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Give Peace a Chance: My Return to Blogging

I have decided to come back to blogging. I am returning at a point of happiness and strength with a new book out which is successful in ways I had never imagined an anthology could be. I have been having an amazing time these past few weeks.

I find that I have made my decision to resume just at the moment when Kathy Sierra's blog post Why the Trolls Will Always Win, commemorating ten years of over-the-top harassment, is published in Wired

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“Am I Free to Go?” by Kathryn Cramer: Origins & Bibliography

I live in New York State’s Adirondack Park, an environmentally protected area comprising about 23% of New York State. It is a wonderful place and I love living here. But there is an aspect of the Park that I find very uncomfortable. In 1973, the New York State legislature adopted into law the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan finalizing the boundaries of the Park and putting into effect many of the environmental restrictions. That same year, the legislature passed the Rockafeller Drug Laws, which was the advent of New York State’s policy of mass incarceration. Over the past forty years, many prisons have been built in the Park, and the communities where these prisons are located have tended to become economically dependent on the prison-industrial complex. In an era of severe government cutbacks, these political decisions of the past can have strange and unforeseen consequences.

“Am I Free to Go?” is essentially a monolog. In February of 2011, it began as an exercise in narrative voice when I was working with Edward Cornell, a New York theater director who now lives in the Adirondacks. He assigned me to find a monolog to work on with him. I couldn't find any I liked. 

The dramatic monologs I found bore too little resemblance to the women I know in real life and seemed constricted by gender stereotypes. (If I had found the play Wit by Margaret Edson in early 2011, I probably would have stopped there.)  Next, I tried reading aloud stories I had reprinted in Year’s Best volumes, but found that many of the stories I loved best worked better on the page than out loud.

 And so I wrote something. Ted Cornell listened to me read all or part of it aloud many times through many drafts; his encouragement and comments brought into the form you find it now. This story is as much human rights fiction as it is science fiction. I believe that we live on the knife’s edge of a political cascade in which consequence piles on consequence, leading the United States in directions that most of use don’t want to go. What I intended is a monolog somewhat in the mode of “Swimming to Cambodia” by Spalding Grey and about an extrapolation of the here and now that I inhabit.

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Adirondack Memoir Retreat, October 25 to 28, 2012

Mary BethI am helping my friend Mary Beth Coudal set up at terrific writers retreat in Westport, NY for the end of October. This is going to be a marvellous time, and I hope some of you will consider joining us. The event will be held at Skenewood, a mansion in a secluded spot overlooking Lake Champlain. Mary Beth, whose workshop I enjoyed last summer, is the primary retreat leader, and she has recruited several of us to lead individual sessions.

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It's a great time of year in Westport. The food will be great. Some wonderful people are coming. We'll have yoga first thing in the morning to open us up creatively, and walks around the estate and down by the shore. I am really looking forward to this.

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Here is what Mary Beth has to say about it:

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My life as an attachment parent: feminists should have understood but mostly didn't

The New York Times has a mothering discussion centered around the question, "Has women’s obsession with being the perfect mother destroyed feminism?"

MotherhoodvsFeminism

I read this exchange and it feels to me like it comes from a different planet than the one I have parented on. I am, in the vocabulary of this discussion, an attachment parent. I never found myself to be part of the kind of cultural hegemony implied by the NYT discussion. (Though, for a while I seemed to be the person the BBC Radio called to speak about public breast feeding.) Rather, I went about the matter of parenting my children while pursuing my career in science fiction, such as it is, without much feeling of being part of any larger movement.

The strain for me was not a tension between motherhood and career, but rather the lack of support for the idea that with a little extra help from those around me I could remain a full participant in the intellectual and cultural life around me. I would get all the way to the convention, but in the end often couldn't get the support to allow me to attend any program items except those where I was a panelist.

This experience has left me deeply disappointed in the science fiction field's brand of feminism which should have understood what my parenting choices represented, but mostly didn't. Gradually, I stopped showing up at events like World Fantasy Con and ICFA because I could no longer ignore the professional disrespect this state of affairs implied.

Yesterday, received an evaluation from the school district of one of my children who has substantial learning disabilities which contained a sentence that makes me very proud. The evaluator remarked that my son seems to have a positive sense of self “rooted in close and supportive parental relationships.” And that is what I was trying to do. 

Kate Eltham, baby Elizabeth, & Kathryn Camer

I do not demand of other people that they do nearly all of their business travel in the company of children, or that they breastfeed while giving speeches, signing books, speak on panels, like I did. But in my life there would have been a lot less conflict between motherhood and career if there had been a little more recognition of the project of combining the two.

The idea articulated in the NYT that by doing what I did I have somehow been a threat to feminism makes me want to kick their editors in a particularly sensitive spot in the ankle.


