February 2006

We pick them up Thursday morning.

I will post pictures sometime that day.

Cat-blogging to resume as usual.


The Black Box Voting site has released initial findings from their study of the logs from the Sequoia brand touch-screen voting machines used in Palm Beach, FL, in the 2004 Presidential election. The results? Around 100,000 errors on the 40 machines they used.

100,000 errors on 40 machines.

In one county.

In one election.

(UPDATE: Five minutes after posting this I was convinced I’d misread it. I went back and checked. Nope! 100,000 errors on 40 machines. Just check out all those zeroes after that one. That’s a lot of zeroes. My head is still spinning.)

Some of the highlights from the report include:

  • “several dozen voting machines with votes for the Nov. 2, 2004 election cast on dates like Oct. 16, 15, 19, 13, 25, 28 2004 and one tape dated in 2010” (they report that machine-assignment logs indicate these balloting machines were not used for any early voting periods)
  • “1,475 voting system calibrations were performed while the polls were open, providing documentation to substantiate reports from citizens indicating the wrong candidate was selected when they tried to vote” (yes, they had to open them up, mess around with the guts and then close them back up in the middle of election day, nearly a thousand and a half times)
  • “[voting machine] logs rule out the possibility that these were Logic & Accuracy (L&A) test results, and verified that these results did appear in the final totals”

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

Many of these machines showed unexplained log activity after the L&A test but before Election Day. In addition, many more machines without date anomalies showed this log activity, which revealed someone powering up the machine, opening the program, then powering it down again. In one instance, the date discrepancy appeared when someone accessed the machine two minutes after the L&A test was completed.

Voting machines are computers, and computers have batteries that can cause date and time discrepancies, but it does not appear that these particular discrepancies could have been caused by battery problems.

The evidence indicates that someone accessed the computers after the L&A and before the election, and that this access caused a change in the machine’s reporting functions, at least for date and time. Such access would take a high degree of inside access. It is not known whether any other changes were introduced into the voting machines at this time. As learned in the Hursti experiments, it is possible for an insider to access the machines and leave no trace, but sometimes a hasty or clumsy access (such as forgetting to enter a correct date/time value when altering a record) will leave telltale tracks.

Of course, when they asked the IT supervisor for the county elections board to name who had access to the machines, or whether they could set up a day to test the machines themselves, they say “the IT person, Jeff Darter, remained silent and never answered the question.”

Welcome to the 21st Century, folks. Want to vote? Don’t bother. It’s already taken care of.

If the whole idea of ~100,000 anomolies and errors in one county bothers you, or the idea of electronic voting with no paper trail and zero accountability bothers you – and they should – then consider doing something to help these folks out: NC VOTER, a grassroots group advocating for verified voting and against paperless electronic voting. I’ve talked to them at various things (Carrboro Day, for example) and they’re good peeps. If you’re in another state, look for a group there. This is a huge deal that I think a lot of people think doesn’t matter since it “fixes” the whole issue of butterfly ballots; the fact is, yeah, something may be getting “fixed” alright, but it’s not what we think.

For anyone following the exploits of the Tinker Trading Company, I’ve posted another update over on Pigs Are Good People.

Yes, an update to the update. We have our 2nd interview with Independent Animal Rescue on Monday. The kittens may be ours as soon as a week or two weeks or four weeks from now, depending on when we have the house kitten-proofed.

WHEE! *does a happy dance*


Tomorrow marks the 17th anniversary of the day Laura Palmer died on Twin Peaks. As someone pointed out on alt.tv.twin-peaks, same day of the week and everything.

It’s Thursday, the 23rd, and I’m so bored….

I love that show.

Went to see Zombie Honeymoon and the comedic short Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day on Sunday afternoon with Kath, Bascha and B. The two films were paired together as one program, and we were very excited to see zombie action with a twist. Below are my thoughts.

