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April 30, 2007

The Joy of Tax

A couple of years ago, we had our taxes done by an accountant. Much less stress, sure, but when I saw the bill -- over $800! -- my attitude changed. I figured I could do it myself, and even if I made a couple of errors, it would still be cheaper. Besides, I know plenty about accounting. How hard can it be?

Last year, it wasn't hard. It was a pain, and I was working up to the deadline to complete it, but it was done and I think I did a fair job. But this year, Intuit's Quick Tax has conspired to make my tax filing duty more hellish than it usually is.

I followed their 'Quick Step' process, by which the program asks you the info, you enter it, and it leads you through the whole thing. And if that sounds too good to be true, it is. It was shoddy and clumsy and had me pulling at my hair in frustration. There were many small problems, but let me just give one example.

We bought a new car last year. That means that for one part of the year we could claim a deductable business expense from the use of one vehicle, and for the rest on the other vehicle. There is a form to list the expenses and usage of 'Auto A' and 'Auto B' to allow claim of their respective deductions. Easy! But not so with the capital cost allowance -- how the depreciation of the cars is claimed. For that, the values of the cars are pooled and only the percentage usage of 'Auto A' is applied to the expense. This made no sense to me, so I searched how to enter this correctly. After two hours of fruitless frustration, I just decide to fudge something that is mostly honest, but poorly descibes how the cars were used. Whatever. Good enough. Later, after I finish the entire return, the program sees it way to giving me a 'warning' that the CCA calculator for two cars is somewhat problematic, and that I should just, you know, fudge something. Thanks, guys.

But I was yet to discover the worst. And in fact I didn't find the worst until after I filed my return, because -- even though I had no basis to -- I still had some trust for Quick Tax. My wife's return I went over with a fine-toothed comb, but I figured it could do a no-brainer return like mine without a problem. Nope.

Behold! Quick Tax turns $33K in gross income to $64K in net income!

This was because of a bogus negative deduction -- the result of a bizarre 'overflow' appearing on one of the Quebec schedules. Subtracting a negative is the same as adding a positive, and so now Revenue Canada thinks I earned twice as much as I actually did. It's shocking that such widely used software, based on many versions from previous years would not be able to detect an 'out of range' variable or have basic type checking for calculated values. But after having a test spin of Vista this month, shoddy software doesn't surprise me anymore (but that's another story).

I planned to go through my return this morning after the kids went to school, and I would have found this bug, but Murphy's Law intervened and made both the kids very sick. Max waited until his Mama was gone for a whole two minutes before he threw up all over the floor, his clothes, the bathroom, and the stairs. I just decided to file them because I obviously wasn't going to get any free time, and I didn't want this hanging over me. But now I have something else hanging over me. Revenue Canada (yes! I got through!) advises me that I can't do anything until my notice of assessment arrives. Oh the joy.

April 23, 2007

Spam Storm

I've had to drastically ratchet up the spam filtering of this poor, almost abandoned site because of an intense and unrelenting barrage of spam. There are few regular commenters left anyways, so it won't affect anyone.

It strikes me that this is all Google's fault. If their algorithms refused to increase the page rank for links that were placed as spam, there would be no incentive for these scum-sucking bottom-feeders to pollute the web with their crap. How many hours do most bloggers have to spend shoveling out this garbage? Maybe a class action lawsuit is in order.

UPDATE: Gah! Even with my filters set to the max, I can't stop it. I don't understand how Movable Type can't recognise that the same URL in the same comment arriving 5 times a minute is SPAM. *sigh* All commenting has been shut off until the dirtbags hammering me get the hint.

UPDATE II: Most of the spam is directed to pages hosted on University sites -- no doubt illegally. I have contacted the administators of those sites to get the pages taken down. That's what you get if you mess with me, spammers...

UPDATE III: Hooray! The spam spill has been cleaned up! Most of the Universities I contacted have replied and have taken down the linked pages! A tiny victory against the forces of chaos has been achieved. Comments have been reactivated for those that wish to congratulate me...

UPDATE IV: Perhaps I was a little too harsh at condemning Movable Type's spam sniffer. My junk folder contains an awesome 13,000 junked comments! Needless to say, cleaning that up by hand would have been impossible.

April 22, 2007

Happy Mud Day

This is what happens when you take your eyes off two 'spirited children' for more than five minutes.

April 18, 2007

The Liberal's definition of 'taking a stand'

Perhaps buoyed by a rogue poll, the Liberals are threatening to introduce a bill that could spark an election:

The federal Liberals today announced that they're putting forward a motion demanding the withdrawal of Canada's 2,500 troops from Kandahar by February, 2009.

The motion will be debated tomorrow and voted on next Tuesday. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has staked much of his own political fortunes on the mission, could declare it a confidence motion - meaning a possible election if the NDP and Bloc Quebecois join together to support the Liberals.

"We want to send a clear message that by February, 2009, we will pull out our Canadian Forces," said Liberal MP Denis Coderre (Bourassa), who is proposing the motion.

"It is a very important issue for Canada . . . the time has come to take a stand," Coderre told reporters after a Liberal caucus meeting this morning.

How do you 'take a stand' when you're promising to run away?

It's clear Harper will make this a confidence motion -- you can't let the opposition parties dictate foreign policy. The Liberals are short a few marbles if they think this is a good issue take the government down. War is never popular, but I think they underestimate the support Canadian's have for the mission in Afghanistan. Besides, the Liberals aren't even coming out against the war. (It would be a little hard to, since there's was the party that sent the troops there in there first place.) They're just taking the position that Canada has 'done it's share'. Pathetic.

Liberal thinking may be that this is a good issue to run on, because (according to conventional wisdom) Quebecers are very anti-war. Therefore, the Liberals can hope to do well in Quebec and take advantage to the declining fortunes of the Bloc. Then, if they can hold on to what they have in Ontario, they might be able to win a minority. It's an interesting thought, but I think the Liberal support some of these polls are showing is pretty soft. The party seems disorganized and erratic (to which bringing the government down will do little to change). Competence and stability are something Canadians want right now -- there's been enough pointless bickering. The Liberals could be sailing into Kim Campbell country.

And they deserve it. Taking advantage of a tragic week for the Canadian Forces to force yet another election on the Canadian people, and giving hope to our enemies, these are the actions of a party that should be kept far away from the levers of power.

April 16, 2007

Remember fisking?

Fisking used to be all the rage in the blogosphere, but it's been a dying art form for the past couple of years. Mostly because it's generally done in a pretty lame manner. But Tim Blair is trying to keep this vital part of our culture alive:

"I don’t like global warming,” Alyssa continues, her eyes huge and serious behind her glasses, a stardust of freckles across her nose, “because it kills animals, and I like animals."
So do I, little one. That’s why I own a barbecue.

April 12, 2007

Canadian Spring

It's the season of renewal!

Shot five minutes ago from my front window.

April 10, 2007

The link of no return

Flash games will probably bring about the end of Western Civilization. Already they're crippling the productivity of our workplaces, lowering grade point averages, and destroying family life. But who cares? They're so much fun!

This game -- bizarrely called 'Dwarf Complete' -- is by the twisted genius behind the 'Eyemaze' games. It's a old school Zelda-type game, but without any combat. Just strange and wonderful puzzles. There is a logic to all the puzzles and you cannot get stuck (though you may think you are two minutes into the game). Good luck!

(via Fark)

April 01, 2007

There used to be a craft to moviemaking...

I'm having a hard time enjoying many movies lately. They just seem -- I don't know -- so formulaic and predictable. But there was a time when movies were so much more. The scripts crackled with clever dialog, and the acting pulled you into the story and made you care about the characters. That time was the mid-90's. Let me share with you some cinematic brilliance that has yet to be matched. It's a fight scene from the classic movie, Undefeatable (warning: not for young children):