Archive for November, 2015

Gifts in Kind 

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

If anything is sillier than demanding “original receipts” for purchases on behalf of an organization it must be the idea of doing likewise for “gifts in kind” – especially since many such gifts are of items purchased so long ago that any receipt would probably have faded into illegibility if not actually dissolved into dust. But electoral organizations do have to provide some sort of accounting for such gifts so it may be both useful to develop some capacity for doing so between elections, and also to have some understanding and appreciation of the extent of member contributions beyond the merely financial.

Certainly all member contributions need to be acknowledged and have their importance understood, but this does not require any detailed accounting at the level of requiring receipts or whatever.

And with regard to establishing and enforcing contribution limits, it is important not to place a greater reporting burden on those with smaller individual contributions.

Yes, it is important to be aware of (and hopefully limit) the extent to which wealthy individuals and corporations can influence the outcome of an election by contributing goods and services of high value to their preferred candidates. But we need to do so in a way that does not place a burden on the less wealthy  to account for the costs of baking a cake for a potluck that equals or exceeds that placed on a major corporation for those of providing a campaign bus or private jet for their chosen right wing candidate!

 

Source: gifts in kind – Google Search

Original Receipts 

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

I am a member of an organization whose Finance Committee has been advised to require “original receipts” for all reimbursement requests (and also for “gifts in kind”! But I’ll get to that second bit of nonsense later).

Now it should be obvious that the idea is made ridiculous by the fact that most vendors will happily print out a second copy of the “original” receipt if requested (and that these flimsy items typically fade to invisibility within just a few months anyhow!), but for a bit more authoritative response I tried a Google Search.  And what did I find?

Original Receipts For Expense Reimbursement Policies

www.proformative.com/…/originalreceipts-for-expense-reimbursement-…

We are looking at eliminating the requirement of obtaining all original receipts. We currently require original receipts and scan these into our systems.

to which a typical response was “we are living a new world here, where most of the actual receipts will be in fact be mere printouts from the computer. For example, you have electronic air tickets (even for international travel), hotel bills are also printed on plain piece of paper, etc. This will be the majority of the travel expense. Hence, in such a situation there is no sense in actually collecting the original receipts as it will be the same as the scanned copies printed out.”

Why Asking for Receipts Is Old School…. – Oversight Systems

https://www.oversightsystems.com/…/why-asking-for-physical-receipts-is…

Nov 25, 2014 – Original expense receipt requirements are an old school approach to expense control. In fact, I saw a recent list of the top five reasons why …

Does the IRS accept scanned receipts for tax write-offs …

www.entrepreneur.com/answer/222221

Dec 22, 2010 – The rule that supports scanned receipts is called Revenue Proclamation 97-22. The rule states that scanned receipts are acceptable as long as they are identical to the originals and contain all of the accurate information that are included in the original receipts.

But when it comes to the taxman we certainly do need to obey the rules!

Can You Shred Scanned Receipts?

www.bookkeeping-essentials.com › Recordkeeping Systems

Learn CRA’s and IRS’s policies about accepting scanned receipts in place of originalsource documents … they are different!

Photocopies/Scans of expense receipts | AccountingWEB

www.accountingweb.co.uk › Any Answers

Of course, original receipts (whatever that means) are necessary where required by law – and in such cases it doesn’t matter that the requirement is stupid. But in situations where the use is just for record keeping (and especially if the scale of he enterprise is small enough that duplicate submissions would be easily identifiable) they are completely unnecessary. And it is certainly clear that their requirement is by no means a universal or even “standard” accounting practic.
Two personal experiences contribute to my disdain for the idea that “original receipts” are in any way useful. One, from my professional life, involves a compulsive thief and liar who produced a cleverly forged “original receipt” to cover up a theft which was only discovered and proved by other means (after which a more careful examination did identify physical evidence of he forgery). And another from volunteer work in which “original receipts” were provided for items which were similar to, but of higher value than, those made available to the organization (and again, it was only after the fraud had been identified via a larger pattern of suspicious behaviour that the differences in model number were noted).

Mythical Myths #47-50 Spinach&Popeye

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

This is cool because it has several components. That the iron content of spinach is a myth is itself a myth is just the starting point of a fascinating investigation of a number of related myths about how the confusion first came about and then came to light (some of which are themselves actually true and so only mythically myths). Thanks to Mike Sutton who may well be the world’s champion in identification of mythical myths.

