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Archive for July, 2014

Is It Time for Nonprofits to Go the Way of the Dodo?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 5.23.33 PM

photo credit: BioDivLibrary via photopin cc

Well, dear readers, you know me.  I’m a girl who loves a little controversy every now and then.  So, let’s go there, shall we?  This post was sparked in two parts.  Here are the summaries.

Part one: a couple of weeks ago, I had a dear friend who lost a parent.  In lieu of flowers, they asked for donations to one of two charities.  While determining if I should donate, I looked their Form 990s up on Guidestar. The news was not good.

I decided not to give.  Why?  Welp, simply because their heads or CEOs/EDs were making sick money.  Ridiculous money.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars money.  Does anyone else find this egregious?

Sorry, I can’t get behind that.  No donations were given from this checkbook.


Part two: I need $7K to publish the next children’s book on STEM.  That’s money to the illustrator and to the publisher so I can buy 1000 copies of the book.  That’s not me making any money at all on the project.  But, I’m happy to do it, because we need more girls and boys to engage in STEM.

Had a convo with a lovely gentlemen today who wanted to donate to the cause, but he wanted a tax write off.  I can’t give it to him.  Why? Because technically, even though I don’t want to make a penny off of this project personally, I run a for-profit business, not a non-profit.  I’m frustrated, and even though the kind man was willing to donate, he will be donating less because he can’t get a write off on it.  I don’t blame him, either.

Here goes with the “controversial” part of this post: is it time for non profits to go the way of the dodo?

Personally, I think so.  It should be incumbent upon ALL businesses to be self-sustaining.  That doesn’t mean running out and grabbing grants left and right, either.  That means making stuff that actually sells and makes money.  That means creating stuff that has value and meaning – not just making a land grab for the latest grant offering.

If we get rid of non profits, we all have a more level playing field.  Social entrepreneurs can legitimately compete, and the market will bear which services and products win – not whomever has the best grant writer.  We can all then get a little more investigative and proactive about who we are funding, and for what projects, rather than blindly handing over checks to organizations that spend it on padding their CEO or ED’s retirement fund.

I get that EDs/CEOs have tough jobs to do.  However, when they are making millions of dollars when the people they are allegedly serving aren’t doing well at all, I have a serious problem with that.

My controversial rant is now over.  What do you think?  I can’t wait to read the haters’ mail on this one…but sorry.  I’m just keeping it real, as you’ve come to know me and love me for – right? If nothing else, I’d like to challenge you to look up and see what the head of that charity you’ve been asked to write a check at is making next time BEFORE you donate.  Ask the tough questions.  Investigate.  And, vote and support with your checkbook intelligently.  That’s all I ask, even if you don’t get behind my controversial statement.

Rant. Over.

2 Items for August: Writing and Running

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Forward thinkers: here’s what I’m working on for August.

Writing Workshop at Studio B – Aug 10th – 2-4 PM – First, this. This is probably the one and only time this year I’ll be smack dab in the subject matter of how to write, produce and publish your book with others.  (All have at least one story in them.)  Lots of people ask for my advice in this arena – here’s your big chance to learn it.  Also, the proceeds here are going to help my friend, NaShara out with her coworking space for women in central Indiana, which I LOVE.  I’m HAPPY to support Studio B with this opportunity to learn and give back to her coworking space!  Win win! Registration is here.

NAWBO Females United and Empowered to Lead (FUEL) to RunAug 28th – 8 am until 2 pm – Second, this. We’re opening up with the Lt. Gov., then moving on to the parties and learn about programs for women to learn how to serve, run and support political campaigns, then we end up with lunch on 20% by 2020 – an initiative to get 20% of boards filled by women by 2020. We end this half day of learning with a networking event with those in office or running for office in Indiana.  After this horrific article in the Star this week, I think every woman with any remote interest in this arena should come out for this event and learn how to serve.  If we keep waiting for someone to ask us, ladies, we’re going to keep on waiting…  Registration is here.

Let’s get out there, ladies and gentlemen, and make this happen!

A Little STEAMED Experiment

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Slide2 Slide3  Slide4Slide5

I had the opportunity to speak at Indianapolis Rotary today about STEM education (around the children’s book I wrote for girls), which was an amazing experience.  (Here’s the audio and the slides if you’d prefer to listen and watch rather than read.) But being a science geek, I couldn’t resist conducting a little experiment with the audience, in order to explain what we are up against with training the next generations of young professionals about STEM education.

So, I took the slides/photos you see above with all corners of STEM, and broke them down into 4 different slides.

