Sunday, October 31, 2004

Sophomore evicted for fliers urging girls to lose weight

Sophomore evicted for fliers urging girls to lose weight - "Timothy Garneau, 20, of Berlin, said he posted the fliers as a joke because he was tired of waiting so long for the elevator. Garneau lived on the seventh floor of Stoke Hall." As a former resident of an 11th-floor dorm room, I can sympathize with this guy's plight, and think that kicking him out of the dorm for this joke is absurd. I think he's going about it in the wrong way, though. Guys are much easier to shame into taking the stairs (I had friends on the 5th floor who would sometimes take the elveator up to 7 and then walk down two flights of stairs to preserve their dignity), and chasing them away has the added benefit of improving the male/female ratio in the elevators ;-).

Free-market flu?

This Washington Post column claims that "The reason there's not enough flu vaccine to go around this year is that Americans have decided, consciously or not, that they don't want the government to get too deeply involved in health care." The rest of the article, however, could just as easily be used to argue that the shortage is the result of too much governmental involvement:
  • Changing flu vaccine production to faster, more modern techniques (like those used for other vaccines) would require lengthy and expensive FDA approval.
  • The government buys about 20% of the vaccine supply for military and other uses, but it refuses to pay market prices
In fact, the solution proposed at the end of the article includes a significant move towards a freer market (the government would pay market prices for its 20%). The free market can break down in a variety of ways when it comes to health care (the New Yorker has a good analysis of market forces and prescription drugs), but this year's flu vaccine doesn't look like one of them.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

More Diebold voting insecurity

Ed Felten has reported two cases of shockingly bad security design in Diebold voting machines (here and here). I knew there were a lot of problems with electronic voting, but I didn't realize the protocols were this naive. The security of the system seems to be predicated on the assumption that people can't make or modify (or in some cases even read) their own smart cards. Of course, electronic voting is not a very good idea even without these egregious flaws - I doubt it's possible to design an electronic voting system that's as good on the criteria that matter (auditability, anonymity, reliability) as, say, an optical scanning system.

Gizmodo : Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner

Gizmodo : Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner: "I've had a nasty bias against SC Johnson's Scrubbing Bubbles ever since, as a small child, I discovered that the bubbles do not actually have whisker brush mustaches."

I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt that way.