Virginia Third Parties in November

I was curious to see how many third parties made it onto the ballot here in Virginia, so I went over to the Virginia State Board of Elections.  Here are the candidates that will be appearing on the ballot in Virginia for U.S. Senate:

  • Jim Gilmore (R)
  • Gail Parker (Independent Green Party, and still the best campaign theme song ever)
  • William Redpath (Libertarian Party)
  • Mark Warner (D)

I can’t find any mention of presidential candidates on the SBE site, but according to Ballot Access News, the following presidential candidates should be appearing on the Virginia ballot:

(Yes, I intentionally linked only to the third party candidates… I didn’t think you’d have a problem finding out about the Democratic and Republican candidates.)

Palin as VP

I said before I thought Biden was an “interesting and bold choice” for Obama.  Well, today McCain actually one-upped him.  Gov. Sarah Palin from Alaska is an interesting and amazingly-super-bold choice for McCain.  The veritable explosion of positive feedback from Republicans (as opposed to the rather tepid response from Democrats about Biden) suggests it will help him immensely this November.

She’s young so she appeals to the young voters registering this year.  She’s a woman, so she appeals to Hillary supporters.  She’s a lifetime NRA member, so she appeals to bitter gun owners.  She’s pro-life, so she appeals to people clinging to religion.  She has a son going to Iraq, so she appeals to military families.  She’s cut government waste in Alaska, so she appeals to anti-tax conservatives.  She’s outside the mainstream, so she appeals to people fed up with politicians.  She’s a former beauty queen, so she appeals to people who objectify women.  (I didn’t really want to add that, but I guarantee everyone is going to tack that onto the end — “…all that and she’s got a great rack, too!!!”  You know you’re going to do it, Republicans, so don’t even try to deny it… I’ve already seen and heard it numerous times today.)

Having said that, this choice does have a tinge of desperation to it.  It’s clearly a calculated maneuver to get votes.  You can easily imagine the McCain strategists sitting down and saying, “Okay, our guy’s getting clobbered; we need a Hail Mary pass right now or we’re going to lose this thing.”  (Campaign strategists really talk in football metaphors, you know.)

I think selecting Palin also lends credibility to the rumors that McCain is really ticked off at Obama for trying to paint him as a Washington insider after he’s worked his whole career for the “maverick” label.  It’s like he went out of his way to pick someone from left field so he could say to the world, “See!  See!  I totally told you I was random and crazy!  You just never know what I’m going to do next!!”

Looks like this is going to be yet another close election.  How many more of these 50/50 elections can America bear before she finally snaps in two?

Agile Wall

I learned a new software development term the other day:  “Agile Wall.”  For those of you who aren’t into renaming things that already have names just to sound more important, it is:  ”A bulletin board with project notes all over it.”  Okay, okay, the notes are supposed to be arranged into three columns for “todo,” “in progress,” and “done.”  Yeah, I can see how it’s a totally different concept now.

The Conventions Part 1

We’ve been watching the DNC on C-SPAN this week.  If you’re masochistic enough to want to watch a partisan convention, C-SPAN is definitely the way to go.  It entirely cuts out the commercials and painfully ridiculous commentary that typically comes with the news networks.  Also, you get to actually see what goes on before the featured prime-time speakers.

We’ve also been following Vivian Paige on Twitter for the inside scoop from the Virginia delegation.  (Not Larry Sabato is also there.)  Bob Brink of 7 West is also blogging from the convention.  There might be others, but I don’t know who they are offhand.

This is really my first extensive exposure to a convention.  I remember watching bits and pieces of the 2004 conventions, but not much more than a handful of featured speakers.  And I wouldn’t have even known what a convention was before that.

I keep wondering who’s paying for all of this.  The city of Denver?  Corporate sponsers?  Lobbyists?  Party donations?  Politicians?  Taxpayers?  I certainly hope it’s not that last one, and I seriously doubt it would be politicians.  Also I would think it’d be hard to get people to donate money to a party if they knew it was just going toward, well, a big party.  And who’s paying for all the delegates to fly out and stay there?  If I had to pay for that I’d consider it more of a punishment than a privilege to be selected as a delegate.  I guess it would be more fun for someone really into politics.

