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A brief essay on the subject of Alternative Voting Systems

The results of the 41st Canadian election (to wit: a Conservative majority in Parliament with about 40% of the popular vote) have engendered a bit of consternation among my more left leaning friends (and as a right-wing kook, many, possibly even most, of my friends are to the left of me), and a bit of reflexive stumping for the merits of alternative voting schemes, notably instant-runoff systems or proportional representation systems.

The first question I have for proponents: "what problem are you trying to solve?" That's not rhetorical. The second question is: "how's your voting system working out where it's been tried?" Also not rhetorical.

The Room's Canucks-Nashville Game 1 Tag Cloud

The Room is a virtual (IRC) space where I often spend my time during Canucks games. This is clouded-up version of the transcript of Game 1 vs. Nashville. Contains some harsh language, and the evidence of successful tag-cloud spamming:

This is why The Room can't have nice things. I was also more diligent about stripping housekeeping messages out of the corpus.

The Room's Canucks-Black Hawks Game 7 Text Cloud

The Room is a virtual (IRC) space where I often spend my time during Canucks games. This is clouded-up version of the transcript of Game 7. Contains some harsh language:

Canucks Fan has Fun with Election Graphics

Please use this for amusement only. PDF version here. "Canada trendline" document, um, repurposed from Nanos' overnight polling document. Best viewed bigger:

Product Reviews Under Duress, or Buff Books are Fun!

Earlier this week, someone asked, on a Usenet forum,

So what's the verdict on SRAM?

The inquisitor was asking about a relatively new drivetrain for road racing bicycles, a field with only three vendors at the high end, including SRAM. The product itself is not universally interesting, but it started me musing about the habits of specialist magazines (web and print) whose content includes a lot of product reviews, and who derive a lot of advertising revenue from the vendors of those products. Insiders refer to them as "buff books." I've written these sorts of reviews.

Used Car Buying, or Madness Has its Place

(Apologies to Larry Niven.)

TLO and I just bought a car. Through a torturous process*, we concluded that the Nissan Versa hatchback was the least worst car that will meet all of our needs and our most fervently expressed wants. Because we're on a budget and can't afford new-car smell, we're looking at used Versas.

(What were those wants and needs? Four doors, so we can carry three adults in comfort. Automatic transmission for TLO. Reliable. Very small, so it wasn't harder to park than our New Beetle, but at least as much cargo space as the Beetle. Air conditioning. And within those parameters, I wanted to get a quiet, somewhat luxurious car, and said I'd like keyless entry and maybe cruise control).

Predictions for cameras, or what should you buy?

Update: This post has attracted a lot of interest, and I'd like to just link to a few resources that are very interesting for "what-should-I-buy?" issues: Snapsort's comparison page is breezy and brilliant for quick camera rundowns. (example: Pentax K-x vs. Sony NEX-3). DP Review is one of the best all-around camera review sites, and while I once teased them about their skewed rating system, they've revised it, making their work even more useful.

A Year in Review Review: 2010? edition

Maktaaq reminded me that I usually do something at the end of each year to describe that year, which is useful, because I forget things.

So, here's a review of last year's year in review, which included some over-optimistic resolutions along with its recap of 2009.

In 2009, our dog died. In 2010, two of our fish died. That's an improvement.

In 2009, I was a finalist in a win-a-car contest, with a 1:10 chance of driving home a winner. I didn't win. In 2010 I was a finalist in a win-a-car contest, with a 1:10 chance of driving home a winner. I didn't win. I could not plausibly make this up.

Not all Costume Dramas are good

TLO and I saw The King's Speech Monday night, as a sort of last hurrah to our holiday times. I said to TLO (and meant it) that it was a good movie. It features a stunt-role for Firth, and an acceptable job by Geoffrey Rush (his Magical Speech Therapist is given a slightly scheming, maybe even creepy-controlling edge, and that's good).

But think about the plot carefully: Edward VIII is not up to the royal duties of document-handling, and not marrying divorcees. George VI stammers and is thus hopeless at public speaking. But with the support of a speech therapist, lovable Bertie makes it through. Meanwhile, actual vital decision-makers of England (Chamberlain, Churchill...) were relegated to applauding his great effort.

The Hierarchy of Christmas-Related Movies

So the standard question is "What's your favorite Christmas movie?" My standard answer was Die Hard until it became In Bruges which I like much more.

These responses are funny because they're not really Christmas movies in the sense most people mean. And yet both qualify by actually taking place at Christmas.

This confusion is amusing, but I can fix it. As my gift to you this season, I present the Christmas Hierarchical Ring Index System Tracking Movies And Stories (CHRISTMAS; since this is still indevelopment, I call the current version eXperimental Movie Arrangement System, or XMAS).