Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, January 30, 2004 9:42 pm

You know those really secure Diebold electronic voting machines?

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 9:42 pm

Not so much, actually:

For a week, the computer whizzes laid abuse – both high- and low-tech – on the six new briefcase-sized electronic voting machines sent over by the state.One guy picked the locks protecting the internal printers and memory cards. Another figured out how to vote more than once – and get away with it. Still another launched a dial-up attack, using his modem to slither through an electronic hole in the State Board of Elections software. Once inside, he could easily change vote totals that come in on Election Day.

“My guess is we’ve only scratched the surface,” said Michael A. Wertheimer, who spent 21 years as a cryptologic mathematician at the National Security Agency.

He is now a director at RABA Technologies in Columbia, the firm that the state hired for about $75,000 to look at Maryland’s new touch-screen voting machines scheduled to be unveiled in nearly every precinct in Maryland for the March 2 primary. …

Wertheimer said it would take nearly a complete rewrite of the computer code to fix the machines’ flaws. …

Diebold “basically had no interest in putting actual security in this system,” said Paul Franceus, one of the consultants. “It’s not like they did it wrong. It’s like they didn’t bother.”

Which, you know is nothing except what Bev and David and a lot of other people have been saying for more than a year.

(The consultants’ full report is here, by the way.)

Buy the book. The only thing you have to lose is your democracy.

Supersize those chitlins?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:52 pm

Whale guts: for when pig guts just aren’t gross enough.

(Mad props to Phred for the link.)

Thursday, January 29, 2004 7:04 am

Work out your frustrations …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:04 am

… here.

Sekimori says the record is 1,215. The best I could do was 780.3. But then, I was always more of a singles hitter.

UPDATE: Just got a line drive that skipped like a rock on the surface of a lake and and went to 1,203.3 Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004 4:42 pm

Snow daze

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 4:42 pm

After being home with my kids for three days because of the snow/ice, I don’t want to say I’ve gotten weird or anything.


Yesterday — Monday — I kept thinking it was Tuesday. And today (Tuesday)? I’ve kept thinking it’s Thursday.

And schools are closed again tomorrow. At least the additional ice they were predicting earlier for tonight is no longer in the forecast.

Gender-specific visual disorders

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:44 am

Early in our relationship, Ann posited the existence of something she called “male blindness,” which, she said, manifested itself in the typical man’s inability/unwillingness to see anything that needed fixing/cleaning/picking up/killing (e.g., arachnids). When we learned three years ago that we were going to have a boy, she prayed aloud that the disorder was not genetic.

Alas, however, her prayers have not been answered. Last night in the kitchen, she observed one of Hooper’s cloths (he uses infant drool cloths the way Linus uses a security blanket, only not as obsessively) lying, alone and forlorn, on the kitchen floor.

“Hooper,” she said, “please pick up your cloth.”

And Hooper, standing right next to the cloth, looked down at it, then looked up again and, quite sincerely, responded: “Where?”

As Mark Twain once wrote, let us draw the curtain of charity over the remainder of the scene.

* * *

Ed Cone implicitly posits a male dysfunction in depth perception, to wit: “Being a man, I’d guess that there is a good 8″ of snow on the ground, but the authorities say it’s more like 5″.”

Damn authorities. They’re probably women.

Monday, January 26, 2004 10:59 am

Help make Blog on the Run better

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:59 am

Send me money.

Kidding. Sorry.

Seriously: If you subscribe to Blog on the Run via either one of my newsfeeds at left — the Blogmatrix one or Blogger’s ATOM one — please comment or e-mail on which feed you prefer.


(If you don’t subscribe to any newsfeeds and want to give it a try, go get a free account at Bloglines, a Web-based service. If you decide you like the idea, you can download some free software that will do the same job slightly more efficiently.)

Saturday, January 24, 2004 9:50 pm

First the ladder, then Mars

Filed under: Fun,Victoria — Lex @ 9:50 pm

Victoria and I went earlier tonight to the monthly astronomy open-house at Guilford College here in town; tonight’s program, “Mission to Mars,” dealt with the logistics and calculations needed to set the two rovers down on the Red Planet (the second is scheduled to signal its touchdown a little more than two hours from now; info available here).

Although the presentation was aimed largely at adults, V. seemed to get significant chunks of it, including the whole purpose of the mission (on which a number of adults in the audience of about 80 seemed somewhat clueless), and she very quietly asked lots of good questions. After the presentation, we went upstairs to the Cline Observatory to look at Saturn through the 16-inch telescope and at Mars through a smaller telescope set up on the observation deck just outside the observatory.

To peer into the observatory’s 16-inch telescope, you had to climb up a 6- or 7-foot stepladder. V. got about 3/4 of the way up and then decided that that was too high for her, but once back outside, she eagerly looked at Mars through the smaller scope and also was impressed with the lights of Piedmont Triad International Airport, a few miles west. She wasn’t sorry to miss Saturn when Mars was the point of the show, and she told me afterward, “Thank you for taking me, Daddy. I liked it and enjoyed it.”

Lesson learned, or, The royal “we”

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 2:24 pm

Hooper, Victoria and V’s friend C. were eating lunch at our house today when Hooper took a mouthful of water, then intentionally dribbled it down his front.

“No more water,” I said, taking his cup from him. “We don’t do that.”

He has been long on will and short on patience lately, so I expected an outburst in response. Instead he calmly informed Victoria and C.: “We don’t do that. We are not a baby.”

Friday, January 23, 2004 11:32 pm

Back from the dead and ready to party explore

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:32 pm

The rover is back online! Woo hoo!


David: News: Mars Rover problem caused by software. Why do I [picture] a NASA tech staring at a blue screen that says: “MARSROVER.EXE has caused a general protection fault in WIN.COM. Please close all windows and reboot your rover.”

Lex: You need to blog that. Now.

David: WindowsMars: Who Do You Want to Grok Today?

Literature, reductio ad absurdum

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:31 pm

For everyone out there who can’t think his way out of a wet paper bag doesn’t have time to read and absorb the classics — by which I mean the Cliff’s Notes versions of great literature — there’s PowerPoint Anthology of Literature!

As a parent, I think its analysis of “Goodnight, Moon” is strikingly perceptive.

More on voting

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 11:31 pm

The magazine Scientific American weighs in.

Krugman on black-box voting

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 11:30 pm

I know that many of my fellow Republicans, and not a few Democrats, find New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, well, shrill. And he can be. But he also can be dead right, and on the issue of paperless electronic voting machines, he is.

Also, the Times editorial page has decided to agree with me that Internet voting is a bad idea, at least for now. Apparently I wield vast punditry power. Who knew?

Must … use … powers … for … good …

The outer darkness

Filed under: Love — Lex @ 11:28 pm

C. over at Witt and Wisdom has a sad post up about Alzheimer’s and how it affected a relative of his.

It’s been years since my grandmother recognized me, although she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s — she’s just old. Turned 96 this week. Two and a half years ago, not long after our son was born, we went to visit her at her nursing home. It was a warm day, and we sat outside in a little gazebo. She asked if she could hold my son, so I held him in her lap (she uses a wheelchair and has pretty much lost the use of her left arm). She didn’t really know me anymore and, of course, was seeing her new great-grandson for the first time, but she started singing, in a low but clear Charleston voice, the same song she had sung to me more than 40 years ago, and to my mother decades before that …

“Br’er Rabbit is a cunning thing
He rambles in the dark
Never knows what danger is
‘Til he hears ol’ Rover bark.
Big-eyed Br’er Rabbit boo, boy …
Big-eyed Brer Rabbit boo … “

It took my breath away. Thinking about it now still does. And if there’s any grace I’ll take away from watching her slow slide toward death, it’s watching this woman who was vigorous enough in her 80s to join bridesmaids 60 years her junior in dancing at my wedding spending one of the last warm afternoons of her life surrounded by loving family and carrying on a tradition that bridges generations.

Panthers joke

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 11:25 pm

From my friend J.:

John Madden was in Dallas to announce a football game one weekend when he noticed a special telephone near the Cowboys bench. He asked Quincy Carter what it was used for and was told it was a hotline to God. John asked if he could use it. Quincy told him, “Sure, but it will cost you $100.” John scratched his head, then thought, what the heck, I could use some help picking games. He pulled out his wallet and paid $100. John’s picks were perfect that week.

The next week John was in St Louis when he noticed that same kind of phone on the Rams bench. He asked what the telephone was for and Marc Bulger told him, “It’s a hotline to God. If you want to use it, it will cost you $500.” Recalling last week, John pulled out his wallet and made the call. John’s picks were perfect again that week.

The next weekend John was in Charlotte at Ericsson Bank of America Stadium when he noticed the same kind of telephone by the Panthers bench. He asked Jake Delhomme, “Is that the hotline to God?” Jake said, “Yes, and if you want to use it, it will cost you 35 cents.”

John looked incredulously at Jake and said, “Wait a second. I just paid $100 in Dallas and $500 in St Louis to use the same phone to God! Why do the Panthers only charge 35 cents?”

Jake looked at John and replied, “In the Carolinas, it’s a local call.”

Well, this is God’s country ….

Thursday, January 22, 2004 8:55 pm

Lost in space, or, Dude! Where’s my Rover?

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:55 pm

Uh-oh. The Spirit rover on Mars has been AWOL for more than a day.

