Internet Voting

My old computer security prof at UC Davis, Matt Bishop, was in the news. The University of California did a study on the security of California approved voting machines and it appears that the machines failed miserably. They were even hackable from the voting terminals themselves.

I'm sure that they are better than the machines used during the last presidential election, though. I did a project on voting machines for a computer ethics class about how bad the system was. Votes were tallied on node machines which were unprotected. The votes were tallied in an unencrypted text file. People in my class said they thought a big conspiracy of vote manipulation was far fetched. They missed the point that it would take just one person five minutes or less to change thousands of votes with notepad. Sorry.. too lazy to find links at the moment.


Some things to think about

This is a good article I came across just now: Losing My Jihadism.

I also read this blog every now and then because of posts like this.

Google is leading the way (followed by other big names like Yahoo!) in killing the horrible duopoly of internet service in the US by pledging to bid 4.6 Billion dollars on a new spectrum if the goverment forces the "owner of the spectrum bands to allow access to any device, meaning that users would not be locked into subscribing to a carrier in order to use a mobile device, such as a smartphone." I knew I wasn't the only one upset about having to choose between cable internet with TV I don't want and DSL with a phone plan I don't want.

The US candidates for the presidency are embracing technology to try and get their messages out and have meaningful debates that answer questions from real people. People sent a massive amount of videos into YouTube to ask the candidates real questions about a variety of issues. A small number are going to be played in a debate.

Meanwhile, Japan is still using campaign law from the 50's. The use of internet for campaigning is illegal in Japan. Here's a choice quote from a Japanese student: "YouTube is more casual; you watch music videos or funny videos on it, but if the government or any politicians are on the web it doesn't feel right." Give me a break! I don't even know where to begin on what's wrong with this statement. Instead, let me mend this quote for a bit of perspective: "The TV is more casual; you watch music videos or funny videos on it, but if the government or any politicians are on the TV it doesn't feel right."

So if they can't use the internet, Japanese politicians can hand out information, right? Wrong. Pamphlets can only be passed out to 3% of the voters. The only way they can get their message out is the old fashioned loudspeaker. Let me be perfectly clear: I HATE the loudspeaker. I really loathe the intrusive and relentless noise blasting at every major train station in Tokyo. I can handle some people bowing and handing out pamphlets, but turn the damn speaker off! I literally could not hold a conversation a hundred meters away from some political speaker near the exit of Ikebukuro station in Tokyo. Come on people! Organize a venue at a stadium or park and get people who want to listen to come! I miss the laws against noise pollution in the US.


上野 Ueno

One of the places I hang out the most is Ueno. There is a park, a zoo, some museums, and lots of places to eat and hang out. It's pretty close (20 minutes by train) to where I live. I wouldn't say
I love Ueno, but I certainly am getting used to it. Here are a couple pictures taken from the park.

There is a museum of Western Art here with a lot of famous works such as the ladies in the boat, and the thinker. No pictures are allowed inside, so I just shot the copies outside. The actual thinker is quite small, which surprised me. This is an enlarged copy.


Exciting Weekend

It's been an exciting weekend from mother nature. Yesterday was one of the strongest Typhoons to hit Japan in decades and the strongest on record in July. It was supposed to hit Tokyo, but changed directions and went North East. 4 or 5 people are dead or missing.

Just 20 minutes ago I felt my first earthquake. It was level 6 in Niigata-ken, which is north west of here on the coast. In Tokyo it was level 3. I found myself just sitting here not quite knowing what to do. If it were more serious I could go under my table, but my first instinct was to see if it was on the news. I feel a bit sea sick.


In Japan...

  • The sun is red.
  • The moon is yellow.
  • The traffic light is blue.
  • People don't hand money to the cashier, they put it down on a tray for the cashier to pick up.
  • People don't make eye contact with strangers on the street, let alone say hello.
  • Slurping ramen isn't just polite, it is the only way to eat ramen.
  • Fruit is expensive and each one is perfect. No touching unless you're buying.
  • Cigarettes and beer are sold in vending machines.
  • Living with one's family until marriage, even past the age of thirty, is common. It also creates a lot of disposable income that boosts the market for gadgets and clothes.
  • Walking while eating is rude.
  • Fixed Do solfege is taught in schools and every child plays the recorder.


It could happen

Imagine a computer in another universe. This computer is so powerful and can hold/manipulate so much data, that it can simulate an entire universe the size of our own. Someone just needs to create the initial starting conditions and rules and set it in motion. It would be like an infinitely more complex version of Conway's game of life. If such complex simulations were possible, is the simulation of the universe any different from the actual universe? Is a simulation of life the same thing as life itself? I mean down to the smallest particles, of course. I think the difference is negligible. If living creates were replicated so exactly in a computer, it is essentially the same as the real thing.

A computational system capable of such a feat, while amazing, would have to be staggeringly more advanced to do anything realistic with the data it computes. It is relatively simple to apply basic laws and rules to a system, but to analyze and see what things are arising in the system is exponentially more difficult. If our universe is a simulation, which I think isn't impossible given a larger universe with more resources (storing more data than we have particles), it is unlikely that whoever created the simulation is even aware of our existence. Such a tiny speck in time and space, sentient life has probably gone unnoticed in this demonstration. We might even be just the beta version. Maybe light was supposed to go faster.