Shared posts

08 Oct 17:08

Senate Control Could Come Down To Whole Foods vs. Cracker Barrel

by David Wasserman

A few weeks ago, the new moderator of “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd, took to his “Nerd Screen” to outline an unconventional way to think about the midterm political landscape. His theory: 2014’s hottest races are boiling down to big Democratic urban areas and inner suburbs with lots of Starbucks coffee shops versus heavily Republican exurban hinterlands and rural areas with lots of Chick-fil-A restaurants.135

But after immersing myself in numbers, maps and, admittedly, a spicy chicken sandwich, I discovered a slight problem: Neither chain’s political geography fits neatly into Todd’s heuristic.

It’s tempting to associate Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A with “family values” country folk. After all, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy ignited a firestorm — and a boycott — in the summer of 2012 with a series of comments opposing gay marriage. But spend a few minutes playing with Chick-fil-A’s restaurant locator and you’ll quickly discover that Chick-fil-A’s footprint is plenty blue: There are 70 locations in California and 65 in Maryland. There’s even a Chick-fil-A in an New York University residence hall, smack dab in the middle of Greenwich Village. This year, the chain is embarking on a major expansion into urban markets.

Likewise, conventional wisdom dictates that Starbucks only caters to latte-loving urban dwellers. After all, the coffee behemoth is pretty much synonymous with its Seattle birthplace and the Left Coast; its CEO, Howard Schultz, endorsed President Obama in his re-election bid in 2012. Yet with more than 11,000 U.S. stores, Starbucks has achieved a degree of ubiquity that permeates some of the reddest parts of the country. There’s even a Starbucks pouring caffeinated beverages in Mormon-dominated Utah County, Utah, where Mitt Romney won 88 percent of the vote in 2012.

When I mapped Chick-fil-A’s 1,845 stores, what I found surprised me: A majority (52 percent) are located in counties President Obama won in 2008 and 49 percent are in counties he carried in 2012. On the flip side, it might surprise Todd’s viewers that 57 percent of the 976 American counties with a Starbucks voted for John McCain in 2008 and 63 percent voted for Romney in 2012.

Maybe some Democrats like pickles on their chicken sandwiches after all. And maybe Frappuccinos are more popular with Republicans than we realize.

But in using restaurants as proxies for the American electorate, Todd was on to something. Three years before he unveiled his Nerd Screen, I offered up a similar juxtaposition, but with Whole Foods grocery stores and Cracker Barrel restaurants instead of Starbuckses and Chick-Fil-As. In an analysis for The Washington Post, I argued that the 2012 election amounted to a contest between well-educated, Democratic-trending Whole Foods markets and down-home, Republican-trending Cracker Barrel outposts.

Austin-based Whole Foods Market and Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store share a few similarities. Both are adept at marketing a lifestyle, with an emphasis on “local” and “close to home.” They have similar reaches: Cracker Barrel counts restaurants in 42 states, while Whole Foods just hit its 43rd state when its Nashua, New Hampshire, market opened in August. Yet electorally, their orbits couldn’t be more divergent: In 2012, Obama won 77 percent of all counties with a Whole Foods and just 29 percent of all counties with a Cracker Barrel.


What’s more, these alternate universes of culture and cuisine haven’t simply been markers of red and blue; they have been uncanny indicators of where the parties have gained and lost voters. In 1992, Bill Clinton won 61 percent of counties that now have a Whole Foods and 40 percent of counties that now have a Cracker Barrel — a 21 percent gap. As Democrats have gone out of style in Cracker Barrel country and become more fashionable in Whole Foods enclaves, that culture gap — let’s call it the “Organic vs. Nostalgic Divide” — has more than doubled to 48 percent.


This divide has also proven a harbinger in midterm cycles. In 2010, when Republicans regained control of the House, 82 percent of the 66 districts they flipped from Democratic control contained a Cracker Barrel; just 20 percent contained a Whole Foods.

The good news for Republicans in 2014 is that most of the top 12 competitive Senate races are playing out in Cracker Barrel country more than in Whole Foods country. In fact, just three of the 12 Senate races with less than a 95 percent certainty in the latest FiveThirtyEight Senate forecast are in states where more voters live in Whole Foods counties than Cracker Barrel counties.


Nationally, 44.8 percent of voters live in counties with a Cracker Barrel and 44.5 percent live in counties with a Whole Foods, roughly even. But in the average Senate battleground state (excluding Alaska, where neither chain has a location), 41.0 percent of voters live in counties with a Cracker Barrel and just 32.5 percent live in counties with a Whole Foods. That’s another indication that this year’s Senate races aren’t just playing out on Republican turf, they’re playing out on turf that’s trending towards Republicans over the long term.

