Cuevano ~ Jorge Aranda

Scientific computing in 10 years

Greg Wilson, being the gloomy jaded pessimist he is, thinks leading-edge programmers will be doing scientific computing in JavaScript in 10 years. I disagree—I don't know what these programmers will be using then, but to the extent that they will be building on currently mainstream technologies I think it will continue being R and Python, rather than JavaScript. We placed a bet on it; this post is here for reference.

Going for him, Greg has the most popular language today, which, from a humble and rushed start in our browsers, continues to shift shape and burrow in the most unlikely places, and to prove all of its naysayers wrong. Against that, I have technologies that have ingrained themselves in the scientific community, which have fast, usable, and sophisticated modules that took many years to build and get right, and which offer newcomers a different career path and paradigm, spiraling out of data and formulas (rather than out of the browser) into the rest of the world.

Whoever wins the bet, it should be a fun dinner in 2027, and I'm looking forward to it.

Prove me wrong, Andrew Weaver!

After two weeks of waiting, the final results from the BC Provincial Election should be released today. The election was a nail-biter, with the BC Liberals nine votes away from a majority government and the BC Greens in a kingmaker role, that is, with enough votes to prop up a Liberal or NDP government, provided that the early results held, after absentee ballots and a final recount in the closest ridings.

So far, it looks like the early results will hold, which is good news—at the very least, we won't have a BC Liberal majority. At the federal level, as a Green, this would have been my dream scenario, but I have previously expressed reservations about Weaver's progressive values and willingness to work with the BC NDP. I felt that, if the BC Greens landed in this scenario, Weaver would rather collaborate with the centre-right party, perhaps extracting a couple of small concessions (spun like magnificent deals) for his support. I would love to be wrong. There is broad support for a left-wing coalition, and rejecting calls for cooperation would also damage the BC Greens' reputation as a progressive party, and the damage would be long-lasting and extend to the Federal Greens as well (one of my main fears and misgivings about Andrew Weaver).

So: Andrew Weaver, please prove me wrong! Agree to a solid, stable collaboration with the BC NDP, one that will bring forth electoral reform, enact environmentally strong policies, and reverse the damage done by the current government. Many of us would be happy to give you our support in future elections if you do so.

Site Migration

You may notice things are a bit different here: I have migrated from Wordpress to Jekyll, partly to minimize exposure to advertisers, partly to reduce hosting costs (the site is now hosted on S3), and partly to scratch the itch I've had for a while to explore static site generators and serverless hosting.

The one downside to this is that the new site does not have comments, which I used to enjoy quite a bit. I thought about adding Disqus, but this would mean allowing one more third party to track your browsing habits, and I would either have to pay for the service or allow them to display ads, which I did not want to do. So: if you want to comment on a post, I would welcome your thoughts directly on Twitter, Facebook, or over email or coffee!

2017 British Columbia election

If you live in British Columbia, you must be aware that there is a provincial election going on. It is an interesting one—the polls, for whatever they are worth these days, project a fairly close election between the BC Liberals and the BC NDP, which gives our personal decisions a greater weight than usual.

(For context for people outside of British Columbia or newcomers to the province, there are three parties of note here: the BC Liberals, which have been in power since 2001, the BC NDP, and the BC Greens. The “BC” at the start of their names is not there just to be pedantic; these parties are not technically associated with their federal namesakes, and in the case of the BC Liberals, they are in fact quite distinct. Though the mapping between federal and provincial NDP and Greens is fairly easy to make, the BC Liberals are best thought of as Federal Conservatives. They favour capital over workers, resource exploitation over environmental concerns, and lower taxes over higher social safety nets. So the BC Liberals capture the vote of the right-wing and of the confused voter, while the BC NDP and BC Green typically split the vote of the left-wing voter.)

For progressives in the province, the Clark government has been infuriating on education, on private over public interests (selling away our natural resources, seemingly even at a loss), on political lobbying (the New York Times called BC “the Wild West” of political cash), on handling of First Nations issues, and a range of other issues. As with the 2015 Federal Election, the goal for a progressive, again, must be to get rid of the conservative forces in power.

Now, I am a member of the federal Green Party, and as such, in theory, this election should have posed a difficult decision for me: the pragmatic objective, as I just stated, is to vote the BC Liberals out of office, but I want to vote for the platform and party that is closest to me. This would have meant deciding between the strategic option of voting for the BC NDP, to shore up their support against the BC Liberals, or the principled option of voting for the BC Greens, to fight for increased Green representation in BC, even if that meant increasing the BC Liberals’ chances of victory.

However, I found there was no tension between strategy and values in this election. The reason, in short, is that the BC Greens under their current leader, Andrew Weaver, is simply not a party that I want to support.

