Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

A letter from Auggie
Dear Red Sox Nation,

First, a belated congratulations on vanquishing your 86 year curse back in the 04 season. That had to feel good. And then validating that championship with another one in 07 was a splendid touch. Well done. I’m sorry to hear about the unfortunate side effect of winning multiple championships; the one where you went from lovable losers that everyone rooted for, to hated elitists whose failure is cheered. It’s a bit disconcerting to occupy the alcove of public opinion normally reserved for axe murderers and Justin Bieber, but hey, that’s what happens when you are at the top and then you try to buy championships every year. Just look at your evil neighbors to the southwest, they had a monopoly (pun intended) on that vitriol for many years, and deservedly so I might add. So why am I writing to you now? It’s to offer my condolences on the new era you are about to enter – the Bobby Valentine era. I’m not sure if there is a new curse to blame, but this valentine was obviously sent by Cupid’s evil twin, the one with the poisonous arrows in the quiver. Your owners obviously don’t watch much baseball. Sure, you can expect an entertaining year but if you want to regain the World Series feeling you might need to break out that championship DVD you purchased in your post-curse euphoria (it's probably on your shelf right next to ABBA’s greatest hits). But really, this hire does make sense; the Sox clubhouse resembled a circus at the end of this last season so it’s only fitting that they bring in a clown. Happy rooting.


P.S. The accompanying picture was not doctored. That’s your new manager upon sneaking back to the dugout with a fake mustache disguise after being ejected from a game. Good times

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hockey Anyone?

Contributed by Auggie
Former fan of the NBA

Is anyone out there upset by the absence of NBA games due to the lockout? Has anyone out there noticed the absence of NBA games due to the lockout?

Even as a long-time NBA fan I find myself hoping they cancel the entire season. The NBA financial model is clearly flawed and needs to change. There is enough blame to share among the owners and players, and as usual greed is at the root of the problem. On the one hand, I don’t think the players realize how good they have it. When mediocre players can land a guaranteed multi-million dollar contracts and not even live up to their own mediocre standards then something is wrong. And on the other hand, who is giving out those ridiculous contracts? The owners clearly need a system to protect themselves from themselves.

But the financial absurdities are not the sole reason for my attitude. In many ways, this is not your father’s NBA. Maybe the rules haven’t changed much over the years but the culture certainly has. Today’s NBA is an alpha-dog, in-your-face, I’m-the-man, don’t-[mess]-with-me culture. (Note: “mess” wasn’t the first word that popped into my mind but this is a family blog). The “joy of winning” has given way to “defending your turf”. This is just not appealing to the traditional fan base, or at least to me.

So what are the owners and players really fighting about? Well everyone knows that revenue sharing is a big part of the impasse, but did you know about these other issues that are yet to be ironed out?

Tattoos: Players want a minimum of 27 tattoos per player or 18% of body area. Owners want to cap it at 15 tattoos/10% body area, but of course players already in the league would be grandfathered.

Guns allowed in locker room: Owners want zero. Players want one per player, but two if you’ve been disrespected.

The Scowl: The player’s position is that smiling or other expressions of joy are strictly prohibited, especially if you’ve done something good. The owners are fine with this point, especially Mark Cuban.

Quick tangent: I saw a photo of David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals after hitting the game winning homer in game six. As he was approaching the mob of teammates at home plate he was smiling like Lyle Lovett after inexplicably landing Julia Roberts. This expression would NEVER happen in the modern NBA. It’s a good thing David can hit a slider because basketball wouldn’t be an option. Ok, back to the blog.

Commissioner’s request: The Lakers will be required to reserve 1200 seats for B-list celebrities who want to look cool and enhance their reputation by attending Laker games, even if they think a “traveling violation” is when you have to fly coach.

While they are working out these issues, we can watch NBA classics on ESPN and reminisce about the good old days.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

US Post Office: Time to Mail It In?

When I first got out of college and began paying attention to the world, I recall expressing my bewilderment, to anyone who would listen, that the post-office could take my correspondence and deliver it to the other side of the country for a mere 22 cents.  It struck me as an unsustainable model that, without certain government mandates and exclusive advantages, could never survive in a free market.

Now it's 2011 and my bewilderment has persisted for 25 years. In fact, each time that I go to my mailbox to bring in the latest load of mail order catalogues and pre-approved credit card offers, I shake my head and mutter.  I gripe quietly that our inexpensive postal rates are essentially a subsidy to support advertising and to promote hyper-consumerism.

In the 1990's, I worked for a company that was one of the major sponsors of the Olympic Games.  This was a tremendously expensive undertaking and many of us, who had direct responsibility for leveraging the sponsorship investment into a return, felt that the money had been largely wasted.  At that time, the US Postal Service was one of the other major sponsors.  I'm still shaking my head.

Now I see that the US Post Office cannot sustain economic viability and many are wringing their hands in search of a solution.  Good thing I figured it out in 1987 -- here's what we do:
  • Deliver the mail only half as often, with half the field force.  Since 80% of the USPO budget is labor, this will yield significant savings.  If it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, you know what to do.
  • Close most (if not all) of the physical post-offices.  The packaging and weighing services that we all sometimes need are widely available through those ubiquitous private "mail-box" stores.
  • Sell off the prime real estate that many post offices now occupy.  Use those funds to pay up all the pension/obligations in a pre-negotiated agreement with the union whereby the current workers get their benefits protected and those hired in the future get market-competitive compensation.
  • Raise the first class postage rate from 46 cents to about $2.50. I know the junk mail industry will scream but the tree huggers will rejoice.
I know what you're thinking.  All those jobs eliminated?  At a time when unemployment is so high?

Don't worry, it will be a boon for the private parcel companies who will need to add jobs as they gain volume.  Advertising budgets will shift from direct mail to other communication avenues and create jobs in the higher tech industries where all the young people want to work these days.  And don't forget, remodeling of 32,000 post offices will require lots of planning, construction, and decorating labor.

The US Postal Service is a great institution, replete with nostalgic value and proud history.  It is also based on a flawed model to provide a service that is increasingly not needed.  I say it is time to dismantle it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's that Day Again

Last year on this date, I wrote a short post about historical events I always recall on August 16.  I have noticed a few news stories about Elvis today and I thought it worthwhile to link back to the earlier post.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Who's your caddy?

Contributed by Auggie
We’re leading up to the final major of the year but there is still a lot of chatter about last week’s Bridgestone Invitational tournament, where Adam Scott played a key role in propelling Steve Williams to victory (see photo of Adam Scott congratulating Williams on his impressive win). Yeah, I realize Scott is the player and Williams is the caddy but you would never know it listening to Williams’ post-round interview where he talks about “his 145 career victories” and “how confident he is with a lead on Sunday”. I don’t remember Stevie hitting a single shot, but I did see him toss some grass into the air once to test the wind direction. In other news, the towel boy for the Green Bay Packers is going for his second consecutive Super Bowl this season. Give it a rest man; no one tunes in to watch the Sherpas.

The only thing more annoying than Williams' self admiration is the media’s continued obsession with all things Tiger – which is why Williams was interviewed in the first place. As you may know, Williams was Tiger’s long-time caddy before being fired a couple weeks ago, purportedly in part because he caddied for Adam Scott while waiting for Tiger to get back in the game. The story was just too juicy for the feeble-minded media to pass up. In all my years of golf viewing couch potatoism it’s the first time I have seen a caddy interviewed after a tournament. But here is the best part. After creating a Williams vs Woods story and beating it to death, the same press then has the audacity to ask the question “Is Adam Scott’s victory being overshadowed by the attention to Steve Williams?”. You think? And Voila! - just like that you have another 3-day story that has nothing to do with the actual sport. I hate the mainstream media.

Here’s to hoping for a great PGA championship this week. Maybe Scott and Woods will miss the cut and we can focus on golf

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Commencement Speeches

I like commencement speeches.  I think they come at a time when the graduates in the audience believe they are thinking about the future, but are really only thinking marginally further ahead.  Rather than an immediate focus on final exams, they may be dreaming about the next four years of college, or maybe planning for their first steps in an entry-level position after college.  In the scheme of things, that's still a pretty tight focus.

A good commencement speech should inspire a bigger, broader, more encompassing mindset.  It should shatter the short-term focus on "what to do" and recenter the audience on "how to do".  It should also hold the attention of antsy graduates and engage them at a personal level.

I don't give Conan's speech at Dartmouth my highest marks like many in the press have done, but it is pretty good.  Here's a short video of highlights that focuses more on his humorous lines than on his wisdom. The entire speech is also available on YouTube if you wish to see it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wh-wh-whats up with that?

Contributed by Auggie
Some people worry that cartoon violence will have long-lasting effects on the children who watch said cartoons. Relax. I haven’t seen one case of a coyote being tricked into a 1000 foot canyon plunge only to have a boulder land on his head after surviving the fall. And besides, you can’t even buy an ACME instant hole on the market, as Jack Hartley can attest. I would be more concerned about the long-range effects of other cartoon characters such as Porky Pig.

