Thankful for Things I do not Know

Burj Dubai
Burj Dubai by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

In a time where we have elections that lead to a change in our laws and weather events that affect millions in unpredicted ways, we are again reminded of the importance of people. Without each other, we have nothing. With each other, though, we are capable of doing things that previous generations thought impossible.

I am thankful that we live in a world where we continue to push forward by developing new things.

“Things” here can have many definitions. Some things are tangible consumer devices that bring us joy. Things like iPad Minis and 50″ 3D televisions. Other tangible things include healthcare robotic devices used for advanced surgeries. Or they can include larger things like the Tesla S, Motor Trend’s car of the year.

Things can also be new services. Khan Academy is changing the ways students learn. Uber is changing how people get private transportation in cities. Even simple things like booking a night in another city are made cheaper and better with services like Airbnb.

Things can also be ideas. Some ideas are new, like Rolling Jubilee’s idea to abolish millions of $$$ of debt. Or an idea that currency can be decentralized with Bitcoin. Or even an older idea of One Laptop Per Child that aims to empower children through education.

I’m thankful that we have all these things. I’m very thankful that we didn’t have many of them 10 years ago. Why? Because we have innovated.

The last 10 years have not been easy. We (as a country and a planet) have had economic challenges, fought in wars, and yet we have continued to innovate.

I am most thankful about the things I can’t list here. The things that I don’t know about, that only live in the labs or minds of people around the world. Things that will become a big part of my life or of the life of someone 10,000 miles from here.

I am thankful that we have continued to move forward, and we will continue to move forward.

30 Days of Thanks: MMM bop

I am very thankful for my family for introducing me to good music at such an early age.  Although I can’t play any instruments, I have always loved all types of music.

When I was a kid my Dad used to play a Bob Dylan cassette (John Wesley Harding) in his truck when he would pick my sister and I up from daycare.

I’m sure to say that my love for Dylan came from my Dad, along with love for many other great bands such as the Clash, the New York Dolls and the Rolling Stones.

I am also pretty sure I can attribute most my redneckness now in life (besides going to Texas State) to him playing Texas Country. For example, as a kid I remember listening to Robert Earl Keen when we’d go to the beach. If not not the redneck part, he is certainly responsible for my smart-assness.

There has always been some what of a heated discussion between my parents when talking about music. Dad would always say, “I’ve been listening to so and so since…” but Mom would have to correct him to let him know that she in fact turned him on to the artist, such as Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Willie and Waylon and Guy Clark.

They both introduced me to bands such as Doug Sahm and the Texas Tornadoes, Steve Earle and Joe Ely.

I’d also credit my sister Briana Purser for introducing me to great bands such as the Black Angel’s, Thee Oh Sees and the Night Beats as well as the classics like Neil Young and Donovan.

Without my family, who knows what I’d be listening too. But thanks to them I have discovered such bands as Reckless Kelly, Hayes Carll, Ryan Bingham, Ghostland Observatory, Battles, Four Tet.. I could go on forever. But for that, I am very thankful for having my family in my life and the music they have shared with me. Love you guys, Happy Thanksgiving!

#NPDev – The Nonprofit Technology Event You Wish You Hadn’t Missed

Last week, I attended AspirationTech.org‘s annual Nonprofit Developer Summit in Oakland, California. Nonprofit organizations and technologists came together to teach and learn about the technology challenges in the nonprofit industry. Every day, I was brought into thought provoking discussions on how to solve some of these challenges with technology today and inspiring success stories from .Org’s that were adapting technology to win.

I can’t express how truly mind-opening this event is, and I encourage you to add next year’s conference. NPDev gave me several opportunities to connect and interact with highly technical people who work within the nonprofit space, and because the organizers encourage end user language, I was able to participate in technical conversations comfortably and I learned so much as a result!

Big Data, Teaching NPO Tech, and Maps

To help me select which sessions I would attend, I focused on 3 main themes:

* Innovative NPO Tech Use Cases

* Big Data Collection and Management

* Teaching Methods for Tech Beginners 

Here are my top takeaway sessions, linked to their wiki notes pages, for those of you who missed this year’s event –  hopefully I’ll be able to pass on some of what I learned at the NPDev Summit.

Innovative NPO Tech – Maps

Nonprofits are doing really awesome things with maps and the conference focused on a couple of open source mapping tools, TileMill and Open Street Map (OSM) with case studies on how .Org’s were creating interactive map tools to get supplies where they’re needed and match volunteers with someone who needs a little help. There were a number of innovative technologies being talked about at NPDev with Mapping Tech being the most popular.

Here’s my Top Recommended #NPDev Map Sessions:

Introduction to TileMill and Advanced TileMill gave hands-on instructions on using TileMill to create visually enlightening maps for your cause.

Open Street Map (OSM) Mapping showed participants how to use this free, open source mapping tool.

Saving Lives with Crowd Sourced Mapping in Haiti shares case studies on how organizations are using mapping during and after natural disasters to save lives and help rebuild communities.

NonProfit Big Data Tech

Big Data is one of 2012’s most oft-used “buzz” words and the nonprofit industry is seeking solutions just like the corporate world.  Here are some of the best NPDev sessions that discussed what Big Data is and why you need to prioritize Big Data within your organization in 2013:

How to Use Data Informed Campaigns shows nonprofits how to collect and analyze past data to create compelling reports that build credibility around your cause and support your movement.

Being a Data Driven OrganizationTaming the Data Hodge-Podge shared insights into how you can identify key organizational drivers and develop methods to measure and analyze the data to help your Board and staff make decisions.

Open Data Around the World provides resources for finding free data from places like NASA and government organizations and tells you how nonprofits can benefit from using open data.

The Dashboard session includes analysis of several good and bad dashboards and what tools a dashboard should have to be really useful for Nonprofits.

Beginners Tech Guides

Strategic Hosting for NonProfits takes a look at what’s really included in typical hosting plans compared to the needs of most nonprofit organizations and shares tips to help you evaluate and select the right hosting services for your software.

How to Prepare for a Website Project from the .Org Side provides nonprofits with best practices and a methodology to use for your next website project to get the results you wanted.

Introduction to the Command line offers a little history and a truly beginner-friendly guide to using the command prompt to communicate with your computer.

 Introduction to Git covers some of the basic commands you can use with the Git version control tool.

More of What You Might Have Missed

You’ll find a list of the sessions along with the notes and other resources in the Dev Summit Wiki.

Photos from the event are being shared on Flickr with the hashtag #npdev.

Check out a local Nonprofit Tech event: Netsquared! Netsquared meet-ups are local, community-driven events where participants connect to discuss technology tools that can help social causes.  You’ll find me at the Houston Netsquared events, usually so I hope you’ll come to one of our upcoming events in 2013.

 

30 Days of Thanks: Life Lessons from Lala and Poppe

Typically, I take a more light-hearted approach to my 30 Days of Thanks post, in the past professing my gratitude to our clients, the Dallas Cowboys and Kodak Moments. Topics that are seemingly less “tug at your heart strings” and more…globally grateful.

This year is different, and no it is not because of the Mayan Calendar hoopla. This year, I am thankful for my parents, Laura (Lala) and Russell (Poppe) Pemberton. I have always been thankful for them and I believe they know that. But this year, I have truly felt the culmination of 26 years (and 11 months) of love, support, friendship and encouragement. These attributes span far beyond the parental definition and more into lessons that have paved my day-to-day life. And for that, I am incredibly thankful…

[Cue the montage]

Work Hard

My parents always communicated the bigger picture…beyond sports, beyond high school and beyond college. If you want something, you sure as hell better be willing to work for it. And let’s be honest, as a kid, you “want” A LOT.

I wanted to be lead-off batter in the line-up. “Ok, I will take you to Decker Prairie Elementary so you can take reps everyday outside of practice.”

I wanted the Docs [Martins] with neon lacing. “Ok, you can iron your Dad’s shirts at 50 cents/piece.”

I wanted to go to Washington D.C. for the Presidential Classroom. “Ok, let’s draft up a letter asking people for donations towards your travel expenses.”

I am thankful that my parents not only made me work, but made me work hard for what I wanted. They were preparing me for my future and unknowingly instilled an unwavering drive and determination that makes me want to do better every day.

Raise the Roof and Celebrate

The Pembertons celebrate everything. Have you ever heard of a non-birthday? Well now you have – Happy Non-Birthday anonymous reader! My parents have always gone out of their way to let me and my brother know how proud they are of us. Whether it was through their words or partaking in a death defying 21st birthday stunt, they were there with their party hats in tow.

I am thankful that my parents celebrated our accomplishments, and encouraged us to celebrate in others. It is amazing what someone can accomplish when they have unconditional support.

Don’t Forget to Laugh at Yourself

My dad is famous for getting a laugh through his grandiose stories. You know, the one where the ball rick-o-shays off 5 trees, gets swallowed by a Big Fish and somehow lands in the hole for birdie. And my mother, bless her heart, has heard each one about a 100 times and laughs just as hard like it’s his first rendition.

I am thankful my parents taught me to enjoy the “funny” in life, embrace humility and laugh at yourself. Yes, that even means laugh at the time you looked like a little boy in a tacky Christmas sweater…it’s makes for a great story right?!

Happy Thanksgiving Lala and Poppe! Love you both!

