A Cause Worth Caring About

When is the last time you spent $15 or $30 bucks on something and felt REALLY great about it. I mean, no post-swipe regrets or credit card heart burn?

I propose you make such an investment in the name of charity, health and your fellow human beings in Kwa-Dick, South Africa — a few of the many who don’t have clean water.

Here’s a fact:  Unsafe water and the lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and more deaths than AIDS, cancer and war every single year. This is not an invitation to complain or begrudge the powers that be for failure to solve world crises. This is an invitation to make a small, positive improvement on a situation that is perpetuated by most of the world’s lack of action. It’s an invitation to make an investment in the lives of others by putting dollars where they are most needed. And it isn’t accompanied by post-purchase trauma.

When you submit a photo in the River To Well contest, 100% of your submission fee goes to fund building a clean water well in Kwa-Dick, South Africa. Simple as that.

This is not your typical charity competition where the majority of the submission or entry fee goes to salaries, overhead, office supplies or marketing materials. This is a grassroots movement started by young people who saw a need and took action to meet it. It’s words put into action. It’s love in motion.

I know the people who founded and have heralded this campaign, and they are good people. That’s not enough in and of itself, but it is a testament to the integrity of the organization. And the cause is one worth supporting. The need for water in third-world countries is beyond what a few or even a thousand individuals can meet alone. But if a few hundred band together with a single purpose and mind, they can make a dent in the need and provide water to one community, one village, one family, one child.

For me, that’s more than enough reason to support this cause. I hope it is for you too. You can submit by clicking here -> River To Well. You have until midnight.

Ready, go!


Does morality affect Craigslist’s bottom line?

I am outraged. And with one word — Craigslist — you probably know why.

I’ve used the site before like most people have — to find roommates and sell furniture. And though I have a couch to sell come graduation, I will NOT be using Craigslist to do it.

In the last year, news about Craigslist’s increasing revenues from sex advertisements has surfaced. It made $36 million from sex advertisements last year. This year, Advanced Interactive Media Group, projected Craigslist’s revenue to increase by 22 percent, the bulk of that increase coming from sex ads. If these numbers are correct they will make $44 million on sex ads in 2010. Sick, right? Well, apparently not sick enough for the executives at Craigslist to do anything more than politically dodge and bemoan the problem.

Let me clarify that I realize not all sex ads on Craigslist are trafficked and many women and men sell themselves. There is no way to quantify this information, though, and as long as advertisements for sex have a home on Craigslist, my concern remains.

The New York Times quotes James Buckmaster, Craigslist’s chief executive, as saying, “Of the thousands of U.S. venues that carry adult service ads, including venues operated by some of the largest and best known companies in the U.S., Craigslist has done the best and most responsible job of combating child exploitation and human trafficking.”

What have they done? They’ve added a little concealer and blush to their deteriorating complexion.

Despite increasingly widespread and repeated criticism from non-governmental organizations like GEMS that fight human trafficking, Craigslist has made only surface changes to their site. The following from an article published April 26, 2010, on Bnet.com:

As AIM’s executive editor Peter Zollman notes, Craigslist’s agreement in November 2008 with Attorney Generals stipulated that they would charge for “erotic services”, the idea being that a credit card trail would deter criminals. The company also agreed to donate all revenue from this sector of their business to charity. But just six months later, in May 2009, Craigslist changed the game. The company eliminated its erotic services category and replaced it with “adult services”. According to Zollman, “By changing the category from “erotic services” to “adult services” Craigslist very neatly sidestepped the agreement it had signed — making the attorneys general look like chumps in the process — and eliminating the requirement that they donate revenue to charity.”

This minor nod to a major problem is more of an insult to the issue than an attempt to clean up their act. And it won’t put even the smallest dent in the problem — which is user-generated content running wild and rampant at the cost of human dignity and any remaining integrity this American-owned business had in the first place (see also: Facebook.)

Craigslist is waving its hands in the air under the protective banner of the Communications Decency Act, which removes any responsibility from the corporation for content users post. How else are companies like Dirtyphonebook.com and the now-defunct (thank GOD) Juicycampus.com able to make it. Why don’t we just throw Facebook, MySpace and Twitter in there as well. They can afford to exist because what you post is, finally, not their problem. Don’t get me wrong — I love my freedom to speak without censorship. But in a digital age where anything and everything is online and uncensored, is there no better way to hold corporations accountable for their actions? Do ethics still apply?

Resoundingly, the answer is yes. I don’t pretend to be an expert or even informed in the area of legal expertise or judicial knowledge, but I am a human being. When the dignity of human life is sold short of its incalculable value for an extra $8 million in revenue, serious moral consequences result.

What good are the high and lofty values of democracy, free speech, and liberty when a young girl or boy, a man or woman, could be marketed on the not-so-black market right before the eyes of the nation that holds these ideals so dear? They are of no value if not practiced. Craigslist has, thus far, demonstrated a laughable respect for humanity and ethical business practices by continuing to charge and allow sex ads on their site — regardless of their nature or source. It is an embarrassment to not just American business or us as Americans, but to us as humans, when a widely known and used company becomes what Change.org calls the “richest pimp in the world.”

If you agree, you can sign a letter telling them so and refuse to use their site until real change occurs. Morality DOES affect the bottom line, and until Craigslist recognizes that truth, I’ll be looking elsewhere to sell my couch.

What I’ve learned in college

I decided a while ago when I graduated I would write a post sharing all my little secrets I’ve discovered while in Lawrence. Some are better than others, but I have used all of them numerous times in the four years I’ve lived in Lawrence. Enjoy.

1. Buy shampoo downtown in the barber shops. My favorite, Downtown Barber Shop, 824 Massachusetts St., has liters of most high end brands for $10 flat, including tax. They have Biolage, Back to Basics, Redken, Bedhead and tons of other brands. I bought one product, Perfect 10, for $20 from the salon where I normally get my hair cut, and found it later for $10 at Downtown Barber Shop. It is definitely the cheapest place in Lawrence to buy high quality hair car

2. If you order take out at El Mezcal, you get FREE chips and salsa to go! That was one of the happiest discoveries I made. Of course they’re complimentary when you eat in, but I didn’t think they’d give them free to go. I got two bags of chips and 2 containers of salsa. Their homemade chips lasted me almost a week and their salsa is awesome.

3. Daily drink specials on The Guide. Enough said. Monday Funday at Free State. Thursday night $2.25 schooners at Louise’s. Lawrence.com also has a super easy-to-navigate guide. Also, Tuesdays are $6 pitcher night at 23rd St Brewery – ALL of their beers, not just a selected few. Best beer special in town.

4. Renting movies: Family Video has the cheapest prices, and the older movies are two for $1. But if you can’t find what you need there, Hastings is only about $1-2 more per new release, and if you return it the next day, you get a credit of about $0.50 – $1, depending on the release date of the movie you rented. Of course, if you only want a new release, Redbox is cheapest, but they have a small selection of new releases.

5. Free hotdogs outside the Alumni Center the Friday before home football games. If they ever change this tradition, I will be sad.

6. Salads in the Underground are cheaper when you order a “Made for you” salad. They are $3.99/lb or something like that, rather than the more expensive price. They will put whatever you want in there for you, and it’s cheaper! Don’t know why, but it works.

7. Incense @ Creation Station is $0.10/stick. It has saved my tiny apartment from smelling like a cat litter box many a time. On that note, let me say that Airwick plug-in air fresheners work WAY better than Glade plugins. 🙂

8. Starbucks internet. Did you know that if you register a Starbucks card online (like the kind you might get as a gift card or that they have at the register) you get 2 hours of free internet at Starbucks each day. I had always thought you had to have T-mobile or something to use their “Hotspot” but, apparently, that is not the case. I discovered about a month ago if I could have been using their internet all this time, for 2 hours a day, if I had just registered my card and kept $10.00 on it. Would have been nice to know sooner. I wonder why they don’t publicize that better?

