From the Draft Bin: Moving Mom

It’s amazing to me how much writing I do that gets thrown out, abandoned, forgotten or taken out back with a shovel and buried. I have written volumes will never, ever see the light of day or be stored anywhere on a computer. These are the cathartic writings, the nonsensical, the mopey drunk poetry, the overly passionate or sappy, the erotic, the angry screaming devoid of logic, the hurt, pathetic whining. The ugliness, the ecstasy, the doubts, the fragile dreams, the hate – these that are or have been part of my human experience have lived here. These are mine – creations that are rarely revisited, if they are saved at all.

I have a relationship with writing – it is there with me through the good times, the horrible times, and the bored, listless times. When I don’t know where to turn, I have writing. When I am in agony I can write, and almost blindly the pain flows from my fingers onto the page. Afterwards I still hurt, but the pain is now a thing that can be examined from an outside perspective. I have wielded my writing skillfully and clumsily; it has been my salvation, and once my damnation. I love writing – and just now I refuse to not be romantic about it!

But there are also the more generic false starts – or the true starts left incomplete. There are articles started with the best of intentions that grow obsolete in the fast-paced environment of instant communication. There are events that I have attempted to describe, but upon editing I felt that I failed to capture them adequately, truly or objectively. There are writings that I have doubted would be well-received in a public venue. There are articles that I wanted to write, started to write, but in the end was unsure of how to bring everything together.

What I’m saying is…I have a lot of shit in my draft folder.

And while I was digging around in there, I found this one about the first leg of last year’s adventure in moving mom out to Maryland. I like the photos of the planes. I think it stayed in draft because I had lofty dreams about capturing the entire move. But that’s okay.

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Last Wednesday began the great cross-country adventure of moving Mom to Hagerstown, Maryland. My contribution to the entire process was pretty minimal. Mom had nearly everything packed by the time I arrived on Wednesday, and she had hired movers to pack everything in a truck, get it to Maryland, and bring everything into the new house. I showed up on Wednesday, did some light cleaning at the old house, helped wrangle animals and drive the 13 hours east, ran some errands in Hagerstown, hung out with Mom and my sister, gave my brother-in-law a hug and then flew back home on Sunday.

That’s the TL;DR version. On a more leisurely note:

I flew down to southern Illinois on Wednesday morning. The waking up at 4:30am for the 7:05am flight kinda sucked, but I enjoy plane travel and being in airports so the suckiness was offset by travel excitement. There are no direct flights to Carbondale, IL. When I have flown down in the past, I have landed in St. Louis, Missouri and then either driven a rental car from the airport or been picked up by Mom. However, the drive from St. Louis to Carbondale is about two hours, and because time and resources were precious this time I did something different.

Cape Air runs a short distance plane service between St. Louis and smaller airports in Illinois. For $50 I was able to book a flight on a “puddle jumper” from St. Louis to Marion, Illinois, which is only a 20-minute drive from Carbondale.  It was a neat process. When I exited my plane from Minneapolis, I had to find a courtesy phone and let an agent know that I had a Cape Air connection. A driver was sent over to where I had made the call, and then I and one other person were escorted down to a shuttle on the tarmac and driven over to the Cape Air gate. We had a chance to see parts of the airport that I usually don’t see.

Cape Air Cesna planesThe planes parked outside of the Cape Air gate.

The plane that I would board, headed for Marion, IllinoisLook at this little Cessna! It’s cute ‘cuz it’s tiny!

Flying in the Cessna was a blast. Only I and one other passenger were on my flight. When it came time to board we were led across the tarmac and climbed on board the small plane. The captain said to sit wherever we wanted in the eight- (or was it ten?) seat cabin, so I sat in the row directly behind the copilot’s chair and was able to see the entire instrument panel. This was the first time I have seen someone actually fly a plane. It was awesome to watch the pilot steer with the yoke and rudder pedals, move the throttle levers during takeoff, and to see the controls and indicators adjust with the movements of the plane when we were in the sky.

When we landed in Marion I was met by my Aunt and Uncle, of whom I see far too little. They drove me directly to Carbondale and delivered me to the chaos that was churning at Mom’s soon-to-be-sold house. They left almost immediately, and I promised that we would stop by their house to say goodbye before we left town. The atmosphere at the house was explosive. Four moving people were hauling the last of boxes and heavy furniture to the moving truck. Mom was rushing to pack the last of the recently-used necessities, and all of the rooms contained bits and pieces that needed to be collected – the detritus that is unearthed when one moves furniture that hasn’t been moved in years: paper clips, lost storage bin lids, an old photo, loose change, dust bunny-covered pens, and so on.

I began collecting and sweeping and mopping. The owners did their final walk-through, but last minute packing and cleaning kept us much later than intended. We had to leave from the house and drive directly to the next town over for the closing, which meant we ran out of time for goodbyes to my aunt and uncle. *sniff* We left from the title company and immediately began the road trip east.

Read ALL the FTB Blogs!

Some of you read Biodork because you’re my friends and family, and you read me uncaring of the fact that I’m on a larger, atheist blog network. This post is not for you. I’m writing this for those of you who want to read blogs that are about atheism or which are written from an atheist perspective. This is for those of you who read some, but not all, of the FTB writings.

You may have noticed that we recently had two new bloggers join Freethought Blogs: Non-Stamp Collector (oh my FSM – sweeeeet!) and Avicenna (love A Million Gods, been reading it for several months). I was scanning the comments on NSC’s intro post, and this one made me pause:

Another FTBer to add to the rss feed. Aaaarrrrgggggg.

To which I say: Do you mean to tell me that you’re not reading ALL the FTB blogs???

Okay, okay. I get it: There are currently over 30 blogs on FTB, we’re growing all the time, and many of us post at least one new entry every single day, if not more. That’s a lot of new material to read.

Or is it?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t read everything that is published here. But what I do manage to do is scan through every new article on Google Reader using the FTB RSS Feed. Right now this is one screen-width of FTB feed for me (click to enlarge):

Represented above are articles by Duncan Deacon (Althenian Worldview), Kylie Sturgess (Token Skeptic), Avicenna (A Million Gods), Jason Thibeault (Lousy Canuck), Ophelia Benson (Butterflies and Wheels), PZ Myers (Pharyngula), Stephanie Zvan (Almost Diamonds), Mano Singham (Mano Singham), Cuttlefish (The Digital Cuttlefish) and Ian Cromwell (The Crommunist Manifesto)

That’s a lot of variety in both author and subject matter, and they’re all under the same feed! I can quickly scan through the articles in Google Reader and choose to stop or not. Sometimes there’s fluff piece or an administrative update that I don’t want to read. Sometimes there will be an in-depth analysis of some minutia of something I don’t care about. Sometimes I’ll not want to get involved in a post topic. *click* Aaaaaand it’s gone. Easy-peasy.

“But Brianne,” someone says, “some of those people make me really angry or bore me nigh unto death and I don’t wanna read them!”

Click right past ‘em. Just keep going. Seriously, you can see a name that you don’t like to see and just fly on by. Because seeing and skipping a post in order to potentially find something else that’s new and exciting is very much worth it. There are such different focuses and interests among the bloggers here at FTB, something that I mentioned in my “I’m moving over to FTB” post back in February:

… we’re all atheists of one stripe or another, and we tend to blog either a little or a lot about atheism, infringements of church and state, humanism, and other related topics. Some of the blogs on the network are devoted primarily to exploring religion or atheism, some have a focus on politics or civil liberties, or diversity, or are more personal (like mine). They are all unique and owned by their authors.

I thought that back when I joined. Nine months after I started, I know it.

I love the diversity of ideas here at FTBs, and not only between bloggers but in the ideas of a single blogger (interblogger vs. intrablogger, if you will). On a fairly frequent basis, a blogger who has a style that I think I know will post something completely unexpected, either because they’ve created something completely different (this is one of the great beauties of blogs; they can change and fluctuate with their authors’ moods, beliefs, and new experiences), or because I’m getting to see or know a new side of a blogger because I’ve been following their work.

As an example of a blogger throwing me for a loop, I offer up yesterday’s post by Crommunist. Here’s an excerpt that made me laugh out loud at work, to many puzzled looks:

Adam: Snake! Right. It was a snake. And it talked. To her (pointing at Eve). And she ate the fruit from the tree. And then she made me do it.

Eve: Okay that’s totally not what happened. Adam came to me with this fruit that had a bite of out it and…

Adam: (Interrupting again) Shut it, rib! (To YAHWEH, laughing, gesturing with his thumb) Look at her, thinking that she can talk. (To Eve) Ribs can’t talk, stupid.

Eve: Oh, but snakes can? (Adam glares at her, she rolls her eyes)

So, my humble suggestion, dear readers: If you like to read blogs by atheists or about atheism, freethought, or lives lived without the influence of belief in the supernatural – follow the full FTB RSS feed. Scanning the new content takes seconds, and you never know when you’re going to find something that really connects.

Two and a half years.

I’ve been blogging since the end of 2009. I’m a baby blogger by some internet standards, but I have so many friends who have announced that they are STARTING BLOGS! only to quit after the first week or two. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it; keeping up a (pretty much) steady blogging schedule can sometimes be a pain in the ass. But so far I’ve always found it worth the effort. It feels good to share my thoughts, promote my interests and learn new things from commenters. And no matter what else is going on in my life, this is mine.

I never dreamed that I would last this long; I wasn’t looking this far ahead. And I never dreamed that I would be able to put my writing to such a good use as RAISING MONEY FOR THE SECULAR STUDENT ALLIANCE.

Ha – didn’t think I was heading there, did you? I’m so clever when I’m over-caffeinated.

This is post 29 of 49 in the SSAweek Biodork Blogathon. Donate to the SSA today! Read more about my reader challenges here.

6 O’Clock BS – I Am Your Dancing Monkey

Okay!  I’m starting to get a little nervous and super excited about tomorrow’s Blogathon to benefit the Secular Student Alliance’s SSA Week.

My first post will be up at 6am CST, and I’ll be posting every 30 minutes after that for a full 24 HOURS!

I have a list of topics that I could write about (but nothing pre-written or pre-scheduled!), and a few gimmicks that I’m looking forward to rolling out. I’m not going to give away (hint: GIVE AWAY <—subtlety!) all of them here, but I wanted to introduce a couple of ideas tonight.

The first person to comment on my 6am post tomorrow morning gets awarded the Golden Coffee Bean. There’s no physical prize, just bragging rights. Also you have to make me coffee. Well, you have to at least pretend like you’re making it for me (shhh…I’ll never know the difference!). This doesn’t financially support the SSA; I just want to see a friendly face at tomorrow’s kick off. But speaking of…

ZOMG DONATE TO SSA!

Donate early. Donate often. I want your money! $5, $10, $25, $50, $50,000 (thanks, Todd Stiefel!) – whatever you can give in support of the SSA and its mission of supporting secular students, secular student groups and scientific and critical thought in our schools. That’s why we’re all doing this, right?

And this is where the “I am Your Dancing Monkey” part comes in.

When you donate, there is a place at the bottom of the form that allows you to leave a “topic suggestion” for a given blogger. It looks like this:

Donors choice. I will write about – or do (where’s that video camera?) – a good many things to earn your monies during my 24-hour blogathon. Write your suggestion in the box and I’ll try to make it happen.

Myself, I have two other ideas (other than blogging topics) of how you can use that space if you’re contributing to the Biodork blogathon:

1) Tell me WHERE to blog! I like this one and hope someone makes use of it. My blog tagline is “Thoughts from the big cherry”, which is a reference to the Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Walker Art Center. I love my adopted city and I love exploring it. You pick the place and I will scramble to get there in between blog posts. Don’t know the area? Jump on Google Maps or search for “Minneapolis landmarks” or similar. Pick a place and I’ll get there.

