Wednesday, September 27

Survey Says:

Facebook compiles statistics from what people list on their profiles. Fun fact #1: 116 UW-M people have birthdays tomorrow. #2: 11% of UW males are "conservative", 1% is "very conservative".

A little while back they added a section involving the upcoming elections. I was randomly clicking around on facebook and I found a place that shows how the elections are going. They only included the Governor, U.S. Representatives, and Senators. It'd be interesting to see Lt. Governor or Attorney General, but facebook didn't include those races.

Here's the breakdown of college students in Wisconsin:

Doyle (D): 51.59%
Green (R): 44.98%
Eisman (G): 3.43%

Kohl (D): 85.11%
Vogeler (G): 8.14% !?!
Lorge (R): 4.54%
Gumz (R): 1.84%
Other: 0.37%

District 1 (Southeast WI)
Ryan (R): 88.69%
Thomas (D): 9.48%

District 2 (Madison area)
Baldwin (D): 87.7%
Magnum (R): 12.3% (up 1% from a few days ago)

-in Sensenbrenner's race, he has 58.59% vs 37.67% for the Dem
-Hillary has 82.9% in her race
-down in Texas, Kinky has 71%, followed by the GOP with 16.8%
-WI has 8 House seats, according to this survey, they're split evenly between R & D
-IL Gov, Blagojevich (inc D) has 48.7%, Topinka (R) 37.7%


I could refresh the other one enough to get the political breakdown of campus and then adjust the percentages to reflect the real world, but it's late and I just did 3 hours of differential equations homework. (I will do it eventually)

Overall, campuses lean liberal so if Green is only 6.5% behind, even with all the trash the dems are putting out about him on college campuses, it's looking good for him overall. Conversely, it doesn't look good for Dave Magnum, no matter how you slice it. Finally, I'm pretty surprised that the Republican is coming in 3rd in the Senate race after the green candidate. What's going on there?

Tuesday, September 26

The Beacon Is Out!

Get your hands on today's Mendota Beacon at newspaper baskets all across the university! We've got good stories! If you can't swing by sometime, it's here in PDF form here.

I thought of a pretty good title for the article about Facebook, "Transaction Talks Titillate Teens" but we went with "Facebook for Sale? Talk of Deal Concerns Users". But what I'm really proud of is the editorial section this week. I'm also happy that we've got a new business section. The future has a lot of potential for that section. I've also been working on some pictures to stick in empty spots so I'm happy to see them in the paper, as well.

Like I said, read it in paper, or in PDF. Be sure to leave comments and write letters to the editor.

Saturday, September 23

Deal? No! Probability

So I'm flipping through the channels right now and I've come across 'Deal or No Deal'. Basically, there are 26 briefcases and each one has a certain amount of money in it ranging from $0.01 to $3 million. The contestant picks one in the beginning and then eliminates the others. If he's lucky then he's eliminating the small values. Periodically the 'banker' calls and offers to give the contestant a certain amount of money to buy him out of the game. There's no knowledge involved, rather just guessing and probability.

That brings me up to the present. I'm watching the show for about the 3rd time and I think I know how to beat the system. Don't rely on the audience or Howie. If you're sitting in the audience at 'Who wants to be a millionaire?', would you type in the right answer when they poll the audience? Also, Howie is constantly telling the contestant how huge an offer the banker is giving him.

Right now, there's a rather annoying family from NY, I think. I can tell because they almost seem like caricatures like the characters from that annoying SNL skit with Jimmy Falon and Rachel Dratch.

From Stats 221, I know the simple math that I think would allow you to beat the system. It's called 'expected value'. Since each value occurs once and just once, the probability simplifies. In a nutshell, when the game starts, add all the values together, $3,418,416.01 (in a 1 million dollar game) and divide by the number of values, 26. Randomly playing, one should then expect to get $131,477.54. As you eliminate amounts, add the remaining and divide by the number of values and that's what you should expect.

As I'm watching, the banker just offered him $675 K. He had $1, $400K, $750K, $1M, and $3M left. He took the offer. The expected value was $1,030,000.20. The show made money, nearly $400K. By the way, they went through the remaining cases and he had, in fact, picked the $3 million case.

If I played, I'd probably be the first to whip out a calculator and do some math to decide. It'd be a matter of playing until the expected value started to decline (meaning I started to eliminate larger amounts faster than the smaller amounts), or the banker made an offer close to the expected value. But even then, nothing is for certain since when he accepted the offer, though he was expecting more than a million, it was as likely that he'd end up with $1 as $3 million.

Gimme my drugs!

I recently read that

A day after Walmart announced it will lower its prescription drugs cost, Target— the second largest retail store says it will also offer discounted prescription drugs.

Both stores say they will sell generic prescription drugs for as low as four dollars in Tampa, Florida. And by 2007 Walmart plans to offer the discounted drugs nationwide.

At first this seems like a good idea. Who wouldn't be for cheap prescription drugs? When you think about what will happen when all the people needing drugs go to one of those two places, all the other pharmacies, mainly local types, will lose business while Walmart and Target will get more. The smaller ones won't be able to keep up and they don't have the economics of scale. And the fact that Target came out right away to match them makes it seem more like a 'price war' type thing.

Regardless whether they're doing it for the good of people or for their business accounts, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in Madison, a rather unfriendly city to Walmart. Last year, in fact, there was some kind of musical in town that portrayed Walmart in a negative light.

We've got Targets, Walmarts, and Walgreens here. I can't wait to see what ensues. People make issues about how high drug prices are, but are they willing to shop at their nemesis at the expense of their local businesses?

Wednesday, September 20

I'm that guy who bothered you on your commute home yesterday

Yesterday, us crazies went out and held signs on the pedestrian bridge between the Humanities Building and Vilas Hall (which, in case you don't know, is our local axis of ugly). We had strategically placed ourselves over one of the busiest stretches of road in the Greater Madison Metropolitan area, University Avenue. We caught all the workers heading for home to the south and west of the isthmus from 4:30 to 6 pm.

Since the weather has decided, as of late, not to cooperate, I got all bundled up, though I still wore shorts. All in all I was pretty surprised that many people showed up. I would say that we had more than 20 people there. We spanned all the way across University Avenue, which I think, is no small feat. It's a one way street with three lanes of traffic, two lane sized bike lanes, and a bus lane.

I held a J.B. Van Hollen sign at first, but there were lots of JB signs, so I picked up a Mark Green sign.

Holding a sign, and even waving it, is a rather passive activity so I observed the drivers. You'd be surprised how many people talk on cell phones--I would say about half. They'd be sitting there holding up their phones and every so often, it'd look like they were waving. Rather they'd just be shifting the phone to their other hand. I saw one lady who was flipping the page of a magazine held up against the steering wheel. When people weren't on cell phones, they were free to do other things with their hands.

In all, the people who did something, I'd say half of it was positive and half negative. About a quarter of people gave a thumbs down or they'd wag their finger. Another quarter would give us College Republicans the one finger salute. Some would even be so daring as to roll down the window and wave it out the car at us and the really cool people would try to shout at us.

On the other hand, there were fingers as well. Just kidding. Some people actually seemed to support us. Another quarter of the people who did something waved at us. And the final quarter honked. There was one thing that made up for all the fingers, a guy gave the thumbs up through his open moon-roof while he was parked in traffic below us.

It was rather fun, in a strange way, to agitate people. I don't mind the thumbs down, but giving the finger is disrespectful. If it were the other way around, I don't think that I would do anything because I'd probably be trying to escape back to reality after being in town all day long.

On a side note, most of the cars had just one person in them. It seems rather wasteful. There's talk of Madison bringing back street cars. I'd be up for that. There really aren't that many of them here in the US, but every city in Germany has them.

Anywho, I somehow ended up on the front page of the Daily Cardinal, which is ironic, being an editor over at the Beacon. The D.C. is a pretty liberal student newspaper.

How'd they know that's what I'm dreaming of? I'm pretty sure this'll be a dream come true in a few weeks. By the way, if you can, drive home on University Avenue a week from next Tuesday. You'll be able to flip me and my friend off!

Friday, September 15

a Primary Party

Last Tuesday evening I was able to do something that I've never seen before: a Primary Party. Right after the College Republican meeting, Right off the Shore gave me a lift to JB's victory party. It was less than half an hour to his town, somewhere north of Madison. Since you may not be too familiar with current politics in Wisconsin, last Tuesday was the primary. For the Attorney General's spot there were two democrats and two Republicans. JB Van Hollen was running against Paul Bucher for the Republican spot.

Upon immediately entering, one could feel the emotion and excitement in the room.

As you can see, it was in a banquet type room. It was mostly older people, then there were a few college students. I felt a little out of place because the other college students had done lots of work for his campaign. Having voted for him earlier in the day and handing out literature for him at Camp Randall before the home football game last weekend helped to mitigate that for the most part.

I got there at about nine and as time passed, more people came and the room started to become crowded. People mingled and talked while watching returns on the big screen. There were at least 5 different tv stations with tv cameras set up in the back along with people with radio equipment. More results were coming in and JB, who at first was getting 70% was drifting down; he ended up with about 60%.

Eventually word was spread that JB would be making an appearence at 10:02. TV reporters were interviewing people and running around setting up. Out the window, all that could be seen were tv broadcast trucks. It was like someone just got killed or was on trial. The Attorney General race was the biggest thing because there already was just one Republican and one democrat running for governor.

They gave us young people JB signs and told us to stand up on the stage and cheer when he came out. His mom, I think, spoke a little and then he came out.

This picture is from one of the Madison newspapers. I was nestled in the back on the other side holding a sign and I'm not in the picture at all. He came out and announced victory. Keeping an eye on the big screen behind me, I could see that whatever channel's news was on was carring him live, though it was a few seconds behind. He spoke for about 10 minutes and then he made the rounds to the various media outlets present.

It was pretty cool. Later I was standing and talking to Jenna and Jordan when JB came and walked by. He stopped, looked at me, and kept on going and spoke to Jenna and Jordan. That was a little akward. Perhaps if I do more, he'll know my name?

Reguardless, it was a good day. I had been hoping for JB since he came and spoke to us last year at a College Republicans meeting. (Bucher had come and spoken to us too; I enjoy hearing the candidates.) I'm hoping for the best for him in November.

In other news, Falk won the democratic primary for AG beating Peg 'the Keg'. They're both jokes, but Falk doesn't really have a record, being the Dane Co. executive, whereas Peg's the current AG. Turns out, Peg whooped Falk in Dane County, but Falk did well in the rest of the state. Another thing is today is the first day that the headlines on the papers with pictures around here aren't about how Falk won.

Wednesday, September 13

Hello, Again

Hi. It's been a while. A month and a day as a matter of fact.

It's not that I've been avoiding you, I just needed a vacation from the blog. Here's my first stab at writing again. I like blogging; I think I need an outlet to write because I've noticed the recent pattern in my emails: they've been getting exponentially longer. With a blog it's like imparting one's wisdom onto the world, instead of just one person. It's rather like scratching something into a piece of clay which gets covered by the desert, eventually to be dug up in modern times. Mostly, because writing was invented to keep track of business, the clay slabs are just about who owes whom how many sheep. Of course, they're all dead so they don't really matter, anyway. As long as the server is on the internet for hundreds of years from now, I feel like my scratchings, with more value than ancient transactions (I hope), are around. I hope to leave humanity with a positive net result, at least slightly greater, than when I started. That is my goal.

Anywho, enough of the philosophy, if you read this because I told you to (or you stalk me) you've probably been wondering what I've been up to this past month. After the Chicago post, I sold my soul to the local county fair for about 8 days straight. (It wasn't the Dane Co one, if you're guessing) It was my "repatriation" at a little slice of Americana after being in Europe for two months. You see, I was the sole garbage guy. They had about 90 big 55L plastic drums around the fair. I had to put a bag in each one and then tape it to hold the bag on. Then as the bag started to get full, I had to change it before it began to "overflow". I used " "s back there because, though you wouldn't expect it, used to describe or as a verb, overflow has as many different interpretations to different people as the word "interesting" does.

Luckily, I didn't have to carry these bags. The fair gave me a gator and a full sized trailer to use. I was worried out of my mind the whole time I was driving through crowds with it because whereas the gator is about as wide as two chairs, the trailer was an additional 2 feet on either side. And it was metal sticking out so I didn't want to take someone's leg off or run over a foot. By the way, it was fun driving around at 11 pm when the music ended and the beer garden closed causing people who had been drinking to start to wander out around the fair in the general direction of the parking lot. Even normal people seem to suffer from "deer in headlights syndrome".

Besides the constant fear of causing a lawsuit, I had another thing on my mind. Two other things to be specific: there is no shortage of ugly people in the world (at least in my county) and if this were in Europe, there wouldn't be a single garbage can or toilet for miles. Indeed, the garbage cans, just like water fountains are few and far between. There is one known water fountain in all of Continental Europe and it's diagonally across the street from Notre Dame in Paris. For the World Cup games on the giant screen in the town square in Toulouse, the entire plaza would be packed but there wouldn't be a single toilet, but there were some garbage cans. England has water fountains and no garbage cans.

