Sunday, November 30, 2008


Rocky Top is little different from filtered noise?

After a detailed study, I have revealed what many have suspected for years - that Rocky Top is little different from noise. See the figure below for the damning proof.

Background: I needed to create a randomly generated "audio" source for a project. Spectrally, audio can be loosely approximated as filtered white noise (well actually, the PSD of just about any signal can be be approximated as filtered white noise, though the filter complexity changes).

As I was putting together this routine during the UT - UK game last night, I decided to use a wav of rockytop to verify my filter design (a first order IIR with the output resampled from 8 kHz to 30 kHz). And then I was struck by how else the graph could be taken and decided to poke a little fun at myself.


Saturday, November 22, 2008


Tech still controls its own destiny?!?

With the Miami loss causing another bunching atop the Coastal (read as everyone but Duke is tied), I decided to check on the tiebreaker.

Excerpting the relevant parts:

Two-Team Tie

1. Head-to-head competition between the two tied teams
2. Records of the tied teams within the division.

Three (or More) Team Tie
(Once tie has been reduced to two teams, the two-team tiebreaker format is
1. Combined head-to-head record among the tied teams
2. Records of the tied teams within the division.

Here's the current ACC records of the 5 (!?) currently tied teams:

Georgia Tech 5-3
Miami 4-3
North Carolina 3-3
Virginia Tech 3-3
Virginia 3-3
Georgia Tech is already done with ACC play, so they're assured a least a tie for first. However, they lost to VT head to head, so in a 2-team tie, VT wins.

Now here's the records within the division

Virginia Tech 3-1 (L=Miami)
Miami 3-2 (L = UNC, GT)
North Carolina 3-2 (L = VT, UVA)
Virginia 3-2 (L=Duke, Miami)
Georgia Tech 3-3 (L = VT, UVA, UNC)

So currently, if VT wins out (beating Duke and UVA for 5-1 in division), VT will have the best in-division record and will win the 2nd multi-team tie-breaker outright and holds the head-to-head if only GT and VT end up with 2 losses. But if VT loses, it's all over as GT is already done.

And if VT wins out, they could play MD, FSU, BC, or WF depending on how their last two games play out.

Parity / Mediocrity - it's FANtastic.

UVA and UNC just lost. So it's now a 3-way circle of death between Miami, GT, and VT.


Friday, November 21, 2008


The Bismarck-Palin Connection (Updated)

In the 19th century, Bismarck famously quipped: "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

For the 21st century, I think Palin would revise this to: "Laws are like Thanksgiving turkey, it is better not to televise them being made. And it's even better to not televise a discussion of law making while also 'making' a turkey."

See here for context.

In related news:


My God! Have the politicians no shame? First Palin gives an interview while another man drains the blood from turkeys and now it turns out that Obama, blessed be his name, gave an interview in which he tore the flesh off the bone of another bird. With his own teeth, no less!

See here for the damning evidence.

While I'm thinking about it, does anyone else have a craving for turkey and chicken wings, or is it just me?

Labels: , ,


Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Obama wins

With Ohio called, it looks like my basic model was right (e.g., VA is still not called), but my model still only gave McCain a 30% chance of a win.

That's all moot to the bet though (which is why I got 4-1 odds), so I'll be paying off Thason next time I'm in Blacksburg. [Do you want cash or a nice dinner?]

In related news, Dave called me up and said he wants a shotgun for Christmas.

Noted in the comments but promoted up, as more results have come in my "basic model" looks less and less right. Outright wrong really. In fact the based on this RCP map, it looks like the aggregated poll model was right.


What got me really interested in following election returns

Now this is election coverage!

Vote Silly Party!

Labels: , ,


The Election Returns Drinking Game!

This is an incomplete framework based on input I got from students of mine. Not all of the ideas are original, and I welcome your contributions

Central Rules:

When a state is declared for your Presidential candidate: Drink!

When a state flips from its result in 2004: Everyone drinks! Pursuant to the previous rule, when a state flips to your candidate, you drink twice! (Sorry, McCain voters...)

If you're looking for volume, extend these rules to House and Senate returns, gubernatorial returns, town council and dog-catcher returns, and anything else that'll get you drunk. If that's what you want, I suggest you try Samuel Jackson beer. It'll get you drunk!

Other Suggested Rules:

Make a list of election coverage catchphrases and have everyone pick one at the start of your election returns party.

Whenever a pundit says your phrase: Drink!

Whenever a pundit of a political persuasion to yours says your phrase: Drink twice! (Try CNN for this. They'll have 85 million people doing their election coverage.)

I guess you could have everyone pick a commentator.

When you see your commentator on the television: Drink!

Know when to say when, people. Keep those ideas coming!

Labels: ,


Voting Report - Christiansburg

I've just returned home from voting. I arrived at my polling place (the Christiansburg Recreation Center) at about 6:05, and I stood in line for an hour. I estimate that there were about 200 people in line in front of me when I arrived. The end of the line was essentially in the same place for the entire time that I was there.

The weather was nice enough, so the people in line were polite and in pretty good spirits. I spent quite a bit of time talking with the people in line around me. While I stood in line, I also signed a petition to move the Christiansburg town elections from May to November.

The line moved reasonably, so the fact that there were only five machines on the premises surprised me vaguely.

I will be curious to see how the local turnout goes today. When I woke up this morning, I considered waiting until the afternoon, but I think I may have made the right decision.

Get out and vote!

Labels: ,


Monday, November 03, 2008


Update from the Other Side

I should make it known that I don't plan to offer odds to anyone else (scroll down to the update) on the outcome of tomorrow's little event - not unless they're really, really good wagers. I don't know if the other party still remembers - considering that he went into the hospital recently for appendix surgery - but I also have a even-odds lunch bet on the outcome of the election.

I felt the need to post this since I just finished what used to be the daily task of updating the spreadsheet containing my retirement holdings. I can almost say without a doubt that this will be the best return on investment that I get for anything this year. (knock on wood...)


On Polling

Wow, I sparked a lot of comments in response to me saying that I don't trust most of the polls and that I think McCain has about a 30% chance to win. (For fun, I've taken to calling him "The Arizona DJ, Emcee Cain". I encourage others to do as well).

Since a quick comment did an apparently piss-poor job of it, here's a post so I can use some formatting to help me better convey my thoughts.

Main points:

1) I do not trust radically new and untested weighting methodologies. If you like, view this as part and parcel of having a fundamentally conservative outlook.

2) I do not believe the youth vote will turn out in greater proportion than *ever* before. A massive youth vote has been asserted for every election I have experienced. It has never materialized.

3) I believe that white conservatives and white liberals are about equally energized so their turnouts should be approximately equal. I believe that blacks will turn out in greater proportion than ever before and harder for the Dem candidate, but this will only translate into an extra 2-3 pct bump for Obama (there's a reason blacks are called a minority population). I believe hispanics will end up about the same (there's a Dem wave in the media, but I think this will be offset because of hispanic / black mutual dislike - see Hillary).

4) I believe undecideds will break hard for McCain (see late Dem primary and that Obama has more than enough exposure for people to make up their mind and the election is fundamentally a referendum on Obama)

5) That lots of polls have adopted the same (to me unproven) methodology (and I believe wrong methodology because of points 2-4) does not give me confidence in the methdology.

More importantly, aggregating together many polls together only improves accuracy when the estimates are independent and unbiased. Because most every poll has adopted similar assumptions, it means that if you believe there is an error in the assumptions, averaging will not converge on the true mean; it will instead converge to a biased estimate. Running Monte-Carlo sims ala 538 do not fundamentally fix this if the MC model fundamentally conforms to the same assumptions / models.

Or in real short, averaging reduces variance, but only improves accuracy if there's no systematic bias (methodological, not political).

6) The poll which has not significantly changed their weightings is the IBD poll (which as they are fond of noting was the closest poll in 2004). Their methods largely conform with my implicit model in points 2), 3) and 4). Because their assumptions best agree with my assumptions, that's the poll I trust.

For the past month or so, they've had Obama generally up 2-4 (strictly 1-7 up) with 9-13 undecided.

7) For the sake of simplicity, assume uniform distributions on Obama's reported lead (over 2-4%) being the actual decided lead. Assume 10% undecideds. And assume the break of undecideds is uniformly distributed from 55-45 (+1 pt for McCain) to 75-25 (+5 pt for McCain). That actually yields a 50-50 split.

Now factor in a little humility (i.e., assume I have to be a little bit off because I'm disagreeing with almost everyone) and we'll bump McCain's odds down a bit and call it 30%.

Note that I effectively changed two modeling assumptions (weighting and undecided break) and got something radically different than the results of assuming a "transformational" election.

On the yard signs anecdote, sweet mother guys. When someone prefaces a paragraph with "Also anecdotally," maybe, just maybe they mean it as an anecdote, not as a statistical argument. It's funny that an McCain sign was put in my yard because my neighbors think that *I* am an Obama supporter. It's weird that I live in neighborhood that's 40-0 in yard signs over 109 houses (I have a hard time figuring that out even in a conservative part of a conservative area though the blind squirrel effect may be in play.)

And I am baffled that folks who should know me well don't pick up on this being my normal M.O., i.e., I cannot help myself from making asides if some random connection amuses me (and I don't really care if it doesn't amuse the person I'm talking to under my Joe Pesci rules). When I write something for an actual publication, I have to spend about half of my writing time figuring out if I want to strke my asides or integrate them into the main flow.

On Obama not valuing signs - that's nothing new and something that every national campaign has known for years (Rep and Dem).

And indeed, no vote is changed by a yard sign. However, people want signs (and bumper stickers) as a show of group solidarity and as such yard signage is a good proxy for intensity of support. Thason and I have had this discussion before, though I don't know if I've blogged it.

And since there's an apparent need to burst "the Obama / Axelrod has all sorts of new insights into what is and is not important to a campaign" bubble, take a look at McCain's site. Signs are sold. For money. Specifically, $35 for 5. Campaigns leverage the fact that people emotionally attach to them like a sports team and use campaign paraphenalia to help raise money. Again it's different for local elections where name recognition matters.

On state distributions, I am not impressed by the number of polls used to craft an average because I believe they share a methodological flaw.

However, in response to Thason's questions, here's my current beliefs for the states Thason listed assuming my weighting model for declared intentions: (Note - that's not a direct shifting down from the national polls and includes touchy-feely factors about how I feel about the politics / demographics of each state)

FL: McCain + 2
NC: McCain +4
VA: Obama + 2
OH: McCain + 3
CO: Obama + 4
NV: Obama + 2
MO: McCain + 1

Other relevant states
PA: Obama + 4
NH: Obama + 3
MI: Obama + 7
NM: Obama + 5
IA: Obama + 5

Of these, only MI do I put out of reach for McCain under my second assumption of a hard undecided break for McCain (listed for comparison purposes). A very small undecided break for McCain (55-45) and VA goes blue. A medium size break (66-33) and VA stays red. A huge break (75-25) and CO, PA and NH go McCain with NM and IA being really tight.

On the disingenuity of only focusing on the "reverse-Bradley" effect: a) only so much time in a day and b) no one expects the Spanish inquisition.

The Bradley effect is well known and discussed (heck, it was Kaus's Halloween costume this year). However, what I don't see discussed is that Obama can't pick up 1 point from the black shift between the last poll and the election that we normally see because he already has the entire black vote (for all intents and purposes). As my 30-50% estimate of a McCain win relies on a hard undecided break for McCain, this is important to note (since I apparently have to be explicit - I don't expect the normal break to be a countervailing force).

That folks may have reported for McCain or Obama with the intention of voting for the other I find unlikely. It's far easier to hide intentions by declaring as undecided. We have twice as many undecideds as 2004. That's where they're hiding, not in each others' declared numbers. Based on the slant of media coverage (*very* pro-Obama, to the point of embarrassing Dan Rather!), I also expect that hidden intentions run much more for McCain than for Obama.

On Liberty registering - it's an anecdote I find interesting. Never seen a school make such an explicit effort before.

And to conclude with another quasi-related aside, which tangentially demonstrates my awareness of other registration efforts, in Roanoke I signed a petition to help get McKinney on the ballot in VA this year. My friends (none of which are my neighbors) thought I was nuts, but I figured more choices were better.

Thason and I are on: $25 (me), $100 (him) for 4-1 odds on a McCain victory.

I'm not taking any more bets (I don't have a lot of disposable income now and need to start squirreling away my money in my mattresses for the upcoming Obama administration), but thought we should let everyone else be aware of the bet for vicarious election night fun.


Larry Parks died

His obit is here.

He was a good man.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?