Friday, October 31, 2008

Poll Closing Time Map

This is a nice map from showing what times the polls close across the country. Times shown are all Eastern, not local.I like how we even learn that the 459 persons living in the Alaskan part of the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone are the last to vote, at 1:00 A.M. Eastern (8:00 P.M. local).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Voting Annoyance

So, my wife and I moved over the summer, and a month or so ago I mailed in our new voting registration forms. A week ago, my wife got her sample ballot and voter pamphlet. I didn't get anything. So today I checked things on the County Registrar-Recorder's website to verify my registration, and it turns out I'm not registered at my new address. I am, however, still registered at my old address (same county), but getting over there on election day would be a pain in the butt. Thankfully, though, I was able to order a vote-by-mail package, and today was the last day to do that. I'm kinda doubtful my vote-by-mail stuff will arrive in time to return it by election day, but we shall see.

Still, though, that was annoying. Why didn't they register me? Did my form just get lost, or did I make some sort of mistake on it? Is it even legal for me to vote at my old address when I don't live there anymore, or is this one of those diabolical voter fraud schemes that Republicans are so worried about?

I'm also, of course, in different local districts, but I'm more familiar with the state assemblyman in my old district (Mike Eng) than the one at my new residence. I'm fairly positive on the congresswoman in my old district (Hilda Solis), but she's literally the only person on the ballot, so there's not much point in voting in that race. The Republicans didn't even field a candidate. My new congressman is Brad Sherman, and there's not any plausible scenario where he loses, despite the presence of two other warm bodies (a Republican and a Libertarian) on the ballot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ancestry Map

The Census Bureau's website is full of valuable data. One particularly good repository is their selection of Census 2000 Briefs and Special Reports. Brief #35 analyzes ancestry data, which is more specific than race or Hispanic origin. This is really fascinating... here's the big map, which you can see in more detail in the big .pdf:What this map shows is the largest single ancestry within each county. That is, a plurality, not a majority. The big swath of light blue over much of the northern half of the country represents German. The light red along the Mexican border is, of course, Mexican. The wide band of dark purple across the farmland of the South --- and in many urban counties of the Midwest --- is African-American. The pale yellow dominating the Appalachian highlands and some other areas is, interestingly enough, simply "American."

So what does that mean? The interesting thing about the ancestry question on the Census form is that it's self-reported and open-ended, not multiple choice. So you're free to declare your ancestry however you see fit (you can report up to two ancestries, which is, curiously enough, three fewer than the number of races you can claim). So I think what "American" represents is white people whose ancestors have been in this country long enough that they've lost their identification with their ancestors' country of origin, which is probably England, Scotland, Ireland, or a combination thereof.

You may note that English and Irish ancestry seems underreported, considering this country's history. First, let's look at English, represented by the light purple you can see in northern New England and Utah. A friend of mine at work suggested that people with multiple European ancestries, like myself, are apt to report the more "interesting" of their ancestries, and English loses out because it's the default. People want to identify with the ancestry that makes them more interesting. Personally, I tend to identify with my Italian side, even though I'm actually more Irish than Italian (I believe I reported those two on my own Census form, though that leaves out my German, Swiss, English, and Spanish heritage[and Canadian, if that counts]).

I think the predominance of English in Utah may support this idea. Maybe people in Utah are just more likely to be of English ancestry, but I think what also may be at work here is that Mormons are really big into genealogy, and so it's possible that they're just more knowledgeable and accurate when reporting their ancestry. Just an idea; I don't know how I would test this theory.

Irish ancestry may suffer a bit from the same reporting bias as English, but to a lesser degree. On the map, Irish is the medium purple color that dominates Massachusetts and the Hudson River Valley of New York. Surely there are a lot more Irish in this country, right? Take a look at Table 3, Page 6 of the report. This shows the top five ancestries reported in each state. Irish ancestry is #1 in only three states, but is #2 in 19 states, plus the District of Columbia and the country as a whole. So what seems to be the case is that Irish ancestry is very dispersed. Just about everywhere you go in the U.S.A. there will be Irish people, they just don't dominate anywhere outside of the Northeast. Plus, I think, a lot of the irish ancestry is getting rolled into "American."

There are some other interesting tidbits... the light pink in northern New Mexico is for "Hispanic" or "Spanish," differentiated from the Mexican ancestry found more along the border. A lot of these people are probably those whose ancestors were here before the U.S. acquired the Southwest in 1850. Which brings us to the Native Americans, whom you can probably figure out are represented by pale orange; you can find many of the largest Indian reservations in the country by looking for that color. The white "other" category carries some interesting info, too... Cuban dominates Miami-Dade County, of course, and Chinese still has a plurality in San Francisco. The largest single ancestry in New York County (i.e., Manhattan Borough) is Dominican.

Neat stuff.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Helium Zeppelin

A company up in the Bay Area is going to start offering rides on a zeppelin. Yes, a zeppelin. The only problem? No, not hydrogen --- they've fixed that. It's that rides are $495. Damn.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Newspaper Endorsement Map

Here's a neat map (interactive if you go to the site) showing newspapers across the country and their presidential endorsements in 2004 and 2008. The blue rings show papers that switched from a Republican to a Democratic endorsement, and the red rings show the opposite, while the solid discs show consistent party endorsements in the two elections.There are a lot more blue rings than red rings. The only papers I can see that endorsed McCain this year after Kerry in 2004 are located in Newport News, VA; Bradenton, FL; Jackson, TN; and Corpus Christi, TX. Prominent blue-ring papers, on the other hand, include the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, and all of the L.A. Newspaper Group papers.

UPDATE: The Anchorage Daily News has endorsed Obama, though it looks like they went with Kerry in the last election.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Separated at Birth?

Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis...

