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Unbelievable: Over $2 Million Dollars Raised for Nonprofits


Hey there, the CrowdRise #HolidayChallenge just ended on Thursday, and you won't believe how much the organizations raised collectively in small donations for their nonprofits: $2,394,827, more than double last year’s total for the Vets Challenge.

Yup, that's right, over two million dollars. Plus, I gave $75k, in grand and weekly bonus prizes and that money was distributed between several nonprofits who are really getting the job done.


A much-deserved congratulations to all of the nonprofits who really had their boots on the ground doing good work. Especially the top three winners:

  1. Cure JM Foundation came in first place, winning the Holiday Challenge. The total amount that they raised and won was nearly $400,000 to help advance Juvenile Myositis (JM) research, a rare and life-threatening autoimmune condition affecting mostly children.
  2. US Friends of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust won 2nd place ($40k prize) by raising $133,576 to support care for orphaned elephants in Africa.
  3. Hope and Opportunity Through Literacy won 3rd place ($20k prize) by raising $111,114 to support education and health programs for the poor living in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Portugal, and the United States.

These nonprofits couldn't have raised over $2 million dollars without your help, so a big thank you and congratulations to everyone who participated, and to all the good folks over there at CrowdRise, Huffington Post, and the other philanthropists who are really making a difference.

Thank you again for making this happen, folks. A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

5 More Ways VA is Helping Out Vets

The Department of Veteran Affairs doesn't get the recognition they deserve. They're really working hard to help vets. As the official VA Nerd-in-Residence, I'd like to begin 2014 by reminding folks of a few of the VA's efforts.

  1. The VA is doing more and more to give homeless vets a hand. The move is part of the larger government-wide effort to end veterans homelessness in the next two years, and comes at a time when most federal programs are tightening their belts in an effort to deal with sharp reductions in funding. More on the homelessness efforts here and on the VA site here.

    ending va homelessness

    Photo Credit: U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs

  2. For disability compensation, they've deployed something like TurboTax for veterans. It appears to be decently user-friendly, adjusted for the way that vets and veteran service orgs (VSOs) really operate. The software also accounts for all the laws and regulations, the rules that VA has gotta follow to write checks.A vet would start up eBenefits, online, click on "Apply for Disability Compensation" and go. It's mostly drop-down menus, and many data fields get filled in automatically. It's way easier and faster than paper forms. (More about self-service for disability claims processing here… and here.)
  3. The VBA workers are doing a whole lot for vets. Most of the workers are on the VA medical side, but there's also a group that processes benefits payments for vets. That's the Veterans Benefits Administration–VBA–and they work on over a million disability claims from vets each year. They deserve a lot more thanks than they're getting.
  4. VBMS development involved a lot of waterfall stuff, but much more recently, VA people are actually directly listening to people on that and acting on that. If vets, VSOs, or VA workers find a problem or have a suggestion, they contact contact actual humans to get stuff done. (A little more on my big idea for 2014 and how to fix Washington's approach to tech…)
  5. They've been working hard to get the paper claims inventory converted to digits and put into VBMS, which involves scanning huge amounts of paper into the system. That's about 80% done. (You can view before and after photos here.)nerd-4

The Department of Veterans Affairs is doing some really good stuff for vets that no one hears about, catching up since 2009. I've helped, in a very minor way for several years, now I gotta do more, for VA, military families, and vets.

What do you appreciate about the VA? And what are you hoping they'll begin to work on in 2014?

A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

Big Deal: CrowdRise Holiday Challenge Has Raised Over $1.6M

Folks, I've been supporting the CrowdRise #HolidayChallenge this season by giving $75k to the campaign. Nonprofits nationwide have been participating to raise money for their causes.

Right now, $1,655,270 and counting has been raised, excluding the money I donated. This is huge. I think we'll be able to raise even more by the end of the challenge on January 9th. If you're able, I'd really encourage you to support your favorite causes.

