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FiveThirtyEight Uses Data to Find Nation’s Best Burrito

FiveThirtyEight Uses Data to Find Nation’s Best Burrito


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Yum! Mission-style burritos are always a favorite amongst tortilla enthusiasts.

Can you use data and numbers to find the best burrito in America? Renowned statistician Nate Silver, along with his website FiveThirtyEight.com, a panel of burrito experts, and a tasting correspondent, believe that they have. After crunching numbers from Yelp, and narrowing down the choices to a 64-burrito bracket based on 4 quadrants of the country, FiveThirtyEight.com sent out their “burrito correspondent,” Anna Maria Barry-Jester to determine the best of the best.

After spending the summer swimming in pools of carne asada and guacamole, Barry-Jester has determined that the best burrito is served at La Taqueria in San Francisco’s Mission District. We’re not too surprised that the best of the best came from the burrito capital of America. Barry-Jester described this rice-less burrito to The Daily Meal as “wonderful and packed full of juiciness, even though none would leak out while you’re eating. It’s not possible to understand how they pack so much meat and guacamole in the tortilla without it bursting at the seams!” La Taqueria came in at #2 on The Daily Meal’s 35 Best Burritos in America list; our burrito panel gave the top spot to La Azteca Tortilleria in Los Angeles.

The other three finalists in the great burrito bracket of 2014 were Taqueria Tlaxcalli in the Bronx (“a simple, well-prepared burrito with four sauces on top”) which didn’t place on our list, Al & Bea’s Mexican Food in Los Angeles (“classic and perfect bean and cheese burrito”) which also didn’t place on our list and Delicious Mexican Eatery in El Paso, Texas (“freshly-made tortilla, spicy, and the best comfort food”), which came in at number 20 on The Daily Meal list.

For the latest happenings in the food and drink world, visit our Food News page.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi


Hey, Sports Fans, It's Time For Math Class

On the day ESPN first blinked to life in 1979, it aired a slow-pitch softball game. Things have changed since then. ESPN has become not only, as its slogan proclaims, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, but more broadly one of the most influential players in the news business. Look at its ledger: ESPN has seven U.S. cable networks, 24 international stations, 350 full-time radio affiliates, 7,000 employees, one magazine, 60 million monthly visitors online, just under 100 million households that pay cable providers for its products and an estimated annual revenue of more than $9 billion (out of which, by the way, comes a reported 45% of the Walt Disney Co.’s operating income). That’s almost six times the revenue of the New York Times Co. and nearly double the web traffic of CBS Sports or Fox Sports.

Later this month, ESPN will add a new number: FiveThirtyEight. That’s when the data-crunching digital publication of that name, run by 36-year-old statistician Nate Silver, makes its debut as an ESPN property. Silver’s facility with figures first brought him to everyone’s attention in 2008, when his online forecast correctly called 49 of 50 states in the U.S. presidential election. (FiveThirtyEight takes its name from the number of electoral votes up for grabs every four years.) In 2012, Silver’s cool reading of the presidential campaign helped Democrats through sleepless October nights. He accurately projected results in all 50 states, all the while merrily tweaking the traditional press for what he reckoned was a blinkered, overheated representation of how elections work.

Now ESPN is turning to Silver for a play bigger than sports. Silver’s worldview, in which empiricism trumps experts and numbers rout narratives, has spread far and wide in an age eager to learn what data has to say about modern life. Today we’re offered more accessible information than ever before, and contemporary computing power renders the same data more easily harnessed, studied and presented. Encouraged by Silver and his analytical allies, many now want hard facts instead of anecdotes and intuitions. With the right humans pushing the right buttons, numbers tell stories no storyteller ever could. And those stories, because of their scientific imprimatur, have audiences especially rapt.

In other words, Silver is both cause and effect of our data mania–and his new website has the potential to change how we think not just about politics and sports, his usual bailiwicks, but also about fistfuls of other concerns. Thanks to Silver, ESPN for the first time employs a chief economics writer. That’s a long way from slow-pitch softball.

Foxes and Hedgehogs

Silver considers himself a born outsider: “I have very deep ingrained antiestablishment instincts. I’ve felt that way from when I was 6 years old.” That view manifests itself in his work. He evangelizes on behalf of data and statistics in a profession where they have historically had little place and then frets about the overuse of numbers. He is a nerd who didn’t care much for school and a businessman who once ditched his full-time job to play online poker. He is a gay sportswriter.

Silver, the older of two, was born and raised in East Lansing, Mich. His father taught political science at Michigan State, while his mother raised hell in neighborhood politics. Silver says he was a “weird kid” and a late bloomer. In high school he threw himself into the student newspaper and debate, winning a state championship his junior year. He didn’t really care for classes. “I’m not a valedictorian type,” he says. “There are more worthwhile things to do than acing tests.”

Afterward, he headed to the University of Chicago, where he studied economics and occasionally wrote for the newspaper. His life changed when he spent his junior year abroad in London, where he decided to come out of the closet. He was 20. He loved life there. He went out all the time. But his senior year back in Chicago was gloomy by comparison and was made no better after graduation when he accepted a $55,000-a-year consulting gig at KPMG, one of the Big Four auditors.

“Those weren’t the happiest days of my life,” Silver says. He would do mind-numbing work in Excel all day, then stay out all night and go in the next day to do the same thing over again. Soon enough, he quit the job to work for Baseball Prospectus, a website (and annual print publication) for which he forecast players’ seasons, and to play online poker. At cards, he made a few hundred thousand dollars, while Baseball Prospectus’ profile only grew.

Silver was content to juggle stats and poker until 2006, when Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which made it nearly impossible to deposit money in an online gambling account. He found himself newly curious about the political process that had let such legislation pass unopposed in the Senate, hitting his livelihood where it hurt. Before too long, he was blogging about the 2008 Democratic primary at the liberal site Daily Kos, and after the general election, renown came for good.

In 2009 he moved to New York City with his longtime partner Robert Gauldin, a graphic designer. In Chicago, Silver had seen his friends marry off and retreat to the suburbs–a lifestyle that had always repelled him and still does, despite the march of gay marriage throughout the states. “There are some gay people who will say, ‘Our problems are solved! Now let’s go be the bourgeoisie!’ But we should really be suspicious of suddenly acting like everyone else.”

Silver loves the pleasant accumulation of data. One of his most memorable projects, a ranking of New York City’s top 50 neighborhoods, ran in New York magazine in 2010. Each neighborhood’s rating came from a composite of 12 variables (among them: housing cost, safety, restaurants and creative capital), all of which took advantage of public data. Sure beats interviews in the Saturday paper with a few real estate agents who think a neighborhood has turned newly “hot.”

Spend enough time around Silver, and he will share the Greek poet Archilochus’ tale of the fox and the hedgehog. The fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. Silver uses philosopher Isaiah Berlin’s interpretation, which gives the fox the edge. Silver often finds his interlocutors to have hedgehog traits. In 2012, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough told Silver that his forecast of an Obama victory was far too confident, because Scarborough, not Silver, knew campaigns, and campaigns were close. Silver won that round, and a hedgehog went down.

Yet Silver chafed against his narrow elections-and-polling confines at his most recent previous employer, the New York Times, which served as FiveThirtyEight’s home from 2010 until 2013. He’s a big thinker: he draws out the last syllable of idea, “eye-dee-yuh.” Silver wanted to reinject truth and accountability into all kinds of journalism, he wanted to bring a generation of data journalists under his tent so that they might preach their secular gospel loudly, he wanted to do this in every medium imaginable (words, graphics, interactive widgets, video, audio), and all the while he wanted his team to have fun with it.

It’s a lot to ask. And for it, Silver decided to ditch the newsroom behind the Pentagon Papers for the shop that brought you booyah and the Budweiser Hot Seat.

Golden Goose

It’s a funny thing about ESPN: the operation evidently can’t not make money. Bloomberg Businessweek in 2012 called it the Everywhere Sports Profit Network. Heading toward its 35th anniversary, ESPN has by now grown into a goose so golden as to make Mickey Mouse, its corporate compatriot, appear a shiftless layabout by comparison. (Disclosure: Time’s parent company, Time Inc., also publishes SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, which competes with ESPN’s magazine and website.)

