Lord’s Day Over: Number Recrunch

The results of New Brunswick’s provincial election on Monday “is another classic illustration of how voters say one thing with their ballots but the [current] system ends up giving them something different,” says the executive director of Fair Vote Canada.

I found the report of New Brunswick electoral reform commission. Taking note of the four regions the commission proposes* and correcting a mistake in the calculation formula in my spreadsheet (which I’ll amend on all other spreadsheets one day), I recrunched the numbers.

Proportional representation isn’t perfect, but it would indeed be a lot better. With my calculation fix, the NDP would still have been shut out of the N.B. Legislature, and with barely 5% of the vote, I begrudgingly admit that’s how it should be. Consequently, the recrunch shows that the election would still have yielded a slim majority …but for the Progressive Conservatives, not the Liberals.

Actual: Lib: 9; PC: 5; NDP: 0
MPP: Lib: 7; PC: 7; NDP: 0
Central **
Actual: Lib: 9; PC: 4; NDP: 0
MPP: Lib: 7; PC: 7; NDP: 0
Actual: Lib: 7; PC: 7; NDP: 0
MPP: Lib: 7; PC: 7; NDP: 0
Actual: Lib: 4; PC: 10; NDP: 0
MPP: Lib: 6; PC: 8; NDP: 0
Actual: Lib: 29; PC: 26; NDP: 0
MPP: Lib: 27; PC: 29; NDP: 0

In other words, not only would the results have been opposite, but they would have better reflected the popular vote, even though only 1,359 votes separate the PCs and the Liberals province-wide.

* Being from New Brunswick, the four regions I had created had an unequal number of ridings but, in my mind, were geographically and “culturally” logical. For instance, knowing how the roads are in this province, I thought it would impractical for a regional MLA to cover a region like “North,” which takes in Grand Falls/Grand-Sault in the northwest and Shippagan in the northeast. Similarly, having a region with Fredericton and Woodstock with Miramichi is not as “intuitive” to me as one with Fredericton and Saint John, although I realize my view would place two of three major centres in the same region. Sometimes, a strictly mathematical division is fair but not practical or responsive to cultural bonds. The “Brayons” of the northwest are very different from the “Acadiens” of the northeast even though both groups are francophone, not to mention that the northwest is in better shape economically than the northeast. But that said, I recognize that a mathematical approach is not as arbitrary and, thus, probably better.

** Extra regional seat to make region equally weighted.

Lord’s Day Over

The New Brunswick provincial election yesterday has led to showing the door to Progressive Conservative Premier Bernard Lord, but by no means was he creamed. With less than half a percentage point’s difference in the popular vote in favour of the PCs, Shawn Graham’s Liberals have formed a majority goverment: 29 Libs, 26 PCs, 0 NDP. The NDP’s showing under leader Allison Brewer was a disgrace: from a hair under 10% of the popular vote and 1 seat in 2003 to a hair above 5% this year and no seats.

Of course, I took an hour tonight and crunched the number in my trusty MPP spreadsheet. One way of looking at the data with MPP lens would have given New Brunswickers a PC minority: 27 PCs, 27 Libs and 2 NDP. It would have been a PC government due to their incumbent status, unless the Libs and NDP had agreed to a coalition and the Lieutenant-Governor called on them to form the government.

I’m still looking forward to the day when I have leisure time to create that website with tons of elections results, that would represent the data in different scenarios. But that won’t be for a while given the way things are going for me work-wise.

A Mixed Bag for Saturday

I went to bed around 11:30 last night, exhausted out of my mind. Yes, me, in bed before midnight on a Friday night. Unbelievable as it still is after 6 or 7 months of having switched my internal clock from nights to days, and as much as I’m overextended by work, I have to be honest with myself: I’m not feeling as exhausted as I felt when I was a night owl. Despite what I think is still my propensity to be a night person, I have to concede that I’m probably getting more and better sleep as a day person. I still wish I could operate on less sleep, but I can’t do that anymore at 41.

Today, September 16, 2006, would have been my father’s 81st birthday. That means today’s exactly two-and-a-half days since his funeral — March 16, 2004. Of course, I would always call him on his birthday. I remember one year in particular — I think in the late ’90s — when we were having these fantastic, very summer-like Septembers, he reported having gone for a walk all the way to Main Street in Moncton on the morning of his birthday — a walk of more than 2 miles — and claimed he hadn’t needed to wear a jacket. Funny how we remember trivial remarks like that.

Although it’s been autumn-like in the Maritimes since the end of August, today and tomorrow are shaping up like those warm late-summer days of a few years ago. The sun rises around 7:00 and sets before 7:30 at this time of year, but although the days are much shorter than they are in late June or early July, it’s clear it will feel like summer today, with temperatures well into the mid-20s C. Normally that would be enough for me to pack my gear and take advantage of the warm season’s swan song, but this year I can’t justify that. I have to work, and that’s that. I have to remind myself how I told myself that this year has to be one of sacrifice so that I can climb out of debt. It’s not a glamourous objective, but it’s worthwhile.

