Pine River, MN’s puppy mill animal seizure, and our temporary foster dog

About a month ago, since Jodi can’t work on the Spousal visa she’s under, she decided to start volunteering some of her time at a local animal shelter. The shelter was at the time flooded with animals after a puppy mill — Country Pride Kennel, owned and operated by 60 year old Deborah B. Rowell in Pine River, MN — was shut down and all the animals were seized. All 130 animals. All of whom were evidently kept in insufferable heat, mud-filled hovels as kennels, and rarely with available clean water or shade. One was reportedly found dead in its kennel, in fact. Enough of the dogs were pregnant on being seized that the shelter ended up with more than 200 animals to deal with.


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Send Ben Sweatervest someplace where he’ll be put to work!

Ben Sweatervest, who proposed to me very shortly after we met, is raising funds to do something absolutely amazing. You know how Christian groups do that culturally-polluting thing of going over to “the heathen countries”, and making aid to their peoples contingent on conversion (or faking conversion) to their religion? Well, the Foundation Beyond Belief has taken that idea and done it right: sending humanists abroad to both provide aid and scope out the territory for potential allies in founding their master plan for world domination — err, I mean, setting up a whole shitload of secular service groups worldwide.

It’s called the Pathfinders Project, and to get it done, they need your help.

Hi,

You may or may not know me, but I’ll assume you don’t. I am a microbiology/pre-med student that has worked extensively in the Secular and Humanist worlds for the past several years. I have grown to love this community, and it has always been a loving supportive place for me.

And I feel that this community can come together and make amazing things happen. That is why I am spending the next year working with the Pathfinders Project to do service projects in developing countries. Through the Pathfinders Project, I and 3 other volunteers will be going to several developing nations, including Cambodia, Uganda, Ghana, Ecuador, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Guatemala, to do service work with existing nonprofits and NGOs to design, implement, and complete clean water, education, and environmental conservation projects.

This project will also play a role in shaping the Humanist movement, because it will serve as a research trip for the Humanist Service Corps. As we engage in service in each location, we will also be collecting data about potential partner organizations and countries in order to evaluate sites for the eventual Humanist Service Corps.

The work that we will be doing will have an important effect on both the service locations and our movement. I am incredibly excited, but we need your support!

He totally stole that opening stinger music at the start of the video from a fake news video I made a while back for some stupid work thing.

The prizes for funding his IndieGoGo project include: a wistful sigh while saying your name, VIDEO of said wistful sigh, an EMarriage Certificate (legal in most major nation-states!*), or even one of his trademark sweatervests!

And, not only that, but you’ll be sending a damn good person overseas to do a damn lot of good, in ways that don’t make that good contingent on belief in some invisible imaginary deity. A damn sight more palatable than missionary work — as long as they’re working with local allies and getting their actions right!

Oh, did I mention we’re engaged? I think he just wants Canadian citizenship, though. Sadly, polyamorous marriage is not legal in Canada. Plus, I keep catching him kneeling at other people and asking them some question I can’t quite hear, but he just keeps saying he’s being polite. I’m starting to suspect he’s interested in other people.

* (It’s probably legal to own one of these, I mean.)

Help Celia and son keep their home

One of the best and simultaneously worst aspects about having a voice on a reasonably popular blog network is that I can direct my meager audience to good causes. Why’s that bad, you ask? It’s not, in and of itself. The problem comes when people I know come to me with good causes that break my damned heart.

DuWayne Brayton, a long-time friend and a very good man, pointed me to a mini-fundraiser he’s running for a friend of his. I know DuWayne to be measured and almost obstinate when it comes to asking for help. So when he asks, it’s serious.

And yeah, this is pretty damned serious.

Celia is an awesome woman with a goofy, wonderful son, both of whom have autism spectrum disorders. She has struggled a great deal of her adult life to maintain a reasonable living situation for herself and since he was born, her rather silly son. Unfortunately she hit a major bump in the road that started when a combination of her and her son getting sick and her car breaking down rather cut into school and work. She lost her financial aid, her job and her best means for finding a job in a town with limited public transportation.

She almost lost her apartment and power last month. Now the situation is even more dire. She has no food, no power and ten days to come up with *this* months rent. Her son is staying elsewhere, but she is stuck in a house with no power and a whole lot of worries. She is in desperate need and has talked of very a very permanent solution to her problems. It is *that* dire.

The individual story is one thing. The fact that this happens over and over, that people are living that close to insolvency and that any single event with a financial impact could throw a child’s world into chaos, is something completely different. It’s galling. It’s demotivating. It’s heartbreaking.

We can fix this one. But how do we fix them all? What’ll it take to convince people to fix the nearly non-existent safety net, the massive gulfs of inequality between the rich and the poor? People like Celia and her son don’t deserve this kind of turnabout, caused by no moral failings except our society’s. To put Celia in a position where she honestly feels that the last resort of suicide is her best option — that’s damning of all of us.

Isn’t the point of society to help one another, to keep this sort of tragedy from playing out over and over again?

Gameathon: You did good, and you should feel good!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m ecstatic with how the gameathon went. Despite the technical glitches and scheduling issues and having to cut it off about 2.5 hrs before our predicted end time (oof), it was still ridiculously successful. We got more guests than we were expecting and often had to double, triple and quadruple up. We got more donations than we were expecting, raising a total of $523.89 each for Women In Secularism and Camp Quest, and covered all expenses necessary to start this up so I’m not even in the red! Yes, seriously, I was a bit pessimistic at first, thinking nobody would show or donate and that we weren’t going to make enough to cover those expenses. I was fully prepared to have to eat the cost just to have something to give to CQ/WIS. But as it stood, we had enough to cover all the major expenses and plenty to give to both charities.

And the fun we had! If you missed the broadcast, it’s all still available here, and I plan on pulling chunks of it out to put on Youtube for easier access. I curb-stomped JT repeatedly at Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, though in fairness his internet was basically horrendous throughout the whole event (despite them sending someone out to fix it). He got his comeuppance when he played Contra on the NES and got to Stage 4 on the default three lives — he’s a beast. And despite my immense experience with Megaman, he beat me handily a few times when we did some stage time trials . I played some Bible games to show the audience the kind of crap available for the NES from Wisdom Tree, Jodi played some Toejam and Earl, we did some three-player Ninja Turtles (albeit briefly), we each played a few games that we’d never seen before (including Ninja Baseball Batman — which is awesome!).

Then there were guests. Ed Brayton made a surprise appearance, Glendon Mellow hung out for a while, Russell Glasser was a good sport and visited twice — once on Saturday afternoon and once on Sunday morning shortly before we threw in the towel. Stephanie Zvan made a yet-unmet challenge: find proof of the existence of an Atari II (or thereabouts) Taipan! clone called Shanghai (and no, not the Mahjongg Solitaire game). James Croft visited to give us a rousing speech… or two. Though both of which may have been lifted from other sources, come to think of it. I met a bunch of people for the first time, like Lauren Lane and Lux Pickel. And we introduced Brianne to the concept of emulation and she was absolutely ecstatic to play as Yoshi in Mario Kart and drive into a wall repeatedly.

This is going to happen again next year, without question. But it may have to happen with JT and I in the same place, if the internet is going to be any near as recalcitrant next time around.

And none of this would have been possible without you. Thank you all, so very much.

Gamers For Godlessness gameathon – Date (and name) set!

Ladies and gentlemen, JT Eberhard and I are finally set to do our long-planned 24-hour gameathon for charity!

We’ll be playing random NES, SNES and Genesis games over netplay, and broadcasting via Twitch.tv so you can watch JT kick my ever-loving ass at Street Fighter over and over again. And we’ve got a ton of guests lined up to chat about gaming, atheism, skepticism, or whatever the hell else seems like a good idea at the time, and if Random Number Generator willing, joining in on the gaming proper.

The whole point of the exercise — well, aside from hanging out and playing awesome video games — is raising funds to give half to Camp Quest and half to the Women In Secularism conference.

The gameathon will take place on December 1st, starting at 12 noon EST. This is the same weekend as Eschaton so we’ll be competing a little bit for Twitter traffic, but we’ll be sure to plan a bit better next year. And there will be a next year, oh yes.

Oh, the name, you ask? Well, Gamers For Godlessness is of course just the short version. The full name is:

The Gamers For Godlessness 24 Hour Gameathonapalooza Starring JT (Eberhard) and J(ason)T(hibeault), With Special Guests!

Tell me that’s not fried gold.

I don’t want to tip our hand too much with regard to what games we’re playing, or what guests we have lined up, but I can tell you that filling up 24 hours with content will not be any kind of problem whatsoever. In fact, I’m sort of having problems fitting everyone in who wants to join.

And the best part is, the entire broadcast will be available after the fact, if you missed it live.

More details soon. Mark your damn calendars! Saturday, December 1st, 12 noon to 12 noon EST!

First world problems discussed by people with third world problems

Yeah. Our lives, our hyper-privileged lives, spent not having to worry about clean water or health care or food. Okay, some of us do, but very likely not the people reading this blog right now. These Haitians (I presume, by the French and the conditions) certainly put things into perspective.

I know that we can all focus on more than one injustice in the world at a time. I’m aware that every one of us — while we all work to further atheism and skepticism and social justice in our societies — at least has a computer or mobile smartphone on which to read blogs and write comments. That makes us all extremely privileged. That doesn’t make us bad, that doesn’t mean we should be ashamed, but it does mean we’re deprived of perspective sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong. Focusing on our problems, our squabbles, our attempts to use social disapproval as the only tool at our disposal to force those without working empathy centres in our brains to actually care about treating one another properly in our lives is not a waste of time or resources. It is not the same thing as focusing on how terrible an injustice it is that you have to buy two wireless routers. But still, it is beneficial to get a little perspective once in a while.

If trolls get you down, go make yourself a cup of tea, and remember that you don’t have to worry that there are parasites in your water. And if you have some spare coin, consider giving it to Water Is Life.

Keep doing what you can to improve your lot in life. When you can, do what you have the spare resources to do, in order to improve others’ as well.

Not to get your hopes up…

… but JT Eberhart and I were chatting recently about the possibility of staging a 24hr classic video gaming marathon via UStream or similar, to raise funds for some good causes. The two of us, playing video games and shooting the shit about religion and skepticism and the various topics intersecting with for TWENTY FOUR HOURS STRAIGHT (minus food and bathroom breaks), all while soliciting your donations. We’d be splitting the proceeds between Camp Quest and sending students to Women In Secularism 2.

I don’t have a date, though we’re going to try for Hallowe’en-ish (or probably a weekend thereabouts).

I don’t have a list of games, though we do have a few good ideas, including TMNT: The Arcade Game, River City Ransom, Bubble Bobble, and Kirby Superstar – The Great Cave Offensive.

I have exactly one confirmed-lock guest for an hour of chat time, and three people I’d like to ask.

What do you folks think?

Got a buck? Sponsor a rescue kitty!

My sister-in-law Teri, living in Georgia with her husband Shannon, has just rescued a ten-year-old cat she found near her place of employ. This kitty either ran away or was abandoned, was extremely sickly when Teri found her, and evidently has a lump on her thyroid.

Kitty Tapia. Yes, that's her name at the moment. Maybe send suggestions for a name, too!

Since Teri and Shannon have enormous hearts but only regular-sized wallets, the new cat’s vet bills are a bit onerous for them, and she put together a Facebook page and accompanying Fundrazr page to ask for help paying her vet bills.

So if you’ve got a spare dime, if you’re willing to downsize your Starbucks coffee from a Macro to a Normale (or whatever the hell the stupid size names are), throw it her way. Give this kitty a little comfort for her last few years.

The Donors Choose challenge: outdo the rest of these rookie bloggers!

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll kindly direct your gaze to the third widget on the right column of this page entitled Donors Choose Challenge, you’ll notice that this blog alongside the rest of Freethought Blogs is actively soliciting donations for various projects in this year’s Donors Choose drive. I am manually selecting all the scholastic projects I can find in extremely underprivileged areas, especially those that relate to science, literature and math at all levels.
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