Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Am Tony Soprano

I don’t know when it happened exactly but I have turned into Tony Soprano. (Lucky for me, the trophy wife likes the show and stories about “families”.) No, I did not move to New Jersey, open an adult entertainment establishment, or surround myself with people who would do my bidding for me. 
I have gained about 26 pounds since my back operation and about 13 since I vowed to loose weight while I was off for the month of July.  I’m going to blame my back for part of my weight woes, stress for some of it…with the no job, new house, fear I have.  The rest I blame on loving to eat.  13 years ago I weighed what I weigh now and in the span of about 8 months lost 70 pounds.  I even kept it off for about 4 years, slowly it came back. 
So, we have established that like Tony I am not skinny anymore.  Like Tony I love my coffee like I like my women, Italian!  I love espresso.  No little demitasse cups for me though.  3 double shots in a mug and that several times a day.  Unlike Tony and most Italians, I drink mine black no sugar to cover up the rich flavor.  I have an automatic espresso maker on my desk at work and another in the kitchen at home.  Life is too short for bad coffee.
Tony has a Rolex and I wear one like it as well.  Time is too short for an ugly watch.  I usually wear my wedding ring and a watch, no other jewelry.  My students call it my drug dealer watch but I want to show them that you can have nice things and still be a law abiding citizen.  That’s a big problem in this rural area of NC where I teach, not live, they have no role models who have anything except those operating outside the law.  That was one of the reasons I drove my Rolls Royce (too Tony Montana) to school, before I got rid of it, to show that having one doesn’t mean you are rich or criminal.  I always wanted one and now that box has been checked.
As much as I hate to admit it my hair, like Tony’s, is starting to thin.  My full mane of dark brown hair is thinning noticeably.  I will admit that I really don’t care, I’m married and don’t plan ever having to date again so I don’t think I need it to attract someone and if my head gets cold I can wear a hat. 
I got rid of a couple of cars and got a truck like Tony.  I did it because I need something to tow trailers with.  It’s just a nice used truck but I wonder if my inner Tony came out in my decision to get this particular truck.  It is also not exactly like Tony’s because he didn’t have the pickup version but it’s close enough for me.
Then there is the clothes.  While I do not go around in my bathrobe, mainly because at 6’5” I have never had one that was big enough to fit me, I do wear a lot of sweat suits.  Again, not exactly like Tony, mine are mostly Air Force in nature.  Not only are they comfortable, but they also are great for working on cars because they have no buttons or zippers to scratch the paint.  I dress to impress the people I need to impress…no one, though I do have to wear slacks and a collared shirt to school.
Like Tony, I have a few guns, 2 kids, though both of ours are boys, (yeah us!), love prosciutto, and also sleep in my (TMI)…now if I only had a couple of hundred grand stashed in the ceiling like he did….

Saturday, December 4, 2010

TAXES the Bane of my existence!

As I sit here listening to the latest news about the expiration and possible extension of the “Bush Tax Cuts”, I find myself discouraged in my interpretation of the American dream.  Everyone who knows me well knows the taxes are the bane of my existence.  In fact taxes are largely responsible for our upcoming move to Tennessee. 
Surprisingly to many, I am not opposed to not extending the tax cuts but only if the extra monies is applied directly to the debt and there is a requirement for balanced budgets.  It is irresponsible at all levels of government to think every dollar taken in has to be spent and nothing can be set aside for a rainy day.  We live at the beach where real-estate values are down to half of what they were at their highs.  When people talk about how much this economy has cost people I can identify with them.  One would think that in an area that experienced such a surge in home values (with no reduction in rate) and values are locked in for 5 years, would have saved some money.  Not so, but we still have fireworks on the 4th of July, a new park, a walkway for tourists, and a new community building, but no money for stop signs and road repair. 
Of the people I know well enough to discuss taxes with very few don’t cheat.  Some act like not paying their fair share is a badge of honor.  I pay my taxes because like not speeding I have enough in my life to worry about that I don’t need the stress.  I would like to see a law that would fine politicians who get caught cheating on their taxes have to pay fines of 100 times what they saved.  This might keep some of the wealthy out of politics.  I figure if the people in power to change the tax code don’t follow it they should pay dearly…and lose their benefits as well.  Representative Charlie Rangel, once Chairman of the tax code writing “Ways and Means Committee” was censured for in part, not paying taxes on rental property for 17 years.  If an ordinary citizen had done this the consequences would certainly had been worse than a punishment that means in effect, nothing.  He gets to keep his benefits and since he was re-elected, continue to serve in the Congress.  Afterwards he had the nerve to say, "In my heart I truly feel good." Time for term limits!
So it’s time for a fair tax, or flat sales tax.  The more you spend, the more you pay.  If you have a job, own your own business, are an illegal alien, get paid under the table, deal drugs, or have “family money”, you pay as you spend.  You can get back the taxes you paid on the first X number of dollars for which you have a W-2.  Tax return is adding up your W-2s you get back the taxes for the first X dollars.  Get paid under the table, illegal employee, drug dealer, no W-2, no refund.  It should be the only source of revenue for government.  Other services like licenses and registrations should be not for profit.  Let the consumer decide where to live by knowing what their true tax burden will be.  
The idea that Americans pay such low taxes is flawed.  Our income taxes may be lower but when you add in sales taxes, property taxes, personal property taxes, highway use taxes, ”hidden”  fees added to bills, license plate fees, fees for trash and sewer, volunteer fire protection etc. we pay a lot.  As it is, it is virtually impossible to find out the true cost of living someplace.  The property tax rate may be 1 percent in 2 locations but one makes you pay for trash, sewer, and fire protection, separately.  If our founding fathers saw this mess they would probably be very disappointed and call for another revolution.
What can you do when an administration looks at the mortgage interest deduction as “costing them $131,000,000.00” rather than letting the tax payer keep that amount?  My students don’t understand that things the government provides aren’t free.  It is time to stop punishing success and punish those who make poor choices instead.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not The Smartest Man in the World

So, why “Smartest man in the World”?  Clearly I’m not the smartest man in the world; I think that distinction belongs to my father.  It all started when I was working on my Master’s Degree in Human Resources and Personnel Development.  I had an instructor who said he looked forward to our classes because he enjoyed the fact that I could debate either side of a topic.  During one class he was at a loss getting several students (not military) to understand a concept he was trying to teach.  I asked if I could take a shot at it and everyone understood my explanation.  The instructor asked me how it felt knowing when I “look in the mirror in the morning; I have probably already seen the smartest person I would see all day?”  Several of my fellow aviators were in the class and called me the ‘Smartest Man in the World’ after that.
I also start a sentence with “I know I’m not the smartest man in the world but…” at least twice a week.  It usually followed by some great answer to a problem that won’t work because they haven’t given me all the information.  Come on people, I know knowledge is power but I can’t solve all of your problems without knowing all of the constraints.
It’s also a much better story than how I got to be “Hey Nav”, “Lancelot”, “Lance”, “The Hammer”, “Glow Worm”, or simply “The Worm”.

Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA Today

Today I had my first taste of the “enhanced security measures” as I returned from “The Clampets move to Tennessee; Part 1”.  I would have elected to have the body search but because traffic held us up I didn’t want to risk missing the flight. 
In front of me was an activated National Guard soldier in uniform on his way to Atlanta, then Baltimore, then the war.  I was next, used my retired Military ID, and told them I had 2 rods in my back and was wearing a back brace.  We were followed by an elderly couple in their 70s if not older.  We all took off our shoes, except the soldier as they are exempt, and proceeded into the full body scanner one at a time.  With the exception of the old man that made up half of the elderly couple we were all pulled aside.
The soldier didn’t know that the military issue laptop in his bag had to be pulled out to be scanned.  I was told I had suspicious back brace…duh I told them I was wearing it and showed it to them under my sweatshirt before I ever got in the scanner.  The little old lady it appears was the lucky winner of a random body search.  All she was worried about was that someone reassures her husband who has early stage Alzheimer’s disease and tell him she’d be right back.  The soldier’s laptop was scanned, they tested my brace and hands for explosives residue and the patted down the old lady.  One of the TSA guys looked at the three of us and remarked how “it wasn’t that bad, was it?”  I looked at him and said, “I’ve deployed to both wars we are currently engaged in and don’t remember us fighting anyone that looks like someone in this group but thanks, I feel much safer now.”  I don’t think he understood I was being facetious.
 I am a big believer in the Constitution, much more so than some of friends.  I, as my military friends, swore to support and defend the Constitution…with our lives if necessary.  I am thankful that we have people like Larry Flynt, Collin v Skokie, and the people protesting military funerals…no matter how disgusting they might be, since they stand up for our rights.  I am not willing to risk getting arrested, fined, or being put on a no fly list, but clearly being randomly selected is not “probable cause for search”.  As an aside to those males who plan to get the body search out of protest during the Thanksgiving travel season…may I recommend a Viagra 30 minutes to an hour prior just to add to the embarrassment?  I know there will be a shortage of bathrooms on the other side but if you are going to protest you might as well make it awkward.
Here is my idea.  Hot TSA inspectors.  Like a photo menu you see the picture of the inspector you want to search you.  To avoid embarrassment they should be nude.  It would be hard to be embarrassed when the inspector is in a more embarrassing situation than the traveler.  This way we could pick someone who would clearly not be interested in us in a sexual way.  After all, what would a hot 20 year old blond, wearing nothing, find remotely appealing about a middle aged, married, gray headed, slightly overweight man wearing old people clothes?  People not happy with the nudity need extra screening…if you catch my drift.