Friday, December 17, 2004

Some Thoughts on Kinsey

As someone who got basic reproductive biology as a child from reading Dr. Spock's Guide to Baby and Child Care in the '60s (which was generally reassuring about things like masturbation without ever explaning what masturbation was!), I generally understood most of the basic mechanics about human sexuality even if I got the details wrong. My mother bought some books about sexuality aimed at children, so we had reasonably complete sex ed at home, at school and in church youth groups. By the time my class graduated from high school in 1975, there was only one generally known pregnancy in the whole class, even though many of the kids were already sexually active. Remember, this was the late '60s and early '70s, before the government decided to resume lying to children about sex again.

So, I've always been a fan of Dr. Kinsey. I haven't read his books, but I've read books sparked by his research, and I know I've benefitted by his insistence on teaching the biological information about sex.

Bill Condon, a director/writer who created the very insightful Gods and Monsters a few years ago has made another wonderful movie in Kinsey. It carefully recreates a time when people ranted about zippers leading to promiscuity and oral sex leading to infertility. It's a useful movie to see because we may be headed down that road again. Kinsey makes it clear that while sexual experimentation can be very messy, studying sex and describing it honestly is very important.

One thing that's fascinating about Dr. Kinsey is that Liam Neeson, with a spot-on Midwestern accent, plays him as if he had Asperger's Syndrome - he's very obsessed and just doesn't relate that well to people. He eventually marries one of his students played by Laura Linney. Their relationship is the heart of the first half of the movie, but as the focus of the movie shifts from studying wasps to studying human sexuality, she rather drifts out of much of the movie until closer to the end.

The pacing of the movie is leisurely at first, but speeds up rapidly over the last ten years or so of his life, which is a shame. I would like to have seen a little more of the controversy over Dr. Kinsey in the '50s. The movie is absolutely worth the trip, for its compelling acting and intelligent writing, but it's also, rather strongly, a cautionary tale.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Good News After Smofcon

After leaving Smofcon in DC today, we drove to Silver Spring to take my brother Jeff out to lunch. While eating lunch, I asked if he'd heard from our younger brother, Terry, whose wife Jess is due to have a baby any day now.

"Nope, not yet."

We continued eating, and then the phone went off. It was Terry. Jess had had her baby earlier in the day! Their son's name is Luke, and here's his first family photo at just a few hours old:

Luke Trask and Family, 12/5/2004

Grandparents Bill and Ruth, Aunt Carrie, Dad Terry, Mom Jess and Luke Trask, big sister Leah, and Grandparents Ed and Charlene Bradford

I had a good time at Smofcon, the annual convention runner's conference. Last year's Smofcon was stuck out in the Chicago suburbs - you had a 30 minute subway ride to get to downtown Chicago, after a 15 minute walk to the subway station. While downtown Chicago is a great place to be in December (the Christkindlemarket made me want to go to Germany for Christmas someday!), the distance to get to downtown Chicago was a major pain.

This year, we were at the Wyndham in DC, just off of Thomas Circle. We had fabulous meals at Gerard's Place (French), Malaysia Kopitam, and Taberna del Alabardero.

I always find Smofcon a good place just to go talk to people. At Worldcon, I'm always running around. At Smofcon, I can actually stay on one place for a while! Unfortunately, I was so tired I was in bed kind of early so I missed out on a little more of that than I'd like to!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Another Break from Reality - My Report from The Lord of the Rings Oscar Party, 2004

I have a bunch of started-not-finished projects at my Web site. Notably, I've been taking lots of digital photos over the last two years, and it's my intention to put a selection of them up at my Web site. Well, I should say that most of them are already at my Web site, but I haven't added any commentary to them.

Tonight, I finally finished writing about going to Hollywood last February for Return of the One Party, the Oscar watching party for Lord of the Rings fans. So that's one trip report down, and about another six to go!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A Break from Reality - Some Recent Movie-going

Between lots of travel and the election, I didn't really go to the movies very much this fall. I think the last movie I saw in a theater between summer and November 6 was Garden State, which I liked quite a lot. I've more than made up for that over the last week, having seen The Incredibles, I <Heart> Huckabees, Alfie, and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. And, over the next week (or whever they reach Pittsburgh), I plan to see Kinsey, Finding Neverland and Sideways. I might even drive across town to see Vera Drake as I'm a longtime fan of Imelda Staunton and Mike Leigh.

I have to admit that while all of the movies I've been to were watchable and diverting (probably necessary given life's recent stresses!), none were as good as they could have been, which was frustrating. All of the movies more style over substance, but they also lacked something in style.

The Incredibles was great to look at and had well-cast voices. I loved hearing Holly Hunter as an animated character-that was long overdue. But it wasn't nearly as sharp as, say Shrek, and devolved into a few too many chase sequences.

I <Heart> Huckabees sounded like a wonderful idea (I love weird movies), but it didn't hold up to the high standards of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you like Jude Law and Naomi Watts, it's worth seeing because both turn in excellent performances. But the lead, Jason Schwartzman, didn't give any evidence of actually acting in this movie - he just sort of schlepped on through. And both the script and the direction go in some curious directions.

Alfie, Alfie, Alfie...Jude Law was a great Alfie. But the movie just didn't work. The melancholy level felt much higher in the remake than in the original. The women were mostly cyphers.

The Bridget Jones sequel had reviews that were all over the place, edging more on the negative side. I liked it, though it wasn't quite as sharp as the first movie (which I'd liked quite a lot). The director general had an interesting visual sense (the skydiving sequence looked glorious, as did most of the Thai photography), but then lost her way (the skiing sequence) at times.

I was at the first-ever Pittsburgh Creative Nonfiction Literary Conference this weekend. I was reminded of how much I enjoy this particular genre and how much I enjoy talking with its proponents. I even got a book on working your way out of writer's block, which I plan to start reading soon.

Monday, November 08, 2004

When the Democrats Asked, I Answered!

Here's how I answered the Democratic post-election survey

1. How did you participate in this election?

I worked hard for John Kerry by volunteering in July, doing database work and helping out at several rallies. On election day, I was a poll watcher for

I gave several hundred dollars to Democratic candidates and progressive 527s this year.

I created a number of Web sites, including:

I voted and made sure my husband and daughter did, too (my husband always votes, but this was the first time our 24 year old daughter had voted in a federal election).

2. Is this the first time you participated in election activism?

No. I worked for a moderate Republican Congressional candidate in Massachusetts in 1974 (who was doing well until Nixon resigned) and for a Democratic state rep candidate in Pennsylvania in 1996 (who also lost).

I also worked some for Clinton in 1996. I would have worked for Clinton in 1992 and for Gore in 2000 if I'd had the time.

I've been giving money, almost always to Democratic candidates, since about 1984, but usually no more than $100 total over the course of the year. When I lived in Massachusetts I donated to Kerry's campaign so I've been on his mailing list for a very long time!

3. How would you like to continue to stay involved? (Volunteering, phonebanking, fundraising, local organizing, etc.)

I will keep up with Web sites. In the wee hours of November 4, I bought the domain, a Web site dedicated to seeing Rick Santorum be defeated in 2006. I'll also keep the "facts" Web sites updated.

I'm going to attend local meetings of Democracy for America in Pittsburgh.

I've volunteered to Americans United for Separation of Church and State to look into starting a Pittsburgh local chapter.

I'm willing to do work for the Democratic party. I'm a registered Independent, but am considering switching to the Democratic party given my general disgust at the behavior of the current Republican party.

I would like to try to get activist groups to rethink their use of databases. It's 2004 - we should be using databases much more smartly than I generally saw us using databases. I did like Bottled Lightning very much and thought it was an effective tool.

I would also like to work with people to make sure that elections are fairly run. There are still some outstanding issues that we should continue to publicize (not enough voting machines in some areas, voter intimidation, et.c.).

4. Did you feel the actions you took were effective?

Up to a point. My town, which usually goes Republican, voted for Kerry by 1,000 votes.

5. Was it a good experience for you?

Mostly, yes. I met some terrific activists working for Kerry and working for MoveOn. I'd work for Kristina Petronka, Jonathan Lyons and Lindsay Patross any time!

Of course, the outcome was a disappointment...

6. How would you make it better?

Use databases, telephone banking and mailings more intelligently.

7. Please share other thoughts and comments you have about the 2004 election and what Democrats and the Democratic Party should do going forward.

Resist the temptation to become Republicans. I always thought Clinton had a great vision of the party - responsible government and personal responsibility.

The Republicans used to always say that the Democrats were the "tax and spend" party. However the Republicans are, more dangerously, the "spend and spend" party. The Democrats have to resist the temptation to play the "we won't tax you either" game. Instead, Democrats should talk a lot more about responsible government and taxation.

Still promote progressive ideas - health care in the richest country in the world should be more available to the working poor. Discrimination against any group is evil. Science is more important than superstition - we can only continue to be the most advanced country in the world if we promote advanced ideas.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Reflecting on America's Choices

There was a lot of doom and gloom yesterday on many of the blogs I read regularly. While I am more pessimistic about the short-term future of the country, I hope Kerry's loss will energize progressives to organize. We've done a lot over the last two years, but clearly we need to do more.

