Sunday, 28 March 2010

Cirque Imaginaire

Yesterday I went to the Sachsenheim for Cirque Imaginaire, a traveling art gallery. There were a lot of arts & crafts packed into the hall, and I squeezed through the throngs with a giant mug of beer.

Two booths really caught my eye, the t-shirts from Psycho Reindeer, and Erin Carek’s science-fiction collage work. I picked up the set of rocketman coasters from her. Erin is also responsible for organizing the art show. The addition of a few good bands helped make the night a great time.

Here are the bands:

And here are a few of the folks there who had stuff I liked:

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Cuyahoga Charter Transition Thoughts

On Thursday, after work but before I went to my Applied Quantitative Statistics class at CSU, I spent 3 hours at the Cuyahoga County Ombudsman’s Office making phone calls to Charter Transition volunteers. Along with other members of the Public Engagement Committee, I was calling volunteers that we’d identified as likely to not have heard from a specific workgroup. The goal was to determine if they were still interested in participating and offer them some options on involving themselves, while providing information about upcoming plans for the Economic Development Workgroup.

I hate telephones. Most folks who know me know this. I don’t even like calling my good friends and family. So I wasn’t looking forward to making cold calls to strangers. What I was looking forward to was finding out what questions, comments and ideas the volunteers on my list would have about the process, the County or whatever. I love hearing what other people have to say. That’s just part of my personality. After I’ve got that information, my anthropology degree kicks in and I try to figure out what all these thoughts and opinions mean. I’m used to hearing opinions about the County from my fellow County employees, who have all been around a lot longer than I have, or reading about it (especially over the last 2 years) in a negative light (typically magnified in the comments) on Cleveland.com.

To some extent I was expecting more of the same when I made these calls.

Much to my surprise and pleasure, everyone I called and actually got to talk to was extremely supportive, interested in the information I had to impart and enthusiastic to get involved.

I’m going to be self-important for a moment to make a point. For years I’ve been working in ways that I hope will empower regular folks to affect change in their communities. It’s been a bumpy ride, and I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. I see this process I’m engaging in now as another chance to make that happen. I consider myself an open government advocate, and I’ve learned a lot about the wide-spread institutional resistance against these efforts by interacting with folks at GovLoop, working on the eGovernment Interest Group at the World Wide Web Consortium, and thinking through things on my own at The Design State. I even based one of my papers for my PAD 600 course on the run-up (and delays surrounding) the Obama administration’s Open Government Directive. (Somewhat ironically, the OGD was released the day after I turned in my paper.)

The point of all that is that I’ve done some homework on including citizens in the processes of government. That’s all great, right?

Not really.

All the work I’ve done on my own, and that the Charter Transition is doing now doesn’t mean squat without productive and constructive citizen involvement. It was heartening to me to do the phone banking, because I heard from just a few of the 1000+ volunteers, and they were all ready to get to work. Including them during this Transition process and doing our best to keep them (and others) around after it ends can only strengthen the work that the County does as an institution.

I have high hopes but realistic expectations. I know very well that every recommendation made by the Charter Transition workgroups might be dismissed and thrown out by the newly elected council and executive. If that happens, bummer. It will be a blow to all of the volunteers who have worked on providing options to improve our county. The outcome I’m hoping for, whether or not the workgroup recommendations are accepted, is that both the County and its citizens realize that working together is better for everyone, and that efforts to provide more information to citizens and include them in the business of the County should become business as usual. This Transition process can, at the very least, be an exercise that lets citizens figure out how to interact with government and government interact with citizens.

When I first started working for the County in December 2006, there were talks about moving to the Ameritrust complex on East 9th Street. I had a vision of rebranding the County as “The New Cleveland Trust Company”. Now’s our chance to make that phrase do more than just sound catchy.

Disclaimer Time

This post is my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, procedures or plans of Cuyahoga County, the Cuyahoga County Charter Transition Advisory Group, or the Public Engagement Workgroup.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

New Design

Well, I’ve got a new design up, finally. Doesn’t look too much different on the face. Most of the changes are behind the scenes, HTML5 and CSS3. If you’ve got the right browser, you might see some cool fonts and other stuff. As usual, it ain’t complete, if I ever get around to it some other coolness might appear.

Well, it figures, some stuff isn’t working correctly that worked just fine on my development box. Switched back to the old design until I can figure it out.

Well, I finally figured out the bugs. @font-face should be working now, I’m using Greyscale and Midiet. The whole design is coded in HTML5, and I was using every CSS3 bell and whistle just for practice but ended up ripping most of them out. I plan on making a few more updates and to conduct an audit of all my posts, to clean them up, but that process will take even longer than it did for me to come up with a new design.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Thou Shalt

“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…”
Preface to Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman