Finally, I’m done. A few people have commented to me that I’m putting a lot of work into my votes here. It probably shouldn’t take this much work to vote thoughtfully, as candidates would ideally be forthcoming with clear positions on issues. But voting thoughtfully also shouldn’t be exceptional enough that it’s worth a comment. Unfortunately, voting itself is still exceptional in America.

In my fantasy America, election day is a national holiday during which we celebrate living democracy. Businesses would shut down and we’d have nothing better to do than to vote thoughtfully. We’d all have election day parties, at which showing up without an "I voted" sticker would be like showing up at a Halloween party without a costume, or showing up at a birthday party without a gift.

But until that happens, this is the democracy we have, and these are the ovals I filled in on my ballot. Now who are you voting for? And why?


Between the Court of Appeals, District Court, and District Associate Judges, I am asked to decide if eleven different judges should keep their jobs. Prior to recieving my ballot, I knew nothing about any of them. I started looking for information on each of them, but I didn’t find much. But then I found the Iowa State Bar Association’s reviews of each judge. From a single document, I was able to see what dozens of lawyers thought about every judge in the state. The votes for retention are very high in general, so I set my bar at 90%. If more than 90% of the responding lawyers voted to retain a given judge, I did the same. If less than 90% of lawyers voted to retain, I voted against.

As a result, I voted for retention on Anuradha Vaitheswaran, Van D. Zimmer, John C. Miller, Eliza J. Ovrom, Artis I. Reis, Carol L. Coppola, Carol S. Egly, and Louise M. Jacobs. I voted against retention for Donna L. Paulsen, Gregory D. Brandt, and William A. Price. I expect all of these judges will be retained, but I hope the slightly lower percentages on election day might cause some judge to improve Punctuality for court proceedings or Clarity and quality of written opinions.


There are five candidates for the Polk County Agricultural Extension Council. My ballot instructs me to vote for no more than five. I found nothing online suggesting there is anything wrong with any of the candidates. So I voted for them all.


There are three candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner: Donald Soutter, Jane Clark, and Shirley Danskin-White. I voted for Jane Clark, the only candidate who had any information I could find online.


There are thee candidates for Polk County Public Hospital Trustee. My ballot instructs me to choose two. It’s a refreshing change for such a local office to have actual competition. Unfortunately, the competitors don’t seem to care much about getting votes. Karen Ellis is the only candidate with a website I could find. So I voted for her first. But I couldn’t find any information two help me choose between the other two, Mary B. Fuller and David Harkness. As I said earlier, I think we need more women in government, so I voted for Fuller.


I believe deeply that the lesson of Marie Antoinette (the lesson omitted from Marie Antoinette) is the critical one: You can indulge, and enjoy, for now, it is true; but sooner or later an angry mob will come round smashing your chandeliers and disconnecting your body at the neck.

Ezra Kilty. It’s the first noble truth: an angry mob will come round smashing your chandeliers.


John P. Sarcone, running as a Democrat, is the only candidate for Polk County Attorney. He’s a sixteen year incumbent. Everything about him — from his too-much-teeth smile to his "I like puppies" position against methamphetamines — make him seem a little suspicious. But I voted for him.


There are three candidates for County Recorder. Tim Brien is the incumbent, but he lost the primary to Julie M. Haggerty. As I mentioned earlier, he intially blamed Michael Mauro, Commissioner of Elections, implying that he rigged the election. But then he dropped his challenge, saying he didn’t believe he could get a fair result.

Apparently he does think he can get a fair result in the general election, even though Michael Mauro is still Commissioner of Elections, because he’s running as an independent. So I don’t trust Tim Brien, and this distrust makes me like Michael Mauro and Julie M. Haggerty more.

The third candidate is Christopher D. Hagenow, running as a Republican. If you follow that link to his website, and the link from there to his blog, you’ notice he doesn’t talk about issues much, and he seems as interested in the Nussle for Governor campaign as his own. As I mentioned in my discussion of the Governor race, I don’t trust Nussle, so by association, I distrust Hagenow.