There's also beyond sour grapes about Kerry's loss on the part by some. Yes, clearly elections are still somewhat screwed up in parts of the country. This is unfortunate and needs to be fixed. But I do not believe the extent of dirty tricks in this election erased enough Kerry votes to prevent Bush's popular and electoral victory.

Here's the problem - four years ago, Bush absolutely did not get the popular vote. Florida was kind of dicey. So we had every right to be pissed off, not just at Bush but at the process.

This time, in addition to the minority and majority election judge every poll gets, there were all kinds of independent observers, from groups like MoveOn, Election Protection and from foreign countries. So while there was probably some vote fraud, and some voter intimidation, the evidence that it was pervasive just isn't there. Sorry. I'd like to say it was there. I'd like to blame it on Diebold. But I need evidence, and it just isn't there. If Diebold was doing some sort of massive fraud, someone would have noticed.

We lost, plain and simple. It's painful, but it's true. And, speaking as a person who worked hard for Kerry on this campaign, I'm disappointed. But his concession speech was because he is a realist. When I got up at 4am on November 3 and did the math, it was clear Kerry's election wasn't going to happen.

I am offended by people on the left calling Kerry a coward for conceding. He is not a coward, but he is a realist. Waiting until all the provisional ballots were counted isn't going to matter.

It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be pissed off about the election results, but it means we need to avoid too much hang-wringing and assuming Bush only won the election because it was rigged.

But here's what we've got to watch for.

For one thing, the politics of fear clearly beat out the politics of reality. That's frightening, because history shows that countries often go down the authoritarian path when the government knows that works. As clear-thinkers, we need to deal with the facts.

An oddity of our electoral map that sort of plays into the fear thing - did you notice that the states that had the highest number of 9/11 deaths (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and DC (and those blue-leaning northern counties of Virginia)) all went Democratic? As many people (including Jon Stewart) have observed, the folks with more direct experience with foreign terrorism on our soil did not vote for Bush!

For another thing, the social/culture war is doing more damage to this country than the Islamist terrorists have done so far. I don't accept that I am less moral than Dick Cheney because I approve of gay marriage and birth control - I haven't used a multinational corporation to rape and pillage my government. I will never accept that my beliefs that people must be true to themselves and responsible for themselves makes me less moral.

This event has the chance to energize progessives, and if Bush and buddies behave as badly as I expect they will, it'll piss off the right-leaning moderates, too.

We need to have our eye on the 2006 elections. There are now a couple of Senators actually to the right of Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's awful (as opposed to kinda bad) senator. We need to help Americans understand that regressive politics are very dangerous for our country (as if the war in Iraq shouldn't be enough evidence of this fact).

I'm not optimistic over the near term, but I'm not heading for Canada. Yet, anyway.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Oh Well...

I had a bad (and temporary) case of irrational exuberance yesterday afternoon. Nothing like having the rest of the vote come in to really throw cold water on my hope that we'd have a new president today.

I guess the main bad news seems to be turn out. I kept hearing and seeing that turnout was really big, and might trend towards 120,000,000 nationally. It looks more like about 116,000,000 or so voted. And the youth vote was the same 17% this year as it was four years ago. It did seem like more young people got involved, but maybe they didn't wind up voting.

It looks like it's gonna be a long four years...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Before the Election Night (Hopefully VICTORY) Party!

I won't be blogging for a bit, as I'm going to a party.

Earlier today, I posted about possible problems in Allegheny County. The main problem seems to be about how provisional ballots are being handled. The rumor is each precinct only receiveced 12 provisional ballots. This in a year where many people's new registrations were lost or screwed up with. So that's the main screw-up - all else seems to be OK.

I went back to the polling place to pollwatch for a little longer. A new Republican showed up, she almost got hysterical with the MoveOn people ("You're not here legally!" she yelled, and was reminded by a Republican politician that we were!). She didn't last long. I think she knows they're on their way out. I HOPE!

Wow - Kerry in a Landslide?

I don't like to use the "l" word (landslide) but man oh man...

What prompts this is watching the voting in Western Pennsylvania, which is already exceeding 60% of the eligible voters voting (election officials predicted 60% total for the day, and it's not even 3:30 yet!).

I did some pollwatching for MoveOn.Org in Mt. Lebanon, a Republican suburb of Pittsburgh. There was a very steady stream of voters there all day. Only a few
glared at us (we were wearing Kerry/Edwards stickers) but most were very nice. Two Republican candidates greeted voters for nearly an hour.


As soon as the candidates left, the Republican pollwatchers (except for one) left! So for most of the afternoon, there were 2-3 Democratic pollwaters, 2-3 pollwatchers. Very interesting. We only had one person who complained about a voting irregularity (their son was in Japan, had requested an absentee ballot and never got one).

At one point, I called liberal friends around the country to find out how their voting was going. Leslie Turek was a pollwatcher in the Manchester, New Hampshire area. She reported unprecedented voter turn-out, high visibility of Kerry supporters and almost complete invisibility of Bush supporters. Peggy Thokar voted in suburban Massachusetts, and said she was voter #800(!!) at around 11:30. Marc Gordon said there were more voters than usual in northern Virginia, and John Pomeranz, also in northern Virginia, used that wonderful term "unprecented turn-out." My brother, who lives in southern Maryland, said it was quiet at 11am and they voted quickly.

I tried to reach Jim's uncle who lives in Florida, but it turned out I didn't have his number in my cell phone correctly.

It's interesting to check things on the Internet. I tried to check the blogs I always check - Talking Points isn't accessible. Taegan Goddard's Political Wire isn't accessible. Making Light isn't accessible. But the Kerry blog and daily kos were both going great guns. Hopefully they're just very busy and not having some sort of denial of service attack.

We have unplugged our phones after getting 7 recorded messages from and 2 from the local Democrats. Enough already! You can always E-mail me.

What Allegheny County Is Doing Right

As I've already voted, I want to write a bit about what was working right this morning. My earlier post was a reaction to County Executive Don Onorato's contention that very little was going wrong. While I take that with a grain of salt what he said about the newly registered, those of us who've been registered for a while shouldn't have a problem.

Jim, Leslie and I got in line at about 10 to 7 this morning. For our precinct, we were voters 5, 6, and 7. Two other precincts vote in the same location, and there were maybe about 25 people in line at 10 to 7.

The voter rolls looked easier to read, and the scanned signature of the voter from a previous vote was included. I think that's a very good idea and should help prevent fraud. Some of the records had a special text flag - either ABSENTEE or CHECK ID. I was relieved to see this, as that, too, should help prevent fraud.

We had finished voting by about 7:04. Three more votes for Kerry/Edwards!!! The line outside the voting place had grown to about 60.

Since we were so early, we didn't have to run any kind of gauntlet because none of the candidate's poll watchers were there yet!

It Looks Like New Voter Registration Is Screwed Up in Allegheny County

NBC has reported that people in Allegheny County have reported more problems voter registration problems than almost anyplace else in the country.

Map of Pennsylvania showing places reporting voter registration problems. (This map was working at about 5:30am, but died at about 5:50am - check back later because Allegheny, Westmorland and one of the Philly-area counties have many more voter registration complaints than anyplace else in the state (yes, I know they're also the highest in population).)

Our County Executive, Don Onorato, doesn't seem to think this is a real problem. He blames it on the intensity of the election.

Unfortunately, the facts will not bear this out (and I hate to say this, because Onorato is a Democrat and Allegheny County is quite Democratic).

I spent some of the summer doing volunteer work for Kerry. People were calling the office complaining that they hadn't received their voter registration receipts even though they had recently registered. We've also heard about some Republican dirty tricks (people thought they were signing a petition but their registrations were changed to Republican), and, to be fair, some Democratic dirty tricks in other parts of the state (older people being called and told that Bush would do away with Social Security).

I'm going to spend a few hours today as a MoveOn poll watcher today. I hope things will not be too screwed up, but, at least for the new voters, I'm not very optimistic. And it sounds like Onorato has his head in the sand just like Bush does with regards to problems on his watch.

If you've been registered to vote before this year, you're probably fine. If you registered to vote for the first time this year, you might not be able to vote, but please try to! If you have any receipt of any kind from when you registered, bring it with you just in case. And help the rest of us fight for a fairer, uniform voter registration system in the future. This is a complete embarrassment for a "modern" country like the US.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Viggo Mortensen Joined Michael Moore's Slacker Tour in Columbus Ohio on 10/30!

I am a huge fan of Viggo's, and a moderate fan of Michael's. I thought about seeing Michael when he was on tour in Pittsburgh a few weeks back, but he was in town during one of my trips out of town.

But here's a shot of Michael and Viggo in Columbus:

Photo from - Michael Moore and Viggo Mortensen

(*Sigh* and Columbus was only three hours away!)

After spending yesterday just hanging out, resting, and staying pretty glued to the Internet, today I was awake enough to rake my front yard and then go work for Kerry/Edwards. I leafleted a friendly Squirrel Hill neighborhood with Tracey, a woman who lives in DC but who's spending the next few days helping out in Pittsburgh. Then we walked from headquarters (with a third person, whose name was Cliff, I think) across town to Heinz field for a little visibility before the Steeler game. The weather was perfect for the walk, and we spent some time waving to the crowd.

