Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Upcoming Show: Atheists Talk with David Silverman

November 12, 2011

Imma be on the radio again tomorrow! I’m actually pretty excited to sit in on this interview; we’re speaking with David Silverman, the current president of American Atheists. He’s going to talk about the upcoming Reason Rally in Washington D.C., which is an event that the Hubby and I are considering attending next March. From the Reason Rally website:

The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it! It will be the largest secular event in world history. There will be music, comedy, great speakers, and lots of fun… and it’s free!

The three main goals of the rally are:

  • To encourage attendees (and those who can’t make it) to come out of the closet as an atheist, or at least a supporter of secular values.
  • To dispel stereotypes – there is no one “True Atheist” no matter what your pastor or parent may tell you. We will have non-theists from all political persuasions, ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds. We will show that there are atheists in every American demographic.
  • Legislative equality. We want to show the country that atheists can run for office and adequately represent theists, just as theists in office can represent atheists proudly and openly. We deserve a seat at the table just like theists, and we hope this rally can put our values in the radar of American voters, who may one day elect an atheist to public office.

The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey estimates that 12% of Americans identify as atheist or agnostic. According to google.com/publicdata there are 307,006,550 people in the United States. 12% of that is 36.8 million people who identify as atheist/agnostic.

That number sounds large, but it still seems pretty lonely being a non-believer when I’m outside of the internet or my close circle of friends. I feel a bit sad when I hear coworkers talking so freely about going to church on Sunday or going to a Bible study this or that evening, while I hesitate to share the exciting news that I’m a radio show host! because the next comment is “Really? For what?” And then there’s that sinking feeling when I realize that I’ve just shared a secular viewpoint that is not appreciated by the majority of people in the conversation. Also, there are the often innocently asked but ultimately silly or annoying or frustrating or laughable or offensive questions revolving around my atheism. Like the question I received from someone at work when I told them that I had visited Asissi, Italy. They looked confused and asked “But why? You’re an atheist. What did you do there?” 

I know a handful of people who think that they don’t know any atheists (hah!). Heck, I spoken to atheists who think they’re the only atheist they know!

If we can get a large enough number of people to the Reason Rally, not only do we have a fun time at a secular event with other non-theists, but we show the world that there are more of us around than they may think. We show them that people they know are atheists. We show them that we’re happy, healthy and not afraid or ashamed to tell the world that we don’t need a god to make us good, moral, upstanding human beings. We show them that we can know joy, exhilaration, peace and love without any sort of supernatural presence or interference. We show them that there is an entire group of us who are willing to fight to keep religion out of our government. And I imagine we’ll suprise the heck out of ourselves when we look around the mall that day and think…oh wow – there really are a lot of us!

So yeah.

Reason Rally. David Silverman. This Sunday, 9am on 950AM KTNF. You can listen to the show live or find us on iTunes under “Atheists Talk”.

Dragon*Con

September 4, 2011

First, if you follow me on twitter or facebook, I must apologize. I just went and dropped this Dragon*Con chaos on you with very little warning. So if it’s been annoying, I do hope you laughingly shrugged off all of the dozens of wacky, zany status updates and ignored me.

If, however, you have been vicariously experiencing Dragon*Con through my updates…this event is AWESOME! (Here’s where you say, “I know, RIGHT???”)

I originally came to Dragon*Con, strangely enough, not because of my scifi/fantasy nerdiness, but because I heard about it through my involvement with skeptic podcasts, blogs and groups. I had thought that I would spend most of my time in the room dedicated to the Skeptic track. And don’t get me wrong, I could have. But this. is. DRAGON*CON!

DRAGON*CON!!!!

Or shoot, no, I meant:

DRAGON*KHAAAAAAAN!

Okay, enough of that specific brand of silliness.

So, because Dragon*Con has all sorts of sci-fi/fantasy/science/gaming/pop culture offerings I have found a whole slew of interesting panels to attend. I’ve managed to go to panels in four out of the five hotels and have hit six different fan tracks: Skeptics, Podcasting, Main Programming, American Sci-Fi Media, Anne McCaffery’s Worlds, and British Sci-Fi Media. I’m a little proud of myself.

