07 Nov. 2008
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Revisiting Aleatory Obnubilation

What the New President Should Do About ...

I've already received two newsletters and have seen several articles suggesting priorities for our new president.  Give the guy a break!  He's got at least four years, and eight if he's the right combination of good and lucky.  The food industry, the drug industry, the aviation infrastructure, the power plants, you name itóthey can all wait a day or so more.  Let the poor guy go see a movie or something.

The Storm that Stole the Election in 2000

Almost exactly eight years ago, while the nation was embroiled in a fight over who "won" the 2000 presidential election, I argued that

The phrase "margin of error greater than the margin of victory" was used, I believe verbatim, in the telling dissent of the Chief Judge of the Florida Supreme Court.

In a post to an internet list that later became a blogitem.  Fortunately that didn't happen in the subsequent two elections, in which there was no doubt that the election reflected the will of the majority (and, of course ignored the will of the slightly but definitively smaller minority).  That same post suggested that

It would seem that this election was decided less by the "will of the people" or even the velleity of the undecided than it was by a transient thunderstorm over Wellington or perhaps aleatory obnubilation in Hollywood.

Of course this was a guess on my part at the time, but I just found this article by Rob Marciano on CNN: The political impact of Election Day weather, from which an excerpt follows.

"It seems rain DOES make a difference when deciding an election.  As matter of fact it might have cost Al Gore the White House in 2000...

The[ researchers] found that while 1 inch of rain drops overall voter turnout by less than 1 percent, the Democratic turnout drops by 2.5 percent.  There was significant rain in the Florida panhandle during the controversial 2000 election when George W. Bush beat Gore by just hundreds of votes in Florida to win the presidency.  If it hadnít rained, enough additional Democrats might have voted in Florida to give Gore the White House."

I just love being right.

The Storm That Didn't Exist, But Sure Got A Lot Of Attention

A couple of years ago, in a shameless "gimme" I demanded a cellphone that would work as an MP3 player, a camera, and, as an afterthought, a cellphone.  About half a year after that, I reluctantly settled on the Motorola Q, reviewed here.  It had an MP3 player, a really crappy camera, and it would make calls.  I've lived with the Q for almost two years.

  • The MP3 player worked with memory cards, but the largest one it could use was 2GB, not nearly capacious enough.

  • The camera, really crappy though it was, was an improvement over having a camera at home or at the office when I was somewhere else.*

  • It would make telephone calls.  On my "500 minute plan," the smallest I could get, I would most months actually exceed one per cent of my allocated usage, and for one month of raffish abandon almost made it to ten per cent.

But the camera remains crappy and the MP3 player inadequate.  So I was very pleased to read an announcement that Verizon would soon be offering a new model, the BlackBerry Storm.  It would take up to 16GB memory cards and have a three megapixel camera, presumably much better, or at least less crappy, than the one in the Q.  (The Storm makes calls, too.)  I went to the Verizon web site to check availability, and signed up for what I assumed would be an email announcing the date and price thereof.  Am I a fossil!  I didn't get information, I got marketing.

Did the first email mention price or availability?  No!  It gave me a link to a contest for which the grand prize was a BlackBerry Storm.  I was foolishly hopeful that there might be useful information in the second email.  What a sil!  It contained more contest information, including a link to a map.  It seems that the contest works like this:  If you live in Manhattan, which I don't, you can visit a large number of Verizon "kiosks," whatever they are, and get keywords from them, which you can then "text" to Verizon and hopefully be a winner.

An open paragraph to Verizon:  Please let me just buy the BlackBerry!  I can't send you a text message because you charge extra for that feature, and even if I were all thumbs as I'm often accused of being, I wouldn't have time to visit your kiosks.  I might not even recognize them.

None of the above petulance detracts from the fact that I am enthusiastically waiting for the Storm to become extant.  It's still a couple of powers of two from the amount of music memory I need, but it might otherwise fulfill my "gimme" from many moons ago. 

* You would never have seen this photograph if I didn't have my cellphone with me. Emergency Button

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© 2008
Richard Factor

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