Sonic Youth -- Rather Ripped

music, San Francisco, friends

(Sonic Youth will play the Fillmore in San Francisco on 14 July with Awesome Color. And it's only $34.45 per ticket after ticketmaster charges and taxes (ticks wetn on sale here this morning and the original price was $25... that's a 40% mark-up)! Which is remarkable given the ~$75 per ticket charge for the Pearl Jam/Sonic Youth shows.)

I just picked up Sonic Youth's new album, Rather Ripped; it's very good. I'm not sure if it's better than their last album... Sonic Nurse. But, what then, does "better" mean for a band like Sonic Youth?

When you mix music and art well, you get a band with sounds that evolve. So much so that each instance of new creation is not easily comparable to what has come before. In my opinion, the only song they've ever written that was even close to "bad" was "Little Trouble Girl" off of Washing Machine... it was quaint and lame to the point of annoyance... and it felt like they really tried to make that one bad. But, in my book, every single other song they've ever written and performed was a hit. I can't say that about any other musical artist, period.

My father introduced me to Sonic Youth in 1992. So, I guess I've been a fan for fifteen of their twenty-five years. Here's a random fact from the recent NPR piece on Sonic Youth: their Daydream Nation album from 1988 was recently chosen by the Library of Congress for the National Recording Registry. And justifiably so.

Getting a new Sonic Youth album is a very special experience for me. They're the only musical artist I've ever encountered that I feel at home with. I know that's a weird way to describe it; however, they make me feel like I'm back in New Mexico -- my real home -- in the sun, in the desert and looking at the gigantic cumulus clouds that are so characteristic to New Mexico.

EVT'06 Submission: "Transparency and Access to Source Code in E-Voting"

elections, reform, copyright, open source, secrecy, research, policy, legal

I just submitted the camera-ready version of this paper to the USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology 2006 (EVT'06) Workshop:

Transparency and Access to Source Code in E-Voting

We examine the potential role of source code disclosure and open source code requirements in promoting technical improvements and increasing transparency of voting systems. We describe the "enclosure of transparency" of voting technology that has occurred over the course of United States' electoral history, the implications that source code disclosure has for transparency, the negative effects that enclosing transparency has had at different levels and the regulatory and legislative efforts to increase access to source code. We then look at the benefits and risks of open and disclosed source code regimes for voting systems, efforts to provide open source voting systems, existing open source business models that might translate to the voting systems context, regulatory and market barriers to disclosed or open source code in voting systems and alternatives that might exist outside of public disclosure of source code. We conclude that disclosure of full system source code to qualified individuals will promote technical improvements in voting systems while limiting some of the potential risks associated with full public disclosure.

You can get it from SSRN here or from me here. I want to especially take the time to note and linkify the acknowledgments section; each of these people provided stellar feedback that greatly improved the paper:

A very special thanks to my legal supervisor and mentor, Deirdre K. Mulligan; without her advice and direction, this work would only be a shadow of itself. Discussions with the following people were important in the development of this work: Pam Samuelson, Eddan Katz, David Molnar, Ka-Ping Yee, Pam Smith, Naveen Sastry, Dan Wallach, Michael Shamos and Mitch Kapor.

OMGWTF Banana Pudding

recipe, food

This is a layered pudding where there are layers of cookie, then banana then pudding, topped with a meringue. Meringue isn't essential for this dish and usually banana pudding doesn't have it; however, once you have it with meringue, you'll never, ever feel satisfied without it.

If you're not from the South, you might not understand the culture surrounding banana (or "nana") pudding. It evokes many memories of bright banana flavor, sweet, rich pudding and pudding-saturated Nilla wafers. It's a classic, hands down. I don't know why banana pudding is such a specific delicacy associated with the South as I don't think anywhere in the South actually grows bananas. Anyway, if you've never had banana pudding done right, you owe it to yourself, your future and the future of your children to make this version of it. Of course, its best the third day after you've made it.

