Mid Snow Maalox Moment

This is sick. I hate snow but I am praying for significantly more!

Which should I believe, computer guidance or my lying eyes? The radar makes it look like the snow will soon be over, but the afternoon computer runs call for the precipitation to last through the night as the low intensifies.

In an hour the new models will start dribbling in. I will look at them the same way you look at a hand addressed envelope from the IRS–with apprehension.

This is sick. I hate snow but I am praying for significantly more!

Love You IRS

Today, Helaine called back and got an automated voice prompt. “Please wait until March 11 and call back,” it said. With that, the voice added, “thank you,” and hung up.

Uhhhh…. it is March 11.

Stef filed her income taxes very early – around the beginning of February. On the IRS’s published schedule, she should be happily spending her refund by now.

It hasn’t arrived.

I know, direct deposit would be better. We’re very traditional in this regard.

With Stef at school and inundated with work (or so she says), Helaine has taken up her cause. She phoned the IRS last week and was told “Wait until March11.” OK, no problem. She waited.

Today, Helaine called back and got an automated voice prompt. “Please wait until March 11 and call back,” it said. With that, the voice added, “Thank you,” and hung up.

Uhhhh…. it is March 11.

Did you know, you can’t talk back to a voice prompt?

Even Google Screws Up

Helaine and I attempted to do our taxes yesterday. We’re about 95% of the way through the process. Part of what’s keeping us from completion is Google.

One of the tinier parts of my tax return relates to this site, geofffox.com! See those ads on the right side of the screen? I get money as people click them.

DON’T click them just to get me money. Please, don’t. Legitimate clicks are fine. I have no need or desire to scam the system.

Since I received cash, Google must send documentation to me and the IRS in the form of a 1099-misc. They did – twice!

With two 1099’s, the IRS thinks I earned twice as much as I did, which means twice the taxes (which I must pay, even on this income).

Google printed a phone number on the Form 1099-misc which I dialed. It’s not in service. They only printed the 1099-misc last week.

I tried again. Same thing.

The ‘not in service’ voice invited me to press “0” if I needed to speak to the Google operator. I did, and then spent four quality minutes as she decided she had no clue who to send my call to.

Finally, she conjured up a name. My message to his voice mail politely asked him to call me, even if he isn’t the right person. Then I could at least know if anything was being done.

That was around seven hours ago.

You would think, with a problem like this, I should be able to use Google.com itself for the answer… you would think… incorrectly.

This evening, I found a place on Google’s AdSense site with an email link. I sent a note and immediately got a response that showed no one had looked at my question. Again, Google seems to be the place where this shouldn’t happen. Their machine intelligence should understand my query… you would think.

Thanks for your email regarding your tax information. We’ve provided some information below which we hope will address your question. As you know, you can also find instant answers to some of our top questions in the AdSense Help Center at www.google.com/support/adsense. If you still have unresolved questions after looking through this material, please reply to this email and we’ll be happy to help you further

I’ve now replied and am waiting. In the end, they very well may help me. I can’t imagine under what conditions they’ll be happy to do it.

Stranger Than Fiction

Tonight was movie night. There are lots of choices.

We decided against:

  • Borat – conscious decision not to go. It just doesn’t seem appealing, though loads of friends feel otherwise.
  • Babel – bad reviews. Helaine said, if you hold a finger over the “l,” the movie becomes “Babe.”
  • Casino Royale – maybe later. Excellent reviews. I’ve heard it’s violent, which isn’t Helaine’s cup of tea.

We ended up going to Wallingford to see “Stranger than Fiction,” the new Will Ferrell movie. It’s not a comedy – at least not in the classic sense.

Helaine and I hated… not disliked, hated… “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” There are many similarities between that movie and Stranger than Fiction, yet this movie was thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying.

Will Ferrell isn’t the over-the-top obnoxious guy you’ve come to expect. Queen Latifah isn’t the over-the-top obnoxious woman you’ve come to expect (My skin crawls when I see her Pizza Hut commercials).

Dustin Hoffman has reached a point in his career where he seems to be only playing Dustin Hoffman. He’s perfect at that.

Stranger Than Fiction is “a story about a man named Harold Crick and his wristwatch&#185” – or so says the off screen, pleasant, English accented voice of Emma Thompson, in the movie’s first spoken words.

Ferrell plays Crick, an IRS agent from Chicago who hears a disembodied voice narrating his life. He realizes, he is a character in a book. Therefore, his fate is really up to the author.

As the troubled writer, Emma Thompson is more than equal to the task. Her character is troublingly off center with an emotional short fuse. She smokes cigarettes as if she had a grudge against each one.

This is more than a movie of actors – it’s a movie of styles. Ferrell’s apartment, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s apartment, the IRS office – they are all perfectly designed to reflect and amplify those who dwell in them.

Many of the scenes are also annotated with computer generated graphical overlays to reflect Ferrell’s character’s analytical mind. It’s a clever device and well done.

The movie is poignant and sweet. We both cried, though I cried more than Helaine. That’s not saying an incredible lot. We also cry at commercials.

I can easily see multiple Oscars for this movie. Easily screenplay, maybe Emma Thompson, certainly an Oscar for design.

We saw this movie at the Holiday Cinema in Wallingford. We’d never been there before.

The facility itself looked a little frayed considering how relatively new I think it is. However, lack of sparkling ambience was made up for by the theater’s chairs! They’re well padded and rock nicely.

This showing did have the distinction of being the loudest movie we’ve ever been too. I’m not talking about the movie’s volume either.

If it wasn’t people talking, then it was people moving around or just random noises. Maybe they didn’t like the show as much as we did? Whatever the reason, they were restless.

&#185 – The watch turns out to be a Timex Ironman Triathlon 46 lap dress watch. I want one.

Doing Our Taxes

The distinguished looking man on the left is Mark Everson. You probably don’t know him. You’ve probably thought of him. He’s the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Hey, Mark! I’ve just done my taxes. What exactly were you guys thinking?

I am a lucky guy. I make a good living. With few investments outside my home, cars, or retirement account, my taxes should be easy. After all, I’m an employee. I can’t deduct much of anything.

Even using an online service, it still takes hours! I tried to get it right. Can anyone be sure they did?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m willing to pay taxes to pay for government services and programs. Sure, I don’t agree with everything you guys in Washington/Hartford/Town Hall are doing, but I’ll pay my fair share. I just can’t seem to figure out what that is.

Why should doing my taxes be so stressful? Mark, are you with me?

The commish is probably a bright guy. He went to school here in New Haven at Yale. Yale is no guarantee of brightness (insert your own joke here since the last three presidents have gone to Yale), though it’s a reasonable reassurance.

Why can’t I, a former math team member, easily blow through this thing without worrying I’ve done something terribly wrong and will end up bunking with a former politician in Danbury, or worse? Why is it so difficult? Why is it so confusing?

Is there a reason you’ve got multiple forms, all named 1099? There’s 1099B, 1099DIV, 1099OID… I could go on. This is like George Foreman naming all his children George – and you know how we feel about that idea!

Then, there’s the question of money for Steffie’s college expenses. We were good parents and put something away when she was a little girl. Exactly how much did we originally invest in the late 80s? Uh – I’ll get back to you on that.

In the past, I’ve had relatives who worked backwards in their tax forms. In other words, they decided what they thought would be a fair amount for them to pay, then worked from there until the other numbers made that happen. I don’t do that.

I’m not looking to move my geofffox.com headquarters to the Cayman Islands or Bermuda. Should I? That really pretty yacht we saw in Cabo San Lucas, owned by a guy from Montana, flew the Cayman flag. Maybe he’s on to something?

A few years ago, Stanley Works, the tool company in New Britain, CT, tried to move its offices offshore. Lots of companies have. Even our cruise ship, Norwegian Caribbean’s, “Norwegian Star,” was registered in the Bahamas. That’s not part of Norway nor the US.

All I want is an easier tax system. Since none of the special exemptions I have to ponder are for me, you’ll probably have to tick off people with more influence than I have. C’mon Mark, you can do it.

Finally, am I being graded on spelling?

The Leaves are Gone

Early this morning (for me) Frank and his crew of landscapers showed up for our annual fall clean-up. The leaves started falling in earnest in mid-October, but it doesn’t make any sense to get them until they’re all off the trees.

In earlier years we had been cleaned in late October only to see the lawn covered in leaves by that night! Very frustrating.

Of course there are also twigs and branches that have fallen in the inexorable march of time. Frank and the boys get out their long extension ladders and head to our gutters and downspouts, clearing them too, as best they can.

Trust me on this – you don’t want your gutters to overflow in a heavy rain because of leaves.

Before we found Frank (who not only maintains our lawn but plows our driveway, making him very close to a dependent for IRS purposes) we left a huge pile of leaves on the lawn one year through the winter. That was the year we thought cleaning leaves wasn’t a big, back breaking job. We’ve since learned. When the spring came, that section of lawn was dead. We’ll never make that mistake again.

At this time of year the lawn is not a pretty thing. There are many areas, shaded by trees during the height of the summer, that are more stubble than grass. The whole thing looks a little too much like a crew cut at the moment to be pleasing to the eye. It is green but a sad rather than lush shade.

It won’t be long before my lawn is covered in snow – not that there’s anything in the forecast at the moment. That’s actually pretty, until the snow over our septic tank melts. Then it’s an entire lawn, with a rectangle removed!

So far, the cold weather season hasn’t been all that bad. On the other hand, there are three really tough months still to come followed by the tease of March (not really winter – not really spring).

Blogger’s note – As I was finishing typing this the doorbell rang. It was Frank. The louvers on the vent from our dryer are missing and there are now some twigs inside, as if a bird is beginning to building a nest in there. This weekend I’ll have to go and buy a new vent and clean out the birds home. Fall cleanup always means surprises are found. Some year could he just find a package of money I’ve dropped and give that back?