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Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Love Making The Government Wait For Its Money!

I finished doing my tax returns for 2010 over the weekend. It was a pretty simple tax return as usual, and it took me about an hour to get the whole thing squared away. Unlike last year, this year, I owe the government money on my taxes. And I am thrilled!

Unlike last year, my withholdings were perfect this year. I dribbled money to the government at the correct rate so that I owe them a few hundred dollars at tax time. Not enough to subject me to penalties or anything like that. But enough so that it makes a difference whether I earn the interest on that money or the government does! And this year, I am the one earning the interest, not the government.

The online tax software I use allows me to file my tax return as soon as I complete it even though I owe the government money. I have until the tax deadline to pay the taxes I owe. I can either print a payment voucher out of the software and mail in my payment, postmarked on the tax deadline, or I can make an online payment on that date. Either way, the government is unlikely to see a penny of what I owe them even a day before it is due!

Completing my federal tax return allowed me to complete my state return. And as always, I found that I am getting a small refund from the state. So, I filed my state tax return, and hope to get my refund next week. In a sense, my state government is paying part of the federal taxes I owe!

As promised in my previous update, here is another maze that my daughter drew for my blog. As always, you can click on the picture to get a larger version that will be easier to fill out.

I have been busy this past week putting the finishing touches on a program that produces crossword puzzles. It is a simple recursive algorithm that fills a given grid with words from a dictionary going forward when it can, and going backwards when it finds itself stuck, until the whole grid is finished. I have run it on pretty large grids and made sure that it actually works.

The more difficult part of the project was finding a suitable dictionary to use with the program. As you know, the answers to a crossword puzzle are not all necessarily single dictionary words. There may be phrases, proper nouns, etc., thrown into the mix. Creating a dictionary with all those extra words in it is challenging by itself.

I have made a decent start at such a dictionary, but obviously, I am far from done. In the next few weeks I will be concentrating on building the dictionary up with outside words, phrases, names, etc. Promises to keep me occupied while I go through the motions of managing my project at work.

Once the grid is finished, I need to produce the clues to the crossword puzzle based on the words in the grid. I can probably produce a program that picks out a clue at random from several I provide in a file for every possible crossword word in my dictionary, but the prospect of typing that many definitions and/or clues is daunting. I have decided to write up the hints by hand myself initially. I will probably start publishing these puzzles on my blog soon. Hopefully, there will be readers of my blog who are interested in trying out a crossword puzzle from an unusual source. The puzzles may not be as polished as in professional publications like the NY Times, but I hope to improve upon the puzzles with feedback from interested readers.

Since my last update, my blog has had a visitor from only one new country: Kazakhstan. With that, my blog’s flag counter widget now has 166 flags on it. The last few flags have been from more and more unlikely places. I can’t imagine what people in Somalia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan find or hope to find on my blog. I sure hope they found whatever they were looking for.

It is a weekday night, and it is time for me to complete my chores and get ready to go to bed so that I can get enough of my beauty sleep before I have to get up tomorrow and go to work. I am not thrilled about work, but the alternatives are not very good either. Until I find one that is more thrilling and still pays the bills, I guess I will be sticking with work!

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