A bonus page
I stuck up page number 6 of the comic. This was intended to be part of the batch that went up last night, but I needed sleep, so here it is now. Next update is still next Monday.
The following link will always take you to the most recent page, so this might be the link you want to bookmark:
Latest Page of Yuki Hoshigawa.
Big big thank yous to everybody who has already left comments! They make me happy! I'm going to rig it up so that you can leave comments on any individual page of the comic -- just as soon as I figure out how to read cookies with Python. Also I want to rig it up so comic updates appear in the RSS feed even if I don't post anything here about them. Yay for web programming in my spare time.
It reminds me of the old cartoons from 70s university publications.
Um... OK? That's not a comparison I expected to hear, and I don't think I've ever seen one of the cartoons you're talking about, but any comparison to the decade which was the pinnacle of human civilization, the 70s, makes me happy. I've already made two references to 70s anime and one reference to 70s prog rock. See if you can find them.
I can't tell whether Hashbang is about Slashdot or Fark
Slashdot, definitely. I've never read Fark. I notice that hashbang.com
is unregistered (although there is a hashbang.org
already ) so I am tempted to grab it and continually put up fake news articles about the future with idiot comments in several different languages, but if I did that I would never get around to finishing the comic.
especially making me wonder what the fuck the Panoptikon is
Mua ha ha ha ha ha ha!!
Totally different starting point in the story, but that's cool...So I take it the social commentary will come in later?
The scene that is now the first page of the comic is the sixth
unique scene to hold that dubious position, by my count. Figuring out what's a good way to start things is hard. I finally figured that what works best is to just start off with the main characters in their natural environment rather than have any sort of framing device, narration, flashback, prologue, or other unrelated waste of time.
But everything I've drawn before, including the 5 previous "first scenes", will get recycled at some point. Example: In this strip, panels 1, 2, and 5 were recycled from a strip that I drew in summer of 2003 and never showed to anybody. So the gap between panels 2 and 3 in that comic, which is instantaneous in internal chronology, is three years of real time.
Yes there will be lots of "social commentary" coming up. And plot. But I thought it was most important to establish some character motivations first.
A Mellow Good Time. Also Saotome seminar.
I decided to cut off the topknot. (Gasp! Shock! Yes, I'm afraid so.) I was constantly being annoyed by stray hairs, it got in the way when I put my bike helmet on, it made showering take longer, and if I got knocked around enough in Aikido it would sometimes get loose and I would have to time-out to fix it. Ironically, for something samurai-inspired, that topknot was an obstacle to my training; therefore, it had to go. I decided on Wednesday night that with the seminar coming up this wekeend, it was a good time to give myself a haircut. So I got out the electric razor with the head-shaving attatchment and went all over my skull like a lawnmower.
(This means that my commenter picture on this site is now inaccurate! So is my bio on Humanized.)
When I went home for Thanksgiving, Mom's keen eye zeroed in on one patch which I had missed and another patch where I had cut too close. "It looks like you've got mange", she said. So she made me sit down and fixed it herself.
Speaking of parents fixing things: when I got home the living room looked like this. It seems that the previous occupants of our house must have hated space or something, because they moved the ceilings down and moved the walls inward in most rooms. Al has been smashing stuff up and making cool discoveries. He's been gaining whole feet of living space by going back to the original walls and ceiling, and also modernizing the insulation and stuff. The coolest discovery is that the living room used to have three windows on the south wall. The middle one was walled over and hidden for some reason. But the frame is still there so it'll be easy to put a window in again.
I helped Al with a few things, like cleaning leaves out of the gutters, sawing up lath for firewood, and vacuuming up the thick nasty plaster dust from every object in the room. We actually had Thanksgiving dinner in there, next to the bare studs. It was kind of a log-cabin look.
Thanksgiving is nice because there's not a lot of pressure on it like there is on Christmas. I'm very anti-Christmas these days because there's so much of it. It would be nice if it lasted for maybe one week, instead of a month and a half as it does. Already it's christmas songs on every radio station. I do not need to be hearing those same old lame obnoxious songs over and over again for a full month out of the year. That's 1/12 of the time that Christmas is attacking your senses in every public space. But with Thanksgiving there's no buildup, there's no shopping, there's no pressure to buy stuff, no forced cheerfulness. You just hang out with family you haven't seen in a while, cook stuff, eat it, talk, and have lots of leftovers. It's just a mellow good time.
I don't allow myself to overeat because I know I'm in for three days of solid Aikido practice starting the day after Thanksgiving. This is the Saotome seminar, when Mitsugi Saotome (head of the ASU, disciple of the founder of Aikido, guy who brought the art to the continental US, etc) visits the Chicago Aikikai. About a hundred people cram themselves into the dojo, coming from as far away as Colorado and Ohio, to take part in these classes. So, it's usually too crowded to actually throw anybody, sadly.
Saotome is a riot, though. He wears weird homemade clothing when he's not in a dogi, he smokes like three packs a day, and his English is so bad he sounds exactly like a bad movie stereotype of a Japanese man.
Here's a couple of choice quotes as I remember them from his speeches this weekend. I'm not trying to make fun of anybody here; I realize English is hard, and he's getting his point across, and his ideas are good, and that's what's important, but dang, the way he talks is really funny so I'm trying to reproduce it here for you:
Now there so many Aikido style in America, this style, that style. No! Style is limitation youa mind! Undaastand? In sengokujidai, war time in Japan history, there no martial arts style! Only one style! Is surbibal! Edojidai, peace time, style grow up like mushroom after rain, you undaastand mushroom?
Too many time you practicing, you only think about technique, you forget defense youaself! Leave opening! Bam, you die!
If you thinking only youa own technique, no thinking about partonar, you are only -- how you say -- mastaabation! You undaastand, mastaabation? Why train with partonar if you thinking only youaself?
Why you have five sense if only you looking? Use other sense like Zatoichi! Especially touching is sense bery important infomation! In English you have good saying, "keep touch", you say "good-bye, I keep touch you" [note: he means "keep in touch"]. You not say "I keep look you", no! Keep touch! You practice Aikido you keep touch partonar!
You no undaastand my joke? You no undaastand my English? FUCK YOU! Ha! Now you undaastand! Now you undaastanding me!
The other thing that happens at this seminar is testing for advanced ranks, which can only happen in the presence of very high-ranking senseis. So there were 6 tests for shodan and 5 for nidan. I watched Dwight test for nidan; he did great -- he was really nervous beforehand but he looked flawless as far as I can tell.
