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Five hundred thirty-eight...burritos?
November 9, 2012 6:53 AM   Subscribe

The Burrito Bracket: Nate Silver's Forgotten Dream

The Burrito Bracket ended around the time he began blogging about political analysis for Daily Kos under the pseudonym “Poblano.” The rest, as they say, is history.
posted by obscurator (58 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just want to say, I'm really happy about this Nate Silver celebrity thing. He rocked on Fresh Air, and this (actual data) is a very nice departure from typical punditry. Thanks, dawg.
posted by Buckt at 6:59 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


No Taco & Burrito Palace? Uh, Nate, unskew your polls, pal!
posted by NoMich at 7:01 AM on November 9, 2012


Nate Silver is a god, but data science is not a monotheistic world. I hope that data-driven analysis sucks up all the oxygen that Beltway pundits are wasting.

Fancy that! Polls of actual voters that ask them who they are going to vote for end up forecasting elections much better than economic models or your feelings!

We told you the pollsters knew how to weight. (Except for Rasmussen.)
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:14 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


(Except for Rasmussen.)

(And Gallup)

posted by fusinski at 7:19 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Fancy that! Polls of actual voters that ask them who they are going to vote for end up forecasting elections much better than economic models or your feelings!

Yeah, but I'll bet a tasty burrito we're still making fun of/complaining about Dick Morris, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, Joe Scarborough, etc. in four years. Seems like once you're in the Pundit Club, you're in for life no matter how crappy your analysis is.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:20 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe Karl Rove can start collecting money for Chipotle or something
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:25 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I will say one blasphemous thing about Nate, though: his forecast missed the Montana Senate race and totally blew the North Dakota Senate race, calling them both for Republicans.

In Senate races, quality of pollsters matters more because there are fewer polls being released. In North Dakota, the nonpartisan media pollsters and third party pollsters (Fargo Forum, Mason Dixon, Rasmussen) missed wide right, while the internal poll from the Heitkamp campaign nailed it precisely.

Silver does not include released internal polls. There is merit to the argument that the people who are paid to win a campaign have a better idea of what's going on than media pollsters who don't have any skin in the game. Models that did include released internal polls like Princeton Election Consortium and the Pollster averages got both states correct.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:28 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dude does a lot of interesting stuff. He invented PECOTA, later sold to Baseball Prospectus. and used to be pretty active on two plus two.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:31 AM on November 9, 2012


Yeah, but I'll bet a tasty burrito we're still making fun of/complaining about Dick Morris, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, Joe Scarborough, etc. in four years. Seems like once you're in the Pundit Club, you're in for life no matter how crappy your analysis is.

What I love is when pundits talk about how the U.S. is a meritocracy.
posted by gauche at 7:41 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will say one blasphemous thing about Nate, though: his forecast missed the Montana Senate race and totally blew the North Dakota Senate race, calling them both for Republicans.

He'd probably agree with you. He's always been upfront that his model is just that, and that it's only as good as the data that goes into it. And not including released internal polling is an editorial decision that probably makes a whole lot of sense on the whole, even when it means that your projections are wrong in low-signal cases.

His book is on the christmas list.
posted by gauche at 7:43 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Montana was briefly discussed during his Daily Show appearance on Wednesday..
posted by obscurator at 7:47 AM on November 9, 2012


Seeing the burritos at Pasadita made it so far in the burrito bracket they display confirmed my own taste in burritos. I never tried the champion, but I guess I have a destination next time I am in Chicago (I have taken the L from the airport over to Pasadita and back during stopovers just to have that bit of beany nostalgia).
posted by idiopath at 7:48 AM on November 9, 2012


Those reviews doesn't take into account that Arturo's is open 24 hours, nor the well-known principle that the deliciousness of Mexican food is a function of time and taco price, reaching a theoretical maximum at T = 02:31 and pt = $2.00.
posted by theodolite at 7:50 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Maybe Karl Rove can start collecting money for Chipotle or something

Won't he start collecting money from Chipotle and tell them that despite what Nate Silver says, Chipotle's burritos really are the best.
posted by TedW at 7:55 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best burrito in Chicago? Isn't that like trying to apply baseball sabermetrics to Indian cricket?

It's not quite a bracket, but Burrito Eater's slab scrums are a good competitive overview of San Francisco's finest burrito palaces. I'm a Can-cún partisan.
posted by Nelson at 7:59 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


LOL Minor Leagues.

Let me know when someone does a bracket in the Majors, in Los Angeles. Just the Pico Rivera district will take dozens of playoffs.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:05 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I disagree with Nate's methodology here. You can't rate burritos on whether or not you can sit down at a place. Some of the best burritos, tacos, tamales, &c that I've ever had have come from trucks, carts, counters in the back of gas station convenience stores, and from a cooler on the street.

Sorry Nate, this is one thing we disagree on.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:08 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


oneirodynia: Why do you hate science?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:09 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fancy that! Polls of actual voters that ask them who they are going to vote for end up forecasting elections much better than economic models or your feelings!

It's important to remember that Silver and other poll aggregators are doing a fundamentally different job than economic models or other model-based forecasts.

