What Happened tonight?

I've gotten some questions about what happened tonight.  Mainly "Whaaat?  Why aren't you Vice Mayor?".  "Did you get kicked off the Council?"  Briefly, I decided some time ago that making Steve Randolph the Vice Mayor this fall would be a great tribute to his long service on the Council.  I think that Vice Mayor is the only job he hasn't held on the Council!!  I was trying to figure out how to do this when the Mayor broached the subject with me at a lunch meeting.  He was very careful – it's a tough thing to ask someone – but he was very relieved when I admitted that I was actually trying to figure out how to make it happen.  Turns out it was easy!  Just resign and make a motion.

So, that's it.  I'm still on the Council until the end of the year but Steve is now the Vice Mayor and it's an honor well-deserved.  Thanks for your service Steve.

Posted in City Council | 10 Comments

Lake Manassas Update

This election access to recreation on Lake Manassas became an issue.  Mr. Aveni has stumped for renewed access to the lake throughout the campaign.  The other candidates were a mixed bag but you could probably summarize their thoughts by saying: "it's not a terrible idea if you can figure out how to do it safely and without more cost to the citizens".  I'm not here to beat up on Mr. Aveni or anyone else but I did want to provide an update on the matter as there was some interest in this on the campaign trail….

There will be a meeting of the Finance committee this coming Wednesday.  5:30 in the second floor conference room at City hall.  Item 4 on the agenda is to allocate $45,000 in city funds to study the re-opening of Lake Manassas.  Here is a link to the agenda.  Just thought all those who were interested might want to know.

Posted in City Council | 23 Comments

Election Results

In the Senate: finally.  It's now time for the GOP to get it together and begin stacking workable legislation on the Presidents desk and challenge him to actually do something.  For a change.

Governors:  lawdy, are there any Democratic governors left except ours?

Local:  the results are pretty much what I thought they would be.  Mrs. Bass had a good organization and is obviously popular in the City.  She ran a good campaign and killed it, garnering a thousand more votes than the next nearest challenger.  Mr. Aveni ran a tough, bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred campaign for reelection.  I worked Baldwin all day long and his poll workers weren't distributing the republican sample ballot (which included Mrs. Comstock and Mr. Gillespie) until Sharon shamed them into it and were instructing voters to only vote for one candidate.  He came in second.  Mr. Elston had a tall hill to climb but his performance in the debates really stirred interest in him and were a difference-maker in his election.  He came within about a hundred votes of the two-term incumbent Aveni.  A strong showing.  Patricia, who I really like, suffered from a slow start but performed much better in the later debates just had too far to go to get there.  I hope she stays involved in the community.

What do I think it all means?  That's tough.  On a personal level this was pretty much what I was trying to avoid – two more years of navel gazing – so I'm glad I am on the sidelines from here on out.  As a general electoral comment, moving the elections really had no practical effect on the outcome this time around.    Why?  Well, we'll have to explore that in blog posts to come….

Posted in Information Only, Politics | 21 Comments

Election – possible trends

I'm actually writing this on Sunday afternoon so we'll see how politically astute I really am.  Based on my political career the answer is "not very".  People frequently ask me how I think the election for local office will turn out.  I usually shrug.  There are so many moving parts to this particular election:

1.  Moving the election to November is bound to have a profound effect on the results.  There will be an entirely new group of folks voting in the fall that didn't vote in the spring elections.  Manassas has gone democrat the past 5? statewide and federal elections – elections conducted in the fall.  The first Obama election I discount somewhat as he could have defeated George Washington at that point in history.

2.  The top of the Democratic ticket – Mark Warner – has had some recent struggles but will help down ticket candidates.  Of course, Mrs. Comstock will perform well but the democrats are making predictable (and deserved) hay concerning her support of that crazy trans-vaginal ultrasound bill down in Richmond.  Stuff like that will limit her crossover appeal.  Mr. Warner has always enjoyed healthy crossover support amongst moderate R's so net-net I think Warner is a stronger influence on the down ballot races.

3.  The Schools – a couple of board members and a bunch of parents – have roused themselves from their decade long slumber and are active in the election.  Some bemoan this, I think they're an interest group just like the pro-life crowd who wants to advance an agenda.  I think there are two positives to take from this: the first is that the more people who are involved in improving the schools and our wider community, the better.  The schools are among the most important things we do.  The second is, the more folks who get out and vote, the better.

4.  The democrats have a couple of local candidates at least one of whom will be elected.  This has the potential to drive some turnout amongst local democrats who might not otherwise bother.  

5.  The social conservatives will turn out to support Marc.  That's normally around 1,000 votes in the bag for him but may be more since more people are voting.  They're unlikely to vote for anyone else on the local level.

6.  The democrats have located their offices inside of the City for the past 4 election cycles.  The republicans have moved theirs to the west.  I think it's more than symbolic.

7.  More people appear to be paying attention to what's going in city politics and how their elected leaders are voting – and forcing those elected folks to defend their votes.  I've had it happen to me over the past few years and I see Marc and Sheryl having to explain their positions during the candidate forums.  This trend could turn ugly at some point but I don't think it's happened yet.

8.  We don't have a newspaper anymore.  Most information about the candidates is coming out in social media, blog posts and YouTube.  This is both interesting and troubling.  We need a newspaper or news website again.

9.  The Tea party.  I really don't have any idea how active the Tea party guys are in Manassas.  I know that there were members at Marc's rally in the park but that's all I know.  Their website is currently offline with an error about the "votemarcav_app" which would appear to be something they're doing in support of Marc.  They've been involved before and can make a difference but I don't know about now.

