September 2008 Archives

thursday night watch party

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Anyone interested in a VP debate watch party on Thursday night? Between Joe "lovable gaffe-meister" Biden and Sarah "I can see Russia from my house!" Palin, it's guaranteed to be entertaining. The Obama folks are having two watch parties that I know of in Durham: one at Carolina Ale House and one at Pizza Palace. The one at Carolina Ale House will probably be a lot bigger, which could be good or bad depending on your point of view.

sunday afternoon canvass

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I had a good show this afternoon, if I do say so myself. Messed up the timing at the end but I skipped my last talkset, played a very short goodbye song, and managed to finish only 1 minute late. I've been trying not to neglect my show what with all the political activity of late. I did have to postpone all theme shows until after the election. I just absolutely do not have time right now for the prep work required of a theme show. I have no idea how I'm going to manage editing the Veterans Day show. Maybe if I work on it one evening a week from now until the election.

After the show S. and I did a canvass with the North Durham crew. It's so much more fun to canvass with a friend. We got lucky and got a walk list in a neighborhood that was actually walkable. Usually we have to drive to each address, which means each house takes much more time and we have to stay together. Today we were able to park the car in the middle of the neighborhood, split the packet in half, walk in opposite directions and meet back at the car. We were out only 2 hours (usually it's more like 2.5-3) and we got to almost twice as many houses as usual. It was a good neighborhood too. Most of the people I talked to were pro-Obama and even the McCain supporters were pleasant, although S. did talk to one rude person.

the yard sign people

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After the rally I worked the front desk from 4-7 at the Obama office. They've got me scheduled for every Wednesday morning and Saturday afternoon now. On Wednesday mornings there's someone else too, and she likes greeting people and answering the phone, so I usually spend the morning teaching new volunteers how to do data entry, phone bank etc. It's funny because I'm not that good at persuasion phone banking (much harder than face-to-face canvassing, which is in turn much harder than voter reg), but I seem to be pretty good at telling other people how to do it.

On Saturday afternoons it's much slower, and I'm the only office worker. So I did all of the above: answered the phone, greeted people who came in, trained new volunteers, and did data entry in between. Sounds like a lot but it was pretty slow, and I had lots of time to deal with everything. We have a new staffer who does nothing but organize the office, so things go much much more smoothly now. Everything is (mostly) where you expect it to be and you can find work for new volunteers without having to pester the field organizers.

One thing I do not like about front desk work is the yard sign people. Who come in or call to indignantly demand their yard signs. What do we mean by not having yard signs? What is wrong with this campaign? I try to explain without rancor that yard signs are not in fact a critical promotional tool, but are actually a drain on the campaign, and if they want to help Obama win they could volunteer or at least buy their yard sign someplace else. Sometimes this gets through, most often not.

I did have a good yard sign exchange today. A woman called in a panic because she had seen a whole cluster of McCain/Palin signs at the intersection of Hope Valley Road and Fayetteville, up near Woodcroft. All those McCain signs, and not one for Obama! She thought we should know because we would want to do something immediately! I told her, "The thing is that yard signs don't actually have any benefit to a national campaign, because everyone already knows the candidate's name. So if the McCain campaign is wasting its time and money putting up yard signs, good. We're putting our time and money into getting votes." She talked a bit about how demoralizing it is to see all those signs, and I said that I understand how she feels, and anyone has the right to put up yard signs at public intersections, and if someone wanted to buy some Obama yard signs and put them there, great. But again, I repeated that in terms of winning the election this would be a waste of resources, and I'm glad to hear that the McCain campaign is wasting its resources in this way.

She seemed pleased by this and thanked me for enlightening her (on the way home I realized that I could have said to her, "if you feel badly when you see those signs, think how the person who put them up will feel on November 5 when McCain has lost and he has to collect them all," which might have made her feel really good). Then when I hung up the field organizer in the next room told me I had made his day. He said he had seen those signs and he knew people were going to be upset about them.

They were planning a "data entry party" tonight to deal with the results of the big "100,000 Knocks for Barack" canvass this weekend, and it was just getting started as I was getting ready to go. I felt guilty about leaving but I was exhausted from this morning (and from being up late last night after the debate). If I get enough rest tonight, tomorrow after the canvass I'll help with data entry.

obama/biden rally

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This morning Georg and I went to the Obama/Biden rally in Greensboro. I was excited about being at their first appearance after the debate last night. Also excited about seeing Biden for the first time in over 20 years -- I'm from Delaware and he spoke at my high school. I felt guilty about bailing on this morning's canvass but I'm going out tomorrow afternoon to make up for it.

