America

US States vs Capitals: Median Household Income

Posted in America on March 10th, 2016 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

The other day I took a train from NYC to Philadelphia. As I passed through the somewhat desolate station in Trenton, NJ, I wondered to myself: How do states' capitals' median household incomes compare to the states themselves? What states are "richer" or "poorer" than their capital cities?

With the help of data from the US Census FactFinder, I put together this map to answer the question. At one end of the scale is Hartford, CT, whose $29313 median household income is only 41.9% of the state's median household income of $69899. At the opposite end is Juneau, AK, whose $84750 MHI is 118% of the state's $71829.

Median Household Incomes of US Capitals versus their States

Only seventeen states have a median household income above that of the state, whereas the remaining 33 capitals lag behind the state's median. On average, state capital MHIs are 90% of their states. And finally, Washington DC, not included in this map, has a $69235 MHI, 129.5% of the overall United States MHI of $53482.

I don't know if there's any conclusions to draw from this. Since this has to do with capital city limits only, there's a possibility that suburbs could influence the findings immensely. (I've been to West Hartford, CT, for example, and found it to be very nice. But it's not the capital of the state, only a directly neighboring city.) Similarly, should there even be a conclusion to be drawn? Austin is a college town with a lot of technology, so it finds itself slightly better off than Texas as a whole. Albany is a Rust Belt city whose industries have been mostly left behind by the changing economy, so perhaps in the past it would have beaten NY as a whole, but today doesn't hold up. In any case, if there's one thing I enjoy, it's answering interesting data-based questions. Raw data below:

US Capitals Median Income Raw Data

September 12

Posted in America on September 11th, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

I recall a few years back, politicians accusing each other of having a “September tenth mentality” toward homeland security. The imagery of such a statement is powerful, intense, and interestingly revealing.

Twelve years ago, we sat in fear and uncertainty after the events of only one day prior. I intend not to further illuminate that day that most of us conscious today remember vividly. I intend not to focus on 9/11 but rather that day after, a day after that I would argue that we have yet to begin.

The events of 9/11 lasted one day. But their effect has yet to end. We are still at war; indeed there are many Americans who do not remember peacetime. We take our shoes off at airports and cannot bring liquids aboard. We have untried prisoners sitting in Guantanamo Bay and who knows where else. We allow our government to spy on us, to threaten other nations, to endanger our civil liberties. We do all of this in the name of security, in the name of protecting our nation from the evils that we saw twelve years and a day ago.

We have allowed our America to decay from the inside. We have allowed those liberties upon which this nation was built to be stripped away, almost in an instant. In twelve years, we have seen ourselves become a nation ruled by fear.

And I believe it’s at least partially because every year, we focus on yesterday. Every year, the “never forget” statements ring, as we find it more important to focus on 9/11 than on the evils that have occurred since then.

We don’t have to relive the attacks each year to see that the terrorism has yet to stop. We are still prisoners of September 11, and it’s time for a new day. It’s time to welcome September 12.

September 12 is not a day of forgetting, or any of the other horrors implied by the phrase “move on.” But it is a day of rebirth. It’s a day of growth, of assessing the damages and seeing what work needs to be done to repair them.

Today is September 12. Today we need to realize that 9/11 is in the past, behind us, and that allowing the damage to continue cannot help us or heal us. It’s only been twelve years, a blink of an eye, but we must move on.

Some people think it’s awful that Memorial Day is a day for parades and sales. They think that celebration is not an appropriate way to mourn and memorialize. But it’s the American way. We memorialize by living. And in America, we do that by living free, happy, innocent, and unfortunately, by being a target. September 12 may look very similar to September 10. But what’s important is that it looks nothing like September 11.

It's time to care about politics again

Posted in America on July 4th, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

I often hear, "I don't want to talk about politics but…" or "I don't care about politics but…"

And I think it's time for that to stop.

You do care about politics. But somehow, you've been fooled by someone into thinking it's wrong to do so. You've been misled into thinking that you're less of a person if you have political opinions. You've been tricked into believing that political opinions are uncouth and should be avoided if at all possible. And all this serves to do is keep in charge those people with whom you'd vehemently disagree if you allowed yourself to do so.

Last week we saw a heroic effort from Texas Senator Wendy Davis, the TX Democratic Party and an "unruly mob" (read: the voice of democracy) that ultimately led to the death of a bill that, under normal state political rules, never had a chance to pass. Because Governor Rick Perry can suspend some of these legislative rules, he was able to skew the system to push forward an agenda shared by few outside of his fringe circles. And yet it did not come to pass, because a large enough group of Texans cared enough to stop it. Because they cared about politics. Because they cared about their lives and their future in this country. With Rick Perry at bat again, with the same agenda in another special session, will it pass this time, or will Texans care enough about politics to ensure a similar outcome?

The discussion about Edward Snowden has been skewed to be entirely about his asylum. Somehow we've ignored the topic of privacy. Of constitutional rights. Of how our forefathers would feel about the NSA spying on every American. "Don't tread on me," it seems, would easily adapt to "Don't spy on me," but somehow we've allowed ourselves to "not care about politics" long enough for the discourse to move away from that and toward the sensationalist flight of the whistleblower.

You're not wrong for having an opinion on these or other political things. Even if it's an opinion that I would find objectionable, I would not find it more objectionable than you pretending to have no opinion whatsoever, or suppressing what opinions you have.

You do care about politics. You care enough to vote. You care enough to call your elected representatives, even if you didn't elect them specifically. You care enough to make your voice heard. You care enough to share your opinions. These aren't just facts, they are encouragements and reminders to do so. Don't forget how you feel right now about political things, make sure you don't have to wait until November for positive change. But when November comes around, and I mean every November, not just every four years, go to the polls with this July 4 in mind.

Make a change in our country by making your voice heard. Make a change by being more than the water affected by the ripple of the drop, but rather, part of the drop itself instead. Happy Independence Day. Make the Founders proud by doing your part in progressing their vision. Make them proud by being an American who cares about politics.

America cannot move from crisis to crisis

Posted in America on March 3rd, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

During this ongoing sequestration debate, President Obama said something that I particularly liked: “the greatest nation on Earth [cannot continue] careening from crisis to crisis.” Whether you agree with Republicans or Democrats on the sequestration issue, or even if you’re in the smaller third group of people who think the trigger of immediate across the board cuts is the real solution, you have to admit, Obama has a point.

We cannot continue to move from crisis to crisis, but it seems like for the last five years, and possibly much longer, we’ve been doing exactly that. Each crisis is real, though not necessarily in the sense the government or media would have us believe, and each crisis is present, though not necessarily with the immediacy and urgency that those same stakeholders would insist.

For the most part, it seems that many of these crises are manufactured. It’s easy to see what the media gains by such scaremongering, but not as simple to see what others gain. Washington’s approval ratings have steadily decreased after each election, with more and more citizens pointing at the government as unable to accomplish even the most basic compromise to solve the problems that the same government would have us believe are apocalyptic.

Frankly, I don’t think the sequestration will end up being that big of a deal. At least not as big a deal as the rhetoric, from both sides of the aisle, made it out to be. And I don’t believe that the debt ceiling is as big a deal either, though it certainly would have ramifications. Nor did the fiscal cliff seem that important to me. Sure, each of these things will have consequences, but not at the level that some news organizations would have you believe.

But I do think we have one major crisis that America is still in the middle of: extreme partisanship. The gridlock results in these mini-crises that I refer to above, and the inability to compromise pushes them into the spotlight. Government is not supposed to work this way. Our government especially.

America cannot continue to move from crisis to crisis. Especially when those crises are easily resolvable with only a modicum of modesty and deference to others.

“Best Barbecue in the Nation”

Posted in America on October 5th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Holy amazeballs Gatlin's.Yesterday, Kris told me that a national list of best barbecue establishments included Houston’s own Goode Company. After a little searching, I found the list on The Chive, and noticed that it included, in its twenty five barbecue joints, not only Goode Company but also New York’s Dinosaur BBQ (the Syracuse location) and Austin’s Salt Lick.

Having been to both of those establishments, and having certainly been to Goode Company, I think it’s interesting to see them on a list that also boasts Franklin BBQ (Austin), any establishment in Lockhart, and JMueller (Austin). Simply put, this nation has plenty of bad barbecue (Salt Lick), plenty of mediocre barbecue (Dinosaur, but can you blame it for location?), and plenty of good barbecue (Goode Company) but very little transcendent barbecue (Franklin).

Any list that includes barbecue from New York cannot possibly be an accurate list. Any list that includes Salt Lick is much too excited about the fratty atmosphere and the BYOB than the bland, poorly cooked meat that awaits you after a long line. And any list that includes Goode Company was written by someone who doesn’t take their job seriously and has failed to try Houston’s truly good barbecue establishments.

And I’m okay with this.

Seriously, I’m completely okay with lists that include Salt Lick and Goode Company. I’d be okay if Pappas showed up on there as well. In fact, I’d prefer it. My complaint with this list is not that it includes those establishments, but that it includes Franklin.

See, I want people to come to Texas. If they do so, and they go to a place like Goode Company, they’re going to love it. Without a doubt, Goode offers barbecue better than their Yankee counterparts (like Dinosaur… Seriously, Dinosaur??) They’re gonna eat it, perhaps have a slice of that delicious Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie, and they’re gonna leave the state saying what residents already know: “Holy cow, Texas has great food.”

And at the same time, those of who do in fact already know it won’t find the lines at Gatlin’s, Franklin, or Pizzitola’s, among others, clogged with those who, until arriving in Texas, thought Dinosaur was the gold standard.

It’s not that I don’t want these visitors to have the best. In fact, I do. But there’s only so much of the best to go around. So keep going to Goode Company, it’s certainly good enough.

I can't wait for November 7

Posted in America on September 6th, 2012 by Nathan – 2 Comments

In addition to Marie Curie's birthday and the anniversary of John Glenn's return from his historic later trip to space, November seventh this year will be particularly awesome. Why? Because election season will have ended, with voting day the day before. And I can't wait.

I can't wait because I'm sick of the political discourse around election time. I'm sick of my twitter stream getting filled up with discussions of the candidates, their policies, and why they are evil. I'm sick of politics being everyone's go-to topic of discussion, a topic that three years out of four, people are nice enough to shut up about. Agree or disagree, I'm likely to not care about your political beliefs unless I ask.

Mostly though, I'm sick of the nastiness. I wish that people were able to say "I disagree with Candidate X's views on Issue A" instead of the more common "Candidate X is <insert judgmental/detrimental adjective here> because he's stupid enough to believe Stance B about Issue A!" I wish that election season didn't equate to ad hominem season.

I'm sick of the power grab that these elections have become. It seems that in most of the races, and certainly the races that get airtime, both candidates are similar to a massive extent, differing only on a few specific issues. And those few specific issues tend to be the least important and least discussed. One thing it seems both candidates always agree on: they need more power. And another thing: the other guy is a jerk.

But when November seventh arrives this year, decisions will have been made. Ballots will have been cast. We will wake up knowing who our next president is, and we'll go through the next four years in relative comfort. Sure, about half of the country will lament that maybe if the other guy was picked, things would be better. And yes, if you ask them their beliefs, they'll be happy to let you know. But the unsolicited nastiness and political discussion will at least slow. It won't ever disappear altogether, but it will return within tolerable levels.

Politics is a nasty thing. And for the next two months, it's going to get nastier. But once November seventh arrives, we can begin to heal. Maybe not in every area that the losing candidates wanted, but at least in the area of the amount of nastiness in my Twitter stream. Blech.

I did not get to vote yesterday

Posted in America on August 1st, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Yesterday, thanks to a consolidation of polling locations (at least six in one location, from what I heard from others who were there, but it seems like eight to ten is probably more realistic), I was unable to vote in the primary runoff in a reasonable amount of time. Here's the letter I sent to the county clerk after:

Yesterday my wife and I attempted to vote but were unable to do so. Normally, we vote at Randall’s in midtown, but yesterday our polling location, along with many other polling locations, it seems, was moved to West Gray and Dunlavy. This consolidation of polling locations prevented us from voting.

We arrived at 6:30 pm, which is not unreasonable for working professionals, and spent the next ten minutes trying to find a place to park. Finally we parked about a quarter mile away in a parking lot for a business nearby. At this point, I had been standing in line, holding a spot for my wife who was parking the car.

By the time seven pm rolled around, we had yet to even enter the building, still standing in the sweltering heat outside, in a line that seemed to go on forever. By 7:15 we had entered the building but it quickly became clear that this line was too long, that the polling location was unready for the number of people, and that we would likely not be able to vote, as eventually we would have to go home.

At 7:40, when it became obvious that though we had been there for over an hour, we would have at least another hour of waiting, we had to leave. This is completely unreasonable and unacceptable.

To say that this was poorly planned would be an understatement. There was no way that the consolidated polling location could handle this demand, so much so that we were told by friends they later saw us on the news, standing in line, in a segment showing how there was no reasonable organization of voting.

I was extremely upset that I was denied my right to vote by a lack of proper planning on the part of your office. This needs to not happen again. There truly is no better way to discourage young people from voting than by making it a hellish experience. Shame on your office and shame on this consolidation. I sincerely hope that next time, I will be able to vote in a reasonable fashion, as in the past.

The county clerk responded promptly, shifting the blame to the parties:

In this instance, the political parties are responsible for the conduct of the Primary Elections and the Primary Runoff Elections. The parties determine the number of Election Day Polling locations and where the polls are situated.

Any questions pertaining to the Election Day polling locations for Democratic and Republican Primary’s Runoff Elections should be addressed to the Chairman of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

I responded with surprise and simultaneously forwarded my complaint on to the party chairman. I have not heard back.