Blessed Beltane

William Lobb RoseTomorrow is Beltane, one of the four seasonal festivals celebrated by the Celts. It’s one of the biggest Pagan celebrations of the year. It’s an old celebration, mentioned in early Irish literature and mythology. Today, Pagans still celebrate with old customs, including bonfires, may poles, and a lot of food and dancing.

When the Catholics moved into Ireland, they took all the old festivals and instead of banning them they simply made them Catholic. So the month of May is dedicated to Mary. Needless to say, the English Puritans hated it. Your loss, Puritans.

It’s also May Day, a day when children deliver flower baskets to family and neighbors. I made these in school as a kid, but I haven’t seen a May Day basket in years. Do kids still make these? We always made them out of empty strawberry cartons and strips of paper. I remember them fondly. We left them on porches. If you still do this in your family, let me know – I hope some people are carrying on the tradition!

On a completely different note, May Day is also International Workers Day, a labor holiday celebrated all over the world. It’s especially big in communist countries, so the socialist-phobic United States has Labor Day in September instead. That being said, May Day is a popular day for honoring immigrants and all workers in the USA with rallies and protests.

Some, but not all, pagans see May Day as a day to celebrate sexuality. If you are celebrating sexuality in a hands-on manner, (ahem) make sure you have enthusiastic consent from everyone involved and use protection. No one wants a case of Beltane gonorrhea.

I hope that regardless of your religious background, you enjoy this time of year – and I hope that in parts of the US that are still getting snow, spring finally arrives. Mental Floss has a fun article about May Day – enjoy!

Between the Lines Book Club: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (April 27) we’ll be meeting at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM to discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.

The Immortal Life is about real people. Rebecca Skloot worked closely with the Lacks family in writing the book. Knowing about their mother’s cells has had a major impact on the family. Where are they now?

The family is currently engaged in an argument regarding the recent HBO movie starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne. Some members of the family are happy with their current situation. Many of them give public speeches, for which they are paid, and others have benefited from the Henrietta Lacks Foundation. Five family members were hired as consultants for HBO during the making of the movie.

However, other members of the family have never been happy with the way things turned out financially after the book because a hit. Among them are Lawrence Lacks, Henrietta Lack’s son, and Lawrence’s son, Ron. They feel that they have been treated unfairly and that the movie paints the family in a negative light. Lawrence and Ron plan to take legal action. As of this date, the issue is up in the air.

You can read more about the feud at The Washington Post or the Baltimore Sun.

Sadly, Deborah Lacks died of a heart attack in 2009.






Between the Lines Book Club: All About Cells

between the lines book club logoThis month we’ve been reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. This story explains the importance of HeLa cells – ones which reproduce and survive seemingly endlessly from a single source. We’ll be discussing this book at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30 AM on April 28, 2018.

Here are ten triva facts about cells:

  1. Every living thing is made of cells.
  2. Every cell in the human body contains six to eight feet of DNA.
  3. The largest cell is an ostrich egg. The largest cell in the human body is egg cell (ovum). Other contenders for the title are giant squid nerve cells and some kinds of algae.
  4. The smallest cell is Mycoplasma genitaliumm a bacterium that causes sexually transmitted diseases in humans and increases their risk of getting HIV.
  5. There are more bacterial cells in the human body than there are human cells.
  6. The study of cells became possible with the invention of the microscope.
  7. Scientists guess that the human body contains about 37.2 trillion cells, but no one knows for sure.
  8. Microphages are a kind of cell that attacks foreign material. When you get a tattoo, microphages eat the ink, but they can’t break it down. Over time, those microphages die and new ones eat the leftover ink. So a tattoo is more of a process than a static object.
  9. A single-celled organism called Monocercomonoides is the first eukaryotic cell ever to lack mitochondria.
  10. 10. Getting the flu can cause men to end up (temporarily) with misshapen (but harmless) sperm cells. So…get your flu shots, guys!




Indoor Activism

imagesI used to hit the streets, picket sign in hand, on a regular basis, but now I’m more likely to accomplish small but significant acts of activism while I’m at home. Here are some things you can do that DON’T involve being outside!

Call your senators and representatives!!

It is usually not helpful to call senators who don’t represent you, although there are exceptions. Your senator wants your vote, so they are more likely to listen to you. Don’t want to call? Write a letter (handwritten is best). Need something quicker? Send them an email. If they are already supporting the causes you support, thank them – you know they are taking a lot of heat from conservatives in their districts.

Here’s a website that can help you find your senator:

And here’s one to find your representative:

Get reminders.

Having regular reminder to write or call about issues is helpful, especially since the reminders usually come with a lot of information on the topic. I love My Civic Workout, which gives me different topics to call about (and different actions to take) once a week via email. I know a lot of people like getting text notifications from Everytown for Gun SafetyAmnesty International sends out action texts, as well. Just pick and choose your causes, so that you don’t end up getting ten texts and emails a day.

Influence elections from the comfort of your own home (or possibly Russia – BUUUURN)

Most of the time you need to think local, but Postcards to Voters gives me access to voters in other states without being very invasive. I text them as often as I want to and promise to send as many handwritten postcards as I want to, to voters in swing states or districts. It’s something I can manage on my own time and I think (I hope) it makes a big difference in filling government at every level with people who support what I care about. It doesn’t involve calling anyone or knocking on doors. Special bonus – I think my handwriting is improving.

Think Local.

What is happening in your own community? How are your neighbors doing? Think carefully about school board elections and so forth – they have a major effect on what life is like at home. If you are interested in volunteering but don’t know where to start, check out



Between the Lines Book Club: Henrietta Lacks movie

between the lines book club logoOur April Book Club pick is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. We will be meeting on April 28. at Arden Dimick Library, from 10:30AM – 12.

In 2017, HBO released a movie version of The Immortal Life, starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne.

It’s on sale at and at iTunes, but is not currently available on Netflix or Hulu. Luckily it is available for free at the Sacramento Public Library!

Outdoor Activism In Your Town

Midterm elections are coming up and there’s so much to do. Luckily there are so many Unknownways to do it. Whether you are a marcher with tired feet who wants to sit down for a while, or someone with writer’s cramp who wants to get up, or a person completely new to activism, there is something out there that will fit into your schedule and your preferences.

There are so many options that I’m going to split them into different posts. For this one, let’s look at a few of the larger scale marches and events coming up.

“Marching is the new brunch,” they say, and there are some big marches coming up while the weather is (theoretically) good.

Science: The March for Science is happening in Washington D.C. and other cities on April 14.

Gun Control: The next National School Walkout is on April 20. Adults can walk out of their  workplaces in support. This student-led action lasts from 10AM – the end of the school day. The times at your local branch may vary. Info is at the link.

Earth Day:  Earth Day is on April 22. Local events will vary. Some cities do a march, some have a fair, some have a party, and some cram all of those things into a single, noisy event. Here’s a list of some of the events that are happening across the US.

Black Women United: Black Women United is leading a march in Sacramento, California on June 9, 2018. They invite women of all races to march with them.

LGBTQIA: Yay Pride Day! Pride Day in the United States is usually a joyful occasion. The date and events vary from location to location, but most cities have a parade/march that happens in the summer.  This link has a list of national and international events, including parade dates for various cities. If you live in Sacramento, the parade and festival is on June 10.

Just for Fun: Here’s a list of all the marches on Washington, D.C., from 1893 – March 2018.

Between the Lines Book Club: All About Rebecca!

between the lines book club logoThis month in Between the Lines Book Club we are reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. We will discuss the book in person on April 28, 2018, at Arden Dimick Library.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a non-fiction book that tells three intertwined stories. One is a biography of a black woman named Henrietta Lacks. When Lacks died of cervical cancer, some of her cells were collected for resear uses. That cell line is unusually hardy, meaning HeLa cells have been used ever since Lack’s death, even in experiments in space.

The second story is that of the cells and how they have contributed to science. It’s also a story about ethics and consent in an era in which we can sequence a person’s genome.

The third story is about Lack’s family and their quest to know more about their mother and her cells. Rebecca Skloot spends a lot of time with the family helping them understand the science behind Lack’s cells. Today they continue efforts to encourage stricter practices with regard to consent.

One of the fun elements of Rebecca’s website is her FAQ page, in which she answers pretty much every question that I would think to ask. Should you care to peruse it, you’ll discover that she was kicked out of a lot of schools,

Rebecca has also given a lot of interviews. Here she is on NPR’s All Things Considered

Here she is on NPR again, this time on Fresh Air.

Just for fun, here’s Rebecca on the Colbert Report!