Monday, December 11, 2006, 10:18 PM - Travels, Sex, Politics, Dancing, Snow, George, Friends, Food, Books, Technology, Art, Los Angeles
I've been terribly neglectful of this little enterprise post-election - mostly because the last thing I wanted to do was spend a single additional second looking at a screen. (I've read three novels and am reveling in Against the Day now, which will slow down my book-devouring rate considerably). The beginning of November was a frenzied adventure- although we were better prepared than in 2004, things as always slid just under the wire (on election day people were making 40 calls a second with our tools - it was amazing to watch people swarm through our lists)...then election night was blissful, and the morning after even better. It felt wonderfully fulfilling on 11/9 to come back from a run along the Seattle waterfront (the first sunny day since I'd arrived) and see Rumsfeld getting the axe. I'm sure that our program turned out more votes than the margin of victory in key races (MT senate, several house contests, probably VA Senate as well) - of course we were only part of a larger progressive effort, but it's exciting to know we had such an impact. I've been on an extended episodic victory tour - multiple DC parties, and little celebration cocktail evenings in SF and NY, which were all great fun. I've been to one disjointed, we-were-still-too-tired-to-think official debrief, and one enervating multidisciplinary free-for-all that was loads of fun. I'm back in LA, wrapping up my work at GCI - getting ready to dig into all the data from Call for Change as part of a team of people working for MoveOn to make sure we understand what we did and learn as much as possible for next time. It's always a little hard to go from being so thoroughly consumed by a project back to a more balanced life, and I'm a little nostalgic for that laserlike focus, but this is infinitely more sustainable. Dad came out and Angela and Erik and Aurora came down for Thanksgiving and we all had our first Angeleno holiday - lots of sitting in the sun and as many revisionist recipes as George would let us get away with. I've been rediscovering the pleasures of cooking and reading the New Yorker and spending whole afternoons with friends. It's nice to remember that I like to eat in fancy restaurants (have had tasty dinners at Frankie's 457 in Brooklyn and Joe's in Venice and Lucques in LA) and go see art. I have done some dancing, but I need more of that. There are, as always, intriguing new and resurfacing romantic possibilities, which will at minimum be interesting to explore. I hope to get into some of that abundant early-season snow soon, too. What I'm not particularly motivated to do is keep writing this - it's been quite enjoyable, but I'm going to keep my personal ramblings a little more closely held. I think it'll be healthy, although probably less entertaining for many of you. I'll likley start some sort of painfully geeky political data diatribe after the holidays, that only I'll read. And I'm sure there will be the occasional tidbit I won't be able to resist posting...we'll see. Love and mounds of appreciation for everyone who helped with Call for Change and let us all find out what winning an election feels like. I'll try and make sure we get used to it.

campaign update 
Sunday, November 5, 2006, 06:33 PM - Politics
this program is bigger than any of our projections...I don't even feel like I need to send last-ditch emails to get on the phone to my personal email list...I'm more worried we won't be able to keep up with the enthusiasm we've generated.
Did you see the NYT piece about the program? Jenn talks up our dorky voter team:

- And Jennifer Lindenauer, communications director of, said the jewel in their get-out-the-vote crown is the “Call for Change” program that uses microtargeting in key races to allow MoveOn’s 3.2 million members to call from home or their cell phones to encourage people to vote.

“With the touch of a keystroke, we can change our target list,” Lindenauer said of the program, which was just launched this year. “On a Monday we could see new data on races, and by Wednesday, they could have hundreds of thousands of calls into that district.”

She estimated that MoveOn’s members alone will contact more than 6 million voters by Election Day. -

I have spent the last couple days in discussions about what races to add to make sure we don't run out of voters to call...and then scrambling to process voters from the places we selected and get them set up. In true MoveOn fashion we are reevaluating and recalibrating as we go, which means ongoing testing and checking of new code and new strategies (and the occasional technical oversight and mid-course correction). We started with more than a million phone numbers Friday morning, and it's very good we found more to add in; turned out that wasn't enough for the capacity this program is generating. (The west gets bluer all the time, it seems - almost everything we've added are western races where Democratic candidates are gaining fast...)
It is frenzied and intense but phenomenal to be in the middle of something of such scale - we're making about 15 calls a second at our peak times. We have entered the realm of ridiculous running jokes and mini-rituals, as our cumulative lack of sleep creeps up on us. It's still infinitely more manageable than it was in 2004, and so heartening to see how much we've learned since then.
I'm exploring hiterto untapped realms of geekiness and will never be happy with just one monitor again. And despite the joy of being in the middle of it all, am seriously looking forward to Tuesday night when the last West coast poll closes. And more sleep. And a trip to the Korean spa, or three.

