Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Log

  • 11:16 - Champagne popped.  G'night.
  • 11:13 - Ohio.  Over.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 11:10 - NBC has called Iowa.  Nevada and Oregon will be next, and then he'll be at 262.  CO or OH or VA or FL.  Pick one.
  • 11:06 - I now see Obama with about 80k more votes in VA based on Fairfax and Norfolk, and he's behind by 24k.  I'm sensing another 'apparent winner' call
  • 11:00 - on PBS now, NC has finally been called for Romney.  NBC callls him an 'apparent winner'  Stiiiiiilllllll not calling FL, OH, VA
  • 10:54 - haven't seen a network feed in a bit, but looks like Kaine will win Senate in VA, as he is still out-performing Obama by about 2 points.  Only disappointing Senate race, from a (D) perspective, would be Carmona in AZ, as it looked for a little while like he could win, but he wasn't ready for prime time ("you're prettier than her" really?)  Only remaining close race in the Senate, if I recall off the top of my head, would be Tester in Montana.
  • 10:51 - Jeebus local channel 7, please go back to national coverage, I don't need to see Scott Brown hugging people after his concession speech. btw, his speech was very much not I'm leaving politics.  He'll be back
  • 10:44 - with a third reporting, Obama holding a decent lead in CO.  He doesn't need OH or VA or FL if he wins CO, now that NH, IA, and NV are in hand.
  • 10:41 - Eyeball of results in VA suggests that Obama has about 70k of additional votes waiting in the DC burbs.  Currently he's down by 35k.  Norfolk county, though, hasn't reported anything
  • 10:31 - I have a suspicion that they won't call Ohio or Virginia until polls close in California/Oregon/Washington, so that those EVs actually put him over the top.  Those states close at 11pm
  • 10:26 - Tierney looks like he'll hold on in MA-6, so it looks like we're back to an all-blue state.  Medical pot wins by 2-1, assisted suicide losing, but it is close
  • 10:20 - hard to believe, GOP spends most of their debates screaming about who would deport more of the browns and 69% of Latinos vote Obama.  
  • 10:12 - Ohio called for Sherrod Brown.  Obama and Brown have the same percentage, little evidence of vote splitting.  This should be called soon.  Duckworth wins too, happy to hear it.
  • 10:08 - Todd making it seem like Florida could actually be called before Ohio.  That I would not have predicted.  Finally NBC talking House of Reps, still strongly Repub.  Debt ceiling negotiation/hostage-taking will be interesting.
  • 10:06 - while Axelrod is interviewed, McCaskill called.  I figured that out a little while ago...
  • 10:00 - Iowa too early meaning Obama won it, ditto Nevada.  Now, for sure, either Virginia or Ohio or Florida puts Obama over the top.  This is over in 30 minutes.  
  • 9:58 - Talked to Aunt Jenny, who brought in the state of NH singlehandedly.  She's an old Dukakis staffer (who is still out and about quite a bit in Brookline, always picking up trash when he sees it).  And now Kennedy acceptance speech.  Not my district, but glad he acknowledged Barney Frank's husband.
  • 9:51 - NH in the W column, this thing is damn near over!
  • 9:49 - Medical Pot, coming to MA!  Death with Dignity still quite close, too early to call.
  • 9:42 - time to hand over the barn jacket Scott!  Warren wins!!!
  • 9:40 - over half of NC is in, and right now Obama is -3.  By my math, he has a cushion of -7 to keep up with his 2008 margin and still win.  So he's ahead of that, and that's good
  • 9:38 - Colorado early returns seem to have heavily favored Obama, but note that unlike in many other early voting states, CO did not have a significant D lean in terms of who voted early.  
  • 9:35 - My Manhattan is delicious. Apparently the internet lied to me about Warren, but still, she's my next Senator.  Early, but McCaskill outperforming Obama big time in MO, as is Baldwin, and both of those states have been called presidentially.  So I think the Sen. Dems will gain two women and keep a third.  
  • 9:31 - Every time I see the Florida results come up I can't help but laugh because this is no way to run a democracy; quick edit: because polls are closed but people are still waiting in line to vote
  • 9:29 - I think NBC has done a great job so far, little idiot-speak, mostly data/results.  But my local NBC affiliate keeps breaking in and they have nothing to say.  Boston hasn't reported at all and Warren is already ahead.  Trust me mom, it is over!
  • 9:21 - Internets tells me NBC has called Warren, but NBC hasn't told me that yet. I choose to believe the internet, although the Call to Mom won't occur until I hear the network say it
  • 9:17 - okay, NBC calls PA.  Doesn't change anything, but the sooner it was called, the better for PA.  Manhattan was the decision, btw.
  • 9:14 - Baldwin -4 from Obama in WI, and leading Thompson by 2.  
  • 9:07 - Yay NJ
  • 9:02 - Feeling like this will end sooner rather than later
  • 9:00 - Wisconsin and Minnesota too early, certainly a good sign.  Amazing that NM is now an obvious blue state, that took only two election cycles.
  • 8:58 - thinking very hard about whether it is time for a beer or a Manhattan.  Exit polls (my recycle bin) show that I have had four (4) beers
  • 8:56 - Twitterverse is definitely feeling good for Obama based on some micro-analysis of various bellweather counties in VA.  
  • 8:52 - still not a ton reporting in VA, but Kaine +4 over Obama surprises me
  • 8:51 - I am in love with Chuck Todd talking about the Puerto Rican vote in Orange county in Florida.  
