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from Introspect in category personal

I’m not into it, Intuit

The way we pay taxes in the U.S. is a nightmare. Intentionally.

Note that I hate the filing part. I don’t really mind paying taxes. Of course I wish my money was used differently, but I can live with the existence of taxation. One of only two certainties in life, they say. No, it is everything about filing taxes that really irritates me. My family income taxes are pretty basic, but just including a couple of bare-bones 1099-MISC forms for a tiny bit of “business” (ha!) income bumps us up into the most expensive tax-filing categories.

I paid $100 to TurboTax after a couple hours of trying, and failing, to get cheaper online solutions to replicate its results. In some ways this is the market working. Compared to the competition, TurboTax was the easiest way to get the best results. If I wanted to spend a few extra hours dealing with taxes, I could have printed out all the forms and mailed them to the IRS and the state comptroller. I’d have saved a hundred bucks… but the mailed forms would have been less secure and far less convenient for eventually getting a refund. So, is TurboTax worth it?

[ … ]

from Introspect in category personal

Put on your boots and march

I’ve been to a lot of protests and a lot of presidential inaugurations. I’m hoping this time their lesson will stick with me.

The day after the November election I was a bit shellshocked. I hadn’t slept much, and rolled into work even more quiet than usual. I could hardly look strangers in the face. I was ashamed and distressed, and worried about people I know, and the millions of Americans I don’t know but who are going to suffer the consequences of this epically bad result.

I slipped away from work for a little while around lunchtime and walked down the National Mall. I’ve been there hundreds of times, but it always reminds me of childhood trips to DC where I would try to make my Dad drag me to every museum in one day (along with the zoo, and maybe a civil war battlefield on the drive to or from the city). I looked at some artwork at the wonderful Hirschorn and wondered who the patrons there voted for. I nodded, subdued, to the security guards and gift-shop cashiers, thinking about how the next administration might affect their livelihoods and families.

I was down, but I didn’t feel hopeless. I was invigorated a bit by the art and the inspiring monuments; beauty and ideals will endure. And it seemed to me that Donald Trump came from so far outside of political norms that he might, in the end, be a mildly successful president. He wasn’t beholden to the Republican party and their terrible, dumb ideologies. He seems mostly to care about popularity and success, which doesn’t sound especially bad.

[ … ]

from Introspect in category personal

I’m bringing BloggingBack

Introducing Introspect, a new blog for a new, weird era. Because there are reasons to write out your thoughts.

Let’s talk about text

The “t” in HTML stands for text. The Web began as a text-based environment. Early websites were ugly and haphazard, and images were distinctly out of place. They were awkwardly aligned. They failed to download properly and left weird display icons in their place. If an image was a link to click on, it had an unsightly blue border around it by default, to signify that it was a link. In a lot of ways, the history of the Web over the past 20 years has reflected the tension between the technology’s text-centered roots and the shift toward a web full of images and, more recently, audiovisual and interactive content.

Detailed replica of most websites in 1995 **[ ... ]**

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths

Just a drop of water in an endless sea

The internet may be a timesucking black hole, but I prefer it to some of the alternatives (like tv) because at least you can feel you’re wasting your time in a productive sort of way. The internet, if you sort of squint at it sideways, suggests an infinity of patterns — harmonic resonances of information and insight — dazzling multidimensional arrays of facts and ideas and multimedia extravagance. So you tunnel through layers of meaning, right-clicking madly. You know that everything you find ha…

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths


Today DCist highlighted as “ photo of the day ” a scan of a letter about the photography policy of the Department of Transportation. Here in the nation’s capital, there is a lot of conflict between photographers and the various types of security personnel at the various federal agencies, landmarks, foreign embassies, international agencies, etc, etc. I have an opinion about this (pro-photographers’ rights, anti-security paranoia), but thinking about it today I had a different reaction than norma…

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths

Tempest in a teapot

So I don’t watch cable news, but the internet tells me that there is some sort of uproar going on over on the libertarian/right quadrant of the political map . Something about taxes, and tea ? Maybe you’ve heard? It’s interesting to see protest and even hints of radicalism coming from the right. On the one hand, it’s frightening as all hell; on the other hand, it’s a pleasant surprise to see people actually acting like they care about something. A month or so ago there was a hullabaloo about cor…

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths


There is a store on U Street that is named “ 4NX¢ ” and the first time I noticed it took me a few minutes to figure it out. (Here’s a photo of it by Prince of Petworth) Foreign… ex… cent?… Oh! “Exchange!” I should have figured it out more quickly. Thinking about, promoting, and participating in international exchanges has been a big part of my life, ever since I first wandered into the foreign exchange program office my junior year of college and randomly picked out Tübingen as a place to live f…

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths

A more perfect union

I got an email from school stating that next week, in honor of Constitution Day, there will be a public reading of the U.S. Constitution by students. Well. My first thought was that this didn’t sound like something a serious university would do, but was more akin to things we did in seventh grade, like the time my class had to recite the Gettysburg Address at the Lincoln Memorial. Then my second thought was, “Constitution Day??” Turns out Constitution Day is a legitimate holiday, of sorts. Wikip…

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths

Swiftly tilting

I’m taking a break from homework to ponder the state of the world and especially the loss of Madeleine L’Engle, the second death this year (following Kurt Vonnegut’s) of an extraordinary author of vaguely-science-fiction books. I didn’t really know anything about L’Engle, which made the obituaries and appreciations feel strange. But of course, I read her books during that curious age that is the target of the “young adult” section of bookstores; I suppose her books may have been scattered betwee…

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths

Iron Man

Frequently in life, your interests in converge in unexpected ways, and I guess that is one of the things that keep this mortal existence halfway exciting. Today I am thinking about Cal Ripken, Jr., and specifically, about the recent news that he has been appointed “ Special Sports Envoy ” for the State Department, a strange position that is kind of a “goodwill ambassador” thang. Presumably he’ll make a fair number of trips around the world, meeting with regular people, teaching kids about baseba…

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths

Wide awake in America

“The years that are gone seem like dreams — if one might go on sleeping and dreaming — but to wake up and find — oh! well! Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.” — Kate Chopin, The Awakening I can’t be the only one who feels a bit disconcerted about the current state of political affairs. Members of Congress are questioning the President’s policies. Pundits and talk show hosts are openly skeptical about any prospects …

from ARCHIVES - in category Harmless Untruths

Blowing smoke, or, What is this burning in my eye?

This past week, the DC smoking ban went into effect. I was, and remain, opposed to it. On a personal level, I’m mostly ambivalent, maybe even slightly in favor of the ban. This past weekend was the first to see it in effect, and mostly it was pretty strange, a major topic of conversation for a generally strange weekend that also featured 74° January weather. As an on-again-off-again smoker, the ban rankles a little bit, but also seems like a great incentive to stick to the off-again side. On a p…