Windows 8: Cursed?

We all know of the Star Trek movies – that long running cinema franchise that grew from the television series from the late 60’s. Even if you are not a fan of the show or the movies, it’s hard to ignore the existence of the show and its multitude of spinoffs. If you are a fan of the movie franchise (even a casual one) you are aware of the dreaded “Trek movie curse”. The curse is relatively simple – every odd-numbered Starr Trek movie before the reboot has been a critical and box office flop while the even-numbered movies have been critically acclaimed.

The Motion Picture, the Search for Spock, Star Trek V, Generations, and Insurrection. They have all been plagued with poorly written story lines, illogical and baffling art direction, and bad acting / direction. The curse is something of a vision of hindsight – easy to see now that we can look back and compare the movies. That curse is somewhat unique to the franchise and, depending on who you ask, has been broken (or not) in the reboot of the series in 2009. Mind you, I don’t mean “curse” in the “woo woo” way. It is an observation as opposed to a belief in anything supernatural going on.

But the curse itself is not altogether unique. The Microsoft Windows operating system appears to share the same fate as these films, with versions of the venerable OS doing a hit and miss dance with consumers. This all depends on where you start counting and what members of the product line you choose to include. For our purposes here, we are talking about the consumer releases and leaving out the “network” versions of the software – WinNT, Win2K, Win2003, Win2008, and so forth. These are meant more as server software or at least for use in IT business environments instead as consumer system designed to surf the Internet and play games.

Of course, where do we start our count on the consumer side? Windows 1.0? 2.0? 3.x? Well, Windows 1.0 was not exactly a consumer product like we expect today. After all, it was produced when the personal computer market was still in diapers. The software was quite limited, but this was as much to do with the youth of the market as anything within the program itself. The same thing could be said of Windows 2.0 – released in 1988, it was still very early in the development of the consumer computer system. Not to say that there wasn’t a market at that time, but compare the sales figures in ’88 to ’98 and it looks quite sickly. Besides, these versions were not quite capable of operating the system alone. If you recall, the OS of the day at that time was DOS (Disk Operating System), a text based OS that provided users the ability to interact with computers without needing to sequentially load disks or type out long strings of commands. Windows was not an OS at this time, it was a shell layer laid atop of DOS that was meant to give you a different means of interacting with the system. It relied on DOS for a fair component of its operation. Even up to Windows 3.x, DOS was needed for the system to operate even if it was just in the background.

So we come to Win95, the first version of Windows designed to operate the system alone (though it still used the DOS kernel deep down) and it is here that the curse takes hold. Win95 was a good first attempt, but was plagued with memory leaks, crash bugs, and all sorts of other mischief. It was a failure. Replacing it in 1998 was Win98 which featured better memory management (it still leaked), better functionality, speed, and so forth. It was a success. How can we tell? We need only look to when the support for an OS was discontinued. Win95 was released on 24 August 1995 and support was halted on 30 November 2001 (just over 6 years). Win98 was released 25 June 1998 and support was halted 11 July 2006 (just over 8 years. It was scheduled to be dropped two years prior but popular demand forced Microsoft to delay cutting off support. Win95, on the other hand, disappeared with little more than a whimper.

The next great release of the OS was WinME or Windows Millennium Edition. Hard to say something kind about this one as it was one of the biggest pieces of OS garbage ever built. This was partially due to the last minute inclusion of the DOS kernel in the system due to demand from some users (read: hardcore nerds) that wanted the DOS kernel for “functionality”. What it did was destabilize the entire OS, rendering it a bugged out monster with enormous memory leaks, BSOD’s, and vulnerabilities. Sadly, the original Windows Kernel within the OS was pretty good and would serve as the basis for future versions, but this zombie OS was just plain awful. Released on 14 September 2000 and discontinued on the same day as Win98. Ouch!

Now we get to the star of the Windows line, Windows XP or Windows Experience (yeah, XP actually stood for something). What can one say about XP other than that it has been the most popular OS on the planet? Gone was the DOS kernel and in was the new Windows-only kernel. XP learned from ME and from 2K – it’s memory management was tighter (it knew to free memory once programs were close), its desktop slicker, and its capabilities were wider. It had a bit of a rocky start, but a couple service packs rapidly brought it up to snuff. Released on 25 October 2001 and service is expected to be discontinued on 08 April 2014 – that’s almost 13 years.

