• gathered evidence of our expenditures over the past 11 months
  • met with real estate agent
  • talked to business plan expert
  • registered for class at CNM
  • dealt with Seattle property management
  • M worked on REAP grant details
  • talked to architect & contractor on weekly conf call
  • drafted annual meeting minutes
  • harvested broccoli


  1. Signed by-laws and sent them to TTB
  2. Corresponded with various equipment manufacturers (fermenters, pumps and valves, valve locks)
  3. Met with general contractor to review salvaged materials, et al
  4. Met with neighboring artist about construction noise, dust
  5. Review the classes available at CNM — which start this week.
  6. Bought tshirt shipping supplies
  7. Did some remote consulting


In the eight months since incorporating Vasker, I’ve done and learned a lot. It’s been an intermittently exhilarating, discouraging, focused, wandering process. Here are some things I’ve learned, done, and thought about.

  1. While ability and affinity are important measures of a prospect, past giving is considered the biggest indicator of future giving. Beta clients in two states brought this up, leading me to import gigs of historical political donation data from the public sources.
  2. There’s no perfect way to associate donor data with voter data. You can match on names, but there are problems, including the Bill/Billy/Will/William issue and the fact that there are many people named Bill Williams in any city. But you can make a best effort and display the information as “possible donations” to be reviewed by human researchers.
  3. Speaking of names, people’s names come in all sorts of forms, and sometimes they don’t use their real names, so you need to be able to recognize “Dr. Bill E. Williams, PhD” as particular voter #12344567 “WILLAM EDWARD WILLIAMS”, while discarding “Mr. Bill is Awesome, Yo”. External databases of common words, nicknames, surnames, and suffixes can help. But watch out — there really are people whose names consist of dictionary words, like “Will Hurt”, “Bill Gates”, “Dick Smith”, “Bob Black”, “Melody Winters”, “Grace Masters”, etc.
  4. Earth is not a perfect sphere, but it’s close enough at most latitudes that simple geometric calculations suffice for distance calculations between points, rather than GIS science, of which I know almost nothing.
  5. Professionals who work in politics (fundraising, managing data, coordinating volunteers, handling communications) are like mercenaries: They go where the fight is. So your contact within a political organization may not be around long. My hunch is that this enhances the importance of professional networks and reputation in the industry. People move around, crisscrossing the country and each other’s paths, over multiple years and election cycles.
  6. Some statewide political organizations tell me “we don’t do prospecting”. They already have a deep list and don’t have or require staff to conduct prospect research. Others tell me they have a great donor list, but a high percentage of them are people over eighty years old, and so they are actively prospecting for younger professionals to activate, and have dedicated staff to support that effort.
  7. My system for measuring affinity or interest scores individuals based on their specific expressions of personal interest. The sophisticated scoring used by the Democrats to rate a voter’s likelihood of voting Democratic takes into account is a predictive model, rather than an individual score.  I ran a Pearson Correlation to see how well the two scores line up, and got a moderate positive correlation.  I am not sure whether that’s a valid comparison or if these two scores are different enough in kind that it’s meaningless to compare them statistically.
  8. I aspired to use git for source control at the beginning of this project, but soon began ignoring it as a time-wasting step.  This hasn’t burned me – yet.
  9. I am convinced that my software is identifying real people who lean politically progressive. For fundraisers (my clients), the question remains, what’s the best way to activate them as contributors? How do you create a first-time political contributor? (It’s a difficult topic to Google, since there’s so much news about campaign finance and political contributions. One essay posits outrage as the best tool to activate new contributors, but does so in a pretty disparaging way.)
  10. I’m awaiting results from a test — 5000 prospect phone numbers sent to a call center to be read a four-sentence fundraising script. Is this the best way to activate them?
  11. This is the biggest software/data project I’ve ever taken on single-handed. I valued and miss collaboration with founders/employees. And, as I’ve been forced to learn new technologies and make software design decisions, I’ve levelled up, which feels good.



How to fix it

Just some quick notes I’ve taken recently:

Gardens of Democracy suggests:

  1. Reform redistricting: “Congressional districts should be drawn independent of the parties, and optimized for a mix of voter viewpoints rather than incumbent protection.”
  2. Restrict money in politics:  “Most Americans think politics is a game rigged by those with money. They are right.”
  3. Stop the revolving door: “It is a measure of how far our national ethics have drifted when members of Congress and senior staff leave their jobs to work for the corporations they once regulated — and no one cares.”
  4. Reform the filibuster. “The filibuster has made the Congress essentially a supermajority-only body on most hard issues. That must end.”
  5. Reinvigorate voting:  “Voting in the United States should be mandatory, so that representation of the people is a reality and not a fiction. Efforts to suppress voter turnout among voters of color and youth,  fueled mainly by Republicans, are shameful and should be shamed out of existence.”

Al Gore says that what we have to do in these strong currents of global change “is deceptively simple: steer! That means fixing the prevailing flaws and distortions in capitalism and self-governance. It means controlling the corrosive corruption of money in politics, breaking the suffocating rule of special interests, and restoring the healthy functioning of collective decision making in representative democracy to promote the public interest. ”

Meanwhile, this morning I read a study (pdf) that polled and then brought together focus groups representative subgroups of Republicans: Evangelicals, the largest faction, Tea Party members, who command the most attention, and moderates, the shrinking segment who lament their diminishing party.






Along the right-hand edge of the far box, which is one of the sunniest spots, I planted 15 cloves of garlic.

They’re in circles about 8″ in diameter, cloves around 3″ from each other, circles about about a foot apart, based on some video on the internet.  About two inches deep, with the pointy end up. A couple inches of straw over them too.

Supposedly they will sprout in the spring, grow purple flowers, and then in the fall, just as the leaves are beginning to brown and wilt, I dig them up and hang them in a cool dry place for a week to cure.