One Rope Across the Chasm

Excellent. Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins together have managed to pull a rope tight.

Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.

[Read the rest. Especially those drive-by slimers who seem to think they're on Team Dawkins. My, don't you have a nasty shock coming?]

Can that particular divide be bridged? Remains to be seen. There’s more to this than admonishing the worst behaved amongst us – Dawkins has a lot of anti-feminism, casual sexism, and general promotion of people who do the exact things he excoriates to work through. But one sturdy rope can, in time, become a bridge. I do like to see leaders come around and realize that they have a part in ensuring atheism is welcoming to people who wish to improve the world rather than shit all over the people who try to make marginalized lives better. I like to see people whose work I’ve admired in the past start to understand that maybe, possibly, they’ve gotten a few things wrong, and come round, and do their bit to make things better for people other than their cohort. And it’s important for leaders to model better behavior, and expect better of their followers. Good on you for starting that process, Richard. Long may your bridge-building continue.

Image shows a black lab puppy biting a taut rope.

A puppy with a rope to help with outreach efforts. Image courtesy I Can Has Cheezburger.

(This doesn’t erase Dear Muslima and problematic statements about pedophilia and such like, mind. I’m pleased with this statement – but it’s really simple to support not being overtly awful, isn’t it? Still. More than I expected, and I do thank you. And major kudos to Ophelia for pursuing this.)

Of course, there are many people who won’t be crossing that bridge if and when it’s built. They can’t seem to live without making other people’s lives miserable. I think they’re about to find themselves on a very small island with a vast ocean between themselves and the rest of the “movement.” The Westboro Baptists of atheism, indeed. And we shall hold them in the same esteem as we do those… interesting… people.

You’re Bloody Amazing, Is What You Are!

So yesterday, a post went up asking for contributions for a legal fund to help Karen Stollznow fight Ben Radford’s asshole lawsuit. I’d had my fingers crossed for a long time, hoping this day would come. Had cash ready and everything. Good thing I was watching for it, because I barely got me contribution in before you amazing people pushed it over the $30,000 goal. In six hours.

Image is a kitten with its paw raised as if inviting a high five. The caption says, "High 5!!!"

And now the thing’s up to nearly $40k, and I’m thinking Ben Radford is going to end up dangling from his ankles while Karen’s lawyers shake him for spare change.

Because of you, a woman who’s already suffered at the hands of an asshole will not have to settle with his asshole of a lawyer to avoid complete ruin. Our legal system is a fucking mess, so I can’t predict she’ll win, but it’s my fervent hope that Radford lives the rest of his life in crippling debt, loved only by the handful of terrible people who like to call themselves skeptics but are really raging fuckwads who live to harm others, and perhaps a dog, although I’m not sure a dog’s famous impulse for affection is quite so strong as that.

I’ll be donating this month’s filthy lucre from this very blog. If Karen doesn’t need it, the people who advocate for sexual assault victims certainly could use it, and all her excess is going to that good cause. I had an advocate with me whilst navigating the legal system in an attempt to make my rapist pay, and I can tell you that she made all the difference in the world. I’m happy to see funds go toward that cause. I hope sincerely that the entire amount can make it there, on account of Radford having to pay any and all legal fees, plus a hefty settlement.

Even if it doesn’t, even if it takes all we can give and more to fight this thing, it’s still worth it. It’s time to send a message to harassers who love to use lawsuits to shut their victims up that it ain’t gonna work no more. Too many of us in this community have had it. And our pockets are jingling with just enough spare change to hire an excellent lawyer and give ‘em the old what-for. This nonsense must stop.

I’ve always known that our side of the divide is filled with the best people. The response to Karen’s fundraiser absolutely proves that. Those of you who donated, those of you who can’t but are cheering from the sidelines, those of you who are taking a stand for real justice: you are what makes this the best place to be.

Image shows a My Little Pony looking at the viewer on top, and winking on the bottom. Captions read, "Who's awesome? You're awesome!"

If you’ve got the funds to spare, throw a little extra change Karen’s way. It’ll help make it clear that we’ve drawn a very firm line, and those who choose to cross it had best be prepared for pain.

