Monday, July 09, 2012

My Open Letter to DC City Council on Uber

DC Council members,

I am current resident of Ward 6 in Washington, DC, but I am writing to all of you today on the eve of what we hope will not be a crushing blow to many here that call DC their homes.

As many of you are aware, Uber is a new service that was recently offered in the DC area to much fanfare among its residents.  For many years we have all been the subject of very poor cab service.  Poor in many ways.  As it relates to other major cites, like NYC and Chicago where residents enjoy much more standard and better cab experiences, DC has been forced to deal with an array of mish-mosh cab services who offer nothing more than poor cabs, poor service, generally a very poor experience.  This is not to mention the cab drivers blatant ability to discriminate where they will deliver a fare and more importantly who they will pick up based solely on looks. I think many of you would agree, its appalling at best.

As DC has grown and begun to flourish in recent years, a new generation of residents have embraced the city with hopes of flourishing along with it.  They have brought with them a new class of creativity, technological savvy, and entrepreneurship.  Many of us welcomed Uber because it encompassed a technological spirit and values that many of our generation seeks to embrace.  It sought to improve the lives of residents by offering a service that enabled us to have a choice and bring much needed competition into a stagnant marketplace.  Competition is a good thing, it lifts the standards and forces sub performing entities to improve or be left behind.  It is capitalism at its best.

From the beginning, the DC government, led by Ron Linton and the Taxicab Commission have sought to enforce antiquated rules/laws in order to keep Uber out of DC and allow the voice of disgruntled taxi drivers to try to eclipse the voice of the consumers.  We did not let it happen.  

However, it seems as though the issue has snuck in and reared its ugly head in the Taxi commission and Mr. Linton is attempting to have a amendment voted on by you tomorrow that would in essence stifle competition in the marketplace and give an unfair advantage to a taxi system that is morally corrupt.

Mayor Gray and many of yourselves have worked hard to make DC a great technology hub and foster entrepreneurship right here in the city.  We have had great companies born out of local partnerships and hard work, LivingSocial and HelloWallet to name but two.  Do not let that work go to waste.  Allow DC to shine as an example of a place where great things can and do happen.  A place that supports technology, innovation, and more importantly a level playing field for all to participate in.  

Some of you were arrested recently while protesting for DC statehood.  If we all are fighting for a state where our votes are heard and counted, then dont let our voices be stifled.  Let us choose our course as you want DC to be able to choose.  Some will choose cabs, some will choose Uber, but at least we will have a choice.

Pleas vote NO on the Uber Amendment

Jimmy Gardner
Ward 6 Resident

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wedding Photographer Slap Down!

I  found this great post over on PetaPixel and wanted to share .. it is quite good.  Apparently they came across this posting on Craigslist by a disgruntled bride who had issue in paying $3000 for a wedding photographer, because, as she says, all they do "is hang out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them"

The response from Nikki Wagner is priceless

Dear Bride,
I am a wedding photographer in the Erie, PA area. Wedding season only last about 4 months here, so I photograph an average of 20 weddings per year for an average of $2,500/wedding (which totals about $50,000/year).
  • That being said, I am a small business owner, so I pay all of my taxes, totaling about $15,000/year, which leaves me with a gross income of around $35,000
  • Of that $35,000 I pay $600/month in rent for my small house and garage which I converted into my studio (which is where I would be editing your wedding images).$35,000 – $7,200 = $27,800
  • Then I have my car, which I would use to get me to and from your wedding, which I pay $400/month for the lease, plus $200/month in car insurance. $27,800 – $7,200 = $20,600
  • To get to your (and my other brides) wedding consultation, second wedding pre-consultation, the wedding itself, and to and from the printers I spend $840/year in gas money. $20,600 – $840 = $19,760
  • I also have $500/year insurance in case you sue me, or if any of your drunk guests would happen to break any of my equipment. $19,760 – $500 = $19,260
  • You also probably found me through my website, which I pay $30/month for hosting, and another $30/month so that you can view your photos online and share the images with your friends and family. $19,260 – $720 = $18,540
  • Or perhaps you found me through my advertisements in the newspaper or local bridal magazines, or a bridal show that you attended that I paid to have a booth at. $18,540 – $1,000 = $17,540
  • I also pay $250/month for my own health insurance in case I were to get hurt at your wedding. $17,540 – $3,000 = $14,540
  • I pay $200/wedding for a second shooter for your wedding, so that you can have more images and different angles, as to make sure you get the best images possible at your wedding. $14,540 – $4,000 = $10,540
  • I also need to have a new pair of shoes ($100) every season because my shoes get worn out and dirty from season to season. $10,540 – $100 = $10,440
  • I need high speed internet so I can upload all of your images online, my home phone for my business and my cell phone so I can communicate with you. $10,440 – $2,500 = $7,940
  • Oh yes, and I also pay a lawyer to make sure my contracts are iron clad and an accountant to make sure that I am paying all of the taxes I need. $7,940 – $500 = $7,440
  • Sometimes I attend workshops and seminars to teach me how to better my business, and make my client happier (that would be you), as well as keep up on the trends and learn new techniques so that I can make sure you have the best quality images available.
That would technically leave me with about $7,000/year to feed myself, buy groceries, pay for my heat and electricity, clothe myself, etc. But, usually I end up reinvesting whatever I have left on upgrades and new equipment:
During your wedding, I bring my professional equipment that I use so that I can make sure you have the highest quality images.
  • I have 2 Canon 5D Mark II cameras (because you always need a backup in case of a camera malfunction, which would ruin your big day’s photographs) which cost $2,500/camera =$5,000
  • I also have quality lenses which can capture your special moments in low light situations:
    Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens = $1,200
    Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lens = $1,300
    Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens = $500
    Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro = $600
  • …and I have speed lights to catch the fun moments at your reception:
    2 x Canon 580EX II = $1,200
  • Also multiple battery backups and memory cards, lens filters, light stands, umbrellas, light boxes, external battery packs and a bag to carry everything in = $1,500
  • Because this is equipment, sometimes I need to have it serviced or cleaned to make sure it is all working properly = $200
After spending 8-10 hours at your wedding, I then come home to my home office and spend about 20-25 hours editing your images, creating your album, blogging about your wedding, posting pictures on Facebook, ordering you prints and burning your DVDs.
  • I edit your photographs using a 27-inch iMac computer = $2,500.
  • I edit your photographs on Adobe Lightroom ($200) and Adobe CS5 ($400 for the upgrade and $900 for the new program).
  • I print your DVDs on a printer which costs $300 and which uses $200/year in ink.
  • I buy the DVDs and jewel cases you’re getting printed for $300/year
  • I archive all of your photographs on 2 x 2TB external hard drives = $500.
  • I also back up all of my photographs online so if there was ever a fire in my office, you would never lose your photographs = $400/year.
  • I also have office expenses as far as buying paper, staples, envelopes, packaging, filing cabinets and files, etc…
  • I also spend time and money ordering your prints and albums, paying for shipping, going to the post office etc.
All of that being said, I’m usually in the hole at the end of the year, and take on many family portraits, senior portraits and corporate jobs in order to make ends meet.
Photography is my passion and my livelihood, and it is also expensive. Yes, it seems like a lot of money for one day, but one day isn’t all we spend on your photographs or on our business. You will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress or flowers or a venue or on catering which you are going to have for only one day, but your photographs will be the only thing you have to remember that one day for the rest of your lives.
I’m extremely insulted by your craigslist post and hope this sheds a little light on why we charge $3,000 for one day of your memories that are going to last you forever.
– Nikki Wagner, Photographer

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Google's Mobile Foray is a Big Deal

For those of you who think that Google's purchase of Motorola Mobile is not a big deal .. then you should check out the front of the NY Times app on my iPad last night.  I snapped this shot.
There are four stories, and every one of them deals with Google and the news.

Personally I think in the end, its a power move to get the patents after recently losing out to Apple and Microsoft i a bid for over 6000 patents held by Nortel.

