Trygve.Com > Diary > JournalWeblogDiaryWhatsis - April, 2001
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April 2001
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here's looking at you!

because ... well ... why the hell not ...?

it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Tuesday, April 24th


Earth Day weekend, 2001:

It all started out innocently enough...

But, I guess you've heard that before.

I'd started out fully intending to go plant a few more of the rosebushes. A nearby hardware store which, like all the others around here, is itself largely under construction and well-decorated with sincere and oft-repeated signs stating that its current state of disorder has been created to serve you better.

And, I suppose that, once in a while, it does work out that way. Amid the chaos, confusion, and general lack of any kind of tags or markings, you might not find what you're looking for, but is the possibility that you'll like what you find. In this case, there was an assortment of rose plants marked down to seventy-four cents apiece next to the lightbulbs. I could see putting rose plants next to bulbs, but if it were my store, I'd have been thinking more along "tulip" than "light" lines.

I'd wanted to put in some climbing roses along the bottom of the arbor in the middle of the south gardens and at seventy-four cents a plant, I grabbed a few of the non-climbers to put somewhere.

The climbing roses made it into the ground without incident, but when I went back out to plant the others, well, that was when I sort of got a little carried away with the hammer.

 the Furbeowulf Project:
highly-parallel computing from Toys 'R Us ] 

Maybe you don't normally use a hammer for planting rose bushes--and, to be honest, I don't either--but when I went out to the shed in search of gardening tools, there was the hammer, just sitting there looking innocent enough, and I had the sudden inspiration to go plant those T1 lines that had been stretching across one part of the driveway for the past year.

Yeah, most people do lay their T1s underground, but I was impatient at the time and then never quite got around to putting in a trench for them. (Do you "put in" a trench? Or is a trench really something that you "pull out"?)

What crossed my mind right then is that a claw hammer is really just the right size if all you want is a long, narrow trench and you'd be satisfied with six or seven inches. So I took the backside of the hammer to the seam where the asphalt and concrete meet at that part of the driveway and scooped out a twenty-five-foot-long (more or less) trench, popped in the cables, and put the dirt and asphalt bits back in.

Shortly after that, the weather went from the mid-seventies to below freezing, with lots of snow and ice. The roses may be just as happy that the cables went into the ground and not them.

Thursday, April 19th



... or, if you're a stickler about these things, after arithmetic. You could think of filing US federal taxes as a kind of story problem ... a particularly long story problem.

A lot of people seem a bit daunted by the IRS code itself--now available in its full, uncensored glory at [ ] (among other places).

Unfortunately, most IRS employees fall into the "daunted" category, which makes asking them questions about tax law a pursuit of remarkably limited utility, best reserved for those occasions when you're hoping to resolve a dispute over a Trivial Pursuit question rather than any situations with far-reaching and potentially severe legal consequences.

Like, for example, any questions that might relate to your tax return.

If, for some reason, you do throw caution to the wind and dial up the IRS help line with a tax-related query, they usually end up having to refer you to a supervisor anyway. The supervisor won't know the answer either, but can at least be more authoritative about it. While you don't escape the potential legal consequences that would result from incorrectly filling out your tax forms by taking this route, you do get to experience more on-hold music along the way.

They say that half the fun lies in the journey, and I think there are some new anti-psychotic medications on the market that could be invaluable in treating the nutcases who would make a remark like that about taxes.

The funny part is that, for anything that can't be easily explained in the medium of cartoons, the US Tax Code (aka "Code of Federal Regulations, Title 26") is usually clearer than the IRS publications on whatever your tax topic of interest is.

Not that the IRS's prose style is especially engaging, I admit, so I think a lot of people are just waiting for the movie version to come out. As far as I know, not only are the film rights for Title 26 still available, but because of the provisions in the US Constitution that limit the copyrightability of US Government documents, technically, you also wouldn't have to pay for them.

So, if you wanted to, you could produce the first ever movie version of the US Tax code without ponying up as much as a nickle for the rights--and you'd be doing an end-run around the impending Writer's Guild of America strike to boot.

I'm thinking doing it as a musical would be best. "Title 26" is a bit dry, so a better name would be something like "The Eternal 1040" with either Ingrid Bergman or Brigitte Bardot playing the part of Amortization.

Um, okay, maybe that's a dumb idea. How about casting Tara Reid instead? That might do better at the box office in this day and age, especially with Ingrid Bergman having been dead for almost twenty years now, or, if you prefer, you could just think of her as having been fully amortized.

 ...with Brigitte Bardot playing the part of Amortization 

Getting back to the topic of writing, back when I was working on paragraph one, I wasn't satisfied with merely describing the tax code as "long"--I figured it would make things that much more viscerally compelling, at least to statisticians, if I knew the answer to the inevitable, highly personal question, "how long is it?"

I knew the answer must lie out there somewhere on the net; and, as is the case with so many other questions, not only does the answer lie out there somewhere, there's a veritable maze of twisty little answers, all different.

