JR Swift’s Blog

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Tournament Selection Picks

Posted by jrswift on March 14, 2010

OK, as usual, I am down to the wire but I’m going to get these in before 5 and post just to prove how much (or little) I know.   So here we go.  I’m not doing any fancy who won what conference nonsense, I’m just giving you the teams.

Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse, West Virginia, Kansas St., New Mexico, Baylor, Villanova, Pitt, Purdue, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Butler, Temple, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Maryland, Cal, Northern Iowa, Xavier, Vandy, BYU, Michigan St., Richmond, Texas, Clemson, Oklahoma St., Ohio St, Old Dominion, Utah St., Louisville, Wake Forest, Siena, Florida St., San Diego St., Gonzaga, UTEP, St. Mary’s, Missouri, Georgia Tech, Cornell, UNLV, Washington, Oakland, Notre Dame, Marquette, Murray St., New Mexico St., Mississippi St., Wofford, Minnesota, Sam Houston St., North Texas, UC-Santa Barbara, Morgan St., Montana, East Tennessee St., Lehigh, Winthrop, Robert Morris, Houston, Vermont, Ohio, Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

OK, I counted so that’s 65.

Top 4 seeds are Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke

Next 4 seeds are West Virginia, Ohio St, Kansas St and Purdue

Last couple of teams I had out:  Florida, Virginia Tech, Illinois and Seton Hall

Last couple of teams I put in:  Mississippi St, Minnesota, UTEP and Utah St.

OK, I’m posting this.  I have no confidence in these picks.  I think we might get some curve balls.

JR

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Posted in basketball, Kansas Jayhawks, March Madness, NCAA, sports | Leave a Comment »

Vegas thoughts…not a trip report

Posted by jrswift on February 26, 2010

OK,  just a quick summation and a number of fairly random thought on my trip and Vegas in general.  Spent four nights (Saturday through Tuesday) in town, 2 at the Palms and 2 at the Gold Coast.  Flight was on SW.  Gambled quite a bit for me and probably played more slots on this trip than any other.  Probably ended up down $100-150 so not bad.  Weather was borderline cold and it rained on Sunday night.  Generally a light jacket was perfect most anytime so that was fine.  Just from my personal experience, I would say that it was pretty quiet.  Walking traffic most places seemed down about 20-25%.  Saturday night was busy but the rest of the time was not.  Obviously, the economy is really hurting Las Vegas.  So let’s start the random thoughts.

Several nice “scores” on this trip:

Definitely recommend the SW Early Bird checkin:  best $10 you’ll ever spend.  Was A-16 and A-32 and had a nice window seat near the front both ways.  I’ll do it again.

Had always wanted to stay at the Palms and found a great deal on Orbitz well below what they were asking on the Palms website.  Ended up using a promo code I found (Google is your friend) and got it knocked down another 10%.  With all taxes and fees, ended up paying less than $200 with one of those being a Saturday night.

Second score at the Palms was a complimentary upgrade to a Junior Suite.  Was trying to do the $20 trick though I was bumbling it badly when she told me there were no upgrades.  I put away my $20 and she then decided she could put me in the Jr. Suite with a great view of the Strip.  Room a bit dated but big and comfortable.  Was on the SE corner so had two windows.  Between them, you could see  the entire Strip.

Also did well at the Gold Coast as my room was comped.  They put me up high on one of their remodeled floors.  Room still a bit small but the decor was very modern.  On checkout, it turns out they waive the resort fee when you’re comped so my total cost was zero.  HDTV actually had some HD channels and had a pretty good view of the north end of the Strip and downtown.

I’m pretty sure I hit a jackpot of sorts on a penny machine.  I wasn’t playing max coin or I think it would have been like $1000.  As it was I won like 5600 pennies on one spin which is definitely the largest number of any sort of coin I’ve ever had.  Walked away up $60 which is awfully hard to do on one of those machines.

The Good:

Gold Coast buffet for breakfast is always a winner in my book and still no exception.

Palms on a Saturday night is simply off-the-hook.  People everywhere and some of the best looking women you will ever see.

Ghostbar was pretty cool.  Would have been cooler if it wasn’t so damned cold outside but an unbelievable view and the people there were very nice, even though I was no VIP, by any means.

Casino coffee:  Ordered a coffee each morning while playing the machines.  Both the Palms and GC make a darn good cup of coffee.  For a $1 tip, it beats the heck of paying the price at the foo-foo coffee bars.

City Center is visually stunning.  I’m not an architect but the design is extremely creative.

Wynn/Wynn Encore.  Very classy place in the good sort of way.  Everyone perfectly attired and professional.  I accidentally walked away from a machine without cashing out, remembered a couple minutes later and a security guard was standing there watching and waiting.  He didn’t say a word but I knew he had seen what happened and was protecting my measly $11.  Two thumbs up.  Oh, and the Wynn has simply the most stunning Cocktail Waitresses anywhere in the city.

Palazzo  is also stunning.   It is what the Venetian was 10 years ago.   I have never walked into a casino before and felt relaxed but something about the design of this place just works without being over the top.  Most every other casino in the city seems to be trying to overstimulate but this place seems to want to make you comfortable.

Tickets and ticket-redemption machines:  how did we ever play the old way?

24/7 Cafe at the Palms:  Not a big fan of the hotel coffee shops at full price but it was late and I was hungry.  Good service and a huge plate of good food I could barely finish.  Was worth it.

Two cocktail waitresses, one at the Palms and one at the Gold Coast:  After breakfast the first day at GC, I played one of my favorite slots and ordered a coffee with cream and no sugar.  I went back the next morning and one other day and, when the waitress walked by, she just said “coffee with cream?”  Color me impressed.  Still Crysta or maybe Crystal at the Palms is the winner for the week.   Saturday night at the Palms was packed with people partying and playing.  I was perched at a nickel video poker machine for several hours, mostly just grinding away, hardly the profile to get great service.  Lovely blonde waitress walks by fairly soon after I arrived and I ordered my standard Budweiser.  Came by fairly quickly the second time.  After I ordered a third time, she seemed to disappear and I was getting a bit annoyed.  When she finally made it back, she apologized but said the bar had run out of Budweiser and she had a hard time fighting through the crowds.  Was a Bud Light OK?  I said sure.  She came back with a Bud Light and a Budweiser and wouldn’t take more than a $1 as tip.  Then she came back with two more Budweisers and refused any tip at all.  Very nice.   Did I mention she was awfully pretty too?

And, of course the Fountains at the Bellagio.  Always.  3 PM show.  Bocelli and Brightman and always a few tears in my eyes when it ends.

The Bad:

What did I ever do to you Dean Martin?  Except love and respect you and your music!  Well, you and your damned Dean Martin’s Wild Party slot machine must have stolen over $100 from me with one measly bonus round!  I honestly think I might have come out ahead for the trip if I had been able to avoid this machine but it kept sucking me in.

Le Village Buffet @ Paris Las Vegas.  I’m sorry, not a win.  It was the one big superbuffet on the Strip I had never eaten and so I tried it out.   OK, the decor is pretty cool.  They either seat you “outside” or in these little rooms that are like a couple of tables in a house.  Well, executed.  Food not so much.  Maybe I just wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to try some of the peculiar items available but the things I did try just weren’t very good.  I kept thinking I could have eaten better food for half the price.

Casinos.  OK, not all of them but most of them.  They are looking so tired and uninteresting, even the ones I used to like.  Mandalay Bay, Venetian, Monte Carlo,  MGM Grand, Excalibur and I go could go on and on.  I guess I’m jaded but they are just so tired and worn down.  I’ve never particularly liked NY NY or Paris but at least they are still trying to execute a theme and do it reasonably well.  Planet Hollywood and Luxor seem to at least be trying to look somewhat modern and aren’t terrible.  And not just older casinos.  Aria is just as awful on the inside as it is stunning on the outside.  Why so freaking dark?

