passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2011-10-13 10:18 pm

Oh for...*headwall*

Can we NOT with the conflating of "does not pay Federal Income Tax" and "does not pay taxes"?


For the last handful of years, my household has paid little to no Federal income tax, mostly because our household income has been moderately low and we've been eligible for education tax credits in sufficient amounts to cancel out whatever tax liability we had based on adjusted gross income.

I can assure you that, since 2007, our household has paid ALL of the following taxes:

1) FICA (Social Security/Medicare)
2) State income taxes, which follow different rules from Federal
3) State/local sales taxes
4) Local property taxes (to the extent that the T in PITI makes up almost as much of my payment as the PI)
5) Gasoline taxes
6) Hotel occupancy taxes (except when I'm traveling on official State business, which I did a lot of this year)

Back when I was a single working adult and not going to school simultaneously, I paid Federal income tax as well. However, the tax code is structured in such a way that right now taxes aren't collected from me by that particular method.

John and I have also appropriately paid self-employment taxes (employer-side FICA) in the years when we've owed those taxes.

I also DO pay for my family's medical insurance plan (at a bit more than $100 per biweekly pay period) and I pay into a use-it-or-lose-it pre-tax medical account and pay my employer-mandated 3% of salary into a retirement account that I have no damn clue whether or not I'll ever actually benefit from because who knows how broke or broken it'll be 25-30 years from now?

I also participate in SEFA (payroll-deduction charitable contribution that I direct to a few organizations I believe need supporting) to an extent that is apparently much higher than many people "manage", even though I'm certainly nowhere near the top of my department's salary structure. And since I'm not in a financial position to itemize deductions, no, I don't just "take it off my taxes". (And yes, I'd be supporting organizations with time as well as money if it weren't for the fact that, by way of being a social work student in a field placement, I am literally paying to work for the agency where I'm placed.)

In short: We are not the freeloaders you're looking for. Nor are most of the 47%, though their stories and circumstances are sure to vary from ours.
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2011-09-22 07:38 pm
Entry tags:

Really? REALLY?

I have a ton of other backlogged goings-on that I want to post about at some point, but right now I am particularly infuriated and just want to address something.

Apparently, there is this bizarre rumor going around at work that the Big Mucking Project is just a cover for me getting the state to pay me the big bucks for working on my dissertation.

Hahahaha, NO.

First of all, there is this list of things that has to happen before I'm cleared for dissertation-writing:

- Completion of the two courses and field in progress this semester.
- Completion of three more semesters of field (or one more semester of field plus a summer placement at 4 days/week instead of 2 days/week).
- In addition, completion of 19 credits (6-7 classes).
- Taking and passing of the Practice, Policy, and Research qualifying exams.
- Writing of a Doctoral Essay/"pre-dissertation" that is acceptable.
- Selection of a dissertation committee and all that fun stuff.

The Big Mucking Project and what follows from it needs to be done by the end of this year at the latest, with the major work completed in the next couple of weeks.

The project includes a dataset that I might get permission from both school and work to do secondary analysis work on, though even that is more likely to be for my classes and/or the Doctoral Essay than for the actual dissertation.

Besides, I'd rather not publish a dissertation that is based on a massive quantitative analysis project. That's not exactly my choice of long-term scholarly direction if I can avoid it.

But why should reality get in the way of a perfectly good rumor? *sigh*
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2011-09-13 11:39 pm

From the department of SERIOUSLY NOT OK

Apparently, the Latham NY Price Chopper doesn't see a problem with stocking boxes of "vital wheat gluten" RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF a bunch of specialty gluten-free items. I took a picture with my cellphone camera and will try to properly upload it later. The picture doesn't show this particular detail very well, but yes, this IS where it's regularly stocked, not just the result of some random person putting things back in that spot.

I haven't seen this at other Price Choppers, but I haven't looked either. I just thought it was kind of common sense that this sort of thing NOT happen.
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2011-08-21 01:46 pm
Entry tags:

The prisoner's dilemma

[Warnings: prison abuse, epic fail regarding mental illness, complete justice system fail in general]

So, the West Memphis Three are out of prison, under some truly ludicrous circumstances.

Essentially, they - all three of them - had to make an "Alford plea" (maintaining a statement of innocence while acknowledging that there is evidence against them that would likely lead to a jury returning with a guilty verdict). In exchange for this plea, they would be released with time served (18 years) and a 10-year suspended sentence. They are free to go, but any further entanglement with law enforcement could result in 21 years imprisonment.

It all came down to getting Jason Baldwin, one of the three men, to go along with this. Damien Echols was obviously going to take the deal because getting the Hell off of Death Row is the most important thing he can do for himself. Jessie Miskelley was obviously going to go along with this because all he's ever wanted, from the time he gave his blatantly false coerced "confession", was to go home to his mom and dad.

Jason, on the other hand, was much more willing to let the slow-moving appeals process take its course. He was mostly doing OK in prison, all things considered, and he did not want to make anything approximating a guilty plea for something he didn't do.

In the end, he did. Not for himself, but for Damien. He has clearly stated that this is not justice but his best friend's life was at stake and that was more important to him. I admire this guy so much.

Some other thoughts about the case:

As this story correctly points out, it's going to be very difficult for them to re-adjust, given just how fast everything moved. And I actually think that Jason is in for the roughest time. Jessie went home to Big Jessie, and I know they're going to take care of him. Damien married a few years into his sentence - his wife, Lorri, will be there to help him re-adjust to life on the outside. (Though even so I think they're in for more of a struggle than they realized.)

I've heard very little about what Jason is going to do or what resources he has. He's mentioned returning to school and possibly pursuing a law degree. I wonder if Yeshiva University would scholarship him for law school - who better to work on their Innocence Project? :)

Also...just watching some of the comments on both sides (supporters/non-supporters)...they get to me. I've been a supporter since I heard of the case back in 1996 or so. However, I'm not one of the supporters who romanticizes the poor misunderstood boys who were arrested because they listened to Metallica and wore black. It's a bit more complex than that. All three boys did have records as juvenile delinquents, and Damien had a history of hospitalization for mental illness. At the time of the arrest, they were pretty similar to the boys in my case file reviews who are in residential treatment centers for "delinquency and ungovernable behavior" or whatnot.

However, that does NOT, NOT, NOT make them murderers! The people investigating the homicides should have done their damn jobs back in 1993 rather than zeroing in on the local delinquents, and they should do their jobs now and appropriately follow up on the DNA evidence.

I do worry about the suspended sentence part of the deal, though. Quite a lot. There will be scrutiny on them such that even if they live law-abiding lives 99.5% of the time (which, honestly, is better than many of us manage), a bad check or PTSD-triggered altercation could land them right back in jail.

What a bunch of mixed feelings I have about all this.
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2011-04-29 09:10 pm

In which I am a negative bubble-bursting crank

[Note: "You" is general. I don't mean you personally. There is no one person who set this off, and the person who comes the closest is my 19-year-old self who almost got involved in a certain glorified pyramid scheme, since I was reminded of that recently, and my last-year self who could have easily wrecked my chosen career before it got off the ground because of the Epic Fail. Also, a couple of items could be ED/self-harm triggers, maybe possibly, so warning just in case.]

Point the first: You will NOT, repeat NOT, "do anything" to achieve your goals. And if you actually will, you are a sociopath and I want nothing to do with you. That's about as ridiculous as the wide-eyed cute submissive girl who goes to her very first kinky shindig and insists that she has no limits.

You HAVE limits. Everyone does. You owe it to everyone, especially to yourself, to be HONEST about what those limits are. For example, I'm assuming that you're not willing to murder your way to the top. I'm also hoping that you don't believe that crack dealing, armed robbery, or embezzlement are excellent paths to wealth. :)

Point the second: Likewise, there probably isn't one consistent thing you want more than anything in the world. If you genuinely want something more than anything in the world, on a consistent basis, you can probably have it. But, well, let's say you want to lose weight "more than anything in the world" - you're not going to chop a limb off to do it, are you? I hope not! I'm guessing you want your arms and legs more, actually.

Point the third: You know that item on the Evil Overlord list, about having a five-year-old child of normal intelligence as a trusted advisor, and not proceeding with any plans if you cannot overcome the child's objections to the plans? Speaking as the parent of a perhaps slightly brighter than average five year old child, this is actually a damn good idea.

And yet there is so much advice out there to ignore all negative feedback, and to kick "negative people" out of your life. Even when those "negative people" are pointing out very clear flaws in your plans. Flaws like:

- Dude, that's illegal. Seriously, you could go to JAIL for that.
- You do realize you've only scheduled yourself for five hours of sleep a night, right?
- You end up in serious physical pain after walking two miles. How exactly is walking five miles a day, every day, going to work?
- Actually, NOT everyone wants to buy what you're selling. Or can afford to. Why are you budgeting for everyone to say yes?
- You don't know how to make widgets. If you make your own and do it wrong, you're going to have exploding widgets everywhere. EXPLODING WIDGETS, I say!
- You might want to do the math on all that extra overtime or that second job, if it's going to kick you into another tax bracket or push you over the income limit for something and thus just cost you more money.
- Are you sure your spouse is OK with watching the kids every night/maxing out the credit card/changing the family vacation plan from NYC to Nowhereville or vice-versa/moving to another country? Hadn't you better ASK first?

Point the fourth: Everything in the previous point goes double for using "negative thought stopping" on yourself. Yes, when what you're dealing with is recognizable Depressed Logic ("I'm the piece of shit the world revolves around!") or over the top internal criticism, stopping THOSE thoughts - or if you can cope with this (which sometimes I can't) mocking them the hell out of existence - is fine.

But the "negative thoughts" that someone who is encouraging you to "be less negative" is complaining about might just be the thought "THIS PERSON IS A SCAMMER" - and might just be absolutely correct. Or they might just be a very important reality check, that even if something is not an actual scam, it's also not the right path for you to go down just because it was the Best Thing Ever for someone else. Or they might be a clear signal that "hey, this isn't working and I need to stop and re-evaluate."

Sort of like how pain is not necessarily a sign of weakness, nor is enduring it a moral victory - it's a signal that something is up that you might want to look into. Especially if it's NOT the same old pain from the same old thing that's bothered you for years. If it's bothered you for years, you know how to live around it, and just how far you can push and where the "you will REGRET this!" point is. And "negative thoughts" are a bit like that. If it's the same old self-defeating crap, that's one thing. If it's something new - pay attention now, or risk paying a very unwanted price later.
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2011-04-13 07:43 pm
Entry tags:

[LJ Idol 7: Topic 21] Child Protective Services, by the numbers

[Note: Although this can be read as a stand-alone, why would you want to? :) LJ Idol is doing the Intersection Thing this week, and my beloved spouse ([personal profile] invisionary/[ profile] ravenshrinkery) has written a companion piece about how he learned more respect and less fear for the police - from a very unusual source. Read it here on LJ or here on DW.]

[Disclaimer, and one of the few times I feel obligated to write one: Although some of this comes from what I have learned at work, I am not in any way speaking for my employer, nor is this any kind of formal professional or legal advice.]

This is the Anti-Anti-CPS rant. Warnings for child maltreatment, obviously. )
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2011-04-05 10:44 am
Entry tags:

[LJ Idol 7: Week 20] Baby Sounds

Mother's tearful whisper, bent over the little head covered in fuzzy black hair:

Come on, baby girl. You have to eat. You HAVE to eat.

The rhythmic suck-swallow, suck-swallow, lasting for all of perhaps three or four minutes - then the small head flung back, letting out an impossibly shrill scream, filled with pain and panic.

Again the whisper, again the screams.

What's wrong? What am I doing wrong? I wish you could tell me...

The baby, of course, had not the words to tell her. But everyone else did. The trouble was that no two people ever told her the same thing. The words raced through the young mother's head, again and again, a cacophony of condemnation.

She's fine! You're just worrying too much. Don't listen to the doctors, they're all in the pay of the formula companies!

You know, some women just can't make enough're not going to let your baby starve to prove a point, are you?

Maybe you need to drop out of college and focus on your baby. Isn't she what's really important?

Put her on a schedule! Don't let her manipulate you!

Just take her to bed, and let her nurse as much as she wants, and she'll be fine.

The best thing to do would be to give her double-strength formula until she's caught up on the growth chart.

And so it went.

The one thing every voice agreed on was this:

If you screw this up, your child will be ruined forever, and it will be All Your Fault.

You don't want that, do you?

The louder the other voices became, the louder her child's screams rang in her ears, the quieter the mother was. She did not know the answer - she knew only that she was wrong. Proof? The weeks that went by with a small helpless infant who seemed to only scream and not-grow. The mutterings about hospitals and feeding tubes and Child Protective Services and "they've found ground glass in formula, you know, don't ever feed your kid that poison!"

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," she would whisper to the baby who had cried herself to sleep. "I'm so sorry."

It was her fault. It had to be her fault. Failure to Thrive. "Failure to parent." "Failure to love."

In a daze, she drove from doctor to doctor, from expert to expert, letting them weigh and measure this failure of hers.

Until one day, one wonderful day, there were answers. And medicines. And relief. And rest. And smiles.

