Oct 312006

(All photos for this post can be found here)
golden hill block party golden hill block party golden hill block party golden hill block party

Scott, Sophie, and the rest of the Cat Dirt Records folks put on another great party last Saturday night – The Golden Hill Block Party featuring ¡Society!, Fifty On Their Heels, The New MotherF*s, Qu’est-ce Que C’est, Gasoline Chicken, DJ Edgartronic and DJ P$. As expected, the concert started off a bit slow because of the early start time. Once it started to get dark, the crowd started to really grow. San Diego needs to get it together and let them have an event past 10 PM, most people don’t show up until 7 or 8.

All the bands did a great job, and there was a good community feel to the event. I was really impressed by the final act, ¡Society!. They were the perfect finish to the evening. They had a lot of energy, the crowd was dancing and loving the performance. Someone uploaded a recording of ¡Society! at the Casbah if you want to get a sample of their sound.

Thanks again to Scott and Sophie!

Oct 292006

Last weekend Anna and I headed out a bit past Alpine on the 8 freeway to try to get a look at the meteor shower. Just outside of Alpine the change was fast and dramatic. It was probably a combination of heading away from the sprawl and light pollution, and climbing a few thousand feet above the moisture of the ocean. Gone was the dark blue sky. It its place was a black sky filled pin holes of light. While we only saw a handful of meteors, it is always nice to be reminded just how amazing the night sky can be.

Oct 262006

Perhaps you are familiar with the voting machines that you will be soon using. Maybe you have heard they might have flaws. If you follow the news, maybe you have even heard the ridiculous specifics. That data is stored in an unprotected Microsoft Access database that can be changed without a trace, that the machines can be opened with hotel minibar keys, and that Diebold has distributed uncertified software at the last minute on electronic voting machines.

Jon Stokes over at Ars has written a great piece on just how screwed up the current electronic voting situation is; How to steal an election by hacking the vote.

What if I told you that it would take only one person—one highly motivated, but only moderately skilled bad apple, with either authorized or unauthorized access to the right company’s internal computer network—to steal a statewide election? You might think I was crazy, or alarmist, or just talking about something that’s only a remote, highly theoretical possibility. You also probably would think I was being really over-the-top if I told you that, without sweeping and very costly changes to the American electoral process, this scenario is almost certain to play out at some point in the future in some county or state in America, and that after it happens not only will we not have a clue as to what has taken place, but if we do get suspicious there will be no way to prove anything. You certainly wouldn’t want to believe me, and I don’t blame you…In all this time, I’ve yet to find a good way to convey to the non-technical public how well and truly screwed up we presently are, six years after the Florida recount. So now it’s time to hit the panic button: In this article, I’m going to show you how to steal an election.

Now, I won’t be giving you the kind of “push this, pull here” instructions for cracking specific machines that you can find scattered all over the Internet, in alarmingly lengthy PDF reports that detail vulnerability after vulnerability and exploit after exploit. (See the bibliography at the end of this article for that kind of information.) And I certainly won’t be linking to any of the leaked Diebold source code, which is available in various corners of the online world. What I’ll show you instead is a road map to the brave new world of electronic election manipulation, with just enough nuts-and-bolts detail to help you understand why things work the way they do.

Along the way, I’ll also show you just how many different hands touch these electronic voting machines before and after a vote is cast, and I’ll lay out just how vulnerable a DRE-based elections system is to what e-voting researchers have dubbed “wholesale fraud,” i.e., the ability of an individual or a very small group to steal an entire election by making subtle changes in the right places.

Even if you aren’t technically inclined, the article is a good introduction on just how insecure our current situation is.

Bonus link: Quebec bans electronic voting
Bonus bonus link: Foxtrot’s very scary Halloween costume.

Oct 232006

Golden Hill Block Party

It’s that time of year again, folks. Take a break from axing the rising undead and enjoy the The Golden Hill Block Party. Saturday October 28th on 21st Street between B and C streets, 5 PM to midnight. Dress up in your best costume and enjoy the free music.

Saturday too long to wait for ghoulish fun and music? Well rest easy, you can get your fix from the Bride of Monster Mashup.

Oct 162006

Last Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving. I couldn’t put up with the torturous IM’s from up north about turkey dinner and stuffing, so I had a mini-thanksgiving dinner. No one had thawed turkeys in store, so I bought some legs and drum sticks and cooked them up with some yams in the oven. I also cooked up a batch of oven pan stuffing. Since most people either suffer through the boxed kind, or risk food poisoning and overcooked turkey with the stuffing in the bird method, I figured I should share my rough recipe for stuffing.

Oven Pan Stuffing

2 good quality baguettes (rustic french is best, no sourdough), chop into 1″ cubes
1 stick butter for the heart attack version, I like to substitute half with olive oil
1 celery stalk, diced
3 small/medium onions, diced
3 teaspoons dried sage
3 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 carton of chicken stock (4 cups)
3 eggs

Rough instructions:
1) If the bread is not stale, put the bread cubes on cookie sheets and cook in the oven at 400F for about 20 minutes until crunchy, stir every few minutes.

