Slant

Nicki over at The Liberty Zone has an interesting post up about all of the hollerin’ going on re: “Fake News”.  Couldn’t agree with her more.  It looks to me like headlines are much more extreme in the last year or so, especially after the election.  The other major factor is the rush to publish first.  It’s at the point where it just doesn’t make any sense to form a strong opinion on stories until you’ve let 24-48 hours pass.  The full 180s that major media outlets are pulling are mind-blowing.  It’s not one side or the other either, it feels like the gaslighting is coming from all sides.   I found a fairly useful tool that helps to cut through some of the clutter: the Allsides Bias Rankings (their News page is worth reading too).  I’m not saying I always agree 100% on their ratings, but crowdsourcing to detect bias is better than just guessing.

IRShenanigans

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that calling the IRS is an absolute nightmare.  When I was involved with the corporate filing industry, one of my biggest frustrations was getting the IRS to issue an Employer Identification Number (EIN).  To their credit, the IRS does have an online tool to obtain EINs.  However, it only worked correctly for individuals with a Social Security Number starting their first company.  The online tool was supposed to be able to generate an EIN for new companies that were being started by existing companies (i.e., a new LLC owned by an existing corporation).  Unfortunately, that part of the tool never worked.  Non-citizens starting new US companies (a sizable chunk of my client base) also couldn’t get the tool to work.  To get around that, you used to be able to: 1) call the IRS, 2) give the operator the info needed to get the EIN, and 3) receive the EIN immediately over the phone with a confirmation letter being sent by fax and mail.

About 4-5 years ago (if I remember correctly), Congress and the IRS got in a big budget fight .  The IRS response to the budget cuts was to drastically slash staff and training for customer service (see the Ways and Means Committee blog from this past April).  At the start of the budget kerfuffle, one of the first things that the IRS did was to stop accepting calls to get a new EIN.  Instead, your choices were to fax in or mail the EIN obtainment form (Form SS-4).  Mailing the form in gave you a minimum 4-6 week wait time for any response, so that wasn’t an option.  The only workable solution was to fax in the form and wait for a faxed reply.  In theory, this dropped the wait time from 4-6 weeks by mail to 3-4 business days.  Anyone who’s dealt with government at any level knows about the huge gulf between theory and reality.  The real world result was you’d fax in the form and then frequently get no response or a rejection by fax for an incorrect reason.  You’d then have to call the IRS, wait for anywhere from a half hour to multiple hours for someone to answer the phone, and try to get the operator to fix the problem.  As you can imagine, folks starting new businesses weren’t very happy about that.  Having to wait 1-2 weeks to even start the process of opening a bank account so a comapny could start conducting business is a huge bundle of frustration..

I’ve been out of the industry for close to 2 years, but looking at the IRS site nothing seems to have changed.  It looks like only 38% of calls to the IRS were answered in 2015.  Democratic politicians will tell you that Republican budget cuts are the reason for the problem.  Republican politicians will tell you that the problems are caused by bad internal  management at the IRS.  As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.  Either way, the end result is that people starting small businesses end up with a kick to the balls because of political infighting.

Scale

Astronomy Now has a post up with a photo of the International Space Station and Mercury transiting the Sun this morning.  It’s always a good idea to get some perspective on the size of things.  On a much smaller scale, I drove up to the Sacramento/ San Francisco area from L.A. in December to work on a job with Dad and was reminded that distances in the West are a bit different than the Northeast.  The 412-mile trip up didn’t even get us out of California, but that same distance takes you from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio.  That crosses New York, goes across all of Pennsylvania, and takes you halfway through Ohio.  We visited Rhode Island, Boston, D.C, and Connecticut when my brother and I were in grammar school and everything seemed like it was just down the road.  The short version is: it’s worth taking a step back and really thinking about scale.

Dwindling Away

I see that one of the last 3 Shakers has died (h/t to Iowahawk).  Not really shocking; there’s a reason that groups organized around celibacy aren’t exactly found on every corner.  Reminds me that my Freshman Advisor at Beloit College in Wisconsin was raised as a Mennonite (his first name was Menno).  At least the Shakers didn’t have reality TV crews following them around.  Looks like NatGeo already got the Hutterites and the Mennonites, and the less mention made of what’s been done to the Amish, the better.

Made It Through!

It was close, but 2016 didn’t get me.   That’s been almost entirely due to luck and good fortune.  There were certainly plenty of people who couldn’t say the same.  According to the CDC about 610,000 Americans had a first stroke this year (out of 785K total who had a stroke).  It’s pretty miraculous that I not only survived having an ischemic stroke, but, nine months later, I’ve almost fully recovered from the damage.

 

I can’t say I’ve made a full, 180-degree turnaround on my habits and behavior, but I know I’m on the right path.  Quitting cigarettes was the first big step that absolutely needed to happen.  It’s scary to think now that I got to the point of needing to look at images of the dead parts of my own brain on CD to finally stop smoking and stick with it.  Sometimes it takes the full 21′ length of the clue-by-four upside the head (see what I did there?) to make an impression.

First the little one, then the big one.

Closest to the Top of my Head
The Little One

 

About midway through the brain, top-to-bottom
The Big One

The next major hurdle will be sticking with daily exercise.  No worries, I’m not going to become an overwhelmingly preachy, lifestyle-obsessed asshole; just more of a general type of asshole :-).  It’s the folks who won’t admit that they’re *any* kind of asshole that you have to look out for.

For anyone who doesn’t already know it (or needs a refresher), the FAST mnemonic can really save your life!  I speak from experience on that one.  If I hadn’t already memorized it – mostly from watching House reruns – there’s a good chance I’d have blown off the symptoms and avoided going to the ER to get checked out.

Getting this thing off the ground!

I decided that’s it’s about time for me to finally switch out of a purely consumer role as far as my blog activities go.  Time to get to creating instead of just reading and tossing out a comment once every few years.  Enough of the lurking already!  The occasional previous comment or forum post has been under the screen name VegasChris.  Since my business name (Mershon’s Method Firearms Training) is out there now and my name’s been listed under thousands of company filings, no point in being coy about who I am and hiding behind a screen name.

I spent the last 12 years working at a filing service and took the last year off to get my shit together.  I’m working on getting a day job to pay the bills while figuring out the best way to do something firearms-related for fun and/ or profit.  In the meantime I’m setting this blog up as an outlet for my random thoughts, stuff I find interesting, and rants about the world.  The older I get, the more things I feel compelled to rant about.

Anyway, welcome to my place; glad to see you.