April 30, 2008

Weak Typing vs Weak Testing

I haven’t written a blog post on anything vaguely related to Computer Science in a while, so here’s an effort to change that. Bruce Eckel (BE) wrote a noted entry a while back, which seems to have been heavily discussed in what the guardian would refer to as the ‘blogosphere’, I’m thinking the kind of inflamatory and inaccurate articles that get posted on prc (not to say there aren’t good articles, but I find it increasingly difficult to sieve for something new and interesting these days).

I don’t intend to discuss BE’s terrible misconceptions that are perpetuated by this article, for example his reference to C++ as strongly typed, or blame him for not fixing the myriad of problems that the language has, after all standards bodies are mirred in backwards compatibility issues and compromise. I will blame him for the link to his blog not working, but thats another matter entirely.

What I really want to discuss is the limits of testing. Thats not to say that testing software isn’t a crucial part of the development process, and has helped me to find numerous bugs in software that I’ve written over time, but it has its limits. Now I’m not talking about expressiveness here – its plainly apparent to me that a test written in a turing complete programming language can test any property of the program that a decidably complete type checking algorithm can. Thats not really an idiomatic approach to testing unfortunately, since once one writes a test that is harder to reason about than the computer program they are trying to debug they have got a problem trying to test their test harness. I’ve numerous times found that the mistake was in a testcase, or harness that I’d coded up rather than the program itself.

A considerable number of unit tests are of a very simple form, for example testing that the sum of the numbers in the list [1,2,3,4] is 10. This is to be encourage and is all well and good. Unfortunately the problem occurs when one tries to extend these simple test cases to check complex properties. Let us imagine we are trying to write a function that sums up some numbers in a list, and we want to be confident that this function terminates. This is a trivial problem that I find it hard to think of how to test. Let us consider the following implementation, written in ML.

fun sum [] = 0
    | sum (h :: t) = h + sum t;

I can be highly confident that this function terminates because I am using primitive recursion. This is a highly important approach in the development of usable theorem provers, for example the Isabelle theorem prover automatically generates proofs of termination for functions that are defined using primitive recursion. It is also easy to see how one would construct such a proof informally for this function:

1. Base Case: the list is empty so Its sum is 0. Statement holds true vacuously.
2. Inductive case: we have a list of length n. We assume that the sum of a list of length n-1 terminates and we know the addition function takes a finite amount of time to compute. Thus conclude that summing a list of length n terminates.

This is pretty much a trivial case for any primitive recursion function in ML. Our type checker helps us here – case exhaustiveness is checked for the function’s domain, in case we forget any possible cases. This may seem trivial for this function – but its incredibly useful. For example if one is writing an interpreter based on an IR composed from a union type of different datatype constructors for different IR elements.

I find it hard to convince myself that the python (chosen because of Mr. Eckel’s rampant fanboying) equivalent terminates. I have implemented the function like this:

def sum(l):
  total = 0
  for i in l:
    total += i
  return total

I don’t know where to begin in formulating a testcase to check termination. If someone does – then please comment on this blog, I’d really like to know if its possible.

A quick superficial glance would suggest that the foreach loop used here would allow me to conclude termination, but unfortunately it only return iterable items. Here’s an example:

def inf():
  i = 0
    i = (i + 1) % 100
    yield i

print sum(inf())

I can’t use static type checking to ensure that the parameter is a List unfortunately. I could add a decorator with explicit type checking, but unfortunately this can simply be monkey patched away. Similar problems exist if I choose to write this function in Java. For example:

int sum(Iterable<Integer> entries) {
    int sum = 0;
    for (Integer i: entries) {
        sum += i;
    return sum;

Since one could implement an iterable that always returns true. This can be resolved in Java (I think) through the following changes:

1. Write your function like:

int sum(ArrayList<Integer> entries) throws Exception {
    if(entries.getClass() == java.util.ArrayList.class) {
        int sum = 0;
        for (Integer i: entries) {
            sum += i;
    return sum;
    } else {
        throw new Exception("Might not terminate since you are using a subclass of ArrayList"); 

2. Use a custom security manager in order to ensure that system classes have been replaced.

This has obvious disadvantages – for example if one later decides that you want to use a LinkedList or a Vector. It also assumes that no one has replaced the system classes files (e.g. rt.jar) with miscreant ones. Though obviously that could be checked using the Class Data Sharing parameters. All in all – its a massive bunch of hacks that one doesn’t want to be forced into doing just to be convinced that a damn sum function terminates!