I've decided I want to go for my own nidan test Thanksgiving 2007. I have a long way to go but I think I can do it if I practice five times a week between now and then. I still feel like a beginner with weapons techniques, and I have no confidence in my suwariwaza, so I have to improve those areas a lot. My core bare-handed techniques are inconsistently good. By that I mean that when I'm at my best I feel like I might be nidan-worthy with those techniques, but I can't perform consistently at that level -- I lose my concentration and get sloppy.
OK, there's my goals for the next year: achieve nidan, and update my comic every week. This is on top of hacking Enso for Humanized, so I'm probably not going to have much time left over. Might have to sacrifice things like anime and warhammer. We shall see.
I made a comic
It's called Yuki Hoshigawa and the Scariest Thing in the World.
The comic is basically about a collision of two worlds I've been a part of -- Japanese culture and computer hacker culture. It is set slightly into the future. I am attempting to make each page function as a discrete chunk of humor or at least interestingness, while also progressing the story, such as it is. The meaning of the title will become clear in the fullness of time.
There are five pages up now. I will do my best to upload a new one every Monday. If I can keep to that, I ought to finish the story I have planned in, oh, about ten years.
There's not much else to say yet. I've been working on this for a long time (since 2003), and a few of you have seen various false starts and bits in progress. This time I think I've got most of the bugs worked out of it. But I have absolutely no idea how most people are going to react to it. Maybe the jokes will be too obscure. Maybe the plot won't make sense to anybody but me. We shall see.
Editorials from my subconscious
I guess I've been thinking about politics too much lately because it has started to creep into my dreams.
I had this one where I accidentally got pregnant -- well, sort of -- I had the embryo in a test tube. And it was definitely mine and it had been fertilized without my consent. So maybe somebody stole my sperm or something. I don't know how it happened, but it was effectively like I had accidentally gotten pregnant.
And I didn't want to have a baby, so I thought of aborting the embryo, but the idea felt so overwhelmingly wrong, morally, that I was forced by my conscience to not only keep it, but to become a vocal pro-lifer and start voting Republican.
And then I woke up and I was really freaked out. I'm pro-choice in real life, but since I am a man, the issue can never affect me in the same very personal way that it can affect someone who can get pregnant i.e. a woman. Maybe my brain was trying to tell me that I might feel differently about the issue if I was capable of being pregnant? I dunno.
A week later I dreamed, oh horror of horrors, that I was hugging Hillary Clinton (In a NON-sexual way!!) because she was a robot and I was trying to teach her about human emotions. She slowly got annoyed at me for touching her without permission and I said "Good! Good! Annoyance is an important human emotion! You can use that."
A non-political dream was one where I was sleeping in a crib full of water, and my sister and her friends came in and they were cosplaying as the characters from my least favorite anime, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, and they did the dance really well. The same night I had one where instead of going to California for the Hackers conference, I made a mistake and ended up in Louisiana at a fundamentalist Christian conference.
So I snuck out and went driving through the bayou and saw like 20 alligators. They were cool. And Steve Irwin was there and he was telling me that the alligator's upper jaw muscle is really weak, so if you just put your hand on top of its nose it can't open its mouth to bite you. I am pretty sure this is false in real life.
Caves: Nature's Randomly-Generated Dungeons
My trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky -- the Great Cave Offensive if you will-- happened back in June (back when we still thought we could release Enso in August). But I was waiting until I got the photos back before I wrote about it. Well, Wednesday night Geoff got copies of the photos to me, so here we go!
When I was real little, Grammarie (that's baby-Jono speak for "Grandma Marie") gave me this big Reader's Digest hardcover book full of color photos of all of the National Parks. It was pretty cool. I read that book over and over again. Some parks I would skim over -- Big Bend? Shenendoah? Grand Teton? That one with all the bison? Yeah, OK, great, whatever. I was in a hurry to get back to my two favorite chapters:
- Carlsbad Caverns
- Mammoth Cave
So, yeah, I've had a lifelong obsession with caves which was only fueled by all the computer and tabletop role-playing games, in which caves are almost as ubiquitious as swords. Problem is there weren't any nearby; Carlsbad and Mammoth are inconveniently (for me) located in New Mexico and Kentucky, respectively.
But hey, I live in Chicago now. Kentucky touches Illinois. (My mom didn't realize this when we moved here, and she was really mad when she found out. Like she was worried that Illinois would be infected with Kentucky's southern redneck cooties.) This means Mammoth Cave is only like a 5 or 6 hour drive away now.
So, one weekend in June, I went down there with Aza and Geoff (from anime club) after making reservations for the Wild Cave Tour. This is the one where you spend six hours underground with helmet lamps and kneepads. You go way off the lit-up tourist trails into wet, narrow, twisty, treacherous tunnels and cover miles underground. The website says you can't go on the Wild Cave tour if you measure more than 42 inches around the hips because otherwise you might not be able to physically squeeze yourself through some of the required openings. Exciting!!
But first, the trip down to Kentucky. It would have been a lot more enjoyable if my iPod full of Righteous Road-Trip Tunes had not gone missing. Country radio=no thanks. I entertained myself by reading this horrible, atrocious, hilariously stupid ecchi manga called "Midnight Panther" that Aza gave me. The reason Aza had it is because he went to visit the office of anime/manga translation company CPM for some reason, and he met the CEO's wife (I think?) who had an office entirely decorated with yaoi. She was like the hentai queen. She asked Aza if he liked yaoi, if his girlfriend liked yaoi, and if not what kind of pr0n he (and his girlfriend) did like. Despite Aza's protests she gave him a copy of "Midnight Panther". And then Aza passed it on to me (picture him holding at arms' length with a pair of tongs).
Acutal, not-making-this-up dialogue sample:
- Woman: OH DEAR...!!
- Woman: DO YOU HAVE TB?
- Man: STAY BACK. IT'S CONTAGIOUS.
- Woman: I DON'T MIND.
- * TB = TUBERCULOSIS
- Woman: I LIKE...
- Woman: ...MEN WHO ARE DYING.
- Man: WHAT A SCARY THING TO SAY.
- Man: I'M HISAME.
- Woman: I'M SONYA.
- Man: SONYA.
- Man: YOU'RE THE FIRST WOMAN I'VE MET... WITH THE SAME SCENT AS MINE.
- Man: THE SCENT OF BLOOD!!
