Batten Down the Hatches
As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm a born-and-bred New York City native. And as you may have heard, there's a bit of rough weather headed our way this weekend. In fact, it seems like freak events are becoming the new normal: first, the absurdly huge blizzards we got this winter, then the earthquake earlier this week (yes, I felt it), and now the hurricane. Sheesh, nature, what did we ever do to you to deserve this? (Don't answer that.)
There's no need to fret about me: I'm fully stocked up with supplies, and I don't live anywhere near the evacuation areas, so I don't anticipate that safety will be an issue. However, it's possible that I may lose electricity for a few days, and if that happens, I'll naturally be a little scarce on the net. I do have an internet-capable phone, and even a solar charger for it - three cheers for ThinkGeek and their catering to survivalist paranoia! - but of course, there's no way of knowing what the state of the cell network will be. So, if Daylight Atheism isn't updated for a few days, that's most likely why. I'll be back as soon as possible, so don't miss me too much!
Also, a reminder if you missed the first announcement: I'm coming to Chicago over Labor Day weekend. There's a meetup being organized; if you're interested in attending, send me an e-mail and let me know. I'll see it at some point before I arrive.
Find Me in Freethought Today
If you want to know more about the mysterious person behind Daylight Atheism, I was the interview subject of FFRF's "Meet a Member" column in the June-July issue of Freethought Today.
Help the Filipino Freethinkers
I'm no PZ Myers, but I've been known to crash a poll now and then. And today, you can do it for a good cause: helping the Filipino Freethinkers win the Globe Tatt Award, which recognizes innovative use of social media and comes with a cash prize. Here's the e-mail I got from FF member Jeiel Aranal:
The Filipino Freethinkers is currently in the running for two categories in the Globe Tatt Awards, a local social media award. The prizes we could win in the awards would go a long way in helping us with our projects in the future. So far, all of our work has been self funded while we regularly go toe to toe with the Roman Catholic Church which has, well, crazy large coffers.
The awards we're up for are "The Advocate" and "The One" categories. The Advocate is for the best social media advocacy. We've been using our blog, Facebook and Twitter to get people to think about issues and to act an discuss on the issues at hand. The One is for the best overall use of social media. http://filipinofreethinkers.org/2011/08/10/vote-for-the-filipino-freethinkers-at-the-globe-tatt-awards/
10% of the final decision is decided by a public online vote, we could really use your help with promoting our group and asking people to vote for us. The voting is held on this website and people will need a Facebook account to cast a vote. We just recently managed to climb to the top spot in The One category but there is still more than a week to go for the voting so we still need help in securing our position.
For the excellent work they've done to oppose the Roman Catholic church in one of its few remaining strongholds, the Filipino Freethinkers deserve our support. Voting requires a Facebook account, so if you have one, please go to this link to cast your ballot.
Daylight Atheism Chicago Meetup
So, do I have any readers in the Windy City?
I'm going to be in Chicago over Labor Day weekend, September 2-4, for sightseeing and to visit some friends. If you live in the area and are interested in attending a meetup, leave a comment or send me an e-mail and let me know what time and date you'd be able to attend. Suggestions for a meeting place are also welcome.
Take Action: Tell Montreal Police to Investigate Threats Against Atheists
If you've been around the atheist blogosphere for very long, you're probably acquainted with Dennis Markuze, a notorious net kook who's been spamming atheist blogs, forums, bulletin boards, wikis, social networking sites, and every other website he finds out about with insane, nonsensical rants about Nostradamus, 9/11 and his various other obsessions. He's been at this literally for decades, and apparently has a limitless supply of time and sockpuppet accounts with which to do it. (However frantically he changes accounts, though, I give my word that you'll never see him befoul Daylight Atheism. I take the integrity of my commenting community seriously.)
But in the last year or so, his cryptic messages have grown increasingly violent and threatening, and often include death threats against prominent atheist bloggers. Despite this, and despite massive, overwhelming evidence that he's deeply disturbed and potentially dangerous, the police in Montreal, where he lives, have consistently failed to take any action.
Now there's a petition telling the Montreal police to take Markuze's threats seriously. Please sign it if you've encountered his insanity: the more signatures we get, the harder it will be for the police to ignore. We've been lucky in that he hasn't actually hurt anyone so far, but it may only be a matter of time until he goes completely off the deep end. If he does snap, it's more likely to be the people who know him personally who get hurt, and I hope it doesn't come to that before he gets the help he badly needs.
UPDATE (8/17): With a little media attention, the petition has worked! Montreal police announce an arrest (they haven't officially said that it's Markuze, but I've heard unofficial confirmations that it is). Skeptical Software Tools has an outstandingly thorough summary of the entire affair.
Photo Sunday: Barcelona
To see the pictures, click to continue:
Weekly Link Roundup
Some scattered thoughts to contemplate on a Saturday morning:
• Earlier this year, my post on urban agriculture drew some spirited disagreement. Now there's a study from Ohio State University which concludes that Cleveland could supply all its own produce, poultry and honey if the many vacant lots in the shrinking, post-industrial city were converted into gardens.
• A Missouri high school, in response to a complaint from a homeschooling parent who doesn't even have kids in the school, has banned Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer from its library. In response, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis is offering to send free copies of the book to any student in the school who wants one. They're asking for donations to cover their shipping costs, so please consider chipping in a few dollars if you can afford it.
• Cosmos is being remade by Fox, with a production team including Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy (!). The fact that the creative team includes Ann Druyan, and the proposed host is Neil deGrasse Tyson (who knew Carl Sagan personally), gives me hope that the result will be good.
• Did you know that California permits its prison inmates to have vegetarian meals only for religious reasons, and not out of secular moral convictions? Another example of the unjust privilege that's often accorded to religion as more real or more sincere than other kinds of beliefs.
• New York's Woodlawn Cemetery is selling multimillion-dollar mausoleums for the deceased wealthy. I've tried without success to imagine the mindset that would lead someone to spend millions of dollars on a lavish container for their own corpse, rather than giving it away to living people who have genuine needs.
• Cult leader Warren Jeffs has been re-convicted of child sexual assault, this time in Texas, after an earlier conviction in Utah was overturned on a legal technicality. He probably didn't help his case by threatening the court with plagues for daring to put him on trial.
Photo Sunday: Valencia
We saw a lot of churches and cathedrals in Spain, but the Cathedral of Valencia could claim one mark of distinction that some of the much larger and more impressive ones couldn't. Namely, it's the final resting place of that most precious Christian relic, the Holy Grail itself. To see that and more, click to continue...
New Translation on Ebon Musings
I forgot to post this one along with the other translations that went up recently, but I'm happy to add that Ebon Musings now has a Portuguese translation of "All Possible Worlds". Thanks to Petrucio for the effort (and the pictures).
Support the SSA Through Sleep Deprivation
I've often made mention of the Secular Student Alliance, an outstanding organization that supports atheist student groups on high school and college campuses throughout the country. Not only does the SSA offer literature, monetary grants and hands-on assistance in organizing, they also stand up for atheist students' rights when bigoted school administrators try to stop them from forming clubs, which happens very often. (Obligatory full disclosure/self-promotion: I also happen to be on the SSA speakers' bureau. Want to invite me to speak at your school?)
For its superb work in cultivating the next generation of atheist activists, the SSA deserves our support. And this weekend, you can help them out and get something out of the bargain too.
Fellow blogger Jen McCreight is on the SSA board of directors, and this weekend, she's running a blogathon - the blog equivalent of a telethon - in which she's soliciting donations to support the SSA by pledging to write a minimum of one original post every 30 minutes for a full 24 hours, starting at 7 AM this Saturday. I assume that the inevitable hilarious sleep-deprived ramblings are part of the attraction.
But wait, there's more! She's also raffling eight copies of Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, signed by the author, to anyone who donates $5 or more. Plus, the people who make the ten largest donations before midnight on Friday will get to choose a topic for her to write about during this marathon session.
If any of this is appealing to you, then please consider donating on her ChipIn page. Support a good cause and help build the secular community!