Tuesday, March 31, 2009

10th Circuit Denies $300k Charitable Deduction Claimed by Timothy McVeigh's Lawyer

Just another denial by the court of a tax deduction but this means a little bit more to us, locally:
(TaxProf Blog) previously blogged the Tax Court's denial of a $300,000 charitable deduction claimed by Leslie Stephen Jones, lead counsel for the defense of Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, for the donation of his papers in the case to the University of Texas. Jones v. Commissioner, 129 T.C. 146 (2007). The Tenth Circuit yesterday affirmed the Tax Court's decision. Jones v. Commissioner, No.08-9001 (10th Cir. Mar. 27, 2009):
[T]he tax court held that Taxpayer was not entitled to claim a deduction on the donation of the discovery material for two reasons: (1) Taxpayer did not own the discovery material, and (2) the discovery material was not a capital asset [and thus Taxpayer's charitable deduction was limited to his basis in the donated material -- zero]. Because we hold that the discovery material is not a capital asset, we need not decide whether Taxpayer owned the discovery material under Oklahoma law. As the following discussion demonstrates, however, our rationale for determining that the discovery material is not a capital asset differs from that of the tax court.
...

Besides the sound ruling, I have to admit I'm glad Jones couldn't profit any more than he has in his representation of McVeigh. Sure, I know, McVeigh was entitled to a spirited defense, and Jones gave him one, but to try to profit further from his relationship by claiming a dubious deduction?

Can't say I'm disappointed with this ruling.

Look Who's Number 2

With the Google search "why should i use a tax professional rather than turbotax?" look who's number 2.

Besides feeding my own vanity, I hope the search turned up some good solid answers for the users.

Save yourself the query and go here and here for the posts that're turning up in the search.

As a tax professional, you can guess which side I come down on, but I think I give a pretty good defense of TurboTax.

In The Dark With Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

I wanted to be a good citizen and go green but, I'm sorry, compact fluorescent bulbs just don't do it for me. Looks like I'm not alone:
It sounds like such a simple thing to do: buy some new light bulbs, screw them in, save the planet.
But a lot of people these days are finding the new compact fluorescent bulbs anything but simple. Consumers who are trying them say they sometimes fail to work, or wear out early. At best, people discover that using the bulbs requires learning a long list of dos and don’ts.

The one's I've bought - GE, I think - burn out just as quickly as regular bulbs. Sometimes faster. Sometimes they'll work in one socket, sometimes they won't, sometimes they'll work in another socket before just giving up. Well, I've given up on 'em if they can't try any harder than that. As they go out, I'm replacing them with good ol' regular bulbs. Cheap and when they burn out, I'm not enraged at the unfairness of the world.

Oh, and our electricity bill isn't noticeably different.

Is the planet warmer as a result? I dunno. We're recycling. That counts, doesn't it?

Monday, March 30, 2009

'Rio Bravo,' Still Popular and Hip at 50

Once again, for Aunt Toni:
It wasn't nominated for any Academy Awards. It was scarcely taken seriously by the critics on its release, and it's never made into the American Film Institute's top 100. But Howard Hawks's "Rio Bravo," which had its premiere half a century ago this month, may be the most popular cult film ever made.

The phrase "cult favorite" conjures up images of wobbly hand-held camera shots and little-known actors. But "Rio Bravo" was shot in glorious Technicolor and starred perhaps the most popular star in movie history. Most cult films are too hip to be popular, and most big hits are too popular to be hip. But "Rio Bravo" is that rarest of films -- both popular and hip.

French director Jean-Luc Godard called "Rio Bravo" "a work of extraordinary psychological insight and aesthetic perception." British film critic Robin Wood wrote, "If I were asked to choose a film that would justify the existence of Hollywood, I think it would be 'Rio Bravo.'" Quentin Tarantino, whose "Pulp Fiction" was also both popular and hip, told an audience at a 2007 Cannes screening of "Rio Bravo" that he always tested a new girlfriend "by taking her to see 'Rio Bravo' -- and she'd better like it!"


John Wayne. He's all that.

Althouse: Tweeted out.

Blogger Ann Althouse gives up on Twitter:
To blog is to create a place for people to visit. I love that feeling. I have many visitors. Come into this room that is my new post and say what you like. Be interesting. Hang out with us!

On Twitter, there's just an endless trickle of trivia and that vague feeling of obligation to dribble into the trickle from time to time. But what is it to me? It's not a place where I am. It's that thing over there.

I want to be here.

Um, okay.

Althouse's commenters then chime in about how they don't like Twitter and how superior blogging is to Twitter and on and on. Very few defend Twitter. Fewer still recognize themselves for what they sound like: they very same critics of blogging when it became popular.

Twitter's not for everyone. Neither is blogging. Either you do the these things because you like them or you don't. For now, I'm enjoying myself on Twitter; when it stops being fun, I'll stop.

The Key to Success? Work. Who Knew?

Looks like your parents and teachers were right:
Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hollywood Perfects the Formula for Failure

I haven't seen Watchmen but John Podhoretz takes it apart:
The Watchmen series is said to be a masterpiece by those who think the words "comic book" and "masterpiece" can be used justifiably in relation to one another. It does seem to have been a landmark of a kind. And based on a quick perusal and my viewing of this movie, it was a classic--a classic in the annals of commie claptrap. What is more, Watchmen is one of the most dated pop-culture works imaginable . . .

Ha! Commie claptrap!

But Podhoretz makes a point: we like superhero comics and movies because we like superheros. Cynical superhero stories leave us cold - we can have cynicism anytime. Why fill our fantasies with it?

The sudden drop off in the box office receipts of the movie prove the point.

I read, and enjoyed, the graphic novel back in the 80's. I liked it for what it was trying to do but, ultimately, it was, well, commie claptrap. It held ideas that wouldn't last.

Fiction Is the Mother of Invention

Here are five ideas that first appeared in sci-fi fiction that are now a reality. (Yeah, I'm a nerd. Big surprise.)

My favorite part of the article? The bit about my favorite sci-fi author, Ray Bradbury:
Televisions were still black-and-white behemoths in 1953 when Ray Bradbury wrote "Fahrenheit 451." But his world, in which books are banned and people watch "parlor walls," presaged a society in which television dominated.

The big-screened sci-fi entertainment systems of his dystopian novel have found their way into real-life homes across America, with digital home theater systems, media servers and video game systems played on giant plasma and LCD screens.

Even though he foresaw the color TV panels of the future, Bradbury told L.A. Weekly in 2007 — after being awarded the first Pulitzer Prize given to a science-fiction writer — that his novel reflected his fear that TV would kill interest in reading and literature.

"They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full," he said.

However, noted the article, "he says this while sitting in a room dominated by a gigantic flat-panel television broadcasting the Fox News Channel, muted, factoids crawling across the bottom of the screen."

Ray Bradbury is a fan of the Fox News Channel!

(My view of Bradbury's classic, Fahrenheit 451 is best saved for another post but that's the thing I love about Bradbury: he's still full of surprises. (Or maybe not. A close read of his work shows a consistency that's admirable. He's got a strong conservative streak that you might find unexpected. Park your assumptions at the door, I say.)

The Journal Record's Bashfulness

Huh. I had a perfectly good post ready to go, linking to a Journal Record article on their website but now the article is safely tucked away behind the wall of subscription-only access. (That happened with this post as well.) Is that any way to run a website? Forbidding freeloaders like me access to your articles so that I can share them with my readers?

Seems like a 20th century business model in a 21st century online world. I'm now reluctant to even view their site if I can't share their articles.

OKCBiz announces Best Places to Work in Oklahoma Finalists

Let's check the list and see if Peter Terranova, CPA made it:
* 180 Medical, Inc.
* CFR, Inc.
* Cintas Corporation
* Coppermark Bank
* Delta Dental of Oklahoma
* Diagnostic Laboratory of Oklahoma
* Edward Jones
* Eide Bailly LLP
* First United Bank
* Flintco, Inc.
* GMX Resources, Inc.
* Impressions Printing
* INTEGRIS Health, Inc.
* Kimray, Inc.
* Norman Regional Health System
* North American Group
* Oklahoma City Indian Clinic
* Oklahoma City University
* OMRF
* Public Strategies, Inc.
* Scott Rice
* Scott & Goble Architects, P.C.
* Stanfield & O'Dell, P.C.
* Stanley, Inc.
* Tate Publishing LLC
* Tinker Federal Credit Union
* Tulsa Tube Bending Company, Inc.
* U.S. Cellular
* Vox Printing
* Williams

Sigh.

