Archive for December, 2006


Not Rational At All

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

Thursday night I drove down to Rockport to visit my fishing shack. I wanted to see how the electrician was coming on with the rewiring project. He’s doing good work, but like everyone in Rockport, he lives on island time.

Coming back on Friday I stopped by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, in Panna Maria, Texas. I’d seen it from the road many times, but this is the first time I ever pulled off the highway and drove into the little town.

The site of the church was chosen in 1854 by one of the first groups of settlers from Poland to move to the United States.

When I drove up the church bell was ringing, as it was noon. I was struck by the beauty and tranquility of the setting. The restored old church sits next to a huge oak tree, a tree that is said to predate the church itself. The lawn was still green, there were the traditional Tejano style Christmas luminarias lining the walkways. I spent about 20 minutes walking around the grounds.

I experienced an unusual sensation as I surveyed the pretty little scene. I had a feeling a tremendous peace and serenity. I had an intuition that everything was going to be alright.

I really wanted to go into the chapel and just sit quietly for a while, but to be honest I was just too shy to do it.

This is the second time I can recall having this strange experience.

The last time was in the late 80s when I visited Lanercost Priory in England.

For all of history people have designated places as special by building places of worship. It seems to be an inborn human instinct.

It may be that this instinct to create places for worship and contemplation is a naturally selected survival trait, the result of a random mutation eons ago that gave us a competitive advantage over other animals by providing us with motivation to overcome difficult situations. That’s certainly the best rational explanation I can think of.

But then, other the other hand, it’s possible that there things about which science is unaware, things that exist in a reality orthogonal to the physical world describe by science. Perhaps here are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by our science. Perhaps there really are holy places, places where something unmeasurable happens that can renew the human spirit.

Could there really be a spiritual plane that actually affects us here in the physical world?

I know it sounds crazy, but maybe there really is.

church,spiritual, Texas


Remembering December 1972 at UT

Monday, December 18th, 2006

This story, ‘Peace’ Advocates Vandalize Cars at Army Recruiting Station, brought back memories of December 1972, the time of the ‘Christmas Bombing‘ of North Vietnam

When I was in ROTC way back in 1972 I was attacked by a mob of peace loving leftists while I was part of the color guard lowering the flag in front of the University of Texas Tower. They threw beer on us, pushed and shoved us, and screamed obscenities in our faces. Shortly there after ROTC stopped lowering the flag due to the constant attacks on the color guards, and the flag was lowered by janitors for several months, until North Viet Nam agreed to ‘peace with honor’.

On reflection, I have more respect for those 1972 ‘peace demonstrators’ than I do today’s leftist Democrats. At least the 1972 leftists were open and honest about their hatred of the United States in general, and their loathing of the U.S. military in particular. To be fair, they didn’t hate all military members, they were and are great supporters of the NVA and Viet Cong.

Today’s leftists lack the courage of their parents. They pollute their anti-American, pro-socialist beliefs with the base metal of hypocrisy. They mute their support and admiration of murders like Ho Chi Minh, Castro, and Hugo Chavez. They can claim they ‘support the troops’ and favor ‘free markets’ all they want, but I don’t believe them, and I question their patriotism.

The Kerrys, Rangels, Clintons, Doggetts, Gores and their fellow travelers of today are mere botched joke versions of the openly anti-military America haters that confronted us in front of the tower all those years ago.

Today’s leftists are beneath contempt.


No Code

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

The FCC has eliminated the requirement for Amateur Radio Operators to know the Morse code.

It probably seems a small thing to most people, but to many hams its a big deal.

I became an Amateur Radio Operator sometime around 1970, when I was in high school. I had to drive to Houston from Austin, and took the test directly from the FCC.

My first callsign was WN5ISP. My first radio was a code only Heathkit radio, the HW-16. I enjoyed the code, it was kind of fun. Code is a slow way to communicate, but it really does get through the QRM (interference) better than just about any other technology. Even back then the code requirement was controversial.

I had a number of periods of activity over the years. I was very active when I was stationed in Okinawa in the late 70s. I used the military issued callsign KA6JH.

It’s hard to imagine now, but back in the 70s an overseas military base was almost cut off from the world unless you had a shortwave radio of some kind. Long distance calls to the states were fantastically expensive, and required a trip to the post office. There was in the world something called ‘DARPANET’, a computer network run by the military for use by major defense contractors and big universities. Nothing like it existed in Japan.

