Support the Secular Student Alliance

It’s this easy:

1. Like the SSA Facebook page. You do not need to be a student to do this, you need only support our cause.
2. Upvote the reddit article to push back against all the Christian down votes.
3. Become a member of the SSA ($35/year, $10/year for students) and/or donate to the SSA. You do not need to be a student to become a member! The upcoming generation of secular activists requires the support of the previous generation! And you know that we’re a 501(c)(3), so this shiz is straight up tax deductible, homie.
4. Spread the word even further! Tweet about it. Facebook it. G+ it. Shout it from the mountain tops. Get a pic. Do a blog! Tell them the taaaaaaaaaaaaale!

Why should you do some or all of that? Because they make a difference:

The mission of the Secular Student Alliance is to organize, unite, educate, and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human-based ethics. We envision a future in which nontheistic students are respected voices in public discourse and vital partners in the secular movement’s charge against irrationality and dogma.

The Secular Student Alliance is a 501(c)3 educational nonprofit. We work to organize and empower nonreligious students around the country. Our primary goal is to foster successful grassroots campus groups which provide a welcoming community for secular students to discuss their views and promote their secular values. Though our office is based in Columbus, Ohio and our affiliated campus groups are predominantly in the United States, we do support affiliates around the world.

It’s about time secular students had a voice, don’t you think? They’ve got 18,000+ Likes so far. Campus Crusade for Christ has almost 60,000. Let’s even up those numbers, and show these freethinking kids we’ve got their backs.

Donors Choose: Swag!

Right. We did one hell of a job on the Donors Choose Science Bloggers for Students challenge, my darlings. We held on to an easy third place behind PZ “1 Million Hits a Month Easy” Myers and Phil “I’m a Teevee Star!” Plait. That calls for some kind of award!

Oh, hey, I promised you awards, didn’t I?

So here’s what I need from you in order to deliver: email me to let me know who you are, how much you donated, whether I can give you public recognition or not, and if so under what name. Yahoo knows me as dhunterauthor. I’d just go off the Donors Choose page, but it hasn’t got any contact info, so only those who respond back to me have a chance to get swag. Fair enough, right?

Let’s see what we had in the mix:

1. Highest donor gets a short story, by me.

2. Second-highest gets a hand sample personally collected.

3. Starving Students Poem Drawing, wherein if your name is chosen, you get a poem by moi. Might do a few of these. Depends on how poetic I’m feeling.

4. Mount St. Helens posters. There’s three going, and everybody’s got a chance to win one.

5. Short story to our final donor.

That’s quite a lot of swag, but you guys donated quite a lot of money. Our final total was $2938. We reached funded 8 projects completely, and reached 891 kids with those funds. Not bad at all!

Mr. M, whose trip to Great Basin National Park we funded, has written us a couple of notes, which I shall combine here:

I hope our donors realize how much this trip means to our students. Every year we take our fourth graders on an overnight field trip to Ely, Nevada and Great Basin National Park. We experience not only the beautifully unique geological features of Central Nevada but also an historical train ride in which we learn about the impact that “high speed transportation” made on our past economy.
This trip has become a tradition at our school. My class is already talking about it because their older siblings participated. This is our fourteenth year and we hope to continue indefinitely. Your generosity is awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to make this experience possible for our kids.

To everyone who made this bus possible: You hold a special place in our hearts. You are the best of the best!”

With gratitude,
Mr. M

That’s rather how I feel about you, my darlings!

We did amazing good work here. I’m so damned proud of you I haven’t even got the words to express it. I have got words for the stories etc. I promised, however, so no worries on that.

Thank you. Thank you times the age of the earth, thank you.

Geological Photo Touring: Bringing Landscapes Alive

This is absolutely glorious. Set aside ten minutes and savor it:

Ellen Morris Bishop is one of my favorite geology writers in the entire universe. Her In Search of Ancient Oregon is a confection of geology, paleontology, and superb photography. I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much while my eyes have been presented so much gourmet candy. I need to get me on one of her geology photo tours someday.

Geology, I’ve noticed, entirely changes ones perspective on landscapes. There are places I go now that I wouldn’t have thought beautiful or important or wonderful before, but do now. Places full of lovely scenery are all the more spectacular for knowing something of how they became so. I hope more people start doing things like this, because there’s nothing like seeing the world through a geologist’s eyes to make you adore it all the more.

As Ellen said, “Oftentimes people don’t really know enough to engage their imagination.” Knowing, that precious knowing, allows us to look at the seemingly ordinary and see the extraordinary.

Thank you, Ellen, for giving us that knowledge!

Doctor Who + Geology = WIN!

Not even waiting for Los Links to feature this one. My dear friend Ryan Brown, who blogs at Glacial Till, has a fantastic post up, if you love geology, Doctor Who, or both, you must go read it: Geology 101: Deep Time, or Geologists as Time Lords.

To inspire you on your way, I shall now post a photo of the Tenth Doctor looking a bit like a geologist:

Image Source

Close enough. Give that man a beer.

Dana’s Dojo: Advice to the Beginning Author

Today in the Dojo: Some hard-won lessons from 30 years of the writing life.

