Modern Historical Context of Supreme Court Justice Confirmations

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court yesterday by a slim majority. The battle leading up to his confirmation seemed particularly partisan. In order to better understand what was unique about Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, I threw together this timeline to help visualize the historical context of all current justices’ confirmations. I’ve included Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in the timeline to highlight what I view as hypocritical behavior of the majority party in confirming Kavanaugh at the height of campaigning during an election year.

Looking through the timeline of the current justices, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Merrick Garland, and Brett Kavanaugh were nominated during election years. Which is most fitting for comparison to Kavanaugh’s confirmation process?

  • Breyer’s nomination in 1994 resembled Kavanaugh’s nomination in that both occurred during an election year with the nominating President and Senate majority being of the same party. However, it doesn’t look like there was much of a fight, perhaps because Breyer was replacing a justice of similar political leanings.
  • In Kagan’s nomination in 2010, Republicans delayed mildly delayed her confirmation. However, she was ultimately confirmed by a 63-37 vote. Looking through old news reports, I see no evidence that Republicans refused to confirm Kagan during an election year, perhaps because Kagan was replacing a justice of similar political leanings.
  • Garland’s nomination in 2016 resembles the nomination of Kavanaugh in two ways: both were during election years and both involved the possibility of a judge replacing an outgoing justice that had “opposite” political leanings (Garland vs Scalia, Kavanaugh vs Kennedy).

Thus, Garland’s nomination was the recent nomination that most resembled Kavanaugh’s. Unfortunately, it looks like the majority party was inconsistent in how it applied standards in these two cases. The majority party had no problem exercising the tools in its power when it came to Supreme Court confirmations for its own benefit: delaying a confirmation and leaving a vacancy for 422 full days (longest in US history since 1846) and claiming it being due to falling on an election year, yet immediately doing the opposite two years later to fill a vacancy 30 days before midterm elections. Maybe it’s because one was a presidential election and the other was a midterm, but more likely they did what they did because they could. We can only speculate if Senate Democrats would have displayed the same hypocrisy had tables been turned, but there is no modern equivalent with parties flipped for comparison. One would have to dig further back to get a sense of how normal Senate Republican behavior for Supreme Court nominations has been.

Frequency of Scores in the NHL 2017-2018 Regular Season

“How many goals are usually scored in a hockey game?”

I had this question the other day and wanted to find out. A quick google search gave me this list of all game results from the 2017-2018 season. I wanted to visualize this data so decided to use R to generate a heat map of score frequencies.

Eventually, I ditched using R because I couldn’t for the life of me get the graphs to look pretty. Meanwhile, a copy and paste of data into Google Sheets and a couple minutes of clicking gave me the output I wanted. Friendly reminder to all to use the appropriate tool for the task.

Here’s what I found:

This answers the original question–most hockey games will end around the neighborhood of a 2-1, 3-2, or 4-3 score. I posted this on Reddit and an interesting question was asked a few times. What would this graph look like if I adjusted scores in overtime and shootout wins? In the NHL, if a team ends in the 3rd period with a tied score, they go into a 3v3 5-minute sudden-death overtime period. If no goal is scored during that overtime, the teams go into a shootout. Ultimately, one team will win and will be award the extra point onto their score.

This could be inflating the frequency of “N to N-1” scores.

I found the easiest way to adjust for overtime and shootout wins was to simply take all games that ended with an OT or SO and subtract one point from the winning team–essentially turning the chart into the scores at the end of the third period of regulation. Here is that adjusted chart:

Now this is interesting. Updated observations: Most hockey games fall around the 3ish to 7ish total goals scored and there is a higher frequency of games ending in ties and games ending in 2-goal leads than there is of games ending in 1-goal leads. Notice that cells in the diagonal for 1-goal leads are lower in frequency than their neighbors to the right and to the bottom. e.g. a 1-0 score happened 15 times, but a 2-0 score happened 33 times and a 1-1 score happened 59 times. This continues until the sample sizes drop.

Why would this be? The simplest explanation would probably be the strategy of trailing teams pulling their goalie in the final moments of the third period.

