Friday Notes (Feb 17, 2023)

This is a special edition of Friday Notes. I was planning one this month, just not necessarily today. But I want to share a story about doing my taxes. In particular, as a dedicated misanthropic curmudgeon, it’s rare that I get the chance to be positive about something besides the occasional good book or movie.

I also have a lot of notes that accumulated in my Apple Notes app over the years. For years I’ve meant to publish them here so I could delete them from that app.

Better late than never!

The first thing to understand is how much I loathe anything to do with money. All my life I’ve been something of a libertarian anti-materialist, and I’ve long viewed our lust for wealth as a mental illness. There’s nothing wrong with money, per se, it’s a necessary (and inevitable) part of a civilization, but just about every religion, spiritual stance, or moral philosophy cautions about the lust of it.

Generally speaking, obsessions of any kind rarely lead to good results. A lesson humanity repeatedly fails to learn. The notion that, if a company isn’t squeezing every possible penny out of its customers, then it is losing money is, in my view, not just stupid but a sickness.

Why is the world such a shitty place? One answer is that everyone is trying, by hook or by crook, to get whatever money you have. Many are willing to cheat, lie, and defraud you. (I do not understand why we don’t treat spammers as the “clear and present danger” they are and send the military to kill them all.) I don’t care what political party they would be from, I’d vote for, if not campaign for, any politician who vowed to end robocalls, junk mail, and email spam.

I hate advertising in general. A big reason I pay for the premium plan here is to ensure readers aren’t subjected to ads (and, sorry, but I won’t follow anyone whose blog had ads). If I need a service, I’m perfectly capable of going and looking for it. I despise companies pushing products on me, especially when there is literally zero chance of ever being a customer. (Prescription drug ads drive me especially crazy. I’d also vote for any politician who made them illegal.)


Anyway, I’ve never liked dealing with money. Admittedly, I’ve been very lucky to have been born with high intelligence and a love of learning, so I’ve never worried about employment, and never had to worry about being homeless or starving. Much of that is pure luck — an accident of birth — but there has also been a dedication to learning and a lot of hard work.

But, yeah, I do know how lucky and privileged I am. I do give thanks for it.

So, I’ve had the luxury of mostly ignoring money. As an anti-materialist, my needs are small. I drive a ten-year-old car (it’s a 2010, so 13 now, actually), my furniture is simple, I only have a few pair of pants or shoes (lots of tee-shirts, though). My life, in my terms, is fairly luxurious. It suits me.

Again, I digress. “Digression” (or “Tangent”) should have been my middle name.

This is all to frame the notion that tax time creates a molten ball of lead in my stomach. I hate it. Really hate it. Finance and economics are areas I’ve deliberately shunned all my life. My brain, despite being comfortable with quantum mechanics, just can’t wrap itself around money matters. I don’t even balance my checkbook. When I do my taxes, my brain fogs, and I never seem to understand the questions.

I used to do my own taxes. The IRS used to mail the forms, I filled them in as best as I could, and things seemed to work out. Then things got more complicated, and I gave up. Started using H&R Block. For years, I visited their nearby office and just sat and watched the expert do their thing. Eventually, I switched to their online service and have been using that ever since.

They make it as painless as possible (but still painful to me when they ask questions I don’t understand). Retirement has made it a bit simpler. Due to changes in what’s deductible, and my reduced retirement income, it’s the short form, which isn’t too onerous. (Probably be dead simple if I wasn’t so money phobic.)


Which finally brings me to my story. My phobia about taxes usually put me in that group lined up at the mailbox April 15th to get their taxes mailed just before the deadline. Even with H&R, I tended to put off facing doing taxes until the last minute. The last few years I’ve made an effort to “get ‘er done” earlier, and I’ve managed to force myself to do it in February the last two years (H&R Block offers a discount to early birds, so that’s nice).

Wednesday evening, I logged in and did my taxes. Even I will admit they make it fairly painless. (FWIW, I’ve tried other services in other years but was disappointed. I keep coming back to H&R Block.)

Filed the Federal and State taxes online. (Owed them both, so also arranged electronic fund transfers from my banking account.) All went according to plan. I was glad I was done with that for one more year.

Until H&R emailed me (and texted me) that Minnesota had rejected my return!

What? Why?

So, I went back to H&R and refiled (thinking it might have been just a glitch). The state rejected the refile. I tried again and was rejected again. I tried one more time and went to bed. Next morning, yep, rejected again.

I did an online chat with the H&R helpdesk (after a wait queue), and the guy confirmed that everything looked good on their end. He thought maybe there was an issue with the bank. Maybe they were rejecting the fund transfer which caused the State to reject the return.

