Saturday, 30 April 2011

Preffered Preferences

The 'No to the Alternative Vote' campaign objects that AV would give the same weight to low preferences as to the first preference, whereas, they argue, the first preference must be the most important.

I disagree.

Although some of our preferences may be more important to us than others, the most important need not be the first. I think it will quite often not be.

I divide the candidates competing for my vote into three groups: the tolerable, the merely intolerable, and the unspeakable. So for me the most important preferences are those that separate the tolerable from the intolerable, and the intolerable from the unspeakable.

Conversation with acquaintances suggests that I am far from alone in my approach, and I cannot believe that those campaigning against AV are unaware that for many people the most important preference is not the first. To argue as they do they must be dishonest.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Elections, Majorities and Strong Government

Reflecting on the sad record of government misbehaviour, I’m inclined to prefer that they should be weak. The ‘No to the Alternative Vote’ campaign thinks otherwise. It wants one party governments with an overall parliamentary majority, and thinks we are more likely to get those with the present First Past The Post (henceforth FPTP) system than with the Alternative Vote (henceforth AV)

However, although majority one party government may be less likely with AV, it would not be impossible, while FPTP frequently fails to produce that supposedly desired state.

Were it vital to have a single party majority, that would suggest changing the system to make sure that is achieved, possibly by giving additional parliamentary seats to the largest party. I wouldn’t support that, but it does seem to be a consequence of the No Campaign’s argument.

From their point of view it might not even be the most popular party that received the majority.

In 1951 FPTP gave a parliamentary majority to the Conservatives, even though they received fewer votes than Labour, and in February 1974, although no party had an overall parliamentary majority, Labour formed a minority government after winning more seats than the Conservatives even though they had fewer votes.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Engrossed in HTML

I've spend most of the last two days happily engrossed in adding another page of pictures to my web site.

Pottering about renaming and resizing pictures is surprisingly satisfying.

Now I've created the new page, I need to persuade someone to look at it.

This blog is my first attempt.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Alternative Vote

On both sides of the controversy claims are exaggerated. The proposed change in our voting system is likely to have only modest effects.

AV will not make it impossible for a single party to have a majority, though it will make it a little less likely for a parliamentary majority to be obtained by a party that does not have either a majority of the total vote, or a commanding lead over its nearest rival.

In individual constituencies, AV would not entirely prevent the election of a candidate the majority of the electorate finds objectionable but it would make it less likely.

I support AV for three reasons.

(1) It would allow me to give more information about my preferences. If there are n candidates the present system allows only n ways of validly filling in a ballot paper. AV would permit n! ways. For instance if there were 6 candidates, there would be 720 ways of filling in an AV ballot paper, compared with only 6 under the present system.

(2) It would require the authorities to pay more attention to my preferences, because many ballot papers would have to be inspected several times, instead of just once.

(3) By getting the electorate accustomed to numbering the candidates in order of preference, it would prepare the way for the Single Transferable Vote in Multi-member constituencies, the electoral system that seems to me the best that has so far been devised.

I plan to follow this posting with several others examining various misconceptions.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Praising Salt

An old folk story, used by Shakespeare in King Lear, tells of a conceited King who urged his daughters to say how much they loved him.

The two eldest daughters having exhausted the resources of conventional flattery, the youngest daughter just said 'I love you as meat loves salt'

Only later, when served meat with no salt, did the King understand.

For a while I've been complaining about the tastelessness of salads, especially of tomatoes. Then I realised that I no longer added salt. With a little salt the flavour has returned.

I wonder if the health fanatics will try to ban the reading of King Lear in schools ?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Victory Over Obscure Instructions

After several days of anguish I have at last managed to copy pictures and other material into my computer from my new LGC300 mobile phone.

When I tried to use Bluetooth, I got no further than pairing phone and computer. Every attempt to send anything in either direction produced a 'pointer error'. As mobile phone users have no access to pointers that is an extremely silly message.

I then bought a USB connector, which failed to send data in either direction except for the phone's name and 'address'. Eventually I realised that software might be needed, found the manufacturer's site and installed everything I could find. I installed a driver, and then performed an arcane operation which I later realised had brought up to date the firmware in the phone, and finally, today, spotted something that had been downloaded but not installed,and which turned out to be the 'PC Suite' which enables one to copy the contents of the phone to the PC.

