Matthew's News and Gossip: Matthew's start of 2010 musings

Matthew's News and Gossip

A man with no talent, but armed with a digital camera, can waste lots of bandwidth

Monday, January 04, 2010


Matthew's start of 2010 musings

Every year end I write this little epistle and every year it gets later. Now with the post new year's weekend fading on the West Coast of the US, I'm rushing the 2010 edition out the door.

So if you haven't seen it before (here's 2009s, 2008s and you can search back), I tell a touch about me and mine and a little more about charities I support. I've always thought that if one or two people click through and either think about something differently or even chip in, it's worth me writing this. And if you don't care, you can always hit delete (or "unfriend" me!). I love comments back too.

So quickly, me and mine: Amanda still works at PRN & is now the boss of the HR department (Congratulations baby!) and has survived a very tough year in her job with skill and class and I'm very proud of her. My extended family (i.e. hers) has been adding babies apace, most recently her sister Lyn having a baby girl on Dec 26. Welcome Natalia! Over in the UK, my sister Dordy is planning something similar in February.

Apart from dogwalking, my side job remains running the Health 2.0 Conference with my partner Indu Subaiya. Around 1,000 people came to our conference in Fall 2009 and we're still highlighting some phenomenal technology and phenomenal people who are helping to make health care better. This year we'll be in Paris on April 6-7, Washington DC on June 7 and back in San Francisco on October 7-8. I also continue to run The Health Care Blog, which had an amazing year because of the healthcare reform process in the US. If you want to keep up with the many contributors thinking about what will be happening in health care in the US, please subscribe to THCB's newsletter.

But on to the real stuff....

As I think this is year 9 of these letters, there's very little new. Although I tend to add a wrinkle each year. So skim, but note the links and click through if you're intrigued.

I'm starting with issues connected to health care.

My friend Alexandra Drane started Engage with Grace and it's been growing like gangbusters. It's a way to start the conversation about what you'd like the end of your life to be like. You can download OneSlide which has 5 questions to start the conversation, record your and your loved ones answers, and pass it on. And if you get a chance, watch Alexandra's talk about her sister-in-law Za's story.

Another friend Jeremy Nobel has started the Foundation for Arts & Healing to help investigate the impact Arts have on healing. The concept is that engaging in Arts somehow will help people recover from (or prevent) illness. Jeremy's already had some publicity and is looking for more support.

Next up, the poorest people in the world. (And no this doesn't include anyone reading this message!)

Mercy Corps has lots of projects going on in the very poorest countries in the world focusing on many uses of social entrepreneurship, microfinance, education for girls, and much much more. You can give to Mercy in many different ways by either making a general donation, or buying one of their Mercy kits.

My friends John, Tracy, Ellen & Georgina Phillipson have been buying in my name from Heifer International. This charity gives directly to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty. I doubled up on what I spent going skiing last weekend to buy a Llama. Hopefully this gift will help a poor family get on the road to making Llama & Alpaca wool sweaters, like the ones I bought in Peru in 2009.

I continue to ask people who want a piece of my time to buy bikes for poor kids who would otherwise have to walk to school. Saigon Children's Charity is a much smaller charity focusing on providing rice (and bikes and books and pens)to the families of school children in Southern Vietnam so that their families don't pull them out of school. It also manages a micro-finance program for women in poor families, and trains young people in hospitality. Amanda and I sponsor several kids, and it costs less per kid than you just spent going out on New Years Eve.

Finally on the international front, while in Uganda in 2008 we ran into an tiny American organization called Soft Power Health which is working to provide mosquito nets, education and care to poor kids and their families. You can donate here.

Onto hunger & homelessness & more at home

No secret that this has been a terrible year with more unemployment and homlessness for more people than many of us can remember. And of course donations have also fallen as fewer people have money to give.

I gave less than we spent on groceries for Christmas to the San Francisco food bank, but they'll feed far more people with it! Finding your local equivalent is as easy as putting your zip code in here.

Amanda and I (and her colleagues at PRN) also support the Hamilton Family Center, which is a small shelter offering emergency and transitional care, as well as getting families into permanent housing with relatively little money. You can help by clicking this link.

In a similar vein the Homeless Children's Network supports care services for homeless children. The organization (led by executive director April Silas) provides counseling, therapy and support for those kids who have a life no one should start with. You can make a donation at the site.

Finally I live across the street from the Delancey Street Foundation which has an incredible record in helping people who have hit bottom (think addiction and prison) get back into society. And their Crossroads cafe serves great sandwiches, coffee, and much much more--not to mention Aubria (on page 2 here) giving Charley sausage most mornings. You can find out about services to buy, or you can donate here. And the residents run it all themselves.

Please support these organizations or ones like them where you live.

Next up it's torture and human rights

After years of the US Government acting like it was above the law and unconcerned with human rights, the election of Obama meant things got symbolically better with the promise (as yet unkept) to close Guantanamo Bay and at least discussion of and suspension of torture. And the decision to finally try terrorists for 2001 crimes is at least a step in the right direction. However, I cannot pretend to be amused that evidence of torture continues to be suppressed and that Americans involved in torture are not even going to be investigated-"just following orders" is not acceptable now any more than it was in 1945.

Of course this is not just an American problem. But the idea should be that more countries renounce torture, illegal imprisonment and other human rights abuses-rather than backsliding into those practices.

Amnesty International advocates in every country in the world for those who cannot advocate for themselves

The UK-based Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture does exactly what it's name suggests. And if you have the stomach, read about some of the women who found that rape was the preferred weapon of torture in their countries.

The American Civil Liberties Union continues to be on the forefront on upholding the rule of law, and protecting individual liberties.

All worth a click and a donation.

The environment.


I can't say I'm an optimist but at least I want to say to future generations that I tried. I like to support both "establishment" and "radical" environment organizations so I give to both the Sierra Club and Greenpeace

If you're not the one friend of mine who thinks that global warming is a fraud, you might also consider Cool Earth Action. It's a charity that actually buys and conserves rainforest in South America to help continue to recycle C02. I've given a couple of "friends who had everything" a small piece of a rainforest for their wedding present.

Next is my ongoing opposition to drug prohibition

Let me repeat what I've said for several years. A system of taxed and regulated drug distribution is the only solution to removing the criminality associated with drug taking, much of which is relatively harmless anyway. For almost all drugs the harms caused by prohibition exceed the harms caused by drug taking.

Here there's been some progress this year. But also some steps backwards. Yes, in the US we are no longer raiding medical marijuana dispensaries, but we're not putting a proper legal footing in place for them. Yes, legalizing and taxing marijuana is on the ballot in California, but there's no sensible discussion of how to move to a tax and regulated market. And Mexico remains in a low grade civil war in which thousands have died-and despite the State Department admitting that it is America's fault, no one is allowed to mention the parallels to alcohol prohibition in the 1920s.

I suggest you take a look and throw a dollar or two at:

DRCNet an information clearing house with the best free email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle.

The Marijuana Policy Project, the leading organization fighting for the rights of medical marijuana patients.

The Drug Policy Alliance is the umbrella organization working to promote harm reduction and generally bring sense to the national "debate" over drug prohibition.

And last, The Dog Walker's Lament. Actually no lament. Charley gets walked around South Beach (usually by me but others help), gets fed at Java House, Crossroads and South Beach Cafe. And he has a great life. He was a rescue but not every dog is so lucky.

Amanda and I support Rocket Dog Rescue which helps dogs in pounds find new homes. $50 pays for an adoption, which usually means saving a dog from being destroyed.

That's it for this year! Thanks for reading and let me know your own comments.

Happy 2010. I hope you have a great year. Stay in touch with me on twitter (@boltyboy) Facebook or by email, or hopefully in actual real life too!


posted by matthew  # 12:02 AM
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