Many crappy returns

I spent roughly three hours on my 2010 tax return, a period which strikes me as about two hours, fifty minutes too long, without even taking into consideration the unfortunate result of so doing (hint: it involved writing a large check). This is the sort of thing I would happily outsource, were it not for the expense, so I’m maybe giving this idea more consideration than I ought to:

It’s not like we aren’t already basically ruled by the IRS and all the other non-voted-in, non-destructible (apparently) federal bureaucracies. Why should we the people do what is basically unpaid work for the IRS? Let them hire a bunch of accountants to do everyone’s taxes for them (more jobs!), except for those people who opt to do it themselves. I know it would save a lot of people a lot of grief, because of the psychological fact that no one misses money they personally don’t see taken from them. (Or if they get money back, they are happy because they won’t have had to fill out a bunch of forms. It’s like prize money! And it will make the government more popular — who doesn’t like someone who gives you “free” money?)

The downside, of course, is the possibility of making the government “more popular,” which runs counter to the idea that we might actually want to rid ourselves of these non-voted-in, non-destructible bureaucracies. And I suspect that even with someone else doing the pencil work, I’d still have had to write that large a check.

Of course, my idea of a proper tax system puts us all circling a virtual Monopoly board, and four spaces past Go — four months past New Year’s? — we have to pay up either 10% or $200.

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Commemorative PL8S

As a rule, I put my cell phone out of reach before setting off down the road; I can’t imagine anything being so important that I have to pick it up while I’m driving. This has probably bought me a couple of Brownie points from the Safety Gods, but at a cost: I missed getting photos of two of the more inspiring license plates I caught this weekend.

The first was 750XTC, seen on a BMW 750iL. As I understand the rules, you can’t request a vanity tag that conforms to the standard three-number, three-letter pattern in this state. On the other hand, the previous pattern was three letters/three numbers, and since I am no expert on 7-series Bimmers and couldn’t tell you how old this one was, I have to conclude that (1) the owner reserved this tag back before the pattern changed and/or (2) the owner is a tag agent or someone else with some pull at the Tax Commission.

The next one, though, was on a car whose age was obvious, since they only made them for a short period of time: a De Lorean DMC-12, the vast majority of which are 1981 models and therefore thirty years old. Had it traveled here from some faraway point on the timeline? Probably not: the tag read FLUXOFF. I interpret that to mean that the flux capacitor was not active, although I concede that the owner may have had, um, something else in mind.

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No honor among drug dealers

Or maybe this is just a case of being unclear on the concept. Your call:

Police arrested a 41-year-old man last week after he called 911 and told officers that he was not given the correct change after buying crack cocaine from a drug dealer.

And it’s not like he could report the dealer to the Better Business Bureau, I suppose.

[Dexter] White called authorities and told officers that he had given $60 to a drug dealer for crack and only got back $20 worth of drugs. White said the drug dealer refused to give him $40 back.

According to a police report, White then walked away from the drug dealer, smoked the crack he purchased and then called 911.

This probably went over well at the police station: “This guy says he was shortchanged by a drug dealer.” “Are you defecating¹ me? Was he smoking crack or something?”

¹ Not intended to be an exact transcript.

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Weekend edition, so to speak

Back on Tuesday, I put up a photo of María Celeste Arrarás, current host of Telemundo’s Al Rojo Vivo. It did not occur to me at the time that Al Rojo Vivo, like many news-ish programs, had once had a weekend version, which was titled Al Rojo Vivo: Fin de Semana con Candela Ferro.

“Fin de semana,” of course, means “end of the week.” And who is Candela Ferro? This is Candela Ferro:

Candela Ferro

Ferro, thirty-seven, is between gigs, as they say — I didn’t see any references to current work on her Web site — but I’m willing to bet she’s a long way from being washed up.

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Severe drought

Memphis, at the moment, is beset by rising waters, no thanks to the Mississippi River, which has been having a bit of a problem keeping within its banks lately. On the other hand, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in town for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, found themselves thirsty for points in the fourth quarter: in 11:56, they scored all of ten points on 4-18 shooting — that’s 22.2 percent, kids — as what had once been a double-digit lead turned into a tie at 86-all. Zack Randolph got the last shot, but he didn’t get it to go, and the game went into overtime.

And did OKC recover from this dearth of scoring? They did not. Overtime was half gone before their first bucket — by Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins having just fouled out — and they’d make only two more in the game. Memphis 101, OKC 93, and the Griz are up 2-1. Not what anyone expected seventeen minutes before, with the Thunder up by thirteen.

So what happened in that fourth quarter? Failure to make shots, obviously, though the Grizzlies’ defense deserves much of the credit for that; Tony Allen stuck to Kevin Durant like one of those dollar-store mouse traps. Perhaps more important, Memphis drew fouls all over the place: they put up 44 free throws and made thirty. Not a great percentage, but the Thunder, which specializes in drawing fouls, went 21-23: great percentage, but nine fewer points. Neither team shot particularly well, though OKC was a hair worse: 36.6 percent. (Only one player of the twenty who played hit more than 50 percent: Memphis guard Mike Conley, who went 8-15.) The Griz won the battle of the boards, 55-53.

Weirdly, the Forum was littered with double-doubles. Russell Westbrook had 23 points and 12 assists before fouling out; Durant managed 22 points and 12 rebounds; but you want spectacular, you go to Z-Bo, who had 21 points and 21 boards.

And let’s not characterize the Grizzlies as some sort of Cinderella team. Those aren’t glass slippers they’re using to stomp the opposition. If they win this series, I expect them to dispose handily of the Mavericks and go right into the Finals.

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And the grass won’t pay no mind

Rainfall in these parts, since the first of the year, is running at about one-third of normal: yes, we had 19 inches of snow in February, but its actual moisture content apparently was somewhere around what you’d get from a box of moon rocks. This has had the expected effect on the lawn: the actual grass is still more or less dormant, but the weedier sections — and wouldn’t it be nice if they were actual sections instead of random outcroppings? — have more or less flourished.

So I hadn’t brought out the mower until yesterday evening. Part of that was good old fear: my knees have been most unkind to me this year, and doing the entire lawn involves a walk of a bit over a mile, plus several jumps to avoid a hundred-foot extension cord and, inevitably, a trip or two over something I didn’t see. I vowed, for this first attempt, to do just the weedier zones, which means the west side of the front yard and the east side of the back, and to do no more than half an hour’s work. I did trip once, and it wasn’t fun, but I wasn’t in any particular pain after 35 minutes or so, which should alleviate at least some of that anxiety. Downside: the conditions prevailing yesterday between 5 and 6 pm — middle 80s, 30-percent humidity — are not likely to recur in, say, mid-July.

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A double-edged quandary

Consumer Reports showed up yesterday, and one of the smaller articles had to do with women’s razors, which are apparently exhibiting the same sort of multiple-blade madness that men — other than yours truly, anyway — presumably enjoy. (I have stuck stubbornly to a twin-blade setup all these years, except for a brief period when I regressed to a single blade.) The progress, if progress it be:

  • Gillette bolts three blades into the Venus;
  • Schick responds with a feminine variation on the four-blade Quattro theme;
  • Gillette upgrades Venus to “Embrace” with five blades.

The leading-edge technology, for the moment, comes from Korea and is sold by places like CVS; it has six blades. Target.com has a six-bladed razor with its own built-in supply of shaving cream, be nice and clean, shave every day and you’ll always look keen.

The CR testers, for their part, were evidently unimpressed by this constant hardware escalation.

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Hello, it’s me

Well, what would you call it? This is Todd Rundgren’s album of classic Robert Johnson blues:

Todd Rundgren's Johnson

It gets better. Before the April release of that album, a three-track teaser download was offered:

Todd Rundgren's Short Johnson

Which presumably casts a whole new light on Rundgren’s 1983 album The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect.

(I owe Brian Ibbott of Coverville for this one.)

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Order of precedence

It goes like this: (1) shoot first; (2) ask questions later. On the question of whether Osama bin Laden was armed at the time he was taken down, Mickey Homsey says basically “Who cares?”

I would argue that it doesn’t matter one bit. Osama Bin Laden was a terrorist and arguably one of the worst this world has ever known. He has thousands of deaths attributed to him and were he to have been left alive, thousands more would have died. Media outlets are concerned about the “rule of law.” Well, I would submit to you that Osama Bin Laden was a law unto himself, a man who felt that the only “law” he believed in was that which he created for himself and tried to force on the rest of the world.

I, for one, have adopted the Brooksian stance, best illustrated here:

Bart: Go for your gun.
Hedley Lamarr: Wait, wait, wait. I’m unarmed.
Bart: All right, we’ll settle this like men, with our fists.
Hedley Lamarr: Sorry, I just remembered … I am armed.

I have to figure that those “media outlets” are mostly concerned with their phoney-baloney jobs.

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The wrong kind of angular momentum

Green Canary’s new digs are fabulous, but there’s just this one little problem:

One of the unfortunate outcomes of my move to the B’More Big Girl Apartment is the rearrangement of my furniture and subsequent placement of my antique vanity perpendicular to my bed. This means that there is a set of mirrors — A SET OF MIRRORS! — facing my bed — FACING MY BED! — my sanctum of sheets and blankets and other body-covering fabric swaths — MY SANCTUM AND SWATHS, OMFG!

You think I’m overreacting. You think I’m making mountains of mole hills. Well, let it be known that I’m not talking about a regular ‘ol mirror, plain and simple. I’m talking MIRRORS. Plural. Three of them. At angles to each other. Catching every. little. thing. From every. which. way. Imagine Dakota-sized thighs from three different angles and you’ll start to understanding my mirror-y meltdown.

She doesn’t specify whether it’s North or South Dakota, but I get the picture. Which is one reason why I have, literally, no mirrors in the bedroom: I have no reason to want to look at me, and it’s not like I’m expecting visitors.

Decorating suggestion: That old Headless Woman carnival illusion is done with mirrors at carefully-placed angles. Perhaps a bit of geometry will hide everything this side of, say, Sioux Falls.

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Tomorrow is Saturday

And Sunday comes afterwards, so there’s no better time to squeeze in a Rebecca Black update, right?

Three million viewers have looked at the “official video” for “Prom Night,” allegedly the follow-up single to “Friday.” By YouTube’s count, dislikes are outpacing likes by fourteen to one, a ratio not even “Friday” can touch.

Anyway, it’s bad enough that Rebecca Black herself felt compelled to denounce it as a “poser song” which she had nothing to do with. There exists a rumor that the version of “Prom Night” going around was Ark Music Factory’s demo, allegedly offered to her, but she turned it down. I’m not buying that tale either.

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Broadcast spreaders

Must life be so gosh-darn difficult?

All I ever wanted in life was for WordPress to update both Facebook and Twitter whenever I posted new blogs. You hear that, universe? You can take back the money, the fame, the women … okay, there haven’t been that many women, but point being, this should be unbelievably simple to do! It’s just text!

I have never tried to automate FB updates, and if there’s going to be wailing and/or gnashing of teeth if I try, I can do without.

More to the point, I see the blog readers, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers as three separate audiences — although obviously there’s some overlap here and there — and I’m not sure I want to give them exactly the same stuff. (Your mileage, of course, may vary.)

One major difference: the people at whom I tweet might occasionally look at a blog post, so I duly send up (via an automated tool, natch) a “Newly posted” tweet at the appropriate moments. There are Facebook friends who have no idea that I even have a blog. And why spoil it for them at this point?

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Insert “balls” joke here

And while we’re at it, be sure to mention the word “scratch”:

A St. Paul bowling alley was evacuated this morning and the police department bomb squad was called after a man allegedly said he would set off a bomb in his backpack if he lost another game of pool, according to police.

Srinivasa Koosmann, 35, left his backpack on the landing, halfway up the stairs by the front door of Midway Pro Bowl at 1556 University Ave., said Andy Skoogman, police spokesman. The bomb squad analyzed it and determined no explosive device was inside, he said.

Skoogman — a name every bit as cool as “Koosmann” — concluded that alcohol was a factor in this incident. Gee, ya think?

Disclosure: I’m a lousy pool player after several drinks, only a few drinks, or even no drinks at all.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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Quote of the week

TTAC’s Murilee Martin utters the dreaded M-word — malaise:

[Jimmy] Carter dared to suggest that Americans couldn’t always have everything they wanted, cheap, and for this — plus his reluctance to turn the residents of Tehran into clicks on a Geiger counter after a bunch of beardo Islamo-loons took advantage of the power vacuum resulting from the CIA’s man losing control of our oil-soaked real estate and taking US embassy personnel hostage — conventional American wisdom regards him as The Worst President Of All Time, Except For Maybe That Guy That Did The Teapot Dome Thing. The idea that things were always going to get worse took root in America sometime between Walter Cronkite revealing himself as a paid agent of Vo Nguyen Giap and a Georgia preacher getting whacked by some asshole while supporting a bunch of Memphis trash collectors; the inflation resulting from the Vietnam War’s endless kidney-shots to the federal government’s budget (and Nixon’s resulting desperation moves) coupled with the Saudis finally figuring out that they were the pushermen feeding the West’s oil jones and that withholding the sweet black horse gave them power, and Southern Californians getting sick of several hundred “shelter in place” Stage 1 Smog Alerts per year meant that, by the early 1970s, the era of cheap horsepower, chrome-and-Naugahyde-slathered luxury, and general automotive optimism was deader’n Jimi Hendrix. The muscle cars of the late 1960s were essentially marketing creations — their symbolism as mighty-fisted avengers of perceived slights against the American Way Of Life came later, during the period of Southeast Asian Conflict historical revisionism that got rolling in the mid-1980s, and if you think there’s a link between the auction value of the ’70 Chevelle SS 454 and the level of certainty of the Silent Majority that we were stabbed in the back by the media in Vietnam, you’re right — and the once-vaunted quality of Chrysler, Lincoln, and Cadillac had already begun its long drop off a cliff long before the insurance companies, the NHTSA, and the State of California ended the cheap-horsepower-and-chrome party.

On the off-chance that you don’t click over (warning: Jimmy Carter video, although it doesn’t autostart, praise heaven), be advised that the motor vehicle that incurred Martin’s wrath was a Ford Granada.

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You are not allowed to notice such things

Tani Cantil-SakauyeIn a fairly-blatant example of contemporary doubleplusungoodthink, California Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) apparently got it into his head that Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (photo to right) is sorta hawt, and was foolish enough to say so within earshot of Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), who immediately cranked out a nastygram criticizing Calderon for saying such “harmful and detrimental” things about the Chief Justice, who’d never done anything to deserve that kind of treatment.

Good thing for Calderon that Nicole Parra ran up against term limits, say I.

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Hope I diet before I get old

Why do we have all these twentysomething pundits? Because a bunch of sixtysomethings can’t let go of the past:

The ’60s generation remembers when the pronouncements of “youth leaders” like Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman and Mark Rudd were taken very seriously and so, now ensconced in executive positions, they keep looking for the next generation of “youth leaders.”

You want to slap them and say, “Hey, wake up: The Sixties sucked!”

What really sucked, of course, was that the likes of Hayden and Rudd were taken seriously. Hoffman, at least, had a sense of the theatrical; it’s no accident that Sacha Baron Cohen was originally cast as Hoffman in Steven Spielberg’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, currently on an extended holiday in Development Hell.

Eventually, we’re supposed to put away childish things. I can’t claim to be entirely successful in so doing, though I have gotten myself to the point where if someone says “Chicago Seven” I can come back with “That’s the one with ‘Wishing You Were Here,’ isn’t it?”

I have, however, a partial solution to the Baby Boomer nostalgia for its preening teenage leftism. Since the generation which followed the Boomers is universally known as Generation X, we should give the Boomers a properly-alphabetized redesignation: call them Generation W, a reference to one of their own, and see how fast they shut up.

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