A call to go old school when it comes to voting

Seriously. With all the problems in the last couple of elections, why not stick to the good old paper ballot? It might take longer, but at least it’s more efficient ;).

Take a look at some of the disasters in the last two elections in the US – and, potentially, in the one happening tomorrow.

Mechanics of election: could U.S. voting meltdown history repeat itself?

November 3, 2008 – 18:53

Deborah Hastings, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

In 2000, the U.S. presidential election was marred by hanging chads in Florida.

Four years later, it was malfunctioning machines in Ohio.

With record numbers of U.S. voters expected yet again, the fundamental question remains whether the country’s embattled election machinery will stand up to the pressure.

This year’s unprecedented primary turnout has already exposed cracks in the infrastructure.

In Texas, lines stretched for hours and ballots ran out. Voters in Virginia were told to submit slips of paper – which were later disqualified – when ballot deliveries didn’t arrive, and overwhelmed poll workers in Washington, D.C., hid electronic machines because they were afraid of the contraptions.

“Right now, election officials probably identify with Sheriff Brody in ‘Jaws,’ who having seen the great white shark for the first time turns to his fellow passengers and remarks, ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat,”‘ electionline.org director Doug Chapin said in a recent study of voting problems.

Read the rest of the story here. And, if I have it my way, expect the next election related debate to be about the use of yellow versus blue ballots ;).

November 3rd post of Dead-Alive for Nanowrimo 2008

Part 2

I was exhausted, so it took me a little while to register what Talya had said. We took that time to slip into bed. Something clicked in my head a few minutes later; the dam opened and, within seconds, I digested the information to come up with a mind-boggling conclusion. “I’m tapping into the energy left behind by these events.”

“Something like that,” Talya replied, her words a little slurred.

“Or they are getting in touch with me, like a psychic.”

“Maybe.” Her eyes drifted shut.

“Could the news story and my background in criminal psychology have affected me so much that I dream of these things, somehow putting clues together to paint a full picture?”

“Possibly.”

Spying the bruises under her eyes – which doesn’t happen often, since my wife’s skin is as dark as a cup of coffee with only a hint of cream in it – I let the conversation go. We both needed our sleep.

“I love you,” I said, kissing the top of her head.

Talya smiled, muttering something (probably returning the sentiment) and her breathing soon evened. But sleep eluded me; a mere half an hour later, I was at my desk, the chart opened in front of me, firing up my laptop.

I was going to start with one particular nightmare I had had a couple of weeks ago, for the simple fact that it was still vividly etched in my mind and, were I to find pictures, I would be able to recognise the people and places in question. I had walked for about an hour and a half that evening, following railway tracks not far from my house all the way out of the city and into a sparsely populated area. I had stopped at a beautiful, old fashioned ice cream place we often took the children to during the summer, where, behind the counter, I saw two men beating up a teenage boy, then take off with the money that was in the register.

I also wanted to start with this one because the dream had triggered a long buried memory. I had somehow heard a similar story before; I couldn’t remember if it was about this ice cream place or about another. But the fact that I had heard something remotely similar made this nightmare a great candidate to start with.

I surfed onto a popular search engine then stared at the blinking cursor for a few moments. After a few moments’ hesitation, I typed in “ice cream parlour”, “murder” and the name of my city. My heart skipped a beat when about fifty hits were reported by the search engine.

I scanned them quickly, then clicked on one of the links. A picture popped up, and everything around me started swimming. It was him – it was the boy I had seen murdered. What I had seen wasn’t purely a figment of my imagination; it was something that had, quite unfortunately, happened.

But this didn’t prove anything. The murder of the young boy had remained, to this day, unsolved, so I couldn’t know what had happened or, more importantly, who had done it. I needed to find a case that had been solved and check if what I had dreamed about had actually happened. I had to compare the details of my dreams to what had been reported in the media, and somehow figure out if there were details not reported by the media that I had also seen. Only then would I know of a certainty that I was having a form of vision, and not a nightmare built on deeply buried memories, categorised unwillingly and unconsciously by a mind trained in the ways of scientists to categorize, analyse and synthesise.

I spent the next three hours going through case after case, inputing information in the search engine and sifting through the output. Because of the exhaustion as much as habits formed through years of working with research data, I became something of a robot, automatically developing categories and probability scales, indexing the cases according to their status (solved versus unsolved) as well as the amount of information Talya and I had recorded or, in the case of the most recent dreams I had had, that I could now recollect.

“What are you doing?” Talya sleepily asked, startling me.

I smiled reassuringly at her; she smiled back. “Why don’t we go get some coffee; when you are more awake, I’ll tell you all about it.”

