TT#184 - More Super Tuesday

I am very tired from work and redoing my office, so this will be more of a time capsule entry than any real analysis. For more analysis watch this weeks ORLYRADIO show # 101.

At the time of this writing:

Republicans: Kasich predictably took Ohio, Trump won Florida, making Rubio quit the race. Trump is also favored in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. If Ted gets any winnings they will be scraps from the billionaire's plate.  This does leave the GOP with the unenviable task of choosing a... how can I put this to where it is the most historically accurate... Fascist Andy Kaufman impression and a dominionist apocalyptic Eddie Munster son of a preacher man who is perfectly fine watching the world burn if it means the world gets to have Jesus back. I weep for the future. Oh... And there is the voice of reason, Kasich, who can't possibly win, because he may actually be sane. 

Democrats: Clinton has had a strong showing and is predicted to take all the states but not all the delegates. The Democrats like to award partials rather than a winner take all approach that the GOP favors. The tally at midnight could be different as it is being called early based on exit polls, but so far, this is pretty decisive for Clinton based on the earned delegates. She has added approximately 150 delegates to her lead on Sanders. Sanders needs California and New York, and needs them big, to compete with the media and majesty of the lady in waiting. Still a chance, but it is growing slimmer by the day.

There were a whole lot of Cruz and Trump signs in my precinct and around the state as I was driving today. This is why I am having a drink and hoping it was all a bad dream.

TT#183 - Google Project Fi

I have had to take a little break from politics while I focus efforts of technical mumbo jumbo for the podcast, so guess what you get to read about? The Nexus 6P. I was having a terrible time with my MotoX (2nd Gen). The bluetooth would constantly restart itself. The charging module decided to just stop charging while using GPS and then shut down at 20% because it was actually 3% but was actually 20%? yeah it was frustrating.  I live on my phone during business hours and several hours both before and after work so having a reliable device is pretty darn important.

I have been a proud proponent of Republic Wireless, which is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) for the Sprint network. They make a darn affordable service, as long as you use as much WiFi as you can. This worked great for me for both cost and offloading my phone calls to my more reliable wifi network. The construction of my home is a little like a bunker and cell phone reception is terrible for all providers. I inquired with them if they had a new model coming out, since Motorola sold off their cell phone business to Lenovo, thereby likely killing the  brand for their use. They have to build custom firmware for the phones to do this cool little wifi to cell to wifi  handoff thing. Regardless of my personal superuser issues, I got my parents and my children on Republic Wireless and I still recommend them highly as a valuable budget option.

So then I was reminded that Google was rolling out their Google Fi service. This is an interesting project and it warrants attention. First, the phones Google chooses as Nexus devices are always top grade performers in the "flagship" category. These phones are also unlocked and can be taken to any GSM carrier. They always get the latest software update which has become more and more important in recent times.  Google Fi is similar in function to Republic Wireless. They handoff calls to wifi when possible. The billing is also quite fair starting at $20 for unlimited cell calls and text messages and $10 a gigabyte of data. If you don't use all your data that you pre purchased, you get a refund at the end of the billing cycle. Totally fair. Republic Wireless has some similar plans but I was not using it due to my work style being on the road most of the day and away from WiFi. With Google Fi, they also use the Sprint back bone, but not solely. Google engineered a dual carrier sim for the phones and put enough radios in the phone to cover Sprint and T-Mobile. Between the two, they can likely balance billing and we end users will use the best network available in the area.Also, tethering devices to your cell phone with Google Fi is included at no extra cost, you just pay for more data as you use it, which removes the need for the WiFi hotspot that I have through Ting or the Vinli OBDII WiFi hotspot that I have also been playing with. 

Project Fi was closed to invite only until just a couple days ago. Now anyone can jump in at and I beleive there was a discount for the smaller Nexus phone, the Nexus 5X. Now might be a great time to switch carriers and phones.

So now I start a new adventure with a massive phone with 3GB of RAM. This really should help out a lot.  One caveat, it is a USB-C device. Now I have to get certified cables (otherwise the USB-C cable can allow for too much voltage and kill the device). There has been a smart guy at Google named Benson Leung, going through Amazon cable offerings and reviewing them in excruciating detail. Look for his review before buying a cable, it matters.

For those curious about Republic Wireless, Vinli, or Ting, here are their links. and  and 

TT#181 - Obstructions

I was fully intending to discuss the unlikely juxtaposition between South Carolina and Nevada in having alternating parties doing their electioneering events today as it is the Republican Caucus in Nevada and we already saw some action on that front, but instead I bust my butt removing a cabinet and installing electric and gas lines for a new to me range.

