Monday, December 26, 2005


I have returned from the magical and windy land of Burlington, back to mine resting place in Kitchener. But fast a grand battle approaches, with Murphy staring straight into mine eyes, daring me to assume something may possibly go right.

So yes, this Wednesday, the movers show up. I point, they pack. In the end, I should be reduced to a suitcase, some carry-ons, and my trusty laptop. Then, I live out of a suitcase anywhere in Ontario that will take me; likely right here in Kitchener, though there's talk of a Warcraft marathon at Jae's too :D

This will continue until Monday, where I will fly out to Seattle, move into a temporary place, and start the slow grind towards a solid and stable life. I start work on Monday January 16th.

Yes, I can come to Vancouver. Maybe I can even come to see you. Maybe you can even come see me. If Microsoft ever assigns me temp housing. I will be reachable at my current cell phone number for the foreseeable future, so just call me there. I have no idea how long I'll have internet for, so don't rely on that for now.

In other news, I have had my first paper accepted, at the Engineering of Autonomic Systems Workshop 2006. I'll be presenting in Columbia, MD, somewhere in April 24-28th. I'm pretty excited about my first refereed publication ("Constructing an Autonomic Computing Infrastructure Using Cougaar"). We'll see if they dismantle my ideas in a workshop as quickly as the reviewers dismantled my flimsy excuse of a paper.

Merry Feast of the Winter Vale, and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

English Leader Debate 1

In perhaps my longest ever session watching CPAC (and they have no commercials! when is a man supposed to take a bathroom break!), I watched the 2 hour English leader debate held yesterday in Vancouver. This followed a French debate the day before, which was apparently a bit more timid.

While I don't necessarily have a perfect memory, here's a few of the issues that may be relevant to readers here.

Western alienation: How do you deal with the western provinces feeling left out or without a voice in Ottawa? Well Harper says that's what the Senate is for (regional representation), and insisted strongly that he would make the Senate elected instead of appointed. Martin instead said he tries to keep the West involved by appointing high-profile cabinet positions from the West (eg. Ujjal Dossangh (sp?)). Layton just said that NDP MPs could represent the West in the HoC. And Duceppe of course with your standard "The West wants in, Quebec wants out", emphasizing that Quebec has plenty of influence, but still wants to leave.

Tax break: Huge surplus = time for tax break. Martin thinks the best way is through an income tax cut, while Harper thinks a GST cut would be more effective. In general, the income tax cut would likely mean more $$ for working Canadians than a GST cut, but not help those at the low end of the scale as much; one example being the disabled woman with no income who asked the question. Heh, for you students out there, GST cut for the win. Duceppe wanted to exempt certain items from GST, which the others thought would be expensive administratively. Also, Layton hammered on the issue of the Liberal's corporate tax cut, which were blocked by the NDP last year, and came back to the table just before the election - Martin wasn't commenting on it at all, and preferred to switch the topic as quickly as possible to the personal income tax topic.

Gay marriage: Harper wants to have a free vote on it, but wouldn't use the notwithstanding clause to enforce it. Martin basically says the Charter is clear, and therefore Harper can't possibly enforce his party's predominent view of traditional marriage. Duceppe and Layton both supported gay marriage, plus rather sarcastically reminded people that the issue was already voted on and resolved in a free vote, so why are we still debating. Though I find it a little hypocritical that Duceppe would say that there's no need to revote on decided issues; how many referendums have we had in Quebec so far?

Voting/accountability: Harper keeps singing about some "Federal Accountability Act", while Layton keeps talking about the "Ed Broadbent report". Both want fixed election dates, and the latter (though not mentioned in the debate) also proposes a move to mixed proportional representation. Layton was eager to prevent MPs from switching parties (but they could still go independent) without first having a byelection, Harper just wants to prevent the Liberals from buying off his MPs but doesn't want to go as far as Harper. Martin just sang his own praises for the Gomrey commission, while Duceppe emphasized how much money Martin has taken away. Pretty much all of them were eager to limit contributions from unions and companies, and limit individual donations to parties to small values, though it strikes me that this was really a process started by Chretien's Liberals (and I have trouble believing Martin likes it, he's quite the big-spending corporate fundraising dinner lackey, or at least he used to be).

The rest of the discussion, while exciting and all, didn't highlight any serious platform differences and were just taking shots at each other for votes. All four were very good speakers, though Layton in particular had a tendancy to abuse timelimits and was cut off several times, and his opening and closing speeches were a bit too memorized.

Next round is in January, and they should be quite interesting indeed!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Chronicles of Narnia

Saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night. 5/5! A+++++! Excellent ebayer! Would buy from again. [heh, considering how obviously they've engineered this for a six-cap, I'm sure the next movie will be up soon ;) .]

I'll be the first to admit it's been about 15 years since I made it through the famous books from C.S. Lewis. But, from limited memory, it seems to be a fairly accurate rendition of the tale. The acting was stellar from everyone involved, from the child actors that played the four siblings, to veteran Liam Neeson as the deep majestic voice of Aslan. The professor was interesting - would have almost sworn it was Jim Carey (having watched the garbage that was A Series of Unfortunate Events); except in this movie, the professor was actually played well. The CG was pretty good - perhaps not as convincing as Lord of the Rings, but as believable as a talking beaver couple ever is.

While still a children's story, definitely worth watching for any age, especially if you read the books as a kid. Watching the movie, you might find some interesting hidden parallels that you missed when you were younger.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Electoral reform

Heh, time to switch away from the engineering-centric content for a bit, and onto some more interesting topics. Or so you think, until I thwack you with a giant mathbat! (you won't see it coming...)

Electoral reform is an issue that I'd personally like to see addressed by the next party to rule the country. It's been something that parties have been promising for years, but has yet to be seriously addressed at a Federal Level.

But what is electoral reform? Well, Canada, and most provinces, run on a single member plurality system, which basically says whomever gets the most votes in a constituency wins. The government is formed from each constituency's winner. Sounds good, right? If 20 people vote for Amy, and 10 people vote for John, Amy heads off to government on our behalf.

The problem is that the system breaks down pretty badly, especially when you have more than two parties involved. Let me give you a few examples.

Consider 3 constituencies, with 10,000 people each voting. First constituency votes 4000 Liberal, 3000 Conservative, 3000 NDP. Second: 4000, 3000, 3000. Third: 0, 10000, 0.
What are the totals? 8000 for Liberals, 16000 for Conservatives, 6000 for NDP. The Conservatives double the liberals for votes, but the Liberals get twice the seats as the Conservatives. The NDP gets nothing.

Now, consider 100 constituencies, and each votes 4000 Conservative, 3500 Liberal, 2500 NDP. With 40% of the votes, conservatives control all 100 seats, with the other parties getting nothing.

Consider a single constituency. You prefer NDP, then Liberal, and really don't want Conservatives. Now the media publishes an advance poll, showing the vote split 50% Liberal 50% Conservative. Who do you vote for? Likely Liberal, since you'd prefer the conservatives to lose, and know the NDP won't win. An advance poll has basically made you lie about your preference. What's worse, say the poll says that 98% of people are going to vote conservative. Why even bother voting if no matter what the outcome will be exactly the same? This basically means a well-manipulated poll can control who gets elected!

My final example: say you're a Green Party supporter. But say the Green Party candidate was going door to door, and kicked your dog when Spot went to sniff and say hi. Sadly, we cannot execute the candidate, plus it puts us in a dilemma. Do we vote for the mean guy who kicked our dog but whose party is our favourite? Or do we vote for a nice representative whose party policy is shady.

One may ask: if the system has so many issues why do we still use it? Well, it's EASY! Any idiot can see that 10 > 8, and therefore figure out who won. Most idiots can tick off a single box. Plus the system does have some other advantages, like its tendancy to produce majority governments in most cases.

Are there alternate systems? Yeah, plenty. And used in a lot of places too. One popular system is called runoff voting. Basically, it requires the winner to get a majority. If they don't, take the least popular guy off the ballot, vote again. Sometimes with another full vote, or often just making a ballot that lets you choose your "second" choice so it can be done automagically.

One close to home: Single transferrable vote (BC-STV). A proposed replacement to SMP in BC legislature, that missed its 60% provincewide support target in a referendum by only 3%. Variants of the system are already in place in Australia and Ireland. Basically, you make the ridings approximately 3 times as large, and they elect up to 3 (normally, depends on riding) MLAs per riding. A voter ranks the candidates in order (1, 2, 3...) up to however many they want to rank. You could only rank candidates from one party, spread it out across multiple parties, etc. If your first choice candidate won't get elected, your second choice candidate gets your vote, etc. Once your first choice gets enough votes to be elected, any extra votes go to the second choice to help them get elected.

Of course, there's plenty of others.

Now if only they'd choose one. Choose ANYTHING instead of SMP.

PS. Interesting page from an SFU site.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I've added Google Ads to the blog. Pretty neat. Takes about a day, all told, to get going. Sign up is only a few minutes, a few hours to be approved, and another several hours if you've not already been crawled by Google, for them to index you and choose ads for you. There's a ton of different layouts you can try out, and it pastes nicely as a div onto your page.

I think all the ads are pay-per-click. No idea what the rate is. Presumably low. I'm guessing I'll never actually build up a big enough total to pay out, since nobody reads this, and those that do would never click ads. You can add specific referral bars for Firefox+Google, or for AdSense itself, which are far more lucrative, and may be a good idea.

That is all.
PS comment more.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


What a great idea! A movie about the software development process!

Wait... no... that's horrible!

Okay, well horrible to the average everyday movie buff. But I am certainly curious personally, and many people who just starting to work on software will likely also want to see this.

Basically, it's about a group of four interns at a company called Fog Creek Software, a New York software company headed by CEO Joel Spolsky (whose blog regarding software is fairly well-read), working on Project Aardvark., a project to create a web-based remote assistance service that would later become Fog Creek Copilot. In 12 weeks, the four interns had to take the project from design to shipping. Wow, now THAT would be one hell of a fun internship.

I want one. Damn them being sold out already!

There's a trailer. It's short.

PS. Does anyone actually read this anymore?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Someone had to do it eventually

"Dating Design Patterns".

Enough said.


(okay, if you're not in software, you may not get it - just click the link)

For more details: their homepage!