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Monday, April 28, 2014

Discrepancy Between Popular Vote and Congressional Representation

How did I not realize this before? Here are the results of the 2012 elections - total popular vote, and how it ended up in representation.

Popular Vote
House seats
Chart copied from Wikipedia

How is it possible that the party with more popular support in the country ends up with significantly less than half of the representatives? And by popular support, I don't just mean asking people on the street who they like, I mean as actually measured by voting (i.e. not just lack of voter turnout). It would be tempting to blame it on gerrymandering, but it looks like there's probably more to it. Still, it's rather troubling that the party that the plurality voters wanted ends up getting minority representation.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Hiatus Extension

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleSo, my last post in this series was announcing a brief hiatus, but promising to get back on track last week. Well, that didn't happen. What did happen is that as soon as I finished up the project at work that's been eating into my lunch breaks, another project popped up that's keeping me just as busy, and it won't be over until the end of May. I'm going to do my best to work in the Friday Bible Blogging entries since waiting till June would be a pretty long blank stretch, but with the book of Psalms being what it is, my motivation isn't terribly high. Anyway, stay tuned, and I promise that I will get back into this series before too long. It hasn't been abandoned.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Rant - Divergent Series

I just finished reading the Divergent trilogy. This entry isn't so much a review of the series as a rant. This is one of the only series I've ever read where I'm going to actively discourage others from reading it, and I've read Dan Brown and parts of the Left Behind series (LB 1, LB 2, and TF) , so that's saying something. In fact, the only reason I'm including the Amazon link to the right is so that readers here can go see reviews on Amazon, not to encourage anyone to buy the book.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Of course, if you've read the books yourself, or read any articles about the books, you'll probably know that the ending was not very popular with fans. And I'll admit, I wasn't particularly happy with it myself (there's enough sad news in reality, I don't need it in the book equivalent of an action movie). But it's not just the final few chapters that made the series a disappointment. The entire last book seemed out of character with the first two. My daughter had to struggle to get through the final book, and my wife just eventually gave up and let my daughter and me tell her how it ended. The big reveal on why people were living in the faction systems was a bit of a let down, and not very plausible scientifically. Tobias ceased to be the badass he'd been all along. The resolution of the war between the Allegiant and factionless was anticlimatic. And then the controversial ending itself seemed contrived and forced, without really seeming to add much to the story. I could go on with the shortcomings, but instead I'll just recommend a review on Amazon by someone named Penny, Why Allegiant is one of the worst books I've ever read (I just found a link to a longer review by Penny on Blogger, Breaking down the ending to Allegiant).

After doing a little looking around online, I came across an interview with Roth herself, on the site SugarScape, Author Veronica Roth on the Allegiant shock twist: 'It was always part of the plan, but it was hard to do'. Despite the headline of the article, the ending wasn't always part of Roth's plan. Just read this portion of the interview.

Well, I wrote Divergent totally blind without any planning so I didn't plan it from the very first page that it would even be a trilogy because I didn't know what the book would be. But after I wrote the first draft of Divergent and when the book sold I do remember talking to my editor about how I wanted the rest of them to go because the publisher said, 'You know, do you have other books planned?" I said, 'This is how I'm thinking of ending it," and she said 'Don't tell anyone about that!'

That was her reaction. So it was definitely a part of the plan although I wasn't sure if I would stick to it because I try not to stick so closely to my outlines that I have sacrifice the story. But then I was inching closer and closer to the end I was like this is the right option, this is the only option.

And a bit later in the interview, regarding a question on the meaning of 'divergent', she again revealed her lack of planning.

I just fell on it really. I was writing the Outside World and it just kind of appeared out of nowhere. What I really found appealing was throughout the whole series I was trying to figure out what Divergence really is, just like everybody else. By the time I got to the 3rd book I didn't really like that I had elevated Tris as being like this special one so I was like, 'Wouldn't it be cool if Divergence really isn't anything?' Like, if it was just what people believe it is and people put this importance into this thing that doesn't really exist, because I think people would do that.

Two books in, and she still didn't know what one of the central themes of the books was about!

This lack of planning is very apparent in hindsight. So much of the third book just doesn't seem to fit with the first two, but that now makes sense. Roth never knew where she wanted to take the stories, and had to fit an ending into a trilogy format, even if it meant abandoning the earlier plot and instituting a multitude of 'retcons'.

I know different authors have different levels of planning when it comes to writing stories. J.R.R. Tolkien created new languages and an entire mythology. J.K. Rowling had backstories and the entire plot planned out enough to guide moviemakers for Harry Potter. At the very least, you expect authors to have an idea of the overall plot and major themes of their books. To find out that Roth had been winging it the entire time leaves me feeling cheated. It certainly doesn't seem like a very professional way of writing.

Oh well, at least I learned one lesson - don't read any more series written by Veronica Roth.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pet Peeve - Articles Aren't Blogs

Angry Penguin, Source: WikimediaI only have a short entry for today, to complain about a pet peeve. It's something I've seen many places, but it was prompted by an e-mail from my Congressman which began with:

Dear Friend:

I want to share with you a blog that I wrote about Tax Day.

The body of the e-mail you shared with me isn't 'a blog'. To quote Wikipedia, "A blog (a truncation of the expression web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first)." What you shared is one entry or post, or maybe even an article if you want to sound more formal. It was not 'a blog'.

I don't know why it irritates me so much, but it just bothers the hell out of me to see people refer to single blog entries as blogs themselves. Maybe it's because of the word's origin from log, and the silliness of thinking that one entry could constitute a log.

Oh well, his misuse of Internet vocabulary is probably the least irritating thing about this Congressman - far less irritating than the actual content of the message (Do away with income taxes? Really?). I suppose I should just chalk this instance up to an ignorant out of touch politician, but I wish more people would try to understand what words mean before using them.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 4, 2014

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for March 2014

Top 10 ListNow that March is over, it's once again time to look at the server logs and see which pages were most popular on this site. In fact, it was very similar to February. Only two pages made the list this month that hadn't the month prior, Review of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and Friday Bible Blogging - 2 Chronicles 31 to 2 Chronicles 36. But even both of those had made the top 10 list before.

My Autogyro History & Theory page missed the list again this month, which is a little disappointing. For years and years, it was the most popular page on my site.

Traffic was similar to February - a bit higher overall because of the extra days, but very similar when averaged per day. That puts it in line with where I was at the end of last year, and a bit lower than the spike I had at the beginning of this year (a spike I'd guess was mostly due to spammers, not real visitors).

Anyway, here's the top 10 list for last month.

Top 10 for March 2014

  1. Blog - A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  2. Blog - Obamacare Lives (A Discussion of the Individual Mandate)
  3. Blog - Email Debunking - 1895 8th Grade Final Exam
  4. Blog - Gamera II Human Powered Helicopter Sets New Record
  5. Blog - Review of Ray Comfort's New Movie - Evolution vs. God, Part I
  6. Blog - Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  7. Blog - Review of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
  8. Blog - The Universe Is Big
  9. Blog - Running AutoCAD R14 in XP Pro 64
  10. Blog - Friday Bible Blogging - 2 Chronicles 31 to 2 Chronicles 36

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