Now, I'm home watching the Patriots playing the Steelers. Talk about your mixed feelings! I like the Steelers, but the Patriots are having a great year.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Don't Panic - Suicide Bombers, Anthrax and Other Fears of Modern Life

[[I wrote this in the fall of 2001, for obvious reasons, and want to republish it here because I think it's a useful essay to consider just before our upcoming election.]]

I haven't been fretting much more about life and death since September 11. Sure, I had a major anxiety attack after watching about 36 hours of TV news on the night of September 12. But that was to be expected. Since then, no. I've driven to New York, New England and Maryland without any more concern than usual. I've gone to work and opened my mail.

Perhaps it's because I'm naturally a little more cynical than most people. When the media spoke of September 11 as "the day we lost our innocence," I wanted to ask what alternate reality they had been a part of. Just in my lifetime (I'm 44 now), I've seen bigotry and terrorism and war and just plain bad accidents. I've experienced sexism and hate speech. America has had many bad days in my lifetime.

While I do not remember the exact date, that terrible day in November 1978 when nearly 900 American citizens murdered members of their own families then took their own lives on the command of "religious leader" Jim Jones particularly affected me. How can people follow the insane commands of any person? Very few people ran out of the jungle to the relative safety of a nearby town. Almost everyone who was told to poisoned their children and then, themselves. The ability for nearly 1,000 people to think for themselves was completely lacking.

Or the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Initially, we all thought it was some sort of foreign terrorist. It was almost a worse thing to learn that it was a pair of Americans who murdered 168 other Americans in cold blood.

September 11 was a bad day, but much greater in scope.

I live in Pittsburgh, a city with more bridges than any other city in the world except for Venice. I've always been aware that bridges could collapse or tunnels could be blown up, yet I travel on them daily. I flew in early December, for the first time since July. I did fret a little more than during my last plane trip, but I expected the plane would not be hijacked and that I would get to my destination safely. And home again. And, I did. Statistics bore this out, even after this year.

My husband and I went to England, a country with a long history of living with small-scale terrorism. There are more video cameras about, but I did not notice many more police. Security in English airports was a little stricter than in American airports even before September 11. It was not a coincidence that none of the September 11 planes were international planes, despite the fact a plane flying to Europe would have had even more jet fuel than a plane flying to California.

I don't want to sound too much like a Pollyanna. I'm always aware of the terrible things that could happen, but I'll go along with living regardless. Life isn't about seeing how safe we can be, it's about having many different experiences, interacting with many different people and making contributions to society. Despite the horrible events of this year, statistically, we aren't that much less safe than we've ever been. Statistically, we aren't going to die from the acts of terrorists or from a war. We're way more likely to die in car accidents or from cancer or heart disease or AIDS.

These are the facts: Terrorists, whether they be foreign or domestic, do not have limitless resources. A number of their planned activities had been discovered and stopped before September 11 and continue to be discovered and stopped now. That doesn't mean they will never succeed again - it's likely that they will. It's unlikely that they will ever be able to hijack a plane and turn it into a flying bomb. But we might have small-scale suicide bombers like those in Israel. We may have more anthrax and other acts of bioterrorism. (Frankly, the anthrax letters and most of the threats look more like the acts of the American looney fringe than the Islamic looney fringe.) The looney fringe might even deploy "dirty bombs" (bombs made with nuclear by-products, but without enough enriched uranium to go critical), but getting a real nuclear weapon is unlikely (unless the government of Pakistan collapses).

Next fact: Lots of people get their kicks from making bomb (and now anthrax) threats. Bomb threats were very common in the '70s and early '80s and making threats have made massive comeback. None of the major terrorist incidents from the last few years had any real warnings. Frankly, I'm ignoring all threats as hot air.

Anthrax has people very upset, but I have to take the attitude of Dan Rather - if we let things like anthrax paralyze us, the terrorists, whether they be domestic or international, have won. Most of the people who got anthrax were mail handlers. Most of the people who died from anthrax had compromised immune systems. It's sad that anyone has gotten sick or died from bioterrorism, but, statistically, it's unlikely to happen to you, me or the vast majority of people alive today.

The level of fear is particularly troublesome when you consider how much the world has changed over the last hundred years. One hundred years ago, the life expectancy was not all that high; people died easily from TB, from childbirth, from viruses. Yet people still went out of their homes and went on with their lives. They explored all parts of the world without being guaranteed of their safety. We who have long lives and sanitary environments should not be so afraid of dying from a statistical unlikelihood like "murdered by terrorists."

I might be more fearful if I had lost a loved one on September 11. I heard the terrible news at work, and the Internet was so slow that virtually no news was available for an hour. Once I heard about the Pentagon, I thought of my brother who lives just down the street in Alexandria. It took nearly an hour to reach his answering machine, but even hearing his voice was reassuring. I was so shocked by the events of September 11 that it was literally days later that I remembered that, with all his business travel, he could have been on one of those planes.

I have many friends who live and work in Manhattan, but they work in publishing, within sight of the twin towers, but not in them. A handful of acquaintances have not been able to return to their apartments in lower Manhattan. Still, the closest call was an acquaintance from Massachusetts was due to fly out to California from Logan Airport to have a meeting that Tuesday morning. The man he was going to see called to postpone the meeting on Monday night. The flight he cancelled himself off of later crashed into the World Trade Center.

We felt extremely safe in Pittsburgh that September 11. No one would try to crash a plane in Pittsburgh, we all reasoned. But we had friends who called us to check in, having heard about the plane that crashed some 90 miles to the east.

I did panic briefly on September 11. I stayed at work but couldn't concentrate. My job was closed down at noon that day. I wanted to do something, but couldn't think of what to do. A friend sent around E-mail, urging people to go out and give blood. So that's what I did. Having something useful to do gave me a little better focus.

Short term panic in the midst of catastrophe is understandable. We're only human after all. But long-term panic isn't good, either for the individual or for the culture. We've got to do what we can to avoid cultural panic.

[[And, it probably goes without saying, that I think John Kerry can better help our country deal with societal panic than the Bush has.]]

Friday, October 29, 2004

"We Don't Know When the Explosives Were Removed"

On 10/28/2004, KSTP broadcast video that proved the explosives were at Al-Qaqaa and still under IAEA seal in early April 2003. Further, American soldiers were shown breaking the IAEA seal!!!! When confronted with these facts on the Today Show on 10/29/2004, former US ambassador to Iraq Paul Bremer stuck to the party line - "We don't know when the explosives were removed" and used his time on TV to attack John Kerry for daring to say that the American government botched this big time. Matt Lauer mentioned the original broadcast date at least three times, but Bremer completely ignored him and stayed in attack Kerry mode.

It's very ironic that this scandal is popping up at the same time as another scandal - the proof that Osama bin Laden is still very much alive. Yet another failure of the Bush administration.

I had a lovely time at the Pittsbugh blogfest last night. I had to leave in a hurry, but it was fun to meet more of the local bloggers. Sorry I didn't start my post that way - I guess I'm just in "attack Bush" mode these days!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Maybe Lunar Eclipses Are Good for the Red Sox

I'm pretty cynical about sports, especially about the Red Sox. I remember well the debacles of '67, '75, '78 and especially '86. I thought they were dead nearly two weeks ago, and I was wrong. Of course, being a Massachusetts native, I'm delighted to be wrong about the Sox - it's the eighth inning of game 4 and it looks like, barring some sort of unlikely event, the Red Sox will finally win a World Series!

Lunar Eclipse from Mount Lebanon, PA, October 28, 2004

Total Lunar Eclipse from Mount Lebanon, PA, October 28, 2004
Lunar Eclipse from Mount Lebanon, PA
October 28, 2004

Oh How I Hate to Live in a Swing State...

There's only so many times you can hit "Mute" when yet another lie-filled Bush ad shows up. Of course I'm still going to vote no matter how disgusted I am by Bush and buddies.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

On Travelling, Lawn Signs, Bumper Stickers and Political Advertising on Television

All things considered, I've done a lot of traveling this month and have been to four different states in different parts of the country:

Pennsylvania (I do live here, after all)
Massachusetts (family stuff, Central & Eastern MA, early October)
Florida (SF convention, Orlando & Cocoa Beach, mid-October)
California (tag-along on Jim's business trip, San Jose, Palo Alto, rural areas, late October)

Given the big election next week, it's been interesting to compare how visible politics are from state to state.

Things are crazy here in Pennsylvania. Lots of bumper stickers, lots of yard signs, lots of TV ads. We are, after all, a swing state. Further, Ohio is also a swing state, and West Virginia is close to being a swing state. There are lots of TV commercials for both candidates. The intensity is very high here. In the Pittsburgh area, more Kerry bumper stickers and yard signs, but this is to be expected. One interesting thing - I live in a Republican suburb, where most of the yard signs are overwhelming Republican ones. This year, the yard signs are nearly 40% for Kerry. Also interesting - a number of Republican households have yard signs for all the candidates but Bush. I don't think this is a case of sign-thievery, as these non-Bush Republican yards are often adjacent to Republican yards with a Bush sign.

