Friday, December 23, 2011

Dear Dictionary

The last few words I sought definitions for, in no particular order:

walking-around money

The Christmas I Hate

I know what you're thinking: I'm not a religious person, so when I start off an entry with "the part of Christmas I dislike", you may leap to the conclusion that I'm not going to be too keen on the whole "birth of baby Jesus" thing.  As the sign on the way to work in rural Kansas says, "Jesus is the Peason for the Reason".  I should mention that sign has seen lots of years and is not entirely legible.

I actually don't mind the Jesus portion of Christmas.  It has his title in the name, for Christ's... sake.  Yes, people get uppity.  Yes, Jews put up trees.  Yes, evangelicals attack anyone who mentions holidays. Yes, the White House puts out a Christmas card with a dog in it.  But whatever - I can empathize really well.

When I visited the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh, I was moved to tears.  I'm not Scottish.  Or a soldier.  I don't even believe the chapel was a consecrated religious location.  But I'd go again in a heartbeat and cry some more, because it's a beautiful place.  And it is dedicated to a tradition that -- while not mine -- is still something I understand.  I respect that and, as instructed, I made no speech upon entering.  It is a social crime to disturb that solemnity.

So if I'm "down" with "the JCrizzle", what's the part I scorn?  It's the music.

Out-standing in the Fields

I haven't written on politics for quite some time.  It does just keep on going, doesn't it?

The truth is that it's very much "in for a penny, in for a pound".  Where do I start? Or stop?  It ends up being a daunting topic.  It's also a potentially divisive one, given our current climate.  I already feel like I edit what I post to social networks.  While the vast number of my friends thinks some variety of what I do, I do also have some outliers.  And I don't want to lay traps or have friends gang up on those in the minority.  And I don't want the minority to put back against wall and spit venom at all and sundry. 

And isn't it a disservice to say that it's very much "us" and "them"? Take this video from the campaign of Rick Perry, Republican presidential hopeful.

Here's the text, for those of you at work or non-videoed.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.
I'm Rick Perry and I approve this message.

On one level, I'm kind of impressed that anyone stood up and said something that was red meat to their base and anathema to the not-base.  But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised considering there's a very contentious six-way primary battle. Hell, the Republicans have had like a dozen debates, and I think there are at least eight more.  Have they always done that?

For all of its appearance of straightforward "plain" talk, the ad is short on specifics.  Or verisimilitude.  I don't share his opinion that open and "out" gays in the military is a bad thing.  Last year (I think), Britain celebrated 10 years of having homosexuals in their armed forces.  I don't think it's done them any harm.  Still, not liking gays in the military is an opinion so as much as I disagree, Mr. Perry is entitled to it. 

The second half of that first sentence talks about Christmas.  The clause is a little bit strange, since structurally he seems to be saying that kids can't celebrate Christmas.  My favorite comment on this video: "Honestly, if kids 'observed' Christmas any harder in schools than they already do, they would be elves."  That comes from the description of this PARODY VIDEO

When I listen to this, I hear a massive "Onward, Christian Voters" chorus.  Stuff has gone wrong, and it's probably due to traditions!  And that pesky first amendment.  Faith may have "made America strong", but it was also founded and structured in such a way as to keep faith out.  We have freedom of religion here: the state does not collect taxes to fund a particular faith.  Our leaders do not compel the masses to follow a particular doctrine.  The way you prevent other faiths from indoctrinating your children is to keep all of them at the door.  Nobody gets in.

I really don't know why Mr. Perry is worried about Christmas.  We get it as a federal holiday -- a process which (while convenient) skirts a bit close to the church/state wall.  We don't get Hannukah off from work.  We don't all get Eid al-Fitr as a chance to feast.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Beautiful Noise

This morning I was assisting a young saxophone player and her mother.  They had just had some minor maintenance done and were preparing to settle accounts.  I had said some sentences to them sparingly, as they had spent most of their time chatting with the saxophone technician.  In a tip I learned from dating, if people are involved in a conversation it is often rude to infiltrate myself in a conversation just for the sake of being noticed. 

