May 2005

Took some pictures last night and this morning, so quick hits:  gaming carnage and more lily madness. (more…)

I saw this first at Pam’s House Blend, and then went and read the article at the Herald-Sun.  I think I’m going to be sick.  I cannot believe this happened in my town:

DURHAM — Three large crosses were burned in
separate incidents across Durham Wednesday night, the first time in
recent memory that one of the South’s most notorious symbols of racial
hatred has been seen in the city.

Yellow fliers with Ku Klux Klan sayings were found at one of the cross burnings.

The Durham Police Department is investigating the burnings. After the
third one was reported, the department ordered that any suspicious
cargo truck or large pickup truck be stopped.

“At this day and time, I thought we’d be beyond that,” said Mayor Bill
Bell. “People do things for different reasons, and I don’t have the
slightest idea why anyone would do this.”

Bell, who said he couldn’t recall a cross burning in Durham since he
arrived here in 1968, said he hadn’t received any calls, letters or
e-mails that would “remotely” suggest someone would target the city
with cross burnings.

The first burning was reported at 9:19 p.m. outside St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Hillandale Road at Interstate 85.

As police and firefighters were finishing their work there, a second
cross burning was reported at 9:54 p.m. along South Roxboro Street,
about a quarter-mile south of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. Someone
had positioned the cross atop a large pile of dirt near an apartment
complex construction site to the west of South Roxboro Street.

“This is ridiculous,” Durham police Sgt. A.M. Batte said as she stood over the smoldering cross around 10:20 p.m.

Then the third burning was reported at 10:28 p.m. at Peachtree Place and Holloway Street downtown.

The crosses were about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide, police said. They
were wrapped in burlap and doused in a liquid that smelled like

I just don’t have words for it.  It makes me so angry.  If I
found the people who did this putting one up in my yard, or my
neighborhood, I think I would hurt them.  I would hurt them a lot
Gods help those people if they ever show up in my yard, or my
neighborhood.  I’m angry enough to know these people are in my town.

Word is that St. Luke’s is gay-friendly, and there are murmurs in
the blogosphere that this might be tied to the Phelps clan showing up
earlier this month to protest at some churches (including St. Luke’s)
when Durham School of the Arts did a production of The Laramie
Project.  This kind of thing is so NOT the Phelps’ gang’s
style.  They protest all kinds of things, and in all kinds of
tasteless ways, but they are nothing if not legal in their
approaches.  They’re all lawyers, for fuck’s sake.  They like
to push the social envelope but not the legal one. 
And, like it or not, Rev. Phelps did do a tremendous amount of civil
rights work as an attorney, back in the day.  Such are the ironies
of mental illness, that he would be such a different person now. 
At any rate, I would be shocked to find out he would turn to such an
overtly racist expression of his hate given that history.  It just
doesn’t add up for me.  I think it’s a very big leap to associate
one band of admittedly freaky and ridiculous wingnuts with
cross-burnings two weeks later. 

If they’re tied together at all, I would suspect that the people who
did this were potentially in agreement with the Phelps gang, perhaps
even inspired by their visit, but it just doesn’t scan to hear that
this would be related to them.  I hate to defend the jackass, but
there you have it. 

So who would do this?  And why?  Durham is a historically
African-American town.  It’s the home of the first and biggest and
most successful African-American businesses in the state.  When
the state flattened part of town to build NC 147 (the Durham
Expressway), the part they flattened was, of all things, the town’s
business district.  Prior to then, it was known as “the Black Wall
Street” for the amount of money that flowed through the town and the
success of its entrepeneurs.  Durham has a rich history as an
African-American town, with a rich and valued culture of diversity and
acceptance.  It’s probably the biggest city in North Carolina
considered a “black town,” with the possible exception of Greensboro,
which also has a large African-American population and is home to a
number of historically African-American colleges and
universities.  The obvious explanation of why target Durham is
Durham’s history and Durham’s role in state history as a friendly, open
and accepting town.  We have a black mayor.  We have black
city officials.  We have black people. 

The areas targeted were downtown, a church that’s open and accepting of
everyone (including the queer community) and South Roxboro near Martin
Luther King, Jr. Parkway.  Let’s take a look at those locations.

