October 2008 Archives

home stretch

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Four days to go. Four days! Eva and I agreed that we're both having trouble sleeping. It's an insomnia-inducing combination of worry and excitement. With so much to remember and think about and plan, we lie awake turning over to-do lists in our minds. There's so much at stake and so much to be done in such a short time. No pressure!

Tonight we reviewed the schedule for the next four days and went over a couple of tasks I've been doing (like printing lists) that Eva will have to do tomorrow while I'm gone. And of course, we did data. We've been recruiting people for data, and the first one came in tonight to help. As of today we have a new data rule: in canvasses and sporadic calls, we only have to enter some of the data. If they were not home or they say they support Obama, we don't have to enter that. I think because the campaign knows who the targets are, so some of the info doesn't matter anymore. They're going to be back on the list every day unless they moved, slammed the door in the canvasser's face, or said they support McCain.

This new rule made the data go about 5 times faster than usual. Eva and I were laughing and shouting "Not-home! Not-home! Not-home!" as we sorted through the stack and threw pages away. I felt like a kid on the last day of school, throwing my notebooks away. The new data person DiLisa (who by the way, took a web-based class on Votebuilder, and why didn't I know about that class? It sure would have been helpful a couple of months ago) did not understand why we were so giddy. We tried to explain it but I guess it was one of those things where you had to be there. Anyone who's been at a late-night data session knows what I mean.

Early voting was extended until 5 pm here and that means I'm going to be at the polling place all day, and will miss the entire first day of GOTV at our staging area. It was supposed to end at 1 so I'd get back to the Guess Rd. office in time for the third canvass shift. I feel bad about not being there but I found a really good person to fill in for me, so Eva won't be on her own. A woman named Joy who came by yesterday for the first time, spent a few hours making phone calls, and seemed really on the ball. This morning I realized that the office was going to be unstaffed for a couple of hours and I didn't have anyone to cover for me. So I called Joy and asked her if she could do it, and thank goodness she hadn't yet signed up to do anything else, and she came back in, and she was great. I joked that she was getting a field promotion. Pretty impressive that she could walk in one day and be running the office the next. I've met a lot of impressive people in the past couple of weeks. They show up, sit down and make call after call for hours. They've never phone banked before and they're really good at it. Or they canvass all afternoon, come back smiling and pick up another packet for tomorrow. Day after day, and they just keep coming. Where do all these amazing people come from?

schadenfreude

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I must not be in the mood for schadenfreude, because I don't feel good about the prospect of an 84 year old man going to prison for a non-violent crime.

In other news, this morning I actually gave a little pep talk to a couple of volunteers. It was one phone banker and one canvasser. And the canvasser said she was feeling discouraged because she had just been in another part of the state and seen an overwhelming number of McCain yard signs. I told them, "If that's how the McCain campaign spends their time and money, good. Because we're spending our time and money on what you and you are doing. And that's why we're going to win." Both of them visibly brightened, stood a little straighter and smiled proudly. It was, like, motivational and shit.

Speaking of motivational, we got to listen in on another conference call this evening. This one was Michelle Obama! She was calling a women's phone bank which they do all across the state every Wednesday, and luckily I heard about the call so we were able to listen in at the North Durham office too. And coincidentally it was all women in the office at the time, so we felt like we belonged on the call. (There were a couple of guys dropping off a walk packet right then and I asked them if they wanted to stay, but they said they had to get home to their respective kids.) Michelle was great. Just like the other call, the state person talked for a few minutes and then Michelle got on the line and told us we were doing great and we have to keep working hard.

I hope they do a conference call with Joe Biden before the finish. He's my hometown guy!

one week to go

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Another long day yesterday. Didn't get home until after 10. I'm going to try to arrange for an evening off later this week. I want to make it to the finish line without completely burning out, and the last few days are going to be grueling. At least I slept well last night. Came home, ate dinner, and was asleep less than an hour after leaving the staging area.

I may not post much in the next week. There's not much to say really: the volunteers are amazing, and I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of people who just show up and make call after call, or knock on door after door. It's like that every day. I showed one group who had blown through an entire call list a map of the precincts they had called. They were impressed, as was I.

I do have my computer whenever I'm at the staging area, so you can email me if you need to get in touch. Sometimes I lend my computer to phone bankers so they can use the online system, but most of the time I've got it and can respond to email.

