Civil Unions for Non-gay Couples?

wtf?, family, policy, legal

Man, I wish we were more like France sometimes:

The PACS [or Civil Solidarity Pact] was introduced a decade ago by France's then-Socialist Party government. Parliament approved the measure only after a fierce debate because, although its wording was deliberately ambiguous, the arrangement was understood mainly as a way for gay couples to legalize their unions even though under French law they are not allowed to marry.

In passing the law without making it specific to gays, however, France distinguished itself from other European countries that have approved civil unions or even marriage for same-sex couples. As a result of that ambiguity, the PACS broadened into an increasingly popular third option for heterosexual couples, who readily cite its appeal: It has the air of social independence associated with the time-honored arrangement that the French call the "free union" but with major financial and other advantages. It is also far easier to get out of than marriage. --- ("Straight Couples in France Are Choosing Civil Unions Meant for Gays")

Michelle and I are about to celebrate having been together for ten years.

We have no desire nor plans to get married. In fact, because of tax advantages and, vastly more important, health care, we almost recently hopped on the PATH to get married in NYC at their new Marriage Bureau. Alas, that was more than either of us felt comfortable doing.

So, despite the fact that my work health plan would cover us if we were married or gay and in a civil union or domestic partnership, we'll have to find another way to cover Michelle and we won't be able to take advantage of the legal benefits of a civil union or domestic partnership until one of us gets a sex change or turns 65.


A Simple Transform for NetNewsWire OPML

blogging, hacks, open source

I've got the blogroll back (see the right panel).

Most of the solutions out there -- like these -- for transforming from OPML to HTML assume that I have a "flat" OPML file or that I want a bunch of bells and whistles (my blogroll needs no javascript).

If you use a reader like NetNewsWire (or Bloglines or Google Reader...) that supports outputting OPML in Groups, these solutions aren't very satisfying. I like the fact that I have a number of "groups" or "containers" in which I read my feeds and I'd like to be able to preserve that when exporting to OPML and also when transforming the OPML to HTML for inclusion on this here blog's blogroll.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I had to write my own. The following XSLT will take an OPML file with groups (i.e., not a "flat" OPML file) and render it with heading tags for group labels and list elements for each feed.

<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0" 
  <xsl:output method="html" indent="yes" standalone="no" 
    omit-xml-declaration="yes" />
  <xsl:template match="/">
      <xsl:apply-templates select="//body" />
  <xsl:template match="outline">
      <xsl:when test="parent::outline">
        <li><a href="{@htmlUrl}"><xsl:value-of select="@title" /></a></li>
        <h3><xsl:value-of select="@title" /></h3>
          <xsl:apply-templates select="outline" >
            <xsl:sort select="@text"/>

It's actually just barely clever. It's slightly recursive in that it calls itself again if it is on an "outline" node that doesn't have "outline" as it's parent. This only works for single nested groupings.

For b2evo, you can use this and plop the output into the "Free HTML" sidebar widget. Some CSS tweaks and you have something looking quite nice.

Dunmore on Riverside's Hand Tally

elections, news, research, policy

Many of my colleagues were disappointed to hear that Riverside County, California had both not completed its hand tally of paper records but also that this tally lasted well into the new year.

Riverside Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore answers recent criticisms in an Op-Ed in the Press Enterprise ("Redundant Tallying"). Among other things, she says:

Of the record 657,000 ballots cast in Riverside County, 72,251 were cast electronically. This was more than were cast any other county in the state. In San Bernardino County, for instance, only 20,000 votes were cast electronically -- a difference of more than 50,000 ballots.

This continues to puzzle me. Most counties severely restricted and discouraged use of DREs in order to avoid having tens of thousands of paper records to manually tally. This almost feels as if Dunmore specifically encouraged their use in order to make a point that the 100% manual count requirement from the SoS would be burdensome for counties that didn't use optical scan technology.

Dunmore goes on to vocalize a frequent refrain:

In the end, the results of our mandated hand tally, once completed, were exactly the same as the results reported by the voting units on Election Day. No discrepancies. No errors. They were 100 percent correct. [...]

While I understand that the secretary of state's requirements are designed to ensure accuracy, Riverside County has utilized electronic voting for more than eight years, and each election's results have proved accurate.

