I was attacked by a vicious gang of raccoons

I was sitting on my back porch, typing up notes from tonight's first orientation session for the Wayne County Time Bank, when I saw a black furry thing approaching fast from the left flank. I thought it was a cat at first because a cat had approached from the same vector just 10 minutes earlier. But then I noticed that this cat was not a normal cat, but a piebald creature with a huge arching back and a long pointy snout. And then I noticed that it was not a cat at all, but a killer raccoon.
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Security strategy improvement lessons from 28 Weeks Later

As you're coming out of the movie 28 Weeks Later, you might be tempted to discuss the horrors of the events in the movie, the acting, the overwhelmingly and unnecessarily bloody gore, or the architecture in the London skyline. But I think we can all agree that the movie was, above all, a lesson in military and security strategy and a warning to future operations planners (especially those dealing with infectious viral outbreaks that turn people into flesh-eating zombies).

I know it will seem pretty far fetched and hard to picture in real life, but here are some of the salient events in the plot (spoiler alert!):
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Initial analysis of the Wayne County primary election results

IMG_2013.JPGSome initial analysis of the Wayne County primary election results:

  • Only 4,378 people voted. That's 16% of our registered voter population, 27,290, which is also woefully small. These numbers are pathetic.
  • Republican mayoral candidates: of the 2,645 people who voted, almost 80% of them picked Rick Thalls over Ron Chappell and Danny Black. Possible conclusions to be drawn...Rick Thalls had the leverage of a career in the school system and all of the lives he's touched as a part of that? Danny Black and Ron Chappell needed to do a lot more campaigning? Mr. Black didn't have enough name recognition and people remembered Mr. Chappell's lack of integrity around the City's non-discrimination policy discussion? Hmmm. Quite a landslide, anyway, and some good momentum for Mr. Thalls as he faces the incumbent in the fall.
  • Democratic mayoral candidates: Mayor Sally Hutton garners more than 82% of the vote over Mark Cordell. Cordell didn't have a very widely distributed image or platform, and so the incumbent advantage easily wins out. Still, with only 1,651 voting, it's not exactly an overflowing of political capital for the Mayor, and falls short of her fall opponent's apparent levels of support. She'll need to work hard between now and then to win.
  • Republican candidates for city council district 2: Sharon Sheets beat Joshua Jones by 8 votes, with only a total of 84 votes. With voter participation that low for a particular seat, it's sad to see such a small margin, and you can't really fault the losing candidate. Let's just hope the winner is qualified.
  • Democratic candidates for city council: way too many unopposed seats or even empty seats. Regardless of your party affiliation, you've got to appreciate the benefits of a contest when it comes to holding political leaders accountable over time. For the at-large seats, the margins were all so close that again it becomes more a matter of voter turnout and less a matter of mandate based on qualifications. Let's hope the winners can do the job.
  • The voting process: mixed results. Convenience and efficiency seemed to be the general trend, but when I asked for a paper record of my vote they still could not give me one, and when I asked to inspect the software that powered the voting machines, they still could not let me in. It's a black box voting system and we have no idea who or what could be influencing the outcome...a complete failure of transparent democracy.

    The stickers they give out when you're done should read "I've been told My Vote Counted!"

What do you think?

Rediscovering the Pal-Item forums, without the trolls

This post is about one way to have a more enjoyable experience in online discussion forums in general, and I'm going to use the forums at the Palladium-Item, a local daily newspaper in Richmond, as an example. I'll show you how to rediscover the pleasures of online discussion by simply blocking out the posts by people you don't care to hear from...all in three easy steps.

Right now, the Pal-Item has a troll infestation. Ewwwww. And it's not just the obvious kind either (though there are plenty of those). They've also got the kind that like to spread negativity, hate, oppression and self-referencing, oversimplified explanations of how the world is and should be, all under the guise of participating in some sort of great online community experiment. Which means it can take one or two reads of a post and a few seconds of brain processing time that you'll never get back to realize that you're dealing with a troll - who has the patience for that?

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Looking for a special appliance timer

IMG_2016.JPGI'm looking for one of those lamp/appliance timers I could plug my computer into that will do the following during times when I really need to focus:

  • Block incoming e-mail that isn't related to the specific projects I need to make progress on, but allow others through
  • Block outgoing web requests that are more than one degree removed from the original topic matter I was working on, but allow others through
  • Only allow streaming of net radio stations without lyrics or other spoken words
  • Deliver a brief electrical shocks to the base of my spine every time I attempt to circumvent the above.

I asked about this at the local consumer lighting store, and they didn't have one. Searches on Amazon have been fruitless so far. Surely Linksys or Belkin make something like this? Anyone?

(This is a repost of a comment I made on macosxhints.com a few months ago, as a part of a discussion on blocking Internet access to avoid distractions.)