Bugs in the City

NOTE: The Smithsonian is crowdsourcing! Read all the way (or skip) to the bottom to learn how to become an online volunteer for the Smithsonian Museum’s bumblebee records project!

One thing that is extremely noticeable about our new location is the increase in the number of bugs inside the house. In South Minneapolis we had the occasional ant attack, and once some demon flies infested the apartment after I downloaded a desktop wallpaper, but here it seems that there are more and greater varieties of insect home invaders than we experienced in the city. It makes sense; our new house is in a more wooded area, and we now have a direct entry to the house rather than an apartment lobby entry. But what can you do? Once we got over our initial revulsion it just became a fact of life. Bought a fly swatter and it’s all good now. The cat is ecstatic to be able to put her long-dormant hunting skills back into play.

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Planned Parenthood Solidarity Event

It’s that time of the year again! Good Friday marks the annual organized anti-Planned Parenthood vigil here in the Twin Cities and it’s celebrated with much somber walking, very pray, so clutching of rosaries and wow crosses outside of the St. Paul Planned Parenthood:

Anti-choice crowd hangs out by the fence and stares at the prochoice celebration with sadness, contempt, anger and pleading.

Anti-choice crowds line the fence and stare over at the pro-Planned Parenthood celebration with a mixture of anger, contempt, pleading, sorrow, curiosity and indifference.

And on the other side – a celebration of accessible and legal abortion, comprehensive reproductive options, sex education and outreach:

A line of Planned Parenthood supporters walking with signs of support.

This year a bunch of jerks – not satisfied with marching with their anti-choice brethren – decided to make a nuisance of themselves on “our” side of the rally. As always with these harassers, they’re not satisfied unless they’re edged right up to the public property line, which was particularly annoying because they were standing between us and our food trucks. Buttheads. These special friends had a penchant for screaming about hellfire and damnation. For the most part we all minded our manners, but me, Niki and our friend Chris couldn’t resist stopping for a quick photo op:

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 Happy atheist trio mocks your angry sky fairy – Mwuahahaha!

We had happy music, warm drinks and supportive signs. We took pictures and laughed and raised money and cheered and ran to give hugs when we saw friends and supporters arrive to join in the march. It was a great time.

Me and fellow clinic escort Niki M. in our clinic escort vests.

Me and fellow clinic escort Niki take a photo at the march in our vests – shiny!

Happy Lich Jesus Day, everyone!

The North Shore Trip

This past weekend the Hubby and I drove up to the North Shore, and we ended up cramming in a lot of activities. On Friday I had to work a half day, and that afternoon before we left the Cities, we took in the Minnesota History Center’s Prohibition exhibit. I did some museum tweeting, which you can see on Storify by clicking the image below. 

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Then we drove 2.5 hours north on Highway 35 to Superior, Wisconsin, which is right across the river from Duluth, Minnesota. We checked into our hotel and I was ready to crash, but we somehow managed to drag our butts out to see The Monuments Men. It was awesome and totally worth the putting on of pants. [Read more...]

Winter Storm Seneca Blows Through

Last night I participated on panel about Women In Secularism for Campus Atheists Humanists and Skeptics at the University of Minnesota. My fellow panelists were Stephanie Zvan, Niki Massey – who did a guest post for Biodork a few months ago – and Chelsea Du Fresne. It was awesome – there were a lot of thoughtful questions from the (mostly male) audience. We had a chance to talk about microaggressions, how to build and support diversity in organizations, and how to recognize when you might be dealing with an MRA.

The snow had started to fall at about 1pm yesterday afternoon. The snowflakes were big and fluffy and full of water – perfect snowman snow! When we left the panel at about 10pm, we had acquired several inches of snow. But this is Minnesota and the plows were on high alert; many of the major roads had been cleared at least once.

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CeCe’s Free

I’ve been thinking about CeCe McDonald a lot lately. That’s not surprising, really, since she was just released from prison. She spent 19 months in men’s prison for killing an attacker while defending her life.

I just…life is so fucking unfair.

