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Archive for October 2010

Introducing the dew.is YOURLS-based URL shortener

October 28, 2010 @ 01:01 By: gordon Category: Gadgets, Meta

Caution: This post contains higher than normal levels of geekery. You’ve been warned.

Looking for the story mentioned in a comment on Gizmodo? Try here.

If you’ve been around the ‘net for a while, you’ve probably seen cryptic URLs (like http://bit.ly/b36LBg) that “magically” take you to a real URL (like http://gordon.dewis.ca/2010/10/25/municipal-election-day/). This “magic” is thanks to URL shortening services like bit.ly, tinyurl.com, and a whole bunch of others.

Well, a little while ago I noticed that Iceland has the .IS top-level domain. And that my last name ends in “is” (well, I’ve known that for a long time).

€39 later and I’m the proud owner of dew.is.

Cool.

So, now I’ve set up YOURLS and have my own URL shortening service at dew.is.

Very cool. And very geeky.

Municipal election day

October 25, 2010 @ 10:55 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

It’s Municipal Election Day and the polls are open!

As an excellent post over at The Squid Zone points out, of the various levels of government that you vote for, your municipal government probably has the greatest impact on your day to day life, yet the turnout for municpal elections are usually the lowest.

There are a number of campains to oust the existing mayor and council by voting for “anyone but the incumbent”. but they shouldn’t be interpreted as giving your vote to some random candidate. You should always be voting for the person you feel is most qualified to do the job. If this happens to be the incumbent, then you should probably give them your vote. However, if you’re determined not to vote for the incumbent, then pick the next most qualified candidate, but you should be able to answer the question “why am I not voting for the most qualified person?” if you opt to do this.

If you live in Ottawa, you can find out where to vote and who you can vote for on the City of Ottawa’s website.

It’s everyone’s civic responsibility to be engaged and vote. Remember, you don’t have the right to complain about what the municipal government is doing if you don’t vote.

And I was having such a nice morning

October 22, 2010 @ 10:14 By: gordon Category: Weather

It usually takes a lot to bother me, but sometimes it can be just a fewletters, such as those found in the CYOW TAF:

TAF CYOW 221138Z 2212/2312 29012KT P6SM FEW020 BKN080 TEMPO 2212/2215 BKN020
FM221500 30012G22KT P6SM SCT030
BECMG 2220/2222 29008KT FEW050
FM230600 VRB03KT P6SM BKN060
FM230900 VRB03KT P6SM -SHRASN BKN020 OVC050
RMK NXT FCST BY 221500Z=

Specifically,it’s the letters that appear in the precipitation element for the weather forecast starting at 0900Z tomorrow morning: -SHRASN.

There probably won’t be any significant accumulation, but it’s still unnecessary.

Happy World Statistics Day!

October 20, 2010 @ 11:20 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, General, Statistics

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed today to be World Statistics Day.

To quote from the UN Statistics Division’s website,

The celebration of the World Statistics Day will acknowledge the service provided by the global statistical system at national and international level, and hope to help strengthen the awareness and trust of the public in official statistics. It serves as an advocacy tool to further support the work of statisticians across different settings, cultures, and domains.

National statistics concern everyone to one degree or another. They contribute significantly to our knowledge of how well we’re doing as a country and they play a vital role in the creation of economic and social policies. The seemingly simple question "how large is a country’s labour force and what is its composition?", for example, can only be answered using data collected by a national statistical agency.

As one of the thousands of people around the world who work for the various national statistical agencies in the world, I’m proud of the role I play, however small it may be, in contributing to the better understanding of the world we live in.

Voting for “anyone but the incumbent”

October 19, 2010 @ 12:57 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

I’ve noticed a number of “vote for anyone but the incumbent” campaigns in Ottawa. The premise is that if enough people don’t vote for the incumbent, they won’t win the election (usually true when there’s only a couple of candidates). The problem is that we have a first past the post system where someone can win the election even if they don’t have a majority of the votes — they only have to have more votes than anyone else.

