The Electoral College

If you don’t like the electoral college it may partly be because you are WEIRD – western, educated, industrialized, rich (by world standards), and democratic. This means that in a red state, your values likely differ from a majority of your fellow state citizens and that your perspective differs from the democracy-phobic founders who put the electoral college in place to prevent straight up democracy that would negate the will of rural states in favor of national rule. In the 2016 election, even though he had fewer votes overall, Trump won a majority of votes in 2,626 counties to Hillary’s 487. From a more localized perspective, it would be strange for someone who has the support of so many counties to not be the winner.

We have given so much power over our lives over to the executive branch bureaucracy that it is hard for us to imagine that local rule is more important or that it is important to ensure that all *kinds* of people have an impact on the national election no matter how many people represent the “kind.” So many Americans are aligned with the values of professor Netflix and the national news media that they are disconnected from their neighbors and care more about the national will and the national historical story than the local- the electoral college seems like a quaint barrier to an unqualified good, democracy. But democracy is a dangerous form of government for minorities (two wolves and a sheep voting for what’s for supper) and fear of it is what drove the way American government was designed, to put checks on majority rule locally, to completely negate the tyranny of high-population centers nationally through the electoral college, and to only allow state legislators to elect senators. That last protection was chipped away by the 17th amendment. The electoral college is one of the few protections left.

Misinterpreted Visuals

When I was a kid, the Chiquita banana logo looked like this:

Chiquita, As it Really Was

The old one, as you can see, has an anthropomorphic banana with a fruit bowl on its head. I grew up in the 1980s, so maybe you’ve never seen that logo if you are much younger than I am.

But I didn’t see the anthropomorphic banana. Here’s what I saw:

Chiquita, as Young Barlow Saw It

Notice, it looked like a Kermit the Frog or Cookie Monster type monster.

For a while, I’ve been perplexed about why I saw it that way as a kid. Because, as an adult, I kept seeing the lady, but not the monster. I was perplexed, I now know, because they changed it at some point to a human lady with a fruit bowl on her head, Carmen Miranda style:

Chiquita, As it is Now

Mystery solved. And for the record, it took a long time to track down a photo of the original logo, adding to my confusion. I’ll admit, I still see the monster in the original one at first glance, especially if I see it at a smaller size as it would have been on a banana held by a younger me.

Spring Break

I ended up taking off this week from work for Spring Break. It has been great to be around the house, getting the yard ready for summer, etc. I’ve also caught up on a lot of podcasts, and earlier in the week we played horseshoes with a set I bought. Because of the rainfall over the past few months, we haven’t been able to try them out until now.

Horseshoes are challenging. The regulation setup means that you have to pitch a 2.5 pound metal horseshoe 40 feet. At first, I fell into throwing them end-over-end, hoping to loop the stake. But then, we looked it up and found an interesting ESPN video that breaks down the way one of the world’s best horseshoes competitors throws. We’ve been trying his method, but it is very difficult to impart the slow rotation he achieves. I think we’ll get it eventually. His method seems to be the canonical one, judging by other horseshoe competitions you can find online.

The last two days have been spent cutting bushes, weeding, trimming, getting the grass to be more uniform (even though most of what’s growing now are wild onions). It’s looking more like respectable people live here now.

I’ve been reading/thinking a lot about two topics lately – artificial intelligence and the blockchain. I’ve come up with nothing revolutionary yet. I taught an intro data science course last semester and it was really great to have to learn all the various AI and ML techniques well enough to explain them to a class of kids from diverse academic backgrounds. I especially took a lot of time to learn how various kinds of artificial neural networks work. I am looking for something practical to use for experimenting with ML. I’ve found readily available libraries like TensorFlow that work in Java. If I use Java instead of Python it will be much easier to take something from the experimental stage to production. Stay tuned.

Finally, I think I had my first migraine headache last night. I have some co-workers who have migraines, but I haven’t ever experienced one. Last night, though – wow. I think I probably got a little dehydrated doing yard work or maybe it was my sinuses. Whatever the cause, I’m glad that’s over.

Alright, dear reader. Hope you are well. I have no idea if anyone is reading this blog. I’ve been blogging for more than 20 years. Probably should have accomplished more in that time that I have, but slow and steady wins the race. If you’re not already following me on Instagram that’s a place where I sometimes post small musical performances. I also post photographs of the hilarious crime report section from the Port Gibson Reveille – a newspaper from the town where my dad grew up in MS.