September 2004

For the first time ever, I am a volunteer for a political party.

On election day, I’m to show up at my old precinct in Chapel Hill and
be the person who goes and gets folks who need a ride to vote. 
I’ll spend three hours carting people to the polls and home again
around lunchtime, so I expect to be busy.  I picked my old
precinct rather than my current Durham precinct because I don’t know
Durham well enough to find people, but I know there will be folks out
in rural Orange County who need rides and whose roads I know.  The
lady at the Orange County Democratic HQ kept saying, “But you’re
registered in Durham,” and I kept saying, “But I lived in Chapel Hill for twelve years and I’ve lived in Durham for five months.  I won’t be much help to anyone if I get lost
trying to get from their house to the polling site.”  Eventually
it dawned on her that I was trying to help where I could actually be
helpful, and my path was clear.

At 2 that day I’ll get an hour break and then it’s back to the precinct
to be an election observer and general helper from 3pm until the polls
close.  I’m hoping I’ll get to be one of the people with a copy of
the voter’s bill of rights and information for folks who have questions
about casting provisional ballots and such.  Having had to cast
provisional ballots myself on more than one occasion, and being one of
those paranoiac Lawful people who always has questions because I’m
always afraid I’m doing it wrong, it’s going to be good to get to help

I was going to volunteer for TechWatch,
but that’s a pretty full week already without volunteering to go
somewhere to watch touch-screen machines in use, thanks.  Though I
may consider doing that next time… (more…)

Greetings to NT Technology of Everett, Washington.

Are you hiring?

(Lord, but some weird shit ends up in my server logs.) (more…)

I had Tuesday off, so I went over to Chapel Hill to eat lunch and hang
out at Cup a Joe’s, where I could work on outlining for this year’s
NaNoWriMo.  While there, I had my requisite weekly Chapel Hill

I love Chapel Hill.

Anyway, there I am, at Cup a Joe’s.  It’s next to a tiny art-house theatre (the Chelsea).  
I walk in the front door, set down my stuff at a table, and head for
the back to use the restroom.  On my way through the cavernous
region at the back of the place, I have to walk by a woman standing in
the back as though waiting for her own visit to the ladies’.  Her
back is to me as I approach, and as I get closer she turns as though
she expects me to be someone else.

“Sorry for passing gas,” she says.

Now, my reaction is basically hey, it happens.  But in my
ever-present, on-the-spot eloquence, I shrug one shoulder, hold out my
hands and say, “Pbthfluffle.”  I realize abruptly that yes, what I
have said in response is in fact a farting noise made with my
mouth.  Lovely.  But I plow ahead, pass her by and go to the

Once I come back out, go through line to get my drink and take my seat,
she’s buying bulk coffee.  She gets her bag of beans, pays for
them and heads out the door.  I see her pass by, first one way,
then the other, a couple of times.  It’s a shopping center, she’s
taking care of shopping, something, whatever – no biggie. 
At this point I still just find it amusing that she felt she needed to
apologize and that my response was so dumb.

After a little bit, I get up to go outside for a fresh air break. 
As I’m standing out front, I notice that the folks at the Chelsea have
come in early – they’d gotten a new movie and they’re unpacking the
reels UPS has delivered.  The Gas Lady walks by, headed towards
the Chelsea and beyond, as Chelsea employees are behind the counter in
their lobby doing various just-unlocked-the-movie-lobby things. 

Gas lady stops, opens the door to the Chelsea lobby, and calls out to the employees:  “SORRY FOR PASSING GAS!” she cries, then she shuts the door to their lobby and goes on her way.

My immediate thought is, “Huh?”

The ladies behind the counter at the Chelsea have frozen behind the counter and stare at her as she leaves.

Ooooookay.  Gas Lady has issues.  Amusing issues, which are
the best kind.  I still consider it a pretty mild case of the
freakies, though – it beats being asked to pin medals onto someone’s
t-shirt in the bathroom of Breadman’s, and it beats a cashier at a drug
store telling me she wishes she had an AK-47, and it beats the lady at
Lowe’s who pointedly asked if I practiced Blackk Magick (you could hear
the Pratchettian extra K’s in her voice).  So, again, whatever.  She’s crazy, but funny crazy.

A couple of hours and much outlining later, I’m sitting in Cup a Joe’s still, and I see Gas Lady.

She walks back into the store.

She walks towards the counter, out of my line of sight, to where there’s a big glom of people waiting for coffee.

Sorry for passing gas,” I hear from around that way, and then
as quick as I’ve heard it she reappears at a steady clip, glides back
out of the coffeeshop, and off she goes, never to be seen again.

I told The Boyf and Mr. Saturday about this and The Boyf said,
“Uh…maybe she just really needed to feel she was being forgiven for
something.”  This is an insightful and clever explanation that
never would have occurred to me.  Also, I have no idea if it’s
true.  For all I knew I’d just met my first fart fetishist.