Here’s some prime time speakers on YouTube if you missed them:  Michelle Obama, Mark WarnerHillary ClintonHillary’s acclamation, Bill ClintonJohn Kerry, Joe Biden, Al GoreOther stuff from Thursday night isn’t up yet.  Slowpokes.  Tim KaineBarack Obama.

The most entertaining speeches by far have been:  Dennis Kucinich and Brian Schweitzer.

Some quick notes:  Mrs. Krehbiel correctly predicted that Hillary would wear the orange pantsuit.  Hillary’s suspension of the roll call vote was classy, but I was disappointed I didn’t get to see the Virginia delegation vote.  I fully expect Hillary to be running again in 4 and/or 8 years.  I was surprised John Kerry went after John McCain like he did — he was like a raging… err… basset hound.  I didn’t think for one second that Joe Biden’s “freudian slip” was an accident.

I can’t wait to compare the DNC to the RNC.  I’m particularly interested in comparing the music selections.  I hope the RNC convention doesn’t run so dern late into the night though.  Some of us have to work, ya know.

Opera Road Test

Previously I wrote about Opera 9.5.  Since then, I’ve been using it for almost all of my browsing at home (at work we still have to use IE6 *rolls eyes*).  So far I’ve only encountered two real problems with it.

Of course, every now and then, you still run across some sites that refuse to work with anything but Internet Explorer or Firefox.  Most of the time it’s a bank or some other kind of financial institution.  (I find it somewhat ironic that banks usually have the worst, most incompatible, most insecure web sites around.)  It’s not really a problem, but it is sort of annoying to have to load up another browser.  It’d be nice if Opera had an “Open Link in Internet Explorer” option.  Oh, hey, a quick Google reveals there is a way to do just that.  Sweet.

More annoying is the way that Opera handles RSS feeds and XML.  As a programmer, I look at XML all the time.  And as a programmer who has written software to read RSS feeds, I look at RSS feeds all the time, too.  Opera does an admirable job of recognizing RSS and offering to add feeds to its internal RSS reader like other browsers, but that’s not what I want it to do.  When I click on an RSS feed link, I almost always want to look at formatted content or at the underlying XML.  Unfortunately Opera does a miserable job of displaying XML in the browser.  It crams everything together into a big page of unreadable mush.  So for this I’ll also have to use the aforementioned Open in Internet Explorer menu.

GhostDoc Redux

I had previously written that I tried GhostDoc but removed it because it didn’t write very useful comments.  Well I re-loaded it today because it does have one very handy feature:  Adding comments to classes that implement interfaces.  It’s incredibly tedious to copy comments from the interface code to the class code, but with GhostDoc you just have to right-click on the class member and hit “Document This” and it will automatically bring the comment from the interface to the class.  Pretty cool.

LINQ query syntax

I’m starting to learn a little bit about LINQ.  I am only doing this because I was starting to learn a little bit about the forthcoming ASP.NET MVC Framework by watching some handy screencasts, and the authors of the framework seem to think that we should all be using LINQ, too, so amidst the discussion of the MVC Framework they throw in quite a lot of tutorials about LINQ.

Based on all the hype built up around it over the years, you’d think that LINQ was the second coming.  It’s nice, but it’s not quite all that.  To understand what it really is, first let me show you a simple SQL query:

SELECT * FROM customers WHERE state=‘VA’

This query will return every customer record where the customer’s address is ‘VA.’  It can’t get any simpler than that.

Now you might be wondering why invent LINQ when SQL works just fine?  Well, the problem for us application programmers (as opposed to people writing stored procedures or typing queries into Management Studio) is that we have to do some extra work to send that query to the database and get back results in a manageable format (namely, in a collection of objects instead of a flat stream of bytes).  We have to write code that looks something like this (super-simplified for illustration):

SqlCommand command = CreateCommand( “SELECT * FROM customers WHERE state=’VA'” );
SqlDataReader data = command.ExecuteReader();
List<Customer> results = new List<Customer>();
while( data.Read() ) {
Customer customer = new Customer( data );
customers.Add( customer );

That will get us a collection of Customer objects that we can work with.  It’s not particularly difficult, but it’s kind of ugly and awkward.  Normally we try to hide those awkward details behind a data access layer so it doesn’t distract us from our application logic.  With the details hidden, we might end up writing application code that looks like this:

IEnumerable<Customer> customers = datalayer.GetCustomersFrom( “VA” );

That worked fine, but now we have a whole new paradigm in LINQ.  Now we don’t have to wrap our queries with extraneous code.  Here is the same concept as the above SQL query, written as a LINQ query:

var customers = from c in db.Customers where c.State==“VA” select c;

The cool thing is you can put that right inline with your source code, and what you get back from it is “customers” – an enumerable collection of Customer objects.

How’s it work?  Well, when you get right down to it, it’s basically just another data access framework that hides the messy details of querying the database, just like all the other data access frameworks out there.  The only things that are different about this one are, 1) it’s built by Microsoft, and, 2) it’s integrated right into the language.  (Those are two powerful incentives to use it, by the way.)  But there’s nothing really magical about it — behind the scenes, LINQ to SQL queries are transmogrified into method calls that eventually build SQL statements, send them to the database, instantiate Customer objects, and populate them with results from the query.

But enough of that.  Let’s talk about the LINQ query syntax itself.  I find it puzzling.  For example, in LINQ query syntax, we have to specify where to look before we specify what we’re looking for.  In SQL, it was a pretty straightforward ”select stuff from here.”  But in LINQ, it’s backwards — it’s ”from here, select stuff.”

We also have to specify the search criteria in the middle.  In SQL, it was “select stuff from here with this criteria.”  In LINQ, it’s “from here, with this criteria, select stuff.”

Furthermore, we have to reference the name of each row entity, as in “from each row named x in here, select stuff.”  I can only speculate that that becomes more of an asset in complex queries, but in my experience, simple queries are much more common than complex queries, so it seems like needless redundancy to me.

In short, LINQ is a handy shortcut if you’re working with Microsoft .NET 3.5 technology and nothing else.  (It’s almost entirely worthless if you aren’t.)  For myself, I can see the benefit in understanding the basics, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy working with it where possible, but I can’t see myself expending much effort in becoming an “expert” on LINQ.

Biden As VP

I actually like Joe Biden.  He is long-winded, yes, and I don’t agree with all of his policies, but he always seems to skip past the B.S. and get right to the point.  That’s pretty refreshing in this day and age.

Among the possible VP choices mentioned, Biden was clearly the most qualified choice to help with governing the country.  He has the knowledge and experience Obama lacks, and he’s not a yes-man.  He has a reputation as a centrist and a history of working with Republicans.  That’s the kind of associate you’d want if you’re really serious about doing a good job as president.

Unfortunately, you have to get elected before you can do a good job as president, and we live in an age of YouTube politics and voters that are dumber than rocks.  From that perspective, Joe Biden is an unbelievably risky choice.  It’s only been a couple of days and we’ve already been subjected to Joe Biden’s Greatest Gaffes over and over and over again, and you can bet Republican blogs will be re-publishing those same YouTubes every day from now until November.  Not to mention the legions of overzealous activists with video cameras that will be following Biden around, hoping to get The Next Big Gaffe on tape to sell it to the highest bidder.  Or whatever those kinds of people do.

So I think Obama made an interesting and bold choice.  Not what I would have expected, to be honest.

Obama’s VP Part 2

One of the previously mentioned scoopers now has a new scoop:  Hillary.

Notwithstanding, it seems that all the stars are aligned for Tim Kaine to be announced as Obama’s running mate at John Tyler Community College tomorrow (including the intriguing clue that John Tyler was the last vice president from Virginia).

This is exactly why I suspect an elaborate ruse.  I’m not sure that America is in a good place when presidential campaigns require so much time and effort to keep their plans secret from the paparazzi media.  Maybe I’m just being paranoid.

Anyway, John Tyler is actually pretty close to me, so it would be kind of cool to head over there and check out the festivities.  Except, you know, some of us have to work.  Once again the politicians are putting the jobless and retired ahead of the people actually driving the economy.