Thursday, November 15, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

cousin's wedding

it is a rare occasion when my entire family gets together. in fact, even for my cousin's wedding there were only 6 hours in which we were ALL together. no matter. we still had fun, and snapped a couple of photos.

congratulations to my cousin casey who found a radical dude who loves the SF Giants as much as she does.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the big sort, and an obligatory election prediction

i have been so forking busy teaching classes, applying for jobs, and taking as many naps as possible, that i have had precious little time to blog. Which SUCKS because there are only about 2 months every 4 years when people are actually interested in what i do and research, so i failed to seize the opportunity to talk about all the politics i could, and have people listen (maybe)!. well, you know what they say, Que Sera Sera. jk, no one really says that, anymore.

so even though there is so much to say and talk about, i've decided to bring your attention to just one thing...from all of the political tweets, and memes, and articles, and cable news commentary, one graphic has emerged that is most interesting (and alarming) to me. and its this:

this graph was produced by political scientist Barry Burden, at University of Wisconsin using public election data from  the graph shows a striking turn of the voting public in these four states from ideologically middle of the road to increasingly ideologically extreme and distinct; Texas keeps getting more and more Republican, and California keeps getting more and more Democratic...

this observation is precisely the premise of a now somewhat dated book, The Big Sort, by Bill Bishop. in the Big Sort, Bishop details the trend in the United States toward more and more homogeneous communities and how this "clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart." in sum, we are increasingly choosing to live in communities with people who share our political and social beliefs, and this is actually leading to a more strongly divided nation. thus, we are bonding with our likeminded friends, but not extending bridges to our differently-minded neighbors in the next town over.

this geographic phenomenon seems so obviously tied to the much commented upon observation this election cycle (that i myself blogged about) which is that Republicans and Democrats aren't experiencing the same reality, and as a result we are more divided than ever. Dems and Repubs see the same political advertisement, but interpret it so differently, based on entirely distinct terms and conditions. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' jobs report for October, which showed a decrease in unemployment was interpreted by extreme Republicans to suggest foul play at the BLS; they would rather accuse the BLS of cooking the books, than accept a reality that might reflect positively on the president. Similarly, Democrats interpreted Romney's first election debate bump as meaningless, because "historically, debates don't matter." what is more, "news" on one tv station, let's just say Fox, is not even mentioned on, let's just say MSNBC. And therefore even what the different sides of the spectrum consider newsworthy does not match up. We aren't even talking about the same news stories, if we occupy different sides of the ideological spectrum.

as a mormon living in Orange County, while simultaneously occupying the position of an academic in a relatively liberal field of study, I feel especially sensitive to these ideologically extreme communal divisions. while Mormons have always traditionally been conservative, and academics historically tend to be more liberal, it is my experience and opinion that the disconnect between the 2 is stronger than ever.

unfortunately im not blogging about this because i have a solution. i don't. But if this country is ever going to progress--in terms of social, political, and economic outcomes--we are going to need to learn to understand each other and work together. That's such an obvious prescription, blarg, but it's late and I'm tired. Try talking to a Dem/Repub today, for starters, oh and maybe don't burn anything down in protest of the results, regardless of the outcome, tomorrow? IT'S A START.

Okay, so I feel obligated to give a Presidential election prediction, given my line of work. I'm not an election forecaster and I don't have my own statistical model for calculating an outcome, but my prediction is that Romney will win the popular vote, while Obama will win the electoral college. I anticipate that of the swing states (FL, OH, VA, NC, NH and CO) Romney will get FL, NC and VA. Obama will capture the rest, and end up with 274 electoral votes to Romney's 264. Nate Silver at put FL and VA in Obamas basket, thus given Obama 316 electoral votes and Romney only 222. So he predicts a much less close of a race.

I'll definitely be tuned in tomorrow to see how things go, probably most closely to nate silvers twitter feed since he stands to gain a lot if his forecasting model is accurate.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

binders full of women

While numerous platitudes and promises of questionable merit were thrown around last night at the presidential debate, the most popular aspect of the debate on the internetz right now is Romney's "women in binders" comment.  When asked about women's equality issues in the workforce, Romney touted his record in Massachusetts where his cabinet and senior staff had more women in positions than any other state in America. He commented that this was accomplished by looking though "whole binders full of women."