A weird PS to Pennsylvania - I put a Teresa Heinz Kerry for First Lady bumper sticker on my car about two months ago. On Sunday, October 17, someone ripped half of that bumper sticker off my car, either when my husband was at a local Giant Eagle, or when the car was sitting in our driveway. I responded to this the only way I could - I popped another "Teresa..." bumper sticker in its place!

Massachusetts is mostly going for Kerry - it's a state where he has the "native son" lock. There were a fair number of TV commercials for both candidates on TV earlier in October, but that was probably mostly because many folks up in New Hampshire, which is something of a swing state, watch Boston television. There were lots of Kerry bumper stickers and a few Bush bumper stickers. There were almost no presidential lawn signs, though there were lots of lawn signs for local candidates.

The presidential election was surprisingly quiet in Florida a few weeks back, though that may have changed recently. While there were plenty of TV ads, there were almost no yard signs or bumper stickers. Locals said that due to all of the hurricane chaos, few people bothered with lawn signs. However, I saw a number of yard signs for local races, just no presidential lawn signs. And there were also few bumper stickers, which was particularly weird. (Here's the latest on Republican dirty tricks in the Florida election.)

California was interesting. I got back from California just this evening. On Saturday, we drove up to Palo Alto, and almost every house on the main street had Kerry and local Democratic candidate lawn signs. On Sunday, we drove out to Monterey, which was much more balanced with its lawn signs. On Monday, I drove in the more agricultural/rural areas and the signs were overwhelmingly Bush. On TV, I don't think I saw a single presidential ad (frankly, a welcome change from Pennsylvenia!) but I saw many TV ads about the many propositions Californians regularly vote on.

In short, it's hard to tell how things will wind up next week. Particularly given the way that some people are trying to discourage voting, it's all the more important for all registered voters to get out and vote!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Yet More Bush Lies and Misjudgements

I only have a few hundred megabytes of space on the Web, so I can't list them all.

However, I have been tracking some of them on one of my Web sites, The Facts Don't Matter. Here are two
Bush lies to be remember:

The Democrats Will Ruin Health Care...

Our current health care system is so incompetently-managed that millions of people who should get flu shots due to chronic illnesses won't be able to get them. Why? Because since most medicine is private, and there's no profit in flu shots. America outsourced its vaccine purchasing to a British company that, unfortunately, contaminated about half of this year's batch. So many Americans are getting their flu shots the same place where they're getting cheaper prescription drugs - Canada! - a country with national health insurance! In short, America's health care system is being partially propped up by a country with national health insurance!!

"I Am the Pro-Life President..."

Oh, really?

We've lost over 1,000 American soldiers, probably over 100 contractors, and several thousand Iraqis under our "pro-life" president.

But wait, there's more evidence that, like the term "hard work," Bush wouldn't know a "pro-life" policy if it hit him in the face.

Due to Bushanomics, millions of people have lost their jobs, had their wages cut and lost their health insurance. As a result, the abortion rate in America has gone up under Bush's administration.

The Bush boys, led by Karl Rove, have been at their usual negative advertising and dirty tricks. No matter what they do, so long as we all vote, we should emerge from this election in much better shape than we currently are.

And here's a very relevent quote from well-known capitalist and geek Andy Grove, the president of Intel:

When it comes to bioterror or epidemics,
"You look to government to protect you from that, and the government looks to the science and technology infrastructure.
This government can't even
prevent an ordinary failure of the business market for causing probably more
American deaths than terrorism. It is a manifestation of a government that
has no appreciation for science and technology."
-- quoted by USA Today, 10/20/2004

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I May Have Severe Political Burn-out But Nothing Will Stop Me From Voting

I'm at the point where I tune out of commercials and I'm listening to classical music at work rather than NPR.

However, despite my exhaustion, I will vote, and I'll work some on election activities during the weekend before the election and maybe even on election day. This election is just too important to sit out (not that I ever have - I've voted in every presidential election since 1976).

We Kerry fans supporters some additional reason to feel pumped up - take a look at:, a fascinating site I'll check often over the next two weeks.

I haven't felt much like writing lately. I'd like to write something called "Massachusetts Liberal and Proud," because pretty disgusted by how the Bushies are trying to make that sound like saying you're a child molester or something. When we saw the recent Bushie commercial that claims Kerry is the most liberal Senator and the most liberal person to run for President, Jim immediately said, "Well, what about Franklin Delano Roosevelt?" Roosevelt was both our most liberal president ever, and probably the greatest president of the Twentieth Century. Maybe we need a really liberal president to help out country get over its Bushie-induced fear. Roosevelt said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," and that was at a time this country was in even worse shape than it is now.

I made one last donation to the election by attending a really neat party on a sunny Sunday afternoon in one of the most fabulous houses in Pittsburgh, with the best personal wine cellar I have ever visited. Way cool!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Why the US Does Not Have Enough Arabic Translators

Since keeping its base happy was more important than actually collecting information on terrorists, the Bush administration discharged as many as 37 soldiers who were training to be Arabic translators. And this was just since 2002 - after 9/11!

Why were they discharged? Because they were openly gay. This was strikingly shortsighted behavior two years ago, and it may now be coming back to haunt Americans.

In certain parts of the military, openly gay soldier have not been discharged when their skills were deemed necessary to national security. But what could be more necessary to national security at this time than skilled Arabic translators?

On September 27, 2004, the FBI announced that it was behind in translating Arabic documents and tapes. Not only that, but some tapes were being automatically deleted before they could be examined. Since the FBI typically hires many former military members, they might not be so far behind if not for the institutionalized homophobia of the Bush administration.

The only way we can maintain a civil, modern, safe society is to use the talents of all. I want a president in office who understands this, and that's why I'm voting for John Kerry.

[[I've also submitted this as a Letter to the Editor at the Post-Gazette, and added it as a page to The Facts Do Matter.]]

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Gee Whiz, Slow Again!

After renaming my blog a few weeks back, I haven't posted in nearly a month. I was somewhat overwhelmed by getting ready for Noreascon IV, this year's World Science Fiction Convention in Boston. While I'd changed jobs in the course of convention planning (resigned from being the Exhibits division director to taking a less stressful job as the FANAC exhibit area head and general Exhibits staffer), I was still pretty busy.

Over the last two weeks, while I was pretty much happy by how the convention went, I've been surrounded by the deaths, illnesses, and bad luck of friends and family members. Longtime Boston fan George Flynn died just before Worldcon. I've known George since my early days in fandom, and enjoyed his writing and appreciated his proofreading work on many NESFA and MCFI publications. My sister-in-law lost her job just a few months after my brother lost his, and her brother is terminally ill. My mother landed in the hospital after she couldn't walk one morning (she has a knee problem and it sounds like she may need surgery). And, yesterday, when Jim and I visited a shop we hadn't visited in a few months, we heard of the sudden, tragic death of the store's co-owner earlier in the summer. We'd been going to Mellinger's a few times a year since we found it just after we moved to Pittsburgh eleven years ago.

I'm not chronically sad or depressed, but my insomnia continues to be bad, which means my concentration is bad, I work very slowly, and I'm unbelievably forgetful. I hope to upload lots of Worldcon photos and even write a report. This will probably take some time. I also hope to help organize the many photos we collected for the Web site over the next few months.

Worldcon, while busy and frazzled at times, was mostly pretty pleasant. I was thrilled by how well The Mended Drum worked out - while I can't take design credit, I can take concept credit! The Art Show was about the best since MagiCon. First Night and the Friday Night Events were different events that both went very well. While the Hugos ran much longer than I expected, Neil Gaiman did a fine job as MC. I hear the Program was great - at least the items I was on went very well. We also had some lovely meals out with friends (at Brasserie Joe's, Leagal Seafood, Summer Shack, and the Pour House), and I got to take my Dad out for his 75th birthday (Durgin Park) and my youngest brother out for his 40th birthday (Marche Move-n-Pick).

Jim and I spent a few days up in Gloucester after Worldcon, a nice break before returning home that I really appreciated. We had an elegant dinner at Ocean View Inn (where we also stayed) and lovely breakfasts at Sugar Magnolia. We also drove and walked around Gloucester and Rockport, and hiked through Halibut State Park up in northern Cape Ann.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Would You Like Your Very Own "Teresa Heinz Kerry for First Lady" Bumper Sticker?

Oh, what a deal I have for you.

Jeanne Clark from Women Leaders Online has been acquiring the following bumper sticker:

Teresa Heinz Kerry for First Lady Bumper Sticker

If you are attending Noreascon and promise to put this on your car as soon as you can, I can give one to you in Boston. I just need some advanced notice so I can get more stickers.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Getting Ready for Noreascon

I'll be helping out at Noreascon IV. If you're looking for me, the best place to find me as at the FANAC exhibit on the Concourse (Hall C of the Hynes). And I'm sure I'll be stopping by the Mended Drum from time to time.

I'll also be doing a few program items:

Thursday 6:00pm Tour of the Village -- I'll lead a group of attendees on a tour of the convention. Special emphasis on First Night Activities. Meet at the Goddard Rocket replica, in the center of Hall C - no advance sign-up required.