The business proposition works simply enough. ESPN has broadcast-rights deals for many of the sporting events people want to see: the NBA, Monday Night Football, Major League Baseball and much of the schedule in major college football and basketball. This gives ESPN incredible leverage over the cable and satellite providers with which it negotiates for carriage agreements. Any household with a sports fan in its midst would hesitate to buy a subscription that did not include ESPN, and bundling in the cable industry ensures that few other subscribers have a chance to get by without it either. Every American with a decent cable package, sports fan or not, will pay more than $70 for ESPN in 2014, according to a recent estimate from research firm SNL Kagan. Those billions in subscriptions are supported by an estimated $1.8 billion in annual ad revenue. Until something comes along to break the cycle–FCC regulation or, more likely, widespread cord cutting–ESPN’s war chest will not shrink.

All of which is to say that the network has no problem footing the bill for another news operation, especially one that will confer upon the Worldwide Leader seriousness and stature among the smart set. ESPN cares. “It’s much more strategic than financial,” says John Skipper, ESPN’s president since 2012. “We want lots and lots of people to think that ESPN is the best place for what they’re interested in.”

Though ESPN operates from a 123-acre campus in central Connecticut, Silver has headquartered his team in Manhattan. At work, he sets the tone for his staff: he is friendly and energetic, pale and rumpled. The first morning I visit him there, his office–a temporary space, albeit one he’s inhabited for several months–is a mess. There’s nothing on the walls, but books and papers are scattered all over his desk. The place reeks of Red Bull. (Silver prefers the full-sugar version and has a large crate of it in a corner.)

Down the hall from Silver sits Mike Wilson, FiveThirtyEight’s managing editor and the site’s other boss. At 52, Wilson is the place’s grownup, not just in age but in journalistic bona fides. He left his post as managing editor of the Tampa Bay Times in December. In his 18 years at the paper, Wilson edited a Pulitzer Prize–winning story and was a Pulitzer finalist as a writer. His charge at FiveThirtyEight? “I have to make sure everything is written in English,” he says. It’s a playful way to frame what will be one of the site’s most demanding tasks, ensuring that its exacting methods do not turn off the broad audience it covets. (One step in this direction: all the math will be tucked away in footnotes.) Wilson also has to handle the day-to-day operations of the site when Silver is off doing TV or has speaking engagements.

Silver has surrounded himself and Wilson with genuine wonks. Almost everyone on staff knows how to code when journalists bump into one another in the hallways, the conversation is just as likely to concern a clever new Python script as it is what’s for lunch. Within the past six months, ESPN has poached them from such august outfits as the Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (seriously) to build a new newsroom. Those employers feed into ESPN’s staffing pool about as frequently as they feed directly into the NFL draft. Most of the new hires have no plans to write about sports many of them are deployed on behalf of the site’s four other sections: politics, science, economics and lifestyle (which is to say, everything).

Andrew Flowers, the site’s 28-year-old quantitative editor, graduated from college with a degree in economics and soon went to work for the Atlanta Fed, hoping it would provide him a pleasant bridge to graduate school. But that world seemed too dusty his colleagues were incentivized to be as boring as possible in their work. Flowers’ first story pitches for Silver involved corporate reinvestment and the economics of New York City taxicabs.

The site’s 25-year-old senior writer and analyst Harry Enten was hired to cover politics. But his true passion is weather. For fun–“fun”–Enten sends out an email to 400 friends and acquaintances every night containing his weather forecast for the next day. He lists highs and lows and the likelihood of precipitation for New York, Hanover, N.H. (his old college town), and a few other cities where pals of his have wound up, and he peppers it with running quasi-comic commentary. He went to a weeklong weather camp when he was 15. And milk is still his beverage of choice with lunch.

Walter Hickey, FiveThirtyEight’s 23-year-old senior lifestyle writer, recently (and fruitlessly) pitched a comprehensive data-based analysis of the work of Bob Ross, the late host of PBS’s The Joy of Painting. And Silver himself marches toward whimsy with gusto. The site’s major launch project is a nationwide bracket-style competition to anoint America’s best burrito. It will mix user-review data from Yelp with taste-testing from area experts. (Some things are too important to leave up to the new guys–Silver, a lover of Mexican food, has been crunching the data himself.)

The Hunt for Silver

For all the novelty of Silver’s venture, ESPN had already signaled its broadening ambitions with a website called Grantland. It operates out of Los Angeles with a brand all its own. The sports and pop culture publication, which launched in 2011 with a mix of features, blog posts, videos and podcasts, came from the mind of ESPN’s most popular columnist and podcast host, Bill Simmons.

Grantland has gradually swelled to the point where it has a full-time staff of about 24, along with many other regular contributors, and ESPN says the site is profitable. Simmons also supervises 30 for 30, a documentary series he conceived for ESPN in 2009. These projects have made ESPN bosses happy for reasons that have nothing to do with money. “I find, as I travel around, seeing people, speaking at graduate schools, they often mention Grantland and 30 for 30 as ways that make them think about ESPN differently,” says network president Skipper, who earned a master’s degree in 18th century British satire at Columbia and has a soft spot for distinctive voices.

Simmons and his publisher, David Cho, led the recruitment of Silver with Skipper’s taste in mind. In November 2012, Silver and Simmons taped a video podcast in L.A. and hung out for an afternoon. Silver, who by then knew he wanted to start a stand-alone site covering more than just politics and sports, peppered Simmons with questions. Simmons says, “Nate’s a loyal guy, but I didn’t think he was staying at the Times, just reading the tea leaves. I usually have a pretty good intuition with this stuff. I knew they were going to screw this up.” After Simmons dropped Silver off at his hotel, he called his bosses and told them they’d have a puncher’s chance at landing FiveThirtyEight.

The pair reconnected at the 2013 NBA Finals, and by then Silver had made up his mind to leave the Times. (According to Silver, he asked for the chance to hire 20 journalists, and the paper’s bosses countered, after a great delay, by proposing seven new hires. The Times declined to comment on Silver’s departure.)

Venture capitalists were eager to invest in a stand-alone FiveThirtyEight, and Silver had a chance to make a lot of money that way. But Simmons and Cho pulled him back toward ESPN. “The VC stuff looks great on paper, but that’s putting a lot of pressure on you to thrive,” Simmons told Silver. Even Simmons’ dad put the screws to Silver while the pair watched a finals game. By July, Silver had capitulated. “It was the hardest I had ever tried to convince a girl to date me,” Cho says.

Silver says Skipper and his lieutenant Marie Donoghue “were very willing to say yes to things, whereas by contrast at the Times, it was very much that every point was like pulling teeth. Everything was litigated. It was kind of a morass.”

The money is likely good too. Media analyst Ken Doctor estimates that ESPN is providing Silver with an annual editorial budget of $3.25 million to $4 million to start, with an additional down payment for his intellectual property. And ESPN said yes to a special organizational position for FiveThirtyEight. Like Simmons and Grantland, Silver and his site exist outside ESPN’s usual editorial structure, reporting directly to Donoghue and Skipper. Silver’s colleagues in Bristol are eager to help FiveThirtyEight amplify its message, and they’re also wary, knowing that imprecise amplification risks ruining the message and annoying the messengers.

Still, Silver arrives at a media company whose fat margins derive from a very lucrative conflict of interest, broadcasting the very thing its journalists cover. In 2013, ESPN took heavy flak after it pulled its branding from a PBS Frontline documentary about concussions in the NFL. Even with his interest in burrito journalism, Silver’s methods make him look like Edward R. Murrow compared with some of his new colleagues.

Then there is the question of politics. Silver is a left-leaning libertarian who occasionally sasses lunkheaded politicians and the lunkerheaded media that cover them. When ESPN does politics, its anchors interview both presidential candidates at halftime on Monday Night Football, or Barack Obama fills out his NCAA bracket. Donoghue says, “We’re quite clear: we’re nonpartisan. It’s not just the analytics and the conclusions of the stories, but we have to be religious about the way you use terms and characterize people and all that. We’ll obviously keep a close eye on it.”

Silver has the cover of contributing to ABC News, ESPN’s corporate partner at Disney. ABC News president Ben Sherwood says he envisions regular FiveThirtyEight appearances on Good Morning America, Nightline and This Week, all of which will give Silver and his staff a chance to speak more freely about issues that might spook ESPN.