Great! That's exactly what a good audit of working technology should show. Of course, the implication here is "Why should we do this?". Well, we don't look at companies and say, "Jeez, the audits of your books for the last few years have been perfect. Why don't you stop doing audits of your books?" The reality is that audits are an increasingly necessary part of election administration and the post-election canvass process. If anything, we need to regularize more, richer notions of audits -- more than just hand tallies -- into election administration.

Dunmore finishes with a lament about costs of voting systems:

The hand-tally mandate is a deterrent to using the millions of dollars in electronic voting equipment we have sitting idle. It would be a disservice to voters to eliminate early-voting programs because of a duplicative mandate that saps resources. But that is a decision we must carefully weigh in these difficult budget times.

Yes, this is tough; early voting poses a real problem in that the preferred technology, optical scan, is very hard to support for early voting. We want to make early voting easy for voters and election administrators. Unfortunately, the voting systems we have today are both expensive and of low quality.

To be clear, I don't agree that a 100% count is required, technically, of each vote cast on a DRE+VVPAT system. In fact, manual tallies of a random sample of machines where the sample size is contingent upon the margin in close races should do the trick nicely. Can anyone defend a 100% manual tally of DREs? To me, it only makes political sense as a deterrent.

We want smarter audits, not blunt ones.

b2evolution Markdown Plugin v0.3

blogging, hacks, open source, development

I've updated my b2evolution plugin for Markdown to use PHP-Markdown 1.0.1m.

Get it here:

The other big change is that the instructions now make sense for a more modern version of b2evolution (like the stable 2.4.6 release).

SHA1(b2evo_markdown/ 2211fb8b24c5888cf842e4a48a4ab4aa6c4e2a1b

Upgrading unlocked, jailbroken 2G iPhone

system, copyright, hacks, open source, wtf?, chilling effects, DRM


Upgrading the firmware in an unlocked, jailbroken iPhone is not easy and definitely nerve-racking.

Here's what I just had to do to upgrade from 2.2 to 2.2.1:

  1. Wrote down all the Cydia apps I had installed. (they're blasted out of existence each time you upgrade)
  2. Allowed iTunes to update my phone to 2.2.1. Also made a copy of the 2.2.1 ipsw (firmware file).
  3. Installed the backwards-downgrade of the USB kernel extensions for Mac OS 10.5.5 so that the iPhone's DFU mode (firmware update mode) isn't broken. Rebooted. (see "Fixing DFU Mode on 10.5.6" here)
  4. Used QuickPwn to do whatever it does to the firmware, etc. Also, used quickpwn to get the bastard into DFU mode.*
  5. Power it off and back on again.
  6. Then let iTunes restore from freakin' backup and re-sync. (takes a long time)
  7. Re-install all the Cydia apps, one-by-one, from the list made above.
  8. Restore the 10.5.6 USB kernel extensions and reboot so that you get 10.5.6 USB back. (Note: my MacBook Pro would not go to sleep with the old USB code; it would write its memory to disk for a few seconds and then immediately wake. Reinstalling the 10.5.6 USB code fixed that.)
  9. If you've purchased Snapture (a phone app), you'll probably have to download SBSettings from the iPhone and reset the user directory permissions on your phone (more here).
  10. You should change the passwords on the root and mobile users from the defaults of alpine and dottie. Recall that passwd mobile will change the password for the user mobile. You'll also have to update any stored SSH keys on machines your iphone interacts with.
  11. If you've setup Cycorder to save videos to a directory in your Air Sharing directory tree (e.g., a la this post), you'll have to re-establish that symbolic link. (Tip: make sure the target directory exits and is chowned to mobile:mobile.)

* BTW, getting into DFU mode can be tricky for some dorky reason... seems that you have to do the following: 1) plug the iphone into your computer via USB, 2) turn the iphone off, 3) hold down the power and home keys on the iphone for exactly 10 seconds, 4) release the power key but continue to hold the home key for 10 more seconds. If you fuck this up, you'll just be in regular recovery mode and not DFU mode and you'll be in for a world of hurt. In that case, you'll probably want to QuickPwn again.

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