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Fiction L
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since 1994

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Multiple taxes and "tax cuts"
2008-03-26

It occurred to me recently that the Bush "tax cuts" are actually just federal tax cuts. Federal taxes are generally larger than the other taxes people pay... but usually the various taxes have clauses so that other taxes are excluded.

This means, when one tax goes down, the others automatically benefit. Calculating the effect is complicated by things like people not itemizing their deductions, or their other taxes not being enough to exceed the default deduction... and of course it all depends on the average tax rates by tax revenue (not per person).

A simple example, though. Suppose you were making $100k in CA when Bush's tax cut reduced your federal rate from 38% to 35%. CA tax rate is 9%. So, at 38%, you paid $38k in federal taxes, so your income for CA was $62k, so you paid $5580. When the fed rate drops to 35%, you taxes to the fed drop to $35k, leaving $65k for state, paying $5850, an increase of 4.8%.

Obviously, there are a lot of other factors involved, its not nearly that simple, but its an interesting point to think about: A federal tax cut is a very complicated tax transfer to the states.

DonkeyNation!
2008-03-03

The Ice Donkeys, the SFAHL team I'm on, won our Division B championships this season, after several seasons of 2nd/3rd place. We had a good season, including a 9-3 win against a team when we had no goalie, a 4-4 tie against our nemesis Moose Factory when we had one of our 5 players ejected from the game half way through. The rink-rat Moose got scrubbed early in the play-offs, so we were up against the Scrappers in the finals, and had an added scrimmage when the refs failed to show for game 2, but we still managed to pull it off. I'm the big lout in the upper left.

Clubman Flux
2008-02-29

Is it just me or was this new MINI Clubman commercial done by the same people who did the Aeon Flux movie?
If the youtube folks get around to deleting it, look for [mini pinball].

I have no idea what to think of the Clubman. Its a mini, but its bigger, but not much, and its funky... Maybe I should go smaller.

Silly Tivo Tricks
2008-02-18

While I was playing with the new AV setup, and my Ipod Touch, I started thinking about grabbing videos off of my Tivo for various reasons. I played with the Tivo Desktop, and I played with Galleon. They were nice and all, but not quite what I was looking for. Tivo Desktop will only downconvert videos for portable video devices, and is rather limited in terms of automation, and I didn't want to run my windows box all the time anyways. Galleon had more options, but still wasn't quite what I wanted. So, I wrote my own... or started to. I haven't done much more than just archive a bunch of shows, but I figured I'd release the python module I wrote to allow me to script archiving the video. I uploaded it to a project on Google Code Project Hosting (ugh, long product name):

TivoAccess.

Its got my current ridiculously simple archive_tivo.py. I've got plenty of ideas, but I mostly decided it wasn't all that important. It was useful to be able to pull the video off from some important NHL games.

One idea I considered: having my computer maintain an ipod format copy of all of the videos currently on my Tivo. This makes it as easy as possible to just drag what I want to watch onto my ipod before running out the door. Well, easier would be if it synced magically... or I just used my slingbox to my TreoCentro instead. I could probably write an Android app that watched for the device being on my local wi-fi and synced the videos down, but even over wi-fi that'll take a long time, probably not great for battery life. And assuming Android devices will have wi-fi.

While working on this, I wasted another couple days trying to get "good" video conversion. Quicktime requires a paid plug-in for mpeg2, and supposedly can't handle the Tivo mpeg2 stream anyways (looks like Tivo uses some allowed by unusual features of mpeg2). I wanted to convert the mpeg2 stream to an h.264 stream to save space and to make it possible to play the videos in FrontRow. You'd think "same quality" conversions would be easy... not. Using ffmpeg's -sameq flag generates an h.264 video that's almost 2x the size of the mpeg2 video, and isn't as good. Interlacing is the enemy there, I think, but in general, the best I could do was a "pretty good" copy using mpeg4 (h.263) and getting about 80% of the space of the mpeg2. Didn't seem worth it, another reason I haven't really finished this project.

