Category Archives: Heifer International

Making Change

Heya folks,

We’re four days into this year’s Geeks Doing Good fundraiser. I hope you’ve been enjoying it as much as I have. I’ll admit that I spend a lot of this week refreshing the fundraiser page to see how much we’ve raised.

(Hint – right now we’re at just over $90,000 dollars. Which is pretty good for four days….)

Today I’m going to talk about one of the items we’re trying out for the first time this year: Change Jars.

I’ve talked on the blog before about my own change jar. For the lion’s share of my life, you could tell a lot about my financial well being by the state of my change jar. If it had quarters in it, you know that I was doing pretty well for myself. But more often, those were picked out for laundry, or even to pay for food. During the leaner times there weren’t many dimes in there either….

So these days, when I look at my change jar seeing all those quarters is a constant reminder of how well I’m doing.

A couple years ago, I practiced counting with Oot, my young son, and then recorded a video with him where he really suprised me.

Here it is for those of you who haven’t seen it:

I’m sorry about the vertical nature of the video. I was hoping to catch a teachable moment on video with my son, explaining to him that we could use our change to help people. But he beat me to the punch with almost every point I wanted to make. (You can see the unedited version of the video here if you’re possessed with the strong desire to see me break down crying.)

Anyway, ever since then, the change jar in our house has been referred to as a Cow Jar. Whenever Oot would find a coin, that’s where he would put it. If someone gave him some money, he would typically put it there. The enterprising little guy even set up a store in our house, selling the candy he got for Halloween so he could get more money for the Cow Jar.

After two and a half years, Oot was sure we had enough for a cow. So we took my change jar, Sarah’s change jar, the change jar in my office…. pretty much all the change jars in the house, combined them, and we ended up with this video….

We didn’t end up with quite enough for a cow. And while Oot was a little disappointed, he has redoubled his efforts to save enough money for a cow by Christmas time.

I was thinking about this when we were developing our product ideas for this year. Every couple days when I put my change into a bowl by the door, I smile and think about buying a cow. What’s more, I think about how much fun it will be to count out the change with my little boys. It’s a good way to sneak a little math into a project, while getting them to think about giving to people less fortunate than themselves.

I thought it might be fun to share this family tradition with you.

Back in December, we worked with some local Wisconsinites to make Eolian Mugs. Those worked out so well that they’re making stone Eolian coasters for this year’s fundraiser…

So I asked them if they could come up some change jars, for those of you who… I don’t know, really. Maybe for those of you who have kids and would like to show them that thinking about helping others can be part of your everyday life. Or maybe you’re a fan of Worldbuilders, and putting saving up for a goat will make you happy. Maybe you’re more high-class than I am, and you want something more attractive for your loose change than the cereal bowl I’m currently using.

Or maybe you’d just like to join Oot in his quest to gather change and make the world a better place. I think we might have a “Oot’s Change Jar” team this year during our holiday fundraiser, where everyone who has been saving their pocket change can join forces and be awesome together.

And here’s some jars you can use if you want to do it with some style….

We’ve got three different sizes. My people did some unlikely maths to figure out how big each jar had to be in order to fit approximately the right amount of change for each of these. But in the end, we have:

A smaller jar that fits around $20. Enough for a flock of chicks. That means eggs for eating and selling every day. To say nothing of the fact that chickens themselves improve crop yields, as they eat bugs that cause problems in gardens and small farms.

There’s a medium sized jar that should hold $60 for some tree seedlings. Trees can provide fruit and nuts that a family can eat or sell to gain financial security. Trees also provide shade, and greatly improve sustainable agriculture by preventing soil erosion.

There’s also a large jar that hold enough for a goat: $120.

I’m not shy about the fact that I love goats as a Heifer gift. A goat can easily produce more than a gallon of milk a day, enough to supply a family with some left over to sell. They’re known for having twins when they give birth, so the families are that much better at Passing on the Gift of a baby goat to other families in need.

If you already have a beloved change jar, (or if you’re just not that into pottery) you can still join Oot on his quest to turn pocket change into cows…

We’ve designed a sticker to affix to your existing jars at home for those of you who would prefer more of a low-impact way. It’s just a couple bucks over at the fundraiser….

Here’s another link to the fundraiser if you’d like to pick up a change jar, or look at some of the other things we have available there. Like signed books, cheap games, and new types of tak pieces we weren’t able to produce for the Kickstarter. (Stone and metal pieces, specifically.)

And you can also pre-order a signed copy of the 10th anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind, too. If you’re into that sort of thing.

There’s also t-shirts and… well… kind of a lot of stuff. Too much to describe here.

I just peeked over there and saw that the total is over $93,000 now. I’m hoping we can make it to $250,000 like we did last year.

But remember, there’s only a few days left to get on board…

Later space cowboys,

pat

Also posted in Geeks Doing Good, Oot, Worldbuilders | By Pat22 Responses

Guest Blog: Heifer International

Today’s blog comes from Heifer International by way of Vicki Clarke.  Vicki has been our contact person at Heifer since the very beginning.

Vicki Clarke Nepal

 Vicki in Nepal

After years of e-mailing back and forth, making phone calls, and staying in touch about various projects, Vicki and Maria have become pretty much best friends. It’s gotten to the point where Maria has pictures of Vicki’s kids up on her desk. (Children kids, not, y’know…. Goat kids.)

We hung out with Vicki at the Heifer Ranch. She drove up to volunteer when we had all of packaging to do for our IndieGoGo. At this point, she’s as much part of the Worldbuilders team as she is a part of Heifer.

So when Vicki volunteered to write a guest blog for us, we were happy to let her.

Without further ado: Vicki Clarke.

