November 2005

Fresh from

RALEIGH, N.C. – One of the nation’s leading suppliers of electronic voting machines may decide against selling new equipment in North Carolina after a judge declined Monday to protect it from criminal prosecution should it fail to disclose software code as required by state law.

Diebold Inc., which makes automated teller machines and security and voting equipment, is worried it could be charged with a felony if officials determine the company failed to make all of its code —some of which is owned by third-party software firms, including Microsoft Corp. —available for examination by election officials in case of a voting mishap.

The requirement is part of the minimum voting equipment standards approved by state lawmakers earlier this year following the loss of more than 4,400 electronic ballots in Carteret County during the November 2004 election. The lost votes threw at least one close statewide race into uncertainty for more than two months.


Diebold can bitch and moan all they want, but this is a good thing.  Black-box voting machines do not do democracy any favors.  The rules surrounding voting machines should be very simple:


  • The code must be available for inspection by the state.
  • The box must provide an easily readable receipt for voters to verify.
  • The votes counted should be the verified receipts, not mysterious entries in a local file on the voting machine itself.


Sounds to me like, by my own personal test of what makes a "good" voting machine, Diebold fails before they get past the first hurdle.  Claiming that they can’t be held responsible because the boxes use other companies’ code that they can’t reveal simply should not hold water – and didn’t, thankfully, when it went to a court of law.  If they want to sell a product, they should be willing to stand behind their product.  If they can’t speak for third parties but they do want to sell a product that enables (or disables) something as important as voting, if they really want to be serious about being in that business at all, they should be willing to build the boxes from the ground up so that they can continue to stand behind their product.


Is there anything about that a company could seriously find unfair?  Hell, North Carolina’s law is considerably more generous to the sellers than I would be –  after all, they’re just requiring that the code be held in escrow for examination after any questions are raised.  Me, I’d want the code in my hands and positive assessments from as many impartial experts as I could round up before one of these was ever unveiled in a polling place. 


Ah, but we all remember that Diebold is headed by a Republican fundraiser who, last year, swore he was "committed to delivering Ohio’s electoral votes to President Bush."  Now, that’s the sort of statement any enthusiastic volunteer or donor would say.  The problem is, it was said by a guy who makes fucking voting machines.  It’s a relatively young conspiracy theory, but it’s one with some meat on its bones:  the head of Diebold, Wally O’Dell, was on the list of "Pioneers & Rangers," ruggedly doughy white guys who promised to raise $100,000 or more for Bush’s reelection campaign last year.  So when Diebold balks that they can’t comply if they have to open their code to inspection in the case of "irregularities," then frankly I think our state benefits from having lost a vendor whose commitment to transparency and vote security is at best questionable and who is, in my not-at-all-humble opinion, irrationally fidgety around questions of accountability both political and technical. 


The state has plenty of other choices.  Diebold makes it sound like we won’t have any voting machines at all if we ask them to accept responsibility for the ones they provide us – even after a Diebold machine’s malfunction was what threw the Secretary of Agriculture race into the courts last year – but that’s simply false.  What we won’t have is any of their machines screwing up a race with no way to determine whether elections using them were actually fair.  If you ask me, that’s not a loss, it’s a gain.


50,287 words, according to the NaNoWriMo official word count verifier.

Not a moment too soon.  Gods, but my brain is tired.


So, I’m not in Asheville for my family’s Thanksgiving-on-Saturday.  A hose came loose on my transmission, fluid went everywhere, and it’s in the shop until Monday.  On the, plus side, it didn’t happen halfway to Asheville, I got done the shopping I required done and friends (Andy, Joe and Mr. Saturday) have seen to my various needs in the interim.  So, hey.

Also, a tree fell on the tool shed.  It didn’t totally  destroy it, but it does need to be replaced now.  Everything inside was fine, but the roof is, uh, a lot less roofy now.

And the cable went out.  But that got fixed.

All that aside, have I ever told you about Eugenio’s family calling me?  Right after we moved here and I started using my cellphone exclusively, I started getting calls for Eugenio.  Spanish-speaking men would call and ask for Eugenio.  I took Spanish in high school and college, so I speak a little.  Nothing like Mel-knee does or Debra do, given they speak it for a living, but I do remember just a little.  So, the first time it happened I tried to tell them they had the wrong number.  However, I screwed up the vocabulary and told them they had the wrong name.  Confusion reigned.  The call ended with me hanging up on them as they pleaded that they were my/his family.  I felt terrible, but I didn’t know how to tell them I wasn’t Eugenio – they just weren’t believing me by the time I got the vocabulary right.

