Sunday, 3 February 2013

09:24 – Barbara’s mom is doing a bit better. Frances stayed with their dad last night and will tonight, so Barbara has a couple days at home off dad-sitting duty. She’s covering Monday and Tuesday nights.

Paul Jones stopped by yesterday to borrow a laser collimator. We talked about having dinner, and Paul mentioned that he and Mary had plans for yesterday evening and tonight. When I mentioned that to Barbara, she said they were probably having or going to a super bowl party today. I, of course, hadn’t realized that today is the super bowl thing.

Netflix sent me email yesterday to announce availability of their remake of House of Cards. We watched and liked the British version years ago, so I added it to our queue. Now I see there are all kinds of on-line articles about Netflix’s “$100 million gamble” and about how Reed Hastings is determined to have Netflix become more like HBO faster than HBO can become more like Netflix. We’ll see. Hasting is flying in the face of conventional wisdom by releasing all 13 episodes of the first season at once, catering to so-called “binge watchers”, rather than stringing them out as HBO would. But Hastings is a very smart guy, and he’s determined to transition Netflix from a content-delivery company to a content-creation and -delivery company. I think he’ll succeed.

Work continues on building more science kits. Barbara got a bunch of bottles labeled yesterday and will do more today. She’ll finish up the bottles for the next batch of 60 chemistry kits and get started on the next batch of bottles for biology kits. This coming week, I’ll be filling bottles.

And I see that Minnesota and Florida are in a spat because Minnesota is trying to tax Florida residents as though they were Minnesota residents. The rule has always been that if one lives in a state for more than half a year, one is a resident of that state for that year. If you spend six months and a day in State A and five months and 29 days in State B, you are legally a resident of State A. There are minor exceptions for military personnel and so on, but that’s always been the rule. Now Minnesota is trying to tax people whose legal residence is in Florida but who take long vacations in Minnesota, the so-called snowbirds. Florida is encouraging the snowbirds just to move to Florida full-time.

Differential state taxes have always been an issue. I grew up in New Castle, Pennsylvania, which is about 10 miles from the Ohio state line. When I was young, I remember my parents driving over to Youngstown, Ohio to buy major items like furniture. They’d have them delivered by truck. Because Pennsylvania charged sales taxes on these items and Ohio didn’t, they’d end up paying significantly less. We have the same situation in North Carolina near the Virginia border. Gasoline taxes are lower in Virginia, so it’s almost impossible for a gas station to stay in business near the border. Everyone drives over into Virginia to fill up. And the recent to-do over Phil Mickelson moving out of California to avoid state income taxes is yet another example, as is Amazon’s ongoing battle with states that are trying to force it to charge sales taxes, as is the “smuggling” of cigarettes from low-tax states like Virginia and North Carolina to high-tax states like New York.

The obvious solution is for all states to eliminate income, sales, and excise taxes, putting everyone on a level playing field. If we must have taxes, let’s return to what the Founding Fathers intended: import duties and a per capita tax. Period. I’d suggest $500/person to the city/county, $50/person to the state, and $5/person to the feds. That’s a federal budget of $1.5 billion/year, which should be plenty for them to do everything they should be doing.


12:19 – I’m cutting purchase orders for science kit components. It’s interesting. Back when we started building kits in mid-2011, I was typically issuing POs for 30 kits’ worth of components at a time. Then I started doing 60 kits’ worth, and then 120 kits’ worth. I’m now cutting POs for 250 kits’ worth or more at a crack. That’s likely to be the limit, though, simply because of our limited storage space.

I still have no good idea of how many kits we’ll sell this year. Right now, we’re maintaining roughly a kit per day, which annualizes to 350+ total kits for the year. But that ignores seasonality. In the July, August, September period, we should sell literally 10 or more times the number of kits per month that we sell in slow months. January and February are slow months. Our goal for 2012, our first full year in operation, was 250 total kits, which we easily beat. Our goal for this year was 500 kits, but unless the current run rate is an anomaly we’re looking at easily 1,000 kits for the year, if not more. We may end up having to rent space sooner than I’d planned.