Your favorite patent?

I got the question today of what my favorite Microsoft patent is – there’s a few that I really like, but my favorite happens to be one that’s not even a software patent – one that Ballmer even has his name on – 4,588,074 – a holder that lets you store books and similar things and also hold them open.



It’s expired if you want to get in on that. 🙂


need the email addresses for Tomasz and Aimee

About twice a month I get emails for either Tomasz or Aimee Sulczynski.  They live up in Alaska with their son Nikolas (born a dozen days after Barrett).

Tomasz is the owner of Subconscious Logic located in Homer, Alaska.  Tomasz does various computer-related stuff through that, like web sites, databases, computer repair, micro-isp, wireless over the town of Homer, etc.

People seem to swear that Tomasz is (tas at and Aimee is (aimee at – I’m sure that’s *close* to their real email address, but that’s not it.  It’s also not – that’s owned by a 22-year-old Navy communications/photography buff named Edwin Alcaraz living down in Guam.

So, I’ve been thinking about trying to call Tomasz (to get their actual email addresses, so I can forward these emails to them, ideally just setting up automatic forwards) at the phone number (907-235-8369) listed for Subconscious Logic Consulting tonight.  Since Alaska is Eastern-4 (so, currently GMT-8), he should be having lunch pretty soon anyway, so he’ll be back at work if I call in a couple of hours.

Do you think this is reasonable?  I haven’t communicated with him before, but if someone was getting email that should be going to Jessica or I, I’d want to know about it.

[Update] – nevermind – turns out that doing a reply-all to the last mass-email to Aimee got me their email addresses – they’re at instead.  Now I wonder if they get any of *my* email or not 🙂

fun activity of the day – snail mail from the IRS

We got mail from the IRS today that we owe $8,600 on our 2005 taxes (5,574 in additional tax, 1,000 in canceling the child tax credit, 1,315 in penalty, 711 in interest).  Thankfully, we don’t actually owe anything.

Long story short, make sure you consider filing a form 8606 if you’re going to recharacterize a conversion in a later year than the conversion – the IRS assumes the 2 transactions aren’t paired up, so you lose the “automatic cancel” effect (they cancel out as if neither ever happened, thanks to the formulas used during recharacterization).

Now I just get to make copies of the relevant forms and include an explanation as to why our 2005 taxes were correct as-is 🙂

are you pacified?

During the day yesterday, while I was looking up some info on the intarweb and entering some tasks into RTM, Jessica brought Mac (James McCotter Manning III) over and laid him on me.  Mac was a bit upset, so I bounced him a little bit and Jessica went back into the living room to get one of his pacifiers.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit our names are fairly similar being that we only differ on suffix, but visually we’re pretty far apart (for one thing, he has far more hair than I do).  Telling us apart shouldn’t be too difficult.

Because of this, I found it a bit odd when Jessica came back from the living room with the pacifier and tried to place it in James’ mouth.  No, not James III, but instead James Jr… me.

Thankfully, within about 500 ms she realized what she was doing and instead of having a pacifier half-way down my throat (me? exaggerate?), Jessica shifted the pacifier over to its rightful place in Mac’s mouth.

That made all of us happier.  Mac, to have his pacifier.  Me, to not have Mac’s pacifier.  Jessica, laughing about how she almost shoved Mac’s pacy into my mouth. 🙂


Can't uninstall Windows Media SDK once you upgrade to Vista

Back when this machine (my home Dell box) had XP on it, I had installed “Windows Media Format 9.5 SDK” for some little home projects I was working on.  Since then, I’ve finished up those projects and don’t need the SDK any more.  When I upgraded the machine from XP, it didn’t say there was a problem with the SDK being installed.

However, now that I’m trying to uninstall the SDK, the setup.exe refuses (even for uninstall) to run now – trying to click the Uninstall button with the above row highlighted gives:

Aw, pickles.  I guess I’m stuck with the SDK installed unless I feel like cleaning up after it manually and using msizap

devil's advocate on the flat(-ish) national sales tax

Josh put up an excellent post about the “everything old is new again” tax proposal (FairTax instead of “flat tax” – swapping one 4-letter f-word for another seems funny).

Here’s the response I was going to put as a comment on that post, but it started running a tad long.


I’ve loved this idea for over a decade (it got me to vote for Forbes back in 96), but to play devil’s advocate, and just for the fun of it:

1) How is the Boortz plan different from the Forbes one? Or is Neal just piggybacking on Steve’s idea to sell copies of a book? Steve’s was 17% instead of 23 🙂 You can see similar kinds of pushes @ and

2) What’s the employment motivation? You’re talking about putting a large number of people into unemployment from not being needed. Even if the IRS isn’t counted, there’s a huge industry around filing taxes today. Putting that many people out of a job instantly would be felt. This isn’t a “horse and carriage”/Industrial revolution type of situation where there were years of phasing out the “old way”.  For better or worse, a lot of people make their living based on knowledge of the existing tax system.  They realize economic value based on that knowledge.  This change throws them back to zero.  The compromise is usually to phase in the new system instead, admittedly.

3) People are bad at math and we know that. Whether they’d admit to it or not, most people get huge refunds (because they don’t get the “interest-free loan” idea) around April 15th and consider it some kind of gift from the govt. Trying to explain that those $3k is actually their money just doesn’t stick. There are always signficant spikes in the sales of “big ticket”/”luxury items” (big screen tv’s, for instance) around April/May due to this refund effect – another net economic negative to consider.

4) What’s the political motivation? If I’m a member of Congress, I know I can manipulate taxes in the current system thanks to the complicated nature of it and the fact that most people only parse any tax effect once a year. As many articles say, a national sales tax suddenly handcuffs members of Congress, who are stuck with only affecting very-visible tax changes.  The power of Congress derives from being able to operate (and “play”) under the radar of the vast majority of Americans.  What’s their motivation to throw away the good deal they have today?  Notice that they *do* have a motivation to *look* like they want to throw it away (so they can chant along with us how the IRS is evil), but not actually make it happen (the idea’s been around awhile – what’s stopped us in the past that’s going to change in the future?).

5) This doesn’t help me with my NC income taxes.  States aren’t going to roll over and adopt this just because the fed said so, so I’m still stuck with the current system in one way (filing taxes once a year).  Arguably worse, filling out my NC taxes was relatively simple since most of the data could transfer from federal information, but I lose that optimization when the federal taxes are gone 🙂  Yeah, that’s a stretch I admit.  As smaller argument could be that once sales taxes are that high (reminding me of VAT’s in .eu and elsewhere), the states are then given almost carte blanche in terms of their own sales taxes.  3% would never fly when the federal tax rate was 5%, but even 6% is almost lost in the noise when the fed’s hitting you up for 23% or more.

6) What happens to companies?  Since they’re stuck paying the same sales tax, to be fair they should be getting out of the income tax burden as well.  Of course, then multi-national companies become that much more motivated to buy their resources/supplies/etc from non-US sources.  Companies become much more motivated to try and avoid charging the sales tax, but that’s pretty clear.

7) What’s the economic motivation?  Similar to #6, once the tax burden is solely on consumption, you’re motivating people to a) stop consuming more than they need to (chilling effect on economy and cash flow) and b) when they do consume, do so outside of the normal sales method which incurs this high sales tax.  Black markets (that already exist) will expand as the potential savings grows.  More sales will shift to Mexico/Canada/etc as their prices will be more competitive with the US ones (although you could argue that the net effect on US prices should be at or close to zero, but that’s not clear at all).

And, of course, the usual “they’re beating a dead horse!” kind of response:

(One wonders – if this is the way I treat ideas I like, then how do I react to ones I hate? 🙂

peanut butter in liquid form

Historically, I put my morning oatmeal together via:

– 1 cup hot water into cup
– 1/4 tsp of cinnamon into cup, mix
– 1/4 tsp of salt into cup, mix
– 4 packets of splenta into cup, mix
– 1/2 of hodgson mill oatmeal (“hot cereal”) into cup, mix
– a couple of tablespoons of chunky peanut butter into cup, mix

The peanut butter melts from the heat of the oatmeal, and I end up with a breakfast that’s got some chunk of peanut butter in it, but has largely melted through.

This has served me well, but today I wanted to try for something more homogenous, so:

– 1 cup hot water into cup
– a couple of tablespoons of chunky peanut butter into cup, mix until totally melted
– rest of ingredients into cup, mix

It was a more homogenous mix, as you’d expect.  Since it’s chunky peanut butter, though, I still had peanuts in it.

I think I still like the less homogenous version better, but it made for an interesting change-up.

This is the excitement and wonder that is my life.  Phear me.