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Virginia’s cities are independent of counties

Forbes ranked America’s richest counties. Number one on their list is the tiny Virginia city of Falls Church, which is not a county. Besides illustrating the folly of reading top-10 lists, this ranking also illustrates Virginia’s unique arrangement of counties and cities, an arrangement dating back to the 19th century. In 1871, the commonwealth created a municipal classification system in which… Read more →

Not all discretionary spending is discretionary

In the U.S., federal government spending is split into two categories: mandatory spending and discretionary spending.  These terms are misleading since all mandatory spending can be changed by statute and some discretionary spending is mandated by the Constitution. Mandatory spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of all federal spending, covers federally funded social insurance and welfare programs like Social Security,… Read more →

Dresden: Breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking tragedy

This post is part of a series about my trip to Europe in the summer of 2014. See the full itinerary. The eastern German city of Dresden is a site of both breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking tragedy. Dresden suffered one of the deadliest bombing campaigns in Europe in World War II. In February 1945, Allied air raids leveled 1,600 acres of… Read more →

Stop taking selfies. The most important thing you see when traveling is not yourself.

The dreaded selfie is the latest example of the narcissistic self-promotion that degrades modern life. The Washington Post once described the selfie as “that embattled crux of a hundred quiet culture wars.” If this is a war, sensible people should sue for peace and declare the selfie a crime against human dignity. The most egregious warriors of selfiedom should pay reparations to everyone who… Read more →

Cologne: A cathedral of dripped wax

This post is part of a series about my trip to Europe in the summer of 2014. See the full itinerary. Cologne is one of several west German cities that dot the Rhine. The city’s name is a corruption of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, the name of the original colony the Romans established in the first century. Roman ruins still remain under… Read more →

Amsterdam: City in the water

This is the first post in a series about my trip to Europe in the summer of 2014. See the full itinerary. In a flat section of northern Europe, the Amstel flows slowly northward toward the sea.  Settlers in the 1170s dammed the river, thus creating the Aemstelredamme (Amstel dam) and the city of Amsterdam was born.  Over centuries the modest… Read more →

Programming is not always a creative career

I have been programming software for over a decade and occasionally people ask me what I think of programming as a career. My answer is mixed. Though there are many positive features about programming, the ultimate problem is many companies expect programmers to suppress creativity in their work.  Dreaming up and designing new applications and web features is for project managers, clients, and… Read more →