After that, they called every month or so.  I’d try to explain, fuck it up, not hear from them again for a while.  That happened a few times, then it stopped.

About two months ago, I got another call for Eugenio.  Since then – it’s embarrassing to admit this, but true – I had occasionally made myself repeat "the number you have is incorrect" over and over in Spanish, just to make sure I could say it when the time came.  And, finally, the time had come.  A woman – the first time it had been a woman, something of intense interest to me since I had often wondered who was calling, was it Eugenio’s brother, or uncle, or father, perhaps even his son? – called and asked for Eugenio.  "The number you have is incorrect," I said, and I said it perfectly.  There was a pause.  "I’m sorry," I said, "I speak Spanish but only a little."  The woman laughed and asked in Spanish if this was North Carolina.  I told her yes, it was, and she said it was okay and I apologized again and she was very nice.  

I felt unbelievably relieved, and figured that was that.

Just now, though – literally, as I type this, about five minutes ago – I got another Eugenio call.  "The number you have is incorrect," I said, and I said it perfectly again.  It was an old woman this time – I could barely hear her when she asked for him, and I feared she wouldn’t be able to hear me, either.  Our connection was terrible, and her voice was soft.  I wondered which aged elder was this?  "I’m sorry," I said again, "I speak Spanish but only a little."  My grammar is probably all wrong, but I at least had the vocabulary right, so I figured they could sort it out.  The woman sat there for a second after I further explained and then said, in crisp and perfect English, "Oh, alright.  Sorry about that."  And then she hung up.

Now I am even more confused.


Quick reminder:  Carolina Rollergirls bout on December 4.  You know you want to go!

If you’re a gamer and you’re in a position to give, it’s time again to consider Child’s Play.  I made my donation a couple of weeks ago.  It is well worth it, and every penny goes directly to putting something entertaining and educational in the hands of a child whose Christmas probably otherwise sucks ass. 

The Boyf went out with Mr. Saturday, Pants Wilder and Andy to see GARMONBOZIA play again on the 17th, this time at Reservoir.  Reservoir used to be Go!, and when it was, it was a much better place to see a band.  That’s really all there is to it.  Reservoir has a better "feel" than Go! did, but Go! was a better place to hear a band perform live.  Largely, I think, this had to do with them having a stage.  But hey, it was still a great show, and this time I got some even better pictures.  I’m going to be putting them up over the holiday.

Saturday is my family’s self-selected Thanksgiving, because it doesn’t require anyone to cook and socialize and be up late and go to bed feeling stuffed and then get up for work the next morning.  So, I’m going to be spending Thursday & Friday working on NaNoWriMo and shopping and playing World of Warcraft and generally kicking back.  It will be awesome.

On that note, I’m well past 30K words.  Only 7 days left, I know, but with devoted effort tomorrow, Friday and Monday, I can wrap it up with no sweat.  The most recent PDF, if you’re insane enough to be reading it, isn’t actually the most up-to-date version, but hey.  I’ll post a new one after I get done with tomorrow’s 7K word goal. 

I considered doing some writing last night, since I got some done at work, but when I got home The Boyf suggested we polish off the rest of Clue, as it was burning space on the TiVo.  Gods, but I love that movie.  I loved it as a kid (the version that I saw in the theatre had the Miss Scarlett ending), and I hadn’t seen it in years.  At one point I said to The Boyf:  "I am a sucker for a running-around-in-a-clumsy-mob comedy," and gods but does Clue deliver on that front.  Plus, Tim Curry.  Purr.

I went ahead and bought my NaNo self-price this year:  an iPod.  I am a whore for shinies.  I am an absolute whore.  I also bought an FM adapter so that I can play it on my car stereo.  It will fortify me for doing the family dinner on Saturday, and it will usher me back to warmth and my cat and my boyfriend that same night. 

Speaking of WoW and music, for months now I’ve been lamenting that I couldn’t find an add-on that would let me control iTunes from within World of Warcraft.  Then, I found just such an add-on:  WoWPlayer.  Then, I found out Mac support got dropped at precisely the same time I started playing WoW.  Then, I found out that the way the add-on works is going to be rendered unusable by the 1.9 patch when it comes out, so it’s going to be gone from Windows, as well.  So, fuckbunnies.

I think this means someone in our group needs to learn to code in LUA.  And it isn’t me.  Trust me on that.  The last program I wrote was in MacTuring.  It was 1994.  It did basketball averages.  It was for an assignment, I assure you.  And it sucked.  I got a B on a program that was, like, twenty lines long.  I don’t have a programmer’s brain.  Ask me to figure out why Networks A, B and C can’t communicate freely with D through your firewall, but E can, despite none of those networks being explicitly mentioned in the rulebase – leaving me to dig into implied rules, SmartDefense and all sorts of fun under-the-hood goodies on a Checkpoint – and I’m your man.  I did this today, in fact, and left a customer literally whooping for joy after months of not being able to figure something out on their own.  But ask me to code my way out of a wet paper sack – open at both ends, a knife in one hand and a blowtorch in the other – and I would die of starvation in the damp center of said sack.  I’m just not cut out for that shit. Still, the engineer in me looks at the question of Can something in WoW monitor and control iTunes? and I think Of course it can, you dumb shit.  It’s not like it can possibly be that hard – I just don’t know the language in that foreign realm.  I’m left thinking that if I tried it – much like asking for the bathroom in Russian – I’d be just as likely to end up pissing my pants on a street corner and calling it success as I would finding the bathroom.

No, I did not piss my pants on a street corner in Russia.  It’s just a random example.  I was very nearly slaughtered by the ninjas of the mind in St. Petersburg, though.

Long story.


No, I’m not dead – just on vacation.

And ooooooooh, but I have a new toy!  Photoshop Elements 3.0.  Behold, and be blinded by my nerdiness.

It’s from World of Warcraft.  It started as a screenshot:

And I screwed around with it from there.  This… this is awesome fun.


I recently retook a test I underwent a couple of years ago.  Namely, what D&D alignment/race/classes/Faerun religion are you?  The result is that I am, according to them, a Neutral Evil Human Bard/Mage who worships Cyric.  Honestly, I can’t imagine what gave them this impression.  Mr. Pink Eyes summed up my position nicely:  that the most reasonable solution to a fight is not to do battle arrayed in raiments of light but to sit down over a nice, hot cup of poison^H^H^Htea and work out our disagreements like gentlemen.  As I said to him in reply, I think it only fair to give someone a Fortitude save before measuring them for a shallow, anonymous grave just out of sight of the main road^H^H^Hpine box^H^H^Hagreeing to disagree.  (Heavens, I do believe I failed to correct that last error in my email to him.)

Wizards of the Coast, however, have a much more, er, accurate quiz to use to determine one’s alignmentThis one says I’m Chaotic Good.

As I said to Mr. Pink Eyes, it should be obvious which of these test’s makers deserve to be boiled alive for my entertainment and which are, clearly, the wiser beings.


I read this article at Escapist Magazine (produced, it appears, right here in beautiful Durham) on Sunday.  It is a collection of fascinating experiences one woman has had online, from IRC to running a raid instance in World of Warcraft.  Her conclusion, based on what everyone tells her, is that she does not exist.  There simply are not, she is told, any women on the Internet.  What fascinates me is the childishness so universally exhibited by the boys she encounters; when they find out she’s a woman, they demand pictures.  When she refuses to send them pictures of herself, they insist she must be a guy.  When they think she’s a guy and she mentions a guy being "hot," they think she’s a gay guy and get freaked out.  And yet, as she rightly points out, there are plenty of female characters running around. 

What I don’t get is that their expectation that all players are male must mean that they also expect all female characters are being played by men who are doing electronic drag.  She points out, again quite rightly, that some of these people actually offer to tip female characters if they dance for them.  And yet, they think the person on the other end of the keyboard is a man, and yet they are homophobic.  If you hold your breath for a moment, you’ll hear my brain pop as it tries to process this.

