wtf?, policy

From "Turkey With a Dash of Bitters - New York Times"

When we sit down to dinner tomorrow, we will be thankful that our daughter and son-in-law are expecting their first child. We will be thankful for the enormous generosity of the individual Americans we encountered in our 3,500-mile odyssey after we fled the storm. And we will be thankful to have at least one more Thanksgiving in New Orleans. But without the government's commitment to protect the city, by next Thanksgiving we won't have New Orleans - or at least the New Orleans we have known and loved - to give thanks for.

I find this mildly shocking.

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What the Google Print debate exposes... Or: a sub-standard NPR Ethicist segment...

copyright, wtf?, policy, education

It's a testament to how strained copyright is to listen to this very crappy NPR Ethicist segment from Sunday's All Things Considered, "Google's Book Search Tool". It's painful to listen to as the discussion involves two commentators who don't know anything about copyright law and one representative from a university press who misrepresents copyright law ("You've always had to ask permission in traditional copyright law"... hello, fair use, anyone?!?!). The words "for profit", "in the wrong", "stealing" and such are all used in very imprecise (legally speaking) ways.

I found Larry Lessig's debriefing post after last week's NY Public Library debate to be quite a bit more precise, illuminating and stirring: "the 'discussion': the morning after". Also, for another good debriefing, see Alex Halavais' "Battle over books".

Our SoS responds, technologically, to criticism...

elections, certification/testing, reform, vendors, feeds, news, policy

There's been a variety of flurried harumpfing today over allegations that the California Secretary of State's office "changed the rules" right before a meeting this Monday that will decide the fate of the (currently pending) state certification of the Diebold AccuVote-TSx electronic voting system. Someone even emailed me directly this story (the HTML markup is so bad here that it hurts one's eyes): "Will California send Diebold packing before Turkey Day?"

Hmmm. I happen to have known about the VSP meeting for a while (although technically it appears that the VSP has been disbanded in favor of the Office of Voting System Technology Assessment). Why? Because I had my man Carlo scrape the SoS's voting systems page to an RSS feed.

The SoS has responded to this criticism with a new mailing list that will inform people of future meetings: "Sign up here to receive automatic email notification of future certification hearings"

How did I know this? Well, it just came through on the feed!

AB 369 in California

elections, certification/testing, vendors, news, legal

There's a bill that implicates electronic voting in the California Assembly that I haven't heard anyone mention.

The bill is AB 369 and it's title is cryptic and undescriptive: "An act to amend Section 19250 of the Elections Code, relating to voting systems." This is what it would do, if passed:

  • It would allow any city or county to use an "independent electronic verification system" in place of an accessible voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).
  • It would push the date by which cities and counties are required to have VVPAT-enabled and federally qualified electronic voting systems from January 2006 to January 2008.

I think this bill is a bad idea. Why? I don't see a real need for the extension of the date that this requirement would go into effect. The vendors all seem to be on the same page with respect to providing systems that have VVPAT-capability (although only Diebold and perhaps Sequoia seem close to state certification of their systems (AccuVote-TSx and AVC Edge respectively)). Most of the complaints from jurisdictions about VVPAT-enabled systems have been surrounding the recently-passed SB 370 which requires (among other things) that the VVPAT to be used in recounts and the 1% post-election manual audit.

More serious, however, is the notion of an "independent verification system." What is this? There's no definition of what this thing is (there is a definition in the law for VVPAT; see 19251(c) of the California Elections Code). Further, is this thing tested by the federal testing laboratories? Is it tested with the equipment that it's supposed to be used with? Does this thing have to go through state certification? The only thing I can think of that might be close to an "independent verification system" is VoteHere's Sentinel hardware.

UPDATE [2005-11-18T10:20:45]: Kim of CVF actually talked about this bill a while back: "Riverside legislator introduces bill to watch". She also pointed out to me that this is what is known as a two-year bill in that it was introduced in the first year of the current legislative session and will be scheduled for a hearing, etc., if at all, in early 2006.

Converting strings to titlecase in perl

hacks, open source

There doesn't seem to be a function in perl for taking a string and returning the string in titlecase (titlecase is where the first letter of each word is capitalized).

So, I wrote one. You should be able to drop this subroutine into any perl program. You would use it like this:

$upper_string = titlecase($lower_string);

Here's the code:

sub titlecase {
    #assumes lowercase, space-separated string 
    #returns same with first letters of words in caps

    #use local variables
    my ($s) = @_;
    my (@st);

    #split string
    @st = split(/ /, $s);

    #loop over strings
    $n = 0;
    foreach $l (@st) {
        #return with first let. caps
        $l = ucfirst($l);
        #assign back to array
        $st[$n] = $l;

    #join the strings into one
    $s = join(" ", @st);
    return $s;

UPDATE [2008-08-14T09:03:59]: Daniel Hyde writes in and points out that this can be performed with a very simple regex:

Comments are disabled, but thought you might be interested to know you can do this with a short sweet regexp too: s/\b(\w)/\u$1/g;

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