* * *

You can imagine we had a tiny dose of skepticism when a guy from Wisconsin contacted us claiming to be an author, and said he was interested in Heifer.  Full bearded and clad in a Joss Whedon t-shirt, he said he’d had some luck publishing his first book.

Yeah, right. 

It sounded crazy.

Word spread around our offices about this newly-minted fantasy author who said he’d match his fans’ donations to Heifer. So we watched his blog as the numbers grew and grew.

Then kept growing.

It was probably as much fun for us to watch the donations pour in as it was thrilling (and terrifying) for him to realize his fans might drain his bank account, all for a good cause.

In the ensuing years, we’ve regarded Pat and Worldbuilders with amazement and gratitude. Every year when the Worldbuilders’ fundraiser is launched, we can’t believe we are lucky enough to count this community among our supporters. And, every year at the conclusion of the fundraiser, the money given blows us away.

It is a yearly reminder that we can all be part of changing the world. That Worldbuilders chooses each year to invest in us is humbling and drives us to continue working alongside communities to help them build rewarding futures.

Heifer International - Nepal, January 2013.  Rapti Women Empowerment Project  (Project# 22-0531-21-2).  Taleyanpur Village, Banke District, Nepal.  Heifer is working with families to raise their consumption of green vegetables, milk and meat.  The partici

In those six short years, Heifer has directly and indirectly assisted more than 10 million people. The Worldbuilders community has catalyzed a movement that has undoubtedly helped us achieve those numbers. We are able to do more work and faster.

In thousands of donations, from thousands of friends, readers, fans, artists, students, teachers, engineers, gamers, fellow geeks, and more, we have worked together to do something really remarkable: provide the seeds of change to those who struggle daily for food and income.

Your donations through the Worldbuilders fundraiser over the last six years purchased income-producing animals, seeds and trees for families – from alpacas and seeds in Peru to cows and goats in Tanzania and Kenya, and poultry and pigs in China.  You helped us invest in education and intensive training in animal husbandry, environmentally sound, sustainable farming, and business development in Kenya, and community development and empowerment for thousands of women and their families in Nepal.

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United by one man, and one cause, we come together to do something great and do a little something to put an end to poverty.  Well, not so little, as it turns out.

  • In Ghana, we helped families turn the gifts of poultry and bees into productive farms and 75% of farmers were able to double their monthly incomes as a result.
  • In Nepal, we invested in the determination of women farmers which resulted in a ten-fold increase in household income from goat sales and a three-fold increase in total earnings from egg and poultry sales over an 18 month period.

That’s income that families use for better nutrition, school fees and uniforms, better housing, clean water, medicine, toilets, and more.

You see, all of us at Heifer want more for the small-scale farming families we work with than simply being able to feed their families for a day or for one growing season.  More than just surviving, providing life’s most basic necessities. We want them to live fulfilled, dignified lives—whatever that means for them, in their own context.

Through the fundraiser every year, you are a part of this work to end hunger and poverty: you provide the basic tools for a successful life and those gifts are transformed into hope, opportunity and dignity.

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I realize here that I sound optimistic.  I’m a realist, honest.

But just as much as I believe in each of us and our collective power, I believe in the farmers (many of them women and mothers) who have the power and determination to find their way out of poverty.

Together, we can achieve sustainable income and food security for the most marginalized.

Together, we can protect our natural resources and preserve our environment.

Together, we can end world hunger.

One of my new favorite quotes comes from a man in Bangladesh who saw what happened in his family and village when his sister became part of a Heifer women’s group.  He invested his own money and started working with the groups on Heifer Cornerstone training.  (For those who haven’t read about the Cornerstones, you can learn more here.  Or better yet, watch this.)  When asked why he would invest in the Heifer model?  He said, “If I help a few, it will be limited to that. But with Heifer’s Passing on the Gift model, my gift will continue to pass on. If everyone learns to pass on… there will be no conflict in the world.”

It’s that belief that drives us forward.  A belief in peace and in community.  A belief in families working to achieve self-reliance.  A belief in people—in who they are and who they can become.  And really?  A belief in our power over poverty.

All of us at Heifer are thankful that all of you believe in it too.

It sounds a little crazy.  But that’s my kind of crazy.

Huge thanks to Pat, Sarah, Oot, Cutie, Maria, Brett, Amanda, Kat, Nicole, Adam, Rachel, and the volunteers and friends who make the world more awesome.

*     *     *

Thank you Vicki, and thanks to everyone who has helped with Worldbuilders this year.

Here’s a our donation page, for those of you who would like to spread little love this Thanksgiving.

Stay tuned for new products and Black Friday deals in the store tomorrow.

Also posted in Worldbuilders 2014 | By Pat1 Response

Worldbuilders at the Heifer Ranch

Happy holidays, everyone–and we mean happy! You guys continue the new tradition of knocking our socks off with your generosity by pushing us right past the $175,000 mark. Keep an eye out for more stretch goals to unlock.

But on to business.

Last year Heifer International actually donated something to Worldbuilders–a few spaces at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. The Worldbuilders team was supposed to head over there for a little training anyway, but they gave us some tickets to auction off. We put a few on the auction block and stuck some of them in the lottery.

Anticipation was high, and in May, the Worldbuilders team and some auction and lottery winners finally got the chance to visit the Heifer Ranch.

Heifer-Ranch1

The ranch started out as a place where Heifer would raise livestock to ship overseas. That all ended in 1960 when they found it was more cost effective, better for the local economy, and more conducive to the health of the animals if they purchased local livestock for their programs.  The ranch has soldiered on. Even though it’s still a working ranch, it’s now an educational facility where they give folks first-hand experiences of what some of the problems are that Heifer is working to resolve, and what those resolutions are.  It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

While we were there, we met all sorts of cool people, listened to presentations about what Heifer does, how and why they do it and just how much work goes into helping people pull themselves out of poverty.  We toured their global village and had to prepare our own lunch from limited supplies, we made cheese, and we ate delicious food that was grown and raised entirely on the ranch, which also supplies a few local institutions as well. It. Was. Awesome.

