Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Parking Anytime: Mail boxes going the way of, well, snail mail

No Parking Anytime: Mail boxes going the way of, well, snail mail

honda Porter says it's not just losing a little slice of Americana that has her lamenting the dwindling number of mail collection boxes in Seattle.

After all, she said, she still mails a check to pay her bills -- it just feels safer than paying online -- so when the blue mailbox on Beach Drive Southwest near her West Seattle home disappeared, she complained about the inconvenience.

But, she admits that she's succumbed a bit to the societal shift that's led the Postal Service to remove about a fifth of the roughly 800 mailboxes that were on Seattle-area streets five years ago.

Seventy more were removed last week, dropping the number below 600, said U.S. Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson.

I hope they keep a reasonable number of mail boxes around even if they don't get used as much as their fairly arbitrary standard dictates. There are some areas where it isn't easy to get to a Post Office and a lot of people still use the mail for paying bills.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Microsoft cuts draw criticism on visa issue

Microsoft cuts draw criticism on visa issue

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley told Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer that U.S. employees must have priority over immigrants working under visa programs in a round of job cuts announced Thursday.

Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked Ballmer how many of the jobs cut will include those with H-1B visas or other immigrant-worker credentials, according to a letter dated Thursday on Grassley's Web site.

"During a layoff, companies should not be retaining H-1B or other work visa program employees over qualified American workers," the Iowa senator said in the letter. "Our immigration policy is not intended to harm the American work force.

I'm not anti-immigration at all. I think that immigration has been the foundation on which our country has built its financial and industrial power. However, I also don't think we should go out of our way to recruit foreign workers through the H-1B visa program when we have plenty of qualified Americans that need jobs or will be needing jobs in the near future. Companies like Microsoft make the argument that there aren't enough qualified workers in the U.S. for their needs. Personally I think they like to hire through the H-1B visa program because it cuts their expenses by lowering salaries and by sponsoring the workers they have workers that for the most part can't quit or they will have to go back home.

I don't know if MS is canning American workers in favor of H-1B workers but I sure hope that someone is watching to make sure Americans aren't losing out due to some loop hole in the law.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bad News for Jobs in Seattle

It's not a good sign that in the last 3 weeks all three Seattle icons have announced laying people off - especially since most of them are getting let go from the local headquarters. Not only do these layoffs make it harder for people to find a job, it cuts thousands of dollars out of our local economy which may snowball into more job losses. Our unemployment rate is already over 7% now - how high will it go?

Starbucks may let more go

Diane Daggatt, a managing director at McAdams Wright Ragen, wrote in a note to clients, "Locally, we're hearing another big round of layoffs is coming at SBUX. Perhaps 1,000 or one-third of SBUX's headquarters may be cut as well as some district managers and field employees, but not baristas.

Microsoft Pri0 | Microsoft cutting 1,400 jobs today; up to 5,000 in next 18 months as recession hits harder | Seattle Times Newspaper Blog

In a press release issued moments ago, Microsoft announced that it is cutting up to 5,000 jobs in research and development, marketing, sales, finance, legal, human resources and IT in the next 18 months, starting with 1,400 today.

It marks the first company-wide layoff in Microsoft's history and comes as the company reports fiscal second-quarter earnings that missed the low-end of its own guidance for sales and earnings per share. Its Windows business declined 8 percent as PC sales growth ground to a virtual halt in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Business & Technology | Boeing plans workforce reduction of 4,500, with layoffs in second quarter | Seattle Times Newspaper

Boeing said Friday it will cut its Commercial Airplane workforce in 2009 by about 4,500 people, mostly in Washington State.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Are Tax Brackets? - Speak Out California Weblog

What Are Tax Brackets? - Speak Out California Weblog

A "progressive" tax is one where the tax rate increases as income increases. A progressive tax structure consists of brackets. You pay a certain tax rate on income up to the next bracket. After that bracket is reached, a higher tax rate applies to income that is earned that is above that amount. Let's say that you pay 5% on income below $10,000 and 7% on income above $10,000. So if you make exactly $10,000 of income the tax is $500. At $10,100 the tax is still that $500 on the amount below $10,000 and $7 on the additional $100, for a total of $507. The key point is that only the amount in the new bracket is taxed at the higher rate.

I thought I understood tax brackets but apparently I didn't.

Many people believe that once you reach a higher bracket you pay the higher tax rate on all the income that falls below that bracket amount as well. I have actually talked to people who think they need to "get their income into a lower bracket" to avoid paying a higher tax rate, because they think that a higher tax rate would apply to all of the income they earned.

