Monthly Archives: November 2017

Make a reverse Advent calendar for your kids (or anyone) #2

Lessons from last year

Last year I wrote about making a reverse Advent calendar, based on giving rather than receiving. In terms of my kids’ enthusiasm, I would call it a measured success, however I still love the idea, and decided to make one this year also. What did I learn from last year?

  • Most importantly, the presentation of the gifts was a little dry, being basically fact-sheets about disease prevention, etc., with some very simple illustrations. I was aware of this last year, but accepted it in order to actually get it done. This year, starting from a base, it should be easier to do a little better.
  • The causes themselves probably seemed a bit distant from the children’s daily life, contributing to less than top-level engagement. That is an unavoidable problem with the causes I am most inclined to donate to, however, this year I also included tasks involving actually engaging in kind behavior on a more personal level.

Last year, the calendar had a gift only every other day. This year I kept that format for the monetary gifts, but filled in the rest of the days with more personal good deeds.

Monetary gifts

I wanted to employ the same effective giving strategy as last year, and since GiveWell have not changed their recommendations, that also saved me a lot of work. For further details about which charities to include and how to allocate between them, see last year’s post. The final list this year is as follows:

1. Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)
2. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), END Fund for work on dewormingSightsavers for work on deworming and Deworm the World Initiative
3. GiveDirectly
4.  Malaria Consortium for work on seasonal malaria chemoprevention
5. Development Media International produces mass media to promote improved health behaviors in developing countries.
6. Food Fortification Initiative and Project Healthy Children work to reduce micronutrient deficiencies through food fortification programs.
7. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)’s Universal Salt Iodization program and Iodine Global Network (IGN) aid salt iodization programs in developing countries.
8. Living Goods supports a network of community health promoters in sub-Saharan Africa.
9. Helen Keller International (HKI) – Vitamin A Supplementation (VAS) program
10. Red Cross
11. Doctors without borders
12. Amnesty Internationalxmascalendar_giftletters

I am currently working on making the documents presenting the charities a little more appealing than last year. To the right is how it looked then. Could probably do with some colors and perhaps a few personal stories and small cartoons.

Good deeds

This one was harder, as I had to come up with new items. I found some good ideas online, e.g. here. I tried to find activities that required some personal interaction, were quite easy, and could be a little fun. This is the final list, in no particular order:

  1. offer your help to 2 people
  2. leave a positive comment for someone on a mirror/wall/etc.
  3. ask someone who looks like they might be down if they are ok
  4. hug 3 people
  5. compliment a stranger on something
  6. say merry Christmas to 3 strangers, e.g. shop assistants
  7. send a postcard to someone
  8. send a message to a former teacher, etc. about something you appreciated with them
  9. give a compliment to 3 persons
  10. give a gift/gift donation or a general donation to the local poor house
  11. surprise a friend with a small treat
  12. when playing sports, compliment at least one person on something well done, even if it did not result in a goal, etc.

The final calendar

Below is a picture of how the calendar looked last year. I have not finished this year’s calendar yet, but I wanted to blog about it now in case I could inspire others to do something similar. Let me know if you want tips or some of my material to make a reverse Advent calendar yourself.

 

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Monthly book roundup – 2017 October

Books finished in October:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro. Very good about nontraditional forms of humans from the recent Nobel prize recipient. Ishiguro treats abstract questions about the human condition and what should count as humans in this appealing novel mostly set in the English boarding school Hailsham. Recommended.

Part Reptile: UFC, MMA and Me (2017) by Dan Hardy. For die-hard Dan Hardy or UFC fans, this book is a must-read. For others it is more mixed. It offers a fine portrait of a hard-working mixed martial artist with a varied upbringing and background not afraid to speak his mind, and a view into the mma scene in the UK and the US. However, for someone without a special interest, the material is probably not rich enough for the book to avoid becoming repetitious and too long. Recommended for the fans.

iGen: The 10 Trends Shaping Today’s Young People – and the Nation (2017) by Jean M. Twenge. Twenge, a psychologist, has written an exemplary social science book – mainly based on large amounts of quantitative (survey) data, and illustrated by and supplemented with information from interviews. (So she could be forgiven the occasional reference to Roy Baumeister, who made a fool of himself in the debate around the replication crisis in psychology.) She is also commendably careful when discussing causality, something that is very far from the norm in popular social science writing. Recommended.

The book is about iGen – the generation born after 1995, who is the first to have had access to smartphones their whole adolescence. Twenge thinks that has been mostly negative, leading to time away from in-person socializing, intense social comparisons via social media, too much weight on appearance and an unhealthy focus on sexy or even nude pictures from a very young age, and sleep loss and mental health issues. It is hard to disagree. Other characteristics of iGen is that they seem to grow up slower than before, reaching several adult milestones like having a job, getting a driver’s license, sex, alcohol, marrying, getting children, years later than earlier generations; a perverse occupation with safety and not offending anyone, leading to extreme willingness to censor unpopular views; concerns about economic insecurity; very high tolerance with regards to LGBT, gender and race issues.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.