A curious reader named Mel asks:

“I am 70 years old and Social Security is my only source of income.  Do I need to file a tax return?”

Well Mel, the answer is probably not.  Here is a quote directly from the IRS web site (IRS TAX TIP 2008-31):

How much, if any, of your social security benefits are taxable depends on your total income and marital status. Generally, if social security benefits were your only income, your benefits are not taxable. Taxpayers who receive little or no income in addition to their Social Security Benefits would typically not need to file a tax return.

Of course, everybody’s tax situation is different so please consult with a tax professional to be sure that you do not need to file a return.

Thanks for the question, Mel.

Comments No Comments »

An eagle is a score two strokes below par on a single hole.

Eagles are unusual and mostly seen on par-5s when a player manages to reach the green in two strokes and sink a single putt.

An eagle can also be made on a par-4 but that generally means either driving the green (possible only on short par-4s) or holing out from somewhere on the fairway (very unusual).

Technically, an eagle can be made on a par-3 but that’s usually called a hole-in-one!

Comments No Comments »

Well, loosely speaking, being continuous means that the function’s graph moves from one point to another along an unbroken path. If you were drawing the graph by hand, your pencil would never leave the paper as you moved from one point to another on the curve.

A technical definition used by mathematicians is:

A function f is continuous at a point c in its domain iff, given any epsilon greater than zero, there exists a delta greater than zero such that for each point in the domain lying within delta of c the functional value of that point lies within epsilon of the functional value at c.

Aren’t you glad you asked? ;)

Comments No Comments »

My fellow Americans,

Even though US presidential elections take place in November, the winner is not sworn in until the 20th of January after the election.

So, the new president’s term officially starts at 12:00 noon Eastern time on January 20th.  This time around, it looks like it’s shaping up the be quite a party.

Thank you for your question.

Comments No Comments »

A sacrifice bunt is a play in baseball (or fast-pitch softball) where the batter lays down a bunt with the primary goal being to allow one or more runners already on base to advance.  The team up to bat is willing to have the batter thrown out easily at first base (which he usually is) in order to move up the runner(s).

The sacrifice bunt play is chosen when it is deemed preferable to hitting away and risking a double play or a strikeout/pop-up which result in an out too but fail to advance the runner(s).

It’s called a sacrifice bunt becase the hitter is essentially sacrificing his at-bat for what is likely to be an easy out in order to help the team by advancing the runner(s).

Comments No Comments »

A shooting star is not a star at all.  It is the visible trail of a meteroid entering Earth’s atmosphere at very high speed.  Friction with the atmosphere causes such intense heat that a visible trail appears.

In most cases, the meteroid is small and it burns up completely before reaching the ground.  If it does happen to reach the ground, it is called a meteorite instead.

In any case, it is not a star.

Comments No Comments »

My fellow Americans,

The U.S. Senate is made up of two senators from each state.  That currently makes a total of 100 senators - since we have 50 states.

It’s been that way since Hawaii joined the union in 1959.

Thank you for your question.

Comments No Comments »

If you play Blackjack for any length of time (trust me!), you’ll inevitably hear someone say that, “only fools split fours, fives, or faces”. Well, that’s almost correct but not quite.

In fact, it is correct basic strategy to split a pair of fours under the following conditions:

  • It is a multi-deck game (the most common games are 6 or 8 decks dealt from a shoe)
  • The dealer’s up card is a five or a six
  • Double after split is allowed

The last item is the key.  If double after split is not allowed, the proper play is to treat your pair of fours as a total of eight and just hit it.

You won’t win every hand this way but, over the long run, that’s the correct way to play your pair of fours (assuming you’re not counting cards - but that’s a whole separate series of posts!).

So, try it with confidence next time.  And don’t worry about anyone who might give you the “fools” line.  You are right and will do better than those players over time.

Comments No Comments »

Although cranberries were probably available during the first Thanksgivings, sugar, a main ingrediate of cranberry sauce, was a rare luxury and not readily available.  The first known references to cranberry sauce appear around  1663, and mention a sweet sauce made with boiled cranberries served with their turkey.

Comments No Comments »

Synthetic motor oil lasts at least three times longer than conventional motor oil, so 10,000 miles between oil changes should be fine.  Even though synthetic motor oil costs over three times as much as conventional, there are several compelling reasons to use synthetic:

  • Less synthetic motor oil boils off than conventional oil, so fewer particulates are emitted
  • Fewer oil changes means more free time for you
  • Synthetic oil reduces the total amount of waste oil to be recovered
  • Some engines require synthetic oil to maintain warranty; check your owners manual
  • Fewer trips to the shop saves money, so the total cost of using synthetic is reduced

Your owners manual will recommend oil change periods for your vehicle, and may require you to follow this schedule to maintain your warranty.  The Speed Racer recommendation is to live large and change your synthetic motor oil every 10,000 miles.

Comments No Comments »