June 5th, 2004

breaking bad

Going postal

So, B in my office received his postal ballot paper a couple of days ago. It is the worst. It's a massive piece of paper, that you have to tear into two still quite big pieces. You have to vote on one piece, in private, and then you have to assert your identity on the other piece, in front of a witness, who also has to sign. There are two envelopes: you have to put the voting page into one envelope, properly folded so that the bar code shows in the window, and seal it; then you put the voting envelope and the completed identity sheet (again folded in a particular way) into the other envelope. The two envelopes are different colours, and you have to get them the right way round.

My concern about the postal vote is not the complexity of the process (though it is nonsense) but the lack on control and anonymity. I think it reduces what should be a proud moment to a farce, and it allows bossy people to take control of the other votes in their household: I'm certain that will happen. I also think more widespread ballot-theft and fraud is fairly likely. Even if it doesn't happen, it's a plausible story that anyone losing can put about.

All in all a disaster for democracy.

B decided that he wanted to protest about the voting procedure more than he wanted to vote for any of the candidates, so he spoiled his ballot paper with a complaint, and faxed his MP to tell him what he had done. I hope a lot of people do that kind of thing.

For myself, I haven't decided how to vote yet.
breaking bad

Petals round the rose

Petals round the rose is an old puzzle. All I can tell you is:

- the name of the puzzle may be significant
- the answer is always an even number (or zero)

See if you can work out the solution. It took me quite a while: twenty minutes perhaps. Some get it in seconds. There is some debate about whether the ease with which you solve the puzzle reveals something about the type of intellect you have. Some very clever people take a long time. Some people think the cleverer you are the longer it will take.

There is a metafilter discussion of the puzzle here, with over a hundred comments. Some of the comments give bigger or smaller clues as to the solution. Some give it away.

There is a discussion of how Bill Gates solved the 'petals round the rose' puzzle here. It doesn't tell you the solution.