Archive for November, 2011

Flemish Flower Dipping

I think we can all agree that the 1960s were a strange period in history, defined by the music, the fashion, the politics, the war, the social revolution, and the general overall strangeness. Nowhere is this better exemplified than the “New Wave” of science fiction authors who came to the forefront in the latter part of the decade…

No, wait, wrong essay.

Nowhere, in fact, is this better exemplified than the arts and crafts of the period, which remain strangely fascinating in a so-terrible-it’s-kitschy sort of way. Amid all the things we remember from crafts of the ’60s – the yarn, the yarn! – it’s interesting to stumble across things which have been damned near erased from the collective consciousness.

Take, for instance, Flemish Flower Dipping, an incredibly 1960s way of taking fake plastic flowers and… well, uglifying them, let’s be honest:
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Published in: General, History | on November 23rd, 2011 | No Comments »

Weirdness, Florida Style, 1940

I was searching around for something the other day, and, to make a long story short, wound up reading the June 28th, 1940 edition of the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune. Now, Florida is weird – just ask Carl Hiassen – and the distant past is, metaphorically speaking, a foreign country… even by those standards, the following two related stories are (I think) fairly entertaining.

Oh, and if two old newspapers are a bit of a “tl;dr” for you… scroll down; there’s a cute 71-year-old cat picture at the end.
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Published in: General, History | on November 16th, 2011 | No Comments »

Taxes Happen To Other People

I’ve noticed something recently which may or may not come as a surprise to anyone who regularly patronizes minority-owned businesses. You go to the Laotian restaurant or the Mexican bakery or the dollar store owned by the Vietnamese folks, and you’ll see a lot of (by white-guy standards) novel and unusual things. Stuffed chicken wings to die for. Pineapple turnovers. Transdermal pain-relief patches.

What you won’t see are pennies. Or nickels, usually.

These places are increasingly pricing things in even dollar amounts – and the price you see is the total price you pay.

Tax, in other words, is included in the (round dollar amount) price. It’s simple, it’s convenient, and it’s hassle-free. It doesn’t really work too well for grocery stories, but it’s otherwise, honestly, something I, as a consumer, wish more businesses did. What you see is what you pay, cash-and-carry is the rule of the day. No calculator or cash register required. No complicated math to screw up. No pocket full of loose change to rattle annoyingly as you ride a bicycle. (Okay, maybe that’s just a pet annoyance of mine…)

There’s a catch here, though, and it’s an ugly one: This business model, and these business owners, get shafted hard by tax increases. As the economy collapses and the budget shrinks and the state and the county and the city here discuss raising sales taxes to do this, that, some other thing, and possibly even fund a new and unwanted stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, there’s the usual opposition from the usual sources – working-class people are taxed enough already, thanks; sales taxes disproportionately affect lower-income consumers. Sure, the Vikings tax ideas probably aren’t going anywhere, and they’re mostly pretty modest, but persistent budget crises keep bringing around new tax increase proposals, and some are bound to stick, eventually.

These business owners who work on tax-included, whole-dollar pricing aren’t going to raise their prices a nickel to keep up with tax increases. They’re going to eat those increases. On every purchase, to every customer, every day of the year. If you’ve ever been to an ethnic restaurant or bakery or honestly pretty much any other store, you’ve probably noticed the thin margins they’re usually operating on. Two-for-a-dollar donuts any place else would charge $0.99 for. Five bucks for a heaping plateful of food anyone else would charge seven or eight bucks for. They’re not trying to get rich – they’re just trying to make enough to keep food on the table.

Well, for a business that has tax-included pricing and does $300 a day in sales, a 0.35% tax increase works out to over $3,500 per year in lost profit. 0.5% increases cost over $5,000 per year. Not an enormous amount, by most business standards, maybe – but I guarantee every little family-owned business will very much feel that loss.

For these businesses, in these communities, sales-tax increases aren’t spread across the population. The majority are probably pretty ambivalent about the increases, and understandably so – they’re not taking the brunt of it. The business owners are. For the average guy buying lunch or silverware or toys for the kid… taxes happen to other people, and you can’t tell me that’s right.

Published in: General | on November 3rd, 2011 | No Comments »

Halloween Easter Eggs

Halloween is all about the kids. I know, I know. That didn’t stop a friend of mine from creating a little easter egg of sorts at his house for adults, yesterday…

I rode over to his house yesterday evening, to help out with Halloween decorations and hang out while he handed out candy. (Okay, and to mooch free candy. I’m not proud…) I was very amused to discover this over in one corner of the yard, half-hidden by a bush:
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 1st, 2011 | No Comments »