So after saying "Let me see if I can find your account...", the mother said -- half to me and half to her daughter, "What a great voice!  You should be on the radio or something."

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Best Buy things come to those who wait.

Dear Best Buy:

If you take my money for an order, tell me it should process in "0 to 1 days", then can't provide me with a status update or a cancel button on your web page six days later, I need to contact you.

If your automated phone service takes my order number then echoes that the order is "in process", then has the digital gall to tell me to get updated information at the web page, I spend several minutes ranting the silliness at a couple of my coworkers.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Farewell to October!

Arts Center at Dusk
And I'm back.

October was an inordinately busy month for me.  It started off with a brief vacation to Florida, which I've already written about.  It was followed by rehearsals and performances with the Kansas City Symphony (under the name of the Kansas City Ballet) in the wondrous new performing arts center.  It completed last weekend with the traditional fall contest for the Fountain City brass band.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Adult Vacation

My offering
First of all, there was nothing inappropriate by my vacation.  I use the descriptor "adult" to signify that it was my first vacation as an adult. 

I paid for the plane tickets, I organized the dates, I got myself to the airport, I didn't take my trombone to perform somewhere, and I didn't rely on anyone but the friends I was visiting.

It was a good time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Help, less. Helpless.

Actress Olivia Wilde
You know it's going to be a awkward conversation when the conversation goes: "Hey, you know who you might like?  Elisa.  She's smart like you.  And she likes scarves."

There were indignant protestations that surely I had said something like needing a partner who was smart.  Eventually, it was determined that what I'd said was that I needed someone who behaved maturely.  I'm not sure I'd trust my romantic aspirations to the hands of someone who thinks being smart and being mature is one and the same thing.

Tractless Waste

I recently had my birthday and in addition to the usual cards and presents, I received a handwritten letter.  That in itself is noteworthy, but this letter came from someone in Kansas City.  Addressed to Mr. Andrew Schwartz, it was from a name I didn't recognize.  What could this person be writing to me about?

Below is the text of the letter, reproduced with alterations for the sake of mercy:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

All's War in Love and Fair

Over the weekend, I worked the company booth at the local city fair.  It's ostensibly to commemorate the fact that the Sante Fe and Oregon trails started in the vicinity, but nowadays it has carnival rides and friend Oreos -- not exactly the period cuisine.

Due to a scheduling *ahem* development, I worked every day of the fair.  In addition to most of a regular work day.  And on Saturday, I was there the entire time from 10am to 10pm. 

It's the holy grail of people watching, I think. 

Friday, September 02, 2011

My Very Eenteresting Monseigneur Just Said "Unigenitus Nunc Pater"

Currently, I have a trombone student who is not like all the others I've taught.

For one thing, he's an adult.  Adult students are rare for me, coming as I do from a youth educational background. It's far more likely to see a student of twelve than a student of sixty when they pick up the trombone for the first time.

Also, he's a man of the cloth.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Privilege and Me

I am a man.

By which I mean that I'm in possession of some of the "dangly bits" that act as proof I can compete in the ancient Olympic games.  It also means I have a certain amount of testosterone that causes hair to grow from my jaw -- and slowly vanish from my head.

Those are all facts about me with regards to my gender and sexual manifestation.  Here's one more fact:

As a man, I have an entire set of social points that are exclusive to me and men like me.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Soon to be Post

HERE is the article for today, about the U.S. Post Office posting a $3.1 billion operating loss and warning of a default.

This news makes me sad, because I like the Post Office.  I know many financial commentators love to bag on the PO as an outdated system in a virtual digital seismological age.  It's the perfect example of a "government job" for its inefficiency, expense, and general wait.  Every friend I have on Facebook who has even a slight libertarian streak is someone I've seen rant about the PO and how much it ruins America, hurts women, or punches babies.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is Morality in the Eye of the Beholder?

To give the quick answer to the question posed by the title: yes.  My dictionary defines morality as "conformity to the rules of right conduct".  Regardless of whether or not universal truth is something you ascribe to, our perception of the morality of a situation is mutable.  Since everyone agrees that we humans make mistakes, our system of morality is also subject to mistakes -- and to a lesser extent, it is subject to personal perceptions.