Internet voting? You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 12:52 pm

I bring this subject up in conjunction with my (previously disclosed; see link to left) role as editor of the book “Black Box Voting.”

Unfortunately, North Carolina, with its large contingent of overseas military and their dependents, is one of the states participating in SERVE (Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment), which is supposed to let citizens overseas vote from a PC anywhere in the world. Securely.

Internet voting might be ready for prime time some day, but that day ain’t here yet, as a number of factors suggest.

The biggest concern, and one for which there is no ready solution, is the fact that the voter’s PC must be secured against viruses, worms, Trojan horses and the like, and systematic use of frequently updated protective software still isn’t a habit among a large segment of PC users. Moreover, someone voting from, say, an overseas Internet cafĂ© has no way of knowing how secure his machine is.

I certainly sympathize with the goal of making it easier for Americans overseas, particularly those in the military, to vote. And the day likely will come when Internet voting can be made secure. But right now, Internet voting is a disaster waiting to happen, and the government instead should devote itself to making absentee ballots easier to obtain and return in timely fashion.

Also: Here’s one other good reason not to use Internet voting.

You want it. You need it. You’ve gotta have it.

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 12:51 pm

For when you absolutely, positively have to hear what your caller is saying: the Bone Phone.

What I also want is a phone that, when I get a call from someone I’m in no mood to talk to, makes other people have to listen instead of me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 9:47 pm

Who knew?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:47 pm

If you’ve been in the newspaper bidness awhile, you probably at one time had some experience with Radio Shack’s TRS-80 “portable” “computer,” basically an electronic word processor with a modem. I was using one as recently as 1989 when I was out of town for six weeks covering a story. The TRS-80 is often recalled, but not often with fondness.

So now there’s apparently a band called TRS-80.

Fire! Fire!, or, Finally: A reason to get up in the morning

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:57 pm

So. This 7.5-ounce bottle of Dial Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer With Moisturizers that Kills Germs Instantly Without Water that’s sitting on my desk?

Is flammable.

For you liberal-arts majors out there

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:56 pm

The Cartoon Laws of Physics (thanks to Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune, another Old Media guy who has started blogging)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 9:24 pm

John Edwards’ platform

I have no idea what John Edwards’ platform is, and apparently neither does someone at the EPA who came to this blog earlier today looking for Edwards’ platform. Whoever you are: You’ll have more luck here.

I’m helpful like that.

Monday, January 19, 2004 7:43 pm

Scenes from a Family Dinner, or Why we don’t eat out much

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 7:43 pm

Scene 1: The Artist’s Way

Dramatis Personae: Daddy, Victoria

Victoria: Daddy, look at this!

Daddy: Wow, sweetie, that’s pretty! It looks like a snowflake!

Victoria: It is! See, I folded the paper up like this. Then I cut it like this. And this. And this. And this. And this.

Daddy: Well, it sure turned out nicely.

Victoria: Yeah. But I had to give up a lot of playtime to do this.

Daddy: Well, sweetie, everyone has to suffer for their art.

Victoria: (sighs) Yeah, I know.

* * *

Scene 2

Dramatis personae: Victoria, Hooper, Daddy, Mommy

Victoria: I’m all done!

Hooper: I’m all done!

Victoria: I want a treat!

Hooper: I want a treat!

Victoria: Right now!

Hooper: Right now!

Daddy: Hooper, there are some things Big Sissie does that probably are not worthy of emulation.

(Victoria’s south end emits rude noises and exudes foul vapors. A choking miasma fills the kitchen. Mommy turns purple and collapses.)

Daddy: Well, like that, for instance.

You can run, but you can’t hide

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 6:14 pm

I try hard to protect my children from the more unsavory aspects of American culture. I really do.

And yet what to my wondering eyes should appear earlier this evening but Victoria and her friend C., playing “Mary-Kate and Ashley.”

Where did I go wrong? Or should I just give in and get “Mary-Kate” tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and “Ashley” on the knuckles of the other?

State of the Union drinking game charity challenge

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:11 pm

Check out South Knox Bubba’s proposal: for each mention of various phrases in the upcoming State of the Union address, he’ll donate money to Habitat for Humanity.

Sunday, January 18, 2004 11:34 pm

Yeah, baby!

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 11:34 pm

Panthers 14, Eagles 3

We’re goin’ to the Super Bowl, bay-bee!!

It was an excellent overall effort, the kind of game this team has been capable of all year.

The defense kept McNabb unsteady — he wasn’t looking all that hot even before he got hurt — and the offense got in when it needed to. I’d been afraid that the game might turn on how well kicker John Kasay could negotiate the swirling winds in the end zones on field-goal attempts, but it didn’t. And since Kasay missed three attempts in the game against the Eagles earlier this year, I’m sure he was just as happy not to have to be The Man tonight.

