Sunday, December 12, 2010

Julian Assange is NOT GUILTY of Rape

At least under the way our law operates, Julian Assage is not guilty of rape. How can I know this? After all, I wasn't there. I don't know the specific allegations. But here's what I do know.

The last time Assange pissed off the powers that be, rape charges were filed against him, then quickly dropped (a warning shot across his bow, perhaps?). Now, many moons later, after he has again seriously pissed off the powers that be, leading to calls of his assassination for the horrible crime of embarrassing those in power, the charges are suddenly reinstated (With the timing clearly indicating that the reinstatement was not based on evidence of the crime, but rather, Assange's wikileaks activity). Further, an international manhunt is called for, putting him on an international most wanted list for crimes that NEVER would have put him on that list.

This is all extremely suspicious. Extraordinarily so. Multiple world governments want to destroy him, including ours.

Now, under these circumstances, say he was criminal charged of the swedish crimes under our standard, where he has to be proven guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. Who can honestly say they don't have reasonable doubt about the validity of those charges now based on the circumstances? It is an established fact that there is an international conspiracy to take him down now, and it is clear why. This conspiracy is made up of governments with thousands of spies and trillions of dollars worth of resources - more than capable of manufacuring any charge against him and any evidence against him needed to support that charge.

Whether they actually did or not, or even whether he actually did exactly what he is charged with doing is now really irrelevant. The legal standard is reasonable doubt. That is definitively established. So he's not guilty.

Now the counter to this might be, well, we haven't seen the evidence against him. But given the circumstances, no matter how convincing that evidence might be, it simply can't be trusted. (Though I suspect it isn't anything particularly strong, because otherwise the governments would have leaked it and we'd see the video or whatever by now). But even if it was strong - the forces arrayed against him have the resources to manufacture it, so it can't be trusted.

Now - what if he confesses? Well, anyone will confess if threatened appropriately. Our government tortures people. But even without torture, false confessions are quite common. Again, under the circumstances, even a confession at this point would be suspect. And he hasn't confessed.

To be clear - I'm not saying he didn't do what he is charged with. I'm saying that legally, he could only be found not guilty at this point, because the circumstances create strong reasonable doubt.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Even NPR Toes the Wingnut Line - We Are Doomed

Even NPR toes the wingnut line, as evidenced by this. If even NPR has surrendered to the Fox News storyline, it is obvious that free journalism in this country is dead and is not coming back.

Of course, evidence of this was already apparent years ago, when NPR steadfastly refused to use the word "torture" to describe torture, just because it was our country that did it and the White House played word games. Every time I listened to NPR and a story about the torture that we did (and continue to do) was mentioned as "enhanced interrogation techniques" I screamed at the radio that "no, it is fucking TORTURE you useless pieces of shit." Or something to that effect. They never heard me.

I will never ever give money to NPR now because of that gutless surrender to right-wing bullshit. I almost want to get called by someone at NPR asking me to give money, so I can tell them "no" and tell them exactly why I am saying "no." Their ombudsman had some article about this some time back, and it was the usual gutless bullshit that somehow calling it "torture" would be "taking a side" and not being "objective" when exactly the opposite is true. Since it is, in fact, torture, calling it by any other name is taking an ideological side. It is that same "he said, she said" fake balance of journalism. I'm sorry, but when one person says something that is objectively true, and someone else says the opposite, it is not "objective" to just report what each says and leave it at that. The only "objective" reporting would be to say that one person is telling the truth and the other person is not - and further, to investigate and find out if the person who is not is merely ignorant (and whether it is wilfully so) or if they are a lying sack of shit. THAT is objective reporting. Alas, it is gone forever.

Sure, there is the internet, but there is a huge portion of the populace that either gets their news from the Villagers on tv, or they read only right-wing blogs, and so our future is dead. The right-wing has already won. It is just a matter of how fast they can turn our society into a serf state (and it is already well on its way). Nothing can change this. There will be no more revolutions. There will be no hope. No one with any power will take the side of the populace. NO ONE. The GOP of course is against the populace, and the Democratic party is the only viable alternative - and they are utterly and completely pathetic and useless, and always will be.

We're fucked. Might as well unstrap your seatbelt and open the door and jump into oblivion while the car speeds toward the edge of the cliff.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time To Change the US Senate to Simple Majority Rule

It is time to end the filibuster. And secret holds. And every other rule of the Senate that allows anything less than 50 Senators block the Senate from acting.

I'm not saying this because it is the GOP who is currently in the minority, though it does provide illustration of why this is needed.

Were our government not so disfunctional and our political parties not so unevenly matched, it would not be such an issue. I see some value in letting a minority put the brakes on the minority. But we are way beyond any valid use of that power now.

The problem is, the minority powers of the Senate ALWAYS favor the GOP and do nothing for the Democrats. Here's why.

First, the Senate is already mismatched because of lots of low-population, deep red states that give two guaranteed Senators to the GOP. So the GOP already gets more Senators than its actual population would entitle it to. (They do the same in the House, with gerrymandering - something the GOP is also much better at doing than Dems).

Second, while some might be upset about losing this power when the Democrats are in the minority, I'd ask - Why? It is not like they ever really used it. When Bush was president (the moron Bush), the Dems basically caved in to everything he wanted anyway. They filibustered almost nothing. They never put secret holds that stuck. They didn't do diddly. But when the GOP is in the minority, on the other hand, they filibuster every fucking bill there is, whether they actually agree with it or not, just to keep the Democrats from accomplishing anything. They set massive new records for filibustering in just the past two years. So clearly, the filibuster is a power that only benefits the GOP. The Democrats never stick together well enough to ever use it anyway, so getting rid of it will lose them nothing. On the other hand, it will cost the GOP plenty.

Third, tied in to the second reason are the reasons behind it - the right-wing leaning media. If Dems try to block anything, Fox Noise is all over it, the rest of the media picks it up, and the Dems predicably fold like a lawnchair. When the GOP wants to block something, Harry Reid finds out about it in advance, and then instead of forcing an actual filibuster or making it a media blitz issue, he just gives up in advance and doesn't even bother to try to bring the bill to a vote.

So lets get rid of the minority-rule crap in the Senate. It only helps the GOP and hurts the Democrats. In the long run, it will be better for the Democrats to get rid of it, because at some point they may get a decent majority again, 55+ votes, and then they may actually get something done. Though I wouldn't hold my breath. At least this would remove a few more tools of power from the smug GOP assholes.

One last point - if there had been no filibuster, a lot of awfully good people would have been confirmed and in office right now. People like Dawn Johnson, who would have been the head of the Office of Legal Counsel - it is a national tragedy that she did not get confirmed. Of course, Obama could have done a recess appointment, but he's too much of a pussy to do that. Or maybe he never really was behind her anyway. Ugh. Another reason to be depressed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

3000 mile oil changes are bullshit

Penn and Teller ought to do a show just on this. Ok, maybe not. This article I saw online today was only news to me in the sense that most "news" is news - that it was reported, not that it was known.

I have been driving since I was 16 years old (really, a little before that, but only in Driver's Ed). In all that time, I have NEVER gotten an oil change more often than about 7500 miles - and usually less often than that. And I've never had any issues. Now, perhaps this is because of the cars I have driven - all Hondas - but I think it is true of most cars. Getting an oil change more often than that is just a waste of oil and a waste of money. I've known this for over 20 years and I am someone who knows next to nothing about cars.

My car's manual (I have a Honda Civic, 1998) indicates regular maintenance every 7500 miles. I figure they are conservative, so I stretch it out to about 8000 miles or so. My car runs great and has never had any problems. I just take it to the dealer every 8000 or so miles and let them do whatever is next on the schedule. That is also the only way I ever get any oil changed.

So here's a great money saving tip for anyone who doesn't know - change your oil every 8000 miles or so - really, do what the article says and look up the information for your particular car.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

News is Depressing

There are so many things depressing about the news these days, it is even depressing to get the news from the Daily Show.

Obama has gotten fewer judges confirmed than pretty much any president. And like a good, wimpy, worthless Democrat, he's done nothing to push the issue and there's nothing in the news about it other than an occasional, isolated article. Of course, all of the Republicans who were panting and screaming about how it is unconstitutional to stop judges from getting up or down votes when Bush was in office are silent and given a free pass from the media, as they always do.

The GOP is also given a pass on all of the crazy shit they say - look at the Governor in, what was it, Arkansas? Who blew the debate and said crazy shit about headless bodies in the desert and she feels free to just walk away from reporters and ignore any questions about it - because the crazy-ass GOP voters will vote for her anyway. Hell, they are probably MORE likely to vote for her.

Meanwhile, Democrats, afraid of their own shadows, cave in at every turn and even look like they will vote for extending the tax cuts for the rich, cuts we can't afford. Of course, all of the GOP shouts about the deficit leave out the cost of extending those tax cuts for the rich, and again, they get a free pass to say whatever the fuck they want to say, facts be damned.

I ought to run for office - as a Republican - just to see how much crazy shit I can say and get away with. The Right-Wing media machine will give me tons of free press. And I won't have to worry about any opposing media machine to counter any crazy shit I say. If a Dem says something even non-crazy and true, it will get distorted and trumped up to the worst thing imaginable by the right-wing noise machine, which is then picked up by all of the MSM. But if you are a Republican, well, say whatever you want. You won't get nary a peep from the media criticising you, and you'll get free interviews on Fox Noise.

Someone just shoot me now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

Over the past few months I've played in two different Pathfinder games, and I have to say, I'm impressed. I really like the Pathfinder rules and I like what they've done to the base classes, adding interesting little tidbits to them and also taking the tidbits they already had and making them better.

It feels like I'm playing a whole new edition, though it is really very close to 3.5 - 3.75 they call it. And it feels like playing Dungeons and Dragons. Which, sad to say, 4E D&D simply did not.

At this point, Wizards/Hasbro would have to do quite a number with a 5E to bring me back. Given where they've gone, it seems terribly unlikely. So it looks like, to me, Dungeons and Dragons now is officially a Paizo product. I know, they don't have that name, but they have its spirit. Hasbro foolishly gave it up to make something that simply isn't D&D.

In the meanwhile, I can't wait to play more Pathfinder. Right now, I'm playing a fighter in one game and a Paladin in another. It would be interesting to try a spellcaster next, though that may be a while, since these other games are just getting started. I've even been inspired enough to start doing writeups again, though I'll have to see how long that lasts. It does take a long time to do. I'm doing it for the Paladin. I'm having quite a bit of fun with him. Bjorn Skaarsgard the Just. Maybe I'll post a link to my writeups for him here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Social Security SOLVED

Since cutting taxes apparently increases revenue, according to the GOP, I have the simple solution to our Social Security funding crises - we cut the social security tax. Since cutting increases revenue, we should maximize this by cutting it from what it is now (what, 7.5% or something like that) to 0.1%. That should solve the crises forever - after all, cutting taxes by like 99% we should see revenue collected increase by 99%, right?

But we should write into that law a failsafe - that if the revenue actually does not go up, we cover any shortfall with an increase in the capital gains tax sufficient to cover it - no matter how high it may need to be. The GOP should, of course, agree to this immediately, because, after all, if tax cuts increase revenue, this failsafe would never actually need to kick in, right?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Best Description Ever of Why it is Pointless to Debate Theists about Atheism

Larry has outdone himself - after ten years of attempting to debate and really understand and reason with the theists, he has figured out there is no point in doing so because they fundamentally have no interest in facts or reason, nor do they want to admit that this is so. But don't read my paraphrase - get it from the source.

I'd have to say that the only reason I would try to engage the ridiculous theist arguments now would be to answer questions for my children - to hopefully steer them into rational territory and keep them out of the coral reef full of bullshit that is religious thought.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sick of the Useless Media

I'm so sick of seeing "Ground Zero Mosque" everywhere - first and foremost because it IS NOT AT GROUND ZERO SO IT IS NOT A GROUND ZERO MOSQUE. But of course, that moniker has stuck because that's the narrative set by the right-wing media, and it just gets worse from there.

Anyone with half a brain (or less) knows this whole thing is a bullshit, manufactured "controversy" of the right-wing meant to bash "libruls" and distract the news cycle away from things that actually matter.

But my saying anything about it won't change anything. At least I get to rant about it, even though it doesn't matter. Nothing matters. The right wing won, and will always win. They have more money, they have much more disciplined media, and whatever they push out on Drudge will be the story of the day regardless of reality.

As for the citizenry too stupid to realize this (or care) or too xenophobic to care? Fuck them all.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spam Removal

It seems like all I ever do here is remove spam that seems to pop up in comments every week or so... usually with links to porn or viagra. Mostly porn.

I would like to post, but just don't feel like it given the time and energy available.

Plus, I've probably lost all my readers by now - heh - or most of them. If one actually cares about such things, the number one comandment is to post something every day, or at least on a regular, semi-weekly basis.

Politics is, as always, depressing. Obama is continuing all of the worst Bush policies - well, almost all - and otherwise is useless at advocating for anything I care about. He's a center-right president. Which makes it even more pathetic that the right-wing decries him on a daily basis as a far-left liberal. Which just proves that there is not a single syllable from the mouth of any national GOP figure worth listening to. And the Dems are just stupid. Blech.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Busiest Month Ever

April has turned out to be the busiest month ever - as far as my current job is concerned. March was the second busiest. February the third, and so on. It has been a busy year. I have been busier before, I think, when I was in law school and working very long hours, but the difference then was that I had no kids. When two kids are factored in, the exhaustion level is much higher. If I could I'd have a babysitter every night - but as it stands, a few nights is enough to keep me going.

I'm so drained and tired it is hard to do much of anything - like write. I am thinking about it, at least. I'm reading Stephen King's "On Writing" for the second time - I just started it, really - I vaguely remember it from the first time I read it ages ago. Maybe I'll write something more substantial than a blog post - like a book.

I'm still generally depressed about politics - nothing really good is happening. I'm happy the health care bill passed, but it is so watered down that I'm not all that excited about it. It is most satisfying just to see the GOP crushed. The GOP has lost all seriousness and is now nothing but an empty PR/power machine. They believe in nothing, stand for nothing, and will lie with every word every day. It is disgusting. The Democrats are marginally better, in that they do believe in things, they just are inept at power or don't try very hard. The Media just makes the whole situation worse. Larry thinks the only solution now is revolution - he may be right, but what depresses me about that is that I know if he is right, there will also be no revolution. The only people who ever get mad enough to do such a thing these days are the nutty right wingers who want to "take their country back."

At least there is Jon Stwewart to watch for news.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Followup on my Heath Care Issue

As I recently wrote, I had a serious issue with seeing my doctor. I blame the GOP for blocking health care reform for this - but someone took issue with me for that (see comments here).

Not to totally repeat what I said there, but I still blame the GOP - it is true that the Doctor's office was a total asshole to me, but the point is, if we had reform (and say a Britain-like system) the Doctor's office would not have been able to be an asshole to me. One large reason for reform is to stop assholes in the system from preventing people from getting the healthcare they need. Another thing is to stop money (or lack thereof) from preventing people from getting the healthcare they need. Both money and assholishness were at issue in my case. Therefore, the lack of health care reform is front and center. And so the GOP are assholes. QED.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Broken Health Care System and Credit System

It is interesting that when health care and the broken financial system are both the hot topics of the day that a situation relating to both in combination happened to me this past week. And no, I was not caught trading credit default swaps in hospital stock. I just got sick.

It started with an annoying "business decision" by my HMO, Blue Care Network, to get rid of all of its health facilities, doctors, and nurses. This was terribly annoying because all of our doctors were at a BCN facility, and this facility was right near our house. We'd gone there for years. I don't know why they did this. I'm sure it was probably an attempt to squeeze more money out of us somehow. In any case, the doctors there scattered to the winds. I decided to keep my doctor, for lack of any better option (it is hard to find an available doctor), and so I had my files sent to the new office where he set up shop, Mid Michigan Physicians. This happened last year, though not too long ago.

Unfortunately, our pediatrician left the state, so we decided to go with another one from the office - he moved to MSU. So now our doctors were in two different practices. That was only slightly inconvenient, however, compared to what I had to deal with last week.

One of the "joys" of having kids in day care is that they often get sick and then bring it home and we all get sick. My daughter generously got a nasty cold that she then shared by coughing all over me and spitting in my face and mouth on a frequent basis. So I had some long nights of misery coughing and otherwise not sleeping well. My eyes also got some sort of infection and I was having trouble seeing in bright light. Now there's not much that can be done for a cold - so I would just have let it run its course, but the eye issue was concerning because it made it difficult to drive when it was sunny with lots of snow on the ground. That concern made me want to set up a doctor's appointment.

Now I had not had an appointment with my doctor at his new practice yet. Which was why I was shocked to discover when I did try and get an appointment that they would not schedule one because of a billing issue. I asked them how could I have a billing issue when I've never visited that practice before? They said it was from 2005, with a doctor whose name I'd never heard before. They said they did not know who the doctor was, either. So then I asked, how could there be a billing issue for a doctor who was never at their practice from a time when I had never visited the facility. No answer to that. And they couldn't give more specifics because the bill was so old it was sent to their collections agency. They said they could do nothing about it. For some strange reason the address they had on file for me was one over 10 years old. It was strange because I had never been there before and so the only address they should have had was my current address (one I've had for 10 years).

I called back several times, talked to the billing manager. They would do nothing. They told me they couldn't tell me anything more. They told me only the collections company could do anything and I had to figure it out with them. Meanwhile, my primary care physician, the only person who can approve certain treatments, referrals, and everything else was now unavailable to me.

The collections company could tell me nothing. The records were so old they were in storage. They had the same old address. They said that they had on file that mail they sent to me was returned. Apparently looking my address up in the phone book was too complicated for them, since I have a listed address that has been publicly available for 10 years (and there are no other names in the phone book like mine). So the best they could do at the collections company was order the records out of storage and send them to me. This could take weeks. In the meanwhile, no doctor appointments for me.

Needless to say, I was gloriously pissed off. I'm going to find another doctor. That will take time. In the meanwhile, though I am double insured, I can't get a fucking doctor's appointment. Republicans can all fucking die. They don't want to fix healthcare? They can just fucking die. And fuck the Democrats for not passing a public option. They could do it right now, but they won't. Fuckers.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Raising Atheist Children in a Christian Nation - There are no Sunday Schools for Atheists

One of my biggest worries with my children is how I can raise them to be properly skeptical (and hopefully atheist) in a Christian Nation. [1] It is funny, now that I think about it - typically you see the Christian parents being the ones so worried their children will be corrupted by a non-Christian education in public schools. I'm not worried about secular schools. I am not worried about the culture at large as much either. I do worry about day care, which is a Christian day care. That I feel stuck with given the limited options (and limited funds). As I've discussed before, I have no interest in having a nanny again.

What has concerned me about day care is what my daughter comes home with. I see little coloring book pages with religious themes. I hear her talk about religious things, though rarely. I guess I'm hoping that when she starts school in six months, this will all become a dim memory. I take some small comfort in the fact that I went to a religious day care as well when I was a child and it didn't stick - perhaps because my parents are not at all religious and we never went to church. Still, I wonder how to deal with the whole religion issue with my children.

I don't want to be dogmatic. I want them ultimately to learn to think for themselves. You can't simply teach the "right" things - you need to give a toolkit to kids so they can figure things out for themselves. At the same time, though, kids need to obey and do what they are told, at least when they are very young - for their own safety. Kids also rebel - and go and do the opposite of what their parents want, at least, that's what I've read or heard about. I never really did that, but I understand the concept. So the difficulty is - how do you really go about doing this?

One idea I have is social - if my kids hang out with other kids who are also raised to be skeptical, then there's the good peer pressure -or maybe lack of bad peer pressure. Except I don't know anyone else here who is atheist and has kids. Maybe I should try and find a local community of atheists.

I've heard of atheist summer camps and such - really skepticism summer camps. I really want to send my kids somewhere like that someday, but that is only a short bit of the year.

I worry about what religion could do to my kids. I worry about one or both of them coming home one day and declaring he or she is now a Christian. I'd still love them, but I would feel like I failed somehow. I'd feel like a part of them is dead - or brainwashed. I don't want my kids to grow up to be another of the superstitious idiots that populate our nation and our planet. I want them to question. I want them to be skeptical of what they are told. I want them to be thinkers.

