Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game

A few months ago, I attended an event with my good friend Delegate Mark Levine where he hosted an event where we played a game called Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game, available on KickStarter.

The game was rather fun and I played for the Conservative side just because often times when I am debating the NPVIC I debate it from the Conservative perspective to better explain it to folks who lean that way.

The reason we were playing was to introduce the issues with Virginia HJ71, which allows a party line vote to veto the committee maps for districts and send it to the Virginia Supreme Court with no constitutional protections against Gerrymandering. Mark’s bills to give us a better options were merged into Delegate Cia Price‘s bills HB1256 and HB1255, which set up a citizen’s committee and also provide Gerrymandering protections. Both bills will be before the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee tomorrow. I would have liked to attend that meeting, especially as HB177 is on the Docket as well, which is the NPVIC bill, but it’s unlikely HB177 will be heard tomorrow and I have some work things I need to take care of.

In any case, I very much enjoy the game I played with Mark moderating and am considering buying the game for myself.

Gerrymandering Game
Delegate Mark Levine coaches me on playing Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game

Won’t you play with me?

The Haunting of Villa Diodati

WARNING: SPOILERS!

The Doctor lands in 1816 on the coast of Lake Geneva and makes the welcome aquaitence of Lord Byron, Mary Godwin [Shelley] and Dr. Polidori—author of The Vampyre.

The story starts out with a lovely play on a ghost story with the surprising appearance of the Doctor, Ryan, Yasmin, and Graham at the door in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm. The gothic horror is increased by the arrival of mysterious apparitions, deepening the mystery. And then, the question begs, where is Percy Shelley, Mary’s husband to be and the muse to her magnum opus, the story of The Modern Prometheus?

The story continues into a wonderful MC Escher like play on architectural configuration that would have made the Logopolins proud. The Doctor and companions deftly solve the confoundment of the ever changing rooms by shutting their eyes and walking through walls. But when they’re all together, quite convenient to the plot, that’s when the mysterious lady of the lake appears and turns out to be a half-built Cyberman!

On the run, we finally find Percy Shelley, sulking in the basement, a mysterious air about him. Here, the plot runs into high gear as we build to Captain Jack Harkness‘s prophecy about the lone Cybermen. It tuns out, Percy has taken upon himself a Quicksilver containing the entire database of Cybermen defeats (shaded of Genesis of the Daleks). After a threat to history by Ryan, the Doctor instead takes the cyber-computer from Percy and into herself only to face down the lone Cyberman. When the Cyberman threatens the Earth and history, though, the Doctor must capitulate and gives the cyber-computer to the lone Cyberman, fulfilling the most disastrous prophecy.

Overall, I think my main nit is that the final act relied too much on deus ex machina elements to bring the story to its logical conclusion. Also, I didn’t like Ryan so easily suggesting the Doctor kill Percy Shelley. And the Doctor could have used the knowledge from the cyber-computer to do more than simply capitulate when the world of the past was threatened, thus threatening the world of the future. Would a fallen Earth before the beginning of the modern era have been an even greater boon to the Cybermen? With no humans to destroy Voga or defeat Mondas, wouldn’t the Cybermen have fared even better?

I guess the Doctor made the right decision after all. But, what will the consequences be?

Next week, Ascension of the Cybermen!

The Neighbor was crazy, the question was which one

Last month a attended the Fairfax Filmmakers meetup, run by Justin Snyder. Justin has been running this meetup for a number of years and last year he and one of the members, Michael, worked on a cute script, Bottled, involving a genie and an artist getting everything he ever wished for, or so he thought. I audition for a part and table read for the lead but in the end I wasn’t selected. I did try to remain attached to the project and be available for it, but in the end the whole thing came apart and the project was abandoned.

Fast forward to 2020, and Justin, just coming off of his latest personal film project, conducts a new meeting of the group and has invited us to join his latest project, a suspense film. He wanted to do it as an anthology with four short films, each with a unique director, where he would be the anchor.

Personally, I’ve never had a desire to direct, though it’s something I would eventually like to get into, but I did have the kernel of an idea of a story so I teamed up with a woman who wanted to direct and we came up with a 20 minute film all based on the Ring doorbell. I wanted to do something with a black widow and a bit of Hitchcock‘s Rear Window. The director and I bounced ideas off off one another and then I wrote a 21 page script, You Rang, which the director liked.

