restraint

How to feel good about any possible election result

Edit: Well, this many not have been my finest bit of prediction ever. I think I will leave it here as a monument to failing to adequately plan for bad things happening.

So, we know that this election won't produce a clear result. It seems likely that Scotland will elect the SNP, England will elect the Tories, Wales will elect Labour, NI will elect... gosh, one of those parties that nobody ever understands or invites to debates because they're over the narrow sea and don't affect Westeros. This election has no certainties except, perhaps, that nobody will work with the SNP because... um... look, no deals with the SNP OK, so stop asking about that.

It's a confusing system and we're all seeking some crumb of comfort here. At this point we know that a Labour or Tory majority are extremely implausible and an SNP majority would require some pretty radical gerrymandering. So here's the run down of all the genuinely possible election results and more importantly how to feel good about them. The government formed will fully account for the likely votes of everyone in the UK. No wait, the government formed will fully account for the likely votes of everyone in Great Britain (except for viewers in Scotland who have their own programming at this time).

How to feel good about a Labour minority: This is a great result. Think about it. This is the Breakfast Club result. This is the weedy, weird-looking kid making good. This is the result you should hope for because it is a triumph for the forces of minor dorkiness. It's a slight triumph; it's a qualified triumph; to be honest it's going to take a good spin doctor to make it out to be a triumph at all; but for some that's the only triumph that they'll get. We should celebrate that, perhaps by awkwardly eating a bacon sandwich and listening to "Don't you (bracket) forget about me (close bracket)".

How to feel good about a Labour/LD/Green/Raving Loony Rainbow coalition: This is a great result. Think about it. This is the hippy primary school teacher result. Everyone gets to play. All the children who haven't been naughty ("Where do you think you're going Cameron and Farage?") get to decide what happens and play nicely together. This is the best possible, nicest, friendliest government that this country could ever have. Everyone gets a say, no matter how incompatible or borderline insane their opinions are. With this result we will be a kinder, gentler nation who also sometimes eats glue (although many of us advised that this would be a bad idea others were firmly in favour of eating glue).

How to feel good about a Labour/LD coalition: This is a great result. Think about it. This is the Mills and Boon result. Nick Clegg, his eyes sparkling and full of hope, the cruel shackle marks still visbile on his wrists, bounds over, free at last. "Ed, Ed, I've been a fool, it's always been you." This time it's different. This time things can work out. This time it's for real. Think of it as falling into the arms of the man you love after previously falling into the arms of the man you thought you loved before you realised his glaring flaws sometime around chapter three.

How to feel good about a Conservative/LD coalition: This is a great result. Think about it. This is the ruthlessly efficient result. When the government cuts your benefits, guts the NHS, reduces public services, sends soaring numbers to food banks and in the name of austerity removes funding to everything that was ever good about this country, you can be sure of one thing: they aren't doing this by mistake. You can be absolutely clear with this result that, through years of experience, none of what this government is about to inflict is through incompetence or an accident. They have a plan and they are exactly and precisely going to act on it. It won't feel good, it won't be economically prudent and it won't be to the good of the country but you can be absolutely assured this will be a completely professional transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Think of it as being efficiently and competently mugged by people much wealthier and more powerful than you. Isn't that somehow reassuring?

How to feel good about a Conservative minority: This is a great result. Think about it. Although I know and care about football as little as David Cameron, I believe this to be the Millwall result ("noone likes us, we don't care"). They have a coalition with nobody because nobody likes them and nobody will support them. Also there isn't, by the very definition of minority, very many of them. There is no way this can work as a minority government for long. If there's any place you've ever wanted to see David Cameron it's alone and surrounded by enemies. Think of this result as being like the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, only you hate Butch and Sundance and it doesn't cut away before the part where you get to see them get shot, repeatedly.

