Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Obamacare and the Individual Mandate: Correct Me If I'm Wrong

When I first started learning about Obamacare back when it was passed (in what, 2010? Sheesh, that's a long time), one of my biggest gripes was the idea that I was forced to buy something - and penalized for refusing to do so.

The penalty will be $695 per uninsured (or underinsured) adult in 2016. Plus kids. For me, that will total thousands of dollars for not purchasing a qualified health plan.

But the way I see it, nobody's forcing me to buy anything. Because ultimately, I won't have to pay the penalty.

You see, the new law tasks the IRS with collecting the penalty from the uninsured. However, to this end the IRS is NOT authorized to do anything but 1) withhold any tax refunds due; and 2) ask for the money.

That's it. They can't seize property, place liens, garnish wages or other conduct other more forceful tactics.Which means that as long as the federal government doesn't owe me money, they can't penalize me for not playing ball.

So that's my word of advice to anyone who doesn't want to participate in Obamacare: Withhold enough taxes from your paycheck to avoid any refunds. And you're in the clear.

Am I wrong? If so, I would love to know.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Behold: The Bolivian Navy You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About

So I recently and randomly was thinking about Navies in other countries. I can't really say why; maybe it was one of those free-association shower ruminations that I have so frequently. And I got to wondering about those Third World, landlocked countries that still boast a Navy. Because they exist.

Most of these countries have a "Navy" for "brown water" operations, namely the traversing and patrolling of rivers and lake within their territory.

And so I came across the Bolivian Navy. I think it's the only landlocked country with a website devoted to its navy. And it's awesome. Almost as awesome as this inspiring video:

You see, the Bolivian Navy serves a grander purpose than simply patrolling Lake Titicaca and Amazon tributaries. Indeed, the Bolivian people are proud of their rich naval heritage. Their navy is symbolic of their national desire to reclaim the coastline taken from them by Chile in the War of the Pacific in the late 1800s. One day, they believe, they will have the opportunity to reclaim their access to the sea and once again proudly sail the Pacific. They even have a national festival to celebrate their desire for this vindication: Día Del Mar (Day of the Sea). The festival is marked by an hours-long parade in the capital of La Paz.

And hats that are effective at keeping the sun out of both your eyes and mouth.
So let's tip our own hats in salute to the awesomest Navy-without-a-sea in the world. May you one day regain the port you so rightly crave.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

What Parent Isn't a Kids Show Expert?

In my house, it's impossible for me not to be intimately familiar with tons of kids shows. And that's even given that I'm away at work for most of the day.

This is because when the TV's on, the kids are watching it 90% of the time. Consequently, I have a highly detailed knowledge of their favorite shows. Not because I watch it, but because I'm around it. It's similar to my detailed knowledge of 80s era Days Of Our Lives, which I absorbed while as I played while my mom got her fix.

Anyway, here's a list of the TV shows I know best right now:

Phineas and Ferb: Okay, I admit I sometimes watch this on my own. It's hilarious and brilliantly written.

Wild Kratts: This is a somewhat interesting cartoon featuring brothers Martin and Chris Kratt (real people) who go on missions in animal suits which mimic the animals they are learning about. It sounds weird, but kinda makes sense when you watch it. At least it's a good way to impart some knowledge that might otherwise appear dry to the easily bored kid.

Caillou: I've probably seen more hours of Caillou reruns than just about any other show I've ever seen. That's no exaggeration. When it's not on TV at home, it's playing in the car. Something about that little cartoon kid's whiny voice really appeals to the little ones. It's pretty benign, though, so I don't mind it terribly. Caillou's parents are the quintessential "yes" parents who can never say no to their kid. I hope the other parents watching it aren't taking cues.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: I have a soft spot for Mr. Rogers, so this animated spin-off featuring the characters in Trolley's land of make-believe is palatable, though not even close to stimulating for anyone over five.

Brady Bunch: My older kids love this show. And, surprisingly, I enjoy it a lot more now than I did as a kid. I find it much funnier--maybe that's because I see it from the parent's perspective. Or maybe it's just the nostalgia I feel as I watch. Either way, it gets a thumbs-up from me.

Bob the Builder: This is the one that I'm best at ignoring. There's nothing remotely funny or interesting about this. Bob always fixes things. Spud the scarecrow always messes things up. And all the machines are so ADHD that it's amazing they ever get anything done. Unfortunately there seem to be hundreds of hours of this show, and my smaller kids want to see every single one.

Adult shows? Usually whatever my wife has on after the kids go to bed. Nothing terribly interesting, though I've been known to sit down for Downton Abbey now and then.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Man of Steel + Gillette = Brilliant Product Tie-In

What do you get when you combine a highly anticipated superhero movie, the combined nerdiness of famous self-proclaimed comic book lovers, and one of the most pedestrian toiletries on the planet?

You get a brilliant viral marketing campaign, that's what.

Seemingly incongruous Gillette has hitched its wagon to the Man of Steel movie with a simple question: How does the Man of Steel shave?

Apparently this is subject of countless discussions among Superman fans the world over. At once Gillette has reached reached a huge demographic that 1) shaves, 2) enjoys superhero movies, and 3) probably reveres the personalities who provide their own theories in answer to the question.

This just goes to show that even the most apparently unrelated concepts can be combined to create super-traction for a brand. More marketing departments should be thinking along these lines.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Peregrine falcons are raising a family where I used to work

In 2010 I worked at Campbell Ewald in Warren, Michigan. That year it was discovered that our 10-story building housed not only several hundred employees, but also a pair of peregrine falcons . In the weeks and months following, it wasn't uncommon to see bird watchers and naturalists observing the birds from the parking lot far below. I even took a photo through one of their telescopes.

peregrine falcons nesting on CE building

Well, in the time since I left CE, the birds decided to make their house a home by laying some eggs on the roof. Right in front of a security camera.

CE has set up a Tumblr page to document the events. It will be fun to watch the feed and wait for the chicks to hatch.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

High Stress, High Enjoyment: Welcome to Utah.

I've just learned something new about my recently adopted home state: it's among the most stressful in the nation.

According to Gallup, Utah is the country's #4 most stressed-out state.

Which is interesting—because the same report lists Utah as the country's #3 most enjoyable state.

So stress...is enjoyable? I think this goes to show that there's positive stress and negative stress. Apparently, Utah has an abundance of the former.

And why not? It's becomes pretty clear when you see videos like these.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Firing up the old word forge...

I've decided it's time to bring this blog back to life. I write for a living, but it's time to add some variety back into the mix. Insightful/insipid thoughts incoming...