Thursday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. de stijl says:

    New Year’s Day high temp projected to be 5F and low – 11F.

    One good thing about growing up up north is that – 10 is not really a big deal. A decent hat and coat and long johns and some appropriate layering, minus 10 is not a big deal at all. Brisk. Bracing.

    Minus 25F and lower becomes problematic. Engines stop working / refuse to start. That happens fairly rarely.

    Low wind, it is easy to cope perfectly well with – 10F. Zero problem as long as your car starts.

    That’s why God invented head bolt heaters.

  2. sam says:

    Architectural innovation in Bolivia. Those are some damned impressive buildings. They remind me, in a way, of Gaudi’s work in Barcelona.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: Speaking as one who has had to work in -10 temps, I must disagree.

  4. Mu Yixiao says:

    @de stijl:

    Yeah. -10 (if it’s not windy) is no problem at all.

    The worst I’ve had to deal with was Green Bay around…. ’89? -50F with a -70 windchill. The temp wasn’t the problem, it was that damned wind. My coat of choice back then was a WWII-era wool trench coat (I’ve still got it). Flip up the collar, stand back to the wind, and it was tolerable.

    A perfect day for me is “20 and sunny”.

  5. Kathy says:

    It’s a commonly held belief that ancient primitives knew only three numbers: one, two, and many.

    There’s no way to tell if this is true. But we can tell by observation that modern primitives know only two numbers: all and nothing.

  6. Mu Yixiao says:

    A fun thing about cold weather:

    The McDonald’s on Main Street in Green Bay used to have a promotion where the cost of a cheeseburger was whatever was on the thermometer outside. So… 20º? 20¢ cheeseburger.

    They had to put up a sign that said “This promotion not valid for temperatures under 1º.” 😀

  7. Jax says:

    @de stijl: We had that -25 yesterday morning. Nothing wanted to start, luckily we had the tractor plugged in so we could feed cows.

    6 degrees right now. Feels like bikini weather! 😛

  8. MarkedMan says:

    And here on the elite coast (Hah! Baltimore) we have been getting temperatures in the high 50’s and even the 60’s. Some of my wife’s flowers started to bloom again.

  9. Michael Cain says:

    The official precipitation number here at the north end of the Colorado Front Range urban corridor is 0.25″ since Sep 1. But the NWS is as close as they come to promising that we’ll get some snow Friday and Friday night. And this past week we’ve gone from a shortage of snow pack up in the mountains to green almost across the board, with 20-30″ more forecast for some places up there over the weekend. Across most of the West, actually — an amazing change in the SNOTEL maps from the beginning to the end of December.

  10. sam says:

    My wife and I, transplants from New England, take some pleasure in noting that whenever a national weather map is displayed on the tv, you’d never know there was a place called New Mexico.

  11. Kathy says:

    It was 7 Celsius (I don’t speak Fahrenheit) this morning driving to work, so I had the heater on (and didn’t die!). Three hours alter going to the bank it was 22 Celsius, so I put the AC on.

    That’s normal for clear winter days here.

  12. Mister Bluster says:

    @sam:..”New Mexico”.
    I have met too many citizens who think that New Mexico is not one of our Fifty Nifty United States but is in Mexico.

  13. de stijl says:

    The coldest I ever saw was -54F. A lake cabin getaway weekend NW of Duluth. Pretty close to town – 30 maybe 40 miles out. It was something like -64 up in International Falls that morning. Pretty brutal. Almost no wind, though. 1987? Ish. Round then.

    They had a sauna, so of course we fired that sucker up. (Fired up was a misnomer, it was electric.) Set the thermostat to 150F, let it warm up, stripped down, piled in. I love the sweat, the schvitz. I prefer the dry heat, but someone is going to pour a ladle of water on the rocks just to watch the steam.

    After about 15 – 20 minutes you need to cool down so you bop outside and jump in the snow, wallow around for a few seconds and pop back up. It was hilarious because everybody was steaming like crazy. We looked like fantasy gods and goddesses. The snow would stick to you for a few seconds and then just slough off your body. Flump. Pile back into the sauna after a minute or two to warm back up.

    Meanwhile our brains were freaking out at the rapid drastic temperature change and dumped huge amounts of feel-good chemicals to compensate. Everybody got giddy and goofy.

    Dirty little secret; traditional Finnish sauna gets you super high on feel good brain electro-chemicals. I think that may be the point.

