Monday, June 29, 2009

Disney Marketplace

Since I don't know in what order these pictures will post because I'm mobile-blogging them, I'll just jump in and hope things make sense.

We spent the evening at the Disney Marketplace. Huge crowds. As multi-ethnic as the Star Wars cantina scene though maybe not quite as dangerous.

A DJ on a stage led the young folk in dances to his jams. Lotsa Moms joined in; far fewer Dads. Finished up with The Chicken Dance which got everyone involved. The Chicken Dance cuts across all cultures. The universal dance.

The sun goes down, the lights come up, the magic cranks up a few notches, as if that's possible.

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Rachel and Emily Begin Their Day


Rachel chows down.

Enter: Emily.

The day just got more interesting.

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Update: Swapped out Emily's picture for a Picasa version that rotates the picture so she's upright instead of on her side. The rotate function on my Blackberry works but didn't save the change when I posted. No big deal.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Battle of the Tribute Bands

Hotel California, an Eagles tribute band, was performing at the American Pavilion at Epcot as part of their summer concert series. We've caught tribute bands here before and they've always been good. Real crowd favorites.

Over at the Great Britain pavilion, British Invasion played. They're a, you guessed it, a Beatles tribute band. We caught two of their sets but I didn't get their picture. Another crowd-pleasing group, they've been here for 13 years. Not a bad gig.

Over at the Canada pavilion, it was Off Kilter performing. They're not a tribute band but play a fun mix of rock and Celtic music. Their rock version of Danny Boy was surprisingly good. Lots of fans. One guy, who I think was a ringer, put on quite a dance show to their music. The band claimed to not know him but enjoyed him as much as the audience.

Think what you want about tribute bands. I read a recent article about them that pointed out they have their own loyal fan base and many perform with the blessings of the original. They're out there, working hard at something they love, pleasing a lot of people. We should all be so fortunate.

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That's no man, man.

At the Japan pavilion at Epcot, we watched the drummers perform. Impressive, exciting. I thought the were men but when I moved closer, it became clear they weren't. Did that change things? Not really. It's the drumming that counts, not the drummer's gender. My assumption was the surprise. I missed getting their picture while they performed. I got them instead cleaning up afterwards.

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Different Views of the Same Resort

We're at The Boardwalk Villas and no matter the time of day, you can't help but get a great shot, even with a camera phone. Of course, it's all part of the same Disney plot to convince you that you should be happy. Don't fall under its devious spell!

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blue Lights

I hate hate hate blogging from my Blackberry. Part of the reason: I have no idea what these posts will look like until they post, then I can't edit them well. This is a perfect example. Thought I'd included this picture with the previous post. Didn't. Couldn't do a dang thing about it. Except post it as a separate post. Which I did.

Anyway. . .

These are the pretty blue lights from the waiting line at Soarin'.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Standing in the Soarin' Line

It was only a promised 95 minute wait so we were game. At least we were indoors where it's cool. The line goes by these panels where an animated computer program and audience participation provides the amusement. You move your body and stuff happens on the screen. Funny to look back at the crowd and see them waving their arms and gyrating like crazy. Turned the corner. The blue lights were pretty. Final wait time: somewhat longer than advertised. But the ride was so delightful we'll hold off the lawsuits.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Things Are Quiet. Too Quiet.

Could be quiet around here for a while. I'm still around, though, so don't worry. Things'll lively up around here again before long.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer and Youth

I may disagree with Roger Ebert for his politics but sometimes his essays are spot on. He redeems himself with this fine essay about Summer and youth:
A new movie is titled "The 500 Days of Summer." That's what it looked like on the last day of school, time reaching forward beyond all imagining. There was a heightened awareness in the room as the second hand crept toward our moment of freedom. We regarded the nuns as a discharged soldier does his superior officer. Here had existed a bond that would never be again. We didn't run screaming out the door. We sauntered. We had time. We were aware of a milestone having passed.

Summer's here but it'll be over before you know it. Let's enjoy it while we can.

Redbox's Machines Takes on Netflix's Red Envelopes

With more subscribers than ever flocking to its DVD-by-mail service, Netflix Inc. is one of the few companies to prosper during the worst U.S. recession in 70 years. Yet Netflix CEO Reed Hastings still has something to worry about: an even cheaper DVD rental service run by one of his former lieutenants.

Once just an incongruous experiment amid the burgers and fries at McDonald's restaurants, Redbox has emerged as the largest operator of DVD-rental kiosks, with more than 15,400 vending machines set up to dispense $1-per-day discs in supermarkets and discount stores.

With Redbox opening an average of one kiosk per hour to lure budget-conscious consumers, Hastings is concerned that this upstart might upstage Netflix, whose cheapest mail-order plan costs $5 for two movie rentals in a month.

"By the end of the year, kiosks will likely be our No. 1 competitor," Hastings said in a recent conference call. "There are already more kiosks in America than video stores."

For first-run movies we haven't seen, we're turning more and more to Redbox. Can't beat a buck a movie and, sometimes, free. The downside? Limited selection and sometimes long lines as people browse titles and try to figure out the touch screen.

I'm hearing more and more people abandoning their Netflix queue and opting for Redbox. It'll be interesting to see how the market plays out.

Museum Celebrates Life of Walt Disney

I'm surprised there isn't something like this already:
He's the reason adults of a certain age can't stop themselves from finishing the song line beginning "M-I-C-K-E-Y," the force causing untold legions to see marching mops when they hear the rousing strains of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

But the story of Walt Disney the man sometimes gets forgotten in the telling of his legend. Descendants of the 20th-century innovator hope to fix that disconnect with The Walt Disney Family Museum, opening this fall in San Francisco.

"My dad's story is an inspirational story," Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, said. "I want people to understand his character and how he pursued his career."

And have fun.

Another stop to be made on the pilgrimage to all things Disney. Maybe I'll get lucky and the exhibit will hit the road and come this way.

Japan Study: Chubby People Live Longest

Bad news for scrawny folk:

Health experts have long warned of the risk of obesity, but a new Japanese study warns that being very skinny is even more dangerous, and that slightly chubby people live longer.

People who are a little overweight at age 40 live six to seven years longer than very thin people, whose average life expectancy was shorter by some five years than that of obese people, the study found.

"We found skinny people run the highest risk," said Shinichi Kuriyama, an associate professor at Tohoku University's Graduate School of Medicine who worked on the long-term study of middle-aged and elderly people.

So eat something already!

