I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving holiday and was able to take advantage of sales to get some gifts for your friends, family, and yourself!

If you are able to spend a little more time and money, please consider #GivingTuesday. 2016 has been a pretty crazy year (remember when we all wished 2015 would end?), but I think that sitting and feeling crummy about it for more than a few minutes isn’t the way to go. This year, I have been trying to at least actively think about what I can actually do to make the world a better place, rather than just thinking about how it isn’t better yet.

Giving is so important, especially during the holidays when those who are without may feel it more acutely. It connects us to other people and adds a little more goodness into our world that so desperately needs as much as it can get.

According to GivingTuesday.org:

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community. We’ve created a directory to help you find organizations, charities, events and more in your own community.

If you aren’t sure how or where to give, GivingTuesday.org has some resources to help you get started. To break down how you can give, roughly in order of time commitment, you can:

  1. Donate money – This can be a one-time donation or you can set up a regular donation with an organization you care a lot about. Think local if you can, as you can often more easily make a large impact on your local community, and you may be able to more readily see that impact yourself! GivingTuesday.org has a great resource to help you get started with finding local organizations. Even if you’re only able to donate a small amount of money, it counts. If you’re just saving pennies from your change to donate, it counts.
  2. Donate items – Whether you are leaving boxes of old clothes outside your house or organizing a canned food drive, giving items can be a really impactful way to give. I highly urge you to think a little bit outside the box with your donations. Check out this list as a place to start with items that are in high demand, and also please consider picking up extra feminine hygiene products to donate! It’s something that gets overlooked because we don’t like thinking about it, but imagine how difficult it is to not like thinking about it and not having options when you have to.
  3. Volunteer – One of the most valuable assets we are able to give is our time, along with our energy. A lot of folks will volunteer at soup kitchens on Thanksgiving, and I’d love to see that continue on. Sometimes volunteer work isn’t fun or glamorous, but you just need to remind yourself that you are giving your time for the sake of someone else and not for the sake of your own personal enjoyment. For example, I once volunteered at a pet shelter with a group that was disappointed to learn that we were not volunteering to play with dogs! Because the shelter really needed us to help with wiping things down and filing folders away, so that’s what we helped them do. You can do one-time activities or find a cause that you want to give your time to more often.
  4. Do pro bono work – Check Taproot+ to see what skills you can give and what organizations need. As a Ruby developer, I can recommend Ruby For Good, which gets Ruby devs together to work on projects for non-profits that can’t afford to spend their limited budgets on hiring developers to put together great tech solutions that they may really need. There are a lot of ways to work pro bono for organizations, and that can be an immensely valuable way to give your time and energy to groups in need.

Another thing you can do is make your purchase with an organization that gives back. Here are a few lists to start with, if you still need to buy any gifts. Giving a gift that gives back is nice because the recipient knows the impact of your gift is goes beyond him/herself and that’s very special.

When in doubt, reach out and ask how you can best help. The folks at the organization you are thinking of will know best what they need the most if you’re not sure whether you should be giving money or items or your time and know that you can’t do all three. And if you aren’t able to give any of those right now, think about at least giving these organizations your attention. Be aware of what their goals are and maybe promote them and how other people can help them through social media, so that someone in your network who is looking to give but isn’t sure how can get a little nudge in the right direction.

Sometimes giving can feel very overwhelming. You might need to research the charity you are giving to, to make sure it’s legitimate and using most (if not all) of their proceeds for the actual cause itself. (When in doubt, check Charity Navigator.)

What I find makes regular giving a little easier is not to think about it. I know this is counter-intuitive to what I just said about actively giving organizations your attention, but what I mean is try your best to automate your giving so that you don’t need to actively think about it – it just happens. Two ways I do this are through Amazon Smile, which lets you give by allowing Amazon to donate a proceed of your purchase prices to an organization of your choice, and Tab for a Cause, which donates a little bit for every new tab you open in exchange for showing you some ads that fund those donations. (I also just really love Tab for a Cause as a new tab page with handy widgets on it.) With these two tools, I am able to give a little bit without even having to change my routine. I just make my Amazon purchases at smile.amazon.com and keep opening a bazillion tabs and I am still able to do a little good.

What organizations will you give your attention, and possibly more, to this #GivingTuesday?
What was your best experience with giving? Remember that you can give to one single person and it still counts – a lot! As cheesy as it sounds, as long as you can help one person, you are making the world a better place.


Old Ellicott City

Over the weekend, I went back to my parents’ home to prepare them to move away from the Ellicott City house we’ve called home for the past decade. We were hit with an unexpectedly strong storm, watching our windows and doors struggle to shield us from the torrential downpour and trees losing their grip on their branches that littered our yard.

But we got off easy.

When I woke up Sunday morning to birds chirping and sun shining, I learned that the historic district of our town, just a five minute drive from my house, had been devastated by historic flooding.

That is footage from the window of a restaurant I’ve eaten at with my family, of a road that I’ve walked down and driven down hundreds of times. Saturday evening, when 6 inches of rain fell in less than 2 hours, cars were swept along Main Street like leaves on a river. The historic and iconic clock was also washed away.

Lives were lost. Homes were destroyed. Businesses were wrecked.


If you are able, please help rebuild this community however you can. Community members are looking for others who can provide meals, provide housing for displaced residents, volunteer to clean up, donate goods/supplies for the clean up efforts, and donate funds, but are of course welcoming any other forms of help as well.

Yes, Ellicott City has a history of flooding. It’s well-documented, both on Wikipedia and physically in the historic district itself. But it doesn’t make this latest, which meteorologists have called a once-in-a-millenia-scale flood, any less devastating.


Governor Hogan has declared a state of emergency while Ellicott City and the surrounding area try to rebuild. Any help would be appreciated.

Internet Slowdown Day – 10 Sept 2014

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2604438/internet-slowdown-day-faq-how-netflix-wordpress-and-other-web-giants-are-fighting-for-net-neutralit.html I wanted to keep my distance from net neutrality because I didn’t think it would truly be compromised. I signed a petition during the SOPA/PIPA protests and didn’t think too much of it. We are now about to see the end of net neutrality. It’s easy to take action and if we don’t, the […]