I could spend a couple or three hundred words telling you how thought-provoking the Coming Out Skeptical (JT Eberhard) and Everything Evolves (Dr. Eugenie Scott) panels were, or how exciting it was to be in the front row for the Paul and Storm Talk About Some Stuff for Five Minutes podcast, how neat it was to be in the same room as Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner for a Star Trek Q&A, and later to see Eddie McClintock from Warehouse 13, Felicia Day, Amy Okuda, Robin Thorsen, and a bunch of other famous people in the autograph room, how suprisingly pleased I was with The Ship Who Sang reading which had a full cast of people playing characters (including Anne McCaffery’s son Todd McCaffery) and made me cry like a baby, how fun it was to participate in the British Sci-Fi Media fan-led panel on all things Neil Gaiman, and how super excited I was to get a good seat for the live podcast of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.  

But we all know that you mostly want to see pictures.

Here’s me – Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree!

I had fun in the Marriot – a suprising number of people recognized me as The Giving Tree, a bunch of other people yelled “A shrubbery!” (from The Holy Grail), only two people guessed that I was an Ent (from Lord of the Rings), and a lot of people wanted to take photos with me. I actually scared a few people because I was standing against a wall and they thought I was a lobby plant until they met my eyes, which I found hi-larious! Unfortunately, I underestimated my ability to move around the uber-crowded public areas and almost took out a few eyes with my pointy tree branches. It was nerve-wracking, and I really needed a handler. Also, finding room in the hotel elevators was pretty hellish. Overall, though, it was a good experience and I enjoyed walking around in costume.

And here’s some of the other amazing costumes. Amazing. Really, really fascinatingly amazing. Enjoy.

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Characters: Han Solo frozen in carbonite, Princess Leia, Jigsaw, Not sure who the dragon and guy in the tech suit are, Queen of Hearts, Characters from Batman universe, Harley Quinn, Bat Women, K-9 (Doctor Who), Iron Men and Woman, Beaker, Flasher C3-PO, 9, Robotic Flying Shark, Nyan Mouse, Death (Sandman), R2-D2, Superman with young Yoda and Batman, Waldo, Freaky Clowns, Zelda (Delirium from Sandman in background), Unknown characters in front of a TARDIS, Brent Spiner and Gates McFadden at a Star Trek Q&A (okay, not technically “characters”, but awesome enough to get a photo in the slideshow).

She’s been found not guilty, so drop it.

July 15, 2011

I didn’t follow the Casey Anthony trial.

I read about the case about a month ago and it sounded like a horrible tragedy, similar to a handful of other horrible tragedies in recent news. Last week I happened to be in a place where they were showing a live broadcast of the judge reading the jury’s verdicts. There were seven separate charges, but the gist of it seemed to be not guilty on killing her daughter, guilty on lying to the cops.

The most disturbing thing about the broadcast was watching the “people on the street” interviews that happened immediately after the verdicts were announced. And by interviews I mean, the mob outside of the courthouse frothing at the mouth and screaming into the microphone when it came anywhere near them.  The “interviews” went on for quite a while, and more than a few crazed yahoos had a chance to yell threats about what they’d do to Casey Anthony if they met her in a dark alley, or proclaim that the justice system is broken, or lament the travesty of justice that had occured, or that you bet your ass they would have voted differently.

And this week, this happened. From News9.com

CHOUTEAU, Oklahoma — An apparent case of mistaken identity almost cost one Oklahoma woman her life. The Chouteau woman says someone tried to kill her because she looks like Casey Anthony, who, as of July 14, was still jailed halfway across the country in Florida.

The Casey Anthony trial was not a reality TV show, and the audience does not get to vote in the outcome. We have a set process with lawyers, aids, a judge and in this case, a twelve-person jury. And. We. Were. Not. A. Part. Of. It. We do not get to help decide this one, and we do not get to take justice into our own hands because the jury didn’t give us blood.

The jury members may or may not have thought that Casey Anthony killed her daughter. But whatever they thought of her guilt, the fact of it is we are innocent until proven guilty in this country, and the jury decided that there was not enough evidence to prove that Casey Anthony was guilty. That’s what is so wrong about the words, threats and actions of the crazed yahoos – they decided that what they *thought* was enough to justify a guilty verdict and evidence be damned.

As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t followed the story, and what I know about trial procedure (and pehaps the entire field of US  law) could fit into the period at the end of this sentence. So I couldn’t tell you if I believe that the jury made a good decision. We have to assume that they followed the regulations of current trial process and gave an honest decision based on the available evidence.

