Nature Feed

Greenbelt means good birding

Greenbelt: An undeveloped swath of land designed to keep a bit of the country in otherwise urban, or quickly becoming urban, settings. Greenbelt: Our home in Maryland for almost two decades, one of three "green towns" built as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Greenbelt: As in The Greenbelt, the blog from The Ridger. This week, she's the host of I and the Bird #44. I'll let her tell you about the collection: "Below, grouped (albeit roughly) into these four categories you will find posts of all sorts, having in common a love of birds and the desire to... Read more →

Serendipitous sighting

"Kay, can you come down here right now?" That was the hubby about noon today. Being the good wife, I immediately headed down the stairs, to be greeted with, "Do you have on shoes?" I did. "Come out here." "Here" was our front yard and the reason for the urgency was a flock of at least two dozen Cedar Waxwings. The lovely birds were bouncing back and forth from our next door neighbors' shrubs to the big old oak tree across the street. A couple landed, briefly, in a smaller oak right at the edge of our yard. One looked... Read more →

'Tax Policy Decreed by Merry Men in Tights'

I cannot tell you just how much I wish I had come up with that headline. But I must confess. It's the creation of a copy editor at the New York Times. Now that you've had a few minutes to conjure up all sorts of interesting, and perhaps disturbing, IRS dress code images, here's what it refers to: the new BBC America series Robin Hood. The Times' reviewer likes the show. That's good to know, but I was going to watch it regardless. I've always loved the tales of Sherwood Forest (and yes, it's a real place). And, as the... Read more →

Beating the cold by birding online

Mary Ann at Five Wells is the host this week of I and the Bird #37. Her Thanksgiving-themed presentation is quite fitting. I have additional thanks today. Since an Arctic front blew into the Austin area earlier today, our temperature never got out of the 30s and the biting winds (gusts also in the 30s, miles per hour, that is) made even going out to pick up the paper or collect the mail miserable. I immediately flashed back to this posting about our Austin home and winter weather; it's still applicable almost nine months later. But today seems colder than... Read more →

Mulling Migrations

Fall is in full force, so it's only fitting that we take a break to enjoy the beauty of the season and its natural wonders. Yes, birds and butterflies are heading south, but the Migrations we focus on today is Dan Rhoads' blog, which is host of the 35th I and the Bird. IatB is one of my favorite blog carnivals, not just because I love reading about other birders' experiences. But the weekly offering also allows me to vicariously travel -- and observe -- birds and their habitats that I haven't seen in a while or, in most cases,... Read more →

A walk on the Wild Basin side

The last few days have produced a decided autumn chill here in Austin, so the hubby and I took advantage of the drop in temperatures to explore the area's outdoor offerings. For months we've seen the discreet signs for Wild Basin Preserve as we drove along Loop 360, west of the city in Travis County. In a state known for excess, these markers are so unobtrusive that you almost think they're trying to keep anyone from finding the place. Luckily, despite the obscure signage, we did locate the exit and discovered a lovely 227-acre enclave that made us forget how... Read more →

Beyond nest eggs: I and the Bird #33

This is a personal finance blog, with a special eye kept on taxes and how they affect efforts to build a nest egg. But as regular readers know, I'm a firm believer in integrating real life into financial life. After all, it doesn't matter how nicely you feather your financial nest if you don't use some of your earnings to follow what makes you happy. For many people, travel is their passion. And that's particularly true of birders, who take every chance they get to glimpse birds in locales near and far. So as host this week of I and... Read more →

All hat and thirsty cattle

We tend to think of natural disasters in terms of sudden, horrifying events that sweep through an area and ravage the countryside, as well as the psyches of its residents. But disasters can be just as devastating at a much slower pace. Take, for example, drought. You go a few days without rain. That stretches to weeks, then months. One day you look at the calendar and a year has passed without any appreciable rainfall and it seems like every ounce of water around you has dried up. We're in the midst of that here in Central Texas. Oh, we... Read more →

Carnivals are acoming

It's going to be a busy week here at the ol' tax blog. First, we're taking a brief break from taxes on Thursday. That day, Sept. 28, we will be hosting the next edition of I and the Bird. We're delighted to be tapped as hostess, since IatB is THE Internet birding hot spot. Regular readers know that our feathered friends are one of my nontax passions, so I'm looking forward to putting together a group of fine avian bloggings from some of cyberspace's dedicated birders and naturalists. If you've got a bird-related submission, send it along by Tuesday, 9/26,... Read more →

Money can't buy you ...

Love, according to the Beatles, or happiness either, according to professors from, in part, the University of Michigan. OK, so Blue researchers might not be as lyrical as John, Paul, George and Ringo. But they say the connection between how much green you have in the bank doesn't necessarily translate into seeing life through rose-colored glasses. In fact, the more money you earn generally means you are likely to spend more time commuting, working and doing other things you feel you just have to, rather than want to, do. And all these activities, say the professors, tend to provide us... Read more →

Betting my retirement on Avian Select Fund 2006

OK. There's no such fund. But apparently there should be. A New York Times reporter recently visited Central Park with Peter Mott, president of the Big Apple's Audubon chapter, and discovered first-hand how birding skills encompass talents that successful investors also employ. In his story, birder initiate Harry Hurt cites a November 2002 Harvard Business Review interview with David Sibley, of the famed Sibley Guides, and fellow birder Dr. Julia Yoshida. Hurt goes on to quote the interview and, in the last sentence of the excerpt below, adds a personal observation: "Bird watching, of all the natural pastimes, is most... Read more →

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a Carnival of Cars!