9. For the cheapest cup of coffee, La Prima Tazza and Signs of Life have great bottomless cups for $1 and some change. Always bring your own cup into Tazza, it gets you like 40 cents off your purchase, even for specialty drinks too!

10. If you’re a woman who gets your hair done, you’ll appreciate this. Many women would never leave their hairdresser, and I completely respect that. I can’t tell you how many times I have ventured away from mine in attempt to “save money” by coloring my hair myself or having a friend help, and have ended up going right back to the pros for saving grace. Truly, nothing ruins a day like a bad hair color or cut. But — if you are one of those women or new students in the Lawrence area who is looking for an affordable place to try, try Shear Perfection, 2311 Wakarusa Drive, and ask for my friend Kristi Rudman. She is amazing. She has good taste herself, so she won’t do anything too wacko to your hair (unless you ask, of course) and has young, hip style, without being “hipster.” The best thing is the prices. A semi-permanent color or highlights are $40. A cut is something like $30. And she gives the best head massages when she washes your hair! Also, every several months she does a special and offers any two of either a manicure, hair cut, highlight or an eyebrow wax for a discounted price.

11. If you’re hear near beginning or end of the summer, The Downtown Lawrence Outdoor Film Festival shows movies on a “big screen,” which is the side of the parking garage on New Hampshire, across the street from the Arts Center. The movies are classics and usually include Tracy or Hepburn. Tons of people bring blankets and lawn chairs and set up shop for a couple hours in the beautiful downtown Lawrence night air. Just one of the perks of living in a vibrant town with people who care about keeping downtown hopping. Grab a seat early across the street at Bourgeois Pig’s patio and enjoy the show.

12. Cielito Lindo has the best patio in Lawrence (now being challenged by The Oread terraces, of course)

13. Weavers has a home shop downstairs – I didn’t know this until a few months ago! So elusive. Killer sales.

14. The Mirth has no corking fee – bring your own champagne and some friends for a mimosa brunch!

15. On campus? Eat at Impromptu Cafe. They’re awesome, inexpensive, and under-appreciated. Your lunch may cost you $2 more than a comparable one from The Underground or The Market, and you aren’t eating food court food.

16. Pay your parking tickets on-time – or don’t get them at all. Your life will go much easier.

If you have suggestions of little secrets or fun things you’ve learned about Lawrence or KU, share in the comments!

Thanks to James Huckaba for contributing to this list!

Don’t tweet this.

Tweet BirdI recently came across a insightful and hilarious article by The Oatmeal of the 10 things you need to stop tweeting about. In order to not become just another blog post telling you what/what not to tweet, I’m interested in why so many people still “misuse” Twitter. Even, sometimes, — gasp — myself.

@halze breaks rule # 1: What you are eating

@halze breaks rule # 2: Social media

@halze breaks rule # 3: The event you’re at

@halze breaks rule #4: Twitter itself

@halze breaks rule #5: Your Work out

@halze breaks rule #6: Your kid, dog, cat, goat or whatever else

@halze breaks rule #7: Speaking Out of context and the [barynard animal]  loves you

@halze has not broken rule #8: Dailybooth photos

@halze breaks rule #9: Emotional breakthroughs

@halze breaks rule #10: Your followers (this one is close)

A college student’s take on healthcare reform

Edited for your viewing pleasure

Edited for your viewing pleasure

A slight discrepancy
It had to happen sooner or later…. I’m going to fudge a little on my original guideline set out for this blog, but only because I believe the issue for which I’m going to break my own rule of remaining “neutral” is so deserving. I believe it is so fundamental to the makeup of my country that I can’t and won’t stay quiet. You probably already know what I’m going to say – healthcare.
Now that I got the million-pound word off my chest, you already have hundreds of thoughts, ideas, images, connotations and emotions flooding your mind and being, but hang in there with me.

I simply want to pose questions and problems I have with the “reform” that is being proposed, from a college student’s perspective. Let me say up front that, relative to most other college students, I consider myself informed, but nowhere near an expert in politics. For this, I thank God.  My relative little knowledge of intricate and opaque government processes doesn’t invalidate my opinions and beliefs about the underlying issues that make President Obama’s proposed plan for healthcare reform a threat to the fiber of everything this country was established upon.

I am simply an American young adult who wants my future children to enjoy the freedoms and liberties my great grandfather and millions of men before him have fought to maintain.  I want the right to choose what is best for myself and to have a competitive marketplace from which to select my healthcare provider. If government-run healthcare, eloquently disguised as reform, is signed into law, it will be another of many steps towards the end of the United States as our ancestors and we have known it.

Total takeover
Implementing a government-run healthcare system would result in a complete takeover of the private healthcare sector. If you doubt this, put yourselves in the shoes of a small business owner. If Uncle Sam offers a service for free, why would you, though you be the warmest hearted boss there is, pay huge costs in a difficult economy to provide your employees with private healthcare.

Congressman Mike Pence said, “Should this government create a government-run insurance option, that government option would compete with the private sector the way an alligator competes with a duck.”
There’s no employer in America who’s not going to sit their employees down for a serious “look we love you but we have to pay the light bill” talk. Multiply that situation by the thousands of employers who provide their employees with private insurance options, and you have a bunch of insurers with no one to insure. But Obamacare” has their back. Or so they think.

Common sense should now be telling you that if the U.S. government introduces insurance to compete with the private sector, millions of Americans will lose their private healthcare. Tens of millions will be relegated to the new program, which, I might add, is going to cost almost a TRILLION dollars. I don’t even know how to fathom a trillion dollars.
I could choose to be against it for that reason alone. I do not approve of my government spending mammoth amounts of money to provide me with worse care, less-skilled doctors, and longer lines. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Shooting ourselves in the foot
The Department of Motor Vehicles. Full parking lots, long lines, lots of hoops for us to improve our jumping skills, and tons of sweaty, stinky people. Just a few of the things that make the DMV a slightly less horrific manifestation of hell. Oh! And it’s only a car ride away. The DMV is a government-run service. Common sense should be telling you the same principles apply to health insurance. The only two ways to keep costs down are 1: Competition and 2: Rationing. That’s it. Just two. After government-run healthcare creates a monopoly on insurance, there will be rationing. You can bet your pretty pacemaker there will. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

A woman who was 100-year-old woman, at the time, was in extraordinary health, but needed a pacemaker to continue her living with a high quality of life. Her doctor told her she needed it, called a specialist, and requested the operation. Although the specialist was skeptical at first, after examining the women himself he determined she was an excellent candidate.  This scenario was presented to President Obama by the woman’s daughter, Jane Sturm. She asked Obama, “Would my mother be able to have a pacemaker under your reforms?”
At the end of a long-winded answer, void of any real content, Obama threw in the comment, “And it may mean, that instead of some sort of surgical procedure, we give your mother some painkillers.”
PAINKILLERS?! You have got to be kidding me. You’d think with a close relative who died so recently, you might think a little closer to home. But this clearly demonstrates the kind of reality we would all be faced with if any of us or our loved ones needed an expensive surgical procedure. Your options are now limited, and the government is your advocate. “The man” is your go-to guy. Frankly, to me, nothing sounds worse.
I want my doctor and my family to be my advocates, not the government.

A note from the professionals:  (Excerpts from the following links)

Proof that our two examples of government-run care are failing
“Since 1970, Medicare and Medicaid’s combined per-patient costs have risen from $344 to $8,955, while the combined per-patient costs of all other US health care have risen from $364 to $7,119.
President Obama says we must expand government-run health care to contain costs and that we don’t have a minute to lose. But nearly 40 years of evidence shows that government-run care has succeeded only in raising costs.”