After showing the “S is for Science” slide, I asked those in the audience to stand up if they ever had the opportunity to take any of the courses listed on the slide either in high school, college or graduate school.  Then, I went on to Technology…and again, asked those standing to remain standing if they took a computer science or tech class or sit down if they did not.  We then went on to Engineering – we lost a bunch here who had to sit down.  Finally, we ended upon Math.

Out of about 120 in the audience, guess how many were standing at the end – with all four boxes of STEM education checked for themselves?

Answer: around 6.

This is not good.  This showed the audience today (myself included) what educators are up against in this new era of globalization.  We are training a crop of future professionals in areas that we know little about ourselves (or had little formal training within during our own education).  The educator in me is overwhelmed by the fact that we have to get all students on board in all 4 corners of STEM just to try and stay competitive with the rest of the world in the future.  This doesn’t mean that everyone is going to work in STEM.  This is just a foundation we’re discussing here.

How might we do this?  Well, I think there are a lot of answers here – some are better than others.  But I do fundamentally believe that we’ve got to reach ALL students with all 4 corners of STEM, AND add on design thinking, entrepreneurship and the arts on top of it.

Other countries are figuring this out.  So must we.  Our future depends upon it.

(Oh, and had I played along with the experiment, I wouldn’t have made the final cut either – as I never had a formal tech nor engineering class, sadly.)


More on STEAMED Education for Indiana…and Everywhere

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Folks in this galaxy need more STEM education.  You know I’ve been beating on this drum for some time now, and I also think we need to update the acronym to cover STEAMED education – that includes:

  • science
  • technology
  • engineering
  • arts
  • math
  • entrepreneurship and
  • design thinking

Tuesday July 29, 2014, I’m giving a talk about this very subject at Indy Rotary.  Below are my abbreviated slides for this talk.  If you are attending, thanks for your participation in advance, and also, here are some resources I promised you at the actual live talk:

Become a Planet STEM Ambassador.

Vote for which princess(es) we should feature in #STEMPrincess2, our second in hopefully a very long series of #STEMPrincess books.

Talk to the kids in your life about what they are doing IN and OUT of school to increase their own STEM knowledge.  Here’s the free resource guide that comes with the first STEM Princess book, The Amazing Adventures of the Princesses from Planet STEM.

Of course, as I’ll also be sharing, I need $7000 to get #1000 copies of #STEMPrincess2 into the hands of girls and boys across the state.  How I find the funds for this I’m still working on (as my company personally funded the first book).  If you’d like to financially support #STEMPrincess2, I’m happy to talk with you about this!

Thanks for listening.  And thanks for caring about our future!

Slides from the talk:

Why Indiana Should be STEAMED About Education – Dr. Erin Albert – Indy Rotary 7_29_14 from Erin Albert


Crazy Cat Ladies of the Universe – UNITE!

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 8.32.25 AMHi. My name is Erin. I’m a crazy cat lady.  In the picture is my cat, Jack.  (He adopted me, not the other way around.  He’d be offended if I stated otherwise.)

(I’ll now let the barrage of crazy cat lady imagery and stereotypes sink in to your brain for a second.)

No one embraces her single crazy cat ladiness more than me.  Facts are, I’ve always had at least one cat as a tax-paying grown up adult.  And, whether or not that is the deterrent in having a significant other relationship, I’m not sure, but suffice it to say that some most all significant other relationships I’ve had could be categorized as natural disasters.

If that makes me ‘crazy,’ so be it. Thus, these days, I embrace my single crazy cat lady fabulousness.  In fact, I even have a crazy cat lady pinterest board, which is probably my most popular.

While I take my work seriously–I don’t usually take myself seriously.  Especially when it comes to fitting in or demographics.  That is, until I read this story this morning out of Forbes.crazycatlady

If you, too, are a single crazy cat lady: ladies, we’re taking over.

The largest demographic now in the U.S., for the first time ever, is that of single households. The singles 30 years ago were only 17% of the U.S. demo, and now, we’re 27.4.%. We also have…pets.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the wreck our country is in, and whether or not I should personally run and serve in a political office.  Now that I read this shocking demographic, it’s one more nail in the ‘yes, I should run’ coffin, because I’m now beginning to see that the singletons are really taking over.

Whether this could be categorized as a good or bad trend, I don’t know.  But I do know that politically, we’ve never had this much power in this country, and that excites me, because we might–after getting out the lint roller and taking off the extra cat fur–be able to affect some positive change here.  And frankly, we could use an epic bolus dose of positive change right now. Besides, if my own thoughts are similar to those in the majority in this country–shouldn’t that help affect more positive change faster?

