Archived entries for Current Events

A Step Toward Internet Sales Tax?

Will be interesting to see how this case shakes out: filed a lawsuit on Monday to fend off a sweeping demand from North Carolina’s tax collectors: detailed records including names and addresses of customers and information about exactly what they had purchased.

via Amazon fights demand for customer records | CNET News.

It seems that Amazon’s case is somewhat unique because the purchase of books carries certain court-protected privacy protections. Of course, they sell more than books. Regardless, it’s hard to see how the “no-sales-tax-online” situation can be maintained forever. I’m not fundamentally opposed to paying taxes, but I don’t want a pure, complete, and identifiably record of my purchased passed along to the government. I’m curious what compromise arises over the coming years (decades?).

Update: Thanks to Patricia Clausnitzer from PC for translating this blog post into Belorussian.

Walking for Farm Animals

This weekend, Aimee and I are taking part in the Walk for Farm Animals 2008 to raise money for Farm Sanctuary, a national non-profit that works to end cruelty to farm and food animals through rescue, education, and advocacy. It’s a great organization that, to me, is way more palatable than more confrontational organizations such as PETA.

We hope you’ll support us by donating $5-10 (or more) via our FirstGiving page (a secure way to send directly to Farm Sanctuary, and they’ll mail you a tax-deductible receipt).

goat at farm sanctuary

We visited Farm Sanctuary’s California farm in Orland last weekend (they have one on NY, too). We stayed in the farm’s guest cabin and were able to spend a lot of time with all the animals (Aimee discovered I’m something of a turkey whisperer). It was fun to see them in action and we had a chance to volunteer a little by preparing food and feeding many of the animals and brushing the goats.

Aimee posted a set of photos (ad 2 vids) from our time at Farm Sanctuary on Flickr.

happy pig at farm sanctuary

Also, if you vote in California, please join us in supporting Prop 2 (sponsored by Farm Sanctuary) with a “Yes” vote in November.

Prop 2 is a modest measure that would allow farm and food animals the ability to stand up, stretch and turn around. Through the reduction of these inhumane caging/crating practices (most commonly used by factory farms) will improve the health and safety of our food, support family farmers, and reduce the environmental degradation caused by these unnecessary practices. The NY Times has endorsed Prop 2 in a thoughtful and straightforward article.

We hope you enjoy our pictures and hope you’ll consider helping us raise money for this important organization.

Thanks and love,
nate & aimee

DJ Z-Trip Mixtape for Obama

DJ Z-Trip (with designer Shepard Fairey) has thrown some fundraisers for the Obama campaign called the “The Party for Change.” A few days ago he made the 54 minute set available as a free mp3 download.

You can read more about it and grab it on his site, or save him a bit of bandwidth and grab it from me (.zip, 85mb). (It’s public domain and he encourages its wide distribution!)

Here’s a great DJ with a great ear and premier turntable skills that pulls music from across genres. This mix is no exception.

I agree with his signoff:

I honestly feel if we make our voices heard, this time WILL be different.

Finances: Avoid Rash Moves

The New York Times has a story up today called Switching to Cash May Feel Safe, but Risks Remain. I highly recommend that you read it.

I’m not a particularly savvy financial person, but “think long term” always struck me as wise. There’s no doubt that it’s pretty hairy out there right now, but I think changing course or being overly emotion is the worst reaction. It’s tempting to be emotional and run for cover, but this article cites research that should give you strength and resolve.

As the title says, switching to cash may fell safe. But:

But if you sell now, you’ll be locking in your losses. And once you’re in cash, there isn’t much upside. In fact, with interest rates low, you’re likely to lose money in cash, because inflation will probably eat up the after-tax returns you earn from a savings or money-market account.

Beyond the low upside of cash, selling low is, obviously, the worst time to sell. It’s bad because you lock in your losses, but the read damage is that you’ll miss the eventual upswing, to devastating effect.

The research they cite is pretty amazing (emphasis mine):

From 1963 to 2004, the index of American stocks he tested gained 10.84 percent annually in a geometric average, which avoided overstating the true performance. For people who missed the 90 biggest-gaining days in that period, however, the annual return fell to just 3.2 percent. Less than 1 percent of the trading days accounted for 96 percent of the market gains.

A portfolio belonging to an investor who missed the 10 best days over several decades across all of those markets would end up, on average, with about half the balance of someone who sat tight throughout.

They note that if you need the money in the next five years — if you’re about to retire — then perhaps the loss of the move to cash might make sense. But for me, and for many of you, “today’s price is not your price. Your price is 10 or 20 years from now.”

So, hang on to what you’ve got and don’t make any rash moves.

Accessibility Movers – Henny Swan to Opera from RNIB

I just noticed that Henry Henny “iheni” Swan — Senior Web Accessibility Consultant at Royal National Institute of the Blind for the past six years — is taking a job at Opera Software as a Web Evangelist. In addition to wishing him her well, his her post, Hello Opera provides a few quick tidbits about the Opera roster these days.

Congrats, iheni! I hope to see at a conference soon.

Update: I wrote this post in the middle of the night after working entirely too long and late. In my delirium, I misread Henny as Henry and used incorrect pronouns. Further, in the headline I mistakenly typed Swar instead of Swan (though I got it right in the body and in the permalink).

Sincere apologies for my clumsiness. Thanks to Henny for setting me straight!

Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Rap

Here’s a pointer to a scientifically accurate rap about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Story on permalink.

From the story:

Now a larky but accurate rap song explaining the point of the 17 mile circumference machine [under Switzerland and France], which formally starts up on September 10, has made a star of Kate McAlpine, 23, aka “alpinekat”, who stars with her friends in a YouTube video that has been downloaded more than [was 400,000 times when the article was published, and nearly 1.4mm now.]

I liked watching the video. I’ve heard about the LHC before, but this 4 minutes taught me new facts about both the collide *and* its science. And there’s funny dancing.

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