Anyway. The program was supposed to begin at 12:15 and the gates opened at 10. We got there at 9:15, hoping to get a good spot. Ha! The line was already three blocks long. With the constant flow of people arriving, volunteers walking up and down the line yelling at us about our tickets, and vendors hawking Obama t-shirts, caps, buttons, hand-towels (a new one on me) and umbrellas (ditto), I felt like we were at a sports event or something. I saw a t-shirt design I really liked and the guy had it in my size, so I got that, and also an Obama/Biden hat for my pal Joe, a big-time Biden fan.

Unfortunately we should have gotten there at least an hour earlier if I wanted to see anything. There was a massive crowd -- the N&O says over 20,000 -- and even near the front we were not near enough for my shrimptastic view. Occasionally people would shift just the right away and I would catch a glimpse of the podium. But for the most part, all I saw was the backs of the heads in front of me. The peril of being so short. If I held my camera over my head I could get good crowd shots. Luckily Georg was tall enough to see over people's heads and got nice photos of both Obama and Biden.

Since I couldn't see a damned thing I listened and took photos of the crowd. Got a few nice shots if I do say so myself. The best was one I almost didn't get, as the baby's grandmother didn't want me to take the photo. But the mother said okay, and so I took one quick snap, and thank goodness it turned out.

Obama and Biden are both excellent speakers. Biden hit the "McCain was wrong" phrase over and over. They seem to have decided, correctly I think, that was the best jab from the debate last night. Obama also made a few cracks at McCain's expense, like saying that if McCain keeps stealing his lines ("change" etc) then Obama is going to have to start calling himself a maverick. Mostly it was their stump speech, and at the end Obama urged us all to volunteer and vote early.

It's kind of hard to believe, but pollsters are actually moving North Carolina towards the toss-up category. All these weeks I've been volunteering because I wanted NC to be a thorn in McCain's side. Scare him into wasting money here that he could have been spending in the real swing states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida and New Mexico and etc. And now it looks like we might actually have a chance to win here. What's that about? Obama must think he has a chance; why else would he have spoken in this state twice in seven days. Did Kerry ever visit NC during the 2004 campaign? Has McCain ever?

that didn't take long

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the button scare

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You may have received an email which says that if you wear an Obama button or t-shirt to the polls on election day, you will be turned away without being able to vote. In North Carolina, this is false.

I called the Durham County Board of Elections to check. She said that poll workers are not allowed to wear anything that promotes a candidate, but voters can wear whatever they want.* A voter cannot campaign within 50 feet of the polling place; "campaign" means talking to other voters about a candidate or trying to hand out literature. Wearing something with the candidate's name is not campaigning.

This confirms my experience as a poll worker in May. I remembered seeing people on primary day who were festooned with Obama gear -- a shirt, several buttons and a hat on one person -- and no one was challenged. It's probably explained in detail in the poll workers' handbook but I'm too lazy to dig it out. If you want to be sure of your own state, call your local board of elections.

As Georg pointed out, it's interesting (and by interesting I mean shameful) that in a year when record numbers of new voters are expected, emails "warning" of phony limitations on voting rights are already circulating. Who wants to take bets on how long before cards are mailed to African American neighborhoods saying that if they have outstanding traffic tickets and try to vote, they will be arrested?

*I say "anything they want" but I'm not actually sure what would happen if a voter showed up wearing a sandwich board or one of Ray U.'s sign contraptions. Would that be allowed? I'll ask at poll worker training.

you can say that

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Was in a rush this afternoon and stopped at Cookout for lunch. As often happens, the staff gathered around the window to check out my car. One guy there remembered me, more specifically he remembered the Barbie on the roof. Roof Barbie hasn't fared so well; she's crusty and discolored after several years in the sun. The Cookout guy said, "You've still got Sunburned Barbie!" He gave Barbie the once-over (maybe I was there at night last time and he didn't get a good look before) and continued, "She's looking worse. Really sunburned. She's Black Barbie now. With blond hair. She's Ghetto Barbie. Like the girl down the street."

That last seemed to be addressed to a young woman in the window with him. Maybe they're neighbors or roommates or something? I just laughed and said, "You can say that. I can't say that."

I like the folks at Cookout. Eleven months until they have watermelon milkshakes again.

error vs. intent

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Last night I overheard someone being trained in how to do voter registration. Overhear probably isn't the right word. I was there but I didn't need the training -- as you may have noticed, I've done it a couple of times already -- so I was just watching.

The trainer was explaining about the rights of felons. In North Carolina, people who have committed a felony are able to register to vote again, once they are finished with their parole or probation. I don't understand why felons are disenfranchised in the first place, but if that's the way it is, I think it's fair that they get their rights back once they've finished paying their debt. NC is more lenient than many states: in many places a felon can never vote again for the rest of their life.