So that’s it. Drop it. Stop with the Dexter jokes, stop with the whispering about conspiracies, stop with the calls for vigilante justice. It’s disgusting, and it reflects poorly on all of us.

Of Blogging and Headstones

May 17, 2011

And dog tricks, and kitty hiding spots and the strange mix of awkwardness and comfort that occurs when meeting someone in person who you’ve only previously known online, and directions to restaurants located somewhere in the North Chicago area. These are all things that were discussed when I stopped over at the marvelous Jeremy and Tina’s house when I was in Chicago last weekend. They invited me into their home, let me rough-house with their gorgeous pitbull, Talulah, and gave me coffee and a tour of the nearby Graceland Cemetery, which houses the earthly remains of many people who played huge roles in Chicago’s history. And then we went to brunch, and it was good. I even had a chance to see a lot of the city on the way there. *snicker*

I’ve said it several times, in a few different places, but Jeremy – if you read this one – thanks again for a wonderful afternoon!

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New CUP Contest tomorrow!

May 13, 2011

Okay, I want to write about my week, so you can either bear with me OR if you just want to learn about tomorrow’s CUP Contest scroll all the way down to the last paragraph of this post.

START READING HERE FOR DRAMA! INTRIGUE! BETRAYAL! TOW TRUCKS!

This past week has been amazingly stressful, both in good ways and bad.

On Friday I drove eight hours down to Chicago to visit with my Mom. On Saturday we went to the Art Institute, enjoyed a lovely tapas lunch at Emilio’s, and went to Cirque Eloize that evening. After the show we ate a light dinner at Petterino’s and then came back to the hotel and packed. The next morning we got up early, I dropped Mom off at the train station and I headed over to meet Chicago cool cat and fellow blogger Jeremy and his Chicago cool cat wife, Tina. We puttered around snapping photos in a relatively famous cemetery called Graceland Cemetery, then battled the Mother’s Day crowds to have lunch at Marietta’s (phenomenal lunch and well worth the wait!). I’ll have more info and pics of the Chicago trip in a later post.

I left for Minneapolis at around 2pm, but immediately became stuck in traffic on I94 leaving Chicago. I survived that and stopped at the Belvidere Oasis for road snacks (i.e., junk food that can’t be justified in normal day-to-day existence), and then I made it four hours NW to Mauston, Wisconsin when my car broke down. My bought in February of this year/60-day bumper-to-bumper warranty expiring less than three weeks ago/NEW CAR broke down. When I stopped for gas in Mauston, the engine wouldn’t start again. I called AAA for a tow truck. When I went into the BP to let them know why I was blocking a pump, I was browbeaten into pop clutching the car by this horrific bully of a woman who mocked me for  calling for help when it was so obvious that all I had was a dead battery. We got the engine started and I agreed with her that I should just head for Minneapolis and not stop anymore.

But instead, the second I left the  BP gas station I drove over to a local KMart to buy a battery, just in case mine quit on the trip home. At KMart the car died as I was pulling into a parking spot. Not a good sign, but my first reaction was  joyous indignation as I thought “Ha! I knew that pushy b*tch was wrong!” But then I realized “Oh wait, my car is broke good, innit?” Still, I decided to replace the battery and try for home.

As soon as the battery was in, I started the ignition and the engine roared to life. I headed for Minneapolis, but made myself nauseous with worry for the next three hours. I tried all sorts of tricks to relax including listening to different kinds of music and podcasts to distract myself, breathing deeply and calmly, arguing with myself that even if I did break down I could call for help, and really a breakdown was just money and time.

None of that worked.

I worried for the entire time up until I actually did break down again outside of Hudson, WI, which is about 40 miles from Minneapolis.  I was THIS close to making it home! It was about 9:30pm and night had fallen. I glanced down at my dash and saw that it was completely dark. I glanced at the road in front of me and was horrified to realize that my headlights had gone out. The only reason I was able to see was because the traffic behind me was illuminating the road and the tail lights of the cars in front of me were guiding my way. I pulled off the road just as the engine died. Alternator.

Aych eee double hockey sticks.

To make an already long story slightly less interminable: AAA came and towed me to Stillwater where some nice friends rescued me and put me up for the night.  

