Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Fixing the electoral system - Part III - Election Process

Today we look at how we elect our officials. No, I'm not talking about the Electoral College. I can't see that getting changed nationally. Even though we are a purple country, the majority in every state is convinced that since they are either red or blue, the whole state is that way. Each may be in favor of gaining ground elsewhere via a rules change, but none want to give up any of their own power to do it. I'm talking about what we use to vote and how we count and how we decide a winner...

We allow people to be elected by plurality instead of majority. We don't take into account people's second and third choices. This can cause a candidate to be elected with 33% of the vote, as recently happened in San Diego. Then of course there is the Nader issue from 2000. People voted for him because they preferred him to the other two choices. However, these voters were probably ideologically closer to Gore than to Bush. If we assume that they would have voted even if Nader was not running, Gore would probably have won the Presidency. There is no way to capture those nuances in our current system.

So, what do I propose? Quite a few things, really. I think there are multiple pieces to this solution. I am just not sure how to get the rest of the country to bite. First, I think we need to standardize our methodology for voting. If we are all voting on the same race, we should have the same candidates to choose from. Nader should have had to get a certain number of signatures nationwide to be put on the ballot in every state. Everyone should vote using the same verifiable means and all races should be decided by the same approach. If we are going to roll out electronic voting, it should be rolled out everywhere. We should have the same number of machines at a polling place per registered voter. None of this crap where the affluent voters get 20 machines while the poor get 3 for similar sized districts. And people should get a receipt of their vote with a mechanism to correct mistakes. There should be the same number of workers per registered voter at each location as well.

Now let's talk about ways to change our rules for casting votes and declaring a winner. There are a few approaches I can think of. I'm sure each has drawbacks, but I don't know whether those drawbacks are worse than those of our current system. The least serious method would be to use a point scoring system the way they do with college sports polls. You rank each candidate available. So, we had five or six choices for President, right? Let's say I ranked them like this:

1. Kerry 5 points
2. Cobb 4 points
3. Peltier 3 points
4. Nader 2 points
5. Badnarik 1 point
6. Bush 0 points

We'd add up the points, and the most points would take the state. This approach allows people to vote for a third party candidate as a first or second choice and still have that reflected in the final tally. You can bet that first choice Bush and Kerry voters would make sure to give the other the 0 point slot. That means that minority parties would have to get votes. This could raise their visibility. Of course, counting might be difficult. Manual recounts would be daunting.

A variant on that would be to rank the candidates in order of preference again. This time, there would be no point scoring. All first choices would be counted. If no candidate had more than 50% of the vote, the votes for the lowest scoring candidate would revert to their second choice and a new calculation would be done. This would be repeated, the lowest remaining total would be dropped and awarded to the next choice down, until one candidate had a majority. So, if we had:

Bush 48.5%
Kerry 47.2%
Nader 3.1%
Badnarik 1.2%

Badnarik gets eliminated first. For arguments sake, everyone who put Badnarik first had Bush second, giving him 49.7%. Still no clear winner. Nader gets dropped. All his voters had Kerry as a second choice. Kerry moves up to 50.3%. He is over 50%, so we stop counting. People actually have more freedom to vote third party here. They can effectively vote for multiple candidates based on the ordering. It still gets captured and noted in the tally for each round. Nobody feels like a third party guy cost their guy the election. And it's more likely that the person in office is at least marginally endorsed by more than 50% of the voters.

Another voting possibility is approval voting. You can go read about it there if you like. The short form of it is that instead of voting for just one candidate, you vote for as many candidates as you approve of. You are voting yes or no on each candidate. An "Anybody But Bush" voter can actually vote that way by saying "Yes" to all the candidates in the President section except W. Whoever gets the most "Yes" votes wins.

I'm not sure of the flaws of any of my alternatives off the top of my head. Heck. I'm not even sure of the names of two of my approaches, although I feel that someone must have thought of them before. On the surface, they seem better than what we have going. They certainly deserve study and analysis. Any of you gamers out there want to try to figure out how you would "game" each of these alternatives? i.e. Find the fatal, exploitable flaw.

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Friday, November 19, 2004

Merchandisers who don't know their product

Ok, this one has been nagging at me since I saw it in the store. As some of you know, I'm kind of into comic book and superhero type stuff. Cartoon Network has a Justice League cartoon that is actually pretty decent. It is well received and so naturally, they have come out with action figures. (Side note: Action figures are dolls for boys.) Unfortunately, it is apparently not enough for a package to contain just an action figure now. Most of them come with accessories...

