Posted by Political Mammal
In December, I received a message from a clerk at the Supreme Court asking whether I could customize our Visual History of the Supreme Court as a present for a Justice.
I enjoy snacking on pickled Jalapeno peppers. Jalapeno peppers are tasty and mild--about 2500-8000 on the Scoville scale of hotness.
It is not very often anyone gets to see his own brother burnt in effigy. Yet I was in attendance when a wooden man who's head was wrapped 360 degrees with photographs of my brother's head was placed on a bonfire in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado last weekend. See attached picture for explication.
For the fifth year running, NGP held a three day weekend on a retreat in rural Vermont. We again went to my family’s land outside of Bradford, VT. Attendance was up again this year, and we made improvements to accommodate our growing numbers: a few hotel rooms (badly reviewed) for the less outdoors-friendly, a large tent for activities, catered food, badminton.
My uncle saved one important piece of wood from my grandparents’ house after they were gone. He kept one vertical piece of trim from inside of the doorway in one of the upstairs closets. That board is valuable because it is the repository of a lot of family history.
One of the best things about having a kid is the experience of seeing the world afresh. I was reminded of that yesterday when I suggested to my almost five-year-old daughter that we go to visit the cucumber plants we had started in the backyard garden patch this spring. I was rewarded by visible excitement as she danced her way to the back of backyard, exclaiming.
This month's Campaigns & Elections Magazine sports a fake front cover with a claim by Aristotle that "FEC Docs Reveal Huge Fundraising Advantage Tied to Software." Democrats and Republicans, they say, "raised up to $324,620.04 more by using Aristotle" than if they had used NGP. They base their ad, they say, on electronic filings by congressional campaigns in the 2006 cycle. I understand that Aristotle has also emailed the same ad, as well.
Does this fundraising disparity based on software sound like a plausible claim to you?
Their figures are derived by adding up all campaigns using information from FEC reports that also indicates which compliance software package the campaign uses.
It took me only a few minutes to discover why their figures are misleading.
I broke those same numbers down by party:
For Democrats: (NGP chooses not to service Republicans)
Average dollars raised by candidates using NGP (N=175) $1,269,307.75
Average dollars raised by candidates using Aristotle (N=33) $960,777.91
Conclusion: Far more Democratic candidates used NGP and NGP clients raised significantly more money than Aristotle clients on average.
For Republicans: (Aristotle serves either party)
Average dollars raised by candidates using NGP (N=0) $0.00
Average dollars raised by candidates using Aristotle (N=143) $1,568,806.08
Conclusion: Republican candidates in 2006, more incumbents, majority party, did well.
Ouch for them, a reverse of their big claim:
where there is a fair comparison, NGP clients raise more.
Note that, even though looking at their data by party and following Aristotle's logic (look up ecological fallacy) eviscerates their claim to superior software results, I do not maintain here that the numbers necessarily prove anything about software. As anyone who knows anything about political fundraising can attest, the dollars raised by a campaign is the result of many factors. What explains variation in fundraising by congressional candidates? Some important variables include:
1. Party (in the 2006 cycle, Republicans were advantaged by being in power)
2. Incumbency (plenty of studies show that incumbents have easier access to money)
3. Competitiveness of the race (heck, it is easier to raise money if it matters)
4. Tenure in Congress (I imagine that members who have been around longer can raise more)
5. Committees (membership in certain committees helps raise PAC funds)
6. Sponsorships (backing by groups like the National Rifle Association help)
7. Ideology (certain political positions make it easier to fundraise)
8. Candidate skills and experience
9. Other: (fundraising tools, employment of professional fundraisers, professional website, willingness of candidate to make fundraising calls, etc.) A multivariate regression that controlled for these variables might shed some light; though you would have to be sure to correct for simultaneity, because it is just as likely (or more likely) that good fundraisers choose good software, as that good software makes good fundraisers.
My educated guess about what explains why more Democrats use NGP than Aristotle is that over the course of a decade candidates have found us to be more helpful. Numerous candidates, including some of the biggest names in politics, have switched from Aristotle to NGP. And I would further guess that our candidates raise more on average because candidates in races that were close overwhelmingly chose NGP in the last cycle.
If you have made it through all these words, then I congratulate you and leave you with this parting thought -- consider what an advertisement like this tells you about the company that designed and paid for it.
We have made plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NGP Software, Inc. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It will be May 17; more details forthcoming. If you are a friend of the company, a client, a current or ex-employee, you are invited. It will be fun, and a chance for me to thank everyone that made this terrific ten-year ride possible. I have invited Dan Bern (www.danbern.com) and I am very pleased that he has agreed to come. We will hang out for a couple of hours and then Dan will sing.
When I traveled to Europe earlier this summer with my brother to watch some World Cup soccer games, we engaged in a couple of knowledge-based contests to pass the time on our long flight to Munich. For instance, we each attempted to independently write down every country in the world, with each continent (more or less) a separate contest. We are both pretty strong on geography, and it turned out we had little problem dredging up the Lesothos and Andorras of the world, though neither of us demonstrated strength in Oceania. And, embarrassingly, I did not think of Azerbaijan. We moved on to other lists, like major little baseball hitters with more than 500 home runs (sorry Eddie Mathews and Eddie Murray, I forgot you). We tackled the elements of the periodic table cooperatively, something which I do think I have contemplated in over twenty years, since high school chemistry.
This morning I have decided to tackle a subject designed to appeal to a wide audience – explicating my personal, rather idiosyncratic, stance on facial hair removal.
Yesterday, a little after four in the afternoon, an email with the following message caught my eye: Subject: Meet Owen.
It was a beautiful-weather Sunday. Family went to a pancake place in Bethesda for breakfast, where I read an interesting article in the paper about James Madison’s House (Montpelier) in Orange, Virginia. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is returning the house -- in painstaking fashion -- from a 55 room mansion built over it by the Dupont family to the smaller house in which James and Dolley lived.
I am very sympathetic to vegetarianism, and yet, so far, I remain an omnivore. I have a lot of close experience with vegetarians. When I was a teenager, both my sister and brother became vegetarians. (I did not, and they have both lapsed.) My wife has been a vegetarian since 1989—I met her for the first time in 1992.) And we have raised my daughter as a vegetarian since birth—four years now.
I “slept in” this morning until 6:30am and when I got out of bed, I thought for a minute about how much my relationship with sleep has changed since I was a child or teenager.
I just spent a three day weekend on a retreat with my employees in rural Vermont. For the fourth year running, we have gone to my family’s land outside of Bradford, VT--the place that I spent my summers as a kid (my parents were teachers). It is a lovely environment—a small house on a hill surrounded by a lot of gorgeous land. There is a pond, a stream, gardens, and fields where our neighbors run their sheep and horses. My dad is a nonstop gardener and landscaper. Numerous colorful daylilies and other flowers are everywhere, as well as a vegetable garden from which we harvested a few foodstuffs.
Ella is wonderful and fun and smart (she'll be four in July). Example:
Yesterday morning, I took a very early am train to New York to attend a daylong “personal democracy” conference in New York. Conference title: “How Technology is Changing Politics.” I went last year as well. Five of my employees (Chris Casey, Chris Massicotte, Marin Hagen, Sean Robertson, Abbey Levenshus) also attended.
Last night I had dinner with my sales team. We went to the Melting Pot in Dupont Circle. It was an enjoyable evening with a significant helping of banter. One subject that came up during our conversation was the difference between types of work. We compared jobs like the framing part of construction, where there is a tangible feeling of progress and creation each day and where you have a visual and tactile relationship with your output, to office work.
I thought I would cheer up my little daughter by frying up some potatoes for breakfast because she was missing her mom who had gone to work early.
I have not cooked up that particular dish in a long time. I thought it was a good idea -- it reminded me of the fun I had with my brother and sister when we were kids -- we would slice, cook and eat potatoes on summer mornings in Vermont. In those days we kids would have boiled them first (which turns out to be unnecessary if you slice thinly), then put them on the griddle with a little oil until they browned on both sides. A little salt and ketchup and -- tasty feast.