- (they have sex)
Say "I like... men who are dying." out loud in a valley-girl voice and try not to laugh. I dare you.
So, Kentucky. From my limited observations, I would guess that employment opportunities for those born in the area are limited to the following:
- join the National Park Service
- join the Army
- raise horses
- work at the gas station
- sell geology to gullible tourists by opening your own cave, Mystery Spot, or Rock Store and putting up billboards all over the highway.
- find a way to get the hell out of Kentucky
Our tour was scheduled for Sunday morning, so we arrived Saturday afternoon and camped out that night. The cave is a national park, and so that means all the land above the cave is national park too, and that's about 52,000 acres. So you could actually go there just for hiking and camping and canoeing and ignore the cave; but what fun would that be? We gathered firewood and invented a delicious new camp-out food which I called "bunnigiri". You stuff some American cheese inside a hot dog bun, warm it up over the fire, then wrap the whole thing in Korean nori (which is like Japanese nori but saltier and greasier.)
Geoff is the ideal person to go camping with. Aza and I were Not Prepared. I mean, I brought a tent and a sleeping bag and all that stuff, but I forgot my flashlight. Aza forgot nearly everything. But Geoff was Prepared enough for all of us. It is the Boy Scout way. He's actually an Eagle Scout. Whenever he talks about Scouting he makes it sound so much fun that I kinda regret giving it up (the full story is that my troop was assigned to cut down trees and clear out brush from this area that was going to be made into a parking lot. I strenuously objected to becoming an agent of deforestation. Also I cried. I never went back after that.) But Geoff stuck with it and he is way prepared.
Aza almost didn't get to go on the tour, since he forgot to bring proper footwear! They told us, "Everything else is negotiable, but if you don't have treaded boots that lace up over your ankles, you're not going in. Period. We don't want the tour to turn into a rescue mission when you sprain your ankle three miles in. It's inconvenient for everyone." Luckily Geoff had an extra pair of boots. Be Prepared.
So! Now for the part you've been waiting for, the actual inside of the cave!
Our guides were Bruce, a curly-haired local boy and geology grad student with an adorable Kentucky accent, and Janet, a 70-year old concert pianist, Trekkie, and experienced professional caver. They both had futuristic Park Service jumpsuits. (I want a jumpsuit.) Aza bonded with Janet instantly because they've both played some of the same concert halls.
Janet can leave everybody in the dust. Sometimes she leads tours of Marines on shore-leave who are visiting the cave, and she leaves the Marines in the dust. She's basically unstoppable. One minute she would be leading up the back of the group to make sure we didn't lose anybody; then I would be going down off a ledge and Janet would be at the bottom helping me; and I never saw her pass, so how did she get ahead of everybody? She knows all the secret ways, that's how.
There are not a lot of stalactites or stalagmites in most parts of Mammoth Cave (the region named Frozen Niagra being a notable exception). Geologically, this is because there is a sandstone cap on top of the limestone layers. Caves are made by water trickling through the ground and eating holes through the limestone; the limestone that is dissolved and slowly redeposited by dripping water forms the famous cave formations. But because of the less-permeable sandstone cap, Mammoth wasn't carved by water dripping downward, but by water flowing sideways. Meaning most of the passageways bear the traces of ancient streams. In most places, a close examination of the walls reveals a scalloped pattern; 1337 geologists can look at this and figure out how fast the water was flowing by the size of the scallopy bits.
As the water table sinks over millions of years, new layers of tunnels drain out. Thus the lowest levels are still flooded and inaccessible. There are approximately six levels that people can get to. But calling them "levels" makes them sound much too orderly; really all the tunnels twist up and down and over and under each other, and branch and merge without warning. There's no rhyme or reason to it. Nevertheless the "levels" can be identified by rock strata. When there is a roof collapse, sometimes it connects one level to the level above it, andthough the whole area is a jumble of loose rocks and boulders, it is possible in some places to use these collapsed areas to climb up a layer -- a process which Bruce compared to "an ant at the bottom of a bucket of gravel, trying to climb out."
Ah yes, that leads me to Colorful Caver Lingo. Bruce and Janet were constantly speaking this to each other without explanation. Example:
"How are you gonna take 'em through the Cheese Grater?"
"I think I'm gonna do upper North Cheese Grater -- you know, Alan's version -- we come out near the Flowstone of Death and then go off the Lion's Head."
There are hundreds of places in the cave with evocative names: The Bottomless Pit. The Ruins of Karnath. Ultima Thule. Dave's Lost Sea. Gilloutine Rock. The Star Trek Room. Peanut Butter Alley. The Shotgun. The Bare Hole. Mary's Vineyard. Circumsicion Rock. Frozen Niagra. The Hellhole.
In fact, just about every rock with a memorable shape has a name; you need all the landmarks you can possibly get when exploring a place like this. To a first-timer, most every tunnel looks basically the same; the main difference is size, and whether or not they have a stream running along the floor. In other words, the difference between one tunnel and another can be summed up with the question:
- Can I walk straight?
- Or do I have to climb?
- Or do I have to do the crouch-walk?
- Or do I have to crawl?
- Or do I have to take my backpack off and push it through the mud ahead of me while I wiggle forward on my belly?
- Or do I have to squeeze through a tiny hole so tight that I can't turn my head or reposition my arms until I'm out of it?
There were several of that last kind. Not for the claustrophobic. Our tour guides cheerfully gave us the following advice: "Breathe in, then breathe it all out and wiggle half an inch forward. Breathe in again. Keep doing that till you're out. If you get stuck for real, we'll be back on next week's tour to get you out. You oughtta be thinner by then. Har har."
There are also some places where you have to do "the canyon walk". This is where the tunnel is narrow enough that you can comfortably touch both walls; you find whatever handholds and footholds you can on each side and brace yourself between the walls as you edge forward. Then the floor of the tunnel drops out from under you, and suddenly it's like 25 feet down -- if your headlight beam reaches the bottom at all. You just keep canyon-walking until there's something to stand on again.
There's very little life in the cave; there's no sunlight to support an ecosystem, so aside from the bats who live near the entrance and fly out to hunt, the only animals are small, harmless arthropods who scavenge on whatever organic detritus filters down. Like the cave cricket in this picture.