Now Google has the ability to tailor the hardware for its operating system, in much the same way that Apple does for the iPhone. One of the reasons the iPhone, and for that matter most of Apple's products work so well is their tight control over hardware specs.  Microsoft got into trouble because they designed software for such a wide array of hardware platforms, it was bound to not work as well.  Google now has the opportunity to do what Apple has been doing, develop a piece of hardware that is fit to a tee for the Android OS.

Should be interesting to see the results.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Event: Mirror To The World: Documentary Photography 2011

I was recently fortunate enough to meet up with some incredible DC photographers at a local meetup of their group to go over all things social media and photography.  It was an honor and a privilege to meet some real titans in the local photography community, including  Frank Van Riper, a local Washington Post columnist, author of some incredible photo book, leader of many workshops, and most important of all, the official head of the Cult of FVR ;)

Frank is one of the teachers of workshops at Photoworks in Glen Echo Park.  He has been curating photo's for a local exhibit they put on there, called Mirror to the World.  I wanted to pass along the details of the show so you can all try to get over there.  All of the work is amazing, I cannot wait to see it.

So here are the details :

Mirror To The World: Documentary Photography 2011
March 11 - April 17, 2011
Opening Reception: Friday, March 18, 6-9 p.m.
Photoworks Gallery in historic Glen Echo Park is proud to present Mirror To The World:  Documentary Photography 2011 Mirror To The World seeks to celebrate narrative photography -- story telling with photos and words.  This exhibit represents some of the best in documentary photography, by a local group of six not-yet-famous photographers.  Curated by nationally recognized documentary photographer and author, Frank Van Riper, this show offers a series of intimate "picture stories"  -- including an exploration of abandoned prisons, a rehearsal and performance by the Folger Consort, and a woman-on-the-street view of a raging fire in Brooklyn.  As Van Riper states, "It will, as always, be a hell of a show."
Participating Artists:
1. Michael Borek- Scranton Lace  (A pictorial study of an abandoned lace factory in Pennsylvania...)
2. Claudia Copeland- 'A Concord of Sweet Sounds'  (Images from the Folger Consort...)
3. Rachel Eisley- Fire in Brooklyn (A vacant tenement burns in the snow...)
4. Mark Parascandola- Relics (Gorgeous studies of abandoned buildings -- including prisons, tenements, etc...)
5. Erica Wissolik- The Carrie Furnace (One of the last great steel mills in Pittsburgh...)
6. Eric Zhang- Rituals (Three slices of life from the DC area:  Way of the Cross, No Pants Day, and Sharing the Dream...)
Exhibit hours are Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. and Sundays and Mondays, 1-8 p.m.  Photoworks Gallery is located in historic Glen Echo Park, Maryland.  Visit for more information.  Exhibit is free to the public.
Hope to see some of you make it !

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mayor Fenty, Please Come Back

DC politics are in a freefall.
Mayor Gray is clueless.
DC Council Chair Kwame Brown even more so.
Adrian Fenty, please come back.

Now that is out of the way, lets dive in to the discussion at hand.  I was a supporter of Mayor Fenty and I thought for all his faults, he did a lot of really good things for DC.  I loved Michelle Rhee, while controversial, the city's school system showed results.  In essence, they got shit done.  After Vincent Gray was elected this past November, I had no real opinion .. until he started hiring people that served under Mayor Barry, worse yet, at a major premium.  Strike 1.

Soon after taking over as Mayor, he then began hiring teachers that were let go by Rhee.  Strike 2

In the dust up over Councilman Brown (we will get to that in a bit) we find that unlike his predecessor who eschewed  a security detail and an official car and instead drove himself around town in a cool SMART car saving the taxpayers much needed cash, Mayor Gray has now gone on to lease a Lincoln Navigator costing the city almost $2000 a month !  Not to mention he brought back a security detail which rides around in a leased Lincoln Town Car.  Strike 3

So while Adrian Fenty worked hard to streamline the local government, Mayor Gray has decided to go the opposite route with a city that is facing a $400 million budget shortfall.  Will giving up a car solve that ?  Absolutely not, rather it is a bad sign that he makes poor decisions, not what you want in a mayor.

On to Council Chairman Brown.  He was recently found to not only be leasing one top of the line Lincoln Navigator (costing the city $1769 a month) but another one ($1900 a month) because the first one accepted by the city on behalf of Brown, was rejected by the Chairman because the interior was stone color, not black as he requested .... not to mention the fact that the second one came with a $1500 premium because it had to be driven to DC from a dealer in Kansas City.  So what is Chairman Brown's response ... not much. Of course his office released a statement where he apologized and stated that the vehicles would be returned, and that he
look forward to continuing to focus on education reform, getting our people back to work and getting the District's economy back on track.
What it does not mention is the fact that even though the cars may be returned, the city will still be on the hook for almost $4000 in monthly lease costs.  Worse yet, he says that he will  reimburse for "his share" of the time he used the vehicles.  Are you kidding me ?  The only reason the city has these outrageous expenditures is because of him !!  He should be forced to pay for the entire years lease on both vehicles whether he drives them or not, period, end of story.

So as you can see, our local DC government can not be in worse hands.  The old adage that the grass is not always greener on the other side is not always true.  Fenty might not have been perfect, he definitely had his flaws, but i would much rather see his SMART car parked in front of city hall instead of a fleet of overpriced Navigators.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt is Far From Free

Like many over the last couple of weeks, I have been keeping one eye on the events that were transpiring in Egypt. A country that has been under a "President" for the last thirty years whose feelings and frustrations over the policies had finally boiled over. It was amazing to see in a sort of time lapse that eventually led to the ouster, or coup as I would more appropriately call it of President Mubarak.

Over the last day or so, as I started to think about it a little more in depth, mostly due to the chatter on Twitter and Facebook about it, it strikes me that it is not all that different than other events in history. Many times populations have protested and eventually over ran the government that was in place. France, Russia .. the list goes on. A different scenario, but how do you think Hasni Mubarak came to power .. on the heels of an assassination.

While it is true the people took to the streets and demonstrated for the freedoms and rights that deserve, I feel in the end they will have gotten few of the things they expect. They want free elections, but what they got was a "transfer" of power to a military council. This is not to say those elections and reforms are not on the horizon, but would it not have been more practical to allow the current regime to govern while reforms and changes are implemented? What the people of Egypt got was initially a transfer of power to the newly appointed Vice President, who was the former head of the Intelligence regime and I would assume a figure many people relate to the problem not the solution, and then a country ruled by a military council. We did not even see Mubarak make the final announcement himself essence, a military coup.

I am not here to say that the Egyptians are not on the path to a new and prosperous democracy which affords them all the rights and freedoms they deserve, but I am saying that lets not be so naive that these are certainties. As I said yesterday on Facebook, these power vacuums do not always lead to great new freedoms and/or leaders. Most times they do not.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

$28,000 For Comcast Cable

Last night we headed down to the new neighborhood restaurant, Mandu in City Vista, to try out the new space.  It is very nice, food was great, priced right, good service, etc.

But thats not what this post is about.  As we were waiting for the rest of our party to arrive we sat at the bar and grabbed a quick drink.  We started chatting with Doug, a think the manager, and the bartender about how things were going.  The topic somehow turned to a television when another bar patron asked if they were going to get one.  Doug answered that indeed he did plan on it, but currently was having issues with getting a Comcast line.  He told us that the estimate given to him by Comcast to set up the service was for $28k !!! Yes you are reading that right .....  He said that he was told that a line was needing to be run from a local "sub station" ... never mind the fact that the establishment is on the first floor of a HUGE condo and apartment building, whose tentants I am sure have Comcast cable .... so there is no way for anyone to believe that cable does not exist in the very building Mandu resides.

We were utterly amazed at such a ludicrous business dealing, and it goes to show the lengths to which big business is not only out to screw the consumer, but small businesses as well.  We always hear that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, yet are placed in such idiotic circumstances which simply make doing business and competing in the marketplace nearly impossible.

So we want to start a Twitter and Facebook campaign to fight this BS !! So head over and Like the Cable for Mandu DC Facebook page and tag all twitter updates about this with #cable4mandu and lets get a good local DC business the proper service it deserves.