An End, A Beginning… and a possible major freakout

Today’s the day I put in two weeks’ notice. Ye olde daye jobe will soon be defunct, and I will be working for the worst boss of all: meownself.

People at work keep asking me if I’m sure. As if trading stability for risk is ever something you can be sure of.

Image shows a cat on a boat, staring at a bird on the dock. Caption says, "Risk vs. Reward. Choose wisely."Of course I’m not sure. I’m not sure my books will sell. I’m not sure the merchandise I’ve got planned will move (although I have a feeling you guys are going to love the stuff based on geology puns!). I’m not sure the economy won’t tank and flush me just as things begin to take off. Can’t be sure of anything.

Except.

I’m sure I can’t play it safe anymore.

I’m sure I want to step off that mountain, even though there’s no way of knowing if I’ll fall or fly.

I’m sure there’s a lot I want to do that I haven’t got time for now: so many books to write, and fun things to design, and adventures to go on.

I’m sure I’ve got the world’s best cheering section (that would be you, my darlings!).

And I’m sure the time is now. Because if not now, it’ll be never.

So I’m all in.

Image shows a squirrel sprawled on a deck with a thick scattering of seeds in front of it. Caption says, "Awl In"Two weeks, and the badge gets discarded forever. I kiss the sweet union-bargained benefits goodbye. I say sayonara to the steady paycheck. And probably panic a bit before I get my footing. Shit’s a little scary, y’know. But I’m ready to take the plunge, because even if I fall, I can manage to land somewhere soft enough. And who knows – maybe this is the day that I fly.

Wish me luck.

CFI’s Policy, SSA’s Press, and Cromm’s Doom – Happy Caturday, Everyone!

I haz a happee. And it’s not just because I spent all last night and this morning in bed with science, although taking some time to devour a book on random bits of science and reading some nummy posts was excellent. So was having a purring felid curled up with me. But I iz happee for moar reasons!

The Center for Inquiry adopted a very strong hostile conduct/harassment policy for conferences. I know there’s probably only two of you who didn’t already know, but I wanted to do a happy dance anyway. Also, I think Ron Lindsay’s post on it was superb. He gives the reasons why CfI went this route:

A primary objective of our policy is to ensure that everyone at our conferences — speakers, attendees, and staff — will feel safe and at ease and be able to participate fully in all conference-related events. Intimidation and harassment prevent this objective from being achieved, so such conduct should be prohibited.

This is why we have embedded our harassment policy within the context of an overall prohibition on hostile conduct. We seek to prohibit any abusive conduct “that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another person’s ability to enjoy and participate in the conference, including social events related to the conference.”

He assures us free speech is alive and well:

We expect to have the same wide-ranging, vigorous debates that we have traditionally enjoyed at our conferences. In any event, CFI’s policy expressly states that “critical commentary on another person’s views, does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment.”

You can still flirt safely – as long as you’re not a crude jackass about it:

It is not our intention to prohibit flirting or a polite expression of interest in another person. For example, without more, the question, “Would you be interested in having a drink later?” would not be considered harassment.

But one-time expressions of interest/invitations to an encounter could be inappropriate under the policy, which is why inserting the word “repeated” in the policy would be unwise. To take a crude example (those with delicate sensibilities can skip ahead), asking someone “Wouldn’t you like to bury your head in my crotch and suck my dick?” could constitute harassment, even if it is said only once and accompanied by no other action.

(Note to the clueless: even if you’ve practiced your pick-up line and you’ve got it down to a suave art, I’d refrain from using it on someone you haven’t conversed with first, someone who has mentioned they’re not interested in being propositioned, or someone you’ve cornered. This will not only help you avoid running afoul of the policy, but will also increase your chances of sexy fun times.)

Sexy fun times are still on the table with willing partners:

CFI has no opposition to consensual sex among adults; indeed, this organization has long championed the right of individuals to engage in such conduct, and has protested restrictions on such conduct based on religious dogma. CFI’s policy does not interfere with consensual sex. It’s unwelcome sexual attention that is prohibited, not welcome sexual attention.

And there are other points that should assure all but the terminally dense among us that yes, you can have a policy that strictly forbids harassment and hostile conduct, and have fun, and possibly even sex! ZOMG, amirite?

I have one quibble: I’d like to see them add “gender identity” to the list of things you can’t harass people for. That seems to be a huge blind spot with a lot of policies. No, it’s not covered by the word “gender.” We’ve got plenty of trans* folks who can help them with the appropriate language.

Aside from that, I likes it, and can add one more set of conferences to the list of those that are sensible and fun.

In other news, I’d like to point out that our very own JT Eberhard has made it to the pages of the Washington Post. Go, JT! He’s got a lovely post up introducing the other folks who make it possible for secular high school students to form atheist clubs, even in the face of opposition from religious administrators who’d much prefer we icky atheists crawl back into the closet and slam the door behind us. One thing the explosion of atheist clubs in high schools and colleges is saying is that atheists are out, proud, and intend to stay that way. People like JT work their asses off to ensure secular students get a chance to enjoy the same benefits as their religious classmates. It’s nice to see their efforts recognized in the pages of the Post – and the story got picked up by the Charlotte Observer, too! With increased visibility could very well come increased acceptance. The SSA and the students who organize these clubs are amazing, courageous people, and it’s good to know they’ve got a champion like JT fighting for them.

I will, of course, be asking for JT’s autograph when we finally meet in meatspace.

These two items have made for a very happee Caturday indeed. And, just in case you weren’t already a happee pile o’ mush, I have one of the best ever cute cat photos for ye:

Image courtesy icanhascheezburger.com

You know, people like PZ will probably never admit this out loud, but that image has got to tug at their heart strings.

Alas, we must end on a sad note. Sad for our good friend and sworn enemy Crommunist, who in the past has been known to lob a few shells our way. Hostilities died down, and I believe I know why: his forces have been sleeping with the enemy. I haz proof:

It turns out his “damning evidence” of cats coming to the other side was just footage of spies learning the canine language so they could turn dogs into moles. I’m so sorry, Cromm. This must be devastating for you. I guess in the end you’ll have to fall back on otters – oh. Dear.

Image courtesy Cute!

Well, perhaps that’s just a single deserter, I’m sure it’s an aberration – oh. Well. Nevermind.

I’m sorry, Cromm. I’m so sorry. Still. At least you’ve got a good start on the cat ballads. I’m sure your feline overlords will consider this, along with your ability to open canned food, adequate service.

A Huge Step Forward

I just got off a conference call with Amanda Knief and Dave Silverman of American Atheists. They invited me and several of my fellow FreethoughtBloggers, along with other prominent bloggers throughout the community, to discuss the harassment policy they’ve just adopted. You know what’s fantastic? Seeing an organization this large and established step up and do the right thing. That makes 11.

What really came through in that call, from my perspective, was just how sensible doing this is. Dave had a situation recently where an attendee reported harassment to him, and he realized he has nothing in place to deal with it. That’s not a great position for the head of any organization to be in.

They had been considering the adoption of a policy for about a year, and were committed to making it happen. They reviewed a number of sample policies, adjusting them to their specific needs, and will continue refining theirs as needed. They want American Atheists’ conventions to be safe, happy, and informative, where people are allowed to have fun (hell, even have sex!) as long as it’s consensual. Sexual and physical harassment won’t be tolerated: Dave is “emphatically intolerant of harassment.” Don’t pester other people, follow a few simple guidelines, and you’re good to go.

These are the points I found most important:

  • This policy will help create a safe and fun (yes, you can haz both) environment in which everyone can enjoy themselves.
  • Staff and volunteers will be trained.
  • Reporting procedures will be solidly in place for every conference, and incidents will be documented.
  • The policy applies to attendees, staff, volunteers and speakers – no one is exempt.
  • There will be consequences for violating the policy. As Dave said, “Not just don’t do this, but don’t do this or else.”
  • Victims of harassment will have their concerns taken seriously.
  • People who are engaging in inappropriate behavior will be given an opportunity to correct that behavior. It’s not “one strike and you’re out” across the board – although in some situations (such as if you assault someone) you won’t be given a second chance.
  • This is a living policy. It will evolve, adjust, and improve over time. I love this, because it tells me Amanda, Dave, and the rest of the staff at American Atheists aren’t just putting a document up for CYA and PR purposes. They really mean for harassment to be effectively addressed and stopped.