That's about all I have and these comments obviously ignore the power of incumbency, etc, etc.  This is all pretty specific to Manassas.  I'm not going to handicap this race – there are just too many moving parts.  For anyone that cares, I'll be working for Sheryl at Baldwin most of the day.  Didn't hear from the republicans about an organized effort until Ian forwarded me their email – guess mine landed in the spam bucket…but Sheryl asked me last week to help her and I'm happy to help a sista out.

Posted in Politics | 15 Comments

I know Steve Jobs is dead

I am, very nearly, an OG nerd.  I never soldered anything but I did build PC's from parts back in the day.  Back when Compuserve was the only tech support available.  When you pretty much had to figure it out yourself or just not do it.  Back when WordPerfect had an on-hold DJ.  The first computer I ever used was a TRS-80.  I saved programs on cassette tapes.  My first PC was in IBM PC-AT.  An 80286 processor with 1mb of ram and a 30meg hard drive (actually had a 40mb hard drive with 2 partitions b/c you couldn't have a drive larger than 30mb).  I remember calling tech support to figure out a problem and when I described my computer the tech responded by saying "that's pretty much the dream machine!"  All computers ran DOS, no fancy graphics unless they were inside a game – who out there remembers a company called Microprose that came out with the first games that had killer graphics?  When I wasn't doing AutoCAD for my boss, I played games on that 21-inch Taxan Tube monitor!  Later, I ran an advance copy of something called Windows 386.


In the midst of all of this I never did use a Mac.  I looked at one once and the window-specific menus just baffled me.  The user interface was just a bit too cutesy: I'll leave that crap to the artists and their fancy layout programs.  I was aware that there was a cult of mac and that Jobs & Woz were at the center of it but there wasn't much in the way of Macintosh in "real" corporate computing in the middle 90's when I was doing and learning IT for a living.  I wasn't much of an ipod guy either.  Had an early iPod shuffle – that white stick looking thing.  At this point, Jobs was out of Apple.  He had started Next computers and Pixar.  I had a child in 97 so I was very familiar with Pixar and I was in IT so I was familiar with Next.  Next computers never really amounted to much and I don't think I ever saw one outside of a trade show but Pixar did some amazing stuff.  I met the news in 1997 that Jobs was going back to Apple with a shrug.  Could care less.  Didn't have an iMac – thought they looked cute with all of their colors but I'm a PC guy.  You can have a pc in whatever color you want as long as it's beige.

Things started change around 2005 for me.  Back then I was still doing a bit of web design and I had a customer who demanded we test out his website in Safari – the Apple web browser.  Reluctantly I set off to MicroCenter to buy the cheapest Mac I could find.  That was a "Mac Mini".  A delightful little box that was plugged in and in use long enough to test the website after which it was relegated to the shelf.  I remember being impressed with the design of the box and the software but had no practical use for it.  

The real turning point between me and Apple came when I set off to do what I was calling "Manassas Next".  I was, at that point, in elected office in the midst of the immigration mess and I was sick to death of talking about it.  I felt the city needed a new narrative so I set out to make it happen by cobbling together a legislative agenda and a website/video to support that agenda.  In order to make my movie I purchased a video camera (with actual tape) and started shooting.  The problem came when I wanted to edit all of that video.  The video tools on the PC were horrific.  They crashed, were a huge pain in the neck and too damn complicated.  It occurred to me that I did have a Mac sitting on the shelf and they were supposed to be great at that stuff.  I hooked that beastie up and, sho 'nuff, I was off to the races in about an hour.  I also bought a Macbook Pro to help out with the task.  With those 2 computers I produced all of the Manassas Next video – about an hours worth.  The Macbook became the computer I orchestrated my personal life around.  All my pictures, music, video, etc.  The Macbook was also an elegant looking thing.  PC laptops had keys that fell off, hinges that broke, etc but with the MacBook everything was just so.  The fit and finish were without peer.

That attention to detail left an impression on me and I remember reading an interview with Jobs where he talked about the packaging for the iMac.  The packaging.  The CEO of the company was interested in the packaging.  He didn't like the way it was just a box with a computer.  To him, even the experience of opening the box should be meaningful.  he had the packaging so that when you opened the box you saw the built-in handle peaking through the top of the foam.  Picking it up and out was very intuitive.  Jobs said of the iMac that "the back of our computer looks better than the front of anyone else's."  He was deeply involved in the look and feel of everything that came out of Apple.  Every detail.  Nothing was too small or big.  The shading under an icon or the text.  He was all about customer experience.  He told his engineers that the new (well, new then) iPod was too big.  It needed to be smaller.  They told him they couldn't do it.  He threw the prototype into an aquarium and bubbles came out = "air", he said.  "There's air in there, make it smaller".

So, when I received my new iPhone 6+ yesterday I very carefully opened the  box.  Looking at each and every detail.  The box is pretty much the same as the other iPhone boxes.  I ordered the plus version of the iPhone so I could have the bigger screen and use the zoom mode so I can

d1read the damn thing when I forget my glasses!  My first impression is that it is large.  But not too large.  It's sleeker looking than my iPhone 5.  Elegant.  I picked it up and thought the edges were a bit thin but I liked it.  I flipped it over and, if there was ever any doubt, I knew Steve was really dead.  There it was, protruding from the back of the phone was a ring around the camera lense.  Like a huge zit on a supermodels face.  It bothers me.  It's like someone spray painted a van Gogh.  I admit this might be a bit silly but it bugs me.  I think about it even when I'm not looking at it.  Such a feature would have been unthinkable when Jobs was alive.  Not tolerated.  It really is design malpractice.  Steve rolled over when that thing saw the light of day.  It's a compromise he wouldn't have made.  


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