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Apr 20 2014

The Reading List, 4/20/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

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Apr 19 2014

Saturday Storytime: Little Faces

Vonda McIntyre is one of the earliest women to be nominated for a Hugo. She’s been nominated several more times for several more awards since then. It will be unsurprising to anyone who reads this story that it was multiply nominated as well.

“Zorargul,” Yalnis whispered. She had never lost a companion. She chose them carefully, and cherished them, and Zorargul had been her first, the gift of her first lover. She looked up at Seyyan, confused and horrified, shocked by loss and pain.

“Come back.” Seyyan spoke with soft urgency. She stretched out her graceful hand. “Come back to bed.” Her voice intensified. “Come back to me.”

Yalnis shrank from her touch. Seyyan followed her, sliding over the fading bloodstain in the comfortable nest of ship silk. Her first companion extruded itself, just below her navel, staring intently at Zorargul’s body.

Seyyan stroked Yalnis’ shoulder. Yalnis pushed her away with her free hand, leaving bloody fingerprints on Seyyan’s golden skin.

Seyyan grabbed her wrist and held her, moved to face her squarely, touched her beneath her chin and raised her head to look her in the eyes. Yalnis tried to blink away her tears, baffled and dizzy, flooded with the molecular messages of anger and distress her remaining companions pumped into her blood.

“Come back to me,” Seyyan said again. “We’re ready for you.”

Her first companion, drawing back into her, pulsed and muttered. Seyyan caught her breath.

“I never asked for this!” Yalnis cried.

Seyyan sat back on her heels, as lithe as a girl, but a million years old.

“I thought you wanted me,” she said. “You welcomed me—invited me—took me to your bed—”

Yalnis shook her head, though it was true. “Not for this,” she whispered.

“It didn’t even fight,” Seyyan said, dismissing Zorargul’s remains with a quick gesture. “It wasn’t worthy of its place with you.”

“Who are you to decide that?”

“I didn’t,” Seyyan said. “It’s the way of companions.” She touched the reddening bulge of a son-spot just below the face of her first companion. “This one will be worthy of you.”

Yalnis stared at her, horrified and furious. Seyyan, the legend, had come to her, exotic, alluring, and exciting. All the amazement and attraction Yalnis felt washed away in Zorargul’s blood.

“I don’t want it,” she said. “I won’t accept it.”

Seyyan’s companion reacted to the refusal, blinking, snarling. For a moment Yalnis feared Seyyan too would snarl at her, assault her and force a new companion upon her.

Seyyan sat back, frowning in confusion. “But I thought—did you invite me, just to refuse me? Why—?”

“For pleasure,” Yalnis said. “For friendship. And maybe for love—maybe you would offer, and I would accept—”

“How is this different?” Seyyan asked.

Keep reading.

Apr 17 2014

How Twitter Can Combat Harassment in Three Easy Steps

Dear Twitter:

A language hotspot map using color to designate threat level.

Shouldn’t hotspots always receive the most attention?

I can see that you’re overwhelmed with the idea of policing your service. It’s been obvious for a while, but when you start issuing service ticket numbers for complaints without having any way for people to check the status of those tickets, then you’re shouting it from the rooftops. So here’s a little suggestion about how to make your own lives easier while still cleaning up your service to keep people on it long enough to see your sponsored tweets. And it will only take three easy steps.

  1. You already have an algorithm that detects spikes in the use of phrases or hashtags. It’s what you use to create your trending topics. Use that algorithm to detect when people’s mentions spike. Sure, it will take a little bit of fine-tuning, because the spikes are smaller, but it will be worth it.
  2. Why? Because your next step is to set someone in Twitter support on the job of looking through that person’s mentions. Again, this will be an easy job, because all this person needs to do is determine whether this person’s mentions are full of something benign, like congratulations, or full of the kind of toxic crap my friend Melody Hensley is still receiving two days after I documented an onslaught of abuse. The difference is easy to spot. Go take a look.
  3. Once you’ve identified a thread with a high degree of abuse, go through and clean it out. Ban your repeat offenders and accounts freshly created for the purpose of abusing someone. Suspend and/or warn your first-timers depending on their degree of depravity, and mark their accounts as having been warned so you know when you see them again.

That’s it. You’re done. You’ve found the people who exist to make your service hell for other people, and you’ve dealt with them en masse. You’ve gone to the trouble spots and dealt with the troublemakers. You haven’t had to go through and individually look at tickets for each one and individually look at all the tweets involved. Sure, you’ll still get tickets on smaller situations, but there will be a whole lot fewer of them.

