I haven't made any recent posts about how uniformly horrible the public schools in the United States are, but there may be a bright spot:

For all I complain about public schools and NCLB, there are occasional success stories. For example, the Dallas News reports on the stunningly good math and reading test scores achieved by third-grade pupils at Field Elementary school. There was a minor downside, though. They achieved those high math and reading test scores by devoting essentially all of their effort to teaching these kids math and reading, which of course meant they had to skip science and other subjects almost entirely. Not to worry, though. The kids still got grades in those other subjects. Of course, those grades were faked, sometimes assigned by teachers who’d never even taught the subjects in question. If I had school-age children, I’d do whatever it took to either homeschool them or get them into private schools. I don’t believe public schools–any public schools–can any longer be trusted to educate kids.

OK; maybe "bright spot" isn't the term I'm looking for.

While I've been a fan of renewable energy in all its various forms since I was a kid, largely because I take issue with running an uncontrolled experiment on the only inhabitable planet we have access to, I also understand that no renewable source or sources of energy will provide us with anything like the amount of energy we currently obtain from fossil fuel. In the past, I've done entire posts showing the absurdity of, say, running our cars on bacterial poo. Another darling of the renewables-will-let-us-keep-business-as-usual crowd is pumped storage. I've been saved the trouble of doing the math by some professor dude who writes a blog called Do the Math. As you can probably guess, pumped storage at the scale needed to replace all fossil fuel is as absurd as every other renewable. But setting all that aside, his closing paragraph is the most important:

Let’s be clear that I am not making any claim that large scale storage at the level we need is impossible. But it’s far more daunting than almost anyone realizes. It’s not a matter of “just” building up when the time comes. We could easily find ourselves ill-prepared and suffering insufficient energy supplies, intermittency, and a long, slow economic slide because we collectively did not anticipate the scale of the challenges ahead.

A nation that cannot contemplate a plan to reduce currently-legislated increases in federal spending from 7% to 6% without going into paroxysms most certainly cannot contemplate the sacrifices that would be needed to undertake a multi-decade engineering feat the likes of which humanity has never seen. Sorry professor; this is impossible for the USA. We cannot even accomplish that which humanity has already accomplished, like flying humans to low earth orbit. And we've been in a "long, slow economic slide" for four decades.

I've been thinking of ways to free up time. I feel like everything is universally neglected: I'm not spending enough time preparing for my SEE test, not writing enough here or at The Tax Geek, not doing enough to make The Tax Geek into something other than a lame website, not reading enough, not getting enough exercise, not getting enough sleep.... I could go on for pages. I started by looking at what I spend my time on and immediately went on a purge of the Hulu queue. Some good stuff likely ended up in the dumpster, but "good" is no longer good enough to make the cut. Flickr is now what I originally used it for: on-line backup of, and internet access to, our digital photos. All the Contacts and Groups and all that social crap is gone. I also need to take a hard look at the list of sites I routinely visit. Just what is it that I get out of them? Do I even enjoy going to them or does it feel more like a chore or obligation to go there and skim through their posts? If so, why do I continue to have them on the list? Expect some of them to disappear. I'm also cutting out Yahoo Finance's Breakout and The Daily Ticker, another hour every day I cannot afford just to listen to people make excuses for why the market isn't doing what economic theory said it ought to be doing.

But the big one is Facebook. Even though I'm not on it anywhere as much as the average Facecrack addict, it's still an hour or so every couple days, plus dealing with the flood of e-mail notifications clogging up my Yahoo account. Not to mention Facebook's assumption that everything you do on the internet is somehow theirs to pull into the Facebook Profiling Engine and sell to the highest bidder. Is it worth it? Is it worth the time and aggravation, the constant threat to my personal data from malicious game designers and Facebook itself, just to know that someone I barely know is going shopping with someone I've never met? Probably not. I don't get the whole social media thing anyway. Sure it was fun connecting with people I hadn't seen in years or decades. At first. Then I realized that other than reliving the Glory Days (Thanks, Bruce!), we have absolutely nothing to talk about. Again, given what I could be doing instead, is it really worth it? I'll be making the decision sometime this week. It's not looking good for Facebook.

Back to corporate taxes.


Anonymous said...

Good morning Ric - Hope U enjoyed your outing for your birthday - any thing U can do away from the apartment should be a FUN time. You should be happy that your parents are at least getting out on their bikes - it's more than I do :)
Re/ work - if they want u to do what you thing needs done - take advantage of it and improve the library for the patrons - whatever U thought needed changed = change!!!
MAKE it a GREAT DAY Ric and hugs to you both!!!

Ric said...

My primary task is always shelving and cleaning up in the non-fiction area. But before I disappear into the stacks, I always check to see if I need to help with something else. Instead of saying, "No", I get that weird whatever-you-want-to-do answer. So I shrug and go vanish into the stacks, which is exactly what I want to do and what always needs doing anyway. I just find that response to be rather puzzling given my place in the library pecking order.