The most important difference is that the polisci/econ forecasters put a lot of emphasis on the "fore." Most of them made their predictions by September, while Silver et al just keep aggregating polls until election day.

The other important difference is that the polisci/econ forecasters are trying to build a very simple causal model of what drives election outcomes -- is it the economy, approval of the incumbent party, do foreign affairs matter, etc. They want to give a forecast that has a "because" -- "I think Obama will get 52% of the vote because the economy" or whatever. To the extent that the aggregators have a causal model, it seems to be not much more complex than "People tend to vote for the person they told the pollster they would vote for," which doesn't tell us much about why election outcomes happen.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:09 AM on November 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: "There is merit to the argument that the people who are paid to win a campaign have a better idea of what's going on than media pollsters who don't have any skin in the game. Models that did include released internal polls like Princeton Election Consortium and the Pollster averages got both states correct."

Yes, but for every good internal poll, there are probably a dozen more delusional ones.

While I'd been assuming that Romney (and Fox's) "momentum" and "consensus" campaigns that ran for the past few weeks were cynical attempts to drive their own numbers up (when they were leading in a few polls, but trailing overall), it's becoming evident that they actually believed this narrative for themselves.

On almost all accounts, Mitt thought he was going to win on Tuesday.

I think that Silver is right to be cautious of internal polls. Especially given that the spotlight's now on Silver, I think that it would be fairly easy to release misleading internal polls to maliciously attempt to manipulate the consensus, and in turn use that to influence voter turnout.

That brings us to the other problem: Will 538 continue to be accurate, now that it's getting so much attention? Will campaigns, media outlets, and pollsters have the foresight to realize that, even with Silver's frighteningly-accurate analysis, they still need to pay lots of money to commission good polls? After all, 538's model is only as good as the data that gets put into it, and I have a fear that Silver's success might mean that we'll be demanding less from his sources.
posted by schmod at 8:12 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not even best burrito in Chicago, it's best burrito in Wicker Park. The Best Burrito In Chicago bracket would include a lot more Pilsen and a lot less Flash Taco, which ugh.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2012


A sentiment I saw on twitter a lot the other night:

"If a computer algorithm can be used to predict election results, what next? Climate science? Impossible!"

Seriously this election was a triumph in so many ways, but especially for the olllld scientific method. But also for former professional poker players everywhere. Yes, being a poker player does have some other useful applications in other realms. If nothing else it can make you see very clearly what is a true assessment of probabilities and what is clouded by emotion.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Excerpt from his book The Signal and the Noise.
posted by eye of newt at 8:35 AM on November 9, 2012


Burrito science is too often clouded by emotion.
posted by obscurator at 8:36 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fancy that! Polls of actual voters that ask them who they are going to vote for end up forecasting elections much better than economic models or your feelings!

Even more accurate than "which burrito would you vote for" was "which burrito do you think will win".
posted by kurumi at 8:44 AM on November 9, 2012


Hey girl...
posted by Wordshore at 8:48 AM on November 9, 2012


I'd rather see a fish taco bracket.
posted by goethean at 9:01 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, long before he was picking baseball stars and presidents, Nate Silver was underestimating the incomparably awesome Irazu (warning, sound) and inexplicably favoring the cack served at Arturo's over the cultural phenomenon that is Lazo's Tacos.

Here's a hint, math nerd, if you'd stay up until midnight, when the "several TV's" are tuned in to soccer games from around latin America, the "performance area for bands" is occupied by a woman in an evening gown belting out canciones as if her soul were in the balance, and there are four generations of families--children, young couples on dates, parents and elderly grandparents all enjoying themselves in the "very large seating area," you'd see that it scarcely matters if the tortilla is as fresh as what's being served in the dismal joint next door.

I'd argue that ambience affects enjoyment significantly, but I suppose to a statistician that's the kind of magical thinking that gets the asses of square-jawed plutocrats handed to them in elections.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:14 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wordshore: "Hey girl..."

Well, it gets points for irony (he's gay).
posted by schmod at 9:17 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's cute that people in Chicago think you can get good Mexican food there.
posted by item at 9:17 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up in San Diego. I have thus far found one place in Chicago with Mexican food. But it really does exist.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:22 AM on November 9, 2012



It's cute that people in Chicago think you can get good Mexican food there.

Chicago has the second largest Mexican population of any US city, after Los Angeles. It's entirely possible to get good Mexican food in Chicago.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:24 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ah, i should amend that, those are old demographics (2000). Now it's fourth, after San Antonio and Houston moved up (per 2010 census). My point still stands.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:27 AM on November 9, 2012


The (very large) Mexican population in Chicago was relatively isolated from other Mexican-American populations, particularly those in the southwest, so it's true that it's hard to find a decent LA-style burrito in the city. However, for the same reason, there are more restaurants here that serve traditional foods like birria and moles that aren't poblano.
posted by theodolite at 9:37 AM on November 9, 2012


Let me know when someone does a bracket in the Majors, in Los Angeles.

