I Hate Preparing My Taxes

Of course the real problem is I always feel I’ve forgotten something or screwed up something. My favor? Their favor? Who knows? Any mistake is money plus or minus.

tax return info on the table.jpgFiling taxes! Is there anything we do more painful or difficult? I hate it and I’m getting a refund. I’d be suicidal if I had to cut a check as well.

For the past few years we’ve been using TurboTax. I logged in, found my account and then realized there are probably online coupons to save money. I found one and reentered the site, but it was too late. TurboTax would only allow me to pay the full price.

Helaine asked if it was worth it to try and undo the $3? No. But this is like the cell companies giving long messages on voicemail so you’ll use more minutes, right? TurboTax rakes in an extra $3 thousands… maybe hundreds of thousands of times. It adds up.

They also charge much more to do Connecticut’s taxes than the federal forms. Let me restate: They also charge much more to do Connecticut’s much shorter and simpler taxes than the federal forms! All the info and questions are already filled-in.
I guess their cost per filer is greater, but this is a little nuts–and by a little I mean a lot.

We only go through this once a year so it’s tough to remember the specific details, but the user interface seems to be a little more sophisticated, more helpful each year. It’s a mature app but they’ve found ways to improve.

Of course the real problem is I always feel I’ve forgotten something or screwed up something. My favor? Their favor? Who knows? Any mistake is money plus or minus.

As the process ends TurboTax invites you to use Mint. The choice is Helaine’s as she’s Secretary of our Treasury, but it might not be a bad idea.

Janet Napolitano Gives The Wrong Answer

No! The correct answer is, “Yes, this was a failure. We shouldn’t be letting known threats carrying explosives on airplanes. I am very upset. This will be fixed immediately.”

I really didn’t want to write about security and the Delta Detroit incident but then Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, appeared on Sunday morning TV. She delivered one of the most stupefyingly insipid comments I’ve ever heard–an insult to America.

This week’s suicidal crazy used the same chemical, PETN, shoe bomber Richard Reid used!. That led David Gregory on Meet The Press to ask if this was a security failure. Napolitano answered:

SEC’Y JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, I think we don’t know enough to say one way or the other in that respect. The forensics are still being done, the investigation is still underway. I think the important point here is that once the incident occurred, everybody reacted the way they should; the passengers did, the flight crew did. And literally, within an hour, additional measures had been instituted not only on the ground here in the United States, but abroad and, indeed, on the 128 flights that were already in the air from Europe.

No! The correct answer is, “Yes, this was a failure. We shouldn’t be letting known threats carrying explosives on airplanes. I am very upset. This will be fixed immediately.”

We got none of my answer.

We are trying to protect targets when it seems more manageable to find threats.

Ballot Follow-Up

Still it’s eating at me. I sent a note to Connecticut’s Secretary of State, who I do not know personally.

I spoke to a few people after yesterday’s posting about my town’s ballot. Some people saw my point–not everyone. No one felt it was as serious a problem as I did.

Still it’s eating at me. I sent a note to Connecticut’s Secretary of State, who I do not know personally.

Dear Secretary Bysiewicz,

I am writing to ask about yesterday’s ballot. I live in Hamden, but I suspect my concern is statewide.

In our vote for council-at-large and school board there were eight candidates for four positions. The demarcation of individual columns and numbering (9a, 9b, 10a, 10b not 9,10,11,12) imply you may not vote for a candidate directly above or below another candidate you’ve already voted for. Even though the ballot said “Vote for any four” the implication is otherwise and I suspect many people were confused as I originally was.

A simple statistical analysis of the ballots will show if I am correct. On ballots with split ticket voting in multiple candidate offices did the candidate above or below a candidate who received a vote get a statistically equal proportion of the vote? I suspect they did not. I’d be willing to bet they did not.

This is a non-partisan issue. I don’t believe either party benefited. However, a candidate running directly above or below someone with strong name recognition would be unfairly penalized. That would be wrong.

Thank you for your time in considering this. I hope to hear your thoughts.


Geoff Fox

I guessed at her email address. It hasn’t come bouncing back to me so I’ll hope it was received.

I’ll update as/if necessary.