If it wasn’t already obvious, I voted for Julie M. Haggerty for County Recorder.


I don’t know what exactly the Board of Supervisors supervises, but this is another interesting race. The two candidates are John F. Mauro, running as a Democrat, and Gene Phillips, on the ballot by petition. This happens to be the fourth time these two candidates have run against each other. In the 1998 Democratic primary, Mauro won by less than three hundred votes. Then Phillips ran as an independent in the general election and won, also by less than three hundred votes. Then in 2002, Mauro ran against Phillips again and won, this time by a substantial margin.

So Mauro is the incumbent and he won last time. But he’s also on the CIETC board, and although he doesn’t have the direct connection to corruption that Abdul-Samad appears to have, it doesn’t really look good for anyone on that board. Mauro’s best response to the attention was Hopefully, they won't hold me responsible for something I didn't have any control over.

Well, I do hold him responsible for the lack of control. And it’s also Phillips’ turn to win. Oh yeah, and Mauro doesn’t live in the district. So I voted for Gene Phillips.


The Iowa State Representative election is probably the most interesting vote I made. This is the first race involving the CIETC scandal. Apparently a lot of money went into the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium, and not a lot of employment and training came out. Ako Abdul-Samad, running as a Democrat, was on the CIETC board, and didn’t convince me that he was innocent of the corruption charges being tossed at him. He lost my vote.

Jack Whitver, running as a Republican, successfully lost my vote by showing up at Abdul-Samad’s house after being told Abdul-Samad was unavailable due to family illness. Even assuming charitably that Abdul-Samad was lying about the family illness, that still makes Whitver a political moron.

Luckily I have two other candidates in this race. Brett Blanchfield, running as a Libertarian, gets points for being the only candidate to bother answering a candidate survey from the Iowa Prosperity Project. And he also gets points for living just a few houses down from me. But he’s campaigning on issues like repealing the mandatory seatbelt law. I can sympathize with the general libertarian desire to streamline government, but if seatbelts are the first (or second, or even twentieth) place a candidate identifies waste in government, he’s lost my vote.

That leaves only Jeff Johannsen. Lucky for me, Johannsen looks like a candidate for whom I can vote without reservation. He wants to help make health insurance more available and affordable to small businesses and neighborhoods [...] to increase availability of assisted living to those with low to moderate incomes [...] to promote the cleanup of neighborhoods and discourages urban sprawl, according to the Des Moines Register. That all sounds good to me, so I voted for Johannsen.


State Senator is yet another Iowa race with only one candidate. I was expecting more interesting politics from the host of the first primary in the nation. The candidate is Jack Hatch, running as a Democrat. Aside from his website, the first thing I found about him was a record that he introduced a bill allowing possession of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. That made me a little happier about voting for the only candidate.


There is only one candidate for Attorney General in Iowa. Apparently law is less important than agriculature in Iowa. The candidate, Tom Miller, is a Democrat, and looks good enough. He’s apparently cares enough about his stance against predatory lending to issue a statement on the issue. So I voted for Tom Miller.


Iowa has two candidates for Secretary of Agriculture. Agriculture is important in Iowa. The Democratic candidate is Denise O’Brien. The Republican candidate is Bill Northey. Browsing their respective websites, you’ll notice Northey talks about “vision” while O’Brien talks about “issues.” O’Brien wins round one. Northey is a board member of Ag Ventures Alliance. O’Brien and her husband Larry Harris have operated a family farm near Atlantic, Iowa since 1976 where they milked cows until 1995. They now raise poultry, apples, and strawberries using organic practices. O’Brien wins round two. No round three. I voted for O’Brien.


I’ve fallen a bit behind in my Election 2006 series because none of my previous theories about my laptop’s narcolepsy really worked. When it started falling asleep during work, I moved to a new (for me) laptop. That’s update number one.

Number two is that, contrary to my expectations of the plot of Battlestar Galactica season three, it appears the good guys have pretty much already won only three weeks in. I haven’t watched the week three show yet, but if the foreshadowing in the week two show and the title of Dave’s recent post (which I haven’t read yet for fear of spoiling week three) are any indication, what I thought was going to take the whole season is already over. So hopefully what comes next will have a little more moral ambiguity.

And I’ll get back to devaluing the privacy of our election process when I return from yet another weekend trip. Hopefully I’ll finish before election day.


There’s only one candidate for Treasurer of State in Iowa, and he is Michael Fitzgerald. He’s already Treasurer of State, hasn’t embarrassed himself, and he appears to be responsible for The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, a pretty cool website that allows Iowa residents to search for abandoned property. Not that it matters when no one else is running, but I voted for him.


Iowa has two candidates for Secretary of State. Michael Mauro, the Democratic Party candidate, is currently the Polk County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections. In that role, he’s involved in dispute surrounding the primary election for County Recorder, but I’ll get into that later. This election was decided for me by Maruo’s opponent. It turns out Mary Ann Hanusa, the Republican Party candidate, doesn’t actually live in Iowa, according to Daily Kos. In an otherwise uninteresting race, that’s enough to lose my vote. I went with Mauro.


Before anyone starts to wonder why I didn’t just color in the party-line vote oval, I wanted to skip ahead to the State Auditor race, in which I voted for the Republican candidate David A. Vaudt. Now it’s true that Vaudt is the only candidate on the ballot in this race, and it’s also true that I searched for other write-in options.

But when I didn’t find any alternatives to Vaudt or skipping the race, I looked in depth at Vaudt’s website, and a few newspaper articles involving Vaudt, and I found no good reason not to vote for him. Like Boswell, Vaudt won my vote by not disqualifying himself. I’m not sure, but Vaudt may be the first Republican I’ve ever voted for.


There are three candidates for US Representative from the Third District of Iowa, where I live. Helen Meyers, of the Socialist Workers Party, has no website. I really don’t think a website is too much to ask of a candidate for US Representative. That leaves just two: Leonard L. Boswell, running as a Democrat and Jeff Lamberti, running as a Republican.

I don’t expect it will surprise anyone who read of my inclination to vote for a Green Party candidate for Governor that I voted for Boswell in this race. Both campaign websites include the same stock "I like puppies" kind of political rhetoric, void of specific positions on specific issues. But Lamberti scared me away by calling himself a conservative leader. I take that a euphemism for a willingness to have the government dictate who can and can not get married, and that’s a good way to lose my vote. Boswell won my vote by not disqualifying himself.


There are five candidates for Governor of Iowa, with Lieutenant Governor running on the same tickets so I chose them together. The first out of contention is Mary J. Martin, running in the Socialist Workers Party. She’s out because she has no website. There are some less important offices for which I’ll let a candidate get by without a website, but not Governor.

Next out is Kevin Litten, running in the Libertarian Party. His poorly designed website is lacking any information on specific issues, perhaps because he’s already given up, saying I may not win this election. Sorry Kevin, try a little harder next time. And then there were three.

I don’t trust Jim Nussle, the Republican candidate for Governor. Specifically I don’t like his ambiguous position on abortion, which apparently bothers people on the other side of the issue as well. I can understand the desire to ban all abortion. I think it’s mistaken, but an honest mistake. But Jim Nussle seems to be hiding his real position, and that’s why he lost my vote.

The remaining to candidates for Iowa Governor are Chet Culver, on the Democratic Party ticket, and Wendy S. Barth, on the Green Party ticket. Barth looks much better. She has clear positions on important issues, and in general I agree with those positions. Culver, on the other hand, takes vaguely agreeable positions on popular issues. If I was the only one voting in this election, I would have voted for Barth.

But I looked at the polls and saw that Culver and Nussle were in a statistical tie, so I filled in Culver’s oval as a strategic vote against Nussle. Sorry Green Party. The day after I filled in this oval, a new poll came out with Culver ahead by 7%. In retrospect, I should have waited until closer to the election to fill in my ballot at all. But it’s done now, and I voted for Culver for Governor.


I have referred to myself as “an independent voter” through many elections now, but this year was the first in which I actually took on the responsibility of idenpendent voting, and it turned out to be surprisingly tedious work. By “independent voter,” I mean that I will give any candidate an opportunity to earn my vote, regardless of party affiliation. This seems like the common sense basis of democracy to me, but I don’t know many people who do this.

