A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: November 2004

Translating Canadian

The New Yorker has a somewhat amusing application form for disgruntled Democrats who want to move to Canada, which includes this question:

Translate the following statement: “Cripes, grade thirteen! Here’s a loonie — buy a Coffee Crisp, eh?”

Geoff Pullum can’t make heads or tails of it. But (having been a Canadian resident for several weeks and author of The Canadian Quiz, I think I’m on the case:

Oh my, [You had to attend] a fifth year of secondary education! Take this Canadian dollar and buy yourself a confectionary sold only in Canada, won’t you?

However. ‘Cripes’ is used in the US, and Coffee Crisps are sold in the US too (you can sign the petition to have it sold throughout the US). And some of us Michiganders, especially Yoopers, say “eh.” It’s those East Coast media at it again.

Words and music

I created a new Sacred Harp page: Words and Music.

[Boston] [cream pie] and [Boston cream] [doughnuts]

I remembered a post by Mark Liberman about disambiguation of complex nominals when I visited a doughnut shop today. The post points out that, when trying to determine automatically whether a phrase like “sickle cell anemia” is (say) sickle-type cell anemia or an anemia of sickle cells — i.e., whether it’s [sickle] [cell anemia] or [sickle cell] [anemia]–you can do something very simple, which works very well in practice: count the number of times “sickle cell” and “cell anemia” occur in a large body of texts, and the more frequent is likely to be the right grouping. “Sickle cell” is much more common than “cell anemia” in Medline, so, based on counting alone (with no semantic understanding of sickle cells or anemia), the best grouping is [sickle cell] [anemia].

OK, so in the doughnut shop I saw signs for the various kinds of doughnuts, and one said:

Boston cream

Hmm. Are these Boston-style cream doughnuts, or doughnuts made of Boston cream? [Boston] [cream doughnuts], or [Boston cream] [doughnuts]?

And what about Boston cream pie? Boston-style cream pie [Boston] [cream pie]? Or pie made of Boston cream [Boston cream] [pie]?

So, firing up the answer box (Google):

Boston cream: about 31,600
Cream pie: about 1,230,000
Cream doughnut(s)/cream donut(s): about 10,300

Apparently, it’s [Boston] [cream pie] and [Boston cream] [doughnuts].

At first, this seemed a counter-example to the counting trick: Shouldn’t they both parse the same way? On second thought, though, I realized that the sign said “Boston cream” not “Boston cream doughnuts,” and, really, a “Boston cream doughnut” is a doughnut made with “Boston cream pie cream,” which one might just call “Boston cream.”

I suspect this trick indicates (again, without doing anything but counting) that Boston cream pie predates Boston cream doughnuts.

I also saw a recipe for [sour cream] [doughnuts] along the way–that’s just wicked.

Election 2004 mini-analysis

Michigan went for Gore in 2000, and for Kerry in 2004, by relatively small amounts: Gore got 51.3% of the vote in 2000 (with 2.6% going to 3rd parties). Kerry got 51.1% of the vote in 2004 (with 1% going to third parties).

Voting was up 13.7% over 2000. Most interesting is the disparity between Democrats and Republicans: Democratic voters were up 13.3%, but Republicans were up 18.1%.

It’s interesting to pull out two counties: my own (Kalamazoo) and Wexford, a largely rural county in northern lower Michigan (the county seat is Cadillac, where my sister-in-law Jean and her family just moved–and she immediately jumped into the Democratic get out the vote).

Kalamazoo actually voted more Democatic in 2004 than in 2000: 51.3% vs. 48.5% (with 1% and 3.6% going to 3rd parties, respectively). This shows in the increase numbers: Democratic voters were up 25.9% vs. 18.4% for Republicans. Wexford Democrats matched the statewide Democratic increase: 13.3%, but the Republicans were up 24.3% (Kerry got 39.8% of the vote in 2004; Gore, 41% of the vote in 2000; with 1.1% and 3.4% to 3rd party candidates, respectively.

Apparently, local “GOTV” efforts do make a difference–or, perhaps, just a peer feedback loop (‘rich get richer’ in voter increase). I did see a strong increase in people excited to vote Democratic: I just didn’t see my strong the increase in the Republican voter numbers was. Maybe I should spend less time reading Salon.

Data from the Michigan Secretary of State: official 2000 data, and unofficial 2004 data.

So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast

I was wrong about Florida and Colorado, and apparently about Ohio. I was very wrong about margins. Zogby was wrong (although not about Bush winning the popular vote); Breslin was wrong.

(moves to corner; licks wounds).

The final vote projected:

My projections: Kerry: 320, Bush: 218 electoral votes. Also, although there might be some question about some states’ final votes, I predict the differences will be large enough that we’ll know pretty well by tomorrow morning.

See also Breslin’s final regular Newsday column.

How my vote went

I voted in Kalamazoo, Michigan; our district uses optical scanners. I arrived around 7:30 am. I vote at the school my daughter attends, and I walked her down. The line was quite long — it was cool and a bit drizzly, but I didn’t sense that people were leaving. I got out at 8:40. I noticed that I was the 101st voter; the previous voter was right ahead of me. So, with the polls opening at 7:00, this means they were handling about 1 voter per minute. The slow point was the number of booths–for some reason, they only allow six per precinct.

This is just the second time that optical scanners are being used here. While I was in line, the scanner started beeping–a person had ‘over voted’ (voted for two candidates for the same position, for example). But he left before either he or the poll worker had noticed. The scanner wouldn’t allow the next voter to insert her ballot until this was acknowledged by the poll worker–apparently, this was the first time it had happened this morning.

I was a little chagrined that people in line could effectively see how others voted as the ballots were fed into the scanner, unless the voters took care to cover the ballots. No one seemed to be worried about this–not the workers, not the voters, not the poll watchers. The MoveOn people were there, as well as Democrats. There may have been some Republicans, but I couldn’t tell.

(Posted as a comment to Jason Kottke’s thread How’d your vote go?.

One last pre-election essay

I wanted to write a final essay on why you should vote for Kerry in the presidential election. But, as is often the case, Peter Norvig did it first.