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Elizabeth Fisher • Photo by Scott Beadle

Elizabeth Fisher • Photo by Scott Beadle

When this posts, she will be going…or gone.

Earlier, she sent an email that’s just…so her.

at 11am zurichtime, whatevertime, your time, give a cheer, hey, cause
off i go and it’s all good.

It seems weird to say that someone will be dying at a specified time, but Elizabeth Fischer chose assisted suicide when she found out recently that she had terminal lung cancer.

From that interview:

You’ve been really open about choosing suicide. How have people responded?

My demise has become a community effort, and that makes me feel pretty good. People in my coop, in my musicians’ community, the artists’ community, have been really kind and supportive. I’m being love-bombed, and it’s kind of overwhelming, because I had no idea they cared so much. [laughs heartily] They all think that I’m being so brave, though I don’t think of it that way. I’m just too smart to want to die in a hospital, racked with pain, tied to IVs, utterly humiliated.

I can’t remember precisely when I met efish on the EFNet #scientology channel (which, despite its name, was mostly a channel of critics), perhaps even before I became a channel op sometime around 1995 or 1996. I just remember her always being there, usually the cheerful one. Often talking about dancing, singing, writing, art, goulash, Hungarian, or the strange trip she’d taken through life.

Like many people in our lives, even when I no longer hung out with efish on line a lot and wandered away from Scientology criticism for quite a few years, I thought of her a lot.

We saw each others’ comments on Marty Rathbun’s blog in March 2014—this post, in fact—and reconnected via facebook and, briefly, IRC. Mom and I took a trip up to Vancouver Island this April, but we had to do it at breakneck speed (which turned out to be fortuitous; my mother became very ill almost immediately upon our return), so I sheepishly told Elizabeth I’d be back.

In retrospect, I feel foolish. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to carve out the time.

Her Projects

Orphans and Dogs Cover

It’s obvious there’s a hole in the Vancouver arts scene where she used to be.

Leaving Hungary

And now, a prose piece from efish about what it was like to be a refugee from her homeland. Illuminating for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember other large refugee crises, here’s a primer about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The refugee crisis was the first to be televised.

In terms of some since, it was far smaller than Syria (or Vietnam), so it was, relatively speaking, easy to find places to accommodate 200,000 people, 180,000 of whom fled into Austria. But that was by no means easy for those who were displaced…sometimes several times.

In that sense, assisted suicide—choosing the date, time, and place of one’s demise—makes a curious sense for someone blown about the globe by the whims of others at the earlier end of her life.


Hungary, 1956, mother, father and me don the family underwear and scramble off across the border to Austria. Onto Austria, where every hungarian arrives heroically freedomfighting, and from which one can only be shipped off to Argentina, where – according to mother – far off relatives await with open arms. And there they are the far off relatives but no open arms await cause they see the underwear and it makes them nervous.

There we are then, flowing sewage in front, rendering plant in back. Father works in a factory and amuses himself by teaching everyone how to swear in hungarian. And then comes home and announces okay, but he’d much rather kill himself. So mother stops the nine months long weeping and removes the one family jewel pinned to the family underwear and goes to sell it.

In the meanwhile, I attend school in spanish. A catholic school run by nuns, where during religion classes I get to sit on a bench in the yard and play with the flies.

So mother sells the family jewel and buys a ticket back to Europe, come what may. And we iron the underwear and embark on a french ship. French cockroaches rove our bodies and father states that the french are shits so we will definitely not be going to France. Mother nods and continues to weep.

We arrive back in Austria where everyone is sick of heroes and freedomfighters. So there we sit at the nearest refugee vacation facility, a fuck you gesture in austrian dialect.

A yearlong vacation, twentyfive to a room, the family underwear on a clothesline. Sporting events abound cause with hungarians, arguments are deemed sporting events. Mother weeps, father amuses himself with teaching the camp director choice hungarian obscenities.

Me, I attend school in german. And on holidays I am put on exhibit dancing rustic folk dances with a wine bottle on my head.

In the meanwhile, father’s skills in matters of hungarian language become popular. Here comes a swedish red cross rep and says he’s interested in higher learning. Okay, says father, but then how about a swedish visa. That’s hard, sighs the swede, cause everyone hates hungarians. We for example, only take persons with life threatening illnesses. That’ll be just fine, says father, look at mother there in the throes of fatal weeping. Don’t you think a rest in a fine swedish sanatorium would do her some good. Well, says the swedish rep, maybe it could be arranged, but then you’ll have to teach me something extremely exotic. Cause me, he says, I like to deeply explore foreign cultures. And then father reaches deep indeed and brings forth the most exotic of exotic cultural treasures, hidden gems from within, ancestral bon mots gingerly cradled all the way from his village of birth, exotic Babocsa, population 500, paragon of extreme hungarian cultural endeavours.

Once in Sweden, mother is carted off for a rest cure at a sanatorium. Father and I to a cute little refugeecamp by the sea. We have ourselves a great time cause no more hairbrushings and such, seeing as hygene is also resting with mother. After three weeks, mother is released from the sanatorium and continues where she left off. Weeping, she shakes the sand out of the family underwear and brushes the knots from my hair.

It is very nice in Sweden but fucking dull. Having nowhere else to go, we hang around for four years. No one to teach hungarian to cause the swedes are a very polite people. They quite politely hate all foreigners.

Me, I attend school in swedish. There are no religion classes and also no dancing.

After a while, father has had enough of all this fine innertia. He decides he wants to live in Canada. There are many refused canadian visa applications. Mother weeps. So then he decides to write a letter to the english queen. In the letter he says he has had enough of all this joking around. That he would love to leave the family underwear behind. Please allow him to live in Canada, where he, the hungarian Fischer Pista promises to sell zippers and be perfectly happy doing so, respectfully yours, your future subject, Mr. Steven Fischer. Post Scriptum, hogyha nem enged be akkor maga igazan egy hulye nagy barom es le van szarva.

And she lets him in.

The rest is less interesting. Well, okay, maybe a little bit interesting.

— © elizabeth fischer

Link Roundup

  • An early memorial for Elizabeth Fischer! Some great links, memories, and commenters on this one.
  • Beatrice Smartt

  • Stephen Harper ban on physician assisted suicide pushes Vancouver artist Elizabeth Fischer to plan death in Europe

    Fischer’s laugh, a recognizable alto chortle, is almost as notorious locally as her dark Hungarian scowl. The only child of Holocaust survivors, she first ventured into the Vancouver arts scene by running light shows for rock bands during the psychedelic era, and then progressed into leading her own bands via punk. The Animal Slaves were an anomaly during the days of D.O.A. and the Subhumans, featuring as they did actual musicians playing morbidly intricate tunes behind Fischer’s complex and poetic lyrics; more recently, Dark Blue World fused rock energy with improv jazz, again by way of a rotating cast of A-list players, including Tony Wilson, Cole Schmidt, Skye Brooks, and Pete Schmitt. Fischer also painted marvellous if not always flattering portraits of her friends, often in acidic greens and yellows; made several memorable LPs and CDs; fought against persecution of the Roma in her native Hungary; and, more secretly, was a quietly spectacular knitter, whose crocheted “baldguy caps” are fetish objects for those lucky enough to own them.

    About assisted suicide, a subject she’s quite passionate about:

    “When my dogs got sick, I made sure they didn’t suffer,” she says. “So why can’t the same thing happen for me?”

  • Elizabeth Fischer argues that jazz is the new punk—A piece from last year.
  • Elizabeth’s last Facebook status update.

No More Fitting End to This Post Than This

Elizabeth Fischer singing “Learning to Live” with the Animal Slaves.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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It was just under a year ago that Eugie Foster broke open a dam with her plea for people to buy her work, but not the Norilana editions. She was fighting cancer, an aggressive form.

Unfortunately, the treatments she’s gotten, including radiation, several courses of chemo, and stem cell therapy, weren’t enough to save her life.

Sadly, she died today.

If you don’t know Eugie’s work, she was an amazing writer with a Nebula award and a hundred-ish publishing credits to her name. Link below.

Her last published story is, “When it Ends, He Catches Her,” published in Daily Science Fiction.

A Note from Her Husband

Matthew M. Foster said:

Eugie Foster, author, editor, wife, died on September 27th of respiratory failure at Emory University in Atlanta.

In her forty-two years, Eugie lived three lifetimes. She won the Nebula award, the highest award for science fiction literature, and had over one hundred of her stories published. She was an editor for the Georgia General Assembly. She was the director of the Daily Dragon at Dragon Con, and was a regular speaker at genre conventions. She was a model, dancer, and psychologist. She also made my life worth living.

Memorial service will be announced soon.

We do not need flowers. In lieu of flowers, please buy her books and read them. Buy them for others to read until everyone on the planet knows how amazing she was.

You can find her fiction linked here on her website.

Some Tweets from Others

May she never be forgotten.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Robin Williams died, apparently of suicide. He’d been through a recent rehab program; he struggled with both addiction and depression.

For many years, I didn’t realize I struggled with depression. When I became involved in Scientology, the depression got worse, and the costs of admitting I had it rose. I left Scientology in 1989, but I didn’t seek help for my depression until 1997. To ask for “psych drugs” or traditional therapy was counter to all my programming.

At that point, I’d been widowed for a few months. I wasn’t suffering any obvious big-picture depression problems. I cried occasionally, but didn’t go on long crying jags.

I was waiting for my doctor, and read an article about depression. I had many of the secondary problems of depression: total inability to sleep at night (which has plagued me intermittently ever since) being the biggest one. As a secondary effect, my fibromyalgia raged on with the sleep irregularities and never went away.

My doctor prescribed me two antidepressants, one of which was amitriptyline. To this day, I’m still on nortriptyline to help regulate sleep (and thus pain), though I no longer feel depressed. Unless, of course, I go off of it, as I did for a few months. Big mistake.

My doctor told me that when he’d tell depressed people what drugs and/or therapy could do for them, they’d look at him like he was a Martian. My own example: I’d become convinced I’d never write again. It was too painful and too wrapped up in the identities both I and my late husband had.

I started to feel the emotional lift from one of the meds in a few days, and within two weeks I was starting to write again. Medication turned my life around and made it worth living again; I’m unhappy when I can’t write.

I’m thankful that I’ve only been suicidal during one very short period of my life, before my first marriage. I’ve known other people who’ve killed themselves (I tell one such story here), and I always feel sad for them and the people left behind.

Susan, I’m so sorry you lost your husband Robin.

If you’re reading this and struggling with depression: there are sources of help. What worked for me may not work for you, but please try to find something that helps, even if it doesn’t seem immediately effective.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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But still, you’d have much better odds at the craps table in Vegas than you would betting me to show up at WorldCon in 2014. Jay Lake, 2009

I found that while I was looking for a post I remembered, probably from 2009, about the depth of his fear that he’d have to go through a second round of chemo (he wound up going through several more than that—five?). I couldn’t find it, nor could I stand to look through the archives any longer just now.

I’ve never been able to say before, on the day someone died, “I had a great time at his wake last year.” That’s the kind of person Jay was.

I can’t remember exactly when I met Jay, but I think it was in 2002. It was definitely at a con, and I remember being in a low-density party room with Jay and Cassie Alexander, the only two people in that room at that time where I knew who they were.

