Proportional electoral voting: if you can’t get rid of the college…

James Snell is angry that his vote for Bush won’t count, because he lives in California. (I mean, it will count, but California is considered a lock for Kerry.) If I still lived in California I’d be angry because my vote for Kerry wouldn’t count (I mean, it would, but it would be much less significant than a vote from a person living in Wyoming or Rhode Island.)

Personally, I’d prefer to get rid of the electoral college, but that would require a Constitutional amendment and its ratification would undoubtedly depend entirely on short-term political advantage. In the meantime, proportional electoral voting, as Maine does now and Colorado will either do this election or next (yikes!), seems a clearly good idea.

Now, I’m “lucky” enough to be in what is apparently a swing state, so I’ll have a good feeling when casting my ballot on Tuesday.

Eclipse that much better than Visual Studio?

Dave Jaquay is leaving the .NET world and returning to Java. He sees C# and Java as comparable languages (giving the edge to C#) but is excited about switching Visual Studio for Eclipse. It’s an interesting read. I’m doing some Java work now and using Eclipse. A few things I very much agree with Dave about (rebuild-on-save, JUnit unit-testing integration). Maybe it’s just that my fingers know the VS keybindings better, but I still prefer VS to Eclipse.

I have to say that Eclipse is a heck of a platform, though.

SMT5600 Envy

Oh, how I wish I had an Audiovox SMT5600. I think it’s what I want: an MP3 player and digital voice recorder that I can to use to occasionally make phone calls. Seriously. Hey, Scoble, you said that it was good as a phone-first, data-device second — what about my scenario?

But I can’t bring myself to spend $360 for it when I’m three months from qualifying for discounts on a new phone on my rate plan. $120 per month? Too steep for this cheapskate.

Design Your Own Domain Specific Language

(Back to software development, at least until Game 4 tonight…)

Microsoft has announced a framework and tools for creating Domain Specific Languages in Visual Studio Team System. Your very own DSL will be powered by the same modeling engine that powers the “Whitehorse” Distributed Systems Designer.

Whether this will be a big or small deal hinges on two questions:

  1. To be useful in software development, do the majority of diagram types need to share a large amount of common semantics?;
  2. Is it a large or small set of software development tasks that can be adequately represented in diagrams?

UML proponents argue for the first — that one basically needs UML-level complexity/richness to create diagrams that are not just used for communication between people but that actively shape the system under development. This is obviously self-serving for those with an investment in the UML process, but may be true nonetheless. 

The second question is open. I’m a big fan of UML, but primarily for communicating important subsets of the task in question: “here are the key classes and their relations,” “here are the vital calls in this sequence of actions,” etc. Today’s display technologies and graphical tools don’t provide the information density that text does and the speed of manipulating a diagram is significantly less than making a comparable change in source code.

The tools announced today will obviously be used to implement various diagrams that are known today — UML, E-Rs, BPMs, flowcharts no doubt. That’s all well and good but won’t fundamentally change anything. The key issue is whether the type of person who today might develop a complex library or language to express a domain (say… job-shop scheduling or customized-pricing rules) will find in these tools sufficient power to develop an alternate way of expressing the domain.


Geek Politics

Wayne Allen wonders if there’s an assumption that geeks lean left. I’ve always detected a very strong libertarian streak in geeks: “fiscally conservative, socially liberal.” I think it’s because libertarianism is the Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work — don’t spend money on things you don’t need, don’t tell people what to do.

What Is Going Through An Undecided’s Mind?

Are the Undecided’s thinking about The Big Issues — Terrorism, Iraq, Economy, Domestic Policy, Foreign Relations — and failing to come to a conclusion, or do they just lump it all together into a gut feeling as to whether Bush or Kerry will cause more good / less harm?

Terrorism: the thing about terrorism is that the Bush administration is all talk, no walk. You can’t defend America from small groups of suicidal fanatics with conventional military forces, you need to fund, train, and support a huge number of domestic resources — from the intelligence services to the local cops. I have a friend who joined and then quit TSA because they only officially hire new recruits as “part-time” (no benefits) but then demand mandatory overtime (60 hours) because they’re understaffed.

Iraq: once the Bush administration unilaterally decided to confront Hussein, I supported an invasion because I thought that it was important that neither the U.S. nor the U.N. look like paper tigers (and I was under the impression that Saddam was developing nukes and that he was so crazy, he’d probably use one on Israel). But how can you vote to rehire those responsible for running this totally incompetent post-invasion occupation?

Economy: I don’t think Presidents have much to do with economic cycles, but the Bush admin has been extremely effective in passing tax cuts that are running up the national credit card while triggering very little positive economic growth. The Bush admin says “Well, the recession was a short one…” and credit their tax cut, but remember that your kids are going to have to pay off those credit cards. It’s not in the economic self-interest of anyone making less than about $200K to vote for Bush. The Republicans fear-monger about the Democrats passing tax increases, but remember that the Republicans control the Legislature. The truth is that Kerry won’t be able to pass tax increases beyond maybe rolling back some of the tax cuts to the highest-end payers. (Of course, that means that he’s not going to be able to deliver universal health care and he’s not going to be able to fund 100% port inspections, and so forth. Democratic Presidency + Republican Legislature == lack of fundamental change.)

Domestic Policy: this is the one area where I think the Bush administration is most effective (Republican Presidency + Republican Legislature == fundamental change). I don’t agree with their domestic policy initiatives, which have mostly been either direct giveaways or ill-advised deregulation for industries. Meanwhile, when asked what to do about out-sourcing, Bush’s answer in the debate was “Learn a skill at community college.” Again, from an economic self-interest standpoint, unless you’re at the “live-in help“ level, it doesn’t make sense.

Foreign Relations: apparently, Bush voters believe that the world secretly approves of what the Bush administration is doing, that we’re playing a kind of global “good cop-bad cop“ thing. They don’t.

The conservative life-style issue is about the only area where I can understand a person coming to a pro-Bush conclusion. You think the assault-weapon ban was a bad thing, you think it’s important that Christian references be explicit in the public sphere, you think gay marriage should be constitutionally forbidden: Bush is your guy. (Although for me, even if I felt that way about those issues, I can’t see how I’d let them outweigh the threats to national security and our economy resulting from the other failures of the administration.)  

Obviously, just about exactly 50% of the electorate disagrees with my conclusion that Kerry must be better for the country than Bush. I’m going to guess that the “conservative life-style” issue accounts for about half of that 50%. I’m going to guess that another 15% fall for the administrations bull about how they’re better against terrorism. But I think the reason the election is too close to call is that people fear that Kerry would appear weak, as Carter appeared.

I think the debates probably swayed some of those who had that fear, but obviously things are still on a razor’s edge. For that reason, I don’t have great confidence that the undecideds will break heavily for Kerry, which is the common wisdom (although everyone admits that it’s all too close to call).

I’d love to read something from a true undecided that gives some insight into how someone could not have formed a strong enough opinion about the current administration to know how they’ll vote. Anyone?