Monday, January 15, 2018

How gerrymandered are we?

It’s a problem, right? I mean, look at this map of my home state:

Or, how about this map of the Detroit area:

And finally (and also to show it’s not just a Republican thing), this one of Maryland’s 3rd congressional district:

So, obviously there’s a problem here. But how to show it in a nice concrete, mathematical way?


This one is actually pretty straightforward. Here’s what I did:
  1. Totally eliminated Louisiana (they have some weird system where that does not pit Republicans and Democrats against each other straight up)
  2. Calculated the percentage of Republicans in each house delegation (e.g., Mississippi, with 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat, comes in at 75%)
  3. Calculated the percentage of Republican votes cast in all house races (once again, Mississippi, with 681,000 Republican votes to 450,000 Democratic ones, come in at 60%)
  4. Subtracted the difference between the two, to see what kind of advantage dividing the state up into districts might have had (in Mississippi’s case, 15%)
  5. Ranked them all
So, not unlike comparing the electoral vote to the popular in the presidential election. But with this one being a lot more amenable to actual intervention.

Let’s see what we came up with …

"Dirty" Sweep

There are actually 11 states out there that are solely Republican or solely Democrat.  Now, some of them have only 1 congressional delegate to begin with, so we really can’t point to gerrymandering in those instances. I’ve gone ahead and shown those here, but with light shading to distinguish them:

A couple of things to note:
  • The Republicans have a distinct advantage, 11 to 6
  • They are strongest in the Plains and mountains, the Dems in the Northeast
  • Massachusetts wins the prize for 1-party state, with the highest number of delegates all of one party, at 9

Too True Blue

So, I think we can already see that this can go both ways. Now, here are the states that had 10% more delegates than they should have had, based on state-wide votes:

Note that I did eliminate the states with only 1 delegate (no chance of gerrymandering there).

Now, just to give you an idea of the strength of these differences, here’s a nice bar chart:

So, except for Nevada, pretty much the usual suspects, right?

Too True Red

And here’s what it looks like on the other side of the aisle:

And numbers wise:

No surprise there with the solid South, but how about all those states in the Midwest? 

Just Right

So, is there anyone playing fair out there? Luckily, there are a few. Here are the 10 states that were under 10%, positive or negative:

And here’s how that shook out exactly:

Pretty scattered around, no? Also, some of these seemed pretty obviously purple – Illinois and Colorado, in particular. I really am wondering, though, what Texas (on one side) and New York (on the other) are doing here.

Final Thoughts
  • Republicans win the gerrymandering sweepstakes, with a score of 22 states over the 10% threshold to 10 for the Dems
  • New Hampshire wins the most gerrymandered state award with a difference of -48% (it has 2 Democratic congressmen, though only 52% of the state voted for a Democratic candidate)
  • Arizona gets the least gerrymandered state award, with a difference of only 1% (Maine comes in 2nd with 2%)
  • There are other, much more detailed ways to looks at this (ways that I will leave to the professionals), but I did think this was rather interesting as a quick read

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Favorite Demonyms

Your favorite what? Why, my favorite demonyms.

Heck, not even the word editor in Blogger recognizes the term. All it really is, though, is a word for a person from a certain place. You know, a North Carolinian ... a Pittsburgher ... an Englishman (I am or have been all 3 of those, by the way).

Now, those are all pretty normal. There are, however, plenty of ... um ... rather interesting ones out there. Like these ...

Countries, States & Provinces
  • Utah - Utahn
  • Yukon - Yukonian
  • Tuvalu -Tuvaluan
  • St Kitts & Nevis - Kittitian / Nevesian
  • Botswana - Motswana
  • Burundi - Umurundi
  • Lesotho - Mosotho
  • Kiribati - i-Kiribati
  • Vanuatu - Ni-Vanuatu
  • Flanders - Fleming
  • Isle of Man - Manxman 

American Cities
  • Memphis - Memphian
  • Phoenix - Phoenician
  • Annapolis - Annapolitan
  • Minneapolis - Minneapolitan
  • Indianapolis - Indianapolitan
  • Tampa - Tampanian (the alternate "Tampan" just sounds too much like a feminine hygiene product)
  • Saskatchewan - Saskatchewanian
  • Halifax - Haligonian
  • Little Rock - Little Rocker

British Cities

For some reason, the British Isles seem to have a corner on this stuff.