St. Luke’s is at Hillandale & I-85. 
What else is around there?  The first thing I can think of is the
old Pan-Pan Diner.  It’s gone now, but it stood across I-85 for
decades and though I don’t know its full history there is no denying
that this place was an icon of the African-American culture of
Durham.  Remember the pictures that lined the walls of visiting
ministers, activists, choirs, stars – that place was a cultural
crossroads for years.  It’s a stretch to associate the cross with
Pan-Pan given it was in the front frickin’ yard of St. Luke’s, but St.
Luke’s is a big and very accepting church and I’d bet you can see where
Pan-Pan stood from its yard.  The hate that drives someone to burn
a cross is fueled by a particularly twisted version of Christianity
which claims that there are chosen people – straight and white, among
other things – who are superior to others.  Pan-Pan is gone now,
but that whole corner of the northern Durham I-85 corridor is a strong
symbol of the diametric opposites of the sort of people who burn
crosses in the first place and St. Luke’s, with its openness to the
community, is a great, big symbol of that with a cross on the top
It’s a part of town where families, college kids, oldsters and youth
could be found sharing everything from a church service to a 3am
breakfast buffet with chitlins on it
It’s also not a new part of town – it’s where suburbia was before the
I-40 corridor and RTP began to really dominate the geography of
Durham’s growth.  It’s old Durham suburbia, not the shiny new
suburbia of Woodcroft.  It’s where a lot of living happened and still happens, living in peace, and that drives supermacists of all stripes up the damn wall.

Next up there’s the spot on South Roxboro
Not a far hop from Hillendale, really, though it’s on the other side of
town.  What I find interesting is that it’s near a new apartment
complex that’s going up.  That part of Durham is one of the
fastest growing – near RTP and the other two urban points of the
Triangle, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, it’s seen tremendous growth in
recent years.  It’s where suburbia and the young-and-imported
office workers of RTP meet.  It’s also a very diverse and
relatively affluent area.  Within, what, a mile or two of the S.
Roxboro/Martin Luther King Jr. intersection there are the new Target,
the new Kroger, the new mall, the new parkway itself, and countless new
housing developments.  It’s also just a stone’s throw from the
southern edge of NC Central’s campus.  It’s an important part of
Durham’s growth, the northern tip of sprawling suburbia.  Yet
another place where a lot of living, and peaceful living at that,
happens – it’s where you’ll find both established and new families,
imports and natives.

Lastly, there’s Peachtree and Holloway.  Look it up on Yahoo! maps
Zoom out – go out to 4 or 5 on their scale, maybe even six.  See
that red star?  See the area around it that’s marked as
Durham?  You’re looking smack at the middle of the city. 
Also, not a far hop from Hillendale & I-85 or the S. Roxboro
location.  Durham’s downtown has had a lot of revitalization in
recent years.  Pam of Pam’s House Blend is herself familiar with
the whole Trinity Park phenomenon.  All that happens on the other
side of the downtown loop from where this cross was burned, but it’s
still the heart of the city.  I think that’s probably not a

It seems to me that whoever put these crosses up had a very calculated
message.  It seems to me, and here I’m just talking through my hat
but it beats letting the anger just boil inside me all day, it seems to me
that what they wanted to do was attack the heart of Durham, the older,
historically important part of Durham and the new and growing part of
Durham.  It was a clear message:  we don’t like you and we never have
I doubt the crosses can be pointed at anything more specific than the
whole of Durham’s history and Durham’s contemporary openness and
acceptance and active encouragement of its population.  Durham is
a powerful and highly diverse city, ethnically, racially and
sexually.  Its residents have made concerted efforts for many
years to clean up parts of town that were bad and in the process clean
up the city’s reputation among outside whites as someplace “dangerous”
or otherwise threatening.  You won’t find stronger neighborhood
ties than in Durham – more neighborhoods than I can count run listservs
and neighborhood watch programs, and whole city blocks will organize in
an instant to take care of problems like empty storefronts (see last
Sunday’s N&O’s Durham News section for info on the empty Kmart
plaza up in north Durham, near I-85).

Durham has problems and challenges galore, like any city, and I don’t
think anybody will lie to you about that.  But Durham is a town
that has actively tried to face those problems and do something about
them.  Those efforts have created some very tight-knit and
multi-cultural neighborhoods, alliances and groups that can be powerful
forces for change.  They haven’t solved all Durham’s problems by
any stretch of the imagination, but I can tell you that I’ve marched in
gay pride parades through the middle of Durham on the same day the Klan was holding a rally a few blocks away and I never once felt threatened or unwelcome.  I live here now,
for crying out loud.  Durham is a place that has, to my knowledge,
been pretty honest with itself and striven to address what’s wrong with
successful measures that include the community as much as anyone
else.  That sort of thing, out in the boonies – and sometimes just
down the street – can be terrifying to people whose only acceptable
explanation for their own situation is to look for a scapegoat and
attack it.  Inbred rednecks like the Klan or the Phelps gang or
whoever will always look to some Other to blame for their own
shortcomings.  When that Other is doing so much better than they
are – as is certainly not always, but is often the case
in Durham, where the downtown and suburban housing markets have boomed,
crime is down and the city sewer department gets out to fix your
problem in a day – it can drive them to acts of extremism to match
their own self-loathing and short-sightedness.  I think that’s
what happened here. 

Someone, I have no idea who but I’d love to see them in chains on the
news, decided that Durham, with its many peoples and many strengths and
a history of not backing down was to blame for something in their life, and they went out and tried to express that, and this is how they did it. 

