Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another Week In The NWTFL

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • The final three in the Amazing Race are a bit surprising, but you can't recover from a screw-up like the one made tonight. Even if they had improbably stayed alive, would they have been able to get a replacement passport during the twelve-hour down time or would they have had to wait until the race started again?
    • So that's coming to a close, Entourage is over, and Dexter has only two more episodes left. Plus Pushing Daisies is gone. Clearing the slate nicely for the early 2009 returns of 24, Lost, and American Idol.
    • Speaking of Dexter, the show is pretty famous for having one insanely good actor (Michael C. Hall) and a very average to bad (see: Erik King as James Doakes) supporting cast. The guest stars have been good the past couple of years with Keith Carradine and Jimmy Smits. You have to give credit, though, to David Zayas (Angel) for his work this season. He has been really strong.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Went to my first ever Redskins game today as they took on the Giants. The screens in each end zone are not great and their out-of-town scoreboard is severely lacking, but the sound system is good. The fans weren't really into it, but of course it was a windy thirty-five degrees with a steady rain. We left at halftime since it was miserable and pretty obvious the Giants were just a better team. I rank FedEx Field as number three of four on my NFL stadium resume. Last place is Texas Stadium which, while the famous hole in the ceiling is cool, is fairly old and dark. Number two is Raymond James in Tampa, with the pirate ship and a great open feel. Number one is, of course, M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore with the sick video screens and a crazy fan base.
    • Speaking of that team in Baltimore, they took care of business today against the Bengals. If the Skins' offense doesn't look any more dynamic next week than they did today, the Ravens will be sitting at nine wins and one away from more or less locking up a playoff berth. And if you haven't seen it, here is the highlight of the week, Mark Clayton's one-handed catch (after video of his touchdown pass).
  • Daily Rant:
    • Outside of the Giants, the NFL continues to be pretty infuriating. The Titans were dominant on Thursday, but they it was against the Lions and they did get killed at home by the Jets. But then today, the Jets get killed at home by the Broncos. Who got killed at home last week by the Raiders. So who's the best team in the AFC if it's not the Jets? Is it Pittsburgh, with their convincing win at New England today? Is it Baltimore, with their back-to-back thirtyish-point victories. Is it Indianapolis, who seems to be slowly but surely rounding into shape with a big game last week from Manning and big ones today from Freeney and Mathis?


I was listening to a song on the radio today when I began thinking about perfection in entertainment. There are certain movies and songs that are just perfect. That isn't to say that they are the best necessarily; it's just that they are flawless for what they are supposed to be. There isn't anything that you would change if you could and nothing that leaves you thinking, "Well, if only they would have just..." So I've decided to work on compiling the list of perfect movies and perfect songs. I'll give you the few that came to me off-hand. Feel free to add some in the comments or drop some to me in an e-mail and I'll be glad to post them. I'll also come up with more as I think about it. Here's my list so far:
Perfect Movies:
  • The Godfather
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • The Jerk
  • Election
  • Sideways (kudos to Alexander Payne for the double-inclusion)

Perfect Songs:

  • "Thunder Road", Bruce Springsteen (the song I was listening to when I thought of this)
  • "When Doves Cry", Prince
  • "A Day in the Life", The Beatles
  • "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Nirvana

Friday, November 28, 2008

And They Are Indisputable

These are the facts:
  • I was sleeping on this season of Dexter a bit, but it's turned out to be pretty good. They upped the caliber of guest star with Jimmy Smits and he hasn't disappointed.
  • Speaking of caliber of guest star, how is 24 going to hire Robert Carlyle and then kill him off before the season even begins? The movie was decent though, and I actually think the Tony Almeida story line could be a very good idea, about which I'm sure I'll go into more detail at a later date.
  • I think it's important, on Thanksgiving, to say, "You're welcome." Everyone is saying that they are thankful for what they have so it's just polite. Personally, I thank nobody but myself. Except Joe Flacco, through whom all things are possible.
  • I've neglected to write about college hoops, but it's in full swing. I'll get to it soon enough, but it should be no surprise that my much anticipated preseason pick (I'm usually able to nail at least one final game participant) is North Carolina. They're just absurdly good. They made a very, very good Notre Dame team look like a guarantee game opponent.
  • We're getting to the time of year where I start to feel left out because I don't particularly like college football. So much of it (and so much talk of it) on TV and I just don't get it.
  • I struggle mightily with the concept of doing something different to commemorate the deaths of people I don't know. My friend wrote, on her blog Shtetl Fabulous, about doing something to honor those who died in the Chabad house in Mumbai. It's horrific and, certainly, zichronam l'vracha ("may their memory be for a blessing"). However, as I've written about regarding Sean Taylor and Heath Ledger, I find it difficult to justify doing something special for these specific people when there are so many others, even so many close to home, that die in much less spectacular ways and for whom nobody cares so much.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sorry, Folks

After a long day, I don't think that any sarcastic thank yous would be horribly funny. So, in observance of the greatest of American holidays (or really the food/cooking/cleaning coma that follows), we'll see you tomorrow.
And as always...

Why Morons Should Just Have To Starve

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • So House went to the guy-holding-up-the-emergency-room well, which is a little weird since it's not like the show needs any ratings or story help. It was still a fine episode since they treated it with the usual dark humor, but it wasn't a great episode. It's their first, which means they're basically the Arizona Diamondbacks of guy-holding-up-the-emergency-room episodes. ER says, "Get another twenty-five under your belt, son, and we'll talk."
    • Heroes was okay on Monday, like it's been okay all season. I'm not hating it exactly, but it's just missing that something that it had in the first season. I suppose they just need to switch it up. When Lost did the same thing two seasons ago, they took Jack and company off the island and got right back on track.
    • Pushing Daisies got cancelled. Not a surprise with abysmal ratings. It was one of the best-written shows on television, but there have been better ones before it that have suffered the same fate.
    • Watched Hellboy II tonight. The plot is so-so. As with every Del Toro film, the visuals, especially the creature effects, are wonderful.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Going back and forth on doing some sort of Thanksgiving post. I did last year. I refuse to be sincere though, so while I probably will do something tomorrow, I promise to be as snarky as possible.
    • Snarky is a funny word. Do you think that if Snarf from Thundercats procreated with Jabberjaw, their offspring would be a Snark?"
    • I found that link to Jabberjaw from a search, but that Toonopedia site looks to be pretty awesome. A reference site for cartoons?!? Expect to see more of that on here.
    • For instance, peep this entry on Silverhawks. Tally ho!
    • When you get good service, you really should spread it around, and I've been remiss on this one. On Sundays when I go to the Ravens game, I usually stop at the University of Maryland Medical Center to hit the Subway in their food court so I can get a sandwich to bring into the stadium. This past Sunday, I ordered a chicken breast sub with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions. The guy working there laid the onions and pickles on the non-chicken side of the bun first, then the tomatoes, then the lettuce. That's huge, right? The lettuce should always protect the meat and he made that happen of his own accord.
  • Daily Rant:
    • I needed to pick up one small thing at each of two grocery stores today. One had self checkouts and the other had very short lines (it's the first time I've ever seen Safeway have more than one line open). It would have been so fast, but people are just freaking idiots. At the first store, the woman in front of me didn't know how to use the self checkout. Too hard to follow the instructions that are on the screen and also said aloud? Intimidated by the technology that has only been invented in the last, oh, five years? But that's not the worst. In the other store, the woman in front of me didn't know how to use the card scanner. She wanted to use her credit card, but when it asked for her PIN she didn't know what to do. The answer is that you hit cancel. You hit cancel, just like you do for every goddamn machine that doesn't give you the option immediately. It's not rocket science. It's the same credit card scanner that you've been staring at for the last ten freaking years. Embrace space age technology! I know it's intimidating, but I think you can get through it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I can't believe the Mets traded Darryl Strawberry.