Well, I know my practice is a great place to work. I hope my staff does, too.

Congratulations to the nominees.

Winter Guard State Competition

The girls had their Winter Guard State Competition yesterday. We thought they were fabulous but the results put their teams in the back of the pack. No matter. Due to the weather, the finals were canceled so the teams were left with their standings.

We arrived about an hour early before Rachel's team's slotted time. Lots of great teams from around the state and a team or two from outside of the state. They clipped along right on schedule with imaginative routines and interesting music, most of which was bright and bouncy, just the thing for a cold, cloudy, wet, windy day. Rachel and her crew did fantastically well - er, Emily's team competed at 8:00 a.m. so shame on us for missing it (We make her nervous anyway, she said, and didn't miss us.) - but the results say the judges begged to differ. But they had an opportunity to work hard and goof around afterward with their buddies so who cares?

A great way to spend a lousy weather Saturday.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kardashian Says ‘So What’ About Cellulite Flap

If there were ever words I thought I'd never use in a blogpost title, these are them. But Miss Kardashian has a point:
"So what: I have a little cellulite. What curvy girl doesn't!?" the reality star, 28, writes on her blog in response to a brouhaha in which a photo of her for Complex magazine was accidentally released on the Internet before editors realized their mistake and quickly replaced it with the official photo of her.

"How many people do you think are photoshopped? It happens all the time!" she writes, later adding, "I'm proud of my body and my curves and this picture coming out is probably helpful for everyone to see that just because I am on the cover of a magazine doesn't mean I'm perfect."

It's a mistake to think that celebrities who appear on magazine covers aren't enhanced in some way. To borrow a phrase from Lennie on Law and Order, they're all photoshopped. Even when they aren't. (Uh, Lennie's phrase actually had to do with the husband always being the perp when a wife is murdered. It's always the husband, he says, even when it isn't. That's the kind of cynicism you can't help but admire.)

Celebrities are in the business of selling themselves, of selling a fantasy. It's our business not to buy into it.

IRS Offers Amnesty to Those Who Evaded Tax Through Offshore Accounts

Thank goodness. I was afraid offshore account holders could ever get a lucky break:
The IRS today announced reduced penalties for individuals who have evaded U.S. taxes though offshore accounts. The IRS will waive criminal prosecution for taxpayers who come forward over the next six months and pay back taxes, interest, and reduced penalties for the past six years.

Seriously, though, this is actually a great idea, one that should be expanded to all taxpayers. Last year, Oklahoma had its Clean Slate in '08 program which waived all penalties and interest on back taxes paid, or arranged to be paid, by November 1st. Of course, it was a great success - all government programs are, aren't they? But I think the IRS should have a similar program - a limited time to get their accounts resolved, once and for all. The "tax gap" wouldn't be eliminated but it would be significantly narrowed.

But lacking action on the IRS' part, we could all become offshore investors.

Parents' Night at Winter Guard

Last night, we got a preview of the girls' guard competition they're going to this morning at Southmoore. Blurry, grainy pictures from a cell phone? I'm just the guy to give 'em to you:

Junior Guard was up first. That's Emily in the pink in the middle with the dark hair:


Group shot. Emily's front row, third from the left. Grinning.


Zoomed a little closer for some detail - and graininess! She's got the show smile down pat.


Emily in action. You can almost hear the snap of the flag, can't you?


Second group shot, much like the first. They ran their routine twice, both times with hardly a mistake.


Onto Rachel. The beginning of the Senior Guard routine. I thought she was mad but she was just looking intense. Part of the show, apparently. My bad.


Rachel twirls her flag. Could I have gotten a grainier picture? Maybe.


Rachel didn't miss a flag toss.


Rachel tossed her flag so high it was a full five minutes before it came down. Kidding!


Ah, the graceful part of the show. It's not all about intense looks and popping flag twirls.


Group shot of the Junior Guard after the show. I think this is a lame attempt at "jazz hand."


The Senior Guard group shot. I was imperfectly placed for my zoom to work. If I clicked back, I lost detail. Too closely cropped here to show everyone but it's Rachel that counts, right?


A group shot of the Junior and Senior Guard together. Look close and you can see Rachel and Emily in the middle, hugging. Awwww.


Both groups put on quite a show. Whoever they're up against at the competition today will have a tough time of it. These girls have worked hard and their routine shows it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Give Back That Bonus!

Speaking of the AIG bonuses and the punishing tax on them as contemplated by Congress, giving back those bonuses may not be a good strategy either:
So, you still work for AIG, having decided not to desert a sinking ship. For this you received a retention bonus, but the politicians have decided to make a scapegoat out of you. Last week the House passed a bill that would tax your bonus at 90%--which, since you live in high-tax New York City, means you'd end up paying more than 100% when you add up all the taxes. . .

In light of all this, you do the right thing and give the bonus back.

Sucker!

What follows is a not-as-convoluted-as-you'd-think calculation which makes the 90% proposed tax a bargain compared to the effective rate of up to 130% depending on which strategy you use turn yourself from a bad guy into a good guy.

To be clear, I don't like the AIG bonuses either. But taxing them at 90%? That just ain't right.

The Bonus Tax is Probably Constitutional but Shouldn't Be

According to , Richard Epstein the bonus tax - the tax intended to hit the recipients of the notorious AIG bonuses - is constitutional but shouldn't be. The Supreme Court has ruled that when Congress makes its intent known to pass this kind of legislation, the argument that intended target of such legislation was singled out unfairly holds no water. The poor sap had plenty of notice, why didn't he do something about it? pretty much sums up the position of the Court.

But Epstein points out:
Double crosses are now fair game. In good times they won't happen, because sensible legislators know that capital and labor will flee our shores if we engage in senseless acts of plunder. But these are not ordinary times, nor is this an ordinary Congress. The $165 million in bonus payments may be small potatoes compared to the $700 billion at stake in the AIG bailout, no less to the damage caused when investors, foreign and domestic, lose confidence in our institutions. But populist fury and Congressional fecklessness continue.

People are right to ask when this cycle will end. Can Congress pass retroactive tax increases on all high-income earners? Can it give tax breaks to TARP-friendly banks as it hammers those who stay out of its bailout clutches?

Who knows? But if Congress doesn't stop its descent into the abyss, the Court should confess its past sin of constitutional passivity and stop it for them.

Oklahoma-born Black History ‘Cornerstone’ Dies

Not to be a scold or anything but I suspect I'm not alone in my ignorance of John Hope Franklin. Sadly, he's passed away:
Oklahoma-born John Hope Franklin — a "cornerstone” of black history and perhaps its greatest chronicler — died of congestive heart failure Wednesday in Durham, N.C. He was 94.

He was the James B. Duke professor emeritus at Duke University and the author of numerous books, including his major work, 1947’s "From Slavery to Freedom: The History of African-Americans,” set for release in a ninth edition this year. More than 3 million copies of earlier editions are in print.

"He’s a cornerstone,” said Oklahoma historian Currie Ballard, who knew him. "You could not be a historian in the United States without paying homage to Dr. Franklin and what he did for the African-American community.”

Gov. Brad Henry said "the world has lost a brilliant scholar.”

Possibly I came across his name in our visit to the Oklahoma History Museum but I have no memory of it. But because of that visit, I'm more aware of the role Oklahoma has had in Black History. Now I know one of our own was an important chronicler of that history.

American Idol: Down to Nine

Not entirely surprised that Michael was sent home but I was disappointed Megan didn't even make the bottom three. Someone else said "What does Megan have to do to deserve the bottom three? Club a baby seal on stage?" That pretty much sums up my feelings about her.

