Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

Well, for the first time that I can recall, I have to work on Christmas Eve. Just a half day, if that, but how lucky am I that this is the first? It's because I have a new job and have not accrued any PTO yet, so I'm minimizing the hit my check will take with all the unpaid days I will take for our vacation that starts Thursday. First World Problems, eh?

One other typical Dave reaction: driving in, the radio news mentioned a Christmas gift in gas prices, how they are down 12 cents nationally right before the holiday to an average $3.22 or something a gallon.


Last week, we were around $2.99 a gallon before the Thursday price jump up to $3.26!!!!!!! Now I'm supposed to be thankful for $3.19?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!? Grrrrrr.

Here's a pretty snow picture for you. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

So, The Science Is Settled....

I love when we discover stuff. Really! I love science. We are such curious beings, yet, we fall into the trap of complacency so easily, don't we? One of the many conundrums of humanity.

Here is a Yahoo! story about a bunch of previously undocumented species (they call them "new") that reminds me of my favorite word when I read stories about how much we pretend to know: hubris.

"More than 1,700 new species have been described by science in the Greater Mekong since 1997. In 2011, 82 plants, 13 fish, 21 reptiles, five amphibians and five mammals were discovered."

We just don't know what we think we know, you know?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just For Fun, Some VWs For Sale

As any regular reader should know (I have no regular readers) I like Volkswagens. Here are some I spotted today during lunch break.

This van is great and underpriced at $4700. (and someone took advantage, it's gone!)

This van is $400 and funny looking! (SOLD)

This camper is cheap at $5200. (and cheaper still with a lowered price of $4800 4300 4500 gone)

This camper is even cheaper at $3500 and still available as of 3/13/13! Sold!

This double cab is cool. I know not everyone agrees, so get over it. $8500 obo.(sold)

I want this Thing for Christmas SOLD :(

Look around The Samba, there are plenty!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Guns and Crazy People

Yes, I have some thoughts about the events in Newtown, Connecticut. Mostly sadness, grief, and sympathy for the people there.

This is colored by my ever-present disdain for the media in our country, and the world. The Fake Morgan Freeman quote nailed it. I am also again reminded of the Kevin Kline movie January Man, where the question is asked when he catches the crazy serial killer, "who is he, who is he?" He replies, approximately, "he's nobody, he's just some crazy guy!" We are like that, we expect the bad guy to be "somebody" but he (or she) ususally isn't somebody, they're just the crazy guy.

Also coloring my perspective, in the two weeks preceding this, two armed robberies were foiled in Cincinnati by concealed carrying citizens, one on the street, one defending a minimart. We now know that the Oregon shooter was likely dissuaded from continuing his rampage by a man with concealed carry and then went on to hide in a stairwell and kill himself.

Here are my inflamatory remarks for the day:

1. The problem is clearly a mental health problem not a gun problem.

2. We have a violent society. Yes, some of the gun numbers floating around are accurate, but we bludgeon each quite a bit, too. Why? One guy I know thinks it's the influence of secular humanism. Hmmm. This site shows that there are many more violent countries, however.

3. If the school had a Resource Officer (armed) it's likely that the carnage would have been severely reduced. I know a couple, she's an Elementary Principal, he's a Policeman. Her entire district has 1 SRO. He is upset about that. Districts need to pony up and find a way to fund safety personnel, not just a written "safety plan." In fact, when I taught, my plan was a little different: make it publicly known that there are 3 or so anonymous staff that have concealed carry in every building, and on any given day, you will have no idea who is wearing a weapon.

These last 2 are pretty outrageous.

4. The perpetrators of gun violence in this country are almost exclusively left-leaning and believe the same politics, yes, even vote the same way as the people that are now screaming (again) for more gun control. NRA members never do this. Hunters never do this. I guarantee you that if you go ask every recent perp that used a gun of any kind in the crime they committed, they voted for Dems in every election. Guaranteed.

