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21 October 2006 @ 04:55 pm
Back in January, when I started the 520 Project, one of the things I said was that I didn't like people begging for my money. I still don't. In fact, there have been several occasions where I decided not to give to a charity I had been considering because they sent me some "beggar mail". I've got tons of the stuff strewn around my apartment. I even got a second tiny crutch made by slave labourers in Afghanistan or Cambodia or something. But this week, I decided to make an exception. I'd never heard of this group before their mailing, but anyone who offers me to opportunity to buy a llama can't be all that bad.

Yes, a llama. Or a water buffalo or a set of rabbits. The gimmick behind this charity is that you pay to help buy some kind of animal, which is then shipped to a third world country somewhere, where it provides milk and wool and brute force (And presumably, eventually, a nice steak dinner...) for a family in need, and in return, they agree to give some of the offspring of the animal to another family in need. It's like a crazy pyramid scheme devised by Noah.

Anyway, a llama requires a larger donation than the weekly 520 Project donation, so I'll have to go a bit smaller. I'm going to buy 1/12th of a goat, instead.

Organization Information: http://www.heifer.org/
Donation Information: http://www.heifer.org/site/c.edJRKQNiFiG/b.195980/k.D164/Give.htm
14 October 2006 @ 09:35 am
Hello? Anyone there?

Organization Information: http://www.seti.org/
Donation Information: http://www.seti.org/site/pp.asp?c=ktJ2J9MMIsE&b=178875
07 October 2006 @ 07:15 pm
Two years ago, a volcano near me began to erupt. It has been erupting continuously since that day. It's not spewing lava all over the place. It's not that type of volcano. It's not spewing ash clouds that turn day into night (Not regularly, anyway), it's not spewing lahars that wipe out everything down stream, and it's not spewing pyroclastic flows that simply wipe out everything. It did that a quarter century ago. In fact, it's not doing much of anything. Visitors to the area can hardly tell that it is erupting, since it's erupting with all the fire and fury of slowing squeezing a tube or toothpaste toward the ceiling.

The volcano is Mt. St. Helens.

It's sort of exciting, having a volcano erupting close enough to visit. It helps that the mountain is out in the middle of nowhere, so no matter what it does, it's probably not going to hurt anyone. (In 1980, the mountain wasn't in the middle of nowhere, but burying lakeside resorts in tons of ash and mud, flattening 200 square miles of forest and sending a destructive wall of trees and mud downstream has a way of instantly creating a lot of nowhere to be in the middle of.) I mean, if part of Mt. Rainier fell off tomorrow (It's not likely ot erupt, just likely to disintegrate.), it might be exciting and interesting, but since it would probably wipe out the town of Orting, it wouldn't be "fun". Mt. St. Helens can be fun.

At any rate, outside of St. Helens, the next most likely volcano to erupt around here is Mt. Baker. It lets off steam every once in a while, and for a little stretch in the 70's, everyone thought it was going to blow. (My theory about May 1980 is that St. Helens was jealous of the attention Baker was getting. That's what the scientists have said, anyway. Personally, my money is on Glacier Peak, simply because if it began erupting, it would confuse the hell out of everyone in Seattle who's never heard of it.

Not that I'd complain if Baker decided to have a little fun. I know a good spot to get some pictures...

Organization Information: http://mshinstitute.org/
Donation Information: https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/NationalForestFoundation/MtStHelen.html
30 September 2006 @ 05:01 pm
Last week, reporters in Iran, Russia, and the United States were all covering the same story. It wasn't about terrorism or war or nuclear power. It was Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-born woman who bought a ticket to the International Space Station. It was a bit of a Star Trek moment, showing just a brief glimpse of a future where peaceful cooperation guides humanity, and where touching the sky is possible, regardless of nationality or gender. It made me think for a moment that maybe that crackpot running for the Senate that I saw on public access TV who was rambling on and on about returning the Saturn V to service was on the right track after all.

I quickly came to my senses.

Anyway, the whole episode reminded me of what I always hoped to be when I grew up: Rich and slightly crazy, throwing my money at any cause that comes along in the hopes that it'll change the world. You see, Ansari is one of the Ansaris of the Ansari X Prize, a contest designed to compel the private sector to begin a bit of a space race amongst themselves. Eventually, the prize was won by Burt Rutan's Mojave Aerospace, and the contest was a success. Virgin Galactic (Headed by Richard Branson, speaking of rich and slightly crazy) has contracted with them to build a fleet of ships and plans to begin public flights to the edge of space within three years.

I still have a way to go as far as the rich part of the equation, but I've gotten fairly good at throwing my money at any cause that comes along in the hopes that it'll change the world. In ten years, if we have space hotels or cars that get 500 MPG because of innovation that came out of people striving to win an X Prize, I'll be able to smile, thinking that maybe I did make a tiny difference.

