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The Map of Mathematics

by Miriam - February 9th, 2017

This is a terrific Coffee Break – This is an overview video about the history and purpose of mathematics, and particularly about all the different kinds of math and what each is about.

10 minutes well-spent.

My favorite observation: “Some infinities are bigger than others.”

Where do you deploy 500 drones? The Superbowl, of course!

by Miriam - February 7th, 2017

Drone technology continues to evolve. ICYMI, here’s the Lady Gaga intro to halftime including the drone backdrop video from the Superbowl (due to NFL restrictions, you’ll need to click through to view the first video directly on YouTube):

Here’s the “behind the scenes” (more promotional than informational, but still of interest):

Fun facts:
– These drones are very lightweight, and only have a battery life of about 20 minutes.
– This design is developed specifically for light display.
– Due to the large number of drones, special FAA permission is needed for flight.

Guinness Book of Records – Largest K’nex Contraption

by Miriam - February 4th, 2017

Austin Granger, from Minnesota, USA, a 23-year-old University of Minnesota computer science undergraduate built this machine.

What a resume’-builder.

Learn more about the story, here: K’Nex Guinness World Record

TBT – Cheap Trick “It’s Only Love”

by Miriam - January 26th, 2017

A typical and unremarkable 80’s song by Cheap Trick – didn’t even break into the charts.  Released in 1986, the most remarkable thing about this video is that it is the first commercial, main-stream video to incorporate ASL into the video and include an interpreter box in the bottom corner.

It’s worth the coffee break just for the hair.  Ahh.  The 80’s.

Magical Timelapse -Europe

by Miriam - January 20th, 2017

Be sure you click through the video to the Vimeo post to learn about all the places visited and the details of the photo shoots.  Amazing.

Magical Europe – Timelapse from StanChang on Vimeo.

5 Tax Organizing Tips for Farmers

by Miriam - January 10th, 2017

My farm clients have started calling for tax appointments, even though they don’t have all their financial information collected.

As you gather information for your tax preparer, keep these tips in mind:


1.  Separate your major farm activities into separate businesses (Enterprises). If you have multiple farm entities, each should have its own bank account and cash flow statement. If you have multiple activities under one entity, keep separate records so you can track profitability. Livestock enterprises should be a different cash flow statement from grain, for example.

2.  Use accounting software to keep your farm financial records organized. Very few people (these days) are careful and detail-oriented enough to keep accurate paper ledger records. If you use a computer for anything, use a computer to keep track of your financial records. Your lender will thank you and your tax preparer will thank you.

3.  Keep farm and personal income and expenses separate. Even if you think you can deduct some personal expenses as farm expenses, keep separate records and ask your tax preparer what is deductible.

4. If you own farm ground for rent, or if you rent farm ground to farm, keep seperate records of each “farm” and “tenant” (or landlord). This will both help you track profitability for each farm and allow your tax preparer to record rental information correctly on the tax return.

5. Consider a “pre-tax” meeting (or phone call) with your tax preparer before the end of the year. Check to see whether there are any changes in tax law that will affect your bottom line. Some of my clients ask for a “dry run” tax return before the end of the year to check that they are on track with cash flow as the year draws to a close.

Bonus Tip:  Ask questions throughout the year.  As you think of questions, or as you consider a major purchase or payoff of debt, call your tax preparer to see what she might suggest.  After the fact is too late for spending money if you don’t need to (or missing an opportunity for a timely deduction).  Your tax preparer can keep notes about the conversation and make sure that it gets into the conversation at tax time.

If you don’t use these methods for organizing your financial records, now is the time to start. Your tax preparer can help you get set up to be more organized for 2017. It will save you both time and money. If it takes me a long time to organize your records when I prepare your taxes, I charge you for it. My organized clients have a much lower tax prep bill.

The best way to shovel snow off your walk

by Miriam - January 6th, 2017

All I need is a pre-teen or teenager to drive the snow shovel.  And a hoverboard.

20 Lessons from the 20th Century – New Year’s Resolutions

by Miriam - January 4th, 2017

Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions, yet? Regardless, check out this short essay from Timothy Snyder, the Bird White Housum Professor of History at Yale University.

The author provides compelling food for thought as we move forward into 2017.  This is definitely worth the read and worth thinking about.

20 Lessons from the 20th Century

Thanks to [D]mergent for pointing to the post on the author’s Facebook page.

How Tabasco is Made

by Miriam - January 2nd, 2017

Chipotle is my favorite flavor. I now have an appreciation for the time and effort that goes into the production of Tabasco.

The Secret to Christmas Song Success

by Miriam - December 28th, 2016

Who knew?  Now that I know the formula, tune in next year for my #1 Christmas hit.

Merry Christmas

by Miriam - December 25th, 2016


On Lighting Candles

by Miriam - December 23rd, 2016

Like a Candle in Berlin suggests an interesting interpretation of our community response to terrorist attacks.  What’s more, it suggests that humanity, while disregarding religion as being difficult and inconvenient, still seeks some sort of spiritual comfort in times of crisis and after senseless tragedy.  The author also gently suggests that this is a simplistic and naive response, which, while probably does no harm, also does not do much good, other than to provide a little self-assurance of our own good nature and pure intentions.

I like that the author notes that this is not a terminal naivete, though he does not speculate on the motivation that will be necessary to snap us out of our need for candles for comfort and into mature action (whatever that might be).

While the author does not go this far, his article can lead one to the conclusion that rejection of the discipline of religion in exchange for the easy, lost-cost, no-obligation form of spirituality is a step backward in humanity’s maturity.  This is consistent with our current culture of “Snowflakes” who aren’t mature enough to exist in the free and open discussion found in college environment without sensitivity warnings, and with our society’s general response of instant offense and violent response to viewpoints different from our own, rather than the more difficult and disciplined path of encouraging open discussion and making an effort to use education and understanding to resolve differences (or, which is perceived as worse yet, learning to live in peace with people who hold different viewpoints from our own).

Yes, I recognize that this is a broad conclusion based upon a single article.  I also realize that this opinion might be offensive to those of a spiritual-but-not-religious persuasion.  I hope only to generate thoughtful discussion, and I welcome discussion that might dispel my conclusion.

Thanks to Maggie’s Farm for posting the link to this very thoughtful article by Theodore Dalrymple, Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, a magazine published by that institute.


Merry Christmas – Here’s Your Prenup

by Miriam - December 21st, 2016

prenupChristmas and the holidays are the most festive and romantic time of year.   43% of engagements happen between November and January, with the top proposal dates as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and Valentine’s Day.  (These believable but unsourced statistics were found on Wedding Wire and Elite Daily).

For farm families, the addition of a “non-blood” member of the family causes mixed feelings.  Of course, you want to be happy that your loved one found a loved one, but because of the high divorce rate (3.2 divorces per 1,000 people in the US, according to the CDC) this new member of the family is also a new and scary risk to the farm operation.

Prenuptial Agreements (Prenups) are a good idea for any marriage, but are especially important for farm families.  If you read the farm planning material I post on this website, you know that my mantra is “discussion, discussion, discussion” when it comes to farm planning.  Full disclosure applies to the incoming spouse, too.  While you might not want the newest “outlaw” in the family to know the finer details of your business, you also don’t want him (or her) to learn of the extent of your farm operation during the middle of divorce, when compassion and understanding is not usually part of the process.

Prenups offer an “eyes wide open” approach to asset management in a marriage.  Where a farm kid may own or inherit substantial farm assets, what happens to those assets in the event of a divorce can discussed and agreed before the marriage occurs.  In Indiana, once you are married, it is considered to be against public policy to make those decisions after the rings are exchanged.

Attorney Polly Dobbs, my colleague in Peru, Indiana, and frequent contributor to Farm Journal,  has a terrific no-nonsense approach to prenups and farmers.

Do Farm Kids Need a Prenup?



Sorry, kids.

by Miriam - December 13th, 2016

Below is data which supports what I’ve long suspected – that my children are not positioned to make more money over their lifetime than I am. My generation is the last to achieve that part of the American Dream.

From The American Dream, Quantified at Last, by NYT op-ed columnist David Leonhardt, the average American born in 1940 (which would refer to my parents and other early Baby Boomers) was 92% likely to earn more than his or her parents. Today, the average American born in 1980 is only 50% likely. My expectation is that children born in the ’90’s (which would be my children) are even less likely.


If you read the column, also check out the comments. One in particular struck me: For young people, being debt-free is the “new wealthy.”

Mathematical Gift Wrapping

by Miriam - December 9th, 2016

See… Math is important.