Sunday, May 22, 2011

[jules' pics] A post for my sister-in-law, Helen.

Green River, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

The only place to get breakfast in desolate Green River makes no promise to be open.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/23/2011 04:18:00 AM

Saturday, May 21, 2011

[jules' pics] 5/21/2011 01:57:00 PM

Alien Invasion, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Help! Help! Alien Invasion! longer surprised that so many people have been abducted by aliens. Luckily we got away before we were captured. I think.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/21/2011 01:57:00 PM

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

[jules' pics] 5/18/2011 01:06:00 PM

aliens, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Help! Aliens approaching!

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/18/2011 01:06:00 PM

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

[jules' pics] 5/17/2011 12:57:00 PM

building, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Another puzzle for the reader. On travels again. Where this time?

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/17/2011 12:57:00 PM

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What am I?

A small puzzle for my reader. What is a "sand goflate c'est un"?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

[jules' pics] Shinryoku - new green


This is our titchy maple tree which, as it sits in a windy spot, gets very tattered and never manages the red dazzling autumn thing. Quite nice at present though.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/10/2011 12:36:00 PM

Friday, May 06, 2011

[jules' pics] Botan - Peony

botan - peony

botan - peony

Hachimangu botan garden, Kamakura - I don't know how it is done, but the massive blooms in this garden continue from February all the way through to the normal peony season in May. It costs 500¥ to visit so I suppose the flowers must get a lot of TLC.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/06/2011 03:13:00 PM

Thursday, May 05, 2011

[jules' pics] Two seasons in one day

At home the sakura (cherry blossom) season is long over, replaced by tsutsuji (azalea), fuji (wisteria) and of course shinryoku (livid green), but up even tiny Hinode, we were able to walk back in time.

Three quarters of the way up the leaves were just starting to open.

shinryoku, Hinode

And at the summit we were back in full blown cherry blossom season.

sakura, Hinode

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/05/2011 01:49:00 PM

"Making your vote count" and "wasted votes"

These phrases are commonly heard, but infrequently explained in a coherent and meaningful manner. It is very unlikely that a single person's vote will ever really make a difference in a large election, and of course this is entirely appropriate for a democracy where we all (supposedly) share equally in voting power.

However, people still vote, and other people try to work out whether it is rational or not (see Andrew Gelman's blog for lots on this, search for the text "rational to vote").

One point that I don't think I've seen made, is that people might reasonably think their vote "counted" if it either increased or decreased the winning margin. The margin of victory should affect the behaviour of the electee, as they will be more willing to take a hard-line position and alienate (some) voters in a safer seat, and more eager to please those on the fringes in a marginal one. Any change in the number of people voting for either the 1st or 2nd placed candidate will alter the winning margin, so the (a priori) marginal value of each of these voters is non-zero.

Conversely, a vote placed for the 3rd or lower party really is worthless, as the marginal effect of more or fewer votes here is zero, at least until they overtake the 2nd party. The winner might even prefer to see a strong 3rd place candidate, in the hope that they could threaten to cannibalise the support for the 2nd place.

Maybe this is one reason why I think that AV would be beneficial, as it guarantees that a majority - and in practice usually a large majority - of the electorate will get to see their vote "count" in this manner. In simple majority voting (first past the post is such a stupid name I can't bring myself to use it) it is still likely that a clear majority of voters will see their votes count (I expect this usually happens in all seats), but in practice it will often not be such a large majority, and in many cases this will only happen if people are willing to vote tactically (and know who to vote tactically for, which isn't necessarily obvious a priori).

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

[jules' pics] Etiquette lesson

In case you ever need to visit Japan, this mountain picnic tells you everything you need to know about how to behave at any social event.

Japanese picnic
Take off your shoes. Sit cross-legged on the ground. Drink beer. Eat pickles. Only one man talks at any one time while all the others listen respectfully. Never leave home without your blue tarpaulin.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/04/2011 02:12:00 PM

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

[jules' pics] Trees and things

We climbed Hinode. A little hill (900m), it is really a walk in the park...

In Mitake
Mitake village - roofs and peaks and trees

Fresh new green (shinryoku) undergrowth and trees

James, the last Easter egg and trees

New green (shinryoku) leaves on trees

forest house
weird house in the trees

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/03/2011 12:33:00 PM

Monday, May 02, 2011

Time to leave Tokyo again?

Just when all the fly-jin were slinking back:

"avoid [...] large crowds of people"

[jules' pics] Books

Art, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.
Since my ipod became ebook capable, books made from dead trees have started to annoy me. Like the first laptops, they are barely lug-able. I've been reading Gavin's Book, but am nowhere near as far through it as I might be, as it is not really portable. Here's the scary list that a search for "climate" gets you in the Kindle store. Which one do you recommend?

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/02/2011 04:41:00 PM

Sunday, May 01, 2011

British "too stupid to rank their preferences"

Since I've slagged off the Japanese Govt for their remarkably patronising comments, it's only fair that I have a go at the Conservatives - or maybe the UK electorate, since based on comments heard on radio phone-ins it may actually be the case that many of them are too stupid to understand how to rank their preferences.

Some readers might have heard that there's to be a referendum on changing the electoral system for general elections in the UK. The options are to keep the current bizarrely-named "first past the post" (there is no post, and it doesn't matter who gets anywhere first) or to change to a simple Alternative Vote system (sometimes called Instant Run-off). It seems that the No campaign is likely to win, aided by such idiotic and dishonest arguments as the ones presented on this page.

Perhaps the most absurd complaint about AV is that it's "complicated". Yeah, in the same way X-factor is "complicated". If there really are people who genuinely can't work out how to list a set of candidates in preference order then I'd prefer it if they didn't vote anyway. The most brazenly dishonest criticism has to be the claim that some peoples' votes will be counted more than others. Actually, for every round in the instant run-off, every voter (who has expressed a choice) gets their vote counted exactly the same. Duh. How do people get away with saying such brazenly stupid things? Surely the UK isn't on a par with the USA now is it?

David Cameron shows some chutzpah in portraying AV as "unfair and undemocratic" considering it is how he got elected to lead the Conservatives. David Davis got the most votes on the first ballot, but Cameron got the most second preference votes of the fringe candidates. Hypocrite much? Of course it's different when it comes to letting the plebs have their say.

I'm surprised at the relatively weak support given to AV by those who would ideally prefer a more proportional system. Firstly, this choice isn't on the table, and won't be for another generation if the current referendum fails. Secondly all the other systems really do have disadvantages that AV does not (like they actually are complicated, or break the local link). Thirdly, surely a system that encourages people to vote honestly for their preferred candidate is so vastly preferable to the current dysfunction arrangement where tactical voting is pretty much routine that it has to be worth supporting.

For me, this last reason is sufficient to justify changing the system, even given the simulations that suggest that AV wouldn't actually have made a great deal of difference in past elections. Under the current system, almost all voters have at best a choice between supporting the current incumbent, or voting for whoever they think has a best chance of unseating them (which may well not be their first or even second choice). In the not unlikely event that they really prefer someone on the fringe, they have to choose between making a futile "statement" by supporting them, or placing their vote in such a way that it could have the potential to influence the outcome. Under AV it's a simple matter of listing the candidates honestly in order of preference. (Yes, I know tactical voting is theoretically possible under some circumstances, and it might even have happened in practice. But honest voting is generally not going to be as poor a strategy under AV as it is under the current system.)

Japan has some sort of top-up list system for at least part of its elections. Doesn't seem to help them much, but to be honest the political problems here are too serious to be fixed by merely tinkering with the voting system...