No need to thank me or credit me for making your jobs easier or your service more user-friendly. Just take the advice and make it happen. Clean the place up.

Image: “Language Hotspots” by whiteafrican.

Apr 16 2014

Secular Anti-Abortion Link Roundup

A friend is leading a discussion on reproductive justice and would like all the links related to last month’s blow-up in one place. I realized I’d tweeted many of them and, thus, had them collected in other posts already. This is just pulling them all together, though I’m sure I don’t have them all. If I missed anything that contributed to the discussion, please drop it in the comments. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 16 2014

The Reading List, 4/16/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Apr 15 2014

How Could Twitter Possibly Cause PTSD?

When I started this Storify, I didn’t expect it to be nearly this long. Then Thunderf00t stepped in, and the volume increased to multiple tweets per minute. It’s only starting to slow down in the last hour, but I have to stop somewhere if this is going to be published. If it gets to you, either in volume or in ugliness, then at least keep scrolling until you get to the part where they start contacting her boss and her organization. That should be witnessed.

If the embed on the Storify doesn’t work, you can read the whole thing here.

Apr 13 2014

But How Do You Know the MRAs Are Atheists?

I think this question is mostly a thing of the past, but at one point, it was a favorite of those who didn’t like to see the atheist movement criticized were all over wanting to know how we could knew that the harassment and anti-feminism coming our way was coming from atheists. Typically, we pointed to the communities from which the bulk of the harassment came. Now, we can point to some numbers in yet another community that suggest we’re on the right track.

Or at least they make me laugh. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 13 2014

“Minnesota Marriage Officiant Bill”, August Berkshire on Atheists Talk

We had a relatively last-minute change of guest and topic for this week’s show. We’ve been wanting to have August Berkshire on the show for a while to talk about the marriage bill. He’s been shepherding it along for several years now, sussing out legislator concerns and drumming up support in the community. This morning, he joined us in studio to talk about the purpose of the bill, the process we’ve gone through to have the bill introduced in the legislature, and what people can do to support the bill.

Since the show was recorded, we have confirmed that no further committee meetings are happening this year. However, now that the bill has been introduced, it’s time to approach your legislators about supporting the bill for next year, possibly even about co-sponsoring it. As mentioned on the show, the American Humanist Association has made it easy for you to contact your state representative and senator to ask them to support the bill. If you receive any feedback with concerns on the bill from your legislator, please make Minnesota Atheists aware of those concerns.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Apr 13 2014

The Reading List, 4/13/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Apr 12 2014

Saturday Storytime: The End of the World in Five Dates

I’ve featured one of Claire Humphrey‘s stories here before, but this one got to me. It started with the Harold Camping. It ended with..well, that would be spoiling it. Let’s just say I remember knowing I couldn’t live past a certain age. I’m happy to say I was wrong.

I: May 21, 2011 (according to Harold Camping)

Robin called it an apartment, but it was really part of an old carpet factory in the Junction: an echoing space where one of the looms used to be, furnished with a broken church pew, two wheelchairs, and the bench seat from a minivan.

The smells of paint and dust were good, banishing the phantom smells of antiseptic and latex gloves from my nose. I leaned in the doorway of the breakroom and watched her sweep. “Where’s everyone going to sit?”

“On the floor,” she said. “That’s why I’m sweeping it.”

“And you’re cooking dinner on this thing?” I gestured over my shoulder at the twelve–burner gas range; eleven of the burners were clotted with molasses–brown grease and a surcoat of dog hair.

“Petra’s bringing food. You’ll like Petra.”

“No, I won’t.”

Robin threw the broom down with a clatter, and marched over to the dentist’s cabinet in the corner. “Jesus,” she said. “You need an attitude adjustment, stat.”

She handed me a bottle of Crown Royal, about a third full. I poured some into one of the paint–stained mugs from the work table. The paint didn’t come off into the whiskey, so I drank it.

“Now,” Robin said, picking up the broom again, and sweeping the pile of dust and filings underneath the work table. “You are going to love Petra. Know why? Because she’s extremely fucked up.”

“Oh. Great.”

“Shut up and drink! She’s fucked up and she’s my oldest friend, and you can’t mess around with her. Be good to her. Got it? Even if you can’t be good to yourself.”

“It’s not about being good to myself, for fuck’s sake. If this is confirmed, it means surgery and chemo and all kinds of unpleasant bullshit and there’s just no point to it.”

“But you don’t know for sure! What if you’re wrong? If it really is cancer, Cass, you can’t just leave it alone —”

“Watch me.”

Keep reading.

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