July 30, 2008

Let Our Congress Tweet: An Update

About two weeks ago, I posted about the debate happening in Congress over Twitter and other Social Media Outlets. I received this response from John Culberson via Twitter:
You analyzed it exactly right - I will keep party labels out & focus on success - new media must be treated like old media - no restrictions.
Just thought you all would like to know...

"Proudly voted 'aye' in Judiciary Committee this AM to hold Karl Rove in contempt for failing to respond to a subpoena."
Representative Keith Ellison (via Twitter)

Sam on Twitter - @samuelisaac

Congressmen on Twitter:

John Culberson (R, TX) - @johnculberson
Thad McCotter (R, MI) - @thadmccotter
Tim Ryan (D, OH) - @timryan
Keith Ellison (D, MN) - @keithellison

For More Information:

Tim Ryan Interview
NPR Coverage
Huffington Post Coverage
Deserted After Dark Coverage
Let Our Congress Tweet
The Sunlight Foundation

July 28, 2008

Water To Drink?

From Osocio, always on the lookout for effective nonprofit marketing campaigns. I think the video speaks for itself:

Go here for more information and to donate. Thanks.

"Water is the only drink for a wise man."
Henry David Thoreau

July 25, 2008

The Best Congress Money Can Buy Or: How I Handpicked The Perfect Legislative Team

I, like a majority of Americans, am unable to play sports at a professional level. It's a fact. At one point in high school, I thought I played tennis pretty well, but I couldn't ever nail my serve with any consistency so I was perennially second best. And permanently not a professional. However, thanks to the ingenuity of a Harvard professor that goes by the name of Bill Gamson, we have fantasy sports.

Most sources date 1980 as the birth date of fantasy sport, when journalist Dan Okrent founded Rotisserie League Baseball over lunch with some colleagues at La Rotisserie Francaise in Manhattan. But it seems as this isn't the whole story. In fact, if that historical lunch is known as the "live birth" of fantasy, then the National Baseball Seminar was its poetic conception. Dr. William A. Gamson, now a professor at Boston College, created the first speculative sports league (tracking only two batting categories and two pitching categories) in 1960 while he was living in Cambridge, England. As a sociologist, he has spent much of his professional research developing game simulations that address global justice and similar issues. Sweet irony that he will be remembered for the being the Founding Father of Fantasy...

Since then, the sport of fantasy has grown to pandemic levels. Even beyond anecdotal evidence, though, there is plenty of academic research to prove that fantasy has consumed people's lives. And I am among those ranks.

Recently, my addiction has sunk to a new low. Fantasy Congress is a project started by a student named Andrew Lee at Claremont McKenna College. Enamored by his roommate's preoccupation with fantasy football, Lee was struck with a thought. He wanted to channel the engaging obsession of fantasy sport into a game that would draw regular schmoes into a better understanding of the political world. With the help of software gurus Arjun Lall and Ian Hafkenschiel, Fantasy Congress was born.

Points are earned by writing legislation, cosponsoring legislation, attending Congress, and newsworthiness. For instance, Barack Obama scores some good points in the news category, but doesn't get many attendance points since he's out campaigning. It's a great way to stay (or start to be) informed about what your local and national lawmakers are doing.

I started a league yesterday that will go live on Monday morning, and I cordially invite you to join. The league name is "Social Media Socrates." I'm going to cap it 25, so sign up today! Now, about that weak backhand...

"I feel the way Robert Oppenheimer felt after he invented the atomic bomb. If I'd only known this plague that I've visited upon the world."
Daniel Okrent

July 22, 2008

The Fear Of Satire

Last week, both New and Old Media were abuzz with all things New Yorker. As a subscriber, I understood that it was satire and chuckled a bit. "The Politics of Fear" did a great job of communicating the picture being painted by some members of the media. In a show of solidarity, Vanity Fair submitted some satire of their own. From their blog today:

We here at Vanity Fair maintain a kind of affectionate rivalry with our downstairs neighbors at The New Yorker. We play softball every year, compete for some of the same stories, and share an elevator bank. (You can tell the ones who are headed to the 20th floor by their Brooklyn pallor and dog-eared paperbacks.)