Those who don’t know what all this is about can find out at our own Lousy Canuck’s excellent timeline.

Imagine A Mountain o’ Thanks

I put out a mild call for coinage in order to purchase materials necessary to thoroughly investigate creationist nonsense, and several of you came through far above and beyond what I expected. At this rate, I’ll not only be able to afford the creationist books, but the rather more expensive actual-science tomes that will assist in showing the difference between creation “science” and the real deal. I’m a bit overwhelmed right now, honestly. So I’m going to let one of my favorite people in the universe say the thing properly:

Matt Smith as the Doctor, pointing. Caption says, "Who's awesome? You're awesome!"I can’t tell you how grateful I am. Of course, I’ll be able to show you soon, when I’ve got all the stuff and we’re off on an adventure into a strange alternate reality where sincere people try to prove that a bunch of ancient yarn-spinners were actually relating accurate geologic history right from God. Tell you what, if I had a dollar for every WTF moment I’ve had as I’ve started this project, I’d be offering you guys cash. Yeesh.

Once our BJU textbook is here, which should be only a few days from now, I’ll be able to get us started on quite an edimication. You may want to start replenishing your stock of preferred mind-altering substances now, because you’ll probably need chemical assistance to get through this. I certainly do plan to rely on my amigos Captain Morgan and Jose Cuervo to put my mind back in working order after each session.

I couldn’t do any of this without you, my darlings. Again, thank you!

 

Gone Eatin’, Plus Lots o’ Thanks

So it’s that day again in America where we give thanks and stuff ourselves into a coma.

Image is of a cat lying on a dinner plate. The table also contains a salad bowl in the center and plates full of food. Caption says, "I is TURKEY.... stuff with noms.Sometimes, Christians ask us what we have Thanksgiving for if we don’t believe in a god we can give those thanks to, which displays an appalling lack of imagination, not to mention no appreciation for the people around us.

I’ve got plenty of people and things to be thankful to and for. There’s B’s brother B, who’s cooking the turkey so I don’t have to. There’s B, who made this dinner happen (and yes, we’re good again – I’ll tell that story when I’ve regained consciousness). There’s the fine folks who raised all the food and came up with the genius spice combos. There’s all the people everywhere who made the roads I will drive, and made the car I will drive, possible and safe. There’s my company, which irritates the crap out of me but pays a good wage, and the customers who make it possible for them to pay it. There’s all the people without whom this day wouldn’t happen, whose contributions are so invisible I don’t see them, but they’re there.

Thank you.

There’s my parents, and my kitty, and my friends, who all make my life happier, and make me happy when I can do things for them that make them happy.

Thank you.

And then there’s you, my readers, my colleagues and friends in this wonderful world of cyberspace, where my life has been changed and enriched over and over and over again, and where I like to think I give a little something back. I love you all!

THANK YOU.

Now, even if you’re not in America, go do something nice and fun today. May it include the things you love best. Because, damn it, you deserve only the best!

Laters.

Image is of a cat on its back on a sofa, fast asleep. Caption says,

Come Join Me For Happy Good News Times!

So, updates. I haz good news! I went in for a nerve conduction study on Friday, and it turns out I have not totally destroyed my nerves. Yay! It appears that the ligaments and tendons are just waay overstressed. So a long rest and some physical therapy have been prescribed. There’s also been some talk of rheumatoid arthritis, which I hope turns out to be as likely as the nerve damage. Of course, with Dragon, even that diagnosis isn’t as scary as it might’ve been otherwise. I mean, it’s not like I’ll have to stop writing or anything, and writing is really the most important thing to me (outside of you, my cat and geology), so that’s a little bit of all right. If necessary, I can get all y’all to bang on the rocks for me.

Physical therapy is going to be awesome. I’ve known for some time that I need to work on my hand strength. I also bought arthritis gloves, which even if I don’t have arthritis will go a long way towards helping my hands feel better. And now that I know the nerves aren’t damaged, I’m not so worried about their bellyaching.

