Godless Dollars For Buskers

There’s a busker on the corner
With a beat-up old guitar
And he’s singing ‘bout some wise men
Who were following a star
And the night is getting chilly
And he’s missed a meal or two
Could be sadness; could be frostbite
But he’s looking rather blue
Stop and listen to his music,
And to really cheer him up,
You can drop some godless dollars in his cup

Walk a block or two up further
And you’ll hear a young quartet
With a sound that’s warm and cheerful
In the cold and dark and wet
On ahead, a hammered dulcimer
Plays carols in the night
And it almost feels Dickensian
The sound, the smells, the sight
It’s the warmth of shared humanity
That keeps the cold at bay
While you’re passing godless dollars on your way

And the local high school chorus
Dots the town in smaller groups
Going house-by-house and caroling
To neighbors from their stoops
And an actor reads a story
Of the Ghost of Christmas Past,
And it’s magic, for a moment,
Though of course, it cannot last
Christmas lasts, it seems, forever;
Scenes like this are much too short…
So you give them godless dollars for support.

With final exam season, I had forgotten all about last year’s project, de-godding dollar coins and using them to support the local musicians who are doing their best to make this season less of a chore for shoppers and businesspeople. I’d actually like to suggest that this could be “a thing”–that is, in the same way as bills stamped “gay money”, or 2-dollar bills for gun enthusiasts (for the 2nd amendment, geddit?), a noticeable but unobtrusive sign of atheist giving. It’s just as easy to drop a handful of coins into a guitar case as it is a handful of bills (and they won’t blow away!), plus you get to feel like Scrooge (or Scrooge McDuck), tossing coins at street urchins.

Just go to your bank and trade in some paper money for dollar coins, de-god them (an engraver, a Dremel tool, or a cold chisel would all work quite well), and give them out generously to the musicians and others you wish to support. (Yes, of course you can just take a sharpie to your bills, but they aren’t as noticeable–and it’s fun to see a musician who thinks you dropped in quarters realize that, nope, those were unanticipated dollars!

And if you are really lazy, just donate here, using the tip jar–I have pledged that all donations will be converted to de-godded coins (quarters stay in circulation longer, but dollars fit this plan better) and used to spread cephalopodmas cheer year-round.

Oh, yeah, buy my book(s), too–the perfect (war against) Christmas present. (links in the “Buy the book (etc.)! tab at the top of this page.)
Pile of de-godded dollar coins

Free? I’m There!

The college held a vendor fair
So I was there.
Cos when it comes to cool free stuff
Can’t get enough!
It’s really mostly useless crap
But it’s a trap…
I’m victim to, it seems to me,
The lure of “Free!”

Yup… I wrote that with a free pen, on a free pad of paper, while waiting to get more free stuff–yes, pens and paper, and post-its and highlighters and disinfecting wipes and lip balm… the whole lot of it thisclose to useless, but dammit it was free!

On the plus side, I did also get a free flu shot, so there’s that.

So the moral of today’s story… if the sign says “Free”, just walk away. Oh, and get your flu shot–you owe that one to yourself and your community.

That Sunday Ritual

It was late in the quarter—as if in a dream,
I was watching the game, but this can’t be my team,
Cos they’re moving the ball, and they’re picking up steam
There’s a chance that they might even score!
My eyes, as I watch, must be starting to gleam
As I rant and I rave and I cheer and I scream
Now this is what Sundays are for!

I’m ecstatic—as happy as happy can be
With my team up a score, or perhaps two or three,
Though it’s rare that this happens (or happens to me)
And I know that it likely won’t last
The opponents are driving, so soon we will see,
And excitement is making me need to go pee
So I guess that I’d better be fast.

I moan and I groan, and I sniffle and sigh
And I watch with my fingers obscuring my eye
And of course, every weekend, I ask myself “why?”
But of course, it’s in vain that I search
My emotions are chaos, and turned up to high
And each Sunday I’m wrung out, and hung out to dry
But it sure beats the hell outta church!


So there have been a few articles recently about the popularity of the new Sunday Assembly, the “atheist church” thingie. Me, I don’t see the need to emulate a church; rather, start with what people need, and see what can meet those needs. Among the things that bring people together, unite them emotionally, bring feelings of ecstasy and agony…

Of course, not everyone is a sports fan. But that’s the thing–I’m not saying this is something that all people need, just something that brings enjoyment, social interaction, and more, to some people. Fan organizations have come together to donate to charities, to run blood drives… basically, to multiply the good that individuals can do by the power of an organized group. (Yes, they can also multiply the bad, and have a convenient target on a regular basis.) Other than magic, there’s not a lot the church community can do that the fan community can’t (including irrationality–there is no rational reason I should get wrapped up in the game, but I do).

Oh, wait, there’s guilt. No one really cares if you watch the game or not, and Yankees fans aren’t literally damned to the innermost circle of hell. So, yeah, churches have magic and guilt.

And they can keep them.


I first met her in 1993, her first semester in college. She sat in the front row of my 270-person section of Cuttlefishology, and never missed a day. Over the next years, she took 4 other classes from me, including an independent study that produced what still is the best paper I have received in over 2 decades of teaching. Of course, she was one of those students you really don’t want to see graduate, because you are human, and will miss her. But she did graduate, and went on to do good work in the real world, and I never saw her again.

Except, I did! I ended up writing a letter of recommendation, years later, to help get her into the grad program in Cuttlefishology, and had her as a colleague, not a student, for another 4 years! I was quite flattered to be asked to be on her dissertation committee (yes, of course!) and flatter myself to think I actually contributed a bit to the process. It was nice to be there for the beginning and the end of this particular journey. Bookends, of a sort.

And as of today, there is another Ph.D. in the world, competing with me for jobs. And I couldn’t be happier, or prouder.

No verse. Just proud.