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Friday, December 12, 2008

Slow Friday

The Good

I went out to walk the dog yesterday afternoon. The neighbor guy was out in front of his house trying to beat the ice off his sidewalk with an old ice chipper. We stopped and chatted for a bit.

"Hey, where's that little red car of yours?" I asked him.

"Oh, it's parked behind my friend's house," he said. "It's gonna take some work to get it to run and I didn't want to leave it sitting in the street all winter getting in the snowplow's way." At this point it felt natural for both of us to look over at the little white car parked in front of my house, buried in snow.

"Yeah, I gotta do something with that car too," I said.

"What's wrong with it?" asked my neighbor, leaning on his ice chipper.

"Aah, the front tire's flat," I said. "And someone ran into it again so I can't get the driver's side door open. I just don't have the tools to mess with it. I'll probably crawl in through the other side and drive it to the gas station tomorrow to put air in the tire. Hopefully it won't ruin the rim."

My neighbor nodded, we talked for a bit about the weather (above freezing! Yay!) and life in general, then I continued on to walk the dog.

Half an hour later when I came around the corner on my way home, Zoey-dog proudly leading the way, I saw my neighbor walking away from my car. I caught up with him.

"Oh," he said, turning to me, "I blew up your tire for you, and I bent the dent out with a crowbar. The door opens fine now... If you ever have a tire go flat I have an air tank in the shed..."

What a nice thing! Without having the right tools I had resigned myself to spending an entire afternoon prying at the door with a phillips screwdriver to get in so I could drive the car to the gas station to get air in the tire -- possibly ruining the rim. I was thinking of putting the spare on, but the jack handle is missing and it's way too icy to feel comfortable jacking a car up... I'm thankful that my tire was merely low and not slashed as I had originally thought, and I'm VERY grateful to the neighbor for helping out!


The Bad

I found out today one of my first and best customers is thinking of canceling his web site. "I just don't know if I'm getting enough traffic to keep spending money on it. I mean, the site looks terrific, but if no one's looking at it, why bother changing it every week...?"

When I designed the site I tried to install Google Analytics in the code to track the stats, but for some reason it didn't work. I fumbled around with it for a while and never got it to give me any statistics... Meanwhile my customer keeps getting an e-mail every week from the tracking utility his old designer had installed, which is quite naturally telling him that he has zero web activity -- when I moved the site to a different server it nullified the old tracking software. So my customer has for the last six months believed that no one at all is looking at his site.

So I reinstalled Google Analytics on it today. Hopefully I'll get some meaningful stats on the site before he decides to pull the plug. I went so far as to put some other freebie tracking software on the index page, just to see if that works. (From that it looks like he's getting ten or fifteen different visitors per hour.)

I've never paid much attention to web stats. I always figure a business should have a web site, and as a designer I should put the best site up I can. Send the link out to the search engines and be done with it... But I guess from my customer's point of view it makes sense to want specifics. "I don't know if I should increase my radio advertising and cut the web site; if people are looking at the site, then it's worth having. But how do I know?"


The Fun

Last Saturday one of my volunteer groups got to give away all the goodies we'd collected over the year. That's the fun part of the deal!

The Independent Riders for Children and Charities holds a Toy Run every August. We have a group ride around the area, some sandwiches and door prizes at the end of the ride -- all for the low, low price of a new toy for a child and a couple bucks. Then in December we take the toys to the local Head Start and give the toys to the people there. We don't actually give the toys to the children, though -- the Head Start gives the toys to the parents. That way the parents can give their children a toy for Christmas.


The group also holds a fundraiser in the winter, the Leather 'n Lace Dance. This year we were able to donate several thousand dollars to local children's charities in addition to all the toys... You can see more about the group (and a whole bunch of photos on the photo page) HERE.


The Confusing

There are parts of our governmental system I just don't unnerstand.

There are 70 registered lobbyists on Capitol Hill for every one of our representatives. The car companies spent $50 million on lobbyists -- a fantastic investment as they're probably gonna get some $34 billion back. The oil companies spent $33 million in 2005 lobbying to get favorable legislation, and the oil lobby spent more than $100 million on a campaign this past year.

Think writing a letter to your congressman will get your point across? I doubt it. Not when he has 70 people who are paid to do nothing but foist their programs on him and various industries are spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to get THEIR point across...

We have gone from a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to a government run by lobbyists and special interest groups. My voice is not being heard in the torrent.

Lobbyists say that what they're doing falls under free speech. "How do the congressmen know how our industries feel unless we inform them?" Well, that's a good point. Lobbyists do provide information to our government. But it's out of hand... Well out of hand.

What can we do about it? Simple. Ban lobbying and paid lobbyists. I have no doubt that big industry will immediately find a way to get their points across to our representatives, but shouldn't we do SOMETHING to let them know that we're not happy with the situation, that OUR voices are not being heard, that WE are the ones who hold our representatives accountable...?

8 Comments:

Blogger SkylersDad said...

That's a good neighbor, must be good karma coming back to you from working on the fundraiser!

7:58 PM  
Blogger pistols at dawn said...

That is a good neighbor. And while lobbying would be nice to ban, how are you going to lobby for support for that plan?

9:10 PM  
Blogger soul pumpkin said...

good neighbors certainly are one of life's simple treasures...
...and i'm right with you on the lobbyist situation...there were around 300 lobbyists in DC at the start of the Reagan regime and now 30,000?...absolutely absurd...

1:41 AM  
Blogger katrocket said...

If Google Analytics still isn't working for you, try a Statcounter code instead. I've had similar problems with Analytics refusing to track stats on certain types of sites (for example - doesn't work great with large databases and the Unix based servers that we use for e-commerce), but Statcounter has never let me down.(www.statcounter.com)

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Poobomber said...

Hey, if his web server has php running, install Tracewatch - I like it better than Google because you can have instant results.

Check it out: http://www.tracewatch.com/

Hopefully that'll keep him happy!

2:15 PM  
Blogger Bluzlover said...

People like your neighbor give all of us hope in mankind. I've considered this lobbyist thing over the last few years. I'm not sure if we should ban them or let them govern our country and ban the legislative braches. After all, the lobbyists know our country better than most of the politicians.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Bluzlover said...

Can I have an "n". I know the answer, the word is "branches". What do I win?

10:16 AM  
Blogger Leonesse said...

From our mouths to deaf ears. It all just Payola.

5:20 PM  

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