I haven’t taken a speech class lately but I seem to have missed the transition where stuttering went from a disorder that people struggle to overcome, to a deliberate speaking technique. The recent movie The King’s Speech helps illustrate how far back individuals strived to overcome a stuttering disorder to improve their public speaking. King George VI thought it important enough to work with a speech therapist. Why then do some people presumably stutter intentionally? I’ve noticed this trend in my personal and work interactions, and also on television. Exhibit A is Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News who regularly appears on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters Sunday mornings. Lupica is one of the most prominent sports reporters in America and as far as I know he doesn’t have a speaking disorder, but you would never know from listening to him t-t-t-try to make a point on the show.

In case anyone else has noticed this annoying intentional stuttering trend and is wondering what’s up, I have a few theories (big surprise) which are summarized below.

1) Extend floor time. Here the speaker is basically saying “it’s my turn to speak and I demand equal time even if I don’t have enough to say so I’ll extend my time by stuttering”. It seems to work.

2) Accentuate a point. If you are familiar with social norms around modern day group discussion, you know that interruptions occur about once every 4.8 seconds. Consequently, the speaker has to whiz through his points like an auctioneer on meth. Any pause is akin to a vacuum, and we all know that nature abhors a vacuum. So, if you want to emphasize a particular point, simply stutter your way through it to give your audience time to absorb the point while foiling potential interruptions. Brilliant.

3) Laziness. This explains a lot of other things as well.

If only the King had known

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Storm at the Capitol

This dramatic photo is copyright protected by Ryan Heffernan.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

I've decided that my least favorite human trait is wastefulness. That's right, I find it more reprehensible than lying and stealing.

Lying and stealing seem to be generally motivated by some self-serving plan geared toward personal gain.  At least that shows an engaged mind and a sense of purpose.  Wasting shows me that you are blind to the disproportionate scattering of wealth and resources in the world, and oblivious to the good fortune of plentifulness.

I have learned to tolerate thieves and liars because most fall into one of two categories.  They are either desperate, in which case I have no right to judge them from my relatively privileged lot in life, or they are still on the path to learning that lying and stealing do not bring happiness.  This is a path we all travel, as we are not born with an understanding of the consequences wrought by dishonesty within a cooperative social structure.  Most of us travel this path as children, some as young adults, but for the most part, we all arrive at the final destination eventually.

That vast majority of people I know, me included, are wasteful to a shameful degree.  Our cars burn too much fuel and we drive them too much.  We throw away food that is not prepared to our liking, replace perfectly functional clothing as style preferences shift.  We manipulate the climates within our homes and work settings to maintain a ridiculously narrow range of comfortable temperature and humidity levels.  For some of us, the amount of clean water that runs down our drains and toilets on a given day is nothing short of criminal. 

I'm not casting stones here.  As I've been known to say, "we most easily see the flaws in others that we have already recognized in ourselves".  I am wasteful too.  But I am aware of it; I don't like it; and I am actively moving in the right direction.  Are you?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gotta Love Phillies Fans - Again

This ad hoc series on fan behavior continues.  We wrote in the past about about Met's fans, and then about Phillies fans, and now, Phillies fans again.

Yesterday, our Philadelphia brethren added to their legacy of irreverence.  On Science day, an event conjured to imbue intellectual curiosity into our impressionable youth, the Phillies organization partnered with the University of Pennsylvania and arranged to have a robot throw out the first pitch.  Seemed like a interesting approach, and in another city, probably would have been a stellar success.

In Philly however, the land where fans have booed Santa and cheered when opposing players were injured, the robot failed to impress.  Perhaps they were expecting 90 mph on the black, but the engineers toned down the velocity to protect the team mascot at the receiving end of the pitch.  The robot unleashed a soft one-hopper and was resoundingly booed.

You can read more and see the video of the first pitch here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Travel Notes

As per my earlier post on this topic, the disturbing trend of barefoot flying has shown no sign of abating. According to my non-scientific study, the propensity to remove footwear in flight is highest among those with the gnarliest toes. On my most recent flight, two out of four people in my row removed their shoes and socks for the trip.

So a chunky lady with a large stain on her shirt forced her way past me in the security line. I was not late, so I didn’t really care. After we passed through the scanner, with her directly in front of me, she was randomly selected for a complete luggage search. As I strolled by the search scene, she glanced my way, and I uttered a one-word greeting, “karma”. She gave me the finger.