I ranted about CeCe’s case in almost two years ago. She was sentenced to 41 months in prison, so she’s getting out early, but still. 19 months. Every time that I think about the fact that I live in a society that sentenced a transgender black woman to prison – a men’s prison! – for defending her life against bigots who targeted her because she is a transgender black woman it makes me angry and whatever the word for sad-angry-frustrated-helpless-to-tears is. And really, really angry.

I’ve been keeping an eye on her blog. CeCe turned 25 years old in prison. That was a heartbreaking post.

But as of today, she’s out. CeCe is out and she’s going to have a big ol’ party over at Intermedia Arts this Saturday.

Welcome back, CeCe.

I’m On A Bus

With the first modest snowfall coming down in the Twin Cities yesterday, I have now switched to bus commuter mode. I like taking the bus to and from work because it gives me an excuse to be online for an hour before starting my day. And because smaller carbon footprint. And because when the roads are slick I don’t have the stress of driving on them. And because it gives me a morning walking routine; the bus stop is 3/4 mile away.

But mostly it’s the interwebs. Most of the fleet that serves the commuter lines have upgraded to include free wifi.

Wide view of the front of a bus taken by a passenger.

The morning westbound bus is always more full than the evening eastbound. I work out in the boonies and the route is very industrial park-specific, so there are only three morning pick-ups from my neighborhood and they all tend to be full. But I often take the last bus of the evening in from Chaska to Minneapolis, so I have never had to seat-share on the way home. It’s easier to use the laptop when I don’t have to seat-share because I like to flare my elbows out when I type. I have never been good at writing on a cell phone or iPad, preferring to either dictate or get all old-fashioned with pen and paper.

Today one of the fluorescent lights or fans is rattling in the vicinity of the seat behind me. It sounds so much like fapping that I actually peeked into the seat behind me to make sure that the sound was, in fact, coming from the bus. Ah, I did miss public transportation.

Gay Marriage TONIGHT!

Okay…technically tomorrow. But in less than four hours and before I go to bed tonight, so tonight.

A little before midnight I’m going down to City Hall with friends to take in the smiles and tears and wedding couture and to celebrate the history in the making that will be the first several dozen gay marriages in Minneapolis.

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Two women and two men cake toppers under a rainbow

There are marriage ceremonies happening all over Minnesota, including St. Paul, Rochester, Duluth and even at the Mall of America!

Other friends are heading down to the Minnesotans United Married At Midnight party at Wilde Roast Cafe

I’m so excited. And it feels surreal. It’s just…it’s HERE! After all of the controversy, the legal and political fights, the heart-wrenching personal stories, the injustices…People are GETTING MARRIED.

TONIGHT!

Click on the image below to be taken to the Star Tribune article on tonight’s marriages. R.T. Rybak, the mayor of Minneapolis, says a few words, and you can hear from Cathy ten Broeke. She and her SOON-TO-BE WIFE!!! will be among the first to be married at Minneapolis City Hall.

1st marriage

The Weekend of Unbelievable Fun: The Second Coming

Hey…guess what’s coming up fast? It’s The Weekend of Unbelievable Fun: The Second Coming!

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Image is an advertisement showing the Mr. Paul Aints logo with information about the baseball game and conference (detailed in text below), and a photo of the Minneapolis Skyline.

This will be the second year that I attend. Last year’s baseball game was a blast, and the conference had inspiring speakers presenting novel and timely information about atheism and the secular movement.

This year the Mr. Paul Aints will take the field again on Friday August 9th to play the Sioux City Explorers at Midway Stadium in Saint Paul. The party starts at 5pm with tailgating in the parking lot and the game begins at 7pm. The meetup description for the event promises between-inning atheist-themed antics (hmmm…devil worshiping in the infield and baby tastings, perhaps?), and there will be an auction of Mr. Paul Aints jerseys with proceeds to go to a local charity.

The next day – Saturday – Minnesota Atheists and American Atheists will hold their second consecutive Twin Cities-based regional conference. The conference takes place at the Ramada Plaza in NE Minneapolis, and the lineup is exciting (I’ve taken out the breaks in the list below – for the full schedule, visit mnatheists.org):

9:15-10:15 Hector Avalos: “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History”
10:30-12:00pm Breakout Sessions & Workshops
1:45-2:45 Greta Christina: “Coming Out: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other Do It, And Why?”
2:45-3:45 Amanda Knief: “Ten Legal Issues Atheists Need to Know”
4:00-5:30 Annie Laurie Gaylor: “The Religious War on Women”
7:30-9:00 All-Star Panel Discussion: Atheism and Religion: Confrontation or Accommodation - Annie Laurie Gaylor, Hector Avalos, Greta Christina, Amanda Knief, PZ Myers, and Kelli Clement. Moderated by Stephanie Zvan (Author of Almost Diamonds blog on Freethought Blogs).

