Brian J. Noggle: Tax Hypocrite

Time for me to come out of the closet as it were: I am a tax hypocrite.

Not to get too deeply into it, but one of the advantages of government-sanctioned marriage is the tax benefits, or at least the fact we get to only have to pay the accountant for one form. Since I think the government should probably get out of the marriage sanctioning business entirely but I take advantage of the offer, I am a hypocrite!

I don’t think that the government should ladle out tax credits for behavior it likes, such as buying the right air conditioner, buying a house, or buying the correct clothes washing machine, but I sometimes take those tax credits (although I missed out on the washing machine stimulus payola I mentioned due to laziness and, frankly, lack of enthusiasm for the project). Ergo, I am a hypocrite!

On the other hand, I have argued passionately against the government taking tax money to redistribute to individuals for individual benefit even above the lofty arguments that every individual having more (of others’ property) makes a better, more egalitarian nation. However, I still pay my FICA and social security taxes. Because I don’t practice what I preach!

I think there are a lot of Federal government programs that are not just a bad idea, such as the Department of Education or Department of Energy, but some are damn immoral (funding abortions around the world). However, I don’t deduct that percentage from my quarterly taxes because I am a damned hypocrite!

Now that we have my admission out of the way, can we separate the tax code and its thousands of pages of rulings and regulations from a reasoned discussion of principles?

No, of course not. Many of the people I discuss issues with proudly lack principles, and all they have going for them is ad homenims, tu quoques, and day-old bon mots.

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Book Report: Detroit by Perrin Souvenir Company (?)

This is a little souvenir book you could pick up if you were stationed in Detroit (what will they call tourists in 2014 Detroit? The National Guard). Me, I bought it since I’m a silly sucker for picture books of Detroit (see also the review for the full-sized coffee table book Detroit).

I cannot tell from the photos really when the book was published, but they still talk about the Silverdome. Part of the book is given over to the University of Michigan campus and other nearby other cities, so the authors had some trouble coming up with enough nice in Detroit to fill up this slender volume.

I have to wonder what sort of drinking problem the copywriters for this sort of thing have. I don’t intimate that they’re probably drinking on the job to write this glowing prose when Detroit was a punchline at least as far back as 1977. A real professional can make anything sound shiny and to say that Detroit is ever-ascendant while working, but when they go home and think about what they’re reduced to writing day in, day out instead of writing the sweeping novels they’d envisioned in college, I bet they tipple till they topple. Maybe I shouldn’t mock so much professional writers who get paychecks while I’m here on the blog plan with its fifty dollars a decade salary.

I’m looking through these books nowadays with an eye for patterns and images I could burn on wood. Unfortunately, all of these are so Detroit-specific, focusing on its famous buildings, that the photos are not generic enough. I could burn one of the halls at Michigan or the Renaissance Center, but only someone from Detroit might recognize it. Instead, all I get to do is make fun of the book and Detroit. Which makes it worthwhile anyway.

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Everything That Is Illuminating Must Diverge

One of the complaints I had about the house in Old Trees is that each room had only a single- or two-bulb fixture high upon the twelve foot ceilings to serve to illuminate the rooms within it. When the sun went down, the brown/tan/beige walls soaked that light up and the home became dark and draining.

Nogglestead is a tad different. And, fortunately, in a way I can complain about: the thing has too many light bulbs in its fixtures, and its fixtures use a plethora of different bulb styles. Maybe two plethora. Maybe a full myriad of plethora. Additionally, each fixture uses instead of one or two 100 watt bulbs, sometimes a dozen or more 40 watt bulbs. It’s bright, all right, and that buzzing you hear isn’t from fluorescence. It’s from the electric meter spinning.


This is the front porch fixture:

Lights on the front porch

This fixture has three small-base candle flame candles. Not only that, but to replace them, you have to undo the decorative nut on the bottom, remove the small decorative cover, undo the nut that holds the glass and whatnot up, remove most of the fixture except for the sockets, and then replace the bulbs. I don’t bother if only one is out. I wait for them to all go dark before I do. And I’ve replaced the set twice in the 11 months I’ve lived here.

This is the foyer fixture just inside the front door:

Lights in the foyer

These are 40 watt small base clear bulbs. Six of them.

This is the parlor. It’s a formal dining room, but we don’t dine formally, so it has a piano in it and an elaborate formal dining room fixture.