So I am tired. I'm a little tired of the minutia of the electioneering and the caucuses in particular. They are the most antiquated and backwards thing about the presidential election that it makes me want to scream. It is obvious that the system is like a stacked deck of cards where the house gets to guide the public to the winner of their choice. They have said as much. I find the counting of Super Delegates to be terribly disingenuous since they can change their mind. their vote is not cast. All it does is put a foot on the scale where they want it. It's so obvious! I wish they would just lie better. It's insulting to have their disregard of the system flaunted so. Today the Judicial Subcommittee came out of a closed door meeting declaring they would not even bother with reviewing any nominee that the president puts forward for the open SCOTUS chair. Again... I feel insulted. At least waste money like you do on trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hear out the nominee, grill them, then drag your feet until the President's term is up and there is someone new in the high office to put new names in the hat. But no... Couldn't play the game, instead you show everyone you don't even intend to play by the rules and put forth any effort to work with the opposition. Nope. Just obstruct and stonewall, and let everyone know about it too. I hope it hurts their chances for re-election but sadly there are many in their constituency that would just applaud the move. No action is at least not the wrong action they would say. Sure... That can be true, but the spirit of the system that we work within is broken by such petulance. There is no desire of the elected officials to do their job, and I sincerely hope they have to find a new job come November.

Okay, I'm done ranting and we will be back to the elections next week for Super Tuesday! Hopefully we will have some results by the time I post.

TT#180 - The Supreme Court, Man Down

Saturday, February 13th, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia, "Nino" to his friends, died at the age of 79, at home, in his sleep. The Supreme Court Justice served since his appointment by Ronald Reagan September 26th 1986. He was born in Trenton NJ, March 11th 1936. He is survived by his wife Maureen McCarthy Scalia, and their 9 children. Antonin Scalia was one of the Roman Catholics on the bench and also a Republican. He was cantankerous and had some lively opinions and reviled remarks throughout his career. I enjoyed reading some of his dissenting opinions, mostly for his use of language rather than his salient reasoning, which he did have on numerous occasions.

His untimely demise has left the country in a tizzy instead of mourning. See, this leaves a 9 person team short one. This also leaves the Supreme Court a bit too even for most people's taste. Not only can you stalemate 4 to 4, but you are more likely to do so since it is now more or less even politically as well. A new justice needs to be appointed and the sooner the better, unless you are the Republican party.

Throughout President Obama's tenure in office, the GOP (Grand Old Party) has tried to obstruct him at every turn. I do not say that lightly, it is obvious and has even been admitted to by party leaders. Now they want to prevent him from nominating a Supreme Court Justice. They have gone so far as to lie about it being a tradition for a lame duck president to not nominate. It's just flatly wrong.

Appointments are rare, since it is a lifetime position, if desired. To have a position vacant during the last year of a presidents career is even more rare, but not unheard of.

In 1912, Taft nominated Mahlon Pitney. Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis and John Clarke in 1916 (both confirmed by the way). Herbert Hoover nominated Benjamin Cardozo in 1932. FDR nominated Frank Murphy in 1940. LBJ nominated Homer Thornberry and Abe Fortas in 1968, however neither was confirmed. Richard Nixon nominated Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist (whom Scalia succeeded) in 1971. Gerald Ford nominated John Paul Stevens in 1975. Ronald Reagan, the poster pin up for the GOP, nominated Anthony Kennedy in 1988.

The constitution is a bit light on requirements to fill a Supreme Court Justice seat. "The President shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the supreme Court." It certainly doesn't say anything about election years or the last year of a presidency or any number of other false charges being leveled. It's the Presidents job to select a nominee, and then it is the Senate that confirms them.

Obama had this to say today on the issue:
I understand the stakes. I understand the pressure that Republican senators are undoubtedly under. I mean, the fact of the matter is that what the issue here is that the court is now divided on many issues this would be a deciding vote. And there are a lot of Republican senators who are going to be under a lot of pressure from various special interests and various constituencies and many of their voters to not let any nominee go through. No matter who I nominate. But that's not how the system is supposed to work. That's not how our democracy is supposed to work.

So... Let's get on with it. Our courts are backed up enough. All I know is that this has become another facet of the most exciting election year I have ever heard of. As to Nino, may he be justly rewarded in whatever finds him after this life, for good or ill, is not up to me.


TT#179 - Election 2016: New Hampshire Primaries

Unlike the nail bitter affair that the 2016 Iowa Caucuses turned out to be, New Hampshire, in the words of a dear friend, "This will not be the clusterf*ck that was witnessed in Iowa. New Hampshire is efficient. New Hampshire is precise. New Hampshire will provide zero confusion at the end of this evening. Elections are a religion here."

As he properly prognosticated, New Hampshire was quick to come to the conclusions that have remained at the time of my writing. Bernie Sanders took the lead by double digit margins over Hillary Clinton becoming the first Jew to ever win a primary. The Jewish part of that is just one of those side factoids that may be interesting in trivial pursuit later. Their numbers are stunning. Sanders with 60.7% and Hillary with 38.2%

On the other side of the aisle, the republican contestants were measured for their worthiness. Donald Trump too the lead with a very surprising John Kasich bringing in the second place position. At the time of this, Trump 34.6%, Kasich 16%, Cruz 11.7% Jeb! 11.3% and Rubio coming in with 10.7%. Yes there are others but they aren't worth the type.

So what does this mean?

(DNC TL:DR is that right now Bernie gets 15 of the 24 total delegates and Hillary gets 9. This makes Bernie the leader in Delegate count at this time.)

(RNC TL:DR 23 delegates up for grabs, Trump wins 11, Kasich 3, Cruz 2, Bush 2, Rubio 2)

I will let this article at the DailyKos explain the mechanics of the Democratic Primary Process, as it's kind of cumbersome and I would not do it any better justice than it is here.

