Welcome

My first name is Erika. Not Erica. Not Ericka. My last name is Hammerschmidt, which has thirteen letters, including five consonants in a row. People still find it easier to spell than my first name.

In college I majored in German and Spanish. I also accidentally minored in art, just by taking so many art classes for the fun of it. I grow my own vegetables. I cut my own hair, but even when a professional barber cuts it, it still sticks out on one side and in on the other. I’m an author, artist and speaker living in Minnesota. I work at Target as well as giving speeches on autism and writing books. I am married to a space alien named John Ricker, who, like me, is on the autism spectrum.

Below you will find my latest news. Add me to your bookmarks! I’m always up to something.

Also, check our calendar for upcoming events!

Counting blessings, 2

Oh, and another thing I’m happy about, although I don’t have pictures of it yet:

I have a bunch of my handmade jewelry in the Music Forest Cafe! It’s this really charming little vegan cafe in St Paul, and it has a section with locally made crafts for sale, and my stuff is there!

And I am happy about that. I’ll get some pictures of my pieces on display when I stop in this weekend.

Oh, and John and I gave a speech in Marshall, MN last week. It went great! We do have a pic from that. Not a very interesting picture, but here it is:

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It was a pretty typical speech, except for one thing. Because it was so far away from home, we had to stay the night at John’s parents’ house in a nearby town… and because our roommate has moved out, we couldn’t have him look after the bird while we traveled.

So we had to bring Sirius the Starling on a road trip!

John made the weirdest-looking cage and Siri actually liked it, unlike any other travel cage– he would willingly go into it, and when he wasn’t in it, he was on our shoulders watching the traffic go by, and he had a total blast riding in the car with us! I’m so happy– he has always hated car rides in the past, but we figured out a way to make it work for him! (Again, pics of the cage coming later.)

And at the speech, we actually brought him in, in his cage, and set him on the counter, way off to the right of that photo. It was so cool; I wish we could do that with more of our speeches!

Counting blessings

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and to take a positive turn from the many negative thoughts I’ve been having lately, I’m going to make some posts this week of things I am happy about.

To start with: Sirius the Starling has been getting better. His face injury has healed and his feathers are coming back in, little by little.

Here are some pictures of him hanging out on my hand and eating crickets.

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Is it suicidal to wish you were suicidal?

I’ve been feeling a lot of that lately: not wanting to die, exactly, but kind of wanting to want to die. It’s the feeling that everything about being alive is getting nearer and nearer to unbearable, and if I were suicidal I would have a way out, but I’m still too scared of death to think of it as a real option.

I’ve heard an analogy that suicide after a grueling struggle against depression is like jumping out the twentieth-floor window of a burning building. If so, the way I feel now is like being in a burning building but not being able to jump out.

And yet I’m one of the luckiest people in this country. I’m white. I’m married to someone of a different sex. I have a job that pays enough to live on and provides health insurance, and, for the moment, I’m healthy enough that I could probably survive a long time without much medical help.

And yet I’m scared. The way the country is going right now is going to affect all of us, eventually, even the most privileged.

I have very bad anxiety at the best of times. My mind is horribly drawn to thoughts about apocalyptic disasters, and this election… has not helped. Even if the new president manages not to start a nuclear war, we are entering a time of severe climate change, no matter what we do. (And, the way things are going, we’ll probably end up doing the worst stuff we can.)

Eventually the only way to be safe will be to live far north and inland, in a home built to be exceptionally resistant to extreme storms. Probably an underground bunker, or at least a hobbit-hole. Monolithic domes would be a good place to start.

If the world had any sense, we would already be busy with the project of creating climate-change-resistant homes for everyone, since we were past the point of no return on global warming a long time ago. But no, half the country is denying there’s even a problem, and the other half is still trying to stop what can’t be stopped and ignoring the need to deal with its results. There aren’t even any houses on the market that won’t leak when it rains, let alone ones that’ll keep you alive in a tornado or hurricane or weather too hot to survive above ground. So the only way to safety is to build your own.

And I can’t afford that. Most people can’t. And with the government stuffed full of Republicans, that isn’t going to change– the standard GOP plan is the worst kind of wealth redistribution, upward, from everyone who isn’t a millionaire into the pockets of everyone who already is.