There's been plenty of human activity, though. One of the most striking cave features is not geological at all -- it's graffiti. From the Civil War period. Written in candle smoke. People exploring the cave by candlelight used their candle smoke to write their names on the ceiling; due to the total lack of weathering, the names are still there. Many of the signatures have been cross-referenced with the historical records and identified. "It's real disappointing when you're exploring, and you think you've found virgin cave where no human has ever been... and then you find hundred-year-old graffiti.", said our guides.
At one point, Bruce rounded up the guy who was bringing up the rear of the tour group. "I'm gonna give you a chance to take the lead now", he said. "See this hole here?" (pointing to a tiny hole in the corner of the floor) "This's called the Hellhole... after a few dozen yards you'll come to a three-way junction; make sure you take the middle one; after that watch for a hole in the ceiling which you have to go up through and then double back the way you came... Are you getting all this?" (guy is looking scared) "Naw, I'm just kidding, there are no turns. HAR HAR."
How does a passage end up with a name like the Hellhole or the Flowstone of Death? Probably nothing more than a momentary whim of some explorer. But here's explanations of a few of the other names:
The Star Trek room is named for nodules in the ceiling that look just like Horta eggs from the original-series episode "Devil in the Dark". Peanut Butter Alley is named for the color and texture of the floor. The Snowball room is named forthe delicate gypsum crystal snowballs growing on the walls and ceiling. These crystal formations take hundreds of years to grow and are so delicate you could destroy them with your fingernail. The Bare Hole is so-called because it's so tight that it has a tendency to pull your pants off as you try to squeeze through it. Circumsicion Rock? It's a small sharp rock right at the center of the floor in one of the crawlways. Get it? Har har. The Shotgun, shown in the picture here, is named for its two "barrels". The Cheese Grater is a confusing, intricate three-dimensional maze of very tiny, twisty crawlways which have sharp jagged rocks sticking into them. So you have to crawl through and over all the sharp edges and contort your body into weird shapes to get past places where the tunnel branches upward or downward. AND there's about seven different exits from the Cheese Grater, so unless you know exactly what you're doing it's very easy to come out in the wrong place and get lost.
Yes, let's talk about getting lost. Like I said before, most places that do not have distinctive formations look basically the same to a first-timer. This is a problem even for experienced cave explorers when they're pushing unknown areas; tunnels are constantly branching off and joining at all angles, so our guides stressed that it's important to keep looking behind you to get a feel for what the tunnel looks like in that direction. Otherwise, they said, when you turn around to go home you might come to a fork that you don't remember, because another tunnel joined yours at an angle and you didn't see it. Forks like that are how even experienced people with good memories get lost.
...Lost in over three hundred miles of underground maze, with only the food, water, and lamp batteries you brought in with you.
It's a sobering thought.
Even with a group, though, there was the ever-present fear of somehow getting separated from the rest, perhaps left behind when struggling to cross some difficult chasm, and being left alone and directionless as the small circle of illumination from your helmet-lamp dims and goes out...
The right thing to do, of course, is to make sure to call out "wait up" if you lose sight of the person ahead of you; to always look back and check for the person behind you; and if you do get separated (it didn't happen), the right thing would be to sit down and wait. The guides would figure out that they had lost a person and they would be able to backtrack and find you.
At one point we all sat in a circle in a room with a sandy floor, stopped talking, and turned our helmet lamps off. Just to experience total sensory deprivation for a few minutes. The absolute abscense of light and of any sound other than your own breath -- it's like being Hellen Keller. It does strange things to your mind. When you turn the lamp back on and get back the little circle of light on the ground, it's a huge relief. The cave seems almost homely after that, as long as you have light.
Our guides said that ultimately, for people who have been stuck in the cave for extended periods, it's the silence that gets to them even more than the darkness. They told us about one guy who was lost for 36 hours; the rescue party finally found him by following the sound of rocks that he was banging together. They said "That was a good idea, banging rocks together to help us find you." He looked at them with a haunted expression and said "That wasn't for you."
We emerged from an entrance miles from the point where we entered. Mammoth Cave has at least six natural entrances, and about a dozen more man-made entrances. ("I reckon we're standing right above where that tunnel is -- start digging!") Some of the entrances are set up for tourists, with elevators and staircases and handrails etc, while others are just holes in the ground. They're always called "entrances", not "exits".
After that, there's nothing else to tell. Light of day again, fresh air, we're all still alive, etc. Just the road-trip home, dinner at a Cracker Barrel in some no-horse town downstate somewhere, throw the pile of incredibly filthy mud-encrusted clothes and backpack into the bathtub and go to sleep.
I'll finish this post up with one more random fact that was pretty cool. We crossed paths, deep in the cave, with a party of two jumpsuit-clad pros going on a mission of their own. One of them had a long grey beard. I found out later that he was part of the famous 1972 expedition with Pat Crowther where she first found the connection between Mammoth cave and Flint Ridge cave. Pat Crowther's husband Will Crowther was also a caver, and created "Adventure", the first text-adventure (or "interactive fiction") game.
You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike...
Battling Spam and the Ring of Gyges
I just wrote a really long article for the Humanized Weblog about spam-fighting techniques, their interface implications, and the concepts of identity and accountability online. It's rather long and philosophical. Go read it!
OMG THE HACKERS CONFERENCE
Was the coolest event of my entire life so far.
And I can't tell you about it. They have a "no blogging" rule. Everything said there is off the record, to encourage people to speak freely.
So, I wish I could mention all the famous hackers I got to meet and all the amazingly cool projects people were working on, but I can't. I'm just going to be bouncy and giddy with manic glee for several days.
I'll be glad when this thing is over
I voted first thing in the morning, before work. My precinct had the optical-scan ballots, with one touch-screen machine in the corner that nobody was using. I wasn't in their book of names, since I sent in my registration for my new address in early October, right on the line of 30 days before the election... They had me fill out some paperwork and then let me vote; I wonder if I can check on whether it was counted or not?
I'm watching the results update in real time at the New York Times' election coverage page. Last time I checked (about 11 PM central), Democrats had gained 3 seats in the Senate and 18 in the House, and 3 Governors. Which means it's very likely that the House will have a Democratic majority, and the Senate will be very, very close. These numbers can still change of course. Don't know yet about the Illinois elections.
It will be very interesting to watch which elections are disputed over the next few days, becaue of electronic-machine-glitchiness or other irregularities. The Virginia senate race between Allen and Webb is insanely close -- the difference is only about 6,000 votes out of over a million, or less than 0.6 percent, so I predict that there will be some very ugly fights over recounts in that state.
