Reimagining the Tax Code, Getting There with Grassroots Activism

Tax policy, which can be deadly dull, hasn’t inspired much enthusiasm for activist campaigns—until now. Advocates could leverage this energy to push for a progressive tax code.

The House and the Senate have reached an agreement on the final GOP tax bill and plan to vote on it sometime next week. However, there’s still aggressive mobilization against the legislation, fueled by progressive organizations like the Not One Penny and Stop the #GOPTaxScam coalitions; Indivisible; and Americans for Tax Fairness. These groups are working hard to disrupt a tax agenda that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy, even though in all likelihood the bill will pass. Tim Hogan, spokesperson for the Not One Penny campaign, says that regardless the outcome of the bill, this mobilization is a victory “in the court of public opinion.”

Indeed, Americans are strongly against the bill: a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly half of Americans who are aware of the legislation oppose it. And tax policy activism—a rarely- seen phenomenon—has played a role in raising awareness. This surge in activism could lay the foundation for a popular movement, not just reject the GOP’s giveaway to the rich, but to work toward a new, more equitable tax code.

In September, before the Republican tax proposals were released, Prosperity Now and PolicyLink, two economic justice organizations, released a report entitled “Making the Connection: Bringing Tax Wonks and Grassroots Activists Together to End Inequality.” The U.S. tax code, the report found, is an extremely “powerful lever … to drive inequality.” But as much as the tax code expands the divide between rich and poor, the report argues, that there is also serious potential for the tax code, reimagined, to bridge it.

And, as the report makes clear, that’s where activists could come in.

Not One Penny, spawned from April’s Tax March and officially launched in August, is a coalition of almost 50 organizations, demanding “Not one penny in tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.” While the Tax March largely brought people out to protest Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, the organizers wanted to bring attention to progressive tax policies, too. Following the initial action, Not One Penny shifted its focus. This summer, with a Republican tax proposal looming on the horizon, the group began training activists in anti-tax policy organizing.

Months later, after the release of the Trump tax plan and the eventual passage of the House and Senate proposals, demonstrations are taking place across the country to protest these trickle-down economics-oriented plans. Recently, five protestors were arrested in Maine after conducting a sit-in in Republican Senator Susan Collins’s office; Collins is a potential “no” vote when the conference bill comes back to the Senate. And in the spirit of the holiday season, New Jersey activists have confronted their Republican representatives with tax-themed Christmas carols.

As the Senate debated their tax bill, groups opposing the legislation set up a “People’s Filibuster” to protest the GOP proposal. For over 30 hours and throughout the night, different organizations “sponsored” hours, inviting activists and advocates to tell their stories. The speakers warned about the damaging effects of the House and Senate proposals on specific sectors like health care and the environment, and on certain groups such as graduate students, people with disabilities, and young families.

The “Making the Connection” report suggests that these types of protests could be leveraged to advocate for fairer tax policies, as such tactics have not frequently been utilized in tax policy advocacy. The report found that while almost 60 percent of the activists it polled had recently attended a rally or protest on an issue of public concern, just 5 percent had recently attended a rally or protest related to tax policy.

The report’s authors further explain that such low mobilization in regard to tax activism could be attributed to tax policy’s “messaging problem,” as advocates and the general public commonly think of tax policy as “complex, unapproachable, and downright boring.” Major barriers to effective progressive tax advocacy include a “knowledge deficit” concerning taxes, and a lack of a personal connection to tax policy.

But not only does the tax code work to raise revenue for the government (which everyone knows about), it also helps American households build wealth (which fewer people realize). That may be because, in our current tax code, most tax benefits are funneled toward the wealthy. According to the report, the top 1 percent of households received more federal dollars than the bottom 80 percent. The mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction? The government spends almost double on those credits for wealthier households than it does on Section 8 housing vouchers or Homeless Assistance Grants.

This preference for the wealthy is hard to detect, since programs like the mortgage-interest deduction are hidden inside the tax code, helping create a two-tier welfare system, where means-tested welfare programs for the poor are visible and known, but welfare programs for the wealthy, like deductions for homeownership, education, and retirement, help the rich build wealth but exist as “tax credits,” not “welfare.” The rich are lauded for taking advantage of the tax system (think of Trump saying that not paying taxes “makes me smart”), but means-tested welfare recipients are seen as moochers.

In other words, our tax code—even before the GOP makes it incalculably worse—exacerbates the nation’s vast economic inequality, in which the richest 1 percent of households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The tax code also contributes to the racial wealth gap, where the median white family owns 12 times the wealth of the median black family.