If the government wants to bail out the banks and auto industry, here is how they do it. In exchange for government aid, all employees of the benefitting companies must move to the GS schedule that the federal government uses. Therefore, the president of the company makes $400,000. The VP’s make 200k or less and it trickles down from there. No bonuses, no options, just straight cash homey. Think of how much this one line item would save the company on an annual basis. I don’t have much sympathy for people who beg for money but collect large paychecks. You didn’t do your job right in the past but you got paid well for it. It’s time to do your job right and not get paid for it. Once your company is sufficiently turned around and back on its feet, you can go back to your gluttonous ways. I know the auto industry unions may have a problem with this since it will mean less pay for those people on the line. However, if faced with the decision of less pay versus no pay, I think a choice is easy. I am not saying that this is the way to solve the whole crisis. However, it will be a huge step in the right direction.

I had mixed feelings about the “24” movie. I feel like I saw this movie before…It was called Hotel Rwanda. I realize that it is a prequel to the upcoming season but if you take the movie as a whole, the DC scenes were essentially useless. Plus, it was driving me crazy to see leaves on the trees at the President’s Inauguration considering I had spent over an hour earlier that day raking leaves off my front lawn and it is only November. I think that is one detail that they missed. Jack talked about his daughter quite a bit. Although many people may not like Elisha Cuthbert's acting talent, I consider her totally babe-a-licious.

Why is everyone calling for a 8-team playoff in college football? What’s wrong with a 4 team playoff? Every year, the 3rd or 4th ranked team in the country is arguably the best. However, no one outside of the state of Utah is claiming that the 8th ranked team could be the best in college football. A 4 team playoff means one extra game and it doesn't leave the national championship up to a computer.

Thankgiving is coming up later this week which means I can look forward to being parked on I-95 as head back and forth from BWI airport twice tomorrow. I used to think that it was so expensive to travel out of the area for the holiday. However, when you are hosting 20 people, you realize pretty quickly that it is very cheap to fly out of the area for the weekend. I can now personally attest that as much as I wish it did, turkey does not cost a nickel.

I am excited that Chinese Democracy is now on sale. However, I am not so excited to go anywhere near a Best Buy in the next few weeks with all the crazy holiday shoppers out there. I’ll see you in January Guns n' Roses CD.

Two Weeks To Civil War

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • For a few years, Entourage has been entertaining TV, but not what I would call "good". As such, I went into this season with fairly low expectations and it would have been second to only 24 (sorry, haven't watched the movie yet) on the shows that annoy me enough that I could potentially drop them. No more. This season was wonderful. They finally were able to tear Vinny down in a meaningful way and inject serious conflict and tension into the show. All of that culminated in last night's season finale. It's kind of cliche to shoot New York as gritty like Scorsese or Saturday Night Fever, but it was a nice contrast to the sleek style in Hollywood. There was some great stuff with Vince feeling like a fraud as his friends and family applauded him and, of course, Ari showing up unexpectedly in Queens. Suffice to say that as the season ended, I had a huge smile on my face. It's been a few years, but Entourage is back.
    • I'm more of a Survivor guy, so I've only put cursory thought into what it would be like to be on The Amazing Race. When I do though, my greatest fear is that I would end up a nerdy Jewish f***-up like Dan and Andrew.
    • A little behind, so Heroes remains on the DVR with the aforementioned 24 movie. Going to be a tough TV-watching week with holiday preparations going on.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • YouTube has a feature that recommends videos based on what you've watched recently. It's funny to see what they choose; not all of them make sense. I have Soup clips, funny hamsters and other pets, people getting dunked on, and Hadag Nachash/You Don't Mess With The Zohan clips.
    • This classic was on the list. I'd never seen the original. Then, from the related video list, I chose this other classic. That's it though, not getting into the YouTube game tonight and staying up until 3.
  • Daily Rant:
    • So the NFL flexed the Redskins-Ravens game on Dec. 7 to Sunday Night Football. With the playoffs on the line, the Redskin hatred in Baltimore, and a full day of drinking, I'm expecting a serious amount of fights in the stands. Like guys pulling their prosthetic legs off and beating people and battle lines being drawn between Montgomery/PG and Baltimore County/Baltimore City. I am frightened that it will result in the good parts of Maryland destroying each other, leaving only Cumberland and the Eastern Shore, whereby the Free State would drop from #2 to like #49 in my next rankings. Sorry, Mississippi.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Your List Sucks!: A Day At The Stadium

With not much to write about, there were some bizarre ocurrences at today's Eagle-Ravens game. We had an NFL record, the potential end of an era, and a thorough butt-stomping, but not all of the excitement was on the field. So, here are the Top 5 Weirdest Things Seen/Heard Today:
  • 5. Down 22-7, the Eagles were threatening at the goal line when Kevin Kolb threw a pass almost directly to Ed Reed, who took it back 108 yards for a touchdown, an NFL record. The Eagles, for some reason, seemed to have quit and only one or two guys chased Reed down the field.
  • 4. Two women, sitting behind us, seemingly not with anyone else, and chatting about relationships the entire time, asked us when halftime began, "Is it halftime?" It doesn't sound so dumb, but it was all about the tone and the clueless (read: drunk) look.
  • 3. Donovan McNabb got straight benched in a game where his team was trailing 10-7. You get the feeling that both he and Andy Reid are not long for the Linc.
  • 2. The same women, towards the end of the game, decided they were going to leave because they had been drinking too much and they were tired. In getting ready to go, one of them said to us: "I'm so out of it I feel like I'm doing lines." Right.
  • 1. This one is the weirdest thing I've ever seen at a game. A gentleman directly in front of us was missing both legs below the knees. He had prosthetics to help him walk, but apparently it was easier for him to sit without them, because he kept removing them whenever he was at his seat. At one point, he was yelling to a friend two rows down when they called him a "legless bastard". He responded by offering them his leg. That is, he literally picked up his prosthetic leg that he had removed and offered it foot-first. I still can't quite believe I actually saw that in person at a football game.

