OMG how did I not know about this?? CityMint is an amazing food delivery app that actually allows food delivery straight to your picnic blanket in the park. The system uses geolocation to help the delivery guy or girl find you no matter where you are in the park. And there’s no extra fee! Park delivery is currently available on weekends in my two favorite cities: San Francisco’s Dolores Park (through Oct. 16) and NYC’s Central Park (through Labor Day).

But even in the off season, this is an awesome app. Imagine never needing to go through a stack of takeout menus again. The app saves your credit card info, integrates with Yelp, and even allows you to set up favorites. I’m not sure if it’s as comprehensive as GrubHub, but I’m definitely going to check it out.

(Yes, I order a lot of takeout. Don’t judge.)

Amidst the deluge of ridiculous news about the “Ground Zero Mosque,” I haven’t heard much about the devastating flood in Pakistan.

The flood, which hit three weeks ago, has inundated one-fifth of the country. The estimates of the number of people affected range from 6 to 14 million – which, despite the drastic difference, doesn’t change the fact that millions of people have been touched by the  natural disaster. The most recent estimate of number of people dead was 1,600, but this number will surely rise as humanitarian aid workers continue to trickle in.

And “trickle” is right. Compared to other recent tragedies – Haiti and the Gulf Coast oil spill – there has been very little media attention and even less aid coming from the West. Where’s the barrage of text donation messages on facebook? Where are the humanitarian ads? Why are we not hearing more about ways to donate to the people of Pakistan?

Some have attributed the relatively lackluster donation effort to western perceptions of Pakistan as a country that is home to terrorists. According to a June CNN poll, 78% of Americans had unfavorable attitudes about Pakistan.

Sadly, these unfavorable perceptions and fears of terrorism may in fact be keeping people away. (I have a lot to say on that matter, but I’ll save it for later.) However, I think the bigger reason is that media coverage has been so little, and humanitarian orgs are not stepping up to build buzz around this.

I know people may be fatigued by all the humanitarian issues out there, but if it’s as simple as sending a text for $5 or $10, why not? Shit, I spent $10 on dinner last night.

Below are some text donation options from mGive Foundation, an org that specializes in mobile technology for philanthropy. Please consider contributing:

  • For Central Asia Institute, text the word CAI to 50555 to give $10. Central Asia Institute provides community-based education opportunities in Pakistan & Afghanistan.
  • For CHF International, text the word PAKISTAN to 50555 to give $5. CHF International will provide transitional shelter, create livelihoods, and ultimately re-build Pakistan’s economic and social foundations.
  • For Islamic Society of North America, text the word RELIEF to 27722 to give $10. The Islamic Society of North America contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large.
  • For UNHCR, text the word SWAT to 50555 to give $10. UNHCR emergency response teams are distributing tents, relief supplies, and humanitarian assistance to people displaced by the flooding.
  • For World Food Programme USA, text the word AID to 27722 to give $10. WFP will use helicopters to transport food to people in isolated communities across the Swat Valley.
  • For World Emergency Relief, text the word RESCUE to 50555 to give $10. Rescue Task Force is a San Diego County based non-profit relief agency that responds to natural and man-made disasters world-wide.
  • For Zakat Foundation of America, text the work ZAKATUS to 50555 to give $10. Zakat Foundation has begun to address the immediate needs of flood survivors by providing food and clothing in four key Pakistani districts.

I’m an off and on runner. For the past 13 years or so, my running routine has been on an up and down roller coaster – I’ve had various stints of being totally focused and into it, running almost every day of the week. But lately, those stints have been very few and far between, and I had gotten way too comfortable with my lack of a fitness routine.

So today, I made the attempt to get back into it! And I downloaded the Runkeeper Free app to motivate myself a little bit. First off, let me say this: even though I’m not a gung-ho runner, there is definite pleasure in getting a run started with the iPod on full blast on a beautiful morning. It felt good and I was instantly inspired to have more mornings like that. (Mark my words.)

Anyway, Runkeeper is a pretty great little app. It not only uses geolocation to track your mileage, but it also tracks your miles per hour, your route and how many calories you’ve burned. It stores all your info so you can see your progress over time, and syncs up your data with the Runkeeper website, which allows you to review your activities in more detail and make notes for yourself. It’s an excellent tool for people trying to get back into fitness and track their progress – perhaps for marathon trainers. You could probably use it more casually (which is probably what I will do) but I think serious runners would probably get more out of it…

p.s. You may also be interested in this article on 50 awesome iPhone apps for runners.

