29 December 2009

How to write about poor people

From aid watch blog:

Use a precise definition of poverty: living on less than $1.25 a day, adjusted for purchasing power. Give the precise number who fit that definition.
Ignore the recent revision of this number by 42%.
Do not excessively analyze geographic or ethnographic distinctions amongst poor people.
Discuss the following: poverty traps, vicious circles, aid financing gaps.
There probably won’t be time left to discuss the following concepts: initiative, savings, inventiveness, resourcefulness, adaptation to local conditions, or local knowledge.
Discuss only income, health, access to clean water, and literacy. Leave it to anthropologists to cover areas like happiness, traditions, ceremonies, festivals, friendships, kinship, love between men and women, or love between parents and children.
Display pictures of poor children (alternatively women).
Don’t show pictures of poor men, who make your audience think of drunkards, wife-beaters, or janjaweed.
These topics are only for Marxists: power, class, discrimination, oppression, or history.
Your knowledge about poor people should come from other writers who observe these rules.

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Updates to come tomorrow with pictures and various other things about vacation and returning home.

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Peter Singer of Princeton and Bill Easterly of NYU discuss below their ideas on aid and giving.  Perfect timing as the year comes to an end and people consider what to do when it comes to giving.

 

20 December 2009

Home

Back in New Jersey.  No delays and plenty of cold.

Blue Nation

Safely sitting in London, home of England’s best football team.  Looks like they will have the opportunity to extend their lead with a win today.  I would even take a draw to move 4 clear, but 6 is a much nicer number.

Made it to London in perfect timing.  Next flight is at 10:30 GMT (i think it is GMT, but London time) and it is on time so far.  Hopefully I will be in the air when all of you are waking up and on my way to Newark Liberty International Airport.

It is about 3 C right now and far too cold. 

13 December 2009

I Said I Wouldn’t

post on vacation, but I had to share:

Tiger Woods thoughtfully explodes “Halo Effect” myth in development

by William Easterly

I am sure all of you had the same reaction I did as Tiger Woods slid into taudry tabloid hell: “thanks, Tiger, for creating a teachable moment for development economics!”

Our expectation that celebrities will be model citizens, contrary to vast evidence, is based on the Halo Effect. The Halo Effect is the idea that someone that is really, really good at one thing will also be really good at other things. We thought because Tiger was so good at being a golfer, he also must be very good at to have and to hold, forsaking all others, keeping thee only unto her as long as you both shall live…

What Tiger considerately did for our education was to show how the Halo Effect is a myth. This blog has a undying affection for those psychological foibles that cause us to strongly believe in mythical things, and the Halo Effect is a prime example (and the subject of a whole book on its destructive effects in business.) Why would marital fidelity and skillful putting have any correlation?

What the Vegas Cocktail Waitress does this have to do with development? The Halo Effect was discussed in a previous blog, but when assaulting psychological biases, you can never repeat the attack enough. Not to mention that we all remember the psychology literature more easily when illustrated by a guy with 10 mistresses.

So if we observe a country is good at say, technological innovation, we assume that this country is also good at other good things like, say, visionary leadership, freedom from corruption, and a culture of trust. Since the latter three are imprecise to measure (and the measures themselves may be contaminated by the Halo Effect), we lazily assume they are all good. But actually, there are plenty of examples of successful innovators with mediocre leaders, corruption, and distrustful populations. The US assumed world technological leadership in the late 19th century with presidents named Chester Arthur and Rutherford B. Hayes, amidst legendary post-Civil War graft. Innovators include both trusting Danes and suspicious Frenchmen.

The false Halo Effect makes us think we understand development more than we really do, when we think all good things go together in the “good” outcomes. It leaves out the more complicated, more interesting cases: why is New York City the world’s premier city, when we can’t even manage decent airports (with 3 separate failed tries)?

The true Tiger Woods Effect tells us something else more interesting: that if you are very, very good at hitting a 1.68 inch ball into a 4.25 inch hole, then you can get away with everything else for a long time. But usually not forever.

Going to Mombasa in a few hours.

09 December 2009

With Thanks to Chuck

Chuck has helped me out and has provided the unlock code for my American phone.  That means that will be able to continue to use my Kenyan cell phone number until I get home on the 21st. 

Disregard my previous post about using my American number.  I will stick with the Kenyan one until I get home.

Safe

Kiirsten and Kate made it to Malava safely.  We did have some troubles with our car, but we made it back in time to get things ready for the SJC staff party.

Indulging

I just watched The Great Dictator. It might be a Chaplin favorite.  The final speech always gets me and so I decide so share a part of it becuase every time I hear it I think that Chaplin wrote it for today.

