MarsCon Schedule

I’ll be at MarsCon this coming weekend, March 7th – 9th.  If you’re hoping to see me there, here’s my schedule:

Getting into the mind of a religious fanatic
Saturday 11:00 a.m., Exec Lounge (Krushenko’s)
Uber villain or bit player, what are they like? Are there any useful generalizations? Are they likely to be suicidal and does that depend on the religion or the person? How can they make for interesting novels and stories without being stereotyped and one dimensional? 
With: Naomi Kritzer, mod.; P M F Johnson, Lyda Morehouse, G. David Nordley, David E. Romm, Ozgur K. Sahin

The Press vs. Science
Saturday 1 p.m., Atrium 2 (Re(a)d Mars)
What are some of the greatest howlers in science coverage? What’s the most common kind of reportorial error? What happens when scientists try to write their own press releases? What happens when institutional PR departments do it?
With: Rob Callahan, mod.; Dr. Tom Gardner, Naomi Kritzer, G. David Nordley

Timing and Pacing
Sunday 11 a.m., Exec Lounge (Krushenko’s)
What does timing have to do with writing? How do you know where to put your action/dialogue/sex scene? How can you tell if you have it in the wrong place? How does this differ between novels and shorter works? What horrible things can go wrong? Why do writers’ groups have trouble gauging pacing in novels? Is there such a thing as too fast in pacing?
With: S.N. Arly, mod.; Naomi Kritzer, Lyda Morehouse

Finding the Key to Your Imagination
Sunday 1 p.m., Exec Lounge (Krushenko’s)
What is imagination? Where does it come from? Some of us are blessed (or cursed) with an excess, and others have very little. Most folks think it’s okay for kids to engage in imaginary play and exercise their imaginations, but a lot of folks think it’s odd of grownups to do the same. Does our culture hinder and damage creative impulses? How do you find your imagination if it’s gone missing? How do you keep it engaged and strong? Is it a use it or lose it proposition?
With: Esther Friesner, S.N. Arly, mod.; Haddayr Copley-Woods, Stryder Dancewolffe, Naomi Kritzer

I will also be around, possibly with kids in tow (I apologize in advance if someone wants to chat with me and I get dragged off by a demanding ten-year-old).

Ravenclaw Kiera, Gryffindor Molly

An old photo of the girls dressed in costumes.

Election 2014 already

Apparently it’s election season again ALREADY.

Over on my old blog, I conscientiously and obsessively blogged about the Minneapolis mayoral race.  (It was an interesting year.)  The election came and went, they counted (which took a few days) and I hung up my political-blogging hat thinking, “done with THAT for a while.”

Picture of the Minnesota State Capitol dome.

Minnesota State Capitol. (From http://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/)

But…it turns out that here in my new district in St. Paul, our State Rep, Michael Paymar, is retiring.  (He’s represented this district since 1996. So — for a while, although our State Senator, Dick Cohen, has been representing District 64 since 1986.)  The caucuses are in February (February 4th, I think; I wrote it down on the calendar) and the Senate District Convention is in March (late March, thank goodness! it shouldn’t interfere with MarsCon). And if things in this district run like things in my old district, odds are excellent that it’s the Senate District Convention that will effectively pick our next State Rep.

I mean, officially there is a primary, and there’s an election.  But the DFL endorsement holds an awful lot of weight in these races, and the DFL-endorsed candidate has a definite edge in the primary. And come the general election, well, I expect that a Republican will run, but I would be pretty shocked if they won.

(DFL = “Democratic-Farmer-Labor.”  It’s just the Minnesota name for the Democratic Party.)

Anyway. I feel much less well-informed in St. Paul, mostly because I have less of a sense of who the jerks are.  In Minneapolis, there are certain endorsements that people will put in their materials that will cause me to write them off unless they are also endorsed by the people I know I like, to balance them out.  I’m sure St. Paul has a similar crowd of People I Would Hate, If I Knew Who They Were, but I don’t know who they are yet.  (Does that mean I pay more attention to who you know, than what you believe?  Well, not exactly.  It’s more that I pay more attention to who your buddies are, than I pay to what you say you believe.)

This is all preamble to note that I got a phone call this evening from Matt Freeman, a candidate to replace Michael Paymar.  He gets points for being the first candidate to call me, although mid-December is honestly a point at which even I do not really want to be thinking about elections.  We chatted a little (I told him I’d moved last year from Jim Davnie’s district; he wanted to know why I moved, and it wasn’t until I was telling him my answer that it occurred to me that I might be tipping my hand about how best he could craft his pitch.  I don’t think he did, though.)  I wrote down the caucus date and his name and then told him to go ahead and give me his pitch.

The two big issues he talked about were (1) raising the minimum wage, and (2) improving the opportunity gap with Early Childhood education.

Having listened to that amazing This American Life episode about free universal preschool as well as having read about studies, I’m on board with Early Childhood education funding as a potential panacea for the opportunity gap.  I’m also a fan of raising the minimum wage, although I was curious what he wanted to raise it to.   Matt said he thought $9.50 was achievable although he would prefer $10.50; he also wants to peg it to inflation and to work for mandatory sick leave and parental leave.  (Universal paid sick leave is one of those “everybody wins” sorts of ideas.  Totally aside from the fact that letting sick people stay home is the humane and reasonable thing to do, I do not want people with the stomach flu handling my food.)

I asked him about his stance on gun control (which has been one of Michael Paymar’s signature issues, not that he’s had much success with it.)  He talked about background checks and mental health screenings, which is actually a huge red flag for me because what exactly does that mean? Does this mean that people who seek help for mental illnesses are going to go into a database accessible to gun salespeople? Because no. I’m a big fan of medical privacy, particularly regarding mental health records.  He backpedaled when I asked for details and it was clear he hadn’t thought about this much.

One thing he had thought about was that we needed to work harder to figure out how to sell gun control to outstate Minnesotans.  And he’s right about that. Minnesota has a strong hunting culture in the rural parts of the state, and guns just have a different place in people’s lives when they live in the country as opposed to the city.

(My friend Elizabeth, who is a Quaker and a committed pacifist, bought a gun when she moved to the country, because they were raising chickens and were troubled with possums. In the city, if a possum moves into your garage, you can call Animal Control.  In the country, you have to deal with this stuff yourself, and that means either owning a gun, or having a neighbor with a gun.)

Anyway. He does not have a smooth, polished political pitch down yet, and I’m wondering now how long he’s been making these calls.  You would think people would start with the people who’ve been to caucuses in the past, but we haven’t been to a caucus in this district yet so presumably he got my number off the voter registration records and that suggests he’s cold-calling registered voters.  Seems impractical, but what do I know about this stuff?  (He was Chris Coleman’s campaign manager so I expect he knows what he’s doing.)

There are currently seven people running for this seat, I think. (All of them Democrats.) In looking for information, I discovered that someone else is already obsessively blogging about this race, relieving me of the responsibility: http://www.theracefor64b.com/  I’ll probably write about it anyway, though.