Interesting House Races, Kentucky-New Hampshire

The states that range from Kentucky through New Hampshire, in the alphabet, hold 26 House seats, divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Althought Minnesota will have four turnovers by party, two will be Republican to Democrat, and two will be Democrat to Republican. Only one very likely turnover, in Michigan, is expected.

Kentucky’s 6th is currently represented by Andy Barr, Republican. Democrat Amy McGrath is neck and neck in polls averaged over time. A recent Republican biased poll puts Bar ahead by 2 points. A recent Democratic biased poll puts McGrath ahead by 7 points. An early September Siena/NYT poll puts Barr ahead by 1 oint, and a somewhat later Pulse poll put them even. So, independent polling says it is a tossup, and biased polling is biased… Can’t call this one a turnover.

Maine’s 2nd district is currently represented by a Republican, Bruce Poliquin, who is being challenged effectively by Jared Golden, Democrat. The two are neck and neck with a slightly higher chance of Golden winning. What is interesting here is that the contest has been a bit of a horse race, with some back and forth. The Siena/NYT poll put Golden well ahead in mid September, and the same source puts Poliquin slightly ahead right now. Too volatile, and close, to call.

Michigan’s 8th district has a Republican incumbant, Bishop, challenged by Democrat Elissa Slotkin, with the two running neck and neck and Slotkin doing slighty better on average over time. The most recent poll, Target Insyght, puts Bishop way ahead, and the turn of the month Siena/NYT agrees. This is one to watch, but it is not a chicken to expect to hatch, as it were.

Michigan’s 11th district is currently represented by Republican David Trott, who is not seeking re-election. Republican Lena Epstein is being challenged by the formidable Haley Stephens, who has been ahead consistently across several polls. The Target Insyght poll, most recent, has them even. Siena/NYT of early october had Stevens ahed by nearly 8 points. 538 puts this race as very likely to be taken by the Democrat, but given the recent shift in polling, I’m not so sure. I’ll count this as a takeaway for now, but we need to look closely at this race.

And now we get to my favorite state, at the moment, Minnesota.

After a tumultuous and uncertain period, we are starting to see some clarity. It is both good news and bad.

Most people are putting Minnesota’s first district, currently represented by Time Walz, who is leaving that seat to run for Governor (and he will likely win the gubernatorial contest), as a tossup. I’ve spent a little time in the district, and I think the Democratic candidate, Dan Feehan, is great. But I do not trust the first district. At present, I have to put this in the turnover category, but going from Democrat to Republican.

Minnesota’s 2nd district is currently represented by the Truly Deplorable Jason Lewis. He is getting his butt kicked by the second time challenger Angie Craig. This is a situation where the good people of the 2nd district went for the Republican during the last election, and are now having serious buyer’s remorse. Last time it was close, Craig almost won. This time, it won’t be too close and Craig will be representing that district. This will be a turnover.

Minnesota’s 3rd district is where I am. The seat is helt by perrenial “he’s not so bad, if you can find him” Erik Paulsen, the Republican incumbent who actually is so bad, and who has contributed materially to the lack of oversight of Trump’s administration (Paulsen is on the committee that could be looking at Trump’s taxes, but they won’t). He is being challenged by Democrat Dean Phillips. Phillips is running a spectacular campaign, and is currently positioned to wipe the floor with Erik

This will be a turnover.

Minnesota’s 4th district is held, by the much loved Betty McCollum, who is beating Republican Greg Ryan and Legalize Pot Susan Sindt by something close to 65-30-whatever’s left.

Minnesota’s fifth district is currently held by African American Muslim Man Keith Ellison. But he is now running for Attorney General of Minnesota (likely to win that race) so the Democrats have selected Somali Muslim Woman Ilhan Omar. I only emphasize gender, ethnicity, and religion here because, well, it is tremendously significant.

Omar is much loved in this district and is beating the other candidate, whom no one can remember, buy a huge margin and can’t lose. So, no turnover, but I thought you’d like to know about the race.

The sixth district is our big problem district. This is the district that put Michele Bachmann in the House of Representatives for as many terms as she wanted to be there. Republican Tom Emmer is there now. Ian Todd, a really nice guy who I hope gets elected for something some day, is trailing way behind. Not Ian’s fault. This district is at present very heavy on the deplorables. The good news, though, is that this district is also now experiencing a pretty serious demographic transition, so in one or two election cycles from now, that 30 point margin between Democrats and Republicans running there will be seriously narrowed. We hope.

Minnesota’s 7th district is solid Democrat. It is a very Republican electorate that has decided to send a Democrat to Congress and likes him (Colin Peterson).

The Eighth District of Minnesota is the great disappointment. The DFL (Democratic party) itself is in shambles in that district. Senseless and brutal infighting allowed for Labor to shove a non-winnable candidate down their throats, with labor now being unable to deliver the votes. Republican Pete Stauber will beat Democrat Joe Radinovich, turning this Democratic district over to the Republicans.

So, in Minnesota, two Democratic districts will become Republican, and two Republican districts will become Democratic. In this way, Minnesota will not be contributing to the Blue Wave in the House. Shame on us.

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Congratulations to Rebecca Otto, Willard Munger Winner!

Willard Munger served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for a total of 42 years and seven months, which is a record. He died while still in office, and beat another record as the oldest legislator in the state’s history. He was born and raised, and served in, the Fergus Falls area, which is in the northeastern part of the state.

Munger was a very significant environmentalist, and was responsible for a number of key legislative acts to protect Minnesota’s natural heritage. So, eventually, they named a trail after him, the longest segment of which runs from near Hinckley to near Duluth, about 63 miles, and as such is the fifth longest paved trail in the United States. (The trail follows the old railroad line, which I believe is the same line that passed through the Great Hinkley Fire of 1894, in which 418 people died.

They also named an award after Munger, the “Willard Munger Award for Distinguished Environmental Partnership.”

Rebecca Otto, my friend, is currently the Minnesota State Auditor. If you are in the State Auditor business, you will know that she has served in various auditor professional societies, and is recognized, nation-wide, as one of the best Auditors ever. When the US State Department is trying to help the novice government officials in newly minted democracies to find their way out of a history of dictatorship, corruption, etc., they send them to Minnesota to learn from Rebecca.

More recently, Rebecca ran for the DFL (Democratic) Party endorsement for Governor of Minnesota, and I helped where I could with her campaign. Sadly, she lost the endorsement. But it is notable that the outcome of that gubernatorial endorsement, along side a very odd Attorney General endorsement, led to one of the more chaotic phases of Minnesota politics. But I digress.

Here’s the point: Rebecca has always been the best pro-science and pro-environment candidate ever. Serving her local school district, the state legislature, the state as auditor, and as a civic leader, Rebecca has developed and promoted pro-environment policies that are so good, they will be part of statewide policy after the next election, even though she herself will not be.

And so,

For her life-long dedication to protecting and improving Minnesota’s environment and natural resources, State Auditor Rebecca Otto will receive the Willard Munger Award for Distinguished Environmental Partnership at the DFL Founders Day Dinner. The sold-out event takes place Saturday, Oct. 20 at the St. Paul RiverCentre. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is the keynote speaker.

See you at the dinner, Rebecca!

(By the way, if the name Otto is familiar to you, it could be because you know of Shawn Otto, author of The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It.)

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Interesting House Races, Georgia to Kansas

Among these states, there are 53 House seats, 20 held by Democrats, 33 by Republicans. There are probably two seats currently held by Republicans that are going to become Democratic. There are a few others that might change, but not likely. That is a closing of a 25% gap to a 17% gap, bringing Democrats closer to a majority, but with no cigars being handed out.

Iowa‘s 1st district is currently represented by Republican Rod Blum, who seems to be firmly behind Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer, according to 538. Finkenauer has been ahead across several polls in this much polled race, since last February. That includes partisan polls both Democratic and Republicans, as well as the Siena NYT poll and Emmerson College.

This is a takeaway.

Republican incumbent Peer Roskam, in Illinois 6, is somewhat likely to lose to Democratic challenger Sean Casten. The numbers are not statistically separated, but Casten is pulling forward quickly, but mainly in Democratic leaning partisan polls. As recently as early September, the Siena College NYT poll put Roskam ahead by one point. Yet, 538 puts Casten at a slightly higher chance of winning. I’m going to hold off on this and suggest that Casten wins with a large Blue wave.

Illinois 12th district has a Republican incumbent, Mike Bost, with a strong Democratic challenger, Brendan Kelly, who is statistically almost identical, but slightly behind. There is a Green Party candidate, Randy Auxier, running in that race with 3 points. With the Green Party candidate there, I can’t give this race to the Democrats except in a strong blue wave which, hopefully, sinks the Green as well as Red.

In Kansas’s 3rd district, Democrat Sharice Davids seems highly likely to pull off a take away from Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder. The polling is strong, and 538 gives their odds at close to 8:2

Kansas 2nd district is currently held by Republican Lynn Jenkins, who is not running for re-election. Democrat Paul Davis is a tiny bit ahead of Republican Steve Watkins. Polling is sparse and the numbers are variable. This is not one to put in the takeaway list, but it could move there, and is definitely a race to watch.

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Delete those annoying Google Chrome autosuggestions in the URL bar

How to erase specific autosuggested URLs from Google Chrome?

You know the problem. You are accustom to swooping into the URL entry space on your browser and typing the first three or four letters of a website you commonly visit, hitting enter, and getting where you need to be. But Google Chrome, it an undying effort to be as helpful as possible, starts suggesting subpages of that site you visited once before, and are unlikely to visit again, ever.

