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  • May 27, 2010

    Get motivated, Brett Favre

    [Posted by kris]

    Brett Favre was at (via satellite) some huge "Get Motivated" seminar in Minneapolis Wednesday. Other speakers included the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell and Sarah Palin.

    At first I thought Favre seemed out of place, but then I realized the genius behind his participation. Favre is one of the best examples of one of the most powerful motivations known to mankind: spite. Now Favre didn't actually say this, but I challenge you to come up for a better motivation than trying to "stick it" to someone you hate.

    Even now, Favre is using spite to power himself to another "best season ever". Every time he talks about how much he loved his season with the Vikings, he knows it's like sticking another knife into the hearts of the Green Bay Packers and their fans.

    It's telling that Favre talks about that, instead of, you know, being motivated by the need to make up for his last few NFC Championship Game performances or by a desire to win another Super Bowl.

    As much as some Packer fans are still all about Favre, he's all about us. Just look at his new grandson's name, "Parker". Parker - that's just one letter away from "Packer". Is that a coincidence? I don't think so.

    The Simpsons had a Halloween episode where ad icons came to life and wrecked havoc on Springfield. To thwart, people just had to stop paying attention. Maybe that's what Packer fans, myself obviously included, need to do. Maybe if we all stop paying attention to Favre he'll finally go away. For real. Unfortunately, that would require us to ignore the power of our own spite, which isn't going to happen any time soon.

    Favre.

    Posted by kris at 11:53 AM | Comments (2)     
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    May 26, 2010

    Why do marketing speakers think it's okay to be sexist pigs?

    [Posted by kris]

    I was at a marketing conference yesterday and instead of coming away with some new ideas and inspiration, I came away mad. I thought (or at least hoped) that the old boys network only lived on in "Mad Men" episodes, but nope, it's alive and well.

    Speaker after speaker (all male, by the way) used outdated gender stereotypes (men like sports, women like Grey's Anatomy!) at best and at worst were just plain offensive and oblivious to the fact that the majority of their audience was female.

    For example, one presenter had a slide showing that the fastest growing group on some social network was women aged 55 and up. The visual he chose to go along with that snippet? A cougar. You'd think that a web savvy presenter would know that there's a huge backlash against the concept of older women as "cougars". You'd think that he'd approach an audience of generally older, professional women more respectively, wouldn't you?

    I don't think that guy was out to offend the audience, he just wasn't thinking. The lunch speaker, however, was absolutely out to offend. The speaker was the brains behind the T&A GoDaddy.com ads. He was very proud of this fact. So proud that he decided to show the ads to the audience. So yeah, he stood up there in front of a group of mostly women showing an ad that was basically just exploiting women for some cheap laughs.

    I'd actually be okay with that if his point was that even with changes in the marketing world sex sells or it's still worth going after the lowest common denominator or something like that. But it wasn't. His talk was all about "new affluents" and how they're more motivated by self-expression than status. So, his GoDaddy.com ad was the opposite of that. And again, I'd be fine with him showing it if he then talked about how now an ad for GoDaddy might be more about how it's a great tool for self-expression. But nope. He didn't even talk about the ad in terms of his point. He literally just showed the ad because he thought he was brilliant and he wanted to show off. He had no idea how much he had turned the audience against him.

    As a woman who works in digital marketing, I've come to expect that a typical marketing leader is still completely out of touch with online marketing. I'm dismayed, though, to find that marketing leaders are still completely out of touch with the fact that over half of their peers are women and might be deeply offended by a tone which completely minimizes and alienates them.

    I'm working with a group of former coworkers to start a blog that looks at the Dotcom world from a female perspective and also interviews various dotcom teams. I think after yesterday that another goal of ours will be to develop ourselves and possibly others into speakers that can better represent the real world of marketing.

    Posted by kris at 09:33 AM | Comments (2)     
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    May 24, 2010

    Messing with Texas textbooks

    [Posted by kris]

    I see that California is at it again, this time threatening Texas over its recent history curriculum revisions. Now, as much as I'd love to take this opportunity to judge the relative merits of Texas and California in a good 'ole shoot 'em up, I think it's clear who'd win that fight. Sorry, Cali.

    Anyway, to be honest, I think the Texas revisions range from incredibly misguided ("One Nation Under God" rather than separation of Church and State and studying many Confederate leaders) to understandable (ignoring hip hop - seriously, why should hip hop be included in a history book?) to right on (yes, a President, i.e. Reagan should be emphasized over a lifer Senator like Teddy Kennedy).

    But all of this ignores a central truth - kids don't care. You can put whatever you want in a textbook, but it doesn't mean the kids are going to be indoctrinated by it. They're not even paying attention. Really. If textbooks have been so liberally slanted for years and years, then why is America basically a center-right country? Shouldn't we be a bunch of bleeding hearts due to the influence of those evil liberal textbooks?