Bottom line, though, It’s not that I’m shocked that there are silly boys or desperate and socially unskilled men online (I’m not – there are also socially unskilled and desperate women online, and that the Internet and a life that can be filled with one’s immersion in same come more easily to the poorly socialized of either gender should shock no one), it’s that no one really seems to step forward to treat her like a person.  Assholes are common enough in the world that I think the more fair-minded among us are accustomed to at least trying to separate ourselves from them when we get the chance.  I’m talking about things like her guild leader telling her he thinks her guildmates were immature.  Where are the other people out there who, if they won’t slap the offenders, also won’t hold out their hand in friendship to the offended?  Admittedly, her guild leader does step in and thank her for speaking aloud on Ventrillo and asks her to try to expose the boys in her guild to a woman on a more regular basis in hopes it will make them more mature, and at least he’s thinking along those lines, but I’m not entirely sold on the idea that using her as a teaching tool, like any other stuffed and mounted animal, is really "equality" – and no one will ever convince me that it’s fair to expect her to spend her personal free time doing what amounts to workplace equality training.  Her guild leader should not expect her to pay $15/month for the privilege of spending her spare time training twelve year olds not to be assholes.

That entire issue is about women and gaming, and well worth a look-see.  Given that it was a woman who convinced me to try World of Warcraft, I find it stunning that people are so bothered over the idea of women as gamers.  That said, I’m also at least twice the age of anyone who’s that big of an asshole.  At least, I hope I am. 

While looking for that story, however, I wound up on a different website with "Escapist" in its title.  This one is definitely funny, though (and you will need a good laugh if you read the story linked above).  Bottom line, this guy does some pretty solid scientific investigation into Harry Potter’s and D&D’s abilities to teach us real-world sorcery.  If you have a mom or dad or aunt or minister who rails against the demon-worship inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, they might find this sort of empirical data interesting.


Lots of things to update on. First off, GARMONBOZIA is going to be playing again. Woohoo! They’ll be at Reservoir (formerly Go!) in Carrboro on Thursday 17 November at 10pm. You know you want to see them.

You know it.

Also, apostropher posted a link to his Frappr map. I’d never heard of Frappr, so I went and added myself to his but then made one of my own. Add yourself, if you feel like it. It just seems like a neat toy.

Finally, went to see the 2nd Carolina Rollergirls bout on Sunday. It was pretty goddamn awesome. You may remember that last time I said it was like watching a sport, not a game, that suddenly it was a very different, much faster, much more polished performance? Sunday they were a little hectic but it was even faster. I don’t really endorse a continual upwards spiral – I don’t mind if a game takes two hours as long as it’s good – but damn, they were giving it 110%, on both teams, and really, really into it. A couple of friends were out for the first time, and loved it. Todd from Monkeytime nearly got run over by a skater. If you’re in the Triangle and you’ve never been to a bout, the 3rd bout of the season is coming up in December.

My friends and the Rollergirls’ friends and I are not the only people starting to take notice, either. WB22 was there to cover it (though their report was utter shite) and UNC-TV is broadcasting a hopefully more substantive piece tonight at 7:30 on North Carolina Now. And there was a “sideline reporter” there from some other local media outlet, though I don’t think they identified which one. After the WB22 piece, I told The Boyf that it’s all too easy for me to imagine some WB22 producer cocking his hat upon hearing about the Rollergirls and going, Tits on wheels! Get a camera out there! Happily, NC Now can be relied upon to offer a lengthier look at things. I expect their story will be a lot more interesting and more substantive. I expect WB22’s take was that this is some sort of flash-in-the-pan fad, but I’m here to tell you that despite years of having professional and semi-professional sports teams in this area, the last time I paid to go to a sporting event it was a Raleigh Icecaps game at Dorton Arena. Despite liking Arena Football as a kid, I never once went to a game of the… uh, what were they, anyway? The Cobras? Something like that. And hell, I barely noticed when the Hurricanes went after the Stanley Cup.

In contrast, I’ve been to almost every Rollergirls bout, and I can’t imagine missing one at this point. It’s a big deal, with inter-league bouts and a national championship and the women I know who are out there on the boards day in and day out have been at this for years preparing and training and competing. This is no fad. This is definitely highly organized, and yet it retains its ability to appeal to the community in a personal way. I know some of the women out on the rink. I know some of the women who are thinking about trying out for the team. It remains accessible in a way no other local sport can claim, and yet it’s more exciting than any other local sport I’ve ever watched. Sunday was a sell-out crowd, and I’m ordering my tickets for the next bout this week because I somehow doubt that there are going to be tickets available at the door next time.


~8000 words and counting. I didn’t get started until Saturday, so it’s a bit of a slow start, but I have all next week off to work on this and play videogames.  I expect I’ll probably come close to finishing at the end of next week, actually.

I am a glutton for punishment. But I love doing this.


That Pigs Are Good People update I had promised is up now.  It’s a doozy.  Woot! (more…)