Though I felt invisible, I became something of a fan. Later, when BayCon had invited Frank Wu (or, actually, I extended the invitation in person at Worldcon) for BayCon’s guest of honor, I started lobbying for Jay for Writer Guest of Honor. Kathryn Daugherty, who’d gotten to know Jay through the Worldcon circuit, thought that was a good idea, though generally BayCon was looking for higher-profile writers than Jay was at the time. (Specifically, they looked for a Hugo award or NY Times Bestseller. At that time, he’d had a bunch of short stories published, but no novels, though he’d won the Campbell award for Best New Writer.)

The singularly awesome moment, from my perspective, at that BayCon was Jay’s participation in “A Shot Rang Out.”

I invited my long-time friend Martin Young to speak. I knew he’d be fabulous at ASRO, but I also knew that I couldn’t tell Martin in advance what the concept was because he’d overthink it. So, a few minutes prior to the start of the panel, I stood in front of him and told him what it was all about.

“I hate you,” Martin said, not meaning it.

From a 2005 BayCon report.

Easily the highlight of Sunday (being one of two panels I got to sit in the audience for) was BayCon’s traditional “A Shot Rang Out” panel. It’s a simple concept and it depends so much on the people involved. This year, we had Hilary Ayer, Jane Mailander, Martin Young, Writer Guest of Honor Jay Lake, and Lee Martindale.

The concept: The story begins with “A shot rang out.” Each panelist must draw a slip out of a box and end their turn with that line. Anything in the middle goes. Jay Lake, when pulling one of his slips, asked, “Does this have to make any sense at all? The other panelists assured him not.

A few moments were especially worth noting.

Once, Martin ended his turn so spectacularly that Jay Lake, master of improv writing, couldn’t find a way to follow him. Jay ran across the stage and kissed Martin on the head, saying, “I have come to pledge my love for you, for no man has ever left me in such a hard place.”

Later, Martin pulled a slip and said, “Oh, f*, that’s a long one!”

Jay quipped, “Are you sure you said those words in the right order?”

For a few moments, no one could continue on, they were laughing so hard. Perfect retort.

He went on to publish Mainspring (which is an example of the kind of book I love but could never have written) and other novels.

Kathryn Daugherty and Jay Lake were diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer about the same time. Kathryn and I had never been best friends, but she was very influential in my life.

We’d recently been through a couple of rounds of cancer at the house: my mother had had endometrial cancer in 2006 and our cat Scruffy had a leg amputated after the reappearance of cancer.

It’s unusual for anyone with stage IV colorectal cancer to survive as long as Jay did; Kathryn died in 2012. He wanted to be there as long as possible for his daughter and went through hell to try to make that happen. He expressed so so many of his fears and doubts on his blog. If you ever need to know the pains and trials of being a cancer patient, so much of it is laid out in black and white on his blog. I think many of us had no idea what was involved in being a long-time cancer patient, and he blogged it in excruciating (and yet obviously incomplete) detail.

A little over a year ago, he was given his life walking papers in the form of a terminal diagnosis. For the first time, Rick and I made it up to the annual JayCon, then to JayWake.

In his wrapup, Jay said: “I have become medically interesting in two different ways, which is not really something you should aspire to.”

Other posts about Jay I’ve made:

Living vs. Dying
Fuck Cancer: New Art

Look, He Wasn’t Perfect

Because I believe OSC was right in telling the entire truth about a person after they pass:

K. Tempest Bradford makes a point.

The Clayton Memorial Medical Fund

Jay has asked for anyone wishing to make a contribution to do so to the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund.

Mary Robinette Kowal talks about having been helped by the fund.

Remember the Living

One thing I’ve noticed, especially after I was widowed myself, is that people talk a lot about the deceased, but tend to forget about the people still living.

Lisa Costello is an amazing person, and she has been blogging about her own life.

Bronwyn, of course, will miss her daddy.

And Jay left a widow, Susan Lake, whom he sometimes referred to as “The Mother of The Child.”

Jay’s parents are still alive.

And there are many other family members and friends.

His obituary can be found here.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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I wouldn’t normally make something like this public, but in order to reach the extended family I want to reach, this is the best way I know, especially since the narrative has been carefully controlled. I know a lot of you who read my blog are writers; you’re welcome to use whatever pieces of this you choose to in your own writing. There’s quite a few novels in this post.

You know me, always the Klingon Diplomat.


It’s really time I spoke up, and I’m not going to be as polite as either Rick or my mom.

There are four things you’ve said over the years that have really had staying power, defining your character to me.

“Make My First Million”

I can’t remember exactly what it was that you said you’d do (some sort of vacation, I believe), but you said you’d do it, and I quote, “after I make my first million.”

Now, you’re eight days older than I am, but my numbers brain was off calculating. Gosh, this year was really great, and I made thus-and-so at that job, and this other thing paid pretty well, and what did I make over there—I was trying to calculate whether my lifetime earnings to date were closer to two million or three.

In doing so, I completely missed the meaning of what you said. You didn’t mean you were going to get a job. You didn’t mean you were going to start a company.

You meant your mother had to die so you could inherit.

The horror of that just rattled around in my head for months.

“And sleeping in the room she died.”

Longer excerpt: “And goddammit I hate this cause I miss her every day. And sleeping in the room she died. It’s not all pretty.”

See, here’s the thing. You hired an attorney, went to court so you could stay in your mother’s house and live in the room where your mother died. Faye’s will and trust documents directed the house should be sold upon her death and the proceeds put in your trust. If you met the reasonable constraints, it’s about as much money per year, for the rest of an average life expectancy, that the average American household earns.

But nooooo, you wanted to continue to live there. How dare you whine about it.

Granted, you probably thought five years of free rent sounded pretty awesome. And your son has the epilepsy thing going on, and you argued that the stress of moving would increase his likelihood of seizures, so you wanted to stay in the house.

The thing is, I’m not sure it actually is less stressful. I lived in the house my late husband lived in after he died, and it was far more stressful living there than it was moving on and living in a new place.

