Saturday, February 26, 2005

H&R Block Bait&Switch

I went to file my taxes tonight. I followed the link on to free file. I filed with H&R Block last year, so I thought I'd use them again so that they could import my data. Free and less typing. Good deal.

When I finished everything, I went to eFile and I was asked how I would like to pay the $29.95 for the "Online Tax Program." Huh? I thought this was free.

I figured out how to do their online chat support, so I was able to IM with someone. Her resolution? Do my taxes again, and this time create a new account, don't sign in using the account I created last year.

Huh? Can you say Bait-and-switch? I said, "You're telling me that I have to do my taxes AGAIN?"

"Unfortunately, yes," she said.

"I'm sure that you have the power to make this be free."

"Unfortunately, I do not."

I was livid. I got a phone number which I'll call on Monday. The sad part about this is that it would probably take me less time to do my return again than it will to call them. But I'm interested in taking up the fight. This is absurd.

So if either of my readers haven't yet filed their taxes, please don't use H&R Block.


According to their website: "Free federal online tax prep and e-filing for all taxpayers. No restrictions. Everyone qualifies.*" (Emphasis theirs, not mine!)

"* You automatically qualify for free filing through the IRS Free File Alliance - NO AGI limitations. To receive this FREE filing offer, you must click 'Start Now' on this page. Includes one federal return."

Update: I called and was given the same solution: create a new account and start over. I said, "No way am I doing my taxes again. I'm going to get the service for free, so why make me do it again?" And I was issued a coupon code. Amazing how that worked. The 16 minute phone call (most of it on hold) was actually much less time than doing my taxes again would have taken. Victory is mine!

Monday, February 21, 2005


Some people like to think that we humans are not animals. I'm here to tell you that we are just animals. Watch a mother silence the cries of her infant child by offering her breast. We are animals.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


For some reason I decided to practice my Illustrator skills by tracing a photo of my face. So what do you think? Can you tell that this is me?

Vector version of my face

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Flickr Shrink & Upload

After uploading a few photos to Flickr and realizing how quickly that 10MB/month upload quota was going away, I realized that I would have to resize my photos before uploading them. So, rather than crack open Photoshop, I did what any other programmer would do. I wrote a program to resize and upload for me. It's actually pretty sweet and quite functional. Check it out if you have a (free) Flickr account.

You should know: The error handling is pretty thin. It preserves EXIF! It won't save your login/password (not necessarily bad). It's multithreaded; I think you'll like it. I'm actually happy with the architecture! I wrote it in one evening.

View a screenshot.
Download version 0.9 for .NET 1.1.

(Sorry, Tim.)

Edit 2005-02-12 16:30: New version, 0.9. Better error handling, supports drag-and-drop, saves login/password if desired (Base64 encoded in "HKCU\Software\\FlickrShrink"; not really secure, but obfuscated a bit), remembers last folder you added files from, creates thumbnail in a background thread (gives a nice UX when you select amongst items in the upload queue), mores little fixes.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Vatican, condoms, & reproduction

The BBC is reporting that senior Vatican Cardinal Georges Cottier was quoted as saying the use of condoms may be legitimate to stop the spread of Aids in poor countries. He said it was no longer a question only of allowing the transmission of life, but of actively preventing the transmission of death to a sexual partner. Well said, Cardinal.

In a related story, Andrew Sullivan (hat tip to Jason for introducing me to him) has a great piece running in The New Republic. He talks about Hillary Clinton's pro-life/pro-choice position. Her position, her writes, is "quite simple: a) the right to legal abortion should remain and b) abortion is always and everywhere a moral tragedy." This is a position that I've held for a long time. Sullivan also says, "And if she and the Democrats can move the debate away from the question of abortion's legality toward abortion's immorality, then they stand a chance of winning that debate in the coming years." It's a good read.