1. EZ Pass. Every month I check my Maryland EZ Pass statement. Every month I find at least one mistake – usually a toll charged at full rate when I’ve already paid the flat fee for the year option and had it coded on the transponder. Every month I go through the process of logging in, filling out the dispute form, and then watching the account periodically to make sure the right multiple of $8 per incident is refunded back to my account. Individually, it’s not the kind of thing that’s a big deal, but since it’s happening month, after month, after month, like interest, the annoyance compounds.
2. Pants. A million years ago at the beginning of my career I wore a suit or a minimum of coat at tie to the office just about every day. It was DC and that was the standard. Slowly though, I abandoned the suit or coat, but grudgingly stuck with the tie and long sleeves. In a pinch I kept a sports coat in my cube that I could press into service in extremis. Eventually, I abandoned the tie and long sleeves, too… introducing my personal “five star” rule – that no meeting that included any less than five “stars” in the room justified wearing a tie. The ghost of Eisenhower or Marshall rated a tie, two three stars rated a tie, three two stars rated a tie, and so on. Those were the rules of the before time. Now, of course, I’m annoyed as hell on days I have to bother putting on long pants. That’s just to be expected as part of life in a plague year, I guess.
3. Students. The news is currently filled with still photos and videos of college students in their hundreds attending parties now that at least some schools have opened again. You can’t see it, but I’m obviously sitting here with a completely shocked look on my face. I have a vague recollection of being young and invincible once. I wasn’t really a party animal, so my poison was mostly seeing how fast a Chevy Cavalier could go or how high I could get it to jump over railroad tracks or bridge approach ramps. Negative consequences were something to worry about when or if they happened. The point is, I have no idea why college administrators and parents are suddenly surprised that their 18-22 year-old darlings are throwing caution to the wind. It’s exactly the kind of behavior that administrators and parents have complained about since the first universities sprung up in Europe almost a millennium ago.
1. Inefficiency. Look, I’m delighted that Big Pharma is reimbursing me 93% of my out of pocket costs for the meds that one of the smart docs from Hopkins tells me will contribute to being able to continue to living better through chemistry. I’d be even more appreciative if their reimbursement scheme allowed for ordering more than a 30-day supply of the stuff at a time. Everything else rolls in as a 3-month supply that’s simple enough to refill once a quarter except this one little pill. It feels like I’m online getting that one refilled or coordinating the refund about every seven days. If you’re going to spend the money either way you could save us both processing time and effort by doing it four times a year instead of 12.
2. Single points of failure. The world is full of people who want to gather all decision making and power unto themselves. I’ve never understood that particular logic for several reasons. First, the ones who seem to be drawn to absolute power are generally the last ones who should be engaged in decision making. Second, there’s nothing more ridiculous than a few dozen people standing around knowing what needs done but being paralyzed for lack of having someone explicitly telling them to do it.
3. Consistency in the space program. I really wish we lived in a country that had consistent and achievable, manned and unmanned space exploration goals. I want NASA to be above politics and be maybe the one instrument of government that is the best reflection of ourselves. I want to see big rockets with the stars and stripes plastered to the side hurtling American astronauts back to the moon and then getting their ass to Mars. To think that’s not the next logical step in exploration is nonsensical and flies in the face of humanity’s eternal struggle to expand into the unknown. Other people will tell you this should be way down on the list of priorities, but those people are wrong and should be quiet.
The problem with tax refunds is they take all year to accru and a grand total of 96 hours to spend. I’ve got to admit that I was a bit overzealous at paying off a few move related bills that had been hanging out there for a while, and added a few new pieces of kit to my electronics and accessories collection, but still, it feels like it should have lasted longer than it did. There’s exactly $500 left over earmarked to bail my truck out of the body shop on Friday, but other than that, we’re back to the regular monthly budget. I seem to vaguely remember when my tax refund was considered “fun” money. Maybe I just imagined that, though.
I think one of the most unpleasant aspects of being an adult that no one bother to warn you about when you were a kid is that the sums of money that seemed mind boggling and unattainable when you got your first job flipping burgers will very quickly become just what it takes to get by and maybe stash a bit aside for the future. My definition or “rich” and “making good money” have certainly changed in the last fifteen years, regardless of what the Governor of Maryland wants me to believe. I know paying the bills is the “right” thing to do, but damn, there just isn’t much fun in it.
I want to set one thing straight right now: If you don’t pay income taxes in the first place (i.e. your income falls below the taxable level according to the Internal Revenue Service), you should not be entitled to an income tax rebate. In case you’re wondering the command and accepted definition is a “rebate” is money back that one has already spent (i.e. I got a $100 rebate when I bought a new cell phone). How is that difficult to understand?
If you are going to take from the people who do pay income taxes and give it to people who are exempt from paying income tax, call it income redistribution not a tax rebate or a refund. You’re not “refunding” anything since those people didn’t pay a red cent in the first place. How incredibly gullible do the administration and congressional leaders think people are? You can call it roast beef on rye, but if it’s a turd wrapped in Wonder bread. It’s still a shit sandwich.