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Archive for January, 2008

PostHeaderIcon Don’t Waste My Time!

That’s what the IRS is telling tax payers. The IRS has a number of things they consider “frivolous” when it comes to tax returns. Taxpayers filing “frivolous” returns are fined $5,000–raised from $500 by Congress in 2006.

The newest additions to the list of things you can put on your tax return if you want to pay a hefty fee include “misinterpretation of the 9th Amendment regarding objections to military spending” as well as certain specific invalid deductions related to meals.

Accounting web has the details here. Embedded in the story are links to PDFs of the other things the IRS has ruled “frivolous” in the past. I have to say, honestly, a number of them LOOK on the surface like legit reasons not to pay taxes, things like the fact the IRS Tax Code is not an actual law, etc. Both my practical and cynical sides know that these arguments are fruitless, Big Brother will win.

I am curious, though, as to the answers to these objections. I could see something like “I don’t have to pay taxes because I’m a brunette–If blondes have more fun then we brunettes ought to have less taxes,” being ruled a frivolous reason to not pay taxes, but the objections based on quasi-legal stances, those I’d like to see answered. I would also like to know why the IRS gets to decide what is a frivolous reason. That seems a slippery slope…

What if somewhere down the line they make a frivolous ruling–who will be able to stop them? For example, say the IRS decides to rule that since most people lie on their taxes they are going to rule all Americans liars and automatically add 10% to the tax amount shown on the return?

How do you argue with someone who gets to both make the rules and enforce them?

*sigh* I’m waxing political. But, just in case, better go make sure none of your favorite deductions are on any of the frivolous lists.

PostHeaderIcon Live Alternatives

Microsoft, being the software mega-giant that it is, has such a large target over it, metaphorically speaking, that no one can resist trying to hit the bullseye. Google has been quietly chipping away at Microsoft’s appplications for a while now, most notably with the Google docs group of features.

Now someone else has their eye on Microsoft Live, the software company’s online tool suite. Ulteo, a company whose motto is “My Digital Life Made Simple”, went into beta-testing last month with a portable, web-based version of Open Office, including Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Base and Math. The actual applications, NOT watered down portable versions.

For more info straight from the source, check out Ulteo’s blog .

PostHeaderIcon Speaking of Fire Fox…

There’s a spiffy article about the new Firefox beta at computerworld.com.

Before I get into it, I will say, after a recent experience working in an environment where all Web work was done using IE 6 with most of it being research, Firefox could go back a version or two and it would STILL rock!

I noticed the article’s author seemed concerned that FF would become top-heavy with new features that are currently available as add-ons. Well, as an enthusiastic but not overly technical FF user, I have to say I’m not worried. It may make me a traitor to the Mozilla movement, but I hate FF add-ons. I hate that little pop-up bar asking if I want to update every third time I open the application, and I am hesitant to use them because the ones I had for Thunderbird worked out SO well (that plinking noise? that was the sarcasm dripping…).

More details, in a little easier to understand format, can be found in the InternetNews.com article about the original beta release from November.

Check it out for yourself and let us know what you think.

PostHeaderIcon Anti-Fox

I heard about Denny Carlton and his site in the context of another project I was on back in November, checked it out, laughed at the presumptive insanity of some people, and moved on.

His website, “whyfirefoxisblocked.com” outlines his philosophy that AdBlocker Plus, a FF add-on that is remarkably effective in blocking unwanted ads, is a violation of his rights as a webmaster. Because he cannot block the ABP and force FF users to view the ads on his site, he has blocked the whole browser. Seriously, I admit it, I tried to visit in FF just to see what would happen and it gave me a splash screen to come back with a different browser.

Apparently this is a hot-button issue for a lot of people. I don’t see why. As one commenter on Information Week’s (2nd) article on Carlton stated, “This guy fails to think about the fact that the people who are choosing to block ads are just the kind of person who aren’t going to click on them anyway.”

True enough in my case. Although I will admit, his protest has had one unintended side-effect I read about over and over. People like me who were unfamiliar with AdBlocker Plus have now downloaded it and added it to their arsenal of web tools.

