I grew up on the shores of Lake Beltrami and in the woods of the Buena Vista State Forest. While my father was a psychologist and worked on behalf of developmentally disabled persons as his day job, he was a child of the Great Depression in Northern Minnesota and passed on a lot of the skills and traditions of self-sufficiency, we raised goats for milk, had large gardens and cut our own firewood. My parents were both passionate advocates of social justice and my mom was very involved in the National Organization of Women and was a founder of the Northwoods Coalition for Battered Women.
My father died when I was eleven and we moved to Arizona so my mom could finish her Masters Degree in Social Work. I didn’t cope well with all of the changes and the loss and was hospitalized for severe depression. I learned how to speak, read and write some Korean from some of our neighbors, had an interest in fishing, aquariums, and decided I wanted to be a herpetologist or an ichthyologist, or possibly Bon Jovi. You might eventually see some ridiculous photos of me with 1980’s rocker hair. In the end, I think fishing, hiking in the canyons, catching scorpions as pets and feeding them crickets, the experience of being in nature and curious about other life forms is what kept me alive.
We eventually moved back to Minnesota, and I went to high school in St. Paul, talking some classes in field herpetology at the University of Minnesota Itasca Biology Station, and fell in with both sincere practitioners of traditional yoga from Hindu and Sikh backgrounds, and with pretty troubled kids. A few of us kids were pretty angry and frustrated with the politics of the day, and as absolute newcomers and from non-political families, we created our own political party – actually registered it with the MN Campaign Finance Board and everything. We called it the “Revolutionary Dance Party” had a big rally at the state capitol, realized we were all too young to run for office, and got mixed up in some wild street protests fighting for housing and other issues with groups like Up and Out of Poverty. I ended up arrested, and roughed up a bit, by Hennepin County Sheriff Don Omodt and his deputies after we took over the Minneapolis Armory a second time.
I learned quite a bit about the law, the history of protest and about organizing as result of the arrest and trials.
Eventually I ended up back at the University of Minnesota, after a period of living with cultural radicals and artists in a rural Wisconsin cooperative. I studied plant biology, entomology, IPM and was pretty involved in some efforts to conserve native MN plants. After a trip to a plant conservation congress in Indonesia, I became interested in field work again, and made many trips there to study wild tropical plants, especially in mangrove ecosystems in Sumatra. Was in Indonesia during much of the unrest of the Reformasi movement, and was impressed to see poor people topple a dictatorship and create a more democratic and transparent society. Seeing Paul Wolfowitz (former US Ambassador to Indonesia under Reagan) misrepresent some of the facts on the ground in Indonesia during the build up to the war in Iraq and during the Boxing Day tsunami recovery became a powerful motivation for me to oppose the Bush-Cheney agenda. I got involved in the Kucinich for President campaign in 2003-2004, and the rest is history!
I’ve been able to afford being as engaged in politics as I have been in part do to Social Security benefits, initially survivors benefits after my father died, until I turned 19, and then through a mix of part time work, small scale entrepreneurial activities, farmers market farming and disability benefits. I have managed to work my way off benefits once before, during the dot com boom and bust when I did a mix of software quality assurance and systems administration work in the San Francisco Bay Area for companies like Nextel, HP, and an eBay partner. After the bust, I tried to hold on to my internet technology skills through online affiliate marketing and eventually became one of the better known webmasters and SEO experts in adult entertainment. A series of lawsuits and shakedowns by patent trolls like Acacia (claimed a patent on all online streaming media) led me to abandon this pursuit, to focus on internet infrastructure and governance, and to return to school at the U of MN for computer science, more biology, and Middle Eastern Languages and Culture.
A sudden loss of financial assistance (student loans) plus the pressure of having some skills or talents that might have been useful in the ‘GWOT’ (the Global War on Terror) weighed heavily on my mind. I enlisted in the US Navy, got a DEP card, and spent some more time in Indonesia honing my language skills. When I returned to the US there were SNAFUs with my enlistment contract, and I separated from the Navy. Many years later, however, I was able to provide some language services as a civilian volunteer that I think helped smooth over relations between US Navy aircrews, Acehnese tsunami survivors and the Indonesian national forces. I was strangely in the right pace at the right time, and was able to navigate the Indonesian government’s science authority to enlist Indonesian agricultural scientists in rebuilding Acehnese rubber and food crop agro-ecosystems. I spent some time, too, with Dutch scientists involved in the Flora Malesiana project, and perfected some of my SE Asian plant identification skills, and tried to get someone to fulfill commitments made in Aceh by the UN FAO and Former Presidents Bush and Clinton, to build back better. It didn’t really happen. Compassion fatigue set in, but a long running separatist conflict in Aceh came to an end, there was some peace.
In the past ten years I’ve had increasing confidence in my ability to find and hold steady work, and an interest in entrepreneurial endeavors harnessing internet technology in media. I’ve volunteered both in cable access television and in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party as party officer at many different levels, and supplied a lot of energy to increasingly successful progressive campaigns. We’ve seen the progressive national delegate share in MN grow from 15% of the national delegates to more than 50% with Bernie. I have personally managed to balance household responsibilities, working part time, and helping out in election-related efforts, paid and unpaid. Around the time of the close of the last election however, I was badly injured in a workplace accident and have spent the last two years in a mix of extreme poverty, workers compensation court proceedings and physical therapy. I am newly motivated to make sure that everyone has access to the healthcare they need and to get justice for the abuses of the insurance industry. I am interested in empowering workers and seeing that employers better protect the health and safety of workers. I feel like I have regained enough strength to make a sincere effort to win this election and represent the people and the living landscape of our district.
I now reside in Beltrami County, with my beautiful fiancé Abbey and her 8 year old son (my bonus child) Liam and our two dogs Millie (a Boxer) and Kuini (a tiny mystery named after the fibrous wild-type mangoes of Aceh). Liam has a lamb on his grandma’s farm and someday we hope to return to farming on a scale larger than a single 4-H project! I do some citizen journalism and enjoy a mix of augmented reality and PC games. I attend the odd technical community event in the Twin Cities and have tried to initiate some internet governance and peer tech coaching community in the Bemidji area.