A few other things that are messing up my life right now:

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This is my left leg. The bruises are from blood clots in the surface veins. It’s getting better. A while ago, practically any leg movement hurt.

I don’t know if this happened because my pharmacy job requires standing on my feet for 8 hours a day with only one break, but it sure made that job harder once this started. It started twice, first in my calf, then that got better and then it came back in my thigh. I used up all my time off when it was in my calf. I had to work when it was in my thigh. I hope it doesn’t come back a third time before the year ends.

The blood clots aren’t the dangerous kind that can break off and go to the lungs or heart or brain. Those are the ones in deep veins. I know these aren’t that kind, because I got an ultrasound. I got the bill for it a few days ago. It’s over $800 and my insurance barely covered anything. I have to call the insurance company to ask why, but I know that call would take longer than a lunch break, so I can’t call them until I have a weekday off, which is 10 days from now.

If I get pain in my leg again, I probably won’t get another ultrasound. I hope that time it won’t be the deep vein kind of clot. I don’t think it will be, but you never know.

I’m lucky I have a job that has insurance. If I lose the job and there’s no Affordable Care Act, if I can be denied insurance for preexisting conditions, or if all the available insurance is too expensive for someone without a freaking job, a bad blood clot could kill me.

I don’t know if the Affordable Care Act is actually going to be gutted or destroyed. It’s possible that Trump’s actions as president aren’t going to be quite as awful as the persona he projected while campaigning. But I know that Congress is full of Republicans who want to destroy the ACA, and between them, Trump, and Pence, I can’t imagine anything good happening for people who need health care.

I have a coworker who hates universal health care because of how much it costs taxpayers. I said taxes are better than people dying. She said “People never die from not having insurance– the doctor HAS to treat you.”

I didn’t argue because I didn’t have the energy. But of course hospitals can turn you away for not having insurance, my dear coworker, as long as you’re not dying right this minute. And for godsakes, you work in a freaking pharmacy; you know perfectly well that the way the doctor treats you is prescribing medicine, and the way you get the medicine is going to the pharmacy, and remember what happens to people who come to the pharmacy without insurance or money? They don’t get their medicine, even if it’s blood thinners to keep their clots from killing them.

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This is my bird, Sirius the Starling. He talks and sings and I trained him to play a little toy piano. He takes the most enthusiastic baths and then cuddles against my neck for hours. He is the smartest and sweetest bird you ever met and he loves me so much that he saves me from reading the comments on news articles by landing on my hand and pecking at my scrolling finger. He sometimes sleeps on my arm so long that he leaves little footprints.

If we have to move to another country we might not be able to bring him. Keeping starlings as pets is legal where we live, but their status as an invasive species makes things complicated when it comes to moving.

He started self-harming lately. Scratching at his face until the skin was bare, and then scratching until it bled. Scratch the wrong feather and it can bleed an awful lot. We improvised a cone for his neck. He would get his lower beak stuck in the neck hole trying to pry his way out. I would leave him home alone because I had to go to work, and I’d be on the edge of a panic attack all day. Even worse than the thought of coming home to find him dead was the thought of coming home to find him so badly injured that I’d know he wouldn’t survive, and then having to decide what to do.

He’s getting better now, but for a while we thought we couldn’t handle it. If his problem comes back I don’t know what we’ll do. We can’t stay home all day. It’s hard enough to find people who know how to care for a pet starling, let alone people who would adopt one who has to be watched every moment.

But being able to have a pet at all is a privilege. And I’m still one of the most privileged people in this nation. Some people might not even get to keep their children in the next four years, if all the gay marriages are annulled. As much as I panic about the stresses of my life, I have to keep reminding myself that others have it far worse.

I’m also lucky enough that I’ve been able to build a 401k. It has quite a bit of money in it. Not enough to cash out and build a house or move to Canada, but a good start for eventual retirement.

My pharmacy was recently bought by another company. And now we each have to go through the process of rolling over our 401ks from the old company to the new one. For months, we weren’t even able to access our 401k to add money or even see how much was in it. Now they have finally sent us a form for the rollover.

The form requires us to write in the account number and the amount of money in the account. We have no way to get those things, so I called the number on the form that says “call if you have any questions.” I called and got an answering machine and left a message. It’s been several days and I have not heard back.

I have less than 60 days to figure this out. I don’t know what happens if I don’t, but I think they would automatically send me a check for the amount of my 401k, minus an enormous amount in taxes. I don’t want that to happen.
But no matter what happens, I’m going to lose a lot of the money anyway, because the economy is going to see some hard times.

So, I’m frustrated, to the point that it physically hurts. I’m scared, to the point that I’ve had hyperventilating anxiety attacks at work. I have wished that I wished I were dead. And I’m not anywhere near being the worst off in this country.

Don’t say everything’s going to be okay. Everyone is going to feel the effects of this.

Sirius the starling has a cone

This bird will make my hair gray.

He’s been scratching at a spot on his face for a long time, so much that the feathers fell out… and now he’s scratched so much it started to bleed. A lot.

I’ve put some DMSO anesthetic on the scratch, hoping it will reduce his desire to pick at it, and we improvised a cone out of paper and gauze. He’s frustrated that he can’t preen, but so far it seems to have stopped the bleeding.

Keep us in your thoughts. Thank goodness this at least happened on a Friday night, so we have the weekend to deal with it…

Kea’s Landing!

Anyone want to proofread the sequel to Kea’s Flight?

Yup, I’ve got a sequel to this book written:

Kea’s Flight

The sequel is called Kea’s Landing, and I think it can be understood without reading the first book. In fact, I want it to be, and I’d like at least one proofreader who hasn’t read the first one, to make sure it can.

(It’s over 700 pages, just warning you.)

If you help out, I’ll credit you on the dedication page!

I’ll just send you a PDF and you can send me your comments on whatever you want, or nothing, if you can’t find anything to say– no obligations.

Here’s the summary:

The coup is over. The Board has been overthrown, and Kea has inherited the office of Optimizer.

Together with Draz and Monarch, she now commands the colony starship that has always been her home. Young, socially challenged and inexperienced with power, she struggles with her fear of making the same mistakes as the dictatorial regime that came before her. 

Meanwhile, she’s investigating a mystery. She and Draz have found a hidden folder of journal entries from an enigmatic young writer named Mara, who has created a secret world of friendships and fairy tales, stirring Kea’s empathy and challenging her views about disability and gender.

But nothing prepares Kea and her crew for what they will discover on the planet where they finally land to build their new city. 

Without warning, they find themselves in a world that’s both human and alien, caught in an otherworldly conflict involving genetic weapons, extreme body modifications, cloned spies, language barriers… and even parrots.

Through it all, Mara’s journal gets even more mysterious. Is Kea reading the last words of just another casualty from the previous regime? Or will Mara’s story turn out to be interwoven with space colony diplomacy, high-tech espionage, the secret past of Kea’s enemies and allies, and the future of her newly founded home?

Dome homes

OK, here it is. For the last 3 years or so I haven’t been able to shut up about Monolithic Dome Homes, and people have been getting tired of hearing me go on about them over and over again, so here is my masterpost about WHY MONOLITHIC DOME HOMES ARE AWESOME.

(From what I can tell, anyway. I have not yet gotten the chance to live in one, but I AM GOING TO as soon as I can afford it, and I want enough people to know about them so the company will still be in business by that time.)

First. They are homes shaped like domes.

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But they don’t have to look boring…

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That one, in Pensacola, survived a hurricane:

 

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Because dome homes are INCREDIBLY durable.

This is one in Iraq, where a freaking BOMB dropped in through the roof, EXPLODED inside the dome, and the dome is STILL STANDING.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFPN) -- A member (bottom right) of the Combined Weapons Effectiveness Assessment Team assesses the impact point of a precision-guided 5,000-pound bomb through the dome of one of Saddam Hussein's key regime buildings here. The impact point is one of up to 500 the team will assess in coming weeks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Best)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFPN) — A member (bottom right) of the Combined Weapons Effectiveness Assessment Team assesses the impact point of a precision-guided 5,000-pound bomb through the dome of one of Saddam Hussein’s key regime buildings here. The impact point is one of up to 500 the team will assess in coming weeks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Best)

They are literally monolithic— all one piece, made of extra-strong concrete reinforced with steel.

