GR6: League of Professional Educators’ “What If” Campaign

Americans tend to be visually stimulated, meaning we tend to respond to images and videos over text and auditory messages. So in order to help people understand what the League of Professional Educators is trying to accomplish, we are creating an image of what the world will look like when our plan is fully implemented. Here are the first three steps in that direction.

What if America's BEST TEACHERS were revered like pop icons?What if America's BEST TEACHERS were paid like corporate titans?What if America properly valued the contribution of its BEST TEACHERS?

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LR9: Klout

I was out for dinner the other night with one of my hedge fund’s investors and the topic ofBijaPoo on Klout Klout came up. I’d heard the word mentioned earlier in the week while on a business trip to NYC as well. Two unrelated mentions in one week perked my ears and piqued my interest, so I had to find out more.

First, both conversations focused on the fact that Justin Bieber has the most influence of anyone on the Internet and that companies are actually paying him to essentially do product placements on his Twitter, Facebook, et al accounts. How do they know he’s the most influential person in cyberspace? Well, he’s the only person in the world with a Klout score of 100 out of 100.

According to their website,

The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others.

The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure:

    • True Reach: How many people you influence
    • Amplification: How much you influence them
    • Network Impact: The influence of your network

I’m a pretty heavy user of the Internet, so when I first signed up and received a score of just 13, it was pretty shocking. It made me wonder how low my less Internet friendly friends must be and also what it takes to boost it up. Then I saw a friend who isn’t social media savvy with a score of 17! I had to understand the score better.

Again, according to Klout’s website, “influence is relative so it depends on your goal and peers. The average Klout Score is not 50; instead, it is around 20. The Score becomes exponentially harder to increase as you move up the scale. For instance, it is much harder to move from a 70 to a 75 than from a 20 to a 25.” Wow, 20 is average and I’m a 13?! I wondered what it would take to improve my score to a more respectable level. Klout says, “the best way to increase your Score is to consistently create great content that people want to share and respond to. For the most accurate Score, we also recommend connecting all of your social networks.”

Turns out, it takes a couple of days for your networks to update on Klout. The 13 represented just my Twitter account. Once it added my Facebook page my score jumped to 23. It still hasn’t fully registered all of my networks, like YouTube, Instagram, 12for2012.com, LinkedIn, FourSquare and Blogger, but my score is already a very respectable 51. Pinterest, ravelry and many others are not yet incorporated.

Why should my Klout score matter to me? Power and influence is a good thing to have, whether in the real world or cyberspace. If I am going to be successful at launching LPE, it will certainly come in handy. (LPE’s Klout score is 23, but for some reason it’s only registering the LPE’s Twitter account. Since it’s influence is much greater on Facebook, that score should be much higher when it does register.)

Besides, even as it affects this blog, it’s much more fun writing for an audience.

GR6: Celebrate Our Teachers

According to a recent study, just over 98% of the time “teaching” is mentioned in the news or online, it is with a negative connotation. The League of Professional Educators seeks to turn that around and it begins with campaigns like this one. Please share them via FacebookTwitter and the LPE website to help spark that reversal.

Also, we added another image to the IF campaign.

Click here to share “If community…” on Facebook

If community is your concern, so is education

GR6: League of Professional Educators

League of Professional EducatorsIn 2007, I decided I wanted to do more than simply run a successful business and enjoy my life in Santa Barbara. I wanted to see if I could apply what I do for a living, to solve a major social problem. After a year researching everything including poverty, crime, health, the environment rights issues, and so much more, I found that when I drilled deeper and deeper down, at the core of all of these issues, is education. Solve the education problem, and we solve so many other social ills.

I spent three years focused on the task of boiling the issue down to its essence and then developing a solution. The result is the League of Professional Educators (LPE).

Initially, the plan was to launch the LPE as a non-profit, but after fighting with the IRS for 501c3 status for a year, with the only beneficiary being our lawyers, we reorganized as a for-profit. No other aspect of the entity changed. It was always intended to be a commercially viable entity, for I believe that’s the only way you can ensure long term sustainability.

