Friday, October 28, 2011


One came out with a new famine video today, thought I'd promote it with a quick post:

Quick comment on the video; why does the cool edgy guitar music represent famine, death and destruction, and the piano music represent redemption, peace, and hope?  So typical.  I'd like to see that reversed, because, you now, pianos are inherently evil, right?  j/k.  One is a funny sort of organization, I don't think they take donations directly, but they act as a sort of message-driven outreach voice for African development issues. They're sort of a "celebrity" organization, with Bono from U2 being their most visible supporter, and they spend a lot of time making slick and flashy videos and what not.  This can be a little off-putting for some but I think it's fine to use a little star power to get your message across, and I like what they are trying to accomplish.  Here is One's mission statement from their web site:

"ONE is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school and improving futures. Cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African activists and policy makers."

That sounds fine.  So One isn't really on the front lines administering aid.  Rather, One works with and supports several dozen aid organizations, including notably (RED), Oxafam, Bill & Meninda Gates Foundation,, and CARE, US Doctors For Africa, and several dozen others.  Ideally this allows One to focus on getting the message out to people like me, and to politicians, and allows the aid organizations to focus on solving the problems on the ground.  Of course this can also cause problems, particularly when and if One's messages don't align with their partner's aims and goals.  But One tends to keep things pretty generic and simple, by design likely, so there's probably less of a chance of that happening.

The full list of One's aid partners is impressive and comprehensive, indeed.  But notably absent from One's list?  Doctors Without Borders, baby!  Why?  I doubt there is any serious schism between One and DWB, I rather suspect it is because DWB strives very hard to maintain absolute neutrality, and therefore can not align themselves with any umbrella organization.  Respect.  But a quick glance at all of the One partner organizations reveals many worthy aid organizations who are trying to do the right thing. 

Just for Bono:

"One life, but we're not the same, we get to carry each other, carry each other, One"
-- One, U2

Johnny got it right:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's Going On?

The latest from Somalia:

So what's going on in Somalia, you ask?  Ahh, you don't want to know.  There's trouble over in the horn of Africa, some of it involving our dear Doctors Without Borders.  As you probably know, we got together and raised over $4,000 for DWB at the Runners Without Borders event last weekend.  I requested that the money go to Somalia if possible (DWB does critical work all over the world so I'm sure it could be put to good use in many places, but Somalia seems to need assistance the most right now).  One of the super-critical and time-sensitive tasks DWB is trying to accomplish in Somalia right now is a massive measles vaccination campaign for children.  Yup, that measles shot we all got as babies in the USA, well, they don't get those shots over in Somalia.  And measles is actually a nasty and virulent little disease with a very high fatality rate among small children, particularly children who are already malnourished.

So DWB took it upon themselves to try to vaccinate as many high-risk children as they could, focusing efforts on the capital, Mogadishu.  But last week heavy fighting erupted (side note, does "heavy fighting" ever do anything besides "erupt"?) in Mogadishu, forcing the DWB doctors to abandon the campaign for the time being.  Read DWB's press release here: Somalia: Vaccination campaign Suspended Due to Fighting in Daynile.

Some thoughts from the press release; Daynile is on the outskirts of Mogadishu, and I'm assuming this is where a lot of the refugees are coming from the famine-striken areas.  So it's an important base of operations for DWB, since this is likely as close as they can get to the people that are the worst off.  Although they have suspended the measles program, they are still at the hospital, providing medical assistance and nutritional assistance as much as they can.  I take two things from this.  One, the DWB doctors are total bad-asses and I am more proud than ever to support them, and you should be too.  Two, the Somalians really need to put down their guns, even for just a little while, so these doctors can save the lives of their children.  Priorities, people.  It's all very irritating. 

