Cross-Country Connections: Cold

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Cold.

From Mom in Hagerstown, Maryland:

A snowy highway bordered on each side by snow-covered, leaveless trees.

I’m not used to snow before Thanksgiving and evidently neither are most Virginians. Even though this was as bad as it got there were dozens of cancellations at Colonial Williamsburg’s restaurants for Thanksgiving day.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Take from the top of snow-covered stairs that end at a city street. Two people are crossing the street and a car waits for the light to change. The sky is the dark of pre-dawn and several bright street lights are visible in the background.

Much to everyone’s surprise it was in the mid-50s in Minneapolis this past weekend. In the past however, it has been much colder at this time of year. This photo is from approximately one year ago. I was at the bus stop waiting at the bus stop and I distinctly remember that it was real cold.

From Erin in Rockville, Maryland:

The shot encompasses the awesome height of the trees, as a man and dog are visible in the foreground at the bottom of the picture. The trees are mostly conifers and everything is covered in a thin layer of snow.

Cold…. An oldy but a goody from Washington State. Hiking in Rockport State Park outside of Concrete, WA in 2011.


(Thank Man-made Calendars It’s Friday)

I have plans for this weekend. Tomorrow is jam-packed: Clinic escorting at 7am, then over to The Source for their Holiday Jubilee (i.e., huge boardgame and comic sale), then over to this local annual women’s craft fair that I’ve been going to for years.

I am leaning towards attending the Million March Minnesota at 1pm at Government Plaza in downtown Minneapolis. The organizers appear to be on the up and up about wanting to organize against racist state-sanctioned violence; they’ve been responsive on their Facebook event page and I received a timely reply to a letter that I sent to their email. They state that they are “Artists and Allies with Black Leadership who are committed to channeling and connecting people and organizations who are doing the work of social justice.” They ask people to leave the “All Lives Matter” signage at home as they prefer to keep the focus on black lives, so that’s a good start. But this is Minnesota, y’all. I’m apprehensive that it’s going to be a sea of white faces, which is not what needs to be happening right now. If anyone knows more about the rally – and importantly, if you’ve heard any concerns – I’d love to have your input. You can comment below or shoot me an email at

I’m also planning on doing some organizing and planning for the FTB Conscience this weekend. The 3rd FTBCon is scheduled for the end of January 2015, so start getting excited!

I leave you with this incredible Cthulu wreath from BoredPanda. Check out the website for more detailed photos. I love this line from the site: “I may have lost a little of my mind in the process, but it seems a worthwhile trade for dabbling in eldritch crafts.”

A green and red holiday-themed wreath that uses tentacles and octopi for decorations.

Neat Use of a Drone

This is a prototype – a drone/defibrillator (the inventor is expecting we could see a marketable product it in About Five Years…so there’s that), but it’s a fairly cool idea. I don’t have any problem with the technology of flying defibrillators, but the logistics of having enough ambulance drones…having them where they’d be most useful or needed…would they be managed and maintained by hospitals or private companies…? It seems like a rollout strategy would be more daunting than the product itself.

I guess it’ll do until we figure out how to make a portkey.

The Great Ocean Road

Australia blogging – my first weekend in Victoria.

On the Sunday after our trip to Healesville, my coworker and I decided to head out to the Great Ocean Road, a scenic, winding coastal road that runs along the southern edge of Victoria. We drove southwest from Melbourne for about an hour an a half and then caught our first glimpse of the ocean in the city of Anglesea.

A scenic overlook - brush, brushes, a road and further off a small ocean inlet and beach.

Anglesea was only a brief stop, so after we took a few photos from this overlook, we continued our journey west and the coastal driving really began: very narrow two lane roads butting up against rocky walls with little to no shoulder to speak of. There were a ton of pull offs for scenic overlooks and many places had stairs down to the beach. My coworker and I went down at one of the stops and played in the surf. [Read more…]

Cross-Country Connections: Pin

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Pin.