...and Matthew McConaughey in Reign of Fire?

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Useful Advice

If you're delivering CPR and are wondering at what tempo you should be doing the chest compressions, just run the song "Stayin' Alive" through your head, (or instruct the DJ at the club you're in to play it) since it runs at the right speed.

I suppose this assumes that your mental mp3 player will run at the right speed when you're in a life-or-death situation... that could be a possible direction for future research.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Unusual Boxing Advice from Vitali Klitschko

Boxer Soothes Fists with Son's Wet Diapers
"I wrap nappies filled with my three-year-old son Max's wee around my fists," he said, adding he got the idea from his grandmother. "The nappies hold the liquid and the swelling stays down."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Man-Thing Observation

It's long been established that 1970s double-length Marvel swamp-creature quarterly Giant-Size Man-Thing had a pretty funny double-entendre of a comic book title. I assume it was unintentional, but who really knows.What hasn't been discussed, I think, is that 2000s Marvel swamp-creature compilation The Essential Man-Thing has a title that sounds like a philosophical treatise.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good-Luck Charm

My father-in-law came to this country in 1969 to go to grad school at the University of Connecticut, and the nearby Miracle Mets promptly won the World Series that year. Later he got his doctorate at the University of Cincinnati, where the Big Red Machine won the Series in 1975 and 1976. Then he went on to Pittsburgh, where lo and behold, the Pirates won it in 1979. Later on, while living in New Jersey, the Mets won a second time in 1986. Then he moved to Southern California in 1988 where, as you know, the Dodgers became champions. Since then he's stayed put, and the Dodgers lost their mojo, though the Angels did win in 2002. He's had more home-team World Series championships than a 45-year-old lifelong Yankees fan.

So maybe we can quickly set up some kind of real estate scam where he buys a cheap house in Mississippi or somesuch and then quickly sells it in order to "move" back to L.A. in time for the Dodgers to turn it around and start beating the Phillies. Unfortunately he's currently on an overseas trip.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Strange Things are Afoot in Japan

Both of these stories have video for you to watch if you click through to the articles; I'm not embedding them in the interest of not making my blog slow to load.

1. A sake bar in Utsunomiya has monkeys working as waiters, working for edamame tips. This would be so awesome to see in person. I should note that this is the city I lived in for a month as an exchange student in high school. No monkey waiter back then, although I did see a neighborhood fireworks display that lasted for more than two hours.

2. A naked European went for a swim in the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace, fighting off the authorities for an hour and a half before being detained.

Random Blog Book Thing

My brother-in-law Mr. Schnoodler suggests the following exercise in random selection:
  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open the book to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.
Luckily for my professional reputation, the closest book to me was Donald Shoup's highly-acclaimed The High Cost of Free Parking, sitting on the table 6 feet to my right:
Further, the surveys of parking and trip generation for each land use are conducted at different places and at different places and at different times. The unbelievable turnover rates also reveal a more serious problem: the parking and trip generation rates are misleading guides to transportation and land-use planning.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Political Tidbits

1. If you'd like to see an abominably bad job of prognostication, check out Power Line's reaction to Paul Krugman's warnings about the housing bubble in 2005:
Krugman says there is a housing bubble, and it's about to burst.
Well, if we believed anything Krugman writes, we'd be worried all the time.
But it isn't clear, and Krugman doesn't even try to explain, why that constitutes a bubble or why level or declining home prices in selected areas around the country will somehow imperil the economy.
Most people own only one house at a time, and transaction costs make it impractical to buy and sell houses the way you buy and sell stocks.
Of course, not being a homeowner myself, the collapse in housing prices is a good thing for the prospect of my future homeownership. But the fact of the matter is that housing prices still have a long way to go down.

My wife and I have just started sending out feelers to test the market and see what kind of homes we might be able to buy. Without getting into too many details, let's just say that if you use sane notions of how much of one's income should go into housing, then the difference between our income bracket and the bracket of housing we could afford to buy is quite noticeable. Granted, the two of us have been at our jobs for less than a year. But I make a decent salary and she's an analytical pharmacist, yet under current prices in L.A., we'd only be able to afford a mediocre condo or a tiny house, neither one of which would be an improvement over the nice apartment we rent now. The lesson to take away here is that there is still a long way for the market to drop here in Southern California before housing affordability is at all reasonable to the average family. There's no reason to buy right now, and there won't be until at least some time next year.

2. I've long been of the belief that the amount of power the President has over the economy is overrated, but it's pretty striking to see what's happened to the national debt under Reagan and the Bushes:
3. It's worth noting that the stories about Sarah Palin charging rape victims for their rape kits appear to be false.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Foreclosure Alley

KCET's "SoCal Connected" series takes us on a tour of foreclosed homes in the Inland Empire, showing the messy and sometimes heartbreaking cleanup of the aftermath. Hey, banks: don't sell people houses they can't afford. Hey, people: don't buy houses you can't afford.

On Baseball

1.'s die-hard Red Sox fan Bill Simmons writes at length on Manny Ramirez's 2008 season, pinning the blame for the souring of the relationship between Manny and the Red Sox on super-agent Scott Boras.
That didn't stop Boston's hierarchy from ignoring Boras' behavior on the grassy knoll and directing everyone's malice toward Lee Harvey Ramirez in the book depository.
2. Speaking of Manny, how nice has it been to have the Dodgers actually performing well in the postseason? They've won twice as many postseason games in the past two days than they had in nearly 20 years before that.

3. And if you're looking for an underdog to support, it's hard to find one better than the Tampa Bay Rays. In the ten previous years of their existence, they'd been simply awful, managing to finish out of last place just once, in 2004, and that was only three games out of the cellar. So after years of hearing that Tampa Bay had a lot of strong young talent, it's remarkable to see it finally coming together this year.