Friday 10:00am Welcome to the SF Community -- with Gay Haldeman, Mary Kay Kare and Roger Sims (An orientation seminar on the background of the World Science Fiction Convention and tips on making the most of the con.)

Saturday 1:00pm Exhibit Hall Docent Tour -- I'll lead a group of attendees on a detailed tour of Hall C and the other exhibits. Meet at the Goddard Rocket replica, in the center of Hall C - no advance sign-up required.

Saturday 4:00pm BAD Con Advice for Newbies -- with David Levine, Sandra McDonald and Priscilla Olson (Please - bring a sense of irony! Fannish etiquette, with a twist.....)

Saturday 5:00pm Tour of the Village -- I'll lead a group of attendees on a tour of the convention. Meet at the Goddard Rocket replica, in the center of Hall C - no advance sign-up required.

Sunday 3:00pm LOTR: Looking Back at the Films -- with MaryAnn Johanson and Kathy Morrow (The film series is over, the dust has settled, was it all worth it? A look back, and assessment of the series as a whole.) [[Visit The One Ring to meet lots of other LOTR fans, and take The Ultimate Lord of the Rings test to just see how geeky you really are! I scored 75, making me "Elrond's Advisor."]]

My insomnia has come back with a vengence recently. I hope to get some sleep before I go back to Boston in a few weeks.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

In the Second Row in Rainy Greensburg for the Kerry/Edwards Rally

I volunteered to work at the Greensburg Kerry rally. But unlike the July 6 Edwards announcement rally, where I felt like I was being more useful, I really didn't wind up doing all that much in Greensburg. I did help pass out some signs. However, the volunteer coordinator had us pass out about half the signs so early that they were complete soggy messes by the time the candidates arrived.


I did wind up extremely close to the stage, so I got some photos like these:

John Kerry in Greensburg, PA, 7/31/04

John Kerry in Greensburg, PA, 7/31/04

Teresa Heinz Kerry, John Kerry, Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards

Teresa Heinz Kerry, John Kerry, Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards

Yes, Ben Affleck was there, and he spoke briefly. The teenagers behind us particularly wanted to see him.

Teresa Heinz Kerry, Ben Affleck, Cate Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards (back to camera), Andre Heinz (white shirt), Chris Heinz

Teresa Heinz Kerry, Ben Affleck, Cate Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards (back to camera), Andre Heinz (white shirt), Chris Heinz

The speeches were fine, but we'd heard most of them before - John and John's speeches were both "Democratic Convention Lite Speeches." Teresa and Elizabeth both seemed to speak a little more off the cuff. You tend to remember the unscripted moments a little more. A member of the audience fainted in the rain and med-student Vanessa Kerry left the stage and followed a Secret Service agent into the crowd to lend a hand. And when some AIDS activists displayed some mini-banners and briefly started yelling, Kerry gave them a few moments, then worked some brief discussion of AIDS policy into his speech.

And how are the Republicans treating their rally audiences? Seeking Cheney Tickets? Sign a Loyalty Oath. This is the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard. Yes, if you want tickets to Democratic rally, the office usually collects your name and adddress. They don't require you to swear to vote for the Kerry/Edwards ticket. Heck, a rational candidate wants to reach out to people who might be uncertain, not try to scare them away!

Before the rally, we grouped off into teams. I worked crowd control and signs with these other women:

Kerry, Deb, me, Jill and Terry

Kerry, Deb, me, Jill and Terry, Before it Got Too Rainy...

The Up-front Sign Team, Nearly Two Soggy Hours Later...

The Up-front Sign Team, Nearly Two Soggy Hours Later...

I wound up standing just behind the other women, so I just missed being in some wire photos:

The Up-front Sign Team, as Snapped by the Post-Gazette

The Up-front Sign Team, as Snapped by the Post Gazette

Kerry, a Mosh-Pitter?

Kerry, a Mosh-Pitter(?), as Snapped by the Post Gazetter

Kerry was standing on the crowd fence, leaning way over
the crowd, so I wound up literally right under him.

Front Part of the Greensburg Crowd

Front Part of the Greensburg Crowd, as Snapped by Someone for the John Kerry Web Site.

Friday, July 30, 2004

With Dick Cheney as Angela Lansbury....

I'd never seen either version of The Manchurian Candidate. Until tonight. Throughout the movie, all I could think was:

Angela Lansbury is really Dick Cheney (Mrs. Islen)
James Gregory is really George W. Bush (Senator Islen)

I hope I don't need to explain why!

The 1962 edition is a surprisingly sophisticated movie. Other than To Kill a Mockingbird, I always felt that most movies made before about 1967 were quite simple. But the original Manchurian Candidate is a movie fighting both McCarthyism ("I have before me a list of 254 Communists...") and Nixon (notice the fop-sweat when Harvey and Sinatra got nervous?). It's a surprisingly good movie, and I regret not having seen it before.

It's probably too late, but I urge anyone planning to see the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate to see the 1962 version first. Remember, this movie was shot about two years before Kennedy was assasinated, and only seven years after the McCarthy hearings were considered more dangerous than Communism itself.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I'm Beginning to Wonder if "Shove It" Was a Set-up...

The video was only recorded by Pittsburgh's Channel 4. Scott Baker is Channel 4's correspondent on site in Boston. It's unclear if Scott Baker was with the camera operator. Scott Baker is rumored to be quite conservative. He's the ex-husband of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's outspokenly conservative columnist Ruth Ann Dailey (and the current husband of a recent ex-Miss America).

The Tribune-Review is a notoriously pro-Bush paper. Given their manner of "reporting" (constant Kerry-bashing, et.c.) Teresa Heinz Kerry is likely not happy with the paper. Both Scott Baker and the WTAE camera operator must know what the Tribune-Review's editorial editor, Colin McNickle, looks like. Heinz Kerry might not have known what Colin McNickle looks like, but she'd surely know his name.

It's possible that Scott Baker had the camera operator "keep rolling" when he saw McNickle start to question Heinz Kerry, or arranged for the columnist to be there.

I started wondering about this this morning. During the afternoon news, Scott Baker, who's normally pretty reserved while reading the news, was almost gleeful as he recounted the "Shove It" incident, nearly 2 days after it happened. As the main reporter at the Democratic National Convention for WTAE, he didn't mention any of last night's speeches one time during the 5pm news. Baker's behavior is reinforcing my notion that he could have helped arrange the incident.

Another Possibility: It later occurred to me that maybe Heinz Kerry herself wanted the incident on camera. When a TV camera is as close to you as it was to her on Sunday, you know it's recording (the lights make this really obvious). So when she learned that Colin McNickle had been talking to her, she went back and made a point of saying what she did in front of the camera. That way, a "shove off" could not become a "fuck off" or something worse because it had been recorded in front of witnesses.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Blogging the Democratic Convention from Pittsburgh....

OK, so I didn't make it to Boston this week. I had volunteered to work months ago, but came to the conclusion I was too burnt out and withdrew my name from consideration about two months ago. But I am watching the Democratic Convention on C-SPAN with great interest. And President Clinton just gave a dynamite speech. So, I wrote him a fan letter:

Dear Mr. Clinton:

My husband and I make pretty good money. We aren’t millionaires by any means, but we’re doing well. And we’ve been paying less in taxes since Bush came into office. We’ve been feeling, well, a little guilty about it. So I’ve been making a point of giving some of these “ill-gotten gains” to Democratic candidates and progressive organizations.

You are the first rich person with the balls to remind the vast majority of Americans that the Bush tax cuts are making them support rich people like you. Thank-you! I hope they remember this fact on November 2 and vote for John Kerry. I’m from Massachusetts and I proudly voted for Senator Kerry. My entire family is voting for him this November. And don’t worry about loosing your tax cut – you or Senator Clinton could always write another book.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

And Now That I've Seen Fahrenheit 911...


I have a review of it here.

I've had a weird few days. I've had bronchitis, on and off, for over a month. I keep almost getting over it, but then I'll do something (like walk a lot or swim or hang out in a smokey bar) and I'll get sick again. Wednesday night, I felt really strange, then felt wiped on Thursday. Usually, when I have bronchitis, I don't feel all that bad, I just cough an awful lot. I got to the doctor's on Frday morning and they gave me a bunch of new medications (luckily a bunch of samples for a change!). That reduced my coughing, but I was still very tired. Today, when I was at the movies, I had a really bad coughing fit and have returned to feeling rotten.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Oh to Be in Pittsburgh Today! (July 6, 2004)

Wow, it's been a very long and very interesting day.

Our alarm clock went off at 5am. Now, many days, I'm awake that early, but usually that means I'll wander downstairs and do stuff on the computer until I really wake up (along about 6:30). Today, I had to shower, dress, grab some breakfast and be out the door by 5:30 so I could get to the trolley. I was in Market Sq by 6:15 as I'd volunteered to work on John Kerry's rally, and we volunteers had to be there early. My first job was to be a gopher and run over to a hotel to pick up a suit for the volunteer manager. By the time I got back, I was assigned to help with getting the lines through the metal detectors. As the rally started, I was passing out flags.
There were short speeches by former Steeler Franco Harris, and by Congressman Mike Doyle.

