Saturday, June 28, 2008

Playing with Political Numbers

I'd seen numbers implying that, in general, the economy does better (higher GDP growth) when a Democrat is in the White House. So, I decided to grab some GDP data (from and see what I could find. Among other things, I wanted to see if there was a time-delay effect, or if the party controlling Congress mattered. I'm using the "chained (2000) dollars" numbers, as that seems to be the preferred one in the BEA press release.

Since the data provided is since 1930, let's take that as our first cut. Since 1930, the highest overall increase in GDP is...when the President was a Democrat last year, followed by years when the President is a Democrat. The lowest was when the Senate is controlled by Republicans that year, followed by years when the House is controlled by Republicans. For every position, the GDP is higher for Democrats than Republicans.

PRESIDENT: Republican 1.855263, Democrat 5.075000
SENATE: Republican 1.209091, Democrat 3.883582
HOUSE: Republican 1.580000, Democrat 4.415094

PRESIDENT: Republican 2.064865, Democrat 5.142500
SENATE: Republican 1.800000, Democrat 3.974242
HOUSE: Republican 2.008000, Democrat 4.459615

PRESIDENT: Republican 3.058333, Democrat 4.460000
SENATE: Republican 1.850000, Democrat 4.090909
HOUSE: Republican 3.129167, Democrat 4.103846

PRESIDENT: Republican 3.560000, Democrat 4.422500
SENATE: Republican 3.422222, Democrat 4.101515
HOUSE: Republican 3.995652, Democrat 4.030769

PRESIDENT: Republican 3.829412, Democrat 4.315000
SENATE: Republican 3.937500, Democrat 4.110606
HOUSE: Republican 3.968182, Democrat 4.144231

Now, it's possible that time frame gives the Democrats too much of an advantage - the Republicans, after all, are penalized with the first three years of the Depression while the Democrats get all of World War II and the recovery afterwards. So let's try again with the lower boundary of 1953, the start of the Eisenhower administration. And, indeed, the numbers get closer. But the highest GDP growth average is for years when a Democrat is president, followed by years when the Democrats controlled the House four years prior. The lowest, oddly enough, is when the Republicans controlled the Senate 4 years ago, followed by years when the Republicans control the Senate. The numbers are much closer, with the Republicans having higher averages in 7 of the 15 comparisons listed.

PRESIDENT: Republican 2.814286, Democrat 4.090000
SENATE: Republican 2.300000, Democrat 3.444681
HOUSE: Republican 3.200000, Democrat 3.322857

PRESIDENT: Republican 2.855882, Democrat 3.930000
SENATE: Republican 2.787500, Democrat 3.334783
HOUSE: Republican 3.350000, Democrat 3.197059

PRESIDENT: Republican 3.442424, Democrat 3.140000
SENATE: Republican 3.328571, Democrat 3.328261
HOUSE: Republican 3.705263, Democrat 3.117647

PRESIDENT: Republican 3.318750, Democrat 3.155000
SENATE: Republican 2.616667, Democrat 3.339130
HOUSE: Republican 3.172222, Democrat 3.300000

PRESIDENT: Republican 3.145161, Democrat 3.495000
SENATE: Republican 1.840000, Democrat 3.439130
HOUSE: Republican 2.535294, Democrat 3.655882

Okay, let's move forward a bit more. Let's try 1977, the start of the Carter administration; that'll skip over all of Vietnam and its immediate aftereffects. Now, the Republicans kick in a bit. The highest average GDP increase is when the Republicans controlled the House two years prior, followed by years when the President is a Democrat. The lowest average increase is when the Democrats controlled the House two years prior, followed by a tie between years when the Republicans control the Senate and when the Democrats controlled the House three years prior. Again, the Republicans have the advantage in 7 of the 15 comparisons.

PRESIDENT: Republican 2.768421, Democrat 3.583333
SENATE: Republican 2.416667, Democrat 3.244000
HOUSE: Republican 3.338889, Democrat 2.730769

PRESIDENT: Republican 2.888889, Democrat 3.250000
SENATE: Republican 2.650000, Democrat 3.129167
HOUSE: Republican 3.366667, Democrat 2.533333

PRESIDENT: Republican 3.311765, Democrat 2.425000
SENATE: Republican 2.860000, Democrat 2.962500
HOUSE: Republican 3.611765, Democrat 2.000000

PRESIDENT: Republican 3.237500, Democrat 2.533333
SENATE: Republican 2.950000, Democrat 2.933333
HOUSE: Republican 3.325000, Democrat 2.416667

PRESIDENT: Republican 2.980000, Democrat 3.141667
SENATE: Republican 2.733333, Democrat 3.091667
HOUSE: Republican 2.806667, Democrat 3.358333

So, what does this mean? Well, it's hard to tell overall. The most consistent numbers seem to be that having Republicans control the Senate is bad - those are the lowest numbers in 10 of the 15 sets, and the Republican Senate average is lower than the Democratic Senate in 13 of the 15 sets...and those last two are very small differences (0.01667% and 0.00031%). That may just be because there are relatively few years with Republicans controlling the Senate, just 22 years out of the full 78-year range. Over the very long term, the Democratic numbers are higher, but recent trends seem to indicate that Republican control of the House is good economically.

