Monday, November 5, 2018

Mid-term Elections

So here was my Facebook post this morning:

I love numbers and stats. I especially enjoy getting my election predictions from a company (Nate Silver's 538) owned by the same company (ESPN) who predicts that my Fantasy Football team will win EVERY WEEK! (I'll be 5-4 unless Ezekiel Elliot scores 23 points tonight). With that anecdote in hand, I present to you the 538 stats on the House race. 538 aggregates polls and produces beautiful statistical analysis and graphs. As of this writing, Nate gives Democrats 85.6% chance to take back control of the House. Currently, Republicans hold a 235-193 majority in the House (+42 advantage). There are 435 seats, so currently there are 7 vacancies. All 435 are up for vote tomorrow. In the Senate, The R's hold a 51-49 (+2 advantage). 538 is giving the R's 85.6% chance to hold the Senate. This post of mine is not trolling for political commentary, but trolling for your predictions! What say you!? What do you predict will be the outcome after tomorrow? No need to say why. You can explain your reasoning after you are proven right (or wrong) come Wednesday.
My prediction on the balance after Tuesday:
House: R + 11, Senate: R + 7.

Of course that led to more commentary than predictions. And surprisingly, the odds have increased for the Dems since this morning, to 87.5%. Oh well, guess it's over.

I'd like to say I'm 100% confident this poll aggregation is wrong.  But who really knows.  I think that after 2016, when the polls so strongly broke for Hillary, you can hardly trust them again in the age of Donald Trump.  So I say the aggregation of 2 or dozens or scores or hundreds of BAD polls, still gets you a bad aggregation.  And the Trump base is more likely to hang up on, or troll, a pollster.  So I think that polls under-report the Trump effect.  You look at the rallies he's holding around the country for Republican candidates and they are huge crowds.  There is more excitement around Trump now than in 2016.  As my friend Keith Johnson said, "people who held their nose and voted for Trump in 2016 are behind him now."  And I think that is for a few reasons:  1) he's not screwed up  2) things (like economy and consumer sentiment) are doing pretty well and 3) he's fulfilling his promises.  Why would Republicans not be elated at that?  Why would any American not be elated by that?  By any measure, I think Trump has exceeded expectations.  Even haters should admit, if they were honest, that he hasn't done nearly as bad as they thought he would.  Things could not have gone better these last 2 years if you're a Republican.  If the roles were completely reversed, I could see the media contemplating a 100% sweep for Democrats.  Seriously, as ridiculous as that sounds.  

So this will come down to turnout, as usual.  The Democrats have run on "hate Trump" more than any policy ideas.  They just don't like him and think that the rage against Trump's manners will translate into votes against Republicans who are not even Trump.  So, just because I despise person X, I'm going to vote against person Y who's associated by political party to X, even though things are generally going OK in the country.  That just seems like a really weak bet.  Some people are that vindictive and I get that, but is it enough voters to win scores of elections across the country?  I don't think so.  Certainly, if the economy was stagnant or we were in a new war, I expect we would have problems.  But we are far from that.  I can't see troves of blue collar voters, who didn't have a job in 2016 but have one now, decide they're going to go vote out the people in office now just because they're associated with that mean rude Trump guy.  No, they will either not vote, or they will vote Republican.  

So the question is, has Trump offended enough people, including all minorities, Muslims, Latinos, and women, to drive them to the polls to essentially vote AGAINST the economy? (Remember, "It's the economy, stupid") I say, NO.  The rage against Trump is largely among the white elites who already hated him in the first place. There's some minority opposition to Trump, but his favorability among that group has grown - not declined - since 2016.   I mean, everyone likes low employment and lower taxes, if they're honest.  I think there has been more movement via #walkaway from D to R in the past year than ever before.  The Democrats are losing their stronghold on Black voters.  That's why the Democrats want more illegal immigration to provide a permanent underclass and take the place of those voters formerly beholden to their party.

