BETTER FIREWALLS FOR A BETTER LIFE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Firewall

We’ve got firewalls all over the place. Our modem, our router, Chrome, Microsoft are all busy protecting us. Theoretically, our ISP protects us, too. I think their idea of protecting us is to have such a bad service no one can get through, not even us. My phone blips out a dozen times a day and the computers die with regularity. If other people weren’t having the same problem, I’d think it was us, but I know it’s them.

If you call them, they will deny everything. Lying is a national sport.

Our many firewalls are obviously insufficient to protect us from anything.

I need protection. From life, politics, and the vast stupidity that is closing in around me.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Downtown Uxbridge, late winter

I need to be protected from $1000 hikes in taxes when my town does absolutely nothing for us. We don’t have buses or taxis or trains. We pay to have our trash hauled. We have our own well and septic system. No one prunes the trees or even sprays for mosquitoes which, as it turns out, is fine because it would probably kill the birds while leaving the mosquitoes. They also didn’t spray for gypsy moth caterpillars.

Basically, we are on our own. Pay the taxes and figure out how to survive. The one time I called emergency services because we’d gotten frozen into our driveway and couldn’t get out, they told us that was a real pity, but they couldn’t help us. They said their trucks don’t have snow tires so they couldn’t help us. If we died in our house, that would be a real pity too. Oops. I wonder if they’d pay for the funeral?

Down our snowy road – Photo: Garry Armstrong

So what am I paying for? So the town can waste money on some other stupid project? A townwide soccer team for kindergartners? We can’t get them to expand the library (who needs a library after all?) … or repair the sidewalks. Or even add a minibus so older people can get in and out of town.

Take a walk along the river. It’s the best part of living here.

So far, the only “famous” person to emerge from this town is William Howard Taft which is pretty dismal. Though I hear his ranking as a Chief Supreme Court Judge was better than his record as President. It is unlikely to be worse. He was a hard tryer, but a big failure. Not a bad description of Uxbridge, come to think of it. Except I don’t think we try all that hard.

I want protection from gigantic rises in the cost of oil to heat our house. I want them to fix the roads so that the repairs last more than the first month of winter.

I want to be firewalled from reality.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I want some of that money we pay to underwrite the cost of my drugs. I want the town to plow my driveway and clear away the monstrous piles of autumn leaves and other trash that accumulates. I want someone to come by and clean up the trash people throw from their car windows onto our “front lawn,” which is actually a lot of trees that need to be cut down.

I want them to collect the trash and not make us pay for it! You know. Like they do in other towns.

I want them to give us a senior discount on our taxes like most other towns offer.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

If they are going to leave us to decay here amidst the forest, I think they should stop charging us more and more for the privilege of being unable to afford to live here. I could understand it if they actually gave us something for our money, but they don’t. Oh, but they built a firehouse.

So if the place burns down, they’ll be sure to drop by with hoses. At least, in theory. There are no fire pumps along our road, so they better also bring tanks. Do we even have tanker trucks?

Some mornings, life is just too much with me.

ANOTHER YEAR ON A FIXED INCOME- Marilyn Armstrong

We got our taxes done.

This used to be a big deal because we got so much money back at the end of the year. Then Reagan changed everything and we got back less than half we’d gotten in the past. Now, on a fixed income, we get pretty much the same thing every year.

This year we got a little more Federal, a little less State, but the result was essentially the same as last year.

Not a big deal, but it beats out nothing. It’s the only “lump” of money we get all year and I’m hoping it’ll be enough to get the chimney fixed.

I’m still a little punchy with the upcoming fix up to the bathroom and trying to snip whatever payments I can downward so that maybe we can get through this alive. Getting out of AT&T and into US Mobile brought $40/month back into our account. I’ve got a few almost finished accounts and when they are done, we’ll have another $100 maybe?

It’s the fixed income thing.

Prices go up, but income never goes up. We haven’t had crazy inflation, yet the price of food has been slowly rising. Heating oil has risen. Trash went down a little, but taxes went up too. And somehow, our “low-end” cable package keep crawling upward. A dollar here, two dollars there, another five in that corner.

We dumped cable and got “YouTubeTV” and haven’t looked back. Of course, we still have to keep paying Charter for Wi-Fi and somehow, the price of Wi-Fi is now more than our original cable bill was. Funny how that works.

We don’t get “big hits” of income change, either positive or negative — but over time, since we’ve been on a fixed income, it has eroded by 15%, give or take maybe another 5%. That’s with low inflation, mind you. If inflation rises faster, we will be in trouble.

There is nothing to be done about it … other than winning Mega Millions of course. I suppose we should buy a ticket. Just in case.

“PROVOCATIVE” QUESTION 16: GOVERNMENT IS JUST ANOTHER MENU

Fandango’s Provocative Question #16

So the question is:


“Should taxpayers have the option to explicitly say what they don’t want their tax dollars spent on?”

I think we settled this during our revolutionary war. We explicitly demanded that only voters can be taxed. We never suggested we have the right to choose what we pay for. We don’t get a menu of selections, check those that suit us and refuse to pay for the rest.

In this benighted world, here’s my neighborhood.

My right-hand neighbor hates cops. He doesn’t want to pay for them.

The guy on the left resents school taxes.  He never had kids. Never wanted them. Doesn’t feel like paying for education no one in his family is going to get.

Down the road, that guy has a big powerful SUV, so he doesn’t care if the roads are plowed or not. If you can’t get through, well, too bad. Why should he pay for your transportation? He’s got his own.

The then there’s the one on the opposite corner. He doesn’t believe in government at all. He doesn’t feel obliged to pay for anything. He’s the creepy guy who wouldn’t turn his hose on if his neighbor’s house was on fire. You want him choosing which taxes to pay? Maybe he’s part of a group and none of them will pay anything at all.

We settled this. Long ago.

Taxes exist in law. We pay them because we are legally required to do so. You don’t have to like anything about the government, governor, Congress, or the school board. Or the cops, the town selectman, or the Mayor.

There are laws and we abide by them.

Government is not lunch where you get to pick whatever you want from any page on the menu. No picking and choosing which parts of the government you support. The closest you can get to that kind of choice is voting for whoever will support the programs you support. That’s what makes a government.

The picking and choosing from different parts of the menu is not a government. It’s lunch.

THE SHINBONE STAR – REBLOG By NATHANIEL R. “NAT” HELMS

TIME HEALS OLD WOUNDS . . . UNLESS THEY’VE TURNED GANGRENOUS

A self-imposed exile from the machinations of Donald Trump is a good thing. It is like spraying Febreze Clean Linen scent inside your skull until the rotten stench is completely covered. Two weeks wasn’t long enough to fully enjoy it, but it is a start.

A real exile from Trump means no cable news, newspapers, Facebook memes and rants, not answering taunts and jibes and no light-hearted political discussion with the neighbors.

Netflix is a good hiding place. A more extreme alternative is Devotional Hour with Sister Marie, the wizened old nun who provides solace on a local Catholic television show. Five minutes cured everything. Even with great alternatives available, actually weaning oneself off the Trumpian titty is like quitting smoking without a nicotine patch. His nefarious influence is everywhere.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about such an experience is discovering that people who must work every day to care for their kids, dogs, and homes don’t often give a tinker’s damn about politics. It takes a particularly powerful whiff of Trumplandian swamp gas for them to even notice all is still not well in Washington, D.C. They apparently leave all the angst for old retired people who won’t suffer too long no matter what happens.

Several other discoveries jumped out immediately. The Trumpian Wall saga has run its course across the emotional nerves of my neighbors. So have mass shootings, the endless litany of #MeToo sexual peccadilloes and reports about election campaigns so far in the future they are irrelevant. The baffling Mueller probe is seen in the same light as all the other probes getting shoved in people’s keisters in the name of New Age correctness.

My hardworking neighbors know that a Saudi journalist named Khashoggi was chopped into mincemeat by lackeys of some medieval Arab prince who won’t be touched; that war in Syria and Afghanistan may be over but don’t count on it; and that some big, bald-headed guy on TV when they arrived home Friday was in a pointless pissing match with the Democrats. None of it touched their lives.

What really pisses off Mr. and Mrs. Working America is finding out that they aren’t going to get the income tax refund they used to use to buy a little fun, the really unimaginative halftime show at the cliché’-rich Super Bowl and that the constantly rising price of food and gas never gets factored into those glowing reports about how rich America is.

Just ask a working mom who looks forward to taking the kids for a week at the beach that won’t happen this year because she didn’t get a useful tax refund. Ask the tradesman who tolerated his union dues going to Democrats, thinking their expanded presence in the House would improve his life. Instead, they are using his money to buy a bully pulpit to promote themselves without accomplishing much else.

Perhaps the most illuminating people to talk to are the mid-level government employees where I live that are wracked with doubt because they spent all their savings just to survive Trump’s 35-day government shutdown. They are imminently aware that another shutdown is still in the cards. They are equally certain that at some point a shutdown will wreck the economy the same way it already has wrecked their households.

The so-called Trumpian base, the badly informed working class folks who turn to anyone who offers them red meat, are confused and angered as well. They thought their lot would have improved by now, said one of my forsaken buddies while buying donuts. We’ve been punching holes in targets together for 30 years and he still can’t bring himself to say he might have been wrong about Trump.

My old buddy lives in a trailer court down the road. He lives there because he can’t afford a house. He can’t afford a house because he earns a $1,000 or more a week during the working season and still can’t save enough for the 20-percent down payment. Despite all the news stories about how the country has run out of skilled and unskilled labor, he doesn’t have a job.

His mobile home costs $780 a month plus utilities. His wife doesn’t work because they can’t afford daycare for his three kids. Being a union laborer doesn’t provide much work in the dead of winter, he said. Unemployed union laborers go on the extra board and draw $280 a week unemployment that they hope will last until the spring thaw. The only thing being a cherished veteran got him is a VA house loan and lip service. Meanwhile, Republicans who supported Trump in Missouri are again trying to introduce “right-to-work” laws because they think laborers like my friend are paid too much.

