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Most states still aren’t set to audit paper ballots in 2020
Virginia Primary Election Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Despite some progress on voting security since 2016, most states in the US aren’t set to require an audit of paper ballots in the November 2020 election, according to a new report out this week from the Brennan Center for Justice.

The report notes that experts and government officials have spent years recommending states adopt verifiable paper ballots for elections, but a handful still use electronic methods potentially vulnerable to cyberattacks. In 2016, 14 states used paperless machines, although the number today is 11, and the report estimates that no more than eight will use them in the 2020 election.

But the report also found that most states won’t require an audit of those paper records, in which officials review randomly selected ballots — another step experts recommend. Today, only 22 states and the District of Columbia have voter-verifiable paper records and require an audit of those ballots before an election is certified. The number will increase to at least 24 states by the 2020 elections, according to the report. “However,” the report notes, “there is nothing stopping most of these remaining states from conducting such audits if they have the resources and will to do so.”

Access to resources seems to be a key issue. Many jurisdictions would like to move to new equipment, but don’t have the funds to do so, according to the report.

Election security became a new focus of debate recently, as Democrats slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to bring election security bills up for a vote. The bills proposed by Democrats would require states to use paper ballots and audit the results.

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11 hr.
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This curvy cat font inspired by cat tails was created for a zine about cats

Companies often like to create custom fonts to establish branding, and cat food subscription service Smalls is no different. Following in the footsteps of companies like Netflix, Samsung — heck, even Arby’s — Smalls has partnered with Oslo-based type foundry Good Type to create a font called Adieu Smalls.

The curvy font builds on Good Type’s Adieu as a base, but it takes inspiration from the way cats curl their tails to express emotions. “When a cat expresses interest, they form a slight hook at the tip of their tail. We applied this in the form of hooked tips to the ‘U’ and ‘E’ that break out of the ascender and descender of the characters,” Smalls lead designer Miles Barretto told Fast Company. “When a cat expresses pleasure, the tail quivers. You can see in ‘M’ and ‘O’ there is a similar state of playfulness.”

 Image: Smalls

Customers will be able to see Adieu Smalls in action on the company’s website, packaging, and its upcoming zine Small Talk. According to DesignWeek, the zine is meant to be a print accompaniment to the brand’s blog. It’ll feature customers’ cats in photoshoots, and it may be included in some shipments a surprise add-on. As one would expect from a cat food startup, the zine is extremely design-forward, like if all the cats had a membership to The Wing.

There’s already an abundance of cat-inspired fonts out there, most of which play on cats’ liquid-like bodies to create the shapes. But Adieu Smalls aims to elevate the overall aesthetic of the cat font. “Today, cats are too often associated with social memes,” Barretto continues. “There is a deep and rich history of the celebration and reverence of felines in many cultures—take Maneki-neko in Japan or the goddess Bastet in ancient Egypt as but two examples.”

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12 hr.
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A Short Hike is one part Animal Crossing and one part Breath of the Wild
Adam Robinson-Yu

It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.

Claire is on a camping trip with her Aunt May, but she’s also waiting for an important call. Unfortunately, the only reception in the park is at the top of the island’s giant mountain. Claire’s trek up the mountain is the core of the game A Short Hike, and how you get her to the top is pretty open ended. You could go straight up the path to the top of the mountain — but then you’d be missing out on the point of the game.

A Short Hike feels like what you would get if you turned Animal Crossing into an adventure game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yes, it’s an experience full of cute cartoon animal people, but more importantly A Short Hike has a similar sensibility to those two Nintendo games. Like both, the goal of the game is less important than how you spend your time getting to it. And so your trek up a mountain ends up full of much smaller tasks, which, like in Animal Crossing, are nice and relaxing.

You can spend time collecting seashells, searching for buried treasure, fishing, or helping other visitors to the park find lost items. However, while those serve as relaxing distractions, the rewards for doing them also help with your ascent up the mountain. At the start of her trek Claire is only able to jump, glide, and climb up walls or cliffs until she gets too tired and lets go. But by completing these side activities you’ll usually get some sort of tool that allows you to perform more actions, like being able to run by getting running shoes or dig by getting a shovel.

Mainly, though, you’ll be trying to collect golden feathers. These feathers act like Link’s stamina bar in Breath of the Wild: the more you have, the more you can climb before tiring out. Except, unlike Link’s stamina bar, each feather also provides you with an additional jump (which, because Claire is a bird, is more of a flap than a jump). Each flap consumes a chunk of your climbing stamina, while not providing as much height as you could have gotten just from climbing.

The climb up the mountain becomes about balancing. You have to determine how much you jump before you start climbing, in order to maximize what stamina you have. Although this is really only a concern if you try to get up the mountain as quickly as you can. If you spend your time exploring the park and taking part in all the different activities available, you’ll end up with more than enough golden fathers to make those later sections a good bit easier.

And you’ll want to spend time exploring, because the mountain is much bigger than you expect it to be. It’s a place full of interesting environments and ruins, as well as quirky and clever characters who you can’t help but want to hang around with or help out. In fact, the writing is maybe the best thing about the game. There is very little of it, but every character feels distinct from the next, and charming in their own way (even the kid that overcharges you for feathers). And when you do finally get to the top of the mountain it’s an emotional gut punch that both validates and recontextualizes whatever path you took to get there.

Luckily, getting to the top isn’t the end. Instead, it essentially frees you up to explore the park without any explicit goal. Maybe you want to catch all the different fish, win the foot race, or just stand near the beach and watch the waves. It’s a perfect structure, because even if the game had ended at the top of the mountain, I’d have found it pretty hard to not start a new game just to wander around the park some more.

A Short Hike was created by Adam Robinson-Yu. You can get it for $7.99 on Steam or (Windows, macOS, and Linux). It takes about an hour or two to finish.

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13 hr.
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