Michael wasn't meant for the final and it was only a matter of time before he left. Looks like that time came sooner than later. Matt was a complete surprise and his poor showing was entirely undeserved but who am I to say? It's not like I'm voting or anything. But right now it's about attracting the largest following - oh, who am I kidding, it's always about attracting the largest folowing - and the same fan base that's attracted to Matt is likely attracted to several of the other men so that coalition is split. It'll consolidate later but for now it puts those of Matt's ilk in danger.

The song Smokey Robinson and Joss Stone sang was kinda meh. Quick, whistle the melody. See? And though it was good to see and hear Stevie Wonder, what's up with the Obama shout out? All right, Obama's President, and you're glad, we get it Stevie. Sheesh.

I didn't catch what next week's theme will be but, man, I can't wait.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tweets and Posts

If you're following me on Twitter - and, really, if you aren't, you should be - you may have noticed these blog posts showing up over there as tweets. That's because I've directed the RSS feed over to Twitterfeed and through some kind of magic over there, these posts will now show up as tweets. Yeah, I know, so what? But it helps me keep my pledge about not posting something here that I tweeted about over there and vice-versa. It doesn't count as me repeating myself if I post over here first, right?

And here's the mind-bending thing about all of it: when I post something here, it'll be tweeted over there, to eventually show up again over here in the right gadget on the right that posts my tweets. Good thing I didn't do it the other way around - where tweets become posts which become tweets which becomes - well, you get the idea. I'd be stuck in some kind of infinite loop of posting.

Anyway, I just wanted to point that out so you know that I know what's going on. Oh, and to say I'm still enjoying myself immensely on Twitter.

American Idol

Dang dang dang dang dang. Adam was good. Real good. And for once he didn't creep me out with his look. Channeling Kurt Russel by way of Elvis looks to be a style that works for him. I may have to re-think my position on him.

My man Anoop did well enough that he oughtta be safe this week. If it weren't for all of the other powerful performances, he would've shined brighter. As it was, he got kind of lost back in the middle of the pack.

As for the rest: Kris and Matt started the show off well but Scott brought things back down to earth. He wasn't bad, he just wasn't as good as the two that preceded him. Poor L'il took her chance and squandered it, though she looked good doing it. My least favorite, Megan, was awful and for the very reasons I don't like her: she appears lazy. She's got a good enough, and quirky enough, voice and style but it always sounds like to me she's counting on getting by with just her looks. Last week she had the flu. This week, meh. I have no opinion about Michael. I enjoyed his performance well enough and I think the judges were too harsh on him. Another once who was just plain out-performed by the others.

And by outperform, I mean Allison. Holy frijoles, that girl has it! Great song choice - when I heard what she was going to be singing, I thought it was perfect and I was right. Rock it, girlfriend! But her rockingness may be her downfall. Rockers on this show rarely have the fans to support them through to the end. I hope this time it's an exception.

My prediction: same as my hope, Megan goes home.

The 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of All Time

Here's the list. Let's see how many I have on my iPod. . .

Sigh.

Exactly none.

At least I have some of the artists and I only have to get to number 12 on the list - Sonic Youth - so I'm not completely out of touch. Next up is number 23 - Cat Power - but after that, well, it's mighty slim until number 79. So three out a hundred. Lame.

Well, these lists serve a purpose for me. They make a nice browsing list for the next time I'm on iTunes. Hope it's soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bossy Songwriters

Gosh, songwriters can be so bossy. I made it through the D's on my iPod and I tweeted (twittered?) about how songwriters kept asking me all these questions when I got to those titles beginning with the word "do." Funny how when the negative of that word - don't - comes up, they're no longer asking me; they're telling me:

Billy Joel Don't Ask Me Why
Paul McCartney Don't Be Careless Love
The Beatles Don't Bother Me
ELO Don't Bring Me Down
Madeleine Peyroux Don't Cry Baby
The Band Don't Do It
The Beatles Don't Ever Change
Peter Gabriel Don't Give Up
Norah Jones Don't Know Why
Dido Don't Leave Home
Weezer Don't Let Go
James Taylor Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
The Beatles Don't Let Me Down
The Beatles Don't Pass Me By
Glenn Miller Orchestra Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree
Steely Dan Don't Take Me Alive
Dido Don't Think of Me
Madeleine Peyroux Don't Wait Too Long
Dixie Chicks Don't Waste Your Heart
Steve Winwood Don't You Know What The Night Can Do?

Quit telling me what to do!

On to the E's.

More Dallas Pics

As promised, more pictures from our Dallas trip last weekend:

When I say we went to Dallas, I mean we went to Grapevine, which is some miles to the north and west of Dallas. If you squint and hold your head just right, you can see the Dallas skyline in the distant haze from thew window of our hotel:



Looks like the news was true. The Virgin Megastore was closed at The Grapevine Mills:



No, if it were about me, the store would be open. Yeah, I know, the death of record stores and all that, but what better time to re-think the concept of a record store? Why not something like iTunes only in a real-life setting? Bring your own media card and load up on media.

Ah, well.

On to The Galleria. The bright sunny day through the skylights throws some interesting shadows on the skating rink and dining court:



L'amore!



The body english of this couple says even more than the the couple above:



Different sofa, different floors, same view. The might not be able to tell but the person on the right was wearing a Muslim headscarf (hijab?)which might also explain the body english. That or it was just uncomfortable to sit close.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Over the Edge

Update: If you've been by here before, you know I posted the picture below on Saturday. Like it says at the end, I sent it via Blackberry because I couldn't post it through Twitterberry , and, besides, I wanted to re-learn lesson of how to do a mobile post. I'm bumping it up to show the time stamp of this update.

It could stand a little fine-tuning and cropping but I'm gonna just leave it the way it is. I've got more pictures and a few more things to say from our Dallas trip so stay tuned.



A view from the 11th floor. Didn't work well with twitterberry; let's see how it does with blogger.


Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Nicholas Hughes, Sylvia Plath’s Son Commits Suicide

A sad legacy:
The son of the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath has taken his own life, 46 years after his mother gassed herself while he slept.

Nicholas Hughes hanged himself at his home in Alaska after battling against depression for some time, his sister Frieda said yesterday.

He was 47, unmarried with no children of his own and had until recently been a professor of fisheries and ocean sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Dr Hughes’s death adds a further tragic chapter to a family history that has been raked over with morbid fascination for two generations.

I liked Plath's poetry when I was in college but it's been years since I've re-read any of her work so I'm hard-pressed to say what I think about it now. I wonder if it would hold its same fascination without the turbulent story behind its creation.

Of course, I don't hold with feminists who believed Plath took her own life because she was driven to it by an oppressive husband; it's clear she suffered from clinical depression long before she met Ted Hughes and suicide isn't an entirely unheard of result of depression. The suicide of her son proves depression tends to run in families. (Another example would be my favorite writer, Hemingway. Besides himself and his father, his sister, his brother, and his granddaughter have all committed suicide.)

Still, it says something that the woman Ted Hughes left Plath before committed suicide in the same way Plath did. What was it with that guy?

Well, like I said, sad. I'm sorry to learn Nicholas Hughes couldn't keep the demons at bay.

John Wayne’s Six Masterpieces

Okay, okay, another one for Aunt Toni:
These films don’t need anyone to defend them and thousands upon thousands of words have already been written about them. What you have here is a few paragraphs about each that focuses on what keeps me coming back time and again.

True Grit is missing but with so many good movies to choose from, there's an abundance of riches. (Though True Grit does make the author's classic list.)

(By the way, Aunt Toni gave me a copy of the book, True Grit, and it's as great a book as is the movie. Treat yourself if you get the chance.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nature is Awesome!

The Lorax Was Wrong: Skyscrapers Are Green

Living in the city is better for the environment than living in the suburbs? Who knew?
In almost every metropolitan area, we found the central city residents emitted less carbon than the suburban counterparts. In New York and San Francisco, the average urban family emits more than two tons less carbon annually because it drives less. In Nashville, the city-suburb carbon gap due to driving is more than three tons. After all, density is the defining characteristic of cities. All that closeness means that people need to travel shorter distances, and that shows up clearly in the data.

What's to be done?
The policy prescription that follows from this is that environmentalists should be championing the growth of more and taller skyscrapers. Every new crane in New York City means less low-density development. The environmental ideal should be an apartment in downtown San Francisco, not a ranch in Marin County.

Of course, many environmentalists will still prefer to take their cue from Henry David Thoreau, who advocated living alone in the woods. They would do well to remember that Thoreau, in a sloppy chowder-cooking moment, burned down 300 acres of prime Concord woodland. Few Boston merchants did as much environmental harm, which suggests that if you want to take good care of the environment, stay away from it and live in cities.

Back to Things

If you've been following my tweets on Twitter, you know we made it to Dallas and did our thing like we wanted to. (My tweets abruptly end on Saturday afternoon, marking our departure for home. They don't resume until this morning.) No trouble getting there, no trouble getting back, a fine time in between. Emily's friend, Jillian, came along and she was no trouble at all and Emily was thrilled, so that was a positive thing all around.

It'd been about 18 months or so since our last trip to Dallas and we kept ourselves to the usual haunts in Frisco and Grapevine. My, how the place has exploded in that span of time. I don't know how the current state of the economy is affecting Dallas but the stores and roads were crowded. Not Christmas-time crowded but jammed enough. On our way home on Saturday, the incoming traffic was bumper-to-bumper, a nice reminder of why Dallas is a great place to visit but a finer place to leave.

Funny thing, it turned out our neighbor, Miss Ronda, and her family were down there at the same time. Carli saw us at Grapevine Mills though we didn't see her. We ran into another neighbor and Emily saw, and talked to, the family hairdresser. All that way to see all those people. Guess we weren't alone in our idea.

Back to things today. End of Spring Break for the girls, work for Clara, and the continuing thrill of filing season for me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Brief Break

Light day at work today and in the middle of filing season, that's saying something. But it's the end of Spring Break for the girls and we're heading out for the long-promised overnighter to Dallas. It's what they'll have instead of a party to celebrate their birthdays. We'll be back within 30 hours or so, so it'll hardly seem like we're gone at all.

It's a trip less than 200 miles away and they're as giddy as if we're heading to Florida for two weeks. I guess we can all use a break.

Besides the company, I'm looking forward to booking a little book time. Haven't seen the inside of a bookstore in, what, weeks? Yeah, I know, but I like to look. Not that I have anything in mind to buy. Just like to keep in touch with what's out there. And who knows, I might find a bargain.

I'm not bringing my laptop but I may try a post with my Blackberry. Then there's always Twitter. I'm not committing to anything but let's see what happens, okay?

The 90% AIG Tax Is Lousy Tax Policy

And it ain't just me that thinks so:
Frankly, it doesn't bother me in the slightest if the 100% tax applies just this one time to just these people. They would appear to deserve it many times over. But one can never be sure that one isn't creating a precedent with legs. Might the device someday be used against someone else who just happens to be unpopular?

I'd actually like to make an example of these guys - as the French would say, "pour encourager les autres," as well as for general public morale. But I'd prefer a better way of doing it, such as investigating them for looting and fraud, which might have been amply justified even without the bonuses.


The Miami Herald agrees:
Using the tax code as a weapon to exact revenge on a select few, no matter how badly they've behaved, is a horrible idea. Slapping heavy taxes on the bonuses and on the company that issued them may satisfy enraged taxpayers who see incompetent executives being rewarded for failure, but it sets a bad precedent.

It may also violate the constitutional ban against ex post facto laws. More to the point, lawmakers are treating a symptom of the economic crisis and overlooking the root causes of the problem -- unbridled corporate greed and the failure of the regulatory system. There are better ways to channel taxpayers' anger and fix the immediate problem.


Don't make the Tax Code angry. You won't like it if it's angry.

Guess Who’s the Third Most Popular Movie Star in America Today?

Aunt Toni doesn't have to guess; she knows:
Denzel Washington
Clint Eastwood
John Wayne
Will Smith
Harrison Ford
Julia Roberts
Tom Hanks
Johnny Depp
Angelina Jolie
Morgan Freeman

Okay, okay, this is for Aunt Toni, too:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Break

We've been lucky and blessed this week with good weather for Spring Break. Forecast says that may change today but this time of year we're glad to have the mild weather. It wasn't so long ago we had ice and it won't be long before the searing heat begins.

Spring Break hasn't been too much different this year than prior years. We don't go anywhere - we marshal our traveling assets for the summer and smaller trips throughout the year - so it's pretty laid back. The girls have fallen into their routines and they get a chance to re-charge their batteries before the final push towards the end of another school year.

Which is what's astounding: another Spring Break is winding down. More behind us than there are ahead of us. Better make 'em count.

‘Idol’ Sends a Favorite Home

American Idol can still shock:
So much for that story about “American Idol” already being decided.

It didn’t take a genius to see that Alexis Grace was one of the judges’ early favorites, and a New York Daily News report this week had her already ticketed for the final four. But a funny thing happened on the way to that perch. She received the fewest number of votes this week, and when the judges failed to save her, she became the third finalist voted off the show.

She was a favorite of this house - she's so cute! - and we thought she did well enough to stay around for a while. We were wrong. Guess we should've voted.

(The girls love - ick - Adam.)

But it's a solid bunch this season so more shocks are bound to come. And, in a way, it's good to see the show still has some surprises up its metaphorical sleeve.

Oh, and did you see Carrie Underwood? Wonderful!

House to Vote on Taxing AIG Bonus Bonanza

This is ominous:
Venting their outrage, lawmakers are preparing to slap heavy taxes on employee bonuses at insurance giant AIG and at other companies that have received large bailout packages from the government.

The House was scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would levy a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid to employees with family incomes above $250,000 at companies that have received at least $5 billion in government bailout money.

This from a group of people who have no qualms about voting themselves sky-high raises year after year.

Not that I'm a defender of the AIG bonuses - they're outrageous - but I can't get behind using the Tax Code as a hammer for revenge. Who'll be next?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Where Will The Stimulus Money Go In Oklahoma?

Right here:


$464 million for highways and bridges. All the rest is conversation.

ACT Top 100 Firms - 2009

Once again my firm fails to make a major list. This time it's the ACT Top 100 Firms - 2009.

The link takes you to what's supposed to be an easy interactive digital edition of Accounting Today's report but all I'd like to do is cut and paste the list here. No can do or at least the technical requirements are past my skill-set. Suffice to say, I'm not on the list.

Oh, but next time. Next time.

(Nobody from Oklahoma made it and I only saw one Texas firm.)

How Public Accounting Firms Are Like the Mafia

Francine McKenna has accounting issues:
There's a popular Sicilian proverb:
Cu รจ surdu, orbu e taci, campa cent'anni 'mpaci.
"He who is deaf, blind, and silent will live a hundred years in peace."

Enron, WorldCom, HealthSouth, Tyco, Parmalat, Adelphia...You would think enough lessons had been learned. The financial markets are a mess and the capitalist system threatened. The systems in place to anticipate and preempt market risk failed completely. Financial firms leveraged their capital to an unprecedented extent with no checks and balances. Companies took on enormous risks with minimal disclosure to their shareholders.

And the largest global public accounting firms -- KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young -- again failed to prevent, warn, or mitigate the desperate financial situation, the national crisis of significant proportions we now find ourselves in.

So accounting firms are like the Mafia because they didn't keep a close enough watch on financial firms? Hardly. McKenna takes the definition of organized crime and bends it to the accounting profession, a clever enough exercise I suppose but one that could be done with, oh, say, the journalism profession as well.

Of course McKenna's argument is silly. But the biggest flaw in her assertion is that if only the accounting profession had been more diligent, this financial disaster could have been avoided. The problem is the accounting profession is very diligent; it's the expectation that a financial audit will catch all of the flaws that are to be found. It won't. Investors still have to take care and take it upon themselves to be diligent.

Blaming the accounting profession won't help matters.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sting Sells Wine

As if Sting isn't busy enough making music and re-uniting with The Police, now he'll be selling wine:
After singing of “Fields of Gold,” British rock star Sting is tending fields of grapes as he prepares to market red wine made at his country estate in Tuscany.

Some 30,000 bottles of wine produced on the property will go on sale in September, mainly in Britain and the United States, Paolo Rossi, the estate's manager, said Thursday.

