U.S. election officials, how about OCRing paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines?

This Science Friday Story on a voting machine hacking reminds me of my long standing question. Why does U.S. seemingly insist on electronic voting machines? How about collecting paper ballots at voting stations in the very old fashioned way and counting them using optical character recognition (OCR) machines? U.S. Postal Service should be using OCR to sort letters. So I infer that recognizing people's hand writing at decent accuracy should be well established.

More specifically, a voting station would have physical ballot boxes. No electronic equipment is needed. For voter registration checking, computers may be used, but voter lists printed on paper can do the job.

After a voting period ends, the ballot boxes from voting stations would be collected to a counting place where OCR machines count votes. One desktop size OCR machine should be able to count hundreds of votes per minutes if not thousands. (I saw a demo of such a machine on TV.) Not only votes on the voting day but also absentee votes can be counted in the same manner as long as the same paper ballots are used.

In all cases where I hear/see/read on voting machine security as in the Science Friday story, experts tell to have paper ballots for auditing. But I've never heard they propose not to use electronic voting machines. It might be just my ignorance. If so, that's fine and I'd appreciate if somebody enlightens me.


Shift Happens - We are living exponential times

I stumbled upon an educator's (seemingly) point of view on how we should think about now and near future in the midst of exponential changes in technologies and societies.

Mathemagical Entertainment

The presentation titled "Secrets of Mental Math" held at ETech 2007 is now available on IT Conversations here. Very entertaining. It's not only for technically/scientifically minded but also for others.


System administration in the cloud computing era

An long interview to Adam Jacob and Jesse Robbins on the Technometria podcast is quite interesting for me as an ex-infrastructure builder/administrator turned into web application developer/architect.

They are using the following tools to manage applications running on Amazon SC2 and other cloud computing environments.


13 year old singer

I came across this video and was impressed.
Can somebody tell me what this British TV show is?


Even a talented person takes years, even a decade

I'm a big fan of the radio program “This American Life”. The main personality of the program, Ira Glass seems to be a die-hard public radio guy and very talented. If you hear a couple of episodes of the program (all past episodes are available online), you know what I'm talking about.

And I got to know an interview with him is available on YouTube.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

A “O'Reilly Radar” posting and a “Signal vs. Noise” posting mention the part 2 of the interview regarding the importance of discarding not so great things to make a superb thing.

But to me, equally eye-opening was he took a decade or so to get to the level of a good radio reporter/producer. He played his radio reporting at his 8th year as an example of crappy one. He also said that many people cannot bear the gap between their superb taste and their not-up-to-snuff outcome and quit a career. He emphasizes that it's inevitable at the early stage of a career and the only way to overcome that is keep working.


Question your work

I came across a blog posting titled “Question your work” on “Signal vs. Noise”. It tells you to ask the following questions in your work regardless the size of a task/project you are working on:
  • Why are we doing this?
  • What problem are we solving?
  • Is this actually useful?
  • Are we adding value?
  • Will this change (user) behavior? [(user) is added by me]
  • Is there an easier way?
  • Waht's theopportunity cost?
  • Is it really worth it?
I posted it on my PC display at work.

This is along the line with what Tim Ferris said in the presentation titled “The 4-Hour Workweek” on last year's SXSW conference:
Ask your self periodically: Am I productive or just busy? Am I producing something or doing a crutch activity?
The list above is much more concrete and useful to me.

If you are still early in your career, you may not need to worry about what to do and what not to do. But as you grow matured at work, you will need to.


The Myth of the Rational Voter

I listened to a presentation at South by Southwest 2008 titled “The Myth of the Rational Voter”. The presenter was Bryan Caplan, an Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University. It was a counter-argument to The Wisdom of Crowd. He pointed out several examples of The Wisdom of Crowd not holding true. He proceed to ask for re-thinking democracy.