Activities For The Civic Geek: Be A Green Geek

We’ve got to live on this planet (even if some of us want to explore beyond it), and that means a keeping a healthy environment.  Geeks can do their part to make sure we keep Earth livable.

If you’re at all informed about environment science, you’re probably a bit concerned about the environment.  From global warning to the effects on fracking, it’s a bit hard not to come to the conclusion we could manage our use of the planet much better.  As we geeks are usually quite enthused about science, we’re also painfully aware of the problems we face.

Fortunately there’s no small amount of people out there you can help, get involved with, or donate too.  Everyone’s got the same idea as you, and there have been organizations dedicated to helping us preserve the environment around for a long time.

It’s also hard to know where to start.  Here’s a few suggestions to get you going:

  • Donate or get your geeky club/group/convention to donate to appropriate causes.
  • Donate time.  This is great if you’re particuarly oriented towards either STEM (and the hard science of the environment), have the skills needed by the various groups (such as web work or speaking), or both.  Time is often more valuable than money
  • Spekaers.  Run a convention?  Get speakers from appropriate organizations to discuss the science and issues of the environment.  If you’re part of a fiction-writing geekdom, you can combine good world building with good awareness of how our world has structural problems.
  • Do citizen science – From dedicating time to local citizen science groups, you can often find people focused on daily, hands-on scientific activities from recording to explaining issues.

There’s problems.  Maybe we geeks can do what we can to help out.


  • Engineering for Change – A community to connect engineers, governments, social scientists, and more to share knowledge and solve problems in a sustainable way.
  • Engineers Without Borders Canada – A nonprofit Canadian organization that supports sustainable community engineering projects around the world.
  • Engineers Without Borders USA – A nonprofit US organization that supports sustainable community engineering projects around the world.
  • Marine Conservation Institute – An organized, sustainability-oriented institute focused on protecting marine ecosystems. Heavily driven by partnerships, alliance, and outreach.
  • Nerds For Nature – And all-volunteer organization that brings together communities, scientists, and technologists to understand and preserve nature, including hands-on projects. Located in California.
  • Oceana – An international organization focused on sealife preservation and marine issues
  • Project Noah – A software platform that brings citizen scientist together in various projects to record and preserve biodiversity and understand nature.
  • Skeptical Science – A site dedicated to explaining the science of global warning. Always looking for help in donations or paper review.
  • World Wildlife Fund – Focuses on preserving and protecting wildlife and related environmental and pollution issues.


The Dotcom Bubble 2.0 – And Not Quite

So over at Rawstory there’s an article asking if “The dotcom bubble is about to burst again.”

I’ve been wondering about this for awhile since the first one was pretty damn awful – and now that I live in Silicon Valley, a bit closer to my heart and wallet.

Over time however, I’ve come to a different theory.  I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of the previous bubble – we’ll see something else.

Yes, there’s plenty of money going around startups.  Yes there’s some truly lame ideas people sink money into.  Yes, I’m sure there will be some very dumb investments and purchases.

But there’s also a sense going on that people know they’re gambling.  There’s balancing the odds.  Startups have been running leaner and smarter (easy when you have so much infrastructure).  We have large, stable players providing some anchors to IT.

In short, most people know what they’re in for, and I think enough awareness is built into the system to avoid a large bubble.  Small ones of course are entirely possible.  In fact, I think we’ve had mini-bubbles for quite some time.  Little areas that burst and fail early.  Regional ones.  You’re always hearing little stories, seeing stock drops and spikes/etc.

So I’m not that worried about a big bubble.

What I am worried about is a kind of weardown of the system.

Right now we have lots of people chasing startups and basically placing bets.  But if things go sour for a lot of them, investors may slowly dry up or move on – not right away, but over time.

Right now we have skill issues.  IT creates more senior jobs than junior.  Junior people may be worn out or when their startup fails not have the skillset to take other jobs.  Wages are very distorted by external pressures.

Right now we have constantly raising stakes – at some point people may not want to invest.  Maybe after awhile they go for something more stable and less erratic.

Right now we have people looking to “disrupt” the economy – but how much disruption can you do, and how much may damage the economy or cannibalize others in your space?

Also out here in Silicon Valley the insane living prices don’t exactly help.  It’s a great place, a wonderful place, but let’s just say I’m glad I have a roommate.

So my concern is not so much a bubble, but that the “frothiness” of the whole IT and dotcom world gradually goes flat from structural issues.  More financial caution.  Skill issues.  People and investors just getting worn out.  Economic changes going faster and faster until a lot of the foundation is changed or gone.  Financial challenges limiting those who can benefit – and limiting those that can make a contribution.

