This and that

I love Wal-Mart. Not the ambiance. Not the colorful crowds. Not the endless walk from the “food side” to the “everything else” side. But the fact you can catch a cold and buy supplies to treat it all in one visit. I can’t be sure my first cold of the season came from my stop Tuesday evening, but…something tells me yes. It just felt like germs were everwhere — on the cart with a bare metal handle because the plastic covering was gone…emanating from the woman sneezing in Produce…on my hand and then on my face when I had that itch on my cheek I couldn’t ignore. I don’t shop much at Giant Eagle these days because Wal-Mart is closer and cheaper, but I do appreciate the giant tubs of antibacterial wipes GE makes available. (Of course, we’re probably only breeding super-bugs with our incessant spritzing and wiping and squirting.)

I’m very thankful you can still buy pseudoephedrine products behind the counter — even though it’s like lining up at the meth clinic to get your fix. Endless lines while everyone has to give name, address, phone number, consent, signature — just use the retinal scan already. We’ve learned to try to stock up on everything cold-relief-related when we’re well…the drugs, the special box of lotion tissue (I love this), chicken soup of all kinds — this time, though, no ginger ale. Damn. I’ll have to buy a six-pack and hide it from the pop-monster. (Because, it’s only November and you know there will be a next time.)

When did Cris Collinsworth become such a Steelers fan? Usually I can’t bear to listen to the national announcers, but I was too tired from my cold-and-drug-induced stupor to delap the cat, get off the couch, and walk 10 feet to turn on the radio. He was so complimentary it was kind of embarrassing — I’m sure the 20,000 or so Americans watching who aren’t Steelers fans were pretty tired of it. I surmised he is so disgusted with his old team he had to let them have it extra hard — a theory later confirmed by his comments at the end of the game of what HE’D do if he owned the team (first, rebuild it from the ground up with big guys). Well, now that they have 8 wins, Mike’s prediction of an 8-8 season can now come true…ha ha. Really, it was awfully nice to see the Steelers listed behind only the Titans on the leader board (but I’m not looking forward to that game in a few weeks. At least it’s not New England who’s undefeated again.)

Knock on wood, I’ve been busy with work again. After a very slow late summer and early fall, things are booming. Feast or famine, like always. I have noticed with my primary client. though, a stronger emphasis on budgets and hours allotted. How the heck do I know if I can write a 1500-word “point of view” on a topic I’ve never seen before (I scribbled down something about actuarial processes and IFRS) in 4-6 hours? How ’bout I let you know when I’m done? Yeah, it’s a tough economy, but I don’t want to be the “cheap fast one” (in love or in business).

Even so, I better make that callback for the call I dodged at 5:06 yesterday to find out more. Duty, like death, taxes, and bills, waits for no bug or no lazy writer. But if it could just wait ’til Monday when I feel better, that would be great.

A professional is someone who can do
his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.
                               ~ Alistair Cooke

Free money? Keep it!

So far, I haven’t run across anyone eager to get their hands on the government’s proposed economy-stimulating rebates of $300, $600, $1200, or more. It’s hard for a non-economist like me to see how distributing money the government doesn’t have, increasing the national debt in the process, is going to improve the economy.

The whole concept is bizarre: On the one hand, financial advisors are constantly telling us to reduce our debt, save more, spend less, think ahead for our retirement, live within or below our means…in general to be frugal, mindful consumers. Now we have the government in effect saying, “Hey, here’s some free money, go out and spend, spend, spend!”

It’s like giving alcohol to alcoholics or drugs to abusers. Clearly politicians are counting on Americans’ addiction to frivolous, “feel-good” purchases, living beyond our means, buying today, and paying (or not paying) tomorrow. They’re counting on there being not many people like Mike and me, who plan to put the money toward current debt without incurring any new.

And does anyone really believe this is free money? That we, as a nation and as individuals, won’t be paying for it for years to come? I was always told the government “needs” my hard-earned tax dollars to keep the country running — that’s why I, as a self-employed person, dutifully write out my check to the U.S. Treasury every quarter — an act that would surely result in a nationwide tax revolt if every citizen had to do this, instead of the government insidiously taking our money from every paycheck before we’ve even seen it.

Now they’re OK with giving it back? They didn’t need it in the first place? Why, you’d think the need to cover health insurance and other benefits for all those illegal aliens alone would necessitate keeping the money in-house.

Somebody who understands all this, please explain it to me. (Oh, and please include an explanation of why people who’ve never paid federal taxes in the first place are getting money back too.)

Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today. 
                                                     ~ Herman Wouk

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