The woman in the previous entry has every right to condemn my actions as amoral.  From her perspective, condoning alternative sexuality is a very grave act.  While it is true that my position is that she doesn't make the most reliable judge due to her own actions (also a grave act in her belief system), that doesn't directly preclude her from finding me reprehensible. 

I would have hoped that several steps ago she would have noticed that she was heading towards a position that might undermine her argument.  We all know how much easier it is to judge someone other than ourselves: actions seem quite plain when seen on the tableau of someone else's life and existence.

It's difficult to write about being judgmental.  After all, I basically spent the last entry poking fun at their relationship, after setting it up in the context of an affront to my own morality.  Does that mean there's room in my morality for mocking people behind their backs?

To that very incisive question, I have no good answer.  The simple reading says that I too am guilty of hypocrisy.  My only qualified answer is this: I do not make fun of people who leave room for doubt.  Had the two people mentioned previously each come to the independent conclusion that they were not happy in their current lives, decided to make changes and break relations with previous partners, and then found a new life in each other, I would not make fun.  In fact, I'd probably congratulate them on their desire to change and the force of will to make scary alterations to their lives.  I'm certainly not striking for change that far from MY personal comfort zone.

Doubt is one of the most powerful senses we have.  It's what help us to decide if we're about to do the right or wrong things.  It's what makes it possible for us to change our minds.  We even take doubt into account when deciding criminal sentences. 

What offends me is the presumption that anyone can continue to make forceful declarations about other people's morality, even after showing themselves to have been untrustworthy in love (where we tend to be our most trustworthy -- or the opposite), love being as close as we're likely to get to a "universal morality".

Had my acquaintance shown a hint of contrition or care, you would have had no play from me today.  The entry would have been about something more generic, such as whether or not treatment of homosexuality is an issue governed by "morality".  

A terse play in five immoral acts.

I consider myself to be a moral man.  I conduct my life with a rigid sense of right and wrong, I try to be consistent in my application of principle to both people I like and ones I despise, and I always try to "do unto others" in a way that would engender honorable... er... "being done unto".  I scrupulously analyze decisions to avoid the sense of talking from both sides of my mouth -- very careful I am to be fair.

What that means is that when people attack principles I posses, I tend to take the criticism to heart.  For at least the short term, I act with an editor working through my thoughts.  Do the accusers have any merit?  Am I blinding myself to seeing what they're seeing?  Likewise, I'm slow to bring the full brunt of my criticism to bear unless I have a very good reason.

Being told I'm immoral by someone I consider immoral is one of those good reasons.

New look on the back end

This is going to seem weird, because you won't be able to see any of the changes I'm talking about.  But just like you have to trust the guy at the on-ramp who says that Marilyn Monroe and Deng Xiao Ping are whispering sweet nothings in his ears, there are large cosmetic changes afoot in the Blogger design side.

They're not reflected up front because I've always selected the design for the blog anyway.  The composition screen for new entries is now of the spartan and white design that I associate with iPads.  It looks very clean and "Apple-esque", but it's also devoid of most color and things are VERY far away from each other on my new computer monitor and its HD-tv resolution.

I'm typing on a comically small window for text entry in the upper center of the screen.  There's at least 3-4 inches of gray space to the left, right, and below.  Having finished the previous sentence, it suddenly expanded the column to the screen bottom, allowing me to write in the approximation of column.  I can only hope that the width of this is exactly the same as the width of it on my actual published screen. For years, I've dealt with entries not quite looking like I intended.  Most of the time, it requires an addition retreat to the design screen, some tweaking, another publish, more changes, etc.  This all hopefully occurs invisibly for visitors, since I don't want people to get bogged down in update logs for each entry.   

FYI, I've just looked at the preview screen and confirmed that it still isn't quite the same pagination.  Oh well, baby steps.

