Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 8:44:40 AM by Jim Babbage
As I sit in my sun room, looking out a a thin blanket of fresh snow in the back yard on this last day of 2007, I find myself getting a bit reflective.
Like any year, 2007 had its ups and its downs. Attending and speaking at TODCON is always one of the ups for me, but this year I received a special treat; I was invited to speak at Adobe MAX. I am hoping to be invited back to both again in 2008. They are two completely different types of conferences, both a lot of fun and hard worked combined.
2007 also saw me teaching more than I ever thought I would. I held down two courses at Centennial and 2 - 3 courses at Humber. The total number of students ranged between 130 - 150 each week. I was relieved when the winter break set in but also proud of myself for making it through the semester without a nervous breakdown!
In early 2007, we lost my brother-in-law to a terrible brain disease. He was only a year older than me, and it certainly gave me a far too keen sense of my own mortality. But his loss was traumatic on many more levels other than my own selfish ones. My wife lost her "baby brother," my niece and nephew lost their father and my sister-in-law (who exhibited phenomenol strength and determination, taking care of David at home) lost her husband and love of over 20 years. Many, many others lost a dear friend. The neighbourhood lost a kind-hearted man who always had a smile and a positive thing to say.
Family and friends grew closer through this ordeal, however, and those bonds are continually strengthened. We spent many a happy moment with Sharon, Lindsay and Myles over the holidays. It seems to be true that some good can come from bad.
Every year my house gets the royal treatment for Christmas. We have a crawlspace on one side of the house that contains nothing but Christmas decorations. Santas, snowmen, all manner of glittery objects get pulled out, unpacked and set up for the month of December and early January. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a process that occurs over days, not hours.
One of my personal joys is setting up my Christmas village. Miniature houses, people, animals and even a functional trolley get laid out - usually in a different location each year. This year it was the fireplace mantle. This 10 inch deep slab of maple gave me over 8 feet of length to set up the scene this year. And while somewhat limiting, I like the challenge of making the town work.
In the basement/rec room, I commandeer two book shelves and set up a winter wilderness scene with a (not functional) waterfall, river, mountains and a couple cabins, surrounded in a heavy blanket of polyester snow.
I also set up a model train which runs around the tree. Well, it runs if the cats haven't derailed a boxcar at some point in the night.
Both the train and the trolley were gifts from my Dad, from his own collection. Even some of the houses were left to me. He had his very own room at home where it was nothing but trains. I have a bit of the bug, but not so much that I've blockaded a room yet.
So it's kind of bittersweet when I bring the town to life each year; makes me feel closer to him and at the same point, makes me miss him all the more. He was a bigger kid at Christmas than me and that's saying a lot.
2008 brings with it a whole new semester with new students. I won't be teaching as much as in the fall, but I'll be busy nonetheless, including an exciting project with Peach Pit Press, presenting at a local camera club and of course, writing for Community MX.
I hope 2008 brings other things, too. I hope it safely brings back home our friends and family serving overseas.
I hope it brings a calmer climate, both politically and geophysically.
I hope it brings the Canadian dollar down just a bit, so my CMX cheques pack more punch and I can yet again offer web design deals to my American cousins!
I hope you have all had a wonderful, safe and happy holiday so far. If you're out celebrating tonight, make sure to bring change for a cab - or a sleeping bag - so you can enter the new year safe and sound as well.
Thank you to all my friends here on CMX, partners and subscribers alike, for making it once again an honor and a pleasure to be part of this team.
See ya next year!
Category tags: On the Personal Side
Posted Monday, December 24, 2007 3:45:24 AM by Bill
My Dad is a kid at heart. A big, six foot, three inch kid. At Christmas time it just gets worse, and my family loves him for it. When we were kids, my siblings and I would be awakened by our father by 5:30am at the latest. He'd be shouting "Ho Ho Ho!" walking up and down the hallways, making sure that everyone knew that he was awake and wanted to get to the festivities. He hasn't changed a bit in the last 40 years. I typically stay at Mom and Dad's place on Christmas eve, like I'll be doing again this year. My brother and my sisters arrive on Christmas morning, since they live close by. But even though we're all adults now, my Dad makes sure we get the same treatment we got as children. He'll wake me up with his bellowing "Ho Ho Ho!" after making sure that he's got some coffee apologetically brewing. After making fun of how hilariously groggy I look at 5:30 in the morning, he proceeds to call everyone in the family that hasn't arrived yet - which is pretty much everyone, since no one in my family sets their alarm on Christmas morning. Thanks to Dad, they don't need to. Everyone gets the familiar "Ho Ho Ho!" followed by something like "Santa Claus came and brought you presents, now get your butt out of bed and get over here!"