I didn’t think that was the case, but it was the only thing he could think of. I called my bank. Waited in another queue (wasn’t too bad; none of them were). The very nice bank lady saw no problems on her end (and no attempt by Minnesota to withdraw funds and therefore no rejection).

Back to H&R Block. Got another (better) guy who dug deeper. At first, he thought it had to do with the withdrawal date I’d set (2/15/2023). Thought maybe it had to be after that date but couldn’t say why. I didn’t think that made much sense. Then he dug deeper and came up with the error code from Minnesota. Part of the aggravation was not knowing why Minnesota had rejected the return. Now we had a clue. He suggested I call the Minnesota Department of Revenue (henceforth, the MN DOR).

I did, but all their call takers were in a training meeting and phones were shut off until 10:00. Which, fortunately, was only five minutes away. I called at 10:01, waited in a short queue, and got a very nice lady who was very diligent. At first, she couldn’t find the error code (0628), but finally traced it down to an error on line 29 of my M1M form. Apparently, the amount entered was too high.

Except that line was blank! The line is Payment from the Minnesota Frontline Worker Pay Program — which is one of those questions I had no clue about, never heard of, and certainly didn’t enter any amount on. In fact, I never even saw the M1M form. It’s something H&R Block filled in based on the data I’d entered.


The very nice diligent lady said she needed to get the tech people involved to figure out what happened, and could she call me back.

Major kudos to how, both times she put me on hold she said it would be no more than five minutes, and it was less than five minutes both times. In fact, the first time, she came back to say she needed to put me on hold a bit longer. Such nice customer service! Truly, kudos to my state! In a like vein, she told me she’d get back to me no later than 48 hours. This was yesterday morning.

She got back to me early this morning. They’d found a bug, squashed it, and I should go ahead and have H&R refile the return. Which I did, which they did, and about 90 minutes later I got an email saying Minnesota had accepted my return.

Happy ending, happy me, kudos and lollipops for everyone involved.

And now I’m done with the dreaded taxes for one more year!


One thing that really stands out to me is how much better the customer service was, especially with the bank, and extra especially with the MN DOR. Use the “Impressed” crayon to color me today. Such a breath of fresh air compared to my usual experiences with tech companies, may they all rot in hell forever.

I’m extra angry with Apple these days, but that’s another blog post. Today it’s sunshine (literally, the sun is shining brightly even though it’s only 27° out).

§ §

Okay, that used a lot of words. I have plenty more, of course, but I don’t want to bore you. On the other hand, I want to post these notes. They’re mostly for me, ideas that never went anywhere, or brief bits I want to record. Feel free to stop reading at any point.


I’ve posted more than once about Lee Child and Jack Reacher. In Never Go Back (#18, 2013), Reacher tells someone about a key aspect of his character. It’s a line that really spoke to me:

I think ninety-nine of us grow up to love the campfire, and one grows up to hate it. Ninety-nine of us grow up to fear the howling wolf, and one grows up to envy it.

Somehow, in more than one aspect of life, I’m in that 1%. Not financially, obviously, but in how I see life. It’s kind of lonely sometimes, but I yam what I yam (except that I don’t like yams).

BTW, Lee’s brother Andrew has taken over writing the series. I’ve read the three they did together (#25-#27) and liked them. Looking forward to Andrew’s solo effort coming out sometime this year.


Universe, (Patterns,) Laws, (Physics,) Math

If you agree:

  1. The universe has regular laws.
  2. Those laws are isotopic in time and space.
  3. We can discover those laws.
  4. We can describe those laws.

Then the question is: What is the basic language of those laws? The only answer we’ve found is mathematics.

This is why math seems so eerily effective. It’s literally the language of reality.


Me: Being Individual

Long ago a friend said to me: “You go out of your way to be different, don’t you?”

In fact, I don’t. I yam different (so deal with it). And I’ve found that being different leads to a stronger sense of identity; one’s identity is more based on self-discovered ideas rather than those of the vox populi or media. It creates a distance between one’s mind and the collective unconscious (which, let’s face it, is usually stupid).

This thought was triggered by coffee. “Everyone” drinks coffee, right? I don’t. Ever. Tastes like dirty brown water to me. I love the smell, and coffee ice cream is my favorite flavor, and I love coffee candy (and even beer with coffee in it), but I can’t abide the beverage. Don’t like hot beverages in general.

Just me being different again.


One more:

Orwell had been right that mind-controlling messages would be pumped twenty-four hours a day through telescreens, and he’d have recognized the ones in the airport with no way to turn them off. What would have astounded him is that many millions of people would voluntarily tune into them in their own homes, often for hours on end.

From Quantum Night (2016) by Robert J. Sawyer (who I’ve posted about; see this post for a description of that book). A rather good description of all cable news (it’s all mind poison).

§ §

Stay taxed, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

17 responses to “Friday Notes (Feb 17, 2023)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Speaking of the bane of advertising, if you spend much time on YouTube, you may have noticed the increase in the number of ads, both between videos and in the middle of videos.

    Because Google is a bunch of money-loving evil fucks. (I’m questioning whether to dump their YouTube TV service, which is costing $70/month and no longer has baseball. I think I’d rather get my Doctor Who and South Park somewhere else or maybe even not at all. And I think I’m over NCIS, so what do I need live TV for anymore?)

    The YouTube ads are bad enough, but now video content creators are both trying to get you give them money via Patreon and have in-video sponsored ads. Exactly what I meant by lust for money and trying to squeeze out every possible cent. Not just a road to hell, but a major freeway.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I cancelled my subscription to YouTube TV last night. I watched an episode of South Park that didn’t anything for me (those guys have been beating the same drum a long time now) and an episode of NCIS that was so badly written I get through the entire episode. Used to be my favorite show, but I think I’m over it. I don’t really like any of the current characters.

      And the YouTube TV user interface is B³ — Broken Beyond Belief. It really stupid about unwatched episodes of shows you follow (much worse that Hulu’s), it’s clunky and slow to navigate, it doesn’t remember settings, it can’t play a recorded baseball game without constant buffering, and it sometimes locks up my TV and requires a reboot. Just a plain bad app. For a service that costs $70/mo, so the hell with them.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      And the thing is, I went into my TV watching last night in such a good mood. Yet both those episodes were so disappointing, and then I spent over five minutes trying to figure out how to cancel my subscription. Google’s webpages kept sending me in circles. By the time I finally found the link, I was steamed. Good mood totally gone. I had to watch several hours of music videos (and drink several beers) to recapture the “I got my taxes done” happy mood I had when the evening began.

      But, to quote William Congreve, from his 1697 play The Mourning Bride: “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast; To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.” Indeed, it does.

      (That play also has the famous line, “Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d; Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”)

  • Anonymole

    Well, I’ll give you an A+ for verbosity…

    The marvel of your Tax experience was that the information pipeline actually worked — once MN reported back to HRB the clues. To think that a consumer actually instigated a change in code in state-run software program…

    Ads? I use a custom host file to block them on my laptop.

  • Lady from Manila

    I remember an earlier post from way way back about your friend’s quote. I wondered then what took place to make him or her say that about you. And now I’ve learned it was triggered by coffee, am I right? I ain’t fond of coffee either. I drink it occasionally only when my to-do list for the day at home is full. I’m already aware how different you are as an individual, Wyrd. Still I’m hoping you can share the other characteristics (I may not yet know) you possess that set you apart from the rest, if you don’t mind my asking.

    Folks from all walks have been telling me my whole life I am either “so different” from all the others, or odd. My previous best friend had said my apathy for branded items and my non-material inclinations were one of the reasons for the impression. We see eye to eye on that, though I guess I’m more extreme bcz of my endless desire for minimalism and my fascination for spartan and monk-like existence 🙂. My oddness also stems from being very quiet esp within a group of people — due to both being a social misfit and extreme shyness that evolved into misanthropy as I got older.

    Heh, I like yams and love sweet potatoes. I just bought some from the market today. Happy Sunday, Wyrd. 🌿🌝

    • Lady from Manila

      Plus, I forgot, congrats on your success in finishing your tax returns and having it accepted. I majored in Accounting — and Taxation was the subject I disliked the most. That’s why I never made it in that field 😃.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      It isn’t totally clear in what I wrote, but it was the thoughts about the stronger sense of identity coming from being more individual that were triggered by the universality of the love of coffee. My disconnect with the beverage didn’t really sink in until I was a field service tech in Los Angeles. Almost every time I walked into an account they’d ask me if I’d like a cup of coffee. It took me a long time to learn to just say, “No thank you.” I have this tendency to want to explain why I’m declining an offer, and that always makes people look at me funny. TMI!

      I still catch myself doing it in, for instance, supermarkets when they ask if I want to sign up for some loyalty program or other. It triggers an explanation of why I don’t, which triggers those funny looks. Some part of my mother, I think. Declining someone’s offer without an explanation somehow seems rude to me.

      The comment from my friend goes way back to sometime shortly after high school. Pretty sure I was still in college then. She’d talked me into going to an EST seminar with her. EST — Erhard Seminars Training — was some bullshit New Age nonsense (follow that link for details). Part of the deal was that, once the seminar began, you weren’t allowed to leave, even for a bathroom break. It was really stupid, but Heidi convinced me to come with her. She was really into it, so she was off to an advanced meeting, and I was to go to a beginner’s one. It was exactly as stupid as I thought it was going to be.

      Driving home, she asked what I thought, and I was giving my reaction (being polite and kind but still honest), and that’s what prompted her to say that. At the time, to myself, I figured it was more a matter of being sane and intelligent than different, but whatever. Heidi ended up becoming a fundamentalist Christian. She was always kind of a lost child looking for something outside herself to give her life meaning (but that only comes from within). Lost touch with her shortly after that, but my one remaining high school friend is friends with her, so I sometimes hear the latest.

      FWIW, this whole blog speaks to my individuality!

      Yeah, I do sense that you, too, don’t run with the crowd. Good for you! I may not be quite as minimalist as you, but I’ve lived in my present home for 20 years now, and I still have blank walls (to the point a friend once commented on it). The one very recent exception I talked about in this post from last year.

      But I do have shelves of books, CDs, and DVDs. And chachkas accumulated over a long lifetime. They’re so hard to dust I don’t bother, and I’ve been thinking I should really toss most of them. In some cases I barely remember where they came from. Too many memories!

      It’s funny about misanthropy, isn’t it. It is an evolved thing; one acquires it from one’s experiences. For me it was being born with defective hearing (that’s gotten worse with age). I couldn’t hear what was going on around me and found participating in social activities a challenge. That distance led to an “outside looking in” effect that let me see how dumb much of our society behaves. You may have experienced something similar due to standing back in shyness. We’re amateur anthropologists studying the primitive peoples!

      It’s a love/hate thing with me. The misanthropy is Yin to the Yang of my fascination with humanity. I just wish we put more emphasis on substance and less on style. The version of humanity I find in art and literature is so much better than the version I encounter in daily life. We can be so much better when we try.

      Am I remembering that you are, or were, an accountant with a hotel? My mind is like Swiss cheese these days, so forgive me if I’m completely wrong. Or are you enjoying retired life now? I do love not having to be part of the rat race anymore!

      Enjoy your yams!

  • Lady from Manila

    As a follower then and now, your blog has indeed revealed and spoken well of your unique individuality. Although you’ve made it clear to me (in a few of your comments) you’ve no intention to make it about your personal life. Still, you’ve given away, every now and then, some of your intimate stories and happenings esp in your replies to your other blogmates — which I delightfully considered a bonus. I pushed my luck as to my request if you could share more 😉.

    I’ve been aware of your hearing issues which you had mentioned in the past more than once yet I’ve been clueless as to the degree of your hearing capacity. You held ideal jobs so I had guessed the problem was minimal.

    My only collection is also books (both fiction and nonfiction) and magazines — nothing very heavy, though, on the mind (unlike yours) 🙂.

    I’m kinda living the retired life, yes, for now — not by choice — after I closed my tiny business during the pandemic. It’s good I’ve been able to save, not to mention my simple life affords me not to rush getting back to work again. Although I’m making plans to resume an old job, hopefully this year.

    No apologies, Wyrd. It’s alright. We lost touch for six years. 🙂🌻

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Actually, not really the intimate personal stories so much as those I’ve told many times to many people over the years. There are a couple of exceptions to that, but I don’t treat the blog as a “dear diary” and don’t intend to live my life online.

      My metaphor is of one of those castles where a family lives, but which has rooms open to the public for tours. The American White House is (or used to be) the same way. Public tours, but the First Family actually lives there. My “castle” likewise has public areas and private ones. True for everyone, really, to one degree or another.

      My hearing issues are anything but minimal. Much of my work life has been solo, programming or fixing machines, so it didn’t have the impact that it might in other jobs. It’s gotten really bad over time. I really can’t watch TV or YouTube without Closed Captions.

      Your business, you did ESL teaching? Hence your excellent English? Am I completely wrong about you working for a hotel? Thought I remembered a picture you took of yourself there, but maybe I’m thinking of a vacation pic you posted. As you say, it’s been a lot of years.

      I started the fifth season of Ally McBeal last night. It’s hard to tell given how much I dislike the writing and the main character, but I think this season really is worse. Stupider, somehow. A lot of the same ruts, plus a bunch of new characters. Meh. Only 18 episodes left. Will I watch them all? Maybe, but only to see how it all ends. (Maybe I should just skip to the last three.)

      • Lady from Manila

        I see. How then are you able to communicate effectively with your friends when you get together, if I may ask?

        You’re more fortunate than me as my vision has gotten worse when I reached my 50th year a few years ago due to advanced glaucoma. I’ve had that ailment since my 20’s — not caused by any metabolic disease as far as I know. I’ve used strong eyemed drops half of my existence and I’ve gotten tired doing that. Still I’ll be visiting a new ophthalmologist this week to determine what’s best to do. I’d rather go deaf than blind.

        Documenting my feelings, stories, and personal issues has often felt therapeutic. Plus one of my favorite quotes tells of how easier it is to reveal (my) secrets or ongoing emotions to strangers, specifically online. Fondness for reading memoirs and Dear Diary blogs figures heavily why I got hooked on Bronxboy (where I found you 🙂) and Doobster’s sites a long time ago.

        ESL teaching was one of my several ex-jobs 🙂, yes. The tiny business I had to fold up during the pandemic was the online lottery ticket selling booth (which I’d been quite relieved to let go — I detest any form of gambling. I endured it for years only bcz my ex-husband left it to me so I could support our son on my own). I’m planning to do English tutoring here in my new area (our ancestral home) where I just moved into.
        I did work as a bookkeeper in a posh army restaurant, though, not in a hotel.

        Try to see Ally McBeal to its last since you already purchased all the episodes. The term stupid fits describing those last ones, to be frank. 😃

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Heh. With difficulty and no small amount of frustration all around. A lot of asking people to repeat themselves. A lot of guessing (which I’ve gotten good at), and a little bit of lip reading. I can tell my true friends by those who remember to speak up just a little. Others, whom I’ve known for decades, keep dropping their voice to that Minnesota shy unconfident soft speak. (Which drives me crazy; there was a guy in my office way back when who spoke so softly no one could hear him; everyone was like, “What’s this guy’s problem? Speak up, dude!” Welcome to my world! My “gotta reach the back row” stage training makes me particularly unsympathetic to that.)

        Oh, dear! Glaucoma! How awful! Yeah, I suppose if I had to choose, being deaf would be better than blind. The worst part must be losing the facility. I was born with crap hearing, so it’s been a lifelong thing (that’s gotten worse due to rock-n-roll and age). Losing sight or hearing (or sense of smell or other senses) as an adult seems much worse to me. I hope your visit goes well. I understand glaucoma is treatable, if not curable, but I also understand it might be expensive.

        True that it can be easier revealing inner secrets to total strangers than to friends. You’re not asking them to rewrite what they already know about you. I suppose that’s a big reason why people go to psychiatrists — a helpful stranger. Bar tenders famously get a lot of that, too. I’ve been fortunate, starting in college, to have close enough friends, usually only one at any given time, that we’ve both been able to share our inner selves. I’m pretty open IRL.

        Online lottery ticket selling, yikes! I’m with you on detesting gambling (which I file under “evil”). I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, ever. I worked in Las Vegas one summer (a total blast; weird town), and we’d sometimes hit the blackjack table, but I viewed that as an evening out. I’d go in with only $40 bucks (and we’d go downtown where the $1 tables are), and we used a system that, if you stuck with it, brought the odds close to 50/50 (but the house always wins). Betting a dollar, it would take 40 losses in a row to clean me out, and 40 losses in a row is as improbable as 40 wins. Generally, even if I did get cleaned out, it provided many hours of sitting there, always near a lounge to hear the lounge act, with free drinks and the buzz of the casino and all that humanity to watch. But it was never about the money. The handful of times I’ve visited Vegas since, I drop one quarter in one slot machine because, hey, it’s Vegas, so you just gotta. Mostly it’s about the cheap but good food and various attractions. Major party town!

        So, no hotel. Must have been a vacation pick. You were reclining on a bed? Or I’m thinking of someone else? My brain really has turned to Swiss cheese these days (worries me a little; most of my self-value is associated with my intelligence). If I go off to do four things, I usually forget one of them.

        I didn’t pay for the Ally McBeal series other than what I pay to subscribe to Hulu. It’s just one of the many old shows they have. I know the ratings dropped during that last season, and maybe it’s obvious why. But I try to finish what I start, so I’ll try to tough it out for 18 more episodes. It’s starting to feel like a form of self-abuse, though…

  • Apple: Strike Three | Logos con carne

    […] [The irony is that I had a problem with my taxes, which I’d done earlier that week, turn into a very positive experience with customer support from H&R Block, my bank, and the Minnesota Department of Revenue. See this post.] […]

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