why a silly website matters

A very long time ago, I joined a website that had been created by Douglas Adams, and expanded by a silly, intelligent, lovable bunch of people who called themselves the internet weirdos, hootooizens, h2g2ers.  It is a community drawn together by their love of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, intrigued by the idea of creating their very own version of Ford Perfect’s handy dandy little guide.  We write quirky little entries on things that were interest us, from my own entry on St. Augustine, to shared entries on things to do with a butternut squash.  It’s funky, it’s silly, it’s informative, and above all, it is a community-centered site.  None of us get paid to write entries, welcome new folks, or edit each other’s work…we just do it.

Forward a couple of years, and the little website that could grew to a rather impressive size.  And then, in a move both reviled (by those who were not fans) and welcomed as a saving grace, the BBC took it over.  They changed a few things (political talk during elections was verboten, for instance), but most of the time, the Beeb was a benevolent parent.  Then, last spring, in one of those classic government moves, the BBC asked all of it’s online communities to ‘prove’ they were worthwhile.  We at h2g2 rallied, but we were a wee bit worried.  We aren’t just one thing.  We certainly aren’t a typical website.  In fact, it’s easier to tell you what we aren’t.

h2g2 is NOT:

  • a dating site:  although more than one couple, including by friends Ben & Stephen, met via h2g2
  • wikipedia: although we predate that open, editable, information site by quite a few years
  • a blog:  although sometimes, it seems like we are, at least in part
  • a chat room: although we carry on conversations about things that, at first glance, might not matter to anyone

So you can see why we were a bit nervous.  But low and behold, the BBC decided that, as un-categorizable as we were, we could stay.  There was a collective sigh of relief.

Fast forward to a week ago, and this shows up.  Guess what?  all of those things we are…and yet aren’t…mean that we don’t ‘fit’ the BBC’s model of online presence going forward.  But at least they aren’t just shutting us down, right?

Well, here’s the problem with that…there are a lot of us (see this map for where we are…impressive, no?).  We’re big, we’re quirky, and we’re not particularly fond of change.  Not to mention that we need servers, and IT, and all of those things that go with maintaining a rather large, and growing, website.

Meh, you say, websites come and go.  Well, here’s why saving h2g2 matters to me, despite me not having been around all that much lately.  I’ve made friends around the world.  I have friends in Estonia, across the UK, Canada, and the US, in Japan…literally, I have made friends from all over the world.  I have laughed with them, cried with them, fought the forum trolls with them, argued with and virtually hugged them, sent a few of them care packages…and in a couple of months, I am going to the wedding of one of them, which is being officiated by another of them.  I am friends with them on Facebook, we follow each other on twitter, celebrate births and other happy events…we are a community.  In my own tiny corner of h2g2, I met people who were doctors, artists, nuclear power plant workers, uni students, government workers, teachers, chefs, musicians…the list goes on.  I have met some of them in person, and long to meet others, when funding permits.  We have discussed current events, movies, books…and we have shared our parenting pains and joys.  These people, these internet weirdos, are the ones who cheer me up when I’m down, celebrate my successes, and pass me virtual drinks when I need one.  They are, truly, my friends.

And you know what?  That deserves to be saved.



Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 12:21 pm  Comments (7)  

Jan Brewer to Arizonans: you’d better be rich, and like being stupid

Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, introduced the legislature, and Arizonans, to her budget this week, and it’s a doozie.  In order to cover a budget gap of somewhere between $800 million and 2 billion (interestingly enough, getting an exact number is sort of like finding a needle in a haystack), Brewer proposes to cut business taxes, slash education, and eliminate Medicaid programs for the poor.  It’s trickle-down economics on steroids, Reaganomics for the Tea Party…pick your metaphor, but any way you look at it, this budget makes no sense.  It didn’t make sense last year to not pay bills in June, but wait until July, the start of the next fiscal year, to pay them, and then pay interest in the missed payment.  It didn’t make sense to pass a budget last year that counted on the people of Arizona allowing the state to raid two funds, one of which was established to help at risk children between the ages of 1 and 5, for the money.  Guess what?  The voters said ‘hell no’…and whoops!  The budget problems grew.