Also–notice to those running the 2016 elections: you’d better not forget the singletons in this country – as we’re a huge audience now at the polls.  You were warned!  I’ll be watching who, if anyone, is speaking to us.  If you ignore us–we’ll be ignoring you at the polls.

So–singletons with furballs–you have a lot more moxy than you think.  Embrace it! Trust me, while the others may have been chuckling then, no one is laughing now.  We are taking over–with lint rollers and Petsmart coupons in hand…


STEAMing it Up in Indiana

Friday, July 25th, 2014

natalieneurscientistSo, next week, I’m speaking at Indy Downtown Rotary (which apparently is a tough ticket to speak at…? This I didn’t know, but I’m grateful to my friend Christi who hooked me up with this talk several months ago).  And, glad that Governor Pence, this week’s speaker at Rotary, was kind enough to warm them up for me.  (Just kidding, Gov. P.)

But, what I’m discussing is IMPORTANT–for Indiana, and frankly for the United States. It’s about our future, and it’s about…you guessed it, #STEM education.

But not just STEM–that’s not the complete acronym.  I think it’s STEAMED, as I’ve previously stated here. We have to add art, design thinking and entrepreneurship to the mix and milieux.  When 65% of kids in school today will have jobs in the future that haven’t even been invented yet–we’re doomed if we don’t prepare kids now for the coming storm of change.

The 40-hour work week is dying right in front of our eyes.  Besides, the coolest, most interesting people I run across are those who dare to create and grow multiple careers at the same time.  Some gigs may be full time, some part.  Some give financial capital as consideration, while some social capital.

Those who can figure out the career piechart–in STEAMED and out–are going to rule the future–mark my words.  We have to teach students to seize change and opportunities and turn them into something they can do to make the world a better place and feed their families–and get them OUT of the ‘job’ mindset and into the ‘creating gigs’ mindset.  (And I do not believe, as others do, that doing good in the world and making money are mutually exclusive.  You can do both. At the same time.)

There are some really cool programs popping up all over the country now that focus on STEAMED education, which I’ll be discussing in my talk.

If you care about Indiana’s future, come to this talk.  Not to see me (of course, I’m always happy to see my amazing 13 fans), but to show that you CARE about Indiana.  Come hear what I have to say, then I’d love it if you could carry it back to your neighborhood and make it rain STEAMED ed where you live.

That, and of course – I hope you voted for our next princess and invite you to become a STEM Ambassador too.

Xox. Have a great weekend–and I’ll see some of you next week!


Nominees for #STEMPrincess2

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

TheAmazingAdventuresofthePrincessesFromPlanetSTEMIf one more person asks me where #STEMPrincess2 is, I’m going to lose my mind!

Really, my peeps – I’m working on this.  But, I not only have to dig up a plot line and pick one or two of the 20 princesses from the first book to feature in the next book in the series (and yes, I see this as a multiple book series), but I need to dig up the funds to make this book happen.  That, precisely at a minimum is $6500 for the next book–AFTER taxes and all the other fundraising jazz.  (So, if any of you have a spare seven grand laying around, I’m all ears…)

Anywho…I polled the backers of the first book over at Kickstarter on which princess(es) I should feature in #STEMPrincess2.

Here are the nominees for #STEMPrincess2 (in random order):

1. Abigail – the rocket scientist.  Duh.  Why wouldn’t a rocket scientist be a hit?!?

2. Chloe and Dakota – the wonder twins of computer science.  And also two of the earliest characters developed in the series.

3. Fiona – the forensic scientist.  No doubt CSI is helping her out.

4. Lilly – the laser and optical technician.  I think lasers are definitely cool…and physics is here, which is definitely an area where we could use some more girl power.

5. Piper – the pharmacist/physician. Again, this is a no-brainer choice in my mind, as most girls go into the health and life sciences in STEM.

6.  Ruby – the robotics gal.  I like her because she’s got an engineering background, which again is an area we need more girl power to represent…

7.  Tabitha – the telecommunications/theoretical math physicist.  All I can say is – can somebody hurry up and invent the teleporter?!?

8.  Zoey and Victoria – These two kind of fit together – we have a zoologist and a veterinarian here.  Animals from a different planet, anyone?  I think this would be a really fun story line.

I’m not ruling out any of the 20 amazing fierce princesses just yet.  And here’s your big chance to represent and VOTE for which princess(es) YOU think I should be focused on for book 2.  Who do you dig? VOTE HERE.

If you want to see what the princesses look like – if you’re in IN, get the book from your public library.  Or, why not buy one and inspire a girl to rock STEM?

So now – ball’s in your court.  It’s up to YOU on where I am on #STEMPrincess2.  Feeling the pressure yet?!? Lol!  Welcome to my world!!!

4 Things Bugging My Brain Right Now

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

I’m slacking on the writing here this week, because I’ve been writing elsewhere…sigh…you know the life of a hack writer…

Anyway, here are 4 things haunting me right now:

1. Zero Hour Contracts and the future of work. And the dark side of this.

2. This. Still. And how to build a tribe around it.  And how to get a one pager on it next.

3. Glaeser’s new work on happiness.  What’s odd about this chart is that the most creative and productive cities (at least in my mind) are some of the least happy places in the U.S.  Why?

4. The “How the World Sees Youtest a la Sally Hogshead.  I got “The Mastermind,” (although I was hoping for “The Rockstar,”) which I found 92%ish accurate.  Accurate: True: I’m methodical, intense and self-reliant.  Definitely a quiet, independent doer that doesn’t like to be micromanaged–and I like talking about my personal life about as much as going to the dentist.  (And in case you were wondering, I don’t like going to the dentist. But does anyone?)  The only thing I didn’t agree with was that my type isn’t as ‘experimental’ as other types…huh…???  That’s the missing 8%ish.

This is what’s cooking in the brain bits, inter alia.

The Romantic Stalker (AKA Lloyd Dobbler)…of Ideas

Monday, July 21st, 2014

This post is brought to you by 3 signals (and you know what I do with trifectas…I write about them!):

1. A quote, which I saw on the faceplace, “And the thing about romantics is, we never give up.” – Blood and Chocolate (whatever or whoever that is)

2. Watching the movie Say Anything this weekend (on Netflix)…again. I’m team Lloyd.

3. Procrastination on a 2,000 word 2-post story on the pros and cons of pharmacy residencies (which I will get to writing, after this post).


Back to 1.  Someone posted under the quote on Facebook: “That’s what we call a stalker.”

I replied, “If it includes ideas, I’ll accept that term.  I am a good idea stalker.”

The quote to me (and Lloyd Dobbler, in the romantic sense in Say Anything) are, in my mind at a global level, the romantics.  These are the people who really get things done.  Romantics in my mind are those who have passion.  They give a damn.  They care.  They care so much that they are willing to be labeled as slightly crazy, weird, or eccentric in order to make the world better.  Do better.  They try and leave the world just a little better than they found it.

So, I’m OK with the title romantic stalker today…as long as we’re talking about big ideas.  Just think of us as Lloyd, with the Malibu and the Boombox equating to the crazy cool ideas on how we can make the world a better place.  We’re out here trying to play that tune. Loudly.

That’s the thing about us romantic idea stalkers…we never give up.

I’ll be taking the Malibu and the boombox over to Microsoft Word now to write that residency article.  Before I go – I’ll ask you: what big idea(s) did you romantically stalk today?

Open, Closed or Embargoed: That is the Question

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 7.41.35 AMOne of my new pals over at the Cheeky Scientist reminded me of a little ‘experiment’ of my own I ran a couple of years ago now, which involves Slideshare and one of my books with two editions: Indianapolis: A Young Professional’s Guide–first edition, and second edition.

So, once I developed the second edition of the Indy Guide, it had about 50% more content and contained something I thought was way more valuable than even the info in the first edition: real interviews with real young professionals of Indy and thought leaders in the community.  When it reached publication time, I thought I’d try something: put the first edition online in its entirety, for free, at Slideshare.  It’s here.  Totally open and totally free.

What’s interesting is that it now has gone over 20,000 views, which is kind of cool.  Am I losing money on this?  Well, frankly, even if I am, I don’t really care, because I wrote the Indy guide with the intent to make the city better for young professionals.  I wrote it to get them connected to causes they care about.  I wrote it to get them to stay in the city, even if they’re not from here, but came to Indy for a job.  There’s a lot of best kept hidden secrets to Indianapolis that I wanted to share with newbies.

Now, is some other company bogarting my stuff online or making copies of the book that violate copyright?  Maybe. Probably.  But there’s nothing cooler than a bootleg edition of your own work.  While money is nice, a bootlegged book means two things to me, that people are finding it: 1. cool and 2. useful.  There is no higher compliment to this writer.

Recently, I decided to add at least a portion of all my books to Butler’s Creative Commons, based upon this little experiment as well.  So people with internet access can pretty much access at least a portion of all my books soon.

The happy ending here (despite the publishing industry being under disruption right now): experiment if you are writing multiple editions of your book.  Journals and books now are all about being open-access and open-sourced.  You can even embargo the coolest stuff and charge for access to fresh stuff first.  If you want to make money–great–maybe share a portion of the book with your readers.  But if you want to change the world: consider sharing all of it.

I’ll look forward to seeing YOUR bootlegged copies!