The other bit of news from DWB in Somalia is the news of a kidnapping of two DWB staff members from a refugee camp in Dabaab, Kanya, which is serving as a Somalian refugee camp.  This happened on October 13th, and as of yet I believe the two staffers are still being held by their kidnappers.  You can read this article here:
Kenya: Two MSF Staff Abducted in Kenya (Updated).  Dangerous indeed.  You can read the article, but the effect of the kidnapping is that DWB has suspended much of their operations in the Kenyan refugee camps until they can get the situation resolved.  Maybe the refugee camps need more protection, but DWB tries very hard to distance themselves from the conflicts that cause these refugee crises, and not take sides, but as you can see it's difficult not to get into trouble.  Trouble has a way of finding you, I suspect, in places such as these.

What is also interesting to note is that DWB does not want this kidnapping to be publicized, as publicity is not helping their efforts to get the staffers returned.  So, uh, I'm not totally sure I should be writing about this, but the story went out on much larger news organizations already, so it's probably ok that I'm bringing it to your attention today, since I expect about, you know, 23 people to read this.

What's my point besides being full of rather depressing news today?  I wanted to give you all a greater appreciation of the dangers that the men and women of DWB face in trying to help people in the worst places in the world.  Major props to them.  Hopefully the money we raised last week will do some good there, hopefully they can get back to working at full-capacity soon. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Runners Without Borders: Recap

Where do I start?  The stats?  The donations?  The idea?  The need?  How about the people!  At some point during the day Saturday it dawned on me with amazement that whatever the motivation, 97 other people came out to run and do something good.  I knew my wife would be there, she helped come up with this plan, and she was the most supportive of my idea, and she was out there running over 30 miles herself on the trails, earning money and generally going way above and beyond.  I knew my crazy trail running friends would be there, heck they would have been there anyway, I just gave them a wonderful excuse to do something they wanted to do anyway!  And they came out in force.  Heck, a few of them just happened to stop by on their regular run and got involved on the spur of the moment.  But right away at 8:00 am when the first runners showed up to run 5 and 7 mile trail loops through Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park for Doctors Without Borders I realized something cool was happening: people whom I didn't even know decided to show up and run.  39 out of 96 by my rough count, 39 people who didn't know me, but heard about the event somehow or through someone, and wanted to participate, wanted to run, wanted to do something good.  It was one of those days where I felt that people generally want to do something good; it's just sometimes they need a reason, a little push out the door.  I was so happy and proud to help provide that reason, even if just for a day.

And what a day it turned out to be!  Apparently it is supposed to snow here on Wednesday, so we may have enjoyed the last beautiful weekend for a while.  A thin veneer of clouds kept the sun a bay just enough to keep the temperatures warm but not baking hot.  There was just a whisper of wind in the valley, and the cottonwoods along the creeks were in full color.  Up in the trees the smell of pine filled the air, as the evergreens seemed to stretch their limbs one last time in the warm sun before donning their white winter cloaks for another season.

I'm not going to lie, if you missed this event, you missed out on one special day.  It was a sustaining sort of day, not only realizing that people want to do something good, but also being reminded that what we do matters, what we do can make a difference.  And it doesn't really take much to make a difference, not when you have your friends out there helping you out.  But don't worry, I think we're going to do this again next year, so you'll have another chance to run without borders.

98 people (including myself) came and ran at least 1 loop, with many running more than one loop.  A special mention to 6 runners who ran at least 4 loops:  Celeste and Kristel each ran 4 loops, Cat, Mindy and Pete each ran 5 loops, and Shannon ran 7 loops!  All told the 98 participants ran a total of 168 loops.  We had 50 women and 48 men participate.  I was able to sneak out and run 1 loop myself, and enjoyed sharing my loop with Celeste.  Also we had 7 dogs run a total of 11 loops!

And we raised a lot of money.  $3986.78 at this point, with apparently a few more pledges yet to come.  We had 82 people pledge money, at least a dozen of which were not even at the event, and they were some of our biggest contributors!  A heartfelt thanks to all of you who contributed, and special thanks to those of you who believed in my vision enough to pledge even though you were not able to participate.  Anyway I'll go ahead and call it $4,000 raised for Doctors Without Borders, and it looks like the total will exceed that amount.  And that entire amount is going to be matched by Audrey Steele Burnand, so basically what I'm saying is that we were responsible for sending $8,000 to Doctors Without Borders on Saturday.

