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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Thoughts on the Estate Tax

There are many people who want to abolish the Estate Tax. They call it the Death Tax. They say it is double-taxation, adding a tax on money that has already been taxed as income. I disagree with these people.

The Estate Tax is not double-taxation. It is a tax on property, not on income. Once we die, our wealth becomes property in the form of an Estate. And property can be and often is taxed multiple times. Consider the property tax we pay on our homes and land. We pay this tax annually. And the ad velorum tax paid on registered automobiles.
So the double-taxation argument is invalid, in my opinion.

Now there is also a principle in play from the time of the founding of our country. That is the anathema of an entrenched wealthy class of citizens. The Founders fought against this in the form of rejecting any kind of royalty or aristocracy. In fact, the existence of property taxes, on land especially, is one way to limit the accumulated wealth of an aristocracy. In the United States, land is always taxed. So one cannot simply accumulate land and have it sit, unused. The land needs to be put to productive use in order to generate income to pay its share of annual property tax.

In a similar way, we as a society want to limit the ability of families to pass on wealth from one generation to the next. The inheritance of wealth is a cornerstone of building an aristocracy. So, in America, we encourage and applaud each individual to make the best of what she can. But then we limit what can be passed on to the next generation. The next generation will need to make their own fortune on their own merits.

Some will argue that the Estate tax limits one’s ability to control the destiny of his wealth. When living, I’m able to direct the use of my wealth however I like. But when dead, I’m limited by my Will and by what Estate Tax law allows. My counter argument to this: If you want your money to go somewhere and not be subject to Estate tax, then give it away before you die.

There is wonderful biblical context on the consequence of dying to one’s previous living state. It is put in the form of the effect of death on one’s marriage. While alive, my marriage is a binding contract under law and under God. But as soon as I die, that contract is tossed aside, and all its rules are moot. It’s the same with my wealth. While alive, I can direct my wealth with a great degree of autonomy, subject to the laws of the land. But when I’m dead, what expectation should I have regarding the disposition of my wealth? From a biblical standpoint, I say none.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Turing Test is finally relevant

I grew up learning about the Turing Test as an intellectual exercise. I understand it, and I think it's a great test. I just never thought I'd need to use it so soon.

I'm getting a lot of automated phone calls now. But the automation is getting more sophisticated - voice-activated delays, pauses in the dialog to simulate human speech patterns, etc.

So now when I pick up the phone I wait before responding. Then I say 'hello' in a flat tone. If there's a robot on the other end, they will launch into their spiel.

But now, the robot is including multiple delays and even giggles. Yes, the robot voice is giggling and telling me that her headphones slipped off (to explain the second delay after her initial 'hello').

I don't like having to run the Turing Test on every phone call. I wanted to run the Turing Test on a real AI-enabled robot, not a pre-programmed marketing call script. Oh well.

And as an aside - I have always pronounced "spiel" as "Shpeel". I assumed it started with sh- or sch-. I guess I've never written the word before. Thank you Google for setting me right.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Office 2013 icon #rant

I recently down upgraded to MS Office 2013.  And so I went through the process of customizing the menus/ribbons/action panes/ whatever-they're-called-now things along the top of the window.  I like to have both the open and close icons handy and in plain sight.

That's when I noticed that the icons had substantially changed from the 2010 version.  Here are the icons for open and close in MS Office 2010:

Notice how the arrow for open points to the right, and that for close points back to the left.  They are similar in that regard to the do/undo buttons for editing text:

That makes sense to me.  And it is consistent within the icon scheme.

But in office 2013, someone felt it necessary not only to "update" all the icons, but in fact to substantially change their appearance.  While the do/undo icons have remained similar,

the open and close buttons have change to this:

The open button (on the left), has no arrow at all.  The close button (on the right) has reversed the arrow's direction.  In fact, the close icon looks more like the old "open" than the old "close".

What is Microsoft thinking?  First, why in the world must we have changes to the icons with every release.  Second, if you do feel the need to change the icons (it's progress, you know), then at least don't contradict your previous non-verbal cues.  I'm unable to articulate how frustrating this is - how utterly pointless and unproductive these changes are.  To think that there is someone at MS who actually gets paid to come up with this stuff... 

My final point, then, is that if MS feels the driving need to update its icon scheme with every new software version, then why does it keep the same old save icon, which is a picture of a 3.5" floppy disk?  Does anyone under the age of 20 even know what that is?

Rhetorically, then:  How is the world made a better place by the new office 2013 icon scheme?  And if it's not, then why did MS bother to spend the time, money and effort to change it?

Thank you, I feel a bit better now.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Heard on the radio, March 6th talking about positive vs. negative feedback (my paraphrase):

Use positive feedback to build commitment from others toward the mutual goal.  But once the other has ‘bought in’ to the goal, positive feedback has diminishing returns – how much more committed can one get?  At this point, shift to negative feedback.  Negative feedback is more effective at influencing the behaviors of experienced and/or committed stakeholders in a shared goal.

I find this to be true for me – I want to be encouraged as I start a new endeavor, or if I’m unsure whether I’m ‘part of the team’.  But once I’m firmly established in a team, additional encouragement loses its effectiveness.  It feels forced or fake.  Occasional encouragement is nice, but not too much.  However, if I’m called out on a mistake, I become quite determined to prevent that from happening again – I work more diligently to make sure I don’t ‘let down’ the team.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why don't I blog more?

I have a Blogger account, but I don't use it much.
I have a Twitter account, but I don't use it much.
I have a Facebook account, and I use it more that both previous.

Twitter's concept, "What are you doing right now?", seems interesting, but has never quite grabbed me as being something I want to use to commit my activity to permanent record.  It seems a bit too trivial.  What are you doing right now?  Well, to be honest, right now I'm writing a Tweet.  Or, to be less literal, I'm sitting around doing not much.  Or walking, or driving, or whatever.  Not earth-shaking stuff.

Facebook's concept, "What's on your mind?", has always seemed more relevant to me.  It's as if I'm sharing something with a friend in the room.  Facebook is a happy medium between fluff (Twitter) and weighty (Blogger).  But I think the big plus is the fact that there are so many people on Facebook.  There's a critical mass of people I know in the same virtual community.  So there's always something new to see, and when I post there's always someone out there who sees it.

Blogging seems to me to convey a higher threshold of content.  By that I mean that blogs are used to record thought-out writings.  More like essays.  If Twitter is a clause, then Facebook is a sentance.  But Blogger is an essay.  And often I just don't feel like having to write an essay.  I just want to write a few sentances.

I guess Facebook has found the right balance for me in communication.  I'm not much of a texter.  That's mostly because I don't have a smart phone.  But also I'm not in the habit of communicating in small bursts.  So maybe I would equate Twitter with texting, or IM.  Then Facebook is more like email.  I use email all the time.  Since I'm familiar with email, Facebook is a more comfortable fit for me.  Then Blogger would be like.. all I can think of is writing an essay.  To me, it implies a more thought-out body of content.

Twitter:  unfiltered stream of words from my mouth.
Facebook:  coherent thoughts on a single subject.
Blogger:  developed thoughts with a bent toward persuasive essay.

And most of the time in my daily activity, Facebook is where I'm at mentally:  coherent thoughts on a single subject.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Intermittent update

Had breakfast with my friend Greg Elliot at the Rexall Grill in Duluth, GA.  Saw Phil Tuttle of Walk Thru the Bible.  Also saw Brooks Coleman, GA State House rep for Duluth.