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Why We Shouldn’t Have to Pay for Someone Else’s Beach House

Beach House
Image by kcolwell via Flickr

So apparently insurance providers have been bailing on North Carolina because insuring coastal homes gets expensive and so businesses and homes participate in a state plan called the Beach Plan. Apparently though, if the plan’s money runs out then insurance companies are forced to pay a percentage of the losses due to how much business they do in the state. Which in turn raises your insurance premiums regardless of if you have a beach house or not.

And guess what? We didn’t even know about this insanely stupid plan. The fact that it even was created sounded like it was by those with actual beach homes rather than the living with the rest of the state inland. In any case, this was only brought to our attention because our homeowner’s insurer basically sent us a polite letter to support HB-1305, and to go look at Fix the Beach Plan.

What’s scary is the fact that while there is a push to get the fixes on this Beach Plan, there are insurers that are leaving this state regardless of the outcome. In fact, when I asked my trusty pal from the News & Record about it, he sent me to an article he wrote earlier on the very subject. And there it was, where a couple of insurers had already pulled out of the running.

There has been a lot of back and forth about who’s paying for whom as far as Beach Plan insured versus private insurers. But from my perspective, I don’t think we should be paying any more if we live in the middle of the state if the coast does get hit by a natural disaster. Amusingly many people claim that those inland are buying into the insurance rhetoric and such. But here’s some food for thought. If insurance companies were apparently taking a share of the pie when there wasn’t any disasters, then why would some of them back out completely and not do business in the state at all? Wouldn’t that mean that they wouldn’t get a cut then?

Of course, in the end, it really comes down to the fact that I don’t want to be paying for someone else’s beach house. Ever.

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North Carolina Still Working On Unconstitutional Digital Tax

associates-logo-small._V265885005_ North Carolina is still pushing that digital tax.

But fortunately, there is another win for Amazon, and another state that doesn’t have legislators that have never fought for small businesses or know how Internet businesses work. Apparently the governor of the State of Hawaii has vetoed HB 1405 and the time has passed for the overturning to occur. So Amazon is re-inviting those affiliates back from that state.

Will North Carolina also break free from those luddites that know no bounds to how much they hurt small business? Perhaps. My guess is that we’re actually not reaching through the thick skulls of the state legislation but I could be entirely wrong. So far, I must say that as an independent voter and business owner, I haven’t been impressed with either the state legislation or our governor in several decisions that are NOT in the best interest in the constituents. Perhaps they will surprise me yet and overturn this one. Call me crazy but I actually like to pay income taxes if they didn’t take a portion of the income from my business.

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Facebook Ads May Use Your Picture

Not funny Facebook ad
Image by Titanas via Flickr

So I was reading through my newsfeed on Facebook and lo and behold, there was an old high school friend that showed up in the news feed. He lives in Germany so I don’t get to speak to him as often as I like, so I read his blurb that was showing up in my feed and what do I find? Something that really bugs me from a standpoint of transparency and privacy:

FACEBOOK has agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures WITHOUT your permission. Click on SETTINGS up at the top where you see the Log out link. Select Privacy. Then select NEWSFEEDS and WALL. Next select the tab that reads FACEBOOK ADS. There is a drop down box, select NO ONE. Then SAVE your changes. (REPOST to let your friends know!)

Go figure. FB is using your picture with ads and you never knew it? Not very cool. By default, it’s actually on so that your picture could show up in the advertisement to your friends (which means that your friends might think you use XYZ service).

Basically in a more ordered format, here’s how to turn it off:

  1. Go to the Settings drop down and select Privacy Settings.
  2. Select NewsFeeds and Wall
  3. There are two tabs, the right one is Facebook Ads. Select that one.
  4. The drop down box in the middle has either Your Friends (default) or No One as the choices. Select No One.
  5. Save the changes.

What really bothers me here is that by default, we opted into it than not. Usually, you want such things to be opt-ins, not determinations for the users. I don’t believe this is a serious enough offense by FB for them to lose users over, but it definitely forms a trust issue.

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Review: Cold Stone Cupcakes

coldstone_cupcakes I have to say that Cold Stone Creamery has hit on something big. Like seriously needs to go into their repertoire quick.