The feeling of triumph when one gets such things to work, is almost enough to make the agony of the struggle worthwhile, but perhaps not quite enough.

In case a fellow sufferer is reading this, I'd better say that the key website is: and one needs to install:


Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Google Chrome Clings to its Cache

It's sometimes hard to get Google Chrome to clear its cache and present the latest version of a web site.

When I've changed a web site I want to check that the new version is actually on the site. Sometimes, even after I've pressed the 'refresh' button, and Chrome has done its dither and flicker, the old version still appears, when I know the new version is there because I can see it with Seamonkey.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A Surfeit of Ephemera

Last Saturday, and the Saturday before, I was given a free copy of the Times when I bought the Economist. I'm now about to put both copies of the Times in my recycling bin, unread.

I read The Economist every week, and I listen to broadcast news programmes. There is so much topical information is available on the Internet that I have no time, or need for daily papers.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Burning Books

I dislike burning books, preferring to give away unwanted books. The nearest I've come to burning one was when I threw away a book of essays by Ayn Rand, unwilling to inflict it on any friend and fearing that, if I gave it away to a charity shop, someone might buy it and believe what she said.

However I should not try to prevent anyone burning a book that belonged to them, provided they did so where there was no danger of it setting light to anything else.

If someone printed out a copy of the Philosophy Notes from my website and burnt those, I should be disappointed, though I might also be flattered to have provoked so extreme a reaction. I should certainly not be outraged or inclined to riot. Such over-reaction strikes me as ridiculous.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Early Apple Blossom

The apple blossom is appearing early as, in an earlier blog, I suggested it might.

I've just noticed that the blossom on my Beauty of Bath is starting to come out.

My reference book (Morgan and Richards The Book of Apples) gives 9th May as the optimum date for pollination of that variety. I assume that is the time the flowers are all completely open, which may not be for a day or two yet, but the tree is still at least three weeks ahead of schedule.

Once again, Spring has come early, and I have no complaint.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Water as a slimming Food

I recently noticed an article in the Scientific American suggesting that drinking water before meals helps one to lose weight. Strictly speaking we should say 'lose mass'; some weight could be lost by living on top of a mountain and all of it could be lost by living in orbit, so I'll use 'mass' hereafter.

The recommended consumption is half a litre of water before each meal, which would be a lot for me; usually I drink about a sixth of a litre in the course of a meal, so I'm trying to drink another sixth of a litre before each meal, and shall report the results, if any, in due course. So far I've found I seem to eat slightly less, not in the main course, but in the oddments I eat afterwards.

Several years ago I replaced puddings by an apple, a pear, a banana and an orange. For the last two days I've omitted the banana, and I've also reduced my cheese intake and have eaten the cheese on its own instead of with biscuits.

From a homoeopathic standpoint, water should make one gain mass, because water without additives is a homoeopathic solution of nothing. As eating nothing would produce mass reduction, it's homoeopathic effect should be the opposite.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Home Made Raisins

Quite unintentionally, I've just made some raisins.

On examining an aged bunch of grapes that I'd neglected for a week or so, I discovered that the grapes had turned into raisins, just like the raisins one buys from the shops.

Perhaps I'll try to make prunes from this Summer's plum crop, provided there is one.

What else might I make ? Readers of this blog are invited to make suggestions.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Disposing of Tyrants

With several surplus leaders who seem likely to lose power soon, it seems a good time to decide what to do with them.

Recent practice has been inconsistent. Some are put on trial, others allowed into government, like the former IRA leaders (they aren't former rulers but had sufficient power to merit similar treatment). In Chile Pinochet was persuaded to relinquish power in exchange for an amnesty, but then various people tried to put him on trial.

A good general rule would be that those who step down voluntarily should be allowed a fairly comfortable house arrest in a stately home in some country willing to keep an eye on them, but those who fight for power to the bitter end should perish in that end.

Above all we need consistency, though the many borderline cases make that hard to achieve.