Toys R Us-and-Them

Because we couldn’t possibly have both a boy and a girl playing Ninja Turtles.

cover of Toys R Us Christmas catalog
I know this is far from news, but I looked through the whole thing. 2-page spread of “create and explore” that was basically crafts and only featured girls. Followed by a spread of “eduscience” that was actual exploration and only showed boys. Not to mention that a solid 2/3 of the book is color-coded blue=boy, pink=girl, so you don’t even have to look at the page to know if it’s for you or not. 4 pages for Lego and other building toys, with a fair bit of space devoted to the kids (as well as the toys), and they’re all boys. Lego Friends has its own page, showing only girls, and sharing a spread with toddler building toys.

I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. I did discover that there are two toys that are coed:


Gen Con 2014 — How Not to Do Registration

I wrote last week about the awesome time I (well, we—my friends and I) had at Gen Con this year. Easily the most fun I’ve had at a Gen Con without staying downtown. 

Which leads me right into the lousy time I had getting set up for the convention. Registering for Gen Con has become a hassle and a frustration. And it doesn’t have to be. The fixes are technically easy. They may not be politically easy, but I think they are palatable, and certainly better than the situation we have now. 

Continue reading

Gun Show “Loophole”?

Just a quick thought:

Someone on Facebook mentioned that the whole notion of being allowed to sell a firearm as a private citizen without doing a background check isn’t a “loophole”, it’s just the way the market runs everywhere. He used the analogy of selling a used book to your friend, pointing out that you don’t have to collect sales tax. And, similarly, both a used book store selling at a convention and a gun dealer selling at a gun show have to collect sales tax—the differentiation is based on who is doing the selling, not where or to whom. 

That’s not the point. This isn’t about sales tax, an attribute of the exchange of money. This is about regulations. If you sell an inappropriate book to a minor, you can get in the same trouble as if a store does it. It may be less likely, because you’re less likely to get caught, but the law isn’t different. 

The closest equivalent to the “gun show loophole” to firearm background checks that I can think of would be if buying a used book from your friend would mean that the copyright on the book doesn’t apply to you and you could freely reuse the content—but people who bought that same book from a retailer would have to abide by its copyright.

Tangentially, in this day and age of eBay and Etsy and PayPal and WordPress and Craigslist, the notion that you can draw a bright line between “dealers” and “private sellers” is ludicrous. You can draw a line (as they have with sales tax), but it’s always going to be at best semi-arbitrary. And I can pretty much guarantee there’s someone selling firearms online precisely to skirt the background check laws. 

Gen Con 2014 – Gaming

Gen Con was great fun, as usual. This was the first year in 15 when I wasn’t running games, so I had a blissfully laid-back schedule. In a later post, I’ll talk about all the flaws in the organization, but once I was there it was great!

Since we couldn’t get into many RPG events that weren’t D&D or Pathfinder (and we aren’t interested in those), we instead filled much of our game time with Games on Demand. This year they solved the principle problem of previous years by making the “boarding” order random rather than first-come, first-served. So you could show up 15 min—or even 2 min—before the start time and not only get into a game but have a reasonable shot at getting into one of your preferred choices. (Last year, you could show up an hour and a half before a time slot and still not be the front of the line, so you basically had to allocated an additional 1-2 hours of line-standing if you wanted to play Games on Demand and had any preferences whatsoever among the games offered.) I had poor luck on the letter lottery, inevitably picking one of the last letters called, but there were enough games of interest to me that I never had to settle. I won’t talk about every game I played at Gen Con, but want to highlight a few.

Continue reading

The Real Cost of Uber

This is a response to a recent article on Bill Moyers’ website

Taxi drivers have always (well, for decades at least; and at most companies, though not all) been independent contractors, not employees. So the fact that Uber drivers are independent contractors paying a percentage to the person that really should be their employer is already standard practice in the taxi world. But in the taxi world, you probably pay ~70% of your fares (excluding tips), while Uber drivers are only paying 20% (possibly including tips­—I think it’s 20% of whatever is collected via the app, so cash tips would be excluded). That, right there, is what Uber tells people in order to woo them in the first place.

Also, both the taxi driver and the Uber driver are stuck with paying all their own taxes. You know that ~30% that is taken out of your paycheck before you even get it? Add another ~13%, because you’re responsible for the “employer’s portion” of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid taxes. So if you actually want to compare what you make as an independent contractor (Uber driver or carpenter) vs being an employee, reduce the independent-contractor wage by a full eighth! $20/hr driving for Uber is equivalent to about $17.50/hr working for a legitimate employer. And if you’re making close to minimum wage, say, $8/hr, it’s more like $7/hr—and that’s before you figure in the regular taxes that everyone pays.

Continue reading