OMGWTF Banana Pudding

Ingredients (pudding):

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. whole milk (yes, whole)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (real)
  • 1 tbsp. butter (real)
  • 4 egg yolks (fresh)
  • 1 box vanilla (Nilla) wafers
  • 4 very ripe bananas

Ingredients (meringue):

  • 4 egg whites (fresh, room temperature)
  • 5 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (real)


  1. Prepare serving dish. First, preheat oven to 375°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with 25 vanilla wafers. Set aside 25 more good wafers for the second layer and 12 wafers for edges. Get the bananas out and ready by the dish.

  2. Make pudding. Combine sugar, flour and salt in a bowl with a wire whisk and set aside. Combine milk and vanilla and set aside. Separate egg yolks from whites by carefully cracking each egg in half, and alternatively pouring yolk from one half to the other over a bowl; the white should fall into the bowl. Place the yolks in a room temp. heavy saucepan. Add the milk mixture in stages, whisking with a wire whisk. Place over medium heat and add flour mixture in stages, whisking to mix well. Bring slowly to a boil while whisking. When it thickens a bit, add butter. Reduce heat but keep at a light boil until it just reaches a pudding consistency (which is a bit thick, you've had pudding before, right?). Remove from heat.

  3. Build pudding: This needs to happen fast so that the pudding is workable. Peel two bananas and slice then layer over wafers. You'll want to have a good layer of banana, so slice thinly if you have small bananas. Immediately pour half of pudding over wafers and bananas. Add another wafer and banana layer and cover with remaining pudding. Smooth dish top and then add three wafers per edge, pressing down into the dish so they form a little "hedge".

  4. Make and bake meringue. Beat the egg whites in a mixer bowl or with a beater on high speed until soft peaks form (when you take a spoon to it and yank the spoon away, any "peaks" should not stand on their own but slump over, but not disappear). Add the cream of tartar. Add the sugar slowly a tablespoon at a time while beating at high speed. Stop beating and scrape the bowl down. Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form (when any "peaks" stand on their own). Fold the vanilla into the meringue so that you don't kill or overwork the structure of the meringue. Spread the meringue over the top of the pudding to the edges to seal. Texture the top by using a spoon and making a swirl pattern; using a "vibrato" to push the meringue down and pull it back up will add some structure. Bake it at 375°F for 8-15 minutes (check it at 8) or until the top of the meringue browns.

  5. Let cool. Let the pudding cool at room. temp. for an hour or so. Cover and store in fridge. Nana pudding is best two to three days after construction, but is very good after 3-4 hours of chilling in the fridge.

An Academic Epiphany

system, elections, certification/testing, accessibility, reform, vendors, standards, problems, research, policy

So, for two weeks, I have been struggling with a project of mine trying to get it into a shape where I could submit it to a hip-and-happening conference in the UK (WOTE'06). On Tuesday of this week, I resigned myself to look towards the long-term and not submit anything to this conference.

Then last night I had what I can only call an academic epiphany. I realized that I didn't need to be writing the paper I had been futzing with, but instead needed to write a totally different paper! And I had roughly 24 hours to get it done. 24 hours, some serious damage to my RSI-hobbled wrists and many caffeinated drinks later, I have a new paper that I just submitted called, "Design and the Support of Transparency in VVPAT Systems in the US Voting Systems Market". Word. Hopefully the fact that I was a bit late on the deadline (I submitted an incomplete version on time and then a complete version four hours later) won't ding me.

Time to rest these hands yo.

Complications with Sequoia's VVPATs, tapes in CA counties

elections, vendors, news, privacy, problems, research, policy, legal

A recent article from the North County Times here in California reports that at least three counties -- Riverside, Napa and San Bernardino -- do not plan on posting results reports in each polling place, contrary to California law.

Riverside has asked for an exception to the provision in the California Election Code (19370 and possibly 10260) which mandates the posting of results tapes at each precint (from "County in good (and bad) company"):

Riverside County elections officials say privacy concerns and a range of logistical hurdles prevent them from tallying and posting each precinct's votes at the polling place, but a dozen other counties around the state do so with little problem, according to officials in those counties. [...]