Also, FiveThirtyEight.com is in North Carolina.

robocalling in sync

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Long day today at the staging area. Lots of data. I didn't get home until about 10, and Stephanie and Noah were still working when I left. At least I was able to do my show today. S. came in and covered the office so I could go.

One really funny thing happened in the evening. Stephanie and I were both making sporadic calls. If you get a machine you have to leave this really long message. And by the way, I have said that message so many times that not only do I have it memorized, I dreamed it this morning. "Hi, my name is Sarah and I'm a volunteer with the Barack Obama Campaign for Change here in Durham. I'm calling to ask you to support Obama for president, and encourage you to vote early. One Stop Early Voting in North Carolina runs from now through November 1, every day, and it is easy, even if you are not registered or have never voted before. To find the One Stop Early Vote locations near you, call 1-888-NC-Early or visit nc.voteforchange.com. You can also visit nc.barackobama.com to find out more about Senator Obama, and about getting involved in the campaign. This is a critical election, and Senator Obama needs your support. Thank you, and have a great day!"

So Stephanie and I were sitting right next to each other, both making these calls, and somehow we started leaving the message at the same time, about 10-15 seconds apart. That's happened to me once or twice before, and it's so weird and disconcerting. Like hearing an echo of yourself. But the really strange thing is that as the message went on, we drifted into sync. By the time we got to "To find the One Stop Early Vote locations near you" we were speaking the words at exactly the same time. At which point we both collapsed into hysterics and had to hang up on our calls. We tried to finish, we really did, but it was just so funny we couldn't go on. So ridiculous! I laughed so hard my sides hurt. I can only imagine what that sounded like. I hope the people we were calling erased the messages without listening to the whole thing.

We are so professional at the North Durham staging area.

human robocaller

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Today was a big day at our staging area. Fewer canvassers than last Saturday, but we were inundated with phone bankers. So many that we blew through several entire call lists, and we had to stop using the last list because we were calling people where someone else in the household had already been called earlier in the day. That isn't supposed to happen, but we had made so many calls we were simply running out.

The phone bankers were great too. Some volunteers just want to sit around and talk, but these folks were all really good workers. One guy in the evening had such a nice voice, we told him he should be on the radio. His voice was so good that on the messages, I think people might think he was a robocall. We joke that we're human robocallers on these sporadic calls. Because if you get a machine, you have to leave this really long message about how to early vote. We encourage people to edit the message so it feels more natural for them. And I try to mess it up slightly -- cough or stumble over one word -- so that I sound like a human being rather than a robocall.

In general sporadic calls are much, much easier than the persuasion calls they were doing a month ago. Although a few McCain supporters slip through, everyone on the list is supposed to be an Obama supporter, and we just have to ask them to vote early. People are starting to get irritated by the calls, and we tell them that the most reliable way to get off the call list is to vote. That way we get their vote, and they get us off their backs. It's a win-win!

I got out of the office three times: at 11 after the first canvass shift left, I ran out to get bottled water and breakfast. At about 2 I lent my computer to a phone banker so she could use the online virtual phone bank, because we were running out of paper lists. And that left me with nothing to do so, I went out for a quick lunch. I went to Nosh and had my favorite: cup of soup and half a BLT. Read the Indy endorsements and saw that they had nice things to say about Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh. Go Sean! Or is that a cause for embarrassment for a Libertarian, to be praised by the Independent?

After I got back from lunch, we realized that no one had shown up for the third canvass shift, so I went out just so that someone would be canvassing. I ended up in a really nice neighborhood in Northeast Durham, off East Club after it changes into Ferrell Rd. It was a newish neighborhood, modest but nice family homes, and everyone was so friendly. People cheered when they opened the door and saw my Obama shirt; they asked for extra early vote flyers to give to friends; when I said "thank you for your time" they said "no, thank you for doing this!" One guy even showed me that he was just moving into his house, didn't have any furniture yet, and he was thrilled that he was already on the campaign's list at his new address. I have never before met anyone who spoke excitedly about their name being on my list. And he warned me to look out for the geese that live near the neighborhood pond; he said they were mean. I never saw the geese but I appreciated the warning anyway. I swear, I'm getting spoiled by these happy friendly neighborhoods. I'm going to be bummed next time I have to canvass a bunch of McMansions full of Republicans.

Between using the virtual phone bank, which enters data directly into the system, and staying on top of entering the paper lists throughout the day, there was hardly any data to enter in the evening. Georg came over and helped me clean up the office, and I was home by about 7:15. And then after dinner I got to listen in on a conference call with Barack Obama! It was a little pep talk for NC volunteers. First the state directors talked for about ten minutes, and then Obama got on the line and talked for just a couple of minutes, to tell us that we're doing well and we have to do a lot more in the next ten days. Aye aye!

back to it

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Back to it today: worked at one stop this morning, had general election poll worker training in the afternoon, then straight to the Guess Rd. staging area.

Poll worker training was great. I learned a couple of very interesting things. First, someone had asked me a little while ago when (and if) early vote, absentee and provisional ballots are counted. I researched it online but couldn't find an exact answer. Well Mike Ashe gave us an exact answer today. Each of the seven early vote locations is considered a precinct just like the Election Day precincts. Absentee by mail votes are another, and the last precinct is the provisional ballots. All Election Day votes, early votes, and absentee by mail votes are counted on November 4. The provisional ballots are each reviewed individually by the Board of Elections, and the ones deemed legitimate are counted within one week of election day.

The other really interesting thing is a new rule: no cell phones or video cameras inside the polling place. Why? To prevent vote selling. The concern is that people will sell their votes and then photograph their ballots to prove they voted the way they had promised, in order to get paid. I have no idea if there have been any actual proven cases of this in the US. But I have to admit, that if there's a campaign to stop imaginary vote fraud in NC, and the result is fewer annoying cell phones in the polling place (which is also my workplace), that's just fine. It's a lot better than efforts against imaginary vote fraud which result in systematic vote suppression.

My friend Francesca told me that vote selling is common in Italy, so common that poll workers have to check voter cell phones and cameras at the door. We don't have to be that extreme. We do have to stop anyone if we see them using a cell phone, whether to take a photo or to make a phone call. Mike Ashe said that some people are so excited about voting, they want to have their photo taken standing in front of the ballot box. He said that's difficult to prevent, and just try to get them out as quickly as possible. But we should take strong action if we see someone taking a close-up photo of their completed ballot.

ETA: there was actually a third interesting thing. Mike told us that NC is the only state in the country in which the presidential race is not included in the straight ticket. One of the poll workers from my one stop location asked him why. His jokey response was "because we're special," but his serious response was that it happened in 1972. The state Democrats sensed that McGovern was going to lose bigtime, and they didn't want the downticket races to lose bigtime, so they removed the presidential race from the straight ticket. And no state legislature has ever put it back. And there you go.

This evening at the staging area, I made phone calls, entered data, shredded old lists, cleaned up, and had training in how to create phone lists and walk lists. That way if volunteers come in and we don't have a list for them, I can print one out real quick.

Something new in the data: when I was entering data from a call list, some of the names were missing. The names were on the printed page but when I called up the same list on the computer, they weren't there. I had never encountered that before yesterday, and when I asked about it one of the other guys said the same thing. We realized that it must be people who just voted. They were on the printed list, but then they voted so they were filtered out of the same list when I viewed it on the computer. Wow.

state fair

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hot dog twinsToday I took a much needed day off from the campaign and went to the state fair with Georg. The fair is one of our favorite things about autumn, and this year did not disappoint. We had such a good time. The weather was just about perfect. We did all our favorite things: the livestock shows, the vegetable displays, the baked goods and craft competitions, the 4H, all that fun stuff. Also we walked around the midway and took lots of photos.

And, of course, fair food. In order of most delicious to least, we ate:

  1. Mini-donuts. Still the champion and undefeated! The mini donut place is right near the Jim Graham Building. The stand is called "The Iced Tea Lady" and they do indeed have very good iced tea. And the donuts! Divine. Go when there's a line so the donuts are hot and fresh.
  2. Apple cider. Another treat we have every single year. I always get the cold cider, unless it's really really cold out, because it's fresher than the hot cider.
  3. Ham biscuit from the Farmer's Market Restaurant stand. The biscuit was surprisingly good considering it wasn't that fresh. And the ham was very good. Negatives: only one napkin for the two of us, weird prerecorded barker who pretended to be talking to people walking by, except no such people were actually walking by.
  4. Orangeade. A longtime favorite of mine, this one was a little disappointing. They included the juice from a fresh orange but I suspect there was also Tang-like orange powder in it.
  5. Deep fried mac and cheese. We got it from that place that seems to break the new deep fried trend every year. Not on a stick, it was triangles of Kraft mac and cheese, battered and deep fried. It was exactly like you would expect.
  6. Deep fried pecan pie. On a stick. It sounds great: a big gooey slice of pecan pie surrounded by deep fried batter. And the first couple of bites lived up to expectations. Then... I would have ranked this much higher but for serious execution problems. The slice was too big and ended up undercooked. The center of the pie was still cold, and there was a layer of uncooked batter inside. Gross. We ate less than half, though I'm still glad we got it. If we hadn't, I would have gone home thinking about how great it must be and how sorry that I missed it.

Of course I couldn't resist a little bit of politics. We visited the Democratic Party booth, where I got a couple of interesting stickers I hadn't seen before. Also I wore my Obama shirt, and when the young ladies at the orangeade booth complimented me on it I tried to talk them into voting early.

We noticed hardly any McCain or Palin stickers, but many for Dole and many many "If you like freedom, thank a veteran" stickers which the Republican booth was handing out. S. told me on Sunday that she saw tons of McCain-Palin stickers at the fair. I wonder if the Republicans ran out? Or they decided to stop distributing them in the past three days? Or maybe people stopped wanting them? I dunno. But I did see way more of the veteran stickers than any other. The veteran stickers didn't mention a party or candidate.

a loss for words

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So I decided not to talk about working at the polls. People get fired for blogging about their jobs all the time, plus voter privacy is at stake. All I can say is it's rewarding work. I recommend it if you like democracy.

And I feel like writing about the staging area is getting monotonous. I was there again today, just like every day, the office is still nice, phone bankers came in again, a canvasser dropped off a packet, etc etc. All I can say is, if you've ever thought about volunteering, now is the time! This weekend and then Nov 1-4 will be the most important days of the campaign. We will be running canvasses and phone banks all day. We'll need help in the afternoons and evenings with data. And we especially need people who have free time on weekdays to help us cover the office, allowing daytime volunteers to come in. Call 919.827.4685 or come by any evening after 5 or anytime on weekends. 3215 Guess Road, Suite 106. Right across the street from Pizza Palace. If you see a sign on the door that says "Obama Volunteer Office -- Come In!" then we're there and we want your help. If you don't live near North Durham then call your local campaign office and ask them to direct you to the staging area nearest you.

Also, read this article by Sean of FiveThirtyEight.com about a particularly impressive staging area in Northern Virginia. It's so big the person running it is called a "Hub Director." What I'm doing isn't in the same league as those folks, not even close. I'm just proud to be working for the same thing as they are.

Turns out I had a lot to say for someone who's at a loss for words.

fun with office supplies

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Today I made a schedule to hang on the wall of the staging area. Eva had put together this great spreadsheet in Google Docs of when the office was being covered. And S. and I were looking at it on Sunday and realized that we need something similar for the phone bankers, since we only have the one Skype line during business hours when the lawyers need their phones. It would be bad to have too many phone bankers show up and not have a phone for them to use.

So I made a big calendar for the wall. I found posterboard with graph lines already on it, which was hugely helpful. It has space for who's covering the office (which I transferred from Eva's spreadsheet), phone bankers and canvassers. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, drawing lines on graph paper and then filling in people's names. And now when people come in, we can ask them to write in their name and phone number on the schedule to show when they're going to come back.

And I got the wireless situation resolved finally! Yay for the lawyers, they are awesome! They called their tech consultant and he gave them the password. The lawyers didn't know it because they had it saved and never needed to type it in. And I also found out the work schedule of the lady who works in the office closest to ours. She's part time and I can schedule the volunteers around her so that we aren't disrupting her work. The good news is she will be off Nov 3 and 4, which are the two weekdays when we'll be insanely busy.

And now our staging area is up and running. All we need are volunteers!

In the evening I had provisional ballot training at the board of elections. I'm not going to be doing that part on Election Day; I just want to learn as much as I can about the whole process so I can do my part better. And my chief judge sent us a letter suggesting that if we wanted to get provisional training, we could. So I signed up.

My main take-away from provisional training is, "thank god I don't have to do that part." There is a lot to know, and a lot of responsibility on the person doing it. My part is the registration table, which means the people who ask you to state your name and address and give you an ATV (authorization to vote) form.

next, the piano

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Another good day at the staging area. We had two shifts of canvassing and phone bankers all day. The phone bankers were amazing. These two young women walked in out of the blue, sat down, and spent hours making phone calls. Call after call after call. They were like machines. Warm, friendly machines who easily made emotional connections, and never got their feelings hurt by the mean people. I so much hope they come back! Next time I will have snacks for them. One of them asked for some chips or pretzels or something, and we didn't have anything, and I felt really bad. I was even at Costco this morning and it didn't occur to me to get snacks for the office.

One thing I am going to do differently next weekend, is not canvass on days when I'm covering the office all day. S. came in this afternoon and we went out together on a short canvass, to finish a packet someone else had left half-done. It seemed like a good idea at the time, you know, get out of the office for a little while. But these are always going to be long days, and by the end I'm pretty tired. Next time when I want to get out of the office I think I'll just take a break, go get something to eat and relax for an hour. The office is so close, I could even go home.

S. and I did have one funny/bizarre encounter while we were canvassing. We walked up to a house and found several people gathered around, while a pickup truck carrying an upright piano backed up to their front door. They were delivering a piano! We watched while the husband stood on the front steps motioning the driver to back up, a little to the left, no, pull forward again, now a little to the right, try again .... I guess they were trying to line up the back of the truck perfectly so they could lay a ramp over the steps and slide the piano into the house.

We stood there watching for awhile, not wanting to interrupt this delicate operation, until the husband finally called his wife out to talk to us. And as it turned out, they were both Obama supporters and they're both going to vote early. Yay!

obama supporter. not fully dressed.

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new obama officeToday we had our first trial run at our new North Durham staging area! I think it went really well. Everything went smoothly, we had three shifts of canvasses and at one point three phone bankers as well. The only major goof was that one of the phone bankers called into Person County on the law office's phone. Well she only made about a dozen calls before I realized what was happening. I'm going to leave a note for the lawyers explaining what happened, with some money to pay for the long distance. Cell reception is really bad inside the building but we have Skype on my computer for the long distance calls.

Eva is the change crew leader and did most of the coordinating today. I had never spent much time with her before and she's great. Nice and easy to work with. I'm really glad we get along, since we're going to be spending a lot of time together over the next couple of weeks. It sounds like our field organizer Stephanie is going to have a lot to do and will be going all over the place, so it will be up to us to stay at the satellite office and keep it running. One thing Eva and I agree on is not to get too hung up on the official titles and so forth in that GOTV plan they gave us a week ago. We're focusing on how best to get the job done. I think that will make it easier for us to help each other & pick up the slack for each other.

We made a procedure change in entering data that I think is going to help a lot. Up until now they've been staging from the Starbucks up at Willowdaile, and then Stephanie would collect all the packets from her entire territory, take them all back to the main office and enter them at night. Sometimes she'd be at it until 2 am, and the times I helped her we never got done before 10:30. Today since we were in an office with computers, Eva and I started entering the data as soon as the packets came back in. It went so much faster that way. (Eva did more than I did, because I had to run out in mid-day and get an ethernet cable.) S. had canvassed in the afternoon, and she came back in the evening to do data with us, and we were entirely done by 8. Just in time for dinner. I'm sure we're going to have some late nights by the end, but still, it was really nice to see this small change in the process improve our lives so much.

One funny thing that happened: in the morning we put a couple of Obama signs out front so that our volunteers could find us. And within two hours, someone had come by and put 4 McCain-Palin signs out, completely hiding our signs! We all agreed that this was petty and pathetic, and it's the frustrated anger of people who know they are losing, and if that's the way the McCain campaign wants to use their time, great! We're using our time identifying our voters and getting them to the polls.

The title of this post comes from a walk pack Eva entered, from Roxboro I think. That was the canvasser's entire note on one house: "Obama supporter. Not fully dressed." I'm glad I didn't go to that house!

I only did a little canvassing, to finish a packet I had started on Thursday night. It was amazing how many people I talked to who had already voted. On election day a lot of people say "Already voted" and they mean "go away, leave me alone," but these people were sincere. They told me where they had voted and how long they stood in line. Some of them were still wearing their "I voted" stickers. I can't tell you how good it was to see that. It made me feel like the past few months have been worthwhile.