  • 8:46 - absent Nate Silver telling me what to think, still a lot of squinting at tea leaves.  That NC is still neck and neck is probably a good sign.  I call bull shit on the exit poll that says 17% of voters thought Obama's Hurricane Sandy response mattered for shit
  • 8:38 - Chandler likely out in KY-6. How Obama wins while House Dems lose (or just hold serve) is either political brilliance by Obama or malpractice by House Dems
  • 8:33 - ah, the waiting. Feeling confident.  Also, in MA, looks like assisted suicide and medical pot are looking like they'll pass, at least with early results
  • 8:15 - with second wave of exit polls, now Warren at +16 among women, -9 among men.  She's got it
  • 8:06 - Florida early vote, to me, suggests that Romney has an edge? I think? But no votes yet from Miami-Dade yet, according to Chuck Todd?
  • 8:03 - McCaskill too early to call, excellent news.  Akin is an ass clown.  
  • 8:00 - damn, Florida starts with 41% in.  Wow.  PA too early to call, a definite good sign for Obama.  
  • 7:59 - Donnelly +6 in Indiana, Obama only -11.  Liking the trend.  Excellent (strumming fingers...)
  • 7:58 - exit poll in Mass: Warren +14 among women, Brown +10 among men.  Again, I think Warren has this, polls close in 2 minutes.
  • 7:56 - Scott Brown: "there are no more twitters I can do"
  • 7:54 - with ~10% in, Obama getting his clock cleaned in VA.  Of course, where votes come from matter a lot.  Huh, Lenny Clarke is a Scott Brown guy.  He is not funny.
  • 7:30 - with 25% in, Obama is behind in Kentucky -14; in 2008, he was -16
  • 7:28 - No daylight between Kaine and Obama in early VA returns.
  • 7:24 - Donnelly now ahead of Mourdock, and Obama -16.  Still a 7 points spread between Donnelly and Obama
  • 7:11 - Donnelly and Mourdock now tied in IN, Obama down to a -18 deficit.  Trending well
  • 7:09 - when states (precincts?) decide to dump out the early voting will make following running totals very spiky.  This'll be a big issue in VA and OH
  • 7:00 - what does Brian Williams start with?  Wow, VA too close to call, shocked.  Hmm, already call Indiana... that's not necessarily good.... but SC too early to call?  Odd.  VT to Obama.  Georgia too early too.  Of course, difference between too early and too close.  Indiana senate too close, SC/GA too early
  • 6:53 - Obama now at a -22 in Indiana, - 7 relative to Donnelly
  • 6:45 - let me clarify my previous statement.  Donnelly will probably win, or be very very close.  Obama is currently behind Donnelly by 7 points, and so long as that doesn't change too much, I think Indiana still doesn't portend other-state-doom for Obama
  • 6:41 - If you take the results from 2008 and use that to project, it suggests that Obama can afford to lose Indiana by ~7 points.  He is currently down by 25.  This does not worry me, it is early
  • 6:39 - CBS news maps do not seem to be cpu hogs, according to my very non scientific survey.  Also, I am currently wearing a crown my daughter made for me that prominently features various NFL logo stickers, kindly sent to me, for free, by Sports Illustrated while trying to get me to resubscribe.
  • 6:31 - With one county performing, Obama is underperforming Donnelly by 5 points.  I think that bodes well for both.
  • 6:29 - "He said Ohio!  Last night we had Ohio pizza!"  No Charlotte, last night we had Hawaiian pizza
  • 6:26 - most annoying part of having 15 tabs open? Figuring out which one is sucking up all my cpus and causing the fan to turn on my Macbook Air.  I hate that fan.  
  • 6:02: two minutes of news coverage, too idiotic.  Flipped to PBS.  Soothing.  Major networks start coverage at 7pm.  
  • 5:56: gearing up for turning on the TV.  If NBC hasn't started their network coverage yet then I will subsist on CNN.  Would obviously prefer MSNBC, but that is a 'premium' channel here in Boston, along with the NFL Network.  FoxNews, however, is included even on basic cable.  F'ers.
  • 5:55: How does one exist on Facebook on a night like this? If I had to read every idiotic political opinion of everyone I know, I would either go insane or start writing back ("posting on their wall"... did I use that phrase correctly?), either way, I would definitely have fewer friends the next day.
  • 5:40: Of the early states, while it is duh obvious to look at Virginia (7pm closing), don't forget NH (8pm closing).  While its 4 EVs are unlikely to be critical (exception: 2000), it is a good bellweather, and since it is a small state, we'll probably know sooner rather than later.  Obama wins by 3+ points, that's very good news.  Romney wins, very bad news.
  • 5:05: So, beyond an Obama victory, what do I want to see tonight? Warren, McCaskill, Baldwin.  I actually like Warren, and while McCaskill hasn't terribly impressed me in her first term (she's no Wyden, but really, who is?) Akin would be a disaster.  Duckworth would be great, Thompson would bring nothing to the table but partisan hackery and bad hair.
  • 5:00pm: open first beer (Dos Equis... not sure why)
  • 4:30pm: get home, busy myself with mindless household tasks.  Background music: "Wrecking Ball"
  • 3:30pm: bike from work to Blanchard's, pick up champagne (my guy wins), whiskey (my guy loses), beer (while I wait)
  • 12:00 - 1pm: over pizza, give an impromptu lecture on electoral history since 1960 and review various polling/prediciton metrics (Nate Silver, e.g.).  People seem satisfied
  • 11:00am: technicians in lab convince me to order pizza and talk about the election at lunch time.  I agree
  • 8:00am: arrive at work.  Poll folks from various areas for how long their wait times were, some over half an hour.  This is a good sign for Warren, I'd think.
  • 7:15am: arrive at polling station to vote.  Line about 15 minutes deep, which is heavy volume for this station.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

