Two Cheers for Democracy!
I had a dream the other night where I was conducting a phone interview with Alice. From Alice in Wonderland. For, like, a newspaper bio I was writing about her. Weird.
But enough about my subconscious! Time for election results!
John Stroger, the guy who had a stroke a few days before the election, won Cook County President anyway. It kind of reminds me of how John Ashcroft lost an election to a dead man in 2000.
Debra Shore won the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District thing. Huzzah!
Philip Jackson lost to the incumbent Bobby Rush for the congress nomination. Boo! One of the worst systematic problems with our system of government is the fact that congressional races are so uncompetitive.
In 2004, out of the total 435 seats in the House, all up for re-election, only 22 races were anywhere near close and only 5 challengers beat incumbents. It's really that bad. How did it get this way?
Because of gerrymandering ("legislators use redistricting to choose their voters, before the voters have a chance to choose them"). Because incumbents are in a perfect position to trade favors for campaign funds. Because it costs at least one million dollars to successfully challenge an incumbent. And because Republicans would rather live in the country with other Republicans and Democrats would rather live in the city with other Democrats , people are increasingly sorting themselves into nice, neat, predictable voting blocks, which makes gerrymandering even easier.
Both republicans and democrats are guilty, guilty, guilty. They'll both use any trick they can to make sure incumbents have an unfair advantage. This miserable lack of competition leads to a situation where congressmen can spend their entire lives collecting bribes in a cushy job with no fear of being replaced.
(Strom Thurmond, who retired in 2003, was first elected in 1933!!) It leads to domination of the legislature by party hacks who always vote along party lines. It leads to voter apathy, which makes the problem worse: an uncompetitive election is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is why congress is widely perceived as the most corrupt of the three branches of government, why its approval rating is as low as 25% in some polls, and why most young people don't even know the names of their senators or representatives anymore.
In less depressing election news...
Judy-Barr Topinka (she of the awful website) got the Republican nomination for governor, so she'll run against Blagojevich in November. This is good. She is the most sensible of all the Republican cantidates. She is pro-gay and pro-choice. (That link is to a site attacking her for being pro-gay and pro-choice, which are, to me, reasons to support her!)
Meanwhile, I'm less inclined to support Blagojevich since I found out he proposed a poorly-thought-out law against selling violent video games, and as my friends know, I'm strongly in favor of video game violence. Not that I think the law would be likely to have much effect, but the governor's heart is clearly in the wrong place. Thanks to Jeremy for pointing this out to me.
At this point I would be about equally happy with either one of the Republicrats for governor. So I'm free to follow my conscience and vote for the Green Party.
The Federal Election Commission has finished pondering what campaign finance reform should mean on the Internet. This had the potential to be very scary. The government is full of technologically illiterate people who pass really stupid-ass laws like:
To get back to the FEC, they could easily have passed a law that says if I write a message on my website supporting a cantidate, then I am "contributing to the campaign" and therefore I have to get investigated and audited to make sure I'm not breaking campaign finance laws. That's a chilling thought.
Instead, they did something sensible for once, and decided that unless you are selling advertising on your website to a cantidate, campaign finance laws place no restriction on anything you want to say online. (Warning, link is pdf.) Huzzah!
On my more optimistic days, I think that internet-based campaigns could help bring about a revival of actual, real-life grassroots democracy, the kind this country has been sorely lacking ever since the beginning of the TV era. Spreading ideas online is much cheaper than buying TV commercial time, print ads , or billboards, and so it's possible that in the future it might allow a truly independent cantidate -- someone who is not filthy rich and who does not sell out to corporate interests to finance his campaign -- to have a chance in a major election.
The dark side of the internet is that it gives seriously scary people a way to find each other, build support groups, and put out propoganda. Scary people like white supremacists, religious fundamentalists, and pedophiles all have their own internet communities, which I'm not going to link to; you can find them easily enough if you feel like being nauseated.
Free speech means letting these people have their say -- and then standing up to denounce them and explain exactly why they're wrong. The free exchange of ideas should always be encouraged so that the good ones can flourish and the bad ones can be thoroughly ridiculed.
