Friday, October 31, 2008

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Here are some tips for a safe Halloween:

But be reasonable, too: Here are some great (and probably familiar) Halloween urban legends.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to Make the World a Better Place: 116 Ways You Can Make a Difference

I know, I know, another handbook. But I figure that one of them might suit any given individual, so I keep making recommendations:

How to Make the World a Better Place: 116 Ways You Can Make a Difference

This book shows how just one person can make a difference in solving global, national, and local problems. Each chapter alerts readers to problems that require attention, explains the issues and what has to be done about them, and lists the addresses and phone numbers of organizations that can be contacted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Better World Campaign - Dedicated to a better relationship between the US and the UN

Check this out - an organization that:

. . . works to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the United Nations through outreach, communications, and advocacy. We encourage U.S. leadership to enhance the UN’s ability to carry out its invaluable international work on behalf of peace, progress, freedom, and justice. In these efforts, we engage policy makers, the media, and the American public to increase awareness of and support for the United Nations.

For more, go to the Better World Campaign site.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Technology Transfer: From Research to Realization

The Better World Project:

Soy stronger than steel? A new eggplant that can contribute to more stable farming economies? Memory exercises for those with ADHD? These topics are featured in the 2008 print editions of the Better World Report.

The Better World Project shares the surprising and inspiring stories behind innovations that have changed the way we live. It’s a must-read for people interested in research and discovery, technology transfer or economic development as well as anyone who has wondered: “Where did that come from?”

Sounds interesting. Here's their main site: Better World Project

Monday, October 27, 2008 - helping to make connections among other things, helps people find jobs that allow them to make a difference. But they are really so much more - they help folks make connections in the bigger world:

Idealist is a project of Action Without Borders, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 with offices in the United States and Argentina. Idealist is an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.

I've added them to our permanent links list below and to the right of the main window.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to Turn Your Good Intentions into Actions That Make a Difference

I found another handbook for making a better world, but it's not due to be published until next spring: The Handbook to Building a Better World: How to Turn Your Good Intentions into Actions That Make a Difference

Part career guide, part activist’s handbook, The Handbook to Building a Better World provides tools and inspiration for anyone who wants to make a difference but doesn’t know where to start. Inspired by’s 600,000-member online community and their ongoing search for work that gives back to the world, this practical reference walks readers through the different ways they can get involved and the range of possibilities for applying one’s interests and skills to meet their community’s needs.’s staff gives a comprehensive understanding of the issues, options, organizations, and resources so readers can be proactive, whether it’s through one’s current job, volunteering, donating, personal spending, board service, starting an organization, or changing careers.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook

Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook

I suspect that this book will be of limited interest to those in the US, but there are many places in the world with no doctor, nurse, dentist, or medical care of any kind. If you are going to be somewhere like that for any length of time (Peace Corps, humanitarian trip, etc), or if you can get a copy of a book like this to someone who lives in such a village, you might be interested in this book:

Hesperian's classic manual is perhaps the most widely-used health care manual in the world.

Useful for health workers, clinicians, and others involved in primary health care delivery and health promotion programs, with millions of copies in print in more than 75 languages, the manual provides practical, easily understood information on how to diagnose, treat, and prevent common diseases. Special attention is focused on mutrition, infection and disease prevention, and diagnostic techniques as primary ways to prevent and treat health problems.

This 2007 reprint includes new material on preventing the transmission of blood-borne diseases, how HIV/AIDS is reflected in many health issues, and basic Antiretroviral treatment information, as well as updated information on children and aspirin, stomach ulcers, hepatitis, and malaria treatments

Friday, October 24, 2008

Designs for a better world emerge from M.I.T. Summit

I found the following article from the 08/21/2008 issue of The Christian Science Monitor:

Designs for a better world emerge from M.I.T.summit
Diverse teams brainstorm and build simple solutions to help developing nations.

For three weeks this summer, masons and mechanics, farmers and welders, scientists and a pastor threw themselves into creating low-tech solutions to big problems that persist across the globe.

Converging here at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, these 61 inventors from 20 countries divided into multilingual teams, each drafting and tinkering with their own device that will hopefully make life for the world’s poor a little easier.

