Sunday, January 31, 2010

Contract Work and Taxes

Contract work is like being a soldier. You're working for the greater good for some large entity, but when the machine guns start roaring, you're being sent in first.

I was hired on at work. It's been 17 months in the making. I've made all the contacts I possibly could make, worked all the special projects possible, and created tools and training for other techs to do their job better.

While this was going on, I lived in constant fear of being laid off without notice. When it came time to hand out goodies during the holiday seasons, contractors were skipped. I had my pay cut with only 5 days notice, I haven't had paid vacation, benefits, or a chance in hell of getting a raise. But at least my contracting job took taxes out for me.

Sallie was considered a contractor when working at her first position early in the year. She was working hard, making decent money, but with the way they paid people, she was considered self-employeed and a contractor. When all is said and done, 30% of her wages were taxes. We thought that the $5000 in student loan interest or all the other jobs we've had taking out extra taxes would even it out, but turns out we estimated incorrectly.

We are now the proud owners of several thousands of dollars worth of government debt. Will the government let me do dishes in the back room to pay off my bill? We essentially owe what's the equivalent of a month of pay for both of us, and we have to come up with that by April 15th.

But, like we've been doing for 2 years now, we will somehow come out of this. We're just so tired of finally looking like things are turning around and then something like getting laid off or owing a ton of money to Uncle Sam always seems to reset us.

Everyone keeps saying we will look back at this and laugh and everyone says that they went through this when they first got married too, but I don't know if its exactly the same thing. Sallie and I are trying to establish a life essentially during the worst economy since the Great Depression.

I guess I should just count my blessings and be happy that I got the job when I did. I would've been laid off March 1st if I didn't get the position. If that happened and this ginormous bill, Sallie and I would've been moving back into mom's basement for a few months.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rofl-copters, I luv social media

There's this ridiculous thing called "social media" nowadays. People like throwing the term around like its some sort of legitimate news source. Essentially, this is a fancy pants way of giving your blog, Facebook page, twitter account, and "website" more respectability.

The creation of the term social media has also spawned the term "industrial media." According to Wikipedia, this is essentially all the "old-fashioned" ways we used to get news of the world: newspapers, films, and radio. Essentially, you're considered industrial media if you have editors, fact checkers, and a professional staff.

I love the term "industrial media." Lends to a description this blue collared, sweat beading on your forehead, factory. It gives a connotation that you are outdated and going extinct.

However, your poorly grammered Facebook update, spelling error riddled tweet, and opinionated "news" blog are somehow above this. Its some sort of new Hipster, elitism. "I talk more about Miley Cyrus than CNN, therefore I'm more of an expert on anything she does." B-list celebrities like Perez Hilton have made undeserved careers out of societies insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip.

Some companies are starting to invest in "Social Media" advertising. In my day, those were called banners, pop-ups, and annoyances. Now its a cool way for companies like Pepsi to give some jerk millionaire Facebook executive more money to crowd more of my Facebook page with crap.

Somehow, people believe putting some horribly written, forced rhymed poetry is as deep as anything Yeats could've written. Guess what?, you're wrong. I went to school and learned the finer points of writing and I still haven't come close to Yeats. Just because you post something on your blog, doesn't mean you're talented. Often times, it means just the opposite.

I'm worried about the current state of the internet. Too many people have too many ways to express their opinions. Porn used to be the scariest thing on the internet, now its people like this guy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I like this Band

Just wanted to point out I really like this band. Plus the music video is a Calvin and Hobbes parody which is always cool with me.

A Jagged Gorgeous Winter - The Main Drag from Main Drag on Vimeo.

The Trials and Tribulations of the Post-College Student

Students loans are possibly some of the most criminally insane concepted ways to "help" someone get an education. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the United States is so far behind every other country. The American greed infiltrates the educational system, turning Americans that would love to recieve an extended education away from the system.

For example, one of my best friends Rob, is English. He came to America to study for a bit. He's younger than me, by several years, yet he is currently on his way to a PhD. I'm struggling to pay off a Bacholers degree. Why is this? Well, in England, Rob pays essentially one third of what we pay here, even in our home state. They also have excellerated programs that allow students to get degrees a year or so before most Americans.

You might think that us in America are just getting more of an education, but the fact is, Englad cuts all the fat out of your student plan. I wouldn't have had to take Astronomy, Anthropology, or College Algebra to get an English degree. Some of those classes had interesting concepts, but essentially I was paying $1000 a class... that meant nothing to me.

So currently Sallie and I are paying hard for my student loans. Without giving an exact dollar amount, my student loans cost almost two hundred more than our rent.

Student loans give essentially whatever amount of money, broke, irresponsible college students want and their parents are willing to co-sign for.

The thing is, I didn't have much extra money after loans once rent and books were factored in. I also worked full time, so it wasn't like I had to survive off student loans. I took out exactly how much I thought I needed, and just made it by.

So tell me, why do I have (with interest) about $70,000+ in student loans? I went to school in my state. Went to community college for the first year. I've paid all of my payments on time. There's no reason we should be punished.

We are currently looking into consolidating. Mohela has given my loans to other companies and has been unable to proved me with any information on the subject. Anytime I ask questions, they copy and paste pages from their website as a response. How is that supposed to help me?

So, looking into consolidating, we've found no one will touch all of my loans with a ten foot, high interest, pole. Everyone will either touch my private loans or my federal loans. Not both.

So what are we supposed to do? Should I change my payment plan to the thirty year plan and gain another $40,000 in interest? Should I just default on my loans, ruin my credit for ten years and hope for the best? (BTW: Student Loan defaults are hovering around 7% right now. Seems like I'm not the only one having issues)

So, unless someone has a little less than $100,000 laying around that they are willing to donate to us, we are going to have to go into battle with the beuracracy that is Mohela and find out why our married neighbors that both have four years worth of student loans each, pay almost half of what we do.

Monday, January 11, 2010

But I don't wanna go to church

I don't know why, but church, as long as I can remember, has been a difficult experience for me. I somehow associate church with subconscious bad feelings. I go, but the entire time, no matter what denomination, no matter what time, I go into those buildings tense as can be. My brain sort of shuts down. I'm able to hear, and take in, but unable to interact.

This weekend was no different.

The lesson was about using the gifts that god gave you. If you're a great teacher, you need to teach. The preacher was asking us to examine what it is that we are great at and to embrace it. To me, I suppose, that's writing.

So I paid attention to half the sermon, but then my mind quickly went to working on a chapter in my novel that I've had a horrible case of writer's block on for weeks now, and I somehow was able to work it out in church. Is it some sort of divine intervention?

Normally I can only write when I'm feeling a bit depressed. Normally I can create an artificial "Sadness" with music. The only other time I feel this "inspiration" is when I go to church. I don't know what the connection is there? Is this God's way of showing me my talent or does some traumatic childhood event that I've associated with church actually make me sad every time I go to church to where I come out ready to write.

Would the preacher blame me for only half paying attention since his lesson was about using God's gifts?