My sister Sherry will arrive first, usually still in her pajamas. She's 47 now, so I'm not sure what the pajamas are about, but to each their own. Then my brother Joe shows up, and he's already wide awake because he has the same "get up early" illness that our Dad has. The last of the siblings to show up is my other sister Terry, because she has to grab a cup of Starbucks on the way. As soon as we're situated, our Dad, who is usually adorned with a Santa Claus hat, hands out the Christmas stockings. My parents watch us empty our stockings, and refuse to touch theirs until we're all done. My family was poor growing up, so we used to use my Dad's socks as stockings. It's amazing how much those things can stretch when you really try. You'd be able to tell that you got an apple, a banana and some candy in your stocking just by looking at the outside of it. Now that they're well-off, we get actual Christmas stockings, but I kind of miss those mis-shapen socks.
Now it's time to hand out gifts. My Dad does the honors, of course. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. My Dad does not like anything mundane. Even the tags on Christmas gifts have to be different. They can't say "To Bill from Dad" or anything so simple as that. No, he prefers to label them "To Billy Bob Boy From Sandy Claws" and things like that. Oh- that's another thing. Everyone in my family gets a nickname. No one but my Dad actually uses these names, and that's probably for the best, as not all of them are complimentary. Ask my sister Sherry, also known as "The Nose."
About ten years ago, my sisters decided that they couldn't afford to get everyone a gift, so we should just draw names from a hat and just buy for whoever we drew. My parents don't participate in that. They want to be free to purchase a wholly unnecessary number of gifts for everyone in the family, and spoil them as rotten as they always have. We tell them that buying each person one gift would be just fine, but they actually look offended and hurt by the very idea, so we let it go.
My Mom has always been the head of our family - the person who steered the family ship in whatever direction it needed to go. But on Christmas, she knows my Dad is going to revert to being a five year old again, so she just lets it happen. I think it's one of the things that she loves about him, even though she usually just rolls her eyes and says "Steven Douglas!" whenever he gets carried away.
For many reasons, I'm looking forward to this Christmas more than I have others in the past. Tradition is a good thing, and my family holds on tight to this one.
Merry Christmas, folks!
Category tags: Midnite Madness
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2007 9:04:44 AM by Paul Davis
Ok, so I'm curious about all the data services available for wireless internet access over cellular providers. I go looking around and, having worked with a telecom, I look for the "hidden" charges as I know it is their favorite thing to do, sucker you in with a "low" price and then - BAM - your bill is not what you expected. I was shocked at how brazen and, in my opinion, fraudulent these charges have become. In no particular order:
- Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge $1.25
- Federal Universal Service Fund 11.0%
- State Universal Service Fund 4.99%
- Tolls, taxes, surcharges and other fees up to 34%
- Monthly Federal Universal Service Charge is 11%
- Wireless monthly Regulatory Charge - $0.07/line
- Monthly Administrative Charge - $0.70/line
- One mention of an 11% "fee" charge was seen
- $1.55 in line fees
- Regulatory Programs Fee of $0.86 per line
- Taxes, tolls, roaming, and other charges (including Universal Service charges) additional. Not specified, but when I looked at an example bill (for $39.95), I found:
- Federal Excise Tax - $1.25
- Federal Universal Service fund - $0.62
- State Sales Tax - $2.60
- City Utility Users tax - $2.55
- Local Sales Tax - $0.56
- State 911 - $0.20
- County 911 - $0.50
- Regulatory Programs fees - 0.86
- Alltel - they won't even give you a clue what they charge, but someone who posted a complaint said (on a $39.95 bill):
- Federal USF - $1.79
- Regulatory & Admin Fee - $1.15
I find it astonishing that the businesses are allowed to setup a binding contract (usually for two years) based upon a figure you pay per month plus an undisclosed figure that they change change without consideration to you at any time for whatever reason and, if you don't like it, they can stick you with a disconnect fee. This is a classic bait and switch tactic - and it is difficult to actually figure out what a plan will end up costing - all of the above are based upon estimates and vague legalese wording.