I have been following Weaver’s trajectory for many years, since before he was elected as the only BC Green MLA in 2013. I’ve followed him on Twitter, I’ve read a book of his, and I’ve heard him speak a few times. My concerns began mildly: I would note that, instead of attempting collaboration with the BC NPD, as Elizabeth May, her federal counterpart, would do in Ottawa, he would shut down every opportunity to do so. He then voted for two disastrous BC Liberal budgets, rejected the Leap Manifesto, repeatedly stated that he saw no problem in ignoring components or the direction of the Green Party platform, as the BC Greens are an entirely different party, and claimed that the BC Greens are the natural home of the Federal Liberals, with whom they share the same values and policy. I saw him being, frankly, extremely boorish to critics on Twitter (his late-night Twitter tirades resemble those of another appalling politician south of the border), constantly punching left rather than right, musing about public support for private schools, and in general demonstrating that, except for a concern for environmental issues, he promotes and is fine with a right or centre-right government, and is therefore all too happy about splitting the left vote if that means the BC NDP won’t get in power.

Consider this alternate scenario: the BC Greens leader realizes they won’t win this election, and does not want four more years of BC Liberal government. They agree to collaborate with a BC NDP government, since their platforms have so much in common in the first place, and extract significant concessions for this support. Both parties in coalition can then pool resources into battleground ridings against the BC Liberals, and be in a much better shape to defeat them. The net result: a progressive government with a strong environmental platform, power-sharing which results in better governing experience for the BC Greens and better prospects in the near future.

It is an idealistic scenario, to be sure, but under Weaver it is absolutely delusional, and the reasons why it is delusional (his aversion to left-wing policies, his bridge-burning confrontational style, and yes, his ego) are the same reasons why I think he is a poor leader and one not worthy of my support.

The BC NDP, for sure, has some problems as well. I find them generally unimaginative, anxious not to veer left too much so as to try and secure the centrist vote. They are ambiguous on fracking and extracting liquefied natural gas, as well as on the Site C project, which in practice almost certainly means they will support both projects, and instead of campaigning for electoral reform they merely claim they will put the question forth in a referendum. But these problems are minute in comparison to those posed by the BC Liberal government. I therefore endorse the BC NDP in spite of them.

Finally, in the Victoria-Swan Lake riding, there really isn’t a strong opposition against the BC NDP in terms of skill or proposals. I encourage you to watch the CFAX debate between the three main local candidates. If you do, or if you meet him elsewhere, you will find that Rob Fleming is experienced and prepared. He knows what the local issues are and how to fight for them. Chris Maxwell (BC Greens) and Stacey Piercey (BC Liberals) both seem like good people, but, to put it mildly, they are woefully unaware of the local situation or how to achieve viable political solutions in comparison. Only the BC NDP put forth a strong candidate in this riding, and I was glad to vote for him in early voting. I encourage you to do the same.

Donation and Action Pledge

Given the current global state of extreme poverty and humanitarian disaster, as well as the unfolding assault on basic human rights in the United States and the resulting threat to world peace and stability, I pledge to donate a percentage of my time and money to causes which I think address these problems effectively.

My current commitment stands as follows:

Money

I pledge to donate at least 2.5% of my pre-tax income to worthy causes.

At the moment, my donations are spread through the following causes and charities, all via monthly payments:

Extreme Poverty and Humanitarian Disasters

The bulk of my donations goes to charities recommended by GiveWell, and mostly to the Against Malaria Foundation, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, and Give Directly. I’ve set up these donations in Canada through Charity Science.

I have also set up recurring payments to Seva, which fights preventable blindness, and to Doctors Without Borders, which can be found in the midst of the worst crises in the world, bravely providing essential medical care.

Human Rights and Advocacy

I donate to Amnesty International and to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Additionally, as a response to the shockingly inhumane actions of the new American administration, I am now a monthly donor of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and, after consultation with people more knowledgeable than me, of the Casa del Migrante, which provides hospitality to migrants, refugees, and deported individuals in Mexico and Central America.

(UPDATE: I have now also added the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to the list of organizations to which I donate monthly. As a Mexican-Canadian, I feel it is a bit strange to donate more to American organizations than to either Mexican or Canadian ones, but things in the United States truly look dire in comparison these days.)

Environmental and Other Interests

I am a donor of Mercy for Animals, an organization fighting to prevent cruelty to farmed animals, of the Lifecycles Project, which fosters community health, urban farming, and food security in Victoria, and of the Green Party of Canada, which through Elizabeth May has often been the first or only voice of reason on many issues in our Parliament.

Time

I pledge to commit an average of at least two hours per week to non-violent action towards the causes above.

This at the moment involves protesting, researching, writing materials to advocate for these causes and for effective means of action, and contacting Members of Parliament. I expect the specific actions in which I’ll invest my time will fluctuate depending on events.

Time spent yelling on my pillow on Twitter or Facebook does not count.

 

I am fully aware that 2.5% of my income and two hours per week is a small commitment.

If you are doing or giving more than this, I commend you for it, and I admire you. I intend to do more, as personal circumstances allow, and will update my pledge if I do so.

If you are doing or giving less than this, or not at all, I invite you to consider if you can increase your commitments. Your time and money are more powerful to effect change than you may think.

Finally, I make my pledge public not to brag (it is actually somewhat uncomfortable to do so), but with the knowledge that giving is contagious and in the hope that learning of it will help tip your scale in favour of committing as well, if this is something you had been considering but were not sure of doing before.

If you do decide to donate time, money, or both, I invite you to make your commitments public, small or large as they may be, to help your friends and contacts know of your actions and to encourage them to go on the same path. We can do something about these issues. We have power. We should use it.