Category Archives: rant

The Tao of Texas Taxes: Tax and DON’T Spend

From an email I just got from the American Motorcyclist Association, of which I am a paying member.  Like most “lifestyle” associations (e.g. the NRA), the AMA is now almost entirely in the business of lobbying.  Although I do also get really good roadside assistance coverage.

Currently, $5 of every motorcycle license fee is funneled to a separate account designed to help the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) offset some of the costs of running the motorcycle safety program in the state.

In order to certify the budget, the legislature has declined to appropriate money from the fund since 2005, and as a result, DPS has spent less and less on the program. As a result, the general revenue dedicated account for motorcycle education has accumulated a balance of more than $17.7 million in unspent funds (see acct 0501).

As a result of S.B. 754 an additional $3 would be collected with motorcycle registrations and sent to a subaccount within the existing account to help fund motorcycle education programs. Furthermore, the Texas Department of Transportation would be able to access the funds to help pay for motorcycle awareness campaigns.

In case you can’t tell, the AMA is pro this bill, meaning the state would then collect $8/year/motorcycle that it would never be allowed to spend because the overall budget threatens not to balance.

This is both insane and completely par for the course.

Exclusively for 1&1 Customers (Who Obviously Like Getting Screwed)

I usually chalk the non-sequitur nature of 1&1.com‘s marketing materials up to some combination of baseline corporate incompetence and English as a second language. But lately they’re crossing right over into false advertising territory.

Today, for example, I received an email with the subject “Exclusively for 1&1 Customers.” Here it is:

1and1 offer email--click for larger version

Right off the bat there are a couple of lies here. The first one is that only customers can take advantage of this “offer.” In fact, it represents the current default pricing on their web site. Secondly, as a current customer, the only way I can take advantage of this is by buying a new package–they’re definitely not offering me a discount on my current services.

The real fun, however, is in the pricing. For example, notice how the current “50% off sale” gets you a $6.99 domain registration for $6.12. The fine print, of course, is that it’s 50% off for three months on a one-year contract. I guess we should just be glad they’re not advertising domains at $0.29/month (every other product is advertised by the month, yet also requires a one-year commitment). But it’s not like the print is that fine, right? Yet for every product listed and the minimum contract available, this “50% off sale” is, in fact, a 12.5% off sale. Actually, there is one exception: for dedicated servers it’s a 6.25% off sale (24-month contract required).

But what are you going to do? To paraphrase Winston Churchill… 1&1 is the worst web hosting company, except for all the others I’ve tried.

It Strikes Me that Most People Don’t Do Anything

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how to manage email and how between facebook and twitter you can do 90% of your job. And I’ve come to believe that most people, as the central function of their job, do nothing other than chat rather trivially with other people. Because I simply cannot do my job in 140 characters or less. I can’t do five sentence emails. Most of the work emails I get reveal to me that the people I work with haven’t the slightest clue what’s going on at any given moment on any given project. The occasional brain dump is required. I still document my code, if you can believe that.

In fact, the main service I provide, in a very detailed usually concise fashion, is the interpretation of vague and incorrect assumptions into working, usable processes and applications. Tell me how that’s going to get done over twitter?

I’m sorry to say it, but in the real world we write the specification as we go. We morph the process on a daily basis. And unfortunately that requires a little more documentation and accountability than you get from MySpace and YouTube. In the real world we work with SVN and SQL Server and FTP and Terminal Services and FogBugz and wikis and virtualization and yes, oddly enough, email. Occasionally we pass around a Word document. Shocking, huh?

Winzip for Wordsmiths

I’m a little shocked this still needs to be said, because it’s just about the only lesson I remember from every writing class I ever took. And I’m really shocked that a blog post about omitting needless words and writing clearly is so repetitive and fractured. But just so we’re clear: be concise.

Holy crap. Did we forget that great writers sweat over sentence structure and word choice? Read some Hemingway or Steinbeck whydontcha!

Update: I have a modern, blogging example of this: Jorn Barger’s blogging and writing are so concise as to be nearly uncompressible.

Update 2: It further occurs to me that there’s a term for uncompressible, unskimable text that distills only the essence of meaning: poetry.

In Case You Forgot to Fight Terrorism on Your Morning Commute Today

On one hand this is my (semi-)annual license plate posting. On the other hand, we’re in Texas, which tends to rave in favor of the machine. And yet, this still gets to me:

texas custom plates 2007

Yeah, it’s right there in the upper left:

texas custom plates 2007

“Texas, Fight Terrorism, 9/11/01, REMEMBER” or some ordering thereof. Because I know you forgot.

Fortunately, the god plates still cost more.