Thursday, November 11, 2004

Author Chang found dead aged 36

Best-selling US author Iris Chang has been found dead at the age of 36.

The writer was discovered in her car on a highway near Los Gatos in California and had a gunshot wound to her head.

Authorities believe the injury was self-inflicted. Chang had recently been treated in hospital after suffering from depression.

Chang was renowned for her books about the Japanese occupation of China as well as the history of Chinese immigrants in the US.

She was best-known for her 1997 international best-seller The Rape Of Nanking, which described the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers during their occupation of the former Chinese capital in the 1930s.

'The best historian'

Chang started her career as a journalist, but left to pursue writing and published her first book at the age 25.

Thread Of The Silkworm told the story of Tsien Hsue-shen, the Chinese physicist who pioneered China's missile programme during the Cold War.

Her agent Susan Rabiner said she suffered a breakdown during research for her latest book about US soldiers fighting the Japanese in the Philippines.

She continued to suffer from depression after leaving hospital, and in a note to her family asked to be remembered for the person she was before she fell ill.

The late historian Stephen Ambrose described Chang as "maybe the best historian we've got".

"She understands that to communicate history, you've got to tell the story in an interesting way," he added.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

A Rant about Early Voting in Palm Beach County

My library, my place of employment where I spend 40+ hours every week, was one of eight early voting locations in Palm Beach County, Florida. Yes, that Palm Beach, home of the hanging chad & the butterfly ballot and the place where the courts get to decide who the people really voted for. Although the supervisor of elections was run out of office, it didn't happen until August of this year - making her the lame duck super lame supervisor of elections and the person in charge of this presidential election.

Her solution to the butterfly ballot/hanging chad problem was to get rid of the punch card voting system used in the 2000 election. She sold the units on ebay, made a few bucks for the county. Then she bought electronic, touch screen voting units. They seem like they work pretty easily, most people can figure out what to do. They seemed like a good idea, except for one little detail - there is no paper trail. And by the time this got dragged through the courts, there was nothing anyone could do about it.

If that doesn't scare you, try this: the average number of voting machines at each of those eight early voting locations is five. 5. Let's do some simple math (it has to be simple, I'm an English major). 8 locations X 5 machines = 40 machines for the population of Palm Beach County who choose to vote early. The population of Palm Beach County is approximately 1,216,282. Granted, lots of those people aren't eligible to vote, they're children or felons or they're not citizens or they didn't bother to register to vote. But if even half are eligible and registered to vote, that invokes another simple math problem: 1,216,282 divided by 2 = 608,141 people who can vote on 40 machines over a two week period. What all this math comes down to is this: lots of waiting. The average waiting time to vote at the early voting location in my library started out at about 2 hours but within a couple of days, it jumped up to 4 hours. Lots of people came and went, refusing to wait. Lots of people kept coming back, trying time and time again, only to get more and more frustrated as the wait lengthened instead of shortened.

To add to the confusion, there was an historically large number of requests for absentee ballots, the last number I heard was well over 100,000. But lots of those folks never received their ballots. My mother, for example, has voted absentee for several years now because she is not well enough to wait on line to vote on election day - and the wait then is usually no more than 30 minutes or so during peak voting times. She got her absentee ballot for the primary, but it never came for the general election. So she called the supervisor of elections' office a week after they were mailed and she hadn't received it. She was told they would mail out another one. That one never showed up either. And she is not alone. Lots of people in the early voting line are there because they never received their absentee ballot and they cannot vote on election day. But other folks are there because they have nothing else to do and gives them something to bitch about, or because they don't know any better and their friends told them they should do it, or the campaigners called and offered them a ride to early voting, or for a myriad of other reasons. And it is close to impossible to get through by phone to the supervisor's office due to the sheer volume of calls.

All I know is my job has been much more difficult for the past two weeks. More frustrating. Louder. And much more stressful. I think I'll go read a book.

Monday, November 08, 2004

News Watch
Ex-Girlfriend Can Press Claims Against Best-Selling Author

New York Lawyer
November 5, 2004

By Mark Fass
New York Law Journal

A lawsuit charging popular novelist James Patterson with breach of contract and copyright infringement will proceed following a Southern District judge's partial denial Wednesday of Mr. Patterson's motion to dismiss.

Christina P. Sharp met Mr. Patterson in June 1996 and they soon planned to marry.

"In tandem with their romantic relationship, Sharp alleges, the two 'developed a close professional relationship,' in which Patterson discussed problems with his writing, and Sharp helped by acting 'as a sounding board and [making] suggestions,'" wrote Judge Gerard E. Lynch.

Mr. Patterson ended the relationship in April 1997. Following his publication of his bestseller "Cat and Mouse" (which allegedly incorporates Ms. Sharp's work into the text) and "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas" (allegedly based on her idea), Ms. Sharp filed suit.

The court dismissed seven other charges, including misappropriation and unjust enrichment, letting stand the charges of copyright infringement and breach of express or implied contract. Sharp v. Patterson, 03 Civ. 8772, will be published Wednesday in the New York LAw Journal.

Ex-Girlfriend Can Press Claims Against Best-Selling Author

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