  • Glasgow - Glaswegian (more familiarly, a Weegie)
  • Galway - Galwegian
  • Bath - Bathonian (so, wht's wrong with Bather?)
  • Cork - Corkonian (or Corker, for that matter?)
  • Devon - Devonian (though I associate this more with the Paleozoic era)
  • Exeter - Exonian
  • Oxford - Oxonian
  • Manchester - Mancunian (more familiarly, a Manc)
  • Cambridge - Cantabrigian
  • Leeds - Leodensian
  • Newcastle - Novocastrian (yup, that's the Latin translation)
  • Liverpool - Liverpudlian

Other Cities
  • Monaco - Monegasque
  • Hong Kong - Hong Konger (Hong Kongese is what I'm familiar with)
  • Prague - Praguer
  • Bucharest - Bucharester
  • Damascus - Damascene (I mostly associate this with a form of metalworking)
  • Macao - Macanese
  • Hamburg - Hamburger
  • Frankfurt - Frankfurter
  • Oslo - Oslovian
  • Corfu - Corfiot (like Cyprus/Cypriot, I guess)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Electoral College Redux

Well, they did it again. The Republicans lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College. This is actually the 4th time this has happened. You may well remember the last time, when Bush II beat Gore. It also happened, though, in 1876 and 1888.

So, I think we all know that the Electoral College has issues. It basically puts states ahead of people. And one way it does that is to give smaller states a distinct advantage by adding up representatives and senators to come up with their electoral votes. 

In other words, even if you have a measly half a million people in your state (I’m looking at you, Wyoming), you still get 3 whole votes. And what that means is that it takes a lot fewer people to merit an electoral vote (about 194,000 for Wyoming) than it does for a much more populous state like, say, California (not quite 700,000).

Sans Senators

So, what I was wondering was whether this imbalance could have thrown this past election. It’s a simple calculation – just subtract 2 from every state’s electoral vote, add ‘em up all, and see who won.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to tip the election. Trump’s total does go down, but only from 57% to 56%. Turns out, though Trump got most of the little states (NY, SD, ND, WY), he also got some big ones as well (OH, PA, FL, TX).

Interestingly, it did make a difference back in 2000. Instead of Bush II beating Gore 271 to 266, it would have been Gore 224 to 211. Sigh …

Of the other two where the electoral college and popular vote didn’t match up, only one of those would have been reversed. In 1876, Rutherford Hayes beat Samuel Tilden by an electoral college vote of 185 to 184. Take the senators out of the equation, and it’s 143 to 150.

So, no, my method doesn’t get rid of the Electoral College altogether ... but it does make it a little fairer.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

NFL Realignment

Houston, I think we have a problem. Actually, Houston, I think you’re fine. I’m a little worried about your neighbor Dallas though.

Honestly, what are the Dallas Cowboys doing in the NFC East? In whose world is Dallas on the East Coast? Now, I realize Cowboys vs. Redskins is one of the best rivalries around. To look at it an unbiased way, though, you have to admit that that rivalry is somewhat artificial. Perhaps if the Cowboys played a little closer to home, some stronger, more natural rivalries might develop.

Along those lines, is Indianapolis really a Southern city? Seeing as its closest rivals are Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Chicago, I’m thinking not. Same thing with Kansas City (should they really be playing all those West Coast teams?), Miami (the most southern team there is but whose archrivals include the Bills, Pats, and Jets), and Baltimore (40 miles from DC and 100 from Philly, but in neither’s division).

A Modest Proposal

Take a look at this …

Now, let me explain what I did:

  1. Divided the map into 3 basic regions – south, west, and north - based on how the teams naturally seem to break out
  2. Counted up the teams in each
  3. Noted that the South and West were almost perfect (i.e., have 8 teams, 4 of which can go into respective NFC and AFC divisions)
  4. Noted that the North had 16 teams
  5. Divided the North right down the middle, giving us an eastern and western group (northeast and Midwest, really)

I then compared these groups with what the divisions look like presently.  That really made those oddballs I cited above stand out.

Finally, I started moving teams around. Here’s how to read what I did:

  • Red dots – NFC teams that didn’t move
  • Blue dots – AFC teams that didn’t move
  • Dots with black circles around them – teams that did move (division, but not conference)

That leaves us with one real outlier, Dallas. Because the southern group had 1 too many teams, and the western group had 1 too few, it seemed only natural to move 1 southerner to the west. Because Texas is the furthest western state, Houston and Dallas seemed the most obvious choices. To make this so only 1 of them would get messed up, I elected to send Dallas to the west. That Dallas is popular all across the country made that decision a little easier as well.

Make sense? Any objections? Ready for me to take over from Roger Goodell?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Top Presidential Pets

Our current chief executive is a little unusual in that he doesn’t have any pets. He shares that distinction with only one other POTUS, James Knox Polk. At the other extreme, JFK had 21, Calvin Coolidge 26, and Teddy Roosevelt 31.

Though most of the presidential pets were dogs, there were also plenty of cats, bird, and horses. There were also no shortage of rather unusual ones as well. John Adams, for instance, had silkworms and an alligator. Teddy Roosevelt’s menagerie included a snake, lizard, rat, badger, bear, owl, and laughing hyena. Not to be outdone, the Coolidges kept a raccoon, donkey, goose, bobcat, bear, lion, wallaby, antelope, and pygmy hippopotamus.

Mrs. Coolidge with Rebecca

Pet names are on a similar spectrum. At one extreme, would you believe George W Bush had a dog named Spot, Reagan dogs named Rex and Lucky, Jefferson a parrot called Polly, and Lincoln a dog named Fido? At the other extreme, we’ve got:
  • Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau – lion cubs owned by the Coolidges
  • Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection – two opossums belonging to Benjamin Harrison
  • Misty Malarky Ying Yang – Amy Carter’ s Siamese cat
  • Emily Spinach – a garter snake that was part of the Teddy Roosevelt zoo
  • Satan, a dog owned by John Adams

So, how about those top presidential pets?

#10 – Bo, Portuguese Water Dog, Barrack Obama

I debated including this one. Don’t presidential scholars usually wait a little while before passing judgement on the most recent chief execs?

That said, Bo certainly was in the news. First of all, the Obamas did not come to the White House with a pet. In fact, one of the president’s first decisions was to choose what to get. Needless to say, the speculation that all produced resulted in more than its fair share of newsprint, videotape, and web pages.

And when the decision was announced, the strange breed that was chosen generated even more buzz. Readers may not remember that one of the main reasons for that choice was Malia’s allergies (and Bo’s hypoallergenic nature).

"U.S. Loses U.N. Membership After Soapy Bo Obama Jumps Up On Secretary-General" (The Onion)

#9 – Liberty, Golden Retriever, Gerald Ford

Am I dating myself here?

Liberty might be most famous for having puppies, right there at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The Fords kept one of them, Misty. Liberty was actually given to the Fords by their daughter Susan (I had a major crush on Susan - now I'm really dating myself). 

#8 – Barney, Scottish Terrier, George W. Bush

Awesome – our first Scottie!

The Bushes actually had several well-known pets – including Miss Beazley, another Scottish Terrier, and India, an all-black cat. Barney will have to stand in for them all. A couple of interesting facts about Barney:
  • He was born Bernard
  • He has a brother named Clinton (!?!?)
  • He was famous for biting members of the press corps
  • He was the star of 11 videos, including Barney's Holiday Extravaganza, Barney Reloaded, and Barney Has Found Miss Beazley

#7 – Him & Her, Beagles, LBJ

LBJ was quite the classy fella. In addition to showing everyone his gall bladder surgery scars, talking to reporters while on the can, and urinating in a sink, Johnson also used to liked to pick up his beagles by the ears. 

This, in fact, may have represented the first presidential pet controversy. Yup, animal lovers all over the country called him to task. Somehow or other, he still managed to beat Barry Goldwater in the ’64 election.