In 1997 the former Police frontman purchased a 16th-century villa, called Il Palagio, in Figline Valdarno, a small village some 19 miles (30 kilometers) south of Florence.

Sounds yummy.

But Sting's no ordinary farmer:
Over the years he has turned the surrounding 860 acres (350 hectares) into an organic farm that also produces honey, olive oil, fruit, vegetables and Tuscan salami.

“When I came here to Figline I wanted first of all to feed my family,” Sting said on Tuesday during an event at the village where the 57-year-old star spoke of the time he spends at Il Palagio.

“I also wanted to use agriculture with practices that would nourish the land and not deplete the land and so we went to traditional methods with farming, we got rid of pesticides, we shunned monoculture, and it works, the farm is also a garden,” he said in the remarks broadcast by local television Rtv38.

Of course, being a successful organic farmer is easier if you don't have to rely on that stream of revenue as your primary source of support.

I'm being facetious, of course. There are all sorts of ways to be creative and Sting has found another way.

Oklahoma Woman Wins Weblog of the Year Award

Congratulations to Ree Drummond, winner of this year's Weblog of the Year Award, announced announced at SXSW in Austin:
Drummond lives on a ranch in northern Oklahoma and shares her life -- the good and the bad , the unusual and the mundane -- with her online readers at www.thepioneerwoman.com. As winner of Weblog of the year, she receives 2,009 cents, or $20.09, which is a tradition with the Weblog Awards, also known as the bloggies.

She also won Best Photography of a Weblog and Best-Designed Weblog. She had been nominated for six awards. She did not win best writing, best food or most humorous.

I dropped by her website and wept. I've never claimed to be anything but an amateur at this but if there's something less than that I'm less than even that. My, my.

Between raising four children on a working ranch, where does she find the time to create such a thing of beauty?

Good for her.

Oklahoma City's On The Cutting Room Floor

I'm happy enough that Hollywood has found an Oklahoma story worthy to be produced:
In 1998, New Jersey businessman John Crowley’s two young children were diagnosed with a rare, potentially fatal disease. In the months that followed, he joined Oklahoma City scientist Bill Canfield’s company, Novazyme, and together they worked to develop a drug to combat the disease.

Their story ended up in a Wall Street Journal article by Pulitzer Prize winner Geeta Anand, who then wrote a book, "The Cure.” That story, in turn, inspired a screenplay by Robert Nelson Jacobs, whose previous credits include "Chocolat.”

But the few in Oklahoma City who know about the movie "Crowley” see it as a lost opportunity to showcase the city’s emergence in the bio-sciences field.

But will Hollywood mention the Oklahoma connection? The producers say that in the process of bringing their story to the big screen, timelines were compressed, and characters and events were changed or otherwise fictionalized for dramatic purposes so what do you think?

Sigh.

Well, I'm just glad they didn't make it in Texas.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Movie Review

There's not much playing out there worth seeing so time to catch up on the Academy Award nominees, if we can find them. The only one we could find that we haven't seen that's still playing was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. So off we went.

Surprisingly, there were quite a few people there which means we weren't alone in looking for something worth seeing. Unfortunately, this wasn't quite worth it. I liked parts of it - more of the scenes towards the middle worked for me better than the ones at the beginning and end and, please, spare me the wrap around technique of having the main character look back on the action of the movie, either through their own memory or by reading a diary. Cut out those scenes and the movie doesn't suffer so they're not needed anyway.

No, the conceit of the movie didn't work for me at all. Of course, it's fantasy and not realistic at all but the premise of a character aging backwards just doesn't work. It's an occurrence that no one can really relate to. No, you can't relate to space or time travel or battling Orcs or vampires, either, but in those kinds of fantasy/sci-fi plots, there's still something to ground you to human experience. We experience time in a certain manner - from the beginning to end - and trying to tell a story of a character that experiences time backwards, well, it doesn't work. Especially when the emotions expressed are simply the same emotions you'd find in the same story told about a conventional character: life is sad but sometimes happy. (And, yes, Brad Pitt is beautiful, but for only short stretches. Most of the time he doesn't look like Brad Pitt.)

Well, it was the only thing out there so it was good enough to spend while away an afternoon.

Space Shuttle Launches

How about a teeny tiny picture of yesterday's space shuttle launch? Got one right here, thanks to my brother John:

 


Taken from his backyard, about, oh, 200 miles south of the Cape Canaveral. Amazing.

How To Handle Controversy

With class. Like Steve Martin:
Steve Martin has offered to pay for an off-campus production of his play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” which was banned from a high school because parents objected to what they called adult content.

The actor and comedian said in a letter to a newspaper that he wants to keep the play, conducted in other high schools without controversy, “from acquiring a reputation it does not deserve.”

Martin doesn't condemn the parents who objected to his play, disagrees with their view but respects that parents and the community should have a say about what plays are produced in their schools, and offers an alternative of which he's willing to finance. Winners all around.

It's a good play, by the way, and probably not as controversial as the objecting parents might think. Certainly there's darker material out there being produced in high schools every day.

Anyway, good for Steve Martin. Now if he'd only stop making Pink Panther movies.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

iTunes: Ready for the D's

Finished up the C's and now I'm headed into the D's on my iTunes playlist.

Aside from the canons and cantatas and concertos of my classical songs, I discovered I have more than a few songs that begin with "cry" or some variant. Why so sad?

I'm up to track 347. My progress is slow because I don't listen to my iPod nearly as much as I'd like but so what? Like with my experiment with letting it ride through shuffle mode, I'm having a good time and, unlike with shuffle, I can leave and pick this up at any time. So I sort of give up control while still keeping control. Perfect!

Movie Love Scenes With Passion

Roger Ebert discusses movie love scenes that are passionate but not erotic with a nod to one of my favorite romantic movies, Out of Africa:
When Sydney Pollack was making 'Out of Africa' in 1985, he considered the problem of how to film Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in love scenes that were not explicit, yet were erotic. 'When I have Streep and Redford together,' he told me, 'I don't want to see them strip naked and writhe around in bed together. The challenge was to find love scenes that would have emotion and passion and yet not violate a certain place where we want to see them. There are two really sensual love scenes. One of them is the undressing scene. I always like scenes like that. I think they're sexy. I tried to make a sort of passionate dance out of them undressing each other. The second scene consists of three absolutely terrific lines I took out of a screenplay that was written in 1973 when Nicholas Roeg was going to direct this project. It's only three lines, but what lines: 'Don't move. I want to move. Don't move.'

His instincts were correct. We don't want to see Streep and Redford in a conventional sex scene. That would break the film's romantic spell, and reduce it to sexual choreography. In most movie sex scenes, the director chooses lighting, camera placement, music, and the tempo at which he decides intercourse should take place. The actors perform not as they might in life, but as they think their characters would. I have never seen a 'sex scene' that was particularly erotic. The center of feeling is primarily, by necessity, off screen.

Hey, I'm no prude but, well, all right, I'm a prude, but I do think a director faces a greater challenge staging a love scene that will come across as passionate without being overtly sexual. I mean, come on, we all know what's going on, don't we? Let's leave something to our imaginations.

Ebert lists more examples but I'm glad he led off with this one.

Wall Street Chalks Up a Four-day Rally

This sounds like good news:
A sharp rebound in bank shares and easing worries about the economy pushed stocks to their best week since late November.

The market shot up in one week as it might in some years, with major indicators chalking up gains of around 10 percent.

Friday’s gains were modest compared with the rallies on Tuesday and Thursday, but investors welcomed the market’s ability to hold its ground. Several recent rallies have ended with disappointing selloffs.

To use a Star Wars quote, don't get cocky. But I'd say let's enjoy a little good news for now.