And heaven knows we’ve published our share of scandalous images, on the cover and otherwise. So we’ve been watching the kerfuffle over last week’s New Yorker cover with a mixture of empathy and better-you-than-us relief.

We had our own presidential campaign cover in the works, which explored a different facet of the Politics of Fear, but we shelved it when The New Yorker’s became the “It Girl” of the blogosphere. Now, however, in a selfless act of solidarity with our downstairs neighbors here at the Condé Nast building, we’d like to share it with you. Confidentially, of course.

Hope you enjoyed that. Hope to see you tomorrow!

"Crime does not pay... as well as politics."
Alfred E. Newman

July 19, 2008

Social Media In Plain English

Here's a great video from Common Craft about the great mystery that is "Social Media." I feel that there are many misconceptions surrounding the idea of Social Media, and this video does a great job communicating what it really is, and its benefits. Enjoy!

"Hooked on the Internet? Help is just a click away!"
Anon Cynic

July 17, 2008

The Time Has Come, The People Said

Lewis Carrol gets a bad wrap. With the pedophilia, hallucinogenic drugs, and all. But his "literary nonsense" was actually filled with tons of word play, vivid imagery, and... logic. Enter, "The Walrus and the Carpenter." 'Tis a poem most likely about the ills of organized religion (The Walrus representing Buddha, and The Carpenter playing the part of that Jewish fella from yesteryear), but I want to take a different spin on it this morning...

We operate under a representative democracy here in this beautiful country. We elect men and women to carry our concerns, ideals, and passions to Washington, representing us before other men and women doing the same for our friends and neighbors in other parts of the country. Pretty cool, huh? Well, it gets cooler.
I am on the House floor. I am voting yes for Community Health Centers which provides medical care to uninsured Americans.
That's an entry from Representative John Culberson (motto: Letting Texans Run Texas) on his Twitter account. Culberson, a Republican, represents the 7th Congressional District (Houston) of Texas. And he's coming close to breaking the law.

Last Tuesday, John Boehner (motto: It's pronounced "BAY-ner," I swear) sent a memo alerting Members of Congress that House Leadership (read: Democrats) were completely shutting off their access to social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Or at least, it looked that way. Representative Micheal Capuano (D, MA) submitted a letter addressing the current Committee on House Administration rules concerning the subject:
Members of Congress can utilize New Media if:
  1. The website /blog is "sanitized" and has no political or commercial advertising or political opinion;
  2. The website /blog contains a disclaimer that the post was official business;
  3. The post conformed to House rules (i.e. edited and approved by House franking)
Culberson had a nifty response:
Complying with these three requirements would indeed make it easier than it is today to post on a social/new media site... Similarly, I am sure it was easy to write an op-ed in a Soviet newspaper as long as you didn't mind the guy looking over your shoulder.

But it seems as though Culberson's comments (he haphazardly labeled the situation as "the Dems trying to censor us") and Boehner's alert memo, although right-minded, came a little premature. Capuaono, and others from the CHA, are actually interested in investing some time and energy in loosening the restrictions politicians currently have. This fight has been going on for a few weeks, and nearly avoided the partisan punching bag it was in danger of becoming.

But, the conversation transcends party lines. New Media should be as accessible to our lawmakers as Old Media is. Period. I'm not the only one that thinks this way, either. Let Our Congress Tweet is a project of the Sunlight Foundation, an organization shedding light on the "interplay of money, lobbying, influence and government in Washington in ways never before possible." From the Sunlight Foundation blog:
If Members can use whatever brand of inkpen, or any brand of paper, or buy whatever shoes they want, they should be given radically expanded freedom to use the Internet, and make the same empowering discoveries that their constituents are. Even if that same pen was once used to scribble a ransom note.

So, I say, "Let our Congress Tweet!" and interact with Constituents with other types of New Media. With a higher level of transparency comes a higher level of accountability. With an increased amount of real-time updates comes an increased amount of democratic engagement. And that's what Congress wants, right? Or would they rather us be their little oysters, "eager for the treat" of apathy, following Walruses and Carpenters towards ignorance?

"Congress needs more sunshine."
Rep. John Culberson (R, TX)

Note: You can follow Sam on Twitter @samuelisaac.

July 16, 2008

The Hump Dump | Transporation

This week's Hump Dump is all about transportation. I got to see the first light rail car cruise (read: barely move) through Downtown Phoenix last week, had a meeting with the Joseph Perez with the City of Phoenix (read: Bicycle Coordinator), and spent some money on gas. A lot of it. So, it's up there in my thought cycle right now. Transportation, that is.


Hank Green from EcoGeek thinks that the "Miles Per Gallon" measurement is stupid. Instead, we should calculate how many "Gallons Per Mile" a vehicle gets. He makes a pretty good argument, but pretty much says my Yaris isn't helping out much...

Saudi Arabia To Hate Mercedes-Benz

Jaymi Heimbuch from EcoGeek reports that Mercedes-Benz will cut petroleum-based engines completely out of its production by 2015. Instead, it will focus on electric, fuel cell, and biofuel technology. Here locally, Mercedes-Benz of Arrowhead recently opened a LEED-certified building. Now, if their prices could be a little less green...

Obama Just Got Cooler | Part I | Part II | Part III |

Ok, ok. I feel like I need to clarify. When I say, "Obama Just Got Cooler," I really think he did. Like, I thought about it after reading about his stance on the issues. Then I asked Jesus if I could worship Barack instead. I'm only joking. My friend John says that if "you are inspired by three simple words then perhaps you are too easily inspired," and I think he makes a great point. It's ridiculous to think that one man can change the fate of a nation (but maybe not so crazy to think that one man can ruin it). If Obama can inspire an entire generation to change a nation, though, I'm all for it... The three articles linked above talk about Obama's plan for increased spending on bicycle and mass transit related programs. Worth a gander.

Bike Maps For Phoenicians

I had a fantastic meeting with the Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Phoenix last week. We talked about complete streets, bike lanes, bike routes, the Diamondbacks current slump, and how we can work together to make Phoenix a more rideable city. This bike map is a good start. Available at a bike shop near you. For free. Or download it. Get one.

That'll do it for this edition of The Hump Dump. Looking forward to your thoughts...

"I am easily satisfied with the very best."
Winston Churchill

July 15, 2008

Free Time

Pat: What do you want to do?!

Casey: Spin.

Sam: Are you serious?!

Enjoy, from Fail Blog.

"If any group of citizens is uniquely unqualified to tell someone else how to vote, it’s those of us who live in the sheltered, privileged arena of celebrityhood. It’s one thing to buy an ab machine because Chuck Norris recommends it (he’s in good shape, isn’t he?) or a grill because George Foreman’s name is on it (he’s a great guy, so it must be a great grill!), but the idea of choosing the Leader of the Free World based on the advice of someone who lives in the cloistered world of stardom seems a bit loony to me."
Pat Sajak

July 14, 2008

How Young Is Too Young?

Camel Joe gets a whole bunch of flack for getting kids excited about his product a little too early in life. It is my job to make my product seem attractive to a wide audience, just like Joe. But at least my product doesn't have a trace amounts of rat poison or jet fuel. Plus, what's wrong with a little college education, right? Everyone's doing it...

"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught."
Oscar Wilde

July 11, 2008

What The All Star Break Means To Me...

Next week is the All Star Game. This is the game that decides whether the National League or the American League have home-feild advantage for the World Series. It also means that fantasy football is right around the corner. And I couldn't be more excited.

"Put 'em on the board. Houshmazoli. Got it. Championship!"
Every Man Before That Commercial Aired

Journey Of Hope Rides Through Phoenix

When I first tried college down in Tucson, I almost joined a fraternity. My uncle Phil had been (and I guess still is) a Kappa Sigma at the University of Minnesota, and promised to share with me all the necessary handshakes and secret phrases to get in the door. I ended up never rushing, but my roommate pledged Delta Chi so I got a chance to live the Greek Live vicariously. How vicariously? In 2001, the chapter was revoked of its UA recognition and put on level five (5) probation by the national office. In 2006, D Chi regained university recognition. The campus newspaper ran a story on the event, interviewing Delta Chi Chapter President, Andrew Dipsia. Drew was my roommate. That's how vicariously.

Because of that experience, and the many stories Phil has shared with me, I've always had a certain image of Greek Life. And, well, turns out that might not be exactly fair...

Last Thursday afternoon, twenty-three (23) young men on bicycles showed up in Downtown Phoenix. Except, they weren't from Phoenix, and their destination wasn't Phoenix. These guys, along with a couple of support vans, were traveling from San Fransisco to Washington, D.C. Another group was traveling from Seattle, and yet another was riding from San Fransisco but taking a more northern route. Thirty-two (32) states and over 12,000 miles will be covered, all in the name of raising money and awareness for people with disabilities. And the kicker? Everyone involved is a Pi Kappa Phi, it's a prerequisite to ride.

Most social fraternal organizations donate both time and money to nonprofit organizations, but Pi Kapps are the only ones to own and operate its own philanthropic organization. Push America are the leaders of tomorrow by serving people with disabilities today. They put on a variety of awareness and fundraising events, but the reason why they were up on my radar screen today was the Journey of Hope. From the website:

The Journey of Hope is a cross-country bicycle trek beginning in San Francisco, CA and Seattle, WA and ending together with all teams in Washington, D.C. The event raises funds and awareness for people with disabilities. Simply put, the Journey of Hope is a ride with a purpose. Make no mistake; this is not a simple ride. The Journey of Hope is about many things. It is about challenging the norm. It is about serving our communities. It is about finding out more about ourselves than we ever imagined. It is about having a dream. It is about a mission. It is about hope.

They made a stop here in Phoenix for a couple of reasons. First, they had ridden almost seventy (70) miles without a break. And second, they stopped by because an ASU student is on the ride. He wasn't actually here, he's on a separate leg, but he's still on the trip.

If you dig what these cats are doing, you can donate to the cause here. Happy Weekend!

"Socialism can only arrive on a bicycle."
Jose Antonio Viera Gallo

July 8, 2008

The New World

Tonight is momentous. And the crazy part is that it wouldn't have been momentous if this happened ten (10) years ago. Tonight, I get to meet Nole in real life. This is huge because we've known each other for almost a year. I feel a part of his life, and I'm sure he feels a part of mine. How is this possible? It's our New World...

Last year, we played in the same fantasy football league and got connected to each other's blogs. Over the last few months we have had a handful of phone conversations, but tonight we become real friends.

This has happened before. Ron, Adam, and Kelli I all knew first through the blogosphere, but now I get to warmly label them "real friends." Tonight is pretty much guaranteed to be epic. Just saying.

"Sam! We're phone friends now!"
Nole (during our first phone call)

July 7, 2008

Local Politics Leave A Smaller Carbon Footprint

I am fairly politically minded. Some of you are questioning my understatement. But no matter, I shall press on. Today, a tip on going green this election season.

While the national elections are exciting, and monopolize most water cooler conversations and chain emails, I find the real excitement of politics when the issues are close to home. Yes, even elections are going local.

A few weeks ago, I (along with a few friends) made it fairly clear that I will be voting Dan Saban for Maricopa County Sheriff in November, and doing what I can in the meantime to get him there. I have my button and my bumper sticker, but I figured I could more. So I did. There is now an official student organization named ASU For Dan Saban. We have a Facebook page and a blog so far, and once school starts we will be meeting in an official capacity and tabling at each of the four (4) ASU campuses. If you would like to reduce your political carbon footprint and go local, please email me at samuel [dot] richard [at] asu [dot] edu. And if you decide to go crazy for local politics, here is some information on debates for the Corporation Commissioner.

The President is the most powerful person on Earth, sure. But what our local elected officials do, say, and pursue affects us on a daily basis. I challenge you to invest a little time this election season in local politics. Spend as much time researching your local sheriff, state representative, and proposition decisions as you do for your presidential and other national choices. Go ahead, I triple dog dare you.

"Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national government, too."
Richard M. Nixon

July 5, 2008

Independence Day Distractions

In honor of our Independence, I thought I'd share a couple of videos with you. First, a video from chalk artist named Ellis G who really nails the subtle, yet distinct, differences between graffiti and street art. Second, and humorously apropos considering the occasion, is a video from the London Cans Festival. That's all I have for the weekend. Be safe!

