Life Goals and other Random Nonsense: 2009

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

So Many Service Events in September

In case you haven't noticed, September is a busy month for community service events!

Here are a few of the big ones nationally/internationally that are planned for this month:

September 11, 2009
On April 21, 2009, President Barack Obama signed legislation that for the first time officially established September 11 as a federally recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance.

September 14 - 21, 2009
"We believe the Internet should make life better. Join us a week in September as we take action to make a difference in our communities, our world, our Web." This will be the first year of this event, but it looks like they are really rallying some great partners.

September 19, 2009
This year is the 24th annual. Nearly 400k volunteers collected more than 6.8 million pounds of trash in 104 countries and 42 U.S. states during the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup - the world's largest volunteer effort of its kind. Official registration opens on August 3, 2009.

September 19 -27 2009
It's a block party, a backyard BBQ, and a day of service all rolled into one.

September 22, 2009
It's like "Earth Day for the Internet" - For the last three years, OneWebDay has attracted a global network of partner organizations and individual activists committed to broadening the public’s awareness of Internet and Web issues while deepening a culture of participation in building a Web that works for everyone. In 2008, OneWebDay organizers documented volunteer-driven events 34 different cities across the world.

And many United Way chapters hold Day/Week of Caring events during September also e.g. United Way Bay Area's Week of Caring.

Get out there and paint some murals, plant some trees, build some playgrounds and clean the beach, or serve from the comfort of your own computer with virtual volunteering!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review of 6 "Social Media Status Widgets"

Want to show off the buzz about your favorite topic and contribute to the virtuous circle of tweeting, re-tweeting, feeding and re-feeding? Well then you need to add a 'social media status widget' to your site to let your readers know what the tweeters are tweeting about what your readers are reading about! Below I review three Twitter search widgets and three newfangled 'social media status widgets' that show the buzz across a variety of sites. It's interesting to note that while they all have similar purposes they show pretty different results.

Pros: Easy to set up and customize (color, size, etc.). Nice Animation. And you can also loop old Twitter search results - which helps the gadget look less lame if your chosen query has low traffic.

Cons: Obviously, this only shows results from Twitter, but what's less obvious at first is that unlike normal Twitter search, it doesn't show retweets (anything with 'RT' in the message) so you could be missing some good chatter if people are retweeting and adding on commentary. Also, although this is easy to set up, integrating this widget into your site could be challenging (e.g. this one doesn't play nice with Blogger - which seems to have something to do with referencing the external CSS style sheets and line breaks in the JavaScript code) so you might have to play with it to get it to work properly. Also, it doesn't show tweets older than about 2 weeks.

Example for query 'teampedia':

Pros: This has several advanced options including filtering bad words, and choosing if you want links to open in a new window or the same window. And if you want to use it on Blogger you can simply point and click to add it as a gadget on your blog.

Cons: If you are not on Blogger, you have to download some code files (JQuery and JavaScript) and configure them - this requires more than my level of knowledge to set up, so you are own your own here. Another Twitter only search.

Example for query 'teampedia':
I would show you an example here, but I can't figure out how to embed one in the body of this post, so just go to Juitter to see their example.

Pros: Allows you to show a default twitter search for one topic, but then your site visitor can use it to search for something else.

Cons: Figuring out how to embed this it is not obvious from the website, but you do so, by using iframes. It only searches Twitter, but does show retweets unless you encode '-RT' into the search query. Also it includes ads in the bottom of the gadget, which means it not as clean as the other ones.

Example for query 'teampedia':

Pros: Pulls in more sources than just Twitter, and it has some customizable elements (items per page, hide user profile images, font size, etc.) It also has a nice cascading animation effect.

Cons: Doesn't pull in as many sources the site seems to suggest, and requires some skills to edit it. Basically if you can distinguish a variable from a comment you can edit it... but it seems like it would be easy enough for them to create a form for you to enter the variables which then spits out the code for you to copy/paste to your site.

Example for query 'teampedia':

This one isn't quite a widget the way the previous two are... you just do a search on FriendFeed, and then chose the 'Share / embed search' link in the top left corner of the page. This gives you the option for an iframe of the search results which you can embed anywhere that accepts iframes... FriendFeed does have a whole page of embeddable gadgets but those only allow you to share your feed or a room's feed, not a search feed.

Pros: Includes buzz from the wide range of sites (actually the most for my test query 'teampedia'). including Delicious, Diigo and Twitter.

Cons: No options to customize to make it blend into your site better.

Example for query 'teampedia':

Pros: Nice clean style

Cons: Doesn't pull in results from many sites e.g. it says it is getting results from FriendFeed but not ones that I can see in the embedded FriendFeed search results above.

Example for query 'teampedia':

[update 9/22: this one no longer seems to be working]

Overall there doesn't appear to be one killer widget yet, but drop me a line and let me know if I missed one. I am sure these will be 'all the rage' soon enough.

Want to contribute to the virtuous circle? Tweet this post:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson & Farrah Fawcett - a Tribute

In memory of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, and in honor of the recent Go Skateboarding Day I share these great photos of the King of Pop and Charlie's Angel doing a little sidewalk surfing:

michael jackson skateboarding Farrah Fawcett skateboarding

Saturday, June 06, 2009

San Francisco Neighborhood Maps

When we first moved to San Francisco, I struggled to find a good map that outlined the many neighborhoods of the city to help with apartment searching and just getting to know the area.

Sure there are static versions (e.g. this one and that one) but you can't do much with them. And there is a decent dynamic one using google maps with markers to give you a sense of where the neighborhoods are... but I was surprised how hard it was to find one that is dynamic and had the boundries to clearly show the neighborhoods. Back when Google Launched Neighborhood Search that's what I thought was coming soon... but that's not quite what neighborhood search did.

Then, buried as a user-generated map within GoogleMaps I came across this version by a guy named Craig that is great! It hasn't gotten much attention (only 405 views to date and one rating). You should check it out and rate it up!

For some reason it is broken up into two maps (both embedded below) so you can't see it all on one, but you can also check it out directly on Google Maps for more functionality at Dynamic Map of San Francisco Neighborhoods.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

SF Bay Area Sun Finder

Ever since moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, I have been wishing there was a site where I could go to easily figure out where around here it's sunny right now... well today I found that site: Weather Bonk!

Not only does it have a great map of all the local weather cams, it has the option to turn on a cloud layer which shows where it's cloudy (see image below).

Today it looks like we would have to drive to San Jose, or Mt. Diablo State Park to find some sun and avoid the fog... ah, San Francisco!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What are my congresswomen up to?

With the help of MegaVote, presented by, I now have an easy way to find out how my congresswomen are voting. I signed up for this email alert recently when I was writing my representatives about the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act. It's a good example of how technology can actually provide more insight into democracy!

Each week (that Congress is in session) you will receive:
  • Key votes by your two Senators and U.S. Representative.
  • Links to send e-mail to your members of Congress using pre-addressed forms.
  • Upcoming votes for your review and a chance to offer e-mail input before they vote.
  • Use this weekly vote monitor to track the decisions made by your elected officials on key issues.

Check out my latest report:

presented by:

April 6, 2009

In this MegaVote for California's 12th Congressional District:

Recent Congressional Votes -

  • Senate: Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY 2010
  • House: Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act
  • House: To amend the executive compensation provisions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008
  • House: Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act
  • House: Congressional Budget for Fiscal Year 2010

    Editor's Note: Congress is on a two week recess. The Senate will return on Monday, April 20 and the House will return on Tuesday, April 21.

    Recent Senate Votes
    Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY 2010 - Vote Agreed to (55-43, 1 Not Voting)

    The Senate passed their version of the national budget for fiscal year 2010.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein voted YES......send e-mail or see bio
    Sen. Barbara Boxer voted YES......send e-mail or see bio

    Recent House Votes
    Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act - Vote Passed (274-149, 8 Not Voting)

    The House agreed to the Senate amendments to this national service bill, sending it to the president.

    Rep. Jackie Speier voted YES......send e-mail or see bio

    To amend the executive compensation provisions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 - Vote Passed (247-171, 1 Present, 12 Not Voting)

    On Wednesday, the House passed this bill intended to curb bonuses of executives at financial institutions that receive Troubled Asset Relief Program money.

    Rep. Jackie Speier voted YES......send e-mail or see bio

    Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act - Vote Passed (298-112, 21 Not Voting)

    The House passed this bill that would give the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco, but would not allow the agency to ban cigarettes or other tobacco products.

    Rep. Jackie Speier voted YES......send e-mail or see bio

    Congressional Budget for Fiscal Year 2010 - Vote Passed (233-196, 3 Not Voting)

    The House passed their version of the national budget for fiscal year 2010.

    Rep. Jackie Speier voted YES......send e-mail or see bio

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Valentine's Day & Freedom to Marry Week 2009

    In honor of Valentine's Day & Freedom to Marry Week 2009, please consider supporting the rights of everyone to be with the one they love. 

    Tell the Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8, and let loving, committed couples marry: 
    Join the Courage Campaign and Sign the Marriage Resolution!

    "Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice, RESOLVED, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage." 

     "Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Martin Luther King Day of Service

    MLK Day of Service is one of my favorite holidays.

    Back when I worked at City Year New Hampshire I helped organized a March of Justice and Volunteer Fair, and it's great to see they are both still going strong after 8 years!

    This MLK day, I wasn't out marching or volunteering, I was on a plane flying back from St. Louis where we were celebrating Grandpa's 90th birthday. But in honor of MLK day, I did some e-advocacy this year:
    1. Helped enable and encourage employees to volunteer at work
    2. Set up a Facebook "Cause" to Support Young Heroes (City Year's Middle School Service Learning Program) that now has over 200 members.
    3. Created this Wordle from a portion of the 'I Have a Dream' speech to share with you:

    Next year I am hoping to be out doing some more traditional service (e.g. painting a mural) and for inspiration, here's one of the best murals I have seen in a long time, by Dan of

    I love the colors and detail and I have had this image set as my desktop background for about a month now. I like to think of it as MLK reminding me to get out there and do something that matters!