Check out the rest of the article:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Better World (formerly Support a Child International)

I found an organization called "A Better World," focused on at-risk urban youth in the US, and impoverished international regions. Here's what they have to say:
Our urban programs respect the interdependence of a healthy mind and body to affect sustainable positive change in children as well as in their surrounding community and family environment. Our international programs focus on creating the economic infrastructure and community empowerment to allow for the sustainable development in impoverished nations.

A Better World’s evolvement and growth is a reflection of our culture and process of never ending improvement and dedication. Our work is never done.

Read more about their work at:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Better World Books - Promoting global literacy

The online bookstore with a soul

Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than two million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.
And they've got GREAT shipping prices! (Free in the US, and only $4 worldwide).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ten tips for preserving biodiversity

You might or might not believe the Earth is in an environmental mess, and you might or might not think that it's human-made. However, there are certainly things we can do that will make things a little nicer, no matter what.

Here's a list of 10 things from National Geographic's Green Guide:
  1. Switch to tree-free billing.
  2. Join a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.
  3. Get involved at the local level.
  4. Buy local honey.
  5. Turn your backyard into a wildlife habitat.
  6. Buy a native houseplant at your farmer's market.
  7. Help the butterflies.
  8. Conserve an endangered or threatened species.
  9. Eat healthier fish.
  10. Join Frog Watch USA
There's plenty more detail in the article - like, how to find a CSA, and links to Frog Watch, and stuff like that. So, check out the article here: Ten Tips for Earth Day: Preserving Biodiversity

Become a Library Advocate - ALA

Take a look at the issues facing public libraries these days:

There are a number of upcoming and current legislation and other actions that could help or harm our libraries. Click on the link above, and make some calls to your Senators and Representatives.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The art of making amends

'Sorry' just isn't good enough.
That was something my daughter's kindergarten teacher told the kids when someone made a mistake. I must say that as much as I liked her - she really is a great teacher - I disagreed with how she handled the issue of apologizing. First off, the first step (and unfortunately it's often the only step) to making amends that we as parents teach our kids is to say "I'm sorry." The words are really important to getting along in this world. And this particular teacher removed that important tool, and left the kids floundering.

I understand her point. It's best to behave in such a way, as to not need to apologize. In other words, act right. However, everyone makes mistakes, and part of growing up is to learn how to treat people decently. But even adults make mistakes.

The secret to successful apology is this:

  1. Say it like you mean it. (That obnoxious Saw-REE you hear out of tweens and teens doesn't cut it). And if you aren't sorry, don't apologize. An insincere apology is worse than none.
  2. Ask how you can make it right. And then follow through. What I think the teacher should have said when a child apologized was "I'm so glad you've apologized. That was a great first step. Now, ask Naomi how you can make it up to her."
The second part is very important. Apologizing and then continuing to misbehave is meaningless, and why so many people hate apologies from people, and consider them empty words. It's the reason the teacher told the kids that sorry isn't good enough. Sometimes, all that's needed to make an apology meaningful is the honest (and noticeable) attempt to be better, even if you aren't perfect going forward. So, say you're sorry, and then try and make things right. A little of step 2 goes a long way.

Call for ideas: 1000 ideas for Creative Reuse

Got an idea for a great way to re-use something? There's a trend toward recycling clothes, "upcycling," etc. Here's what they have to say:
We are seeking submissions for 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse, an upcoming book by Garth Johnson of, which will feature 21st Century craft and design, all made with recycled, upcycled, repurposed and reused items. We are looking for the best examples of paper and book arts, jewelry, clothing, home and personal accessories, furniture, art, and miscellanea for possible publication. We invite designers, artists, visionaries and crafters of all stripes to submit their work.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Better World Handbook

The Better World Handbook: Small Changes That Make A Big Difference is the definitive guide for the average person wanting to make a positive difference in the world. Our book is specifically designed for well-intentioned people who may be too busy to be actively involved in social change organizations. Our intention is to reach people who normally would not consider themselves activists, people who care about creating a more just and socially responsible world for everyone but don't know where to begin.
I haven't read this book, but it looks interesting. It's got a companion volume if you are interested: The Better World Shopping Guide - 2nd Edition: Every Dollar Makes a Difference

World Without Oil - serious game for the public good

The power of gaming is huge. Imagine creating a virtual world without oil, and then letting people come in and see if they can work through the crisis. And this is something they can do for fun. Think about all the time your favorite computer game spends playing on his or her computer, and then think about how we can turn that into a force for good. (Game designers, pay attention!).
It was the world's first serious alternate reality game, a cooperative pre-imagining of a global oil crisis. Over 1900 players collaborated in May 2007 to chronicle the oil crisis with their own personal blog posts, videos, images and voicemails. The game ended after simulating the first 32 weeks of the oil shock, but its effects continue, as game designers analyze its unique gameplay and we all watch the continuing drama with global oil prices and supply.
The game won the Activism Award at South By Southwest. Here's some further reading:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Woogi World?