But, it also means that the tax code could also be a major force in reducing economic inequality. To right the imbalance and “shift the benefits distributed through the tax code to working families,” the “Making the Connection” report lays out concrete steps that advocacy organizations can take to make tax policy accessible to community organizers and grassroots activists.  

This support is necessary, says Jeremie Greer, Prosperity Now’s vice president of policy and research and a coauthor of the report, “because the personal connection to [tax policy] is underneath the tax code.” Greer says that “when [people] think about taxes, they think about the annual exercise of doing their taxes,” instead of associating the tax code with programs that help them.

The tax code contains housing credits, credits for low-income working families like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. The federal government uses that revenue to help pay for programs many communities rely on. One of the report’s survey respondents said that people often don’t realize that the EITC was the reason they received a tax refund. Another said that “many people don’t understand the connection between the taxes they pay and the roads they drive on or the schools their children attend.”

Other assistance programs outside the tax code are “very straightforward,” Greer says. Food stamps are for nutrition assistance. Housing vouchers help people with their housing. And the mortgage-interest deduction “is a wonky … and governmental way of talking about something,” he says. When talking to advocacy groups, Greer simply calls it what it is: a housing subsidy, which is one way to make tax policy clearer while helping people recognize how the tax code affects them personally.

Advocacy groups have been doing an excellent job of making the consequences of the Republican tax proposals both clear and personal. Lisa Beaudoin, executive director of ABLE New Hampshire, a disability rights organization, traveled to Washington for a recent Capitol Hill tax policy protest. She says, “Helping people understand the direct implications [that this tax bill has] in their lives … gives people something to hold onto and to fight for.”

The elimination of the individual mandate would threaten health care for millions of mostly low-income people. Multiple provisions, including the elimination of the medical expense deduction, would disproportionately hurt people with disabilities. And the reduction of the corporate tax rate is widely seen as a giveaway to wealthy Republican donors (as at least one Republican representative acknowledged).  

Anti-tax bill activism and the media coverage of the GOP bills have made an impact: Only 31 percent of Americans support the tax plan. But when the battle over the Republicans’ tax catastrophe is done, what will tax activists do then? It may be easier to advocate against polices that would be detrimental to low- and middle-income families than to campaign for fairer taxes, especially since progressive members of Congress have not put forth an omnibus proposal of their own.

Economist Gerald Friedman recently made the case at AlterNet that, “progressives should resist the temptation to simply attack the GOP giveaway to the ultra-rich; instead, they should articulate their own tax plan, one that would fund needed services, promote stable growth, and compensate the unlucky, including the victims of globalization.”

Many of Friedman’s policy proposals are not new to policymakers on the left; but they have not been bundled together in an overall progressive rewrite of the tax code. They include taxing capital income (such as profits from investments) at the same rate as income from work, and mandating new penalties on income stashed in offshore tax havens. Friedman also recommends strengthening the penalties on corporations that don’t provide benefits like health insurance and instituting a tax on carbon emissions.

The report’s policy proposals center on strengthening policies that already work, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and housing policy. The EITC lifts millions of families out of poverty, but really only works well for custodial parents. Greer says that people without children, including younger workers and the elderly, should be able to benefit too.

One such bill introduced by two progressive Democrats, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and California Representative Ro Khanna, would greatly expand the EITC along Prosperity Now’s lines. The Brown-Khanna plan increases the value of the credit for working families and gives childless workers greater access to the benefit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that this proposal would lift the incomes of 47 million households.

By introducing such a congressional bill now, when the Republican majorities in each house have no intention of giving it a hearing, of course, is to lay the groundwork for a more progressive tax code if and when the Democrats return to power.

Another such proposal, Greer points out, would be to create a tax credit that benefits renters as well as homeowners. Support for families that rent could help move them into homeownership—a transformation that would be further incentivized if Congress permanently established a program like the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, which temporarily came about during the Great Recession.  

Progressive leaders can’t simply say “no” to the Republicans’ plan to alter the tax code, because the status quo isn’t ideal either. Instead, a new, progressive tax code could help eliminate income inequality, make the wealthy pay their fair share, and finally give low- and middle-income families the resources they need to lead lives that are economically secure. If Democrats can retake power and activists get the support they need to transform public tax discussions, the party could be prompted to adopt new policies (which would require reforming campaign finance to curtail the Democrats reliance on big money) to make a new tax code a reality.