I don't think I ever adequately explained on this site the story of the dissolution of the U of C Aikido club. The club has had ups and downs for thirty years. Last year, our attendance fell, our senior students (including me) graduated, some of our teachers moved on to other things, the school sports club beaurocracy kept putting unneccessary obstacles in our way, and we had trouble recruiting new members due to the presence (for arcane political reasons) of two other Aikido clubs on campus. It's partly that the campus community wasn't large enough for three clubs, and it's also that newcomers confronted with a choice of three clubs would often decide that the whole thing was too confusing to bother dealing with, and choose some other martial art instead.
Over the summer, I signed up for a special "shugyo" intensive training program. I was training six times a week or more, which was really cool, but there was usually only one other student, and we were shuffled between locations every day; we had to constantly struggle with the sports club administration to get a place to meet at all. In the fall, I became the teaching assistant for Don's sociology course in "Conflict Theory and Aikido" which was pretty cool (well, I wasn't so keen on the sociology part). The students from the course gave the club an artificial infusion of new members, but it was clear that we were in trouble.
Over the summer and fall I put a ton of my personal time into maintaining the club. But I knew that I wasn't going to be able to train there indefinitely, since I'm no longer a student and it would cost me over $200 per quarter just for access to the gym facilities, not including club dues or anything else. We talked about trying to merge the clubs, allowing each sensei to continue teaching classes in his own way while sharing information and resources and members, but nothing ever came of it. The sports club administration demanded that we turn all of our dues over to them and then request purchases from them, instead of doing our own finances. However, they never responded to any of our requests, even for simple things like new mop heads. As a result, we had to mop our dojo with increasingly disgusting and dilapidated mops while the beaurocracy sat on the money that we had raised ourselves in order to buy new ones. Meanwhile, our class sizes kept shrinking until some days there were only one or two or three students.
So, those of us who were left had a meeting before the winter quarter started, and we decided to put the club on indefinite hiatus. Our equipment, and theoretically our money, are still there in case some enterprising students decide to come along and start the club up again. We agreed that none of us would stop training; we would just find training elsewhere.
Well, that was about three months ago, and although I had the best of intentions, I hadn't trained since then. The Chicago Aikikai is a wonderful place on the north side, and when I heard I was working on the north side I thought maybe I would be nearby, but no dice -- from I would have to ride the blue line half an hour south to downtown, then the brown line half an hour north again to get there by CTA. Getting home again would be a logistical nightmare -- an hour train ride and then waiting twenty minutes at the bus stop in a bad part of town, late at night, in the winter, while wet with sweat and carrying tons of gear? No thanks. If I had a car I could do it. Or if I lived downtown.
So, I didn't train, and an important part of my life was missing. Until Tuesday!
Don has returned from one of his mysterious month-long missions to Africa and the Middle East. I'm not entirely clear on what he does over there but it seems to involve meeting with high-level diplomats and negotiating the release of political prisoners, or something similarly lofty. Well, he's back, and his latest project is the Hyde Park Peace Dojo, which at the moment is him, me, and three other people meeting in the ballet room at the neighborhood club, with nine-and-a-half tatami units of borrowed mats. So it's kind of ghetto, but the important thing is I'm training again!
Wednesday night was a night out on the town. First Aza and I met up with Sushu and JoAnne at "Brazazz". ( With a name like that it could be either a Brazillian resturaunt or a lingerie shop. ) It's an insanely posh Brazillian steakhouse which operates on the "never-ending stream of meat" principle. You have this little button next to your plate, and on one side it's orange and says "Yes, Please", and the other side is black and says "No, thanks". Waiters prowl around the place carrying huge skewers with chunks of delicious meat on them, looking for orange buttons. If your button is orange they descend on you like reverse vultures, and slice hunks off of their meat skewers for you. All you can eat meat, seafood, and fried bananas. So expensive that I'll probably never go there again, but it was worth paying for the experience once.
