SAST 17

You Know Who has never been subtle, but even by his standards, the paired assault on the Post Office and on mail-in ballots is crude and obvious.

Fortunately, the counter move is just as obvious. To misquote Pogo, vote early and vote widely.

Fill your ballot out as soon as you get it*–you know who you’re voting for–and get it in the mail immediately. Better yet, if your state offers a way to drop off ballots in person in the days or weeks preceding Election Day (California does; I’m sure others do as well), use one. They generally have a shorter wait than actually voting, and they often keep longer hours than polling places. Best of all, they avoid the Post Office completely.

* And if it hasn’t shown up within a couple of days of the mail-out date, use whatever process your state has for dealing with lost ballots. Don’t wait around, hoping it’ll show up.

And vote in every contest on the ballot. And vote Democrat. This is not the time for a protest vote, much less a no-vote protest. It’s not the time for voting for a third party candidate. Anyone who runs as a Republican is automatically complicit with You Know Who. Defeat ’em all.

Moving on.

Watching baseball on TV doesn’t feel quite real.

It’s not the fake crowd noise–or fake crowds–though those don’t help. Nor is it the omnipresent threat of a sudden end to the season. It’s not even the universal DH or the fake baserunners in extra innings.

What it really is, is the contrast with everything going on outside the stadiums. Defined beginnings and endings. Rules known to everyone and largely accepted, however grudgingly. Even, Goddess help us, leaders–team captains, coaches, managers–who lead.

Still, I don’t let the fantastic aspects stop me from watching. Heck, I write fantasy; I can deal with a universe totally unlike the real world.

Aspirational? Sure. Achievable? Probably not–but we can dream.

And moving on again.

In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, Google announced their latest phone, going head to head with Apple’s announcement of a few new models of computers.

I’ve been trying to get excited about any of the forthcoming gadgets, but it’s touch. None of them, Apple or Google, is radically new. They’ve all got minor advancements over the previous generation, but nothing to make anyone want to rush out and buy one.

Which seems weirdly appropriate for today’s universe.

Apple is nominally targeting the Back-to-School audience, but with so many schools being virtual, there’s not much scope for the usual implied message of “be the envy of your peers”.

Google, on the other hand, seems to have announced the Pixel 4a solely because it was already developed and in production. Might as well push it out there, collect a few news stories, and prepare the way for the Pixel 5, possibly as soon as a couple of months from now.

Maybe if Microsoft ever gets around to releasing their dual-screen Android phone, we’ll have something to get excited about. Right now, though? Gadgets: boring.

SAST 16

Apparently someone at MLB.TV is reading this blog. Less than a week after I noted that nobody’s been talking about MLB.TV subscriptions, they decided to prove me wrong.

I said that I doubted we’d get a prorated refund. Surprise!

According to the email I received, we do get prorated refunds. We can have them credited to back to the cards we used to pay, or we can credit them against next year’s subscription.

That’s a no-brainer. I see no reason to give MLB half a year of interest on my money. More to the point, though, after the example of this year’s negotiations between the owners and players, I’m not the only person wondering if there will be a season next year.

Refunds will be issued around the end of July. I presume this is so they won’t have to go through the refund process twice if the 60 game season gets scrapped entirely–something that seems increasingly likely in the light of the ongoing problems with testing.

On a semi-related note, team schedules are now available online. You can subscribe to them with your Google, Apple, or Windows calendar.

If, that is, you’re willing to give an unidentified third party access to all of your calendars. At least, that’s the case in Google-land.

Maybe it’s different for those of you using Outlook or iCal; I suggest you check the permissions that come along with any calendar requests very carefully.

Moving on.

Douglas Adams was wrong. It’s not time that’s the illusion. Dates are illusions.

These days, I’m far from the only person who can’t tell whether it’s a Wednesday in July or a Tuesday in November without looking at a phone (or calendar for those of us who still use paper). I think we all know it’s still 2020, but I’m certain enough to bet money on it.