So here’s an open challenge – can anyone convince me that they can write a simple sum function in a weakly typed language (static or dynamic) and be sure that it terminates. If you can do it via testing then its bonus points! Either way you get my respect. Note that this is my definition of weakly typed languages – anything with a type system with more loopholes/problems/lack of expressiveness in than ML is weakly typed.

April 21, 2008

Council Elections 2008


It seems a bit unfair of me to have already mentioned the London Mayoral elections, given their massive media coverage, without having talked about our local vote on 1st May. Its council election time!

Practical Points
The election is on May 1st. It is now too late to apply for a postal vote, Your polling card will specify what what ward you live in, and where you need to vote. If you can’t be bothered to move, you can find out here . I live in Whoberley, which has a wikipedia page that really needs improving, and if you live on campus you are likely to be in the Wainbody ward. Each ward has three councillors, for a total of 54 councillors in Coventry City Council. One will be elected this election. You can find out who is running here If you live in whoberley and are confused by the map on the polling card then I’ve created a Google Map .

Historically Coventry has been a Labour stronghold. They held control of the council every year from 1973 to 2002 with the exception of 1978. The conservatives took over in 2006, with a period of no overall control in between. Both Wainbody and Whoberley have currently three conservative councillors. In wainbody in 2007 the conservatives took 56% of the vote, approximately 2.5 times the number of votes that the second place candidate came in. A student (Emma Biermann) stood for election as the Green Party candidate, coming in 4th place with nearly 9% of the vote.

Whats worth noting is that there are approximately 4,000 students living on campus at University of Warwick, the university registers everyone to vote, and the total turnout in wainbody at the last council elections is also about 4,000 people. In other words a highly motivated student populace could not only swing a close vote – they could vote in whomever they wanted. (Assuming of course that not too high a percentage of campus dwellers are ineligible to vote.)

In Whoberley the conservative majority in 2007 was only 127 votes. Furthermore, the incumbent Conservative Councillor (Joan Griffin) has been booted from their ticket due to health scares, but is running as an independant. I suspect this will split the vote, and offer somewhat of a spoiler for the conservative party.

I’d really like to cover the liberal democrats at these elections, but they don’t really seem to be making much of an effort to get my vote. The Labour Party has put out a full, front, page ad in the Coventry Times, whilst the Conservatives have sent out quite good looking flyers. I have received no such information from Brian Rees Lewis (who also ran as the Lib Dem candidate last time). I can’t even find his name listed on their website. Their website is also incredibly uninformative. They have 9 days to shove something under my door if they want me to care.

Joan Griffin seems to be emphasizing school discipline and minimising the number of drinking licenses handed out. Both of these policies put me off. The conservatives and their candidate Roger Bailey have made a series of commitments for the next few years:

“Continue the ‘Contact and Connect’ service for our elderly residents” & “Keeping council tax rises below pensions” – I think is probably a good thing overall, and that policies should be sympathetic to the needs of those on fixed incomes, but its not really a key issue for me.

“Keeping Pool Meadow open” & “Keeping weekly refuse collections” – I don’t believe any party has the balls to close it, so this seems like rabble rousing to me. Also neither of these are new policies, so making pledges on them is a pretty weak campaigning effort.

Expanding recycling – thats a great pledge, but the council also wanted to allow building on Hearsall Common before a residents petition (organised by Lib Dems in the apparently vastly more active neighbouring region) stopped it . There’s more to environmental issues that just recycling and its a very vague pledge – they don’t specify what they will actually do to improve recycling.

The Labour candidate for Whoberley, Bally Singh, seems to be making a strong effort – lots of emphasis on consultation and a blog. He also also emphasises working with other people – quite important since I expect that Coventry will remain a Conservative controlled council even if he is elected, so he will need to force change from a minority position – a hard task to accomplish. He provides 3 policy pledges:

“Protect our local environment” – he specifies problems here well (Hearsall Common, Watchmakers Building, litter) though not solutions. He also a more broad ranged view of environment than the Conservative Pledges.