Sushu and JoAnne were getting ready to go for a week-long visit to Japan. They're there now, visiting with Stephen and Helena in Kansai.
Before leaving, Sushu was struggling to finish a final paper for a class, and to finish correcting (for money) a stack of papers from high school students in California. (I agreed to mail the papers to Cali for her the next morning, but she ended up not finishing them in time.) I'm a little worried about Sushu: she took on so many extra responsibilities this quarter that she was exhausted and constantly in last-minute mode. I respect her work ethic and her willingness to take on leadership roles, but man, I hope she doesn't kill herself with work next quarter.
After the Brazillian steakhouse, Aza and I went to a George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic concert at the House of Blues (my second time, his first). Aza mostly listens to classical music and girly J-pop, so he was in dire need of some Funkstification. The staff frisked me and wouldn't let me go in with my swiss army knife, nor would they let me leave it with them or otherwise check it somewhere. They were kinda rude about it too. I guess I need to remember to leave Knifey at home next time I go to a concert. Lacking any other recourse, I hid Knifey behind a drainage pipe on the sidewalk outside the building, figuring there was at least a chance it would still be there. Inside the House of Blues, it was as crowded as a rush-hour subway train. Standing room? more like squeezing room. And the opening act was a really bad rap group that went on for way too long. I was rapidly getting annoyed by this point. House of Blues tickets are expensive, man.
But then the Mothership landed, and the audience started in to chanting WE! WANT! THE FUNK!, and allllll the bad feelings were gone. Ohhhhh yeahhhh. I want the boooooomb, I want the P-Funk, I likes my funk uncut. They funked for like four hours. In fact, it was more funk than we could handle. After a solid three hours, not counting the one-hour opening act, it was 1 AM and they showed no signs of slowing down, but we were getting really tired and our feet and ears were hurting so we decided to sneak out.
I slept on the couch at Aza's new north-side apartment, because I didn't fancy the idea of waiting for the 55 bus at the red-line stop at 1 AM by myself. Aza's apartment is 10 minutes from work. Mine is like 1:15. That was nice. The funny thing was in the morning, when I was on the couch eating Korean nori pieces and reading a National Geographic article about Sir Edmund Hillary, Aza's roommate (who I don't know at all) came out and said good morning. We talked for about five minutes about the concert, etc., and then he said "By the way, I tried to put the blinds up in your room, but the drill bit broke, sorry.". Wait, what? Does he think I'm Aza? "Um, my name is Jono, I'm Aza's co-worker, I slept on your couch last night, hello, nice to meet you.", I said. "OH WOW SORRY, I didn't have my glasses on!" he said.
On Saturday, I went to work, to finish up some stuff. It was just me and Andrew. We took a break around lunchtime to create his character for the upcoming Humanized D&D campaign. He's never done pencil-and-paper RPing before, but he's played lots of computer RPGs and read lots of fantasy novels, and he came up with an idea for his character's background which I think is pretty cool. Oh, the adventure ideas in my evil DM brain are a-spinning. After that I spent several hours battling with this horrible bug involving unresolved DLL dependencies and abnormal exit conditions that arose in one of the previously-working unit test files when I added the zthread library to the build. It was massively frustrating and I finally gave up and went home. On the train I took another look at the problem and solved it almost immediately. Moral: Get away from the problem for a while and look at it from another angle. Better moral: if you have multiple exit points from a synchronized function, make damn sure there is absolutely no way to return from the function without releasing the mutex.
Saturday night I went to Calypso with Cat and Jeremy and Satomi. When we were paying for our dinner, a discussion about the funny colors on the new $20 bill led Satomi to ask why we have "In God We Trust" on our money, whether that refers to the Christian god specifically, and whether that violates separation of church and state. Ahh, Satomi is new to the many stupid and never-ending arguments that make up the American public discourse, but she learns quickly.