They are made by spraying shotcrete over an inflated balloon, laying a grid of steel, then spraying some more.

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THERE ARE NO HOLES. No weak spots. Aside from windows, doors, and connections to sewers and electricity, and vents for air, there is not a single place they can leak.

No walls getting eaten by raccoons. No fire damage. No dripping ceilings. Practically no home maintenance. All one piece. And ridiculously energy-efficient too!

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CENTURIES.

And yes, they’re also available as adorable teeny cabins, small enough to transport on a truck.

 

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Unlike the full-size dome homes, the cabins are not officially rated as tornado-proof, but they will stand up to a lot more dangerous weather than any other tiny house.

And while a 1000-square-foot Dome Home runs about $130,000 to build fully finished, the cabins are under $35,000.

(They all SHOULD be cheaper, considering how easy they are to build, but, economies of scale, bla bla bla. Which is why I want more people to get interested in the dang things!)

There are an endless number of possible floorplans for the interior.

 

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And speaking of the interior:

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And guess what! They are some of the best structures to use for the base of hobbit houses in hillsides!

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Imagine it. Imagine having a house that never leaks, barely requires maintenance, gets 50% better energy-efficiency than anything else, and stands up to FREAKING TORNADOES and HURRICANES.

And looks like an AWESOME BUBBLE!

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I know it’ll be a long road. They look awesome and they’re environmentally friendly, and city governments LOVE to outlaw and tear down anything that fits those descriptions, so for the moment, it’s very hard to get away with building them inside a city.

But just think about how much money and effort and time and stress is wasted every year on freaking home maintenance, and freaking energy bills, and how much of that we could just freaking STOP with these bubbly miracle houses, if they just got popular enough to be accepted, and…

I’m going on and on again. Sorry.

Good night.

Wiscon

Just got back from Wiscon 40, my first-ever time attending Wiscon… it was amazingly great! I had a dealer table and art show table, and I sold soooo much jewelry, and met so many amazing people and had so many great conversations! I am definitely going back next year!!

In addition to being a very successful dealer-room event, it was also a great vacation. I went with John and Alex, and we drove through a lot of fun areas before getting there. Here is a scene from a rest stop on the way, where a robin had (for some reason) built a nest on the ground in a corner.

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Here we are on the first night, which we spent at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells on the way to Madison. This is such a fun place! Great waterpark! And they unexpectedly upgraded our room to a suite, which was a nice surprise.

 

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Here’s a view in Mirror Lake State Park, on the way from the Dells to Madison.

 

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And here is my Wiscon table! Thanks to everyone who came and made Wiscon so great this year!

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Art Events Come in Threes

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Once again, I have THREE (3) big crafty events coming up! One in April, two in May!

These are events where I will be selling my jewelry, books and other creative stuff. I am so excited!

1. Minnehaha Free Space Craft Fair and Bake Sale

http://minnehahafreespace.org/event-calendar/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1144858655527337/
Sun, Apr 3
12 pm to 6 pm
Minnehaha Free Space
3747 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406

2. MSP Comicon (formerly known as Springcon)

http://www.mcbacomicons.com/
Sat and Sun, May 14 & 15
10am-6pm Sat 10am-5pm Sun
MN State Fairgrounds Grandstand
1265 Snelling Ave, St Paul, MN 55108

and finally–

3. WISCON!
(I’ll have a dealer room table AND some pieces in the art show!)

http://wiscon.net/
May 27-30
Dealers’ Room follows standard hours every year:
Friday 2 – 6 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Monday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Concourse Hotel
1 W Dayton St, Madison, WI 53703

Here is a taste of what I’ll be selling!

http://www.erikahammerschmidt.com/jewelry/
http://www.erikahammerschmidt.com/books/

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Sirius the starling’s weird molt

Sirius the starling has shed a bunch of feathers on the side of his beak… they started to grow in again, but then they were gone. The other side of his beak hasn’t done it.

I’m not sure if this is a normal part of the spring molt or not. He hasn’t done the full spring change, any of the years since we got him (his beak has never turned yellow) but something is different this year.

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