31 March 2007

Recent e-Voting Developments

There were a couple of interesting e-voting-related items in the news this week.

The state of Massachusetts decided to purchase a large number of e-voting machines, and they solicited bids in order to select a vendor. They ended up choosing AutoMARK, a competitor of Diebold. Diebold, annoyed at losing a $9 million contract, is suing the state of Massachusetts. The term 'sore losers 'comes to mind.

The state of California is looking at imposing a very strict set of requirements for e-voting machines. These requirements are in fact so strict that no e-voting vendor may be able to meet them in time for the presidential primary in February 2008 (which is about four months earlier than in previous elections), which might mean that the election will be conducted with paper ballots.

The articles state that both decisions (Massachusetts' AutoMARK selection and California's interest in tougher standards) were motivated at least in part by legislation requiring voting facilities for voters with certain types of disabilities.

In a somewhat related story, the New York Review of Books published an article which contains some interesting speculation about the outcome of the 2000 presidential election had Florida prisoners been allowed to vote. This is a fairly long article, but it's one of the most thought-provoking things I've read in a while.

25 March 2007

Batman on Film

Last night I rented Batman Forever (1995, 'BF' hereafter, w/ Val Kilmer as Batman) and Batman & Robin (1997, 'BnR' hereafter, w/ George Clooney as Batman). I don't think I'd seen either (not in their entirety) since each came out. I vaguely remembered that neither was a particularly good film.

Turns out that my memory was quite accurate, if somewhat understated. Ewwww.

However, each had a couple of nice surprises that I didn't remember. BF has a pair of pretty good songs by U2 and Seal, although you have to slog through to the end credits to hear them. And Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar make for pretty sexy window dressing as Sugar and Spice in BF. BnR has fun (albeit brief) performances by Vivica A. Fox and John Glover (he's Lionel Luthor in "Smallville"). And Uma Thurman is a very provacative Poison Ivy.

Otherwise, they're both pretty grim, and they don't hold a candle to Batman Begins (2006, w/ Christian Bale as Batman). I'm really looking forward to The Dark Knight (supposedly 2008, w/ Bale again).

Recent Reading

I've recently finished reading a couple of pretty good books. I just (a few minutes ago) finished The KILL BILL Diary: The Making of a Tarantino Classic as Seen Through the Eyes of a Screen Legend by David Carradine. Carradine turns out to be a pretty good writer. If you enjoyed the movies, you'll like this book. It has some interesting observations into the making of the films (which were evidently originally intended to be released as a single film).

And a few days ago I finished Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham. The premise is that a multinational naval armada from 2021 is zapped back in time to June 1942. This disrupts the battle of Midway, and the multinational fleet's presence begins to alter history. This is the first part of a trilogy. I liked it so much that I bought the other two books even before I finished reading the first (which ends with a pretty cool cliffhanger).

10 March 2007

More on passports and e-voting

A recent article from The Register describes some passport-cloning research (these are UK passports). These people were able to read and clone the RFID data while the passport was being mailed to the owner, before he/she even had the chance to take possession of it.

And it looks like Diebold is thinking of getting out of the e-voting business. I guess they think that all the bad press about security problems in their electronic voting machines has damaged their image. So rather than trying to improve the technology, they'd rather just dump the whole thing. So scads of expensive e-voting machines would remain in service (because municipalities blew their budgets buying them in the first place, and may not be able to replace them for a while), with a big question mark over the prospect of future support and updates. Classy.