"Art is never finished, only abandoned."
Leonardo da Vinci

July 2, 2008

Mr. Inexperience Goes To Washington

You remember my trip to D.C., yes? Well, I recently wrote a guest post for the Nonprofit Congress blog about said trip. Below is a short portion of it, but for the whole thing I'll ask you to be a good sport and go to their blog.

Just about a month ago, I was a part of history.

Sure, it sounds cheesy. But it's true. And that's all that matters, right? A few hundred of my closest friends and I were able to help shape the future of the nonprofit sector at the 2008 Nonprofit Congress. Plenary speakers, breakout sessions, and informal conversations alike peppered our week with other's experiences, grievances, and joys pertaining to the sector.

I came away from the week filled with expectant hope. I mentioned to a few people that it had a similar feeling to the days immediately following junior high summer camp. You know, when emotions are flaring and the idea wheels are turning at full speed. And let me tell you, neither one of those things have yet to go away.

Looking forward to your thoughts, comments, and snide remarks...

"We have the best Congress that money can buy."
Will Rogers

The Hump Dump | Guest Blogger Garrison Keillor

I was raised as a huge fan of Garrison Keillor. Both my parents are teachers (read: ample time off), and we would spend the summers driving up, down, and across the country all the while listening to tapes of Keillor's monologues about life in Lake Wobegon. I know all about the Norwegian bachelor farmers who stand outside of Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery. Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility strikes a vivid picture in my head, and I clearly remember laughing uncontrollably when I heard a customer's reaction to eating a piece of rhubarb pie from the Chatterbox Cafe:

Customer: Damn! This is good!
Waitress: There'll be no swearing in my restaurant.
Customer: No ma'am. That's a new support group here in town. DAM - Mothers Against Dyslexia.

I did then, and I still do know, feel at home with his voice on the radio. And it's not just the deep tenor that radiates from the speakers, either. I've been lucky enough to see him live three (3) times, once here in Phoenix and twice at the Minnesota State Fair, so it's not that. What he says has always just plain resonated with me. A few years ago, at the State Fair, I picked up a book he had recently written titled Homegrown Democrat, and it pretty much encapsulated every part of why what he says sits well with my soul. I wish I had the copyright power to share the book with you over the Internet, but I don't, so I'll strongly encourage you to travel to your local library and check it out. I'd lend you mine, but a friend in Denver is still holding on to it...

In the meantime, I want to share with you a portion of a column Keillor wrote for Salon yesterday titled, "For the Sake of the Girl With the Beautiful Swing." The entire article is here, and I can honestly say it's worth the three (3) minutes it will take you to read it. But those of you (us) that have no attention span, here's a little snippet...

A ballgame is a great place to get to know somebody. You talk sideways during the interludes of which baseball has many, and since the game itself is so orderly, you can converse in non sequiturs, and after I told him about my 10-year-old girl, who loves to swim, and we agreed on what a great age 10 is and what intense pleasure a kid is capable of, we got to the grim business of What Do You Do For A Living. He said he was a cop. I said I was unemployed. (You tell people you're a writer and they tend to clam up.)

"Tough times," he said. I nodded. We might've gotten onto politics then, but we got onto music and Ireland and so forth, but I thought, "Here is a guy the candidates have to talk to this summer." A cop is a realist and he knows where Rockwell leaves off and surrealism begins, and here is his girl taking a big lead off third base and he loves her so beautifully and unabashedly and wants the world to be there for her when it comes her time to fly.

I'm 65 and have a good life and can't claim that the Current Occupant has done me much harm at all. It's when I think about 10-year-old girls I start to get hot under the collar. This clueless man has dug a deep hole for them and doesn't seem vaguely aware of it. He has spent us deep in a hole, gotten us into a disastrous war, blithely ignored the long-term best interests of the country, and when you think of the 4,000 kids who now lie in cemeteries, and for what? -- you start to grind your teeth. For the sake of the girl with the beautiful swing, I hope we get a better president than the disgusting incompetent we've wasted eight years of our national life on. Think twice about who you put your arm around, Sen. McCain.

Have a fantastic Fourth of July weekend. And remember that the cornerstones of democracy are discourse, disagreement, and dissent.

"That's the news from Lake Wobegon: where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."
Garrison Keillor