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6 Ways to Compare the Candidates (Besides Electoral Votes)

When electoral maps overwhelm and statistical margins of error confound, pollsters and political commentators struggle to measure the outcome of the presidential race. Here are a few alternatives for predicting the election.

1. Check the CafePress Meter

CafePress, the maker of customized t-shirts and other swag, has been tracking the sales of candidate paraphernalia since January. The candidates have inspired the public to design nearly 5.8 million custom items for sale on the site. Obama's sales peaked in June, accounting for 77 percent of all sales through the website, and currently out-sell McCain. However, in mid-September, McCain merchandise outpaced Obama items. Throughout the campaign, Sarah Palin merchandise has almost always beaten Joe Biden's sales numbers.

2. Gauge Their Soda Pop-ularity

jones-soda-prez.jpgCampaign supporters vote by the bottle at Jones Cola. The company is tracking the candidates' soda pop-ularity at Campaign Cola 2008. Joe six-packs everywhere can choose between Yes We Can Cola and Pure McCain Cola, or even Ron Paul Revolution Cola and Capitol Hillary Cola if they're nostalgic for the primaries. (As of Tuesday afternoon, Obama was ahead of McCain, 15,216 bottles to 3,726. Ron Paul's soda-loving followers have put him in second place, with 6,606 bottles sold.)

3. Look to the Stars (We Don't Mean Matt Damon or Jon Voight)

At least one astrologer predicts that Leo Obama will win over Virgo McCain. Another astrologer predicts an Obama win with a margin of at least 10 percent. Astrologer Raj Kumar Sharma noted that America is entering the age of Aquarius. Also, by the Chinese calendar, 2008 is the year of the Rat, the same as McCain's birth year. Obama was born in the year of the Ox, and 2009 is also the year of the Ox.

4. Have a Facebook-Friend-Off

Facebook may not yet rule the world, but if it did, Obama would out-friend McCain more than 4 to 1. Of course, Facebook's younger crowd might skew the results, but according to professor Christine Williams, the social networking edge can translate into a real-world boost of 3 percent.

5. Poll the Trick-or-Treaters

Voting with Halloween costumes instead of ballots, Obama would be ahead 55% to 45%. The costume website also breaks down the presidential mask popularity by state, in case you want to compare it to the electoral college. Mask predictions held true according to statistics back to 1980. They might be more accurate than current election polls as well.

6. Let the Redskins Decide

Legend has it that the football forecasts the winning party of the presidential election. Since 1936, every time the Washington Redskins win their final homegame before the presidential election, the incumbent party wins. This did not hold true in 2004 when the Redskins lost but incumbent Republican Bush won. Good news for Democrats—last night, the Pittsburgh Steelers marched into Washington and defeated the Skins 23-6.

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Frank Ockenfels/AMC
Breaking Bad: An Oral History
Frank Ockenfels/AMC
Frank Ockenfels/AMC

The Oral History of Breaking Bad. The people behind the groundbreaking show tell its story to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its premiere.

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A Neopets Romance. This married couple met online when they were 10 and 12 years old.

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How Americans of the 1960s Really Felt About Nuclear Fallout Shelters. Michigan State University surveyed 3514 adults about their feelings regarding preparedness for a nuclear war.

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Your Coworkers are Not Your Friends. A bit of formality is appropriate among people who did not choose who they spend all day with.

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10 Graves That Are Remarkably Secure. They keep grave robbers out and zombies in.

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


Getty Images

Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
Getty Images

In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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