 

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John Kelly Reportedly Working Toward Bipartisan DREAMers Solution

He attended a meeting with senators from both parties.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was seen on Capitol Hill Tuesday as part of the Trump administration’s push to reach a bipartisan solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

As Politico reports, Kelly attended a meeting with close to a dozen senators from both sides of the aisle and assured them that the White House “will soon present a list of border security and other policy changes it wants as part of a broader deal” for DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers.

“We couldn’t finish this product, this bill, until we knew where the administration was,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the senators working on the compromise, told Politico. “And that’s why this meeting was so important.”

Though senators who left the meeting said Kelly insisted the president’s terms may be released in a matter of days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the upper chamber would not vote on DACA before they break for the holidays this Friday.

“That’s a matter to be discussed next year,” McConnell said in an interview with Fox News earlier on Tuesday.

 

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Rage of Demons: Session 3

In the previous session our heroes traveled towards the kuo-toa village of Sloobludop, pursued by the drow. They had learned from their kuo-toa companion Shuushar that there were two factions in Sloobludop: The followers of the goddess Blibdoolpoolp (aka “the Sea Mother”) with her archpriest Plooploopeen (aka “Ploop”) were vying for control with the upstart followers of the god Leemooggoogoon (aka “the Deep Father”) and his archpriestess Bloppblippodd (aka “Blopp”), daughter of Ploop.

Before they reached the village they were accosted by a patrol of kuo-toa, who offered them safe passage to Sloobludop if they would put all their weapons in a sack to prevent a surprise attack. They agreed, but before they could reach Sloobludop another patrol of kuo-toa attacked and killed the first patrol. That second patrol was led by Ploop, who explained that the first patrol was from the other faction, who would have sacrificed the group to the Deep Father. Ploop led them to the village and told them which quarters to stay in to not attract the attention of the other faction. But Surina the sorceress was curious about the other faction, magically disguised herself as kuo-toa, took Nyx the druid in the form of a small animal on her shoulder, and went exploring. She found that in fact the altar of the Deep Father looked rather grim: Two octopi were tied together on top of a manta ray, to give the impression of a two-headed monster. Traces of blood sacrifices were visible. In contrast the altar of the Sea Mother had offerings of knickknacks like sea shells, and looked more welcoming.

Based on that information the group agreed to a proposal of Ploop: They were to hide their weapon and armor under robes and be led by a group of Ploop’s followers to the upcoming festival in honor of the Deep Father. Ploop would pretend to give them to Blopp as a peace offering, as sacrifice for her god. But then Ploop, his followers, and the group would attack Blopp and her followers.

They executed the plan as intended. When striking down Blopp, the archpriestess called out “Leemooggoogoon”, and fell bleeding on the god’s altar. Suddenly the dark surface of the lake behind the altar began to bubble, and a huge monstrosity with tentacles and two baboon heads rose from the water. “Leemooggoogon” turned out to be the demon prince Demogorgon! With a single attack Demogorgon killed Prince Derendil, one of the NPC companions of the group. They also lost another NPC companion, Jimjar, by getting separated from him in the ensuing chaos. While Demogorgon killed Ploop, the group escaped and found a boat. With their remaining NPC companions Buppido, Shuushar, Sarith, and Stool, they got away from Sloobludop. Now they knew that something more dangerous than drow was afoot in the Underdark!

With the help of Arkoy’s curse that gave them a sense of direction, and Shuushar’s knowledge of the lake, they decided to travel towards Gracklstugh, the duergar city where Buppido claimed to know a way towards the surface world. But that was 20 days of travel away. On the evening of the first day they stopped at an island where they found a tunnel leading underground in which fungi grew. Unfortunately those turned out to be Timmask, a poisonous mushroom, whose spores put a confusion on Nyx, so she wandered deeper down in the tunnel. Following Nyx to stop her, the group was caught in a tremor causing a cave-in and were trapped. However a new passage had opened in one of the tunnel walls, leading to a strange temple. At first the group encountered gray ooze twice, who fell from the ceiling and damaged Mog’burz’ weapon with acid.

Then they saw a strange sight before them: A skeleton (not animated) was seemingly floating in the air, along with a dark metal mace and some coins. Trying to take the mace with a mage hand spell led to the hand encountering an invisible wall, and a telepathic message of “Hey! Stop tickling me!”. Thus the group encountered Glabbagool, a gelatinous cube who had become sentient. Glabbagool was friendly and spat out the mace and coins on request, and told them about the rest of the temple. He warned them about traps full of black puddings in corridors leading to a closed door, of which he didn’t know what was behind it. The group went there with Glabbagool escorting them (and dispatching quickly some more gray oozes). They discovered a new cave which Glabbagool said hadn’t been there before, from which water flowed into the temple.