It is funny that Christianists call our schools horrible and godless, but they really aren't - most people in public schools are Chrsitans, and much of that seeps into everything. They aren't taught real skepticism. They will probably never hear the word "atheist" spoken. It is a secular education, but not a godless one. I should be the one who is concerned, not the Christian parents. They really are only upset because the schools are not more fully Christian-dominated than they already are.

If only there were truly "godless" schools - where real skepticism was taught. Where kids were taught that religion - all of it - is superstition. Where kids are taught that "god" is a purely human creation. Where kids learn to think. Regular schools will never do this. Hell, there isn't even a "sunday school for atheists." There ought to be. Hell, that is a good line to add to the title of this post. (And now I have...)

I have resolved to do something about that. I don't have a lot of time, but I'm going to at least get a start on this. I will see if I can find others in my community who feel as I do, and who aren't infected by religion. I'm going to then see if I can get some interest in putting together something like a Sunday School for Atheists. Maybe it is something I can just do for my own kids. They'll probably think I'm nuts. Maybe the better way to do it is more subtle - not any set time or place, but just a planting of the seeds of skepticism wherever I can find it. Maybe the Sunday School for Atheists needs to be more for parents - to teach them to do the same with their own kids. I do this already where I can. With the few times I've heard some talk of Jesus out of my daughter, I've asked her, "how do you know that's true?" I want her to think about that, rather than challenge things directly. Make her defend it with logic and reason - with the idea of showing her that it can't be defended. Thankfully, she really hasn't said much along those lines, and will soon be done with day care, so maybe I should not be so worried.

Maybe a first step can be coming up with a curriculum - and posting it online. In fact, I bet someone has already done something along those lines somewhere. I am going to search for it and build on what I find.

Now if only every parent would do this, maybe we'd have a better world - where politicians can't so easily prey on the ignorance and superstitions of the public. Ok, now I'm dreaming.


[1] Of course, I would dispute the title of "Christian Nation" for the United States. We have a secular Constitution that explicitly separates church and state. So I vehemently contest any attempt to call this nation an officially Chrsitian one. But culturally, there are a lot of Christians to deal with, and they tend to control every elective office at every level. This is the community that my children will be growing up in. So this is what I have to deal with.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Carnival of the Godless on February 28

Larry has graciously asked me to offer an article for the Carnival of the Godless on February 28, and I'd be happy to do so. This gives me two weeks to think of something... but I have a few ideas in mind. In the meanwhile, anyone who would like to participate - spread the "good word!"

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Head In the Sand

I've tried to have a discussion with some right-wing folks about the health care bill, but as with most things, it has proven to be totally pointless to even try. These people have their head in the sand and refuse to see there is a problem. They deny that anyone is denied healthcare for being poor. They cite laws that require EMREGENCY care and then equate that with saying that everyone gets health care, apparently oblivious to the fact that most health care is not emergency care. They also ignore the fact that even emergency care will saddle you with a huge bill that can bankrupt you and put your family on the street, which is a reason for the poor to avoid going to get even emergency care.

I mean really, how can you even have a discussion with someone whose head is six inches under the ground? What can you say to people like that? Health care is doomed. Everything is doomed. People are morons.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I guess I'm in a gang

The 7th Circuit, in an appalling (yet increasingly unsurprising) ruling, holds that it is entirely rational to equate the playing of Dungeons and Dragons with being in a gang. This, in the face of ZERO evidence presented that there was ever any such issues. This opinion is so stupid it defies words.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shadowrun Becomes Real

No, I'm not referrring to a sighting of a dragon near Mt. Fuji in Japan, though certainly the date for that approaches. I'm instead referring to a question raised by the recent Supreme Court ruling finding corporations have rights like people - Can corporations now also bear arms? Why not? It is the same logic. The corporations need to protect their assets and personnel. So why not have private corprate armies? Welcome to the world of Shadowrun, chummers!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm Glad Brown Won in Mass

I'm glad Brown won. Becuase Democrats are WORTHLESS. Jon Stewart summed it up best this week when he pointed out that even after this loss, Dems have an 18 seat majority, far more than the GOP ever had, back when they had control, when the GOP did whatever the fuck they wanted, got passed whatever they wanted. The Dems had 60 seats and didn't do diddly. You can be damn sure if the GOP ever had 60 seats and the White House that the tax rate would drop as your income increased, so only middle class and lower class people paid taxes, Christianity would be made the offiicial religion of the nation, and all non-GOPers would all be vassals or in Gitmo right now. The Dems screwed around for a year, did nothing, and now will lose health care - not that the bill they would have passed even with 60 seats would have been worth anything, it not having a public option. Might as well kill it now. In any case, I'm done.

The country is doomed. Most we can do now is buy popcorn and watch it all slowly burn.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Democrats have No backbone - In other news, water is wet

So surprise, surprise. The Democratic Party has 60 seats in the Senate and still can't get anything worthwhile done. Or they don't want to. Because there is no party representing the people - there is a party representing the monied elites and another party representing the psychos and the monied elites. The media represents - the monied elites.

The Dems might lose the Mass. Senate seat, but even if they keep it, they'll keep it with a right-wing friendly candidate. Where the FUCK are the progressives? Why can almost none of them exercise any power?

I can see how some might wish for a revolution at this point. Of course, no such thing will ever happen. Sigh.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It sucks when your pre-verbal child gets sick

My son is sick, as I mentioned earlier this week. Fortunately, it has turned out to be a (relatively) mild cold. He's had some coughing, but not much. His nose has run, but not much. He had a fever at one point, but not since. In other words, he's doing fairly well, all things considered. I have worried that I might be getting sick, but I might just be tired - that is probably it. My wife may be getting sick, but she had the misfortune of lots of tiny, drool-soaked fingers shoved into her mouth several times. I've been deft enough to keep my mouth out of reach, though my son sure has tried! He laughs when he does it, too. He loves to grab for my face, particularly after he's climbed on top of me while I'm laying down.

Oh, and my daughter is cold-free thus far, which is great, though she also has been getting into things, and may have drunk from my son's cup.

My wife is still pursuing a nanny, but with less vigor now. She's had several candidates cancel meeting because they found something else, and several who she talked to a few times who have now vanished. It is exceedingly difficult to find someone decent. And even when you think you have, you can turn out to be terribly wrong about that. She's really about ready to give up on the notion, I think. Maybe it is because our son's sickness has turned out to be not all that bad this time, maybe it is because of the difficulty even in arranging a meeting with a nanny candidate, maybe it is the money we will save - probably it is a combination of the above.

All of that said, it still sucks when our son is sick now, because he's not quite talking. We can't ask him where it hurts or how he's feeling. He can just cry, for the most part. Yesterday, I stayed home with him, and at one point he was crying miserably. He likes to throw himself on the ground in passive protest when he's upset. It is kind of funny, actually. I wasn't sure if he just wasn't feeling well or what it was. It turned out that what he was really upset about was he was bored - once I took him downstairs and gave him some entertaining things to do, he was happy as a clam. You'd have thought he was being tortured with the wailing he was giving, but no, he was just bored. I can't wait til he starts talking in sentences. I am betting it will be maybe three months from now - that's when my daughter started - when she was about 26 months. She hasn't stopped talking since. Of course, when she doesn't feel well, sometimes she refuses to tell us what is wrong, but at least we know she can if it gets right down to it.

