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.