Monday was gray and depressing. I had left my glasses in the car at the repair shop and my contacts had conked out, so I spent most of the day with fuzzy vision, which gave me a headache. The car wasn’t ready until 2:30pm. So, many hours and $600 later I left Stillwater. I drove right to the house of some friends in North Minneapolis to relax and be around nice people, because I was so bummed out that I didn’t want to be in an empty apartment by myself. Who knows what kind of damage I could have done the Ben and Jerry’s container in the freezer at my place?

On Tuesday I had to go to the dentist AND I had a doctor’s appointment. Also, work got very…involved that day. The one bright spot was a crazy spring storm and an evening of drinks and gossip at the Independent with a friend.

On Wednesday work was very busy again, and I spent the evening doing laundry and cleaning the house.

So, you see…it’s just been an often crabby, sometimes enjoyable, busy few days.

But yesterday was pretty awesome. Work is crazy busier than usual, but I’ve taken on an interesting new project. After work last night I headed over to the Be’Wiched Deli in Minneapolis to enjoy dinner, drinks and conversation with the Minnesota Skeptics meetup group.

And today I felt like blogging. Woo-hoo!

START READING HERE FOR CUP CONTEST INFORMATION!

So, now that I’ve completely tricked you into reading about my personal drama by putting a misleading title on this blog post, allow me to announce that TOMORROW at 6pm I will post the next Close Up Photo Contest entry. I actually have the CUP Winners page up to date, so stop on by to read the rules, learn about past entries and take a gander at the current player rankings.

See you tomorrow!

My Response to an Anti-Choice Note

January 18, 2011

Someone wrote me this note in response to my “Defend Reproductive Freedom” and “Keep Abortion Legal” bumper stickers.  I decided to answer his or her questions to the best of my ability.

Original Note:

Sorry to Meddle, But isn’t it hyprocritical to be for abortion when you yourself are alive? What if u were the one that was aborted. What about adoption. America want to save the whales, but abort the babies. Very sad. [sic]

My Response:

Hello unknown person who left the honest note on my car,

I do not think you are meddling – I welcome your hard questions and will do my best to answer them.

It is not hypocritical to support a person or family’s right to have an abortion when I myself am alive. This is because people do not have abortions to prevent life, but in order to prevent unwanted, unplanned or unsafe pregnancies, which if carried to term would result in a lesser quality of life for either the parent(s) or the unborn child.

To your second point – if I were aborted, we would not be having this conversation. That’s pretty much all I can say about that.

Lastly, you ask about adoption. I think that adoption is a choice, and if that choice is not acceptable for a woman or family, I would not pressure them to choose it over another form of reproductive control. Just as I would never presume to tell another woman or man how to raise their own child, I would never be so bold as to dictate to a woman or man how to have – or not have – a child in the first place.

Being pro-choice does not mean being “for abortion”; abortion is scary and a choice of last resort for most women and families. Nobody wants to have an abortion, but sometimes that’s the best – or only – option available. In these cases I want women and families to have safe and legal access to excellent physical and mental health care, and to not have to carry personal or social shame around in their hearts and minds afterwards.

PS – I think that whales and unborn children should be saved when at all possible. I am very pro-living.

Thanks for thought-provoking note, and for not just vandalizing my car instead.

I just folded up a printed copy of the letter below and placed it under the windshield wiper where I found the original note this morning.  I wanted to also post it here because I worked hard on the damn thing and know that it probably won’t be received by the author of the original note, so at least it will be seen by someone.  Thanks for reading it.

My Very Own Mail!

January 18, 2011

I’ve seen some bloggers use the blog title “I get mail” when they receive particularly noteworthy mail – usually when the message is on the snarky, aggressive or incredibly inane side of things.

Biodork has relatively tiny readership, I address a wide range of topics, and when I do write about a controversial issue, I try to avoid name-calling or other fallacious arguments, so I think I rate relatively low on the dickhead scale. Thus, I haven’t incited much mail from commenters who want to save my soul or chew me out for my garden variety hippie liberal left-wing leanings.

But I received something this morning, which I might be so bold as to call “better” than an e-rant: A handwritten note underneath my windshield wipers in response to my “Defend Reproductive Freedom” and “Keep Abortion Legal” bumper stickers!