Script in hand, last week, I submitted it to two of my writing groups, The Saturday Morning Review, and The Hourlings (my own writing group, Reston Writers, doesn’t allow Screenplay reviews). I submitted the first two acts to the first group, as the final act wasn’t ready in time, and then submitted the whole screenplay to The Hourlings. Both gave great feedback—about 75% of it useful—but enough to make the script a whole lot better, and inspire me to come up with a better ending. Finally, with my director’s approval, we submitted it to Justin.

The Suspense manuscript was supposed to be due today. Justin emailed me shortly after submitting You Rang to tell me he would be sending me notes, and I’m waiting for those notes and to start work on this awesome project!

Break a leg, everyone!

18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather

This book was a joy to read. Christopher Dewdney whips up an exciting tale filled with allegory and literary references to ground the reader in the mysteries of our atmosphere. Whether it’s the numerous names for clouds, or the way storms change the course of history, Dewdney spins a wonderful narrative interwoven with science.

One thing I always appreciate is the geologic history of things, and Dewdney doesn’t disappoint with the origin of the atmosphere and its layers, and what happens when neutron lasagna (Kurzgesagt) falls to the center of the earth (assuming it doesn’t instantly expend to enormous size one freed from the gravitational pull of a neutron star). And speaking of stars, the tantalizing layers of the atmosphere inspire this failed pilot, as well as a fascinating theory on contrails.

For excitement there are stories of the storm, hurricane, typhoons, and the thunderous squall. From a gentle rain to the most deadly twister, it’s all there. How the Atmosphere is split into 3 northern layers and 3 southern layers is also explained, giving us our Jet Streams. I loved reading about the north and south, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Gyres which drive the oceans and the effects of El Niño and La Niña on those currents. The names of the winds and the 6 seasons also fascinated me. I like the idea of 6 even though they don’t seems equal in length from the reading.

Finally, no book about weather would be complete without mentioning global climate disruption. Though not much time is spent on this important issue, it is covered in one chapter and pushed further with the Gaia hypothesis in the final chapter.

If I was to ding this book in any way, I would only have to comment that Îsl Réunion is in the middle of the Indian ocean, not the Pacific. Indeed, there’s no way it could have affected the movement of India across the Tethys Sea if it was all the way over in the Panthalassic Ocean, which became the Pacific.

18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather
18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather

Other than that, though, great book! Now, on to The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities.

See you later, my friendly fellow sapiosexuals!

House of Representatives passes HJ79

Since 2018 I have been advocating for the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment. Well, that is to say, since 2018 I have been advocating in my adulthood as I was a staunch ERA advocate back in the early 1980s when I was so gutted it didn’t make it. But yes, I have been going down to Richmond since 2018 to get the General Assembly of Virginia to pass the ERA.

ERA Lobbying in 2018
Here I am with my friend Emily Haines to lobby for the ERA in 2018
Photo from Fredericksburg.com

Fast forward to 2020 and the Virginia General Assembly finally ratifies the ERA. I have many photos from that day including one awesome photo with Jennifer Carroll Foy, but I’ll save those for another day. Instead, I want to talk about the passage of HJ79, the House of Representatives bill to remove the ERA deadline. My dear friend, Lisa A. Sales, was able to get gallery tickets for a bunch of us ERA supporters to attend the hearing on the House floor with none other than my friend and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton presiding. Unfortunately, I have no photos from that as electronics aren’t allowed in the House Gallery, but you can see it on CSPAN.

The vote itself was very harrowing. At first there was a voice vote, but a Republican member of Congress called for a Recorded Vote. The acting Speaker, who had moved on from Wexton, held the vote open past the 15 minute mark to give all but 20 members of Congress time to vote. At first, the yay votes were ahead. But then around the 80 mark, the nay votes overtook the yay votes and we were gutted. But in the end, the final total was 232 (56%) for and 183 (44%) against. At 218 yay, though, we knew we had it. 5 Republicans joined 227 Democrats to pass HJ79 in the House!

However, I was able to catch up with a bunch of my fellow ERA advocates at a special event in the House.