#6 – Socks, cat, Bill Clinton

Socks was actually not the Clinton’s only famous pet. Buddy, a chocolate lab, was almost as well known. Readers may not remember, though, that Buddy basically forced Socks out. “I did better with the Palestinians and the Israelis than I've done with Socks and Buddy,” said Bill. Socks was actually a stray that the Clintons adopted in Arkansas.

God, I love these shots!

#5 – Millie, Springer Spaniel, George HW Bush

Heck, Millie’s a published author! How could I not include her in this list?

Yup, Millie “wrote” Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush. It was released in 1990, and actually made it to #1 on the New York Times bestseller nonfiction list. Millie was also portrayed on Murphy Brown, Wings, Who’s the Boss, and The Simpsons.

Millie and ghostwriter

#4 – Rob Roy, White Collie, Calvin Coolidge

Who? What? Rob Whuh? Hunh?

Rob Roy was arguably the first presidential pet celebrity. There’s not a lot out there on him, so let me share this wonderful profile of him from Wikipedia:
  • Species:  Canis lupus familiaris
  • Breed:  Collie
  • Sex:  Male
  • Born:  c. 1922, Oshkosh, WI
  • Died:  1928 (aged 5–6), Washington, D.C.
  • Nation from:  American
  • Occupation:  Companion animal
  • Owner:  Calvin Coolidge
  • Appearance:  White

Rob Roy even graced the FLOTUS’s official portrait

#3 – Laddie Boy, Airedale, Warren G. Harding

Now, here’s our first real presidential pet celeb. Some of Laddie Boy’s many firsts include:
  • Being welcomed at Cabinet meetings
  • Having White House birthday parties
  • Getting “interviewed” by the White House press corps
  • Having a statue made of him
  • Being immortalized in song

Laddie Boy was also made something of a poster … er, dog … for animal rights. 

Pulitzer material, no?

#2 – Checkers, Cocker Spaniel, Richard Nixon

Poor pup. Checkers’ owner actually made this little guy more infamous than famous. 

Yup, this little Cocker Spaniel was the subject of Tricky Dick’s famous Checkers speech. Nixon used this speech to defend against allegations of misusing campaign contributions. He pulled in Checkers as an example of a contribution, one he wasn’t about to give up.

"Get outta here, mutt!  Can’t ya see I’m readin’ the paper?"

#1 – Fala, FDR

Fala was a lot like Toto, of the Wizard of Oz – just so darn cute. And like all terriers – especially Scotties –  Fala had tons of personality.

Some fun facts about this adorable little fella:
  • An MGM film was made about him
  • He was made an honorary private in the US Army
  • He was a codeword for soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge (if you didn’t know the name of the president’s dog, you were probably a Nazi ... and would get shot)

Interestingly, Fala was also the subject of a scandal and a speech. FDR had supposedly sent a destroyer back for the little dog when the 32nd president mistakenly left him on one of the Aleutians. Roosevelt’s speech turned the accusations into a huge joke, insuring his triumph in the 1944 presidential elections.

The only thing we have to fear is thunderstorms, and firecrackers, and …

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Worst Best – Most Pathetic League Leaders in MLB History

I think we all know that Barry Bonds hit 73 dingers, Hack Wilson had 191 RBIs, and Nolan Ryan set a modern record with 383 strikeouts. Needless to say, they were all league leaders.

At the same time, though, somebody’s got to lead the league every year, right?  Even when it’s just not that great a year for homers, or steals, or saves, somebody’s still gonna get credit for being the league leader.

So, how bad can it be?  Let’s take a look …


On the face of it, this should be pretty straightforward.  There were, though, a few years where MLB did not have a complete season. 2000, 1995, and 1981 were all strike-shortened, and 1918 was shortened by World War I. It just didn’t seem fair to give credit for low homers or RBIs or wins when players only had 144, 140, 129, or 110  games to do it in.

I also eliminated the deadball era. I mean, there were years when HR leaders couldn’t break double digits. In other words, I’m looking at stats from 1921 on.

