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September 01, 2004

Coded Speech

When Nerds Protest the RNC

*snort*

Yours, &c., LC at 10:34 AM | Politics | TrackBack (0)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

I first learned of this novel from an article in NYT Magazine ("Susanna Clarke's Magic Book" John Hodgman, 8/1/04). It made me curious enough to want to read it. Perhaps even a little excited about it. I wonder if there will be any promotion for it at DragonCon, even though the book is being marketed towards a broader audience (the Harry Potter adult demographic).

A little toy robot told me that the author's U.S. tour begins here in Atlanta.

I've just RSVP'd. And now I'm a teensy bit more excited.

Mini Cooper Goes Topless

If I'd been following automotive news, I would have already known about the convertible Mini Cooper.

So how did I find out? From watching the premiere of Scrubs last night. Household members can attest to the glass-shattering squeals of delight: "What?!? Is that...is that a... omigodyesitisit'saminicooperconvertibleOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!"

I am such a sucker for product placement. Anyone else note the obvious tie-in commercials for Garden State? What a shameless plug. ;)

Yours, &c., LC at 11:52 AM | Shopping | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Vote by Absentee Ballot

That's it, I am no longer trusting Diebold election machines with my vote. I've used the machines twice now, but there's no fucking way I'm going to risk the manipulation of my vote in the general election. Doesn't matter that Georgia is going to Bush, that my vote won't belong to the majority. What matters to me is that it's counted correctly. It's not that I really believe that the election, at least in this state, would be fixed - it's that it could.

I've written before about Bev Harris (here and here). The latest major, gaping security hole, as pointed out by Harris at Black Box Voting:

Issue: Manipulation technique found in the Diebold central tabulator -- 1,000 of these systems are in place, and they count up to two million votes at a time.

By entering a 2-digit code in a hidden location, a second set of votes is created. This set of votes can be changed, so that it no longer matches the correct votes. The voting system will then read the totals from the bogus vote set. It takes only seconds to change the votes, and to date not a single location in the U.S. has implemented security measures to fully mitigate the risks.

This program is not "stupidity" or sloppiness. It was designed and tested over a series of a dozen version adjustments.

In another post, Harris notes that there are unusual items on Diebold financial ledgers, the most interesting of which is a payment of approximately $144,000 to Georgia Lottery Services, Inc., an entity which apparently has nothing to do with the Georgia Lottery.

Yours, &c., LC at 04:39 PM | Politics | TrackBack (0)

September 02, 2004

The Diebold Variations

Political Hack

See other images at The Diebold Variations [via MeFi]

Yours, &c., LC at 09:57 AM | Politics | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Lady Crumpet, Treasure Huntress

I've been a first-day consumer of late - I just had to buy the new Finn Brothers and Bjork albums as soon as they were released. Fortunately they were priced to move (oftentimes an album is on sale during its first week). Of greater import: I am not at all displeased with my purchases - my feelings in this regard are quite the opposite. Usually I will track down a used copy, but some things simply cannot wait. Or at least that's how I justify it.

So how could I resist the siren's call, the tantalizing invitation to hold, in my own hands, an advance, still shrinkwrapped copy of a novel whose official release is still a week away? A book about which I am now even more than a teensy bit excited, because I have the opportunity to immerse myself in it before meeting the author?

Granted, it's only a week. And I shall be quite preoccupied throughout the long weekend. But the treasure hunter in me is excessively pleased for the opportunity of the chase as well as its successful conclusion. My deepest gratitude to the siren little toy robot who clued me in - and could not himself resist when presented with the fortuitous discovery of a small cache of copies placed innocuously beside other neat stacks of new fiction. A mistake on the part of some clerk, or is some greater magic at work?

September 03, 2004

DragonCon 2004 Day 1

Anne McCaffrey and Lady Crumpet (Click on image for larger version; not that it's significantly better.)

One of my favorite sci-fi authors, the great Anne McCaffrey. (My image editing skills aren't very good, so I'm sure this could look much better. Didn't help that the picture had to be taken twice because my digital camera is really small and befuddles people (arrgh).) I asked her to sign my copies of The White Dragon and an advance reader's copy of Dragon's Kin (which I'd won in a raffle at last year's con and had already been signed by her son, Todd McCaffrey). Todd gave me a signed bookplate for his solo Pern book, Dragonsblood, which comes out January 2005.

Addendum: Thanks to mrw for his Photoshop tweaking. Bless those who know what they're doing with computer graphics programs.

September 06, 2004

DragonCon: Some Costumes

More of a writeup later, as I am completely drained by hours and hours of convention immersion. (Don't worry, it is possible to recover and resume a semblance of normal life.) In the meantime, some photos (click on the thumbnails for larger versions. Like, duh.). I have to confess that the Elvis Stormtrooper is a personal favorite.

Elves More Elves Fairy Wings GI Joeboys

Elvis Stormtrooper Mata Hari

September 07, 2004

Zell Miller, Servant of the Dark Side

Ok, first off, here is a snicker-worthy juxtaposition: Zell Miller and Emperor Palpatine (that would be the evil emperor from those Star Wars movies). [via Defamer]

For those who haven't been keeping up, follow the link to watch Zell Miller's speech at the Republican National Convention. Or read the text of the speech, although I don't think the text alone provides the full impact . I venture to guess that even the Republicans - some anyway - regret having him deliver such a big F.U. to his party. He's further evidence for my theory that every time Georgia makes national news, it's never good. Maybe most Georgians don't care how they're perceived by the national media - but this is the kind of thing that makes other people wonder whether we have paved roads in Atlanta. And Atlanta isn't even the Deep South, if you go by what people in the rest of the state believe.

Poor Zell. He used to be a governor, the chief executive for his state. Then he became a legislator, one of a hundred U.S. senators, many of whom had at least equal if not greater standing than he during their terms in the Senate. He found himself in the distasteful position of having to negotiate with other legislators instead of being the head honcho big-shot executive of his state branch. Perhaps he didn't feel he was getting his due from his fellow Democratic colleagues. So he pimped himself out to the other side, who trotted him out at their national convention - and what did they get? The rage of Satan banished from Heaven, the wrath of a scorned woman politician. It played well to the delegates in Madison Square Garden, but what about the television audience? He and his wife were supposed to be sitting in the Bush family box when Dubya later gave his acceptance speech, but they weren't there with Laura and the twins. Perhaps they were disinvited - completely unofficially, of course. Can't imagine why.

Side note: here's an article by Frank Rich in the 9/5 NYT "How Kerry Became a Girlie-Man" that addresses the theatrical setup for how the Republicans wish to shape the opinions of the feebleminded undecided. Ok, that's not fair. People feel torn by principles and have to decide who is going to least screw them over in the next four years. I just hope they're actually thinking about these things and not letting the spin - from both sides - persuade them. Because if Arnold "I'm a Fucking Clown" Schwarzenegger is going to win you over by calling the opposition "girlie men" then I don't know that we can have an intelligent debate. But I guess that's not the point, is it?

Yours, &c., LC at 01:40 PM | Politics | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

DragonCon Highlights

Adult Swim Panel Cute Aliens Holy Batfolk! The Fantastic Two Hedgehog with Stormtrooper Escort Lion Cub Anne & Todd McCaffrey Reading Muppets Muppet Heads Mystique Ladies

Excessive details after the jump (or, click on the link below).

While waiting in line for the Anne McCaffrey signing, David Carradine cut across and brushed past us with nary an "excuse me" - you could have slipped a piece of paper in the space between him and Scott. I recognized his hair (gray and thin) but my first thought was the old Margaret Cho joke "Hey, that guy's not Chinese!" (He was the star of the tv show Kung Fu, a role that probably should have gone to Bruce Lee.) Incidentally, during one of her panels Anne said that she thought Carradine would make a great Masterharper Robinton.

Met up with Little Toy Robot for the Adult Swim panel. Quite possibly the most fun event I attended during the weekend. Cartoon Network people threw swag at the audience, and we stood with arms outstretched in the hope of receiving unidentified flying booty. Just as we sat back down empty-handed, Scott stuck out his hands reflexively and caught something before it otherwise gave him a concussion. Am now in possession of a wrinkly Futurama t-shirt. Woo! Settled in with a few hundred other people to watch and cheer previews for the new season lineup.

Afterwards, we made the acquaintance of Clunky Robot, who served admirably as one of the panelists and is one really nice guy. Special thanks to his ladyfriend (not at all clunky!) who took pictures. Perhaps we'll see you in the neighborhood.