The conference organizers did a good job of packing in a wide variety of topics in a few short hours – one day conferences are hard! I’m especially excited by the 10:30-noon workshops, which are being led by local atheists. Topics include science, family and raising kids in atheist households, treatment of (nonhuman) animals, mental health, addiction, and shame. For descriptions of the panels press the big red button on the frontpage of the Minnesota Atheists website.

If you’re interested in joining us, the information for signing up for the baseball game and/or the conference can be found at the MN Atheists website. The cost for the game starts at $10 and the conference starts at $30 (if you’re 25 years old or younger AND a student, you can buy a discounted conference ticket for $10). These are early bird prices, and early bird sign up ends on July 31st – in just three days! After that prices for the conference goes up to $40 (student admission stays $10).

And if there is any doubt that you’re going to have a good – and occasionally goofy – time, check out these lyrics that Paul Heffron and Jerry Rauser wrote for the Mr. Paul Aints game:

To the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game

(Verse 1)
Let’s all go to the Aints game.
Let’s all show who we are.
The big red A says a lot about us.
We’re here for fun, so please don’t make a fuss.
So we’ll root for the Mister Paul Aints team.
For they accept us by name.
So it’s hip, hip, hip, hip hooray
At the Aints ball game.

(Verse 2)
Let’s have fun at the Aints game,
Tail-gate party supreme.
Hamburgers, hot dogs, and drinks for all.
Under our banner we’ll all have a ball.
We will root, root, root for the pigs’ race.
In Pig’s Eye town there’s no shame.
For it’s one, two, pick up the pace
At the Aints Ball Game!

Twin Cities Pride 2013

This weekend was Twin Cities Pride – our annual LGBTQA celebration – and there was a big gay party going on in Minneapolis! There were bar nights, a run, an art show, a boat cruise, concerts and more, but my favorite events were “Pride in the Park” and the Pride Parade.

On Friday night, vendors, artists and LGBTQA groups of all stripes descended upon Loring Park to set up their booths. Over the course of the weekend they would peddle wares, entertain, and spread information. I walked through on Saturday morning, picked up literature and stopped by booths to say hi to friends at Minnesota Atheists, Outfront, ROR Taxes and others, signed some petitions, and watched a few performances on different stages. I bought two theater-type papier-mâché masks from an artist, ate some tacos from one of the food trucks, and went on my annual Pride in the Park condom hunt – collecting condoms and safer-sex kits from the various groups handing them out. This year wasn’t as fruitful as some – only eight condoms and two dental dams. Ah well. Sometimes the catch is slow.

On Sunday morning over 130 groups marched down 12 blocks of Hennepin Avenue in the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade. The atmosphere was extra-charged with excitement this year, what with Minnesota legalizing gay marriage last month (it goes into effect August 1st!) and the overturning of DOMA. Many of the parade floats were wedding-themed and almost every group had signs and banners celebrating the recent victories.

Pride celebrations have been going on in Minneapolis since 1972, and the events are held in June to honor the Stonewall Riots, which took place on June 28th, 1969. Recent estimates of yearly attendance have been around 400,000 people, which means that little ol’ fly-over country Minnesota hosts one of the larger pride festivals in the United States.

Pride weekend means a lot to me; it’s a celebration of people being themselves, a celebration of recognizing and accepting our diversity. Even today – even in a year when our state and the federal governments have finally, grudingly said “Okay, we guess you lot should be treated as equals” - that kind of bravery is breathtaking. It takes a special kind of courage to find out and admit to ourselves who we are, who we love, where we feel comfortable, and what turns our crank. To get to that point of self-discovery, and then to share that with the world – wow. That makes me all feelsome.