Windows Vista was next. An OS that build on XP and included numerous functionality upgrades, including better indexing and search functions, better memory management, and a new method of storing .DLL files that allowed multiple versions to be archived and used as needed by programs, eliminating a lot of conflicts and BSODs of old. But the program was big, heavy, and slow. Things just took longer to get done on it. Business and consumers were not about to give up the slick and smooth interface for a new clunky one, no matter how many new bobbles they put into it. It also came with a ridiculous number of versions, confusing consumers that were used to Windows XP. Period. Released 30 January 2007 with no end date for support as yet.

Now we come to the current golden kid – Windows 7. It is not that much different from Vista, except it sports better speeds and scalability. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s caught on as a result and has recently pushed XP out as top OS. To note, it was released on 22 October 2009.

Which brings us to Windows 8. Looking over the details above, it should be painfully obvious which way a prediction for this OS would lean. Despite the number, in the realm of actual operating systems, it has landed on the supposedly cursed number. Does this mean that it’s actually doomed?

That depends on a number of factors, some in the OS and some in the broader market. Success is a never a single, solid number. It shifts as the market changes and in terms of computer technology, the market is always changing. My opinion? I think it’s not going to “win”, as it were, at least not in the business / desktop market. Why? It’s actually pretty simple – just look at the release dates above.

Oh sure, there’s the issues with the new Metro system in Windows 8, the lack of Start Menu, the poor showing on the integrated Apps store, the closed ecosystem for the store similar to Apple, the idiocy for shutting down, and difficulties in switching between programs some have noted. All of that is true, but it still pales before the simple fact. It’s too soon. I’m dead serious. Don’t look at the dates involved – look at the market. Windows 7 was released only about 2.5 years ago. It is just now seeing deployment in business settings – my office has just begun rolling it out to our laptops. Programs are being updated to specifically work with the OS. In other words, Windows 7 is just now beginning to replace XP as THE OS. Windows 8 might be like sweet “mana” from heaven in computing terms, but it’s just too soon.

Let me put it this way. In 2000, I was using Win98 as my primary OS. By 2003, I was using Win2k. It took until 2006 for me to get into XP. I got on with Windows 7 in 2009 when it came out. Right now, I don’t see me needing a new OS until this one starts to show its age. That’s likely going to be at least another 2 or more years into its life cycle if not more. I don’t need a new OS – there is nothing that I can think of that I need to do with my computer that the Windows 7 OS does not already facilitate. For businesses, it is even worse. If they are just now moving to Windows 7 after ten years on XP, what is the likelihood they are going to chuck that for 8 anytime soon? Almost zero.  Like Vista, it will be automatically included on new systems and like Vista, it’ll be Windows 9 before I bother with it. The same goes for business users. They don’t need it yet. Oh, it will sell, but I do not expect it to replace Windows 7.

Let’s see if the Star Trek curse holds.

.

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Just ….. just don’t “do it” … ok?

Huh.

You know, the Internet is a big, crazy place. A place where you will see all manners of things on all kinds of subjects. Some are awesome, some are cute, some are soul crushing, and some are just plain stupid. This is one of those last ones.

The great state of Utah is primed to pass legislation that makes it against the law to teach (in public schools) anything other than abstinance as sex education. Hah! Bet you thought I was going to say “creationism”, didn’t you? Honestly, this is just as – if not more – retarded though. It will be illegal for teachers to inform the students about birth control methods – like the pill, condoms, sponges, and the like. They can only mention one method and one method alone – abstinence.

Now, we’ve all heard of abstinence, right? For those that have not, let me put it bluntly with a little situation. Robby and Julie are both in high school. Both of them are 16 (the legal age for sex in that area) and they are dating. They go to parties, movie, sit together, eat together and study together. Both are normal kids – healthy with no dysfunctions in their hormonal pools. They are frequently alone and when they are, they begin heavy petting. You know the drill, rubbing each other, kissing, feeling each other up, the usual. And I mean usual. Every young human couple since humanity has existed has done this. That much should be obvious – there are 7 billion of us now. We must be good at something.