We wrote about the experience as soon as we got back, because we wanted to share what we discovered, learned, and enjoyed with you, as a part of this year’s fundraiser.

Heifer Weekend 2013 11 May 0757

Steve, Pat, Shiloh and Kat prepare lunch while Amber reads a recipe in the background.

“I like to cook, and I was pretty excited when we were given the challenge of cooking a meal over an open fire. All of us had tasks and we eventually got the fire going and the food prepared. No one got burned too badly and there was a lot of ‘white rabbit’ chanting to banish the smoke. We enjoyed our simple meal after several hours of cooking while Nate and Vicki shared facts about open fire cooking.

They told us  that every day over 50% of the world’s population cooks this way, for every meal. It’s dangerous and time consuming. Kids can’t attend school because they are too busy gathering limited fuel supplies and tending the fire. Each year, millions are made ill, injured, or killed by the fires and exposure to the smoke. The novelty of open fire cooking quickly wore off as the sober list of facts grew.

I was relieved to hear about Heifer’s work on this issue. In many of the locations that Heifer International works in, they provide improved cook stoves as part of their educational and training projects. They work with the community to provide them with stoves that fit their culture and environment, ensuring that the stoves are actually put to use. These stoves cook food more cleanly, quickly, and safely.  Kids get more free time for their education. This is just one of the great ways in which Heifer is helping build a better world.” – Kat

Heifer Weekend 2013 11 May 0510

Joyce gets an apple-prompted kiss from a camel.

“From the first time I chipped in with my friends to buy a llama, Heifer International has intrigued me.  Being around the folks at the ranch who deeply understand the need for the Heifer brand of conscientious education and help, who are interested in the causes of poverty, in how to change people’s lives, without changing who they are, completely thrilled me, and rejuvenated my desire to do whatever I can to help the cause.

And I milked a goat.  And kissed a camel (no tongue).  And earned a number of spectacular bruises.  It was pretty much the best weekend I have had in at least a week and a half!” – Joyce

Heifer Weekend 2013 11 May 0255

Nicole milks a goat–we later used that milk to make cheese.

“I came back a mix of so many emotions.  I made new friends and had tons of fun, so I was refreshed.  I connected with my co-workers on a deeper level, so I was warmed.  I worked for my meals, so I was satisfied.  I discovered that the scale that Heifer operates on is so much larger than I thought, so I was stunned.  I realized that I was ignorant and jaded about the reality that so many other people face, so I was lucky.  I learned that Worldbuilders is the single largest Heifer Team in existence, so I was proud.

The most overwhelming emotion I faced upon our return, though, was excitement.  We are doing a really good thing.  And I’m ready to dive back in.” – Nicole

Heifer Weekend 2013 11 May 0197

Maria shows Oot how to milk a goat.

“Our time at the Heifer Ranch and Heifer headquarters was a fantastic experience.  Being at the global village, learning of the challenges many communities are faced with, and seeing what Heifer is doing to try to end hunger, was very inspirational.  What is very encouraging about the Heifer model is its approach to working with communities and how extensive that process is.  It truly represents a model of self-sufficiency and sustainability.  I’m personally excited to take what we’ve learned in such a short time and share it with all of our supporters and the Worldbuilders community.  I think once everyone sees what we saw, everyone is going to get super jazzed for the upcoming fundraiser in 2013.” – Maria

Camel

Not Brett, but a reasonable facsimile.

“Heifer International plays the long game, and they play it right. They only go when they’re invited. They don’t send guys in suits, they accept and train community members to lead projects. Often it’s a year or more before the first piece of livestock or seed is shipped. Most of the time, women in the community take charge, even if the community is traditionally misogynistic. Heifer will work with experts in fields they don’t specialize in to make sure everything is done right. The scope is so wide and varied, I just can’t comprehend it, let alone write about it.” – Brett

Sarah and Oot

Sarah and Oot on the ride to morning chores.

Sarah had a great anecdote about Oot from the stay at the ranch.

We were sitting on a bench enjoying the beautiful afternoon.  I said ‘I love you Oot,’ and he looked at me and said ‘I love this ranch.’

Heifer Weekend 2013 14 May 133

 Oot enjoys the shady walkway at Heifer’s Little Rock headquarters.
(Be sure to embiggen and see why Oot’s smiling so much…)

It was a great time. We were there with Vicki, one of the directors of philanthropy and our primary Heifer liaison, Nate, our brilliant and informative guide through all things Heifer, and a small but knowledgeable team of volunteers who showed us everything from feeding chickens to milking goats to how to farm in otherwise harsh environments. We got to learn about zero-grazing, biogas projects and why Heifer puts women in charge. There was a lot to learn.

One of the big things we learned was how much we didn’t know about Heifer’s projects. They offer their gift catalogue and encourage folks to buy goats and ducks for loved ones–that’s easy to grasp. But they also team up with other nonprofit organizations to bring clean water to villages, they teach farmers in Ghana how to raise grasscutters, they help fishermen in Haiti figure out how to get enough fish from a ravaged lake, they help women’s groups set up local co-operatives and they make sure children get a good education. It’s hard to explain that stuff in three words.

Money donated to Heifer International goes to improve the lives of so many people in so many different ways. You’re not just buying a goat. You’re buying knowledge, self-sufficiency, pride, and the willingness–often the excitement–to pass on that gift to the next family. That’s worth so much more than a goat.

