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Comment So many people don't understand tax deductions (Score 1) 192

The tax deduction isn't money you get back from the government. It's the government saying they wont' tax the income you ended up donating to charity. As such, there is no difference between the company "giving" you the money to donate (counts as income on your taxes) and you getting the tax write-off (government doesn't tax that income), vs the company donating the money in your name (doesn't count as income, you don't get a tax deduction).

e.g. Say I'm at the 25% tax bracket. Company gives me $4000 to donate to a charity, which I do. Come tax time, the government says you received $4000 in income from your company so you owe $1000 in taxes. But you say I donated that $4000 to charity. The extra $4000 gets erased (deducted) from your income, and you're no longer liable for the $1000 in taxes. It's as if you never received the money at all, and the company gave it directly to the charity instead of to you. (Except if the company had given it, they would get the $4000 deduction to reflect that the money was donated. But that just equalizes the direct donation scenario to if they had paid it to you $4000 as wages - a deductible expense. Rather than kept it as taxable profit. Either way, the government is not taxing the money that changed hands because the final recipient is a charity.)

So it doesn't matter whether the company or the employee gets the deduction - it works out the same either way. (There are rare instances where the tax law is specifically or accidentally crafted to give you a tax deduction even though you never received the income. I ran across one of these a couple years back when i donated some stock to a charity. I received a deduction as if I'd sold the stock thus receiving the proceeds as taxable income, then donated the money to the charity. Except since I never sold the stock, I didn't have any taxable income to report for this stock. True, I had paid taxes on the money I used to first buy the stock, but the stock had appreciated a considerable amount and my deduction was actually several times larger than my initial cash outlay to buy the stock. So these situations are not impossible. But they are the exception to how deductions work, not the norm.)

Comment Re:Finally! (Score 1) 98

Presidents don't make tax law. They give a suggestion to Congress, and Congress does whatever the hell it wants. The luxury tax was passed by a Democrat-controlled House and Senate. Bush was forced to sign it because the Democrats refused to pass a budget which didn't include a tax increase (leaving Bush no choice but to go back on his "read my lips - no new taxes" pledge).

Clinton repealed it because by then it was obvious it was killing the industries it effected (e.g. yacht sales plummeted and boat manufacturers were laying off workers - yacht construction is one of the few industries where it's relatively expensive to outsource the labor because you can't just put the end product on a bulk cargo ship for cheap transport from Asia). And the Republicans managed to gain control of the Senate thus preventing Democrat legislators from unilaterally dictating tax policy.

Comment Re:you no longer own your devices (Score 1) 175

At this point, I suspect most of the people hanging on to theirs are doing so in the hopes that in 20 years it'll be extremely valuable because of its rarity. Trying to disable it over the network is going to accomplish nothing because these units are turned off, packed back in their original box, and sealed in shrink wrap or a ziploc bag.

Comment Full 2015 stats aren't out yet (Score 4, Insightful) 423

TFA links to some summaries, but some of the categories (particular deaths due to accidents) are aggravatingly unspecific. Alzheimer's and accidents (unintentional injuries) had the largest year-over-year increases, at +4.0 and +2.7 deaths per 100,000. The other causes were all +1.5 or less. The increase in these two exceeded the increases in all the other top-10 combined.

I'm really curious to see what the breakdown for unintentional injury deaths looks like for 2015. We're in the middle of a prescription painkiller addiction epidemic which is going largely unreported by the media. Two years ago, overdoses displaced motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death - a position it had held for over a half century. This year we lost more famous people to overdoses than to gun violence, even though the media spent a vastly disproportionate amount of time focusing on the latter. The day of the UCLA shooting (1 murder, 1 suicide), there was a synthetic drug poisoning incident at a concert in Florida which killed 2 and sent 60 to the hospital. But the media concentrated almost entirely on the UCLA shooting.