5. Hey, Dems, what's the big deal, isn't this just a really late-term abortion? I hate saying that, because I don't really mean it. I have 3 kids, you know? But if you voted for a guy that consistently, unequivocally supported partial birth abortion, your overwhelming weeping over child murders in Newtown doesn't move me.

Taxmaggedon! Fiscal Cliff! Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Well, in the new job's email newsletter, they put a little blurb together: (I've redacted my employer from the text, I know it's easy enough to find out where I work, but I am trying to honor their privacy and hope you do the same)

How Will the Fiscal Tax Cliff Impact Me?
A number of tax laws are set to expire on Dec. 31, and if the President and Congress don't reach an agreement before then, the result will be tax increases to all of us. The following is a breakdown of the items that could likely have the most impact:

FICA Taxes
There are two parts to FICA taxes: Social Security and Medicare. With both Social Security and Medicare, employees pay taxes and redacted, your employer, pays a matching contribution tax. In December 2010, the Tax Relief Act was passed which temporarily reduced the employee Social Security tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of earnings; however the employer contribution of 6.2 percent did not change. The Tax Relief Act was extended twice and is now set to expire on Dec.31, after which the employee Social Security contribution will return to 6.2 percent. Both employee and employer are scheduled to pay 6.2 percent in tax on earnings up to $113,700 in 2013.

The second part of FICA is the Medicare tax. Both employee and employer contribute 1.45 percent of earnings (on all wages with no limits). At the same time that the temporary 2 percent decrease in employee Social Security payroll taxes expires, a new 0.9 percent Medicare payroll tax increase will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The increase will apply to employees only and will increase the employee Medicare tax from 1.45 percent to 2.35 percent on wages over $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and $200,000 for single taxpayers.

Individual income tax
Individual tax rates are scheduled to increase and the existing 10 percent tax bracket would be eliminated (taxed at 10 percent of the first $8,700 in earnings). Under the new schedule, the 15 percent tax bracket would become the lowest tax rate (earnings from $0 - $36,250). The other tax brackets will change as follows: 25 percent bracket increases to 28 percent (earnings from $36,250 - $87,850); 28 percent bracket increases to 31 percent (earnings from $87,850 - $183,250); 33 percent bracket increases to 36 percent (earnings from $183,250 - $398,350), and 35 percent bracket increases to 39.6 percent in 2013 unless the government decides to extend the existing lower rates.

In addition the supplemental tax rate will revert back to 28 percent from 25 percent. This affects PTO cash-in payments and bonus payments.

Dividends would be taxed as ordinary income rather than at the same rate as capital gains.

A proposed 3.8 percent tax on “net investment income” for taxpayers with income exceeding certain thresholds - $200,000 for unmarried individuals, $250,000 for married couples, $125,000 if married filing separately – who receive interest, dividends, capital gains or other investment income.

The per-child tax credit would revert to $500 from its current level of $1,000 and would cease to be refundable.

Tuition Reimbursement
Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code allows an employer to reimburse an employee on a tax-free basis up to $5,250 each year for certain educational expenses provided through an educational assistance program (such as the redacted Tuition Reimbursement program). Effective Jan. 1, 2013, all redacted tuition reimbursement benefits could become taxable income to associates.

Adoption Assistance
The income tax exclusion for amounts paid by an employer under a qualified adoption assistance program is also set to expire on Dec. 31. A qualified adoption assistance program (such as redacted’s Adoption Assistance program) allows an employer to reimburse an employee on a tax-free basis for expenses related to the adoption or attempted adoption of a child. Qualified expenses include reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, traveling expenses and other direct adoption-related expenses. Effective Jan. 1, 2013, redacted adoption reimbursement benefits could become taxable income to associates.

So, how's that sound, folks? Glad you elected the folks you elected? They made these policies and designed them to expire now so they could save political face, or as many have called it "kicked the can down the road." We have finally caught up to the can.