Friday, August 12, 2011

Soluto... my Windows issues are solved...

I recently installed a free utility called Soluto, and I'm quite honestly stunned by how good it is.  The goal is to speed up boot time, clean up drivers, and diagnose crashes.  It seems to be doing an excellent job on all of these things, but the really incredible part of it is the application's user interface.

It's amazing.



(Well done, folks!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Strange but true....

So google has this little microphone that shows up in their search bar.... and I accidentally clicked on it.
When the "Speak Now..." dialog opened up on me, I said "I don't think so", because I don't have a microphone on this computer.

...or at least, I didn't think I had a mic on this machine.....  those google people are scary!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bye Bye Elections

(This article is part of an ongoing series...)

I think our electoral process is broken.  Elections are held at the whim of a single party, generally at a point in time when they think they will win.  They interrupt the actual business of government, both during the election and for a period before and after it.  And to this writer, the promises made during elections are mostly forgotten once the ballets have been counted.

To fix this "brokenness", I suggest that we get rid of elections.

More specifically, we should replace the "general election" with a regular series of bi-elections.  So instead of electing 308 MP's in a single vote, we would elect one MP each week[1] or perhaps six each month.  Ideally, the elections will be in a reasonably random order, to avoid grouping specific constituencies into a single time period.

So what would this look like in practice?  Heaven knows.  In terms of campaigning, we could think of the parties as never campaigning, or always campaigning.  If the leaders spend too much time campaigning and not enough time governing, then eventually the voters will start voting for other parties.  If the government does a good job, they will see their support rise, and if they abuse their power, then you could expect seats to slip away to the opposition.

The office of the Prime Minister would change under this approach, since they might gain or lose a majority at any time.  In a minority situation, a non-confidence vote would not force an election, since general elections are no longer held.  Instead, the MP's would vote for a new PM, presumably one of the coalition leaders.

Humourous side-note: The title of this piece contains a homonym, and is somewhat of a pun.  I can think of four different interpretations of the phrase "Bye Bye Elections", each of which could have been used here.

[1] There are 308 seats in the House of Commons.  If we elect six ridings every month, then a single riding will hold an election every 51 months.  That is reasonably close to the current standard of four years for an election.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Talkin about a Revolution...

Revolution.  It's a frightening concept, but at the same time it's tremendously exciting.  There's been a lot of revolution in our world this year, and I'd like to think that this is a good thing.

While other people are rising up and over-turning their political systems, I think that there's a need for everyone to give thought to their own government, how it works, and especially, how it doesn't work.  Any human system is a compromise built to meet the needs of its constituents, and once these compromises have been reached, we rarely review them.  And can you blame us?  Redefining a political system is painful and hard.

I think that our system (the Canadian Federal Government) works for the most part, but that it is also somewhat broken.  So I'd like to throw some ideas on the table in order to foster some reflection and discussion.  Over the next couple of weeks I will be publishing some articles/essays on alternative approaches that might improve upon, or at least question the "status quo".

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Playoffs: Playing the odds

So my team is out of the playoffs.  Sigh.

This unfortunate turn of events has given me more time to think of other things though, and one of those things was the "fairness" of the playoff system.  In the NHL, sixteen teams compete in four rounds of playoffs, with each round being a best of seven elimination.  All things being equal, every team would have a one in sixteen chance of winning the Stanley Cup... but of course, things are never equal.

But what would happen if one of the teams was, say, twice as good as every other team in the league?[1]  What would their chances be of winning the cup?

Would you believe that they're more likely not to win the cup?

There.  That made me feel better.  (Okay, not really.  Sigh.)


[1] It's tricky to define what "twice as good" might mean.  For simplicity, I'll define "twice as good" as being twice as likely to win a single game.

Looking at this year's regular season, the top-ranked team earned 117 points, while the bottom-ranked team earned 62.  If all those games were played against each other, then the top team earned 65% of the points, which is 1.88 times the points earned by the bottom team.  If you only compare teams that made the playoffs, then you're looking at 117 to 93 points, which is only 1.25 times as many.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mike and Me

A couple of days ago, two students were ejected from a political rally because they had posted a facebook picture of themselves with another candidate.  This is the first election that they can vote in, and they were diligently listening to all sides of the story.  Somehow, the campaign office and/or the police decided that they were too dangerous to be in the same room with the candidate.  Check out the video that somebody nearby recorded (courtesy of CBC.)  Pretty dangerous.

For fun, I thought I might upload an image of myself with Ignatieff, but, unfortunately I've never met the man.  After a little programming, and some image stitching , I had my new facebook profile:

Me and Mike and Awish Aslam.  (Almost!)

If you want your own image, you can stitch one up with "Mike and Me", available from  The program captures your face from your webcam, and stitches it into the student's face.  Hit the space bar, and your face will switch to the other student.  Pose with a friend, and you'll both be included.

Pose with a friend.

Interested? Read more coverage of the story from the London Free PressCBC, Vancouver Sun, and the Globe and Mail.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Oh, they're good.  They're very good.

I mean the folks at Google, of course.

I just googled myself.  I'll admit it, I'm no different than anyone else.  But to my surprise, the top four results were actually references to me, and not some decade old obituary from some unfortunate who happens to share my name.  Wow.  Four out of four.  Astonishing.

Then I typed the same search into a "private" browser window, and discovered that to the rest of the world, I only get two of the top ten positions.  Of course, I'm sure that a query from France wouldn't even place me on the first page.

I'll assume that they aren't doing this on purpose.  But if they were, wouldn't it be brilliant?