Monday, April 19, 2010

Hot and Now: A Play

< The scene is set: Sunday morning at 6 am; birds innocently (but annoyingly) tweet in the soft spring breezes outside our open bedroom window... >

Jack: "Waaaaaaaaaaahhh!!!!!!"
Doc: "Ugh.."
Matilda: "I'll get him.."
Doc: "Does KrispyKreme deliver?"

< a moment of silence passes while Jack wails softly in the background; the birds continue to innocently (but annoyingly) tweet >

Matilda (realizing he has just been impliedly authorized to go buy doughnuts on a Sunday morning) :
"I'll see what I can do"

< The scene is the car at the drive-up window. Having cunningly applied his Joyner Elementary School Krispy Kreme Fundraising Card to the transaction, Matilda absconds with two-dozen doughnuts for the price of one. Actually, slightly less of a deal when you factor in the money he gave to the elementary school, but whatev. A dozen assorted (mostly chocolate) and a dozen glazed Hot & Now's gently await their impending conquest. Jack sits happily in the back seat cooing. >

< The scene returns to the house, two hours later. A somewhat sticky and very hyperglycemic 15 month-old toddles uncertainly back to his sleeping mother. >

Doc: "Good morning, sweetie.."
Jack: "Bo-nahts"
Doc: "Why are you so sticky and warm and glazed? Oh, your fingers taste so good! Sweet bliss!"
Matilda: "Honey, we've been eating doughnuts for a while now. I think he ate three - I wouldn't shake him too much like that.

< The end. >

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I am proud to report that this year's effective tax rate for our small Married Filing Jointly family was a rock-bottom PR of 3.13% We are damn close to being one of the 47% of American households that don't pay any income tax at all. (Don't forget, however, that those poor* people are still subject to the regressive spectre of sales tax - unless they use Amazon - not to mention state and FICA taxes of approximately 8% each.)

* used in this sense, "poor" refers to the pitiable nature of these folks, not their station relative to the poverty line.

As a commentary on all the time we waste arguing about taxes and making the tax code and all of the deductions and credits more complex, I offer the graphs and passage below (artfully excerpted from Wikipedia). Enjoy.

This graph shows the effective tax rate per $ of income. For tax year 2009, it is reported that President Obama recognized income (AGI) of $5.5MM and paid taxes of $1.7MM. That puts him at an effective tax rate of just under 31%. For reference, that is ten times more than me. I win.

This next graph shows the change in top marginal income tax rates over history (currently around 35%). Despite the wide variance you see in the graph, Hauser's Law accurately theorizes that regardless of the top marginal rates, tax revenues will remain unchanged.

Hauser's Law is a theory that states that in the United States, federal tax revenues will always be equal to approximately 19.5% of GDP, regardless of what the top marginal tax rate is. The theory was first suggested in 1993 by Kurt Hauser, a San Francisco investment economist, who wrote at the time, "No matter what the tax rates have been, in postwar America tax revenues have remained at about 19.5% of GDP." In a May 20, 2008 editorial in the Wall St. Journal, David Ranson published a graph showing that even though the top marginal tax rate of federal income tax had varied between a low of 28% to a high of 91% between 1950 and 2007, federal tax revenues had indeed constantly remained at about 19.5% of GDP. Critics of Hauser's Law, such as Zubin Jelveh in a Wall St. Journal editorial, point out that tax revenues have fallen as top income rates declined if you don't include Social Security revenues. Similarly, other changes in tax rates and the income threshold for paying those rates are expected to impact tax revenues and should be considered when analyzing the relationship between tax-rates and tax revenues.

All Dad had to say when I told him of my accomplishments? "Enjoy it while you can." True enough.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Gotta love the Aussies...

Matilda owes much of its lineage to the fighting prowess of the ANZAC warriors. So we were not surprised to see a preview of some of the latest sniper-training technology show up at this western Australia SOF training facility.

The Rover system by Marathon applies state-of-the-art robotic technology to live-fire sniper training. This approach simultaneously improves realism and challenge of training while reducing the overall cost of ownership.

With the Rover system, a single instructor can conduct complex long-duration scenarios with multiple free-ranging targets. No need to use a joystick – just give the command and off they go, following a pre-orchestrated scenario. When a target is shot, it provides instant visual feedback by stopping and dropping its mannequin. It simultaneously sends a message to other targets, who can react by running for cover.

Fast-forward to 4:45 for some real "action". My favorite part? When one robot is shot, the others "run for cover." Awesomeness.

Apparently, the Segway is more useful than just giving cops another way to do their job without having to actually walk..

Monday, April 5, 2010

Swing Time

After more than several attempts throwing a hammer tied to a small rope tied to a big ropeover a tree branch waaaaaay up in the air, Daddy _finally_ got my swing hung up and ready to go. I've only been waiting since January - I think this was my birthday present. That's only 3 months to you, but it's a fifth of my whole life. Anyway, we pretty much had to wait for some sunny weather, so no harm no foul.

I'm ready to go. Can you tell? C'mon, let's go! Hurry up and buckle me in, Mom..

Man, this thing is fun.. I could do this all day!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bridge Running

Last weekend, we made the long but much needed drive to Charleston for what I would like to become a reliable annual pilgrimage.

At the 33rd edition of the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston SC, I finished my 8th Bridge Run in a time of - well, a respectable time given my "relatively advanced age" (as my father tends to characterize it). At least, I think it was my 8th running - may have done more, but my records are a bit spotty.

Thinking back, I realized my first race was in 1992, the last year the race was held on the oldest of the three spans, the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge (which opened in 1929). I still remember the unnerving sensation of running on a bridge rocked by undulations as 7,000 runners made the crossing.

The next year, 1993, and the races following in '94 and '95, the race was held on the Silas N. Pearman Bridge, a luxurious three lanes in width. This testament to modern engineering had only been around since 1966.

College interrupted my running for a while, particularly since most of our crew races were held in the spring. I returned in 2001 and 2002 to post a PR of 43:07, and then again in 2007 for my first race on the "new" Cooper River bridge, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. I have to say, it took some getting used to, adjusting to the width and substance of the one-humped iteration this span represents. I think the race was more interesting on the old spans, to be honest, even though they are (were) steeper in grade than the Ravenel bridge and had two spans (read: uphill).

This picture and the one preceding are terrific shots showing all three spans as they co-existed before the demolition of the Pearman and Grace bridges in the fall of 2005. These photos were taken from Charleston Harbor by my friend Will Bean.

2010 was my first race in Charleston since Jack was born, but I wasn't too much worse for wear - faster than '07, at least. Just over 33,000 of my closest friends finished the course this year, and Simon Ndirangu of Kenya crossed the line to win while I was nearing the halfway point. Oh well - there's always next year!

NB: Older photo courtesy Wikipedia; modern shots by Will Bean.