Saturday, April 24, 2010

[Hot news from England]
David Cameron (C) isn't the sure winner of the general election after all! The country is totally fed up with Labour, but Nick Clegg (Liberal Party) is up there with Cameron. A quick primer on party politics in the UK:
  • Conservative ("Tories"). Traditionally the more right-wing of the major parties. Think Thatcher, Churchill, etc.
  • Labour ("Socialists"). Founded around the turn of the 19/20 centuries, first came to power in the 1930s. The 1920s in the UK saw coalition governments.
  • Liverals - now "Liberal Democrats" ("Whigs", traditionally, although the nickname has vanished now). Last in power during WWI, last in coalition in 1974.
In the mid-70s the Liberals almost got into power in a Lib-Tory coalition, but it failed to get sufficient seats in parliant and Labour took power for six months, followed by the disastrous Labour pre-Thatcher government. Certainly in the last 50 years the received wisdom in British politics has been that a Liberal vote has been a wasted vote - a point of view endorsed, naturally enough, by both Conservatives and Labour!

In the mid-70s some polls put Lib support at around 25%; today it appears to be agreed to be in the low-30s! The Libs passed Labour some time in the last month as both Labour and Conservatives have been trending down in support percentages. Traditionally the numbers suddenly resolve on election night with lots of people suddenly deciding not to vote for the smaller party after all, despite their poll answers.

It seems like the Libs may soon hold the balance of power as they so nearly did in 1974. The results of this will be huge. The political system in the UK is described as "winner takes all" - every seat is a separate election and the winner is the winner; the party with over 50% of seats is the winning party, and results are very quickly known - within 4-6 hours of polling closing.

The Liberal Democrat party will almost certainly look for electoral reform in exchange for parliamentary support, as proportional representation would suddenly make their position in politics immeasurably stronger.

So my pick-of-the-month is watching the UK election. It'll be exciting like so many elections aren't, and it certainly beats watching bankers in the euro-zone getting ready to pay billions to bail out Greece.

[Tech Stuff]
  • Just finished a two-week data migration. Worst part: the pain of working with Windows 95 (I skipped Win/9X and went from 3.11 to NT4!). Frustrating part: the way that the documentation had to be written to demonstrate that we had done "it right". The best part: the happy customer!!
  • Hopefully I have another contract coming up very soon, and that'll keep the rent paid, at least.
  • Just finished a course on Reporting Services 2008 from Pragmatic Works. I've seen another of their courses, on Integration Services, and also a number of their one-hour events that they put on periodically at no cost for the benefit of anyone in trouble in this economy. They're very professionally produced, very effectively presented, and chock-full of useful information, explanations, and techniques. I give them an 11 out of 10! Be warned, though: their information density can be very high, so make sure you don't blink!
  • Still working away on the MCTS DBA stuff from Insider Training: there's jst so much to try to get your head around before being ready to put down your $125 for the exam!
  • Going to be assisting a friend in learning PL/SQL in a couple of weeks: after that I might just try for an Oracle SQL Certified Expert exam!

Nothing this week, but next weekend is the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, and we're going, just like last year. Hopefully it'll be sunny but cool: rain's no fun and blazing heat'll just make it miserable.

Well, that's all for now: see you all when I do! To those with new phones: "Text On!"

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