    I went to Catholic school for eight years and was taught world history by a Catholic priest. If I can emerge from that experience without believing that Anne Boleyn was a six-fingered witch-whore then I'm pretty sure that today's 7th graders can emerge from their Texas education without believing that Jefferson Davis & Abraham Lincoln were morally equivalent.

    Personally, I fervently believe that history books shouldn't even touch events until they're at least 50 years past. We don't have the proper perspective to understand them until then, much less teach it. Of course, that opinion still implies that kids are listening. They're not.

    This whole hullabaloo isn't even about the kids. It's about school boards "sticking it" to academics. It's a war of words that, like Shakespeare would say (are they still learning him?) is "full of sound and fury signifying nothing".

    Posted by kris at 10:52 AM | Comments (3)     
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    May 22, 2010

    The greatest ride

    [Posted by kris]

    The Belmont Stakes is still two weeks away, but I'm not going to let that stop me from the occasional horse racing post. Besides, I'm convinced that if I post enough exciting races I'm to convert a few visitors into fans.

    I thought, given the rise of Calvin Borel, I'd post what I consider the greatest ride of all time - Laffit Pincay's race aboard Skywalker in the 1986 Breeders Cup Classic. To give a little background, Skywalker was, at best, the third best horse in the race. The two favorites were Turkoman & Precisionist. Turkoman had a huge late run (the only horses I've ever seen with a comparable run are Easy Goer & Zenyatta) and Precisionist was blessed with natural speed. Basically, when the two ran against each other the question was simply whether Precisionist could get enough of an early lead to hold off Turkoman - sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't.

    Pincay's dilemma with Skywalker was that in order to win, his horse basically had to run the same race as Precisionist. So not only would he have to time his early move perfectly, he'd also have to outrun a clearly superior animal. How can he do that? Well watch and see how Pincay lulls Precisionist's jockey to sleep along the rail, traps him there and then explodes with his move. By the time Precisionist gets clear, Skywalker is long gone. The only question is if he gave Turkoman enough time to catch him.

    Watch and enjoy.

    Posted by kris at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)     
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    May 21, 2010

    In defense of Facebook

    [Posted by kris]

    I've often declared that "Facebook is the devil". And it's not just about their ever-changing privacy policy. It's also about the way that Facebook helps facilitate drama among friends. The South Park episode shows it best.

    But then last night I was reminded that maybe Facebook isn't so bad. I was out with some friends and one of them recognized a waitress as a girl she know when she was living in England. They had kind of lost touch since then, but they were still Facebook friends. The waitress came over to talk to us and quickly told my friend how she had inspired her to quit smoking. She said that the pictures of my friend running a marathon, skydiving, etc. reminded her that "life doesn't suck - it's just that my life sucks right now, but I can make it better".

    Pre-Facebook (PF?) you'd just simply lose touch with people like that. Not out of any malice, but just because that's the way life goes. With Facebook, it's so much easier to keep those light connections. Sometimes it just means you "get" to see lots of pictures of people's kids, but other times it's more meaningful. You never know who you're inspiring and who might inspire you!

    Posted by kris at 08:26 AM | Comments (2)     
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    May 20, 2010

    Fun for the red sweater & khaki crowd

    [Posted by kris]

    I just got this email from the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department:

    Does it strike anyone else as curious that you're supposed to "experience the tradition and pageantry of Wisconsin football" from your climate-controlled indoor seats while being waited on and enjoying private elevators and restrooms?

    How is this an authentic Wisconsin experience? It's like going to a football game without actually experiencing anything (from temperature to mixing with the riff raff) that makes a college football game special. Why not just watch it on TV?

    It worries me that Universities are so interested in selling this kind of experience. To me, it just flies in the face of what college sports are supposed to be about, particularly Wisconsin college sports. As a Badger fan, I hope that our success never causes us to lose that irreverence that makes us unique.

    People in these kinds of seats have more money & influence than the rest of us. They can better direct the tone and future of Wisconsin athletics. If this is where the University is going, I don't like it. I can hardly picture the red sweater & khaki clad big wigs chanting obscenities, doing the slow wave or sneaking in a flask of Captain. I can, however, easily picture them using their influence to stop the rest of us from doing just that.

    Posted by kris at 11:40 AM | Comments (2)     
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    May 19, 2010

    Arizona vs. California

    [Posted by kris]

    With the big brewhaha brewing between Arizona and California it seems like a good time to break it down and see what state will end up victorious in this border battle.