Questions a parent has at 3am
2008-02-08

Can my infant sleep too much? (10hrs at <3 months)
Can my infant go horse? (maybe I just didn't hear his crying?)
Should I wake the sleeping baby?

Today's post is brought to you by the letters R, S and V
2008-02-05

I'm not sure why, maybe it was the decision to have a kid, but I got back into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the past couple years. Maybe it was seeing Marissa eating one at the Google cafeteria, an absurdity that just made me go "hmm, that sounds good, actually". In any case, it came in handy when raiding the pantry here in the pediatric ward trying to make dinner. Seems our generally late eating habit combined with our minds being elsewhere didn't combine well with the early hours of the cafeteria.

Anyways, it looks like Nolan should be going home tomorrow. Wonder if we've got any peanut butter at home?

Don't lie to me like I'm Montel Williams
2008-02-01

Or maybe, "Get off the cross. We need the wood." would be a better title. In any case, Tim Goodman, local TV critic for the SF Chronicle has an awesome rant against the Parents Television Council ("People Without Remotes"). Seriously, if you feel that some stuff isn't fit for your kids, don't let them watch it. If you don't like it, change the channel. And if your the FCC, how about not fining TV channels for something that happened 5 years ago, jeez.

A modern pet peeve
2008-01-28

With caller-id and "missed" calls on just about every phone, both home and cell, not leaving a message is just annoying. Who were you, why did you call, even if "I'll try you at home", something. I know you called, and I'm left wondering why. Doubly true for people I don't know.

internet software distribution, or who needs cd-rom drives
2008-01-24

Several years back, I chose a Thinkpad X31 as my work laptop. It was in the nature of a trial, I thought the smaller laptop might be interesting, and I didn't really think I'd need it that much, so if I found it annoying, wouldn't really matter. The X31 didn't have an optical drive, though my work did provide me with a docking station that has one built in. I've almost never needed the drive, as it turns out. I don't install much "big" software on this laptop, since its my work laptop and work provides me with the software I need generally from a central server. Most software I install are small things I just download and install, and even some hardware, like my Cingular wireless card, I just found the OEM version of the software on the manufacturers website.

There are exceptions, though. I just bought a new Palm Centro phone, and went to use the install cd... and found that I'd left a cd in the docking station from the last time I'd used it: the install cd for my old Palm Treo 700p, from almost 2 years ago. So, there's an indication of just how often I've needed the cd-rom on this machine.

Not that I'm going to get rid of all of them. My desktop box at home has two DVD drives in it, which I'm using quite a bit to rip my DVDs. I've also needed those drives for games, either because they're huge (MS Flight Simulator was two DVDs) or because they require the disk to be in the drive to play for copy protection (really annoying). And I even wrote a DVD recently when I upgraded my home linux server, and needed a DVD drive to do the upgrade. But when you have multiple computers, you can definitely get away without having an optical drive.

On the other hand, my wife appreciates that my personal laptop, a Sony Vaio TZ, has a dvd drive, since she uses it as a portable DVD player on trips. One device is better than two in a lot of cases.

Managing my DVD Collection
2008-01-11

Over time, I've managed to collect a decent number of DVDs. They're an easy gift to receive for someone who's hard to buy for, plus I've taken advantage of a number of "sales" like Tower Records going out of business, so the average cost per DVD isn't too bad. Some of my friends definitely think it silly, knowing that eventually all media will be available for easy download/rental, or just usually not caring to watch something over and over again. I figure two tickets to the theatre is now around $20, hotel on demand movies are $10-$15, two rentals is around $10, and those three netflix DVDs I kept for 6 months were about $30/each... so $10 or less for a DVD is a pretty good deal.

As for the HD-DVD/Blue-ray debate... I don't actually own either player. Just like when DVDs came out, the studios think they can charge more for the "better" format. I'm not going to pay $35 for a blue-ray disc, period.

Currently, I'm storing my DVD's on an Infrant ReadyNAS NV+, and playing them with a Mac Mini. Check the jump for the road to this. Also, I've now got a bunch of scripts to manage this, which may or may not be useful to anyone else, feel free to email me for some pointers.

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