Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion #219

I'm very happy to report that I've had another photograph picked up by Delaware Today magazine. My photo of the spire on Legislative Hall, in Dover, is the "cover" of the magazine's annual Kent County Guide.

I added quotation marks to "cover" because this is really the full page intro to a section within the March issue of the magazine. But still, I'm proud that my hobby is yielding pictures deemed worthy by a pro art director. This is my third picture in Delaware Today. I had the Kent Guide and the Fall Beach Guide last year.

I took this picture in September of 2006 on one of my lunchtime walks around downtown Dover. It was a lovely fall day, with blue skies and fluffy clouds. Looking back over the photos from that day, it looks like I spent most of my lunch hour wandering around the Old Green, the colonial-era center of town about a block over from the current Legislative Mall with our present Legislative Hall and most government buildings.

I'm still wandering around at lunch, but I worry sometimes that I have already photographed everything within walking distance of my office. Luckily, there are still changes being made, so patience will likely earn me new things to photograph.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Do I Do With This?

I got an e-mail today from Jud Bennett. Jud is a former Lewes Councilperson who sends regular updates out to a large list that he calls the "Coastal Conservative Network." He uses it as a sort of e-mail-based blog and often forwards to the group e-mail he gets from others.

Today he sent along a message from former Sussex County Sheriff Bob Reed, who has apparently just been fired from his position as Police Chief in Preston, Maryland. The story is moderately interesting, but what has me wondering is the legalese appended to the end of Mr. Reed's e-mail:
CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT: This communication, including attachments, is for the exclusive use of addressee and may contain proprietary, confidential or privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, use, copying, dissemination, distribution or taking of any action in reliance on the content of this information is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender immediately by return email and delete this communication and destroy all copies. Thank you.
I can't help thinking that I wasn't supposed to read this thing. Do I have to tell Jud about this? Or Mr. Reed? It says I have to "destroy all copies." Do I have to wipe my hard drive? Crush the laptop? Destroy the Google Mail servers?

If I do that, how can I inform Jud? I'm not sure what to do.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm Not Sure...

...but I suspect some sort of cross-over project between the Mythbusters and Penn & Teller might be in the works.

The image at right is a screenshot from twitter this evening. It documents a lunch meeting involving Adam Savage, who tweets as @donttrythis, and Penn Jillette, who tweets as @pennjillette. It appears that Teller might have been at the lunch, though he is silent (as usual), and maybe Jamie Hyneman, though he seems too cool to tweet.

I follow both Penn and Savage on twitter. I am a fan of both. Adam Savage is a refreshingly open and accessible (on-line at any rate) TV star. He also checks-in at MetaFilter and has been known to take part in on-line discussions there and to call on the hive-mind for research help.

This is an example of what I find so cool about the social web; I did a routine check on my twitter feeds this evening (after a lovely dinner with the delicious Karen), and here were two tweets from the same star-surrounded table somewhere out west. I feel connected.

Friday, February 20, 2009

2009 Book Review #1

How Perfect Is That How Perfect Is That by Sarah Bird

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a comedy of manners, and a bit of a social satire, but also an uplifting story. Very nice.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's Getting Serious

Here's an odd thing I noticed about myself. Since January 20, I find that I am once again wearing a tie to work every day (except casual Fridays).

I had gotten out of the habit. I told myself that my open-collar look reflected my creative and free-thinking approach to my job. I kept ties around. I wore them when I had a speaking engagement or a big meeting. But I rarely wore a tie over the last few years.

Since Inauguration Day, I have worn a tie every day but Fridays. It was the second week before I realized that I had started a new pattern. It's a small thing, but I think it reflects a new sense of purpose and seriousness. It is related to new leadership at both the state and federal level. We're starting fresh. There's a great deal of work to be done and we'll tackle it in a professional manner.

And, as an aside? I look pretty good in a tie.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yeah. Me Too.