Currently, they’re promoting a $9.99USD limited time special for six ice cream cupcakes. From left to right, we have Sweet Cream, Cake Batter Delux, and Double Chocolate Devotion.

The technical of these cupcakes are actually pretty simple. It’s a chocolate shell, where the cake goes on the bottom, the ice cream above it, and then topped with frosting and some type of topping. But it truly is something that has a lot of weight on hot sunny afternoons and with the current cupcake craze around the United States, it’s bound to do well.

  • Sweet Cream: yellow cake, fudge & sweet cream ice cream, white frosting, milk and white chocolate curl.
  • Cake Batter Delux: red velvet cake, fudge & cake batter ice cream, pink frosting, rainbow sprinkles.
  • Double Chocolate Devotion: devil’s food cake, fudge & chocolate ice cream, white frosting, Oreo cookie.

Truly pick your poison. If regular cupcakes at bakeries can sell for $3USD a piece, then these things are tremendously under-valued and under-priced. In all truthfulness, I could actually seeing paying up to $5USD for a custom cupcake. Think about it. Most of the ingredients are already set up, so that you can already have shells with cake ready to go, pick your own ice cream, frosting, and topping. It’s a lovely move from a business perspective, and turns long hot summer days into something wonderful.

What’s even better is that there is also the possibility of say hot fudge for colder weather. There’s definitely a lot of maneuvering room for the product manager that is in charge of this one. Currently? You pay about $1.70USD per cupcake, and from what I saw they usually make about two batches a day since they sell out in about half day. I don’t think it’s caught on yet how awesome these things are, but believe me… anyone that touches these will not stop at one.

Ethical “White Hat” SEO Spam

An email box folder of spam messages.
Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes, I find spam absolutely hilarious.

I mean, check this one out that came through our small business accounting software site. What really got me was the fact that it was sent from a gmail address and the reply to: field was the same gmail address. What’s even more interesting is that the actual address has always been a gmail if you do a search for this fellow, and the addresses just change. Seems rather “phishy” to me. Here’s the actual content of the spam email:

We would like to get your website on first page of Google.
All of our processes use the most ethical “white hat” Search Engine Optimization techniques that will not get your website banned or penalized.
Please reply and I would be happy to send you a proposal.

By now, if you haven’t junked it or laughed at it and then junked it, you would need to realize a couple things. First is that while white hat SEO is a great term, it doesn’t really fly in the face of those that have no inkling of what it is. The second is that spamming someone’s forms really isn’t considered “ethical” by any means so it doesn’t give credence to your SEO tactics. Last of all? Really. If you expect people to take you seriously for SEO, then you need to get a real website, with a real company name and be able to show up on the first page of Google for “best SEO company“. Let’s face it. If you’re truly good at what you do, you’d be there wouldn’t you?

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Chasing Vertical Markets

vertical_markets Interestingly enough, I keep reading about biotechnology in the Business Journal and I’m failing to understand it. It seems that with every popular business trend, the business community in the Triad seems to follow and jive with it without actually wondering about the problems that occur currently and the time for a new industry to take hold.

Everyone understands that money is the number one factor in any sort of industry. To gain traction, you must invest major funds to get anywhere. But if someone else invests more than you, then they probably have an advantage. This is the same with biotechnology. In competing with national business centers with major urban populations, it’s difficult to understand how we’ll ever be on the forefront of biotech. Let me put it this way. Even smaller towns in South Carolina have biotech industrial parks. Don’t ask me why, since I don’t know what the deal is with that one.

Instead, there are plenty of industries leaving the Triad. I got word from a friend recently that in about six months, there will be a headquarter change for a company that has been in the Triad for a long time. No one knows how many jobs are effected, but I can tell you that it’s not going to be pretty when the news comes out. What’s interesting is that there are actual technology (database, programming, etc.) jobs on the line here and I have yet to see any sort of replacement area for these individuals. What next? Where are the technology jobs?

As people are displaced towards larger business centers and our community leadership is blinded by the fact that there are jobs on the line where there are skilled and educated needed, I cannot help but wonder why there hasn’t been any money thrown at technology businesses. When push comes to shove, everyone struggles in a market where you fight to be number one in an industry. But just as a business must segment their target market, a community needs to segment what they target in industry to help revitalize the job arena.

