Monday, July 16, 2012

The government isn't helping, so here we go

"The volunteers don't care about motives. Their concern is getting food to the hungry. It's an unexpected result of the economic crisis in a part of the world regarded as the land of plenty.
For many it still is, of course, but more and more people here are falling through the welfare net. Cash strapped governments, like the Spanish, are cutting back drastically."

"On Saturday evening, an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv to mark the first anniversary of J14, a movement centred around social justice and against inequality and the high cost of housing in Israel.
The march ended on Kaplan Street where a man in his 50s first distributed copies of a typed letter before pouring gasoline over his body and lighting himself on fire."

More and more people are getting disgusted with the government and taking things into their own hands.  This is unfortunate because government can be much more efficient in many things than volunteerism or self-sacrifice.  There is always a tension between paying taxes to get a service versus the service wasting tax dollars.  It takes constant observation and adjustment to make sure government runs correctly. But this is the price we must pay to have an efficient society.

But until efficient government can be re-established, it's up to us.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Biggest drought in US history

"The blistering summer and ongoing drought conditions have the prompted the U.S. Agriculture Department to declare a federal disaster area in more than 1,000 counties covering 26 states. That's almost one-third of all the counties in the United States, making it the largest distaster declaration ever made by the USDA. "

Global warming, which I assume you agree is happening now, is going to drastically change the weather almost everywhere. And strange consequences will arise. Here in the Black Hills, for example, the heat stress on the pine trees gives rise to the pine beetle.  The pine beetle lives under the bark, so it's difficult to eradicate.  It kills the host tree before moving on with its new horde of children.

There's no way to turn back the clock, so the new order of the day is adjustment.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Look to Finland for the answers to tough social questions

"Its students are also the best in the West, achieving extraordinarily high scores in a triennial survey for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to Anu Partanen, a Finnish journalist writing in The Atlantic: 'Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the programme that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.'"

Finland is no shangrila.  The weather is cold. The people are cold to strangers.  There's not a lot of diversity.  But still, you have to admit, they are enviably good at social systems.  It's time to learn from the experts.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cameroon helping rural areas with Technology

"They are also mobilizing citizen journalists to foster accountability in the management of Cameroon’s water system though ICT through mapping and citizen reporting of water point problems and delivering reports to local authorities and NGOs to address these problems.  A further project aims to digitise Cameroonian laws, create videos which help explain these laws in layman terms, provide online legal advice and host discussion forums.  They also run a Cyber Safety Programme, net squared and training in ICT skills for University drop outs."

These all look like great ideas for empowering local rural communities.  I look forward to hearing about their progress.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Professors produce free text books for college! Free classes!

"The rising cost of textbooks—along with the rise of easy-to-use publishing tools online—has helped drive the popularity of open-source materials and professors’ taking a do-it-yourself approach to textbook publishing. Here are three professors who wrote their own textbooks and are distributing them free."

Now how come I never had a professor like that?  My books were generally $50 to $100, and at the end of the semester I could sell them for maybe $10 to $20.  What a ripoff.  But these professors have seen the plight of their students and are trying to help where the universities themselves are not.

Here's a nice person who has made a list of university classes you can take for free.

So, as tuition costs increase beyond the reach of most people, some are fighting back.