I learned a lesson from this experience. To move forward, the country must clear its head, put its feet back on the ground and wean itself off the milk of Trumpian discourse. Hate holds only bankrupt answers. Trump’s forte is lies. It is time for Democrats to go around him, under him, over him or through him, the way illegal aliens would get past his useless border wall.

The presumption that time heals all wounds is misplaced. Time only heals wounds that don’t turn gangrenous.

Democratic leaders need to spend less time blaming Trump’s egregious behavior for the country’s wounds and begin binding them instead.

GOOD MORNING FRIENDS, BIRDS, AND A SQUIRREL – Marilyn Armstrong

This is another one of those “lost days” for me. There seem to be more and more of them, like I’ve been saving them up. But the suitcase got too small and everything is bursting out and blowing all over the place.

We had a long summer of nothing much going on, preceded by a long slow winter and spring, suddenly, as summer rolled around … everything went wild and crazy. For us, that is. For someone else, probably not so much but we don’t move fast.

I never seem to have a whole day to just relax. Or even a  half a day.

Squabbling Juncos or a Junco and a Nuthatch. Hard to tell.
The reddest bird of all birds
The red one’s lady friend
Chickadee and Goldfinch
Early Squirrel

Tomorrow we get our taxes done. I’m hoping for the best and hopefully, we won’t have another government shut-down and we’ll actually get our refund. This year. Like … soon. Because we need an infusion of money.

Finances are running a bit thin. And did I mention that it’s gotten very cold again with sleet and snow and maybe freezing rain tomorrow? But not to worry because it will be 50 degrees by the weekend, at which point, it will all melt.

ARE WE DOING PRODUCT ADVERTISEMENTS?

You aren’t kidding? This isn’t a joke? Because QUICKEN | THE DAILY POST is not supposed to be an advertising ploy for some other company. I’m more than slightly perturbed by this. I hope this is a one-off, not something likely to continue because there are an awful lot of advertising links in this world.

This is so out-of-character, I’m at a loss to say how I feel about it.

72-money-etc-082216_009

Is it because we are nearing the time when we — as in regular citizens of the U.S. of A. — pay our taxes? Of course, I mean those of us who still actually pay taxes by which I do not mean our president who has spurned taxes in favor of government loopholes.

No, I mean the rest of us clowns, many of whom could really use a few of those loopholes.

Garry and I have always paid taxes and in giant lumps when we were both working. I sometimes got frustrated with it because I imagined how much we could have used that money for other things. Mostly, I got it. Taxes are the price you pay to live in a world that takes care of people who don’t have your job or money. I want to live in that world, be a part of it.

I used Quicken or a product like it during the years when I needed a way to make sure the numbers in my accounting was something like the numbers the bank had. Then I used it when I was in business for myself and I needed something to manage invoices … and again during the few remaining years when the bank didn’t have the same software.

Now, just about every bank from the most local to the biggest in the world has everything. I don’t need a separate application to prepare taxes. I’m not planning a retirement: I’m in it. It’s a bit late to decide what to do now.

72-money-etc-082216_007
QUICKEN? Yes! Look it up. Maybe those of us who use it will get a special discount?

I can’t help but wonder why WordPress would choose a this specific word which is connected with a particular application known for use with taxes.

It seems odd, maybe even fishy. Don’t you think? I mean, it’s not like “band-aid,” which is a product so ubiquitous it has become generic through use … or even Coke, which has done much the same thing. This is a unique product with special uses for this season, the season we Americans call “tax time.” I would not like to think this is … gasp … an advertisement!

As for me, nope. I don’t use it.  Along with a few million other people. I’m pretty sure whatever else we do around the WordPress corral, advertisements are not it.

TAX TIME WITH ROYALTIES

I am a professional author. I know this because I collect royalties from a book I wrote. Today, I got two 1099 forms from Amazon. One is for the Kindle version of my book, the other for the paperback (trade) version.

The total for 2015 was … are you ready? $6.89 for the year.

The_12-Foot_Teepee_Cover_for_Kindle

I don’t know how I spent all that money. It leaves me breathless. The good news is I’m pretty sure 2016 has already proved more lucrative than all of last year . It’s only the beginning of February, but I’ve breached the $10 bottom line and may hit the heights of greater than $25 — the amount at which the I.R.S. wants to know about you.

This is probably the only time that having the I.R.S. notice you feels good.

teepee book shelf

It turns out that giving my book away for free (or almost free) does not generate royalties. I remember one month where the total royalty was 5 cents and many months of royalties direct deposited to my account which were much less than a dollar.

That being said, I’d rather you read it and find it worth the time, than have it molder unread — the fate of most books of this type.

teepee book back

To all of you who “read me” this year and were kind enough to tell me you enjoyed my book, thank you. Very much. Though “The 12-Foot Teepee” may not generate a lot of money, your enjoyment makes me feels rich.

Wealth is more than a number.