*     *     *

To be honest, we can’t capture in words the awe we experienced at the ranch. Everyone came away with something different, but all of us agreed it was a great weekend. Everyone we went with was lovely–it didn’t take long for all of us to click, and that cross-section of wonderful people from such diverse backgrounds just proves the high caliber of all you folks who donate to Worldbuilders and Heifer International.

If you want to, feel free to head over to the Worldbuilders Team Heifer page. A donation there of just $10 sends that $10 straight to Heifer, and you get entered in our lottery.

We also have a few auctions ending this Sunday, but please don’t ignore your family just to bid on them. We’ll have more posted soon.

We’re deliberately going light on the fundraiser posts during the holidays, but we’ll be back before you know it with more posts about books and the cool people who write them, read them, and donate them so you can appreciate them as well.

Thanks, and please continue to have a great holiday.

Also posted in Worldbuilders 2013 | By Amanda10 Responses

2014 Calendars – Fantasy and Philantropy

So for the last couple of years, Worldbuidlers has put out a calendar to help raise money for charity.

This year, we decided to up our game and put out TWO calendars:

The first one we put together with help from Heifer International itself to showcase the good work they do all over the world:

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The second is filled with joyful geekery, featuring a bunch of cool fantasy authors… and me.

LZ Cover

Right now, both of these calendars are up for sale in our online store, The Tinker’s Packs.

If you want, you could hop over right now and buy them. But if you’d like more details first….

  • The Heifer Calendar:

One of the things that’s always bothered me about charity fundraisers is that they frequently center around guilt and pity.

We’ve all seen the TV commercials. They show you starving, desperate children and say, “For the price of a cup of coffee, you can feed this child. Not even fancy coffee. We’re talking shitty truck-stop coffee with powdered creamer in it. Not that you would ever drink that. Today you had a half-decaf mocha with blueberry syrup and extra whip that cost you six bucks, you fat, disgusting American bastard.”

I’m paraphrasing, of course. But you know what I’m talking about. You see one of those commercials and if you have any empathy at all… well… it’s just crushing. Whenever I saw one, it always made me feel helpless and hopeless.

The first time I ever saw something different was Sarah Mclachlan’s video, World On Fire. Way back in 2004.

The premise for the video was this: They took the $150,000 a video normally costs, and put that money toward different charitable causes instead.

After all these years, I still remember one moment in the video where they said they’d helped send kids to school. Then they showed a picture of this little girl sitting in a classroom. And she was *so* fucking happy to be going to school and learning things. She was beaming with joy.

A screw it, I’ll just post the video here so you can see it yourself if you want….

The part I’m talking about is right at the 1 minute mark.

I remember watching that video, and thinking “This. Is. Awesome. What Sarah McLachlin has done here is Awesome.”

Then, after a moment, I remember thinking, “I want to be awesome too.”

What’s my point? Here’s my point.

When we decided to put together our own Heifer International themed calendar, that’s the feeling I wanted to replicate. I didn’t want people to feel guilty or sad or depressed at the state of the world.

I wanted you to look at this calendar and think: This is Awesome. What Heifer is doing is Awesome.

So our calendar is full of stories of people that Heifer has helped over the years. People who got a little help, then used those resources to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

Stuff like this:

After working on their own for 21 years, the women in Azacualpa village saw things begin to change in 2005 when 22 families received heifers from Heifer International.

Four years later, in 2009, they received chickens and completed two rounds of Passing on the Gift, sharing chickens with other families in their community. Seeing the positive results from these first two projects, the women wanted to try something a bit more ambitious.

Cashew

“We wanted something more to do to generate more income,” said Maria Elsa (bottom left, with her husband and grandchildren). From this, the Southern Cashew Enterprise Association was born, with Maria serving as president.

Heifer provided the materials and hired builders to construct the storage rooms and ovens for this cashew enterprise. They also provided 200 cashew tree seedlings.

In 2012, a drought destroyed most of the area’s corn harvest. The cashew business, however, along with the ability to sell eggs and milk from their livestock, still provided income for the families in Maria’s village.

Maria gets almost four gallons of milk a day; she uses one gallon for her family and sells the rest.

Victoriano Gonzalez, Maria’s husband, said, “I never expected to see a cow in my yard and now we have four.” While the women work, their husbands have taken over more of the household chores.

“Now our husbands bring us food while we are working,” Maria said.

 This! This is what it’s all about. Heifer helps people, then those people help themselves. Then they help *other* people help themselves.

And you *don’t* have to shell out 60 cents a day, every day, forever, just to keep some poor kid from starving. When I did that, I felt like I was throwing stones into a well. I felt like it would never *really* make things better.

But here’s the thing: you send some money to Heifer, and they use it to help people make significant, long-term changes in their lives. Now when I donate money, it feels like I’m throwing a stone and Heifer is making sure that stone lands in *just* the right place so that it triggers an avalanche of awesome that will go on for decades, improving the lives of thousands of people.

If you buy this calendar, you are throwing a stone too. I hope that every day you look at it and think: That is awesome. And I am awesome too because I helped.

  • The Beyond Words Fantasy Calendar:

The second calendar we’re doing this year is fantasy-themed. But unlike last year’s calendar that focused on fantasy characters. This calendar focuses on the authors themselves.

For example, Brandon Sanderson:

Sanderson-watermark

Or Lauren Oliver:

oliver-updated(It’s worth it to embiggen this.)

Or Gregory Maquire:

Gregory-Maguire-promo

As you can see, the point wasn’t to dress up the authors as something out of their own books. (Gregory isn’t dressed up as someone from Wicked, for example.) This was a chance to… well… to do something fun and cool.

There are a lot of cool authors involved in this project, including:

If you’d like to see more of the pictures, you can peek at some more over in The Tinker’s Packs.