So strange.  So very, very strange.  Wherever you are, Gas Lady, it’s okay.  It happens. (more…)

Need some help choosing a party?  Why not look to the villains of your youth?  There’s also a page suggesting how your heroes might vote.  Follow links at the bottom of the pages for some other fluffy election humor.

Fave quotes:

Skeletor’s wrath knows the demands of a highly diverse work environment and community.


Do you know any other superhero
who personally fights eco-terrorists because they oppose his
unenvironmental businesses? Batman is basically Henry Kissinger.


Go see it.  Seriously.

It ruled.  That’s all the review I can possibly provide:  it ruled me.  I still giggle when I think about it.  It’s the zombie movie I wish I were smart enough to make. (more…)

Ah yes – that time is upon us.

It is time to begin preparing for National Novel Writing Month

This year I think I’ve roped The Boyf into it, and Mr. SaturdayMr. Pink Eyes
says he’s in, I think, and I support all of them and more in doing
so.  NaNoWriMo is extremely stressful fun.  I loved it last
year.  Yesterday I started outlining in earnest, hammering out
weird plot-points in conversation with Mr. Saturday.  I may post
some of what I write here, as I work on it during the month of
November.  We’ll see.  But regardless, that time is on
us.  Today, I get back into the fora.  Yum! (more…)

My grandmother passed away after long years of Parkinson’s on Friday
morning.  While the occurance was of course saddening, to be
honest I think some of us, her family, saw it as a relief.  If she
was gone, at least she wasn’t suffering anymore from the debilitating
disease that had spent 15 years weakening her body while leaving her
mind intact.  It was terrifying to watch her descent as a
teenager, and saddening to watch it drag on and on throughout my

What I remember about my grandmother is how fun she was.  As a
child, I frequently went to spend the day with her, a half-mile from my
parents’ house.  I remember her reading me stories, giving me
books of my own, making sweet tea and sitting on the porch working on
her tatting (an arcane sort of threadwork – think of it as cross-stitch
without the fabric backing) while I played in the yard.  My
grandmother was the first person to teach me how to blow bubbles. 
She did this thing once where she made a huge bubble-wand out of an old
wire hanger and a bucket of dishwater and she stood on her porch waving
her arms back and forth to get huge bubbles and then laughed as I
chased them around the yard.  This is one of my clearest memories
of my grandmother.  Mainly, though, she gave me the gift of quiet
togetherness.  I can’t remember all the times we would just sit
together on her porch or in her living room while I played and she read
or tatted.  Later, as a teenager, she would sit with me in my
parents’ den, reading while I worked on crossword puzzles.  By
then she had started to get sick, but I was too self-absorbed to really
realize that.  A decade later, sitting in my room at the Hall with
Kat or Pants Wilder, all of us with a book in our hands, I’d think of
those times.  This is still one of my favorite experiences to have
with someone:  just sitting and reading or writing or working,
being together.

I sincerely wish I’d been able to know my grandmother as a young
woman.  In her 20’s she and my grandfather travelled, lived up
north for a while, took roadtrips.  My grandmother refused to
drive (during her 20’s she drove through a heavy snowstorm and swore if
she survived she’d never drive again – turned out she meant it) but
loved to go places.  There’s a picture of her with my grandfather
when they were young, sitting on an overlook of some highway (the Blue
Ridge Parkway maybe, but I honestly don’t know), grinning and
relaxed.  My grandmother has an almost wicked look, a sparkle in
her eye of youth and determination.  My grandmother was fiercely
intelligent.  She and my grandfather voted for Adlai Stevenson twice
They sat in front of the evening news making fun of Mamie Eisenhower,
whom they said to be “crude.”  My grandmother sat each of her
children down, and later each of her grandchildren, at one point or
another, and explained very carefully that some people were racist and
that this showed them to be ignorant good-for-nothings and that if we
grew up to hate others for the color of our skin we would, in no
uncertain terms, be thought less of by her.  (I remember well the
day she gave me this talk.  She beat my parents to it.)  She
abhorred segregation.  She supported the integration of
schools.  She despised narrow-mindedness and ignorance. 
Decades later, when my eldest cousin came out of the closet, she was
the one person in our family who invited him to live with her.

My grandmother wore pants in the 1930’s.

My grandmother wrote poetry for years.  She filled books with
it.  Then she decided it was all crap and she destroyed most of it
(gee, I wonder if we’re related?).  My mother has, I think, one or
two poems my grandmother wrote.  I still haven’t seen it/them.

During WWII, when my grandfather lived across town so he would be close
enough to work to get there and back reliably on gas rations, my
grandmother encouraged rumors that they had divorced simply to laugh at
them when they acted shocked.

My grandmother didn’t have time for bullshit.

So I’m writing all this not to petition you for pity, because my only
emotional reaction to her physical death was relief that she wasn’t
locked in pain any longer.  I said my goodbyes years ago, and
mainly feel sorry for my mother, for whom this wasn’t going to be easy
no matter when it happened.  Instead, I write this because someone
in our tiny town, where a woman who wore pants in the ’30s, wrote
poetry, voted for the most liberal politicians she could find, hated
racists and played with bubbles will likely be remembered only as a
mother and a grandmother, a woman who cooked and sewed and didn’t work
outside the home.  All of that is true, but so much more than that
is also true, and someone has to remember it.  My grandmother
shaped her family in ways that directly benefited us, often in ways of
which we were completely unaware until suddenly it mattered – like
teaching us to be open-minded, that everyone is a human being and
worthy of respect, including ourselves, even when we’re different.

I’m not sad for my grandmother, or sad that she’s gone.  Rather, I
am intensely glad to have known her.  When I drove up to Asheville
to go to the funeral on Monday morning, I mainly thought selfishly of
how stupid I was to drive 250 miles in a hurricane.  When I drove
back down to Durham that night, the storms had gotten much worse but I
didn’t truly mind. 

It was worth some wind and rain to remember all of that. (more…)

Sen. Russ Feingold, who cast the Senate’s only dissenting vote on the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, has introduced a bill to tighten down the circumstances that would allow the FBI to employ electronic surveillance without a warrant.

Finally.  It’s a tiny, tiny step – not even a step, more of a flexing of the toes – but it’s something. (more…)

At the very least, it’s one of the signs of the end times:  I
agree with Alan Keyes about something.  Well, OK, I don’t actually
agree with him, I just arrive at the same conclusion he does. 
It’s been my opinion for a while now that political polls are
useless.  There’s a serious demographic shift happening in the
available sample – people being polled are getting skewed towards
older, more conservative demographics while younger, more liberal
voters are increasingly unavailable for polling. 

Don’t believe me?  Quick, name ten people you know who have
land-line telephones.  Those of us who are completely wireless are
unavailable for polling and will never be polled, ever.  We’re
right out of the mix, and that trend will simply continue. 

There is, frankly, very little to be done to reverse it.  As The
Boyf has pointed out, it doesn’t mean there are no 18-25 or 18-35 or
whatever voters available for polling, but it means pollsters have to
work a lot harder to find them and when they do they don’t necessarily
have anything much in common with the rest of their demographic group.

At any rate, here’s the deal:  Alan Keyes (the wingnut freak-show
who dares to challenge the deeply hot Barak Obama) has said he wants polls legally outlawed for a certain period prior to an election.

My favorite part of this particular episode in the Watch Keyes’ Brain
Implode Under Its Own Idiocy Show comes in his meeting with the
editorial board of Pantagraph.  At this meeting he told them, “All
of the polls taken at this stage of the game are phony anyway.” 
Why’d he tell this to Pantagraph?  Because Monday they published a poll they’d conducted with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showing Barak was beating him by 45 percentage points, 68% to 23%.

Yow!  Um, yeah, Alan – that’s just media bias.  Right.

At any rate, I don’t actually agree with Keyes – I don’t think they
should be “banned,” which is the word he actually used, but I do think
they’re growing increasingly unreliable (witness the current
Presidential polling, which is so contradictory as to erase their own
believability factor among voters, which is far too powerful to be
overcome by any sort of defense on mathematical or statistical
grounds).  But it feels very, very weird to even have him visible
on the horizon of my own views for once. (more…)

And in other geek news, UC-San Diego is going to run a study/experiment in which they attempt to track the spread of computer virii
using the same methods used to track the spread of human
epidemics.  Their stated goal is to develop a model for a
self-defending network that fights off attacks in the same way as the
human body.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, Duh.  We haven’t been calling them virii for years for no reason.

Snarkiness aside, very cool.  I won’t bore you with my opinions on
the technical side of things, but suffice to say, I think the day will
come when we have to have automated defenses – more automated than we
currently have, anyway – because human defenders already fail to notice
almost everything that happens.  Computer security is not a field
in which intrusions and attacks are prevented or eradicated, it’s an
industry in which, at best, risk is managed and responses are made more efficient, not obsolete. (more…)

A German tabloid is reporting it’s found one of the missing Soviet prototypes for a Shuttle-alike.  The story
has pictures accompanying it, and Slashdot is kind enough to provide a
link to the Google-translated (translation:  Google-mangled, but
mostly readable) English version.

If it’s true, dang, that’s cool – though as I read this, I hear echoes
of my Post-Soviet Politics professor saying, “Once the government
stopped paying the scientists and soldiers who guarded sensitive
technologies, those technologies and their caretakers had a tendency to
disappear – likely reappearing where they could find a steady paycheck,
technology in hand.”