Thank you all for supporting me through this time, which actually hasn’t been a very difficult time, but when you’re facing possible surgery it’s still a little intermittently nerve-racking. Surgery may still be in my future, but hopefully not for a very long time.

Meanwhile, for you Doctor Who fans, you’ll love the name of my neurologist: Dr. Song. Right?!

Speaking of Doctor Who, I’m getting a comfy chair. I’m even going to name it “Comfy Chair.” Those of you who know your Doctor Who might be rolling on the floor laughing. The rest of you are just looking at me in complete bafflement, and all I can say is, you really need to catch up with the best show in the universe.

Furniture is apparently a hot subject. Image courtesy writedragon. You should click this image to visit her page if you're one of those people who delights in Doctor Who references.

Furniture is apparently a hot subject. Image courtesy writedragon. You should click this image to visit her page if you’re one of those people who delights in Doctor Who references.

Now all I have to do is teach Dragon all of our ridiculous little words (and persuaded to recognize Doctor Who), and were set. For those of you using Dragon and having trouble teaching it an ambiguous phrase, it helps to train it with British pronunciation or some such different accent. That way, it knows the difference between Dr. who and Doctor Who. I feel very clever for having figured this out.

I’ll let you know if the kittteh approves of Comfy Chair. I’m hoping for a long and happy relationship.

Ducklings for My Nurses

I’ve acquired strep throat. I could have ended up with the virus that’s going around instead, but no: my immune system got overstressed, and it chose strep. Which is fine with me – easy to survive with antibiotics, as long as you minimize swallowing for the first 24 hours. Bed rest is also lovely, but here’s the thing about the company I work for: you can only get Family and Medical Act leave if you’re out for three days. If you don’t need to be out for three days, you don’t get excused under FMLA. You just rack up the attendance points until you risk getting fired. In the meantime, your chances of promotion or transfer are destroyed, because you’ve ended up on a written warning for the crime of being sick too many times. This is how American companies work. And keep in mind, this is a company with a rather generous attendance policy compared to some.

So you come in sick, sit your highly-contagious self down, and suffer.

Our company has one thing many other companies don’t: an on-site medical clinic. So I’ve got me antibiotics. (And yes, I know I said I don’t care if I get fired, but getting fired for being absent due to illness isn’t part of the plan. I don’t care if I get fired as long as they’re firing me for telling them to fix their shit and protesting mandatory overtime. I don’t care to give them any other cause. That’s why my miserable ass was planted at my desk today.) We also have an on-site cafe that sells things like frozen fruit puree. I’m one of the lucky ones: my writing skills mean I can always find a supervisor to give me a research/writing project, which means off-phone time, which means not having to try to talk while it feels like gnomes are mining my tonsils. Antibiotics, frozen stuff, projects: set.

And I have two wonderful coworkers who do not like to see people suffer. When Amanda came by and saw me wincing every time I had to swallow, she decided she must fill me up with tea. Starspider then brought out her collection. This woman takes her tea very, very seriously, so Amanda had plenty to work with. And while I didn’t want them fussing, it’s pretty much impossible to turn down strawberry-flavored tea with honey that smells like unicorns, rainbows and relief.

So there I was, moments later, sipping soothing tea prepared for me by two wonderful women. And I thought, “I need to do something to thank them. Can’t hug them – that’s reserved for enemies just now, at least during the contagious phase. So what can I do?”

And it came to me: baby duckies! I can make them a baby duckie video.

So I did.

How cute are they? I had quite the little adventure with them this spring. There were about four billion babies out, and some of them hadn’t quite figured out what humans were for yet. One particular group of ducklings were quite curious, and mama didn’t seem to mind, so I crouched down to say hello.

The curious trio.

I held out a hand by way of saying hello, and they had a moment of confusion. One of them, the one on the left, was quite vocal about it.

Temptation

You may notice the calculating look on the middle one’s face. Apparently, someone at some point in its young life had been handing out bread, and it now associated hands with yum. It came over for a closer look.

Testing

Finding no bread, it decided to try the other flat, white thing in front of it.

Tasting.