Robby and Julie are completely normal. Their hormones are raging and they are feeling that urge to engage in sex. They pet, they rub, they feel. In school, they have been taught that when sexual feelings come over them, their best option is …. stop. Just that. Nothing more or less. Feeling the urge to have sex? All alone? Perfect timing? Meh, just stop! That will stop any risk of pregnancy.

Are they actually serious? The answer to sex is to …. not have any? Wha …? Have these people – Republicans if you need to know – ever been 16 and horny? Because they are forgetting something vital. When you’re16 and horny and she / he is horny and you are alone and all that … well, you are going to screw. Simple as that. Let me state it clearly – ABSTINENCE DOES NOT WORK!

That cannot be over-emphasized. It does not and cannot work. You can’t tell someone that they “shouldn’t” do that. It might work on one or two prudes, but 99.8% of them are going to have sex as soon as they are humanly able. Abstinence does not work. Every place that has a similar sex ed program has an enormous teenage pregnancy rate. Every single one. Places that teach condom use and about the pill do not have such pregnancy rates. I wonder why ….

This is a piece of religiously motivated stupidity. And a dangerous piece. Sure, the pregnancies are one thing, but you must remember that we have dozens of STD’s that roam around. If abstinence actually worked, then there would be no problem. But it doesn’t – kids still fuck and as a result of failing to learn about protection, they are going at it bareback. Meaning they are trading all those lovely viruses and such between them. How grant – anyone for Utah brand gonorrhea?

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Mynd you, moose bites Kan be pretti nasti.

Sorry about the time between posts there, people. Duty calls and all that. Another post and another of my changes of pace here. I am going to talk a little about a problem that is local to my Province(not that others don’t face it, but it’s topical here). That problem is moose.

Yeah, I’m talking about the big, dumb, lumbering beasts that roam the woods here. A animal not unlike many that roam the forests of North America, with its majestic call … that sounds something like a smoker breathing his or her last. They were never native to the Island portion of the Province, but were added by Liberal god that was Smallwood in what I can only imagine was some sort of drug fueled mad delusion from one too many nights downtown. Brought in and set loose on an unsuspecting and naively optimistic populace for the purposes of “hunting” them. Yeah, really.

Anyway, there are here now and all that, so what’s the problem? Well, there is just the one, but she’s a real harsh one. Turns out that there are no natural predators here on the Island to hunt the things where we won’t. That is, nothing considers them their primary source of food other than Humans which (I can assure you) likewise do not consider them their primary source either. Great to have them around in case the zombie apocalypse breaks out tomorrow, but kind of a burden otherwise. This problem, coupled with the simple regulation of “sustainable hunting quotas”, have created a rather grim situation here. The Moose, getting more numerous all the time, have been sauntering across highways, at night, and cars have been running into them. In many cases, these have resulted in fatal accidents.

So, given that we are in an election cycle here (actually about to end as today is election day) a concern citizens group has rose up to make it some kind of campaign issue. Nothing stupid so far, this is there right and I agree that something should be done. The PC’s indicated that they are looking into increased licenses for hunting. Not bad. The NDP have indicated that they are looking into the same or maybe even a cull. Good, good. The Liberals? Oh, man … the Liberals. They actually proposed that the Province install …. FENCING around the roads. You know, to keep the little buggers off them. This has been a recommendation of the concerned citizens group so one could not blame the Liberals for bowing to it for votes. Except for one tiny issue.

The idea is fruitier than a boat load of nuns.

Whomever came up with the idea of fencing is, simply, batshit insane. I mean that. Batshit insane. Why? Is it because they can’t, don’t, won’t work? Yeah, that’s part of it. Fences have been tried and they fail to stop the beasts. How? Well, you see, moose sort of climb over them. There is a rather amusing video of a moose doing just that on youtube – http://youtu.be/kK69nTF_yNY. That’s a young bull too, so the whole plan is pretty much useless.

