Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Real Happy Birthday to ME!

Today is my birthday.

Here's the present I received from The Hobo Brasser.

Free Image Hosting at

(Click on the image for full-size)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It's Howdy Doody Time!

"What time is it, kids?"
Welcome to The Howdy Doody Show, online !

It's Howdy Doody Time,
It's Howdy Doody Time;
Don't just say "Howdy Do"
Say "Howdy Doody Do" ...
I remember Howdy Doody, and the Early Days of Television. Not that we HAD a television set. It wouldn't be practical, considering that there was no cable access ... just antennas ... and there were no television stations in the immediate vicinity of our home in Pendleton, Oregon.

I remember the first time I saw television.
We had gone to visit family friends in Portland, which DID have a television station. Thus, in the early 1950's I saw my first episode of "Dragnet", which years later went into syndication and was presented as "Badge 714", which was Joe Friday's Badge Number in the LAPD.

Dum de dum dum ....
This is the city.
Los Angeles, California.

I remember when our neighbors bought a television.
They invited me over to watch with them in the evenings, after dinner. Hugh and Juanita Murchison became my best friends, and I was nine years old in 1954. A television station had started up in Pasco, Washington, and the signal was strong enough that we could receive a signal. I don't remember the 'network affiliation', but I suspect it was CBS because for years afterword you could only receive that one station, and I saw the CBS peacock for the first time on that television .... in black-and-white.

My favorite shows were "Lone Wolf", "Dateline: Europe" (the James Daly episodes), and "The Crusader" with Brian Keith. My bedtime was 9pm, so I don't know what shows were presented later except that on weekends I could stay up until 10pm. So did the Murchisons.

I remember when my family finally bought a television.
It was a blond Packard Bell. I was ten years old in 1955, and I never spent an evening with the Murchisons again. Instead of talking to each other at dinner (6pm; people ate according to a schedule in those days) we always watched the news. Friday night, it was followed by "The Friday Night Fights"; boxing matches became interesting for the first time, and I learned more than I needed to know about Gillette razors and razor blades.

Later that year, we visited friends in South East Oregon, near the Idaho border. They got a different station, and I saw "Kaptain Kangaroo" for the first time. I didn't realize until years later that Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan) had previously been Clarabelle the Clown on Howdy Doody.

In 1956, I watched Soviet tanks roll into Budapest, Hungary, and I saw my first dead body ... hanging from a rope, by his heels. I'll never forget the image of a thoughtful man who tugged the trousers back over he private parts of the corpse (who was apparently a politician who was, somehow, no longer in power.)

I remember hurrying home after school to watch "The Edge of Night", and later "Dark Shadows".

Sunday Nights were dominated by Ed Sullivan, and "Toast of the Town". (For precise dating of when we bought a television, I saw "Toast of the Town" before the show changed its name.) This is when I learned that New York City was the center of the world. Later, the show became "The Ed Sullivan Show". I saw The Beatles for the first time, didn't like their music. (A few years later I was buying their music ... from the Columbia Record Club. I liked "Hard Day's Night, didn't like "I Want To Hold Your hand". I thought "From Me To You" was the best thing they ever did, but that was before they became famous. What did I know? I knew more than I ever had before, and I was beginning to form opinions, a practice which has, unfortunately, never stopped.)

I really liked Topo Gigio, and Senor Wensas.

I remember summers, when I would stay up late at night to draw cartoon characters and build model airplanes until the television went off the air at midnight.

I remember the "off the air" ceremonies. First they would play a clip of "High Flight" with pictures of a military jet and a flag, and then the National Anthem played over the image of a waving flag. Then there would be a long tone as they showed a test pattern. The announcer would say: "We now conclude our day's programming. We will resume broadcasting tomorrow at nine AM."

That's right. Television went off the air at midnight, and didn't start up again until the middle of the next morning. There were less than a million television sets in America in 1955

I get this number from the Howdy Doody website, a nostalgia webpage which includes a comparison of Howdy Doody, Television and Cultural events from 1917 to 2000. I recommend it because it provides some interesting perspectives on 20th Century history.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Islamo-fascist flame job


I've mentioned before that the Muslim community doesn't seem to care about 9-11, or other outrages against civilization ... buildings ... people. I've openly wondered why they don't react to terrorism. I even suggested (in comments to a previous post) that they might have demonstrated against terrorism as they do about cartoons.

But I never said it as well as did the Dutch cartoonist, Joep Bertrams.

Such eloquence deserves a Pulitzer prize.

All together now ...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tax Time - Free Online Filing

Free File Home - Your Link to Free Online Filing

The Infernal Revenue Service, in it's infinite generosity of spirit, still provides an online filing service for those of us who live online.

If you have an adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less, you can take advantage of this service and get your return posted almost immediately.

I used it last year, and as soon as I find my W2 forms I'll use it again this year.

This is a nice surprise for me, as I had heard that you were no longer permitted to file by phone (my previous favorite way of avoiding all that pencil work.)

As I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago, it's a good idea to grab a tax booklet and estimate your return before you commit to the numbers they calculate for you. My experience last year is good ... I actually got a few more dollars more back than I would have expected. It wasn't much but it was more than I spend for a pound of Vihta Vourhi N-350.

your mileage may vary


I've finished my taxes.

I chose TurboTax as my vendor, and I was delighted that I didn't have to buy or install any software. The entire tax return took about a half hour.

Because I was on a roll, and it was so easy, I paid them another $24.95 to also complete my state taxes. (That's how they make their money out of it ... the federal tax return was, as advertised, free.) I don't begrudge them the expense, because I had already entered most of the information so continuing with the 'state tax' part of the process was fairly painless. Besides, back in the days when I use to take my taxes to an accountant, I paid a lot more than that to have my taxes done.

Another option was to create an electronic signature, or to print out a hardcopy and sign it, then snail-mail that to the tax people. I chose to physically sign the return, so I will still have to spend another $0.39 for each return. But it's easy to do, and my refunds will be electronically deposited to my bank account.

I followed my own advice and estimated what my refund should be. TurboTax came up with the same numbers. Last year I used another vendor (TaxNet) and they got the state tax return very wrong because they miscalculated the appropriate state tax due.

As is true with almost everything, there IS a catch: my tax return is not ready to actually file until it has been reviewed and accepted by the IRS. That reportedly takes 24 to 48 hours, after which time I have to sign in again and complete the return. This came as no surprise to me, because the same thing happened last year. I expect to receive an email either tomorrow or the next day, with a link allowing me to log in *(you have to register for the service - no charge for that) and complete the return.

A pleasant surprise was that TurboTax added a step where they (supposedly) reviewed to return to check for common errors which might delay acceptance of the return, or even case the IRS to audit my return. This took no more than a few seconds, and the option was free.

My guess is that it checked for such errors as entering different income amounts for state and federal, or for "wages" (box 1) and "social security wages" (box 3) and "medicare wages and tips" (box 5).

I saved all of my personal information, and since I'm much more pleased with the TurboTax service than I was with the Tax Net, I may use it again next year.