I remember thinking the same thing. I think we get a lot of misconceptions about taxes from "common knowledge" passed on from our parents, friends and coworkers. We need to be more diligent as a country and not let this type of misconception propagate.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Zombies: 100% Post-Consumer Human : The Order of the Stick Store!

Zombies: 100% Post-Consumer Human : The Order of the Stick Store!

I love this t-shirt design, I mean how can you resist environmental zombies? It's by Rich Burlew writer and artist of The Order of the Stick an awesome web comic. Go read it and support Rich by buying stuff from his Cafepress store.

Friday, January 16, 2009

U.S. to finance 40 percent of light rail extension costs

U.S. to finance 40 percent of light rail extension costs
"The federal government will increase its contribution and finance more than 40 percent of the cost of extending Sound Transit light rail service from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington.

Groundbreaking for construction will be in a few weeks, and work to remove buildings from a Capitol Hill station site will begin this month.

Federal Transit Administration acting chief Sherry Little said Thursday her agency will finance $813 million of the $1.9 billion project. Federal approval came, Little said, after her agency insisted that Sound Transit add $127 million in 'contingency' amounts for unforeseen costs of tunneling, 'one of the riskier components' of the expense."

This is good news. I'm not too thrilled that this leg will end at Husky Stadium, I'd rather have it go the Ave somewhere but I guess the extension from their though to Lynnwood will take care of that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fix is on for Viaduct, opposition files initiative to stop it

Fix is on for Viaduct, opposition files initiative to stop it: "An agreement ending years of discord over replacing the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct will cost $4.24 billion and entails a new state Route 99 corridor from the sports stadiums to South Lake Union in a tunnel, restoring the land to a four-lane surface street.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, King County Executive Ron Sims, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and Port of Seattle Chief Executive Officer Tay Yoshitani Tuesday formally announced their agreement to replace the highway along Seattle's central waterfront with a deep bored tunnel under downtown Seattle."

Personally, I think we should have repaired/rebuilt the viaduct but I'm not totally opposed to a tunnel as long as the new waterfront is not just going to become "Condo Heaven" like the waterfront down by the cruise ship terminal.

What we really need down on the waterfront is a nice large park with a kids play area and a venue that can be used for the outdoor concerts and events that used to be held on Pier 62/63 before it was deemed to be unsafe in 2004. The Summer Nights concert series has bounced around ever since and have been cancelled several years.

I will try to remain optimistic but with Mayor "Suck up to the Developers" Nickels in office it's kind of hard.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Senate boosts wilderness protection across US

Senate boosts wilderness protection across US


he measure - actually a collection of about 160 bills - would confer the government's highest level of protection on land ranging from California's Sierra Nevada mountain range to Oregon's Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. Land in Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also would be designated as wilderness.

This is a good start to the new Congress. I'm kind of surprised though that Mt Hood and the Sierra Nevadas weren't already protected.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

For sale: The P-I

For sale: The P-I

Alas it looks like Seattle is going to become a one newspaper town.

After 146 years of delivering news, the Seattle P-I faces becoming what it has chronicled: history.

The Seattle P-I's parent company, The Hearst Corp., said Friday that it has put the paper up for sale and will stop publishing unless someone buys it in 60 days. If no buyer emerges, the paper would either become a Web-only publication or cease all operations.

Maybe Paul Allen will buy it to keep the more liberal voice of Seattle alive.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Mexico Independent - Big solar plant planned for Mesa del Sol is still full steam… er, sunshine… ahead

New Mexico Independent - Big solar plant planned for Mesa del Sol is still full steam… er, sunshine… ahead

The Associated Press is reporting that despite the current economic downturn, Schott Solar, a New York-based manufacturer and distributor, is still doing well and the plans for a 250,000-square-foot Albuquerque solar panel plant are going ahead as planned. The plant will be built in the Mesa Del Sol area on the southern end of Albuquerque.

This is just the kind of manufacturing that we need to build in the U.S. to help save the middle class and keep us from slipping into third world nation status - basically an exporter of raw materials and a play haven for the rich.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Obama, Spider-Man on the same comic-book page - USATODAY.com

Obama, Spider-Man on the same comic-book page - USATODAY.com

On Jan. 14, Marvel Comics is releasing a special issue of Amazing Spider-Man #583 with Obama depicted on the cover. Inside are five pages of the two teaming up and even a fist-bump between Spidey and the new president.

And you can get this comic at your local neighborhood comic shop. Mine is Arcane Comics & More. You better get it when it comes out on Wednesday though because its already up on e-bay for $15.00. (I refuse to link to e-bay auctions gouging people for a comic that hasn't even hit the stands yet.

update 1/10/09: Added cover image