A Week's Worth

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Before I get to catching up on the week in pop culture, let me say that I saw the Capitol Steps tonight for the first time. I'm going to borrow one of the most famous debate lines from the President-Elect: They're funny enough.
    • Okay, so... This season of Heroes has been so-so. They're trying to recapture the feeling of the first season, but it seems a bit self-derivative. I like the complexity in Sylar, though that scene of him asking Elle to show her anger while she blasts him with lightning was very much like the Emperor going after Luke in Episode VI. I'm a big Robert Forster fan -- he maybe even steals Jackie Brown in ways -- but he's the only really fresh thing on the show. That being said, I'm still eagerly watching and I'm excited for the heroes versus villains stuff.
    • Do you think that House is going to turn into what they played with on this past episode, with House and his team working on a case while Foreman works with the old team? It would be a great way to shake it up a bit by having more than one case (it's what C.S.I.: does, they've had as many as four in an episode) and it's how they work Cameron and Chase back into things.
    • I was watching the old 90210 this morning and you could piece together that, eight months after the gang graduated college, Erin Silver was six years old. I was concerned that this would lead to a continuity error, since in the new series, Silver is in high school and in the pilot episode we also saw Andrea and Jesse's daughter Hannah. But I checked up on it and since Andrea had Hannah in her freshman year of college, it could work out that Silver could be a sophomore or junior and Hannah could be a freshman. Just wanted to set that all straight in case you were worrying about it like I was.
    • That was the funniest ending in Survivor history, right? Who cares that you already knew who was going, it was just great to see all of them fail miserably at trying not to laugh and Crystal screaming loud enough for everyone to hear her as she voted.
    • Is anyone else as torn about the 24 movie tomorrow night as I am? I know I'll watch it, but what could they possibly do this season to make the show interesting again? They've made it so unbelievable that the only way they can push the envelope is for Jack to sleep with his dead lover that comes back as a ghost.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • This was the funniest clip from The Soup this week. I could watch it over and over.
    • The weather is just crazy. It was around 70 last week and right now it's in the mid-20s outside. I haven't seen numbers like that this close together since I looked at the score of tonight's Texas Tech-Oklahoma game.
    • Which is the better Anchorman joke for this story? "We go into the bear pit," or, "I immediately regret this decision."
  • Your List Sucks!: Top 5 Teams After Week 11:
    • 5. Arizona Cardinals
    • 4. Carolina Panthers
    • 3. Pittsburgh Steelers
    • 2. Tennessee Titans
    • 1. N.Y. Giants

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ranking The States: Part V, 10-1

Part I (50-41) and an explanation of the scoring is here.
Part II (40-31) is here.
Part III (30-21) is here.
Part IV (20-11) is here.

Which unflinchingly liberal state do I consider the best in the nation? It's time to find out!

10. California: 33.2 Points
And boom, just like that, the favorite falls way short. In the initial discussion, we threw out a bunch of potential states but it always came back to The Golden State. It's the most populous state. It has four monster cities. I've been a lot of places in the U.S. (though not the Grand Canyon) and the best views I've seen are on the road to Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe. It ties for the highest score in the yes/no questions, helped out by its protection of choice and civil unions. There was no doubt that California would be number one. But then we get to that problem of a big state and what goes on outside of those urban and suburban areas. California has the 7th highest unemployment rate in the country and it ranks 39th in poverty level. It's ranked only 16th in median income, which leaves it as the lowest in that category of the top 15 (only Kansas ranks in the top 16 in median income but not in the top 16 overall). If you've ever been to the desert near Palm Springs on the way from L.A. to Phoenix or to the area north of, say, Sonoma County that feels like Oregon South, you know that there's more to the state than just the area between San Diego and San Francisco (cow smell notwithstanding in even that area). A great state it is, but not quite great enough overall.

9. Washington: 35.5 Points
Washington is the land of Grunge, Twin Peaks, Nintendo, and most of Ken Griffey, Jr.'s career. In other words, it was my idea of heaven when I was in ninth grade. Indeed, Seattle is a great city with easily the most beautiful skyline in the country, but the rest of Washington is pretty much trees and Idaho West, right? Washington scores highly with points in every category except for firearm registration and, other than a moderatly high unemployment rate and percentage of mobile homes (Pullman, I'm looking at you), the Evergreen State scores in the top 15 or so across the board. If you get to Seattle (go during the summer!), the must-do is the underground tour.

8. New Hampshire: 35.6 Points
The Granite State barely beats out Washington, even with no pro sports and no desire by me to live there. That would be because New Hampshire has wealthy residents (6th highest median income and 2nd lowest poverty level) and top ten rankings in college degrees and infant mortality rate. Maybe the weirdest thing about the state is that its the home state of Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, and Seth Meyers. Because when you think Jewish comedians, you think New Hampshire!

7. Minnesota: 36.5 Points
You don't think of Minnesota as anything but cold, but it's also pretty cool, as the state has produced Prince, Bob Dylan, the Coen brothers, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 (it started as a local show in the Twin Cities). Minnesotans also need to get big points for their love of voting. The national voter turnout this year was 61.2% and Minnesota hit 77.9%. The Land of 10,000 Lakes actually has 11,842, so they have barely fewer lakes than there are people who watch the Timberwolves on a nightly basis. In terms of the scores, Minnesota has only the 32nd lowest unemployment rate, but it ranks in the top ten in every other category. I guess I sleep on everything about Minnesota besides Justin Morneau and Adrian Peterson.

6. New York: 36.9 Points
The Empire State is one of the healthiest and best-educated states with safe roads and more permanent housing. Its economy is not particularly strong, ranking very similarly to states like Washington, Pennsylvania, and even Georgia. Basically, New York only ranks above Minnesota because it's more liberal. But, you can't knock the state for being this high. New York City is, without a doubt, the greatest city in the world. Even if they have the Yankees, the Big Apple is the international symbol for the prosperity and promise of America. Still, we now see the biggest gap between any two states as we move into the best five in the nation.

5. Hawaii: 41 Points
And 4.1 points later, we move from the very good states to the truly great ones. Aloha from the, well, Aloha State. Full Disclosure One: I pegged this one around number ten and didn't think it would do this well. Full Disclosure Two: I've been to Hawaii (Kaua'i and Honolulu) and while it is as gorgeous as you might imagine (or more), I wasn't impressed with it as a state. Kaua'i seemed pretty poor (there are feral chickens roaming the island) and Honolulu impressed me as a Miami that is much more expensive to get to. True, the USS Arizona Memorial legitimately ranks with Auschwitz as the most haunting places I've ever visited and the pervasive Polynesian culture adds a great foreign feel. Plus, there are not many places where you can play golf and pull lychee nuts off the trees for a snack as you go. Other than ranking 22nd in traffic fatalities, Hawaii puts up huge numbers. It has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the 4th highest median income, the lowest percentage of mobile homes, the 5th lowest poverty level, and the 8th highest rate of people with college degrees. Numbers like that are not what you'd expect from one of the "freak states", but Hawaii is surprisingly more than just coffee, pineapples, and a great place to visit.

4. New Jersey: 41.3 Points
New Jersey is the butt of a lot of jokes because of all of the factories along the Turnpike, but what may make New Jersey great is exactly the fact that everyone sees those factories. The Garden State benefits from its central location that allows it to have suburbs of New York and Philly and easy access to Baltimore and D.C. It's only knock score-wise is the rank of 22nd in unemployment rate, but even with that, New Jersey is clearly the second wealthiest state in the country. It has the second highest median income, the most millionaires, and the 4th lowest poverty level. It ranks in the top five in six of the eight categories, with doctors per 100,000 residents (8th) being the only other lower ranking. Yeah, believe it. New Jersey is a better state overall than New York.

3. Connecticut: 41.6 Points
And so is New York's other prominent neighbor in the Northeast Corridor. Connecticut, with no pro sports team and nothing spectacular, ranks in the top three in six of the eight categories, missing out on only unemployment rate (31st) and infant mortality rate (12th). Connecticut is one of only two states that allows same-sex marriage and it also protects choice. There may be nothing that stands out about the Constitution State -- it's just great overall.