Sorry to Meddle, But isn’t it hyprocritical to be for abortion when you yourself are alive? What if u were the one that was aborted. What about adoption. America want to save the whales, but abort the babies. Very sad. [sic]

I’m oddly touched by this note. I mean, it’s hand-written and it’s local – maybe from one of my neighbors who I see in my apartment complex or around town. It’s not an auto-generated response from some group halfway across the country that found me via a bot which was attracted to a blog post tag. I like to think that the person who left this note was walking home from somewhere, and that upon seeing my bumper sticker was so moved that they dug out some scratch paper and penned this letter on the spot so that they might inquire further about my personal beliefs on abortion, thus opening dialogue and prompting thought-provoking debate on the issue.

Okay, I’m getting flippant. But there is something human and non-rabid about this note that appeals to me, so tonight I’m going to leave a hand-written response under my windshield wipers. And who knows, maybe they’ll find it. At the very least it should garner some sympathy (or laughs) because it’ll look like I got a parking violation ticket.

Brainy White Elephant Exchange

December 10, 2010

Our office holiday party was yesterday, and it was pretty fabulous.

The party was held off-campus in the Snyder Building Auditorium of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  The room had a gigantic sloping ceiling and huge wood and glass chandeliers.  One of the organizers had made pretty centerpieces made of red-bark dogwood, pine tree braches and ribbon.

The food was really very good!  There was a lot of food that I was able to eat, even with the whole gluten-free deal-eo.  I had a mixed greens salad, grilled vegetables, caprese salad and chicken with capers, nom nom nom!  I had to pass on the orzo (Orzo is always frustrating.  I want to go to the cook and say “You picked rice-shaped pasta!  You meant to pick RICE!), the heavenly-smelling bread basket, and every single desert option, but after dinner I had some delicious apple cider with cinnamon sticks and was plenty satisfied. 

There were a few short speeches and recognition awards, and a drawing for door prizes that seemed relatively benign – T-shirts with the company logo, some gift cards, etc – until the big winner opened his plain cardboard box to reveal a frickin’ iPad!  Argh – so jealous!  Apparently our department received the iPad as part of a promotion for ordering a whole slew of HPLC columns that we needed anyway.  Order more!  Order more!  I need to do some chromotography on…uh…that dihydrogen monoxide over there (As an aside, this is the awesomest website on dihydrogen monoxide EVER)

Then came the event that I had been looking forward to for the whole week:  The WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGE!

I love white elephant exchanges because they’re humorous, slightly competitive and there’s always a chance you’ll walk away with something fun and exciting.  Just in case you haven’t heard of a white elephant exchange, this is how it works:

1) Find something around the house that can be re-gifted.  It can range from semi-nice (soaps collections, candles) to ugly (homemade ceramic fish) to very strange (huge green Hulk mitts that make growling sounds when you bash them together).  The odd gifts are usually the most fun.

2) Wrap the present and bring it to the party.  All of the presents go into a pile.

3) Everyone draws a number.

4) #1 goes to the pile and chooses a present.  He/She unwraps the present and displays it for all to see.

5) #2 may either choose a wrapped present from the pile, or may “steal” the present that #1 unwrapped.  If #2 steals, then #1 gets to choose a replacement present from the pile.

6) #3 may either choose a wrapped present from the pile, or may “steal” either of the other two already revealed presents.  If someone’s gift gets stolen, he/she may either choose a new present or steal a different unwrapped present.

And so forth and so on until everyone has a present.  Rules may vary.  Our White Elephant Exchange had a rule that any given present may only be stolen three times.  The person who got it on the third steal was safe; they could no longer have the present taken away.

We had 40 people participate, and there were some pretty silly and pretty decent presents in our pile.  On my first turn I chose a wrapped present.  It ended up being this ridiculous poker table/business card holder affair:

I figured that there was no way anyone would take this piece of crap present off of my hands.  I mean…who keeps paper business cards anymore?  But somewhere around #20 the big boss honcho took his turn.  He looked at all of the unwrapped presents and then said something to the effect of, “What department supervisor doesn’t need a good place to store business cards?  I’m stealing that poker table!”

Holy cow!  Hardly believing my good luck, I handed over the business card holder and rushed to the stack of presents.  I unwrapped a ~8″ wooden giraffe statue, which looked something like this:

Meh.  Whatever.  I could get down with a giraffe statue.  But just a couple of turns later, a coworker stole the giraffe, proclaiming that it would be perfect for his little cousin who just loves giraffes (note the plea to sympathy to try to avoid having it stolen later down the line).

