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marnanel (6034)

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Journal of marnanel (6034)

Wednesday April 26, 2006
08:22 PM

"I did my taxes for free. Click here to do yours."

I think the staff meeting this afternoon was the most exciting event since I started working at Solutions for Progress, and that's saying quite a lot. The basic point was this: our mod_perl program which tells people what benefits they're eligible for, and files their taxes for free, is pretty wonderful, but there aren't as many people using it as there should be. Until now, we've always worked with partner organisations, churches and so on, who actually provide counsellors to sit with people and talk them through the process. And so there have been people who've said, "I want to file my taxes and find out what I'm eligible to receive", and we've had to find a partner organisation in their city, if there even was one.

Well, the idea is to make the whole system self-service. Come next year, if we can get everything working, anyone in the US making $45,000 a year or less will be able to visit our website, file their taxes for free, and apply at the same time for a whole bunch of benefits they might be eligible for, all with one easy website, with phone support if they need it. They can go and visit a partner organisation if they want someone to sit with them through it, but they won't need to. They can do the whole thing in one evening from their living room-- or the computer lab at their university, or the public library. What Food Not Bombs do for food, we can do for tax filing: abolish the myth of scarcity. It's all there as much as you need it, and it's free.

The opportunities for memetics are enormous. We can give people HTML to put in their blogs saying "I filed my taxes for free. Click here to do yours." We can have people spread the meme by word of mouth. We can build a movement, we can create communities on LJ and myspace, we can send the message where the people are who need to hear it. We can mobilise people-- when people are done with the system, we can say "You're eligible for X in tax refunds, Y in food stamps, and Z in heating assistance-- if you'd like to volunteer to do more to fight poverty, here are some people local to you to get in touch with." We can get millions of dollars of tax refunds and benefits into the pockets of people who need it most.

I'll let you know how we get on between now and tax season next year. And if you feel you'd like to help out by using the program yourself, or spreading the word, or both, let me know. For now, feel free to link to this entry.

I am so excited about this.

Sunday February 19, 2006
08:04 PM


*in the shower*

marn: And then we can run the server in taint mode, so that...
fin: Taint mode? Heh. Is that between balls mode and arse mode?


marn: So, when you hear "Tainted Love", you think "somewhere between anal and teabagging"?
fin: I am never going to be able to listen to that song again.
Monday February 06, 2006
08:48 PM

none-too-complex maths

Riordon and I were discussing commutativity.

Me: So is subtraction commutative? What's ten take away zero?
Rio: Ten.
Me: And zero take away ten?
Rio: Well, you can't.
Me: You can't‽
Rio: Well, my teacher said you can't.
Me: She did?
Rio: Yes, I said you could because of negative numbers and the teacher said we didn't do those for a couple of grades yet.

(I remember the same thing happening to me when I tried to use division in infant school.) The daft thing is that Rio is quite capable of working in the complex plane. I wonder how I can teach her not to let the school put brakes on her exploration. It bothers me firstly that she'd understood what the teacher said to mean that she should pretend negative numbers didn't exist, and secondly that she then took this to apply to every situation in her life (not just as needed to get by in school maths classes).

Saturday September 17, 2005
08:45 PM


Welsh Perl modules that I would like to exist include
  • one to turn the vaguely-standard ASCII markup into UTF-8 ("dw+r" to "dŵr", etc)
  • the same module, to turn it back again
  • one to help you work with the CEG (a free million-word corpus)
  • one to mutate any given word using a given mutation
  • the same module, to take a number and a word and give you the correct mutated form ("1 cân", "2 gân", "6 chân", "100 o cannoedd")
  • later: the same module, to give you a list of possible radicals for a possibly mutated word, and possibly check whether they exist in a dictionary (see below)
  • one to pluralise common words (would need an enormous attached dictionary, but creating this from the CEG would be no great deal)
  • later: the same module, to look up parts of speech and so on in a dictionary

I think, given all the work that's going into translating KDE and Gnome, some Welsh-specific Perl tools would be really useful. I'd like to write all of them myself (it would be a great way to use some of those computational linguistics classes I took in college) but I worry that people will just say "oh! you're not a fluent speaker, you shouldn't be getting involved with such things". Maybe I should find someone who speaks both Welsh and Perl well to sanity-check them for me.

Friday August 05, 2005
02:52 PM

Progress report

That game, which Firinel named "Entrop", now has its own SourceForge page, if anyone wants to check on its development. I'll be releasing v0.1 probably next week sometime.
Friday July 22, 2005
01:19 PM


Okay, who wants Repton for Perl?

I'd probably make it so you could supply arbitrary PNGs for the sprites, instead of relying on the Beeb format (though of course it would still load those). And I certainly wouldn't be distributing the original maps along with it, because they're copyright. But most of the fun of Repton / Boulderdash / Rocks'n'Diamonds is building your own levels.
Tuesday July 19, 2005
02:22 AM


v0.10 is done. Net::RGTP can now post; I'm figuring out some new applications for this.

Here's what I posted to GROGGS about it:

Reply from [marnanel] at 00.12 on Tue 19 Jul
From We are far too young and clever
Net::RGTP version 0.10, to hit CPAN imminently, supports posting.

I've been thinking about what to do with this new ability, and I
think it might be kind of fun to have a server where RSS feeds were
fed into RGTP. So every time (say) a new news article was posted to
the BBC site, there would be a new RGTP item to discuss.

What do you think? What RSS would be good to use?

Of course the other possibility is that now it's possible to build
a Windows RGTP client with some ease (see K3351406 and R1671542 for
previous discussion of this): just hook up wxPerl with Net::RGTP and
there you go. It could probably be put together in the evenings of a
week without too much effort.

However, I don't think a separate client has much of a chance of
being used now that there's Yarrow that anyone with a browser can use.
Then again, people are still using email programs despite the existence
of webmail.

Wednesday July 13, 2005
05:37 PM


I've been working on the posting feature, but it's not finished yet. RGTP posting is actually surprisingly complex when it comes down to it, because of the concept of continuations. I hope I can get the API simple enough, nevertheless.

If anyone wants to see the script that's reading RGTP and producing LJ entries from it, it's here. It's very rough-and-ready, knocked up in an hour or so, and not something I really want to publish as an example of polished code, so treat it as pre-prealpha.

In particular, as it stands, it will fail the first time it's run because it always tries to read the cache, which isn't created yet. It's trivial to comment out everything except the part which saves the cache the first time if you're playing with it, but obviously it's something that should be fixed in a published version.

There's a huge thunderstorm tonight, with massive thunderclaps almost overhead; the power keeps going out. I hope this posts.

Sunday July 10, 2005
12:21 AM


Most of the stuff I wanted to address is fixed in 0.05. The error handling should still probably return undef and set $! on common errors, though, rather than dying.

I have plans for the next version, which will be 0.10. It will have a general post() method which encapsulates RGTP's NEWI, REPL, CONT and MOTS commands. I was planning the new API in my head as I walked around the town fair this evening.

Saturday July 09, 2005
12:50 AM

Bad night for GROGGS to go down

There's a few things about Net::RGTP 0.04 that I'd like to tune up a bit: the error handling could use some work, and it uses a predictable value where it should pick a random number. After that, I want to add the ability to post. That'll bring us up to version 0.10. However, GROGGS went down tonight, so I can't run the test suite. When it's back, we can get going. Or maybe I'll use my own scratch server.