Comment Re:What's the point (Score 2) 99

I was on a Lufthansa flight from Chicago to Germany in 2006. They announced that since Boeing had decided to shut down Connexion, they were opening up the WiFi aboard the plane for everyone to use for free. I fired up my laptop while over the middle of the Atlantic, and used the service to VPN into my office. Got some work done, sent a few emails, and printed a quick document exclaiming in bold "I'm printing this from a plane in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!!!!' just for the folks in the office. I also logged into a MMO for a bit. The lag was too much to really do any combat, but I chatted with guild members about where I was playing from. Alas I had to shut down at that point because I'd drained my battery and they didn't yet have charging ports outside of first class.

I haven't tried the newer WiFi service aboard planes. But based on what you're saying, it sounds like the service is somehow worse than what Boeing had a decade ago and shut down because not enough airlines were interested?

Comment Re:Change how tickets are sold (Score 1) 211

That's the perfect market efficiency method of matching supply with demand - adjust the price until the two match.

The performers who give converts frequently prefer to deliberately mismatch supply and demand. By underpricing the tickets, demand exceeds supply and you end up with lines and shortages. This sort of mismatch (insufficient supply) is a problem with essentials like food (or the long lines for toilet paper that the Soviet Union was famous for). But since concerts are almost always entertainment, they're nonessentials so this mismatch isn't a problem. You don't die or starve (or have dirty underwear) because you were unlucky and didn't manage to get a concert ticket.

So the performers consider the drawbacks of this type of mismatch to be acceptable if it means their fans are able to attend at a lower price if they're fortunate enough to get a ticket. Basically, the performers are willingly leaving money on the table in order to give fans a lower ticket price.

Scalpers try to take advantage of this market mismatch to scoop up some of that money performers are leaving on the table. They either deprive legit fans from a ticket, or force them to have to pay a higher price than the performer set. If there are enough scalpers or their methods of obtaining tickets are sophisticated enough, they could conceivably elbow legit fans completely out of the opportunity to buy tickets.

Laws are not a very good way to try to thwart scalping. The best method is to enforce the non-transferable legal restriction of the ticket sale. e.g. Attach a name to each ticket and require people to show ID when they present their ticket for entry, like the airlines do. This is essentially what companies do when they lower the price on a product with a rebate. If they just dropped the in-store price, ebayers would buy up the entire stock and sell it on eBay at close to the original price. But offering the discount via a rebate which is limited to x submissions per address prevents the biggest abusers. An ebayer might be able to buy a few extra of the product using a work address and relatives' addresses. But it's a lot of hassle and the long turnaround time for the rebate means they'll be out of the capital for a while. So the rebate, while mildly annoying to the legit buyer, makes flipping impractical for the ebayer, thus helping guarantee it's the end-user who enjoys the discounted price provided by the rebate.

Comment Re:I was fortunate to have met him a few year ago (Score 1) 108

My wife and I got a chuckle out of the young security guard that was with him. When people asked who he was, he said that he was the worlds oldest astronaut.

You misunderstood what the security guard meant. Glenn was the oldest person to ever go into space when he flew aboard Discovery on STS-95 in 1998. He was 77.

Comment Re:Preempting Apple (Score 1) 102

There's no pre-empting going on. Apple is not the originator of these ideas - they may be talking about adding them to the next iPhone, but Android has had them for close to 7 years. My Samsung Galaxy S (the first one they made) didn't have physical navigation buttons - it had capacitive touch buttons and used the phone's vibrate module to generate haptic feedback. The navigation buttons were simply a separate touch-sensitive OLED display. Heck, my current Nexus 5 does the same thing except the buttons are part of the main display (has been since Android Honeycomb).

The media is just dominated by Apple fans who refuse to tell the truth and say that Apple is copying Android with these "new" ideas, or who have never taken a serious look outside the iOS ecosystem so they have no idea what else has been available for close to a decade.

Comment Re:I Would Rather Go To Theatres (Score 1) 327

This exactly. You don't go out to eat at a fancy restaurant because the food is worth $40 a plate. You do it because of its value as a shared social experience with your SO, a date, your family or friends. Likewise, a movie on its own is not worth the $10-$15 a theater charges for a seat. Most of its value comes afterwards, from your ability to talk about it with other people who've seen it. Same goes for broadcast TV shows and live sporting events - the synchronized mass consumption is what makes them the topic of conversation around the water cooler the next day.

In that respect, an early rental would work for someone like me. My family room has a projector with 130" screen and a 7.1 speaker system, I could invite some friends over and we could watch a newly released movie together without the lines and screaming kids (or for the friends who have screaming kids, we can pause the movie until the kids stop screaming). But I suspect only a small minority of people have a setup like mine. If all you've got is a 42" TV with built-in speakers, what's the point? You spend all your alone time in your house already. If you're gonna hang out and do something together with your friends, you probably want to do it outside the house. Not to pay $25-$50 to watch a new release movie like it was a TV show.

I should add that I do use my home theater system in this manner. It's a lot of trouble to try to keep track of a herd of kids in a dark room, and embarrassing when one of them has a meltdown in public. So my friends and I do regularly get together with our kids for mass viewings of kids movies on my home theater. But here's the rub - the studios are putting out too many movies. We simply don't have the time to watch them all in this manner. So we're still trying to catch up on the better movies released a few months ago which are now on HBO or Netflix. There's little point watching a current new release for $25-$50 when we can watch as part of our subscription package a movie which was a new release a few months ago that we haven't yet had time to see. Saves us money, and helps us filter out the stinkers and bombs.

Comment Re:IL had free rides to all senior citizens 2008-2 (Score 1, Offtopic) 231

IL had free rides to all senior citizens 2008-2011 costs forced them to cut it to just low-income seniors.

No, there are no free rides. What you mean is, "Illinois decided to have taxpayers buy rides for certain people from 2008 to 2011" ... and ... "they couldn't get the taxpayers to pay even more, so they cut down the number of rides the taxpayers were buying to a more select group of those certain people."

Comment Re:Wrong even if correct (Score 5, Insightful) 252

Deflation is worse than inflation. Inflation devalues your savings, thus encouraging (forcing) you to go out there are do more work to earn more money (generate more productivity). Deflation increases the value of your savings, thus discouraging you from working - why bother doing something productive when the money you have stuffed under your mattress is increasing in value enough to pay for your living expenses?

Currencies are stable when the money supply expands at about the same rate as the productivity of the country's citizens (basically GDP - a combination of population growth and increased productivity due to technological advances). That causes prices to remain stable when measured in the currency. Ideally, a government with a fiat currency moderates their money supply to slightly exceed this productivity growth rate, which causes a slight amount of inflation (prices slowly climb). Yes it's true that when a government screws things up (e.g. Venezuela right now), it can cause massive problems. But like regular oil changes for your car, there's a huge incentive for all governments to maintain their own economy.

The whole reason we abandoned the gold standard is that it's really stupid to base your economy's health on the gamble that the amount of gold miners dug out of the ground each year would match the rate of growth of your country's GDP. Historically, the amount of gold mined each year did not keep pace with economic growth, resulting in deflation, which led to higher economic instability. If you look at the history of recessions in the U.S., in the 45 years since 1971 when we went off the gold standard, there have been 6 recessions, or 1 per 7.5 years. In the 45 years prior (1926-1971) there were 9 recessions, or 1 per 5 years. The 50 years before that (1875-1925) saw 13 recessions, or 1 per 3.8 years. And the 50 years before that (1825-1875) saw 13 recessions as well. The amount of economic contraction during recessions has also been smaller since we went off the gold standard.