And least people believe this means the end of sexy fun times, keep in mind that nothing in this policy prevents you from having consensual fun with willing partners. Nothing. Here, let me underline that for you: nothing. Folks who are afraid the policy will make everyone turn into terrified mannequins can relax. Good times are good to go. You just have to ensure the folks you want to have fun with are on board for good times, as well.

Amanda Knief is phenomenal. She understands how harassment policies work, she understands how to effectively implement them, and since she’s a lawyer, she knows how to navigate legal minefields while protecting victims of harassment. Reports of harassment will end up in her hands, and I can’t think of better hands for them to be in. Anyone who is the target for bad behavior can feel confident, knowing she, Dave and the staff and volunteers will take care of it. Dave will be the one who makes the ultimate decisions about what happens with harassers, and believe me when I say people do not want their bad behavior reaching him. He and Amanda will be fair, but also very, very tough.

So, y’know, read the policy before you go.*

This is a huge step forward. It’s good to see an organization like American Atheists stepping up and putting policies in place that will ensure harassment is not welcome at their conferences, and is dealt with effectively when it happens.

 

*I’ll link to it directly once it’s live on the American Atheists site. For now, I’m linking to PZ’s post, which includes the draft we were sent. The Code of Conduct is now online. You can see the press release here.

What To Do If You’re Bored This Weekend

If you’re in the Seattle area, or don’t mind a bit of a drive from elsewhere in the northwest, you can head on over to the Northwest Free-thought Alliance Conference. Can’t attend the conference? No problemo! Join me afterward to see Richard Dawkins, Sean Faircloth and Elisabeth Cornwell. They’re doing a special appearance on Sunday called Working Together for a Secular Society, A Celebration. It’s $5, free if you attended the conference, and there’s been some talk of ETEVers arriving either on horseback or in Viking ships. You should absolutely join us. Here’s where to park the ponies (or dock the ships, whichever):

The main entrance (the one we are using) is on the west side (toward I-405) of the main building.

There is a parking lot on the west of the building as well, for the early arrivals.

If that lot is full, there is a bigger lot on the east of the building, but you’ll have to walk around the building.

To park in the west parking lot, turn east off 124th Ave SE.

If that lot is full, you can turn west off Factoria Blvd. SE. Walking around the building to the south may be less walking than going around on the north side of the building.

Doors open at 2pm on Sunday, April 1st, people. Be there. Also, they may still need volunteers for registering folk at said event – let me know if you hereby volunteer, and I’ll pass the word along to the proper peeps. Yahoo finds me at dhunterauthor.

There is an auction, by the way, and you could possibly be one of the ten lucky people who gets to have Richard Dawkins record your voicemail message.

But say you live on the opposite coast, near, oh, I dunno, Fort Bragg, NC. You can’t make it to this Northwest gig. You know what? There’s something for you, too. You may have heard a little bit about it.

And it’s free! So if you’re anywhere within driving distance, and you have nothing critical to do on Saturday, like get emergency surgery or spend the day with your dying friend/family member/pet, get your arse down there. Support our atheist troops by being enormously entertained for free. Also, it’s free, did I mention?

Come prepared to donate some food, though. Y’see, unconstitutional evangelical proselytizing events on the military time and dime are allowed to do good works, but apparently atheists are not. That’s okay. We know how to subvert the system, don’t we just? And for those of us who can’t actually make it to RBB, there’s a handy little donate button at that link to ensure we can participate anyway.

Right, so there’s our weekend plans on both coasts all sorted. What’re you folks in the middle doing, eh?

Edited to add: Also, go read Cuttlefish’s poem.

Stuck in the Northwest While Everyone Parties at the Reason Rally and Rock Beyond Belief?

