Friday, October 4, 2019

Parallel Worlds, Predictions, and Social Commentary Through Comedy

During the last several weeks I've been spending a great deal of time watching news reports and political speeches, conferences, and debates. I have been listening to radio programs, and reading papers and articles from think tanks, magazines, newspapers, and academic scholars in an effort to learn more about the issues facing our country, the United States, but also the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, and other countries around the globe. People everywhere are fighting to preserve, restore, or obtain democracy for themselves. We all seem to be living out similar issues in parallel worlds under very difficult social climates. Stress levels are running high and many people are self-censoring for fear of social repercussions, including those whose job it is to make us look at society's problems, to contemplate the magnitude, to laugh at the absurd, and perhaps learn something about ourselves.

In every country, the fear of losing or never obtaining basic freedoms tops the list of things the people are debating. Those who have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and free and open elections don't want to lose them. Those who have never experienced them and who have long struggled to survive under communist or socialist regimes desperately desire to give democracy a try.  They all want to ensure they have a say in how their homeland is governed and what laws are made. People are also worried about economic matters, education for their children, healthcare, immigration, and our natural environment. These are all big thinks and every issue is one the incumbent politicians and those seeking office in upcoming elections are being confronted with.

I have been exploring these issues not only through written materials and videos, but also trying to spend time understanding them through other art forms, such as political cartoons, music, and more recently through comedy. The latter one has filled several hours today. What do the comics have to say about these present concerns, and what did the popular comedians have to say during the Bush years, the Clinton years, through Obama's two terms in office, and more recently during Trump's first term? There's a lot of material out there to wade through and that part of my search has only just begun. I became interested tonight in how those comedic personalities of the past foresaw the future of the biggest issues in light of the political environments when they began, and how their viewpoints may have changed over time. What did they have to say about the technology of their times and how did they perceive the changes that new technological advancements have brought? Some were young, unmarried adults when their comedy careers began, and today they are older, married, some with children, etc. Are they looking at society through the same set of "glasses" they wore over the years?

Tonight, I began exploring how the social issues, changes to freedom of speech, and the past and more recent news events are being handled in the realm of comedy. What restrictions are comedians experiencing, both real or perceived, with respect to their art? More than one seems to feel like the walls are closing in and that political viewpoints and jokes on social issues that were acceptable in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s have become taboo today, particularly with tighter definitions on what constitutes "hate speech." More than one seems to feel that their creative abilities are being stifled. How do the current societal upheavals around the globe affect or limit how comedians express their views and participate in the social conversation through their art? How is it changing where they present and are they being negatively affected financially because of their expressions? Some are, that is certain.

This exploration is proving to be a massive one. One of the comedians' work I was exploring tonight was Bill Burr. I have to admit that I had not heard of him before doing a search tonight on YouTube. Mr. Burr had some very interesting insights from past years, and some perspectives in more recent interviews he's given. He, like so many others in the field of comedy, seem to be fighting their own battles with respect to free speech, the desire to be heard, to be respected for their viewpoints. While I don't find myself agreeing with him on many things, I did find myself laughing now and then, and that was a welcome tonic to the increased stress and struggle that this venture into the deep issues of society has brought. He reminded me of something very important.

As frustrating as the world gets, as serious as the issues may be, it's important we keep our sense of humor, as laughter can be a great tonic for what ails us.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Promise and Uncertainty With AI

"Artificial Intelligence" or AI, as it's more commonly referred to, and its use in societies around the world is raising some interesting questions but the biggest of those relate to safety, privacy, and the potential for abuse of that technology by individuals, organizations, and anti-democratic governmental entities.

Anyone who has been following the issues in Hong Kong of late, as well as watching the documentaries related to Mainland China, North Korea, and Iran, know that the technology is already being abused. More reports are coming out of China, especially, with respect to how facial recognition is being used in China to determine the social fitness of its citizens based upon a variety of factors. The intention is to issue them scores that would then determine their fitness to get loans, rent or buy homes, make purchases, travel within and outside of their country, and qualify for services. Their goal is the tracking all people - not merely data collection of criminal participants for the purposes of evidence collection. In China, there are assertions that the collected data is also being used target those considered political dissidents or religious advocates.

America's people value their privacy and freedoms tremendously and while we like seeing our technological innovators at work and we enjoy the use of cell phones, WiFi, and many other things, we don't want to see those same abuses of technology here on U.S. soil. It violates the individual fundamental and God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in the broadest definition of those ideals. But AI is in use around the globe. You have to ask yourself, is it in use where you live, too? And what controls are in place to ensure it is not misused?

Individuals around the world need to be aware of the progress in AI, and keep a healthy balance of skepticism and interest. They should never be afraid to say no to the adoption of some of that technology if they feel it intrudes too much in their lives. AI must be used responsibly, and we must keep in mind that it is not the answer to everything.

In recent weeks, the people of Hong Kong took a stand against technology. Hong Kong protesters, fearing the widespread use of cameras in their region would put them at risk of arrest and imprisonment as political dissidents took the bold step of tearing down the "smart lampposts" put in place by the CCP controlled government, and then removed the technology inside that allowed for surveillance. They felt compelled to limit the Mainland government's ability to spy on them at will. They are now battling in real life what citizens worldwide may be faced with down the road if we do not control the AI before it takes control of every aspect of our life.

Technology can be good, and it can serve mankind well. But in the hands of those who have no respect for others' individual basic human rights, dignity, and right to expression, and privacy, AI is a dangerous tree of technology fruit ripe for abuse and misuse.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Lot Going On

There is a lot going on in the world right now, from the continued unrest in the United States, largely related to the upcoming 2020 elections, to Brexit for the UK which will happen on October 31, 2019, the U.S. trade war with China and the implementation of tariffs on both sides, to the building of a wall on the U.S. Mexico border, the burning Amazon rain forest, the protests in Hong Kong and their resistance to Mainland China's increasing interference in the semi-autonomous region's governance, not to mention worries in Taiwan and Macao over the same issues, and more coming to light about China's truly aggressive expansionism (Part I and Part II) in other parts of the world, and the internment of entire populations of people within China in what they call "re-education camps,"etcetera. The list goes on and on. 

It may seem that the world is standing on its head. But it's a good idea to do some research beyond the limited blurbs that appear on mainstream media shows, because there's a great deal they're missing, or at the least seem slow to pick up on. While the unrest may be unnerving and leave one wondering, "What will be the outcome of all of this?" it is having a positive effect on many people, including myself, and waking up the slumbering citizens of the world. This didn't just start this month, or last month, or last year. It has been building for quite some time, as many of the commentators and subjects in the linked videos above indicate. Now it's time that we all put our thinking caps on and find some solutions to these issues plaguing our world. No more sleeping. Nap time is over. Let us hope that our better selves can find peaceful resolutions. 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Getting Off the Social Media Merry-Go-Round

Keeping up with social media and online forums can be time-consuming. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a variety of others, hours upon hours of one's life is whittled away.