The Cab Driver who “tunneled” me from the airport to my hotel.  I’m sure he figured me for some midwestern rube who didn’t know what he was doing but I did.   Did I complain?  No, I probably should have but I really hate starting my vacation by arguing with people.  I have found being agreeable with people in the service industry makes my life (and theirs) much easier so the arguing would have spoiled my mood.  OK, the tunnel probably was slightly quicker and, on a Saturday, the surface traffic might have slowed us down enough to bump up the fare but he still basically ripped me off for $5.  Yes, I even tipped the bastard but not much.  Gee, I’m such a sucker sometimes.  (OTOH, all the rest of my cab drivers were very cool.)

Traffic.  I took the bus from the Palms a couple of times out to the Strip and even beyond.  I honestly think I could have walked to the Strip faster than this bus could drive it.  The Rio shuttle drivers took the most ridiculous roundabout trips just to avoid Flamingo and they had to.

Drink service.  Other than a couple of shining exceptions mentioned above, drink service was pretty bad.  I would see cocktail waitresses but they appeared not to see me.   I know you are busy but when you walk by two or three times and don’t even try, I find it annoying.  Your loss.  I always tip you, even if you aren’t pretty or particularly fast.

This one is on me because I am lazy but I didn’t make it to downtown, the Hard Rock, Caesars, the Orleans or any number of other interesting places and I just barely touched some of the Strip casinos.  I was just too comfortable in my own little corner of Vegas to venture out much but I should have forced myself to do so.  Oh well, that’s why I have to go back again this summer.   🙂

The Ugly:

The Luxor.  No, it isn’t ugly.  The Pyramid is visually stunning and I actually like what they’ve done in remodeling but give it up with all the one word names for everything.   The buffet is More, the steakhouse is Tender, the bar is Liquidity.  And on and on.   Fantasy, LAX, Noir, Flight, Aurora.   OK, we get it.  You’re so cool.  No truth to the rumor that the Criss Angel show will now be referred to as just Lame but maybe there should be.

Sad to say but Las Vegas is looking pretty rough around the edges.  Oh, it is still shiny and pretty most everywhere you look but, if you look just off the beaten track, things are not good.  The streets, the buildings and the people are looking pretty tired and you can tell that things are not going well.  The economy is really hurting a lot of people out there.   Some of them did it to themselves but a lot of them are (more or less) innocent bystanders who got hit hard.  Everyone you see who is working looks nervous and I can understand why.  I’m sure that things will bounce back at some point but what will have been lost in the interim?  Once a person or a business or a dream is gone, it isn’t going to be back.   The reality is that one day Vegas will just be another strange, abandoned place that future generations will look back on and try to understand.  I honestly hope that I don’t live to see that day.

Well, that is enough thoughts for now.  Maybe more later.

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Should I be disilluisoned at 46?

Posted by jrswift on December 13, 2009

Has been a bit of a rough year for some of my personal heroes.    In just the last 6 months or so, three people I held in very high esteem have experienced quite a fall from grace.   I guess I should speak to the Tiger Woods thing first.  I’m not really sure how to feel about it.  From the moment he first played on the PGA tour, he has been my favorite golfer.  He has made me pay attention to a sport that I never cared that much about before.  While he had his flaws, he seemed like the genuine article.  He was, it appeared, exactly what he represented himself to be.    I have my share of favorite athletes and entertainers who are full of flaws and actually seem to be play them up for effect.  I don’t mind.  I can be a bit of a ruffian myself from time to time and kind of like the fact that these people are very human.  I don’t necessarily admire them but I like them.  I admired Tiger Woods and I still do.  But I can’t help but feel differently about him today than I did a few weeks back.  He is arguably the finest golfer of this and perhaps any other generation and his dedication, work ethic and courage remain.  But now he is just another flawed person, like the rest of us I fear, and I don’t think I’ll see him much as a hero anymore.  I could honestly care less about people’s personal flaws and foibles and only Tiger’s wife and family have any right to be angry with him over his behavior but the rest of us have the right to be disappointed.  He seemed different.  He was a “role model” and he relished that “role” and now he isn’t.