In the past, I’ve asked a lot of a candidate wishing to earn my vote. Candidates had to somehow insert themselves into the various media I consume, e.g. radio, billboards, weblogs, showing up at my house, etc. If they failed to make themselves known to me, I voted based on what I knew of their opponent. If all candidates in a given race failed to do so, I voted based on a statistical correlation between party affiliation and my previous voting preferences. That is, I voted for Democrats because I tend to like Democrats.

This last part doesn’t make me feel very independent, especially when this actually happens a lot. Most elections I vote in are minor local and regional offices and I know nothing about the individual candidates. This year I voted absentee (which anyone can do in Iowa and many other states), so I could take my time to research these candidates and avoid resorting to party affiliation guesswork for any of my votes.

After many hours of researching, I’m happy to say I didn’t vote for anyone based on their party affiliation, but I did vote for a few based on something other than the information I was able to find. This is because I wasn’t able to find much information. So I applied my same criteria as before, only this time I was actively seeking out information.

If I couldn’t find anything about a candidate in a Google search, I voted based on what I knew about the opposing candidates. And if I couldn’t find any information about any candidates in a race, I voted based on gender. That’s admittedly not the best way to vote, and maybe I should have just not voted at all in those races, but I’m comfortable taking that gamble in the interest of getting more women in elected offices of government. In any case, I managed to vote without preference to party, which is important to me.

With that as my independent voting strategy, I will go through specifically who I voted for and why in the next few posts.


Last night I was chatting with my friend Josh about his new puppy when my computer suddenly went to sleep. At first I thought there was a power failure, but then I realized that my laptop has a battery, and then I noticed the sleep light was pulsing, so I pressed a key to wake it up.

This morning it happened again. And then again. It seemed to become more and more frequent until I restarted my computer, and then it was fine. Until it went to sleep again. And then it wouldn’t wake up. So I tried to do a restart with ctl-apple-power, and that didn't work. So I tried to shut it down by holding down the power button, and that didn’t work. So I tried to shut it down by removing the power cord and the battery.

That didn't even work. The sleep light continued to pulse despite the lack of any visible power source. I’m sure there’s a reserve battery in there somewhere, but I didn’t expect it to power the sleep pulse light. Eventually it died and I replaced the battery and the power cord and restarted and everything was fine. Until it happened again.

Quick learner that I am, I started to realize this problem wasn’t going to go away. I decided to try to figure out what was going on before tomorrow when the help desk guys at work could look at it, in case it was no longer running tomorrow. Somewhere in there I had run disk utility and found no apparent problems with the hard disk, so I figured at worst the hard disk would need to be moved to a different machine. No data loss, no problem. But you never know.

So I went searching online and found some information suggesting I should reset my Power Management Unit. So I followed the instructions from Apple, or at least I think I did. The process doesn’t include any indication of whether or not anything is actually happening. I might as well have been waving a crystal over my PowerBook for all I could tell I was doing.

No spontaneous insomnia yet in the time it took me to type this. Time to burn some backup CDs. Apparently it’s Backup Sunday anyway.

Update: about an hour later, it grew sleepy again. After reading more, I found a suggestion to delete /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/[SomethingToDoWithPowerManagement].plist. I’d tell you the actual file name, but it hasn’t reappeared yet. No sleepiness since, so I guess that’s okay. I hope.


Via a comment on MetaFilter, I just learned about the levels of tzedakah, which I'll copy here from Wikipedia because I found it interesting:

  1. Giving a poor person work (or loaning him money to start a business) so he will not have to depend on charity. This is because the person is now free from having to rely on charity. The giver has not just helped the recipient for the short while, but instead for the rest of their life. There are four sub-levels to this:
    1. Giving a poor person work.
    2. Making a partnership with them (this is lower than work, as the recipient might feel he doesn't put enough into the partnership).
    3. Giving a loan.
    4. Giving a gift.
  2. Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient.
  3. Giving charity anonymously to a known recipient.
  4. Giving charity publicly to an unknown recipient.
  5. Giving charity before being asked.
  6. Giving adequately after being asked.
  7. Giving willingly, but inadequately.
  8. Giving unwillingly.

