From:         Patrick Douglas Crispen 
Subject:      Toubus - 1 Apr 04 - Explainer / E-Voting

TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP: Explainer / E-Voting

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and happy April Fools day from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, one of the United States' largest planned urban communities. Oh, wait. That's actually true. Sorry about that. What I meant to say is that Irvine is the largest city in southern Greece. :P

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On with the show...


When can a US judge declare a mistrial? Can sonar kill whales? How does reprocessing fuel rods help build nuclear [or, if you are from the South, "new-kew-lar"] bombs?

If you are like most normal people, you've never asked a single one of those questions. That's cool. I'm still going to show you where you can find the answers.

Back in the summer of 1998 the staff at started publishing something called "Explainer," a semi-regular column that answers common questions arising from current events. For example, defense lawyers in the Tyco trial [which you can learn more about at ] twice moved for a mistrial earlier this week. So, the folks at Slate's Explainer wrote a column asking [and answering] the obvious question: When can a judge declare a mistrial? And when my beloved University of Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team went down in defeat to the University of Connecticut's Syphilitic Sled Dogs [or whatever their team is called], Explainer clarified why the national college basketball tournament is known as "March Madness."

Over the past six years Slate has published almost 800 Explainer articles, and those articles are available in two places. The first is in the new, 272 page paperback book titled, oddly enough, "The Explainer." To find out more about the book, which only costs US$11.95, just hop on over to

The second place you can find Slate's Explainer articles is online at

If you are interested in current events or trivia--or if you are an educator or home school parent who wants to expand your kids' knowledge--Slate's online archive of Explainer articles is a gift from heaven. You can easily kill a good afternoon browsing the archives. And, not only are the archives updated every time a new Explainer article is written, the nice folks at Slate made sure that when you click on an article's link the article opens in a new browser window! YAY SLATE!

Oh, and before I wrap up, I guess I should tell you that you can find the Explainer's answer to the "can sonar kill whales" question at

and its answer to the "how does reprocessing fuel rods help build nuclear bombs" question at


-------- E-Voting --------

During California's primary election earlier this month my polling place used an electronic voting machine--Hart InterCivic's eSlate electronic voting system to be specific. I found the electronic voting process to be strangely unsettling, mostly because there wasn't a paper trail.

It turns out I had reason to feel uncomfortable. According to the LA Times, 7,000 Orange County voters were given the wrong ballots. And in 21 precincts, there were more ballots cast than there were registered voters. [There's a Lyndon Johnson joke in there somewhere.]

You can read the LA Times' complete story at

And the problem isn't just with the voting machines in Orange County. Over the past month, Kim Zetter at Wired Magazine has investigated electronic voting in the United States. I know that we shy away from political issues in Tourbus, but considering that 50 million Americans will be using paperless, electronic voting machines this fall--and countless other millions will be using these machines in elections around the world--I thought you'd be interested in seeing Zetter's article. You can find it at,2645,62790,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_7

Whether you agree or disagree with Zetter's assertions, the article is a fascinating read.

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

That's it for today. Have a safe and happy week and we'll talk again soon!

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