Thursday, July 25, 2002

Virtual Liberalism

The Liberal Magic Eight Ball!

Found it via the cool site section of National Review

Blogchalking problems

Mike Tremoulet at Coffee Corner says that Blogchalking doesn't seem to work very well. Of course, it looks like the dreaded blogger archive bug is affecting him, so just scroll down to see the exact post. My largest problem with blogchalking is that it lists by country, then by city and neighborhood. Yeah, this would be good for certain areas, but It doesn't really work outside of major towns. Yeah, you can say you are in the Queens part of NYC, and that has some actual informative value. However, if you are in a relatively small town, then it does no good. I'm in Belews Creek, a tiny little dot on the map. If I wanted to use a blogchalk google search to find people near me, I would have to do individual searches for each and every town near me. If I could do a Blogchalk search by state, then this would be much more useful. I know, not all countries have this sort of state/province division, but as an optional field, it has a lot more relevance to finding people near you than neighborhood ever would as a mandatory field. P.S.: Found this via Tarheel Pundit.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Makes telemarketing seem mild by comparison.

I found this interesting story via the Corner.
`But Officer, I Didn't Do Anything!' LAKELAND - They call it a ``Voluntary Roadside Interview.'' But for hundreds of motorists flagged down by state troopers Monday on Interstate 4, there was nothing voluntary about it. Off-duty troopers, hired at $30 an hour, picked motorists at random and directed them to pull off the interstate into a rest stop, where Palm Pilot- toting interviewers waited. No, this roadside checkpoint wasn't looking for drunken drivers. The survey, which will cost about $150,000, was commissioned by the Florida High Speed Rail Authority to gauge public interest in riding a proposed 120 mph bullet train. The experience left some motorists wondering what's next: Publix hiring troopers to corral interstate travelers for a marketing survey? ``They freaked me out,'' said Alan Kent, pulled over Monday on his way home to Clearwater after a concert. ``I thought they had pulled me over to search me.'' A woman traveling with Kent, who declined to give her name, was even more blunt: ``It's illegal,'' she said. Not true, survey officials say. They said they checked with a lawyer for the Florida Department of Transportation. ``The bottom line is, we can do it. It's well within the law,'' said Adrian Share of HNTB Corp., general consultants for the rail authority. ``With the cooperation of state troopers, the state is allowed to pull people over just to seek information.'' Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment two years ago that requires the state to begin building a high- speed rail network by November 2003. The train could run down the median of I-4. Last week, the rail authority, which is responsible for building the rail system, conducted traffic interviews at I-4 entrance ramps in the Lakeland area. Sunday and Monday, the authority set up shop at an I-4 rest stop east of Lakeland. Bruce Williams, who helped design the survey, said interrogations are the only way to accurately target the people most likely to use a bullet train: I-4 commuters and tourists. The authority could take down license plate numbers and mail surveys to registered owners, but that also could backfire, Williams said. ``You don't have to stop traffic, but you get a very large negative reaction of `How did you find me? Big Brother is watching me through cameras.' '' Each interview took about 90 seconds. Questioners asked drivers about their travel habits, their daily commute and - a question some didn't feel was particularly relevant - how much money they make. `Income can be a very important determinant of people's willingness to choose a certain mode of travel,'' Williams said. Respondents were asked for a general income range and were asked to pick one, not a specific figure, he said. ``If people refuse to answer it, that's fine. We're not insisting that everybody answer every question,'' Williams said. David Vogel, directing the interviews on I-4, said most motorists were ``understanding and patient.'' But Farouk Kahn of Orlando said the authority's methods were sneaky. Instead of signs saying ``Traffic Survey Ahead,'' westbound traffic was greeted with red cones, ``Reduced Speed Ahead'' signs and drawings of men digging. ``I thought there was construction going on or something,'' Kahn said. ``It's like a tricky thing. You should tell the people instead of saying one thing and then doing something else.'' The traffic survey will be repeated at the rest stop Wednesday and then wrap up, officials said.
This sounds very, very shady. This to me, strikes me as no different than a cop coming to knock on your door, saying they would like to "ask you a few questions" and then trying to get you to switch your long distance provider or sell you vinyl siding.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Nazgul invade Jerusalem, Orcish hordes approaching Tel Aviv