Oh, I also just limited stats to basic, traditional stuff, like HRs, RBIs, wins, saves … So, no defense-independent component ERA, fielding runs above replacement, player empirical comparison and optimization test algorithms, etc.

Alright then, here they are – from most to least believable.

#10 – WHIP, Herb Pennock, 1926, Yankees, 1.265

Now, this one doesn’t sound that bad.  Overall, there were 9 leaders who couldn’t break 1.200.  Interestingly, all but 1 was in the AL. And all of this (lack of) action took place mostly in the 20s and 30s.

What I find particularly ironic about this one is that Pennock is a Hall of Famer, a place where I’m not sure he really belongs. In fact, the only time he led the league in anything was for 2 WHIPs in the 1.200’s. Career-wise, has him coming up a little short. None of their HoF stats have him matching the averages for players actually in the Hall (with some of them falling far short). 

Oh, he was a Yankee? Why didn’t you say something?  Right this way!

#9 – RBIs; 105; Al Rosen, Indians, 1952 / Willie McCovey, Giants, 1968

Well, at least they broke 100. 

Once again, we’ve got another Hall of Famer. This time, I think he deserved it. In fact, hitting over 500 dingers is definitely a free ride. 

As for Rosen, I think you can make an argument that he should be in Cooperstown as well. He led the league in a major category a total of 5 times. Unfortunately, he was up for only 7 real seasons. Interesting to see what he could have done given a little more time, and a lot fewer injuries.

#8 – Average, .301, Carl Yastrzemski, Red Sox, 1968

Hmm, 1968 again. Yup, it was the Year of the Pitcher. Just as an example … Would you believe that Yaz was the only AL player that year to bat above .300?

That year was also quite a falling off for Yaz from 1967, when he won the Triple Crown, MVP, and pennant. He did, however, also lead the league in walks, OBP, and OPS in ‘68.

And, yes, we do have another Hall of Famer here. And I’m pretty sure he deserves it too.

#7 – ERA, 3.20, Early Wynn, Cleveland, 1950

Man, I woulda thunk this would be a lot closer to 3.00. Actually, in addition to Wynn, there were 6 other pitchers who won it all with an ERA over 3.00. And, believe it or not, 3 of those were in this, our current, century.

Another Hall of Famer, Early Wynn has always been one of my favorites. A 300-game winner, he played in 3 decades, for 23 years total. Quite the character too.  

#6 – Runs, 93, Carl Yastrzemski, Red Sox, 1968

Aaahhhh!  It’s 1968 again. How else could someone lead the league in runs and not break 100?!?!

So, what was all that about anyway? Well, when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1961, the powers that be got all worried that the BALANCE OF THE GAME was out of whack. So, they enlarged the strike zone, then stepped back and watched offense tank. 

After that all bottomed out in 1968, they lowered the pitching mound from 15” to 10”. Balance was – finally, thankfully, assuredly – restored.

#5 – Wins, 16, 8 different guys, 1994 & 2006

This one really surprised me. I was actually surprised that there was even any under 20, let alone that there was this plethora of losers at 16. 

Okay, let’s count ‘em out … 1994: Ken Hill, Expos; Greg Maddux, Braves / 2006: Aaron Harang, Reds; Derek Lowe, Dodgers; Brad Penny, Dodgers; John Smoltz, Braves; Brandon Webb, Arizona; Carlos Zambrano, Cubs. 

Did you notice that all of these guys were in the NL? And they all happened in only 2 years? Weird, huh? I tell ya, ya can't make this stuff up.

#4 – Saves; 4; Guy Bush, Cubs / Johnny Morrison, Pirates; 1925

Now, here’s one that’s not quite apples and oranges. Saves were simply not something MLB teams cared about all that much way back when.

In fact, let me share with you a little graph I put together. It shows the MLB leader every year in saves from 1921 to 2016:

See how that goes up and up, like a stock that you might just retire on? 

Bush? Morrison? Ah, they was nobodies.

#3 – Strikeouts, 106, Lefty Grove, Athletics, 1925

Holy cow! This is barely over 3 figures. Hard to believe, but it’s less than a third of the record, Nolan Ryan’s 383, set less than 50 years later.

