First music video

Posted November 14th, 2012 by russfrazierwp and filed in Music
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This is my first music video – not sure if this is blues, jazz or somewhere in between. Sound created entirely with a Realistic Concertmate 460 keyboard and Audacity. 3D digital imagery created with Blender 3D version 2.63. The drum line is straight from the keyboard, the bass line is derived from the same notes (near as I could tell) as Low Rider by War, but not as funky. The comping and melodic lines are from about 3-4 different recording takes and edited and pieced together, resulting in a somewhat call-and-response structure. The whole thing was sped up by about 25% while maintaining constant pitch.

Small business taxes control hiring. Really?

Posted October 18th, 2012 by russfrazierwp and filed in Business and Economy
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There has been a lot of political spin this year surrounding the issue of small business taxes. One side maintains that small businesses will hire more people if their taxes are lower. Presumably, tax is a cost that if eliminated or reduced, will allow the business owner(s) to shift this cost to the operational cost of employee compensation.

The first thing wrong with this assumption is that small business owners are chomping at the bit, ready to hire, if only the government would leave them alone and stop asking for tax revenue. Why is that wrong?

Office work

An office with workers

A business would not hire additional workers unless the revenue opportunities, i.e., demand, were sufficient to expansion. The number of workers is determined by the need to produce the goods or services. If a business hires more people than is warranted by revenue, their profits decrease. So that means if a business hired workers based on a decrease in their tax burden, the workers would not be able to contribute to revenue, given the lack of demand. In this economy, I haven’t heard one single small business owner say, “I need to expand because of increased demand for my product/service. In order to do that, I would hire more people, but I can’t because of the government.”

I’ve heard a form of the second part of that statement, not the first. And that bothers me because I think it is disingenuous.

The second thing wrong with the main assumption is that small businesses apparently don’t do any scenario analysis or contingency planning for environmental conditions beyond their control. Those items include government regulations, taxes and such things as globalization and communications technology. If you were to ask a small business person, “Why are you doing this?” One answer you’re likely to get is, “More control over my life and career.” Alright. More control means you understand what you can change and what you cannot and you work within those limitations. You don’t sit on your hands and act helpless because you don’t know if your tax burden will change by 10%. You make adjustments to your business so you are ready for such changes.

But let’s say there is this scenario: A small business is operating very lean, with workers putting in overtime without extra pay, taking other compensation cuts, like cheaper health insurance, no 401(k), etc. The workers complain they are overworked. If they could have just one more person, they maintain, it would make their lives so much easier. But the business owner says, “Sorry. I can’t hire anyone, not even one more person, due to the taxes we pay. Perhaps if our taxes were lower, we would do so.” Really?

To hire one more additional person, the business would have to realistically be assured of at least one year of salary for that person. Let’s say the employee makes $50,000 a year. A reasonable rough estimate of salary plus benefits and employment taxes would be 1.3 times the salary. So this means the business needs an additional 50,000 x 1.3  = $65,000 guaranteed additional money available for operational costs. If that money came from a tax break, it would come from an incremental decrease on a percentage of overall revenue. Now let’s say the business does $260,000 in sales per year. To obtain a $65,000 operational boost, the tax on that $260,000 would have to be cut to 10%. At a 35% rate, the tax burden on $260,000 is $91,000, and at a 10% rate the burden is $26,000, a difference of $65,000. Not even the Republicans are proposing a tax cut that deep.

Collaboration versus Competition

Posted October 16th, 2012 by russfrazierwp and filed in Business and Economy
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To collaborate or to compete?

This deals with the issue of collaboration versus competition. We are conditioned and trained as middle class Americans to compete with each other from a very early age. It continues on through college and becomes more or less intense depending on your career path.

Consider the modern American system of meritocracy. Not a completely overarching principle, but frequently encountered when a person embarks on a professional career requiring at least one college degree. The competitive effort can be seen as a string of high stakes tests taken in a relatively short period of time, after prolonged study. It starts in the sixth grade now, with tests and quizzes, continues in high school and the SAT, continues on through university course midterms and finals. If you go to graduate school, you have to take the GRE, GMAT, MCAT, etc. Then there is more of the same. If you are a masochist, and go into a PhD program, you can expect a thesis defense. In every case just mentioned, there is a high-stakes, time-limited hurdle to complete, like a game. Some resemble zero-sum games with one winner and many losers (e.g., the highest SAT scorers get to go to MIT, Harvard, Stanford, etc., while most of the rest attend public schools) while others are not as strictly competitive.

A (low-stakes) zero-sum game

After you are done with all that, do you want to collaborate with people, or do you want to kick butt? You want to kick butt and take names. You want to make money because you were poor in graduate school. You want to dish out the shit because you’ve been eating it for so long.

Now, consider what has to be done to accomplish complex, resource-intensive and time-consuming tasks, for example, planning a city revitalization project, creating policy for leading a large country into the 21st century, designing a computer chip. It takes many people, of different specializations, abilities, skills, temperament, etc. all working together for a common goal. Are we as middle class Americans, honed by the process of obtaining credentials in a highly competitive environment suited to collaboration?


What’s it like losing your job?

Posted October 9th, 2012 by russfrazierwp and filed in Bitter lametations, Business and Economy
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Lot’s of people know what this is like. Here’s the perspective from an engineer who was making over 90K with bonuses, had, at one time, exercised stock options that paid for a new car and enjoyed a comfortable life. I used to travel internationally, enjoying the occasional business trip and vacationing in the Caribbean or at Lake Tahoe once a year. That’s over.

Well, I will say that after several years of reflecting, the hardest part for me has been the complete loss of social status. Engineers generally make useful contributions to the world. They have difficult jobs, which is partly why they (used to) get paid so much. It felt good to do a difficult job, be recognized for my work and earn pay reflecting some sort of corporate recognition of compensation. My friends, family and spouse respected me. Strangers treated me well.

That is all gone now, save for a grain of respect my wife is sustaining, somehow, but is notably strained. Is it money, is it simply the fact that I no longer serve a purpose? I don’t know the answer to that, but I will say that I might as well be a different person. It’s as if that other person I used to be no longer exists. Acquaintances, family and friends are suggesting I become such things as:

  • Fitness trainer
  • Pet sitter
  • Dog trainer
  • School teacher


Posted February 22nd, 2011 by russfrazierwp and filed in Uncategorized
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Welcome to my website! You’ll find information here about my professional experience, education and skills.