Beyond that, though, it is stupid for a whole other reason. The cost. This is a Province of 500,000 people with over 9,600 kilometres of road. Let’s arbitrarily take 3,600 off that for towns, cliffs, roads with low speed limits and the like. This is more than generous – it’s ludicrous, but it’s to illustrate the point. That leaves 6,000 road kilometres to cover with fence or 6,000,000 meters. Each meter of fence would need to be, say, 6 feet tall to block the animals – it actually needs to be higher, but we’re estimating here. Material would need to be sufficient to block them but able to allow other animals to pass. It also needs to be durable – wood palings are not adequate. A metallic or plastic net would be adequate. There needs to be fence posts intermittently to hold the thing up – metal ones are preferred. Like the ones for chain-link fence. A post every meter is pretty good. 6,000,000 * 2 sides of the road = 12,000,000 posts and 12,000,000 metres of wire. Poles need to be 8 feet tall for embedding into the ground, so we need to factor that in. We also need to factor the cost of labour, and the cost of cement and stone for seating materials. Estimates for chain link installation run (from a brief search) around $18.00 per linear foot which should serve as a good proxy.

3 meters = 10 linear feet. 12,000,000 / 3 = 4,000,000 * 10 = 40,000,000 linear feet (rough estimate. At $18.00 a foot, we are looking at $720 million for the fence. 720 million for what amounts to a minor hurdle for the moose. 720 million on a population of 500,000 or $1,440 per capita. Yep, that sounds feasible. And it’s such a good investment. Screw infrastructure improvements or aid to community groups or to the elderly or anything of the sort. We got to spend almost 3 quarters of a billion dollars on ineffectively keeping moose off the road.

Idiots.

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Protests and Apples

Occupy my Baton, please!

Damn it so much.

You know, I am never one for the hate train on the police. You always have the bad apples and so forth. Even my profession has had the fraudsters and whatnot. But it makes it hard to defend when people are able to point to videos taken of the one of them making a complete jackass of themselves. Such as this video from last nights Occupy Wall Street Protests. What appears to be a uniformed officer is beating protestors with an metal rod. That is just … I can’t even put that one into words.

But look at that video! That is not the only one for sure – look at the number of cameras there! There must be dozens in the vicinity of the incident alone. Outrageous! How dare they? How could they do such a thing!? Is that what I’m expected to say, I wonder. Actually, it is outrageous … that there were not more camera and more videos there. People might get this image in their heads that I am some sort of defender of the state. I suppose I am, in a way. But defending something from unwarranted attack does not mean I write it a blank cheque for anything that it does. What they did is deplorable from the videos I have seen – even more so when one considers that it was unprovoked.

Some will point out that if these are the poor protesting, how did they get cameras? No contest; there are more than just the poor present and camera technology has gotten dirt cheap of late. It doesn’t have to be the best bit-rate or greatest resolution to take pictures / film and be understood when viewed. I would personally recommend that a camera be considered standard equipment during protests, both by the protesters and the police. Helps to keep people honest.

 

Jobless Apples

Steve Jobs, the heart and soul of Apple, passed away yesterday evening at the age of 56. He leaves behind a legacy of easy to use tech and brutal corporate control of its use. I have heard the snark that he took one look at the new iPhone and said “Meh, that’s it, I’m out of here.” Seriously, my condolences to his family … and to the families of the other estimated 155,000 people that died yesterday. Kind of puts giving special kudos to one man into perspective a bit there, doesn’t it?

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Occupy away, you crazy thing.

This is a topic that I’ve seen a little bit about, here and there, across the Internets and into the “traditional media”. This idea of the Occupy Wall Street protests. These protests were apparently started weeks before by various individuals, some of which may be associated with Anonymous, in the streets and park that surround the financial district in New York. Occupy Wall Street has attracted hundreds, even thousands, to the area to protest. These protests have even spread to other parks and such all over the United States. A completely peaceful gathering of individuals that are finally standing up and saying … something or another…?

