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What I want from Map Apps

I use Apple maps, and for the most part, it works great for me. I've tried others, and they also do what they do well. But... I want more. Here's my dream feature list for maps.

  1. Let me create my own routes or really modify routes that it creates. Sometimes I want to make a specific route with multiple stopping points, sometimes I know the roads better than the map app does and want to make differences.
  2. Even cooler would be if I could "teach" the app prefered routes for certain sections. When I'm headed home on I-10 from the west, it always wants to send me in this one path to get to my home street. I'm not very fond of that path. I'd love to tell the app "anytime I'm coming home from this direction, route me this way".
  3. Let me set parameters for the route generation. No toll roads, no residential routes except as necessary for the final leg, etc. Google maps does this pretty well, Apple maps doesn't and always is proposing toll routes on its first choice.
  4. Let me bookmark routes, not just locations. I love board games, some of the meetups are fairly long trips, and I often have to choose a route other than its first choice. Would love it if I could save a route of "Home to Rick's House" "Home to Boston Pizza" (and the return routes). Yes, when I call it up, look over the route and let me know if something has changed (very heavy traffic, accident, bridge out, closed for maintenance) and ask if I want to update the route.
  5. Store the maps for the routes I'm going to take today (not just the current route, but other ones like the trip home) so that if connectivity is poor there's no delay loading the map. Again, as you travel, update road hazards and special conditions, but let me load the base maps. And don't make me manually select the maps to get, just automatically load the ones I'll need for that trip.
  6. A pause feature. I'm pulling off the highway for a snack, to run an errand or to see the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota. Let me hit pause, the navigation just stops for a bit, I do what I'm going to do, then hit resume and it gets me back on the route. Bonus points if I can pause, have it give me directions to the Ball, then laster I can resume the main trip without it having forgotten where I was going and which route I chose.

If there is a map app with all these features, please let me know. I know Google maps has some of these features, in part or in whole.

Posted on April 20, 2015, 2:12 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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How I'd abolish the Estate Tax

The House just voted to abolish the Estate Tax. I don't like the tax - but what they did wrong was not making it taxable by the recipients.

Here's how I'd treat the Estate Tax:

(1) No tax is charged on the Estate. All assets are transferred to the inheritors, nothing withheld.

(2) Any cash inherited is treated as wage income. This would mean that it gets taxed at the recipients tax rate, and as income. Those with high incomes get a large portion taxed, those with low incomes get very little taxed.

(3) Non-cash assets (stocks, bonds, properties, ownership of a business) becomes a capital gain with a basis value of 0. That means that if/when the recipient disposes of it all, the entire sales amount is taxed. If sold within a year, it's taxed at short term capital gains amount. If held for longer, it's taxed at long term capital gainst amount, but again, the entire sales price is taxed.

Why? First of all, it puts the tax burden on the recipient, based on the recipient's income. If the deceased was very rich but is giving his money to a lot of non-rich people, the non-rich people get it all. If the deceased was not rich but giving it to a rich person.

Second, it removes a lot of fiddling and the government making judgements it shouldn't. Take the family house. In most cases, you can leave the house to a spouse without it being taxed - but not a child, a valued employee, a very close but not legally married person, and in states without same-sex marriage not a significant other of the same sex. Under my suggestion, you can leave your house to whoever you want. If that person chooses to live in it until their death, they can do so without being in an "approved relationship" to the deceased. If they want to sell it, they can, the whole sales price being taxed.

It also removes issues of valuation from estates. How much is this business worth? How much is this artwork worth? It moves the tax to the time of sale, and at that time you know what it's worth, it's worth what the buyer is willing to pay for it.

And last, and most importantly, no destruction of assets to pay the taxes. No worry about "do we have to sell the business to pay the estate taxes". No worry about "what treasured posession must be sold to allow someone who treasures them  as much to get what they can." If the family is going to keep living in the house, driving the car, running the business, they can do so instead of selling it to satisfy the taxman. If the recipients choose to sell these items, they are still fully taxed, be it the first generation, second, third, or fourth.

Posted on April 16, 2015, 8:24 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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Airplane! In spite of its flaws, still hilarious

I was checking the sales on iTunes, and saw that they had a sale on some movies for $8 each, they were the first movies by their directors. I was pleasantly surprised to see Airplane! in the list - and somehow I'd never added it to my library. So I grabbed it and watched it. And enjoyed it thoroughly.

For those who don't know, Airplane! was a parody of disaster movies, and it really launched the genre of spoof movies. In it, Ted Striker, ex-navy pilot whose final mission ended in disaster, has just broken up with his flight-attendant girlfriend Elaine. He gets on her flight to try to win her back, a flight where the fish caused food poisoning (and the flight crew all had the fish). Ted must overcome his fears and lack of confidence and land the plane.

Actually, the story is just an excuse to hang the jokes on. Many are silly, some reference older movies like Jaws, From Here to Eternity, Saturday Night Fever, and so forth. There are running gags like "The cockpit? What is it?" "It's the small space in the front where the pilots sit but that's not important now" and "Surely you jest" "I don't jest and don't call me Shirley". And they work.

Now, it was made in 1980, and some of the jokes are a product of that time. There's a lot of casual sexism, some jokes about hitting women, some blatant racism. There's also a lot of sex jokes, a little nudity, some profanity. I did wince at some of them. Others I felt a twinge of guilt as I laughed at them. (Barbara Billingsley translating Jive is a classic.) If you're very sensitive to such things, for whatever reason in your history, you should give this movie a past.

But most of the humor is just timeless insanity. And it holds up just fine over the decades.

Posted on April 14, 2015, 12:53 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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International #TableTopDay - fun times!

Spent yesterday playing Table Top games at two events and had a lot of fun.  If your idea of board games is Monopoly, there's a world of bigger and wilder games out there - and many don't take too long to play nor do they require great genius to understand.

Note: Yes, the links to the games here are Amazon Affiliate links. If you decide you want them, I'd appreciate it if you bought them through the links, but if you'd rather not, you can search on the game name and find options.

First, there was a small tournament of a fast and simple game called Love Letter Boxed Edition (where you are trying to knock your rivals out of the game by revealing their helpers trying to get their Love Letter to the Princess). It's a simple game to pick up, games move quickly, and lots of fun. (Nope, didn't get into the finals)

Then, an organization called Board of Games (that hold lots of weekly gaming meetups in southern california), played a game called Concordia Game(the picture above is from the game). It's a step up in complexity, you're colonizing ancient europe from Rome, setting up a trading empire. You have cards that give you choices of what actions to perform, you can buy more cards that give you more choices, and scoring is based in part on the cards you have and how they interrelate with the trading houses you've built. Oddly enough, I won this game, which is unusual.

Last game (also at the Board of Games event) was Machi Koro Board Game- it's a kind of odd game, you buy companies. Everyone rolls one or two dice on their turn, and everyone can make money from the dice rolls (in some cases, they'll take money from others). It's a very interesting game and will become part of my collection when there's room in the budget for it. Player hint - owning the Tax Office can be pay off BIG.

If you're interested in learning these games, there's a great site called meetup.com where you can find local groups on various subjects of interest. I'm a big fan of meetup.com, found several interesting groups on board gaming and others. Just remember, most of the meetups were formed by individuals thinking "Hey, would be great to get some/some more people come and do this", so these aren't (usually) flashy events where you just come and be entertained, join in and help where you can.

If you're just curious, Wil Wheaton has a web series where he plays these games with various celebrities, the show is called TableTop and it's part of the Geek and Sundry group. They do a combination of the simple and the harder games.

If you liked board games as a kid, check these out. They're a lot of fun. I think I'll write more about games in the future, including ones that are good entry games.

Posted on April 12, 2015, 11:57 am

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon


Sorry about the flurry of posts today

I'm making some changes to the back end. For those curious, I'm switching to what's called "prepared statements", makes the site a bit more bullet proof.

Here's the still pathetic logo for RSB. Really need something better. Anyone want to make one?

Posted on April 1, 2015, 7:10 pm
Last updated on April 1, 2015, 7:23 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon


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