A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: November 2007

Republican words and Republican popularity

As a followup to my post on the correlation of the popularity of Democratic presidential debate, and the number of words they were allowed to utter, here are the results from last nights debates, using data in the New York Times interactive graph of the Republican candidates’ debate. As before, click on the headers to sort by that column:

The correlation between words and the amount of time they spoke is 97%; the correlation between the Zogby poll and the amount of time they spoke was 84%. There’s a 100% correlation between rank in the polls and rank in the time spent talking.


Worse than Failure posts about a silly function named:


Hah! If I’d written this in Lisp, it would be the *much* simpler:


which is why Lisp is so much better than Any Other Language.

(I tend to write functions that have names that are too long, which is why I thought this was funny. I wonder what the longest function name that I’ve ever written is?)

Traveling kindness

I had a short article published in our local paper, the Kalamazoo Gazette:

It was New Year’s Eve, and things were finally starting to go right. Our car had broken down outside Forsyth, Ga., on Christmas Eve, and we had had to hitchhike to northern Florida to visit my mother, leaving our car at a garage for repairs.
When we got back to Forsyth, the repair shop declared even more repairs were necessary, and we had to ask my wife’s parents to wire us some money. The closest Western Union station was in Macon, Ga., though, and we had to hitch rides to pick the money up.
According to Bess’ watch, we had just enough time to get the money, rush to the bus stop and catch the last bus back up to Forsyth.
We ran to the bus station with just a few minutes before the bus was to leave.
It looked like things were finally getting easier. But the bus had already left. Bess’ watch had stopped, and it was actually later than we thought. It was a low point of a very difficult trip.
Looking around, I noticed a large number of church buses were revving up. Apparently, there was a Baptist youth convention going on. With faint hope, I stepped into one of the buses.
“Is there any chance you all are going to Forsyth?” I asked, and then explained our predicament.
“No,” said the bus driver, “it’s out of our way. But wait. Hey, kids!” he shouted. “Should we take this couple to Forsyth?”
The children all screamed “Yeah!”
We got on the bus, and the kind Baptists of Georgia carried us to our waiting car.

First mention: Thanksgiving

To-day, has been set apart by the State and City authorities as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the mercies which have marked the closing year. It will, according to custom, be generally observed. We have all had abundant occasions for gratitude to God for blessings received at His hands. It is well to make public recognition of His goodness, and public acknowledgement of our dependencies upon Him for life and breath and all things.

1851 article in the New York Times (no author given), noting the ‘generally observed’ holiday, which would become a nationally observed with Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation.

What language is for

Great quote from Geoff Pullum at Language Log:

You know, just between you and me, I sometimes worry that there is a naive view loose out there — most students come to linguistics believing it, and there appear to be some professional linguists who regard it as central and explanatory — that language has something to do with purposes of efficiently conveying information from a speaker to a hearer. What a load of nonsense. I’m sorry, I don’t want to sound cynical and jaded, but language is not for informing. Language is for accusing, adumbrating, attacking, attracting, blustering, bossing, bullying, burbling, challenging, concealing, confusing, deceiving, defending, defocusing, deluding, denying, detracting, discomfiting, discouraging, dissembling, distracting, embarassing, embellishing, encouraging, enticing, evading, flattering, hinting, humiliating, insulting, interrogating, intimidating, inveigling, muddling, musing, needling, obfuscating, obscuring, persuading, protecting, rebutting, retorting, ridiculing, scaring, seducing, stroking, wondering, … Oh, you fools who think languages are vehicles for permitting a person who is aware of some fact to convey it clearly and accurately to some other person. You simply have no idea.


One year from now, we’ll be electing a new president and voting for new members of Congress. Has our next eight years ever been so predictable?

November, 1998. Hillary Clinton wins the election with a large electoral vote majority, and about 55% of the popular vote, the first woman elected president (with Barack Obama as the first African-American vice-president). Democrats gain control of both houses.

First term. Pull-out from Iraq is slow, deadly and met with unconcern by the American public. Clinton fails to enact significant health care reform. Clinton and Congress fail to enact significant health care reform, environmental reform, campaign finance reform, but gay rights expand in the military (don’t ask, don’t tell repealed). Some increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but the gap between rich and poor continues to increase. Scandal #1 and #2 damage Clinton’s reputation. Republicans regain control of either the House or the Senate in 2010. Major regional war erupts or major terrorist attack on US soil.

November 2012. Hillary Clinton wins the election with a slight electoral vote majority. Republicans regain control of both houses.

Second term. Scandal #3 and #4 further damage Clinton’s reputation. Very small health care reform enacted. Prosecution of major regional war or reaction to terrorist attack fumbles because of political in-fighting. Social security reform enacted, decreasing significantly the value of retiree benefits.

November 2016. Republican candidate wins close election, defeating Barack Obama.

What’s your take?


I like (parts of) this poem, which I found in the “Hutchinson’s Republican Songster, for the Campaign of 1860” on Google Books. The ‘Hutchinson’ is question is a member of the Hutchinson Family, a famous singing family of the mid-1800s. This is from Lincoln’s first campaign for president.

By J.J.H.
I LOOKED to the South, and I looked to the West,
And I saw old Slavery a comin’,
With four Northern doughfaces hitched up in front,
Driving Freedom to the other side of Jordan.
Then take off coats, boys, roll up sleeves,
Slavery is a hard foe to battle, I believe.

Slavery and Freedom, they both had a fight,
And the whole North came up behind ’em,
Hit Slavery a few knocks, with a free ballot box,
Sent it staggering to the other side of Jordan.
Take off, etc.

If I was the Legislature of these United States,
I’d settle this great question accordin’;
I’d let every slave go free, over land and on the sea,
Let ’em have a little hope this side of Jordan.
Then rouse up, ye freeman, the sword unsheath ;
Freedom is the best road to travel, I believe.

The South have their school, where the masters learn to
And they lord it o’er the Free States accordin’ ;
But sure they’d better quit, ere they rouse the Yankee grit,
And we tumble ’em over t’other side of Jordan.
Take off, etc.

Pennsylvania and Vermont have surely come to want,
To raise such scamps as Buck and Stephen,
And they’d better hire John Mitchell
with shillalah, club, and switchel, D
rive ’em down to Alabama, and leave ’em.
Then take off coats, boys, roll up sleeves ;
Slavery is a hard foe to battle.

But the day is drawing nigh
that Slavery must die,
And every one must do his part accordin’ ;
Then let us all unite to give every man his right,
And we’ll get our pay the other side of Jordan.
Then rouse up, ye freemen, the sword unsheath ;
Freedom is the best road to travel, I believe.

Democratic words and Democratic popularity

I was looking at the New York Times interactive graph of the Democratic candidates’ debate this morning, and noticed that the number of words spoken by each candidate correlates with their perceived popularity. Here’s my table of the numbers (click on the headers to sort by that column):

Dodd is listed as under 1% in the Zogby poll, but he managed almost 13% of the coverage.