Local Boys Rescued from Grand Canyon

Six Boy Scouts from Maplewood NJ (my hometown — should I disclose that on my blog? Well, whatever) were rescued from the Grand Canyon Sunday. When I was a Boy Scout growing up in Albuquerque, I twice hiked to the bottom of the canyon and back with Troop 166, on the Bright Angel trail (elevation change: 4,420 feet in each direction).

We did our practice hiking on La Luz Trail, which rises 3,775 feet to Sandia Crest, elevation 10,678 feet (dang I love Wikipedia). I wonder if the Maplewood Scouts did their practice hikes in the South “Mountain” Reservation (elevation 521 feet). I’m snarking here not at the Scouts, but at New Jersey’s hills masquerading as mountains. Sounds like the Scouts acquitted themselves well. (Thanks to my brother-in-law Chris for emailing me the Maplewood link.)

Real Clear Politics Election Map Favors McCain

Real Clear Politics takes an interesting approach with its Electoral Vote map by creating a “no-tossups” version — giving every state to one of the candidates regardless of how excruciatingly close the polls may be. So RCP calls Virginia for McCain (on the no-tossup map, giving him 274 electoral votes and the presidency), while Virginia is the only “tie” reported on the ElectoralVote.com map (which has tightened since Monday, dropping Obama below the all-important 270 level by switching Indiana from blue to red). The fine print on RCP shows that they calculate McCain’s lead in Virginia as only 0.6%, which certainly makes it a tossup in my mind.

RCP also has a more realistic (but less fun) “RealClear Electoral Count” map, which shows Obama leading McCain by 228 to 178 — with “Toss Up” coming in third at 132. Looks like anything less than about a 5-point margin is rated as a tossup.

Just for giggles I looked up the margin of victory in Florida in 2000 (and then I double-checked Wikipedia’s math against the official FEC results, to forestall any tedious “you can’t trust Wikipedia” arguments.) Bush’s official margin of victory was 0.009%. That’s not just close, that’s bizarrely, freakishly close. It’s too small a margin to be measured accurately by a system based on dimpled chads. In contrast, Bush’s 2004 margin over Kerry in Ohio — where Kerry admirably resisted calls by some supporters to seek a recount — was a comparatively massive 2.11%. Ohio was the closest state that could have swung the election, but only the fifth-closest state overall.