So I just have a hard time believing the polls, and by aggregation, 538's predictions. It's more of a common sense thing than a mathematical thing. There's a 538 article which is titled, "Republicans Need a Systematic Polling Error to Win the House." So there ya go.  I think the polls under-poll true conservatives, Blacks who are walking away, and over-poll people who already are anti-Trump.  So there's my reasoning.  We'll see who's right after tomorrow.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Analysis of Saturday Night Live's Cold Opener 11/5/16 - Trump's & Hillary's Closing Remarks

This is probably the biggest waste of time I've ever spent. But it was fun. I am a long time fan of Saturday Night Live, and used to (with a close friend of mine) mimic their skits while delivering the morning announcements back in junior high school during the Carter era. 

After reading Tina Fey's book "Bossypants", where she admitted SNL has a left slant and is not afraid to use it in their skits to influence politics, I have wondered if they would have much influence over this election as they did in 2008 when Tina Fey so brilliantly and viciously dismantled Sarah Palin. 

On the most recent episode - the last one before the election - Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon gave their renditions of Trump and Hillary.  Was it funny?  Somewhat.  Was it balanced?  Heck no!  

To prove it, I took notes and listed all the narratives, points, opinions, facts, and innuendo I could detect in the 9+ minute skit.  Then I scored them as to whether or not the point was pro or con Trump or Hillary.  This is my opinion and I could probably over analyze this even further but I've got to get back to watching the polls!

The result was a net of PLUS 1 for Hillary, and NEGATIVE 23 for Trump.


Here's what I found:

  1. Trump’s followers are still “buying it”  (-DT)
  2. Hillary lost the big huge lead she had (-HC)
  3. Hillary aligns with and has the determination of a Chicago Cub in the rainy 9th inning and will “bring it home”  (+HC)
  4. Trump has some physical neck issue, or is too stupid to know the “neck and neck” phrase (-DT)
  5. Fact from Erin: Trump has travelled to 4 different states today (+DT)
  6. Trump uses drugs to maintain his energy (-DT)
  7. Hillary wishes the media would focus on Trump’s taxes (-DT)
  8. Fact from Erin: FBI Comey announced they are looking into more emails discovered on Weiner’s laptop. (-HC)
  9. The media focuses on her emails, much to Hillary’s disappointment. (-HC)
  10. Trump overuses Twitter and writes whatever he wants to there because no one will read it. (-DT)
  11. Trump is stupid and doesn’t know Twitter is not secure and private, and that everyone can see his tweets on Twitter. (-DT)
  12. Fact from Erin: Everyone can see your tweets.  (-DT)
  13. Trump is surprised that he is still in this race despite his Twitter tweets.  (-DT)
  14. America really hates Hillary and Hillary knows it. (-HC)
  15. Opinion from Erin: Highly unusual for the FBI to make an announcement like this so close to the election. (+HC)
  16. Opinion from Hillary: Is the FBI trying to get Trump elected president?  (-DT)
  17. Trump claims not to know the FBI, but is in cahoots with the FBI as evidenced by a kiss on live TV. (-DT)
  18. Despite Trump kissing an FBI guy, it is not a story to the media.  (+DT)
  19. Hillary is frustrated but composed.  (+HC)
  20. Hillary can appeal to entertainment industry leaders like Mark Burnett for more Trump dirt. (+HC)
  21. Donald has made racist remarks on The Apprentice, such as the N word and Burnett has racist tapes about it. (-DT)
  22. Fact from Erin: There is no proof that such a tape exists. (+DT)
  23. The media denies it exists, but Hillary insists it does, and Trump admits it.  (-DT)
  24. The Russians are the source of dirt on Hillary because they love Trump and Trump loves Putin.  (-DT)
  25. Opinion from Trump: She’s a liar.  (-HC)
  26. Trump claims to not know Putin, but is in cahoots with Putin as evidenced by a kiss on live TV. (-DT)
  27. Despite Trump kissing a Putin, it is not a story to the media.  (+DT)
  28. Hillary is frustrated but composed.  (+HC)
  29. Trump thinks the email scandal is bigger than Whitewater. (-HC)
  30. Opinion from Erin: Doesn’t think that is true.  (+HC)
  31. Trump is frustrated the media is defending Hillary.  (-HC)
  32. Trump questions if the CNN host is in a lesbian relationship with Hillary.  (-DT)
  33. Trump makes up a verb to describe it which doesn’t make sense.  (-DT)
  34. Trump claims it doesn’t matter because he said it and now half the country believes it because his followers believe anything he says.  (-DT)
  35. Hillary opinion: Trump pretends to be pro-gay by claiming no one loves the gay people more than him, though his running mate believes in conversion therapy. (-DT)
  36. He is a supporter of the LB community, meaning he only supports lesbian and bisexuals presumably for his own interests.  (-DT)
  37. Hillary opinion: KKK endorsed Trump for president.  (-DT)
  38. Trump doesn’t know what a K is.  (-DT)
  39. Trump claims to not know the KKK, but is in cahoots with them, as evidenced by a kiss on live TV.  (-DT)
  40. Despite Trump kissing the KKK, it is not a story to the media.  (+DT)
  41. Hillary is frustrated but composed and wonders what is happening and is the whole world insane. (+HC)
  42. Trump has single-handedly ruined much of what America holds dear, kindness, decency, tic-tacs, skittles, taco bowls, father-daughter dances, buses, bright red hats, the word great and the color orange  (references to at least 5 specific Trump scandals)   (-DT x5)
  43. If you vote for Trump and he wins, you will realize you’ve been tricked.  (-DT)
  44. Hillary wants the presidency so bad, she will run again in 4 years if she doesn’t win this time.  (+HC)
  45. Hillary thinks people are idiots if they don’t elect her this time.  (+HC)
  46. Hillary is the most corrupt person to ever run, is a liar, and a crook, and should be in jail. (-HC x4)
  47. Hillary says that on Tuesday we get to choose what kind of country we want to live in.  (+HC)
  48. Let’s all get along (+HC, +DT)
  49. Hillary’s background is her logo.  (+HC)   
  50. Trump’s background is grandma’s wallpaper.  (-DT)

