Cross-Country Connections: Spiral

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Spiral.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

CCC Spiral Erin
My current work project is cataloging the dry mollusks in the Dept of Invertebrate Zoology. This beautiful specimen is a type of Trochid, a marine snail. 

From Mom in Hagerstown, Maryland:

CCC Spiral Mom
An oldie but a goodie. Best time ever was the trip I made to England and France back in 2007. An entire six weeks! Behind me is a glimpse of the spiral staircases of the16th Century Chateau Chambord. They formed a double helix long before DNA was even imagined.

For more detailed information on this delightful example of Renaissance Architecture, see the Chateau Chambord Wiki.

From Brianne in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

CCC Spiral Brianne
On Sunday I startled a muskrat and a bunch of snail shells floated up from its push-up (its nest) in the reeds.

Cross-Country Connections: Spiral

Wood Lake Nature Center: A Song of Slush and Mud

Today the Hubby and I ventured out to enjoy the springish weather at Wood Lake Nature Center. The temperature was in the mid-40s and we were able to get away with light jackets. In the past Wood Lake has been amazing for wildlife. They get an amazing variety of migratory birds in the spring and fall, and they have a “no dogs” policy so the wildlife doesn’t get spooked. The very first thing we saw when we started down the trail was a coyote crossing the iced-over marsh. It was quite a ways away, but I managed to snag a bigfoot-style shot:

A coyote is seen in the center of the picture walking across an icy marsh.
Continue reading “Wood Lake Nature Center: A Song of Slush and Mud”

Wood Lake Nature Center: A Song of Slush and Mud

Her God-Ordained Identity

A lovely story coming our way from ABC News:

Christian School Bans Tomboy for ‘Direction She’s Heading’

Well, now. Here’s a story that just confirms all of the biases I have about good ol’ down south bible schools.

Sunny wasn’t girly enough for Timberlake Christian School, so they wrote a concerned letter to her guardians and told her that she wouldn’t be allowed back in school in the fall unless she girl-ified her attitude. Wouldn’t want any of that tomboyishness or assertiveness confusing her schoolmates and teachers now, would we?

Of course, Timberlake says NO NO NO there are deeper problems beyond the length of Sunny’s hair. Yup. I’m betting those problems have to do with Sunny carving out her own identify and not conforming to the godilicious cardboard cutout that her administrators would like to see.

It’s gratifying to see that Sunny’s grandparents removed Sunny from Timberlake and enrolled her in public school. May she have better times there.

h/t to Mary B. for providing the link to this story.


Her God-Ordained Identity

Bowl-a-thon Updates

The bowl-a-thon for ProChoice Resources was so much fun. Personally I (and you all) raised $150. ProChoice Resources raised $81,959.

That’s what I’d call a damn good start.

The fundraiser was 80s-themed, so the entire night was filled with throwback music videos that had most of the bowlers screaming “Ahhhhh! Do you remember this song!!!???”

And of course there were sweatbands.


Me and my teammate and BFF, Courtney, rocking our sweatbands.

The bowling was mostly a blur – a few gutter balls, a few strikes. We did not do well. I think the high score – among six of us – was in the high 80s. What was really amazing were all of the people – all of the bowlers and volunteers who had come together in support of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health options. So much love for all the heroes in that sweaty, noisy bowling alley!

And as promised: Me, with bowling ball in hand, wearing my Notorious P.I.D team shirt:

2014-03-20 19.29.31

Tonight I started on my thank yous for the donors who were a part of this:


Writing thank you letters to mah donors.

I’ve still got postcards to do, and there will be one custom blog post for the generous individual who donated over $50.

I love you guys. Thank you so much.

Bowl-a-thon Updates

Goodbye, Dear Samples.

When in the Course of sample shelf life stability, it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the emotional bands which have connected her with these samples, and to assume among the powers of industry science, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Finance and of Peer-Reviewed Literature entitle her, a decent respect to the opinions of Her Project Manager requires that she should declare the causes which impel her to the separation.

They were old and the integrity of the proteins could no longer be trusted. That’s pretty much it.


I was hired in 2006 to conduct a month-long blood draw that produced thousands of aliquots. I participated as a phlebotomist, a sample processor, and I helped test them and analyze the data that they provided. My successful participation in this project has developed into a happy and fruitful career. Across eight years, numerous projects and the periodic mandated freezer cleanup (the bane of many a laboratory scientist) I have managed to save these characterized samples in the hope that someone, someday would be able to use them. But the end has come: All of the analytes within the serum that might be of use to us have likely degraded. So it was with a heavy heart that this afternoon – on the 26th day of March in the 2014th year of our calendar – I discarded them all.

Goodbye, dear samples. I will remember you fondly.

Eleven freezer canes, filled with sample freezer boxes

Most of these eleven freezer canes contain twelve freezer boxes, each of which contain somewhere between 40 and 80 1mL sample aliquots. That’s about 8,000 vials that were discarded.

Goodbye, Dear Samples.

Celebrating Our Dead

Today I had a strong urge to visit someone’s grave. She was a coworker who I worked with for about five years. She retired a year or two ago, and passed away in 2013. We shared an enjoyment of photography, and because we knew each other’s politics, we avoided discussions of that sort. She was a kind woman, always quick with a smile and a laugh. She liked to tell stories of her family and vacations. She was a hard worker, and knew how to care for all of the little details that keep a lab running. She was happy to teach what she knew, and taught me a lot of what I know about this place.

I don’t know where she’s buried, and as I toyed with the idea of seeking out her grave, reality began to intrude. I know that nothing exists after death. I will return to earth and sky and stardust, as did my coworker, and so I mused over this strong desire to visit “her”. I flipped through the logic: I don’t care about visiting her physical body – because eww. I don’t really want to drive a gazillion miles to find the physical cemetery in which she’s buried. I want to remember her contributions, the happiness that she brought me. I want to grieve that she won’t contribute anything new, and I want to mourn that I no longer have this particular source of inspiration physically present in my life. In short, I miss her.

Going to her final “resting place” – seeing the literal and figurative concreteness of her headstone seems like a good way to put firmly in my mind that she is gone, and standing in front of a grave perhaps gives me permission to indulge in a moment of reflection, joy and sorrow. Where else do we have to celebrate our dead after the initial ceremonies, the potlucks and goodbyes? Only among those who shared the experience of knowing them, or in our own minds – in those moments of quiet and stillness that come too few and far between.


As a sort of related-aside: Cemeteries and burial grounds take up a lot of space on this planet. This is a funny thing to one who sees nothing inherently special in flesh and bones not connected by consciousness. As I was about to post this, I saw a link on Facebook about cool things to do with your body when you’re dead. I think I’d like to be a coral reef.

Celebrating Our Dead

Cross-Country Connections: Pocket

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Pocket.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Potstickers with a cup of sauce
Yummy pockets of chickeny-vegetabley goodness.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland:

Bright, floral-pattern pocket. Brown leather-trimmed pocket with brown zipper. A small green button with "LilyBloom" written on it.
Eco-friendly pocket! The front pocket of my purse – Lily Bloom brand, made from recycled plastic bottles.

From Mom in Hagerstown, Maryland:

Knit Ugly Doll-style Monster with two pockets in the front containing two smaller knit monsters.
Momma Monster with Baby Pockets

Cross-Country Connections: Pocket


You guys – I went running last week.

That’s not huge news. I used to be in a winter running club and track for one season in high school. I’ve started Couch-To-5K a few times (heck – even made it to Week 5 one time!) It’s just that I’ve never been very good at running. I’ve always been overweight, and I carry a fat girl’s baggage around when I run – yes, literally and figuratively. I’ve always been acutely aware of the extra jiggles, the way my boobs bounce, the pressure I’m putting on my knees.

But I do like the accomplishment of running, and I feel a special kind of awesome when I run. Of course running isn’t healthy for everyone, but rest assured: I’ve spoken with a doctor about me and running and I practice safer running.

I’ve started visiting the gym at my workplace over my lunch hour. I have a very simple goal: Be on the treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes. That’s how I started it – 30 minutes, I don’t even care if I do a 30-minute mile; as long as I show up, I consider that a win. That was three months ago. I’ve only missed the gym on weekends, the occasional sick day, and for a couple of work days from hell.

Continue reading “Rocky!”


Skeptech Game-A-Thon Is Now

Amy Roth, Rebecca Watson, Jason Thibeault, Chelsea Du Fresne and Brendan Murphy are currently Google Hangout-ing and killing things in Torchlight II. Ostensibly  to raise money for SkepTech, the incredibly awesome student-organized free-to-attend skeptic conference that’s happening on April 4-6th, but also because killing video game bad guys is just good clean fun.

I’ve attended Skep-Tech – and presented! – and it’s a stellar, well-attended conference. This year they’re bringing in Ian Cromwell, Heina Dadabhoy, Tim Farley, Jesse Galef, Debbie Goddard, Kate Greene, Jessica Kirsner, Hemant Mehta, David Tamayo and Rebecca Watson as speakers and panelists. Head on over to the Skep-Tech website for more details about presentations, panels and speaker bios.


A screenshot of Torchlight II with the text "Click here to watch the live gaming and to donate to Skep-Tech"

Skeptech Game-A-Thon Is Now


My Life – The Role Playing Game:

A photo of my avatar, my Health Points Bar and XP Bar

I am totally geeking out about HabitRPG. I’ve been using it since Tuesday and I just spent the last 30 minutes helping The Hubby set up an account. Since Tuesday I’ve kicked out several chores that I’ve been putting off for weeks, and I’ve started doing measly little tasks that I have a tendency to ignore, like getting the mail and bringing my coffee travel mug in from the car at night (instead of leaving it in the car where every day it’s joined by one of it’s fellow brother or sister mugs until I run out of mugs and then haul ’em all inside to get washed).

I love that’s it’s all self-defined – YOU decide what is a habit, a daily chore or a one-off to-do task. You decide what belongs on the list or not. If you don’t do a chore, you take damage. If you do a task you get gold which you can use to buy armor and weapons for your avatar. And I’m even in a Party with other people online and right now we’re fighting a boss creature for gold and loot. I’m still trying to figure out how that works, but apparently today I attacked a 300 point Fiery Gryphon for 26.8 damage, so woo-hoo for me and us!

Are any of you playing?