Celebrating ERA Passage with the Deltas
These are some of my ERA friends and allies. The Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Inc has long been an advocate of passage and I was happy to work with them for this passage and be in this photo with them and their fellow allies

We Finally, our supporters in Congress were there to celebrate with us. I was very happy to meet Abigail Spanberger, Carolyn Maloney, and Jackie Speier as well as (not pictured) former Republican Illinois State Representative Steve Andersson, who was instrumental in getting Illinois to be the 37th state.

Spanberger, Maloney, and Speier
Congresswomen Abigail Spanberger, Carolyn Maloney, and Jackie Speier have been longtime advocates for the ERA and are instrumental for getting HJ79 to remove the ERA deadline passed through the House of Representatives

It was great seeing Ellie Smeal and of course my friends on fighting to make Georgia the 39th. But also, it was so wonderful to catch up with my good friend Eileen Davis. Eileen is a longtime advocate of the ERA too and what’s more, she raised a very politically savvy daughter. None other than Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, pictured above. One of my highlights is always to have long chats with Eileen, she’s such a font of knowledge.

When it was time to go, we said our goodbyes. The last person I saw was Lisa. Thank you Lisa, and thank you everyone! You are all wonderful!

Now, on to the Senate…

My First Web Page

I started writing web pages in 1993, months after Tim Burners-Lee published the first HTML specification. The first page I created was dedicated to my love of the Quiet Beatle, George Harrison, and the Roger Damon Price science fiction series, The Tomorrow People. The Tomorrow people was ITV‘s answer to the highly successful Doctor Who series on BBC.

When I created it, I was still at McGill University and so for a while it was hosted on the university web servers. When I left the school I was allowed to download the page and installed it on my work computer, then brought the code home, eventually letting it settle on my official web server.

If you’re curious what that page looked like, search no further than here: The Original George Harrison and Tomorrow People Home Page. Please note, some of the links are long dead but all internal documents are still there. Enjoy!

And remember, I’m available for hire.

On to the Virginia Senate

The NPVIC bill in Virginia has been read for its third and final time and passed House of Delegates (51-Y 46-N), with 3 Delegates not present. We hope Delegate Convirs-Fowler is well as we don’t know who voted yet but hope the Legislative Information Service will update soon with the list of who voted for and against. But the important news is, the NPVIC has finally passed one of the Chambers of the Virginia General Assembly! Let’s Celebrate!

NPVIC On to the House of Delegates Floor of Virginia

It’s been a long run to get us here. I testified for Delegate Mark Levine’s HB177 on Monday, 27 January for the Constitutional Subcommittee helping to get it sent to the Privileges and Elections Committee for a Committee Vote scheduled for Friday.

I couldn’t attend the Committee Hearing on 31 January but was able to watch it on my computer to my extreme melancholy as three Delegates we expected to vote for the bill actually both voted against and one of them even testified against.

The HB177 fails on the House Privileges and Elections Committee in Virginia. 31 January 2020.

I reported this on the official Facebook page on Wednesday, 5 February 2020, which you can read in full here: https://www.facebook.com/1883850291834231/photos/a.1883851011834159/2694997057386213/

That said, we still held out hope that Delegates Krizek could be convinced. We had one more House of Delegates Privileges and Elections on their last meeting before the official Crossover day when no new bills can be considered. Today was make or break.

Under House Rule 70, any member who voted on the prevailing (nay) side is permitted to move to reexamine. And as any Delegate can second, that’s exactly what Delegate Krizek did, seconded by Delegate Levine. We were back on the board!

After a vigorous debate on House Rule 70 and whether the motion to reconsider HB177 was debated, Delegate M. L. Cole made a motion to do with the NPVIC what he did to it in 2019, and 2018, and 2017, … a motion to Table!

Delegate Mark L. Cole votes to table HB177 on Friday, 7 February, 2020.

Fortunately, we had Delegate Krizek and Delegate Askew back on our side (Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler was sick that day; we wish her well), we easily defeated the measure with Chairman Lindsey abstaining. It was then on to the final vote…

HB177 Passes the House Privalages and Elections Subcommittee, just in time, 7 February, 2020.

This time, we made it! For the first time in the 4 years I’ve been fighting for the NPVIC, my home state of Virginia had voted the bill onto the floor of one of its houses. And as Crossover is in just 5 days, Monday and Tuesday will be Votarama, as the House of Delegates rushes to pass every bill still pending before Crossover on 11 February.

Almost there…