The Music Must Change

I grew up on the immortal WBCN. When they changed formats (I forget the name of their new format, alternocrap or something), I switched to WZLX. Now I switch between “Dave FM” and 96.1, both of which play generous helpings of the music I like.

One tradition I love is the Memorial Day top 500 countdown. Being a rabid Who fan, I would wait to see how well the boys did. I have distinct memories of an awful weekend of long sweaty manual labor spent tarring our driveway, and then getting yelled at for doing it wrong and having to do most of it over. The only redeeming part to that weekend was the radio. The Who always got in the top 10 with Won’t Get Fooled Again, and there was a good shot that Baba O’Riley, Behind Blue Eyes, or Pinball Wizard would also be in that year’s top 10. Of course, everyone was playing for second place, it went without saying that the number one song would be Stairway to Heaven. The number one Song Remained the Same. (I hope y’all are getting the bad music puns I’m throwing in here.)

Then changes came. Growing up, the radio station was very upfront about ranking them as the “best 500”. Then over the years, it changed to the “top 500”, then to the “most requested 500”. Wussier and wussier.

Which brings us to the current day. 96.1, the local classic rock station “counts down you 496 most requested songs”. OK, ignore the typo, what’s an “r” between friends? Ignore the most requested songs, which makes the results as valid as your typical internet poll. No, what really gets me is the 496. Ya see, it’s like saying “For 96” or “For 96.1”, get it? Do ya get it? Huh huh, do ya get it?

Here is the top 10:

What is up with Stairway being at #2? Now I’m a big Aerosmith fan (the New Years Eve show I saw from Row 3 is one of the highpoints of my life), but c’mon. C’mon! Dream On is just not in the same league as Stairway. It just ain’t. It’s just plain wrong to argue otherwise. Not only would Dream On not make my top 10, it might not even make my Aerosmith top 10. Hmm… maybe that should be my next post.

And — Foreigner!? Kansas!? Are you #@$@!!! serious!? They correctly put Boston’s best song up there instead of More Than a Feeling, but it’s pretty questionable to put it at number 6. If you’re going to mess with the classic top 10, you got to bring some serious heat. Enter Sandman is a great pick, but the rest is just heresy.

(BTW, The Who had 8 songs in the countdown, 3 in the top 100.)

A bunch of good links

Random items of interest I’ve come across lately (sorry if the links don’t work. Get a membership to Salon, it’s worth it):

A Meterman steals hundreds of thousands of dollars, quarter by quarter.

Tennesse forgets to pay the phone bill, finance commisioner gets stuck in elevator, can’t phone for help.

“Crazy old coot” repeatedly calls 911 to report a pizza place that won’t deliver to her.

1000 lb guy loses half of it. “I really don’t know, and I really don’t care,” he said when asked what would be his ideal caloric intake.

Another brilliant piece by The Poorman

This is news?

So let me get this straight. A 69-year old man mistakenly flies his Cessna too close to the White House, setting up a 9/11 panic that evacuates the capitol. And the FAA revokes his license. I am stunned that this is newsworthy. The FAA revoking his license evokes the same suprise in me as if the sun came up in the morning.

So, if this is news that they revoke his license, what does that say for the FAA standards? ‘Though hundreds of people have mistakenly flown into Washington’s restricted airspace, the FAA rarely revokes a pilot’s license for such an offense. In this case, the agency determined Sheaffer “constitutes an unacceptable risk to safety in air commerce.'” Holy Moley!

If you’re a fan of Mr. Sheaffer, don’t worry. He can reapply for a new license in a year.

The FairTax

There have been some great discussions over at Jabley. Anyone who is interested in the taxing system should read through that area.

There have been many good points raised about The FairTax. I am quickly becoming a proponent. However, I am still bothered by two implications of one big idea. The idea is that any given item is taxed once and only once, at the point where a consumer buys it from a business. Not before, not after.

Not before:
Companies are not taxed on their purchases. The stated reason was not the one I gave in the above paragraph. The stated reason is that business profits eventually end up in the hands of an actual person, which must eventually spend it, and thus pay tax on it. And that any money that remains in the business is by definition investment, and therefore worthy of tax-free status. It’s the second rationale that bothers me. Not all purchases a business makes are investments, and plenty of investments that citizens make are.

I got a good comment from Micah Martello. Among other points, he says that “People already do this very same thing under the current system. Instead of paying the income tax, payroll tax, social security tax, medicare tax and compliance costs when you give yourself a salary to but that car you just pay yourself less and have the company buy the car. It’s still tax evasion under either system.”

I disagree. The difference is that under the current system, when the company bought the car, it paid sales taxes. Under The FairTax, it does not. Under the current system, when the company got the money to buy the car, it paid income tax on that. Under The FairTax it does not.

Not after: Under The FairTax, once an item has been taxed, it is never taxed again. Buying a used item is therefore tax free. I have troubles with this too. I see three related issues.
1) As I posted over at Jabley, it creates a perverse incentive if the value of a new item is more than 23% over the value of that same item used. Jabley dubbed this “Taxitrage”.
2) Who is checking? I don’t see any way to enforce this except to actually have an enormous data warehouse checking the status of every item in the USA. It’s absurd. Businesses have a huge incentive to commit fraud. “Sir, we have a special sale on ‘used’ computers, wink wink”
3) As a consumer, I’d be crazy to buy anything new. Why would I buy a new home, and pay an extra 23% on that price? Why would I buy a wireless router new, or a book, or just about anything. If I can get it used, I will. What does this do to the manufacturer? It amounts to a 23% hurdle that must be overcome in order to get the consumer to buy your product. In fact, it is very much like a tarriff that a foreign country must overcome to sell their goods in the USA, and high tarriffs are generally considered bad economics.

(Point 3 also leads to a 23% incentive to recycle consumer goods, and additionally gives the poorer people a way to purchase goods tax-free. Maybe that’s the point, though I don’t recall seeing that anywhere.)

Paying at the grocery

I’ve been awfully political lately, here’s some lighthearted stuff to break the mood.

OK, you know those things that you use to pay with a credit/debit card at the grocery? This is one of the worst machines I’ve ever seen. I’ve used it well over one hundred times, and I still have to stop and read every button every time. Have you ever seen someone try to use it for the first time? You might as well be in line behind some who wants to pay by trading leftover kleenex — it’s gonna be a while.

The sad part is that 95% of patrons are using it to do the exact same thing — pay with a card. How hard is that? The price comes up, you swipe your card, you push yes. How many buttons do you need? Two? They have over 20. A standard numeric keypad. 3 keys that change their function depending what point you are in the process. Another 3 or 6 with various payment options. It’s insane. Think about this device the next time you use it. Then tell me I’m wrong.

Sadly, I feel just as strongly about this as I do the political material. There will be more posts on bad user interfaces in normal life. It drives me crazy. I actually spend time nodding my head while I read sites like this.

Update: Here is a pic of the interface so you can see how ridiculous it is.