Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Why Won't Other States Learn From Seattle's Problems?

It's not a homelessness problem. That's just an outcome of the real issue. It's a drug problem. Businesses closing, people leaving the cities, police inhibited from making arrests, rampant crime.

I am glad that Rhode Island's incarceration/intervention model is working, but every legislator in every state in the nation needs to watch this, particularly if they have voted to turn their state into a drug state by legalizing marijuana or decriminalizing drugs. How many more prisons do we want to have to build? They're already filling up. How many drug-addicted homeless people will fill the streets before our legislators listen? It isn't about homelessness. It's about addiction. Legalizing the drugs only exacerbates the problem.

This is further evidence that we need to support our local law enforcement and local D.A.R.E. Programs so that we can put the money into teaching our children that drugs are self-destructive and wrong. Do we pay for the smaller problem now and refuse the legalization of drugs or do we fork out hundreds of millions on addressing this greater issue later?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

City Use Taxes Unfairly Double Tax County Citizens

This is a reprint of a Facebook post recently made. While it is primarily dealing with a city use tax proposed in my state, it has much broader implications. (Follow the discussion on Facebook)

Open Letter Regarding Maryville Missouri's Proposed Use Tax for Online Purchases
I recently read the “vote yes” opinions for the new Maryville use tax, in the The Maryville Forum, and while those living in Maryville may choose to give away yet more of their income to such an endeavor, I have to disagree that applying such a tax is a favorable thing, for a couple of reasons.
First, the new use tax will unfairly increase the cost of purchases for those living in smaller communities around Maryville, outside the city limits, who do not have their own separate zip codes and therefore have to use “Maryville” as their mailing address. The City of Maryville would be collecting taxes on online purchases made by all Nodaway countians who use the 64468 zip code, even if they don’t live inside the city limits. The out-of-state vendors do not, at present, have a way of determining, when selling a product to someone in the county but outside the city on whether the tax is applicable to the individual. Many people nationwide are already probably paying hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for "city use taxes' even though they don't live in the city that has implemented it and that is collecting it and using the funds.
How can the city tax county people a use tax if those folks don’t reside inside the city limits? That’s illegal. Take for instance, Arkoe. Our post office went out a decade before zip codes came into use in the 1960s. We are an incorporated town in our own right. When I make an online purchase, I should not be charged or have to pay Maryville use tax on that purchase. Even though I live in Arkoe, my mailing address is Maryville. We're working on getting our own zip code, but the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General will have to issue it. I do not live in the city of Maryville, but that's my ship-to address. I know there are other home-based businesses out there in Nodaway County, and in other Missouri counties, that are or will be in the same situation. If Maryville's use tax does pass, the City of Maryville should have to refund those overcharged taxes to those outside the city limits for this use tax we will not owe.
It’s happening all over the country. Just like it is around those 150 cities in Missouri that have implemented such a 'use tax. Those who are actually outside of cities are being charged this use tax for their online purchases, money that will go to a city whose legal boundaries they do not actually reside within. Online vendors are erroneously charging and remitting taxes charged to those folks. Not their fault. They are just told they must charge the tax on that shipping address.
Second, the idea that Maryville businesses aren't competing with online out-of-state vendors is not viable. Most of the purchases online are for things that are not available at Maryville stores anyway. They may be specialty items, even books, that are not available through Walmart or Dollar General or Dollar Tree, or through many of our other shops. They may be specialty craft items or office supplies I will use in my out-of-city business. Local businesses are not losing money on those purchases because they do not carry those specialty items I may need. I believe in shopping locally first, and I do so, fervently, but there are times when things I need simply are not available here and I have to source those elsewhere. And, I am capable of ordering those online myself. Many of the services that are local are used by local folks and they pay the tax appropriate for those goods and services.City-based businesses can compete online if they offer their products online and then charge the applicable taxes. If you are selling online, do you know or are you charging and remitting use taxes due to other cities? It's getting so convoluted with regard to taxes that it's going to eventually kill the or stagnate the online marketplace and everyone will lose, including local folks selling to other people nationwide.
And, in case you didn't know it, Missourians doing business already charge a state use tax. Why be taxed twice?
So, if you live within the city limits of Maryville and you want to give away a few more of your hard-earned dollars to yet another tax, go ahead. But, it’s an unfair tax on the rest of the county citizens who technically do not live within the city limits and should not have to be charged the additional money. Some of them may be your friends and relatives.
If you live in one of those 150-160 Missouri cities that have a city use tax, and you don't actually live inside their city limits, you may want to go back and check your online purchases since the use tax was implemented. You may have been unfairly taxed and you may be due a refund.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Thirtieth Anniversary of The Web and Facebook is Broken

Today is the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web and one of the largest social media networks seems to be offline. 😲 (An emoji seems appropriate. Would we even have them if we didn't have the web?) Efforts to post this morning went nowhere. It sounds like a lot of other people are having the same problem. I hope they're able to fix it. (Try logging out of your Facebook account and logging back in again.)

There are a lot of interesting articles out there about the man who introduced the world to the World Wide Web and how he sees things today, and where he would like to see the web go in the future. Here's one from TechCrunch

I remember those earliest days, getting online. Things were a lot different then. Interfaces were more simplistic. The web wasn't suffering ad bloat and misinformation flu, and scammers hadn't yet realized its potential. All that has changed. For some, those three things are a good reason to abandon its use. However, it has been beneficial in connecting a very large world population in a way Ma Bell couldn't. Sure, it started out using phone lines, but look where we are today. 

As a writer, I am grateful because it opened up the ability to publish articles (and blog posts) without the need for shopping for an agent and publisher. In fact, without the World Wide Web, would we even have self-publishing? Well, yeah, it's been around since -- forever. But, having the web and the ability to upload manuscripts and simply hit 'publish' has made the process faster, simpler, and more cost-efficient. Who could have envisioned e-books - having access to literally millions of books right from the comfort of your home or office, without having to build or dust a single bookshelf. 

So, I want to say, Happy birthday, Web. And, thank you Sir Tim Berners-Lee. I am looking forward to reading your open letter on this important anniversary. And being able to read it online is pretty nice. Posting it to the web saved you millions in postage costs and I might not have gotten a copy otherwise.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Pedaling Toward Wellness Updates

In November of 2018, when another bacteria and diabetes tried to kill me for a third time, I implemented some new things in my regimen and added back in some exercise. I just went back and updated the post Pedaling Toward Wellness Again.
numbering start line on concrete floor
The short story on the two things needing update are:

  • First, that I think I may have been or was becoming allergic to the aloe vera juice I was putting in the smoothies. I have since stopped using it. 
  • Second, the grating of whole, frozen lemons and adding that to my water had no appreciable difference on blood sugar numbers. In fact, using the fresh-squeezed juice and pulp in slightly higher concentration provided more benefits.
I am still pedaling toward wellness, and the daily numbers have risen considerably. I have also added in light hand weights just to keep things interesting. By the end of today I will have ridden 25-30 miles, pumped a little iron two or three times, and done about 25-50 squats. I'm still aiming for fifty miles on the bike, and the squats were added for another reason. Yes, I have a reason. I am working on improving balance and being able to be up and moving around on my feet for longer periods. That, too, is improving, in part because of better insoles (Dr. Scholl's Plantar Faciaitis) and light-compression stockings (Miracle Copper). They are helping reduce and control the pain associated with that.

I don't think there is a 'miracle' associated with them, nor do I think 'copper' has anything to do with relieving the nervy feet and leg fatigue. The fabric tends to massage your feet and legs when you move, and moving is better than remaining sedentary all the time because your feet and legs hurt. I tried the Copper Fit brand, as well, and they're nice, but they're more expensive, harder to get here locally, and they tend to be a bit too long from heel to knee than the Miracle Copper pairs. Plan on replacing either brand you choose after about two years of continual use and repeated washings as the elasticized fibers will began to break and lose some of their compression ability.

Aspercreme helps with the achy joints too. Use it liberally. Apply it before you work out, on knees, arms, shoulders, ankles, and you may not have muscle aches later. Just say'n. 

So, fifteen of those cycling miles mentioned above are already behind me. I'll try for another seven now and then five to seven miles later and we'll see what that adds up to. [I added another ten miles. I should have pushed for another five, but it gave me a new goal for today. 03/11/19)

In between pedaling sessions, I do a little editing on the two nonfiction manuscripts and think about the next book in the Cozy American Castle Mystery series. It's cold and raining outside. What else is there to do?

Note: I am not an affiliate of the products or the retailers linked above. I get no funding for placing the links. Just sharing some in case your body is also aching, tired, or in need of support, because as we all come to learn eventually age and gravity hate us. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What Is The Leading Cause Of Death Of A Website?

I find myself limiting, more and more, the websites I visit and the publications to which I subscribe. This includes most national newspapers and magazines. I avoid their online sites largely because they have become so bloated with ads and video content that their pages take too long to load or are utterly impossible to load. More and more sites bury their otherwise good content among so many pop-up advertisements that readers are forced to piece the post or article back together one word at a time. I also avoid those sites which are inundated with videos that automatically play as soon as I arrive. I refuse to waste time trying to shut the videos down. I simply leave the site. I also leave sites where an article has been broken up across multiple pages, forcing me to keep clicking page after page. It's called click-bait content. Yuck. And finally, I avoid pages with those horizontal rows of photos at the bottom that carry over-sensationalized and misleading headlines. They're just more click-bait. I'm allergic to click-bait. 

While there's nothing out there statistically to show that ad bloat is the leading cause of death of websites today, I suspect it will one day be recognized as the leading cause.

I find sites that offer few or no ads more appealing. I bookmark those. I read their posts and articles. I revisit them. If they have a donate button or a sponsor button, and I have something to offer for the article I read, (usually a dollar or two) I'll send it their way. I prefer to patronize or subscribe to sites that don't waste my time, that slow my computer down, and that haven't, apparently, jumped into the deep end of the 'monetization' pool so as to put their visitor at risk of drowning in ad bloat.