Yepper. That’s a baby duckie biting my fingers. It was adorable as hell. Poor little thing was mightily surprised when I turned out to be inedible. I think its mom was amused.

I hope this goes some small way towards making my nurses grin in delight. And hopefully a few of you grinned as well. As for my sick self, I’m going to go supplement the antibiotics with chocolate gelato and the world’s worst dance movie*, and see if I can’t beat this thing quickly. Wouldn’t do to waste that head start Amanda and Caeli gave me, amirite?

 

* I exaggerate. The plot is teh suck and the writing clanks like a sabotaged steam engine, but the dancing’s good, the music’s catchy, and there are some lovely whimsical bits. Also, it was free. It’s fun to have on in the background whilst making videos of baby duckies for some of the most caring people I know.

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.

Cleared for Adventuring

I’m afraid I shall have to negotiate joint custody for my car.

Most people don’t end up with these dilemmas. It’s hard enough to find one mechanic you trust, much less two. I have a mechanic I adore – Jay’s Kirkland Autocare. They’ve always done a fantastic job with no fuss and bother. Plus, they have a view of the Olympic Mountains nearby, and they’re right by the heart of downtown Kirkland, where there’s Earthlight, one of my favorite rock shops in the universe. And Lake Washington is within walking distance. I can even get my hair done. There’s nowhere better to drop ye olde auto off on a warm day.

However, they were booked solid for the week when my car threw a spectacular tantrum on Tuesday night. I have this thing about being without transportation – I hates it. And I was afraid, due to the fact that the engine had died, the steering and ignition completely locked, and the thing put on a rather amazing light show, that this repair was going to take time anyway. So I called round, and ended up having it towed to Ali’s in Woodinville. Mind you, this is Wednesday morning, right before Thanksgiving. They had openings, and they would’ve sent a mechanic to have a look at it where it had broken down if they hadn’t been too busy to spare one. Srsly. Gotta love that.

So Totem Lake Towing picked me up at home, grabbed the car, dropped me back off, and got her in. Later that afternoon, I discovered my car is a drama queen. She’d run out of gas. Yes, on the way to the gas station, of course. And with the lights on when I’d tried to restart a few times, and the hazard lights going while we fetched gas, her battery had drained. That was the root cause behind all that fuss with the electrical system and steering and ignition. Note to readers: if you have got a newer car, and you suspect it’s run out of gas, and it subsequently acts as if absolutely everything has broken, just try a jump start. Sheesh.

Seeing as how Enterprise had already picked me up and put me in a nice little Ford Focus for the next two days (lighted cupholders, people. Economy doesn’t get any classier than this!), I told Ali’s they could hang on to her if they liked, and do the maintenance she’d been screaming about for the past several hundred miles. They had her all ready today, and had even given me nearly half a tank of gas to get me on my way. And they’re some of the sweetest people I’ve ever spoken to. Enterprise dropped me off there (seriously loving them right now), and I’ve got my baby back with a perfectly clean bill o’ health.

And the look on the mechanic’s face when I told her that little Civic had made it to the top of Paulina Peak was worth everything.

So adventures will be had. We’ll have more stories to impress folks with, plus plenty o’ blog fodder. And I’ve now got to figure out how I’m going to split the maintenance between two mechanics I love. It’s a good dilemma.

And I just want to take this opportunity to tell State Farm how much I love them. They didn’t even blink when I told them they’d be getting a towing bill. They were perfect angels last year when I wrecked my poor Sentra.

I also want to give a shout-out to Geoff and Caeli, who rescued my sorry ass in the rain on Tuesday night, and Rich, who helped us push a severely locked-up car into a safe spot. Between awesome friends and outstanding businesses, this has been a positive experience.

Which sums up why I’m not unhappy my car is a total drama queen.

A Welcome to New Readers and Paeans to the Old

Oh, my.  When one gets linked by PZ Myers, Maria Dahvana Headley, and Neil Gaiman in the course of a few days, traffic suddenly goes through the roof, and new readers show up.

Allow me to quote Rowan Atkinson: “My god, there are a lot of you.”