Time has an article called Get Ready For the Glitches. I also just got an email from MoveOn.org offering a $250,000 reward to anyone who blows the whistle on evidence of election fraud.
Oh, and for all the hype, I heard the turnout in this election has only been around 40%. Come on people, that's totally lame.
I have a couple more political rants I want to finish up and post, but not until after the Hackers conference this weekend. Once those are up I hope I can focus on other subjects for a while. I'm sick of my page being all politics all the time. I want to post some more drawings and photos and electronics projects.
So I'll leave you with this article for now, about the hideous Military Commissions Act of 2006: National Yawn as our Rights Evaporate".
Stalin: it only matters who COUNTS the votes
I am concerned about touch-screen voting machines. Actually, it's more like "terrified" than concerned. Touch-screen voting machines are horrifyingly easy to tamper with, either by hacking the software (it has well-documented security flaws) or by changing the results stored in the machine. And they leave no paper trail, so it's impossible for anyone ever to tell whether they've been tampered with or not. With these machines installed across the country, it is now a distinct possibility for a small group of conspirators to pull of the ultimate bloodless coup-d'-etat: undetectable election theft.
When you consider that:
- The CEO and board of directors of electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns, and their CEO wrote a letter containing a promise "...to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President.".
- ...And when you consider that one of its competitors has been bought out by Venezuelean company Smartmatic, which has been accused of rigging elections for America-hating socialist Hugo Chavez...
...you start to think that maybe the people designing these machines are not exactly the neutral parties they should be
(thanks to Eric for bringing the Venezuela connection to my attention)
This article is seven pages, but it's a must-read:
How to Steal an Election By Hacking the Vote. Hacker Jon Stokes tries to get us to realize just how severe the problem is by giving us step-by-step instructions for hacking the machines and undetectably stealing votes. Read this! This is horrifying! If Microsoft released a product with this many security holes, that was this easy to hack, they'd be getting sued up the wazoo by business interests. But when democracy is at stake, the government happily accepts this kind of shoddy worksmanship? It's unbelievable.
In fact, election theft might not just be an ominous possibility. There's evidence that it has already happened.
Read this article: Was The 2004 Election Stolen, which documents the massive exit-poll discrepancies, voter disenfranchisement, and other fishiness going on in Ohio in 2004. Ohio in 2004 was at least as fishy as Florida in 2000.
OK, so it's in Rolling Stone, a magazine which put Nevermind by Nirvana in their top 50 albums ever list, so maybe you don't consider them a reliable source. However, that article cites its sources, so if you doubt the evidence, you can check out the original sources it comes from. You can also read the status report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff about "What Went Wrong in Ohio", which summarizes some of the same evidence. There's an article about it in Wired too.
Ed Brayton's blog, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, is another one I read regularly for vaguely libertarian-leaning political news and commentary. He has an excellent post here which pulls together some choice quotes from the Ohio reports.
The number of questionable votes in Ohio election 2004 would have been enough to swing Ohio, and therefore the country, the other way. Before you dismiss me as a sore-loser-for-Kerry conspiracy theorist, I don't even like Kerry. I didn't vote for him, and I think he would have made a terrible president if he had won.
No, what's got me outraged is that our entire electoral system has been thrown into serious doubt. With no paper trail there's no way to go back and confirm or deny any wrongdoing. And the mainstream media ignored it. Why wasn't the Ohio election tampering top of the front page in every newspaper in the country? Why isn't the unreliability of electronic voting machines a major national issue? Every day in the paper's it's all about the latest gay-bashing Republican or religious leader who has turned out to be a closet homosexual and/or pedophile himself. While the irony is kind of amusing, is this really bigger news than the fact that our elections could be stolen and we'd never even know about it?
This is not a partisan issue! This is an issue for anybody who cares about democracy, no matter which party they support!
When you go in to vote on Tuesday, don't use the touch-screen voting machines if you have a choice (I do in my district -- it's choice of touch-screen or optical scan). Make your concerns known to the election judges. Maybe even talk about it to the strangers in line. And no matter what the outcome is tomorrow, we need to start a major national letter-writing campaign. We need to let the people running elections know that this is a major issue. Elections are run at the county level, so don't bother writing to your congresscritters. Look up who's in charge of this in your county and write letters to them. Write to your local newspaper too. That's what I'm going to do. I'll post my letter on this site before I send it, so if you're lazy, you can copy it, change a few names, and send a copy off to your county too.
Oh yeah, who am I voting for?
I just realized it's two days till the election and I don't actually know anything about the candidates for any position except Governor. That's the odd thing about midterm elections: The election is all over the news, and yet the people I'll be chosing between have not been on the news. Not even the Internet news. And almost none of my friends and coworkers are registered to vote in Illinois -- they're all doing absentee ballots for their home states. Even if they were voting in Illinois, they might be in a different congressional district. Is this a sign of how dislocated we've become in the modern age? I have no one to discuss my congressional election with because I don't know anybody else in this distric, and the news doesn't cover it because it's only of local interest.
Bleah. Oh well. At times like these I think back to when I was living in Stonington and I would have interesting philosophical discussions with my friend's mom Dorothy, aka "Spare Mom". One time I tried to justify my political apathy (which I had, back then) by saying that all the choices were just as bad, so why should I vote for one? And Dorothy said, "Maybe you have a duty as a citizen to learn enough about the choices that they don't all seem equally bad." I forget her exact wording but it was something like that. So I've been doing some research.
I've already gone on about Judy-Barr Topinka and Rod Blagojevich at great length (I had a post about them back in March before the primary), and there's not much more to say except that more and more evidence of Rod's corruptitude keeps coming to our attention. But he's probably going to win anyway. Judy is not a very inspiring alternative. I think she comes off to most people like a mean grouchy old lady. There was kind of a cute ad where Rod is sitting under a tree and defending himself thus: "If you listen to my opponent, the world is coming to an end... and I'm the worst person on the planet. But look at the positives!..."
So. Green party it is.
I have heard rumors that Whitney, the Green Party candidate, got somewhere around 14% in one poll. That's unbelievably high for a third-party candidate! It's either a sampling fluke or a sign of how dissatisfied everyone is with Rod and Judy.
The Green Party of Illinois is running a full slate of candidates for state positions, and I'm tempted to just vote for them across the board.