The screams were few and far between now. And tiny giggles - that most wonderful of baby sounds - began at last to take their place.
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2011-03-03 07:21 pm
Entry tags:

Boosting of Signal

Because I remember all too well what having evil crazy-making neighbors of doom is like, and because it's just particularly made of fail for an insurance company to decide to partially treat a case of breast cancer, I would like to see help headed towards [personal profile] delight and her family. Like, NOW.

She doesn't think it's possible to get enough money together fast enough for it to help. Let's prove her wrong, shall we? ;)
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2010-10-20 09:32 pm
Entry tags:

What it's like

There is where I am, and there is where I should be.

I can see where I should be from where I am. Usually, I have a clear and unobstructed view.

What I do not have is a clear path. There is always some sort of canyon in between, and I know that to fall down it would at the very least seriously disable me, and could quite possibly destroy me entirely.

Some days, the canyon is huge and there's no way I could even consider crossing it.

Some days, it's a river instead, and I almost think that swimming it would be worth the risk. Almost.

Some days, it's a small but definite crack in the world, and I should be able to just jump over it, but what if I can't? And then I hate the cowardice of not trying.

When I first got the naproxen and the Strattera, right before All The Shit Happened last winter/spring, it was like "Oh hey, there's this log nearby that maybe I can push and roll over to where this gap is and I can finally cross the damn thing!"

Then All The Shit Happened, and it was like watching myself lose control of that log and have it fall into the abyss, which left me thinking about what it would have been like if I had fallen into the abyss. Didn't exactly incline me to go looking for another log.

And it frustrates me because sometimes it seems like people jump over this thing without a second thought, and I wish I could do it too.
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2010-09-20 03:19 am

In which AJ has had ENOUGH

[Consider this trigger-warned for Everything Under The Sun, at least in passing, though mostly for mental illness-related Fail.]

I have had ENOUGH of the anecdata about public benefit “abusers” and poor people in general, ENOUGH of the assumptions that one can tell what a scammer a poor person is just by looking at her, ENOUGH of the “my less-stigmatized benefit is legit, while your more-stigmatized benefit is not!” nonsense that so often dominates these debates, and FAR MORE THAN ENOUGH of the mentality that equates PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for the poor with an unlimited supply of spare time AND spoons.

The thing is? You DON’T know what’s going on when you look at someone.

I have plenty of anecdata I can throw right back at you. Everything that follows is an experience of mine, an experience of someone I know, a composite of many similar stories from multiple people I know, or something I have encountered in the course of my various social services employment.

Example )
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2010-09-17 01:33 am
Entry tags:

Amber drabbles: Land, sky, sea

Standard Amberverse warnings apply, though nothing graphic. They're still just kids, but if fictional underage immortal half-siblings obviously crushing on each other is squick-some to you, you might wanna skip this one. *heh*

3x100 words. Enjoy! )
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2010-08-10 02:48 am

Surprising sadness

OK, so I haven't been involved with ADF or even identifying as Neopagan (exactly; it's complicated...) for years now.

Despite this, I am quite saddened to hear that Isaac Bonewits is not long for this world, or may indeed have left us. This is definitely a light of the world going out, though I am glad for all he has left behind. Especially since it was his work that I once again turned to in the midst of a recent personal crisis.
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2010-06-25 11:24 pm
Entry tags:

Stuff that bugs me: Intersectionality, silencing, and characterization

[Rant. May be NSFW. Warnings: sexual language, people being stupid about mental illness.]

also cutting for length )
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2010-06-13 02:23 pm

A bit of a vent about the latest anti-psychiatry fail.

[Trigger warnings: people being stupid about mental illness, child abuse, near-misses with suicide, self-harm, some unpleasantness related to sex.]

[personal profile] kaigou has done an excellent job over here, talking about what it's like to be the person who wants to be more like all the successful friends who totally rock the world but somehow something in their brain just keeps getting in the way - and that something is ADD. (Seriously, if you want to know what it's like to be in my head, read through the "things your daughter will probably face" part. I 100% see myself in that.)

So I'm not going to talk about that piece because it's already been done. Instead I'm going to talk about what it's like to be the partner of a funny, charismatic, creative person who lives with brainweasels that are best described as Bipolar Disorder type II.

Those trigger warnings? I'm not kidding. Last chance to avoid. )
passerine: Picture of Sparrow from Dykes to Watch For (Default)
2010-05-25 08:28 am


[personal profile] invisionary and I pretty much want to stick this judge in a room and have her watch Finding Nemo over and over again.

"You can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would EVER happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo."

[This happened in the county where I LIVE, folks. And thus is terrifying as well as enraging.]