Monday, November 15, 2010

Your Chance to Win an iPad

Let's keep this simple: you bid just $10, your $10 goes to an awesome charity that's building a village in India, and you get a pretty good chance to win a snazzy new iPad.

An iPad very much like this one could be yours for only $10

In last year's Passports with Purpose fundraising drive, I bid $10 on a trip and another $10 on a stroller. I won neither, but for a mere $20 I helped build a school in Cambodia currently serving about 400 kids, with books, teachers, a school nurse, a food garden and a drinking water well (check out some photos of the school here). Best $20 I ever spent. This year I'll be bidding on a few prizes again and I'm putting up a prize of my own as well, the aforementioned iPad (see details below).

So who are these Passports with Purpose folks and how does it all work? PwP was started in 2008 by four travel bloggers (Debbie Dubrow, Pam Mandel, Beth Whitman and Michelle Duffy) as a way to build community among travel bloggers and to give back to the places we, as travelers, visit.

The concept has proven wonderful in its simplicity and effectiveness: travel bloggers procure prizes for people to bid on, they spread the word through their social networks, people bid on prizes at $10 per bid (tax deductible), and the money goes straight to the charity of the year. Last year, over $30,000 was raised through PwP and some school kids are enjoying the results right now.

This year, PwP is supporting LAFTI, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of the Dalit (untouchable) population in India. The fundraising goal this year is even higher: $50,000, money that will go toward building a village in India, providing homes to people who have never had a roof over their heads. See more details about the project on the Passports with Purpose website.

I know some of the PwP founders personally and can vouch for them being sincere, passionate, cupcake-loving and all-around excellent people. They also write some fantastic blogs that you should check out. Don't just take it from me, check out the PwP website and the sites of the dozens of travel bloggers involved this year and in previous years.

If you have an iPad already, or simply don't want one, there are dozens of other great items to bid on and support Passports with Purpose.

The Prize:

A shiny new Apple iPad 16 GB Wi-Fi + 3G

About the prize, plus BONUS prizes*:

This lovely iPad comes all the way from Australia, where they not only have large bouncy marsupials, but nifty tablet computers made by Apple as well. I won this iPad recently in a staff writing contest at Lonely Planet, and, while I love how pretty and fun it is, and identify with the early adopter crowd, I know for a fact that it could be doing more good raising money for charity than it ever could do in my hands.

Because the Australian version did not include the free Winnie the Pooh ebook that seems to come with US models – an exclusion that is morally wrong – I have added this in order to not deprive the winner of great literature involving heffalumps. I have removed the mp3 of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" that comes standard on all Australian electronic devices.** Being an Australian model, it came with a plug that only works in Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tokelau. Whoever wins, I'll throw in a power adapter for your country (if they happen to be from Tokelau, so much the better).

Sound good? If so, click here to bid on the iPad and any other PwP prize!

You can bid more than once, and bid on as many items as you like. It all goes to support this year's charity, and every bid makes it more likely that you'll win a prize!

Thanks to this year's generous sponsors of PwP: BootsnAll, LiveMocha, Round the World with Us, HomeAway, Traveller’s Point, Hostelling International, Quintess, Raveable, TravelPost, and Uptake. Thanks as well to Lonely Planet for quite unintentionally providing the prize that I'm putting up this year.

* Bonus prizes include a Winnie the Pooh ebook and a regional power adapter.
**This might be a rumor.

Pooh has volunteered to eat an entire jar of honey for every $10 donated to PwP

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Soda vs. Pop

Do you know that feeling of jealousy when someone else has a great idea you wish you had thought of yourself? This happened to me recently when I stumbled across the brilliant web-based scientific study Pop vs. Soda, an attempt to answer once and for all the geographic breakdown of who uses "pop" and who uses "soda" in the US.

If you're not from the US, this undoubtedly sounds somewhat trivial, but this is a long-lasting debate in the US over a product that, for better or worse, is an everyday part of most Americans' lives.

Growing up in California, solid "soda" country, I thought for a long time that "pop" was only used by the elderly and Minnesotans. Clearly I was wrong: pop is huge. Looking at the responses to the survey, there are also a fair number of indecisive fence-sitters out there that use the redundant term "soda pop" and others that prefer other terms like "soft drink" blurring the boundaries, but the geographic pattern is clear nonetheless.

The fact that "Coke" has become a synonym for soda as a whole (an intriguing instance of synecdoche) in the South is, to me, a surprise. If I ordered a Coke in a Memphis diner and the waitress asked me "What kind?" I'd assume she was asking "Regular or diet?" The idea that "7-Up" or "root beer" would be equally acceptable answers blows my mind.

There are a few as yet unexplained mysteries in the Pop vs. Soda data set:

Mystery #1: The St. Louis soda bubble

Soda is predominant in California, Arizona and the Northeast, with pop and Coke fighting it out in between. One notable exception is a large soda bubble in the middle of the country hovering over St. Louis and surrounding counties, wedged between Coke to the south and pop to the north. What accounts for this?

Mystery #2: Chicago Pop vs. Milwaukee Soda

Less than 100 miles separates downtown Chicago from downtown Milwaukee, and yet one favors pop while the other favors soda.

For a brief moment, I wondered if beer might be explain both of these mysteries somehow, as both St. Louis and Milwaukee are big beer producing cities. Sadly, I can't find any strong reasoning to support that connection (although the German word for soda is, if I'm not mistaken, "soda"), and Golden, Colorado, home of Coors, sits in a decidedly pop-favoring county.

If you haven't taken the survey yet yourself, I'd strongly recommend that you pop go over to Pop vs. Soda now and add to the data set. And if you can burst the bubble on one of these mysteries, feel free to chime in below.