Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

The Big Short taught me one thing: Michael Scott pushed the wrong kind of paper

I found The Big Short difficult to watch, not because it does a poor job both man- and womansplaining complicated financial instruments, but because whenever Steve Carell is on screen I can’t help seeing Michael Scott.

And the confusion, in this case, was not purely a figment of my imagination. Indeed, my main takeaway from the Big Short is that the big banks that caused the financial collapse were more oblivious than the World’s Best Boss himself. Don’t believe me?

Compare, The Big Short, around the one hour, nine minute mark:

Continue reading The Big Short taught me one thing: Michael Scott pushed the wrong kind of paper


John Oliver’s evisceration of Miss America shows he doesn’t understand beauty pageant winners

In John Oliver’s acclaimed evisceration of the Miss America pageant, HBO’s new host investigated the pageant’s oft-repeated claim that it makes $45 million in scholarship money available to contestants on an annual basis. Unsurprisingly, he concluded that the stated figure substantially overstates reality.

But he was wrong,* and it’s all because his fact-finding elves didn’t dig deep enough into the types of people who compete in the pageant — and particularly, into their educational proclivities (emphasis added):

Continue reading John Oliver’s evisceration of Miss America shows he doesn’t understand beauty pageant winners

Far be it from me to tell you how to run your Twitter account

As they say, Department of the Interior, slow and steady wins the race — so maybe you could have waited to post your indisputably adorable picture of the tiny bog turtle to Twitter for just one day . . . so you wouldn’t have had to end up re-posting it with literally the very next tweet:

Continue reading Far be it from me to tell you how to run your Twitter account

Your obligatory post-atrocity reminder post, Part II

Newtown made headlines again recently when it was revealed that the most recent shooter who killed three people and injured sixteen more at Fort Hood was known to have vented about Adam Lanza, the individual who — as you well know — brought an assault rifle to Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 26 people and then himself. Some people blame easy access to guns for enabling these tragedies. Other people blame this country’s treatment of mental illnesses. I think they’re both right — but I also don’t think that the existence of one problem excuses dealing with the other.

What follows is a selection of statuses that appeared in my Facebook newsfeed following the events of that fateful December event. I’m citing them as a representative sample, since I’m way too lazy to search the internet for others. But I’m sure you’ve seen this sort of thinking before, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over being somewhat less than scientific:

Continue reading Your obligatory post-atrocity reminder post, Part II

WWII military hero treated unjustly at the hands of Injustice

This blog has a long history of obsession with those commercials that appear repeatedly during the online viewing [it’s possible every one of those words links to a different post] of Colbert and the Daily Show.

Well, welcome to the most recent installment, in which I break down the latest offering from GameStop, featuring Russian superhero “Comrade Kielbasa” (or, I suppose, “Komrade Kielbasa”). I would really encourage you to watch the video for yourself, but if you’re for some reason too lazy, I included the complete text immediately after:

Continue reading WWII military hero treated unjustly at the hands of Injustice

Someone has Seattle’s back (and Macklemore’s front)

I no longer attend the University of Pennsylvania, but I am still friends with Under the Button on Facebook.

I usually ignore the posts — since, as I just said, I no longer attend the University of Pennsylvania — but when said Facebook page referenced Seattle-area rapper Macklemore in a title, I was naturally curious and decided to click.

Apparently, someone — possibly SPEC, but I don’t care enough to speculate (lol) — went to the trouble of chalking a whole bunch of musicians along Locust Walk on Friday. Obviously, they can’t all be coming to Spring Fling (assuming any of them are), but it was apparently enough to get a post in UTB which is — I assume — all the chalkers really wanted anyway. After all, why does anyone do anything at Penn if not to get a post in UTB? [Editor’s note: note the recommended links!]

Anyway, I was pleased to note that the chalk drawing of Macklemore featured the word SEATTLE prominently across his chest:

Continue reading Someone has Seattle’s back (and Macklemore’s front)

It’s useful in a pinch (pun intended), but is all that salt a good idea?

Continue reading It’s useful in a pinch (pun intended), but is all that salt a good idea?

In which I put on my Nate Silver hat

Election day has come and gone, and while we — thankfully — already know the outcome, I can still write about it because votes continue to be counted over two weeks later. You may have heard that Barack Obama pulled out a victory in the Presidential race, earning just over 50% of the popular vote. And in a fun bit of irony, it’s looking increasingly likely that Mitt Romney will end up with roughly 47% of the popular vote.

But as you know, the popular vote doesn’t actually count for much. In case you have trouble hearkening back to 2000, a number of pre-election articles speculated that Romney might win the popular vote but lose the electoral college. A few even explored the dreaded electoral college tie (tl;dr – President Romney, Vice President Biden). And while neither of these nightmare scenarios came to fruition, that we could even conceive of such a thing underscores the extent to which our national offices need not reflect public opinion, as reflected — for the sake of argument — in the popular vote.

And the Presidency isn’t the only race in which the results need not align with the will of the collective people.

In the Senate, that much is obvious: every state, regardless of size, gets two Senators. But this year, when the Democrats expanded their slim majority to 53-47, the margin roughly mirrored the popular vote. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, was a clear outlier — Republicans comfortably held onto their majority.

What happened? Did that many people vote for Obama and for a Democratic Senator — and also for a GOP representative?

As you probably guessed: No.

Like in the Presidency and the Senate, House Democrats received more votes overall, but still managed to lose the chamber. If you prefer a graphical representation, here’s what that looks like, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Continue reading In which I put on my Nate Silver hat

Refining the TSA dirty thievery results

There’s a reason you never check a bag with something valuable in it.

ABC recently released information obtained from the Transportation ‘Security’ Administration (TSA), listing the number of employees fired for theft at various airports. Using the information, ABC put out a list of ‘The top airports across the U.S. for TSA employees fired for theft.’ And while that title might not perfectly encapsulate what the list actually communicates, the headline of the article including that list is even more misleading:

The Top 20 Airports for TSA TheftABC News

There are two problems here. For one, the list tallies only the raw number of firings from 2002-2011, not rates, which skews its results in favor of small airports with fewer employees, and fewer passengers from whom they can steal. As a passenger, you’re more interested in how likely a given passenger is to be robbed than in how often it happens, period. And for two, the list tallies employee firings, without accounting for the fact that not every luggage thief is apprehended.

I can’t really address this second point without additional information, but I thought it would be worth trying to refine ABC’s results to at least account for airport traffic.

So here’s a list of 20 airports that have fired employees for theft, ranked by number of annual passengers per theft. The first column lists the airport, the second how it did in ABC’s primitive estimation, the third adjusts for traffic, and the fourth indicates how much better or worse the airport’s ranking looks when traffic volume has been taken into account. For a concrete example, New Orleans ranked 15th in the number of employees fired for theft, but second when its low traffic volume was taken into account – a drop of 13 spots:

Continue reading Refining the TSA dirty thievery results