For the Democrats, New Hampshire has 24 DNC delegates. State party has opted for simple, 8-8-8 split between 2 congressional districts and statewide allocation.
At certain percentage levels of primary votes, various thresholds for number of delegates acquired triggers. Thereby it changes the delegate split between the candidates. The table below shows the minimum relative percentages votes required to acquire a delegate out of 8 available.
Delegate allocation is not just simply calculate percentages. The trigger points generated by the formula for fair apportionment means that there is a substantial range of vote share which results in no change in delegate allocation. Any thresholds crossed will result in an even number of delegate advantage, simply because there are even number of delegates available. The difference between delegates awarded to each candidate will be an even number.
Any vote share between 43.8% and 56.3% will result in a 4-4 delegate split. In order to get that two extra delegate advantage by crossing the threshold of support level, the larger vote share needs to be 56.3% or higher for a 5-3 split. Next stage of change in delegates (6-2split) happens at 68.8% share of votes. For the next level up (7-1split) 81.3% of votes are needed. We have to account for each of the congressional districts and statewide share of votes separately. Calculate their delegate allocations independently and then add them up.
Given the current level of polling, we can probably safely say that sanders is unlikely to grab 81.3% share of votes anywhere, District wide or statewide.  So most of the battle will be for crossing those   56.3% (5-3Split) and the 68.8% (6-2split) threshold for Sanders. If Clinton can reduce the sanders vote share to below 56.3% then she still manages a tie on delegates with 4-4 split.
For example, CD1 is a bit more liberal and favorable to Sanders. Sanders is most likely to cross the 56.3% marker and achieve a 5-3 split.  Congressional District 2 is slightly more favorable to Clinton, a bit more republicans (not meant to be a judgement from me). So holding sanders advantage under 56.3% is a possibility for Clinton. CD2 has Nashua and Concord main population centers which are already being visited by Clintons. Most likely also to have Clinton surrogates making heavy effort there just like they did in Polk County in IOWA.  Every extra delegate matters. Where and how you decide to focus your efforts based on the trigger thresholds and a campaigns own internal polling data will be a tactical game. Clinton we seem to assume is better at this (Again, this is not a judgement. No idea why we think so, is it because we think she is a calculating, plotting, planning person?)
So even with a big boost for Sanders in places like Manchester (CD1) the overall outcome, unless there is a last minute massive groundswell that crosses the daunting 68.8% barrier giving 6-2 split, overall delegate numbers will be disappointment to some and a relief to others.
CD1 — 5-3, CD2 4-4 Statewide 5-3
Most results will be within the ranges of 4-4 or 5-3 (Sanders Advantage). There are only a handful of combinations of these in the three delegate allocation elements.
1. CD1 5-3, CD 2 5-3, State 5-3total 15-9 Sanders advantage.
2. CD1 5-3, CD2 4-4, State 5-3   total 14-10 Sanders advantage
3. CD1 5-3, CD2 4-4, State 4-4   total 13-11 Sanders advantage
4. CD1 4-4, CD2 4-4, State 4-4   total 12-12 Sanders advantage.
(Preemptive answer to what is likely to be asked: I have not included CD1 5-3, CD2 5-3, Statewide 4-4 split, because if you get enough votes for 5-3 in CD1 and CD2, then you automatically have enough for 5-3 in Statewide.  Also CD2, CD1 numbers switching also results in same scenario as number 2 above)
Goal for Sanders will be to achieve an across the board 5-3 splits in each CD and also statewide. Goal for Clinton will be to drag as many as possible into 4-4 range.
If we spot any Clinton events in CD1, then we can assume that Clinton campaigns own numbers are indicating that CD1 is hovering around the threshold of 56.3% Sanders advantage and Clinton Campaign thinks it can drag that under to make a 4-4 split.
There will not be an all sweeping and grabbing of delegates by Sanders without soundly achieve 68.8% across the board and individually in each CD. That is cross the 68.8% for each congressional district without taking into account what is happening in other district. And even with that kind of revolution it gives 18-6 split. Which is pretty awesome but not death dealing and unlikely. Those thresholds will be crossed in Vermont itself I expect.

Completely clear, right? After a while it gets to be clear. But it is still messy. Not as messy as Iowa, but bad on its own.

the republican process can be found here:

Each state’s delegate allotment is set by national party rules and includes at-large delegates, congressional district delegates, and national party representatives. Apart from the states, the District of Columbia and the five territories are awarded a specified number of at-large delegates. There are three types of delegates: At-Large Delegates (AL), Congressional District Delegates (CD), and Republican National Committee Members.

  • At-Large Delegates (AL) are statewide delegates who are residents of that state and are selected at large. Each state receives 10 AL delegates plus additional AL delegates based on the state’s past Republican electoral successes.
    (10 delegates + bonus)
  •  Congressional District (CD) Delegates must be residents of and selected by the congressional district they represent. Each state gets three CD delegates per district.
    (3 delegates per district)
  • RNC Members are automatically national convention delegates and include the state’s national committeeman, national committeewoman, and state chair.
    (3 delegates)

New Hampshire has 23 delegates, 14 At-Large Delegates, 6 Congressional District Delegates, and 3 Republican National Committee Members.