blog birthday! 
Tuesday, October 31, 2006, 03:12 PM
This ridiculous enterprise turned one yesterday. I have no time until after the election to reflect (or to write a ton of the stuff I've been wanting to - like a response to that NYT New Notes on Camp piece). This has been a year of serious change - new city, new insane job, creating a new social world, learning a ton on this campaign. I don't have enough perspective to tell if my perenially frustrating relationship debacles are slowly teaching me what I need to know to avoid such things in the future, or just spinning me deeper into the same (often fabulously enjoyable but unfulfilling) place. I really hope the next few months are better than the last couple have been; not working 16 hours a day will help. I leave Thursday for MoveOn mission control - it will be so strange to be in the same room with people I've been electronically joined at the hip with for the last six weeks. I picture us sitting on top of the Space Needle in a circle facing out, IMing instead of talking (and changing the balance of power in Congress and maybe even the Senate too, if things go right). There's certainly been no shortage of intensity in my life this year, and I guess that alone is something to be thankful for. I'm tempted to retire or at least rebrand this little textual adventure, but won't even think about it until after 11/7. And have you made your phone calls? We've made 2 million so far - there are 3 million more we need between now and the election - and don't even try to buy me drinks afterward if you don't do some work. I can check, you know.
Get to it.

Because I know you're worried about this: 
Saturday, October 28, 2006, 09:27 PM
"Bobbing for apples also is not recommended for anyone wearing braces. However, orthodontic patients can enjoy thinly sliced apples, dipped in yogurt dip or creamy chocolate sauce." Thank you, Better Homes and Gardens.

I really should have figured out a braces-themed costume... dead schoolgirl? I am so so not ready for Halloween. Anyone who would like to show up with a complete clever and foxy costume at my door at around 11PM when I'll be done with WA08 for the night would be most welcome.

My special Halloween treat? Way too many friends from SF are in town, when I have barely any time to see them.

Miriam Engelberg 
Thursday, October 26, 2006, 02:36 AM - Friends

Yesterday I saw an LATimes obit for Miriam Engelberg. She's one of the people who started me off on the path to geekdom; I'm sure I wouldn't be running all these crazy queries now if I hadn't worked with her on redesigning Larkin Street's database. It's a rare treat to work with a woman database consultant who's also a standup comic - I'm sure I would have found the intricacies of information design intriguing no matter what, but they probably wouldn't have had a funny happy emotional valence without Miriam. She was working at CompassPoint then, and I remember when she first got her diagnosis. She put out a book of cartoons about her cancer that got a lot of play in the last couple years (Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person) - I'm glad more people got a taste of her goofy line drawings and sharp observations. I guess in her honor post-election I'll have to watch some really bad TV... but given that she was from Lexington, I think I'll try and make sure we win one of those KY districts, too, I hope she'd be glad to know her teachings helped our little electoral adventure.

Astounding generalist or scattershot waste of talent?  
Wednesday, October 25, 2006, 07:19 PM - Sex, Politics
Really, what am I? Sometimes I look at people who've been in the same career since college (Leslie/ Amy) and I'm so envious - they've built up a level of professional accomplishment and reputation that I haven't. I mean, it's my own fault for jumping ship from public health just as I was starting to set myself up with an academic rep, and I don't regret that in the slightest - this is a million times harder but much more engaging (and hopefully impactful). I guess there's starting to be a part of me that wishes I had been a little more directed, sooner - although I wouldn't trade my random raver Latin American 20s, now that I think about it- and several people seem to think my current gig is a dream job. I can't complain about being part of a project that just might reshape progressive national political engagement by leveraging a combination of technological innovation and traditional organizing. When I have 2 minutes to think about it, it's kind of amazing. Today I edited an op-ed that Eli/dhp and assorted others of us underlings are writing, and then I ran far too many queries and got WA08, NH02, and 3 MN districts through the various stages of processing that are needed to get them into our calling tools. I guess I should be proud that there likely aren't many people who'd be good at both those things, and they were both definitely needed today. Perhaps I'm inching towards being able to focus all this random capacity into a more coherent project.... and then of course I started thinking about how the whole generalist thing kind of applies to me as far as relationships, too (lots of breadth, not nearly the depth I like to think I'd be capable of). Do you think I'll ever be a specialist? As always, I'm doubtful with a stubborn core of optimism. When will I ever learn?