Signs of Life

Anyone will tell you that these are strange days in the journalism business. A combination of digital media’s growth and the pummeling of the financial crisis has squeezed traditional newsrooms. New jobs have gone to web natives willing to rewrite and pontificate quickly and cheaply, and to those gurus bent on populating Google and Facebook with their underworked posts. All the while, the business’s low barriers to entry have created an influx of web traffic built with lower and lower overhead. With greater competition for eyeballs, advertising rates have fallen. A death spiral has begun to take shape. Soon enough the web will have to sate its endless appetite for content exclusively with preteens’ tweets and subliterate text written by the computers themselves. Won’t it?

Maybe not. Recent months have offered some signs of life. While advertisers want scale–industry-speak for “lots of readers”–they also want a pleasant space in which to sling their stuff to the right people. “There wasn’t a great value proposition for advertisers in a world of slide shows and cat videos,” says Jim Bankoff, CEO of online publisher Vox Media. Within the past two years, more and more advertisers have knocked on his door, asking for a place to refashion for a digital generation the immersive experience found in print. Henry Blodget, CEO of the news website Business Insider, loves digital media’s growth prospects. “Print newsrooms look at digital media’s business model and say that could never work. But digital-only is a very viable proposition.”

Into the capital void have charged a handful of deep-pocketed investors. Jeff Bezos and John Henry bought the Washington Post and Boston Globe, respectively, and PayPal founder Pierre Omidyar pledged $50 million to create First Look Media, a digital operation devoted to investigative journalism. Ezra Klein, the former Post policy prodigy, received funding from Vox to build his own site. And of course there is Silver. Meanwhile, the Post has begun hiring staffers to replace Klein and the Times has charged David Leonhardt, its onetime Washington bureau chief, with hiring 12 to 15 new staffers for an unnamed analytical project to replace FiveThirtyEight, launching sometime in the spring.

So the sky may not be falling. And reaching toward it are those few new operations, with their high standards for fact and context. In a perfect world, Silver, Klein, Leonhardt and their deputies will reform the media, making coverage of current events simultaneously more accessible and accountable. Their influence will filter not only throughout their own news organizations but everywhere. Along the way they will demonstrate that the Internet’s business model is no foe to quality. Or perhaps they will flounder and make the moneymen, even ones as pecunious as ESPN’s, reconsider investing in premium digital publishing.

“It’ll make for a great Harvard Business School study someday,” Silver says. “Some of the sites will be great, some of them will be terrible, most of them will perform to expectation.” And true to form, in spite of all his confidence in the new FiveThirtyEight, he predicts nothing: “All I’ll say is this. Of all these new ventures, we have the lowest chance of failure.”


La Taqueria Named America’s Best Burrito

La Taqueria, a San Francisco favorite was named America’s Best Burrito by ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, a blog that uses statistical analysis to tell interesting stories about science, economics, politics and in this case, the best damn burrito out there.

The carnita’s burrito won the final round out of 64 burritos across the nation. The beast of a burrito at La Taqueria is filled with sour cream, fresh guac, saucy pico di gallo, pinto beans all wrapped in a perfectly crisped tortilla.

After trying the award winning burrito editor-in-chief Nate Silver said, “I don’t want to bias you, but this is really, really good.”

La Taqueria opened its doors in 41 years ago serving fresh food in large portions.

FiveThirtyEight burrito correspondent, Anna Maria Barry-Jester created the criteria for how the burritos across the nation would be graded along with food historian Jeffrey Pilcher, author and journalist Gustavo Arellano, Chef David Chang and Eater food critic Bill Addison. The committee was formed in early March to go out and find 64 of the best burritos across the nation and finally nail it down to one burrito that excels in all four categories.

At first they started with 67,391 establishments across the U.S. that sold burritos and narrowed it down to 64 through reviewer data on Yelp and expert burrito knowledge from the committee.

There are four categories each worth 20 points.

1. Tortilla: Is it fresh? Thick? Crispy?

2. Main Protein: Is the meat juicy and tender? How is it cooked? How is the flavor?

3. Other Ingredients: Flavor, quality, texture? Includes anything that is not the tortilla or main protein.

4. Overall Flavor Profile: What is the balance between spicy, sweet, salty? What flavors are missing from the burrito? How do all of the flavors come together?

In the final round, four burrito shops were up for judging from Anna Maria Berry-Jester and editor-in-chief Nate Silver. Over the course of four days, the two traveled across the country to name the final winner. The final four included Delicious Mexican Eatery in El Paso Texas, Al & Bea’s Mexican Food in Los Angeles, Taqueria Tlaxcalli in the Bronx, N.Y. and lastly, La Taqueria in San Francisco.

La Taqueria won with a total of 98 points. 18 points for the tortilla, 20 points for the carnitas, 20 points for other ingredients and 20 points for presentation.

According to Inside Scoop SF, Anna Maria Berry-Jester tried 15 burritos from La Taqueria over the course of two months confirming that the carnita’s burrito was served delicious every time.


Share All sharing options for: How David Chang Made His Peace With Yelp

It’s been a journey, but David Chang has finally come around to Yelp, the user-generated restaurant review site. In 2014, the Momofuku chef told FiveThirtyEight that “for the most part, no chef is going to take a Yelper’s review seriously” because “most of the Yelp reviews are wrong.”

More recently, though, Momofuku restaurants have hosted dinner events for Yelp Elite members, a status given to the most active Yelp users. And at least one of these events, Chang himself has addressed the crowd of amateur restaurant reviewers. Chang recently sat down with Eater Upsell hosts Helen Rosner and Greg Morabito for an episode of the Eater Upsell and explained why he’s had such a change of heart.

Chang admits that his relationship with Yelp had been “adversarial,” his primary complaint being that Yelpers had no credibility “to speak about food, décor [or] ambience.” What’s more, Yelpers lacked empathy as they reviewed chefs just doing their jobs. “I don’t think [Yelp reviewers] understand the pain it can cause chefs,” he says. “We're not perfect individuals, and we shouldn't become a whipping post for people for whatever reason.”

But, around the time of that FiveThirtyEight interview, Chang teamed up with Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight’s founder, to find America’s best burrito using data from Yelp reviews. While the method wasn’t perfect, Chang says, it allowed them to “cut through a lot of the bullshit.” Since then, he has come to appreciate the value of the site that allows just anyone to give restaurants starred reviews.

“I believe that Yelp is probably going to be one of, if not the only source of food criticism. It's like a Rotten Tomatoes score for restaurants,” he tells Rosner and Morabito. Rotten Tomatoes aggregates movie reviews from professional critics to give movies a single, percentage-based rating, allowing people to look at a score to determine whether a movie is good or bad rather than read a critic’s review. “If you just look at how people consume movie reviews now, no one reads that shit anymore, unless you're an avid New Yorker fan,” Chang adds.

Chang believes that professional restaurant reviews, while still impactful, are not quite as potent as they once were. Yelp, on the other hand, is increasingly used as a “north star for culinary guidance.” Chang realizes now that ignoring elite Yelpers in the past, many of whom are “great food bloggers,” may have been a mistake — hence, the dinners for Yelp Elite members. He explains: “My whole thing was, instead of bitching about it, which I am fantastic at, why don't I engage them and try to see if something can be a little bit different?”

Today, Chang sees the Yelp events as just one of the ways the Momofuku restaurant group is pushing itself out of its comfort zone. He says, “Our job isn't to be exclusive and private. I think Yelp, if anything, is literally something that everyone uses. Why would we be opposed to that?”

Hear the complete interview with David Chang as he chats about cooking for the people, how to not run a kitchen “like a totalitarian state,” and the one restaurant critic he’d like to ban from Momofuku restaurants. Subscribe to the Eater Upsell on iTunes, or listen on Soundcloud. You can also get the entire archive of episodes right here on Eater.


Don’t miss Nate Silver at Northeastern

He’ll tell you why Beto O’Rourke might be a dark horse candidate in the Democratic presidential field, but also why you shouldn’t count out President Trump’s re-election chances. He can also tell you who will emerge as the victor of March Madness and how Major League Baseball could reduce strikeouts and improve the pace of play.

Nate Silver, founder and editor in chief of the analytics news site FiveThirtyEight , will appear at Northeastern’s Boston campus on Wednesday to discuss the role of data in predicting and understanding the new landscape of American politics. He might even make a few sports prognostications, too.

Could real-time projections be a game-changer for Election Day coverage?

A trained statistician, Silver directed his passion for baseball and poker analytics into the arena of politics in 2008 via his blog, FiveThirtyEight, which borrowed its name from the number of electors in the United States electoral college. Today, under the ownership of ESPN, Silver’s popular, data-focused blog not only covers politics and sports, but also analyzes health and science data, the economy, and where to find the best burrito in the country.

