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Friday, March 31, 2006

Tallahassee and Online Dating Legislation

I've become involved in several different kinds of legislation, online dating being one of them. I was interviewing people for a chapter about online dating for my next book when I came across True.com. They do criminal background checks of everyone who joins. I went back to the other dating web sites I'd been looking at. None did background checks of any kind. So I contacted True.com and got an email back from Terra Gray. I asked her how this worked and she said it cuts down on anyone with felony convictions, making their members safer. Intriguing! True.com also prosecutes anyone who is found to be married after joining their web site. They do NOT tolerate this at all. Terra told me about some legislation they were trying to get passed in several states. It would require all online dating web sites to disclose whether they did criminal background checks or not.

Simple, yes?

You'd think the world was coming down from the whining from the opponents to this. Everything from "they're trying to regulate the Internet," to "True.com is doing this for their own benefit," to worse. So I offered to testify on behalf of the legislation.

As someone who works with online victims and police departments on a daily basis, I've seen cases where online dating situations have gone wrong. A simple "We do criminal background checks" or "We do not do criminal background checks" is simple and only common sense.

What's worse is that Match.com is against this legislation, yet they already disclose on their web site that they do not do criminal background checks. Say what? They are afraid that passing this legislation will regulate the Internet. Hello?

Anyone opposed to this legislation makes me wonder what they are hiding.

I flew to Tallahassee last week to testify in both the House and the Senate. This was the first of several committees the legislation has to go through. I stayed at The Governors Inn, steps from the capitol building where the hearings would be held. I got a Junior Suite, which basically was an oversized room with a sofa. And the scariest old wardrobe I've seen. It made the one on Chronicles of Narnia look cute.

I met Cyn Henderson, the local lobbyist, for a drink at the Governors Club, a private bar. Since I was still in my traveling clothes (jeans, sneakers, comfy shirt), I was the most underdressed (but most comfortable) person there. Cyn is a sweetheart, very pretty, very intelligent and funny. We talked about the hearing the next day, then she had to go off with her son to a sports event.

I ended up getting takeout from Andrews Capital Grill, directly across the street from my hotel. I asked for a glass of wine while I waited. The waitress came back with two glasses - it was happy hour. I told her I couldn't finish both and she sneaked me a "togo" cup to take the wine back to my room.

The next morning I met Cyn and we walked to the capitol and began a long day of walking through the capitol, meeting with senators to make sure they were on board with us. Terra met us and she is a riot! She has Tracey Ullman's eyes and is a true Texan.

When the hearing finally came, I was the only one to get up and testify and I slew them. The bill passed that committee. Senator Lynn tore the opposing side a new butthole, if you get drift. She was amazing when she asked them why they opposed.

We celebrated with drinks at Andrews outside in the beautiful weather. There was a street fair going on, so it was fun watching all the people. Cyn had to take off, so Terra and I headed to a Japanese restaurant. Cyn met us later, then Terra and I went to hotel to have a nightcap at the bar. Good lord, these people can drink.

The next morning we all met up and did the same rounds for the representatives this time. I have never walked so much. There were rumors that one of the reps was trying to get the bill put on hold, trying to rewrite it, and more. A very vocal opponent who plainly did not like the rep who introduced the bill, Rep Kevin Ambler, who I'd met last year.

Time came again for us to testify and again, I was the only one who got up to do so. The rep against the bill asked me questions. I answered and kept it brief. The woman from Match.com and the other opponents got up. All I have to say is next time you guys go up to oppose the legislation:

1) Keep it brief
2) Stick to the facts and make sure they *are* facts
3) Do your research

Needless to say, the bill passed the committee.

We celebrated by going to Clusters & Hops, a wine shop/restaurant. And wonderful! Very eclectic, superb food. Lots of fun. It was all us girls, gabbing, drinking wine with our dinners (I had sliced duck breast with foie gras), and just having fun. One girl I met, Brandy, told us this hilarious story about a cruise she recently took with her hubby. I'll recount it in a later post.