Do adults really need to carry a full-sized, foam pillow into the airport, through security, and onto the plane? Since the typical airplane seat cannot accommodate a full-sized person and such a pillow, those who carry them aboard must hold their pillows in their laps. Doesn’t look all that comofrtable to me.

Overhead bags 
There is constant tension between the airlines, who would like passengers to carry less luggage aboard their flights, and the public, who like to carry as much as possible with them. I contend that the root of this problem is the airline industry’s inability to handle luggage with respect. If we passengers could check bags and have them arrive in good condition, we might consider doing so more often.

Kids on Planes 
Screaming kids who kick my seat used to bother me. Then I procreated three times and added to the world’s population of screaming seat-kickers. A couple of years ago, one of my progeny vomited on a fellow passenger during a trans-Atlantic flight, so I am now running a deficit in my annoyance “delivered-received” account. We’re about to take off on a long flight and I have a screamer right behind me, good chance to work down my remaining balance.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Earth Eclipsing the Sun

Here's something you don's see everyday, a view of the sun, with the earth partially blocking your view.  This was taken from the Solar Dynamics observatory, orbiting the earth at about 22,000 miles above the surface.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Putting the "Mad" in March Madness

It's that time of year again; I blogged about it almost exactly a year ago. You know what I'm talking about.

It's that time, when the best college basketball teams in the country face off against one another, and the public is unified by their intense interest in young men whose names they had never heard a week earlier.  It is also that time of year when some person of note makes a loud, public ruckus about the obvious social flaw revealed by our national apathy toward the woman's tournament.

This year, the ruckus-maker is Geno Auriemma, coach of the UConn woman's team, who used his post game press conference after an early-round win, to blast the UConn fans for not showing up to cheer.  His premise was that the fans are spoiled and consider it "a given" that the team will make it to the final four.  He surmised that they are all waiting until the more important games before showing up.

History and market research both tell us that he is wrong.

I think that most agree about certain, positive aspects of school sports programs.  They are great opportunities for student athletes to learn about dedication, teamwork, and leadership.  Many participants learn invaluable life skills and important lessons about winning, losing, commitment, and sportsmanship.  For those who choose to participate, these programs can change their lives in many positive ways.

However, benefits to the student athletes do not translate directly into "interesting spectator opportunities" and, unfortunately, woman's basketball is boring to the masses.  You can put it on TV but it won't pull a large viewing audience.  You can play it in a big arena but not many will come to see it.  And you can attach heightened importance to each game in a championship tournament, but most don't really care.

Memo to Geno, the fans aren't spoiled, they just have more interesting ways to spend their time and money.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Three Musk-a-tears

Contributed by Auggie
Insensitive sports fan

When Lebron James decided (on national television) to take his talents to South Beach last July to join Dwayne Wade and newcomer Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat became instant villains in the minds of many NBA fans. Count me among the many. I didn’t really have a problem with Lebron’s decision, and though his chosen method of announcement was boorish that’s not what swayed my opinion. No, for me it was the introduction party they held shortly after joining forces complete with an ostentatious video of the new “Big Three” (Wade, James & Bosh) strutting around a stage with smoke, music and flashing lights in a production that would have made Lady Gaga proud. “Hey everyone, look at us!” I guess it didn’t occur to them to include their inconsequential teammates in the video. All these theatrics were happening before they won a single game of course. And there was Bosh, perhaps the proudest one of all, right in the middle of the action with his scowl face (in mid-season form) and clenched fists swaggering around like he had just slayed the dragon. Quite a display of hubris from the man who single handedly renders the term “Big Three” a misnomer. They should call it “the big 2 with tag-along Chris”. Wade and James could pick up a three guys off the street and still win 45 games but Bosh seems to think he is a vital cog. Nope, I’m not Bosh fan.

Fast forward a few months and the Heat are in the middle of a five game losing streak and there is Bosh sitting at the post-game podium in tears. Ordinarily my senstive side would rise to the surface and I’d feel compassion for a fellow human in pain, but in this case I laughed so hard that beer came out my nose. Later on Bosh complained that he doesn’t feel comfortable in his role and suggested he’s not getting enough touches. Well imagine that; you put three guys together who are accustomed to being the focal point of their team, you have one basketball to share, and they can’t all be the big star. Who could have seen that coming?

