Finding A Safe Voting System In California

Main Controversy
A hearing, surrounding the controversial issues on computerized voting, attempted to reassure concerned local Californian attendees Thursday afternoon at Menlo Park City Hall.

The hearing mainly addressed if California’s voting systems accurate, reliable and secure, and took a critical look at the Federal testing and certification process. The meeting began with an introduction of the present experts and a brief announcement about the absence of leading vendors, such as Diebold, who declined to attend. Debra Bowen, the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee initiated the proceedings, stating that “software has to be built to official standards, but absolute security is very difficult.”
What The Experts Say
Dan Wallach, professor of computer science at Rice University, appeared to concur with Bowen. Wallach pointed out that in 2002, “standards for the current available software were being developed”. It was an involved and evolving engineering problem, part of which “is controlling costs”. He then reminded the audience that “paper has a long-term history of election fraud.” The voting system is a “terrible business to be in, because every state has a different system,” he said. “We need openness, reliable and secure systems. We must design systems capable of solving all problems – and California has to initiate the process.”

“Is it federally qualified?” asked Aviel Rubin, professor of computer science and director of the Information Institute at Johns Hopkins University. “What are the limitations of testing? Results should be made public, and all tests should be available to the public.” He continued, “We can’t compromise on transparency. An ounce of audit is worth a pound of prevention.”

How The Locals feel
Many of the 28 public citizens, who spoke, also input that they find the computerized voting system to be frightening and foreboding. “Imagine stealing an election,” said Arthur Keller of Palo Alto, a volunteer precinct inspector in Santa Clara County, “security should make it more difficult and expensive to do so.”

“If machines are used, they should be totally public, and have parallel testing,” said Ron Crane, of Santa Cruz. “Rip them to shreds. If there is a discrepancy, why did it happen?”Gretche+Villanueva+Bell+CA+Residents+Demand+lD4gKwawpcLl

“There is no such thing as perfect security,” Peter Neumann, principal scientist at the computer science lab at SRI International in Menlo Park admitted. With voting machines, he warned, there’s “no real incentive to do it right, but it’s essential to have full openness in the process.” Whatever machines are built should be built for “long-term life,” said Neumann. “We’re dealing with a flawed process.” David Dill, professor of computer science at Stanford University and founder of the Verified Voting Foundation, commented that “checks and balances in counting is a central point.”

A County Problem
Warren Slocum, assessor, county clerk and record of San Mateo County, noted that 13 million voters in 16 counties currently don’t have certified voting systems. A voting-certification process should be established in California, according to Alan Dechert of Granite Bay, Calif., president of the Open Voting Consortium. One alternative to machines, voting by mail, has been approved only in eight California counties.

Saying Goodbye To Pauling


Linus-Pauling-9435195-1-402 Linus Pauling, an accomplished professor, chemist, and two-time Nobel Prize winner, died at age 93 on his Big Sur ranch on Saturday. He was found in his home, having long suffered from poor health for the past several months.

Pauling was a native of Portland, Oregon where he received most of his formal education. He had a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Oregon Agricultural College in 1922 and a doctorate in chemistry and mathematical physics from Cal Tech in 1925.


He won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. His Nobel Prize for chemistry was for his work involving the nature of the chemical bond and the understanding of the structure of complex substances. His Nobel Peace Prize was for his crusade against nuclear weapons tests. He was best known for his advocacy of the use of Vitamin C as a preventative measure to ward off diseases, and that extra doses could extend normal life expectancy by 25 years.

Pauling’s interests and knowledge ranged from medicine to nuclear physics.

“I think one characteristic I have always had is that I knew something or did not, whether I understood something or did not understand it,” said Pauling, describing his scientific inquisitiveness in a 1993 interview. “And I wasn’t always happy if I didn’t understand something.”


He was a professor emeritus of chemistry at Stanford University. In addition to teaching at Stanford, he was an earlier faculty member at the California institute of Technology and the University of California, San Diego. He also taught at the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara. In 1973, he founded the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, which moved to Palo Alto in 1980. Henry Taube, a professor emeritus of chemistry and also a Nobel winner, said Pauling was the most influential chemist of the century.


His wife, Ava Miller Pauling, died in 1981 after 58 years of marriage. He is survived by his sister; four children, including Crellin Pauling of Portola valley; 15 grandchildren; and 19 great-grandchildren.

We Honor Him

Memorial services will be held in the near future at Stanford Memorial Church.

Fire In Conshohocken

Conshohocken Fire
What Happened?!
The fifth fire this year caused by careless smoking in Montgomery County occurred at a new condo complex in Conshohocken, which caused an estimated $5,000 in damages when the 29 yr old owner fell asleep while smoking in his condo unit Monday night, however no one was injured and other units remain undamaged.

Quick Action
The fire necessitated that the partially-rented complex be evacuated. Firefighters from Conshohocken Fire Company arrived at the scene that night after quickly responding to a 911 call, and then extinguished the fire shortly after.

“Smith fell asleep in his chair with a lit cigarette watching Monday night football,” said Fire Chief Carl Clancy, “When he awoke, the carpet next to his chair was on fire. He’s lucky to be alive.”

Controversial Complex
The Grand View Condominium Complex on River Road has previously been a controversial center for neighbors, who were worried about the complex worsening the congestion and traffic problems in the small town.

Fire Aftermath At Oakdale Adult School

After The Smoke Cleared

The three of them stood there teetering on the brink of heartbreak. Their school, their pride, and hard work in one fatal inferno had left them bereft of certainty towards the future. It was once a place where men and women could go to reconcile and rehabilitate their shaken lives. Where, that Monday afternoon, Jack Richter and Roger Ames should have been students in the middle of another day of classes. Where, that Monday afternoon, Jennifer Wilson should have been in the midst of another day at the office helping others to reach their true potential. Instead here they were staring up at the boarded up windows of blackened dreams, wondering if there would be any chance at a return to normalcy.

The Students

Roger Ames, 38, recently released for car theft has acknowledged that the neighborhood is apprehensive about the presence of “ex-cons” at the school and worries that the fire may have been “a message to get out”. However, not everyone that attends the school has a criminal past, and the vicious attack on the school demonstrates a lack of that fact as public knowledge. Jack Richter, 29, has been attending classes since last spring in attempts to receive his GED. “I dropped out when I was in high school. I was a dumb kid. This place was my second chance,” Richter said. “I hope they find it fast because I really need to join the military and start making something of my life.”

Arson or Hate Crime?

“I can appreciate Ms. Wilson’s sense of urgency, but this is a crime scene,” Oakdale Police Chief Bryant Tam said about the delayed investigation, “Unfortunately, our crime scene investigators are backed up in processing evidence from the scene, so until we know we have what we need, we can’t release the scene. It was arson, but now we need to know who is doing this.” His theories on the arsonist being a student, former student, or even a possible resident of the Oakdale community have yet to be proven but do not go unheeded.

The Woman In Charge

Jennifer Wilson, LSW and MEd, director, hasn’t let the vindictive crime completely deter her efforts to rebuild and support her students. In addition to somewhat harassing the police chief for answers, she has also moved into actively looking for another space to continue providing job, computer training, and high school equivalency courses to those in need. Since they have always seemed to have had a friendly relationship, she remains skeptical about the involvement of someone from the neighborhood in the arson, and focuses on repairing the physical and psychological damage to her school and its students.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys Watcha Gon’ Do

End Of Watch
End Of Watch was far more poignant than it leads the audience to believe it will be. The commercials try to sell the film as a witty cop comedy shot in the everyday shaky handheld camera style that seems to be dominating television nowadays, which is completely not the case. When it premiered in September the R rating should’ve clued some people into the serious underlying tones that would pervade the screen for the next hour and 49 minutes.

The Heroes
The movie begins with the introduction of Officer Taylor played by the tenacious Jake Gyllenhall, who also doubles as a film student at a university in California. He decides to tape himself and his partner Officer Zavala, played by Michael Pena, on their daily beat across one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in South Central L.A. The chronicle of these two loose cannons but wildly brave, and at times, reckless cops gives the audience a look into the lives of modern warriors. Throughout their journey the cops continue to stumble onto more than they bargained for.

You’re on Candid Camera
Thankfully the director David Ayer, who is well experienced in gritty, dirty cop movies such as the infamous Training Day starring Denzel Washington, decides to splice in some comic relief and seemingly mindless dialogue to pull away from the more gut-wrenching scenes. At times the constant shifting in odd camera angles adds a level of True Taxi Cab Confessions to much of the movie, but it works extraordinarily well in capturing the tension and severity of the situations that these cops place themselves in on a regular basis.