I have not had so much to drink in a long time. I just am not a huge drinker. Cyn drove me back to my hotel, I stumbled in, went up to my room and wouldn't you know it, neither of my keys worked. So I had to negotiate my way downstairs and ask the desk clerk to help me. He said the computers had done something wacky with a bunch of the room keys and had mine fixed in no time.

Got to my room, undressed and collapsed. Thank goodness my flight didn't leave early the next day.

I met Terra at her hotel at 1030 am to get a ride to the airport. We were laughing about the night before. Both of our flights left around the same time, so we grabbed an early lunch, gabbed some more, then said goodbye.

I had a two hour layover in Charlotte, NC again, so I did another chair massage, got two white chocolate-covered strawberries for later and relaxed.

Got home late, talked with Chris, then hit the sack.

I'll write about my lecture in Augusta, Maine tomorrow.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A little computer humor

Perfect for those who sometimes hate their computer:

Mad Computer

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Beemer Bummer

I bought my BMW 528e in 1990 when we lived in California. It was only five years old. It was in storage while we lived in Okinawa, has been driven cross country and been lovingly cared for. I always got the oil changed every three months, whether it needed it or not. When things broke, they got fixed. I had a new muffler put on last year and new rims and tires two years ago.

When I got back from my recent trip, my Beemer's front end was kinda shaky. So I took it to a Sullivan Tire, thinking it needed a front end alignment. Nope. It needed a new idler arm for the right side, front brakes, new front tires and an alignment. All told, over $500 worth of work. The Kelly Blue Book on the car was $238 because of its age and the mileage (186,000). I had planned on getting a newer car in May or June, when the payments on Chris' Jeep were done. But I called him and he said it was time to get a new car.

So I started looking online Friday afternoon at local dealers. I wanted to get another used Beemer. I'd had the 528e for 16 years. It served me well, so I wanted to stick with what works best for me. Plus tax, registration and insurance would be lower, not to mention the price of a brand new car.

Saturday morning I looked at a local paper's classifieds online and found a Beemer that was "it." And it was only 45 minutes away, at Land Rover Scarborough. A 1999 BMW 528i, 4 door sedan, leather interior, all the works, including heated seats with individual setting for driver and front passenger, heated steering wheel, and more goodies. . and just 41,000 miles! The color, Glacier Green, looked beautiful. I called and spoke to the salesperson, Kristin, asked her some questions, then took a shower. I cleaned out my old Beemer, got my title and headed to Scarborough alone.

Kristin saw me drive onto the lot and came out to greet me. She was in her early 20s, very cute and had only been on the job for two weeks. She was from Minneapolis. She got a temp plate so that we could go for a test drive. I walked around the new Beemer. Not a blemish on it. The color was even nicer in person. It was spotless inside. One previous owner, who turned out to be anally retentive (he underlined things in the manual and made notations in it as well and had all the service stamps put in it).

Driving it was like a dream. We chatted while I drove, playing with the various buttons, making sure the cassette deck worked. It was prewired to take a 6-CD changer, which was cool. Tried out the sunroof, the seat settings, tilt steering wheel. I felt like I was in heaven.

We got back and it was time to negotiate. The Internet price was $17,450. I waited to see how much I'd get for my old Beemer. I thought maybe I'd get lucky and get $500. They gave me $1200!!! Talked a bit more, negotiated and I ended up getting the car for $17000, including tax, title and registration, a $1500 savings. The blue book on it is $23K, so it was a sweet deal. Plus I get a full month warranty and it came with a CarFax report.

I put $5000 down, financed $12000 at 8.29% and said goodbye to the old Beemer. I did not cry. I swear. I was too excited to get in my new(er) car.

The paperwork went through quickly and it turned out the general manager, who wasn't usually in on Saturdays was a huge Clive Cussler fan. He saw my NUMA vanity plates and asked if they stood for the National Underwater Marine Agency. They do. We got to talking, I mentioned I knew Clive and he was ecstatic. I told him if he gave me a good deal on the car, I'd send him some Clive goodies. He treated me right, so he and Kristin are getting a thank you package from me.

When I got in the car, I called Chris and whooped. I was so happy! Got on the highway, set the cruise control, turned up the volume on the radio to a good rock station and rocked all the way home.