And these "binders full of women?" Well, here is what the (best of the) memes have to say about that:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"unskewing" the data

im still stuck on talking about the current Presidential election. i am actually debating starting a solely political blog. i wish wonkette wasn't already taken. that's a good one. well, whatever. let me know if you think i should create a politics blog. maybe I will call it Merica. like, because i am "Meredith" and this is "America." good thing i didn't go into advertising, eh?

OKAY! SO last week i kept coming across a report that when you use "unskewed" data, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is actually leading Barack Obama in the polls.

The story goes like this: an October 1st ABC News/Washington Post poll showed Obama leading Romney on average 49% to 46% amongst those most likely to vote.

To understand the meaningfulness of polls, you need to understand sampling. To "sample" is to select a segment of the population that can be generalized to the larger population from which you are sampling. So, if you want to understand attitudes of college students at a large state university, you need to sample a population that would represent those views. One way to do this would be to administer the attitudes questionnaire to several large general education courses; this way you're likely to get a variety of majors, races, ethnicities and both men and women. The best kinds of samples are those that are selected randomly. in the described scenario, then, a researcher would compile a list of gen ed classes, and then use a random numbers table to generate the specific classes that would receive the survey. we can never achieve perfect randomness, but we can try. A "skewed" sample, or nonrandom sample, on the other hand, would be if you gave the attitudes survey to an upper division philosophy section--those beardy weirdos don't represent the rest o' us! (JK i love philosophers).

okay, so when the poll came out showing that Obama was leading Romney, Virginia blogger Dean Chambers cried foul play regarding the sample. he claimed the ABC News/Washington Post poll oversampled Democrats, and this is why the poll shows that Obama is leading. Chambers then went on to create where he "unskews" the data. From what I can tell he reruns the numbers from the original polls, like ABC's, so that quotas of Republicans and Democrats are sampled to match Rasmussen's "real numbers" on party identification (Rassmussen's numbers show that of likely voters, 37.6% are Republicans, 33.3% are Democrats, and 29.2% are Independents).

THUS, he negates the use of a "random" sample for a quota sample based on party identification, to come to his conclusion---which is that Romney is in fact leading in the polls.

anyone who studies polling knows that quota samples are inherently flawed--especially when those quotas themselves come from POLLS! Furthermore, the numbers from Rassmussen are contested. This is precisely why you don't do quota sampling based on a non-static indicator, like party ID. and second, to poll on political election outcomes using a sample based on party ID (essentially the dependent variable) is absurd. party ID is directly correlated with vote choice. if you're interested in who people are going to vote for, you don't pad your sample with equal parts Democrats and Republicans! variation in the dependent variable is a mainstay of good research.  In an interview with, Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen said this:
“We don’t have any preconceived notions about the party breakdown of a poll before we conduct it. The only things we make any adjustments for are gender, race, and age." 
thus, at PPP, they ensure that a representative sample of Americans based on gender, race, and age are sampled.

PPP's criticism notwithstanding, conservatives will still flock to because it confirms their biases toward a Republican win in November. but this kind of worldview confirming behavior is not unique to conservatives. Just ask Al Gore why Obama lost the debate last Wednesday. and unfortunately this kind of worldview confirming behavior is more common and overt this election season...which is really troubling.

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative British author and political commentator, wrote a blurb about this phenomenon in a piece for The Daily Beast, called Who's Delusional? Essentially, he writes that Democrats and Republicans have such different experiences, today, that their realities are fundamentally different. And thus, their interpretation of the "facts" will not coalesce. Ben Smith at Buzzfeed expanded on this by suggesting this divergence of realities is much more amplified this election season because in the United States now have such stark divisions in our media, that our "realities" are reinforced by an "authority" (the media). And i would take it one step further and extend this media reinforcement to include venues where likeminded people come together via online groups and forums to agree on perceived realities. in sum, falsehoods can become facts when enough people confirm them, and more than ever today, there are places to go for the affirmation.

a different interpretation of the facts and subsequent confirmation of the misinformation, is being seen with the recent jobs numbers, which show unemployment to be down, and at its lowest since 2003. Republicans are claiming that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is lying, while others suggest Democrats were lying when they filled out the form, because they see the world through rose colored glasses, as long as Obama is in office.

it all makes me think of Stephen Colbert and TRUTHINESS, which describes truth as "What you feel." merely hilarious in 2005 when it made its debut, today its all too "true."

