Monthly Archive for May, 2010

In honour of grad students marking exams …

… and since I finished my marking today, here are The Simpsons and PHD Comics on the typical graduate student’s lot in life in May and June:


The last 20 minutes of the last episode of the last season were the only 20 minutes I watched.

Conclusion: Americans are so f’ing religious.

The last 20 minutes of the last episode of the last season were the only
20 minutes I watched.

Conclusion:  Americans are so f'ing religious.

An astonishing victory for the Liberal Democrats

Well, I am impressed.  The Lib Dems have obtained everything and more that I predicted yesterday.  I couldn’t be happier.  I’m astounded that the Lib Dems have achieved so much or that the Conservatives were prepared to concede so much.  Congratulations are due to both Cameron and Clegg.  This is a sensible, grown-up result.  Full details of the coalition agreement are yet to be released (they will at 2pm London time), but it looks like:

The Cabinet

  • Lib Dems to have five (!) seats in the cabinet, including deputy PM for Clegg.

Electoral Reform

  • Fixed term (five year) parliament, with the next election to be held on the first Thursday of May, 2015 [Lib Dems].
  • Adjustments to electoral boundaries to equalise the constituency sizes [Tories].
  • A referendum on Alternative Vote — a.k.a. Preferential Voting — for the House of Commons [Lib Dems].
  • Proportional Representation for the House of Lords! [Lib Dems]

Fiscal Policy

  • An emergency budget within 50 days [Tories].
  • A reduction in spending of six billion pounds for the 2010/2011 year [Tories].
  • A gradual raising of the tax-free threshold to £10,000 [Lib Dems].
  • Capital Gains Tax increased to match income tax, [Lib Dems] with lower rates for entrepeneurial business investments [Tories].
  • Inheritance tax to remain unchanged [Lib Dems].
  • The rise in employers’ National Insurance will be scrapped [Tories].
  • The rise in employees’ National Insurance will remain to partially fund the increase in the tax-free threshold [Lib Dems].
  • Tax cut for married couples will go ahead [Tories].


  • No adoption of the Euro [Tories].
  • Referendum on any future treaties that would cede any power to Brussels [Tories].


  • A limit on non-EU immigrants to the UK [Tories].


  • Trident gets replaced [Tories].

Financial Regulation

  • Macroprudential regulation to be at the Bank of England [Tories].
  • Microprudential regulation to be decided later (i.e. the FSA may not be dismantled) [Lib Dems].
  • An independent commission to consider breaking up the biggest banks [Lib Dems].


  • No agreement on nuclear power, but a Lib Dem will be secretary of state for the environment [Lib Dems].

15:17 I predict a Conservative-LibDem coalition

The Labour and Liberal Democrat negotiating teams finished a session around 13:30.  The Conservative negotiation team then sat down with the Lib Dems at 14:00.  Ever since then, there has been a steady stream of increasingly-senior Labour figures arguing against a Lab-Lib coalition, which suggests to me that they’re softening up the ground for a Tory-led government.

From the BBC Live stream:

14:26 Labour MP and former minister Michael Meacher says his party should go into opposition and “renew itself”.

14:30 The first Labour minister has openly expressed the feeling that a Lab-Lib coalition is not viable.

14:36 “We must NOT enter a deal with Labour,” writes Keith Nevols, former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, on his blog.

14:43 The London Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh claims that in last night’s cabinet meeting Health Secretary Andy Burnham “broke ranks to give an ominous warning of the dangers of trying to concoct such an unstable alliance” between Labour and the Lib Dems.

15:12 Labour MP for Batley and Spen Mike Wood says “David Cameron should be PM”.

My prediction:

A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, with major points along the lines of:

  • Strong support for Tory spending (cut) plans;
  • Freedom for the Lib Dems to oppose the Tory line on Europe and Trident, at the least;
  • Some mechanism to equalise the size of constituencies (which would help the Tories);
  • A referendum on Alternative Vote — a.k.a. Preferential Voting — for the House of Commons (which would help the Lib Dems);
  • No agreement on reform of the House of Lords;
  • The Lib Dems getting one mid-to-high level cabinet position (something like Home Secretary); and
  • An intention to keep the new parliament for at least two years.

The Lib Dems will desperately want two things:

  1. to have electoral reform enacted (presuming that they succeed in the referendum) before the next election; and
  2. to have an opportunity to be seen to be actively influencing policy in their favour.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats have their Southport resolution.  Any coalition must obtain 75% support amoung Lib Dem MPs, members of the House of Lords and executives of the party.  Nevertheless, I think that they’ll pull it through.  If nothing else, the prospect of the first Lib Dem cabinet position in a century will awaken the real politik in their MPs.

Previously on the UK electoral system:

Reblog: Cranial Heat Sink

Hey, if you can retweet, you can reblog.  Jeff Ely:

Tyler Cowen tweeted:

Why do chess players hold their heads hard, with their hands, when they are thinking? If it works, why don’t more thinkers do it?

To prevent overheating of course.  You’ll notice that they typically extend their fingers and cover their foreheads which is the hottest part.  They are [unconsciously] maximizing surface area in order to increase heat dissipation.

Here is a suggestion for how to super-cool your cranium and over-clock your brain.  On a more serious note, here is a pipe that is surgically implanted in the skull of epileptics to reduce the intensity of seizures.