I just wish they’d been a little less careful with the kerosene,
frankly.  I’ll take one immolated redneck over three burnt crosses
any old day.

I may be reading way too much into the placements.  I may be
stretching for understanding – only natural, most likely, given the
senselessness of the acts themselves.  But it seems to me that any
useful response is one that promotes understanding, if they wish to
promote ignorance and hate.  So I see it as worthwhile to try to
find – perhaps, more accurately, to rationalize in the echo chamber of
my own mind, but hey – some explanation behind them.  If you
disagree, that’s fine, I’m quite probably wrong anyway.  But
talking about it beats breaking my hand by punching the wall over and
over, and that’s what I really want to do. (more…)

So, apostropher has up this post
doing a great job of ripping wingnuts a new one.  In this case,
he’s specifically talking about Orson Scott Card’s unbelievable horror
over the idea that the Jedi seem to be quasi-religious and yet not
Mormon, or at least not Christian.  Alluding to apostropher’s own
wording, and to reference one of my own favorite turns of phrase, I
expect any day now to see a headline that reads:  AMERICA’S PEARL

The Jedi may claim to be in favor of democracy, but in fact
they function as a ruling elite, making their decisions among
themselves. They occasionally submit to the authority of the
legislature, and they seem to respect the rule of law, though whose
law it’s hard to say. By and large, however, they decide among
themselves what they’re going to do and when it’s OK to break the law
and defy the civilian authority.

Now, let’s take that and substitute “Religious Right” for “The Jedi.” 

  • Claim to be in favor of democracy?  Check.
  • Function as a ruling elite, making their decisions among themselves?  Check and check.
  • Occasionally submit to the authority of the legislature?  Check,
    especially the “occasionally.”  See the recent history of East
    Waynesville Baptist and the IRS’ rules on tax-exempt status of
    religious organizations for a brief refresher, will you?  Don’t
    make me link to it, bitches.
  • Seem to respect the rule of law, though whose law it’s hard to say?  Check.  See any church that has a different interpretation of the Bible from any other church.  Oh yeah, that’s all of them.
  • Decide amongst themselves what they’re going to do and when it’s OK to break the law and defy the civilian authority?  Check, check, check
    and… gosh, where do we start checking on this one?  More shades
    of Chan Chandler, Eric Rudolph, the history of polygamy amongst Mormon
    splinter groups – I can’t link to that much shit myself.  Discover
    Google if you want references.

Heck, let’s hit some other gems from Card’s piece:

It’s one thing to put your faith in a religion founded by a
real person who claimed divine revelation, but it’s something else
entirely to have, as the scripture of your religion, a storyline that
you know was made up by a very nonprophetic human being.

An instant classic!

In other words, despite whatever political message Lucas
might or might not have intended, the Jedi are the smug orthodoxy,
always congratulating themselves on their rectitude. No wonder the
whole senate seems thrilled when the new Emperor announces the fall of
the Jedi. They don’t know yet how evil the Emperor will be, but they
know they don’t mind having the meddlesome Jedi out of the way.

Good thing the religious right is here to save us from the smug
orthodoxy, always congratulating itself on its rectitude!  Uh, I
think?  Fuck, at this point the hypocrisy-swallowing-its-own-tail
routine has me fucked up in the brain.  I think I’m dizzy.

Even the afterlife is reserved for the few, the proud, the
Jedi. As we learned at the end of Return of the Jedi, even the most
dark-side-serving of ex-Jedi mass murderers can, with a single “good”
act like refusing to murder his own son (which even the most evil men
generally avoid), earn the right to eternal life as the equal of true
saints like Yoda and Obi-Wan.

You mean there are people who think with a single act of contrition
even a murderer can undo their past wrongs and gain entrance into
Happily Ever After Land?  The one up there in the sky?  That’s crazy talk!  Get George Lucas a prescription for lithium and some thought police, stat!

I put the rest of this in the comments over at apostropher’s post, but
I have to reprint it here because, goddamn, I cannot get this out of my
brain in one go.  For fuck’s sake, I’m not even a real Star Wars
geek!  I mean, I’ve seen the movies (haven’t seen III yet), I’ve
played some of the videogames, but when it comes right down to it I’m
far nerdier over things like World of Darkness games and Star Trek
(and even there I’ve long since left the fold – I stopped watching
halfway through season 1 of Voyager, and think Rick Berman is basically
the Devil in a cheap suit).  My point here is, it’s not that I
feel like I need to defend Star Wars – Lucas is in no danger, and no
one is going to stop me from buying a ticket if I want it. 
Rather, I feel it is necessary to point out what an idiot it takes to
miss the hypocrisy and nelly hand-wringing of Card’s take on the
terrible crime that is The Force:

And, of course, Lucas is the only person to have ever imagined a
universal, um, “force” that ties together and perhaps oversees all
living things and with proper training can be sensed, accessed,
influenced, felt and/or manipulated by adherents to the religion.

