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Steve Bogart


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18 April 2000

Men in a war
If they've lost a limb
Still feel that limb
As they did before.
-- "Men in a War", Suzanne Vega, Days of Open Hand, 1990

Taking care of business: I got my taxes finished, barely, and I do believe I will work harder at seeking out an accountant next time. Oy!

One of the more frustrating things was the bait-and-switch the instructions pull: "Why yes, you can deduct subscriptions to trade magazines. And the cost of educational seminars is likewise permissible to deduct. We're just not going to tell you where on the form it belongs."

The various categories of business expenses aren't very well-suited to someone making his living off the Internet, or at least the mapping of internet-costs to tax-categories is not easily found. What do web hosting costs [ob. plug for Pair] count as when they're part of what it costs to put up a client's site? Cost of Goods Sold? Legal and Professional Fees? Supplies?? What about my own web hosting costs -- Advertising?

I also got very bogged down by the section on depreciating property... If you buy a computer for business use, you're supposed to depreciate it across five years. Hello? Oh, but you can deduct it all this year if you declare it a Section 179 expense. But we'll give you only three lines to declare everything you've bought in the last year that counts as 'Listed Property', including any software you bought. Gah. (a URL I'd typed solely out of idle curiosity) helped a bit, but I still had a lot of unanswered questions.

So I left out some expenses, filled in my best guesses as to where the rest belonged, taking care to estimate conservatively, and sent it all off. The consequence is that my refund could have been even bigger than it was, but then again there's value to having it out of my hair, too. And I cut it pretty close to the deadline, so I didn't have a whole lot of choice. I shan't make that mistake again. Accountants of the world, you have a new customer.

Part of me actually would be curious to be audited: "Why yes, let's do go through my records. There's a ton of stuff I didn't figure out the right way to deduct; maybe you kind folks can help me with that. And there's also the business about declaring my home an office that your plain-English wizards said I was definitely eligible to do, but I couldn't draw the same conclusion when I read the rules closely, so I opted not to. I'm sure we can work something out. Coffee?"

By the way, I found those IRS Tax Trails pages very interesting from a design standpoint. Try answering a few yes/no questions on one.

It took me a few clicks to figure out why the browser suddenly seemed so responsive: it's all actually the same page, you're just jumping around with in-page HTML anchors. They set it up to make you feel like you're staying in place and not actually skipping around the page. Works very well, IMO.

I got an executable file yesterday in my e-mail, sent to me by a friend who's occasionally sent fram before. Got a message shortly after saying "don't run that, it's a virus and will send itself to everybody in your address book!"

It wasn't a problem for me, since it was a DOS program and I do everything important on a Mac anyway so I couldn't run it if I wanted to (without booting up Virtual PC) (and that's way too much effort to go to for a friend-spam even under the best of circumstances). Voila, no vulnerability to such programs! Sometimes it's good to use the obscure OS nobody pays attention to...

But it made me think about future generations of such viruses. Someone could write a partially-self-defeating virus (and probably will, just for kicks) which, in conjunction with Microsoft Outlook (or some other mail program which helpfully aims your gun at your own foot for you):

  1. Sends a copy of itself to everyone in your address book
  2. Sends a second message warning not to open the first message. "It's a virus! It destroyed _______'s hard drive and I hope to God you haven't opened it."
  3. Sends another saying "That last message was a fake one sent by the virus. This mail is really from me. Sorry about all this. Damn virus writers..."

...etc. etc.

People who get the second message in time won't propagate the virus. Some subset of those who don't, will.

By the time it's done, the actual owner of the computer will be feeling mighty sheepish, and will probably have trouble getting their e-mails to be taken seriously for a long time. "No, really, it's me this time!" Now that's a virus.

It's a good thing I'm not really an evil genius, or all kinds of havoc would ensue.

This almost makes me want to see the widely-sneered-at Mission To Mars. Almost.

  • A nerd's rhapsody [Salon]
    ...there's plenty of high-quality urgent realism to be had these days -- "Law and Order," for instance, is on TV nearly every night. Why insist on it from every work of dramatic entertainment? Some reviewers complained that when emergencies occurred, the astronauts remained too poker-faced. But many people enter a deliberate, calm state during emergencies. Do we really need the usual flashing red lights, and extras rushing about as though supplying background action for "E.R."?

    Is it unfair of me to wonder aloud whether, at a time when ironic or edgy media gloating is the preferred tone, the film's combination of intellectuality and emotional straightforwardness was hard for reviewers to process?

From Lake Effect via BrainLog, the handy guide to how long you can safely store various foods [MSNBC] Useful for the individual living alone.

The headline isn't what I found interesting about this (though it is a notable milestone):

  • No 3-Letter .com Names Left [NY Post, seen on q]
    ICANN will start unveiling five to 10 new [top-level domain]s this summer. If all goes according to plan, suffixes like ".shop," ".arts" and ".biz" will open up a host of new three-letter domain possibilities.

I was wondering how far the schedule had slipped. I thought we were supposed to have the new suffixes a while ago.

Summer, huh. Somehow I doubt it.

I've got a ton more to write about, but really do have to get to work. Maybe tomorrow.

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