Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Yay! I'm back on my laptop after crashing it with a bad driver or something from a massive install of networking, virus and firewall stuff. The Internet is a fabulous thing. I couldn't get the laptop to boot even in safe mode and the repair CDs that came with the laptop would only wipe the whole hard drive. I was able to download a bootable diskette that allowed me to copy NTFS files to diskette and save the 2200 words I added to a story this weekend (and didn't get a chance to back up.) The only things I lost were a few e-mails since I'd copied my bloated Outlook file from work and it wouldn't fit on a diskette. That's another argument for a writable CD drive, I guess. I really have no excuse since back-ups are a snap with my little USB flash drive.

I met my dad and grandma for lunch today at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. The fortune cookies were from Keefer Court which used to be right across the street from where I worked in the West Bank/Cedar Riverside neighborhood. I loved walking past their parking lot because their exhaust fan would be blowing out the sweet, warm bakery smells. They had huge bags of cookies you could buy and I did that once. (Two many fortune cookies are not a good thing.) My fortune, which is going to be my motto at work for a while, was, "A committee of one gets things done." The restaurant's menu has always contained a few small twists on English, usually things like "shrimps." This version offered "Egg Rolls - hot and scrippy." I didn't figure out what they meant until I looked at the next appetizer, "Spring Rolls - cold and soft."

Monday, March 29, 2004

Good weekend. Saturday, after a very productive afternoon of writing in a coffee shop, we headed to the Turf Club for some live music. Slim Dunlap was the headliner. Slim's probably best known for replacing Bob Stinson in the Replacements and his 1995 album, "Times Like This." They did best on the traditional rock tunes and seemed a little lethargic on the twangy stuff. I really enjoyed the opening band, Milhaus, though.

Sunday, we headed to Stillwater for some more writing and reading. One of the benefits of living on the far east side of the Twin Cities is our proximity to Stillwater, a wonderful old town on the St. Croix River with lots of antique stores (that we avoid), old book stores and coffee shops and restaurants.

I finished Dale Bailey's collection The Resurrection Man's Legacy, which I have to review. His story, "The Census Taker," was in the October/November 2003 double issue in F & SF and was one of my favorite stories of the year. Most of the other stories are from F & SF, too, although you can still read the very good "In Green's Dominion" on Sci Fiction.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I am so embarrassed to be a native Minnesotan today. MPR replayed a portion of the state house debate on the bill to allow a statewide vote to ammend the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage and civil unions. The Republican controlled house passed the bill 88 to 44. During the half hour of testimony I listened to, I was horrified when a Republican representative complained about the activist court and said that we needed more court rulings like the Dred Scott ruling. A little later a different Republican representative quoted from a 19th century study of marriage in many cultures that found that promiscuity led to the decline and end of the society. I'm still not sure what either have to do with ammendment.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I was all set to do a more upbeat post and answer all the e-mails I owe people tonight but no more. I spent a great couple of hours with a new dinner group, giving a tour of the shelter, answering questions and having really good discussions on homelessness. Most of the group were Unitarians and, true to my usual experience with Unitarian volunteers, they were an active, interesting, well-informed bunch. I was on my way back to my office and PC when one the shelter staff pulled me aside to tell me that a man I knew who'd stayed in the shelter was killed today. The guys were saying that he was beaten to death. We lose people all the time to cancer and heart disease and sometimes to the long term use of drugs or alcohol, but we've lost way too many people to violence lately. At this point, we don't know who was involved in the murder but beatings from youth and other people outside the homeless community are more and more common. Parents and community leaders set the tone for this sort of thing. If poor people are portrayed as drains on society, their lives aren't going to be valued.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I'm getting tired of hearing people, particularly the shortsighted, right wing Taxpayer's League, say that the Metro Transit strike isn't causing any problems.