Dead Sea Sinkholes Swallow Up Plans

The area around the Dead Sea is filling up with holes:
Eli Raz was peering into a narrow hole in the Dead Sea shore when the earth opened up and swallowed him. Fearing he would never be found alive, he scribbled his will on an old postcard.

After 14 hours a search party pulled him from the 10-meter-(30 foot-) deep hole unhurt, and five years later the 69-year-old geologist is working to save others from a similar fate, leading an effort to map the sinkholes that are spreading on the banks of the fabled saltwater lake.

These underground craters can open up in an instant, sucking in whatever lies above and leaving the surrounding area looking like an earthquake zone.

Estimated number of holes? 3,000. Which means, to paraphrase John Lennon, they had to count them all. Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the, er, Dead Sea.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Body of Lies - Movie Review

Did you know that the CIA gathers a lot of its intelligence from unsavory sources? True. Shocking, I know, and this movie tells us so and seems, well, shocked to find out. And that seems to be the whole point of the movie: sometimes our intelligence agencies lie down with dogs and get up with fleas. Leonardo diCaprio comes across as a kid playing a grownup but then he always does to me. A chubby Russell Crowed is less compelling than a husky Russell Crowe. The plot was convoluted enough to lose me at several places but things were tied up tidily at the end. I think. No, they were. Wait. . .

We got this DVD for free from Redbox and it was worth every penny.

Taking of Pelham 123 - Movie Review

Since I've never seen the original, I can only take this movie at face value and, really, that's how all movies should be judged, remake or not. Not a bad thriller - Denzel Washington can do no wrong and John Travolta is odious enough. Tony Scott's kinetic camera work and overbearing soundtrack are distractions rather than enhancements; it's as if he doesn't trust his material to be suspenseful enough. I understand the original is a small, gritty masterpiece but this one comes across as larger than it needs to be. I liked the New York City locations, when the story took us there, so there was that to enjoy. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Why Regulation Won't Work

CPA Monica Lawver makes some good points about regulating motivation. Bottom line: you can't.
We can regulate behavior, but not motivation. We can educate, discuss, persuade, encourage... but when all is said and done, people can only be changed by themselves. . .

* An ethics CPE requirement will not make a person ethical.
* A tax on junk food will not make a person change their lifestyle.
* A financial crisis will not stop people from buying things they can't afford.

But we keep trying, don't we?

Pick for Protocol Post Corrects Failure to File Taxes in 2 Years

Yet another Obama administration official who can't keep their tax obligations straight:
President Obama’s choice as chief of protocol for the State Department, a position that carries the status of an ambassadorship, did not file tax returns for 2005 and 2006, errors she corrected last November.

The nominee, Capricia Penavic Marshall, has placed blame for the problem on the Postal Service and on miscommunication between her husband and their accountant.

Ms. Marshall, who was the social secretary in the Clinton White House, notified the Obama administration about the late filings before she was nominated on May 14. She has since provided written answers to questions about the matter from Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, which will hold a hearing on the appointment next Wednesday. The post requires Senate confirmation.

Her tax troubles aren't that bad; she only failed to file, she didn't just flat out file a false return like the Treasury Department's chief. She was entitled to refunds, she claims, and thus no penalties or interest were due, which would be correct, but then you'll have to take her word on it. The IRS can't confirm or deny without a taxpayer's permission.

Which begs the question: if Marshall was entitled to over $37,000 in refunds, you'd think she would have noticed the returns hadn't been filed a lot earlier than she did. Huh.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bush Speaks

Surprising headline from the Washington Times: Bush Takes Swipes at Obama Policies .

Surprising Bush hardly takes a swipe at anything:
"I know it's going to be the private sector that leads this country out of the current economic times we're in," the former president said to applause from members of a local business group. "You can spend your money better than the government can spend your money."

Repeatedly in his hourlong speech and question-and-answer session, Mr. Bush said he would not directly criticize the new president, who has moved to take over financial institutions and several large corporations. Several times, however, he took direct aim at Obama policies as he defended his own during eight years in office.

The tone remains the same throughout; Bush responds to questions, not criticizing Obama but commenting about policies. Sounded pretty civil.

The headline is also surprising because it comes from the conservative The Washington Times. Maybe they're feeding red meat to its readers but you expect this kind of thing from the New York Times or Washington Post, both of which seem to howl at any kind of criticism of Obama.

How Long Has it Been Since We've Seen a Positive Story on Michelle Obama?

I'd say about 3.5 seconds. Which, if you're an Obama acolyte, as the media are, that's too long. Here's a story to tide you over until the next magazine cover story/fawning profile/television news story comes along:
So far, the first lady has chosen to be a food bank volunteer with an outsize entourage and an education activist with the largest soapbox imaginable. But Michelle Obama also fills a role that is not of her choosing but that may, in fact, be the most influential: She serves as a symbol of middle-class progress, feminist achievement, affirmative-action success and individual style.

And she has done all this on the world stage . . . while being black.

I'll be glad to live in a time when race doesn't matter. Until then, the Washington Post will make sure it does.

Oklahoma City Mystery

With all due respect to the deceased's family, it looks like Oklahoma City has a real Law and Order type mystery playing out:
Investigators identified the man found inside a burning car as a local oil and gas executive. They say they still don’t know the answers to the question friends and neighbors are asking: Why did the man die?

State medical examiner’s office officials said Thursday that dental records were used to identify the body of Tony Viele, 54, of Oklahoma City.

The cause and manner of death had not been determined, officials said.

Fire investigators have not determined whether the car fire, which also spread to the house Viele was renting near the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, was accidental or intentional. But police say foul play is not suspected.

Foul play not suspected. . . yet.

Cue the sardonic quip and Law and Order ka-ching sound.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oklahoma City’s Film Row District’s Redevelopment Takes Shape

During the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area Realtors bus tour June 18, real estate brokers and business owners saw the progress of the historical Film Row District’s renovation in the 700 block of West Sheridan and Lee avenues.

Local designer David Wanzer gave a presentation on the Film Row District in which he discussed the area’s history as a distribution hub for all major Hollywood studios including Columbia, Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, MGM, RKO, United Artists and 20th Century Fox. Area developer Chip Fudge has spearheaded the quest to renovate the area into a mixed-used destination.

Wanzer told the group these are exciting times he says as years of design, planning and now occupancy are coming together. Next, he said, will be the area’s streetscape project.

Said goodbye to Hollywood.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ebert Loses It

As a movie critic, Ebert makes a lousy political pundit. (But not a bad essayist on other subjects, as seen here and here.) When he takes on Bill O'Reilly and his ilk, Ebert is clearly out of his league:
Bill O'Reilly has been brought low by the same process that afflicted Jerry Springer. Once respected journalists, they sold their souls for higher ratings, and follow their siren song. Springer is honest about it: "I'm going to Hell for what I do, and I know it," he's likes to say. O'Reilly insists he is dealing only with the truth. When his guests disagree with him, he shouts at them, calls them liars, talks over them, and behaves like a schoolyard bully.

It pretty much goes on like that from there, with not-quite comparisons to Nazism and such, rhetorical attempts that are far below Ebert.

Ebert's biggest vulnerability: it's clear he doesn't regularly watch O'Reilly's show and didn't listen to O'Reilly's radio program when it was on the air. He peppers his essay with the same old tired references and clips to the occasions when, yes, O'Reilly lost it, but any regular viewer or listener would know those are the exceptions and that even O'Reilly himself pokes fun for those outbursts, though he makes no real apology for him. O'Reilly is O'Reilly so take him or leave him.

Though O'Reilly tends to lean Right, he's really a populist and has no problem at all with government stepping in and taking care of things for "the folks." But there's no one that's even close to him on the Left; the best anyone can come up with that might be O'Reilly's equivalent is Olbermann but watching only a few of Olbermann's shows will tell you Olbermann is just out of his league. There's a reason why O'Reilly regularly trounces his competition in the ratings.

On a drive to Colorado, we listened to O'Reilly's radio show throughout the afternoon as our reception moved from one station to the next. He makes a lot of sense under all of that bluster. Ebert won't be converted but if he did the same thing as we did, really gave O'Reilly a fair shake, Ebert would see how off-base his essay is.

Oklahoma City's Economy Second Strongest in the Nation

We're number two!
A new study by the Brookings Institution reinforces the belief that Oklahoma's economy is one of the country's best at withstanding a recession.

The MetroMonitor report released Wednesday ranked the strongest performing metropolitan areas in the country, and placed Oklahoma City behind only San Antonio. Tulsa was ranked ninth on the list.

The study comes just over a year after Forbes magazine named Oklahoma City the most recession-proof city in the U.S.

I'm finding that to be true with my clients, too. The oilfield related businesses are in a bit of a downturn but they're looking ahead for things to improve. Otherwise, everyone else seems to be doing just fine, thank you very much. Let's hope it stays that way.

Hey, Man, It's Bonnaroo!

For the last two years, while either heading out or coming home, we've run into the Bonnaroo traffic in Tennessee. The long line of VW vans and beat up cars filled with youth and burned out Deadhead types puzzled us at first until we realized what it was all about. The roadblocks on the exits made us laugh - poor festival-goers who insisted on saving a few bucks by bringing their own dope with them rather than scoring on site were paying for their frugality with hassle from the Man, man! Heading out late this year means we missed all the fun.

Looks like they got along just fine without us:
Once the province of jam bands and their second-generation hippie fans, Bonnaroo has evolved into a four-day event that echoes rock's happily chaotic, postcorporate world. Beginning last Thursday on a 700-acre farm here some 65 miles from Nashville, close to 80,000 fans gathered to enjoy all sorts of popular music, ignoring the artificial boundaries of genre in favor of singers who can sing, players who can play and composers who can write and arrange. Recordings are OK, these fans seemed to say, but the proving ground is the stage. Gaggles of blissed-out friends flocked from venue to venue -- eight in all -- seeking a shared experience with musicians and their music. Their code: Make magic or we're gone; there's something happening not too far away. . .

. . .With so many festivals in the U.S. and Canada, musicians are often booked to play the same events. Perhaps a new community is forming. The common link, as displayed at Bonnaroo '09: These performers understand how to capture today's rock audience and have the talent to do so. No wonder the four-day festival seemed such a joyous event.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

GAO: Information Reporting for Charitable Cash Contributions Won't Close Tax Gap

Well, duh:
Individual taxpayers who misreport charitable cash contributions they deduct on their tax returns contribute to the tax gap. ... One approach that tends to result in high levels of taxpayer compliance is information reporting to IRS by third parties on taxpayer transactions. GAO was asked to (1) provide information on characteristics of individual taxpayer misreporting of charitable cash contributions, (2) provide information on actions that IRS takes to address misreporting, and (3) evaluate potential benefits and challenges associated with requiring information reporting for charitable cash contributions. ... In email comments on a draft of this report, IRS agreed with GAO's overall conclusion that requiring information reporting for charitable cash contributions may not be an effective way to improve compliance.

The IRS continues with its bright idea that to close the tax gap, it's better to harass the compliant rather than go after the non-compliant.

Your faith in the IRS continues to grow, doesn't it?

(Via, once again, TaxProf Blog. What would I do without that guy?)

Why Are Tax Forms Blue?

Ever wonder why tax forms are blue? Me neither. But apparently form color is important to the Treasury Department's Inspector General (TIGTA), the branch of the Treasury department whose job it is to worry about such things:
TIGTA also recommended that the IRS seek congressional approval to use additional colors on tax returns and instructions to highlight important warnings and information. Congressional approval would be needed because the IRS used multiple colors on the cover of of its 1995 tax packet and received some negative publicity. After that happened, Congress mandated in the Treasury Department Appropriations Act of 1997 that the IRS could use only two ink colors on tax packages. ...

IRS Bails on Proposal to Tax Employee Cell Phone Use

Good deal:
This month, the IRS asked for comments on ways to simplify compliance with rules related to employer-provided cellular telephones. The current law, which has been on the books for many years, is burdensome, poorly understood by taxpayers, and difficult for the IRS to administer consistently. Some have incorrectly implied that the IRS is "cracking down" on employee use of employer-provided cell phones. To the contrary, the IRS is attempting to simplify the rules and eliminate uncertainty for businesses and individuals.

Although some of the proposed changes would add clarity, the current law will inevitably leave widespread confusion among employees and businesses. Therefore, Secretary Geithner and I ask that Congress act to make clear that there will be no tax consequence to employers or employees for personal use of work-related devices such as cell phones provided by employers. The passage of time, advances in technology, and the nature of communication in the modern workplace have rendered this law obsolete.

This was a disastrous policy from the start. I'm glad the IRS came to its senses.

(Via TaxProf Blog.)

Tracy and Hemingay and San Sebastian, Spain

Speaking of glomming onto the travel pictures of relatives, our niece, Tracy, is traveling in Spain for "school." Yeah, I know. But she's having a grand time and we can only look on in envy.

