Life is a Mystery

29 January 2010 . Comments Off on FFR:


The boys and I are thinking of escaping to a movie this evening and Nathaniel suggested going to see The Lovely Bones. As I was trying to assess it I stumbled upon expecting a right-wing take down of a scary movie. Instead I found a thoughtful and well put-together review of the movie with great questions to think about with your kids and even reviews by parents and kids themselves. I found it very helpful and want to remember to come back and participate in this community down the road. Does anyone have other resources to suggest when evaluating media and talking about it with kids?


27 January 2010 . Comments Off on SubCalc at the App Store

SubCalc at the App Store

As folks who read this blog know, I have been pretty hard on Apple about their overzealous policing of the iPhone App Store. Today I have a very personal reason to acknowledge a job well done. Apple took only three days to review the app Alex and I submitted on 1/25. Today SubCalc became a free app on the App Store.

SubCalc is an app to help convenors of precinct caucuses and conventions in Minnesota. The Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party uses a wonderful, but bit arcane, “walking subcaucus” process that is simple enough to do, but rather difficult to tabulate.

This app calculates the number of delegates each subcaucus gets when you enter the total number of delegates your precinct or convention is allowed and how many people are in each subcaucus. The rules it follows appeared on page 4 of the DFL 2010-2011 Official Call, including the proper treatment of remainders. It makes the math involved in a walking subcaucus disappear.

The app could be used to facilitate a “walking subcaucus” or “proportional representation” system for any group.

If you don’t have an iPhone, try the “web app” version of this subcaucus calculator for at But if you do have an iPhone or iPod Touch (or iPad!) please give SubCalc a spin!


27 January 2010 . Comments Off on Pondering the iPad

Pondering the iPad

Apple made it’s big announcement today. Personally, I think it is a home run, particularly the pricing. But my brother disagrees. I’ve used his criticism to spur my thinking on this newest venture from Apple. If you want to dig in, read on!

Read the rest of this entry »

26 January 2010 . Comments Off on 51 is a majority, use it or lose it

51 is a majority, use it or lose it

Are you as frustrated as I am at the timidity of Democrats in Washington? We act as if it takes 60 votes in the Senate to do anything. The Senate! Already an undemocratic institution (Wyoming == California, I don’t think so), has been made even more ineffective by our readiness to cave to filibusters that don’t even happen.

51 is a majority! And we have way more than 51 votes in the Senate. Let the Republicans talk for days on end if they want to block legislation. We should be making law! We have the votes. If someone wants to filibuster, make them get up and do the deed.

So I say, 51 is a majority, use it or lose it. If we stay timid, we will get what we deserve come November. Democrats have to be ready to make sausage, to compromise, but we must also get things done.

I’ve set up a little shop at CafePress with the message: 51 is a majority, use it or lose it.

Pick something up there if you agree. Pass it along. Tweet, blog, talk to your friends, call your Congresspeople, and call your Senators or Senator-wanna-bees. Make sure they know you expect courage and progress.


21 January 2010 . Comments Off on Plea for (gulp) the Senate bill

Plea for (gulp) the Senate bill

I just called Betty McCollum’s DC office and asked where she stood on passing the Senate plan. I was shocked that the office could not articulate a position on this. I can understand “yes,” I can understand “no,” but I can’t understand a leader sitting on her hands and waiting for more input. This is a crisis time and the outlines of the crisis have been evident for over a week. I’m afraid this wishy-washy response left me feeling like my congressperson is weak and ineffectual.

After this past year of wrangling back and forth, I find myself urging my representative to hold their nose and vote for the Senate bill. And not only vote, but lobby her on-the-fence colleagues HARD to do the same. Yes, I hate what the Senate did, I can’t stand, especially, the abortion provisions, the Nevada deal, and much more of the mess they made. But we have worked too hard and fought too many special interests to let this moment pass by. Democrats have everything they need to turn ashes into victory here. As bad as the Senate bill is, it is not “toxic.” That notion is poison being fed to the Hill from the right. It is, in fact, antidote. Passing a bill, even the Senate bill, is the only way to wake up the public to what has been good in this fight all along. Once it is a done deal, we can wake people up to all the positive things that are in the bill (yes, even in the Senate bill). Democrats gain nothing by letting the moment pass, all the real toxins, the negative thumping of the right wing, remains our baggage if we cave in now. The only way to refute lies is with demonstration, and we can only demonstrate with action, and the only path of action left is the Senate bill.

I know you are not in a position to carry the water on this. But you are all I’ve got. You can call your representative now, during most important week of the year that was and the year to come, and ask them where they stand. This will define Democrats. Governing is not about getting everything you want, it is about compromise. Can the Democrats govern? We have majorities in House and Senate and we have the White House. There is nobody else to blame. Can we govern? Can we compromise? Can we make sausage? Now we find out. Today. This week.

(Not sure who to call? Check with OpenCongress.)


21 January 2010 . Comments Off on Bumptop


A few years ago I saw a TED demo video about BumpTop, a prototype 3D desktop designed for pen interaction. Now this prototype has grown into a Mac desktop environment called BumpTop. (There is a Windows version too.) Now it is time to see how much the product can live up to the presentation.


14 January 2010 . Comments Off on FFR: Web hosts

FFR: Web hosts

A great thread on the Code4Lib list gives shoutouts to a number of web hosting services. Every few years I take a look at this market, so I wanted to remember to look at these in the future: Heroku (for Ruby), Slicehost (now owned by RackSpace), Linode (founded in 2003), WiredTree (noted for Drupal), DreamHost (which I’ve used too), and Sonic (run by geeks).

Screen shot 2010-01-14 at 7.52.31 PM.png

13 January 2010 . Comments Off on FFR: Inklet

FFR: Inklet

I’ve been wondering why nobody has done this. Inklet makes the modern Mac trackpad a pen tablet as well. If I had a newer MacBook or Pro, I’d be checking it out.

13 January 2010 . Comments Off on Google out of China?

Google out of China?

As a teenytiny stockholder in Google, I applaud its threat to abandon the Chinese market. A great summary of the fallout is at Ars Technica.


13 January 2010 . Comments Off on The Walking Subcaucus

The Walking Subcaucus

Last week I spent an evening training new caucus convenors for our February 2nd DFL precinct caucuses here in Minnesota. In general, precinct caucuses can be great fun, and I’ve found the caucus system here in Minnesota was much more successful at getting me involved in party politics at the local scale than I ever was in Massachusetts or Ohio, which rely on primaries.

One tradition of the caucus is that if there are more people in your caucus who want to be delegates to the next level of party convention than you have delegate slots available, the walking subcaucus process (a kind of proportional representation) will be used to determine who gets elected as delegates. In theory the walking subcaucus is a pretty easy process, each person just walks over to the group that best represents their point of view. If that group ends up big enough to elect one or more delegates, they do so within the group. It is a fun way to get to know your neighbors.

In practice, the simple math involved can be a bear. It is well described on page 4 of the 2010-2011 Official Call put out by the DFL, but even that clear description does not make it easy. I decided to write a web-based calculator to help with the math, and after I dug into the problem I realized that even the training we had been giving convenors was incomplete in some minor, but notable, ways. In fact, I’d never been given a complete picture myself!

This is all a long way of getting around to the point, my Minnesota DFL Subcaucus Calculator is now available. I still consider it beta, because it is only a few days old and I hope some early testers shake out some problems. I have had a couple people from the statewide DFL dig into it and report a raft of problems to me which I’ve fixed, but please don’t blame the DFL if the calculator still makes mistakes. Just let me know.

In particular, I’ve tried to make this a tool that can be used from an iPhone or other mobile device. I was particularly pleased to find ways to make the calculator iPhone aware (though it could be prettier) and even able to use the numeric keypad by default for certain text fields. The small joys of programming!

Anyway, if you are a Minnesota DFLer, take a look!


Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /