Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sad State of Voting in America

So this is an interesting read from Rolling Stone:

Rolling Stone Article

It's a somewhat biased look at the 2004 election (although it makes some significant observations that should be noticed...). The basic premise of the article is that a staggering amount of evidence indicates that the 2004 election was tampered with by a number of external factors. This tampering favored Bush's party to a statistically improbable degree. Evidence of such tampering can be found in the discrepency between exit polls and actual election results, paying particular attention to the voting history of the areas that showed the greatest schisms between expected and actual results. Additionally, many reports indicate that Kerry-favoring areas had significantly longer lines and waits at polling stations as a result of the fact that voting machines were not uniformly distributed among the population (they were concentrated on the wealthier, more conservative communities). As a result, the article suggests that a number of would-be Kerry voters were denied their right to vote in a timely manner due to the unethical behavoirs of election officials.

Read through the article carefully... its worthwhile. Even if you disagree with it, the statistics are staggering and worth some attention. Our freedoms are what make this country great. They are what keep fringe powers from taking over and radicalizing our nation. Free and fair elections are critical to maintaining this environment. And right now, I'm afraid our election system is seriously ill.

As though the news couldn't get worse, we're rapidly moving towards fully software driven elections. Without some SERIOUS security considerations, this will be a fraud nightmare. And to build some confidence, check out these reports on one of the leading software driven polling systems: the Diebold AccuVote-TS

Princeton Report on Voting Machine Security

Also check out an article about the above report:
Another Article about the above


Oh yeah, and these guys that did this study more recently found out that you can actually open these things up with generic keys:

Mini bar keys open voting machines

So yeah... depressing.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mt Biking RULES!!!

narrator: A little flashback humor.

Anyhow, went to Avalon for the first time this year. Man, I wish I lived up in Columbia. ::sigh:: Avalon rocks. So much more technical than the other trails I ride. I crashed today. For the first time in maybe two years. Yes, its been that long. I've come close a few times... lost a pedal, or ran into a tree, but never fell off the bike of flipped. but today it happened. And it happened in classic slow-motion. Was riding down into a stream, and had to make it down a steep 3 ft embankment. Thought I was going to be fine, tossed the front wheel into the little rut that led down the bank, and then tried hopping the rear wheel around to follow... only... the unthinkable happened. The rear wheel went the wrong way. My weight shifted the wrong way (cause I suck and havent been mt biking enough lately) and I basically flipped down a 3 ft rocky/gravelly bank. No blood though, unfortunately. Whats the point in crashing and denting up the bike if there's no blood. But yeah... I jumped up pretty quick and got back on the bike. Its nice to be back to the good ole days of wrecking myself when I mt bike. Thats what makes it so fun :P

Friday, July 28, 2006

Generics Rule!

So, I finally got around to learning some of the new features of Java 1.5 and .net 2.0. Among the many additions to the languages, one of my favorites is the concept of generics. A simple description is that generics are like templates in c++, only more powerful. Using generics, you can make a member or members of a class have an assignable type. In other words, you can make a new collection class that stores a specific type that is set by the person instantiating the class. The reason this is useful is that all of the accessor methods can return objects of that type, rather than returning objects and forcing the user to cast them. The other big benefit is that the compiler can enforce the type specification at compile time, not allowing incorrectly typed objects to be passed into the class. In addition, because the type specification is there, it is much easier to determine what a chunk of code does, what lists manage what types, etc.

Wow... so I just discovered an even cooler feature (really ought to start reading the feature lists). But anyhow, you can genericize an individual function just like you would a class. That is just friggin awesome.

So, long gone are the days of (OtherClass)((MyClass)list.get(i)).getInstances(), and welcome the days of list.get(i).getInstances().

huzzah

Friday, May 26, 2006

Nuclear Dawn

So a few weeks ago I got recruited by a random dude. "Come be a programmer for my mod" he asks. So after a few weeks of bs'ing around I finally agree. Well... I'm half way through my 'trial month' and Steam news (HL2 news) releases a little blurb about how Valve is keeping an eye on Nuclear Dawn. Holy Shit. That's the mod I got recruited for. Now apparently I've become one of their primary developers. Wow. Talk about good fortune smiling upon me. Anyways... the point of all this is I'm now one of the primary coders on a major mod for HL2 that has gotten some widespread recognition. It's also been featured in multiple video game mags. Sweet.

-Ryan

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tool

Got the new Tool album, 10,000 Days off of BitTorrent the other day. This is my pseudo-review. I say pseudo-review because I'm not a musician. Nor am I an expert reviewer. So, this is pretty much just my opinion on the album and what it is to me.

Anyways...

Tool - 10,000 Days review

After 5 years of waiting for a new album, and coming off of an achievement like Lateralus... expectations were ultra-high for 10,000 Days. For some background, I got into Tool when they released Lateralus. That album is amazing. Very thought provoking and emotional lyrics. Very deliberate and carefully crafted music that ebbs and flows naturally. Listening to that cd start to finish is more an experience and less a series of tracks. But thats besides the point. I thought Lateralus was amazing, so I started listening to more Tool. I checked out Aenima. Another amazing album. Where Lateralus was meditative pondering about life and purpose and meaning, Aenima was the precursor: frustration, angst, bitterness. The most prominent lyrics in Aenima's title track are "learn to swim." This is Maynard's (the lead singers/lyricist) advice, learn to swim... cause Mom's (mother natures) gonna flush it all away and put it back the way it ought to be. Tool progressed from angry, aggressive hard rock band (Undertow)... to angry, frustrated, yearning for more (Aenima), to searching for meaning and peace in a world that is as mysterious as it is saddening as it is wonderful (Lateralus). And this is where 10,000 Days comes in.

What did I expect? I don't know what I expected. More Lateralus? More exploration of purpose, of meaning? Well, 10,000 Days is not what I expected. It's different. In some ways, it's more. In some ways less. If everything was what I expected, I'd never be suprised. I'd never enjoy anything. This album isn't what I expected, but it's exactly what I wanted. Something new and wonderful.

For anyone who isn't a Tool freak (like me), here's some 10,000 Days background to help you understand this album. Maynard James Keenan is the lead singer. He's also the lead singer of a tiny band called A Perfect Circle (if you've ever heard of them). Maynard's mother Judith Marie Keenan suffered a stroke around 1976. She was left partially paralyzed for the rest of her life. Observing the music of A Perfect Circle and Tool, you can tell that Maynard never understood his mother's undying faith in Christianity and God. Lyrics from A Perfect Circles 'Judith': 'Oh so many ways for me to show you how your savior has abandoned you.' 'Jimmy' off of Aenima repeatedly refers to the number 11. Thats how old Maynard Jamed (Jimmy?) Keenan was when his mother had her stroke. Judith passed away in 2003. 10,000 Days is approximately 27 years. That's roughly the same amount of time that Maynard's mom survived with her paralysis. This album is about his mother.

In my opinion the album comes in two waves. Vicarious comes across as the obligatory radio single. It has nice riffs and some good vocals. Some nice screaming, etc. But it sounds very radio. So this song doesn't resonate as much as the rest. But then the album explodes.

The second track, Jambi comes out of nowhere with so much flowing, mixed emotion. It's impossible to not feel this song when you listen to it. Next come the two tracks that combine to make this cd possibly the best work that has ever come from Tool. 'Wings for Marie', and '10,000 Days'. These three tracks combine to make what is essentially Maynard's eulogy for his mother. Jambi is about recognizing his material life, and wanting to wish it all away to have her back. Wings and 10,000 Days continue this sentiment. 'you were my witness, my eyes, my evidence, judith marie, unconditional one'. These songs are almost Maynard's repentance for living a life unworthy of her. 'What have I done to be a son to an angel? What have I done to be worthy?' The music builds slowly and deliberately, and then explodes into crunching guitar and bass and drums. It's hard to listen to this song without feeling all of Maynard's sorrow and pain.

Strangely, this progression of music is interrupted with a somewhat out of place song 'The Pot'. It just doesn't sound right. Not on this cd. I usually skip it at this point. The rest of the cd slowly builds momentum and continues strong from Lost Keys through Right in Two. Not as powerful as the first half of the album, but worthy Tool songs nonetheless.

This album was such a suprise. I didn't like it the first few times I listened to it. But every subsequent time, it has grown on me. To be completely honest, I can't stop listening to it now. I listen to Jambi, Wings pt 1 & 2, Lost Keys, Rosetta Stoned, Intension, and Right in Two... continuously on repeat.

So yeah, now that I've totally made myself out to be one of those Tool fan boys, I think I'll wrap up this review with: favorite album of the year. I hope we don't have to wait 5 more years for the next one. And... I hope I can see them in concert when they tour.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Real Upcoming Art

Check out her website. She makes some pretty amazing art. Let me know what you think of the website too. I generated it using templates and Apache Velocity and The Castor Project.

Her site is here:
[ www.oleksakart.com ]

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DAISY!!!!





So, I gotta post some pics of her now.

Dealing Dogs Documentary

If you get HBO, do yourself a favor and watch "Dealing Dogs." [1]
It's a documentary on the industry of buying and selling dogs to medical research labs. What happens is a bunch of people buy large numbers of dogs from breeders, or they adopt, or they steal pets from owners. Then, they sell the dogs for $10-20 a head to these dog kennels... eseentially dog death camps. The dogs that are lucky enough to not stave to death, freeze to death, or get eaten by other emaciated dogs end up getting sold in batches to medical research labs. The documentary is pretty disturbing, but it follows this kid who has more or less devoted his life to infiltrating these operations and filming, recording, and photographing everything. The kid worked for one of the kennels for almost a year, gathering evidence against it. That kind of devotion deserves some respect.

If you want to help out the dogs and other animals, you can go to [2] and see what you can do. This organization, "Last Chance for Animals" is the group that sponsored the undercover investigation and pursued the legal action against the kennel that the documentary is about.

So help me God, if anyone ever steals Daisy and sells her to one of those places...

[1] http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/dealingdogs/index.html
[2] http://www.lcanimal.org/