Surviving Sandy

For all the hype Sandy did not have a huge impact on those of us in inland Connecticut. The damage in my area was fairly limited and we got our power back this morning. This stands in contrast to Irene where it took about a week for it to return. It seems the measures CL&P and the state has taken have been effective. Cell service was never interrupted and everyone that purchased generators over the past year had an opportunity to test them out. Based on the current service levels I do not think CL&P will win any medals, but maybe people will be less angry.

I followed most of the storm on twitter. It seemed that most of the world was doing the same thing as I: sitting at their computer and waiting for their power to die. I think that when things like this happen, twitter and facebook do a much better job of spreading information than the regular news media. You can only watch people getting blown away by the heavy winds at the shoreline so much, but twitter is quick to latch on to unique angles and propagate them. It really has become the world’s chatroom for current events.

Finally I cannot understate the horror of the devastation across the shore. The pictures from New York City are incredible. I recommend checking out the slide show from The New York Times.I also recommend this BuzzFeed compilation.

Calm Before the Storm

It’s midnight and nearly one year after Hurricane Irene knocked out power for a week we are going to get hit with a comparably powerful storm. The meteorologists and public officials are not sugar coating it. Houses near the shore are being evacuated and we’ve been told that power might not be restored for days. I am digging in and have reading material to occupy me when the Internet dies. However I probably will not be able to blog much or at all. If it is anything like Irene I will probably have intermittent cell service for the first day or so. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as they are saying but I am prepared for the worst.

Behind the Scenes: Making a Campaign Video with the iPhone and iMovie

One of the things that I have been encouraging candidates to do over the past few years is leverage video on YouTube to communicate campaign messages to their constituents. The other day I finally had the opportunity to help make the first one. Since we were unable to secure much in the way of professional equipment the video was recorded using my iPhone 4S and overall the quality was pretty good. The two main barriers to making a professional recording with the iPhone are getting good quality audio and stabilizing the phone with a tripod.

Since I did not have enough time to order a tripod mount online and it seems iPhone tripod adapters are not sold in retail stores I used a Joby Gorillapod for iPod Touch along with the included adhesive adapter to mount the phone to a tripod. It worked decently. However I plan to acquire an adapter for when I want to use the iPhone with a tripod in the future. It surprised me that acquiring a tripod adapter for the iPhone was so difficult, especially in light of the ubiquity of the product.

While the iPhone microphone is pretty good, it is not a professional microphone. High quality audio is one of the major differences between a professional looking video and one that seems like a home movie. So I managed to find an adapter that I could buy to use with one of my brother’s professional microphones. Had I more time and a bigger budget I would have also bought a shotgun or lavaliere microphone to minimize its presence in the scene. However the microphone I got worked well.

We then did the video shot in a few takes, and I used iMovie to intersperse the various scenes from the park while the candidate was talking. Overall I tried to avoid getting too fancy and to keep the focus on the candidate. I think it turned out pretty well for my first full try, and I hope to use the lessons I’ve learned from this project to improve future ones. The result is below.

PACs making incursions into Connecticut General Assembly Races

I read this article with interest today because it seems to be the second instance of a PAC dumping a large amount of money in a race for a seat in the Connecticut General Assembly. These kinds of incursions have the potential to undermine the spirit of Connecticut’s public financing system. However I think it is important to point out that the threat may be overblown. Connecticut has consistently demonstrated that campaign spending suffers from diminishing marginal utility. Candidates like Linda McMahon and Tom Foley who spend large sums of money on their campaigns have failed to beat their opponents that have spent less. My question is whether you think Connecticut should take additional steps to stop this, and whether you think it will make a difference.

For the Entrepreneurs: Software and Hardware

Jason Fried and the team at 37Signals put together a free eBook on building a business based on a web application. I thought it was pretty neat considering they have experience in the business and few entrepreneurs seem to spend the time to really document the process and the pitfalls. I have not read the book but the table of contents suggests that it is full of practical advice, and Fried has a good reputation in the web application business.

Of course this is released the same time as Paul Graham writing an essay noting that observes startups are moving towards hardware products. I am more of a software guy than a hardware guy myself, but I enjoy gadgets. I am fascinated by 3-D printing and some of the other technologies coming out of the maker movement, but the downside of hardware is that it usually requires more investment than software. Therefore it becomes a more expensive hobby than programming and also there is greater risk if you try to scale hardware into a business. For that reason I have a lot of respect for the hardware guys.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.