In the NHL, the season is structured in the following way. All teams compete over the course of 82 games, each, and acquire points for each game win/loss/overtime or shootout. These accumulated points determine playoff seeding at the end of the season. The league awards 2 points for each win, 1 point for each overtime or shootout loss, and 0 points for each loss that doesn’t go into overtime. That means that a regulation loss is a loss, no matter what the score differential was by the end of the game.

In addition to the season structure, NHL rules allow for the goalie to be replaced with an extra skater at any point during play. Thus, it has become very common in the NHL for a team that is trailing by 1 in the final moments of the third period to replace their goalie with another skater in desperation. This makes sense. If our team is trailing by a goal, and it doesn’t matter in terms of playoff seeding points if we lose by another goal, it is worth the risk for us to do what we can to tie the game and send the game into overtime to maybe squeeze 1 point out of this game to affect our overall playoff standings.

Putting it all together, the NHL season structure + the rules for pulling a goalie could be contributing factors to inflation of frequencies of tied games (pulling the goalie worked) and games that ended in a 2 goal lead (pulling the goalie backfired and the other team scored on an empty net).

Vital Status of Wrestlers Appearing in WrestleMania I – XX

Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, passed away yesterday. Neidhart was a wrestler from the WWF that I followed in the early 90s. He passed away at the age of 63.

I noticed that a lot of wrestlers that I watched as a kid have been passing away at relatively young ages. Furthermore, I noticed a trend that many of the deaths (not in Neidhart’s case) were drug or heart related. This made sense to me because a selection bias likely exists in this area where Wrestlemania participants are more likely than the average population to abuse steroids and other drugs. I wanted to visualize how many of these deaths were related to drugs or heart causes so here’s a thing I made:

The following is a visualization I crudely threw together using data from wikipedia entries as of 8/13/2018 and html5 canvas API. I’ve chosen WrestleManias 1 – 20 to visualize because these were roughly around the era I was most familiar with.

Comparing Costs of Roller Hockey vs Ice Hockey

I started playing recreational roller hockey in 2014. I was under the impression that roller would be more affordable than the alternative. I joined an adult beginners roller hockey league at Dry Ice in Oakland and played once a weekend between late 2014- mid 2017.

Last summer after we moved to Utah, I decided to give ice hockey a shot. I signed up for an adult beginners ice hockey league at the Utah Olympic Oval and played about once a week through the fall and winter.

Now that I’ve experienced both, I can say that I found ice hockey to be much more enjoyable and more rewarding. I’m pretty sure I will be sticking with ice, but I want to take a deeper look into my original costs concern that steered me toward roller in the first place.

Initial Equipment costs compared (Winner: Roller but surprisingly not by much)

Roller hockey equipment cost estimate:

Helmet and shield: $80
Padded undershirt: $60
Elbow pads: $50
Gloves: $60
Roller pants: $30
Jock shorts: $60
Shin guards: $60
Stick: $50
Skates: $150
Bag: $25
Practice jersey: $15

Total: $640

Ice hockey equipment cost estimate:

Helmet and shield: $80
Shoulder pads: $80
Elbow pads: $50
Gloves: $60
Ice pants: $80
Jock shorts: $60
Shin guards: $60
Hockey socks: $10
Stick: $50
Skates: $130
Bag: $25
Practice jersey: $15

Total: $700

Regular maintenance costs compared (Winner: Ice)

The only regular maintenance cost for roller hockey was buying new wheels. Over the course of 3 years of playing, I probably had to buy somewhere between 12-16 new wheels to replace wheels that wore down or broke. Taking the middle value and with an estimated per wheel price of $10, that puts the maintenance costs at roughly $47 per year.

Skate sharpening for ice hockey was something I was worried would be expensive. Turns out, I only had to sharpen my skates once during my season; twice if you also count the initial sharpening when I bought the skates. At a $6 per sharpening and estimating four sharpenings per year (if I were to have played year round), maintenance costs would be $24 per year.

Skate time costs compared (Winner: Roller by a lot)

Open skate / stick & puck at the roller hockey facility in Oakland, CA charges $5 per session. Assuming you went to go practice about twice a month for a year, you would be spending $120 per year for skate time.