One of her stops: San Sebastian:

"We have got the loveliest hotel," Mike said. "I think it's a brothel."
"We left our bags here at the Dingo when we got in and they asked us at this hotel if we wanted a room for the afternoon only. Seemed frightfully pleased we were going to stay all night."
"I believe it's a brothel," Mike said. "And I should know."
"Oh, shut it and go and get your hair cut."
Mike went out. Brett and I sat at the bar.
"Have another?
"I needed that," Brett said.
We walked up the Rue Delambre.
"I haven't seen you since I've been back," Brett said.
"How are you, Jake?"
Brett looked at me. "I say," she said, "is Robert Cohn going on this trip?"
"Yes. Why?"
"Don't you think it will be a bit rough on him?"
"Why should it?"
"Who did you think I went down to San Sebastian with?"

Ernest Hemingway, "The Sun Also Rises"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunset in the Florida Keys

Shameless bloggers steal shamelessly for their posts and I'm not exception. My brother, John, posted some pictures from his and his wife, Vicki's, recent trip to the Florida Keys and they're awesome, thanks to Vicki's photographic prowess. So, that means Vicki's sunset picture get's an awesome pictures tag:

The rest of their pictures are pretty awesome, too:

Glad they shared their pictures with me. Glad they had a great time.

Update - corrected the above to show that it was actually Vicki behind the beautiful sunset pictures. She's awesome!

David Letterman Apologizes to Palin Family, Everyone 'Outraged' By Joke

"I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke. I’m sorry about it and I’ll try to do better in the future," Letterman told the studio audience.

Fine. Time to move on.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Up - Movie Review

Ah, now this is how it's done. Pixar does the impossible and tops itself again. Animation that serves to tell a story and is beautiful in itself. I defy you to have dry eyes after the first ten minutes but, don't worry, it's not a downer of a movie. Sweet, nostalgic, sentimental, exciting, moving, and funny. Movies can't aspire to be much more than this one. Do yourself a favor and don't wait to take a kid to see it.

(We didn't see the 3D version so I can't speak to that; the 2D version worked just fine.)

The International - Movie Review

Rented it. Hated it. Anyone want to tell me what it was about? Some kind of banking consortium that finances terrorists and drug dealers and kills anyone who, what, threatens to blow their cover? As if killing anyone who threatens to blow their cover wouldn't blow their cover. Awful writing, awful acting. Good actions scenes but so what? Hey, all thrillers are far-fetched but this was one of the worst. Glad I didn't see it in a theatre.

The IRS Phones Home

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the IRS' plan to tax the private use of work cell phones:
The IRS believes that some percentage of the costs incurred by employees using company-provided wireless devices should count as a "fringe benefit" and thus be subject to taxation. Since workers inevitably end up taking personal calls or emails, the thinking goes, it's only fair that they pay for the privilege. What's next? Maybe a per-cup tax on office coffee, or targeting furtive visits to ESPN or Hulu on the office PC? As one wag put it on the Journal's Web site, "It's like charging for the use of the company washroom."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Real ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ Gravely Ill

Despite the somber news, this is a sweet story:
They were childhood chums. Then they drifted apart, lost touch completely, and only renewed their friendship decades later, when illness struck.

Not so unusual, really.

Except she is Lucy Vodden — the girl who was the inspiration for the Beatles’ 1967 psychedelic classic “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” — and he is Julian Lennon, the musician son of John Lennon.

Turns out, the real Lucy isn't a big fan of the song written about her. Well, that's okay. It wasn't her choice to be written about and she couldn't help being the inspiration for Julian's picture and John's song.

Hey, might as well snatch a picture from the story while I'm there:

Talking with the Tax Man about Poetry

From a review of Billy Collins' Sailing Alone Around the Room:
Billy Collins’ poetry has long been described as “accessible”—a term that has been used as both a compliment and a disparagement. There is no doubt that the simplicity of his language and the applicability of his everyday subject matter make Collins’ poetry interesting and approachable to a wide range of readers. For his devotees, Billy Collins’ brilliance lies in this straightforwardness and its ability to captivate people who are completely unfamiliar with poetry. For his critics, however, his trademark plain language and common themes imply a kind of self-centered superficiality that, while attracting readers, fails in its poetic duty to create new understanding. Good or bad, Collins’ accessibility has brought him commercial success almost unprecedented for a living poet.

See? It's not just me.

(I'm not sure where the "tax man" part of the review's title plays into things but you can see why it caught my eye; it's a perfect fit for this blog, isn't it?)

The IRS Plan to Close the Tax Gap

I mentioned the "tax gap" yesterday so it might be good to tell you a little of what that is. It's the difference between taxes actually paid and taxes that oughtta be paid. I don't know where the number stands but it's huge. Heck, tt's always huge, trust me. If it weren't, the IRS would have no reason to be.

Each year, then, the IRS rolls out its plan to close that gap. Most of the time the plan is a rehash of the plans before it: increase enforcement, upgrade computers, reach out to taxpayers, be kinder and gentler or be more forceful and cruel. It depends on which way the pendulum swings. The IRS take its plans to Congress and Congress funds those plans, giving them little more than the year before, or maybe a little less - it may be an election year, after all - and the IRS goes about its business.

This year, besides the mind-blowing scheme to tax your employer-provided cell phone usage, the IRS has come up what it thinks is another brilliant idea: register all tax preparers.
Internal Revenue Commissioner Doug Shulman announced on June 4, 2009, in congressional testimony before the House Ways and Means Oversight Committee that the Internal Revenue Service plans to make recommendations by the end of the year to ensure that tax preparers adhere to high ethical standards. At the hearing on the tax filing season and 2010 IRS budget, Commissioner Shulman said the IRS has to ensure “all preparers are ethical, provide good service and are qualified.” The announcement follows IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson’s recommendations to Congress over the past several years that a registration program needs to be created for unlicensed tax return preparers.

Yes, that's what the problem is. Unscrupulous tax return preparer's are draining the government's coffers dry. Crack down on them and Congress will be using $100 dollar bills to light cigars.


It's the usual fish-in-a-barrel approach for the IRS. They'd rather spend their resources on taxpayers who are in compliance and picking apart the returns they've voluntarily filed than go after the non-files and cash-only economy that, though expensive to hunt down, would increase the confidence of the public of the mission of the IRS.

The press-release from the OSCPA at the link above makes the argument for me about the tools already in the hands of the IRS to regulate tax return preparers so I won't make them here. Let's just say it's overkill on the IRS' part. A move to seem like they're moving to do something when they aren't. No other agency has the authority it does to regulate, and punish, the advocates that represent customers the IRS serves. And make no mistake, the IRS serves taxpayers and not the other way around.