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Truthiness
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Sunday, September 30, 2012


christy moe got married! we celebrated!!

christy is in the center.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

jobs update

alright, so since my last jobs update, i've applied to more jobs! hoping to be professoring in one of these places, soon...

McMinnville, OR

yes, please! 

San Antonio, Tejas

Yee hAw.

DeKalb, IL


Amherst, MA


New York City

i could live here.

Claremont, CA

and i wouldn't hate staying in SoCal...

Elon, NC

Picture perfect

Norfolk, VA


Monday, September 24, 2012

political haaaaay (is for horses)

it's been a busy couple of weeks in American politics.

I wont blog too much about the Romney 47% comments because i feel like thats just beating a dead horse--is there any aspect of his comments that haven't been dissected and analyzed over the last week?

yes, he failed to apologize to those he offended.
yes, the very 47% he was talking about include senior citizens, military personnel who have served in combat zones, as well as the very poor, all of whom make up many of the Republican states that he needs to win the election.
yes, he is in trouble.

i think he had the opportunity to quiet everyone down by giving a sincere apology. he failed to do that, and so the pile on continues.

politics is a funny game. sometimes an apology or "flip-flop" will destroy your campaign, and other times it can save it. but having a hardline "no apology" motto (coincidentally, the title of a book by Mitt) is not the way to go. i think a successful politician recognizes that some situations warrant an apology, while others might not. For example, Bill Clinton, in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, issued an apology for lying to the American people. what i am not sure many people know, is that his poll numbers went UP after this fact. in sum, his popularity amongst Americans increased, after the exposé on his lie, and subsequent VERY public apology.

but being a good "politician" is not the same as being a "leader;" in many respects, it is the very opposite. it's a shame, because the political processing in the US can eliminate potentially awesome leaders, on account of their failure as "politicians."

i think some of Romney's supporters might argue this describes Mitt; while his opponents would argue he's actually quite a slick opportunist. I actually tend to disagree with the naivete Mitt defense...

i've written about Romney, before, because I thought he was a good man and a true representative of the people, when while governor of Massachusetts he bucked the party line, and was a genuine trustee type of representative, doing the biddings of his constituents. his actions as governor were something he then had to run against to get the more conservative GOP presidential nomination. i defended him again as a representative of his constituents--now running for the GOP nomination, he would be representing a much more conservative group of people. this ideological swing won him the dreaded "flip-flop" label. i argued that was unfair.

but now i see each of his moves and positions (or lack their of) as too cautious, and his campaign is losing any ground it once had, as a result. we can blame the media for shining undue light on his gaffes, but his responses are equally as damning, in my opinion.

and i havent even commented on his wacky 2011 tax returns.!

anyways, the election is far from over, and it doesnt look like Mitt or Republicans are going to throw in the towel, so a lot can still happen.

(p.s. i'd like you to notice what i did here in this post, with the horse theme: buck, hay, etc. i am really quite fun.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

presidential forecasting

one of the questions i am asked most often, once people find out i am a political scientist, is "so who is going to win the election?"

i'd love to get asked this question if i knew the person asking had a good 30 minutes to talk about it; but we are usually at a party or public gathering, so i just say a name, and if they disagree, ITS THEN that they want to hear why.. .but certainly only in 1 sentence, maybe 2.

but the fact is, political scientists are in the business of explaining, and some might say predicting, so its a fair question to ask me. and the particular political scientists who take on elections are "forecasters."

when i became hip to the term "presidential forecasting" in grad school i thought id definitely want to be able to call myself that. but beyond the gender variable i've blogged about, briefly, i never got into developing models to forecast elections. its already a thick subfield, and at least 10 forecasting models currently exist (in that they have been peer reviewed and published in academic journals), if that tells you anything about the certainty of each one [read: not very certain].