On this blog, and others that I maintain, I will occasionally link to stores where I have purchased things, or to pages showing information on products that I like and buy. I make no money from those retailers or manufacturers if you visit their site. I am not an affiliate marketer.

I know that print publications, newspapers, magazines, etc, need some ads to help their revenue stream. They need print ads and they need online ads. But, they really should put their websites on an ad-restrictive diet and get rid of the bloat. It's unappealing.

I appreciate our local papers that run ads from local service businesses and retailers. I appreciate the fact they display books by local authors in their office for visitors to browse. I pay attention to what they print. I click links on their websites. The ads they run are for local products and services I use or that I am seeking more information about. I support their writers by reading the articles they write, and I read some online, and occasionally share a link via online messaging. In the non-virtual world, I buy their paper at the newsstand, through a mail subscription, or an online subscription. They are still content rich in comparison to the ads they carry. Nice balance.

Last year we reduced our print subscriptions by a couple of magazines. Why? Because the ads within them outweighed the content, by a wide margin. I recently received a renewal request from one of them. I pitched it in the trash. I'm paying to read articles, to look at photographs, and to learn something useful. I do not subscribe to print in order to read ads. I do not subscribe to online sites to read ads. If the publications we abandoned had an ad-free or ad-limited site, I might consider renewing that subscription. Unfortunately, they're far too deep in the monetization pool, and going down fast.

When I think about it, advertising has overtaken everything, television, radio. newsprint, magazines, and now the online environment. Because of that, I very rarely listen to the radio anymore. I very rarely watch television. I can avoid the ads in print publications by simply not looking at them. And, I can avoid the online ads by limiting what sites I visit.

It's sad it has to be that way. As an author, I should advertise my books, but I have found that having happy readers, who recommend them to their friends, is better than any online advertising I could secure. In a way I think it still is the best means. And, I am happy to point readers to the locations, online and in the non-virtual world, where they can acquire my books.

To that end, I maintain an informational website with links to my books on Amazon. It's a form of advertising, but oh so limited. I post an occasional link to that site, when I am out and about on the web. I hope others, if they like my books, will share information about them. That's it. When existing readers or potential readers visit my website, they will find it content rich and ad poor. As on this blog, I have drained the monetization pools on those sites. 

I may, eventually be adding a 'donate' or 'sponsor' button to my blog or websites, for those who wish to sponsor my writing. And, I might -- might -- someday add a static sponsor's list to my site(s). But, as for me, I have opted out of running banner ads, video ads, etc. I have also stopped buying ads for my books. I hope that makes my readers happy. That's the ultimate goal in writing anyway, to make my readers happy.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Some Days Start Off Better Than Others

It's 2° outside. Two. The high is expected to be twelve. *Sigh* This morning, in addition to escorting the trash bags waaaaaay out to the trash cans, I have to check and fill the fluids in the van, and read the water meter. The last activity means kneeling down in the snow, if I can get the lid off the hole wherein the meter lives, and trying to view those tiny numbers on the meter far below the surface. Did I mention it's 2° outside?

 I still trying to close out my day yesterday, around 3 a.m. when today started. My young nephew and his little sister came for a sleepover last night, as they didn't have school today. Teacher in-service training . . . always on a Monday this year. Are they in training or are they just avoiding Mondays? If it's the latter, I can't blame them. I'm having a "Monday" kind of day. Anyway, just as I was getting ready to go to sleep I heard my nephew get off the couch and hurry toward my room, or more importantly the bathroom. He was pale and bleary-eyed and pukey. Yup. He hurried into the bathroom, half awake, and threw up. Three times. At 3 a.m. After the outflow stopped, I got him settled back down with a sip of 7-up and a wet washcloth for his forehead. I tried to go back to bed, because I knew 7 a.m. was just around the corner, but I couldn't sleep. I texted his mother the news, and then tossed and turned for another hour. I finally drifted off to semi-sleepfulness around 4:15 a.m. and then the alarm began to ring at 6:00 a.m. and the text-messaging app pinged. His mother got my message. "Fine. No fever. No more vomiting. Oh, wait . . . yup, there he goes again. No. He'll be fine." I tried to drift off to sleep again, but by that time his little sister was up. When her brother reached for the trash basket next to the couch and leaned over, she bolted for my room holding her mouth. I suddenly found her taking up space in my bed.

Some Mondays start off better than others. This wasn't one of them. Since I couldn't get back to sleep, I decided to cook. I know, what else would I do? Bacon, scrambled eggs, toast for my mother; bacon, eggs, vegetable juice for me; pancakes and bacon for little sister; a cup of Jell-O and a saltine cracker for the pukey one.

Now I get to go outside. At least it's not -5° outside, which was the reading on the thermometer when this Monday began. Did I mention the ten-mile ride on the exercise bike felt like thirty and my legs were weighted down with invisible blocks of concrete?