Monthly Archives: June 2009

Amazon vs North Carolina = Greedy State

Corporate greed is all over the news. That is what is being blamed for the economy. Well , what about government greed. North Carolina is following New York’s lead in requiring illegal sales tax collections on internet sales. This is flat out government greed.

Amazon decided to fight back. They suspended the affiliate program for all NC affiliates and are not taking new applications. This will cause a number of small businesses in NC to close. Many of the small businesses rely on internet sales for survival. Those businesses pay income tax. Yes, North Carolina has an income tax. As I was writing this, it has been announced that Rhode Island has also been added to the ban.

I don’t know if Amazon’s preemptive strike will be enough to change the mind of the politicians or not. Lets hope so. It is time for businesses and individuals to say enough is enough. We cannot keep rasing taxes and spending. Government needs to make cuts like everyone else.

I am a Tennessee resident. We have a sales tax of about 10%. It will vary a little from one county/city to another based on the local option portion. 40 years ago, the tax was about 4.5%. That means we are paying twice as much in real terms in sales tax than 40 years ago. Why, government greed. They keep wanting more and more money with nothing to show for it.

Yes, we have some additional services that we did not have then. The question to ask is: Are those services something that the government should provide or are they needless intrusion in our lives. I think it is greed. Politicians want more money to buy vote. Greed.

Let’s support Amazon’s decision to fight back. I have never bought anything on Amazon but I may do so now. Let’s recognize government greed. Remember the difference between corporations and government: government can take your money at the point of a gun. Businesses rely on you to do business with them. If you don’t like the business, don’t shop there. It’s a little harder to do that with the government.

Number 4: What I didn’t Learn in Engineering School: Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice, Practice, Practice

A recent book says that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. I can believe that. As a student, I would go into the lab, do the lab and leave. The exception was in physics lab where I hung around to help the girls. That, by the way is what got me started teaching but that’s another story.

I see the same thing in most of my students today. They will do the lab and leave. If time runs out, they don’t bother to stay and finish. Even if it didn’t work quite right, they will just leave. Occasionally someone will stay in the lab and keep working.

Today, I know better. I will work on a project, do it over, do it a different way and repeat until I feel that I understand what I am doing.

Number 3: What I didn’t Learn in Engineering School!

Little things get you farther than big things.

It’s not the big thing you do that have the most impact. Over the years I have worked on big and small projects, designed and built large networks. I have written software that was critical for the operation of a company. Yes, those large projects were needed, but wait….

The little things were what were appreciated and kept me working.

One of the first companies that I went to meet with to bid on a contract showed me how the little things mattered. While waiting on the meeting with my partner, the secretary asked me a question about VisiCalc (yes it was that long ago). She had a TRS-80 and the spreadsheet took a long time to recalculate. I showed her how to do manual recalculation and saved here hours a day. We got the contract. I don’t know if we would have gotten it anyway but I am sure that she put in a good word for us.

Many times over the years while working on big projects, I would help someone with a little thing. A WordPerfect macro to print envelopes was something I did at least 100 times. These little things made an impact on that one persons job. That is what they remembered.

What I didn’t learn in Engineering School, #2

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I, like many people don’t like to ask for help. Maybe it makes me feel weak. Over the years, I have learned that it is OK to ask. In fact, people are glad to share there knowledge when asked. When you start a new job, ask someone that has been there for a while to show you the ropes. It can even be someone that works for you.

I saw several baby ensigns in the navy that came on board ship and thought they knew more than the enlisted men because they were college graduates. I also some that came on board knowing they needed help. Those would ask the Chief to keep them straight. Those were the most successful officers.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Cub Scout Day Camp

Last week I was at Cub Scout Day Camp. I spent the week running around with the boys, helping when needed and taking pictures of the week. Monday thru Thursday, I alternated between Dan and John. Two days with each. I did miss John’s bulls eye in archery. That was a Dan day. I saw Dan’s best day shooting BB’s.

John Shooting at Cub Scout Day Camp

John Shooting at Cub Scout Day Camp

The week was non stop. The boys got to build bird houses and feeders, learn about fire safety, flag handling, nature, fishing, basketball, volley ball and plenty of play time. Friday we got to sleep late since we were having the family night and camping.

The week made me remember some of my time in Scouting. It has been a long time since I was a scout, longer than I like to think. I have fond memories of scouting and hope the boys will remember their time as scouts. Even if they don’t remember this week, I took enough pictures to remind them.

If you want to see more pictures of Cub Scout Day Camp follow the link to the Flickr page.

What I didn’t Learn in Engineering School

Over the years I have come to realize that graduation from engineering school only started my education. In my job, technology changes so rapidly that I must try to keep and never can. I have also learned a number of other things that they do not teach in engineering school. Periodically I will relate some of the things that I have learned over the years.

Number 1: You don’t know everything.

After graduation, I thought I was ready to enter the workforce and ready to be productive. I found out very quickly that I was only ready to start learning. I had to be taught to apply the fundamentals that I learned in school. In meetings, I found that I was often lost in technical discussions.

I learned that I did not know everything and I needed begin my education. This time I did not have to turn in homework, life was a continual test.