I am off to Rosso tomorrow to work and find some booze and then to Kaédi to work and party for Halloween. This party has been a major logistical undertaking, but I think it is going to come together… Then it is back home to watch the elections. They are going to be close. It will be exciting in any case.
Archive for October, 2004
Well, the GRE is all done with. All in all I found it distressingly easy. I was taking the paper version and since the nearest testing center is in Egypt and I don’t feel like paying $600 to take a four hour test. The questions on the paper version are grouped in sets of easy, medium and hard. I kept getting to hard questions and thinking them easy. This leaves two possibilities:
- I am amazingly intelligent and capable of such quick discernment that the questions were beneath me
- The questions included a trick that changed the answer and I missed the trick
Given that I couldn’t generally see the trick, #2 is significantly more likely. I’ll find out in about two months one way or another.
One nice break though was the essay question. The prompt was something like, “a university education should offer a breadth of courses to ‘truly educate’ a student.” One of the courses I took at TTU for entrance into the Honors Program was Honors 101. For that class we had to do a paper where we went around interviewing various people on four subjects:
- The purpose of a university education
- The function of the sciences in a university education
- The function of the humanities in a university education
- The meaning of life
So, I had already written this essay. It was better than that though because later in college I went to a couple conferences and was part of a panel that talked about the pedagogy of Honors 101 and my part of the presentation was the paper. Depending on time I would often summarize some of the different positions that students might take on the issues. In short, I spanked it. Not that Berkeley will care.
I did though do my essay in pen and that is an error whose magnitude has as of yet to be seen. There was nothing on the sheet to tell me not to do it in pen, but in the instructions for the test it mentioned not using pens in general. So, hopefully they don’t throw out my scores for illegal ink usage.
The only edible things in my house are a jar of mayonnaise, some beef jerky and vegetable shortening. So, upon getting up this morning breakfast possibilities were sorely limited. There’s a boutique right around the corner that sells fruit and cereal and all sorts of appropriate breakfast fares. In the end though, not surprisingly, lethargy won out and I dined on tasty beef jerky dipped in mayonnaise. Yum, the breakfast of champions. Champions of what I’m not sure, something surely…
In other news, I have been feeling a bit nauseous most of the morning. I hope I’m not coming down with anything.
I got a reply to my post on voting methods saying essentially, “if Nader makes it through the first round he is more fit to run against Bush and anyone putting Nader is going to put Kerry second anyhow.”
This is a valid critique of the particular example I gave, but not of the actual issue.
Right now we have two parties. I fully expect this to remain true until we see some sort of voting process reform because any third party will necessarily draw more heavily from one party than the other, weakening it. In the political spectrum though there is everything from communists to anarchists. All in all our two parties are not that markedly different. They can’t be. They have to stay near the middle of the bell curve in order to garner enough political support to seriously oppose the other party.
Anyone voting for a third party candidate right now would almost certainly put the main party candidates in the same order. I.e. Green party voters would put Kerry before Bush and libertarians the opposite. In a system with a wider spectrum of positions this would not necessarily be true.
Also, imagine if there was a candidate who was generally attractive to one party, but who had some unpopular opinions on a couple single voter issues like abortion or gun control. One of the things about the Nader campaign is that he has not gotten very much press coverage of his actual positions. His language in general is very straightforward and if this was actually making it into the media more, there are almost certainly be a significant number of people who would not want to see him elected. (Mostly Bush supporters, but we are giving him some hypothetical positions unpalatable to moderate democrats.)
Imagine then that there are lots of democrats who like the idea of him getting elected, but those moderate ones who don’t like him would rather see Bush in office. So the ballots could look like this:
- 35% Bush, Kerry, Nader
- 34% Nader, Kerry, Bush
- 16% Kerry, Bush, Nader
- 15% Kerry, Nader, Bush
So Kerry gets pushed out in the first round because he has 31% (#3 (16%) + #4 (15%)) which is less than Nader’s 34% (#2) or Bush’s 35% (#1). Kerry’s seconds then get divvied up and Bush wins 51% (#1 (35%) + #3 (16%)) to Nader’s 49% (#2 (34%) + #4 (15%)). This is despite the fact that 65% (#2 (34%) + #3 (16%) + #4 (15%)) of people preferred Kerry to Bush. These numbers are close, but this is not really a fringe case. I just kept them close to try and show realism. This is something that can happen under a variety of circumstances.
Not that I am against instant runoff as an alternative to plurality. I just think that the possible drawbacks need to be known.
This is something I wrote in reply to a message on a list I am on. It is something I find interesting, so I wanted to put it here too…
Voting process reform is one of the things I think the US really needs to put into place and that there is no substantial reason not to do. As it is, all that we are doing is knowingly using a system that doesn’t put people in office in accordance with the desires of the people as much as possible. It is like driving with a flat tire. No one is going to somehow argue that driving with a flat is good for a car. Likewise, who is going to argue that a democracy should not have leaders in accordance with the desires of the people?
There are things like the electoral college which center around a debate as to whether to define “the people” geographically or by simple majority. That the system should represent the will of the electorate is unchanged though.
I’ve read up on the issue because the math of determining the will of the people as effectively as possible really interests me.