Campaign Update 
Saturday, October 21, 2006, 01:59 PM - Politics, Technology, Los Angeles
We had a huge night of phonebanking in LA on Thursday - more than 80 people in the office, so big we spilled out into the parking lot. There's nothing like processing a juicy voter file (I think it was CA_04) in the balmy night air. Rigging the random outdoor lighting system was the closest I got to Burning Man this year. It's been a very labile week - you'll notice the shameless product placement for my spiffy new core duo Vaio (good) but I have it because my old one fried on Tuesday (very very bad - thank god for ibackup). I lost about 6 hours, and a fair amount of composure and focus, which resulted in a (fixble) fuckup in part of our Ohio file, but hopefully no lasting damage. Happily, the project's made more than 1.5 million calls to voters in competitive senate and house races to date - how many calls have you made?? Call for Change.
Come down to the phonebank in LA (4929 Wilshire @ Highland, Suite 1060), SF (1366 Mission Street @ 9th), or Brooklyn (102 1st Place - first floor), but I can't promise you the picnic table unless you live in LA.

(btw, comments are off again for the time being, I don't have time to deal with the spam comments that have started popping up again).

Life on hold... 
Sunday, October 15, 2006, 11:52 PM - Politics, Friends, Los Angeles
I am not living a normal life these days - back in campaign mode: all work and little sleep. It's disturbing to dream about database queries and to have no real idea what day it is, only how many days remain until the election. I can't believe how well-positioned our project is to have an impact - something that is flexible, phone-based, and virtual is perfect for this opportunity, where more and more races are becoming competitive every day, and many will be decided by very thin margins. We were able to start calling into FL16 literally within a day of the scandal breaking (I downloaded the voters, ran our selection queries, sent them off to the academics to be treatment-grouped, and then off to the Walkers to get loaded into the online system, all within about 6 hours)... really quite astonishing. The project is far from perfect but it's remarkable to be part of shifting the way political participation can happen for progressives, and developing volunteer-driven GOTV work for the left.
I did, however, sneak off last night for a quick game of mid-October midnight naked water polo in the Hollywood Hills (and if that's not enough to make a girl realize she lives in Los Angeles, I don't know what is) (and no, it's not a euphemism for anything, it was a serious cutthroat game, and kicked my ass). Case hosted this unexpected romp and I guess we're both adapting well to this strange southern lifestyle. We may start plotting another round of Capricorn birthday world domination soon.

Weditorial Successfully Delivered! Lizbet and Louise en route to Bora Bora!! 
Monday, October 9, 2006, 12:27 AM - Sex, Politics, Dancing, Friends

By all accounts it was quite well-received. I managed to make at least 3 straight (or at least married) men cry, as well as all the NC Republicans laugh (twice, and only once at my own expense). Even the guys in the band liked it! (Yes, we did second line up from the garden after the ceremony, parasols in hand, dancing behind the brass band and the beautiful brides.) The wedding was amazing, I feel so lucky to have been part of it. Rosie (the minister) who has officiated at >30 weddings, thinks I may have contributed "weditorial" to the lexicon, so I thought I should get it up on the blog. A couple of people asked me to post the text, and although I spoke from an outline, I think I've written out more or less what I said. I wish more straight couples had weditorials, but then I guess we'd be closer to not needing them... In case you missed it:

Thank you for participating in Lizbet and Louise’s wedding. I want to talk to you briefly about four aspects of marriage:
- Legal and political
- Linguistic
- Emotional
- Celebratory

Although it’s tempting to want to ignore the political context in which this ceremony occurs, it’s important to acknowledge the legal realities for Lizbet and Louise. When we were discussing their plans for the wedding, Lizbet said she was happiest when she could forget that their marriage was any different from any other. Last night, at dinner, surrounded by so much love and support from friends and family, we were all wonderfully able to forget that there were any obstacles to Lizbet and Louise as a couple. Today, though, we must acknowledge that they cannot legally marry in California. We are in the middle of a profound social change – we’ve had legal setbacks this week, but we are moving in the right direction. It may take a while for us to reach a condition of full equality, but I wanted to remind you of what is possible.