That was a good steal for me, because in the intervening time someone has unwrapped…a BRAIN CANDLE!  It was beautiful with its gray, plump gyri and deep sulci, perhaps about the same size as adolescent human brain.  It did have a severely flattened cerebellum and a noticeable lack of the rest of the hindbrain, but I suppose it was shaped to sit on a flat surface, so I was willing to forgive the designer his or her artistic license.  Because, HELLO, it was a BRAIN CANDLE!

So I stole the brain candle and retreated to my corner, hoping that in the plethora of gifts available, no one would remember me and my little treasure.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, the candle was stolen a few rounds later.  After all, I was in a room full of nerdy scientists.  Despondent and bored with the opened presents I went back to the mystery gift pile.  I unwrapped a well-used, stained coffee cup/candle warming plate.

Crap!  Well, that was going in the garbage.  I’ve never owned nor wanted a warming plate, but I nodded, acknowledged my present and got back in line with everyone else.  In other news, there was some drama over a very nice set of pasta pots that had been stolen once or twice.  A few turns after I had drawn my lousy warming plate, the current holder of the pasta pots had them stolen from her.

Now whenever it was someone’s turn to choose between a wrapped gift and an already-opened gift, all of us who wanted to get rid of our crap presents would loudly market our wares to that person.  When the pasta pot-less women came over toward me I pitched my plate, “You could use it to cook pasta.  You know…if you used a very small pan.”  Amazingly, she took the bait!  I was free to choose another gift.

I was heading toward the pile of unopened gifts when inspiration struck.  “Hey!”  I turned toward the emcee.  “Can I steal a present that has already been stolen from me?”  After a  brief huddle I was given the okay.  I turned toward the brute who had so cruelly stolen the brain candle, raised my eyebrows and started sauntering in his direction.  He made a sound of protest and looked down at the brain candle, which he was protectively cradling in his hands.  He gave me a mock scowl, sniffed and handed it over.  

Bonus: This was the third steal – the brain was henceforth protected from other present thieves!  I returned to my seat with my new treasure, glowing with the excitement of having fought for and won my very own brain candle (and managing to weasel out of the other crap presents).

Merging Traffic

December 9, 2010

Today I would like to discuss merging traffic.

I think that when two lanes merge together on a highway, people should be adults – take turns, watch the road, adjust speed accordingly so that everyone is able to make a smooooth transition without causing traffic to halt.  

Yeah, right.  So here’s the situation:

There’s an area in the Minneapolis metro called the Crosstown.  In the past couple of years there’s been a lot of construction to make the area around one historically horrendous intersection (that of 35W/62) better, and it IS.  My complaint isn’t with that area, but with the other end, the area where 62 Eastbound merges with 212 North and 62 Eastbound.

All Crosstown commuters know this spot.  The highway here narrows down from two lanes to one.  For some reason (or more likely multiple, individual reasons) most people line up in the right lane – the lane into which all traffic eventually merges.  There are a few people who (again, probably for multiple, individual reasons) speed along in the left lane until the last possible minute and then merge when the left lane disappears.

I admit to being a passive driver in this situation.  I get in line and usually crawl forward for about five minutes until I’ve passed the merge and then traffic starts to flow again.  I say that I “admit” to be a passive driver, because I think the speeders are in the right; they’re moving forward in an open lane and then merging, just like they’re supposed to do.  

But not everyone feels this way, and I’m nervous about the Right Lane Road Ragers.

Remember, most people line up in the right lane, thus avoiding having to be active mergers.  I think that the mindset for the Right Lane Road Ragers is that we in the right lane have the “power”;  we get to allow people to merge with us because we’re already where we’re supposed to be, right?  And gosh darn, we waited in line – we waited our turn, so no speedster is gonna zip up the left lane and merge in front of me!  ‘Cuz I waited my turn!

Ugh.  It’s so stupid.

Right Lane Road Ragers try to punish the mergers.  One popular punishment is riding bumper-to-bumper in the right lane.  This blocks the merging traffic and forces them to come to a stop when the left lane ends.  The problem with this ploy is that the mergers never stop.  They are a hardier, ballsier breed and they will force their shit into the right lane, causing all of us to stop.