    Category
    What We Say
    Advantage
    Potential Military LeadersCalifornia has The Terminator, who helped John Connor temporarily save mankind while Arizona has John McCain, who, uh, got captured. I love Hogan's Heroes as much as the next right-minded person, but you gotta go with winners, even if they're fictional.
    Armed PopulationWhile over 30% of Arizonians have guns compared to California's 20%, California's vastly larger overall population means that its army of gun-toting wackos would clearly overwhelm Arizona's crackpots.
    Strategic VulnerabilitiesWith over 60% of its water imported from outside the state, California is vulnerable not only through its power supply but also its water supply.
    IntelligensiaWhile California has top schools like Cal-Berkley and Cal Tech, that brainpower is pretty much canceled out by its Hollywood stars and anyone who has ever been on The Hills.Push
    MoraleWhile California may be fighting from the moral high ground, Arizonians, like the South before them, may fight harder to preserve their way of life.
    FlanksArizona would have to simultaneously fight California and protect their southern border with Mexico. The people of Oregon, on the other hand, would never stop smoking pot and riding light rail long enough to pose a northern threat to California.
    National supportWhile many Americans would reflexively support Arizona's anti-immigrant stance, California could engage its screenwriting platoons to produce a series of slick propaganda films to sway the rest of the American public to its side.
    Natural resourcesArizona is ideally situated for a defensive war. If the Navajos could hole up in the canyons, there's no reason to believe that Arizona could do the same and ambush California troops. But, California definitely has the advantage in supplies with its plentiful produce, wine and "happy" cows.Push
    Potential Crippling Natural DisastersArizona has been devastated by meteors in the past, but seriously, how likely is it that they'd hit the same place twice? California, on the other hand, is overdue for a big earthquake. Just like the Bronze Age Trojans, California could lose the war because of its natural Achilles heel, rather than the Arizona Achilles (which totally would have been Shaq if he was still playing for the Suns).
    HeroesWhile Californians could still be rallied to win one for the Gipper, Arizona could recall the fighting spirit of Cochise and Geronimo.
    Push

    At first it seems like California has the clear advantage, but when you break it down, you realize what a tough battle this really would be.

    Posted by kris at 01:39 PM | Comments (2)     
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    May 17, 2010

    Is it time to peel off those bumper stickers?

    [Posted by kris]

    I was behind a car sporting a vintage 2004 Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker the other day and it got me to thinking - what's the expiration date for political bumper stickers? I can see still having your Obama sticker on your Prius, but what about those W, Wellstone! or Re-Defeat Bush stickers? Are they like Christmas trees or can you have them up as long as you want?

    How long can you keep political bumper stickers on your car?
    Only until the election is over
    I believe in strict term limits - 2 years
    Until the next Presidential election cycle - 4 years max
    As long as you want, this is America!
    As long as you want, if we're talking about your sweetass 1980 John Anderson sticker
    You should never put political bumper stickers on your car
      
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    Posted by kris at 07:18 PM | Comments (0)     
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    Does anti-incumbency equal polarization?

    [Posted by kris]

    I was reading an article in The Guardian (don't judge me) about tomorrow's election and:

    The polarisation of US politics is likely to gather pace tomorrow in a host of contests across the country in which Republican and Democratic establishment candidates face being thrown out, victims of a wave of populist hostility towards Washington.

    I'll agree with the characterization of anti-incumbent hostility, but I disagree that it necessarily represents a polarization of American politics. If anything, it represents a dissatisfaction on both sides of the political spectrum with Washington's business as usual.

    I think of the pending elections as an opportunity for a massive fresh start. With new faces in Congress, maybe decisions can be made pragmatically rather than partisanly. Call me a dreamer. Not only that, but let's remember that the Tea Party wasn't founded on emotional and divisive social issues - it was about spending. You can compromise on rational issues like spending.

    Personally, I think both major political parties would like us to think that this election is polarizing and scary. If we fear the other political party it makes their job easier. They don't have to work hard to sell us on their platforms and plans -they just have to point their fingers at the other guy and tell us how crazy and evil they are.

    I'm excited that both Republicans and Democrats are being held accountable for their years of disservice. To me, this is the kind of Hope Change that we all can get behind.

    Posted by kris at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)     
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    May 14, 2010

    2010 Preakness Pick

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our Preakness coverage)

    Since 1979, over 80% of Preaknesses were won by horses that competed in the Kentucky Derby. The horses that skipped the Derby and won the Preakness were good enough to win other important races right around the Derby, they just didn't run in it for whatever reason.

    This year's newcomers aren't nearly as accomplished. In fact, none of them won their last race. To my mind, they weren't in the Kentucky Derby simply because they weren't good enough. I see no compelling reason to think they're suddenly good enough now.

    I think the Preakness will be won by one of the five colts who competed in the Derby: Jackson Bend, Lookin At Lucky, Super Saver, Paddy O'Prado & Dublin. Basically, every one of them other than Super Saver had a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby. But, none of them were that good before the Derby. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think any of them lost the Kentucky Derby because of their trip. They lost the race because they weren't good enough. Lookin At Lucky is probably the best of the lot, but even when he finally got clear towards the end of the race, he didn't make up a ton of ground. He just passed tired horses.