That didn’t have the punch that one might hope and to be fair, it wasn’t meant to. I’ve been watching from the sidelines and I have to admit that the point of these protests – the message – escapes me to a certain extent. They’re angry – ok. They’re through with just taking it – fine. They are mobilizing – good. Their goal – ? Honestly, there does not seem to be much of a point to the whole thing; no unified message that they are trying to get across. A look at some pictures from the protests and one sees a sea of different signs with different messages vying for attention. All of them may be legitimate messages with perfectly reasonable points and a concise set of demands, but I can’t hear one for want of the others. The signal to noise ratio is out of whack, which impairs my ability to pick out what they are trying to get across.

Hell, I heard a clip from a radio program (Majority Report) which had the host state that the message couldn’t be clearer. And even he was dancing around the bush like a madman trying to articulate what exactly that “very clear” message was. It’s like a big trolling exercise – how long can they remain protesting without an actual goal for change in mind? It would be better than a Rick Roll heard around the world.

I recently heard that they will be voting on a position statement soon. It cannot be soon enough, in my opinion. For any that might read this that are part of the protests – MAKE A MISSION STATEMENT AND STICK TO IT! Ensure only those that are clear on the statement speak to the media. You do not want anyone there that are protesting the Lizard People that are in control of Wall Street making sweet verbal love to the mic. It is not in your best interests; it paints the entire movement with the image of a movement of kooks and nut jobs, I doubt many are such, but the image – once applied – will stick. Get a message and get speakers to push it. Else this will be ignored like every other such act.

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Religion … in my schoolin…?

You know, I have memories of church hymns from my youth. I couldn’t give you any of the names of them and only fragments of the actual lyrics remain, but those memories stick with you. I was never the most religious – actually, it is far more reasonable for me to say that I was never religious in the strictest sense. It was never a real topic of discussion at my house as both my father and mother were uninterested in religion after their brushes with it in their own youth. We did not adhere nor attend.

Then, you might wonder, where did I hear these hymns? In school, of course. At this time in the Eighties, the Roman Catholic Church still operated the schools in this Province. That made for all kinds of fun, as you might imagine. Fun things like … religion class in the school. Nothing wrong with that right. Taking a class and learning about the worlds religions can be beneficial; you know, broaden ones horizons and all that. Well, you’d be right about that if it weren’t for two little problems.

The first was that it was not a single class.  No, I had religion class every year of my schooling from Grade 1 all the way up to Grade 9. Nine years of religion in total. Not too bad right? I mean, so they got to devote a year to each major religion and deal a little with the minor ones.

Wrong again. The second problem was that we did not learn about world religions or major religions. We learned about one religion; constantly re-threading the same material over and over and over again. Any guesses about what religion we learned about? Roman Catholic School, Roman Catholic town with one church that was (GASP) Roman Catholic? If you guessed “Roman Catholic”, you need a cookie.

Yes, it was the Roman Catholic religion that we were taught. None others. Not even a peep about Buddhists or Muslims or whatever. There was only one religion, Catholicism. Sure, in later years, our History class touched on the others a little bit. And I seem to recall a vague mentioning of Martin Luther, but nothing substantial. It was a series of classes designed to indoctrinate the child, not to teach them about the nature of religion. I had to conform or risk my academic performance and my families relative safety within the community. Sure, most were laid back about the whole thing, but there are always those few nuts that would view such a thing as heresy.

So what is my point here? Difficult to say. I think I can sum it up by saying that having a religion class in school is not a bad idea, but it has to teach all religions equally. I mean, lets be honest. If people allow this thing to rule them, then it behooves us to ensure we understand it. It would be like teaching children about 20th century history and leaving Would War II out – it’s rather a major part of the whole goings on in that century. There are many major religions, each with their own beliefs and customs and understanding them (even basically) is a good thing. Keeps you from making stupid faux pas. But most people that you hear talk about “teaching the bible in schools” are talking about having their own particular brand of religion taught, not a broad scope discussion on world religions, past and present. That is the problem and it is why it is generally better left to the side. Until people can grow up and look at the whole thing like rational adults, it is likely to remain outside the curriculum.

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Is it actually “life” support in that case?