  • A special offer:

Now I can hear many of you out there howling, “How can I possibly choose between these two awesome calendars? I love Heifer, but I’m also a big geeky fan of [insert author name here]!!”

First off, rest assured that if you buy *either* of these calendars, money will go toward supporting Heifer International.

But really, why buy only one calendar? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a calendar in your office AND in your kitchen? A calendar at home *and* a calendar at work?

And what about Christmas presents? Think of those older relatives that are hard to shop for. Do you really want to give them another kitten calendar? A scented candle? No. You really don’t.

But if you give them a Heifer Calendar, you can explain to them how the money went to a *really* good cause. Then they get to feel awesome, too.

Calendar-2-forSo here’s the deal we’re offering. If you buy more than one calendar, we’ll give you a break on the price.

  • If you buy two calendars, you get $5 off.
  • If you buy three calendars, you get $10 off.

You can mix and match to your heart’s content. Here’s the link the the calendar combo deals on The Tinker’s Packs.

  • The fine details:

A few other things you might want to know:

1. If you buy the Beyond Words calendar, your money will support First Book as well as Worldbuilders.

2. The Beyond Words calendar isn’t *quite* back from the printer yet.

It should be finished in a week or so. And we’ll be shipping it soon after. That’s why it’s listed in the store as a pre-order.

So if you order a calendar bundle including Beyond Worlds, we’ll wait until *all* your calendars are ready before we mail them. It will take a little longer, but shipping is much cheaper that way.

3. Last year, a lot of people complained that while the calendar was attractive, it was hard to use.

The reason for this was that the re was little functional space for writing down doctor’s appointments, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.

We’ve fixed that this year. Both our calendars have nice, big colored boxes for you to write in.

  • Being in the Loop:

As you all know, I end up being really busy. That means I don’t always get to write blogs as quickly as I’d like.

This blog is a great example of that. I’ve been working on it for days.

But the people who follow The Tinker’s Packs on Facebook and Twitter heard about the calendars almost a week ago. That means they’ve already had a chance to place their orders, and in some cases have already received their calendars, giving them the chance to be very smug among their geek friends.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss stuff like this, it would be a good idea to follow those accounts. Especially as I don’t always blog about everything we put up in the store, and a lot of time, items are limited….

More cool things happening soon. Really soon. Stay tuned.

pat

P.S. If you’d like to sell some of our calendars in your store, or just buy in bulk, drop us a line at questions@worldbuilders.org.

P.P.S. If you’d like to help out Worldbuilders in some other way, drop us a line at donations@worldbuilders.org.

Also posted in being awesome, The Tinker's Packs, Warm Fuzzies, Worldbuilders 2013 | By Pat24 Responses

Giving Thanks

One of my best thanksgiving memories is from 2003, back when I was still living my old student lifestyle.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t really a student at that point in my life. But the only real difference between 2003 and 2000 was that I was teaching classes rather than taking them. My habits, hobbies, and income hadn’t really changed from my student days, and I still felt like a student at heart.

A couple days before the real Thanksgiving, my friend Ian said to me: “We should get people together and have Thanksgiving tonight.”

“My stove doesn’t work,” I said. “And I don’t know how to make stuffing.”

He shook his head. “No. We should all go to the store and buy some kind of food we’re thankful for. Then we get together and share it.”

And that’s what we did. That night we ate taco dip and poppin fresh biscuits. We had fried mushrooms and shrimp and mountain dew. We had nutty bars and ice cream and a bunch of other things I can’t even remember.

We gathered round, ate these wonderful things, enjoyed each other’s company, and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Times have changed since then. These days, most of my friend have left town. I miss them terribly, but I have a different sort of family now. More specifically, I have a baby.

I’m going to post up a picture of him. Because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want.

Apparently megalomania is genetic.

Today I’m taking a break from copyediting and posting more Worldbuilders books. That means I have time to do one of my favorite things. I get to have lunch with Sarah and Oot at the Olympic.

The Olympic is a restaurant I’ve been eating at for years. Sarah and I had one of our first dates there. And she tells me that once, years before we met, she watched me from a nearby booth, eavesdropping, lust simmering in her innocent young heart.

These days going to the Olympic is fun for me because I get to feed little Oot.

For months I had nothing to do with this. Sarah breastfeeds, and because she’s stay-at-home Oot can get a snack pretty much whenever he wants, straight from the tap. But now he’s over a year old, and while he still loves the boob, he’s eating solid foods too.

I order the chicken soup and give him parts of it. A noodle. A little chicken. A bit of celery. A little piece of carrot that’s soft enough for me to cut up with my spoon.

Oot investigates these things. He pokes them with a finger, then crams them into his mouth. It is not unlike the way his daddy eats, though his daddy tries to be more genteel in public.

I have a lot to be thankful for. My first book has met with stupefying success. I have an understanding editor who has given me the time to turn my second book into something I can be proud of. My work is being translated into thirty languages. I have awards. I have money in the bank.

But none of that makes me as happy as lunch with Oot. I give him a piece of lettuce from my sandwich. A piece of tomato that I bite in half for him. A little bit of turkey. He moves them around on his little plastic mat, then pokes them happily into his drooly little baby maw.

I was a fan of Heifer International long before I ever considered having a kid. I donated money. I got weepy when I read Beatrice’s Goat.  I gave goats and chickens and sheep as Christmas presents.

But now that I have a baby, it’s something else entirely. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I couldn’t get enough food for my baby.

Actually, that’s not true. I have a very good imagination. I can imagine exactly what it would be like to not have enough food for my baby. It’s a horrifying feeling. It’s a huge feeling. When I think about not being able to feed my baby, my mind brushes up against the edge of something very big and dark in my head. Like nighttime swimmer who feels something firmly bump against his foot.

They say any civilization is three meals away from barbarism. And now, having a child, I believe it’s true. If I couldn’t get Oot the food he needed, I think I would do monstrous things. Barring that, I think some part of me would break and never, ever be right again. Not ever.

Still at the Olympic, I give Oot my whole deli pickle mostly out of curiosity. He pokes it, then picks the whole thing up and bites off the end. He makes an indescribable face. Then he takes another bite. At first it looks like he’s going to eat the whole thing. Then he holds it out to me, and I take a bite. I made a face and he laughs. He takes another bite, then holds it out for me again.

I am very lucky. I think this all the time. I have a warm house. I have a healthy baby. Not only do I have food for him, but we have food enough so that eating it can be a form of play.

This is why I started Worldbuilders.

When I started making serious money off my first book, it was nice. I paid off my credit card. I earned enough so I could get a mortgage on a house. But other than ordering a slightly better brand of frozen burrito, my lifestyle hasn’t changed that much. It’s nice to be able to order Chinese takeout whenever I want. But really, money hasn’t made me noticeably happier.

Matching donations through Worldbuilders makes me happy. It’s my new hobby. I look forward to it all year long.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I see the donation thermometer jump up by a thousand dollars and I flinch a bit.

Then I remember that 120 dollars buys a family a goat. I think about children drinking milk. Not just one morning. Every morning. I think about children eating eggs. I think about mothers and fathers selling the extra milk and wool and eggs to buy things they need to have a better life.

And then I’m happy.

After we finish up at the Olympic, I run some errands. At Shopko, I see a little bath set. It’s got a little comb, and some bubble stuff, and a yellow sponge duck.

Oot loves ducks. It’s one of his favorite words. We could play with this in the bathtub.

And I almost buy it before I realize how stupid this is. We have combs at home. We have stuff that makes bubbles. I would be paying twenty bucks for a bunch of plastic packaging and a sponge duck. For twenty bucks, I could get a flock of chicks from Heifer.

And once I think of it in these terms, it’s easy not to buy this useless piece of crass commercial shit. Oot is deliriously happy playing with a cardboard tube or one of the rubber ducks that we already have in the house. He doesn’t need this.

When I get home from errands, the first thing I do is check the donation totals. I’m really hoping we can get the thermometer up to 130,000 dollars again this year. Maybe more. It would be great if we could beat last year’s total.

The thermometer has gone up another 500 bucks. That’s good. That’s another $250 I’ll be kicking into the pot. That’s six goats and a bunch of chickens.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Have a good turkey day everyone,

pat

P.S. Just in case you want to wander over to the Worldbuilders donation page, here’s the link…

Also posted in day in the life, musings, my student days, Oot, Sarah | By Pat31 Responses

Worldbuilders FAQ – (And a Critique of Batman)

This is the FAQ for Worldbuilders fundraiser, 2011.

If you want details about how the the fundraiser works, click HERE.

If you want to make a donation, click HERE.

Okay, onward to the questions:

  • “When does the Fundraiser end?”

February 7th at Midnight, Central Standard Time. Make sure to make your donations before then to take advantage of matching funds and to be included in the prize lottery.

  • “I love that you’re doing this. Can I post about this on my blog?”

Nothing would make me happier. The fundraiser depends on everyone spreading the word. Twitter it. Post up a link on Facebook. The more the merrier.

That said, I would prefer if you would link to my blog, rather than trying to copy-and-paste my posts. Our main page gets updated whenever we get new prizes or something changes, so it’s best if people go there to get the newest information.

  • “How can I be a Worldbuilders sponsor/donor?

It’s easy, contact me at Worldbuilders.2011 (squiggly at thinger) gmail.com

  • “Can I donate to Heifer International using paypal?”

Yup. You can also use Amazon payments and Google. You’ve got all sorts of options.

  • “I don’t have a credit card. If I mail you a check will you enter me in the lottery and match my donation?”

Absolutely.

Mail the check to

Worldbuilders
PO BOX 186
Stevens Point, WI 54481
  • “Can I send you cash?”

Muahahahahah….

Um…. Wait. No. You really shouldn’t. It’s just risky all around.

However, if you don’t have a checking account or a credit card, you could get a money order and send that to me.

  • “If your name goes into the lottery hat multiple times, can you win multiple prizes? The first prize your name is drawn for? The Coolest prize your name is drawn for? How will that work?”

Here’s how it will work.

Say you donate 120 dollars, enough for a goat.

Your name would go into the final drawing 12 times. Then, if we draw your name out of the hat and you win a signed book, your name is still in there 11 times for the rest of the drawing.

That means you could, conceivably, win 12 prizes.

  • “I ordered a book/poster/t-shirt from you. When will I get it?”

Man. I’ve got no idea. We’re getting things out the door as quickly as possible. But the mail is really slow this time of year because of the holidays. My advice is to be patient. Sending me an e-mail isn’t going to make the package move any faster.

  • “What are my odds of winning something if I donate?”

I can’t calculate even rough odds on this year until we have all the donations in.

But last year I think if someone donated $10, they had a 1 in 70 chance of winning something.

That means if they donated enough for a goat ($120) they had a 1 in 8 chance of winning something. Pretty sweet odds, you have to admit.

This year we have way more prizes, so I’m sure the odds will be just as good, if not a little better.

Keep in mind these are rough estimates. And the odds will shimmy around a bit as new books come in and donation totals rise.

  • “My uncle/mom/grampa speaks Polish/Spanish/Estonian…. Can I buy a signed copy of one of your foreign editions directly from you?”

Yup. Other authors have been donating their foreign translations to Worldbuilders, too. So we’re getting a nice selection of foreign editions in the store.

  • “Why are the foreign editions in your store so expensive?”