GOP debate

Actually watched the GOP debate last night (although I had to do so on my computer, as Comcast Boston has decided that MSNBC doesn't need to be carried on basic cable... but FoxNews does.... hmmm...). 

I'm not going to bother getting upset with a variety of the bizarre, but now routine, GOP orthodoxy -- the anti-science, pro-execution, etc.  (Rick Perry: Galileo was a scientist silenced by religious fanatics -- probably not the best example of skepticism-in-action). 

Rather, what gets me most upset is the continued absence of decent questioning and follow-up by the moderators.  They spend so much time trying to get simple yes/no answers from the candidates that they have completely lost sight of following up the implications of their positions.  For example, there was a lot of questioning about the individual mandate for health care, a lot of questioning politicians about their past records, etc. in the hopes of finding some hypocricy somewhere.  But then the most important question went unasked of any candidate: so, if you throw out the individual mandate and someone chooses to go uninsured, then shows up at the hospital on the verge of death, do you treat him or not?  If so, who pays for it?  The consequences of positions rarely get explored at these debates, which is a loss for everyone watching them.

Real huh-moment at the debate: when Newt Gingrich says that Ben Bernannke has led the greatest era of inflation ever at the Fed, which is demonstrably completely false.   

Friday, January 28, 2011


You'd be hard pressed to find a single quote that better encompasses the do-nothingness that is the US Senate than this one, from Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, in talking about producing a plan to get the US budget under control:
I’m not certain that it’s not going to fall to us to put a plan out there for our colleagues on the floor.
Yes, Kent, the Budget Committee might have some say over the budget.  As my congressman in the House was once heard to utter, they oughta get a diaper-changing service in the Senate.

