Friday, November 22, 2013

The west comes to save Africa, with western ideas that fail

"For villages unconnected to national networks of any kind—roads, education and health systems–the project had to create everything from scratch, building oases of technology and resources in the middle of nowhere. Costs rose. Clinics failed for want of supplies, generators failed for want of parts and fuel, new crops like cardamom could not be sold, and many villagers could not be socialized into new ways of thinking in a few short years. In fact the villagers who resisted are perhaps the smartest people in the story, knowing how risky it might be to abandon the tried and true in favour of fanciful promises from outsiders. For the outsiders it was an experiment; for the villagers it was about survival."

"In 2006 the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) announced a $60m public-private partnership with Playpumps International, with $10m to directly come from the US government. As well as personal endorsements from both George and Laura Bush, the charity has the celebrity X-factor. Jay-Z raised $250,000 and DJ Mark Ronson pledged $1 per album sale to the charity. Large organisations have also been active in their support. The Co-op pledged that for every purchase of Fairbourne Springs mineral water, the company would make a charitable donation to go towards Playpumps. Millions of dollars are flowing, but is it just money down the drain?
In various press releases, interviews and on its website the charity has repeatedly referred to its ambition to build 4,000 Playpumps by 2010 to bring the "benefit of clean drinking water to up to 10 million people". The concept is simple: a merry-go-round is connected to a bore-hole. As children play, the spinning motion pumps underground water into a raised tank.
However, the Sphere Project states that the recommended minimum daily water requirement is 15 litres per person which – based on the pump's capabilities – would require children to be "playing" non-stop for 27 hours in every day to meet the 10 million figure. Under more reasonable assumptions, a Playpump could theoretically provide the bare minimum water requirements for about 200 people a day based on two hours' constant "play" every day – considerably less than its claimed potential."

I don't know.  This seems to be one of those times when we should step back and consider whether the locals might actually know more of what is needed than the outsiders with grand ideas.  Crowdsourcing anyone?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

So maybe we CAN get along after all? Traffic changes in small German town

"In this fascinating public experiment, a German town wanted to see what would happen to traffic flow if they got rid of street signs, lights and other restrictions.  The results are intuitive, but not what you would expect!  Everything got safer and faster.  Would this model hold true for other areas of infrastructure?  Drivers must give way to the left and not drive too fast.  That's the only rule.  Even the police love the new system, and best of all, people are safer on the road.  Drivers are much more aware and use eye contact and instincts.  People WANT to stop for other people and help things move more efficiently. "

This seems ok for smaller towns, but I wouldn't want to try it in downtown Chicago.  Still, it's nice to see that people will actually watch out for each other, at least when the necessity arises.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Stuff to have when the power goes out

"Handheld & powerful, the Waypoint™ pistol-grip spotlight offers high and low intensity modes, emergency signal mode and the latest in power LED technology. The spotlight provides portability and long runtime using 4 "C" sized alkaline batteries or endless runtime with the 12VDC power cord; making the Waypoint the perfect choice for a variety of applications."

"It’s a radio, flashlight, cell phone charger and bottle opener in one. Which means you’ll have everything you need for outdoor adventures and off-the-grid emergencies. Take it on a hike or store it in your emergency kit for anytime, anywhere preparedness. "

"In survival situations, you'll want this simple, compact magnesium fire starter with you at all times to get a fire going even in damp weather. The magnesium fire starter is a small block of magnesium that is waterproof and fireproof in its solid form. Scrape some shavings and then strike the firesteel built into the starter to ignite the shavings. The fire generated is extremely hot and will ignite even damp kindling."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The United States of Fear

"It is often assumed that intelligence agencies are worlds of their own, and that they sometimes act on their own authority. However, they are also an expression of the societies in which they exist, especially of their fears. In other words, it is quite possible that there are not just paranoid agents, but also paranoid democracies that act in hysterical ways out of fear. They are characterized by a strong freedom myth, which leads to paranoia. It, in turn, poses a threat to freedom. The United States is currently in a late phase of this cycle.
Freedom means that there is an endless range of possibilities, and that anything can happen, including both good and bad things. That's why freedom engenders fear. The greater the freedom, the greater the fear. Where does America's fear come from?"

 "Information is the most valuable thing in a paranoid world. Those who feel threatened want to know as much as possible about potential threats, so as to be able to control their fears and prepare preventive attacks. Even in the days of covered wagons, alertness was an important protection against attack. Before Sept. 11, the intelligence agencies were asleep at the wheel and overlooked many of the clues the attackers left behind during their preparations."

The US spends more on their military than the rest of the world combined. The NSA tries to spy on everyone in the world, not just assumed terrorists or enemies.  We have become hyper-paranoid, and it's draining our budget and worldwide good will.  I hope we get over it soon.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

No Human Left Behind; the Internet for all

"As the Oakland technology community grows, issues of uneven access to hardware, internet, skills, social networks and literacy in our diverse communities must remain at the forefront. Please add any interesting and useful information here on topics such as: the scale of the problem, geography of access, organizations working in this area, news, reading materials on the digital divide in general, existing programs and projects, resources for tech/digital literacy educators, and more."

This is a great resource page for anyone interested in making sure every person has access to the Internet.