Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Saturday, July 31, 2004

Wikipedia is one of those crown jewels on the internet. If you go to the Wikipedia website, you’ll notice that what I’m talking about is an online encyclopedia. But Wikipedia is unlike the other encyclopedias out there on the internet. The one thing that distinguishes Wikipedia from its competitors is that Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which means that all the content and information contained within Wikipedia is free and widely accessible to the public to do what they want with it, provided they acknowledge Wikipedia as the source of the information.

Besides being completely free – unless you decide to donate to it – and easily distributed all over the internet, Wikipedia is also an open-content project, meaning that it can be easily altered by anybody visiting the site. If you search for anything within the encyclopedia that interests you, you’ll notice that there is an edit button on the top of the page. The edits that can be made on Wikipedia are not just small, “suggestions to the editor,” type of edits either; anybody who visits Wikipedia can fill in missing information or correct false information on any of the pages within the encyclopedia. New pages on subjects not even included in the database can also be made with just one click of a mouse. After that, all that has do be done is write the new article to be included.

One of the best things of all is that a membership is not even needed to help edit the encyclopedia articles. You’d think that this would cause a lot of problems with people vandalizing the pages, but there is actually a quite large police force on Wikipedia that ensures everything runs smoothly and professionally.

I first discovered Wikipedia while I was searching for some information on Google – although I don’t remember what it was I was looking for anymore. Google is probably one of the reasons Wikipedia has become so popular, though. Many, many Google searches now include a page from Wikipedia somewhere within the search results.

I’ve edited a few pages on Wikipedia, all without registering to be a part of the service. I have since registered because there are some nice benefits that come with doing so, but like I said before, anybody using a computer is able to edit any articles that they want. The edits that I’ve made on Wikipedia are mostly minor ones, like modifications to spelling or grammar. I did, however, create the original article for Southdale. There was also no page listing the etymologies of Minnesota counties until I made it.

Another nice thing about Wikipedia is that all the changes to the pages are logged, and everything that has been altered to a page can be seen by clicking on the history tab on the top of any page containing an encyclopedia entry.

Creating and editing pages on Wikipedia is a pretty easy process, but that is not to say that there aren’t some specific formatting rules that need to be followed when doing so. Luckily, there is quite a lot of documentation available to help people who are new. Give Wikipedia a try today; I know if you like it as much as I do, you’ll find it to be a good source of information on virtually any topic you’re searching about.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I’ve posted a map that I really seem to find fascinating. The cover story in the USA Today a few days ago – last Tuesday, to be exact – highlighted the state of affairs concerning how Americans will vote in the 2004 presidential election. The article mentions that although Florida has gotten rid of its punch card ballot system that led to the infamous “hanging chads” during the 2000 election, other parts of the country, specifically densely-populated Ohio, will be using the same devices that Florida used four years ago. In other words, while some things have been changed, there is still a very large possibility that occurrences such as those that happened in Florida could happen once again this year, albeit on a, hopefully, smaller scale.

The article also says that some of the electronic voting devices, which allow the voter to touch a computer screen to automatically tabulate their vote, have problems of their own, and have not caught on as well as had been anticipated. Security issues still abound with these electronic systems, and apparently the instructions for using the computer touchpad are not clear enough for every voter to follow along.

One of the supplements that came with this article was a useful map that details what kind of system people used to vote in 2000, and what kind of system they will use in 2004. The type of voting system used in every one of the 3086 counties* in the United States is shown. I’ve scanned in the guide below, go ahead and take a look at it.

Click for full size version (421Kb)
Click on image for a full sized version (421Kb)

It is interesting to see how jumbled Minnesota was during the 2000 election. A couple of counties used the Florida-style punch card system; even more counties had a mixed type of voting, so it’s anybody’s guess as to what systems were mixed together; and even more counties used a very old-fashioned paper style of voting. The majority of counties in Minnesota, though, used an optical scanner method of voting. For 2004, it’s apparent that the punch card system has been removed in Minnesota, and more counties have adopted a mixed style of voting, presumably by adopting an optical scanning system.

Other states have changed their old system entirely, and have adopted one uniform style of voting throughout the state. Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and particularly Georgia, have become all one color on the 2004 map after having an assortment of colors on the 2000 map.

*Louisiana has parishes instead of counties, and Alaska has unorganized boroughs, which do not have governmental units, and are used by the Census Bureau for statistical purposes only.

