Leap Year Birthday

February 29, 2008

Exactly 365 days ago, but not the same date (I’ll get to that in a second), I wrote about Parallel Dave Worlds. Although I’d like to wish Dave L. (who lives in a LOOPY world) a happy birthday, I want to focus on Dave F. who lives in a FANTASTIC world today.

You see, Dave F.’s FANTASTIC world has developed a bit of a… well, somewhat of a wormhole for lack of a better word. Dave F. celebrates his 10th birthday today. The wormhole part comes in to play when you realize that Dave F. will celebrate his 10th birthday in the same year that his daughter celebrates her 10th.

Depending on how you do the math, Dave F. is turning 40 which I am told is an important milestone. Count the number of times the man has celebrated the date of his birth, February 29th, and you get the number 10. Having a whole day to celebrate your birthday is a gift in itself when you normally celebrate in the fleeting moment between February 28th and March 1st.

Happy birthday Dave F., Dave L., and all the Leap Year-ians out there.

Garbage Bags and Spandrels

February 19, 2008

I love outdoor black garbage bags with the quick tie feature. Instead of a straight cut, the top of the garbage bag is cut in a curved shape so that you end up with two longer edges that are easy to grab.

Now I’m sure that quick tie was a wonderful feature on its own. Many garbage bag executives probably struggled with the idea of re-engineering their manufacturing processes to add this functionality. For me, I couldn’t care less about the extra handle-like feature. So why do I love them?

Well, having the curved cut has a positive side-effect. A spandrel in evolutionary biology terms.  The curved cut allows me to easily tell the “open” edge from the sealed edge. No more pulling back and forth between the two edges unsure of which side is supposed to open.

Now I’m sure there are other ways to distinguish edge that opens from the sealed edge but it makes me happy that this minor irritation was fixed inadvertently by a feature designed with a whole different purpose in mind.

RADBags with New Opening Detection Technology.  What a wonderful discovery :-)

Economist Steven Landsburg thinks Huckabee’s FlatTax plan is brilliant.

Basically, Huckabee’s plan is to eliminate the income tax and replace it with a national sales tax. To a first approximation, that’s not such a radical change. As long as you spend what you earn, a sales tax feels just like an income tax. If you earn $1,000 a week and spend $1,000 a week, it doesn’t matter whether I take 20 percent of your income or 20 percent of your spending.

Bottom line for Landsburg is that the FairTax is a sneaky way of getting an unlimited IRA. He likes the idea of an unlimited IRA because it encourages savings.

I think the brilliance of the FairTax is that it makes a number of sneaky changes without really stating that its doing so. As far as I can tell it eliminates corporate taxes, payroll taxes (i.e. social insurance), and progressive tax rates down to two (no tax and normal tax).

All these types of changes are fine in my opinion but I’m not fond of the sneaky nature of the change. If you want to eliminate existing tax categories I think it is important to make your case for each elimination.

There is also a fundamental flaw in the FairTax. Any savings that a person accumulated in the old income-based system will now be double-taxed using the new sales-based system (if the person chooses to spend that money). There is no way around this as far as I can tell.

Punishing retired people is not usually a good political strategy… even if its endorsed by Chuck Norris.