Wednesday, May 06, 2009

World Nut Daily: Your daily ration of crazy

Okay, so a threat to liberty is not a President who says that it's okay to intern any American as an "enemy combatant" without trial for as long as he declares you an enemy combatant, or who says it's okay to torture you while you're imprisoned (without trial) as an "enemy combatant". A threat to liberty is... the U.S. Census Department adding GPS coordinates to the address maps they get from your local 911 system so that they can more reliably guide census workers to those addresses for the upcoming 2010 census? WTF?!

BTW, addresses are a real problem, especially in rural areas. When I worked census fifteen years ago, I came in doing quality control behind other census workers (the point being to work up adjustments so we could estimate how many people were missed by the normal census process and adjust the numbers accordingly). In rural areas, not only are street signs almost unheard of, people very rarely post numbers on their houses. They know where they live, their neighbors know where they live, anybody who comes to their house knows where they live, why would they need a number? They do post numbers on their mailboxes though so that the postman will put the mail into the right box. But then they tend to live in family compounds, two or three trailer houses on one plot of family land, and the order of the mailboxes does not necessarily have anything to do with the order of the houses. The only way to know which trailer is which is to knock on the door and ask. And as you can imagine, after thirty years of right-wing hate radio people saying that any gubmint worker at your door is there to take your guns and take your kids, this can be a bit more awkward than you'd think. I mostly did okay because I was very polite, very nice, very non-threatening (what's more cuddly than a penguin after all?), but it definitely did get awkward a couple of times.

So anyhow, especially in rural areas, you can either equip your census workers with some *very* detailed maps or you can just give'em a GPS-equipped tablet computer with all the addresses already programmed in. The Census much prefers the latter, because it's much less bulky and a lot easier to provision than all those $#%@! 911 maps... but that, of course, requires having the GPS coordinates to program into those computers. Which many 911 maps do *not* provide.

The solution: Send someone out with the 911 maps to take GPS coordinates of each house. Can be done at the local level by the local branch of the census bureau in multiple years before the actual census has to be done. Duh. But as far as World Nut Daily is concerned, this is part of some bizarre Obama gummint conspiracy to steal your guns or sumthin'... despite the fact that it's been underway since *2005*, which is when this effort started under the Bush Administration as part of the Census Bureau's preparations for the 2010 census. Gah! The crazy! It burns, it burns!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


  1. The guvment should take pics of the homes via satellite as well, whicvh they have been capable of doing for at least a decade.

  2. Blue, a large percentage of the homes that I visited as a census worker were hidden under the canopies of trees. You could see little glints of rooftop through the treetops, maybe. This was in the piney woods of north Lousiana. Satellite photography is important for creating the 911 maps that the Census Bureau works off nowdays, but mostly as a way of accurately locating positions on the roadside, not because you can always identify individual homes' locations that way where you have three or four trailer houses pulled up underneath the trees as part of a multi-generational family compound.

  3. BadTux,

    you've been Bella-d by my. I'm enjoying your commentary. Thanks!

  4. Heck, to save some money, they can use google maps for the major urban areas, and have the workers concentrate in other areas. They've got a good street view picture of my place, complete with front light still on. ;)

  5. Marc, the basic problem is getting the data into the GIS system that Census has on those tablet computers, which is integrated with the questionaire software. I.e., the software knows where you are (GPS, duh) and pops up the questionaire for that address. In some cases that GIS data can be purchased, but must be verified. In other cases, the available GIS data simply is not accurate enough. For example, when I was doing census, there was one family compound that had two trailers and a house huddled amongst the trees. I had three addresses on the mailbox. Which is which? It took some significant doing to figure that out, including asking several people, because the first person I asked had absolutely no idea what her address was (she just lived there, her grandparents handled all the utilities). Now, you might say "so what, you got her questionaire, right?" But let's say that I get the questionaires for addresses 866 and 868 but not for 867. So another census worker gets dispatched to get it for 867. How does *she* know which one is 867? She might go to 868 and get 868's info again, but assigned to 867 because she thinks it's 867!

    So anyhow, it's a real problem, especially in rural areas but sometimes even in urban areas that have lots of illegal "mother in law" cottages tucked behind the houses. I know I would have been happy in 1990 to have had that GPS guided system, it would have resolved a lot of problems. I'm glad that the Bush Administration's Census Bureau agreed that we needed more accurate canvassing of households which in turn requires a more accurate location of households, because it solves a lot of problems that I actually faced in the field.

    - Badtux the Former Census Penguin

  6. Interesting. I've just applied to do census canvassing this year (for the first time), and I hope GPS would be available. Probably wouldn't help ME much, though, in a well-developed urban neighborhood. Like somebody above said, I live where google maps has a close-up shot of my front door.


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