Those Election Maps

Pretty much every news website has one of those maps of the United States for the presidential election on their main page. You know, the ones that color a state red if they went for the Republican candidate, and blue if they went for the Democrat.

Those maps have so many problems. They don’t give you any idea of how many actual votes – electoral or popular – a state contributes to the total, or the margins of victory in each state. I get it; all the ‘good’ maps that show that extra information are clunky or require special explanations. The basic Red – Blue Map is understandable at a glance. Leave the fancy stuff for after the election is really over.

But in a protracted election like we have now, the maps have been really terrible.

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After Election Day

Here’s something that troubles and angers me.

Yes, we’re seeing record turnount this time around.

But there’s still several millions of voter registrations that do not correspond to a ballot being cast.

It is conceivable that more than a few of those belong to dead people that have yet to be removed from the rolls. Others can belong to people who have moved to another state and haven’t updated their registration (or are duplicates because an old, invalid registration hasn’t been removed). It is also within the realm of possibility that some belong to people who, do to illness or some other mitigating factor, are physically or mentally unable to vote. For example, I can see the many residents of senior centers, hospices, etc. being too mentally “out of it” to be even aware that there’s an election – but they are still registered to vote.

But there’s no way all those perfectly valid reasons can account for the millions upon millions of eligible voters that we are talking about.

So, to those who had the opportunity but just couldn’t be bothered:

WHAT
IS
WRONG
WITH
YOU
?

In a typical year, one could understand if it was too difficult for someone to get to their polling place. But this year was unbelievably exceptional. Communities had plenty of in-person early voting. Many states offered “No excuse needed” absentee ballots; some even sent ballots to every single registered voter. And you could mail them in or drop them off in person.

There’s no excuse this year for not voting when you had the opportunity.

On the 2020 World Series

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first.

Keven Cash’s decision to pull Blake Snell turned out wrong; there’s no denying it. He’ll have to live with it for the rest of his life. It would behoove us though to at least look for reasons why it might have been justified before we start collecting feathers and heating up tar.

The biggest one that comes to my mind is that the Rays offense had been totally shut down. They blew some scoring opportunities early, and then could manage only a single baserunner over innings three through six, and only one more after that. If the Rays were up 3-0 or even 2-0, leaving Snell in would have been a much easier call. But in a 1-0 game? It’s much safer to take a pitcher out one batter too early than one batter too late. And it’s not like the game ever got away from the Rays; a two-run deficit is not impossible to overcome. But again, the Rays’ offense failed them.

Meanwhile, in a game with so much inaction on the field, one finds oneself musing on other things.

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What is it About Halloween?

Why do we love Halloween so much? It’s the second biggest – in terms of “stuff” that happens around it – holiday after Christmas. All the decorations, TV specials, food and drink (and candy!) that only comes out in October…. What is it about this one day that has no significant “reason” to exist (like Independence Day) or “cause” behind it (like the spring festival of Easter) that brings out all the Jack-O-Lanterns and Haunted Houses?

Perhaps it’s that the occasion is so attractive to so many people for so many reasons.

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Kittens!

If you’re like me, you’ve been running at an above average level of stress for the entire year. I’ve found some relief by hiking around nearby nature centers and birdwatching. I can’t have pets in my apartment, so observing wildlife is the best I can do.

But what about at night, or in bad weather, or when I’m at work?

Webcams to the rescue!

I’m an unrepentant cat lover (take a hike, dog people! (grin)), and thankfully, there are a couple of cat rescue places that have hooked up webcams so people like me can watch kittens napping 24/7.

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Book Review – Columbus: The Four Voyages

Columbus: The Four Voyages
Laurence Bergreen
Viking Penguin Press
Copyright 2011 by the author

What with theongoing hubbub over Columbus popping up again in the news this summer as his statues were defaced and knocked down and there were calls to rename the things we’ve named in his honor, I thought it would be a good time to read another biography of him, and perhaps cut through both the hagiography and the demonization to get to know him a bit better. And perhaps be able to counter the arguments used for and against him. In any case, it ought to be a fascinating read for a history buff like me.