It’s not just the lack of stimulation, with our limited ability to spend time with friends, or the sameness of our personal schedules–especially for those working at home. It’s the sense of futility that comes from not having an endgame in sight. Nobody knows when life will return to normal–whatever that is or will be–and, worse yet, nobody knows when we’ll know when.

We’re just marking time. Seconds, minutes, hours. But not days. They’re just too big to grasp.

Moving on–in a limited way.

Along with the retreat from “reopening,” we’re getting a return of one of the most noxious notions from the days of “Shelter in Place.” You know the one I mean: “Look at all the free time you have. You can finally do those things you’ve been putting off!”

Poisonous.

Maybe it works for you. I’ll admit it worked for me early on. I wrapped up the third draft of Demirep and put it in the hands of my beta readers (and thanks to all of you!). But after that?

My usual practice is to start the next novel while the beta readers are reading. This time, nope. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I do. But actually doing anything with them? Not happening.

And the last thing I need is somebody guilting me about it.

Same goes for you. If you’re not capable of working on one of your projects–whether it’s something artistic or practical–you’ve got my permission to not do it and to not feel guilty or defeated. We’re all different, and we all react to events differently.

If someone tells you that you have to work on something, feel free to politely tell them to get stuffed. And if they gloat about how much they’ve accomplished under lock-down, feel free to deliver them to your local taxidermist for stuffing.

On a related note, I will assault the next person I hear saying “Man, being a professional athlete is the worst job these days.” (Yes, people really are saying that. If you haven’t heard it–presumably because you’re being a responsible adult and socially isolating and being a smart adult and staying off social media–I envy you.)

You know what really sucks? Working in a field where you don’t have a choice about going to work every day, where your employer doesn’t pay for tests and won’t pay you if you get sick. Or not working because your former employer is out of business.

We’re all having to learn new ways to do our jobs–it’s not just ballplayers who have to figure out how to get the work done safely. And very few of us have the same safety nets they do. Well-funded unions that actually look out for their members, affordable health insurance, and well-off senior members of our professions who look out for their juniors* are increasingly scarce.

* Major kudos for the various MLB stars who’ve been chipping in money to help out the minor league players who aren’t getting paid at all now that the MiLB seasons have been cancelled.

Moving on.

Well, maybe. One of these days.Sometime.

The Wrong Approach

Okay, I’m going there. Sorry, but it was either this or a rant about the stupidity of ending shelter in place rules while virus cases are on the upswing.

There was a letter to the editor in the SF Chron a couple of days ago. The gist was that both the Republican and Democratic parties have utterly failed to do anything to benefit African Americans. Accordingly, the author says–in apparent seriousness–“The only remedy left for African Americans to get them out of their misery is for them to form their own national political party.”

I can only assume that the writer, Guy Vigier, is either a Trumpist looking to split the Democratic vote or completely and totally ignorant of how people think.

Forget the woeful history of third parties in American politics since the demise of the Socialist movement. Never mind the fact that the NAACP–arguably the most effective organization working for civil rights in the past century plus–hasn’t managed to gain the support of all African Americans*.

* According to their own website, they currently have a membership of “more than a half-million”.

Can you think of any better way to mobilize racist white non-voters than to give the right wing the opportunity to point Fingers of Alarm at the BLM Party candidates? “They’re coming for our jobs! They want to take over! They said so themselves!” (The identity of the “our” is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Maybe there’s something I’m missing. It’s certainly possible. I’m white. I don’t have a visceral understanding of the African American experience–I hope I have a handle on it intellectually, but I don’t have the gut-level automatic understanding that comes from living it.

Maybe a BLM Party could turn a significant chunk of the American population into active, informed voters. Even enough of the population to elect a president. I doubt they could take Congress as well, but say they do. Say they do it by such an overwhelming margin that the Supreme Court can’t find an excuse to overturn the election.

What happens next? Barring assassination, I mean, though history suggests that’s a distinct possibility. A bunch of laws get passed. Most get tied up in the courts; those that don’t will be enforced by the same police they’re intended to restrain. Anyone want to put money on the laws being fairly enforced? If there’s a way to selectively enforce them against African Americans, you better believe they’ll be used that way.

Then, two years later, with the racist right fully mobilized, Republicans recapture control of the Senate. Anyone remember how much trouble the Republican Senate caused President Obama in his last year in office?

And, of course, two years after that, President Trump (or the functional equivalent) is re-elected on his promise to give America back to the Real Americans. You know: the melanin-deficient ones.

Mr. Vigier seems to think that an “African American national political party” could somehow “hold the balance of power between the two major parties” and turn that into resources for their communities. I’ve got news for him: this is not a parliamentary system. Small blocks are largely powerless.

Hell, large blocks that aren’t the majority don’t have a whole lot of power. I suggest Mr. Vigier check back on Puerto Rico and remind himself just how little aid they got two years ago, despite the efforts of a large-but-minority chunk of Congress. How would he suggest that his hypothetical BLM office holders direct money to their communities in the face of conservative resistance and without decades of political favors to draw on for support?

It’s the opinion of this white guy that the current crisis is not going to be settled by the creation of a new political party. It’s not going to be solved in a top-down fashion. And it’s not going to be resolved–not truly–at the ballot box. If it’s ever settled, it’ll be because right-minded people of all parties–yes, including Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Democrats, and independents–come together in their communities and create change from the bottom up. By the time national laws come about, they’ll be a recognition of the status quo.

Hungry?

I really wanted to write something cheerful today.

(Disclosure: I’m writing this Tuesday evening so it’ll be ready for you all in the morning.)

But then I made the mistake of looking at the news.

Yeah, I know, I know.

I presume you’ve heard by now that our government has declared meat processing plants to be critical infrastructure.

I’m an unrepentant omnivore, and I was not looking at the predictions that meat could follow toilet paper* into virtual non-existence on store shelves.

* Our TP supply dropped low enough last week that we went in search of a few rolls. As it turned out, we found some in the first store we checked. It’s a 30 roll package, which should be enough to stave off the total fall of civilization for at least a month, and quite probably several times that. Mind you, it’s a Korean brand–not the one everyone knows–and of totally unknown quality, but it’s almost certainly better than, say, last week’s newspapers. We haven’t tried it yet, but in the spirit of helping one another, I’ll issue a report once we’ve put it to the ultimate test.

So, on one paw, it’s good to know that meat will remain available. On another paw, though, the fact that our gracious president highlighted the fact that his declaration will “solve any liability problems” does lead one to wonder (a) just how sweeping that immunity from liability is and (b) just how safe that meat will be. On a third paw, one also has to wonder what effect the presidential order will have on the cost of meat. And, on the fourth paw, will that shield remain in place indefinitely?

Let’s face it. The current administration is fond of rolling back laws and regulations that improve the health of most individuals. And, as we all know, the meat packing industry’s favorite recreation is dancing back and forth across the red line of legality.

Without more details than we have right now, I can only assume that the price of meat is going to go up in lockstep with the health risks of eating that meat. And there is, of course, no upper limit to either cost.

I see only one solution for those of us who aren’t going to go vegetarian.

Anyone got a good recipe for coyote?

Still Wrong

Now it’s personal.

I haven’t said anything about Black Friday and the rest of the post-Thanksgiving (and pre-Thanksgiving) shopping nonsense since, what, 2016? (Nope, just checked. It was 2015.)

Nothing’s changed for the better. And in one giant step in the wrong direction, I’m participating in the madness. Not, I hasten to say, as a shopper, but rather as a victimseller.

Let me emphasize that this is not an invitation to play guessing games about my current employer. As I said when I started the job, I want to keep a separation between my personal and paid opinions. That’s still true.

That said, yes, I am required to work tomorrow. From late afternoon into the wee hours when any rational person and most irrational ones would be in bed*. And then I’ll need to be back at work on Friday at roughly the usual time.

* Not necessarily asleep, mind you, but in bed. Those late night reading marathons are an essential part of my mental health regime, and I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who finds that to be the case.

