Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Politics: Predictions for AZ and MI

Have usually been wrong but we keep on guessing!

Since Arizona is winner take all and Romney had a lead there, the other candidates didn't spend much effort to campaign there.

So let's say, Romney wins that one by 10%.

Michigan has most of its delegates allocated at the Congressional District level so it is a hotly contested race between Romney and Santorum.

So let's forecast a Romney win by 1% in state-wide total votes but with the delegate allocation essentially tied.

Figure Paul and Gingrich to trail by pretty wide margins behind the two front-runners.


UPDATE:







Looking ahead to November, it is always hard to defeat a sitting President.

Ford lost in 1976 narrowly despite having the shadow of RN's resignation hanging over him.

Carter was actually quite competitive in 1980 until the very end when finally all the accumulated problems were too much for the electorate to bear.

Bush Senior lost in 1988 with a weak economy, an electorate turning toward problems at home, the Perot phenomena and the sense the President had lost touch with the people.

At the moment, President Obama does not have any scandal hanging over his presidency though the "Fast and Furious" investigation remains ongoing.

The economy that sank Carter and Bush 41 remains shaky for Team Obama but at the moment, they probably still have just enough support to squeak by.  However, between now and November, if gas prices continue to rise and remain very high, that will be a problem for the White House, fair or  not.  Likewise, if the employment figures move in the wrong direction, confidence in the Administration could erode.  And of course, if the economy recovers, their fortunes rise with good economic stats.

Finally, the Obama team has to be weary of being seen as out of touch with the people.

The Keystone Pipeline decision seemed very much for political expediency to curry favor with one group of supporters and pushing the decision past election day where they will probably approve the pipeline to please the other group of supporters.

The insurance regulations being forced upon Catholic/religious institutions reflects a certain disregard for certain segments of the public.  The media frames the issue as health care and contraceptives.  However, if the public begins to see more clearly the religious freedom aspect and the forcing of religious entities to support abortion inducing drugs the Administration will be seen as out of touch.  I find it very troubling that the media focuses on the contraception part and IGNORES the abortion inducing drug part of the regulation.

Finally, though the US financial problems are not of the scale of Greece, the direction of the US debt situation is headed toward Greece-like stats.  Yet, the Administration seems unable to face the reality that something needs to be done about the big drivers of the debt:  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Instead, they rather score political points then deal with the problem.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Faith: Ash Wednesday Poetry Reflection

Fear envelopes me like drowning waters
Engulfing me in the deepest darkness.
Anger and anxiety, mocking helplessness.
Rest eludes and hope silently falters.

Love came quietly that the shepherds saw.
Ordinary face, gentle hands, and worn feet
Violently seized, my pain at the tree meet
Embodying my sin, sorrow, every flaw.

Love overcame, the fire and wind is here
Overflowing with truth, cascading grace
Visiting me daily, brushing my face
Embracing me in love, erasing fear.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Faith: Book of Common Prayer

One of the great contributions to English language, culture and spirituality is the Book of Common Prayer (BCP).

For example, the words of a presiding minister at a wedding often tracks word-for-word from the portions of the BCP pertaining to the liturgy celebrating marriage.

I've very much enjoyed reading the Psalms in my copy of the BCP.

I noticed that in some ways the words are updated.  For example, using "happy" instead of "blessed" and replacing the "thou" and "thee" language of the old English.  But nonetheless, the rhythm can cadence of the Psalms is very moving.

I started to search online to see if I could find out what translation is used in the BCP Psalter.  After much digging around and comparing well known translations like NIV, NLT and NRSV and finding these aren't the sources, I went to the library.  The NEB and REB are English Bibles prepared by distinctly British scholarship without much online presence.  Alas, taking a look at those didn't reveal a match either.

Well, the internet has the answer if you look hard enough.

Turns out the Psalter in the BCP was specifically prepared for the BCP.

The story is as follows according to Oremus.org:

In January 1999 a new draft rendering of the Psalter was published as The Psalter 1998: a draft text for Common Worship. This version is available as part of the Oremus Bible Browser. A further revision was produced in 1999, and the General Synod agreed that it should be published as the Psalter in Common Worship.

The authorized form of this service is available at the Common Worship web site
 
The psalter is a continuation of work begun in 1997 and published in the report, GS Misc 504, A New Psalter for Liturgical Use in the Church of England. This contained a selection of psalms from a proposed version of the psalter. This new version, principally the work of the Bishop of Salisbury, Chairman of the Commission, is a revision of that used in Celebrating Common Prayer. The revision is intended to produce a version with a greater resonance with the psalms as they have been prayed, including the Coverdale version in the Book of Common Prayer as well as a high degree of fidelity to the Hebrew original.

And so here below is one of my favorite Psalms in this version of the Psalter.

Psalm 42
1 As the deer longs for the water-brooks,*
so longs my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God;*
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,*
while all day long they say to me,
   ‘Where now is your God?’
4 I pour out my soul when I think on these things:*
how I went with the multitude
   and led them into the house of God,
5 With the voice of praise and thanksgiving,*
among those who keep holy-day.
6 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?*
and why are you so disquieted within me?
7 Put your trust in God;*
for I will yet give thanks to him,
   who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
8 My soul is heavy within me;*
therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan,
   and from the peak of Mizar among the heights of Hermon.
9 One deep calls to another in the noise of your cataracts;*
all your rapids and floods have gone over me.
10 The Lord grants his loving-kindness in the daytime;*
in the night season his song is with me,
   a prayer to the God of my life.
11 I will say to the God of my strength,
   ‘Why have you forgotten me?*
and why do I go so heavily
   while the enemy oppresses me?’
12 While my bones are being broken,*
my enemies mock me to my face;
13 All day long they mock me*
say to me, ‘Where now is your God?’
14 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?*
and why are you so disquieted within me?
15 Put your trust in God;*
for I will yet give thanks to him,
  who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Non-profit of the month: February 2012 - DonorsChoose.org

In the years I've been posting non-profit of the month, there have been groups that have appeared multiple times.  However, this will be the first time an organization will have a back-to-back appearance.

Think of the schools you have attended:  for me, it was Micheltorena Street Elementary, Thomas Starr King Junior High and John Marshall High School.  

See if the schools you went to have projects.  Or think of the schools your kids, nephews and nieces go to.  Check if their schools have projects.

Hope you will give to support our students in our schools!

Help public schools in need! - Go - DonorsChoose.org

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Politics: Santorum's turn to be the anti-Romney?

If the PPP polls in Colorado and Minnesota are to be believed... it might be Santorum's turn to be the option to Romney!

The poll in Colorado dated 2/4, has Santorum in second place with 26% surpassing Gingrich.

And most stunning, Santorum is ahead of Romney in Minnesota by 2% in the 2/4 PPP poll.

There is also a non-binding primary in Missouri on Tuesday that Santorum is placing emphasis on.

Anyway, will see if RCP posts any new polls tomorrow before the voting on Tuesday.

UPDATE:  Nope.  No new polling data at RCP.  The contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri all appear to be non-binding so I suppose that is part of the reason polling has been minimal.  Nonetheless, there will be news coverage.  My wild guess:  win - lose - draw for Romney and Santorum. Romney takes Colorado, Santorum takes Missouri and a very close contest in Minnesota between the two.  Doubts about Romney are strong within the GOP but Bachman, Perry, Cain and Gingrich have risen and fallen as alternatives.  Santorum has his issues as well but probably not as serious as the other not-Romney's. 

UPDATE:  Wow, Santorum might sweep all three!  He was declared the winner of Missouri and Minnesota and he is currently leading in Colorado with about 1/2 the votes counted (as of 9:11 PST).  Don't know if any pundit was calling for a hat trick tonight?!