Despite Miami’s recent struggles I wouldn’t count them out. They have the talent, and if they get hot during the playoffs they could ride that wave to a championship and have the last laugh on all us new found Miami haters. In the meantime, forgive me if I revel in their agony.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ruby Tuesday

Forty-four years ago today, the Stones hit number one on the US charts with "Ruby Tuesday". 

It's a nice song that has, as this short article summarizes, an interesting back story.  The short version is that Ruby Tuesday was the B-side of the single "Let's Spend the Night Together", but DJ's in the USA were uncomfortable with the explicit sexual references on the A-side, so they played Ruby Tuesday instead.  Next thing you know, it's at number 1.

For me, I have been searching for the meanig of the words "Ruby Tuesday" for many years.  I have scoured the internet, read way too many books on the Stones, and even written directly to Bill Wyman, who claims to love responding to letters from Stones fans.  So far, no luck in unearthing why those two words were chosen as the song's title.

I thought I was on to something once, and may have been, when I noted in Bill Wyman's excellent book "Stone Alone", that he referred to a particular day in Stones history, when Mick and Keith were arraigned in court for drug possession charges, as "Ruby Tuesday".  Alas, I could never confirm the meaning of that particular reference.

If you think you know something about this...please let me know.

Go Ahead...Try to Watch Without Laughing Along

The best part, is that the paper being torn is a job rejection letter.  Talk about a father turning a negative into a positive.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Larry King Interviews Den

If you're not a regular reader of the WWDS blog, you probably had a hard time following the meaning of my comments when Larry interviewed me.  I hope it was clear that I didn't want to throw anyone under the bus, he just kept picking at the scabs until I bled.

Larry King Interviews Den
by: dfortier

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Multi-tasking Edge

As far a words and terms go, "multi-tasking" is a fairly new one. It didn't really enter the daily vernacular until personal computers came along in the 80's. Given the relative youth of this term, we are still grappling with its meaning and it's connotations.

I think most would agree on some loose definition of multitasking that refers to engaging in multiple activities at one time. It is often used in a manner that communicates optimal efficiency. Like when a mother moves clothes from the washer to the dryer, while she is on hold with the doctor's office, and she's keeping a watch on the 1-year old in the jumpy seat. Or when a student sends a text to their fling, while on the phone with their squeeze, while watching a movie with their ex.

Of course, there are also times when such efficiency is not appreciated.  Like when someone is checking their voice mail and sending texts during a meeting we called to make sure they are focused on identified priorities.  Far from singing the praises of their productivity, we say these people have ADD and we mock them.

Therein lies the usual contradictory interpretations that so many "new" words embody.

As for me, I do not enjoy multi-tasking and never really have.  Mostly, this is because I know that most of my intellectual strengths are maximized when I am allowed to focus.  I am more of an information processor than I am an instant reactor.

My job demands multi-tasking now to ensure that our organization is firing on many cylinders, but  I don't think I am personally, optimally productive in an environment where I must constantly shift my focus from matter to matter.  I also think that most people, despite a common tendency to brag about multi-tasking abilities, are not nearly as productive as they might be with a more sustained focus on one task at a time.

So if you brag to me about your multi-tasking habits, I will probably conclude that you have over-estimated your own productivity.  And if you disparage me for my penchant to focus, I will probably conclude that you have under-estimated mine.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What is Your Favorite Word?

I like words.  In fact, I like them a lot.  Two instances from my childhood suggest that I had this trait from a fairly young age.

I fondly recall the year I got a small, paperback dictionary in my Christmas stocking.  I remember lying in bed and reading it, discovering new words.  Of course I also remember hunting down some mysterious words with known reproductive connotations, most of which I had heard my older brother utter but not define.  This was shortly before we both got into trouble with the parents for referring to our younger brother as an "ovum".  Such were our insult skills at that age.

I also recall earning the family nick name "tech peck".  "Tech" was short for "technical".  It referred to my very literal respect for the meaning of words, and how I was prone to correcting family members for improper word choice and/or ambiguous phrasing.  I have no idea what "peck" meant, but I suppose it was chosen because it rhymed with "tech" and seemed demeaning when pronounced with a tone of disparagement. 

In the span of a couple days last summer, two different people spontaneously told me about their "favorite word".  One mentioned during a hike in the Maine woods that "verdant" was her choice, seemingly because it described a particularly pleasant aspect of nature.  The other, for some reason, was fond of the word "rogue".  I understood this was partially due to the fact that it is a short, unique word that seems to sound exactly as a word meaning "rogue" should sound.