Especially so in the context of the Grameen Bank, which just won the Nobel Peace Prize today. The Grameen bank is level 1.3 of tzedakah. Back in the day, the WPA was level 1.1. But I’m not sure level 1.1 can really be instutionalized outside the context of economic catastrophe. Even the WPA was criticized for promoting laziness. People don’t like to feel lazy, and sometimes it’s nice to have incentives to live up to our potential. The Grameen Bank provides those incentives, so I think on the levels of tzedakah, it’s about as good as a large organization can get.


A while back I was presented with the possibility that I might be moving to Carbondale at the end of the year, or I might not. I decided to take the copout and put off this decision as long as possible. Meanwhile I’ve been more actively seeking out contract work so that if I did end up moving to Carbondale, I’d at least have some sort of income.

Last week Jessica finished her first term of teaching (half a semester), and she’s relatively happy with her job in Carbondale. Last week I also made more money from contract work than I did at my full time job. So I made a decision to definitely move to Carbondale. I’m not moving immediately because I have a lot I want to do before moving. In addition to packing up my life in Des Moines, I also have a lot of projects at work I’d rather not leave without completing. So I’m moving around the end of the year.

But I’m probably not quitting my job at the end of the year. We haven’t worked out all the details, but I’ll likely be working remotely for a few months at least, doing pretty much what I do now in Des Moines, only doing it in Carbondale. On the down side, I expect it will be slightly more work for everyone involved to communicate strictly with no face to face contact. On the up side, I will no longer eat all the candy in the accounting department. And I can fold my laundry while I read my email. I do that anyway, but with personal email. Now I’ll get paid to do it.

I’ll be happy to continue working on familiar projects with familiar people, but I’m also enjoying the freelance work I’ve been doing. It’s a good way to prioritize my seemingly endless interest in web development. Things people are willing to pay me to do tend to be more interesting than updating my existing unpaid web services whenever someone wants something more out of them. I’m tempted to pay someone to answer the endless stream of comments on my original MySpace RSS post.

So this is all good. The problem, if it can be called a problem, is that I’m now facing a scenario of having too much paid work. I’ll definitely prioritize the steady work from my current employer, but I hate to entirely give up on the freelance stuff. I have a lot of stuff I’d like to do, and I often think it would be nice to pay someone else to do it. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to keep accepting as much freelance work as I can get doing projects that interest me, and I’m going to take the money I make from that and pay someone else to do other projects that interest me. So I’m looking to hire web developers (and less so designers) with interests similar to my own.

What are those interests? Probably the main disqualifier is that I’m willing to do interesting work for little pay. I make more money than I need, not because I make a lot, but because I don't need a lot. And I expect anyone I hire to have a similar prioritizing of, say, making data make sense over high income. Students would be good.

Beyond that, I’m looking for developers who use technologies I use or at least that I’m interesting in learning. The former include PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, CSS, semantic HTML, and a few other odds and ends. The latter include Ruby on Rails, Python, PostgreSQL, Flash, and maybe Perl. Basically, ASP, Java, and ColdFusion coders need not apply. It would be nice if one had an understanding of basic things like binary and HTTP, but I don’t really want to get too picky about specific knowledge. I’m more interested in curiosity.

So if you know anyone looking for some interesting web development work for reasonable but not extravagant income, please let me know.


I think I enjoyed the premiere of Battlestar Galactica season three more than Dave Rogers. I suspect that’s because I’m a less dedicated fan. Dave has a well-developed understanding of the motivations of each character, but I’m conceptualizing them much more generally, and especially so after the long summer break.

Some characters are generally good. Some characters are generally bad. Some characters are generally ambiguous. Some characters are civilians. Some characters are military. With the entire plot turned upside down, none of this has changed really. While Dave is expecting a more complex reason for Adama’s guilt, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.