In summary, everything looks white and sparse on this side.  Most likely their reason was to fall in line with the new looks of Gmail and Google Calendar.  And THEIR reason was most likely to facilitate bare-bones looks to simply tablet and phone editing.  Whatever: I can still use it just as easily, though the large amount of white does tend to annoy my eyes if I use it full screen.  I assume this is still a work in progress.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Chased Wedding ... or is it "Chaste"?

Last weekend, I attended a wedding.  It was the first of this year (2011) for me, and it seems likely to be the only one.  It's a slowdown from last year which saw me attending four weddings, including the marriage of one of my brothers.  It took me as far afield as the Olympic forest in Washington and the vine fields of southeastern Missouri -- to the center of bohemian culture in Kansas City and the heady elegance of a manor home.

This wedding was domestic, by comparison.  Having said that, the bride *was* imported...

Monday, June 20, 2011

That Which Fires the Imagination

Out of the frying pan and into... oh.
As nice as it is to have a platform like this blog to pontificate and excoriate, I always have to think at least twice about what I put up -- if not more than twice.  Each day that passes brings additional people to the blog.  It's been a long time since the days when I could identify the visitors ("Visit count up by one.  Must've been mom.")  I've made a conscious decision not to blog about work, just as I made a decision that I didn't want to blog about my trombone students.  Blogging directly about acquaintances is on the same blacklist.  This is what is known as a fortuitously prescient idea.

But now my issue is mainly that I've been in an incredibly irascible mood for quite some time.  A significant portion of what people do and say around me really gets on my nerves.  I haven't figured out if it's because the world has gotten just a little bit more annoying or if a problem in me.  Generally, if you have to blame the world AND everyone else for being different, it's not actually them that are the problem.  Occam's Razor: it's not just for breakfast anymore!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dated Dating Accomidation

"But what will YOU eat?"
It's become something of a sticking point at work that when any group of greater than one person is trying to decide where to go for lunch, much precious time is lost in the deciding.  It's much the same with any group of friends: rarely is their anyone so confident in their preferences that they state that we "must" go somewhere.  Nobody wants to give the first suggestion and then be shot down.  Inevitably, we all stand around being overly accomidating, telling each other we'd happily go anywhere and that it "doesn't matter."

I had a similar experience with a woman I was joining for dinner recently.  She is a vegetarian -- I know this from previous conversations where she makes plain that she doesn't eat meat.  This isn't really a problem for me: I don't eat meat by "design", merely familiarity.  It's not a food that I particularly need to have at each meal.  My breakfasts usually never contain meat, and the other two meals depend largely on what I cooked or prepared.

In any case, I took this as an opportunity to try a restaurant in Kansas City called "F√úD", pronounced "food".  You know it's got to be good if you have to tell people how to pronounce it!  It's a restaurant that prides itself on being local and organic and vegan.  What better place to take a vegetarian date?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

WiFi? BecauseFi!

The U.N. issued a report a few days ago that asserts that -- under the umbrella of free expression -- internet access is a basic human right.  It's largely a commentary on the role that the internet has had in stirring up and organizing the populations involved in the so-called "Arab Spring" outbreak of democratic action in the Middle East.

When I traveled to Europe two weeks ago, I debated whether or not to bring some electronic gadgets.  Should I bring my netbook?  It's small and practically disposable, has good battery life, and allows the offloading of photos, checking of email, posting of blog entries, etc.  Should I bring my phone?  It won't work on the European cell systems, but it does have WIFI and could be pressed into service as a pocket portable internet gateway, should I find some Burger King that has free connections.  Should I bring my tablet, which in between the two: too large to fit in a pocket, too small to do much typing?

In the end, I brought nothing.  That allowed me to avoid bringing voltage adapters or sponging off someone else's adapters.  It made it straightforward to move through airport security, allowing them to focus on other bizarre things I was bringing, such as the two extra trombone mouthpieces in my carry-on.  This choice meant that, as with the previous FCBB tour in 2009, I had no internet connection to the world abroad.  I could still watch TV every day, still see newspapers, still hear the radio, of course.  But the personalized level of the internet (seeing MY news, seeing MY mail, seeing MY favorite sites) was impossible.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

FCBB Euro Tour 2011

Fountain City Brass Band was on tour for the end of May and the beginning of June.  We returned yesterday and I promptly went to sleep.  This morning I woke at 3am, and I'm now working my way through a pile of notes and journal entries taken.  Here are some recollections:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Time error!