So here’s how it works. Donate a minimum of $10 to SSA and in the “Topic Suggestion” box write “Visit” and a place that is a) in Minneapolis, b) can be found if I google it, and c) is easily accessible to the public. No residential or private addresses please. Businesses, landmarks, etc. are cool. I will blog from that spot and put up a photo of me on location. I can’t promise that I’ll make it everywhere during the blogathon, but if you submit a location suggestion, I will try. I’m going to cap “travel blogs” at six locations so I can do some actual writing instead of spending all of my time driving around. If I don’t make it to your spot during the blogathon, I will do a wrap up post of those locations that were missed and have it up within one week.

2) Tell me to write about YOU! Do you want me to write a story about you and how badass, sweet and mild-mannered, supervillany or just plain AWESOME you are? I’m fairly decent at writing fictional, off-the-cuff stories, and it would be my honor to make up a fictional story about you! If you donate a minimum of $10 to the SSA I will write and post your story (approx. 250-500 words) during the blogathon. In the Topic Suggestion box write “Story About Me” and (this is important) include five words that you want me to include in your story (psst – they don’t have to be words that describe you – they can be any random words you want!)

Housekeeping note: If you donate and have made a request of me, and want to really, really make sure I see it, the best thing to do is to forward me your SSA donation email receipt (or send me a copy-paste of the relevant information). An administrator is going to be forwarding me requests as they come in, but the admin may not be on the clock for the full 24 hours. You can reach me at bio_dork@hotmail.com

You can start sending in requests any time. Aaaaaany time between now and 6am this Sunday morning. Well, it’s over at six, so let’s cap requests at 5am Sunday morning.

That’s a lot, I know. And I’m planning on doing some serious writing in between all of the silliness! I am very much looking forward to this wild ride, and hope you choose to spend some of it with me.

Okay. It’s time to go buy energy drinks!

Blogging as Activism – Harassment Policies

For those people who think that blogging is narcissistic, self-centered prattling, that we’re yelling into a void, that we’re just whining and not working to make real change, Stephanie Zvan is here to prove that blogging can be activism and can lead to change of the best kind.

Over at her blog, Almost Diamonds, she posted about sexist behavior at conventions which leads to women and men feeling uncomfortable, and in cases, unsafe. Unchecked sexually-charged atmospheres have earned some conventions a reputation of being unwelcoming to women. Some – including myself – would argue that this is one reason why women have been slow to join active communities outside of the internet.  It is a controversial topic because it’s a serious topic, and unless you have personally witnessed or been a victim of this sort of unwanted attention, it’s easy to believe that it doesn’t exist, or that it’s not as pervasive as witnesses have been saying, that people are over-reacting or misinterpreting. It’s easy to think this way because not enough of us have been working to open all of our eyes to this issue. But Stephanie has a way to help change this: Harassment policies at conventions.

[Read more…]

Judgmental Animals

My friend Beaver Hayes and I have started a new website.

We went to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska last weekend and took a ton of photos. We couldn’t help but notice a certain…disdain on the faces of most of the animals. At first we thought we were imagining it – you know…anthropomorphism and all that. But the more we looked, the more we came to accept that the animals were actually judging us. Being the scientitians that we are, we decided to document the evidence so it could be peer-reviewed by all of you. Your review and feedback would be invaluable to the study of animal judgmentology.

Welcome Taslima Nasrin to Freethought Blogs

When I began exploring atheism, I did so from a place of privilege. I live in a country where my right to not believe in a religion is guaranteed. I have lived in larger, progressive cities for much of my life, areas that have their share of religious diversity, and as such have developed a laissez faire attitude to the beliefs of others. I have support in the form of atheist gatherings, organized groups, books, online blogs and even other friends locally who believe the way I do.

