Lost & Found in Como Park

Como ParkHere’s proof that I’m crazy.

Earlier this week I announced Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness, my project to support Mark Horvath and InvisiblePeople.tv. It launches November 9. Last night I launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish this year’s National Novel Writing Month effort, Lost & Found in Como Park.

As if my life wasn’t crazy enough.

So here’s the deal: I love Como Park. It’s this great park we have in St. Paul. It’s got a free zoo and the conservatory and trails and statues. It’s more than 100 years old, so there’s history everywhere you look. It’s great place to take your family.

I’ve decided to set this year’s NaNoWriMo story in Como Park. I want to use the locale and the history—and more than that, I want to bridge fiction and reality. I want to place a memorial brick in Como Park for a fictional character from the book. It’s a celebration of Como Park and a way to make the story real.

So if we can hit the $1,000-goal then we’ll publish the book and put a brick in Como Park and make this thing happen. Kickstarter works on pledges, so if we don’t hit the goal, you don’t have to pay. I’ll write the book either way, but publishing the book and placing the brick are dependent on getting enough pledges. If we go past the goal we can make the book better.

There are all kinds of rewards for making a pledge and backing the project. I tried to make them low cost and high fun—so you’re getting a deal, not being charged a premium. For $10 you can get a copy of the book (I won’t be able to sell it that cheap, so you’re getting a deal). We’re also giving away a bunch of Como Park souvenirs that I’m going to work into the story. You can also be written into the story. Or you can get a personal tour of Como Park. Lots of fun stuff.

I’m hoping this will serve as some extra incentive while I’m writing the novel and a fun way to share the story and Como Park with all of you.

Or, I’m just crazy.

The novel writing starts on Monday. You’ve got until the end of November to pledge. Want to join me?

InvisiblePeople.tv Book Launches November 9

Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of HomelessnessMy third book project of 2010, Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness, will officially launch on Nov. 9. The book will support homeless advocate Mark Horvath and his work with the nonprofit InvisiblePeople.tv.

The book gives voice to homeless people, retelling their stories from videos on InvisiblePeople.tv. It also features the contributions from some 25 tech, nonprofit and social media experts reflecting on homelessness and the power of technology that Mark has harnessed. The book also tackles misconceptions about homelessness and gives suggestions for how you can help.

It officially launches on Nov. 9 and will be available for $9.99 on Amazon (details on digital formats are forthcoming). All profits will go to InvisiblePeople.tv. That works out to $3.84 per copy from Amazon, 100% of the royalty. I’m not making any money on this project.

Since Mark first supported one of my initial efforts to help the homeless (while he was facing homelessness himself), I’ve been a huge fan of him and his work. I’ve always thought Mark should have more support than he does and I’ve been appalled when I hear how he’s barely making it. Someone with his heart doing the work he’s doing shouldn’t have to worry about health insurance or what he’s going to eat. That’s why I so strongly supported his efforts to win the $50,000 Pepsi Challenge grant at SXSW (which he did win, and he reinvested into WeAreVisible.com, among other efforts).

And so I’ve always wanted to do something big to support Mark. Sure I could send him a check, but that’s not going to go very far (especially a check from my bank account). I always thought someone needed to rally behind Mark and create something to raise money for him.

I had the idea of creating a book with all the proceeds going to Mark. He has such a good story and has inspired so many and there’s such a need for a more in-depth resource like that. It was a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself), but no one was doing it.

So I decided it was time to do it.

Last January the process started and I actually thought we could have the book out in March. Silly me. Ten months later we’re finally getting the book out with the support of so many people (check out all those names at the bottom of the page—those are the ones who made this happen).

And we’re going to need more help. This is a self-published project and that means it won’t go anywhere unless we get it there. And to be honest, I’ve put so much time into this project that I really can’t afford to give it the time it now needs. My only hope is that the many contributors, the many friends and supporters of Mark, and folks like you will pick up the torch and carry this project home.

So please check it out. Buy a copy. Tell your friends.

It’s time we opened our eyes and saw the invisible homeless people in our midst. They’re not just the stereotypical man on the corner with a cardboard sign. They’re families—just like mine. People—just like you—who were just one tragedy away from the street. Let’s open our eyes, open our hearts and help.

The Annual ‘Turn on the Heat’ Report

We finally turned on the heat. We came home from a weekend away to find the house at 63 degrees. After much complaining I finally caved and turned it on (nevermind that it was 62 the other day and going one more day would have set a record).

On the upside, 2010 is now tied with 2005 for the longest we’ve ever gone without turning on the heat. Of course in 2005 it was 55 degrees in the house, so we could have lasted longer. But back then there were no children and Abby was pregnant, providing her own built-in heater. I think we only made it this long this year because it’s been so unseasonably warm.

It’s now a comfortable 67 degrees in the house—perfect temperature for a Cosby sweater. Complainers can go put on another shirt or go clean something. That’ll warm you up!

And yes, I’ve now entered my grumpy old man years.

I continually find this information fascinating, so here’s the rundown of when we’ve turned on the heat for the last few years:

Blog Action Day: Clean Water

Today is Blog Action Day and thousands of blogs will be talking about clean water. I wrote a post over at HalogenTV about why I care about clean water. Last month we met the goal of raising $5,000 for charity: water through my book, Addition by Adoption, raising enough to build a well in Ethiopia (and then some). So I already know many of you care about clean water. And rather than telling you more about what you already know, I just wanted to say thank you.