2. Maryland: 42.1 Points
So, for all of my talk of dark horses and California as the no-doubt favorite, I couldn't imagine Maryland being ranked so high. I mean, how can any state with Essex be considered great? Deep down though, I knew that the #1 and #2 states would most likely be in the top three with California, because they have very strong numbers to recommend them. It's easy to get too close to your home to see its qualities. Maryland is the wealthiest state in the country. Period. It has the highest median income and the lowest poverty level. It's unemployment rate, while ranked only 13th, is still the second lowest in the top ten behind Hawaii. It has the 4th highest percentage of college degrees. Baltimore's issues with infant mortality drives the state's ranking down, but bills protecting civil unions and choice help overcome that. I've lived in Baltimore and traveled the state extensively, so I find it easy to recognize some of the Old Line State's flaws (especially because I'm now snobbily isolated from them in Montgomery County), but I know I'm lucky to live here.

So that brings us to... (drumroll)

1. Massachusetts: 43.7 Points
What do you want? It has the 5th highest median income, the highest percentage of college graduates (by 11% over the next highest, Colorado), the 4th lowest infant mortality rate, the highest availability of doctors, the 9th lowest poverty level, the lowest relative number of traffic fatalities, and the second lowest percentage of mobile homes. In other words as Boston's most famous son would put it, Massachusetts must be early to bed and early to rise, because it is healthy, wealthy, and wise. It has an unemployment rate that ranks right in the middle of the pack, but it is the other state that allows same-sex marriage. The Red Sox have won two of the last five World Series, the Patriots have won three of the last seven Super Bowls, and the Celtics won the NBA Championship last year. From the mixture of history and modernity in Boston (don't miss the extremely popular cannolis from Mike's Pastry in the North End) to the cliffs of Cape Cod to the foliage in Western Mass, it's a beautiful state. I almost disqualified Massachusetts because I was afraid that its nickname, the Bay State, was named for cheesy action director Michael Bay. Not the case! So the wicked good (not Michael) Bay State, which began the American Revolution, brings my state rankings to a close.

Let me know if you have a different #1 state in the comments (or a post if you're Steve or Elisha). Otherwise, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ranking The States: Part IV, 20-11

Part I (50-41) and an explanation of the scoring is here.
Part II (40-31) is here.
Part III (30-21) is here.

20. Nebraska: 25.9 Points
Nebraska is the highest-ranked state that scored a zero in the yes/no questions. Note that I didn't give it any points for Obama's win in Omaha, since any number of large cities in red states would have gone to him if their vote was counted separately. The Cornhusker State ranks in our top 20 (barely) because of better than average scores including the 4th lowest unemployment rate and a very low infant mortality rate. Just another state that's a little better than average, but probably not all that exciting and not a place I'd want to live.

19. Oregon: 26.5 Points
Oh, Beaver State... You sneak ahead of a few states because you allow civil unions, you're not land-locked like Nebraska, and you have an NBA team that used to have its own crime blotter. You are the state where I once carried a baby goat in a parade (honestly, and check out the really bad editing on the fourth left-hand button from the bottom). You are the state where, when passing through Salem on the way to Seattle, a gas station attendant all but begged to join us and get away from his miserable existence. To be fair, Portland's actually really cool and has the best bookstore in the country. Oregon is not great for jobs (10th worst) and pretty average in everything else. This is the one where my scoring for politics backfires.

18. Wisconsin: 26.6 Points
Wisconsin is more or less the mirror image of a state like Indiana, where it ranks unspectacularly around the top 20 in just about every category. The Badger State has reasonably wealthy people, especially compared to some of its neighbors. It also has some of the great tailgating in the country. Lambeau Field is obviously famous for it, but we saw some great set-ups outside of Miller Park for a Brewers game. I should have deducted points because Wisconsin's State Insect is the European honey bee. Real patriotic!

17. Pennsylvania: 28.3 Points
Kind of a disappointing slot for the home of the World Champion Phillies and the first major Mid-Atlantic state in the rankings. The Keystone State earns points for being solidly blue, being a place I'd want to live, and having one the most underrated skylines in the country in Pittsburgh. It has a high number of doctors per capita and low number of mobile homes, but ranks between 22nd and 31st in the other categories. It's similar to Ohio, but just plain old better across the board.

16. Utah: 29.5 Points
Hands-down, without a doubt, I am more surprised by this state's rank than any other's. Utah, the reddest of the red states, has a religious makeup that is 58% LDS, with all of the stereotypes that come with it. Sure, it inexplicably has an NBA team, much less one named after a decidedly non-white style of music, but that is the only point it scored on the yes/no questions. That must mean that the Beehive State ranks very high in the chosen categories. It is the first state on this list to be 1st in the country in anything (lowest infant mortality rate) and has the 3rd lowest unemployment rate and 10th lowest rate of traffic fatalities. It ranks in the top half of every category besides doctors per 100,000 residents. Too mountainous and non-Jewish for me, but it's apparently a very pleasant place in which to live.

15. Colorado: 31.2 Points
The Centennial State, with its beautiful mountains, ranks no lower than 21st in any category. It has the second-highest percentage of residents with college degrees. Everyone I know who has gone to or lived in Denver raves about it. Maybe it started with Utah, but I declare that we are firmly out of the average states and into the very good ones.

14. Rhode Island: 31.3 Points
Aside from a very high unemployment rate (10th worst), The Ocean State scores very well across the board. I suppose the smallest state deserves the smallest paragraph, so that's what it will get.

13. Illinois: 31.7 Points
Due to a freak occurrence, Illinois is the only state in the country with only one U.S. Senator. Dick Durbin is still soldiering on though, after his junior counterpart decided to just up and quit for some reason or another. The Land of Lincoln is like Michigan but with an extra point in each category. It's reasonably wealthy and well-educated, but with pretty high unemployment. I give a big step up to states with a large city that I would live in and Chicago certainly fits the bill.

12. Vermont: 32.7 Points
The Green Mountain State, home to maple candy and Ben and Jerry's, gets the lowest remaining points from yes/no questions, with only three coming from the 2004 and 2008 elections and its recognition of civil unions. However, it ranks 6th in college degrees, 6th in doctors per capita, 11th in lowest poverty level, 3rd in fewest traffic fatalities per 100 million miles, and above average in every category other than a surprising 25th in the percentage of mobile homes. My favorite stat about Vermont is this: it has zero Target stores. Vermonters don't take kindly to the big box stores and while Wal-Mart was able to sneak two or three in, Target got shut out.

11. Virginia: 33.1 Points
Virginia is the highest-ranked state that went Republican in either of the last two presidential elections. That shouldn't be too much of a surprise as it has some of the wealthiest areas in the country in the DC suburbs and it has great history all over. Go to Williamsburg around Christmas sometime, it's one of the best places to be. The Old Dominion ranks 9th in median income, 11th in college degrees, 6th in the lowest unemployment rate, and 7th in lowest poverty level. One would think this is mostly driven by Fairfax and its surrounding counties, but recent elections have shown that these counties have become the true power in the state. Virginia misses the top 10 by just 0.1 points. A lower infant mortality rate (it ranks 35th)? If the Nationals had ended up in Potomac Yards? Either of these would have put Virginia even higher in our rankings and I expect, as it loses its reputation as a Southern state and comes to be known as more Mid-Atlantic, that a re-look at our rankings down the road would have them there.

Coming up tomorrow: The top ten, which you could figure out by process of elimination, will be revealed, but in what order as we still await the biggest upset and the largest (by far) gap between states.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ranking The States: Part III, 30-21

Part I (50-41) and an explanation of the scoring is here.
Part II (40-31) is here.