Granted, frequenting the Whole Foods hot bar doesn’t make you a liberal Democrat and pulling over to eat at Cracker Barrel on your next road trip doesn’t mean you’re a raging Republican. We all either know people — or are people — who defy these stereotypes. And counting up the number of each chain’s locations won’t tell you who will win the tight Senate contests in Colorado, Iowa or North Carolina. That’s best left up to polls, of course.

Yet today’s increasingly polarized politics operate on two cultural axes: If you live in a neighborhood where Whole Foods’ brand of fresh, natural and organic has taken off in the last several decades, you likely live in a place where Democrats are on the rise. On the other hand, if you live in a community where Cracker Barrel’s brand of nostalgia and traditional American values has maintained its appeal, you likely live in a place that has gotten friendlier to Republicans.

So the next time you’re tempted to simplify this midterm — or any election — as a grudge match between espresso roast and waffle fries, remember that it may be more like a struggle between organic goji and acai juice blend and homemade chicken n’ dumplings.

21 Mar 16:18

When Spring Training Matters

by Neil Paine

Going into the 2013 baseball season, you would have been forgiven for thinking Marlon Byrd’s days as a relevant player were behind him. He was 35 years old, an age at which most players’ skills have deteriorated significantly. He was coming off a miserable year, one in which he hit .210/.243/.245, was discarded by two teams (the Cubs and the Red Sox, who combined to go 130-194 on the season) and received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for the banned substance tamoxifen.100 Although he signed a minor-league deal with the Mets in February, few thought Byrd would even be serviceable in the upcoming season.

Then Byrd went on a tear in spring training. He hit .357/.393/.571 in exhibition games, was subsequently named the New York Mets’ opening-day right fielder and went on to put up the best year of his career — in New York for five months of the season and later, after a trade, as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first playoff team since 1992.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to connect the dots and declare that Byrd’s hot spring set the tone for his renaissance season. But is that what happened? Does an unusually strong March have any predictive power over a player’s performance once the games count?

The answer is … well, sort of. To find out what that means for this year’s crop of spring standouts, I looked into all the data since 2006, the earliest season for which lists spring-training statistics. Using wOBA, an advanced metric to measure a batter’s offensive performance,101 I ran a weighted correlation102 between performance in the spring and during the regular season. It revealed a weak relationship between the two variables, at best.103

You can see that weak relationship below. Each dot on the graph represents a player’s season plotted according to his spring training wOBA and his corresponding regular season wOBA.


We also have access to information beyond a player’s spring-training statistics. In the case of a veteran player like Byrd, we know his track record from recent seasons and can use that data to inform expectations for the forthcoming season.

But there’s a more sophisticated way to see if spring training matters come the regular season: Use a linear regression104 to determine the predictive significance of spring training after controlling for expected performance. And as luck would have it, establishing a baseline of expected performance is where statistical forecasting systems105 can come in very handy.

One of those systems was developed by sabermetrician Tom Tango, who releases a set of projections known as the Marcels (so named for the pet monkey from the show “Friends”) before each season. These projections are “so basic that a monkey could compute them,” but they perform no worse than far more sophisticated projection systems — a testament to the fundamental power of a weighted average of recent seasons and a simple aging adjustment. The sabermetricians (and brothers) Jeff and Darrell Zimmerman took the time to calculate historical Marcel projections for players going back to 1901, which we can use to build our regression.

We then find that spring productivity is statistically significant when predicting actual performance in the upcoming season, even after controlling for a player’s Marcel projection. However, while significant, the effect is extremely small: To raise his expected regular-season wOBA by just a single point, a typical player would need to hit for a wOBA roughly 17 points higher than expected during the spring.

In other words, spring numbers can and should affect our predictions for a player’s regular-season production, but only slightly, and only after a particularly strong or weak performance.

Among players likely to get playing time (a minimum of 400 plate appearances, according to Fangraphs’ depth charts), we should keep an eye on the likes of the Tigers’ prospect Nick Castellanos, the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong, the Royals’ Mike Moustakas and the Mariners’ Brad Miller, all of whom are tearing up opposing pitching during the spring thus far. And the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, last year’s National League MVP, could be even better than expected this year given his spring.

Player Team Proj.
Nick Castellanos DET .337 .484 .350 +.013
Kolten Wong STL .313 .514 .326 +.013
Mike Moustakas KC .321 .615 .331 +.010
Brad Miller SEA .342 .566 .352 +.010
A.J. Pollock ARI .337 .503 .344 +.007
Dustin Ackley SEA .316 .496 .323 +.007
Austin Jackson DET .354 .544 .360 +.006
Skip Schumaker CIN .313 .471 .319 +.006
Brandon Moss OAK .374 .571 .380 +.006
Andrew McCutchen PIT .402 .666 .407 +.005

(Revised wOBA is what we would expect for the players’ 2014 wOBA after we factor in their spring performances.)

At the other end of the spectrum, the projected everyday players whose poor showings in spring training are most likely to cost them during the regular season are 2013 rookie sensation Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers, the Mariners’ Corey Hart, and the Cubs’ Ryan Sweeney and Junior Lake.

Player Team Proj.
Yasiel Puig LAD .397 .147 .387 -.011
Corey Hart SEA .367 .209 .358 -.009
Ryan Sweeney CHC .325 .098 .317 -.008
Junior Lake CHC .351 .166 .344 -.007
Yoenis Cespedes OAK .352 .145 .345 -.007
Travis d’Arnaud NYM .318 .206 .312 -.006
Jose Tabata PIT .340 .105 .334 -.006
Ruben Tejada NYM .315 .142 .309 -.005
Abraham Almonte SEA .335 .267 .330 -.005
Jose Reyes TOR .364 .228 .359 -.005

There’s no guarantee any single one of these guys will use the spring to propel himself to a great regular season — or, conversely, that a rough spring portends certain doom — but the data says these players are more likely to diverge from their projections now than they were just a month ago.

05 Mar 18:54

Land Mammals

Bacteria still outweigh us thousands to one--and that's not even counting the several pounds of them in your body.
10 Dec 19:23

To his friend...


17 Nov 22:25

Mount Jefferson

Mount Jefferson
Towering over the surrounding mountains, Oregon’s second-tallest peak poses a challenge for climbers and satellites.

11 Nov 18:00


by Alison Bechdel

bechdel test logo

There has been some hubbub this week about The Bechdel Test because a chain of movie theaters in Sweden just launched a rating system based on it.

I was approached a while ago by a group of four Swedish art house cinemas who wanted to call attention to gender inequality in film by “Bechdel-testing” their repertoire. They would create a seal of approval for movies that pass the three simple criteria of the test: at least two (named) women characters, who talk to each other, about something besides a man.

I said sure, that sounds awesome, go for it.

So they did, and the Guardian ran an article about it on Wednesday. Which prompted a flurry of emails from radio programs who wanted to talk to me. I spoke to Marco Werman at PRI’s The World, and got to join in his conversation with Ellen Tejle, the director of the participating cinema in Stockholm. I also did a background interview with the NPR program Here and Now.

Yesterday I got a lot of other requests from other media outlets but I’m ignoring them. I feel bad about this. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong about not seizing every possible chance for publicity—if not for myself, then at least for the brave Swedish cinema consortium, not to mention the cause of women everywhere.

But inevitably in these interviews I say simplistic things, or find myself defending absurd accusations—like that the formal application of the Test by a movie theater is somehow censorious.

I have always felt ambivalent about how the Test got attached to my name and went viral. (This ancient comic strip I did in 1985 received a second life on the internet when film students started talking about it in the 2000′s.) But in recent years I’ve been trying to embrace the phenomenon. After all, the Test is about something I have dedicated my career to: the representation of women who are subjects and not objects. And I’m glad mainstream culture is starting to catch up to where lesbian-feminism was 30 years ago. But I just can’t seem to rise to the occasion of talking about this fundamental principle over and over again, as if it’s somehow new, or open to debate. Fortunately, a younger generation of women is taking up the tiresome chore. Anita Sarkeesian, in her Feminist Frequencies videos, is a most eloquent spokesperson.

I speak a lot at colleges, and students always ask me about the Test. (Many young people only know my name because of the Test—they don’t know about my comic strip or books.) (I’m not complaining! I’m happy they know my name at all!) But at one school I visited recently, someone pointed out that the Test is really just a boiled down version of Chapter 5 of A Room of One’s Own, the “Chloe liked Olivia” chapter.

I was so relieved to have someone make that connection. I am pretty certain that my friend Liz Wallace, from whom I stole the idea in 1985, stole it herself from Virginia Woolf. Who wrote about it in 1926.

Okay? So in Chapter 5 of A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf is describing a book she has just taken off the shelf. (It’s a fictitious book, Life’s Adventure, by a fictitious woman novelist.) Woolf pretends to be scandalized by the words, “Chloe liked Olivia…”

“Chloe liked Olivia,” I read. And then it struck me how immense a change was there. Chloe liked Olivia perhaps for the first time in literature. Cleopatra did not like Octavia. And how completely Antony and Cleopatra would have been altered had she done so! As it is, I thought, letting my mind, I am afraid, wander a little from Life’s Adventure, the whole thing is simplified, conventionalized, if one dared say it, absurdly. Cleopatra’s only feeling about Octavia is one of jealousy. Is she taller than I am? How does she do her hair? The play, perhaps, required no more. But how interesting it would have been if the relationship between the two women had been more complicated. All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. So much has been left out, unattempted. And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. There is an attempt at it in Diana of the Crossways. They are confidantes, of course, in Racine and the Greek tragedies. They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men…

Also, I continued, looking down at the page again, it is becoming evident that women, like men, have other interests besides the perennial interests of domesticity. “Chloe liked Olivia. They shared a laboratory together…” I read on and discovered that these two young women were engaged in mincing liver, which is, it seems, a cure for pernicious anaemia: although one of them was married and had—I think I am right in stating—two small children. Now all that, of course, has had to be left out, and thus the splendid portrait of the fictitious woman is much too simple and much too monotonous. Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them: how literature would suffer!”

If you made it all the way through this 5,276 character blog post, you get an A!

23 Aug 18:03


And thus was smallpox introduced into the previously Undying Lands.
21 Aug 18:04

The Cruelest Sport

by editors

“Professional boxing is the only major American sport whose primary, and often murderous, energies are not coyly deflected by such artifacts as balls and pucks.”

[Full Story]
21 Aug 17:55

Want versus need | David Airey, graphic designer

by hypetype
19 Aug 17:30

Graphic-ExchanGE - a selection of graphic projects

by johnnymcculloch
19 Aug 17:28

beautiful delicate people

by thinkingloudly
19 Aug 17:28


by finalone
06 Aug 17:23

“Got to lose control before you take control.” Patti Smith.

“Got to lose control before you take control.”

Patti Smith.

06 Aug 17:21

Mask of the Dark Druid

by Propnomicon
SylvanSmith brings us a bit of that ol' time religion with this Mask of the Dark Druid.

11 Jul 17:59

The Elder Book

by Propnomicon
Jussi Leinonen brings us the Elder Book, a nicely done leather tome.

01 Jul 07:36

tumblr_ljfkmzp7iP1qf35ako1_500.jpg (500×500)

by likedominos
19 Jun 20:36

Milky Way Over Crater Lake with Airglow

Milky Way Over Crater Lake with Airglow
19 Jun 17:58


by wiretap
19 Jun 17:42

Nekojutsu by xiaobaosg on Etsy

by xiaobaosg
19 Jun 17:12

nikicio ›

by katejinx
18 Jun 17:33


by turbo2000
17 Jun 17:37


by monsieurm
14 Jun 17:35

Ice Sheets

Data adapted from 'The Laurentide and Innuitian ice sheets during the Last Glacial Maximum' by A.S. Dyke et. al., which was way better than the sequels 'The Laurentide and Innuitian ice sheets during the Last Glacial Maximum: The Meltdown' and 'The Laurentide and Innuitian ice sheets during the Last Glacial Maximum: Continental Drift'.
14 Jun 17:33

Collected Talismans of the Cthulhu Cult

by Propnomicon
Joe Broers brings us this incredible display of talismans associated with the Cthulhu cult. He's been sculpting variants and running off a few copies every time he has resin left over from a pour. The result is this fantastic museum-style display.

13 Jun 17:25

Game Of Thrones Tribute on Behance

by xiaobaosg
13 Jun 17:18

50 Unexplainable Black & White Photos: Pics, Videos, Links, News

by suu
12 Jun 18:50

Nickel Cobalt

by turn
11 Jun 17:09

supersonic electronic / art - Phil Noto. Opening tonight (Thursday October 18th)...

by zach
07 Jun 17:19


Good thing we're too smart to spend all day being uselessly frustrated with ourselves. I mean, that'd be a hell of a waste, right?
03 Jun 18:12

Sci-Fi-O-Rama » Roger Dean – As chosen by those he has inspired

by elgazzo