Monday, January 3, 2011


As one who has previously railed against the Idiot Tax that is the state lottery, I very sheepishly report that I actually bought a lotto ticket today.  Here was my thinking... the pot is up to about $290 million, but the odds of winning ($1 ticket) are 1 in 175,711,536.  $290,000,000 divided by 175,711,536 is $1.65.  So, clearly, that's a favorable risk/reward.  Of course, you want to avoid splitting the pot with anyone, as I might not even bother turning in the ticket if it was only for $145 million, because now I'm below a dollar using the above math.  Since humans are really bad at statistics and the idea of randomness, and the vast majority of lottery players are, by my definition, idiots, I went with a consecutive string of numbers.  

If I win, I'll be sure to let you know.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spin it like a record

While I was originally upset by this Gallup poll and its accompanying headline, "Four in 10 Americans Believe in Strict Creationism," another way to describe these data is that, since 2000, support for creationism has dropped 15% while support for 'secular evolution' has nearly doubled.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Is Joe Biden dead?

I know that Biden hasn't been as high profile a VP as, say, Cheney.  But he has been non-existent during the past month.  You think he'd be useful for bucking up the Democratic base.

Like the San Andreas fault, I think the longer we don't hear from him, the more likely, the next time we do, it will be eventful.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


UNH overcame a sloppy second quarter to pound down B-CU in their first game of the I-AA playoffs.  I was able to watch on NCAA.com, and it was so pleasant to have just one announcer.  There was no annoying banter, no going on and on about the same point, no disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing.  He called the game.  He told me what was going on that I couldn't see on my screen.  Contrast that to Monday Night Football, or that Fox team that inexplicably allows Tony Siragusa to talk whenever he wants...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Calvin & Hobbes

One of my favorite gags in the old Calvin and Hobbes strips was when Calvin would ask his dad a question, and if the dad didn't know the answer to it, he'd just make something up.  I need to get better at that, because the wife just asked me why the Borders bookstore located in Chestnut Hill is having a blow-out, going out of business sale -- why not just ship the books to another Borders that isn't going out of business and sell them at full price?

Is it too costly to ship them?  Is storage space the issue? 

Hard not to be depressed

about where this country is headed.  We're currently having two debates in Washington about how horrible our deficit is, and thus we need to tighten our belt by doing things like ending unemployment extensions, but we're also deciding that tax cuts, which are completely not paid for and ballooning the deficit, well, those need to be extended.  The party on the ascendancy is riddled by insane ideas -- that we can fight wars forever and have a gigantic defense budget with no apparent consequences; that gay people shouldn't even be allowed to serve in the armed forces, unless they choose to live a lie; that, apparently, scientists around the globe are either involved in some vast conspiracy or are just incredibly stupid, because the idea that releasing tons of CO2 into the air might have consequences is ridiculous; that there are large swathes of people living in this country who, because of the language they speak, the religion they practice, or the city they live in, are not "real" Americans.  It is depressing.

It is depressing that there is 10% unemployment but Wall Street continues to hum along, with finance taking up as big a (completely non-productive) role in the economy as ever, that our best students are choosing jobs playing poker with other people's money rather than working to improve anyone's lives but their own.  It is depressing that the middle class in this country continues to shrink as we start to look more like a banana republic in our income distribution.  It is depressing that the unemployment rate for black men is 16.3% and white men 8.9%.  It is depressing that the only countries that execute more people than the US are China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, while Pakistan and Yemen nip at our heels for 4th place.  It is depressing that we are but two years removed from electing someone who saw these things, was depressed by them too, but was unable to do anything about it. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wait, which party is he the head of?

So today I read two things:
1) Obama calls for a pay freeze for public sector employees.
2) Democrats are likely to budge on letting the Bush tax cuts expire on the wealthiest.

And not a lot of Democrats showed up to vote in 2010.  Go figure.

This is classic Obama, compromising before he negotiates.  Infuriating.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Who is this man?

In the realm of sports, think of someone famous, someone everyone who follows sports has heard of, who you have no idea what he looks like.  He's not an athlete, not a coach, not an owner, not an agent.  Make your guess, and scroll down...

Keep scrolling...

He's Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon in Alabama, who tells you that your star pitcher, RB, etc. has ruined his .

Monday, November 22, 2010

I love airlines

While booking some tickets, saw this:
Note: An infant who turns 2 before or during travel requires a child's fare.
What if you're on a red-eye and junior turns two after departure but before landing?  What if you cross the international date line?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

History happened here

Winter is a time that many brewers decide to put out a seasonal mix of beers.  Saranac, for example, used to have the 12 Beers of Christmas, which included several beers that they only made that time of year.  My roommate in grad school and I would make a night out of, well, drinking the whole thing.  This year they have a Vanilla Stout that I'm interested to try.