“Challenge Anti Social behaviour” – I have no sympathy for ‘anti-anti social behaviour policy’. He somewhat redeems himself by discussing how they can work with the local MP to try and get more activities for people to do.

“Improve our council services” – He doesn’t actually say what he will do, but he does talk about consulting with the community, so this pledge is somewhat worthless, but not entirely.

Your Vote
Please do vote in your local council elections. I’ve presented what I think is a useful summary of information, so you have no excuse.

April 11, 2008


Recently a lot of campaigners have argued the case that China shouldn’t be allowed to hold the olympics due to its ongoing occupation of tibet. It has been proposed that a boycott would reduce the positive publicity that the Chinese would be getting from their hosting activities. Gordon Brown announced the other day that he wouldn’t be present at the opening ceremonies. Media fetishism suddenly turned this into some kind of important stand again Chinese policies on tibet. This was denounced by Downing Street in an effort not to upset diplomatic relations.

But even if he hadn’t turned up – how is that progress? I can’t imagine Wen Jiabao trembling in his boots. Do we think that not having to shake some fat Scottish bloke’s hand is the biggest stand we can make on foreign policy? Is that what being a world power means these days? We fight wars against 3rd world countries actively and via proxy and yet here we are facing the another major country and all we can manage is a minor diplomatic snub? Will the historians of the 22nd Century ever enscribe the sentence “Chinese human rights abuses were cleaned up thanks to a second rate act of gesture politics by an unpopular 1/2 term prime minister?” I sincerely doubt it.

The key issue here is that whilst people have been caught up in the idea of denying China the publicity and support that the Olympics brings – we politcally, legally and by implication morally acquiesce to their acts. We’ve somehow managed to completely the obvious fact that Britain recognises Chinese rule over Tibet. We signed a treaty with the Qing empire in 1904 and ratified it in 1906. We officially considered it part of the Republic of China when dealing with Chiang Kai-shek in the second world war. When the west decided to be less hostile to the PRC the Tibet issue was ignored.

Bottom line: if you really want a stand from Britain on tibet – don’t boycott the olympics. Call for an Act of Parliament changing Britain’s recognise Chinese borders to exclude tibet. Now that really would be a stand on the matter.

April 03, 2008

London Mayoral Election

In respense to several requests I’ve deided to hand an entry over to the London Mayoral election. See here for details of polling figures I refer to.

ICM are normally about 1-3% left of yougov, so I would have expected Johnson to be about 7-8% ahead, not 2% compared to the existing yougov polling. So there’s likely a methodology difference. ICM polling focussed on ensuring their survey had a weight average of ethnic minorities at the same level as their percentage of the London population. This is according to their announcement, and with reference to Livingston’s apparent criticism of the yougov polling.

Judging from the yougov blog they seemed to focus more on socio-economic groupings when trying to make their surveys representative, but this stuff tends to be quite hazy – polling isn’t as scientific as it ought to be. Furthermore historically ethnic minorities have poor turnout rates, so choosing the percentage of population is highly likely to overestimate their impact. So verdict is still out on which poll is more representative. Bear in mind the ipsos/mori polling from about a month and a half ago had Livingston ahead, but that was labour party funded and looking pretty out of date now.

Boris fell by 2% between the last two yougov polls, but this is within the margin of error of the poll, so can’t really be considered a trend without supporting evidence (comparing with ICM would be particularly flawed, since they are using a different methodology for deciding who to survey). Quantitative evidence seems to suggest that Boris is ahead, but by an indeterminate amount. A few points to consider:

