Friday, October 24, 2008

Obama's international appeal

One of the reasons (not a main one, but still one of the ones) why I suspect people are supporting Obama is because of his international appeal.   After years of the US being disliked I think that most everyone can agree that it would be nice if more countries liked us.    This isn't just because America wants to be the popular cheerleader in high school.  This goes to the theory that if other counties like us then they will A) Be more likely to help us out and B) Less likely to attack us.

I would like the international community to like us more, so I looked to check out who would the rest of the world pick if they could.   This NY Times article (Rebranding the US with Obama) quotes the statistic that 22 nations surveyed by the BBC preferred Obama over McCain.  Also, they quoted the statistic that nearly half said an Obama election would "fundamentally change" their perceptions of the Unites States.   Anyway, I looked up the survey and found it here.

I find no fault in the questions about other countries preference for either Obama or McCain.  In fact I think this is a pretty important feather in Obama's cap.   However, I do find fault with the survey on whether or not an Obama election would "fundamentally change"  your perception of the United States.  Below is the question as it is worded on the BBC survey:


M3. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the election of Barack Obama as US President, being an African-American man, would fundamentally change your perception of the United States?


01 Strongly agree

02 Somewhat agree

03 Somewhat disagree

04 Strongly disagree


Am I wrong to think that is a leading question?   Personally I think that adding the clarifier "African-American man" is

not necessary and points the person being surveyed towards a certain answer.  Also, another thing that concerned and annoyed me about the survey was that there wasn't the same question about McCain.   As I have written before (which my brother in law disagrees with) I think the McCain/Palin ticket seems to be another big step for American because Palin would be the first female VP.   Either choice in my mind I think will change the perception of the United States.   What is frustrating is that the BBC didn't even to think to ask the question about the McCain/Palin ticket.  I think it would be a more convincing argument if the BBC had included that question.

Please note I do feel like Obama would be liked more by other countries and would fundamentally change more people's opinions on the United States than McCain/Palin.   I think that he would help the way America is viewed by the rest of the world.   The first statistic from the BBC about 22 countries preferring Obama over McCain is telling.  However, I wish there was a 2nd statistic about who would more fundamental change your view of America.

Anyway, I emailed my former Marketing professor about the survey since he teaches a class about Market Research.  His response is below:

Definitely leading in my opinion and the African-American part is unnecessary, again, in my opinion.  Also, it would have been interesting to ask the question a little differently (without the African-American part) and ask about both candidates or both tickets.


The question may be bad, but I suspect the sentiment is correct in the sense that Obama would change the perception overseas more than McCain, McCain’s running mate notwithstanding.  That, of course, is just my opinion, but the candidate farther away from the Bush administration is likely to be seen as more “change” even before race is introduced.  I also suspect race would trump gender as more “change.”  Again, just my opinion.


There is the usual array of bad instruments out there on both sides.  My latest axiom is that it is hard to ask non-leading questions when you are objective and it’s easy to ask leading questions when you are not objective—we have plenty of evidence of that!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Election and other updates

It has been two weeks since my last post....sorry.   I have been working, watching the debates, keeping up with the resurgent Dolphins and calling Carl Pohlad and reminding him that he should have signed Johan Santana to a long term deal.    Anyway, here are my updates from the past two weeks:
  • Amongst all the talk about the election I don't know if people are getting the bigger picture.   In only a few weeks we will either elect the first African-American President or the first Female President or Vice-President.    Some people might like to say that it is a long time coming (which it is), but I would rather focus on the fact that this is progress for America.  You can't change the past, but the future looks a little bit brighter.  
  • M and I finished Season 1 of Mad Men.   It is a good show, but not one I would necessarily recommend to everyone.  The setting of the show is a 1960s ad agency in New York City.  It seems like an accurate representation of the 60s.  (Obviously, I don't know since I wasn't alive during that time.)   Watching the show made me even more happy when I would think about the above point in regards to politics.
  • People use the term "we" way too frequently.   If you did not do something then you shouldn't use "we" when describing things.   Personally I have tried to stop using "we" when describing my favorite teams.   The only time I might get caught using it is when talking about the mighty Redhawks of Miami University, which I find more understanding since I am a Miami University alum.
  • My latest food kick has been twice-baked potatoes.   I have made 3 batches so far, and am working on perfecting my recipe.  
Off to a BBQ.  Hopefully my twice-baked potatoes will be a hit.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nationals Park

Continuing in my series of reviewing Mlb ballparks (thus the name of the blog) I will do my best to review the new Nationals Park .

Scalping/Ticket Prices: B-
It would be hard to pick a sporting event where it was better to be a buyer than a seller than the Nationals-Padres game that M and I went to two weeks ago.  Let me count the reasons why demand would be low:

  • It was Sunday during football season and the game just happened to be at the same time as the Washington Redskins. Let’s just say the Nationals haven’t built up the same amount of fan interest as the Redskins.