While they have a lot of positive attributes, especially for a writer, social media sites can also have some negatives. It seems that there is always someone spamming you, setting up spoofed accounts, or even trying to post inappropriate stuff to your timeline. So, it's time to go.

Those are just a few of the reasons I decided to opt-out of social media, but the biggest issue is time. So, as of August 12, 2019, I won't be opting back in. I am taking back several hours of my life each week to focus on research and new writing projects that I wish to pursue, and to try to finish some DIY projects that, frankly, I've been ignoring.

My writing and project blogs will remain and there will be a way to subscribe to those via email so that readers can be notified of updates. They won't have to check in daily, however, as the posts will be less frequent than is expected on social media. And, I won't be sharing much in the way of personal information on those, nor answering personal comments. That information will have to travel the old-fashioned way, through visits and calls.

I know, there are many who cannot imagine life without social media, but, believe me, there is life beyond it. So, which project will I be tackling first? Well, I have a nonfiction book to finish, a novel or two due out this year, and forty-five short biographies to finish researching and writing, not to mention a long list of household repairs and upgrades to do. Maybe I'll just toss them all into a hat and pull one out each day and tackle that one. I'm not promising anything.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Will Zip Codes Become Obsolete And Be Replaced By Geolocation?

They've been around for as long as I can remember, since my parents were in grade school, actually. They're zip codes, five-digit numbers that allow the U.S. Postal service to route mail to district sorting facilities and on to local delivery offices, and finally to your home. And quite a few years back a four-digit extension was added in an effort to improve efficiency. But, someday, zip codes may become a thing of the past.

A few months back, I wrote about the problems that Nodaway County residents who live outside the city of Maryville's might face with the implementation of a municipal online sales tax and how they might actually be overcharged sales tax based upon the city zip code assigned to them. Actually, "might" was too weak a word. "Would" was the appropriate word to use. I tested the theory recently by attempting to order online. I went so far as to inform the retailer that even though my legal address said "Maryville" and had the zip code 64468, I actually lived 8.5 miles outside that city and therefore was exempt from the city's online use tax. Their response? "Sorry, but our system uses zip codes to designate the taxes we charge." *Sigh* They lost a sale. This problem is not new. It has been happening for some time,  even before online use taxes came into play, but the addition of online use taxes has only magnified the problem.

A zip code isn't just about community identity, although it is one way for an incorporated town to stand out from its neighbors. But, when it comes down to higher auto insurance rates being charged because a person's mailing address is a larger neighboring city rather than the actual smaller community they live in, or when a consumer is overcharged online sales tax by a vendor because their city and zip code don't accurately reflect the town they actually live in, or when 911 service systems read a person's legal mailing address and don't know that help needs to be sent to a different town, then things get serious, financially and personally.

Thankfully, here in Nodaway County, at least for our town, our district commissioner called a few years ago and specifically requested the names and addresses of everyone in our little community so that the 911 system could be adjusted to ensure help could reach us should it be requested. Of course, since that original call, people have moved into town, others have moved out of town, names have changed, property has transferred. So, it's still a good idea to specify the town you're actually in should you require medical help. The medical bills will have no problem finding you, so don't stress about that. It all gets very confusing. I am glad our commissioner took the initiative to get the 911 system the right information. I hope the other commissioners did the same for their constituents. Now, if they could just get the U.S. Postal Service to respond quickly and appropriately to requests for zip code updates, things would improve. Is it really that hard to get a zip code assigned? Apparently it is. From what I have been reading online, the standard answer in the past, when a request was made for any number of reasons, was "No." Well, fine. It doesn't seem that trend has changed. Maybe there's something new on the horizon that may make zip codes obsolete for everyone.

It turns out there is, and it's growing in popularity. With more than 11,000 taxing jurisdictions, and the number rising all the time, businesses are turning to a more robust option to ensure that they don't inadvertently charge the wrong sales tax rates, and that they can more accurately target deliveries to the right places. It's called geolocation. It's been around a while but it's making the use of zip codes, which were never designed for use by businesses as a data point for taxation, ineffective. There is software on the market that use geolocation sales tax APIs  to help businesses charge the right tax so they don't overcharge their customers or, worse, undercharge them and end up owing a big tax bill when the accounting period comes around. Unfortunately, too many retailers' outdated systems still use zip codes to apply taxes. Ugh!

For the post office, zip codes are about sorting and delivering, but for businesses who have to make sales and charge and remit taxes, geolocation makes more sense. If Google can pinpoint my address on a map without benefit of a zip code, why shouldn't retailers do the same? Geolocation can also help shipping companies more accurately target their deliveries and just may help reduce the amount of shipping and billing fraud that occurs in e-commerce. This was an issue I was unaware of, but it's apparently happening and there are some states, and more specifically cities, in the U.S. that are flagged as "high risk" for such fraud.

So, are zip codes becoming obsolete? As for me, one of those people who lives in a town that does not have its own zip code, a town which was incorporated in 1906 but whose post office closed a decade before zip codes were in use, I hope so. This article gives a good idea how zip codes and place names can equal confusion. Geolocation in this era of satellites, longitude and latitude, for the purposes of making purchases and shipping goods make more sense. I mean, one can, with the right geolocation information, pinpoint a campsite in the middle of a desert. If Amazon can improve their unmanned drone services and deliver larger quantities of supplies, campers and hikers can replenish their dehydrated food supplies, water, etc., and stay out on the trail longer, and be taxed the appropriate rate for the actual location from which the sale was made and to which the goods are delivered. And, as for all those lateral movers, those snowbirds, and full-time RVers it's a win-win, especially if you do your ordering from and shipping to locations that have no online or local sales tax. I wonder what the taxation rate is in the desert? Any desert will do for a sample.

*Note: I am not an affiliate nor do I receive any remuneration from those sites or publishers linked above. They're just sources of information. Good information, I think.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Green Lantern Van Gave Its All For Adventure

The 1998 Chevy Astro van, which we dubbed "Green Lantern," finally gave its all at the end of May,
Memorial Weekend in fact, on my return trip from the Black Hills of South Dakota. Chevy built these vehicles tough. It's not the first Chevy we have owned, and may not be the last.

Its motor mind blew between two exits at North Platte, Nebraska. Big Red Towing came and moved us from I-80 to the next exit where we spent the night at the Flying J truck stop, ate a great dinner and breakfast at the Denny's, and waited for rescue. Two of my brothers drove out from Missouri with a car trailer and carried us both home. The Green Lantern expired with 319,724 miles on its odometer. It fought a good fight. It gave its all.