Two other slightly less high-profile people have also suffered a fall and they were also people I admired.  It was just a few months back that I was very excited at the prospect that Gov. Mark Sanford might seek the Republican nomination for President.   There was at least some buzz in the libertarian community to that effect.  He appeared to be a man of genuine political courage and, while perhaps not as consistent as I might like, one of principle.  Then his sexual failings came out and it was clear that this flaw would prevent from ever seeking higher office and would likely end a promising political career.   I was disappointed not so much in his behavior as a man but because he was a successful politician who believed many of the same things I do.  Successful libertarians are about as rare as unicorns and perhaps those of us who share their political sentiments invest too much hope in the ones we find.  Liberals and conservatives have plenty of  “heroes” to chose from.  We don’t.  And now we have one less.

Finally, the end of the Mark Mangino era at Kansas has left me feeling a bit down too.  It was clear he had to go and not just because of the allegations against him.  He had stopped moving the team in the right direction and, whatever his earlier accomplishments, that meant a change had to be made.  But I also went from feeling that he was a tough football coach who pushed his players to be their best to just seeing him as a big bully.  Coming from a state where football was king, the mediocrity of Kansas football has always been frustrating to me.  For a few years, it looked like maybe that was over and that we could be contenders.  After this past season, it would appear we are back to our mediocre ways again.   For a time, Mangino represented hope and the possibility that KU would be taken seriously, not just in the spring but in the fall too.  Now that hope is gone.

On a side note, it appears that Kansas has hired a very impressive young man to be its new head coach.  He is bright, dedicated and a true leader of men.  He appears to be of remarkable character and, if he is reasonably successful, I may come to admire him.  He seems worthy of that admiration.  But then again, so did these other men.

Posted in Kansas, Kansas Jayhawks, Life, NCAA, Politics, sports | Leave a Comment »

Gloating and the obligatory bracket

Posted by jrswift on March 18, 2009

Well, I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.  As you can clearly see by viewing the post directly beneath this one, I successfully predicted/guessed the entire field of 65.  I’ve been trying to pull this off for 15 years and always miss like 2 teams.  But not this time.  Most people seemed to miss on the 65th team and I correctly tagged Arizona.  I don’t particularly like Arizona.  Back in 1997, they spoiled the nearly perfect season of the Kansas Jayhawks and went on to win the National Title that should have been KU’s.   A couple years later I lost money betting on them to beat Duke in the National Championship game.  And then there is whole matter of Arizona having the only current NCAA tourney streak longer than my Jayhawks.   And they beat us this year…rather badly I must say and, if they hadn’t won that game, they would never have made the field.  So it is a bittersweet victory but I’ll take it.

Now it is time to completely ruin my reputation as a first rate college basketball analyst and dive into my (oh so not carefully) selected tournament bracket.   I just looked at my brackets from the last two years and, while I didn’t do that well, I did pick the  National Champion correctly last year.  Of course it was Kansas and you could pretty much say I’m just a  “homer” and pick them every year since I also picked them the year before.  I will preface this by saying that I am most definitely NOT picking Kansas to go all the way this year.  I would be happy to be wrong.

OK…there are no actual brackets here.

I’m just going to list the 1st round winners:

Pitt, Duke, Villanova, Xavier, Wisconsin, UCLA, Texas, Tennessee, Louisville, MIchigan St, Kansas, Wake Forest, Arizona, West Virginia, USC, Ohio St, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Gonzaga, Illinois, Arizona St, Michigan, Butler, UConn, Memphis, Missouri, Washington, Purdue, Utah St, California, BYU

2nd Round winners:

Pitt, Texas, Villanova, Xavier, Louisville, Michigan St, West Virginia, Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arizona St, Gonzaga, UConn, Memphis, Utah St, Purdue

3rd Round winners:

Pitt, Villanova, Lousiville, West Virginia, Gonzaga, Arizona St, UConn, Memphis

Final Four

Pitt, Louisville, Gonzaga, Memphis

And in the Final Four:

Memphis beats Louisville

Pitt beats Gonzaga

In the Championship Game:

Pitt beats Memphis  (75-68…I like that score)

Pitt Panthers 2009 National Champs

OK…plenty of chalk but not as bad as most analysts who seem afraid to go out on a limb at all.