This law causes a lot of confusion. Many felons think they can never vote again. Some people committed their crime in a state where felons are never re-enfranchised. They think this means they are not allowed to vote anywhere in the country. Also I met one person who didn't realize he had to re-register. After he got done with parole, this was years ago, he just showed up at his precinct on the next election day. His name wasn't on the list, and when he told the poll worker he was an ex-felon they told him felons aren't allowed to vote. They didn't explain to him that all he needed to do was fill out a new registration form (Or maybe they did and he didn't understand). I never was able to convince him that he is eligible. He so much wanted to vote, and I kept telling him that it was allowed, but he didn't believe me. He kept saying "I tried to, and they turned me away!" It broke my heart.

The registration form unfortunately adds to the confusion. The state board of elections keeps changing the form, and there are lots of versions floating around. The one we've been using for most of the summer has a series of statements with yes/no checkboxes at the top. You have to check "yes" to all the statements, or the registration is rejected.

  • I am a United States citizen.
  • I am 18 years old, or will be by general election day.
  • I have been a resident at this address for 30 days or more. If less than 30 days, I moved here on _____ (date).
  • I will not vote in any other county or state after submission of this form. If I am registered elsewhere, I am canceling that registration at this time.
  • I have not been convicted of a felony; or if I have been convicted of a felony, my rights of citizenship have been restored.

As you can see, the last one is a big problem. It's supposed to be read as "Yes, I have not been convicted of a felony." Instead most people read "I have not been convicted of a felony" and want to check "no." I call it the "when did you stop beating your wife" question. Because of this question, whenever possible I fill out the form for the person, asking them the questions, writing everything in and just having them sign and date the bottom. (Also because it's a lot faster if I do it.) It's even more confusing for people who have committed a felony, because no one knows what "my rights of citizenship have been restored" means. Basically the only way to get an ex-felon to fill out the form is to tell them, "this strange and confusing statement means some entirely different thing which I am telling you now, oh just trust me and sign here."

So anyway, I was watching the new volunteer get training. The trainer was explaining the questions at the top and how confusing it is. And she said that the question is worded that way because "they" don't want us to know the truth. I strongly disagree with that. I'm sure there are plenty of people who believe ex-felons should never be allowed to vote again, and at least some of those are happy if ex-felons are misled into believing they can't. I do not for one moment believe those people are running the NC Board of Elections. The people at the Durham County level have always impressed me with their dedication to promoting democracy and obeying the law. If they trust the people at the state level then I do too.

I think it was just a design flaw. They thought it would be simpler to have a series of yes/no statements which all had to be answered yes. Which required wording one of the questions so strangely, which added so much confusion that it was a net loss to usability. Simpler doesn't always mean easier to understand, as I'm sure anyone who's ever had to create exam questions can agree.

The BOE seems to have realized this was a problem: as of last Friday they are issuing new forms. Not everyone has the new forms yet of course, since they only just started giving them out. On Wednesday morning I picked up forms for the Durham office and they were the bad ones. On Friday morning I picked up forms for Unity in the Community and they gave me this new one.

On the new form, statements 3-5 have been removed from the checklist. These statements were moved to a new section at the bottom, which they have to read and then sign below. It begins "I attest that..." and then lists all the statements they used to have to check off. The felony statement has been reworded to be much more clear:

  • I have not been convicted of a felony or, if I have been convicted of a felony, I have completed my sentence, including any probation or parole. (Citizenship and voting rights are automatically restored upon completion of the sentence. No special document is needed.)

There are a couple of other changes to the new form: Libertarian has been added to the party affiliations, and the place to provide ID has been reworked for the better. It seems to me that they made a mistake with the form, and then they corrected it. I understand why people have a certain lack of trust in the democratic process these days, still I don't think it's fair to attribute this one to foul play.

on the road

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One more on politics tonight: my favorite political blog, fivethirtyeight.com, is doing a road trip through swing states across the country. They go to cities and small towns in each swing state, and visit field offices for both parties. And they have a talented photographer traveling with them. Really fascinating. They started in Nevada and are working their way east. They have a page just for the road trip posts if you don't want to read about stats.

45 voters

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Unity in the Community was great! It was an outdoor music festival sponsored by The Light 103.9 fm. It lasted from 11 to 6 and there were big crowds, I estimate around 5,000 people total. We lucked out and the organizers put us in a location where almost everyone had to walk right past us to get to the music. We registered 45 voters, signed up a dozen volunteers and gave out about 250 early voting info cards.

Beforehand I had been worried about having to schedule the volunteers: at first thinking not enough volunteers would come, then when the volunteers came through (several people signed up yesterday), then I worried that not enough festival attendees would come and we'd have too many volunteers sitting around with nothing to do. But it all worked out just about perfectly. A couple of the volunteers were idle and just wanted to sit at the table chatting with each other, but most were dedicated and willing to go out and engage with people, and a couple were fantastic, tireless. And the good, active volunteers were spread out throughout the day. It was great!

In general I find voter registration easier than canvassing, and this kind of voter registration, in such a sympathetic environment, is easier still. To give you an idea of how pro-Obama the crowd was, there were 2 vendors selling Obama shirts (plus another with mostly other clothing and a few Obama shirts mixed in). And it wasn't a political event! I bought a shirt from one of the vendors, who gave me a deep discount since I had been working the Obama table all day. And also, because I sent a lot of customers his way. Every time someone asked about shirts I would point them towards his booth.

The volunteer effort in Durham is going like gangbusters. Like I mentioned, people signed up to work the table all day. And then the office sent several extra people over to help us early on, and at that point the event wasn't that crowded so I actually called the office and told them we were fully staffed, so not to send anyone else. Then later in the day, two women showed up with clipboards. No one had sent them; they said they just figured wherever there were a lot of people, that's where they should go! I love the idea of volunteers so motivated they're out there seeking registration opportunities, not even waiting for someone to tell them where to go. By that point the event was much busier so I welcomed their help and asked them to work the crowd while we stayed at the table. All these volunteers aren't just running around making busywork, they're accomplishing a lot. I was surprised by the number of attendees who said they had registered within the past week or two, or even in the past couple of days.

I didn't talk to a single McCain supporter all day, and only a couple who refused to register. I did talk to one young guy who told me he supported McCain. He was with a crowd of friends and I was like, "really? um, well, we want you to vote anyway .. that's democracy." Then he started laughing and said "naw, I don't even know who McCain is!" A couple of times during the day, the folks on stage urged the crowd to register, and pointed out both our table and a non-partisan group who were registering on the other side of the stage. One of the speakers made a nice statement about how much people had sacrificed in the past to gain the right to vote, and how we all owe it to them to vote now. I have to say, I do not understand Americans who don't vote. People die for the right to vote, and not just in the distant past either. Look at Zimbabwe: just a few months ago people were literally dying for the right to vote.

I got fairly sunburned on my face and the back of my neck, and slathered lotion on when I got home. Pretty much lost my voice too, between talking all day and the smoke from the barbecue vendor next to us. Organizing this event was a lot of work, and I didn't even have to do it all. Someone else booked the space and got things going, all I had to do was schedule the volunteers, pick up the supplies and set up. I don't think I would want to do something like this every week, though I'm really glad I did this one.

Although I just remembered, early in the day a man came up to the table and asked us to come to his organization's dinner for Ramadan next Friday. He said last time they had 550 people come. So maybe I'll be doing this next week as well. Still, it will be much less work than this one. I think 2 volunteers would be plenty, and I could probably handle it on my own if need be.

we love you. go vote obama.

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This rivals Viva Obama for my favorite amateur political youtube ever:

obama office

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Went to a training session at the Obama office this evening. They want those of us working the front desk to be able to handle most everything that comes in the door, freeing up the field organizers to focus on their work. So they had to get us up to speed on how to do all the different kinds of data entry, voter reg, and phone banking, so we can teach walk-in volunteers how to do whatever it is they're going to do. It was a lot of training. I'd be worried about remembering everything, except they promise we'll have copious notes in a notebook which will stay at the front desk.

The office has gotten so busy that from now on we're going to have two people working the front desk: one to answer the phone and greet walk-ins, and the other to train walk-in volunteers and assign tasks to them. And do data entry during lulls. I'm up tomorrow morning and it looks like I'm going to be the data entry/training person. Which I'm pretty comfortable with. I haven't done much front desk work so I'd rather do volunteer training than answering whatever off-the-wall requests come in the front door.

If nothing else, I won't have to deal with the indignant people demanding their yard signs which we don't have. We never have yard signs, because we always sell out a day or two after getting them. And I have no patience with the yard sign people. My problem with yard signs is they are useless. They have zero benefit as far as persuading voters. All they accomplish is making the person with the yard sign feel good about themselves. Which can even have a negative result, if the person with the yard sign feels like they've done their part by putting up a yard sign, so they don't have to do anything that might actually help. And they are a huge hassle at the campaign office, making the folks there stop doing productive things and deal with the people who want yard signs. So yard signs are actually worse than useless.

There's an interesting discussion of yard signs in the comments of this fivethirtyeight.com post, which is in itself a very interesting discussion of voter files, i.e. why canvassing and phone banking are so extremely valuable. Someone there proposes the only plausible benefit I've heard: a local organizer can use yard signs to identify and make contact with potential volunteers. By the way, I will be the first to admit: I have an Obama yard sign. I guess that makes me a total hypocrite. What the heck, I wanted to feel good about myself. At least I ordered mine off the website, so I didn't waste anyone's time at the local office.

shipmates forever

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September 12 movie: Shipmates Forever. I baked a peach pie while I watched this cute little movie. Dick Powell stars as a Navy brat (son of the Admiral of the Fleet) who enters the Naval Academy just to prove he can, then ends up becoming committed to the Navy in spite of himself. Lewis Stone plays the admiral and Ruby Keeler plays Powell's best girl. Powell sings a couple of navy themed songs: "Don't Give Up the Ship" and "I'd Love to Take Orders from You."

trouble in paradise

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September 11 movie: Trouble in Paradise. Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall star as con artists who fall in love, then set their sights on heiress Kay Francis. The dead giveway that a movie was made by Ernst Lubitsch is that I find myself laughing while I watch, not so much for the jokes, but because the movie just sparkles. That's the Lubitsch touch. Wonderful cast of costars: Edward Everett Horton, Charlie Ruggles and C. Aubrey Smith.

the farmer's daughter

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September 11 movie: The Farmer's Daughter. The smarmy title has nothing to do with this delightful movie. Loretta Young plays a Minnesota farm girl who moves to the big city, gets a job as a maid with a connected political family (Joseph Cotten and Ethel Barrymore), then ends up running for US Congress against their hand-picked candidate. It's sweet, funny, romantic, and somehow both idealistic and cynical at the same time. One of my all-time favorite movies about politics. Also costars Charles Bickford.

barack the vote

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Had a great time at the "Barack the Vote" party in Central Park. I had signed up to help set up, and they actually had a lot of people and not enough to do, so I ended up helping a T-shirt vendor unfold his shirts. He told me he travels all over, and he had been in Denver at the convention. I asked him about the protesters with bullhorns and he said yes, they were a pain in the ass. They stood right behind the vendors screaming at the crowds, which cut way down on business because no one wanted to stop. I told him I had heard about that on the radio, which surprised him. I told him they interviewed one vendor who started telling people, "Buy a shirt, go to hell!" He thought that was hilarious.

I was feeling a little guilty about "volunteering" to go to a party, and thought maybe I'd duck out after setup and go to the north Durham phone bank instead. But I ended up working the volunteer signup table for a couple of hours, and that was great. So many people signed up, everyone was so enthusiastic. And you know what, I deserve to go to one event that's easy and fun.

There was a bake sale to raise money for Durham for Obama, and Georg bought me an "O-muffin" which was really a cupcake. I really like the Durham for Obama t-shirt design, and I need another Obama shirt (I only have one, which means doing laundry pretty often) but they don't sell ladies/girl sizes, just men's. They also had really cute knit skirts made out of the t-shirts, and I thought about buying one, but $40! Kind of steep. Durham for Obama didn't get my money today.

One thing that was kind of funny to me was the people who came up and said they really want to volunteer, but won't canvass, won't do voter reg, won't make phone calls. I signed them up to do data entry, and would say something encouraging like, "While you're at the office doing data entry, you'll see people there making phone calls, and you'll see that it's not that hard." Nobody seemed the least bit persuaded by that, but I had to try. And maybe it will be true for some of them.

There was a field organizer sitting next to me at the table, and I heard him tell a group of people that the thing they need most right now is voter registration in neighboring rural counties. Which made me glad that I went to Roxboro last week. I'm going to try to get up to Henderson one day this coming week.

After the event Georg and I walked over to Piedmont for dinner. I had spinach ravioli with lemon and currants, wonderful. Now we're hanging out and watching America's Next Top Model. Maybe I'll do a crossword puzzle.

interview

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Yesterday I interviewed a WWII veteran for my show. Rod Hungerford served in the US Navy from 1943-1946 and we talked for about an hour about his experiences during the war. The show will air on Veterans Day weekend.

This was my first time doing an actual interview where the content hadn't been planned out in advance. Instead we met beforehand to get to know each other and discuss what the interview would be about (I guess that would be a pre-interview, huh) and then yesterday I asked him questions based on that. I think it went really well, mainly because Rod was such a good interview subject. I really didn't have to draw him out. I would just say "Tell us about ..." and he would be off.

My only minor disappointment is that he told a couple of stories less colorfully for the interview than he had when we met beforehand. For instance he mentioned that while he spent most of the war on a destroyer in the Atlantic, he only set foot in Europe once, a 24 hour liberty in Palermo. In the pre-interview he told me during those 24 hours he got drunker than he had ever been before or since. Yesterday he didn't mention that part. I guess I can understand wanting to clean the stories up a little for posterity.

I had borrowed a mic from the WXDU news department, which worked really well. The sound quality is fantastic. I had to hold the mic between us for the entire interview (it has a stand, but not tall enough) and I was concerned that having a mic in his face would make Rod nervous, but not at all. In fact the only problem with holding the mic was that I couldn't move my hand at all -- it was so sensitive that it would pick up the sound of my fingers moving -- and my hand was numb by the end of the hour.

Also I'm a little annoyed at myself because I said "uh-huh" way too often. I was trying not to, but the interview was so conversational that I slipped into it without realizing. I hope I'll be able to edit them out.