Lights in the parlor

That’s eight of the same 40 watt small base clear bulbs.

This is the kitchen:

Lights in the kitchen

There are six fixtures in here that I’ve not opened yet. Would it be too much to ask that they’re standard medium base light bulbs under there? Over the sink, there’s a recessed fixture that wants a flood light, but I’ve put in a 60-watt medium base incandescent.

Lights in the dining room

The living room has a ceiling fan:

Lights in the living room

I know, by now you’re thinking it’s not so bad. The ceiling fixture has six more of the 40 watt small base clear bulbs. Oh, but look more closely: it also has a downward facing small spotlight in the center that I have yet to successfully replace. Since the top (or bottom) of the bulb is flush with the edge of its socket, I can’t get a good grip on it to replace it. Currently, it has a new bulb in it, but it’s not lit, so I did something wrong.

Now, onto elsewhere. This is one of the bedrooms in the house. The house relies on medium base floods recessed in the ceiling in a number of rooms, including the offices downstairs, two of the bedrooms upstairs, and the main living area downstairs. I’ve had to replace the ones in the den downstairs a couple of times each (I’ve had these troubles with recessed floodlights before in Old Trees as well). Eventually, I can get away with using medium base regular bulbs. Sometime soon I’ll do that instead of paying for the floodlights.

Recessed lights

In the master suite, we have another ceiling fan. This one uses medium base frosted flame bulbs. It’s the only thing in the house that does so:

A special ceiling fan

All of the bathrooms use medium base clear frosted bulbs. At least they share something with other rooms.

Lights in the master bath

Lights in auxiliary bath

These vanities are in addition to overhead lights, of course.

The garage and the storage areas within the house have simple sockets for your standard light bulb:

Lights in garage

However, in all of these cases (the garage, the laundry alcove, the walk-in closet, the storeroom, and the utility room), the previous owner put CFL bulbs in. Note that all of these fixtures do not have glass bulbs over them. In each of these cases, you’re one errant ladder from a hazmat situation. Also, all of these areas are the ones you’re prone to flip the light on for a couple seconds and turn it off. This is bad for the life expectancy of the CFL. I’m moving them out of the house as fast as I can.

Outside lights by garage

These two fixtures outside the garage are perfect for the light-polluting CFL bulbs. Sadly, I have only two of these external fixtures and something like four or five of them remaining in my house.

So, if you’re keeping track, my house has a lot of light fixtures:

Number Type:
3 Small base flame candles
12 Standard medium base
17 Recessed medium base for floodlights
14 Medium base globes clear
28 Small base globes
5 Medium base external floods
1 Small interior flood

That’s seven different types of light bulbs I need to have on hand to keep this house illuminated, and a whole pile of them on at any one time. I’d lie to you if I told you I’d rather have the lighting scheme of the old home in the new one, but jeez, Louise. I wonder where I’ll be in 2 years when incandescent light bulbs start becoming illegal by writ of Their Majesty, The Royal Congress.

Also, apologies in advance for any future brownouts I cause all by myself.

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Someone Call A Bluff

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch juxtaposes these headlines today:

  • Financial outlook for East St. Louis is seen as dire

    City revenue is expected to fall by more than 18 percent next year as officials struggle to maintain vital services, according to information presented Friday.

    Patrice Rencher, executive director of the East St. Louis Financial Advisory Authority, said the city must make “tough decisions” to deal with the expected revenue crunch next year. Revenue is projected to fall from $23.5 million this year to $19.2 million next year, Rencher said at the authority’s monthly meeting Friday.

  • Could the Rams play in Illinois?

    When rumors had it that the owners of the St. Louis Rams are considering moving the team to a new stadium, one suggestion about a possible site came from someone who lives far outside the 314 area code.

    “It’s something to study,” said Illinois state Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) in an interview with KMOX-AM earlier this month, suggesting the state could help with financing.

Basically, it’s that time again, where billionaires who own sports teams come around with their hats simultaneously held out for a handout and mournfully over their hearts in regret that they need tax money to compete because although they’re billionaires and the sports teams are making money hand over fist, thanks to creative accounting they’re really impoverished. It’s only been 15 years since the football team did this. The Cardinals did this just a couple years back. And always they publicly mull over the possibility of graciously accepting the corporate welfare from the bankrupt state across the river.

But here’s the rub: If a St. Louis sports team moves to Illinois, its gate will drop. Period. Many Missourians will be reluctant to drive over the river, across the bottlenecks of the bridges, and for an extra hour to see their sports teams. Not just because of the inconvenience, but because of East St. Louis’s reputation.

And I don’t care if Collinsville, Highland, or Edwardsville gets the stadium. To a lot of the Missouri side of the metropolitan area, the east side is East St. Louis, oil refineries, and strip clubs.

Just once I’d like to see the public officials in Missouri call this bluff. Let the Rams build a park over there. Let the Cardinals go over there when they need Busch III in 2020.

Ah, but that would mean that the public officials would have to drive over, too, to ride in the backs of their chauffeured cars for an hour, and to sit somewhere other than the boxes reserved for the honored lackeys of the aforementioned billionaires. Never mind. Public officials serve themselves, not the public.

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A Real Stemwinder

Check out this magnus misogynus I have posted at

I might not understand women, but I understand those who use statistics about women.

UPDATE:Apparently, by the year 2018, 24th State has gone dark and has been replaced by a candidate’s Web site. I’ve posted this item below:

The Associated Press provides some insightful analysis into the continued oppression of women in US politics. Did I say insightful? I meant insinuating.

The suffragists who 90 years ago won voting rights for women would likely shake their heads in wonder at this election, with its “mama grizzly” candidates and high-stakes woman-vs.-woman showdowns.

The women in key races include a rancher and three multimillionaire former CEOs, one a pro wrestling magnate. Two frontier states — Oklahoma and New Mexico — seem assured of electing their first female governors after both major parties nominated women.

Yet in spite of celebrations planned today for Women’s Equality Day, marking the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920, American women’s share of high-level political power still lags behind many other nations.

Women hold only 17 percent of the seats in Congress — well below Europe’s 22 percent and far behind the Nordic countries’ 42 percent — and the major parties have yet to nominate a woman for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2008 collected 18 million votes but still fell short of victory.

Comparing the United States’ political system directly to other countries’ systems will yield thoughtful apples-to-hedge-apples comparisons like the one in the long article. No doubt the sheer bulk of these numbers means to highlight the backward nature of the United States and its continued structural misogyny (why do we hate women and fear gays and Moslems? Can’t we just be gynophobic, too?). However, those wacky Continental (and worldwide, at least worldwide where women can vote, drive cars, and walk in public without escort without public corporeal punishment) parliamentary systems differ significantly from the American system, and those differences render comparisons meaningless.

Now, I am not a political scientist, but I have edited a number of dissertations in political science which examine elections, parliamentary systems, and women’s representation therein, so I fancy myself ABCWaR (All But Course Work and Research) in the field. So let me ‘splain those differences.

The United States has what they call a Single Member District legislature. Each constituency, be that your Congressional District or state, elects a single legislator.

Other parliamentary systems have other, more complicated systems. Many nations lump all voters into single constituencies, where all voters in the country vote not for individuals (necessarily), but for parties. That is, you would vote for the Social Democrats or the Democratic Socialists and, if those parties win, the people at the top of the party would get into office. Some countries or parties let voters determine party individuals to hold office, but to a lot, that’s at the discretion of the party. If you want to sample some of the varieties, look up Closed List Proportional Representation, Open List Proportional Representation, Preferential Voting, and Single Winner. It’s quite a soupy mixture of systems around the world, but in a bunch of countries, the voters don’t vote for individuals at all, and this is quite different from the United States system.

The United States voting system is pretty simple (or simple-minded, depending upon your level of Europhilia): whoever gets the most votes wins, and the party with the most votes gets to control the agenda in the house. However, many countries, including the AP-beloved ones in Scandinavia, use a proportional representation system where if a party gets 10% of the votes in the national election, it gets 10% of the seats. If you can get enough like-minded people together, they get seats in the capital’s cafeteria and some time on CSPAN.

These proportional representation systems and their inherent differences explain why the newscasters talk about coalition governments and the like. Instead of two parties to hate with differing levels of animosity (and the lesser one of the two evils is the one you vote for most), you end up with dozens of national parties. Many of those countries have Feminist Parties. A Feminist Party that gets 4% of the vote will probably mean 4% of Parliament, don’t you think?

So the difference in mechanisms of government and legislature and the difference in the party structures between the American system and the Parliamentarian model means that any direct comparison without the context represents a facile or naive juxtaposition instead of an analogy (but good enough for news syndicate work and good enough to get on the front page of dailies). European parties and electoral systems probably do make it easier to elevate women to electoral positions regardless of voter intent.

Given that women represent more than 50% of the population and more than 50% of college degrees, why is women’s representation so low in the United States?

Author Jennifer Lawless offers some insight, maybe:

Hardly surprising, since being a wife or mother can impede professional achievement. In families where both adults are working, generally in high-level careers, women are 12 times more likely than men to be responsible for the majority of household tasks, and more than 10 times more likely to be responsible for the majority of child care responsibilities.

Of course, she’s writing from a different ideological perspective than I am, so she thinks that the family role, marriage and child-rearing, is a real drag, man. But it’s true: gender roles might have something to do with it. Women who want to raise children or to be housewives typically aren’t going to run for office. I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips, but if you imagine that many women in the Republican Party (but not all) favor traditional families, you can predict that some portion of the 25% of the population of the country, some portion of 50% of the country who are women, have no interest in running.

Additionally, political argument in this country is rough. While our legislators are not actually beating each other with canes anymore, running for office ain’t beanbag; it’s Lawn Jarts of invective and character assassination and the candidate is the goalie. It takes a special someone to subject himself or herself to that sort of ego-bruising endeavor, where even if you win, you’re hated by a lot of people. Given that women tend toward more nurturing and emotional (not all, and in the aggregate, your mileage may vary), it might be a wonder that we have 17% at all.

Essentially, although AP and the women’s rights advocates (the right women’s rights advocate, not the right’s women’s right advocates) like to spill a lot of numbers to insinuate that the United States lives in the Dark Ages where it doesn’t sign treaties to End Women’s Discrimination. But when they talk about elected officials in Europe versus the United States, they might as well complain that United States’ football scores are inflated versus those in Europe. They’re not really talking about the same game at all.

That 17%, the percentage of women in other, lower positions of elected government, the women who run but do not win, and the women who don’t want to run at all amounts to a high-level aggregate number of individual decisions made by free women who get to choose their lives and their lifestyles. AP, the nonprofits, and NGOs have determined that our women have chosen wrong.

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Book Report: Rules of Prey by John Sandford (1989, 1990)

This is the first in what has become a 20 year series of novels. In it, Lucas Davenport hunts down a serial killer who varies his methods and his targets to confound the police but cannot help leaving notes with the rules to which he adheres in killing. The series starts right out with the tropes that become tropes as the series progresses, including as much time spent handling the media as detecting and with the soap opera loves of Lucas. I guess Sandford had a series in mind all along. After all, he did start right out with a psuedonym for it.

The books all have a very contemporary feel to them: Davenport uses all the latest technology and whatnot, and if you read the latest books, you recognize they’re current day. So it startled me a bit to read a book from the great before, where Davenport and everyone exchange notebook notes to synchronize them every morning, people need to use pay phones, and Davenport makes wall charts with paper notes. You don’t think a thing of it when Perry Mason books or Ed McBain’s detectives type up reports because most of their books came from that great Before, but when you read someone who has crossed that gap and you read his latest works first, the transition can be remarkable. Reparagraphable, even.

As with many of the Davenport series, the end seems unsatisfying and a bit contrived. Davenport sets the killer up and vigilantes him, but Davenport remembers to execute his carefully crafted execution in a state of emergency, when he’s flown in his Porsche from one twin city to the next while a crime is in progress. It’s very pat and very novelesque, as though Sandford plotted the ending before getting the book to that point, and even though it didn’t seem to fit congruously, he was going to use it anyway.

Strangely enough, as he says on his Web site, the original ending was even worse.

A decent book. Still available in paperback. I actually borrowed this from the library because I’ve run short of things to read around here (meaning that the number has dropped under 3000). I’ll look to find this if I can at a book fair to flesh out my collection.

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Repealing the 17th Amendment Is A Hard Sell

Over at The Missouri Record, David Linton argues in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment which allows the direct election of Senators.

I agree, but I think this is going to be a hard sell to the American public which has come to believe that the key to an open government is more and more transparency and direct accountability of officials, where more and more citizen votes means better and better government.  Of course, this more accountable system allows incumbents to go to Washington, vote for government expansion for five years, and return home just before the election to claim they’re independent and fiscally conservative.  Thusly, the ruling class can fool the inattentive, and the whole More Accountability benefit falls by the wayside.  Granted, this failure rests more on the heads of the inattentive citizens than the charlatans they elect, but it circumvents the system our foresighted forefathers put into place.

The state legislators, on the other hand, are professionals (or are at least paying attention) since that is some part of their job, and they know whether the Senators serve the interests of the state or the interests of the Senators or their political party instead.  That was part of the balance the Constitution prepared for us.

But in the 21st Century, the trend is not to balance individual voter whims and trends with the power of the sovereign states.  See also the National Popular Vote movement to end-around the Electoral College.  The current popular will values the popular will, and those who seek to unravel our system of government hold out the entitlement of an uninformed vote to the masses. 

Don’t expect the masses to give it up any time soon.

(Cross-posted at 24th

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Burn It! Burn It!

As some of you know, I’ve been reading woodburning books this year. Well, you ask, what are you going to do about it?

Well, I did this:

They’re not the first projects I’ve done, but they’re the first I’ve posted here. I know, it’s all butterflies and birds and girlie stuff, but I’m working from stencils here, not traced or freehand designs. Strangely, even in Springfield, the craft store stencil selection does not feature any stencils of guns or bucks or that sort of thing, so until I get some NRA-licensed stencils, I’m going to have to stick with these until I’m good enough to do more intricate things.

That’s what I’m doing when I’m not lamenting the state of the government. I’m teaching myself a trade I can use when the government collapses.

Also, I’m always selecting More Dry because of my raging hydrophobia. That punchline bears repeating.

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Severe Eyeglass Storm Warning

Sometime next week, apparently residents hereabouts might suffer from a severe eyeglass storm warning.

City Utilities plans to begin a series of high-pressure “steam blows” over the next two to four weeks to clear boiler pipes of any debris ahead of the power plant’s commissioning later this fall.

The roaring sound likely will be heard for miles, and a tall plume of steam will jet skyward from the south side of Southwest 2.

The steam blows will last for several minutes, and may be done several times a day until all of the boiler tubes and related pipes are clear of any rustlike scale that may have developed inside the pipes during construction.

Miller said the steam blows also should blast out any nuts, bolts, eyeglasses, gloves or other foreign debris that may have been inadvertently left inside the pipes during construction. [Emphasis added.]

So someone has admitted leaving eyeglasses in the inner workings of this plant, and sometime next week they’re going to launch these glasses as well as small bits of metal into the air and let them land where they will. Am I reading that right?

I have a couple days to make my Kevlar umbrella.

This plant is a couple miles and a couple hilltops north of here, but we’ll probably hear it. Combine this with great plumes of smoke a couple hills to the west as the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield conducts its controlled burns, and we’re just a couple cattle’s worth of leather-wearing highwaymen away from my worst nightmares circa 2008.

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The Gaia Option

As some of you know, I got a new dryer recently. This particular unit seems to be imbued with some humidity-sensing technology since its dial no longer has just a dumb timer, but different settings based on, well, how much you serve Mother Gaia, apparently.

The dryer dial

Now, I’m no expert on nuance, so in my black-and-white world, dry is an absolute value. Therefore, the dial that offers me more dry or less dry is probably offering me either dry or damp. Sandwiched between the two poles on the spectrum, the dial offers me the energy preferred option.

Energy preferred? Why not come right out and say it: This is what Mother Gaia wants me to choose. This is how damp and clingy the Earth wants me to wear my clothes. Its acolyte the dryer would like my clothing to retain moisture so that, when I walk around wearing these moisture-enriched clothes, I add evaporation to the water cycle and make the plants grow pretty flowers and vegetables I should not despoil for decoration or consumption purposes.

I mean, come on, why not just have a separate section of the dial for drying your hemp clothes while you’re at it?

Sadly, there are people who wash their clothes with Green cleaning products and then use the less-dry option on the dryer because that’s what they must do to avert global cataclysm. The people who want to avert a global cataclysm but don’t want to deal with the bother of line-drying their clothes, I mean. And they’re walking around in moist, dirty clothes, hoping to be blessed by Mother Gaia with actual dandelions sprouting in their knit sweaters and with lots of helpful bacteria breeding upon their unmentionables.

Meanwhile, I’m always selecting More Dry because of my raging hydrophobia.

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Book Report: Currier & Ives’ America by edited by Colin Simkin (?)

I bought this book at the Kirkwood book fair some years back, and I started looking through it a couple baseball seasons ago. It’s definitely a flip-through kind of book, as it includes a short history of Currier and Ives and the market for illustration in the nineteenth century. Each chapter, if you will, then takes on a series from the Currier and Ives line and presents four pictures from it in full color and full page. Of course, if you’re familiar with the Christmas song, you know how the company’s prints impacted how the nineteenth century Americans viewed themselves and their countrymen and, even more importantly, impacted the nostalgia of the time. Think of it as the equivalent of their Thomas Kinkade, except instead of purposefully painting nostalgic historic scenes, they created images that were contemporary, but warmly evocative, that became nostalgic as time went on.

I like the pictures and would consider collecting the company’s prints, but I’m not as DINK as I once was, so I’ll have to watch for the foldered quarter folio prints at garage sales. I’m also considering scanning some of them to use elements within for some of my woodburning projects.

And as a final note, the book includes some of the Currier and Ives hidden animal prints, wherein the artists hid animals in the background of a picture, and the viewer could look at them to find the animals, kind of like a puzzle. I remembered when I saw these prints in the book that I had had a book of these as a child, no doubt a gift from my Nana who worked at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I don’t have those books any more, and I kind of miss them.

At any rate, worth a look if you’re into Americana or art. Also, prepare yourself for a couple of art books to come along hereabouts as I look for flipping books I can look at while I watch football games. I think my Man Points maintain status quo if I watch football while flipping through artsy books. The craft books, though, continually drain the Man Points.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Thanks, Professor Jacobson

Professor William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection has named MfBJN his blog of the day.

No, seriously, I have proof:

Blog of the day.  W00t!
Click for full size

Welcome to Web crawlers who’ve clicked through to visit this site from thence.

If you can’t get enough Noggle, and who can?, you can visit:

  • 24th State for additional posts on Missouri politics and the Tea Party.
  • QA Hates You for posts on IT and software development from QA’s point of view.

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I Can’t Find That In Publication 561

How do you write this off of your taxes?

As she was getting ready to leave the hospital Tuesday with her baby, a tearful Jennifer Robinson knew how to measure generosity.

All she had to do was turn and look at Nicole Hendrix, the woman who had helped the premature baby, Max, to thrive against the odds.

Hendrix had donated her breast milk — gallons of it — to Max after his mother couldn’t make any more.

I can’t seem to find breast milk / gallon in IRS Publication 561, which covers noncash donations.

Of course, it might not be an actual donation, but a personal gift, which is not tax deductible at all.

In somewhat unrelated news, I have some tax returns here to go out and discovered this morning that were on the receiving end of some spilled children’s milk, and I have the choice of asking my former accountant to send us new copies at the cost of $300 or something outlandish (we aren’t parting on the best of terms) or mailing them in stained. Just so you know when I’m investigated and incarcerated by the Feds for sending in stinky taxes, I saved some money on it.

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What Brian Asks Himself

A heartwarming tale of how a courier company saved an elderly woman from a scam artist:

There will be some of that today, but first comes an attaboy for Nick Kirkou, owner of Crestwood-based Ontime Express courier service.

On Wednesday afternoon, Kirkou’s company was hired to deliver three sales contracts to a south St. Louis County woman. Pretty routine stuff, until Kirkou took a closer look.

The contracts would allow an Arizona company to charge $15,000 to the South County woman’s credit card. In exchange, the woman would get what the contracts described as a “mini laptop and wireless mouse” and 15,000 telemarketing and e-mail “blasting” leads.

Kirkou didn’t think it was a very good deal. Even with a mini laptop, whatever that is. Still, Kirkou figured, it wasn’t his place to get involved.

Then he called the woman. She seemed elderly, and an unlikely e-mail marketer.

Kirkou asked the woman, a 90-year-old widow, if she agreed to buy the sales leads. She said no. Kirkou said he called the Arizona outfit, and he couldn’t get straight answers.

You know what I ask myself?

Why was the courier reading the contents of what it was supposed to deliver?

This is even worse for my innate sense of paranoia than those heartwarming tales of recycling facilities returning checks to their proper owners, which makes me wonder how close of attention they’re paying to other bits of recycled mail like credit card statements or credit card offers or what have you.

How come the journalists never clear that mystery up for us?

UPDATE: I have changed some wording in this story to center attention on me and my paranoia and not on the other minor characters in my internal psychodrama.

UPDATE 2: Nick Kirkou via email explains the story in greater detail:

The article failed to tell the whole story of how it came about. The Arizona company contacted our office. He asked one of my dispatchers if he could fax over some documents to be delivered. My office employee said we could do that. After he faxed the info over to us, he called back and told my office employee that he needed us to get signatures on several spots of the documents. My driver picked up the documents and started to head out to deliver them. The guy called back and started to go over the documents over the phone and kept telling my employee that if any of the signatures were missed it would make his document “weaker”. He said if the person seemed reluctant to kind of push them along as if a sense of urgency was going on. Long story short, my employee came to me and said he didn’t feel right about the delivery. When I called Arizona company back I can’t begin to tell you how shady the guy sounded. I told him we were not going to do the delivery. He asked me why and I told him we didn’t want any part of what he was doing and that I would call the police. He went as far as to brag about how often he “closes” these deals. He was getting this lady to sign a document that gave him access to $15000 on her credit card. He had her committed to doing so by saying that he worked for a government agency and that she would be helping them out and making money at the same time. By signing the documents, it stated that if she changed her mind for any reason, she would have to fight it in arbitration in an Arizona court, in his county. My father is elderly and all I could think of is how this guy was laughing at how he pulled this scam off several times towards the elderly. He was pushy on the phone. He made it a point to tell me that if we didn’t want to do it there were other courier services that would. We would never read any documents that are sent to us to deliver. In this case he was trying to involve my dispatcher and driver in his scam. I called the police to ask what can be done. They told that they could only get involved after the fact. The police department suggested I call the woman up and tell her not to sign any documents. Now one of the things the guy from Arizona wanted us to do was to verify that the credit card number he had matches her card numbers and to have her sign next to it. At this point I called the woman who was expecting the delivery and told her we were not going to do the delivery. She asked why and I told her what was going on. She didn’t think the nice gentleman over the phone would be trying to take advantage of her. He was so nice to her, blah blah blah. Finally I called the credit card company. After 2 hours on the phone, there fraud department got involved and contacted her and explained the whole thing to her. I literally spent 4 hours dealing with this. Now, I know you are thinking “It was none of our business”. Maybe to some people it wasn’t. One, it just wasn’t right. Two, this could have been my mother, father, grandfather, etc. I constantly stress to my office about doing the right thing. That it isn’t about the money but it is about the quality of what we do. When the article was written a number of people had your opinion as to why were we looking at something that didn’t belong to us. The moment the Arizona company started going over the contract with my office, they were now involving my company. I want you to know Brian that for all fairness, I still don’t regret how we handled it. I still feel that my staff, myself and my driver did the best job we could do. This woman wasn’t someone I knew but she could just as well been your mother, aunt or grandmother. The only reason I contacted you was because due to the fact that a potential customer just read your blog on us when they searched my name and company out. Sorry this email is long. I think STLTODAY was trying to warn others about the scams that are pulled on the elderly.

All my experience with couriers has been a point-to-point in-town rapid delivery thing, where they’d wander in, pick up some pencils or inks from the art supply store where I worked, and delivered them to ad agencies in Clayton. As such, I didn’t natively know the range of services couriers can provide for their clients.

It’s interesting to learn more about the industry, anyway, and to learn that it’s not like they were steaming open envelopes.

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Book Report: Cosbyology by Bill Cosby (2001)

I’m a pretty big Cosby fan. I just watched Bill Cosby Himself earlier in the month, I’ve listened to his old comedy albums on audiocassette during long drives, and I’ve read a number of his books before.

This book is a short afterthought to some of his earlier works, though. It collects a series of shorter essays and musings, some meandering. They’re not particularly strong material, either. A bit of amusement, but not a lot of insight.

Still, it’s newer Cosby. I’ll take it over nothing but not over his earlier works.

Books mentioned in this review:

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The Root of the Problem

On Facebook, I posted this photo that I cribbed from Big Hollywood:

Prague, 1968

Immediately, one of my few liberal progressive authoritarian acquaintances chimed in:

Tell me about this photo.