Anyways, Sam Adams does the same thing, but they don't have 12 different beers, but basically two six packs.  That's fine.  But for years, they insisted on including a Cranberry Lambic, and not just one of them, but two.  No one would touch the Cranberry Lambic.  You could visit someone in March and still, sitting in their fridge, would be two Cranberry Lambics.  Maybe you'd get lucky and some unsuspecting person (read: a female) would drink it, but no one makes that mistake twice.  Eventually you just throw it out, or find some night where you're a) too drunk to care and b) there's no more rubbing alcohol in the house.

A few months ago, Jim Koch, the founder of Sam Adams, was a guest on the Planet Mikey show on WEEI, a sports talk radio station in Boston.  My friend called up and asked him, on air, why he insisted on including the Cranberry Lambic in the Winter Classics collection (thus turning a 12 pack into a 10 pack).  Koch answered tersely, "because I like it."  Well, friends, let it be known that the Cranberry Lambic has been removed from the Winter Classics collection!  And not only that, but it has replaced by the White Ale!!!  I love the White Ale, as for many years is was the Spring seasonal beer (replaced this past year by the forgettable Noble Pils).

So, P.Y., the world owes you, for finally ridding us of the Cranberry Lambic.  I think I'm going to go out and buy a 12 pack right now...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Line of the day

Votemaster wraps up his 2010 coverage with a summary of what we're looking at in 2012.  In speaking about what Republicans could do to keep Palin out of the race, he writes:
Offering her the job of ambassador to Russia (so she can work from home) just won't cut it.
The Votemaster is a good writer, so worth a few minutes of your time to read the whole thing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Glimmer of hope

From today's NYT:
Representative John Mica of Florida, the senior Republican in line to take the reins of the House Transportation Committee in January, is unhappy with the way the Obama administration awarded $10 billion in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects.
“I am a strong advocate of high-speed rail, but it has to be where it makes sense,” Mr. Mica told The Associated Press in a post-election interview. “The administration squandered the money, giving it to dozens and dozens of projects that were marginal at best to spend on slow-speed trains to nowhere.”
Mr. Mica said he would like to redirect the rail money to the Northeast corridor, which he described as possibly the only place in the country with enough population density to financially support high-speed train service. 
High-speed rail makes a ton of sense in the Northeast, to hook up Boston, Philly, New York, and DC.  It doesn't make sense pretty much anywhere else, except maybe California.  So this is very good news if it can actually be acted on.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What you need is a good bleeding!

A few thoughts from last night's results:
1) Very surprised that the House and Senate were so different.  Looks like the Dems will only end up losing 6 Senate seats, but they got creamed in the House, and historically speaking, the large disparity is an outlier, as generally House and Senate track fairly well together.  Not sure how to interpret that, indeed, if there is anything to interpret.

2) If there is actually a debate between those who thing divided government is good or bad, put me down as an agnostic in general (and certainly historically you can find evidence for divided governments actually getting things done) but I don't think the GOP deviates much at all from their playbook for the past two years, which basically had one play in it, and it was "don't let Obama do anything." 

3) From the turnout numbers, it is clear that the reason Dems lost is that young people made up a much smaller proportion of voters than did old people, relative to 2008.  This shouldn't be a surprise, as midterms usually have that property.  But still, I take it to mean that you should take everything you read about the election's "meaning" with a big grain of salt.  That said, I think Obama has to shoulder some of the blame for low turnout among young voters (am I still a young voter?  hmm...)  I think issues that the young in particular care a lot about -- environment/energy & gay rights, to name two -- were basically low priority for Obama, and it wouldn't surprise if that led to some disillusionment on the part of young voters.  Put another way, while health care may have been a big deal to the Kennedy generation of Democrats, I don't think it is as big deal to Democrats born in the 80s. 

4) I said it at the time, and I'll say it again, Obama/Reid/Pelosi made a big mistake by not going hard at the Republicans to make them take tough votes on bank regulation in the summer and fall of 2009.  Or, really, making them take tough votes ever. 