Sorry for the technical difficulties there, folks. Computers can be a harsh mistress. Back again now, so hopefully I can keep the groove going. Hmmm, I wonder if this blog reads like a running list of things that piss me off? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Well, given the science pieces and such, probably a running list of things that intermittently piss me off.

Anyway, this one’s based on a forum post of mine from some time ago. We had an article posted here from news sources in Ontario speaking of a rather tragic little situation. A normal couple had given birth to a seemingly healthy child; no news there. Unfortunately for the poor little thing, the child contracted an infection in the upper brain stem. This infection spread quickly and effectively liquefied the baby’s brain mass in a matter of weeks. Before long, all three brain centres (the Forebrain, the Midbrain, and the Hindbrain) were all destroyed. The child was hooked up to our amazing life supporting technology which allowed the body shell to continue functioning.

Effectively, the child was brain dead. We are able to keep its systems active for an indefinite period. Such is the state of support technology. The family was heartbroken, but relieved that their child was “saved” by modern medicine. Only thing was, of course, that it was not saved at all. All that was left was the shell of what used to be a human. All the parts that make the child a person (memory, thought, language, etc) were irrevocably and permanently gone). The child was brain dead – for people like me (for whom the brain is who you are), they were dead from the moment the infection began to feast on brain matter.

I am not a super genius, of course, so I was not the first to notice that. The Doctors at the hospital noted the same thing – the child was dead. So they made simple plans to yank the cord and terminate the shell. The parents kicked up blue murder over the matter – how dare they do this, how can they kill their kid, and so forth. This is one of those examples that I can point to when people accuse me of being some sort of hippy liberal left-wing pot smoking nut. I agree with the Doctors in this matter; pull the plug and let it cease to be. Give the family some final closure.

Look at it from various angles. The child’s brain is gone; there is no person left there. All that remains is an animated corpse. Pull it to give it some dignity in death. Pull it to save the Hospital and the Medical System resources better spent on other living children in need of that machine. Pull it because there is no future for it – it is not “alive” in the sense that you or I am. It is not autistic, it is not in a coma; its brain is gone and without it, they are gone. Let it go.

To those that mention that I couldn’t do it, I will admit it would be very hard. But I hope I would have the presence of mind to realize that my child died weeks ago. What’s left is not my kid. Rather, it’s the shell it left behind. I would hope that I could do what needed to be done. And I mean that in more ways than just unplugging. My child is dead, but the body is alive. The organs in that body are fine – unmolested and fully functional. Not only would I pull that plug, but I would tell them to harvest it for anything they could use. Eyes, heart, kidneys, pancreas, liver, spleen, capillaries; whatever they can get. If they can get 10 good organs from that body and put them into 10 other dying children and they can live normal lives … isn’t that better than selfishly holding onto the last remnant of my child?  Isn’t that better than wasting all the good it could do others? In some way, my child would live on in these other kids, keeping them alive for their families. That would be my way of giving the death of my child a meaning. “Died to save others” – better than wasting away hooked up to machines.

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Ain’t taxes grand?

One of our wayward members popped by the forums over the weekend to engage in a little conversation in our chat (Try it, just go to the forums – I try to hang around as much as possible). Between accusing me of various and sundry levels of ignorance and fanaticism, he brought up a point related to taxation. Man, I love me some taxation – it is one of the myriad things that I have been trained to deal with (Yes, really). As an Accountant, tax planning is one of my primary areas of expertise.

Anyway, back on topic. Specifically, he brought up the case of this woman living in Canada who is facing being taxed by the United States. I believe that he was using the case as an example of how leaving a country does not stop that country from controlling you (in a manner). He is a Libertarian, an individual that triumphs personal freedom and market solutions as opposed to any sort of centralized Governmental involvement. I will not get into the merits of that position itself (I could speak volumes), but I’d like to speak to that case for a second, if I might.

The woman lives and works in Ontario and pays all the legal and necessary taxes of the Country and Provinces of Canada. However, she has recently been served a bill from the IRS, the taxation arm of the US, for back taxes owed to the Government. How could this have happened? How can a foreign nation tax the citizen of another nation?

Quick answer: When the nation isn’t foreign.