FiveThirtyEight came into prominence in 2008 for accurately predicting the outcomes of the elections that year. In 2009, Silver was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine after he successfully called the results in 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 presidential election.

Silver correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the 2012 United States presidential election. His site gave Donald Trump the highest percentage chance of winning the presidency of any polling model tracked by The New York Times, even as news outlets attacked Silver for overestimating Trump’s chances.

Silver generates predictions using a clever poll-aggregating technique that accounts for biases, such as pollsters who call only people with landlines.

He will be in conversation with Northeastern political science professor Costas Panagopoulos on March 27 at 4 p.m. in East Village.

The event marks the second installment of Northeastern’s new series, “ The Civic Experience ,” profiling the generation of cutting-edge leaders who are shaping media, politics, and policy. The program launched on March 18 with a panel discussion by four leading political correspondents about what it’s like to be a journalist or political leader in an increasingly polarized and digitally driven world.

Future events will feature South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg , a former Naval intelligence officer who was elected at age 29 in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. He will be discussing the influence of millennials in American politics on April 3 at the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex .


100 Burritos in San Diego: 10-dimensional rating system

We have developed a 10-dimensional system for rating the burritos in San Diego. The goal of this project is threefold:

  1. Identify the best and worst burritos in San Diego to share this information with others
  2. Characterize the variance in burrito qualities across the county.
  3. Generate models for what makes a burrito great and investigate correlations in its dimensions

At this time, 30 reviewers have visited 31 taco shops and critiqued 104 burritos. So far, a general consensus has identified The Taco Stand in downtown La Jolla as having the best California burrito, but there are many more to try. Here, the average burrito costs about $7 and is about 850mL in volume. Further, we explore correlations between burrito dimensions, such as the quality of the meat and nonmeat fillings, and identify a novel correlation between tortillas and Yelp ratings.

Mexican cuisine is often the best food option is southern California. And the burrito is the hallmark of delicious taco shop food: tasty, cheap, and filling. Though these “majestic cylinders” are consumed at a rate faster than one per second across San Diego county [1], they have been dramatically understudied [2]. This lack of funding to support public burrito knowledge has led millions of people to eating a burrito and subsequently feeling dissatisfied, a tragedy that can be avoided. Even the most experienced burrito eaters have experienced the following disappointments:

  • “I just took a bite entirely of sour cream”
  • “This carne asada has the texture of rubber”
  • “THE TEMPERATURE OF THE EGGS IN THIS BURRITO IS TOO DAMN HIGH”
  • “I am not looking forward to the leftover burrito in my fridge”
  • “Where is the meat in this burrito?”
  • “I need a fork”

For this reason, an effort was launched to critique burritos across the county and make this data open to the lay burrito consumer. Armed with an ever-growing database of over 100 burritos from Chula Vista to San Marcos (but mainly around UCSD), consumers can make better educated decisions of where to get their next fix. With this active feedback into consumption choice, we hope this will also cause burrito chefs to continuously improve their own methods. This study was predominantly a joint effort between the Neurosciences graduate program at UC San Diego and the amateur beach volleyball group that plays at Muir courts at 5pm. It is an extension of the single-dimensional burrito analysis published last year .

Previous work: FiveThirtyEight’s best burrito in America

Anna Maria Barry-Jester, a reporter with the website FiveThirtyEight travelled across America to identify the best burrito in the country. Their process, described here , was to data mine Yelp in order to narrow down the pool of >67,000 restaurants to just 64. Then, Anna completed a “burrito bracket” in which groups of four restaurants faced off against each other in knockout-fashion for 3 rounds until only one taqueria remained: La Taqueria in San Francisco. Their articles are worth reading, as their efforts were much more serious, qualifications much more qualified, and methods much better thought-out than my own. In addition to naming a best burrito in America, they also have interesting insight on crowdsourced reviewing systems and biases.

The 10-dimensional burrito

Contrary to popular belief, burritos do not merely exist in 3 dimensions. They transcend the physical limitations of space. From polling several San Diegans, we’ve established the 10 core dimensions of the San Diego burrito.

  1. Volume – “size matters,” “bigger is better,” or whatever your favorite innuendo is fits because there’s nothing more disconcerting than ordering a burrito and not being full.
  2. Tortilla quality
  3. Temperature – the Goldilocks zone
  4. Meat quality
  5. Non-meat filling quality
  6. Meat : filling – The ratio between meat and non-meat. Perhaps the golden ratio: 1.6180339887…
  7. Uniformity – Bites full of sour cream and cheese with no meat are disappointing.
  8. Salsaquality – and variety!
  9. Flavor synergy – “That magical aspect a great burrito has, making everything come together like it is a gift from the skies” – A wise Dutchman
  10. Wrap integrity – you ordered a burrito, not a burrito bowl.

All of these measures (except for Volume) are rated on a scale from 0 to 5, 0 being terrible, and 5 being optimal. In the future, Meat:Filling and Temperature measures may stray from this subjective scale in order to better quantify these two valuable burrito characteristics. Additionally, acquisition of a portable scale will allow collection of mass. Cost (in USD) and hunger level (on the same 0-5 scale) are measured as potential control factors. In addition to these 10 core dimensions, we also collect two summary statistics:

  1. Overall rating – 0 to 5 stars
  2. Recommendation – Yes/No. If a friend asked you about that burrito with the intent of purchasing one, would you recommend it?

Where can I get the best burrito?

This controversial question is argued by many who hold very strong opinions. However, I believe that there is no single best burrito for a few reasons:

  1. Each burrito at each taco stand has significant variance between each sample. Each chef has their own burrito assembly techniques and certainly cannot construct each burrito in the exact same way.
  2. Each person processes a given burrito in different ways, from their tongue to their higher-level cortices. Also, the optimal burrito for consumption varies across time for a single individual (e.g. a breakfast burrito may be optimal in the morning, and a carne asada burrito for dinner).

Therefore, the best we can do is to see which burritos are consistently rated the best by multiple reviewers. We want to identify the burritos that will be maximally enjoyed by the most number of people. The consensus at this time is that the “best” burrito in the area is the California burrito from The Taco Stand in downtown La Jolla. The quality of their carne asada is unmatched and worth the extra cost and lack of seating.

In the future, when more data is collected (requiring multiple burritos from several establishments), we can identify the taco shop with the best meat, best tortilla, most optimal Meat:Filling, etc. Currently, we can share the rankings of each of the 3 taco shops from which we have rated at least 9 burritos. We find that Taco Stand is superior in most categories (overall average: 4.1/5) but fares worst in terms of cost, volume, and temperature. Rigoberto’s Taco Shop on Miramar Road, seems to be the best value burrito with the lowest cost and greatest volume and Meat:Filling and still an overall rating of 3.8/5.

Table 1. Ranking of the three most-rated taco shops in each burrito dimension. 𔃱.5’ indicates a tie.

The MNIST (Mexican National Institute for Sustenance Taste) burrito database

As with the MNIST handwritten digit database , all raw data is available in the Google spreadsheet here . The subsequent analyses performed can be found in my GitHub repo for this blog, organized in IPython Notebooks here . As of May 19, 2016, the review system outlined above has been applied by 30 people to rate 104 burritos at 31 unique restaurants. Only 9 of those 31 (29%) taco shops provided free chips. The California burrito was the most commonly rated variety, mainly because it is one of my favorites and a standard in San Diego. However, multiple samples were taken from other common varieties as well as each restaurant’s specialties.

While burritos are known to be inexpensive, there is significant variance across taco shops. The average burrito was about $7 before tax, but this value ranged from $5 to $10.

Volume was estimated using a flexible tape measure (Wal-Mart, sewing section) trimmed to a length of 30cm for better portability. First, before any part of the burrito was consumed, the tape measure was extended in front of the burrito, and the length of the burrito-proper (portion of the burrito with approximately the same circumference as the center) was measured with a precision of 5mm. Second, the tape measure was wrapped around the center of the burrito to record the circumference. An estimate of burrito volume was then calculated using these two measures. The average burrito occupied approximately 0.85 liters but varied across the distribution shown below.