I’m not worried about a bubble.  I’m worried about the dotcom world and IT going kind of flat and tepid.  That, though it could go on for years, or over a decade, going “flat” is a lot harder to recover from.

  • Steven

Steve’s Update

Hello everyone.  Crazy times, so here’s what’s up!

First, as noted in September I got a little busy with work and all.  Still don’t quite have a picture of my holiday season, but I plan for some time off.  Let’s hope I catch up and don’t spend too much time playing Team Fortress 2.  Which will really me a matter of degree.

Way With Worlds – If all goes well (meaning I’ll damn well make it happen), the editing run finishes and goes to my pre-readers by Sunday.  I’m about 70-80% proud of it now, and think it’s going to be a pretty good handbook for worldbuilders.  And, yes, there will almost inevitably be followup works . . . just not in the way you may think . . .

Resume Plus – My new jazz-up-your-resume-guide is being edited.  I am actually quite proud of this one, and proud to return to smaller ebooks.  This one was fun to write, has great advice, and will be a fantastic addition to your electronic bookshelf.  Think of it as a sister guide to “Epic Resume Go” and, yes, I may do a book bundle.

Sailor Moon Book – No, once again not releasing the title yet.  Sorry.  Anyway, we finished the analysis of our first run of interviews and we now have a serious idea of just why the show impacted people, how it impacted people, and how to portray it in the book.  We may also have gotten some insights into just how the legacy of the show impacted American media.  Next goal is to finish interviews somewhere in November, start our historical research and get writing.  Again we really don’t expect this to be out until late summer/early fall 2016.

Plot Twist Generator – OK, I’m just gonna try and get this sucker to gold and take a break.  One more push coming up!  Then I do a fun one (in fact one I may document).

  • Steve


Activities For The Civic Geek: Free Speech

Free Speech isn’t just talk – it’s a real life issue, and one that’s often misunderstood.  Do something real about free speech issues in an intelligent way.

There’s two problems with Free Speech – there isn’t enough of it, and most people don’t know what the hell it’s about.

For the latter, we need more education, better understanding, and occasionally informing people they’re full of crap for thinking someone defriending them on social media is censorship.  However, I’d like to focus on the former – actively helping people get over it and understand it.

Internet drama aside, there are a lot of threats to free speech – often subtle.  A banned book list at a school library, lawsuits designed to squelch opinion, and countries outright controlling what people think and see.  Issues of internet access, net neutrality, and freedom.  Maybe we geeks can do something about it.

Something like:

  • Invite authors who’s books and works have been banned to your events.
  • Do reading groups of controversial literature.
  • Get involved with organizations that support freedom of speech, from donations to getting speakers to events.
  • Provide access to banned literature or promote it at events.
  • If it’s relevant to your geeky media (books, comics, video games) do panels or studies of free speech in various countries.

Beyond doing good and helping overcome the at-times subtle censorship people face, being involved in free speech efforts also teaches you what it’s really about.  It’s one thing when people complain someone deleted their message board comment – quite something else to realize a beloved book was widely banned in a state.  Sometimes understanding free speech is best done by seeing it’s lack.

Here’s a few groups to get you started:

  • Banned Book Week – Celebrate the freedom to read – and take a stand against censorship – with Banned Books week.
  • Free Press – A savvy organization focused on a free press.
  • Public Knowledge – An organization focusing on intersecting issues of technology and free speech – access, copyright, net neutrality, innovation, and more.
  • The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – A non-profit organization focused on protecting the First Amendment rights of everyone in the comics/publishing/reading chain. Provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance and education.

Activities For The Civic Geek: Electronic Recycling

Most geeks love their electronics.  Electronic waste and disposal presents quite an environmental problem – and ignores how other people can use technology others casually throw away.  Getting into electronic recycling as a civic geek gives you many ways to help out.

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re probably awash in technology.  You either have a lot of it, use a lot of it, or both.

The problem is a lot of this technology is pretty hard to dispose of – and is useful when reused.  Deadly chemicals have to be handled in recycling, valuable metals have to be reclaimed.  At the same time there are people that can reuse technology that you might throw away.  For technical geeks, this is a chance to do some good by getting involved in electronics recycling.

Here’s a few ideas:

  • You can get involved in collecting and donating old cell phones or computers.  There’s many places that gladly take old technology.
  • You could get your geeky friends, club, or whatever to refurb old computers before donating them.
  • There are groups that do refurb of technology you could join.
  • Run a drive at a con or club event to collect old technology
  • If you’re a science-heavy geek, you can arrange viewings on films on recycling or speakers at your events.  Just the dangers and methods of recycling electronics alone is fascinating (and a bit scary).

The benefits of this are threefold: you make recycling easier, many electronic recycling efforts help people out, and you become aware of the impact of electronics on the environment and more.  It’s not just helpful – it’s broadening.

A few groups to look into:


  • Close The Gap – Takes computer donations from european countries and refurbishes them for emerging nations. Also works to recycle unusable equipment safely.
  • Computers With Causes – Takes donated computers and either gets them to charitable programs, or sells them for funds used to go to programs
  • PCS For Schools – Refurbishes and upgrades donated computer equipment and uses it to bridge the technology gap in schools
  • World Computer Exchange – A US and Canadian non-profit that reduces the digital divide with education, donated computers, and more.


  • AZ StRUT – Arizona chapter of Students Recycling Used Technology, an organization that supports learning, refurbishing and donation of electronics, and proper recycling of electronics.
  • Cell Phone Bank – Takes donations of cell phones and recycles them for use as emergency phones.
  • Cell phones For Soldiers – Provides refurbed cell phones and more to soldiers so they can keep in touch.
  • Green Electronics Council – A nonprofit focused on environmental leadership in electronics
  • Hope Phones – Outfits global health care workers (part of Medic Mobile) with donated cell phones
  • Komputers4rkids – Focused on Southern California, the goal of Komputers4rkids is to bridge the digital gap in technology, and they accept electronic donations to help do it.
  • National Center For Electronics Recycling – A nonprofit that works to build and coordinate initiatives to improve electronic recycling.
  • Silicon Valley StRUT – California/Silicon Valley chapter of Students Recycling Used Technology, an organization that supports learning, refurbishing and donation of electronics, and proper recycling of electronics.
  • Step Initiative – The Step Initiative takes a long-term view of understanding, planning for, recycling, and avoiding e-waste.
  • The Christina Foundation – Promotes technology reuse and helps connect people with local organizations and individuals that need their donations.
  • Wireless Foundation – Recycles used cell phones and focuses on stopping family violence

Steve’s Update 10/5/2015

Hey gang, had a busy time speaking at all sorts of events –  Con-Volution then PMI Silicon Valley 2015.  Know what?  I think I’m gonna take a break from anything big for now.  That was pretty exhausting.

The PMI panel was interesting as I spoke about the role of creativity in the profession – and discussed my theories of creative types.  I may just do a book on that.

Speaking of books, let’s get on to that . .

Sailor Moon Book – We’re back folks!  Bonnie and I put our heads together this week to look at our analysis of the first interviews – which were very revealing.  This book keeps surprising me.

Still looking like it won’t be done until fall next year.  I hope we can speed it up, but this is worth taking time on.

“Resume Plus” – Yep, my guide to jazzing up your resume, my first ebook-only in awhile, is coming.  I’ve got it in the hands of my editor right now, and I hope to get formatting it soon for release late October/early November.  It was actually fun to write, and encouraged me to mix small books with large.

Way With Worlds – I’ve got a big push this week to get it ready for my pre-readers.  So if I’m not that active, you know it’s because I’m busy cursing my own mistakes.  If you want to be one, let me know!

Gonna keep this short, since it’s been a long weekend – and tomorrow you get more Civic Geek . . .

  • Steven Savage



Activities For The Civic Geek: Support The Troops

Being in the military is challenging, as many people know.  Support the geek troops by supporting your mutual interests!

Being stationed away from home and loved ones, moving around when required, tough training, unexpected surprises – being in the military, simply, isn’t an easy job.  We’ve all known people in the military life, know the challenges – and know supporting the troops is one way we civilians and current civilians can help our.  If we’re geeks, gamers, and so on, we can help out our geeky brethren who wear the uniform.

After all we’re geeks.  We know the importance of games, comics, literature, anime, and so on.  We know what our fellow geeks in the service like.  Let’s make it easier to get it to them.

You could:

  • Join any number of groups (I’ve got a few listed below) to help out.
  • Your events, club, and conventions could support groups that help out geeky troops.  Imagine a manga donation marathon!
  • You could invite current and former members to speak on their experience to your supporting group or club so people know exactly what they experience.
  • Find ways to get care packages of appropriate material to those in the service.
  • Work with current military charities in your own geeky ways.

You get to make a real difference in the lives of people, you’ll learn more about what military service is like (or show people), and you get to do good for people in uniform.

In your own, geeky way.



Literature and Technology

  • United Through Reading – Connects US military personnel with their children by video-recorded book readings.



