Ada Lovelace Day! Kiss a girl scientist!

08-and-09-395So maybe you’ve heard about this, all around the world today folks are getting together to write about women in science who’ve done profound things to change the world from a tech point of view.  Hats off and kudos girlfriends, first round is on us!

Here’s the general idea…

Recent research by psychologist Penelope Lockwood discovered that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones. That’s a relatively simple problem to begin to address. If women need female role models, let’s come together to highlight the women in technology that we look up to.

and folks behind the movement took up a pledge drive looking for 2,000 blog posts about women in the sciences… if you’d like to check out other posts (of depth and grammatically sound!) check out .  All of this makes sense to me and I think that men and women could benefit from a healthy dose of perspective.  There were a lot of great folks to choose from and I thought originally about posting on Sally Ride, who influenced me a lot as a young woman, but then it hit home…

Our first role models are our parents, my mom got her degree in microbiology and went on to run a company which serviced water filtration systems utilizing reverse osmosis technology.  Our dinner conversations usually centered around the family business, which didn’t completely enthuse me, but I had a great respect for.  When I was very little 3 or four, my mom was a lab tech at a medical office, when I was sick she took my throat culture and she would bring me home petri dishes to grow things in and empty tubes to play with.  Strange things sat on the tops of desks and shoved in the back of drawers, having a real working microscope to play with wasn’t a “planned activity” but just something which was available.

That’s what resonates with me- my parents left stuff about, paint brushes, typewriters, books and calculators, they made time for my questions.  Growing up there was never a question of what I could or couldn’t do, had sciences been my passion, I would have been indulged completely.  I remember my mom coming in to judge the 6th grade science fair at my school, even though I didn’t enter.  I was so happy to see her that day, she talked to my friends and really took their work to heart.  It was important for me to see that she valued these things in my peers even if they weren’t things which I took a personal interest in, she was raising not just a child but a community.

She was here last week and playing with the beloved grandchildren who have a dinner place-mat of the periodic table of elements,  “Grandma what’s lithium plus chloride?”…” it’s a battery sweetie, now eat your peas..” and it all sounded so familiar and so perfect, my first science teacher giving another lesson, as for keeping her lunch in the cadaver drawer in the morgue, that’s another story for another time…


Get on the Good Foot- Happy Birthday Dr. King

Looking for a way to be involved, the kids and I will be heading down to Salem for the Stand For Children Rally at the state capitol.   The event is NEXT MONTH and a great way to involve kids in something which has a direct result in their lives and the community around them.  With the onset of a couple head colds this isn’t sounding like the most responsible plan for today.  Stand for Children is an amazing grass roots organization and we’re planning on being more involved with them in the future.   Here’s a blip from their vision statement…

Stand for Children exists because children in communities across America do not have the power to influence our democratic system to meet their fundamental needs. We seek to make children and their needs a higher political priority.

We envision a society where all children receive the education and community supports that will enable them to live successful, fulfilling lives, and where parents and other concerned citizens are engaged and vigilant in ensuring that elected officials make decisions in the best interest of children and families.

One of their main goals in Oregon is to advance tax reform and defeat dangerous ballot measures.  Last year the organization was key in defeating the wacked out measures  56 , 57 , 58, 59, 60 generated by Kevin Mannix and corrupt “political” hack Bill Sizemore.

For today though, the peeps and I will be armchair activists- So far we’ve watched “Mighty Times: The Children’s March” by Hudson and Houston.  The film took an Oscar in 2005 for best documentary and is a stunning retelling of the student demonstrations which took place in Birmingham Al. in 1963 which paved the way for national desegregation. The Children’s March highlights a week of demonstrations where over four thousand CHILDREN  were arrested with interviews and archival footage.  I’ve shown the film at a number of children’s film festival programs and I still can’t get through it without getting weepy.  It is absolutely chilling to see images of four and five year olds behind bars.  One woman interviewed was arrested when she was nine was asked, “Weren’t you scared you were going to get hurt?” She said, “as a black child born in Alabama, there was no way I wasn’t going to get hurt”.  It was the first time my daughter, who is five had seen it and of course she had a lot of questions.   I have fantastic  teacher’s guide which came with the film, which has helped us explore the material further and look at ways at ways our lives are affected today.  Childrens March comes from Teaching Tolerance an educational resource project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Teaching Tolerance website is a wonderful resource with lots of great activities for families and in the classroom.  The films they produce come with educator resources and they also have an outstanding newsletter.  The activities are broken up into appropriate grade levels and  materials for teachers including films and books  are free.