When I pulled in the driveway, Chris was waiting. He couldn't believe it. He got in the passenger seat and told me he hated me (ha ha).

Put a blanket on the back seat and a towel on the front passenger for the dogs to go for our Sunday ride this morning. Bandit was okay, but Guin was freaking. Too new! Too new! She had this worried look on her face the whole time we went for our ride. She flew out the door when we got home and raced upstairs. It was pretty funny. Bandit doesn't care because he's blind mostly. All he cares about is the ride and listening to the Blues Power Hour on Sunday mornings. Seriously. He is one weird little dog.

One thing I forgot to mention - this is the first time I've purchased a car all alone and on my own credit. I am one proud car owner.

Now for new car photos (I'll take some myself - these were on the dealer web site):








Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Chattanooga Woo Hoo

Flew to Chattanooga on US Airways out of Boston on March 14th. The first flight was late arriving in Charlotte, so I had to run to my next flight, which was three terminals away. Phew!

Got to Chattanooga on time, but my luggage didn’t. I no longer do just carry-on because of some back problems, so my two bags were coming in on a later flight. No biggie. Andy, the guy who booked me to speak, picked me up to take me to my hotel, the Sheraton Read Hotel, most of which was built on top of a civil war hospital. Cool!

Andy reminds me of a cross between Richard Dreyfuss and Omar Sharif. Yes, a weird combo, but he looked like Dreyfuss in Jaws and sounded like Sharif when he talked. Andy was so busy, he needs a vacation. More than me!

The hotel was wonderful. All that’s left of the civil war hospital is the basement. A hotel was built on top of it in 1929. About eight years ago, the Sheraton chain bought it, completely refurbished it and added an annex. When I went to the Sheraton web site, all they showed was the newer annex. They should be showing the older part – it’s beautiful! The Read House is better.

My room was in the annex. Pooh. I heard there was a ghost in room 311 – her name is Ana Lisa. The room was booked. Hey, I’m weird! I checked my email, then wandered downstairs at about 6 pm to have dinner at the hotel restaurant, Porters. I had a book with me, the second in a series based on the TV show “LOST.” Easy reading, especially since the show was in reruns that week. The waitress was great and told me about two other ghosts. One a waiter saw in the basement, dressed in a civil war uniform. She told me he came running up the stairs “screaming like a little girl.” The other she’d seen. She was alone in the restaurant, setting up and saw a man in a business suit. Thinking it was her manager, she called out to him, twice. The third time, she walked towards him and he suddenly disappeared. She said one minute he was there, as solid as a human, the next he was gone. Poof!

Had duck and a spinach salad, two glasses of wine and crème brulee for dessert. My bags finally came at 9pm, so I hurriedly unpacked, then steamed my outfit for the next day.

Wednesday, March 15th, met Lulu for breakfast in Porter’s. The waiter, Nathan, was cute and a huge flirt with both of us. Made our day! Went to the community college for my first talk for school personnel. About 20 folks showed up, got a great response and sold several books. Had requests to come back to do some training and speak at the local high school! My next talk was at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga for the Tech Council monthly lunch meeting. This was mostly men, highly technical folks. I didn’t let on I was a tech geek from wayyyyy back until Q&A and got the usual condescending questions from some of the men. When I mentioned I worked for MFE (which made the first 5 ¼” Winchester floppy drive), Wordstar and was a member of one of the first “Internet” services, Genie, they realized I did know what I was talking about.

I sold ALL the rest of my books there. Ha!

A local TV station interviewed me (I saw it later and the lighting was totally too bright. I need to get a tan) during the lunch meeting. Andy took me to the local NPR radio station for another interview, which went great. They’re going to let me put it up on my site as a podcast. Then we went to Andy’s office to meet with Larry Miller of the New Media Consortium. Funny guy – very intelligent. He wants to get something going with me, WHOA and the NMC.

