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October 20th, 2002:

Hometown paper obit for Red

My mother informed me tonight that our old hometown paper, the Staten Island Advance, published an obituary for my grandmother which includes a couple of paragraphs from my own tribute. Apparently, my dad got in touch with a writer at the Advance that he knew and tipped him off to what I’d written. It sure reads as if they’d interviewed me instead of cribbing from my writing, doesn’t it?

I’m going to return the favor and copy the obit here, so I’ll have it after it rotates off their page.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Native Staten Islander Ann Abbruzza Visco, 85, of Kirkland, Wash., a retired business owner, died Oct. 14 in the Evergreen Vista Rehabilitation Center, Kirkland.

Born in Ann Carasaniti in Sunnyside, she moved to Kirkland in 1999.

She married her first husband, Russell Abbruzza, in 1939. The couple owned and operated the former Russell’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop in Sunnyside for more than 20 years.

Mr. Abbruzza died in 1961. Ten years later, she married Nicholas Visco. Together, the two owned and operated an Italian restaurant called Pasta Galore in Mays Landing, N.J., until 1982.

She was know for her flaming red hair for which she had garnered the nickname, “Red” by family and friends. Her eldest grandson Charles Kuffner III has fond memories of his grandmother.

“I was her first grandchild. When I was born, she started saving the tips she got [from the salon] for my college fund,” he said. “Every Christmas I’d receive a big plastic container full of coins, representing a year’s worth of gratuities for perms and cuts. My siblings got to share in this when they arrived, but I got the best of it for getting there first.”

Mrs. Abbruzza Visco was an accomplished knitter. “Sweaters were her specialty,” her grandson said. “When my mother’s brother, Russ, remarried and produced two grandsons, it was a new lease on life for her, and she knitted with a vengeance. I don’t think either of those kids needed a store-bought sweater for the first few years of their lives.”

Mrs. Visco was the past president of the Richmond County Hairdresser’s Association. She enjoyed Italian cooking, and was an avid fan of the New York Yankees.

She also enjoyed caring for plants and creating outdoor gardens and was the past recipient of a Lynne Robbins Steinman Foundation award for outstanding garden displays.

Her second husband, Nicholas, died in 1998.

In addition to her son, Charles, and her grandson, surviving are another son, Russell Abbruzza; a daughter, Carol A. Kuffner; a brother Frank Carasaniti, and five more grandchildren.

A private funeral was arranged by the Green Funeral Homes, Bellevue, Wash.

I’ll add one correction, one observation, and one oversight: Red had two children, my mom and my uncle Russ. She had a son-in-law named Charles (that would be my dad), but no other son. To the best of my recollection, the restaurant in Mays Landing was simply called Visco’s. At least, I recall “Visco’s” being spelled out in large cursive letters on the side of the restaurant. It’s possible there was a “Pasta Galore” somewhere, I just don’t remember it. Red also had two great-grandchildren, my niece Vanessa and my nephew Jack.

DMN poll favors Goodhair and Cornyn

A Dallas Morning News poll taken last week shows a double-digit lead for Rick Perry and John Cornyn. The Lt. Governor race is a dead heat, it says.

Make of it what you will.

Chron on Howard Dean

Attention, Howard Dean fans (and you know who you are): Today’s Chron has a nice profile of your man.

He has no national organization, little staff and no real campaign Web site, yet enthusiasts are comparing Dean to former President Jimmy Carter and Republican iconoclast Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Less optimistic but still positive comparisons also can be made of Dean to defeated former presidential candidates Bruce Babbitt and Bill Bradley — Democrats outside the mainstream who attracted limited but fervent support.

“I think there are some similarities between me and Bill Bradley,” Dean said, “although I am shorter.”

A 53-year-old physician whose wife is also a physician, Dean wears corny ties and gives windy, detailed answers to questions about his cornerstone issues — children, health care and balanced budgets. When he travels, he stays at the home of a local supporter or party activist, where he dutifully makes his bed.

But in an early field already crowding with slick, moneyed, Washington-insider candidates such as Sen. John Kerry from Massachusetts and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Dean’s earnest and quixotic candidacy is generating a familiar sort of buzz.

“I picked him out as my candidate after seeing him a number of times on C-SPAN,” said George Appleby, a Des Moines attorney who is helping Dean locally. “The first time I saw him speak, I thought, `Here is the quintessential Democratic wonk, someone who wants to do the right thing.’ ”

What a concept.

Goodbye, punch cards

The electronic voting system eSlate, which has been used in early voting for the past couple of elections here in Harris County, is being rolled out to all voters this year. All eyes will be on County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, who led the drive to replace punch card ballots with the new system.

There are some concerns about how eSlate handles straight-ticket voting and some questions about how cozy a relationship Kaufman has with the eSlate vendor, but I’m not too worried about that. I’ve used the eSlate machines before, and I think they’re reasonably straightforward. (Of course, I am an IT professional. I’d have to turn in my decoder ring if I got discombobulated by a voting machine.) If they have as many volunteers to show people how to use the machines as they have in the past, there shouldn’t be too much confusion.

No, what bothers me (as I’ve mentioned before) is the lack of a hard copy of your vote with eSlate. I’m really worried about how a recount will be handled. The Harris Votes web site deals with this question in its FAQ as follows:

Q: Computer experts claim that there is no way to audit the vote without a paper trail? Does this system have paper backup?. What is Plan B if the equipment doesn’t work as intended? What is your worst case scenario?

A: Actually, this system provides voters with much better confidence that their vote will be counted as they intended. First, the voting device provides each voter with a summary of all their votes, alerting them to any races they missed, and allowing them to make changes until they are satisfied. They have visual confirmation that they voted exactly as they intended. To ensure those votes are recorded correctly, the system programming is tested and validated before and after the election – in the presence of witnesses – to ensure that votes are counted and reported as they are cast, through a process known as logic and accuracy testing. There are many other security features both in process and in equipment and software built into the process. And while a paper printout could be added to the equipment, it isn’t necessary to ensure secure and accurate elections. Such a step also would introduce new security concerns and add unnecessary complications and costs to the process.

Which is to say “Don’t worry your pretty little heads about it”. I know one of the computer experts who testified before City Council about this. His argument, which I find hard to refute, was that the eSlate vendor never gave him or any other outside auditor a look at their security code, so we have no way of objectively evaluating their claims. Microsoft says that its software is secure, too, you know.

Beverly Kaufman says that she will be judged by the success of eSlate. She’s right, and the judging won’t end after this election. I just hope she’s judged a success.

Chron endorses Kirk

The Chron endorsed Ron Kirk for Senate today. I’m surprised. Hell, I’m shocked. I’d have laid odds on Cornyn getting the nod. I would have thought that the pro-Bush angle would have been more than enough for them. I’ll have to think about this.