Even though it was only about two months ago, it seems like a long time ago when I thought I should "do something for Somalia" and thought about going on line and sending them a couple hundred bucks.  It could have stopped there, and that would have been great, but I felt so strongly about what I was doing that I knew I had to try to do more.  I drew inspiration from my wife and my mom and my friends, who help keep my moral compass pointing North, so to speak.  I drew courage from the unwavering support of my best friends, who stepped up with pledges right away, and were always there with encouraging words, and there to assist me in planning and implementing the event.  I literally could not have done this without you all -- I certainly could not have ran 168 loops on my own! -- so thanks again.  I think this was a pretty neat idea and I'm happy to see so many people participate.  And yes, I think we'll crank it up again next year, so stay tuned! 




Thursday, October 20, 2011


I have hesitated posting this, because the subject is unpleasant for me to write about, much less for you to read about.  But in the end I feel that it is important to write a little bit about why I have put so much effort into the upcoming Runners Without Borders event scheduled for this Saturday.  I am so very grateful for the tremendous support that everyone has provided up to this point, and I know the event will be a fun, joyous occasion for all, and that is the intent of this fund-raising exercise.  And maybe it is best in the end to simply focus on that; the camaraderie, the joie de vivre of the occasion.  But some sober reflection is in order as well, for the reason we celebrate life with so much passion is partly because we know that is it precious, and that we are lucky to enjoy it as a precious thing.

If you don't want to get into the heavy stuff today, then stop right here.  I will think nothing less of you.  Otherwise, brave reader, read on.

I don't want to get too over the top with the pulling of heartstrings and such, because I find that approach manipulative and ultimately condescending.  But I do want to express how I feel about famine and why the work that Doctors Without Borders (DWB) does is so important.  Famine is a horrible thing.  And in this day and age famine is a man-made thing, and should be completely preventable.  Say what you will about drought, overpopulation and overgrazing, and climate change and water issues.  Those are all contributors to conditions that can cause a famine.  And many if not all of those are man-made conditions.  But ultimately there is enough food to feed everyone.  Famine is inexcusable.  So why does it happen?  Sometimes we just can't get food to the people who need it.  And sometimes people are actually prevented from getting the food they need.  Sometimes intentionally.

Голодомор is a word I hope you will never see again after today.  I'm not even going to link that word to a web site, for I don't want to encourage you to look too closely into the hollow eyes of famine.  I'm not even going to tell you how to pronounce that word.  It is a sacred, terrible word.  Голодомор means "Killing by Hunger", and it is the word for a devastating famine in the Ukraine that occurred about 80 years ago.  The truth will never be known, but is it estimated that somewhere between 2.4 million and 10 million people died of famine -- starvation and attendant disease -- in the Ukraine between 1932 and 1933.  Aside from the huge number of people who died, what I find striking is that the death estimates vary so widely.  I presume this is because entire towns starved to death and were depopulated, and the town records were subsequently altered or destroyed by the Soviet regime, who were both the cause and the amplifiers of this famine.  In my opinion Голодомор represents Josef Stalin's worst crime against humanity, and that is saying something.  It was his Holocaust, with comparably grim statistics to boot.

When I read about this famine I shook my head and wondered why this was allowed to happen, as would anyone to comes to know about such horrible things.  The causes of this famine are still debated, but the prevailing thought is that the famine was caused largely due to the failures of the Soviet food collectivization programs of the 1930s.  Many also believe that the Ukrainians were intentionally starved by the Soviets.  Of course in 1932 in the USSR it was rather difficult to obtain credible information about what was happening, much less why it was happening.  But for whatever reason, whether because of malice or pride or something else, Stalin and the Soviets denied that the famine happened.  They wanted to keep the news of the famine quiet.  Голодомор was a man-made famine, entirely preventable, but ultimately preventable only by the Soviets.  And Голодомор isn't even the worst famine in history.  I use it as an example here to reinforce my statement that famine is ultimately a man-made problem, and requires a man-made solution, and also to illustrate the usefulness of unbiased and credible reporting of famines.