That, in and of itself is not a big deal, provided the accessory makes sense. Some do. For instance, Batman figures often come with a utility belt or other gadgets. Batman actually has that sort of stuff, so, it's cool. Some of the items are a stretch. Like giving Superman a shield. Maybe someone has something that could hurt Supes, so he needs the special shield to block it. Or maybe the shield is lead and he is using it to protect him from Kryptonite. But THIS? This is just absurd.

That's right. You aren't seeing things. The Flash, "the fastest man alive", is on a motorcycle. This is the superhero that, in the past, was able to vibrate his molecules so fast he could walk through walls. He can run in circles so fast that he can make whirlwinds. He is faster and more maneuverable than a motorcyle all by his lonesome. Why, I ask you? WHY?!?

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

And the winner is...

Remember a couple months back how I had a contest for free sneakers? Well, the celebrity judges have stopped procrastinating and named a winner!

James over at Aces is our winner! His essay was deemed the best by our panel of judges. Here is the winning entry:

I don't deserve the shoes. I have been a bad boy. I mistreated my old shoes by wearing them out in the rain, and then using one of them as a flyswatter. I should be punished, not given new shoes.

It got to the point that I was living dangerously with the shoes. I rented one of my shoes out to an old woman who had so many children she didn't know what to do. I should have been tipped off by the fact that she smelled like cheap whiskey. They trashed the place, and the security deposit didn't come close to covering all the damage. The laces were chewed up. They'd started some fires on the insole. You don't want to know what I found in the uppers. By the time I got them out, the place had a nasty case of athlete's foot. Didn't know what to do, my butt. She was giving them hard liquor every night, trying to get them to sleep. It was like one big frat party. What a mess.

Then the other shoe dropped. Literally. It was so depressed from my negligence that it threw itself off the Braga Bridge. Fortunately (depending on how you look at it) it landed on a fishing boat, in a bucket of chum. I've tried bleaching it, soaking it, and even psychotherapy. No dice--this shoe smells like fish guts.

Regardless, I deserve to go shoeless for my indiscretions. If anything, I deserve to have the shoes thrown at me.

Congratulations to James and thanks to all those who entered. His certificate for free New Balance shoes is winging its way to him as fast as the U.S. Postal service can manage. Due to my procrastination, he has only 1 month to redeem it. :)

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Fixing the electoral system - Part II - The Republicans

In this installment, I'd like to look at a different aspect of our electoral system. The currently dominant half of the two party system also known as the G.O.P. What does G.O.P. stand for, anyway? Goobers on Parade? G-d Offers Power? Generate Outrageous Pundits? Get Off Politically? Who can say? But that's not really important. A better question would be what does THE G.O.P. stand for...

I think that in the answer to that question lies our best hope for changing the political landscape. Currently, the extremists control the reins of power in the party. They are predominantly led by the evangelical neocons. This is not true in all cases, but it is true enough to generalize. The moderates in the party are used as window dressing. Witness the Republican Convention. Most of the people used as the faces of the party are right of center, but still within sight of the center. And they have enough cachet on their own that they don't need to kowtow to the extremists to make their way.

Now, I can't imagine the moderate wing of the party is too happy about the direction they are going. I know many conservatives who don't condone a vast number of the administrations policies, but are being railroaded by the loudmouths of their party. Does anyone think that true conservatives like budget deficits and spending without consequence?

So, here is my latest crazy thought. The Democratic party is a mess. They are no less divided than the Republicans. The problem is, the moderate Democrats try to please everybody and end up looking like they don't stand for anything. And the extreme left Democrats tend to rile up everyone on the right, moderate or not. So, I say we abandon it and team with the moderate Republicans to take over their party! Or, if that is too troubling for you, become an independent and vote in all the Republican primaries. The innmates have run the asylum long enough!

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The "theory" of evolution

Recently, James and I engaged in a discussion about the Biblical literalists down in Georgia have been inappropriately involving themselves in science education. We talked because I was trying to figure out how to diplomatically disagree with a friend on a mailing list about the issue. Her point of view was that the scientific community had not backed up the evolution theory. She doesn't want her children being taught that it is a fact that the world is millions of years old because it goes against her beliefs and because it is not a fact, it's "just" a theory.