She hesitated, then probably decided she would rather hear the story only when awake so as not to miss any detail. “Go put some coffee on; I’ll go to the bathroom and be down to make us some breakfast.”

But I was too excited, and we were soon back in the office with only our drinks. I was sitting at my desk, she at hers, and we were facing each other, cupping a wonderfully warm cup of coffee.

Talya was eyeing my desk; there was a thick stack of print outs on one side, a notepad covered in little notes and the wall beside my screen was covered in sticky notes. “Someone has been working hard. Did you sleep at all last night?”

I shook my head.

She mock sighed. “I guess it’s better than having you traipse off yet again,” she said with a small, teasing smile. One thing that made Talya so strong was an inherent ability to joke about anything at all.

I smiled back. “Got tired of me dragging mud in, huh.”

She nodded, then turned serious. “What have you got for me?”

“Remember how you told me you have found out that one my dreams had actually happened in reality?” She nodded again. “Well it got me wondering just how many of my supposed dreams were a pure figment of my imagination, and how many were based on events that had actually happened.”

“And?”

I took a deep breath. “All of them happened.”

Her mouth dropped open. “Every single one of them?”

I nodded, giving her a few moments to process the amazing news before continuing. “There isn’t a single thing that I saw in these dreams that contradicts details of the murders that actually occurred. I even recognised some of the faces.”

“This is incredible,” Talya whispered.

“I know. And there is something else. Not all of the crimes I dreamt about were solved.”

A small frown marred her otherwise smooth forehead. “How many would you say remain open?”

“A little over a third of those I have looked up.”

Talya’s eyebrows raised. “Wow,” she softly said.

“I know. The question now is, am I imagining these dreams based on repressed memories of events I might have read or heard about, or am I actually seeing the real thing.”

“Something tells me you already have an idea.”

“Well, a good number of these dreams were based on events that happened over 60 years ago,” I said, carefully watching her as I dropped this bombshell. “Since my parents moved here only 50 years ago and I myself was born much later, there is no way I could have heard about them.”

“That’s not enough to convince me you aren’t only having dreams based on suppressed memories rather than visions,” Talya said. She had slipped into the role of devil’s advocate. We often did that; when one hit a snag in their work, the other would push the thinking by asking the most outrageous questions. It usually worked.

“Well, there are minor details that I described that were only referred to in newspapers that aren’t that well read.”

“Good point, but still not enough.”

I made a helpless gesture. “That’s all I have.”

We were quiet for a long time until Talya drained the last of her coffee and stood up. “I would want to go to the police and get access to their records,” she admitted. “But that would probably make you a suspect.”

I smiled. “Random stranger comes in with details to murders they didn’t even take the time to record? They will probably think they have a leak in the department.”

Talya nodded thoughtfully. “Not only that; you said a third of these murders have remained unsolved. What if they think you know these details because you were there?”

My mouth dropped open; I hadn’t even considered that. “So many of these happened before I was even born!”

“But many of them did. Maybe they will think you are in cahoots with people who did those old murders, are filling in the blanks, and then telling them you ‘saw’ these new murders you could have done the same way as the old ones you weren’t capable of doing.”

I drummed my fingers on top of the pile of print outs. “There is only one thing to do, then.”

“Finish your research, and wait for more dreams.”

This had to be the first time I was looking forward to having a nightmare. What can I say, deep inside, every is a little bit insane.

Setting trends rather than following them: a wonderful plea

The following is part of a wonderful post from last week by fellow blogger Brian Cromer. Whatever your religious beliefs, or even if you don’t have any, this is definitely a post that will give you food for thought, as well as a potential debate starter: do we inspire pop culture, or should pop culture inspire us?

Can we please start to set trends?

I have noticed a cultural trend that disturbs me greatly.

How many have you seen a “Christian” copy of something that has already been successful in pop culture? You know, when something becomes very popular or successful in culture and then Christians come right behind that product and make a “Christian” version of that thing. I have got to be honest here…that drives me absolutely crazy. Here are some specific examples:

MYSPACE/GODSPACE

Around 2005 MYSPACE.COM started becoming the most popular social networking website. After the website exploded in popularity, some people launched GODSPACE.COM, which is a social networking website (just like myspace) for believers. The godspace home page states, “Godspace is the only social networking website for believers of all faiths. At Godspace you can discuss all aspects of religion, gain new insights, and share your opinions with others that are passionate about their beliefs.”

(…)

Now, I have no problem with these products themselves. I do have a problem with Christians sitting back, relaxing, and waiting for pop culture to set the trends and produce great products that Christians can merely copy with a Christian twist. Can Christians please start setting the trends in pop culture instead of ripping off the ideas from the secular world? Can we not be creative? Can we not be original?

Read the rest of the post here.