5) So what, if anything, do last night's results mean for 2012?  Well, if you wanted to write a positive story for the Democrats, I think what you'd have to focus on, given the horrible economy, is that they were very competitive, and even won, a lot of state-wide races in which they ran incumbent politicians in key electoral battlegrounds.  Sestak in PA, Sink in FL, Strickland in OH -- they didn't win, but they were all very close.  Likewise, they held on to the seats they should have held on to, generally: Senate seats in CA, WA, and, impressively, CO and NV.  Now, that's not to say there aren't tremendous red flags, too.  But you saw a lot of Democrats at the state-level do pretty darn well, all things considered.  Put another way, Obama can afford to lose states like Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, which he won in 2008, so long as he can hold the more traditional swing states of PA, OH, and FL. 

6) I'm not sure this is a lesson anyone will learn per se, but I was happy to see that the two candidates who were egregious in their insistence that they didn't have to talk to the media or answer questions or undergo any vetting at all, really, both lost: Sharron Angle & Joe Miller. 

7) I'm a little bummed that the huge margin of victory in the House obscures the fact that the Tea Party likely cost the GOP the Senate -- certainly O'Donnell in DE, likely Angle in NV, and Buck, if he counts as a Tea Partier, in CO.  Circular firing squads are always fun to watch.

8) Assuming that Murkowski wins in Alaska, does she pull a Lieberman and occasionally find ways to piss off her former party?  Remember, the GOP stripped her of her committee chair when she decided to run as a write-in candidate (which the Dems did NOT do with Lieberman, he got to keep his seniority status).  This is likely wishful thinking on my part, but might she start joining in a bit more with Snowe, Collins, and, newly, Ayotte from NH in a female-kinda-centrist-faction of Republicans?  Worth keeping an eye on, at least.

9) Marco Rubio is being talked about as the Next Big Thing in the GOP.  I started to write him off, but then realized that he could be an ideal VP pick.  Would certainly help in Florida, and probably New Mexico too. 

10) So now the race for 2012 begins.  Seems like, every time around, some politician tries to skip the process of spending long, cold nights kissing the asses of voters in Iowa and/or New Hampshire.  And every time, pundits wonder if this will be the candidate who can pull that off, if this candidate is just so popular or national or whatever that it won't matter.  And that candidate never wins.  Personally, I do not want Sarah Palin to run for president, because if she runs for president, there's a non-zero chance, however low, that she actually becomes president.  But man, I would love to see her talk to some cranky old farts in New Hampshire who wouldn't put up with her vapid responses. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fun with numbers

Last night, while listening to Tim McCarver drone on and on about something that eventually go to Joe Dimaggio's hitting streak, I wondered what the chances were of seeing something like that again.  So I did some very simple calculations, using what seemed like decent stabs at integrating the variety of baseball history.  Came out very close to even odds.  Here are the steps I took:

1) Assume a 0.300 batting average, which translates to a 0.700 non-batting-average

2) Assuming 4 plate appearances a game, there's a (0.700)^4 = 0.2401 chance of being held hitless, or a 0.7599 chance of getting at least one hit

3) So, the chance of getting at least one hit is 56 consecutive games is (0.7599)^56, or 2.1 x 10^-7, or a 1 in 4.76 million chance.

4) 4.76 million divided by 162 games in a season, divided by 30 teams, divided by 9 batters per team, divided by 108 seasons in the World Series Era (i.e. back to 1903) and you are left with: 1.0077, or damn close to even odds.  So yes, it pretty much makes sense that someone has hit in 56 consecutive games, which means there's also a decent chance we'll see it again before I'm dead.

I should add that, as MG pointed out, if you assume a 0.285 batting average, the odds drop to about 1 in 5 against, while a 0.315 batting average makes it 5:1 in favor.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Good Idea of the Day

I've never done a football suicide pool, but they seem fun.  The basic idea is that, each week, you pick the result of one NFL game, and if you're right, you survive to the next week, but if you're wrong, you're out.  To prevent people from just riding really good teams (or just always picking against really bad teams) you can even things out by either using the Vegas line or limiting the number of times you can bet on or against a given team. 

The problem with this set-up, though, is that people very quickly get eliminated: give or take, about half the league will be out after Week 1, another half after Week 2, etc.  So unless you have hundreds of people, it'll be over by Week 6 or 8. 

