Friday, July 21, 2006

Political Activism: Take One

Until this month, I had never called, written or emailed any of my Congressional representatives. I bitched and moaned with the best of 'em, but it was always just talk. When the "net neutrality" act (H.R. 5252, the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006) came up, I could stay silent no longer.

I called Congressman Van Hollen, Senator Mikulski and Senator Sarbanes - the whole lot. Managed to get good information from Van Hollen's office, along with an email, and had a nice chat with staff at both Senators' offices. But the coup de gras came today. Sandwiched between the latest Pottery barn catalog and a custom-made card from strangers in North Carolina (more on this another time) was a letter from Senator Paul Sarbanes. I feel like a political groupie.

But more than anything, it reminded me that lawmakers listen to their constituents. We elect them, they represent us and our interests, and they want to know what we think. Do something. Find something you feel passionate about and make it happen. Join Sign up with Democracy for America. Find like-minded in your community and start affecting change on a local level.

And what am I doing? The good doctor and I have signed up for a local gathering in our neighborhood July 31. It's about damn time.

We took the first step. Now it's your turn. Stop complaining and get involved.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

This weekend's project

I'm always looking for some good projectile-launching projects. Thank God for This weekend's task? The Q-Tip gun.

My brother recommended replacing the pen with a larger tube and using it to shoot tampons - some big, absorbend super-size ones that we can soak in kerosene and turn into a flaming lawn dart, of sorts.

He and I will be working on it and photos of the experience will surely be posted.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Microformats: Tag - you're it

At An Event Apart in NYC, we were blessed with a presentation by Tantek Çelik, Chief Technologist for Technorati. His presentation was on Day 2 (Code Day) and was called "What are Microformats?" When I first saw the presentation title I figured maybe I could skip out on it and go to the MoMA. Lucky for me, the MoMA was closed, because it was one of the most eye-opening presentations I had ever seen.

I think I may be a little behind the times compared to some, but what Tantek and his colleagues have established is a system of standardized tags that allow you to seamlessly move information from the Web to a variety of formats.

For example, if you go to the speakers page for An Event Apart, you'll see a link at the bottom that says "Add speakers to your address book." When you click on that link, it will download vCard information for all the speakers that you can easily import into (of course) your address book.

I've seen these links before and not thought much about them, but the reason you can do that is simply because of the tags inserted into the (X)HTML code that allow systems to recognize particular bits of information. And that's not all.

Imagine for a moment, if Yahoo! Local added these Microformat tags to all of their listings and allowed you to download results to your local drive. In June 2006, Yahoo! Local did just that.

Now let's take this to a format other than personal information. You can also tag event information with "hCalendar" markup so that it downloads to your iCal. And not only that. hcalendar features let you subscribe to calendars through these microformats so you can automatically update schedules and information directly from iCal.

The opportunities are endless. Thanks to Tantek, everything I do from here on out that can use microformats will. And as a bonus, he has posted his presentation under the Creative Commons license (which can even be tagged with the microformat) here. The more people that link to this and talk about it, the faster it will catch on.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hell hath frozen over

After years of bailing on a manual blog on my site that probably never would have a functioning comment system, I've broken down and done it here. I'd like to think of this as Step 1. Perhaps Step 3 would be to have one on my own URL powered by WordPress. But that's for another day.

The main reason for this is the boost I got from the recent 'An Event Apart' in NYC. Thanks to the Web rock stars of Jeffrey Z. Eric M. and the rest of the gang for such an inspirational event.

As you can see, there's some customization going on here and there, so hang tight. More to come - as well as the full-fledged - just days away from launch.