forecasting models are statistical models that take into account a number of variables to predict the outcome of elections. each model differs slightly, but most always consider economic performance variables, like unemployment numbers and the GDP. this speaks to that well known quote from Clinton's campaign manager, James Carville, in 1992, "its the economy, stupid." but its not actually ALWAYS the economy, and many of the models that rely solely on economic variables don't fair too well, and predict with accuracy maybe 50% of the time. especially this year, when unemployment has been pretty high for a while, and is in fact lower than it was (while still being high), i can see the public acclimating to high unemployment numbers, for instance. also, my generation has come accustomed to an uncertainty in employment, and thus salary, and so changes in salary may be seen as a sign of the times, instead of a consequence of an Obama presidency. i dunno, yo. im just spit-balling as to why i think these variables may not carry the weight they once have. i know many of you readers (like, 3 out of the 10 of you) may disagree.

but even beyond models that consider too few variables, or only economic ones, there are other problems with forecasting.

for instance, the best criticism of forecasting models that i have heard recently comes from Nate Silver, a baseball turned political statistician with the NYT. he said:
Some political scientists have obfuscated the problem (intentionally or not) by treating the data the models used to fit their equations as tantamount to actual predictions – in essence, claiming credit for “predicting” the past. (Here’s a tip: I have a model that says you should bet a lot on George Mason to make the Final Four in 2006. You’ll make a fortune. Now you’ll just have to get your hands on a time machine.)
in essence, with a knowledge of the past, it can be easy to design a model that predicts an outcome we've already witnessed. but a model's real strength comes from predicting the future, you guys.

that comment from Silver came in light of a published paper by 2 political science forecasters at CU-Boulder whose model "predicts" the last BILLION (or whatever) years of elections, and also predicts a Romney win this fall. with that sort of claim, i can see why these political scientists received national attention.

SO, their model uses unemployment numbers and changes in personal income, to predict the last 8 number of elections, and also that Romcom will win the 2012 election. what is more, according to their model, which uses their variables on a state by state basis, he will take 10 of the 13 swing states (but not New Mexico, Nevada or Michigan). For me, as someone who studies public opinion, it seems absurd that Romney wouldn't win his home state of Michigan, or Nevada, which is chock full of Mormons. so at first glance, with no empirical analysis of my own, i already call bull. The Boulder guys have said they would update their model this month... but if unemployment hasnt changed, their model won't either. for the reasons i mentioned, regarding NV and MI, i see flaws with relying solely on economic measures. can't you foresee a situation where someone votes against their economic interests, because of race, or religion? if you cant, i suggest you read Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas. in fact, i will let you borrow my copy.

on the other side of the coin, forecasters like Silver have been criticized for relying too heavily on public opinion polls, which can fluctuate quite substantially, in the wake of scandals or storms, for instance. but i tend to gravitate toward these measures, when it comes to presidential election prediction, because while "its the economy stupid" is valid, i think the "can you have a (root)beer with the guy" also factors in to people's voting decisions (like it or not), and so polls are also important variables to consider.

(of course whether or not you want to have a beer with an incumbent might have a lot to do with whether you're employed, so now we have a problem of endogineity, and IM NOT GOING TO GO THERE IN THIS BLOG, OKAY?)

OKAY, so to get back to the question i so often get asked "who is going to win the election?"... i would like to wait and see how the media talk about the candidates, once both of the conventions have finished. i believe the media is a very powerful apparatus, and have a big impact on whether or not unemployment, or likability, will be on the minds of voters, when they go to vote. in my world of research, media are king (media are plural, grammatically, so doth that suggest an Oligarchy??)... so i think they will play a big role in who comes out on top in november.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

job search, round 2

its that time again. at the risk of public failure round 2, i will be posting the universities to which i am applying, on my blog; its a fun way to help my parents and friends keep track of where i am applying.

this fall i will be adjuncting at California Lutheran, Chapman University, and USC. one of the perks of adjuncting in socal is that there are a billion schools in need of adjuncting. the down sides are too numerous to list. NEVERTHELESS i am excited to be apart of all three of those prestigious and active departments.

but i certainly dont want to be an adjunct for the rest of my life. so here are the schools i have applied to (i will continue to update as i apply):

Seattle University!