I'm halfway out the door and off the continent, but I wanted to make a quick addendum to the previous post.  I got the time zones the wrong way around. 

While Europe is 7 hours ahead of US Central, that means the contests actually occur in the middle of the day, state-side.  All the previous information about links and locations is still correct.

There may also be official word on the Fountain City page,

See you in a bit!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hear me perform live on the internet!

Fountain City Brass Band is getting ready to depart on our European tour for this year.  As before, we time it so we can attend two competitions -- one right at the beginning of the time and the other just before we leave.  It was announced that the second competition, EuroBrass Drachten, will be streamed live over the internet.

Here's some useful information if you're interested.

This link shows the schedule of the bands in section "A" performing on June 4th (Central European time).  We won't know which of the bands we are until the draw, which happens at 5:20pm.  The first of the bands performs at 6:20, directly following the draw.  The last of the section A bands performs at 10:20pm. 

Central European time is 7 hours ahead of Central (U.S.) standard time.  That means that local to most mid-westerners, the draw is just after midnight (12:20am), the first band is at 1:20am, and the last performs at 5:20am.  I think I did my math right.  All these times would be in the early morning of June 5th.

So, while it is live, it's also not at a time that's not conducive to listening for any but the most isomnical or caffeinated.  Also, I think the stream is only audio, so you may have to wait through a lot of things not necessarily happening in English before hearing a group that might be us. There will eventually be a DVD and CD made available, so this isn't the only chance you'll get to hear (and later see!) our performance from this contest.

But for those of you eager to punish your mind and body by spending a night listening to random bands until you're able to identify us by our music choices, you now have the opportunity to do so at relatively little cost to yourselves!

The network that will be streaming is here:

The announcement on is here:

Monday, May 16, 2011

"I had rather have a fool to make me happy....

.... than experience to make me sad." 
--As You Like It, Act IV scene i

You know how sometimes you can be helpful to your friends when you feel they need prodding, but still keep away from sounding like second father or a tedious bore?

Darn, I was hoping you did.  I sure don't

Still, there's a fine art to suggesting a good way forward.  And -- damn the torpedoes -- sometimes people just need someone to get all "authority figure" in their bizness!

'Course, it's all fun and games when you ask someone how things are going and they respond, "Great!"  I start to feel like a heel when I say "really?" and they break down crying.

Sometimes all I need to be is someone who smells acceptable up close, doesn't mind tear stains on clothing, and has long arms.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

To be fair, the pilot thought they looked pretty scary

STORY: Muslim scholars pulled from plane flight

Two muslim scholars from Memphis were pulled off a plane, subjected to additional security checks, allowed to reboard, then told the pilot objected to flying with them.

They were on their way to a conference on American fears of Islam.  Even though they didn't make it to the conference, they still managed to make a very effective presentation, I'd bet.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"2 gay dads, 12 happy kids" by Karina Bland

Article from the Arizona Republican about a gay couple who have adopted 12 children from foster care, though gay men are actively prohibited from marrying and discouraged from adopting by state statute.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Osama is dead

I dithered for longer than I usually do about the title of this entry.  I don't often like to start writing an entry without a title.  It's not because I have any particular muse which feeds from the fountain, but a compulsive need to organize.  In the absence of a proper title field, Blogger will save the entry's URL as the first line of the body text, which is often not what I want to say -- imagine my shame if this entry was  Eternal shame!

There is a practical side to it, too.  Having a fixed title tends to corral my natural tendency to wordily wander of my path and become lost in the thickets of my own musings.  This title is obviously a reference to the events of yesterday, May 1 2011: the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"The myth of the panicking disaster victim"

The above link is to an interesting editorial written by a columnist -- Johann Hari -- who writes for the Independent newspaper in Britain and Huffington Post online.  It's about what happens to human beings in disasters.  It's feel good, I think.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Friends are like Savings Bonds...