Mike Mahaffie's Facebook profileYes. I too am now on FaceBook. I don't know if it was social pressure, my normal curiosity, or simply inevitable; but there I am.

I appear to have joined at a time of rapid growth in the use of FaceBook. It may have something to do with the recent success of the Obama campaign on several social networks. Politicians and other community leaders are signing up to increase communications.

Even the Washington Post's technology editors have been sucked-in to the point where, if nothing else, they are mocking the latest meme making the FaceBook rounds: 25 Random Things About Me.

I see increased use of any communications tool generally as a good thing, but there are stresses that come with this upsurge. In Maryland, for example, access to FaceBook by state legislators has been blocked, according to another story on the Washington Post web site (Plug Pulled on Md. Legislature's Facebook, MySpace for Fear of Viruses). That has sparked some discontent among the legislators:

"It's like blocking cellphones," said Del. Saqib Ali (D-Montgomery), a software engineer, who uses his Facebook page to update constituents about legislation he is sponsoring -- and share cute pictures of his daughter.

FaceBook is also blocked Delaware's state government network. It is among a group of sites (including twitter, another useful tool) classified as "extreme social networking" sites by our IT folks. I understand their caution, but I do think these sites can be used as valuable communications tools between elected officials and their constituents, between state workers and the people they serve, and among professionals within governments.

Part of my experimentation with both twitter and FaceBook (done now on my off time, at home, or using non-state communications devices) has been to explore their use in meeting the goals of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), an organization of state-level GIS coordinators across the US for which I serve as Communications Committee Chair.

So I will continue to explore. And if FaceBook, or twitter, or any other communications tool that comes along, might be useful in my professional life, and is allowed by the IT barons, then I will try to find a way to use it to the advantage of the people I work for and with.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion #218 (Can't Be Helped)

I was mildly surprised to find myself speaking at a Census Bureau event this morning. I was on a panel with Congressman Mike Castle and State Representative Joe Miro. I'm glad I wore my best tie.

The event was an Open House to celebrate the opening of the Local Census Office in New Castle County. This is the office from which Census preparations, and the actual 2010 Census count, will be run in Delaware.

I had not expected to speak. The Executive Director of the First State Community Action Agency was on the agenda, but she was not able to make the drive all the way north this morning due to the weather. I was planning to attend to show the flag for the Office of Management and Budget and in my role as head of the Census State Data Center program in Delaware.

I found out on arrival that they needed someone to speak from a local perspective so I "winged it," based on my knowledge of the Census and on some examples of Census data usage that I had pulled together for the other speaker.

It is interesting, if a little scary, to step up to a podium without having prepared much; I suppose it's what the politicians do all the time.

I decided to speak from my own experience of almost twenty years in state government. In all of those years, I've needed and used Census data. I can't see doing much of the work that I have done in Delaware without that data. The Bureau rightly points to the millions of federal and state dollars that are apportioned among different communities based on Census data. That alone is reason enough to want a complete and accurate count and for local government leaders to encourage their constituents to "be counted." But for many of us at the worker-bee level, Census data are more than just guides for federal spending; they are the information that we have to have in order to serve the people.

I didn't speak long, and I probably made some fumbles and stumbles, but it's nice to know that when I have a subject I know, and care about, I can get up and make a statement that doesn't leave me blushing with too much shame. In fact, part of what I had to say was used in the WDEL report on the event.

The News Journal was on hand as well, talking to the new Office's staff and learning about the new handheld computers that Census workers will use. The publisher of the bilingual newspaper El Tiempo Hispano was there as well. There may have been other media; if there were, I missed them.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Odd Weather

The high temperature in Dover (DE) today was 54 degrees, only about 10 degrees higher than average for the second day of February; but odd, given that the forecast for tomorrow is cold rain and snow. Skies were clear and the sun was warm. I spent my lunch hour on a brisk photo-walk and was quite comfortable in shorts and a polo shirt.

Silver Lake was iced over, but the ice was looking old and ragged and melting away from the shore. The gulls liked it.