Seattle U and I would make a good couple. they are looking for something who is methodologically diverse, and GIRLFRIEND ive gathered data more ways than most. plus i think i would like living there. its close enough to home (around 8 hours) and i have some good friends who already call it home!


when i was an undergraduate my volleyball team at Whittier played Lewis & Clark. I remember my coach thought we would roll over them bc its a really selective liberal arts college and apparently nerds aren't good athletes? WRONG. they stomped us.
my brother lives here, and has for a while now. he likes it. my mom would probably like to have both her kids in the same city. i would love it bc its a cool, hip town, with dogs and monsters and coastal access. and the job is also rad. they want someone who studies the presidency, IM YOUR GIRL. this job is probably my no 1. dont tell anyone.

New College of Florida, Sarasota, FL

ive actually never understood why schools choose the "new school" moniker. my friends and i in grad school always joked that we would start a "newer" school. we are hilarious.

Cal State San Bernardino


alright, i'll continue to update this as i apply for jobs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

City by the Bay

Last weekend I went and visited Matt in SF. The weather was perfect! Here are a few photos of my trip.

Monday, August 6, 2012

bang bang is 2!

my little nugget is 2 years old today.

she doesn't really like her bday present...

i just love her. she's the best.

happy birthday kitty cat!

Monday, July 30, 2012

are you man enough?

the 2004 election was the first presidential election i felt really invested in. I was living in London and working as an intern for the Associated Press Television Network. Even though I was abroad, the whole world was watching the US presidential election, and i was especially exposed, working at the APTN.

one theme of election coverage that really stood out to me was the issue of the candidates' MACHISMO. one of my favorite media exposés was the "candidates doing athletic things." and the candidates absolutely took part in the media's efforts to display their athleticism. we associate physical strength with general strength, and because strength is something most americans revere in a presidential candidate, the candidates give us what we want!   

but when an election becomes about strength, one candidate is ultimately framed as weak. thats largely because our simplistic media only work in dichotomies--black/white, fat/skinny, smart/dumb etc. and as media frames tend to do, they stick! and the candidate dubbed the weaker of the two suffers, as a result. 

the latest presidential association with strength/weakness is the most recent cover of Newsweek, which has the word WIMP in huge letters next to a pretty unflattering photo of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  and so now media moves our public discourse to issues of wimpiness and strength, pretty early on in the election. 

in addition to hurting a particular candidate, by focusing on his/her weakness/wimpyness, news media contribute to the perpetuation of gender value distinctions, by representing masculinity as superior. this gender value distinction then not only hurts candidates framed as less masculine, but also the idea of females as powerful leaders, because women are not automatically associated with masculinity. the trail of my logic might seem too circuitous, but i think its valid. its the topic of a paper i started in grad school, that i am thinking of picking back up. in sum, media's reverence of physical strength subverts anything outside the realm of masculinity, including female candidates, and more feminine men. This is unfortunate, because not all masculine traits are appropriate for politics, and some feminine traits and characteristics are.

if you have any thoughts, or articles, whatever emailed me, or leave a comment.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

olympic mania

i love the olympics!

perhaps it has something to do with its constant presence in my life. my dad has always been involved with the USA weightlifting team, as a coach and now as a director of their operations. the olympic rings have always been up around my house and adorning sweatshirts and coats in my closet. in high school, my dad hooked up my varsity volleyball team with the same adidas warm up sweats as the olympic volleyball teams' sweats. we looked pretty cool.

unfortunately, the US isn't known for our weightlifting skillz, so my dad's event doesn't get too much coverage. but my favorite event has always been swimming. as a kid i watched Gary Hall Jr. and Ian Thorpe dominate, and in more recent years i have become enamored (like many people) by MICHAEL PHELPS. he holds the record for most medals won in a single olympic games, and has the opportunity, with this olympics, to be the most decorated olympian of all time. The record is currently held by a Soviet Union gymnast from the 1950s; she has 18. Phelps needs 3 more to beat that record, and he has 7 events to compete in this year, so its possible. YOU CAN DO IT, BRO!

