Friday, April 29, 2016

Love is in the air: House finch update

Big news, fellow bird watchers! I believe the house finches' nest is ready for some tenants!

Here are pictures of the love birds' completed nest, which I took just a few minutes ago. Here's what the nest looks like standing in front of our front door (on a step stool)...

And here is the closeup:

Isn't it beautiful? Those house finches could be professional exterior decorators.

And here's a photo I took of the happy (?) couple, aka Gertie and Atticus Finch, throwing me some shade from the little conifer just outside our front door (while I took the photo from inside the front door).

(I don't get why the house finches, and our other avian visitors, take off as soon as they see me but totally ignore our bird-loving felines.)

Will check the nest for eggs next weekend. Seems the house finches are behind schedule this year. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hillary and Bernie Election 2016: The voters have spoken (again)

Before Super Tuesday IV, or the Acela Primary (as some pundits had been calling it), Hillary Clinton had been leading Bernie Sanders by over 2.5 million votes. Yesterday, Clinton increased her lead to just over 3 million votes, as you can see from my updated 2016 Democratic Primary & Caucus Vote Totals table below. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Of note, Clinton beat Sanders nearly 2 to 1 -- 533,656 vs. 281,700 votes -- in Maryland and by nearly 200,000 votes in Pennsylvania (918,649 vs. 719,911 votes), which was and is considered a must-win state in both the primaries and in the general election.

Connecticut was a bit of a nail biter, with Clinton ultimately beating Sanders by about 17,000 votes (169,763 vs. 152,895 votes). However, Sanders beat Clinton in Rhode Island, by a margin of 14,000, which was less than the margin of the Clinton wins, including Connecticut and Delaware, where she beat Sanders by over 19,000 votes.

Of course, as we all (or most -- or some -- of us) know, it's not ultimately votes that get you to the party convention and win you the nomination but delegates. Though in most states it's votes that get you delegates. And as of 7:30 this morning, Hillary Clinton had 1,640 pledge delegates to Bernie Sanders 1,331 pledged delegates*. Add in super delegates (who, btw, have never decided or compromised an election, voting with the majority of voters) and Hillary's total rises to 2,159 delegates and Bernie's to 1,370 -- with the magic number to win the Democratic nomination being 2,383.

Unless you believe in Bernie Math (see below) and unicorns, it seems pretty clear at this point that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 2016.

To be continued...?

*Depending on which news organization's number you use.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mom cat adopts newborn puppy (The cutest thing you will see all day)

So I just came across this video from the Michigan Humane Society, about a days-old puppy who lost its mom (killed in a car accident) and was "adopted" by a cat who had recently had a litter of kittens and was still nursing.

This may be one of the cutest, sweetest things I have ever seen. And if that video -- and story -- doesn't warm your heart and make you smile, you either hate animals or are a robot.

FYI, the puppy, Bobby, a Chihuahua, is now 5 weeks old and still living with his feline foster family. No word as to whether Bobby is meowing or barking.

You may now return to your Monday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hillary, Bernie + How New York Voted: Election 2016 Democratic Vote Update

So which Democratic candidate did New Yorkers vote for in the 2016 presidential primary? Was it Bernie, the Bro from Brooklyn, who left the City in 1960 to attend the University of Chicago, settled in Vermont in 1968, and went on to serve in the House of Representatives and the Senate representing Vermont (as an Independent, not a Democrat)?

Or was it the carpetbagger, Hillary, who grew up in Illinois, attended Wellesley in the 1960s, and then lived most of the 1970s and 1980s in Arkansas before moving to D.C. in 1993 and to Chappaqua, New York, in 1999 -- going on to represent her adopted state of New York as Senator in the 2000s (and serving as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013)?

Even if you are not a news junkie (as I am), you probably already know that Hillary Clinton won the New York primary election -- and by a significant amount. What is a "significant" amount, you ask? With 98 percent of precincts having reported, Clinton had 1,037,344 votes while Bernie Sanders had 752,739. So Clinton beat Sanders by more than 250,000 votes -- or, put another way, by 16 percent.

