Today’s map at Electoral Vote shows something pretty insane: Florida and North Carolina are both slightly leaning blue, and Georgia is only slightly leaning red. All three are close, but history says that none of the three should be close.

Oh, and remember the big controversy about ACORN and fraudulent elections? I’ve since lost the link, but I found some articles talking about how they’re legally obligated to submit every application they receive, even the obviously fraudulent. So they did submit many fraudulent applications, because they’re required by law to do so, but what the Republican operatives aren’t mentioning is that it was ACORN that flagged them as apparently fraudulent or suspect.

Trivia: Obama’s strongest support (percentage-wise) comes from Washington DC, which gets 3 electoral votes. The latest poll is 82% Obama, 13% McCain. McCain only has more than 60% in two states: Utah (64%) and one I’d never have guessed: Idaho, at 62%. Of course, this says more about the closeness of the election than Obama’s lead: he, too, only has more than 60% in two states, one being DC (okay, pedantic note: yes, I know, it’s not a state), and the other being NY, where he leads 65% to 29%. In his home state, Obama leads 59 to 32%; McCain leads his home state 52 to 38.

The Backwards B

Surprising absolutely no one, the lady who was allegedly attacked by a black man who carved a backwards “B” on her face after mugging her, apparently because he saw her bumper sticker that said McCain, has confessed that she made the story up. Police have now said that they suspected her story from the beginning; they say it’s because the “B” was backwards, but I also suspected it because people robbing people tend to want to get the money and run, not start carving into people’s faces, and because I think even the meekest of people would offer resistance when someone starts to carve stuff into their face, making it hard to complete the “B,” or because it seems odd that the mugger would have known which car was hers, or taken the time to notice her bumper sticker while he was engaged in mugging her, or just because the whole thing made no sense at all?

New Radios

Amateur radio manufacturer Yaesu seems to have followed up their popular VX-7R transceiver with the Yaesu VX-8R. I admit I don’t follow the ham radio market that closely these days, so just like the 5D Mark II, I noticed this after seeing someone else make a passing reference to it. It’s actually not even mentioned on the Yaesu site yet, hence the link to Universal Radio, a two-way dealer.

It covers the 6 Meter (50-54 MHz), 2 Meter (144-148 MHz), and 70 centimeter (430-450 Mhz) ham bands at a full 5 Watts, and implements something that I’d speculated should be done a few years ago: it includes low power capacity on the 220 Meter (1.25 centimeter) ham band. 220 MHz is really underutilized, and, in my mind, endangered. (The FCC already took part of it away.) As long as radios are being made to operate on multiple bands, it never made sense to me to skip over one. A few other radios have been released that happen to include 220, which I hope will spark a little more interest in it.

Besides looking really weird and having a really stubby volume knob for no apparent reason, the VX-8R also seems to include options for Bluetooth and GPS. It’s not clear to me how the APRS works, whether simply plugging a GPS in will work. Another thing I’ve always thought would be neat, a spectrum scope, even if gimmicky, gets included, too: with a nice big LCD, you can set it up to scan a chunk of spectrum and plot it on the screen. The optional barometric sensor on its predecessor seems to have become standard on the VX-8R, though I always thought it was an odd thing to put in a radio. (How about a clock? And, ooh, get this: while you’re putting a clock in a radio with a wideband receiver, make it sync to WWVB. You can even use the pun “radio clock,” which is the correct term for what most people call an “atomic clock.” How about getting it certified for FRS, too? Or how about building in a better front-end, so that the 15 kW FM transmitter ten miles away doesn’t take up 10 MHz bandwidth? And what about D-Star?) Despite my criticisms, it looks to be a pretty slick radio, though the $410 price tag impairs my, “Wow, time for an upgrade” sensor in a much more serious way than a $310 price tag would.

Icom, the only one putting D-Star (a digital voice protocol) in ham radios right now, has also recently released the IC-92AD, an almost $600 handheld radio. They claim it’s mil-spec in durability, but with much smoother lines than the Yaesu radios. It covers only 2 meters and 440, not 6 meters or 220 MHz like some of its competition. It does include a digital voice recorder, though when $20 can buy 4GB of flash storage, I have to admit that its 30-second capacity seems a bit pathetic. I think its biggest problem, though, is that I don’t see any reason to buy it over its cheaper brother, the 91A(D).

Those frustrated with the fact that all the new radios seem unreasonably expensive (especially given the current economy) may enjoy Alinco’s new DJ-175T handheld, a no-frills 2 Meter handheld for under $100. (Though I should note that Icom seems to have beat them to the punch.)

Kenwood hasn’t announced anything new in a while, other than the discontinuation of the TH-D7AG, though I admit to never having paid much attention to their TH-F6A handheld. It appears notable for two things: the only radio with an option to use 0.05 Watts output (5 and 0.5W are the norm; I confess to being awfully curious about the range of 0.05 Watts), and the only multi-band radio to offer a full 5 Watts on the 220 MHz band. Oh, and possibly the only ham HT to offer SSB and CW receive (only) modes.

Okay, it turns out that Kenwood has introduced something new: the TM-D710A mobile radio, a $600 successor to its seemingly-popular D700 radio.

On the receiver front, a couple new radios seem to have been released. AOR has the AR-Mini, a small and seemingly budget wideband receiver. I admit to being a bit skeptical, because AOR has a reputation for making top-notch, very pricey receivers, so the introduction of a cheap receiver, and especially one that looks cheap (at least in the photo), risks undercutting that reputation. On the other hand, it could be a top-notch radio inside, and the high-end market might not be too lucrative right now.

Icom released the IC-RX7 receiver, which has got to be the slickest-looking receiver ever. In particular, I’m hoping that the screen and arrow buttons indicate that it has something I’ve long thought radios should have: a menu-driven system, instead of an obscure-key-combination-driven system.

It also looks like the Icom 7800 “Dream Rig”, with a five-figure price tag, has seen much of its niftiness trickle down to the 7700, which weighs in at a much more affordable $6,000 or so. (I should note that, in the process of researching this, I accidentally ended up with $16,000 worth of radios in my shopping basket at a competitor. I, for one, am glad that one-click shopping isn’t that commonly used.) For the rest of us, the IC-7200 is also new, taking the bizarre ruggedized look you might expect from a Yaesu, costing about $1100. (I confess to being confused, as the legendary IC-706 is actually less expensive; I can’t imagine a water-resistant front on a stationary is worth that much more money (and a big step up in bulk) to too many people.

All around, Icom seems to be most aggressive, by far, in introducing new features, while Yaesu’s VX-8R is the only radio I can see myself buying in the next couple years.


Last night I saw Jacked on A&E, which follows the Auto Theft Task Force in Newark, NJ. In the opening, they talked about how “every car stolen seems to end up in Newark,” hence the task force’s creation. They also mention that cars really aren’t stolen for value all that often, but more as short-term things to commit other crimes with.

The task force is nicknamed The Wolfpack because of how they operate. A team of a couple dozen officers will cruise the city at night in myriad unmarked trucks and SUVs, modified a bit for what they do, yet designed to blend in pretty well. They put two officers in each truck, one to drive and one to run license plates and act as a second set of eyes. When one of the trucks spots a stolen car, they’ll follow them (hoping for what they call an “undetected follow”), and the others will close in, often on parallel or intersecting streets, until they’ve got a bunch in the area, at which time they all close in and “do it now!,” boxing the stolen car in with half a dozen trucks, ensuring that the only way out is to try to ram through a reinforced SUV, and that the only way to run is to run past more than a dozen officers who’ve got you at gunpoint.

They point out that they’re very different from the mainstream police department. Despite what they admit are very intimidating tactics (getting boxed in by a half-dozen SUVs, and having a dozen officers brandishing guns), they’re primarily concerned with safety. On the show I saw, a couple people ran, and they let them go. Not only does it put civilians (and the officers) in unnecessary danger to try to follow at a high rate of speed, but they always make the same comment when dropping a chase: “We’ll find ’em soon enough.” (Sometimes an hour later.) They’re very selective about where they stop cars, making a point to swarm in only when there are no bystanders. And boxing cars in, plus the massive show of force, is something they say isn’t so much about intimidation for the sake of show, as it is to ensure that a fight won’t take place at all.

The show’s on again Thursday night, although I make no warranties about the A&E site, which seems to throw errors more often than not.


It almost seems like the amount of spam I get has been decreasing:

The labels on that graph are deceptive; the “spam” and “virus” labels refer to things measured with a tool I don’t use, and mail shouldn’t be bounced; that refers to an initial configuration error. But the number of rejected e-mails is the volume of spam. (Technically, it’d include mail sent to non-existent addresses… But the only people who’ve done that are spammers.)

Oh, and check out my spam map, which I threw together a while ago. It uses MaxMind’s databases of IP-to-country mappings to determine the country each message originates from, counts the number of entries for each country, and then plots it using the Google Chart API. It has a rather distinctive shape, but for those of you wondering about that dark blue one in the Middle East, it’s Turkey, and it’s topped the list of spammers for a while now, for some reason. Russia is also a pretty notable spammer, as is, of course, China. But you can see that spam is hardly a problem that comes from just a few countries: the US is a fairly dark shade of blue, as are quite a few South American nations.

