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12/23/2004

Happytown > Happytown

After moving to our new digs, we receive a message from God

 

Happytown™ groupies take note: This column, and the newspaper it carries on its broad shoulders, has a new home. So please direct your love, flowers, vitriol, acerbic wit, undergarments, donations, Christmas gifts and other sundries to: Happytown™, c/o Orlando Weekly, 100 W. Livingston St., Orlando, Fla., 32801. Phone number and Internet address remain the same.

Where is our new place of business, you ask?

Remember that night you puked in the parking lot at The Edge? Or how about that time you got hammered on Bud Light and rode the mechanical bull at 08 Seconds? Both times you were perilously close to the new roost of this wildly popular column, and the rest of the paper as well. Right next door, in fact. Look for the nondescript, two-story brick building attached to the monstrous one painted like a cow. Hard to miss. Stop in and say howdy.

While we like to think of ourselves as the perfect vehicle for a publishing-industry reality-television series (My Big Fat Obnoxious Editor, or maybe Swapping Bylines), sadly, we're more PBS than WB. Orlando proper, however, is not.

With the University of Central Florida swelling to an antiseptically anonymous attendance record of 41,000, we can only suspect that it was a bit of Blonde Reverse Psychology 101 that led the powers that be to allow Bachelor creator, Mike Fleiss, to set up shop on premises for his new fishbowl fuck-off, Big Man on Campus. The six-episode series (which debuted Dec. 15 on the Dubya) imprisons 15 large-breasted psych and PR majors in sorority-style luxury. Through acts of both God and standard "reality" trickery, they whittle away each at other and victims of the opposite sex until perfect love is found. Or maybe just hot, momentary social-diseased love.

The girls think they get to pick the hottest guy, then, only when they believe the whole thing is over – surprise! – it isn't. Who could've guessed? They ladies catfight their way to temporary monogamy – one dumb girl, one dumb boy – and we get to watch. The first episode included a stabbing and lots of shrieking as the girls walked 12 steps backward to pre-ERA, post-Hooters stereotyping. We won't be watching the rest. We're too busy screwing story editors to get back at art directors … and looking for hidden cameras in dusty corners. Cheese! OK, in the interest of putting something of news value in this column (besides big-breasted PR and psych majors), we note that Mayor Buddy Dyer has put plans to build a new Publix in Thornton Park on hold until January. Dyer pulled the much-rumored downtown grocery off the council's Dec. 13 consent agenda. Like everything associated with downtown, the Publix is only coming to the table thanks to a few million dollars in incentives –$3.7 million to be exact – which the council wanted to sneak through without discussion, on the consent agenda.

Dyer didn't pull the item because he doesn't like the idea of a Publix in Thornton Park. (We wonder if there is any handout of public funds he would say no to.) In this case, the deal got pulled because commissioners wanted more time to scrutinize the details, and Dyer has taken heat in the past for rushing things along.

Not to worry though, the Publix largesse will pass, eventually. Commissioners Phil Diamond and Vicki Vargo will vote against the incentives (they voted against the memorandum of understanding in November too) and the rest will vote for it.

Orlando, as we all learn 14 minutes after unpacking suitcases, is a humorless town. Irreverence gets the wing nuts' undies in a bunch, and shortly thereafter a controversy erupts; a predictable, boring controversy that serves only to remind us what a humorless town we live in. It's a vicious cycle.

And so we were shocked – shocked! – by the billboard we spotted off I-4 just south of downtown that read, and we quote, "Welcome to Moe's –God." It was a brilliant play on those anonymously funded black billboards with white text that sprouted like weeds across Florida's highway system a few years back, bearing slogans like "You think it's hot here? –God' and "We need to talk –God." Quite frankly, the Almighty endorsement of Moe's Southwest Grill made us hungry for some Tex-Mex.

"There's no way that's going to last," we muttered to ourselves, as we drove along, scrupulously obeying the posted speed limit. "Not in this city."

Sure enough, it didn't. A few days later, we drove by and the sign read, "Welcome to Moe's –Moe." Lame and tame.

According to Moe's corporate office in Atlanta, the billboard was put up by a local franchisee – Carl Griffenkranz, the vice president of marketing for Raving Brands, Moe's parent company, declined to say which one – without corporate's knowledge. It took a grand total of two e-mails and a few queries from other franchisees to get it quashed.

Griffenkranz says, as a matter of policy, Moe's doesn't delve into religion or politics. "We're irreverent, we're funny … [but] we don't touch those," he says.

Suddenly Tex-Mex doesn't sound so good.

SEMI-REGULAR FEATURE
WHO, WHAT, HOW and WHY:
ASK IAN THE I.T. GUY!

Q: How easy is it to hack into voting machines? Can you tell me exactly how to do it? Bonus question: Did you hack the election?

A: The key to an accurate answer is going to be to figure out which kind of voting machine that you want to hack. The techniques must, necessarily, vary depending on the kind of system to be compromised. For instance, if you're talking about the Diebold touchscreen machines, you have a number of weak spots: the voting software on the terminal, the voting machine hardware, the central tabulator for the precinct and the communication lines that connect the devices together.

The optical scan machines have a weakness at the point of the central tabulator, which is merely a PC that stores vote information in an Access database and logs hits on the database by the voting software (but not necessarily other file operations). The hack is to up open the database up in Access and copy-and-paste cell contents between candidates before uploading the results. Takes about 30 seconds.

Problem is, you have to be a precinct worker to be able to touch the central tabulator. Of course, there are always man-in-the-middle attacks, where you hijack and alter the data en route from the tabulators to the central system, which occurs unencrypted over POTS (plain old telephone system) lines. Blackboxvoting.com has detailed information on hacking the voting system and how to detect it.

Now, as to whether or not I personally hacked anything in the voting system this year, I've been advised by my attorney not to say anything too detailed. But if I'd gotten my way, we wouldn't be looking at four more years.

askian@orlandoweekly.com

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