Just to be mean, I’m going to thumb my nose at Denny Carlton and say you can too, by downloading ABP here.

PostHeaderIcon A little customer service goes a long way…

Kind of a long one, grab your coffee…

I am sometimes amazed at customer service. I’ve rarely gotten just “okay” service from a company. It’s either excellent or it downright stinks. I was reminded of this last week while on the way to visit a client’s office; I was just getting over being sick and had already pushed it back a day so I was already crazy… and then I ended up stuck on the side of the road on a busy stretch of the interstate with a flat tire. Those that know me well know that I do NOT like my car to not move. It sends me into a near tizzy. Add the 18 wheelers whizzing by at 90 miles per hour and I was gnashing my teeth pretty bad. Luckily we have roadside assistance. I pay Sprint PCS each and every month for both of our phones so that if we break down, they will come deal with it. It doesn’t even matter if we aren’t in OUR car, just as long as we have the phone.

Let me first say that I’ve been with Sprint PCS for forever. Literally. We first got them when we were living in Hawaii, so it’s been over a decade. As a general rule, I love them. They’ve always given us great customer service. Until last week. I realize that the representative for roadside assistance is only trying to do their job and get their form filled out, but – let me ask you, the blogging public – do you know what cross street you are at when you are on a random stretch of interstate in a town you aren’t familiar with? I gave them the last Exit number I saw. But, this guy would not listen that I was on the FREEWAY, there is no cross street. I see nothing but cars and a frontage road. I’m not lying to the guy. Anyway, it took him 10 minutes (and me making up a cross street knowing the tire dude would call me anyway) to actually tell me “okay, now let’s get you entered in and get someone out there”. What? I’ve only had to use this service a few times, but I was very disappointed. I may look at other options.

The ONLY thing that saved Sprint PCS was the guy who came to help. He was honestly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. If you are ever broken down or anything near Georgetown, Texas, let me highly recommend Tip Tow. I was off with my spare and made it to my client’s office only 45 minutes late, not too bad.

I’ll also stop to give a plug to the Georgetown PD. Two of them stopped in the space of the 30 minutes I was there to just make sure someone was coming and see if I was okay. And they were NICE. One was even laughing because I had moved to the passenger’s side and had my seatbelt on (seriously, those big trucks just fly)

My next stop was to find a tire place. I see a Goodyear sign, so Lamb’s Automotive won so I stopped. Again, wonderful service. The gentleman that helped me was nice, told me why I needed 4 new tires and an alignment and even offered to run across the street to get me a bottle of water because their fountain was out of order. Seriously, who does that anymore?

That’s it. I’m moving to Georgetown. Okay, probably not, but…

The bottom line is that what could have been a horrible day dealing with horrible customer service and me with a migraine ended up being saved just by a few people that were willing to smile and be nice. I didn’t even groan when I had to hand over the credit card for the tires. I need to remember that myself; I tend to answer the phone pretty abruptly this time of the year (if I see another W2 I may scream). Maybe I should smile a little more ;)

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PostHeaderIcon Americans Like It Online

So says the Deloitte and Touche’s 2nd edition “State of the New Media Democracy” survey–taken a mere 8 months after the first one.

For a short version, check out the articles about the survey results found at mediabuyerplanner.com and the Washington Post’s online portal.

For the straight dope from D&T;, read the article on their site here.

This gist of it is that Americans are more wired, both via computers and the mobile web, and are seeking out more entertainment on the web, not just info. It also claims that people are more tolerant of online ads than other types of ads.

I question the results simply because it was an online survey. I could be wrong, but it seems like conducting a survey of online activity only online will naturally skew the results in favor of new media. But, what do I know?

PostHeaderIcon Playing with Numbers

Portfolio.com, the online portal of the business magazine by the same name, recently ran a nifty little flash program called “Running the Numbers“.

Several of the images are ones I’ve seen before, or very very similar to ones I’ve seen before, particularly the plastic bottles. I liked the fact that the artist talked about the photo manipulation and commented personally on at least a few of the images.