So I made a ceremony of it this morning. The sights and sounds were nostalgic to me. My daughter enjoyed watching (she me peel her potato -- I usually leave the skin on) and was enthusiastic about eating. But then she decided she likes ketchup, but not necessarily potato. She did not seem to have the same history with the dish as I did. I don't think she'll be clamoring for it again.
I felt a little deflated, but I ate up the rest myself. Maybe when she's a little older.
I recently received through the mail some memorabilia that had been languishing in a box under a workbench in the unfinished back room of my parent’s basement. One small item I noticed was a project that I had undertaken at Jarrow, the Montessori pre-school I attended when I was four to six.
We recently had a significant acquisition at NGP Software, Inc. – an awesome new conference table. It is sweet: a lovely Killerspin Revolution table tennis table, four hundred pounds of stability with a striking blue top and orange metal arched structural underpinning. We got the “tournament used” version, which is as good as new. It has served us splendidly already, both in its official capacity as a site for meetings, as well as by renewing our tradition and commitment to fun.
I am looking at a 3x5” black and white photograph from about 1976 of five kids engaged in a tug of war. All five children are exerting themsleves, leaning backwards, pulling enthusiastically on a rope. There seems to be a hint of hilarity as well as effort in all of the faces. The scene is from the lawn in front of our old farmhouse in Bradford, Vermont. It is summer. In the near background is a tree with a sign that reads “South Road Pottery. Open.” In the far distance there is a spectacular elm tree. Behind the action, an unpaved driveway winds off into the distance and meets with a road.
I turned forty years old yesterday. It is my personal record for longevity. As I reflect on this milestone, this unavoidable step into a new decade, I find that I feel surprisingly peaceful about it.
In 1975-6, instead of attending my familiar neighborhood school—Flatirons Elementary in Boulder, Colorado—I spent what would have been fourth grade at the St. Stephens School in Canterbury, England. I did not have much choice in the matter: my dad had exchanged his teaching job for one at the University of Kent for a year. It was quite different for me: kids in that new school officially wore green uniforms; Monday assemblies included the Lord’s Prayer; there was a lot more boiled cabbage and hot pudding in the dining hall; and the other students kept asking me if I really was a “Yankee.” It took me quite awhile to adapt to a foreign country, a different school and new classmates, unfamiliar sports and words and customs.
According to MapQuest, it is one thousand nine hundred eighty six and a half miles from my parents’ home in Boulder, Colorado to the farm in Bradford, Vermont where we spent our summers when I was a kid. According to that web site, it should take about thirty-one hours to drive the distance. We made the four-day trip to Vermont at the beginning of every summer vacation and returned each fall. The trek, in most cases with all five of us in the car, was a part of the rhythm of my childhood, just as much as the start of new school semesters or the changing of the seasons.
Today a friend and I biked from the zoo down along Rock Creek to Georgetown. We each had a daughter behind us in matching plastic transport seats clipped on the back of the bicycles. It was beautiful weather and quite a pleasant way to spend a morning. We stopped at the waterfront in Georgetown, walked into a plaza area, and leaned our bikes against a wall. We took the girls, aged two and three, to an Edy’s ice cream store. My daughter went for a small cup of mint chocolate chip, with sprinkles. The kids were quite happy eating their ice cream.
have been upset of late with leading politicians who have made statements supporting the teaching of intelligent design in schools. (Note, some humorous stuff further down).
This past weekend I went with almost all NGP Software employees and a few significant others, to our family’s farm in rural Vermont. I enjoyed it a great deal. I bring my company to that place because I love it and want to share it with others I care about; it is beautiful and peaceful and very much a part of me.
This weekend, for the first time, I had a passenger on my bicycle, my three-year-old daughter. I purchased one of those seats that attaches behind your own seat. Also, a helmet for her; it is pink and covered with strawberries, just like mine. (Actually, not just like mine).
When my daughter was a baby, I decided that I would build her a desk for the day she would be big enough to use one. It seemed hard to imagine at the time that she would someday be able to sit on a chair and draw or write. But yesterday, just shortly after her third birthday, I finished her desk, a simple affair, and took great pleasure at seeing her sit at it and draw in her coloring book. (She sat on a little Ikea chair that took a relatively tiny amount of time to assemble.)