Section targeting

The latest Carnival of Cars and the new Superman movie converged this weekend, making me realize why I've always liked Batman so much more than that dude from Krypton (or the gas either, for that matter). To paraphrase the Dark Knight as portrayed not-so-darkly by Val Kilmer in Batman Forever, "It's the car, right? Chicks love the car." (Batmobile image courtesy of La Galerie.) OK, I'm not that shallow. I prefer Batman because I like my heroes a bit on the anti side of the line, and Batman is the best noir, literally and cinematically, crime fighter... Read more →

Taking down the tents: Blog Carnival Archive

The Blog Carnival Archive was transferred to a new blog page on Jan. 9, 2000. Please go there for the most current information on the various blog carnivals in which Don't Mess With Taxes participated. The midway was getting a little crowded on the old home page, so we're going to strike some of the tents and put a few rides in storage in this Blog Carnival Archive. This is the complete listing of the various carnivals, festivals and cavalcades that included a Don't Mess With Taxes entry. This listing does not, however, include the Carnival of Taxes. Access to... Read more →

Move over manatees

Life in the Sunshine State apparently agrees with bald eagles. At least state wildlife officials think it does. Wednesday, they removed the national symbol from Florida's list of threatened species. The state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also voted to lessen protection of Jimmy Buffett's environmental cause celebre, the manatee. The oddly endearing sea cow has been downgraded from endangered to threatened status. Florida's three-tiered wildlife protection system (not to be confused with the state's two-tiered property tax regime discussed here and here), includes endangered, threatened and, at the lowest level, special concern classifications. While it's comforting to see wildlife... Read more →

Time to prepare for Mother Nature's less maternal side

During this string of hot and dry spring days, it's hard to image that 25 years ago today, Austin suffered a deadly flood. Austin's Memorial Day Flood of May 24, 1981, killed 13 people, destroyed 600 homes, flooded dozens of businesses and left $36 million in damages in its wake. The picture below shows damage done to a car dealership along Shoal Creek. The power of water has always captivated me. Much of the fascination is because I grew up in desert West Texas, where not a stream was to be found. The only "river" we ever saw was from... Read more →

Winging it

If you've ever perused my list entitled "Fun beyond taxes, truly!" about midway down the blog's left column, you've noticed a lot of avian references. That's because the hubby and I have been birders our entire married life. Maybe it was the change of terrain that sparked it. We started our marital life in the Washington, D.C., area and bought our first home in suburban Maryland. Coming from the desert scrub of West Texas and the farmland of the state's High Plains, we reveled in the region's abundance of trees, shrubs and water sources. One evening, out walking in our... Read more →

Springtime's natural and financial storminess

Our first spring in Central Texas has been fantastic. Early in the season, we discovered bluebonnets in our yard. When we moved into our house last summer, the flowers had long since bloomed and disappeared. Now we're collecting seed pods to spread around the property and help boost the number of gorgeous indigo patches next year. We also have enjoyed the return of the barn swallows. These graceful birds were here when we moved in, but left for winter. Our garage area has a carport extension that the birds find an acceptable substitute for the bridges where they often nest.... Read more →

On the gas tax road again

Just a few days ago I wrote about hybrid vehicles as a way to deal with outrageous gasoline prices and claim a nice tax break. Since then, a couple of things have happened. The IRS announced two more autos, Lexus and Toyota 2007 models, are now on the clean-fuel tax credit list. I added them to the original post. And Congress continues to toy with taxes as an answer to the pump price problem. To go along with the current hybrid vehicle tax break, Congress is said to be considering another credit for gas-electric cars. Also being discussed is a... Read more →

Putting up with crap

We've all been there. Your boss or coworkers do stupid things that make your job harder. Your family makes demands of you, financially or emotionally or physically, that, because they are family, you tolerate. We even have to put up with crap from strangers. The idiot that cuts you off on the highway. The moron who takes 23 items to the express checkout line. The bozo at the Post Office who wants to look at every available stamp design before buying one to put on a single letter. Crap, crap, crap! It's a handy euphemism. Just a hint of scatology... Read more →

Artful unpacking

The North American truck dropped off our stuff here at our suburban Austin home on July 1, 2005. Now, eight months later, we're still unpacking. Well, technically, I guess we were still partially packed. All of our artwork has remained in its moving boxes, stacked in our dining room. I guess it's a good thing we decided to donate that old table, chairs and breakfront to Goodwill before we headed westward, or it would be really crowded in there! This last weekend, though, I got energized. I opened up the 18 mirror boxes and started pulling out the 45 large... Read more →