What I worry about most is ear infections - those won't go away on their own. It is a pain to go to the doctor to screen for them - much better to only go when there is a specific complaint about ear pain. Three months to go!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day Care and Long Night

As I indicated in my previous Nanny Saga post, my kids are back in day care. I don't want another nanny. I'm rather fed up with the whole process/concept. My wife, however, is still looking for another one - she doesn't like our son in day care. She's worried he'll get sick. I've told her he WILL get sick, but it won't be the end of the world. He's older now than he was when he was there last - he should not have as much trouble.

Well, now it looks like he's sick. He was screaming last night and needed to be held - he's been in bed with us (and with our daughter) most of the night. I'm not sure what the trouble is. It is frustrating when they are this age because they can't tell you what is wrong. He can almost talk, but not quite. My wife thinks it is an ear infection. I don't know what it is - it could be a sore throat as a precursor to a cold - his nose is not running, he hasn't been coughing. We may be able to tell more this morning. If it is an ear infection, that means a trip to the doctor for antibiotics. That is a pain generally, made more so by the fact that our regular doctor's office closed as the insurance company totally pulled out of having doctor's offices. Yes, I hate health insurance companies - this sort of crap just infuriates me. The old office was close to our house and we liked the doctors. Now we have to go all the way across town.

Maybe we'll be able to tell more this morning. In any case, I'm sure my wife wants him out of day care again more than ever - but I still don't. I don't want to deal with nanny crap again. I frankly don't trust anyone to be our nanny. With what we can afford to pay, I don't think we can get anyone of sufficient quality - and frankly, I don't want to mess with all of that again.

Kids get sick. We had a nice run of nearly 8 months when we had no sick kids at all. It also cost us an arm and a leg and led to two different big nanny dramas. I've had enough.

Unless my son gets so sick that a doctor orders us to take him out of day care, that's where I think he should stay. My daughter loves it there - she sees her friends and has lots to do. I think my son is warming up to it to - he's not outgoing like my daughter, but once he warms up to people and a situation, he's fine (not unlike myself). It remains to be seen if my wife can accept this - she's already extremely upset about this. It didn't help that day care people did something stupid yesterday - when we went to pick them up, our son was being wheeled around in the main hallway (which goes past the outside door) wearing only a thin white short-sleeved tshirt on top. They thought he was too warm in the room and took off his over shirt and then never put it back on. My wife has a big thing about cold - irrational really - but beyond that, taking him around without a shirt like that was just stupid.

My thought is that at least at day care when someone does something stupid, you can complain to a supervisor who can then check in on our son and make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again. With a nanny, we won't know if something stupid happens, and even if we find out, its not like we can verify it hasn't happened again. I told my wife to complain (well, complain again, she certainly did plenty of it already) today and that they will keep an eye on things.

It is going to be a long winter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Child Care Deduction is a Joke

It is tax time, or soon will be. One of the major deductions we have is the cost of child care. Specifically, we have a dependent care reimbursement account, which is a pre-tax deduction from pay that then can be used to pay for child care. This is certainly helpful. The thing is, the total limit for the year is a joke. It hasn't been raised in ages. It hasn't kept up with inflation. It hasn't kept up with anything.

Right now, with two kids, in a cheap day care, our day care costs are about $341 per week. With a nanny we paid over $500 per week. That comes to either $17,700 per year or $26,000 per year. And the limit on a child care dependent reimbursement account for the year? $5,000. As I said, it is a joke. Especially since the costs of child care in my area are probably rock-bottom compared to many other areas of the country. And this is with only two kids. You have many families with more kids. That $5,000 amount is a flat rate, regardless of the number of kids you have.

This really needs to be increased. In fact, an increase is ridiculously overdue. Unfortunately, I don't see an increase on the horizon. I'd say write your congress person, but I don't think three letters will do it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Politics are Depressing

Politics are depressing. And annoying. The discourse is base, stupid, emotional, and totally detatched from reality. The media (at least on TV) is basically worthless. Papers aren't much better. Only a select set of sources does any actual reporting or investigation - you know - what used to be journalism.

Lies get repeated, all of the major media players are basically stenographers, they get their marching orders from the Druge Report and whatever the latest right-wing meme is and the electorate has a huge block of people who are ignorant and proud of it--people who take joy out of pointing out how uneducated they are; people who think the world is a few thousand years old; that think an imaginary friend talks to them; that think science is just a scam; that think neutral, objective analysis is biased because it doesn't reach their pre-determined right-wing conclusions.

We are screwed. Nothing will change that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Close of Nanny Saga

UPDATED

This morning after I stepped out of the shower and got dressed, I picked up my cell phone and discovered a message, a variant I've seen many times. It was from our nanny. She said she woke up and her eye was messed up, like pink eye, as it she said it had been earlier in the week. She said she would try putting in eye drops she had gotten to see if it would get better and that she would be here in half an hour.

Half an hour later, she was not here. I sent her a text message asking if she was on the way. No response. I called her. No answer. My wife did the same. No answer. My wife had to do a call for work and so was busy with that while I watched our son. Finally, she was done, and I left for work while she stayed home with the children. Because of the weather she was half planning on trying to work from home today anyway (she has a long commute), but with the kids and no nanny, she knew she would get no work done so she took a personal day.

I went to work and got going on things. Around noon, I called home to see if my wife had heard anything from the nanny. Nothing. I texted her again. Nothing. Finally, fed up with this, and having seen this happen on several occasions before, I called and left her a voice mail to call me. Now. Then a few minutes later, I texted the same thing. On too many occasions we find out she can't come with a shor text message in the morning followed by a full day (or more, sometimes a whole weekend) where we call or text her and get no response. She usually gave some excuse about why she couldn't answer. To tell the truth we put up with it because she did show up for work the next work day and she seemed to be doing a fine job with the kids and things like putting away dishes and clothes for us (which helps a lot).

But enough was enough. Not showing up for work and then ignoring calls about where you are after you say you will be in is unacceptable. So I left my message for her to call me. She didn't call. She did, however, immediately text back that she did not have to call me, that she did not have to put up with our "bullshit" and she didn't have to "raise our kids" and that she would come tomorrow (Saturday) morning to give us her key and get her last check. Needless to say, I was stunned. She had not said anything about this before. She seemed just fine the previous day, though it was a long day, since she came early and stayed a bit late as my wife was late getting home because of the weather (and I was VERY late). I make no claims of perfection, but I do know that working as our nanny was not exactly the worst job in the world. For the most part, she was on her own all day.

But maybe we should not be so surprised. Her childhood friend who had introduced us did tell us that she had gotten our nanny a few other jobs in the past that she had abruptly quit. Still, at the time, we had few options, and she did do fine with the kids. She also promised she would never do such a thing to us - she said she understood that we depended on her for both of us to go to work for our own jobs.