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2009 NCAA Tournament Predictions

Posted by jrswift on March 15, 2009

OK, so I never blog anymore but I did want to post (for posterity’s sake) my projections for the field of 65 for this year’s NCAA Tournament.  I really didn’t spend as much time staring at the numbers this year and I think this is an easier job of picking than any recent year.  So here it goes.

The following teams have qualified by virtue of winning their conference postseason tournament (with the exception of the Ivy League which does not have a tournament and sends their regular season champion):

Binghampton, Temple, Duke, East Tennessee St, Missouri, Louisville, Portland St, Radford, Cal-St-Northridge, Virginia Commonwealth, Memphis, Cleveland St, Cornell, Siena, Akron, Morgan St, Northern Iowa, Utah, Robert Morris, Morehead St, USC, American, Mississippi St, Chattanooga, SF Austin, Alabama St, North Dakota St, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah St, Purdue/Ohio St winner

That leaves 34 at-large bids and I think about 27 of them are pretty easy.  Here’s that list by conference:

Atlantic 10 – Xavier

ACC – North Carolina, Wake Forest, Florida St, Clemson

Big 12 – Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma St, Texas A&M

Big East – Pitt, UConn, Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia, Marquette

Big 10 – Michigan St, Illinois, Purdue/Ohio St loser

Horizon – Butler

Mountain West – BYU

Pac 10 – Washington, UCLA, Arizona St, California

SEC – LSU, Tennessee

So that leads to the “Bubble” which could have about two dozen teams if you want to stretch it but it really comes down to about a dozen or so.   I think Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota are all close calls but I think they all get in.  Same for Boston College and Maryland.   This leaves only two spots remaining in the field.  While I wouldn’t be surprised if they are a surprising omission, I give one of those spots to Dayton.  That leaves only one remaining bid and I came down to these three teams for that one spot:  Arizona, Creighton and St Mary’s.   I’m giving it to Arizona but I would be thrilled to be wrong.  If it was up to me, I’d probably throw out BC and Maryland and Arizona and give bigs to Creighton, St Mary’s and Auburn.  BUT I’m predicting what the committee will do, not my own picks.  To sum up, the final 7 teams are Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Boston College, Maryland, Dayton and Arizona.

Last Four In:  BC, Minnesota, Dayton, Arizona

Last Four Out: Creighton, St Mary’s, Auburn, San Diego St.

Next Four Out: Florida, South Carolina, New Mexico, Kansas St.

I will not attempt to seed the entire field but I think this is a reasonable guess at the top 16 seeds

1 – North Carolina, Pitt, Louisville, Duke

2- Memphis, UConn, MIchigan St, Oklahoma

3- Wake Forest, Missouri, Villanova, Kansas

4- Florida St, Syracuse, Washington, Gonzaga

So that’s it…if I did really well, I’ll come back here to post again and gloat.  Otherwise, you may never hear from me again.

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Aftermath

Posted by jrswift on November 5, 2008

I really try to be a rational, objective person and not “fall for” politicians and speeches but, whether I like it or not, I still (kinda) do.  I have to say that I was quite impressed with both McCain and Obama’s speeches last night.  I can’t remember a better concession speech or a better “I won!” speech in my many (too many) years of watching this stuff.   Curious thoughts today.  Imagine the election was still in the balance and we still had two large states (NC and Missouri) that hadn’t been officially called 24 hours later.  You think Florida 2000 was fun…this could have been insane.  And there might be a recount in one of the Congressional Districts in Nebraska because Obama almost won!  I was a year old the last time a Democrat won an Electoral Vote in my home state so that must say something.

This election may have given us a new division in American politics and one that doesn’t bode well for Republicans.  Obama won (or came pretty close) in a lot of pretty Republican metro areas.  Looks like he won San Diego and Omaha and came awfully close in Salt Lake City.  On the other hand, if you venture into the rural counties of California or Nebraska or Utah, there are some 75% to 80% McCain numbers.