Well, I haz just the event for you! Reader Brad notified me the Northwest Free-thought Alliance is having its conference on March 30th – April 1st. It’s just south of Seattle, which is easy-peasy for many of us Northwesterners. It’s got freethinkers and food and lots of interesting talks. It’ll be a blast! You should totally go.

I, alas, can’t go. I’m buried under a super sekrit project which won’t be sekrit for much longer.

But you could go. Then you could give me the juicy details about Karen Mockrin’s “Current Separation Cases.” You can tell me “What’s Going On at MRFF,” because Akiva David Miller’s going to bring you up to speed. And you can hit me with the highlight reel from the keynote, “Waiter, There’s A God In My Language!” I’m sure Anu Garg will have you rolling.

You lucky barstards. *sniffle*

I’ll tell you what I’ll be doing my damnedest to get to, though: the after-conference shindig, “Working Together for a Secular Society, A Celebration.” It’s Richard Dawkins, Elisabeth Cornwell, and Sean Faircloth. It’s at 3pm in Bellevue, which is within spitting distance from my place as long as there’s not a stiff wind from the south. It’s $5. Unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky barstards who went to the conference, in which case, it’s free.

If you’re going, let me know, and we’ll form a horde. Probably not a ravening horde, because I’ll be too bloody tired out from super sekrit projects to raven or even seriously inconvenience, but still, a horde.

And if anyone has horses so we could ride to the venue in true horde fashion, that would be awesome.

My MacLargeHuge Geo Post Now Up on the Scientific American Guest Blog!

Yep. That’s me, (dis)gracing the electronic pages of Scientific American with a guest post: “ “Mélange et Trois”. The super-sekrit project is sekrit no more.

I’m sorry I was so coy about it, but it was one of those things where you don’t want to make the announcement until it’s actually happened just in case. It wasn’t quite superstition, more like, “I can’t believe this is happening until I see it go live. Then I’ll know I wasn’t just dreaming the whole thing, or experiencing a reading comprehension epic fail.”

Mais non, there it is.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. I’m deeply grateful to Bora for giving me this opportunity, and representing my beloved geology on Scientific America’s site is fantastic beyond words. But I’d never have gotten here if it wasn’t for my geos. Those folks in the geoblogosphere who claimed me as one of their own made this happen. Bora, who is blogfather to so many and gave me early encouragement by picking up the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards on its maiden and subsequent voyages, made this happen. The folks on FreethoughtBlogs who brought me on made this happen. You, my dear readers, made this happen. Because without all of you – the geobloggers, blogfather Bora, my fellow FreethoughtBloggers, and the people who actually read this blog – things like doing up maclargehuge guest posts for Scientific American just aren’t possible.

¡Muchas gracias!

That’ll Be Me. In a Book. A Paper One, Even

So, I’m in the midst of a frantic day of playing catch-up, I glance at my email, and I see this thing that says “Welcome to Open Lab 2012.” And for a moment, I’m not really absorbing that. I’m like, “I didn’t sign up for any conferences yet. Oh, hey, there’s an email from the folks who’re doing that pitch workshop tomorrow night that work doesn’t want me to go to because poor planning on their part constitutes an emergency on my part, and… ZOMG WTF?”

Oh. Right. Open Lab’s not a conference, it’s an anthology. One that Chris Rowan nominated me for (yeah, saw right through that innocent whistle, buddy). So I open the email, and it’s got all this verbiage about how “Adorers of the Good Science of Rock-breaking” has been accepted and here’s a contract and some edits and professional author stuff. Oh, and we need these rights so it can be published world-wide.

What?!

They are going to chop down trees and make them into paper and print my words on it, and then bind that paper together with paper that has got words from rock-star quality science bloggers on it, and they’ll put all those pages in a nice cover and release it to the world next fall, and I still can’t quite believe that’s actually taking place. I’ll probably be clutching that book, looking at my by-line, and still not believing this is actually taking place. I’ll have to find a good psychiatrist before then. That way, I’ll have a professional specializing in the treatment of psychiatric disorders assuring me that I haven’t had a psychotic break.