Monday, July 12, 2004

I have been looking for a good lead-in into my post about going to the Fargo-Moorhead area to check out the local scenery, and I think I found one. I’m going to post an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, June 13th. It’s about life in the Midwest, and the oft-expressed view by residents of the coasts that the Midwest is a boring, uninteresting place to live. Take a read; it might be a little wordy, but I thought it was a pretty good article.

Hick or hip?
Confused coastals give Midwest a bad rap

By T.J. Becker
Special to the Tribune
Published June 13, 2004

Since 1997, Harris Interactive has conducted an annual poll asking Americans where they would most like to live other than their current state. In seven years, no Midwestern state has ranked in the top 15.

What's the problem? Granted, the weather can get a little dicey, an understandable turnoff for folks fond of gentler climes. But writing off the Midwest goes beyond climatic conditions...

Click here to read the rest of the article

I am very proud to not only be a Minnesotan, but a Midwesterner as well. As expressed in the article, Minnesota, and the Midwest as a whole, both have many very good qualities that make them excellent places to live. I could elaborate on this point a little bit, but I don’t really think it’s necessary to do so.

Anyway, the point of this entry was to share some of the better photos from my short trip to the Fargo-Moorhead area. As much as I love Minnesota, I also really enjoy the beauty to North Dakota. No, I’m not being sarcastic, either. I particularly think that the photos of the wide open expanses of few trees and a lot of farmland below are very scenic, even though a lot of other people seem to not be able to agree with me. It’s really not hard for me to find beauty in just about every kind of landscape, whether it be tall mountains or flat prairie. I think the fact that North Dakota is so sparsely populated is another reason that draws me to the landscape. Although I’m particularly mentioning the landscape in the Red River Valley area of eastern North Dakota when I refer to the photos below, I also think western North Dakota, past the Missouri River is also very beautiful, perhaps even more so than the eastern portion of the state.

Before I turn into an advertisement for the North Dakota Tourism Bureau, I’ll present the pictures that I took from my trip on Saturday, June 5th. Besides just Fargo-Moorhead, I also made it to Harwood, ND, a small, and I mean small – the only place that showed any signs of life was the Elks Club – community about 9 miles north of Fargo. I also made it to Mapleton and Casselton, about 12 and 20 miles west of Fargo, respectively. It was a pretty fun day, not to mention that I managed to get a few decent photos of trains in North Dakota, and I made it to a cache.

If you’re interested in saving the endangered species of North Dakota, check out this website organized by the Fargo Forum about the questionable future of the rural areas of the state. It’s quite an interesting site with many good articles dealing with current North Dakota issues. Also, here’s an old, but good, newsgroup thread on Google Groups discussing the actual existence of North Dakota.

Here are some of the pictures that I took:

On Highway 10 east of Hawley, MN

The Hawley City Hall/Police Station/City Council Building

One of the buildings in downtown Hawley

The flat land near Harwood, ND

At Harwood Station

My favorite photo of the trip, a field near Harwood, ND

The Sheyenne River in West Fargo, ND

A train heading east between Mapleton, ND and Casselton, ND

One of the trains I saw in Casselton, ND

Another train heading west that went through Casselton, ND

Another one of those flat fields in North Dakota

I saw this little critter, some sort of chipmunk I think, near Mapleton, ND

This picture was actually taken a few weeks after this trip in Royalton, MN, but I thought it was pretty neat anyway, and decided to include it with this collection

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Look above this entry – you’ll notice that the logo banner has been changed to celebrate the 4th of July. This isn’t my only Independence Day gift, however. I’ve also got some Fourth of July wallpapers that I created myself about a month ago. Check below this post to see them and download them. I guess I should have posted these yesterday, since there are 5 wallpapers, and there would have been 5 days until Sunday yesterday. Oh well, now you’ll just have to figure out your own schedule for using the pictures.

All of the pictures used in the wallpapers are my own, with the exception of the fifth one. The picture of the fireworks was one of those stock images from some photography place. I did add a glass filter in Photoshop over the top of it, though. Choose which size you want, 800x600 or 1024x768.

Wallpaper 1
This is the flag located in the Veterans' Memorial next to the courthouse in Brainerd, MN

Wallpaper 2

Wallpaper 3

Wallpaper 4

Wallpaper 5

Previous Posts

Four Years Have Passed
Winter of 2007-08 Musings
7th Annual Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials
Another Birthday
A Beltated Update
2007 Vacation: Day 10 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 9 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 8 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 7 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 6 Summary


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Mitch's Blog Copyright 2001-2012 Mitch Wahlsten -- All Rights Reserved
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of Mitch Wahlsten and the participants
Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001