The following are comments from both female and male Simpson shelter guests surveyed March 9th asking if the bus strike has had a negative effect on them.
65% reported that it did and stated that they:

lost a job making taco shells at Harvest Foods in New Brighton
can't get to work in Edina
is missing classes
keep warm on bus
can't look for a job outside of downtown
has a home in St. Paul but due to strike stays at shelter in Mpls so she can walk to her job as a caterer at the Convention Center
can't get their teeth
can't get their services
quit job, ran out of money for other transport
can't get to AA meetings, disabled
can't go anywhere outside of a 4 mile radius
has to walk an hour to get to work
has not been able to go job searching
lost his job
can't get to his job interviews
has to walk a couple of miles to work
part of the reason he is now in shelter
not able to see their kids
it's more expensive to get around now
has not been able to get to work

Monday, March 08, 2004

To all of you that I owe e-mails, my sincere apologies. The last few weeks have been so busy, I've been tempted to roll up the door mat, lock the door, unplug the phone and hide.

To the programmer who mutated the netsky virus so fast on Wednesday that our software maker couldn't keep up, despite updates that were coming in every twenty minutes or so, I wish boils, hives and for your feet to hit every puddle you near for the rest of your life. We only had one computer infected but it sent me and the server over four thousand virus messages each in only thirty minutes.

For Old Man Winter who just has to always remind us that we are living in Minnesota and who decided to play a little prank on those of us who happened to be out and about St. Paul late this morning - oh why do I even bother... Hey, if you can't put twenty years of winter driving experience to good use why even have it? Those of you with snow and ice know the drill: pump those brakes, turn into a skid, turn into a skid, turn into a skid (when the skid turns into a fishtail), repeat "please stop, please stop, please stop" over and over again (try to stop saying this once you have stopped), repeat "please stop, please stop, please stop" over and over again while watching the car behind you, beside you, perpendicular to you slide closer and closer, avoid bridges (right) and be careful on exit and entry ramps and hills. I just wish my hands would stop shaking.
One of my co-workers, shelter director Monica Nilsson, had a great OP piece on the shelter in the Sunday Star Tribune. Read it while it's still free.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I just received a very disturbing e-mail from the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless that I wanted to share. In a time when rents are rising in most cities faster than incomes and local and regional governments are playing games with the definition of low income housing (for example using metro wide income averages instead of much lower city wide averages), this federal program (often called Section 8) needs to be protected for the lowest incomed families in our country. These cuts would be disastrous. (It's never too late to call your representatives on this issue!)

National Housing Voucher Call-in Days: MARCH 1 & 2
Tell Congress the President's voucher proposal is WRONG

On Monday, March 1 and Tuesday, March 2, housing and homelessness advocates from around the country will call Congress to urge Members to protect the voucher program and the 2 million families it currently serves. Please join us in calling!

The President's FY05 budget was released in early February. The changes he proposes to the housing voucher (Section 8) program are the most radical and threatening to residents in the history of the program:

· For FY05, President Bush allocates $1.6 billion too little to fund all housing vouchers currently in use.

· President Bush's proposal would cut funding even more drastically in years to come. By 2009, funding cuts would reach 40%-a loss of 800,000 vouchers.

· The President would also remove important resident protections. Public housing authorities would no longer be required to serve people with the lowest incomes, and they would not be required to keep rent at 30% of a resident's income. Further, current voucher holders would not be protected under the proposal. Indeed, given that PHAs would be under pressure to serve the same number of families with fewer dollars, families with extremely low incomes will be at risk of losing their vouchers to families with higher incomes.

To help educate Members of Congress, DC-based advocates will hold a briefing on the President's voucher proposal on Friday, March 5. When you speak to your Congressional offices, you can urge the staff person to attend this briefing to learn more.

Please join in! On March 1st or 2nd, call 1-888-818-6641 (toll free) and ask to be transferred to your Representative's office. Ask to speak to the staff person who deals with housing issues.

Give the person you speak with the following message: "President Bush's proposal for the housing voucher program in the FY05 budget is wrong and unacceptable. It would cut funds to the program and remove important resident protections, putting thousands of people at risk of losing their housing. As you work on the budget, it is crucial that you protect the voucher program and the people it serves. (If appropriate, include a story of the importance of housing vouchers in your community.) You can learn more at a briefing on Friday, March 5, from 11 am to noon in room 2220 of the Rayburn Office Building. Will someone from your office commit to attending?"

Repeat with calls to your Senators' offices.

Please report the results of your calls and any RSVPs for the March 5 briefing to or to 202-662-1530 x222. Pass this call to action to others you work with-especially to people who are voucher holders or who are on a waiting list. More information is available at National Low Income Housing Coalition or Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Thank you!