There’s also the reasons why it may be stressful for your son to live in that house. You know, the one where he lived with his grandmother and wouldn’t even speak to her—so she disinherited him. Faye showed me, more than once, when he wouldn’t speak to her when she said things like “hello.”

Honestly? That’s on you. He’s a minor, and a teenager, and you failed to stop inexcusable behavior time and time again. Faye could have changed her will at any point between the time she made it in 2009 and the time she died in 2011. To do so, she’d need to have known that the four of you would behave like human beings.

Did I speak to my grandmother after she disinherited me? Yes I did. I wasn’t happy about being disinherited (who would be?), but it was her money to do what she pleased with it.

What the Trust Solved

The trust solved several possible problems, some of which you may not have thought of:

  1. It’s a disincentive to homicide, specifically homicide against you. Since your heirs don’t benefit from your life trust after your death, there’s an incentive to keep you alive. (Rick and I hope you live a long life, to be clear.)
  2. The trust income offers you the capacity to leave your husband if that’s what you choose to do. By being in a trust, there’s no possible disagreement about what assets are yours vs. his. Quite a few times you were ready to leave him. Then, suddenly, you flip around and he’s your soul mate. That made my mother literally facepalm when you said it to her.
  3. The trust’s constraints encourage you to find your voice through career, volunteering, or art. Which, according to the trust accounting last October, you hadn’t been doing. That covered substantively 1-3/4 years after Faye died.

Your Referring to Your Trust in Scare Quotes

Get a clue. Everyone is pretty upset about, well… everything. And may I also say. Lots of it is not about mom dying. People have issues with you! I hate to say it, but clearly it needs to be said. You have offended a lot of the family. Aside from our situation with the ‘Trust’. And before her death.

First of all, since we haven’t seen “everyone” (Rick’s extended family) since Faye died, then it must be you who created those issues, right?

Also: it’s not Rick’s fault that your mother didn’t trust you. He had nothing to do with the creation of the document. Whatever you have put on him is misplaced. You should be angry at you. You should be angry at your husband Mike, who right after the signing, went to go bully Faye saying he “deserved” a share. I don’t even. Honestly, I think Faye had good reasons to structure things the way she did.

Look, I’m not mentioned in Faye’s will or trust documents at all, and I’m not bent out of shape about it. Think about that for a while.

Since all this conversation came about because you asked Rick to take legal action to alter the terms of the life trust your mother’s estate planning created for your benefit, let’s review what the terms of you receiving periodic payments are (quoting verbatim):

(1) The beneficiary is employed full time in an occupation to which she devotes at least 35-40 hour of work per week;
(2) The beneficiary is pursuing a career, which is socially productive on a full time basis, such as a career as an artist or a musician;
(3) The beneficiary has demonstrated independent financial responsibility, including an ability to properly manage money and to provide for herself without the support of trust distributions.
The trustee’s determination of the beneficiary’s financial responsibility, taking into consideration the factors in this section 6.1(b) and any other factors that the trustee may deem appropriate, shall be final and incontestable by any person.

In other words: get a job, where job could be something you could do at home (e.g., painting, writing). Paraphrasing the next section, the trustee’s discretion for special circumstances, the exceptions are: (1) if you’re disabled, even temporarily, and that disability prevents a career; (2) you’re pursuing an educational, scientific, or charitable goal that the trustee thinks is in your best interest; (3) you’re caring for elder or dependent family members other than your spouse. Same trustee determination, “final and incontestable by any person.”

So I hope you’re not asking Rick for help with that.

I’m not sure what you’re asking help with, because you refuse to be clear. But the no-contest provision applied to you is quite harsh:

If Michele Moen Strickland, singularly or in combination with any other person or persons, directly or indirectly does any of the following acts, then the right of MICHELE to take any interest given to her under this Will, or by any other instrument designated in this Section 5.6 as a part of my estate planning documents, shall be void and any gift or other interest in the trust property to which MICHELE would otherwise have been entitled shall pass as if she predeceased me without issue:

It obviously goes on from there, but if you’re asking Rick to help you, you’re working in concert with him. If asked by the judge, Rick would be honest about that.

So what would happen? Rick would then inherit the entirety of your trust.

Basically, it seems like you’re asking your brother to screw you out of your inheritance. Which, for the record, Rick is careful not to do. We know of people like that, ’tain’t us.

The Big Showstopper for Me

So you asked your brother to help you retroactively change the trust.

Then he cornered you about our not being invited to family gatherings at your house, and you said:

If you had called I would have greeted you kindly and just explained that I don’t feel it’s a good idea for you and my husband and your nephews to be together. There is still much healing to do.

So: we’re good enough to ask for help with money/legal, but not good enough to invite over to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter?

Fuck you.

Here’s a note Rick wrote to Isadora in 2010 after you sided with the abuser:

I got over to my mother’s house last night, to ensure that her third quarter estimated tax got paid. While making an offhand remark to Michael Strickland about how I was looking for the Bank of the West filing bin, Strickland blew up emotionally, walked up to 1″ from my face, and spent about 20 minutes yelling various sorts of rather insane personal abuse at me. (This was a blowup out of the blue, but it’s happened on three prior occasions, with him threatening explicit physical violence against me on two of them.)

Michele Strickland telephoned Moraga PD. Meanwhile, I retreated back to the office to complete the tax papers. When they arrived, Michele commenced lying to all parties. First, she lied to the police, claiming my mother was asleep for the night and could not be disturbed. (This was wholly untrue.)

The Stricklands told the police that they as residents wanted me removed from the premises. (I advised the police that the Stricklands are uninvited free-of-charge guests living parasitically off my mother, who has repeatedly asked them to leave, and they have refused to go.) The police attempted to pressure me to depart. I said that, if anyone attempted to make me depart before I completed the tax prep. work, that ‘There will be one hell of a lawsuit’. Eventually, they backed off, and departed.