James has an interesting entry called Devolution on the issue. I thought I might expand upon his offering by talking a bit about where my brief list discussion led. Here is my response to the points mentioned above:

Discalimer: I realize this is a sensitive topic and am not trying to offend. Also note that I am a religious person and do believe in the Old Testament. I just don't see it as a literal document. That's not meant to sway anyone, just to point out that I am a man of faith and science.

There are a couple of issues here. The first is the use of a disclaimer on a text book. Regardless of the phrasing, singling out evolution as a topic to be questioned does a number of things. It suggests that evolution is somehow less valid than other scientific theories and thus in need of special consideration. And even without the religious language, it is clear that the alternative consideration is meant to be creationism. Thus far, creationism still falls in the realm of religion. This has no place on a science textbook.

The second issue is the use of the word "theory". There are different definitions of theory depending on context. There is a colloquial definition and a scientific definition. Colloquially, a theory is a hunch or a guess. As in, "I have a theory about who really shot Kennedy". This type of theory is based on information at hand and instinct and may have minimal factual basis. According to the National Academy of Sciences, a theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." In science, a colloquial theory is a hypothesis. So, given that context, evolution is being presented as a theory.

There are many things taught as "fact" in science that are theories. The theory of relativity is a good example. Heck, there are entire college courses taught about theories. Take theoretical physics for example. Scientific theories are backed by experimental data and well regarded fact.

Science education should cover critical thinking and generally accepted scientific beliefs. The public school system is not a place for fringe science. It is also not a place for cutting edge science. These sorts of things should be addressed as elective studies in higher education.

Her response dealt more with her beliefs than with the issue of religious groups dictating or modifying scientific education. She has two main issues, which I can understand, even though I disagree with them. Her basic belief is that the Bible is the inerrant word of G-d. Therefore, if the Bible says that the Earth is only 6000 years old, that's how old it is. According to her belief, death is a consequence of sin. According to evolution, death was around long before the first man ever committed the first sin. So, teaching evoltuion causes contradictions that she has to address with her children.

There weren't many other messages in the thread. I think I closed it off by steering back to the original topic, which was "should there be warning stickers on science texts". I explained that we weren't trying to convince her that her beliefs were wrong, but that I still stood by my statements that personal religious views should not be used to influence education. I don't want to force you to change your beliefs. But I do want you to understand that faith cannot dictate science any more than science can dictate faith.

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Can't Help Myself

I know, I know. We are supposed to be letting the healing begin. Stuff like this isn't helpful. But it amused me, and it's my blog, so there! Besides, it's not hurting America nearly as much as Crossfire.

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace a light bulb?

The Answer is TEN:

  1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed.
  2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed.
  3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb.
  4. One to tell the nations of the world that they are either: "For changing the light bulb or for darkness"
  5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Haliburton for the new light bulb.
  6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a stepladder under the banner "Light Bulb Change Accomplished".
  7. One administration insider to resign and write a book documenting in detail how Bush was literally "in the dark".
  8. One to viciously smear #7.
  9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light bulb-changing policy all along.
  10. And finally one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Fixing the electoral system - Part I - Money

Ok. I've had time to reflect and I have some thoughts on how to fix the electoral system. Most of them are thinly veiled rants disguised as calls for change. But perhaps somewhere within the rants are useful ideas that someone else can expand upon...

I don't think anyone can dispute that money now plays a disproportionately large role in the electoral system. The total spent during this election cycle was on the order of $4 billion. That's right. BILLION. In the words of the late, great Carl Sagan, "billions and billions" of dollars. And for what purpose? To try to change people's minds. In most cases, to try to convince people that at worst outright lies and at best misleading half-truths are facts. Note that I am lumping the majority of political advertising in here, not just Bush's advertising. Some instances were worse than others. But, when was the last time that a political ad gave you actual information.

What can you buy with $4 billion dollars? Healthcare for millions of Americans? Better salaries for teachers? Create a living wage? Tax relief for low and middle class America? Those are all good choices. Or maybe we just use it to pay down the deficit.

Before you start screaming, I know it is not the government's money. I'm just pointing out how some people can barely afford to live, while another segment of the population can afford $4 BILLION dollars convincing these people that their guy is the one who cares about them. You want to show them that you care about them? Give them the money directly! That's right! I'm advocating vote buying. If we are going to dump this kind of money into the economy, let's dump it where it will do the most good. Give it to the people who can't afford stuff. If you gave $4000 dollars each to the poorest 1 million voters, they would not sock that money away for a rainy day. They'd buy crazy stuff like food, or pay rent, or get that operation that they couldn't afford.

