Back in the Saddle

A 2005 Giant TCR C1

I am not good at hitting softballs. Never mind fast balls, curve balls, and knuckle balls, I tend to do terribly in sports that require some kind of aim. What I did enjoy was riding my bicycle. In high school I started riding small hills in a short route around my neighborhood. My parents upgraded me from a mountain bike to a hybrid bicycle as my high school graduation gift. I rode more and eventually bought a road bike. A couple of years ago a joint condition in my ankle made riding the road bike difficult so I took a break. I was benched and disappointed. Fortunately that has passed. The other day I literally dusted it off and took it for its first ride in a long time.

You do not forget how to ride. As I connected my shoes to the bicycle I could feel the activation of dormant neurons and electricity jumping across my synapses bringing my body into balance. Uncertainty was replaced with excitement as I tested the mechanics of the brakes and gears and found them fully functional. Fear gave way to adrenaline. I was free again.

However the freedom of the road is still laced with confusion. Motorists and cyclists often seem oblivious to the rules surrounding bikes. They belong in the road, not on the sidewalk where you can easily run into pedestrians. Riding against traffic by cyclists, a common sin, is disconcerting for motorists and dangerous for the cyclist. Motorists seem to get angry at the slow machine taking up their road space. Some intersections lack clearly defined sensors to trigger stop lights. We need to educate both the people behind the wheel and on the saddle on the rules. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before Connecticut will truly be bicycle friendly, but that will not stop people like me from enjoying it.

Caucus Week(s)

If you are involved in Connecticut politics you might sit on your party’s town committee. And if that is the case then this week or next week is probably caucus week for you. Caucus is how each of the party committees endorse their preferred candidates for election in November. The procedure for this varies by town and city but generally members of the town committee get to vote on the endorsement. If enough people think a different candidate should be put on the ballot in November then there will be a primary so that all the party members can choose their candidate(s).

This is also a good time for candidates to introduce themselves to their base and ask for support both in the form of money and volunteering. Town committee chairs try to make sure there is good attendance at these events to maximize the legitimacy of the endorsements and make sure the word gets out. If you want to see part of the local political process you should attend your local caucus and see the endorsement process in action. If you want to find out when your caucus is you can stop by where public notices are posted in town hall or call your town committee chair.

Thoughts on Owning a Business and Using a Bank

I have been using various banks in and outside Connecticut since I was young. My initial experience with personal banking involved accounts as Dutch Point Credit Union and Equity Bank. I continue to use Dutch Point Credit Union in conjunction with Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) as my personal banking solution and also have a Bank of America credit card. However, for political campaigns and business banking I have been using TD Bank. For the most part I am happy to recommend all of these companies.

TD Bank is ubiquitous across the nutmeg state and for that reason they are a good option for business banking. I have used them for political campaigns and having an account there does not cost anything to the campaign. Fees for checks and other services are minimal or non-existent. It is slightly different if you own a business account: you get a free trial of their premier service and then have to maintain a minimum balance to avoid fees. However the least expensive option only charges $8/month which was cheaper than the competitors that I had researched. As a bonus TD Bank can print and activate a debit VISA check card in its branch. You can have a nearly fully functional account in under an hour. The online banking takes a little longer to set up but it otherwise works well.

Personal banking has been a more confusing conglomeration of solutions for me. I like and have used Dutch Point Credit Union my entire life but the interest rates on their savings accounts are low and their online banking interface and features are lacking. On the flip side the fees the credit union charges are minimal. When I had to get certified bank checks to pay my bar registration fees they cost significantly less than my friends using Bank of America had to pay.

To make up for the lack of online features I setup an ING Direct account several years ago. The advantage of ING Direct was a large interest rate on its savings account, however it has now dwindled to about 0.6%. Their iPhone application allows for the deposit of checks using the iPhone camera, and that convenience along with their providing of easy tools for inter-account transfer of money and printing voided checks has made keeping the account worth it. Even as they have been taken over by Capital One and been renamed Capital One 360 they provide bleeding edge online banking, and you can withdraw money from ATMs at any CVS without being charged a fee. Without physical branches this account works well as a companion to an existing account.

I also am a Bank of America customer since they bought out the company they issued me my first credit card years ago. A nice feature of many modern credit cards is that they provide an additional year of warranty protection for items purchased on the credit card at no cost to you. However most cards hide this feature. It took some extra legwork to get reimbursed for a keyboard repair on my MacBook Pro by the company that Bank of America contracted with for this, but my check did arrive and I was happy. They also have not charged me fees. At one point I accidentally overcharged my card by a few dollars and a phone call was all it took to get the fee waived.

It is my hope that eventually one of these banks will be able to be the best at everything since this mishmash of solutions is a little annoying to manage. However I think if you are willing to take a little time and work the system it is not hard to maximize the value you get from banks here in the state.

S.E.C. Is Asked to Make Companies Disclose Donations

A loose coalition of Democratic elected officials, shareholder activists and pension funds has flooded the Securities and Exchange Commission with calls to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations, a move that could transform the growing world of secret campaign spending

via S.E.C. Is Asked to Make Companies Disclose Donations - NYTimes.com.

For reformers disclosure laws are a favored method of combatting potential campaign corruption. I think it helps, but recent prosecutions and scandal seem to suggest it does not prevent it. The concerns about chilling speech are likely overblown. Years into disclosure requirements for individuals we continue to see more people participate in the system, not less.

Bring Back the Phone Booth

After looking at some pictures of the Foursquare offices on Business Insider it made me realize that the world suffers from a new problem: a lack of private spaces to take phone calls. This leads to people taking their phone calls in public or inconvenient places and the rest of the world learning the private details of their conversations. If you are in an office or school your options for taking a phone call are limited: a public space, a conference room, or go outside. To solve this I think it is time to bring back the phone booth.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.