Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Do your taxes yourself on the cheap

I hardly have the time to get into a discussion about how awful our tax code is, but I can at least offer this piece of advice for any residents of California, Michigan, Montana, or my home state of Pennsylvania: do it the cheap and easy way.  E-filing is yet another great internet convenience, and the federal government offers a free e-file program.  This is the wonderful offer you always hear about on H&R Block commercials - FREE 1040EZ FILING!  These companies still need to make a buck though, so if you want to file your state return through them or claim certain deductions, you better pony up $35 or more.  Less-known companies looking to break into the market will hover around $15.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dr. Strangelaws or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Government [SOPA]

Disregard my last post.  The issue of net neutrality is much more important than my Programming Concepts class.  You see, unlike you digital natives that make up a huge chunk of the Internet, I remember when there was no World Wide Web.  I mean, for fuck's sake, I still capitalize the Internet like it's a proper noun!  We had freedom of speech, but not on the level that we have now - there was no free and open global exchange of ideas in a neutral forum.  We talk about this stuff a lot - how the Internet has connected people, led to a Renaissance of freethinking, spurred social movements under stalwart regimes, and led to the rise of independent artists - but it's sometimes difficult to see the trees through the forest of lolcats and Techno Chickens.  Yes, the net can be a frivolous thing.  Yes, people abuse that connectivity to distribute copyrighted material and child pornography, but way more people use it to stay connected to family and friends from out-of-state or country, to collaborate on art across state and country lines, to deliver information and education to those who otherwise wouldn't have access to it, and to fund projects to help develop the third world.  These things are great triumphs of humanity, they deserve your utmost attention, and they deserve your zealous defense.

So, how do laws like SOPA affect the wondrous Internet, democracy's most salient incarnation?  Let's take a long, long, long, hard look.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Internet Blackout Post-mortem

I could hardly hope to write a more compelling or comprehensive post regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act or Protect IP Act than the multitude of sites already covering it.  This bill is simply wrong, and in case Wikipedia's protest blackout yesterday caught you off guard and unaware, here's a collection of information about the SOPA\PIPA bills and how they will exact Draconian control of free speech through internet censorship, not to mention hurt the very technological foundations of the Internet.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance and Religion

Cognitive dissonance is an intellectual tension that occurs when two contrary ideas present themselves.  Normally, this happens when a person invests themselves in a belief and then is presented with contrary information.  All rational responses to contradicting facts lie between these axes:
  • Either your old belief was wrong, or
  • The new information is wrong
We usually try to resolve this disharmony of ideas by taking the path of least resistance, which often results in an irrational third option that we see all too often in religion (among other things):  Rather than dissecting how either idea is false, we accept both conclusions as true and then reverse engineer supporting data for both ideas using confirmation bias.  There must be some way both things can be right!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Evony is dying a slow, painful death

Hopefully the last Evony post I'll ever write has just gone up on NFOpocalypse. If you've been following my coverage, this should be a vindicating grand finale.