Lileks Unleashed

In the middle of Lileks' latest screedblog, a take-down of some article or such - Lileks isn't exactly clear and provides no link - comes these paragraphs that celebrate the joys of property ownership:
My computers bring me happiness, for they are instruments of knowledge and art. My cameras bring me joy, yea, for they allow me to capture the fleeting shadows of the day or the laughter of my child or the happy romps of my old dog in the new snow, and fix them forever in a form whose quality exceeds the fond dreams of D. W. Griffith. My car gives me pleasure, for it gives me freedom and ease of movement, allows me to meet friends, gather food for the family, and drive to work with the glories of Beethoven crashing from the speakers. Or AC/DC, depending on the mood. For that matter the morning drive is made pleasurable by possessions like the coffee maker, which serves up a hot delicious beverage the moment I wake from a comfortable bed - and the waking, I should add, was gently occasioned by a machine that cost a bit more than one of those $19.99 alarms that sounds like someone tripped the perimeter alarm at Los Alamos.

Since I seem to be seeing possessions in terms of the flow of the day, let me go on: my computer, which is hardly a basic need, gives me freedom at work unchained to a veal-pen desk; my cellphone lets me write messages to a network of beloved strangers or listen to music from around the world - and take a picture of something, if I choose. Photography is art, right? Art is good, right? Yes, I know - if it serves the general weal in a spiritual burning-issue sense. If I use the camera to snap a picture of the Catholic-run men’s shelter down the street, do I get a pass if I buy a new camera this year?

Exactly. Property ownership brings pleasure not because it satiates greed but because of the pleasures the property brings: comfort, safety, entertainment. Sure, we let it get out of hand but let no one cast the first stone, etc.

Read the whole thing.

Second Banana Tells All

Thissounds like it'll be hilarious. From a review of the memoir Me, Cheeta by, well, Cheeta:
It's 1935, and Johnny Weissmuller and David Niven are plotting an intricate practical joke, but it lacks an essential element: the perfect car. Weissmuller, the Olympic swimming star of the 1920s, is well established on-screen as the definitive Tarzan, but Niven hasn't gotten his big break yet. His charming company, though, has already cemented his position in Hollywood social circles.

The plan: Send a car down Hollywood Blvd. with Cheeta, Tarzan's chimpanzee sidekick, at the wheel and honking the horn while Jackie, the lion that roars to open MGM's movies, rides shotgun. Two dwarfs hidden under the dashboard will operate the brakes and steering wheel (with the aid of an improvised periscope) while Niven and Weissmuller sit regally in the backseat. They persuade Douglas Fairbanks to loan them his beloved open-top Rolls-Royce without telling him what they want it for. All goes well until Niven lights up one of Fairbanks's cigars and decides that it would look good as a prop for Cheeta while he's driving. The cigar explodes in the chimp's face -- Fairbanks, what a joker! -- and the panicked ape wrecks the Rolls.

How do we know all this? Cheeta tells us so. When the chimp realized that everyone emerged from the wreck relatively unscathed, "I gave them a backflip of joy and, what the hell?, stood on my hands," he writes in "Me Cheeta," his memoir of the glamour, debauchery and jollity of Hollywood's golden age.


Apparently the book ends with a scene where Weismuller and Cheeta ". . . are finally reunited not long before Weissmuller's death in 1984, the wheelchair-bound former King of the Jungle and the elderly chimp who had been his most faithful friend. The scene is a marvel: completely idiotic and wholly, throat-catchingly convincing."

Hilarity and heartbreak. What else could you ask for in a work of fiction?

Friday, March 13, 2009

March Snow

It's not quite Spring so maybe we shouldn't be surprised by yesterday's dusting of snow. The first year we came to Oklahoma from Florida, it snowed the first day of Spring. Several inches, too! Stranger than snow to us warm-climate types was being sent home because of the weather. Little did we know.

It didn't stay around long and cause no trouble at all for driving. We might get a little more but for now it's just cold and a little wet. It'll be warm for good before long but for now Winter's having its last word with us.

Jack White Adds a New Band to Busy Mix

You have to admire Jack White's work ethic:
Already a member of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, White unveiled his newest rock band, The Dead Weather, on Wednesday.

“The bands are all still happening. Everything is still occurring. This is a new one to add to the mix,” said White, who wore his curly black hair askew and puffed on a cigar during a party at his Third Man Records label to announce the project.

Hey, dig that smoking cigar touch! You can't help but admire that, too!

I've got some of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs on my iPod; this new project might we worth looking into.

Disney CEO Drops F-Bomb at Shareholder Meeting

I take second place to no one in my affection for all things Disney but, my, how the mighty company has fallen:
Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger scowled at and said "f--- you" to Tom Borelli, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project, at Tuesday's annual Disney shareholder meeting.

Iger's remark came after Borelli told Disney shareholders about Iger's refusal to sell the DVD or the distribution rights of the miniseries "The Path to 9/11."

Borelli had just ended his presentation and was attempting to shake Iger's hand on his way back to his seat. Iger, who was sitting in the audience at the time, also refused to uncross his arms and shake Borelli's hand. Borelli, who had received applause from fellow shareholders after his presentation, went back to the podium and precisely reported to his fellow shareholders what Iger had just said, to gasps from the assembled crowd. Borelli then sat back down.

"The Path to 9/11" is a miniseries based on the federal "9/11 Commission Report." The miniseries aired in 2006 on the Disney-owned ABC television network. The shareholder meeting was held at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California.


Sure, write this off as right-wing whackness but if I were a shareholder, I'd be seething. No, not for the vulgarism - must we coarsen every exchange in our lives? - but for the lack of good business sense by the CEO. Most entertainment companies can't wait to rush to release to DVD whatever they have in their video vaults - a quick browse of the Blockbuster aisles will show you there's all kinds of krep out there - but Disney, the master buck-maker, decides to play coy.

Though I didn't see it, the miniseries was popular and clearly there's an audience for it. You're just giving us right-wingers fodder, Disney. Release the thing already!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Twittering

Time for an update on my tweeting on Twitter. If you've been following me in the sidebar, you can tell I've been enjoying myself and enjoying the people I've met. I like the discipline of 140 characters and the process of learning a new technology and it's just plain fun which oughtta be enough and it is.

Is it a fad? Most likely. These things come and go and right now it seems to be hugely popular. Articles about it are hitting the mainstream and maybe that's a bellwether of its future, and inevitable, decline. But so what? There'll be a next new thing and we can consider whether we want to participate in that.

Which is the point, I guess: freedom. Do what you want with it. The limitations are what you put on it. If it's not fun, quit doing it. If it is, well, as long as it doesn't keep you from your real-life relationships and obligations, what's the harm?

I'll stick with it for now. And I'll try to keep things interesting enough that you'll want to follow along. I'll also try not to repeat myself; I intend my tweets to be about different things than my blog posts. How's the for value? But there's the chance I might end up repeating myself and if I do, so what? This, like rock 'n roll, is an entirely disposable medium, not meant to last.

Mount St. Mary Blaze Fails to Damage School Spirit

This was fortunate, as far as fires go:
The fire in the second-floor science lab did not cause any structural damage, but school officials decided to cancel classes to try to get the smoke out of the classrooms.

"The fire was not in the main building built in 1903,” said Chris Stiles, director of advancement for the school. "It was in the add-on addition built in the ’60s.”

Shortly after Thanksgiving but before the Christmas break, Rachel told us she wanted to go to a private school and Mount St. Mary's was her choice. That was fine with us and we started the application process which included a tour of the school and personal visit from the counselor and the principal, Talita DeNegri. (That's her on the left.)



A friendly, impressive school, just right for someone like Rachel. She spent a day visiting herself and judged it as just the thing she was looking for. But as Christmas break approached and word got out and tearful goodbyes were beginning to be said, she had second thoughts and ultimately decided against it. That was fine. We gave it our best shot and we were better people for having had the chance to experience a small part of what Mount St. Mary's is all about.

I'm not at all surprised with the school's reaction to the fire. It'll take more than that to bring 'em down.

New ‘Idol’ Rule Doesn't Save Departing Singers

Nor could you expect it to, this early in the game; what's the point of saving someone now when we have weeks to go? No one let go now doesn't deserve it. It's the mid to final weeks that'll count and then this rule might come in handy but until then, meh.

I'm sorry to see any of the contestants go and I don't think it was quite time for Jasmine and Jorge but they couldn't last so, well, so long. My vote out would have been the blonde girl with the sleeve tattoo or one of the blander boys but this will work for now. Poor Jorge looked utterly wounded and beautiful Jasmine was in tears. I wonder if they ever dreamed it would come to this.

