Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Twisted Sister.

Because today (is it only Tuesday?) may be one of those days where you need to laugh as much as I do, I am passing along a tidbit from The Onion, sent to me by a dear friend who always comes through in such times as these.

Monday, September 29, 2008

When popular icons failed.

Ever have one of those days where, no matter how hard you try, it is just a little hard to concentrate? Where there is some nagging feeling back there in the background somewhere, and it just kind of interferes with everything? Where you think maybe you have suddenly developed hypertension? And you look around and wonder just how dramatically things could change--and how fast?

Yeah, me too.

So late this afternoon, when I could watch the Dow pretending it had an "n" affixed to the end of its name, I did what any person does when they are trying to hold onto their sanity.

I made a mix.

I sort of doubt I would get copies made in time for it to resonate for you the way it does for me (though I am happy to try if you like), so here it is:

"When popular icons failed (9/29/2008)"
1. Sting, "Jeremiah Blues, Pt. 2"
2. The Boomtown Rats, "Banana Republic"
3. R.E.M., "Houston"
4. Propellerheads f. Shirley Bassey, "History Repeating"
5. Blackalicious, "Sky Is Falling"
6. Billy Bragg & Wilco, "All You Fascists"
7. J.U.F., "Panic So Charming (What the Fuck Style)"
8. U2, "Bullet the Blue Sky"
9. They Might Be Giants, "Lie Still, Little Bottle"
10. Paul Simon, "Gumboots"
11. The Story, "When Two and Two Are Five"
12. Barenaked Ladies, "Who Needs Sleep?"
13. Midnight Oil, "When the Generals Talk"
14. Mr. Lif, "Home of the Brave"
15. Laurie Anderson, "Walking and Falling"
16. Ani DiFranco, "'Tis of Thee"
17. Judy Collins, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime"
18. Nick Lowe, "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass"
19. The Rolling Stones, "19th Nervous Breakdown"
20. Paul Simon, "American Tune"
21. Billy Bragg, "Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards"

(I apologize for the duplication of Paul Simon and Billy Bragg, but hey: it is my mix.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Domestic crisis update: Situation contained.

Yesterday magpie concluded: "At least your mouse is out of the house. But your cats are slackers."

Too true!

Or so I thought.

When I went to feed Sazha this morning, in the little room where she likes to nap and has recently been getting fed (I know, but when we made her eat downstairs, she hardly ate anything before Jacques Monod came to try to take her food, and as a result she was wasting away), I found a dead mouse.

I do not know if this is the same mouse from Wednesday (please--let it be true!), but given that JM never comes in that room, I have to conclude that the obliteration of this enemy combatant was Sazha's work.

Nice work, Sazha!

And here is why you should never get rid of your old vinyl. I covered the bugger with a plastic container, slid my copy of Zenyatta Mondatta underneath, and took the corpse to the disposal unit.

Case closed?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Domestic Crisis Update: Situation averted.

You will be relieved to know that although the rodent situation in my house had been nearing catastrophe, I am not suspending this blog, nor will I keep from teaching class today or (gods-willing) grading the papers I have on my desk.

I am sorry to report, however, that the support from Congress, I mean the cats, was not quite what I would have hoped for. Sure, Sazha did a great job of herding the mouse into my study, where it could disrupt my workday. Then Jacques Monod did manage to corner it behind the file cabinet for several hours. But when I tried to use a broom to flush the mouse out into her awaiting gray claw-adorned paws, she ran away and no amount of explanation on my part could convince her that I was not aiming the broom at her. Then, when she trapped the mouse between the screen door and wooden door to the front of the house, she just smelled it.

Frankly, I had expected better.

I mean, two weeks ago, when the PP and I took the cats in for their annual shots etc., Jacques Monod was a holy terror. It finally took three people--the PP plus two vets--to contain her so she could get those shots, and also they had wrapped her in a sheet and the PP was wearing one of those giant leather mittens that cats cannot bite through. When I told the PP about the rodent situation here at the house, he said, "Well, if JM can get involved, she'll get that mouse, and she'll murder it and eat its brains."

I am serious. That is what he said, and really: he is not a violent guy.

But what did she do? She smelled it.

