Programmer Volunteers Needed

elections, reform, open source, friends

Verified Voting Foundation and needs a few experienced programmers to help with several key software projects for the 2006 elections. We hope we can find volunteers who devote some significant time over the next few months to help us with the following tasks:

PHP and MySQL Programming

  • help glue together phpSurveyor with other web-based applications, to support construction of multiple on-line questionnaires and distributed data input and export

  • help modify existing search and display for election information resources (e.g., voting equipment by state and local jurisdictions, vendor contracts, etc.)

  • use UMN's MapServer software for display of election information resources

EMail and Domain Administration

  • install and test PostFix, imap, and mailing list software for individuals and lists

Linux and FreeBSD Systems Administration

  • assist Verified Voting System Administrator, and provide backup when he is unavailable

If you have the required skills, time, and interest to help in any of these tasks, please send email to with a brief description of your skills, experience, availability, contact information, and how you would like to help.

Pluto is still a planet

wtf?, space, astronomy, astrophysics

I'm getting increasingly disgusted with the commentary surrounding the new IAU definition of "planet". It's not that I would normally get disgusted... but it must just be a slow news day and everyone seems to have a silly opinion. NPR started off with a statement like "If you have a model of the Solar System, you might want to snap off the ninth planet, Pluto." WTF?!?!

It's not like it's gone. Further, it's still a freakin' planet. It's just a dwarf planet... one of four other dwarf planets. So shut the hell up! Pluto doesn't care. The New Horizons spacecraft doesn't care. Further, no one else would care if there wasn't such a big deal being made about it. Sheesh. (end rant)

We now have 12 planets. Get used to it. 8 are "classical planets" and 4 are "dwarf planets". Expect that last category to get much bigger as time increases.

UPDATE []: Oops. Doug's right. Seems like Resolution 5B that would have added the term "classical" in front of "planet" in the definition didn't pass. A further illustration of how silly this is.

Black Maria


I was recently in Albuquerque with Michelle and a good friend, Isadora. We were walking past a closed club that had a band practicing in it. It was phenomenal. The band was clearly what is referred to as "stoner rock" although was heavy enough to be "stoner metal". These are genres dear to my heart encompassing bands like Kyuss, Fu Manchu, etc. that rose out of Palm Desert, CA in the late ninties.

The band we heard was Black Maria. Not "The Black Maria" which is a band that totally seems to suck in a really lame poppy way. Black Maria was crushingly good and heavy and had all the spaced out goodness to go with it.

I can't find anything else about this band other than they play around Albuquerque quite often. I would love to get my hands on some of their music... if you know where I can get a 45" or CD or anything, please get in touch.

Do you have nothing to hide?

wtf?, secrecy, chilling effects, privacy, family, friends, research, policy

(comments are open on this post for a few days.)

I'm set to go on vacation in the near future and a short plane trip is par for the course. I didn't hear about the British terror plot involving liquids until Michelle's mother, Pat, mentioned it in an email. I've been astounded at the reaction. It's very similar to the reaction to the Richard Reid incident (the shoe bomber). That reaction went something like: "Oh, people want to blow up shit with their shoes? Well, we'll have to start checking shoes now." Anyone who travels in or to the U.S. will be familiar with having to take ones shoes off during the security check at the airport.

Now we can't have liquids on planes because someone was going to smuggle a binary explosive (where two benign compounds are mixed to form something more deadly). And because anything with a current in it could be used to trigger an explosive, all electronic devices (laptops, ipods, cellphones, etc.) are banned from the airplane as well (this appears to be the case in the UK and at Boston's Logan airport). There are some reports that you can't even take paper onto planes in the UK... you can't even take a freakin' book on an international flight?!?!?!

I predict that it will soon approach the state where we're more comfortable with the possiblity of our plane being blown up than having to, as Lauren Weinstein has put it, be chained naked to the seats of the plane.

And the most infuriating things I've heard come from your average member of the public. NPR quoted a few people who were not put off at all by the increased security... and then it hit: one passenger waiting in an ungodly security line said, "And, if you've got nothing to hide, what's the big deal?"

I loathe that argument. It sounds so smug and uncontestable. I present, a great little anecdote that illustrates the proper response, in my opinion, to that argument. This is courtesy of Howard C. Berkowitz on Dave Farber's IP List:

I had a police officer knock on my door, after a juvenile fight a few houses down, and ask if he could "come in and look around."


"It's just routine."

"It's not routine for me, and since it's my house and you don't have a warrant, my definition of routine applies."

"What, do you have something to hide?"

"Help me understand that concept, Detective. Standing on my porch, please drop your trousers and, if any, undershorts."


"Well, if you have nothing to hide..."

If we had nothing to hide, we'd be naked (at least in places like California where it's rather nice most of the year). If we had nothing to hide, we'd speak our minds. If we had nothing to hide, we wouldn't have privacy.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

recipe, food

chocolate chip cookies in a plastic container Simply the best...


  • 2/3 c. vegetable shortening (cut into small chunks)
  • 2/3 c. unsalted butter, softened (cut into small chunks)
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (good quality)
  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350°, put rack in center of oven. Have two cookie sheets ready (ungreased).
  2. Cream the shortening, butter and sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Combine dry ingredients separately and then add to egg mix.
  5. Work the mixture to eliminate any streaks of shortening or butter.
  6. Drop by spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes. Darker cookie sheets will have the cookies done near 8 minutes, silver ones can take up to 12 minutes. What you're looking for is when the edges just barely turn brown but the centers of the cookies still appear quite soft if not still wet.
  7. Remove the cookies from the oven and let sit on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. You can get another cookie sheet of cookies ready and in the oven while these cool.
  8. Take cookies off of cookie sheet with spatula and onto wax paper place over newsprint.
  9. Let them cool and then place into a plastic container.
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