One way around this (and here's my good idea) is to allow people to come back to life by picking more games correctly.  For example, the week after you get a game wrong, you must now pick two games right.  Don't hit?  Now you gotta pick three games.  If you succeed in resurrecting yourself, though, you're back to one game a week.  Or maybe you don't have it escalate, you just have a loser's track that stays on two-games-a-week until they get both right, then they're back on the winner's track.  The winner is whomever has the best winning percentage, rather than just who's alive at the end. 

Or maybe the best way to do it is reserve half the prize for whoever survives the longest without losing (i.e. the suicide pool aspect of it) and the other half for overall picking percentage. 

A decent twist, I think.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tax mushiness

At some point, the Senate will decide to:
a) extend all the Bush tax cuts
b) extend some of the Bush tax cuts
c) temporarily extend all the Bush tax cuts
d) temporarily extend some of the Bush tax cuts
e) do nothing and let all the Bush tax cuts expire

To me, though, a = c and b = d.  See, we have elections for Congress every two years, and this year being divisible by 2, it means we have them this year.  And whatever Congress does now can be undone by Congress later.  And the people in Congress now are likely to be different from the people in Congress later, with a lot more having an R next to their name in the future. 

So if you are Democrats in charge right now, or, god forbid, the head of the party because you happen to be President, you might want to stake out some definable position that plans for Republicans being in the majority come 2011.  To be more clear, if Obama thinks that extending all the Bush tax cuts indefinitely is a bad idea, but won't veto it if it is only a "temporary" idea, then he's trying to fool himself or us or both.  Because if he won't veto it now, why would he veto it in a year when extension passes the Senate again?  If extending them is bad for the deficit now, why not later? 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

25 is the loneliest number

Doesn't matter who actually speaks this sentence, suffice it to say that it is a politician running for re-election:
"...partnerships that improve our infrastructure are a good idea, but must be paid for, should not add a dime to the deficit and should be covered by..."
This politician chose the dime.  That is probably 1b for [insert coin of choice when demonstrating your fiscal bonafides].  1a is the penny.  Not far behind is the nickle.  But no one would ever say quarter.  Why is that?  Inflation?  50 years from now will politicians use the quarter more often in such statements?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Deserved Bloodbath

Today I received a Democratic National Committee survey in the mail, asking me to check off various boxes, rank issues on a scale of 1 to 10, etc.  At the end there was a space for comments, and by that time I was pretty well ticked off so I unleashed as much verbal fury as would fit into three lines.  After reading it, I wondered why I was so pissed at Democrats and Obama in particular.  I know that the Republicans are the ones holding up climate change legislation, gay rights, etc.  So why am I pissed at Obama? 

Well, I think it gets down to the guy I thought we were electing and how he has gone about his presidency.  The fierce urgency of now?  Urgency to vote, I guess, but not to get out of Gitmo, end Don't Ask Don't Tell, do something, anything about climate change.  From his inaugural address:
A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.
The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

The recession is over for Wall Street, and has been for awhile (and even during the recession, those guys weren't exactly out on the street) but unemployment is hovering at 10%.  He proclaimed himself pleased at the size of the stimulus, even though some really smart folks (Krugman) were screaming bloody murder that it was too small.

The guy's autobiography was entitled the Audacity of Hope.  Name for me one audacious thing Obama has done since taking office. 

I probably won't stay home in November.  But a lot of Democrats will.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

[blank stare]

How the hell do people like this get elected? 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Always darkest... before the dawn, or the lights go out completely?

That the Democrats will lose seats in the House and Senate come November seems like a sure thing.  History says so: the incumbent presidential party almost always loses seats.  The economy says so: bad economic growth is bad for the incumbent party.  And polls say so: Gallup's generic D v. R Congressional poll recently had the score as R + 10.  It is worth discussing, though, if these are inevitable and what, if anything, could the Democrats do in the next 2 months to alter their fate?
You may recall from the 2008 campaign that this was also a dark time for the Democrats: the Republican convention was on the calendar, and John McCain had taken a lead in the generic poll:
It is hard to say what caused a reversal in Obama's fortune after McCain took the lead.  Was it simply a reversion to the status quo that had been established during the summer, where Obama was consistently ahead?  Was it people getting to know, then turning against, Sarah Palin?   Was it McCain's bizarre response to the economic crisis? 