I'm registered of course - I'm a CPA and before that, I was an Enrolled Agent - but that registration alone doesn't make me a darn good tax return preparer. And I'm scrupulous not because I'm registered, either, but because that's the kind of guy I am and, besides, the market demands it. Most taxpayers seek out good, honest tax return preparers and good, honest tax preparers seek out clients to prepare tax returns for.

Sounds like commerce to me. Nothing wrong with that.

Friday, June 12, 2009

IRS Weighs Rules for Taxing Private Use of Work Cellphones

Great. Another way to close the tax gap:
The use of company-issued mobile phones could trigger new federal income taxes on millions of Americans as a "fringe benefit," spurring efforts by the wireless industry and others to kill the idea.

The Internal Revenue Service proposed employers assign 25% of an employee's annual phone expenses as a taxable benefit. Under that scenario, a worker in the 28% tax bracket, whose wireless device costs the company $1,500 a year, could see $105 in additional federal income tax.

You are keeping a detailed log of your employer-bought cell phone use, aren't you? Thought so.

Long Live the Duke: Thirty Years Since John Wayne's Death

John Wayne passed away thirty years ago and the commemoration of his passing proves he's a uniter, not a divider. Two sites, each from the other end of the political spectrum, give the Duke his due.

First up, NRO's symposium; my favorite is by Michael Long:
John Wayne made entertaining movies. That was the point of his career, the key to his success, and the main reason he is remembered. That he was conservative and a man of character is incidental; a few people go to see a movie for the star or the subject matter, but the mass audiences that create a hit come for the story. John Wayne made sure his movies told interesting stories. Thus the way in for those who believe conservatives are forever shut out of Hollywood: Tell good stories. Make movies people want to see. Inform your work with your conservatism (or whatever is in your personality, because that is what will make your movie unique), but create true entertainment. Preachy pictures generally fail: Witness the dozens of recent anti-war movies with a box-office take less than Michael Moore’s annual budget for exercise clothes. John Wayne was not a conservative entertainer; he was an entertainer who happened to be conservative. Being that is how our side will finally gain traction in Hollywood.

Exactly right. First and foremost, Wayne was an entertainer. The rest is just gravy.

Next up, the great movie critic himself, Roger Ebert:
The first time I saw him, he was striding toward me out of the burning Georgia sun, as helicopters landed behind him. His face was tanned a deep brown. He was wearing a combat helmet, an ammo belt, carrying a rifle, had a canteen on his hip, stood six feet four inches. He stuck out his hand and said, "John Wayne." That was not necessary.

The NRO symposium is more political, of course, because it's a political site which makes Ebert's inevitable foray into politics a little more awkward. Ebert's statement that he believes John Wayne "would have had contempt for the latter-day weirdos of the Right" sounds wore like projection on Ebert's part than anything. Still, it's a fine essay, leavened by bits and pieces from Ebert's earlier interviews and articles about John Wayne, and isn't to be missed.

In reading over these articles, you can't help but realize that no other actor, living or dead, could claim such a long string of classic movies. Were they classic because of John Wayne? Of course! Try to imagine of any of them with a star other than John Wayne in the John Wayne character. See?

If nothing else, John Wayne was an original, an American original, and to dismiss him and the importance of his impact on art is to make a grave mistake.

Daily Dose of Dylan

Got it right here:
"One guy that was at home in the night was Batman. He was introduced in Detective Comics number #27 by Bob Kane. I always loved Batman. The way I looked at it, you had to come from another planet to be Superman, but I could be Batman... and you know I tried."

Let's end this little mini-series of posts with that one, okay? Hope they brought a smile to you like they did to me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Emily Goes To Work

Emily mentioned a few weeks - months? - ago that she'd like to go to work for me in the summer like Rachel did last year. Take it from Rachel, working for your Dad - me - is pretty lame and that's why she's not doing it again this year. So, sure, Emily, come along, I can find you something to do.

Getting up early on a summer day was the first obstacle. Getting through the live-long work day was the next. It was delightful for me, of course, but Emily likely had second thoughts. I started her off with some light filing and then after an appointment and a few things I had to get done, I had her tag along with me on my rounds to the bank and other stops. I got her lunch, brought it back to work, and let her eat at her desk near mine. Then she returned to work, quickly learning how slowly a clock moves when you keep an eye on it. By the end of the day, she was more than ready to head home.

I plan on her coming in once a week this summer. She'll have a little extra spending money and I'll have some one-on-one time with her, something I rarely get these days. She'll think it'll kill her but it won't and between vacation time and her grueling color guard practice in late July, early August, it'll be over before she knows it. She'll be grateful for that; I'm already dreading it.

Krauthammer: How Fox News Opened America

From Charles Krauthammer's acceptance speech for upon receiving the 2009 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism:
In that respect, there should be a special award for Fox News. Fox has done a great service to the American polity -- single-handedly breaking up the intellectual and ideological monopoly that for decades exerted hegemony (to use a favorite lefty cliché) over the broadcast media.

I said some years ago that the genius of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was to have discovered a niche market in American broadcasting -- half the American people. The reason Fox News has thrived and grown is because it offers a vibrant and honest alternative to those who could not abide yet another day of the news delivered to them beneath layer after layer of often undisguised liberalism.

What Fox did is not just create a venue for alternative opinion. It created an alternate reality.

A few years ago, I was on a radio show with a well-known political reporter who lamented the loss of a pristine past in which the whole country could agree on what the facts were, even if they disagreed on how to interpret and act upon them. All that was gone now. The country had become so fractured we couldn't even agree on what reality was. What she meant was that the day in which the front page of The New York Times was given scriptural authority everywhere was gone, shattered by the rise of Fox News.

Rush Limbaugh led the way, of course; he made it possible to succeed, and to succeed wildly, by going against the grain of liberal media. Agree or disagree with either Limbaugh or Fox - and I'd say there's really nothing to disagree with Fox about since, as they say, they're simply bringing you the news in a more fair and balanced way than you're used to - their accomplishments can't be considered anything other than extraordinary. A truly new thing to come upon the media landscape that hadn't been there before.

The Free Wheelin' Bob Dylan

No, not the album; more of his quips from his radio show. Are you tired of them yet? I'm not. But we're getting near the end so hang on. Only a few more to go.