After the interview we had dinner with Rod's family (I met him through his daughter-in-law, who works with me) and he joked that they were going to want his autograph now that he's going to be on the radio. I tried to reduce expectations, reminding everyone that we're talking about college radio here, it's not like being on CNN!

movie news that makes me sad

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  1. A remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
  2. Another remake of The Women.
  3. A new teen movie called Nick and Nora.

Why do they have to screw around with good movies? Why can't they remake bad or just mediocre movies, and try to get them right this time?

polarization

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Based on my purely anecdotal experience (two evenings of phone calls) people do indeed seem to be feeling things more strongly. Those who don't want to be called are sick of hearing from the Obama campaign! And those who support Obama want to talk about it, mention the latest outrage from the news, talk about how much they want Obama to win, and tell me how much they dislike Sarah Palin. That's not universally true of course, but true enough that the calls are taking more time, and my pace is way down.

This intensity of emotion makes the calls easier to do, for me at least. Because for every angry "How did you get my number!" there's at least one saying how badly they want Obama to win and thanking me for volunteering. There's a sense of urgency which wasn't there before. I feel it too.

On the persuasion calls, if people support Obama we're supposed to ask them if they're going to early vote. And one guy replied, "I hadn't thought about it. What do you want us to do?" I was thrown by that, and had to think a moment before replying, "the more people vote early, that's fewer people we have to call the day before the election." "Okay," he said, "then we'll do it!" I think it's kind of hilarious that I could direct someone's voting behavior like that. I mean, who the hell am I?

Last night I did volunteer sign-ups, which is generally easier than persuasion calls because it's all people who offered at some point to volunteer. Although last night, I don't know if I had the wrong list or if the campaign is casting a wider net or what. Because a lot of these people clearly did not think they had ever expressed interest in volunteering. There were a bunch of people on the list in their 70s and 80s and even 90s (who I did not call, for crying out loud, I'm not asking elderly people to go out canvassing!) One guy even said "Good for you. You've got my money, and you've got my vote, and now you want my time too?" Which sounds like a pretty bad call but I apologized, thanked him for all the support he'd already given, and said I would try to get his name off the list. Then he warmed up quite a bit. I always try to get people off the list if they're clearly not interested. I don't want to piss people off, especially if they're strong enough supporters to donate.

He told me his two daughters had moved -- one within North Carolina and one to Maryland -- and asked me what they needed to do. I told him that the one in North Carolina needed to re-register at her new address so she could be assigned to the right voting location. Then I .. well I kind of elided the truth. "If she moved up there permanently, then she should register in Maryland and vote up there. If it were temporary, for college or something, then she could request an absentee ballot and vote down here. And North Carolina is a lot closer than Maryland this year. But if the move is permanent, then I have to tell you that she should register up there." I think he understood what I was saying because he asked me how to get the absentee ballot.

There were also people whose willingness to help amazed me: like the man who has Parkinson's disease, bad enough that I had difficulty understanding him, but wants to do office work. Or the woman with a small baby and no reliable child care, who can't commit blocks of time, but promised she would use the website to make phone calls and take her baby out on "neighbor to neighbor" canvassing walks. She said she was from Chicago and Obama had been her state senator! She met him 10 years ago, she said they were in the same neighborhood.

billion dollar brain

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Sept 10 movie: Billion Dollar Brain. Turns out Michael Caine made three Harry Palmer movies! This one was the third in the series, not as good as The Ipcress File. Lots of running around in the snow in Finland. Still it had some good moments. I put the second movie in my Netflix queue.

waterworld

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September 9 movie: Waterworld. Speaking of big dumb movies, I have a strange affection for this one. I can't explain it.

end of days

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September 9 movie: End of Days. It's been kind of a rough week, and I really wanted to kick back and watch something stupid. Boy howdy did I get my wish. A laughably bad movie about wacky end-times religion featuring a Republican governor? Just what I need.

This was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. All you really need to know is that Arnold has hand-to-hand combat with Satan -- and wins! What can you say about a movie that features Arnold yelling "You are a fucking choir boy compared to me!" at the devil incarnate.

good neighbor sam

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September 8 movie: Good Neighbor Sam. Jack Lemmon plays a junior adman and devoted family man who, through one of those plot contortions which only happens in the movies, ends up pretending to be married to his wife's best friend. Most of the movie is this slapsticky "running around trying to hide the truth from the boss, and the evil cousins! and the neighbors!" which is not my favorite thing. The movie was worth watching for a couple of reasons: first, it's an interesting snapshot of the changing morality of the early 60s. All the executives at the ad agency are sleazy lechers. And the big client, who condemns their lack of morals, is a sanctimonious prig. The only good people in the movie are Lemmon's easy-going eccentric, his wife, and her friend who has just gotten a divorce.

