Corporate Tax Rate Bullshit

The most nonsensical bit about the trickle down sales pitch is that few trot out GE as an example of a company being helped by corporate tax cuts. These cuts are going to help all sorts of small businesses, farms, etc. The corporate tax rate is not a flat 35% unless your business makes over 18,333,333$! On the low end, the rate is 15% of taxable income <=50,000$. 50k may not seem like a lot of money for a business, but small/medium c-corp entities don’t pay taxes on their receipts. They pay tax on their *profits*.

This is the problem I had with not-a-Joe the not-a-plumber’s question to Obama years ago. Buy a plumbing company that runs two million dollars in receipts a year. You’ve got 20 people working for 50k a year and that’s a mil deducted right there. Petrol for your trucks, vehicle maintenance, office supplies, advertising. Bring an accountant on staff (their salary is deductible too) and you can get into the whole amortization/depreciation adventure when you expand your building or buy new vehicles. You’re not paying taxes on two million dollars @ 35 (or whatever) %. You’re paying whatever personal income rate on the money you pay yourself and the business is probably paying about 20k on 100k in profits. 20k is a lot of money too, but it’s 20% of the 100k in profits. And if you want to pay less in corporate taxes, you know an easy way to do that that also benefits your company? Hire another dude, invest in some energy efficient building enhancements … turn that profit into deductible expenses.

Women In STEM

Some Google engineer failed to heed the parable of Harvard President Larry Summers – suggest in any way that women and men are different, and there will be an uproar. What’s ironic is that the main jist of the guy’s monologue (available online) is that not discussing differences between men and women because doing so is insensitive yields diversity programs that are ill suited for their goal. And that companies make business decisions on how close to a 50/50 split they want to get. (If having parity in gender representation was the highest priority in hiring decisions, then a company would only interview female candidates until parity was reached.). And the general reaction online has essentially proved the guy’s point. A reasonable argument would have been challenging the research he cited. Doing so is a fairly easy task. Baron-Cohen, for instance, couldn’t even reproduce his own results. In other cases, the Google engineer conflates correlation and causation. Men don’t take paternity leave because of retribution — my husband was terminated after taking this two weeks of vacation after our daughter’s birth. That’s not even asking for paternity leave — that’s attempting to use vacation time as paternity leave. I experienced more stress as a woman entering an IT support department not because I have a female brain but because my capabilities were questioned (you’re going to fix my computer!?) and some coworkers felt entitled to make sexual advances towards me (I doubt any new male employee was asked to provide his measurements and describe his genitalia to provide a picture to accompany his coworker’s pleasuring himself to the individual’s voice on conference calls).

The mistakes people make, both in the case of Summers and this engineer, is mistaking population-wide averages for attributes of an individual and conflating ‘different’ for ‘inferior’. The engineer wasn’t wrong in one way – it is difficult to discuss gender norms and studies. Trying to divorce emotion from discussion of gender-specific behaviours and preferences isn’t a battle worth fighting. There have been too many badly formed studies designed to prove the superiority of some majority group for any new study to be approached seriously. But he could have made the same suggestions without the contentious topic of gender norms and diversity programs.

Gender aside, different people think differently and have different preferences. I don’t believe this is a contentious declaration. I have artistic friends, I have detail oriented friends, I have creative friends who are not artistic. I know people who love cats and people who love jumping out of perfectly functional aircraft. Introverts and extroverts.

Historically, computer software was not used by people. Programmers hired back in the 60’s and 70’s were not brought in as user experience designers. Text interfaces with obscure abbreviations and command line switches were perfectly acceptable code. They progressed in the field, moved up, and then hired more people like themselves. As computers were adopted, both in business and personally, computer software was slow to adopt ‘usability’ as a goal. Consider the old blue screen word processor. When I left University in 1996, I went to a temp agency in the hope of getting a paycheque that week. They had a computer competency test — figured I would ace it, I’d been running student IT support at the Uni for about eighteen months. I installed Windows 95, IRIX, and AIX and was fairly proficient using any of them. I served as a TA for intro to word processing an excel classes – knew Office 95 better than most of the instructors by year end. Then the temp agency sat me down in front of a computer with an ugly blue screen. What the hell?? I later discovered this old word processing package was common throughout businesses (Universities get grants and buy the latest cool ‘stuff’. Businesses reluctantly forked over a couple hundred grand ten years ago and are going to use that stuff until it decomposes into its component molecules.). People start out with a strip of paper over their function keys so they have a clue how to do anything beyond type on the ugly blue screen. Of course the temp agency was looking for competent computer users so didn’t have the quick ref strip. I couldn’t even start the test (open the file whatever.xtn).

Look at sendmail’s cf configuration file, or search for vim quick ref guides. Even git – sure there are GUI integrations, but the base of git is cryptic command line stuff that you commit to memory. This is not software developed by people who are people focused. Initially with the personal computer in the 80’s, usability was not a concern – “computer users” were in some way skilled and learned to work around the software. With public adoption of the Internet in the 90’s, and dramatically accelerating in the 2000’s and 2010’s — people began to use software. In mass. And new users demanded ‘easy’ to use, intuitive software. User experience engineering became a thing. Software was released to ‘regular’ users to obtain usability feedback.

But the developers behind the software are still, predominantly, the same personality types who developed code for ENIAC. This dichotomy creates an opportunity for the company’s recruitment and hiring teams to give our software an edge. As a company writing software that will be used by people, we think developers who lean toward people on the Things — People dimension, or who score as Social or Artistic on Holland’s personality types, etc provide value to the company. Since we have a lot of things / realistic or investigative types here already, we want our recruiting and hiring practices to create a balance with the other personality types. And we should look at ways to change our processes and make engineering work better align with the interests of people who are more people / cooperative and social or artistic.

Even if the argument was considered flawed, I don’t believe it would receive the widespread distribution and uproar the “it’s all about gender” version encountered. Someone could say “we’d rather make our current staff better at UX” or “we don’t think we need to change our practices to appeal to these other personality types”. Whatever. Even if he still offended his coworkers (I can too do artistic stuff!) or still managed to come off as entitled and whiny, I doubt the guy would have been fired.

Fish And Chips

We had watched one of Gordon Ramsey’s cooking challenge shows where contestants made fish and chips using his technique/recipe. Aside: If you grow fresh English peas, you don’t need to add butter to your mushy peas. If you are adding butter, get a new variety of peas!

When we made the grocery list yesterday, Anya volunteered us to make fish and chips too. Interesting idea, it didn’t seem too difficult watching him do it 🙂 So we picked up some cod, potatoes, and yams (I love yam chips, especially dusted with a little cinnamon … doesn’t go well with fish, but if I’m boiling a big pot of oil, figured I’d make some of these too).

Ingredients, per Ramsey’s web site:

  • 4 175g thick cod fillets
  • 120g plain flour
  • 100g rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 130ml soda water
  • 170ml lager
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • vegetable oil for deep fryer

Dredge the fish in flour, then coat in the batter and fry at about 350 degrees F. I was worried that they wouldn’t be crispy and puffy like they are meant to be, but WOW. The batter was super puffy. Spewed oil all over the place too.

We made the fries using a method from Cooks Illustrated that starts with cold oil. I used carola potatoes. Wash potatoes, dry them, and cut them into batons (nice if they are close to the same size. I got some smaller super crunchy ones, medium sized ones cooked perfectly, and larger ones that didn’t crisp as much). Place in a dutch oven & fill with oil to just cover. Turn burner on high and bring to a boil (~5 mins) and then leave ’em alone for fifteen or twenty minutes to cook. When they start to get browned, scrape anything stuck to the bottom of the pan. When they reach the desired color, net them out with a slotted spoon or scoop. Salt immediately and eat.

fish and chips

Cannoli Recipe

We watched people making cannoli on MasterChef tonight, and Anya wants to make some now. I am trying to sort a good recipe.

Shells:

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ oz butter
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala wine

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, melted butter and eggs in a bowl. Then add the Marsala. The dough will start out quite sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth, about 15 minutes. Form into a flattened disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  and let it rest for half an hour.

Roll out the cannoli dough to about the thickness of a penny. Cut it into circles with diameter of about 2.5″ for smaller ~1/2″ diameter forms, 3.5″ diameter circles for larger ~7/8″ diameter forms. Wrap the circles around the metal tubes to shape the cannoli and seal with a little dab of egg white. Heat a pot of oil to 375 degrees F. Fry the dough, still wrapped around the tubes, for about one minute. Use a skewer to remove the form from the hot oil. Let the cannoli cool on paper towels. Once cool, slide out the metal tubes. Fill shells immediately before serving – pipe filling into center and top with chopped pistachios, hazelnuts, or chocolate.

Honey Ricotta Filling:

  • 15 ounce whole milk ricotta, drained and squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

Whip the heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer to stiff peaks and then set aside in the refrigerator.

Combine the ricotta cheese, honey, powdered sugar, and the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean.  Fold in the whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Chocolate Mascarpone Filling:

  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta, drained and squeezed dry
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for decoration

Beat ricotta, mascarpone, confectioners sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt together until smooth. Fold in mini chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Corn Bread

Finally stashing my cornbread recipe somewhere because I can never find it. Scott wanted to make corn dogs this week – which is essentially coating sausage / veggie sausage and then dropping it in hot oil.

Ingredients:

· 1 cup all-purpose flour
· 1 cup cornmeal
· 2-3 tablespoons honey
· 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
· 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1 egg, lightly beaten
· 1 cup sour cream
· 1/3 cup milk
· 1/4 cup butter, melted

Method:

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the egg, sour cream, milk and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

2. Pour into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

National Emergency Status

Some special commission wants opiate abuse to be declared a national emergency — if the money that is meant to be allocated for emergency response, for recovery from tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes gets directed to the “war” on drugs, I hope someone can find standing to sue. Some actual disaster that is underfunded because money went elsewhere harms people. Want more money to combat opiate addiction, then FUND IT.

Cold Whipped Shea Butter

We’ve evidently had a problem with our thermostat not properly reporting humidity, so our HVAC was not maintaining the desired humidity level. The installer replaced the thermostat last week, and we’ve gone from 60% to 49% relative humidity downstairs. We’re intentionally keeping the lower level cooler than the upper — there’s a lot of solar heating even with curtains drawn. And, well, relative humidity is relative to temperature. So our 60% was more like 50% upstairs … still high. Our 49%, though, is 39% upstairs. And for the first time since I started making my own soap, my skin is a little dry. So is Anya’s. We can just slather on some coconut oil — it melts in your hand and absorbs fairly well — but I wanted to try something a little fancier. And I happened across a good deal on shea butter a few weeks back, so whipping a combination of shea butter and coconut oil seems like a winner.

1 cup unrefined shea butter
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons vegetable glycerin

  • Mash the room-temperature shea butter in the mixing bowl. Add essential oils if desired (or melt coconut oil and infuse with herbs).
  • Stir in the coconut oil. If the whole thing is a little melty, stick it in the refrigerator to solidify a bit
  • Whip with a stand mixer until it’s fluffed like whipped cream. Fin. Scoop it into jars (we have a bunch of wide mouth canning jars, so I’ll be using a few of those) and store in a cool room or the refrigerator.

The Legislative Process

I am not sure what to make of the legislative process when there are Senators willing to vote for a bill if they get assurance from the House that said bill will not pass over there. That they would hold a vote on a significant piece of legislation without providing adequate time for Senators to read it. And I know exactly how much the opinion of constituents matter given the amount of time between the release of the bill and the vote.

Alternative Fact: Public Records Are Leaks

Alternative Fact:

Real Fact: Much like the “leak” regarding an employee’s termination where the leaker was Scaramucci himself … the “leaked” financial document was a public record completed by … Scaramucci. At some point, is this dude going to have to fire himself?

When taking a position in an administration that goes on and on about witch hunts, undertaking one’s own witch hunt is, in and of itself, a rife with risk. But in a witch hunt for leakers, maybe one should undertake extensive research to verify that they themselves are not the leaker in question.

Government by Threat

Trump is reportedly threatening Alaska, hoping to garner enough votes to pass something health-care related. No matter how bad the bill might be, no matter how it may impact *his* voters, no matter how much money it will end up costing everyone (great, I save 20$ in taxes but I’m spending 20k on insurance each year instead of 6k).

A president looking to influence legislative decisions is certainly not new, but I question the legality and ethics of this technique. What is the point of “checks and balances” if the party that implements the policy and uses the budget uses their responsibilities to force legislative direction? Or threatens to abdicate their responsibilities to the same end?

I’m reminded of every bad mafia don show ever made — that’s a really nice building you got there, be a shame if something happened to it. The president has become this caricature! That’s some really lucrative mining we’re planning to approve for your area. Be a shame if someone lost this approval form.

Goofiness aside, this (if true) is the most frightening report to come out of the nascent Trump presidency. Well, maybe not the most frightening. That dubious honor, thus far, goes to Michael Lewis’s nuclear threat piece in Vanity Fair. I have to categorize the potential for nuclear destruction due to administrative ineptitude and malfeasance as worse than the breakdown of the entire system of American governance. Despite coming in a close second to nuclear annihilation … why in the world is there not an investigation into Trump’s strong-arming of Alaska for votes?