Thursday, October 30, 2008

Change (is) how the story ends

Right now we're all excited and hopeful that things will go well on Tuesday, and that Barack Obama will be elected president. But before we get too complacent, let's look at what we said in 2004 before the election:
Vinay (via email) said:
It's very 4:56 in the AM, I'm about to leave for my 1st of (right now) 3 shifts for election protection.

I'm wearing a medium-size shirt that's more like a small.

And to top it all off? I'm wide awake.

Have fun 'yall. :-)

In response, I said:

I'm also about to leave for my 16-hour shift of election inspecting, and
I'm listening to R.E.M.'s "I Believe":

"and change is what I believe in ...."

A lot of that sounds awfully familiar (and not just because I was apparently four years ahead of the game). We had spent weeks obsessing over the campaign, reading about it, blogging about it, and working on it. We had one last epic day of the electoral process ahead of us, and although it wasn't a sure thing, we really thought Kerry could win it.

Let's look at how that all turned out. After the election, Eli said (all quotes again via email):

I bet Swift blows up on the launch pad just to make this one of the worst months ever.

Vinay, after reading coverage of the election:

I want to stab myself in the eye. A lot.

Oh! God! My eye hurts!

and Melinda, summing it all up for us:


I know the polls look good right now, but if there's any year in which something could go completely haywire in the next five days, it's this year. Make sure you vote and get out the vote, and try not to relax -- or even take any deep breaths -- until Wednesday. I don't want to spend another election night watching it all slip away. I want happy emails in my inbox this year. I want change, dammit.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Not Our American Dream

Andrew Sullivan linked to a long article from 1985 on a couple building their dream house. Reading about all the space the couple wanted in their house was almost shocking. About a year and a half ago, we downsized from a 3.5-bedroom house in Michigan to a 1.5-bedroom apartment in California. We love our current home, and there are two things we've learned along the way:

  1. The less you have -- and the less space you have -- the less you want. It is so refreshing to not have rooms upon rooms waiting to be filled up with stuff. And because we don't have mud rooms and dining rooms and home offices, we're not tempted to want more specialized rooms.

  2. This only works because we are big fans of using community space -- both inside and outside the home. We have cookouts with friends at parks. We take the dog to the beach. In the evenings, we hang out together in the living room, even if it means one person works while the other watches television. Hosting a wedding in our home is not even on our radar.

I'm not sure what this says about our politics (are we sober fiscal conservatives, via #1? or hippie pinko commies, via #2?) or our marriage. All I know is, we both get a bit perplexed any time people start waxing rhapsodic over large houses. And maybe a bit nervous, because needing more and more usually doesn't end well.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Shining Rays

I don't want to jinx anything (too late!) but the Rays prevailing over the Red Sox has given me hope about Obama's prospects...

Let me explain.

For tracking the polls, the best place by far is, which uses some hardcore statistics to combine polling and demographic data to forecast the election results. The guy who runs the site, Nate Silver, has a day job doing hardcore statistics for Baseball Prospectus. Way back in February, Nate forecast that the Rays would be the most improved team this year. And he was right!

In the ALCS (Nate was not so bold as to predict the Rays would make the post-season, let alone the World Series) the Rays were up 3 games to 1 against the Red Sox. Building a 7-0 lead in the 7th inning, the Rays were roughly where Obama is right now. But it ain't over til it's over. And the Red Sox came back and won the game. And won comfortably in Game 6. It looked like an epic collapse was at hand...but in the end, the Rays prevailed!

Similar to the calculation of safe lead in college basketball, an extremely unlikely series of events has to occur for McCain to prevail now. And the Rays/Sox showed us how unlikely that is.

(Of course, I probably jinxed everything now. But if Nate was right about the Rays...)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Climate of Fake America

Until last December, I had lived my entire life in the Upper Midwest (Michigan and Ohio) and the mid-Atlantic (Pennsylvania). When I was getting ready to move to California, lots of people -- friends, family, and strangers alike -- made all sorts of denigrating comments about California and Californians. I was warned against becoming a crazy driver, becoming a hippie, dying in an earthquake, turning into a self-absorbed asshole in general, you name it.

But once I got here, I saw that Californians couldn't be lovelier. When I say I grew up in a small town in Ohio, they don't say, "Oh god, how did you ever survive?" They say, "Hey, I was in Cleveland recently, and had a good time." When I say that I come from a religious family, and grew up going to church weekly, they don't say, "Ew! How oppressive!"; they talk about their own religious experiences (or lack thereof).

All this "real America" rhetoric from Republicans has rankled me. Growing up, my family was one of the few liberal families in a conservative town, and those "real Americans" would say awful things about us. We ate dinner together every single night, but apparently lacked "family values" because we were Democrats. Now I live in what is unequivocally not real America, and all the fake Americans I know have much more goodwill towards the rest of the country -- not just the parts that look and think like they do.

The culture wars have become one-sided, which bizarrely gives me hope. The McCain campaign has been using them as a last-chance tactic, and it doesn't appear to be working. If Obama wins, they might actually be over.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ohio will always haunt me

Right now, I am so mortified to be from a small town in Northeast Ohio. Strongsville is a mere 12 miles up the road from where I grew up, and I haven't watched the video, because I'm afraid I'll recognize someone.

This is no exaggeration -- I am not surprised at all by what people in the crowd were saying.

I am really curious as to how Medina County will vote in this election. Summit and Cuyahoga* Counties will definitely go for Obama. Wayne and Ashland Counties will definitely go for McCain. But Medina County is on that border, and is growing more and more due to sprawl from Cleveland and Akron. For a while I thought that was enough to tip it to Obama, but now, with that video, and the conversations that my mother tries to avoid yet overhears, it seems that I'd forgotten a lot about my hometown in the past 11 years.

*Okay, Strongsville is actually in Cuyahoga county -- along the southwest edge of the county, and at the edge of the Cleveland suburbs. In general, the suburbs to the south and west of Cleveland are more conservative than the suburbs to the east, which is probably correlated with how white the south/west suburbs are. Anyway, if you take Strongsville, and make it more rural and more conservative, you get Medina County. Whee. (And thus ends this edition of At This Point You Should Just Be Glad Becky Hasn't Started on About School Funding in Ohio.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Game Would Just Be Redundant

Like many people, I've been gleefully looking forward to the VP debate. I was going to make a drinking game of it, but realized it was nigh-on impossible for two reasons:

  1. If you drink every time Sarah Palin says something incoherent, or every time Joe Biden is historically inaccurate, you'll be hammered in fifteen minutes.

  2. You're already going to want to drink every time Sarah Palin says something incoherent, or every time Joe Biden is historically inaccurate.

So raise your glass of Yuengling if Scranton gets a shout-out, but other than that, you have no choice but to make some popcorn and brace yourselves for a bumpy ride.