And the real irony of this all, cell phone providers are considered to be among the worst customer service providers in business, give consumers the worst contract deals and have less the stellar product offerings (dropped calls anyone)... amazing
Category tags: Using the Web
Posted Monday, December 17, 2007 9:44:53 AM by Paul Davis
As reported in the CMX Newsletter, an article about the IRS tax code delves in to the Section 179 deduction for office equipment. Reviewing the article, I found it to be a little simplistic and, perhaps, only accurate should you find yourself in the highest tax bracket - and a s-corp like you should be :). It also works for sole props and partnerships, but those are BAD business setups anyway. C-corps don't get the same complete benefits as an s-corp (due to pass through profiting), but they still benefit.
The basics of it is the government, in their infinite wisdom, decided that computers have a FIVE YEAR business life... FIVE YEARS (I had to repeat that because it is so ridiculous - the average machine from five years ago used 256 Megs of RAM, had under 100 gigs of HD space, was the first releases of the Althon XP or Pentium 4 series processors and ran windows 98, 2000 or the brand new XP (or NT, I suppose - we've had therapy to block out all references to WinME). The Mac's where still using Mac Classic 9.2 and OS X was released as OS 10.1). Personally, I upgrade every other year or about 18 months at the shortest. So I have a series of mothballed PCs that, if I sell or dispose of, I have to do some accounting voo-doo on to account for the Section 179 deducation. Having said all of that (after climbing down from the soapbox), the section 179 is a quick way to deduct what you spend this year on what you bought. While I don't grasp why the government does depreciation (I bought it, why do I have to deduct the cost over five years ... why can't I do the same with income...) - we really don't have much of a say on the matter. So, here is what you need to know:
- Deduct up to $25,000 in capital equipment purchases as section 179 deductions.
- Forecast your upcoming income verse your income this year - if you will be in a higher tax bracket (say you just started and you're in the 10% bracket and next year you'll be in the 29% bracket as you'll kick butt because you're a CMX subscriber and can get work done quicker and make more money) it may benefit you in the long run to deduct the income off of the 29% tax rate instead of the 10%. Simpler, if you have $1000 to deduct at 10%, you've saved $800 worth of income at 10% taxing or $80 worth of taxes; if you deduct $200/yr for 5 years, you pay that $80 the first year, but the next year you write off $200*.29 or $58 and again for the next three years ($58*4) in tax savings (so it comes to $232 in overall tax savings verse $80)
- Predict who will be the president in the upcoming election and their position on business and taxes, getting the money now may be the only time you can get it - or getting the deduction over the years should tax rates spike may have a better payoff.
- Check with your accountant on the ramifications of selling or disposing of any equipment purchased under the Section 179 category.
- Keep in mind, other equipment, like furniture, have longer depreciation times, some, like software, have shorter (although check to make sure you can deduct software under 179 codes, it seems to go off and on as to if you can or can't) when making your decision on if to use the depreciation or not.
The depreciation tax laws where originally developed in the 1950's, tweaked a few times here and there - clearly the manufacturing and technology systems have changed - no longer is everything built rock solid nor moves as slow as it was in the 1950's. However, the government remains the same, slowly changing. Perhaps the best thing, as a small business, you could do would be to lobby your federal representatives to change the laws to exempt small businesses (under $10M) from all depreciation and/or, just eliminate it all together.
Category tags: Web Business
Posted Monday, December 10, 2007 8:34:47 AM by Derrick Ypenburg
If you have read my most recent article, Tools for Designers: del.icio.us and Flickr', I made mention of starting a CMX Blog piece for anyone interested in sharing their design and inspiration tools,resourceful solutions for their business, and for self-organizational purposes.
Please leave a comment on this post to share your thoughts. I look forward to seeing what you're up to and if I can get new ideas and be inspired by your ideas.