Bergreen is a historian and biographer whose previous works followed Magellan (Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, 2003) and Marco Polo (Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, 2007). This work is (presumably) in the same mode; more of a chronicle of Columbus’ voyages rather than a complete biography. He uses Columbus’ own journals, logs, and letters, along with the many personal journals and letters of those who accompanied him on his voyages, to assemble as good an account of those trips as you are likely to get.

Along the way, he shows that pretty much everything you knew about Columbus is, well, complicated.

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We Made It

Whew. Big sigh of relief. I can easily recall the worry from this summer when Major League Baseball announced it was going to go with a short 60 game season. A good number of people were in a tizzy, wondering how they could do anything in the middle of a pandemic. Wasn’t everyone going to get sick and die? One has to wonder how those people manage to get out of bed in the morning…. It turned out that MLB’s protocols for a very large part worked. There were a few “outbreaks”, but those seemed to have been entirely the result of players and staff violating the protocols. And, thankfully, there were no serious cases.

The season was one big experiment with rules designed to speed up the games given the limited time available before the playoffs. Hopefully the only new rule that will be kept is the DH in the National League. It’s coming eventually; one might as well get used to it. But seven inning doubleheaders and that “runner on base in extra innings” had better be dumped into the trash bin.

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Halloween in the Time of COVID

So the latest word that I’m hearing from the CDC is that kids should not be allowed to Trick-or-Treat this year. Apparently, the concern is that groups of kids going from house to house is an ideal way to spread the virus.

I am afraid I must differ with them. Not that I am one of those nutcases who thinks the disease is a hoax or not as bad as it is, but for other reasons.

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Options

With Mitch McConnell determined to ram through a vote if not a confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice in spite of his saying back in 2016 that “the people should decide”, the Democrats are readying their weapons should he actually go through with this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said they have “many arrows in their quiver”, and Senate Minority Leader has said that if the Republicans go through with it, then when – as is likely – the Democrats take control of the Senate, “nothing is off the table”.

What does that mean? There are quite a few things the Democrats can do in response.

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The 2020 Pennant Races

There are just about three weeks left in the baseball season, but for obvious reasons, it doesn’t feel like we’re in the heart of a pennant race. Everything this season has been weird – but at least we’re getting something. With eight teams in each league getting to the playoffs, all you need is a winning record to have a chance. Heck, it’s even possible that a team with a losing record could sneak in. The teams that miss out can grumble over the winter that sixty games wasn’t a true test of their abilities – heck, there’s going to be a ton of thought (with very good reason) that this entire season shouldn’t count….much.

The playoffs are going to be strange, to put it mildly. To reduce travel and COVID exposure, there is a great deal of talk about doing them in a “bubble”. Places where a couple of Major League stadia are within a short bus ride of each other are under consideration. That means Los Angeles – Anaheim – San Diego, Chicago – Milwaukee, New York City, and DC – Baltimore – Philadelphia. One must also take weather into account; baseball cannot afford postponements. That means Southern California, which will be great for the Dodgers and Padres….

As long as MLB treats this as a one-off format due to the exceptional circumstances and doesn’t try and make it the normal thing from now on…. Same with the seven inning doubleheaders and runners on second in extra innings.

The usual awards will be given out, but no matter how deserving the recipients might be, there’s still going to be the “short season stigma” associated with them. Hopefully, we’ll get over that. The awards will probably go to whoever produces the most in what’s left of the season. “Recency bias” does play a natural part, but there’s also the possibility for one bad outing or a brief slump to mean the difference in a close “race” (e.g. the NL Cy Young, where the difference between Yu Darvish and Jacob deGrom currently comes down to one “quality start”).

As of 9/8

Starts

W

L

ERA

IP

Hits

ER

HR

BB

K

WHIP

Yu Darvish

8

7

1

1.44

50

36

8

3

8

63

0.88

Jacob deGrom

8

3

1

1.69

48

31

9

4

11

70

0.88

The nice surprises are that the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres are exceeding expectations, “arriving” in contention at least a year before anyone thought they would. I’d actually LOVE to see both the Padres and A’s in the World Series, simply because having their colorful uniforms there would be awesome!

Brown and Green! Come on!

I figure we should just continue to enjoy the games as a pleasant and welcome diversion from everything else that is going on.

Lord knows we need one.