I decided today to attend BarCampMilwaukee at the end of this month. Because BarCamp requires participation, and because I’m interested, I’ll be doing a session on "Online Maps, Mapping Tools & Geohacking." I had a project in mind that loosely falls under this title, which someone else had proposed as a session topic, so now I just need to make it and talk about it in the next couple weeks.

I’ve never attended, much less presented at, a technical conference before. I think BarCamp will be a good place to start. I have presented at and attended other conferences before on topics such as linguistics, gay rights, and general academic research, and I’ve read a lot about BarCamp and other tech conferences, so I think I have a pretty good idea of what I’m getting into.

I seem to have done something recently that landed me on a to-be-invited-to-conferences list. I’ve been working online for ten years and hadn’t been invited to a single tech conference until a couple weeks ago when I was personally invited to a more prestigious and expensive conference. Among other problems, the conference speakers list didn’t include a single woman (though I was assured it was not for lack of trying), which didn’t sound very interesting to me.

But then this morning Pete Prodoehl sent me a personal invitation to BarCampMilwaukee. I looked at it and it seemed interesting, it’s free, and it’s not too far away, so I’m going. I’ll flesh out my session in more detail after I’ve written the code on which it will be based, which hopefully won’t take long. But really with a word like "geohacking" in the title, how could it not be interesting?

 

Five years ago I was driving my car from my apartment to my university when I heard on the radio that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I assumed it was an accident and didn’t think much of it until I walked by a room on my way to class or work (I don’t remember which) and saw a group of people watching the news. I watched throughout the morning until it became clear to me what was happening.

I had a few friends in New York, but I didn’t think first of them. My first thought was that this was Pearl Harbor and it was now the time to start preventing Hiroshima. I spent much of the next four years working to that end. I walked around campus in September 12 with the words "the other cheek" written on my face, in an effort to bring out the good in people and not the bad I feared was coming. I encouraged reconciliation and discouraged revenge. I helped organize multiple organizations focused on these goals.

I drew attention to the innocent civilians dying as we bombed Afghanistan. I loudly opposed our invasion of Iraq. I made the front page of newspapers. I made the TV news. I spoke on panels. I campaigned for politicians calling for peace. I campaigned against politicians calling for war. I compromised and voted for Kerry. I registered voters and served as an election judge to help others do the same.

None of this worked. I hope I made some small impact, but many more innocent people have died in the pursuit of vengence for the events of five years ago than died on that day. I didn’t hear they died on the radio. I didn’t see it on the TV. There is no moment of silence for these people. I don’t remember what I was doing when they died.