Mainly I just think it’s neat. (more…)

Today I turned 30.  I feel in some ways like it’s a big milestone – my twenties are over, they are over oh my gods
– but in other ways, it’s just not a big deal.  I’m unsure what I
think about it as yet.  On the one hand, there’s a knee-jerk
reaction of “Holy SHIT,” but on the other there’s gratitude that life
now is so much more stable and I can be that much more confident now
than ten years ago.

Plus, I still don’t feel like I’ve gotten any more mature since about,
oh, 21 or 22, so there’s always childishness to fall back on.

Doug told me on Sunday that 29 was much harder for him than 30. 
My sister said the same thing when I asked her.  29 for me was a
breeze.  I guess it’s true what they say, it’s different for
everyone. (more…)

Atrios has started this thing
called Drinking Liberally.  It’s just what it sounds like – pick a
bar, get some liberal friends, and go drink there and shoot the shit
about politics.

I think this could be very fun.  Am I alone in thinking so?

Also, serious cheers to Katastrophes, for gracing me with a Gmail account. (more…)

OK, so you all know it:  I love a ridiculous conspiracy theory.  Specifically, my fave of today is this one:

Mentioned in these books is that persons at Yale University have
been selected to be pushed to the top by the American Aristocracy,
including members of the Bush Family. To be initiated, they are forced
to divulge their entire sex life and other deep personal details. These
satanic rituals are carried out in a window-less building at Yale,
known as The Tomb.

New members engage in homosexual acts while they lay in a coffin.


Two important reputed pictures of George W. Bush were in the custody
of American Media, Inc., headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida.
publisher of several supermarket tabloids including National Enquirer.
One was an authenticated one of George W. Bush, laying in the satanic
ritual coffin while engaging in homosexual acts with his male sex-mate
who was later to engage in such over later years and traveled with Bush
and reportedly on occasion stayed at Bush’s Texas ranch. The other
picture was mentioned in Part 13 of this “Overthrow” series.

Now, I find this whole idea as ridiculous as anybody else.  To be
perfectly frank, I doubt there’s anything more to S&B than a bunch
of Yalies who like to get trashed, talk shit about one another and
generally party down.  I think a typical tableau of a party scene
from their house would be lots of dudes in Izods, lampshades adorning
their heads, with a big banner in the back that reads, “WE 0WNZ0RED THE
WORLD!”  I can’t find them very threatening, and although the
sexual-history-from-the-coffin aspect of their initiations is described
identically in Kitty Kelley’s new book, I somehow find it hard to
believe that these moneyed illustrations of otherwise standard
frat-cheese would engage in “homosexual acts.”  I mean, I know it
happens, I know there’s a lot more Bro-on-Bro hanky-panky that goes on
than is publicly admitted to – this is a simple enough conclusion to
make based on there simply being a given population of humans involved, true of any organization or body or society or culture or whatever – but I don’t in fact secretly think (or fantasize) that Republicans are bumping same-sex uglies in some joint called The Tomb.

However, this bit caught my attention:  One was an authenticated one of George W. Bush, laying in the satanic
ritual coffin while engaging in homosexual acts with his male sex-mate
who was later to engage in such over later years and traveled with Bush
and reportedly on occasion stayed at Bush’s Texas ranch.

Why’d that catch my attention?  Because that’s one of the
hypothetical dirty little secrets of George’s past that was originally
rumored to be in the Kitty Kelley book, as well.  It Came From Blogistan, so take it with the whole pillar of salt and then find a little more
salt to go with it, but I find it interesting the same rumor would turn
up in two obscure and assumedly unrelated places.  I haven’t
gotten far enough into Kitty Kelley’s book to know whether it’s in
there, too, or not, but I think tonight I might have to do something
about that.

On the other hand, we all know the phrase that shoots down any
argument, any position, any thought, once used to preface the
same:  “But it must be true, I read it on the Internet…” 
And, frankly, the wooly world of conspiracy theories is precisely the
most likely place for one theory to end up worming its way into a dozen
others.  Rumors don’t spread in the land of conspiracies – they infect

Still, the thought of Bush having a fuckbuddy on the side from his
college days is high hilarity.  It makes me giggle, and I like
that. (more…)

The deadline to register to vote in the November election is October 8.  That’s two weeks from Friday.

You can check the status of your registration online, right now, and correct any issues you find well in advance of the deadline.

Do so.

Also, you can use this to check on, say, the party affiliation of your
sister, who for some reason is registered Republican, about which I
might have to talk to her.

On an up-note, my father is registered as a Democrat.  So’s my mom, but that’s no surprise – so’s her sister and her mom.  Ahem. (more…)

Next Page »