Hey, cool — Vox made MIT Technology Review! The author, Wade Roush, likes it enough to move his weblog over to Vox, which is a nice endorsement. Perhaps I should find time to start playing with my Vox account again… hell, maybe I should find time to start writing on any of my weblogs again.

A few other short takes:

Jeff Gates made a good pickup in the DC Metro system, where he noticed an oddity in all the Blue Cross/Blue Shield ads on the train platforms: the pupils of all the people’s eyes in the ads have been Photoshopped to reflect the BC/BS logo. Now that I know what to look for, it seems that the same thing was done to the ad at the top of this page, the info about the new federal vision benefits program; I can’t find similar ads on any other BC/BS websites, so Jeff is probably right that the ads are related to the new vision offerings. It’s a bit freaky, and despite the fact that I go through Metro Center twice a day, I never caught this. Weird!

I can’t even begin to imagine the gall it takes for a television network that broadcasts a scant three to six hours of live, relevant programming a week to begin demanding that cable companies offer the network in their lowest-tier basic programming packages… but that’s exactly what the NFL Network is doing this year, and quite a few cable companies are telling the network to go screw itself. And that means that with this Thursday’s first of eight prime-time games that are being shunted onto the NFL Network, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s television-containing homes won’t be able to watch. In that news story, NFL Network spokesman Seth Palansky says that these eight games are “the most valuable programming a cable company can offer, and a cable company not carrying live NFL games is like a grocery store not carrying milk”; I’m pretty sure a more accurate analogy would be that the grocery stores are refusing to do business with a single dairy company that only deigns to bottle its product for three hours on eight random days of the year, and the rest of the year distributes three-month-old yogurt and cottage cheese.

Fun fun fun — since Shannon and I will be in the heart of southern New Jersey for the holiday (and almost certainly won’t have access to the NFL Network), I guess we’ll be watching the primetime game via DirecTV and the SlingBox…

Ever since moving my life onto a Mac laptop, I’ve been using Apple’s Mail.app as my primary email application. In general, it’s a great program, but for someone like me who has a lot of email folders, it’s a bit irritating using its interface to move messages around — there’s a lot of scrolling of the folder sidebar involved, and no good way to shortcut that process. (Plug-ins like Mail Act-On get part of the way there, but are too specific to solve the more general problem.) Imagine my happiness, then, when I saw Adam Tow’s MsgFiler come across VersionTracker this afternoon… it’s the Mail.app plugin I’ve been dying for someone to write! Within two or three minutes of installing it, I paid the shareware fee and dropped Adam a note expressing my undying gratitude; if you’re as annoyed by Mail.app’s folder handling, I might recommend you do the same.

Update: Wow, that’s weird — two people who impress me on nearly a daily basis, Alex King and John Gruber, both feel the same way about MsgFiler!

In terms of laptops, I’m pretty solidly in the Apple crowd, having had a 12” Powerbook G4 for the past two-plus years and now having upgraded to a MacBook Pro last week. Since I moved to DC and become a member of the CrackBerry crowd, I’ve salivated over the idea that someone might figure out how to let me tether my BlackBerry to my Mac and allow me to use the data connection to access the ‘net (something that RIM supports out-of-the-box for PC users), and was pretty excited when Alex King offered a bounty for the feature and things started moving a bit. A month ago, Daniel Pasco claimed the bounty with Pulse, a product he’s developing that aims to use a Bluetooth connection to let you connect to your BlackBerry, and with my desire to see this working I’ve been following the app’s development closely. Today, Daniel posted an update with some incredibly interesting — and disappointing — information: the Bluetooth implementations are wildly different across the various BlackBerry models, with the Pulse able to sustain data rates that are more than five times faster than those the 8700g (my model) is able to pull off, and the 8700g’s rates are two times faster than the 7290. That’s really pretty amazing… in chatting with Daniel, he’s only 95% sure that this isn’t some weirdness in his testing setup, and he’s holding out hope that someone might be able to weigh in on what might be going on here.

If you’re knowledgeable in the Mysterious Ways of the BlackBerry Bluetooth Stack and have something that might point Daniel in the right direction, I’m sure he’d be thrilled if you’d go leave him a comment!

Rumsfeld out -- buh bye!

I promise I’m not going to be doing a play-by-play of election goings-on today, but I have to admit I find it fitting that the AP got the story of Rumsfeld resigning and the press called Montana for Jon Tester at pretty much the same moment that Bush walked out to the slaughter in his press conference. (Seriously, it’s hard to see this performance as anything more than him getting beaten about the head with a shovel, from my admittedly slanted read on it.)

And for my favorite part of the press conference: it’d have to be Bush claiming, when asked whether he’d support giving DC a voting representative in the House, that it was the very first time he’d heard of the issue. Are you f*!@ing kidding me?!?

What a terrific — and late — night last night was; until around 1 AM, Shannon and I sat firmly planted in front of the TV (tuned variously to CNN, NBC, and Comedy Central) and a laptop streaming a muted CNN via the SlingBox. I don’t hesitate at all to say that I’m excited about the returns, but in all honesty, I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of the Democratic House wave last night, and holding out on any Senate celebration until the results from Virginia and Montana are finalized. (But with 99.88% of the Virginia precincts reporting, Jim Webb’s unofficial lead is 7,132 votes, a number that’s four or five times higher than Bush’s end-of-the-count lead in Florida in 2000; in Montana, Jon Tester’s lead is a hair over 3,000.) By all reports, all the Virginia numbers that are being reported out so far do include all absentee voting; the only counting that’s left are the remaining boxes in three counties and some of the provisional ballots.

For those who (like me) were looking for raw explanations of the recount rules and processes in Virginia and Montana, a good starting point is this post over at TPM Cafe’s Election Central. A more fleshed-out version is that Virginia pays for a recount for a result in which the difference is less than 0.5% (there’s almost no way for this not to occur at this point), but the recount can’t even be requested until the election results are certified, something that won’t occur until the very end of November. In Montana, the state only pays for a recount if the margin is within 0.25%, and they’ll allow a candidate-financed recount if the margin is less than 0.5%. It looks, from the certified numbers and the votes that are still outstanding, that Montana’s final tally will finish either just within the 0.5% window or slightly higher than that, so we’ll see about that as well. And as I’ve read in about a dozen places today, the kicker to this all will be watching how the various players try to manipulate any recounts, and what comes of the investigations into election fraud that have already begun in Virginia.

Again, an exciting night, but the sobering reality is that it’s merely step one of a many-step process to right this ship, and there’s a lot the Democrats can do to screw this all up if they don’t start listening to the wiser voices within the party.

One brief update on the National Campaign for Fair Elections public service announcement: apparently, the organization is doing good work today! After calling the Putnam County elections bureau, the friend I mentioned in today’s earlier post also called NCFE and was told that they’d immediately put a lawyer in the voting precinct to make sure that they stopped incorrectly mandating identification before allowing registered voters to cast their ballots. Now that’s service.

With all the voting problems people are already reporting (just take a look at Josh Micah Marshall’s excellent Talking Points Memo for examples), I suspect the NCFE will be busy today.

Shannon, after we cast our (non-representative DC) ballots.

After failing to make it to vote in the primary (I was attending on the peds oncology service, and couldn’t get out of the hospital in time!), Shannon and I woke up early squirrelly this morning and hustled our way to the polling station. Voting in DC is a bit weird; you vote for local races that have meaning, but the national races are for “shadow representatives” that functionally have as much relevance as a seamstress at a nudist colony. As a first-time DC voter, I had to show identification before I could vote, but interestingly Shannon was asked for her ID as well, and she’s not a first-time voter. (I also just heard from a friend in New York who was also barred from voting until he produced an ID, and is now pursuing an explanation from his county board of elections.) In any event, we slid our ballots into the electronic reader, ate a celebratory donut, and immediately started stressing about watching the returns this evening… here’s hoping for the sweeping repudiation of the Bush administration that’s been trending towards finality in the pre-election polls.

One public service announcement: if you have any problems voting (electronic voting machines that malfunction, officials that wrongly prevent you from casting a ballot, whatever), the National Campaign for Fair Elections has set up a toll-free hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE. The group has monitors and attorneys on-hand to help deal with problems as they arise, so it’s probably worth giving them a call with any issues.

In order to explain the poor state of internet connectivity here at QDN (and for you handful of people who use the mailserver that lives here), I present this graph of the availability of my home internet line for the past 24 hours, a line that’s graded as business-class and which costs more than my monthly car payments:

Lookie at that downtime!

Whaddya think, worth the money?

I’m pretty sure that the main qualification for being appointed head of IT for any of the popular marathons is a complete inability to anticipate people’s desire to use online services to track runners. Take today, for example; in my 50 to 100 attempts to load the NYC Marathon Athlete Tracker over the past hour, I’ve had the page successfully load and render a sum total of five times. Or take last weekend’s Marine Corps Marathon, where the reliability of the athlete information site was a slight bit better, but the system which sends alerts via text messaging was spotty at best (the norm was to get an alert somewhere around 15-20 minutes after a runner passed a waypoint). In my three years of living in Massachusetts, the site for the Boston Marathon always became unusable within 20-30 minutes of the official race start, and last year I didn’t get a single text message update for the people I was tracking.

In today’s day and age, the technology and knowhow certainly exists to build a reliable site capable of handling a short-term heavy load; given that every single popular marathon decimates the IT systems meant for public use, how long will it take for a company like Google or Yahoo to step in and solve this problem?