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Tim Newsome
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Tim Newsome

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I recently spent half an hour with yelp and my health insurance webpage open, looking for a GP with OK reviews not too far from me. Somebody should combine those two sites so this becomes simple.
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Turbotax (and the IRS) do taxes exactly backwards. They present me with a million questions, so that I have to go dig up this or that, or click "No." Instead, they should let me tell them what I've got. Around this time of your everybody and their dog sends me various tax forms, which I collect in a pile on my desk. To do my taxes, I just want to input every form in that pile, and then be done with my taxes. There are probably some things that don't generate a tax form on my desk, and there could still be a big checklist at the end. But as it is it's just frustrating (especially when it asks me if I owned property in 2011, for the 3rd time).
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Steven Ginzburg's profile photoTone Garot's profile photoRoy Pollock's profile photoTim Newsome's profile photo
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Yeah, there are ways to use Turbotax better, or to do your own. Still, I wish somebody would just implement something good.
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New product idea: A scale that weighs your bed and anybody on it. You don't have to remember to step on the scale in the morning, or even look at the numbers any more frequently than you have to. The scale should easily be able to store several years worth of weight data. If two people use the bed that should be easily handled as well, as long as they don't always jump on/off at the exact same time. You can probably tell by the weight changes whether the people are sleeping or otherwise active. If things get out of hand, the scale could say "get a room!"
Simple implementation: 1 digital bathroom scale under each leg of the bed. Hack it open read the LCD signals.
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Hua Zhong's profile photoMax Mehech's profile photoTim Newsome's profile photo
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How about that. And for the low low price of $8560.90 you can buy more or less exactly what I proposed: http://www.oldwillknottscales.com/seca-984.html
I think there's room for a cheaper version. :-)
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Tim Newsome

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To hell in a handbasket...
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Sean Hafeez originally shared:
 
The USA should invade the USA and win the hearts and minds of the population by building roads, bridges, and putting locals to work.
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On Wednesday Congress will be holding a hearing about a bill that could be used for wide-ranging censorship of Internet sites. For one thing, it would let the RIAA shut down web sites that they think are dedicated to piracy. Depending on your interpretation of the bill, YouTube would qualify.
Call your congress person if you want the Internet to keep working the way it does.
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Or send a physical letter for free:
https://sendwrite.com/sopa/
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Finally made a good mortise and tenon today, using the router table. Coffee table project can go ahead again...
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Grand Teton/Yellowstone pictures are up. Make sure to grab a beverage of choice. There are a lot of them.
Danielle and I met up with my parents in Grand Teton for a few days, and then went to Yellowstone for the rest of the week. I took way too many pictures, and this is maybe half of them.
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Incredible set, Tim. I'm looking forward to the day I can start exploring some of the scenery out west.
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Tim Newsome

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History, on YouTube.
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Sean Bonner originally shared:
 
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Got my first pinch flat today. Suck.
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George Williams's profile photoTim Newsome's profile photo
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Yeah, somehow I've managed to never get one until this week. (Gotten plenty of flats through pointy things though.)
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Makes sense to me.
Kenneth Duda originally shared:
 
Escaping a Liquidity Trap

Many economists believe we're in a "liquidity trap."

A what?

Let me explain. Most of the time, lowering interest rates causes people to spend more, for the simple reason that they're being paid less to save. A "liquidity trap" is where this doesn't work. For whatever reason, dropping interest rates to zero does not increase spending enough to allocate the full productive capacity of the economy. Anyone who bothers reading my drivel has seen this graph 100 times that shows just how far short spending is falling:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fredgraph.png?g=22P

$1 trillion of wealth is failing to be created every year for the simple reason that too few are both willing and able to spend. This failure of demand is like a hurricane that's doing $100 billion in damage every month, and we are standing around as though powerless to stop it.

But we can stop it. We can escape the liquidity trap, and here's how: the "taxpayer rebate program". We can grant the Federal Reserve a new power: when monetary policy has run out of gas, the Fed can simply create new money and send an equal amount to each US resident taxpayer. Basically, what we are saying is, "to all of you who have money and aren't spending it --- now is the time to start. If you won't spend it, we're sending money to someone who will!"

This is such a marvelous approach. It reignites demand without all of the pitfalls of Federal stimulus:

1. it is easy to start. Ramping up $1T/year in stimulus programs is actually really hard --- a lot of planning is required. The taxpayer rebate program outsources the effort of deciding how to spend money to the taxpayer.

2. it is easy to stop. We need the stimulus to end quickly once people start to spend --- otherwise there could be quite a bit of inflation as stimulus spending competes with private spending. Federal stimulus programs would be hard to stop because it would leave construction half finished. The taxpayer rebate program just ends.

3. it would avoid "bridges to nowhere". Every dollar of spending arising from the taxpayer rebate program is spent on something the spender actually wants.

4. it does not increase the federal debt. This money is simply being created, not borrowed from anyone.

What about China? One concern about Federal stimulus programs is that much of the spending gets sucked into China. Well, that would be the case with the taxpayer rebate program too. However, once China figures out that we can print dollars as fast as they can drain them away from us, they might start to think twice about their currency peg, and the nightmare of trade deficits would finally come to an end.

Give everyone free money? Seriously? I probably sound like the biggest socialist in the world around now. But nothing could be further from the truth. I don't actually want to give a lot of money away to total strangers. What I want is for the people who have money to spend more of it. Perhaps the mere threat of giving money to people who will will cause China to dump dollars and some bona fide spending will start. Or perhaps rich people will freak out about the inflationary ramifcations of the taxpayer relief program and start spending their dollars on anything before they lose all their value. If so, that's great, mission accomplished, no need to actually give away a red cent. I love the free market and dislike all of the distortions that arise from misguided attempts at social engineering. Unfortunately, the free market is failing right now, the worst I've seen in my lifetime, the worst since the Great Depression. This liquidity trap is quintessencial market failure --- people are saving despite all logic, causing great harm to the economy. We are in a truly exceptional time period, where the government must make a specific and limited intervention to right the ship. Then we can go back to arguing about the Federal deficit, tax rates for corporations and the wealthy, excessive government regulation, underfunded entitlement programs, climate change and energy policy, spiraling health care costs, immigration, and all of the other gray issues. Because each of these is fine tuning. None comes close to explaining the $1 trillion hole in our economy. The only explanation is that too few people are both willing and able to spend. And it's such an easy thing to fix.

If you could stop a hurricane doing $3 billion in damage every day simply by sending a lot of paper in the mail, wouldn't you do it?

We must do this.
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Yes. It is based on the assumption that rich people have money but don't want to spend it, and poor people have no money but do want to spend it. So if you give money to the poor they will spend it. That may be a bad assumption, but I feel pretty confident that the 99% will spend most of the money you give them. (Keep in mind that other stimulus isn't perfect either.)
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Have him in circles
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