At the end of season two, I was rather annoyed at the plot twist. After watching the premiere of season three, I’m still annoyed at it, but not for the reasons I was before (the plot is broken), nor for the reasons Dave seems to be. I’m now going to spoil both the plot twist and the season three premiere, so if you haven’t seen those and don’t like spoilers, stop here.

Now then, up until the end of season two, the analogies between the Battlestar Galactica universe and modern events here in reality were pretty obvious. Cylons, like terrorists, do not observe the moral boundaries the rest of us enjoy. Yet they look and act just like normal people. What are we to do? Kill them all! Hmm, that didn’t work so well. We better put some more thought into this. And that’s where we are at the end of season two: putting more thought into how to live in a world where anyone could be walking around holding a fundamentally different world view that threatens everything we hold dear, and we have no way of knowing it until it’s too late.

At the end of season two, the cylon-terrorists suddenly win the war. They’re able to impose their world view on humanity, and everything changes. Now humanity is the terrorists, with suicide bombers to boot. New moral question: what would you do if you were an Iraqi? I don’t like this question because it’s not really that interesting. I don’t know exactly what I’d do, but I know I wouldn’t support suicide bombers. Maybe I’d feel differently if this wasn’t so entirely hypothetical, but it is. Iraqis are not watching Battlestar Galactica.

The cylons are now playing the part of America in this analogy, and I’d say it’s not really working so far. As a viewer, am I supposed to feel empathy for the cylons? I feel more empathy for Bush. At least he has some vague plan, detached from reality as it is. But despite the chilling "they have a plan" conclusion of the Battlestar Galactica intro, by all appearances they don’t really. It turns out the world view they’re finally able to impose on humanity isn’t a world view at all. It’s a mish-mash of completely contradictory world views.

Some of the cylons believe in peace; others want to destroy humanity. Some love humans; others hate them. It’s not so unbelievable that the cylons would contradict each other, but that any authoritarian regime would. I’m having a lot of trouble believing this mix of views was somehow able to come together to accomplish even the most mundane task, much less the subjugation of all of humanity. They’re voting! Genocidal maniacs don’t vote on exactly how much genocide to carry out. Suddenly I’ve lost my suspension of disbelief.

So I’m no longer interested in the moral questions of Battlestar Galactica and I no longer believe the basic plot makes any sense, even granting the questionable science of it all. Why do I say I liked it more than Dave? Because the plot is unresolved, and my shallow attention to the show makes that unresolved plot compelling despite these other failings.

I want the good guys to win. What began as a show appealing to my more refined philosophical side now appeals to my most basic interests. I won’t be very surprised if the cylons kill a puppy in the next episode just to dumb it down a little more for me and make me sympathize even with the suicide bombers in my desire for the good guys to win. And that’s not so bad, but I was expecting more.

Maybe the show will grow more complex again. Maybe I really will start to question the ethics of suicide bombing. Maybe I’ll gradually forget that the cylons destroyed humanity and start to care about the problems they face trying to come to terms with their status as the sole remaining superpower. But I think it’s more likely I’ll instead spend the rest of Battlestar Galactica season three waiting for the good guys to win.


Last weekend I attended a wedding. Somewhere between the readings and the rings, the officiator (judge? minister?) said something about how the ceremony was a public acknowledgment if a commitment long since made, or something to that effect. I thought this was an interesting reinterpretation of the wedding ceremony.

I know several couples who had weddings this year. It may be a skewed sample, as one of those weddings was my own, but all of them lived together for years prior to marriage, and they were all pretty much "married" long before the wedding. This is the kind of change that many fear as part of the gradual destruction of families in America.

But it’s a surprisingly subtle change in practice. The ceremony looks and feels just as it would if the wedding was actually the marriage. And I think the result is actually a gradual strengthening of marriage, by detaching it from what is ultimately an arbitrary wedding ceremony, generally scheduled more around the progression of the weather than the progression of the relationship. Now we just need to detach marriage from government.


I’m moving most of my tech geek posts to a new WordPress blog on my domain. No wait — not blog, log. A long time ago I had a blog. Here I have a weblog. Now I'm trying a log.