Linear models to predict overall burrito quality

Of the above dimensions, which are the most important to the overall rating of a burrito? Before attempting to answer this, it is important to note that each metric is not independent of one another, and in fact there are considerable correlations between numerous dimensions. This is clearly seen in the correlation matrix below. While the overall rating correlates positively with almost all measures, these measures are not independent of one another, so it is difficult to disentangle how each one contributes to the overall rating. This limitation may be rooted in a few possibilities:

  1. Physical limitations of the human gustatory system and subsequent neural processing
  2. Restaurants that performs well in one burrito metric are more likely to perform well in other metrics.
  3. Some metrics will inherently be dependent, such as filling quality and flavor synergy.

Despite the correlations between our burrito features, a general linear model predicted overall burrito rating based on 8 of the fundamental burrito dimensions as well as Cost and Hunger Level as controlling factors. “Flavor synergy” is an ambiguous term that may be difficult to disassociate from one’s overall rating, so this was removed as a predictor. Additionally, we do not yet have sufficient data on burrito size to include it in the model. The correlation coefficients for each of the 10 predictors are plotted below. Overall, the 10 features explained 71% of the variance in overall rating.

The four significant predictors were relatively unsurprising: Non-meat filling, Meat, Salsa, and Meat:Filling. However, what is more interesting is the relative weighting of these features. While I am known to claim that meat quality is the most important aspect of a burrito, the non-meat fillings are actually given more weight in the model. The strong contribution of Salsa in the linear model supports the idea that even if a burrito is lacking in some aspects, a fine salsa can really boost the quality of the meal.

Also interesting is what is not a reliable contributor to overall burrito rating. First, a more expensive burrito does not equate to a tastier burrito. Hunger level is not a significant predictor of overall rating, contrary to the idea that a burrito will taste better if the consumer is more hungry. Even prior to accounting for other factors, hunger was only weakly positively correlated (Pearson r 2

0.04). This may be indicative of the quality training of these reviewers who are not fooled by their physiological state and remain as objective as possible for burrito ratings.

While the ratings for Fillings, Meat, Salsa, and Tortilla are heavily reliant on the quality of the ingredients, the other measures are more sensitive to the skilled techniques of the burrito chef. It may be counter-intuitive that the ingredient uniformity, temperature, and wrap integrity were not significant predictors of the overall rating. Naively, one could conclude from this that all that’s important in a burrito is the quality of its ingredients, not the care with which it was prepared. An alternative is that these indications of poor technique are more common at a place that uses poor ingredients. Another interpretation is that poor preparation (e.g. too low of a temperature) can have a negative impact on the subjective ratings of ingredient quality. However Meat:Filling, was a significant predictor of overall burrito rating. Therefore, when burrito artists are making their masterpieces, they should pay close attention to this balance and avoid skimping out too much on the meat.

Is there a recipe for a great burrito? A second linear model was designed to predict overall rating, this time based on the ingredients in each burrito. In order to be included in the model, an ingredient had to be in at least 10 burritos. Ten ingredients met this qualification: Beef, Pork, Pico de Gallo, Guacamole, Cheese, Potatoes, Sour cream, rice, beans, and sauce. Though these features had binary values, a linear model was a reasonable first pass for regression analysis [3]. However, the linear model only explained 12% of the variance in the overall rating, using the same number of features as the previous linear model. This was lower than 27% of models trained using the same number of features but with random values. From this, we conclude that the ingredients chosen for a burrito is not critical, it’s solely how the ingredients are prepared.

Correlations: Difficult to interpret and possibly spurious

It’s hard to resist looking for correlations after collecting a large multivariate dataset. Afterall, for every 20 tests I run, there will be at least one that will stop and make me think.

Analyzing the 29 burritos for which we have a size estimate, volume is weakly negatively correlated with cost (Pearson r = -0.38, p = 0.04). That is, when ordering a fancy burrito (e.g. Lobster burrito from El Zarape), don’t expect to be full. However, it is hard to believe that this would hold true to both extremes. Extremely cheap burritos (<$5) probably will not be extremely large, and a “Monster burrito” can run >$10. Though it is not a significant predictor for overall burrito rating, we’ll keep an eye on this metric in the future though to see how size relates to other burrito dimensions, linearly or non-linearly.

One of the strongest correlations between burrito dimensions was between Meat and Filling. There are a number of possible interpretations of this, including

  1. A restaurant with good meat is more likely to have good filling (mildly interesting)
  2. The meat and fillings interact to enhance or detract from one another’s flavor (most interesting)
  3. It is difficult for a reviewer to rate these two dimensions (least interesting, most likely)
  4. A combination of these and other explanations

In order to address hypothesis (1), we performed a case study at my favorite burrito shack, The Taco Stand in downtown La Jolla . By only analyzing California burritos at The Taco Stand, we still have a positive correlation between Meat and Filling (Spearman r = 0.69, p = 0.04, N=9). The effect was similar when including all burritos rated at The Taco Stand (Spearman r = 0.65, p = 0.007). This test concludes that the Meat and Filling correlation is not simply due to hypothesis (1).

Testing hypotheses (2) and (3) will require very specialized data sets. For example, reviewing many carne asada and carnitas burritos from a given restaurant would hold the fillings (guac and pico) constant while solely changing the meat. Ideally, one meat would be great at this restaurant and the other would be terrible. Then, we could test if there was a difference between the Filling ratings between these two groups (good meat and poor meat). The null result is interesting in this case, in which there is no difference in Filling rating between the burrito with good meat and the type with bad meat. The conclusion would be to reject hypotheses (2) and (3). However, this conclusion will require high power (and so a large sample size) to support.

Reviewer ratings vs. Yelp ratings

Lastly, how does this data set relate to aggregate ratings from users on Google and Yelp, both out of 5 stars? While Google and Yelp were both highly correlated with each other (Pearson r = 0.66), they were correlated to a lesser extent to the overall burrito rating (Yelp: Pearson r = 0.34 Google: r = 0.27). This makes sense because we are only rating a subset of the menu at these taco shops. To my surprise, the Tortilla rating was a better predictor than the overall burrito rating when these were these two dimensions were used to predict Yelp rating in a linear model (Tortilla: GLM coefficient = 0.39 +/- 0.13, Z = 2.9, p = 0.003, Overall: GLM coefficient = -0.12 +/- 0.14, Z = -0.8, p = 0.38).

We are certainly not satisfied with our sparse sampling of the burritos around San Diego county. Assembling a reliable must-try list for a burrito enthusiast will require visiting many new taco shops and increasing our sampling at the current ones. The burritosofsandiego Tumblr will help here, and perhaps we will integrate some of its data into future analysis. While doing this, we hope to continue to characterize the spectrum of burritos found across San Diego.

While the current analysis was limited to linear models, future analysis will investigate nonlinear effects across the burrito dimensions. For example, is it possible for a burrito to recover from a Meat quality rating of 1/5 to achieve an above-average overall rating? As the data set grows, nonlinear techniques and machine learning approaches can be utilized to extract more insight on the burritos across San Diego. Furthermore, case studies of specific burritos reviewed by many individuals will allow for more controlled analysis.

In writing this, I welcome and hope to receive suggestions on data collection improvements and analytics ideas. Additionally, by opening up this data set, I encourage anyone who is interested to perform their own analysis and share their conclusions! Most importantly, I hope that readers will contribute to this data set by filling out this form .

Thank you to everyone who rated a burrito and provided feedback to improve this system. I am especially grateful to the multiple-burrito raters including Sage Aronson (4 burritos), Ricardo Serrano (6 burritos), and Emily Cheng (21 burritos). And thank you to the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program for providing a stipend with sufficient disposable income to eat a lot of burritos.

[1] Estimate 3.2 million people in San Diego county eat an average of 1 burrito per month.

[2] A Google Scholar search for “california burrito” yields 15 results, all of which are not accessible or irrelevant.


The Definitive Guide to All 15 Burrito Styles Available in the United States

This past week, I hosted ESPN's burrito correspondent, Anna Maria Barry Jester of the company's FiveThirtyEight data-mining site. We ate at Athenian Burgers #3 in Buena Park, which is a competitor in FiveThirtyEight's epic Burrito Bracket competition that seeks to find the greatest burrito in America by facing off Yelp stats versus actual critics.

