Maybe, Sorta, Kinda

At some point, a predictor must predict.

My friend Dave Winer suggests that the polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com is engaged in some link-spamming effort with an article carrying the headline, “Trump is just a normal polling error behind Clinton.”

I agree.

I’ve been fascinated with the challenges Nate Silver & Co. have faced in trying to convince an audience to stay engaged in a process that has been like a year-long version of the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

In addition to trying of make the presidential election  a series of daily swings (who’s winning in Hillsborough County, Fla., today?), Silver and those sites that have tried to mimic his approach, all flunked the Republican Primary race–caution now permeates each article and podcast. Every few days, Silver runs a story on why anything that sounds definitive should be taken with a grain of salt.

Silver’s mea culpa after the Republican nominee set the stage for his summer and fall of providing endless butt-covering explanations of the many ways Trump could win, despite having only a 30% chance of doing so.

Silver’s most difficult challenge recently has been crafting new caveats.

But at some point, a predictor must predict.

 

Uncle Walter

I miss Walter Cronkite. But there’s a part of me that’s glad he’s not having to witness the presidential election of 2016.

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Today’s Google Doodle is Walter Cronkite. Today is the 100th anniversary of his birth. (I wrote about him in 2009 when he passed away.)

It’s difficult to explain the influence of the trusted Uncle Walter to someone too young to remember Walter Cronkite’s tenure as the CBS Evening News’ anchor. In my memory, the two most historic events of my childhood–the assassination of JFK and the moon landing–are as much about Watler Cronkite as they are about the events themselves. In my home, he narrated the Vietnam War each evening right before supper. I don’t know why we didn’t turn the TV off.

The local newspaper, Time magazine and Walter Cronkite, were my family’s consistent news media staple through the 1960s and early 70s.

When we were in our late twenties, my wife and I spent a couple of nights on Martha’s Vineyard. Knowing that Cronkite spent the month of August there, we joked constantly about what we’d say if we ran into him. I recall we agreed that it wouldn’t be anything related to the comment, “and that’s the way it is,” his nightly signoff phrase.

I’ve forgotten what we agreed it would be, but on our last night there, we were walking down a narrow alley to a restaurant and had to squeeze up against a cottage wall to let an approaching car by. As the car crept by in order not to hit us, we looked at the driver and recognized immediately it was Cronkite. Instead of having something pithy to say, all my wife and I could do was laugh at our actual encounter with the icon. I think we said something dumb like, “hey, you’re Walter Cronkite.”

I miss Walter Cronkite. But there’s a part of me that’s glad he’s not having to witness the presidential election of 2016. I’ve done all I can to ignore it.

Review | Nosedive (Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 1)

An uncomfortable watch.

Nosedive, the first episode of the third season of Black Mirror, pushed (shipped?) last night by Netflix, fits into an emerging science fiction genre one might call, “dystopian social media fiction.” While it’s billed as a satire, it’s not “the Onion” parody type of satire, but the Jonathan Swift stinging satire that’s uncomfortable to watch.

You can easily connect the dots from Cory Doctorow’s 2003 novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (with its reputation-based currency, whuffie) to Dave Eggers’ 2013 novel, The Circle (my review) to Nosedive.

While I’ll skip any possible spoilers, I do recommend watching Nosedive. A bit long and didactic (as this genre can easily slide into), there’s a discomforting truth captured in the episode.

(Update: I have now seen all of the episodes and can’t recommend the others.)

Bizarro World Election

This election has nothing to do with political science. It’s now pure science fiction.

216px-classicbizarroA well-worn science fiction genre involves an alternate or parallel universe. According to the last person to edit the article on Wikipedia, a parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained reality co-existing with one’s own–a universe where the very laws of nature are different – for example, Apple before Steve Jobs passed away.

My parallel universe point-of-reference is Bizarro World, the Superman spinoff DC comics that I read in the late 60s and 70s. Then, as now, I enjoyed satire. I especially enjoyed the self-directed satire of Bizarro World which gave the creators and fans of Superman the chance to make fun of themselves while staying true to the core story.

Of course, the core story of Superman was parallel universe fiction, as well. For example, in Superman, they have telephone booths.

There is so much about Donald Trump and the current Presidential election we are enduring that makes me think of Bizarro World. That Donald Trump is a role model for entrepreneurship is straight out of Bizarro World. Only in Bizarro World is serial bankruptcy a business model to be admired. Only in Bizarro World is using 3,500 lawsuits and countless threats of more lawsuits something that business owners do. (Supporting tort reform and fighting against nuisance lawsuits is what business owners have done in the real world for as long as I can recall.)

Last night’s second presidential debate was pure Bizarro World. I can’t even begin to list the things said and the strategy used by Trump that surpass explanation. But equally strange were the post-debate talking heads who started scoring the exchange as if there were no context to the debate — as if what was said during the debate actually matters.

The pundits who are still discussing this election as if it’s about what someone says in a debate are living in a parallel universe.

This election has nothing to do with political science. It’s now pure science fiction.

For my Nashville Walking and Biking Friends

Bookmark this on your iPhone so you’ll be a tap away from complaining at all times.

I used to complain about stuff in my head. Then someone on the Nashville Walking & Biking Email Group sent this list out and I tried calling someone up and telling them about the issue. Amazingly, it worked. P.S. Here’s the link to that email group. I’m one of the people who manages it, so contact me if you feel the need to complain about the list. Call these people to complain about everything else.

Report a sidewalk or bike lane maintenance issue

If you encounter a sidewalk or bike lane in need of maintenance, please let Metro Public Works know by calling (615) 862-8750 or filing a report online at https://www.nashville.gov/Public-Works/Forms/Request-Customer-Service.aspx

Report a greenway or trail maintenance issue

Please share greenway maintenance requests with the parks department by calling Metro Parks at (615) 862-8400 or emailing MetroParks@nashville.gov

Report issues with temporarily closed sidewalks and bikeways

Please report any issues with sidewalk and bike lane closures due to construction or special events to the Metro Public Works Permit Office by calling (615) 862-8782 or emailing pwpermits@nashville.gov

Report signs or overgrown vegetation blocking public right of way

Please report any signs or vegetation blocking sidewalks or bike lanes to Metro Public Works know by calling (615) 862-8750 or filing a report online at https://www.nashville.gov/Public-Works/Forms/Request-Customer-Service.aspx

Report an aggressive driver

If you are harassed or endangered by an aggressive driver while walking or biking, please file a report with Metro Nashville Police Department’s Aggressive Driving Unit online at https://www.nashville.gov/Police-Department/Online-Services/Report-Aggressive-Driver.aspx

Report people who park illegally in bike lanes and sidewalks

You can report drivers who are illegally parked on sidewalks and in bike lanes to the Metro Police Department non emergency line at (615) 862-8600 or online at https://www.nashville.gov/Police-Department/Contact-Us.aspx

Request traffic enforcement

If you have concerns about speeding or other traffic violations, you can request an enforcement operation. For more information, visit http://www.nashville.gov/Services/Frequently-Asked-Question-Center/FAQ-Details/ID/198/How-Do-I-Request-Police-Radar-or-Traffic-Enforcement-Near-My-Home

Report Issues with Public Transit

If you have questions or concerns about transit connections, placement of bus stops, or issues around accessibility.
http://www.nashvillemta.org/Nashville-MTA-customer-comments.asp