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I was at a garden center the other day looking for something else when I happened on a spray that promised to rid my garden of all sorts of unwanted 4-footed critters. Including my friend Rocky Raccoon.

I was getting a bit tired of chasing him out of the grapes every night with a broom, but I don’t like using poisons of any kind in my yard. For one thing, I don’t want to flush them into our sewers and thence to the streams and rivers. And I like all (most) of the wildlife in my yard. I’m visited by 4 or 5 different species of native bees — the bumble bees in my yard actually outnumber the interloper honey bees. I have mantids and lady bugs and other aphid-eaters; toads and frogs to eat the slugs; butterflies and hummingbirds to delight me. It’s a nice, albeit currently weedy little ecosystem. I would even welcome the coons if they didn’t eat the grapes. So, no pesticides or herbicides, thank you very much.

I looked at the label on this spray and the ingredients were capsaicin and water. Ah ha! I said to myself. I wonder how Rocky will like a snoot-full of habanero? Certainly unpleasant, but not necessarily deadly.

#1 Son wanted to do the actual spraying, so with mom directing, he sprayed the bases of the grape vines, the pergola supports, the branch of the silk tree that overhangs the pergola, the base of the silk tree, the top of the pergola on the silk-tree side, and the top of the fence.

That night I heard some rustling out vine-ward. But not for very long. In the week since, there have been no signs of nocturnal visitations.

Everything seems to be about 2 weeks early this year, which means we may have ripe grapes while we’re out of town. I’m going to spray again just before we go.

I still have my fingers crossed, but this year we may actually have enough grapes to can juice. If all goes as planned, we’re going to have way too many grapes. 😀

Political Rants by Judy @ 12:06 PM

On the heels of the article about the loss of voting data in Florida comes this article in SiliconValley.com:

Posted on Thu, Jul. 29, 2004

E-voting critic issues challenge to hackers

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A leading critic of paperless electronic voting machines issued a challenge Thursday to computer hackers attending their annual Black Hat conference, encouraging them to test whether it’s possible to rig an election.

Rebecca Mercuri, a Harvard University-affiliated research fellow, encouraged hackers to inspect software code made available on the Internet by VoteHere, an electronic voting software company based in Bellevue, Wash., and called upon other voting machine vendors to make their codes and products available.
. . .
Mercuri said her challenge was in response to a similar bet issued by Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist and voting technology consultant. Shamos has promised $10,000 to anyone who can hack into a voting machine undetected.

Mercuri said Shamos’ challenge was impossible since the industry employs restrictive trade secret agreements that make it a felony to examine the equipment even when it’s not being used in an election.

But in a telephone interview from Pittsburgh, Shamos dismissed Mercuri’s criticism.
. . .
“Anybody can hack into anything,” Shamos said. “I can break into a bank. The question is are they going to know the money is gone.”
. . .
Voting rights advocates and computer scientists have called for stricter auditing procedures to ensure the integrity of votes. They say electronic voting systems expose elections to hackers, software bugs, hardware malfunctions, power outages and even cyber terrorists and that meaningful recounts are impossible without a printed record of every ballot cast.

“Everyone needs to grab an oar and row because we’re in trouble,” said Bev Harris, executive director of Black Box Voting, a Seattle-based nonprofit consumer protection organization.

Y’know, I have to agree with Harris, here. We all damn well better start paddling.

I have to wonder at the wisdom of asking Black Hat Conventioneers to test whether or not it is possible to hack an election. As Shamos points out, it’s always possible to hack anything. But is it really a good idea to set a bunch of people loose to rig an election? If we’re being honest, some hackers are of questionable moral integrity, and no doubt there’s one or two, crackers probably, who might think it would be just a hoot to see Ronald McDonald as Mayor of Chicago. These are people who may not be satisfied with just looking at the voting machine code. Hey… it’s a felony! Yeah… Meh.

What was Mercuri thinking? Or a better question: When an election is rigged by hackers, can Mercuri be prosecuted?

Or, maybe the states should just can the whole voting machine problem by going to vote-by-mail. It works just fine here in Oregon — we can even rip off our own hanging chad.

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