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My Night at the Caucus

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My first caucus experience was pretty awesome. Although I might be a little biased, since I'm for Obama and he did extremely well in Iowa. But that aside, it was just really cool to see people "“ especially people my age, who historically have been rather blasé about elections "“ out there caucusing and making themselves heard. I was impressed.

To be honest, going into the caucus, I didn't really know what to expect. What I didn't expect, though, was to go to the wrong caucus location and then have to run across a field of snow in heels. Let me explain. Theodore Roosevelt High School "“ they're called the Rough Riders, which always entertains me "“ is back-to-back with Hubbell Elementary School. Both schools were caucus locations. We thought they were connected so we could walk through Roosevelt and get to Hubbell without walking outside. Wrong. By the time we figured this out, it was about ten minutes to seven. That's when the doors close "“ anyone who hasn't made it inside their caucus location by seven p.m. sharp isn't allowed to caucus. So, we spotted Hubbell across a field of snow from Roosevelt. We decided to make a run for it, despite the fact that I was wearing open-toed heels (which I shouldn't have been wearing because of my swollen toe anyway"¦ I am an idiot) and the snow was a good foot deep.

harkin.jpgAnyway, we made it with about two minutes to spare. For those of you unfamiliar with the caucus process, this is how it went "“ at least for the Democrats. Republicans caucus a bit differently. After assembling in the location for your precinct (ours was in the gym), we listened to a speech. The speaker varies from location to location - ours was from Senator Tom Harkin (pictured). Then a representative for each candidate had 60 seconds to make a last-minute pitch for their candidate to convince people who hadn't made up their minds yet.

Then came the real caucusing. Everyone had 10 minutes to assemble in the designated spot in the gym for their candidate. Each candidate was allowed just one campaign sign to mark their area.

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Now 10 minutes might sound like a lot of time to assemble, but we had 444 people caucusing, plus observers, plus press all crammed into a relatively small elementary school gym. Maneuvering did take a little time and effort. Oh, and the press wasn't allowed to interact with the caucus-goers until after the caucus. By the way, 444 is significantly higher than the 279 people that showed up from my precinct to caucus four years ago, so yay precinct 49!!

So, with everyone in the spots for their chosen candidates, and with undeclared and independents in the middle of the gym, the counting started. If a candidate didn't have 15 percent of the room (67 people in this case) in their section, he/she was not considered viable. The people in that candidate's corner had to choose another candidate.

Here's what happened in the first round at my precinct. The first part of the first round was kind of unofficial "“ each group counts for themselves and lets the person running the caucus know what their numbers were. The unofficial count was:

Barack Obama - 168 people.
John Edwards - 81 people.
Hillary Clinton - 67 people.
Bill Richardson - 54 people.
Joe Biden - 45 people.
Dennis Kucinich - 12 people.
Chris Dodd - 11 people.
Six people were undecided.

So then everyone had five minutes to convince the undecided people to join them (or to get decided people to switch sides). There was lots of yelling and chanting going on "“ it seriously sounded like a cheerleading competition. I wouldn't have been entirely surprised if caucus-goers had started forming pyramids and doing basket tosses.

After five minutes, the official first count was taken. This was counted out loud for the whole room to hear. The official first round numbers were:

Obama "“ 175
Edwards "“ 87
Clinton "“ 69
Richardson "“ 63
Biden "“ 51

By this point, all of the Dodd and Kucinich folks had switched to another candidate since they knew there was no way their candidate would be counted as viable.

Then there was another five minutes of yelling and convincing and cheerleading. Apparently during this time period, the Richardson people convinced some others to switch to their side, so a quick, unofficial recount was done. Richardson now had 67, Biden now had 42. I guess some people left or were in the bathroom or something, because by my count that's only 440 people.

So, then it was time for the official final count, which was done out loud for the whole room to hear again. The official final count was:

Obama "“ 194
Edwards "“ 97
Clinton "“ 75
Richardson "“ 69

Those ended up being the four viable candidates from our precinct. Richardson was a bit of an anomaly, because he only won two percent of Iowa as a whole "“ that means in most precincts, he wasn't viable at all.

Each candidate gets delegates based on the number of people that caucused for them in that precinct. From ours, Obama got 4.3 delegates, Edwards got 2.1 delegates, Clinton got 1.6 delegates and Richardson got 1.5 delegates. Those delegates then go on to basically caucus again at the county level. The same process will happen and then the delegates from the county caucus will go on to the state caucus. Then the state caucus delegates will go on to the nationals.

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So, that's the whole process! We headed to the Obama after party in downtown Des Moines after that. That's where I saw the Obamalac. I had to get a picture of that, of course.

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Anyway, despite trudging around in the snow with my broken toe, I had a great time. It was a very educational experience and I just loved seeing people who were so passionate about their candidates and causes.

What do you guys think about the Iowa caucuses? Any New Hampshire-ites gearing up for the caucuses? Michiganers, Floridians?? Let's hear it!

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Food
Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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