Company: UA Science Center's Touch-Screen-Table Figures Are Off

Your story contained significant misinformation concerning the cost and features of the multi-touch surface computing table offered by GestureTek Inc. The cost for our standard 55-inch table is less than $30,000. A higher price may have been discussed for a larger-sized custom table.

Our costs are extremely competitive, and our interactive systems have been installed in thousands of science centers worldwide. Our technology is also TUIO compliant; therefore, any Flash, C++ or Python programmer can easily customize their own content at no cost by using freely available open-source applications or by writing their own source code. GestureTek only offers custom-content-development services upon request.

We are proud of our position as the pioneer, multiple patent holder and 20-year leader in the field of video-gesture control applications. Others need to consider whether they are at risk of violating our patents.

Patti Jordan, Director of marketing and communications, GestureTek Inc.

Letter-Writer's TUSD-Cut Suggestions Are Off

The letter from Gary Goodall ("Want to Fix Area Schools? Consolidate, Increase Class Sizes and Lower Teacher Pay!" Mailbag, Dec. 4), who advocates larger class sizes and lower teacher pay as the ways to improve public education in Arizona, was a gem as comic relief. I hope you won't think I'm being a party-pooper by replying as if it were serious.

Goodall says he got a great education in Fairfax County, Va., where he remembers they had large classes and low teacher pay. He says the average Tucson Unified School District teacher now is paid $47,500 per year, and in 1970, the starting salary for a Fairfax County teacher was $7,200, which he says works out to $37,000 in today's dollars. From this, he concludes that teachers are paid more here than there. The logical flaw, of course, is that he is comparing their pay for starting teachers to our pay for all teachers, including grizzled veterans. If their beginners were now at $37,000, their overall average would be more than $47,500.

Of course, an apples-to-apples comparison would use actual figures, not extrapolations from memories of 1970, and it would compare starting teachers' pay. So I went online, and here is what I found: In TUSD right now, the starting-teacher pay is $32,960. In Fairfax County, the starting teacher pay is $44,789.

If we want to indulge the letter-writer by comparing pay as it was in 1970, I have the pertinent information. It happens that my one year of teaching in TUSD was in the 1970-'71 school year. The starting pay then was $5,280, compared to the $7,250 that Goodall reports for Fairfax County.

I also found accounts of lots of studies finding that smaller class sizes yield more learning, and none finding that larger class sizes yield more learning.

While searching the Internet, I confirmed that Arizona ranks 49th out of the 50 states in per-pupil spending on education. I didn't find county-by-county figures, but I did find that Virginia ranks 19th. Given these facts, one wonders how another TUSD override could possibly have failed.

James L. Stroud

Accountant: If Debt Is Cancelled or Loans Are Renegotiated, There May Be Tax Consequences

One thing not mentioned by Dave Devine in his excellent article "Foreclosure Fallout" (Dec. 11) is the income-tax consequence of canceled debt and home foreclosures.

Many people are surprised to learn that cancelled debt is taxable income, unless there are exceptions or exclusions. Loan modifications that include a reduction in the principal balance of the loan are also cancelled debt. Some exclusions pertaining to home mortgages: if the debt is cancelled in a Title 11 bankruptcy case, or is qualified principal residence indebtedness.

Homeowners will need to look at IRS Publication 4681, which is available at the IRS Web site, to see if they can exclude all or part of the cancelled debt from taxable income. If they lost their home through a foreclosure or repossession, or an abandonment, the publication also describes how to report this.

Tom Rex

Coffee Query: Is There Any Shop With Peace and Quiet?

Is there anywhere in Tucson where one can have a cup of coffee without being blasted with rock 'n' roll music? I recently visited 10 coffee shops, hoping that I could find either a place that was actually without music, or a place that played something without a rock 'n' roll beat hammering at one's brain (such as classical or folk music). I found none.

The music at Epic, by noon, was so loud that my friend and I had to leave, because we couldn't hear each other very well. Starbucks, I assume, plays loud, maddening music by design, so that no one will be tempted to linger. At Ike's, everyone I saw was plugged into laptops, and they all had earplugs on, so I figure I was the only one who noticed how loud the beat was. Even Denny's no longer has nice, bland Muzak; they, too, were tuned to some rock station blasting Bad Company, in spite of the fact that most of the customers near me looked well into the Frank Sinatra generation.

Does anyone know of a place where one could have a bit of quiet with one's coffee?

Lauren Pillsbury