It's tacos, not burritos, but the fine folks at LA Taco do this every year. Here are the results from this year's Taco Madness.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:40 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great, and I brought lunch from home today...
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 10:18 AM on November 9, 2012


I grew up in San Diego. I have thus far found one place in Chicago with Mexican food. But it really does exist.

These sorts of comments are always entirely too coy.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:23 AM on November 9, 2012


Well I don't want everyone showing up there and eating my delicious burritos, do I?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:29 AM on November 9, 2012


The best post-election meme so far: Drunk Nate Silver
posted by schmod at 10:41 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had a fine burrito in Chicago many years ago, and I can't remember the name of the place. All I remember is that they advertised burritos that were "as big as your head" and that it's the kind of place you can go when you're drunk in Chicago.
posted by Mister_A at 11:08 AM on November 9, 2012


shakes help a brother out here.
posted by Mister_A at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2012


Well I don't want everyone showing up there and eating my delicious burritos, do I?

People always seem to want to hoard these things, but if people weren't already going there I suspect it wouldn't still be in business, and while I imagine the thinking goes, "They'll be inundated!" I'd personally be extremely surprised if such revelations amounted to (thanks to distance, available time, etc.) to more than a new occasional visitor. Extremely surprised.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2012


The other reason is I don't want to start a burrito fight.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2012


MeMail me maybe?
posted by adamdschneider at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2012


La Bamba is the "burritos as big as your head" restaurant, and it's a four-state chain (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin).
posted by tzikeh at 11:44 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few new, slightly upscale Mexican places in Chicago: De Cero on Randolph St, and Antique Taco on Milwaukee Ave in Wicker Park. If you're not going to get all uptight over "authenticity", these are some high-quality, organic, artisanal tacos. Also for vegetarians, Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur on Western Ave has you covered. (And forget about Flash Taco, unless you are very drunk).
posted by crazy_yeti at 12:36 PM on November 9, 2012


Antique Taco is delicious.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2012


Oh yes, as R. Schlock said above the burrito at IRAZU is amazing. (Nice nick there, a-hole!)
posted by crazy_yeti at 12:40 PM on November 9, 2012


Since burritos are the topic, I'm going to mention that last winter I happened to be wandering the streets of Puerto Vallarta, off in one of the little neighborhoods, and ate lunch at a little food cart on the street. They were cooking little burrito type things* there right in front of us--similar to what you see here.

That was pretty much the absolute most delicious food I have eaten this entire year. I didn't know there could be such delicious food.

*I don't know what they were called, maybe soft shell tacos or something. I was pretty much just pointing at whatever looked delicious on the next person's plate, handing over some bills, and taking back whatever they gave me in both food and change. I didn't matter--it was all both delicious and very inexpensive.

I don't know how this would into Silver's burrito bracket but I'm pretty sure it would be off the charts of anything I've eaten anywhere in the U.S.
posted by flug at 5:14 PM on November 9, 2012


Prediction: Nate Silver merges with Long John Silvers to produce the mathematically-best fish taco.
posted by SPrintF at 8:09 PM on November 9, 2012


*I don't know what they were called, maybe soft shell tacos or something.

Most tacos in the real world are on soft tortillas. I frankly have no idea where that giant-U-shaped tortilla-chip taco shell thing came from.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:10 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is just to say that the way Nate Silver gesticulates when he speaks makes it seem like his hands have been anesthetized

that is all
posted by Rinku at 5:10 AM on November 10, 2012


shakespeherian: "Most tacos in the real world are on soft tortillas. I frankly have no idea where that giant-U-shaped tortilla-chip taco shell thing came from."

Yeah I think the hard shell is some kind of east coast thing, I don't know. Wikipedia thinks it is a US / Canada thing maybe? I am going to start calling them Canadian tacos regardless.
posted by idiopath at 6:12 AM on November 10, 2012


Most tacos in the real world are on soft tortillas. I frankly have no idea where that giant-U-shaped tortilla-chip taco shell thing came from.

My understanding is that it was Tex-Mex.
posted by The Michael The at 9:13 AM on November 10, 2012


Most tacos in the real world are on soft tortillas. I frankly have no idea where that giant-U-shaped tortilla-chip taco shell thing came from.

They came about because they were easier to ship than fresh tortillas. Hence their ubiquity in places far from widely available fresh tortillas. The original patents for shells are claimed by Mexican inventors, though Glen Bell of Taco Bell popularized them more widely.

Also that Wikipedia article is useless, with useless sources that don't back up the data. Annoying. The device patented in New York was for frying one tortilla at a time, not for the mass production of hard shells.

My understanding is that it was Tex-Mex.

That would be a taco with a flour tortilla.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:22 AM on November 10, 2012


Here is more info about tacos, from the author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food. There's also the taco FPP that's down a few posts.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:34 AM on November 10, 2012


This is just to say that the way Nate Silver gesticulates when he speaks makes it seem like his hands have been anesthetized

If true, this would make for some very messy burrito eating.
posted by obscurator at 12:16 PM on November 10, 2012


This is just to say that the way Nate Silver gesticulates when he speaks makes it seem like his hands have been anesthetized

If true, this would make for some very messy burrito eating.


Tacos al dedo!
posted by TedW at 5:01 AM on November 11, 2012


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