On the assumption that I have not, actually, had a psychotic break, thank you! Thank you, Chris Rowan, for nominating me. Thank you, my friends in the geoblogosphere, for inspiring me. Thank you, my readers, for giving me a reason to write words down and post them. Thank you, Open Lab, for briefly taking leave of your senses and choosing that post of mine for inclusion. Thank you, everyone who believed I wrote words worthy of this.

Now, if one of you happens to live in the Seattle area, would you kindly drop by and give me a rather large pinch?

Near Seattle? Bored? I Haz Solutionz For Ye

So, you don’t shop (or you’re done shopping), you’re sick of hanging round the house looking at relatives and leftover turkey, and you’d like to go do something interesting with your life. Possibly even with your relatives.

I haz things for ye.

Burien Little Theatre’s Inspecting Carol opens this weekend. Saturday’s date night will get you two-for-one tickets if you order by email or phone. I believe Sunday’s sold out, but the play’s on until December 18th, so you’ve got a little time. It looks hysterical – don’t miss it. I’ll be going either next Sunday or the one after – if you’re interested in heading down there with me, let me know, and we’ll make a day of it.

On Monday night, the Forum on Science and Ethics Policy has an event you might want to partake of:

FOSEP will co-host the Science on Tap talk on November 28th at 7pm at Ravenna Third Place Pub. A clinical veterinarian from SNBL (Preclinical Services for Drug Development) USA will present “Drug Safety and Animal Research – No safe alternatives”. This presentation will discuss why animals are needed for certain laboratory studies and the role of alternative solutions in animal research. Please note, that this talk does not reflect the views of FOSEP or its members in line with our non-advocacy position; however, we are excited to work with Science on Tap!

I’m hoping to make it, but I’d dedicated this weekend to the gods of NaNo. Even an atheist doesn’t fuck with them. But we’ll see if I can negotiate a temporary release.

So there you go. Things to do! People to see! Fun to be had!

As for my non-Seattle area readers, I’m afraid all you can do is look on us with envy. That, or find local events of your very own.

Seattle Area Folks: Come to Science!

Friend and fellow Pharyngulite Andy McMillan is giving a talk this Wednesday night at UW.  It’s called “Shining a Light on Protein Shapes,” and is bound to be enthralling:

Proteins are responsible for most biological functions, and understanding their shape can tell about how they work (or don’t work in the case of illnesses). A common way of studying proteins is to look at changes in fluorescence from the protein when it changes shape, but the reason why this fluorescence is affected is not always obvious. I am using a combination of experiments and computer simulations to try and understand how changes in a protein could result in changes in fluorescence. 

You know howI know it’s gonna be enthralling?  Because when we went to Blind Guardian last year, Andy was talking about his work.  Had to shout out the details over some very loud heavy metal, and I almost didn’t want Blind Guardian to come on until he’d finished, even though I could only hear about half of what he said and understood about a quarter of it.  People: he made fluorescing proteins more interesting than my favorite metal band

Okay?

So I’m gonna go see him, and if you’re in the Seattle area, you should do it, too. 6:45pm.  Johnson Hall, Room 102.  Be there or be sad you weren’t.

For Wise Readers Only (With a Little Something for the Rest)

Today is the day that I make an announcement: I’m writing a non-fiction book.

Still writing fiction, too, mind, but I’ve got this idea for a little geology book rattling around inside my skull, and the only way to extract it so I can have some peace and quiet round here is to actually write the damned thing.  I’ll be working on it through the summer, probably, and here and there as the mood takes me.  And you, my darlings, my joys, my beloved Wise Readers, get exclusive access.  The first bit of the introduction’s up at A Slight Risk of Insanity.  Go on over, kick the tires, examine the interior, make all those critical remarks you make when the used car salesman’s trying to tell you this is the bestest car in the entire universe.

Not a Wise Reader yet?  Not a problem!  Email me at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com requesting to become one, and become one you shall.

For those who are just passing by, or have other reasons for not wanting to become Wise Readers (if it’s because you think you are Not Wise, I shall give you such a smack before I make you get your arse on the list), here’s a little something to take your breath away.

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.