Leading Men
Although Jake Glyllenhall is committed to every role he plays, and has some experience with exploiting dangerous professions, like in the Academy Award-winning film Jarhead, it was really Michael Pena that stole the show. Pena delivered a great performance that wasn’t over the top. His acting chops were first established in intense and gripping films such as Crash, where he played a lowly handy man that struggles to provide for his family in a racially-charged society. He was meant to be the supporting actor, but someone watching could easily feel like Gyllenhall fell into his role. However, the exchange of power between the characters and the actors made them appear as real partners in hostile situations where they needed to depend on each other.

Their dynamic propelled the movie forward and greatly impacted the connection one could feel for these characters. Let’s face it, no one initially likes cops, and its hard to sell the plucky good cop dynamo duo to a skeptical audience. The director and the actors managed to refrain from the whole Starsky and Hutch routine though, and maintain a necessary realism that not only mirrored the form of the film and made it enjoyable as well as relatable.

That Ending…
Quite honestly I expected the film to be bad and I was thoroughly surprised with the ending, with the acting, the overall storyline and presentation. The tragic climax of the film in the last scenes shocks the audience out of the illusion of security and adventure created in the beginning. Suddenly the story becomes real and unavoidable, like an enjoyable ride that ends in a fiery car crash, and teaches the characters and audience a harsh lesson about life’s beautiful simplicities and unfortunate consequences.

I appreciate the topics and conversations that it raised between my fellow audience members and me during and long after the credits rolled. If you like deep impactful discussions with a little blood and gore against the backdrop of a film version of the reality show Cops, then this movie is for you. If not then go see it anyway. Bury the “I don’t want to see a gay cowboy and a Mexican on screen” mentality and look beyond the actors themselves to the portrayal of men and women that have risked their lives and families to keep us safe. Men and women whom face death everyday and continue to do so for all our sakes.
I give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Brains Before Beauty

Those Phenomenal Women
Images that have come to personify beauty, like the original revered Madonna and Aphrodite, have set women to an impossible standard for centuries. There is an underlying patriarchal view of the world that attempts to box beautiful concepts of women into stereotypes. Modern day Madonnas and Aphrodites found in our society, from the fast and glamorous Hollywood stars to the small town college students, have emerged to regularly shatter these commonly held perceptions. Elizabeth Levis is one of those phenomenal women.

“Yes. I’m a natural blonde,” Levis said. “I just get highlights.”

Elizabeth Levis
She boldly flaunts her nearly platinum blonde hair with pride, shrugging off the stigma that usually follows girls with blonde hair; but, it isn’t her hair or looks that encompasses who she is. In step with her idol, Marilyn Monroe, there are deeper and fascinating components that make Levis the sparkling pearl gently nestled in the sand waiting to be discovered.

Growing Up
Levis, nicknamed Lizzie, grew up in Center Valley, outside of Allentown, Penna., with a loving and a beautifully supportive family. “My family really focuses on making everyone happy and being selfless and appreciating what you have,” Levis said. Her father grew up very poor and had a tough family life; however his persistence led him to be a successful businessman as well as family man, who owns his own business and wondrously inspires his daughter to reach for the same goals in life. She attended Southern Lehigh High School, which was the typical “boring” small-town school according to Levis, and now is a freshman in Chestnut Hill College majoring in communications. She wants to entertain and be on TV one day, possibly in Philadelphia or overseas. “I want to be very successful, have a nice house, love what I’m doing and have someone to share it with,” Levis said.

Influences In Her Life
Women, like Marilyn Monroe, actively worked against stereotypes that were conveniently placed upon them, and eventually paved the way for girls like Elizabeth Levis. “I see parallels in the fact that instantly when people see me they think I am just going to be a ‘dumb blonde’ or ditzy,” Levis said, “also, when I was younger I kind of felt like a loner and tried to keep to myself and she experienced that a lot in her life.”
Although Levis isn’t striving to be the next Monroe, she has managed to find substance and a real idol she can identify with; regardless, of whether the world sometimes stereotyped, scandalized, or gossiped about her. It takes tenacious heroines like Elizabeth Levis or Marilyn Monroe to break out of the ‘dumb blonde’ mold and instill the same confidence in younger generations.

Blondes Have More Fun
“I look up to her because she came up from nothing,” Levis said.“She was adopted at a young age, and she wanted to be successful. She wanted to do something and she did.” Levis knows that she may not ever be a millionaire like an actual “Levi’s kid,” but a persistent attitude, modeled after her father and certain female idols, continue to drive her towards her passions and away from any negativity that society tries to force on her. Blondes do after all have more fun, but it is the confidence and integrity that truly makes Elizabeth Levis more than just that.