Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cubicles, not walls in offices..

The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Joel Spolsky explains why companies cram employees into cubicles rather than private offices, despite lower productivity of the former. In short, the government has defined what a business may define as a deductible business expense in favor of cubicles!

We're going to need a much bigger space now: on the order of 15,000 square feet. To build that much office space could cost a couple of million dollars. With the lack of deductibility, your bank account goes down by three million dollars. The landlord will pay a fraction of that, but not enough to make it affordable.

There's a loophole. Office furniture can be depreciated much faster than leasehold improvements, over 7 years. So for $20 of office furniture you can deduct about $3 a year: better than nothing. Even better, office furniture is a real asset, so you can lease it. Now you're not out any cash, just a convenient monthly payment, which is 100% deductible.

This is why companies build cubicle farms instead of walls, even though the dollar cost is comparable.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Not all beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Excerpt from an essay on the inherent (non-subjective) quality of art:
My main point here is not how to have good taste, but that there can even be such a thing. And I think I've shown that. There is such a thing as good art. It's art that interests its human audience, and since humans have a lot in common, what interests them is not random. Since there's such a thing as good art, there's also such a thing as good taste, which is the ability to recognize it.

Art is man-made. It comes with a lot of cultural baggage, and in addition the people who make it often try to trick us. Most people's judgement of art is dominated by these extraneous factors. ... So it turns out you can pick out some people and say that they have better taste than others: they're the ones who actually taste art like apples.

... the people [with good taste are the ones] who (a) are hard to trick, and (b) don't just like whatever they grew up with. If you could find people who'd eliminated all such influences on their judgement, you'd probably still see variation in what they liked. But because humans have so much in common, you'd also find they agreed on a lot. They'd nearly all prefer the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to a blank canvas.