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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The Hubby’s 40th

Last Friday we celebrated the Hubby’s 40th birthday. He decided that his ideal celebration would be dinner and a movie with friends, which over a few conversations evolved into renting a movie theater, showing one of his favorite movies of all time, and sharing dinner with ALL THE FRIENDS!

We decided to make the Hubby’s 40th birthday party kind of a big deal.

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Cold, Dark and Slippery

Yeesh! It’s been snowing all day today; a light but steady fall of pretty white powder came down during the work day. I left at 7pm so I missed the rush hour traffic, but even my kick-ass snow tires were put to the test on the drive home. I saw one accident on 35W North near Diamond Lake Road in south Minneapolis. Another car – which had been abandoned by the time I saw it – was at an unlikely angle high up a hill on 212 in Eden Prairie. TwinCitiesTraffic.com is showing FOURTEEN accidents in since 7:42pm (within the past thirty minutes).

Stay safe, all.

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I was outside taking photos of the snow when I heard two horns bellow and squealing tires at this intersection. Cold. Dark. Slippery!

DSC_0080 (683x1024)Fresh snow in the city.

A Fire in the Neighborhood

I came back from work to my house in South Minneapolis this evening around 5:30pm. As I came within a few blocks of my apartment I saw lights and yellow tape and a cop detouring traffic. *heart thump* I ended up parking at the opposite end of the block and asked a nearby fireman if it was safe to go to my house. I got the all clear – it wasn’t my apartment complex.

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Walking up the empty, cordoned-off block towards my house. A traffic helicopter is in the sky.

According to ABC local news an explosion likely caused the commotion that was taking place across the street – one street and house away from us. No one was home during the explosion and fire, but one dog died [she writes as she takes a pause to pet the nearby cat perhaps a little too hard]. The news station interviewed one of the tenants, and he said that he lost thousands in musical instruments, artwork, electronics and action figures. A lot of that is irreplaceable, but I do hope the tenants of the four-plex all have renter’s insurance to help lessen the blow.

A few photos from the scene:

Cop Car

A police car and several fire trucks at the scene behind yellow barricade tape.

Fire and Safety Crews

Fire, safety and public works crews evaluate the scene.

Onlookers

On-lookers watch the scene from behind yellow barricade tape.

Traffic Helicopter

A news helicopter for KARE 11 hovers overhead.

Fire Trucks

Two fire trucks at the scene.

Firemen and FirewomenFire fighters standing in the street, waiting.

Fireman

One fireman glances up while loading his truck with equipment.

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!

Absentee Voting

This November 6th marks the first time that I will be out of my precinct during general elections. I freaked out a bit when I realized this yesterday; I have never done absentee voting. Since the election is less than two weeks away my first thought was that I’d be too late to turn around a mail-in ballot. But a Google search for “Absentee Voting Minneapolis” gave me all the information I needed to make a decision about how to cast my absentee vote.

I chose to vote in person at Minneapolis City Hall. The Hubby has the week off, so he agreed to drive me downtown today. I could have easily taken public transportation, but this helped save me a few precious minutes so I could get down there, vote, and get to work on time.

I walked into City Hall and was immediately helped by one of the election office clerks. She had me fill out a brief absentee ballot application, then gave me my ballot and a manila envelope. I went to the privacy booth, marked my choices, sealed the ballot in the envelope and returned to the desk. The clerk then placed the manila envelope containing my ballot into a second envelope that was marked with my absentee voter information and filed it away until it can be counted (I think she mentioned they start tabulating votes after 5pm on Friday 11/2/12).

For me, this was a super easy process. Don’t be afraid to vote absentee! You do not have to be pre-registered. If you need a non-traditional voting alternative, do check out your local options.

Seeing the ballot was a bit surreal. I was especially struck by the Constitutional Amendment sections. Seeing the language on the ballot that I have been speaking about with friends and family and strangers for the past several months made my heart skip. There it was – the moment when I was able to make my stand on issues that I feel so strongly about. It was all I could do to keep from driving my pen through the paper as I covered every millimeter of the NO circles with dark black ink.

It was moving. Even as an activist who works to dispel this myth, some days in the far back corner of my mind I hear a whisper that tells me I can’t make a difference. But today there was no whisper. I felt empowered and I felt that my voice would be heard. Because I know that there are a lot of our voices out there. I felt connected to all of you who will join me in voting against discrimination in the next week and a half. This election cycle we’re going to make history.

Why I’m Voting No

Ben from TheSweatervest blog invited me to write about why I’m voting no to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment this November for his 42 Days of No project, which is highlighting “Why I’m Voting No” stories by Minnesotans (he started it 42 days prior to this November’s vote). This piece was submitted for that project.

I am voting NO on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment because a yes vote is a vote for discrimination. I don’t want to hear one more story about gay families being denied hospital visitation, bereavement rights or control of their possessions or children because they were not afforded the same legal protection that straight couples receive. The Minnesota Marriage Amendment is a Hail Mary pass supported by bigots that is intended to delay the inevitable; gay marriage WILL be legal in my lifetime.

I am voting NO because the Minnesota Marriage Amendment is a ploy by Republicans who are trying to win support from religiously-motivated voters. It is a cheap trick and dirty politics, and I don’t support it.

Vote No Jeep

Vote No Jeep parked outside of the YWCA in Uptown, Minneapolis.

I have a coworker who told me that she’s voting yes because the bible implies that gay marriage is wrong. She says she respects gay people, and that voting yes doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love her gay friends and family.

Bullshit.

If you love your gay friends and family, help protect them against inequitable representation in the legal system. If you are voting yes in November, you are spitting in the faces of people who need your help. You are telling them that you think they are wrong, that you know who they should love and marry better than they do.

Vote No Car in Front of Uptown Theater

 Vote No Car stopped in front of the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis

I have an acquaintance who doesn’t believe the government should be involved in marriage at all. He says he’s going to vote yes because he thinks this will send a message that government shouldn’t have any say over marriage at all.

That is an incredibly fucked up viewpoint.

The Minnesota Marriage Amendment would exert more government control over marriage, not less. It would be so bold as to define who can and can’t get married. What right does government have to make that call? For right or wrong, the government does have some say in marriage and in the rights of married people. If it is going to exert that control, it should at least do so without preference to one set of people over others.

It is my honor and duty to vote, and I am voting NO on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment because I will not stand quietly aside as discrimination is codified into our constitution. Neither god nor politics has a place in the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, and I will not let arguments to either of these blind me to the fact that voting yes to this heinous, sorry excuse of a proposed amendment would harm my fellow Minnesotans.

Eugenie Scott at University of Minnesota

I attended Dr. Eugenie Scott’s talk, “Climate Change – Why the Resistance?” at the University of Minnesota last night.

The venue was perfect for the audience size. I sat in the fourth row of the Cowles auditorium in Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Audio was spot on and there were no technical issues to distract from the presentation.

The evening started with a brief message from Will Steger, a very-well known polar explorer and environmentalist who has dedicated a good part of his efforts to educating about global warming and encouraging the world to take action and find solutions to climate change. He outlined the types of global warming denial that we are seeing from different political, economic and religious interests, and spoke about what his foundation is doing to effect changes in strategies for dealing with climate change.

Will Steger gives a brief opening address.

Dr. Scott took the stage after that. She opened by establishing that there is overwhelming scientific consensus that AGW (anthropogenic global warming) is happening, and that while there is an opposing viewpoint (those who deny AGW), that viewpoint is not equally supported by scientists, especially those who specialize in climate science.

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