Needless to say, Lefty Grove is another Hall of Famer. In fact, he would lead the league in K’s 6 more times. His 2,266 career strikeouts, though, would only net him 54th on the all-time list. I guess they weren't striking out too many batters back in those days ... though it seems Lefty was doin' most of it.

#2 – Home Runs, 21, Hack Wilson, Cubs, 1926

What’s odd about this one is that some guy over in the AL hit 47 that year. And the year after that, that same guy would hit no less than 60! I think his name was Roof or something.

Wilson would go on to hit 56 himself 4 years later. That’s also the year he would drive in an absolutely unassailable 191 runs. That year alone seems to have been enough to get him into Cooperstown.

#1 – Stolen Bases, 15, Dom DiMaggio, Red Sox, 1950

Most anyone acquainted with a little baseball history knows that steals were something more associated with the Dead Ball Era, dropped off after baseball discovered the long ball, and didn’t really come back into fashion until the 1960s. What’s striking, though, is how low the totals were (4 were in the teens) and how long they lasted (arguably, from ’27 through ’59).

By the way, Dom’s the one with the glasses. Vince was the oldest one. Joe’s the one who’s in the Hall of Fame.

Final embarrassing total:  9 Hall of Famers / 10 nobodies

Monday, August 28, 2017

World Series Winners’ Winning Percentage – Trending Downward …

There was a time when baseball’s postseason actually involved only one series.  They called it the “World Series.”  And that particular setup lasted no less than a mind-boggling 65 years.

After that, they switched things up – oh, every ten years or so.  First, there were 3 playoff games (including the World Series, that is), then 7, then 9.

So, what I’m wondering is whether that affected the quality of the teams that played in the final showdown.  In other words, if you’ve got only 2 teams competing, you’ve got a pretty good idea that those 2 will have the best records around.  If, however, you’ve got 10, what’re the chances that the World Series will actually have the best 2?

Well, let’s take a look …

1 Game (1903-1968)

Over those 65 years, the worst team to win the World Series was the Boston Red Sox, in 1916.  They were 91-63, for a winning percentage of 59%.  

This guy pitched a 14-inning complete game win in that one

3 Games (1969-1993)

In 1969, both leagues expanded to 12 teams.  With all those teams, additional playoffs actually made a ton of sense.

During these 23 years, the worst team to win it all was the 1987 Twins.  They went 85-77, for a mark of 52%.  Quite a difference.

Interestingly, the best record of all 4 teams in the playoffs that year was the Tigers, with a record of 60% - a difference of 8 percentage points and 13 whole wins.  They won only a single game those Twins.

First series where the home team won every game.
Who woulda thunk it?

7 Games (1995-2012)

More expansion.  This time, we’re going to 30 teams.  And that’s a lot. 

So, even more playoffs do make sense.  And the idea of getting the team with the 2nd best record in 3 different divisions involved makes a ton of sense as well.  

Just as an illustration …  In the 17 years the 1-wild-card-team idea ruled, 14 of those years had a wild-card team with a better record than at least one of the division leaders.  So, like I said … not a bad idea.

Oh, the worst team to win a World Series in that era?  Forgot all about that …  How about St. Louis, in 2006, with another 52% winning percentage.  

And, just like with the Twins and Tigers back in 1987, there was an 8% difference (and 14 wins) between the Cards and the best team that didn’t make it (this time that was both New York teams, the Mets and the Yanks).

9 Games

No expansion this time.  Just some lamebrain’s idea of a way to introduce some extra excitement into the game.  A play-in game.

Now, that’s fine if it’s March madness, and it’s the University of North Dakota at Hoople versus Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration.  Otherwise …

So, on with our show ...  And the award for worst WS winner goes to San Francisco, with a 54% record in 2014. Whoa – 2% better! 

And there’s no way they woulda done it without this guy

That said, we have had this silly thing going on for only 4 years.  So my guess is is that somebody’s going to take home all the silverware one of these days with a record just over .500 – say, 82-80.  

I mean, it almost that did actually happen back in 1973.  That year, the Mets made it to the Series with a measly record of 82-79.  Fortunately, they lost the A’s, though it did go to 7.