There ya go.  Watch responsibly and don't get all your news from late night comedy.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Leaving the Nest

Yesterday, I had my first glimpse of what it is going to be like as our kids leave the nest over the next 1 to 5 years.  Seth is a rising Senior and we dropped him off at NC State Engineering Camp yesterday.  It's only for a week, but it felt significant.  It was a flood of emotion as we walked from the car to the check-in spot.  Him, walking faster than me.  Me, walking faster than Lori, so he didn't completely leave us in the dust.  We rounded the corner and it was clear that no one was in line, and there were no less than 6 NC State students welcoming! - cheering! - hollering! - for Seth as he speedily entered the lobby to register, and we brought up the rear.

Seth soaked it in and accepted the applause and fanfare.  In that moment, I envied him for what he was about to experience.  But now it's his turn.  His turn to experience freedom and responsibility and learning and higher education and having fun and making mistakes but hopefully not too many.  And I was overwhelmed with that feeling you get when your child is old enough to take care of himself, and is one year away from proving it.  I can sort of imagine what that will be like - like a camp drop off, but for a much longer period.

It made me think back to when I started college.  As a child, I had a great relationship with my parents.  They gave me ample freedom as a teenager.  I believe they always trusted me, and I never had a curfew that I remember.  But still, I couldn't wait to get to college and be on my own.  Only now, 30+ years later, can I fully appreciate what it must be like to have your kid so anxious and ready to be on their own.  It's not the greatest of feelings, frankly.  But I suppose it's an essential milestone of parenthood.

If Dad was still alive I would like to ask him - Did you cry when you dropped me off at NC State in August 1983?   Were you upset when I returned to school before Christmas break was over?  Or when I went to summer school the year after my freshman year instead of coming home and working there in Charlotte?  I'll ask Mom.

I really appreciate the support my parents gave me, and sacrifices they made so I could go to school and finish debt free.  I'm sorry for any tears they ever shed while I was off being independent.  But, I think to a large degree, that is a measure of parenting success - when your kid wants to be an adult, and is ready to do it.