Yesterday I fell in love with geolocation all over again. I found myself on the road again, this time in Nashville, and I decided to download the Mapquest 4 mobile GPS app ahead of time. Even though I’ve been to Nashville several times, I still don’t know my way around very well so I always rely on some kind of GPS system to get around.

But this time, I didn’t have to pay for it. The Mapquest 4 mobile app is AWESOME. It gives voice directions, it recalculates if you get off track, and it saves all input addresses for easy one-touch searching and finding. And it’s totally free, unlike most mobile GPS apps. It also has buttons to allow you to easily identify nearby restaurants, cafes, gas stations and hotels.

I couldn’t quite figure out how to take advantage of the search function, as I – unsuccessfully – tried to use it to find a nearby Fedex Kinko’s to make some copies. So instead I pulled up the Google app – which is also geolocated – and did a “search nearby” search for Kinko’s and found it right away. So I just entered in that address into the Mapquest field and there I was just 15 minutes later. Amazing.

Yesterday I had a very “smart” day. I rented a car, drove from NYC upstate to Hyde Park, presented at the Roosevelt Campus Network Summit, and drove back. Despite being an incredibly hectic day of nearly 6 hours of driving (this is a feat in itself since I hate driving), the most amazing part of all was that I relied solely on my phone (and of course my natural instincts) to navigate my way through the day.

I didn’t print directions. I didn’t rent a GPS unit. I didn’t print out an outline for my presentation. Everything I needed was all handily packed into my little phone. After I had dropped off my car and was walking home from the train listening to Pandora on my phone, I had to pause for a moment to consider just how unbelievably handy this little piece of equipment had been for me all day. (Interestingly, in Germany the colloquial term for cell phones is “handy.”)

Some might be a little sickened by how reliant people are becoming on their phones, but the sheer convenience of smartphones is pretty incredible. Also not to mention the fact that I saved paper and money:

1) I didn’t print directions or rent a $20 GPS unit, and instead relied on my phone’s built-in navigation system. (Next time I may try out a GPS app, maybe the free MapQuest one.)

2) I didn’t print my rental insurance, and instead saved it in Dropbox.

3) I didn’t print out my presentation outline, and instead emailed it to myself.

Of course, I would’ve been screwed if my phone had died, or if I had hit a pocket without AT&T wireless (which could’ve totally happened). But I brought my charger just in case, and knew I could always stop and ask directions if I was totally in a bind. But ultimately, it was a successful day, and – whether you like it or not – it was due in large part to my handy little phone.

Today is Agent Orange Day, a day to honor the millions of people in Vietnam who are still living with the harmful effects of Agent Orange. It’s unbelievable that something that happened over 35 years ago can have an impact on children born today. While there are several organizations working to clean up the environment and provide healthcare and education to people who have been affected, much more needs to be done.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, this is a somewhat buried issue. Most people in the U.S. are entirely unaware that Agent Orange is still a problem. It seems like such a relic of the past; it’s hard to imagine that it’s still relevant. In fact, Vogue recently titled one of their trend reports “Agent Orange,” and went in detail about all the hot shades of orange that are in for the Fall. Obviously, the editors didn’t realize that this was still a gravely persistent issue; otherwise they would’ve realized what a tasteless move it was to greenlight that column title.

As part of an effort to highlight the hard work being done to address this humanitarian problem – and inspire people to get involved – my org recently launched a facebook profile pic app to encourage people to adopt the Agent Orange Day badge and change their profile pics. I was inspired by this idea when during Iran’s Green Revolution many people around the world tinted their profile pics green to show their solidarity and support for the Iranian people.

Some have criticized this method, considering it very surfacey and ineffective. I beg to differ, however. For the people of Iran, who surely feel very alone in their struggle for freedom, it was encouraging and uplifting to see people showing their support in the most simple yet meaningful way. Further, the proliferation of green-tinted profile pics inevitably became a spark for greater awareness – that something was going on in Iran and it was important enough for hundreds of thousands of people to change their profile pictures.

Compared to traditional social justice tactics, I can see why this might seem somewhat insignificant. But the reality of our world is that these technologies are available to us, and that we cannot miss the opportunity of using them to get a message out – especially if it is for people who have been stripped of their voices. Further, people today are inundated with information from many different channels, so it will take a range of tactics to lift hidden issues out into broad daylight.

Today, over 200 people changed their profile pics on facebook in honor of Agent Orange Day. While this is just a small step, I can’t help but think of the hundreds of thousands of people who saw that badge and were compelled to click on the image to find out what the deal was. The more people who know about this issue, the more interest there will be to help the problem. It will take many of these small steps, but I really do believe that today we got one step closer to making Agent Orange history.

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