Unfortunately, bitcoin perpetuates this stupidity. Its value is based on (1) the rate at which people are able to "mine" bitcoins by solving increasingly difficult math problems, and (2) its total supply is capped at about 21 million coins. The very fact that bitcoins are appreciating in value is evidence that it's a terrible choice of a currency. You want the prices of staple goods to remain relatively stable in a currency. Instead, bitcoins are so deflationary that early adopters are literally able to live off of bitcoins they've stuffed under the mattress, instead of actually doing any productive work. A currency which enables that behavior is fatal to an economy. I'm not saying all crypto-currencies are flawed, or that there's no benefit to taking a currency out of government control. Only that bitcoin is fatally flawed in that it accomplishes the latter in the worst possible way. The huge increase in the value of bitcoins since its inception is not an indicator of its strength, it's an indicator of its unsuitability as a currency. It proves that bitcoin is incapable of scaling properly with the number of people using it (productivity growth due to population increase). In that respect it's more like real estate - where people who were born earlier were able to buy up most of it cheaply, leaving the current generation unable to afford to buy a home.

Comment More like a terrible law (Score 1) 100

Samsung's lawyers hit the nail on the head in their argument before the Supreme Court. Allowing the lower court rulings to stand would award the owner of a cup holder patent the entire profit from the sale of an 18-wheeler big rig truck just because it used the infringing cup holder design.

I can see an argument for awarding slightly more of the profit than is attributable to the single component (having the infringing feature allowed you to make sales which you wouldn't have made). But awarding all the profit is insane. If that's the standard you're going to use, then Apple should just hand over all their profit from their iPhones 1 through 4 to Samsung, because they infringed one of Samsung's FRAND patents. Apple escaped punishment for that only because Obama used executive privilege to nullify that ITC decision.

Comment Re:two stacked LCDs? (Score 1) 103

LCDs don't work like that. They work by orienting two polarizers. The first is a fixed polarizer, which cuts the backlight's brightness to 50% and polarizes the light. The second is a polarizing liquid crystal layer whose orientation can be controlled electronically. Orient it parallel to the fixed polarizer and all the light going through the fixed polarizer is let through. Orient it perpendicular and it blocks (in theory) all the light going through. (In practice the polarizing is not perfect, so there's a little leakage. Which is why black pixels are not entirely black on an LCD.

However, adding a third polarizer does not help. At best, the same amount of light is blocked as with two polarizers perpendicular to each other. At worst, it allows more light to go through than two polarizers.

Whatever extra layer they're using, it's not a polarizer, so it can't be an LCD. It's probably some sort of electrochromic glass whose reflectivity (and thus opacity) can be controlled electrically. And they've figured out a way to divide the effect into zones which coincide with the pixels or groupings of pixels on the LCD. It probably doesn't have as much fine granularity of partial opacity as an LCD does (else they could just use it instead of LCDs since LCDs always block at least 50% of the backlight), LCDs have gotten good enough to where we can use them to generate 1024 shades (10-bit, though most panels are still 8-bit or 6-bit), while last I heard electrochromic glass was binary.

Comment Sounds more like the opposite (Score 0) 283

If TFA is correct, then Samsung tried to put the largest battery possible while keeping the phone as thin as possible. If they wanted more profit, they could've gone with a smaller battery or a thicker design with larger tolerances. Both would've been cheaper for them to manufacture and thus would've increased their profit margin. But they eschewed that marginal profit and went the extra mile for the customer - packing in the largest battery possible while keeping the phone as small and thin as possible. Unfortunately they went too far, to the point where it compromised the safety of the device.

If I had to guess, they probably goofed because this was only their second gen all-metal design. They didn't have the experience to tell them how tight was too tight (at least not until now). They could pack the battery this tightly on their older plastic bodies without problems because battery expansion would just push the rear plastic shell up a little.

Comment Re:I don't care if I know the outcome (Score 1) 137

Yup. If knowing the outcome is what's important, then you only need to watch the last 5-10 seconds of the event; you can skip everything that comes before. Heck, you can skip watching it entirely and just catch the score on a sports news website.

OTOH if the parts before the end of the game have entertainment value, then it doesn't matter if you know the outcome in advance, and there's no need to watch it live. The only benefit of watching it live is that it's easier to find other people who haven't seen it that you can watch it with.

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