Help relieve disaster victims.

By now, you've probably heard about the tsunami that hit Asia on Sunday. This is a truly terrible disaster. If you can, try to help. Oxfam and the International Red Cross are both already on the ground and working to get people food, antibiotics and clean water.

If you can't afford to give money, urge our stingy government to cough up some more cash. Dubya has so far only promised $35 million. It's a start, but it will cost billions of dollars to rebuild towns that have been crushed.

Snapshot of life...

Good day today. Watched the niece and nephew. The nephew didn't take advantage too much of the aunt who is sometimes a jungle gym. The niece and the nephew got along reasonably well. Except for a couple of moments. Moments when attention was in short supply. Moments when he got a little too rough and she started the "stop that" cry. Entertainment consisted of dress-up, crafts, The Grinch who Stole Christmas, Horton hears a Who who, hot chocolate fountains in the microwave (oops)...

Then, Liz, Anu and I went to see Sideways. Pretty damn funny. Afterward a late night Rite Aid excursion for some Christmas shopping.

House rules...

Ever wonder how the Republicans got so good at moving legislation through the House so quickly? With no dissent? How did they manage to get the Patriot Act through congress without representatives reading the bill? How did they manage to get the Medicare bill through with its castration of the U.S. government's bargaining power against drug companies? This Boston Globe article describes the shift in power away from multiple House committees. Now, the Republican party's leadership has dominance over legislation. In a way, it seems to be the Democrats' fault - they changed some critical rules.

Now, more than ever, I'm convinced that we need to work hard to turn things around in 2006. However, we should make sure that the Democrats' fix the Rules Committee for the day when they fall out of power again...

C is for Cyclobenzaprine

Saturday. Such a lovely day. Clear blue sky. Crisp, but warm. A couple fall leaves still clinging to trees. I decided late in the day that I should ride my bike to Whole Foods to resupply. I was riding down Center. Due west. The sun was in my eyes. I had my helmet blocking the sun from my eyes. I could mainly just see the road in front of me. THUD! The next thing I knew I was headed over my handle bars. I looked to my right and saw a person rolling down the sidewalk. Jesus! I hope I didn't hurt that person. Then, I got up. Got myself and my bike off the road as quickly as I could. I was covered in coffee. The person on the sidewalk was getting up too. He was scraped up. His fingers were a bit bloody. "Oh my god! Are you ok?" He said, "yeah, just a little scraped up". I asked, "Are you sure you didn't hurt your head?". He said, "I'm fine. I must not have been looking where I was going." A woman across the street yelled over to us, "do you want me to call an ambulance?". I looked at the guy I'd just hit and asked him if he was sure he was ok. He said, "yeah", and smiled. I yelled back to the woman across the street, "No, we're fine. Just a bit shaken up." He went fishing through his bag looking for a bandana to wrap his fingers in. He continued to tell me that he was from Erie and was on his way to Shadyside to interview for a job. Something about him made me wonder if he wasn't a drifter or down on his luck. I didn't have the nerve to press him for details. I offered him my phone to call someone. He declined. We both concluded that neither of us had seen the other coming. His name was Bill.
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A place called hope...

Ward 14 District 14

One of 9,498 districts in Pennsylvania. I was assigned to be a poll watcher for the Democrats. I had gone through the training. They told us, "This will be one of the most watched elections. More people in each polling station. The judge of elections will want to find any excuse to get you to leave. Your job is to just be the eyes and the ears of the campaign. Don't give the judge of elections any lip." I was intimidated.

I drove to the elementary school at the corner of S. Dallas and Edgerton. When I walked into the door, I ran into an old friend from high school who was voting with her two young sons. She's now a stay at home mom. Stil nervous to get to my job, we exchanged phone numbers and promised to call eachother. I walked over to the table at the far end of the cafeteria and politely introduced myself to the gray-haired women at the table. They looked up, smiled, and told me I could sit at the table next to them. I spent the next two hours talking with Rose, the constable, and going through the list of people who had already voted. Rose would periodically notice people on my list who had moved or died. She'd been working at the same poll for the past 20 years. During a lull in the afternoon voting, Sylvia, the judge of elections, came over and started showing me the ropes of the election process - absentee ballots, the lists of voters, how results are tabulated, the swearing in of the election inspectors, what a minority inspector was... As it turns out, a judge of elections doesn't actually need to have a legal background. Sylvia was a retired English teacher. She'd been working at the same poll for 30 years. She encouraged me to run for the job of judge of elections. I suspect she might like to retire from election monitoring someday.

Sylvia was wonderfully helpful. She made sure the man with the amputated leg got to his car. She gave me some of her yummy apple cake. She was patient with voters who showed up who weren't on the list of voters registered for the district. She'd call the hotlines which were terminally busy. She even drafted me into giving rides to two women who needed to get I.D.

Take heart. There are good people involved in the election process - especially the women of Ward 14 District 14, but more good people need to get involved.
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    tut's purring

A word to republicans...

Dear Republicans,

Well, looks like you've won it. You've won the popular vote. Electoral tug of wars no longer matter. You now have responsibility. You need to look your party in the eye and see if you like what you see. Bush does not listen to the rest of us. He doesn't need to. He's got a majority in the House and Senate. There are some things that have gone wrong that you need to fix. You need to fix our nation's intelligence aparatus. Getting the pre-war intelligence in Iraq wrong was really bad. Please acknowledge that. In a world where terrorists are trying to strike the U.S., getting intelligence right is a matter of national security. The Brits have at least taken the time to examine MI-6 and it's bogus claim that Saddam would have chemical weapons ready within 45 minutes of an attack. It's funny. It turns out they had a super-secret source who was just telling them what they wanted to hear so that he could get paid. Please take a look at the CIA and Pentagon intelligence agencies. See what can be done to make their reporting more accurate. Maybe there should be auditing for correctness/completeness of intelligence on countries which are deemed to be high priority threats to our national security. Maybe listen to what the 9/11 commission has to say. I would also appreciate it if you would brush the dust off of that part of your party which was in favor of fiscal discipline. I really miss that part. Also, please do something about the Wahhabists. Allowing them to continue to propogate a malignant philosophy is a huge mistake.


Go vote or something...

If you're reading this, then you probably are probably already on top of things enough to realize that Nov. 2 is the day we all vote. Bring I.D. with you to the polls. Especially if you live in a swing state. If you live somewhere else, they might not check.. but, this race is pretty close in many states, so bring it with you just in case. Also, keep an eye out for any voter intimidation. You probably won't see any (other than Cheney remarking that we'll all die if we elect Kerry), but if you do and you live in PA, call 1-866-VOTEPA-9.. There's a rumor on the Internets that the Republicans have rented all the Crown Victoria's in the state of PA.. Don't give the judge of elections any lip. He or she can kick your ass out of the poll. If there's a line, be patient. Get your vote counted.

As for me, I'm nervous, and tired, and hopeful and don't care. all wrapped into one continuous roller coaster. I hope all goes well.

Don't get too upset if your guy looses. (that goes for me too.) I think our system is resilient. If the pendulum swings too far one way, the other side will claw and fight and march in the streets until it swings back the other way.... On the way out of my training session tonight, I met a woman who was struggling just to walk. She'd run out of oxygen. She was out of breath and sweating. I stopped. Another woman, Lisa, also stopped. We helped the woman to her car. Lisa carried the woman's empty oxygen tank. As she got in her car, the woman muttered, "The things I'll do for Kerry. I'll have to remember to bring three tanks with me tommorrow."