1. Boris has a large financial advantage, according to both sides – he claims to be aiming at raising £1 million. This will come into play more as the campaign continues. Since I doubt either side is spending much at the moment (since the campaign is really only just started) it probably isn’t in the numbers already.
2. Large blatantly don’t know how to attack Johnson. First they tried calling him a racist then a right wing clown. The racism charge was never going to stick, and Johnson seems to have made a significant effort to behave in a more serious manner in the run up to this campaign. As incumbent Livingston has the massive advantage that he can do things, where as Johnson merely has to say them, therefore by allowing this to become a personality race Livingston gives away his big advantage and plays into Johnsons. When he first came to office he pushed the congestion charge as a radical policy, that both polarised debate and pushed popular voting his way. In order to make a comback in this race he needs another ‘big idea’. No new bendy buses and increasing congestion charges just won’t do.
3. I imagine given their traditional strength in London that the Labour party would have much more ‘on the ground’ support. This is hard to quantify, however and highly personality dependant. Frequently heavy in your face campaigning turns people off, whilst a personal chat from a respected neighbour might be the best campaigning method.
4. Location of votes – Livingston will dominate central London, whilst Johnson takes the suburbs – this seems to be so strong that even amongst informal conversation with people I know, people living in West London seem to support Johnson, and more central/city centre support Livingston.
5. According to the labour website tag cloud they seem to be really interested in Boris Johnson, he has more tags (41) than Alan Johnson (29), Alistair Darling (7), David Miliband (13), Harriet Harman (24), Hazel Blears (32) and Hilary Benn (37). I bring this up as interesting, rather more than informative and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

My guess is that Boris’ lead is reasonably strong, but overturnable, so in summary – he’ll win if he doesn’t stick his foot in his mouth or if Livingston doesn’t pull anything out of the hat.

April 01, 2008

Some thoughts on the Labour Party

I haven’t blogged for a month, and US politics isn’t really worth covering atm (in short, Obama will take the democratic nomination, but it’ll be painful for a few weeks yet, and polling numbers vs McCain aren’t worth analysing for a while yet). So I return to my home ground of British politics.

A short while back a friend of mine felt that the early years of the Blair government (his first term basically) were the best for the British people during his lifetime. This is a sentiment shared by media analysts, people who believed in Blair, his brand of 3rd way politics. (A brand is not a paradigm, perhaps I am too cynical) In my considered opinion this is not the case.

In my opinion for a government to be considered of note or above average they must achieve a victory on a major issue over their political foes. A victory can only be claimed when their opponents are forced to concede the point politically.

An example of this is the formation of the National Health Service by the Attlee government. It was opposed at the time by the conservatives, but it has never been dismembered. One can argue over side issues – like differences in service in different parts of the country or internal market reforms for example, but the principle that it is the obligation of the government to provide for the health of the nation is not under political threat.

Another example is the change in economic policy during the thatchers years: principly privatisation of government services and emphasis of the importance of monetary, rather than fiscal policy. Keeping to these policies has become a fundamental part of the set of policies that the labour party have been elected on over the last few years, even though they have begun to overspend somewhat.

Which leaves the open question: What have the New Labour Government done to justify the praise. As far as I can see there are several key issues, none of which are ‘victories’.

Foreign policy – pre-emptive military aggression, backed by Bush and Clinton. This hasn’t proved to be popular with voters, or been a key issue battle with the Conservative Party.

Constitional Reform – with the growing nationalism in both Scotland and Wales this could be seen as a successful labour policy. Unfortunately its not exactly unilaterally accepted, a lot of English voters are wondering why their taxes are subsidising Scottish and Welsh extravagense, the NHS is no longer national, and I suspect that Britain won’t maintain its integrity throughout my lifetime. Upper house reform has also failed to achieve anything of significance – instead of two democratic houses we have gone down an appointments route.

Fox Hunting – passed through massive majority of labour voters in the house, this issue has been heavily protested by the people it actually affects, nearly no one else thinks its in any way important and the key arguments for and against haven’t been challenged. It also isn’t fully enforced.

Minimum Wage – another possible example of a major victory by Blair, the fact that it was set at the same level as most entry level jobs were paying rendered it null and void. Portillo may have caused a stir by accepting it, but ultimately it was more reflective of the internal divisions the conservatives faced at the time, than a like/dislike of the policy.

Independance of the BoE – this is a Thatcherite policy, and since its passing Hague has commented that he felt he was in opposition, and was obliged to disagree with the government on policy, not that he was fundamentally opposed to its passing.

