We'll use this page to show you things on the internet that we think are cool, interesting, or maybe just useful.
We loved our old Zope-based website and loved crawling around in the code behind the scenes to make it do some pretty special things, many of which people barely noticed. But time marches on, and technology marches even faster. Nearly ten years on a web platform is more like fifty years in technology time. We, and the other open-source legal aid websites we work with decided to move to a more modern Drupal-based web platform. This site is the result.
You can read more about Drupal for Legal Aid Websites here. As usual, Pine Tree has gone far beyond the basic open-source legal aid web template and built something bigger, stronger, faster, more agile and feature filled. This was done with the help of master programmer Brian Stewart of BDS Works, to whom we are forever grateful.
You should be able to find most everything that existed on the old site. If it isn't obvious where something is, try the search window. If you can't find something you need, or if something doesn't work, or if you have ideas for improvement, just use the feedback link at the bottom of this or any other page. We need your help to find and clean up bugs, and to make improvements.
Lots of people think our Food Supplement Program Estimators are pretty cool. (They used to be called Food Stamp Estimators but the Department of Agriculture changed the name. There hadn't been any "stamps" for a long time.) People use them to find out whether they are eligible to get Food Supplement Benefits and how much they could get. We've launched two similar programs that we think are just as cool. The Child Support Calculator will calculate how much child support DHHS or a Court may order based on Maine's Child Support Guidelines. It will also allow you to find out whether a Court would be likely to modify an existing child support order. The TANF Benefit Estimator will help you find out whether you may be able to get TANF benefits and how much.
We think our Legal Guide for Immigrants to Maine is pretty cool. It has sixteen chapters of information important to immigrants. You can learn about the U.S. System of government, the courts, becoming a citizen, and much more. There is a section on the rights and duties of citizenship and sections on various areas of the law that could be important to immigrants. The Guide is in two languages and you can toggle back and forth from Spanish to English.
Brooksville, Maine artist Robert Shetterly has created an impressive portrait gallery of Americans who tell the truth. The portraits range from the famous to the not so famous, from Abraham Lincoln and Margaret Chase Smith to Samantha Smith and (soon to be added) Sister Lucy Poulin. Along with the portraits are inspiring quotations and biographies of each of his subjects. Not everyone agrees with all of his choices, but each of us should find plenty of inspiration here to do good works and speak the truth.
The Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive is really cool. It is intended to be a digital library of internet sites. You can use it to see what the internet looked like clear back into the last century (or to 1996). For example, here is what the Pine Tree Legal Assistance website looked like in December 1996. You can put in the url for any website and see how it developed over the years, or find some piece of information that's no longer current.
"Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". The Edubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to schools, through its customised school environment. The current version of Edubuntu is aimed at classroom use, and future versions of Edubuntu will expand to other educational usage, such as university use.
The Edubuntu network reports that it has helped a British nursery make use of two donated PCs. They installed and configured the PC's in a community nursery and breakfast/after school club in Lincolnshire, England in about three quarters of an hour, costing the centre nothing! "The kids absolutely love them...many of them have never used a computer before."
Domestic violence is never cool. But Ginny NiCarthy's new site is. The site includes online excerpts from the new edition of her popular book "You Can Be Free," including information for rural victims of abuse, deaf and disabled, and immigrants with religious and other cultural issues. She also posts an extensive set of links to other good online resources, such as Hot Peach Pages, which posts information about domestic violence services around the world, including information in 70 languages.
Our staff loves The Optimist, a very cool solutions-oriented monthly published in the Netherlands.
We really like Google News. We use it most every day to find relevant news items to post in the many "news boxes" on most of the websites we manage. You can search more than 4,500 English language news sources around the world. News topics are updated every fifteen minutes and each news item is stamped with the date and time it was posted. You can even create your own customized internet newspaper.
GIS mapping is everywhere. Here's a recent favorite. The Modern Language Association posts a Map of Languages Spoken in the United States . You can view color-coded maps by state, by county, by zip code. The Maine maps show 33 languages (including some "language groups") spoken at home. Based on 2000 census data.
We think Toby Hollander is pretty cool. So does the American Bar Association. They awarded Toby the 2004 Ann Liechty Probo Award for his outstanding pro bono services to children in child custody cases. The ABA also produced an inspiring video about Toby's work with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, KIDS Legal Aid, and Maine's children caught in custody cases. Read Toby's remarks in acceptance of the award.
You'll need RealPlayer to view the video. You probably have it on your computer already, but if you don't you can download it from RealPlayer's web site They'll keep trying to get you to buy something or try their fancier product for two weeks, but you don't need anything more than the free Basic Player.
Children in Poverty is definitely not cool stuff. However, the National Center for Children in Poverty has developed a number of "Data Tools" that neatly and effectively display and compare state policies, demographics and economic condition as they affect children in poverty. Their Income Converter shows where a family stands with respect to the Federal Poverty Guidelines or their state's median income. The Family Resource Simulator shows (for a few states) what happens to a family's financial resources as they get more earned income and gradually lose benefits and incurr more child care and transportation expenses.
Using GIS mapping tools, the Brookings Institution has posted a series of state maps, showing where low-wage workers are benefitting the most from the Earned Income Credit. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the links to these very cool (and informative) maps.
Nobody thinks income tax is cool. The I-CAN project is pretty cool, though. It can help you get your tax refund and earned income credit faster and easier. Many people who are eligible don't get their earned income credit, which could mean more than $4,000 in their pockets. Many people get tax refund anticipation loans from commercial tax preparers, not realizing that they could be paying interest at a yearly rate of up to 200% on their own money.
Anyone who had earned income of less than $48,362 (filing jointly with three children) or $13,460 (single with no children) should check out the I-CAN program developed by Orange County Legal Aid.
If you cannot use the I-CAN program, the IRS, through a partnership with the Free File Alliance, has links to sixteen on-line tax preparation services that are free to taxpayers who meet certain criteria. Of course you won't get to meet the very nice video helper on I-CAN.
Noah Adams' National Public Radio series on low-wage workers in America featured Maine workers in September, October and November 2003. The September profile featured restaurant workers at TJ's in Auburn. The October profile featured Kedra Johns, an Augusta mother raising two kids by herself and working two low-wage jobs. The report from Maine concludes with the story of Portland single mother Joanna Veres and her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Janallie. If you have a sound card and speakers, you can listen to this important series on your computer.
In America, it is possible to work full time but not make a living. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20 million workers earn less than $9 an hour. At those wage levels, many people have trouble affording the basics -- housing, food, clothing, transportation and health care.
In this year-long series of special reports, NPR's Noah Adams travels throughout the country to profile the low-income workforce, talking with people about their jobs, their families and their hopes for the future.
Here's another cool site for your kids. It has a few advertisments for the Discovery Channel, but they aren't offensive. Your kids can learn the science behind all sorts of gross things like roaches and worms, scabs and pus, ear wax and dandruff, and lots more. There are plenty of games, recipies, crafts, experiments and other activities.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). "IFCC's mission is to address fraud committed over the Internet. For victims of Internet fraud, IFCC provides a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of a suspected criminal or civil violation." The site includes an online complaint form and annual reports about the most widespread abuses and how to avoid being scammed.
The Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture has developed a "Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool". This is a benefits calculator that will give you a rough idea if you are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerlyfood stamps), and what your benefit amount might be. It isn't always correct for everyone in Maine, because Maine has some special eligibility rules that other states don't have. It could give you a general idea, though, whether you might be eligible. Pine Tree has developed Maine's Food Supplement Estimators that should give a much better idea of eligibility in Maine.