I'm evil?

I'm worried I might be evil.  Not evil in a Beelzebub, demon-spawn kind of way, but "evil" in a wicked sort of waked.  No, not wicked in a Laman and Lemuel hit-your-brother-with-a-rod sort of way ... but I digress.

Last night I was woken to strange sounds and what appeared to be some sort of disco a few houses down.  I thought maybe it was a holiday lighting experiment gone awry, but when I look out the front door, I could see a huge firetruck blocking the street.  This morning, I came to find out that the neighbors had a fire in the basement.  Fortunately, other than some smoke inhalation by the one person who was home, everything was okay.  Driving by today, there's no visible evidence that there was a fire.

I texted my sister and troll in residence about what had happened.  She replied: "Oh dear!  Should we do something neighborly?"

My response: "Like what?  Get them a smoke detector?"

See, that's what I mean by wicked.  That's the kind of response that would make my dad roll his eyes say my name, but draw it out into two long, disapproving, syllables, "Joo-ohhn", while rolling his eyes.

So sorry world, for being wicked.  I'll try to behave.


Welcome to 2013.  Or, "year++;" in programmer speak.

2012 was a big year, and it went by so fast.  This time last year, my grandpa passed away.  He's had a whole year of harassing grandma from beyond the grave.  Grandma has had a whole year of torturing the nursing home staff without him.  Pretty rough deal for the nursing home staff, if you ask me.  For, as old and decrepit as grandpa was, he made you laugh and kept you sharp.  We all knew he was going to leave us, but it's still hard that he's gone.  The Utes had a horrible season, so if he had not passed, that probably would've killed him.

In March, nephew number three was born (number two for Bryan and Kelly). In contrast to most babies, he was pretty cute from the get go.  Carries after his uncle, I guess.  At his blessing, Jodi/Scott/Max visited us on their cross country move from Hawaii to DC.  It was bittersweet for all of us.  I will miss having free board in a tropical paradise, but airfare to DC is a helluva lot cheaper.

In June I headed to Europe for the first time.  I spent three weeks in Norway for work and then 10 days in Switzerland on vacation.  It was epic.  Fjords and alps and fancy cheeses and reindeer stew.  Look it up on Facebook.  I posted a lot of pictures to make people jealous.

I ended up being out of the country for more than a month. In that time, Staci (the littlest sister) took up residence in the basement while she studied for the bar. Thankfully, she did not go all "A Beautiful Mind" on us, and I returned to a house in pristine condition and a manicured garden full of fruits and vegetables that we didn't really want to eat.

Only one problem with Europe, though.  I had hurt my back somehow. It might have been the accidental off-roading in Norway, or perhaps 14 hours in a plane, but I completely herniated the lowermost disk in my back.  And it hurt(s) like hell.  It has pretty much dominated the second half of the year.  I've been on a reduce work schedule, with bi or tri-weekly physical therapy appointments, as well as the insertion of really long needles into my lower back/upper ass region.  The injections were my gift to myself for my 33rd birthday.  I'm so generous.

In a move of sheer lunacy, I went on another transcontinental work trip at the end of October.  The timing was serendipitous since I really couldn't come up with a good Halloween costume.  Turkey was also a real experience. In contrast to Norway and Switzerland, it's not really a place I'd want to live, but I do want to go back for some actual vacation.  Truth be told, I shouldn't have gone, but I was jonesing to get away again.  I guess I developed a bit of wanderlust.

But, coming back, I had pretty much completely undid all the progress on my lower back.  So, I decided to take it easy for the foreseeable future.  In November, the family descended on my house for Thanksgiving.  And, I have to say, I make a hell of a turkey.  (Brining, people, is key.)  I truly enjoyed have a houseful of people for a while, and all the cooking and household chores seemed to work wonders on my back, too.

Then, December came, and tragedy struck our extended family.  My cousin's 12 year old step-son, CJ, was killed in a car accident on December 13th.  I celebrated Christmas in Idaho Falls like always, with nephews and itinerate dogs, but then the family reconvened much like we had a year earlier for Grandpa. My house was full again for a few days, and it was sad sometimes.  It was at that point I, I realized that 2012, like most years, was really the year of the family.  Between Grandpa dying, Ethan being born, Jodi/Scott/Max moving back to DC from Hawaii, and Thanksgiving-fest at my house, I probably spent more time with my family than I had since I was still in high school.  Having Staci move back in and help out with my back was probably the best thing to happen to me, since, I don't know, the invention of the NSAID.

2012 was a rough year for world and much of the country:  Libya, Syria, Egypt, mass shootings, un-ending presidential primaries, fiscal cliffs, debt ceilings, and an unending presidential election that left 50% of us unhappy and the other 50% smug and condescending (yeah, I'm the latter group...sorry.)  I'm sorry for getting all Grey's Anatomy voice-over on you, but my family made 2012 a good year, regardless of everything else.


Battle Enjoined

Go ahead and google "enjoin", you know you want to.

Sorry it's been so long. I recently traveled to California with my dad, who said, "You need to write a blog.  But not about taxes.  I'm tired of those."  It was then I realized that my last three posts were about taxes.  My opinion on the matter hasn't changed, but I realize that you all don't care.

So here's something new and interesting.  My house is under siege from wasps.  (Well, probably they're wasps.  I honestly don't know.  I haven't gotten close enough to ID them.)  On the corner of my house they've been trying to build a little paper nest thingy.  I first noticed them when I got back from said California trip.  Right there, under the corner of the house by the garage, where I keep my garbage cans. 

In contrast to my tax policies, I'm very lassez-faire when it comes to insects.  They can do what they want, as long as they do it outside and don't eat my food.  Stay outside, and I generally will not stomp, spray, swat or otherwise harass you.  (My policy for home teachers and solicitors also.)  These bugs, however, are intent on breaking the peace.  My first day back, I go to throw something away.  Right as I lift the lid, I notice the nest and a few dark specks dart towards me.  I immediately run backwards and do that crazy arm waving jig characteristic of suburban white guys and Justin Bieber fans. 

The sight of this flailing white monster must have frightened them, since one dove right in and stung me right on the arch of my eyebrow.  It immediately swelled and got stiff.  Fortunately, I have pretty bushy, almost Muppet-like eyebrows, so instead of having to explain a big red zit looking thing, I just walked around looking very perplexed for about a day.

It was that sting ended the peace.  I broke out my reserve of spray, doused the monsters from a good 10 feet, and watched with a certain grim glee as they perished.  I also went inside to research wasp killing techniques.  These mostly consisted of people using lighters and hairspray to flambe' the insects.  But, as much as I would have enjoyed making wasps foster, I also didn't want to burn down my house.  So, I left the spray to do it's work.  Kill the nest, and the wasps will flee, right?

The next day, though, the wasps were back.  This time it became apparent they were climbing under the siding -- doing who knows what under the skin of my house in a clear violation of our accord.  So, more spray.  And then a different spray.  And then a powder.   And then a high pressure water/soap spray.  It's been a few weeks, and the body count is steadily rising, but they don't seem to be giving up.  And, I have to do battle at night, since they're disturbingly active during the day.

Internet research hasn't been that helpful.  All it's really led me to the Japanese wasp, which is something like 3 inches long and attacks beehives.  EEK!  The only thing I really have going for me is that eventually it's going to freeze and they're going to turn into wasp-cicles.


Another thought on taxes...

The rallying cry of most conservatives these days is that we don't want to raise taxes on the "job creators".  I mean, that was the point of Bush tax cuts right?  But where are the jobs, then?

I actually think we have our logic wrong.  We assume that lowering taxes on the wealthy will spur economic development because the wealthy then have extra income to invest in the economy, either by buying goods and services, or by growing the businesses that made them wealthy in the first place.  But, everything that's happened in the last decade makes me think this doesn't actually work.

I don't know where the tax break money is going.  I suspect it's going to Wall Street -- my irritation with which is it's own post entirely.  What we can say, however, that the tax break money isn't building roads or paying soldier salaries.

So, let's consider the alternative for a moment, which is higher taxes on the wealthy; something more in line with what we had in the 80s and 90s.  If I'm wealthy, and I know that I'm going to lose a portion of my  income every year in taxes, how am I going to protect my wealth?  I'm probably going to do the typical things, like look for tax shelter and loopholes, but isn't one of the best ways to perpetuate my wealth to re-invest in my own company?  If my business is bigger next year than it was last year, isn't that the best way to ensure my continued wealth?  Re-investment is probably one of the biggest and most effective tax breaks of all.  Giving an actual tax break really just creates more disposable income.  Which, in the hands of someone who already has all their needs met, provides little ancillary benefit.

I don't know, maybe I'm out there.  Kinda makes sense to me though.  And I actually found out that there are groups of the wealthy that feel the same way:

"Our country faces a choice – we can pay our debts and build for the future, or we can shirk our financial responsibilities and cripple our nation’s potential.

Our country has been good to us. It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have.

Please do the right thing for our country. Raise our taxes."



If I were in charge

If I were charge, I would raise taxes.  And yes, primarily on the wealthy.  The fact is that we enjoy an amazing amount of freedom in the US, and that simply doesn't come cheap.  The wealthier you are, the more you benefit from living here.  Don't get me wrong, I think we should also cut spending, but the reality is that both the marginal and actual tax rates are crazy low.  So low, in fact, that we're heading down the same path as countries like Spain, Portugal, and Greece.  If that's not a wake up call, I don't know what is. 

The one thing the charts below don't show is that some 50% of Americans don't pay any taxes.  At all.  I also think that's unacceptable.  Everyone should have to pay something, even if it's just a little tiny bit -- a symbolic amount.