30. Kansas: 21.1 Points
Home of the 2008 NCAA Basketball Champions (thanks, in part, to this shot), the Sunflower State is pretty similar to a state like Indiana. It's a relatively highly educated state (12th in the country in terms of people with Bachelors Degrees or higher) and ranks basically around the middle of the pack. Nothing stands out, which is why I remember it only as a blur on the drive from Kansas City to Oklahoma City.

29. Ohio: 21.4 Points
Ohio is another state that, when first thinking about the best state, I declared a dark horse. The Buckeye State is always thought of as a sort of miniature America, demographically. Of course, the state is also famous for having a city (Cleveland) where a river caught on fire. In fact, the state has some bad economic numbers with median income and poverty levels in the bottom twenty states and an unemployment rate that ranks as the 5th worst in the nation. It does merit mention as the first state to have points in the social issues scoring, as it does require firearm registration. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a must-see and they should be psyched that Ohio State will beat the crap out of Michigan this weekend. On a related note, if you haven't had a traditional buckeye, you're missing out on yumminess and the most unhealthy food ever.

28. Nevada: 21.9 Points
The Silver State is named for the large silver deposits found within its borders and not, in fact, for the quarter after quarter dropped in many a slot machine by people with oxygen tanks. I'd actually live in the nice Las Vegas suburbs and Nevada is one of only seven states that have a law on the books to protect a woman's choice. The Strip is a sight that everyone should see in person once and I'm fond of Tahoe, though I'll touch on that a bit more when we get to California. In terms of rankings, Nevada's sort of weird. It's in the top ten nationally in median income and lowest poverty level, but it ranks 5th worst in both college degrees and doctors per capita. One can only assume that Nevadans are giving their money to Steve Wynn, rather than UNLV.

(Tie)26. North Dakota: 22.4 Points
You know you're in for an exciting state when the first thing listed on Wikipedia under "Attractions" is a farm show. But, well, the Peace Garden State is a state and while it ranks as just less than mediocre across the board, it ranks better than South Dakota, so they should be very pleased about that.

(Tie)26. Iowa: 22.4 Points
It's a little surprising that Iowa is just a 2008 McCain state victory away from being ranked behind North Dakota, although that surprise could come from the fact that the Hawkeye State gets overvalued a bit because of its place in American politics and because of its magical baseball diamond that brings people back from the dead. The reality is that there aren't a whole lot of available doctors, the people aren't super educated as a whole, and while they are not entirely poor, they are pretty low in median income. Is this heaven? No... It's Iowa.

25. Michigan: 23 Points
Even though Nevada technically comes closest to half the points of the #1 state (foreshadowing!), I proclaim our #25 and #24 states to be the absolute most mediocre states in the Union. The Great Lakes State is the first pure blue state on the list, but its economic situation keeps it below its Democrat-loving brethren. Michigan ranked worst in the nation with a 7.2% unemployment rate, almost a point worse than 2nd place Mississippi (who else?). In 2007. Last month, that number was 9.3%, a 16-year high. Not even the fact that the state has produced maybe the greatest staffer in the history of the United States Senate is enough to overcome a very bleak situation, one that may be getting bleaker by the day.

24. Florida: 23.8 Points
The other most mediocre state is the Sunshine State, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, Walt Disney World, and Dexter. Florida ranks between 20th and 35th in every category. The economy may be better than Michigan's, but the roads are a lot less safe. You'd know that to be fairly intuitive if you've ever driven (read: gripped the steering wheel and prayed for your life) there. While I like South Florida enough to ponder living there, the state beats out Michigan only because it has prettier sights with the Everglades and the Keys.

23. Alaska: 24.8 Points
Alaska is known as "The Last Frontier" because of its extreme wilderness, replete with magic buses and views of Russia. This one has to be the first pleasant surprise -- when my friends and I first discussed this, we pegged Russia at around #40. While the state has the 3rd worst unemployment in the country, it ranks 7th in median income and pretty high in the other categories. It's obviously beautiful and while you couldn't pay me to live there (and apparently, they actually do pay people to live there), I'm dying to visit. I'd write something snappy about their elected officials, but I can't remember any of their names.

22. Delaware: 25.1 Points
The First State, this is obviously not. To be honest, I'm more shocked about the low ranking of this state than any other so far. I thought that Delaware, with its progressive politics and its location in the East Coast megalopolis, would come out towards the very top of the rankings. It has a relatively low unemployment rate and high median income, but doesn't rank higher than 10th in any category and has a pretty high infant mortality rate. The biggest factor is that we're getting close to the point where states stand apart because they have a big city in them and/or they have excellent rankings. Delaware has neither and its place on the coast isn't enough, as 21 of the top 25 states all touch large bodies of water.

21. Maine: 25.7 Points
Maine, while not near big cities like Delaware, is pretty similar otherwise with slightly-better-than-mediocre rankings across the board, its best being the safety of its roads. What else to say other than I'm pretty sure every town is haunted since I'm a big Stephen King reader and McDonalds sells the McLobster. The Pine Tree State barely edges out Delaware because it has a law to protect choice and it sanctions civil unions. It is, of course, the lowest ranked state in New England.

Coming up tomorrow: We move into the top 40% with four land-locked and two pure red states left. Where will they fall?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ranking The States: Part II, 40-31

Part I (50-41) and an explanation of the scoring is here. Onwards.

40. South Dakota: 15.1 Points
South Dakota is much like Montana, its neighbor to the west, it's just a little bit better across the board. The Mount Rushmore State (what a weak nickname) has the 5th lowest unemployment rate in the nation but does not rank in the top half of any other category. I've heard that Mount Rushmore itself is horribly overrated, but I do enjoy the ending to North by Northwest. So I guess they have that going for them. Which is nice.

39. Missouri: 15.2 Points
During our first discussion of what was the best state, Missouri popped up quickly in my mind as a dark horse. Obviously, and surprisingly, that is not the case. I'm fond of both St. Louis and Kansas City, specifically the Anheuser-Busch factory tour and
Gates BBQ, perhaps the best food on earth. Also, I bowled a 48 at the bowling alley in the basement of St. Louis' International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame, thus embarassing myself and any number of hall members who I had never heard of. However, and this will be a theme for a couple of other states, there's a whole lot of the Show-Me State that isn't in St. Louis or Kansas City. It ranks 25th or worse in every category with only its pro teams (go Rams, Chiefs, and Royals!) and the Gateway Arch giving it enough points to escape the bottom ten.

38. New Mexico: 15.3 Points
New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is the lowest ranking state that went blue in either 2004 or 2008. The health numbers aren't horrible and there is actually a decently low unemployment rate. Unfortunately, the jobs they have must be very low paying, as New Mexico ranks very low in median income and poverty level and it has a lot of mobile homes. This can partly be explained by some unfortunate socio-economic truths about minorities in our country -- New Mexico's population is 44% Hispanic and 10% Native American.

37. North Carolina: 16.4 Points
This is the lowest state in which I could actually live. The Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill is beautiful, but again there's the whole rest of the state to reckon with. Someone I know in Western North Carolina once sent one of my friends a can of possum road kill. It was a joke gift, but the can itself wasn't a joke; people actually eat that stuff. It gets points for going Obama this year, it has pro sports teams in two different cities (and a Carolina team that should win the NCAA tournament this year), I'd live there, and it touches the ocean. That must tell you how low it ranks in the other categories. The Tar Heel State is pretty poor with few jobs and a remarkably low percentage of college degrees for a state so famous for its university system. A great three-city area does not a great state make.

