Archive for the 'Uncategorized' topic

Some Outdoor Fun

April 22nd, 2011

There is no better way to enjoy the warm weather than with a day spent out in the sun. With the endless options of outdoor activities in the city, it can be hard to choose just one thing. We wanted to find out what the POGO staffers would consider their favorite activity when they get out of the office and get to enjoy the spring weather.

Chris Pabon, Director of Development: Ziplining at GoApe up in Rock Creek.

Paul Thacker, Investigator: I like getting together with a bunch of friends and taking a long bike ride together on the weekend. For the last one, six of us rode up Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park to the very edge of Silver Spring.  We then hopped on the Crescent Trail, down to Bethesda, and stopped for ice cream.  We continued riding down the Crescent Trail along the Potomac and the C & O Canal until Georgetown.  The trip back up to Mt. P. was a bit difficult as it was uphill and we had to deal with traffic, especially on the mean streets of DuPont Circle.

Danni Downing, Editor: Although spring does mean lots of pretty flowers and budding trees to photograph and lots of local trails to bike (Mount Vernon is a good one, as are the Paint Branch/Indian Creek trails, which connect up to each other and a bunch of other trails), spring really means an indoor sport for me: hockey! Every year hope springs eternal that the Washington Capitals will not only make the playoffs, but go deep into them—possibly all the way to lifting the Cup. This year, so far so good, but I’m not uncrossing my fingers until June.

Bryan Rahija, Blog Editor: I always enjoy hanging out by the drum circle in Meridian Hill Park.

Johanna Mingos, Data Specialist: Eastern Market on Saturday/Sunday mornings! We can’t have pets in our apartments, so my husband and I like to play with the dogs out for their morning walk.

Abby Evans, Development Associate: Playing disc golf in Bluemont Park in Arlington!

Danielle Brian, Executive Director: The Grief statue in the Rock Creek Cemetery.

Jake Wiens, Investigator: I like to bike in Rock Creek Park.

Joe Newman, Director of Communications: I like to to get out of the city and head to my favorite hikes on Old Rag or the Billy Goat Trail.

Neil Gordon, Investigator: Wheaton Regional Park and Brookside Gardens, which are just a short walk from where I live.

Keith Rutter, Director of Operations: Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens National Park is a hidden gem of the city.

Angela Canterbury, Director of Public Policy: The kids and I like to bike the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to Georgetown. It’s 11 miles (at a gentle grade downhill). We stop for a treat on the Potomac waterfront (them ice cream, me a beer)—and then we take the metro from Foggy Bottom or Farragut North back up!

Image by Flickr user Keith Ivey, used under Creative Commons License

Spring Reading

April 15th, 2011

Spring is in the air and that means the perfect weather to sit in the shade and dive into a great book. If you’re looking for the perfect story to read underneath the cherry blossoms, how about one from the POGO spring reading list? We asked POGO staffers what they’re currently reading and in return got a great variety of some ideal spring time books.

Pam Rutter, Web Manager: Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon, it is second in her Outlander series.  Can’t put it down…18th century Scotland, highlander adventures, Scottish clans, lots of kilts and a time traveler!

Neil Gordon, Investigator: Tales from the 5th Street Gym: Ali, the Dundees, and Miami‘s Golden Age of Boxing by Ferdie Pacheco. Accounts of the legendary 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach, where many world-class boxers, most notably Muhammad Ali, used to train. Fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco, Ali trainer Angelo Dundee and others who were there during the gym’s existence from the 1950’s through the 1980’s share their stories.

Chris Pabon, Director of Development: Final Crisis Legion of 3 Worlds by Geoff Johns. Its a tale of how endings can turn out to be new beginnings. And past mistakes can in the end be redeemed.

Angela Canterbury, Director of Public Policy: Who needs books when you can read bills, letters, and reports stranger than fiction!

Danielle Brian, Executive Director: I’m reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Prague Golem: Jewish Stories of the Ghetto.