This was all the data I could find... I know there is more and I will come back and fill it in.

TT#178 - Election 2016: What's a Delegate? What's a Super Delegate?

Today is Groundhog's Day in the United States. This is pretty much completely irrelevant. I do feel bemused that we still wait for seasonal weather predictions from a giant rodent and we have about half the country that doesn't trust science enough to say climate change is a real thing... Or that evolution is a thing too. Anyway, the rat known as Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, and in this universe that means an early spring. And the 12 year old boy in me giggles that this arcane farce is under taken by a bunch of men in top hats from the Groundhog Club at "Gobbler's Knob". Phil is the most famous but there are several other divining rodents, all of whom concurred with the no shadow pronouncement. 

Today is also the day after the first major event in the run to the White House. The Iowa caucuses concluded last night with some interesting results, to say the least. The republicans went with a closed vote process this year and that left Ted Cruz as the winner of the Iowa event.  You can see the results here

The democrats had a much closer race. The difference between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was .2% Yeah, point 2 percent. you can see the results here For all intents and purposes it was a tie. reports are that 6 precincts had to assign their odd number delegate by coin flip, and Hillary Clinton's camp managed to win all 6. Yes, it is quite a streak, but statistics and probability do not make it any better than 50/50 each time. It does, however, highlight the oddities of the Caucus system. I'm pretty sold on not liking it and wanting it to go the way of the dodo. 

Ok, you have come this far, so let's get to the actual subject, the delegate. By the dictionary definition, a delegate is an authorized representative of someone or a group. In electioneering the delegates are sent to their state political convention to cast a vote among other delegates from other areas in the state. It's pretty simple when you realize they are the middle men, the messenger to the central committee of your location's preferences. The number of delegates that are available are based on population. In places like Iowa, there are multiple caucuses where the delegates that were awarded then are narrowed further until at last we know which candidate has been chosen by the state's political power structure.  

To be completely honest, the system is a bit farcical and purposely difficult to understand to game the system to give the party more control over who is nominated and who will win the election. Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan organization, says the delegate system is so complex because after most elections, "the respective national parties go back and look at their rules and their system and try to make adjustments that they believe will give their party an advantage."

So, basically, delegates are a buffer between your choice and the result. It would be classed like so much of our system as a representative democracy. One thing we have going for us is that the delegates are typically bound by law (check your state codes) to vote for the choice that you the voter told them to. But not all delegates are created equal, in the Democratic Party.

What is a Super Delegate? No, not a delegate that was bitten by a radioactive spider... That would be a better story. In this case, the Super Delegates are chosen by the party outside of the way the other delegates are chosen (which is an entire other post...). They are typically old guard power players in the party. Super Delegates may even be former presidents. Okay, big deal right? Well here's the deal, about 20% of the delegates at the convention are Super Delegates, and they are not bound to the same rules as a regular Delegate; they can vote for whomever they please. The Democratic nomination process was altered to include Super Delegates in 1984. That year, former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Democratic nomination with strong support from party stalwarts. Some experts say Democratic candidate George McGovern's landslide 1972 loss to Richard Nixon influenced the party's introduction of Super Delegates. "There was a view that the Democratic party had allowed the grass roots to become too empowered and that in too many instances, people whose job it was to get Democrats elected were being shut out of the process," says McGehee.

Republicans do not have Super Delegates.

The Republicans, to settle things the way the party elite would desire is though a brokered convention, which is also available but not favored by the Democratic Party.. Delegates at a convention could have more difficulty in reaching a clear majority of support for any one candidate. A brokering process then takes place, with multiple ballots a possibility. Though a brokered convention has not occurred in either party since 1952 when Adlai Stevenson won the Democratic nomination. 

Clear as mud right? Tune in to the ORLYRADIO podcast to get more analysis and banter on politics and current events. 


TT#177 - Election 2016: What's a Caucus?

What's a Caucus, and why is it happening in Iowa, and why is it a big deal, I thought we were doing the primaries, whatever those are...

Yeah. That's the question of the moment. We are about to determine who the nominations will go to for both the Republican National Convention, RNC, and the Democratic National Convention, DNC. There is a cast of characters on both sides trying to get the approval of their party's constituents, but why the weird name for what is basically a preliminary state election?

First, a little trivia. The election of the president and how that is supposed to happen is not in the Constitution, it was created over time by the political parties. Some states only hold primary elections, some only hold caucuses, and others use a combination of both. These primaries and caucuses are staggered generally between January and June before the general election in November. The primary elections are run by state and local governments, while caucuses are private events that are directly run by the political parties themselves. A state's primary election or caucus is usually an indirect election: instead of voters directly selecting a particular person running for President, they determine how many delegates each party's national convention will receive from their respective state. These delegates then in turn select their party's presidential nominee. Also, just a little note, most election laws do not normally apply to caucuses.
The process is a controversial one. Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other small states which traditionally hold their primaries and caucuses first usually have a major impact on the races, while voters in California and other large states which traditionally hold their primaries last in June generally end up having no say because the races are usually over by then. As a result, more states vie for earlier primaries to claim a greater influence in the process.