We purchased the van used in 2011 from private owners, and for the last eight years it has faithfully taken us through snow storms, thunderstorms, and hot weather. It has hauled appliances, cabinetry, remodeling materials, toys, kids, grownups, furniture, bicycles, and camping gear. With nearly 300,000 miles on it, it made a trip to the Creation Museum and Ark Experience in Kentucky in 2017, crossing Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, the corner of Ohio and the western edge of Kentucky, and back again. In 2016, it took my mother, a friend, and myself to Branson for one of the shows at the theater there. Two days after we bought it in 2011, in 100-degree-plus heat, it carried myself and six passengers across Nebraska to attend a funeral. The Green Lantern has made numerous trips to St. Joseph and back, one to Des Moines, Iowa, and many jaunts around our local area while I've been researching books, attending events, and tracking down story sources. It took me to the Black Hills in May of this year, 2019, for a job opportunity, and allowed me to enjoy a journey through Custer State Park, and to tiptoe along the route to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. It made it across the state of South Dakota on the first leg, and most of the way across Nebraska on the return.

The Green Lantern van has been a great blessing in our lives and I will certainly miss it. My five-year-old great niece asked me to send a picture of the Green Lantern to her mother's iPhone so that she can look at it. "I'll miss our van," she told me and she wanted to remember it. We've had it for the entirety of her life, and half of her older brother's. I will miss its reliability and its versatility.

It was towed away today, but it will give to the very last. It was donated to the Wheels for Wishes program, which helps fund adventures for terminally-ill children. It's the second vehicle we have donated to that organization since early May of this year. Whether they are able to fix those vehicles, part them out, or recycle them, the vehicles won't just end up in a back lot rusting away in the elements.

The Green Lantern van had a classy escort during its last ride. On the flatbed, in front of it, was a bright yellow Harley Davidson motorcycle, someone's pride and joy. Despite being "a wreck" it was still a beautiful bike. I hope it may find a master mechanic who can restore it. If not, its parts may help another Harley continue down the road to adventure for years to come.

Now, it's time to begin the search for a replacement. I'm not sure what model, make, or color that vehicle will be. I can only hope that it will serve us as faithfully as the Green Lantern van did.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Rehydrating To Stay Healthy

It's all around us, falling on us from the sky, bubbling up from the springs underground, hidden in natural aquifers below the earth (and a new one discovered under the ocean off the East Coast), filling up the rivers (and farmland when the rivers can't hold it all), and the lakes (where the good fishing happens), and it floats around in some areas as giant ice cubes (icebergs). It freezes well, thaws quickly, boils well, evaporates, and then recycles itself, and it's one of the key ingredients necessary for the survival of organic life.

For humans, particularly, finding ways to improve hydration, especially before, during, and after exercising, recreational activities, and work can be a challenge. We all know that water works, and that each of us needs to drink the obligatory eight glasses a day. Unfortunately, most of us don't get anywhere close to that quantity, and some only take in water if they're taking medication. Not a good plan.

Our bodies are largely made up of water, and as we move around and do stuff, it gets depleted in many ways. So, it's critical to restore that precious liquid throughout the day and keep your internal water tank toward the high side. 

Best and Worst Hydrating Drinks

Despite our need for it, water is somewhat boring, especially by comparison to all the other lovely drinks out there, soda, coffee, tea, etc. So, how do you keep water interesting and make it a top priority? I came across this article from Taste of Home. It offered a lot of new suggestions for infusing water with different fruits and veggies to take that plain old H20 and make it, well, not so plain. I've been drinking lemon water for some time, and it is good, but it too can become a bit ho-hum after a while. Since we keep a lot of fruits and veggies around our house it shouldn't be too tough to throw some of these suggested enhanced water combinations together, but honestly I just don't actively think to do so. That's going to have to change. We may even invest in one of those glass dispensers with the spigot and keep it made up in the refrigerator.  

As a side note, be sure to compost the fruit rinds from the old fruit when you finish with them. You can read more how to do that and how to use that compost for your garden or your container plants here. If attracting wildlife to a compost pile is unattractive to you, you can make simple composting buckets and barrels. If you need organic manure, as it is a key ingredient, well I'll bet if you look around you can find an ag connection - someone near you has chickens, horses, cows, sheep, etc. It doesn't take much. If you ask nicely they might even let you come by and help muck out a stall or two once in a while. I have read that black containers help speed the composting process, but there is a lot of evidence that about any type of lidded container will work. Here are some other considerations. You can also build wooden composting bins (be sure to make a heavy lid so the raccoons (those ever-enterprising little bandits) can't get into it.

Don't Forget The Okra To Help With Rehydration

File:Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) cross-section - 20080613.png
Okra - cross-section
from Wikipedia
Okra? Really? Isn't that the weird looking fruit your mother tried to get you to eat all those decades ago? "Try it. You'll like it." Yup. Turns out, Okra is a vitamin treasure chest. And who knew it was a fruit? I missed that in the list of "fruits" from the basic food groups I was educated on in elementary school . . . a very long time ago.

It's a weird looking little fruit. It doesn't inspire edibility. It looks a little like a freakish odd-sided cucumber. I have heard of fried okra before, and now knowing that it is a fruit I have to wonder why anyone would want to dunk it in hot oil, or to roast it? Apparently it's good that way, too. But okra-infused water? It might be worth a try. 

And, you can grow Okra in the U.S. Here's some information from the University of Missouri. It turns out there's a dwarf variety as well that can be grown in containers. So, if you're a container gardener and you love the stuff - there you go. Get growing. It needs a lot of sun and well-drained soil. The article covers a lot of you'll need to know.

Water being fundamental to all life, it's important that we take care of our water sources, and use them with an eye to sustainability, as we do our farmlands whereby our food is grown. Keeping trash and as many toxins out of the waterways is a good thing. Choosing to use nature-friendly cleaners is a good start. Some of you local folks may have noticed that the reservoir has "flipped" again and the tap water has an earthy/fishy kind of taste. You can smell it even when it flows out of the shower tap. It makes that already somewhat boring H20 even less appealing for drinking. Don't opt for soda over water. You may have to take some extra steps to give it a makeover. I encourage you to look into water filtration systems for your home, drinking and cooking primarily. We use the Pur systems and they are very efficient and cost-effective, but I am reconsidering the plastic-encased filtration systems for a more natural method, and there are other ways to purify water naturally. If you have a rain-catchment system to harvest the stuff falling from the sky, that's even better but it may still need purification.You can invest in high-quality water filtration, too, like the Berkey system, whose filters need less changing over time, or ZeroWater you might be the better for it. But until someone invents a filtration sachet (like a teabag) that does not use plastic, and which can be laid in the top of a filtering canister, boiling water (in glass pans) might be preferable. Add a bit of lemon juice to it to help with flavor. Let it cool before storing it in the fridge.

Just some things to think about as you try to stay hydrated throughout the year. Put some thought into your choices and be sure to keep that internal water tank full!