Zombie Honeymoon: very well done, good acting, but somehow not the best zombie movie ever. I’m not sure why, but it lacked some sort of unifying vision or message or something. All the best parts were the understated, often entirely unstated aspects of the relationships of the characters to one another and the way zombies “work” in that world. It has a very interesting spin on how zombism manifests and spreads, and the main characters’ relationship was entirely believable – and likeable – right up to the point that the wife decides to try to make it work after her husband starts eating people (this is not a spoiler, this is information that can be gleaned from the title). In particular, I really liked the scene where they decide to go live their fantasies rather than spend their lives wishing they’d done what they wanted; it was a deeply human and exhuberant and tragic scene, well acted and well filmed. Likewise, the scene where the husband and his friend discuss an old girlfriend is brief, understated but very tragic and very significant. The film does this very well, overall – the subtle touches of horrific indications, the signs that the husband’s old life really is gone now. The Boyf wondered whether there was a bit of the heroin addiction theme here in the tragic unfolding of the wife’s ability to put up with pretty much anything in order to keep her husband rather than face his death, and I think that sort of theme of addiction and a sense of betrayal inherent to such discoveries was very integral to the film’s conception. The comedy, likewise, felt largely natural and genuinely clever in the same way Buffy could inject comedy into serious circumstances not by inserting haphazard slapstick but by allowing the characters to be fallible and self-effacing about those failings. A part of this success with its brief touches of comedy, however, stems from what a fantastic job the actors do. They are really very good, and they give it a serious go in their roles.

Still, it just didn’t click somehow. I have no problem with genre mixing, thematic mixing or, even, the utter lack of a unifying theme or vision. I love some movies that are just all over the map in terms of what they try to be – Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a prime example of a great film that doesn’t fit easily on any one shelf at the video store – and yet that seems to be the closest I can come to an articulate criticism of the film: was it a tragedy? A horror film? A gore flick? A comedy? A drama? All of the above?

The problem with trying to classify it as “all of the above,” a la, again, Buffy or Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Six Degrees of Separation or Hedda Gabler, is not that they transgress in their refusal to be pigeon-holed. Rather, they defy classification because of their greatness at portraying realistic emotional lives, a rocky road of irrational reactions that, as in life, leads the characters around abrupt corners so that they cut from tears to laughter to tears again in unpredictable ways. The fact is that emotions are messy and complicated things and in each of these works we see people trying to deal rationally with the irrational morass of emotions their circumstances present. In that, we see ourselves reflected and writ large, exaggerated so that in the distortion we can find some comfortable distance. As long as the truth of human experience – that troublesome intersection of reason and feeling – is preserved, the art works for us. Well, it works for me, anyway.

And that, I think, is my problem with Zombie Honeymoon. The emotions are so real and raw and believable for the first reel, but as soon as she’s gone from shocked horror at her husband’s transformation to something more like an I Love Lucy routine with intestines in, I stopped believing in the feelings being portrayed. She’s not thinking, she’s justifying, and that made me feel like the character was dumb, and that made me stop liking the movie. The great irony here, I know, is that in real life the partners of addicts spend much time justifying and not thinking and thus the movie is quite realistic here. Still, there comes a time when those partners are done, are fed up, are tapped out, are unable to care, are unable to think of new excuses, and this movie was utterly devoid of that. By the last ten minutes I was mystified as to what must be going on in her brain; while I deeply understood her fear of change and loss, at the same time I had real trouble connecting some of her feelings with some of her actions. I felt that if there was an explanation for some of her behavior that either (a) I was too dumb to understand or (b) that her inner life was so closed off to me as the audience that I could no longer attempt to draw those lines of cause and effect necessary to backtrack from action to motivation to create that sympathetic bond.

And yet, I’ve talked and talked and talked about it, so it’s not at all like I regret seeing it. In fact, I would highly recommend it to fans of zombie films, or fans of the Buffy-ish subgenre of supernatural tragi-dramedy-whatevers without reservation. That doesn’t mean I think they’ll all like it, though, or that I think they will come away from it entirely satisfied with the job it’s done of presenting its stories.

Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day, however? Hilarious, cheaply made and well worth watching. There’s some gods-awful dialogue delivery and some hack-work gags about nerds being shy, but it has some top-notch slapstick and some very clever jokes. I recommend it without reservation, in part because it is exactly what it advertises itself to be – no more and no less.

They are the kittens of the mind, not yet actualized. Should they be engaged, they would of course become kinetic kittens, rampaging around our house. We went to meet them tonight. Decisions & announcements (if such are appropriate) forthcoming.

UPDATE: I sent an email to the foster mom this morning letting her know that we want them. I don’t know if they’re definitely ours or not – eggs, chickens, hatching, etc. – but let’s go ahead and say that The Boyf and I might need help coming up with names for them.