Somehow, in the discussion on this page, politics keeps turning into Magic the Gathering analogies. Here's another one:
The difference in strategy between a two-player M:TG duel and a three-or-more-player free-for-all. In a duel you win by attacking your opponent. In a free-for-all it's often better to build up your own position and encourage the other players to fight among themselves. Or else to form alliances. One of the reasons I think life would be better with more viable political parties is that campagning by attacking the other guy would instantly become less effective, while building up your own qualifications an forming alliances would be more effective.
Cook County Board President
I see more advertising for this race than for any other. I think the race is like neck-and-neck so they're both trying to get any possible edge. However, I had no idea what the Cook County Board President even does, or what the issues are.
When I looked into it, I found out that it's a far more interesting contest than I could have guessed.
Todd H Stroger (Democrat) vs. Tony Peraica (Republican).
You may vaguely recall that during the primaries in March, a guy named John Stroger won despite having a stroke a week before the election. He has not been seen by the public since, and people have been speculating that he's become a vegetable. He had been county board president since 1994 and has a hospital named after him, so I guess he was pretty popular! Shows what I know. Anyway, John was replaced on the ballot by his son Todd. This has caused a lot of grumbling. Did they intentionally hide John Stroger's true health status? Was this a bait-and-switch operation? Etc. So Todd has been campaigning and trying to prove that he is qualified on his own merits, and trying to get everyone's mind off of his father.
As for the actual issues in the race, the best summary is this article here. That's on Tony Peraica's site, but it's a very well-balanced newspaper article by a neutral party which goes into the pros and cons of both sides. Incidentally, mad props to Peraica for having the guts to post something like that on his own site. He doesn't even try to rebut any less-than-flattering things the article says about him. It's like he wants voters to be well informed even if that turns them away from him. That makes me want to vote for him right there.
A one-sentence summary of the article, if you're too lazy to read it, is that Peraica is better on financial issues and Stroger is better on social issues, and the real question is which one you think is more important.
I'm very much on the fence about this. Based on my limited understanding of what the Cook County Board does, it sounds like just the place where we want to have fiscal conservatives and reformers for government accountability, and Peraica is apparently both. But he's a Republican and he's against abortion and stuff. But on the gripping hand, the Cook County Board President doesn't have the power to do anything about abortion, and Peraica has said that although he is against it personally he promises not to make it an issue. And he's trying to distance himself from the Republican party -- notice the party name does not appear on his website anywhere. Or on his signs.
But I believe pretty strongly that the Republican party needs to be punished. As I have mentioned in several rants, it has turned into (on the national level anyway) a corrupt, power-hungry, and ideological organization which cozies up to religious radicals, which won't take responsibility for its own mistakes, which cares nothing for civil liberties or limited government, and which has abandoned everything good about the conservative philosophy. The Republican party needs to be taught a lesson. It needs to learn that it can't keep getting away with this stuff. It needs to lose and lose big on Tuesday . Maybe if it does, it will take the hint, and reform itself or at least adjust its strategy.
So part of me is saying: forget the issues in the local races, just vote Democrat everywhere to help make the message as loud as possible.
But I would feel bad about that. I'm always criticizing other people for being too partisan and not caring about good government. I don't want to do that myself.
I would have no problem voting for Paraica if only he was running as an independent... Drat, this is hard.
I have a different representative now that I live on the North Side. Surprise! In Hyde Park the representative is Bobby Rush, and both he and his opponent are boring nonentities. But where I live now, I'm in the 9th District. My rep is Janice D Schakowsky (Democrat) and she's actually kinda cool. I don't agree with everything she's done, but if you go to her page and look at her record, you can see she's quite active in proposing things and serving on subcomittees and trying to make stuff happen (whereas Bobby Rush struck me as a benchwarmer, if you know what I mean). A lot of it is the typical Democrat stuff like calling for universal health care, which is not an issue that gets me particulary excited (it would depend very very much on the implementation. If you were smart you might be able to come up with a socialized medicine system that would actually save the government money. If you were not smart you could make things worse than they are now.) But hey look! She's pushing for renewable energy sources and stem cell research and phone record privacy and intervention in Darfur. Now she's got my attention.
Running against her is Michael P. Shannon (Republican). He doesn't sound like a bad guy. The 9th district seems to be very blue (it includes the north suburbs) so it stands to reason the Republicans would challenge it with a moderate, not a firebreathing radical. In fact, on this page here he makes a lot of points that I am always making about the ways our system is broken. So I would actually agree with him on a lot of things. But how can I vote for someone who would choose that color of yellow for his web page background?!? Just kidding. Seriously though, I'm considering the Republican for Cook County Board President cuz I don't think he can do much harm there, but I just got done ranting about how the Republicans need to lose Congress, so I'm sure as heck not going to vote for one there.
Not the power drill! NOOOOO!
Night before last I dreamed that I was living in Chinatown and I somehow got caught up in negotiations between two rival Chinese organized-crime syndicates. The negotiations went sour and soon this infamous asassin from one of the syndicates was flipping out and killing everybody with a cordless power drill. In real life, there would be blood flying everywhere, but in the dream the drill just made nice clean holes right through people's chests as if they were made of wood, and then they fell over dead. The asassin came after me next, and I fought him to a standstill with my martial-arts skills, and then I ran away. I knew that he would be coming after me, cuz now I Knew Too Much, and there would probably be snipers waiting for me back at my apartment, so I was going to have to skip town and change my name or something. I was SO HAPPY when I woke up to find out that it was just a dream. It was like, "Yay! Nobody's trying to kill me! Life is WONDERFUL!"
But then last night I had the BEST DREAM EVER, like my subconscious was making it up to me or something: I was riding in a car with Scott McCloud and I had the sketches for my comic and he was looking at them and giving me helpful advice for how to write better dialogue! Totally Sweet!! The comic pages I had in the car in the dream were part of the story I'm working on in real life, but they were from scenes that I haven't drawn yet IRL. I am trying desperately to remember them, because if they were good, I want to reproduce them for real!
Two stories of appalling incompetence
Decades from now, when people argue about the legacy of the Bush administration, they will have a long, long list of Bush failures and screw-ups to choose from. It'll be great fodder for historians. They will argue about whether this was the worst presidential administration in American history, or merely the second or third worst. But I think that among all the argument over this lying, WMD-misplacing, federal-government-expanding, national-debt-doubling, torture-legalizing, stem-cell-research-vetoing, hurricane-response-fumbling, vote-tampering, CIA-agent-outing, religious-fundamentalism-pandering, war-starting, war-losing, Bill-of-Rights-destroying administration -- even among this miserable litany of failure and corruption, the failure of the Iraqi reconstruction project will still stand out as as one of history's worst mistakes. Certainly, the worst mistake the US has made in Middle Eastern history since that time we overthrew the democratically-elected leader of Iran.