    Super Saver, on the other hand, got a good trip and ran a good race. To my mind, he probably ran the kind of race that didn't take a ton out of him and I expect that a) he can repeat that performance and b) that performance will be good enough to win the Preakness. So, my official pick is Super Saver. For the exacta I also like Lookin At Lucky and Schoolyard Dreams. Although a blanket finish between Caracortado and Paddy O'Prado would be fun from a purely rhyming perspective. :)

    Who do you like?

    Who will win the Preakness Stakes?
    Aikenite
    Schoolyard Dreams
    Pleasant Prince
    Northern Giant
    Yawanna Twist
    Jackson Bend
    Lookin At Lucky
    Super Saver
    Caracortado
    Paddy O'Prado
    First Dude
    Dublin
      
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    Posted by kris at 07:17 AM | Comments (5)     
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    May 13, 2010

    2010 Preakness - The Fallacy of Freshness

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our Preakness coverage)

    Much is made of the supposed advantage of having a fresh horse in the Preakness. The theory goes that because these fresh horses didn't have to endure the difficulties inherent in the Kentucky Derby, they'll be ready to pounce on the tired horses that did run in the Derby.

    It's a nice theory, but in practice it just doesn't work that way. For the most part, if you have a horse good enough to win the Preakness, you'll run him the Derby. This chart shows Preakness winners since 1979 and you can see that over 80% ran in the Kentucky Derby (35% won the Derby and 55% at least finished in the top three).

    Typically, horses that skip the Derby do so because they haven't accomplished enough to win the race. Unless they suddenly improve, there's little reason to think they can beat the better colts that ran in the Derby.

    Of course, since 1979 six horses that skipped the Derby did win the Preakness. Is there anything special or enlightening about them? Let's look:

    1. Codex won the 1980 Preakness after winning both the Santa Anita and Hollywood Derbies in California. His owners never bothered to nominate him to the Kentucky Derby, so he couldn't run even though his trainer, a relatively young Wayne Lukas, wanted to.
    2. Aloma's Ruler and Deputed Testamony won the 1982 and 1983 Preakness respectively. Both were basically local horses who won local races between the Derby and Preakness.
    3. Red Bullet won the 2000 Preakness after finishing second in the Wood Memorial and skipping the Derby
    4. Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness after winning the Withers Stakes on Derby Day. Berdardini was only a maiden winner prior to the Derby, albeit a spectacular one.
    5. Finally, Rachel Alexandra won last year's Preakness after running in the Kentucky Oaks. Her original owners didn't believe in running fillies against colts, which is why she didn't run in the Derby

    So, with the single exception of Red Bullet, these horses, even if they didn't run in the Kentucky Derby, came into the Preakness off of a recent prep race that they won. Looking at this year's field, the newcomers don't fit this pattern. They haven't run many recent races and they haven't won a lot of races. I don't see any of them beating the Derby horses, although I haven't yet decided which of those Derby runners I'm going to pick. I'll do that in tomorrow's post.

    Posted by kris at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)     
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    May 12, 2010

    Five great Preaknesses

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our Preakness coverage)

    The Preakness Stakes, sandwiched between the glamorous Kentucky Derby and New York's historical Belmont Stakes, is the redheaded stepchild of the Triple Crown. It's best known for crab cakes and the crazy infield party. That's too bad, because, at least recently, the Preakness has produced far and away the most exciting Triple Crown races. Here are five of my favorites*.

    Here's the great 1997 Preakness featuring the blanket finish between Derby winner Silver Charm, the great grey Free House and stretch-running Captain Bodgit.

    I'm all aboard Team Zenyatta, but Rachel Alexandra's Preakness victory last year was one for the ages.

    Here's the 2005 Preakness. Watch Afleet Alex's amazing move and what happens to him at the head of the stretch. It's amazing.

    Secretariat's 1973 Preakness, known forever for "the move".

    Finally, here's the 1989 Preakness. Effin' Pat Day...

    *The 1989 Preakness is, in fact, not one of my "favorite" Preaknesses. Just sayin'.

    Posted by kris at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)     
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    May 11, 2010

    How horse racing can get its preak on

    [Posted by kris]

    The horse racing elite are upset by the Preakness' "Get Your Preak On" campaign:

    Baltimore, you must be proud.

    Here it is, the start of Preakness Week, all eyes in the world of horse racing riveted on our city, thousands of visitors pouring in for Saturday's big race, the fabled second jewel of the Triple Crown.

    And everywhere you go, there are signs urging folks to "Get Your Preak On."

    And radio commercials talking about "Getting Your Preak On."

    Nice. Just what the city needs.

    Just what horse racing needs, too.

    Here's a sport that's already on life support, enjoyed by about two dozen people under the age of 70 across the entire country.

    Have you been to the track lately?

    It's a bunch of old guys sipping beer and chomping on cigars while they study the Daily Racing Form as if it were Scripture.

    So what better way to revive the sport than with a sleazy ad campaign that plays on a sexually suggestive hip-hop song?

