Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shoddy reporting on mediocre polling

I was surprised by this headline:

"California poll shows strong leads for McCain and Clinton"

Because I'm still not seeing a lot of "Hillary" banners around here. More Obama. But this is not LA.

And then I read:

On the Democratic side, the California poll brought troubling news for Barack Obama, who trailed Hillary Clinton by double digits, 49% to 32%. That gap only amplifies the importance of Obama's new backing from senator Edward Kennedy, whose visit to the west coast this week will give him an opportunity to help Obama make inroads with sceptical Latino voters.

Not only is he behind, it's a big margin? Surprising.


Yet the poll's Democratic numbers were based only on voters affiliated with the party, when California Democrats hold what is known as an open primary, independents are permitted to cast ballots.

Dear God. Any sixth grader understands that the Democratic primary in CA is open, and the Republican one is not. Ergo most independents will be voting in the Democratic primary. And most of Obama's support is from independents.

So: This poll is kind of useless for predicting election outcome, given that a very decisive voting block wasn't sampled.

And also: This headline is a bit of a distortion, in that, while this poll shows a lead among registered Democrats, it does little to predict the likely outcome of the election.

At least they're honest with the facts of what the poll is and is not in the body of the article, just wish they had been honest with their headline. Of course, it worked. It got me to read the article.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My number one fear about having kids

Spelled out in this article and in her attitude.

Either her man also has no sex drive, or has done what so many through the ages have done: Gotten his needs met elsewhere. It's a tidy arrangement, really. She gets his income support for raising the kids, he gets assurance the kids are actually his. He won't bug her for sex if she won't bug him about how he's able to not bug her for sex. He's discrete, she turns a blind eye.

I have to confess, I think a cooling of lust is part of our non-monogamous programming. We're wired to seek novelty, wired to get hot for each other and fuck a lot till we conceive, then hang out to get the kids out of infancy, then move on to the next exciting thing. So I don't fully disagree with
her idea that her experience is common. Just wish we could arrive at the right "therefore's" out of it. "Grin and bear it" may be the right answer. Wider acceptance and understanding of the consequences of our non-monogamous wiring may be another.

Pop-up Sex Positions

"You know the funniest thing about Europe? It's the little differences."

I've not been sleeping well. And I don't feel like using my brain much, so reading's out and working more doesn't seem fun. So I watch late night TV.

Last night I had the option of

1) Generally more clever, rational and thorough BBC news and "Meet the Press" style shows discussing the issues of the day. Makes most of our Fox News style "heads in boxes arguing" look very much like "win at yelling" a la Idiocracy. The Brits may disagree, but they seem to keep it civil and rational.

2) The world finals of indoor lawn bowling. I am not making this up. Bocce played on a carpet. With full on commentary. Hushed tones of golf meet the same spectators for regular bowling.

3) A music videos channel that had, at the bottom of the screen, a virtual Kama Sutra wherein it would not only describe various sex positions (some of which were barely possible due to the tiny inconvenient details known as gravity and human anatomy) but point out their advantages and illustrate them via computer generated 3-d stick figures, which would rotate while joined, so you could see what they were talking about, from all angles.

I'm far from a prude. I just didn't know you could show illustrated copulation on TV. And I may have crossed the line into boring adulthood, but the early and pre-teen set who's going to watch the station doesn't need to be sold all the mysteries of sex they're missing. Yeah, our biology still has us ready to get it on at 16, but I'd prefer we not directly tell our kids "Go fuck! Everyone's doing it! Have you done the airplane yet? You should! What about the piledriver?" It's reminiscent of Mr. Garrison on South Park teaching sex ed to the kindergarteners, including important things like the dirty sanchez.

I mostly watched the lawn bowling.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I’m back in London for a week with my client over here. Since it’s my third time, now, I’m getting a bit more comfortable with the area, and able to establish a bit of a routine. And as we all know, for me, routine is the key to stability.