Organization Information: http://www.xprize.org/
Donation Information: http://www.xprize.org/donate/make_a_donation.html
23 September 2006 @ 07:05 pm
I used to read a lot. I'd read all sorts of things. I loved the other worlds and the other times that I'd travel to. Whenever my elementary school had reading competitions, I'd always win, and I'd be reading Douglas Adams, H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle, while everyone else in the school was reading Judy Blume. And I'd keep reading even after the contests ended.

Then I got into middle school and high school and English class ruined it for me.

Seriously. I've probably read only three books in the past fifteen years that I hadn't been forced to read for one reason or another. I dread the thought of touching a work of fiction for fear that I'll have to write an essay about it. I'm terrified that I'll open the cover of an exciting thriller and it'll turn into some tedious novel about poor black kids during the Depression or poor white kids in the Fifties or poor white kids who hate the poor black kids but they eventually become friends during the Civil War or some other idiotic scenario that I'm supposed to both relate to and love because it's a great work of "literature".

To hell with literature. To hell with English classes. If people truly wanted children to get away from TVs and video games and chat rooms and read more books, then just maybe it would be a good idea to have them read something that won't bore the everloving snot out of them. Take them to a production of a Shakespeare play, don't have them read it as it was never meant to be read. And for the love of all things cute and cuddly ditch the sentence diagramming, obscure grammar lessons, and the five paragraph essay and all that other assorted nonsense. Maybe it's just because I'm in software engineering, but I've never had to know what a gerund is or analyze any symbolism during a job interview.

So anyway, yeah. Books are good. Libraries have books for free. If it hadn't been for libraries, I would have read a lot less back before my dreams were torn apart and destroyed.

Organization Information: http://www.kcls.org/index.cfm
Donation Information: http://www.kcls.org/foundation/
16 September 2006 @ 04:39 pm
Okay, no dying people, no politics, no environmental destruction. Just a bunch of outdoor sculptures and a decent education.

Organization Information: http://www.wwu.edu
Donation Information: http://www.foundation.wwu.edu/giving/index.html
11 September 2006 @ 10:06 am
"Let's roll!"

-Todd M. Beamer, aboard United Flight 93, September 11th, 2001

Organization Information: http://www.honorflight93.org
Donation Information: http://www.honorflight93.org/site/lookup.asp?c=8dJCKQNuFoG&b=1555707
09 September 2006 @ 08:21 am
The entry this week, given its content, will be pushed back until Monday. I apologize for the delay.
02 September 2006 @ 05:10 pm
A few weeks ago, the Seattle Mariners traded pitcher Jamie Moyer to Philadelphia. Now, I don't really follow baseball all that much, and pretty much all I know about the Mariners this year is that they're something like 60 or 70 games back, so I wouldn't normally care too much about a turn of events such as this. However, Jamie Moyer has been in a number of commercials for the Mariners, and typically, Mariner commercials are some of the few commercials that don't make me feel like I'm wasting electricity when they come on. So, in that sense, his presence will be missed.

On the other hand, part of Jamie Moyer will remain in this city. He's the founder of the Moyer Foundation, a non-profit organization helping children make it through a fight with cancer or other illness, or helping them deal with the loss of a loved one.

Organization Information: https://www.moyerfoundation.org/
Donation Information: https://www.moyerfoundation.org/involved/donate.asp
26 August 2006 @ 04:42 pm
Sometime around the seventh grade, it seemed like saving the rainforest was the most important thing ever. It was under attack from cow farmers and furniture makers, and, of course, crazy people who'd slash and burn just for the hell of it. FernGully told us that rainforests were full of fairies and Medicine Man told us that rainforest ants high on sugar would cure cancer. Paul Simon released an album with a rainforest flavour, and even Spike Lee got into the act, releasing Jungle Fever, which was about...

Wait, that had nothing to do with rainforests.

Anyway, the point is, without rainforests, there will be no fairies, no cures for cancer, and no Paul Simon albums. Oh, yeah, and the air becomes toxic and the temperature rises and millions of species go extinct. So, as a good global citizen, I'd drop a couple of nickels into the machines they had in zoos and malls where every penny would buy you an acre of rainforest somewhere in the world. (By my estimate, I own a couple of hundred acres of prime Brazilian Rainforest. Maybe I should sell it on eBay...)

These days, though, we never seem to hear about the rainforest. The closest we get is Amazon.com, which, of course, does a considerable amount of business that requires chopping down trees. This, of course, should not be all that surprising, given that our government doesn't believe in global warming, evolution, or even, in fact, opinion polls.

At any rate, the rainforests are still there. At least I think they're still there. I haven't seen any fairies or cancer cures lately, but Paul Simon has a new album, so I can only assume that they are.

Organization Information: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/
Donation Information: https://www.kintera.org/AutoGen/Simple/Donor.asp?ievent=90699