Making a quilt for my daughter: a meditation

quilt for Elizabeth

When we were first sewing pieces together for the smallest block, I told her, "Never sew the pieces together unless you know what they mean."

She asked, "What do these pieces mean, mommy?"

I said, "These are angry men running in the grass. This one is the moon rising over the lake. This one is our house. This one is about thinking about the tiny little creatures in the water."

This is not a quilt make from a pattern, but from a method of construction. This is a method to be done fast, in love, in anger, and as a form of meditation: Use only scraps, as much as you can. Cutting from the big pieces of cloth should be a last resort. Make small blocks as though you were spelling words, combining letters. Then make bigger blocks as through you were making sentences.

quilt for Elizabeth

The bigger blocks will not all be the same size. The easy way out would be to trim them so that they are and then sash them with a plain fabric to spread them out so they don't have to mean together. Don't take the easy way out. 

Arrange the pieces on the floor in relation to one another. If some are too simple, cut them apart and sew them back together in a different order. Add strips of fabric to fill in the gaps, but using the same grammar that you have used so far.

Work fast, but observe things like seam allowances carefully. Because this kind of quilt is made in the heat of the moment, it is prone to structural flaws.  Overwork the structure just a little to make sure it will all hang together in the end.

quilt for Elizabeth

I did have to reach for the larger pieces for the outside edges, and needed a trip to the fabric store in Lake Placid, NY to get the batting and the backing.

Also, I did a small amount of applique using some of the better scraps -- 20 years ago I had experimented with hand-cutting rubber stamps and then printing on fabric with fabric paint.

quilt for Elizabeth

I am going to tie the quilt, rather than hand-quilting. Elizabeth and I discussed it last night, and she wants the binding to be sunshine yellow like the backing.

It will be a gift for her seventh birthday.

Vinson on ironing board


Just Played with Marquis Who's Who on the Web

I just played with Marquis Who's Who on the Web, the online Who's Who database. (You can get a free 1-week trial membership. It's pretty cool. I could spend many happy hours being nosy doing research in there. You can, for example, search by zip code and find out which famous people live near you.

I love my Ancestry.com subscription, which I use a couple of times a day as a phone book and such. Marquis is in the process of putting all the bios from their many publications into one big, searchable database, and they're also including the historical books. So this is much better than having copies of the books. I haven't jumped yet, but I'm thinking about getting a subscription.

It's not perfect. It took me three tries to find my own listing. First Name = Kathryn, Last Name = Cramer didn't do it. A search by zip code didn't do it either, but did pick up my husband's listing (plus a long list of people around here I might want to get to know). But searching on Cramer by itself did the trick, picking up both my dad's listing and my own.

Also, one can now pay them an annual fee to put your own listing on the web if you want it to be publicly available to the ordinary Internet user. This seems to be a very new service, since a Google search of the site where these are hosted turned up only a few dozen entries; when I inquired about pricing, there was some confusion about how much it costs. But in these days when anyone can become your biographer whether they know anything about you or not, it looked to me like a useful service.


How to Write an Author Bio: A Tutorial for Wikipedians & Others

We write three kinds of author bios in this household:

  1. short story introductions for year's best collections (which have tight wordage constraints);
  2. longer author notes for our larger historical anthologies. (A complete set of our author bios from The Ascent of Wonder is available online.) These give more detail on the author and are also usually used to carry on the overall argument of the book.
  3. And the occasional longer biographical essay, which usually ends up in some form in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

Because of my recent experience with Wikipedian "editing," I am considering releasing the complete set of author bios from the anthologies of both David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer to the Internet under Creative Commons in order to raise the level of author bio discourse. (There is a certain amount of hard labor involved in this, and I haven't figures out how to do it yet. Suggestions welcome.)

Since our story notes usually go with a particular story, I'm going to skip the discussion of how to position the story in the note, and instead focus on what information needs to be assembled about the author.

Here are the basic pieces of info we collect before writing a note:

  • The author's correct name and any known pseudonyms
  • year of and place of birth and death (if deceased)
  • where the author lives and minor family details
  • the URL of the author's website. Failing that, the URL of the best tribute site. If the author has a blog, the URL of the blog.
  • A brief summary of the highlights of the authors career and life. This may or may not include a summary of awards.
  • An interesting quote from the author, usually taken from online interviews but sometimes elicited in correspondence. Do collect listings of interviews,  the more the better.
  • The author's three most recent books, with brief descriptions (I love Amazon as a source for this info!)
  • The author's three most important books or stories
  • Relationships to others in the field or other notable people (Greg Bear is married to Poul Anderson's daughter; Rudy Rucker is the great grand son of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; etc.)
  • The authors significance in terms of trends within the science fiction field (Bruce Sterling was the chief spokesman for the cyberpunk movement)
  • Other interesting aspects of an author's life. Other areas of achievement.
  • I suppose I should add "in the tradition of . . ." but that is such a tried cliche of flap copy that we usually leave it out.

Lists of authors' awards and complete bibliography are usually available elsewhere. Link to them. But if the usual sources are inaccurate, provide better info. And finally, cover good new writers and cover people no one knows much about.

The most important thing to understand about writing an author bio is that this is a form of literary characterization. Details that enhance the bio by making the author a more rounded character may be crucial even if not otherwise relevant.


Joseph A. Cafasso: A Call for Information

Cafasso in Outfoxed (2004)

Cafasso in Outfoxed (2004) about 34 minutes in.

I am interested in receiving information concerning the life and activities of former Fox News Military & Counterterrorism Editor Joseph A. Cafasso aka Joe Cafasso, Jay Cafasso, Gerry Blackwood, Gerard Pal Blackwood, Jay Mosca, J. Mosca, James Mosca, Joseph Mosca, Jay Anthony, Tom Adams, Jake Adams, Robert Stormer, Robin Storm, Rob Stormer, Bob Stormer.

He stole my computer and owes me about twenty grand.

Of particular interest are:

  • other known aliases
  • information concerning debts & unpaid financial obligations
  • incidents involving computer equipment or credit cards
  • medical conditions
  • employment history
  • documentation such as photographs, videotapes, audiotapes
  • transcripts or other documentation concerning public events he attended
  • documents he presented

Information can be provided to me via the comment section below, or via email to kathryn.cramer@gmail.com.

UPDATE: Many thanks to those of you who have written to me already. Your help is much appreciated.

Cafasso as Jay Mosca

Cafasso as Jay Mosca


Good News! Let's send the reporter flowers!

UPDATE, September 2008: Cafasso's latest known aliases are Robin Storm aka Robert Stormer; he's also on dating sights as Shipdude -- "Sailing into your arms... or is it went aground on your front lawn?" -- and probably another 15 aliases on 10 other sites.

UPDATE, Feburary 1, 2009: I have confirmed reports that Joseph A. Cafasso is in jail in Indiana after failing to show up for a court appearance. There are a number of mostly minor charges against him. The most significant of them is "giving false information" to a cop: My understanding is that it took a while, after Cafasso was pulled over for allegedly speeding, for him to admit to law enforcement that his name was Jospeh Cafasso and not Robert Stormer.

I have some hopes that the various charges will stick and that this information shows up on any future criminal background checks on the man. As far as I know, none of the charges against carry enough heft to put him away for any significant period of time. But one can hope.

UPDATE, Feburary 2, 2009: The Northwest Indiana & Illinois Times' police blotter reports that Cafasso was arrested on Thursday, January 22, 2009. It lists the reason for his arrest as "Failure to appear, theft," but I am so far unable to confirm that a theft charge exists, though I would be delighted if that were the case.

Meanwhile, HERE (via Picasa) is his spiffy logo for his fake corporation "Subsea Marine." (Gotta love the use of clip art!)

For independent visual confimation of Cafasso's appearance, consult Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, available from Amazon: book or DVD.

UPDATE, Feburary 3, 2009: I am please to report that Cafasso is still in jail! (I checked.) After several years of wanting to see him go to jail, I am finding this very uplifting.

UPDATE, Feburary 4, 2009: Cafasso in the news!  The Northwest Indiana & Illinois Newspaper, February 4, 2009.

Woman learns beau is apparent con artist

CHESTERTON | A 63-year-old Tefft, Ind. woman, whose son lives in Chesterton, told Chesterton police on Monday a man she met through an online dating service claimed to be Robert Stormer, but really was Joe Cafasso, a con artist of such renown he is mentioned on a Wikipedia Web page.

Chesterton police are involved in the case because they took possession of a computer the woman and her son wanted to get rid of because one of Cafasso's enemies apparently wants it.

Police reports state Cafasso took over some of the woman's finances. The investigation into Cafasso continues.

And meanwhile -- oh, joy! -- Cafasso is still in jail!

UPDATE, Feburary 7, 2009: The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana has a new article out on Cafasso's arrest, this one mentioning his rival Jack Idema.

The woman, who resides in Tefft, in northeastern Jasper County, met "Stormer" about a year ago through an online dating service. They later moved in together. According to the police report, he took control over some of the woman's finances before she learned he was a fraud.

According to the Chesterton police report, the woman and her son believe that Cafasso built a case against a man named Jack Idema, who also has a Wikipedia page.

The police report continues: "Idema is allegedly a Special Forces soldier who went rogue and tortured people in Afghanistan without approval from his superiors. He was jailed in a military prison for this and he blames Cafasso for his troubles."

Police say Idema knew about Cafasso's laptop. Idema contacted the Chesterton man through a phone search and told him he wanted the computer.

So he and his mother brought it to Chesterton Police.

(See note on Jack Idema and his cult followers below.)

Meanwhile, I am pleased to report that Cafasso remains in jail.

UPDATE, February 19, 2009: The Chesterton Tribune, in Chesterton, Indiana, has run an article on Cafasso's arrest.

The subject, who identified himself as Robert Stormer, 58, advised Cauffman that he did not have his Rhode Island-issued driver's license with him. Cauffman stated that when he ran the name Robert Stormer, it “came back not on file” in both Indiana and Rhode Island. Cauffman further stated that when he ran the Social Security number provided by Stormer, it returned to a 13-year-old Rhode Island girl.

Although the subject repeatedly insisted that his name is Robert Stormer and that there must be a problem with the computers, he eventually admitted to being Joseph Cafasso, 52, Cauffman stated. A second computer check listed his driver’s license in Rhode Island as suspended.

“During this conversation he stated he was hiding from members of the CIA and FBI along with several other stories,” Cauffman stated.

Always, always tell the cop who has pulled you over that you are hiding from the FBI! Cafasso deserves some kind of prize for that one.

UPDATE, February 20, 2009: New article -- FBI now investigating 'spy' arrested at Dunes, Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, February 20, 2009.

UPDATE, February 24, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail! They've had him for more than a month now! Yay!

UPDATE, February 27, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.

UPDATE, March 1, 2009: There are two new news stories out, both from the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana:

The second one has Cafasso's Indiana mug shot. Enjoy!

Joseph A. Cafasso, Jr. mug shot, 1/22/09

What I found most interesting in the text of the articles is the interview with Cafasso's sometime side-kick, the minister John Johnson:

Cafasso has declined requests for an interview by the Post-Tribune, but he reportedly has talked to Ello, and to John Johnson, a Tucson, Ariz., minister who said he met Cafasso in the early 1990s when [Johnson] was selling marine equipment and Cafasso was working for a marine salvage company in New York.

The two stayed in touch over the years, with Johnson gathering that Cafasso had an engineering degree and may have been in the Delta Force, an elite military unit. Johnson said he never thought to question Cafasso, who attended Johnson's wife's funeral in 1999 and has remained in occasional contact. That year, Johnson had dinner at a Washington, D.C., restaurant, with Cafasso and a man who was a retired CIA officer.

"I don't know anything about his military experience, I don't know how you confirm that," Johnson said. "But it's pretty hard to fool the CIA."

In 2006, [Johnson] said Cafasso was using the name "Jay" and occasionally a last name of "Black or Black-something," to avoid followers of Jonathan Idema. Idema was accused of operating an illegal prison in Afghanistan who also had apparently wildly overstated his military experience, and reportedly believes he was wronged by Cafasso. . . .

Johnson put Cafasso in touch with a church in Mendenhall, Miss., where Cafasso would spend several weeks working with the congregation and even helping the church secure a $250,000 grant.

"He didn't make a dime," said Johnson. "He got roof over his head and what passed for food. And he worked incredibly hard."

But Cafasso clashed with church leaders, who eventually found the Times article and the many anti-Cafasso sites on the Internet. Cafasso left town soon after. Church leaders and Mendenhall Police Chief Bruce Barlow did not return calls from the Post-Tribune.

Johnson said he would not hesitate to recommend Cafasso to another church, and he worries about why DNR officers seemed intent on investigating Cafasso. "Knowing the guy, I just don't want to see him get the shaft," Johnson said.

Just how many of Cafasso's victims does Johnson have to hear from and about before he wouldn't provide Cafasso with a reference? When I tried to talk to him about the man, he hung up on me. 

I certainly hope the FBI is evaluating the finances of Mendenhall Ministries during Cafasso's tenure as Director of Development. As I recall, there were allegations that money had disappeared, and Johnson has done nothing about Cafasso except cover for him. From my brief correspondence with Johnson some time ago, it was my impression that Cafasso borrowed $4,000 $2,000 from him and never paid it back, but Johnson doesn't get that he was ripped off, apparently. I just hope that Johnson doesn't bail him out.

And the Reverend would still recommend even now

UPDATE, March 25, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.

UPDATE, April 14, 2009: Cafasso is still in jail.


NOTE: For the record, I have no connection with the various Jack Idema-connected attack blogs devoted to the subject of Cafasso. They display an alarming lack of empathy for both Cafasso's targets and his family and have a history of harassment of both. These sites are, to the best of my knowledge, administered and primarily authored by a strange woman named Lynn Thomas aka "Cao" aka "Caoilfhionn" who, by day, works as a Process Re-Engineering Analyst for Allstate Insurance in Northbrook, Illinois, and by night is a far-rightwing blogger & conspiracy theorist. She has harassed me over the Internet for a number of years, including writing endless harassing nonsense about Terry Bisson, an author my husband publishes, because she spotted a photo of him standing next to me. While some of the information on her many interconnected sites is true, I cannot recommend them.