Fortunately–something to be thankful for–I don’t have to work today. Maqgie, regrettably, is working, but at least it’s telecommuting. So she, the fuzzies, and I are celebrating Turkey Day a bit early. (And yes, I do have deep sympathy for my cow-orkers who are working today. They will, one and all, be working tomorrow as well.)

The bird is in the oven. We’re going to try doing the mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot when the appointed hour arrives, and the other essential sides are prepped and ready.

It won’t be the peaceful celebration of sloth and indolence we normally engage in, but traditions do need to change to stay relevant.

And, let’s face it, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all of their ilk are among the traditions that badly need to have some work done. Maybe not a full facelift, but a nip here and a tuck there would work wonders.

Step One, unquestionably, is to get Black Friday the hell out of Thursday. It’s even in the name! “Black Friday“. Not “Black Thursday Night”.

You want to start the sale at midnight? Fine. Keep the store open for twenty-four hours? Abi gezunt. At least let your employees spend the day that everyone else has off with their families. Happy, rested employees are far better suited to face Friday’s onslaught and sell more merchandise.

Remember, if everyone does it, nobody’s market share is affected.

Mixed Feelings

I’ve got mixed feelings.

That’s a good thing, actually. There are very few unmixed blessings or curses. So I tend to get suspicious when I don’t have mixed feelings about something.

But I digress.

I’m speaking here of AB5, California’s new law defining the difference between contractors and employees.

In case you’ve missed the debates, the law establishes a three-part test*: if a person performs tasks under control of a company, the work is a core part of the company’s business, and the person doesn’t have an independent business in the same field, they’re considered an employee.

* Do you know what field has a different, critical three-part test? Well, quite a few, actually, but I was thinking specifically of the three-part Miller test that determines whether something is obscene. I have to wonder if porn actors will be affected by AB5; as I understand it, they tend to form long-term associations with particular film studios and they get paid by the film or scene, which would seem to this non-lawyer to potentially put them under the AB5 umbrella. If so, by the Law of Threes, it seems like there ought to be a third three-part test that defines their field.

Not as straightforward as it looks at first glance, but clearer than many laws, so, good. There are, of course, some fields that are exempted, mostly in areas where workers tend to be well-paid. Since, in many ways, AB5 is designed as an adjunct to minimum-wage laws, those sort of carve-outs make sense.

Naturally, the Ubers and Lyfts are screaming with rage. Their entire business model is based around large numbers of cheap contractors.

Workers in some non-exempt fields aren’t happy either. Translators, for example, by and large want to remain contractors. There are others. The main argument seems to be flexibility: the ability to work when and as much as they want, and the freedom to refuse specific jobs. Which is reasonable, and I see no reason why the law couldn’t be amended to include more exemptions as consensus emerges. Expect the issue to show up on the agendas at many professional associations’ meetings over the next few years.

Frankly, I’m offended by the approach Uber is taking in fighting AB5. They’re flat-out trying to claim that their business has nothing to do with providing rides. It’s insulting that they think that’s a winning strategy. And their other attack on the law boils down to “It’ll put us out of business. You can’t do that!”

IMNSHO, no business has a right to exist. Times change, people’s needs change, conditions change. Remember “Too big to fail”? How’d that work out? Mixed results, really. But really, if a business had a right to exist, we’d see a lot fewer cars today, because of the laws created to prop up the horse-and-cart industry.

So right now I feel a certain amount of schadenfreude over the ride-sharing industry in general and Uber in particular.

But. Mixed feelings, remember?

We’re also hearing from newspapers who say that AB5 will put them out of business. Why? Because the added costs for delivery carriers will outstrip their advertising revenue. Which is a legitimate concern, I suppose, and again, no business has the right to exist. But I like newspapers a heck of a lot more than I like the Ubers of the world.

Newspapers won a one-year exemption to explore alternatives to their current delivery system.