Paul Thacker, Investigator: I usually read multiple books at the same time.  I know; it’s weird. The Last Good Kiss, by James Crumley – just a great book.  You can understand why Crumley had such a large influence on other writers.  Would recommend it to anyone. City of Bones, by Michael Connelly – another in the series about LAPD homicide detective, Harry Bosch.  Let me guess.  He gets the girl, loses the girl and solves the city’s biggest crime by ignoring his superiors, breaking every rule, and following his internal moral compass?  Even though I know this is how it’s gonna end, it’s still great reading.On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by David Grossman – an historical and sociological exploration of how the military trains young men to commit taboo.

Nick Schwellenbach, Director of Investigations: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution by Jack Rakove. Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 by Martin van Creveld.

Danni Downing, Editor: Black and Blue, by Ian Rankin: Two teens are killed at a private school by a Scottish Army vet who then kills himself. Detective Rebus investigates to find out why.

Joe Newman, Director of Communications: Griftopia by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. I like what I’ve read so far. Taibbi looks at Wall Street’s crimes and misdemeanors and wonders pointedly why no one is in jail?

Bryan Rahija, Blog Editor: Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat, by Bill Watterson.
Revisiting an old classic.

Rebecca Rotenberg, Intern: The Information, by James Gleick. Basically it is about everything and how everything is taught and communciated in our world today. Kind of a weird read at first, but tough to put down as you get deeper into understanding the message Gleick is trying to get across.

Image by Flickr user Helen Cook, used under Creative Commons License

The Key POGO Metric

April 1st, 2011

A lot of organizations have metrics by which they measure their performance. For example, how many widgets were produced in a month or how many thingamajigs sold in a week.

Here at POGO, I gauge our productivity by the amount of coffee consumed. When things are hopping, the energy level is maintained by coffee. It is a pure and simple indicator of work production.

Today is a Friday. Lots of groups have a casual Friday, or a more relaxed atmosphere on Friday. It’s now around 2:30. There are 17 folks in the office today, and we have consumed 2 pots of coffee, plus 15 coffees from Cosi, Starbucks, or our office favorite—Sip of Seattle. This does not count caffeinated teas. I myself had one coffee from Cosi—used a gift card from Christmas—and one cup of caffeinated tea…and we’ve still got a lot of daylight left.

So what are we crashing on? That’s what’s great about POGO: we are always up to something. To find out more, you need to go here, here, here, and here. 🙂

How many cups of coffee has your office consumed today?

(Please note, all grounds from coffee brewed at POGO are composted. Also, all paper coffee cups, plastic lids, and cup wrappers are recycled.)

— Keith Rutter

Get to Know POGO Intern Rhya Ghose

March 7th, 2011

Rhya Ghose joined POGO as our newest intern in February 2011. Before coming to POGO, she spent a semester in Quebec and she is currently finishing out her gap year in D.C. The Watercooler inteviewed Rhya about her travels as well as her aspirations for the future.

Watercooler: How did you hear about POGO?

Rhya Ghose: I have a really awesome gap year coordinator who took note of my interests in the planning stages of this year. I knew that I really wanted to work against government corruption but had no idea that I could do so at my age and with my lack of experience. POGO sounded like an amazing opportunity to get some real work in.

Watercooler: What inspired your choice to take a gap year?

RG: As my senior year of high school came to a close, I found myself burnt out and not exactly looking forward to launching right into (at least) four more years at a desk. My decision to take a gap year by no means discounts the value of classroom learning, but rather recognizes that there are other opportunities for a different kind of education. The natural break between high school and college seemed like the perfect time to take advantage of those opportunities.

Watercooler: Tell us about your work in Quebec!

RG: My work in Quebec was hands-down the coolest (literally…it was so cold!) thing I’ve ever done! I worked at a wildlife rehabilitation facility for 10 weeks. During my time there I learned to handle bear cubs and birds of prey, survive in the wilderness, dogsled, and implement natural horsemanship. My two favorite memories: watching the release of the fawns that I had bottle-fed for eight weeks and “mushing” the first dogsled ride of the season.

Watercooler: What do you like so far about being an intern at POGO?

RG: I don’t know if this is unique to interns, but my experience has been that everyone here goes out of their way to make me feel welcome and introduce themselves. They are willing to help me understand investigations and figure things out. It really means a lot and eases my transition.

Watercooler: What do you hope to get out of your time at POGO?

RG: POGO stands for not only exposing corruption, but also affecting positive change. If my work here can help accomplish either of those goals I will be ecstatic. As far as tasks here, I am up for everything—as much experience as possible.

Watercooler: Best part of being in DC?

RG: I’m never bored! Also, the public transportation can’t be beat.

Watercooler: Favorite pastime?

RG: I love to read and write. I try to journal every day. Beyond that, I’ve made it my goal to visit at least one museum or historically significant site every weekend that I am here.

Watercooler: Goals for the future?

RG: For the fall I’m looking forward to attending college and actually figuring out what I want to do with my life. I want to do something fulfilling, and my gap year has opened my eyes to the many options that I have.

Get to Know Joe Newman, POGO’s Director of Communications

February 18th, 2011

Joe Newman became POGO’s Director of Communications in January 2011. The Watercooler recently interviewed Joe about social media, food trucks, and his master plan for the year ahead.

Watercooler: Why POGO?

JN: When I was considering whether to make the move to POGO from my previous job, I wanted to make sure that POGO would be a) a place where I could continue to grow professionally b) a good fit in terms of culture and working atmosphere and c) an organization whose mission I could fully embrace and believe in. POGO passed all bars with flying colors. There is a “David vs. Goliath” esprit de corps here that is refreshing and energizing. I’m very happy to be here.

Watercooler: How do you see social media connecting to nonprofit work/POGO?

JN: I think there has been a dramatic shift in the last two years of how people communicate with each other, whether it’s texting, twittering or through Facebook. Today, we can harness social media to get our message out in ways that as recently as five years ago would have been only possible through mainstream media coverage or paid advertising. Our activists and supporters can now interact with us directly, and vice versa. That’s exciting because it gives us the chance to inform and mobilize large numbers of people around our issues, while instantaneously being able to study our web metrics to see what resonates and what doesn’t. By the way, have you connected with us on Facebook? You can do that here.

Watercooler: What’s your favorite food truck?

JN: I’m partial to the CapMac truck.

Watercooler: Tell us about your t-shirt business!

JN: Ha. You’ve got good sources. My friend and I used to brainstorm about things that might look good on a t-shirt and, eventually, we hired an artist to create some designs for us. Occasionally, I’ll pass someone on the street wearing one of our designs—I always get a kick out of that. It was a tough business though and we decided there were easier ways to make a buck.

Watercooler: How did your interest in the media begin?

JN: I’ve been a storyteller as long as I can remember. I think it goes back to being a voracious reader. In high school, I joined the newspaper staff and from there, I was hooked. I majored in journalism at the University of Florida and have either worked in newspapers or nonprofit media strategy my whole career.

Watercooler: In your opinion, how can social media aid in the transparency of the government?

JN: I think President Obama, our Members of Congress, and federal agencies have, to varying degrees, embraced social media as a tool to inform and engage citizens. Anything that improves the flow of information between the public and their elected leaders is a good thing. Corporate lobbyists still have a major advantage over your average citizen when it comes to accessing the halls of power but social media is helping to even the playing field, if just a bit.

Watercooler: Before POGO, you worked for the Orlando Sentinel. What was your favorite story you got to cover?

JN: Well, before coming to POGO, I worked at Public Citizen but before that I worked at the Orlando Sentinel as a part of the enterprise reporting team. I had a lot of favorite stories and am not sure I can pick just one. I covered several hurricanes and I really enjoyed being out in the field covering the big event. After a storm, when you’re walking through a community that has suffered a great loss, there is no shortage of compelling human interest stories. At those times, as we saw with the Katrina disaster, it’s so important for the press to get the stories of the victims out to the world.

Watercooler: What are your goals for the years ahead?

JN: I’m really looking forward to increasing POGO’s presence in the social media spheres. We’ve done a good job on Twitter and Facebook but we’ve barely scratched the surface of where we need to be with those platforms. One of my top priorities will be increasing our reach to activists, which is essential when it comes to putting pressure on lawmakers and the Obama Administration to consider our policy recommendations. Have you signed up for email updates? You can do that here.

Another area where I think you’ll see a big difference by the end of the year is our presence on YouTube. We’re planning to really ramp up our video work. And, of course, we’ll continue to do what POGO excels at—providing insightful blogging and getting the mainstream media to take notice of all our great work.