Another popular punishment is riding the line, or out-and-out blocking the the left lane waaay before the left lane ends.  I snapped a photo of a particularly bad example of this a couple of days ago:

See the space in front of the SUV in the left lane?  There’s probably a good half-mile stretch before that lane ends.  This incredible, Self-Righteous Jerk decided to take it on himself/herself to completely BLOCK the left lane.  He/She went exactly the same speed as the right lane traffic for the entire distance from here to the merge, ignoring the sustained honks, the aggressive attempts to move around on the left or right side, the hand-gesturing and yelling.    

What happened is the people in the left lane did some incredibly stupid and dangerous stunts to retaliate and/or just get around him.  One guy did this:

My drawing skills suck, so to sum up: Dude in pink who was being merge-blocked whips to the right, drives between two cars in the right lane, speeds up the shoulder, whips between two more cars so that he’s now in front of Self-Righteous Jerk.  Dude in pink proceeds to SLAM ON HIS BRAKES, flips the Self-Righteous Jerk the bird, screams something over his shoulder, then speeds away.

Truly, podcasts cannot compete with this sort of freeway entertainment. 

****************************

So, what am I saying here?

First – everybody STFU and calm down.  Download some soothing Celtic Moon new age-y, Waves on the Beach calming stuff and relax.  Or play some jazz or happy bubblegum pop, death metal, experimental hip hop techno goth punk rock choral arrangement…whatever puts *you* in that nice, peaceful My Fellow Human Beings Deserve My Attention and Respect And Really We All Just Want To Get Home So Let’s Work Together Here mindset (MFHBDMAARARWAJWTGH is the name of my REM cover band*).

Second – Let people merge, you bastards!  When you try to punish people who you think are in the wrong, you cause accidents or attention-grabbing kerfuffles, and that slows all of us down.  Dadgummit, it’s a merge lane, so let people merge!

Third – Isn’t there an entire branch of civil engineering that deals with this kind of situation?  Can’t we get some signs or a campaign teaching people how to use a merge lane?  Reducing the gas consumption, wear-and-tear on the roads, environmental impact from traffic jams, and increasing the ability of emergency vehicles to navigate efficiently through the city…wouldn’t these be great problems for a civil engineer to solve and put on their performance review plan for 2011?  Go team go!

Yeah.

So…I think that’s about it. 

Have a nice day and a safe, uneventful, merge-positive drive home.

*reference for all you non-P&S nerds

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Update:  One of the commenters, Senja, called this type of merge a “zipper merge”.  I propose that the “Lane ends, merge right” sign be replaced with the following: 

You’re welcome.

Presidential Rally at U of MN

October 25, 2010

Here’s the write up of my experiences at President Obama’s rally on the University of MN campus this past Saturday.

The Line

Wow, The Line. 

The Hubby and I left the house at 11:15am.  President Obama was rumored to be speaking at about 3pm, and local dignitaries and politicians would start speaking about 1pm.  We figured we’d get in line around noon and have a couple of hours to get seated.  As we were leaving the apartment, we heard an MPR correspondant says that thousands of people had already lined up to hear President Obama speak.  I really had no idea what thousands of people might look like, but we had heard that the Fieldhouse could hold 7,000 people so we decided to try our luck in line.  It turns out that thousands (lower-case “t”) in a stadium is nothing, but when you make all of those people stand in a single/double-file line Thousands (big freaking capital “T”) is a hell of a lot of people.

We rode our bikes from our home in LynLake to the rally on the U of MN’s East Bank.  The Fieldhouse is at 18th St. and University Ave.  We rode up University and parked our bikes when we came to road blocks at 16th Street.  We started to walk east up University toward the Fieldhouse, but were redirected by security.  Crowd control was pretty lousy from where we started – there were no signs or rally volunteers to direct us to the end of the line.  We had no idea where we were going, and so we decided to follow the small group ahead of us who were wearing U of MN sweatshirts and jackets and saying words like Obama, line, and Washington Avenue.

Below is a map of the East Bank campus.  The red line is the path we walked from our bikes to the end of the line.  The yellow circles are the Fieldhouse where President Obama spoke and the overflow seating in the Sports Pavillion where the Hubby and I ended up – more on that later.  The blue line…that was The Line.

These are some pictures from The Line.

This was our first view of The Line as we came around the west side of Northrup Auditorium.   This is the NW corner of the Mall.