Now I have reached the end of my post, I remember why I’ve been so much more interested in American politics than British politics. (In a Walter Sobchak-esque voice) Say what you want about the tennents of George Bush, but at least he had an ethos.

March 03, 2008

(Little) Uber Tuesday II

Follow-up to Uber Tuesday from True Contradictions

I haven’t blogged about the US primaries in nearly a month, so its time to get back on the prediction box again. In the last month the big day turned into a score draw, followed by 11 straight primary defeats for Clinton. (The Obama camp count 12, since the results for democrats abroad, who voted on uber tuesday, weren’t in until afterwards.) So surely the race is over now? Obama’s got the delegate lead, after 11 wins he must have the momentum.

Well not quite. Tomorrow Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont all vote, with Texas and Ohio holding the lions share of the votes. Both of these states are traditionally expected to be Clinton strongholds. Both Bill and that clever guy with no hair, Carville have both said that these are must win states for Clinton. Her campaign has focussed on them heavily in the last month, since a defeat in either would really signal its end. Polls initially going her way have turned against her in the last week or so.

The real question at this point is whether Obama’s mail to the Canadians saying he really loves NAFTA and he’s just using it as a political football will hurt him. I suspect not his late in the day. Clinton has made a resurgence in the polls – she was down an average of 7 pts in Texas from polling data 5 days ago, its back to a level playing field again. Its entirely possible her message sits better with people in Texas and Ohio than Obama’s – I can’t really see why she is gaining otherwise. And the numbers frequently lie. Especially given the inherent pro-Obama bias of the texas polling system – I wouldn’t be surprised for him to take more delegates, whilst Hillary wins the popular vote. Hillary will probably win Ohio by 5-10% or so.

More interesting than this is speculation on the final race for the presidency. McCain has been doing very well in nationwide polling recently – of the last 5 nationwide polls I’ve seen Obama has only won one of them. Still the difference is narrow enough at the moment to not really be important. McCain’s campaign is in a poor state of organisation, and highly susceptible to a heavy tv spend over the summer months – as Clinton did in 1996 against Bob Dole. Such a strategy could only really work if Obama were to take the nomination early, months of uncertainty would help McCain a lot more.

Another issue is fundraising – In Janury Obama hauled 31 million, and early february this seemed to accelerate even more for both Democratic candidates. The question is how sustainable this is. McCain has huge fundraising potential, since his campaign hasn’t reached out to many republicans, who would certainly be more interested in seeing him in the White House than Clinton (I will continue to ignore Ann Coulter since I belive she is one of the few people whose endorsement would do more harm than good) and probably Obama as well. Consequently I wouldn’t be too surprised if McCain is competitive in fundraising by the time the conventions roll around.

I’ve already mentioned a few possible running mate choices for the democrats, but lets lengthen that list a bit and increase the chance of me being correct!


She has excellent brand name recognition, good experience, she’s female, african American, clever and would help get conservatives on board with McCain. She’s a fairly long shot though, and would provide Democratic amunition to tie McCain in with an unpopular administration.

The Midwest
States in this region are looking competitive, and are necessary Republican holds, so two term governors from this region such as Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are possibles. Pawlenty is McCain national campaign co-chair.

Charlie Christ
Popular florida governor, who would help secure that state for the republicans, and has sound conservative credentials. Unfortunately he’s not married, and rumoured to be gay – if there’s anything that could put off Republicans more, or the ‘Reagan Democrats’ that McCain needs the votes of then he’s running mate being ‘outed’ as gay would be it. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter would have a field day. To quote a republican strategist – ‘The republican party is the party of family values – and where’s his family?’ Still he’s probably one of the strongest options for McCain.


Obama should really look for a middle of the road – cross partisan democrat who has experience and popularity. Good thing Michael Bloomberg has recently announced he won’t be running! Bloomberg doesn’t have a long term Washington History, but his business experience is invaluable, he also has unmatchable fundraising ability. Whether Bloomberg would be willing to understudy is another matter.

Tim Kaine
Virginia governor who jumped on the Obama bandwagon early. He’s also in a key swing state, and has a lot of experience at the statewide level.

Bill Richardson
Even though I mentioned him in my previous running mate rundown – its worth mentioning that he hasn’t thrown his support behind Hillary as one would expect him to. He’s also being heavily courted by the Obama camp. Even if he isn’t named as VP – I read a suggestion to name him as secretary of state at the same time – in order to bolster Obama’s lack of experience.

Janet Napolitano
Governor of Arizona and thus could help Obama in the south or west of the country. Being a female helps balance the ticket, and the geography works too. Also a former Attourney General of Arizona, so comes with strong experience. Not being a washington insider helps Obama’s message of change. For the same basic reasons Kathleen Sebelius .


I’m not going to bother suggesting vice presidential nominees, since I think Clinton would have a massive uphill struggle getting elected if she were democratic nominee.

February 14, 2008

Ubuntu command–not–found how to

Writing about web page http://blog.prelode.com/?p=69

February 12, 2008

American Idol considered Torture

Earlier today the CIA stated that they had used American Idol on prisoners. This is the first time that the organisation has admitted to using the controversial technique in the War on Terror. While he was being interviewed by Congress Michael Hayden, current CIA head, stated that American Idol had been used on 3 subjects who were imprisoned at Guantanamo bay, but not within the past 1 week.

The British foreign secretary, David Miliband, recently stated, “We would never do anything like that”, when asked about the use of American Idol. The television show is considered torture by several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, and the US congress has considered banning it, however, President has made it publically known that he would veto a bill, stating, “I particularly like the early rounds, when there are more of what we texans call, ‘shit singers’”

Kuwaiti-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been accused of planning the september 11th attacks, claims that American Idol was used on him. Both of the other two detainers who were forced to watch American Idol were also suspected of being high level Al-Quaeda operatives.

The technique itself involves forcing the detainee to sit through an entire episode of American Idol. This can range from 23minutes, to a whole hour for a final. Public opinion has turned against the show after people released the contestants were all boring, and fat.

When asked what he thought about the technique Seth McFarlane, Family Guy creator, replied, “not good meg, not good.”

February 05, 2008

Uber Tuesday

Follow-up to Florida from True Contradictions

When I originally started bloggin the republican race was looking vastly more interesting than the democratic one, several series candidates, from different wings of the party all competing with each other. Originally strong candidates were looking incredibly weak (Guiliani, McCain at the time) and Huckabee was riding a strong wave with practically no money or support. Since then the tables have turned. The republican race has settled down, with McCain a clear leader in both support and pledged delegates, whilst the democratic field has narrows with the loss of Edwards, in many ways Obama’s rise has made it less predictable.


Whats worth noting is that Obama is coming good at the right time – 2 weeks ago he was nationally behind Clinton by 12%, one week ago that had dropped to 6%, on Sunday he was listed as 3% behind, and today CNN released poll figures showing that Obama was ahead by 3%. This is the first poll to show Obama ahead of Clinton nationally, and also the only poll showing that! Super Tuesday could really be the end of the line for the Clinton campaign – that is to say if she doesn’t win here its only downhill. Even a close 2nd for Obama will be perceived as a victory for him, and might possibly give enough momentum for the nomination.

Due to the sheer size of uber tuesday I have decided to present the results in a different manner to previously. Firstly I have prepared a spreadsheet that approximates the total number of votes I believe each candidate shall receive. I believe I will be massively more inaccurate today than previously, since as well the sheer size of the event Edward’s dropout has left massive numbers of undecided voters in the polling numbers.

Now the first thing to bear in mind about my figures are that Obama trails Clinton – this isn’t because he is behind nationally, but because many of Clinton’s strongest states (California and New York for example) vote on uber tuesday. If Obama can survive this, then he is likely to take major delegate hauls on, for example, Feb 12th (Maryland, Virginia and DC). The totals, for those who can’t be bothered to read are 871 – 816.

North East
I expect Clinton to take her home state of New York, where she is senator by a significant margin, whilst Obama will take votes upstate, I believethe city will be highly pro-Clinton. New Jersey seems a lot closer, but still goes for Clinton. Its a similar story in Massachusetts. Conneticut I believe will go Obama, due to a recent flood of new voter registration, especially amongster younger voters.