We spent as much time as we could.  Making up his bed with soft sheets and a foam pad.  Running an extension cord.  Looking around.  Getting ice cream at the Howling Cow.  Killing time.  Soaking it in.  Freeze this moment a little bit longer.  Make each sensation a little bit stronger.  Time stand still.  Then we quickly said goodbye as he suddenly joined the other engineering campers at the appointed time.  And that was it.  He'll be back home on Friday.

One more year, and then the nest starts to empty.  Five more years, and it's done.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Everything's Going to be OK

I awoke this morning after just having another dream about my Dad.  I was running errands on Saturday and was really busy.  Lori was planning an impromptu event at the house with girls as I was out doing stuff with the guys.  I came home to get some money as I had run out.  I decided I should stay home as I had a lot to do there.  So I was laying on the couch as the party at home continued to grow.  Dad showed up wearing that red jacket he wore back when he was about 70.  He looked great and much younger, compared to the 88 I last saw.  We shook hands and his hands felt younger.  I said, "I see you're back again."  He knew what was on my mind.  He said in his usual positive calm, "I'm sure everything will work out." 

I got up and we continue to plan the party.  Mom was inviting many people even on short notice.  Dad was helping remember names.  I was on the phone with my aunt Jean, who greeted me with her usual "Well hey dawlin'!"  Everyone was very happy and the excitement was bustling.  As Dad was trying to remember names of people to call I got my phone out and pressed Record, as I wanted to capture his voice so I could listen to him when I woke up.  

I didn't hear him say too many more words before I did wake up.  My phone was on my nightstand, and there was no recording.  But this memory was good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sound Waves, Ice Cream, and Golf

This morning, here in Tokyo, I awoke at 5am with a song in my head and tears in my eyes from riotously laughing in the dream I just had.  I was so overcome with the vividness of the dream that I grabbed my phone and recorded my memory so I could write it later.

There was a computer or TV screen attached to a microphone.  The screen displayed the audio sound waves of whatever was playing.  There was a song playing and the waves were smooth.  Dad pointed out to me that he noticed the sound waves and wondered how that worked.  "Look at how it goes up and down," he said.  He was always curious and inquisitive about technology and wanted to understand things.

The music stopped and then there was just voice showing on the sound waves.  Probably mine or Dad's.  It was a similar shape, but different.  He asked, "Sit down, and explain it to me." 

He sat down in one of those 2 person chairs like we have in our living room, on the left side, though I didn't see him. He was there but not there.  We are both big guys and I doubt we could both fit in that chair.  Even though I couldn't see him, he took up less than half the space, and motioned for me to sit with him and explain the sound waves.

I thought for only a millisecond about passing on the opportunity to explain something else to my Dad, but decided against it.  He was happy to have me sitting there.  And I was happy to do that, and not run off and do something else.

I sat down beside him and produced a notepad where I was trying to sketch sound waves and calculate the wave period or amplitude or something (2 x pi x diameter, in my dream).  I was sketching and drawing a circle, when suddenly we were sitting in a grocery store parking lot.

An 18 wheel truck pulling one of those double trailers was barreling through the parking lot.  It rapidly turned a curve and the back trailer slid along with the front.  The driver was clearly in a hurry and driving like a race car driver.  Dad and I commented that there was probably a lot of ice cream in that truck and we sure would like some.

The next thing, Dad was commenting that he was still here and going to go play golf that day.  He knew he was no longer here in body, but was visiting and thought he would play a round while here.  I was laughing with him boisterously about this reality!  Here he was hanging out with me and talking about sound waves, ice cream, and golf.  And I said, "Thanks, Dad."

It was then I woke up, tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.  Minutes later, I recorded this story.  And minutes after that, I noticed the song in my head.  Not one I've ever particularly liked, and not even one in my song library of over 9,000 songs.  So no particular reason for that song to be in my head.  The song was "Lucky Man" by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.  It's in my library now.