Let’s take a closer look.  Let’s start with the healthcare budget.  Now, because of the Health Care Reform Act, Arizona can’t actually cut Medicaid without permission.  So before this can happen, the Arizona legislature, led by some people who seem to think being poor equates to a disease, or being an illegal immigrant (full disclosure, today I formally withdrew from grad school because I happen to be one of the working poor Brewer wants to ignore), are going to get together to vote on whether or not she can go ask the feds for a waiver.  I’m guessing that’ll pass pretty easily.  Brewer and her gang claim that there are plenty of people in DC who will vote to grant the waiver.  I’m guessing in the House, they’re right, but the Senate may be a tougher sell.  Thus, unless they get the waiver, they’ll be budgeting some $541 million dollars they may not have.  Whoops.  Not to mention that the federal government pays 2/3rds of Medicaid costs in Arizona.  So that’s about a billion dollars the state will be losing right there. Whoops again.  Of course, Brewer and her budget team remind Arizonans, that money is only going to last through the end of 2010 (which is when Medicaid funding is up for a renewal).  Since when has the federal government NOT re-upped healthcare for the poor?  Hmmm….never.

Not to mention that eliminating some 280,000 people (and, coincidentally, about the same number of job losses in the state in the last three years) from eligibility in AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System…the state’s name for Medicaid for the poor), most of them adults, doesn’t mean that these poor people are going to go away.  Nor are they going to magically get health insurance elsewhere.  Which means more people going to the ER, unable to pay, which means the cost will shift to those with health insurance from elsewhere, which means higher premiums, which means employers will take a bigger chunk out of people’s paychecks, which means less take home pay, which means more people will need help paying rent, buying food, paying bills…see where I’m going here?  This aspect of Brewer’s bill is not only short sighted, but will create even more people who need help from the state.  Not exactly cost containment there, is it, Jan?

And what about what she wants to do to education in this state?  She wants to cut somewhere around a billion dollars from the K-12 budget, already one of the slimmest in the nation.  This means no more full-day kindergarten (okay, I’d actually like that idea, except that means bigger daycare costs, which means more people needing help from the state to cover those costs…are we seeing a pattern here?).  As the mother of a teenager in high school, I have to pay for things my parents didn’t, and while it’s still much less than it was for my friends who had teenagers in high school in California, when did public education stop being free?  To cover the cuts in Brewer’s budget to U of A, ASU, and NAU, the regents of all three schools proposed tuition hikes last March:  18.8% at ASU, 20.4% at Arizona, and 15.7% at NAU (these are just the undergrad hikes, mind you).  So, tuition is going up, but families are spending more for healthcare…so more students in debt. And when they do get jobs, they’ll still have to spend more of their paycheck for healthcare. Gosh, that’s a great idea, Jan.

But community colleges are being hit especially hard, while enrollments are increasing.  As the president of the community college I teach at noted, percentage wise, community colleges are taking the brunt of Brewer’s education cuts.  My school alone will lose  78.6% of its state funding.  Instead of the $4 million we were slated to get, we’d get only $900 thousand.  That’s over $3 million simply…gone.  Our enrollments have increased an average of over 10% every semester, yet we are being asked to do without over 3/4 of our budget.  That’s ridiculous.

And about those business tax cuts.  In the last three years, business tax revenue is down 57%.  But Brewer wants $25 million to ‘recruit’ new business to the state.  She also wants to cut the corporate tax rate to 4.5%, which is the same as the highest personal income tax bracket, and lower than the surrounding states (Utah is at 5%, and Colorado is at 4.6%).  This, she argues, would bring new business to the state.  Here’s the problem with this plan…education isn’t funded.  Which means these businesses wouldn’t have an employee base to work with.  So why would any business want to come here, when they can’t find employees qualified to work for them?  Brewer doesn’t answer that question, or why she’s still pushing a failed economic model.  Trickle-down economics have NEVER worked.  Not in the 80s, and not now.

Brewer does have a back up plan of a sort.  She wants to up the budget for prisons.  By $8.4 million.  So I guess those poor people could get healthcare, after all.  By going to prison.  Way to go, Jan.  This is a brilliant plan.

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 10:28 pm  Comments (1)  

the 365 project

Several very cool folks I know are engaged in various 365 projects. 365 projects involve doing something every day of 2011.  Most folks are doing something creative:  drawing, painting, writing, etc.  One friend is giving away a book a day from his private collection.

Me, I’m doing 365 days of crafting.  Every day, I will strive to work on something crafty, be it crocheting a shopping bag from recycled plastic grocery bags or cotton yarn, making a steampunk lampshade or clock, sewing something practical or fabulous, or  I will endeavor to be creative/crafty in some way every day of 2011.

What do you wish you had more time for?  What part of yourself would you like to challenge or grow?  Try a 365 project, and get going!

Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 10:21 pm  Comments (4)