Monthly Archives: April 2012

Tax Facts

  • The top 1% pay 38% of Federal Income taxes
  • The top 5% pay 59% of the taxes and make 30% of the income
  • The top 10% pay 70% of the taxes
  • The top 25% pay 86% of the taxes
  • The top 50% pay 97% of the taxes
  • The bottom 47% of taxpayers pay no Federal Income Tax.
  • About half of them get money back from the Government – a “refund” on taxes they did not pay.
  • 70% of donations to charities come from 10% of taxpayers (Indiana + Syracuse University study)


There is an elephant in the room

More than two years ago, there was a battle royal going on between Amazon and the book-publishing industry. The fight was over who gets to set the price. The general consensus among authors at the time was that Amazon (who wanted to sell e-books at a discounted price of $9.99) was evil, and that the Publishers (who knew the writing business best) should set the price.

At the time, In a blog post entitled “When Elephants Fight” I opined at the time that the publishers should not be allowed to set the price, because they would push prices up and blame the resulting drop in sales on “piracy”

Two years on, e-book prices have gone up, but that has not affected me. Although I have purchased two Kindles since then (and run Kindle software on several other devices), I have not spent more than $3.99 on a Kindle book.

Oh, and the DOJ has hauled half a dozen of the major publishers, along with “Co-conspirator” Apple, into court.

As Jim Carrey once said: “I’m sick of being right”

In Praise of Windows 98

I still have a couple of Windows 98 machines in my house. They are used mainly for gaming – particularly older games and flight simulations. They are in great demand when the niblings come to town, as they allow them to “verse” (play against) each other at a variety of games, including Star Wars Racer, Descent 3 and their all-time favorite, Spectre-VR (a 1995-vintage DOS game in which they roll around in tanks and shoot one another). As they grow, I look forward to introducing them to the joys of Battlezone 2, Starlancer, FreeSpace 2, Star Trek: Armada, and Conquest: Frontier Wars

While using these old computers, I could not help contrast how snappy they were. Windows popped open and winked out on command. The Start Menu and Control Panel snapped to attention when invoked and disappeared with alacrity when dismissed. And even when the system crashed or locked up, it only took a minute to reboot the system.

At work I use a Dual Core machine running at 3GHz with 4Gb of RAM, running Windows 7. While it has far greater functionality and flexibility, it is slow. There are times when invoking an object – like the Control Panel, or the “All Programs” menu, or viewing a non-system drive can take more than a second. Other functions – like the Control Panel – can take even longer.

That got me thinking about where we went wrong. My smartphone – A Motorola Droid X2 – has a Dual-Core 1GHz processor and 8GB of on-board storage, along with a 32GB microSD chip. It is more powerful than any of those old computers. And yet it takes a minute and a half to boot, and another two minutes for all of the the apps, widgets, services and media scanners to settle down and become completely usable. That’s three and a half minutes from turning the phone on to the point where you can actually do something useful with it. My previous phone — a decidedly non-smart Motorola W755 — was ready for use inside 15 seconds.

So where am I going with this? In a word, usability. Shinier, flasher phones are not the answer. Slimmed-down appliances are – this is why the iPod is so popular – it does one thing extremely well, and doesn’t try to do too many jobs. This is where Palm went wrong – they had a device that did a small number of things well, and tried to make it do more than it was meant to. A little further back, Psion is another example.

And this is why RIM (Blackberry) is a dead man looking for a place to fall.

A Sacred Cow Dies

Southeast Christian is not our home church, but we have a long-standing tradition of going there every Good Friday. They hold a candlelit service that we have enjoyed attending every year.

When we showed up there earlier today, we were surprised at the traffic, both vehicular and human. But that was nothing compared to the surprise that awaited us in the sanctuary. Instead of a quiet, dimly-lit, reflective atmosphere, we were confronted by bright lights, loud music, and no seats to be had on the ground floor. We ended up – and I do mean up – in the balcony, so far off to one side that we were looking at the backs of the heads of the band.

I am not here to critique the music or the preaching. Everything that SECC does reflects high values of quality and production.

Judging by the size of the crowd – easily double over the previous year – this is what folks want. But I am not “folks”; I came to take time away from the cares of this world and seek a time of quiet reflection, and stumbled into a rock concert. As a result, I left feeling unsettled and shortchanged.

To quote Timon the Meerkat: “Did I miss something?” Am I turning into a crusty old geezer? Are they supplying the needs of the spirit, or are they merely “giving the crowd what they want” and tickling itching ears?

I leave that for you, dear reader, to decide.

But I will be going somewhere else next year.