But my man Anoop is still standing. He's gotta do better next week. Dweebs of the world are pulling for him.

Oh, and it was Rachel who pointed out it was Carrie Underwood singing the buh-bye song. Yay, Carrie!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Amateur Marriage - Book Review

While I'm often busy not reading books, on occasion, I manage to finish one and I finished The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler. (Does it count that I actually re-read it after having read it when it first came out? Tyler is my favorite living author and hers are the only ones I'll spring for in hardcover. I was actually looking for Digging To America to re-read but I think I've loaned it to a friend of Clara's who's a fellow-fan of Tyler.)

The story of a life of a marriage from World War 2 to not too long ago, nothing too extraordinary happens yet still this book is enormously moving. There's a catastrophe at the core of the story which has a ripple effect to the end but Tyler manages to resolve it in a manner that, while not satisfying for me, it is uncompromising and that I admire. Mildly eccentric characters, wonderfully observed details of quiet moments, a loving look at the past, Tyler is, as always, masterful. I'm glad I picked this one up again but then I'm always glad to read, or re-read, her books.

Interstate 40 On List Of Worst Roads

I'm shocked, shocked:
Truckers participating in a magazine survey said Interstate 40 through Oklahoma City is one of the worst roads in America.

Parade magazine polled drivers with a Tennessee-based trucking company.

They say I-40 is rough and potholed.

Driver Paul Griesbach said Oklahoma has the roughest stretch of the highway, and said driving it was like riding on a washboard.

State Transportation Department spokeswoman Brenda Perry said the state will use money from the federal economic stimulus package to do some work on the west end of I-40.

Oklahoma is expected to receive about $340 million to be used for road and bridge projects. Officials are planning $72 million worth of improvements on I-40, using stimulus funds to start those projects this summer.

The problem is Oklahoma, to be sure. Cross the state line into Texas, Arkansas, or Kansas and the road problems magically disappear.

That's one part of the stimulus package I can get behind.

The Shartel Shopping Center

That's the little shopping center down the street from Merner's. I've seen a lot of changes there so it was interesting to read the article about what's been there in the past. Worth of a longer post and maybe a Google Street View link when I have the time but for now I just wanted to post the link.

(Whoops, the link is for subscribers only but maybe it'll be archived later and you can access it for free. Here it is. Should have cut and pasted while I could.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection For Humongous Accounting Firm

Which shows you it's small firms like mine that you can count on to do your financial reporting/tax return preparation heavy lifting:
Bearingpoint has labored under some kind of corporate curse since it spun out of KPMG during the heady days of the dotcom boom, our sister site, AccountingWEB.co.uk reports. Its public offering in February 2001 raised $2 billion. Most of the profits from the listing went to the accountancy wing, leaving the consultancy with thin cash resources to build its infrastructure. With Internet start-ups luring away its people, KPMG lost $26.9 million on a turnover of $2.37 billion that year, but that didn't stop an an expansion program that included the purchase of remnants of Andersen's consulting operation following that firm's demise.

Tom Jones and. . .Portishead

I had some time to browse iTunes and came across this duet
of Tom Jones with Portishead. (No, I can't explain why I was browsing Tom Jones tunes. Just accept it, okay?)

My friend Tammi in the comments tells me Portishead is an acquired taste. Looks like it's at taste Tom Jones has acquired and vice versa. The sample I heard on iTunes was pretty good and not as much of a mind-blower as you'd think.

IRS Employees Yet To Get The Memo

From the good professor:
Tax practitioners across the country voiced long-simmering anger and frustration with the agency's handling of the so-called offer in compromise (OIC) and the partial-payment installment program even as these lawyers experience an increasing number of taxpayers seeking their help because of job losses or home mortgage problems. And their frustrations are backed by data from the national taxpayer advocate.

"It's absolutely the most abusive unit within the IRS in the way in which they treat taxpayers," said W. Calvin Bomar, a partner at Atlanta's Bomar & Phipps and a former attorney in the IRS' office of chief counsel, referring to centralized IRS units that review offers made by taxpayers to settle their tax liability for less than the amount owed. "Under no circumstance do they want to approve an offer in compromise. I'm talking about people who are destitute and entitled to relief under that program."

It's been my own experience as well. Since the first of the year, the hardcore collection personnel have remained that way.

Guess they haven't yet received the memo from their boss who had a little tax trouble of his own.

Newsweek Piles On Rush

Right on schedule, along comes Newsweek to pile on Rush Limbaugh, private citizen who dared to criticize President Obama:
A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as "losers." With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence—exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we're cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush's every rancorous word—we'll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.

Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.

That's David Frum, a conservative from Canada, speechwriter for George W. and responsible for the phrase "Axis of Evil." So, see, it's not just liberals who don't like Rush. It's conservatives, too.

(Here's the Washington Post questioning the size of Limbaugh's, uh, audience. The Washington Post owns Newsweek. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Of course, don't hold your breath waiting for Newsweek to run a cover story bashing liberal critics of President Obama, written by a liberal.

All I can get is a thumbnail version of the Newsweek cover:



Nice.

Yeah, I know, it's a dog bites man kind of story when it comes to the liberal bias of the media and it's unbecoming of rugged conservatives to whine about it. Still, when it's blatant, it ought to be pointed out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Quake Rocks Metro Oklahoma City's Southeast

Grandma felt this one and couldn't quite believe it:
Spring forward had added meaning Sunday morning in the Oklahoma City area when the ground seemed to bounce just hours after the launch of daylight saving time.
Advertisement

At 8:06 a.m. Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey recorded an earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale in the southeast metro area, according to a report on its Web site. The quake’s epicenter was 3.1 miles below ground level near SE 15 and S Bryant Avenue.

Metro-area officials said there were no reports of injuries or damage, but dispatchers received reports from southeast Oklahoma City, Midwest City and Del City.

We actually get more earthquakes than you'd think but we don't feel them. Not this one. Add this to the perils of living in Oklahoma - tornadoes, ice storms, droughts. Nothing if not interesting.

Rachel's OYO Concert

Rachel hasn't had an OYO concert since way back in November so it was good to have one on Sunday. She had to be at rehearsal at 1:00 so Clara dropped her and me off while she and Emily got Grandma and Grandpa. I had a chance to get a preview of the show - impressive but still bits and pieces so hard to get an idea of just what they were going to do. The program showed something I hadn't heard at the OYO rehearsals at OCU: a jazz combo would join them and the OYO would back them up. The conductor passed around the music - the first time the OYO had a chance to see exactly what they'd be playing - and the conductor led them through their steps and prepped them for the jazz solos that would come.

Here's the quintet setting up:

 


As always, Rachel's in the far back so don't ruin your eyes trying to look for her.

Afterwards, the Symphonic Winds and then the Oklahoma Youth Philharmonia rehearsed, both groups Rachel performed with last year. Clara and Emily and Grandma and Grandpa showed up and we had good seats for the show.

The Philharmonia began, followed by the Symphonic Winds; they sounded great and made a lot of parents in the audience very proud.

Next up was the OYO and thy let us know what they could do. Still didn't get to see much of Rachel but every once in a while you'd catch a glimpse of her arm. The quintet came out and took the stage and after a few introductions got into their set. My Funny Valentine was exceptionally beautiful with a Chet Baker-esque solo. When the quintet was through, the OYO wrapped things up with another rousing classical piece.

Quite a musical afternoon.

Afterwards, we ate dinner at Steak and Shake. Hadn't been there in a while but what finer place would you choose to unwind?

Dog Grooming

Time for the monthly, or thereabouts, dog grooming. They were getting a little shaggy so off Rachel, Emily, and I went on a Saturday night to get the job done. Of course, that means buying new clothes for 'em - it's their birthday, they're one year old and no longer puppies!

No, Rachel's not asleep. She's just checking out her tie she bought for a buck earlier in the day at the Salvation Army store. A great place for fashion accessories! Lucky's sporting her new outfit:



Pepper's turn. Without her hairs, she's about half her size.



