DC Snowpocalypse Bury Meter

Everyone in the DC area is making a ruckus about the impending snowstorm of doom! Throughout the weekend I will measure how much snow has fallen here in Glenmont, MD, and track it via this silly picture of me.

The National Weather Service is calling for 20 – 30 inches of the white stuff so if we get 30″, then my entire photo will be completely white.

Saturday, 1:45am – 28 inches: While everyone is asleep, I’m out trudging around in snow. Ok, I’m sure this measurement is due to drifting but it’s consistent in both places that I have been measuring all day (a bush near my building and on the hood of my Rav-4). The Weather Channel just reported Columbia, MD, officially has 13.9″ of fallen snow. I’ll keep updating my image which will easily go out of the frame tomorrow.

The snow is coming up to my knee in low areas and my mid thigh in the deep spots. It keeps coming down at a strong, relentless pace. I like how dead-silent it is outside.

Friday, 11:30pm – 9 inches
Friday, 7:45pm – 3.75 inches
Friday, 3:30pm – 2 inches

Twitter Tags #snowpocalypse, #snowmageddon, #snOMG

Help A School Library, Donate Books NOW!

My good friend just became a Library Media Specialist at a DC public school this year.  She is in the midst of transforming an old, neglected library full of antiquated books into a resource the students would actually use. But to do that, they need updated books. Here is her take on the situation (emphasis mine):

The majority of the books are from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Much of the information in these books use outdated terminology and often have negative stereotypes of women, African Americans, and hispanics. This is particularly bad since our student population is 75% African American and 25% hispanic. In addition, most of the library collection is above an 8th grade reading level. Last year only 8% of our school scored proficient for reading. Getting books at these students’ reading level is imperative in helping the students improve their reading comprehension in years to come.

So how can you help out?

  • Make a cash donation (Be sure to type Book Drive in the Donation Designation)
  • Buy books from their Amazon wishlist and have them shipped directly to MacFarland Middle School
  • Donate used books that meet the following criteria:
  • Share this link with your friends and family. Help spread the word!

All donations are fully tax deductible. You can read the official MacFarland Middle School Book Drive Letter for more information. I’ve already bought all of the Captain Underpants books from their wishlist and you should pick a few books out that you really like to help the children at MacFarland Middle School.

BarCampDC 3 Recap

This past Saturday, November 14th, a hundred DC tech enthusiasts gathered at the Martin Luther King Library to create their own conference. Topics were suggested by participants and the group at large determined the schedule. It was a BarCamp at it’s best!

The final schedule as picked by the particpants at BarCamp DC

Large crowd at BarCamp DC 3

This year’s BarCamp had a few twists. The word ‘Twitter’ was banned and anyone violating that rule had to pay a dollar to the Twitter swear jar which was donated to charity. The other rule was no PowerPoint slides which was an effort to promote group discussions and participation over lectures.

I got to catch up with former co-workers from USNews as well as other DC tech-heads I met at other local events. The entire event including lunch was free of charge thanks to the generous sponsors who helped make BarCampDC possible. The pizza was quite good.

Typical techie BarCamp food: PIZZA!

Some of the talks I went to included:

Russell Heimlich and John Chen during the How To Play Tetris talk at BarCamp DC 3.

How To Play Tetris led by John Chen. John didn’t actually think anyone was interested in his talk but we had a good-size group talking about video game politics, strategies for Tetris, and the fact that there are Tetris pros making US$100k per year in Korea. The key takeaway was being good at Tetris takes practice, practice, and more practice. And after you’ve practiced some more, you wake up one day and realize you’re good at Tetris.

An Introduction to the Android Platform Gyuri Grell and Zvi Band led an introduction to the Android mobile OS platform. The talk was a little over my head as it was mostly about Java, which I know nothing about. The source code for Meetro DC, the DC Metro app demoed, can be found on GitHub for anyone to poke around and play with. I did enjoy seeing from a high level how Android apps work and shedding some light on the magic running behind the scenes. I’m really excited to see where Android goes in the future.