The scary part is that many, if not most, of these "all different" answers come from the lips of our own elected officials, theoretically the very people who are responsible for the illustrious Title 26. Last year, they had this to say about the prodigious size of the US Tax Code:

(Note that all of the following quotes were extracted from the representatives' official press releases and statements as found on [ ])

U.S. Representative Rob Portman (R-OH)

"The income tax code and its associated regulations contain almost 5.6 million words -- seven times as many words as the Bible. Taxpayers now spend about 5.4 billion hours a year trying to comply with 2,500 pages of tax laws...."

U.S. Representative J.C. Watts, Jr. (R-OK)

"The heart of IRS abuse lies in the existing tax code. Most of the folks who work for the IRS are good people just trying to do their job, but they are caught in a bad, overextended tax system. At 3,458 pages, twice the length of the Bible, it's impossible for the average taxpayer to know, understand, and accurately apply its provisions. The length is twice that of the Bible! Even tax experts cannot do so reliably."

U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL)

"With its 6,000 pages and 500 million words, the complexity of our tax code is the prime source of frustration and anger felt by millions of Americans toward their government. "

U.S. Representative Bill Archer (R-TX)

"The Internal Revenue Code and regulations now come in at one million words and 9000 pages. "

U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)

"The Bible, the guide of our lives, is 1,291 pages and contains 774,746 words. But the Tax Code and its regulations which are referred to by some as, 'a person's worst nightmare come true' is 9,471 pages and over 7 million words."

U.S. Representative Vito Fossella (R-NY)

"the tax code runs 17,000 pages and contains a mind-boggling 5.5 million words. By way of comparison, War and Peace is only 1,444 pages and the Bible checks in at 1,291 pages."

U.S. Representative Jim DeMint (R-SC)

"The federal tax code with its 44,000 pages, 5.5 million words, and 721 different forms is a patchwork maze of complexity and a testament to confusion over common sense. "

U.S. Representative Walter Jones (R-NC)

"The IRS tax code is 44,000 pages and growing,"

U.S. Representative Dave Hobson (R-OH)

"the current tax code, which at 1.3 million pages is twice the length of Tolstoy's War and Peace"

So, depending on whom you ask, our elected representatives are of the opinion that this particular section of the United States Code is somewhere in between 2,500 and 1,300,000 pages.

But one thing they do know for sure, at least if they're members of the Republican Party, is that Title 26 is longer than the Bible.

By the way, if you go to the US Government Printing Office [ ] you can order a complete set of Title 26 US Code of Federal Regulations (the part written by the IRS), all nineteen volumes of it. According to the US Government Printing Office, it's 13,079 pages in total. The full text of Title 26 of the United States Code (the part written by Congress) is a mere 3,653 printed pages, bringing the adjusted gross page count to 16,732.

The number of words has been left as an exercise for the student.

Tuesday, April 3rd


Day of the Dummies:

According to Amazon.Com's newsletter, April is "Dummies Month." Just doesn't seem fair to me--here in the US, we've even merged all the US-President-related holidays into one generic "Presidents' Day," but now Dummies get a whole month.

Granted, there are more dummies than US Presidents, especially when you take the overlap into account, so that might explain the disparity; that, and perhaps dummies just celebrate reeeeaaaally slowly or it simply takes that much longer to notice that the dummies on your staff have taken off work.

 Granted, there are more dummies than US Presidents, especially when you take the overlap into account 

So maybe "Dummies Month" makes some sense after all, but what remains baffling no matter how much quality pondering time I devote to it is why Hallmark and other fine greeting card companies haven't yet come out with a line of specialty cards and gifts aimed at this 30-day holiday stretch.

Even if Hallmark may have missed the starting gun on this one, the rest of the world is rushing to hurl themselves into into the gap. Microsoft, for example, is already starting the promotion of "Frontpage 2002," due in stores Real Soon Now, having rethought their naming/numbering scheme after the difficulties encountered in getting products to market like Windows 95 that had been burdened with a remarkably yearlike numerical ID which was all too rapidly overtaken by its eponymous date.

At least Microsoft hasn't fully embraced the trend of inventing secret code names that they tell everyone about for their projects, like Intel is so fond of. In Microsoft's case, that probably wouldn't be quite as annoying, because the main side effect is to generate an bewildering array of often-misspelled names for the same CPU or chipset, so that anyone trying to track down (or prevent) subtle and annoying compatibility problems has to rely on a secret decoder ring to match the part numbers that appear on the chips themselves with the geographical or mythological references that appear in the manuals and/or configuration options.

But if Microsoft did get into the whole un-secret "secret" codeword craze, I bet they'd go for different brews of coffee rather than relying on obscure-but-mundane geographical names. Frontpage 2002, for example, might be particularly well-suited to bear the prestigious standard of "Kopi Luwak," often described as the most expensive brew of them all. Kopi Luwak (also known as "Lauc," "Lauk" and many other variant spellings people have come up with over the years, making it one of the best-suited varieties of coffee for the "stuck on that one, last hint" crossword puzzle creator) is also described in other, more interesting ways. The interested student may find more details here: [ ]

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