They went to the closed door, which turned out to be easy to open for creatures possessing hands to use the door knob. Behind was an octagonal room with 7 niches, of which 4 contained strange, formless sculptures, and a big fountain in the middle containing dark water. Touching the statues unfroze them, and they turned out to be another 4 gray oozes. After killing those they discovered some treasure under the water of the fountain. Having explored the whole temple, there was no apparent way out. And from the new cave water kept rushing in, the whole complex being below the surface level of the darklake. They explored the cave and saw that the water was coming from fissures in the ceiling. With the help of a Magic Missile (and creative rule interpretation by me as DM) they made the ceiling collapse, at which point they could swim to the surface of the lake and back to their boat.

There a nasty surprise awaited them. Buppido was found unconscious with a big bump on the back of his head, while Shuushar was dead, with his entrails arranged in a bizarre fashion around him, like by some sort of ritual. Woken up, Buppido couldn’t provide an explanation of what had happened, and the group found no traces of the killer. So the next day they said goodbye to Glabbagool (who wouldn’t fit on the boat) and rowed off.

Two days later they were passing by another island, when they heard a soft feminine voice inside their heads pleading for help. Somebody on the island needed rescue! On the island they found a big green door, which turned out to be of heavy marble, covered in corroded bronze, and with an axis in the middle. Pushing with much force on the side opened the door (we were joking that Mog’burz, who failed several door opening rolls in this dungeon, kept pushing in the middle of the door). Behind the door was a Nethril tomb from millennia ago (basically Ancient Egyptian in design), the Lost Tomb of Khaem.

In the tomb the group came upon a room with a stone sarcophagus. That turned out to be a false tomb with a trap cursing them to have disadvantage on all attack rolls and saving throws. As they were all affected by the curse, this turned the dungeon into a far more deadly place. And there was another strange feature to the tomb: Any spell cast resulted in a wild magic surge, giving a random result form the wild magic table of the chaos sorcerer. That turned out to be an insidious feature when in the next room the group was attacked by four specters, who were resistant to non-magical damage. It turned downright deadly in the final (hidden) room, where the group encountered Brysis of Khaem, an evil sorceress who was now a wraith. Mog’burz the eldritch knight countered an attack of Brysis with a shield spell, but that triggered everybody’s favorite wild magic surge result: a fireball.

They barely survived this encounter, but then found the source of the voice: an intelligent sword called Dawnbringer. They also found a bunch of other nice treasures, like a necklace of fireballs, and over 2,000 gold pieces worth of valuables. Danger has its rewards in Dungeons & Dragons. At that point we ended the session, the group having reached level 5.

Basic Understanding of RMI : JaVa – is not MaVa

RMI logo

The Remote Method Invocation(RMI) is an API that provides a mechanism to create distributed application in Java. RMI allows a Java object to invoke method on an object running on another machine. RMI provides remote communication between java programs.

—Watch the Video to understand “Why we need RMI ?”—-



Concept of RMI application

A RMI application can be divided into two parts,
1. Client  program
2. Server program.
Server program creates some remote object, make their references available for the client to invoke method on it. A Client program make request for remote objects on server and invoke method on them. Stub and Skeleton are two important objects used for communication with remote object.

Stub and Skeleton

components of RMI

Stub acts as a gateway for Client program. It resides on Client side and communicates with Skeleton object. It establishes the connection between remote object and transmit request to it. Skeleton object resides on the Server side.

Stub Operation:

  • Acts as proxy for remote object.
  • Marshall parameters (converting the data or the objects in-to a byte-stream).
  • Send request and parameters to server skeleton.
Skeleton operation:
  • UN-Marshall parameters(converting the byte-stream back to their original data or object).
  • Perform computation
  • Marshall method return.
  • Send return object to client stub
RMI Registry
RMI registry is a server where :
  • Servers can register their object.
  • Clients can find server objects and obtain a remote references. Using the remote reference we can then invoke the required method.
                             
