Friday, January 30, 2009

Taxes, Again?

First, there was Geithner with his late taxes. Big story on Capitol Hill. "Oh no! He doesn't pay his taxes properly! He can't be Mr Finance!"

Now we have Daschle and an amended return for taxes due to "value received" in terms of a car and driver. "Oh no! A second failure for Obama!"

You know what? Fuck all that. The root of the problem here is not people trying to stiff the government. It is not people trying to get out of taxes. The real problem? Taxes are too god-damned complicated.

These freakin' lawmakers want to point fingers at these candidates and hang them out to dry for tax problems. It has nothing to do with the actual payments... they're just being political bitches. Find a wound they can rub salt in. Grind it down.

You. Me. Those candidates. Any damned human in the United States is going to make mistakes on their taxes. And you know why? It is those same bitchy congressman poking at each other. They passed the laws. They made Tax Law this complicated.

Taxes are an Industry. You wanna know how much H&R Block makes? All those independent tax accountants and attorneys? Intuit with their TurboTax. And helluva lot more than I can mention here. It is a bajillion dollar industry. And that industry has lobbyists. They want to keep the taxes complicated. Those congressman are not going to make this crap any simpler.

Result? People make mistakes. Even those candidates. They're human.

(and no, I have no opinion on them; I'm just pissed off at the hypocracy of Congress pointing fingers at the candidates about their taxes, when it is Congress that made it impossible for any rational human to properly follow the tax code)

(real answer: flat tax. seriously.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The History of Python

Guido has been kind enough to allow me to post on a blog about The History of Python. I've just published my first post, talking about Microsoft shipping Python code back in 1996.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From the Wreckage Known as Perl...

Many years ago, I was setting up cvsweb to display CVS repositories on my web server. There was something funky going on (don't recall what), and so I went to go and fix the script. No problem, right? It's Open Source, after all!

Yeah. Right.

Hey, I'm no slouch as a programmer, and can actually get around a bit in Perl. But that cvsweb script is an absolute disaster!! (I suspect the FreeBSD peeps have fixed it tremendously; it was core to their version control for many years; but I'm talking back in 1999).

I'll repeat that again: DISASTER

Global variables. Functions with strange side effects. Sloppy organization. Poorly named functions and variables. Few comments.

One of the things that I've learned about Perl over the years is that it takes an advanced Perl programmer to produce maintainable code. Novice or intermediate programmers produce crap. The language is just so fluid and forgiving, that it is easy to create write-only code. I recommend Python to people because you only need to reach an intermediate level to produce reasonable code.

Back to cvsweb. After staring at the depths of hell for a while, I realized there was really one solution to the problem: rewrite it all in Python. I spent a weekend doing just that. About 2500 lines of Perl became 2500 lines of Python, and I published it as "ViewCVS".

That tool has since grown support for Subversion, been renamed to ViewVC, and is being further developed and maintained by some friends.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Power of Facebook Relationship Status

Everybody seems to notice and watch your Relationship Status on Facebook. Your updates may come and go, pictures may be posted, or other weird things may fall into the feed on your wall, and it goes right past your friends. But everybody notices changes in your Relationship Status.

One year ago, I changed my status from unstated to "Single", and got an outpouring of concern that I was "now" single. Of course, I had been for a long time, but just didn't throw it "out there" on Facebook. I do have to confess that doing so may have changed my outlook on life. "I'm now telling people explicitly that I'm single" -- that does indicate a change in mindset, really.

This New Year's Day, I got to change my status to "Engaged". What a difference a year makes! If you had asked me where I thought I would be in a year... this certainly would not have been on the list! But it is, and I am incredibly happy about it (obviously, duh). It has been just eight hours since I made that change, and there are already lots of comments from my friends! (mostly of the "congrats" form)

People wake up from a long night of New Year's Eve partying, and check Facebook. It's a crazy world we live in, but I think it is also a great way to "get the word out" and let your friends know that your life has changed.

Thank you everybody for the warm wishes so far, and thanks in advance for the wishes not yet said.