Anna Maria loved her Athenian Polish sausage breakfast burrito, although I worry about it advancing, given it's facing off against the legendary Manny's El Tepeyac AND Al and Bea's. She told me about her burrito adventures so far, from the Deep South to Santa Fe to Ventura and beyond. And as she recounted one cylindrical god (or imposter) after another, it got me thinking of all the different burrito styles in America. While you may think you know them all, you'd be surprised at the amount of burrito diversity in this country, from the Mexican hamburger of Denver to burritos in El Paso that function more as tacos, to the monstrosities of Taco Bell, austerity of a bean-and-cheese, and more. So, without further ado, in no particular order of deliciousness…

Bean-and-Cheese Burrito

The first burrito to spread across the United States, and still stocked by all the pioneer fast-food chains, from Taco Bell to Del Taco to TacoTime and more. Beans, cheese, and a light sauce–so deviously simple, and now usually found only at fast-food chains and the homes of Mexicans, because more popular nowadays are monstrosities.

Juarez Burrito

The best name I could think of for the burritos of northwest Mexico and El Paso: small, simple things usually stuffed with a guisado (a stew) and nothing more–no guac, no cheese, no nada. Usually folded so that two flaps stick out of the side, as opposed to getting completely wrapped into a tight tube. Severely underrated.

Pocho Burrito

The best name I could think of for the burritos of a previous generation of Southern Californians: the ones in big tortillas with your choice of meat, rice, and beans. The burritos I grew up eating, the kind you'll get if you enter a taquería in Southern California. No sour cream, no veggies–just the meat, beans and rice. And, yes, insufferable hipsters: rice. The only people who think rice doesn't belong in a burrito are people who didn't grow up with burritos from birth.

Mission Burrito

San Francisco's gift to the world, a gargantuan beast where most everything goes inside a massive flour tortilla, then the results get wrapped in foil. Key to the Mission style is the preparation: down the assembly line. Style copied wholesale by Chipotle, which most of the U.S. still doesn't know.

Carne Asada Burrito

Somehow, San Diego has claimed what's really just a meat burrito with guacamole, salsa and cheese into their own creation, and unique. Um, okay…much better to claim is, of course…
[
California Burrito

The carne asada burrito (otherwise called a “burrito” by everyone else in the world), but stuffed with French fries. Still amazed it hasn't gone nationwide, and still mostly in San Diego (although OC has more than a few spots that stock it).

Multicultural Burrito

Most famous nowadays as the domain of Asian-Mex ala Kogi, but old hat in Southern California, where pastrami burritos have reigned since at least the 1950s, and Polish sausage breakfast burritos since the 1980s. NOT a wrap, as that's a separate, lesser category, the multicultural burrito fuses the pocho burrito with parts of the fish burrito (the emphasis on a secret sauce) to create something new.

Breakfast Burrito

A Southern California and New Mexico staple, although done quite differently. In New Mexico, the fillings are beans, eggs, meat and some red or green chile–simple, small. Southern California, of course, likes them monstrous, with potatoes thrown in, usually of the hash brown or homestyle variety. Am surprised breakfast burritos haven't spread across the United States–but we're getting there…

A burrito for gabachos who are scared of calling a burrito a burrito, who think their burritos don't deserve the name burrito because burritos don't have such classy ingredients–did I say burrito enough?

Wet Burrito

If I had to guess where the wet burrito was born, I'd say Southern California. Usually covered in cheese, always drowned in red or green sauce and–this is the most important part–as large as a brick. But wherever it was born, it's the bastard stepchild of the…
[

Smothered/Enchilada-Style Burrito

…this style of burrito. It's essentially a wet burrito save for three things: the name (“smothered” in New Mexico and Colorado “enchilada-style” in Arizona's copper country) the size (usually smaller), the lack of a combo plate, and–this is the most important part–that the sauce used for smothered and enchilada-style burritos is actually delicious, as opposed to the super-vast majority of wet burrito sauces, which mostly taste like tin.

Fish Burrito

Definitely a Southern California thing due to our proximity to the coast and Baja California. Where fish burritos are particularly distinctive is in the use of a spiked crema to add sweetness to the seafood, and the slaw that goes with it. This is where white rice and black beans first reared their bland little head in the world of burritos…

Mexican Hamburger

A smothered burrito exclusive to Denver: Denver-style chile, hamburger patty inside–the greatest meal in the United States.

Chimichanga

Fried burrito born in the Sonoran desert. Stuffings are usually just meat and beans.

Fast-Food Burrito

Name for the wackjob creations from the Taco Bells, Del Tacos, Taco Times, and all the other chains of the world. Sometimes good usually vile. But at the forefront of burrito evolution, so there's that…


FiveThirtyEight: 10 views that summarize the 'woke' movement

Written by Perry Bacon Jr (my favorite member of the FiveThirtyEight team) here:

The United States has often not lived up to the ideals of its founders or the notion that it is an “exceptional” nation that should be a model for other countries. Because the U.S. has disempowered its Native and Black populations and women throughout its history, America has never been a true or full democracy.

White people, particularly white men, are especially advantaged in American society (“white privilege”).

People of color in America suffer from not only individualized and overt acts of racism (someone uses a racial slur, for example) but a broader “systemic” and “institutional” racism.

Capitalism as currently practiced in America is deeply flawed, giving way too much money and power to the wealthy. America’s economy should not be set up in a way that allows people to accumulate billions of dollars in wealth.

People should be able to identify as whatever gender they prefer or not to identify by gender at all.

The existence of a disparity — for example, Black, Latino or women being underrepresented in a given profession or industry — is evidence of discrimination, even if no overt acts of discrimination are visible.

Black Americans deserve reparations to make up for slavery and post-slavery racial discrimination.

Law enforcement agencies, from local police departments to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are designed to defend America’s status quo as much as any public safety mission. When they treat people of color or the poor badly, they are working as they are designed. So these agencies must be defunded, abolished, disbanded or at least dramatically changed if the goal is to improve their treatment of people of color and the poor.

Trump’s political rise was not an aberration or a surprise. Politicians in both parties, particularly Republicans, have long used racialized language to demean people of color — Trump was just more direct and crude about it. And his messages resonated with a lot of Americans, particularly white people and conservatives, because lots of Americans have negative views about people of color, Black people in particular.

Perry Bacon Jr also wrote a followup with more analysis:

Some polling on some of these ascendent issues by party affiliation:

Some of these issues do not have majority support from Dems, the argument is just that they are an influence and that the Democratic party will often meet these activists 1/2 or 1/4 of the way.

There is a lot more in these articles but I thought it was interesting to see an analysis of these issues from a somewhat more neutral party. Perry Bacon Jr is extremely level-headed and data driven and good at looking at issues without an activist mindset despite the left lean of FiveThirtyEight.

Here's the annoying thing. I agree with just about all of this, but because I don't agree with weaponizing these ideas to oust even the most modest of transgressors, I must be an "EnLiGhTeNeD CeNtRiSt".

No you're just on Twitter too much probably. Or you're misunderstanding why the far left disagrees with you. I've yet to encounter any informed leftist that will attack you for giving a chance to people who are ignorant.

Same. Given the title of the piece I'm a little struck by how many of the tenets I have no real problem with. Nothing strikes me as outright wrong with exception of 7. Not a surprise that the implications drawn from these statements can vary so widely, though.

Being a fan of Sam Harris and a variety of other good faith critics of wokeness can leave liberals with the impression that wokeness is an extreme ideology, but when you really examine the positions (and not the inane anecdote of the week in which a position was clumsily applied by a sophomore at some college somewhere), they line up very conventionally with liberal views. This list was much more useful than just the gloss of “wokeness,” and highlights that the left has a tactical communication problem that gets confused with an ideological problem.

Yeah I feel the same - with the exception of a few (#7, #9), these are pretty unobjectionable. But I do think a bunch are understated.

For example, most of the woke people I know don't stop at "systemic racism exists" - it's much worse than that in their view, like: "systemic racism exists and is present in most systems". Another example: it's not merely that white people have a privilege, it's that white privilege is the most important/operative privilege in explaining social phenomena.

Oh no, don't summon lvl100centrist or whatever his name is

According to whom, exactly?

what does weaponizing mean in this sentence?

As a centerist, I agree with very few of these. America was designed as a playground for the rich. Initially only wealthy land owners were allowed to vote, as they were seen as the only ones responsible enough to lead a country. Even now serious actions have been taken to keep the voices of the people quiet. Alan Greenspan admitted publicly to causing distress in the economy to distract people so they wouldn't assume more political control over the system.

