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Sunday
Mar222009

Taxes, gratitude and financial advice

It's good to have income on which to pay taxes.
It's good to have income on which to pay taxes.
It's good to have income on which to pay taxes. - Blue Skunk

Don't tax you, don't tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree. - Russell B. Long

Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes. - Benjamin Franklin 

Once again it is tax prep weekend here. Thanks to the web, this job just gets easier every year. Last year I thought I would seek out some kind of iGoogle for my finances, but it was just one of those things I never got around to doing despite some good suggestions of sites to try. It's still a paper blizzard with receipts, 1099s, and other sundry proofs that money either came in or went out of the household.

Maybe it is just the wonderful weather this weekend, but I have been thinking of all the things for which I am economically grateful.

  • that I have not only a job that pays a living wage, but one that brings me satisfaction.
  • that I had the kind of upbringing that taught delayed gratification when I was younger - giving up parties for a college education.
  • that I have avocations - writing and speaking - that are both remunerative and allow me to travel. I am especially excited about upcoming trips this spring to Cairo to do workshops for NESA and Bangkok to consult on facility design. (Yes, I am excited about Baltimore and New Hampshire, too.)
  • that all our children seem to be financially emancipated. There is actually some money left in the checking account at the end of the month now and then.
  • that despite the 403b being in the toilet, I am among this world's lucky ones who actually has savings, a retirement plan, and an affordable mortgage.
  • that I can say that I've earned every nickel honestly.
  • that I can pretty much afford to buy all the toys I want.

In some ways this is pretty incredible since have had three major financial rules:

  1. You can't lose money in investments that you've already spent on other stuff.
  2. Buy high. Sell low. Don't give up the day job.
  3. Charitable giving is the best investment you can make. Spoiling your children and grandchildren a little is the second best.

There you are - all the financial wisdom I have. I may have missed my calling -  I might have been even better at losing money than those AIG execs. And I would have been happy with just a six rather than seven figure bonus.

Friday
Mar202009

I am not making this up

Cleaning out old saved e-mails and I ran across this one. I wonder why I saved it...

------ Forwarded Message
From: Janet H__________ <j__1@mail.isd77.k12.mn.us>
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 1998 13:54:01 -0500
To: <palsdaj@VAX1.Mankato.MSUS.EDU>
Subject: sanity

I can't believe that I have the nerve to bother you about this, but I've played so many games of solitaire that the color is worn off the cards.

Are you still carrying the program in your pocket? If you are, could I please borrow it again? Soon!

It is my sanity after a day with these wild and crazy first graders.

Thanks.
Janet
__________ Elementary

------ End of Forwarded Message

Everyone knows that each computer monitor only comes with so much color, and once used up, will only display gray.

Thursday
Mar192009

Does Kindle spell the end of intellectual freedom?

 

In a recent Christian Science Monitor editorial, librarian Emily Walsch writes:

... Kindle is on fire in the marketplace. Who could resist reading "what you want, when you want it?" Access to more than 240,000 books is just seconds away. And its "revolutionary electronic-paper display ... looks and reads like real paper."

But it comes with restrictions: You can't resell or share your books – because you don't own them. You can download only from Amazon's store, making it difficult to read anything that is not routed through Amazon first. You're not buying a book; you're buying access to a book. No, it's not like borrowing a book from a library, because there is no public investment. It's like taking an interest-only mortgage out on intellectual property.

and adds

Digital rights management (DRM), which Kindle uses to lock in its library, raises critical questions about the nature of property and identity in digital culture.

Some questions come to mind.

  • As long as both print and Kindle versions of a book are available, how does Kindle's DRM limit impinge on my rights? Kindle is offering a convenient format, not sole access to sets of information.
  • How is what we are now experiencing with e-books with competing file formats any different from the VHS/Beta or BlueRay/HDTV battles in video? Why were we not worreid about the end of intellectual freedom then - only mad about the inconvenience?
  • Why is "renting" a book from Amazon any more dangerous than renting a movie through Netflix or from BlockBuster. Is this a new species of format bigotry?
  • Are we moving to culture that leases rather than owns - property, ideas, values? Is change so rapid that we refuse to invest in something (and be stuck with it) that may be obsolete tomorrow? Is this a good survival strategy - or the end of civilization as we know it? (The science fiction novel Futureland by Walter Mosely describes what a rental culture might look like - along with postliteracy.)
  • How can both anti and pro censorship groups hate the same device?
  • How much are librarians like Ms Walsch writing out of fear of an unknown future for their institutions  (and jobs) rather than concern about censorship? What happens when it is more economical to buy or rent each patron a digitial copy of something than it is to buy a physical copy, catalog it, shelve it, manage it, loan it, and eventually discard it? I've written before that I don't yet know the function of libraries when digital text become so inexpensive, useful and convenient that the old purpose of the library fades away. It is scary, but I don't think setting up hollow men is the best response by our profession.

I am not sure Walsch makes her case that ...

Access equals control. In this case, it is control over what is read and what is not; what is referenced and what is overlooked; what is retained and what is deleted; what is and what seems to be.

Is a culture that "leases" its books rather than "own" its books at greater risk of censorship? Perhaps one day when there are no alternatives. But I am not losing much sleep over the issue tonight.

(OK, Stephen, Peter and Tom - get ready to write..)