Franco Harris

Franco Harris at the Kerry Rally

Since I'd been out of the square most of the morning, I didn't hear any rumors about whether the VP announcement was happening and, if it was going to happen, who it would be. But as John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry took to the stage, I saw a very good looking man backstage who looked like John Edwards. I called Jim on my cell phone "It's Edwards! I'm looking at John Edwards!" I shot the man a major thumbs up.

"CNN had that 20 minutes ago..." he said. (When I later read my E-mail, I was delighted to find that my message from the Kerry campaign was E-mailed to me before the rally.)

Oh well. So much for being an "insider." And it turned out that very good-looking man wasn't John Edwards, it was John Kerry's chief of staff, who looks like a taller version of John Edwards.

John Kerry

John Kerry Addresses the Audience in Pittsburgh

Teresa Heinz Kerry

Teresa Heinz Kerry at the Kerry Rally

When Kerry announced John Edwards as his running mate, the crowd went wild. It was great. It's very ironic that the Republicans, of all people, are calling Edwards inexperienced. Compare Edwards professional successes to Bush's professional failures (including his presidency).

I passed out some of the first Kerry Edwards T-shirts, taking one for myself, of course! There were only about 200 or so T-shirt for the 4,000+ folks in Market Sq - believe me, they were hot items.

Modelling a First Edition Kerry Edwards T-Shirt!

Modelling a First Edition Kerry Edwards T-Shirt!

A quick note on numbers - some of the media reported that there were only 500 people attending. I helped collect numbers and we counted somewhere around 2,000 before gates were pretty much opened. So I'm guessing we had
in the 4,000-5,000 range. One Kerry staffer later said we had 8,000 - 10,0000 and that
it was bigger than any other rally ever in Market Square. People running rallys tend to overestimate. I was in Market Square for the Pittsburgh Pirates rally in 1979 and I'm sure there were more people in the square in 1979 for that particular rally. There were only about 20 counter-demonstrators at the Market Sq. rally.

After the rally, I went over to help out behind the stage had to help hold down the curtain in the wind. As I was holding down the curtain, Senator Kerry stopped by. So I shook his hand, wished him good luck and said, "Hey, I'm from Massachusetts and I know John Kerry!" He smiled. I only regret I couldn't get my camera at that moment.

Actually, it turned out I did briefly let go of the curtain long enough to try to snap a photo (this photo was either from AP or Reuters, and I'm the headless person in the background). Unfortunately, the photo I was trying to take didn't come out, and then Kerry had to take a phone call from one of his daughters so he left the area.An AP or Reuters Photo of John Kerry, 7/6/2004

I went to work for a while (one of the joys of working part time in downtown), and decided to go out to the Edwards rally at the airport in the late afternoon.

Suprisingly ontime, the Edwards jet landed, and, within a few minutes, Senator John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth came over to great the crowd of about 300. Maybe it was because I had the Kerry/Edwards shirt, I was one of the first people he greeted! I joked with them that when Jim and I got married in 1977 (same year they did), we did have enough money to pay for our hotel room... I hadn't seen Elizabeth Edwards before, but she seemed extremely nice. I hear she's also a fine lawyer herself.

John Edwards

John Edwards Meets the Crowd at the Old Pittsburgh Airport

Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards on the Windy Tarmac

About 200-300 people went to the airport rally, and there might have been 100 media reps of various types. I didn't see any counter-demontrators there at all.

After spending many hours doing political things, I went to the Kerry Meet-up that was happening at the Church Brew Works. I got there early, grabbed a table, and chatted with a number of people (including my boss's step-daughter - it took us a few minutes to remember where we'd seen one another before). I had a fine time until it got too smokey, and will probably have more to say about it later.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Take a Deep Breath...

I haven't been posting much recently because I've been finishing up the Tenn collection, Dancing Naked, for Noreascon 4. It took a lot of time, but I think it's turned out pretty well (if you buy it at Noreascon or thereafter, you can tell me what you think!).

Recently, I've been overly obsessive about politics in my blog. In real life, while I am somewhat obsessive about politics these days, it's not all I think about or write about. And I've decided to divert most of my political writing to two new Web sites:

Starting this week, I'll be getting caught up on housework, make some notes in the blog, and start back to work on Exhibits things for Jim Hudson and Noreascon IV.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Tenet Was Pushed -- "Surprise-Surprise"

Yet more evidence that Bush isn't playing with a full deck. It's one thing to fire someone (and Tenet deserved that a long time ago) but to fire him in a meeting with other people present and then pretend that Tenet resigned "for personal reasons." How can any thinking person believe anything that Bush says?

From Capitol Hill Blue

Bush Leagues
Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides
Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue
Jun 4, 2004, 06:15

President George W. Bush’s increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader’s state of mind.

In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as “enemies of the state.”


"Tenet wanted to quit last year but the President got his back up and wouldn't hear of it," says an aide. "That would have been the opportune time to make a change, not in the middle of an election campaign but when the director challenged the President during the meeting Wednesday, the President cut him off by saying 'that's it George. I cannot abide disloyalty. I want your resignation and I want it now."


“In this administration, you don’t have to wear a turban or speak Farsi to be an enemy of the United States. All you have to do is disagree with the President.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the record.

© Copyright 2004 Capitol Hill Blue

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Republicans Are At It Again...

Remember that there is a separation of church and state in this country? Remember that tax exempt organizations are supposed to have very limited involvement in politics and lobbying?

Pennsylvania political push for Bush could cost churches tax break

It should be no surprise that a former staffer of Rick Santorum's is involved in all this.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Greetings from Boston

We're up in Boston, attending a planning meeting for Noreascon IV.

During the Exhibits meeting, we came up with another rough draft on
Hall C design:

Jim and I had a fabulous dinner out at Locke-Ober last night, to celebrate our 27th anniversary. When I mentioned that to my mother, she said she'd had memorable swordfish there over 50 years ago. I can report that the swordfish is still quite memorable. Tonight, we joined friends for a dinner at a Persian place, Lala Rokh in Beacon Hill. Another great dinner (and not nearly so expensive as Lock-Ober).

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

At Long Last - An Honest Soldier

I suppose there had to be one in the Army somewhere...

According to ABC News:

"There's definitely a cover-up," the witness,
Sgt. Samuel Provance, said. "People are either
telling themselves or being told to be quiet."

Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military
Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib
last September. He spoke to ABCNEWS despite
orders from his commanders not to.

The Whole Article.

This man may wind up being one of the few heroes in thie mess.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Very Proud to Be from Massachusetts Today! And, Surprised by George Will

(Yes, the title refers to two completely different topics...)

I'm happy that Massachusetts will be the first state in the union to allow gay marriages today. Way to go! This has been a long time coming.

George Will did an amazing thing in his column today - he seemed to be calling for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld! His column was a bit more obtuse than usual (and I don't always read him as a result), but he did seem to be saying that Rumsfeld had to go for the good of the country.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Well, the Smoking Gun Has Been Found - Rumsfeld SANCTIONED the Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners

Given Bush/Cheney's hypocrisy...errhh "loyalty" (towards their cronies, not towards the Constitution or the American public), Rumsfeld won't be fired. And he's unlikely to resign. This whole Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal is reeking more of Watergate than Viet Nam these days.

Remember when Colin Powell was an honest man? I used to have a lot of respect for him. I read and enjoyed his autobiography. But his public behavior over the last few months does nothing but demonstrate that loyalty to Bush and Cheney is much more important to him than loyalty to the Constitution or the American public. Such behavior is no surprise from Rice or Wolfowitz or other folks of that ilk. But Colin Powell? I considered voting for him for President in 2000. Now, I wouldn't vote for him for dog catcher.

Those of us who have expressed outrage over the whole Iraqi prisoner scandal do so because we believe in the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the UN and the Geneva Convention. In short, we have much higher standards for the behavior of our military and our government than our government does. We citizens must have higher standards and we must vote out Bush this November.

Yes, of course the Berg murder is even more troubling than the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. There's an awful lot of disgusting behavior all over the world - in Israel, in Palestine, in Afghanistan, in the Sudan, in parts of the Phillipines, in Saudi Arabia, in Iran and in Iraq. But when atrocities are committed by Americans, supported by our government and paid by American tax dollars, as an American citizen, I am all the more outraged.

I'm also really annoyed by a pro-Bush PAC using the attack on the WTC as the opening of their ad. The spokesman in the ad says he lost a child in 9/11 and he trusts Bush to do the right thing. Invading uninvolved countries, killing and abusing their citizens, trampling the Constitution with the "Patriot Act" is "the right thing?" I feel sorry for people who can't see through the actions of our appointed administration. I sure see through them.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

On the Lighter Side...

Tired of all the political wrangling in the US this year? Vote for the team that's "Brave. Reliable. Resourceful. Well-traveled."

Frodo and Sam in 2004

Always look at the bright side of life! (Gay whistling...) Monty Python resurrects Life of Brian!