    That was a pretty cool weekend.

  14. de stijl says:


    If I recall, the mountains up north in NM can get pretty wintry.

  15. sam says:

    @de stijl:

    Oh yeah, but the national weather folks seem to include all that with southern Colorado.

  16. de stijl says:

    Big weather only matters when it hits the national media centers – so New York and California. Yeah, they report the disasters, but not the day to day.

    30 inches of snow in Buffalo is a dog bites man story. Boring. 6 inches of snow in NYC is a man bites dog story and is a snowpocalypse.

    National news media is often very parochial.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I have met too many citizens who think that New Mexico is not one of our Fifty Nifty United States but is in Mexico.

    Every now and again it occurs to me that if we wanted a white nation we maybe shouldn’t have dragged over so many Black Africans or stolen so much land, with Mexicans already in place, from Mexico. Too late now, those conservative snowflakes will just have to adjust.

    As Erik Loomis over at LGM likes to say – Texas, the only state to commit treason in defense of slavery twice. Maybe if we really taught CRT more people would be aware of what Texas independence was about.

  18. Kylopod says:


    or stolen so much land, with Mexicans already in place, from Mexico.

    The biggest irony to me is that the people most likely to be attacked as intruders to real America are predominantly of indigenous descent.

  19. de stijl says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I was a trench coat guy, myself.

    Worked great unless it was super windy and you got the flapping around the legs thing going on.

    I used to have a vintage London Fog that had 80 bazillion flaps and buckles and leather bits in olive treated canvas. Loved that sucker.

  20. Mu Yixiao says:

    @de stijl:

    Mine was a literal “trench coat”–as in “coat worn by soldiers in the trenches”.

    Give me a German helmet, let me put it on, and I could do a rather good impression of Sgt. Schultz. 😀

  21. de stijl says:

    I also had a late forties one in black wool with tiny ivory checkmarks. Super subdued herringbone.

    Wearing it, I felt like such a bad-ass.

    It weighed probably 8 pounds. When it rained it weighed twenty pounds if it got soaked. One great thing about wool is that it insulates even when wet.

    The problem with a super bad-ass coat is that if it is way cold you have to wear a tuque too. There is no way to look bad-ass when sporting a tuque. A tuque makes everybody look like a dork.

    In the early 2010s hipsters tried to make tuques look sexy. It only worked if the person wearing it was super duper sexy beforehand. Face it, tuques make everybody look like a dork.

    It is just a thing we have to cope with and look beyond.

  22. dazedandconfused says:

    A great short book to read when it’s cold as eff outside is “A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich”. The film of the book isn’t half-bad too. Russian toques…nothing beats em.

  23. Christine says:

    I saw the movie first. It was the 4 o’clock movie before the 6 pm news back in the early 70’s. Watched it afterschool one dreary winter school day. Found the book easy to read for a 14 year old. Kicked off a life long interest in Russia. Definitely need to revisit.

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: I spent half of every episode of Game of Thrones screaming at the men of the Nights Watch and the Wildlings to, “WEAR A F’N HAT YOU MORONS!!!”

    @dazedandconfused: That’s a really good read.

    Another really good read for a cold and snowy day is Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”. Not too long, but you’ll be shivering by the end of it.

  25. de stijl says:


    I read that Jack London story when I was a kid and it freaked me out.

    I carry a lighter with me everywhere during winter. You never know when the ability to light a fire might mean your life. I might be a wee bit paranoid on this. It struck a nerve.

    Another London story I liked was A Piece Of Steak about a prizefighter, poverty, and home life.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: I quit smoking 11 years ago and I still carry a lighter. I feel almost naked without one. It’s amazing how often it comes in handy.

  27. de stijl says:

    I quit smoking 10 months ago. April 9th I believe. This time it stuck. So far, anyway.

    Still carry a lighter always.

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: Reading “A Piece Of Steak” now.

