Truman State University was once NMSU and once my home away from home

TrumanSunkenGardenI went to Northeast Missouri State University in Kirksville, Missouri for college. For a boy from Humboldt Park, that might as well have been Olympus Mons, Mars.

Whenever things felt too overwhelming, I would go to the Sunken Garden. I don’t remember how I found this place. I think it was an ex-girlfriend who clued me into it’s calming effect. She wore a black hat like Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi and a black blazer.

Even though it was right in the middle of  campus, to the south of the Quad, most students walked passed it unaware that something torn out of Paris, France was in their midst.  I liked it because it was peaceful and beautiful yet at the same time, it didn’t quite do the trick.

The place I really enjoyed on that campus was on the outskirts of campus, a section known as Red Barn Park. This was hated by the student body because it was such a far walk from the dorms and you only went to the nearest building for physics, engineering or other nerdy-like studies.

NMSU Red Barn Park bridge

I only went to NMSU for 2.5 years. many of the curriculum at NMSU were two year pre-programs designed to get you started and then ship you off to a school with a full program. I was ambitiously attempting to become an electrical engineer and failing miserably at it.

I also failed at love. I just didn’t have the experience, the confidence and the ability to withstand the rejection from that girlfriend who introduced me to the Sunken Gardens. It sent me for a loop that took a very long time to recover from. My grades suffered and I spiraled into a depression. Of course back then I lacked the sophistication to realize it was depression. Like most of my friends, I thought it was just not being able to get over a girl.

Years later I visited the campus for a reunion weekend . One evening I snuck off from the activities and went to the bridge by the barn. I had the hat with me. I ignited the lighter and set the hat on fire.  I held it in my hand for a little while and then dropped it into the water.  I have not been back since.


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aggregation aggregation aggregation, Wacky World Wednesday

A New Breed of Brain Fart

BRAINFARTI’m not 100% certain this qualifies as a type of Brain Fart but since I cannot cleverly reverse look-up what this is, I’m going to refer to this as a new kind of Brain Fart for the written word. Basically it’s when you composing a sentence and there are two or more ways to write a particular segment of the sentence.

Example 1: On other words, for a race two weeks out, it may be tempting to squeeze in a 20 miler to ease your mind, but a shorter long run will do the trick.

writer either meant to write “in other words” or “on the other hand”

Example 2: “But what precisely to they expect to get from the Europeans, let alone the U.S.?”

what they presumably meant: “But what precisely DO they expect to get from the Europeans, let alone the U.S.?” (source: if you want to see if it has been corrected).

13 Most Common Brain Farts in Human History
There are more than a couple glitches in the workings of the human brain. When one of these glitches occurs, it is sometimes described as a brain fart. Below is a list of brain farts that pretty much everyone has had one time or another.

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Today is Tax Day in the USA (for my non-American readers) when most of us who owe the US Government taxes write a check and send in our forms. Even if you don’t owe any taxes, all Americans are required to file a tax form. That alone is either inefficient or Orwellian depending on whom you ask. Even if you have most of your stuff in electronic form and use tax prep software, it’s a hassle putzing around with W-2s and gathering various bank statements and other forms. It’s the 21st Century however and you would think there would be an easier way to handle it.

A lot of people think that since the government already knows what you make, — and literally everything else about you —  the IRS could electronically pre-populate their paperwork with the information it already receives from banks and employers, and tell filers how much they owe. The idea that is often pitched is that this would be totally voluntary; if you wanted to, you could still file a traditional tax form (more on that later). It would cost the government (thus taxpayers) a bit of money upfront but would save citizens tons of time, hassle, and money spent on tax preparation.

For a lot of Americans, they could just fill their their taxes out for them. It would save billions of dollars in tax preparation fees and hundreds of millions of hours in time spent filling out tax forms. Source

Politicians ranging from President Obama to Ronald Reagan have supported this tax change and every so often (including this year) there is a bill in Congress to make it so with plenty of bipartisan support. Even Scott Adams of Dilbert fame thinks the government should do this.  So why hasn’t it happened yet? For one thing the tax preparers have lobbied to prevent this from happening. On the surface they are protecting their cash cow. Mass-market tax preparers—Intuit, H&R Block, Jackson-Hewitt, etc make billions each year preparing tax returns.  Even worse, they’ve been joined in their crusade by conservative anti-tax activists like Grover Norquist who’ve decided, without any real evidence, that the best way to shrink the state is to make paying taxes as annoying as possible.

Pros and Cons

According to economist Austan Goolsbee, automatic filing would save tax payers $2 billion in fees and 225 million hours saved not working on tax returns.  That’s countless amounts of recaptured hours for posting pictures of cats, and meals and cats eating meals on Facebook!

The downside:  Can you really trust the entity you owe money to to correctly determine how much money you owe?  Do you trust the Internal Revenue Service to both calculate and collect your taxes? You kinda do this now. Roughly  two-thirds of taxpayers take only the standard deduction and do not itemize. Frequently, all of their income is solely from wages from one employer and interest income from one bank.  Thanks to tax withholding, most people overpay their income taxes in the first place.  They file a return to get…a return.

If you try to cheat on your taxes, or even make an honest mistake, the IRS usually catches you. And if you pay someone to do your taxes for you, can you really be certain they aren’t taking short cuts on your tax form in order to process more returns per day which equate to more dollars in their pocket?

Other challenges:The Tax Code is very complicated hence the reason many people hire CPAs or other Tax Prep Professionals to do their taxes. Honestly, there are just GOBS of social policy built into the tax code. We use it to reward and penalize behaviors, fine the rich, subsidize the poor (and versa), and thousands of other things (many of which are quite noble – yay parks, bridges and highways!). Even Obamacare is somewhat implemented via the tax code. So even if this idea were implemented, it probably would not be an option for everyone.  Such a system wouldn’t be ideal for Americans with complicated taxes.

Tax Preparers also wouldn’t go away overnight. They would initially swtich their focus on Rich people with complicated taxes, Poor people who don’t trust the government and still want to file traditionally. Eventually they would go the way of the Travel Agent or move to the corporate sector.

Personally, I think it is like communism, a good idea on paper but unlikely to be implemented well if humans are involved. To make it work, we’d have to simplify the tax code considerably (not a bad thing) and adjust the standard deduction to placate those who might lose some deductions in order to incent them to switch to a automatic system. Also, remember that voluntary part? I don’t believe it would be voluntary forever. A system like this should reduce the Internal Revenue Department considerably (which also costs taxpapers $$ annually) over time. It would be great if the IRS was scaled down to a skeleton dept that handled the few people who file more complicated forms. Instead they would likely switch focus on Tax Fraud since filings would be streamlined and digitized.


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