I completed the tax papers, and took it upstairs to my mother, who of course was awake and waiting. She wrote the cheques, completing the work at just about midnight. I described events downstairs to her, and said my goodbyes.

As I was leaving, Michele Strickland entered my mother’s room and had the gall to lie to my mother: ‘You know, I needed to call the police on Rick.’

That was the last straw for me about Michele Strickland. I’m done having anything to do with her.

If you want to live with someone like your husband, that’s your business. Pity your son is paying the consequences. Under another situation like that, my mother almost called the cops on your husband. Probably she should have, in retrospect.

I’m glad my mother-in-law no longer has to live under those conditions, though I miss her a lot.

I considered saying that in order have my backing on anything you wished to do, you’d have to invite us to family gatherings and behave. All of you.

Fuck that. I’m done.

I’m glad we don’t have the stress of your husband’s misbehavior any more.

In Closing

Your mother (technically, both of your parents since much of the money came from your father’s lawsuit) offered you an amazing gift. That offer’s still open.

Instead of looking at it as an opportunity, you berate it with scare quotes: ‘trust’.

I hope your life is worth the money you seem so set on screwing yourself out of so you can get emotional support for your “poor me” narrative. Me, I’ll golf clap from the sidelines.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Most of you reading this will have no idea who Jackie Barbosa is. Nor who her son is.

Jackie’s a romance writer. Last week, her teenage son was driving to school and struck by an oncoming car. Dear Author mention is here, including link to a fundraiser.

I don’t know Jackie, but I do know what it’s like to have a husband suddenly die, and it really and truly sucks.

So, what I’m asking: here’s her booklist. If any of those are your cuppa, consider reading a sample and see if it’s something you want to buy and read the rest of. If you know other people who might like her work, consider telling them about her stuff.

She has a blog about publishing matters (she is a hybrid author, meaning both published traditionally and self-published). You might wish to read that. Like, for example, this post about metadata ownership concerns in publishing contracts. So, even if you don’t care about the romance genre, if you write, there may be something of interest to you in there. Maybe even if you don’t write.

From my own experience and that of others I’ve known in grief support groups since my first husband’s death, it’s going to take 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 years to be fully productive again. I don’t know how many of you read the linked Esquire article in my recent MH 370 blog post, but part of what was disturbing about it for me was how the article really communicated how differently people grieve and how that can drive a wedge between family members when someone dies. And in the case of that article, between parents who’d lost a child.

I wish her (and her family) the best.

Update: Kensington has put one of her books on sale until 4/1. Link has details.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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On the ring finger of my left hand, I wear the wedding ring that once belonged to Pan Am Captain Arthur Moen. My late father-in-law, whom I never met.

Anyone who flies a lot fears the worst. Truly, on average, the risks in commercial aviation are low. Not zero, but low. Those of us who flew, say, 160,000 miles last year, some of that over the Indian Ocean, might be a wee bit more stressed about MH 370 than average folks.

This household, though, is a dual-NTSB-report family. A dual-NTSB-fatality-report family.

Rick and I were the same age when tragedy struck our families’ lives in very different ways.

My Side O’ The Family

My stepfather had a Cessna 182, and it was on a leaseback, meaning other people could pay to fly it when we weren’t. One pilot with 1500 hours (quite a lot for a private pilot) decided to fly himself and three passengers to the Reno air show that year.

The pilot blew off the weather briefing that morning and, despite not being instrument rated (and the plane didn’t have the right gear for IFR), he took off in weather that required instruments. The fog was all the way to the ground at the place of impact.

The pilot mis-estimated where he was and, well, “struck obscured mntn side” says it all, doesn’t it?

Four people died. NTSB report.

Crash victim family members threatened to sue my family. There was an NTSB investigation, but our hands were clean. Still, when you’re a kid (or even an adult), it’s rather horrifying to think that the plane you flew in not so long ago flew full-speed into a mountain and caught fire.

Rick’s Side O’ The Family

Rick’s father’s case is the more famous one, a Pan Am cargo flight to Viet Nam.

The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was an attempted takeoff with the flaps in a retracted position. This resulted from a combination of factors; (a) inadequate cockpit checklist and procedures; (b) a warning system inadequacy associated with cold weather operations; (c) ineffective control practices regarding manufacturer’s Service Bulletins; and (d) stresses imposed upon the crew by their attempts to meet an air traffic control deadline.

On Christmas Day, the flight left San Francisco, bound for Anchorage for refueling. The weather at the commercial airport was unsafe, so they landed at Elmendorf Air Force Base instead. The following morning (which, being Alaska in December, was completely dark), there were a number of irregularities in procedure during takeoff, and the time pressure wasn’t helping.

None of the three people survived the resulting crash.

The NTSB report resulted in a number of psychological studies on the relative effectiveness of checklists, though. Overall, checklist procedures at all airlines changed, albeit slowly.

The findings and related research were incorporated into other works. An example would be this dissertation. Or, perhaps strangely, the NTSB’s conclusions reached software development books like Model-Driven Development of Advanced User Interfaces.

Perhaps the most relevant book would be The Multitasking Myth (Ashgate Studies in Human Factors for Flight Operations):

However, accumulating scientific evidence now reveals that multitasking increases the probability of human error. This book presents a set of NASA studies that characterize concurrent demands in one work domain, routine airline cockpit operations, in order to illustrate that attempting to manage multiple operational task demands concurrently makes human performance in this, and in any domain, vulnerable to potentially serious errors and to accidents.

These were things that were largely unknown at the time. Pity we found some of them out the hard way.

If a job asks you to multitask? Better hope what you’re doing isn’t critical.