This is a game/site/virtual world that helps teach kids about how to be good people by using virtual gaming. I'm not endorsing it - just suggesting that it might bear some closer scrutiny.

According to the the blog entry (linked below): is the ONLY children’s virtual world that is benefiting society!
  1. WW promotes BALANCE by bringing elementary children online to learn, and motivates them (through points and prizes), to apply their learning through offline experiences.
  2. WW games, activities and adventures teach and promote positive behavior and character development.
  3. WW actively promotes selfless serving as it discourages materialism, greed, and hoarding.
  4. WW teaches the “Power of One” as it motivates and rewards families to get involved in charitable organizations.
  5. WW promotes, teaches and rewards healthy, active living—physical, mental and emotional fitness.
  6. WW’s full program is free to all children.
  7. NO Fortune 500 corporation owns or controls CW, so we maintain complete autonomy over WW.
  8. WW’s sponsorship model allows corporate America to actively participate in the process of teaching leadership, integrity, critical thinking and community participation.
  9. WW is endorsed by lawmakers, government and private organizations.
  10. WW is distributed to, and nationally endorsed by elementary schools.
  11. WW games, activities, and adventures are critically-thinking couched, thus assisting elementary schools and staff to meet national NCLB (No Child Left Behind) mandates.
  12. WW is committed to providing a meaningful environment where children and their families continually learn how unique and important they and their contributions truly are.
Caveat: I've only glanced through the site. Anyway, read the whole blog entry, and then check out the Woogi World for your kids, to see if you think it's worth considering. If anyone knows more about it, I'd love some feedback (polite, of course).

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Internet - making the world better? I think so.

I found this from CNet: The Internet is making the world a better place...but not for CEOs

So is the Internet making the world a better place? I think so. At least I like it a lot. If I have a question or an issue about a topic (any topic will do), I can go find groups who will bend over backward to help me figure out how to fix whatever I need fixing. It hugely helps folks to help each other.

This article focuses on how it changes the world of business, and I think it's good there too. What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pangea Day

I mentioned Pangea Day in a post yesterday, and it's so neat, I thought I'd devote another entry to it. It's named for the ancient supercontinent that originally included all of the world's continents in a single landmass. Pangea eventually split apart into the continents that we have today. The event uses it to represent how the people of the world are coming back together, and overcoming differences and conflict.

Anyway, go to the Pangea Site, and read the overview, the FAQ, watch the films, and the program (either a 1-hour highlight, or a 4-hour show). It's wonderful.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WIRED: Use the Web to End Poverty

Lots of people are concerned with poverty, right? I just ran across a new article at the WIRED magazine how-to wiki (a web site that anyone can edit — for the betterment of the article) on using the web to end poverty. There's not much there as I type this (hey, it's brand new) but there are a few great ideas and there will be more. Maybe you have some ideas that belong there too.

Religion and Ethnicity and Politics

I found a kindred spirit in Campbell Brown who wrote the following article. Here's a sample of what she had to say:

So what if Obama was Arab or Muslim? So what if John McCain was Arab or Muslim? Would it matter?

When did that become a disqualifier for higher office in our country? When did Arab and Muslim become dirty words? The equivalent of dishonorable or radical?

Whenever this gets raised, the implication is that there is something wrong with being an Arab-American or a Muslim. And the media is complicit here, too.
Religion and ethnicity in politics is an important issue, in that it should be a non-issue. Vote for the candidate that you think will do the best job for your country. Look at what they've done. Examine their voting records. Be naturally cynical of any information about a candidate coming from the opposite party, because I guarantee it WILL have been taken out of context and spun in a blender before being fed to the public. Remember that this is true for both sides, not just the "other" side.

I suppose it's natural to pick the candidate who you feel you have the most connection with. And that might mean being naturally drawn to someone of the same race or religion. But, stop and think. Before being a member of a specific ethnicity, or a religion, each individual is a human being, with all the same wants and needs as any other.

Over and over, I hear Barak Obama being "accused" of being an Arab, or a Muslim - on the news, on Youtube, at rallies. Not that it should matter, but he's neither. His mother was an American from Kansas originally. She was white. His father was from Kenya, in the U.S. to study. And yes, he was black. Senator Obama was born in Hawaii, and lived in Hawaii for most of his childhood. He is by all the rules that count, an American. Just as John McCain is. And Obama was raised a Christian, just as McCain was.

But surely that doesn't matter. Both are good men. Either would probably make a good president (of course, no one knows for sure how they would do until they are actually in office). Neither is planning to bomb us, and both believe they have our best interests at heart. I know that many people hold Muslims at fault for the 9-11-01 attack, but that's not fair. Do we hold all Christians at fault for Timothy's McVey's actions in Oklahoma City? Or what about David Koresh in Waco or the ATF agents who might or might not have mishandled it? Since Hitler was a devout Catholic, should we hold Catholics at fault for the Holocaust? Going back even farther, should we consider all Christians as being violent and untrustworthy, because they - as foreign invaders - sought to "liberate" the Holy Land 1000 years ago? The answer is NO, of course not. All of the examples above claimed to be Christian. Just as the perpetrators of 9-11 claimed to be Muslim.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims have ALL done a lot of good in this world. They pray to the same God. They share many of the same prophets, (Abraham, and Jesus are two, though they vary in importance from religion to religion) and finally, the religions have remarkably similar rules and morals.

On the same token, all three religions have examples of bad people, as well. Prisons here and in the middle east are full of Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

Each person should be judged on his or her own merits, on his or her own actions and history. On election day, go and vote for the best person for the job, but don't you think it should be in a color-blind manner?

Healing the world through short films

Here is a short film in support of Pangea day, which aims to heal the world's differences. They evidently made a number of short films in an attempt to reach people around the world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

World Connections Fair - anyone up for getting it going again?

I found this page from 1993, about a World Connections Fair, and it had a lot of interesting ideas for kids. It appears to be defunct, as I couldn't find any web pages devoted to something like it (though I admit to not looking very hard).

The World Connections Fair is an annual creative problem solving program designed to encourage youth, ages 10 to 15, to be actively involved in making the world a better place.

Program Goals
  • To encourage and empower youth to really have an impact in making this world a better place.
  • To promote greater understanding and acceptance between the world's diverse cultures.
  • To promote creative solutions to the world's problems.
  • To promote cooperative creative problem solving and teamwork.
  • To promote computer literacy and the knowledge and use of multimedia technology.
Anyway, there's lots more detail in the original message, so if this sounds interesting, go take a look: World Connections Fair.

And if I was mistaken about it being defunct, I humbly apologize. Please feel free to post a comment with the correct info.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Squidoo - making the world a better place, one lens at a time

Check out Squidoo's collection of pages devoted to making the world a better place:

We are making the world a better place one lens at a time! Does your lens make a difference, solve a problem, make people smile, or just generally help people live better lives! Then you are welcome to add your G-rated lens to our group!
It's a collection of hand-built pages by all sorts of individuals with idea for making things better. Check it out:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Making the world a better place, one box at a time

A birthday party might not be necessary to someone's survival, but for kids whose parents depend on food shelf donations know, it's awfully nice to have.

Students at the University of Minnesota-Morris donated "Birthday Boxes" to local food shelters:
Twenty Birthday Buddy Boxes were assembled, decorated to be party-ready and distributed to the Stevens County Food Shelf. This birthday-in-a-box provides the party ingredients for children celebrating birthdays whose families rely on the food shelf for basic needs. The boxes’ contents were donated by UMM staff and faculty and included a variety of items from a small stocking stuffer, gift bags and tissue paper, cake mix, frosting, candles, balloons, paper plates and napkins to toothbrushes, socks, books, art and school supplies and more.

Read the whole story here:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Davos: Making the World a Better Place (a video commentary)

Here's another Youtube video commentary on how to make the world a better place:

Measureable results.
Quick feedback loops.
Third party reporting.
Not top down, but bottom up.