For example, you want to look for something on Amazon. So you type in “Amaz” and suddenly the correct URL comes up, you hit ENTER and there you are. That is how it used to be. But now, you type “Amaz” and hit enter and you are now looking at an entry for a specific light switch you searched for last week. Forever. From now on, all of your searching on Amazon will start with this one light switch.

How do you stop this madness?

Simple: Once the URL you don’t like is visible in the search bar, use the down arrow key to put the focus on that very same URL down on the list that will also appear below the search bar. Then, use Shift-DELETE to eliminate that URL forever. Or any others.

Shift-DELETE simply removes that URL from your search history. Don’t worry, it will not delete that actual web site or anything. Totally safe.

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Interesting House Races, Arizona-Florida

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Florida have a total of 114 members in the US House of Representatives, which is about a fourth of the total members.

50 are Republicans. 64 are Democrats.

This year, Arizona is likely to see a Republican seat flip to Democratic. California will likely flip 2, R to D. Colorado will likely flip 1.

So, it is likely that the party count for these first states, alphabetically speaking, will end up being 46-68. If this shift happens at this level across the US, Democrats will come to within about 75% of where they need to equal Republicans in the house, numerically.

Arkansas 2nd

Incumbent French Hill is ahead of Democratic challenger Clarke Tucker (there is a libertarian in the race as well, with a crumb of support but enough to propel the Republican into a statistical safety zone should he get hit by a bus at an intersection lacking proper stoplights or pedestrian walkway markings). But while fivethirtyeight puts this race as close and leaning Republican, there has been virtually no polling here. A PPP Poll in April put Hill ahead by 5 points, and a Hendrix College poll in early September put Hill ahead by 9 points.

The district went for Trump by and Romney by 12.

There have been Democrats representing this district.

A blue wave effect in this semi-urban area, a semi-liberal island in a sea of redness, would have to be strong, but a Democratic upset here is barely possible.

There are three interesting races in Arizona.

Arizona 02 was represented by Republican Martha McSally, who is now running for US Senate. Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick is running against Republican Lea Marquez Peterson. If Kirkpatrick sounds familiar to you, it is because she reprersented Arizona’s 1st district in the past. Kirkpatrick has also run (not successfully) against Senator McCain.

There has been only one poll here, one of those New York Times/Siena polls that seem to be mainly a way for the NYT to sell newspaper subscriptions. But maybe it is a good poll, and it shows Kirkpatrick ahead by 11 points. It is generally expected that this will be a turnover.

Arizona’s 6th and 8th districts are very likely Republican keeps, but there are viable Democratic challengers there, so there is a barely possible turnover in each of those districts, if the Blue Wave is big and strong and reaches the desert.

For a state with one gazillion house districts, California has only a handful of races that might produce a turnover.

California 39th. The seat is currently held by Edward Royce, but this Republican is leaving in what some might consider an anti-Republican or anti-Trump protest. Fivethirtyeight suggests that the race is a tossup, leaning towards the Republican. One poll shows Democrat Gil Sisneros ahead by one point, another poll shows Republican Young Kim ahead by 10. Both polls were taken about the same time, but the Cisneros favoring one, by Berkeley IGS, a little later and overlapping with the Kavanaugh Outrage Event.

For this reason, I’m going to say that this race will probably go Republican (and thus not be a turnover) but with a medium blue wave, Democrat Sisneros can win. By the way, the Democrat is a man, and the Republican a woman. If that had been reversed, perhaps the Kavanaugh Outrage Effect would be stronger.

California 45 is currently represented by Republican Mimi Walters, but Democrat Katie Porter is favored by 538. This race was much closer until the Kavanaugh hearings developed, after which Porter has run away. This is a very likely turnover.

Republican Darrel Issa is bailing from his seat in California’s 49th district. Democrat Mike Levin is well head (in two polls) of Republican Diane Harkey. This is a likely turnover.

The 10th, 25th, and 48th districts in California also have close races worth watching.

In Colorado, Republican incumbant Mike Coffman is showing poorly in polling (entirely by NY Times/Siena) against Democratic challenger Jason Crow. This is likely to be a party turnover and unseating of an incumbent Republican.

Florida’s 6th district is especially interesting. The seat was held by a Republican, who is no longer running. The current candidates include Michael Waltz, the Republican, and Nancy Soderberg, the Democrat. Nancy is actually the sister of my close personal friend John, with whom I worked for several years at the University of Minnesota. Soderberg is one of those women Rachel Maddow has mentioned who come from the security community, many of whom are running this year for Congress, as Democrats. If I recall correctly, and I’m sure I’ll have some of this wrong, Nancy Soderberg was staff for Senator Ted Kennedy. She served in the Clinton White House key staff on the National Security Council, and later, as ambassador to the United Nations. She ran for Congress in 2012, lost, but did well.