30 Days of Thanks: Sweet Memories

I have so much to be thankful for. So much more than I could ever articulate or capture in a blog post. Even while I’m drafting this entry in my bedroom, I hear my boyfriend, his son, and our niece and nephew giggle over a movie they are watching in the living room. Between the laughter, I hear them recounting their favorite parts of the festival we attended today, and every couple of minutes my sweet dog, Stanley, punctuates their snickering with a good squeak of his toy from behind the couch. The distinct smell of “taco night” is still strong in our apartment even though the dishes have been done for hours. My life is full. I am blessed.

Of all these blessings, this year I am choosing to document some of my simplest and sweetest memories of my father. Dad was unexpectedly taken from us this summer, and while my heart is broken that he is gone, I am abundantly grateful for his love, his lessons, and all the sweet, sweet memories.

The Haunting on Glenmeadow Drive

Like most small kids, my little brother and I loved to play good guy/bad guy games. We were four and five, respectively, and it was his turn to be bad guy. He had me tied up with a jump rope in a bedroom closet and aggressively robbed me at finger point, shouting demands in his best “bad guy” voice. It was all in good fun until Dad, doing some handy work in the attic, heard us playing through the ceiling vents. Dad threw the breaker switch, knocking out the power in that part of the house, leaned facedown into the vent in the bedroom, and let out his loudest, scariest “MUWAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!” Toby ran screaming and probably scarred for life, while I tried furiously to squirm out of the triple-knotted jump ropes. Terror doesn’t get more pure than that, and Dads just don’t laugh harder than that.

Roughhousing With Class

When we played, we played classy. Tummies had to be settled, all dangerous furniture was moved out of the living room, and my Dad blasted his record (yes, as in a RECORD) of the William Tell Overture through my parents’s turntable with surround sound audio. Games of choice included, but were not limited to, Bunkin’ Bronco, Tick Tock, and of course, the Tickle Fight. Dad would take my siblings and I (four total) all on at once. The Universe stopped and bedtime was forgotten about. We would play until our cheeks were burning and our sides were sore from laughter, and after awhile, without us even knowing it, our eyelids would start to fall. He’d gather us all up at the same time (he was the strongest man in the whole, wide world), and drop us each into our respective beds with a kiss on the forehead. I’ll never sleep so well again.

The Playground Dad Built

Snack time on the see saw.

I had friends with cool swingsets, or even a neat pool slide, but no one had a backyard like ours. Each piece of that backyard was

truly assembled with love, sweat and tears. There was the seesaw Dad built with his own hands. Kids from all over the neighborhood came just to take a turn on that seesaw.

We also had the Sesame Street swingset, because it just doesn’t get cooler than swinging with Big Bird. And we had the four-seater spinny thing we never really knew what to call. We just called it “Mayonnaise-Mustard-Ketchup” because it was white, yellow and red, but it was AWESOME! And the tire swing, you just can’t have enough fun on a tire swing.

Then there was the beautiful sandbox Dad built us from scratch. It really was a work of art, handcrafted and flawless. But before he installed the masterpiece he worked so hard on, he bought every color of paint he could find, gave us each a paint brush, and just let us go, and somehow, it was a little more beautiful when we were done.

 

Dad’s New Best Friend

Dad and Rufus
Dad and his best bud, Rufus.

We had a relatively strict no pet policy growing up. We were able to weasel our way into a couple of small rodents here and there, even ducks, but Dad was particularly adamant about no dogs. We would beg, and we would cry, but Dad would squint his eyes and curl his lips under, and we knew his decision was final.

That all changed in my sixth grade year. Each day my Mom came to pick me up from school, my little brother already in tow, and each day she saw the neglected litter of new puppies born at the house across the street. They were dirty, flea-ridden, hungry, and just so cute. One afternoon Mom hit her breaking point. Instead of just pulling up in front of the school for me to jump in the van, she parked the car and hopped out with my brother. With a determined look on her face, she marched across the street and knocked on the dog owner’s door. A brief chat and twenty dollars later, we had a puppy.

We played with him all afternoon in the front yard. He was frightened and excited at the same, and so were we. How would Dad react when he got home? When Dad finally pulled into the driveway that evening, we hid the puppy underneath a blanket and between boxes in the garage. We tried so hard to keep our faces straight and act normal, but Dad could of course sense the giddy anxiety in us all, and the frightened puppy shaking violently beneath the sheet didn’t help much either. Dad glanced across all of our “straight” faces, looked down at the quivering sheet, and pulled it back with a swift, hard tug. Dad couldn’t even be mad. In that moment, he knew he had just met his new best friend. He named him Rufus, and that second began a 15 year journey the twosome would enjoy together, side-by-side every step of the way.

I am so grateful for my father, the time we had, and all the sweet memories. These are by no means all of my memories of my father, or even my favorite. They are just the ones that are making me smile today. Thanks, Dad.

