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Saturday, November 14, 2009
If I Were Shedding Pounds the Way Obama's Shedding Independents...

I'd be able to fit into my clothes from the 1980s. Scott Rasmussen talks about Obama's plummeting poll numbers:

A CNN poll released Nov. 6 found that 47% of Americans believe the top issue facing the country is the economy, while only 17% say its health care. However, the bulk of the president's efforts over the past six months have been not on the economy but on health care, an issue in which he continues to draw negative ratings.

In a Rasmussen Reports poll taken after the House of Representatives passed health-care reform by the narrowest of margins last Saturday night, 54% of likely voters say they are opposed to the plan with only 45% in favor. Furthermore, in the all-important category of unaffiliated voters, 58% oppose the bill. That's one of the reasons why so many moderate Democratic House members opposed it.

The CNN poll also shows that in addition to health care, a majority of Americans disapprove of how Mr. Obama is handling the economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, unemployment, illegal immigration and the federal budget deficit. Put simply, there isn't a critical problem facing the country on which the president has positive ratings.

Note also this result from Gallup:

This month's improvement in congressional approval is bipartisan, with approval among Democrats climbing from 36% to 47% and among Republicans edging up from 9% to 17%. Independents, however, buck that trend: moving from 16% to 14%, the percentage approving is the lowest it has been all year.

Not sure why Congress' approval rating jumped among the GOP, but that independent trend is quite noticeable; from 31% to 14% in about four months.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009
The Amazing Race: Hay-Baby!

Teams start out in Holland and must fly to Stockholm. Given that they are starting late (first team leaves at 9:48 PM), I am assuming that this will be the bunching maneuver that the Interracial Couple needs. Sure enough the next flight is in the morning at 6:55 AM. But... only three teams can get on the flight. The next flight is about 2-1/2 hours later. So the Farmer and Son get bunched with Miss America and "Brian!"

At the airport in Stockholm, teams must grab a subway to the city, but they have to buy tickets before hand from ATM-style machines, which seem to take forever to accept the currency. As it happens, the Gay Brothers and the Blond Beachers get lucky and leave the Harlem Globetrotters behind on the platform.

They make it to a ferry which takes them to an amusement park. They get on a drop-from-height ride where they have to spot an arrow that will lead them to the next cluebox. They decide to cooperate, but is that just accepting reality? If a team decided not to get back on the ride and started running, wouldn't the other team be smart to just follow them rather than go back up?

Ring toss is the next "challenge". The teams must toss rings over a cone and hope that it contains a Gnome. Of course this is not a big deal and so we go to the real challenges of the evening. The detour is next: Nobel or Viking. In Nobel they must fill a bunch of sandbags, then blow up a small mound to get their clue. In Viking, they must decipher the Norse alphabet.

Not too surprising, everybody decides to blow things up. I'd be tempted to try the Viking part, but I'm a nerd. As a result, teams leave here in essentially the same place as they started.

Now they head to Bogs Gard Farm, which we are told is the site of one of the most infamous challenges in TAR history. One player from each team must find TAR flags in a huge field of rolled-up hay bales. IIRC, the ratio is about 7 flags in 200 bales of hay, so that the odds are about 1 in 30, and it looks like each bale takes a long time to unroll. We are told that in an earlier season, a team spent 8+ hours out in the field without finding the flag before Phil called the mercy rule on them. So it must be assumed that this will be a horrendous challenge.

Sure enough, the Gay Brothers and the Interracial Couple, despite being at least 15 minutes ahead of the Globies, find the basketball players out there in the field with them. And unlike many other challenges there is no particular advantage to being in the lead; all the unrolled bales actually help the late-arriving teams especially since they are fresh.

Sure enough the Globies find the flag first and win the round, giving Flight Time a birthday present. They win a trip to somewhere in East Jabib; I never heard of their destination in my life.

Eventually the female half of the Blonde Beachers finds her flag, then "Brian!" Now the Gay Brothers, who won the last episode and the Farmer and Son are the only teams out there. And the taller of the Gay Brothers realizes he has to stop nagging his shorter brother, and finally Shorty finds it.

So now the old man is the only one out in the field, but I'm definitely suspicious that this will be a non-elimination leg. After a couple of hours, the Farmer finally scores and he and his son dash to the mat.

And Phil definitely cons me. He direly notes that the Farmer and Son, "are the last team to arrive. I'm sorry to tell you... that the next leg is going to be very difficult!" Sure enough, it's a non-elmination leg, although F&S have to do an extra challenge in next week's episode.

Comments: Overall an interesting episode, although I do feel that the Hay Rolling part is a bit unfair on teams that have established a lead. In a lot of other endurance challenges there was some definite advantage to having been out there, and yet there is no value to that in this one. It's kind of a hidden bunching maneuver.

Team to Beat: I'm still betting on the Blonde Beachers; they're one of the best teams I've seen yet in TAR. They support each other, they work hard, they don't make any stupid mistakes. Only the Gay Brothers seem like a challenge. The Globetrotters are good, but they've made some mistakes (like misreading a watch) that call into question their brains. And Miss America couldn't count the bells. So watch out BB's, because late in TAR I always pick the team doomed to be eliminated the next show.




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