Not donations and charity but equal partnerships and grassroots collaboration.

Don't fight poverty, increase economic opportunity.

Don't fight global warming, increase environmental sustainability.

Don't fight aids, hunger and obesity, increase healthy behavior.

If you're a well-off philanthropist, powerful captain of industry, or high level government official working to "make the world a better place" you must read the following two books: Despite Good Intentions & The Lords of Poverty
Actually, even if you're not one of the elite and simply want to make the world a better place, you should read both those books too. is a global all-volunteer, member-governed, online social network (in combination with real-world locations) that is made up of social entrepreneurs, activists, artists, social purpose enterprises, grassroots nonprofit, non-governmental, and community-based organizations, and is collaborating and taking action locally, nationally & globally, in order to make the world a better place. Please join us:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Guiding principles of abetterworldblog

I thought I should write a few words on the guiding principles of this site. These are the rules that we'll be following when posting, or soliciting articles, and also the rules for any visitors to the site who might be leaving comments.
  1. Be polite.
  2. Watch for ways individuals or organizations can make the world a better place. This necessarily subjective, so I welcome polite suggestions and other points of view.
  3. Be non-partisan. No one ever agrees in politics, and because of that, I am trying hard to address things that are near and dear to everyone, regardless of political persuasion. Because of this situation, I will only post articles about politics as long as they appear to be (at least to me) non-biased toward any one candidate. That doesn’t mean I won’t post things by someone who is specifically liberal or conservative, or that I won’t post something from a source normally considered leaning toward one party or the other. As long as the article or point in question is non-partisan, it’s fair game here. For what it's worth, I'm not a non-partisan person. I've voted for the same party nearly every time since the 1988 election. But personal politics have no place here. I might or might not post on other blogs about my political beliefs, but not here. However, I'll still try hard to observe the politeness tenet no matter where I post.
  4. Be polite.
  5. Avoid proselytizing any specific religion. Just as no one ever agrees on politics, no one agrees on religion, either. Matters of spiritual belief are private, and we should only share religious tenets, if they apply across the board. For example, "pray for them" is OK, but "pray to [insert holy name here]" is not, as it excludes followers of other religions.
  6. Be respectful of other people’s opinions. They aren’t stupid or deceived or evil for not agreeing.
  7. Be polite when you are leaving comments on an article. I will remove impolite comments without notice. This is non-negotiable. If I remove a post, and you want to know why, I’ll answer your questions as to how I felt it was rude, but it ends there. You are more than welcome to rewrite and then post a polite version of your removed comment. Now, I really hate being put in a position where I must censor and/or police a site. Please don’t put us in the position of having to remove a comment. It’s simple to not be censored: simply remain polite under all circumstances.
The rules can be boiled down to: be respectful, non-partisan, and look for ways anyone can make the world a better place. All the rest were details.

I also need to mention that we do have advertisements on the site, but aside from the decision to allow the ads, we don't control their content. Software looks at the articles and other content of the site, and then picks what it considers appropriate ads. At this point in time the software isn't always particularly intelligent, and the ads don't always make sense given what we are about. They also don't necessarily represent the ideology of the contributors, as on this site we strive for neutrality in politics and religion.

And on a final note, we will donate 25% of the revenue generated by the ads, to charitable organizations. We will try to notify readers when we make donations, and to whom.

A Perfect World: Making the world a better place one cartoon at a time

I looked through a few of Linda Causey's cartoons, and they sometimes funny, sometimes not, and sometimes kinda sad.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Eco-friendly weddings

Weddings can be very wasteful events. Here is a video clip with a lot of little things that you can do to have a more environmentally-conscious event.

Yes! Helping visionary young leaders build a better world

Yes! is a cool organization that helps prepare world's youth to build a better world. I've also added a permanent link to their site. Their mission is to connect, inspire and empower young change-makers to join forces for a thriving, just, and sustainable way of life for all.

Check them out:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Give Back (a video commentary)

I found out that Youtube has LOTS of videos with ideas to make the world a better place. Here's one by a guy named Anakin 1814. He writes:

Just watch.

We can do this in any way, big or small, to whoever we choose....and to make a difference.

And yeah, this idea's been done a million times before on YouTube. What's wrong with a million and one? :)

So what is this "Fair Trade" thing I keep seeing?

I don't know about you, but I keep seeing the phrase "Fair Trade" on products at the grocery store and other places, and I saw logos like the ones below and at the end of the article:

Anyway, I wondered what it's all about. Here's what I found at Wiki:
Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to empowering developing country producers and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit and flowers.

Fair trade's strategic intent is to deliberately work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to one of security and economic self-sufficiency. It also aims at empowering them to become stakeholders in their own organizations and actively play a wider role in the global arena to achieve greater equity in international trade. Fair trade proponents include a wide array of international religious, development aid, social and environmental organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Catholic Relief Services, and Caritas International.
There's much more to the article, and it seems fairly balanced, addressing not just positives of the program, of which there are many, but also some of the cons: "Some economists and think tanks see "fair trade" as a type of subsidy that impedes growth. Segments of the left criticize fair trade for not adequately challenging the current trading system." There are are groups that feel the program distorts prices. Please do read the whole article, and decide for yourself if it's a worthy organization to support. For further reading, there is a list of links at the end of the article.

As much as I'm a proponent of charitable giving, I especially like programs that are designed not just to give relief, but also to help folks help themselves. There is a rather famous Chinese proverb that goes like this: "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime." It seems like a reasonable way to go.

Oh, and in closing, I thought I'd mention there are some funny variations of the fish proverb here: My favorite is, "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to use the Net and he won't bother you for weeks."

Eco-friendly Jewelry

This spot details buying Fair Trade jewelry that supports poverty-stricken artisans in developing nations. The materials are usually hand-made and not harmful to the environment. It also talks about buying conflict-free diamonds (there are companies that only buy diamonds from mines that do not employ child labor, or other unethical practices). It also suggests buying vintage jewelry, or jewelry made from recycled materials.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The kids' opinions

I asked my kids what they thought we should do to make the world a better place, and here's what they had to say:

Garrett (age 14): "Stop fighting wars."


Kivi: (age 6): "Clean the air, pick up the ground, and plant flowers to make things look pretty."

Sounds good to me.

Politcs of the Meanest. Again, and again, and again.

It seems there are lots of people out there, not just me, who are turned off by the negativing campaigning of the four candidates running for the top two slots in the executive branch. Today alone, I counted at least 6 articles on CNN and Fox News that talked about it. This is something that is transcending partisan politics. Washington - take note. People want the negative campaigning to stop.

Campbell Brown has an excellent non-partisan commentary urging the candidates (both of them) to stop the negative campaigning:

By now you've probably heard about how ugly things have gotten out there on the campaign trail in the last 48 hours.

But we thought for just a moment we would take you back to kinder, gentler times.

Remember this:

Sen. John McCain: "I pledge again a respectful campaign. A respectful campaign based on the issues and based on the stark differences we have on the vision for the future of America."

Sen. Barack Obama: "I said I was looking forward to a civil substantive debate on the issues and he agreed."

McCain: "I've pledged to conduct a respectful campaign and I urge, time after time, various entities within the Republican party to also do that."

Obama: "We don't need John McCain and I to be demonizing each other. You won't get that from my campaign."

Oh how far we have come in such a short period of time. . . . There is just one month left. Please, please don't let this devolve into a campaign you are sickened by and embarrassed to be part of.

Here's a purely practical reason: The negativity you are spewing now will only make your job harder after Election Day.

Bipartisanship is really tough to achieve when everyone on both sides is left with a bad bad taste in their mouths.
There's more. Please be sure to read the rest of her excellent commentary.

And on the same day that Ms. Brown's commentary was published, there were many other articles on many different news services, both liberal and conservative, about the ugliness of the campaign:

Here's one about independent voters and the riskiness of attack ads. Independent voters, who make up nearly 25% of the electorate, and who are a) likely to decide the next election given how close it is, and b) likely to be repelled by negative attack ads. And honestly, those who have decided are likely to be repelled by the ads, too.

And finally, here are two stories about the brand-new ads being released where the two candidates call each other liars: here and here.

As I proposed in an earlier article: Lets make fear-mongering, negative campaigning ineffective. Let folks of both parties know you won't be swayed buy such negative ads.

Dave Berry's ten rules for making the world a much better place

This list boils down to how to wait in line and when to save seats, but Dave Berry tells it a lot funnier than I can, and most of his rules are pretty good.

Check it out: 10 rules for making the world a much better place.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Buy year passes for state and national parks

Even if you aren't going to be going more than once or twice, buy a full-year pass to your state parks (usually around $25), or a national parks pass ($80). That money goes right to the park system, which rely on taxes (which are never enough) and these passes for funding. Our state and national parks are an incredible resource.

Here's a link to my favorite state park, near where I grew up:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Adopt a highway

Take responsibility for the trash around you. When you see a piece of litter, pick it up. Leave your campsite cleaner than when you found it.

Yeah, it's gross to touch other people's garbage, but your hands are easy to wash.

If you are up to it, you or a group can even take part in the adopt-a-highway program in your state. It's pretty easy to find. Just type in "adopt a highway [state]" in the search engine of choice, substituting your state's two-letter abbreviation for [state]. It should bring up the program on your state's site.

And then, you get to see your name up on one of those signs on the side of the road.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Project 10100

Do you have a great idea to help lots of people, but lack the funding to get it off the ground? Google's Project 10100 (that's ten to the hundredth) is calling for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible.

Check it out:

To celebrate their 10th anniversary, they are committing $10 million to fund the top 5 ideas that will help as many people as possible.

So put on your thinking cap, and submit a proposal.

Bipartisan Politics of Meanness, Part II

In part I, I mentioned how vicious individuals can be, when confronting political ideas that differ from their own. Individuals aren't the only mean entities out there. So are political parties, and so are the candidates. All candidates. Doesn't matter if they are red or blue.

Nearly all accusations of spin-doctoring, waffling, lying, are all universally true about any candidate. They outright lie. It's a sad, though true situation. Just do a search of "fact check" and you'll turn it up plenty of examples on both sides. It always puzzles me, when I hear someone accuse a candidate of these things, and then give these problems as reasons why the candidate is a bad choice for office -- their own candidate can also be accused of these things, too. And the accusations would be true. For both of them.

I don't hold such behavior against candidates particularly, because that's what they have to do to get elected. If one candidate ran a friendly campaign, never spun anything to their advantage, they would lose. Because fear-mongering is EFFECTIVE.

Actually, I guess I do hold it against them, but against all of them. I just don't use those things when making my decision, because I'd never vote for anyone at all if I did, and I do think we should vote.

But I would like to propose something radical. Lets make fear-mongering ineffective.

Don't just blindly believe everything your party says about their opponent, because they really aren't above spinning things to their advantage. Be cynical, especially if your information about the opponent comes from a campaign ad, or from a candidate.

Try to avoid giving money to anyone who will use nasty rhetoric. If that's not possible, then start policing your own party -- let them know that you don't want them to fund mean statements or be affiliated with vicious politics. Whenever you see a nasty ad, call your party, call your senator, write your representative, whatever. They will -- eventually -- get the picture. Don't just stop there - complain to the opposite party too, when they do it, and they most certainly will.

Bipartisan Politics of Meanness, Part I

In politics, as in everything else, people that don’t agree with you aren’t stupid for holding other opinions. And, even if they hold other opinions, even ones you disagree strongly with, please don't fall into the easy trap of making vicious statements toward them that you'd never in a million years say to their face (or if you would, stop it. You are doing the world no good).

Orson Scott Card wrote in the afterword of his novel Empire:
But any rational observer has to see that the Left and Right in America are screaming the most vile accusations at each other all the time. We are fully polarized -- if you accept one idea that sounds like it belongs to either the blue or the red, you are assumed -- nay, required -- to espouse the entire rest of the package. . . . and yet, if you hold any of one group's views, you are hated by the other group as if you believed them all; and if you hold most of one groups views, but not all, you are treated as if you were a traitor for deviating even slightly from party line.

It goes deeper than this, however. A good working definition of fanaticism is that you are so convinced of your views and policies that you are sure anyone who opposed them must be either stupid and deceived or have some ulterior motive.
Want some examples? Here you go, although they are comparatively tame:
Not an Obama fan? Yeah right. All your lies/talking points come straight from the DNC. Please.


The reason they don’t want her to speak to the press is because shes a loser bozo who cant talk let alone think. how stupid is she when she believes the **** she does. No wonder they want to hide her, she’s a right wing religious exstremist who wants armageddon.
Asterisks and misspellings belong to the original authors. Both comments were left on a Christian Science Monitor article entitled "Why won't Sarah Palin talk to the press?")

I can't help but wonder what the respondents were trying to accomplish. Calling the Democratic National Convention attendees a bunch of liars isn't very nice, isn't substantiated in any way and isn't going to convince anyone of anything. Republicans already agree with the sentiment, and Democrats aren't going to change their minds because of it. And calling Governor Palin a "loser bozo" is also nasty, and will accomplish nothing, and is just incorrect; by most measures of success, she can be considered one. I don't think she would have gotten where she did, regardless of her politics, without some brains. In the end, those who don't like her will agree with the name calling, and those who do will just be offended. And I doubt the people who are undecided are really going to appreciate (or be swayed by) comments such as these. It's fine to disagree with her or even an entire party, but name calling is not fine, and just adds to the vicious atmosphere of politics.

So what DO these people accomplish by writing such vitriol? Since it's not going to actually accomplish their surface goal of trying to sway people to their way of thinking, then I can only speculate. It must make them feel better, or superior in some intangible way. And that makes me feel sad that people need to tear down others in order to feel good.

I think everyone should put their political statements to the "mom" test. Would you allow someone to say that about your mom? No? Then rephrase it so that the meaning is there, without the vicious rhetoric.

We have the right to speak out against the government, or about injustices, or any wrongs in particular, and as Americans, I believe we have not just the right, but the responsibility to do so. However, as decent human beings, we need to share the ideas, but without the vitriol.

Put a stop to nasty politics on the individual level. Agree to disagree and give those who you disagree with a measure of respect - because though you disagree, they are in the end, human beings who deserve courtesy. If you are offended at something you see or hear, then POLITELY respond, or even ignore it. When you respond in kind, you are adding to the meanness quotient. Don’t be a part of that.

Show some respect. Really.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Share the little stuff

This will be obvious to most of you. But it's a reminder to myself and there must be a few others out there like me.

On of the most significant opportunities we have to make the world a better place is social. You know, just telling your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors about good stuff helps form a bond. It's an opportunity to connect and to share — both good things that are happening in your life and opportunities to which others might have access. And it doesn't have to be a big deal!
Hey, tomatoes are on sale down at the local market. And they're even pretty good!

My son got three "A"s on this quarter's report-card and only one "A-" last time -- I'm really proud of him for deciding which classes really matter.

My mom called last night and we had a great talk!

None of these are world-shaking events but talking about them helps people relate to you. They set a context upon which other relationships can grow. It's just keeping in touch, but it matters. When you share a little thing people share back.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Respect each other's spiritual beliefs.

Religion is a big part of politics today. Mike Huckabee is or was a Baptist minister. Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints - also known as Mormons. John McCain is apparently not religous enough, but Sarah Palin might just make up for it. Some people still believe (incorrectly) that Barak Obama is a Muslim, and for some reason have a problem with that. I wonder what they would make of me, a non-practicing Presbyterian Jewish agnostic Unitarian?

The thing is - none of that matters. Because, really, a particular religion isn't what makes someone a good leader, or even a good person. Most religions actually agree on many parts of what a good person is. It doesn’t matter if they are a follower of Christianity or Confucianism, Judaism or Jainism, Islam, Paganism, Buddhism, Baptism, Atheism, or even a garden variety follower of Unitarian Universalism, but they ALL agree that the following things are part of what makes someone good: Caring. Polite. Helpful to those in need. Gives to charity. Takes responsibility. Avoids hypocrisy. Loving to their family. Honest. Loyal. Thoughtful. Cleans up after themselves. Takes action when there is a need. Lends a hand.

A specific religion isn't what makes two of my neighbors, who are as far apart religiously as any two people can be, good people. Both are caring, involved mothers. Both are loving, and give back to the community. But one is a member of a fundamentalist church, and the other is a pagan. Yet they get along fine, consider each other friends, and are always polite to each other. They give each other and everyone else respect because they see the common ground: they and everyone else are still human beings, and as such deserve respect.

Be like my neighbors, and respect each others' religious beliefs. People don't have to agree, but should strive to be respectful. I think we'd all be better — and happier — for it.