Abe Lincoln – Wired

I often listen to NPR while taking my shower. Today, on Talk of the Nation, Neil Conan spoke with Tom Wheeler who had an op-ed piece in this morning’s Washington Post and who also wrote the book, “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.”

(I)nsight into our greatest president is possible through the nearly 1,000 messages he sent via the new telegraph technology. These 19th-century versions of e-mail messages preserve his spur-of-the-moment thoughts and are the closest we will come to a transcript of a conversation with Abraham Lincoln. In their unstructured form, Lincoln comes alive.

Are you kidding? Lincoln was our first president to communicate electronically. I guess he really was the Great Communicator.

This made Abraham Lincoln our first president with instant access to information. Imagine how that benefited him as he formulated our political and military strategy during the Civil War?

You owe it to yourself to read the op-ed column.

Oh, and Happy Birthday Abe.

Continue reading “Abe Lincoln – Wired”

The Longest Yard 2005

Steffie was away today, doing her internship at KC-101. That left Helaine and me as empty nesters, so we decided to take in a movie. Neither of us wanted Star Wars, nor did Madagascar seem appealing.

We decided on The Longest Yard, the remake of Burt Reynolds’ 1974 movie about a prison football game between guards and prisoners. It was a simple movie with Burt Reynolds as a good old boy up against the good old boy establishment – beating them at every turn. Today the lead is Adam Sandler, with Reynolds in a supporting role as an older former player who becomes a coach for the prisoners’ team (a part not in the original).

We went to the movie thinking we’d see the 5:05 PM show, but arriving at 4:40 we were still there before the coming attractions were over for the show that was advertised to begin at 4:25 PM!

The International Movie Database‘s users (incredible reference site) gives the original 7.1 stars, this 5.7. I’m with them!

Helaine found the beginning of the movie, when the captain of the guards tries to ‘soften’ Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler today, Burt Reynolds then) by gratuitously beating him, a little tough to take. It was unexpected by her, though anticipated by me as (with a few exceptions, like the one previously mentioned) this remake runs pretty true to the original.

So why is the original so much more liked by the IMDB visitors? In both movies there has to be some suspension of belief to buy into prisoners and guards physically playing against each other and the prisoners having enough freedom to practice, as they do. I barely believed the first time, but so many additional over the top scenes and characters have been added that I just can’t believe now.

This is an Adam Sandler movie, not a Burt Reynolds movie (Sandler is one of the many executive producers). I mention that because you might be confused considering all the cameos! There are recognizable sportscasters, football players and at least one pro wrestler (maybe more – I don’t follow wrestling closely).

Some head-to-head comparison is called for.

Adam Sandler has been charming in everything I’ve seen him in recently, but he’s not Burt Reynolds – certainly not Burt Reynolds circa 1974. First, Sandler doesn’t look like a pro football quarterback. Second, he just doesn’t have Reynolds’ ‘eye winking’ charm.

I’m not sure Reynolds still has what he had thirty years ago – but who does?

Cloris Leachman plays the warden’s secretary – sexually drawn to Paul Crewe. The part was originally Bernadette Peters, who was sensational. Now, with the part re-cast as a spinster, I’m not as impressed. With all these people to get on screen there are lots of meatless parts.

Chris Rock plays Caretaker, originally played by James Hampton. I’m a big Chris Rock fan… and a moderately big James Hampton fan (in spite of “F Troop”). I’m not sure Chris Rock is actor enough to play anyone but himself. Nod to Hampton who just looks likeable.

The original warden was Eddie Albert (who died a few days ago at age 99). This time, the part was played by James Cromwell. For my money, Cromwell had the performance of a lifetime as the pathologically evil police captain in “LA Confidential” (one of the darkest, most intense movies I’ve ever seen). He was totally different, while still believable and enjoyable, in Babe. This role was too shallow for him to shine. I wasn’t impressed with Eddie Albert’s job either. Toss up.

The portrayal of effeminate gay prisoners (including former SNL alum Tracy Morgan) was meant to be funny, but struck me as homophobic. Maybe gay people will see the humor differently, though I doubt it.

I enjoy going to the movies. It is a totally different experience than watching a DVD or cable telecast. So, in that regard this was a good thing. But, when you’re spending as much for a movie as you do today, I think you deserve something a little better.