30 Days of Thanks: Design

30 Days of Thanks: Design

From the chairs with no instructions, to the sweaters that require no ironing, to the kitchens that anyone can navigate. Experiences and products are everywhere and go least noticed when designed well.

The fact that you knew to pull on that door rather than push on it without ever having to read a sign.

The fact that everyone knows how to operate a chair without instructions even though all chairs do not look exactly alike.

To the ATM machines that now take seconds to operate.

Great design can communicate years of information without having a paragraph of text.

To the business development person who spends more time being a resource and less time being a sales person.

To the floor manager who spends more time figuring out what you need and less time on what you’re asking for.

For the thousands of poorly designed experiences, there are a thousand more wonderful experiences that get unnoticed.

This thank you goes out to the thousands of wonderfully designed experiences that go unnoticed, because that’s what they do best.

30 Days of Thanks – Skype!

Year after year, I’m thankful for the same things…

  • Family
    Family

    • In less than two years, we’ve welcomed two new additions to our family!
      Nicholas I. Gomez and Taylor E. Nguyen!
       

  • Friends

    • This year I’ve made so many new friends at school, work and even out of thin air! I can’t imagine going a whole day without some of them!
       

  • Food

    • Sweets are definitely my weakness.. I’ve been able to limit myself from too much sugar consumption.. but there are just times when you need to down a dozen of the best cupcakes in the world!..just kidding, I shared them! They were from Georgetown Cupcakes!

    •   
      I was so lucky to experience Uchi in Houston,TX this year with my sister for my birthday! It was right after the Schipul Zombie Photoshoot (just imagine splotches of red ‘blood’ around my face and neck as I enjoy some uncooked fish)
  • and other things that start with the letter “F”… like flip-flops

However, this year I’ve added another item to be really thankful for..and no, it doesn’t start with the letter “F”.

For the year 2012, I am also thankful for SKYPE! It’s such a great way to keep in touch with the people we care about, especially getting to ‘see’ them even if they’re miles and miles away. And ‘the best things in life are free‘..right?

And I guess no matter how you try to explain it.. a long-distance relationship is a LONG-distance relationship when you’re not in the same city as someone else.. whether it be family members, friends, co-workers, or so on.  Not being a big ‘phone-person’ (check me out with my Samsung Behold).. Skype is definitely the next best thing for me when it comes to having a conversation with someone.. ‘face-to-face’.

All in all, I’m very thankful for the life I have..filled with so many people that I genuinely care for and for all the memories and experiences we’ve all shared with each other. Until next Thanksgiving!

 

Cheers,

Jan!

Thankful for those Texans! #BullsOnParade

When I was a little girl, my Grandpa would sit in front of the TV screen and yell. It was the 90s and he was a Houston Oilers fan. I never understood his obsession with needing to see every hit and down of the game…

 

…until now.

 

Last fall (2011) I was still living with my folks and every Sunday after church we’d all eat lunch and end up watching the Houston Texans play all afternoon. Not every game was pretty or a win… but every game was clean, played honorably. Over time it became commonplace, as in “We can’t go out for lunch after church…the Texans play at noon.” My mom’s birthday gift was a Texans sweatshirt, see below:

#BullsOnParade

Needless to say, we were hooked. My brother would come over, we’d watch the Texans fight hard on the field and then we’d all go biking together.

This was one of our short rides in April called the MS150 :)

 

The Texans, who entered the league in 2002, had never made the playoffs in our nine season history. But in 2011 we made history after clinching the South Division title and qualifying as the AFC’s third seed. We beat the Bengals, but lost to the Ravens. We were all extremely proud of our team and what they accomplished that year.

The 2012 season has been another season for making records. We are 8-1 for the first time in franchise history. My love for them has only grown. I do have a special love for a few key defensive players: Brian Cushing & JJ Watt. The only reason I need to give is: watch them play, you’ll understand. Unfortunately, Brian Cushing hurt his ACL during the Jets game earlier this season (a curse on the Jets for eternity…) and he will be out the rest of this season. He’s had a great attitude about it and supports his team through this tough time.

…Can we all take a moment of silence for Brian’s ACL.

Amen. 

Two Sunday’s ago I had the distinct honor and privilege to attend my first Texans game. Big thanks to Jennie Lane :)

#babysfirsttexansgame #isthisreallife #wheresbriancushing

 

I am thankful to the Texans for giving my family something to enjoy together, giving our city something to support together and giving me a better understanding of “overcoming adversity.” (Except for Aaron Rodgers, because he plays football like Jesus.)

Enjoy these little tidbits of joy from my favorite players!

He’s very… confident.

It’s probably true…

Our defense really is something special. Bulls on Parade!

The Blog for Tendenci Open Source Software for Non-Profits & Associations. Posts on software updates, Open Source technology, and NonProfit marketing tools & strategy!