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News Archive for March 2005

Skating

March 20, 2005/ — We've been meaning to make this available for a few weeks: a video of Mia skating. It's about a 4.4 Megabyte Quicktime file. If you don't have Quicktime, you can download it from the Apple website.

A note to those with sensitive ears: there may be a bit of profanity near the beginning of the soundtrack.

Gmail for the Rest of Us

August 10, 2004/ — I've always been of the opinion that one of the great things about Google search technology is its democratizing nature: in doing such a good job of determining the actual relevance of a page to a query, it to some extent overcomes the advantage that large organisations with large marketing budgets have over smaller organisations trying to "getting their message out". For example, if I have a question about a piece of Microsoft software, a Google search won't necessarily return a page from the Microsoft site as the first result -- if there's a better answer to my question on another, smaller, site, that page might very well appear first in the search results.

In light of this, I'm pretty disappointed with their distribution of Gmail addresses. For now, only the connected can get them (that is, people who were chosen to be beta testers, or their friends, or, it seems, their friends' veterinarians' sisters-in-law). This would be reasonable if it were only a couple of hundred people, but it seems to be many more than that. Unfortunately, us hoi polloi who are not related to anyone's veterinarian must wait (and wait) to be let in to the inner sanctum of @gmail.com.

Not that I really care. I don't even want a Gmail address -- I have too many email addresses already. It just seems a little cheesy.

Expiry Date: Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Middle of the Road

July 6, 2004/ — There's been a lot of talk in Canada about some form of proportional representation replacing, or at least supplementing, the existing first-past-the-post system. Particularly in light of the results of the last election, the Canadian left is very anxious to reform the electoral system -- the New Democratic Party has made it a central issue in their platform, and for the few hours during which it appeared that they might hold the balance of power in the House of Commons, it looked like we might be headed in that direction. As it turned out, they did not get the balance of power, and it seems unlikely that either a Liberal government that managed to win 44% of the seats with 39% of the popular vote, or a Conservative opposition that won 32% of seats with 30% of the popular vote, is going to push for proprtional representation. The NDP received 16% of the popular vote, but only 19 seats -- under a proportional representation system they would have 46 seats. The Green Party got 4% of the vote, and no seats -- under proportional representation they'd have 13. It's no wonder the left is so anxious for change.

The principal argument against proportional representation seems to be the idea that nothing will get done, because our government will always be a minority government. One counterargument is that the minority governments of Lester B. Pearson were among the most effective we've ever had, minority or majority. I don't know enough about Pearson's tenure to comment on that, but I think that there's another issue that's being overlooked.

For as long as I can remember, Canada has been governed by a moderate party that was rarely elected with more than half of the popular vote. Whether this party was the Liberals or the Progressive Conservatives, they have taken the approach of governing from the centre in order to please everyone. The Liberal party clearly has left-leaning members (such as jean Chrétien) and right-leaning members (Paul Martin). The Tories were always divided into Red Tories and Blue Tories -- this dichotomy was codified into the very name of the party.

So I think that we've always had, essentially, minority governments, given that the parties that have managed to govern are not doing so based on a definite political ideology, but based on appealing to a broad base of voters: exactly what a minority government does, whether it is a firm coalition or a series of temporary alliances. The marginalization of the Progessive Conservatives following the merger with the Canadian Alliance has virtually guaranteed that, without proportional representation, we will continue to suffer wishy-washy Liberal governments for the foreseeable future. As angry as voters were with the Liberals leading into the last election, they still showed a reluctance to take the big step to the right with the new Conservative Party.

So, in my opinion, what we have now, a government trying to please as many people and stay as close to the ideological centre as possible, is no worse, and in many ways, no different than a minority government. And, obviously, based on the results of the recent election, a minority government elected through a proportional representation system would much better reflect the real views of Canadians.

Expiry Date: Saturday, March 19, 2005

New tookish.org Launched

December 1, 2003/ — We've finally updated tookish.org to account for the fact that it's no longer 1999.

Aside from the home page, the content hasn't really changed (except for a few corrections here and there). Structurally, however, it's much better. It's now valid XHTML and CSS, and the tables we previously used for positioning have been eliminated, allowing for markup that's much more accurate from a semantic point of view.

We have big plans to add some more content in the near future, including:

In addition to the new content, we have a fair bit of tweaking to do to the site in general (in terms of both the way it works and the way it looks). If you run into any problems with the site, or anything doesn't work the way it should (or even the way you think it should), please let us know so we can fix it.

Expiry Date: Saturday, March 19, 2005

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