Mission: Small BusinessI will provide far more details as this resolution develops, but step one for GR6 is to ask my followers to vote for the LEAGUE OF PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS to win a $250,000 grant in Chase’s Mission: Small Business program. Click here, log in via Facebook and enter League of Professional Educators in the box marked “business name”. Then spread the word….PLEASE! With this grant, the LPE can build out the operations necessary for triggering real improvement in America’s education system.

In this video, I describe the key issue facing our education system and how the LPE will solve it.

LPE on FacebookLPE on Twitter

 

 

LR4: The Hurt Locker

Will and PeterJust three people were waiting for Barbara, Jackson and I to help us defuse the yarn bomb yesterday. Dennis Moran joined the crew to see it for himself. Will Wallin and Peter Biava, have been the unsung heroes on this project. As Peter put it, they were the offensive linemen, doing the heavy lifting with little adoration in return. While the others who had lugged the 14′ ladder up were understandably “unavailable” to bring it down, these guys were in it for the long haul. I will forever be grateful for their totally selfless, back-breaking work.

Just three days from Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, the heat made the 2.6 hike up the mountain much harder than usual. What took over 60 man hours to put up, took just 6 to completely remove. It had to be carefully done because all the material would be donated to Warm Up America in North Carolina where it will become blankets and scarves for those in need.

RemovalHurt Locker

With all the material removed, the tree looked like a sepia version of a bright color photo. As we took some final pictures before heading back down, I breathed a sigh of relief. No more worrying that I wouldn’t pull it off. No more pleading for help. No more sleepless nights worrying that my yarn would somehow be the cause of a forest fire. No more pressure to get the word out so that others might experience the whimsy for themselves. No more panic over how I’d get the ladder back down. As much as I loved every stage of the project, I was happy for it to be coming to a successful conclusion. All that’s left now are the friendships I’ve forged, the photos and memories, and the pride that comes with having pulled off what seemed an impossible task just three months ago. No stress in that.My Hurt Locker Crew

The Aftermath

LR4: Yarn Bomb Pics

Yarn BombI hiked to the yarn bomb for the seventh time in 8 days. I spent so much time on this project and in 3 days it will disappear forever. These pictures will be all I have to look back on, so I keep searching for the perfect one that captures it all. The problem is, there are so many facets, so many stories, so many people attached to it, and so many nooks and crannies in the tree, that no single image can possibly capture everything on its own. Between John Wiley’s aerial shots, Kolya Hicker’s artistic interpretations, pics sent to me by visitors and friends plus my own pics and video, hopefully even those who can’t make it out there to see it in person can get a good feel for it. Click on a pic and you can quickly go through all the new ones. I think they give a pretty good feel for what it’s like to be out there on the trail, witnessing it for yourself.

As an aside, each day I have run into people who were shocked as they turned the corner to see this explosion of color suddenly rise up from 2.5 miles of desert scrub, and those who were excitedly anticipating what friends had described to them in texts and emails. Only 2 people had read about it on EdHat or The Independent. Most heard about it via word of mouth. (This is a real source of frustration for me. I just don’t understand why the papers, radio and TV have ignored it. As a hiker and Santa Barbara resident, I’d be pissed if this were up there on the trails and no one brought it to my attention. But I digress.) A couple of them had heard about this guy “Steve” who put it together and when they realized I am Steve, they actually asked to take a picture with me. How cool is that?!?!

The smiles people have when they see it; the anticipatory excitement on their faces and in their voices as they push further on our trails than they’ve ever pushed before; the endless curiosity about who, what, where, when and especially, why; the joy they feel when they hear the stories of Yancey and his knitters in Alabama, Dany & Ivo in London, Marcy, the Crochet Grenade, in San Diego, Michele, the former editor of Crochet Magazine, Lara and her tiny flower, etc, etc, etc, has made this one of the best weeks of my life. It’s so rare to share so many moments with so many strangers filled nothing but pure, unadulterated joy. No ego, no envy, no selfishness, no anger. Just a shared moment of “Wow!”