Video Games

  • Military Gamers – A community and support network for military and former military gamers from the US military. Promotes healthy gaming and support.
  • Operation Supply Drop – A military gaming charity that delivers video game care packages for American and American allied soldiers in both combat zones and military hospitals.



Activities For The Civic Geek: Promote Accessibility

Access to geeky pursuits can be challenging for some people; but you can help with access for people and even do more!

We take it for granted that people can enjoy the same geeky stuff we do.  It’s out there, right?  Accessible, right?  Not quite.

Some geeks suffer from assorted challenges.  It may be temporary, like a broken leg or reaction to a medical procedure.  It may be far more permanent in the case of disabled limbs and color blindness.  If you’re an able-bodied person who’s ever been seriously injured, you know exactly what it’s like to not be able to do the things you love, if only for awhile.

However we geeks are inventive folks and are at our best when more people can enjoy our community.  It’d be time well spent to help geeks who have some challenges, temporary and permanent, enjoy the same things we do.  You could:

  • Work at a convention and advocate for accessibility policies.
  • Work with groups that make video games, books, and more accessible to people who have limits.
  • Promote awareness of just how geek communities can be more open and accessible to people who have their limitations.
  • If you’re really technical, perhaps your geek group could get involved in charities, fix-it-shops, repurposing/refurbishing technology, and other ways to provide accessibility to people – geeks and more.

These activities aren’t just good for geekdom and the people benefiting – they’re good for you and your communities.  You learn how other people live, broaden your horizons, open your hearts and minds – and learn ways to help others.

Here’s a few geeky activities to look into to get you started:


  • CosAbility – A group focused on helping cosplayers work their physical challenges/disabilities into cosplay!

Video Games

  • Able Gamers – A charity that works to improve the lives of people with disabilities through video games, including charity work, consultation with gaming companies, and more.
  • Special Effect – Helps people with disabilities play video games with special technology and a variety of fundraisers. Takes donations and runs events.


No, Actually I’m Pretty Fine With My Emotions And Everything Else

“You’re being irrational.  That person is being irrational.  Those people are being irrational.”

We all know the drill.  There’s a discussion or an argument, often about politics, and then it verges into that special brand of stupid where someone declares that A) the people they disagree with are irrational, and B) Imply directly or indirectly that they themselves are thus rational.  This is intended to end the argument.

Usually – but not always – the person who invokes the argument is really just derailing the conversation.  When I encounter this “aggressive statement of rationality,” the person making it is usually pretty emotional – either seething with rage or displaying the kind of smugness that produces seething rage.  Occasionally they just seem emotionally dead and distant, as if that’s somehow good and implies a functional decision making process as opposed to the need for therapy.  Rarely does the person making the rational/irrational argument come off as someone that should be listened to.

(And usually I find the rational/irrational argument is best made by being the person who basically doesn’t freak out, act like a jerk, or come off as emotionally stunted.  If the argument is true – and relevant – it will be made on its own.)

But the use of this argument ignores a larger issue.  Emotions aren’t bad, the emotional/rational divide is nonexistent, and the idea of a separate rationality is meaningless.

There’s nothing wrong with emotions.  Evolution (or if you want to get metaphysical God or whatever) seems to have given us one hell of a range of behaviors and reactions.

They’re the hardwiring of the soul.  From the reaction to pain that saves us from harm, to the passion of love that drives us, to the snap of rage that lets us land a punch on an attacker, emotions are actually pretty awesome.  They’re part of being human.

Emotions aren’t separate from our rationality.  We use our rational intellect to decide how to make a meal more like mom used to make.  We use rationality to charm the person we love with, emotions helping us find the right choices as we carefully plan.  A rush of inspiration is deconstructed later into useful parts.  We get angry then intelligently plot revenge.  We get happy and calculate the best gift someone would want.

It’s all processing of information – with different levels and context, all lumped together.

In fact, emotions are a a font of meaning.  That ability to feel connections and reactions is powerful.  The awful taste of a bad food that saves us from poison gives us caution in other areas.  The sense of camaraderie brings us close together, and infuses a holiday or a job with substance and context.  Curiosity drives us onwards.  The visceral elements of emotions gives us a sense of being of reality.

Really what is rationality without some human element to it?  Processing information without connection, the idea of humans as unchanging ping-pong balls bouncing around.

I’m just bang along fine with my emotions.

I’m not sure were the idea that “emotions are bad” and “I’m super-rational and thus better” came from.  Freudian ideas of ID and Superego, idea of separation of soul and body, no idea.  Emotions can backfire like any other part of being human, from our senses to our appendix to our rationality.

So no, when people try to argue they’re rational and thus right, be suspicious.  Chances are they’re neither – and not very self-aware at that.


  • Steve