Holy Ghost much, Orson?

From where I’m sitting, The Force is a pretty generic summation of the points largely in common among all world religions. Hello, it’s called making the story accessible. Name one person you know who doesn’t get
the idea of The Force. Every culture has somewhere in its present or
its past a mystic tradition. It’s all part of Lucas’ ability (gift?) to
boil down his setting to the bare essentials: Good vs. Evil, the Light
Side and the Dark Side, Dudes With Swords & Dudes With Guns, The
Force, etc. Orson Scott Card looks at the Jedi and sees atheistic
elites, but The Force itself is obviously a product of reducing many
(if not all) world religions into their base essence: the magic juice
that comes from Beyond. Card’s problem with the whole deal smells an
awful lot like that tape I’ve got laying around somewhere of selections
from Python’s Holy Grail dubbed into Japanese and then subtitled back
into English, you know? The framework is left intact but the jokes just
don’t fly.

Jesus H. in Sith armor. What a jackass.

I should note that I say all this as someone whose religion is
considered by many to be among the “fruitier” varieties, and that Card
would almost certainly find me an unbelievably effete liberal heathen
and that’s long before he got around to the gay sex.

That has nothing to do with his own being an asshole, though. When
Card looks at the Jedi, I suspect, he sees a band of (short term,
anyway) doomed mystics whose adherence to their rules and standards has
left them out-of-step with the rest of society. Their effort to
re-assert control and maintain their definition of “order” is what, in
the end, seals their own death sentences. I wonder what on Earth he could find bothersome about that idea?


I’m a fan of Scotch eggs (you can get a great one in Raleigh but I’ll
never remember the name of the place – Greenshield’s?  something
like that), but this one is just a little much for my tastes.  Perhaps with a friend… (more…)

Today I made it happen – pictures of all the new plants (minus the salix because I forgot them – but they’re growing!).

I have to show off a couple of them, though:  first the red hydrangea, then the red asiatic lily:


How you like them apples? (more…)

While I’m on a kick of doing nothing but linking elsewhere, might as well toss this one out: a next-gen gaming manifesto, the 20 things we should want from the next generation of consoles.  Here’s an example:

15. Stop the Short-Sighted Business Bullshit

Patents. Did you know there’s a patent held by some
microscopic software company on spherical camera controls in realtime
3D, and they’re starting to level lawsuits against EVERYONE? Did you
ever wonder what happened to force feedback, controllers that push your
hands around so you can feel the action in the game as well as see it
(we’re talking real force feedback, not controllers that vibrate like
pagers)? Somebody has a patent, that’s what. Did you know you can’t
have mini-games during a loading screen because of patent law?

Exclusive sports licenses. Say goodbye to NFL football
anywhere but with EA. That’s right, they signed a deal with the NFL
saying nobody could make games but them. So every other pro football
game, including Sega’s, will be back to using fictional teams so get
ready to play as the Dallas Zombies with all-star QB Cletus Fuckhat.

Cashing in on Crappy Genre Knockoffs. For every Grand Theft Auto, there is a Driv3r. For every Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic there is a Fight Club: Soup Befouler.
This is no joke. A movie goer will bitch about a movie he “wasted”
seven bucks on. But to leave $55 at the game store and find out you got
a knockoff turd in return? That’s some serious customer
dissatisfaction, my friends. And it will bite the industry in the ass
some day, unless somebody wakes up.

Chances of that happening…

Excellent.  I like to think that some day the businesses
of the world will wake up and realize they’re part of a greater whole,
that the energy devoted to cannabalistic infighting means ultimate doom
for all. The leaders of the great religions of the world will realize
that all of us, Muslim, Christian, Jew, all want the same for humanity.
Women will realize it’s the pale, studious type they want instead of
the quarterback of the football team, and everywhere we walk, bunnies
will dance a path for us. Dance, little guys! Dance!

There are some excellent points made here.  I, for one, am
appalled at the price points on the next generation of consoles. 
I don’t give one flying fuck if the PS3 has “TiVo-like” features.  I already have a TiVo, motherfuckers.  The people who are going to rush out and buy a PS3 are not exactly late-adopters.  They are not exactly new
to the world of home electronics.  What are the odds someone is
going to be standing in line down at GameStop with their PS3 in one
hand and the still-dripping skulls of the other people in the store who
wanted one and, as they read the side of the box, they will exclaim,
“DVD?  What’s a DeeVeeDEE?  Holy cow, I can hook this here up to mah TeeVee and it’ll do stuff?” (more…)

Scientific American has up a fantastic article debunking 15 common talking points of creation “science”.  It’s well worth reading for the science, but don’t miss the editorial commentary at the end:

“Creation science” is a contradiction in terms. A central tenet of
modern science is methodological naturalism–it seeks to explain the
universe purely in terms of observed or testable natural mechanisms.
Thus, physics describes the atomic nucleus with specific concepts
governing matter and energy, and it tests those descriptions
experimentally. Physicists introduce new particles, such as quarks, to
flesh out their theories only when data show that the previous
descriptions cannot adequately explain observed phenomena. The new
particles do not have arbitrary properties, moreover–their definitions
are tightly constrained, because the new particles must fit within the
existing framework of physics.

In contrast, intelligent-design theorists invoke shadowy entities
that conveniently have whatever unconstrained abilities are needed to
solve the mystery at hand. Rather than expanding scientific inquiry,
such answers shut it down.

It keeps going from there and, unsurprisingly, it’s a solid defense of
scientific processes and far more positive than it is negative. 
Unlike the Creationists, SciAm offers something hopeful rather than an
unending stream of criticism, a belief that science always has – and
always will – push ignorance further and further from daily life.

Just a quick update – buds forming on the tomato plants, cages placed
because two of the plants just could not hold themselves up
anymore.  The zucchini and squash vines are doing great, as are
the pumpkin and most blackberry vines, but man, the onions and okra are
an utter failure.  On the upside, I have plenty of time to reseed
and try again.

The flower garden needs to get torn up and replanted.

The hostas are going wild.  The hydrangea looks normal
again.  It’s strange seeing a red hydrangea, but it’s
awesome.  The asiatic lilies are just starting to bloom, and

Plants pics get taken tomorrow morning.  The weekend was too crazy.


DSL, you just keep living vicariously.  And no, Arthur Name,
whoever you are, I have no desire to live in a greek temple. 
Well, OK, maybe one with lots of toga-clad male attendants, but only
for the eye-candy factor.  Otherwise, shoot, not even I like sweeping that much, and I genuinely like to sweep.  Plus that marble would be bitchin’ cold first thing in the morning.

This weekend the gaming group gets together for Grillin’ &
Gamin’.  It’s a time-honored combo I’ve long, long enjoyed.  Yum. (more…)

There’s been a victory for separation of church & state in Georgia:

MARIETTA, Ga. – Workers in Cobb County have begun removing
controversial evolution disclaimer stickers from science textbooks to
comply with a judge’s order.

The evolution disclaimers read: “This textbook
contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact,
regarding the origin of living things. This material should be
approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically

Six parents sued to remove the
stickers saying the disclaimers violated the principle of the
separation of church and state. A federal judge in January agreed and
ordered the stickers removed.

Of course, local wingnuts are wringing their hands and wondering how oh
how will they teach their children the difference between heathen
evolution and Bible-based creationism^H^H^Hintelligent design.  Of course, the obvious answer – TEACH THEM IN FUCKING CHURCH YOU FUCKING MORONS – doesn’t seem to occur to them. (more…)

(A brief aside, before the post:  An enormously fat co-worker just
jumped from his desk (he was standing on it) to the floor, and I was
certain that the floor was going to give way and we were all going to
die in our descent through the building.  I say that not because
he’s a big guy and that’s what I expected but because when he hit the
carpet the entire floor shook under my feet.  Pens clattered into
the air and back down again.  A toy car on my monitor skittered
and slid a few inches.  It was like a short, terrifying
aftershock.  It was not just a WHOOMP or a WHAM, it was a physical
sensation of waves of force rippling through everything for much
further than you might think possible.  I do not exaggerate when I
say it was an event with a duration.)

So Mr. Saturday has been playing KOTOR II.  And he’s way
ahead of me in the game.  So he’s been giving me tips, and every
now and then I’ve been able to say things like, “Oh yes, in D&D
that’s called ‘flanking,’ and it works a little differently but it’s
basically the same,” thus demonstrating two things:

First Demonstrated Thing:  The 3/3.5 rules for D&D are so easy to learn that even I
have managed to soak them in through my very pores, to some degree, and
can now remember what things like ‘flanking’ are and when they’re in

Second Demonstrated Thing:  Mr. Saturday is learning the d20
system without even trying.  The gaming virus spreads, my
friends.  It spreads not through skin contact (well, not always)
but through skin-to-controller-and-or-book-to-skin contact.  Books
and games are the dread virus’ vector, and after being surrounded by
carriers so long, Mr. Saturday has finally succumbed.  I know
we’ll never get him to play D&D, but it’s nice to see that our
infection still carries.

In similarly related news, The Darth Side
seems to have put up its last entry, having run through the storyline
of the original trilogy from Vader’s standpoint.  It’s a damned
good read, and it won’t go on forever, and if you imagine it read in
Darth’s signature rasp then you’re going to giggle yourself to death
when you’re not awash in the tragedy of it all.  Seriously. 
Just read the goddamn thing.

