28 February 2009

Handy Things the IRS Can Do For You

By calling one toll-free number:
800–829–1040, you can get answers to your tax questions, order free publications and order transcripts of information you entered on previous tax returns.  All of these services are free. 

With regard to publications, may I suggest Publication 17, both for its utility in answering tax questions and helping you fall asleep.

The automated system for getting transcripts will ask you for your address, so I'm not sure how it will react if you want things sent to a new address because you've moved.  In any case, though, the phone system is quite efficient, and you can order multiple transcripts with one phone call. 

26 February 2009

Status Page for Google's Cloud Applications

Google has set up a status page for its applications (like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Talk, etc.)
They really ought to have had such a status page since the beginning of Gmail, but I suppose late is better than never.

22 February 2009

Poached Salmon

Yesterday and tonight I poached salmon fillets for dinner.  To make this, I did the following:
1.  Took a frying pan and put a little bit of water into the bottom of it.
2.  Brought this water to a boil.
3.  Put the salmon in the water and covered it with a lid.
4.  Waited until the salmon was done (flaked easily with a fork and was light pink).
I also made a side dish of pasta (small pasta works better, like orzo if you have it or elbow macaroni), and served it with lemon juice, which you can pour right over the fish and the pasta.
You could also, I suppose, use rice instead of pasta, although then I suppose the lemon juice wouldn't work so well.
It was quite easy to do and did not take long at all.

21 February 2009

Sons of Bill: A Band to Watch

Last Thursday night a friend and I went to see Sons of Bill (music samples are on MySpace and Facebook).  They were quite good, and both of us thought that they were better than the main act, Reckless Kelly.  I'll definitely keep my eye open for them to see if they are in Metro DC again.

18 February 2009

Copyright and Facebook Terms of Service

There's been an interesting discussion in both the mainstream media and Facebook's blog (there have been two entries) about Facebook and copyright law.  My three cents is that the only thing that Facebook needs a perpetual license to is an email that I send to a friend via Facebook.  I think it's weird that they'd even need this, given the fact that one normally doesn't think of email as copyrighteable.  If I send an email on Gmail to my friend on Yahoo!, am I really granting Gmail a license to copy my email and send it to my friend?  Ordinarily, I wouldn't have the need to claim copyright on an email I sent.  Even if I was sending my friend a manuscript for a book I was writing, could I then sue Gmail for copyright infringement?  I don't think I'd have a cause of action.   

Anything else that I post on Facebook, like a wall post or photo, can be deleted.  Therefore, any license I give Facebook for posting something like that should be revocable at my will.

I wonder whether someone who sued Facebook for copyright infringement for redistributing his or her pictures would even have a cause of action (so long as Facebook posted them in compliance with his or her privacy settings).  I guess Facebook is covering itself, but are they going over the top?  

Flickr's terms of service are pretty clear.  Once I remove my content from Flickr (which is owned by Yahoo!), Yahoo!'s license to display and/or distribute this information is instantly revoked.  Sometimes, as when I submit content to a Flickr-sponsored group, the license, by its terms (you'll need a Yahoo!/Flickr account to see these terms), expires at a certain time.

Google's answer to Flickr (Picasa Web), on the other hand, has much broader (and less favorable) terms for me as an end-user.  If I upload a photo to Picasa Web, under the terms of service (Section 11.1), I give Google what essentially amounts to an irrevocable royalty-free license to display my information.  As a result, I don't use Picasa much.

It's interesting to see what at tangled web is woven with all these license agreements.  It also shows the importance of reading license agreements.

Free Starbucks Instant Coffee

Go to this website for free coffee.  There's no strings attached.

Update:  They're out.

15 February 2009

Gmail Outage Updates

If you use Gmail as your email provider, you might be interested to know about this Google group.  Only Googlers can post to it.  It will let you know if there is a problem with Gmail. There's also an RSS feed you can subscribe to if you are so inclined.

03 February 2009

Peanut Butter Recall Information

This website from the FDA has information on the peanut recall and a comprehensive list of every product affected.

02 February 2009

Steve Martin's Surprising Talent

The other day I was on Amazon MP3 and saw a free download (still free as of this writing) from Steve Martin.  At the time, I thought the name was just coincidence, but then I saw this article in the Times about how Steve Martin plays bluegrass.