Identity politics poses a deeply false and toxic narritive that your success has been sabotaged by an ever present zeitgeist against minorities by your own peers. It isn't vices like greed or the consumerist ideology, it's your neighbors, teachers, and coworkers. Can you not see that these ideas are dangerously far left? They turn us against each other while the real problems go unaddressed, leaving American politics an all out brawl.


America's Best Burrito

In the search for America's Best Burrito, FiveThirtyEight analyzed data on 67,391 restaurants to find the 64 top burritos in America. Then they went on the road to taste them all, Spencer Makenize's has been placed in the Top 20 best burritos list.

We would love to hear your thoughts on our Fish and Shrimp Burrito next time your in. Here is what's inside a generous portion of grilled fish & shrimp, chopped cabbage, onion, cilantro, white rice, salsa & our Spencer Sauce all wrapped in a large flour tortilla.


FiveThirtyEight Uses Data to Find Nation’s Best Burrito - Recipes

How to Find Stories in Data

Presentation for the Associated Collegiate Press 2017 San Francisco Midwinter Convention.

Get involved with crowdsourced data journalism

Other than learning how to use a spreadsheet and to use it everyday for all of your note and record taking (journalism related or not) -- if you want to do data journalism, then join a crowdsourced project. Help them build data for the public, and get first-hand experience of how the nitty-gritty of data collection becomes the fuel for accountability stories.

Data entry is always dull, but it is always necessary. Might as well get into it by doing data entry for a great journalistic purpose.

A few ongoing, nationwide projects:

    - A project started by an independent journalist who recognized long before Ferguson how pitiful the official record-keeping was for police shootings. - ProPublica's initiative to collect and count hate crimes and bias incidents and to create a national dataset. - BuzzFeed has logged more than 1,500 of the Trump Administration's business and personal connections. Use their spreadsheet and help them find more connections. (Github repo) - Believe it or not, America's elections do not produce a convenient, centralized source of data. This project aims to create the "most comprehensive election results data in human history".

Blogs, feeds, chats, and lists to follow to learn about data journalism and engage with the community:

MuckRock - This FOIA-filing service is free, invaluable repository of public records requests (and their responses) and expert knowledge.

Source: An OpenNews project The best place to find both thoughtful essays and deep, technical writeups from journalist-developers, engineers, designers, and advocates.

NICAR-L A mailing list for the National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporters and is probably the most active mailing list in journalism. it has a mix of investigative journalists and people who are focused purely on the visualization and data science side

News Nerdery "A Slack channel/international meta organization to foster news nerd collaboration and knowledge sharing."

Sunlight Foundation The Sunlight Foundation is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses technology, open data, policy analysis and journalism to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent to all.

Philip Meyer Journalism Award A contest from The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting that recognizes the best journalism done using social research methods.

The Art and Science of Data-Driven Journalism An exhaustive Tow Center report on the state of data journalism, based on interviews with its top practitioners.

The Data Journalism Handbook A free, open source reference book for anyone interested in the emerging field of data journalism.

IRE Awards The IRE Awards is the annual contest of Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. recognizing the best in investigative reporting by print, broadcast and online media.

Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Widely considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzer Prizes, awarded for the best accountability reporting to publications big and small.

Data is Plural Newsletter A weekly newsletter of useful/curious datasets, curated by BuzzFeed Data Editor Jeremy Singer Vine.

Databases, datasets, and data portals

If only finding data were the hard part of data journalism. But knowing what data exists, and being able to at least "touch" (i.e download) it, is a great first step.

OpenDataNetwork A search tool for Socrata city data portals. One of the best ways to find and download structured, spreadsheet-ready data of public interest.

MuckRock Not just a site for making record requests, but a home for public data and documents of high interest to journalism and activists.

College Scorecard Data from the government to help the public understand the costs and performance of every university.

Guidestar IRS Form 990s are a treasure trove of financial and contact data for American non-profits.

Chronicle Title IX Tracker The federal investigations into alleged mishandling of sexual violence reports by colleges. of A great example of a data project built through public records requests.

Data.gov The home of the U.S. Government’s open data. A great place for at least learning what exists.

Transparent California The salary for every public California employee, including university employees, over several years.

Google Trends An accessible interface to query how the world queries.

fivethirtyeight/data data - Data and code behind the stories and interactives at FiveThirtyEight

BuzzFeedNews/everything everything - An index of all our open-source data, analysis, libraries, tools, and guides.

r/datasets A relatively niche subreddit with people who know where to find data, and even more people who describe questions they hope to explain with data.

State Secrets: Open records laws across the nation With state and local government secrecy on the rise in many U.S. jurisdictions, this database offers a view of state open records and open meetings laws, and provides information about how to get what you are looking for, as well as ensure that government is operating in the sunlight.

FEC Campaign Finance A great example of accessible, important, interesting, and voluminous government data.

What I love most about data-driven journalism is how its stories can be done in the open, not dependent on privileged access but on a reporter's willingness to work through the data and details. Consequently, the "How I did this" are not just inspirational, but of high practical value.

How the Sun Sentinel reported its Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of off-duty cops We suspected plenty of other cops were routinely speeding, but how could we document it?

David Fahrenthold tells the behind-the-scenes story of his year covering Trump A reporter reveals how he investigated Trump’s claims on his donations to charity.

Paul Kiel and Karen Weise Discuss the Stars and Slackers of the Bailout ProPublica's Paul Kiel and Karen Weise discuss the expiration of the bailout and the effect it has had on the nation’s economy.

A spreadsheet’s star turn: ‘Spotlight’ gave data geeks a moment of glory – 3 to read It’s not often that a spreadsheet has an important role in a movie. But a spreadsheet does indeed get its big-screen debut in the movie Spotlight, which recently won the Oscars for Best Picture and…

Spotlight, the movie: A personal view – 3 to read Lessons learned from survivors of sexual abuse, the strange intoxication of Hollywood & the power of investigative journalism

How NPR made its ‘Arrested Development’ graphic: ‘We like to build useful stuff’ “I have friends who are much more into it than I am,” says reporter who catalogued every in-joke.

What Ethan Swan Learned From Tracking Every Tattoo in the NBA Ethan Swan and I couldn’t see the players’ tattoos from Section 217 of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but Swan still knew who was inked and who wasn’t. LeBron James? Obviously. Chris …

About the AJC’s investigation of doctor misconduct Learn more about the national investigation and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalists who examined the handling of physician sexual misconduct in all 50 states and how this investigation was done

Meet the Man Who Spends 10 Hours a Day Tracking Police Shootings How many people have been killed by police in America? No one really knows. One man in Reno, Nevada, is on a quest to find out.

The DIY Effort to Count Who Police Kill Police-tracking sites put their official counterparts to shame. Can the DOJ learn from them?

Behind the Story: Tracking problem police officers in Florida http://ire.org/blog/on-the-road/2011/12/20/behind-story-tracking-police/
A Smarter Way to Count the People Killed by Cops Over the past 24 years, there have been a combined 55 fatal civilian shootings at the hands of British and Welsh police officers. Cops in the United States topped that figure within the first 24 days…

How Reuters investigated the preventable deaths of drug-addicted babies http://ire.org/blog/ire-news/2016/04/05/behind-story-how-reuters-investigated-preventable-/ How the Los Angeles Times turned an anonymous tip into a front-page story No such records exist. That’s the message Paige St. John received when she requested audit records on the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s GPS monitoring program.

Decoding the N.F.L. Database to Find 100 Missing Concussions The N.F.L. logged 887 concussions from 1996 to 2001, and they served as the backbone for 13 research papers on head injuries.

How I Investigated Uber Surge Pricing in D.C. The data and processes that show some D.C. neighborhoods wait far longer for Uber service.

How The Chicago Reporter Made 'Settling for Misconduct' For hundreds of police lawsuits, we needed good data management, strong collaborations, and a bigger chart.

How We Made "Failure Factories" And why we kicked off our investigative series with a stand-alone graphic

Inside the Wall Street Journal's Prediction Calculator How a black box graphic fueled unexpected engagement with readers

A college journalist's guide to public records For the savvy college journalist looking to get an exclusive scoop, public records can be the perfect secret weapon. Here's how you can wield it.

The Stories of Everyday Lives, Hidden in Reams of Data Data journalists use data to tell stories that help readers make better choices and live better lives.

How we identified the nation's worst charities Our reporters zeroed in on charities that consistently kept less than 33 cents of every dollar donated.

Homicide Watch: An Interview Homicide Watch is one of those projects that stays in your head. If you tell or edit or assemble stories for a living, it’s also likely to change the way you see the narratives you’re making. Founder Laura Amico is joined here by Chris Amico, the project’s technology lead, in a discussion about Homicide Watch and its implications for the evolution of journalism.

Newtown Sparked a Revolution in Data Collection That Could Actually Reduce Death by Guns in America Five days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Barack Obama delivered remarks in which he stressed that, this time, the nation .

Announcing PolitiFact The site is a simple, old newspaper concept that’s been fundamentally redesigned for the web. We’ve taken the political “truth squad” story, where a reporter takes a campaign commercial or a stump speech, fact checks it and writes a story. We’ve taken that concept, blown it apart into it’s fundamental pieces, and reassembled it into a data-driven website covering the 2008 presidential election.

Research chat: Sarah Cohen of the New York Times on the state of data journalism and what reporters need to know - Journalist's Resource 2014 conversation with a leading practitioner of data journalism. Cohen is editor of computer-assisted reporting at the New York Times and board president of Investigative Reporters & Editors.

A Big Article About Wee Things The wee things that we see as part of graphics, maps, visualizations (wee things in space) as well as the wee things we experience as part of interactions, navigation, and usability (wee things in time)

NYT’s Sarah Cohen will make you realize how much better your public records game could be Cohen recently gave California fellows a master class in how to approach public records. In her talk, Cohen stressed the level of pre-reporting that needs to be done before filing a request. Here are a few key takeaways.

Bulletproofing the Data Project stabile - Computer-Assisted Reporting class, Stabile investigative reporting program, Spring 2014

Deadly Force: How This Series Was Put Together http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/dcpolice/deadlyforce/police1_method.htm Ex-Googler says she exposed company-wide pay inequality with crowdsourced spreadsheet When thousands of Google employees organized to share their salaries internally — highlighting troubling patterns in the way people were paid — Google got angry, according to a former Google engineer

How one Washington Post reporter uses pen and paper to make his tracking of Trump get noticed I think I knew there was going to be a lot of futility to the process. I was looking for a way to make the futility look interesting and give people something to follow.

We’ve Stopped Talking About Domestic Violence And The NFL In early September, the story of Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City casino exploded in the media, sparking a debate about how to prevent — and respond to — domesti…

Journalism and the Scientific Tradition If you are a journalist, or thinking of becoming one, you may have already noticed this: They are raising the ante on what it takes to be a journalist.

Learn how PolitiFact does its work Editor’s note: We often get questions about how we select claims to check and how we make our rulings. So a couple of times a year, we publish this overview of our procedures and the principles for Truth-O-Meter rulings. PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida, as is PunditFact, a site devoted to fact-checking pundits. The PolitiFact state sites are run by news organizations that have partnered with .

MaryJo Webster's training materials for data journalism A huge list of tutorials and guides on Excel, database, and other highly useful data skills and tools.

The Quartz Guide to Bad Data An exhaustive reference to problems seen in real-world data along with suggestions on how to resolve them.

The Voices of Patient Harm More than 1 million patients suffer harm each year in U.S. health care facilities. Often, their harm isn’t acknowledged even as they live with the consequences. ProPublica set out to capture their stories. Here is what we learned.

A very truncated list of projects to note (and copy), and stories about and from data.

Death to ‘Data Journalism’ And long live “fact journalism.”

The NFL’s Uneven History Of Punishing Domestic Violence The elevator doors open and he drops her. She falls to her knees, and then to the floor, but her feet prevent the doors from closing. The man is holding the woman’s purse as he tries to move her un…

What the Fox Knows FiveThirtyEight is a data journalism organization. Let me explain what we mean by that, and why we think the intersection of data and journalism is so important. If you’re a casual reader of …

Final Forms What death certificates can tell us, and what they can’t.

Scott Klein on the Forgotten History of Visualization in News Being a history nerd, I started wondering how far our history goes, and was very surprised, indeed, about how far I could go, said Scott Klein of ProPublica. "It turns out data journalism goes so far back [that] it actually predates newspapers."

Spotlight Church abuse report: Church allowed abuse by priest for years - The Boston Globe Why did it take a succession of three cardinals and many bishops 34 years to place children out of John J. Geoghan’s reach?

Epitaphs for Lost Officers What began as an experiment for an 18-year-old kid who dreamed of becoming a police officer has evolved into a research tool for academics and a teaching and training resource for hundreds of police departments across the country. Prince George's County is among the local jurisdictions that use the site to teach recruits about the perils of policing.

Workers’ Comp Benefits: How Much is a Limb Worth? Depending on where you work, your compensation for the same injury could be drastically different than in other states. Compare them all here.

Homicide Watch D.C. Homicide Watch D.C. is a community-oriented news site that aims to provide clear information about homicides and the tools necessary to record, report and share our experiences and losses within the District of Columbia.

Documenting Hate - ProPublica Nobody knows how many hate crimes and bias incidents take place each year in America. Help us track them.

Till death do us part: A Post and Courier Special Report More than 300 women were shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death over the past decade by men in South Carolina, dying at a rate of one every 12 days while the state does little to stem the carnage from domestic abuse.

Explore the AJC's investigation of physician sexual misconduct List of articles and multimedia from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s national investigation of doctor sexual misconduct cases and how they are handled and tolerated by a broken system

City rape statistics, investigations draw concern One of the best examples of how even bad data, when systematically scrutinized, can expose the most obfuscated truths.

AJC investigation: Atlanta School Test Cheating Scandal In-depth coverage of suspicious student test scores in Atlanta, Georgia and across the nation by the AJC

Previously, On Arrested Development NPR's slightly obsessive guide to the running gags on Arrested Development, updated for season 4.

Police shootings 2016 database Since 2015, The Post has created a database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty.

About – Electionland We have created a pop-up newsroom staffed by about 700 journalists and journalism students. It will find and authenticate social media posts, and sift through Google Trends data, SMS and WhatsApp messages, and reports from the national nonpartisan election monitoring group Election Protection. The newsroom will write stories and pass story leads to hundreds of local reporters.

Help Us Map TrumpWorld We logged more than 1,500 people and organizations connected to the incoming administration. Now we want your help to understand them and to add more.

Centinela Valley schools chief amassed $663,000 in compensation in 2013 Documents obtained by the Daily Breeze from the Los Angeles County Office of Education show that although Jose Fernandez had a base pay of $271,000 in the 2013 calendar year, his other benefits amounted to nearly $400,000.

The Real Story Of 2016 On Friday at noon, a Category 5 political cyclone that few journalists saw coming will deposit Donald Trump atop the Capitol Building, where he’ll be sworn in as the 45th president of the United St…

Students ostensibly have the same access to public data and records as professionals and thus, the same potential for high-impact work. A few examples of student work, both individual and collaborative, that took an empirical approach to journalism:

News21: America’s Weed Rush Explore America's Weed Rush data

Driving with suspended license top crime in Menlo Park, many lose cars - Peninsula Press Menlo Park police citations and vehicle impounds for driving with a suspended license nearly tripled from 2008 to 2014, and many impounded cars are never recovered by owners.

Officer Down Memorial Page Chris Cosgriff, created the Officer Down Memorial Page from his freshman dorm room, after reading about police officers killed in the line of duty.

Are Traffic Stops Prone to Racial Bias? An attempt to find out confronts a frayed patchwork of data across the country.

Human Trafficking Hidden in Dozens of Maryland Communities While Authorities Struggle to Fight It Traffickers find vulnerable young women, seduce them with promises of security, then force them into the sex trade.

Robin Hood in Reverse How universities force working-class students to pay thousands of dollars in hidden fees to athletic departments awash in red ink


Tools for Schools

Tools for Schools offers topic-specific policy and resource materials to assist schools in meeting the new nutrition standards. Refer to the latest regulations, find free nutrition education curricula, or get ideas for adding tasty, kid-friendly foods to enhance your school meals program.

Nutrition Education and Promotion

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Recipes and Culinary Techniques for Schools

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Procurement

Refer to these resources on good procurement practices, competitive purchasing, and forecasting. Be sure to take advantage of USDA Foods:

School Nutrition Improvement

Look to these resources for success stories, best practices, and how-to-guides on enhancing your school meals and lunchroom environment:

Policy Guidance

Refer to the latest regulations, policy memos, technical assistance, and guidance materials:


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