Monday, December 31, 2007

Nico wants to move to Iowa.

I am certain there are worse places to live than Iowa, though I cannot think of any at the moment. Why would anyone want to move to Iowa? For the caucuses, man.

This description (from wikipedia) sounds frighteningly like a Rainbow event.

The process used by the Democrats is more complicated than the Republican Party caucus process. Each precinct divides its delegate seats among the candidates in proportion to caucus goers' votes.

Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a "preference group"). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. Each preference group might informally deputize a few members to recruit supporters from the other groups and, in particular, from among those undecided. Undecided participants might visit each preference group to ask its members about their candidate.

After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are "viable". Depending on the number of county delegates to be elected, the "viability threshold" can be anywhere from 15% to 25% of attendees. For a candidate to receive any delegates from a particular precinct, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold. Once viability is determined, participants have roughly another 30 minutes to "realign": the supporters of inviable candidates may find a viable candidate to support, join together with supporters of another inviable candidate to secure a delegate for one of the two, or choose to abstain. This "realignment" is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's "second candidate of choice" can help a candidate.

When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media. Most of the participants go home, leaving a few to finish the business of the caucus: each preference group elects its delegates, and then the groups reconvene to elect local party officers and discuss the platform.

The delegates chosen by the precinct then go to a later caucus, the county convention, to choose delegates to the district convention and state convention. Most of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention are selected at the district convention, with the remaining ones selected at the state convention. Delegates to each level of convention are initially bound to support their chosen candidate but can later switch in a process very similar to what goes on at the precinct level; however, as major shifts in delegate support are rare, the media declares the candidate with the most delegates on the precinct caucus night the winner, and relatively little attention is paid to the later caucuses.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wine Country Christmas

(The pictures do not adequately capture how cold it was.)

I would like to start off by pointing out that I was going to Healdsburg before it was popular. Here's a photo I snapped from the bike (stopped) on a road we were riding on somewhere just outside of Healdsburg.

It was not quite Chianti scenic, but not bad for the weekend budget (and for winter).

So we're riding along, in 39 degree weather (have I ever mentioned that I'm not much for cold weather cycling gear), and we pass by Lambert Bridge Winery. The billows of smoke emanating from the chimney were enough to draw me in.

$10 to taste their non-reserve (and rather mediocre) wines. They pour in Riedel stems; I was impressed only until we went to Ridge and dinner, where we also drank from Riedels.

A few Napa highlights:

1) Hagafen Cellars: The guys pouring wine in the tasting room were not that interested in talking to me about the Koshering process...most likely because there were two couples who looked far more Jewish than Nicole and me (and my Kaiser friend Nam). As far as I know, Hagafen is the only winery in the Valley open on Christmas.

2) Winston Hill Cabernet at Frank Family Vineyards: There are not too many places in Napa that will let you taste a $125 bottle of wine without charging you (unless you are somebody important...or at least with somebody important). They do have to be in the mood to pour the expensive stuff for you.

3) Vino Bello Resort: Part of the Meritage Resort...I guess it's a timeshare, but nobody tried to sell us anything while we were there. Pretty close to staying in a vineyard, without being in an old creeky house. Here's the view from our room:

This one is back in Sonoma. I shall title it: "Michael and Nephew".

Monday, December 10, 2007

Winter Storm 2008

If you have ever lived anywhere with real weather, you probably wonder how a little rain can make so much news in Sunny California.

Rain began pelting parts of Southern California early today as a fierce winter storm from the Pacific Northwest moved in ahead of schedule, triggering fears that recent wildfires may have left the region susceptible to flash flooding.

With a forecast like that, I felt confident telling my boss I would run the Irvine half marathon with him...just as long as it was not raining. Sadly, there was no rain on Saturday morning, and before I was fully awake, I found myself running a half marathon. For anyone who has been considering running a half marathon: If you are not in shape, a half marathon is not a whole lot easier than running a whole marathon.

I slowed the boss down a little, but we still turned in pretty respectable times.

Next up: Los Angeles (eh?), or the District of Colombia. Do I dare try two in the same month?