This turned into a discussion of "intelligent design". She had heard her biology teacher ridiculing this concept but wasn't clear on the details. I am actually pretty knowledgable about intelligent design and its spokesmen, William Dembski and Kent Hovind and Michael Behe. I read all I can about them because I hate those guys. I hate their willful ignorance and their logical fallacies and their attempts to corrupt public science education, and I hate the fact that large portions of the American public lack the most basic ability to distinguish between science and pseudoscience.
So then I had to explain to Satomi what "red states" and "blue states" are, which meant explaining the Electoral College, and so on. And she told me about the unique ways in which Japanese politics is messed up. Since I couldn't vote in Japan I didn't pay much attention, and so about the only thing I knew about Japanese poltiics before was that they think a good way to campiagn is to drive trucks around the neighborhood near election time blaring slogans out of loudspeakers at ear-shattering volume.
It was a good discussion. I like Satomi a lot but she's really shy, so it's only now, after we've been sharing an apartment for six months, that I'm finally getting to know her.
On Monday, me and the three other Humanized programmers brought Atul's beaten-up car into the neighbor's garage in order to replace the brake pads. Andrew's done this before, so he provided the guidance while each of us took a turn jacking one corner of the car up onto a block and removing the wheel. The old brake pads were worn down to almost nothing in places, which explains the horrible screeching and the general inability to stop. Replacing them is easy; the hard part is getting the caliper closed over the new brake pads. There's this hydraulic piston that pushes the pads onto the hub when you brake, and to close the caliper you have to push the piston out of the way. The piston is much stronger than you are, so you basically have to release the brake fluid valve and then set up a lever to squeeze on the piston, making the brake fluid squirt out. It's disturbingly biological.
So we got greasy up to our elbows, and put everything back together, and now the car is drivable again. To any real mechanic, replacing brake pads is child's play, but this was the first time I've done anything like it. So for me it was sort of a rite of passage. It was deeply satisfying. I'm trying to explain why, and it would be easy to get into cliches about Manhood and killing mammoths and stuff, but for me it's not about masculinity. It's about authenticity and trying to be a complete human being in the modern world. I'm a firm believer in the power of technology to improve the human condition, and I'm an optimist about the future, and I have come to realize that this attitude is very rare today. Too many people think technology is "dehumanizing". It's not the technology per se that's the problem, it's the feeling of being dependent on machines you can't understand or control. The solution is not to reduce the tech level, the solution is to learn about your machines, master them, make them your own. When you succeed at this it's intensely empowering, plus good clean fun. Teaching yourself auto mechanics, or electronics, or computer programming, is therefore not just a hobby or a career path, it's a personal spiritual quest. And that is why I enjoyed changing the brake pads. I hope somebody else's car breaks down soon so I can work on it!
So, this week was full of good food, friends, old video games, Aikido training, funky music, hard work, bug-fixing, role-playing, and taking machines apart. That right there includes most of my favorite things in life! It doesn't get much better than this.
The main thing I'm missing right now is getting out into nature. I've been in the city way too long. And it's been winter way too long. Aaand I've been missing old friends who I haven't seen in a long time. I feel it may be time soon to go on an adventure.
I'm generally pretty happy right now. If I was on LiveJournal I would have a little animated gif of a cat or something that says "Current Mood: Happy". I'm not sick anymore, the Evil Day Star is back in the sky, and on Saturday it was warm enough to open the windows and take the plastic sheets off them. And to start sleeping in my room again. The beginning of spring gives a whole new perspective on things; it's not just that it's warmer, it's that the world seems to contain the possibility of life again.
I had a great weekend: went to dinner with Eric ( Eric and my mom seem to have made peace, sort of, which makes me happy ) and I had an enormous bout of creativity, which led to me writing the political rant below, as well as doing a whole bunch of work on The Massive Vs The Masses ( Jake: the digging machine is almost done! ).
And also I finished the construction of my Ultimate RPG Battle Grid, which is a humongous 2 foot by 4 foot piece of dry-erase board material with a 1-inch square grid carved into it with an exacto-knife. I can draw terrain features on it in dry-erase marker, lay it flat, and move minis around on it. I'm going to be starting a D&D Planescape campaign with my co-workers at Humanized. When I test out the Ultimate RPG Battle Grid for the first time I'll take some pictures and post them here.
I tried to reinstall Gentoo on Atsuko, so that I can set her up as an SVN and web server, but apparently her video card is shot, because I hooked up a monitor (one that I know is good) and got no signal. Now she's running, but she's not being recognized by the network and since I can't see what's going on, there's no way to fix it. This makes me a sad panda.
Yesterday I stayed at work insanely late, trying to fix obnoxious bugs with the Test Pharmacy that I made for work. (If you use popen3 in Python to do readlines() on the stdout and stderr from a process, and if the process outputs more than MAX_BUFFER_SIZE on either channel, you will get a deadlock because both readlines() are waiting for an EOF that isn't coming.) I wanted to be done with this stupid thing a month ago, but I just kept running into new bugs. Anyway, around 9 PM I finally fixed it, and there was great rejoicing.
Tonight I'm going to start doing Aikido again, at the brand new Hyde Park Peace Dojo, after a 3-month dry spell. I'm going to be so out of shape and out of practice. It is embarrassing. I'll tell you how it goes after I come back.
The one bad thing in all of this is that I feel really sorry for my roommates. They both came down with the same plague that I had, and spent Sunday throwing up. Satomi has two exams today and two tomorrow, and her professors wouldn't let her postpone them, so she has to do all the exams when she's really not in the right mental state for them. I'm very worried about her.
Jono's Guide to the Illinois Primary
Local politics is a lot less depressing than national politics. The number of people voting is small enough that you have more of a chance to swing the result. It's less about party affiliation and more about individual cantidates. And the results are more likely to have an impact on your daily life. So how come only old people bother to follow and participate in local politics? I want to buck that trend. This is why I keep annoying all my friends by reminding them about the approaching Illinois primary election every single time I see them. (A lot of them are registered to vote in other states, sadly.)
The Illinois primary election, on March 21, is for a bewildering variety of city, state, and national offices. I've been researching some of the cantidates and putting together a sort of election guide. Consider this a rough draft; I'll update it with more information over the next week or so.
Where do I vote, and how do I find out if I'm registered?
You can look up your polling place by looking up your street address at chicagoelections.com (but you have to get your street suffix exactly right or they won't find you; this is pretty lame).
You can also find out whether you're registered or not by looking up your street adress on another page at the same site.
What positions are we voting for exactly?
- Lieutenatn Governor
- Attorney General
- Secretary of State
- Representatives in congress
- State senators
- Representatives in general assembly
- Commissioners of metropolitan water reclamation disctrict
- President of cook county board of commissioners
- County clerk of cook county
- Treasurer or cook county
- Sheriff of cook county
- Assessor of cook county
- County commisioners (17)
- Members of the board of review of cook county
- Supreme, apellate, circuit, sub-circuit judges
OK, granted, some of those are kind of hard to get excited about. Probably the most interesting races are the governor, the representatives in congress, and of course the Metropoilitan Water Reclamation District Commisioner!
So this is just a primary, right?
Yes, the real election is in November. But Illinois is such a solidly blue state that for some offices, whoever gets the Democratic nomination is sure to win; therefore the primary is more important than the general election.
According to the page Registering to Vote in Cook County,
"Illinois voters do not need to register by political party or declare a political party membership or preference. However, voters may select a specific political party's ballot at their polling place when voting in a primary election."
I'm not sure, but what I think that means is that on the day of the primaries, you can choose to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries, but not both. (I will have to call someone and ask about this.) This is a good thing, because I want to influence the primaries but I have no interest in joining either branch of the Republicrats.
How do I find out who's running?
A good general purpose site for finding out about the cantidates is USElections.com. That has links to the campaign websites of most of the Illinois hopefuls. Another site, Modern Vertebrate, has the same sort of information with a bit more of an attitude.
The Race for Congress
Neither of Illinois' senators is up for re-election this year, but our representatives in the House are. You need to find out which congressional district of Illinois you live in in order to find out who your representative is and who might be running against him. house.gov lets you look this information up by entering your zip code.