UPDATE:  Romney has edged out to small lead in Colorado.  We shall see who winds up with the win after the votes are counted.

UPDATE:  Its a sweep.  Just as South Carolina threw the race in doubt after Romney took NH, this triple play does so again after Romney's strong Florida and Nevada victories.

Life: Probiotics and my digestive system

Okay, this post might cross into that Too Much Information category but I'll go ahead anyway!

Like many people, I have somewhat common and frequent digestive system discomforts.  As such, the probiotics industry is growing by providing various tablets, liquids and foods with probiotic additives. 

I have attempted a simple semi-scientific test.  For 28 consecutive days, I had one serving at breakfast of probiotic yogurt or kefir from Green Valley Organics.  I kept a log of my digestive discomforts.  I would note a score of "1" for any symptoms.  If they are more notable, I would log a "3" for that day.  I also kept a log of 28 consecutive days when I did not take any probiotic product for breakfast.

With the yogurt and kefir, I logged a score of 22 compared to 24 without.  Not much of a difference so far. One can imagine many other factors impact digestive discomforts.  Obvious is ordinary ups and downs of life stress.  Another is the occasional meal this might have been a little too exotic.  But hopefully, over a 28 day survey period all those even out.

Anyway, I am starting another 28-day cycle with the product and will keep the log again and see how the numbers stand.

As for the yogurt and kefir itself, I do enjoy them and if they help the tummy feel better that would be a bonus.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Politics: Nevada and Maine

The Nevada caucus is on Saturday.  The Maine caucus runs for a week starting on Saturday.

Given the large Mormon population of Nevada and Maine being a New England state, Romney is expected to do well.

Thus, these two events will only be news if:
(1) Romney does NOT dominate them
(2) Gingrich support begins to shift over to Santorum
(3) Both Gingrich and Santorum support drop as the electorate gives up on "anti-Romney."

I suspect Nevada won't be making much news this weekend.  Of course, I've been totally wrong in 2 of the last four of these forecasts!

UPDATE:  Indeed, no surprises here.


Science: Looking at some data regarding global warming

According to this article, one of the methods of assessing global temperatures is by satellite detection of O2 vibrations.

The web site that archives the readings is located at the University of Alabama in Huntsville Earth System Science Center.

To see a graph of the data they have been collecting.  Or click on the image below.


The data has only been collected since 1978.  In the grand scheme of the age of the earth, this is almost nothing.  Since industrialization (around 1800), this represents about 16%

There other data regarding the question of global warming is greenhouse gases of which CO2 gets the most attention.

There are the measurements of greenhouse gases at various sites compiled at Cape Grim in Australia since 1976.



Obviously, these two bits of data aren't the only things to consider in the question of global warming.

One can say that CO2 levels are rising.

One can say the last decade has seen above average temperatures as measured by O2 vibrations though the actual rise is somewhat modest.

Additionally, the fact that the prior decade was below average suggests CO2 levels and temperatures at least in this time scale do not directly correlate.

One might say CO2 levels help drive temps up but other forces might drive them down and in the past decade the up side has been stronger.

Looking at the basis of the temperature graph more carefully, the y-axis is based on the differential relative to the average temperatures from 1979-2011 so what is informative is the slope of the line since the beginning of the data collection (see the Dec2011GTR pdf file at UAH archive).  If I'm using my Excel program correctly (forecast function) on the annual numbers from the Dec2011GTR.pdf file), one can obtain a line through the dots with a slope of 0.014C/year.  Thus, if the rate of change remains constant, 100 years from now, there should be a 1.4C rise in average surface temperatures relative to the average over 1979-2011.

I suspect the one key to understanding the issue is to understand the field of paleoclimatology - studying what temperatures were like on earth in historic time scales - and thus relying on temperture and CO2 readings established by other methods than what we have seen in the graphs above.  And the other key is the modeling to project into the future what the temperatures might be.