I wish the new President well.  He says he wants change.  I encourage him to be open-minded about what change really is.  For the last 75 years, change has usually meant more government and higher taxes and larger deficits.  The American people are indeed a remarkable group and it is good to see them excited and motivated about a new and different America but trying to channel FDR or JFK is not change.  It is not a exciting new premiere, but rather a revival.  I look forward with skepticism but also some optimism to our future and hope that this remarkable man who rose from the humblest beginnings to become President is also a man who can learn and grow and truly change America for the better.  If nothing else, today makes me feel good because of how upset all the racist, redneck types are about the fact that a black man is going to be President.  And I am thrilled that I will not receive any more paranoid emails warning me about what an evil demon he is.  It is indeed a new day and at least it is one which won’t require me to stay up until 2 AM. 🙂

Posted in Elections, McCain, Obama, Politics | 1 Comment »

The Fat Lady Sings

Posted by jrswift on November 4, 2008

It was essentially over when Ohio went to Obama and Virginia locked it up.  It would’ve taken a miracle after that and no miracle was forthcoming.  As expected, California was an easy win and that put our President-elect over the top.  I think there is a chance that Obama wins all of the outstanding states except Alaska,  though Missouri may be tough.  As to the Third Party campaigns, Bob Barr is likely to break half a million votes but will likely still finish behind Ralph Nader.  Both of them, as well as every other alternative candidate, did worse than they might have hoped.  In the end, the media frenzy over this campaign and the endless ad barrage from the two leading candidates probably doomed them to the extreme margin of the electorate.  Perhaps I’ll do a wrap up later or maybe tomorrow.

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All But Over

Posted by jrswift on November 4, 2008

Well, if things continue as projected, you have a new President and his name is Barack Obama.  There is now a consensus that Ohio will go for the Democrats.  I can see no scenario that gives McCain the Presidency if he loses Ohio.  The low end for Obama is now probably 338-200 and he may do slightly better than that.  Since I predicted a range of 350-400 for Obama, I may still get it right.  That probably depends on Obama taking Missouri and they may still be counting there tomorrow morning.   The weak showing for alternative party candidates also indicate that Obama is probably going to exceed 50% of the vote and likely will have the best showing by a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.  My curious observation for this posting is that, for the moment, Obama leads in the raw vote totals in Nebraska.  He won’t win it but that is not a good number for Republicans.

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Waiting for Godot

Posted by jrswift on November 4, 2008

It isn’t not yet over and some people probably thought it would be.  I’m not sure that I was one of them though it appears the results that things may be a bit tighter than I expected.  Most of the close states are still up for grabs though several sources have now called Georgia for McCain.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to agree with them but it was obviously a state McCain had to win.  While Obama is still in great shape, he has not won a clinching state yet.  There are a number of places where an Obama win would all but wrap it up but those states are still too close to call.  It appears that we are going to have to wait for the raw numbers in most cases and that could mean a late night.  Bob Barr has finally cleared the 100,000 vote mark and continues to lead all the other 3rd party candidates.  I expect that at some point Nader will pass his vote totals but it is interesting just how poorly Nader is doing.  Perhaps this will finally be his swan song.  I just saw a very interesting graphic on TV that shows Obama winning Lynchburg, Virginia.  That may be the closest thing to a clinching number I’ve seen so far for the Democrats.  More in a half hour of so.

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Frankly, this is pretty boring…so far

Posted by jrswift on November 4, 2008

ABC has called Pennsylvania for Obama which, if it turns out to be true, is very bad news for McCain. Pennsylvania and NH were the best chances for McCain to win a state that went for Kerry last time around. It appears he will win neither one of them. That path to 270 votes now has almost no margin of error for McCain and he must essentially hold every state from 4 years ago and a lot of those states are still very much in doubt. I’m not seeing any other organizations ready to give Pennsylvania to Obama yet so I’ll hold off on making any snap judgements. If you remember, I encouraged you all to look for a strong McCain trend early based on a high number of Obama voters coming out early. That hasn’t happened. As for the 3rd party candidates, Barr leads Nader for know and both totals seem pretty low. Will be interesting to see how that turns out when all the votes are counted. Not much else going on at this hour so will update in 30 minutes or so.

Posted in Elections, McCain, Obama, Politics | Leave a Comment »