The prices for most of the books in above the cover price. This is because:

1. The books are usually signed by the author.

2. Some of the books are rare or out of print, or just hard to find in the US.

3. Because all the money is going to charity, so we’re asking you to kick in a little extra to support the good cause.

  • “Is there a facebook page for Worldbuilders?”

Soon.

  • “I have something I’d like to donate to your lottery option. Where can I send it?”

Before you drop that macrame owl into the mail, why don’t you drop us a line at Worldbuilders.2011 (squiggly at thinger) gmail.com and tell me what you’re thinking of sending.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate your generosity, and it’s not that I have anything against macrame. Or owls. It’s just that right now we kind of have a tight focus of things we’re giving away as prizes. It’s mostly books with some comics and a little art and music. For now, I think it might be best if we keep that focus.

  • “How come you didn’t invite me to donate a book to your fundraiser? Isn’t my book good enough for you?”

If I know you and I didn’t send you a request, it’s probably because I’ve been insanely busy these last few months.

It’s also entirely possible that I don’t feel I know you well enough to come begging for donations. I know this is hard to believe, but I am kinda bashful about that sort of thing.

The other possibility is that I lost your e-mail, or that I’m a disorganized idiot.

But if you’ve got a book or an ARC you think would fit in into the mix, I’d love to include it. Send it to:

Worldbuilders
P.O BOX 186
Stevens Point, WI 54481

Three things:

1. If you’re the author, we’d love if you signed the books before sending them to us.

2. If you’re thinking of sending a collectible of some kind, please contact us first.

3. Please package the books carefully. It breaks my heart when books arrive damaged.

  • I’d like to do an interview with you so I can write a story about Worldbuilders for my local paper/magazine/whatever.

If you’re a journalist, blogger, webcomic-er, a celeb with a huge twitter following, or just someone who has a cool idea about how to spread the word, drop us a line at the aforementioned e-mail: worldbuilders.2011 [squiggly at-sign thinger] gmail.com.

Pretty much if you have any questions about the fundraiser, that’s the e-mail to use. You’ll get a response much more quickly than if you use the contact form on my website.

  • “Can I do some fundraising of my own, then donate it and have you match it?”

By all means. Have a bakesale. Search the couch cushions. Rally your book club or church group. Show people at work the website then pass the hat.

You can also start your own fundraiser page that’s linked to Worldbuilders if you go to the Team Heifer page I set up and click “Join The Team” instead of “Give to This Team.” That’s the only way I can track donations.

  • “I can buy chicks on your page, but not baby ducks!”

Yeah. They don’t offer all the different options on the donor pages. The cost of a flock of ducks is the same as for the chicks: $20.

  • “How much of my donation to Heifer goes to actually helping people?”

This is a fair question. A lot of so-called charities are actually just scams that collect money.

Others have good intentions, but the majority of the money they raise goes running their organization. Some very high profile charities spend as much as 60-70% of the money they raise on administrative costs, while only a small sliver goes toward actually helping people. I could name names here, but I’m not going to. If you’re really curious, you can google up the information yourself.

Please believe me when I say I’ve done my research. Heifer is an award-winning charity for a reason. They’ve been doing good works for over 60 years.

Heifer keeps all its financial records available to the public, and 75% of everything it collects go directly toward helping people.

Here’s a nice visual breakdown from Heifer’s site.

You can see here that less than seven percent of their money goes toward administration. That’s exceptional.

Everyone has their favorite charity. There are a lot of good causes out there, and people have very personal attachments to them. Emotions run high in these areas.

When I first started doing worldbuilders I got a flurry of e-mails. Someone asked me about animal shelters, another about diabetes. A third person posted a comment on the blog, arguing that people living in the US shouldn’t give money to charities that support causes outside the US. I erased the post because it was harshing my groove, then I felt guilty about it because the person was relatively polite in making their point, though I still think they were wrong as wrong can be.

But here’s what I’m getting at. I think it’s important not to go all Bruce Wayne in these situations.

Follow along with me on this. Bruce Wayne’s folks were killed by criminals, so he grows up and becomes Batman in order to fight crime. Because he hates crime. Because crime killed his parents with crime.

Now I like Batman as much as the next guy. Good stories. Batarangs. Men in tights. He’s probably my favorite superhero.

But the fact is, his whole Batman deal is pretty self-indulgent.

Think about it. Dude is a multi-billionaire. If he wanted to make the world a better place, he could create a foundation 100 times bigger than Heifer International. He could build shelters for battered women, schools in low-income neighborhoods. Sustainable agriculture. Renewable energy.

What does he do with his money? He builds super-gadgets so he can fight crime. Drives a rocket car.

Yes I know that Bruce Wayne is also a philanthropist. Don’t quibble. He does a tiny bit of charity and a whole big shitload of being Batman.

Why? Well… because it wouldn’t be much of a comic if he didn’t. Fair enough.

But the other answer is this: he fights crime because it makes him feel good. Not because it does good. There’s a difference.

Cancer got my mom not too long ago, and it took a good hard swing at my dad, too. That means that I should be raising money for cancer research, because I hate cancer, right?

Well…. no. Do I hate cancer? Of course. But if I just focused on fighting cancer for the rest of my life, I’d kind of be doing it for selfish reasons. I’d be doing it to make myself feel good. Instead, I’d rather focus on making people’s lives better. I’d like to focus on doing good, then let the feeling good be the side effect.

That’s why I’m focusing on Heifer. I can do the most good there. If I raised 200,000 dollars for cancer research, it would help pay for a piece of lab equipment. It could fund a lab’s research for a couple weeks, or maybe only a couple of days.

The sad fact is, 200,000 dollars isn’t very much when it comes to fighting cancer.

But 200,000 dollars is a huge shitload of money when it comes to buying animals. We raise that much money, and hundreds of people’s lives get drastically better right away. Kids get to drink milk right away. Families get to sell wool and eggs right away.

