Archive for June 2011

 
 

Time for Amazon to Give Up and Pay Up

As much as it pains me to say it, Amazon should start collecting sales tax and save itself a load of trouble. This is a fight it can’t win, in the end. Why fight the inevitable and piss off legions of people (Affiliate site owners, in particular) along the way?

There’s really no reason Amazon shouldn’t be collecting sales taxes today. They’re using an arcane and antiquated loophole in the law to justify not doing so. Honestly, it’s not that hard a thing to create a database to know how much sales tax to charge a buyer, given their billing address. Yes, it is a system that will require some resources to start and less to keep going in the future, but it’s got to be far cheaper than the lawyers they keep using to fighting local laws and politicians every couple of months.

I’ve enjoyed the tax-free shopping at Amazon for a long time now, but let’s not fool ourselves: we’re supposed to report it at the end of the year and pay it with our state taxes. Very few people actually do, though, and the cost of tracking this and fining people for it is a little overwhelming for state governments to handle. In the end, it likely wouldn’t make them enough money to cover costs.

It’s time for Amazon to grow up and be a real business and collect and pay the same kinds of taxes that every other business in the country does. When I shop at other on-line retailers, they calculate sales taxes and charge me accordingly, particularly the camera stores like Adorama and B and H. Some sort of system could be worked out at Amazon, too. It will level the playing field and save a whole lot of fighting — plus, more revenues for governments that can’t help themselves from wasting it!

And, as a consumer, I know I’m still getting everything cheaper than at a brick and mortar shop. That 7% sales tax (in New Jersey’s case) still doesn’t kill the 30%-plus discount on books we get today.

Still, I’d miss the extra savings. I admit it. But I’m also one of those “grown-up” types. Reality has to set in eventually. The internet is no longer the wild wild west it once was. And this is part of its maturation process.

Also, if your sole source of income is Amazon Affiliate links, you needed to rethink your business model before Amazon started closing its affiliate program in several states.

Diabetes Type I Cured! (Maybe) (Again)

On the perhaps brighter side, we return to the research of Dr. Faustmann, who years ago I once sent the biggest charitable check in my life to. (Lee Iacocca was a big contributor to her work at the time. That link is from 2006.)

She’s seeing results now for curing diabetes through a TB vaccine:

The first trial in a handful of humans has suggested that injecting patients with Type 1 diabetes with an inexpensive vaccine normally used to prevent tuberculosis can block destruction of insulin-secreting pancreatic cells in humans and allow regeneration of the pancreas. Such a finding, if confirmed and expanded on, could lay the foundation for freeing the estimated 1 million U.S. Type 1 diabetics from their daily insulin shots. It brings up a word that is rarely or never used in considering the disease: “cure.” Such an outcome is still a long way in the future, but Dr. Denise Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital has already come a long way in her quest to find a new treatment paradigm for diabetes.

So she’s actually showing progress, at least, moving in a direction that most people gave up on too long ago, in the hopes of making it easier to take shots and prick our fingers endlessly. Thanks, Dr. F!

A New Cure For Diabetes! (Again)

Every month or two, this blog likes to highlight the latest cure-all for diabetes. Often, it involves only Type II diabetics, and usually nothing comes of it in the long run.

So goes another cure. This time, it’s extreme dieting:

Eleven people with diabetes took part in the study, which was funded by Diabetes UK. They had to slash their food intake to just 600 calories a day for two months. But three months later seven of the 11 were free of diabetes.

Still nothing’s been done for those of us who got screwed genetically, not just from eating too much damned McDonalds…

American Juniors Eight Years Later: The Thompson Sisters Return!

Time for another update…

I saw The Voice for the first time tonight. Besides Frenchie Davis showing up on there, I immediately recognized the singing sisters. i remembered their names first, properly, but I had no doubt who they were: Tori and Taylor Thompson, of American Juniors fame. Eight years ago, they were in the winning group formed by American Juniors that so famously did nothing, released nothing, and disappeared into obscurity. Lucy Hale — the eldest and best of the lot — has since done acting, but The Thompson Sisters stuck with the singing, bouncing from country fair to country fair. And then they, and their parents, found The Voice on NBC and returned to our living rooms for 2011.

Here’s some video of those original auditions. You’ll see Mom is in there, too:

Now you have “One Step Closer to Heaven” stuck in your head again, don’t you? It’s OK to scream. Go ahead…

Wait, was that Carrie Ann Inaba from “Dancing With the Stars” choreographing the kids? Crazy small world…

Here’s one of the spare comments I wrote about them at the time:

In the end, Chauncey is the lucky guy with four cute girls surrounding him, and the Thompson Twins’ parents are the lucky ones who don’t have to worry about favoring one sister over the other in the coming months or weeks. (I know they’re not twins, but I like the 80s sound of calling them that.) Lucy Hale will be the first to leave to pursue a solo act, and I’m afraid I’m not nearly crass enough to predict who will get the first Playboy spread in a few years….

That I know of, there have been no Playboy spreads yet…

I remember when the finalists were chosen that we all figured the second sister would make it once the first did. Sure enough, that happened.

And since that night, I can’t get “We’re the Kids In America” song out of my head when I think of the show. Watch them all in action once again, to refresh your memories.

Or, watch the whole group sing with judge Debbie Gibson, who’s now on tour with Tiffany, by the way:

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Cross-posted from AugieShoots.com:

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers in black and white

Last week, I wrote up five blog entries detailing my adventure in photographing the SCR concert. Now, for your convenience, here’s a link to them all:

Part 1: Time Constraints Part 2: Creating Exposure Part 3: Objects Getting in the Way Part 4: Be Nice to the Crowd Part 5: Behind The Scenes, or “How I Got My First Photo Pass”