Author Archive: Marshall


For what it’s worth, after a not insubstantial period of downtime with a database connection error, we’re back. Naturally it was an easy fix. Since there have been no new posts since 2016, people wouldn’t exactly be flocking here, but hey.

Ironically, the last post was about plans to open new Dairy Queens, and perhaps a week ago a friend posted pictures of food from one such area DQ on Facebook. I’d forgotten about the expansion plans entirely until the site was revived and I saw the old post.

Since I’m doing an administrative update of sorts, some explanation of the posting drought. If you can call it that, given that not posting has been more normal than posting. Anyone paying attention can see that this is one of a set of blogs that, whatever their origin or history, are meant to cover different topics. I’ve come to think of myself as and perhaps even accept the status of “semi-retired.” The hosting exists. Most of the domains existed and they’re cheap for the next clever idea that’ll be quickly discarded. I love to write and theoretically have time. Revenue might theoretically be possible from blogging. So hey, why not do a group of blogs and see what happens! Yeah… that went well. While I haven’t dismantled the “Elhide Publishing” thing as it exists online, I also haven’t pursued it. That doesn’t mean I’ll never post at a given blog. It doesn’t even preclude a burst, or something longer, of intensive posting.

Just don’t count on it.

Hey, for all you know I could suddenly get a “real job” and no longer be semi-retired because “old” in tech started at least twenty years before more traditional retirement age. With the improving economy, who knows. Just don’t count on it.

Dairy Queen

I saw today that Dairy Queen plans to open sixty new stores in Massachusetts. We actually have one in walking distance, but there aren’t many around besides that. It’s very popular, even in a town with a Friendly’s and with a branch of one of the best ice cream places in the state, also in walking distance.

It intrigued me to learn that DQ is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. That’s the first I’d heard of it. I can see it being a good turnaround or expansion target. The brand is well-known, reputable, and for some of us has nostalgic associations.

When I was a kid, we regularly went to the DQ in Kingston or East Bridgewater, both long gone. I believe at least the Kingston store had food, not just ice cream.

In 2004, driving the new wife from California to Massachusetts, we stopped to eat at a Dairy Queen. Might have been in Virginia. The food was fantastic. That made me with we had some around here. Or some that served food, anyway.

So that was my question, seeing the news: Would they try to be full DQ stores, or mere ice cream shops? I guess we’ll see.

I Agree With Coyote

My story of his most hated tax actually goes back to the seventies, and the first time I proudly filed a DBA with the town. I was bemused (well, OK, horrified) to receive in the mail an annual “form of list” tax form, where I was supposed to list every business asset so it could be taxed. Since I had nothing much (maybe $100 worth) and was rebellious to boot, I ignored it. Ever since, though, I have cringed at the idea of what some businesses much go through to do that reporting for what would be a modest tax.

Much later, I did run into paying local property tax on the contents of an office. We had filed a DBA in the town where we originated, but never did one in the town where we rented the office. Eventually they caught up with us and sent in someone to poke around and talk to mem then sent a bill based on what they imagined the value of the chattels in the office to be. Most of what was in there was actually client property and/or undiscarded junk, and even if it weren’t, the total was laughable. Yet the property tax bill was too low to be worth fighting.

Reviews for Sale

I guess there really is a market for everything. It would never have occured to me to sell reviews, or to buy reviews if I were a seller. Amazon is suing 1114 individual reviewers, as well it should. I rely, to some degree, on reviews when buying things.

I have perhaps a bad habit of never getting around to reviews, though sometimes if I am especially pleased, or vice-versa, I will. There are products you can’t review until you’ve used them a while. I recently bought an Android tablet that was well reviewed, seemed reasonable in quality, and had a higher price than three ill-fated tablets I’d ordered from Walmart. The cheaper ones disappointingly lasted only a few months, and were flaky in the meantime. I bought the seemingly better one to replace one of those. It lasted ten days. Technically, eight, since the date of the order is two days before we received it. The weakest point of all of them seems to be the screen. This one at least had wi-fi that worked reliably, plus it charged reliably and lasted well between charges. It breaking inspired a review. But I digress.

If I am going to look at reviews and average stars to help steer my buying (not that I haven’t bought things that had no rating at all yet), I want to know they are legitimate. I was dismayed enough that the company from which I bought my daughter a clarinet rewards a review with a second year of warranty.

I Am Not A Millenial

But this open letter to management from a millenial makes some excellent point, starting with a bang with “You tolerate low-performance.” Now, there are reasons this happens more than it should. As a former manager said regarding being able to get rid of a poor employee: “There’s too many laws.” And this isn’t even a country where you’re really stuck with a person once you have hired them, so it’s best not to hire if at all possible.

Dell And EMC

The big news today is about Dell buying EMC. This hits close to home, EMC being a Massachusetts company and employing people I know. It also reminds me of all the people I knew who worked for DEC before it was bought by Compaq, which still seems odder to me than the current merger. But then, DEC was shortsighted in some ways, missing the boat when it came to microcomputers, even more than IBM, which at least grasped things enough to create a market and widely adopted standards. IBM has been seen to varying degrees as the walking dead for decades, yet somehow kept going, even thriving. Then again, installed base creates inelasticity on the way to doom. Just ask COBOL. This is why, in the absence of total annihilation, civilization itself will not collapse absolutely and immediately in the face of many possible disasters. But I digress.

EMC is arguably more focused, robust and nimble than was DEC, and a better fit with Dell than was DEC with Compaq. It could work, until enough of their combined business goes obsolete. We’ll see.

William Levitt

Fascinating story of Levitt creating suburbia. It strikes me that while home construction stayed more efficient than it once was, the process later migrated away from his sheer assembly line, low skill version. Also, had it not been him, it would likely have been someone. The time was right. On the other hand, it might have been more organic and varied, filling that housing need affordably. I am no construction expert, but most of my life I have had the idea that there has to be a better way – a new better way – for housing to be made efficient and affordable. I mean, above and beyond rethinking the ridiculous burden of local zoning and other regulation that does more than anything to contribute to homelessness and excess cost.

Personal angle on this is my late friend Tom had been born in Levittown, NY, and had moved in his youth to Massachusetts, even though his father still worked as a flight engineer out of New York. That was how I first heard of Levittown and its origin.

Another personal angle: I would have absolutely hated the rules Levitt imposed. If such rules are attached after you own property, then it’s not really your property. I’d have been the first person to rebel and add a fence or a clothesline, if for no other reason than because it was forbidden. More likely, though, I’d have moved elsewhere.