    So let me get this straight: horse racing is a dying sport with an aging fanbase so it shouldn't try youth-oriented marketing campaigns? Huh?

    Predictably, the "Get Your Preak On" campaign and its accompanying $10 off admission and $20 all-you-can-drink deal are huge hits and Preakness ticket sales are up 25%. So what's the problem?

    The problem is that the racing elite don't like it. Like many industry insiders, they don't understand that they're not the market. They don't get that, in fact, marketing campaigns that don't appeal to them are the very ones that may well be the most effective. This doesn't just happen in horse racing either - you can get a like-minded group of executives in any industry in a room and they're likely to shoot down anything that doesn't speak to them - regardless of who the actual market is.

    While "Get Your Preak On" is a good start, it's just a one-time blowout - what can horse racing do to market itself throughout the year? Here are my ideas:

    1. Create a rule whereby a horse cannot be registered as a thoroughbred unless its parents a) never ran in a race or b) are at least six years old at the time of the horse's birth. What this does is remove the financial incentive to retire horses at the end of their three-year old season. Basically, under this rule, once a horse runs you couldn't breed them until they turned 5, so if you can't breed, you'll race. And, if you race, you'll create stars that last more than 5 weeks and better competition. People love Zenyatta and she draws a crowd outside of regular horse racing fans - that happens because she's been around for awhile. Horse racing needs to figure out a way for that to be the norm, not the exception.

    2. Create high stakes fantasy leagues. Acknowledge that not every fan is going to learn to read the Daily Racing Form and go to the track that often. But, at the same time, allow them to get invested in the results of major races throughout the year. There are so many opportunities for fantasy leagues, from nationwide, year-long leagues to meet specific leagues (i.e. Saratoga only). Much like you care about the NCAA basketball tourney because of your brackets, you could care about the results of the Suburban Handicap because of your fantasy league.

    3. Market the horse. In horse racing, the human connections are typically unbelievably wealthy owners, weird reclusive trainers and creepily strong little people. These are not people the common man or woman can relate to. Horses, however, are noble & beautiful creatures. We love animals. More pretty ponies, less pretty people.

    4. Get on TV. Back in the early days of television, networks were desperate for programming. Apparently, they wanted to show horse racing, but tracks balked at giving away their product for free. Baseball, however, had no problem with it and thus began the rise of "America's Pastime" and the fall of the "Sport of Kings". At this point, racing just needs to be on TV more. Heck, with networks canceling soap operas left and right, maybe racing can fill up some of that programing vacuum. If not, the sport should consider buying time to show racing. The actual product, the horse race, is fantastic - the goal should be to get that product in front of as many people as possible because it'll sell itself.

    5. Make it easy to get to the track. Of course tracks are filled with 70-year olds. They don't have jobs - they can hang out at 2 on a Tuesday. The rest of us aren't so lucky. Tracks have started to experiment with Friday night racing and so far it's been successful, but why stop there? Tracks could market racing "happy hours" every week, etc. Most people are surprised at how nice racetracks are - but in order to be surprised they have to actually set foot in one. Make it very easy for people to get that first foot in the door.

    6. Make it special. Racing six days a week for 5 months at a time dilutes the product. Races have smaller fields and there's no urgency to get to the track. Tracks should, whenever possible, have shorter meets and run for 4 or 5 days a week. There's nothing to say they can't pack in more races a day (and, if we're moving to more night racing that makes sense) but those days need to feel more special and exclusive.

    7. Clean itself up. Get rid of all drugs - including currently legal drugs like Lasix. Immediately ban anyone for life for drug infractions. Establish even bigger industry-wide retirement programs. If horse racing wants to live in the mainstream they need to proactively take the highroad. Racing wants to be in the spotlight, but it won't do the sport any good if that spotlight shines on some of the unsavory aspects of the game.

    8. Finally, to accomplish all of this - name a Racing Tsar who has power over the Jockey Club, the NTRA and all of the tracks. Give this person the control they need to enact these changes. Also, they should consider hiring me :)

    Posted by kris at 10:29 AM | Comments (1)     
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    May 10, 2010

    Policy and a Pint

    [Posted by kris]

    I heard an ad on the radio yesterday for the Policy and a Pint event put on by Minnesota Public Radio. The intro for the event asks:

    Now that health care reform has passed, are we all going to be healthy? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. But why? If Americans' poor health can be blamed largely on poor decisions, why do we make them? And why is the health care system set up to respond to crises and not prevention?

    At first that seemed like an absurd and naive question along the lines of the woman who famously rhapsodized that with Obama's election she wouldn't have to worry about paying for gas or her mortgage anymore.

    The system is set up to respond to crises because eventually we're all going to get sick. Health care reform, no matter how much it costs, isn't actually going to prevent sickness.

    After marinating on it for awhile, however, the question is more interesting. Will the health care reform bill actually do anything to make us healthier? And was that even the purpose of the reform in the first place?

    To me, it's pretty clear that the purpose of health care reform wasn't to make us healthier. It was to make more people able to have insurance. That's about it. There's really nothing in the bill that tries to make Americans healthier. Ultimately, it's usually up to an individual to make healthy choices, but if you accept government coercion of that choice, then why is it missing from the reform?

    I watched some of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and I wonder why an overhaul of school lunch requirements wasn't included as part of health care reform? If things like yoga, health club memberships, massage, acupuncture & CSAs help us stay healthy then why can't we purchase them pre-tax with our flexible spending accounts? Or why not create some rules around cancer screening for high-risk patients so that they don't have to jump through a hundred hoops to get an MRI instead of a mammogram?

    So basically, I just come to the same conclusion that this massive health care reform bill certainly does do some good, but at an enormous cost and without a lot of reason to believe that it will either reform the system or make us healthier.

    Posted by kris at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)     
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    May 09, 2010

    What if?

    [Posted by kris]

    I love historical "what if?" stories like Robert Cowley's series. I recently heard of another book, The Alteration in which the historical timeline changes with two events: the election of Martin Luther as Pope and the birth of a son during the short-lived marriage of Arthur Tudor & Catherine of Aragon.

    That latter deviation is especially interesting to me because I've been toying with my own Tudor alternative history for awhile now. On New Year's Day, 1511, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon had a son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall. Unfortunately, the little baby died six weeks later. But what if he had lived? How would history have changed?

    Besides my own apparent inability to write fiction, what I have a hard time with is figuring out what's most interesting about my Henry IX. I figure the story could go one of three ways:

    1. What is the lasting historical significance? Henry VIII broke with the Church in order to divorce his wife. But with a legitimate son, he would never have done that. Would the English Reformation still happen? Would it have been more gradual or less bloody?

    2. How does Henry IX's very existence change the lives of important historical personages? If Henry lived, his father would never have had six wives - but what would have happened to these women instead? Some, like Anne Boleyn, may have found their way into history anyway, while others, like Catherine Howard, might have lived happily in obscurity. And instead of being known to history as "Bloody Mary", maybe Princess Mary would have been a wife & mother to some foreign nobleman. So basically, it's like The Tudors, but with even more creative license.

    3. Finally, the story could just be about Henry IX. Who is he? What is he like? My initial instinct is to make him likable, but would it be more fun to give him his father's ego and his mother's stubbornness and turn him into a monster?

    The variety of possibilities is what makes it such a great "What if?". You can definitely come up with more mind-blowing historical "what ifs", but not ones that'll have the same richness of characters and soap opera goodness. I mean, "What if Gore won Florida?" is hardly so juicy. And, although Al Gore is staring to look like Henry VIII (and certainly has his ego), Tipper is clearly no Catherine or Anne.

    Posted by kris at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)     
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    May 06, 2010

    Political Strategy in the Wisconsin 7th

    [Posted by kris]

    I often talk about how annoyed I am when people frame issues in terms of politics (for example, talking about health care reform in terms of how it well help or hurt political parties rather than how it will help or hurt people). However, I was a Political Science major with an emphasis in Election Campaigns and Political Communications. So, I do believe there's a time and a place to talk about political strategy.

    With Dave Obey's retirement, Wisconsin's 7th Congressional district will finally get a new congressman. I grew up in the 7th and Obey has literally been in Congress my entire life. Over the years, I've watched a parade of local weathermen, former Iranian hostages and the like take him on and fail. It was disappointing to me to hear people bitch about the government all year and then consistently choose to do nothing about it.

    The favorite to take Obey's seat is former Real Worlder and current Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy. Duffy is best known for being on the Real World: Boston back in 1997. What's interesting to me, from a political strategy perspective, is how the Democrats are framing the race against Duffy. They've got two messages:

    1. Duffy is Bush.
    2. Duffy is a drunken, racist lout.

    Seriously:

    Obey and other Democrats expressed confidence they would hold on to the seat and promised a hard campaign against Duffy. Without naming him, Obey labeled Duffy a "poor imitation of George W. Bush's policies on a bad day."

    Duffy predicted Democrats would try to use his stint as a reality television star against him, but that the tactic wouldn't work. Within minutes, Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said Duffy was best known for "getting drunk and having sex on television."

    During the taping of "Real World: Boston," Duffy came close to being fired from his job supervising an after-school program because of an incident where he and other cast members drank alcohol in front of the children. Duffy also often clashed with liberal cast member Kameelah Phillips, referring to her as a racist to another cast member and comparing her to Adolf Hitler, according to episode recaps at TV.com, a CBS Interactive website.

    So, I watched the Real World: Boston and from what I remember (and if you need refreshing, don't go to this TV.com site, check out Television Without Pity (you'll need to scroll down to Season 6)) Montana is the only person that got in trouble at her job, Sean was pretty boring and that Kameelah girl was kind of a bitch. Just sayin'.