Watch this video to understand basic Implementation of RMI


RMI IMPLEMENTATION

    RMI Architecture

    Creating simple RMI application involves following steps:

    • Define a remote interface.
    • Implementing remote interface.
    • create and start remote application
    • create and start client application

    Define a remote interface

    A remote interface specifies the methods that can be invoked remotely by a client. Clients program communicate to remote interfaces, not to classes implementing it. To be a remote interface, a interface must extend the Remote interface of java.rmi package.
    import java.rmi.*;
    public interface AddServerInterface extends Remote
    {
    public int sum(int a,int b);
    }

    Implementation of remote interface

    For implementation of remote interface, a class must either extend UnicastRemoteObject or use exportObject() method of UnicastRemoteObject class.
    import java.rmi.*;
    import java.rmi.server.*;
    public class Adder extends UnicastRemoteObject implements AddServerInterface
    {
    Adder()throws RemoteException{
    super();
    }
    public int sum(int a,int b) throws RemoteException
    {
    return a+b;
    }
    }

    Create Server and host rmi service

    You need to create a server application and host rmi service Adder in it. This is done using rebind() method of java.rmi.Naming class. rebind() method takes two arguments, first represent the name of the object reference and second argument is reference to instance of Adder
    import java.rmi.*;
    import java.rmi.registry.*;
    public class Server{
    public static void main(String args[]){
    try{
    AddServerInterface addService=new Adder();
    Naming.rebind("Sum",addService);
    //addService object is hosted with name Sum

    }catch(Exception e){System.out.println(e);}
    }
    }

    Create client application

    Client application contains a java program that invokes the lookup() method of the Naming class. This method accepts one argument, the rmi URL and returns a reference to an object of type AddServerInterface. All remote method invocation is done on this object.
    import java.rmi.*;
    public class Client{
    public static void main(String args[]){
    try{
    AddServerInterface st=(AddServerInterface)Naming.lookup("rmi://localhost/Sum");
    System.out.println(st.Sum(25,8));
    }catch(Exception e){System.out.println(e);}
    }
    }

    Steps to run this RMI application

    • compile all the java files
      javac *.java
    • Start RMI registry
      start rmiregistry
    • Run Server file
      java Server
    • Run Client file in another command prompt pass localhost at run time
      java Client localhost
    Goals of RMI
    • To minimize the complexity of applications.
    • Minimize the difference between working with local and remote objects
    • Make writing reliable distributed applications as simple as possible

    Would you like learn Java and get Certified from Oracle ?

    RonyaSoft Poster Printer

    Just some unsolicited free advertising for a software I bought this weekend: Ronyasoft’s Poster Printer costs $19.95 for a home license. It is a software that takes an image and prints it at any size you want over multiple pages of paper. You can crop the image to print just the part you want. And if you print over multiple pages, you can add helpful guides on how to glue the whole thing together to give a good-looking poster. The software is quite user-friendly and it was easy enough to figure out all the options. And I’m quite happy with the results.

    Obviously I am using the software to print out battlemaps for my Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Specifically this weekend I am printing the battlemaps for Madness at Gardmore Abbey. I still had the images from the Cartographer’s Guild from the last time I played. But at the time I thought I’d never play that adventure again, and threw away the printouts, so I had to print them again.

    If you followed my posts about battlemaps you might notice that this is somewhere a step back in quality. For my last 4E campaign I didn’t print the poster maps myself, but sent them out to a poster printing website. Great quality, no need to glue pages together, and better water-resistance of the final product makes those poster maps really nice. However they cost between $10 and $20 per map, depending on size. And for Gardmore Abbey I need 24 maps. That’s a bit too expensive for my taste.

    In a way there is a difference in the economics of this between 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons and 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. My recent experience with playing 4E adventures in 5E shows that 5E is about three times faster than 4E. Madness at Gardmore Abbey in 4E took my group 18 sessions to play through over a whole year. In 5E I can probably do it in 6 sessions or so. So with a lot less time spent on any single battlemap, I am less willing to spend too much money on one. However I do plan to play the Zeitgeist campaign, which is the only one that I have a complete set of poster maps for, in 5th edition somewhere next year. I’m just waiting for the official conversion.

    Android Wear Oreo update tracker (Update: More watches receive Oreo)

    Update (12/18): Google has been rolling out Android Oreo to Android Wear devices for a week now and it has already gotten through a fair number of them. As pointed out by Android Police over the weekend, a few more have just made the list.

    The Fossil Q Founder 2.0, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Wander, Michael Kors Access Bradshaw, and the Michael Kors Access Dylan, are now said to have received the update, though it might take a few days to show up on all watches. What’s more, the Gc Connect, which was removed from the Oreo waitlist without explanation in the last update, has made a triumphant return: it’s now listed as having received Oreo.

    Google has announced the rollout of Android Oreo for Android Wear. While not as significant an update as Android Wear 2.0 was, the new Oreo software will nonetheless bring some useful tweaks, including a Touch Lock — supposed to help in wet conditions — notification channels, battery improvements, and adjustable vibration strength (you can read about what else is included in the update here).