I made a serendipitous reservation at the wrong hotel. The Travelodge I’m in is a 15 minute walk from the office, but about 40 GBP/ night less expensive than my more proximate alternatives. I thought this hotel was the hotel by the office, which is a Holiday Inn Express. I’ll stay there next time.

The good news for me is that my hotel is across the A40 from a shopping plaza containing a Gold’s Gym, containing an erg, which I’ll use tomorrow morning. The plaza is also home to such culinary bastions as Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, a restaurant claiming to be a “Mexican Grill”, a bowling alley, and a “Dragon King Chinese Buffet”.

Coming from California, I can say that I have eaten real Mexican food, I know real Mexican food, and London, you’re no authority on Mexican food. Which left me at the buffet.

Also coming from California, I’ve had good Chinese food. And I believe there’s probably great Chinese food in London some place. And wherever that Chinese food is, I bet it’s not next door to a bowling alley. So I had ratcheted my expectations down to an appropriate level.

I tried the things not obviously made with four tons of corn starch. The lo mein was passable, the rice noodles had curry powder on them, the lemon chicken was decent, and you could really taste the cow in the beef with black bean sauce (not a good thing). I tried to eat a balanced meal, and chose to think of myself as tanking up for my erg tomorrow morning. And I wanted to get my money’s worth out of "all you can eat".

After tanking up on food, I tried some strawberry ice cream, which was good. But I was still hungry. I noticed something that appeared to be cake on the dessert bar, next to the more authentic Chinese desserts, which, being authentic, I had no cause to eat. Dessert requires cream and butter and refined sugar and wheat flour, none of which the Chinese know what to do with. Yet here before me stood a cake. And if they can curry the noodles, maybe they can do a cake. London is a melting pot of sorts.

I read the sign: “Bannoffee”. Given the very creative Engrish I’ve seen on instruction manuals, clothing care labels and signs in Beijing, I figured this was a very bad miss on “cake”. But since I could see it was a cake, I ignored the sign and served myself one of the tiny slices. Given the rest of the buffet, I had learned to “trust but verify” the palatability of my food. I armed myself with a fork (chopsticks & cake = not possible) and sat down.

Turns out the sign was right. I was eating a banana cake with whipped cream frosting with toffee sauce and tiny toffee chips on it. And it was fucking delicious. I immediately decided it was my new favorite thing, and I should endeavor to make it myself upon arriving home.

And then I remembered I was at an all you can eat buffet. And I was a grown up. And I have about 5% body fat and burn 1000 calories an hour on the rowing machine. So I could have seconds and thirds on the cake I was eating after my ice cream course, and no one could stop me.
And so I did. And it was awesome. And I apologize to the Chinese for thinking they sucked at dessert. Turns out they figured out how to make dessert rock after all: Outsource to the English.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Unfunny Hillary

I think I figured it out. Hillary really thinks she's right about everything.

When I first heard about her flight attendant video, I thought it had a chance to be funny. Ultra 60's feminist type placing herself in an archetypical sexist oppression role had lots of comic potential. Lots of room for irony.

"Sorry! No smoking on the plane! Especially cigars!"

Ok, that'd be too much.

But how about having some "customers", representing dualing constituencies, each pushing their call buttons trying to get her attention, but making demands on her? Some teachers' union types lobbying against tighter standards, then immigrant parents wanting a quality education for their kids. Have her hustling to please them all. That's just one idea, it's mediocre, but it's got more true comedic potential than anything she did.

Instead she reads an unfunny scripted safety announcement that's as partisan as ever. And it's delivered really poorly, and she looks really uncomfortable doing it. Like it's someone else's idea. But she still agreed to do it. Showing she's trapped inside her partisan bubble world, in which she can't make fun of herself (the "return to NH" line is failed self deprecation... if I lose, I'll remind myself I won?) but is very happy to slam the "other side" with fluffy partisan rhetoric. It does nothing to sway folks like me that think some of the traditionally "right" ideas are actually ok, and doesn't humanize her at all.

She's not going to go on SNL when this is all over, ever. And that's why people don't like her.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Overthrowing the establishment

I did a little research this morning to understand exactly how the Democratic primary awarded delegates based on primary results. The good news was they use a proportional as opposed to winner-take-all method, which makes sense. Winner-take-all is what gives us such wonderful things as W losing the popular vote yet gaining the white house. The bad news was that there are these "Superdelegates" running around whose votes also seem to count.

WTF is a Superdelegate? This blog spells it out, but essentially they're Democrat party establishment. Current elected officials, but also DNC members. And guess who they're lined up behind?

To be fair, these folks can change their votes, and after Iowa, there seem to have been rumors of concern that their commitments would falter. But it seems very wrong to me that Hillary can have essentially a full state's worth of delegates lead just by having the most favors to call in. Very un-democratic.

Why do we need these Superdelegates, anyway? They just serve to give the establishment some sway. If the popular contest stays close, I'd hate to see a delegate chosen, a tie broken, by the entrenched establishment.

It was enough to make me willing to fire up the checkbook again.

As much as I think most Americans are idiots, people should be able to choose their leaders directly.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Political firsts

As a part of my ongoing effort to exert some influence on the direction of the world, I've made my first political campaign donation ever this year. I've also acquired and exhibited my first ever political bumper sticker.

I'm backing Obama.

He's been against the Iraq disaster from the start, even when it was unpopular to do so. Hillary has been no obstacle to W's plans. Not even recently when he was sabre rattling over Iran.

Barack speaks the unpolished, un-"vetted by focus groups", unscripted truth. I want a president who thinks nukes shouldn't be an option. I want a president who wants to enter dialog with our "enemies". These are good things. Though Hillary (and the rest) criticized him for all of them.

He's not beholden to the political establishment. He doesn't owe a giant list of people a giant list of favors for a life spent in politics.

He's got reasonable economic policies. He's not spouting nearly as much anti-free trade anti-capitalist crap as Edwards is. Outsourcing is good for everyone, in the long run. And I do think corporations would sit down and talk with him. I like that he wants to talk with the entities that are part of the solution.

Obama's at least for civil unions, though I wish he'd be for full civil rights for same sex couples. But he gets a pass there. He'll not be allowing any same sex marriage bans while in office, I know.

I don't want to see Hillary in the white house. Despite her supposed expertise in taking on Republicans, she's got a woefully safe and cowardly voting record. She's gone along with W plenty. I remember some bold words from her back in 2000 about reforming the electoral college system (which I fully endorse), which is a very radical thing to say. She quickly backed off that. Because that's the safe thing to do.

My actions are a giant "fuck you" to the supposed inevitability of her candidacy. None of us have voted, and a few polls are supposed to coronate her? I know enough of polling to know that current methods are wholly inadequate to get anyone who might not vote for her. I'm wholly unreachable by pollsters, as is most of my cell phone & e-mail only demographic. Or is it that everyone in the know can see she's got the Democrat political machine in her pocket (from that life of political favors). They know the sheep will be herded to vote for her.

I want other people in California (which, according to every article you read, is sure to vote for Hillary) to know that she's not a shoe-in. There are plenty of people who have other ideas, and they're not alone.

Of course, maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm one of those lunatic Kucinich supporters, trying to gather some steam. But I don't think so. I see a lot of Obama stickers. No Hillary stickers. Either folks have accepted her inevitability, or there's a lot less love for her than folks think there is. Or maybe NorCal isn't LA, where her friends are.

Meanwhile, I remain dumbfounded that the Republicans in Iowa like Mike Huckabee, a guy who doesn't believe in evolution. I'm frightened and ashamed that someone with that perspective is not just a viable candidate, but a front runner.

My hope is to have two candidates I could vote for. I hope not to have to choose between a power hungry shrew and a religious lunatic.