July 2017 Odds and Ends

My wife tells me that she gets annoyed when blogs she follows take too much time between posts.

For mostly travel-related reasons, I have not been able to post a full article since July 6, and I will not be able to do so again for another week at least.

Since my preference is never to annoy anyone (knowingly, at any rate), just bear with me and this stopgap post consisting of short follow-ups to previous posts.


In this post, I decried the American tendency, upon meeting someone for the first time (or reconnecting with someone after a long period of time), immediately to inquire “What do you do?” By which the inquisitor means, “What do you do for a living?

I also introduced you to my long-time friend and mentor David Mayhew, professor emeritus of political science at Yale University.

Distant ancestors of Professor Mayhew helped to settle Martha’s Vineyard. For various reasons I may explore in a future post, my feelings about the Vineyard are… complicated.

However, every summer when I return (my wife and her mother co-own a house there), I am always pleased to see this sign as my wife, daughters and I drive to the waterside hamlet of Menemsha, as I did this past Saturday night:


Our intent when travelling to Menemsha is to have supper at this establishment:


In the summer of 2015, we were standing in the line to order food (the window on the right; the window on the left is for ordering ice cream) when Nell nudged me to get my attention. She then leaned forward and whispered, “That’s Ted Danson!”

“Where?” I responded in a matching whisper.

“There, right in front of you!”

I hadn’t yet looked closely at the tall man immediately in front of me in line, but a discreet glance confirmed for me that the actor who will always be “Sam Malone” to me was indeed standing mere inches from me.

He is even more handsome in person.

And just behind us was his wife, actress Mary Steenburgen (who will always be Malcolm McDowell’s love interest in the 1979 film Time After Time to me[1]

She is even lovelier in person.

What made the moment even more slightly-surreal was the way she called him “Ted,” as in “Ted, what do you want to eat?”

I know his name IS Ted, but the casualness of it reminded us that even the most famous celebrities are “just people.”

Had they not been out for a quiet summer evening with their grandchildren (and had I been quicker on my feet), I might have introduced myself and my family.

I say “quicker on my feet,” because in the moment I could not think of any remotely intelligent way to start a conversation.

And I did not want it to be like the time I was attending a Phillies spring training game in Clearwater, Florida in March 1993, when I got a chance to meet my then-idol, Phillies left-handed pitcher Terry Mulholland (who would start the All-Star Game that July for the National League, throwing 2 innings and allowing one earned run).

Standing in the parking lot behind Jack Russell Stadium that scorching afternoon, a Harvard doctoral student with a Yale BA, all I could think of to say was “Nice truck.”

Well, it WAS a nice truck.

It was only on the drive back home from Menemsha that I recalled my wife’s indirect connection to Mr. Danson. Suffice it to say that someone my wife knows quite well has worked with Mr. Danson.

So if I ever see them at The Galley again…

Staying on the Vineyard a brief moment longer, I noted here that Vineyard Haven is home to a superlative video and DVD rental place, Island Entertainment, which is itself home to a top-notch collection of film noir titles.

[Update 7/29/2019: Sadly, Island Entertainment has permanently closed]

The entrance may be unprepossessing:


But inside is this:






And this:


On this most recent trip, thanks to Island Entertainment’s expanding collection of film noirs, I was able to scratch Inland Empire (dir. David Lynch, 2006), Where Danger Lives (John Farrow, 1950), The Killer That Stalked New York (Roy Rowland, 1947) and Tension (John Berry, 1949) off of my “film noirs I have not yet seen” list.

I have now seen 574 (11.9%) of the 4,825 titles in my film noir database.

A database, I am happy to report, that is nearly complete.

Stay tuned…


In this post, I presented a simple regression model for “predicting” the number of seats in the United States House of Representatives (House) the Democrats will flip in 2018. My three independent variables are 1) the change in Democratic share of the total 2018 House vote from their share in the 2016 election (when the Democrats lost the national House vote by 1.1 percentage points), 2) that 2018 will be a midterm election and 3) the product of these two variables (to estimate whether the impact of the election-to-election vote share differs between midterm and presidential elections; it does).

The Democrats need to flip 24 seats to regain control of the House in 2018.

As of today, the adjusted average of generic House balloting has the Democrats winning by 7.3 percentage points. That would be an 8.4 percentage point shift from 2016. According to my model, that would most likely result in a gain of 29.4 seats, 5.4 more than necessary.

I have since added a slight tweak to these results. Using my calculation of the 95% confidence interval around this estimate (from a 7.5 seat loss to a 64.1 seat gain; this is what happens when you have only 23 data points to estimate an ordinary least squares regression with three independent variables), I was able to determine the standard deviation of a normal distribution around my seat-change estimate. From this information, I am able to calculate the cumulative probability of 24.0 and higher in this normal distribution.

In plain English, I can now present the probability, based upon this model, that the Democrats will gain at least the 24 seats necessary to recapture the House.

Drum roll please…

The probability the Democrats recapture the House in 2018, based upon an estimated change in vote share of 8.4 percentage points is…61.9%.

I would translate that probability into “leans Democratic.”

Until next time…

[1] The IMDB reminds me that Time After Time was directed by Nicholas Meyer. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Meyer when he premiered his 1985 film Volunteers at Yale, during my sophomore year there.  Rest in peace, John Candy.

11 thoughts on “July 2017 Odds and Ends

  1. Ha! Wives are always right. I know many disagree, but I love returning to the same place for vacations over and over again … even if a place one has mixed feelings about. And, as for your concluding point, all I can say is PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We return to Maine for vacations as often as we can, and I have NO mixed feelings about it. 🙂 Marriage is about compromises, and the Vineyard is a very complicated compromise for us, but one that generally works out well. If by “concluding point,” you mean my Dem House takeover model, such as it is: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh, my southern fried chicken at Dave’s Diner was every bit as good as I remembered. Thank you for reading my blog! 🙂


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