Watercooler: What is one thing that we don’t know about you yet?

JN: My first job at 13 years old was fishing golf balls out of a lake at the local country club. I had to wear a yellow hard hat because the golfers on the driving range used me as target practice.

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My Trip to Brazil: Five Questions with POGO’s Abby Evans

February 15th, 2011

POGO Development Associate Abby Evans recently took some R&R in Brazil. Over the course of her travels, she walked the bustling streets of São Paulo and lounged on the lovely beaches of Guarujá. The Watercooler caught up with Abby and asked her five quick questions about her trip. You can find her answers, along with photos of some great Brazilian street art, below.

Watercooler: What was your favorite Brazilian street food?

AE: Fresh coconut water.

Watercooler: Did you notice any fun trends in Brazilian popular music?

AE: Well, there is a somewhat recent trend in Brazilian music called baile funk, as sampled here. This unmelodic trend started in the favelas of Rio de Janiero in the 1980’s. Artists such as Diplo, M.I.A and Major Laser have adapted baile funk to their music. Check out M.I.A’s “Bucky Done Gun.”

Although this doesn’t answer your question, it’s worth checking out these two Brazilian legends:

Watercooler: Did you encounter any fun fashion trends?

AE: Many people in Brazil wear a figa necklace or hang a figa on their door. This clenched fist is similar to the evil eye. My understanding is that wearing or displaying this charm helps keep away bad luck. This is not a fad as it’s been going on for many years, but it is fascinating to see that it is as popular today as it was two hundred years ago.

Also, there is a fabulous purse and shoe store in Sao Pãulo called Corello. I love it!

Watercooler: Did you pick up any Brazilian slang?

AE: Nossa! It is equivalent to “Oh my God!” The word is short for the phrase: “Nossa Senhora da Aparecida,” which means: “Our Lady of Appearance,” the patron saint of Brazil.

Watercooler: Did you see anything that made you think of POGO?

AE: In the muito-legal (Portuguese for “very cool”) neighborhood of Vila Madelana, there is this alley where street artists flock to graffiti the walls. While there, I saw this giant whistle on a wall entrapping a woman. I couldn’t help but look at this graphical depiction and think of the fate that falls on so many federal whistleblowers.

Not too far from that wall, there was a freshly painted image of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, along with the words “Free Assange.” I found this especially timely since Danielle was about to talk about the Wikileaks disclosures at a conference held by Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.



POGO Heads to Texas

January 21st, 2011

Pam, Keith, and Erin took to Austin, Texas last weekend.

From corporate offices…

…to the University of Texas campus…

They spread the word of POGO and the “Provoke Accountability” message.

Keith is even convinced that Bevo cares about government accountability.

Now if we could just get Torchy’s to make a POGO Taco or Spider House to make a POGO Espresso…wouldn’t that be a great fundraiser?

If you’d like a free POGO “Provoke Accountability” sticker, just drop us a line–we’ll send one your way free of charge.

You Didn’t Get the Memo?

January 19th, 2011

Looks like Danielle and Bryan were the only staffers who got the memo about it being “White Shirt, Green Scarf, Purple Top Day.”

Photos from Another Classic POGO Taco Lunch

January 18th, 2011

And now, more evidence that POGO staffers know how to have fun once in a while:

Some quick awards from the Watercooler Editorial Board:

  • Most valuable player: POGO Investigator Paul Thacker, for bringing delicious rice and beans.
  • Sixth man award: POGO General Counsel Scott Amey, for bringing chipotle hot sauce.
  • Unsung hero: POGO Editor Danni Downing, for leading the cleanup efforts.
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Behind the Scenes at POGO

January 11th, 2011

If you’re looking for a glimpse into the inner workings of the Project On Government Oversight, be sure to check out our “Behind the Scenes at POGO” video series.

The videos follow POGO’s intrepid Development Associate, Abby Evans, on her quest to determine POGO’s greatest accomplishment of 2010.

Have a look:

Although 2010 has come and gone, it’s not too late to help POGO build on our success from last year and continue our efforts into 2011. Make your tax-deductible donation today!

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