    If the Dems' strategy is to simply attack Duffy for stuff he did 13 years ago, good luck and ho hum. Likewise, I looked at Duffy's platform on his website and it's pretty much the same old, same old. As an aside, why do politicians insist on having a "Values" section? And why is gay marriage (Duffy is against it, but for civil unions) always a part of it? Shouldn't values be between you and conscience rather than you and your government? Anyway...while the Dems attack Duffy for being telegenic, I do think this is ultimately the winning sentiment for him:

    Born and raised in northern Wisconsin I always knew that the best place to raise a family is right here in Northern Wisconsin. But for my kids, choosing to live here in the beautiful Northwoods may not be as easy. Wisconsin has lost employers faster than any other state in the Midwest since 2006óeven more than Michigan. We have lost more than 160,000 jobs since the recession began and in many counties in northern and central Wisconsin, unemployment rates remain well above the national average. If we donít turn this trend around, Iím afraid my kids and your kids or grandkids will be looking for work in other places.

    With an uncertain economic recovery and burdensome policies and regulations being forced on small business at a record pace, businesses are hesitant to invest in more workers. Some businesses are scaling back. Others are being forced to close their doors. We all want our government to provide a safety net or financial bridge for those who fall on hard times, but that is a short-term solution. In the long term, the best social program is a family-supporting job.

    Without a doubt, the best way to help Wisconsin families is to support our small businesses - the real job creators. Every year, small businesses generate 60-80% of all new jobs. The people of Northern and Central Wisconsin want to keep our college graduates, young families, and most productive workers right here in the district. As your voice, I will fight for Wisconsinís businesses and workers by opposing onerous regulations and taxation on our small businesses and manufacturers. I will support policies that attract businesses and good jobs to our district because I believe that the small businesses of the 7th district will lead us out of this current recession Ė not government.

    I realize Duffy isn't really saying anything here, other than that he likes jobs & small businesses, but it's the overall theme that I think will resonate with the district - the idea that you and/or your children have to leave Wisconsin for decent opportunities. That's something that will ring true to people. Wisconsin is amazing, but good luck finding a job. It makes me wonder, however, why Duffy is running for Congress rather than for Governor. As Governor, he could better position Wisconsin against neighboring states. As a freshman Congressman he can, uh...

    What it comes down to is that I'm cynical enough to believe that elections don't really matter anymore. I'm interested in this particular election to see if my predictions about the political communication strategies come true, but other that, I don't think it's going to make a world of difference.

    Posted by kris at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)     
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    May 04, 2010

    How to be annoying on Facebook - a profile in progress

    [Posted by kris]

    After a few discussions about annoying Facebook habits, I decided to try to create one single annoying person that could serve to continually illustrate bad Facebook behavior.

    Meet Emily Ennoying. Here's a screenshot if you don't want to go to Facebook.

    Emily is a Cubs-loving FIB who enjoys writing about her "hubby" (the LOML), her baby Angelah (note the obnoxious spelling), being a Mommy, Jesus and Obama. Additionally, Emily is fond of CAPS LOCK, dramatic pronouncements, martyrdom and poor grammar. And let's not even talk about spelling.

    Emily's favorite things include writing passive aggressive posts, posting inappropriate pictures of breast feeding, Farmville, and using exclamation points.

    Needless to say, Emily's profile picture is her baby.

    Posted by kris at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)     
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    May 02, 2010

    2010 Kentucky Derby - What Did We Learn?

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2010 Kentucky Derby articles)

    Another Kentucky Derby has come and gone and as I sit here with emptier pockets, it's time again to take stock of what happened. This year, I wrote a series of articles about the factors that I consider important when picking a Kentucky Derby winner. Now, let's go back and see how Super Saver ranked on those factors and if I need to change them up. For comparison's sake, I've already added Super Saver to my chart of Kentucky Derby winners.

    Beyer Speed Figures: My feeling is that Beyers are not nearly as important or valuable anymore. I think the rise of synthetic racing requires a complete overhaul of their formula. Yesterday, Super Saver won despite never running a Beyer over 100. Plus, even if you still believe in Beyers, I don't know how they could have helped you since most of the field was within one or two points of each other.

    Pedigree. By my measure, Super Saver and 2nd place finisher Ice Box had the two best pedigrees in the race. Super Saver qualified on dosage and he's an X-factor horse since his mom, Supercharger, is a double copy mare. Also, he, like other Derby winners Sea Hero, Go For Gin & Smarty Jones, descends in direct female line from the great broodmare La Troienne. At this point, I think it's wise to give extra consideration to female-line descendants of this mare. Super Saver comes from an absolutely amazing female line, but Smarty Jones really didn't. There's just something about that La Troienne blood that can produce a good one at anytime.

    The other pedigree lesson I think I learned is to "dance with the one that brung ya". That is, if a horse was good to you in the past, you should always have a little money on their descendants. A.P. Indy is one of my all-time favorites and his grandsons finished 1-2. In the future, I'll have his sons, daughters and grandhorsies covered.

    Recent Prep Races: Super Saver joins a long list of a horses that lost their final Derby prep. Never toss a horse just because they lost their last prep.

    Multiple Stakes Winners: This year, I decided to toss all horses who weren't multiple stakes winners. While I think that's an important factor to consider, it was probably foolish to make it a funnel question. Next year, it'll be a factor rather than a funnel.

    Pace: Again this year, everyone said the Derby would have a super fast pace. It didn't. It had a fast first half, but that's it. According to the official chart, the half went in 46.16, three quarters in 1:10.58 and a mile in 1:37.65. Those are moderate fractions, comparable to Funny Cide's 2003 Derby. Now, you could say they were tougher fractions because of the muddy track. At most, I'd say there were on the fast side of moderate, but at the end of the race, they, like most moderate paces, produced a stalker as the winner. I stand by my deconstruction of the probable pace scenario.

    Surfaces: The top two horses were dirt horses, 3rd place was a turf horse and 4th place mostly ran on synthetics. I stand by my conviction that surface changes are overrated.

    Two-Year Old Form: Super Saver was a stakes winner at two. I can't overemphasize what an important factor I think this is. Next year, instead of starting my analysis with pace scenario, etc., I'm cutting right to the chase and tossing every horse without good two-year old form.

    Trainers, Jockeys & Trips: Todd Pletcher proved he could win the Derby and Calvin Borel won with a perfect trip again. At this point, the only thing you can do as a handicapper is take out "Borel Insurance" at every Derby this guy ever rides. Right now, he has the magic touch. And, as we'll see when we discuss the Derby Gods, you can't fight magic.

    Works: Super Saver was always mentioned as one of the better working horses at the track (of course, so was American Lion and he was a complete non-factor). I think workouts can only reinforce your opinion of a horse. If you liked Super Saver, his works were good news. If you didn't like him, they weren't going to change your mind.

    Plodders: This was the biggest lesson I learned through my analysis this year. No matter you believe about the winner of the Kentucky Derby, expect that the rest of the board will be filled with plodders. And indeed, Ice Box, Paddy O'Prado and Make Music For Me lumbered up after running 19th, 13th and 20th early. I had Ice Box & Paddy O'Prado in my exacta boxes, but just didn't consider Super Saver for the win.

    The Derby Gods: Finally, it's the real reason Super Saver won. Now, the Gods clearly love Calvin Borel and they rewarded trainer Todd Pletcher's long years in the sport. But to be honest, this Kentucky Derby was won the second that Glen Fullerton laid down his $100,000 bet. The Gods clearly wanted to give the 40-year old software designer $900,000. I think the skies parted right before the race precisely so the Gods could better watch their handiwork. Fullerton was a completely unpredictable factor, yet, once again, Super Saver's victory resulted in a great human interest story. Never underestimate the Derby Gods.

    Up next: the Preakness, which, unlike the Derby, only requires about half and hour of analysis :)

    Posted by kris at 08:51 AM | Comments (7)     
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    May 01, 2010

    2010 Kentucky Derby - It's Derby Day!

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2010 Kentucky Derby preview articles)

    As a child, I loved May Day. We'd make woven paper baskets, fill them with treats, put them on our neighbor's doorstep, ring the doorbell and then run away. I think it was the combination of crafts and craftiness that appealed to me.

    This year, I've analyzed the Derby so much that I might very well be eligible for some basket weaving classes. But even though in all likelihood I'll be wondering later how I could have possibly missed the winner, for now it's a sweeter May Day.

    With the Derby a mere 8 1/2 hours away, I thought I'd post some of my favorite Derbies in memory to get us in the mood.

    The 1982 Derby was the first one I ever picked correctly. Gato del Sol went off at 21-1. Unfortunately, I was far too young to hit the betting windows.

    Here's the 1988 Derby. I like this race because I respect courageous front runners and I think it's hilarious that with a field of horses like Winning Colors, Forty Niner, Risen Star, Seeking The Gold and Brian's Time, I was all about Lively One. Sometimes, I am very dumb.

    This next one is the classic 1997 Kentucky Derby which probably features one of the best fields in Derby history. It's one of the few recent Derbies that was run like a "normal" horse race. You can really see the quality of these horses in that year's Preakness. The fractions that they ran were pretty intense and yet Free House was right there at the end. What a horse.

    Here's the muddy 2004 Derby, which again features some brave front runners.

    I really like Smarty Jones, but I can't watch this Derby without wanting Lion Heart to win. He was soooo tough on the lead.

    Finally, here's the 2007 Kentucky Derby, featuring Calvin Borel & Street Sense.

    Posted by kris at 09:06 AM | Comments (6)     
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