The second (and best) thing about the movie is the expression of Lemon's eccentricity: he builds mechanical animated sculptures out of household junk. Old bicycle gears and picture frames and stuff, and it moves. When I saw his sculptures I thought wow, just like Jean Tinguely! Except Lemmon's sculptures don't self-destruct. Then the best friend character shows up, sees the big sculpture in the backyard, and says "It's like Jean Tinguely in Paris!" A movie that likes the same art I do definitely gets bonus points.

mel torme: standing room only

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Sept ? movie: Mel Torme: Standing Room Only. Concert footage from rather late in Mel Torme's career. He still had it, he put on a great show. At the end of the show he took over the drum set and played the drums during "Sing Sing Sing." He was no Gene Krupa but he acquitted himself respectably.

illicit

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August 31 movie: Illicit. Very early Barbara Stanwyck movie has her shacking up with her boyfriend, then they get married, then she moves out and they date awhile, then decide to get back together. I can't recommend this. If I wanted to see a pre-code Stanwyck movie I'd watch Night Nurse or Baby Face again.

hollywood revue of 1929

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August 30 movie: Hollywood Revue of 1929. This was basically a stage revue with a movie camera in front of it. Singing, dance numbers, drama sketches and comedy skits. It featured Jack Benny, Joan Crawford, Conrad Nagel, Marion Davies, Laurel and Hardy, John Gilbert and Norma Shearer, Buster Keaton, Ukulele Ike, and the Brox Sisters.

the bride walks out

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August 25 movie: The Bride Walks Out. I waited too long and I can't remember what this movie was about. I even looked it up on IMDB and I still can't remember. It's something about Barbara Stanwyck spending too much money, and then taking a job behind her husband's back.

when ladies meet

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August 25 movie: When Ladies Meet. Joan Crawford plays a writer fooling around with her publisher. Robert Taylor wants to be her boyfriend, so he arranges for her to meet the publisher's wife (Greer Garson).

I've seen this movie before, and what I love about it is the unintentional comedy. There's this constant undeserved adulation that is showered on Joan Crawford. Her character is deluded and selfish, and untalented too from what we learn about her book. And yet everyone in the movie treats her like perfection incarnate. Every word out of her mouth is the wittiest thing ever, she's the most beautiful, the most graceful, the best writer, etc etc.

Greer Garson's character is ten times the woman as Crawford's character, but all the other characters have been brainwashed into seeing it otherwise. It's this bizarro-land attitude I would expect from a vanity project where the star also produced and directed and did the soundtrack. Strange to see it in a studio picture.

unity in the community

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I have somehow managed to end up as volunteer coordinator for the Obama table at an event on Sept 20 called Unity in the Community. I'll have to schedule volunteers to work at the table, also pick up supplies that morning, set up and break down the table. Shouldn't be that hard .. right?

If you read this, you live near Durham, and you've been feeling like you ought to get involved, why not come to this thing? We'll be selling t-shirts and doing voter registration. I think the voter reg will be much easier at a table, since people will be approaching us rather than the other way around. It would be a great way to try your hand at volunteering if you don't feel comfortable cold calling or knocking on doors or whatever. I'll be scheduling shifts so that no one has to work all day.

Let me know if you're interested!

happy ending

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On to a new lifeGood news for the beasties! They arrived in Cleveland on Friday and they may have a new home today! They are meeting a family this afternoon. I can hardly believe things are working out so quickly for them. They are really sweet dogs who will make great pets for someone. Ms. Pants even said she thought they could handle agility and I think she might be right. They were eager to please and while they didn't know a lot of commands (just "get in your crate" and sometimes "sit") they seemed to learn quickly.

I can't say enough good things about Linda at Furever Shih Tzu & Companion Dog Rescue in Ohio. The day after I talked to her she was on the case, arranging transport for them and showing their photos to potential families. She's amazing! And also Kat, whose beautiful horse farm is already home 25 Brittanies, and who took the beasties with her from VA to OH on a moment's notice. It's pretty amazing what people will do to help dogs and people they've never even met.

catch-up

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Just realized I hadn't posted in several days. So what have I done in the meantime?

  • Worked the front desk at the Obama campaign office
  • Worked at my job
  • Spent time with Janey
  • Made CDs of big band music for a friend's parents' surprise 60th wedding anniversary party
  • Worked some more
  • Tried not to obsess about the polls
  • Had a nice dinner at Rockwood Filling Station
  • Worked a whole lot more
  • Did some more "neighbor to neighbor" canvassing.

Also our amarcrinum is blooming! It's a cross between a crinum lily and a hardy amaryllis. We got it from Plants Delight last year and I thought wasn't going to bloom this year, because it should have done so earlier in the summer. So this is the first time we've ever seen it bloom. This seems to be a weird summer for perennials: we're just now getting edible sized stalks of asparagus for the first time ever, and that should have been earlier in the year as well.

