Posts tagged ‘e-voting’

So here’s an odd problem – the power button on my monitor is broken. At the moment, this is ok because it’s on and it displays things just fine; but I can’t turn it off. This will be a problem at the end of the year, however, because once I unplug it, I doubt it will turn back on without some tinkering. Well, it can’t be that hard to replace a switch. I guess the hard part will be making sure that the whole thing is grounded before I start (to a first approximation, CRTs are 45,000-volt power supplies that can store these huge charges for months at a time – learn about lifters). So… yeah. not a problem yet, but it will be eventually, and in the meantime, it’s weird. The monitor is about 10 years old, and it’s lasted pretty well (we got it with our Windows 3.1 machine), so I can’t really complain. and it will be fun to fix, once I get around to it.

In national news, electronic voting seems to have been thrust upon us. I think the article gives a fairly good treatment of the topic – electronic voting machines are going to be used all over the US in this election, and it is too late to change them for this election, despite numerous security problems and outcry from what seems like most of the educated populace. I fear this is only going to muddy up what I consider the most important election of the past 50 years. Well, we’ll see how bad things get.

On a happier note, California is going to vote on giving $3 billion to stem cell research. Unfortunately, I am not a registered voter in California (I am in Minnesota instead), so I can’t cast a ballot here. However, I really hope this goes through. I really don’t see how anyone who is informed on the issue could possibly be against stem cell research. Even assuming that pro-life people have a leg to stand on in the abortion issue (which I contest), that barely applies at all to stem cells. Blastocysts, which are where embryonic stem cells come from, are blobs of goo small enough that you can’t see them with the naked eye. They resemble algae much more closely than they resemble people. Cutting them up does cause them to lose the ability to become a person (though they need to be implanted in a surrogate mother before that could happen anyway, so it’s not like they are going to be people if left to their own devices). However, they have huge potential to help actual people. They are potential cures to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, amputations, blindness, psoriasis, and a slew of other diseases and disabilities.

As an anecdote about the potential of stem cells, there is a man in Germany who lost his lower jaw to cancer 9 years ago. Over the summer, doctors made a scaffold for a new jaw, and covered it with stem cells, bone marrow, and various chemicals to facilitate growing. This was surgically placed on the man’s shoulder, where it grew for two months. Then, it was taken off of his shoulder and attached to his head. He now has a new, working jaw, and can speak better and even chew soft things. Admittedly, they used adult stem cells (which, unlike embryonic stem cells, do not come from embryos). However, embryonic stem cells show even more promise than this, because the same line of cells can make any kind of tissue (adult stem cells, in contrast, can only make a few kinds of tissue, and are not nearly as resilient). The story about the German guy can be found on New Scientist.

Well, that’s about it for now. Much is going on in the world right now, and we should all try to stay informed. I’m tired, so I’m now going to bed. Good night!

Guess who’s back… back again… Guess who’s back…Guess who’s back…Guess who’s back…Guess who’s back…Guess who’s back…Guess who’s back…Guess who’s back…

I hate that stupid song. But it is nice to be in Claremont again. It’s great to see people again, to have the ambiance that can only come from a nerd school, to have the 95-degree weather. Kenny and Amanda (my new suitemates) are already moved in too, and Robert (my new roommate) comes tomorrow morning. I’ve just about gotten all of the stuff I stored in my room back to its rightful owners. It’s shaping up to be a pretty great year (though I have yet to start classes, mind you).

On Saturday, we went to the State Fair with the Kaemmerers. I hate to say it, because I love the fair, but this year it didn’t seem so great. There wasn’t anything spectacular in the Technology building (last year there were segways you could rent), there wasn’t anything particularly exciting in the Fine Arts building (though there were some very neat photographs and sculptures), I didn’t know anyone who had submitted anything for judging. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time. It just seems like there is nothing to really remember this fair by, since it was pretty much the same stuff again. Well, it was still fun. The only memorable thing is that I watched Carol get pickpocketed, though by the time I had my suspicions verified, the guy was nowhere to be seen. Dad, Carol, and I were talking, and this guy sort of walks into Carol, apologises, and walks on. However, as he apologised, he patted her side several times, which I thought was a bit weird. I felt rather stupid asking her if she still had her money, but she didn’t! The guy made off with $14, and luckily Carol wasn’t carrying her ID or credit cards or anything. This was loose cash in a front pocket of some fairly tight jeans. It was fascinating to watch this happen, in a morbid way (well, morbid is probably the wrong word, as death was not involved. It was still a bit unsettling). I hate to say it, but this guy was wonderful at this and had pickpocketing down to an artform.

Most people wouldn’t call this odd, but for the rest of the day I kept checking that I still had my wallet. It’s weird – I know my chances of being pickpocketed are pretty slim and they did not change when I saw this guy, but all of a sudden, it could happen to me and I had to watch out. I guess this is how my mom (and many other people as well) feels after the latest media scare, be it West Nile Virus or terrorists or anything else. And as illogical as I knew it to be, it still felt right to continuously check on my wallet. Huh.

Lets see… not much else is going on around here yet – we’re still unpacking and moving in. Classes start on Tuesday. Tonight was the frosh talent show, and it was pretty good this year. There was a mix of real talent, funny stunts, and absolute crap. and lots of napkin balls, of course. As Kenny said, it looks like we have a good crop of frosh this year.

Oh! Here’s some wonderful news in the world of voting – actually two bits of wonderful news. The first is that Florida’s e-voting machines must now have a paper trail. After all of the problems that e-voting (the American way; Indian e-voting machines are fine), it looks like someone with at least a little power is trying to correct this. In previous touch-screen voting elections, counties have registered over 100% voter turnout, negative votes for certian candidates, and a different number of votes cast than people who used the voting machine (to name a few problems that have actually occurred in Florida with these machines). Another problem that was recently revealed is that Florida lost the voting information from the 2002 Senate vote due to a computer crash, so there is no way to check it now. Much of the tech/nerd/online community is adamantly against Diebold’s touchscreen voting system because it uses proprietary software that cannot be checked for fairness/accuracy/security, and gives no voter-verifiable paper trail to show that the votes cast were recorded properly. I think that when the tech community unites against a new technology (or rather, a certain manifestation of it; there’s nothing wrong with the concept of e-voting), people should pay attention and think twice before embracing it. In India, the e-voting machines use open source software so anyone can make sure that the machines really do count votes correctly. They are more secure, and have fewer ways to be tampered with (Diebold’s machines can be rigged given 10 minutes alone with one, say in the morning while it is being set up), and most importantly, they have a paper trail. The paper trail is the only way to make sure that all the votes were really counted correctly. I can’t understand why Diebold won’t embrace these ideas.

The other wonderful piece of news is that international observers will be monitoring the presidential election for fairness. The Republicans barred the US from having the UN monitor the election (which personally seems like suspicious behavior), but now OSCE will be stepping up to do it. Sadly, I think that we really, really need this. This Slashdot comment summed it up quite nicely. I wish this sort of thing wasnt’ happening. I wish people would wake up and see all of the horrible things in the world. I wish there was something I could do about at least part of it. I just feel so powerless when I read about these sorts of things, and then remember that roughly half the country supports the people who are doing these things. *sigh* Well, at least this election is hopefully going to go better than the last one. Baby steps…

Well, I’m tired and Robert is coming in the morning. Good night!