Taslima Nasrin does not come from such a place.

She is a physician, a poet, essayist and writer of great notoriety. She has earned numerous awards for her bravery and her fight for women’s rights. This courageous, intelligent, persistent woman has had numerous fatwa called upon her by those who fear her message. Five of her books have been been banned: Lajja (Shame), Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood), Utol Haowa (The Tempest), Dwikhondito (Split in Two), and Sei Sob Andhokar (All Those Darkness). She has remained steadfast in her atheism, even though it cost her her home, family and security.

It is with much pride and awe that I announce that Taslima Nasrin is now blogging here on the Freethought Blogs network. Please go explore her new site and welcome her.

Bristol Palin is Blogging

At Patheos.

Incidentally, this is the same place that Hemant Mehta writes his Friendly Atheist blog. Patheos is an interfaith blog network which bears the tag line “Balanced Views of Religion and Spirituality”. They have a large contingent of Christian writers, so it’s not like Bristol will be out of place there. I just wonder what she’ll bring to the blogosphere (if it’s actually her doing the writing). Hey, today she wrote about Dancing With the Stars. And if she gets bored she can always talk about how that abstinence-only education she’s so fond of worked out for her.

Interwebs – you waited for me!

I wasn’t sure you’d still be here when I got back!

So, yeah. Hey.

How ya doing, Internet? My name’s Brianne, and I’ve been out of you for about a week and a half now, but I’m super excited about getting back into you.

Work has been crazy, but in a good way. I like being busy, having challenging goals and deadlines to meet. The frustrations are frustrating, but the wins are AWESOME. But there have been some long hours…about 120 of them in the past two weeks.

So I’ve been struggling to stay abreast of the latest online news, and holy crap has there been some. Sadly, I haven’t had a lot of time to process – let alone blog – some of the best stuff. And the Tonys…I missed the Tonys! I was going to bring chicken pot pie, chocolate salty balls and cheesy poofs to a friend’s house to watch the Tonys and show my support for The Book of Mormon, but turns out they didn’t need my contribution – they took home NINE  freaking Tonys! Woo-hoo!

Oooo…oh yeah, and I have a netbook now, and I’ve been doing my Rosetta Stone for Spanish. If there is ever a young male underneath a table, or if a boy and girl are in a boat, I can totally tell you so in two languages. Awwww yeah!

In between running assays and writing reports, I have managed to sneak in a few chapters of Pyramids, by Terry Pratchett. I’m a grudging fan of the Discworld series; I grew up on Piers Anthony’s Xanth - back then there were no other fantasy worlds as far as I was concerned. So, I missed out on Ankh-Morpork until just recently when some good friends re-introduced me to the books. And actually, these friends are involved with putting on the North American Discworld Convention that is taking place in Madison in a few weeks – there are still tickets available, you guys. If you’re a fan, you should go; Sir Terry is going to be present and there are all types of art, theater, role-play, storytelling, costuming and other Discworld merriments to be had. Did I mention that it’s in Madison, Wisconsin – a mere four hours away from the Twin Cities?

So, no news or rants today, but to wrap it up I want to share a couple of my favorite quotes so far from the Harper paperback 2008 edition of Pyramids: 

On gods physically walking among men:

And Dil was realizing that there are few things that so shake belief as seeing, clearly and precisely, the object of that belief. Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn’t believing. It’s where belief stops, because it isn’t needed anymore. -page 178

On camels, the greatest mathematicians in the history of Discworld:

Human mathematical development had always been held back by everyone’s instinctive tendency, when faced with something really complex in the way of triform polynomials or parametric differentials, to count fingers. Camels started from the word go by counting numbers.

Deserts were a great help, too. There weren’t many distractions. As far as camels were concerned, the way to mighty intellectual development was to have nothing much to do and nothing to do it with. -page 193

Absolutely awesome, odd, engaging fantasy storytelling.

See you tomorrow!