Note: I am not an affiliate of the sites or product manufacturers or retailers listed. I just hope the information helps you think about the water you must ingest everyday, and make it as healthy and enjoyable a process as possible. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Increasing Tension

man riding bike in front of building during daytime
If that pack were any heavier and the hill
steeper, he'd probably tip over backward. Just say'n.

Original photo by @joelstylis on
For the last couple of days I've been trying to increase miles ridden, as well as the tension on the bike, clicking up and down through the next two highest levels to mimic those monster hills west of town.

Through the window of a vehicle, they're not so intimidating, unless they're covered in snow and ice. Then they are, again, the roller coaster they appear to be. 

On a bicycle, especially to a rider unaccustomed to pedaling those types of hills, they're monsters. I can see why folks favor cycling out along the flat stretches of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, or riding the Rails to Trails paths.

I will eventually master those hills . . . I'm pretty sure. For now, the tension setting on the trainer is growing closer to being maxed out. What then? Weights. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Strong Headwind and Extra Weight On The Bike

Every time you go out on a bicycle the potential is there to learn something new, and to relearn old lessons. This morning that was, for me, a reeducation in just how much a strong headwind can impede your progress, and a new lesson on packing lighter.

I set out this morning to ride the bike to town, an 8.5-mile journey. It should have presented few problems, as on the stationary bike I could average about fifteen to seventeen miles, on the next-to-last tension setting, and pedal for over an hour and a half without a break. Of course, there were no wind factors to take into consideration in the bedroom, where the stationary bike is located. Had I encountered such strong gusts there, reducing them would be a matter of merely closing the window. There, too, the stationary bike doesn't offer much opportunity to battle wind resistance as it's, well, stationary.

When I set out this morning the wind was mild and the temperature was perfect, about 66°. The first big climb was a half-mile west of town. At that point, the wind was to my right and strong enough that it threatened, more than once, to tip me off balance. I persevered and made it to the highway, two miles away, facing two larger climbs along the way. Yeah. I admit it. I'm not proud. I pushed the bike up those monster hills and coasted down them. When I reached the highway, I turned into the wind, and it didn't take long for fatigue to set in and for my muscles to start screaming at me. I really wished town was in the other direction. Of course, my energy was low anyway as I didn't sleep all that well the night before. Another great thing to keep in mind: Get a good night's sleep.

I was looking forward to the ride to town today, the first real opportunity I have had to get the bicycle out for a ride of any distance. Despite a couple of rumbles of thunder and some light cloud cover, I decided I would make the journey. Well, I gave it my best shot, anyway. I made it a little less than half way to town before I decided to turn back. My adversary, the headwind, suddenly turned into an ally and made pedaling a might easier. I should have remembered this lesson. Having ridden years ago, I hated riding into the wind and tried to avoid windy days or simply head in the opposite direction. I'm not that aerodynamic, even with the cycling pants on.

As far as the weight issue, I'm not a lightweight and the bike isn't either. I needed to take my laptop with me. It's an older one and quite a bit heavier than those made today. I wanted to carry a small camera, too, in case a photo moment presented itself. And, I felt that a few bike tools would be a wise choice. All this amounted to about an addition ten to twelve pounds, in a set of canvas panniers. I didn't think how much this added weight might work against my efforts to reach my destination, but it didn't take long to realize that the gentle ride to town was going to be a bit more laborious than intended.

I put the items in the panniers, which I bought last year, grabbed the helmet and headed out. Had I taken the bike trailer, which I considered and then dismissed, the added weight might have seemed less of an obstacle to success, as the weight would have on the trailer and not the bike itself. I've pulled a couple of toddlers in that trailer across relatively flat ground, without much difficulty. But, just carrying those extra few pounds on the bike itself, up and over those roller coaster hills, felt like the items weighed twice as much. So, it's time to finalize those modifications to the trailer before the next trip.

I turned around and headed back home, somewhat bummed that I never made it to town - on the bike, at least. I'll try again soon. I may have to spend a bit more time riding on flatter terrain, or at least terrain with smaller hills, until my muscles are ready for monster hills. But, really, I'm okay with meeting half the goal today. I have no doubt that with less weight and the absence of a headwind I could have made it. You're not going to know unless you get out and try, and find out what works and what doesn't.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Momentum Is Everything

It's important to keep moving on a bicycle. Momentum is everything. Life is like that. (Read that again with a Forrest Gump accent now. Sounds better, doesn't it?)

If we don't keep moving forward, life has a way of sneaking up on us and running us over. Momentum is everything.

Personal challenges are hills. There are small ones, and large ones, and just about every size in between. It's important to keep them in the proper perspective, adjust your gearing when necessary, and learn to breathe. Oh, and enjoy those times when you get to coast down hills. Momentum is everything.

You can keep the mental momentum going even when you're parked by the curb. You may need to make changes to your route, plan in a few enjoyable detours, avoid some sections of road that have become too rough or that don't help you keep pace with the responsibilities in your life. Momentum is everything.

I hope, today, that you're moving forward. Remember, it is a race we're in, but it's an endurance race not a sprint. Momentum is everything. Just focus on that, and remember to breathe.

Monday, May 6, 2019

What's For Supper?

Italian green beans with sliced potatoes and pulled chicken. Smell that?

When left to my own devices, I am capable of rummaging through the kitchen cabinets and throwing together a thing or two for supper. For this recipe you'll need the following:

2 cans HyVee cut green beans, drained
2 cans HyVee sliced white potatoes, drained (or whole small fresh ones)
1 to 1 1/2 cups Tyson pulled chicken (precooked Tyson frozen or Tyson Premium White Chicken in a pouch both work well) *The pouch chicken is at Walmart. All other at Hy-Vee.
Gustare Vita Olive Oil
McCormick Garlic Powder (or fresh minced garlic)
McCormick Onion Powder (or fresh diced onion)
Tone's Italian Seasoning Blend

That's it. Salt and pepper to taste. I put a bit of olive oil in the Lodge iron skill (my favorite), dump in the drained green beans and the drained potatoes, sprinkle on liberal amounts of seasoning, add the chicken and a bit more olive oil, then turn on medium and cook. You could prepare it in the Crockpot, too, but cook it on low and stir often. It doesn't take long. It's pretty easy. This makes several servings. It is easily enough for 4-6 people. Serve it with hot rolls and some real butter and your family or friends, or both, will love you forever.

Note: I am not an affiliate of the mentioned or linked manufacturers, nor am I am affiliate of the retailers linked. I just wanted to share the recipe, at least virtually. You'll have to make your own, because I'm keeping this batch all to myself . . . at least for as long as it lasts.

Alternate Agenda

With some stormy weather moving through the area this week, and temperatures hovering in the 40s and 50s, I've had to adjust my agenda just a bit. My primary plan was to get the road bike out and do some distance cycling to see just how far I could make it without calling for SAG, or in my case MOM support. (I don't call her SAG. That could lead to trouble.) She's more than willing to come and rescue me in the event that my ambition overextends my actual ability . . . and sometimes common sense. Some other things have cropped up in my schedule, too, that make a long journey a bit of an inconvenience at the moment. Therefore, an alternate agenda has been implemented.

The bike trailer modifications may get done this week. My young nephew, with glee, stripped the old canvas and nylon from the trailer frame a week or so ago, enabling me to start adding additional supports and to build the platform that will rest on the lower frame. I decided to keep the side rails intact to act as support for the cargo area. Why not? They're already there and they fit perfectly. I will be increasing the length of the trailer, somehow, and I may exchange the 20" tires for 24" or 26" tires, which will allow the trailer to pull more smoothly. The added height will improve visibility and safety. I may even buy a new flag for it to help drivers see it better. Or, I may design one of my own.

I considered building a trailer from scratch, and I have a few designs drawn up, but those will have to wait for another day. They're fairly simple and make use of things already in existence, so I won't have to actually create new stuff, just modify what is already around. Weight, as with humans, is always an issue for these little trailers. The one pictured to the left can carry up to 100 pounds. That's not a lot when you consider what you might need for a longer bike tour. The new one, with some assistance, will be able to haul around three hundred. The real question is, will I be able to peddle that much? There are bicycle cargo trailers out there designed to hold much more, but it has been written, and I heartily agree, that 300 pounds is the maximum weight a cyclist should consider pulling, for safety reasons if not because hills seem to grow higher the more weight you're towing, and the trailer really weighs in on those downhill grades. Would you want 600 pounds pushing you down a hill? I don't think so.

I'll be adding trailer brakes, just as soon as I figure out how. That should help on those declines somewhat. As I mentioned in another blog post, I had to abandon the first bike tour plan as a majority of the route is underwater, and may be for some time to come. Thankfully, there are additional points on the compass to aspire toward.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Have You Been Purged?

Voted printed papers on white surfaceVoting is an important expression of American citizenship. Are you registered? More importantly, have you been purged from the rolls?

As of 2018, in different parts of the country, millions were purged from voter rolls. Whether you voted in the last election or not, it might be a good idea to check to be sure you're still registered to vote, because the purges continue. You can do that at your local clerk's office, and register if you find you're not. If you're a Missouri resident, you can check online here. 

Voting is one of many rights that Americans don't want to lose, but it is, for many, a right at risk. And for those who travel frequently for work or pleasure, if you happen to be away from your 'domicile' you will want to explore the rules for filing an absentee ballot. It's a fairly simple process, in most areas.

Please, take time to check your voter registration status so that your vote can be counted in the next election.

More on this topic as of 2018.  Don't let yourself be counted among the purged.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Smoked Sausage With Cauliflower And Gravy

Coming up with new and interesting combinations for supper, to break away from the same-old menu, can be a bit of a challenge. Yesterday I decided to throw three things together and see what materialized.

Green Giant Cauliflower Medley Riced Veggies1 Pkg Green Giant Steamer Riced Cauliflower Mixed Medley or Green Giant Steamer Riced Cauliflower with Broccoli

1/2 Pkg (or whole pkg) McCormick Onion Gravy Mix (prepared according to directions) *You could use brown gravy or beef gravy with this too. 

Make the gravy according to the directions. Steam the cauliflower mixed medley in the microwave. Fry the sliced smoked sausage. Mix all together. Makes enough for 3-4 people to enjoy. Relatively low-card, high protein, but a little high on the sodium, yet very delicious. If you can't have rice, or just don't like rice, the "riced" (pulverized) veggies like cauliflower and broccoli are a good alternative.

Note: I am not an affiliate of these product makers, nor of the retailers linked. But, doesn't everyone's life need a little gravy, with something to fill it out?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

You Can Get There From Here and You Get Here From There

Do you recall that old joke about a man who stops to ask another man for directions (no, that's not the joke part) and is given a long list of turns and road markers to follow? He is finally told, "But, you can't get there from here." (You can chuckle now, or guffaw. Whatever you're comfortable with.) With the recent flooding in Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri, some may be wondering if they can get to the west side of the flood waters from the east and vice versa. Can I get there from here? I recently asked myself that question when considering an adventure into Nebraska. Well, of course you can! But, there may be detours.

Don't think of them as detours, however. Think of them as . . . new vista opportunities. The minor changes in travel routes will introduce you to new locations, new scenery, and some small towns you may not pass through otherwise. Detours - er, vista opportunities - can prove fun and educational at the same time. There are a lot of things to explore in the quad states, but you have to get off the more beaten (and presently flooded) pathways to experience them.

I received an email today from Nebraska's tourism site reminding me of all the things happening in their state this year. They're neighbors of ours, so I visit occasionally. Their calendar of events details a lot of interesting things, and I am still seriously considering doing some camping and cycling there over the summer. In order to get there from here, I may have to jot a little to the north of my usual route and cross over at Council Bluffs, Iowa, or go south to Kansas and then back north again. If I wanted to take the usual direct route, up I-29 and then across Hwy 2 to Nebraska City, I would have to duct tape pontoons to the bicycle and trailer and float across  . . .  nah, too dangerous. But, there are other ways to get there, safely, from here. I'll choose one of those.

Kansas and Iowa both hold promise for additional things to see and do. I invite you to visit Nebraska's site and check out their Calendar of Events for 2019. And while you're planning out your new route on how to get there from here, check out Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas's pages, too. It's the neighborly thing to do.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Oiling The Road Bike and Stripping Canvas

It was, to me, perfect cycling weather. Sunny and 66°. So, with the help of four little hands, the road bike was wheeled out of the shed and dusted off. The bike racks were affixed to the bumper basket so it could carry my bike and my nephew's youth bike. My niece's smaller bike fits inside the van with room to spare.

I'm not sure how I feel about the hitch basket as a bike carrier, however. It's a bit wobbly. I'm sure there's a workaround. It held the two bikes okay, but we weren't traveling far for our first trip. I previously had a hitch-mounted carrier, but it wobbled too, no matter how much I tightened the bolt. The nice thing about that one was that it could drop down to allow access to the rear hatch and double doors on the van. The bad thing about it? It was very heavy to raise and lower when loaded. I gave it to a stronger friend. We have fewer bikes to carry now, anyway, and with the basket we can, at least, access the hatch on the van.

My nine-year-old nephew had a great time taking the scissors and stripping the weathered nylon and canvas wrap on the old child-carrier trailer. It was a Rhodes. I bought it used a couple of years ago when my niece was still small enough to fit inside. It isn't often my nephew is given the opportunity to be deliberately destructive. What fun he had snipping and ripping away at all that covering material.

