July 15th, 2015

Daily Activities Include: talking to a journalist

Last Monday, I got email from a journalist looking for fun stories about what it was like Back in the Day at Amazon. After a few scheduling back and forths (I had a very loud chipper out front eating the smaller bits taken down with the aid of an enormous crane that was taking up basically my entire driveway, and didn't feel like trying to talk on the phone while monitoring two children and keeping them away from the equipment and police officer on traffic detail outside), we had a very pleasant conversation in the evening.

Here is what he wrote:

http://fortune.com/2015/07/15/amazon-startup-employees/

Amusingly, I have blogged about the author of this piece before, when he was writing about ebooks and numbers. Realizing that was part of why I decided to do the interview -- I had found him to be a thoughtful and sensible person in the past and figured he likely still was.

http://walkitout.livejournal.com/709617.html
http://walkitout.livejournal.com/716204.html

I've had occasion to talk to journalists about my time at Amazon (print and local TV) and in conjunction with my brief time on the Library Board of Trustees in Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). All of the conversations have been pleasant, but I think I liked the results of this conversation the best.

Now I remember why I don't make hummous from scratch

I cheated, even, and used Trader Joe's garbanzo beans (nice short ingredients list, and the salt isn't too crazy -- about 500 mg to the can, which makes a decent amount of hummous). And it's garlic-free because allium issues in the fam.

Anyway.

The ingredients list is short (open bag of sesame seeds had gone by so I had to open a fresh one). It's not that hard. But that's a fucking lot of equipment to clean up afterwards. Coffee grinder for the seeds. Blender in this case for the final product. And I had to clean the coffee grinder twice, because I hadn't realized the first batch of seeds wasn't good anymore until after I'd ground them. *sigh*

Of course, if I did this more often, it would be less of a chore.

People Keep Bringing Puerto Rico up

My husband, in particular, keeps mentioning it.

Here is Wikipedia on the topic:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rican_debt_crisis#Triple_tax_exemption

Right there, that's a problem. If the interest payments you make to your creditors are tax free regardless of where the person holding the debt lives, you are for damn sure not going to have trouble selling bonds. And so, apparently, Puerto Rico does: their towns sell debt, the top level of the government sells debt. They use that debt for _operating expenses_, not to do infrastructure like roads, or to get out of a temporary hole because of an economic downturn. The governmental equivalent of buy groceries on credit and only making the minimum payment.

They have a demographic problem also: low birthrate, and because everyone born in Puerto Rico is a US citizen, a lot of them move to the mainland.

I'm sure there are inefficiencies in the government (come on, what government doesn't have waste) and I'm sure there are problems with tax collection (ditto). Maybe even some serious ones (if you can't get income tax collection right in a world where W-2s are available, you are doing something seriously wrong). But I think the real problem here is that holding Puerto Rico debt was just too damn tax advantaged for the good of Puerto Rico.