    Now, Google has revealed a list of Android Wear devices set to receive the update on its Android Wear help page, though we don’t know when individual watches will receive it. We’ll be tracking the progress of the Android Wear Oreo update deployment in the coming weeks and months in this article and you can find out what we know so far below.

    Which smartwatches will get the Android Oreo update?

    According to Google, these are the smartwatches due to receive Android Oreo:

    • Casio PRO TREK Smart (WSD-F20)
    • Casio Smart Outdoor Watch (WSD-F10)
    • Diesel Full Guard
    • Emporio Armani Connected
    • Fossil Q Control
    • Fossil Q Explorist
    • Huawei Watch 2
    • LG Watch Style
    • Michael Kors Access Grayson
    • Misfit Vapor
    • Mobvoi Ticwatch S & E
    • Nixon Mission
    • Polar M600
    • Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
    • ZTE Quartz

    Which smartwatches already have Android Oreo?

    The Android Oreo update has already rolled out to a handful of smartwatches, and these are:

    • Fossil Q Founder 2.0
    • Fossil Q Marshal
    • Fossil Q Venture
    • Fossil Q Wander
    • Guess Connect
    • Gc Connect
    • Hugo BOSS BOSS Touch
    • LG Watch Sport
    • Louis Vuitton Tambour
    • Michael Kors Access Bradshaw
    • Michael Kors Access Dylan
    • Michael Kors Sofie
    • Montblanc Summit
    • Movado Connect
    • Tommy Hilfiger 24/7 You

    Note that the update for the devices listed above may have only recently started rolling out and not all devices may have received it.

    Which smartwatches won’t get the Android Oreo update?

    There are a number of popular watches that weren’t on the Google list which we’ve outlined below. These watches may still receive certain updates through the Google Play Store, but the software will remain on a previous version (such as Android Nougat).

    • Asus ZenWatch 2
    • Asus ZenWatch 3
    • Fossil Q Founder
    • Huawei Watch
    • Huawei Watch Ladies
    • LG G Watch R
    • LG Watch Urbane
    • LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE (including AT&T and Verizon versions)
    • Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Gen.)
    • Motorola Moto 360 Sport

    That’s all we have right now but we’ll bring you more information on the latest Android Wear updates as we get it.

    Next: Best Android Wear watches

    Deal: Misfit Vapor gets a $60 price cut on Amazon to $140

    The Misfit Vapor finally went on sale in late October, after the Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch was supposed to launch sometime in the late summer of 2017. The price for the smartwatch was $199.99, but now Amazon has cut the price down for the Vapor to just $139.59. That’s over $60 off for a product that first launched less than two months ago.

    Editor’s Pick

    That may be a clue that sales of the Vapor may not be doing as well as Misfit thought, or it could just be a holiday sales promotion. In any case, getting such a big price cut for this smartwatch makes it more attractive. It has a 1.39-inch AMOLED display, a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 4 GB of internal storage, a 44 mm satin-finished stainless steel casing, and a touch-enabled bezel that lets you access the UI without using the touchscreen.

    Unfortunately, the Misfit Vapor does not have a dedicated GPS chip inside, which was something the company said would originally be included with this smartwatch. It also lacks an NFC chip, so you can’t use it to buy stuff in stores via Android Pay without a phone. However, it does have an optical heart rate sensor and a water resistance rating of up to 50 meters, which means you can use it while swimming. Android Wear 2.0 support means you also get access to Google Assistant, along with customizable watch faces and access to all the new Google Fit features.

    Get it at Amazon

    How much are readers worth?

    I received a mail from an MMO website that it was for sale. I didn’t even know that there were auction sites for websites. Probably because I never considered my site as a business. I feel honored that people come to my site to read my thoughts. The idea was never to attract a maximum number of readers and then somehow monetize them. (And if I had wanted to do that I should have cashed out a decade ago, when this was still a popular blog.)

    The site on sale boasts 30,000 YouTube subscribers, 9,000 Facebook fans, and 4,000 Twitter followers. And you can “buy” all these fans for $1,000 or best offer. That suggests that one fan is worth between 20 and 30 cents. However the site hasn’t had much content in the past few weeks, and those “fans” might be long gone, never to return. Especially if the new owner of the site creates little new content, or somehow changes the scope. So at best buying an existing website is a starting boost that gets the word out faster than if you created the same new content on a brand new site. Websites are dynamic and the real number of readers / subscribers / fans / followers depends very much on the current quality and quantity of content created.