It would have been really nice if the Iraq invasion had gone anything at all like the administration had predicted. If you remember, they predicted that we would be welcomed as liberators, that the war would cost $50 or $60 billion, and that it would be over in a few weeks. (Rumsfeld is now lying about having made all the above predictions). The theory was that we would leave behind a thriving and peaceful democracy which would then be a shining beacon of freedom in the mideast and which would lead to the overthrow of all the tyrannical regimes bordering it.
If that had happened? If I had been proven wrong? That would have been great! I would have been happy to have been proven wrong! I would have been dancing down the street saying "I take back everything I said before, invading Iraq turned out to be a great idea! Hooray for President Bush!" Believe me, when I read the latest headlines about the number of people killed by car bombs/beheadings/torture in Baghdad, I get absolutely no pleasure from saying "told you so". I would have been happy to have been proven wrong. It's not just the tens(hundreds?) of thousands of Iraqis and the thousands of American troops who have died, and the $336 billion and counting that we've burned on this project. It's also the likelihood that Iraq will remain a terrorist breeding ground and hellhole of sunni-vs-shiite violence for generations to come, permanently changing the course of world history for the worse.
Those future historians I mentioned? They will argue about whether the whole Iraqi invasion project was inherently doomed to failure, or whether it could have succeeded if it had been directed by a competent president.
And one of the pertinent facts in the debate will be this:
"Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq" (Washington Post)
The grand project to rebuild Iraq into a shining beacon of freedom required a civilian army of bureaucrats and organizers and government clerks and experts and so on. When choosing these people, the Bush Jr. administration chose not the ones most qualified for their jobs, but the ones who were seen as most loyal to Republican dogma. Before being appointed, people were questioned about whether they voted for Bush or not, and even about their views on Roe vs. Wade. Seriously, click that link and read that article. It's one of the top three or four most appalling things I've ever read out of all the appaling things that this appalling administration. Are those guys even taking this war seriously?
It sounds like again and again, they passed over qualified applicants in order to choose people with little experience or qualifications who had the right political leanings. What possible relevance does Roe vs. Wade have to the job? It makes no sense unless they are screening people for political leanings. As if they think that rewarding the spread of their ideological virus is more important than the success of this nation-building project which they told us three years ago was so important that we had to start a war over it.
I would be equally appalled if a liberal Democratic government screened people based on their loyalty to irrelevant political dogma. I am opposed to all ideology. I am in favor of picking out the best qualified, most competent people in order to accomplish a mission with the minimum amount of death on either side. This has not happened.
Everything we've done wrong in Iraq -- starting with Bush Sr. in 1991 inexplicable decision to leave Saddam in power after we invaded the first time -- would occupy several books. Here are just a few numbers to summarize how badly Iraq is faring under the total lawlessness created by the incompetent command of George W. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere" Bush and Donald "Stuff happens" Rumsfeld, a couple of losers who seem to think this is some kind of a game.
- Iraqi civilian deaths: Impossible to count precisely. Anywhere from 40,000 to 600,000. The 600,000 comes from a study whose methodology has been questioned, but if the real number is anything like that, it would mean that the civil war we unleashed is killing Iraqis faster than even Saddam could have killed Iraqis.
- Torture: "Worse than under Saddam". This is not the torture that Americans are doing to military captives, mind you (I have another rant lined up about that) but mainly torture that gangs of Iraqi thugs do to their captives because of religious differences or whatever other sick reasons they think they have.
- Refugees: 700,000 Iraqis have fled to Syria. This article hits close to home because Aleppo is the hometown of my Syrian friends from last summer.
- Cost. Way over $336 billion. Not including soldiers' regular pay, future medical care for wounded soldiers, or the interest we're going to have to pay on all the money we borrowed from China to finance the war.
- The amount of that money which has been wasted, stolen, or mysteriously disappeared:$9 billion. See also this article.
- Sunni vs. Shiite violence: A centuries-old religious sectarian conflict, which Saddam's brutal dictatorship was able to suppress, is now exploding with fanatics on both sides blowing up each others' mosques. Anybody with even a basic knowledge of Islam and/or mideast history knew that this was going to be a major problem with holding Iraq together. Many of our lawmakers and FBI agents do not even know the difference between Sunni and Shiite. Until two months before the war, our President did not even know that there were two different kinds of Islam.
- Increased terrorist threat: "The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse" according to the National Intelligence Estimate.
Yes, there was progress in a symbolic sense when Iraqis elected their own government last December (and then it took months after that to actually form the government) but if we can't control Baghdad and stop the civil war, then that might be their last election.
I should clarify here that I do not advocate pulling our troops out! I was against invading in the first place because I thought something like this might happen, and because I thought the justifications were weak. But even from the beginning I knew that if we invaded, we were going to have to stay there and fix the place up, no matter what. Pulling our troops out now will just make the problem worse! We need to win this war first, then build a functioning country instead of leaving Iraq as another Afghanistan, then pull our troops out. However, we cannot win this war unless we have competent leadership, and we're not going to have any before 2009, if then! Even if Democrats take over Congress this year, I am very pessimistic about seeing any real change in strategy. We still have two more years of Bush Jr. In two years time, I predict that Iraq will still be at war, whether our troops are there or not, and its situation may have deteriorated so much that it will have become completely unwinnable and we have no choice but to give up.
A competent leader would have realized within the first year of the war that his strategy wasn't working and he would have changed it. A man admits his mistakes and fixes them. A boy denies them and makes excuses. Bush Jr. is a boy trying to do a man's job. I think that's ultimately the root of all the other problems. That's why I call him "Bush Jr." as opposed to one of the great variety of insulting epithets that I could choose from; I think "Jr" does a good enough job of summing up the main problem Bush Jr. and the yes-men he surrounds himself with are so controlled by party ideology that for them to admit their mistakes is almost unthinkable. I was very shocked when I saw a newspaper headline the other day that said "Bush dissatisfied with progress of war". Well, duh! Every sane human being is dissatisfied with progress of war by now! So if this means that Bush Jr. has finally started paying some attention to reality, then congratulations for him, but it's a little bit late.
Now for the second story.
Read this article about how the military has been dismissing people who are qualified Arabic translators because they are also gay.
I looked it up and apparently, you don't even have to be having gay sex or anything: it's against the rules just to be a homosexusl in the military. A statement that someone is homosexual is grounds for discharge from the military even if there was no sexual activity. Apparently the military is scared that they will be corrupted if people think gay thoughts. I could see dismissing a soldier if he actually sexually harassed somebody, but why should it matter if the target was a man or a woman? And why assume that a gay man is guilty before he does anything?
And when he can translate Arabic?
If you read 9/11 Commission Report, it sounds like one of the main reasons we failed to prevent the attack was because of lack of skilled Arabic translators. We had all these intercepted communications but they didn't do us any good because we didn't understand any of them. It's like, these terrorists don't even need to use a code, cuz their crazy language is already a code, just like how we used Navaho speakers in WWII. The army decided they needed 84 translators minimum and they have only been able to find 42.
Given all that, they dismissed 37 qualified translators for being gay?
When the stakes are this high, I don't care if somebody is a convicted child molester, if he can speak Arabic, you better draft him into the army, keep him there, and make him translate those funny squiggles until his hands cramp up, OK?
I can't actually put all the blame for this on Republicans, of course. Bill Clinton was the one who passed the brilliantly retarded "Don't ask, don't tell" policy (though Colin Powell invented it), under which it's still against the rules to be gay in the military, but we agree to pretend there's not a problem as long as everybody stays in the closet. This is a compromise, but does anybody think it's actually a solution of any kind? (I am not a democrat. I don't think Clinton was some kind of hero. I'll criticize him whenever it's warranted.) The Navy released a report in 1957 finding that there is no increased security risk from having gays in the military. 1957! The military has known since 1957 that there's no rational basis for its policy. This policy is now making us less safe at a time when we need all the qualified people we can get to gather and translate as much intelligence as possible. The policy needs to be changed. It's not going to be changed under the Republicans because they have made hating gays one of the planks of their party platform because it helps motivate religious extremists to vote.
(I don't think that the Republican leadership actually hates gays. Cheney's daughter is a lesbian, and they're reportedly on speaking terms. I think that the leadership has gotten into a position where they have to pretend to support anti-gay legislation in order to keep the all-important bigot vote. That would explain why they hype stuff like that marriage amendment idea which they know has no chance of passing. So their bigotry is dishonest. I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse.)
Some people object to the term "homophobia" because they say "I'm not afraid of gays, I just don't like what they do." But when you are so afraid of what a gay man in the army might do that you would rather compromise the War on Terror in order to kick him out? That is so irrational that "Homophobia" is the only possible way to describe it.
Here is a youtube video of the Daily Show where they interview a man named Jason Jones, one of the Arabic translators who was dismissed from the army for being gay.
The video contains much that is completely tasteless, but it needed to be said. Oh yes, it needed to be said.
I put these two stories into one post because they make a common point. Hiring incompetent people to serve in Iraq based on their political leanings, and firing competent people based on their sexual orientation: both are stupid. If you hire and fire people based on anything other than their ability to do the job, then the job will suffer. And we're not talking about an easy job like writing computer programs. If I screw up in my job, nobody's going to die. If people screw up translating terrorist communications and rebuilding the Iraqi government, people will die. People are dying right now. Because of incompetence backed up by dogmatic political ideology. We are not going to be able to win this war -- any of the wars we are in -- until we get new leaders who can forget about ideology and put competence first.
Getting ready for election
I almost volunteered to be a Cook County Election Judge this year. Sounds fancy but it just means I would man the polls on Tuesday Nov 7. But in my daydreams it's pretty cool because I get to heroically foil some villians' evil plans to tamper with election results or something. Anyway I looked at a calendar and realized that it would mean taking off Tuesday of the same week that I'm already taking off Friday to go to Hackers, and I don't want to take that much time off from work.
Our latest estimate of the Enso release date is just after Thanksgiving, by the way. We could have released it already if it were not for the negotiations with dictionary companies, which are taking a long time.
So anyway, I just checked out what the referenda are going to be on the Chicago (actually Cook County) ballot. There are three county-wide referenda, and I quote:
"For the health and safety of children and the entire community, shall the State of Illinois enact a comprehensive ban on the manufacture, sale, delivery and possession of military-style assault weapons and .50 caliber rifles?"
"Shall Illinois enact legislation in 2007 to increase the minimum wage for Illinois workers from $6.50 an hour to $7.50 an hour?"
"Shall the United States Government immediately begin an orderly and rapid withdrawal of all its military personnel from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves?"
Ooh, three nice juicy issues! There was going to be a referendum on "defining marriage as between one man and one woman" but it didn't make it onto the ballot.
I will definitely vote no on the withdrawal of troops. I was against invading in the first place and I think the war has been horribly mismanaged, and the situation in Iraq is getting worse by the day, but I fail to see how pulling our troops out now will make it any better, and it could make it a lot worse. I want a total change in strategy so we can win the war, not a withdrawal.
I'm basically opposed to raising the minimum wage, too, because I find the economic arguments against it fairly convincing: when the government says in effect "Hey workers, you are not allowed to enter into a voluntary employment agreement with any company for less than X amount of money", the main effect is to raise unemployment at the lowest end of the wage scale, which doesn't help the poor. Trying to set the cost of labor by fiat in a free market usually backfires. I'd much rather work on improving education in order to help the poor become qualified for better paying jobs, which would help them much more in the long run AND benefit society by increasing the net productivity of the workforce. This is a very bad summary of a very complicated argument which I will probably do a full-on rant about sometime soon.
I'm not sure about the assault weapon ban. (My first reaction to it is "Oh no, my burst cannons and missile pods are assault weapons! At least I would still have my railguns and pulse rifles." Little WH40k humor. Ha ha.) There are some parts of Chicago where I would feel a lot safer going if I was allowed to carry a handgun, not to shoot anybody of course, but just to display prominently so that criminals would leave me alone. The criminals are of course going to have guns no matter what the laws are, because they're criminals. So for my own personal safety I would rather have less gun control in Chicago, not more. But on the other hand, military-style assault weapons? There's really no excuse for making those legally available to civilians.
Next, it has just sunk in that I'm going to have to actually form an opinion on the candidates (thanks Brian) for boring positions like Cook County President and Comptroller and stuff.
I could just leave them blank, but it's better for democracy if we take the effort to educate ourselves about what's actually at stake in races like these, even if they sound really boring. I'll do some research and put up another post here about what I find out.