Attended a number of panels on the Weyrfest track (devoted to the worlds of Anne McCaffrey, but mainly focused on Pern). Anne and Todd did a Q&A session the first day. I guess I've been to enough of these, or read enough, that there wasn't too much new information. I ducked out early to go wait in line for their signing session, which took place afterwards. During another panel they read a chapter from the forthcoming Dragonsblood, which featured emotional material. Anne's voice broke a couple of times, as did Todd's, and by the end everybody in the room - authors and audience - wept and sniffled. (Todd joked that it was revenge for his mum's getting him to participate in a reading from The Ship Who Sang, which he says had him bawling in public.)

Todd also did smaller panels on his own and tried to discuss what he'd be writing within the Pern universe without spoiling things for us. Also, the US cover for Dragonsblood doesn't hold a candle to the UK edition. I would link to it, but the cover image isn't yet available in Amazon. In the meantime check out Todd's entries for 8/3 and 8/16 and see if you don't agree. [Note: Apparently Todd's new to blogging. He doesn't have permalinks nor archives yet. He's using Blogger, so I don't think it would be difficult to set up. Anyway, I sent him a note, and he answered it! See his Letters page. Mine is the one that says "Letter from Lady" (I'd signed it Lady Crumpet but he must have cut and pasted in a hurry. No matter. Thanks, Todd!).]

What else...attended some Tolkien panels given by Dr. Anne Petty. One covered Tolkien's dragons and another on the Finnish influence on Tolkien, particularly the Kalevala. She has a new book, Dragons of Fantasy: Scaly Villains and Heroes in Modern Fantasy Literature; it's about dragons as they're represented in fantasy literature.

Also attended a panel about electronic voting machines. I learned, to my great dismay, that even if I complete an absentee ballot, somebody at the county board of elections office has to input my vote using a Diebold machine. But I'll still vote by absentee ballot because at least there will be a paper trail.

Sat in on a blogging panel called "My So-Called LiveJournal" which ended up being pretty LJ-specific. I suppose it depends what interface you're introduced to, but LJ seems way too fussy for me, even though it has interesting features like setting privacy levels. Turns out we knew one of the panelists, Zeppo, and went up to say hi afterwards.

There was probably more I could have done, but I kept pretty busy as it was. In my downtime I'd planned to start reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell but my attention span was too flighty. So I'd just wander around, taking photos, taking in the scene. I probably should have skipped the last day, as that's when things wind down, people are no longer in costume and leaving town. But there was a panel about music with Anne and Todd and the people who did the Masterharper of Pern cd, so that was a little more time in the company of McCaffreys.

It's weird though. I went to a lot of these panels on my own, and though people are generally pretty approachable, I found myself remaining aloof. I guess some of it was just being tired, not feeling very "on" after hours and hours of panels and weaving my way through the crowds in the dealer's room. Some of it was feeling shy. But some of it too was not wanting to mix with people who even in this subculture (where outsiders and misfits are celebrated) are way too obsesssed and lacking in social skills. I was at panels during which people in the audience kept interrupting Todd. He's actually really nice and interacts well with the fans, but that doesn't mean you can just blurt out your thoughts while he's in the middle of a reading. Being a huge fan doesn't excuse bad manners.

Anyway, overall a really good year. Hopefully I'll make it to next year's.

September 08, 2004

Thank you, Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter wrote a letter to Zell Miller, a copy of which was published in today's editorial pages of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Thank you, Jimmy.

To Sen. Zell Miller:

You seem to have forgotten that loyal Democrats elected you as mayor [of Young Harris] and as state senator. Loyal Democrats, including members of my family and me, elected you as state senator, lieutenant governor and governor. It was a loyal Democrat, Lester Maddox, who assigned you to high positions in the state government when you were out of office. It was a loyal Democrat, Roy Barnes, who appointed you as U.S. senator when you were out of office. By your historically unprecedented disloyalty, you have betrayed our trust.

Great Georgia Democrats who served in the past, including Walter George, Richard Russell, Herman Talmadge and Sam Nunn, disagreed strongly with the policies of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and me, but they remained loyal to the party in which they gained their public office. Other Democrats, because of philosophical differences or the race issue, like Bo Callaway and Strom Thurmond, at least had the decency to become Republicans.

Everyone knows that you were chosen to speak at the Republican National Convention because of your being a "Democrat," and it's quite possible that your rabid speech damaged our party and paid the GOP some transient dividends.

Perhaps more troublesome of all is seeing you adopt an established and very effective Republican campaign technique of destroying the character of opponents by wild and false allegations. The Bush campaign's personal attacks on the character of John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 was a vivid example. The claim that war hero Max Cleland was a disloyal American and an ally of Osama bin Laden should have given you pause, but you have joined in this ploy by your bizarre claims that another war hero, John Kerry, would not defend the security of our nation except with spitballs. (This is the same man whom you described previously as "one of this nation's authentic heroes, one of this party's best-known and greatest leaders --- and a good friend.")

I, myself, served in the Navy from 1942 to 1953, and, as president, greatly strengthened our military forces and protected our nation and its interests in every way. I don't believe this warrants your referring to me as a pacifist.

Zell, I have known you for 42 years and have, in the past, respected you as a trustworthy political leader and a personal friend. But now, there are many of us loyal Democrats who feel uncomfortable in seeing that you have chosen the rich over the poor, unilateral pre-emptive war over a strong nation united with others for peace, lies and obfuscation over the truth, and the political technique of personal character assassination as a way to win elections or to garner a few moments of applause. These are not the characteristics of great Democrats whose legacy you and I have inherited.

Sincerely, and with deepest regrets,

Jimmy Carter

Yours, &c., LC at 11:31 AM | Politics | TrackBack (0)

'Cause I'm Just a Girl

atdress.jpg Ann Taylor is reissuing this dress for its 50th anniversary, although the new version is in silk, not cotton. Here's the description: "Printed Silk Shirtdress - Retro silk twill scarf-print shirtdress. Full pleated skirt with crinoline lining. Covered buttons on placket. Detachable lizard-embossed belt at waist. Belt loops. Turn-back cuffs. Lined. 42" length."

It comes with a crinoline! Am totally crushing.

Yours, &c., LC at 02:37 PM | Shopping | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

September 09, 2004

Evacuation Drill

A firm-wide email was sent yesterday mentioning that my building was having its "annual (post 9-11) evacuation drill." The city fire department may participate, so I might actually see Atlanta firemen coming up the stairs as I walk down some 50-odd flights. Free ice cream will be handed out afterwards. [Update: No firemen, but I did get a frozen fruit bar, yum.]

The last time I had to leave a building through the emergency stairs, it was the summer of 2001. ConEd accidentally cut some cable that provided power to my building's elevators. My legs were kind of rubbery by the end, and I was a little surprised to see some of New York's Bravest hanging around in the lobby - but they were there for anyone needing help to get down the stairs. One of my coworkers was at the full term of her pregnancy and she didn't want to wait for the guys to come get her. So she walked with some of the secretaries and a guy from the mailroom, who all kept watch on her. It wasn't a surprise that she ended up having the baby a day or two later.

In the days or weeks after 9/11 I heard that my office building was one of those evacuated because of a bomb scare in or near Grand Central. But by then I was going to school full-time and looking for library work. In my downtime I would walk around aimlessly, the smell of scorched chemicals and dust strong in the cool crisp air. Flyers for the missing were taped everywhere. Every so often I'd pass a firehouse. I didn't gawk, but it was impossible to miss the flowers and candles and the dark swags of fabric draped over the archways. In the end, I have no personal tragedy, no dramatic stories to tell about that day. And that makes me damned lucky.

The thought occurs to me: If we concentrate and focus our collective mental energies - could we will Dick Cheney's heart to burst into a thousand flaming pieces? Although I think he deserves a slow, debilitating, long-suffering, excruciatingly painful death for many reasons, what he said in Des Moines on Tuesday is appalling. From a Washington Post article on 9/8/04:

Cheney went beyond previous restraints to suggest that the country would be more vulnerable to attack under Kerry. "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again," the vice president said, "that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind-set, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we are not really at war."

There are complaints about overreaction to the remarks, about the lack of context, etc. etc. No, I think I read and heard it pretty plainly: If you vote for the wrong guy, you're going to die. My apologies to the people of Des Moines, but terrorists don't care about you - not enough to set off suicide bombs on your little Main Streets. You can afford to be glad and smug that you don't have the glitzy international prominence and symbolism of New York and DC to make you an easy target.

Now, of course, Cheney's in clean-up mode, helping us to understand what he really said. Right - because we're too stupid to understand. We're all just hysterical liberal media (but owned by the conservative, right-wing elite - Rupert Murdoch, anyone?) and leftist pinko handwringers who need the paternal condescension and wisdom of our Republican elders to guide us through these black, apparently never-ending days of fear and terror. To quote Mr. Big Time! - "Go fuck yourself."

Cheney: Kerry Victory is Risky [Washington Post] [bugmenot]
Cheney Spits Toads [NYT] [bugmenot]
We're Just Glad They're Not Using 9/11 for Political Purposes [Wonkette]

September 10, 2004

If All You've Got is One Thin Dime

The vice president says that the usual indicators that measure unemployment, consumer spending and other economic milestones don't account for the many who sell goods on eBay. On the stump in Cincinnati (that would be Ohio, a swing state), Cheney notes, "That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago" and that "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay."

In response, John Edwards said that Cheney and Bush were "out of touch" and that "If we only included bake sales and how much money kids make at lemonade stands, this economy would really be cooking."

Cheney: Economic Stats Miss EBay Sales [AP/Newsday via Wonkette]

Yours, &c., LC at 01:50 PM | Politics | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 14, 2004

Another Day, Another Commute

Scene: Tuesday morning. Everyone in the train car is quietly preoccupied with their usual activities - reading a book or a paper, listening to music through their headphones, staring off into space. A man's voice loudly breaks the silence. After a moment it becomes clear he is speaking into his cellphone. (He is seated somewhere behind me.) I am reading, but quickly pull out my notepad, grateful that it comes with a miniature pen. As I scribble I can feel the smirks and hear mild snickers from the passengers around me.

Man: Steve! There's a little skinny white guy coming....No! Not that one - there's another skinny little white guy. You got to watch him too. Ok, I'm en route, I'll see you soon.

Actress/Singer or Singer/Actress?

Minnie Driver has recorded an album and is opening for the Finn Brothers during the UK and Dublin gigs. There's quite a kerfuffle among the fans on the discussion lists - "she's taking the place of a more worthy, struggling musician who doesn't have an alternate career handed to her on a plate," according to some, and "let's wait and listen first" from others. Sadly, there's more debate about the opening acts than about our impressions of the Finn album, which are mostly along the lines of "it's nice, but...." (Add another item to my quest list - the "lost" Visconti sessions for Everyone Is Here.)

If you go to Minnie's site, there are a couple of songs if you want to hear what she's like. Apparently she'd been pursuing a singing career maybe ten years ago when she got into acting instead, and now is resuming or revisiting her earlier interest. Having heard the songs, I'd rather have had her as the opening act than Ari Hest (who flattered himself by thinking he could sing both parts of a duet he'd love to do with someone like Norah Jones. It was painful.).

Yours, &c., LC at 02:29 PM | Music | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

September 21, 2004

Storage Lust

whitecd24dr.jpg

This is a 24-drawer hardwood cabinet that holds 288 CDs. (I would require several.) It comes in oak, cherry and white, and looks like the wooden library card catalogs of yore.

Addendum: There's also a smaller version. I'm between the oak and the cherry.

September 28, 2004

Around

...just haven't been feeling up to writing, or much else. I guess I just haven't been feeling committed to much of anything lately. Just not wanting to deal, and so I'm feeling kind of stuck. Like I'm just getting by.

I mean, I have been doing stuff. Like I'm in the middle of trying to get my papers organized - color-coded hanging folders, printed labels, a pile of papers to shred. After the initial methodical rush I've reached a mini-plateau and have been dallying too long, reluctant to get to the next step[pe] of going through the remaining boxes of miscellany. Meanwhile, the creeping piles of paper are reappearing like weeds. There are baskets of clothes to wash or fold, floors to sweep, dishes to wash. I just look around me, and I feel exhausted and discouraged before I've even begun.

I don't know why I have this instinct or need to hold onto every little thing, to go out and collect, even when I don't have the space or time to invest. I'm worst with books and music. But I'm weighed down by other belongings too. I envy people who can live so simply, who can shed their physical and mental baggage. My sisters are like this too - probably a sign of something. Our stuff being our identities, a resistance to our inevitable mortalities. Nurturing ourselves through acquiring things we think we need and deserve. (My therapist would be so proud.)

I suppose if I can convince myself that I don't need so much stuff - either holding onto things or acquiring more - then I don't have to be responsible for so much either (storage, maintenance, etc.). Wouldn't that be nice.

My situation just screams "Yard Sale" doesn't it? Or at least Goodwill or Library or Dumpster, given my lack of motivation.

September 29, 2004

Finally!

I have more pictures and a writeup of this year's DragonCon.

I mention it in that post, but I'll also note here that Todd McCaffrey has a blog. I sent him a message through his site, and he wrote back. (It's the one titled "Letter from Lady" - which was actually signed Lady Crumpet, but no matter.)

Yours, &c., LC at 05:19 PM | Slice o' Life | TrackBack (0)