Bleeding Kansas, 2014

I haven’t been a resident of the state for almost 16 years, but Kansas will always be my home. When I tell people that I’m from Kansas, I usually get a response along the lines of “wow, no wonder you moved to Colorado”, or “I’m sorry”. I usually shrug those off…I think you have to be from Kansas, or have lived there a long time to really appreciate the true beauty that is Kansas: the rolling hills and endless sky, the amazing sunsets, the slow pace of life, the state pride, the rich history, the small towns, and the genuinely nice people. People who will wave to you on a county highway, and who won’t hesitate to pull over and help when you have flat tire. Who will remember your name and face and will say hi, even when you haven’t lived in the state for a decade or more. People who remind you of all the good things about Kansas, and Midwestern life, and small towns.

I love my home state. But right now, it’s hard to like it. Kansas has been a red state for years on the national election scene, but in recent years, this conservatism has become extreme. And the action of the far-right legislature these last few days has crossed into heartbreaking. I can’t believe that the state that I’m so proud to call home, a state that entered the union as a free-state, the state that was home to Brown v. Board of Education, a state that played pivotal roles in every major civil rights fight in the last 100+ years, from abolition to women’s suffrage, to the civil rights movement—and that has built a state story and identity around that heritage, is now taking action in 2014 to become the first state in the union to legalize blatant discrimination  based on sexual orientation.

It breaks my heart that a handful of extremists are on the cusp of forever tarnishing the name of my home state. A state that is better than that. A state that’s history is better than that. A state that’s people (current, past and future) deserve better than that.

I’m hopeful that the actions of these extremists will spur the population to action. Some of this is happening already, with demonstrations at the Capitol this weekend. I’m hopeful that these uprisings will affect change. That these extremist (and dare I say “unKansan”) actions will be remembered on the next election day, and for every election after that. And that the actions of the last week will go down in history as the day the pendulum started the leftward swing; that the extremist movement in Kansas started to lose its momentum.

I’m sorry to my friends and family left to fight. I’m sorry that I’m not there beside you. I’m sorry that there are likely thousands of us who have left who can’t be there beside you now. That you are fighting for the heart of our state for all of us.

I’m here. I’m in another state, but I’m still a fighter, and I’m not ready to let my state go down without a fight. Call on me and my resources when you need me. I can’t be on the ground with you, but I will support you. I’m a voice that can spread your message to my friends and family and classmates and colleagues still in Kansas. That can reach my network of ex-pats with voters still in Kansas. That can lend moral support. And make phone calls. And mobilize voters. And help take back the state. Our state.

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Election Night Reflections…Past and Present

I can finally breathe again. I woke up this morning at 2 AM in a panic about the election.  I love politics, but hate Election Day.  It’s the anticipation, the stress, and often, the disappointment that my candidate or issue doesn’t win.

Those who know me know I’m passionate about political issues, and am very liberal. And not shy about showing it.  I tried last night to refrain from posting anything political on Facebook or other social media (which lasted about 5 minutes before I ran across a video I wanted to repost. But I said I was done after that).  And then that lasted about an hour.  I received a video from the Obama campaign late last night talking about the importance of voting.  Although I wish it had been a nonpartisan video, rather than a campaign video, I posted it anyway because regardless of who you vote for, I strongly believe everyone should have the right to exercise their votes.  It’s a basic American right.  There are a lot of political issues that get me fired up, and a few I’d go to jail to fight for (or against).  Protecting the right of all to vote falls in the latter group.

I was thinking about this on my way to work this morning.  I registered to vote 2 days after my 18th birthday. I would have registered on my birthday, but the county/city offices were closed because my birthday is over the Christmas holidays.  I was so excited to reach that milestone!  In my first election, I voted for my mom for school board.  In my first Presidential election, I was so excited to vote for Bill Clinton.  Even though I was registered in Kansas and had no illusions about how much my vote would count, I supported his politics and was proud to vote to re-elect him.  I registered for and cast an absentee ballot from college and was proud to be part of the important national election process.  My mom heard from a local election judge later that my ballot had actually been rejected because my signature no longer matched my registration.  I was devastated to find out I’d been disenfranchised.

In 2000, I was a recent college grad and had moved to the Kansas City area.  I registered to vote that summer not long after moving.  A few months later, I moved to a new house but it was too late to change my voter registration.  Unfortunately, I did update my driver’s license.  On Election Day, I showed up at the polling place tied to my registration, and was turned away because it wasn’t the polling place for my “current” address.  I went to the updated polling place, and was turned away because I was registered in another precinct.  I ended up being sent to the county building to cast a provisional ballot.  In all, I stood in line for almost 4 hours that night to vote.  And then John Ashcroft fought to throw out my ballot, along with 100s of others, because we voted after the 7 PM closing time for the polls.  Nevermind that we had been in line for several hours at that point.  Once again, I felt cheated by the system.

In 2008 I was here, in Colorado.  I worked hard for President Obama…knocking on doors, making calls, doing data entry, registering voters, and finally, working as a poll watcher on Election Day.  I can safely say I have never worked so hard to get someone else hired for a job.  On Election Night, I walked into my neighborhood office to return supplies from the day’s work and was sitting in a quiet office with only a couple of local organizers when the news came down that Obama won Ohio.  We all looked at each other in complete and utter disbelief.  I walked out of the office, got in my car, and headed straight for the State Dem’s Election Night party.  Within a couple of hours, the room was packed.  When the west coast states were announced and put Obama over the 270 threshold, the noise was deafening.  When I got home that night, I sat in the dark watching CNN and crying with joy as the news finally sank in.  After living through complete disappointment in 2000 and 2004, I finally had a winning candidate.

Today, I woke up feeling sick.  All day I felt nauseous and wished I either had a crystal ball, or could freeze time and stay hopeful just a little longer.  I kept thinking about how half the country tonight would be disappointed, and hoping that I wasn’t in that group.  I had the math down cold.  I knew which combinations of swing states Obama needed to pick up to win.  And I watched swing state after swing state stall.  And grew more and more nervous.  And then New Hampshire was called.  And Wisconsin.  And Ohio.  And it was over.  I’m sitting here waiting for President Obama to speak and thinking about where I’ve been at this point in previous elections and thinking about that part of the country that’s going to bed tonight disappointed.  I fundamentally disagree with about half of the country on where we should go as a nation, and how we should get there.  And tonight I’m happy and excited that my candidate (and in several instances, my issues) won.  And while we may disagree more often than we agree, I will always respect your right to vote, and will fight to protect that right even if I don’t agree with how you use it.

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I knew chocolate had to be good for me!

Two recent studies suggest that chocolate may help lower blood pressure as well as improving cognitive function.  Add this to the health benefits of red wine, and I think I know what my new diet looks like!

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It’s Easter…that can only mean Peeps!

I don’t celebrate Easter, and I don’t like Peeps, but I do celebrate the weird and hilarious things that people do with Peeps.  As a science nerd, this is one of my favorites.

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Glad Abz doesn’t have a phone…

Gotta love dogs…

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Only in Kansas

For all my home-state peeps.


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(No, that is not supposed to say “badgers”.  I may be a bad speller, but not that bad.)

Girl Scouts recently announced a new system of badges that brings scouting into the 21st Century.  Some of the old ones are still in there–badges for cooking, interacting with nature, etc–but now girls can also earn badges like the “Digital Movie Maker” or “Computer Expert” or my favorite “The Science of Happiness”.  These are a big step up from the badges I was earning almost 30 years ago, but they still aren’t as cool as these:

Looking through this list, I think I get to add a couple since the last time I posted on this:

I think I should qualify for the “I’m pretty confident around an open flame” badge in which recipients have demonstrated proficiency around open flames in laboratory settings. ***my mom might counter this since I did manage to start a small fire in the backyard with some sterno as a kid, and recently started a fire in my kitchen with some errant broiling.  However, both fires were put out without too much damage, so I think it counts.

The “will glady kick sexual harasser’s ass” badge.
(And we mean “ass” in the most holistic of ways). In which the recipient stands up to such miscreants in the work place. Places of science should know better. (SF)  ***anyone who knows me well understands why I should get this one. (hell, if I have to put up with his shit, at the very least I should get a badge for it!)

and the “statistical linear regression” badge.
We figured that if you actually know what those three words together mean, then you deserve a badge. Statistics rock! (NG)  ***thank you grad school–I knew those methods classes (yes, classes, plural) had to be good for something!

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