According to Wikipedia, "A caucus is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The term originated in the United States, but has spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and Nepal. As the use of the term has been expanded, the exact definition has come to vary among political cultures."  As with so many things, no one can really agree as to the whens and whys and hows of a ye olde tradition. In this case, Caucas (not a misspelling I assure you) with it's modern usage was seen in the diary of John Adams (the 2nd president of the USA) in February 1763. The way he describes it, it's a select group of power players determining, in a gathering like a cocktail party, who shall be the ones that will be elected, before the general election.

There they drink Phlip I suppose, and there they choose a Moderator, who puts Questions to the Vote regularly, and select Men, Assessors, Collectors, Wardens, Fire Wards, and Representatives are Regularly chosen before they are chosen in the Town...

Further in history in an article in Great Leaders and National Issues in 1896, a popular etymology is posited.

" to the origin of the "caucus." In the early part of the eighteenth century a number of caulkers connected with the shipping business in the North End of Boston held a meeting for consultation. That meeting was the germ of the political caucuses which have formed so prominent a feature of our government ever since its organization."

Okay... So... It basically started as a way to see who would be electable. Alright. That's easy enough to digest.

Now... What's the process we are about to see in the first of the choosings, Iowa?

"...residents of the U.S. state of Iowa meet in precinct caucuses in all of Iowa's 1,681/1,682 precincts and elect delegates to the corresponding county conventions. There are 99 counties in Iowa, and thus there are 99 conventions. These county conventions then select delegates for both Iowa's Congressional District Convention and the State Convention, which eventually choose the delegates for the presidential nominating conventions."

Here is where it get's weird, unless you are from Iowa and have done this your whole life.

The Iowa Caucus operates very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states......The caucuses are generally defined as "gatherings of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1,681/1,682 precincts. .......The caucuses are held every two years but only the presidential years get national attention..... In addition to the voting and the presidential preference choices, caucus-goers begin the process of writing their parties’ platforms by introducing resolutions.

huh... so the party platform starts to take shape here. I hadn't seen what the party platform was this year, so I see there is method to that process as well, since a candidate may represent a very different outlook than another. Another thing to look at is the results of this process, since it is different for each party.

The Republicans and Democrats each hold their own set of caucuses.
Recent changes to the Republican Party of Iowa's bylaws now make the caucus results binding on Iowa's delegates to the national convention. In June 2015 the party announced that the Straw Poll would no longer take place. This used to be the determining factor for them. Starting in 2016, the caucus site voting that was previously a non-binding poll becomes the binding method of selecting delegates.[5] Acting in accordance with a mandate from the Republican National Committee, the delegates are bound to vote for candidates in proportion to the votes cast for each candidate at the caucus sites.

The process used by the Democrats is more complex than the Republican Party caucus process. Each precinct divides its delegate seats among the candidates in proportion to caucus goers' votes. Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a preference group). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are viable.  To be viable, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold, in this case 15%. Once viability is determined, then the delegates have 30 minutes to realign the supporters of the in-viable candidates.
Here is a major distinction: This realignment is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's second candidate of choice can help a candidate.
When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media.

There is more, but it is largely irrelevant. There is no ballot for the Democrats given their unique structure set above but we are down to 4 candidates to choose from, yeah, 4. Debate groupings will choose delegates to county conventions supporting:

Republican Caucusers will be faced with a blank piece of paper as the ballot, and the candidates that voters may vote for in the binding preference poll include:

In the future I will cover what a Delegate and a Super Delegate is. That should be fun!

Topic Tuesday #176 2015/12/15 "Sabbatical"

Topic Tuesday #176 2015/12/15 "Sabbatical

sab·bat·i·cal səˈbadək(ə)l/

noun- a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year"

Though I may not be a professor, and though I have not been doing this blog for 7 years, I am going to take a wee break. I missed one, and then two and now I am under the weather with the Christmas season upon me. I will resume the Topic Tuesday Blog in 2016.

Until then, tune in (or download) the O'Rly Radio Show with fresh content every Friday at 9:30 pm eastern, available at and on finer podcast aggregators around the world.

Topic Tuesday #175 2015/12/01 "Whoops, Missed one."

Topic Tuesday #175 2015/12/01 "Whoops, Missed one."

Hey readers! If you were paying attention, you did better than me, I missed posting on the 24th, for the first time since this little project began. Well, we are all human, even me. In my defense, I was just back from a vacation and had my hands full. It wasn't until Friday that I realized I forgot! Oh well! Nothing to do but keep rolling.

So what's up? Three big ones  that I can think of. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, 

I met new people, experienced new dishes and ate a lot. I avoided Black Friday in favor of Thanksgiving part 2 with family. I shop online all the time, but there was a good deal that I had to take advantage of on  I am going to give my girls bunk beds, but not normal bunk beds, these have a futon bed/couch on the bottom. 

 DHP Twin-Over-Futon Metal Bunk Bed

DHP Twin-Over-Futon Metal Bunk Bed

This will give them some flexibility. It may give me flexibility too, as who knows what tomorrow will bring. This will certainly enhance the guest space!  They will arrive on the 10th, so I will give a little review before Christmas. This isn't exactly a stocking stuffer, but they seem excited about it! It's not easy making everyone happy, but I'm willing to try.

So what have you been up to?

Topic Tuesday #174 2015/11/17 "Happy Birthday to ME!!!"

Topic Tuesday #174 2015/11/17 "Happy Birthday to ME!!!"

 Google gave me a doodle for my birthday, 

Google gave me a doodle for my birthday, 

Today I am 37 years old. I would have taken the day off, but a guy at work has the same birthday and took it before I did. Dibs on next year! So I worked a full day driving for 6 hours and doing 2 hours of actual work. Once I got home, I made my own cake, devil's food this year. I shampooed carpets to get rid of cat mess (he's not liking the food or some reason). I did several loads of other people's laundry; I will get to mine eventually. I read stories to my children and then collapsed for a little bit since the shampooer atomizes the cleaning solution and it seizes up my lungs something terrible.  I don't recall birthdays being quite so... responsible? before. It's funny how life creeps up on you and the daily grind cannot be easily ignored. 

Once upon a time, while running role playing games, I suggested doing a persona game, where everyone would write up themselves, into a character sheet. We had a little game with chopping wood, throwing things, standing and running long jumps, and basically lifting heavy things. Then we would take an average of what other people thought our stats were. It was all in good fun and we were nothing if not kind to each other. So, In being kind but realistic, I thought I would revisit my stats. These are based on the AD&D 3.5 edition, now the Pathfinder rule system should you be curious.

  • Strength - 11
  • Dexterity - 10
  • Constitution - 8
  • Intelligence - 14
  • Wisdom - 16
  • Charisma - 15

Yeah, that's about right I think. 10 is pretty average, and physically I feel more average than mentally. I can perform stupid feats of strength when required, but I tend to get sick a little more often than others. I'm not the best judge of my own abilities however, so if you think I'm wrong, let me know and provide your own stats too!

Topic Tuesday #172 2015/11/03 "Elections"

Topic Tuesday #172 2015/11/03 "Elections"

It is another year and another election day (at least for some). I hope that those that were at all able were did your civic duty and voted for the most qualified candidate for the offices on the register. If you didn't, remember, next November is going to be a biggie. You can register to vote up to 29 days before the election. 

I recommend you head over to and register your email address for election alerts and to register for the first time.  

Topic Tuesday #171 2015/10/27 "Doing Something"

Topic Tuesday #171 2015/10/27 "Doing Something"

I have given it a lot of thought and I don't feel like I am doing enough. I am doing lots of things, certainly, but not in the direction I want. I am fearful of the direction the world is taking. I want the world to be the best it can be for my children and there are so many disturbing trends that are beyond my influence to change. I have this blog... I have the OrlyRadio podcast... I have people that listen and read what I have to say, though it very well could just be an echo chamber without any real impact or reach. 

Where does this line of thought lead? I asked myself that very question, and the answer is increasingly that I need to do something. If you want to change the world, you have to do it yourself. I am not really prepared to do that... I am not wealthy, nor part of a political dynasty. I know a great deal about a lot of different things but I will be the first to tell you I don't know everything and have plenty to learn. So... I will see how this 2016 election shakes out. Will the people that have the constitution to change the things that are wrong win or will we flounder under the same old business as usual system that has brought us here? I have hope, but there isn't much left. 

So... I may have to run for office. Any office.  I may have to step through several offices to make changes along the way to get things done. I may have to lose people along the way. I may have to do things I do not want to do to make the best choices. But I would then know what was in the way of those that have come before me, and that would be informative for me and the future leaders I would tell.  

I'm not perfect, no one is - but if I decide I am needed... If I am called to service to make a difference, I will. So, world... You are on notice. Get your act together, or I am coming for you.

Topic Tuesday #170 2015/10/20 "Sanity Dispenser"

Topic Tuesday #170 2015/10/20 "Sanity Dispenser"

Whew... That was weird. I was sitting at my kitchen counter, deleting apps from my phone since it was screwing up really bad, you know like ya do... then I had a moment. It was a fleeting moment but it was a staggering one, sobering even. I was momentarily overcome by the immensity of my life. I felt very small and overwhelmed. The walls came closing in as the hair on the back of my neck prickled and my ears felt hot. My breathing vacillated between holding my breath and nearly gasping hurriedly. I suppose this was the border of a panic attack. I have never had a panic attack before but I have had depression so when something in my personal eco system changes dramatically like this I take notice and analyze the hell out of it. I knew that I still needed to do this weekly post that you are reading now, and it occurred to me that I needed to write about this little glimpse of my own mindset. I went to get a keyboard for my tablet as I'm being weird and avoiding my desktop and laptop for a little while just working mobile (just because, no real reason). While I got the keyboard I saw the bathroom renovation that has been my bane for the last year and I knelt down and played with the tile for moment to figure out if I liked that pattern. This little ADHD moment was actually a little zen like. I was calmed from my overwhelmed state and may have made a decision on the tile. Then I carried on to this post right here.

It occurs to me, I may not be a normal person. Yeah I know you are shocked by this revelation, just as sarcastically as I. But, maybe this is my own defense system. When life gets me down or starts to overtake me, instead of trying to focus on everything all at once (an impossible task/burden) I focus on small things I can do at the moment and move from one of those to the next, making incremental changes in my wake. So, now I know more clearly, "hey, life is getting pretty big and scary, better just go do something productive to get your mind straight."
So, back to the job jar; my little sanity dispenser.