Thus, I propose vertical markets. Why not pick several niche areas and formulate vertical markets within these niche areas? There might be a horizontal market such as biotechnology, but what about being the best at grid software for biotech firms? Or the manufacturing of artificial skin? Perhaps we could even be a leader in small business applications such as online accounting? Either way, I find that the entire push for industry seems rather lost in the noise and we haven’t yet found our pulse to keep the business community going.

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iTunes Saturday

Apple iTunes Apple iTunes Apple iTunes

Where Did the State Deficits Come From?

Deficit Spending
Image by xampl9 via Flickr

Call me crazy, but I just don’t get it.

Why is it that every single state has these huge deficits that didn’t show up last year? Or the year before? I mean, I’m absolutely dumbfounded by why suddenly everyone has a budget shortage and they claim that it has to do with the recession and such. The obvious only reasoning for it is that they come up with silly ideas of budgeting such as taxing digital transactions, alcohol and such and think that what the potential “bring in” is what they can spend.

Like I said, I don’t know anything about politics and state governments but that’s the only reason I can think of where you can suddenly have a huge dropping out of funds. When you spend more than you have because you think you’re collecting revenue on something instead of actually waiting to spend it after you’ve collected it. One of the biggest mistakes of fiscal responsibility that I’ve ever seen if this is the case. And before people start pointing fingers saying that it’s because we have Democrats, or Republicans or whatever XYZ political party, I find that this is the case across the board. Maybe everyone wants a piece of the stimulus bill. Who knows. But anyone that tries to achieve power eventually abuses it in the same fashion.

In the end, I just want someone explain to me where these huge holes are coming from. I mean, as a citizen that doesn’t have time to do the research because I’m too busy trying to put food on the table, the things from the media usually just talk about the doom and gloom instead of seeing where the issues lie and propose fixes. I’m okay with taxes as long as they serve a legitimate purpose and are not paying for someone’s pet project like building another bridge in a place that already has one. Anyone want to take a stab?

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Tips & Tricks: Adobe Air installation for Linux

air_icon_special If you’re going to install Adobe Air on linux, you have to really do 4 things to get it done. I performed this on Ubuntu 9.04, but these commands are basic for any distribution as long as you have wget and sudo. If you don’t have them, then you’ll have to add them first or get the binary via your browser and install it through your root user:

  1. Open a Terminal
  2. wget http://airdownload.adobe.com/air/lin/download/1.5/AdobeAIRInstaller.bin
  3. chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin
  4. sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

That should actually get Adobe Air installed on any sort of linux distribution as long as you have wget and sudo installed. I haven’t really looked at the memory issue on the linux side, but Adobe Air does have some memory leaking issues on Windows and MacOSX so I assume that it’s not too different here. Regardless, there are a lot of social networking tools that are now using Adobe Air as their platform and it’s useful to know how to get it up in your favorite linux distribution.

Why Job Postings Are Not Accurate Looks At Job Market

Monster.com visits the Craigslist office
Image by unfurl via Flickr

Several of my good friends were hit by the latest downturn in global economics and they’ve had asked me to look into a couple job searches for them. Fortunately, in the Bay area, it’s a bit easier to find opportunity and they have all been employed again.

But I did notice one very crazy fact that needs to be addressed. If you make any judgements on the job market based on job placement sites such as CareerBuilder or Monster, the amount of actual positions are actually inflated. Didn’t know that? Here’s a way to tell. If you’ll notice that in every single city, or whatever zip code you put in, there are usually several jobs that seem very similar. In fact, the chances are that they are the same position. Job placement companies often take an actual job opening and create their own position in that market in hopes to getting people to sign up for it. Then they go to the company and ask for a referral fee, or sometimes broker the deal so for example, if the original hourly wage was thirty dollars, then the employee would get seventeen and the rest would be the placement agency’s fee.

What really stinks about this tactic is that you really could be wasting your precious time in finding a position since you have to filter through positions that you might have already applied for directly. My suggestion? Find out where the position is and apply direct to the corporation. You’ll get the most bang for buck, and unless the placement agencies have a track record with that corporation, it’s unlikely you’ll have something great out of it.

In any case? Good luck with your search.

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