Friday, January 30, 2009

Tax Nightmare

Last year I registered to collect NYS sales tax so that I could sell photos at art & craft fairs. The fairs are not often a money making proposition by the time you subtract the booth fees, travel expense and materials costs. I know crafts people who have spent money and 2-3 days time only to sell less than it cost. The contact with the public and their reaction to your work however can be educational. As long as I break even I figure the input makes it worthwhile. But now I'm beginning to wonder.

At the end of the  last quarter NYS switched to an on-line filing system for sales tax reports. I tried it several times only to be "locked out" and told to try again later. Several subsequent attempts were similarly unsucessful and the papers got set aside in frustration. Finally I did succeed and submitted a report that in the quarter in question I no sales and collected no taxes.

Now I have gotten a notice that because I submitted my report late I owe a $50 penalty and I must also submit proof that the $0 I owe has already been paid or send it with the penalty. If I do that late I can be assessed a $100 penalty. No wonder people think NYS is 'unfriendly to business'.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pondering A Day of Change

Tuesday, Inauguration Day 2009, was a most unusual day. It was something in the air, a mood, a sense that something ineffable had somehow shifted. Yes, there was the excitement about the first black president but it that wasn't it, that wasn't the real change. The real shift was something deeper. I remember the feeling from the '60s being similar but that was not as widespread. It was limited to a portion of the young in the US. I remember a similar feeling when the Berlin Wall came down but that too had it's limits. Yesterday the feeling was shared by people all over the world of all races, religions and nationalities. It felt like a real new beginning.

I confess that as I watched the proceedings and the celebrations I half expected them to be interrupted by a terrorist attack. Over six decades of life have taught me that there is always someone out there who is offended by others' happiness and will do whatever they can to disrupt it. I also recall how friends from the '60s turned cynical when the dreams of that era crumbled. And I know that only a bit over half the country voted for the change that happened yesterday but what I felt wasn't a political victory, it was a sense of possibility shining through all that negative history.

A line in the "Desiderata" says "...whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." For a day, on Tuesday , it was clear.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Tradition?

At least once a winter we get a cold snap that takes us below the -20º mark. We've already had two -18º mornings in the last couple of weeks and this morning we hit the -25º mark. It actually hit -26º about 20 minutes later but I wasn't about to set up the tripod again for one more, or rather one less degree. To the extent possible, I'm staying indoors today.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Techno-Cretan? Me?

I have joined Facebook. It was not by my own initiative. I've been accepted into an art marketing seminar series that is being conducted by NYFA. They are using a secret group* (shhh! Don't tell anyone) to communicate with/among participants between monthly sessions.

I had two prior invitations to join Facebook but not being a particularly social sort I had declined until it became a requirement for this seminar series. When I signed up the original invitations popped up again and I accepted them. Shortly thereafter more requests to be friends appeared. I'm already up to 11 'friends', some of whom I actually know (as in we've met face-to-face) while others I only know via email. If I passed some of them on the street I would not recognize them. The photos people attach often don't help in that respect. Some are full length portraits squeezed into a tiny little square, some backlit or fuzzy beyond recognition and some are drawings/photos of something the person likes or relates to rather than themselves. Being either old fashioned or egotistical (you decide which) I put up a head and shoulders shot of *me*. It is a version of the same image I have on my blog page. I just used different digital filters. It's been messed with but it still looks like me, perhaps a bit better than the real me.

I can see the value of a Facebook group for something like the NYFA seminar. I don't 'get' the attraction to Facebook as a general communication medium. There's something called "The Wall" (shades of Pink Floyd?) where I and apparently any of my Facebook friends can post anything but I also have a home page where friends post stuff too. I don't get the distinction. And then there is the question of what to post. Whenever I go to Facebook it asks what am I doing right now. Well DUH! I'm checking Facebook. I could tell it what I was doing before or what I might do after but at the moment... Frankly most of my day consists of boring or routine stuff that is of no interest to anyone else. Anything I think (in an egotistical moment) might be remotely interesting to anyone else I put here in the blog.

One part of my job in DOL was to be a network admin for field offices in three counties so I'm far from being technologically challenged. OTOH I don't see the attraction to posting random thoughts and actions on line for the world at large to read. When I was growing up the way of communicating was through letters. You had to write on paper, fold it up, put it in an envelop and mail it. I do like email because it is faster and I can reach people who may not be next to their phone (I don't like talking on the phone anyway so email is a good way to escape that) but the attraction of this constantly in touch, post the trivia of your day connection escapes me. How to use Facebook is part of what the seminar will cover. Maybe I'll learn to like it. We'll see. I hope in this seminar I learn to do a better job of marketing my photos. If so, it will be worth it. 'Right now' I have doubts.

* A "secret group" apparently is one that can only be joined by invitation and can be seen only by members.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

From Pinkney #9 to 2009

We did see in 2009 last night. Diane & I were reading in bed when I looked at the clock and saw it was midnight. I wished her a happy new year with a kiss (our 43rd new year together) and we read for a bit longer before turning out the light. We didn't watch the ball drop. Crystal balls are supposed to tell the future and dropping the ball is symbolic of a blunder. I've never been able to understand why dropping a crystal ball became the way to start a new year.

In the wee hours of the morning I dreamed of driving down the Whitesville Rd. past my 1st school, Pinkney #9 (grades 1-6, fall 1950 through spring 1956). In the dream it was still there although I know the building is long gone along with "the farm" which is what we called the place we lived. We didn't farm the land though unless chickens are enough to make a farm all by themselves. As we drove by Pinkney #9 in my lucid dream* I noticed that the front door was open and someone was using the building as an antique shop. We stopped and I toured the place. It was spruced up a bit but the charred wood still showed around where we once had a chimney fire from the Round Oak stove. The outhouses were still there off either side of the woodshed, girls on the left, boys on the right. I chatted with the owner about going to school there, fetching drinking water from the spring down the road every morning, sledding in the winter and skinny dipping in the brook across the road in spring & fall. A pleasant dream of days gone.

I began the morning by cleaning the pellet stove. Our daughter phoned and in response to my sung "Happy new year to you" she replied "happy arbitrarily designated point in time" which brings up another thing I've never understood about new years. Why does the new year begin over a week after the winter solstice? Logically it should begin at the point when the cycle of days getting longer again begins. Oh well, happy arbitrarily designated point in time to one and all. May 2009 be a great year for you even if it is 10 days late relative to the Sun.

*A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you are dreaming but continue to dream, consciously controlling the dream as it goes. It's sort of like a daydream but you are asleep.