So, kick-ass blogging buddy JT Eberhard is beginning a story. I started reading it expecting the worst, then got sucked in, then decided I will murtilate him if he doesn’t continue. But beginning is hard, and continuing even harder. And I know he’s not the only person who’s got a story begun and is terrified that a) it sucks, b) it’ll be impossible to write, and c) he’ll never, ever have the writing chops to pull it off.

Just wait ’til you hit the “ZOMG this is sooo not original!” phase of your young writing life. Let me just nip that one in the bud right here, right now: No, it’s not. Everything people think of as original is, when boiled down to its essence, an idea that a billion other people have had before. It’s how you execute your ideas that matters. That’s where originality comes from: combining disparate elements and adding your own particular twist to what, on the surface, seems to be a tired old idea done to death.

Right. Now we’ve got that dispensed with, on with it. Let me give you folks who are just getting started a little bit of friendly formerly-Southwestern-but-now-Northwestern advice. Hopefully, by the time you’ve hit the end, you will feel yourself prepared to tackle this beast that is storytelling.

However. There is one question that must be answered before we proceed: must you write this story? Is it forcing its way out of you, rip-claw-tearing away at your brain, keeping you awake at night? Do you find yourself filled with a sense of dread when you contemplate dying before having written it?

If the answer is no, consider carefully before you proceed, because it may not be worth the effort you’ll have to put in.

If the answer is yes, go below. You have no other choice.

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But Real Names Solve Everything!

Some of the developers at Google apparently have a very limited experience with online life. The geniuses who designed Hangouts created no way to boot disruptive people out, perhaps thinking that since everybody’s supposed to use their real names, they’ll all behave like perfect angels.

But they don’t. People with apparent “real names” have started crashing Hangouts, acting like complete morons, making it impossible for the people who were there for discussion to have one.

Google worked a few inadequate solutions in. Hey, you can block people, and they can’t join future Hangouts! Very useful, Google, thanks. Especially since vandals like these rove in gangs, and will just send more people to disrupt.

Or, you can make your Hangout invitation-only! Which kills it for educators and others who want to make their Hangouts as inclusive as possible. Also, people already in the Hangout can invite others in. Guess what vandals will do?

Additionally, they’re “report this person” feature does not include an option for “because they’re a piece of shit with nothing better to do than fuck with random people.” They need to at least modify it so you can add an explanation as to why you’re reporting someone. And to avoid malicious reporting, they need to have a robust review in place – something I seriously doubt they’ve got now, based on their deficiencies in other areas.

So much for that vaunted “real name” policy keeping the rabble out. And if they try to give us that “but we’re now supporting ‘nyms, so of course there will be icky people!” shit, just remember: they aren’t yet. The names of the people who busted in and made fools of themselves during Ron’s Geology Office Hours had names that appeared real. They proudly displayed photos. A “real name” policy does nothing to police the populace. Giving people the tools to block noxious numbskulls in real time and report them adequately, with proper safeguards in place, is the only thing that will work.

We’ll see if Google ever figures that out. If not, Hangouts will quickly cease to be of use to anyone who’s interested in actually hanging out rather than making mayhem, and there will be one less reason to use G+.

Los Links 10/21

I’m afraid there’s rather a lot. Dear Aunty Flow was here last week, so all I was good for was sitting very still for several days, reading blog posts between waves of pain. Then people kept posting more awesome shit, and wouldn’t stop, and by the end of the week, my list of unread links was enormous, and I couldn’t help but to read nearly all of them despite the fact I really should’ve been doing other things.

I have no self control.

But I have a lot more knowledge than I had at the beginning of the week, so you shall hear no complaints. Now, on with the links!

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Prepare For… All Hallows Read [insert scary ghost noises here]

Neil Gaiman’s trying to own Halloween. I intend to help him. This is a tradition I’d very much like to see become as much a part of Halloween as the costumes and candy and strangely-carved pumpkins. The premise is simplicity itself:

That’s it: just give someone a scary book. Last year, I gave my intrepid companion the book Why Buildings Fall Down. Buildings falling down are fairly scary, and it’s a book appropriate to his interests. See how that works?

You can give a book to kids, adults, undecideds… anyone you like.

And, if you’re in the Seattle area, you could give them their scary book whilst taking them to Frankenstein, which would be double the awesome.

Whatever you do, just have fun. Halloween’s all about the fun. And the scary stories we tell each other with the lights off and possibly some peeled grapes at hand for props.

Don’t mind those Zombie Rights Campaign folks moaning about All Hallow’s Read. Moaning is just what zombies do. Give them a nice scary book. That’ll make them feel better.

Why SF Is Important

Last Sunday, I posted my own thoughts on the importance of speculative fiction. Okay, yes, it was a rant. I do that sometimes, when things get up my nose.

We’re going to follow up here today with a fantastic post that inspired me to post that one. It’s called In Defense of Geekery: Why Society Needs SF/F. It’s written by Becky Chambers. I want to buy her a drink. I want to buy her several. Because she managed to say what I needed to say in far fewer words:

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