Both came away, freshly shorn, clean-smelling, soft, and happy.

Political Persecution?

I'm not so suresure but Michael Williams believes he's being selectively audited for his criticism of the Obama administration:
Today I received a letter from the IRS that my 2007 tax returns are being audited. Less than one month after launching TaxCheatStamps.com.

There's a list of "proposed changes" they want to make to my 2007 return that would require me to pay almost $14,000 in taxes, penalties, and interest. All the "discrepancies" they list are bogus and I have documentation to prove it. I keep meticulous records and always pay every cent I owe to Uncle Sam. We're going to talk to a lawyer ASAP.

There is no doubt in my mind that my family is being politically persecuted for making a mockery of our new Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the Obama administration.

Registering to comment on his site is cumbersome and I can't be bothered but if it were easy to post a comment, here's what I'd say:

Take it easy, Mr. Williams, you're not being selectively audited. In my 19 years with the IRS, the IRS is, and can do, many things but it's hardly the vengeful arm of any administration. From the sound of it, you got a routine letter where the IRS did a match up of documents reported to it with the documents reported on your return. A mis-match came up, thus the letter. Easily resolved. Give me a shout and, if what you say is true, I can easily handle this, gratis, and win.

Certainly this country can use outspoken critics of the Obama, or any, administration, but a cool head in the face of a routine government inquiry would go a long way in finding supporters to your cause.

Financial Meltdown

A guide to the current economic crisis. With pictures!

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Lesson Learned From the Marines

Peggy Noonan offers up a lesson in accepting responsibility for your actions. About the story of the downed Marine jet last December, she writes:

Residents told the San Diego Union-Tribune that they were taken aback by the report. Bob Johnson, who lived behind the Yoons and barely escaped the crash, said, "The Marines aren't trying to hide from it or duck it. They took it on the chin." A retired Navy pilot who lives less than a block from the crash and had formed, with neighbors, a group to push the Marines for an investigation, and for limiting flights over University City, said after the briefing, "I think we're out of business." In a later story the paper quoted a retired general, Bob Butcher, chairman of a society of former Marine aviators, calling the report "as open and frank a discussion of an accident as I've seen." "It was a lot more candid than many people expected."

This wasn't damage control, it was taking honest responsibility. And as such, in any modern American institution, it was stunning.

The day after the report I heard from a young Naval aviator in predeployment training north of San Diego. He flies a Super Hornet, sister ship to the plane that went down. He said the Marine investigation "kept me up last night" because of how it contrasted with "the buck-passing we see" in the government and on Wall Street. He and his squadron were in range of San Diego television stations when they carried the report's conclusions live. He'd never seen "our entire wardroom crowded around a television" before. They watched "with bated breath." At the end they were impressed with the public nature of the criticism, and its candor: "There are still elements within the government that take personal responsibility seriously." He found himself wondering if the Marines had been "too hard on themselves." "But they are, after all, Marines."

Noonan goes on to make the point that the titans of Wall Street should take responsibility for their actions as well and that would be a good thing but I'm not sure how that would help our recovery. Instead, let's take responsibility for our own actions and do what we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from future financial catastrophe.

A side note - Noonan ends her column with a jab at Obama:
The White House this week was consumed by extreme interest in a celebrated radio critic, reportedly coordinating an attack line with antic Clinton-era political operatives who don't know what time it is. For them it's always the bouncy '90s and anything goes, it's all just a game. President Obama himself contributes to an atmosphere of fear grown to panic as he takes a historic crisis and turns it into what he imagines is a grand opportunity for sweeping change. What we need is stabilization—an undergirding, a restrengthening so things can settle and then rise. What we're given is multiple schemes, and the beginning of a reordering of financial realities between the individual and the state.

The Obama people think they are playing big ball, not small ball, and they no doubt like the feeling of it: "We're making history." But that, ironically, was precisely the preoccupation of the last administration—doing it big, being "consequential," showing history. Watch: Within six months, the Obama administration will be starting to breathe the word "legacy."

There's a slow movement of buyer's remorse on the right side of the political spectrum by those who supported Obama last Fall. Noonan was one of them. Is she headed for an apology? Will she be accepting responsibility for her won actions?

She's a great gal and I wouldn't be surprised if she does.

Former Monkee Peter Tork Says He Has Cancer

Fortunately, Tork is doing well:
The 67-year-old Tork had surgery Wednesday in New York. His spokeswoman says he is doing well and will begin radiation treatment after a short recovery period.

He announced on his Web site Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma on the lower region of his tongue. He says it's an uncommon but slow-growing type of cancer, and it hasn't spread beyond the initial site.

I enjoy The Monkees and they gave me great pleasure in the past. I'd mentioned not long ago the walk through our vinyl collection and it turns out Clara has three or four of their albums. It'd be nice to transfer them to digital and have a listen.

I hope for Mr. Tork's good health.

OKC 3rd Manliest City in the US

Hey, I'm doing the best I can:

Oklahoma City is rated the third "manliest" city in the nation in a study by a snack food company.

Nashville, Tenn., ranks first in the survey for Mars Snackfood US and its Combos snack food brand. Charlotte, N.C., is second.

The study used criteria such as the number of professional major league sports teams, the popularity of tools and hardware and the frequency of monster truck rallies.

Cities lost points for "emasculating" characteristics like the abundance of home furnishing stores, high minivan sales and subscription rates to beauty magazines.



Hey hey hey, what's this crack about minivans?

The number 1 manliest city? New York. Of course.

Well, as long as we beat Texas.

Anoooooooop!

American Idol has chosen it's final 12 - excuse me, make that final 13 - and it included my man Anoop:
Thirteen turned out to be the lucky number for Anoop Desai on "American Idol." After announcing the three remaining finalists at the end of Thursday's wild card round, Simon Cowell announced that the much-loved 22-year-old college student from Chapel Hill, N.C., won a previously unannounced 13th spot in the next round of the popular Fox singing contest. In past seasons, 12 finalists were picked to move on.

Does Anoop have what it take to make it to the end? Oh, yes, my friends, he does. So sit back with me and let's enjoy his march to victory together.

Oklahoma Film and Music Office announces movie will film in state

There that wasn't so hard, was it?

"The Oklahoma Film and Music Office said March 4 a new movie project, starring Kate Hudson, Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba, will be filmed in the state.

“We could not be more excited to have a film of this caliber shooting in Oklahoma. The majority of filming was initially slated for New Mexico,” Jill Simpson, Director of the Oklahoma Film & Music Office, said in a statement. “However, after the production team heard about our incentives and came in for a scout, we were able to land all but one location here in Oklahoma. It’s a real coup for us.”

Oklahoma's a great state to make a movie: varied landscapes, aside from the occasional tornado we have mild weather, friendly people, cheap prices. All we lack is the ocean. And snow-peaked mountains. And even those are only 12 hours away.

A movie based on Jim Thompson's work is a sure thing. Should be a good one.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

iTunes: The C's Begin

Working my alphabetical way through iTunes, I've finished with the B's and I've moved on to the C's.

Joni Mitchel and The Mamas and the Papas long for California, The Beach Boys just wish all girls could be from their golden state but The Red Hot Chili Peppers have some issues.

Well, we all have our opinions.

Horton Foote Dies

Horton Foote, the screenwriter of To Kill a Mockingbird, passed away. He was 92 and from the obituary he seemed to have had a good life so no mourning here. What caught my eye, though, was this:
“My first memory was of stories about the past — a past that, according to the storytellers, was superior in every way to the life then being lived,” Foote wrote in 1988. “It didn’t take me long, however, to understand that the present was all we had, for the past was gone and nothing could be done about it.”

Something to keep in mind next time I get nostalgic.

The Death of the Virgin Megastore

Virgin is closing their Megastores which is too bad because I've always enjoyed browsing through them in Dallas and at The Disney Marketplace.

Lileks takes a different view. (You'll have to scroll down to get to it.)

Time, and technology, moves on.

Tax Preparation Software Rankings: TurboTax #1

Per the Good Professor, TurboTax
is the number 1 tax preparation software out there.

My views on Turbo Tax vs. Tax Professionals are here and here. Guess which side I come down on.