How to feel good about a Conservative/DUP/UKIP Alliance: This is a great result. Think about it. No, really think about it. OK, think about it a bit more. This is the Monty Python Yorkshiremen result ("you think you had it bad"). This is an election result you can tell your grandchildren about, if they live. You know with this result then any other election will always be a lesser evil. You will have bragging rights for the rest of your life. Imagine this hellish future. In the 25th century, the entirety of everything in the UK has been sold to the BarCapHSBC Alliance and you can barely afford to lease enough air to breathe. You crawl to the shattered ruins of a bar and some rudimentary Mordoch-owned system is beaming the State Opening of Parlimoids into your neocortex (plus 25 channels of sports and a terribly popular fantasy series that is worth the price of your soul and firstborn alone). Black rod is ushering the God-Queen Lizdianakateron (first of her name) to give her first speech to the United Kingdom of Kensington, Chelsea and parts of Richmond (everything else having ceded, been sold or sunk into the ocean because it was infested with foreign). The shambling (but 20th generation British) mutant at the bar turns to you and says "Gor blimy, I can't believe they've only gone and elected the Fleshflayinghellbeasts of Ultron VI" you can calmly respond "I take your point my hideous comrade that their platform of 'kill all humans and drink their blood' may seem extreme but let me tell you of the election of 2015 because that was a really bad result for humans in general and the UK in particular." You can be completely assured that this is the worst possible government that could ever happen and from hereonin the only way is up. After this we need fear nothing.
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Unconscious but breathing normally

This morning I was heading into work (a bit late to be honest) and crossing Westminster bridge. Quite often there's a bagpipe player there. This morning he was crouching on the pavement next to a largish lady. She was dressed quite strikingly in a bright neon blue dress and bright yellow croc-like shoes. She was also very deliberately rolling on her side like a child on a lawn, heading rather determinedly across the pavement and into the traffic. I like a bit of street performance as much as the next person so I stopped to see what they'd do next. Perhaps a tune, a dance or some lines from Shakespeare? Unfortunately, what she did next was to continue rolling right into the traffic. He held onto her to stop her going any further and the two of us managed to crouch down and drag her back onto the edge of the pavement.

I put her into a rather poor recovery position but with her head resting on my leg not her hand so she'd be a bit more comfortable. She was out but with her eyes open and not responding to anything. According to the piper, she'd started shouting at him, in particular insisting that he didn't love Princess Diana enough. He was trying to reassure her on this point when she collapsed.

The piper and another passer by started to dial an ambulance when we encountered the "people of a certain age are hilarious with mobiles" phenomenon. "What number is it?" they asked me. "It's NINE NINE NINE," I said extremely clearly. "Really, even on a mobile, are you sure?" "Yes, I'm completely certain." (You can use 112 or 911 but I didn't want to introduce doubt at this point.) A little while later they were still consulting each other. I couldn't get my own phone at this point as it was in my pocket which is on my leg which was under the lady's head.

Fortunately, as they mastered the art of phone a passing GP stopped to help (immediately deciding her first priority was to phone her next appointment to say she'd be late). The helpful lady passerby had checked the unconscious woman's bag and found medical records, some pills and something that indicated she was diabetic. The GP took her blood pressure then within a few minutes a motorcycle paramedic and two policemen showed up. The lady remained stubbornly unconscious but breathing (initially with her eyes open which was disturbing) with occasional little twitches.

I spent the time crouched on the pavement telling the unconscious lady that everything was going to be fine and an ambulance was on the way. The paramedic helpfully chipped in with "haven't got no bloody ambulances, it's the cuts isn't it?" which we all agreed was shameful (and not terribly reassuring). A blood test was started and various suggestions were made (trying to establish if she'd hit her head) and I managed to find a position where I could rest my leg a bit because crouching down with someone resting on your thigh for fifteen minutes can get a bit uncomfortable.

We found out the ladies name from her medical record and just before the ambulance arrived she started to come round a bit and eventually say something about having a migrane. (There was an intervening period where she could only communicate by nodding her head or shaking her head very slightly and only I could really say which she'd done because her head was on my leg... so there was quite a weird "No, she didn't hit her head." "Yes, she has just come from the hospital." "I don't think she's going to be able to answer a question about the nature and frequency of her fits by nodding.") About twenty minutes after it all started the ambulance showed up and she was able to sit up and get a ride. I shook the bagpiper's hand (seems from his accent he was either English or very posh Scots) because she would have certainly rolled under a car had it not been for him. I've no idea what happened next except that I was thinking about it so hard I ended up riding the tube the wrong way for fifteen minutes.
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Bet with andrewducker

I am making the following bet with andrewducker related to voting systems

"I bet Andrew Ducker that before May 4th 2033 the UK (or that part of the UK which stays with London after any devolution) will retain First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) for general elections. Further, no English county council/unitrary authority elections (of the type described in [1]) will switch system away from FPTP.

The person who loses will buy the winner a drink of their choice (within reason -- pints of champagne or bottles of aged whiskey are out) in a bar in the winner's home city... presence over video accepted if distance precludes attendance in person.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_local_elections,_2013"

Reasoning: Unrelated to bet but this is why I think the above.

I believe that, for the forseeable future the majority UK (or at least the England part of the UK) has no particular desire for voting schemes other than the simplest. I believe that there are plenty of systems better than first part the post but I think my belief is a minority one. Some political parties who currently support FPTP will in the short term have an advantage in switching to a different system (the Tories are probably in this position right now). However, they would appear cynical to switch to such a system in the near future. For at least ten years we will have important people in their cabinets who have recently publicly spoken out in favour of AV (as a result of the referendum debates) -- more so for the Tories than for Labour (who had more people in favour of AV).

For ten years a referendum is pretty unthinkable (as we "just had one"). After that it will take a few years for a party to gain consensus for a referendum to occur. I don't believe traditional media owners (newspapers and TV) will switch their preferences on which voting system they like as FPTP seems to provide easier to report on clear victories and such media owners have a strong preference for simple stories. Without the support of major political parties or traditional media, it will be hard to generate any momentum to change the voting system.

I do believe that any new electoral systems in the UK are likely to use more sophisticated forms of voting and FPTP will be the minority in new elections (for example if we get more mayoral elections). New systems are easier to change.
restraint

A message to application programmers

Your program is not the most important program in the world. It's not the most important program on my computer. It's probably not even in my top 10. Maybe at best I run it once a month. More likely I ran it once because I needed something to do that task and I'll get round to uninstalling it in due course. Please therefore:

1) Don't make a portion of your program load at start up. I know it may make loading your program faster (which I probably will not do in the typical month). I know it will mean I can get security updates (which I will not want or need unless I actually run your program). If you're a virus checker then you get a pass on this one. Otherwise, you might want to consider that 99 times out of 100 you are just annoying me by having your program do this. I do take the time and trouble to turn off the portion of your program that does this and I do become annoyed with you for doing it.

2) Don't update your program regularly (unless there's a security issue). Honestly, I don't use your program (whatever it is) that much. If you've introduced an epic new feature, I don't care... wait until there's ten epic new features please. Trouble me once every six months (at most). I've got around about 60 pieces of software installed right now. If you all update every month that's two updates a day -- in Windows, naturally each program has its own hand-rolled update process and they're all awful.

3) When I select close or press a button with a cross on it I want to close your program. You may think your program is terribly important and I don't really mean close. You may think I mean minimize and keep running. My computer has a button for minimize. If I want minimize I'll use that. I'm looking at you Spotify and you Skype. When I press the button that everyone else recognises as "shut down" then shut down. I know, I know, Skype, that means people won't be able to call me on Skype. I know Spotify, that means I won't be able to send and receive music. That is, in fact, why I pressed the close button. (I know I can find an option to re-enable the correct behaviour but I'm still annoyed at you for disabling the correct behaviour). [Edit -- and if you really believe novice users want skype to be still open when they click close, google how do I shut down skype or close skype.]

4) Don't dot crap associated with your program around my computer like a drunk shedding kebab wrappers. I don't want a shortcut on my desktop [Edit -- sure, put a default option to have it for novices but let me unselect that], I really, really don't want an eighteenth bundled toolbar on my browser. If I'm not running your program I don't want to know it's there. I don't want it taking a minute of my time. I know you probably get a fraction of a penny from a corporation somewhere every time you get your code to slip some crapware past me and install yet another browser bar or plugin but really, do you feel good about yourselves for doing it?
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And these ones are far away.

Did I see Ardal O'Hanlon at the theatre last night? I guess that would have to be a matter for the philosophers(*). Certainly I went to see Port Auhority and Southwark Playhouse. Certainly I chose to buy the tickets in part because of his presence. The play itself is an interesting enough affair albeit slightly unconventional. Three disparate Irish characters (one young, one middle aged and one elderly) give interspersed monologues at best tangentially connected about their lives and lost loves. For me the middle-aged guy's story (of being whisked from a mundane life into a cocaine and rock-stars lifestyle) was the funniest and some lines were delivered with that beautiful deadpan pathos that works so well in a Dublin accent.