Unfortunately, Republican Waltz is projected by 538 to win this race. However, the most recent polling, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (a Democratic Partisan source) puts them at even. Soderberg can win with a medium to strong Blue Wave, but I’m not going to put her in the turnover column at this time.

Elsewhere in Florida, 26th District incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo is being seriously challenged by Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The two are essentially neck and neck in polling, though Curbelo has been consistently ahead. This is a race that will be won by the Democrat if a normally uncounted faction, such as female millennials, show up to vote in larger numbers.

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How to be a better LEGO architect in 1001 easy lessons

Some of the earliest LEGO sets were for buildings or some sort of structure, and to this day architecture forms a core part of the LEGO panoply. If you build an architecture project from a kit, you’ll see that they are highly engineered. In order to make a LEGO project look like something other than a concoction of random bricks made by some kids having fun (which is, of course, just fine), serious planning has to have happened.

Most of the LEGO books I’ve seen are pure idea books. If you wanted to build a project based on what you see in the books, you have to either have a huge collection of LEGO parts very well organized, or you have to be prepared to order several specific bricks that are called for in the books.

But that is the wrong way to play with LEGOs. The books demonstrate concepts, give you ideas, guide you to become a better LEGOer.

Very few LEGO books that I’ve seen are clearly this, clearly about methods and techniques, as The LEGO Architecture Idea Book: 1001 Ideas for Brickwork, Siding, Windows, Columns, Roofing, and Much, Much More by Alice Finch.

How does this work? Let me give you an example. Say you want to build a building with nice columns. There are many different kinds of columns out there in architecture land, and you can imagine that there are different ways to build each one, and which method you use depends, in turn, on the scale you are working on. Say you want to build columns that would go with a building that would work well with the assumption that the building will be used by minifigs (the small LEGO people that come with many kits). Finch gives you sixteen pages of ideas for columns, starting out with these two:

Or maybe you are in need of some curved walls:

Or stained glass:

Or towers:

You get the point.

LEGOs are bricks, and bricks are used to build buildings, and The LEGO Architecture Idea Book: 1001 Ideas for Brickwork, Siding, Windows, Columns, Roofing, and Much, Much More is a really helpful guide to developing the methods and techniques for doing that.

The wizzard behind the book, Alice Finch, is one of the top LEGO builders in the world, famous for her extensive renditions of Harry Potter’s world and other major projects (see below). This is a great book for the aspiring LEGO builder, and an excellent choice as a holiday gift for your LEGO-loving offspring.

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Elizabeth Warren’s Native American Heritage

In the early days of the 1972 election, President Richard Nixon, seeking re-election, faced a number of potentially tough challengers, and the strongest one may have been Senator Edmund Muskie. Among all the possible Democratic candidates emerging at the time, Nixon wanted to run against the one he saw as the weakest, George McGovern.

So he arranged that.

The Nixon dirty tricks team (which included at least one person active in recent years on the Trump dirty tricks team) fabricated a letter supposedly written by Muskie that served to discredit him as a candidate. That was one of several different fraudulent moves made against Muskie and other candidates.

The Democrats dutifully tossed Muskie and all the other candidates under the bus and ran George McGovern against Richard Nixon.

1972 election results:

47,168,710 votes, 520 Electoral votes: NIXON
29,173,222 votes, 17 Electoral votes: McGOVERN

The following presidential election was won by outsider Democrat Jimmy Carter. It is generally recognized that Carter’s win was in large part due to the country being tired of cheating Republicans, following the Watergate affair. The hit job on Muskie and other candidates was not forgotten, but had been absorbed into the larger array of illegal and unethical activities by the Republicans.

Owing largely to the Iran Hostage crisis, the country lost faith in Carter, and elected Ronald Reagan in 1980. Another significant factor was a third party candidate, Anderson, who took away mainly Carter votes.

Reagan was re-elected in 1984.

The 1988 election required that the Democrats get a strong candidate to run against Reagan’s vice president, George Bush. They did. The up and coming, popular, and highly qualified Gary Hart was the obvious candidate, and from early on was assumed to be the nominated one, and a likely next president.

But then something bad happened. Gary Hart was taken out of the running. The National Enquirer ran a story placing Hart in the company of a loose woman on a suspicious boat called “Monkey Business” in the Caribbean. There was even a photo of the woman, Donna Rice, siting on Hart’s lap.

The Democrats quickly tossed Hart under the bus, and put forward Mike Dukakis as their candidate. Let me note that Dukakis was a very good governor of Massachusetts, and would have made a good president.

This may or may not be a side story: When Dukakis was running, there was a famous photograph taken of him in a tank wearing a too-large helmet, looking goofy. This appeared to disqualify him as president to a lot of voters.

Also during the primary, came the “Willie Horton” affair, a racist ploy to make Dukakis look like he was weak on crime.

This led to further weakening of Dukakis’s campaign.

We now know that the Hart Monkey Business monkey business business was a setup by Lee Atwater, a Republican dirty tricks guy. We also now know that the racist and inaccurate Horton attack ads were Atwater work as well. (See Was Gary Hart Set Up?)

48,886,597 votes, 426 Electoral votes: BUSH
41,809,074 votes, 111 Electoral votes: DUKAKIS

Then a few other elections happened.

The 2016 election was probably won by Republican Trump in part because of the discrediting of the Democratic candidate, Clinton, using lies and misdirection. There are also some who would argue that Sanders should have been the candidate, but efforts to keep him out of the race caused Clinton to win the primaries. I’m pretty sure that is not true, but if you happen to think it is true, do check on the possibility that Sanders’ campaign was damaged at least in part by outside nefarious forces of Republican or Puto-Russian origin. Just in case.

Anyway, you can imagine how different the world would be today if Muskie had been elected president. Or Hart. Or Dukakis.

Today, we are seeing this happening again, I think.

Elizabeth Warren, the most viable current candidate to represent the Democratic Party in 2020, according to many, had made a reference in the past to her own heritage. Her heritage, her right.

The Racist Republican Don the Con Trump used that opportunity to attack “Pocahontas” Warren. Democrats thought this was despicable.

Much more recently, just now, Warren happens to have done a DNA test of her heritage, and found out the interesting, quaint, and largely unimportant fact that what her family had been telling her all along, that many generations back she had a Native American ancestor, is likely true given the genetic markers in her DNA. As is her right, she made this public.

What Senator Warren did is this: She challenged a made up, racist, insulting accusation made by Don the Con Trump, with a fact.

The result? Repeated outcries BY DEMOCRATS that this was not a good communications move, and therefore ELIZABETH WARREN IS NO LONGER QUALIFIED TO BE PRESIDENT.

Excuse me, fellow Democrats, but I have something for you:

FELLOW DEMOCRATS JUMP THROUGH THIS HOOP AND ELECT TRUMP IN 2020

To the people who are jumping on this Never Warren She Did DNA OMG!!!!! bandwagon, many of whom are friends or colleagues whom I truly respect: Please think about the damage you are doing, and fucking stop doing it.

Thank you very much, that is all.

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Learn SQL and Tell Stories With Your Data

First, let’s get this one thing out of the way. How do you pronounce “SQL.”

Donald Chamberlin, the co-developer of SQL, pronounces it by saying the letter out louse. Ess Cue Ell. However, many computer science teachers prefer “sequel” and in at least one poll, the latte won out. One of the most common implementations of the database language is mySQL, and that piece of software is officially pronounced “My Ess Cue Ell” and not “Mysequel.”

I myself have never once uttered the word “sequel” when referring to this database system. I have also never once uttered either the term “Jiff” or “Giff” in relation to *.gif files. They are, to me, “Gee Eye Eff” files. I admit, however, to calling *.jpg files “Jay pegs” even when they are not *.jpeg.

But I digress. We are here to talk about a new book, on SQL.

The book is Practical SQL: A Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling with Data by the award winning journalist Anthony DeBarros. DeBarros is as much of a writer as he is a database geek, which gives this book a pleasant twist.

The book provides what you need to know to create databases and set up relationships. But don’t get excited, this is not a dating book.

See, a “database” isn’t really a thing, but a collection of things. Normally, at the root of a database is a set of tables, which look like squared off sections of spreadsheets, or highly organized lists, if you lay them out. But then, the different fields (columns) of the tables are related to each other. This is important. Let’s say you have a table of individuals in your club, and each individual has a set of skills they bring to the table. It is a model railroad club, so you’ve got engineers, artificial vegetation experts, landscape sculptors, background and sky painters, and so on. Also, each club member has a known set of days of the week and hours that they are available to meet or to manage some event you are having. Plus, they each have lunch food and drinks preferences for when you order out. Three of the members drive wheelchairs. And so on.

You have a table of dates and times that will be when your club will meet over the next year. You have a list of venues you will meet in. Each venue is associated with a different deli where you order out. Some of the venues are not wheelchair friendly, while some are.

Imagine putting together a big chart that shows all the events, who is going to them, what everyone will eat, what everyone will do, and special needs requirements, for the next ten years.

If that was one single giant structured table, each time a given member was included on a sublist because he or she, there would also be all the information about the person’s address, phone number, email, food preference, skill, etc. etc.

So you don’t do that. Instead, the database is taught to associate the name of each member with that member’s personal file, including all that personal information, in a way that lets you selective ignore or include that information. Then, the database lets you construct new, novel, virtual tables that combine the information in a clever way.

For instance, for an upcoming event, you can have a to-do list that includes which materials to order for a build of a new model, and whether or not the person who helps Joe with the wheelchair thing should be sent a note to remind him to definitely come, and a precise list to send to the corner deli, as well as the phone number of the deli, for lunch, and so on.

Tables, linked together with relationships, which are then mined to make these novel tables which are called queries.

You may need to import data, export data, clean up errors, you may be using a GIS system, creating automatic emails or mail merge documents, and at some point you might even want to analyze the data.

Practical SQL: A Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling with Data tells you all the stuff you need to do in order to carry out these tasks. As is the usual case with No Starch Press books, the code that is used in the book is downloadable.

The book assumes you are using PostgreSQL, which is free (and there are instructions to get it) but all SQL systems are very similar, so that really doesn’t matter too much.

Everybody who works with data should know some SQL. All desktop operating systems (Linux, MacOS, Windows) use this sort of software and it runs about the same way on all of them. Just so you know, you are using SQL now reading this blog, because SQL or something like it lies at the base of pretty much every common way of serving up web pages. Prior to you clicking on the link, these very words were in a database file, along with the name of the post, a link to the graphic used, etc. etc. A bit of PHP code accessed the data from the SQL database and rendered it into HTML, which was then fed to your browser. SQL is one of those things that lies at the root of how we communicate on line, and the basics of how it works and what you can do with it have not changed in a long time. The first relational models go back to 1970. Remember “dbase”? That was an early version, deployed in the early 1980s. By the mid 1980s, everything you can do with modern SQL, to speak of, was implemented.

Enjoy and learn from Practical SQL: A Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling with Data.

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Birds of Central America: Review

Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama make up Central America. Notice that had I not used the Oxford Comma there, you’d be thinking “Costa Rica and Panama” was a country like Trinidad and Tobago. Or Antigua and Barbuda. Or Bosnia and Herzegovina. Anyway, those countries have about 1261 species of birds, and the newly minted Birds of Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama (Princeton Field Guides) by Andrew Vallely and Dale Dyer covers 1,194 of them (plus 67 probably accidentals). Obviously, many (nearly all) of those birds exist outside that relatively small geographic area, up in to North America and down into South America. But I’ll remind you that there are some 10,000 bird species, so this region has a bird list that represents 10% of that diversity. Nothing to shake a beak at.

This is a classic Peterson/Petrides style guide, with the usual front matter about bird id, geography, habitats, etc. Species draswings are on the left leaf while descriptions and range maps on the left. The drawings do not have Peterson Pointer lines, but there are a lot of drawings to clarify regional versions and life history stages. In fact, the attention to regional variation is a notable and outstanding feature of this file guide.

There is also an extensive bibliography with over 600 references. The book is medium format, not pocket but not huge, and just shy of 600 pages long. Also, last time I clicked through it was on sale. Know somebody going to Central America over winter break? Get this for them as their holiday gift!

Like the Princeton guides tend to be, this is a very nice book, well written, well constructed, and likely to become the standard for that region for the foreseeable future.

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Happy Anniversary Frank!

It was a dark and stormy century. Ghosts and goblins and spirits and ghouls were everywhere. Technology was taking on a life of it’s own. (“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”) Novels were written. Dark novels. Gothic novels. The dead cam back to life.

On this day 200 years ago a scientist willing to play god ordered his assistant, Igor, to throw the switch, and the energy of a thousand lightning storms coursed through the sluggish veins of an assembly of a dozen parts, taken from the ground. The man, nay, monster, awoke and began an unbelievable journey. He, or rather, it, would terrorize the townspeople, battle with Dracula and the Wolfman, get together with Abbot and Costello, and enchant a dozen dozen generations of Halloween revelers. Even Mel Brooks would get a cut!

Bwahahaha! It’s alliiiiive!

Happy Anniversary to the Publication of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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US Senate Will Be Republican Controlled or 50-50

According to me. And, I quickly add, that this is NOT a formal analysis. This is just my gut feeling combined with looking at the polls and stuff. Bottom line: Missouri and Nevada are the key states to watch.

Montana is considered a toss-up state, but I do not regard it as one. Tester is well established and has been ahead in polls, including good polls. Democratic incumbent senator John Tester will pass the ultimate test and put his challenger on the mat.

Nevada is a tossup. Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen has had a strong showing in several polls, and was gaining on incumbent Dean Heller. It is possible that there is a Kavanaugh effect. In my first iteration of an an analysis across the Senate, I’d put Nevada in Heller’s pocket. But there if urban labor can get organized, and if the Kavanaugh effect blunts over time, I can see Rosen clear to a victory. So, I’ll put Democrat Jacky Rosen in the win column in my Plan B analysis.

Arizona is going to be interesting. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was strong through the summer, but McSally’s campaign sallied forth and caught up in September. One could see the last month in Nevada as a volatile horse race. What looks like a last minute Kavanaugh backlash may wear off. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Sinema will win in Arizona.