Hyde Park is in the 1st congressional district of Illinois. Our congressman, since 1992, is Bobby Rush. (No, not the blues musician Bobby Rush.) You should read about Bobby Rush's voting record. This is going to sound harsh, but it doesn't seem like he's done anything particularly noteworthy for having spent fourteen years in Congress. I mean, his web page devotes a paragraph to the fact that he passed a bill to name a post office after somebody, so he must not have a whole lot else to brag about. On the other hand, according to this bio he was a co-founding member of the Illinois Black Panther party. Not sure how to feel about that.
Apparently the only guy running against Bobby Rush in the primary is Phillip Jackson, who I happened to meet on the street a couple weeks ago; he was just running around introducing himself to people and giving out business cards. What I know about him is that he used to be the chief of education for the city of Chicago, and so the main issue in his platform is improving public education. He's willing to speak out against the Patriot Act and the NSA wiretap program. Phillip Jackson's website is not so great. It has embarrasing typos in it. Yes, I judge cantidates by how good their websites are. Phillip Jackson probably doesn't have much campaign money or support. But (just going on first impressions here) he seems like a guy who cares about the job a whole lot more than his competition does. Which means he might shake things up a little more if he gets elected. That should count for something.
Whoever wins the primary faces Jason Tabour, a thoroughly undistinguished Republican, in the November election. This guy's website is very sad. It reminds me of somebody trying to get his first job and padding his resume with extracurricular activities nobody cares about. Ooh, you were the wrestling champ in high school, yeah I care. I guess the Republicans aren't seriously trying for this district. Probably it's been gerrymandered beyond all recognition.
The Race for Governor
Until a couple weeks ago I didn't even know who our governor was. Yes, shame on me. Now I know his name is Rob Blagojevich, but I can't pronounce that so I'm just going to call him Blago-man.
Here is all about his proposed 2007 budget. Sounds like some good stuff, but of course it's from his official website so it puts the best possible spin on everything. I especially like the stem cell research, the public education funding, and the tax breaks for college students. But what's amazing about this budget plan is that unlike most Democrats, who seem to think that money grows on trees, Blago-man actually explains where the funding is going to come from and how he's going to pay for everything without raising taxes or running up a debt. I'm impressed. Seriously, click on that link and read that budget plan. It's not as boring as it sounds.
Blago-man is under investigation for possible shady dealings in raising campaign contributions. All the other cantidates are using that as their main angle of attack. Especially Edwin Eisendrath, a democrat running against Blago-man in the primary. He has a campaign ad (quicktime on his website) where he says he's going to juggle chainsaws, but then he doesn't juggle them. He was just lying to get your attention. C'mon man, I'll totally vote for you if you can really juggle chainsaws. But getting my hopes up and then backing out -- man, that's just like every other politician. You suck.
Seriously, though, Judy Barr Topinka sounds like she would be an OK governor. She's a fiscal conservative, not a social conservative. Her no-nonsense platform is entirely about economics (she's currently the state treasurer).
Oberweis, on the other hand, is definitely a social conservative. Some scary stuff lurks under the shiny veneer of his attractive, standards-compliant website. He's for school prayer, for banning abortion, against gun control, against immigration -- oh, sorry, in his words: "against a wave of illegal immigration in which terrorists and violent criminals hide". Does he believe that or is he just pandering to xenophobes? Oh, and he's for "voluntary school prayer". Hello? We already have voluntary school prayer. You can pray whenever and wherever you want and nobody's going to stop you. What guys like him mean when they say "voluntary" is "let's stop the whole school for five minutes for an organized prayer, and kids who don't want to join can just sit there and feel uncomfortable". And then there's this incredibly smarmy pdf in which he makes a big deal out of the fact that he Grew Up On A Farm and is therefore Innately Morally Superior to those city-folks. It makes me sad that people still fall for that lame old schtick.