one time, in 2006, michael phelps and i exchanged a few facebook messages. i'll never get over it.
The first event he will compete in is tonight--the 400m individual medley. this morning he BARELY advanced to the final of this event, as the 8th (and final) seed. AH!! SO TENSE!! im so so excited to see if he medals in his first London 2012 event. Oh, but look at his olympics headshot... he looks like he was just arrested. ha. i think it is a reflection of how he probably feels going into this olympic games. he's tired, and reportedly bored with swimming. in fact, he announced his retirement barely a year ago. he did some stuff that suggested he was finished competing, such as the bong incident, and he allegedly put on 25 + lbs not too long ago.

apparently, the reason he came out of retirement and decided to compete is because of this Ryan Lochte fella. Lochte was getting close to beating some of Phelps' records, so Phelps got the motivation he needed to reawaken his competitive spirit. which is also good tv--everyone loves a rivalry!

lochte. whatever.
but this Lochte? he just doesn't impress me (as i write this from my couch eating cheese and chocolate). i'm not saying he is going to lose... i'm just saying he's not the articulate, composed, handsome Phelps. but i am glad he is threatening enough to woo Phelps from retirement. is it obvious im a fan of Phelps? in fact, if i could meet anyone, dead or alive, he would make my top 3 (along with Bill Clinton and Stephen Colbert).

so anyways, ill be turned into this rivalry, and hoping Phelps beats Lochte in the 2 events they share, and that he gets those three medals to break another record.

go team USA!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


this comic made me laugh, but i actually don't agree with the statement. perhaps because all of my collegiate teaching has been done in the liberal arts, where student participation is expected.

nonetheless i love the snarky

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Honey Boo Boo

A while back i posted this video of Alana AKA Honey Boo Boo, who was on an episode of Toddler's & Tiaras. That show is already out of control, but Honey Boo Boo was ESPECIALLY crazy/entertaining/confident. 

WELP, as things tend to go now-a-days, SHE'S GETTING HER OWN SHOW. and, I THINK I HAVE TO WATCH. i mean, i just MUST know the environment that produced honey boo boo. 

The show is called "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and will consist of 6 episodes on TLC starting in August that will give us an inside look into her life... because we don't already know 'nuff bout this kid.

Monday, July 16, 2012

life update

so ive been on my death bed (slightly hyperbolic) for the past week. A stint with the flu accompanied by tonsillitis straight up knocked me on my back for a good 7 days straight. 7 days of dizzy, nausy, stiffness, headache, throat pain, cramps, and fever sweats has left me a new woman! Maybe. But it does feel good to be able to get out of bed and move my body. This is a picture of bowser trying to help soothe my pain.

I took these photos in the hospital in case no one believed the seriousness of the matter.

I'm just happy i am getting betterrrr.

But before I got sick I did a few fun things, so here is an update:

At the end of June I went home to Idaho for a visit. Once in Boise my mom and I loaded into the car and headed to Paul Idaho where her sister and my three cousins grew up. My closest cousin, Kirby (a girl, people) has had 2 kids since I'd last seen her and we decided that was unacceptable so that was some of the motivation behind the trip. Well, it was so fun in be back in the country!! This about sums up the lifestyle of my radical Idaho cousins: I've never really driven a four wheeled (cept in the sand dunes of pismo) but Kirby was like you drive let's take the dogs to the canal for a swim. So with me at the wheel, and Kirbs on the back--with her 2 year old daughter, her niece, and a dog!!!!---I. I tore up the dirt roads to the canal.

Here I am with Kirby's newest potato bug, tayte. Look at those arms!!

Then it was the fourth of July and I was back in Orange County. Huntington Beach really is THE place to celebrate bc they have an awesome fire works display they shoot off from the pier and they also shut down the PCH so the place is over run with bikes. Also, this was the first year since the early 90s that HB has allowed people to set off their own fireworks. So my good friends supplied our own show, before the big thing.

beach sky lit up from the fireworks show.
And then I got Bubonic Plague.

Alright, that's a wrap.