However, as I'd forgotten Ardal O'Hanlon was in the play, I did not immediately connect him with the middle-aged bearded man speaking. Well, when I say immediately, I mean "until I happened to be browsing the leaflet for the play this morning". This provoked a little mental pause. In my mind, he's still fresh-faced father Dougal and that was nearly fifteen years ago now. Even now, I can't really connect the performance I saw with the person I thought I was meant to have seen. Mentally, I'm trying to slip it sideways and say "maybe he was the younger one" or "maybe he wasn't there that night".

Did I see Ardal O'Hanlon in a play? In a philosophical sense I honestly can't be sure although it seems certain I have seen a play and he was in that play.

Edit: It has been pointed out in email by D. Muir that I missed a golden opportunity to say "That... would be a philosophical matter."
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What to watch on TV

So, Caron and I (like most couples) sometimes watch TV series. As it's now the future we're pretty much free to choose between any TV series ever made that enjoyed any degree of popularity. We tend to have different series to watch sober (intelligent and interesting) and tipsy (dumb but fun). The thing is that we've "run out" or rather we can't now find one that we both will watch. There's a fairly difficult set of criteria.

1) Nothing with spaceships -- probably no sci-fi whatsoever but let's leave some wiggle room here. Caron's not likely to watch such.
2) Nothing prominently featuring policemen and especially not pathologists -- crime scene may investigate what they like but I'm damned if I'll watch them doing it.
3) Nothing currently running (unless there are a few seasons in the bag) -- don't want to get into it and find it jumps the shark one season in.
4) Nothing which is a cartoon and in particular nothing which is South Park.


What we have watched or tried:
Intelligent series:
A) West Wing -- Both love this. Took a bit for me to get into it but the final three seasons are so compelling and the debate episode may be one of the best pieces of television ever.
B) I Clavdivs -- obviously a total classic. Although it seems a little slow nowadays and some episodes are interrupted with five minutes of me going "Who is that again and how are they related to the other ones?" or "Really, he's her grandfather? Really? Then who is her father? I thought he was the brother?"
C) Numb3rs -- could not imagine a worse series if I tried. Caron was willing to tolerate this but I am not. This series should be burned and the ground sown with salt. It should never have existed. Everyone involved should be shot repeatedly until they stop doing whatever they did to create this. My god, I can't express how genuinely putrid this show is.
D) 30 Rock -- I like but not love this but Caron is not keen. It's not really that clever though.
E) House of Cards -- about to start this.
F) Yes Minister/Prime Minister -- Both love this although it hasn't aged brilliantly and it's a bit simplistic in some ways.

Dumb series:
A) Black Adder -- Both like this but season one is not as funny as I remember it being.
B) Buffy -- Caron likes this, I tolerate this. The mayor character I liked but there were four long seasons after that and one long series with pitiful special effects before that. Fitfully watchable if tipsy or drunk.
C) Angel -- I am not willing to tolerate this. If I never have to see David Boreyanus do his constipated angst face again then my life will be improved. Burn it with fire.
D) Coupling -- Obviously a classic stupid series although season four was probably not necessary.

What we watch because it's on currently but doesn't really count as either intelligent or dumb series:
A) House -- Both love this although selachimorpha leapage for me appeared to set in one season ago. Still worth it for the occasional brilliant performance by Hugh Laurie especially the last two season openers. It's been in self-parody mode for seven seasons now though.
B) Doctor Who -- Both tolerate this although Caron is continually annoyed by Matt Smith's habit of not being David Tennant and by Karen Gillan's habit of being and I am continually annoyed by Rory's death-prone nature.
C) Oh god what's it called with Malcolm Tucker (god my brain) you know, that one -- both love this although one of us appears temporarily unable to remember what it is called and the other one isn't here. Oh god... I'm going to have to google it. Yes, The Thick of It. Course it is.
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New culinary low

Today I reached a new low by failing to cook a Fray Bentos "put it in the oven in the tin and that's it" pie. For some reason the instruction to remove the lid before cooking had an "on no account" added to it. I remembered to open the tin but then left the lid on. This meant that the flaky pastry (the only really nice bit) welded itself to the lid. Fortunately, the heated metal disk with razor-sharp edges cauterised the wound it caused -- which is handy... I guess. I'll eat out tonight. It's safest.