Anyway, for those of you interested in tech geekdom, find it over there now. And for those of you who have suffered through the tech talk in hopes I might get around to discussing what I'm eating or whatever (that's right, mom, I'm talking about you), suffer no more. I had cheese and crackers for dinner. The crackers were multi-grain, so that counts as a healthy dinner, right?

There's more exciting insight into the life of Scott where that came from! Stay tuned. Or retune. The choice is now up to you.


One of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of technical terminology in public. Sometimes I feel like I’m some sort of linguistic elitist when I point out that not everything interesting done in JavaScript is "AJAX." But unlike those who obstinately repeat “ain’t ain’t a word,” technically meaningless terminology actually affects people’s ability to communicate.

Case in point:

>> If I have a form element like
>> <input type="text" name="mydata">
>> Is there a way to select it in a similar manner to getElemntById()?
> var nameArray = document.getElementsByTagName('mydata');

I can' seem to get getElementsByTagName working. I am not sure what I am doing wrong.

This confused individual thought “TagName” referred to the “name” attribute. Why would anyone think the “name” attribute was a tag? Because hundreds of people go around referring to attributes and tags. Stop it. You’re confusing people. If you don’t know what a technical term means, don’t use it. Use plain English instead.


Two days later, I’m just now getting my life back to normal after BarCampMilwaukee. It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I think the session I led went relatively well. I posted my slideshow on Make Data Make Sense, mostly as a backup in case my laptop melted on the way to Milwaukee. I’ve never found slideshows very interesting without accompanying soundtracks or video, but I’ll leave it up there for future reference.

You can see photos of BarCampMilwaukee on Flickr or videos of BarCampMilwaukee on Just one video so far, from Pete Prodoehl. I have an almost frightening amount in common with Pete, which became clear early on as we both wore the same t-shirt on Saturday. The picture is me talking to Jordan Arentsen after his Ruby on Rails session, which was interesting, but I can’t say I was persuaded to start using Rails right now.

What I was persuaded to start using is Flash 9. I learned a lot about Flash 9 in an impromptu session led by Dustin DuPree, seen on Flickr just before giving his introduction, and just after I gave my own introduction, which apparently failed. (I thought I was all clever to note that the mic wasn’t working, only to discover I was the only person in the room who didn’t realize the mic was only for the video camera.) Not only is Flash 9 available as a free and unrestricted beta, but the new coding syntax is almost indistinguishable from Java, is tied into the open source Eclipse IDE, can be styled with a slight variant of CSS, and Flex interfaces look about as simple as XCode's drag and drop Interface Builder. I left the session feeling like I had to learn Flash 9, if only to understand what exactly I’m working against when I use open web standards.

I also enjoyed learning a bit about Drupal from Blake Hall, learning about robots from a guy whose name I’ve forgotten and can’t find on the wiki, learning about logo design from Mike Rohde, and learning about cell phones from an anonymous camper. But I think I enjoyed the less lecture-style sessions the most (despite my own being rather lecture-style).

I really enjoyed learning Werewolf from Tegan Dowling. It was also interesting talking about refuseniks with a group of tech heads who were surprisingly even less optimistic about the likely effects of technology on society than I am. And everything else was great too. I didn’t really go to any sessions that weren’t interesting. But I enjoyed the mash pit the most of all.

It was great to sit down with a group of geeks and flesh out a project without constraints like a business plan or any need to explain technical concepts or much of anything really. Except time. We didn’t actually get anything finished, but we got to a rough proof-of-concept (currently available at by 3am (which made the 7am cell phone lessons very exciting). It was basically a few hours of what I dreamed my life as a web developer would be like back during the (first) bubble.

So BarCamp was generally fantastic, and I hope I will be able to attend another BarCamp within the next year. I don’t see any currenct planned very near where I live now, nor where I’m likely to live in the near future, so I might need to work on starting a new BarCamp. Meanwhile, next weekend Jessica and I are going to a wedding, and then two weeks after that I’m probably going to a re-wedding, so it will be a while before I really settle back into normal life, i.e. a weekend at home.