So I had to get her out of the way, and then I managed to prop open the screen door and close the wooden door, thereby allowing the mouse to escape through this improvised airlock into the big world.

I know this is a temporary solution, and that it will likely be no time before the mouse comes back in the house, but there it is: my own private bailout.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's working.

Remember what I said about "the Palin stammer"? I now have no doubt that this is the new Republican strategy.

This afternoon, taking a little break from work, I wandered over to Towleroad.com and read this. I did not believe it. So I went to Andrew Sullivan's blog and read this and this. And then Talking Points Memo. And then even the Washington Post. But they all were saying the same thing--that McCain had declared on TV that he would suspend his campaign because of the economic crisis and that he believed that Friday's debate should be called off.

I walked around the house for a while, trying to ascertain for certain if I was not dreaming this.

I determined that I am, and that there was still a mouse behind my file cabinet.

I remembered that I had some laundry in the washing machine so I went towards the back of the house.

I got distracted by some salsa that I remembered I had made from late-season tomatoes.

I picked up my new knitting project and turned on CNN. I sat there for probably 30 minutes watching Wolf Blitzer, well, blitz and also listening to the reactions of various politicians and pundits. I waited for Obama to make his statement, thinking, "Please, Obama, do not be a dumbass."

I knitted.

I remembered about that wash I needed to put in the dryer.

I watched some more CNN and even some commercials, knitting.

Obama came on and was not a dumbass.

I thought about the wash again, but did not want to miss out on the Q&A.

Finally that bit was over, so I put the wash in the dryer, turned off the TV, and came back to my desk--about one hour later.

In short, the McCain campaign had sent me into an hour-long whole-body stammer, and this, friends, is their strategy--to be like a death ray, rendering oponents motionless, speechless, astonished.

Domestic crisis.

So: early this morning, about 4:30 or so, my dear cat Sazha jumped up in bed. How sweet, I thought, reaching over to pet her. She jumped around, attacked my hand, bounced a few more times and then jumped onto the floor, where she darted around like an insane kitty, zig-zagging, jumping, mewing, zig-zagging some more.

I turned on the light, but I could not figure out what was up.

So about an hour ago, I was working at my desk, when she came downstairs, mewing some more, but in a slightly different tone than she usually uses when she is just looking for attention. I looked over to see that she was tracking a gray mouse.

I immediately flipped out, of course, like any good American, and after a little more chasing she seemed to corner the mouse behind a bookshelf. I say seemed, because after a few minutes the mouse emerged from the other end of the bookcase, with the cat, like Wile E. Coyote, still staring diligently at the spot where she saw the mouse go in.

Meanwhile, I called my parents to update them on the situation that they did not know was occurring. In talking to them, I figured out that probably this latest rodent activity was related to the early-morning craziness on Sazha's part. "Was she bouncing on the bed?" my mother asked, and I said, "Yes, why?" and just as I said that I figured out why.

Here is some background that might help you deduce what I deduced. Back when I lived in Michigan, and Sazha was but a wee furry thing, she used to go out on the roof of the house we lived in. My apartment was essentially an attic apartment, and it had a window that opened up onto a flattish roof that we used (dangerously) as a sort of balcony. Sazha would go out there, and then explore the rest of the roof, and with the exception of one rather precipitous fall, she stayed up there. It was perfect; she could be outside, but without real danger from cars, etc.

So one night I had just gone to bed in my futon, which (since I was a poor graduate student) had no frame and so just lay on the floor. I was lying on my stomach and just dozing off when I vaguely heard Sazha come in and it felt like there was a bug on my back. I leapt up and flopped the covers over, and I was surprised to see what seemed to be a wet leaf lying on my bedroom floor. Perhaps by now you have already deduced that that was no leaf, it was a space station--I mean, a wounded baby bat. That my dear cat had laid on my back. In my bed. With the kind (and mocking) aid of my roommate, the bat was trapped and released outdoors (where it no doubt suffered a lingering death) and the window was shut and I worked for a while on bringing down my heart rate.

Back to this morning: I think that today may have become my second bedtime rodent encounter.

Meanwhile, the mouse seems now to be hiding behind my file cabinet, and Jacques Monod is on the scene.

Stay tuned. . . .

UPDATE: Correction: it turns out the mouse is brown.

Pay no attention to the dust bunnies also lurking behind my file cabinet

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


All you need to know about the buyout plan. (via)

"No relief for gas pains."

That was a recent headline in our local newspaper, for an article about local gas prices and shortages, courtesy of hurricane Ike. Now the Patient Partner walks around the house devising other political headlines that can sound like commentary on one's, uhm, bodily functioning. I will spare you the details.

I do not know how things are where you live, but every other gas station around here is out of gas, or has only diesel. I have been trying to hold off filling up until the prices come down some (they are still up around $4 per gallon at most stations), but now I am thinking that if the shortages are going to persist, that may not be possible.

But this is not really a post about the southeastern U.S. gas shortages. It is about running out of gas in the pool. Scott warned me last week to be careful not to overdo it, and my body seems to have been thinking the same thing. I am still so tired from last week's swimming, that it is pretty much impossible for me to overdo things this week. But I'm listening, so I have dialed things back a bit.

This morning's practice contained yet more skill work, which I am loving. First, we worked on freestyle hand placement--placing your hand and forearm as a sort of paddle, or (if you are a more efficient swimmer than I am) even an anchor, such that you can truly pull your body to your hand, rather than vice versa. (I am, I'm sorry to say, all about the vice versa.)

Then it was on to breaststroke kick, where I am still trying to undo years of practice kicking the wrong way--or at least, the old-school way. The right way means keeping as straight a line as possible from your core through your hip and down your thigh. The old style--what I learned to do as a kid--had you bend more at the hip, so that (sadly) your thigh would become a sort of block to real hydrodynamic efficiency. And this old kick style is even more problematic if you, like I, have big honking legs. Also, I am trying to learn to keep my kick narrower: coach says that the power gained by the big wide kick is effectively undone by the loss in streamlinability (your new word for the day).

But he also says that he can see real improvement in my swim mechanics already this season, and that I am moving more like a swimmer. That is nice to hear.

Warm-up: 1000 with long fins (300 s)
First skill set: 400 swim/kick: 4 x 100, first 50 = technique free, second 50 = choice kick (200s)
Second skill set: 400 swim/kick: 8 x 50, first 25 = technique breast, second 25 = choice kick (200s)
Main set: 800 kick/swim: 4 rounds of 4 x 50, 1st three = kick, last one = swim; odds = build, evens = fast (200s)
Cool-down: 200 with long fins
TOTAL: 2800 yards (900 swim)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dolphin + Freestyle modification.

Today was butterfly day, and since I cannot really swim fly yet (did I mention that I swam 2 separate 25s of it last Saturday? With long fins, but STILL.), I did a combination of dolphin kick and one-arm drill. My coach suggested really working to make each dolphin powerful--starting from the chest of course--instead of doing lots of little dolphins, which has been how I have typically done butterfly kick.

My coach will not even use the word "kick" for fly, because, he said, the stroke does not really have a true kick so much as a dolphin movement involving the whole body.

Working on the power of each dolphin made a huge difference, as I could really work on the power of the movement. Furthermore, I could use the 1-arm drilling to make sure that the rhythm of my kicking was pretty much the same as the kick rhythm when I actually swim. I mentioned earlier that my core strength is pretty low right now, so this was also a great drill for me in terms of rebuilding strength.

Also, my coach pointed out that in my freestyle, I tend to pull with force all the way through the pull phase, which leaves my arm and my shoulder tense at the beginning of the recovery phase, thereby putting unnecessary stress on the shoulder. Instead, he suggested that after my pull passes my waist, which is effectively the end of the power phase of the stroke, I release my elbow so that when the recovery begins, my shoulder is in a better position. I have not really got the hang of this yet--it is always difficult to integrate changes into a stroke--but I think I can really feel how this will be better for the shoulders.

I did not feel comfortable doing my 900 swim today, because I was feeling too much stress on my left shoulder.

Do I get extra points for doing 2600 yards of kick? I hope so, because I can hardly stand up.

1100 warm-up: 600 with long fins, 500 with no fins (200 swim)
800 skill set focused on dolphining: 8x100, 50 dolphin + 50 something else (kick)
1200 main set: 6 rounds of 100 IM + 100 FR, where second and fourth 25 of each is swim; for each 100 by round: 25 fast/75 easy // 50 fast/50 easy // 75 fast/25 easy; after four rounds I cut out the swimming and did all kick (400 swim)
200 cool-down: with long fins, alternating 25 kick/25 swim (100 swim)
TOTAL: 3300 yards (700 swim)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Omnivores' 100.

At a wine dinner here this weekend, during the third course, I was eating a very tasty bagna cauda, and I suddenly remembered: Estaminet tagged me to do the VGT Omnivore's 100!

Which works like this:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

Here are my findings: (74 of 100)
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros (I don't really like eggs.)
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding (Mmmm, yes! And had it again this summer!)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries (with estaminet!)
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (one of my great errrors)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (not in the bowl)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (though typically I have my cigars with single malt)
37. Clotted cream tea (more summer nostalgia)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (oy)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal (see above, re: learning from one’s mistakes)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (AND!)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict (see above re I don't like eggs)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (I have HAD IT with the motherf-- no wait.)

So how's about you? Try it--you'll like it!

Tea tea tea, all I want is tea.

Being in England and Ireland this summer, I got in the habit of drinking tea rather than coffee, because while the cheap coffee there is dreck, cheap tea is just fine.

Before long, I realized that in drinking tea, I did not get jittery and anxious the way I do when I have coffee. And tea did not bother my stomach at all. And I could even drink it late in the afternoon without it hindering my sleep.

I still like coffee, but mostly, even now that I am back, I keep drinking tea, because it seems to make me feel, well, better.

Today I read this. Granted, the research is funded by the Tea Council (do you think they are hiring?), but still.

Check out this kick set.

I am now one day into my second consecutive week of swimming.

I felt a little discomfort in my shoulder this morning, so I backed off my planned set: initially I tried to swim but with short fins instead of no fins, but that was only good for so far, so then I stopped the swim. Last week I was able to swim 900 yards per practice without discomfort, but I expect this is residual fatigue by this week.

But I did do a most righteous kick set that I highly recommend. It's a total of 1200 yards (or meters, if you do it in such a pool) and it goes like this. 25 fast kick, 50 easy kick, 50 fast kick, 50 easy kick, 75 fast kick, 50 easy kick, and so on, up to 200 fast kick, 50 easy kick. It is one of those sets where about half-way through you think maybe your legs are going to burn off, but then they go numb, and you can really crank.

WORKOUT (9/15)
800 Warm-up (including 200 swim with long fins)
600 IM Swim set (8 x 75 IM order, with short fins, substituting free for fly and also after a while substituting back for breast)
1200 kick (no fins), as described above)
200 easy
TOTAL: 2800 (including 800 y of swim)

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 1, 1939.

Yesterday I was slated to teach a poem and an essay by W. H. Auden. At the last moment, I decided that since it was the anniversary that it was, I might rather have my class discuss "September 1, 1939" than the poem that I had put on the syllabus.

I was thinking about how this poem, which Auden wrote about the invasion of the Poland and the beginning of World War II, had been widely read, recited, reprinted, circulated, and ruminated over in the days after September 11, 2001, and how readers then found that its thinking about what that day in 1939 meant applied also to their own thinking about what this new attack was, and how we would try to understand it.

My students, mind you, and like many people, have a difficult time imagining what the start of the war might have felt like, since they (and we) know so much now about other things going on Germany besides simple (?) imperial ambitions. But now that we are some seven years out from 9/11, I think we, too, have that strange ability to look back at an earlier moment, which was in a way the beginning of something, and reflect on our thoughts at the time.

Auden came to distrust the poem, and he kept it out of collections of his work because he feared that maybe his own response was too self-satisfied. In one republishing of the poem, he changed the line "We must love one another or die" to "We must love one another and die." Despite his disappointment in the poem, it seems to me to be a poem that demands we think harder about what we are doing, about the world we are making. Now, in this political season, that is a message we cannot hear frequently enough. (Though I wonder: is everyone really listening? No, I don't really wonder. It's more that I do not want to accept the answer.)

So, with apologies to Wystan, I reprint his poem here:

"September 1, 1939"

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.


I have started working with a personal trainer.

I resisted this approach for a long time, for a number of reasons. First, I figured that I know something about fitness and I should not have to pay someone to tell me to do sit-ups. Second, I come from strong, penny-pinching yankee stock, and I hate spending money on anything (except yarn). Third, I figured I was already working with a swim coach, and so really, how much athletic staff did I need in my life?

But then I saw how after her races in Beijing, Dara Torres had, like, six people massaging her and stretching her and OMG is that what I have been missing?

No, seriously: this summer I realized that the left side of my upper body is still rather atrophied after all my shoulder hoo-ha, and if I did not get serious about bringing it back RIGHT, I would probably never be able to swim well and consistently.

Also, I came to terms with the fact that I am a slack-ass about strength training.

So this morning I had my first session with K., and I am optimistic. She seemed smart, knowledgeable, articulate. She gave me good exercises to do on the first day. She did not overdo it. She treated me like an athlete.

But painful confession time: not only has my shoulder suffered from the last 1.75 years of erratic training, but I. HAVE. NO. CORE. STRENGTH. Yow. Crunches that would have been no big deal several years ago HURT ME. And I know from back when I was in shape how important core strength is to swimming.

Verdict: if I do not get serious about core strength-training, my poor shoulder will no doubt pay the price.

So here we go.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

South Carolina IS SO so gay.

Readers who were along for the ride back in July might be interested to know that South Carolina Governor (and man not really of my people) Mark Sanford is to be honored with the "so gay" award at South Carolina Pride this month. (via)

Congratulations, Governor Sanford!

The Palin stammer.

Something I started noticing shortly after the announcement that Sarah Palin would be John McCain's running mate, was that this news was capable to reducing some of the most articulate people I know to blathering strings of absolute incomprehensibility.

Example: a couple weeks ago, during the Republican convention, I was sitting in my office, waiting for a colleague to come by so we could go to lunch. As I waited, I was trolling around on various blogs, and I came across "Sarah Palin's Blog" (not real, of course). When my colleague arrived, I said, "Have you seen this?" and his response was something to the effect of, "I don't--it's just--what about--how did--have you--is she--" He went on for about 20 seconds, but I think the gist of it was, "I don't know where to start."

Over the next couple of days, as I talked politics with other smart, liberal people, I kept noticing the same thing happening: one after the other, they were rendered effectively speechless.

Yesterday, another colleague sent me a link to this tape of Matt Damon, and although he holds it together better than most people I have seen, he still feels the effects of the firepower of her fully armed and operational stammer-station:

I am starting to think this was part of the idea, on the Republicans' part.

Monday, September 01, 2008


It seems that the press will have a hard time, this election cycle, comparing the Democratic and Republican conventions, since the Republican campaign will be at least somewhat disrupted by Gustav. Some will say that the two conventions should not be compared, while others will be itching to do so.

My suggestion: the conventions should be judged as Olympic diving was this Olympics. There should be a difficulty score for each convention. Judges then award an execution score, on a ten-point scale. The highest and the lowest of the judges' scores are tossed out and the remaining five scores are totaled. These scores are then multiplied by 3, divided by 5, and multiplied again by the degree of difficulty of the dive.

Let's say you're going to do a dive--I mean "speech"--on the 45th anniversary of some big thing, and then you do up your platform to sort of resemble the site where that other thing happened. Also, you decide to perform in front of 80,000+ people in a giant stadium, eliciting mutterings of "Paris Hilton" and "Leni Riefenstahl" from critics. If you tank, say, kicking up a lot of splash on your entry, you still get some points for trying something complicated. But if you ace it, then your score is out of the park.

Other factors affecting difficulty might be:
* choosing a running mate that sends the political world into a tailspin of amazement and last-minute research;

* having to contend with a major hurricane that reminds voters of how very competent your party has been in the last 8 years on so many matters;

* losing some of your convention speakers, because they decide they might need to run the government this time (I would contend, however, that this actually LOWERS your difficulty rating);

* etc.

This sort of scoring system should allow political analysts to stop feeling bad about assessing the successes and failures of the two conventions.

Meanwhile, Gustav, please go easy.