Instant runoff is essentially what you describe. I get a ballot, I rank the candidates. The ballots are counted, whoever has the least number of votes is eliminated and their second choices given their votes. This continues until only one person is left.
The problem is that the system only works properly if the party I am choosing over one of the primaries is going to for sure loose…
Let’s say I mark my ballot:
In principle, Nader will get eliminated in the first round with my token vote counted and my “real” vote going to Kerry.
The problem is that a bunch of people doing just what I did could possibly cause Kerry to lose in the first round since even though he may on average be ranked higher, he received fewer first round votes. Nader may then be eliminated in the second round leaving Bush the winner. So, the ability for a third party candidate to spoil the election is still present. It just changes it so that the third party candidate has to be strong enough to push one of the major contenders
out of the first round.
A site I like on this issue is, www.electionmethods.org. They have a listing of different criteria laid out as mathematical axioms and situations where various voting procedures (mainly IRV, since it is the most well-known) fail.
I arrived at my house at 1am last night completely worn out after a long day trying to get computers to work. I drug myself up to my door and put the key in the lock. It turned about halfway and then stuck completely, much to my distress. I tried turning it back and it wouldn’t. I tried jiggling it to no avail.
I couldn’t just crank on it because the lock, like most everything here, was made in China. Nothing against the Chinese, but their choice of fabrication materials is sometimes strange. For instance my keys would at first glance appear to be made of steel, like keys back in the States. Given the strength of the metal though, it is much more likely that it is made out of very thick aluminum foil. This means that even my most meager of attempts were bending the key and threatening to break it off.
Eventually I just gave it a yank that pulled it out of the lock. I then found I couldn’t get it back in. Again, recall that the setting is me standing exhausted in front of my house at 1am after a good 12 hours at the university.
I take a look around and argue the wisdom of sleeping on the sidewalk. A minute passes and I trudge out to buy a sandwich walk on over to Marc’s. I get to his place about 2am and crash exhausted on his couch, not to awaken until my French teacher calls me at 9am the next morning to ask me why I’m not at home.
“Ugh,” I think to myself and wander back home.
I don’t know what the hell I did to that lock, but the quote that came to mind was from Something About Mary, “How in the world did you get the beans above the frank?” There are a set of pins that are pushed up by the key. There are breaks in each one at different places and the different heights on the key make the breaks line up so the tumbler can turn. Somehow my exploits of the night before had gotten is so that pins lined up with the flat side of the key rather than the bumpy side.
A locksmith came in to try and open the door, but not surprisingly he was not successful. Eventually he just went at it with a hammer and screw driver. He managed to destroy the inside of the tumbler and remove the pins, but it still wouldn’t turn. So, he just took a crowbar and pried at the door until the bolt snapped. I suppose that cheap materials sometimes have their advantages.
I’d not really noticed, but the now destroyed lock is not attached to my door with screws. Instead it is welded straight to the metal of the door; making it irreplaceable without calling in a welder. Great.
My house is now secured with a big padlock. It ought to be fine though.
It is so completely and totally in my best interests to see that these pictures are never seen by anyone. Marc has a strange fascination with taking pictures where I look idiotic and putting them on the web. From our recent Mali trip there is a whole series of Will asleep pictures. I can’t help it though; they are just too fuckin’ funny not to share.
Well, by all reports, my hacking cough is only bronchitis and not tuberculosis. Until I start coughing up blood or the chest X-ray I’m getting indicate so, my positive TB skin test will only indicate exposure.
Apparently, most of the time when people are exposed to TB their bodies wall off the infection in their lungs. So, you have it, but it isn’t really doing anything to you. The drugs to get rid of it are taken once a day for 270 days. They have to first break down the wall your body has built and then kill the TB. If I was older, I would have to go off alcohol for nine months while taking them. As it is, my young liver should let me imbibe occassionally.
Me remembering to take a pill every day for nine months… Suck.
I just hate deleting these. If you knew the girl, you’d know how out of her normal character this is. I think that is what makes it so entertaining…
Jess is headed down and taking some Nestle Mont Blanc. I bought it because it was 400um (regularly 1200um), and then remembered my dispositions. I didn’t know what a praline was exactly though, only having seen the term in conjunction with ice cream. I was debating between it being a confection like caramel and a nut, so when asking Dara if she liked pralines I also asked if she knew if they were nuts. Her response:
Dara: 10/10/04: 18H07 Can’t answer that. The only nuts i like r peanuts & â€¦ yeah, nevermind.
The next one is intriguing more so than cute. I laid out my plans leading up to Halloween:
- Oct 23: Take the GRE
- Go to Richard Toll and find molasses and whiskey
- Catch the shuttle to KaÃ©di
- Oct 31: Shake my booty
- Oct 31: Watch some porn
- Oct 31: Get drunk with Hitch
- Oct 31: Make out with Dara
- Nov 2: Watch the elections
In approximately that order. Her response:
Dara: 10/11/04: 7H50 I had a feeling that was ur goal. My goalâ€¦ to enjoy myself in every way possibleâ€¦ so we have the same goals, nice.
At this point I just want the opportunity to reconcile the reasonably quiet girl I hung out with a few weeks ago and the incipient nymphomaniac text messaging me.