Moving along, the Green Party (oh, look, the Green Party! Aren't they cute?) is running Rich Whitney. His website is the nicest of all, except for the part where they give you .doc files to download instead of pdfs. If you can get past the format thing, the contents of the position papers are amazingly smart and well-written. Whitney sounds like a highly intelligent guy who doesn't talk down to the voters. Anyway, I disagree with the Green Party on several key issues (I'm totally in favor of both nuclear power and genetically modified crops), but I generally sympathize with them and want to support them. Even if they don't win, if we can get their percentage of the vote above a certain threshold, they could gain major-party status in the state, which would make it easier for them to get on the ballot in the future.
Oh, and speaking of minor parties, Andy Stufflebeam is running for the Constitution Party, who are even less of a real party than the Green Party, and it's a good thing too, because from what I can tell the Constitution Party is for people who think the Republicans are too liberal. Anyway, that website is good for a quick laugh. His... name... is... Stufflebeam! Stufflebeam! Say that three times fast! I am amused.
The Race for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commisioner
You may recall that I wrote about this several months ago, after I ran into a guy on the Green Line who was campaigning for the position, and reading an article in the Sun-Times about Debra Shore who is also campaigning for it. Over the past week I've started seeing signs and even full-sized billboards popping up everywhere for Shore and her main opponent, Dean Maragos. It's bizzare. This is a position which most people have never heard of and most cantidates in the past have barely bothered campaigning for, but suddenly it's turned into a huge fight.
I like Debra Shore. Click on that link and read her website. She has a page where she explains why she thinks that water conservation is so important. She isn't someone who wants this job just as a political stepping stone; she really cares about doing a good job at it. It's largely because of her tireless campaigning and her generally being a thorn in the side of the establishment that the other cantidates, and the public, have started to pay attention to the race at all.
Plus her website is really good.
A very silly comic
The Knight And The Kninja
Aleksa is five, and obsessed with knights and ninjas and dinosaurs. So I drew her a comic starring all three. It was supposed to be a christmas present, but I got way overambitious and decided to ink it and shade it and everything. Which is why I didn't give it to her for christmas 2005 as I originally intended. I finally finished it during the days I spent bedridden with the flu this week.
It's just a very simple (and goofy) story with very simple (and goofy) drawings, but I'm proud of how it turned out. The only thing I don't like is that the Faber Castell shades-of-grey markers I used leave a streaky pattern when I fill large area with them. Bleah. I hope Aleksa likes it and saves it until she's older and doesn't decide to color on it with crayons or something.
What should Jono's new name be?
I've decided I want to change my name. I want to make "Jono" my official first name, since that's what everybody calls me. While I'm at it I want to think of a good middle name (I currently have none) and a good last name (the name "DiCarlo" means nothing to me). I figure it's best to change it now, because if I change it after I get famous, lots of people will be confused.
My friends suggested many possible names for me. The front-runners so far are:
- Jono J. O'Noj (it's a palindrome!)
- Jono E. Brain (duh)
- Jono Dot Org (need to buy the domain name too)
- Jono G. Placebo (doesn't mean anything, I just really like how it sounds. Try saying it out loud!)
If you have a good idea, write it in a comment! Somebody suggested that I auction off naming rights -- whoever pays me the most gets to pick my name. I bet I could make a whole bunch of money that way. But I might end up being named like "Mordekai" or something. Also I would probably get Slashdotted. My poor little server can't handle that. So forget it.
I'm almost over a really bad sickness. I missed two days of work with a horrid stomach flu. Felt like a monstrous larva was crawling around in my abdomen taking bites out of various organs. Threw up a whole bunch and couldn't eat anything. It was unpleasant. I'm feeling better now, but my neck is really sore. And I'm in a weird place mentally, so if the content of this post seems disjointed, blame the germs.
Most of my other friends either have already had it or they are just coming down with it. The onset of this epidemic coincided with Isaac's arrival from Portland for a week-long visit. He himself was perfectly healthy and unaffected, and therefore the theory has been proposed that he is a carrier, a "Typhoid Mary" if you will.
