Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monopoly is my LEAST Favorite Game

Remember when you moved on your own for the first time, out of your parents' house? You thought, alright. Making decisions on my own -- FREEDOM at last.

And then rent came due? And then utilities? And, holy shit, my internet connection costs HOW much?

So, your first month's bills [almost completely] paid, you think, I will change companies and find a better deal. Fuck Comcast. Oh, wait, Comcast is the only provider in the area? Excuse me? Isn't that a monopoly?

Well, technically no. Basically, the big ISPs (Comcast in nearly every community) carve up counties and regions to provide coverage to. Meaning in most neighborhoods, it's the company's way or the highway.

Wilson, North Carolina, residents chose the highway. Their very own, high-speed, information highway (I know, I know, gag me on that term). Anyway, taxes don't pay for it, residents who use it do, just like they would with any other ISP. It's just at cost, instead of at ... monopolized price fixing jerk prices.

The reaction? Their former ISP went berserk. The North Carolina House and Senate formed bills to keep a town or city from every doing this again. How could they?! Why would anyone want to hurt lil' ol' Comcast by wrenching control out of its hands...?

As someone who incessantly uses the internet, and pretty regularly complains about big-business ISPs, I think it's crucial that we back Wilson residents in their attempts to stop this legislation. One avenue may be to write the NC reps, one may be to write your own.

Another could be to buzz the shit out of this issue. If you're on a social media site, please use tags to label any posts about this issue -- I'll be Twittering with #Greenlight and #WilsonISP

Oh and just in case you didn't know:

Write your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Write your House Rep: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Revolutionary Road

This will be a short blog about my suburbia paranoia.

Revolutionary Road is a gut-wrenching novel written in 1961, long before mainstream criticism of the White Flight to the suburbs. Richard Yates' character development is impressive. At once, you simultaneously detest, empathize with and cheer for both Frank and April Wheeler. The fights between these two harbor an intensity that speaks to a long history of misplaced resentment.

In short, it's terrifying.

More terrifying than any sci-fi, thriller or horror novel I've read.

If you've lived in a metropolitan area, ever, you know what I'm talking about. Suburbia Paranoia. In DC, living in NOVA means convenience, strip malls, moving into a rich man's house in the middle of nowhere, a long commute, staying home with the kids, and eventual death by suburbia.

We're waiting for the movie to come to Netflix, but if you've seen it, let me know if it's any good.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Housing Market Research

I promised myself I wouldn't write a blog about the housing market, but here I am. I'll try to make it interesting, at least.

Tyler and I are looking to buy a house. Well, I'm looking. He's sweating, biting his nails, rubbing his beard thoughtfully and setting budgets. I, on the other hand, am panting over gardens and finished basements.

And WHY you may ask? Why are we thinking about this when we've got 7 months left in our lease, two insanely stressful jobs and no plans to stay in this area for longer than 5 years? Probably because our rent is so balls-effing high. In fact, our current rent is 25% higher than many of the houses on the market right now!

With the so-called "Zone of Sanity" nowhere near where we want to live (hint, hint, that's why your housing market didn't crash!) and Unemployment rates making everyone a little skittish... we're in a screwed-screwed situation.

Furthermore, when did we start having these grown-up worries? I think it's part of this DC culture. It makes more sense financially to buy so now we're worried about the housing market. It makes more sense financially to work hard for a few years to make a name for yourself, so we commute and we work long hours to make our year-end bonus. All this when in an ideal world, we'd both be cherry farming bloggers!

What's your "ideal world" fantasy? Can we really make it happen? Can just anyone live their fantasy, or by the nature of global society, do we sacrifice our dreams for the inner-workings of the market economy? Any thoughts, blog readers?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day Misery

Stumbling through the rain with a ridiculously large umbrella and two gloriously stuffed envelopes under my coat, I opened the hatch of that blue steel box and mailed my tax returns away. Away, I say!

What a mess. Last year, I lived in Maryland and Michigan, worked in Michigan and Maryland, but not Washington, DC, collected non-taxable income, collected taxable income, and moved three times. Not to mention my loving but misleaded parents (again!) claimed me as a dependent, at the age of 23, so we'll see how that goes over with the IRS.

Speaking of the IRS, I'm a little peeved with them right now. In fact, an entire slieu of government agencies have gotten on my bad side in the last few weeks.

Now, before my rampage, let me reiterate that I don't align with any political party, and I don't believe that taxes are bad. Especially not when they go towards schools and public works and subsidized housing. So, it's not the IDEA of taxes, it's how they're used.

Let me begin with everyone's best friend in that stab-you-in-the-back junior high kind of way:

1. The IRS
My taxable income was less than $25,000 this year. I told the IRS to just take it. Take as much money as you want right now and I will just collect on my tax refund. I'm single, I have no kids, no obligations, cheap rent. This was a huge mistake. In addition to all that money that they (State and Federal) took out this year, they asked for an ADDITIONAL 3%. That's $750, kids. Last time I try to be straight-forward.

2. The FDA and USDA
What a monstrosity. Our food regulation system is so effing kaput. Peanut butter, spinach, tomatoes, and now PISTACHIOs. I hate you, food regulation system. If we're going to be readjusting our spending, why don't we help the FDA out on that whole Food side. Or, better yet, let the FDA dissolve into the MDRA - Medicinal Drug Regulation Administration and let the USDA dissolve into the AMPMA - American Meat Products Marketing Administration. Take the remaining pot and start an unbiased consumer-focused regulatory administration that will actually prevent salmonella outbursts instead of just mention them in a weekly news release.

3. The SBA
This narrow-minded beaurocratic nightmare focuses on government agencies not meeting Small Business contracting goals, and Small Business loans. While I think they have their motives, these efforts have no traction. Loans for start-ups? In this economy? How about resources and training on how to grow and diversify to become more resistant to recessions. Instead of giving scorecards and tssk tssk's to agencies not meeting the Small Business goal, why don't you give them a list of small business market research firms that they can contract with to grow their programs and include new businesses?

And on that note, every day I become more of an anarchist. Today is no different.

For now, I'll anxiously await news from the IRS. With any luck, I'll get a mysterious anonymous phone call, and a man on the other end with a calm, deep voice will say:

Congratulations on filing your taxes, you sheep.