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Sunday, February 27, 2011

LOJACK vs. KEYSTONE COPS

STOLEN LAPTOP: CUTTING EDGE PRIVATE TECHNOLOGY MEETS GOVERNMENT INERTIA IN WASHINGTON, DC


What would you say say about  police who couldn't solve a felony even if you gave them the name of the felon and the address where to catch him red handed with the stolen goods?  That is apparently the case in the Fifth Police District in Washington, DC.  A grand larceny was committed on January 25.  Among the items stolen was a laptop computer.  That same day, Lojack tracked the laptop to a specific person and physical address  within the jurisdiction of District of Columbia. Lojack documented the person's Facebook data, e-mail traffic and other information in addition to his name and physical address.   Lojack delivered this information to a detective at the Fifth District Station.  One month later, not a finger has been lifted to go to the physical address, conduct a search, recover the stolen property, or arrest the felon.  Here's the amazing story of the Keystone Cops of Washington, DC !!!!!!

Matthew Steehler is a junior Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) resident physician at the Veterans Administration  Medical Center in DC.  A junior resident is a physician who has just graduated from Medical school and now needs to serve a sort of apprenticeship.  Typically, he owes more money in student loans than some people owe on their mortgages.  He works the longer hours.  He works the most undesirable shifts.  He makes less money than his nurses.

Around the time he graduated from medical school, Dr. Steehler decided to buy himself a laptop computer that he would not outgrow. "I wanted a laptop computer that was good enough so I would never want to buy another.  I opted for a customized Dell that cost me $1,800," he explained.

In late January, Dr. Steehler's big boss, the ENT Chief, said that she was interested to see some research data that Dr. Steehler had on his laptop computer.  At about the same time, Dr. Steehler's other boss, the ENT Senior Resident, asked if Dr. Steehler wouldn't please bring his digital camera to work for a special project.  That is why, on the morning of January 25, Dr. Steehler came to work with his customized Dell laptop and his Olympus Stylus 8000 digital camera.  Dr. Steehler has his own private office and he put them there for safe keeping.

That afternoon, Dr Steehler was in his office. The Senior Resident phoned and asked if he would  please step around the corner to the Senior Resident's office for a brief conference.  Dr. Steehler left his office and closed the door.  He was gone from 3:45 PM to 4:20.  When he returned, his laptop computer and digital camera had vanished.

"My initial reaction was denial," explained Dr. Steehler.  "I mean, I tend to think the best of people.  After all, I'm here serving veterans.  We're all here on that same mission.  I just didn't think it was possible that any of the employees or my patients would do anything like that.  I searched my memory, retracing events.  After I had thought about it for a few minutes, there was no escaping the fact that I had left the items in my office and now they were gone.


Dr. Steehler immediately phoned the Veterans Administration Police.  The VA Police bristle if you call them security guards.  They will tell you that they carry guns, they have the power to arrest, and they are "real police."

"My laptop computer has just been stolen," Dr. Steehler reported over the phone.  "It's in a black computer case.  Could you check at exits and try to find it before it leaves the building?"

"Dr. Steehler, we have three officers on duty.  We do not have the resources to look for your laptop computer."

"Oh.  Well, okay, could you send someone to take a police report?  And there's a security camera outside my office.  Could we look at the tapes?"

By Dr. Steehler's account, the VA Police needed persuading to send an officer right away to take a police report.  They also advised him that no one was available to examine the security camera video until a certain detective returned to work the following Monday.

In the meantime, Dr. Steehler remembered that he had Lojack for Laptops on his computer, so he called Lojack.  They assigned a case manager named Steve King, a former Baltimore police officer.  They initiated a search for the laptop and found it within hours of its disappearance.  They monitored the e-mail traffic of the apparent thief, got his name, his Facebook data, and his physical address on the evening of the same afternoon of the theft.  They called Dr. Steehler the next day, Friday, with the joyous news.


"The thing is," said Dr. Steehler, "If someone breaks into your house and steals everything including your laptop, you can probably find everything if you can find the laptop quickly.  For that reason, I was hopeful of recovering both the laptop and the camera."

The key word in the last paragraph is "quickly."

Dr. Steehler phoned the VA Police and advised them that Lojack had a name and address for the apparent thief.  The VA police replied that if it was off campus, they had no jurisdiction."

That is when Dr. Steehler decided to file a DC Police report.  The VA Medical Center is located in the police Fifth District.  Dr. Steehler drove to the Fifth District headquarters on January 27 and filed a report.  He spoke to the supervising Detective Witherspoon.  He emphasized that Lojack had a name and address where the computer was presently located.   Detective Witherspoon replied that a detective would be assigned to the case and Dr. Steehler could expect to hear from that detective the following week.

"That was ludicrous!"  Dr. Steehler said later.  "I reported a felony.  I essentially handed him a name and address where he could go and find the felon and physical evidence.  All he could say was that a detective would be assigned and that I could expect to  hear from that detective the following week!"

Back at the VA Hospital, a senior physician counseled Dr. Steehler to claim that patient data was on the laptop.  That would bring the FBI into action.  The FBI would definitely go to the address, recover the computer, and make arrest, said the senior physician.

"I'm a pretty straight shooter," explained Dr. Steehler. "I didn't want to say there was patient data on the laptop because there wasn't.  I don't want to lie.  Besides, I had confidence in the DC Police Department, especially since we had a person's name and address."

The Fifth District assigned Detective Tony Walls to the case.  She phoned Dr. Steehler.  She had spoken to Steve King at Lojack.  Unfortunately,  the computer had now gone silent.  It was active on January 25, and 26 -- but then it went silent.  Maybe the felon had sold it to a pawn shop. Who knows?  In any event, they couldn't tell where the laptop was now, so there was really nothing to do."

"I left it for dead at that point," said Dr. Steehler.

But  Lojack was still on the case.  Steve King phoned Dr. Steehler February 11,  and reported that the laptop was active again.  They had a new name, and e-mail data, and Facebook data and physical name and address.  They had determined that the current user was a relative of the apparent thief.  Dr. Steehler reported all of this information to Detective Walls at 8 AM. on February 11, Friday.


"I think she took a 3 or 4 day weekend," said Dr. Steehler.  "It was Valentines Day.  Anyway, she was out for a long weekend.  Walls didn't talk to Steve King until Tuesday, February 15.  The stolen laptop was still active at that time -- same person, same address.  Now that Detective Walls had all the information, complete with a name and address within her jurisdiction, I was confident.  I decided to give her a week."

Dr. Steehler heard nothing back that week and into the next.  He phoned the Fifth District headquarters on February 22.  Detective Walls was out.  He spoke to Sgt. McDonald.

"Sgt. McDonald seemed interested in the case," said Dr. Steehler.  "He checked the file.  It turned out that Detective Walls hadn't documented anything," said  Dr. Steehler.  "She hadn't documented names or addresses or conversations with Lojack.  That seemed strange.  Sgt. McDonald promised that  he would look into the matter.  However, I didn't hear anything back after that."

Dr Steehler began to feel frustrated. "I was talking to Lojack's Steve King.  Steve King had been so meticulous and extremely professional.  He was a former Baltimore police officer.  I could hear in his voice that he was feeling frustrated.  When someone like that is expressing frustration, that's a good sign that I need to be frustrated, too."


On February 25, having heard nothing from the Fifth District, Dr. Steehler, in desperation, phoned a friend at the Park Police and explained the situation.  The Park Police have jurisdiction where the computer is located, as well as the DC Police.  The friend is a Park Police officer. He consulted with his supervisor.  He said he didn't want to send Park Police to do a "knock and talk" without a search warrant; however, with the information from Lojack, he said, the Park Police would have "no problem whatsoever" getting a search warrant.  They could do the paperwork, conduct the search, recover the laptop and make the arrest --  and then hand the whole "package" over to the Fifth District Police on a silver platter to take credit just as if they had solved the crime and made the arrest."

Later that day, Friday, February 25, one month after the theft,  the Fifth District phoned Dr. Steehler and said they were initiating a request for a search warrant.  Finally!!! One must wonder whether the Park Police made a phone call to the Fifth District and prodded for action.   Who can say?   All we can say is that, as of today, the stolen computer is still in use by the same person at the same address inside the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia Police Department.  A felony theft has been committed.  Additionally, it is a crime to receive stolen property. Lojack has been professional and diligent. It has the name and address of the apparent thief, and the name and address of the relative who received the stolen property.  Dr. Steehler would like to press charges.  Lojack has made complete documentation of the investigation.  Everything for a search and arrest has been handed to the DC Police on a silver platter!!!  Now we shall see if the Keystone Cops can recover the goods and obtain a conviction.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

National Public Radio - I NEED TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

Request by JC Leahy

For the last several days our local National Public Radio station has been urging listeners to contact their senators to prevent elimination if Federal finding to NPR.  They are repeating a several-paragraph schpeel about this over & over & directing listeners to a website for senator contact data.  I want to record this schpeel digitally so I can link it to a  http://www.jaitoday.com/ article about the conflict of interest (corruption?) of spending tax dollars to lobby for tax dollars.  Alas, my tape deck at is not working & I have no idea how to listen or record radio online.  If u are at work & know how, could u please record a few hours of WETA RADIO 90.9 during workday hours & maybe even isolate the schpeel into a discreet file? They don't seem to broadcast it in the evenings.  I will write the article this weekend.

If you get the digital recording, send it to me  ASAP at jcleahy@jaitoday.com

THANK YOU.

ON THE WISCONSIN TEACHERS' UNION CRISIS

By Donald Greenwood

I ponder the Teacher-Union problem in Wisconsin and how they and the state-democrats there have fought the Wisconsin GOP Governor to have their benefits reduced. We all know we got to give back some of the “good-old-days” benefits, but no one wants themselves to be included. Cut other folks benefits, but not ours. Ditto argument for New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, etc. Don’t cut here – go elsewhere for the cuts. My ‘cash-cow” is sacred and beyond meddling with.

Someone that taught school in Wisconsin said that they are the highest paid teachers in this country ($60,000 annual salary) and have a great/generous health/retirement package. They’ll have to give in eventually, as we all will. Ditto for the cowardly state-Democrats.

If the Wisconsin Governor pulls this off – he may suddenly become presidential material. Ditto for the New Jersey governor. And my friend’s wife recently visited Houston and heard the Louisiana governor (Bobby Jindall ??) speak at a ladies GOP dinner function and got a free-autographed copy of his book (“Crisis & Leadership” or something like that) (he’s a Catholic – and his parents are Hindu from India). She said she was not impressed with him when he spoke earlier this year concerning the oil-spill problem on TV; but she was really impressed with his speech at the luncheon and he did not use a prompter. And he’s not pro-Obama. This state GOP Governor may also be good GOP presidential material. And a rumor is circulating that Donald Trump might run for the presidency. Whoa!!! Think what this would do for the hair-fashion folks!! (I’ll vote for him!) 

I hope the GOP selects some “new” talented blood to run for president; and not the same old, dull, week-old, “meat-loaf” regulars that turn everyone off except the party-faithful.

WE NEED NEW GOP BLOOD!!! (Wisconsin, or New Jersey, Louisiana governors, etc.) – YES!!

Just my opinion of course.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Desiderata and the Internet

By JC Leahy

If the Internet had existed in 1927, Max Ehrmann would have simply put his little masterpiece into a broadcast email, and it would have been forwarded around the world and famous in a very short time.  Instead, he let it sit in his desk drawer or bedroom until he died, at which time his wife found it while sorting through his papers.  She had it published in a little book of his poems, but it remained virtually unknown.  Later, apparently, a myth developed that it had been written anonymously and secreted into the wall of a St. Paul's Cathedral  in 1692, and with that myth, the masterwork became famous around the world.  Here it is:

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.


If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.


Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.


Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.


Strive to be happy.


--- Max Ehrmann, 1927

LET US FAST FORWARD NOW TO 2011.  With the advent of the Internet.  unknown authors nowadays can self-publish their little masterpieces in blogs or e-mails.   For example, here's one that I saw today and liked.  It was forwarded to me by a very good friend Josh.  Josh is a pathologist in Silver Spring, Maryland.  The author unknown:


I Am the Democratic Liberal-Progressive's Worst Nightmare.

I am a Conservative, Tax-Paying, American Veteran, Gun Owning Biker.

I am a Master leatherworker. I work hard and long hours with my hands to earn a living.

I believe in God and the freedom of religion, but I don't push it on others.

I ride Harley Davidson Motorcycles, and drive American-made cars, and I believe in American products and buy them whenever I can.

I believe the money I make belongs to me and not some liberal governmental functionary, Democratic or Republican, that wants to share it with others who don't work!

I'm in touch with my feelings and I like it that way!

I think owning a gun doesn't make you a killer; it makes you a smart American.

I think being a minority does not make you noble or victimized, and does not entitle you to anything. Get over it!

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac or any other item, you should do it in English.

If this makes me a BAD American, then yes, I'm a BAD American.

If you are a BAD American too, please forward this to everyone you know....We want our country back!    My Country..... I hope this offends all illegal aliens.

My great, great, great, great grandfather watched and bled as his friends died in the Revolution & the War of 1812.  My great, great, great grandfather watched as his friends died in the Mexican American War.  My great, great grandfather watched as his friends & brothers died in the Civil War.  My great grandfather watched as his friends died in the Spanish-American War. My grandfather watched as his friends died in WW I.  My father watched as his friends died in WW II.

I watched as my friends died in Vietnam, Panama & Desert Storm. My son watched & bled as his friends died in Afghanistan and Iraq . None of them died for the Mexican Flag.  Everyone died for the American flag.

Texas high school students raised a Mexican flag on a school flag pole, other students took it down. Guess who was expelled...the students who took it down.

California  high school students were sent home on Cinco de Mayo, because they wore T-shirts with the American flag printed on them.

Enough is enough! This message needs to be viewed by every American; and every American needs to stand up for America .
We've bent over to appease the America-haters long enough. I'm taking a stand.

I'm standing up because of the hundreds of thousands who died fighting in wars for this country, and for the American flag.If you agree, stand up with me. If you disagree, please let me know.  I will gladly remove you from my e-mail list.

And shame on anyone who tries to make this a racist message.

AMERICANS, stop giving away Your RIGHTS !

Let me make this clear! THIS IS MY COUNTRY !

This statement DOES NOT mean I'm against immigration !

YOU ARE WELCOME HERE, IN MY COUNTRY, welcome to come legal!

1. Get  a sponsor !

2. Learn the LANGUAGE, as immigrants have in the past !

3. Live by OUR rules !

4. Get a job !

5. Pay YOUR Taxes !

6. No Social Security until you have earned it and Paid for it !

7. NOW find a place to lay your head !

If you don't want to forward this for fear of offending someone, then YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM !

We've gone so far the other way . . .  bent over backwards not to offend anyone.

I want to know which church is it, exactly, where the Reverend Jesse Jackson preaches, where he gets his money, and why he is always part of the problem and not the solution?

Can I get an AMEN on that one?

I also think the cops have the right to pull you over if you're breaking the law, regardless of what color you are, but not just because you happen to ride a bike.

And, no, I don't mind having my face shown on my driver's license. I think it's good.... And I'm proud that 'God' is written on my money..

I think if you are too stupid to know how a ballot works, I don't want you deciding who should be running the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years.

I dislike those people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff or trying to guilt me into making 'donations' to their cause....  Get a job and do your part to support yourself and your family!

I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes two parents....I believe 'illegal' is illegal no matter what the lawyers think!
I believe the American flag should be the only one allowed in AMERICA ! I believe there should be no other language option.

I believe everyone has a right to pray to his or her God when and where they want to.

My heroes are Malcolm Forbes, Bill Gates, John Wayne, Babe Ruth, Roy Rogers, and Willie G. Davidson, who makes the awesome Harley Davidson Motorcycles.

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.

I know wrestling is fake and I don't waste my time watching or arguing about it.

I've never owned a slave, nor was I a slave. I haven't burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks, and neither have you!

I believe if you don't like the way things are here, go back to where you came from and change your own country!

This is AMERICA ...We like it the way it is and more so the way it was ...so stop trying to change it to look like Russia or China , or some other socialist country!

If you were born here and don't like it... you are free to move to any Socialist country that will have you.  (And take Barack Hussein Obama and his group with you.)   Massachusetts started the ball rolling.  Keep it going.I believe it is time to really clean house, starting with the White House, the seat of our biggest problems.



Made in the U S A and DARN PROUD OF IT!!!!! 

Only AMERICANS seems to care when American Citizens are being offended !

WAKE UP America ! ! !

If you do not Pass this on, may your fingers cramp !


[End of E-Mail]


I like that piece.  It is passionate; It is elegant in it's own rough hewn way; and it covers a lot of intellectual territory.  I suggest that you think about passing it along!!

JC Leahy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR HOME PAGE IN FIREFOX

By JC Leahy

Of course, your home page is the page that appears automatically when you start your browser.  My Firefox's default home page is AOL.  Now that AOL has merged with the ultra-liberal-to-the-hateful-extreme Huffington Post, I wanted to change to a different website for my home page.   It is as simple as 1-2-3 to accomplish!!  I decided to make the Journal of American Ideas Today my new home page, at http://www.jaitoday.com . Here's how:

  1. From the Menu Bar at the very top of the screen, select "Options"
  2. In the "Home Page" space of the Options Window, just replace the address there with the address you want -- in this case http://www.jaitoday.com
  3. Click "OK"  at the bottom of the Options Window.

That's it!!! Finished!!!!!!!

There is one variation you might find useful.  Before you do 1-2-3 as spelled out above, GO to the website that you want as your new home page.  Then, instead of typing in the address in the Options Window, just select "Use Current Page."

NETFLIX LOOK OUT!!! AMAZON PRIME LAUNCHES FREE UNLIMITED INSTANT MOVIE STREAMING !!!!!!!!

By JC Leahy

BOLD ANNOUNCEMENT FROM AMAZON HEADQUARTERS

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has announced that Amazon now offers free unlimited instant streaming of more than 5,000 movies at NO ADDITIONAL COST to members of Amazon Prime.  Amazon Prime reportedly has millions of members.  Heretofore, Amazon Prime's chief benefit has been free two-day shipping of items purchased from Amazon.  At $79 per year, Amazon Prime membership is cost effective for those who shop several times or more per year at Amazon.  Now, with free unlimited instant movie streaming, the Amazon Prime membership becomes much more attractive. 

The next question in my mind is whether Roku will integrate this free movie streaming with its Roku boxes the way they have done with Netflix instant streaming.

As always, if you enter the Amazon site through this blog, http://www.jaitoday.com/, the blog will receive a small sales commission for any and all items that you may purchase during that Amazon session.

If you want to sign up for Amazon Prime, here's the link to sign up:

SIGN UP FOR AMAZON PRIME


If you already belong to Amazon Prime, here's the link link for free unlimited Amazon video streaming :

AMAZOM PRIME UNLIMITED STREAMING


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JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Maximum Legal Refund (TM)
"Taxes Minimized to Your Best Advantage" (TM)
Silver Spring, Maryland and Long Distance
TAX PREP FEES STARTING AT $ 0.00
Tel.: (301)537-5365

Friday, February 18, 2011

ALERT!!! SELF-EMPLOYED HEALTH INSURANCE DEDUCTION IS BETTER THAN EVER !!!!!

-By JC Leahy, MA Accounting
There are two new enhancements to the Self Employed Health Insurance deduction for 2010.  One relates to self employment tax, and the other to Medicare Part B.  Don’t miss these two improvements when you prepare your 2010 (or 2011 and beyond) income tax returns.
The Self Employed Health Insurance deduction originated when President Ronald Regan signed Tax Reform Act of 1986.  Beginning in 1987, self employed persons were allowed to make a “deduction for adjusted gross income” of 25 percent of the cost of health insurance.  This original provision was supposed to expire at the end of 1989.  It was extended, however, and increased to 30 percent in 1995, 35 percent in 1998, 40 percent in 1999, 45 percent in 2002, 100 percent in 2003, permanently.   You might ask how it gets better than a 100% deduction.
One of 2010’s improvements has to do with Self Employment tax, not income tax.  To put it simply, prior to 2010 self employment health insurance could be deducted when computing your income tax, but not AT ALL when computing self employment tax.  That has changed for 2010. Now self employment health insurance is fully deductible when you compute your self-employment tax.   Oddly enough, though, there is no line anywhere on the tax forms where you actually write this deduction down.  You have to read the Schedule SE instructions carefully and follow them.  For example, I had a client last week who had self-employment (Schedule C) income of $4,200 and self employed health insurance costs of $5,000.  In past years, she would have owed self employment tax on the $4,200 profit, but this year her self-employment tax comes to zero.  That’s a significant change for any self employed person, but it’s easy to overlook.
The other improvement has to do with Medicare Part B premiums.  They never qualified as self employed insurance prior to 2010.  There has been no legislation to change this, nor any official announcement from the IRS.  Publication 535 still SAYS that you CANNOT count Medicare Part B premiums as self employed health insurance.  But you can.  The 2010 Form 1040 instructions say you can, and rather than admit a mistake the IRS says that you should follow the Form 1040 instructions.  This is what you might call a “stealth improvement,” and it’s really easy to miss.
If you need expert help with your income tax filings, either in Silver Spring, Maryland, or long-distance, contact me:

JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Maximum Legal Refund (TM)
"Taxes Minimized to Your Best Advantage" (TM)
JC Leahy and Company, LLC
Silver Spring, Maryland
Tel.: (301)537-5365

Monday, February 14, 2011

DWAYNE'S PHOTO DELIVERS THE GOODS !!!!!!

By JC Leahy

Three cheers for Dwayne's Photo!!!!  Faced with an avalanche of Kodachrome film mailed from all over the world at the last minute for developing, Dwayne's had the good sense and customer consideration to extend their in-the-shop receipt deadline from December 31 to January 18, 2011.  My last 2 rolls of Kodachrome 64 arrived there on January 17.  I received them back, developed, on February 11.  That makes those two rolls among the VERY last Kodachrome that will ever be developed!!! And I have my Christmas photos! :)  Thanks, Dwayne's Photo !!!!!!!!!

SEE EARLIER ARTICLE ON THE END OF KODACHROME

VALENTINE'S DAY: WHO WAS THAT GUY, VALENTINE, ANYWAY ???

By JC Leahy

According to Cathlic Online, St. Valentine was a Catholic priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II.  Valentine, together with another guy named Marius, assisted Christians during the time when they were being used for lion food and entertainment.  Roman authorities arrested him and threw him in jail.  Because Claudius took a liking to him, Valentine proprbably would have remained alive in jail if he hadn't made the mistake of trying to convert the Emperor to Christianity.  At that point, Clauidius had him taken out to the gate which today is called Porta del Popolo, beaten with clubs and then beheaded -- on February 14, around the year 270.  That's where we get February 14.

Pope Julius I declared Valentine a Saint and built a church near Ponte Mole in his memory.  Part of St. Valentine's mission was to assist Christian couples to marry, and so he was cannonized as the patron saint of Love, Young People, and Marriages.

Now you know.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

VISIT TO JAIMIE

By JC Leahy, RN, BSN, MA

To my nurse co-workers who know him:

I went to visit Jaimie in the hospital today.  Intubated, on a vent. Cranial epidural sensor for measurement, not drainage, with ICP 7 and ABP 148/65, which makes his MAP around 93 and his CPP 86, doesn't it?  It makes one wonder why they're still running Levophed, since the goal is not NUMBERS but tissue perfusion, particularly the brain parenchyma -- and his baseline systolic is around 100.   I mentioned it at the bedside, but I don't think it clicked.  Levphed is such a double-edged sword.  You know what they say about levophed:  "Levophed leaves them dead."  You gotta be careful of that stuff.   Vent rate at 28, obviously blowing off CO2 to help reduce ICP, which was previously at 30 just after the Feb. 1 accident.   On a pentobarb drip, which replaced the original propofol.  Good move there. (With propofol, one must at least wonder whether the propofol made necessary the Levophed in the first place.)  Between the pentobarb and the hyperventillation, ICP appears to be well controlled.  He had a DVT and IVC filter, but contrary to rumor there was no PE, which is a mercy.  He does, however have pneumonia.  There is some pre-pentobarb reason to believe that his brain may be intact. 

I had a close encounter with my own mortality in a hospital bed 4 years ago and came back.  I hope Jaimie does too.  It's a slow process.  In the meantime the entire universe has collapsed to the size of his hospital bed.  You must have "been there" to appreciate what I mean by that.  I left him a card, talked to him, held his hand, and told him to telephone me when he is able.  Who knows?  Maybe he heard me.

I pray for him. Please do, also.  What else can we do?

FREE INCOME TAX PREPARATION?? WHO QUALIFIES??

By JC Leahy, MA Accounting

When H and R Block and Maximum Legal Refund advertise FREE income tax preparation, they are talking about only the very simplest income tax filings: the Form 1040-EZ.  Not many people qualify.  The big question is:  If you CAN qualify, SHOULD you file a 1040-EZ? 

You could save tax preparation fees but lose bigger money if you file a Form 1040-EZ.  Obviously, that would be false economy.  Many tax benefits are simply not present on the 1040-EZ.  A good example is student loan interest.  A student just out of college probably qualifies for a free 1040-EZ filing, but he'll miss out on his deduction for student loan interest.  That's not really saving money.  An IRA contribution is another example: You can't deduct an IRA contribution on a 1040-EZ.  Most tax credits are not available on the 1040-EZ. You can't take a child credit, additional child credit, education credits, dependent care credits, or retirement savings credits on a Form 1040-EZ either.

Who qualifies to file Form 1040-EZ?  You must meet all of these requirements:

  1. Your filing status is single or married filing jointly
  2. You and your spouse are younger than 65
  3. Neither you nor your spouse is legally blind
  4. You have no dependents
  5. Your interest income is less than $1,500
  6. Your total income is less than $100,000

Questions?  Feel free to contact:

JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Maximum Legal Refund TM
TAXES MINIMIZED TO YOUR BEST ADVANTAGE TM
JC Leahy and Company, LLC
LONG-DISTANCE FILING AND Silver Spring, MD
Tel 301-537-5365
E-mail: jcleahy@jaitoday.com

Saturday, February 12, 2011

INCOME TAX CHANGES: PAYING FOR WINDMILLS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE ELDERLY

By JC Leahy, MA Accounting

Most tax authorities will tell you that the Federal income tax standard deduction amounts remained stable from 2009 to 2010.  This is not really true.  Two important enhancements of the standard deduction have been quietly eliminated for 2010 and beyond.  These eliminations target some of American society's most vulnerable members.  The first is the extra standard deduction for non-itemizers who pay property taxes on their homes.  The second is the extra standard deduction for those who suffer disaster losses.

Many elderly taxpayers who are living on fixed incomes have paid their home mortgages down far enough so that they no longer itemize deductions on their tax returns.  (No having a mortgage payment is the only way some seniors can financially survive.)  Of course, they still have to pay the property taxes on their homes.  Prior to 2010, non-itemizers who paid property taxes on their homes could increase their standard deduction by $1,000.  However, the tax bill passed by the lame-duck Democratic Congress at Christmas, 2010, while providing special tax breaks for putting up windmills, yanked this property tax deduction, effective hiking millions of taxpayers taxable income by $1,000 per couple.  

Similarly, folks who suffered disaster losses prior to 2010 were able to increase their standard deduction by the amount of qualified Federal disaster losses.  That relief also evaporated as of 1/1/2010.

These are two examples of tax increases targeted at some of the most vulnerable members of society at a time when billions were handed out to banks, insurance, and automobile companies, and at at time when Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House.

For further reading, CLICK HERE to check out how Congress rips off taxpayers facing foreclosure.

JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Maximum Legal Refund (TM)
"Taxes Minimized to Your Best Advantage" (TM)
Silver Spring, Maryland
TAX PREP FEES STARTING AT $ 0.00
Tel.: (301)537-5365

MYRTLE BEACH TRAVEL: DAY 3

By JC Leahy

Day 3, Sunday

I was up at 7:00 and spent quiet time with my photographic light box, viewing loupe and slides.  I was organizing photo the slides.  By organizing, I mean that I was discarding the ones I didn't want to keep, applying a system of numeric identification and labels to the rest, and arranging them into clear plastic storage sleeves in a 3 ring binder.  While I was thus occupied, still in pajamas and sipping coffee, the repairman showed up to examine my complaint of nonfunctional locks on the 2 sets of rear sliding doors.  I offered him coffee, but he politely declined.  He advised me that the locks needed parts.  He would have to go to the store and buy them.  He would come back afterwards to make the repair.  He asked if he could come in and make the repair if we were out.  I said sure, no problem.  He left.

At 9:30, the wife arose, just as the repairman returned.  He repaired the locks while we ate breakfast.  Dali cooked eggs.   I already had a pot of coffee.  There were also apple turnovers we had brought from home.  By the time we finished eating, the locks were repaired and the repairman had left.

Dali's passion for the day was to shop at estate sales.  Her imagination had been tweaked by my purchase the day before of an antique Japanese woodblock print for $25.  The print had come indirectly from an estate sale.  Dali imagined that estate sales far from the big city would be ripe with valuable bargains.  Customarily I am less enthusiastic about shopping for things I do not need.  We discussed this and agreed to set a limit: We would attend only two estate sales and then spend a quiet afternoon hanging around the townhouse and resort.

Task number one was to find estate sales.  We got into our Chrysler minivan, drove to the nearest supermarket, and purchased the principle local newspaper.  What was our surprise that there were absolutely NO estate sales, garage sales, or moving sales advertised in the Sunday classifieds!!  Dali was crestfallen.  I suggested that we check Craigslist for estate sales.  I started to access craigslist on my Palm 755p smartphone, but I craved a bigger screen and keyboard so we drove back to the townhouse to use a laptop computer and the Links' wireless Internet.  Searching craigslist, I found only a couple of "moving sales."  One was in Conway, about 30 miles away, and the other was closer to us in North Myrtle Beach.  Of the two, Conway's Craigslist post looked most interesting so we set out for Conway first, following the GPS.

We followed Route 17 to the Robert Edge Parkway and then took Route 31 to Conway.  There was a woman sitting in a beach chair in front of her garage.  She had a pitiful collection of junk arrayed.  Politely we masked our disappointment and struck up a conversation.  It turned out that although she advertised a moving sale, she had no intention of actually moving.  She collected junk and sold it at her "moving sale" every couple of weeks. What a deception!!

Before we could get out of Conway, Dali spied the local Wal Mart.  We had to stop, naturally, but not before visiting Burke's Outlet, next door.  After Wal Mart, it was back again into Burke's Outlet for another look.  Only then did we set out for the second "moving sale."

Thirty-five miles later, we arrived at the site of the second moving sale.  Ture, they had advertised a moving sale, and, yes, they were really moving;  however, they had sold everything at their "garage sale" the day before.  There was nothing left to sell.  We were a day late.  Thus ended the estate sale shopping. Dali was crestfallen.

It was 4:00 p.m. before we arrived back to the townhouse at the Links resort.  She made us delicious roast beef sandwiches and we had more of those yummy apple turnovers.

After dinner, we watched a Netflix movie I had brought from home, SALT.  We went and tried out the exercise room from 7 to 9:00.  After exercise, I checked e-mail online.  We went to bed at 10.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

NIGHTMARE ON SIGMA STREET -- WARRANTY? WHAT WARRANTY?

By JC Leahy

"Sleazy" is the best way to describe Sigma's warranty service.  I recently purchased a 28-105 Sigma zoom lens, factory sealed, new in the box from Norman Camera, a Sigma authorized dealer that has been in business for 52 years.  I registered the warranty with Sigma.  I received acknowledgement of warranty registration  from Sigma.  Nevertheless, when I tried to avail myself of the warranty, Sigma's performance was sleazy to the extreme.

The lens was defective right out of the box because it wouldn't auto-focus.  At first I thought it was a problem with the camera, not lens. When I

isolated the problem to the lens, I shipped it to Sigma for warranty repair, with a copy of the sales receipt.  It had been much less than a year since I purchased it.  The warranty said "one year from date of purchase."  I anticipated no problem. 

Then I got a call from Debbie at Sigma.  She said that she had my lens in front of her but that it was a discontinued model.  She said that Sigma would not honor a warranty on a discontinued lens.  I protested that the lens was new in the box and had been defective right out of the box and purchased from an authorized Sigma dealer.  It had a focusing problem that is common with Sigma lenses, and the fact that Sigma had discontinued that particular lens had no bearing on the warranty.  Debbie was firm:  Sigma would not honor the warranty on a discontinued lens.  When I continued to argue, Debbie changed her argument.  She said that, besides, I bought my lens online.  She said that Sigma would not honor the warranty on such a lens.  I protested  that I purchased from an authorized Sigma dealer that also does some of its marketing online at sites such as Amazon and Ebay.  Why, in this day an age, should an online purchase have any bearing on my warranty??  Debbie was firm.  The warranty on my lens would not be honored.  However, she said, they could offer me a trade in.  She explained that Sigma does not even have a 28-105 lens anymore, so she could not offer me that range of focal lengths.  She could, however, offer an 18-125mm lens for a trade-in price of $271.  I knew that I could get that lens cheaper on Amazon with no "trade in"!!!!!!!!! I was disgusted and incredulous.  I told Debbie to return my lens to me unrepaired.  That's my Sigma warranty sleazy story.  Sigma may not honor their warranty AT ALL  if they decide to discontinue your particular item or if you bought it online!!!!!!!!!!!   Caveat emptor!!!!





Sigma Camera Corporation, Warranty Repair
15 Fleetwood Court
Ronkonkoma, NY  11779
Tel. 631-227-2028
(Ask for Debbie --- LOL!!!! :) )

Norman Camera issued the following statement:

"[W]e are a Sigma Authorized Dealer.  We only sell USA versions of all products we sell, including lenses.  We have been here for over 52 years, much longer than Amazon has existed, and we are shown on all manufacturer’s whose products we sell websites as an authorized dealer."


.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A YEAR AGO: REMEMBER THE 2010 FEBRUARY SNOWSTORMS?!!

By JC Leahy

How time flies!! It was only last year that we were buried in the great snowstorm of 2010!!  Remember!?  Check the link here.

MORTGAGE INSURANCE: DON'T FORGET THE TAX DEDUCTION!!!

By JC Leahy, MA Accounting

The itemized tax deduction for mortgage insurance premiums is easy to forget..  Within certain limits, you may count their cost as mortgage interest. Mortgage insurance is special insurance that you might have to buy to get a mortgage..  You pay the insurance premium but the insurance's beneficiary is your mortgage lender.  If you default, the mortgage insurance company will make sure that the mortgage lender doesn't lose.  Generally, mortgage lenders require mortgage insurance if you can't make a 20% down payment or if there are other circumstances that make the mortgage lender cautious.

The cost of mortgage insurance premiums will probably be reported to you by your mortgage lender in your annual Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement, in Box 4.  Mortgage interest provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Rural Housing Service (Rural Housing), and private mortgage insurers is deductible.

The limitation is that if your adjusted gross income exceeds certain levels, your mortgage insurance deduction phases out to zero.  For married couples, the AGI phase out range is $100,000 to $109,000.  For all others, the range is $50,000 to $54,000.

For help with your taxes, contact:

JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Maximum Legal Refund (TM)
"Taxes Minimized to Your Best Advantage" (TM)
JC Leahy and Company, LLC
Silver Spring, Maryland
Tel.: (301)537-5365

Sunday, February 6, 2011

MYRTLE BEACH TRAVEL: DAY 2

by JC Leahy

Having slept the night at the Wilson Quality Inn, we awoke Saturday morning in time to make it to breakfast  near the main lobby.  We had a very substantial "serve yourself" breakfast, including waffles, boiled eggs, juice, coffee, grits, and other goodies.  Our breakfast table was in a little glass sun room protruding from the main building.  It was a pleasant breakfast.

After breakfast, we reloaded the Chrysler minivan and hit the road.  We couldn't check in to our resort in Myrtle Beach until after 4:00 PM, so we had time for a leisurely drive. The wife wanted to see Saturday shopping scene near the hotel, so our first destination was the Wilson Shopping Mall.  We GPSed it.  Hardly had we left the hotel parking lot when she spotted Hope's Furniture Gallery and directed me into the parking lot.  .

Men and women, on the average, shop differently.  Men hunt, get what they think they want, and leave.  Women browse -- slowly.  I made a clockwise circuit.  In 15 minutes I had seen the whole store.  I had stopped to admire a few pieces, such as the Stein World 1-drawer chair accent/hall table #80865.  For each piece that stopped to admire, I spent a moment privately lusting for it, and then deciding I didn't have a place for it or couldn't afford it.  Then I was finished and moved on, and in less than 15 minutes I believed that I had seen and enjoyed the entire Hope's Furniture Gallery without spending a dime.  I lounged in a chair next to the front door, waiting for the wife.  She was still on the first half of her clockwise circuit.

Hope's Furniture Gallery had a light but steady stream of shoppers.  One customer carried furniture out to his SUV and loaded it while I was waiting.  Dali walked over to me.

"You're ready to go?"
"Yeah...I've seen the whole store.  But you take your time."
"Did you see that table in the back?"
"What table?"
"I think it would be perfect for your office, and it's on sale."
"Really?"
"Yes, it's a floor sample.  Why don't you come look at it?"

It was a black Home Elegance 3205 4-piece dining table set, including ottoman-style chairs.  It had an online price of $524 plus shipping, and here it was in nearly mint condition for $175.

"What do you think?"
"Hmmm...it's an interesting triangular shape.  Good color for the office decor.  It's the right size for the available space.  Yeah...this would be a great table for conferences with my tax clients."
"You saw the whole store, but you didn't see this?"
"No, I missed this.  You're the ultimate shopper, Dear!"
"Do you want to buy it?"
"We'd have to ship it."
"I already asked.  They said they could break it down and it would fit in our van."
"Really?  It has a little scratch here.  And the glass top has some scratches.  Let's see if they'll take less."

We summoned a sales person.

"This table has a scratch here, and there are some scratches on the glass top.  Would you take $150?"
"No, ma'am.  That's the least we can sell that for.  It was a demo item at a trade show and we bought it as such.  We need $175 to break even."
"Oh....and you think it would fit in our mini van?"
"We could pack it up for you and put in your van."
"That's an interesting print there against the wall," I remarked, motioning towards a framed antique  Japanese woodblock print lying on the floor, propped up against the rear wall of the store.  "Those colors would go well in my office."
"That's $30," said the sales clerk.
The wife walked over to examine it.  "It's old, she sniffed.  The paper on the back it ripped."
"Well, the back doesn't show when you hang it on the wall.  Let's see that rip.  Hmmm....would you take $25 for this?"
"Oh! I'll have to check with the owner."
She summoned a late-middle-age man, apparently the store owner.  I wondered if his name was Hope, but I didn't ask.
"They want to know if we would take $25 for that print."
"Oh, yeah.  I got that at an estate sale.  Okay, $25."
That is how I got my antique Japanese wood block print for $25.  We also bought the table and chairs, which we carted off in our van.

Wilson Mall was a typical, modern indoor mall.  It was apparently the main shopping mall in Wilson, NC.  We were surprised to find that half of the stores were out of business and vacant. The place was nearly deserted.  It was a scene of economic devastation.  The two anchor stores are JC Penny and Rose's Department Store. Rose's is a discount department store.  We shopped a bit there, bought a few odds and ends and then set our GPS for Myrtle Beach.

We took Route 95 South, and by now I was hungry for lunch.   A sign indicated that there was a Shoney's at Exit 47, so we pulled off and went to Shoney's.  We like Shoney's.  They don't have them in the Washington, DC area where we live, so when we travel south, we like to stop at least once at a Shoney's.   This particular Shoney's had an empty parking lot at lunchtime on a Saturday.  Two waitresses and the kitchen staff were on duty.  We had the entire restaurant to ourselves.  I had liver and onions without the onions. We split an apple crisp with ice cream for desert.  We gave the waitress a good tip, because that was her only tip for the time we were there.  Then, off to the highway again.

We took Route 95 south to Route 701 south; then left on Route 130, right on Seven Creeks Road (16 miles), left on Seven Creeks Highway (9 miles), left on SC Rout 9 (7 miles), and right on 9h Avenue.  Along the way, we stopped at another furniture store.  It was a large, warehouse style store crammed with fairly nice furniture.  There were 5 or 6 guys hanging around the entrance and two young, neatly dressed salesmen.  I gathered that the 5 or 6 guys were store delivery employees.  There were no customers.  We told the salesmen that we just wanted to browse.  We had the entire place to ourselves.  Again, I stopped at a piece or two and lusted to have it; then decided that I didn't have a place for it or couldn't afford it -- and then moved on. We discussed one or two pieces and decided that the prices at Hope's Furniture Gallery had been better.  We didn't buy anything and left.

We had reservations at the Links Golf and Racquet Club Resort, in North Myrtle Beach.  We could check in any time after 4:00 PM.  We arrived at around 5:00.  At the resort office, the woman on duty was very pleasant and assigned us to Unit 42.  Unit 42, like all the units there, was essentially a two-level, two-bedroom townhouse with a fireplace and two full bathrooms.  Unit 42 was neat and well furnished, but when Dali entered the master bedroom, she declared that it smelled bad and she couldn't possibly spend a week with this bedroom.  It didn't bother me, but it did smell like some sort of cleaning agent.  We picked up the phone, called the office and stated the problem. They moved us to Unit 8 -- which was a better location because it was right next to the pool, gym, and clubhouse.

Unit 8 looked nearly identical to Unit 42 and didn't smell.  That was good.  However, the two sets of sliding doors on the back of the ground level did not lock.  Obviously, this was a security problem, so I phoned the front desk and said that we couldn't stay in this unit unless the door locks could be repaired immediately.  I agreed to wait until first thing the next morning, and a repairman did appear and fix the locks early the next morning.

We unpacked the van -- everything except the table and the wood block print -- and then went over to the club house to check out the facilities there.  The first thing I did was ask the desk person if there was a heated swimming pool.  She said there was and pointed at a doorway.  Dali and I went through the doorway to an outdoor swimming pool, filled with water, night lights on, and looking ready to swim in.   I have been swimming more than a couple of times outdoors in freezing January weather in a heated outdoor pool, but still, I stood looking at the outdoor pool with disappointment.  I went back in to the desk clerk. 

"What's the water temperature in that outdoor pool?"
She laughed. "Pretty cold, I imagine."
"It's not heated?"
"No."
"I thought you said you had a heated pool."
"Oh, yeah!  You have to go beyond the outdoor pool and there's another pool enclosed and heated."
"Oh!  Great!  I'll go have a look.  What time does it close?"
"It's open till midnight."

With that, we went back outside, passed the outdoor pool, and came to a greenhouse like structure rimmed by glass panels.  Evidently one or more of the panels must slide to provide an entrance, but it wasn't self evident what which panel would slide.  When we found the sliding door entrance, we went inside to a sauna-like environment.  Steam was condensing on the roof panels and dripping.  The water in the pool felt like a warm bath.  I actually like warm water for swimming, so that was fine, but the steam and dripping condensation seemed extreme. 

I walked back to the office.  "I found the indoor pool.  Looks good, but where do you change?"
"There are men's and women's changing rooms on the back side of the clubhouse."
"Oh....that would be a chilly walk, wet, back to the clubhouse."
"I think you're right."  She smiled.
"Okay thanks.  Good night."

We surveyed the rest of the clubhouse.  There was an exercise room, billiards table, pingpong table, a snack room sans soda machine, and well appointed areas for sitting and reading or playing cards.  When we had seen it all, we went back to our townhouse and prepared for bed.