Thursday, April 28, 2016


I recently came across an article here.
And here is another awesome article, by Blake Ross, co-founder of Firefox.
(keep in mind, if you read these, that each person's experience is a bit different)

It describes the condition I've had all my life and finally gives it a name: Aphantasia.  What is it?  It's the inability to visualize, to pull up pictures in one's mind.

Now, I've known that I'm different in this way since ... oh, my early 20's?  And I don't see it as an impairment - I'm just different.  But reading the article made me realize some other things.  It says that others with aphantasia also usually cannot recall sounds or smells or tastes or touches.  And that threw me for a loop, because I didn't know people could recall those things, too.  I can't.  Well, I can pull up songs in my head - that seems to be the exception to the rule.  But I can't call up someone's voice or remember their touch.  A particular smell does not initiate a sense memory taking me back to another time and place.

Something else I've realized.  While I don't see or hear or smell or feel when I remember someone, I do remember them in my own fashion.  This is hard to explain, as it is mostly just a 'sense' of that person.  But as I've been experimenting with my recall, and trying to pull up different people, it's made something else clearer.  My recall, even of that 'sense' of someone, is quite limited, and it fades.  For friends that I've known for a long time, even if I haven't seen them in a while, it remains fairly strong, but I can tell that it fades with time.

I'd noticed this previously.  I had wondered why, with old girlfriends, I couldn't really remember them.  Not just their faces or voices, but that 'sense'.  It's like they get erased.  I thought perhaps there was some emotional block that was doing that.  But now I think it's just the way my brain operates.

It also explains why I don't really miss people.  My brain simply doesn't pull up the necessary images or voices while they're gone.  What I do experience is that once I see them again, I get a feeling of, "oh, good!"  So, it's like I catch up once they're back.  In a way.

I'm remembering also the time that a guy stopped me on the street.  He clearly knew me, but I had no idea who he was.  And he was playfully not telling me.  He finally relented and told me his name, and only then did I realize that I really did know him.  Really.  As in, he was the husband of a friend of mine.  I'd hired him and we'd worked together for about six months.  And we'd even been on vacation together.  Seriously.  And yet I looked at him and had no clue.  Mind you, I can remember all of these facts, but looking at that face, my brain could not find the corresponding files.

So, it's a journey.  I'm still figuring out the ways in which I am weird.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Why Big Companies Pay No Taxes

We've probably all heard about how some big companies get away with paying no taxes.  I've wondered how this could be the case.  Well, now I know.  Last night, I had an international tax accountant in my car, and she explained it in fairly simple terms.

Say you've got Big Company X.  Big Company X is a huge, multi-billion dollar company that does business all over the world.  But they're an American business, so how come they don't cough up their fair share?

OK, but Big Company X is made up of many subsidiary companies:

And those subsidiary companies are in other countries, like India, Singapore, China and the U.K.  Each of those companies pays taxes in the country where they reside.  So, it's not that they're not paying taxes - they're just not paying it to the U.S.

And there are laws on the books in the U.S. and in other countries to prevent corporations from being double taxed.  Because if a company had to pay huge taxes in every country where they did business, then it wouldn't be worth doing business at all.

Still, surely the main company has income and should pay taxes in the U.S., right?  Well, there's something called the Foreign Tax Credit, and it relates to this double taxation thing.  Sometimes these subsidiary companies do end up getting taxed by both the U.S. and a foreign country.  And in that case, that double taxation is offset to some degree by the Foreign Tax Credit.  But what Big Company X will do is instruct their subsidiaries to pass that credit up to them (which they can do), and use it against the taxes that just the Big Company X headquarters owes.  Which is how Big Company X avoids paying taxes to the U.S. while diverting that tax burden to their subsidiaries.

The other piece of the puzzle is this.  Why do these big companies have subsidiaries all over the world?  Because the U.S. has a tax rate of 34%, higher than almost any other country.  By contrast, the worldwide average is 22.9%.  If the U.S. were to lower the corporate tax rate to 20% or even 10%, it would encourage businesses to set up shop here instead of in other countries, and then they would pay their taxes here instead of there.

Now, the woman I talking to was a little tipsy, so you can take this all with a grain of salt, and my apologies if I've gotten anything wrong here.  But she was clearly a smart cookie.  And I was amused that she professed herself to be a strong liberal, but on this issue she believes a very Republican argument can be made.

So the next time you hear that big corporations don't pay taxes, you'll know that's not true.  They do pay taxes, just not to the U.S.