In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge as made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.

Sorry, but I had to.

08 December 2009

Arrivals

Tonight Kate (Sue’s sister) and Kiirsten (my girlfriend) arrive in Nairobi.  They will stay tonight in Nairobi together and fly out to Kisumu tomorrow morning.  We will pick them up and bring them back to see Michael before having our end of the year staff party.  Then Thursday we are off and I leave Malava.  Kiirsten and I will take a vacation for a bit over a week to see Masai Mara and the coast.

I might throw up a few more posts before I leave, but I will take a hiatus over the vacation. 

If you need to contact me please use my email or you can call me at my American phone number.  I sold my Obama phone to Neto.

RED is Not Transparent, Who Knew?

Over at Aid Watch, there is a post about the lack of transparency in Project RED.  That thing where you buy a shirt from the Gap, or a special Dell laptop or a cup of coffee from Starbucks and some of the money goes to the Global Fund without costing you anything extra.

Bill Gates uses this as the perfect model for creative capitalism.  What is striking, is the fact that the company that takes in the money from RED does not release anything about its finances.  Aid Watch finds that the money does in fact go to the Global Fund, but there is no way of knowing what overhead costs and salaries.

It is striking that such a large campaign does not disclose all of its finances.  Too many charities seem to take and dole out money without complete transparency.

Here is just a part of the post, but what I think better illustrates what it is saying.  The Persuaders LLC is the company that was founded by Bono and controls the money from the RED campaign.

The Red website says that the finances are like this:

Red_Shopping_700

But Dadush shows they are actually like this:

Red_Shopping_Dadush_500

Only 2 Days Left

How did it get to the end so quickly?

06 December 2009

The Rest of the AFI

We finished the remainder of the AFI top 100 this weekend.  It took a bit of dedication, but we are now done with the list.  Like I did for the bottom fifty, I have taken the time to make my own rankings.  Basically my criteria are: acting, direction, plot, and cinematography (in that order).  I will admit, that my top choice might be determined by outside influence (aka sentimentality), but I had to make it my number one. 

I have combined the two Godfather movies because I do not think that they should be taken as a separate film.  I also like the second slightly better than the first, but one is incomplete without the other.  Since they must be seen together, they have to be considered as one film (in my mind).

1. It's a Wonderful Life – As far as I am concerned, this movie is perfect.  I will again admit my prejudice, but there is nothing better.

2. Casablanca – Endearing love story set just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It has a rushed naivety that seems to have capture the time period.

3. The Godfather Part I and II – The Vito flashbacks are what I enjoy the most.

4. Dr. Strangelove – Peter Sellers.

5. Sunset Boulevard – I knew nothing going in and I was glad after.  The plot structure is the best part.

6. The Philadelphia Story – Grant, Steward and Hepburn.  I just wish that they made every movie together.

7. Vertigo – There is not one word that you can ignore the whole time.  Having seen it a few times, it is impossible to remember every detail enough to not pay attention.

8. Singin' in the Rain – Had high expectations that were easily exceeded.

9. Chinatown

10. On the Waterfront – Brando (this will be a theme) either plays himself really well or is the best male actor of all time.  I like to think the latter.

11. The Wizard of Oz – Who does not cheer when the Wicked Witch of the West melts?

12. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Visually, the best film ever made.  I would say Barry Lyndon in some ways exceeds this.  It is an imaginative trip that I still am trying to understand and grasp.

13. Citizen Kane – Wells made this movie when he was basically my age.  I feel like I have done nothing.

14. Schindler's List – It could have been higher if it was not for the overly sentimental ending.  I know it is not fair to allow it for some and not others, but it just tries too hard.

15. City Lights – Chaplin with a happy ending.  Just the ending separates it from the rest of his movies.

16. Some Like It Hot – I thought this would be terrible because of Monroe.  She is barely in it and the paring of Curtis and Lemon is the point.  I would recommend this movie to anyone.

17. Double Indemnity – Two despicable characters lead and somehow make you wish that they can get away.

18. Lawrence of Arabia – Epic in every way.  Exactly how I like movies.

19. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Sentimentality triumphs.  I am against just about everything Sen. Smith believes, but I cheered him on as he filibustered.

20. It Happened One Night – Colbert and Gable on the run.  What a romantic comedy should be.

21. The Searchers – John Wayne is ruthless and unyielding in Ford’s epic.  I can’t really explain why I love it, but I do.

22. Raging Bull – Black and white?  Why?  I think a bit of a strange choice, but everything else is so well done that I cannot move it any lower.

23. Gone with the Wind – Maybe I would get it more if I thought of the old south as glorious and perfect.  The grandness is almost too much, but Gable reels it all in.