Insert your own "interest" and "maturity" joke here.

I don't like to be grumpy.  I don't like to be the old man who sits and points with his cane at all the new stuff and comments, "This used to *mean* something."

But I continually find myself in that situation.  Time after time, I get all self-righteous and crusty about some subject or the behavior of someone else.  Thankfully, I don't think it's happening more often as I age, but it has been going on since I was about eleven.

I just have more grump-per-mile than the average male.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chased out of my own head

It's 2:30am, and I don't want to go back to sleep.  I was snoozing along quite nicely, dreaming I was in some sort of desert place with family and nice scenery.  Then there was a pile of snakes and a big nasty one tried to climb into the pocket of my sweatshirt.  And that's where I left that "version" of me: with a snake in my pocket -- not thrilled about leaving the reptile there, but short of good options about how to remove it without getting bitten.

I woke with a shock.   I tried to lie back down, but my mind raced with how to remove a zip-front sweatshirt and get my arms out without disturbing the pocket contents.

Perhaps if I take the time to boot up the computer and write this entry, I'll then "forget" about it and decide that I want to try sleeping again.  Perhaps I can petition for a change of venue.or something.  It is my dream, afterall: it's pretty rummy if I can't even direct the action, eh?

Where are my just-plain-nice dreams?  Do I just wake up contended with those, letting them relax back into the pool of my self-conscious without another thought?  It seems like somewhere on the bell curve of my dreams, there should be at least a few that I wake up saying, "Wow, that was amazing!"

I can't think of any.  Let's try again now that I've conveniently forgot what drove me to this.  If only I hadn't written it at the top of this page.  Maybe this is one entry I don't have to proofread before publishing...

I think that's a gooj plann.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Once and Future Nerd

I'm pretty much a nerd.  I've read a few fantasy novels in my time that didn't have a British wizard on the cover.  I know three of the "Star Wars" movies by heart from wearing out the videotapes when I was younger.  I know that getting malaria cures one of syphilis because of the increased body temperature.  I know that the velocity of light (in a vacuum) is approximately 186,000 miles per second, or more accurately expressed as nearly 300,000,000 meters per second.

I know how to spell "vacuum".

But I am not the king of nerds.  I've read very few fantasy or sci-fi novels -- I tend to get bored with them.  I haven't even seen all of the "Star Wars" movies (skipped out on number 6... errr... 3).  I don't know anything else about malaria or syphilis.  I can't figure out when to change my car's oil.

And I have continual struggles trying to spell "successful".

It doesn't take much for me to recognize elements of my old nerdy self when I spot them in other people.  Like the guy at the Subway...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Typical Typography?

When I was in high school, I took a course on typing.  It was in the "business skills" area of the high school, tucked into a corner on the second or third floor.  The center was a suite of classrooms of which I only ever entered two.  Those two were the so-called typing labs, filled with electronic typewriters and monochrome computers.  On the other side of the isolated hallway were the classrooms used for the academic business courses, but I never had any of those on my schedules.  Even now, I can't quite remember what they look like; it's a noticeable omission from a building that I spent four years wandering around for months at a time. 

I had spent some time learning typing years before.  One of the programs my parents had purchased for our IBM PS/2 at home was "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing".  I don't know who Mrs. Beacon was, but the cover showed a smiling black woman with her head raised towards a high and faraway horizon.  I assumed she somehow worked with Harriet Tubman on the underground railroad, so great was this icon's seeming gravity and importance.

In the typing lab, we alternated between typing gibberish (ue9dm38fnt693k*j3#) and typing practical excerpts ("John looked over and saw that his beautiful wife was about to break wind in the presence of the archbishop.").  One of the things that was drilled into us was that there should always be two spaces placed after a period.

Now, everything is higgilty-piggilty.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011



Here's a brief video I shot at approximately 2pm today.  We're still in a blizzard, it's still plenty cold and windy, and the snow continues to fall.  Originally prepared this recording for my parents, who were wondering whether St. Louis would get anything besides sleet.