I hate to say it, but Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, in North Dakota, is going to lose, and the Republican Kramer is going to win. This race is considered by many as a tossup, but it is more of a toss-out.

If Beto O’Rourke wins in Texas, I’ll eat my cowboy hat. He never really had a chance of beating Cruz. Texas is an asshole state, and everything is Texas is extra big,and Cruz is a the biggest asshole of them all. Too bad.

Some analyses put Senator Tina Smith in an uncertain column for her return to represent Minnesota. I would have done so a couple of weeks ago as well, but the North Star state is coming together. Probably a Kavanaugh effect in favor of the DFL. Smith will win in Minnesota.

In Missouri, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill seems to be losing. But if there is a race the Democrats can pull out of the ditch by doing things like sending lots of money, allowing Mich McConnell to ram through 16 right wing judges so the Dems could go home and campaign, and that sort of stuff, it is this race. I will not underestimate McCaskill. She’ll be returned. And, no, there was no Kavanaugh effect there.

Democrat Donnelly is solid in Indiana.

Democrat Nelson is taking off in Florida and will win there.

All of the other races are going as they are going. There will be Democrats in Wisconisn, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Republicans in Mississippi, Tennessee, and the other usually Republican states.

The only uncertainty is Nevada. Leaving Nevada out of the count, there will be 49 Democrats and 50 Republicans. If Nevada actually goes, as currently seems likely, to the GOP, the Party of Hate will have two more Senators than the Democratic Party. But, it is distinctly possible that Nevada will send a Democrat to the Senate instead, which will cause the Senate to break 50.

Of those I’ve assigned, obviously, Missouri is the most uncertain. Everything seems to depend on Missouri and Nevada.

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How To Talk About Climate Change, Adam Adam

Global warming is already upon us, but when was the last time you had a proper chat about it?? For Green Great Britain Week, ClimateAdam speaks to a climate communication expert (Steve) to take his conversation skills from amazing to brilliant.

#CreatorsForChange

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Warmaking By American Presidents

This book is just out: Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss.

Ten years in the research and writing, Presidents of War is a fresh, magisterial, intimate look at a procession of American leaders as they took the nation into conflict and mobilized their country for victory. It brings us into the room as they make the most difficult decisions that face any President, at times sending hundreds of thousands of American men and women to their deaths.

From James Madison and the War of 1812 to recent times, we see them struggling with Congress, the courts, the press, their own advisors and antiwar protesters; seeking comfort from their spouses, families and friends; and dropping to their knees in prayer. We come to understand how these Presidents were able to withstand the pressures of war—both physically and emotionally—or were broken by them.

Beschloss’s interviews with surviving participants in the drama and his findings in original letters, diaries, once-classified national security documents, and other sources help him to tell this story in a way it has not been told before. Presidents of War combines the sense of being there with the overarching context of two centuries of American history. This important book shows how far we have traveled from the time of our Founders, who tried to constrain presidential power, to our modern day, when a single leader has the potential to launch nuclear weapons that can destroy much of the human race.

We are reminded, of course, of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, by Rachel Maddow.

Speaking of Rachel Maddow and books on presidents and war, here is Rachel Maddow speaking with Michael Beschloss about presidents and war and books thereon.

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Hurricane Michael Got Much Stronger Suddenly

Just a quick note to inform those of you who get all your news here, that Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 4 storm, and will be a Category 4 storm at the time of landfall today, wed, mid day or early afternoon. I’m asking around to see if storm experts see that as truly unexpected or in the range of normal variation. My bet: Deep warm surface waters (to 100 meters or so) at “hurricane level” temperatures fueling the storm. That happened with Katrina, Maria, Pacific Yolanda, other storms. Just a guess on my part for now.

The storm is actually continuing to get stronger, but will remain in the Category 4 range.

Maximum sustained winds, therefore, will be ca 140-145 mph, which is equivalent to and F-2 tornado,but the size of Rhode Island.

In addition, note that this storm is now predicted to remain as a Hurricane way inland, and may be a Category 1 storm past Albany, Georgia.

In short, Michael will be one of the most impressive hurricanes to ever make landfall in the Atlantic US. And just think only a few days ago, we had no idea it was coming. My friend Paul Douglas just confirmed for me that a Category 4 hurricane has never hit the panhandle of Florida.

One tiny piece of good news. The storm is making a rightward turn, just a small one, and the bulls eye has held steady or moved slightly west. This has the effect of reducing the strength of the storm surge east of Apalachicola. A little.

I would not want to be a barrier island or estuary anywhere near Port St. Joe this afternoon.

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How Catch And Release Can Damage Fish

If you catch a fish and you eat it, it has no chance of survival. That’s pretty obvious.