I’m going to read an edited excerpt from Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the decision allowing people of the same sex to legally marry.

“Marriage is a vital social institution. It nurtures love and mutual support, and brings stability to our society. The benefits accessible by way of marriage are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. The Massachusetts constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. A person who enters into an intimate, exclusive relationship with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions. That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under the law.”

I saw one of the greatest concentrations of happy people in one place on February 14, 2004, at San Francisco City Hall - the city had begun issuing marriage licenses regardless of the gender of applicants. I heard people call their families, and I remember one woman in particular, and the wonder and joy in her voice telling people “we got married.”

We’re about to witness a transformative linguistic event – through the words they’ll pronounce, Lizbet and Louise will bring themselves into a new state. The importance of language to this marriage is paramount – and not just because the brides are such accomplished academics. Because Lizbet and Louise don’t yet have the legal underpinnings of marriage, the language we use as we participate in and describe this ceremony is incredibly important. Through referring to them as wife and wife, we help make their marriage real. Please think carefully about this when you’re home, and describe this experience as what it is – a wedding. A marriage.

In our culture, marriage has evolved to celebrate profound emotional connection. One of the reasons I support marriage rights for everyone is that I can’t imagine a better couple to be married than Lizbet and Louise (of course, that might just be because I’m single and still profoundly idealistic about marriage). They’re the couple whose relationship I admire the most. They have an amazing level of mutual respect; they’re intellectually well matched; they provide each other with unquestioning support, but have fundamental autonomy. They are full of love, joy, sensuality, desire and integrity. They are with each other through the saddest and happiest of times.

This is one of the happiest of times! We’re all lucky to share in this beautiful afternoon. Marriage functions because our community supports and acknowledges the union between two people. Especially in the absence of legal recognition, Lizbet and Louise’s marriage is brought into being by our participation in it, as much as by their love and commitment. I want to thank all of the family and friends who are here to be part of the wedding, and who are showing the brides so much support. Through the physicality of our participation, we’re bearing witness to their marriage. We’re privileged to be part of these women’s lives – but just like with marriage, this benefit comes with responsibilities and obligations.

I think we have two responsibilities - first, to work to make marriage possible for everyone. That involves not only the way you talk about this weekend when you go home, and how you refer to Lizbet and Louise from here on out, but also in the way you vote and who you give money to. (Remember, there’s a very competitive House race in North Carolina this year).

Our second responsibility is to celebrate their marriage as fully as possible. Just as Lizbet and Louise are engaged with each other through intellect, heart, and body, we should celebrate their union with our emotions and participation. If people don’t dance at your wedding, you’re not really married. Soon we’ll have the opportunity to dance Lizbet and Louise into their new life, and I encourage you to do that as fully and joyously as they will....

(Yes, I really did start with an outline, and although it was kind of an inside joke, it made it feel formal and deliberate, just like I wanted it to be. And I think everyone could tell what a huge fan I am of their relationship, which was the thing I most wanted to come through. I'm not quite sure why a perenially unboyfriended person like me should be speaking publicly about marriage and relationships, but I'm claiming the title of best strapless-dress weditorialist in Boonville...)

Monday, October 2, 2006, 03:52 AM
(early 1885)
Mrs. James S. Cooper

Dear friend -

Nothing inclusive of a human Heart could be "trivial." That appalling Boon makes all things paltry but itself -
To thank you would profane you - There are moments when Gratitude is a desecration -

Go thy great way!
The Stars thou meetst
Are even as Thyself -
For what are Stars but Asterisks
To point a human Life?

E - Dickinson,
with love -