"I ran into Ellen Barkin the other day in Walgreens. I was buying socks. I didn't know what size I was... I was just eyeballing them."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Dose of Bob Dylan

"You know I don't usually like to tell people what I'm doing, but I am talking to a couple of car companies about possibly being the voice of their GPS system. I think it would be good if you're looking for directions and you heard my voice saying something like: 'Take a left at the next street... no, a right... you know what - just go straight.' I probably shouldn't do it because whichever way I go I always end up at the same place - on Lonely Avenue"

Ha ha. Lonely Avenue. We all know where that is, don't we?

The Man Who Cried Doom

Michael Goldfarb takes down James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and doomsayer:
. . .Hansen has never parroted the company line. As the head of NASA's Weather and Climate Research Program from 1982 to 1994, John Theon was James Hansen's supervisor. Theon says that Hansen's testimony in 1988 was "a huge embarrassment" to NASA, and he remains skeptical of Hansen's predictions. "I don't have much faith in the models," Theon says, pointing to the "huge uncertainty in the role clouds play." Theon describes Hansen as a "nice, likeable fellow," but worries "he's been overcome by his belief--almost religious--that he's going to save the world."

William Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, also describes Hansen's belief in a man-made global-warming catastrophe as "almost religious" and says he "never understood how [Hansen] got such a strong voice" in the debate. Gray's efforts to predict hurricanes also lead him to question Hansen's computer models. "He doesn't have the clouds in right, and he doesn't have the deep ocean circulation," Gray says. "It's a giant scam in my view."

There's still much to be said about climate change, especially if it's man-made and what exactly can be done about it, but it's interesting to see there are more stories coming out that are beginning to cast a skeptical eye on the entire climate change-government complex.

Lambert Gay? Shocking!

No, I'm not really shocked; no one should be:
“American Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert has landed the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, where he talks about sex, drugs and his “Idol” experiences.

The 27-year-old singer from San Diego acknowledges in an interview that he’s gay, and says it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

“I’m proud of my sexuality,” he says. “I embrace it. It’s just another part of me.”

Interestingly enough, should Lambert's star begin to fall - and no doubt it will, in the world of fickle fame - it may not be due to his being gay but his otherwise less than wholesome image presented in this article. Sure, he's playing up to Rolling Stone's audience, and most of his mainstream fans may not read the magazine, but he was able to garner a lot of support from Middle America. Some of the others thing he has to say may be the actual turnoff.

As for me, my job is clear: go to every newsstand and remove the Rolling Stone issue with this news, to keep it from Emily. She refuses to believe it.

Beacon Awards Honor Oklahoma Businesses

Though it's a waste of time - links to Journal Record articles become broken over time as the Journal Record places them behind a pay-to-view wall, I'll go ahead and link to this article about the Beacon Awards:
The Journal Record next month at its second Beacon Awards event will honor 26 businesses and organizations for their contributions to the nonprofit community.

Four Beacon Award recipients will be selected from the group as the overall winners and announced at the July 9 event in downtown Oklahoma City. Organizations will be recognized in large and small/midsized divisions for their contributions to the nonprofit community. The large business subcategory represents those with more than 100 employees while the small/midsized businesses have fewer than 100 employees.

The companies:

Large business finalists:
• American Fidelity Assurance Co., Oklahoma City.
• Arvest Bank, Tulsa.
• Bank of Oklahoma NA, Tulsa.
• Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Tulsa.
• Chesapeake Energy Corp., Oklahoma City.
• Dean McGee Eye Institute, Oklahoma City.
• Devon Energy Corp., Oklahoma City.
• Diagnostic Lab of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City.
• Francis Tuttle Technology Center, Oklahoma City
• Frankfurt Short Bruza, Oklahoma City.
• Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, Oklahoma City.
• McAfee & Taft, Oklahoma City.
• MidFirst Bank, Oklahoma City.
• Norman Regional Health System, Norman.
• Oklahoma City Thunder, Oklahoma City.
• Public Service Company of Oklahoma, Tulsa.

Small/midsized business finalists:
• Element Fusion LLC, Oklahoma City.
• The Persimmon Group, Tulsa.
• Principal Technologies, Oklahoma City.
• Saxum|PR, Oklahoma City.
• Scott Sabolich Prosthetics & Research, Oklahoma City.
• Ted Withrow State Farm Insurance, Bethany.
• Third Degree Advertising, Oklahoma City.

In these tough economic times, charitable giving is hard to do. I know my non-profit clients appreciate the efforts of their corporate sponsors. So kudos to the above.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sailing, Sailing

I've got a tag called "Awesome Pictures" so I might as well use it:

Good Economic News - Banks Repaying Government Funds

Well, this is good, isn't it?
The Treasury Department will allow 10 banks to pay back Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

JPMorgan Chase, whose CEO called the money a "scarlet letter," referring to the public backlash and federal scrutiny that came with it, is one of the banks, the news agency said, citing an anonymous source.

Banks have been eager to pay back bailout money almost since the moment they first accepted it. Now the government is deciding which banks can return the cash -- at the risk of setting up a system of winners and losers.

Odd that banks must first be granted permission before they can repay the funds. Or maybe it isn't odd at all. Maybe it's the cost of going into business with government. Kinda like doing business with the Mafia. Once you're in, you're in, and there's no getting out.

Veteran L.A. Detective Charged with Murder

Michael Connelly's next novel:
A veteran detective was charged with murder Monday in the slaying of her ex-boyfriend's wife in 1986 — a crime that went unsolved for more than two decades as she rose through the Los Angeles Police Department ranks.

Detective Stephanie Lazarus, 49, could be sentenced to death if convicted of breaking into the victim's condominium on Feb. 24, 1986, and repeatedly biting, beating and shooting the woman.

Lazarus, who joined the force in 1983, was identified as a suspect through a recent DNA match of saliva taken from bite marks on Sherri Rasmussen's body, said Deputy Chief Charlie Beck.

More Bob Dylan Wit and Wisdom

Don't worry, I'll run out of these soon:

I've always believed one's ju-ju is self-contained. Meaning, if you think you're going to lose it, you very well might. The guys in Radiohead think they might lose their ju-ju if they left [their hometown] Oxford, and so they would. But if you think your ju-ju is secure, that you carry it with you wherever you go, you're free to wander the world. Me? I keep my ju-ju in a jar. So no matter where I go, I can always come back to it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Defiance - Movie Review

A good enough World War II action piece about a little known group of Jews hiding from the Nazis in Belarussia who manage to fight back. Interesting story intercut with action scenes but you never get a real sense of suffering the characters must've really gone through - they live in the forest for two years, making their own shelters and foraging for food and though they look a little grimy at the movie's end, you still have the sense that these are Hollywood actors playing make-believe at camp. I mean, they still have straight, white teeth and though they're wearing the same clothes, they're no more ragged or soiled than when the movie started. It's distracting and takes you out of the story. The forest is lovely, though, and well-photographed and the action scenes, while breaking no new ground, are thrilling.

