Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Margin Notes: Campaign, Travel

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I doubt it means much, and of course Nate Silver has a statistical explanation on fivethirtyeight.com why it doesn't mean anything, but I sure would not have predicted that Dixville Notch, New Hampshire would vote 15-6 for Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain in the US presidential race. Dixville Notch hasn't voted for a Democrat since 1968, and John McCain has been popular in the Granite State--indeed the state has been instrumental in every McCain presidential comeback, most notably in the 2000 and 2008 primaries. Don't want Dixville Notch to be predictive? Get out and vote!

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A McCain sign had been nearly blown over by the wind in Red Bluff, California on 3-November-2008

If Dixville Notch does turn out to be predictive, the above image may be symbolic of this election day. Noted in a residential area of Red Bluff, California on Monday, this McCain-Palin sign was barely vertical at all. Wind and rain had battered it nearly level with the ground--much as the McCain campaign may be blown away by votes for Barack Obama.

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Yes, that's a cat walking with a guardian and two canine companions in Montague, Jefferson State on 1-November-2008

Then again, if John McCain pulls off an upset today, I will be saying that the above scene was a sign. A cat was noted walking with a pair of dogs and their guardian (pets don't have "owners" in California) through the streets of the small town of Montague in Jefferson State on 1-November-2008. When cats go for walks with dogs, anything can happen.

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This barn next to Interstate 5 south of Yreka, California claimed to be in Jefferson State on 1-November-2008

Jefferson State, you ask? Much of northern California and southern Oregon would like to be a separate state of Jefferson. The article on Wikipedia does a nice job of explaining the movement, and I was reminded of it every time I tuned in Jefferson Public Radio over the weekend.

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Artists in Quebec may be one of the most potent political forces in North America. A YouTube video criticizing arts funding began the Conservative Party's decline in Quebec in Canada's recent federal election, and now a pair known as the "Masked Avengers" at Montreal's CKOI 96.9 FM have added to questions about Sarah Palin's competence. In a prank interview that S├ębastien Trudel and Marc-Antoine Audette took four days to line up, Audette pretended to be French president Nicolas Sarkozy. A video of the prank call has been posted to YouTube, and it rather speaks for itself. Americans may legitimately miss falsehoods about Canada thrown in by the "Masked Avengers," but there were still plenty of clues that it wasn't for real that Palin seemed to miss entirely. If only Sarah Palin were as funny as Monty Python cast member Michael Palin.

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It's now official. Ontario is a "have-not" province, set to receive $347 million in equalization payments. It's more symbolic than economically significant, amounting to less than $40 per capita, but a huge continuous swath of Canada with 71% of its population, from Manitoba to Prince Edward Island, now has "have-not" status. One might think this would be a big deal to the government, but with its power base in "have" Alberta and the opposition's base in Ontario, nothing is likely to happen.

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Don't ask me to explain gas prices. I couldn't find a price below $2.95 a gallon anywhere in Siskiyou County, California on Saturday and Sunday, so I drove back to Red Bluff, California before filling up. There, I found multiple gas stations offering up 87 unleaded at $2.28 a gallon. For Canadians, at today's exchange rate that's about C$0.70 per liter. If this makes sense to anyone else, please post a comment. Is demand that low in Red Bluff?

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I am publicly calling on Air Canada to switch their US code share partnership with United Airlines to fellow Star Alliance member US Airways. I have avoided United Airlines for several years because of exceptionally poor customer service on several trips culminating with having to sleep at Chicago's O'Hare Airport with no compensation after a pilot arbitrarily diverted a flight to Milwaukee. There was no way to fly out of Sacramento on Air Canada without having a United codeshare flight so I decided to take a risk. That was a horrible idea. About two-thirds of United flights in and out of Sacramento on Monday were delayed (compared with no delays on any other airline in the terminal), and my original itinerary had to be changed since there was no way I would make my connection. I ended up on a three-hour delayed flight into United's San Francisco hub, then had a seven-hour wait for a red-eye to Toronto. Furthermore, my suitcase was damaged beyond repair on the trip--after I paid $15 for the privilege of having it transported. US Airways is hardly one of the world's premier airlines, but my experience--especially but not exclusively on the former America West part of its system--is that they at least seem to be trying and actually follow through with customer service. US Airways employees usually smile at me, unlike United employees that almost never do. Until Air Canada switches codeshare partners, I will be taking Southwest/WestJet itineraries to places like Sacramento.

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I expected that the leaves would substantially be off the trees upon my return to Toronto, but this morning, I found a reasonable amount of color remaining on the trees. That was a pleasant surprise!

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