The Waiting

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder if the Asiana 214 report will be ready soon. I double-check to see I haven’t missed it.

Three weeks before the Asiana crash at my home airport, SFO, I was returning home from Alaska—my first trip there, and a place Rick understandably doesn’t wish to return to—when my United flight missed their approach and did a go-around. It was very strange looking out the window down at the airport from an angle you’re not supposed to see it.

While I hadn’t had a near miss, let’s just say that it rattled me. I didn’t tell Rick about the missed approach until the Asiana crash because it involved Alaska.

The only reason my wedding ring exists? Art had left it home to see if it could be adjusted by the local jeweler as it wasn’t fitting him right any more. Therefore it wasn’t in Alaska when the crash occurred.

So MH 370 —especially as someone who flew the airline last year (Maldives-Malaysia-Myanmar)—has me on tenterhooks.

We want to know what happened. We’re realists; we expect that there are no survivors. But we want to understand what happened. To feel reassured that’s not going to happen to us. We feel it more deeply than many other people because we’ve pored over other NTSB reports, become fascinated with tragic failures.

Family history has become part of our culture in gruesome ways. Rick keeps a photo of that particular Pan Am plane (the featured image for this post) at his desk at work. In my office at Apple, I kept a vintage ad for electronics marketing from Pan Am, also featuring that exact plane. Sadly, I don’t have the ad showing the tail number, but I have seen a copy. I just saw it minutes after it was sold. The ad I do have, though, was clearly taken in the same photo session.

Rick says that his real nightmare, thanks to SwissAir 111 (and the amazing writing in this Esquire piece), is this scenario. Warning: this is extremely difficult reading and will likely become a nightmare for you, too.

Then he told his wife, and she said, Until they phone us with the news, we have to believe. And the man said, But darling, they’re not going to phone with news like that. They’d come to the door —

And before he’d finished his sentence, the doorbell rang.

Two hundred thirty-nine people’s families are waiting for their doorbells to ring.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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When Rose Lemberg and I ran Vera Nazarian’s fundraiser, we each had our own reasons for helping.

I’ll link to Rose’s below, but here are mine.

In 2003, I befriended another person on a forum where we knew each other anonymously (this forum required pseudonyms). Let’s call him Cas. He lived in the Portland, Oregon area. I can’t remember exactly when we first met face to face, but I believe it was 2005. Cas was in town for business (he was a mid-level manager in electronics), and he, Rick, and I had dinner.

In 2006, I took a traditional chairmaking workshop in Portland for a week. Cas and I went out for dinner to his favorite Chinese restaurant, which was a very informal place, but very tasty. In 2007, Cas was once again in my area for business, and he, Rick, and I went out for dinner again.

At that time, Cas was at the very end of what would turn out to be his last job.

Look, I’m going to say it, because I think the truth needs to be said when I’m talking this stuff (which is part of why I’m giving you a nick and not his real name): he was not the most ethical person. I don’t know the whole story, and I don’t care, but he’d done something wrong (and by “wrong,” I mean big ticket wrong) in the past where wound up with an IRS bill of over a hundred grand that was not dischargeable in Chapter 7, only Chapter 13. I believe the rules have subsequently changed, but those were the rules in place at the time.

However, in between when he’d incurred that debt and when I met him, he’d straightened up a lot. Not completely, but a lot. (For me, growth is a more important trait than perfection.)

And he’d had a Chapter 7 years and years before, but this IRS bill was weighing around his neck. In 2005, he filed Chapter 13. Even after he’d lost his job, he’d kept paying on the Chapter 13. His wife had to file Chapter 13 also just so they could keep the house (because they could defer other bills and reduce their household expenses). She had chronic illness, so that was yet another complicating factor.

If he’d gotten a job again, it would have been bearable, but he never did. Months turned into a year, and everything started to fall apart. His creditors asked for relief from the bankruptcy stay beginning in March 2008, right as I got my job at Apple.

Cas never told me.

I was so high on having gotten the job I wanted, I wasn’t really aware that he was deflecting, something he hadn’t done with me before. Only much later, when I looked back, was I able to see that our conversations started shifting at about that point in time.

In August, his bankruptcy was dismissed. He still never told me. Then he started to really withdraw, but I was so busy at work, I honestly barely noticed.

The morning they came to foreclose upon his house late October 2008, he shot and killed himself.

His family called, and I spoke to his brother.

I felt horribly guilty. No, it wasn’t my fault, but I feel guilty that I wasn’t present enough to call him on his withdrawal. I felt guilty that he’d previously trusted me with stuff, and, for whatever reason, maybe I’d lost his trust at a time when he needed someone most to vent to. I regretted not being there.

Even more horribly, I got why he did it. The house was solely in his name, and, in his own weird way, he was trying to protect his wife in a non-community property state. Undeniably, he was sending a big old “fuck you” to the bank foreclosing on the house, knowing they couldn’t sell it as is. That would be a very Cas-like approach. Part of me respects that.

The IRS debt was also solely his and from before marrying his wife, so the innocent spouse rule applied. If he died, she was free from it.

You know what? I miss my friend.

So, when only a few weeks later, someone else I knew sent out a bat signal that they were going to lose their home to foreclosure?

Of course I helped Vera. I felt like I’d failed Cas, but I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. I didn’t do it for Vera anywhere near as much as I did it for Cas.

About That Growth Thing

I’d seen Cas grow over the years I’d known him.

What I haven’t seen is Vera’s growth, and I’ve known her longer.

Cas never asked to borrow money from me (or manipulated money out of me), even when he desperately needed it.

Vera, on the other hand, is all about other people giving her money by whatever means. I’m not actually sure what verb applies to what Vera did, so I’m not going to go there, especially not when strict liability for libel may apply.

It’s not a happy verb, though.