Halfway There

12for2012 Ballroom DancingI’m at the halfway point in my quest to learn 12 new things and do 12 charitable things this year.

Unicycling, slack lining, jumping stilts, yarn bombing, and drumming have now been checked off, with ballroom dancing and eating right being works in progress on the learning side. That leaves 5 more to be accomplished. (Paragliding has been tentatively scheduled to begin at the end of July.)

SugarOn the giving side, I’ve built homes, fostered a puppy, volunteered to donate bone marrow, did graphic design work for a mitzvah and next Sunday will donate 400 square feet of knitting to Warm Up America, while having my blood, sperm and hair rejected. That leaves 7 more to be accomplished. (I become eligible again to donate blood on December 25th so that will likely be GR12.)

Duneier SlackliningThis is where you come in. I need suggestions for the remaining 12. Is there something you have been wanting to learn, but aren’t ready to take the leap? Is there something you would like to try, but worried it will be too difficult or time consuming? Use me as your guinea pig. Let me pave the way. Is there something you’ve learned that you think others should try too? Is there a charity you know of that could use a hand? Tell me how I can help.

Send me your suggestions. Share your thoughts.

Thanks!

LR4: Yarn Bomb Complete

The last 81 days have taken me on an incredible journey, beginning with the mundane decision to learn how to knit and ending with the whimsical explosion of a yarn bomb 2.6 miles from and 2,500 feet above civilization. Along the way, I have met numerous incredibly generous and supportive people from around the world. I will never again doubt the benefits of social media. To all of you who knitted/crocheted contributions and sent them at your own expense, who gave me a pep talk when I felt overwhelmed and in over my head, who helped me carry a ladder up a mountain in the scorching heat, who documented the journey with photographs, who promoted my goal with friends and family, who sewed pieces to the tree, who kept us company with wine and music, who offered to carpool… I say “Thank you!!!!” I hoped to reach a goal. I dreamed of hitting a home run. I fantasized about a grand slam. Thanks to all that you did to help, WE pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime, tell-your-grandchildren-about-it, what-legends-are-made-of, knocked-it-outta-the-park dream, that I will forever be trying to match. Thank you for coming this far with me on this journey. I sincerely hope you will continue to come along for the ride.

Enjoy the pics and share them with pride. It is your accomplishment as much as mine. (For those in the area, get up there and witness it for yourself before it comes down on June 16th. Click here for details of the hike, complete with a map, pictures and turn-by-turn directions.)
Santa Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn Bomb

Santa Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn Bomb

Santa Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn Bomb

I’ll add more pics as I collect them from others who bore witness.

LR4: Da Bomb

I’m exhausted and will post details of the bombing tomorrow, but wanted to post some pics I have from tonight’s work (lots more to follow). It’s not 100% complete so I’ll be heading back up in the morning to finish it off. Huge thanks to Will, Peter, Grace, Curtis, Sean, Mackenzie, Hugh, Ian, Laina, Christine, Kevin, Diane, Chase and most of all, my son, Jackson for coming out to help me pull this off. It looks freakin’ amazing!!!!!!!

Sections

123Carrying the ladder456789So far

LR4: Let the Yarn Bombing Commence…

yarn bomb ladderI rented a 14′ A-frame ladder and recruited 3 friends to help me carry it up the 2.6 miles and 2,500 feet along the Cold Spring Trail to the yarn bomb target. Unfortunately, we had just a 3 hour window to get it from the rental place up to the tree. That window coincided with high noon, the hottest part of the hottest day in a very long time. Oh, and that ladder is not just really freakin’ heavy, it’s also very cumbersome. So instead, we took it just past the catway (fire road) or roughly 1.5 miles up today and will finish bringing it up the rest of the way tomorrow when it isn’t quite so hot. All along the way, as I emptied my water bottle and squeezed the sweat out of my shirt, I thought to myself, “What the hell was I thinking,” closely followed by the mantra, “It’s gonna look so cool when it’s done,” repeated over and over again.

Ladder for the Yarn Bomb

LR4: Bomb Strategy Session

Yarn Bomb StrategyI recruited two of the smartest guys I know, Will and Sean, to help me develop a strategic plan for executing the yarn bomb. Remember, we’re not bombing a square building or straight sign post. What we’re bombing is a living creature that has been growing organically for decades with odd shaped limbs sprouting every which way.

Kruzel SystemSean, an MIT grad, put his overpriced education to the test and devised a brilliant system for breaking the nearly 400 square feet of surface area down into an organized, quantifiable space. I’m dubbing it the “Kruzel System for Three Dimensional Pattern Organization”. I’m hoping this will become the standard for all future tree bombs. Feel free to inquire for details.

Thanks to the Kruzel System, I now see the tree as 53 distinct sections, each with its own set of dimensions for which I can select the right combination of knitted pieces to cover each. After a thorough analysis, it looks like I have 78% of what I need in order to hit a home run on this project and 63% of what I’d need to consider it a grand slam. BUT, I also think that even if I didn’t knit or receive another stitch, I will be able to hold my head high when all is said and done.

GeocachePS While climbing the tree yesterday we discovered a geocache including a notebook for finder entries hiding in the trunk about 12 feet up. We’ll add some pics of the final result to the canister when we’re all done.

LR4: 225 Square Feet of Bliss

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Can you find yours?

LR4: Maine Attraction

Maine AttractionThis beautiful piece just arrived from Michele, former editor of Crochet World, in Maine. Be sure to check out Michele’s blog for some great ideas and entertaining articles. Thanks Michele!

LR7: Learn How to Eat Right

Featured

forks-over-knivesIt is so unlike me to jump on a bandwagon and I have avoided going down this path until now, solely on that basis. However, it’s also unlike me to do things that are counterintuitive and it has just dawned on me that by continuing to maintain the diet I’ve been following my entire life, my actions are in direct opposition to what I know intuitively to be right. If it took a documentary to give me the swift kick in the ass I needed to see what should have been obvious to me for a very long time, well so be it. In this case, that documentary is “Forks Over Knives” and it’s the trigger for choosing “Learn How to Eat Right” as LR7.

Since birth I have been an unabashed junk food junkie. I lived Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” for decades. When we moved out to Santa Barbara that changed a lot, but mostly because there aren’t many fast food chains here. Anyway, I don’t want to be one of those long winded bloggers so I’ll keep this simple. My goal is to convert to a plant based diet, otherwise known as a vegan, but here is the trick. LR7 will only be deemed a success if I figure out how to do it sustainably. By that I mean it won’t require willpower to adhere to it. If I have to fight cravings, if it is a hassle, or unsatisfying, I will have failed.

Now you know my goal, please help by sharing tasty, simple recipes, ideas, and thoughts.

LR 7: Eat Right (Vegan) Posts

LR4: Gift from Florida

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Just received a package in the mail from Mary Ann in Florida with this incredible array of swatches for our yarn bomb. How cool is that? Thank you!!!

LR4: Bump in the Yarn Bomb Road

This resolution is quickly becoming the most time consuming because of the addition of the Yarn Bomb. Ultimately the goal is to “Learn How to Knit” and if you subscribe to the 10,000 hours philosophy argued by Malcolm Gladwell and others, the yarn bomb project is the perfect instrument for helping me succeed. However, I have a limited time to accomplish this goal and set a very high bar for myself in choosing such a large target. I am doing my best to knit as fast as possible, but one of the great things about knitting, in that it forces you to focus on the here and now to the exclusion of everything else, makes it a poor addition to trying to satisfy 24 resolutions in a year because I can’t multitask.knitting with stones

When I set the Yarn Bombing goal I figured I had about 2 months of knitting, and while it would be tight, I thought it was “doable”. Unfortunately, my body is great at manufacturing kidney stones and 3 weeks ago it made 5 simultaneously. I’m not complaining and I’m perfectly fine again now, but it did mean much time in the hospital and most of it in too much pain to focus on knitting. It was a setback, but I’m not giving up. I’m doubling my own efforts and doubling my requests for help.

swatchesThank you so much to all of you who have sent me swatches. Every time I receive one in the mail, especially from people I’ve never met, it gives me a huge boost in energy, not just for this resolution, but for 12for2012 in general. I can’t thank you enough for your help. PLEASE keep them coming. I’ve been sent many photos of people working hard on very large pieces and it will be a huge relief when they arrive. For now, this photo shows what I have in hand so far. (The purple ruler in the center is 1 foot long for perspective.)

