Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How will you be GIVING?

There are lots and lots of ways to put the GIVE back into Thanksgiving. Even if you didn't sign up to serve food at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving, you can still find ways to give back on the holiday - no planning required. For example:

* Make an online donation to a local food bank or soup kitchen.
* Pick up trash at a park or stream.
* Check in on an elderly neighbor or friend.
* Go through your closets and gather gently used clothes to donate - drop them off at one of those parking lot donation bins.
* Ask everyone at your Thanksgiving table to name their favorite charity - email the list with URLs out to everyone that night or the next morning.
* Put leftover cans, disposable metal tins, and paper goods in the RECYCLING instead of the trash.
* Are you driving somewhere tomorrow? Just for kicks, drive at the speed limit, and let someone merge into your lane, for Pete's sake. Safer driving helps EVERYONE.
* Say thank you to someone. Especially someone who does not expect it.
* Go through your bookshelves and gather a few books, in good condition, to donate to your local library.

I need a 10th item for this list. Any suggestions?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Toucan Sam Relents and Shows Some Love

(logo of the Maya Archeology Initiative)

According to this article in The Detroit News, Kellogg Co. has decided to drop its threatened lawsuit against the Maya Archeology Initiative for the use of the Initiative's logo - which includes an image of a toucan that Kellogg's said was too close to its Toucan Sam - and will now donate $100,000 to the San Francisco-based nonprofit. The donation will help establish a Mayan Cultural Center in Peten, Guatemala.

Personally, I don't think the Maya Archeology Initiative's logo looks a darn thing like Toucan Sam. I never would have confused the two, and I bet it cost this organization a lot of time and money to deal with this issue. Bummer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If I had a billion dollars...

Local gajillionaire and philanthropist Bill Conway, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, wants to give away $1 billion before he dies, and he wants your suggestions for how to do it.

Please note:
* He does not want to finance your vacation, your home, or your plastic surgery
* He's interested in job creation for the poor and/or ideas that will create long-term change, rather than short-term, stop gap activiites

You can read more about his query HERE, and you can email him your ideas at Write your ideas in the comments section of this blog, too!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Washington Post "On Giving"

The Washington Post just launched "On Giving," which is:

a new section devoted to coverage of corporate giving and social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, charitable actions and personal finance. The section features original Washington Post reporting and guest contributions from philanthropists, global development leaders, social entrepreneurs, academics and researchers.

The content so far looks great! Wish me luck in not totally giving in to this new procrastination tool. :)

Monday, November 07, 2011

TEDx Tidbits - Helping People to Live in Light

Another great idea I heard about at TEDx Midatlantic was the Isang Litrong Liwangan/A Liter of Light project, an AMAZING initiative to bring light and safety to people living in emprovrished areas. Check out this video - it is totally worth 2 minutes and 18 seconds of your time.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

When you think "Lady Gaga," you think "Harvard University," right?

Lady Gaga, Harvard University, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the California Endowment have announced the launch of the Born This Way Foundation, a new organization that will focus on youth empowerment and bullying. Lady Gaga said in a statement:

"Together we hope to establish a standard of Bravery and Kindness, as well as a community worldwide that protects and nurtures others in the face of bullying and abandonment."

Bravery and Kindness. I love that. I especially like that the foundation will focus not just on stopping bullying, but on empowering and building the self-confidence of young people. I've always felt that there was a piece missing from today's anti-bullying efforts. Yes, we need to stop bullying. But we'll never really stop it, because bullying has gone on as long as there have been kids and schoolyards. We ALSO need to help kids to become more self-confident and resilient.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

TEDx Tidbits - We are HOW we eat

One of my favorite TEDx speakers was Jose Andres. This superstart chef is well-known to foodies in DC and beyond. He is the creator of Think Food Group, which includes such restaurants as Zaytinya, Cafe Atlantico, Oyamel, Minibar, and Jaleo.

He talked about creativity, and the need to move beyond our comfort zones to what we DON'T know. His creative approach to helping us experience foods in new ways is a great illustration of his approach.

He's also passionate about finding new, better ways to feed the world. For example, he talked about the fact that we've been cooking with fire for thousands of years, but this way of cooking costs people in the developing world their education (kids have to miss school to gather wood and charcoal), their safety, their jobs... He has traveled to poor and developing communities to introduce people to clean cook stoves, solar stoves, etc. Andres shared a powerful quote with us:

"The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they feed themselves."
-Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

TEDx Tidbits - Those annoying squiggly words actually do some good!

This weekend, I had the good fortune to attend TEDx Midatlantic, a super-inspiring day of "leading thinkers, activists, artists, philosophers and entertainers from the MidAtlantic region." Each of these amazing speakers - scientists, artists, doctors, educators, chefs, and more - shares their most influential ideas and innovations in 18 minutes or less. It's an intense day, but it's such a rush to hear and share so many great ideas! Over the next few blog posts, I'll be sharing some of my favorite TEDx Tidbits, ideas that can change your life or change the world...

On of my favorite talks was given by Luis von Ahn, who was described as a "crowdsourcing innovator." He started by showing this image at the top of this page, which makes most of us cringe. How many times have you tried buying tickets or making a purchase online, only to be faced by those annoying squiggly words. Half the time, I have no idea what the letters are! Ugh.

Well.... Luis von Ahn invented that.

It was originally invented to keep robots (is that the right word? I'm so old-school) from buying, say 10,000 tickets to a concert that you and I want to go to. Which also would be annoying. The squiggly words ensure that a human, and not a machine, is buying a ticket.

Luis said that at first he felt great about his invention, but then he started to feel guilty. It takes the average person 10 seconds to fill out that form, called a Captcha. He realized that millions of hours were being lost every year (150,000 hours of work each day) through this process, by people all over the globe, and he thought to himself: How can I use this program for the greater good? That's when reCAPTCHA was born.

There is a huge, worldwide effort to digitize books, which will eventually make books more accessible to a far greater number of people. Scanners are used to digitize the books, but the scanners can't read all the words. Especially with old books, there are words that are smudged, there are words where the ink had faded, etc. Around 30% of the words cannot be read by the scanners. That's where reCAPTCHA comes in.

When you get a CAPTCHA, there are two words. One of those words is a straight-up CAPTCHA word, which is randomly selected and helps figure out if you are human. The other word is a word from a digitized book that a scanner could not read. When lots of people fill in the letters, they are essentially voting on what they think that word is. When reCAPTCHA gets enough agreed-upon answers, that word in the book can be officially digitized.

Now hang on to your hat: 900 MILLION people worldwide have helped digitize books through this process. That's 13% of the world population!

What an incredible idea! Definitely makes me fill better about the squiggles...