Friday, April 27, 2007

The Eggplant is dead, long live the Eggplant.

Just an update- the damage estimate came in around $6,800- the car is a total loss. It's sad in a way, but I'm also glad. I'd rather have had that than have them try to fix the poor thing. I will miss it.

So the question is, what next? Will it be worth it to buy another car? With the move, we'll be in a city with a stellar public transit system, that's also flat enough and safe enough to bike on a regular basis. There's also the possibility of living out my dream and getting a scooter. The main reason, of course, would be to drive around the city going "Ciao!" :)

On a major upside note, with the money from the insurance company, I will be able to pay off my car loan, making me, for the first time since I was 18, debt free. What are the odds??? Can I get a woot?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My poor eggplant...

It was a delightful Sunday morning and I was heading home after a nice hour spent at my favorite pitch n' putt. I made the last turn onto my street, and the exact thought running through my head was "I should check the mail."

And all of a sudden, chaos. Some holy roller on her way home from the church down the street came barreling down the alley that intersects the street and didn't slow down or look. And she smacked right into me, turning me sideways, after which I ran into a beautiful '67 Mercedes that was parked on the street.

It happened so fast, yet right now, just a few hour later, all I can see when I close my eyes is that instant when I realized what was going on and I was instinctively trying to get the car under control. It's a wee bit harrowing.

I'm okay- my shoulder and neck hurt, which probably had more to do with the seatbelt than anything. Thankfully, nobody was in my passenger seat at the time. The car is likely a loss- the pillar between the two doors was pushed in a good three or four inches. Unfortunately, I won't get an estimate until tomorrow at the earliest.

Oh, for the uninitiated, "the eggplant" refers to the car being deep purple on the outside and sort of a tannish gey on the inside.

I'll miss it. :(

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Patriot's Day shenanigans

You know, given the serious nature of my last post this morning, I should resist posting this, but I can't help it. Behold what happens when you mix early morning drinking, a baseball game with a noon start on a Monday, and a slice of pizza (you may want to watch it twice).

Taxes as a feminist issue

In honor of this being the day we're all supposed to settle up with our federal, state and local governments, I wanted to share this:

How the Income Tax System Shortchanges Women

By Martha Burk, Ms. Magazine
Posted on April 16, 2007, Printed on April 17, 2007

A longer version of this piece appears in the Spring issue of Ms. Magazine.

What comes to mind when we think of income taxes? Probably dread. Do we ever think women's issue? Not likely -- but we should. Taxes are something women and men face with unequal pain, let alone gain.

For example, a married couple faces a "marriage penalty" if their two incomes are similar and they file a joint return, since the second income (usually the wife's) is taxed at a significantly higher marginal rate than if she filed as an individual. But if a couple forgoes the wife's second income (or if one person's income is appreciably lower), they may pay less as joint filers than they would have as singles (the marriage "bonus"). Both situations can reduce the incentive for a married woman to work outside the home.

While business interests and churches have long had armies of lobbyists to influence tax policy, feminist influence has been minimal. That needs to change, and here are some recommendations:

  • Get marital status out of the tax code. The basic tax-paying unit in the U.S. system is the "household" -- defined as married heterosexual couples or single individuals. We should redefine the tax unit to follow the model used in almost all other industrialized nations: Each taxpayer is treated as an individual regardless of household type. This would eliminate both the marriage penalty and the marriage bonus, and at the same time would no longer exclude gay or cohabiting couples.
  • Increase the Child Tax Credit and apply it to all families with a payroll tax liability. Working poor women get very little help from the Child Tax Credit because it is tied to the amount they pay in income tax, which is low because their incomes are low. Yet many still have significant payroll tax bills for such things as Social Security and Medicare, so applying the tax credit to payroll taxes as well as income taxes would benefit them.
  • Institute paid family leave, funded by unemployment taxes, with incentives for men to take leaves as well. We should not only have a national system of paid leave, but go a step further and emulate Sweden's system. There, in order to get the full benefit, each parent must take a turn at caregiving; the benefit doubles if the father takes his turn. This wouldn't help single mothers, but for married couples it would go a long way toward getting men to do their fair share.
  • Remove the caps on Social Security taxes and give a Social Security credit for caregiving. While income-tax policies encourage women to stay home and take care of kids, Social Security then punishes them by entering zero for each year spent at home outside the paid workforce. That means a more meager retirement.
  • Revoke favorable tax treatments for institutions that discriminate against women. Churches that openly discriminate against women enjoy billions of dollars in tax savings through exemptions from income and property taxes, not to mention benefiting from the largesse of contributors who deduct their contributions. In turn, these funds are used to undermine women's rights. Case in point: Catholic and Protestant churches were among the biggest contributors to anti-abortion referenda in the 2006 election.

If some of the changes we need seem far-fetched or impossible, remember this: There was a time when the income tax was highly controversial, and now it is universally accepted. We're a long way from a feminist tax policy, but we have to take the first steps before we can get there.

Martha Burk is the Money editor of Ms. magazine.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

As Sufjan Stevens once said:

"I wanted a BUD light!" Oh, and there was something in there about Illinois, too. Anyways, the girl and I are set to become flatlanders, as they say. She loves the program, and the people in the program there are quirky in a good way. And I like the fact that even though it's a university town, it has a very mellow, laid back vibe. As cool as Austin is, the traffic and hustle of it wasn't something I was looking forward to.

Also, the week was full of signs. From the store downtown that stocks the deluxe Nancy Pearl action figure (with shooshing action!), to the Yuengling poster hanging at the bar we were at, to George Takei being on campus at the very same time. It is meant to be. She's going to be a midwestern librarian. :)

Plus, I'll get a heck of a lot more cycling done. Very little mountain biking, though. :)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Where would YOU live?

I'm going to throw this out to all y'all on the interwebs- given the choice between moving to lovely Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and Austin, Texas, where would you move, and why??? Do tell...