PS I have not posted my mailing address because I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have it out there like that on the internet, but if you comment below I will provide it to you privately in an email.

LR2 Update: Slackline Turnaround

Progress! Today I was able to turnaround on the slackline for the first time.

GR1: Building Homes

It begins with what is supposed to be a 550 mile drive from Santa Barbara to Tonto National Forest in Arizona, but thanks to errant directions from the GPS it’s now an 850 mile drive with a detour through Tucson. I’m making great time and around 8:00pm with just 15 miles from where I think I am stopping for the night, I have a casual dinner at Swenson’s. Minutes later I realize I’ve made a horrible mistake, having driven 150 miles out of the way. I reverse course and get back to where I should have turned off originally, but now it’s almost midnight. Exhausted, I give up on getting to the campsite tonight and with the help of the “Around Me” app on my iPhone, find a Comfort Inn with availability for the night.

Duffy at the front desk informs me that not only is his hotel full, but all hotels in the area are booked thanks the Barrett-Jackson car auction being in town. He calls around as a favor to me, but to no avail. I ask what’s up the road from here, thinking I can make it a little further to the next town, but find out there is nothing between here and the campsite except cacti and dirt, with the campsite being another 100 miles into the middle of nowhere. I let my wife know that I have no other option but to drive on into the night. “I wish I drank coffee,” I say to her. She suggests I drink some soda at least for a caffeine pick-me-up. I guzzle two bottles of Mountain Dew for maximum caffeinage before getting a follow up call from her saying she found me a room at the local Holiday Inn. I lie in bed until 2am hopped up on caffeine, with my alarm set for a 6am wake up.

Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest

The drive into Tonto National Park at Sunrise with “La Grange” by ZZ Top blasting on the radio and passing places like Whiskey Springs and Kitty Joe Creek is manna for anyone who loves the Old West.

It’s 8am when I arrive at the Grapevine Group Site on Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National Forest. I’m the first to arrive, or so I thought. Turns out the rest of the tent assemblers arrived at 2am and were sleeping in their RVs nearby.

Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake

Four adults and three kids, we erect nearly 50 tents for the 160+ other volunteers who will be arriving around 2am tonight. It is exhausting work, with many of the tents incomplete, broken or lacking instructions, but we get it done. I installed my slackline in a perfect spot away from the many spiky cacti.

Tent City

Tent City

The kids arrive in the dark after a 10 hour drive, exhausted and cranky. Seven hours until breakfast and the 30 minute drive to Apache Nation.

We are broken up into 7 groups of 24 kids and 3 adult supervisors. Each group is shuttled to a different work site, each building a different family a new home. Upon arrival, our site has nothing but a few stakes in the ground and some string hanging between them to mark to outline of the home’s foundation.

The adults, all construction professionals except me, go through the plans and begin to dole out tasks for the kids. Over the coming days we will lay the foundation and install the underground plumbing.

Framing the Foundation

Framing the Foundation

Around midnight, after our first full day of work on the sites, our makeshift tent city is punished by gale force winds knocking down half the tents on the kids, snapping tent poles and shredding two beyond repair. I spend Day 2 back at the campsite reassembling tents, duct taping poles and canvas, and generally attempting to bring order back for the kids, so they’ll have a place to rest their weary heads.

The organizer of this effort is Amor Ministries (www.amor.org) and its founders Gayla and Scott Congdon are an inspiration to me. After witnessing poverty on college junkets, these two have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others. They’ve built thousands of homes for the needy in Mexico and are now committed to building 1600 homes for the Apaches of Arizona. What I came away with is not so much a dedication to this particular cause, but to the simple idea that individuals can make a big difference. You just have to make the effort and be committed.