Thursday, April 24, 2008

Penguicon talk materials

Ooh - sorry, I got distracted! Here, at last, are the materials for my talk last Saturday, "Into the Dayta-b'hase: A First-Level Introductory Adventure".

A tarball is here with the slides (dnd.html), queries run (scripts.sql), and a big SQL script to set up the database (dnd.sql)

Monday, April 14, 2008

tax rant


Citibank spends a lot of time imploring their customers to go to all-electronic statements... but they don't improve their electronic statement availability to make them practical. Ohio Dept. of Taxation spends a lot of time imploring people to file electronically... but they can't be bothered to test their forms, or to provide a feedback button so that end users can notify them of errors they find.

This is a bad pattern. If you want people to go electronic, focus on getting it right, not on pro-electronic cheerleading.

* * * * *

Ohio has a "use tax" - a law requiring that you add up all your mail-order and interstate purchases from out of state so you can retroactively pay Ohio sales tax on them with your tax return. I think six or seven of us actually obey this law, and the folks at the bureau of taxation laugh, blow a kazoo, and scrawl "PATSY!" on the return whenever they come across someone who paid it. Oh, well.

Digging up records on all these purchases sucks. Citibank, though I love their customer support*, didn't help. (You can download your last six statements, one at a time... or, after March, you can request a PDF report of the whole last year - please allow two business days for your request to be processed. Excuse me? Some people store information on devices called "computers"? A year of credit card statements is about 50 KB... I think you can afford to keep that on disk. Ask Google if you're hard up, they'll give you a few gigs.)

So anyway... I finally, FINALLY, splice electronic records and sift paper records and total up my internet purchases for the year... open up the Adobe form from and...

...and the line to enter your quantity of out-of-state purchases is not editable. It is pre-set to zero and locked.

One good thing has come out of tonight: I found wesabe, a really nice site for slurping up records from your various accounts automatically. Next year I won't need to fight Citibank, because my Wesabe account will keep itself updated all year long. Wesabe, I'm happy to say, gets it right. Free services generally do, as opposed to people I pay, who generally get it wrong. It's a strange era we live in.

(* - When my credit card was stolen years ago, Citibank was absolutely wonderful to me. It'll take a lot of blundering to erode the goodwill they earned from me then.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


It's official! We have a place, we have a date... now all we need is you!

Regional Python programming miniconference
July 26th, 2008
Columbus Metropolitan Library
96 S. Grant Ave.
Columbus, OH 43215 USA

Friday, April 04, 2008

Alas, Mendelson's

Mendelson's is planning to shrink their store and relocate. This is very sad news. I can only hope they don't shrink too much or move too far. Fortunately, they have no timetable for this move yet, and if we're lucky a giant asteroid will hit the earth and wipe us all out first.

If you don't know Mendelson's, the best way I can describe it is "a Jawa sandcrawler parked in downtown Dayton". It's a giant industrial salvage shop, the most amazing pile of thingies and whatsits you can imagine. I consider it the most entertaining location in our fair city. If you can walk through Mendelson's without saying, "MY robot will have THIS!", then you are already dead.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Beautiful Visual Python examples

The best thing that can happen, when you try to teach something, is to have somebody learn it and do something that amazes you. That's exactly what happened after my demo of Visual Python at CodeMash... Doug Mair started to play with vPython and came up with two really beautiful examples: a (working!) Rubik's Cube and a set of magnetized disks.

Thank you, Doug!