The two nearest ice facilities charge an average of $12.50 per session. Assuming you went to go practice about twice a month for a year, you would be spending $300 per year for skate time.

Having said that, roller beats ice by a mile in this area because roller can be practiced anywhere you have flat concrete. You could argue that makes roller $free.

Hockey league fee costs compared (Winner: Roller by a lot)

Fees will forever be your largest expense. Ice rinks cost much more to operate than roller rinks and that cost gets passed down to skaters in the form of team/individual league fees and annual usage fees.

From my experience, the annual fees between roller and ice have been comparable: around $40 a year. This cost is negligible compared to the individual/team fees you will pay.

For roller hockey,the most recent team fee looks to be around $3000 to register a team for a season. Assuming a full team of 13 skaters (3 lines of 2 forwards, 3 lines of 2 defense, and a goalie), that comes out to roughly $231 per skater per season.

For ice hockey, the most recent team fee in the same geographic area looks to be around $8500 to register a team for a season. Assuming a full team of 16 skaters (3 lines of 2 forwards + 1 center, 3 lines of 2 defense, and a goalie), that comes out to roughly $531 per skater per season.

Verdict

Estimated cost to start playing hockey for one full year in the SF Bay Area including first time purchases of all gear, all fees, maintenance costs, and paying to practice at the rink twice a month:

$1771 to play roller hockey vs $3188 to play ice hockey

Roller hockey saves significant amounts of money. If you are wanting to give hockey a shot, starting with roller hockey makes a lot of sense from a financial standpoint. You could pay the initial equipment costs (or even just a fraction of it) and get away with spending nearly nothing else for as long as it takes you to develop your skills enough to feel comfortable with joining a league:

Driveway hockey starter kit

Helmet and shield: $80
Elbow pads: $50
Gloves: $60
Shin guards: $60
Stick: $50
Skates: $150

Total: $450 + a practice ball/puck

With this setup, you can develop your skills and acquire new gear as you need it.

Also, you can always switch to ice at a later time. If you already own the full list of roller equipment, most of it will transfer over and you will only need to purchase shoulder pads, hockey pants, hockey socks, and skates. (~$300)

Gym Stuff 2017 (Squat)

Last of the 2017 gym posts. Previous posts: deadlift, overhead press, and bench press.

This one is weird. I hate this lift.

My squat has never felt comfortable. I’m constantly fighting to improve my form but issues keep popping up like Whac-A-Mole: squat not deep enough, knees buckling inward, lower back strain, etc.

In my first two years of squatting, I was reluctant to increase weight due to form concerns. By 2016, I came to a decision that has lead to great progress: even if form wasn’t perfect, increase the weight if form was acceptable. My squat still feels awful, but its got nearly 100 more pounds on it now than it did before.

I technically hit my 2016 goal at the end of 2016 when I was motivated to reach 225 lbs (two 45 lbs plates on each side). However an injury while deadlifting at the end of 2016 caused me to halt progress. I’ve only recently started working back up, again (most recently hitting 225 lbs × 5 reps at sub 150 lbs body weight).

Thoughts:

  • Now that i’m regularly doing reps of ~200 lbs, its ridiculous to think that there was ever a time where the most I could do was 60-80 lbs.
  • I don’t know how interested I even am in pushing this lift much higher than where it is. I like the idea of having a strong squat for functional strength and hockey…but I do not like the idea of having to buy larger pants.

Gym Stuff 2017 (Bench Press)

Post 3 of 4. Previous posts: deadlift and overhead press.

The bench press might be my favorite compound lift. It was the first compound lift I started training.

Progress has been slow, but I managed to hit my 2016 goal last week (165 lbs × 5 reps at sub 150 lbs body weight).

Thoughts:

  • I think I graduated up a shirt size around the end of 2014.
  • All of 2015 looks like it was a huge waste of time. I wasn’t consistently on the same program or training schedule so that whole year just looks like it was “maintenance”. Next couple years weren’t awful. Slow but steady.