Please excuse my "stuffed-up-nose" heavy mouth breathing and pronunciations:  I'm still sick and I sound it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Helping or Hurting

A person loosely connected with our business brought up something yesterday.  They said that due to evolving tax laws and health care costs, this year our company would need to declare health care benefits for employees as income for them, potentially costing them additional taxes or decreased take-home pay.

My first response was that most of our employees would probably prefer health care, though the numbers still sounded scary.  Have to declare our healthcare deductions as income?  Potentially hundreds of dollars of "swing".

This morning, I woke at 4am, brain going overdrive and worrying.  Among the things I decided to do during the darkness of the "pre-morning" was research on this tax issue.  I put some combination of the words "health", "tax", and "benefits" into Google.  The return page was *crammed* with articles saying that -- despite spam emails indicating otherwise -- health care benefits are not taxable.  One of the article titles was even "No, health benefits aren't taxable".

One would think that would be enough for anybody.

I visited several, cross checked their references, and even found the portion of the current tax code that governs this area.  Health benefits are considered a fringe benefit, and some fringe benefits are taxable.  But health benefits are specifically on the TAX EXEMPT list.

And while employers will list our total health benefits on W-2 forms starting for tax year 2011, that's for informational purposes only and WILL NOT be taxable in almost all cases.  It's mainly to demonstrate that you have insurance ahead of the mandatory coverage in 2014 or so.

So I sent off an email to my boss and now I'm trying to get back to sleep.  I think it's really irksome that I (who don't have any training is business or tax law) should need to go around correcting the harmful misinformation spread by people who do business for a living and are much older and more experienced than I am.

If I ever start dressing in Spandex and calling myself "Factual Accuracy Man", I think I'm going to need to start charging for my services.

Because Spandex suits are expensive.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friendly Permutations

It struck me last Monday -- I was looking over social network updates -- that two certain friends of mine are very similar in essentials.  The thought came to me as I was reading a status update and became momentarily confused as to which person was actually delivering it.  Ordinarily there is no such confusion, because each status update has the writer's name and chosen picture RIGHT THERE, next to it.

However in this case, I must have skipped along or thought I knew who was "speaking".  Sometimes I do get confused who is who; similar color palettes or poses have thrown me off, as well as people who put in pictures of people other than themselves.  (N.B. to people with children: all kids look similar when condensed to smartphone resolution.)

Stop me if you've heard this one... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Youth Band Kickoff

Today is the event that starts the season of the Fountain City Youth Band Academy, which is the educational outreach initiative of the brass band.  We're expecting more than 100 kids from middle school through high school, usually with a smattering of adults and college students looking to dust off their playing chops.

It's always a good time, giving us guys the opportunity to teach younger people -- what many from the group do for a living anyway.  I would have loved the opportunity to play with such a group when I was younger.  I don't know if it would have increased my love for music: that was pretty strong already.  But I bet it would have been a better use of my times (and my lungs) than playing in the community band that forced everyone to spend hours working at a smoky bingo center as a fundraiser.  Seldom have I been in a place that was so soggy with despair and the hope of $50.

The youth band is gradually building towards a British tour in 2012, the exchange of a similar tour with the Bolton Youth Band who came to Kansas City a few years ago.  Now THERE'S an opportunity worth refilling drink cups of snappy old ladies who don't want you to pour from "the clockwise side" else it will interfere with their system.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

December's Last Release

ROSALIND:  They say you are a melancholy fellow.

JACQUES:  I am so.  I do love it better than laughing.

R: Those that are in extremity of either are abominable fellows, and betray
themselves to every modern censure worse than drunkards.

J:  Why, 'tis good to be sad and say nothing.

R: Why then, 'tis good to be a post.

--As You Like It, Act IV scene i

I enjoyed the holiday period, as I always do.  As always, it was too short -- it's the one time of year that I can never get enough of.  Even the fact that I had a radio in my house permanently on and playing Christmas music since the first of November didn't phase me.  I did get sick of it, but only because the station's selection was so limited.  My own CD collection and a little help from Pandora to the rescue!