Down the Ballot

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

I hope wherever you are tonight, whomever you are with, you are thankful for both an end and a new beginning tonight. Tomorrow is a new day, and new year.  Resolutions are plenty this week and I hope you make ones that challenge you over 2014.

Here for some NYE humor is Mr. Bean.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

On the Road to 2015

In just a few days the race to 2015 begins. 2015 would  traditionally be known in political science
circles as the 'Hidden Primary', though pundits and the public have been speculating about who is going to replace President Obama since he won re-election in 2012. The Hidden Primary is the year prior to the first ballot or caucus when candidates announce, and raise funds to get in that precious top tier status or become a media darling. There will plenty of them running around the country by then, there is at least a dozen+ in each major party and various third parties considering a run.

By November 2014, the campaigns on the ball to get going will already start to get staffing questions settled and going through the recommendations of folks who worked on state and local campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2014. If you want to work on a presidential campaign in the Iowa Caucus or New Hampshire Primary in 2016; the place to start is volunteering or working on a local race in 2014 in those states.

 I look at my wall of buttons and see all the ghosts of campaigns past and know that by this time in 2016 they'll be another 20 buttons on the wall. It's a cruel cycle at times, but we always seem to survive to do again in four years.

Grinston Video from Mark Allen Shepherd

Got this funny little video in my facebook inbox from fellow Trekkie and friend to all, Mark Allen Shepherd. It was an unexpected-quirky delight. I don't pretend to have any idea what it means, but it will give you a chuckle when he gets to Santa having to digitize his naughty and nice list or respond to people asking about his networth.

It seems to be those unexpected Christmas treats that just make you feel good. I hope you enjoyed your time with family and friends this week and if you hosted out of towners wish them well on their trip back to wherever they came from.

If you can't guess Mark's Star Trek connection, look closely at his eyes. Still stumped? Go find the local bar and think about it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas. Live Long and Prosper

So it turns out these photos of the light up U.S.S. Enterprise are from the Parade of Lights by the City of East Peoria, Illinois.

They did a great job. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sherman Christmas Price Index 2013

PNC Wealth Management released their annual 'True Cost of Christmas' this month and the cost of Christmas went up again! The economy must be doing much better. In 2012 the actual cost had only grown around 6% and this year it is nearly 8%! This is a fun little commodity price index, and I wouldn't read too much into the numbers.

The price comes from getting your 'true love' to purchase everything mentioned in the verse of the 12 Days of Christmas. If you bought items 1-12, all the Lords a Leaping; Pipers Piping, and Maids Milking it would come to $27,393.18. While the 'True Cost', is the cost of buying all the gifts for every verse each day. They add up, buying 5 Golden Rings every day for the last half of the week. The TCOC comes to $114,651.18.

I've always preferred a much simpler Christmas Price Index. One that would be more reasonable for working middle class people to obtain. Who can afford 12 Lords a Leaping that isn't a millionaire? I like the Sherman Christmas Price Index or SCPI. This price index comes from the classic holiday parody done by Allan Sherman.


A note on my very unscientific methodology: I tried the best I could to find items as close to the ones mentioned in the song, and to keep them cheap versions of these products. Even the PNC folks have their own difficulties with the classic version of the song. For instance, different localities have things priced differently. If you were stuck in Arizona, getting the cows for the milking maids will be more expensive than getting them in Wisconsin. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Non Traditional Christmas Music

Taking a page from my friend Lance, here are three Non Traditional Christmas Songs for you this season. I have looked far and wide for some of the most unusual or off beat songs that might possibly appeal to that special Grinch in your life.

The first is from The Kinks

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

John Goodman SNL Recap

Well I tuned in for Saturday Night Live after a long day of moving some friends into a new apartment and really enjoyed John Goodman's performance. While most of the skits were not particularly memorable, they also were not over the top ridiculous. Nor boring. Easy going is how I would categorize the show this last Saturday.

John Goodman is not Kerry Washington, Justin Timberlake, Paul Rudd, Miley Cyrus or Beiber. You won't feel bad about not rolling on the floor laughing and you also won't be left scratching your head at most of the skits going 'WTF?".

Goodman is a solid, dependable performer and makes the most of any material. Some of his best SNL moments over the years have occurred when he dawns a dress for a skit. I was happy to see him return to his SNL Linda Tripp roots. Again, not a episode to post all over the social media world, but a good run for Goodman. The community theater skit and the cold open were also pretty good. Drunker Uncle on Weekend Update also worked somehow.  Let's hope they bring him back sooner than 12 years from now.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Speaking of Speaking: Advice on Public Speaking from the Back Row

As I was going through my facebook updates today I noticed an off hand comment from someone presenting at a public forum geared toward general audiences. It was of course about another speaker; but presented a common problem when we gather groups of professionals together to talk in front of the general public. Apparently, this speaker was very knowledgeable about their topic and got lost in the presentation and neglected to bring the audience with them on the journey of discovery about the topic.

Work in any field long enough and you are going to build up a good deal of knowledge about your topic, the organization you represent, and the community around your issue. This is good, don't get me wrong, we want people who are highly knowledgeable about higher education, climate change, and other topics. What we don't want as a general audience is to be lost in the minutia or details of your chosen field.

Most people do not get a whole lot of formal training in communications, let alone public speaking. This why candidates for political office, non profit, for profit leaders, even lawyers and ministers hire consultants to help them hone their skills. If you don't believe me, go down to your local county courthouse and sit in on a few cases. Odds are you wont see much in the way of Perry Mason or Alan Shore legal oratory. You will see a lot of heads down in file folders, rambling of case precedent and poor eye contact. Don't worry most people pay for good legal representation, not good communications representation at the courthouse. Still, public speaking isn't something most people are very experienced with nor would want to have a lot of experience with. I thought I'd share a tip with you from the back row.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nelson Mandela A Leader of the Future (1918-2013)

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” -Long Walk to Freedom 

There are few people I would ever think to nominate for President of Earth: Adlai Stevenson, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and  Mandela himself. I don't know if we will ever make it as one people, united in purpose for our own mutual prosperity. I am hopeful. Our diverse voices make us stronger not weaker. 

While we seem to have an unending supply of things to argue about and conflict over. Some governments and people can't seem to treat each other with the respect and compassion they deserve as human beings. Others are more hopeful and are working for that brave new world we must pass on to the next generation. Mandela was one of those working for that future. Like all those that inspire hope, when ones time is at an end, the others they have inspired will pick up where they left off to continue the march for freedom, peace, compassion and understanding. 

Stand between the darkness and the light friends. It may be the only thing that will save us. 

Top 10 Star Trek Voyager Guest Stars

I only have another month or so of 2013 to get through two more Star Trek television series. I have previously listed my Top 10 Guest Stars of TNG, and DS9. Now it is Voyagers turn.

10. Vaughn Armstrong

Perhaps one of the more recognized of the Star Trek acting troupe of guest stars, he might be most familiar as Admiral Maxwell Forrest from Star Trek Enterprise. Armstrong is one of five actors to have appeared in a Star Trek production in more than 7 different roles, his number is currently at 13. Spanning from TNG to Enterprise. He's lent his voice to numerous Trek computer games and even had a role in the first film of Star Trek the Experience. His appearance in the first season of VOY Eye of the Needle was a great performance and was one of the few appearances of the Romulans in VOY. He would eventually come back during the final episode to play a Klingon.