Inhuman Swill : Page 145
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

November's CD mix of the month

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In your ear

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This just confirmed: I'll be Jim Freund's guest on "Hour of the Wolf" this coming Saturday from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m. on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City.

This'll be my third appearance on the show. Audio highlights from the first two dates can be found here.

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Science fiction online

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Hey, a new Cory Doctorow story today at Salon: "Anda's Game."

(Registration or ad view required.)

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Say what?

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I always love to hear my computer swear. Don't you?

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World love jam

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Rueful Americans post apologies to the world at The world writes back at

(Via King of Zembla.)

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Just received a very nice message from a fellow who had been reading Terror on Flight 789. He closed his letter with a

special thanks to the mother at who referenced your site as an evil apostate influence on their children. I would have never found you otherwise.
That's the power of the Internet, man.
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Open-source voting

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Computer security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in on the pros and cons of electronic voting systems, with emphasis on the inherent properties of software that should be taken into account:

Some have argued in favor of touch-screen voting systems, citing the millions of dollars that are handled every day by ATMs and other computerized financial systems. That argument ignores another vital characteristic of voting systems: anonymity. Computerized financial systems get most of their security from audit. If a problem is suspected, auditors can go back through the records of the system and figure out what happened. And if the problem turns out to be real, the transaction can be unwound and fixed. Because elections are anonymous, that kind of security just isn’t possible.

None of this means that we should abandon touch-screen voting; the benefits of DRE machines are too great to throw away. But it does mean that we need to recognize its limitations, and design systems that can be accurate despite them.

Computer security experts are unanimous on what to do. (Some voting experts disagree, but I think we’re all much better off listening to the computer security experts. The problems here are with the computer, not with the fact that the computer is being used in a voting application.) And they have two recommendations:

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Blue, blue, blue

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From "Talk of the Town" in the November 15 New York, Hendrik Hertzberg on why New Yorkers are feeling blue:

Here in the bluest borough of the bluest city of the bluest state in all our red-white-and-blue American Union, it has not been a happy week. A cocktail of emotions was being felt in these parts after last week’s Presidential election, and the most potent ingredient was sadness. We’ve got the blues, and we’ve got ’em bad....

Along with the sadness, there is puzzlement. Incumbents, especially in time of war, have a built-in advantage. But this incumbent had led the country into a war, the war in Iraq, that half the public had come to see as a mistake, and had led the country down what more than half the public saw, in pollster’s shorthand, as “the wrong track.” The election’s outcome defies logic, and perhaps that is the point. The early analyses credited Bush’s victory to religious conservatives, particularly those in the evangelical movement. In voting for Bush, as eighty per cent of them did, many of these formerly nonvoting white evangelicals are remaining true to their unworldliness. In voting for a party that wants to tax work rather than wealth, that scorns thrift, that sees the natural world not as a common inheritance but as an object of exploitation, and that equates economic inequality with economic vitality, they have voted against their own material (and, some might imagine, spiritual) well-being. The moral values that stirred them seem not to encompass botched wars or economic injustices or environmental depredations; rather, moral values are about sexual behavior and its various manifestations and outcomes, about family structures, and about a particularly demonstrative brand of religious piety. What was important to these voters, it appears, was not Bush’s public record but what they conceived to be his private soul. He is a good Christian, so his policy failures are forgivable. He is a saved sinner, so the dissipations of his early and middle years are not tokens of a weak character but testaments to the transformative power of his faith. He relies on God for guidance, so his intellectual laziness is not a danger....

Along with the sadness and the puzzlement, there is apprehension. Here in the big coastal cities, we have reason to fear for the immediate safety of our lives and our families—more reason, it must be said, than have the residents of the “heartland,” to which the per-capita bulk of “homeland security” resources, along with extra electoral votes, are distributed. It was deep-blue New York (which went three to one for Kerry) and deep-blue Washington, D.C. (nine to one Kerry), that were, and presumably remain, Al Qaeda’s targets of choice. In the heartland, it is claimed, some view the coastal cities as faintly un-American. The terrorists do not agree. They see us as the very essence—the heart, if you like—of America. And, difficult as it may be for some rural gun owners to appreciate, many of us sincerely believe that President Bush’s policies have put us in greater peril than we would be facing under a Kerry (or a Gore) Administration. There is apprehension that the well-documented failure to devote adequate resources to the protection of our cities, seaports, and airports will not be remedied. There is apprehension that the colossal incompetence and bad judgment—accompanied by ideological hubris, diplomatic arrogance, and an eagerness to ignore or suppress inconvenient evidence—that have tied up our military might in the knots of Iraq will, having been rewarded at the polls, continue. There is apprehension that the anti-Bush sentiments that are manifest throughout much of the world will now transmute into fully fledged anti-Americanism. The governments of our estranged European allies, led by reality-based statesmen, will do their best to accommodate the practical fact of a second Bush term. But these are, after all, democratic countries, and their publics may not be so patient or so sensible.  [full article]

Exactly what I've been trying, in my less articulate way, to articulate. (And dig that dig at denigrators of the "reality-based community.")

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Leonard Pitts, Jr., on civil liberties:

The Land of the Free can be rather ambivalent about its freedoms. Or, perhaps more accurately, our attitude toward them is often at odds with our words.

Consider that 89 percent of us said the right to due process was either "crucial" or "very important" in a Gallup poll last year. Then consider the indignation that did not erupt over the detention of hundreds of Muslim men swept up after 9/11. They had no access to lawyers, no charges filed and no masses of Americans in an uproar about it....

More than 100,000 other people of Japanese ancestry, most of them Americans, were sent to such camps after Japan's surprise attack on the U.S. naval installation at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. We were then as we are now, a slumbering nation abruptly made aware of its own vulnerability - and determined not to get caught napping again.

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For those of you who didn't get to see it in time, I just realized that I had used the eBay "email this auction" feature to send the description to myself:

LDS Mormon Temple Tokens and Signs - NEVER USED Item number: 6130379201

Seller: simateoako (30)
Positive Feedback: 100%
Member since Oct-14-00 in United States
Current bid: US $10.30
Time left: 5 days 17 hours
7-day listing
Ends Nov-16-04 11:53:25 PST
Item location: Fullerton, California
United States
Ships to: United States
Michael Ballam was right when he said that you can buy anything in this world for money. Unlike Adam, I sell my tokens for money. These tokens (with their accompanying name and signs) were obtained from the Los Angeles Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on May 1, 1998. They have never been used since, so they are in perfect shape. The winning bidder will receive an email with pictures detailing these tokens and signs. Winning bidder will also receive *FREE* my ex-wife's "new name," as I have no desire to spend eternity with her. You can have her. Since I am the current owner of the tokens and signs, and I still possess the priesthood, I am not afraid to call upon the administering of angels to protect me from negative emails and false bids. Bid with the Spirit®.

I just wish I'd been able to preserve the questions for the seller, and his answers. They were pearls of great pricelessness.

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