Appreciate Where You Live

Lexi & Pinky on the TrailI’ve talked before about my soft spot for Detroit, but this Chicago Reader article about cool things to do in Detroit actually makes me want to visit the Motor City. It probably helps that I also have a soft spot for funky art and abandonded/decaying places (i.e., urban prairie and decrepit buildings, though I’ve only ever done urban exploring vicariously).

A visit to Detroit is do-able but unlikely, but the article did make me think more about my current locale and what kind of things here in the Twin Cities would be worth a vacation to check out. That’s kind of a weird concept, imaging where you live as a vacation spot. I usually think of vacation spots as places you have to drive cross country to get to and normal people don’t actually live there. I mean if you lived in a vacation spot, where would you go on vacation?

But weird questions aside, what’s so cool about the Twin Cities?

Continue reading Appreciate Where You Live

Reflecting on the Bald Birthday Benefit

So tomorrow will mark the halfway point in this little head-shaving, water-fundraising experiment called the Bald Birthday Benefit. Of course we hit the goal last week, raising $600 and giving clean water to 30 people in only six days. With my birthday still a few weeks away, we upped the goal to a ridiculous $5,000 to see how much more we could raise. At this point, every extra buck is just gravy since I’m still shaving my head for hitting the original goal of $600. And it’s all going to an amazing cause—charity: water.

I’ve been trying to spread the word about the Bald Birthday Benefit any way I can. So far it’s happened primarily online through this blog, Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. I’ve got about 900 followers on Twitter, 600 Facebook friends and I e-mailed about 200 friends. My blog probably reaches the least number of people out of all those methods, and oddly enough, even though all those methods point to my blog, my blog traffic is going to be lower this month than it has in any of the past three months (that’s primarily thanks to weirdly popular entries, like can a state secede from the U.S. and banana allergies).

I’ve been trying to blog and tweet about this a lot, attempting to capture people’s attention and hopefully gain more donations. I realize there are very few people who read every blog post, tweet or Facebook update. It’s very easy to miss one, so I’ve been trying to up the volume in hopes of catching more people. It seems to work, though I’m also very leery of being annoying. There’s a fine line between increasing the frequency and increasing the annoyance factor.

Continue reading Reflecting on the Bald Birthday Benefit

Throw Your Arms in the Air for Water

When was the last time you threw your arms in the air (like you just don’t care) for water?

Charity:water picture by Esther Havens of a Rwandan village getting water for the first time.

This is awesome. This is the work of charity: water (photo by Esther Havens). It’s a village in Rwanda getting their first well (see more photos). This is where your donations for the Bald Birthday Benefit are going. You are making this happen.

So far we’ve raised $870 and enabled 43 people to throw their arms in the air like this. That’s awesome. That’s how I want to celebrate my 30th birthday. Let’s do it some more. Tell your friends. Write a blog post. Thumb a text message. Give a buck or two.


The Cost of Water

Clean water through charity: waterMy water bill is about $85 every quarter. Sewer charges amount to about 75% of that. And I paid one-third to half as much when I lived in the city (my tiny suburb a mile away from downtown St. Paul gets gouged on sewer).

So that’s roughly $28 per month for clean water. And my water seems comparatively cheap. Last quarter my household used about 7,500 gallons of water (!) and we paid less than a third of a cent per gallon. My cost for water for 20 years (at current rates) is $6,800.

I’ve said before you can buy a lot of things for $20. One of those things is clean water for one person for 20 years through charity: water.

Hmm… I’ll pay $6,800 for water for 20 years. And I can give someone else water for 20 years for only $20. Or consider it monthly: I pay $28 per month for clean water. You can give clean water for 8.3 cents per month. What a deal! Consider taking advantage of that deal and giving someone water.

Race in the Obama Era

I came across two interesting stories last week involving race (apparently today is blog about stuff I found last week day).

The first is a Newsweek article about a black family that adopted a white girl. It’s an interesting story and sad that multi-racial adoption seems to only be accepted one way.

The second is this photograph of a young black boy and U.S. President Barack Obama. The boy asked to touch Obama’s hair to see if it really felt the same as his. It’s another reminder that children don’t see race the same way adults do.

Just Help

Last week I came across an interesting web site, Photos that Changed the World (thanks to Among the photos that grabbed me (c’mon, they’re photos that changed the world, they almost all grabbed me) was this one of a Sudanese child suffering from starvation while a vulture looks on in 1993:

The photograph won the Pulitzer prize. The photographer, Kevin Carter, later committed suicide (while the fame and controversy of this photo may have contributed to his death, it seems more complex than that). While the ethical questions of this photograph are important and complicated, that’s not what interests me.

What I found so intriguing about this photo is that it’s simply a little girl starving to death. When it comes down to it, something so incredibly simple and basic is killing her. The reasons for that suffering are much more complex, but in the end it’s pretty basic. She needs food and water. As damning as the photo is and as complex as the entire situation may be (are civil wars ever simple?), in the end it’s pretty simple.

That’s part of why I’m asking for water for my birthday. It’s staggering that something as simple as not having clean water is killing people. 4,500 children every day, to be exact. That’s a stupid reason to die. And as complex as the reasons may be for why these people don’t have clean water, the reason to act is pretty simple.