  • It was as meaningless of game as any regular season game could be. It was within a week of the season ending for two teams that went on to lose a combined 201 games (winning only 122).

  • While the Nationals play in a new ballpark the park has rarely been filled close to capacity.

With that being written you would think that the scalping scene would be an A+ in favor of the buyers. The only reason it isn’t is because the scalpers were few and far between. I don’t know if it was because they were all applying their trade at the Redskins game, but I only saw 3 people selling tickets. I went up to one person and got tickets for 55% face value ($15 for $27 seats) and still felt like I spent too much. It turns out this guy wasn’t even a pro scalper and was just looking at unloading his season tickets, so that he could go enjoy the day anywhere besides Nationals Park .

The rest of the seats seemed reasonably expensive, but in reality it doesn’t matter what the ticket’s face value are until the Nationals become a better team and get more fans.

Aesthetic Appeal: B-
The ballpark is situated in the middle of a parking lot in the middle of construction just southeast of the National Mall. Let’s just say you don’t get the same feel walking to Nationals Park as you do Wrigley Field or even Safeco Field. The park is *nice once you get inside, but still leaves much to be desired. Sitting from our 3rd base seats all M and I could see where construction cranes outside the stadium. We moved to the 1st base side near the end of the game and over the left field wall you could see the US Congress.

My fault with this is that when you have the opportunity to build a stadium in Washington DC shouldn’t you face the stadium, so that you could see the Washington Monument from most seats? It just seems like facing the stadium away from the National Mall was a poor aesthetic decision.

*Don’t you love how when people describe someone as “nice” they almost always don’t really have many nice things to say about the person. It isn’t necessarily that they don’t like the person. It is just that the person’s characteristics are either extremely annoying or not especially noteworthy.

The reason for the B- is that I absolutely loved the scoreboard.

I was able to keep up with the score and situation for the Twins. Also, I was able to have a crystal clear understanding of the important information (count, outs, batting order, pitch count, etc) without having to look all over the ballpark. Also, a plus for the park would be the wide and open concourses. It was extremely easy to move around the stadium and not miss the game.

Thing(s) I wish I would have done:
Since my normal stadium is the Metrodome, I am not used to lots of food options. At the Dome the food options are Dome Dog with ketchup or Dome Dog with mustard. (Both are bad options by the way.) Anyway, just like Safeco I wish I would have tried more of the food options.

Fans: C

A friendly group of people, but really it didn't seem like anyone cared about the game. I mean I don't know if I would care about a Twins game if they were 30 games out of 1st place, but still these fans made more a lot more noise during mid-inning events with Clint than in anything that happened on the field. Overall I think the Nationals fans need a little bit more time and definitely a better team. The Nationals should hope to follow the Devil Rays formula.

Buzz: D-

There was no buzz inside the park. Outside in the concourse there was plenty of buzz around the Guitar Hero games, playground, and concession stands. On that September day Nationals Park was basically a glorified place for kids and their parents/babysitters.

Food: A-

Everywhere M and I looked there were different food options. Pizza, pretzels, fries, cheesesteak, Ben's Chili, etc, etc. Also, all of the food stands utilized alliteration, so bonus points in my book. The pletora of food options ended up flustering M and I since we didn't know what to get. The first food choice for us was the "famous" W pretzel:

This was recommended as the best thing to eat at Nationals Park by the NY Times. However, M and I would like disagree with the writer of the NY Times article. The pretzel was a fine thing to eat, but not something we would want to order again. We were now slightly disappointed, so we headed to the chili stand to get the largest order of chili-cheese nachos for only $9.50. I felt like this was a good choice and for awhile it was very appetizing. However, before we ever made a real dent in the fries we were tired of the soggy nachos. Overall M and I were disappointed with our selections and wish that we could go back in time and order something else. I am giving Nationals Park the benefit of doubt on the quality of the rest of their food since almost everything we saw (except what we got) looked incredible.

Fun things to do besides the game: A

See the buzz section for my analysis of the things to do beside the game. Also, add on the fact that you get your picture with the Lincoln, Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Jefferson mascots. One thing to keep in mind is that all the fun things to do besides the game happen to take place in the park. The development around the park has yet to catch up to the fact that there is a Mlb stadium there. I guess that has something to do with all the cranes that you can see looking into the outfield. Hopefully, for the Nationals sake this part of DC will grow into a place where you can grab a beer and burger before the game.

Overall impression: B-

Nationals Park reminded me a lot of Great American Park in Cincinnati. The park was a decent enough park, but for whatever reason I felt like a new park like either one of those should be better. Everything objectively seemed fine, but still neither park really felt like it was that special. I don't want to discount Nationals Park since it was a very fun experience that I would definitely recommend. Again as written before it would be a great place to take kids with the amount of activities around the park. Also, whoever is in charge of the park made a great, fun experience that is extremely fan friendly. I guess that my overall impression of Nationals Park in one sentence would be: In every way the park is a fan friendly experience that meets expectations, but still leaves something to be desired.