There are a lot of people who aren’t free to celebrate publicly. Not everyone can openly take part in Pride weekend; the reasons for participating or sitting out of the public Pride events are vastly different. Our society still has prejudices against gay men and lesbian women, and against same-sex relationships and families. We are still pathetically lacking when it comes to accepting and respecting bisexual and trans* people, those who participate in one or more of the many flavors of non-monogamous relationships, and unconventional sexualities and fetishes. There are still judgments passed and real-world consequences for being different: Arrest, loss of jobs or opportunities to advance in a career, loss of family, loss of children, loss of friends, shaming, outing, embarrassment, exclusion, harassment, violence – these are still concerns for some people who dare to speak up and say “I’m different.”

My hat is off to everyone who came downtown to celebrate pride, as well as to those who joined in spirit (aside from those not able to take the risk of being outed, not everyone handles screaming, bustling crowds well!).

Happy Pride to all.

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Bartenders at Insert Coins in downtown Minneapolis show off their Pride special – rainbow shots (As an aside – blech! So. Much. SUGAR!!!)

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Hoola hooping in front of the Rainbow Stage on the north end of Loring Park.
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Arriving early to the park on Saturday meant that I had first dibs at the coffee tent in the Outfront Minnesota booth.

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Me with a “queen-sized” rainbow slushie. Behind me is a very nice gentleman from the gay naturist group, Naked Minnesota. In their “party naked” barrels, they’re some of the most photographed people in the park!

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After the parade was over we started our trek back from Loring Park to the beginning of the parade route where we had dropped the bike. The street was littered with garbage and discarded decorations, but the clean-up effort was amazing. As we walked east we ran into a small army of city employees picking up recycling and leaf-blowing the garbage from the sidewalks into the street. Next two huge trucks first swept the streets and then washed them. After they were done you couldn’t tell that there had been a parade!

Dining Out for Life 2013

A bright and early good morning from Victor’s 1959 Cafe!

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Aside from my love of fried plantains, I’m out with two of my best friends, the Hubby and Courtney, for the annual fundraiser, Dining Out for Life.

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Dining Out for Life: Dine Out, Fight AIDS!

I’ve been to several of the Dining Out for Life events and they’ve always been fun. Dining Out for Life Ambassadors are in every restaurant to give out stickers and information about the event.  In Minnesota, the funds raised go to The Aliveness Project, a community center in South Minneapolis that provides services to members of the AIDS community, and the Rural AIDS Action Network, which serves those affected by HIV/AIDS throughout Greater Minnesota.

TAP          RAAN

The Aliveness Project and Rural AIDS Actions Network logos. Click on either for more information about these groups.

Dining Out for Life is a project that recruits restaurants to donate a portion of each meal sold. Cities across the United States and in British Columbia have Dining Out for Life events. Many of them are happening today, but they can occur at any time. Click on the image below to go to the DOFL website to learn when the cities below are hosting events.

DOFL Sites

In Minnesota you can find participating restaurants in many major cities: Twin Cities, Duluth, Harris, Lanesboro, Mankato, Rochester, Alexandria, Stillwater and St. Cloud!

So now for the really important question: What did we order?

Me: Dia y Noche

IMAG0505 (1024x577)Eggs, black beans over white rice, fried plantains.

The Hubby: Create Your Own Omlette

IMAG0504 (1024x577)Omelette-y goodness with wild rice, cheese and peppers. English muffin with butter

Courtney: Cuban Hash

IMAG0501 (1024x559)Ground beef, creole sauce, green olives, capers, raisins. Eggs and fried plantains.

It’s not too late to participate in Dining Out for Life. Head out for lunch, maybe grab some coworkers for happy hour, take a friend out for dinner. You can find a list of participating restaurants and the amounts of their contributions here. There are many different styles and costs – even a few coffee houses if you want to participate but don’t have a lot of cash to spare. If you can get out and want to get out, then today’s your day to Dine Out, Fight AIDS!

DSC_0003 (1024x681)The awesome Dining Out for Life ambassador for Victor’s 1959 Cafe, moi and Rena Sarigianopoulos, a KARE 11 TV anchor, reporter and Dining Out for Life supporter.

Twitter hashtag for Dining Out for Life: #DOLMN (Minnesota) and #DOFL (Dining Out For Life)