The only reason I bring this up is because, during that late August/early September period -- and during the primary battle with Clinton -- Obama supports were begging, pleading, screaming for him to come out swinging.  People thought he was being too passive, but in the end, he prevailed.  Does that hold any lessons for the 2010 midterms?  What is Obama thinking?  Has he had some master plan all along, working under the assumption that there's no need to do anything until at least September because no one is paying attention?  Is Obama going to coordinate with Reid and Pelosi to make Republicans take unpopular votes?  That is something most now-apathetic Obama supporters have been waiting for them to do all along. 

Of course, you could certainly argue that such political theater won't affect the outcome of the midterms much at all.  Indeed, those who really push the economic angle think that the Dems defeat was sealed in January of '09 when a too-small stimulus bill was passed.  This is certainly Krugman's take, and I'm very sympathetic to that view.  But I still think that Obama's actions matter somewhat, at least at the margins, and that's where control of the House of Representatives will be either won or lost (and majority is everything in the House). 

The vote-master has more on this, and he's always worth reading. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two for flinching

I'm not terribly sure of the details of it, but China's one child policy isn't something I've thought particularly hard about.  This blurb one from of Sullivan's guest bloggers got me thinking, though.  There's a huge effect that siblings have on us, from social to biological to everything in between.  How weird is it that there's an entire country out there -- one with a billion people and the second largest economy -- where most boys won't know what it is like to get beat up by an older brother?  [please insert your favorite sibling rivalry stereotype here]

To say this is unnatural is to underplay it -- it is insane!  I mean, I know there's a good reason for the policy, but I just can't comprehend what sort of long-term effect this will have on a pretty darn insular population. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Again and again

Controversy surrounding research on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) has limitless potential to self-renew, apparently.  In a decision handed down today, Judge Lamberth gave a rather unusual interpretation of the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which was first passed in 1996 and appended to every budget thereafter.  It states that "research in which … embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subject to risk of injury or death" cannot receive federal funds.  Basically, the judge is saying that if I am a lab that receives federal funds, no matter where the hESCs came from, I cannot do research on them.  Everyone on the planet thought that the rules were something like, you cannot use federal money to establish hESC lines but once they exist then it is okay to use them -- indeed, this is what Bush thought the rules were, as the dozen or so lines that already existed at the time he imposed his moratorium were fine for use in federally-funded research.  Lamberth's decision is particularly odd because by his definition, all the work I've done is really part of the same project that David Baltimore worked on in the 80s, Har Gobind Khorana worked on in the 60s, Thomas Morgan worked on in the (19)00s, and Darwin worked on in the 1860s.  In other words, all projects are continuous.  Needless to say, I disagree. 

Also of note is why this ended up in front of a judge in the first place, and for that we have to thank a lawsuit brought by James Sherley.  I know this man, or at least, have sat in the same room as him many times.  Around 10 years ago, I attended a weekly super-group meeting, meaning my lab and a dozen or so other labs would get together every Wednesday and two people would present their work.  It was good experience for talking in front of a large group, and since it was a "private" meeting, you could present less-than-finished work and get excellent feedback on it without fear of being scooped.  James Sherley came to these meetings, and sat there.  I remember this not because people from his lab ever presented work -- as far as I could tell, his lab consisted of him -- but rather because you notice a rather corpulent black man sitting there week after week but not ever speaking.  You eventually wonder, who is that guy? 

The whole community learned who that guy was when, in 2007, he decided to stage a hunger strike because he didn't get tenure.  Needless to say, he lost this battle, didn't get tenure, and, presumably, eventually ate something.  Anyway, it now appears that he sued the NIH over its funding of embryonic stem cells not so much from a moral position but rather because he works on adult stem cells, which would clearly take a back seat if people could use embryonic stem cells.  Of course, one question for him (and everyone else who thinks that adult stem cells are a fine thing to work on, but embryonic stem cells are not): if adult stem cells can really do everything that embryonic stem cells can do, then how are they different from embryonic stem cells?  In other words, aren't you really just making ES cells -- real human life, according to you -- in a lab?  Or are you bullshitting us about the potential of adult stem cells? 

In sum, a crazy man who is pissed off at the scientific establishment found a lawyer who needed some work who then worked his way up through the courts until he found a judge (Reagan appointee, who also ruled a few years back that Iran owes the families of 241 marines killed in a 1983 bombing in Beirut a total of $2.65 billion dollars... I didn't realize that a federal judge could make other countries pay up like that....) who was nuts enough to agree with him.  I assume that the Obama Justice department will bump this further up the judicial chain, the ruling will be reversed, and we'll be done with it.  For now...