From Ask Lutz

Taxes, Cats and Footwear

Dear readers,

Please forgive my recent neglect. Here's a triple Ask Lutz to make it up to you.

Dear Lisa,

On my IRS forms and on those Web sites that ask questions before you can register, I typically say I'm in the "information industry." It would be more exact to say I'm a freelance journalist, but "information industry" nicely focuses the question I'd like to ask you. As you know, the Web is full of information and is a great place to go for it. As a result, I make a lot of use of the Web in my work. Specifically, when I get paid usually it's to write about things I learned about in part on the Web. Now, that sounds pretty industrious, doesn't it? So my question is--given my profession—is it reasonable to count myself as working, or let's say to count myself as employed, so long as I'm spending my time on the Web?

If your professional opinion is that counting 100% of this as work time (as I do in my Schedule C deduction for DSL) is stretching it, then how would you advise me to estimate the correct percentage?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Busy Bee

P.S. Where I wrote "If your professional opinion..." I meant to write of course "your unprofessional opinion." I suppose it just shows I'm a journalist that I require copyediting.


Dear Busy Bee,

You’re testing my patience. As you later clarified, it is my “unprofessional” opinion that you are after. However, seeking my advice is most appropriate when a) experts on the subject are extremely rare b) experts are an expensive luxury item (i.e. pet psychics, etc.) c) experts do not exist d) experts are on an extended vacation and unavailable or, most importantly, e) the issue is of little consequence and therefore locating a real expert is unnecessary.

As someone in the “information industry” you must be aware that there are professional individuals called CPA’s (Certified Public Accountants) who are licensed and offer tax advice and preparation in exchange for currency. If you feel that a private accountant would be too expensive, you should consider consulting one the numerous low-cost tax preparation services that a journalist, so familiar with the web like yourself, should be able to locate on his/her own time without my help.

I welcome solicitations for advice, but not from some lazy freelance journalist in the “information industry” looking to save a few bucks or a few hours. I like to help people who can’t help themselves. I don’t like to waste my time, because you don’t want to waste yours.

Here’s my advice to you: Don’t mess with the IRS.
Best Wishes,


Dear Lutz,

Someone wrote in and asked why the cat drank from a tap only. (See CAT TROUBLE) You told them, turn off the tap and put fresh lemon in the bowl...

The cat doesn't drink from the bowl because it cannot see the water...It suffers from depth perception...and cannot by looking at the water tell how deep it is.

The best thing to do is to buy a kitty fountain that continuously runs...if the cat will not drink from that try bowls with different colors and patterns...if the cat still will not drink you can try leaving a drinking glass filled to the very top with water... or try a little tuna juice in the drinking water as well...

Hopefully the person didn't take your advice or her poor cat will have died from dehydration...


Hopefully the kitty isn't dead.


Crazy Expert On Cats’ Beverage Consumption*


Dear Crazy,

Thank you for your delightful letter and your most polite expression of your concern. I welcome criticism and comments. You have kindly provided my second ever letter of complaint in the history of Ask Lutz. The first was from my friend Morgan who mentioned that my comment on the Oxford English Dictionary being an inappropriate wedding gift was wrong and that many people would very much enjoy receiving the OED as a wedding present. However, I should point out that one should only give the OED to friends who like looking up words in dictionaries. Otherwise, I don’t think it will go over so well.

You sure seem to understand the workings of a cat’s mind. I’ve never heard about this whole depth perception thing and, frankly, I’ve decided to take your word on it. It does seem funny though that everyone I know who has a cat, uses a plain old bowl on the floor and none of their cats seem particularly dehydrated to me. I could be wrong. Perhaps that is the explanation for their dry, rough tongues. As I said before: I am not a veterinarian or an expert in any way on cats. You, being what appears to be an expert, have mentioned a some alternatives for a dehydrated cat that I encourage my readers to consider. I do hope that these are serious suggestions and not simply weak attempts at peddling your side business of kitty fountains and colored cat bowls.

I too hope that I am not proximately responsible for a dehydrated, sick or dead cat. I'd like to point out that I posted this column in April of 2002. You sure took your time passing on this life or death information to me. If we got a dehydrated (or worse) cat on our hands, let it be on your head too.

Please, please write again if you would like to toss some more guilt around.

Best wishes,


*If you don't use a sign off name, I provide one for you.


Dear Lisa,

We just bought my son a new pair of suede bucks school shoes and he is having a problem with them slipping in the back and causing blisters on his ankles. We have bought heel slips, stuffed the toe and nothing seems to work. Help....Do you have any other suggestions?


Sore Heels :(


Dear Heels,

Let’s face it: Life’s rough. Your kid’s gonna learn it sooner or later. He might have a cat’s death on his conscience or one day file a shoddy tax return and end up in a federal prison. With all the doom and gloom that’s bound to come, what’s a blister? Really? Life’s full of blisters and maybe it’s best to let him suffer some pain and build up a callous or two.

Unfortunately, you didn’t tell me your son’s age and, therefore, I’m uncomfortable selling the callous idea without that knowledge. I mean, how callous would I be if I were to suggest you let your toddler’s feet bleed. Obviously, I don’t want young children running around in footwear agony. Even if they are fashionably attired in suede bucks. But let’s say your son is 13, or 19, maybe he’s 35 and returning to college. Then I would promote the ‘forget about your son’s blister’ idea. He must learn to deal as do you.

That said, I believe I would be remiss if I were not to offer some sound blister advice. As always, I must mention that I am not a podiatrist nor am I an expert on feet or foot problems. If a blister does not already exist in the area, but you’re dealing with new shoes that have blister potential, you have a number of options. 1. Double up on socks—that usually cuts down on the chafing. 2. Try moleskin on the potentially problem area. Make sure that you cut out a piece wide enough to avoid slippage from the rubbing of the shoes, and never place moleskin directly on damaged skin. 3. Rub Vaseline on the area of the foot that is blister prone, then put on the sock. Never do this the other way around. 4. Break-in shoes incrementally. Take them off right when you feel the pinch. Do not let the blister begin to form. 5. Don’t wear shoes. (Unfortunately, this can be a problem in most restaurants and schools.) I feel obligated to go on record saying that I don’t think your son should miss school because he has blisters.

As always, please complain if you have a problem with my advice.

Best Wishes,


Next Ask Lutz: No More Flat Tires!!!

Prev Ask Lutz: Tongue-Tired?