Updates from June, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 9:09 am on 30 June 2009 Permalink  

    According to the Daily Express, NASA has found the missing original recordings of the lunar video from Apollo 11. Just in time for the 40th anniversary!

    This is definitely good news, but I think the Daily Express may be expecting too much:

    The tapes show in much more detail than almost anyone has previously seen the surface of the moon beneath the patriotic symbol of the US flag.

    Crucially, they could once and for all dispel 40 years of wild conspiracy theories.

    Not a chance.

  • Hober Short 11:24 am on 26 June 2009 Permalink  

    Some poking around in the draft of the current budget (I read State budgets on my lunch break, what has my life come to?) finds on Page 6, line 41, that North Carolina expects to tax $13.2M in Fiscal Year 2009-2010, and $17.8M in 2010-2011 from “Sales Tax on Digital/Click-Throughs”.

    I’m guessing Amazon wasn’t even paying out $13 million bucks to NC residents (the margins for referrals can’t be all that large), so this would mean a huge increase in expense for no benefit. Makes a lot of sense from Amazon’s perspective.

    New things getting taxed at the “General Rate” of 5%:

    • Things that formerly were not taxed because they were “delivered or accessed electronically”:
      • “audio work” (MP3 download)
      • “audiovisual work” (movie download)
      • “book”
    • “service contract and from repair, maintenance, and installation services”
    • “Admission to a live performance or other live event of any kind.” (Concerts)
      • With specific exception for non-profits (they won’t be cutting in RLT’s bottom line, hopefully)
      • With specific exception for “An event at an elementary or secondary school.” (lol)
    • “Admission to a movie or other audiovisual work.” (Movies just got more expensive)
    • “air, surface, or combined courier delivery services of parcels” (Amazon’s getting taxed twice, now)

    There’s also what I call the Hoe-down exception for “A farm-related entertainment activity offered on land used for bona fide farm purposes as defined in G.S. 153A-340.”

  • Hober Short 10:18 am on 26 June 2009 Permalink  

    Via Hacker News:

    We are writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account has been closed as of June 26, 2009. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional tax collection scheme expected to be passed any day now by the North Carolina state legislature (the General Assembly) and signed by the governor. As a result, we will no longer pay any referral fees for customers referred to Amazon.com or Endless.com after June 26. We were forced to take this unfortunate action in anticipation of actual enactment because of uncertainties surrounding the legislation’s effective date.

    . . .

    In the event that North Carolina repeals this tax collection scheme, we would certainly be happy to re-open our Associates program to North Carolina residents.

    Source. This program is the one by which a blog can post a link to Amazon (or a specific product on Amazon), and the blogger would get a referral commission percentage of any purchases made through that link.

    It’s the way that, as the linked article points out, a lot of mid-level bloggers keep their websites afloat.

  • Hober Short 11:54 am on 23 June 2009 Permalink  

    There’s a new version of Magic: The Gathering available from the XBOX Live Arcade store (and therefore playable exclusively on the 360) that is simplified, streamlined form of Magic that is meant as an introductory experience (although it’s crack to some veterans too).


    One of the things they got right, in my opinion, is that the card pool for the game is relatively constricted. This is something that continually irked me about Magic: it always felt like the constant addition of cards induced power creep on a huge scale.

    I see something similar happening with D&D: the constant tide of new books are hard-pressed to be equally balanced with the core books. For example, around the time PBH2 was being written, WOTC just flat out said “the Wizard’s at-will powers are just underpowered compared to the controllers that will be in PHB2”. Essentially, there wasn’t enough power to redistribute in interesting ways. So, the PBH2 controllers were slightly better, and then in Arcane Power, wizards got buffed to the same level so that controllers are, overall, more potent now.

    Here’s the thing: that’s not bad. If you want to use the more powerful Wizard, you can. But you’re not at a penalty if you decide to just play core, the way you would be in, say, Magic.

    I’ve heard Dominion cited as being a Magic-like game, but with a limited set of cards to draw on, which seems a step in the right direction. But, honestly, I’d just be interested in some kind of boxed Magic set with, say, the 1000 greatest Magic cards of all time to play as its own standalone game.

    Hey, I can dream.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 2:25 pm on 22 June 2009 Permalink  

    This is, I think, good news: TiVo is in talks to provide its service through Time Warner Cable, much as they already do through Comcast (and soon will through DirecTV).

    Presumably this means that TWC will, in the future, offer TiVo-based DVRs in addition to (or maybe instead of) their current crappy DVRs. Seems like a no-brainer to me: it would mean avoiding the up-front cost of buying a TiVo, and also the complexities and limitations that go along with CableCARD service.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 1:15 pm on 22 June 2009 Permalink  

    I can’t resist noting the typo in the first paragraph of that WRAL story, which says the state is trying to “fill a projected $4.6 budget gap.” Heck, I’ll spot them the fiver if that will solve the problem.

    More seriously: I can’t bring myself to wade into the comments, but I wonder whether anyone has pointed out how much money could be saved by truncating the school year by about two weeks. From what I see, once EOGs are over all attempts at education stop. Laura spent the last several weeks of the school year attending parties, watching movies, and going out for recess three times per day. Imagine all of the money spent on salaries, utilities, and bus fuel, all (apparently) for no purpose but to satisfy a mandated 180-day school year requirement.

  • Hober Short 11:39 am on 22 June 2009 Permalink  

    WRAL also has a story about NCGov Perdue demanding that legislators find some way to “generate” (i.e. tax) a billion more dollars for education.

    What astounds me is that, at press time, there are 250 comments on the story and a quick skim found that every one I saw was negative. I would expect at least a little debate.

    I wonder how this would go if it were put as a series of ballot propositions?

  • Hober Short 11:19 am on 22 June 2009 Permalink  

    The BritGov has finally figured out that “i before e” is flawed because “there are too many exceptions.”


  • Hober Short 1:22 pm on 18 June 2009 Permalink  

    CNET talked to the CEO of a 3D movie making tech company who says, unsurprisingly, that 3D is the future. Among other things:

    Think 3D is a gimmick and that professional cinematographers and television directors don’t take it seriously? Financials, Climan says, dispute this. 3D films in 3D theaters gross two to five times what the 2D versions of those films do. Commercials in 3D yield better recall rates. And it’s not just the novelty factor, Climan says. If so, the trend would have faded. Grosses for 3D films are growing.

    The novelty would have faded? That happens when you reach market penetration, buddy. I just saw my first 3D movie a few weeks ago. You’ve got a long way to go before you would expect to see that kind of dropoff.

    3D still smells of gimmickry to me, although I’m willing to hold judgement until Avatar comes out. If anyone can make 3D work, it’s James Cameron. Until then, I’ll save the bucks when I go see Up again and do it in 2D.

    Oh, and PS: his statistic about 3D films yielding more probably has a sample size that any legitimate statistician would laugh at.

  • Hober Short 12:37 pm on 18 June 2009 Permalink  

    In case you missed it:

    I now see they actually posted that one on my latest birthday. Aw, shucks, guys. You didn’t have to get me anything.

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