If you catch a fish and you set it free, it could be just fine. Indeed, it could be rather fun for the fish. “Hey, did you see that? You wouldn’t believe what I just saw! Hey, you know that eagle that ate Joe last week? I could see where its nest was! And this guy had this whole bucket of leeches! Holy crayfish!”

But most likely, if you catch a fish intending to release it, there is a chance it will not fare so well. People who catch catfish intentionally know this, and don’t bother with catch and release. I’m not sure if I’ve ever caught a catfish where the hook didn’t go deep into its gut as the sole action in the entire process of grabbing the bait. Not even worth taking the hook out. You just take the catfish home, clean it, and get the hook then. Generally, live bait has a higher chance of this sort of thing happening. Unless you are jigging with a fairly large hook and a live bait that is hanging off, the chance of your fish swallowing the hook, even part way, is high. Generally, as well, fishing in this manner is associated with fishing for food or, one might hope once in ten lifetimes, a trophy walleye or something.

I personally fish almost exclusively with lures. If the lure comes with a treble hook, I’ll either remove it and replace it with a single hook, or cut off one or two hooks. I mush or cut off the barbs. I take at least one of the treble hooks off any lure with multiple trebles. For bait hooks, I smush or remove the barb. And so on.

(By the way, this give me the opportunity to put a single weedless hook on a lure that is essentially designed to catch on to every damn thing in the lake, allowing for more options when casting.)

When I catch the fish, since I’m casting and reeling and the hook is barbless, it is pretty easy to remove the hook from the fish. Sometimes, if the fish is fairly big, I don’t actually want to land it. That may involve too much handling, and that can damage the fish. With a single hook and no barb, I can get a look at the fish, and flick it free pretty easily about half the time.

(Also, I carry at least one very large needle nose pliers. I can grab the base of the hook or the hook/lure with that, and with a simple twist, release the fish before or after landing, depending.)

I’m pretty sure that I don’t do a lot of damage to the fish I fish for. If a fish I catch is legal and damaged, I eat it. (Not right there on the spot; I clean and cook it first.)

How might catch and release injure fish that are not particularly mangled by the process? There is a paper just out in the Journal of Experimental Biology, bu Melissa Thompson, Sam Wassenbergh, Sean Rogers, Scott Seamone, and Timothy Higham. In “Angling-induced injuries have a negative impact on suction feeding performance and hydrodynamics in marine shiner perch, Cymatogaster aggregata” the researchers report that injury to the inside of the fish’s mouth can change the pressure gradient that these fish use to suck prey (and lures) into themselves. It is not demonstrated that this impacts survival, but it does seem to impact feeding efficiency.

“The suction feeding system is somewhat similar to how we drink liquid through a straw,” Higham said. “If you poke a hole in the side of your straw it’s not going to work properly.”

Fish researcher Tim Higham explains, “As we predicted, the fish with the mouth injuries exhibited a reduction in the speed at which they were able to draw prey into their mouths. This was the case even though we used barbless hooks, which are less damaging than barbed hooks. Although we don’t yet know how/if this reduction in feeding performance would affect fitness and survivability in nature, we can say that fishing-induced injuries impact the fish’s ability to feed while the mouth is healing. This study emphasizes that catch-and-release is not as simple as removing the hook and all being well, but rather is a complex process that should be studied in more detail.”

This is obviously going to depend on the kind of fish in question. As noted above, the whole suck-in-the-food approach for catfish may simply do them in. But I’m not sure a Northern or Muskie is feeding in exactly the same way. Clearly, more research is needed!

The abstract of the paper:

Fishing is a popular and lucrative sport around the world and, in some cases, may contribute to declining fish stocks. To mediate this problem and maintain fish biomass in aquatic ecosystems, catch-and-release fishing, whereby a fish is caught and immediately released, has been implemented in many countries. It is unclear whether the injuries to the mouth that are caused by the hook have an impact on feeding performance of fishes. Using high-speed video and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), we asked whether injuries around the mouth caused by fishing hooks have a negative impact on suction feeding performance (measured as maximum prey velocity) of the commonly angled marine shiner perch (Cymatogaster aggregata). We hypothesized that fish with mouth injuries would exhibit decreased feeding performance compared with controls. Ten shiner perch were caught using scientific angling and 10 were caught using a seine net. Feeding events were then recorded at 500 frames per second using a high-speed camera. Compared with the control group, maximum prey velocity was significantly lower in the injured group (P<0.01). Maximum gape, time to peak gape, maximum jaw protrusion and predator–prey distance were comparable between the control and injured groups, leading us to conclude that the injury-induced hole in the buccal cavity wall reduced the pressure gradient during mouth expansion, thereby reducing the velocity of water entering the fish's mouth. This was confirmed with our CFD modelling. Fishing injuries in nature are likely to depress feeding performance of fish after they have been released, although it is currently unclear whether this has a significant impact on survival.

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