December 28, 2006

New Newton North?

Filed under: Newton, Politics — marcstober @ 4:01 pm

The big issue in local politics here is whether the city should build a new high school (and more specifically, whether it should build the high school we’ve already had an architect design).
I decided to chime in on the debate with a comment on the Newton Tab blog.

Stay tuned for a stronger endorsement (if I can come up with one) before the referendum on January 23.

December 19, 2006

(Not) Investing in Computer Security

Filed under: Business, Software Blog — marcstober @ 2:20 pm

If you read eWeek or listen to some other people enough you are bound to start believing that the world is on the verge of some major computer security meltdown. But when a former UBS network administrator damaged computer systems in a plan to affect the company’s stock price, the expected financial gain didn’t happen. Are the computer security systems that vendors would sell us to prevent this type of thing not responding to the right threat? In a world where we have more information and copies of that information than we can handle, does losing some of it really matter if you can recover the important parts?

December 5, 2006

Food is the New Smoking

Filed under: Politics — marcstober @ 6:11 pm

The Boston Globe’s Maura Welch said it: “Food is the new smoking.” Cheryl and I were half-joking the other day that we should start smoking. I could easily avoid the random donut or after-dinner munching on pretzels by replacing them with cigarettes. It would be good for my career, too: the COO of my company smokes and it would be good networking to shiver together outside the front door.

December 1, 2006

Waiting for the scary number

Filed under: House Blog — marcstober @ 1:01 pm

Update on our kitchen renovation: we’ve chosen a general contractor, paid him a small retainer, and come up with a design. Now we’re waiting for the estimate with the scary number on the bottom line.

One of the reasons we chose SteveWorks as our builder is that he would only give us an off-the-cuff price range to start with. Then, he charged us a small retainer to design and quote the project in detail. That way, we’ll know exactly what we’re getting when we sign the contract, rather than having to make compromises to fit with arbitrarily determined allowances. Anyhow, at this point we do have a hole in the ceiling that Steve made to look some structural issues, and are waiting with our home equity loan checks in hand.

What we’ve discovered, in general, is that there is no shortcut or cheap or easy way out of this process. We could have just picked a budget in advance, but it costs a certain minimum amount (more than we really wanted to spend altogether) for the general construction, and above a certain amount you really have to be trying to pick out extraordinary furnishings. So, you can’t just pick a number out of the blue. Also, we felt that, as an investment, we needed to involve a professional and renovate the kitchen up to the standards of what having a new kitchen means in our area. Keeping appliances and fixtures up to date is great but having a totally brand-new kitchen (at least if we’re eventually able to add bathrooms, too) will really put the house in a higher class of homes (although we don’t want to sell it).

E-Voting and Cuyahoga County

Filed under: Information Politics, Newton — marcstober @ 11:43 am

Interesting article (via EFF) that Cuyahogo County, Ohio may replace their new e-voting machines. Interesting personally because it’s where my wife’s family is from, and I’ve been to the county courthouse myself to get my marriage license. Interesting politically for two reasons:

1. This is the greater Cleveland area which, on its own, is much closer to being a “blue state” than the rest of Ohio, so it does affect Ohio’s electoral college vote and the national election.

2. The article says they may be using more optical-scanner machines. I’ve voted with these in Newton and Brookline and, as I found in the last primary, they can actually be pretty high tech – it took less than a second for the machine to read and reject my ballot because I’d accidentally voted twice in the same race. The optical systems could be best of both worlds – an inherently paper system that also has the benefits of an electronic system.

Note that in Brookline and Newton you use a marker to fill in a circle on a card; this is not the punch type of system with “hanging chads.” What makes this system ideal is that the electronic ballot box gives the voter immediate feedback as to whether their ballot is valid (and there is a procedure to destroy and replace the ballot in the voter’s presence) so there is no gathering up the ballots and guessing at what a partially-punched circle means later, as there was in Florida in the 2000 election.