    Not only is buying a web site possibly a bad deal for the buyer. I would also consider it somewhat dishonest towards the fans. Imagine buying tickets to a concert and on going there finding out that the band you liked sold their name to another band, whose music you don’t like!

    In summary, this blog is unlikely to be sold. I’m sticking to an earlier promise that I can’t be bought for less than $100,000. And as this site was never worth this much, you can be pretty confident that as long as there is somebody writing here, it will be me.

    Rage of Demons: Session 2

    In the previous session the group escaped from a prison of the drow in the Underdark. Now they were free, but more or less lost in an unfamiliar environment, with neither food nor drink, and limited equipment. And the drows were pursuing them. So apart from a few combat encounters this session was mostly about how to survive and travel in the Underdark.

    A tabletop role-playing game always plays on two levels at once: The story level where the warrior chops off the head of the orc, and the game level, where a player rolls some dice. The art of Dungeon-mastering is to balance these two levels and to connect them. By treating travel and survival in the Underdark as a series of dice rolls, with modifiers based on player decisions, the players gain agency over the story. And unexpected dice rolls can add surprise to the story. The Out of the Abyss book, chapter 2, has some very good suggestions on how to handle travel and survival. I just needed to combine that with existing rules in the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide to a “loop” of rolls to do every day: A roll for navigation in order to avoid becoming lost, a random encounter roll for during the day, another random encounter roll for camp at night, and a roll for foraging.

    The trick to make all of that a bit more interesting is the drow pursuit: Players can choose to travel slow, normal speed, or fast. Traveling fast makes them gain more distance from the pursuers, but prevents them from foraging, and increases the difficulty of navigation and perceiving enemies. Traveling slower increases the risk from the pursuit, but makes everything else easier. In this session we played through that loop for 7 game days, which with several days traveled at high speed meant the group went from the drow outpost Velkynvelve to the kuo-toa village of Sloobludop.

    To give the group some means of orientation I used the previous encounter of the cleric with Juiblex to give him a level 1 madness which made his face wounds burn whenever he looked in the north-western direction from Velkynvelve (towards Blingdenstone to be exact, for reasons that will become obvious much later). That gave him advantage on navigation rolls, and the group used a second character to help with navigation when they were traveling at fast speed, so they never got lost. After the first day the cleric also switched spells to have Create Water, which solved their thirst problem.

    As encounters we first had one attack at night by goblins, which weren’t too hard to beat and provided the ranger of the group with a short bow and arrows. It also turned out that the players weren’t the squeamish kind, and they filleted the goblins, cooked them over magical fire, cast Purify Food & Drink on the meat and ate it. Later in the session they encountered a bunch of gnolls, which are larger than goblins, and thus ended up with more than enough food for their journey (although I ruled that meat wouldn’t keep longer than 2 days, because otherwise the whole foraging thing would become useless).

    Then they came to the Silken Paths, an area of spider webs crossing a large chasm, connecting stalagmites and stalactites. Two non-aggressive goblins had created a business guiding people across, and the group agreed to pay them for passage. On the web they found a large chest, which of course turned out to be a mimic (that still works with new players). Then they were attacked by darkmantles, which after killing them they used to make waterskins out of. In fact this group is the first one I see in 5th edition which makes use of crafting skills from their background. Once over the chasm, the group decreased their pursuit level by burning the webs they had crossed, although of course they couldn’t burn the whole giant web.

    The gnolls they met in an encounter which was supposed to have them come upon a hunt, with the gnolls chasing a pair of hook horrors. But the group just cast a fog spell to hide from the monsters and then traveled on. Then they came upon the second half of the hunters, and killed them. The group decided to rest there, but of course the first group of hunters came back before they were rested and they had to fight gnolls again.

    At the end of the session the group arrived near Sloobludop, and gained level 4 from the xp for survival and the various encounters. Just like in other campaign books of Wizards of the Coast, level increase is at least twice as fast as what you’d get if you just gave out xp for monsters. I decided that was okay, as nobody wants to be low level for too long. I might have to slow that down a bit if I feel that the group is becoming too powerful for a dark themed adventure.

    What is Dash? — a short guide

    CoinJournal

    What is Dash? It’s a cryptocurrency. At it’s simplest, Dash is a form digital cash you can send over the internet to a friend or retailer without a middleman like a bank.

    Read: What is cryptocurrency?

    Dash began its journey in 2014 and is currently the sixth largest cryptocurrency in the world by market cap — behind Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, IOTA, and Ripple. But how is it different from Bitcoin, what are its advantages, and how much does it cost? You’ll find answers to these questions and more below.