I did one thing that I really shouldn't have: I totally yanked the chain of a McCain supporter. Someone had called him from my Skype account, and he saw the number on his caller ID and called back. When I told him it was the Obama office he started ranting, "If a white man had that little experience, he would be laughed off the stage!" I offered to take him off our phone list and politely took his name and number. Then he repeated that line about a white man with so little experience twice more, then I cut him off, said "Just like Sarah Palin. You have a nice day sir!" and hung up on him. What can I say, I just couldn't resist.

i voted today

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My first shift at early voting this morning!

If you want to vote quickly, I highly recommend the Fairview Elementary School on Mount Sinai Rd. I was actually a little disappointed that it wasn't more crowded. Every other polling place I heard about was really busy. I heard the Board of Elections was slammed, and NCCU had a rally with 2000 people all lined up to vote. I heard Duke also had a rally but I don't know how many attended. But our place was really slow. It seems to be the voting location no one knows about. We had a line for the first 15 minutes, and then there was a steady flow until about 11, when it just died. We all sat at our workstations and ate lunch just after noon because there were literally no voters. I hope it picks up. I don't really want to spend my mornings sitting and chatting with other poll workers. I like it when it's busy, more fun that way.

The excitement of the day was right before I left, when a bus with about 30 nursing home residents showed up. That was good for me because I got to learn how to do curbside, which I had never done before. Curbside is for a voter who doesn't feel physically able to walk into the polling place: a poll worker brings the ballot out to them. It's a nice service to offer, making it easier for people for whom it would be a hardship to walk up into the polling place, stand in line, etc. Most of the people on the bus came in, but 5 opted to stay in the bus, and a couple of us did curbside for them.

At the end of my shift I took off my smock and voted. I thought I was going to have to wait until tomorrow because I had forgotten to read up on the judges. But a voter left behind that board of elections guide with the candidate questionnaires, and I read it during the late morning lull.

vote early. not often.

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Early voting begins tomorrow in North Carolina. Go vote!

science fiction articles

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We were watching the big band channel on cable just now, and during the songs they show little factoids about the musicians. During a Larry Clinton song a factoid said that after he retired from music he "busied himself writing science fiction articles." Do any of you all who are involved in the sf community remember him? Did he write for zines?

staging area

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We have a staging area! Wait, let me me back up a bit. Up until now everyone has been working out of the main office downtown, and then staging events like the weekend canvasses from locations in their territory, like a friendly restaurant (the North Durham canvasses are always staged at the Starbucks at Willowdaile). Once early voting starts, the work is going to be so much more intense that they wanted each field organizer to find their own space to use as an office and staging area. And we found one for the North Durham crew!

It's in an office building on Guess Rd. Within walking distance of Pizza Palace and Hong Kong (the dim sum place). A lawyer's office is generously letting us use their spare room. This morning S. and I moved our things in and set up. There wasn't that much to do: set up the computer and printer, hang the precinct map and some Obama signs, and put the paper shredder in the corner.

I have to go back tomorrow with a few more things: data entry instructions, a pencil cup, power strip for people's laptops, a box for "to be shredded" paper to go into. And we ran into a couple of glitches: first, neither one of us had cell service. This could be a big problem because one of the main reasons for the office is to have a place where we can phone bank every day. Well, I've got Skype, that's one phone line, and I'll just cross my fingers that other volunteers will have better luck with their cell phones.

Second, the computer I scrounged up does not have wireless. Dang! My plan was to have a computer there all the time, and have my Skype account set up on it and the printer connected to it. So people could easily print, and could phone bank using Skype, even when I'm not there. But the computer doesn't have wireless, and we couldn't find a router. We did find an ethernet jack in the room but it didn't work.

We have a couple of options: first, S. and D. may have a computer we can borrow. Or, I can ask the attorneys on Monday if they have a router we can plug into. They have to have one somewhere, generating the wireless network. Last resort, I can bring my work computer in; it has wireless. I'm just hesitant to leave it there because it's my good work computer. But it's not like I'd be leaving it alone with strangers for three weeks. I'm going to be there pretty much all the time except when I'm working at the polls.

milton nascimento and jobim trio

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Last night Georg and I took a break and did something totally non-political: a concert on Duke campus by Milton Nascimento and the Jobim Trio. Who are actually a quartet: the son and grandson of Antonio Carlos Jobim, drummer Paulo Braga, and a young guy whose name I didn't catch on bass.

It was sort of a history of bossa nova, starting with Jobim compositions like One Note Samba and Corcovado and then moving on to newer songs that fuse bossa nova with other styles. Wonderful music, wonderful singing, a wonderful time. The two Jobims both sang, and I was struck by how much their voices resembled their father/grandfather. I wonder if they have deliberately cultivated Antonio Carlos Jobim's singing style, or if it's just natural.

There was a group of Brazilian women up in the balcony: standing their seats, dancing and singing along, shouting at the band in Portuguese. We were in the front row of the balcony, close enough to enjoy the ladies' enthusiasm but not so close that they interfered with our hearing the music. I am glad we weren't sitting right behind or right in front of them.

My only complaint was the seats: Page Auditorium is horrible, and the front row of the balcony particularly so. We were just lucky we were on the aisle so Georg had someplace to put his legs. If we were in the middle I think his knees would have been up under his chin. Also I wish they had played my favorite Jobim song, Agua de Beber. But with so much great music to choose from they couldn't possibly have played everything.

I'm in such a bossa nova mood now. Hmm.. and I have a new stash of Stan Getz, courtesy of a generous friend with good taste in music. I think I'll have to play some of that -- or maybe a lot -- on my show on Sunday.

10 reasons to vote early

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This evening I got an email with the subject "Ten Reasons to Vote Early." To my disappointment the email did not actually include 10 reasons, or even a list at all. Just a general exhortation. So here are my ten reasons to vote early:

10. The early voting sticker is cooler than the election day sticker.

9. If there's a problem with your registration, you'll have time to resolve it.

8. Your vote will be "banked" and not vulnerable to October surprises, last-minute vote suppression efforts, or whatever muck is slung at the end.

7. If you have somehow managed to avoid registering, you can register and vote on the same day, but only during early voting.

6. Go early in the early vote period and avoid the lines. Or wait until Nov 1, there will be a long line, and you'll feel like you're experiencing the excitement.

5. If you live anywhere in Durham County, you can vote at the Forest View School on Mt Sinai Road and get your ballot from me!

4. Or you can go to the Board of Elections office downtown and see Mike Ashe while you vote. He's cool.

3. Votes cast early are counted on Election Day, just like votes cast on November 4.

2. I'll be your best friend.

1. Most importantly: voting early is the only way to prevent the onslaught of "Have you voted yet?" phone calls you are about to get.

I'm planning to vote on the first day, for reason #1 alone.

sad news

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My thoughts are with Lisa, Jason, Reese, and everyone who cared about Moses. He lived a remarkable, remarkably long life.

get your red hot yard signs

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Yesterday up in Rougemont I registered a very drunk man. In my defense, I had no idea he was drunk until the very end, when he needed my help writing in the date next to his signature. That's pretty bad when you can't even remember how to write the current year. I still didn't realize what was going on until he explained to me that he had had a few. What can I say, it was before noon and "drunk" wasn't the first explanation that leapt into my mind. I thought he was just a bit slow, and the intelligence challenged have the right to vote too. When his card arrives from the Board of Elections will he even remember registering?

Later on I got to a part of the neighborhood where someone else had already canvassed earlier in the same day. I asked a woman if she needed information on early voting, and she told me someone had left a flyer in her door that morning. Then the next house I went to, no one was home and sure enough there was the same lit I had, rolled up and stuck into their door handle. I have no idea who that was, but I hope they coordinate with the Obama campaign in the future. There's no point in overlapping our efforts.

In the afternoon I worked the front desk back at the Durham office. Which was busier than last week. We finally have yard signs, wow! $5 each, one per customer. If you want a yard sign, I recommend getting to the Durham office in the next couple of days. At the rate they are selling I expect them to be gone by next weekend.

Then in the evening we did data entry from today's canvassing. Which was harder than expected due to a software glitch, but went by quickly. Also it was kind of fun to be there after hours. The office was closed and everyone was joking around and having a good time. S. came and D. brought pizza, which made them the heroes of the evening. Also a friend from WXDU showed up. That was cool, to see someone from another context.

quote of the day

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From Mark Twain, via my dad:

The argument by the McCain people that they had avoided spending
much money in the disputed states but now were going to come in to
wipe the floor with Obama reminds me of the Mark Twain quotation,
"Thrusting my nose firmly between his teeth, I felled him to the
ground on top of me".

Also thanks to my dad for explaining to me that Claymont was indeed a steel town until the late 1960s. Learn something new every day.

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