We don’t need to research how to cure hungry kids. We know how. We have the technology. It’s called food. We just need to do it.

Heifer helps people all over the world, not just here in the US. Why? Because people all over the world have it really shitty and they need help. To say that some people deserve my help more just because they’re from the same country…. Nah. That’s not my game. I’m playing for team human, not team USA.

Does that make sense? Wait…. What was the question again?

Oh. Yeah. Will I match donations somewhere else instead of Heifer? Respectfully, I’ll pass. I’m not saying you should stop loving your charity. But I’ve put some thought into this, and I’m going to stick with Heifer for now.

  • “I have a question you didn’t answer here….”

Drop me an e-mail at Worldbuilders.2011 [squigly atsign thinger] gmail.com we’ll answer them as soon as I’m able…

To go back to the main Worldbuilders page, click HERE.

Also posted in Worldbuilders 2010 | By Pat25 Responses

Worldbuilders 2010

[Edit: This is the Worldbuilders Fundraiser for 2010. The current Worldbuilders for 2013 is here.]

What’s that you say? You’d like to make the world a better place while simultaneously winning fabulous prizes?

Well today is your lucky day.

Heifer International is my favorite charity. It helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. All over the world Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry.

They don’t just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.

(Are you ready? I’m so ready. Let’s do it.)

This year we’ve got a couple different options for donating.

Option 1: The Lottery.

This is the option most people will want. It’s simple. You hop directly over to the page I’ve set up at Team Heifer, and donate.

When you donate using my page at team Heifer, two things happen.

1. Worldbuilders will match 50% of your donation. That means your ten-dollar donation becomes fifteen dollars. If you donate two goats, it becomes three goats. And so on.

2. You’ll be entered in the lottery.

After the fundraiser is over on December 13th, we’ll have a random drawing for all the swag that’s been donated over the last couple months. More than a thousand books, comics, DVD’s and assorted cool miscellany.

[Edit: The end of the fundraiser is now noon on Dec 17th (12:00 PM, pacific standard time.) If you want to know why, you can read the explanation here.]

For every 10 bucks you donate, your name will get entered into the drawing once. If you donate thirty bucks, your name goes in three times. Think of it as buying tickets, if you like.

We’ve had *way* too many books donated for me to post them all up at once. So I’ll be putting up a new blog full of donated books pretty much every day or two, just to keep people from being overwhelmed with all the awesome.

Make sure to check back often to see the new cool.

Last year, readers and geeks of all creeds and nations donated over 125,000 dollars to Heifer International on our team page. With help from a few sponsors, Worldbuilders matched 50% of that, bringing our total for the year to over 190,000 dollars.

Personally, I think we can do even better this year.

Nov 13th – Worldbuilders begins.
Nov 17th – $10,000 raised.
Nov 23rd – $25,000 raised.
 
Dec 1st  – $50,000 raised.
Dec 9th – $100,000 raised.
Dec 14th – $128,926 raised. (Last Year’s Total Beaten! Woo!)
Dec 16th – $150,000 raised.
.

Our last goal, the goal that I really don’t know if we’ll be able to meet, is going to be 166,700 dollars.

Again, it’s a rather odd number. But if we raise that much it means that after Worldbuilders makes its matching donation, we will have raised a quarter million dollars this year.

I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it. But I’m excited to try…

[Edit – The donation thermometer doesn’t work any more, but in the end we raised more than $192,000.  It was awesome….]

 
 
 
 
 
 

You can use this link to check out the Team Heifer page and make a donation.

Option 2: The Sure Thing.

Or, as I like to think of it, the Christmas Present Option.

For those of you who aren’t interested in the lottery, I have some stuff you can just buy. All the proceeds go to Heifer International.

Here’s a link to our new store. Lovingly named The Tinker’s Packs.

Option 3: Auctions.

Last year we did a few auctions and they seemed to work out pretty well. So this year we’re continuing in that fine tradition, auctioning off some of the rarer and more specialized services people have donated.

We’ve got industry professionals willing to read your fledgling manuscript and give you feedback. We’ve got a limited edition Stardust ARC signed by Neil Gaiman and a copy of The Gathering Storm signed by Brandon Sanderson and the production team at Tor. We’ve got rare manuscripts, computer software, a signed Brett Favre Jersey, and much more. Stay tuned for details.

You can see all current Worldbuilders auctions here.

A Plea For Sanity

Lastly, I’d like to ask everyone to please read the instructions/directions carefully before they donate.

I know you’re excited. I’m excited too. We’re going to raise some money, make the world a better place, and end up with big warm fuzzy feelings.

But here’s the problem. If you’re *too* excited, you’ll end up clicking buttons all higgledy-piggledy, forgetting vital steps and leaving things out. (Especially when buying things with Paypal) Then you’ll send me an e-mail that says something like: “I’m sorry, but I forgot to include my shipping address/t-shirt size/signing instructions. Could you please fix it for me?”

I know I’m bound to get one or two e-mails like this. No biggie. But each one is like a cold drop of water eroding my warm fuzzy feeling. If I get, say, a hundred, I’ll have no warm fuzzy left at all. I’ll be left with nothing but a cold prickly feeling.

You don’t want to give me a cold prickly, do you?

I’m sure you don’t. And I’m sure that you’ll read the instructions carefully.

FAQ.

Have questions? Most of them are probably answered over in the FAQ. (Even if your question isn’t answered, I talk about Batman a bit, so it won’t be a complete waste of your time.)

Lastly, just in case you missed it, here’s one more link to our Team Heifer donation page.

Let’s do this thing.

pat

Also posted in calling on the legions, Worldbuilders 2010 | By Pat36 Responses
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