October thoughts

September for me is a wonderful month filled with the last few days of summer combined with pennant races in baseball and the start of football. Unfortunately, October doesn't carry the same type of hope and overall joy as September. The reason being is that by then baseball playoff races have been decided and slowly teams start realizing that this is not their year. In football October can mean the end of many football seasons (especially in college football) before you even really got a chance to get excited. In the end September is about hope and October is about reality.

For me this October was ushered in by the White Sox defeating the Twins 1-0 in a one game playoff that I will haunt Twins fans because of missed opportunities (during the season or the game) and the injustice of having to play in the Cell. The "summer of stun" is over and my 6th row lower-level division series tickets are still mocking me from the door of my fridge. In football the Dolphins are 1-2, which amazingly is cause for celebration in Dolphins *land.

*I refuse to call everything Nation. Just cause there is Red Sox Nation, doesn't mean there is Dodger Nation, Cubs Nation, Patriot Nation, Redhawk Nation, or anything else.

Anyway, here are some thoughts that I guarantee will make you laugh, cry, and want to write in my comments section (broken into Random and Ben/Laurie's visit) or your money back.

  • What do you say to a coworker (not a coworker and a friend, but just a coworker) when that coworker is leaving the company? I find it social appropriate to say that "we will definitely meet up." or "you have my email address so stay in contact." Does anybody actually believe that they will stay in contact with these coworkers? More importantly does anybody actually ask "Will you really stay in contact with us?" to the departing coworker?
  • I feel like exclamation points are a 50/50 proposition. Half of the time they are used to mean excitement or emphasis. The other half of the time they are used to be "sorority polite." For example if you ask someone to do something and they respond with "That sounds like so much fun! Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it because..." then they really don't think it sounds like fun and there is a better than average odds that they would rather watch 27 dresses 27 times before they took you up on your offer to do something.
  • Is it weird to anyone else when people over the age of 25 use smiley faces in IM conversations? First off I thought IM had an expiration date around junior year of college. Now, I am finding out that not only are middle-aged people using them, but they are writing messages to colleagues as if they are two 13 year old girls excited about the Jonas Brothers being on TRL later. :D
  • If Sarah Palin was a MN state senator after the North Stars left, I have no doubt that she would have been able to bring back hockey. Also, I have no doubt that she would look better than Norm Coleman.
  • Did you know that Forbes came out with a list of college rankings. If you care about that sort of thing you should check it out. Here are some quick highlights: 1. Princeton 12. Wabash 23. Stanford 57. Kalamazoo College 80. Duke 87. St. Olaf 111. UCLA 120. Washington and Jefferson College 121. Cornell 197. Ole Miss 275. University of Idaho (school of Sarah Palin) 276. Miami University (school of this blogger) 292. The Ohio St. University. 524. University of Minnesota. Seriously? I mean I am all for a new ranking list to compete against the US News and World Reports, but can you really take one that has Kalamazoo College over Cornell seriously?
  • Nfl fans - Here is the tv map for the year. Click on the link if you want to see what games you will be seeing in your area on Sunday.
  • I was trained in the Worldwide Leader of Cheap Chic to be relentlessly positive. No matter what happened you were supposed to present yourself and the information as if it was the great thing since the Rosetta Stone. Anyway, when you read an article like "The Power of Negative Thinking" you realize that maybe there are certain advantages to being the Eeyore of the group.

The two college friends that got married just over a month ago (see Lake Geneva post) came to visit me and the Twin Cities this past weekend. From that weekend I have a few thoughts:

Ben/Laurie's visit

  • 3 different couples were getting their engagement pictures at Minnehaha Falls this past Saturday. Of course Ben, Laurie, M and I had to make fun of them by recreating their pictures.
  • The Cherry and the Spoon was also a popular photo site on Saturday. This time it was a bunch of high schoolers taking pictures before what I can only assume would be their homecoming dance. This was an age-defining moment because the group of us all agreed that if we were there parents of the girls in this group they would not have been allowed out of the house with what they were wearing. When do you get to the point where you start to relate more to parents than the kids? I mean I remember a time when I used to always put myself in the kids shoes. Now, I am more likely to take the parents side of things when it comes to "kids these days."
  • Apple picking = not as bad I thought. This is especially true considering that you can buy apple butter and apple bread.
  • Brave New Workshop has a really funny show for anybody who lives in the Twin Cities area and has been following along with the political scene. It is the funniest thing this side of having Tina Fey in your living room.
  • The wedding video was a success for both sides. Ben and Laurie got a video memory of their wedding. I got Southern Comfort and a book on Baseball parks. I think that is a fair trade.

Stay tuned on the blog for a Nationals Park review. I am in the process of writing it and just need to sit down and complete the post and upload the pictures.