From Erin in Rockville, Maryland:

A collection of pins: Wood sweater pin, butterfly pin, a sheep pin, buttons with a squirrel, text that says "I heart History", "i won't just sit here and say nothing", and  "I am a feminist"

I guess you can see my personality in my pin collection: a little weird, a little loud, a little dainty, a little nerdy.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota: 

Gaudy arts-and-crafts Christmas tree: Green poofs, miniature red bells, a cloth gold star and "Merry Christmas" in plastic text overlayed on the tree

Found this in my holiday decorations. Oh yeah, you know it lights up.

From Mom in Hagerstown, Maryland:

Green glittery tree, with a circus feeling to it: A woman's face in the tree and arms hanging down the side.

One of my favorite holiday pins.

Secular Townhall: Ferguson and Beyond

Black freethinkers and atheists are speaking NOW about Ferguson and the black experience with the US justice system. Speakers include Donald Wright, Jenn Taylor, Raina Rhoades, Sikivu Hutchinson (writer at FTB’s Black Skeptics blog) and Kimberly Veal.

As a Google+/YouTube presentation, the entire conversation will be available to watch at any time, so please make some time.

Speaking Up

I don’t like to write about what I don’t know. But I need to talk about this, in part because I don’t hear as many people talking about this as I think there should be, and why not start at home? I mean, there are of course a lot of people talking about this, but what about the rest of us?

So many thoughts that I shouldn’t be talking about this; I don’t have the life experience, the academic, the professional or the activist experience. I don’t know the exact statistics of death by cop (only that they’re incontrovertibly stacked against POC and poor Americans), the sociological underpinnings of what drives police brutality, and while I do have some historical perspective of how black people have suffered at the hands of a mostly white justice system in this country, there’s so much more to know. I have no experience in police enforcement, criminal apprehension or law. I wasn’t raised to distrust cops, because cops were never the threat to my health, safety and freedom that they have shown themselves to be to black Americans. I’m a middle class white lady who grew up in a middle class suburb, and whose only fear of police has been getting slapped on the wrist for underage drinking. I have friends and neighbors who are police. My first response to this currently publicized epidemic of cops murdering black Americans would once have been NotAllCops. I have always had a level of trust and optimism in the system that outweighed the distrust. At one time I would have thought that this was surely just a few bad cops, right? Right?

So one of the reasons I’ve been quiet is probably because of some ridiculous feeling that it’s not my place to talk about the murders of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Darrien Hunt, Aiyana Stanley-Jones… That I’ll unintentionally make this about something other than the extrajudical killing of black people, like the good-intentioned fail that was #CrimingWhileWhite. But people are dying, and it doesn’t matter that I’m uncomfortable. People are dying, and there’s no time to hide behind “It’s not my place.” If I screw this up, I’ll take my lumps, try to learn from them, make my apologies as necessary, hope I don’t do damage along the way. Because this is too much to leave unaddressed.

Even if I don’t have any solutions and the issues seem too big to fix, silence is acquiescence, and I do not agree with the way these cases have been going down. Cops shouldn’t be able to murder their fellow citizens without consequence.

And non-indictment for murders? Not even a trial? How is that even… Cops need to be held accountable for killing human beings. Why are we as jurors deciding that killing human beings is justified by our police? What botched standard are we measuring against that we have decided that cops pulling their guns and shooting someone is the most appropriate response to a person who is being rude or angry or argumentative? That shooting an unarmed suspect in the back because they run is defensible? When did we decide that this is okay?