2) In a pot, saute the celery and onions in half a stick of butter and a few table spoons of olive oil – for the heart attack version, add only the stick of butter. Cook until the onions start to turn clear. Add in all the spices and cook for another minute, then turn off the heat.

3) Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a large baking tray(s), and have a lid or tin foil hat ready for it.

5) Add the carton of chicken stock to the pot. When that cools it down, beat the eggs, then mix them into the liquid.

6) Put the bread cubes in a very large mixing bowl and gradually pour the pot of liquid over them, mixing it all evenly.

7) Put mix in the baking tray(s), cover with lid or tinfoil, and bake for 30 mins.

8) Take the cover off the dish and bake for another 25 mins or so. Pull it out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes before dishing up.

Serves 6 that really like stuffing. This mix can be a bit on the ‘spiced’ side. For those sensitive super tasters out there, just half the spice measurements.

Oct 092006

The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, 2006, at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation… It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.

Riiiight… That’s exactly what it will do, Kim.

Oct 042006

Adobe updated Lightroom to beta 4 a week back. I’ve been playing with it a bit so far, and they have definitely made some improvements.

Since purchasing Pixmantec (and RawShooter code), Adobe has some new features in the develop module, like Recover and Fill Light. Recover is a highlight recovery tool, and Fill Light lets you lighten dark shadows. Both seem to be nice additions. Photoshop news has a great overview of the Lightroom develop module. Existing Adobe Camera Raw develop settings are still incompatible with Lightroom, though that’s supposed to be fixed “soon”.

In addition to sprucing up the UI, Adobe seems to have added more options for import and export, and continued support XMP files. However I’d still like to see the program making as many file changes as possible, in addition to internal database changes. Photoshop news also has a good overview of the Lightroom library module.

If they can address my archival/multiple machine fears, and fix Camera RAW compatibility, I can definitely see my workflow changing to Lightroom.

Update: RawWorkflow.com has some great Lightroom tutorial videos up for free here. I’m really starting to dig the way Adobe has broken contrast out by the four sections – Highlights, Lights, Darks, and Shadows. Being able to manipulate all of these on the image, histogram, or curve is really cool.

Oct 042006

Kurt Andersen has written a great piece over at NY Magazine. Titled “The End of the World As They Know It”, it dives into culture and attitudes obsessed with apocalypse.

Five years after Islamic apocalyptists turned the World Trade Center to fire and dust, we chatter more than ever about the clash of civilizations, fight a war prompted by our panic over (nonexistent) nuclear and biological weapons, hear it coolly asserted this past summer that World War III has begun, and wonder if an avian-flu pandemic poses more of a personal risk than climate change. In other words, apocalypse is on our minds. Apocalypse is … hot.

Millions of people—Christian millenarians, jihadists, psychedelicized Burning Men—are straight-out wishful about The End. Of course, we have the loons with us always; their sulfurous scent if not the scale of the present fanaticism is familiar from the last third of the last century—the Weathermen and Jim Jones and the Branch Davidians. But there seem to be more of them now by orders of magnitude (60-odd million “Left Behind” novels have been sold), and they’re out of the closet, networked, reaffirming their fantasies, proselytizing. Some thousands of Muslims are working seriously to provoke the blessed Armageddon. And the Christian Rapturists’ support of a militant Israel isn’t driven mainly by principled devotion to an outpost of Western democracy but by their fervent wish to see crazy biblical fantasies realized ASAP—that is, the persecution of the Jews by the Antichrist and the Battle of Armageddon.

When apocalypse preoccupations leach into less-fantastical thought and conversation, it becomes still more disconcerting. Even among people sincerely fearful of climate change or a nuclearized Iran enacting a “second Holocaust” by attacking Israel, one sometimes detects a frisson of smug or hysterical pleasure.

He doesn’t have much trouble finding examples these days. I must admit, to a certain extent, I have also slipped into the mindset that the future will get worse, before it gets better. Why? I don’t think any one thing can be singled out. It is probably equal parts climate change and dangerous energy dependence, a sprinkle of looming brinkmanship, and a dash of perpetual war. Top with consumer and government spending and savings habits, and bake for 10-20 years.

But after thinking about it some more, I have to add in another ingredient to my pessimistic future pie. It is the increase in apocalypticism – the very subject of the article. Growing up on the evangelical side of the christian spectrum, the view point was not uncommon. The rapture was going to happen any day now. In that environment, it didn’t seem like such a strange thought. Now of course I fear what that does to one’s mindset and motivations. I mean, why fix this world, when doing so will delay your god’s coming?

Enough of my ramblings, the article is definitely worth a read.