You know, I wasn’t born then, either, but I can tell you what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

But those who would rule us (or who would elect rulers) sort of fail just about any history exam they’re given, do they not?

(Link seen on Instapundit.)


Just to keep you apprised of the conversation:

Brian J. Noggle

While American students and whatnot were facing down The Man with sit ins, long hair, and all that feldercarb, Czechs and Slovaks were baring their chests to tanks.

That’s resisting oppression.

Brian J. Noggle
Sorry, I sorta minimized it. They weren’t just baring their chests to tanks like American university students were standing up to the campus police.

They were dying, too.

I agree. And it is good of you to recognize the anniversary of that battle today. Many Americans dont even know it happened because we – as usual – were too busy with our own struggles.
That said. many people have died for the freedoms we en…joy today. Though it wasn’t bloody and gory like Prague Spring or the struggles in Darfur today, every BODY counts.
Oppression never occurs without collateral damage.

Awesome. And this particularly authoritarian is not unintelligent.

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Book Report: Getting Even with the Answering Machine by John Carfi & Cliff Carle (1985, 1990)

This book stems from an era, lo those 25 years ago, where it was slightly fashionable or at least humorous to oppose the impersonal answering machine. I didn’t really recollect it until I saw this book. But there were lots of books in that era about having funny answering machine messages and this book about leaving funny messages on someone’s answering machine. Wow, the novelty of that has passed, hey? Do you remember seeing actual pretaped humorous answering machine cassettes? How old am I?

As I mentioned, this book includes humorous messages you could leave to show your disdain for the answering machine. Its first chapter, in fact, is about bad outgoing messages and having to talk to a machine yourself. There are some messages purportedly from celebrities and then some from fake businesses. Finally, there was a section on jokes, most of them corny, but the only laugh I got out of the books was from the joke What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic? About half way.

The book apparently rode a trend and was some kind of success at the time; this is a printing five years after the original edition. The publisher and authors also had a line of books with funny outgoing messages. I wondered about people who would buy these books new, which led me to wonder about people who buy these books second hand. Before I got too introspective, though, I smelled the book and realized that I hadn’t bught it at all–the book had been my mother’s, tucked among the four shelves of books in her office. How-to home improvement books, some antique reference she’d gotten from her sister, a couple dictionaries, some paperbacks from television shows she’d liked that I’d bought her (which I’m reading these days), and this book. I wonder where she got it. I wish I could ask.

At any rate, the hour I spent on the book was worthwhile for the anachronism of the subject matter and for the anachronism of the contemporary humor within it, not to mention one funny joke. That makes it worth a whole Reader’s Digest without the latter’s modern turn into Gaia-worship.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Brian College Mindset List for the Class of 2034

Beloit College came up with its annual Mindset List that reminds us old people the limit of 18-year-olds’ experience. As I previously said, I think this year’s list is full of trivia and little else.

Then I thought, hey, the elected leadership in Washington is glibly fundamentally transforming the country. So what might the Brian College Mindset List for the Class of 2034 look like?

  • This year’s freshmen have never eaten ice cream since the FDA added it to the banned foods list.
  • The class of 2030 have never flown on a plane since commercial flights were banned due to their carbon emissions.
  • They don’t remember the rumble of a V-8 engine. Few remember the sound of an internal combustion engine at all.
  • They have never seen a political ad or an actual political candidate; the National Parliament has always been dissolved and His Excellency has always ruled.
  • Keyboards have always had nine keys, and touch-typing always relied solely on thumbs.
  • They have never burned their hands on an incandescent lightbulb. As a matter of fact, they’ve never seen one.
  • Cars have always had ORedStar installed and mandated, with its velocity capping, roadside assistance, remote unlock, and remote disable service from the Vehicle Maintenance and Safety Administration (VMSA).
  • They don’t know anyone taking a student loan nor do they know what tenure meant.
  • The government has always monitored all audio and video conversations for public safety.
  • This year’s students have never bought a new paper-based book or newspaper.
  • They have never pumped gas.
  • If employed, they have never received a paycheck from an employer; they have only gotten the Government Income Allotment from the Department of Employment and Productivity.
  • Today’s students have always enjoyed mandatory FM radio broadcasts on their imPhones.
  • They don’t remember a time when four corporations owned all channels on television.
  • The National Wildlife Preserve System has always been closed to the public.

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