Water=life. That’s a pretty simple cause when you get down to it. There aren’t many people who will argue and protest the idea of giving starving people food or thirsty people clean water. Clean water is kind of a no-brainer. We may not agree on everything, but I’m hoping clean water is something everyone can agree on.

And if that’s all a little too heavy for you, perhaps a photo site of a completely different magnitude: Awkward Family Photos (thanks to Jason Boyett).

Putting College Kids to Work

Here’s a less than encouraging statistic: Only 20% of college graduates are finding jobs this year. By way of comparison, in 2007 it was 50% (which doesn’t seem much better). Business Week echoes the statistics and explores the best job markets for college grads.

I remember trying to find a job as a college graduate being pretty nerve wracking. Aside from the stress of needing a job, you’ve likely never done this full time employment thing before for more than a short term or part time basis. And few college graduates understand the importance of networking (I certainly didn’t).

For the other 80% of college grads looking for jobs who don’t find them, this might be an amazing opportunity. You’ll likely need to tighten the belt straps, continue your college frugality, maybe even move back home. But not having a full time, 9-5, thrilling but honestly brain-sucking job can free you up to do so many things. This might be the time to start your business. Or volunteer on another continent. Or explore some things you really love. Maybe you’ll pitch in and finally put your church online. Maybe you’ll tackle an overwhelming social issue in your own backyard. Maybe you’ll help someone out in an entirely unglamorous and non-resume-worthy way (like the high school grad currently volunteering to do some babysitting for me).

When the job market improves you’ll be ready for it. Heck, you’ll be better for it. And the people you invested your time and effort in will be eager to see you succeed.

Bald Birthday Benefit: Beyond Baldness

The face of clean water.Well that didn’t take long.

On day six of the 2009 Bald Birthday Benefit we hit the goal of $600. In a mere six days you folks have helped me celebrate my 30th birthday by giving clean water to 30 people through charity: water. That’s so cool. Thank you.

Oh, and of course, this means I’ll be shaving my head. No more looking like a TBN cohost. Not to disapoint anyone, but as a matter of procedure I won’t be shaving my head until June 13. I honestly (and foolishly) thought it would take us longer to hit the goal and didn’t plan on shaving until then. Plus, we’re getting family pictures taken in early June and my wife insisted I have hair for the pictures (apparently not this hair though). While she loves the benefit part of this idea, she hates the baldness part, so she wins that debate. But don’t worry. On June 13 baldness will ensue.

The New Goal: A Well
Now on to business. I thought this thing would actually take 30 days and here we’re done after only six. What do we do now? We keep going, that’s what we do. I’ve still got a birthday coming up and there are still people out there without clean water. So let’s keep giving it to them.

Apparently I severely underestimated you people with my goal of $600, so it’s time to dream big. It’s time to go for a crazy, audacious, stupid goal. According to the folks at charity: water it costs about $5,000 to put in a new well in Ethiopia. We’re not set up to earmark these donations for a specific well in Ethiopia, but it still makes a great goal. A ridiculous goal.

So we’ve got 24 more days. Let’s see if we can build a well. Not for baldness, since that’s already assured, but for more water.

And again, thank you: Best. Birthday. Ever. (and it’s still a month away)

$20 Can Buy Many Things

Homer SimpsonThe immortal words of Homer Simpson on the usefulness of $20:

Homer: Oh, $20?! I wanted a peanut!

Homer’s Brain: $20 can buy many peanuts.

Homer: Explain how.

Homer’s Brain: Money can be exchanged for goods and services.

Homer: Woohoo!

Yes, Homer, $20 can get you many things:

Threadless T-shirt
A hipster T-shirt.

Dinner for two.

Two CDs
The new Eminem and Green Day CDs.

Mmm... comfy.
A comfy lawn chair.

Digital memory.
4 GB of memory for your digital camera.

Internet Combo Pack
An Internet DVD combo pack of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog and The Guild.

Wait, that last one’s actually pretty good.

You could buy any of that stuff for $20. Or you could buy something else:

How Bad Do I Need a Haircut?
A much-needed haircut for a certain someone.

Birthday Cake
A birthday present for that same someone.

Clean water for one person for 20 years.

All three for $20. Now that’s a deal worth a woohoo.

Considering donating to the Bald Birthday Benefit. You can contribute to my impending baldness, wish me a happy 30th birthday and give someone clean water for 20 years. Woohoo!


1.2 Million Child Prostitutes in India

There are believed to be 1.2 million children in India trapped in prostitution and sexual exploitation. Those kinds of numbers are just sad. Human trafficking is one of the injustices in the world today that makes your heart ache. How could something like this be happening? How could one person do this to another? Apparently 100 million people in India are involved in doing this to other people. Ouch.

And if you think that’s a problem for halfway around the world, human trafficking is in your own backyard. In 2007 authorities busted eight human trafficking brothels across the Twin Cities. One bust happened less than a mile from my house.

You can fight human trafficking by supporting organizations like the International Justice Mission. As sad as these stories are, they don’t have to be the final word.