Sunday, May 15, 2011

How to Take Europe by Surprise: Analysis of the Eurovision 2011 Results

Azerbaijan's victory in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest came as a shock to many, present company included. In order to better understand the impact of various European blocs on voting outcomes, I took the data provided by and ran some analyses. I'm going to throw them out here with just a bit of discussion in the hope that we can come to some conclusions together in the comments.

The first thing I looked at was how many countries cast a vote of any size for each of the top-five countries. Then I broke them down by how many of each vote each of those countries received.

  • FIRST PLACE (221): Azerbaijan -- 30 countries voting: 3 1st, 5 2nd, 10 3rd, 2 4th, 3 5th, 2 6th, 1 7th, 2 8th, 1 9th, 1 10th
  • SECOND PLACE (189): Italy -- 30 countries voting: 4 1st, 5 2nd, 1 3rd, 2 4th, 6 5th, 1 6th, 2 7th, 5 8th, 1 9th, 3 10th
  • THIRD PLACE (185): Sweden -- 32 countries voting: 2 1st, 6 2nd, 0 3rd, 1 4th, 5 5th, 2 6th, 7 7th, 4 8th, 0 9th, 4 10th
  • FOURTH PLACE (159): Ukraine -- 23 countries voting: 3 1st, 3 2nd, 2 3rd, 6 4th, 2 5th, 2 6th, 1 7th, 1 8th, 3 9th, 0 10th
  • FIFTH PLACE (134): Denmark -- 19 countries voting: 3 1st, 3 2nd, 1 3rd, 3 4th, 3 5th, 2 6th, 1 7th, 2 8th, 0 9th, 1 10th
(If you're interested in all the details, you can view the entire data set, including how many countries voted for each entry in the Final, in this Google Document.)

Rule #1 for Taking Europe by Surprise: Aim for Broad Appeal
The top-three countries all had at least 30/42 countries voting for them (with one removed because they cannot vote for themselves). The next two countries hovered around just 20 countries each. Though he didn't take the title, Sweden's Eric Saade did have one thing right: you'll "get" the title "when [you're] popular" across the board >cue sound of shattering glass<.

Rule #2 for Taking Europe by Surprise: Aim for Third Place
Essentially what this breakdown shows us is that you don't need to be everyone's douze points -- you actually come out better if you aim to be just good enough. Azerbaijan monopolized nearly 25% of the third-place votes and thereby secured themselves the win. Italy scored high in 2nd, 5th, and 8th places, Sweden in 2nd and 7th.

Before I went into greater detail of which blocs voted for whom, out of curiosity I looked at the countries who cast NO votes for the top-five entries to see if regional/historical preferences were already at play.
  • Azerbaijan received no votes from: Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Macedonia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, UK (7/5 west-east split)
  • Italy received no votes from: Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Israel, Moldova, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine (7/5 east-west split)
  • Sweden received no votes from: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Switzerland (even 5/5 split)
  • Ukraine received no votes from: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, UK (15/4 west-east split)
  • Denmark received no votes from: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine (14/9 east-west split)

Rule #3 for Taking Europe by Surprise: Aim to Please Both West and East
The top-three vote getters all had nearly equal geographical splits in the countries that disliked their songs entirely, i.e. their styles were not polarizing culturally/geographically. Note that the fourth and fifth place winners were strongly less appealing to one area generally -- and therefore saw fewer points from the other region overall.

At this point, I started working more closely with the numbers and the regions. I looked only at the data for the Final competition for 2011 -- a better analysis would take into account the influence of the semi-final voting on the participation and results of certain blocs in the final. I also stuck to clearly defined historical-geographical regions; a more nuanced analysis might consider further where certain Western or Eastern European countries should lie based on their voting preferences. Further fragmentation is certainly possible and would be more truthful based upon analysis of voting patterns over many years, not just the 2011 competition.

Here are the blocs I chose to examine:
Western European bloc: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands (20 countries)
Scandinavian bloc: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden (5 countries)
Large Communist bloc: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Macedonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine (21 countries)
Strictly Soviet bloc: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine (10 countries)
Yugoslav bloc: Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia (5 countries)

What the analysis showed:
The Strictly Soviet bloc is the only one that did not hold together in a meaningful way in 2011. Otherwise, the impact of bloc voting is both obvious and significant. That said, the impact is seen to be greatest not necessarily on the winners (who garner large amounts of votes across the board), but rather on the middling entries from each region (whose point totals attributable to bloc voting can reach nearly 80%) .
  • 10 of Western Europe's entries (total of 13, including the Big Five) received over 50% of their votes from the Western European bloc, among them the 2nd, 3rd and 5th place winners.
  • 8 of the Large Communist bloc's entries (total of 12 entries) received over 50% of their votes from the bloc, among them the 1st and 4th place winners.
  • 10 of top 13 Western European bloc, 9 of top 13 Large Communist bloc, 3 of top 3 Yugoslav bloc, and 4 of top 6 Scandinavian bloc vote-getters (by total) came from each bloc respectively.
Feel free to extrapolate further and leave your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Textures of the Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Interactive feature. Scrolling over the rectangles, readers would have the possibility to view the full images. Could link to slideshow of all images. It would also be possible to include facts and information about the Alhambra, about Granada, or quotations from an accompanying text as a grayed caption.