A Redbox rental so certainly worth a buck.

IRS Files Notice of $800k Tax Lien Against John Kerry's 2004 Campaign

The IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien against John Kerry's 2004 campaign:
The IRS has filed notice of a $819,848 federal tax lien against Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign for failure to file payroll tax forms, but Kerry on Wednesday blamed an IRS clerical error. Tax Analysts reports that Sen. Kerry released documentation from the Paychex payroll service claiming that the tax forms were properly filed in January 2005 and then twice in 2008 after the IRS assessed the penalties for failure to file the forms.

Quick observations:

1.) The PDF version of the document is no longer online but when I first read this story I saw it's actually for an IRC 6721 penalty. That's for failure to timely file W-2s. At $819,848, that's a lot of unfiled W-2s, even when you factor in interest. That's a huge clerical error.

2.) As a clerical error, the matter could have been easily resolved. As the campaign states, they tried to correct this in 2008. The problem: that was after they were assessed the penalties. The problem with that: the IRS only assesses penalties after giving you the chance to clear up the matter.

3.) Even if the matter is cleared up, the IRS can still assess the penalty. A high profile case like this means the IRS probably looked at their reasons for late filing with a highly skeptical eye and refused any request of waiver. If they'd gone to Appeals, they might've had the matter resolved there. Maybe they did and the IRS stuck to their guns.

4.) If number 3 played out, the campaign could still go to Tax Court and resolve the matter. A negotiated settlement might've resulted but, again, the high profile of the campaign could have put a monkey-wrench in that. The IRS wouldn't likely pass up a good example of what they can do. Still, the campaign should have fought this tooth-and-nail.

5.) Finally, no matter what the campaign did to resolve this, they eventually lost and would have received an assessment notice. And two more notices afterward before the Notice was filed. Ample opportunity to get this paid and avoid the Notice.

6.) Which is all to say that it's a good thing we didn't elect John Kerry. If he couldn't get his campaign to take care of this problem, imagine how he would have run the country.

The Only Statue That Is Smiling

Noonan on the dedication of the Ronald Reagan statue at the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol:
"You are there." The rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, that great, sandstone-walled, light-filled hall ringed with statues of the great of American history—Jefferson, Washington, proud Andrew Jackson in his flowing cape, Eisenhower, U.S. Grant, his eyes surveying the terrain as if he sees something out there in the wilderness. It's 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 3, 2009, and Ronald Reagan marches in, surrounded by his peers. Actually his newly installed statue is unveiled there, in a ceremony attended by officials of both parties (including the speaker of the House and the leaders of the minority), his wife, Nancy, and a few hundred of his friends, appointees, staffers and cabinet members. It was standing room only.

The mood: mellow, proud and modest with the increased modesty of age. "How lucky was I to walk into history when Ronald Reagan was in the room?" The speeches ranged from the heartfelt to the appropriate, with two (James Baker and Mrs. Reagan) being outstanding. It is usual, after formal ceremonies with their frozen rhetoric, to come away feeling that no cliché was left untouched. In some cases here they were quite thoroughly molested, but no matter. The general feeling was that Ronald Reagan restored America to itself, and that's what people more or less said.

Noonan's never better than when she's writing about Reagan, her hero.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Turns out, lard's not so bad for you:
Wait long enough and everything bad for you is good again. Sugar? Naturally better than high-fructose corn syrup. Chocolate? A bar a day keeps the doctor away. Caffeine? Bring it on.

Lard, however, has always been a ridiculously hard sell. Over at least the last 15 years, it's repeatedly been given a clean bill of health, and good cooks regularly point out how superior this totally natural fat is for frying and pastries. But that hasn't been enough to keep Americans from recoiling—lard's negative connotations of flowing flesh and vats of grease and epithets like lardass and tub of lard have been absurd hurdles. But no longer. I'm convinced that the redemption of lard is finally at hand because we live in a world where trendiness is next to godliness. And lard hits all the right notes, especially if you euphemize it as rendered pork fat—bacon butter.

As with all foods, most are fine in moderation. A little lard won't kill you; slathering on your food for every meal every day will, but then so will a lot of things.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Weather

Wasn't I talking about the weather just the other day?

No sooner than I talk about the blessings of the fine weather we've been having when a nice summer storm came rolling through Tuesday night. Rachel came home from her summer night wanderings soaking wet and that was just from dashing from the driveway to the garage. Nice lightning and rolling thunder, no threat of tornadoes. Next morning, Wednesday, light rain and low clouds and cool. A perfect day for staying in and looking outside and maybe sneaking in a nap.

Exactly two years ago, while we were on vacation, it rained for two weeks straight. We sweated things as we read about it in the news - we'd had a small leak in the roof and my temporary fix was to put a bucket under the source in the attic until we could get it repaired. Upon arrival home, we were relieved to find it only half full. But it just shows you, rainy days are still possible in June in Oklahoma. There are blessings to be had every day.

A Room With a View

Gaze upon the view from Instapundit's window and know envy:

(He's on vacation so don't get the idea he gets to see this every day. Still, it'd be nice, wouldn't it?)

Inspired, here's Ann Althouse's response:

(Althouse is guest-blogging at Instapundit so the joke makes more sense in context.)

A great idea for a post. I'll try to update later with a view of my own.


Here's a view from my room:

Note to self: Do all you can to get yourself to a place to have a view from your room like the Instapundit's.

You're Spending Twice as Much Time on Facebook

Is social media a fad? Probably so. But for now, social media is enjoying explosive growth:
Spending more time on social networks and blogs? You're not alone, with the latest figures showing the number of minutes spent on social networking sites in the United States has almost doubled over the past year.

Nielsen Online, which measures Web traffic, said the number of minutes on social networks in the United States rose 83 percent in April from the same month a year ago, but found users were quick to move on and sites could quickly fall from favor.

Nielsen Online spokesman Jon Gibs said a major trend had been the continuing popularity of Facebook, which has more than 200 million active members and has become so mainstream it now hosts Pope Benedict and a list of world leaders.

Ha! The Pope!

Surprisingly, Facebook exceeds MySpace in popularity; I thought it'd be the other way around but then what do I know? I'm not on either. This site and Twitter is about all I have time for.

