28 November, 2009

Wisdom Comes with 65

WISDOM Trailer from Andrew Zuckerman Studio on Vimeo.

It's a quiet Saturday morning. I'm on my way to (volunteer) work at the Oxfam shop. This is something I do once a week and every few months, on a Saturday as well. Looking at this video, it made me think of some of the older customers who come into the shop daily to look around and see what new items we've put on the selves. I wonder what each would say about wisdom, or what piece of advice they would like to pass down to the younger generations.

Do enjoy.

25 November, 2009

Difference of Opinion

Just watched these two videos today. Both concern the US as a leading superpower, but both presenters are of different opinions about the chances of US continuing to be a leading power.

The presentation above given by Robert Guest is a Washington correspondent for The Economist. This presentation is funny at times, but it's center argument does not quite convince me as much as Hans Rosling's presentation, which is equally funny presentation.

This could well be because I just love numbers and the numbers Hans Rosling presents so clearly demonstrate the connection and plausibility.

18 November, 2009

Knowledge and Acknowledgement

Paul Van Zyl is a South African who has spent his career working with human rights issues. In the presentation he gave recently at the Pop Tech! conference, he speaks eloquently about why Americans should undertake a proper and public reckoning about the torture and other forms of abuse carried out in the name of the global war on terror by the Bush administration.

The presentation is not a presentation, as much as, it is a moving speech that convincingly and, at times, beautifully articulates how South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission enabled this country to move forward into democracy after years of apartheid.

So much of what he says moved me to tears, here is just on quote of his speech,

“It was through this process of testimony and revelation that our country began to move from knowledge to acknowledgement. It is one thing to know that crimes occurred, it’s quite different to acknowledge that they were wrongful and to promise never to allow them to happen again.”

16 November, 2009

Taking Baby Steps

These last weeks have been filled with various work on various projects. Most of the work seems like a hard build up to a specific goal and then a long tail slug afterwards to get all the odds and ends collected and properly put in place. Thought I'd write about some of the stuff I've been involved in:

The group I work with in Kenya, has finally received the money from the charity tea party and various other donations (bank here sent the funds to Mombasa and not to Nairobi). If all goes well, they will buy 5 drip irrigation kits this week and head up to Kimilili on Friday and hold two best business training workshops this weekend. I am kind of excited because another women's co-op from Kitale is also attending one of the workshops and they will receive one of the drip irrigation kits for their community. It is our hope that once the two communities see what drip irrigation is all about they might find the means to make their own DIY systems.

I've (finally) finished writing a project proposal for our Gardening Vocational Training Program. This is a program targeted towards women's co-ops and our youth project group. We want to set up a garden project where groups work in collaboration learning and implementing "modern" sustainable agriculture techniques. (The reason I say "modern" is that many of these methods, such as polyculture, mulch systems, organic composting, etc. were techniques western countries took away from indigenous farming cultures in developing countries over the last 70 years. It is ironic that we are in the position of trying to reintroduce these techniques back into those countries so many years later.) The project proposal is for approx. 8,000 USD for the purchase of land and materials (e.g. treadle pump and drip irrigation systems). If anyone knows of an organization that might fund such a project please send me a link.

We are in the process of setting up a clean cooking fuel small-scale business co-op between the Makerere University in Uganda and various rural communities. This project is going to take a while to develop because we haven't the proper technology as yet. We are trying to establish a pilot project to make clean burning cooking briquettes out of bio-waste (e.g. maize cobs or sugar cane). These briquettes burn nearly smokeless and set out no toxins and save on the need to burn wood. I'm still at the stage of trying to figure out the technology needed and set up a feasible collaborative business model. The outline of the project currently is to have a) a youth vocational training program that mass produces and sells the corn cob crushers (a wooden box with a coarse roller to crush the charcoal bits), b) a central briquette-making press where people can come with their crushed charcoal and make the cooking briquettes, and c) a series of small-scale businesses to sell the cooking briquettes at markets.

We are trying to set up a NGO so that we can do all the project work mentioned above more formally. This would mean that those individuals who contribute donations or micro-loans would be able to make them tax deductible. It would also mean that we could approach more organisations and foundations for funding.

My son managed to hand in a research paper titled, Web 2.0 Revolution (Consequences for Corporations), last week. This was a volunteer paper he researched and wrote in the hope of improving his final grade when he graduates from high school next June. I volunteered to yield the whip to get him to set up a schedule, work on the paper regularly, and not get preoccupied with all sorts of other activities. This was not an easy task, nor one that I did with any grace or sense of authority. Contrarily, it consisted of a great amount of petty hysterics, long plea bargainings, and mini breakdowns on my part.

Time to go off to the office...

13 November, 2009

Take a Moment

Take a moment and watch
Michael Pollan's presentation about non-sustainable and sustainable food systems. Not only is the information he presents very interesting, the presentation itself is a masterpiece.

On a personal note, I unfortunately and stupidly erased all the documents on my computer a week ago and have been struggling unsuccessfully to retrieve the files. As you can imagine, the effort needed to try and retrieve the data has been extensive. I have not been commenting, nor writing on my blog as a result, though I have been reading and appreciating your blog posts.

10 November, 2009

Perfect Moment

Perfect moment to a quiet start to my work day. William Hoffman's film set a gentle accent.

01 November, 2009

Lost Luggage Claim #2

Passenger’s Name
: Mr. Leaving It All Behind
Date: 09.09.1999
Point of Departure: Friday afternoon after a dull and frustrating week on the road selling supplies to gas station managers
Final Destiny: the Easy Life, Tyrell Bay, Carriacou, the West Indies

Listing of “Then” Luggage Content:

  • Baccalaureate Certificate, majors in history and geography (level mediocre)
  • Six seasonal regional ski passes for Davos-Klosters, Switzerland
  • Ski instructor id for the Silvretta Parkhotel, Klosters, Switzerland
  • Acceptance letter to the University Lumière Lyon 2 in their business and economics program
  • Cancellation letter at University Lumière Lyon 2 due to lack of attendance at the end of the first year
  • Stub receipts for heliskiing at Whistler (B.C), Jackson Hole (Wyoming), Breckenridge (Colorado), Pyramid Mountain (Alaska), Valle Nevado (Chile), and Riksgränsen (Sweden)
  • Various photos of different topless or skimpy bikinied female guests on deck of their Mediterranean sailboat charter with him as captain
  • Letter of boat owner firing him as captain of above mentioned boat for inappropriate drunken behaviour
  • Full-time work contract as product supplier at his uncle’s gas station franchise
  • Copy of a monthly travel expense report, including: summary of mileage driven (10,478 km), gas stations supplied (76), bad meals eaten (63), hung overs suffered (31), coffee drunk (27.41 l), cigarettes smoked (520), beers (153) and shots of whiskey (96) drunk, time spent doing something remotely interesting (0 min.), chances of being promoted any time in the next ten years (null)
  • Only source of fun: going to bars, drinking too much, chatting up young women and regaling them with old stories about the grand days of him heliskiing around the world

Listing of “Now” Luggage Content:

  • A modest sum of money acquired by selling all of his worldly goods and also the house he inherited from his grandparents in La Rochelle
  • One-way plane ticket to Carriacou
  • Slick high tech smart phone with the ring tone from an 80s Bacardi Rum commercial
  • A backpack full of electronic gadgets
  • DIWA diving instructor certificate
  • Preconceptions of what the Easy Life is and how one goes about living it
  • The ethical and moral values of a lizard
  • Predisposition towards drinking too much cheap alcohol and smoking too much weed
  • Plump certainty of successful sexual quests with local women, as well as passing female tourists

Passenger’s Complaint:

All items of my “Now” luggage have been stolen by the locals. Everyone is smiling and appearing friendly, but on one is really concerned about helping me out of present predicament. I have no means of making a living other than living off female tourists who I despise, but whose pockets run deep. Currently, acting as captain on a large flashy American motor cruiser. The wealthy owner’s wife likes to watch me kite surf half-naked. Unspoken agreement that she is allowed look, but not touch, which I am thankful of since she is old and ugly.

Officer’s Statement:

Passenger suffers under a ridiculous unwarranted sense of self-importance and privilege. The items he claims were stolen were wastefully spent or destroyed through neglect. Accusations, complaints, and angry alterations voiced towards or about local residents are increasing in their regularity. This indicates an increase in paranoia and disillusionment with his life situation. We are all waiting patiently for him to leave the island and leave us in peace. When he does leave, he will leave friendless, despite having lived here ten years