When I returned home this afternoon from our first short ride, I went to work on the trailer tires, which would never retain air for very long. Maybe that's a thing with these types of trailers. I don't know. But, I took them off the trailer and added a bit of green slime inside the tubes and aired them up again. We'll see if they're still holding air in the morning. (Update: Yup! The slime worked.) I'm seriously considering changing the smaller tires out for 24" or 26" tires anyway, since it's going to become a cargo trailer only. The information I found about the Rhodes trailers online suggests that the framework can support about a hundred pounds. Now that the kids can pedal their own bikes, hauling them about isn't necessary. Oh, they may want me to, but that's not happening.

I need to adjust the height of the seat on my bike. It's distracting having my knees popping up and threatening to smack me in the jaw when I pedal. Despite having ridden longer distances years before, I was a little shaky trying to ride at first today. I've been away from it for a couple of years trying to regain a healthy life balance. Pedaling the road bike is vastly different than pedaling the recumbent stationary bike. Nevertheless, I made it through the first short ride. By the end of it, my sense of balance was back to where it used to be when I cycled more often. I think I shall raise the handle bars, as well. That will allow me to sit more upright.

The bike chain and derailleurs needed a good oiling, so that was done this afternoon. It was shifting a bit hard. The next task will be to add panniers, and obtain a digital speedometer/odometer and a cell-phone holder for the handlebars.

Friday, April 19, 2019

It's Not About Winning Or Losing - Or Maybe It Is

I love watching peewee sports teams. Their enthusiasm is infectious, even when things don't go quite right. Many of us have seen the videos of the little football players who suddenly find themselves with the ball in their arms and the goal within reach. The player takes off running, with all their might, half of the players on the field, and their parents in the stands, and one of the coaches, are cheering and encouraging them on in their drive toward a touchdown. The other half are frantically shouting the player's number and waving for the runner to stop, turn around, go the other way. "That's not our goal!"

See, it brings a smile to your face just thinking about it. But, what is even better is the shouting, jumping, and cheering when all the players make it to the other end. They all celebrate the touchdown, even if it was made for the opposing team. Their competitive drive to win for the sake of winning is trumped by the fun of simply getting the ball and running, without being tackled before you reach the end of the field. It's about scoring a touchdown, any touchdown, for a team. Everybody likes to celebrate a touchdown.

Unusual football plays can add a lot of fun to the game, too, like this play called the "Ugly Kardashian," used in a game at the Lewis & Clark Middle School in Jefferson City, Missouri. You have to admire the simplicity of the play. You have to admire the creativity. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

We Can't Blame the Government Entirely for Overtaxing Us - We Do It To Ourselves

With the 2020 elections coming up, there will be a great number of interesting topics up for debate. If you've been keeping up with the media of late, you'll have an inkling of what those will be. President Trump's wall initiative will be up for discussion. Hopefully those tax cuts he made to help improve the incomes of working families will get some air time, but I doubt that. Certainly our nation's immigration process will be debated, and the census may come up for discussion early in the political process. Finally, there will be trade tariffs on the table and we'll all enter the voting booths knowing more about them than we might like.

Taxes, however, have been a hot-button issue in every election that I can remember since I was told it was not only my right but my obligation to cast a vote in each election. I've tried to do that with some thoughtfulness on what my vote, if it's on the victor's side, will mean for the county, the state, and the nation, and what the other guy's vote may inhibit if they're successful. Some taxes I have voted in favor of, and others I opposed.

President Trump is trying to lower taxes, but there are a great many people out there that go on complaining about them. (Waving my hand!) I hope he succeeds at lowering them even more. I know there are a lot of families struggling, and they aren't just in the middle income brackets. Most of them have never seen the middle income bracket, and perhaps never will if taxes continue to increase. I believe that lower taxes will help American businesses grow and innovate, but I cannot help but wonder what the presidential-wannabes are going to have to say on this issue. Will there be a lot of empty promises again this political season? Will their words sound good but have little substance? The answer is "Yes. Probably." on both counts.

The nation seems splintered on the issue of taxes. Those who would see us live a socialistic lifestyle are happy with the idea of high taxes and they like the idea of getting things for free and giving away things they, themselves, have not labored to obtain. And there are others who see our nation's industries and entrepreneurs as the saviors of a flailing economy. Certainly the latter group believe fewer taxes could help businesses compete, innovate, and grow.

Tonight, I recalled the speech given by former-President George H.W. Bush in 1988, "Read my lips. No new taxes!" There was that sliver of hope that he would set the national economic train down a new track, a straight and narrow-gauge rail toward recovery. He seemed to be looking in the right direction. Unfortunately, the economic train was diverted. Someone flipped the wrong switch and it went forward down a wider track of economic self-destruction. Bubbles have been bursting with regularity since a tax hike went into effect and the savings and loans were bailed out. More bailouts would inevitably follow. I think many people would have been happy if the president had been successful in at least stalling the tax train on the rails for a while, if even for only a moment so American tax payers could catch their breath.

Unfortunately, We The People can't blame the "government," entirely, for our high taxes. Some of We The People voted the pro-tax-tax-tax-and-more-tax folks into office. We the people, in general, allow many of them to remain in office term after term, instead of voting them out. And, when tax initiatives have come on the ballot, many We The People have believed the political rhetoric surrounding them too completely and voted more taxes down upon us all.

In 2020, I hope those who believe that the tax train needs to be diverted back onto a better economic rail line, one with lower taxes and a more innovative and prosperous future, will make it to the polls. I hope when they see a new tax initiative come up for vote in their local elections they will take pity on themselves, if not their neighbors, and vote against it. I hope they will voice their views to their state and national representatives, loudly and clearly, and tell them that throwing more taxes at the problems our country is facing will not solve them. There has to be a better solution out there, somewhere along the tracks.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Fast 'n Furious Chili Pie For Supper

My Chili Pie

Even though it warmed up later in the day, the morning was chilly and the evening is cooling down. I thought chili pie sounded good.

All I needed were the right ingredients.  Turns out, we had them in the cupboard and fridge. Fantastic!

Chili Pie - 15 minutes to delicious. 
It took about seven minutes to throw the ingredients together on a plate, cover it with another plate, and microwave it on seventy-percent power for four minutes, then another four minutes on high. I then topped the chili pie with diced tomatoes, and some sour cream.

I would like to go back for seconds, but I'm kinda stuffed. I'm glad I didn't go ahead and make that salad, too. It'll make four decent slices for a group of four to share, or two for the semi-starved to polish off, or one really big chili pie if you're not in a mind to share at all.

I'll best this would taste even better after chilling in the fridge for a while.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Starting The Day In Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park, Green River Overlook. Utah.
Photo from Philip Armitage.

What a way to start off a beautiful spring day. The snow missed us here in Missouri this weekend, thankfully, and the high winds we have experienced over the last two days have finally abated. It will be time this afternoon to dig the road bike out of the shed and dust it off in preparation for the summer and fall rides out of doors.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the self-sustained cycling tour I planned is being rerouted due to massive flooding in our region. Three of the five sites I planned to cycle to and camp at are completely under water. It will take a lot of sunshine to dry up miles of water that is nearly thirty feet deep. I am trying to rework the route. But, I am resolved that this year's cycamping adventure may have to revert to a series of shorter disconnected journeys. That's okay.

