Now, to work

I was expecting that Jay Nixon would be declared governor as soon as the polls closed yesterday, but I wasn’t expecting how quickly the Presidential race would be decided. I chose to watch movies, rather than fret over the state counts. I knew Obama won, though, as soon as I heard the fireworks outside.

Was I elated? Elation will come in time. I was relieved. Hugely relieved.

The US did good, and I’m grateful for those who voted for Obama. I was particularly pleased with his victory speech yesterday, because it set the tone for what’s to come: lots of hard work, sometimes disappointment, but above all, an openness and energy we haven’t seen in the White House in a long, long time. The American flag decal we used to have in the window and which we took down 8 years ago, has gone back up today.

I wish I could say that Missouri still maintains its bellwether status, but unfortunately, by the tiniest of margins, McCain beat Obama in this state. By how many votes? About the same number of votes that Ralph Nader won. Our state’s distinctiveness has been lost, but at least, the vote was close. For a state like Missouri, that says more than you might think.

I’m a little disappointed that Proposition M failed in St. Louis county. The metro system needed that money. Now, Metro service will be cut, probably drastically. Did we think this cheap gas would last forever?

I’m profoundly disappointed in California for passing Proposition 8—more so because the vote means that people who voted for Obama also voted for Proposition 8, and I’m disappointed in every one of you. Is this the Change you seek? I’m particularly disappointed to read that, from exit polls run by the LA Times, the majority of blacks in the LA area supported Proposition 8. Perhaps change should begin at home, for all of us.

The one positive thing we need to take away from the Proposition 8 vote is that at least it was close. Twenty years ago, it would have won by a landslide. We are changing. Not quickly, but take hope: we are changing.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m glad this election is over. Now, the real work starts.



I and my roommate went to the polls at 5:30 this morning, and there was already a line of about 20 people or so. By the time the voting opened at 6am, the line was about 100-200 people in length, and there was no room for cars. In fact, I can definitely say that voting at the Cure of Ars is going to be a problem today, and not just because the street to the place, Laclede Station Rd, will be closed from 10-1.

But, I’m done. I was prepared, though thankfully I brought all my various IDs today, because I was mistaken on what was acceptable. Actually, my bad, but I had a backup. I also thought I picked paper voting, but had the computer slip, which ended up being the longer line. Again, my bad, as I checked the wrong box. It was 6am.

This was my first time using the computer, and it was actually quite nice—created a paper trail that you could check as you voted. These machines are taking over, eventually we’re going to have to start trusting them. Besides, I had the computer slip, not the paper slip. Mustn’t screw with the slips. Democracy as we know it will fall if we screw around with the slips.

But I’m done. Done. Done. Done.

Now comes the waiting.

I miss the mechanical voting booths, where you pulled a lever and it closed a curtain. You flipped switches next to names, and when you were done, pulled another level that tallied your vote and opened the curtain.

Once that curtain was closed, the rest of the world was shut out. It was just you, the machine, the switches, and your vote. When you voted at one of these machines, you felt like you were participating in a ritual, not a pop quiz. There was something very satisfying at that moment when you pulled the lever the second time, and heard all the mechanical switching going on behind you, as the curtain swooshed open, readying the box for the next participant.

Now, you push a confirm button, and screen goes blue (an ominous color), and that’s it—move your butt, let someone else in.

And I didn’t even get an “I voted” sticker.

People Technology


Since I was fulfilling one duty today I thought I would also fulfill another and renew my driver’s license. To renew a license here in Missouri you have to show all sorts of proof of residency, identity, and nationality. You also have to take an eye exam, and a traffic sign recognition test.

The traffic sign exam is more or less a joke, but the eye exam was a little different. When you look through the eye piece, you see rows of letters, white on black, separated by a dotted line down the middle. When you get the test, the person administering it will tell you to read the letters in one of the rows, then ask if you see a blinking light, and if so, on which side. There also seemed to be a stereoscopic aspect to the test, as the letters on one side of the dotted line seemed a little more blurry then those on the other.

There’s no graduated height eye test—either your vision, corrected or otherwise, is good enough, or it isn’t, in which case, go away, get better glasses and come back.

When I got to the license place, I grabbed a number and sat down to wait. Ahead of me, a middle aged Asian guy with his daughter was renewing his license, and having some problems communicating with the person administering the eye test.

He did know some English, and could read the letters. But when she had him look into the eyepiece and read the sixth row, whatever he read didn’t match what she expected, and she kept repeating to him to read the “sixth row”. “Read the sixth row”. He conferred with his daughter in his native language, and would try again, frustrated because he was doing what examiner asked. She also was getting irritated, because there several people waiting, and he couldn’t get the test.

All of a sudden, after another frustrated exchange, he got really excited, said something to his daughter, and then looked back into the eyepiece. He rattled off a bunch of letters, and evidently, got them all right because they went on to the traffic sign test. Again, he had problems, but the DMV person was out of patience, gave him a page with traffic signs and suggested he go to the back of the room, look over the paper, and then he could come back and take the test.

When I got to her desk, I was a little apprehensive about the test, wondering what the heck I was going to find. She asked me to read the first row, and I had no problems. She then asked me to read the signs and tell me what each one was. Again, I had no problem, and was out of the licensing place quickly.

It was only later that that an idea came to me that possibly explained the problems the Asian guy was having. This is only a guess, but I think when she told him to read the sixth row, he actually read the sixth column. In other words, he read top to bottom, rather than left to right. When she kept repeating sixth row, he’d re-read the same column. It was only after a few tries that he caught on to what she was asking, and then read the sixth row, sixth from top of chart, reading left to right.

I think the same thing happened with the road signs: he was reading top to bottom, and she was expecting left to right. Just goes to show that technology is only as good as the shared culture allows it to be.