I’m old enough to remember when delivering newspapers was a viable first job for a teenager with a bike. It’s not anymore. Not in suburban areas like mine, anyway. Now delivery is done by an adult with a car, who drives around flinging papers out of the window. (To be fair, despite my ongoing battles with our carrier–yesterday, when it was raining, our paper was held together with a rubber band; today, in glorious sunlight, the paper in a plastic bag–I have to admit their accuracy is higher than the typical Amazon delivery person’s.)

My point, however, is that at least around here, delivery isn’t done by someone working for the Chron–neither employee nor contractor. They’re employed by an independent company specializing in newspaper delivery. That third-party is the one who needs to worry about whether carriers are employees or contractors. It may affect the rate they charge the Chron and other papers for their services, but to some extent the papers are shielded from employee costs by that separation.

Mixed feelings.

Stay tuned to see how AB5 works out.

Oopsies

We all have bad days.

I hate having to correct mistakes, but one is warranted here. On Tuesday, I said that Massage Envy had pulled their ads off of the MLB.TV broadcasts.

This is not the case. The spots aren’t running as frequently–I only say four or five during a game yesterday, rather than the dozen or more I’d been seeing–but they are still running. I suspect the most likely explanation is that the cost to pull the ads entirely would have been more than the budget would allow.

And my point still stands: regardless of what Mike Pence might think, a massage, even one involving multiple genders, can be a non-sexual thing. And if Massage Envy is going to be in that business, rather than the sexual sort–or rape–they should be taking active steps now, before the suit goes to trial, to confirm their trustworthiness in the eyes of the public.

Moving on.

It’s only Thursday, but I think we’ve got a hot candidate for the “Bad Day of the Week” award.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has had so many bad days of late that even their good days are pretty bad. The public outcry for Somebody to Do Something have gotten loud enough that some wild approaches are being tried.

According to the SF Chronicle, Governor Newsom has decided that the best approach is to neuter the department.

No, I’m not kidding. The Chron’s headline on a story yesterday says “Silicon Valley vet tapped to fix tech-addled DMV”.

I’m not sure I see how forcing the DMV’s employees to display shaved tummies for a few weeks will reduce wait times, improve data management, or contribute to customer satisfaction, but if you can’t trust the governor, who can–what?

Oh. The new head of the DMV is an IT expert, not a veterinarian. Nobody’s tummy will be non-consensually shaved and no pockets will be picked–aside from the usual levels of graft found in public service.

Granted, the DMV’s computer systems are archaic, but modern technology is no automatic panacea. I like that the new guy says he’s not planning to do anything new, just pick up the best bits of available technology. As long as the focus stays on customer needs rather than speculative technological nonsense like electronic license plates, he might actually accomplish something.

So, a significant oopsie on the headline writer, but not a world-class bad day, even if the headline was on the front page. But then we get to Page A8, where we learn that Hawaii has been invaded by a movie monster.

“Protests spread as activists fight giant telescope” says the headline.

Once you get past wondering why they don’t just call in Gamera to take on the giant telescope–or borrow San Francisco’s Martian War Machine, aka the Sutro Tower–you find that they’re not fighting the telescope.

They are, in fact, fighting plans to build one. In other words, their beef is with the scientists who selected the site and the government bureaucracies that approved the construction.

No laser death rays, underpowered military defenders, or badly dubbed dialog. Just another front in the ongoing culture wars.

And a headline writer who needs a day off.

I suppose they got it. I didn’t see any howlers in today’s paper. But who knows what tomorrow will bring?

One Step Closer

San Francisco has its Transbay Center back.

You may note there’s a word missing from that sentence.

Actually, purists would argue there are a couple of words missing. But I just can’t see calling it the “Salesforce Transit Center”. Corporate naming is the modern equivalent of product placement.

Back in the day–mostly even before my time–companies would sponsor a radio or TV program. For underwriting a large chunk of the cost of the show, the sponsor would not only get to put their name in the show’s name (remember The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny or more recently, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?) but would also get to have their products appear in the show.

Now sponsors pay a small fraction of the cost of production (Salesforce is paying $110 million over twenty-five years; the total cost of the terminal–not counting the recent repairs–was around 2.2 billion) but still want total recognition.

Is it any wonder people ignore the new names or nickname them into oblivion? I suspect that building in downtown San Francisco will be widely known as “The Transit Center”.

But I digress.

Anyway, the rooftop park, complete with its new non-decomposing concrete paths, reopened to the public yesterday.

Crowds were, well, not very crowded. But then, the reopening was only lightly publicized. Judging by the Chron’s reporting, most of the traffic came from people who stopped into one of the coffee shops that have doors leading to the park and decided to add a little sunshine to their caffeine fixes.

Fair enough. I’d likely have done the same if I’d been in the vicinity. (Let it be noted here that my previous employment was a short block away from the large hole in the ground now occupied by the terminal. I dare say that if I were still working there, I’d be hanging out in the park at lunchtime on a regular basis.)

But back to that missing word. There isn’t yet any transit in the Transit Center.

Debris from the repairs and the major re-inspections is still being cleaned up. And, naturally, the bus drivers who’ll be using the center need to be retrained in how to get in and out of the building. Or in many cases, trained for the first time. Those direct freeway on- and off-ramps can be tricky (and no, I’m not being sarcastic here; it seems like a potentially confusing transition.)

No date has been set to resume bus service, but official-type people are bandying “August”. Let’s recall that the center officially opened last August 10th. It might be nicely symbolic to have the official re-opening on the same day this year. (And it would be almost purely symbolic. The tenth is a Saturday, and most of the transbay buses don’t run on weekends.)

As for the ground-level businesses that everyone hopes will attract non-commuters to the Transbay Soon-To-Be-Transit Center, they’re not scheduled to open until “fall”.

But the park is open. That’s progress.

More Blindness

About a month ago, I was talking about willful blindness, and I cited “climate change deniers, Trump supporters, and anti-vaccination activists” as examples of those who see only what they expect to see.

But let’s be fair. That self-inflicted severance from reality isn’t limited to the right wing and the lunatic fringe. There were a couple of letters to the editor in today’s Chron that make it clear as window glass* that sensible people on the left can be just as willfully blind as anyone else.

* For some values of window, anyway. Certainly clearer than our kitchen window where the cats press their noses against the glass when watching for interlopers. But I digress.

Wouldn’t it be great, one of the letter writers asks, if manufacturers of hygiene products would put together “welcome kits” for immigrants. “It seems like a win-win,” they says, suggesting that once the arrivals take up their new lives in America, they’ll be so grateful for the toothpaste and shampoo that they’ll continue to buy the same brands for life.

Sure is a nice thought. Apparently it’s escaped their notice that the administration is doing their utmost to ensure that would-be immigrants don’t leave the detention centers, unless it’s to go back where they came from–or, as best I can tell, to a small piece of America, six feet long, three feet wide, and four feet deep.

It suits the purposes of those in charge for the residents of the camps to be unwashed and unhealthy. That serves their narrative. “Look at them! Dirty and diseased. Why would you want them living next door?” How many times have we been told “They were already sick when they got here. We did the best we could, but…”?

Even if that weren’t the case; even if we assume the camp operators and those paying them have the best of intentions, how long is a hotel-sized bar of soap going to last? Not for a significant fraction of the weeks or months the typical person seeking asylum will be spending behind bars.

Then there’s the second letter.

The writer cites the self-evident fact that America has a literally unimaginable amount of wealth and asks why we can’t find “…the resources to provide basic human necessities for these tired and hungry children?”

There’s a very simple reason. The people setting the policies that deny food, medicine, and the basic rights this country once aspired to give to everyone are the same people who own the majority of that unimaginable wealth. And they control the distribution of what they don’t own.

And, yes, I realize there are exceptions, people of great wealth who don’t toe the “immigrants are scum” party line. But again, no control. They could spend every dollar they have trying to get past the barriers the administration has put up to preserve their narrative and never make a dent in the problem.

None so blind.

Look, I’m not saying anyone should give up. But ignoring the root of the problem isn’t going to solve it. (Neither is proposing solutions that require other people to do the work and put up the money, but that’s a topic for another day.)

One need look no further than the Wayfair Walkout to see how well ignoring the role of the dollar is going to work out in any venture.

SAST 14

Today’s Short Attention Span Theater is not brought to you by disease or lack of sleep, it’s just an excuse to deal with my to-do pile.

First, a brief administrative note.

I will be attending the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival at the end of the month. I’m not planning a book signing or any other formal event, but The RagTime Traveler will be available for sale*. Come on down to Sedalia, enjoy the music, pick up a book, and I’ll be delighted to sign it for you.

* Dad’s ragtime books, both fiction and non-fiction, will also be in the festival store. In my totally unbiased opinion, you need copies of all of those as well.

While I will take my laptop along, I don’t plan to write any blog posts. I’ll make sure to have a post for Friday, May 31–I don’t want to be responsible for riots caused by cat deprivation–but other than that expect silence between May 28 and June 4, with a return to the usual schedule on June 6.

Second, I’m a little disturbed to discover that El Sobrante* is more dangerous than I’d thought.

* For those unfamiliar with the Bay Area, El Sobrante is the closest of the several cities that border the part of Richmond where I live.

Over the years, I’ve gotten accustomed to the suspicious sorts lurking in the local undergrowth, but it appears that a new threat is moving in.

According to a recent post on everyone’s favorite unbiased news source–Nextdoor–“[…]a somewhat large buck with velvet covered antlers jumped out from the side… he mean mugged us hella hard and took a few quick steps towards the car…”

That’s right. As if street gangs of turkeys and terrorist coyotes aren’t bad enough, now we’ve got to deal with deer carjackers. It’s a bad neighborhood, obviously, and getting worse.

But I have to wonder: how the heck did the deer expect to drive the car to the chop shop? He could probably hold the key between his hooves, but it’s not like the driver’s seat can be adjusted to fit his shape. For that matter, what kind of payment would he have been expecting? I’ve heard that fences pay chicken feed, but salt licks?

Anyway, moving on.

The big story a few days ago was that Microsoft is working on tools to (as the Chron’s headline put it) “secure elections”. Which is great news as far as it goes.

Microsoft is doing it right: making the source code freely available, so anyone can audit it and any company in the voting machine field can use it.

The thing is, it’s not a complete voting system, and the value of Microsoft’s software is only as good as the implementation. Voting machine companies have a justifiably poor reputation for the quality of their coding. You can have the greatest software in the world for allowing voters to verify their ballot, and it’ll be absolutely useless if the rest of the software and the hardware it’s running on is riddled with security holes.

How many voting machines run on Windows XP, an operating system that has been completely unsupported for half a decade? (Probably fewer than the number of ATMs running on OS/2, which has been dead for three times as long. But I digress.) Sorry, not totally unsupported. Microsoft just released a security patch for XP. How many of those voting machines running the code are going to get the patch? I’m betting on a percentage in the single digits.

Also, as the articles point out, Microsoft’s new code doesn’t support Internet voting (something far too many people want, given the woeful state of the art) or vote by mail systems, which are increasingly popular.

I’m not running Microsoft down. As I said, it’s a step in the right direction. But we as a country need to take far more than just that one step.

And, finally, no SAST post is really complete without a mention of either the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch or the Transbay Terminal fiasco. I don’t have anything on the BBBB, but there was a brief note in the Chron a few weeks about about the terminal.

The cracked support beams are nearly repaired–though we still don’t have a date for the grand reopening. What we do have is word that the paths in the rooftop garden are going to be replaced.

Those paths, you may remember, are made of decomposed granite, and even before the terminal was closed, the granite was decomposing even further. So the decision has been made to repave the paths, this time using concrete.

As local megaconstruction repair projects go, it should be a comparatively cheap fix, no more than half a million dollars or so. The city and the contractors are, of course, arguing over who is at fault for the failure of the paths. We all know who’s going to wind up paying for the repair, though, and it isn’t either of the arguing parties.