In the Loop

In the Loop: May 12, 2008 Archive

Do have what it takes to be a 'Budget Hero?'

Posted at 10:54 AM on May 12, 2008 by Jeff Horwich

Our hardworking friends at Public Insight Journalism have just released their most massive online game project yet. It's safe to say online game concepts don't come much meatier than balancing the federal budget.

bhero.jpgWhile I believe it is available as a widget that will probably appear on multiple sites around the web, for starters the Budget Hero game has established an outpost on the Marketplace web site.

Sure, I've got a slight personal interest in the project (um...whose voice is that in the tutorial?). But I'm pleased to be tangentially attached to something that really did turn out great, considering the incredible ambition of building an interactive game around something so complex.

At times, I'm a little thrown by the simplifications that had to made to tame this beast of an idea. But that's part of the necessity of a project like this: No sane human being who isn't justly compensated would want to contend with the true vastness of the federal budget.

This allows people to engage with the concepts and trade-offs -- built from the actual budget numbers and forecasts, to be sure -- and get a sense of how truly difficult the process is. That's especially true if you remain true to your values (the "badges" you are asked to choose at the start of the game) rather than just hue to fiscal discipline.

It's a good eye-opener for an election year. Give it a whirl.

What do you think? You can comment on the game on the page where it resides at Marketplace, on Gather.com, or -- if you like -- right here.

Food crunch and the dumpster-diver

Posted at 3:12 PM on May 12, 2008 by Sanden Totten (2 Comments)

The food shortage is hitting close to home. Real close. Check out this story from Marketplace about the increase of traffic at St. Paul food shelves.

All of this has got me thinking about a story I did a while back on dumpster divers (right click to download). I still hang out with a lot of these same people and they are still foraging for food in the trash. In fact, one friend of mine gets the majority of his groceries from the garbage . . . everything from veggies and breads to easter candy and flower bouquets. He's doing fine. Trash cans are still more than full enough.

Of course not everyone has the time to go looking for free grub. And I'll be the first to admit, the idea of dumpstered food is not that appetizing for a lot of people. But my point is that there is a lot of free or wasted food in this city. Even with organizations like Sister's Camelot and Second Harvest trying to save some of this stuff, there's still almost 100 billion pounds of food being wasted every year in the U.S.

It would be great if there was more food in the world, but in the meantime, how can we get better about making use of the tons of food we are throwing out?! What's stopping us from getting it to the people who could actually use it?

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