Monthly Archive for October, 2007

Ovaltine is a liquid?

Ovaltine DiskI have a can of Ovaltine crystals that has been in my cupboard for around 10 years now. Today I was going to throw it out, but thought I’d open it first. The can felt a bit heavy, like it was half full. But when I opened it, it appeared to be empty. Then I looked down to the bottom of the can, and saw a shiny disk of what appeared to be a smooth black liquid. But it was hard, and did not flow freely.

Apparently, Ovaltine crystals are actually a liquid, just an extremely viscous one. It reminds me of the University of Queensland Pitch Drop Experiment.

The world’s most complicated and dangerous soft drink

 

Ramune Lychee drink

 

Found this crazy drink at a T&T Asian grocery store in Toronto: Ramune Drink, from Shirakiku. Lychee flavour. It must be the most complicated and dangerous soft-drink in the world.

Check out the instructions for opening the bottle:

Ramune opening instructionsHow to open:

  1. Remove the seal from the top.
  2. Detach the plunger from the center of the cap.
  3. Place the plunger on top of the bottle.
  4. Press down firmly with the base of your palm to release the marble.
  5. Throw away the seal, cap, and plunger.
  6. Have fun drinking Ramune!

Plungers? Marbles? What the hell am I getting into here? Must follow these instructions to the letter. Otherwise it could be dangerous:Ramune warnings

  • DO NOT SWALLOW THE PLUNGER. Throw it away immediately after opening.

     

  • Adults should open the bottle for small children and supervise drinking.
  • Do not try to remove the marble from the bottle to avoid injury.
  • Do not freeze the bottle or store it in direct sunlight.
  • Do not consume if the marble is broken, missing or descended before opening.

Umm… maybe I’ll just have a Coke instead.

Ron is bitterly disappointed in the population of Ontario

We have an interesting election coming up in Ontario. There are two parts to it: one that doesn’t matter, and one that does.

The part that doesn’t matter is the standard “puppet on the left or the puppet on the right?” question. As usual, many people seem to have some reason for preferring one puppet or the other. He’s a snappy dresser. He has a strong chin. He says the things I want to hear. He’s such a nice man. Whatever.

I’ve never really been interested in that question. In my experience, it’s never made much difference which puppet ends up in power. The Liberals of today are distinguishable from the Conservatives of last year only in name. Every election time, they take up opposite positions on a range of issues, not because of any strong belief in what’s right, but because they know they can never get elected by agreeing with the incumbents.

For that reason, I’ve never really bothered with them. I feel there is only one choice on the ballot: the Conserverals. Why should I waste my valuable time on this crap? Do you like the Conserveral puppet on the left hand, or the Conserveral puppet on the right hand? Which Conserveral has the nicest hair, and the best-tailored suit?

At this point, there will always be somebody telling me that if I don’t vote, I don’t have the right to complain. That pisses me off. I sure as hell do have the right to complain! Citizenship in a free country gives me that right. Not voting, for whatever reason, does not take away that right.

Western people may not realize it, but many countries we do not consider properly democratic do also have elections. China does, Vietnam does. Of course, the Communist party always wins, it’s a foregone conclusion. Few people bother to vote, because there’s really no point. Do those people thereby surrender their right to complain about it? I think not.

The situation here in Canada is different, in my opinion, only in degree, not in kind. We have two major parties, not just one. But our two major parties are indistinguishable from each other.

Why does it suck so bad? How did it get this way? That brings us to the second section on the ballot in this year’s election. The part that actually matters. Our system sucks so bad, because of the “first past the post” voting system. What that means is that whoever gets the most votes wins. And that’s the whole system. It has the advantage of simplicity, even a moron can understand it. And it was a practical system in 1763, before long-distance communication became easy. But its value pretty much ends there.

There are actually a lot of ways to run an election. It’s actually quite an interesting field, and can be studied with a fair bit of mathematical rigor. There are many criteria one can use in comparing voting systems. Here are some of them:

  • Voters should never have an incentive to vote differently than their true desire. That is, “strategic” or “tactical” voting should be of no value. If you truly like the Green party, but you believe you have no chance and therefore vote for the Conservals, that is strategic voting. Strategic voting distorts election results so they don’t reflect the true desires of the voters. A good voting system should make strategic voting useless, so people don’t do it.
  • If the majority of people favour a candidate, that candidate should always win.
  • It should always be better (for a voter) to vote honestly than to not vote at all.
  • Casting a vote for a candidate should never reduce that candidate’s chance of winning. “Runoff” type voting systems typically fail this criteria, which leads to strategic voting again.

These are just some of the possible criteria. There’s alot more information on this in the Wikipedia article on voting systems. It’s an interesting read.

An especially interesting result that these studies have turned up is that there is basically no system that is perfect. It is theoretically impossible for a voting system to satisfy all of the interesting criteria. Any voting system will always have some kind of flaw somewhere.

But another result that turns up is that, out of all the possible voting systems that have been analyzed, the “first past the post” is pretty much the worst of them all. Any other voting system would be better than the one we have.

The system being proposed here in Ontario, Mixed Member Proportional Representation, has flaws, for sure. They all do. But it can’t be worse than what we’ve got. Nothing can be worse than what we’ve got (unless we just abandon democracy altogether.) This is a no-brainer people!

So, why is that all the newspaper articles I read that talk about this are all about how the majority of Ontarians don’t know or care about this? For the first time in living memory, we have a chance to make a real difference, and you don’t care? You just want to go on forever switching back and forth between the same two self-serving corrupt governments every time one of them gets caught up in some stupid scandal? What is wrong with you people?

What I fear the most is that the important question on this ballot will end up with hardly anybody even bothering to vote on it. And then the government is going to interpret this crappy result as some kind of a “mandate” for the “first past the post” system. We won’t get another chance to fix this mess in our lifetimes. And that will suit them just fine… they like the status quo. It’s great for maintaining that two-party system that has served them so well. They know that even if they lose this one, they’ll be back in a few years, after the other guys screw up again.

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