New Board of Elections Site

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The reason I've been putting in so many late hours since the first of the year is now live to the world. The new Cuyahoga County Board of Elections site is now live. Our whole group has done pretty much nothing but recode the site from the ground up since January 1st. I put together a site tour to show off all of the new bells and whistles, but I'll touch on my favorites here.

My Voting Information

The My Voting Information page is a great one-stop-shop for personalized voting information, all of which is public record. If you enter your last name and date of birth you get detailed results concerning your polling location, ballot, district information, past election participation [not your votes, just the elections you've voted in], poll worker participation and community outreach events in your city. There's even a Google map which will give you directions from your home to your polling location.

Election Results Wizard

The Election Results Wizard lets you follow only the races you're interested in instead of having to scroll through the huge master results list.

Events Calendar

The Events Calendar lets you search for the events that you're interested in, and only the events you're interested in.

Validation, Accessibility

Working within the design constraints [not a big fan of having to use #EF3E42] and the constraints of the ASP.NET CMS was great for the most part. I'm still having fits trying to get the server to stop spitting out so much trash code, but I've learned a lot about styling within .NET itself. Despite that, I'm at a loss of what to do with the remaining validation errors since even the three images missing alt attributes are inaccessible because they aren't hard-coded. I managed to give them title attributes, but can't figure out the alt text trick. I'm trying to convince the developers to take the Google Map API key out of the web.config and put it back into the script where it typically is because ASP.NET doesn't allow code blocks within the header. This means there are script references outside of the header. And, ASP.NET labels spit out everything between tags which the validator also chokes on because block-level elements can't be contained within inline elements.Update: I've whittled down the validation errors to one, the onClick attribute that's called as a user control for the site search. That's definitely one for a developer to look at. The alt attributes were inserted by using a text="" attribute in the asp:hyperlink line. I'm used to a text attribute actually spitting out text, so that wasn't an intuitive choice for me. The Google API isn't called until someone actually clicks on a directions link, so there are now no scripts outside of the header, and all those span tags can be gotten rid of by using ASP:Literal elements instead of ASP:Label ones. That simple switch cleaned up about 80% of the trash code that I was seeing upon viewing source. I'm learning even more. Maybe I'll even learn some programming here in a bit.

There might be a better way to go about this, but I've not had the chance to take an ASP.NET course yet, and it is new hat to the developers as well. Those guys are friggin' heroes though, no doubt.

In accessibilityland, unfortunately the site is heavily dependent on JavaScripts. There isn't really anything I can do about that as a designer, and most of the interactive items depend on it. I made sure to provide access keys and tab indexing where it would be helpful and we're now providing an accessibility statement, at least. There is always more to be done, but the honest truth is that accessibility becomes a low priority when the limits of time, money and interest are more concerned with other things. On the bright side, the new site is worlds better than the old one for those who use alternative browsing methods.

The End

In the end I hope that [as cheesy as it sounds] my work on the BOE site will help improve the electoral process and experience for folks in Cuyahoga County. Although I say so myself, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections site is the best board of elections site I've seen. I hope it influences others to step up their game as much as the Web Group at the ISC has these past two months.

Time for a beer.

Life

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Life has been too busy to pay much at­ten­tion to this web­site. I’ve got a re­design about halfway done, but it will con­tin­ue to lan­guish un­til I don’t have to put in quite so many hours at work; so, af­ter the March 4 Primary. There have been a lot of er­rands to take care of late­ly, fram­ing art, work­ing on cur­tains, get­ting a rug for the bed­room, so the bed doesn’t ru­in the wood floors, work­ing on the wall in the en­try room, pay­ing down debt, do­ing laun­dry, do­ing dish­es, along with var­i­ous oth­er ap­point­ments.

I’ve had a bad sore throat/​chest con­ges­tion for a week now. I fi­nal­ly bought some Mucinex, but al­though oth­ers swear by it, I no­tice no change in my abil­i­ty to hack up dense globs of phlegm. Sleeping is a night­mare.

On the ba­by front, we can feel him kick and punch and throw dance par­ties all of the time. Apparently he re­al­ly likes peanut but­ter.

For din­ner tonight I’m mak­ing sweet pota­to gnoc­chi with sautéed ar­ti­choke hearts and broc­coli with meat­balls on the side.

Eulogy for Frances Sue Berkshire

Saturday, 16 February 2008

My grand­ma died last Sunday night. Her obit­u­ary can be found here. I no longer have any grand­par­ents. Grandma Berkshire was a strong woman. She grew up in the Great Depression, but she liked to point out that she grew up on a farm, so while they were poor, they had plen­ty to eat. She was born in Kokomo, IN, but grew up in Flora, a place I’ve nev­er been, but one I’ve passed by a few times on my way to West Lafayette. She lived for years just down the road in Logansport, IN, where she raised 4 chil­dren, in­clud­ing my mom. I’ve writ­ten about her once be­fore, so this post is like­ly to have some re­peats.

She loved dirty jokes and beat­ing the tar out of any­one she played at Scrabble. I on­ly ever beat her once. She was a great part­ner at bid eu­chre, and a great grand­moth­er al­to­geth­er. When she lived in Connersville, I used to ride the bus to their house af­ter school and watch the af­ter­noon Disney car­toons in the kitchen. I’d sneak E.L. Fudge cook­ies from the cook­ie jar. At least I thought I did, Grandma was on to me, but pre­tend­ed not to hear. It was rough at the wake. There were dis­plays of Grandma through­out life, the book of her life with Grandpa which they re­ceived at their 50th wed­ding an­niver­sary; and a book of her po­ems. She wrote po­ems for the fam­i­ly for the big events in our lives; I re­ceived one for my high school grad­u­a­tion. When I came to that page, I fi­nal­ly let my­self cry. Grandma had so much love for all of us. 

She al­ways asked Grandpa to fix her half a drink, and when she’d feed me, she’d al­ways try to get me to eat more, in­sist­ing “there’s on­ly a dab left.” She saved every­thing. The bags bread came in, the wire twists that kept them shut, in­fi­nite plas­tic con­tain­ers, po­lit­i­cal para­pher­na­lia from years gone, every­thing. And I was ter­ri­fied of com­ing any­where near The Lamp.

In typ­i­cal Grandma fash­ion, she planned her fu­ner­al ahead of time, down to the last de­tails. Readings, songs, who she want­ed to do what, even the type of flower she want­ed, ivory ros­es, were laid out for us. My mom and Camy read the eu­lo­gy, and did a great job. They end­ed with a po­em that Grandma had writ­ten for her own fu­ner­al, which tore the flood­gates open anew. After the fu­ner­al Mass, we learned that my cousin Chris, who was singing along with my cousin Jess, said “Shit, I have to sing now?” right af­ter the eu­lo­gy, and in­to the mi­cro­phone. He was wor­ried that every­one heard it. I don’t think any­one did, but if Grandma had, she’d’ve been, in her words, “tick­led.”

There is no way to say enough about her, but it is eas­i­er to point out the ex­cel­lent fam­i­ly that sur­rounds me as a tes­ta­ment to her love and abil­i­ties. I miss you, Grandma.

Notes, Lately

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

$110

  • $110 will get you ap­prox­i­mate­ly 250 items of sec­ond­hand ba­by clothes. No one needs to buy us any­thing re­sem­bling a ba­by cloth for at least the next 9 months.
  • The Bobby web­site ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty val­ida­tor is no longer avail­able on­line. It is now bun­dled in­to a piece of IBM soft­ware for pur­chase on­ly. This makes it hard­er, not eas­i­er, for web de­sign­ers to build ac­ces­si­ble web­sites.
  • It is faster to ride RTA down­town than dri­ve, since the E 9th and Euclid in­ter­sec­tion snarls every­thing up. It is ac­tu­al­ly faster to ex­it on E 22nd Street and back­track.
  • No one is used to the bus lanes yet, they’re be­ing used as right turn lanes, which fur­ther snarls traf­fic.
  • After 3 years of pay­ing my con­sol­i­dat­ed col­lege loans on time, I just re­ceived at 1% re­duc­tion in the in­ter­est rate. Now it is at 2.375%, which is awe­some. I can pay it off faster now.