Bernie Sanders had a strong showing in upstate New York, especially in rural areas touching or close to his home state of Vermont. (For those of you geographically challenged, Vermont is right next to the Northeast corner of New York State.) However, Hillary Clinton dominated the New York City metro area, i.e., New York City, Long Island, and Westchester -- and won in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, too.

So where do the candidates now stand, in terms of total number of votes (as opposed to delegates)? Here's my latest table, which now includes Wyoming, where approximately 7,000 Democrats caucused earlier this month, and New York, a closed primary state, where nearly 1.8 million Democrats voted.

[Click on the table to enlarge it.]

So, as of today, Wednesday, April 20, more than 10.6 million people have voted for Hillary Clinton and more than 8 million have voted for Bernie Sanders. And Hillary leads Bernie by close to 2.6 million votes.

However, as most people know, it's not total votes that count or win elections, it's delegates. And Clinton currently has 1,446 pledged delegates (based on contests she has won), whereas Sanders has 1,200 pledged delegates (based on contests he has won). And when it comes to super, or unpledged, delegates, Clinton has 502 versus Sanders's 38. The magic number to win the Democratic nomination: 2,383.

While it is not impossible for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for president, it's not going to be easy. And before any of you start squawking about the nominating process, I KNOW. It seems totally unfair, especially to Bernie supporters. But it is what it is -- and the system was set up long before Hillary ever ran for President. And even if you hate the delegate system, Clinton is still leading Sanders by nearly 2.6 million votes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It's not easy being a beauty queen

When I was growing up, if I was complaining about having a bad hair day, or my weight, or zits, my father, may he rest in peace (or be playing scratch golf somewhere in Heaven, or wherever), would always say to me, "It's not easy being a beauty queen."

Dad, you didn't know the half of it. And thank goodness I wasn't (and am still not) a beauty queen.

Most men don't realize all the grueling grooming and primping beauty queen contestants go through. And I'm not even talking about boob jobs, liposuction, or other cosmetic surgery. I'm talking about all the dieting and exercise -- and the tweezing, shaving, waxing, and/or electrolysis they endure, just so they can look good strutting down a runway in high heels and a bikini.

Of course, it's no longer just beauty queens who endure often painful or uncomfortable treatments in order to achieve some level of what modern society deems "beauty," or "beautiful." Business is booming for cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists and waxing and beauty salons. And just try and watch TV without seeing an ad for some female personal grooming product, like this one entitled "Topiary" for Schick's Hydro Silk TrimStyle razor*:

[Memo to the folks at Schick: I don't care how sharp your razor is. No way is it sculpting a heart, or a rectangle or triangle, on my or any other woman's "bikini area." And the rash you would get afterward kind of defeats the purpose.]

Is some personal grooming bad? No. (Which reminds me, I need to get my hair cut. The stuff on top of my head, guys. Geez.) But I worry about the message society is sending to young girls and women about what really matters -- not brains or good deeds but perfect skin and perfect bodies and not having hair someplace other than on their heads.

Maybe instead of buying a Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle we women should purchase a copy of Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever: The Making of a Happy Woman by Judy Sheindlin, aka Judge Judy, a successful, respected woman who has an estimated net worth of $250 million -- a lot more than most beauty queens.

*Okay, you are probably way more likely to see ads for cars and trucks, and beer, and hair restorers than see an ad for the Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle, or Palmer's Cocoa Butter, on ESPN or NBC or CBS Sports, or on Football Sunday. But you never know. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The house finches are back!

For years now, we have had a pair of house finches (or Carpodacus mexicanus*) nesting atop our porch light. I am not sure if these are the same finches or the descendants of our original nesting pair. (All house finches look the same to me.) But just seeing them building their nest each April makes me happy -- and lets me know that spring is here (at least in theory; it's in the low 40s here today and was in the 20s a few days ago).

I have yet to see if there are any eggs in the nest. But I did manage to snap a few photos of Mr. and Mrs. Finch as they have been building their nest. (Though every time I open the front door to snap a photo with my zoom lens, they fly away. So I have to photograph them through the glass.)

Here is the male, who I have nicknamed Atticus (H/T John Barker).

And here are the two love birds together, atop the wires running to/from our house to the street.

And here is Mrs., or Mama, Finch, whom I have yet to name. (Any suggestions?)

I will try, in the next couple of weeks, to get a picture of the nest. Stay tuned!

*Two more illegal immigrants from Mexico! [H/T to my stepfather, who studied house finches for many years, for supplying me with the scientific name.]

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hillary, Bernie & Wisconsin: Vote update

So, as I wrote on Monday, I've been following the primary (and caucus) process, and I was curious to know how many votes -- not delegates -- Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton had actually accrued. So I went online and looked up the official vote totals for each state.

However, I didn't initially realize that the totals for many caucus states, such as Iowa and Maine, were not actual votes but state delegates awarded (until a friend pointed out that 171,109 people voted in the Iowa Democratic caucuses). So, I went back and searched the Internet to find the total number of votes cast in each caucus state and, if I could not find a vote total for each candidate, divvied up the votes according to the percentage each candidate had won. Then I added up the votes, state by state -- and discovered that Hillary Clinton had garnered over 2.4 million more votes than Bernie Sanders -- and blogged (and tweeted) about it.

Then the spouse said to me, "You should make a table!" So I made a table, listing the number of votes cast for Hillary Clinton and the number of votes cast for Bernie Sanders in each state. And I just updated it to include the results from Wisconsin, which is an open primary state, meaning anyone can vote for anyone -- so perhaps not an accurate barometer of how people would vote in the general election (as there was a lot of chatter about Democrats voting for Cruz to make things difficult for Trump).

Regardless of how you feel, or who you plan to vote for, numbers don't lie. And even with Bernie Sanders's win in Wisconsin, by over 130,000 votes, Hillary Clinton still leads Bernie Sanders by 2,270,493 votes (give or take a few, or even a few hundred, votes, due to caucus counting). That's before you factor in super delegates, where Clinton has a substantial lead over Sanders. (Not saying it's fair. Just saying that's what it is.)

Here's the the table I created, so you can see for yourselves the state-by-state totals -- as well as vote totals for American territories and Democrats Abroad [H/T Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post] -- for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in their race to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

I will continue to update the table after each primary. Btw, the next big primary is New York, on April 19th, which is a closed primary (meaning you have to be registered to vote for a specific party, Democrat or Republican, and can only vote in your party's primary).

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hillary + Bernie by the numbers: The facts

As many (if not all) of you regular J-TWO-O readers know, I am fascinated (and appalled) by politics -- and am a stickler for facts. (I majored in Political Science, and Russian, in college, and went on to get a Master's Degree in International Relations. And my first job was as a fact checker at a magazine based in New York City, where I often fact checked Donald Trump.)

I've been pretty quiet about this election because so many others have already voiced my thoughts. And I've been appalled by the uncivil discourse. I've been especially disturbed by some of the rhetoric and vitriol aimed at Hillary Clinton and her supporters by Bernie Sanders and his supporters. I thought that kind of name-calling, bullying, and telling or repeating of lies was limited to the Republican party -- and playgrounds. But I was wrong.

However, I do not want to focus on either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the people or their campaigns or positions, in this post. I want to talk numbers -- and about the nominating process.

I am in agreement with Charles Blow (and many others) who say our nominating process is broken. The whole delegate system is whack -- and superdelegates and caucuses should go. The latter replaced by primaries.

It is crazy that 10,617 people, the total number of people who voted in the Alaska caucuses, should determine who the Democratic nominee for president is. And less than 24,000 people voted in the Idaho Democratic caucuses. That's just slightly more people than live in my little New England town! And what is considered an "insanely high" turnout in Maine? That would be 46,800 people, in a state with over 267,000 registered Democratic voters.

In Washington State, an estimated 230,000 Democrats came out to caucus, which sounds pretty good -- until you consider that there are over 7 million people living in Washington State and nearly 4 million of those had registered to vote as of January 31, 2016. I searched the Internet, and I couldn't find out the number of registered Democrats in Washington State, but I'm guessing it's over 230,000.

[For those interested in party registration by state, check out this table. As you will see, Washington State is not listed.]

As most people following the Democratic campaigns know, Bernie Sanders's "big wins" (or close calls) have come from these caucus states, where voter turnout tends to be low -- and peer pressure is high. Whereas Hillary Clinton has won more primaries, where far more people vote -- and voting is a private matter. (Those are not opinions. They are facts.) But I decided to dig a little deeper and count up not the number of delegates each Democratic presidential candidate has but how many people actually voted for Bernie and Hillary -- and I was pretty surprised by what I found.

As of today, Monday, April 4, 2016, 6,717,872* people have voted for Bernie Sanders -- and 9,136,072* people have voted for Hillary Clinton. Put another way, to date, over 2.4 million more Americans have voted for Hillary Clinton than for Bernie Sanders.

Granted, there are several big Democratic primary contests left -- most notably New York, Pennsylvania, and California (which doesn't hold it's primary until June 7th). And Bernie Sanders could conceivably garner a lot of votes in those races. But I'm guessing (and hey, I could be wrong) that if the pattern holds, Hillary Clinton will continue to rack up a substantial number of votes -- and delegates -- in those states. And, if she does, the Superdelegates will continue to stick with her, and she will be the nominee.

*NOTE 1: Here's another reason to abandon the caucus system: the winning numbers often  don't represent the number of votes won but the number of state delegates won. I neglected to read the fine print when I first calculated the total number of votes/voters -- and have revised my numbers for Iowa, Maine, Nevada, and Washington upward, to reflect the number of voters, not state convention delegates won.

For example, the actual number of Democrats who voted in Iowa was 171,109 [H/T Friend of the Blog Fact Lovin' Liberal], not 1,406, the number I had originally included, which was the total number of state delegate equivalents -- i.e., the numbers all the news outlets gave. Unfortunately, though, I am unable to find precisely how many of those who caucused in Iowa cast their vote for Bernie and how many voted for Hillary (or, more correctly, their delegates). Similarly, the number of Democrates who caucused in Washington State was estimated at 230,000, though, again, I could not find exact breakdowns, so I based the numbers on the percentage of votes each candidate won.

However, even correcting the state totals, Hillary still leads Bernie by more than 2.4 million votes.

NOTE 2: Please go to this post to see revised numbers, post Wisconsin and with American territories and Americans abroad factored in, and a state-by-state table. And check J-TWO-O after each primary for the latest vote counts.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Things that make no sense (or very little)

You ever look at or listen to something or someone and think, 'That makes no sense!'? Well, maybe it's because we're in the midst of another presidential election cycle, but I've been thinking that a lot lately. So I've compiled a list of things that, to me, make no sense, or very little sense (listed in no particular order). Feel free to add your own things via the Comments.

Things that make no sense (or very little)....
  • Sarah Palin
  • Donald Trump
  • The electoral college
  • The Bachelor
  • Daylight Savings Time
  • Why some months have 31 days, others have 30, and February has only 28
  • What constitutes a catch in football
  • Most of football (though I still like watching)
  • What is considered a penalty in hockey (or why you can beat a guy up and it's not a penalty, but raising your hockey stick too high is)
  • What constitutes offsides in soccer
  • Why women volunteer for stuff only to complain how much they hate volunteering. (Do they not understand what "volunteer" means?)
  • People who smoke
  • The stock market
  • The real estate market
  • Why men still get paid so much more than women for doing the same or similar jobs
  • Why cats must rub up against everything, knock sh*t off counters, and sit in front of your computer monitor while you are trying to work or read. (OK, I kind of understand this one, but still.)
  • Why dog owners treat their dogs better than they do their spouse or children (most of the time)
  • Why people keep pythons as pets
  • Why it can be 70 degrees one day and snow the next
  • Why people continue to live in places that are known to repeatedly flood or be subject to tornadoes
  • Why people eat food that they know is bad for them. (OK, I kind of get this one, too, but....)
  • Why it costs so much to attend college
  • Why some people refuse to accept facts
  • Why you can do all the right things and still be wrong