I have been in shock for some time over the violence that police have been getting away with. How can this keep happening? How? At one time I thought cameras would make it all better. Put a camera on every cop and in every cop car, and then the bad seeds can’t get away with picking their nose, let alone willful, unprovoked violence. And barring that, surely in this age of citizen activism and cell phone cameras with instant uploading we could discourage racist, power-tripping, violent behavior and bring to justice those cops who broke the law. But the cameras didn’t help. They haven’t helped. Cops are still getting away with using excessive force, with beatings, threats and intimidation, with murder. It’s all recorded there – the proof that they could once claim didn’t exist – and it’s not helping. The evidence isn’t outweighing the racism. When I say it like that, it seems obvious: When has evidence ever overcome racism?

People are dying and I don’t know how to make it better. But I’m not going to sit quietly and click my tongue in disappointment every time there’s another new story about someone getting killed by a trigger-happy cop. And I’m not going to sit quietly when my neighbors and acquaintances click their tongues in disappointment about “those protesters with their looting and why can’t everyone sit down and talk about this in a civilized manner.”

People are dying. We owe them more than our uncomfortable silences. If you’re like me and don’t feel like you’ve been doing enough, it’s time to start participating in uncomfortable conversations and to actively seek out ways to make positive change on this front. Right now it all seems too big, but there are always opportunities to lend time, money, support, signatures, and to start conversations. If you want to and are able to lend financial support, there’s the Legal Support Fund in Missouri, and memorial fundraisers for Tamir Rice’s familyEric Garner’s family, and Darrien Hunt’s family. I’ll let you know what else I find. Please feel free to point to organizations or efforts that you find worthy of support in the comments below.

Note: If you put in more than two hyperlinks, your comment will be held for moderation, but I will be keeping an eye out for those and getting them approved quickly should they appear. I won’t vouch for the organizations listed by commenters, but if I find any that squicks me out, I will remove them.

Also some local activism: Protesters shutdown I-35W in Minneapolis No arrests – traffic shut down for hours while protesters marched down the highway then through Minneapolis to City Hall where they laid down and chanted “I can’t breathe”

Trip Update and a Few News Stories

We’re home – yay!

Even with a temperature swing of 30°C to -19°C…even having to go from sleeveless dresses and copious amounts of sunscreen to layered clothing and chapstick…even going back to work instead of hiking through the rainforest…

It’s good to be home. It’s good to be in my own kitchen and near grocery stores with which I am familiar (and stocked with brands that I recognize). I am ecstatic to be reunited with fast and reliable internet. It’s good to be remembered and greeted by the pets that I had to leave for a month and a half. I was gone long enough that I have to relearn which side of the car’s steering wheel the windshield wiper and the turn signal sticks are on, and driving on the right feels a bit odd. Also, the science and logic part of my brain is very reluctant to depart from the metric system of distance and temperature.

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Last Saturday’s Adventures

I spent last Wednesday through Friday in a little pair of cities called Albury-Wadonga. I was primarily there for work, but I managed to fit in a walk through Albury’s CBD on Thursday afternoon and snap a few photos of lorikeets and magpies. The highlight of the stay was the Hovell Tree Inn Best Western Plus. The dining room had good food and my room was humongous; I had a kitchenette, a dining room table, a couch and an office desk, the queen bed was in a separate room, and the bathtub was deep with whirlpool jets. Okay, the food and room size really didn’t matter. All that mattered was the tub. Maaaaarvelous tub.

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Melbourne – off to work!

Monday technically began my first day of working in Melbourne, even though I didn’t have to report in until 1pm. That means I had a nice long morning to fill.

I’d been up since 1am, so I was good and well awake when my friend asked if I wanted to Skype at 5:15am my time. That was nice. Skype makes international travel much friendlier. After that I went to a YMCA which is located across the street to see if they’d let me use my US membership to get in a workout. Funny thing, that one: it’s a private YMCA just for residents and workers in that building, which probably explains why I couldn’t find any signage and I had to ask the doorman where to go. But at 6:30am there was only one other gentleman using the facility (it was a tiny little gym), and the man running the desk was so kind and funny. He said “It’s not every day someone flies from the US to Melbourne just to use my gym. You go ahead.”

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