After walking down the Mall and around Kolthoff Hall, we finally found the end of The Line outside of the Wiseman art center.  We were actually on the Washington Avenue footbridge for a while.

Ah, chalk art advertising!  I’d forgotten all about this college campus mode of communication.

This was when we turned onto Church Street.  I believe that’s Lind Hall on the right.

Trekking between Lind Hall and the Engineering buildings.  Doesn’t that statue look like it’s saying “Yes We Can!  Only a few more feet!”

After walking a few blocks along Washington Avenue we took a left at Walnut Street and filed up past the McNamara Alumni Center and back down the Aquatic Center. 

The Umbrella Tree – Rally volunteers were announcing that no umbrellas would be allowed inside the Fieldhouse, so this tree was being decorated with pretty ornaments. 

Next we took a jaunt up Scholar’s Walk.  It was here that we started hearing rumors that the Fieldhouse had filled to capacity and that the Fire Marshall was rerouting us to overflow viewing.  A good number of people left the line, but I’d guess about 500 people or so stayed and filed into the Sports Pavillion to see President Obama speak on a big screen.  By this time it was almost 3pm so we had missed all of Mark Dayton’s speech as well as Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. 

The big screens were actually two screens back-to-back so that each side of the bleachers could be utilized for seating.  The absolute worst infomercials were playing while we waited for President Obama’s speech to begin!

*sigh* This was as close to our President as we got.  But hey – the seating was comfy and we had an excellent view of the screen.

The Demonstrators

One of the things that I really like about big political events like this are the demonstrators.  I like seeing people get out and get excited about their views, projects and groups.  So I was a little bummed out that we saw less than ten groups demonstrating.  I mean – captive audience, people!  I only saw two “anti” signs – one against the current administration and one against democrats.  I saw two anti-war groups, a small contingent from the Minneapolis Urban League advertising an upcoming event, one guy with a sign about ending violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt (?), and there was one Green party group handing out fliers.  The most organized group was from the MN Committee to Stop FBI Repression.  They had people along the entire route handing out fliers  to bring attention to the September FBI raids on seven Chicago and Minneapolis homes of anti-war protesters.

The lady with the yellow sign is not so happy with the way things are going in our country. 

Yay! This is the kind of thing I was hoping to see.  The Radical Roosters had a small group of people dancing and chanting up and down the Mall.

“Democrats Flush Away Prosperity”  Is that why my toilet sometimes gets clogged?

A protester against persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

One of the many anti-FBI repression protesters.

The Talk

According to the MNDaily, approximately 11,000 people attended the President’s speech, which lasted about 30 minutes. 

The energy in the Sports Pavillion wasn’t very high.  One lady came in before the speech and gave a half-hearted try at riling up the crowd.  She yelled “Is everyone fired up…”  and a few people chimed in “And ready to go!”  She yelled a few more times and each time a few more people joined in, but it didn’t really get going.  Everyone was pretty quiet and probably subdued from standing in line for 2+ hours and then finding out that we weren’t going to see the President in person. 

I thought that President Obama’s talk was pretty standard fare.  He implored the audience to get out and vote, and to support Mark Dayton in the upcoming November 2nd elections.  He highlighted the government’s successes of health care reform, the federal stimulus, bringing troops home from Iraq and credit card reform, and reminded people that he’s got ambitious plans for improving the deficit and unemployment in his next two years in office.  He attempted to drum up enthusiasm and urged the audience not to forget all of the hard work we did in 2008, and to not lose the enthusiasm that has brought us to where we are today.

A few remarks did get audience-wide applause, but ours usually ended well before the live audience had wrapped it up next door.  For a while we thought we might have a visit from one of the bigwigs because bomb-sniffing dogs were led around the aisles and people sitting by one of the far doors were being individually scanned with metal detector wands.  But alas, as soon as the President’s speech was over people shot up and walked for the doors.  

All in all, it was a good experience.  It was definitely exciting to be surrounded by so many pro-Obama enthusiasts, and it was neat to know that President Obama was visiting my city.  The pain of The Line was tempered by the group think that We Were All In This Together.  I wish that the speech hadn’t been quite so standard; I had watched video from his other stops in Las Vegas and California and a lot of the same material was reused, but what can you do?  The wins are the wins, the challenges are the challenges, we are where we are right now. 

I’d do it again.  But I’d definitely queue up earlier!