    Dash vs Bitcoin

    The Merkle

    Dash is similar to Bitcoin in many ways. You can use it to make purchases online or hold on to it as an investment. It also runs on a publicly disclosed blockchain that records each transaction.

    Read: What is a blockchain? – Gary Explains

    But Bitcoin has its share of problems Dash is trying to solve. Speed is one of them. Dash transactions are confirmed in four seconds, while sending Bitcoins to someone can take 10 minutes or more.

    Then there are the fees. The average Bitcoin transaction fee is around $6, compared to only $0.4 you have to pay to send someone Dash. But the fee will increase when more people start using the cryptocurrency.

    A big problem with Bitcoin is also that it doesn’t have a governance structure. This means important changes can’t be made without a hard fork that brings a new cryptocurrency to the market, which is how Bitcoin Cash was born. Dash is different. It has a voting system in place so that important changes can be implemented quickly.

    Unlike Bitcoin, Dash is self-funding. 45 percent of newly created Dash goes to the miners, and 45 percent to masternodes. The rest — 10 percent — goes to a treasury for funding the development team, marketing, customer support centers, and so forth.

    There are a few other differences between the two cryptocurrencies, but these are the major ones.

    What are the advantages of Dash?

    What is Dash? BitcoinCloudMining

    Two of the biggest advantages of Dash are the speed and low fees already mentioned above. You can send money to anyone in the world for less than $0.4 in four seconds — try doing that through a bank.

    Editor’s Pick

    Banks charge higher fees, especially if you’re sending money abroad. A transaction can also take up to a few days to complete, although most banks can speed up the process, if you’re willing to pay extra.

    Another benefit is anonymity. Although all transactions are public, you don’t have to share personal info like your name and address. However, this can also be a drawback. Dash, Bitcoins, and other cryptocurrencies that provide anonymity have been used by criminal organizations because the money can’t be traced back to them. Some claim their popularity among bad guys is one of the main reasons we’ve seen such a large increase in their value so far.

    How to buy, store, and spend Dash?

    What is Dash? Dash

    Buying Dash is easy. You can get it the same way as many other cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin. Make an account on an exchange like BitPanda or Kraken and buy Dash with your local currency.

    There are also a few locations in the US where you can buy Dash from an ATM. It’s the easiest way to get the cryptocurrency, although the fees are high. If you live in Austria, you can buy it at over 400 Post branches and about 1,300 Post partners.

    How can you store Dash? You keep the cryptocurrency in a digital wallet, one of which you can download from the company’s website. The alternative is to keep it in a hardware wallet such as the Ledger, which is a much safer method due to the reduced risk of getting hacked.

    Businesses that accept Dash include hosting providers, online casinos, and even advertising agencies.

    Where can you spend it? Dash isn’t as acceptable as standard currencies like dollars and euros, but there are many businesses that have embraced it. These include hosting providers, online casinos, and even advertising agencies — see full list here. You can also use it as an investment, which we’ll talk more about in the next section.

    How is it created and how much does it cost?

    What is Dash? Waffal

    Dash is created through a process called mining, same as Bitcoins. Mining requires specialized computers that search for solutions to difficult math problems. If the solution is correct, a new block is added to the blockchain and the miner is rewarded with some of the Dash created.

    How much does a Dash cost? Its price goes up and down all the time as a result of supply and demand. At the time of writing, you can get one for around $690 — though the exact value of Dash can be seen in the updated widget below. This makes it far less valuable than Bitcoin, which currently costs around $15,800 per piece.

    Dash has proven to be an excellent investment so far, as its value has been increasing ever since its introduction. For example, if you had invested $1,000 at the beginning of 2014 when one Dash was worth $0.3, you would have $2.3 million today. Cryptocurrencies have made people into millionaires in a short period of time, which is why everyone is talking about them these days.

    If you bought $1,000 worth of Dash at $0.3 per coin in 2014, you would have $2.3 million today.

    But before you get too excited and go online to buy Dash, keep in mind that investing in cryptocurrencies is risky. Sure, most of them have increased in value in recent years, but that doesn’t mean the trend will continue. The price can go down as fast as it went up, so make sure to never invest more than you can afford to lose.

    What is Dash?


    There you have it. These are some of the basic things about Dash. Will it become an important part of our daily lives in the future? No one can be sure, especially because there are many cryptocurrencies on the market — over 1,000. Not all of them will be able to survive, although it looks like Dash is on the right path for now.

    Have you ever used Dash or any other cryptocurrency? Let us know in the comments.