Andy took me back to my hotel. I got locked out of my room and had to have maintenance let me in. The inside lock was faulty. Oh well. Changed and took the free shuttle to the Tennessee Aquarium. Yes, an aquarium. It turned out to be very nice. There are two sections – Ocean Journey and River Journey. The ocean one was what you’d expect, but had a rain forest theme and butterfly garden with 100s of beautiful butterflies in it. The river section was amazing! Not only was the Tennessee river recreated, but other rivers from around the world. I’d never seen anything like this exhibit, nor catfish the size of groupers. The one odd thing – when parents with their kids realized I was alone, they grabbed their kids and moved on and avoided me completely. Parents are way too wary these days. Not all adults by themselves are pedophiles. Hmph.

Walked back the mile or so to the hotel, went upstairs to change, then back down to Porter’s for dinner again. Had ribeye steak that melted in my mouth, baked potato, salad, glass of wine,then glass of Grand Marnier for “dessert.” It was a nice, quiet dinner.

The next morning Lulu took me to the airport. Got upgraded to first class for the last leg of my trip – hooray! At the Charlotte airport, I had two hours to kill, so I had a chair massage, got gifts for family, snacks for Chris and the dogs (and me, too). First class was nice, but no meal. Got two bags of chips, though. Economy gets no snacks, so it was okay. The leg room and seats are nice, bit I’d rather do first for a three-hour plus trip.

Next trip, Tallahassee. US Airways again!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Myspace.com

If you go back through my posts to January, you'll see where I spoke at Olean High School. Well, two girls emailed me and were NOT happy with my talk. They just didn't get the point, did they?

See for yourself (although the first one did take my advice, LOL):



----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Kayla
Date: Mar 18, 2006 5:35 PM

thank you very much my profile is private so you can just go on and get a life....and stop screwing with teenagers minds and teaching them how to find random ppl online okay buh bye



----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: JA Hitchcock
Date: Mar 18, 2006 11:19 AM

I guess you missed the point - ANYONE anywhere on the internet can access your profile. Not just me. So the more info you put up, the more bad things can happen to you. I'd suggest making your blog private if you don't want anyone on line to view it.



----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Kayla
Date: Feb 3, 2006 5:13 PM

Im sorry lady but you embarassed me and a bunch of ppl....you had no right to use our myspaces....for your presentation....you may think that you were helping us but really you were teaching us nothing but how to be an online predator.....you didn't tell us anything we did not know....we already know everything that you said...and the ppl you put up there really don't appriciate that....and personally i think its pretty rude.....sorry


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----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Jessica
Date: Feb 3, 2006 5:21 PM

thanks for showing the whole school how to look up people cuz im sure the whole school didnt know how to do that and now people are probably looking up people right now. stay away from olean high school from now on no one wants ur input on who has what on their profile and who the fuck cares if people have pics of alcohol on their profile ur presentation wasnt for drugs and alcohol and if ur so great with computers then why couldnt u figure out how to use the damn powerpoint.and it was great how u put kayla, jake, forrey and all those other people on the spot like that with their myspace posted on the screen like that.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Feel Safe Again

Boy, have I been busy!

On Saturday, march 11, I was asked to speak at the Feel Safe Again Second Annual Benefit Dinner. Cheryl Darisse, who founded the organization in memory of her sister, met me when she came to one of my book signings a year or so ago.

The dinner was held at the Pearl Street Station Restaurant in Malden, Massachusetts.

I hate driving to Massachusetts, but I think Cheryl is wonderful, so she twisted my arm to come (ha ha).

One of the other speakers was an old friend, George Wattendorf, who retired from the Dover, NH police department last year. He has his own law firm now, Wattendorf & Nary, P.A.. If you need a good New Hampshire lawyer, call George!

I got there early to set up. I borrowed an LCD projector from the wonderful folks at the Email Sender and Provider Coalition and had to ask the waitress to find an extension cord. Then I had to find a wall where we could take down oversized framed photos. The room was adjacent to the lounge. That should have been a warning sign. The Amtrak train going by what seemed like every 10 minutes was another warning sign.

Slowly, the room began to fill up. George had brought his wife, who was lovely and funny. We sat together and chatted. Cheryl came by to say hi and was busy getting raffle items set up and other things.

A Senator was supposed to be the keynote, but never showed up. I felt bad for Cheryl. So she had us all get up to get our dinner (self serve buffet, decent food), then George was the first to speak. He talked about the Dover, NH PD's stalking unit and what they've done. It was a good talk and he got some great questions.

