Friday, October 27, 2006

How to make electronic voting work ... securely

With all the talk about hacking electric votes and dubious individuals stealing elections, I thought I'd present a very simple solution for avoiding election fraud.

The polling booth houses a secured machine that is protected by steady-state alarm. The underlying OS would be tightly coupled with the voting software - meaning that the OS is practically nothing but the voting software itself. The security of the software is taken for granted.

When a user votes for a candidate, two things happen: first, the vote is recorded electronically. Second, a printout of the voter's decisions is printed out that the voter can visually verify. That printout, once verified, is then deposited in a secure hard-copy box within the polling booth.

After the election, a mandatory random 1% of all voting booths must do a manual recount of the hard copies to verify the number that was issued electronically. Furthermore, a mandatory 20% of all voting booths with a bias towards swing states must do a partial recount from a random sample in order to be statistically confident of the electronic results.

Is this beatable? If an entire polling station is corrupt -- all of the people are collaborating together -- then sure. But assuming that hard copies aren't compromised, the hard copies don't lie. And if we're afraid that individual voters will en masse collaborate to throw the election by submitting bogus hard copies, then we can protect the hardcopies by making them only viewable via a protected translucent window and stamping unique (non personal) serials on them. Even if the electronic votes are compromised, the hardcopies will tell the true story - as long as we trust the handlers of the hardcopies.

Since it's such a simple solution that is not that hard to come up with and several people have come up with it already, the real question is this: why isn't it in use?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Song: Save Me

verse in mixolydian (sometimes borrowing the third), chorus in harmonic aeolian.

strings, piano, bass, distortion guitar, drums, and accoustic guitar. I'll put up an mp3 minus the vocals because everyone knows I can't sing.

suggestions welcome.


I'm so cold, I've lost any feeling.
I can't stand being so alone.
I don't have any choice in the matter.
To make everything better, my sin must die.

Pre chorus:

Jesus, why have I forsaken you?
Why do I struggle, stumble, abandon you?


Save me, heal me, save me from my inner self.
I'm breaking into pieces, God please put me back together.
Save me, heal me, save me from insanity.
God, bring me back from my prodigal sojourn into the depths of sorrow.

I left you, I ran away,
I mocked you and flaunted my sin in your face.
I've turned my back on you so many times.
Oh God, won't you unseparate me from you.

c solo
c accoustic

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Can someone explain the trinity?!?

One area of the Christian doctrine that I've never really truly grasped is the trinity. The word "trinity" appears in the Bible a grand total of zero times in the King James version, the New International Version, the New American Standard version, the Message, the Modern English Translation, the New King James version, .... you get the idea.

The doctrine of the trinity wasn't even established until the fourth century. So for all of the purists who believe that nonbelievers of the trinity are doomed to hell, well, that's four hundred years of damned souls. Sorry. Don't get me wrong here - I know what the trinity is, but I've always had a hard time swallowing it. The whole notion of the trinity is that The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not the same entity, and yet at the same time they are the same entity, namely, God.

I was taught the trinity at a very young age - I remember talking about it when I was about eight years old. I didn't understand it then because it just didn't make any sense. I thought back then, "how could something both not be the same thing and yet be the same thing at the same time?" Now that I've read the Bible several times over, I still don't understand it. There are many verses that stand out and and suggest that, while being divine in nature, Jesus not the same being as God, but is totally the son of God.
  • 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus"
  • John 14:28: "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I."
  • John 17:3: "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
  • John 5:19: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does."
  • Matthew 27:46: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
  • John 17:20-23: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
There are several more verses that seem to somewhat contradict the whole notion of the trinity. But on the other hand, there are several verses that directly support the notion of the trinity. The most popular, of course, is Matthew 28:19. Then there's the really confusing John 8:58. And Colossians 2:9 confirms the divine nature of Jesus.

So what is a Christian to believe? Personally, I believe that Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are all divine, but they are not the same being. Does that mean I'm polytheistic? No. I believe in the one God. But Jesus is the son of God, begotten by God in God's perfect image, which suggests that Jesus is subordinate to God and perhaps didn't even exist before he was begotten.

I'm obviously not the only one struggling with this concept. It has been a controversial subject among Christians for nearly two millennia now. The great theologian Arius didn't believe in the trinity. ‘If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he had his substance from nothing.’ This line of reasoning seems to goes against John 8:58, but I completely agree with Arius' beliefs.

Entire sects have completely rejected the notion of the trinity. Jehova Witnesses, although a bit wacky, are on to something in this area. Mormons don't believe in the trinity - they believe, and I got the same thing when I read these passages, that when Jesus says "The father and I are one", that Jesus meant "one in purpose", or "one in nature." I'm not familiar with the native languages, so I cannot vouch for that position other than to say it seems that way on the surface. The Quaran completely denounces the trinity. Etc.

Just because I struggle with the trinity concept doesn't mean I'm not a Christian. I love God with all of my heart, mind, and soul. I try to praise Jesus in everything I do. I see God's beauty in everything around me.

If anyone has a bullet-proof defense of the Trinity, I'd be interested to read it. I'd love to see how trinitarians cover the verses mentioned here along with several other controversial verses that seem to contradict the notion of the trinity. And I'd love to finally be able to grasp the paradox of two entities both not being the same entity while simultaneously being the same entity.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bible character commits suicide ... twice!