24. The Maltese Falcon – There is no way to predict the ending.  I challenge anybody.

25. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – Searching for gold in a semi-western that keeps all the good (ruggedness) and gets rid of the bad (disconnected male characters).

26. Rear Window – It tenses me up every time when Stewart is flashing his camera in defense.

27. King Kong – I really wish Peter Jackson did not remake this film.  The original is far better.

28. High Noon – Cooper is a little too old, but you forget that quickly.  So little happens throughout but the pacing is perfect.

29. The Graduate – I hated this the first time I saw it.  The second time warmed on me, this time I loved it.  However, terrible use of Simon and Garfunkel for the soundtrack.  Scarborough Fair once was fine, twice ok, but the fifth time was just too much.

30. The General – Buster Keton was as good as Chaplin at physical comedy.  The scenes on the trains had me rolling.

31. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Perfection for animation.

32. All About Eve – I wanted Eve to be good the whole time, it is exactly why I liked it.

33. Psycho – Hitchcock pulls of a switch from a caper to a murder without the audience knowing.

34. The Bridge on the River Kwai – Stubbornness reigns supreme whilst blowing the bridge in a dying lunge.

35. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest – I love a movie where the World Series can cause a conflict.  I have also never hated nurses so much.

36. Bonnie and Clyde – Great Depression?  Why not rob banks?

37. The Best Years of Our Lives – Life after WWII must have been tough.  A simple narrative that nears the line but is never heavy handed.

38. The Grapes of Wrath – Disappointing adaptation of a masterpiece.  I would have liked to have the ending kept the way it is in the book.

39. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – When the kids fly over the police might be in the top ten chill inducing moments in film.

40. To Kill a Mockingbird – For the courtroom scene alone.

41. Apocalypse Now – Again, Brando.  He is terrifying.

42. Annie Hall – Woody Allen’s does what he does best: neurotic guy meets quirky girl and intellectual humor ensues.

43. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – I had to resist putting this too high because of my personal love for the series, but alone it has to sit here in comparison to the rest.  My only complaint is not enough Alec Guinness.

44. The Sound of Music – The music alone is reason enough to get it into the top fifty.  Throw in Julie Andrews to sing it and some Nazis and you have an enjoyable family film.

45. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – A good movie that I think was rewarded for the effort by Jackson.  Can’t really complain but I think should be in the bottom fifty.

46. A Streetcar Named Desire – Marlon Brando makes the film.

47. Midnight Cowboy – Well done in every aspect minus the plot.  Really could have been a much better film.

48. Shane – I just do not see why this is on the list at all.  Shane is an undeveloped character and the boy who played Joey made me want to stop watching film.

49. Intolerance – As a theme, the idea of intolerance is compelling.  I am sure there are innovations that I missed, but it was a hard movie to watch and it was just too long to withstand ( 197 min).

03 December 2009

World Disabled Day Celebration

Today was a busy one.  I managed to take a few pictures in-between helping out doing manual labor and handing out sodas.  It did not go perfectly, but I think that it went well and was a resounding success.

02 December 2009

More Troops?

I thought of letting this one pass, but I have to say something.  The announcement to add more troops to Afghanistan is disappointing.  I wish I was not disappointed.  I got caught on the Obama wave.  I have not been surfing along the whole time, but the fact that I thought he would make the right decision proves that it was pulling me along. 

I thought that a unwinnable war where civilian casualties continue to rise would give reason to a dramatic change in tactics.  Not an increase in troops to continue doing the same things with more people.  At this point, I expect even more predator drones to bomb the mountains and kill people hiding from the war. 

I think the picture above just about sums up American foreign policy.  It was appropriate in 1898 (when it was made), 2003 when we invaded Iraq and still remains true with Obama increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. 

Maybe this is a better picture:

SJC Photos

I took these pictures for the sake of the website. Since I took so many I wanted to share them. 

I feel a bit wrong sharing the pictures. However, I did what I could to show what it is that we do and focus on the therapy side of things. Since I took them, I feel it would be a waste to hold on to them for myself.

Despite my reservations, sharing seems to be what is right. Because of that, I have the slideshow but not the album. Many are throw-aways, but I always like to take too many before going through to pick and choose which are the best. These are the ones that passed the first look.

I hope you enjoy and start to get a better idea of what I have been working for this year. Many aspects I am unable to contribute towards directly, but I think that I have provided support to our therapists by doing simple things such as; pushing the babies in the tire swing and holding superman (aka Dick) when he getting his therapy.

Tomorrow is World Disabled Day and basically the end of the year.  The celebration will take up a good part of the day and hopefully yield more happiness that the many pictures I will be taking.

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