Is your life with the government’s money? Let’s do a quick math problem to find out
Patients Lose the Right To Decide What Treatment They’ll Receive. Instead, patients receive whatever care politicians and bureaucratic number crunchers decide is “cost effective.” Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence usually won’t approve a medical procedure or medicine unless its cost, divided by the number of quality-adjusted life years that it will give a patient, is no more than what it values a year of life in great health – £30,000 (about $44,820). So if you want a medical procedure that is expected to extend your life by four years but it costs $40,000 and bureaucrats decide that it will improve the quality of your life by 0.2 (death is zero, 1.0 is best possible health, and negative values can be assigned), you’re out of luck because $40,000 divided by 0.8 (4 X 0.2) is $50,000.”

No dilemma here: Gov’t choosing evil over good
“During an economic downturn in which we are already running higher budget deficits than at the height of the Great Depression (even as a percentage of our gross domestic product), wishful thinking and empty rhetoric shouldn’t be allowed to trump empirical evidence.
The empirical evidence is in, and the verdict could hardly be plainer: Government-run health care limits choice and is more expensive. Privately purchased care offers choice and is more affordable.”

Jeffery Anderson says it best: “Only the federal government could struggle to choose between these two alternatives.”

For these reasons, I refuse to support a plan that gives me less power over my own well-being and the government more. I don’t want the government looking out for me or providing me healthcare, or a rebate on my car, or keeping less-than-upright corporations running. All of these dependencies give more power to the few and encourage a tyrannical government.

There is no happiness without liberty.

Does the news need paper?


Newspapers yesterday

Slate ran an article asking, “Who’s Better Informed, Newspaper Readers or Web Surfers?” The article essentially posed the same question we have been hearing for several years now. It’s been formatted and phrased a plethora of ways, but, in my opinion, it all comes down to this: What’s going to happen to America when newspapers no longer publish?

I think the fundamental unrest behind the issue of “to print of not to print” is an uncertainty of what our great nation would look like without the physical presence of a watchdog on the street corners, in grocery stores, on kitchen tables and in  our hands. And deeper than that, is the end of printing only a mere shadow of things to come? And even deeper, is it the end of major news corporations themselves? The end of news consumption? The end of holding the government accountable? The end of democracy?

Digital news

Newspapers today

Today,  you can’t walk down a busy street or peek at coworkers’ computer monitors, or ride on a subway very long, without noticing that people still consume news. Slate says readers “demonstrate that every day by going to newspaper Web sites,” which I believe is true. The question is, will newspaper publishers monetize the Web sufficiently to cover costs of “real” reporters? Or will newspapers someday become a giant twitter feed of citizen journalists and bloggers in cafe tweeting the news? I sincerely hope our country never sees this day, for when it does, it won’t be long until the demise of our great democracy.

I think newspapers can overcome the difficulties many of them are facing today, even though no one knows quite how that will happen. Paper is more than on its way out…it’s currently being shoved across the threshhold, and the next step is to slam the door. That doesn’t mean some papers won’t continue to publish print editions, but the national distribution of hard copy newspapers we have seen will drastically change to meet a selective audience willing to pay for the premium of holding the ink-filled pages in their hands.

I, for one, am not among them. I am perfectly content to surf the Web for news. I click on CNN daily, and usually add in BBC, NY Times, Fox News, sometimes a local paper, and The Kansan to my daily digest. And while I recognize that others will only read the sports section, or a single organization’s paper, and thus hear selectively reported news based on their interests, this has always been, and will continue to be, true– regardless of print or no print. Anyone who has worked on a newspaper knows it. Readers pick up your hard work to fill out the Sudoku or Crossword puzzle, not to read my investigative piece on where Senate is spending fees.

For the sake of America, I hope I am right when I say I don’t think the fallout will be as bad as some people claim. Some corporations will continue to print, at least for the foreseeable future. And if and when they stop, most of the world will be on to the next phenomenon of digital newspapers (haha), and the Kindle and the iPhone will be so revamped and further developed we will barely recognize them. The next technology will prevail and this whole print debacle will seem as outdated as the hubub surrounding Y2K and the fear that our entire world would collapse (can you believe that was only a mere decade ago?).

Healthcare Poll