Before I set to work on the outdoor bike, however, I'll take another tour on the indoor trainer, watching this new video from Jerry Nolan. What a gorgeous route this will be to ride. It's the Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky section. This is the first I heard of this location. It will definitely add it to my 'places to see' list. And, yes, the bike will be going along, too. Thank you, Mr. Nolan. Again, you've made a great video and I appreciate you sharing it with your YouTube followers and helping my day get off to a great start.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Fuzzy Logicians Are Writing Our Tax Laws

Fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic in which the truth values of variables may be any real number between 0 and 1 inclusive. It is employed to handle the concept of partial truth, where the truth value may range between completely true and completely false.[1] By contrast, in Boolean logic, the truth values of variables may only be the integer values 0 or 1.
The term fuzzy logic was introduced with the 1965 proposal of fuzzy set theory by Lotfi Zadeh.[2][3] Fuzzy logic had however been studied since the 1920s, as infinite-valued logic—notably by Łukasiewicz and Tarski.[4] It is based on the observation that people make decisions based on imprecise and non-numerical information, fuzzy models or sets are mathematical means of representing vagueness and imprecise information, hence the term fuzzy. These models have the capability of recognising, representing, manipulating, interpreting, and utilising data and information that are vague and lack certainty.[5] Fuzzy logic has been applied to many fields, from control theory to artificial intelligence.

Cropped photo. Original by Jaycek Dylag
(@dylu) on
Just a note. The original photo came up
when I put in the search term 'crazy.' Fitting.
You may now be accepting that fuzzy logic has been governing our tax system for decades and it looks like it's going nowhere fast.

If you have been reading the recent posts related to the implementation of use taxes around the country and the problems facing both brick and mortar businesses, many of whom also sell online, and the challenges faced by online-only retailers, you will already have realized that our sales and use-tax laws are being written by proponents of fuzzy logic. The end result? The laws governing American businesses and consumers are certainly "fuzzy" although not "logical."

This picture best depicts the condition of my brain after only a few days of thinking about use taxes and the horror they represent for business people. Tonight, the mental feathering began on the subject of origin states and destination states, and whether one is a state-based business or a "remote seller," or both, and the question of whether if I am a seller living in an origin state and selling to someone in a destination state what taxes should I or should I not charge the buyer? Heaven forbid that I want to sell to someone in California, which is, according to, "unique" because "it is a modified origin state where state, county, and city taxes are based on the origin, but district taxes are based on the destination." That  uniqueness creates an entirely different conundrum for brick and mortar and online-only retailers there, because . . . well, they're on their own. I'm not even going there, physically or virtually.

From the fuzzy forest of use taxes I ran across a question regarding the legalization of marijuana. They're distantly related. You already know where I stand on that subject. It's an idiotic move. And, if you have read other posts I'm sure you can sense the annoyance I feel as a Missouri citizen that our state has crawled into bed with marijuana growers, essentially making us a drug state that will eventually make us all the benefactors of a whole litany of new evils. But let's put that aside for the moment. Let's talk about the burgeoning entrepreneurs in the marijuana market. They're going to have to deal with this issue of use taxes, too. Or, are they?

They might be able to grow their product, but are they limited to selling it within states where it's legal? Or, can they sell it across state lines via the Internet? If yes, to the first question, then they have only their state, county, and local taxes to worry about. If yes to the second, well then they're in the same boat as the rest of us with regard to state, county, and city use taxes. 

And, there is that issue of whether the marijuana has to be consumed in the state where it was purchased. Can, say, someone who bought it online from another state go and pick it up and bring it home? As far as taxes, I think that would constitute actual 'delivery' by the seller and there are some laws on that as well. If the person picking it up does have to consume it in the state where it's purchased, and is afterward driving back to their state where it's illegal, hoping the effects wear off before they cross the state line, can the original seller charge a shipping fee? I mean, I believe it's still illegal to transport the drug across state lines, anyway, but my logic is kinda fuzzy on that. I hope it's still illegal. I hope it's still a felony. 

And, what about the mile-high skies? Do these 'delivery' conditions apply only to the earthly plane of highways and bi-ways, and waterways, or will the 'friendly skies' get a lot friendlier to growers who want to ship their product, that is legal in one state, via the airways to another state where it's also legal? Even if they could get it on an airplane without being arrested, the pilot and copilot are going to have to be very good, because at some point they're going to be flying that stuff over states where the product is illegal, thus making them drug traffickers, albeit potentially unwilling ones. I see flight patterns becoming very erratic. Will the state tax laws regarding 'delivery' extend into the airspace? I'm pretty sure they will, because if they don't and the purchased product never lands anywhere then the seller better be collecting and remitting taxes in every state, county, and city that plane passes over. It's ridiculous, I know, but that's the direction our laws are headed anyway, so why not go there?

Thinking about today's issues, regardless of what you're selling, when, where, or how the product is being delivered, or not delivered, is stressful, and the messes we're creating for ourselves would all be laughable, if the monetary stakes weren't so high. No pun intended. Or maybe it was. I'm a bit fuzzy on that. 

black and white dog with disguise eyeglasses
Original photo by Braydon Anderson (@braydona)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Tax Collectors Get Paid For Their Jobs - Why Not Businesses?

The cost of doing business in America is going up again and it can't be good for our economy over the long term. The more taxes businesses have to collect and remit, and the more time they have to invest in being tax collectors, laboring to be compliant with some "10,000 state and local jurisdictions nationwide" the less time they may have to be entrepreneurs and focus on growing their businesses and securing the economy for everyone. I wonder how many thousands upon thousands of hours are committed to that task nationwide?  Make that 10,001 jurisdictions. Our county seat just managed to get a new online use tax passed that some poor out-of-state vendor is going to have to collect. And, the number of jurisdictions may be higher than 10,001 by now. The linked article was written in June of 2018. (Its around 11,000 now.) As of 2014, Missouri was, by far, the leader, having the most taxing jurisdictions statewide. I'm trying to find out what it is now, in 2019. The number is growing nationwide nearly every day. Wyoming, by the way, is ranked #1 as the best state in the nation as far as being business-friendly. Missouri ranked #14 - and, we're not a right-to-work state. So, there's that.

Collecting taxes is a part of doing business, it has been, well, for as long as I can remember. But, I cannot help but feel sad for business owners across the country with respect to the struggles they're facing with compliance these days. I wish they could start billing for the services they provide as de facto tax collectors. Other tax collectors get paid for doing their jobs. On average, according to payscale.coma tax collector makes over $43,000 a year. I didn't find a date for when that stat was added to the site, but it might still be accurate. It might even be higher. Wow. What a boon that kind of extra income could be to a business person's bottom line. It would certainly make tax compliance a welcome activity. And, we can't forget that the extra money businesses have to put into overhead to ensure they're compliant may also reduce their spending power for innovation and expansion. It's a horrible cycle we, the voters, have gotten our business people into. When we went to the voting booths to decide on adding use taxes, we had the chance then to say no. The taxes are there now, and they're nesting like some awful smelly birds. Let's hope they don't hatch any new taxes.

