Canadian GE

… as in General Election, not General Electric. Or, to be precise, the federal election. Today is the last chance to vote for those who have not voted in advance, so it’s going to be a cliffhanger, not just for Canadians but also for a lot of us here in the States.

Why, you might ask. Well, all the rhetoric made by a proportion of liberals after the 2004 elections is predicated on Canada having a Liberal government. Both capital and lower-case ‘L’. As of tomorrow morning, that might not be the case. Meanwhile, American conservatives would be cheering on the man from Alberta, Stephen Harper, who appears to be triangulating himself between his core conservative supporters on one end, and the electorate at large on another

Would this be a mirror of the 1993 federal election? It saw the right-wing vote splintering, and as a result, an 11-year liberal majority, before the 2004 election returned the outgoing minority government. Would the NDP supplant the liberals as the main left-of-centre party? Assuming the voting pattern in Ontario is stable, the Liberals’ long-term future probably hinges on the outcomes in Quebec (traditionally a Liberals-BQ contest, with the Libs imploding) and British Columbia (Liberals vs NDP).

With the lack of PR, it’s hard to predict the final outcome, so mine is probably as valid as half the predictions out there:

Liberals 90
Conservatives 140
BQ 48
NDP 30

.. with Michael Ignatieff narrowly winning his riding by a margin of < 2000 votes. No clear winner, but with the two main incoming opposition parties losing support they would probably not rock the boat, so the minority government might last more than 2 years. The NDP would probably prefer to hang on to its gains as long as possible as well.

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The (clarified) Norvig challenge

Was chatting about various programming languages with Roshan today when Peter Norvig’s Teach Yourself Programming In Ten Years essay came up. Roshan mentioned that his time would be up in about 4 months’ time, which set me thinking.. gee, if the clock starts when one first programs on a computer, then .. my decade was up several years ago!.

I had a nagging feeling that this was not what Norvig meant, but neither of us had any Internet device with us (though Café Django is, bless pervasive wireless coverage, within range of an open wi-fi hotspot) so I could not verify what Norvig said. Unfortunately, having checked it, he did mean learning *programming*, as an art in its entirety, in ten years. But surely the clock only starts when one started applying onself seriously to the task at hand?

So as I’d define Norvig’s challenge, one has multiple deadlines – x years after you pick up a major paradigm, you should be immersed enough in it to draw inspiration from it and apply it properly. There comes a stage, after one picks up a cool technique, that one tends to overdo it, see it as the golden hammer, and apply it indiscriminately (hello, continuation-passing style). That is only natural – without trial and error one would not know what works and what does not.

Another task I’d add to Norvig’s recipe, though: after you’ve grokked (or think you have, anyway) a concept, pick, from your bag of favourite languages, a language that does not have the concept, and implement it. Hey, someone’s even done a tail-recursive class for Java!

May the Force be with you.

(I don’t normally use SW references, but it just seems so apt here)