The woman in question was born in the US and lived there a short time before moving to Canada with her family. The family obtained Canadian Citizenship which subjects them to the rules of Canada, including her tax system. But they did not immediately renounce their citizenship in their origin country, the US. That means they all have dual citizenship – they are members of both countries and are subject to both sets of rules, including taxation.

That is not a big deal for the most part as countries such as Canada and the United States have tax treaties that govern the taxation of money earned by citizens of one in the country of the other. These treaties credit the taxation of the other country on the forms they file in their home country. For example, most income tax here (Canada) is withheld at the source by the employer, as well as monies for various programs (CPP and EI). An American that works here, but pays taxes in the states would otherwise be subject to double taxation (Taxed once in Canada and again in America) if not for the fact that the US credits the individual with the withholdings made by Canada.

Dual citizenship adds a wrinkle to all this. By the law of both countries, they are required to being filing tax the moment they begin to work. No major problems there – work in Canada, withheld in Canada, file in America, and get credited for it all, right? Well, no, nothing is ever that simple. You see, as much as Canada tolerates their mad neighbour to the south, they have decided (wisely) not to follow them lockstep in everything they do. This means different laws, different justice system, and different tax rates and programs. The tax agreements will credit you for what you pay, but if one or the other do not possess a program that the other does that otherwise allows for a decrease in taxes payable, then you have to make up the difference.

A quick example to make this clear. In Canada, we have the RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) program. It allows a person to invest (in a variety of approved items) money they earn during the year (up to a given maximum based on income) and get a dollar for dollar deduction on their taxes for it. Say I make $50,000 and I put $10,000 into an RRSP – I am only allowed to be taxed on $40,000 as a result. Sounds good right? The trick is that the Government of Canada allows you to invest and earn interest tax free while you work and lower your burden for tax. When you retire, you draw that money out of the RRSP and are taxed on it then.

This is the rule that’s bitten this woman across the butt (among some others). She has been contributing to an RRSP while she worked, but the US has no such program. That means that $10,000 I mentioned above? The tax free bit? That is tax free in Canada, but not tax free in America, so she must pay the difference. Those are the rules. Likely they are pursuing these amounts now due to the horrible financial hole they gotten themselves into. How could she have avoid this? She says so in the article – do like her brother did to avoid the draft and renounce your citizenship in America. They cannot tax non-citizens. But as long as you are a member, you’re subject to their rules, no matter where you are. Unfortunately for her, the only way to do that now is to first pay the outstanding fees, fines, and taxes she owes. Sucks, but that’s the way it is. Were I her accountant, it would be one of the first things that I would recommend when she started working. Either that, or put aside the cash and pay them their money.

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Don’t Ask, just berate …

Man, I love election time. Be it the local municipality, the Provincial Government, another province, the Federal Government or the various races across the globe, I love them all. You just cannot get the sort of rich, creamy stupid so easily mocked served so frequently and with such fervor as you can at election time.  I’m serious – when I moved to my current house a few years ago, it was right before the municipal elections and the local free newspaper in the area made a point to run letters to the editor related to the election. It was hilarious – people complaining about pallets of wood in neighbours front yards, others complaining about the state of a non-existent stadium that could never be supported locally, and all kinds of madness. I took a point of reading the articles to my brother so we could mock ruthlessly. Good times – paper hasn’t been near as entertaining since.

Anyway, yes, I’m going somewhere with this. My point is that elections make for good entertainment – good, scary entertainment. Which leads me to the recent Republican debate. You knew it was coming to this – when you put entertainment, politics, and scary, the Republican Party is the result. So what piece of bile has my goat at the moment from the collection of derp that is a Republican debate? Why, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, of course. During their little debate, the candidates were asked about the repeal of the rule that required homosexual members of the service to hide their orientation. The repeal gives them the right to be gay or lesbian – that is, to be as open about it as heterosexuals are about their orientation. Man kisses wife on base? Man kisses his male partner on base. Man and woman holds hands at an official function? Two women hold hands.

Anyway, there were negative reactions from the audience (booing). That is, the republican voters in the crowd did not like the idea of there being any gays in the military and hated it even more that they were going to be given the special treatment of being treated identically to everyone else. The candidates were all over it though. Given the golden opportunity to separate themselves from the hate and bile in the party, they bravely … said nothing. Nothing at all. They did not berate the audience members , they did not correct them, and they did not distance themselves from such bile. Their silence was deafening on the matter – their answers were meaningless double speak as usual, but their actions spoke louder. Way to keep that elegance and grace up there, Republicans! Yes sir, nothing like booing the men and women that protect your way of life. I guess we have our answer to how far “support our troops” goes, hmmm?

Between cheering to let the uninsured die to booing soldiers in the military, from blocking any attempt to stop the double-dip recession to whining like spoiled brats over the prospect of new taxes, the Republicans are really giving people a show of their concern for their fellow man. With concern like that, who need genocidal maniacs or terrifying natural disasters. Don’t worry about it – the GOP will kill you all off just fine. They don’t need you low class wretches anyway- the rich are what makes the world work, right? Right?!

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Summit? Doubt they could make it up there.

Let’s all take a little break from my ranting on the economy and taxes and so forth, though I can tell you those weren’t the last. I mean, come on, you don’t deal with that kind of stupid in two little posts. That kind of thick tangle of herpa derpa takes months to get through. But harping on it can be off putting, so we’ll take a little breather and see what else I have screaming around in my neurons.

The state of Michigan is about to hold a summit on obesity (Link). The summit, to be held in Lansing, is expected to attract over 500 experts in health, fitness, and education to discuss the issue of obesity. This is to be a Call to Action summit; they are going to be talking about ways to reduce and eliminate obesity. All very nice., indeed.

And all completely irrelevant.

How many times must this be done? How many times have the experts in health care and education and the like come together to combat the scourge of obesity once and for all? 1000 times? 10,000? Has it worked yet? Not from the statistics that I see. Mind you, I am not just speaking of Americans in this care; obesity is a problem in all Western countries and is a growing problem in the rest too (pun firmly intended). Hell, the statistics in my province state that some 50 – 60% are overweight and at least 35% are obese. Looking around, I can believe that too.  People are getting more and more overweight – despite these earth-shattering conferences that people hold on the matter. Ever wonder why?

Like everything on this wonderful little planet of ours, it’s complicated. Rather, the issues around the problem are complicated. The actual problem itself (the expanding waistline) is not complicated. That is bone simple – it’s the calories. People are eating far too much food, which is placing extra pounds on their butts. That is the simple part – too much food. The more complex part is why people are not listening to that declaration and why these conferences do not just come out and state it plainly.

Why are we not taking heed that the calories are the problem? Part of the problem is that these group get together, have a long and fruitful discussion about how people eating too much is the problem, and then tell people public to try to, maybe, kinda, sort of, possibly, attempt to possibly think about maybe curbing a very small percentage of their food intake. In other words, the decisiveness of the conference melts completely when the attendees go public. People do not like to bear bad news, especially when they know the general populace may not react well to the information. Likewise, the population has a thousand defense mechanisms built in to convince themselves that these people are plain wrong, have an agenda, are not talking about them particularly, or are making this stuff up just to hurt them. Humans have a psychological defense mechanism that bolsters self-image and weeds out negative feedback. “I’m not fat”, they’ll say, “I have a bad metabolism”. Or “I only eat little bits of food and I’m still fat. They don’t know what they are talking about”. Or so forth. People defend their choices, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s natural.

The only way to break through the barriers is to be persistent, but to also be quite plain. Don’t come out and couch everything with a sort of and a maybe. Tell them plainly – you’re fat and you need to eat less. Then give them the tools to figure out how much less. I use a number of simple metrics to ensure that I am not overeating – calories needed, calories in the food, etc. Some people will complain and some will ignore it. Be firm about it; except for a very tiny portion of humanity (something on the order of 0.000001% or less) has an actual genetic defect that makes them fat. The rest are pretty much overeating and trying to justify it. Stop coddling them and spill the beans – stop eating so much. Foods good, but you don’t need to shovel mountains of it into yourself to enjoy it.

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