36. Arizona: 16.8 Points
The Grand Canyon state, home of John McCain and apparently
impossible to traverse without a private plane, casts its... No, wait, I'm on the wrong state track. Arizona, other than having the big city in Phoenix, is remarkably similar to its neighbor, New Mexico. It has a little more wealth and a little worse health care. It also has Colorado City, an FLDS community that sanctioned plural marriage and was run by Warren Jeffs until his conviction last year. Fun Fact: It's so freaking hot in Phoenix in August that I bought a bottle of water on the street that had been frozen into a block of ice and it was drinkable by the time I twisted the cap off.

35. Idaho: 17.5 Points
Outside of potatoes,
Larry Craig, and blue football fields (who do we hate?), what does anyone know about the Gem State? Well, it has the lowest number of doctors per capita in the country; the numbers work out to around 2,500 or so total doctors in the state. There are that many doctors that have slept with each other on Grey's Anatomy. Otherwise, Idaho is exactly what you'd expect. Eh.

34. Texas: 17.9 Points
Another relative surprise for me, since Texas is such a big state with seemingly bigger influence in the country. I have some personal stake in the Lone Star State as not only did I propose to my wife in Houston, but it was in Dallas that I bought the toy for my dog that has outlasted his chewing onslaught the longest. Austin's very cool and Houston's
Chacho's is the single greatest Mexican restaurant in the U.S. However, as with every other big state with some urban areas, the "big" part of it drags the state down. That might give you a hint as to what kind of state will be at the top of the list. Texas just ranks in the middle of the pack or lower in every category and its high poverty could very well come from its large immigrant population (it's a barely majority minority state).

33. Wyoming: 18.3 Points
The Equality State (ironic since it's maybe as famous for Matthew Shepard as anything else short of Old Faithful) is wealthy compared to the other states on our ranking so far and fares a lot worse in the other categories. The first sentence in the
Wikipedia article about Dick Cheney's state says it all: "The State of Wyoming is a sparsely populated state." In fact, it has the lowest population of any state. It's cold, windy, and nobody lives there. It's as if someone dropped the moon just north of Colorado and Utah.

32. Georgia: 18.4 Points
The Peach State is yet another Southern state that ranks squarely in the bottom-middle of all of the categories. It's maybe set apart only by the fact that it has Atlanta, it's on the coast, and Savannah is a beautiful city. The fact that, because of a lot of swamps, the state smells horribly does not help. The freakiest thing I've seen in Georgia was a Dwarf House, the restaurant that became Chic-Fil-A when it branched out. Imagine the same fast food, but served on a real plate with real silverware.

31. Indiana: 19.4 Points
We close out the bottom twenty with the land of Peyton Manning and Reggie Miller. Michael Jackson and his siblings hail from the Chicago suburb of Gary and we sure do love
this scene from Hoosiers. The states in numbers 40-31 are all pretty similar in that they're lower in the pack across the board with nothing super special to make them stand out. In the Hoosier State's case, they are poor on the health numbers but more or less just average, which isn't good enough.

Coming up tomorrow: A couple of other surprisingly low states and we'll find out the two states that I consider to be the most mediocre in the country. Also, we'll get to the question of with all of the knocks on it this year, why hasn't Alaska shown up yet?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ranking The States: Part I, 50-41

Note: I could write about how good Terminator was tonight or how Heroes borrowed the ending of Return of the Jedi, but instead I'm going with something I've been putting off for a long time. During a discussion with friends about a year ago, we started trying to decide what the best and worst states were. So, below is Part I of my official rankings.

First, I fully admit that these rankings are subjective. I chose certain categories and used certain external rankings, but my choice of which categories to use was relatively unscientific. They are as follows:

Yes/No Questions: The states got one point for a yes and zero for a no, unless otherwise noted.
  • Did they go for Kerry in 2004? (Did they fall for Bush again?)
  • Did they go for Obama in 2008? (Were they okay with the last eight years?)
  • Do they have an MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL team? (Speaks to big cities and something to do.)
  • Would I realistically choose to live there?
  • Is there some extra special sight worth seeing?
  • Do they border a body of water large enough that you can't see the other side?
  • Do they have firearm registration laws?
  • Do they have laws in place to protect choice if Roe v. Wade were overturned?
  • Do they allow same-sex marriage (2 points) or civil unions (1 point)?

Rankings: Via the Census, I chose certain categories. The 1st place state got 5 points, 2nd got 4.9, and so on down to 0.1 points.

  • Median Income
  • % of Residents with Bachelors Degree or More
  • Infant Mortality Rate
  • Doctors per 100,000 Residents
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Poverty Level
  • Traffic Fatalities per 100 Million Vehicle Miles
  • Mobile Homes, as a % of Total Homes

Feel free to let me know your thoughts about these or your own rankings in the comments. And away we go!

50. Mississippi: 3.1 Points

Mississippi isn't just the worst state, it's the worst by a long ways. It's distance in points from #49 is the second largest difference between any two states. The Magnolia State gets 1 point for bordering the Gulf and... well, there's only one category ranking where they were better than the bottom three and that was in Bachelors Degree+, where they ranked 44th. (Not-so) Fun Fact: 1.4% of infants born alive in Mississippi don't make it to their first birthday.

49. Arkansas: 5.6 Points

Arkansas has a lower infant mortality rate than Mississippi and that's about it. The Natural State ranks in the bottom ten in every other category, but at least it doesn't come in last place (Mississippi came in last place of three of the eight).

48. West Virginia: 7.4 Points

Almost heaven, the Mountain State is not. I don't suggest living here, but if you do, you may enjoy one of their many fine mobile homes. Also, don't expect to have great conversations as fewer than 16% of the residents have completed a four-year college.

47. South Carolina: 8.1 Points

The lowest state that I've spent any appreciable amount of time in, the Palmetto State is not quite as poor or uneducated as many of its Southern friends. It doesn't rank in the top thirty of any category, however. I was once, about five years ago, selling computers at a trade show in Charleston, which is a beautiful city to behold and one of my favorites, when a teacher told us that her school couldn't afford any computers. Any.

46. Kentucky: 9.4 Points

Mammoth Cave National Park is an amazing sight to see and the Bluegrass State has okay health care. Otherwise, it's poor and uneducated. Go see the cave and Churchill Downs and then get the heck out.

45. Alabama: 10.1 Points

Let's call it "Mississippi with jobs". The Yellowhammer State doesn't have much to it, but it does sport the 10th lowest unemployment rate in the country. That, and some other finishes out of the bottom ten (barely) in doctors and traffic fatalities, inches it out of the bottom five states.

44. Oklahoma: 11 Points

Ooooooooo-klahoma where at least they have something to watch. Yes, the Oklahoma City Thunder are now there. That and a top 50% ranking in unemployment rate are enough to push it past Alabama. I found the Oklahoma City National Memorial to be moving, but it's not anywhere close to spectacular. You'll be excited to know that the Sooner State's state drink is milk and its state game bird is the wild turkey. What's wrong with that picture?

43. Tennessee: 12.2 Points

The Titans may be undefeated for now, but the Volunteer State ranks squarely as around the 10th worst state in all of the category rankings. If you get sick, you may be okay, so long as you're more than one year old.

42. Louisiana: 12.9 Points

The Bayou State is right near the bottom in every category except for doctors and unemployment, but it does have the Saints and everything else in New Orleans. Try some of Abita's Purple Haze beer while you're hanging out on Bourbon, it's delicious. Just don't be surprised if you step past city limits and wonder how you ended up in Mississippi.

41. Montana: 13.6 Points

The "best" of our bottom 10 is the Treasure State. Better than average chance of finding a job there (it ranks 8th in the country), but please don't drive there as it ranks last in traffic fatalities. Otherwise, it's just sort of meh and it's a slightly worse version of our #40 state, to which you will be introduced tomorrow. I will say that Montana going blue this year would not have changed its ranking at all. We do love us some Brian Schweitzer though.

Coming up tomorrow: A couple of pretty big surprises, the worst state I'd actually live in, and we'll find out which state has the fewest number of doctors per capita.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not A Fix, Just A Moronic Call

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I've pretty much weaned myself off of the news shows. I still a check a blog or two to read about the recounts or because I want to support their work, but I deleted three days of Countdown this morning and I didn't DVR The Chris Matthews Show or Meet The Press. That being said, I did catch 60 Minutes tonight, with the first post-election Obama interview. Great, great stuff. Very interesting and very funny. I think the best line was when the interviewer asked Barack and Michelle about if Michelle's mother will be moving in, along with the new dog. Barack's response: "You want me to compare my mother-in-law to a dog? I'm smarter than that! I just got elected president, man."
    • Big DVD day on Tuesday, as my favorite movie of the year, Wall-E, and my favorite comedy of the year, Tropic Thunder, both get released. If you didn't see Wall-E in the theaters, it's a must on Netflix.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • I'm not surprised that the Ravens got schooled today, but I'm not happy that the defense got beaten so badly. I think they can still win enough to sneak into the playoffs, especially in a surprisingly weak AFC.
    • I watched the whole Eagles-Bengals overtime because I'm a glutton for punishment like that. I don't know which is more disappointing: ties or the Eagles.
    • I still think the Cowboys (and Romo) are overrated, though obviously the Skins aren't nearly as good as I thought. The Titans and Giants are completely for real.
  • Daily Rant:
    • I assume it's not going to be discussed anywhere, but there was some major gambling craziness today. We're talking the Chris Duhon shot on steroids. Pittsburgh was -4 against San Diego today. They trailed 10-8 with under a minute to go when Willie Parker scored, but it was called back because of a penalty. The Steelers then kicked the field goal to up 11-10. No chance for a cover, right? The Chargers get the ball with 15 seconds left and Rivers throws a short pass and the laterals begin. As one is being thrown, Troy Polamalu tips it away, picks it up and scores with no time remaining. 17-10 Steelers, miracle cover!!! But... The ref reviews the play and determines that there was an illegal forward pass and therefore there was no fumble and no touchdown. Final score was 11-10, the cover was stolen. Watch the play. There wasn't anything even close to a forward pass. The refs made an awful call and it cost a lot of people money. Also, I have the Steelers D on my fantasy team, so that sucked too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

College Life, Redux

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond movie, is much better than the reviewers make it out to be. I think it was in the low 70% range on Rotten Tomatoes, but most people have said that it's not that good or that you can wait for DVD. Is it as good as Casino Royale? No, but it's much closer than I thought it would be. It's setting the series up for the next installment, but it's a fine film in its own right.
    • I also watched the movie Street Fight this morning on Netflix's Watch Instantly feature. Nominated for the 2005 Best Documentary Oscar, it follows young Newark City Councilman Cory Booker on his run for mayor in 2002. He goes up against an established and ruthless political machine that will stop at nothing to make sure they stay in power. It's compelling and tense and it's fascinating in light of our recent election and the themes of change and race in politics. If you watch this (or see Booker on last week's episode of Bill Maher, though that doesn't give the ending of the movie away), you'll agree that Booker could very well be the second African-American president. It would be a travesty if Obama doesn't offer him the HUD Secretary position.
  • Defending the Electoral College:
    • Okay, so someone cut and paste the defense of the National Popular Vote Movement into the comments yesterday. I could find a similar defense of the Electoral College and paste it here, but I'm going to offer my own analysis:
      • First off, the winner of the popular vote has not lost the election in one out of every 14 elections. There have been 56 presidential elections, but this has only legitimately (for the popular vote argument) occurred two times. 1824 just doesn't count. Neither candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, so the House of Representatives decided the presidency. Also, because the popular vote didn't count, not every state recorded it and therefore you can't use the national number. 1876 was decided under curious circumstances. Tilden led Hayes in the electoral vote as well as the popular vote, but it's believed that a deal was cut to end Reconstruction in exchange for Hayes winning the presidency. So that, again, can't count because it's not as easy as one person winning popular and another winning electoral. So we're left with 1888 and 2000. Twice in American history. Not exactly the kind of frequency that makes you want to run around changing the Constitution.
      • It was said that there are other elections where a small change could have resulted in a popular vote win and an electoral college loss. Let's look at 1888 and 2000 to see what changes could have occurred there. In 1888, Cleveland beat Harrison by 0.8% in the popular and lost the electoral. He won by around 90,500 votes. So if 0.4% of the population had voted differently, Harrison would have won the popular vote as well. In 2000, Gore won the the popular vote by 0.5%. So if 0.25% of the population had voted differently (or if 0.9% of the people who voted for Nader voted instead for Bush), Dubya would have won the popular vote. We're not talking about anybody convincingly winning the popular vote and losing the election.
      • I'm as blue a Democrat as possible, but I call foul because Democrats have an extraordinary built-in advantage in the popular vote. I'll look at this a few ways. Let's look at the 2008 blue states without any swing ones (so, CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI) and Obama pulled around 35.3 million votes this year. Look at the red states similarly (AL, AK, AR, GA, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE-1, NE-3, ND, OK, SC, SD, TE, TX, UT, WY) and McCain pulled 17.4 million votes. I'm not even counting GA (2 million for McCain) as a swing state, which it may have been and will be in 2012. That's 17.4 million votes total out of his base and Obama pulled 7.2 million out of CA alone. Second, let's look at this map of the counties that Obama won. That's insane! He won a tiny number of counties, but they were the most population-dense counties in the country, from NYC to LA to the DC 'burbs to the Chicago area to Houston, and so on.
      • Let's look at the 100 largest counties, according to population estimates from the 2000 census. I used CNN's fantastic Election Center to get the vote totals by county (New England sucks because you have to add up towns to get county totals) and came up with this chart. Of the 100 largest counties in the U.S., Obama won a ridiculous 88. He banked around 30.4 million votes out of his 67.1 million total. He won those counties over McCain by 62.3% to 37.7%. 127.5 million Americans voted this year and 48.8 were in those 100 counties. Of the remaining 78.7 million, Obama would only need 42.4% to get 50%-plus-one of the total popular vote. If we look at the states that don't have any of those 100 counties (via this chart), Obama grabbed 8.7 million votes. Take those out and he only needs 38.7% of the remaining votes of the non-100 largest counties (in mostly friendly territory, mind you -- the 100 largest counties fall 22-9 in blue states). The population centers in the U.S. favor a Democrat way too much for a National Popular Vote to allow for the two-party system that we have right now.
      • Look at all of those numbers again. The boilerplate National Popular Vote stuff mentions that, "Under a national popular vote, a Democratic presidential candidate could no longer write off Kansas (with four congressional districts) because it would matter if he lost Kansas with 37% of the vote, versus 35% or 40%." That's just absurd and naive. You're telling me that Obama should fight over 2% of the 1.2 million voters in Kansas (that's 24,000 votes) when the Census says there are 10 million people in Los Angeles County and only 3 million votes or so were cast? He'd ignore not only Kansas but a whole lot of other states he campaigned in this year and he would work his ass off getting out the vote in L.A. Or NYC. Or Chicago. The middle of the country just wouldn't matter.
      • Which brings me to my last point on why the National Popular Vote wouldn't give more face time to the smaller states. The internet has allowed campaigns to be everywhere for a very small cost. Obama's denial of public financing this year gave him a huge financial edge and allowed him to advertise nationally at will. In effect, he is campaigning in any number of smaller states as efficiently as he would be able to given limited time for rallies and appearances.
      • So, in closing, check the assumptions before you bring that stuff into my house, son!

College Life

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Thursday had one of the best episodes of My Name Is Earl in recent memory. Jason Priestley was funny in his guest starring role and there were some great Darnell and Kenny lines.
    • Looks like C.S.I.: is getting ready for the big switchover. They bring back Lady Heather last week and the Miniature Killer next week. Has to be in the next week or two that Grissom leaves. Last night's episode was good (if easily guessable within minutes of the beginning of the show) but it had a weird non-cameo, as James Kyson Lee (Ando from Heroes) played a translator that was in it for two scenes and was never fully in picture. Maybe there are only so many Korean actors?
    • I caught a few minutes of Bill Cosby on Letterman tonight. Dude is starting to look really old. I thought it was Red Foxx for a second.
  • Random Thoughts/Links
    • From the Reliable Source in this morning's Post, there is a war going on between Sylvio Berlusconi and Carla Bruni. The best part is where the former Italian president predicts Bruni's divorce. Crazy how this all started because they were arguing over whose children would get to be play cousins with Malia and Sasha.
    • The Yankees are making an offer to Sabathia. They pretty much have to give him a blank check, right? They can't afford to go into next year without him.
  • Daily Rant
    • I try to ignore this foolishness, but it came up in a conversation tonight. The National Popular Vote Movement is stupid. We'd have the candidates spending all of their time in New York and LA and Chicago. States like North Carolina and Virginia (for the most part) would have meant next to nothing this year. Pretty much every red state would have next to no say in the presidential election. Boo hoo, let's all get sour grapes because Al Gore lost an election that could have gone either way.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wakey, Wakey

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I'm not getting the decision-making on Survivor this season. It's time to start thinking about who the worst winner ever was, because it may be eclipsed this year.
    • Last week, I wrote that the bizarre departure of a main character, along with the arrival of three new ones, portended potential doom for Grey's Anatomy. Did you see the ending tonight?!? In terms of "jump the shark" threat level, we went from orange to red.
    • Looks like the Jets-Pats game was a real doozy tonight. Good thing it was on a network that nobody gets. Vs. laughs at the NFL Network.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • LeBron James, who my dog is partially named after, dunks from the foul line. Absurd.
    • Holy crap, this video is freaking fantastic! It's the intro to a porn movie, but only the intro. All it's missing is J-Lo, Ice Cube, and Jon Voight!
  • Daily Rant:
    • I do believe in the automotive bailout. We can't afford to just let a state wither. I heard an estimate on the radio that a GM failure would result in a loss of 2.5 million jobs. However, here's why I hope President Obama and the incoming Congress will attach a hell of a lot of stipulations to the bill -- the 5-door Chevy Aveo hatchback in Britain that gets 51.4 mpg. But the Big Three have been swearing forever that they're close to breakthroughs in consumption and alternative fuels!

Getting With The Zero

I was feeling a little under the weather today, so I decided to work from home. What does that mean? Well, I actually do work, probably more than usual since I have nobody to schmooze with and I don't have a commute where I can't work. Putting that aside though, there is some crucial TV with Saved by the Bell on TBS from 8AM to 9AM and, of course, Maury from 1PM to 3PM on wherever it airs (I think it's CW50 here in DC). I've expressed my love for Maury many times. The rest of the day is a mish-mash of History, Discovery, and whatever else looks good (Saved by the Bell is on again from 3 to 4 on The N, but it's hard to go there after two hours of paternity tests and cursing). SoapNet starts showing 90210 at 5, so that's the sign that your day is winding down. The worst part of the day is always around 4PM, where there's nothing on TV if you don't watch Oprah and you get to that point where you realize you're going to work past 5 because there is no time constraint at home. Right at 4 today, I was flipping through various movie channels when I came upon it. I saw the listing and I knew right away that I had to watch, a movie that I had only seen once, which is one more time than almost everyone else in the world.

Cool as Ice.

Yes, I said it. I watched Cool as Ice. For the second time. Let me give you a synopsis of the film. Vanilla Ice (a year after his explosion on the scene) plays Johnny Van Owen, a bad boy who comes from nowhere with no family. He seems to exist to just rap (badly) and dance (weirdly) at clubs, which is where he sees a goody-goody girl and decides he wants her. He rides around on cheesy Japanese motorcycles with his gang and no parents like him. He goes after said girl and, much to her parents' chagrin, she begins to actually like him. But get this... See, the girl's father was a cop who helped take down other corrupt cops and then went into the witness protection program. Now the bad guys have found him and it's up to Vanilla Ice to save the day. It's like Rebel Without A Cause meets My Blue Heaven with the production values of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Also, the director, David Kellogg has one of the great IMDB resumes, only directing this movie, Inspector Gadget, and lots and lots of Playboy videos.

But I feel Ice! I totally used to live only to bust sucker MCs and ride my neon yellow Yamaha. I used to start every sentence with either "Yo" or "Yup, yup". I used to have dark soulless eyes (like a doll's eye!) and say everything in a monotone. I used to be a white kid who had weird designs shaved into my high top fade with frosted tips. I used to wear overalls that had so many colors that it looked like Sherwin Williams had puked on them.

Seriously though, we actually liked this guy back in 1990. We were legitimately concerned with whether we should listen to him or MC Hammer at any given time. We didn't laugh because his name was so stupid. We were tired of Poison and Motley Crue and Def Leppard and, no matter what we think of N.W.A. now, gangsta rap wasn't hot in the suburbs until The Chronic. We think back to the greatness of 1992 with the emergence of Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Dre and Snoop, but those albums were made all the greater by what we were subjecting ourselves to prior to their release.

The next time you wonder why kids these days listen to whatever crap is popular on the radio, you remember that we took Robert Van Winkle seriously for a time. We allowed him to be paid an even million dollars to star in his own movie. We thought phrases like "Word to your mother" were badass. Ain't nobody innocent in this whole thing. I'm not ashamed of what I liked when I was younger! So what if I watched tons of Saved by the Bell and 90210? Oh... crap... Well, um... Yo, peace out!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Goats and Votes

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I have to admit that I've come to like the Terminator show. It's grown into itself this season. Last night's episode used a Rashomon-style construct, but with enough flair to keep it from being just another Rashomon-style rip-off. It also had a big Rodriguez-esque November Sweeps ending. The point is that I used to run as much as a week behind on episodes, but now I make sure I watch it within a day or two.
    • Olbermann was on The View, where he talked about how he doesn't vote. That's disappointing. His argument is that it serves as a symbol of impartiality. First, nobody thinks he's impartial. Second, I'm betting that Cronkite and Murrow voted.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • When will people understand that you don't mess with animals! Even goats in a petting zoo would just as soon eat you as look at you.
    • Jerome Bettis thinks the Ravens could be Super Bowl contenders. It is getting hard to remain only cautiously optimistic.
  • Daily Rant:
    • I just disrespect sleep.