If you missed it back in 1979, it's one of the sharpest satires ever produced. Naturally, it was protested and roundly condemned by the people who don't understand satire. If you do "get it," you should really enjoy it. If you don't "get it," stay home. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, it will be playing out in Oakmont at The Oaks starting on May 14. Gee, I wonder when they'll be getting Farenheit 911...? (For the curious, did carry the story, but didn't add the little note that ABC is owned by Disney...)

Monday, May 03, 2004

Shame, Shame, Shame - The Buck Stops Where?

[[This essay appeared in a slightly different form as a Letter to the Editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on 5/9/2004]]

Harry Truman would be spinning in his grave over our current administration's inability to take responsibility for anything. No apologies, no explanations (well, it's someone else's fault, of course, probably those private contractors...)

I haven't been so ashamed to be an American since Iran Contra during the Reagan administration. We're supposed to be helping the Iraqis understand that the rule of law matters! All we're showing them is that power corrupts; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness continue to be meaningless constructs in Iraq (and in many other places in the world)

We ought to all be ashamed of ourselves that we have a government which behaves so abominably against the citizens of another country.

Our Tax Dollars at Work...

Our Tax Dollars at Work...

The Memory Hole has many depressing photos. Albarah.Net has some even worse ones (though since I can't believe what I hear from our government about Iraq, I'm still not ready to believe all of some Arabic group's propaganda...yet, anyway...).

Sunday, May 02, 2004

There and Back Again

Thursday morning, I left for Massachusetts. I've done that drive solo a number of times. It takes about 10 hours, and when the weather is nice, it's a pleasant drive. I like listening to books on tape, so I finished up listening to Stephen King's Bag of Bones. It's a fairly pedestrian "small town has a secret and they're all in on it" sort of horror story, but there's a pair of love stories involving the protagonist that are really very sweet.

Friday, my parents and I drove up to Vermont to attend my uncle's funeral. Uncle Winslow had lived in Montpelier most of his adult life, having spent his career working for the state. As Montpelier is the smallest state capital, and the church was all of about five blocks from the state office buildings, the church was completely full of old friends and co-workers.

I want to give kudos to my cousins Anne and Mardie, who gave a very moving talk about their father, and to the minister who had the intelligence to admit that he didn't know Uncle Winslow, but gave a great eulogy anyway (the minister had just come to the church a few months before, my uncle had been in Texas part of the time, then moved in with Anne a few months before he died).

I really love the recent funeral tradition of displaying photos at the reception. I saw a family photo I'd loved as a child and hadn't seen in nearly 30 years:

Trask Family, Rochester, VT, Circa 1930

Trask Family, Rochester, VT, Circa 1930: (more or less clockwise) John Crawford (Sr.), John Crawford (Jr.), George, Bill, Nellie, Winslow and Caroline Trask

Between my brother's wedding last fall and my uncle's funeral, I remet many cousins I hadn't seen in years. I hadn't seen Mardie, Alan or Pam since my wedding, almost 27 years ago. It was one of those odd timing things - a bunch of my cousins got married when I was living in Pennsylvania or Ohio and had no money to travel. Some of the aunts and uncles (Alan's parents, Anne and Mardie's mother) died at times when work was quite insane and I just couldn't get away. So it was good to reconnect with them, even if the situation wasn't ideal.

After the funeral, I went up to Burlington and visited Anne and Mardie. Spending a night in Burlington was a little odd - I spent a few nights there in February, 1957 as I was born in Burlington but I don't think I spent a night there since then.

Anne Forcier, Mardie Sorensen, Laurie Mann, April 30, 2004

Anne Forcier, Mardie Sorensen, Laurie Mann, April 30, 2004

We spent a long time up on the widow's walk, watching the sun set over Lake Champlain. I enjoyed meeting Anne's in-laws, the Forciers.

The next morning, I took my mother's cousin Alice Bassett, out to breakfast. She's probably the relative I'm most like - she's very politically and musically active. She's at least 78 and still sings in no fewer than three groups. She was a state legislator for a few years, and used to commute to Montpelier with Howard Dean in his pick-up truck!

The drive back to Pittsburgh was a little trickier. I'd had a migraine overnight, so I was very tired. It was cloudy and windy taking the Charlotte ferry across Lake Champlain. There wasn't much traffic or many cops on 87 going south through New York, but I did have to stop briefly when a border patrol road block (some two hours south of the Canadian border) was checking cars for illegal aliens. I have mixed feelings about that sort of operation, honestly, but I got through quickly and continued on my way home.

While I made a few brief stops, I drove for over 12 solid hours. While Burlington, Vermont is a little further west than West Boylston, Massachusetts, it's somewhat further north. So that was the longest solo drive I'd ever done.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Some More Thoughts on the March for Women's Lives

On assorted boards in, some of the anti-choice folks have decided to decry any actor or actress who dares to be publicly pro-choice. I got a little tired of this, so I posted the following:

I think both Mel Gibson and Jim Caveziel have gone way overboard on The Passion. It's not a movie I will ever see (well, at least it's a movie I will ever pay to see). But will I broadly condemn every action the two do? Of course not.

Vanessa Redgrave walked way over the line with her unwavering support of the Palestinians (there's plenty of blame for the ongoing mess in the Middle East, and all sides are parts of the problem). But I know she's a talented actress. While I don't agree with her politics, I respect her enormously as an actress.

I respect Julianne and Whoopi and Ashley and the 800,000 other people who were with me in DC last weekend. The 200-300 anti-abortion folks who counter-demonstrated our march are entitled to their opinion. I'm entitled to ignore them. This is still a "free" country.

There was a great political cartoon in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about this very issue (unfortunately, it's not online yet). In one panel, George Bush is pointing at a member of Al Queda and says "The Problem with You Is You Hate Freedom." In the second panel, he's pointing at a Pro-Choice Marcher, and he says "The Problem With You Is You Love Freedom."

I avoid telling people what to believe. In fact, my daughter identifies herself as a pro-life person. However, we both very strongly believe in sex education and birth control. The current administration is taking the hard line against sharing birth control and abortion information. Due to its refusal, hundreds of thousands of women, mostly in Africa, are dying. But, the pro-life people don't seem to give a damn about the people dying from AIDS, childbirth complications and botched abortions.

The March for Women's Lives wasn't just about abortion. If you listened to the speakers, it was about promoting sex education. Of all kinds.

In an ideal world, we wouldn't need abortion clinics. We'd have birth control that worked all the time. No woman would ever be raped. Women who became dangerously ill during their pregnancies could have abortions to save their lives without being made to feel a criminal. But this isn't an ideal world.

Monday, April 26, 2004

A Death in the Family and a Weekend With Almost a Million

I was out of town over the weekend, and came home to find out that my Uncle Winslow had died. It was not completely unexpected - he'd had cancer for a number of years, and had been having good months and bad months. We shared an interest in genealogy. I'll miss him.

Winslow, Bill and George Trask, Spring 1992

Winslow, Bill and George Trask, Spring 1992 -- At my father's (Bill's) retirement party

Winslow, Bill and George Trask, October 2003

Winslow, Bill and George Trask, October 2003 -- At my brother Terry's wedding

I spent the weekend in DC, partially to visit my brother Jeff and his fiance Rachel, and partially to attend the March for Women's Lives. This was the fifth time since 1978 that I'd been to a protest on the Mall in Washington, and it was substantially larger than any previous protest I'd been to. We probably had somewhere near 800,000 people there, meaning it was the biggest national rally ever in DC (yup, even bigger than "The Million Man March").

April 26 March:  Posters Including - If You Aren't Outraged, You Aren't Paying Attention

April 26 March: Posters Including - If You Aren't Outraged, You Aren't Paying Attention

I have been paying attention. And while I was one of the liberals who counseled "patience" at the beginning of the Bush administration, I am more outraged about the tactics of the administration every day. Just today, representatives from NASA were forbidden from making any comment to the media on an upcoming science fiction movie (The Day After Tomorrow) on global warning. Is there anything they aren't going to gag?

At the March, I was working with Jeanne Clark, who was the lead PR person for the March and one of its organizers. I ran errands and moved people around, and was also put in charge of getting the lead banners assembled:

April 26 March:  Laurie Mann, Bannerer

April 26 March: Laurie Mann, Bannerer

The mall was unbelievably crowded, particularly before and after the March:

April 26 March:  Post March Rally

April 26 March: Post March Rally

Friday, April 23, 2004

An Athlete Who Was an Actual Role Model - Pat Tillman

While I have mixed feelings about our government's promotion and conduct of the war in Iraq, I think most of us who'd rather not see our military over there don't believe in condemning the people who've chosen to serve. And so, I find the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan this week particularly sad. [[And it was that much sadder to learn later that his death was due to "friendly fire."]]

Until the Viet Nam War, it wasn't that uncommon for public figures to join the military. Look at the hundreds of athletes, actors and musicians who fought for their country in World War II. You can't say the same about recent wars. The rich and the famous avoid military service because it's a volunteer military and they don't "have" to go.

Despite this, both Tillman and his brother chose to go into the Army to become Rangers. Pat Tillman gave up a multi-million dollar football contract to go fight for his country. Even more extraordinary - he graduated from college summa cum laude in three and a half years. How many professional athletes can you name who not only graduated from college but graduated with honors?

