Afterglow

1. Okay, enough with all the “Nate Silver is God” stuff for his work on the Five Thirty Eight Blog. Yes, he aggregated a lot of other people’s polls and, yes, that allowed him to make predictions on how the election would turn out. But you know what? That’s not really very hard. The only reason that we perceived this as being anything close to a nail-biting election was because of the media’s obsession with reporting the popular vote, which means nothing in how our Presidents are elected. Analysis of the electoral vote over the past six months never showed this as much of a competitive race at all, but that’s boring, and doesn’t sell newspapers or website advertisements. I also want to note that while Silver gets a lot of attention because his blog is hosted by the New York Times and because of his earlier successes in sabermetrics, he was not the first, nor is he the best at this game: I was reading Andrew S. Tanenbaum‘s Electoral-Vote.com website daily through the 2004 election, while Silver didn’t enter the game until 2008 (when I also read Electoral Vote instead). This year, I continued to read Tanenbaum daily, as I found he offered a better mix of accessible geekery and commentary than Silver did, with equally accurate results. So give credit where credit is due, media, and offer a little love to Andy Tanenbaum. And also start reporting things that actually matter when it comes to electing our Presidents instead of reporting on things that sell advertising time and space, and then we might not need sites like these to cut through your nonsensical gibberish and hysteria.

2. While I’m bashing the media, I’ve written before about how much I can’t stand The Weather Channel and its proclivity for creating weather-based pornography to feed people’s hysteria about what might be blowing their way. This is not to dismiss or trivialize in any way the epic impacts that weather can have on people (witness what’s happening in New York and New Jersey right now), but when every storm is touted by the Weather Channel for maximum attention, the “boy who cries wolf” syndrome sets in, and people don’t take the really meaningful warnings as importantly as they should. Also, broadcasting footage of Jim Cantore bravely getting tossed about high winds and crashing surf is likely to make other people think they can do it, too, rather than making them feel like they need to flee. With that as preamble, I find Weather Channel’s new policy of naming winter storms to utterly, ludicrously absurd. We are sitting here in Iowa today awaiting the severe weather that’s going to hit when Winter Storm Brutus hits a pocket of unseasonably warm and wet weather blowing up from the gulf. In other words, we’re going to have some thunderstorms tonight. And in the mountains, it is going to snow a lot in November. So, uh, pretty much what one expects from the weather when one chooses to live in Wyoming or Iowa or wherever. How about we name the next four winter storms “Common,” “Duh,” “Expected” and “Frequent” accordingly.

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