Voting in Missouri

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Missouri does not have early voting, so we’re expecting a busy day at the polls tomorrow. Make sure you’re all set with what you need to vote in Missouri, which is one of the identifications listed in this page. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office also provides a handy poll place and sample ballot lookup. The sample ballot is especially important to making sure you’re prepared to vote before you head to the polls.

You probably already know who you’re going to vote for when it comes to President and Governor and so on, but you may not be sure of how to vote when it comes to that long list of judges that always seem to fill up these ballots. The Missouri Bar Association puts out a list of judges by region and how well the judge did with surveys given to both lawyers and jurors. Based on the surveys the MoBar then gives a retain or not recommendation. For St. Louis County, most of the judges were highly rated. One was given a do not retain ranking, and a couple of others were given a more qualified retain recommendation. I ended up retaining all but three judges on my sample ballot.

Most of the ballot issues are not as straight forward as they seem, and it pays to put some time into reviewing what’s up for a vote. I’ve found that the national Ballotopedia to be a helpful place to start, though just searching on each measure or amendment brings up opposition and support arguments. As an example of a Ballotopedia page is one for Proposition A, which has to do with removing loss limits. The issue has been tied to school funding, but when you scratch the surface, you find that the issue is really being paid for by the existing casinos who want to encourage more people to lose money, while preventing other casinos from being built. At the same time, proponents point to the implication with Proposition A that schools will get more money. It’s an important ballot item, like all of the other ballot items, and you need to spend time with each.

For what it’s worth, my own voting recommendations are:

  • Vote No on Constitutional Amendment 1, about English being the ‘official language’ in government meetings. English is already the official language in Missouri. It’s a silly bill put out by those wanting to cater to the paranoid and the xenophobic.
  • Vote Yes on Constitutional Amendment 4, regarding how financing of storm water control projects are funded. This is a difficult to read bill, and I resorted to Google searches to find opinions on the bill. Eventually, the fact that this bill had such broad bipartisan support in the state senate won me over, though I still think about just letting this one slide on the ballot with a non-vote.
  • Vote No on Proposition A, to remove casino loss limits. Too often corporate interests tie political initiatives to school funding as a way of getting a controversial bill passed. Removing loss limits is only going to add to a growing gambling problem afflicting this state, as well as encourage people to lose too much in the heat of the moment. In addition, the Proposition also prohibits any new casinos, which I believe should be controlled by community planning boards, not the Casino Queen, the main sponsor of this bill. Both Republican and Democratic candidates for governor are against this bill, which demonstrates broad bipartisan opposition to the bill, because I don’t believe the two agree on anything else.
  • Vote No on Proposition B, on creating a new home care council. The concept is good, but the wording in the proposal is vague. What exactly are the powers attributed to this council? What will they do that isn’t handled by other agencies? I like the idea of a watch dog for in-home care professionals, but a badly done proposition isn’t going to help anyone.
  • Vote Yes on Proposition C, which would mandate that energy providers use clean energy sources, up to 15% over time. The organizations in favor of the bill are many, with Ameren being about the sole opposition to the bill. Ameren would prefer “market forces” dictate the use of clean energy. I would assume these are the same market forces that have kept our banks healthy. No, we can’t depend on business to do the right thing.
  • Within St. Louis county, my main interest is on Proposition M, which would provide Metro funding. Gas prices may be cheap now, but they’re not going to last. A forward thinking community is one that plans for, and supports, mass transit, including light rail. Some people are unhappy at the cost overruns the Shrewsbury line cost the tax payers, but punishing a facility that is good for the community for the past actions of people no longer associated with the facility, is penny wise, and pound foolish.
  • As regards to the other St. Louis County initiatives: I’m voting Yes on Proposition C , 1, I, and H. In fact, I’m voting Yes across the board for St. Louis county initiatives. Most of the issues are related to taxes, and include support for our wonderful parks, children services, and necessary capital improvements.

The voting threat

The greatest threat this country currently faces, are stories like the one found today in the New York Times. The headline reads, Voting Experts Say High Turnout May Add to Problems at the Polls, and it joins many others spreading doom and gloom about what to expect at the polls tomorrow.

I remember voting in elections where officials voiced how discouraged they were at how few people turned out. Now, we’re actually having an election, a real one, where most of the people who can vote, are voting. Except today, we’re inundated with stories about how long the lines will be; how badly the polls will be managed; how impossible the process.

If you’re a McCain supporter, you might think what’s the use? Your candidate is going to lose. If you’re an Obama supporter, you might think what’s the use? Obama is going to win. Yet, this election can be won, or lost, not by the people who show up at the polls, but by those who stay home.

Aside from this critical national election for President, you’ll be voting for other people and other offices, as well as important initiatives. In my state, several of the state and Congressional seats are under hot contention, and there are a couple of propositions that I support and that are at risk for failing. The same is most likely true for you.

If you’ve already voted early, thank you. If you haven’t though, and you’re tempted to just “skip” the election tomorrow because of all the election stories, think on this: you’ve probably stood in line longer for tickets to a favorite concert, to get into a hot sports game, or to buy that “it” gift for Christmas. You were definitely in line longer if you were one of the first to buy an iPhone. Bring that iPhone, loaded with games, a book, magazine, or newspaper—they do still print paper ones—that long report or story you’ve been wanting to find the time to read, and do the right thing. Think of tomorrow as a chance to get away from the computer and the hectic pace of your life, and to have a time to contemplate the meaning of the universe, ways to combat global warming…or that hot new guy you just met.

I’m not going to link the Hollywood videos about vote, don’t vote, because we really don’t need actors to tell us what we already know: the candidate you want may lose based on one vote; just think if that vote was yours?

Forget the polls and their percentages, forget the stories. Do the right thing tomorrow. Vote.