These back-to-back experiences set me on an introspective course to determine if I have a favorite word.  I have pondered this many times over the past months, in the shower, on long runs, while driving, and whenever I encountered good words.  So far, I guess I don't have a favorite.

Today in the Huffington post, blogger Marc Middleton wrote that his favorite word is "mindfulness".  He explains why he likes it; you should click through and read his post if you are interested.

So anyway, now I am wondering; does everyone have a favorite word, except me?  Did I somehow not know that, in addition to a favorite color, a favorite baseball team,  and a favorite Victoria's Secret model, we are all also supposed to have a favorite word too? 

Let me know where you stand on this one, imaginary readers.  Wait a minute..."imaginary"...that's a nice word..

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Minivan Milestone

So I'm driving a minivan now. I gotta tell ya, it feels pretty good.

I am well aware of the stereo-types. I know that for many, the move from a cooler ride to a functional family mover, is a transition that marks the end of their hip self-image. But here's the thing; I embraced a crotchety old guy self-image a long time ago. For me, the minivan brought me back on par with all the 30-somethings who run in mainstream, suburban, family-centric circles.

I know most of you thought, based on my personality, that I was moving toward a 4-door sedan with rear-wheel drive, vinyl seats, and an AM radio. Well, that was my second choice. I could slip into some checkered pants, get behind the wheel of an Oldsmobile, and feel right at home.

But for at least a few years more, I'll be tooling around in a boxy 8-seater, telling teens to pull up their pants, and basically feeling hip.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Good Guy, Bad Guy, Grateful Guy

A poignant tale of a senseless tragedy and a guy who did the right thing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Best 30 Seconds of the Year

Let's just start this off by getting our minds out of the gutter and agreeing not to post any snarky comments about Ryer; the title of this post has nothing to do with his brief and infrequent exploits in the bedroom. This is a G-rated blog, fit for the whole imaginary family.

As boring as it might seem, this post is about taxes. Actually, it's about completing the federal and state tax forms each year.

Preparing tax forms is not fun. It is a tedious and mind-numbing march toward a moment when you probably have to write a big check to a scary branch of the government. It is a task drenched in the maddening logic that your hard earned dollars will pay people to ensure that you send them more of your money next year. It is especially agonizing because much detailed information must be tracked from year to year, run through the filter of an evolving tax code, and correctly reported across a series of complex and detailed forms.

But now, with the magic of electronic programs such as Turbo Tax and Tax Cut, you must grapple with much of the minutia for only one year. In subsequent years, when you start the program, it will detect the presence of last year's data and prompt you to import essential information from your earlier work.

With the click of a mouse, all personal information, housing information, spousal information, dependents, charities you support, bank accounts you own, brokerage firms you use, tax credit carry-forwards, cost bases of assets, prior earnings and taxes paid, for both federal and state filings, just fly across space and time and land in the current year's forms. With another couple of clicks, you can download W-2 and 1099 information from your employers, banks, and mortgage holders. These electronic transfers bring sheer joy and unbridled delight.

I've said it every January for the past decade, and this time I am blogging it. Tax preparation software is like a dry, sturdy bridge across the great rushing river of tedium. Watching your data automatically transfer to populate the new forms is the best 30 seconds of the year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cool Things with No Purpose - Part XI

Not sure why I have always loved this photo, but I have.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's With the Feet?

Is it really OK to take off your shoes on an airplane and prop your rotten toes up in the faces of the surrounding passengers? If not, please send a tweet to the dork who sat next to me en route to Washington DC today. And one to the guy who sat next to me on the way to Chicago recently.

I hope my recent experiences in this department can be categorized as a confluence of highly unlikely chance events, and not some emerging trend of barefoot flying. If it is the latter, then I have found the threshold of irritation that might keep me on the ground.

Full-body scan or grope; fine. Snot-nosed brat kicking my seat; I can deal. Cardboard chicken with plastic broccoli; bring it on. Uncle Oscar’s lower extremities; no can do.

Are shoes really that uncomfortable? How about the old trick of trying them on before you buy them? Is that too much to ask…that fellow passengers buy shoes that fit well enough to wear while flying?

These people are probably the same ones grousing in the security line about the great inconvenience of walking barefoot through the scanner. Do they want their shoes on or off?

I know some people like feet (Rex Ryan has made news recently for this) while others find them gross. I am not particularly fond nor particularly put off by feet in general. However, if your feet have twisted, hairy toes and jagged, yellow nails covered in fungus, I would prefer not to encounter them in the close confines of airline seating.