Why is this relevant and how does this compare with what is happening in Somalia right now?  In Somalia, a drought in the southern part of the country has created conditions that have led to a famine.  The drought alone would have caused hardships, but a civil war and a jihadist militia called Al-Shabaab have essentially amplified the drought into a famine.  Furthermore, Al-Shabaab is accused of preventing aid from reaching the most distressed areas, and is also accused of preventing people under their control from leaving the famine zone for the capital or fleeing to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.  Even still, many thousands of desperate Somalis have been able to leave the most affected and closed-off areas, and are now able to receive aid from organizations such as DWB.  But many others are stuck in circumstances most dire, and even for those who have fled survival is no guarantee; only a possibility.

This famine in Somalia differs from the Ukrainian famine in one minor and two major aspects.  First the minor difference; in Somalia the famine appears to have been precipitated by a drought.  In the Ukraine it appears to have been precipitated by the Soviet policy of collectivization.  But both situations, combined with tyrannical and repressive governments, have resulted in famines.

The first major difference between the two famines is in terms of information and access, and our collective ability to react to the disaster.  In the Ukraine, foreign journalists were not permitted to access or report on the famine.  One reporter did in fact try to report on the famine but his reports were discredited by the Soviets and by Communist sympathizers and Soviet appeasers in the free world.  The reports became rumors and were ultimately ignored, with the result that the famine was allowed to continue uninhibited.

In 1932 Doctors Without Borders didn't exist.  Would DWB have been allowed to go to the Ukraine in 1932?  Sadly probably not, but it's difficult to speculate.  It is a different world now, a world still in crisis, but a world that now contains organizations like DWB that can fight against famine, or at least mitigate their effects.  DWB is on the ground in Somalia, reporting on what they see to a world that listens, because they are viewed as an independent organization with no political or religious agenda.  And of course DWB is actively administering aid and saving lives in this most dangerous country.  Ultimately DWB can't solve the problem on their own, but they can save lives and bring the issues to our collective attention.  They are helping the world realize that there is a problem that needs to be solved.  As much as the actual tangible aid helps, so too does the flow of information.  Clearly many Somalians would die if DWB wasn't administering vaccines and treating malnutrition right now.  And many more would die if no one outside of Somalia knew about this famine, a la the Ukraine in 1932.  The work that DWB is doing is both timely and important, and the world is a better place for it.

And the second major difference between the famine in the Ukraine and the famine in Somalia?  The famine in the Ukraine happened almost 80 years ago.  The famine in Somalia is happening right now.  That's a sobering yet galvanizing thought.  It is true that Somalians right now are in desperate straits and need help.  But it is also true that unlike 80 years ago, we have the ability to help.  And luckily and ironically enough, it is easy and even fun to help.  All we have to do is get together, run some trails, and raise some money.  Thankfully we don't have to look into the eyes of famine to help defeat it.  And even if we contribute just a little bit of money, heck, even if all we do is continue to raise awareness about the famine, we're doing something good.  It really doesn't take much.  Consider that a measles vaccine costs about $1.  That may be the difference in saving a life of a severely malnourished child who otherwise may lack the strength to overcome the disease.  What we do this weekend matters.  So run, laugh, and enjoy the day, and know that with every loop you complete you are doing something good.  The work that DWB does is so very important, and the support we give them makes a huge difference.  Thank you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Runners Without Borders: Last Minute Information

Some last minute questions and answers about RWB this Saturday:

How do I get there?

The official host location of this event is Lory State Park, and we will be at the Arthurs Rock trailhead, which is the parking lot at the farthest end of the dirt road that travels the length of the park.  There is a $7 entrance fee so I strongly encourage you to carpool and save money and space!

Also many of you have Larimer County Parks passes, you can park at the Sodeberg trailhead and access the trail from that location.  Again, please carpool to save parking space and ease congestion and pollution.  You will have to run an extra 0.4 miles to access the loop via Soderberg, and obviously your loops will be offset since you're not starting at the "official" start, so just sign in when you reach the truck at the halfway point of your loop.  I'll assume you made it back to Soderberg!

Where do I check in?

It is important that you check in at the big white truck at the Arthur's Rock trailhead at each loop.  I or someone else (if I'm running) will have you sign your name and note the time on a log sheet.  We need you to log each loop so we can get an accurate count for those people who have made "global-dynamic" pledges.

How do I actually give money?

Someone, usually me, will be at the truck signing in participants and collecting and logging pledges.  I prefer checks made out to "Doctors Without Borders" but we will accept cash if necessary.  I will bundle up all donations and send them in to DWB on Monday.  Also you can go on line and donate directly to Doctors Without Borders if you prefer.  Those of you who are pledging based on "dynamic" formulas may not know your pledge commitment until after 4 pm.  For those people I will contact you shortly after the event, and post on my blog with your final pledge amount.

What sort of aid are you providing?

In short; not much!  I'm not promising any aid in the way of food or drink, I'm going to try to round up some coolers and fill them with water, and I'll get some snacks from the store, but please assume that this is a self-supported event.  Bring your own water and food!  We will have limited first aid at the truck as well.  And massages for $1/minute, with half the proceeds going to DWB!  Now that's my kind of aid.

Do I need to start at 8?

No; Unless you're planning on running for 8 hours, you do not need to start at 8 am Saturday.  The weather forecast calls for a sunny day with lows in the 30s and highs in the 60s.  I expect the temperature at 8 am on Saturday to be in the lower 30s, so if you want to wait for the temperature to warm up a bit, try coming at 10 am or so!  It looks like the weather will be really nice Saturday so we have that going for us, which is nice.

Do I need to finish by 4?

I suggest that you do try to finish your last loop by 4 pm, which means you should probably be starting your final  loop before 3 pm (see below for loop time estimates).  I'll need to sweep the course and take down the signs, and it will start getting dark pretty quickly up there after 4 pm, so please try to finish by then.

How long will it take to complete a loop?

Obviously it is difficult to answer that question for everyone, but I have ran the "grande" loop 4 or 5 times in the past two months, and it takes me between 1:10 and 1:30 to complete the loop, going at a moderate (medium effort) (1:10) to easy (walking the steep bits) (1:30) pace.  The "petite" loop is both shorter and easier so I suspect it would take me about 50 minutes at a moderate to easy effort.  So if you have ran with me and know what constitutes a "moderate" effort for me, then you should be able to estimate accordingly.

Do I need trail shoes?

I recommend trail shoes for the grande loop, as sections of it are loose and rocky.  The petite loop can be ran in regular shoes.

Will the loops be marked?

I am planning on going up Friday afternoon and marking the loops with little tags, particularly the grande loop since it contains many turns.

Will it be fun?

Nope.  It will be ultra-mega-dank-fun, and you will all be super-stoked to be there.  Your support means a lot to me, and you all can congratulate yourselves on doing something that really matters this Saturday.  Not to get too over the top, but your actions are literally saving lives.  Feel good about that!

Loop maps:

Le grande loop:

Le petite loop:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Runners Without Borders Update: On Pledging

Hello everyone!  Only 10 days until Runners Without Borders kicks off on Saturday, October 22nd.  I'm very pleased to announce that we have 51 people who have RSVP'd to run for Doctors Without Borders on the 22nd.  And I suspect there will be even more who show up, I'm hopeful that we will have over 75 participants next Saturday.

Also we have collected 28 pledges of various types to donate to DWB/MSF on behalf of the runners, and again, I think we will get some additional pledges on the day of the event.  I think we have a chance to raise in excess of $3,000 for Doctors Without Borders!

Some of you have mentioned that you're not sure just how this pledge thing works.  As you can tell, I'm not charging an entry fee for this event.  Also, I'm not providing really anything in the way of support, so, you know, you get what you pay for!  What I'm asking everyone to do is show up and run, and also to pledge to give something to Doctors Without Borders.  At the end of the day you're on your honor to give the money; if you want to bring a check with you to the event I will mail them all en masse after the event, so you can save some money on postage.  Another option is to donate on line from this link:  Also if you want to donate cash (I prefer checks), we will accept that as well and donate the funds on your behalf.  Someone will be at the loop start/end area from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm to collect and log donations, and log loops.

Logging loops is very important because several pledges are based on the number of loops ran by participants.  For example, I am pledging to donate $1 for every runner who completes a loop, up to $250 total.  So quite frankly even if you can't pledge to donate any money of your own, simply by showing up and running one loop you are raising $1 for Doctors Without Borders.  And much to my pleasant surprise, a bunch of you have stepped up with similar pledges.  So much so that as of this point, the first 50 loops are each worth $13.50 for Runners Without Borders.  So simply by showing up and running a loop you are earning as much as $13.50 for DWB, and this number is likely to go higher as we get some more pledges leading up to the event.  So when you finish a loop, make sure you get it logged! 

So how do you pledge?  You can email me at to pledge, or just show up and pledge on the day of the event.  If you want to keep your pledge anonymous let me know and I will honor your request.

So how much should you pledge?  What kind of pledge can you make?  Well in general, you can pledge whatever you like. 

But pledges have roughly broken down into 4 basic categories, which I will explain here.  The categories are; fixed-amount, dynamic-self, dynamic-other, and dynamic-globalfixed-dynamic-what-huh?

Let's review:


This is easy.  Just pledge a fixed amount to DWB.  $5.  $20.  $50.  $8.71.  Whatever.  If you run one lap, if you run 10 laps, if 1,000 people show up, if no one shows up (I'll be there), you contribute a fixed amount.


This is a little more exciting; pledge a certain amount of money for each lap you run, or each mile you run, or even how many vertical feet you climb for the day (yes, one creative participant is pledging a penny for each vertical foot gained).  Want to challenge yourself to run 4 loops and pledge $20 all told?  Pledge $5/loop.  It adds a little excitement to the day.  Believe me, I know some of you who have pledged on a per-loop basis, and you will be sorely tempted to run one more loop than the next guy.  I encourage this sort of competition!


Want to encourage one of your friends to run a lot, or even show up at all?  Pledge 'em.  Pledge 'em good.  Pledge the hell out of 'em.  One person has actually pledged to give DWB $10 for each loop I run.  Talk about pressure!!


This is quite exciting indeed!  My pledge fits in this category.  I'm pledging $1/person/loop, essentially.  If 10 people show up and each run one loop, I give $10 to DWB.  If 70 people show up and each run 3 loops, I'm in for $210.  If one runner leaves Lory at 8:00 traveling South at a rate of 9:00/miles, and another runner leaves Soderberg at 8:45 am traveling North at a rate of 9:45/miles, I will pledge a maximum of $250.  I was never that good at practical algebra.  At any rate, I won't know my final pledge until 4:01 pm on Saturday 10/22.  And neither will 6 other fellow pledgers who have made similar pledges!  And one very wealthy lady whom I don't know and who doesn't know me and isn't even showing up but I am including on my list anyway is pledging to match all contributions to DWB regardless of reason between now and November 15th, up to one million dollars all told.  Now that's global.

Slush figuring out how much he owes (circa 1993)

Incidentally for those of you doing dynamic pledges, I will post final results on my blog as soon as possible after the event, and will let you know personally what your pledge turns out to be, so you don't have to stick around until 4:01 to find out.  But it might be fun to see who cuts it the closest to the cut off time!

Now if you want to see the current list of pledges and participants, avail yourselves to the spreadsheets below.  If you don't see your name on the list, let me know and I'll add you!  If you are ready to announce your pledge, and/or your intention to run, email me at

Thanks and see you in 10 days!!!




More information:

Runners Without Borders

And finally, appropo of nothing; Tegan and Sara just kick ass: