JULY 17, 2018 H&R WHO?
Well, it's been 90 days since the filing deadline, and I haven't gotten any angry letters from the IRS, so maybe I did my taxes correctly.
As the Republicans promised, I understand the IRS will be condensing next year's two-page Form 1040 into the size of a postcard. That sounds good to voters who don't like to pay taxes anyway. But it turns out to be an oversized postcard 5" x 8", with fine print on both sides.
However, before most of us can determine what numbers to enter on the 1040, we still need to fill out supplemental schedules. And there will be at least six new schedules next year.
For example, I own investments that result in capital gains. That means I had to calculate whether I owe Alternative Minimum Tax by completing Form 6251, which includes many instructions like these:
I stubbornly insist on filling out my own tax return, as I have all my life. It's a challenge, like working a puzzle. When I was younger I wrote the numbers on paper forms with a pen, but nowadays I download blank PDFs and type in digits; then I print out the pages and mail them in. Still, I do come up with all the numbers myself. I don't completely trust tax-preparation software, nor do I wish to surrender my documents to an overworked human preparer who's a stranger to me.
But if the tax code gets any more complicated . . . .
I saw an ad for real estate in Florida, or Hawaii, or somewhere. It promises Nothing but sandy beaches and sunshine here! Make Retirement Special.
Therefore choose life! urge the fervent pro-lifers inside this storefront, quoting Deuteronomy 30:19. Their counseling center is called My Choice Medical Clinic a deceptive name, because they're not medical doctors and they're the opposite of pro-choice. They will do anything they can to convince a pregnant woman to bear her child, even if it will be unwanted and unloved.
My Choice has three locations in this area, and according to this article, there are more than 4,000 such fake reproductive health centers in the nation.
What's noteworthy about typing this supplication?
JULY 7, 2018 YOU CAN'T ARGUE TOO MUCH
Inspired by the 2017 New York Times Crossword No. 0802, I imagined that the city was dealing with riots protesting ambiguous clues in recent puzzles.
Please rise for the Anthem.
We open today's Independence Day services with a hymn by Lloyd Stone, to the tune of Finlandia by Jean Sibelius.
I'm proud to be an American citizen. Americans can express pretty much any opinion without having to worry about being taken away by the government. We can criticize ourselves and adapt to a changing world. We are entrepreneurial and optimistic.
On the other hand, as Americans we run the danger of being too full of ourselves.
This country song from the Charlie Daniels Band, "In America," enjoys some popularity in the redneck states. It also gets played here in Pittsburgh because it praises our fierce loyalty to our football team.
Now the people in the Bible Belt may disagree with me, but I don't think that supposedly God-fearing Americans should strut arrogantly around the world, loudly claiming to be better than everyone else.
Are not Christians taught that our neighbors include even the despised Samaritans? And are we not taught the Golden Rule, to love our neighbors as much as ourselves?
I wasn't brought up to be a boastful loudmouth, or an impatient aggressive driver, or a member of a drunken mob of fans eager to avenge any insult. I wasn't brought up to mistrust everyone outside my city or nation or religion or ethnic group.
A blogger with the initials JED wrote:
I guess the moral is that we should be very sure before we Add to dictionary.
Is it possible to Delete from dictionary?
It didn't result in a win, but Pittsburgh Pirates manager John Russell last night flouted National League tradition by having his pitcher bat eighth in the order instead of ninth.
In the "typical" order, Jack Wilson would be guaranteed a first-inning plate appearance, and Jason Bay would not. Last night, those guarantees were reversed. (Nevertheless, the Pirates failed to score in the first inning; Sanchez, Michaels, and Bay all struck out swinging.)
However, once you get past that point, these two batting orders are, for practical purposes, identical. In later innings, Doug Mientkiewicz bats before the pitcher and Jack Wilson after. It doesn't make a bit of difference whether you call those hitters 8-9-1 (traditional) or 7-8-9 (last night).
Here's another way of looking at it. The nine batting spots are in a rotation. Traditionally, a team begins the first inning at point "A" and proceeds clockwise around the wheel, thereby delaying the appearance of the weak-hitting pitcher as long as possible. However, last night the Pirates began the first inning at point "B." After that, everything proceeded normally.
If you're a traditional "leadoff hitter," you have two roles.
In one, you're the first batter in the game. Last night Sanchez filled that role, and he led off the first inning only.
In the other, you hit after the pitcher; when the pitcher makes the last out of an inning (as he often does), that means you bat first in the next inning. Last night Wilson filled that role, and he led off the third and the seventh innings.
There is precedent in the National League Central. St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has batted his pitcher eighth for the past few years, and at the beginning of this season the Milwaukee Brewers did likewise.
"I can understand why the Cardinals do it," Russell told Paul Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "because they have Albert Pujols batting third and it gets another guy on base in front of him." So why, I wonder, don't they simply move Pujols to fourth?
"There are a lot of different ways to look at it," Russell continued. "Doug [Mientkiewicz] is our most patient, work-the-count, get-on-base guy. . . . We put him in front of our pitcher, and if they want to pitch around him, he'll take the walk. If Doug gets on, Paul [the pitcher] can bunt him over. Or if he gets on with two outs and Paul makes the third out, Jack [Wilson] leads off the next inning; then we have the top of the order coming up. It's mainly just to add a little more offense, maybe get a few more guys on base and help turn the lineup around."
Poppycock. I say again, Mientkiewicz bats before the pitcher and Wilson after, and aside from the first inning, it doesn't matter whether you call them 8-9-1 or 7-8-9. The only purpose is to confuse the rest of us as we fill out our scorecards.
JULY 1, 2018 WHERE'S THE ERASER?