There was one English language radio station, and one TV station. Both were operated by the military and heavily censored. I used my first microcomputer, a Digital Group, to pick up shortwave radio teletype news feeds. This was terrific. I was one of the few people on the island getting uncensored news!

My last period of active operation was in Virginia in the late 80s. By then we had computer-to-computer protocols such as AX.25. I used my Mac SE to send what we now call email to and from other hams.

I’ve been using a little of my very rusty Morse Code lately. I’ve been watching the lame TV show ‘Jericho‘, a post-apocalypse soap operate set in Kansas. It starts every episode with a short Morse code message, which I have almost copied on several occasions.

I still have my ticket, N4WBO. One of these days I’ll get active again.


I’m Bursting With Pride

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

My son came back from Army Basic and Advanced training today. He qualified as a Combat Engineer (21b).

He’s a member of the Texas Army National Guard, assigned to a unit in Taylor, Texas.

No power of words can express the great pride I take in his accomplishment.

James is the latest in a very long line of military members, going back many generations on both sides of his family.


Game Console Voting Considered Harmful ( by NIST)

Friday, December 1st, 2006

    Photo by skippy13.

It turns out that I’m not the only one with doubts about game console voting. The National Institute of Standards and Technology was tasked by Congress to assist with implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Their experts took a long, careful look at methods of voting. Their report is devastating to the notion of all-electronic voting. Just consider this summary from the beginning of the report (emphasis added):

In its research for writing requirements for electronic voting systems, NIST has investigated a broad range of issues in electronic voting. NIST has held numerous teleconferences with the TGDC and with vendors and election officials. It has visited and inspected voting system testing laboratories. NIST has worked with experts in areas such as voting system security, auditing, reliability, testing, usability, and accessibility, and has looked to other areas of IT computing for input and ideas that would be useful in a voting context (one area, gaming and state lottery systems, has many interesting overlaps with voting system issues6). Because NIST is primarily an engineering-based institution, it has taken pains to learn about the realities of elections. NIST voting-team staff have volunteered as poll workers and election judges, and have observed other elections and official canvassing and counting activities. NIST has researched many issues and irregularities in elections and, as opposed to relying solely on the press and published articles, has gone directly to those election officials involved. One conclusion drawn by NIST is that the lack of an independent audit capability in DRE (Direct Record Electronic, i.e. game console voting machines – Jim) voting systems is one of the main reasons behind continued questions about voting system security and diminished public confidence in elections. NIST does not know how to write testable requirements to make DREs secure, and NIST’s recommendation to the STS is that the DRE in practical terms cannot be made secure..


The report goes on to describe the core problems that computer professionals (such as Todd and I) have with ‘DRE’ game voting consoles.


DRE machines are essentially notebook computers programmed to display ballot images, record voter choices, and store the electronic CVRs on removable memory cards. They are comparatively easy to use, particularly by those with impaired vision; they can also produce an audio ballot for blind voters. They typically produce a start-of-day zero report and an endof- day summary printout of the ballots cast on the machine, but they do not require or produce paper ballots, and it is this aspect that has helped to make them popular with election officials who have had to deal with logistical and accuracy problems and historical fraud in handling and counting paper ballots. But many people, especially in the computer engineering and security community, assert that DREs are vulnerable to undetectable errors as well as malicious software attacks because there is no audit mechanism other than what the DRE can report on: how many records it has stored, ballot styles, etc. Potentially, a single programmer could “rig” a major election. The computer security community rejects the notion that DREs can be made secure, arguing that their design is inadequate to meet the requirements of voting and that they are vulnerable to large-scale errors and election fraud.

This report must have stirred up some concern from the many politicians from both parties who have been rented by voting machine vendors.  I’m sure this is why NIST now has a FAQ on the report.  This FAQ is pretty funny in places.  My favorite question and answer is this one:


Does the draft software independence report conclude that there is no audit capability whatsoever in DREs?

The draft report says that DREs are auditable but not independently auditable. In other words, the DRE audits itself which is less preferable than an independent audit capability.


Don’t worry your pretty little heads voters. The game voter consoles are self auditing!

The last people in the world who allow ‘self audits’ is the government, at least not where you are concerned. The next time you get a letter from the IRS asking you to help them audit your return just tell them “No problem Mr Agent, my return is self-auditing, don’t worry about it!”. Just see how well that flies!

Hat Tip: Instapundit

voting, voting machines