I'm sorry to say, but the days of "one voice, one vote" are over. The problem is that not all voices are weighted equally. It's more like "$1k, one vote". And since votes have such value, let's make them a tradeable commodity. Voter turnout would go up. Does anyone doubt that a poor person would go to the polls if someone was going to give him a grand to go with their guy? Anyone want to try to put together a series of simulations on the dynamics of "votes for sale"? Might be good for the economy.

Don't like the idea of vote selling? Ok, how about this? Every time a political campaign spends $1 campaigning, it also has to donate a matching dollar to a secular charity? Kind of like the luxury tax in sports. You want to use money to do something sinister, you have to balance it by doing something good.

The problem here is the conflicting issues of free speech versus influence peddling. Or, put another way, is free speech really free? I am free to say what I want with respect to my beliefs. As long as I stay clear of the slander and libel laws, I can put out whatever is on my mind. However, without money, or some other mechanism of widespread dissemination, my free speech isn't going to go very far. Special interest groups have the same freedom of speech. In fact, because of their resources, they have a little more freedom. Because they can afford the penalties, they don't have to worry as much about the slander and libel laws. Plus, if they are sued, it is not likely to resolve until the election is over. And there is no reasonable relief for someone who lost votes to a lie. Great, you were awarded $1 million, but you lost the election. So, someone who has money to spend has a greater freedom of speech. On top of this, because of their resources, their speech can reach further. So, we have an equality issue there. Is another person's opinion more important or valid than mine because they have greater resources? Given that line of reasoning, is restricting a person's use of the airways a restriction on their freedom of speech or an attempt to create equality of speech?

Here's another idea regarding political speech. Let's pass laws requiring content be approved by non-partisan fact checkers before it can be aired. We restrict hate speech, right? You can't just drop the N-word on TV. What is more hateful than deliberately lying to manipulate people? Let's make it a crime. And let's impose something more than fines to the perpetrators. Let's give them jail time in severe cases. Can you imagine Bush or Kerry trying to campaign from jail?

And while we are calling in fact checkers, let's have them AT the debates. There's more incentive to tell the truth if someone is going to call you on it right then and there. There's less of a chance of people misremembering things as well. Picture it.

KERRY: Yes. When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of them, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, and Osama bin Laden escaped.

Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, this president was asked, "Where is Osama bin Laden? " He said, "I don't know. I don't really think about him very much. I'm not that concerned. "

We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

BUSH: Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.

** A buzzer sounds **

FACTGUY: I'm sorry Mr. President, but you did say that. In fact, your exact words on March 13, 2002 were "So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him , Kelly, to be honest with you. . . ." and, in response to the follow up question "Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."

And there are fact checks that could go the other way as well. That's just the one that seems most blatant in my memory.

We could even keep score. It could be like boxing. Three judges would score each round. You'd get a point for a good and factually sound point. You'd lose a point for being caught in a lie. There would be no penalty for saying something that was factually accurate but not particularly effective. A candidate could be warned for hitting below the belt. Three warnings and the candidate would be disqualified from the debate. At the end, they could announce a winner. That would also help Americans wade through the spin. You can't spin a result of Bush 15 - Kerry 10.

So, to recap:

* Allow vote buying
* Make misleading or dishonest ads illegal and punishable by jail time
* Require ads to get past a non-partisan fact check bureau before airing
* Have fact checkers buzz in during the debate.
* Develop a scoring system for the debate that declares a clear winner or a draw

Anyone want to try and make an actionable idea out of any of this?

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Buh-bye Mr. A.G.

Ok. I am finally over the election and ready to talk to the world again. Ashcroft stepping down broke me out of my funk. Granted, his proposed replacement is no civil libertarian, but I don't think he is averse to artwork with breasts. Of course, he does have some rather odd opinions about torture. I find it tremendously amusing that Ashcroft feels he can step down because "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved." Where have I heard that before? Oh, yes! "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" Let's hope this pronouncement doesn't come back to bite us on our collective backsides.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The REAL reason Kerry and Edwards lost

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Another year, another stolen election

I'm not sure why I am surprised, but I am. I mean, all the signs were there. Republicans posing as Democrats and undecided voters to try to sway opinion. Threats of eligibility challenges to keep voters home. And of course, malfeasance in Florida. Absentee ballots (around 60,000) from a predominantly Democratic county disappeared somewhere along the way. And many more did not get delivered to the requestors until election day, in spite of being due last night. Governor Jeb Bush was understandably concerned about the disenfranchisement possibility. "Canadian geese migrate south in the winter. The ACLU sued the state of Florida on Election Day," the governor said. "No big deal." The ACLU is hoping to extend the deadline for these voters to the same date as the out of the country absentee voters, which is November 12.

Which brings me to another point. There are more ballots outstanding in two states that could swing the outcome than the margin or Bush's lead. In Ohio, a large portion of these uncounted votes are from Democratic strongholds. In Florida, the disenfranchised come from Broward and Miami Dade. I'm pretty sure those are Democratic as well. With that in mind, how can either state be called? And why on Earth is Kerry conceding? Didn't Edwards say they would not rest until every vote has been counted? I can't think of a better way to let someone know to stop counting than to declare a winner.

Equally troubling is what this means for American politics. Misleading ads, outright lies, and manipulating the electorate have all been proven as viable strategies. Young people registered and came out in record numbers, only to find out that it didn't make a difference. What will that do to youth activism next time around? The flow of money into the elections increased to over $4 BILLION this election cycle. Think campaign finance reform worked? Exit polling showed a sleeper issue was on people's minds: moral values. And somehow, the people who lied, cheated, and manipulated through fear are seen as holding the high ground on moral values. A while back, there was a poll about whether or not America was a Christian nation. I think the answer today has to be a resounding YES. We are no longer a representative Democracy, we are now a representative Theocracy. Sure, you are allowed to practice whatever religion you want, but only one religion is sponsored by the government. Faith based spending goes to Christianity. The Christian right dictates policy on anything from interpersonal relationships to history to science.

For those who think we aren't in a Theocracy, wait until Bush gets his Supreme Court appointments. He'll appoint a few more Thomases and Scalias. The line between church and state will blur further. School prayer cases will make a comeback. Roe v. Wade is gone. People with no medical background will create a legal definition of when life begins. And it will be legal for the government to give tax dollars of all Americans to Christian groups. I give you, George W. Bush's legacy.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I Voted for America, but America Voted for Stupidity

Well, I went and voted this evening after work. I made it to the polls at about 5:45 PST. I left about 6:15. In between I cast my vote to elect a good man to be our President and clean up the mess made by the bad man I hoped to fire. And yet, hundreds of thousands of Americans have voted against their interests to, in all likelihood, re-elect a man with sub 50% approval ratings who can't think of any mistakes he has made. I don't need to recount his mistakes to all of you. So, I suppose I'll recount the entertainment that is voting in California.

My voting adventure actually started the night before. Things had been really busy here and I wasn't versed enough on the issues. I knew who I wanted for President, Senate, and House. It looks like I went 1 for 3 there. Good in baseball, bad in elections. At any rate, there were nine other local races and TWENTY ballot questions. You read that right. Thank heavens for smartvoter.org. I was able to spend a few hours researching everything on a smart voter page customized to my address. I marked up my sample ballot so I would be able to vote more easily. No way was I going to be able to remember which way to vote on all these stupid things. And many were important, too.

For example, there is a ballot initiative which will allow for the DNA of anyone arrested to be collected and stored in a database indefinitely if they are arrested. Note that I did not say they had to be charged. False arrest? Too bad. You are part of the criminal DB. I voted against. I lost there, too.

Some of the propositions were tricky. For example, there is a landfill that is planned. There was a ballot question to rescind this. So, if you don't want the dump, you have to vote yes. I voted no.

I was tempted to vote no on all the questions out of sheer annoyance. What is wrong with communicating with your elected official and trying to get something passed that way? If they don't pass things you like, you vote them out. Not in California. Here, just get some signatures and spend a lot of money and you, too, can screw up the state budget.

Anyway, I did my homework and went to the poll. Fortunately, I verified the polling place on line. It changed a few weeks ago. The line was pretty short. But then again, so was the supply of voting booths. They were pretty much just cardboard boxes with shelves. There was a grand total of eight booths. We were supposed to have Diebold eVote machines, but I guess the state is suing them. So, we reverted to paper. They were the fill in the oval kind of ballots.

I was in line with a first time voter. She was 18 or 19 and was nervous. A few of us in line shepherded her through. Several of us had our booklets with us. She asked if she was supposed to have one with her. She became even more nervous when she saw the man at the check-in desk asking for the booklet. We told her not to worry. People just brought them as an aid.

It turns out, the guy was asking for the booklets so he could look up street addresses. It wasn't a requirement. It was just easier for him. And I saw why. The woman ahead of me in line gets her mail at a PO box. So, he had to ask her for her street. The exchange went like this:

Him: What street?
Her: Belfast
Him: Hillcrest?
Her: (louder) BELFAST
Him: Ok...(flips to Hillcrest on the street sheet)
Him: Oh! Not Hillcrest? Hang on.

Sadly, that was the most entertainment I managed to get out of the experience. My vote was counted and I was on my way.

I spent the evening watching the returns and starting to try to figure out what country to move to.

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Monday, November 01, 2004

Unfortunate name for a website

The website is Mr. Happy Crack. Their slogan is "A dry crack is a happy crack". Too. Many. Jokes. Brain overloading. ->Zzzzzzt!<- Can you guess what their product is before you click the link?

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Shake it up Baby!

A few weeks ago, there was an earthquake centered about 20 miles from my house. Some folks back home got worried and wanted to check up on me. I explained to them that it wasn't even a 2.0 on the Richter scale. I didn't even know about it until they told me. For those not familiar with the Richter scale, it measures magnitude of seismic activity. It's a logarithmic scale, which means that each step up is exponentially larger than the previous step. The scale looks something like this...

This table comes right from the wikipedia entry.

DescriptorRichter MagnitudesEarthquake EffectsAverage Annually
MicroLess than 2.0Microearthquakes, not felt.About 8,000 per day
Very minor2.0-2.9Generally not felt, but recorded.About 1,000 per day
Minor3.0-3.9Often felt, but rarely causes damage.49,000 (estimated)
Light4.0-4.9Noticeable shaking of indoor items, rattling noises. Significant damage unlikely.6,200 (estimated)
Moderate5.0-5.9Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions. At most slight damage to well-designed buildings.800
Strong6.0-6.9Can be destructive in areas up to about 100 miles across in populated areas.120
Major7.0-7.9Can cause serious damage over larger areas.18
Great8.0 or greaterCan cause serious damage in areas several hundred miles across.1

So, as you can see, a 2.0 is not significant. They happen all the time and are not cause for alarm. Another earthquake measurement scale is the Mercalli scale. This is not a seismic scale. It's a bit more judgement oriented and involves assessment based on the perceived effects of the quake.

(I) - Not felt except by a very few under especially favourable conditions.
(II) - Felt only by a few persons at rest, especially on upper floors of buildings. Delicately suspended objects may swing.
(III) - Felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on the upper floors of buildings. Many do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibration similar to the passing of a truck. Duration estimated.
(IV) - Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably.
(V) - Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes and windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop.
(VI) - Felt by all; many frightened and run outdoors, walk unsteadily. Windows, dishes, glassware broken... books off shelves... some heavy furniture moved or overturned; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight.
(VII) - Difficult to stand... furniture broken..damage negligible in building of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken. Noticed by persons driving motor cars.
(VIII) - Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture moved.
(IX) - General panic... damage considerable in specially designed structures, well designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.
(X) - Some well built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.
(XI) - Few, if any (masonry) structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Rails bent greatly.
(XII) - Damage total. Lines of sight and level distorted. Objects thrown into the air.

Still, it would have to be hard to be back east, hearing about earthquakes and wonder what is going on. For those of you that would like to keep on top of the quake situation in my neck of the woods, I present the following link. Here is a link to the U.S. Geological Survey's earthquake site for Souther California. It contains breaking news as well as historical data. My favorite feature is the interactive map. It shows all quakes in So Cal from the past week. The square representing the quake varies in proportion to its magnitude.

So, if you hear about a San Diego area quake, call up the map and see how close it is to me and how big it is. Anything below a 5 and you can assume we are fine. :)

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How's Your Color Vision?

Hey there! My friend Kerri pointed me to this Color Blindness test that is pretty neat. It's similar to the tests you see in doctor's offices. Even if you know you aren't color blind, it's interesting. Let me know how you do!

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