Wanting to do something meaningful today, but stuck indoors, each of us is planning to write a thank you note to a volunteer whom we admire.  Lucy has made a birthday card for Dr. King, she said, “even though he’s not here anymore, I think he got his wish”.  I’m sending a letter to my father-in-law who is an elections observer and helps seniors and native Spanish speakers with their taxes.  My son is sending a note to his Grandpa who is a community organizer extraordinaire for environmental and political causes in Northern Colorado, and was a motivated general handy man in New Orleans.

We’re also going to catch a couple great videos courtesy of youtube including MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech and kid made shorts from Media that Matters including Children of Birmingham

Independent Films for Families, screening tomorrow!

Well, this is tangentially related to politics… I’m putting together a screening for kids and families tomorrow at Portland’s Kennedy School. I’m posting here because kid film making is inherently a political act. At its most basic, it’s an empowering emancipation proclamation, children are taking the media into their own hands as active producers, not passive consumers. By giving children a venue and the respect normally shown to adult artists we are validating their experience and opinions, challenging them to create work worthy of examination and exhibition. A large proportion of the funding which goes to young film makers comes from non-profit groups who have a mandate to teach either media literacy or other public service messages like AIDS prevention or anti-smoking PSAs. Often times young people are given cameras and instruction with the expectation that they will use these tools to create films which are political or educational. It’s a pretty remarkable phenomenon when we realize that very rarely are these criteria established for adult film makers looking for funding. As a result there is an amazing oeuvre of films which have been produced by young people in the last twenty years and a number of great resources to support them. What has been missing is a tangible system of distribution where the work is being seen by large audiences outside the schools or classes where the work was produced. There are a few big US festivals including the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, which are amazing, but on the whole, these kid made works don’t get much screen time.

Kid films are predominately short and would never get picked up by a big studio and almost never seen on TV, even internet distribution is slim though there are some great channels hosted by PBS for young adult work. I started putting together traveling festivals for kids four years ago, when I realized the films in the theaters which were targeted to my kids really sucked. I’ve a background in film making and festival work and I knew there was great work out there, it was just a matter of rounding it up. By showing my kids work made by young people on the other side of the planet, I’m teaching them empathy, and tolerance. My kids relate to the people they see, and statistics and headlines have suddenly been humanized.

PNCA + INDIEKID Films Screening & Show

MAY 31st, 2008

Kennedy School Theater

10 AM

This event for all ages features 2D, 3D and time-based art created by youth artists this spring at PNCA, as well as an outstanding selection of independent global cinema for kids. Featured in this screening are films from a Video Production class for 10 to 13-year-olds at PNCA.


Hosted by PNCA Continuing Education and Indiekid Films, the screening begins 10 am with free popcorn.


Admission — Adults: $3; Children under 11: $1; Children under 3: free; Filmmakers: free.

+About Indiekid Films:

Founded in 2002, Indiekid Films presents award winning international films created by children and adults for a young audience featuring a mix of live action and animation. Their workshops empower young people to create their own films, participating in a cinematic dialog.


+About PNCA Youth Program:

The philosophy of Anna Belle Crocker, who founded the program in 1910, put art at the center of a truly fulfilled life. Today, the PNCA Youth Program continues her legacy. Practicing artists teach artistic skills and creative thinking to youth, ages 4 to 18, in a nurturing and supportive environment.


Continuing Education offers a year-round program of art and design courses for children and teens (ages 4-18) as well as a comprehensive Pre-College program for high school students interested in a college education and career in the arts and design.

Contact Sara Kaltwasser at 503.821.8967 or for more information on the PNCA Youth Program.

Most Excellent Book Reading

This Thursday, May 29th, contributors to The Maternal is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change, will be reading selections of this new book (look for a review in a couple of weeks) at Powell’s Books. Here at Poligots, we are all about the activist mama, and are so pleased that the political realities of motherhood are finally getting some of the ink they deserve.

Among the contributors to the book (but someone who will unfortunately not be there) is Judith Statman Tucker, activist extraordinare and editor of Mothers Movement Online. I’m pleased to serve on the National NOW Mothers and Caregivers Economic Rights Committee with Judith, and can attest to the fact that she is one of the smartest, most informed and most erudite activists working on behalf of all of our families. I’m honored to know her.

Shawn and I will be there (and we’ll probably be drinking in celebration after…). Join us!

Where: Powell’s Books on Hawthorne — 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd

When: 7:30 pm 

What: Well, I’ll let the publishers describe the book, as I’m sure they’re much more articulate than I am. See below…

Exploring the vital connection between motherhood and social change, The Maternal Is Political features forty-four powerful, hard-hitting literary essays by women who are striving to make the world a better place for children and families—both their own and other women’s—in this country and globally.

Each contributor tackles complex issues facing mothers and society today. Whether it’s a mother teaching her children to live ecologically responsible lives, a mother struggling to get out of poverty while raising her kids, a mother’s response to her child being sent to Iraq, or a mother voting for the first time, each writer forges the link, the crucial relationship, between the personal (life with family) and the political (life in the world) to give voice to, and thus empower, other women to realize and seize their collective political clout as mothers. Written by and for mothers, The Maternal Is Political is crafted to help motivate us to discover, appreciate, and use with greater effectiveness our tremendously powerful (and too often underutilized) political votes and voices to create positive social change.

Why we’re doin what we’re doin

by Shawn-

Why we’re doin what we’re doin…


Being a mother is political, end of story.  From the moment we get up in the morning until we go to bed, our choices and actions have small impacts on the community beyond the umbrella of our families…  What we serve the kids for breakfast?  Is it organic milk, local fruit, are we drinking fair trade coffee?  How we shop, where we spend our money, where we can’t afford to spend these are micro decisions which are being played out in a much larger global arena.  Do we drive the kids to school, take the bus, do our kids go to public school?  Do we listen to the radio in the car? Are we talking about the news with our kids? Do we go to the gym, do we talk with our kids about body image? Do we work, telecommute, what media does our family consume?  How we frame our personal lives is the context for our political conversations and represent us as loudly as any bumper sticker on the back of the minivan. 


We are a target demographic and are advertised to accordingly, media outlets and political parties will buy time to get in front of us and gain our loyalty.  We are subdivided into smaller blocks, queer moms, moms of color, working moms, stay at homes, subsets which may not even be situations by choice, but there we are, and what we say as these people matters.  Even our most intimate decisions, to have children, to be married are the fundamental issues of political parties.


Looking back at my childhood I can not remember a time when my family wasn’t politically active.  Politics wasn’t just dinner conversation or something on t.v., it was a fundamental part of who we were.  Some of it had to do with being a child of the 60’s, not a flower child, but a person born in the most auspicious year of modern politics, 1968.   A year of revolutions in Europe, war in Vietnam, and the killings of MLK and Bobbie Kennedy. 


My parents, my father in particular did not sit by idly, but wrote letters, and were active in campus politics in an era where that meant something.  His passion for involvement led him to two political campaigns of his own, one for county commissioner and the other for state senate and while he didn’t win either of the seats, it was for me, a crash course in sociology and a view of the machine 1st hand.  By the time he ran for office, he and my mom had split very amicably.  She wrote him a letter of endorsement which was printed in the Denver Post shortly after he announced his candidacy and printed 400 buttons that I designed. 


My “every-other-weekend” and “one-half-of-summer” visits with him were filled with pancake breakfasts at the union hall, parade marches and going door to door with brochures, walking precincts.  The front porch campaigning resonate with me still, having an election as an ice breaker, we were often immediately engaged in interesting discussions with complete strangers, sure some folks were busy or wary, some anxious for an argument, but others, many others were ready to talk.  Having a personal connection to a politician means something to people, beyond giving a face to an autonomous action, it is that moment, like voting, where we have direct influence on the process, someone is listening and has the ability to affect the changes we desire.


Our house was a neighborhood caucus meeting place and in 9th grade I listened enwrapped while folks on our block discussed things they wanted to see on the ballot- to watch ordinary people creating these things was incredibly empowering.  To see these things happen in our home confirmed that politics wasn’t a career move for my dad, but a conviction in the power of democracy in action.  He has always engaged me in these discussions, not just as a parent educating a child, but as a concerned comrade.  Pointing out that my rights might just get taken away if I didn’t stand up for them, he took me to my 1st ERA march, I roller skated while he ran beside me.


My mom has been active as well, but in a more John-Q public arena, she votes, has the occasional yard sign, donates to her party and occasionally volunteers. Her impact on my political upbringing was in no way less significant than my father’s.  She also engaged my conversations and endless questions, she has led through example.  As a mother now, I look for ways to share these lessons with my children, I want them to ask questions, to have opinions different from mine, to see things that are broken and look for ways to make a change.  I hope this blog will be one of those outlets.