Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A New Way to Predict Election Outcomes

I don't have time to go into why public opinions polls are so problematic at election time.

But, there's a new predictive model out there, that's worth some attention. Fivethirtyeight.com is the brain child of Nate Silver. He takes a large swatch of polls, their current results of the "if the election were held to today, whom would you vote for" question, then plugs it into a statistical model that is then re-run dozens of times to establish the likely outcome of the election. His poll was an excellent predictor of actual outcomes during the primary.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My favorite poem

I'm in a poetry mood.

My favorite poem is by Theodore Roethke. This one reminds me of my dad.

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.


The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.


You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Kay Ryan, Poet Laureat

I heard Kay Ryan on a show last night. I went hunting for a few poems of hers. I found this one. It speaks to me. Makes me think of my mom and my grandmother.

THINGS SHOULDN'T BE SO HARD

A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small —
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn't
be so hard.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Trying to Vote in the Primary

Today is primary day in New York. I just went to vote. The poll worker pushed the reset lever on our ancient pull-lever voting machines too hard, and it jammed the system. No voting. The poor guy whose vote was now screwed up had to vote absentee.

Will New York ever get its new voting machines?!? We're the last state in the country still voting on 50 year old (or older!) machines. Incredible.