I hope we remember Pat Tillman. I don't think we're going to see other young and famous and rich men go to war.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Politics, Politics and the Unrelated Joys of Rebuilding Your Domain...

This week, I read two contemporary books that were curiously related:

Reading Lolita in Tehran is a literary look at surviving in Iran as your options grow increasingly limited. It's looking at Iran from the inside out over the last 25 years and how horrible it is, particularly for women. As much as I hate to think of any government as "evil," the Iranian government (no matter who's in charge) continues to be evil.

Against All Enemies is a very interesting book. Clarke's retelling of his time in the White House is quite engrossing, particularly his story of what it was like to be in the White House on 9/11. I don't normally buy the "scandal of the minute" book, but unless you're a worshipper of Dubya and his friends (unlikely if you're reading this site) you'll see all the bits that went into that mess of a sausage in September 2001 and the years since.

Now to get off of politics for a minute...

On April 10, 2004, my Web and mail server failed at Interland. When the folks at Interland couldn't figure out how to bring the server back by April 13, I moved all of my sites from Pair Networks. Eventually, the domain will work, but it won't be until I can straighten out a problem I'm having with Internet Solutions. Thank goodness for Pair Networks here in Pittsburgh, my new Web host.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

When Will Lady Liberty Reopen?

September 11 was over two and a half years ago. The main architectural symbol of our country's liberty, the Statue of Liberty, remains closed. It is going to be at least another four months before the country determines that enough changes have been made to it to be "safe" enough to enter.

I can certainly understand why the statue was closed in September of 2001, but it's not clear why the statue has stayed closed for so long.

September 11 was over two and a half years ago. The main legal symbol of our country's liberty, the Constitution, remains under attack by the current administration. It's going to be at least another year before a more rational Federal government can throw out the "Patriot" Act. It's going to be at least another year before a lot of people, a number of whom did nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time, can fight for their freedom to return home.

I could understand why it was important to pick up any would-be terrorists. But, as an American, the "Patriot" Act is contrary to our Constitution. The single biggest attack to America since 9/11 has been from our own government. Pity that.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Reclaiming Another "F" Word...

During the '80s, a word many of us used proudly in the '70s practically became practically a swear in the mouths of right-wing extremists. So non-right wing extremists often stopped using the word. Or some people apologized for using it.

No, Peter Jackson, that "f" word isn't "fantasy" -- it's the word "feminist."

I've been an ardent feminist since before I even knew there was such a word. In the early '60s, when I was just in kindergarten, I just felt that girls and boys were treated differently. It probably didn't help that I was hardly a typical '60s little girl - I was pretty argumentative, got low marks on "following directions," had dreadful printing and liked to read. Despite these "impediments," I generally got along pretty well with my teachers because they saw I was bright and liked to learn.

Feminists, to a point, have been pushed back into various closets over the last 15 years or so. The first closet was to stop using the word as a positive self-identifier. The second closet was to pretend that feminism isn't important. The 2000 election and its aftermath should demonstrate that feminism is very important.

Under "pro-life" people like George Bush, tens of thousands of poor women around the world have died or been maimed by back alley abortions or bad birth control since family "planning" agencies are restricted about talking about these issues if they received money from the US government. Hundreds of thousands of poor women have died from childbirth (more than did previously) because our government thinks appeasing the "religious right" is more important than passing out condoms.

I'm a feminist, and I'm going to be one of several hundred thousand feminists to rally in favor of family planning, both in the US and around the world in Washington on April 25. The global gag order has got to stop. The only way it's going to stop is to elect John Kerry.

Friday, March 26, 2004


The point of my countdown this week has been to announce that today is my last day at Pitt. I'm starting a new job on Monday with PennFuture!

Thursday, March 25, 2004


I heard Richard Clarke say something yesterday that people from our government never say:

     We failed you...I failed you...

Politicians and government officials, particularly in this administration, are notorious about saying

     Mistakes were made...the government isn't working

But it's very rare to hear people admit their mistakes. I don't blame 9/11 on Richard Clarke (there's plenty of blame to go around); I'm not convinced that terrorists can always be stopped. However, in order to have any hope of stopping terrorists, everyone needs to be more careful.

Most importantly, the branches of the government need to cooperate. When government agencies were cooperating during the run-up to the Millennium, the government foiled at least two different foreign terrorist attacks. People were being careful; they took the possibility of attack seriously. We didn't need a civil-liberties-inhibiting Patriot Act to track down real terrorists. But once the year 2000 was ushered in safely, people went back to being on auto-pilot.

I normally don't run out and buy the latest "government scandal" book, but I probably will go out and buy Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, on his time in the Bush administration.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


And, as of today, Dead People Server has had its 3,000,000th visitor in just over five years. Not bad for a site without any advertising and that doesn't play any stupid browser tricks...

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

An Unexpected Response to The Passion of the Christ

I've read many reviews of The Passion of the Christ. I decided I just couldn't see it due to its violence and historical revisionism. Many reviewers have been apologetic about the violence and completely ignored its intellectual dishonesty. The movie threw out both history and the Bible, and used the writings of a 19th century German mystic as its screenplay, presenting this one view as "fact." As a result, the fact that hundreds of thousands of Jews, slaves and political prisoners were crucified by the Romans was completely ignored. Jesus was one man in a large and non-exclusive club.

I was stunned to find a fairly negative commentary on the movie in, of all places, the National Catholic Reporter. Tom Beaudoin's "The anti-Christian Passion of the Christ" is a very eloquent look the anti-Semitism of this movie. I highly recommend it. Beaudoin is a writer and lecturer at Boston College.

Thursday, March 04, 2004


Oh well...

The Lord of the Rings movies made me a huge fan of Viggo Mortensen. I was never much of a fan of his until late in the movie Fellowship of the Ring (when he tells Frodo he would have followed him to the depths of Mordor), when I realized that, with the right director and right material, the man is a magnificent actor. I even enjoyed him throughout The Two Towers, despite the focus on the battle of Helm's Deep (in the book The Two Towers, the battle of Helm's Deep lasts about 12 pages). And he's just great in Return of the King - it is his movie, after all.

So I've been debating for months - will I bother to go to Hidalgo (which is about horses, something I really don't care about) or will I not bother (though I'm now a Viggo fan)?

Ultimately, I love history. I was pissed off by the movie Elizabeth, despite the great performance by Cate Blanchett, because the history was just so wrong. At an amazing number of points in the movie, the historical facts do not correspond to the movie. So Elizabeth should never have been marketed as "a true story."

So I've decided to bypass Hidalgo. Movie studios should never promote a movie as "based on a true story" when it simply is fiction. I'd probably have gone to see the movie Hidalgo if it wasn't being promoted as "based on a true story." Oh, and the sand storm special effect looks so damned lame. Maybe I'll catch it on cable.

As a coda to this - my friend Laura may have seen the actors/production crew at the Hidalgo premiere:

Sunday, February 22, 2004

A Short, Paranoid Fantasy

Is Ralph Nader getting paid off by the Republicans to run? [[3/29/2004 - it turns out the answer was sort of, so I guess my fantasy wasn't quite so paranoid...]]

If he really gave a damn about progressive politics in this country, he wouldn't be running for president yet again...

Friday, February 13, 2004

On Volunteering and Not...

As I've mentioned in here once or twice, I've been having a longtime battle with insomnia. Like lifelong. In the past, the insomnia goes away after a few weeks or month, and I sleep fairly normally for a while. But this time, I've been averaging about 5 hours of sleep for about 18 months. This is further complicated by the fact that I'm in that lovely grey area called "perimenopause" and I've been experiencing ridiculous mood swings for 1-2 weeks every month.

After having a lot of problems for a few months, things got worse and I started getting various types of medical help. Sadly, I discovered that while some of these things worked some of the time, nothing worked consistently.

So I was told to do what I could do to reduce stress.

After much soul-searching, I decided the one fairly stressful area I could give up was being the Exhibits division director for Noreascon. This was a very hard decision, but I'm not being as effective in this area as I want to be. Further, when I get home from work, I'm usually too exhausted to do much more than do the dishes.

So, I have resigned my DHship. Deb was able to get an excellent replacement for me, Jim Hudson. I'll stay on as a member of Jim's staff. I'm still editing the Tenn essay GoH book.

I don't know what kind of Worldcon volunteering I'll be doing in the future. I've asked to be a press staff person for Scotland, but haven't heard anything. Over the next few years, I won't be as involved in Worldcon planning as I've been over the last eight years or so.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Overreaction to the Super Bowl Costume Failure

Only a boob would show her boob on broadcast television. And only a boob would rip the shirt in the first place.

I'm not that much of a prude - I adore Sex in the City, and, of course, was watching that instead of the Super Bowl on Sunday night. But the overreaction to Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's stunt is ridiculous. Obscene behavior on broadcast TV has been going on for a while. Despite what Michael Powell says, it doesn't need an FCC investigation. This is yet another example of the Bush-led government being completely clueless about priorities.

The FCC ought to send Janet, Justin and most of the rap singers a bill for public obscene behavior and let that be that. I find the badly dressed "singers" scratching themselves in pubic to the sound of gun/drug-drenched lyrics to be much more offensive than a brief glimpse of Janet's breast.