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Google Earth and Activists

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

This month’s Conscious Choice looks a how Rebecca Moore used Google Earth to show local residents the problem with a proposed logging project.

Passionate about digital mapping tools, Moore “joined Google as a technical lead for the product” and:

“When Moore turned to her new employer’s software to identify which parcels of land the utility company owned, she was acting only as a private citizen concerned about a local land use issue. But her effort to understand what was happening in her own backyard led to a breakthrough that has had worldwide ramifications for environmental and humanitarian organizations seeking to communicate the significance of their causes.”

“…in this particular David and Goliath showdown, the little guy had a secret weapon. Moore realized she could use Google Earth to take canyon residents on the equivalent of an aerial tour of the proposed logging site, helping them to understand the various risks of running such an operation so close to their homes and communities. Over the course of a weekend, Moore marked up the images in Google Earth, coloring in the land where the logging would take place, and inserting labels to denote well-known landmarks, like schools and playgrounds.”

Read more on Conscious Choice’s site (”Life on Google Earth“) and on the Utne Reader blog (”Google Earth Emerges as a Critical Tool for Environmental and Social Justice Activists“).

DreamBank’s “Deep Thoughts”

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

GreeneryIn a moment of sentimentality over our anniversary we found ourselves looking through our blog, wondering what we had said and thinking about what else we wanted to discuss.

We realized we had some “deep thoughts” but, unlike those of Jack Handey, endeavored not to creep people out. And we discovered that, sometimes, we said smart things (then again, we were going through these during the eggnog season…).

So, here are some of our favorite DreamBank blog posts and a bit of what we said:

Learn the “Story of Stuff”:  “This excellent, short (20 minute) film illustrates in a clear and eye-opening way how our ‘buy, buy, buy’ culture is contributing to the world’s erosion. What we purchase, the rate at which we purchase and how we dispose of products has an impact on more than just our wallets.”

New electronic toys?  Remember to recycle the old ones
: “We often forget that our eagerness for the latest gadget or computer often has a dangerous impact on the environment – and a terrible impact on other countries who have to deal with the result of our overconsumption. …When we make the decision ‘out with the old and in with the new’, we need to also be mindful of what we will do with ‘the old’.”

Bring environmental consciousness to your celebrations:  “A tremendous amount of waste is incurred during the holiday season. Garbage from festivities, unwanted or disposable gifts, packaging and wrapping, in addition to the vast over-consumption, threatens to reduce the enjoyment–and usurp the true intention and meaning–of the season. As we approach the holidays, many of us are keen to reduce our yuletide impact on the environmental.” And so we provide 5 ways to make your holidays more sustainable. (OK, we posted this on Money Coach’s blog, but it still counts. …Right?)

Think about gratitude: Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” has many layers.  One of them, we think, is the message of appreciating others. “The boy takes unthinkingly – not recognizing the tree’s sacrifice. He appears ungrateful, even though he has taken most of the tree. While the end indicates some gratefulness, one wishes it hadn’t taken him so long to come to that realization. We should appreciate the gifts, kindness and consideration that people offer us and never forget to show gratitude.”

Don’t use boxes for moving that you’ll later discard: “When I found out about this company I was ecstatic. FrogBox has a unique and fantastic solution to your box woes, offering ‘an easy, affordable and best of all environmentally-friendly alternative to those easily water-damaged, puncture-prone, landfill-bound cardboard moving boxes’.”

Reduce gift-related waste: We encourage better gift-giving, asking you to “consider contributing money to the recipient, a charity in their name or suggest they use DreamBank” and suggest other gift-related tips such as how to best re-gift something you don’t want by “giving it to a charity or selling it on Craigslist or E-Bay.”

Listen better: “Now and again, in conversations, I notice I don’t listen enough. And it’s not merely a matter of actually hearing the words being spoken (though I’ll admit, I do experience the occasional focus drift brought on by ADT…). It’s more about how I listen. … [T]he greatest gift someone can make is simply to listen.”

Dream – even without certainty: “There is no crystal ball in life, and even with all the planning in the world, your journey to your dream may not go exactly as mapped out. It’s important to trust yourself and the process. In cases like this, allowing yourself to believe that you can achieve something, is more important than figuring out the nuts and bolts of how you will make it occur.”

Save money while still giving great gifts: “Tell someone what makes them special. Record a short video or audio snippet that details the things about them that are lovable and unique. This is a gift that will be used often by the person – especially to perk them up on difficult days.”

Take inspiration (and solace) from the 15 setbacks great people overcame: “How many times have you heard a down-and-out story about someone who went on to become a success? More times than you can count? Well, there’s a reason for that. Few people have achieved success without experiencing numerous setbacks. Of course, it’s often hard to see the forest from the trees when experiencing significant failures or misfortunes. Seeing them as obstacles, though, rather than indicative of future unsuccessfulness can make all the difference.”

DreamBank’s Favorite Tips for a Happy and Successful 2009

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Free of festivities and eggnog temptations, we’re now able to make some good plans about how to make 2009 a great year – with a little help from our friends.  DreamBank’s selected our favorite advice for goal achievement and happiness for the New Year from the blogosphere:

  1. “Stop waiting for happiness. Happiness is right here, right now.” – The Single Secret to Making 2009 Your Best Year Ever
  2. “If you have a book idea, want to start a new company, have something to sell or simply want people to really consider what you have to say, try the “elevator conversation” approach. Begin with something about who you are and why you have expertise about this topic. Next, summarize your main point or thesis. Continue by offering a few details. Aim for a powerful conclusion. And, do all of this in 90 seconds or less.” -  2009 Elevator Pitch to Change Your Life
  3. “Many people seem to think their mission in life needs to be a spectacular quest to “save the world.” That’s not true. It doesn’t have to be huge; it just has to be something. And it has to be what’s right for you.” – Lifestyle Redesign for the New Year
  4. “In starting your happiness project, you might begin by writing your personal Commandments.” – New Year’s Resolution: Four tips for writing your personal commandments.
  5. “Start and end your day with a simple pause allowing time to reflect on appreciation. Take note of several things you are truly thankful for. Sincere expression of appreciation is a powerful tool to facilitate positive thought processes and generate a sense of fulfillment in the moment.” – Energy of Positive Thinking: Empower Your Mental Wellness
  6. “If you know people who are better than you at something then they are the people who you should be asking questions to in order to improve.” – How to Suck Less Over Time
  7. “Goals give meaning to spending (or not spending). But sometimes it’s hard to keep sacrificing when everyone else seems to be living large. ‘Seems’ is the operative word; a bunch of them may be eyebrow-deep in consumer debt, but think this is normal. That’s because they’ve watched too much TV and read too many magazines.” – 3 frugal resolutions for 2009
  8. “All you need to do is answer “What’s Important Now” and align your actions with it.” – What’s Important Now? Success Factors Day 7
  9. “By putting some focused thought into anticipating the obstacles you may face on the way to your goals, and by implementing simple steps to avoid or confront them, your likelihood of success will increase dramatically. – How to Achieve Any Goal; Or, The Art of Anticipating Obstacles
  10. “Remember, a smile costs nothing, but is worth a lot.” – My resolution for 2009… smile more and crack a few jokes

OK, one more suggestion: Live for Improvement offers a nice (and printable) Improvement Plan.

What advice has inspired you?

Dreaming Big – Even at 10 MPH

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

10 MPH

A friend suggested I watch “10 MPH” and I’m glad he did. 10 MPH is a charming film that is both about and motivated by following one’s dreams:

10 MPH is a comical documentary that follows a pair of aspiring filmmakers as they quit their jobs and turn a friend’s ludicrous idea into a movie. The impulsive purchase of a two-wheeled Segway scooter sets this story in motion when the two friends decide to travel from Seattle to Boston at 10 mph in an attempt to change their lives forever…”

At present, 10 MPH is viewable on YouTube.  Or to support the filmmakers you can watch it on OurStage - when you register for the site, a $1 donation will be made to them.  More information can be found on the 10 MPH website.

Asking Without Imposing

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

The other day, I saw that Raul (aka Hummingbird604) had posted on Twitter that he was considering using DreamBank to ask for a new laptop but wasn‘t certain. Since I know Raul, I had a feeling that his concern involved feeling guilty about asking his friends to contribute.  I emailed him and he agreed to let me use his response in this blog post.

In brief, he wrote, “Yes, I do have a concern of a guilt factor of asking friends to contribute to a gift… Most of the people I’ve talked to on Twitter  have recommended that I set up a DreamBank dream for my laptop and use the money to get my (much needed) computer. But you know me… I don’t like imposing on people.”

It’s understandable that asking for contributions might feel awkward, but when you explain why you’ve gone this route, most people are relieved…  After all,  the people you are contacting should be people who want to give you a gift -  and letting them know what you want (DreamBank or other) removes the stress of them having to figure it out.  Plus, they don’t have to go shopping, or risk giving you something you won’t use.

Or, if the idea of sending your dream out to people still makes you uncomfortable, you can opt for a more passive approach by posting your dream on Facebook.

Anyone else have any further thoughts or ideas?

I Dream of Travel…

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

In today’s 24hrs Buzz Bishop (of Cyberbuzz) was kind enough to mention DreamBank.  DreamBank, he remarked, could spice up your holidays. “[L]earn cooking in Tuscany, instead of ending up with another cookbook from Emeril,” Buzz suggested, noting that DreamBank could help you make that dream happen. Lovely idea, Buzz!  Mmmm, we can smell the Arista alla Fiorentina cooking now.

It’s timely that he mentioned the travel aspect, because we were just thinking about traveling as well (though that could have something to do with the snow).

Tree and Surfers

Many are posting travel dreams to DreamBank, which thrills us. The idea of “taking a break” often seems far more relaxing when going somewhere new, exciting – and away from the internet (or is that just us…?)

But we also understand that vacations can be pricey – and it’s often hardest to give yourself a gift.  Which is why we’re excited to see those travel dreams here.  Whether it’s Diving in Belize, staying at beach resort in Kauai, going on a European Adventure, reuniting with an old friend in Africa, or visiting your family in another country, DreamBank – and your friends and family – can help you get away and unwind.

And that could allow you could think further about what your dreams entail – possibly with a Margarita in hand.

Dreamer Profile: Abigail Brodovitch & David Stevenson

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Each month we ask Dreamers about their experience with DreamBank.

Here’s what Abigail and David said:

Why did you decide to put your dream on DreamBank?
Abigail: I love the idea of DreamBank for people who live in a time of material excess. We’ve become so accustomed to gift exchanges and, lovely as they are, the reality is that they are not always appreciated. DreamBank is an opportunity to fulfill one’s desire to extend generosity to friends with the satisfaction of knowing that they are building towards something very meaningful to them.

How did you decide which dream gift to post?
Abigail: It took a very long time to decide what our dream gift would be. Skis, for example, are something that we always talked about buying but could never seem to prioritize. It is a bit of a vicious circle: we don’t want to spend too much on something we won’t use very often, but we don’t ski very often because we don’t have skis! I moved to Toronto in 2000 from Vancouver and I have never stopped missing access to nature. I see achieving my ski dream as a way to access nature more easily.

How have your friends and family responded to your posted dream so far?
David: We posted our dream very recently, and we have already had a generous donation. Still a ways to go, but, with Christmas coming, we hope for more contributions. We’ll be letting friends and family know about this option!

Keep Daydreaming

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

A recent Boston Globe article cleverly titled “Daydream Achiever” asserts that “[a] wandering mind can do important work, scientists are learning – and may even be essential”.

“In a culture obsessed with efficiency, daydreaming is derided as a lazy habit or a lack of discipline, the kind of thinking we rely on when we don’t really want to think. It’s a sign of procrastination, not productivity, something to be put away with your flip-flops and hammock as summer draws to a close.

In recent years, however, scientists have begun to see the act of daydreaming very differently. They’ve demonstrated that daydreaming is a fundamental feature of the human mind – so fundamental, in fact, that it’s often referred to as our “default” mode of thought. Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections.”

Jonah Lehrer’s fascinating article can be found on the Boston Globe’s website. Sadly, you might have to register to read the article (yeah, I don’t get it either), but it is a good read.

15 Setbacks That Great People Overcame

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
- Mary Pickford

How many times have you heard a down-and-out story about someone who went on to become a success? More times than you can count? Well, there’s a reason for that. Few people have achieved success without experiencing numerous setbacks.

Of course, it’s often hard to see the forest from the trees when experiencing significant failures or misfortunes. Seeing them as obstacles, though, rather than indicative of future unsuccessfulness can make all the difference.

Avoid self-defeating assumptions”, advises Psychologist Robert Brooks. Just because your abilities, brilliant invention and so forth haven’t been recognized yet doesn’t mean that they will never be. Determination and “self-efficacy” are crucial. “To experience rejection implies that we were willing to take risks in order to pursue our dreams and goals,” emphasizes Brooks. The only sure way not to fail, is not to try. But that’s also a pretty sure way not to achieve. With that in mind, here is a brief list of setbacks that didn’t set them back – well, at least not for long.

1. Against All Odds
Some belong in a league of their own, having conquered what most would consider insurmountable obstacles. Of course, most of us are fortunate enough to not have to experience the tragic circumstances of Helen Keller, Terry Fox or Rick Hansen. But their tremendous achievements remind us what we can attain if we believe in ourselves and persevere.

2. Business Flops
So your first business was a flop? Join the club. And, luckily, it’s a group populated with many famous business people. Bill Gates, Lewis Tappan and Walt Disney are but a few who had their first venture tank.

3. Novels that May Have Languished
The Diary of Anne Frank, A Time to Kill, Dune, Carrie and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance were all rejected many, many times. Sometimes the rejections were fairly insulting and contained very inaccurate projections. (NPR has an amusing short segment on the subject.)

4. Oprah Winfrey
Although MadTV has portrayed her as a creature from beyond (in
a sketch I can only describe as hilarious), I’m a big fan of Oprah, especially since her life serves as a tremendous example of what can be achieved if you have the passion and motivation to keep going in spite of the odds. She grew up black and poor, was fired from her job as a news anchor, was repeatedly asked to change her name, appearance and, well, just about everything that made her who she was (including being “too emotional”). She went on to become the woman we know now: one of the most powerful celebrities and the richest in entertainment. At a recent Stanford Commencement ceremony, she imparted the following words of wisdom: “We all stumble. We all have setbacks. If things go wrong, you hit a dead end—as you will—it’s just life’s way of saying time to change course. … If you really get the lesson, you pass and you don’t have to repeat the class. If you don’t get the lesson, it shows up wearing another pair of pants—or skirt—to give you some remedial work.”

5. Apple
It’s too bad Apple didn’t work out. Oh wait… Although the company can now boast about the success of their Mac and the IPhone phenomenon, “Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were rebuffed by Atari Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. when they tried to sell an early Apple computer”.

6. Harrison Ford
Ford who went on to become “Indiana Jones” was fired from Columbia Pictures and told he would never make it. This was just one of the jobs he was apparently not suitable for.

7. Woody Allen
Allen has said, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” He’s had many successful films (including Annie Hall) but he’s also seen many films flop at the box office as well. And although he is an Oscar winning writer and director he was, by his own admission “thrown out of New York University quite rapidly” when he was a film major at the school.

8. Thomas Watson
Watson bounced back from his failures and went on to make IBM the success it became. He didn’t allow falure to discourage him, instead he encouraged others to:”Double your rate of failure. You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. It is better to aim at perfection and miss it than to aim at imperfection and hit it. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success. On the far side.”

9. Abraham Lincoln
While claims of his “failures” might be somewhat exaggerated, there is little doubt that the road to Presidency was anything but smooth for Lincoln who was defeated many times and experienced many personal tragedies before being elected at 51.

10. Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison “reportedly tried over 2,000 different experiments before he got the first incandescent light bulb to work. When a reporter asked him how it felt to fail so many times he replied, ‘I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process.’”

11. J.K. Rowling
Rowling went from being unemployed to creating one of the world’s most popular characters in fiction. Her book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Potter” was rejected by 12 publishers before being published. The “Harry Potter” series has since been credited with getting children back into reading – and making her a phenomenal success.

12. Simon Cowell
Cowell made himself known as the King of Nice. OK, that’s not true, but Cowell made his unique personality his trademark and didn’t let his failures define him (though he seems to relish in pointing out those of others). Even after his music company folded, he wound up in debt and had his show canceled, he eventually landed back on his feet.

13. Macy’s
America’s Department Store” would not exist today had R.H. Macy given up. He “failed seven times as a businessman before achieving ultimate success.”

14. The Beatles
Rejected by the Decca Recording Company who proclaimed: “‘We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.’ These words would soon come back to haunt them when the group, who happened to be called The Beatles, became the biggest band in the world, shifting over half a billion units within 10 years.”

15. Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times. But he’s still considered by many as the greatest baseball player in history. He hit 714 home runs and famously stated “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

We’re fond of asking questions here – and we want to know whose “failures” remind you to keep plugging along. Any setbacks of your own that you overcame to realize your dreams?

The Covers Are Off!

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

If you’re paying close attention, you’ll have discovered that is now live and in the wild. We’re super-psyched! Any major linkage notwithstanding, we’re going to roll out the public website to friends, family and participating charity in the next week or two. We want to walk before we run. And crawl before we walk.

Please have a look around. Check out the dreams and the dreamers. Once you’ve poked around, consider signing up for an account and creating a dream. Forgive any messy or unfinished bits–we’re still sweeping up from the construction.