I have this electric heater which I use to keep warm in my poorly-insulated apartment in the bitter Chicago winter, because gas heat is too expensive. Man, I hate this apartment. My hatred begins with heat not being included. The electrical outlets are really sketchy. Every time you pull a plug out of one it feels like the whole box and faceplate assembly is going to pull right out of the wall. The sink is hard to turn on and off. The kitchen is too narrow. And I sleep on a sunporch which doesn't retain any heat. I've learned my lesson. Next time I pick an apartment I am going to put way more time into examining the details and not just take the first place that looks kinda good and is cheap.
So anyway I have this electric heater, next to the living room couch, where I have been sleeping because my sunporch room is too cold. And when Isaac was here he sometimes sat on top of the heater to warm his bottom. Usually nothing special happens. But last night he sat on it and huge sparks flew out and the living room circuit overloaded and the lights went out. Not so good. We flipped the circuit breaker and tried the heater again, but it immediately sparked so we turned it off and are leaving it off. This heater was kind of a sleazy number we found when we moved in, and it makes me dehydrated, so good riddance. I'm just going to turn the gas heat back up and suck up the cost. Spring can't be too far away at this point.
A few nights ago I had this great dream that I was doing some stuff, and I found a really cute sailor-fuku to wear. It was navy blue with red trim. I put it on and then I was pretty and that made me happy.
Another night, I had a dream that there was a such a thing as a sex act called an "L-job", but nobody would tell me what an L-job was. They wouldn't tell me, dammit. I was really curious.
Last weekend was that Uchi-con thing, and it was totally rad. You could feel the love. No drama, no crisis, just really laid back and lots of people having lots of fun. We did (or rather, my crazy undergrad friends with the Copious Spare Time did) a better job of advertising this year, so we got more people coming from other universities. And we made a good decision to condense more stuff into fewer rooms, so we didn't have sadly underpopulated rooms like last time.
This amatuer band called "The Spoony Bards" showed up uninvited and set up their guitar and keyboard in the hallway and started playing famous video game music and taking requests. They were pretty good. Definitely added to the atmosphere. Next year we will definitely invite them back.
I played a little bit of Taiko no Tatsujin and DDR, but I spent the entire con hanging out with the webcomics artists who I mentioned in my previous post. They are such totally cool people. The panel ran twice as long as it was scheduled for, since we were having such a good discussion and nobody really wanted to stop. Everybody was doodling charicatures of each other and talking about dramatic pacing and characterization and what influences their drawing style and how often one has to update to maintain an audience, stuff like that. Good times.
I got so inspired to draw that I got back to work on a certain mini-comic that I originally started doing as a present for Aleksa. I finally finished it over my two sick days. After I'm done with this post I'm gonna go scan it in and put it up.
Speaking of webcomics, enough people told me to read Achewood that I was finally pushed over my "people-telling-me-to-read-stuff" threshold and read it. I do not regret it, for Achewood is a very good comic strip. The characterization through dialogue is very well done. After I read a bunch of Achewood I find that its writing style starts to influence my speech patterns. The humor can be absolutely filthy at times, so don't read if you don't like that kind of stuff. You have to start at the beginning; the beginning is not very good, but without it nothing makes sense.
After Uchi-con I went up to my sister Kristin's place on the north side for a bit of an anime party. Her apartment is totally crazy, with big naked fairies painted all over the walls and stuff. I guess they let tenants paint on the walls there because it's all artist apartments. Basically it's like Kristin took her room from home and made it into a whole apartment. It's so Kristin, you know? Saw some Chobits (we hates it) and Naruto (we hates it) and the dialogue-free experimental animation Cat Soup (quite good). I fell asleep on her floor and then went straight from there to work the next day.
Then I realized I had left my keys on her floor, so we had to arrange a morning rendezvous at the Dunkin' Donuts downtown where she works so she could return them. It was a logistical operation worthy of some spy movie, especially because this Dunkin' Donuts is inside a federal government building protected by armed policemen and metal detectors.