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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to Manage Stress


An e-mail "fwd" submitted by Barbara Leahy
The True Meaning of Stress 

A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience; with a raised glass of water, and everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?'..... she fooled them all... "How heavy is this glass of water?", she inquired with a smile.

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.


She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it.
 If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance.  In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.
  When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night... pick them up tomorrow.

Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment.
 Relax, pick them up later after you've rested. Life is short. Enjoy it and the now 'supposed' stress that you've conquered!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dispatch from Florida

by Don Greenwood

The pictures of the shuttle launch were very good – but most of those folks at Cape Kennedy are now out of jobs or about to lose them since the shuttle program ended. I think that I read that about 11,000 jobs would be affected and the local economy (stores, restaurants, housing, etc) would also suffer. Where do 11,000 “space workers” find other jobs in Florida (or elsewhere anymore I guess?) More homes going into receivership in that area.

Florida ranks third in unemployment. The Florida Governor wants to pass a bill limiting unemployment-payments to 20 weeks versus the current 26 weeks and unemployed people must accept a job offer if it pays minimum wage. State workers are under pressure as are the folks in the Education system here. Bottom line – the State does not have the money to continue supporting programs as it’s done over the years. It’s getting darn right scary. Just my opinion of course.

TV said the national “approval rate” for Obama was: 54% - those who think he’s doing a lousy job.

Huh!!!??? Come on now – he’s doing a great job!! His purpose is to drive this country into the ground and make it a “4th world nation”;and he’s right on course.

Best always. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Momentarily Speechless

By JC Leahy

We passed a big inspection at work last week apparently with flying colors. This morning, just inside the doors to the building from the employees' parking lot, a prim, white, middle aged,management woman stood cheerfully announcing, "Coffee and doughnuts!  On the house!" There was a table with some coffee and boxes of bottom-of-the-line, full-of-air-and-too-much-sugar Krispy Kream doughnuts.  This was supposed to be management's thanks to the employees for doing so well at an important regulatory inspection. A pair of female employees entering from the parking lot were were walking just behind me, talking to each other in loud, ghetto-sounding demeanor.  Without missing a step, one of them replied to the management woman, "I'll take mine in cash. Then I can buy my own doughnuts."   This left the management woman momentarily speechless. I smiled to myself and wished I could think of lines like that so instantaneously.

Friday, April 15, 2011

From the E-Mail: Educate Yourself About Social Security

An E-Mail "forward" submitted by Josh Dee, MD

Subject: History Lesson on Your Social Security Card
  

Just in case some of you young whippersnappers (and some older ones) didn't know this. It's easy to check out, if you don't believe it.  Be sure and show it to your family and friends. They need a little history lesson on what's what and it doesn't matter whether you are Democrat or Republican. Facts are Facts.
Social Security Cards up until the 1980s expressly stated the number and card were not to be used for identification purposes. Since nearly everyone in the United States now has a number, it became convenient to use it anyway and the message, NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION, was removed.[9]

An old Social Security card with the "NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION" message.
Our Social Security 

Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, introduced the Social 
Security (FICA) Program. He promised: 

1.) That participation in the Program would be 
Completely voluntary, 

No longer Voluntary 


2.) That the participants would only have to pay 
1% of the first $1,400 of their annual 
Incomes into the Program, 

Now 7.65% 
on the first $90,000 
  

3.) That the money the participants elected to put 
into the Program would be deductible from 
their income for tax purposes each year, 

No longer tax deductible 


4.) That the money the participants put into the 
independent 'Trust Fund' rather than into the 
general operating fund, and therefore, would 
only be used to fund the Social Security 
Retirement Program, and no other 
Government program, and, 

Under Johnson the money was moved to 
The General Fund and Spent 


5.) That the annuity payments to the retirees would never be taxed as income. 

Under Clinton & Gore 
Up to 85% of your Social Security can be Taxed 

Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are 
now receiving a Social Security check every month -- 
and then finding that we are getting taxed on 85% of 
the money we paid to the Federal government to 'put 
away' -- you may be interested in the following: 

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ---- 

Q: Which Political Party took Social Security from the 
independent 'Trust Fund' and put it into the 
general fund so that Congress could spend it? 

A: It was Lyndon Johnson and the democratically 
controlled House and Senate. 

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -- 

Q: Which Political Party eliminated the income tax 
deduction for Social Security (FICA) withholding? 

A: The Democratic Party. 

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ----- 

Q: Which Political Party started taxing Social 
Security annuities? 

A: The Democratic Party, with Al Gore casting the 
'tie-breaking' deciding vote as President of the 
Senate, while he was Vice President of the  US 

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- - 

Q: Which Political Party decided to start
giving annuity payments to immigrants? 

AND MY FAVORITE: 

A: That's right! 

Jimmy Carter and the Democratic Party. 

Immigrants moved into this country, and at age 65, 
began to receive Social Security payments! The 
Democratic Party gave these payments to them, 
even though they never paid a dime into it! 

------------ -- ------------ --------- ----- ------------ --------- --------- 

Then, after violating the original contract (FICA), 
the Democrats turn around and tell you that the Republicans want to take your Social Security away! 

And the worst part about it is uninformed citizens believe it! 
If enough people receive this, maybe a seed of 
awareness will be planted and maybe changes will 
evolve. Maybe not, some Democrats are awfully 
sure of what isn't so. 

But it's worth a try. How many people can YOU send this to? 

Actions speak louder than bumper stickers. 


Residential Energy Tax Credits in a Nutshell

by JC Leahy, MA Accounting


The list of items that qualify for the Residential Energy Tax Credits is actually fairly short.  Nevertheless, everyone who has done ANY home improvement  wants the tax credit.   Here's what energy-efficient items are NOT qualified for the residential energy tax credits:


Ceiling fans
Clothes washers & dryers
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)
Dehumidifiers
Dishwashers
Electric furnaces/boilers
Electric storage tank water heaters
Electric Tankless water heaters
Evaporative Coolers (swamp coolers)
Lighting (Light Fixtures, CFLs, LEDs)
Ovens / Ranges
Power Factor Correction Devices
Programmable thermostats
Refrigerators
Roof coatings
Room air conditioners
TVs
Toilets
Window Treatments
Whole house fans




And, in short, here are the items that may qualify for the residential energy tax credits:


Tax Credit 30% up to $1,500:


Biomass stoves
Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning
Insulation
Roofs (metal & asphalt)
Water heaters (non-solar)


Tax Credit 30% up to no limit:


Geothermal heat pumps
Wind turbines
Solar energy systems


Tax Credit 30% of cost up to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity:


Fuel cells (residential fuel cell and microturbine system)


For more detail, click here for my EARLIER ARTICLE

Living on a Fixed Income: T-Bill Interest Rates Down Again !!!

By Don Greenwood

TV says that gas may go up to $5 per gallon. Whoa!!!!???

T-Bills yields (interest rate) keep falling.

Guess I may have to get the new “Spam cooking Recipe Book” that’s just been issued I understand (?) – I’m told that some of the book recipes are:



-        Stuffed spam peppers,

-        Spam-burghers,

-        Cold spam slices on a bed of lettuce & tomato, etc.

-        Mid-eastern spam omelet

-        Detroit spam-wrap with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise,

-        Spam-dip and crackers

-        Spam/Mutton soufflĂ©

-        Creamy breakfast-spam-spread for bagels -  and of course the international favorite,

-        Fried thick spam slices, fried eggs, fried tomatoes, fried potatoes, and toast.

Best always. Cheers.

The "Golden Years" - love them or leave them -  "that's the way it is".



Income Tax Question: Are Bankruptcy Attorney Fees Tax Deductible?

By JC Leahy

LOL!!  That's a good one!! No, attorney fees related to bankruptcy are not tax deductible.  The only exception is if the bankruptcy attorney prepares your tax return, the portion of the attorney fees for tax return prep is tax deductible on your Schedule A as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2% of Adjusted Gross Income threshold.

Illinois Taxpayers Beware of New Tax Penalties !!!!!!!!!

By JC Leahy

When you pay your income taxes, it's not enough that you tally up on April 15 and fork over the cash.  The IRS, and states, require that you pay your taxes in ADVANCE as the year progresses. Otherwise, you get slapped with an ugly penalty.

People who earn wages/salaries take care of this by having taxes withheld from their paychecks.  People with other income make estimated tax payments quarterly.  One of the IRS's benchmarks is that you have to pay 100% of the prior year's tax in order to avoid a penalty for the current year.  Most states use the same benchmark.

This year, the State of Illinois decrees that for 2011 and beyond, you will have to pay not 100%, but 150% of the prior year's taxes to avoid that nasty "late payment" penalty.  Unsuspecting Illinois taxpayers are at risk of an ugly penalty surprise on April 15, 2012 unless they plan accordingly.  Thanks a lot, Illinois legislature!!!

(PS -  Of course, there is an alternate standard for avoiding late payment penalties.  If you have a crystal ball, you can just pay 90% of the current year's tax liability, and then pay the balance by April 15.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

THE WHITE HOUSE
Washington

April 11, 2011


To All Federal Employees:

Late Friday evening we reached an agreement on the budget that will keep the Government open.  I know the past few weeks have been a time of uncertainty and concern for you and your families, but your patience and professionalism throughout this entire period have affirmed my confidence in you, and everyone who works in our Government.

You do your jobs without complaint or much recognition.  But it is men and women like you who help make America all it is, by responding to the needs of our people, and keeping our country safe and secure.  And so, I want to thank you not only for your forbearance in recent weeks, but for the service you render each and every day to the United States of America.


Barack Obama

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Photography Notes: Nikon F4 Quick Review

Nikon F4
By JC Leahy


If you want a classic-looking professional SLR camera, consider using a 35mm film Nikon F4 and spending the $3,000-$5,000 savings on lenses, lighting, tripods, and other supporting peripherals.  You can go full-frame digital later and migrate all the lenses and most or all peripherals to the digital platform. 

The F4 was the "big Kahuna" among pro SLR's from its introduction in 1988 until the F5 was introduced in 1996.  It is built rugged like a tank and shouts to the world that you are a serious photographer with a serious camera. It feels like a work of art in your hands and the sound of the shutter is exquisite.  Why choose the F4 rather than an F5 or F6?  It's much cheaper on the used camera market.  It's lighter to carry.  With it's analog-looking dials and controls, it has that classic look that disappeared with the F5.  Very importantly, the F4 allows matrix metering with non-chip Nikon lenses; something (amazingly) not possible with the F5 or F6.  This gives the F4 the BEST OLD/NEW LENS COMPATIBILITY OF ANY NIKON F-SERIES CAMERA !!!!!!! 


Given this old/new lens compatibility, you can use the F4 with just about any Nikon lens manufactured since 1959. This provides you a big selection of the best lenses that money can buy. The F4 looks good and feels good in your hands. It runs on standard AA batteries. The F4 can be a full manual camera or you can employ different modes of automation. The camera can track a moving subject, continuously refocusing on it and taking pictures at a rate of up to 5.7 per second. Light metering can be set for traditional spot metering, center weighted, or an intelligent evaluative matrix metering. It's electronically controlled, vertical-travel focal plane shutter can sync with flash at a shutter speed of up to 1/250 of a second.  Shutter speed can be set as fast as 1/8000 of a second.  For exposure control, you can choose from shutter priority, aperture priority, programmable automatic, or full manual. There is, of course a shoe mount for attaching a flash.  Oddly missing, however, is automatic exposure bracketing unless you have an unusual, optional date back.

All in all, with lighter weight, extremely rugged construction, lower cost, and greater lens compatiblity, the Nikon F4 is a solid and satisfying choice for a professional film camera.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

STARTUP PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY ON A SHOESTRING

By JC Leahy

CHOOSING A CAMERA

Nikon N6006 - Great camera! Less than $100 !!
Nowadays, some digital cameras are about as good as film in terms of picture quality. The trouble is, to really equal film you have to buy a high-end full-frame digital SLR like the Canon 5D Mark II, and that costs several thousand dollars. The high price is a tough nut to crack for the startup professional photographer. Meanwhile, recreational and advanced amateur photographers, together with most established pros, have abandoned film and jumped to the convenience of digital. However, there are still more film cameras in the world than digital -- they just aren't much used or wanted. This creats a glut of supply and low demand so that high-quality film SLR's that can be bought for a song. Post-1980 film SLR's developed into AWESOME instruments -- more than you might be aware! The most awesome sold the best and now have the biggest supply glut. This is the key to starting a photography business on a shoestring, especially if you can find a way to minimize the cost and inconvenience of film developing.


Here's a way to minimize the cost and inconvenience of developing film. Shoot print film, then take it to Costco and leave it for developing while you shop. Tell the photo desk that you want NO prints -- just the negatives and a photo CD. By the time you finish shopping, you have negatives with digital picture files too. The cost is $1.59 for developing a roll of 36 photos and $2.99 to place the pictures on CD. Not bad. Think of the digital picture files as digital proofs. For the frames you want, you have the option of re-scanning the negative, yourself, and working the image up with Photoshop. That's the best of both film and digital worlds!!

You can get a stunning film SLR for less than $100. It will be capable of matching or exceeding the picture quality of a $3,000 full-frame digital SLR. It will be capable of using a vast range of high quality lenses of Nikon or Canon, whichever manufacturer you choose. The features of these sub-$100 film SLR's may shock you. The Nikon N6006 and Canon Elan IIe are two film SLR cameras to consider for starting a photography business on a tight budget. If you go up in price another $150, you can get a Nikon F4, which was the top-dog pro camera for a long time and will still attract admiring attention. If you want to go to the $600 range, grab yourself a still-in-production Canon 1vHS used. (The HS version is just a 1v plus a high-speed battery pack, which bring you to 10 frames per second. This makes it the fastest, moving-mirror film camera ever put into production anywhere, any time, and leaves Nikon products in the dust! Sports photographers, take note!! )

Canon Elan IIE
"You can definitely use the Canon Elan IIe as a pro camera."

The Elan IIe is compatible with any EOS lens. This gives you a whole range of image stabilized, ultrasonic focusing, ultra-high-quality lenses to choose and use. The camera's focusing system can track a moving subject, continuously refocusing on it and simultaneously taking 2.5 pictures per second. Or you can choose to focus manually, or pick a focusing mode in between these two extremes. The camera can even switch focusing modes if it detects movement of your subject! The camera's light metering system features a six-zone intelligent evaluative metering program that yields dead-on results in an amazing variety of lighting situations. Or you can choose to control lighting manually. Or you can choose "partial metering," which is like spot metering but the spot is larger and movable. Movable? Yes, you can move the spot by moving your eye looking through the viewfinder!!! (Try THAT with your digital SLR!!) You can also choose the auto focus point and stop down the lens for depth of field preview just by moving your eye!! For basic shooting modes, you can choose full-manual or choose from several preprogrammed intelligent modes: general full-auto, sports, portrait, landscape, or portrait. Or you can choose what Canon calls "Creative Zone" shooting modes: Program AE, shutter priority, aperture priority, traditional bulb mode, or a special depth-of-field control mode. You can also customize the way the camera operates with 11 custom functions. And, by the way, auto focusing is instantaneous! Plus, the pop-up flash is surprisingly good and very-handy as a fill-flash. The flash hot shoe is compatible with current-production Canon flashes, which are amazing instruments in their own right. (By the way, you might also find this camera labeled as a EOS 50E -- it's exactly the same camera.) Canon sold many, many of these cameras because they were (and still are) amazing. Now that film is "out," there's a glut of very nice Elan IIe's that you can pick up on Ebay for a song! Whether you're doing wedding photography or ....whatever...you can definitely use a Canon Elan IIe as a pro camera.

Nikon N6006
A Worthy Camera to Consider

Like the Canon EOS Elan IIe, the N6006 sold well because it was an amazing, quality device sold at a price that made it attractive. Nikon buffs stress the quality of Nikon lenses and the build of the cameras. For them, any amazing camera feature that Canon has and Nikon doesn't is sneeringly dismissed as "fluff" or "bells and whistles. You can use the N6006 with just about any Nikon lens manufactured since 1977.  This gives you a big selection of the best lenses that money can buy. The N6006 looks good and feels good in your hands.  The N6006 can be a full manual camera or you can employ different modes of automation.  The camera can track a moving subject, continuously refocusing on it and taking pictures at a rate of up to 2 per second.  Light metering can be set for traditional spot metering, center weighted, or an intelligent evaluative matrix metering. For exposure control, you can choose from shutter priority, aperture priority, programmable automatic, or full manual. Automatic exposure bracketing can be set to take either the usual series of 3 different exposures, or a series of 5 different exposures. There is a surprisingly good integrated pop-up flash that is very useful for fill flash duty.  There is also a shoe mount for attaching a more powerful flash. One advantage that the N6006 has over the Elan IIe is that the front of the camera says "N-I-K-O-N." I think some clients may be more impressed to see you carrying a Nikon camera than a Canon even if the Canon might be a better camera. Don't worry though, Nikons are good too, and their lenses might just be better than Canon's -- if you believe what the Nikon buffs say. In any event, Nikon sold a boatload of N6006's and there is a glut of them in the used camera market now. You can definitely get one for less than $100 on Ebay


For startup professional photography, consider using a film camera and spending the $3,000 savings on flash and lighting equipment, tripods, etc. You can go full-frame digital later using the same lenses and peripherals you accumulated for your film cameras.