Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

Here, like a daughter,
Or perhaps like a sister,
And cat co-parent

Kiara Hudson
Completes this complex modern
Family hiaku.

I am grateful for Arthur
And I am grateful for my sister/daughter/cat co-parent Nessa

and I am grateful for Kiara but I have to get a photo of us together haha!
EDITTED: Got one!

Also grateful for my neighbors, friends, Zumba, Toastmasters, and so much family!
Also the refinance and the new heating system.
Looking forward to 2018!

Thank You Nessa, Cat Co-Parent

There has to be a term for the person who brings a beloved cat into your life, in this case Arthur Odinkat Hudson, whose picture you've seen here more than once. Nessa Hudson here is like a sister and is like a daughter but most of all is a cat co-parent. If you have the word for that let me know and happy New Year!

December 2017 Memes


Sunday, December 24, 2017

IRS Employee Tax Compliance Event

In 2017, while on involuntary furlough from my employment at IRS (...they frequently lay off "seasonal" employees when they run low on money, with the excuse that there's not enough work...) I got a letter saying that my 2016 taxes had not been paid when due.
I had filed an extension, reasonably expecting a refund because I'd always gotten a refund, but also including a small payment just in case. The reason for the extension was having to work through the taxes during the year of divorce, and it was not like Kris was ever going to help with providing the information I needed to do that. Also, I'm sure I was just avoiding the issue since divorce is not something one enjoys cleaning up after.
Anyway - I have used a spreadsheet to calculate my taxes for years, because my first experience with an early version of Turbotax was quite negative and the one time I went to a preparer (just after buying this house) was quite negative - they didn't figure out anything I didn't know about.
However as luck would have it, there was a defect in my spreadsheet - just one formula for calculating self-employment tax - so I owed. I paid as soon as I got the notice and then forgot about it.
We'd been told in training that the IRS checked up on this, and sure enough: they did. I wrote back with an explanation and they responded saying it was nontrivial and they were referring it to another unit which would contact me.
This worried me. Could I lose my job? Maybe, although I was not that worried since we're chronically understaffed. Probably I would just have to go through some additional training since this was my first time, and I don't mind more training.
Eventually somebody called me to talk about it. Since I was on furlough, I considered refusing to talk with them until I got back to collecting a paycheck from them and could have union representation. I did ask about union representation, and the caller promised to have a union guy on the line when he called back. When he called back there was no union guy; I was not terribly surprised and decided, what-the-heck, let's just get it over with. I don't remember how many calls there were but I guess my story checked out. The caller asked why I had eventually gotten a refund and I explained that after paying in full, I amended to do something with my deductions. I doubt that was ultimately determinative of the outcome but I was prepared to argue that I had not actually owed very much at all - even at its maximum my debt was under $2000 and I doubted they'd fire someone for owing that little and paying promptly.
Anyway, I was told this was being referred to my management for whatever further action they would take. I heard nothing more. Maybe Seattle AM was uninterested in taking me off the phone for training in how to file my taxes.
The process was disturbing but it worked to just respond calmly and get it over with. I suppose it's nice to see that some checking is done to ensure federal employees aren't screwing around with their taxes; it would be nice if the same would apply to our political leaders. But that's another story.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Buzzed Safely

Madame Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, and Honored Guests:

Who here is a good driver? Raise your hand, please.

Who here is at least a little better than average at driving?

As I thought. We're all above average. Every one!

I was reminded of this halfway through a day-long study of oxycodone.

Every now and then, I google "healthy patient study volunteers". Usually UW Medical, the Hutch or the VA hospital have some studies going for which they need "controls", people like me with nothing in particular problematic about their health.
This particular study was 12 hours of memory tests and driving tests, plus enough blood samples to choke a vampire. (It was only one needle stick - they just kept a little line in all day - vampires take note!)
At the beginning, I took a detailed memory test and then the most boring driving game in the world. I sat in front of the computer with a steering wheel and pedals and had to follow the car in front of me at a safe distance. It sped up and slowed down for no apparent reason (much like Seattle traffic!), and use my turn signals and horn when instructed, for no obvious reason (again, Seattle!)
I'm a really good driver so the only challenge was resisting the urge to fiddle with the radio that wasn't there.
Next I got the oxycodone. They told me it was a very small dose. After a while I felt mildly buzzed, like from 4 or 5 beers. I won't lie; it gave a pleasant happy feeling, although I hadn't had the pleasure of actually drinking the beers so I don't recommend it.
I felt ok to drive (because I'm a "really good driver", see above) although I'd be extra careful because I'm a responsible guy. Like you, right?
The memory test was a disaster. My immediate memory wasn't bad; I could still echo most of the words and numbers. But fifteen minutes later? it was a blank. I knew that I had memorized some words and I remember the person saying them to me, but if you offered me any amount of money, I would not remember a one.
Fortunately, driving doesn't involve learning new words (apart from the occasional swear). I got behind the wheel and took off confidently, but carefully. It was still a very boring driving game and there were no crashes or anything dramatic, but I did have trouble. A lot of trouble - it was like the steering was loose. One time when I was correcting, I even slid all the way over to the edge of the road, getting a screeching sound that the researchers gravely pretended not to notice.
This was embarrassing. I'm a really good driver and it wasn't that much of a buzz but objectively speaking I had whole lot of trouble. When I had something extra to do, like use the turn signal, it was worse.
We repeated this for hours. After a while the drug was fully metabolized; I aced the last couple of memory exams and had no trouble with the driving test. We all shook hands and I went home (...and then to a party. Yay holidays!)
I took Driver's Ed, the same as most of you. They told us in that class, and many PSAs in the years following, don't drive drunk. Even a little impaired is an unacceptable gamble. We nodded our heads gravely, and always wrote the right answer on the test: I won't do that! Inside we know: we are really good drivers and we won't drive impaired.

We might drive extra careful sometimes.


I now have objective, scientific proof that this is bullpucky. Subjectively speaking, I felt ok to drive (if I drove carefully). Objectively speaking, I was impaired.
Lucky for me it was only a game: lucky for me, and lucky for everyone else on the road.
They say you should learn from your mistakes. But the price of some mistakes is too high. It is better to learn from the mistakes of others. 

That which we hear, we may understand, but that which we experience, we believe. We heard the Driver's Ed lecture, we saw the PSAs, we understood even a few drinks can impair you - don't drive. But we felt ok, if we were careful. We are above average drivers.

We have driven ten thousand times, and we were ok. Only a few of those time may have been buzz driving, and we are ok. We know from experience we will be ok.

Which. Is. Bullpucky.

I am fortunate to have made the mistake of driving buzzed in a laboratory, where I could not avoid seeing and feeling my own b&llpucky and the only consequence was a contribution to science. All of you who are really good drivers, just like me, I ask you to learn from my mistake.

And, if you can, google healthy volunteer and take the test yourself.

Madame Toastmaster.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Devilled Egg Thanksgiving

The first holiday at home in years and I find that I'm not really interested in elaborate cookery. Kiara is all about sleeping in, downstairs in her apartment, so it's not like I'm committed to a family meal.
I recall Dave's habit of making supercharged devilled eggs. Kiara contributes horseradish, paprika and the all-important real mayo (my habit is to use whatever's cheap, which is fine for everyday but not the holiday.)
Crafting unique devilled eggs is fun! Here's the first batch:
Starting from 12 o'clock, it's clockwise: olive, red pepper flakes, crater of Louisiana Hot Sauce, finely cut onion greens right from my garden - it makes it a salad!, minced onions, and riced parmesan cheese. What wild flavors would you enjoy?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Base Ick Riddle

Another internet riddle going around is almost always answered wrongly but not for the reason most suspect. Here's the riddle:

Skipping over the "Losing Their Sh1t" nonsense, we have a fairly straightforward puzzle with a nice twist at the very end, or let me write, the "very very" end. That's a clue.


1. There are three symbols on the image: Grey Thing, Bananas, and Clock.
2. Grey Thing = 15
3. Bananas = 4
4. Clock = 3
5. 3+4+(4x15)=67

In the 4th equation I saw that all of the symbols were different from the symbols above.
I concluded that the actual symbol meanings are:
1. Grey thing valued at the sum of the sides of the polygons in it
2. Bunch of bananas valued at the number of bananas in the bunch
3. Clock valued by the position of the little hand.
This makes the last equation:

The symbol on the right side of the last equation consists of TWO IDENTICAL SYMBOLS!  The question becomes: what is "?".

?? cannot = "38" because "?" cannot be both "3" and "8".

However, we don't have to assume the equations are in base 10.
With a little thinking, the solution is obvious: this problem is in base 37.

To those of us used to base 10 that may be icky, but that is base digitism. Don't be a digitist!!!!

The answer is therefore "?" = "1" and the last equation is 2+3+(3x(5+6))=11 base 37.

You're welcome!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Old 45 Covers

A while back I got a bunch of 45 rpm records that were thrift store discards - nobody buys these any more). It's time to give them away - somehow! - but first to record the more interesting album covers. None of these pieces of music mean anything to me, I just didn't like waste.