There was a break, George and his wife snuck out to go home, and I was ready to talk. I talked about what happened to me and how I was cyberstalked. The presentation went over quite well and I sold a few books afterwards.

I stayed for the next speaker and for the life of me, I can't remember her name, but her story was quite compelling. She's a psychologist who has been stalked by a female student for the past six years. Talk about cops not taking a stalking victim seriously. Wow!

Now, while the trains were whizzing by, causing the building to shake and rattle, karaoke had started up in the lounge by the time I got up to talk. It was an interesting evening, LOL.

I left at 11 pm, got home around midnight and had to unwind, so I watched Saturday Night Live. Good lord, what has happened to that show? It was the worst I've ever seen it and is definitely a shadow of its former self. It's too bad. I used to love that show.

I'll post about my trip to Chattanooga, TN tomorrow (maybe later today). I'm off again to Florida on Monday (through Thursday). And I got three more bookings for later this year.

Like I said, I'm busy! Which is great!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Odds & Ends

Got a bit of a scare a week ago. A letter came to the house from an ad agency in NYC. Hmm. But it was the name written above the name of the agency that caused my heart to stop for a moment - John Leonard. One of my cyberstalkers went by James Leonard, John Lawrence, or a combination of the two. So I kind of freaked out for a bit, considering his probation is up this April.

Then I remembered I'd won an online gift for being part of a panel for Premiere magazine and realized it was my prize - a $20 gift card to Blockbuster. My heart started beating again.

----------------------

I got a voicemail message *and* an email from a Jay Jones with the Tyra Banks talk show. He sounded desperated to have me come on the show as a cyber crime expert. So I called and emailed him three times. I gave up. Why do media do that, then not have the courtesy of returning your reply to them?

Here's what he sent:

Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 17:58:13 -0800
Subject: The Tyra Banks Show
From: Jay Jones
To:

This email is meant for Jayne Hitchcock.
My name is Jay Jones and I work for The Tyra Banks Show.
We have a show coming up that is all about the Internet.
We are currently looking for an online harassment / cyberstalking expert to appear on the show. If you think this might ineterest you please get in contact with me ASAP.

Thanks & I look forward to speaking with you!

Thanks!

Jay Jones
Production Associate
323.575.8247
jay.jones@tyratv.com

Sounds like he really wanted me, doesn't it? I can never figure the media out. Go ahead and email or call this guy and recommend me as an expert. Maybe he'll wake up.

--------------------------

Another media rant: I live in southern Maine, so I am accessible to media in all of New England. I am even accessible to national TV and news shows via satellite through Boston or Portland, Maine. It's bad enough national shows don't use me as much as I'd like, especially with all the buzz about online blogs such as Myspace.com and the dangers for teens and kids, but when local media doesn't use me when I'm local, well, it boggles my mind. The only local media (who are extremely loyal and wonderful to me) are several newspapers located at Seacoast Newspapers. They consistently use me as an expert and I thank them with all my heart!

My organization, WHOA, sent out two press releases last week. Our PR person, Dee, emailed over 800 media with these releases. One was about our latest cyberstalking statistics, the other about an online registry for children's email addresses. I've heard from a handful of media. Hello? What in the world is going on? You'd think some of the national media would be interested in the cyberstalking statistics at the least.

Again, it boggles my mind as to what the media *does* cover versus what they *should* cover.

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Got an email from my publisher - they want me to go to the Book Expo in late May in D.C. to sign copies of my newest book! Woo-hoo! I'll post more about this when I get the info.

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It really bugs me when I see people like James Frey write books and get them published with a big publisher, then turn out to be total liars. I would kill to get a publishing contract with one of those publishers and I write the truth! I work so hard with my writing and my work and it frustrates me to no end that my poor agent can't seem to get the attention of any of the publishers in NYC for two books I want to get published. One is for law enforcement about the basics of investigating cyber crimes (which there is no good book out there about this right now) and the other is a collection of real life stories of people who have been stalked, scammed and killed due to online situations. Pfft.

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More to come later.