Carolina’s secondary was the team’s biggest question mark at the beginning of the season, and it has been unfairly maligned all year. One would have thought that the game corners Terry Cousin and Reggie Howard had last year against New Orleans would have silenced the doubters, but no. But Mike Minter is one of the league’s better strong safeties, a ferocious hitter. Deon Grant is developing into an outstanding free safety. And rookie Ricky Manning Jr., who stepped in at corner after Howard got hurt, has turned into a huge playmaker, with 3 picks tonight to go with the game-saving one he had against the Rams last week. The corners also exposed the weaknesses of the Eagles’ receivers, playing a very physical game against them at the line that kept them from getting position and getting open.

The Panthers’ two touchdown plays were spectacular. In the first, Delhomme, under pressure, lofted one into double coverage in the end zone, in effect, saying to wideout Muhsin Muhammad, “Moose, I’ve done all I can do — I’m putting it up and you’re going to have to jump for it.” And Moose did, and he came down with it.

The second play will go into the books as a 1-yard touchdown run by DeShaun Foster, but that simple notation doesn’t begin to describe Foster’s performance. It might have been the greatest 1-yard touchdown run in the history of the league. He took the toss around right end and got met by Eagles linebacker Mark Simoneau. He knocked Simoneau over, then ran into another linebacker, Nate Wayne, against whom he pushed until he was close enough to stick the ball out over the goal line and break the plane. He got that TD on sheer will, and the play marks Foster’s emergence as a big-time running back.

It’ll be an interesting Super Bowl. The Pats won it just two years ago, mostly with the same team they have now. Most of the Panthers have never even been; only two Panthers were with the team the last time it went to the playoffs. But these teams are very much alike: Both of them bear out the old adage that offense might win games but defense wins Super Bowls, and both tend to beat up opponents’ wideouts. Fox’s Jimmy Johnson gives the edge to the Patriots in every area except special teams, but the Panthers’ defensive talent and defensive play calling from Mike Trgovac might make the difference; I only counted two plays tonight on which the Panthers’ D was caught completely flat-footed.

Before the Panthers began play in 1995, team owner Jerry Richardson promised a Super Bowl victory to Charlotte within 10 years. Jerry ain’t getting any younger and already has had to fight prostate cancer, so if the Panthers keep his promise a year early I suspect that neither he nor I will mind.

Go, Panthers!

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 10:44 am

Beat Philly.

Saturday, January 17, 2004 3:19 pm

A polite suggestion

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 3:19 pm

Whoever came here looking for “Fast Wives Club author dies” might have better luck using the book’s real name: “The First Wives Club.”

I’m just sayin’.

More boys at play

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 2:27 pm

My stepdad loves his new robotic vacuum cleaner. How much? I’ll let him tell you:

Her name is SWEEPY (like the dwarf Sleepy) and she is beautiful….unashamed in her nakedness as she works tirelessly, even freeing herself from under cabinets when she gets stuck (she simply jacks up her rear end and backs out). Occasionally she obsesses with dust under a dresser and won’t come out for a while, but eventually she marches across the room again, lights blinking with satisfaction and dust trailing from her body. She stops short of flinging herself down the stairs–even though if her mood darkens, I can see her attempting to end her life of drudgery this way. Her maker endowed her with a “beaming device” which you can locate at will to tell her to “stay in her own room” (like an invisible fence, though that would be an insult to her integrity).Occasionally she misses a spot — but, alas, so do I — even when I have a full charge. (she found and picked up my deliberately strewn cereal). And yes, sometimes she appears to have no pattern to her work, but so do I. She ends her work with a satisfying little tune as she shuts down. She even utters a little electronic “uh-oh” if she encounters a higher than usual rug that she can’t navigate. She is a doll, a piece of work.

She may be serious competition for “Maids Unlimited” if I can teach her to swab toilets.

Oh. Kay.

Boys at play

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 12:42 pm

First, Hooper finishes his grapes. Then he puts his empty bowl on his friend B.’s head. Then he announces, “You a SNOWMAN!” Then B. laughs and nods.

Two-year-olds really can be fun sometimes. They’re not all poop and screams.

Friday, January 16, 2004 10:11 pm

She’s gonna be a mommy

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 10:11 pm

Heather Armstrong, a/k/a Dooce, isn’t known for bringin’ the warm ‘n’ fuzzy. She might have been the first person to have been fired for blogging stuff about work even though she didn’t use her real name and didn’t identify her employer, so that probably explains it. Indeed, the current subhead on her blog reads, “decking the [Oedipal] halls.”

But she’s got a post up right now that is funny and terrifying and sad and heartwarming by turns, and since her baby is almost here and it might be the last post she posts for a while, I think you ought to go read it.

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