A flawed system, at best, but that’s what we’re stuck with for the time being.

Let’s assume that the results of the election last time were:

  • Joe Blow: 40%
  • Jane Doe: 25%
  • Jason Bourne: 25%
  • James Bond: 10%

Joe Blow is running again, as are the others plus four additional candidates: Ernst Blofeld, Joe Q. Public, Maxwell Smart and Charles Carmichael.

Let’s assume that some people actually like Joe Blow’s track record and are going to vote for him for that reason. Let’s also assume that some people are going to vote for him simply because he is the incumbent and they recognize his name on the ballot. But some of the people who voted for Joe Blow last time are going to follow the “vote for anyone but the incumbent” school of thought and vote for someone else — 12% of voters, in fact. The remaining voters are going to continue voting for the person they believe in, who happens not to be Joe Blow, with the new guys are going to attracting some of the votes away from all of the candidates.

Election Day comes and goes and the results are:

  • Joe Blow: 28%
  • Jane Doe: 23%
  • Jason Bourne: 12%
  • James Bond: 17%
  • Ernst Blofeld: 5%
  • Joe Q. Public: 3%
  • Maxwell Smart: 6%
  • Charles Carmichael: 6%

This time, the incumbent, Joe Blow, wins again, but with 72% of the votes going for “anyone but the incumbent” instead of 60% of the votes like last time. More people don’t like him but he still won. Well, that strategy didn’t work, did it?

If you really do not like the incumbent, then find a more suitable candidate and vote for them. If, after considering all the candidates, the incumbent still tops your list, then you should probably vote for him. If you really don’t like any of the candidates, then perhaps you should have considered running for office.

If you do vote for some random person and that random person happens to win the election then you have no grounds for complaint when the random person jacks up your taxes, supports a new by-law requiring all homeowners to perform weekly sacrifices of baby bunnies and declares every Tuesday to be Walk-like-a-duck-or-else Day.

The organizers of the “vote for anyone but the incumbent” campaigns should have identified a slate of candidates that they support rather than telling people to toss their ballots to the wind. That way they might be more successful in their quest to see new faces on Council.

Chapman Mills Drive: A perfect site for some roundabouts

October 11, 2010 @ 11:17 By: gordon Category: General

The Ottawa Citizen has a story today about one of the lingering problems that resulted from the cancellation of the north-south rail plan a few years ago. A right-of-way for the tracks that runs between the lanes of Chapman Mills Drive in Barrhaven has gone unused. There are breaks in the resulting median at intersections with the side streets that are protected by stop signs.

The problem is that because the intersections are so large due to the width of the median, the stop signs aren’t as effective as they would be if the intersections were smaller. Gloucester-South Nepean councillor Steve Desroches says that the roadway is confusing and dangerous for both pedestrians and drivers.

It strikes me that these large intersections are ideal candidates for roundabouts. They would keep traffic flowing nicely, provide space for safe crosswalks for pedestrians and reduce the amount of time vehicles would spend waiting for traffic lights, which means fewer greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions. And there’s also the added benefit that the city wouldn’t have to buy the traffic light equipment or pay for its on-going operation and maintenance.

The City of Ottawa’s website has a great animation of how roundabouts work. You can select the type of vehicle you’re driving and the route you’re wanting to take through the roundabout. If you’re not familiar with the way they work, you should check it out.

A tip o’ the hat to Wikipedia Commons for the animation of the roundabout.

Happy 42 Day!

October 10, 2010 @ 10:10 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy 42 Day!

As you probably know (you should know!), 42 is the answer to the great question of Life, the Universe and Everything. Today’s date, 10/10/10, looks suspiciously like the binary number 101010, which is 42 in base 10.

Check out Twitter for the #101010 and #42day hashtags to see what people are tweeting about. And, of course, check out the 42 Day website at fortytwoday.com.