I’m increasingly wanting to write my own plugin for Postfix. Currently, my mailbox doesn’t get any spam, but one mailbox on another domain gets a small volume, maybe one message week. SpamAssassin catches it (usually giving it a score of something like 25, with a score of 5 being needed to classify it as spam), but SpamAssassin takes a couple seconds for each message. (Much of this, actually, is that it goes off and queries several DNSBLs, so it’s waiting on remote servers to respond.)

There are two things that are actually very effective against spam that I don’t use: rejecting mail based on DNS blacklists, and requiring HELOs to be fully-qualified domain names. The trouble with the former is that historically, many blacklists have gotten full of themselves and started listing whole networks, aiming for “collateral damage” to make companies get rid of spammers, but causing mailservers to reject innocent mail. Requiring HELOs to be FQDNs caught way more spam than I’d have expected, but I grew concerned that, strictly speaking, it didn’t set spammers apart: a not-so-hotly configured legitimate mailserver could identify itself with a short name (“exchange1” instead of “exchange1.example.com” for example).

What SpamAssassin (the software that scans the body of a message for ‘spamminess’ after it’s accepted) does is scoring. It does lots and lots of checks, and each check has a predefined score. Some things only increment the score a tiny bit, others increment it a lot. Some actually decrease the score, when it identifies things that usually occur only in non-spam. I want to write a plugin for Postfix that does that. Being in Spamhaus‘ blacklists might increase your score by 3, whereas the DNSWL would be -10. A site known for being a little more aggressive, like UCE-Protect, might be +1.5 or so. A non-FQDN HELO might be +2.5. And then I can route mail accordingly. Anyone with a negative score would be accepted and automatically whitelisted; anyone over 5 would be rejected and blacklisted, and anything in between would just be accepted. I’m actually surprised this sort of thing doesn’t exist. You can get very accurate results anyway, but I find it hard to believe that the idea of “scoring” mail during the SMTP session itself is something I invented.


One thing I have to give credit to McCain for is that he’s done a really good job linking Obama to higher taxes. If you hear McCain speaking, in between “maverick” and “my friends,” you’ll hear a lot about Obama raising taxes.

McCain said, “Sen. Obama is measuring the drapes and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid to raise taxes, increase spending… What America needs in this hour is… [s]omeone who puts all his cards on the table and trusts in the judgment of the American people.”

Speaking of putting all one’s cards on the table and trusting the judgment of American people, Obama is the one who’s vowed to cut taxes on the middle class, and the one who’s assured families making under $250,000 a year (and individuals making under $200,000 a year) won’t see their taxes increase a penny. McCain talks a lot about continuing the Bush tax cuts for the rich and about cutting taxes on corporations.

McCain likes to bring up how Obama voted to raise taxes on people making as little as $32,000/$42,500. Except this is misleading on multiple levels… For one, the bill was a procedural vote on appropriations, and had no impact on actual tax rates. And as I understand it (I can’t find the bill in THOMAS), McCain voted the same way.

Of course I’m simplifying both candidate’s stances on the issues. But just like you shouldn’t trust Sarah Palin when she says she’s “pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing …. any hint of any kind of unethical activity there” (she was actually found, by the Republican-led Alaskan legislature, to have abused her power and violated state ethics law), you should roll your eyes every time McCain mentions Obama planning to raise taxes. Because Obama is the one who’s promised not to do that; in fact, he’s the one who’s promised tax cuts for the middle class.


Remember Troopergate? The news hasn’t covered it much, but the state ethics panel ruled that she did abuse her power, but that she did have pretty much unchecked to hire and fire, thus the only law broken was an ethics law.

Sarah Palin’s take on the ruling? She says it cleared her of all wrongdoing.

The report affirmed that, as governor, she had the constitutional right to hire and fire at will, and therefore her termination of Monegan was lawful.

However, the report found that Palin, her husband Todd, and her subordinates used pressure and intimidation to try to force the firing of Michael Wooten, beginning before her swearing-in ceremony took place, and therefore broke the law.

The investigation said she violated Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, which states, “… each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”

I’d sorta like a VP who doesn’t have the legislature conclude that she violated ethics law, and then turn around and declare, “I’m very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.” She also called the investigation, conducted by the majority-Republican legislature, “a partisan circus.”

Web Templates

Years ago, OSWD.org was perhaps one of my favorite sites. It was a site where many designers released free web templates. There were certainly some junky ones, but there were a lot of amazing ones. Over time, OSWD disappeared, and has undergone some confusing forks. The only good one has been OpenDesigns.org, but it’s been plagued with slow load times and has repeatedly been hacked to host viruses.

I’ve mentioned OneDollarTemplates.com before, which is where the design on ttwagner.com came from. (Guess how much I paid for it!) But I’ve just noticed Solucija’s free templates page, which is home to a few dozen amazing free templates.