The main argument used to justify the implementation of online use taxes that businesses must now collect is that they 'level the economic playing field,' between online retailers and brick and mortar businesses. Couldn't it be leveled by cities, counties, and states reducing taxes already in place? Couldn't they cut the local guys a break? There have been a few states working in a positive direction. I hope they're successful in their endeavors. There are other states in our nation that don't have state use taxes, and there are states which have no state income taxes. I wonder how they're making it all work?

I feel for the business owner mentioned in the article linked above, who estimates that she is paying around $3,300 per year for a piece of software just to keep up with required compliance. That's a lot of hard-earned money going for one item needed to do business. Frightening. The cost could be higher for other companies with more to track. Think of what those entrepreneurs could do with that money - expand, offer more variety, hire more employees?  Collection and remittance is only one side of the problem, however. The new use taxes have a negative impact on consumers as well.

There was a little ray of hope for Americans in 2017, with President Trump and the Republican lawmakers' initiatives to make tax cuts. There was hope that American taxpayers might get to keep some of their income, but with more use taxes coming 'online' everyday, that hope may be more ethereal than real. Even if Americans are able to retain or recover a little of their initial income as it enters the front door of the house, they may find it leaking out the 'sales and use tax holes' in the back door. To keep personal budgets in balance, those families may have to reduce their purchases, and accordingly the amount of front-end taxes they pay. Those are the only taxes an American has immediate control over. Don't buy something and you don't pay the tax. That sound you may have just imagined wasn't a door slamming. It was another American's spending power bottoming out. At least, it kind of feels that way.

It's a game of wait-and-see now. The downhill view of the new use taxes is bleak. It just doesn't offer consumers a lot of hope that their favorite online retailers are going to survive the over-burdensome compliance rash forced upon them. Lotion certainly isn't going to fix it. That's taxed too.

One of these days we'll have to get into the subject of 'marketplace facilitators' and how all these use taxes benefit, or hinder, online third-party sellers. Some of those facilitators are Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and Etsy, But, even if a seller is using one of those facilitators, the third-party seller is responsible for making sure the right taxes are getting charged.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Why Are Authors or Writers Still Sometimes Viewed As Ne'r-Do-Wells?

Authoring books, or writing in general, is as much a business as it is a form of art and an ever-developing craft. Yet, there is an underlying belief that writers are somehow not as critical to the world as say, a doctor, or a scientist, or a teacher. "You're just a writer." "You're just an author." What is that supposed to mean?

I tried last night to reflect on all the ways that writers impact the world. I tried to imagine a world without them. Bleak. There would be no blog posts to read, no articles, and newspapers would disappear. News programs and talk-show hosts would ad-lib everything. There would be no scripts for television shows, plays, skits, or comedy routines. Self-help and how-to books would disappear from shelves, virtual or otherwise, as would fiction and other nonfiction books, cookbooks, and books for children. And without those, there would be no audio books. The Internet would be a void, a deep, dark, black-hole of a thing. We wouldn't have it. There would be no 'writing' to fill it up. Advertisers couldn't advertise. They need writers of one form or another to produce their copy. Bookstores, brick and mortar and virtual, would literally dissolve into the ether. And music? Nope. Song"writers" wouldn't produce. Composers wouldn't compose. Not without the 'writing' part anyway. The world would grow bleaker still. No school books, textbooks, nor scientific papers would exist. You could pretty much free up the entire Library of Congress and just hold social gatherings there, because there would be no materials, other than paintings, to view. History wouldn't be recorded and so there would be no need for national archives. Diarists need not bother either.

Of course, we wouldn't have many of the laws we have, because they wouldn't be written down anywhere. Eventually, even if enacted, they would be forgotten and unenforceable because there would be nothing in writing to prove the law ever existed. And as for the corporate world, there would be no company policies or procedures, no safety regulations, and no employment records. A business couldn't craft a simple statement, write a company report, or bill their clients.

I'm not "just a writer" or "just an author." I am an author, and what I do matters. Sometimes I do that job imperfectly. I try to avoid typographical erors errors, but they happen anyway. I attempt to apply the rules of writing, but sometimes I rebel and just go my own way. I prefer to think less about the business side of writing, than I do the art and craft of the endeavor, but it cannot be ignored all together. So when someone tells me "You're just an author," I can only reply:

"You're right. And what I do matters. Without me and millions of other writers, you'd just be sitting in the middle of your yard contemplating blades of grass." (I'm not against that, by the way. It could be very relaxing as opposed to spending thousands of hours a year researching and writing. But you can only stare at grass for so long.) At the very least, we give you something else to think about.

Monday, April 1, 2019

No Online Sales Tax

The cost of consumer goods is high enough. If you live within Maryville you will have the opportunity to prevent yet another tax being applied to the goods you buy online. A proposed tax on out-of-state vendors, who may sell you goods online, is being proposed. Just say no. The vendor will collect the tax, but make no mistake, YOU will be the one paying it, not the out-of-state vendor. They will only be remitting it as they already do the state tax.

For those with Maryville addresses who live outside the city limits, you will get hit with this tax as well, even though you don't live inside the city limits. Unfortunately, WE county residents don't get a vote on this, even though it will affect us directly, since we don't live within the city limits. Please ask your friends and family who do live within the city limits to vote NO!

These online city use taxes will be challenged in the courts as this problem is happening all over the country. Folks out in the county but with city addresses have already been paying their city use taxes unnecessarily. Please share this, particularly if you know of someone in the same situation in the country. It's not just a problem for those 150-160 cities in Missouri but nationwide.

You can follow the discussion Maryville's Greg McDanel on Facebook here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Why Won't Other States Learn From Seattle's Problems?

It's not a homelessness problem. That's just an outcome of the real issue. It's a drug problem. Businesses closing, people leaving the cities, police inhibited from making arrests, rampant crime.

I am glad that Rhode Island's incarceration/intervention model is working, but every legislator in every state in the nation needs to watch this, particularly if they have voted to turn their state into a drug state by legalizing marijuana or decriminalizing drugs. How many more prisons do we want to have to build? They're already filling up. How many drug-addicted homeless people will fill the streets before our legislators listen? It isn't about homelessness. It's about addiction. Legalizing the drugs only exacerbates the problem.

This is further evidence that we need to support our local law enforcement and local D.A.R.E. Programs so that we can put the money into teaching our children that drugs are self-destructive and wrong. Do we pay for the smaller problem now and refuse the legalization of drugs or do we fork out hundreds of millions on addressing this greater issue later?