In the last one, the black cat sitting next to me – like, feet against my legs, curled up halfway on me, at one point climbing into my lap and all over me style “next to me” – is the foster mom’s cat Riley. Riley was dubbed The Ambassador as soon as he ran over to greet us. Riley was all kinds of friendly. I wish we could have stolen him. Heh.

OK. This is a question to my fellow bloggers, all of ya: have you ever gotten a comment just so strange, so totally over-the-top weirdo bizarro fud-up that it was tempting both (a) to delete it immediately for fear of the search-engine referrals it might generate and (b) to keep it around like some sort of caged performance artist, a little snapshot of the intersection of serious mental breakdown and the Internet?

I’m, uh, I’m just asking. Rhetorically.


OK, so I’m not just rhetorically asking. And I approved it, because I just said in the last thread that I only delete comments when they’re spam. I’m 99.99% sure it’s spam, anyway, just some crazy-bot that slipped past the whole question-and-answer thing in the comment field. Right? That happens, doesn’t it? With the advent of WordPress I’ve never even had to consider whether someone could get past that, though. Still, it’s so unrelated to the thread in question I am 99.99% sure that it was a bot. It’s too bad, really, because I’d love to know which column is which in the dichotomy they set up in one paragraph.

On the chance I just rolled double 00’s twice on that d100 check, though, and that was a live person, and because it’s funny as shit, I kept it around. And, in case it was a live person? Seriously? Please, please get some help. The aliens did not set up Borders as the good guys and Barnes & Noble as their evil counterpart (or the other way around, depending on that same which column is which question).

Jesus H. on a stick. Some people. At least we’re not talking about my dick anymore.

I am serious about the weird-ass comments question, though. What do you do with yours? I know we all get them. If this dusty corner of the interwebs gets them, I can’t even imagine what weird shit someone like apostropher has seen.

So there I am – yesterday, I should note, as I am slow to blog – sitting at work when I get a little email in my inbox from apostropher. The subject line merely reads “FYI” and it contains but a single URL. The URL leads me to a page which says this:

A recent reanalysis of Alfred Kinsey’s data, titled “The Relation Between Sexual Orientation and Penile Size,” found that homosexuals had significantly larger penises than nonhomosexuals, no matter how the measurements were done.

Oh, baby. Let me throw on a little mood music before we start dropping the science.

The science of love.

Now, apostropher of course blogged about this over at Unfogged, and that is well worth mentioning. But what is also well worth mentioning is that this – THIS – must surely be why the fundies hate us so much. Not only do we get to be stylish rebels, demeaning God and marriage with a knowing glance and a swish of the hip – which, I have to say, is in all honesty reward enough on its own – but we get a little extra (or a lot) with which to do so? This really could explain everything.

No wonder that freak who’s the spokesman – I repeat, spokesman, because that drives me insane every time I think about it – for Concerned Women for America is so obsessed with us. No wonder Pat Robertson is so obsessed with us. No wonder Jerry Falwell wanted to blame us for something after 9/11. No wonder the fundies, who are already well-documented as being thoroughly sex-obsessed (why else would they talk about it so much?) are really, really up in arms about us.

Originally I was going to try to come up with a string of salacious puns to end the post. Something like “Bottom* line: these jerk-offs* are engorged* with envy and hard* up* for some satisfaction* for their grievances,” etc., and at the end of the post I’d footnote it with: * Zing!

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t come up with anything funny; largely this was because I was too busy intimidating the right wing with my (apparently) massive gay dick.

That I can post this under “science” is just icing.

I also wanted to come up with something funny to say along the lines of braggartly men writing checks their dicks can’t cash, because let’s all be honest for two shining seconds: those dudes totally exaggerated, and they knew it, and Kinsey knew it* and I know it. A part of my degree work was in surveys, actually, and self-reported data is the absolute worst data of all. Still, it’s fun to bandy about the idea that the right wing is somehow terrified of our massive gay dicks, so what the hell? Let’s just go with it for now. It’s more fun that way. So, if anyone comes up to you and claims teh gayz0rz are a threat to marriage, do us a favor and wipe your brow with one hand and say, “Whew! No kidding! I don’t know if I can ever be satisfied again once I’ve had massive gay dick.” I’m willing to bet the look on their face will be worth it.

* Apparently, though, Kinsey was hung like a stallion, so for all I know he got back all those cards and sighed and said, “Poor bastards…” in a quiet whisper.

Was there a weekend that just happened? Because I’d swear it was just a blur of being various places and eating and D&D and WoW and getting absolutely jack done that I needed to get done.

There are piles of brush in my yard. I am now that guy who can’t keep his damn yard clean. Yay. There’s a dude around the corner who lets his lawn get 2 feet high before he mows it, and his kids’ toys are all over the place and everytime I see it like that I think Gods, what a frickin’ slob, I am so glad I don’t have to look at that out my window every day, and now I am that guy only with sticks instead of toys.

And next weekend? Nevermore. Of course.

On the other hand, the weekend was really, really excellent: Bascha and Kath making us fabulous dinner, great games of D&D, dim-sum with Marcus, Bascha, Kath and Mr. Saturday and a lazy and very enjoyable Monday. And I hit 60 in WoW. So while there’s a voice in the back of my head (sounding suspiciously like my mother’s) which worries what the neighbors think of all that brush, there’s another, larger part of me that wants to put a sign on it that reads, Yeah, I’m a slob, but my life is awesome.

You see this guide right here? This is how Setherax, my level 31 Dwarven Hunter in WoW, is going to get to 225 Enchanting in a night. An expensive night, potentially, but a night well worth it.

Then I’ll turn into one of the channel-spammers who stands around in Iron Forge wasting four lines of text explaining that they can do all the same enchants as everyone else. And I’ll get rich doing it.

I’ll say it: I lust for the new MacBooks. They are so hot. But, of course, many of my most-needed or most-wanted applications don’t have Universal Binaries out yet for the new Intel hardware.

A large part of that concern went away today, though. Actually, a fairly embarrassingly large portion of that concern. The 1.9.3 patch to WoW that got pushed out last night updated the game to Universal Binary status. Apparently it runs great.


I am, apparently, a glutton for punishment and thus I have started hitting the websites for various local animal rescues. It still hurts a little to look at the pictures of cats and hear their stories and wonder what Bruce might have been like ten years from now, or to think of how that little summary of him on the Orange County APS website was so accurate but so failed to capture his full personality. Still, it’s been a month, and in another month or six weeks we may really be looking, and so I figure it’s time to put at least a toe back in the water if for no other reason than to begin to build a thicker skin.

The thing is, every cat has apparently cured cancer. Their biographies are like the back-of-the-napkin draft for any Lifetime special. Allow me to present you with an only slightly satirical sample:

Madam Sniffles was found in a cat carrier left in the parking lot of an abandoned whorehouse. An explanatory note attached to the handle indicated her owner was dying of cancer in a state mental facility and would no longer be able to care for her. Though shy at first, much love and attention have allowed her to blossom into a perfect little princess. She is eager to sit in your lap and “make biscuits.” In the company of other cats, she likes to run and play. In her spare time, she has developed a malaria vaccine, the patent to which she has donated to the United Nations for use in Africa. Despite being only three months old and slightly underweight, in 1999 she saved President Clinton from a little-known attempt on his life by space-ninjas. She has a Ph.D. in 19th century British Literature, and she was the blue-ribbon winner in the NC State Fair’s crochet competition for eight years in a row. Despite being abused by Marxist rebels and blinded in both eyes during the daring rescue of a small child being held captive by an unregistered sex offender, she has learned to love again in her foster home.

She would prefer a family without dogs or small children.

Won’t you give her a forever home?

I mean, Jesus H. in a bad toupee, these animal rescue people are really good at making you want to adopt an animal.

So, here is my question: what Triangle-area animal rescues should I be looking at to further emotionally flog myself? Any rescues with which you have personal experience, or about which you’ve heard good things (or bad things – warnings are also very welcome) or where you just really like to go to look at pictures of kittens would be welcome additions to the comments section.

Well, here’s the first five pages or so, anyway. It’s all rough draft, just stuff I managed to work out tonight after having spent a couple hours this afternoon dithering over all the questions of setting and characters.

I really enjoyed writing these first few pages just to ease me into it – Withrow is an old gaming character, and it’s very easy to slip back into his skin – and next I’m going to write The College Town. I’m really stoked about that one because it’s based on a dream I had a few months ago and it’s going to be the first time in a long time that I’ve had a female main character, and I’m looking forward to getting to have that perspective again.

I’ve posted another update at Pigs Are Good People. In the next couple of days I hope to post a summary for the session after that one, which was written by another player since I missed that game.

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