After her rather nasty text message, I told my wife, and she then called our nanny's friend, our former (and sometimes current) babysitter. She told my wife that she and our nanny had a stupid argument two weeks ago and then drove off, leaving our nanny's friend and her sister stranded - in Detroit, no less, 95 miles from home. They had gone down there for some sort of party or some bar thing. Since that time, they haven't spoken, and it sounded like the friendship was over. Our nanny's friend (damn, it would be easier to use names...) apologized and did not sound terribly surprised that our nanny had done this since she has done it before. She also said that she thought our nanny might have recently broken up with her boyfriend, and so was acting out of sorts.

I do wonder now if something else may have contributed. Several weeks ago, our son, who is now 23 months old, burned his finger. Our nanny said she did not know how it happened. Our daughter wasn't much help with that either, being four, but from the pattern of the burn - a straight line down across the diagnol of the finger, I guessed it was probably from a hot tap water stream. The water in the bathroom can get quite hot and that is something that would leave that sort of pattern. My wife worried it was the gas fireplace, but that has a flat glass front and so a burn there would not be able to be in a thin line on a finger like that. It would have been wider.

Looking at the computer downstairs, I noticed that it had been used during the day and that there were lots of visits to our nanny's facebook page. We also found some document she had made that looked like a forged doctor's excuse note from work - something you'd expect from a delinquent high school student (our nanny is 24, btw). It was for someone we didn't know, but who we later determined was a friend of hers (not her boyfriend, though). Our daughter did say that when our son was burned, the nanny was downstairs. For some reason, I thought she never went down stairs. We have a gate blocking it and our son really isn't allowed down there (too many small objects and things) and with just one person at home, you can't be downstairs while one or both kids are upstairs. But the logs showed she was down there every day. Now, this wasn't necessarily a big deal - our son naps in the middle of the day, and our daughter occasionally does as well (though now that is rare). If both kids are sleeping, I really don't care if the nanny is downstairs on the computer - but if she is going down there even when they are awake and moving around upstairs, that is an issue.

Rather than really get into it with her, I decided to simply lock the computers with a password. That would remove any incentive to go downstairs at all. She could find plenty of entertainment upstairs - between all of the DVDs and cable channels we have, it wasn't like there was nothing for her to occupy herself with if the kids were sleeping, or even if they were playing without her direct involvement. And that is all fine. I set this up just before the holidays. I wonder if she found it then, though, since she did not watch the kids much, or my wife was here, right up until just before New Year's. This week might have been the first week she was here where she noticed. I don't know. Maybe that reduced her interest in doing this job. I can only guess. We never said anything about it. We certainly never told her she could use the computer, though as I said above, it didn't bother me if she only did it when they were sleeping. The burn incident, though, convinced me that she didn't or couldn't limit herself to that. The burn led to a nasty blister, and I simply couldn't allow that to happen again.

So maybe the lack of computer access contributed. We'll never know. I suspect that she really did not have any issue with her eye, but simply did not want to come today for whatever reason. That may have been true most of the other times she has claimed some sort of strange illness as well. That happened probably at least a half-dozen times. And truly, that did not necessarily bother me either. People do get sick. Or have other reasons they can't come to work. I do wish she had been honest about it. We were always very accomodating. What irked me, really, was not that she didn't come, but that she would then be unreachable - so we would not know what was going on or when she might be back.

I wonder if she'll even show up tomorrow for her check, or if she'll send her sister or someone to get it. My wife thinks she'll be too chicken to show up. I think she's probably right. I really don't care now. We had another person who has subbed when the nanny was sick. We asked her if she wanted to be our full time nanny. She thought about it, but declined. She has a bunch of other job prospects right now that she is excited about, so she does not want to commit. Which is fine - with her, I at least am fairly certain if she does commit, she will stick to it. It is good that she is upfront, rather than working for a bit and then quitting, for instance.

With her turn down, we have no other options. There is a web site for finding child care. We have had some luck finding babysitters there. We signed up for it again (our subscription had lapsed). That cost some money. I almost wish I hadn't now. Because we've decided we will just send the kids back to day care. The day care said they would take them. It has been eight months. They will get sick again. They will get the mind poison that is religion. But I can maybe do something about that. Maybe. It is not like we have a choice. The other day cares nearby simply aren't as good or really all that close. It sucks having to deal with this.

Day care will be much cheaper - about 1/3rd cheaper or more. And during the summer, my wife's mother will be here and we can reduce day care down to 1 day a week, saving even more money (need to keep a day to keep the spot). She can come every summer, which will be good for when the kids have summer vacation after they start school.

Day care is a pain. Haivng to bundle them up to take them in will be annoying, as will doing the same to pick them up. It will be a bit easier now that both are older. I'm not looking forward to it. But the cost savings at least makes me feel good. Not having to deal with nanny taxes or nanny issues also makes me feel good. I'll just have to do it this once, and then be done with it.

So my nanny saga now comes to a close. Tomorrow morning I won't have to worry about nannies anymore. We did day care before, so we can do it again. With my son older, he should do much better than he did as a baby. Wish him luck.

UPDATE:

Now it really is over. This morning, only 12 hours after I sent a message asking when the ex-nanny would come over today, she sent a message that said "half an hour." Over an hour later, her sister shows up (showing the nanny is truly gutless) to "get the check." I asked her for the house key. She said she didn't know anything about that. I told her no key, no check. She said she'd go to her car and call her sister about that. She went outside and then left. An hour later she was back, this time with the key. My wife still did not want to give her the check because we wanted the nanny to come so she could at least offer an explanation. Her sister said she would come later today if we give the check now. I told her I did not believe her. She then got very hostile and started complaining about how she was owed money from that check, etc. We told her this was not our problem.

I offered a compromise - I said we'd give it to her if her sister, our former nanny, would talk to my wife on the phone for two minutes. She refused, got very hostile, made complaints about how she was watching someone else's kids right now, and so forth. She still called, but our ex nanny refused to talk to us. Her sister was extremely rude, started making threats about how she was going to call a "higher authority" and call the police. Really, all we wanted was some sort of explanation beyond the very short and rude text message we had gotten yesterday. Finally, when it was clear our ex nanny would never talk to us, and after some nasty things her sister said to us, I decided just to write the check and say good riddance. Her sister took it and slammed the door on the way out, showing she was just as rude and immature as our now ex nanny.

Later, we talked with our ex nanny's now former friend who had introduced us. She explained in more detail what happened two weeks ago - not only was she stranded in Detroit, but our ex nanny had gotten drunk and tried to choke her after getting hostile about when they would leave and how.

This whole experience has soured me on the notion of even having a nanny. We really could barely afford it as it was, and only with scrimping on everything else. And even that did not give a huge rate of pay - probably about 500 dollars a week. Of course, there are far worse jobs than ones where you can stay indoors all day, watch TV, and set your own agenda (as the kids permit). It is not like we were there breathing over her shoulder - we were at work.