    But it was Tom King’s face that advertised him unmistakably for what he was. It was the face of a typical prize-fighter; of one who had put in long years of service in the squared ring and, by that means, developed and emphasized all the marks of the fighting beast. It was distinctly a lowering countenance, and, that no feature of it might escape notice, it was clean-shaven. The lips were shapeless, and constituted a mouth harsh to excess, that was like a gash in his face. The jaw was aggressive, brutal, heavy. The eyes, slow of movement and heavy-lidded, were almost expressionless under the shaggy, indrawn brows. Sheer animal that he was, the eyes were the most animal-like feature about him. They were sleepy, lion-like – the eyes of a fighting animal. The forehead slanted quickly back to the hair, which, clipped close, showed every bump of a villainous-looking head. A nose, twice broken and moulded variously by countless blows, and a cauliflower ear, permanently swollen and distorted to twice its size, completed his adornment, while the beard, fresh-shaven as it was, sprouted in the skin and gave the face a blue-black stain.

    All together, it was the face of a man to be afraid of in a dark alley or lonely place. And yet Tom King was not a criminal, nor had he ever done anything criminal. Outside of brawls, common to his walk in life, he had harmed no one. Nor had he ever been known to pick a quarrel. He was a professional, and all the fighting brutishness of him was reserved for his professional appearances. Outside the ring he was slow-going, easy-natured, and, in his younger days, when money was flush, too open-handed for his own good. He bore no grudges and had few enemies. Fighting was a business with him. In the ring he struck to hurt, struck to maim, struck to destroy; but there was no animus in it. It was a plain business proposition. Audiences assembled and paid for the spectacle of men knocking each other out. The winner took the big end of the purse. When Tom King faced the Woolloomoolloo Gouger, twenty years before, he knew that the Gouger’s jaw was only four months healed after having been broken in a Newcastle bout. And he had played for that jaw and broken it again in the ninth round, not because he bore the Gouger any ill-will, but because that was the surest way to put the Gouger out and win the big end of the purse. Nor had the Gouger borne him any ill-will for it. It was the game, and both knew the game and played it.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: My last 20 years of smoking I must of quit 20 or 40 times. The last year and half or so I smoked 4 cigs a day and just. couldn’t. let. go. Finally got the Chantrix, that did it.

    The dreams were pure bonus.

  30. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Jean Reno in The Professional truly made his tuque look kinda sexy and bad-ass. (Natalie Portman’s first movie)

    I think the trick is to do it for a long time and just not care what people think. Just not caring is 95% of it.

    That is not a bad movie. Luc Besson directed.

  31. de stijl says:


    I need to read that story again.

    This time as an adult.

    That is tight precise prose work.

  32. Mister Bluster says:

    First World Gripes…Year End Edition
    From bad to worse.
    Inside dining at the local panera has been shut down for at least 4 weeks. Some days you could order on the phone app and walk inside and pick up an order or use the drive thru. Some days no phone app ordering only order and pick up at the drive thru. Since my not so smartphone™ doesn’t do apps I am limited to the drive up window.
    My Coffee Club subscription of $10.05 (tax included) for 30 days just auto renewed on my credit card. I have been using the drive thru just enough to bring the cost of a large dark roast down to about $1.50/cup. The other day I resolved to pick up more mud at the drive thru to get the cost down to at least $1 a cup or cancel the subscription.
    Today when I drove into the parking lot I noticed no cars ahead of me in the Drive Thru lane. You guessed it. As I pulled right up to the order board there was a notice covering the speaker stating that “Due to extremely short staff the Drive Thru window is close today. Please order on your phone app.”
    At least Dunkin’ is open and their internet connection works well.

  33. Mikey says:

    Looks like my 79-year-old-cancer-survivor-messed-up-lungs-since-birth unvaccinated mom has actually recovered from COVID-19. Her sense of taste has even returned to normal. She never got antibody treatment because Michigan is overrun with people who actually need it (not that we knew she didn’t until it was much too late for her to get it anyway). Low fever (~100F), extreme fatigue, and everything leaving a bad aftertaste was as bad as it got for her, granted it lasted almost two weeks. Her oxygen levels stayed around 93-95 which is a bit low for most people, but normal for her (as I said, messed up lungs).

    Of course now she still won’t get vaxxed so whatever variant comes down the road might not treat her so well. But for now I’m just relieved and hopefully will be able to see her in a couple months. It’s been three-and-a-half years.

  34. de stijl says:


    I got recruited by a headhunter service company.

    I wasn’t looking for a new gig, but took the meeting. Why not, plus networking.

    The person they sent to meet me was a local hero. A wrestler. Won a gold medal. He was a big deal. I didn’t know him from Jack and had to look him up afterwards. Someone came up during our dinner and asked for his autograph.

    He had two cauliflower ears and the left very much so. It was crazy inflated.