I've made the script available at in case anyone else wants to play with it. (Yes, I know it's ugly.) Other analysis I want to play with: the effects of having multiple groups controlled by the same party at once (is there a more pronounced effect for, say, controlling both houses of Congress, or even both houses plus the Presidency, or is economic growth better when there's a party split?), or the effects of larger vs. smaller majorities in Congress.

Some notes on methodology: Party control information came from, with Presidents and Congresses sworn in during a year counting for that year. For the years marked as having changes (1931 House, 2001 Senate), both were counted as Democratic because they spent more time as Democratic than Republican.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Psychonauts Review

Finished Psychonauts over the weekend. Review...oh, Yahtzee said it better than I can. His review is basically spot on - incredibly fun game, lots of cool things, hilarious dialog, vicious spike in the difficulty curve, and the standard open-world platformer problem of hiding the cool bonus stuff in impossible-to-find places.

RIP, Ice Box Man

Today, George Carlin should be collecting everything he ever lost.

Stealing his words:

Where do things go when they're lost? You know what I think? I think there's a big pile of things somewhere. I think there's a big constantly changing pile of things that are lost. You lose something, whoo-pop, it goes to the pile. And then you say, 'Oh look, there it is,' whoowhoowhoowhoowhoowhooph. Right back from the pile. And you didn't even know there was a pile.

And where is the pile? In Heaven, of course! Has to be in Heaven. That's the first thing that happens when you get to Heaven, they give you back everything you ever lost. That's the whole meaning of Heaven. You get back everything: "Here ya' are, 79 pairs of sunglasses, 212 cigarette lighters, 4,983 ball point pens. And here's a jock strap we found on the Golden State Freeway. It
appears to have mule hoofprints and chocolate sprinkles on it...must've been quite an evening."

Yes, you get back everything. Everything, When you get to Heaven...well, not everything, you know, you don't get the big things back. Good judgement, that never comes back. Your tonsils, your appendix, they keep those for display purposes, don't get that back, because you're in such a big hurry to get rid of it in the first place. But, you get back all your wallets. You get back every wallet you ever lost. No cash, it's just like earth. They keep the money as a prayer offering.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Diet Summary, Week 3

Bad week. (Okay, bad weekend. Dinner out on Friday, and then at the in-laws' on Sunday.) Beyond that, I've been getting sloppy, and it's showing.

Net weight change, Wednesday-to-Wednesday: up 0.1 pounds. Trend down 1.1 pounds, mostly on momentum from last week.

Think I need to tighten up a little bit and not be quite so sloppy about it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Southwardly Beachish, Week 2

Actual recorded weight down 2.8 pounds, trend line down 2.0 pounds.

Seems to be working so far.

Monday, June 9, 2008

D&D 4th Edition: The Obligatory Review

Note: this is not based on actual play time yet, just on reading over the rules.

I suspect that 4E is going to get a lot of grief. It's got a hell of an act to follow in 3E. To some extent, I think that the success and overall excellence of 3E are the biggest problems that 4E has, because where it fixes a lot of the problems in AD&D, it does so by skipping over 3E's solutions and finding its own. As an example: 3E had an elegant solution to fixing the multiclass imbalance: every character can level in every class if they want. Want a level of cleric? No problem! 4E solves it in a completely different way; every character has exactly one class, but you can take a special feat to gain some abilities of another class.

To be honest, I think that 4E would have gotten a better reception if it had followed AD&D2 directly. It has, in some intangible way, more of an original D&D feel than AD&D did, but in a streamlined way.

Okay, enough 2E/3E comparisons. How is 4E on its own? Personally, it looks pretty good. The system fixes several of the major problems with every edition of D&D printed, such as the uselessness of first-level characters and the cleric being nothing more than a walking first aid kit with a 'turn undead' ability. Above all, it looks fun. They've clearly tried to give all the classes interesting options at every level, and to make it so a poor decision early on doesn't cripple the character permanently. I'm not sure I care for the Heroic-Paragon-Epic path design, but I'd need to see how they play to really make a judgement.

I'm not 100% sure I like their initial class choices - Cleric/Fighter/Rogue/Wizard are obviously all required, and Paladin/Ranger seem reasonable. Warlord is an interesting choice - a battle leader who helps those fighting with him. I don't think I've really seen anything quite like that since Military Scientist back in Dragonquest. Warlock...I'm surprised they printed. Clearly things have changed from the 2E days if they're willing to print a class that explicitly makes pacts with extraplanar entities for its powers. I'm surprised at the lack of the Bard and Druid classes, especially the Druid. (I'm sure we'll see them again in supplements soon enough.)

The racial choices, though, I can support. Gnome and half-orc are gone, and I (personally) won't particularly miss either. Gnomes seemed lost without a dedicated illusionist class (gone since 2E) - without that, they're just variant dwarves - and half-orcs always felt like they were meant as an NPC race. Instead, we get three 'new' races, the dragonborn, eladrin, and tiefling. Tieflings we've seen before - planetouched humanoids from the lower planes. Having them as a core race is (again) an interesting choice - I'd have expected aasimar (their upper-plane counterparts) as well, but they aren't even in the Monster Manual. Again, we can clearly see that the 2E self-censorship has gone by the wayside. Eladrin aren't quite what they used to be (the core chaotic good planar beings); now they feel like a more magical variant of elf, where the main elf race has become more sylvan warrior-oriented. And dragonborn tie the players into the dragons of the title more closely than ever before in a core race. The Monster Manual has the basic info you'd need to re-add Gnomes, plus Drow, Orcs, Warforged, and more.

Mention of the Eladrin brings up another change, one that I'm unsure if it's a good thing but it's certainly interesting to see what they did. Alignment has been simplified and streamlined down to five choices: Unaligned, Good, and Lawful Good (as player choices), plus Evil and Chaotic Evil for the villains. Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil mostly fill in the slots they covered in the original 3x3 grid; Good covers both Neutral Good and Chaotic Good, while Evil covers both Neutral Evil and Lawful Evil. Unaligned is the most interesting one, covering both variants of Neutral ('working for balance' and 'don't care') plus Lawful Neutral and Chaotic Neutral. Unaligned isn't really Neutral, though, because it's more 'good vs. evil is nice, but I've got a job to do'. The bit I find most interesting is that Unaligned acts as a wildcard in matching deity and worshiper alignment - an unaligned worshiper can worship any god, and any alignment can worship an unaligned god. This works well for (as an example) a God of Magic, who may get worship from wizards of all alignments. On the other hand, it seems odd that a Lawful Good deity (Bahamut, the honorable paladin god) would accept an Unaligned worshiper but not a Good one. This may be something to tweak as a house rule.

Other things: I like healing surges. They're perhaps a bit on the generous side (1/4 of your HP, 5-10 times a day?) but they (along with the higher starting HP) make it possible for low-level characters to be a bit more daring without worrying about instant death from one lucky sword swing. I like encounter-frequency powers, and at-will Magic Missile that needs a to-hit roll. (Hey, wizards aren't useless after they cast their one daily spell! What a concept!) For that matter, I like at-will cantrips and other low-level magical abilities in general. I like ritual spells - a way to handle those utility abilities that don't involve burning spell slots. I like that almost no classes start with proficiency in plate armor. I like the idea of holy symbols, rods, and staffs as class implements, where an enchanted one can improve your ability to use your class abilities just as an enchanted weapon.

Overall, I'm pleased with the design. I suspect that it may have been (oddly enough) an even better game if they hadn't had the D&D baggage that they needed to use, but if it had been just another RPG system, nobody would pay any attention to it. For good or ill, D&D is still the 800-pound gorilla of the RPG world, and this appears to be a good version of it to go forward and bring in new players.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Vaguely Southernish Pseudo-Beach Type Diet: Week One

So, 1 week in on adding some South Beach-type sensibilities to the Don't Be Stupid Diet.

So far, amazingly enough, it seems to be working.

Trend line is down 2 pounds since last Wednesday. Today's weigh-in was almost 8 pounds under last Wednesday. (Just taking it as Wednesday-to-Wednesday, it's 1.6 pounds on the trend line and 6.1 pounds of daily weight.)

So far, it's been easier to stick to it on weekends than during the week. (Go fig. There's more junk food at work.) I'm not missing the snacks so much, although not having them on weekends makes dinner a bit more iffy. (We'll pick some good snack food up this weekend to fix that issue.) Snacks at work are more of an issue when I'm bored or thinking - I tend to go walking around the office when I'm trying to work through a design or implementation issue, and the microkitchens are a likely place to end up walking to. I've been looking at the snacks provided, then typically grabbing a diet soda and walking back.

I suspect that, in the medium term at least, I can live with this one. It feels...right, I suppose. It's taking the Don't Be Stupid Diet to a better level - instead of just watching portion size and number of snacks, it's paying more attention to the contents of what I'm eating.

As an example: today's lunch wasn't particularly appealing, so I made a sandwich. Picked the 12-grain bread instead of my more typical sourdough, put just a little mayo on - enough to taste and moisten, but no more, and put on turkey instead of roast beef. And the resulting sandwich was pretty darned tasty, and now I'm full.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Things We Don't Need Any More Of

#1 in a continuing series. (Collect them all! Trade them with your friends!)


Rock songs about how awful the touring life is.

Sorry, folks. This is the life you chose. Yep, it's not all wonderful. Get over it.

(Besides, whatever you're trying to say, there's a damn good chance Jackson Browne already said it better.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Wrong Audience

Spent an hour trying to get a game running on my PC last night. It seems that SecuROM decided it didn't like something, and refused to run. Eventually grabbed a no-CD executable from online, and things worked from there.

This is, of course, the fatal flaw of copy protection: it makes life difficult for your customers while not particularly inconveniencing the people who would never have paid you money in the first place.

And folks wonder why Steam and Stardock are doing so well. Not having to worry about this BS is worth an extra 10% on the price of a game...and games are generally the same price or cheaper on Steam to begin with.