I will say, however, one of the things Teresa Nielsen Hayden said once that has really stuck with me: “the long con is a narrative form.”

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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I’m surprised that I feel such a loss at his death.

He wasn’t my favorite actor.

I like to call him: my favorite actor whose choices I mostly hated and mostly couldn’t watch. That’s because I strongly prefer comedy to drama and he clearly went the other way on that scale. Sometimes I would watch his movies even though I knew I’d hate them, but I stopped doing that after Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

State & Main is one of my favorite films. A friend said he didn’t like it because it “lacked warmth.” Well, he’s from the south, so I just kinda laughed at that and said, “It’s got great warmth for Northern New England. After all, styles of warmth differ.” And it did. (And they do.)

So I’ll hang onto that and The Big Lebowski, Twister (aka: The Weather Channel with a plot), The Invention of Lying, and Pirate Radio.

And maybe, just maybe, at some point I’ll be in a place where I can watch The Master.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Anyone who thinks grief is something you should get over has never been an inadvertent party to someone’s death.

Which I have. (Serious TMI warning)

5 Lies You Were Told About Grief covers a lot of things those of us who’ve grieved the loss of others have put up with. Or failed to put up with.

“Let’s see how you cope with it after accidentally killing someone,” I once told a guy who told me I should be over it.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, completely clobbered by my usual “Let’s just use verbal blunt force trauma, shall we?” approach to rude people.

“I’m not,” I replied. I didn’t do anything stupid. I couldn’t have known. I didn’t get what was happening immediately, and I felt guilty about that, but: in the end, it didn’t matter. The doctor told me that, even if it had happened in the hospital, he would have died anyway.

I’ve told myself those things ten thousand times.

It doesn’t help.

This is not to say that it doesn’t get better. It does get better.

But it will never be the way it used to be.

Once upon a time, I went through such dramatic changes so suddenly that I described my new emotional landscape as “being teleported blindfolded to a new house with lots of pointy-edged modern furniture.”

That’s what grief is like.

The old house?


The new house ain’t so bad once you know it well enough to come to terms with it. Eventually, the blindfold will fade away.

But it’s still not the same house you used to have.

My mother-in-law died two years (and one day) ago, so I know how difficult holiday seasons can be.

Having a difficult time right now? Please talk to someone. Want to talk to me? You can comment here (on any of the blogs this gets posted to), chat with me on Google (dsmoen@) or iCloud (deirdre@) or Twitter (@deirdresm).

Be safe.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Every year, my body lets me know that it’s the annual period of mourning, aka the anniversary of my first husband’s death. (Which was Friday, fwiw.)

You know, you’d think that being happily remarried for several times as long as I knew my first husband would make the grief go away. Weirdly, it doesn’t.

The only way I can explain it now is that it’s like feeling like you’ve got half a flu. Not so much a dull ache in the chest as it used to be, just something experienced through the entire body like some ordinary pestilence.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Kameron Hurley has quite the health care saga.

It’s inspired me to write up my own story.

I’d started a new job in May. Got married in June. Twice, in fact: the legal civil ceremony and a more symbolic one in Ireland.

There was time to do all the rest of the paperwork, right? Before then, I’d been on a large-deductible policy, but couldn’t add my partner because he wasn’t my husband.

Oh, and I had that policy because I had no health care through my employer. In fact, technically, I didn’t have an employer — I was a contractor for a Canadian firm that was illegally avoiding US hiring practices. They had an office in the US, but they paid everyone as though they were a contractor. What could possibly go wrong?

Fast forward to November. Yes. The same year. (He was a lot older; I sometimes joke that we didn’t have a May-December relationship, only a June-November one.)

My husband has a stroke. Given the obvious symptoms of hemiplegia and aphasia, I knew it was severe. At the time the EMTs arrive, I’m wondering about things like long-term rehab, fearing I’d have to give up my career in software development.

Instead, he was non-responsive not long after arriving at the hospital. However, as the hospital lacked more sophisticated equipment (no MRI machine, for example), they had to do EEGs over a period of 24 hours in order to declare him dead. Which meant a minimum of 24 hours in the ICU — about as expensive as it gets for a hospital stay sans surgery.

When I agreed to donate his organs, they asked if they could airlift him to the transplant hospital in order to declare him dead sooner (which would preserve transplantability of organs). Which I agreed to.

Indeed, his declaration of death was about 16 hours after the initial stroke.

Then I got the bills from all the care providers. All told, it was over $30,000. Some of that was for line items I shouldn’t have been billed for. While technically (and for very good reasons), I owed for his care up until the declaration of death, line items related to preserving his organs or prepping him for transport weren’t things I should be billed for. They did indeed have to do heart work in order to keep it pumping.

But, to me, preserving someone else’s life was the most important thing.

So it was really a shock to go over those line items, realizing I could have just said no to any additional care that’d keep his heart beating longer — and it would have cost less. But it wouldn’t have been right in my book.

I so didn’t need the line item call with the organ bank to see what should have been billed to them vs. me.

I recall writing a bunch of checks. About $13,000 or so. The bill had been whittled down. My numbers brain says it was in the neighborhood of $17,185 before my payments. A charity designed to help folks in our situation picked up the rest, and I never received another bill.

I don’t know who those lovely people were who contributed, but — thank you.

After he died, I asked for a week off work. (Yeah, that was stupid. Duh. I was in shock.)

After trying to get my act together, I went on temporary disability for three months for the simple reason that I couldn’t think. Without the ability to concentrate, I couldn’t work. I went on anti-depressants, paid for by the disability.

The tale I tell about anti-depressants is this: before starting them, I was convinced I’d never write again. Within a couple of weeks after starting them, I was writing again. I wasn’t writing well, but I was able to put together something of a plot. It took longer for my programming brain to come back (I could write about the pain, but programming needed a clearer head).