A story started thirty years ago by nutritionist Professor Arnold Bender, and famously supported by the immunohaematologist Professor Terence Hamblin, that a decimal point error made in 19th Century research of the iron content of spinach led to its erroneous promotion, is completely untrue.

Source: BestThinking / Articles / Science / Chemistry / Biochemistry / The Spinach, Popeye, Iron, Decimal Error Myth is Finally Busted (Article)

“Good Reasons”

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

 

In a review of Vaclav Smil’s books on global energy use, Tim Maly at The Atlantic, after explaining the virtual impossibility of transitioning to low energy density primary power sources in time to avert potentially catastrophic global warming, tells us that:

We know how to make nuclear reactors and hook them up to the grid, but Americans just don’t want to do it anymore. And there are good reasons for this!

So, the only transition away from carbon combustion that can occur quickly enough to save us from significant warming is the transition to nuclear. But hey, there are “good reasons” not to go that route. So I guess we’ll just have to run the 4 degree experiment and see who survives.

or as commenter ‘Theoretical Conspiracist’ put it more politely:

A nonsense, throwaway sentence like this really mars an otherwise excellent article. I say that not to deny that there are “good reasons” for the policy/political resistance in America to nuclear power, but to remark on this odd, defensive, kneejerk inclusion of that “Hey, not that there’s anything wrong with that!!” aside in an article whose overall conclusion is that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have been honest or realistic about climate change and energy policy yet.

Since nuclear retains the existing grid infrastructure and has improved energy density (vastly advantageous to wind and solar), we really ought to be doing more to consider nuclear as a clean power source, perhaps as a transition to that far-future renewables infrastructure. We ought to interrogate the so-called good reasons and weigh them honestly against the alternatives rather than just handwaving briefly and moving on toward an otherwise terminal dilemma.

 

Source: What The History of Fossil Fuels Teaches Us About Renewable Energy – The Atlantic

Do Pigments “Have” Colour?

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

A recent article in The Atlantic piqued my interest but left me very much unsatisfied as to what, if anything, underlies the “pantone” system. So I decided to Google for more info.

The second reference I found was a lot quicker and less “gushy” in getting to the point (or at least to the point that I was interested in), but only slightly more informative.

And the third was clearer about the Pantone distinction – in that it identified the Pantone system as involving many more different pigment types than CMY. But in the end it too failed to fully explain why more than three are needed (and why no finite set, including the Pantone system itself, can ever be “perfect”).

In fact any colour experience can be reproduced with just the three signals corresponding to our three kinds of cone receptors, so the RGB system is capable of producing a light to match any colour that we can ever see.

But that’s the colour of light, not of an object or pigment.

In fact, no actual thing we see, whether object or pigment, actually “has” a colour. It is light that has colour and what pigments do is modify the colour of the light with which they are illuminated by subtracting more of some frequencies than others. The colour of the reflected light then is what we see, but this depends both on the properies of the object and on the spectrum of the ambient light. Since lights of quite different detailed spectrum can produce the same RGB signals in our eye, and there are many different detailed subtractions that can take a given “white” light to any particular value of the RGB signals, it is both possible to have the same pigment look different under two “white” lights which we cannot tell apart and to have  two pigments which look the same under one light and different under another – even when the two lights seem to us to be exactly the same. This last is the real weakness of the Pantone Matching System. Unless one is just comparing with other Pantone products, a matching that works under one light might not work under another.
 

Sources:

How Pantone Became a Global Authority on Color – The Atlantic
RGB vs. CMYK vs. PMS – Why doesn’t my print out look like my screen? – CreativeMediaWorks
CMYK VS. PMS – The Printer

Is Bio-Degradation of Plastics Really a Good Thing?

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

According to conventional wisdom (as expressed in ‘Seriously,Science?’ at discovermagazine.com):

We all know that plastic is generally terrible for the environment because it doesn’t biodegrade, and just sits in landfills.

But why is having carbon locked up in relatively small known locations (rather than oxidized and maybe even methanized into the atmosphere and/or distributed widely in micro-particles of unknown toxicity) to be considered as “generally terrible for the environment“?

Source: These plastic-eating worms could be the solution to pollution.

Can neuroscience explain consciousness?

Friday, November 6th, 2015

I think I would define consciousness in purely computational terms and I don’t think I’d make it dependent on the specific structure in which the computation takes place.

eg, perhaps: “An entity is said to be ‘conscious’ if its state changes according (at least in part) to a computational process in which the input data includes a partial model of the state of the computational process itself.”

Source: Can neuroscience explain consciousness? | OUPblog