Campaign Chronicle, 6 Weeks to Election: STAR TREK, Slush Reading, and Politics

Or, how years of telling people “no” may have made me a poor political candidate.

I’m afraid I don’t know how to tell people what they want to hear.

First, a story from this past weekend. On Saturday I went to Lazy Daze, the annual arts festival here in Cary, armed with a few brochures — yes, I finally broke down and spent some money — to hand out if the occasion arose. It was a lovely day, and I saw a couple of my opponents out and about, one of whom was working the crowd pretty hard. (I did not see my third opponent, who reportedly was also campaigning hard — and in a way that might be considered a bit devious.)

Anyway, I wandered the booths and examined the wares, bought a great 2016 calendar featuring some spectacular calligraphy, and at one point a gentleman walked by me and said, “Nice shirt.”

Since I was wearing my STAR TREK United Federation of Planets shirt, I turned and said, “Live long and prosper!”

To which he replied, “Qapla’!” (If you’re not up on your Klingon, that means, “Success!”)

We both laughed, and I mentioned that a friend of mine is the founder of the Klingon Language Institute,* so we chatted for a minute and I asked if the fellow lived in town. No, he said, but his in-laws did — and when his mother-in-law happened by, you better believe I gave her a campaign brochure!

So my STAR TREK shirt led to a campaigning opportunity, which was probably the furthest thing from my daughter’s mind when she bought it for me.

Broken mask
Sooner or later, it seems every politician’s mask breaks. (Image: “Broken mask” by Josef.stuefer, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

My other campaign stops have been less successful, though, and I think I may have figured out why.

One stop was sort of a pro forma meeting, because I anticipate the group’s endorsement will go to a particular candidate they have worked with for some time. It was a quite pleasant meeting, though, and I feel I at least provided a little entertainment value.

At another stop, however, I definitely turned off some potential voters by — again — refusing to commit to specific courses of action without knowing all the facts. My “if I don’t make a promise, I can’t break a promise” message fell rather flat, and one attendee approached me afterward to explain why they were disappointed in it.

I was surprised. Even though the halls of government are littered with the shards of once-shiny promises that wound up shattered through neglect or by design, and though the fingers of the electorate are bloody from picking up the broken pieces and trying to fit them together into something, anything, useful or beautiful, it seems that people are willing to accept and even desire more promises without substance, goals without plans. I wonder if it’s a matter of needing hope, even if it’s a slim hope, even if it’s ultimately a false hope.

If so, I’ll say it straight out: I’m not the guy to give anyone false hope.

My day job, when you get right down to it, is to disabuse people of their hopes. Every person who sends in a manuscript to Baen Books hopes it will attract our attention, hopes we will accept it and publish it and help them achieve that dream of publication. But the raw facts are that we publish a limited number of books every year, only a small portion of those can be by new authors, and we receive many hundreds of submissions in the slush pile for every potential “new author” slot.

I applaud every writer who slogs through completing a manuscript, toils over that manuscript to ensure it’s as good a story as it can be, and takes the risk of sending it in for us to evaluate. But I still have to tell almost every single one of them “no.” And even when I write to someone whose work is good enough for us to consider at length and in depth — whose manuscript two, three, or even four of us will in time study and pick apart — I have to tell them that the answer may, in the end, be “no.”

In other words, I make no promises. I do not try to bash any writer’s hope, and I do not try to crush any writer’s dream, but I will not give any writer an unrealistic expectation.

And so, I will not give any voter an unrealistic expectation.

If that is what you need as a voter, if you are desperate for some slim hope and willing to take the risk of almost certain disappointment, then I apologize that I cannot be the kind of candidate who will feed that need. I hope (and I mean that without irony) that you find and support the kind of candidate you need.

But if you are a voter who can tolerate deliberation, who can stand deep examination of issues, then I hope you can understand my position — and maybe even support me.

*Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen, if you must know.

Reminder: Election Day for the Cary Town Council race is October 6th. Help spread the word about my campaign! Share this post on social media or forward it specifically to anyone you know who lives in North Carolina, especially in the Research Triangle area or the Town of Cary. For additional updates and info, sign up for my newsletter using the form in the right sidebar or visit the election page on my website. Thanks!

Spending Disclosure: As of this date, my campaign has spent a total of $44.

This blog post was “paid” for, at the cost of $0 and whatever time it took Gray to write and upload it, by The Gray Man: Service, Leadership, Creativity.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Campaign Chronicle, 7 Weeks to Election: No Promises

This week I had my first sit-down session with a group of citizens who wanted my take on issues important to them. I suspect I disappointed them a little; I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, I already have a few other such meetings on the calendar but I’m willing to add more. I’ll sit down with anyone who wants to discuss the issues. If there’s food involved, so much the better.

Second, I observed that optimistic scheduling doesn’t work with certain classes of people, among them serious politicians who tend to be a bit long-winded. In fact, I almost left when my scheduled session was delayed because the candidate before me was late arriving and continued into my time. (I had to be convinced to stay.) But once it got started the actual interview was fine, if too short to actually delve deeply into anything because I made it a point to wrap up as close to the end of my scheduled slot as possible. So if you really want me to explain my thinking on a subject, be sure to allot a good bit of time.

The ghost of Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness) visits Ebenezer Scrooge (Albert Finney). This has something to do with politics, trust me.

As I said, I suspect I left the folks in the room feeling disappointed that I had not agreed to champion their causes. They seemed to expect me to make a commitment to them, but I reiterated what I said when first started on this adventure: I am not making any promises to anyone about anything.

Why? Because I can’t break a promise that I haven’t made.

Think about the scene in A Christmas Carol in which the ghost of Jacob Marley intrudes on Scrooge’s quiet evening. What was Marley wearing? A great chain that represented his failure to care for the destitute and downtrodden, a chain he forged “link by link, and yard by yard.” Imagine if every living officeholder had to carry a chain forged of their broken campaign promises — perhaps formed “lie by lie, and pledge by pledge.” The halls of government at every level would ring with the sound of rattling chains.

Promises are cheap. Keeping them is hard.

I intend, if elected, to study every issue that comes up and listen to different viewpoints. I have stated my principle for staking out a position on proposals: since most proposals are quite clear about who they would help (or intend to help), I would like to consider who they would hurt, and how much, and then weigh whether the intended benefit is worth whatever cost is involved.

But I won’t make promises, because that way I can’t break any.


Election Day for the Cary Town Council race is October 6th. Help spread the word about my campaign! Share this post on social media or forward it specifically to anyone you know who lives in North Carolina, especially in the Research Triangle area or the Town of Cary. For additional updates and info, sign up for my newsletter using the form in the right sidebar or visit the election page on my website. Thanks!

Spending Disclosure: As of this date, my campaign has spent a total of $10. But I’m probably going to spend a few bucks later this week.

This blog post was “paid” for, at the cost of $0 and whatever time it took Gray to write and upload it, by The Gray Man: Service, Leadership, Creativity.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Campaign Chronicle, 8 Weeks to Election: Collaborative, Social Media Politics

More fun from Campaignville, where even if you don’t live here in Cary, North Carolina — even if you live far, far awaythrough the magic of social media, you can help spread the word about the Gray Man’s campaign for Town Council!

How, you ask? Simple! Print a campaign flyer and put it up in your office, or on your front door, or in the window of your car! (There’s even a place where you can put your name or initials if you like.) Then, wherever you post a flyer, take a picture and send it to me — or post it on Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter or wherever, and call your North Carolina friends’ attention to it. Be creative, and have fun!

Gray Rinehart 2015 Town Council Campaign Flyer
Print-It-Yourself Flyer! Click to enlarge, or download a PDF in either color or black and white.

If you live in the Research Triangle area, you could even print more than one if you wanted to, and put a few where people will see them: on the bulletin board at your favorite coffee shop, maybe, or above the urinals at your local bar. Unfortunately, since I’m not raising any campaign funds — I don’t want to get used to spending other people’s money — we will not bankroll the production of these flyers. If you want to spend your own money in your own way, of course, that’s okay with me; I’m not going to stop you.

Two Words of Caution:

  • Do NOT affix any flyers to permanent structures without getting the express permission of the owners.
  • Don’t print more than maybe two or three of these and certainly don’t print poster-sized ones and put them anywhere. If you do that, chances are someone is going to notice and complain to the Board of Elections that you’re contributing to the campaign, and the board might ask you how much you’ve spent and you’d have to report it. Nobody wants that kind of headache.

This is my version of free market politics, as opposed to the more oligarchical model that we have nowadays. You could think of it as entrepreneurial politics, or maybe “open source” politics or even the politics of the new collaborative economy, rather than the traditional, corporate model of politics. And speaking of collaborative politics, you can help spread the word about this campaign without printing any flyers at all.

The very best way you could help spread the word would be to forward this blog post to anyone you know who lives in North Carolina. Ask them to forward it to anyone they know who lives in the Research Triangle area or the Town of Cary, and point them to the election page on my website. You can do that by e-mail or by sharing the link on your favorite social media site(s).

In the category of “fair warning,” in a couple of weeks I will start walking around some of the neighborhoods in District D. That seems like the best way to connect with real people and find out what they really think about how things are working in the town. At that point I’ll hand out a few of these little flyers, along with some basic information about the foundation of my campaign — Service, Leadership, and Creativity, with emphasis on economic development, emergency management, education, and the environment — to anyone who wants it.

