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What values?

February 13th, 2008

This has been flogged to death by others before me, but after reading the Washington Post’s election coverage this morning, I still have to say it: I really wish pollsters would stop asking people if the most important factor in choosing a candidate is picking someone who “shares my values.” It’s extremely important to me to choose a candidate who shares my values — and yet, I would say no to that question, because we all know it’s a code for “has the same religious outlook I do” and because of the question order (that option usually follows questions about Iraq and the economy, one of which I probably would have already picked as most important, making it harder for me–and studies show, for most respondents–to change my mind and pick values instead). If the question is about religion, religion is what should be asked about. The question does not accurately reflect the experience of either those who answer yes or those who answer no. It’s not valid, and that’s the most important test of a survey item’s usefulness.

Wheelies

February 6th, 2008

Someone recently sent me a magazine about Scotland. The most interesting thing in it (among many interesting things) was an advertisement for a tour of the Falkirk Wheel. “Falkirk Wheel?” I thought and did some googling.

Turns out this thing is an impossibly cool looking 21st century steam-punk replacement for a boat lock. The Wheel is like a ferris wheel for boats, using a pair of rotating gondolas to shift boats between two canals (the Forth and Clyde canal and the Union Canal), the higher of which is 328 feet above the other. I’m adding this to the list of reasons I need to go to Scotland.