Open Letter to Glimpse

Dear editors/judges in the Glimpse Correspondents competition,

I like to write and take photos. My digital camera even shoots video. But I do not currently have the skills (or software) to edit these lovely products into glamorous Flash presentations that will oooh and aaah you from the start. So you will have to use your imaginations a little to see the potential in the posts that follow.

I assume National Geographic has a fine team of IT professionals who can wizard these things into something all of us can be proud of. I am happy to learn as much as I can from those individuals to make their job easier and increase my own skill base.

For my friends and readers who have no idea whom I'm addressing here, just enjoy the photographs that follow and feel free to leave your comments and suggestions.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Was für ein Krach!

At 3 p.m. Berlin Standard Time, children began breaking glass bottles on the square in front of my apartment building. (Same hooligans who threw eggs at my windows, I supposed.) At least, that's what it sounded like till I had the nerve to get up and look out the window.

Instead, I found a large party of fancily-dressed Germans smashing plates, cups and even a really nice-looking mixing bowl. Kids and adults, they heartily flung and smashed dishes for a good half an hour. Now (I did mention they're Germans, right?) they're busily sweeping up the shards and tossing them in a dumpster. Each tinkling and crashing sound pierces my double windows, far louder than the highway traffic nearby.

Across the street from my place is a little bar/restaurant with lamps in the windows that blind us nightly which specializes in wedding receptions. And this is one of those traditions (unlike Groundhog Day) which seems not to have crossed the ocean: reception guests smash dishware in honor of the couple, in the belief that the more shards produced, the more successful the wedding will be. The only similar tradition I can think of on our side of the pond is the Jewish custom of stepping on a glass after the wedding pair has said their vows.

Just remember this the next time German newlyweds remind you to bring a dish to the reception -- they mean one you're willing to smash, not to share at the table!

And on this note, many happy returns of the day to my friends Jan and Ana, who were married in Berlin this week. I've got a bowl with your name on it, my friends :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Best-Laid Plans . . .

It's good to write down a plan for the day, especially if you have a lot of things to do and are afraid you might forget something.

Writing things down, though, usually causes one of two things to happen. Either
1) you lose the piece of paper somewhere on your errands (typically the beginning) and have to try to do everything from memory anyway; or
2) things go terribly, horribly NOT according to the plan you made.

Today was a #2 kind of day (no pun intended). It was my return trip to the Berlin Foreigners' Registration Office.

You may remember from my earlier misadventures that when I showed up in late September, they were completely overwhelmed with applicants and told me wait six weeks before contacting them again. A temporary extension with the laughable name of "Fiktionsbescheinigung" would expire Christmas Day.

Four weeks ago, I sent an email to the office to apply for an appointment. Ten days go by without a peep. I send another email with the original attached, asking for a reply as I am leaving for the U.S. in (then) two weeks. Again no reply. Which means, if you remember, that you then go wait in line -- and since Berlin's foreigners all have to register in one and only one office, that line is loooooooooooooong.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. but didn't really think getting there early would help much. I arrived (still dark) about 40 minutes after the office opened at 7 a.m. The first line to get my number for the waiting room was surprisingly short. I was given number 225. That meant I was the 25th person in line. Last time, when I was #21, I was served shortly after 9 a.m.

Today at 9 a.m. they were on student #11. Another student (#24) in the waiting room and I left, him to print some financial documents at an internet cafe, me to get a haircut. I returned 20 minutes after he did at 10:20 a.m. They were on #21. There was a girl still sitting with us who had turned in all her documents and was waiting for her passport to be processed. She was #8. An hour later, we were both finally called to submit our documents; #8 was still waiting. More waiting. #8 was called and left. More waiting. #24 was called, got his passport and temporary extension, and left. One little Indian.

After 1:30 p.m. (did I mention they close at 2?) I am finally called to the office. "Please go pay your 40 euros."
"The sign says 30 euros for an extension."
"This was an extension for 30 and a change for 10. Don't tell me you don't have it?"
"I don't" (and I really didn't, because I'd just spent the 10 euros on a haircut).
So the woman told me to pay the 30 I had and put a note in my file that I owed 10 euros. I asked if I could transfer the money. That's not possible either.

I return with my paid receipt and receive my new residence permit. I looked it over because I was concerned about permission to work. Thankfully, the law had changed, allowing those staying on this visa to retain their "student worker" status -- 180 half days or 90 full days of work per year. Then my eyes fell on the name. NOT my name.

They had put someone else's name on my permit. The permit that was now stuck in my passport. I was asked to leave. In a half an hour she called me back and gave me the correct permit. Only 36 total students had been served in 7 hours. I walked to the bus stop, grabbed a quick lunch between transfers as I was absolutely famished, scarfing down my lunch on the way home. I got home at 2:45 p.m., eight hours after I left for the office in the first place. Aaarrrggghhh.

I thought I'd be done by mid-morning, would get my haircut, head to the gym, come home, have lunch (which was waiting for me here), finish a job application, mail it off, photocopy fliers and post them at the university, have dinner, collapse in bed. After a full day of "working" at the Foreigners' Registration Office (with a haircut "break"), I came home and finished the job application, mailed it off, had dinner, but I didn't have a chance to make those copies and post them. Now I'm digesting before I head to the gym. If I'm not totally dead when I get back, I'll watch a movie that needs to go back to the library.

There are still so many things on the list. Did I mention I'm going home in three days?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

7 Strangers

Picked to live in a house and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. . .

Here are the rules:
1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog. [Check]
2) Share 7 facts about yourself. [Check]
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs. [Check]
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. [Check]

Here are my first seven:

1) I'm living with a roommate [mostly] voluntarily for the first time ever and things are going really well. This makes me feel better after a couple really awful experiences with Russian old-lady roommates who did things like consult their psychic about me (verdict: I needed to move out), wear surgical masks in my presence and throw tantrums.

2) My roommate and I decorated for Christmas, which involved making two pine wreaths and two swags. I pulled out my collection of Christmas stuff and was sad to find that my first Christmas ornaments (no value beyond sentimental) from my only Christmas alone (in Russia at that) aren't there and I'm not quite sure where else they'd be.

3) Those ornaments aren't the only purchase from Russia I've been pondering of late: I'm pretty sure I bought a chic felt winter hat, but now I can't remember where it is or what exactly it looked like. I orient visually and cannot picture it in my room at home. I don't have it here. Did I even buy it in the first place?

4) I'm in Hamburg this weekend, celebrating Thanksgiving nine days late. For the communal table, I made a family specialty, Wild Rice Dressing. In Germany, wild rice costs $7/lb.

5) I'm staying with my quasi-host family/friends from Hospitality Club. There is a family of three from Brazil here as well. I am so impressed (as always) with how open and relaxed my friends are. They make it so easy to jump right in to their home.

6) Today I went to the doctor for the last time on my comprehensive German insurance. He said my knee has now reached full extension. Two weeks (and 16 therapy appointments) ago, I was still 5 degrees away. While I'm happy that I've made such progress, I'm afraid that it will regress and regress permanently.

7) I joined a gym so that I could keep doing my therapy exercises on my own. I enjoy the classes and the sweat and really really enjoy the sauna (even if the Germans have as many rules about the sauna as Icelanders have about swimming pools). When did I become this person?

Here are my second seven:
Woodzh' ya....?, Body in Motion, From My Wandering Mind, Biblio File, Diversey Grand, On the Road (Again), Making Tracks

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sensing an Earlier Time

Yesterday in Berlin was November pur: fat cold raindrops loudly striking broad leaves; chill, strong wind blowing my exhaled breath and my hair; a carpet of bright yellow leaves underfoot, giving off the faint scent of decay. It was all the atrocious and wonderful things about fall at once.

All of my senses brought me back to a late September 10 years ago. My high school considered outdoor education an integral part of the learning experience, so my class went camping four times in six years. By the time we were seniors, we were experts in paddling and portaging canoes -- so much so that upon completing our 21-mile trip early, our counselors treated us to Dairy Queen for being the easiest and most enjoyable group of the summer.

For the four days we were on trail, however, the weather was the typical autumn I described above. It is easier to romanticize when you are going from warm museum to warm museum and have a bus or subway to catch. It is altogether miserable when you are the navigator, holding the waterproof map and sitting in two inches of water which has pooled between the packs under your cold, wet butt.

The aural and olfactory cues had me recalling the songs we had sung on those paddles through the Minnesota wilderness, trying to forget our frozen fingers or how damp our clothes were and our tents were going to be that night. My mind's eye filled with the image of my small blue mitten, lost somewhere in our travels, floating alone on the Kawishiwi River -- remembered only because it was enshrined as a haiku in English class upon my return.

Our personal stories are as fleeting as this, their recollection significant only for the people involved, invoking reflection on the odd juxtaposition of the situation then with the present which had called it forth. This is why you'll find me singing camp songs under my breath as I walk through Berlin this week. Blame it on the raindrops and the wind.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Dummies Guide to Getting Up Earlier

1) Note that Daylight Savings Time is ending.
2) On Saturday night, set your clock back one hour.
3) Set your alarm back one hour.
You are now -- painlessly -- getting up an hour "earlier." Congratulations!
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