It sounds like she is very emotionally unstable, and it is probably good she is no longer watching our children. We will not be replacing her. The kids, as I said, will go back to day care on Monday, at least through June. They will get sick and it will be a pain, but there is nothing we can do about that. At least we'll be able to start adding to savings instead of depleting it. It was about gone as it was.

Some people truly never grow up and just are not responsible adults. I have been quite fortunate for my circumstances.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter Misery

Yesterday we got our first real big snowstorm of the season. It really wasn't that much snow - maybe 7 inches. But the timing was horrible. I had to drive to Detroit for a hearing at 9am. That meant getting up at 5, leaving the house at 6, and hoping that traffic wasn't too bad. It wasn't, so I got there just before 8.

The hearing then lasted all day, with no lunch break, and we finished around 4:30 or so. It took until 5 to get out of there, which meant hitting rush hour traffic. But that was almost irrelevant, since in the meanwhile, it had started snowing and none of the roads had yet been plowed. It is a 93 mile trip in total. Between traffic and unplowed or semi-plowed roads, it took over four hours to drive back home. Four grueling hours, where I often could not see the road or what lane I was in, I couldn't see out of my window very well as it kept having frozen patches that my wipers would miss right in my line of vision, and where my neck and shoulders were killing me. I got home at 9:30pm.

For whatever reason last night I did not sleep well. I will probably have a headache all day today. I don't know why I couldn't sleep. I didn't have anything in particular on my mind, though I probably could have - I got some interesting news at work Wednesday and I have a TON of work to do this month, work I have no idea how I'm going to fit it all in. But I wasn't thinking about any of that last night - I was just exhausted and wanted to sleep. Even now, I really don't feel anxious about anything - I 'm tired and want to rest and not think about anything and I'm really not thinking about or worrying about anything.

Tonight is gaming night in Chelsea. That is 57 miles away. After last night, I am about as enthused about driving as I am about putting my hand down the garbage disposal with it on. On top of that, there is supposed to be more snow today. I really don't want to drive in that, and I may not be able to stay awake all that late anyway. So I will probably not go. Which is sad, since it has been several weeks.

Winter sucks.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Crazy for Zhu Zhu Pets

My wife has gone insane. She's totally lost it. She just has to have these silly little hamster zhu zhu pets - and the little house things they run in. She says she is getting them for the kids - and it isn't like she is playing with them. But really, neither of our kids was asking for these things. Neither of them knew about them. My son is too little to be aware of such things - he'll be two next month, and my daughter actually sees very few commercials. We tend to watch DVDs or DVR'd stuff, so commercials are, thankfully, a rare occurance in our house.

My wife heard of them from who knows where, and decided that since these are the "hot" toy this year, she had to get them for the kids. I think it is silly, and a waste of time and money. She's been calling all over the state to Walmarts to find one that has stuff in stock. She drove all the way to Ionia one day just to get some item, and now today, she's driving to St. Johns to get something else. Thankfully the little house things aren't that expensive, but still, the cost in time and gas is non-trivial. I suggested she just wait til they are no longer "hot" and then order them online, but she can't wait. It is even more silly when you consider that the kids have already gotten all of their presents for the holidays and now, just a week later, she's buying more for them. She was deprived in childhood, I think, and is making up for it now.

In any case, I just don't see these toys lasting. Sure, right now, the kids are playing with them - and fighting over them - but it is the sort of toy I see sitting unused in a box within a month or two. I remember the fad toys of the past, and I don't recall seeing a single one of them still being sold much or in use. Fads generally are fads because they have no staying power.

I look at the toys I liked and that are played with over and over even now by my kids, and I know these Zhu Zhu things won't be amongst them. The most popular and versatile toys I have are my old legos. Now those are good fun forever. You can make new toys out of them. You can combine sets. The lego blocks I got decades ago my daughter plays with now and has had fun playing with them for several years now. She never gets tired of them. That's the kind of toy I like to get.

Oh well. I hope this last set my wife is getting will get it out of her system. It is supposed to be a central hub you can use to connect several other Zhu Zhu house things together. Now once everything is connected, she shouldn't have any more good excuses to go looking for more. One can only hope.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Plagerism and the Law

In school you get constantly reminded of the dire, nay evil, violation that is plagerism. And there is good reason for that - you need to be evaluated for your own work, not for how well you select the work of others.

That this continues into law school is particularly funny to me now that I am a lawyer. The reason for this is that once you are actually practicing law (and really doing any sort of legal research), plagerism is not only allowed, it is heavily encouraged, and in fact, the practice of law would grind to a halt without it.

Whenever you have a brief to write or a research memo to write, or whatever else you need to write, the normal practice is to first find out if someone has written on the same or similar topic in the office and, if so, copy as much of that as you can. No attribution is made to the original author of the material. You appropriate it, often alter it as little as possible (to save time), verify the law is still good, then you sign your name to it and send it out. To the world, it is your document, with only you as the author, but of course the reality is that you might have only written a small portion of it.

This makes a great deal of sense - why reinvent the wheel if you don't need to. Not every issue will have something you can cut and paste from - you do still have to do your own original research, and unless you are working on something from the same case, you will have to make a lot of changes after you cut and paste. So original writing ability is still important - but what is probably equally important from a practical point of view is the ability to quickly find old material that you can use to cut and paste from. Even if you have to alter it greatly, it gives you a starting point and saves a ton of time.

Thus, you need to learn to write on your own, and that's why plagerism is so heavily frowned upon in academia, but in the real world, plagerism is a way of life, and in a good way. I just find that highly amusing. Maybe there should be room in school for you be be evaluated for not only your original work, but how well you steal the work of others - after all, that will be a needed skill when you graduate!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Not Paying Attention to Politics

I must admit, I have not paid much attention to politics lately. Aside from pointless arguments with die-hard wingnuts on an old bulletin board, I've really not done much with the latest political squabbles, and even on the board, it is sporadic responses on healthcare.

Partly it is because I'm too busy to spend much time with it, but partly it is because it is just depressing. The Republicans are worthless - they are blocking everything in a cynical ploy to get back power. That's all they care about. The Democratic party is worthless because they let the Republicans set the terms of the debate and then often fail even to respond to the bullshit put out by the GOP. Andrew Sullivan thinks Obama does this as part of some rope-a-dope strategy to let the GOP hang itself on its bullshit, but I don't know - it looks more to me like that usual Democratic do-nothingness.

It is thus hard to get all that enthusiastic about politics. I can't let the GOP win, because that is destruction for us all, but when the Democrats win, it is mostly blah and you get what the GOP wanted anyway, only slightly less crazy and more competent. That isn't much of a motivator.

I do care about things - like healthcare. And torture. But nothing will get done. No one will be prosecuted for torture, that is clear. And for healthcare, we'll get some watered down bill that lines the pockets of insurance companies but doesn't really improve things all that much. It sickens me that it will make insurance mandatory but provide no public option. That is the worse of two worlds. Ugh.