The most thought-provoking talk I sat in was Generalist vs. Specialist led by Kelly Gifford. It was such an open-ended topic that spurred a healthy debate. From my point of view you are both a generalist and specialist depending on what level you are comparing to. For example, in your company you might be the only “web person”, making you a specialist but with so many different hats to wear in a sole-developer position, you have to do many different things making you a generalist. Like most anything in life, nothing is cut and dry black and white but a lot of gray areas.

Ryan McGrath is in a unique situation at his job at Webs.com.  He is in charge of Improving the Performance of the Frontend for millions of sites hosted there.  Crufty code, too much JavaScript, and a less-than-ideal backend issue are some of the problems plaguing his pursuit for excellence. An engineer from Clearspring, which distributes billions of page views of widgets all across the web,  was in the room and provided some great insight into tuning performance for large-scale sites. They talked about some geeky stuff like serving images as base64 strings instead of binary data which can yield some performance gains. I was pretty much lost after that.

The final talk of the day was about TemlarPHP, a cascading template framework built with PHP. It separates presentation from content to create websites that are easy to maintain and standards complaint with the need for a database. It was created by Shawn Brown and looked like a lighter alternative compared to the other feature-packed, and somewhat bloated, web frameworks out there.

Russell Heimlich discussing frontend tips at BarCamp DC

Like the past two DC BarCamps, I gave a talk. The topic was HTML/CSS/JavaScript Tips & Tricks which I have picked up over the past few years and thought were worth sharing. I felt it was one of my best presentations as my talking points came to me naturally with code details to back up what I was saying. I was stoked to see so many people show up to hear what I had to say as well as contribute a few points of their own. Shaun Farrell managed to capture video from a part of my talk.

So as you can see there was a lot going on. There were so many other presentations I wanted to see and people I wanted to meet and chat with but there just wasn’t enough time. A big thanks goes out to the organizers (@jfc3 , @thorpus, @corbett3000, @farrelley, @patricktimony & all the others) that helped put on another great DC tech event.

Other BarCamp DC Resources

Some Mean Thunderstorms In The DC Area

Today has been an interesting weather day. I was awoken at 6am by one loud thunderclap followed by several long, low rumbles. Everything was fine on my way into work and the sun even came out during the day. But near the end of the day, I looked out the window and saw it was ominously dark. So naturally I decided to venture outside and take some pictures on my phone.

Ominous Dark Clouds Over Georgetown

Scary Clouds Over Georgetown

You can see how strong these storms were by looking at the radar. So I decided to hunker down at work until the thunder died down.


Of course the Metro was all kinds of backed up. Go figure. Hopefully tomorrow will be less stormy.

BarCamp DC 2 Is Coming

It seems like just yesterday I was telling you guys about SocialDevCamp East. But the other day I got word that the 2nd DC area BarCamp is happening on Saturday, October 18th. This time it will be at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University in Georgetown. Why there is a Boston University in DC is beyond me. But lucky for me, the conference is right across the street from my work so I’ll be familiar with the area.

Last year’s BarCamp was the first technology conference I had ever been to and I had a great time meeting other like-minded web folks like myself. I gave a presentation about Firebug which was pretty much by the seat of my pants. This time I hope to present again except this time around I will come better prepared.

I hope to see you there on October 18th for BarCamp DC 2! More details can be found at the official website and wiki.


Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University
1055 Thomas Jefferson Street NW
Washington, DC 20007

If Guns Kill People… Do Pens Misspell Words?

Today the supreme court overruled the 1976 Washington DC gun ban in a 5-4 vote. But other than the fact that a bullet proof vest might be a good investment for my daily commute, this isn’t the interesting part of the story. The best part of todays decision was the odd protest sign that made the homepage of two major online news sites.

Check out this screengrab of the CNN homepage today.

Gun Ban Sign CNN.com

and then this capture of the U.S.News & World Report homepage a few minutes later.

Gun Ban Sign USNews.com

I can’t decide what is more stupid: the statement “If Guns Kill People… Do Pens Misspell Words?” or the guys face in the first picture.