Friday, February 22, 2008

Praising God

A little over two and a half years ago, Matt's sister Julie was in a coma.

Tonight she called and sang "Amazing Grace."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Not this again!

I'm looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow...ugh. Luckily I have a short day tomorrow, but I am NOT looking forward to driving in that crap again.

What I AM looking forward to is the release of the new Virginia Coalition album! Only 29 more days, woot! I'm trying to decide if I want to go to the CD release party at the Hard Rock Cafe (DC) on March 21st. I know Matt won't want to go with me; anyone else interested? :-D

They have two songs up from the new album on their MySpace page - Sing Along, and Santa Fe. I'm also debating whether to get the EP - it has three different versions of Sing Along, a new version of Green and Grey, and one other song. Maybe if it had three different versions of Santa Fe, I'd be more into it...I like that song best of the ones I've heard so far.

All my thoughts they freely slip away
And trickle back in different random sweet versions some day
But when I get to Santa Fe
It'll all sound pretty in a different way

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Realizing that you believed in you

Lost just keeps getting weirder and weirder. As do the Comcast commercials.

I'm going to South Carolina this weekend! I wasn't sure until about 5pm today, but I'm on track to get done what needs to be done before my committee meeting at the end of the month, so I feel okay leaving for a few days. I'll still be "working" though, on putting my presentation together and getting caught up on background literature. I have a lot of printing to do tomorrow!

The feds plan to cut the interest rate again next month. Aside from increasing the inflationary pressures, this does nothing but hurt me and Matt. We don't carry balances on credit cards, we don't have an ARM and aren't shopping for a mortgage/car loan. Every time they cut the rate it just decreases the return on our savings, bah.

We *almost* have the exemptions for our state taxes worked out. I think it's absurd that Matt has to take ELEVEN exemptions for us to get close to breaking even with the state of Maryland at tax time. Apparently at 14 your company has to send a form to the IRS saying it's okay for you to take that many and that you aren't under-withholding. Even thought technically you could severely under-withhold every other year because of the safe harbor provisions.

We're paying off my car in less than 3 weeks! And then Matt can finally buy the TV he's been drooling over for months. Although the whole flat-panel HDTV thing seems like a big racket to me. Apparently they have really crappy speakers because they have to smoosh everything into such a small space, so you gotta buy external speakers. And a regular DVD player trying to up-convert to a hi-def signal looks crappy, so you gotta get a hi-def DVD player. So basically buying just a flat-panel HDTV is a downgrade in everything but screen size?

Oh, and Happy Valentines Day to everyone! Hope you got some yummy chocolates or something. Matt got me a gift certificate towards a massage. I got him a nerf gun to take to the office.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Success #2

I just checked our CafePress account; someone bought the Sweetie Bib from Nerdy Babies!!

Okay, it's late. By the time I finished working (9:10) and drove home through the ice storm last night it was almost 11. (And what was up with Hopkins not salting ANY of the sidewalks??) So I was home for less than 9 hours before I had to leave to go back to work today. Two more days this week...

Political music video face-off

Awesome: Barack Obama

Awesomely bad: Hillary Clinton

So, McCain, whatcha got?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Double stab and a PSA

I got an envelope in the mail last week - cap and gown order for graduation ceremonies, or marking the box that says "I do not anticipate completing the requirements for graduation by March 21st." Ouch.

Then, after I posted my status on Facebook as "Courtney has 15 days until the firing squad" (referring to my committee meeting at the end of the month) several people interpreted that as being my final thesis defense and sent me congratulations and good luck wishes. Double ouch. I changed my status to read "Courtney says 'Reports of my thesis defense have been greatly exaggerated.'"

My cells died again over the weekend, so when I came in on Sunday to work with them they were all gone. GRRRR. I ended up moving some things around so that the day wasn't a total waste, and I have cells in the chamber again today. I keep checking on them, because I'm totally paranoid that they'll die again.

-----

I really am saddened by the vast number of people who cannot understand the basic math behind this tax rebate that's coming in a few months. Let me walk through an example for the uneducated.

1. Our fictional family is married, has a combined income of $120K and two children. Thus they qualify for a rebate amount of $1800 ($600 + $600 + $300 + $300).
2. Let's say they have already figured out the magic of W-4 forms, and they normally get a $50 refund every year.
3. Here's where people's brains start to explode. This *is* an advance on the refund for their 2008 taxes, so they say "Well, this family would normally get a $50 refund, but they got an advance refund of $1800, so now they owe $1750 on their 2009 return!" FAIL.
4. If they would normally be due a $50 refund, then on their return filed in 2009 (without the checks this year) they would have gotten an $1850 refund due to the changes in the tax code. Now, $1850 due - $1800 rebate received in 2008 = the same $50 they were already expecting. There is a net change of zero on their return.
5. Here's where it gets better. Let's say they have a baby in 2008 - they can claim the difference ($300) that they would have been due this year on their 2009 return. Total refund of $350, or they can change their withholding for the year to get an extra $25 a month.
6. Here's where it gets even better. Let's say that our fictional dad gets a huge raise in 2008, so that the family's total income is now $165K. Now they don't qualify for the rebate that they got a year ago, but obviously the IRS doesn't have a crystal ball. But if they end up getting a bigger rebate than they would have gotten based on their 2008 income, they don't have to pay back the difference!

Get it? Got it? Good. Class dismissed.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Obvious and obvious

The CDC announced today that this year's flu vaccine may not provide adequate protection. Too bad I could have told them that 6 weeks ago. I'd ask for my money back, but the vaccine was free.

Bank of America decided to arbitrarily raise rates on their credit card customers, in some cases more than doubling the prior rate. They gotta make up for that 95% decrease in profits somehow, as well as prepare for the sinking albatross that is Countrywide Financial. As they say though, banks can only screw you as much as you let them. I don't believe that we got a letter; regardless, our effective interest rate would have doubled from 0% to....0%.

Same reason why I haven't called up Citibank and argued that there was no reason for my APR to ever have been 20.24% (though with the recent Fed rate cuts it's down to 17.99%). It's just not worth my time and energy when it doesn't affect us.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Who let that one past marketing?

Dear Brookstone,
I hate your Sona Pillow commercial. In fact, your commercial is accomplishing exactly the opposite of what commercials are supposed to accomplish, because every time I hear that guy start to snore I turn the radio off for 60 seconds. My sanity requires that I not listen to a woman screaming over top of someone snoring progressively louder throughout the commercial. Fire the person that let this one out the door, because you're wasting money.
Love,
Courtney

SCARY

Your friendly government claims that a laptop, PDA, or cell phone is no different from a suitcase or briefcase, and they have the right to search, copy and/or confiscate electronic devices at will. In the name of homeland security, of course.

(And now I'm on FARK for the 4th time!)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The trouble with grad school

The inherent problem with grad school, that most people don't seem to talk about, is that it takes people who are, by definition, high achievers and for whom success comes naturally. And then it puts those people in an environment where 95% of the time you fail, and hard work is not necessarily rewarded with success. It's a formula for misery from the start.

-----

As an aside, I really don't understand how MSNBC et al "calls" political races. Barack Obama has a 2:1 lead in at least three states that are "too close to call" while Hillary Clinton has smaller leads in the same number of states (with similar precinct numbers) but she's already "won" them.

And what's with the unpledged "Super Delegates"?? Why should one person's vote count as much as an entire congressional district?

P.S. Looking at the exit polls for California, I find it amusing that among voters who didn't complete high school, Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly has their vote (80%).

I weep for humanity

We get security alert e-mails whenever crime takes place in or around the Hopkins campus. I got one today - attempted armed robbery off-campus. Six suspects, two armed with knives, approached a Hopkins employee and tried to steal his cell phone (unsuccessfully, there was a security guard right there).

Suspect description: Six African-American males, ranging from 8 to 14 years of age.

I don't remember exactly what I was doing when I was 8 years old, but it sure as hell didn't include armed robbery attempts.

UPDATED - apparently these "thugs" tried this crap several times yesterday. Once they stopped a guy and demanded money, and he just kept walking; the second time they actually pulled a guy's wallet out of his pants and took the $40 cash he had on him (another reason why I don't carry cash, as a habit).

I can't help but think that if I ran into these kids, I'd just grab the smallest one by his ear and march him up to a security guard.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Creepy

(at the grocery store)
Me: I've always thought that this song was pretty creepy.
Matt: What song?
Me: "If I was invisible, I could just watch you in your room..."
Matt: Who sings it?
Me: Clay Aiken, I think.
Matt: If it's Clay Aiken, that's like +3 creepy.

(It is Clay Aiken).

She is trapped inside a month of grey
And they take a little every day
She is a victim of her own responses
Shackled to a heart that wants to settle, and then runs away
-Counting Crows, "Mercury"

Sunday, February 03, 2008

What a jerk

There is an editorial in the October 15th issue of US News and World Report (yeah, I'm a bit behind, it was the one in the bathroom) entitled "Family-Unfriendly Policies." It's actually an interesting editorial, but MAN does the author get off on the wrong foot. The first paragraph:
You will hear a lot about the American family in the election campaign. For most of us, that calls up an image of a man and wife and two or three children. Forget it. Predominant as the social pattern for several hundred years, that American family has lost its place. Households of unmarried couples and households without children outnumber "American family" households. And only about 20 percent of families fit into the traditional structure with father as the only breadwinner.
You cannot BELIEVE how insulted I have been recently at the insinuation that a family is only a real family if you have children...otherwise it's a "household" or some other crap term that fails to recognize that family is what you make of it. I'm sure that, not only people such as myself, but also grandparents or aunts/uncles/etc raising children, single mothers or fathers, and other various "households" are livid at the suggestion that we are not families. What about people that choose not to (or can't) have children? What about people who are empty nesters? Do the first group NEVER become families, and the second cease to be families once their children have moved away? Does anyone else think this is completely ridiculous?

Oh, and is anyone surprised that the author of the editorial is a white middle-aged guy? I'm not.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

8 years already?

Every year, Beloit College (in Wisconsin) compiles a list of what they feel is the "worldview" of the incoming college freshman. Here's the one from our class (2003). Compare that to the one from this past year's incoming freshman (2011).

I was going to record from the Bob Jones University "Space and Earth Science" textbook today, but it was already to the point where the only thing left to record were the appendices, and I had already done that from the environmental science textbook last week. So instead I recorded part of an EMT textbook on soft tissue injuries. I'm glad I don't have to describe photographs.

Carly and Staci, we're all related!! Scientists traced the blue-eye genetic mutation back to a single common ancestor.

Friday, February 01, 2008