Those pills weren’t cheap, though amazingly, this was one period when the stupid prescription plan through my credit card company was worth its weight in gold. After spending as much as I had on medical for myself and my late husband, I didn’t have enough money to take the three months I needed off. The safety net protected me at a time of crisis. I’ve paid for that over and over with my tax dollars so that other people will be able to use it in their times of crisis, too.

Unfortunately, end-of-life care is horrifically expensive. It’s when hospital bills tend to be disproportionately high, and the bereaved is/are left holding only the bills.

It could have been much, much worse. It didn’t have to be that bad. From now on, it won’t be, because my late husband would now have an affordable means to get coverage.

Maybe he’d have had those headaches checked out.

Maybe they’d have found the aneurysm before it burst.

Maybe it could have been repaired.

Maybe he’d still be alive today, never having had a stroke.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)
I've been hearing people get berated over how they did or did not express their grief over the Boston tragedy. Except for re-posting Patton Oswalt's excellent facebook post, I've been silent on the issue.

One thing I learned going through the widow routine is that every form of grief is different, and none of what you feel is wrong. Sure, your actions may be inappropriate, but what you feel isn't.

I'm just going to say it: I accidentally killed my husband of five months with a blowjob.

He had an aneurysym, unbeknownst to both of us, and it blew. His blood pressure was 260/160 by the time the paramedics arrived, and I got to watch one brain function shut down after another. I sincerely hope I never see anything that terrifying ever again.

Do you think that my experience had any relevance to the long-married widows and widowers who had lost their spouses to cancer? Heart attack? Whatever? No, it did not. I felt more alone going to a grief support group than I had before I went.

Because every form of grief is different. Really.

I still get hit by that in the weirdest ways. Like, for example, I donated his organs and got a letter from the son of the liver transplant recipient. Years passed. I was working at Apple when Steve Jobs, who was a liver transplant recipient, died. And, wham. I wasn't aware that there was a part of grieving that hadn't happened because not all of my late husband is dead. (I do know the name of the transplant recipient, and he has never appeared on the Social Security Death Index. So I infer.)

So, about that grief. Let people feel what they actually feel, and if you need permission to feel however you actually feel, you have mine.

See also Jim Keller's great post.
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(Please repost if you're so inclined)

Many of you may have heard about the teen lesbian couple shot in Texas. One of them, Mollie Judith Olgin, was killed; the other, Mary Kristene Chapa, survived but has hospital bills.

A family member has erected a fundraising site for Chapa's medical expenses. If you can do so, I'm sure she'd appreciate the help.

Faye, RIP

Dec. 22nd, 2011 11:27 pm
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My mother-in-law, Faye Dalton, died Dec. 22 at the age of 87.

Here she is in 1966 with Art, Rick’s father.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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I know most of you have heard by now. Though I’ve only literally had a nodding acquaintance with Steve over the years — passing him in the quad during a long interview day in 1998, seeing him at Caffé Macs twice, and, of course, nodding at him once or twice at WWDCs or MacWorldExpos past — I never really knew him.

His influence on my life, though, has been palpable.

In January, 1985, I sat down waiting for a computer salesman. I was going to buy a PC, and, while I waited, I played with a Macintosh. I wound up buying a Macintosh. That, as they say, was that.

I wound up being a Macintosh programmer as a result. In 1986, I did some consulting in the same building in Cupertino where I now work.

While I have owned several Linux machines over the years, I’ve owned 21 Macs:

Mac 512k
Mac Plus
Mac SE
Mac SE/30 x 2
Mac IIcx
Mac IIci
Mac LC
PowerBook 145
PowerMac 6100
PowerMac G3 (blue “Yosemite”)
iMac (Grape)
PowerMac G4 Cube
iBook (barbie make-up case in Blueberry, then another in Cobalt)
iBook (x3)
MacBook Pro (x3, currently a late 2010 unibody)

Then there’s the other gadgets: quite a few iPods, two Apple TVs, three iPhones, and one iPad.

My favorite device Apple’s made?

The one in the picture:

Many people have cited Jobs’s Stanford Commencement speech as worthy of note. It’s been one of my favorites for years, and I really think it’s worth listening to once a year:

I particularly love how he turns the crowd around, but my favorite part is really the underlying message: do what you really care about in your life, what’s really important.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

And he didn’t.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Many of you who go to conventions, especially on the east coast, will know Ben Yalow.

His mother, Rosalyn Yalow, was a Nobel-prize-winning scientist, one of 15 women who've wone said prize in the sciences (Physics, Chemistry, or Physiology/Medicine).

Here's her NY Times obit. Inspiring, especially for women.

If you are, or if you know, a type 2 diabetic, you should give particular thanks as received her Nobel prize for her work in that field.

My favorite part of the obit:

"Their early work met with resistance. Scientific journals initially refused to publish their discovery of insulin antibodies, a finding fundamental to radioimmunoassay. The discovery, in 1956, challenged the accepted understanding of the immune system; few scientists believed antibodies could recognize a molecule as small as insulin. Dr. Yalow and Dr. Berson had to delete a reference to antibodies before The Journal of Clinical Investigation accepted their paper, and Dr. Yalow did not forget the incident; she included the rejection letter as an exhibit in her Nobel lecture."
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Irzen Octa, a man in Indonesia, apparently died as a result of injuries inflicted upon him when he went in to Citibank to cope with an inflated credit card bill. (It's not uncommon, though illegal, in Indonesia for corrupt bankers to inflate bills like that then pock the difference. Here's another Citibank-related case.)

Citibank's answer? "we do not believe anyone physically harmed Mr. Octa when he came to our office."

Nevertheless, three were arrested; he died of an aneurysm, basically.

I have seen a death from an aneurysm. It's the scariest thing I've ever seen, and I hope to never, ever see anything more terrifying.

Rest in peace.


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