Riverside County Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore gave several reasons for deciding not to post the results. For one, she said, there's nothing to keep people from walking off with the tallies. More importantly, observers might be able to deduce how particular people voted at polls where only a handful of voters cast ballots, violating a central principle of American elections, she said.

In addition to arguing above that results posting could implicate voter privacy, Barbara Dunmore, Registrar of Riverside Co., argues that people can "walk off" with these reports, eliminating their usefulness. First, there should definitely be concerns about precincts so small that all ballots cast might be identical. Researchers here at Berkeley, Christopher Crutchfield, David Molnar and David Turner, point this out in a forthcoming paper entitled "Approximate Measurement of Voter Privacy Loss in an Election With Precinct Reports", forthcoming at the NIST/NSF Voting Systems Rating Workshop next week in Washington, D.C. One idea for solving that problem is to consolidate precincts where one of the precincts would have cast uniform ballots otherwise.

Second, people shouldn't be taking the results reports from the precincts. In fact, it is illegal (CA Elec. Code 18570(a)) under California Law to "remove or deface" a results report within 48 hours of the close of polls.

It's clear to me that these counties have chosen to de-emphasize the importance of this provision of California Law, not because of concerns with voter privacy or the utility of posting results records but because the design of their voting machinery. The counties mentioned in this story all use the Sequoia AVC Edge DRE with VeriVote printer (for paper-trail compatibility according to CA law). Instead of designing a printer where poll workers change paper rolls or cartridges, Sequoia has designed the system such that entire printers are meant to be swapped out. These printers are difficult to open. The state's consultant who reviewed the system for the California Secretary of State, Paul Craft, had the following to say in February (from "California Secretary of State Consultant?s Report Sequoia's Voting Systems"):

The poll opening zero tape and the results tape can only be printed on the same paper tape within the VeriVote Printer component. Zero tapes will be at the beginning of the record at the center of the spool. If a jurisdiction wishes to have pollworkers sign the results tape, it must provide a procedure for opening the VeriVote Printer.

I also don't buy the argument floated in the North County Times article that the part of the Election Code (19370) that requires results to be posted applies only to lever voting machines:

Some elections experts and officials in some counties say the posting requirement, which was written in 1961, can no longer apply: Surrounding parts of the elections code appear to deal with procedures specific to the outdated lever machines, they note. [...]

In the 1960s, when casting a ballot meant pulling a mechanical lever, poll workers at most voting stations tallied and posted their own results before carting the ballots off to a central location. The law that required the procedure then is still on the books, but remains embedded in a part of the elections code that appears to deal specifically with the lever machines, which are obsolete.

The full language of the relevant paragraph of 19370 reads:

If the machine is provided with a recording device, in lieu of opening the counter compartment the precinct board shall proceed to operate the mechanism to produce the statement of return of votes cast record in a minimum of three copies, remove the irregular ballot, if any, record on the statement of return of votes cast record. The irregular ballot shall be attached to the statement of result record of votes cast for the machine and become a part thereof. One copy of the statement of return of votes cast for each machine shall be posted upon the outside wall of the precinct for all to see. The statement of return of votes cast for each machine for the precinct shall constitute the precinct statement of result of votes cast. (emphasis added)

The language is clear to me and it is clearly in contrast to the language of the preceding paragraph which refers to specific features of lever machines such as "counting compartments" and "counter numbers". This paragraph was intended to cover "Elections Using Voting Machines" (the title of that chapter of the code) that are conducted on voting machines other than lever machines or those based on counters.

I have a hard time believing that the Registrars in Riverside, Napa and San Bernardino counties are being as forthcoming as they should be in their moves to waive or disobey this aspect of California election law. I would really like to hear what their real concerns are. Are the procedures for opening the printer too complicated? too complicated for the aging poll worker population? Does opening the printer subsystem at the end of the day unreasonably compromise the chain of custody for the paper trail inside? Basically: On what basis are these decisions really being made?

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