There was something that started to get to me. Although I'm grateful that when I'd come through, the parents (usually pretty ugly) would pull their little ugly children out of the way, it kind of hurt my feelings that they'd say while yanking them "Get out of the way or he'll run you over!" Which is rather strange when you consider that I was driving it as slowly as possible to avoid such a thing. As a matter of fact I was going about half as fast as people were walking so pretty much if someone got run over, they put their own foot under it. Obviously, I will never run anyone over although I did pop a carny tire (with the trailer) and hit two signs along with countless garbage cans.

Enough rambling about rubbish. Doing that job was quite humbling and I certainly will never look at a garbage can the same way again. When you do something you impact the lives of at least another person, so, try to be considerate. If you toss a piece of trash at a can and it misses, go pick it up. If the garbage guy is bent over a can trying to tape the bag down, don't throw garbage within inches of his face into the can he hasn't finished servicing yet; besides there's another one about 5 feet behind you. If a garbage can is nearing capacity or overflowing, don't pile your trash on top, put it in the empty one 10 feet away. You know, obvious things like that help someone else. That and people who work crappy jobs can hear you. And see you when you look at them like that. No, just because I'm doing the garbage doesn't mean I'm a carny.

So, like I said there's a lot of ugly people at the fair. Those are the fair go-ers. The carnies are a little strange. For some reason, they would pee into bottles and then set those next to the garbage cans. On the spectrum, I would say the carnies are the weirdest, the patrons are rather strange and the food vendors are pretty close to normal. They seemed to be my allies. Some of the more generous ones even gave me free food and drinks.

After working at the fair for the entire time it was open, it reminded me of another thing: why I don't eat at fairs. Save the roast beef and bbq and grill places, everything else is just fried something, which smells good on french fries, but terrible on the scale of a county fair. I would say the place I hated to be was the best smelling spot in the entire fair which was in the street between a bbq sauce stand and the gyros place. Like I said, pretty much everything at the fair is fried. Some are more craftful, by making funnel cakes, and others just don't try at all. I spotted one "Nanna's Fried Dough" which sold, among other things, deep fried twinkies. Yuck!

All in all, it was very interesting to study and observe people and the fair and see the animals. I thought it was rather ironic that just the previous week I happened to read "Animal Farm". Written by George Orwell, using the metaphor of a farm and farm animals it was a parable that sharply criticized Stalin and the USSR. The pigs were the evil animals. In person, the little ones are pretty cute and the big ones just laze around and grunt. One time I was driving past the animal barns and I heard a terrible sound. It sounded like a baby screaming with some animal noise mixed in. Perhaps a pig had just found out where bacon originates? Or it learned what was going to happen to it in the next week?

Some of the animals get sold and then butchered. Only the horses, rabbits, and dairy cows are spared. I can't remember what pigs and sheep went for, but the top steer went for $7.50 a pound and it weighed about 1400 lbs. Chickens and roosters went for less than $100 except for the top ones. Fairs seem like the ultimate American activity because they celebrate the things that make us who we are as a country, the free market (animal auctions), agriculture (what we're built on), commerce (the vendors and people with booths), and the outdoors (rugged individualism). If I had to plan things for a group of foriegners to do and see in America, I would try to take them to a fair, I think.

After 8 days of working at a 5 day long fair, I was finally free! Working at the fair gave me time to think about things. After going to Europe, all August long I was flirting with Libertarianism. I like their whole free market stance, but I'm not so sure about the whole 'make drugs completely legal' and 'open the borders' spiel. But I do feel different, perhaps, grown mentally with expanded horizons. I guess, in short, I'm not as conservative as when I left, but I haven't moved any closer to being a democrat.

Then I had a week and a few days and college would start again. I'm living in the dorms again, but I'm in the brand new dorm, Smith. As a matter of fact, I live in the penthouse on the top corner. But there's a post in the works about that.

Classes are going well, but I'm already very busy. I'm also happy that the Beacon has started up again. I was looking forward to shining the light on what's right all summer.

Now here is the reward for reading down this far. I got photoshop again because we make the paper with Adobe software and goofing around I've made two pretend record covers:

(they're supposed to be funny, so laugh)

Tuesday, September 12

I'll be back...soon

In the meantime, checkout this year's first Mendota Beacon! Now, if you're not in the greater Madison metropolitan area, you can read it in PDF version! And vote, if you're in Wisconsin; it's a primary! Hope you like the new look.