Completely unrelated to Star Wars, there’s the garden.  Four of
the six blackberry vines seem to have flourished.  Two, I think,
died right away, but we’ll see.  If so, that means maybe I should
do more checking of the soil there, because that’s two
different generations of plants dying in the same places.  But, on
the upside, that’s four plants having made it and doing great. 
The ones by the gate to the back yard are going crazy.  Yes, I will take pictures this weekend.  Also, the hostas have done fantastically in their new locations.  The Boyf is so fucking awesome – he figured out the
best place in the yard for them and they’ve loved it there and we can
see them from both the back porch and the window in the master bath, so
there’s hosta action all over.

The tiny, tiny hydrangea I bought for its red blooms has bloomed – sort of.  The flowers are very strange.  I’ll take pictures tomorrow or Sunday.

I have to stake/whatever the tomatoes tomorrow, because one of the
plants is simply not going to be able to stand up on its own for
another week, and they haven’t even flowered yet.  And one of the
zucchini hills produced, as did one of the yellow squash mounds, and
the plants are taking off.  Tomorrow I reseed the other two mounds
just for the hell of it.

The okra is doing terribly.  This makes me sad.  I need to read up more on okra.

Onions and spinaches and lettuces, though, are going haywire
And the peppers are all a dark, healthy green in the leaves and some
are budding.  I eagerly anticipate their production.

The pumpkin vine I planted on a complete lark is doing
fantastically.  We will grow our own jack-o-lanterns if all goes

And, to top it all off, the bulbs I planted in that same little bed, where nothing has ever done well (ever,
he said – it’s been one year and seventeen days since we closed on the
house), sprouted out of nowhere.  They’re huge.  I think
they’re going to be gorgeous.  That bed is also where my best two
blackberry bushes and my pumpkin vine are, so that bed is now magic.

The Boyf and I have been discussing various things to do to shore up
the right-hand-side of the old farm road through the back yard. 
The Boyf’s inspired plan is to do some terracing – nothing too steep,
just gradual, soft on the eyes, easy-going terracing – and planting
some ground cover and the like.  I suggested we do it in the dead
of winter when gardening things are cheap and the whole deal can settle
by the spring, and we agreed that this is the way to go.  By next
spring, gods willin’ and the creek don’t rise, we will have made major
landscaping improvements to our property in a way that is fun and
pleasing to the eye and we will have a METRIC FUCKING SHITLOAD
of places to plant and garden and whatever.  The Boyf pointed to a
far corner of the back yard and made my heart sing when he said, “You
know, just a thought, but that would be a nice place for a
fountain.”  I don’t want to live in a Greek temple, but in the
absence of an actual creek I’d love a little running water
somewhere.  You have no idea how the future unfurls in pleasing
shades of maroon and deep blue and soft grey when I think of these
things.  The future excites me.  I have no idea why it comes
in those colors, other than that they (and black) are my favorites.

Life is good.  Life is too good to spend it wringing my hands all
day about things like filibusters.  I think I’m going to spend the
weekend steadfastly avoiding the news and just chilling.  Hell,
I’ve got two D&D games to play, two new D&D books to read,  I Was A Teenage Billionaire Psychopath to read and I’ve been working my way through Codex
for a couple of weeks on my lunch breaks.  Oh, and I need to
invent letterhead for my fraternity’s alumni association until such
time as the real letterhead comes in.  It’s going to be a very
pleasantly busy weekend. (more…)

I’ve been obsessed by KOTOR II – the sequel to the original, which
obsessed me greatly last year.  Summer is a time for play, and
videogames (and hostas, apparently) are how I do so.

(Yes, KJ, I will post pictures.)

Last night Mr. Saturday
informed me of a glitch which could lead to infinite Dark Side
points.  You could use a conversational loop to turn yourself As
Bad As You Wanna Be in about five minutes.  For a few brief
moments – one combat and about half of another conversation – I had
Dark Side Mastery.  Arcs of lightning would shoot from my
tingling, grey-tinged palm and enemies could do nothing but scream and
fall to the ground, Magical XP Juice shooting from their carcasses like
so much squalid innard. 

Doing so cost very, very few Force Points.

My Best Bud, the scoundrel with two blasters and a big mouth, was
horrified – though I am slowly but surely dragging him down that path
with me – yet my mentor, resolutely neutral in her morality, was not
bothered at all.  In fact, some new-found revelations earned
praise from her when I spoke of regarding all around me as disposable
extras to be used or cast aside as I saw fit.

Revealing stuff, that.

Of course, within minutes I didn’t have it in me to extort the
eco-friendly reptiles I’d just “saved” from certain death.  The
only payment I really required was the opportunity to reach out and
crush someone, after all.  Just that fast, I’d gained a couple of
Light Side points.  Gone were the black smoke that poured out of
the ground around me and the column of flame and ember behind. 
Also gone were the practically free bolts of lightning and the extra d8
of damage.

But there’s plenty of game left.  And I can be bad anytime. 
It’s funny – as a player I can barely stomach the things I would have
to do to get my character all the way down that scale, but once it’s
done (practically without effort) I want nothing more than to stay
there. (more…)

I used to be a waiter and Star Wars has invaded my life of late, so I love this blog entry.  Just pointin’ it out. (more…)

I don’t actually advocate a war on war-driving.  It was just the first title that came to mind.

The point I’d like to address, actually, is a recent General Accounting Office study of Wi-Fi security
around the various agency HQs in DC.  They found lots – and I
mean, lots – of entirely open, unprotected wireless networks in federal
agencies around DC.  How did they find them?  They walked
and/or drove up to them, popped open a laptop with a Wi-Fi card and,
like any other war-driver, saw what they could see.  And they
could see a lot, including others on the network who were clearly

GAO investigators were able to pick up Wi-Fi signals from outside all
of the six agencies they tested
, and they were able to find examples of
unauthorized activity at all six as well.

So why was it so easy?

But nine of the 24 major agencies haven’t
issued wireless-security plans
, while many others provided little
guidance for acceptable use, the GAO found.

agencies don’t require their Wi-Fi networks to be set up in a secure
manner, and most don’t monitor their wireless activity
, the report said.

OK.  Setting up encryption can be a pain – except that it isn’t a pain at all
Admittedly, I work in network security so I’m biased, but Jesus H. in a
catsuit, what are they thinking?  Anyone with even the faintest
hint of an aroma of security experience has heard the old saw that
there is no such thing as “security through obscurity.”  Just
tossing your access point up and hoping no one notices is NOT a security plan.  It is not a security policity.  It is not secure.

Any security posture is better than none at all, in my opinion.  Even WEP, easily broken and repeatedly denounced as little more than wishes on falling stars, is preferable to doing nothing
In a place like DC, or in any area with lots of wireless networks set
up, any measure of security is a good idea, no matter how weak. 
The vast majority of outside intrusions into any given network are done
purely to use that network as a jumping-off point for other
tasks.  Make your network any degree less attractive than others
just as easily available and you take yourself out of the running for a
lot of types of misuse for the simple reason that there are other,
easier targets out there.  The bottom line, the dirty little
secret no one will tell you, is that if you are an intended target for
electronic intrusion then there is little that can be done – no matter
what you do, if someone wants to get at you, specifically, they will do
so with enough time and effort.  Fortunately, it is rare (outside
of electronic blackmail)
for someone to be such a specific target.  Just slapping WEP in
place would drive a lot of innocuous but also uninvited and
unauthorized access off a given WLAN and onto any of countless other
networks nearby.  I’d bet it would cut three quarters or more
unauthorized access from any network, especially in a place with other,
softer targets in easy reach.

But these are government networks, and they deserve more than that pittance of attention.  So how hard is it to use WPA, a much more (ahem) robust encryption solution?  NOT VERY HARDYARRRRRRGH.  This kind of thing drives me crazy
Yes, there are aspects of it that are kind of a pain in the ass except
they’re steps these people probably already have to take anyway –
things like setting up authentication servers.  Hello?  Don’t
they have logins on their local LAN anyway?  I know it’s not
exactly a five-minute, hassle-free conversion, but if the federalis can
take the time to anally rape me every time I walk into an airport can’t
they be bothered to require a few login servers and some decent
encryption at federal agencies?  And if they got their access
points on the cheap somewhere right before they went out of stock, all
it takes to enable WPA is a firmware update.  A couple megs’
download and one access point reboot later, those access points are
WPA-capable.  It’s not like it would be expensive.  In fact,
it would cost nothing.  The firmware updates that enable WPA on older APs are all fucking free.  It is no more difficult than – in fact, it is just like – running Windows Update or Software Update on your home machine.

This is the part where I could launch into some sort of (even more)
shrill screed about how in the War on Terr’r we deserve the very best
protection for our various asses and baby Jesuses (Jesi?) and our
whatevers, and on and on, and I’m not going to do that because, for
fuck’s sake, that is so fucking tired.  My annoyance is
not political, it is purely technological.  This is not Robust
McManlyPants, Certifiably Crazy Leftist, talking here – this is Robust
McManlyPants, Network Dude.  I mean, for fuck’s sake.  It would not be the end of their world.  HIPAA
makes nursing homes keep their fax machines in locked closets because
customer data might pass over a phone line and into a dusty old Brother
machine with a leaking ink cartridge and a wad of chewing gum holding
up its left side but they don’t bother to secure the wireless networks
in the headquarters of their own agencies?  The FBI show up at conferences
to demonstrate that WEP is far from being secure, but their colleagues
in other agencies can’t be bothered to click a couple of options in the
setup screen for their wireless Access Point?

Gah.  People are so stupid.

I am not worried that Al Queda or some shit are hanging out in DC with laptops and Wi-Fi cards going, Aha, our knowledge of tax returns and the price of tea in China will be their undoing! 
It is not about that.  It is about my tax dollars and how they are
spent and what it means to be responsible with data and what the
government does even as it requires more responsible behavior of the
civilian sector under threat of penalty.  It’s about not
protecting the wireless network at a federal agency just being stupid.  It’s about lazy engineers or budget directors who just won’t listen.  It’s just dumb.  D-U-M dumb.


OK.  I’m done. (more…)

Does it get any witchier than this?  Bruce got bored watching me do a Tarot reading and, when I was done, hopped up in the middle of everything and settled in (UPDATE: fixed the link – sorry, and thanks to KJ for pointing it out!).  One of the many, many reasons why I love The Boyf is that he thinks to say things like, “You know, this might call for a picture.”


Goddamn, that is one cute cat. (more…)

So, Mayor Jim West – you know, the rabidly anti-gay Republican who just got outed,
is accused of child molestation and may have offered city (ahem)
positions in return for sex? – is apparently clutching his pearls and
crying out about how he’s the victim here and now everyone else in town
may have a harder time coming to terms with their true selves. 
Grab the Kleenex(TM), girlfriend, and let’s have a big ol’ pity party with the good mayor:

SPOKANE, Wash. – Mayor James West, the subject of an FBI probe into
accusations he offered municipal jobs to men he met in gay online chat
rooms, is complaining he is the victim of a “brutal outing.”

In an e-mail sent to nearly 140 people
affiliated with a race relations task force, West wrote that the group
is responsible for making Spokane a community where “harassment,
intimidation, discrimination” are unacceptable.

that include people who have an internal struggle with who they are
sexually and are searching for a way to come out … ?” wrote West, who
is co-chairman of the task force. “Do others who desire to be out but
are having similar struggles now live in greater fear because of a
brutal outing?”

Oh, woe are we!  We did not see the folly of our ways!  Isn’t
it obvious now that pointing out hypocrisy wherever it’s found and
speaking the truth no matter how harsh it might be just hurts
people?  Wouldn’t it have been better to leave him safe and sound
in his closet where he could reach out to molest the young with one
hand and with the other deliver a big, back-handed slap to the
grown-ups just trying to live their lives as gay people?  Wouldn’t
it be better to let hypocrisy reign so that Mayor West could get his
jollies?  Funny, I thought he was the mayor of Spokane, not Stepford.

I hate to break it to Mayor West, but that sort of “the devil you know”
bullshit is, uh, bullshit.  I’m gonna call him on it right here,
right now (in a tiny corner of the interwebs where no one will care,
but for fuck’s sake, I’ve got to let it out):  Mayor West, that is
BULLSHIT.  Let’s hear it again:  what is it?  B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T
You were sitting there in your office spanking the Right Honorable
Monkey and telling guys you’d hire them if they’d swim naked in your
swimming pool and in your off hours you were railing against the
scourge of teh hott gay sex00rz (translated into B1ffspeak for the mayor’s online-enabled benefit).  You, Mayor James E. West of Spokane, Washington, were making personally certain “others who desire to be out but
are having similar struggles now live in greater fear,” you stupid old troll.  Jesus in the sky with motherfuckin’ diamonds, is that how incredibly stupid you think the rest of the world is?  Do you honestly think anyone who feels strongly about queer issues in America, on either side, is going to buy that line?

Take a wild guess who are the victims, Mayor West – your first clue is that none of them are a mayor with his nose buried in the back of the closet.

I once said (after a couple of drinks) to Mr. Pink Eyes
that the problem with liberals is that we are addicted to giving people
the benefit of the doubt.  Many of our core tenets are based on
the idea that, given a chance, everyone wants to grow, to better
themselves, to do right by those they’ve wronged, to succeed where they
have previously failed.  Well, not this time.  Mayor James E.
West of Spokane, Washington, can bite my gay ass.  Right
here.  I’m pointing at my right cheek, slightly outside from
center, roughly to the right of my wallet.  You heard me.  I
am pressing my index finger to my own ass cheek to indicate, yes, right
here, bite that part.  Jesus.  I am nearly
frothing.  I am so tweaked by this.  You want shrill? 
You’ve come to the right place.

Thank the gods, every last one of them – and truly, their existence is
assured by the nonstop delivery unto us of these right-wing,
self-loathing, closet-case, homophobic fag-bashers who get outed for
being exactly what they claim they want to stamp out (by all
appearances for the sole sake of eliminating the competition) – that
the rest of the Spokane city government isn’t this stupid:

Mike Kress, vice chairman of the Spokane Human
Rights Commission, suggested that West’s plea for understanding rang
hollow because of West’s many votes against gay rights as a politician.

hypocrisy, cynicism and lies upon which Mr. West built his political
career harmed homosexuals in our state, and his sexual orientation is
thus a legitimate topic for discussion,” Kress wrote in an opinion
piece in Wednesday’s Spokesman-Review.

Amen – I say – amen. (more…)

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