If you’re local, and want to make sure I hit your neighborhood or want me to come chat with you and your friends, get in touch!

See you out on the campaign trail … or maybe just walking on the greenway!

Spending Disclosure: As of this date, my campaign has spent a total of $10.

This blog post was “paid” for, at the cost of $0 and whatever time it took to write and upload it, by The Gray Man: Service, Leadership, Creativity.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Campaign Chronicle, 9 Weeks to Election: Candidate Surveys

Politics, where the fun never ends! Or something like that.

One of the more interesting developments of the Town Council campaign has been receiving invitations from various groups to discuss whatever issues interest them. The local real estate association, the home builders group, the Chamber of Commerce, and other groups have either asked for information or scheduled times for me to chat with them (or both). In some cases they’ve sent actual questionnaires for me to fill out and send in.

Do You Need Pants? Questionnaire
Just for fun, a survey. No, none of the groups that contacted me sent this particular survey. (Image, “Do You Need Pants? Questionnaire,” by Jason Eppink on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

It’s been interesting seeing what different groups want to know. A couple of the groups asked how much money I planned to raise for my campaign, I suppose so they can decide whether they want to contribute. I’m not sure what they’ll think when they find out I’m not raising any money — and, in general, I’m hoping to spend very little of my own. (Not that I’m averse to other people spending their own money on me, or even giving me money of their own free will. But that has nothing to do with my campaign.)

Some of the surveys have been easier to complete than others. The ones that just asked my opinion of different issues have been fine — I don’t have any problem telling people what I think! One group sent me the questions they plan to ask when we sit down together, which was a little different and actually pretty nice of them. And a couple of the groups asked very similar questions, which was convenient because I could pretty much cut-and-paste the answers.

One group was particularly straightforward, and actually asked if I would support this policy or that if I were elected. I’m afraid I’m destined to disappoint them: Sorry, but I don’t plan to make any promises to you or anyone else.

I’ll study any issues that come up, and listen to all sides, but I’m not going to commit to anything beforehand. If I don’t make a promise, I can’t break a promise. That’s part of what I mean by “politics as UNusual.”

So that’s the latest as of right now. And along the lines of the “candidate survey” kind of thing: If you’re local and want to chat about some issue that’s important to you, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do.

And if you’re of a mind to support a candidate whose approach is unconventional and who doesn’t take himself too seriously, feel free to share this blog post on social media or send the link to any friends who live in the Research Triangle of North Carolina. Let folks know that the Gray Man is a candidate for the Cary Town Council, District D, and if they want more info they can check out the election page on my website or sign up for my newsletter (using the form in the right sidebar).

On we go!

Spending Disclosure: As of this date, my campaign has spent a total of $10. Yes, really: ten dollars. (Okay, it’s really $12 including parking fees, but it’s a pain to get receipts for parking so the official tally is $10.)

This blog post was “paid” for, at the cost of $0 and whatever time it took Gray to write and upload it, by The Gray Man: Service, Leadership, Creativity.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Campaign Chronicle, 10 Weeks to Election Day: Paperwork and Junk Mail

Hey, I’m running for Town Council!

Okay, you probably already knew that. If not, almost 2 weeks ago now I filed for election to the Cary (NC) Town Council in District D, which serves the southwest portion of town. If you’re familiar with Cary, you could draw a big circle centered on Bond Lake and encompass a good portion of the district.

My first political campaign has launched! (USAF photo of a Titan-IV liftoff.)

When I filed, I was handed a booklet which explained the various forms I had to submit in order to establish a campaign committee. That took me by surprise, because I’m just one fellow and don’t have any kind of organization, but it was required in order to have something to print on the bottom of ads, along the lines of “Paid for by the Committee of People Who Think They Know Better.” So I did it.

Of course, being me, with my history of Anti-Candidacy and my contrarian nature, I was determined not to establish the run-of-the-mill candidate’s committee. No “Gray for Town Council” or “Committee to Elect Gray” or anything like that. I tried out a number of different possible committee names, including but definitely not limited to:

  • Folks Who Don’t Want to Run Your Life
  • The Mugwump Brigade
  • Arrogant Megalomaniacs for Hire
  • Reluctant Bureaucrats
  • Step by Step to World Domination
  • The Bearers of Dangerous Messages
  • The Artist Formerly Known as the Anti-Candidate

But, as was pointed out to me by several people, being too unserious about the whole thing would not be to my benefit. So, I swallowed my pride, tamped down my forced attempts at silliness, thought about the things I bring to the table — specifically, years of Service, experience in Leadership, and a bit of Creativity. So I named my committee The Gray Man: Service, Leadership, Creativity.

At the same time I turned in the committee organization forms, I had to turn in the first round of financial reporting forms. Those were a bit harder to make heads and tails of, and it seemed a bit extreme to have to file several different pieces of paper in order to report spending $10 so far (i.e., the filing fee — I dropped the dollar I spent on parking because I hadn’t gotten a receipt), but I got the forms turned in. I haven’t heard yet if I did them right.

While all that was going on, I started getting phone calls and letters and junk mail related to my own campaign. The phone calls were okay — mostly other candidates, plus one fellow who asked if he could send me a survey for his organization to gauge my position on the particular issues that interest them. I’ve gotten a couple of letters along the same lines, which I’ll report on as time goes by.

But the junk mail … oh, goodness.

I should’ve expected it, but honestly I hadn’t. First was an invitation to a “campaign training session,” which promised — for a fee, of course — to help me strategize and plan and raise money and other such things. I tossed that right out, since my strategy is to emphasize things I know about and have experience in (more on this in a future post), my plan is to talk to folks and find out what issues they most care about, and I don’t intend to raise any money. Nor do I intend to spend much money, which is why I haven’t responded to most of the other letters I received from people who want to help me stratify the voter rolls and send out mass mailings, or who want to print handouts and other materials for me, or the people who want to make yard signs for me. I don’t intend to spend my own or anyone else’s money on things like that.

Plus, with 10 weeks until the election — the Cary municipal election is on 6 October, so there can be a runoff in November if needed — nobody’s paying much attention yet anyway.

As we get closer to election day, I’ll suggest ways that you might help me spread the word to folks who might want to vote for me — for instance, by sharing this blog post on social media or by sending the link to a friend who lives in the Research Triangle! Meanwhile, you’re welcome to sign up for my newsletter using the form in the right sidebar; I send out occasional notices about my various projects, of which the election is only one. And you can always check out the election page on my website.

As for me, I’m going to have fun with the process — because as I always told my students and folks who worked for me, if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing, you ought to be doing something else!

So, thanks for reading this and now, go have some fun!

This blog post was “paid” for, at the princely sum of $0 and whatever time it took Gray to write and upload it, by The Gray Man: Service, Leadership, Creativity.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Are You a Science Fiction Fan? Will You be Voting?

If the title isn’t clear enough, and the logo below didn’t show up, I’m referring to voting for the Hugo Awards rather than voting for the Cary Town Council. Being on one ballot was not enough for me!

(In fact, if you want to put me on a third ballot, you can nominate any of my filk songs for a Pegasus Award. Hahaha!)

Hugo Award Logo

But, insofar as the Hugo Awards go, the deadline is fast approaching for getting our votes in, as was recently pointed out by perhaps the biggest name in fantasy literature these days, George R.R. Martin.

The deadline is in fact the 31st of July — one day past the deadline for Pegasus nominations, haha! — and if you’re a member of the World SF Convention you should have gotten your Voter Packet and instructions weeks ago. If you’re not a member but you still want to vote, there’s just a little time left for you to purchase a Supporting Membership* and participate in the process.

In the blog post linked above, Mr. Martin noted that so far more than 2300 ballots have been cast. He asks,

Who are all these new Supporting Members? Are they trufans rallying to the defense of one of our field’s oldest and most cherished institutions? Are they Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Happy Kittens, Gamergaters? Are those dreaded SJWs and ASPs and CHORFs turning out by the hundreds and the thousands? Are these the Neo-Nazis and right-wing reactionaries we have been warned of? The truth is… no one knows. We may get a clue when the ballots are opened and counted, but even then, the numbers may well just say, “Answer cloudy, ask again.”

If you’re not familiar with all the lingo in there, count yourself lucky. And if you’re undecided about voting or what to vote for, bear in mind Heinlein’s admonition:

If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

So, vote! Even if you vote against me.

As for that other democratic process, we’ll have more to say in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

*A Supporting Membership costs $40, for which you get electronic copies of several of the nominated works (e.g., Best Novel) with which to make an informed decision.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

A Picture of Political Intolerance

Free speech in the form of streetside signage apparently didn’t mean much to the opponents of these candidates:

(Picture taken 26 October 2014. Click to enlarge.)

If you know the party affiliations of Renee Ellmers and Nelson Dollar, then you should be able to guess what candidate’s sign is crumpled up in the upper right. I’ll give you three guesses, but you probably won’t need them.*

These signs had been on Cary Parkway, right at the end of our street. Last night while we were walking the dog, I noticed them thrown into the bushes. I took the picture early this morning.

I get it, if you don’t like the little yard signs that pop up like dandelions every election season. I don’t particularly like them, either.

But if your idea of political activism is to interfere with the free speech of your political opponents, then you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

*Ellmers and Dollar are Republicans, if that helps.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather