November 28, 2000

Adventures in Democracy

Headline: Canada Hand-Counts Votes in 4 Hours

Well our (the Canadian) election is over. The present Liberal government was re-elected with an even stronger mandate than before; the separatist faction in Quebec lost ground*; and not a chad was left hanging.

Actually, we in Canada don't do chad. We vote the old-fashioned way.. with pencil and paper. The election official hands you a paper ballot, whereupon the name of each candidate and the party they represent is listed, accompanied by a white circle; you take the pencil that is provided on the voting table (usually a small elementary school desk with a cardboard shield on top of it) and create an "X" beside the candidate of your choice.

Furthermore, the votes are all hand counted! The counting is supervised by representatives of the parties involved; each polling station counts their own, which (according to the above article) are arranged so they would handle no more than 500 ballots.

The suspense was all over before 11 PM.. even though our local polls only closed at 9:30 PM! Canadian reporting is hampered by four and a half time zones and a law that states that NO results are to be released into an area where the polls have not yet closed. This time the voting hours seemed to be staggered such that the country was synchronized in real time (or close enough to it.)

Half a time zone? That's Newfoundland. They just have to be different..

Now that the distraction of choosing our leader for the next four years is out of the way, we can concentrate on the events in the U.S. We may be efficient but you guys sure know how to stage a drama!

*The political movement that works toward the separation of Quebec from Canada, itself fields candidates in the Canadian federal election; presumably to monitor Quebec's interests in Ottawa but it's generally considered a bit of an oxymoronic phenomenon. If you want to be your own country, why send representatives to the government of the country you no longer want to be a part of? These people do get elected, too.. at one point a few elections ago they formed the official opposition in Canada.

And don't think for a moment that our system minimizes the chance of fraud.. much the contrary. In the last referendum on Quebec separation (1995) there were well documented and officially accepted cases where the side in favour of separation disqualified perfectly legal ballots for the "no" side. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending whose side you're on) they didn't throw away enough of them and lost by a hair anyway. This prompted then Premier of Quebec Jacques Parizeau to blame the defeat on "money and the ethnic vote". He did not remain Premier of Quebec for much longer after that.

In other news..

I was back at the pet store today, picking up crickets for the lizard. I didn't have time to visit the cats, but I did witness a rather awesome (to me) event in the reptile section. They had a snake set aside in a plastic tub (kitchen sink size) and that snake was having its dinner; by the time I noticed what was going on, "dinner" was well under way, which is probably a good thing. The snake was about a foot long and a bit wider than a grass snake; hanging out of its mouth were the rear end, rear feet, and tail of a small grey mouse. I'm pretty sure the mouse, while previously alive, was dead by that time, as it wasn't moving (independently of the snake).

I know that snakes swallow mice whole, but knowing it and seeing it are different things. I watched in horrified fascination and that must have shown on my face, as another customer came over and became drawn in by the same spectacle. It took the snake about five more minutes to finish off the mouse; when I left, only the tail was still hanging out of its mouth. I don't really know how the snake breathes while doing that, but this snake didn't seem to be in any distress; he actually looked quite content. I also have to admit that I'm perverted enough to have been reminded of the movie "Deep Throat"...

Linque Du Jour:   Dolphins on Parade

It's been awhile and I thought maybe people had come to their senses but nooooooo..

As part of an overall effort to establish the (Florida) Keys as a national and international arts and cultural destination, the Monroe Council of the Arts is launching an exciting new public art initiative called "Dolphins on Parade." Patterned after the successful art event held in Chicago, this year-long, Keys wide promotional event is geared toward spotlighting the artistic diversity and creative talent that is abundant throughout out island chain.

Recent studies have consistently shown that culture ranks high on the list of reasons people give for selecting vacation destinations. Visitors interested in cultural and historical destinations tend to have higher income levels, stay longer, are more likely to stay in hotels, have a greater interest in shopping, and spend more money with less negative impact on the environment.

Culture? This is culture? Hemingway must truly be spinning.

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