Thank you.

As you see lots of talk about clean water today you can give a hardy thumbs up. You’re already on board and that’s pretty cool. Thank you.

NaNoWriMo is Coming

November is National Novel Writing Month. I participated (and won!) in 2004, 2006 and 2008. If you noticed a pattern, then yes, I do it every even-numbered year and that means doing it again in 2010.

For the un-initiated, this means writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words per day. It’s a lot of work and the results can be pretty messy, but you end up with a novel. That’s cool. It’s about forcing yourself through the process and arriving somewhere at the end. It’s not about creating a perfectly polished product. It’s about diving in with a crazy but do-able plan and making it happen. Sometimes I think about applying the NaNoWriMo approach to other ventures.

Just like last time, I have no idea what I’m going to write. Not having an idea to percolate in the back of my head throughout October made things harder last time, so I hope I come up with something soon. Unfortunately, I keep catching myself coming up with weird ideas. Like exploring some strange new kind of storytelling (that kind of experimentation probably isn’t a good idea when you need to be cranking out 1,667 words every day like a writing machine) or turning this into yet another fundraiser (part of me thinks writing a novel when I should be paying the bills is foolish).

So we’ll see where NaNoWriMo 2010 takes us.

Columbus Day

You could easily miss that today is Columbus Day. Weirdest national holiday ever.

This summer I spent some time trying to teach Yeshumnesh a little American history. I think the greatest thing we learned is that I’m not a very good teacher. But we started off by going back to Columbus and I quickly realized how Euro-centric history is. I kept finding myself using words like “discovered” and “new world” and the rest, which is just bizarre considering all the indigenous people who had been living in this “new world” for centuries.

At the same time you can’t just discount the “discovery,” because it had tremendous implications for everyone. It meant tremendous opportunity and change for the European powers as they squabbled over a new-to-them corner of the world. And it meant genocide, slavery and destruction for the indigenous people who were quickly overwhelmed.

Much of that history is whitewashed when we talk about it and Columbus still gets the credit for “discovering the new world.” My favorite example is a timeline of the history of agriculture in the Americas that begins with Columbus.

I had a little trouble balancing all these issues as I tried to explain the backstory of American history. And in the end we have a holiday for a man who enslaved and brutalized native peoples. I get marking such a dramatic phase shift in history, but I wonder if focusing on the lone man is the best approach.

Can Twitter Change the World?

The New Yorker has an interesting piece on the Twitter revolution by Malcolm Gladwell. Basically Gladwell says Twitter is not the glorious social revolution we think it is. He points to the incredible organizing ability of the civil rights movement that happened without social media and says that Twitter could never duplicate that effort.

He’s basically saying Twitter can’t change the world.

He argues that the civil rights movement was powered by strong connections and organized hierarchy, whereas Twitter relies on loose connections and no central authority. The resulting mob mentality results in chaos, not organized action of the type that overcame institutionalized racism.

I think Gladwell has a point.

But we miss the point if we think Twitter can’t make a difference. Twitter and other social media tools are not going to replace the hard work of revolutions. But they do enable different kinds of change.

For a simple example, look at Mark Horvath and the work he’s done with InvisiblePeople.tv. Or Shaun King’s work with TwitChange and aHomeInHaiti.org. Or my own  Bald Birthday Benefit or the recent well we funded in Ethiopia.  These were all projects powered in part by social media tools. While they’re not revolutionary, they are changing the world, one person at a time.

Twitter alone isn’t going to topple great social evils. But it can make a difference. And that’s something.

Sidebar: Reading Gladwell’s detailed stories of the lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement makes me want to dive into that history. What a fascinating time.

Twin Cities Marathon: Buzunesh Deba

Yesterday runners overwhelmed the city with the Twin Cities Marathon. I’m not much of a running enthusiast, but sometimes it’s fun to check in on these local events. Especially when the winner of the women’s marathon is Ethiopian-born Buzunesh Deba. The 23-year-old finished in front of 3,393 other women with a time of 2:27:23*, eight minutes ahead of the closest challenger.

If I understand the prizes and incentives correctly, Deba won $1,500 for finishing first and likely some additional money for the Olympic qualifier, but she missed out on a $25,000 bonus for beating the course record. She would have needed a time of 2:26:50 to claim that bonus.

So, um, 33 seconds cost her $25,000. Ouch. I’m not sure I’d ever want to know that.

By the way, at the pace she was running, Deba was doing 5:38 miles. 26.2 of them. That’s insane. And perhaps why I’m not a running enthusiast.

Deba now has the third fastest women’s time in the history of the Twin Cities marathon and set a new personal best by more than four minutes.

Deba also won the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth earlier this year, also by nearly 4 minutes over her closest rival. She’s the first woman to win both the Duluth and Twin Cities marathons in the same year.

Not too shabby.

*Apparently marathons are timed with two different methods, chip time and gun time, and in this case those methods vary by 1 second. I’m going with chip time because that’s what came up by default when I loaded the results page.