Showing posts from 2014

Taxation idea... still valid?

While going through some old stuff, I found this 1990 letter to my Congressman. Although it was written 25 years ago is it still a valid idea?

April 13, 1990 Congressman Owen Pickett
Washington, DC

Dear Congressman Pickett,        I would like to propose an alternate form of taxation. As an independent business owner, I am acutely aware of the twisted and grossly unfair way that we are taxed. Let me tell you right off that I do not mind paying taxes… my fair share, that is. I feel very strongly that all people should pay taxes. Our system of government 'persuasion' by non-taxation has everyone constantly worried about the tax consequences of every business decision. The first question is not whether something is good for business, rather we worry about how it will affect our taxes. We as a people give billions of dollars per year to banks just so we do not have to give it to the government. Is this logical? I think not.        Most of the tax reform proposals I have heard about r…

Sustainability... For Business?

Sustainability. It is one of those words whose meaning has shifted, in recent years, from the dictionary definition to a more trendy meme-style feeling. When I hear "sustainability", I think of environmental activists and left-wing reactionaries with an agenda to sell but I also think about average folks who just want things to work year after year in a non-wasteful manner.

You probably thought this posting was going to be about how businesses can operate in a more sustainable environment, but I want to talk about another aspect of sustainability... back to the dictionary meaning of the word: "able to be maintained at a certain rate or level." I want to know why businesses cannot exist in a sustainable, non-growth manner.

Friday's Wall Street Journal had an article about how Tesco, UK's massive grocery and merchandise retailer, is struggling to continue its growth curve. Because growth has subsided, the Tesco stock has plummeted over the past 12 months. Yet,…

How to fix credit and debit card fraud

(The-Asterisk asterisk: I was writing this post before the Apple announcements on September 9, 2014)

I am not an expert in the minutiae, but I know a bit about security. Here is my 'simple man' idea to fix the rash of fraudulent credit card charges and debit card withdrawals happening more and more these days.

Let's first stipulate that just about everyone has a smart phone onto which an app can be installed, or to which a text message can be sent.

Every credit card on file would be registered with an app installed on a phone belonging to the cardholder. Even with multiple cards of various types, the user would be covered (hopefully by a single app.)

So, when you go into Target or Home Depot to make a purchase with your compromised credit card, you swipe it at the point of sale (POS) and during the verification process, a challenge procedure is triggered. The credit card clearing house would send an alert message to your app (or a text message to your phone). This message …

Got dem 'ole Chromecast blues

It all started with a lightning strike last week.

We love the TV show 24. Jack Bauer is the man, so we DVR'd the series when it started again in May.

Last week a TREMENDOUS thunderstorm moved through our area and there was a lightning strike at our house. It was so close that there was no delay between the flash and the thunder.

Nothing appeared damaged until Monday night. We always start watching the show about 15 minutes after it starts so that we can zip through the annoying swamp of commercials. So, we settled into the den around 9:15 and turned on the DirecTV box and the TV.

"No Signal" was the message on a beautiful blue background.

The little orange light on the front of the DVR indicated that it was recording the show so I didn't want to power cycle the box, but after 20 minutes of trying, I determined that the satellite receiver had taken a hit. No 24 for us tonight and we had no recording of this episode.

The next day, I went looking for the video. Since I …

Why Internet connectivity is not like any other utility

With the recent FCC ruling, which seems to be pushing the door closed on the "open Internet", fresh in everyone's mind, Comcast (also known as the 800 pound gorilla, or the "Evil Empire") is indicating that within five years, Internet usage will be metered like electricity or water. Kind of sounds like a utility, doesn't it? But, if Comcast and other Internet service providers (ISPs) are deemed to be utilities, then they would not be able to discriminate against consumers and content providers like they can now.

Comcast really wants it both ways. They want to tie up their cable TV offerings, restricting access to content that they have purchased, plus they want to either charge alternative content providers like Netflix or Amazon or put a "pay for usage" billing model on consumers. If I was Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Cox or any other ISP, I would want it that way too, but there is precedent to stop it.

Like electricity or water, there is a convey…

Creeping, Climbing, Crawling Elegance

As someone who has written software, I became aware of the term creeping elegance early on. It is the natural tendency to add features and to keep tweaking at the user interface making the application "just a little bit better".

If you succumb to the siren call, you can end up spending a lot of time creating (and fixing) features that no one really wants, while avoiding spending time innovating. It is my humble opinion that Apple has swerved into the world of creeping elegance with its latest v7.0 and v7.1 releases of its iOS.

Apple released the new v7.0 in September 2013. I resisted upgrading my iPhone and iPad for a while, adhering to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" maxim, as well as the "don't upgrade until the .1 version is out" theory. When I finally upgraded sometime in November, I was underwhelmed by what I saw.

It appeared to me that Apple changed the user interface (UI) just because it could. After all, how can you be edgy if yo…

Is Better, Better?

I just participated in a short thread on Facebook about childhood diseases prompted by a tweet from Donald Trump and a Mother Jones article.

It got me thinking about how many diseases I contracted as a child (measles, chickenpox, mumps, influenza, mononucleosis, etc.) and how many I was inoculated against (polio, smallpox, tetanus, diphtheria, yellow fever, typhoid, etc.) If one were to listen to modern day experts, I should be dead by now.

It seems that every technological advancement fixes 99% of the problem, but then there pops up an advocacy group to wear us down over the final 1%.

Remember how filthy and stinky our air was back in the 1950s and 1960s from car exhaust? We got rid of almost all of it with catalytic converters and changing gasoline formulation, but now there are still groups that go apoplectic over the last .01% of any tailpipe emissions.

Look at our water quality. Rivers used to catch on fire! So, now, we have rivers so clean you can almost drink out of them, but …

Is Paul Ryan's Report on Poverty Skewed?

My local newspaper recently ran an opinion piece by Paul Krugman concerning Paul Ryan's report on the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. The Fiscal Times also ran a piece on the same report. In my response, I reference a column by Coby Dillard which is linked here. I wanted to share my response to the newspaper.
Paul Krugman is the undoubtedly the most arrogant pundit to grace your pages. In “The Hammock Fallacy” he criticizes Rep. Paul Ryan’s House Budget Committee’s new poverty report for twisting the conclusions of research cited so voluminously in the report. In spite of, or perhaps because of his Nobel Prize in Economics, Mr. Krugman makes no such citations himself, relying solely on his own unassailable version of facts to rebut the Congressman.
Research properly done produces statistics and figures commonly referred to as facts. Reports, based on these figures, produce opinions. Like the story of the six blind men and the elephant, a set of facts handed to a number of …


At one point on Friday, there was a NINE AND A HALF MILE BACKUP at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel! To Norview Avenue! NINE AND A HALF MILES!

Every time I hear someone wanting to give the government more power and to let them spend more money on this program or that program, I think about our traffic situation in Hampton Roads.
A backup of that magnitude in our metro area is inexcusable. Highway traffic (especially on our interstates) is the lifeblood of our region. Unless a bomb went off in the tunnel or a ship crashed into one of the bridges, there should NEVER be a tie-up like that.
If you owned a business and someone dropped a big messy jar of something at the only door in and out of your establishment, what would you do? Take four or five hours to clean it up, or would you swoop in, scoop up what you could, mop up the rest, and worry about who to blame afterwards?
NO ONE seems to care about the effect of these government indecisions on "the folks". Whether it is tolls o…

Education: If it ain't working, continue trying the same stuff again and again

Progress is a funny thing. You can walk into a brand new house, or a house that is 50 or 75 years old, and fundamentally, it is the same. You have your electric outlets, pipes for water, drains for the sinks, ducts for the air conditioning and some sort of heat. Lights haven't changed much, Sure, your phone lines feel a little lonely, your TV antenna wires have been replaced with cables and you have a lot more junk that you don't need, but really... thing haven't changed that much in a house.

But think about how your life has changed, how you entertain yourself, how you eat differently, how you communicate and where/how you work. That has changed monumentally, but from the outside it all looks hauntingly familiar.

So, what about education? Lots of change, there. Modern elementary and middle schools look like colleges, staffing levels are through the roof, the cafeteria serves all three meals and school has become as important for its day care function as it has for its edu…
Strassel: Harry Reid's Senate Shutdown The Senate didn't pass a single appropriations or jobs bill in 2013. by Kimberley A. Strassel (From 1/10/14)
The popular judgment that Washington's dysfunction is the result of "partisanship" misses a crucial point. Washington is currently gridlocked because of the particular partisanship of one man: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And Republicans are warming to the power of making that case to voters.

It's often said the 113th Congress is on track to become the "least productive" in history—but that tagline obscures crucial details. The Republican House in fact passed more than 200 bills in 2013. Some were minor, and others drew only GOP votes. But nearly a dozen were bipartisan pieces of legislation that drew more than 250 Republicans and Democrats to tackle pressing issues—jobs bills, protections against cyberattack, patent reform, prioritizing funding for pediatric research, and streamlining regul…

Oh, the Humanity!

Outrage. That sense of being incredibly, vein-poppingly angry about something you have no control over and that you feel is totally someone else's fault. The sort of outrage that residents of Ft. Lee, NJ are expressing this week over the discovery that members of Gov. Chris Christie's staff ordered lane closures as alleged retribution for Ft. Lee's mayor's unwillingness to endorse Christie's bid for reelection.

I get it. It sucked being backed up in traffic for close to an hour. Normal rush hour gridlock extended into the mid-day time frame. Heck, people are even calling it a "public health issue" because ambulance service couldn't get across the bridge.

But what about non-Governor-caused traffic tie ups? Those where there is a bad accident and a major highway is shut down for hours with no regard for those involved in the tie-up? Where is the outrage? Where is the class-action lawsuit when you have been held captive in a traffic snarl for 90 minutes…