Minnesota appears to be favouring Obama, in light of backing from a pair of house representatives, the same with North Dakota.

In the south Obama leads in Georgia, and I would expect him to take the state on the back of African American support. i essentially believe white southerners will vote for Clinton and against any sort of change at all. So Alabama is a tie, and Tennessee (with its lower black populace) goes to Clinton. I also believe she will take Arkansas by a high margin, as Bill was a popular govenor there, additionally she has strong backing by the states’ current leading democrats. Oklahoma neighbours Arkansas and seems to be favouring Clinton. Arizona used to be a Hillary lead, but Obama has been endorsed by the governer and a house representative recently, so I expect it shall be close.

South West
I’ve listed California as a Clinton win, though large margin has been wiped out by Obama’s strong campaigning. His strength amongst black minorities and college educated white voters will be cancelled out by women and the elderly. Unfortunately, about 1/2 of democrats in California tend to vote by absentee ballots, and a lot early, this gives Hillary the edge, because of her past lead here. I believe New Mexico will go to Hillary, governor Richardson sat heside her at the super bowl, and her strength with hispanic voters will do her well here.

I have no idea what the hell will happen in Alaska, American Samoa, Kansas, and Democrats abroad. I believe Alaska to go Obama but its a large state with no polling data, a small populace and a republican bent. Basically I’m pissing in the wind and guessing that they hate Hillary. The last poll in Idaho was conducted in mid december and shows al gore in the lead – I’m going for Obama, since Hillary seems to admit that he is in the lead there. I’ve given Obama a small lead in Kansas due to the strong support by State Senate members.


I can’t be bothered doing a proper Republican rundown, since McCain will win and the democratic race has become far more exciting. I might write something on it tomorrow.

February 04, 2008


With Lost returning to the television screens, and its mass fans worldwide, its easy to ignore the fact that its an inconsistent program. Sometimes its plotting drags, and whilst most characters are well developed now, both Hurley and Charlie started out as joke figures in my mind. With this in mind I decided to list a few programs that I feel ought to be viewed by anyone interested in serious drama. This is by no means an exhaustive list – since I generally don’t watch much tv drama (too much crap around).

The Sopranos

Now complete family crime drama, the show juxtaposes the family and business interests of its main character, Tony Soprano. This allows for in detailed characterisation, and the opportunity to bring a variety of characters together, from his daughter’s university friends to hardened criminals. Tony is a fascinating study in and of himself – my personal favourite is the manner in which he eats, it has a very special idiom to it. He plays with his food obsessively, then eventually his takes his fork, stabs one element of it, and eats it – swallowing quickly. Often it seems as though his eating habbits are a compulsion, a comfort for a man who has difficulty expressing his emotions. The strong supporting cast and character driven nature of the show are also highlights.


The show is set from the point of view of its serial killing title character. Fascinating insite is given to the relationship between people, through Dexter’s description of how he ‘fakes’ human emotions. The show is driven forward by his discovery of how Dexter became the way he is. Another point of interest is they way his moral code guides the way he acts and the judgements implicit and explicit within its development.


This nineties prison drama, set primarily in the experimental wing of the Oswald State penitentiary. The fast moving plot frequently focusses on the infighting between different ethnic groups within the prison. Overall narration is done in the style of classical greek theatre – with interludes where the key theme of each episode is discussed. The show deliberately chooses to offer ambiguity in response to key criminal issues – such as the debate between reforming and incarcerating prisoners.

House of Cards

Miniseries from 1990 that charts the rise of its lead character – Francis Urquhart – in a post Thatcherite conservative party. The series had the good fortune to be aired at the same time as the internal struggle surrounding Thatcher’s departure, however, it still stands the test of time. Urquhart is portrayed as a Machavellian political machine, only interested in his own political rise. The show depicts the corresponding fall of those manipulated by Urquhart’s underhand dealings. There are frequent parallels with Shakespearean work, notably Richard III. My favourite aspects are the short solliloques, and frequent glances to camera given by Urquhart that reveal his true intent and the brief shots of rats that increasingly appear at times throughout the show.

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  • I thought it was fascinating. Griffin isn't like any other, media–trained, polished politician, and … by Tim on this entry

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