Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cool Condo in Austin's Hippest Zip

413 W. Johanna, Unit A
Offered at $349,000

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Use your Words to Feed the World!

John Breen, a computer programmer, developed the Internet game FreeRice to teach vocabulary and help fight hunger. is quickly becoming all the rage for school children as well as immigrants learning English.

Breen said the idea came to him one day in his kitchen in Indiana. He was sitting with his two teenage sons, preparing the older for the SAT.

"The younger one made a mockery of the situation. He kept saying, 'he doesn't know this word, he doesn't know that word,'" Breen said. "So I decided to do something on the computer to help my son learn vocabulary words."

What Breen came up with was a word game that he thought others might like to play on the Internet. He was already operating the Web site Poverty to inform people about hunger. So, he merged the two, and was born.

Here's how it works: Contestants are offered four definitions for a word; by clicking on the right definition, a donation of 20 grains of rice is made to the U.N. World Food Programme. The U.N. distributes the rice worldwide.

English teacher Michael Hughes puts the Web site up on a large interactive screen and uses the game to warm up his classes at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C.

Hughes' class raised 280 grains of Rice during a short session.

While that's hardly enough for a daily ration for a starving child abroad, it still adds up, said World Food Programme spokeswoman Jennifer Parmelee.

" is up to more than 8.2 billion grains of rice, which is one heck of a lot of rice and more than enough to feed 325,000 people for the day," Parmelee said.

The Web site earns money from advertising and gives cash to the Word Food Programme. Some $100,000 has already gone to buy rice to feed survivors of a recent cyclone in Bangladesh.

Parmelee said the Web site offers a greater gift – the gift of awareness about world hunger. In just two months, has driven the most Internet traffic to the World Food Programme site.

"We are all kind of dazzled by the power of a great idea — an idea that seemed to have come completely out of left field," she said.

Breen said he has hired a dictionary company to put some more words in the game, which adjusts as you are playing to different levels from zero to 50.

"I myself can't get much above level 45, and it is rare to get above level 48. But there are some people who cruise right up to level 50. So for them we are going to add some super, really ultra, tough words," Breen said.

And, he said, his son's vocabulary "has improved markedly."

Breen said e-mails are coming in from around the world from people trying to learn English to teachers and college students. He wants them to take away something more than just a few new words.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Help me win the Intuit/Jump Start Contest!

Please click HERE to vote.

Here's my story:

On April 17, 2002, in a meeting at the Texas Commission on the Arts was asked what was missing in the Austin cultural arts landscape. I promptly answered, "an architectural artisan school." And from that simple exchange a 5-1/2 year mission was born. My concept, the Texas Legacy Arts Incubator (TLAI), is an architectural artisan-based economic development model designed to incubate micro-enterprise in Texas (to start!). It is a far-reaching enterprise that will increase the kind and number of people who participate in the economic development of the larger community while improving the educational opportunities overall. In addition to the economic value TLAI will provide to the community, we will bring a wide variety of educational opportunities with the architectural artisan tradecrafts education and apprenticeship programs, which will be taught by well-known masters. The programs are primarily targeted at at-risk youth and historically disadvantaged populations. The TLAI will provide opportunities for cultural preservation, micro-business growth and development and workforce training. The first level of the TLAI architectural artisan tradecrafts training and apprenticeships will include: Stonework, metalwork, glassmaking, mosaic tile and food arts. These disciplines will teach critical path thinking & prepare participants for a sustainable life. Fast forward to now. The research is done, the land is secured, the relationships have been built & the support is in place to make this dream real. The monetary prize from this contest would allow me to more deeply focus on my role in taking this project from idea to reality.