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Week of 12 April 2010

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Monday, 12 April 2010
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10:29 - The taxes are done, although we owe money as usual so I won't send them off until the 15th. If I could change three things about our tax system, they'd be:

1. Eliminate withholding so that everyone actually has to write a check for the full amount due.

2. Make Tax Day and Election Day the same day. Better still, make Election Day the day after Tax Day.

3. Credit any voluntary payment to any government agency or non-profit directly against federal and/or state and/or local taxes due. For example, if I owe the Feds $15,000 in income/SS taxes, the state $8,000 in income taxes, and the city/county $4,000 in property taxes, for a total of $27,000, I could write checks for, say, $3,000 each to the police, fire, and EMS departments, $5,000 to the public library, $2,000 to the National Science Foundation, $2,000 to the March of Dimes, $3,000 to the American Chemical Society scholarship fund, and $6,000 to, say, the US Marine Corps. That would fulfill my obligation, not to mention taking back control of the purse strings from legislators. Others would make other choices, but the upshot is that everything worth being funded would be well funded and things not worth being funded wouldn't be funded at all.

Oh, yeah. Churches don't count as non-profits. There's no reason I or other taxpayers should be forced to support their lunacy. Let them pay their own way.


Tuesday, 13 April 2010
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08:47 - Barbara doesn't much like Mafia movies, but I finally convinced her to give The Sopranos a try. We're most of the way through series 1 and will start series 2 tonight. Barbara said last night she doesn't like The Sopranos as much as she liked Deadwood, but she likes it well enough to keep watching it.

With the taxes finished, I'm back to working on the PC book. I also need to do some work in the lab over the next couple of days and shoot some video.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010
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08:27 - Speaking of priests molesting children, I was struck by the irony club this morning when I read that Florida teacher Stephanie Ragusa has pled guilty to having sex with two 15-year-old boys. She's already spent two years in jail, and now faces 10 years in prison. Here she is. Looks like a hardened criminal, doesn't she?

Give me a break. No, give her a break. These were not children, and Ms. Ragusa committed no crime under any rational legal system. The comments with the article pretty much say it all. Teenage boys worldwide would queue up on the off chance that Ms. Ragusa would choose one of them as her next "victim". Ask any of them if they'd feel like victims or lottery winners. Heck, ask any heterosexual guy if, at age 15, he'd have felt victimized by Ms. Ragusa. If he tells you he would have, he's lying.

She violated at least the implicit terms of her teaching contract. Fire her, fine. Prohibit her from ever teaching again, fine. But sentence her to prison? Geez. She did nothing wrong.

If I seem inconsistent in condemning pedophile priests while supporting Ms. Ragusa, just consider this. Ms. Ragusa did not abuse the authority of her position to compel boys to have sex with her. She didn't need to. They flocked to her voluntarily. The case of the 100,000 altar boys is entirely different. They bent over and spread them only by compulsion of the authority of the priests and the catholic church. And it's compulsion that defines rape.


Thursday, 15 April 2010
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08:03 - The taxes are in the mail and, as usual, our bank balance on April 15th is a lot smaller than it was on the 14th. I suppose we should be thankful to be in our half of the population, though, because the other half of the US population pays no federal income taxes at all. Consider the implications of that. Half of the US population now works to support the other half, who contribute nothing. In reality, of course, it's much worse than that, because a large percentage of those who do pay federal income taxes are actually net tax consumers. They're public employees, which means they're also being supported by the small productive fraction of US workers.

Which reminds me that I need to have a talk with Jasmine about her college major. I was just reading some details about long-term unemployment numbers and new hires of kids just out of college. In terms of long-term unemployment--those who have been jobless for six months and one year--holding an undergraduate college degree has essentially no impact. That is, those who hold an undergraduate degree are as likely to have been unemployed for six months or one year as those who hold only a high school degree. Of course, those figures didn't break down things by type of undergraduate degree.

For new hires of college graduates, the numbers are stark. Kids who've obtained degrees in majors that I've previously characterized as "useless"--English, history, sociology, *-studies, and so on--aren't getting any job offers at all, or if they are those offers are in the sub-$20,000 range. Those who've obtained degrees in what I've previously characterized as "real" subjects--the hard sciences, engineering, and so on--are getting job offers in the $40,000, $50,000, or $60,000 range. So I'm going to sit down with Jas and suggest that she really should consider majoring in chemistry or biology or engineering. Something that'll give her a reasonable chance of a decent job offer once she graduates.


Friday, 16 April 2010
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10:37 - Barbara is taking the day off from work, after putting in about a day's worth of overtime over the first four days of the week. We've been having fashionably late dinners all week. She and a friend are going to head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway tomorrow morning, stay at a B&B tomorrow evening, and come home Sunday afternoon. She needs a break. So it'll be just me and Malcolm, with wild women and parties.

Malcolm will turn 11 this September, and he's finally starting to show his age a bit. He's high-energy, even for a Border Collie, and he can still accelerate from zero to 60 in about two steps when he spots a cat or squirrel, but his endurance isn't what it was. When Barbara arrives home, he now goes only partway down the basement stairs, and waits for her to come up the stairs. Yesterday, he tried to jump up on the sofa and missed. He ended up with his front half on the sofa and the rear dangling. He hung that way for several seconds, with a puzzled expression on his face. I told him that was okay. It's just part of getting older.


Saturday, 17 April 2010
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08:47 - Hmmm. I wonder if Europe should begin building ocean liners. The last major eruption of Eyjafjallajökull was in 1821, and it went on for two years. More worrisome, Eyjafjallajökull is apparently a little fellow. The volcano next door, Katla, is huge, and historically erupts following an eruption from Eyjafjallajökull. The last major eruption of Katla was in 1918, and historically major eruptions of Katla occur every 40 to 80 years. That means Katla is now a decade overdue. And it's been burping since 1999. Also, I'm not sure if it was Katla, but from long-ago history classes I seem to remember that there was a major Icelandic volcanic eruption in the 1780's that spewed clouds of poisonous gases that ultimately killed tens of thousands of people in Europe.

I'm just glad we're well west of this mess.


Sunday, 18 April 2010
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