With news like this, no wonder I don't feel much like paying attention. No one cares what I think - I have no representation. I want a public option. So do most other people. Too bad that will never happen.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Darth Vader Opens the New York Stock Exchange

Ok, this is awesome: Darth Vader Opens the New York Stock Exchange. (The post also mentions that he is stepping down from his post as CEO of Microsoft...)

Nanny Tax Time

Tax time is upon us - well, at least me - I like to start working on income tax stuff as soon as the year starts, because I want to know as early as possible how much I'll be getting back (or perish the thought, owe). This year will be especially "fun" as I have to file all sorts of crap for the taxes involved with having a nanny, who is an "employee" of a "business."

I could do it all on paper, but I'd rather not figure it out to that level of detail, and payroll taxes are such a pain that it simply isn't practical anyway. So I got software to handle that - Quickbooks. And then now I find out that this won't handle the year-end tax stuff - W-2s - so I had to order a pack of those. The payroll stuff requires a subscription that costs 300 or more per year (but comes free with the software for the first year - maybe I'll have to upgrade it every year anyway). So on top of the taxes themselves, I have had to pay 150 for software plus another 80 for W-2 stuff. Hopefully that will be all I need to file.

It is too bad I don't have the W-2 stuff yet or I could take care of it all this holiday weekend.

Still, the software makes it relatively painless, if time consuming - you have to fill out and send in like 4 separate forms every quarter and then those four forms plus a few more for the year. Some go to State, some go to Federal. At least I don't have to do local government - I don't live in an area that has city income taxes or anything like that.

To pay the nanny taxes, I have a separate checking account set up - every two weeks (when I pay the nanny) I transfer into there the full amount (including taxes owed) and then write the check for after tax from that account to the nanny. (I do the transfer electronically/online - very convenient). That way, the account has all of the taxes needed come tax time and since the amounts were all deduced from the main checking everty two weeks, I have a nice, even accounting of the true costs of the nanny each pay period.

This year-end taxes thing will now be the last thing I have to figure out - hopefully once I've been through this process once, it will be easier (and more understandable) for subsequent years. Still, I can't wait til we don't have a nanny anymore - the paperwork and expense is a pain. Only three and a half more years or so until my son starts Kindergarten. Then we'll have to figure out before and after school, but that should be much cheaper.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions are Silly

Happy New Year! Today is the first day of a new year, of a new decade (the 10's or teens or whatever they end up calling it). It is also the day where millions of people make New Year's Resolutions - things they will change about themselves for the new year. Probably most won't stick to them. So what's the point?

I've never really done any New Year's Resolutions. I figure that if there really is something about yourself you want to change or do differently, why wait until January 1st to do it - start now. There's nothing really magical about that date. And just think of the huge head start you'll have on anyone who does wait for that day. Truly, if you want to do something different, and you have the will to stick with it, you'd do it regardless of the date.

I guess there is some romantic notion of starting fresh, with a clean slate when the new year begins. I know I feel that a little. Truth be told, I don't feel much excitement about New Year's anymore. It is just another day on the calendar. It is nice that it is a holiday, so I look forward to that, but I don't celebrate and barely noticed it was past midnight last night.

Still, it is cool that the date is now officially 2010. It feels like... The Future. (And I looked for the perfect video for this - the scene from Airplane II, where Ted Stryker says: "We're no longer living in the past or the present anymore. This is The Future." Oh well - you'll just have to find it yourself).

Gaming Is Expensive

Gaming is expensive. I'm not talking about the cost of the books, dice, and so forth - though that can certainly add up. I'm talking about the total costs for me in particular.

I freely admit to being a book whore - in that I would happily support Wizards of the Coast by ordering the books they put out each month. In the grand scheme of things it wasn't a tremendous amount of money, though over the years it does add up. But it wasn't like I couldn't afford it, particularly before having any rug rats around. Which brings me to the real costs of gaming.

Right now, I try and game at home Monday nights (for three hours) and then Friday nights in Chelsea (about an hour away) from about 7pm to 11pm. More often than not these days, the Friday game is cancelled because someone can't make it, so it is really more like every other week, or sometimes more like once a month. The thing is, often my wife gets home quite late from work (though not as much recently) or she'll be out of town for the week for work. Having a one year old and a four year old that require an awful lot of supervision, this means that to play I need a babysitter on Monday to watch the kids, feed them, and get them baths and given the need to leave and drive on Friday, we at least need someone here to watch the kids until my wife gets home. Even if it isn't that late, since I have to leave before 6 if I can, that means having a sitter (or the nanny stay a little late - she normally works 8 to 6 and costs an arm and a leg...)

Paying the sitters at 10 dollars an hour (or 12 for the nanny when you factor in overtime), that means at least 30 dollars on Monday nights and maybe just as much on Fridays. Now THAT is expensive. Now, if my wife gets home at a reasonable time (i.e. if she leaves work at 5) then there is no need for a sitter on Monday and there is at most a need for an extra hour on Friday, maybe less (and given that Fridays often don't happen, we often need not cover that regardless).

But this cost adds up. I swear I feel like all of my pay goes straight to the nanny and to babysitters. And really, it basically does.

There is also the cost of time, but that really isn't too bad most of the time. The advantage of Monday is that I game at home, so I don't go anywhere, and I'm really not away from my family. My daughter often likes to come downstairs where we play and talk to us, or take the figures and play with them, or just in general hang out with us. Probably my son will start to do that too when he's older. In fact, that is part of why I want at least one game run out of my house, so my kids can see me play and eventually, if they want, play themselves. Yes, I'm creating new gamers. (I can't do that with Friday's game because one of the players lives so far away that the only place we can all reasonably meet is in the middle, which is in Chelsea. Occasionally when he can't play and everyone else still decides to anyway, we'll play in Lansing, but more often than not we just cancel if someone can't make it).

Given how expensive having kids is in general, and how much we are paying for a nanny, it is making me rethink just how much gaming I can afford. My wife would certainly be happy to see less money spent that way. She does try to get home earlier, which is also nice in other ways - she can spend more time with the kids. She'd probably be happy if I stopped gaming altogether, but then she's not a gamer. Beyond that, it is my only social activity right now - we almost never get out of the house at all for any reason (again, the kids), so to give it up would be to give up my only social activity, not exactly healthy.

So the gaming will continue, though perhaps with less frequency. (That seems to happen naturally on its own, as I said above - busy professionals with families have a lot harder time finding the time to game). I still buy books, but now only from Paizo, and they don't have nearly the volume that Wizards had (and has for 4E I'm sure). I have plenty of miniatures, so I really don't buy anymore. (I do look at the new sets to see if there are any singles I might want, and the player character minis are cheap and non-random, so I'll probably keep getting them).

At least I don't have any other hobbies of significant expense. Well, ok, I also like Advanced Squad Leader, but they rarely put out much for that - the system is complete.