    We chatted. He asked me about my work experiences. I asked him about what projects they were working on.

    The entire time I was desperately trying not to look at his freakish ears. I concentrated on looking him in the eyes and definitely not at his ears.

    Not his fault. Mark of the sport. You don’t win an Olympic gold medal faffing about. He was the real deal.

    After I got home and I figured who it was I composed a very gracious decline e-mail and mailed a card the next day. Never burn a bridge. Networking politeness.

    He was a pretty cool guy. But his ears, man!

    I felt like Dr. Evil in Goldmember trying not see or comment on Fred Savage’s big ass mole.

  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: While I was in Korea, on cold days I wore a cashmere topcoat (full length, a half length one was a car coat) with earmuffs and a scally cap. Very serious look, but not quite as good as a friend of mine who bought a couple of fedoras. One only wore a toque (I grew up calling them “stocking caps”) with a puffy coat or a parka.

  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mikey: Good news for you and your family! And just in time to make it a happier new year.

  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: Jack London, racist pos that he was, knew how to write. Always worth the trouble.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mikey: Maybe there is hope for me after all. Good to hear your Ma is (reasonably) well.

  39. CSK says:

    I’m glad for you. It must be a considerable relief,

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: My nephew is big into tae kwon do. Saw him recently at a family get together in a park where he introduced me to his GF. Talk about cauliflower ear…

    “WTF…” I said, “don’t you know how to duck???”
    “Aaaahh… just a little gift from the love of my life.” he replied.
    I looked at her and said something along the lines of picking my enemies wisely.

  41. Michael Cain says:

    Spent the afternoon sneaking in glimpses out the south-facing windows, looking at the smoke from the grass fires 50 miles to the south, with evacuations in some of the cities NW of Denver.

    If the NWS is accurate, tomorrow morning I get to watch similar winds pushing snow through.

  42. de stijl says:


    She’s a keeper!

  43. EddieInCA says:


    It was 7 Celsius (I don’t speak Fahrenheit) this morning driving to work, so I had the heater on (and didn’t die!). Three hours alter going to the bank it was 22 Celsius, so I put the AC on.

    Simple trick…. double your Celsius number, then add 30 and you’ll get damn close to Fahrenheit. It’s not exact, but close enough to figure out clothes, plans, etc.

    7 Celsius x 2 = 14

    Actual conversion = 44.6

    20 Celsius x 2 = 40

    Actual conversion = 68.

    The precise formula is to multiply your Celsius number by 1.8, then add 32.

  44. Kathy says:


    When I visit the US, I get a sense of what an F number means in the real scale after a few days. When I’m not visiting, all I know is that -40F=-40C, and that’s one way to trick people into thinking Siri gets these conversions wrong 😉

  45. de stijl says:


    Whenever I talk to fairly recent immigrants, fahrenheit temp scale is a thing I cannot get is way up the list.

    Kilometers versus miles you sort of get to understand just by walking and driving around. You figure it out in a few days.

    Quarts, liters, gallons does not really come into play all that much. Soda bottles. You fill up your car when it needs. Whether it is priced by the liter or the gallon is kinda immaterial as long as you know it will cost x bucks to fill up and that will last you n days of normal driving.

    Precise recipes like for example baking require on the dot measurements but all modern day cookbooks provide both de riguer so not an issue.

    Fahrenheit is what trips people up. Temperature is something you feel. You can’t eyeball temperature. You step outside and you feel it. We know in our bones what 72F feels like – what rest of world calls 22.

  46. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    A lot of recipes now use weight as the metric as opposed to volume especially for flour. For baking in particular. Smart move.

  47. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    After a few days of feeling the weather, you should get a sense of what the F number feels like. Especially if you see the numbers often.

    BTW, temperature numbers are a bit non-portable. At home in Mex City, 25 C feels hot. In Vegas it’s balmy. It takes like 30 C to begin to feel hot. Some times I even welcome the 28-32 C temp outside after the chilly AC in the casinos.

  48. de stijl says:


    Here mid-continental dew point aka humidity counts for way more than actual air temperature. 90F is relative.

    A 90F degree day with a dew point of sixty is quite pleasant. A 90F degree day where the dew point is 75 is unbearably oppressive.

    Actual air temp is a quarter of the story. Humidity and wind and sun fill out the rest of the story. Gives it nuance and feel.