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Archive for January, 2008

A Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

As my handful of readers are already aware, I have taken an interest in America’s voting process. I am an Officer of Elections (the fancy way of saying volunteer) in Henrico County, Virginia, and I actually just got a “promotion”, in that I will be our precinct’s Assistant Chief in the 2008 presidential primary. Last year I mailed a copy of Avi Rubin’s Brave New Ballot to each state’s Secretary of State, with some positive responses.

I am passionately opposed to direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines without a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). Their inherent complexity is hugely disproportionate to the task at hand, and they just plain suck at fulfilling the fundamental requirements of an objectively verifiable, meaningful election. The brief explanation for how we got these damned things goes back to the goat rodeo that was Florida’s 2000 presidential election. In 2002, by way of response, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which, among other things, provided billions of dollars for states to replace their punch card voting systems. Salivating like dingoes in a maternity ward, vendors like Diebold, ES&S, and Hart InterCivic then descended upon the states with their shiny solutions.

After the hue and cry from computer scientists like Avi Rubin and Ed Felten, numerous independent Red Team audits of these voting systems (for example), and some sobering failures in actual elections, it appears that a sea change has occurred with regard to the continued use of DREs. Florida (remember how all this started?), California, Colorado, Maryland and Ohio have enacted legislation within the last year to restrict or eliminate DREs altogether, returning to paper ballots and optical scanners. Other states (like Virginia) have opted for a phased approach, enacting legislation barring the purchase of any new DRE equipment. At this point, 40 of the 50 states either have a legal requirement for a VVPAT, or are currently considering legislation. The devil is always in the details (when he’s not hanging out at the bar I frequent), but I am highly encouraged by this turn of events.

The bad news is that states like Maryland will be spending (collectively) billions of dollars implementing replacement systems while still paying off the systems that they just scrapped. If I weren’t so cynical I might say something like, “Perhaps next time states will not turn so quickly to solutions involving expensive technologies whose development was unencumbered by standards or clear requirements, furnished by vendors who have no vested interest in the public good.”


More Fun With Telemarketers

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

In a previous post, I proposed speaking gibberish to telemarketers. While perusing old posts over at JWZ, I came across the Telemarketer Counter-Script by Martijn Engelbregt. The “Difficult Conversation Moves” section is priceless.

Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Having addressed all other weighty matters of state, the Virginia legislature is considering HB 1452, which reads as follows:

No person shall display upon or equip any motor vehicle with any object or device that depicts, represents, or resembles human genitalia, regardless of size or scale.

The good news is that cloacas are still okay:

newt cloaca

The legislation was proposed specifically to criminalize Truck Nutz (marginally NSFW) and the like, because, according to the bill’s sponsor (Lionell Spruill, Sr.), a constituent complained to him that his young daughter saw such an accessory, asked him what it was, and he was flummoxed for a response (incidentally, the correct answer is, “That’s how you spot a redneck, sweetie.”).

No word yet on whether or not these will get a pass:

calvin ford

Donner, Party of Seven?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
Eat The Kids First



Thursday, January 17th, 2008



Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I’ve been trying to coin a term for this for years, only to find it perfectly defined on Urban Dictionary:

Meanderthal – People who wander around aimlessly and always seem to get in your way in stores and supermarkets, chatting on their cell phones and paying no attention to their surroundings.

I would have been here ten minutes earlier if I hadn’t been stuck behind that meanderthal.


Coining a Joke

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Yesterday I rolled $100 worth of household change while wearing nothing but a fez and formal shoes, drinking absinthe and listening to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie full blast over and over again.

A friend asked me, “Why did you do that?”

My response: “Cuz that’s how I roll.”

Om Nom Nom Nom!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Always good for a diversion, is a collection of images doctored so as to suggest a monster consuming someone or something. It is critically important to say “Om Nom Nom Nom!” in a Cookie Monster voice while refreshing your way through the pictures. Below is my own meager contribution to the art form:


Roy Orbison Wrapped in Clingfilm

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

My good friend Gokmop recently turned me on to this, commenting:

This has all the hallmarks of a good one, because it makes me uncomfortable and it’s not immediately clear whether it’s a joke or not. 🙂

“This” is a collection of short stories, haikus, a song, and a novel dedicated to the subject of wrapping Roy Orbison in clingfilm (AKA plastic wrap). The original author is Ulrich Haarbürste, whose business manager is Michael Kelly (their relationship is similar to Lemony Snicket and Daniel Handler).

From the first short story:

Roy Orbison walks inside my house and sits down on my couch. We talk urbanely of various issues of the day. Presently I say, ‘Perhaps you would like to see my cling-film?’

‘By all means.’ I cannot see his eyes through his trademark dark glasses and I have no idea if he is merely being polite or if he genuinely has an interest in cling-film.

I bring it from the kitchen, all the rolls of it. ‘I have a surprising amount of clingfilm,’ I say with a nervous laugh. Roy merely nods.

And from an interview in a Canadian newspaper:

Does [your passion for writing about wrapping Roy Orbison in clingfilm] include other celebrities?

No, absolutely not! It must be Roy Orbison. For me, maybe it’s OK for other people, I do not judge but I find it odd. Some person sent me a story about Tom Petty in clingfilm and I deleted it. I do not get that, I try to be broad-minded but who would possibly want to wrap Tom Petty in clingfilm? There are strange people in the world.

It is yet another (albeit tongue-in-cheek) example of XKCD’s Rule 34 of the Internet, “If you can imagine it, there is porn of it.”

What, Too Soon?

Monday, January 14th, 2008

From The Onion:

Report: School Shootings Help Prepare Students For Being Shot In Real World

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