I was reading through 1 Samuel in church yesterday while droning out the preacher and I was shocked at what I read. I'm not talking about the gratuitous violence - I mean, it doesn't get much better than reading about heads being lobbed off and armies getting annihilated while droning out sermons. The body count in 1 Samuel alone makes the entire collection of Friday the 13th movies look like child's play.. or is that Chucky's territory? I digress.

I'm talking about sentences like this:

"After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword."

With or without any context whatsoever, this sentence is just hilarious. We have what amounts to some guy committing suicide twice. Since pronouns refer to the most recently mentioned noun within the same branch, all pronouns in the above sentence refer to the same noun. If you were to replace the pronouns with the actual subjects they refer to, the sentence would read something like:

"After dude killed dude, dude cut off dude's head with the sword"

This particular verse is 1 Samuel 17:51. The first part of the verse in NIV reads:

"David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword."

It should read something like this:

"David ran and stood over Goliath. David took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed Goliath, David cut off Goliath's head with the sword."

The New American Standard version reads a lot better:

"Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it."

Here, the pronouns "his, him, and his" all refer to the Philistine.

And, as always, The Message reads the best:

"Then David ran up to the Philistine and stood over him, pulled the giant's sword from its sheath, and finished the job by cutting off his head."

Here, the pronoun "him" refers to "the Philistine", and "his" refers "the giant", which we presume that Philistine and the Giant are the same unlucky sap who is unfortunately getting his head lobbed off.

Anyway, the main takeaway lesson is this: the Bible is a great source for entertainment while droning out long and boring sermons. You have a high body count, awesome gratuitous violence, and hilarious grammatical errors.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Colorful, Philsophical Angels

On our trip back home from Maine in October of 2006, Jessica and I had to keep each other awake somehow, so we came up with a series of what-if scenarios that went like this:
  • An angel dressed in white comes to visit you and asks you if you could relive any day of your life, what day would it be?
  • An angel dressed in red comes to visit you and asks you if you could change any one major decision of your life, what would it be? The angel would allow you to live six months in an alternate time reality to play out that decision.
  • An angel dressed in green comes to visit you and asks you to make a simple decision: have a utopian world-peace society, or be the leader of the first government of the colonization of Mars.
  • An angel dressed in blue comes to visit you (potentially on Mars) and offers to let you explore the entire galaxy and all of its wonders with ultrafast space travel, although you are guaranteed to not find any life outside of earth, or you can discover an alien race but not have any breakthroughs in space travel for several hundred years.
Anyway, we found our destination eventually, but the answers were definitely interesting. How would you answer the angels?

Monday, October 09, 2006

GRR! Cashless Society In Grave Danger

On an average day, if I were to be held up by some dude with a gun, he'd be pretty disappointed. I could offer him some pocket lint, but I wouldn't have a single greenback on me. I was among the early adopters of a cashless society several years ago, and today I only go to places that accept credit cards.

Credit / debit cards offer conveniences both to the consumer and to the merchant. For the consumer, it allows a buy now pay later mentality. For the merchant, it is almost always the safest transaction method. Merchants have to pay for that safety; credit card companies typically charge the merchants an additional 2 or 3 percent of the purchase price. Obviously, the credit card companies do not want the merchants passing this cost on to the consumer, as this would dissuade people like me from using credit cards. And in many places, it is actually illegal to pass this charge on to the consumer.

In our recent trip up north east, Jessica and I went to Sturbridge Pottery, a local mom & pop pottery merchant in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. We were going to buy a small 20 dollar item. I noticed when we were going to pay for the item that they had a sign that stated "Credit card purchases are subject to a 5% fee." When the merchant saw that we were using a credit card, they proceeded to add 5% on to the cost, citing their credit card policy.

I told them I do not want to pay an additional 5% for using a credit card and that I'd rather just use a check. Yes, I realize that 5% of 20 bucks is only a dollar, but it's the principle of the matter! They balked at that and insisted I used a card, which is understandable since we were out-of-state (and merchants aren't required by law to accept specific forms of payment, even cash). It seemed to me that they were blatantly lying, passing the credit card surcharge on to us, padding the charge in the process, and refusing to accept a check as an alternative. I am aware that Massachusetts had a 5% sales tax, but the 5% that they proceeded to add was specifically due to their credit card policy. It seemed that Sturbridge Pottery was either selling everything under the cuff or they embedded traditional sales tax in all of their prices and pretended as though they didn't charge sales tax whenever they perform a non-credit card transaction. Regardless, what they are doing is to me highly unethical, devious, and possibly illegal.

If you're in the pottery market, don't buy from Sturbridge Pottery with a credit card. If everyone started acting the way Sturbridge Pottery does, then the cashless society would be in grave danger. I'll be among the early adopters of the Greenback-only society.

Monday, October 02, 2006

It's that time of the year!

Alright, just what I was waiting all year for.... christmas music in OCTOBER. Oh, the humanity!! I am embarking on a national campaign to make playing christmas music any time before December 1st a felony offense. For once, I would be GLAD to support the death penalty for violating this most holy law.

Speaking of time of the year, we are blessed enough this year to have a Friday the 13th in October.. something that won't happen again until 2017. I've always loved October.. it's my favorite month. The season changes, the air is crisp, and autumn colors are prevelant in full force. As a kid, it didn't get much better than more sugar than the law allows and decking out as some random ninja and wielding fiercesome weaponry. But to have a Friday the 13th in October.. wow. So I'm hosting a frag fest and watching classic Friday the 13th movies. I mean, seriously, what better way to celebrate Friday the 13th in October than to kill anything that moves?

So as Friday the 13th rolls around, you better enjoy it because it only happens once every 7 to 11 years in October.