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Month: March 2010

Washington state considers 10% tax on ‘custom software’ development

Washington state considers 10% tax on ‘custom software’ development

“The largest policy problem for me, however, remains the fact that it is not technology neutral and would result in a direct disincentive (in the form of 10% higher costs for not doing so) for a company … to use ‘insource development resources’ as opposed to ‘outsource development resources.’  What does this mean? It means that a 5 person team of entrepreneurs building a cool custom software suite, or a group of system integrators, would face a 10% tax on their services while keeping the exact same project in-house would not be taxed. It would be a massive blow to the entrepreneurial community in our state. ”

While I’m no fan of the tax, I don’t see it as quite the dis-incentive to entreprenurialism as he claims.  This bill seems to only impact those doing CUSTOM work for a customer.  If they’re developing a retail product to be marketed to many customers, they won’t be affected.  Custom software work usually is exclusively licensed to that one company….BUT…

I find the interesting point that he makes a big deal that this bill will likely encourage big companies to do in-house development instead of out-sourcing it.  While I think this would be mostly good for employees as in-house jobs are usually full-time positions with better benefits and more stable employment; I do see that it would likely hurt a community’s goal of getting a seed company in and then developing an robust ecosystem around that business.  One that would encourage an ecosystem around that industry – instead of one large mass in one single company.  This bill would likely encourage more monolithic companies with less support companies around it.  And that WOULD be bad for a community in the long run in two ways.  First, if the big seed company failed or moved out, there would be nothing else for the workers to do but move too (ala company mining towns of Appalachia).  Secondly (and probably closer to this politician’s heart), is that it also put the city/government in a tough negotiating spot with said monolithic company who could push their weight around.  I believe he’s thinking very much of Boeing outside of Seattle.  They asked for some big tax breaks, then shopped around till they got them elsewhere.  Seattle couldn’t/wouldn’t match the offer and they moved.   Puts city officials in a terrible spot if your economy is a one-trick pony, and if you lose that, you lose everything.  It would be far better to have a big, diversified portfolio of support companies around your seed that could re-direct to other work, or even create new industries, if the seed company left.  It also has the nice effect of giving the government more leverage if a big company threatened to take their toys and go home.

But even with this greater diversification of support industries, I don’t think you could avoid a hit like Detroit and surrounding areas are seeing.  When a whole industry goes south – it’s necessarily going to drag the others with it.  The black hole’s even horizon is just too big and it’s very hard to switch a profitable business model from machine tools that stamp car parts to stamping bread tins.  Still, it’s better than those old single-company towns and the abuses there.

Guess company towns aren’t quit a thing of the past at all.

Smash Putt!

Smash Putt!

Went to a great little putt-putt activity over the weekend.  The economy has not been kind in Portland, and businesses are shuttering at a somewhat alarming rate.  Right on NW Burnside there were no less than 3 shops right next door to each other that went vacant.  So what to do?  Invite a bunch of art folks in to design some putt-putt golf courses in the empty space.


Virtually every course had some kind of automated/moving parts.  The top left had rising/lowering sections and ramps that toggled with the push of a button. The middle “infinity” symbol had it’s hole was at the top – and would kick your ball  out the opposite direction you hit it in.  So if you got a hole in one, it would kick your ball out down the other ramp and end up right where you started (infinite putt-putt), and the picture on the far right had Foosball guys sliding back and forth.

Other notably fun holes had power tools that would turn on and kick your ball out.   Air cannon guns on the ‘shooting range’ course that shot your ball out into a shooting range full of targets (30+ feet!), and all kinds of other fun courses.  Below are clips of some of them, but I was using my iPhone and it was quite dark:

Overall, I’d say it was some good fun – and still going on for another weekend – so get on in and enjoy some fun!

Google interview question

Google interview question

In a certain country, a family continues to have children until they get a boy.  When they get a boy, they have to stop having children.   Otherwise, they keep going.  Assuming there is always a 50/50 chance of a boy/girl when having any one kid and nobody stops ‘early’ – what’s the ratio of males to females in such a society?

At first your gut tells you there needs to be more females than males – after all, there’s going to be families out there with 2,3,4,5 or even more girls.  Yet only 1 boy.  However, if you start thinking about it this way, a shocking revelation comes:

A families first birth:
1/2 = boys -> they stop here, no girls at ALL in 1/2 the households
1/2 = girls -> they go on….

2nd birth for those families with one girl:
1/2 = boys -> they stop with 1 girl, and 1 boy
1/2 = girls -> they go on….

so now it becomes a sum of:
boys = 1/2 + (1/2)*(1/2)+ (1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2) + (1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)….
girls = 1/2 + (1/2)*(1/2) + (1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2) + (1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)…

Whaaaa?? – its the SAME.  Yep – the count of the number of boys and girls will be the same.  See, we forget that 1/2 of the families will have NO girls at all – and that’s a big smack to the overall number of girls.  Sure, there may be families with 2,3,4 or more girls, but always one boy – and that combined with the fact half the population’s families will only have a single boys child equals out.  Crazy but true.

Day 1 – arrival

Day 1 – arrival

Arrived on the plane around noon.  Loved the Kona airport – it’s all outdoors/open air – even the baggage claim.


Met with my friends and we went straight to Kahalu’u Beach just south of Kona for snorkling.  A nice shallow cove that had a fair number of sea turtles and tons of tropical fish – even puffer fish.  It also had a shark after about 2 hours of snorkling fun, so we all headed back in. 🙂


So, sunset was arriving and we headed to the Royal Kona Resort to sit on their most excellent open-air back bar/patio to enjoy a mai tai and watch the sunset.  There was also an awesome old marimba player that sure-enough played ‘The Girl from Ipanema‘.  An extremely fun and classic start to a great week.