Bonus Challenge #1 was won by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

Bonus Challenge #2 was won by Cure JM

Bonus Challenge #3 was won by Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust

Bonus Challenge #4 was a Rock, Paper, Scissors match between the first two teams to raise $250 each day that week. The winner got $1500 and the loser got 4 Verizon Droid Minis (some are using 'em as prizes for their own supporters which is so great). The winners are listed first:

Bonus Challenge #5 winner was Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Bonus Challenge #6 winner was Red Wolf Coalition

And, the final Bonus Challenge #7 starts on Monday, January 6th at 2pm ET. The team that gets the greatest number of donations between then and the end of the Challenge, January 9th at 11:59:59am ET gets $6000 for their cause.

What causes have you been supporting?



20 Awesome Bird Photos

Folks, it's been a great year for wildlife at my "home office" as I've had lots of visitors. I thought the beginning of a new year was a great time to share some of my favorites, especially since I recently posted some tips about how to attract feathery friends (and squirrels, too) to your yard. These photos are all by the Mrs. and myself, and were pulled from the #Crileen (that's Craig and Eileen) Birdography Spectacular. A Special thanks to Cornell Lab of Ornithology and for helping out with some bird IDs, they do great work!

Hummingbird, Anna 2

Anna's Hummingbird

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

Cedar Waxwing 2

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

A few more Cedar Waxwings

Goldfinch, Lesser

A pair of Lesser Goldfinches

Grosbeak, Rose-breasted, juvenile male (a vagrant from the East)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, juvenile male (a vagrant from the East)

Hawk, Sharp-shinned (note blue-gray upperparts and long banded tail)

Sharp-shinned Hawk (note blue-gray upperparts and long banded tail)

Hummingbird, Anna 3

Another Anna's Hummingbird

Hummingbird, Anna

And one more Anna's Hummingbird

Jay, Steller

Steller Jay

Jay, Stellers

Steller Jay again…

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Pygmy Nuthatch

Pygmy Nuthatch

Sparrow - House and Robin, American

American Sparrows – House and Robin

Sparrow, House, female, feeding a Cow Bird

Female House Sparrow feeding a Cow Bird

Sparrow, Song

Song Sparrow

Brewer's Blackbird (AKA Swoops the bird.)

Brewer's Blackbird (AKA "Swoops" the bird)

Warbler, Townsends

A pair of bathing Warbler Townsends

Woodpecker, Downy, male 2

A busy Downy Woodpecker

Woodpecker, downy, male

And another busy Downy Woodpecker, male

I have a feeling that 2014's going to be a busy year at the "home office" so make sure to stay tuned, and let me know what your local wildlife looks like. A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

5 Viral Videos from 2013 That Will Wow You

Hey folks. I get asked by organizations how they can promote their issues better online. Sometimes creating videos can make a big impact.  Anyways, here are some of the best viral videos of 2013 that tackle some important issues and a couple that might be intolerantly cute.


1. What Most Schools Don't Teach

Bill Gates of Microsoft, Bronwen Grimes of Valve, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Ruchi Sanghvi of Dropbox, and others talk about how learning to code is a lot like learning to play an instrument or a new sport. Coding is not about being a genius. It’s about solving problems and every industry relies on technology.


2. Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation

Real powerful video showing the transformation of U.S. Army veteran Jim Wolf who has faced poverty, homelessness, and alcoholism.


3. Pantene: Shine Strong

Sheryl Sandberg said it best. “This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways. Really worth watching. Lean In prize of the day for sure!”

This also does a good job combining social good plus advertising, much like the Dove body image ones that Ogilvy did maybe five years ago.


4. Goldieblox Princess Machine

As a nerd who also has five nieces it’s real important that young girls have toys that teach building skills and inspire the next generation of female engineers.


5. Batkid

Batkid is the real deal. 5-year-old Miles who was battling Leukemia was granted a wish by Make-A-Wish to meet Batman in Gotham. Watching San Francisco shut down to make his wish happen was pretty special.

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