Let me just state this clearly and upfront: you are the reason writers write, and I’m incredibly grateful too see you all here, whether you’ve come for a single post or plan to stick around a while.  Without you, I’d have nothing to drive me onward through those lonely dark hours, no reason to strive for the right word in the right place at the right time.  I’d still write for only myself, but not half so much or half so well.  So, thank you.  I’d pour you a drink of your choice, only we’re in cyberspace, so I’m afraid you’ll have to pour one for yourself.  Hopefully, some of us will remedy that someday.

So, introductions would seem to be in order.  You’re very likely busy people without time to delve the archives.  A few facts, then:

I’m Dana Hunter, which isn’t the name on my drivers license but is the name I go by in all situations but legal transactions and at work, so I consider it my “real” name.  I started out using it because my birth first name got filched by one of my characters, who won’t give it back, and my last name is awesome but leads to horrible retail jokes.  And Dana Hunter is now more than a ‘nym, but me.  But if you really want to know my original name, I’ll tell it to you when we meet in the physical world, and you will probably laugh.

Those wanting the story behind the ‘nym, see here.

I have a homicidal cat.  If you stick around, you will be subjected to pictures of her.  Fair warning.

I’m not a professional geologist, but a passionate amateur with a lot of friends who are professional geologists.  I write about geology a lot.  I live in the Pacific Northwest and came from Arizona, which both have the kind of geology that leaves you awestruck by the magnitude of it.  But that’s not the only science that catches my fancy, so you’ll see bits on biology and chemistry and physics and whatever else grabbed me by the lapels and said very firmly about an inch from my face, “NOTICE ME.”  I research my posts as thoroughly as I can and try not to say inaccurate things, but if you catch me in an error, by all means say something.  I don’t like letting mistakes stand uncorrected.

I write SF.  Someday, I will even publish SF.  Those who want an advance peek at my fiction and non-fiction projects can shoot me an email and become a Wise Reader.  Yahoo knows me as dhunterauthor.  For those in the audience who like reading about the craft, I do up a Dojo right here on ETEV every Tuesday, wherein writing is discussed and the wisdom I’ve obtained from others and via my own experience is passed on.

I’m a Gnu Atheist.  That’s “New Atheist” to those without a sense of humor.  I am not fuzzy and accommodating to religion, but if you’re one of the faithful and your religion is tough enough to take it, we’ll all be fine.  This is just by way of fair warning (which the folks who arrived here via Pharyngula don’t need): I write about atheism and religion, and I do not do so moderately.  Oh, and I’m a liberal Democrat.  I started out as a potty-mouthed progressive political blogger and sometimes return to my roots.  If those two things don’t scare you away, then we’re a good match. ;-)

I read each and every comment on every post, but with two book projects, this blog, a full-time job that has nothing to do with either, an erratic but existent social life, a weird paranoia that acknowledging one person means I’ve just disrespected the others, time management skills that can only be described as teh suck, and the memory of a brain-damaged gnat, I don’t respond as often as I should.  I’ll try to do better, but I can make you no promises.  Just know that I do actually appreciate each and every comment.  Live for them, actually.

Right, I think that’ll do as an overview.  Now on to the really important matters: the readers and fellow bloggers who have been here for a long time.

If I tried to get specific, I’d miss some of you and feel horribly about it.  So I won’t try just now.  You know who you are, and you know I’m talking to you right now: all of you geobloggers, my long-time Twitter tweeps, my intrepid companions and my cherished commenters and friends.  All of you who have been there mixing it up in the comments threads and saying things on Twitter that make me tear up while punching the air, because to have done something that made you happy, to have written something you liked, is the ultimate.  You know how much I love my cat, but if some freakish circumstance forced me to choose between you and her, I’m afraid she’d have to go.

You’re everything I ever wanted when I began writing, all alone, oh so many years ago.  You are the wise and the wonderful people, so often smarter or kinder or more talented than me (or all three), who somehow yet find something of worth in the words I write.  You egg me on and lift me up and apply the judicious prod to the buttock when necessary.  You correct me when I’m wrong, and give me sound advice, and cheer and jeer and basically just provide me all the reason I’ll ever need to brave carpal tunnel and all the other hazards of the writer’s life.  You make me believe that this whole writing-for-a-living thing may just be possible.  And you show me wonders.  You give me intriguing new paths to explore.  You inspire me.  You make me do things I’ve never done but turn out to have been a fabulous idea.  A lot of you ends up in what I write, and a lot of what I write is for you.

Without your links and retweets and recommendations, this blog would be nowhere.  I cherish each and every one.  I’m always astonished and flattered and incredibly grateful when you deem something I’ve written as worthy of sharing.

And if my wildest dreams come true, and fame and fortune are achieved, I will never, ever forget you.  You’re all coming with me.

It can never be said enough: Thank you.  Thank all of you.

And now, introductions and paeans achieved, I shall get on with giving you all the very best I am capable of, because you damn well deserve it.

Life-Changing Experience

What a difference less than a year makes!  So no shit, there I was, sitting in training class watching one of the most mind-numbingly boring videos I’ve ever encountered, and my thoughts strayed to all of you.

You’ve changed my life.  And you saved it, just then, when my brain threatened to implode from terminal boredom.  Under the circumstances, I figured it might be time for a big ol’

Thanks!

Seriously.  I mean it.

First off, there’s all of the people who’ve been round here since the beginning, or nearly so.  Without you, I wouldn’t have kept blogging. You made everything worth it, kept me going when I thought that maybe I should bugger off and do something else, and made me think in ways I’d not thought before.  You stuck with me through all sorts of craziness.  You’re amazing.

Then the geoblogosphere adopted me as one of their own.  You know those moments you can look back on afterward and pinpoint as there, right there, life changed?  Yeah, that was one.  The big one.

You want to know how much you’ve changed my life?  This much:

Last year, I didn’t have any science books planned.  I didn’t think I could do any such thing.  Now, because of you, I’ve got one in the works and a few more patiently queued up.  I’ll be writing non-fiction science books because you showed me I could.  I couldn’t do it without you.  Literally could not.

Last year, I was freaking out over how I’d get the science right in my science fiction.  How could I find and understand the information I needed?  How could I get expert insights when I wasn’t comfortable approaching experts and didn’t know where to find them?  But here you are: experts!  Dozens of you.  On Twitter and on this blog, always ready with a helping hand when I need it.  Because of you, the fiction I write will be much sounder in their science, and there’s plot possibilities I didn’t even know existed before you, the experts, introduced me to so much fascinating stuff.  And the best thing? You get to choose where and when you help out, so I don’t have to feel guilty for pestering you!  You’re brilliant, you are.

But it’s more than that.  It’s the adventures.  Late last summer, my intrepid companion and I ended up adventuring in Oregon with Lockwood, and can I just tell you that being shown geology by a geologist is a whole new experience for an interested amateur.  Landscapes spoke in ways they couldn’t have spoken before.  He gave them a voice.  The world becomes far more fascinating when it can speak to you in more than just a few fragmented words.

And the adventures don’t stop there.  Lockwood and Silver Fox plan to join us for a trip to Mt. Mazama and Old Perpetual early this summer.  Some talk of wine and geology on Twitter led to plans (still coming together) for Glacial Till, Uncovered Earth, Helena, Lockwood and me to bring a whole new meaning to “geology on the rocks” later this summer.  Ann will be accompanying me on my next foray into Arizona, and who knows who else will sign on when that trip draws near? 

I sometimes hear people say inane things, like how online friends aren’t the same as the real thing.  All I can say is, they’ve never met my tweeps, my commenters, my fellow bloggers.  They’ve never experienced this community of people.  Always up for adventure, always ready with a helping hand, always bubbling over with enthusiasm for science and various entertainments and the wonders of the world – we may be far-flung, but we’re close-knit, and every single one of you has made my life immeasurably richer.

This life of mine, it’s better with you in it.  Just thought you should know that.

And thanks for saving me from neuron implosion in training, there.  I owe you big time!