Rewriting Matt Wilson’s ugly code

Matt Wilson posted asking for help cleaning up some date manipulation code he had written. Here’s my attempt:

import simplejson
from datetime import date, datetime, timedelta
import calendar

def get_dict_or_cookie_value(key, d, s):
    value = d.get(key)
    if not value and s.has_key(key) and s[key].value:
        value = simplejson.loads(s[key].value)
    return value

def get_start_and_stop_dates(d, s):
    Returns a tuple of objects.

    First checks dictionary d, then looks in the cookie s, then returns
    the first and last day of the month.

    We return values from the dictionary d, even if the values exist in
    simple_cookie s:

    >>> d = {'start_date':'12-07-2008', 'stop_date':'12-20-2008'}
    >>> import Cookie, simplejson
    >>> s = Cookie.SimpleCookie()
    >>> s['start_date'] = simplejson.dumps('12-08-2008')
    >>> s['stop_date'] = simplejson.dumps('12-11-2008')
    >>> a, b = get_start_and_stop_dates(d, s)
    >>> from datetime import date
    >>> isinstance(a, date) and isinstance(b, date)
    >>> a.strftime('%m-%d-%Y'), b.strftime('%m-%d-%Y')
    ('12-07-2008', '12-20-2008')

    If the dictionary d doesn't have values, then we get them from the
    simple_cookie object s:

    >>> a, b = get_start_and_stop_dates({}, s)
    >>> from datetime import date
    >>> isinstance(a, date) and isinstance(b, date)
    >>> a.strftime('%m-%d-%Y'), b.strftime('%m-%d-%Y')
    ('12-08-2008', '12-11-2008')

    We handle mix-and-match scenarios, like where one value is in d and
    another is in s:

    >>> s2 = Cookie.SimpleCookie()
    >>> s2['stop_date'] = simplejson.dumps('2-28-1975')
    >>> get_start_and_stop_dates({'start_date':'2-17-1975'}, s2)
    (, 2, 17),, 2, 28))

    When just one of the dates is specified, then the other will be
    the first/last day of the month containing the other date:

    >>> get_start_and_stop_dates({'start_date':'2-17-1975'},
    ...     Cookie.SimpleCookie())
    (, 2, 17),, 2, 28))

    >>> get_start_and_stop_dates({'stop_date':'2-17-1975'},
    ...     Cookie.SimpleCookie())
    (, 2, 1),, 2, 17))

    Finally, we use the first and last days of the current month.
    # These are the dateformats that the dates will be in.
    dateformats = ['%m-%d-%Y', '%Y-%m-%d', '%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S']

    start_date = stop_date = None

    # Figure out the start_date first.
    start_date_source = get_dict_or_cookie_value('start_date', d, s)
    if start_date_source:
        start_date = stubborn_datetimeparser(start_date_source,

    # Now repeat the process for stop_date.
    # TODO: pull this redundancy into a single function and call it
    # twice.
    stop_date_source = get_dict_or_cookie_value('stop_date', d, s)
    if stop_date_source:
        stop_date = stubborn_datetimeparser(stop_date_source,

    # Now figure out what to return.  Remember, if we found one date,
    # but not the other, then we return the first/last date of that month,
    # not the current month.

    if not start_date or not stop_date:
        if start_date:
            month_source = start_date
        elif stop_date:
            month_source = stop_date
            month_source =

    if not start_date:
        # first day of the month
        start_date = date(month_source.year, month_source.month, 1)

    if not stop_date:
        # last day of the month
        stop_date = date(month_source.year, month_source.month,
                         calendar.monthrange(month_source.year, month_source.month)[1])

    return (start_date, stop_date)

def stubborn_datetimeparser(s, dateformats):
    Keep trying to parse s into a datetime object until we succeed or
    run out of dateformats.

    When the first format works, we immediately return:

    >>> dateformats = ['%Y-%m-%d', '%m-%d-%Y', '%m-%d-%Y %H:%M']
    >>> stubborn_datetimeparser('12-1-2008', dateformats)
    datetime.datetime(2008, 12, 1, 0, 0)

    Otherwise, we keep trying until we parse it:

    >>> stubborn_datetimeparser('12-1-2008', dateformats)
    datetime.datetime(2008, 12, 1, 0, 0)

    >>> stubborn_datetimeparser('12-1-2008 15:47', dateformats)
    datetime.datetime(2008, 12, 1, 15, 47)

    or we run out of formats, and raise a ValueError:

    >>> stubborn_datetimeparser('12/1/2008', dateformats)
    Traceback (most recent call last):
    ValueError: I couldn't parse '12/1/2008' with any of my formats!

    for datefmt in dateformats:
            return datetime.strptime(s, datefmt)
        except ValueError:

    # This else matches the for datefmt in dateformats loop.  It means
    # that we didn't break out of the loop early.
        raise ValueError("I couldn't parse '%s' with any of my formats!" % s)

[Updated with all of the code.]