It appears Saruman is working for Hamas, according to Dave Trowbridge. Of course, this follows up recent news about Bilbo Baggins being charged with war crimes.
Poor Brits. You have to feel sorry for their cops. First off, msot of them aren't allowed to carry sidearms, and must wave sticks threateningly at the criminals they are trying to apprehend. Imagine being in a car chase, while driving a battery powered cross between a minivan and a golf cart with a top speed of 10 miles per hour!
"Despondence, disillusionment and ridicule are just some of the experiences and feelings officers get with regards to this vehicle," he says. "While taking the vehicle out for a test drive around the gardens, everyone from garden staff to schoolchildren and OAPs started laughing and jeering when they saw us in it."
The sad part is that these are replacements for Ford Escorts. I'm a huge fan of Fords myself, But I would enver, ever want to put policemen behind the wheel of them. Its just not right. Myself, I think we need to send Sheriff Hege from Davidson County across the pond, to show them how a police department is run. Incidentally, I should probably call and offer to redo his website. I'm pretty sure the designer managed to break every good rule of web design making that atrocity.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Have you ever had one of those socially awkward situations, that shouldn't be awkward at all? Just last week, my wife and I joined the church we had been attenidng for a little over a year. Its a wonderful church, not too big to be cold and impersonal, not so small it makes it difficult to do the things you want to do. The Pastor there is a very dynamic person, who has come in and really shaken things up quite a bit. One of the areas he has put the largest emphasis on is heavier involvement in the community, and cooperation with other churches. For Christmas, our church has traditionally had a huge community Chistmas tree, since we are right in the center of town. Starting in WWII, the tree was lit up in honor of the veterans from our town, and several churches all got together for the ceremony. This year, we had 8 or 10 churches all together for the service, where in the last decade or so, the inter-congregation service attendance had dropped off altogether. However, in addition to renewing old traditions he has also tried to start up some new ones. On Wednesday nights, and Saturday nights, we have begun some Community outreach services. Typically, there will be a free meal, and some sort of program or entertainment. It isn't set up at all like a typical service, and it is much more relaxed, ideally making it more appealing to those who may be visitors, unfamiliar with the church. The most recent of these services was this past Saturday. The pastor had asked the choir from a local black church to come and sing as part of the service. Our church is 99% white. I don't want to make it sound as if we are some sort of racist group that doesn't accept minorities, because that isn't it at all. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, "11 o’clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America". Because Church congregations are tied to family and tradition so strongly, this sort of division will likely go on for hundreds more years. In the times that black families have visited our church, If anything, people have probably been more likely to welcome them to the church, and try to make them too comfortable. In fact, I'm almost afraid that we sometimes greet them too enthusiastically, wanting to assure ourselves that there is no reason why someone of another race would not be welcomed. Anyway, After the musical presentation by the visiting choir, I wanted to go up and personally thank some of them for coming, and tell them how much I appreciated their music. As I was going up to one of the singers, I caught myself rehearsing in my mind exactly what I was going to say to him. I didn't want to come across as really flippant about it, saying "Hey, thanks for coming" as if I was saying it just to prove to myself that I was saying it. At the same time, I didn't want to come across as patronizing, afraid that it may come out sounding like some good-ole-boy saying "Hoo-wee! You nee-groes sure can sing purty!" The fact is that the singing was very beautiful, even if it wasn't what I am personally used to hearing in a church service. At the same time, the subject of race was probably in the front of everyone's mind, although all of us would like to think that it shouldn't have been. At work, in my neighborhood, in my classes in school or college, It is fairly easy to make race a non-issue. It is strange that one of the events where we came together the most leads to one of the most awkward situations with me jsut trying to show my appreciation for their singing. On the bright side, after the service, I went out and the children from both churches were playing together in the playground. Running, chasing each other, playing on the swings and jungle gym together. I'm not even sure if any of them realized that there could be any racial awkwardness in the whole situation. That gives me a lot of hope for the future.