 Stolen from

Stolen from

P.S. We are all supposed to be in the future as of 10/21. Pretty sweet eh? Where is my hoverboard and flying car though?

Topic Tuesday #169 2015/10/13 "1st Democrat Debate for 2016 POTUS Primary"

Topic Tuesday #169 2015/10/13 "1st Democrat Debate for 2016 POTUS Primary"

Tonight, in about an hour, the blue team will take the debate stage. The red team has already had two so far. We will be watching both of these closely, as this is one of the most interesting and critical elections in our modern time, though I bet I say that again about the next election too...

The cast of debaters will be (in Order of popular vote) Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee. The cast of interlocutors will be Anderson Cooper, Dana Bash, and Juan Carlos Lopez, with Don Lemon monitoring the social media feeds.

There are a lot of issues to unpack and it will be fascinating to see how they all interact with each other. Safe money says it is Hillary's race to lose, and the front runner to knock her off that pedestal is Bernie Sanders. 

Let's watch and find out. 

Also, go get your flu shot. I had mine today and the pharmacist told me the CDC was correct in their selection of the flu strain this year. Stay healthy!

Topic Tuesday #168 2015/10/06 "Groupthink"

Topic Tuesday #168 2015/10/06 "Groupthink"

Groupthink? You mean something like double-think from George Orwell's 1984? Though I enjoy the fascinating and terrible implications behind some "Orwellian" revelations, groupthink is a real concept in modern psychology. According to

Groupthink occurs when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation. It causes individual members of the group to unquestioningly follow the word of the leader and it strongly discourages any disagreement with the consensus.

Why is this important enough to be a Topic Tuesday? Well, we are entering election season in the United States and there are fewer groups more polarized by ideology than those of the two main parties here in the states. Groupthink essentially explains why certain ideologies like political leanings, religious tradition, and even gender identity become an intrinsic part of a person's identity. In the case of politics a person may become very offended if their chosen candidate or pet cause is undermined and attacked. In gender you get the "Boy's Club" or the "Sewing Circle" where the other gender has no place at all. Religious people tend to be very attached to their group even if they claim a personal relationship, they will still naturally ally with those of like mind and are typically unable to separate themselves from the concepts of their faith; this can be seen when they are confronted about an inconsistency or contradiction in their doctrine. They will almost universally take it as a personal affront to them and they will respond as if they are under attack, even if it was the idea and not them personally. 

Groupthink represents the exchange of personal identity. The ego of the group is overlayed on the ego of the individual group member and is adopted as being at least as important as their own identity. You may even hear people identify so closely with group as to announce they ARE the group/thing/idea. This can be a dangerous place to tread. 

This is a cautionary tale. We are all susceptible to the power of groupthink and should remain vigilant in our own self awareness and hold all ideas to rigorous scrutiny, especially the concepts we hold most dear. 

Topic Tuesday #167 2015/09/29 "Willful Ignorance"

Topic Tuesday #167 2015/09/29 "Willful Ignorance"

Today I was planning on discussing Planned Parenthood being on the chopping block and why losing them would be a very bad thing. I also had the fall back that today is National Coffee day or some such made up holiday that gives us an excuse to have another cup of java. Alas, no, I was confronted with willful ignorance and it will not let go of my mind.  

I am, by my nature and practice, a skeptic; this is really nothing more than confirming that what I know is true through lines of serious questioning.  Because of this self evaluation, and internal consistency with reality, I have a real issue with those that refuse to incorporate facts into their worldview. For example, all I need to change my mind about something is convincing evidence. If someone finds that they will hold onto a concept even after evidence to the contrary is presented, and I mean irrefutable evidence... Then that person is just being willfully ignorant of reality. 

If you were considering that it may be alright to allow someone to languish in their irrationality, I beg to differ. There are consequences to believing things that are demonstrably false. In this day and age we don't have to look very far to see a prime example of this in the debates around the science of evolution and the consensus around climate change. These two items are hotly contested and frankly shouldn't be. This is nothing more than putting your fingers in your ears and saying, "I can't hear you!" The results are clear. The science is sound. To deny it is not to be skeptical, it is to be willfully ignorant of reality. 

Maybe it is just a pet peeve of mine... Perhaps I am being irrational about it. But you see... there I go entertaining the idea that I can be wrong and maybe I should change my view. I'm open to being wrong. I welcome change; there are many things I wish I was wrong about.  But one thing that I have yet to have a good argument for, is why being willfully ignorant could possibly be a good idea given how many strikes it has against it.

Topic Tuesday #166 2015/09/22 "Beds"

Topic Tuesday #166 2015/09/22 "Beds"

Beds. Unless you are a wandering nomad that sleeps in odd places like park benches and bed rolls, there’s a really good chance you sleep in a bed. If you are human, then it is also likely you will spend about a third of your life sleeping in a bed. There is also a good chance you will spend even more, shall we say, recreational time in that bed, you know… watching movies or something…  After over a decade of experience in beds and bed activities... I have some advice for you on bed selection for those that may be in the market for something comfortable. This is practical advice, and not meant to be intentionally funny, though many things done in the bed are quite abstractly funny.

Size Matters: When you are little you have a crib, and eventually graduate to a big kid bed and then that twin follows you for a long time. You may be sleeping on a twin for the majority of your life between youth and old age and life circumstances in between. There is nothing wrong with a twin, if you are sleeping solo or with a small coterie of pets. When you are entertaining a guest a larger size becomes far more comfortable. If you are both twigs, then you can stay on the twin, but for average adults, you will want a bigger mattress. Heck if you become an average adult you may want to sleep on a larger bed too, such as a “Full” or a “Double”. If you are tall or like pillows, then there are longer mattresses available in the “XL” and “California” varieties. Once you consider a regular sleeping companion you have to also consider the sleeping accommodations of said companion. The industry suggests Queen and King for bed sharing, though I personally have an opinion on that which I will address shortly.

Costly Decisions: Let’s face it, a bed is an investment. They frames are expensive and often belong to an even more expensive bedroom set. A high quality mattress is several hundred to over a thousand dollars. Given this sunk cost it has an inertia that is difficult to overcome. If you get the wrong bed you are locked into all the accouterments of that size until you sink the cost again on another size category. The accumulation of accessories can be maddening if you are just getting started. At the very least, you will need at least one pillowcase, a fitted sheet and a blanket. Most people will also get a flat sheet and a bed skirt. You may also have a comforter or duvet and enough decorative pillows to populate a Pier One store... You can drop a lot of cash just on these size specific items. And keep in mind that the average bed will be with you for 10 years, by which time, you will want it gone, in a big way. They end up heavier at the end of their life than when you get them; I’ll let you figure out why, but I will say it is disgusting.

Type Of Mattress: There are also a wide array of different types of mattress. There are your basic innerspring bed. There are memory foam, Sleep Number™, adjustable (hospital), water bed, and so many pillow top variants that your head will spin. Then there are the foundations that go along with these. The most common are the box spring and the wooden slat or some combination thereof. I have seen trampoline styles and plain old hard solid bases (which could be good for those that need a firm bed), but those are usually specific to the bed frame. I won’t bother too much with frame types and styles because they are legion.

Take a-ways and life advice: Get a queen. Get a basic mattress from a place like Ikea, something that seems pretty comfy but is not too soft. When you lay on it in the store, check the foundation setup they have arranged and do your best to replicate it. Go for harder if you can and your back will thank you later as the bed is broken in and becomes softer than you expected it to be.
Pillow tops are nice and all but let’s be frank, when you are engaging in activities other than sleep, the mattress and frame are going to take some stress. A pillow top will shift under you some, not like a water bed, but I think you get the point, and if you don’t - go find out.

Why not a king? or a Sleep Number? From a financial consideration, king size lives up to the name and everything costs more. Even the pillows are bigger! Bigger is not necessarily better. A king size mattress will take up about 40 sqft. and a queen will take up 33.3 sqft. In an apartment or older home not designed for enormous bedroom sets, that matters a lot.
Now… those are major concerns, but… here is the hard truth that I have discovered: When you are with a partner for a long time, there will be a natural tendency to drift apart. A king size bed is too big and will make that drifting so casual that you won’t realize it until it may be too late. (Not the bed’s fault, but in a intimate setting distance does nothing to help remind you of any commitments you have made and make it very easy to become roommates. Similar sleep schedules would also be a wise habit.)
With “select a firmness” mattress systems, they are great for your health but when it comes time to have some fun, you have to be careful or you will tumble awkwardly into the less firm side or straddle the weird foam bolster in between the chambers. At least with the fully adjustable hospital style beds, you can make both sides go flat, just mind the gap. Seriously, humans do not need amorous activity to be any more awkward than it already is and I cannot recommend beds that keep partners more apart than is necessary. Having children and pets, I know that I can sleep on about 18 inches of mattress while the other  52 inches is taken up by the toddler who had a bad dream. One caveat, if you want to co-sleep with your new born children, then you will have plenty of room in the king, but you can still get away with the queen, so save the money and buy some diapers.

What do you think about the big old grown up bed?

Topic Tuesday #165 2015/09/15 "If You Can't Say Anything Nice..."

Topic Tuesday #165 2015/09/15 "If You Can't Say Anything Nice..."

You've heard it. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. I am typically against this line of thought, but when I have not nice things to say, I try to have the discussion  warranted rather than just shout into the open. Sometimes that is possible. Somethings it is not your choice to make. Other times, life happens. 

 There's always room for jello.

There's always room for jello.

I am reminded this day that no matter how clearly you consider your statements., no matter how clear and erudite your arguments, someone will not understand. Someone will be offended. Something can always go wrong, because communication is a remarkably complex thing among humans. I can say, "lemon jello" and most of you will actually think of the jello in your mouth, the taste of the lemon, the texture of it. Some of you will be happy, others will be disgusted. How would I know? If it my fault if you were disgusted by my statement of "lemon jello?" Should I care?

I don't think I should care, at least not deeply. If you are offended by something I say, and it was not specifically about you by name, that is not my problem. That is your interpretation of the words I have said representing the thoughts in my head.  If you think the thoughts in my head should change, then you too can use your words to put ideas into my head and change them. It is a marketplace of ideas, and I hope the best idea wins, even if it is not my idea.