It's an interesting time we live in. We have communication tools available to us that no one else in human history quite had. And though many see social media as a huge time waster, it's good to see people are using it to stay connected. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction and socialization - we are social animals, after all - but when that's not available, any of the various social media seems to work just fine.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dylan's Profoundness

From The Best Of Theme Time Radio Hour, here's Bob Dylan on websites with strange names:
Look who created these. A lot of those computer guys used to be hippies. Though to be fair they aren't totally hippies. Because if they were totally hippies we'd be going on websites with names like Tapioca Sunshine... wait a second... that's not a bad idea for a name. While I'm playing this next song, I'm going to go and see how my bid is doing. I'm trying to get a thermos on eBay.

Plenty more of Bob at the link.

Mel Gibson: Wild Man

Is Mel Gibson perfect? Hardly. So why the hate?
I’ve never been the type to throw things at the television screen out of anger. But I’ll admit I did shout something nasty at my TV when I caught Mel Gibson yukking it up with Jay Leno and calling himself “Octo-Mel” since his pregnant girlfriend is carrying his eighth child.

My anger, of course, was directed at Gibson’s hypocrisy. Not so long ago, Gibson was the world’s best-known Traditionalist Catholic, talking about his preference for the old-style teachings of Vatican I (no divorce, no Russian girlfriends while still married). These days, he’s not yet divorced and living the kind of life he preached against. What’s worse is that Gibson seems unrepentant, to use church lingo. Even publicity mongers Jon and Kate Gosselin seemed more chastened when confronted with their alleged indiscretions. And that’s saying something.

I'm not here to defend Gibson; his behavior was inexcusable but then he's apologized for his earlier mis-deeds and has come across as genuinely repentant so what else do you want? His latest foibles - an extra-marital affair, an extra-marital fathering - are undeniably unacceptable but we haven't heard the whole story yet. Not that I believe he'll come up with something to justify his behavior but I do think he probably understands what he's done and will try to make amends for it. As a Christian, he knows he's not perfect.

I have no idea of the faith of the linked-to-article's writer but what I think really gets under his skin is Gibson's Christian faith. Except for Gibson's opposition to Vatican II, the writer never makes a direct link to Gibson's finger-wagging-at-others-but-not-himself kind of hypocrisy. Add to this, Gibson has committed the sin of making a successful film about the root of his faith. How terrible. (Gibson's a mad-talented film-maker, by the way. Don't think so after The Passion of The Christ? Take a look at Apocalypto and tell me what you think. Yeah.) No, it seems Christians fall harder than anyone in the world of celebrities. Profess no faith and, well, your transgressions are shrugged off.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer's With Us

Summer's not here yet, according to the calendar, but weather-wise, we'd do no harm if we all got together agreed it's arrived. Warm, but not unbearably so, with some threat of rain today. Haven't had rain for about a week or so and before that we'd had a good, steady supply. The rain is bound to trail off, as the season dictates it should, but for now we're enjoying a world of green. Get back to us in about six weeks and everything will change.

Twittering and Conservatism

Mary Katherin Hamm observes that Twittering, and other forms of social media, is conservative behavior:
In a way it's a quintessentially conservative formula: The extent to which you take personal responsibility for your actions dictates the risks and benefits of your online existence.

A lot of people who overshare their lives online learn the painful lesson that their actions have consequences. Better to share less, or just plain behave, than have the world learn all about your strange peccadilloes. Social media, though still in its early stages, may be the very mechanism that leads us to a more civil society.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Accounting and "Prelude" by Mark Helprin

The other day I posted some lines about accounting from The Bridge on The River Kwai and since I've also carried on about the beauty of Mark Helprin's prose, it seems only fair that I should post a paragraph by Helprin from his short story, "Prelude," about a task that, while not strictly having to do with accounting, seems an awful lot like it:

I work for United States Steel, at a steel desk. For the past six months I have been transferring data from tens of thousands of index cards to thick fifty-column ledgers. Someday they will have machines to do this, but now I am the machine that organizes the health records of a rolling mill in Ohio. For reasons that it did not share with me, the management has decreed that they be abstracted in a particular form. It is no secret that in tabularization and cross-tabularization many statistical operations are rendered possible, and although after my first day here in January I was bold enough to suggest that instead of using ledgers they put the data on punch cards for key-sorting, they, or rather, he Mr. herman Bleier, had not heard of key-sort, and Mr Herman Bleier said to me, "Ledgers will do."

Angels and Demons - Movie Review

The latest Dan Brown adaptation had less controversy about it than The DaVinci Code but, oddly enough, Angels and Demons is the better of the two. While both were chock-ful of eye-candy scenery - aside from the preposterous plots - Angels and Demons had the more conventional, and thus, less convoluted, plot of running against time to stop the deaths of many. Sure, Hanks had little to do other than run from one location to the next and spout off plot points, and his co-star had even littler to do than listen to Hanks spout off, but so what? It was an enjoyable ride for the most part, with little to offend if you didn't take things seriously - and I didn't - and a perfectly good way to spend a beautiful summer day indoors.

GOP Takes Aim at Barack and Michelle Obama's NYC Trip

This isn't wise:
The Republican National Committee slammed the outing in an "RNC Research Piece": "As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills. ... Have a great Saturday evening – even if you’re not jetting off somewhere at taxpayer expense. ... PUTTING ON A SHOW: Obamas Wing Into The City For An Evening Out While Another Iconic American Company Prepares For Bankruptcy."

The RNC's Gail Gitcho added: "If President Obama wants to go to the theater, isn’t the Presidential box at the Kennedy Center good enough?”

Best to leave the criticism to the press. I know, I know, that ain't gonna happen, but for the Republican party to harp about makes the Republicans look like a bunch of scolds. Obama was wrong to criticize CEOs of companies receiving bailout money to take long-ago planned trips to Vegas and the like - whether those kinds of meetings can be profitable is the subject for another post but I'd be among those to defend them, or at least allow them and let stock holders decide if they should be allowed, not politicians - and it's wrong to criticize the President for trips like this.

The President likely has to shell out of his own pocket the expense for the tickets and dinner - if they weren't donated, and if they were, they'd have to be tallied and disclosed - while the rest of the expense of the trip was, yes, picked up by the taxpayer but then that's what happens any time a President goes anywhere or does anything. That's not unheard of. I had no problem with President Bush vacationing at this home in Crawford; I have no real problem with President Obama taking a day or two off to go to NYC.

Besides, there are real issues to criticize the President about. This isn't one of them.