Yesterday I picked up my mail at my post office box and found a cheque from the client I was telling you about last Saturday. There was a short, handwritten note from the organization’s treasurer, dated 12 September, that explained that he was sending the cheque even though he hadn’t received my regular monthly bill. As I mentioned to you, even though all my friends have advised me otherwise, I intended not to bill the client this month because that’s just the way I am. It doesn’t matter to me that I’ve consistently done more work than what I’ve been paid for; I can’t bring myself to charge for work not done. Consequently, I don’t plan to cash the cheque, unless the client insists that I do so as part of the new arrangements I’m working on. I do find interesting that the cheque was cut the day after I spoke to a member of the client’s executive board. Perhaps he reported that not only am I trying to come up with a solution, which I intend to bring to the board shortly; he may also have reported that I’m feeling remorseful about the current situation.

Meanwhile, my day job yesterday was pure hell. One call — the third conversion call of the day — lasted three hours. It had to because it’s a large account requiring a lot of setup, but I had to cut the call short because I had another appointment that started at 5:00 my time. Just as I was to start the training component of the call, I found out that the client wasn’t enrolled to the services to which I thought it was enrolled, and theirs was the only type of conversion I cannot do. I immediately called my colleague JR who, fortunately, wasn’t on the phone and agreed to continue my call. In exchange, however, I agreed to call someone he had promised to call at 4:30 EDT.

I only got the client’s voice mail when I tried calling, so then I called another client I had on my “to call today” list and, surprisingly, closed that conversion. A voice-mail message was waiting for me when I closed that conversion and it was from the client for whom I had left the voice mail, so feeling obliged to both JR and the client and despite the fact it was now almost 6:00 EDT, I return the client’s call. I immediately started by asking the client if it was too late but the client very kindly said, “Oh no, I very much appreciate the call.” But there ended the niceties. Here’s a call that should have lasted 30 minutes — 40 at the very most — lasting an hour and a quarter. Not only was he the kind of client I end up having to explain how to operate a computer, but also he was the kind who kept trying to anticipate what I would ask him to do next and wouldn’t pay attention to anything I would say. At one point I said something mildly rude, but he didn’t seem to be offended: “Sir,” I said, “can you please slow down. We’re all going to make it to Sunday at the same time.” Normally I would only pause and tell the client to “bear with me” and “trust me” since I’ve done hundreds of these conversions and have developed an orderly technique to get through a conversion. But being so tired by that point of the day and given this was my 6th substantive call of the day, my patience had worn thin. Despite thinking I came across as rude and impatient, I guess I didn’t come across that way because he was very profusive in thanking me at the end of the call.

Meanwhile, all week at the day job, I had the nagging feeling I was forgetting something but no amount of riffling through my files helped me remember what that was, if anything. Finally, between my surprise conversion closing and the difficult call I just described, it came to me. One of my colleagues in Toronto pulled a snafu — that’s okay, we’re all allowed to pull one of those once in a while — but then she essentially threw the ball back in my court to call the client and fix up her mess. That bugs me on several levels: first, our m.o. at the bank is to take personal responsibility for our mistakes, and that’s clearly not what she was doing; and second, this is a client we’ve had a lot of trouble nailing down for a conversion and is extremely difficult to reach, so this is the worst kind of client to fuck around. Unfortunately, with my remembering only Friday evening what I was supposed to do, chances are we won’t be able to cut through the red tape and fix what needs to be fixed in time for my appointment with the client late Monday afternoon. Last week there were nearly a dozen snafus by my Toronto colleagues that directly affected my work, and with my load of appointments last week being 125% what it should have been, I’m finding that I can’t keep up.

Anyway, enough of this crap. I have to get to work …and I mean it this time. Sadly I’ll be missing out on the last nice days of summer. I just have to remind myself that there’s a purpose to all of this.

Just a Little Whine

Someone I know once said about his work, “I love my job; there’s just too much of it.” Now, more than ever, I can relate with that comment. I often used to feel that way while I was “only” running my little business, but now that’s a perpetual state.

By the end of today (and thus the work week for the day job), I will have done 19 conversion calls. Not all were successfully completed, but still, the number expected of me is 15 per week — i.e., 3 per day. The last time I looked, I have a potential of five appointment slots until the end of September, as 3 days (25, 26 & 27) are a write-off for calls because the day job is flying me to Toronto. Then I’m scheduled to be on vacation for 6 work days in October, which I think I desperately need even though I had a week off in August, but that further complicates the scheduling of appointments.

Meanwhile, over the next 7 days, in addition to the above, I’m expected to [a] put together my midterm performance evaluation and discuss it with my supervisor, [b] complete the data entry and programming for one of my other-job client, [c] prepare a proposal and contracts for another one of my other-job clients. Then, while in Toronto, I’ll be meeting one afternoon with the client in [b] above. Upon my return, I’ll probably have a few kinks to iron out for [b], plus I’ll have to finish [c] and create the infrastructure programming to support it, and complete the job for a third of my other-job clients. On the one hand, time-wise, I can’t afford to take a week off in October, but on the other hand, mentally and physically speaking, I can’t sustain this pace of 10 to 12 hours, 7 days a week, and retain my sanity.

{Interruption to do a conversion call for day job…}

Anyway, I have to get back to the day job. I wish I could stay mentally alert for 48 hours non-stop and plough through all that needs to be done. But since that’s not feasible, I’m trying to figure out what’s going to give.