The front desk at the campaign office was fun. And busy! It was the morning after Sarah Palin's speech and people called and came in all morning saying "I saw that speech and it made me mad and I want to volunteer!" By the time I left there were people making phone calls, data entry of voter registration forms and volunteer sign-up sheets, heading out to do more voter registration, and even writing thank you notes to one-time volunteers, asking them to come back. The fun part was when a woman came in, we introduced ourselves, and she said "Did you call me two weeks ago and ask me to volunteer? Someone named Sarah called me, and I said I wanted to work in the office and she said 'sure!'" And yes, that was me. It was pretty amazing to meet someone who had gotten involved because of my phone call. What do you know, phone banking is worth it after all!

At one point I asked a field organizer how many voter registrations they've been getting. He showed me a stack of about 600 and told me that was from the previous two days. He said they had just delivered about 2,000 to the BOE from the weekend before, and the stack he showed me was the last remnant they hadn't done data entry on yet. Wow. I remember a couple of months ago thinking that 100 a day seemed impossibly high. I wonder how the other 16 campaign offices in NC are doing? The AP had an article today about the national voter reg drive.

The neighbor to neighbor canvassing was just okay. I seem to be living in the most Republican neighborhood in Durham County. I've talked to 11 households, and 8 of them are voting McCain. Well at least it's data, and that's helpful to the campaign. (That's what I tell myself when the canvass wasn't that productive, so I won't feel like I wasted my time. And it's kind of true: now the campaign knows not to bother calling those households in October.) At least no one was rude today. About half were actually friendly and talked to me like a neighbor, even a couple of the McCain supporters.

farewell beasties

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shih tzu rescue Drove the beasties up to VA today. The drive was a bit over 3 hours each way; we left about 12:30 and I got home right around 7. It was a beautiful drive. A straight shot up route 15, past tobacco farms and through small towns. Very scenic.

The woman who's taking them up to Ohio has a really nice place: a horse farm, a pond, and the house itself is a log cabin. I wish they could stay there permanently! But she's into Brittany spaniels. She told me she has 15 of her own and 10 rescues. She's taking the beasties up with 5 of her dogs for a competition in Ohio. They're going in a big camper so the beasties will have lots of room.

shih tzu rescueShe put the beasties in a nice outdoor run to stretch their legs while she took me back out (the place has a motorized gate so she had to go with me and open the gate for me). The beasties stood up against the door of the run and whined when they realized I was leaving them, and I confess I got a little weepy as we drove away. Not that I wanted to keep them: with the tension between them and Jane, and the sheer amount of attention they needed, having them here was just too disruptive. But still, in the ten days they were here I did get a little attached.

The best part is that it looks like they already have a forever home! I can hardly believe it might work out for them so quickly. They will be great dogs for someone. I hope the rescue folks in Ohio will send me photos of them in their new home.

in a world

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neighbor to neighbor

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After Saturday's canvass I decided to give the "Neighbor to Neighbor" program on my.barackobama.com a try. It's just like a regular canvass, but instead of coming from the local field organizer, it's all done through the website. You type in your address and the website gives you a walk list.

As is typical for my part of town, the addresses are somewhat spread out. Still, a handful were indeed close enough for me to walk from my house. The good news is that everyone was home; the bad news is 3 of the 4 houses were McCain supporters. One was quite rude; the wife gave me a dirty look when I asked for the husband, then the husband came out yelling and waving his arms. "I'm not going to vote for Obama, and I wouldn't vote for Clinton, and the Democrats can go to hell! And I'm telling you this so you won't go through your spiel!" There's no spiel, really: if they say McCain and sound decisive, I thank them for their time and leave.

No biggie though: I turned in the data and no one will waste time visiting that house again, and so I got what I went there for. He was nowhere near the rudest person I ever visited. That was the woman back in 2006 who caught me leaving, invited me to walk all the way back up to her house, threw the lit back at me and then slammed the door in my face. That was demoralizing. This guy was merely entertaining.

I wish I had done this all afternoon -- everyone was home because of the holiday -- but I didn't think of it until late afternoon so I only got to the few houses I could walk to. Well, I can do a few a night. Well not Wednesday because I'll be driving the beasties up to VA. And not Thursday because that's my phone bank night. And Friday is a bad night for this kind of thing. Well, next Saturday afternoon then.

In other great news, I just got an email from my precinct field organizer saying NC hit a record on Saturday: 1400 volunteers statewide, on just that one day! Go us!

gustav donations

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Donations of non-perishable items (like canned food, bottled water, first-aid supplies) to benefit people affected by Hurricane Gustav can be dropped off at any Obama campaign office in North Carolina. Durham's campaign office is at 112 W. Main Street. Click here for more info.

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