27 February, 2009

Childhood Adieu

A friend of mine, Marie, was visiting today from Denmark. Marie came to Luebeck with her partner and two small girls. This morning, I suggested to my thirteen-going-on-fourteen-year-old daughter whether she’d consider going through her old dolls and passing on something to little Tira and Lina. So, before she went off to school she put her choice of dolls in her beautiful hand-carved wooden doll bed and told me in passing, “We might as well give it all to Tira”.


I looked at the dolls; each bought at different times throughout my daughter’s younger years, and became quite weepy. “You sure you want to do this? Maybe you would like to give them later to your own daughters”, I asked her as casually as I could muster. She gave the impression of being so worldly as she dismissed this idea, telling me that she is like me, not at all sentimental about such things. She said that since she didn’t get anything from me from my childhood, she was going to be like that later as well.

What she didn’t know was the existence of my double standard system. Even if I don’t feel connected to things from my pass, it doesn’t mean that I am not connected to things from her pass. Does this make any sense?

23 February, 2009

And, now what?

This video does well to describe how the present economical crisis occurred in the US . Hopefully, Jonathan Jarvis will make another video soon describing how we can get out of this mess.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Even though the economic crisis exists globally, I am not sure the spiralling effect occurred in every country the same way. I have a feeling it also occurred through inter dependencies and poor business practices between lending institutions.

17 February, 2009

On my way to Berlin

The gods willing, I am on my way down to Berlin tomorrow for the rest of the week. I am very excited because this is going to be less a business trip and more a furious whirlwind visit with different friends: old and new. Maybe I'll write sort descriptions of the women I am meeting up with. They have facinating diverse interests and personalities.

I'm making no promises. If the weather is good and the coffee steamy, I just might spend my whole time walking and talking. There's no better way to spend a few days, is there?

14 February, 2009

Complex yet simple

In many of the school projects we do, stop-motion animation is often a technique teachers choose for their art projects. It is a technically simple method to use, good for teamwork (e.g. writing concept, making storyboards, creating the photo material) and the results are often better than other projects using other digital technologies (e.g. podcast, film, 3D graphics).

After watching these two stop-motion films from Sam3, a Spanish artist, this afternoon, I thought I’d share them with you.


OUROBOROS from sam3 on Vimeo.

Water Kiss

Each is wonderful and wondrous in its own way. I particularly like Ouroboros because of the effects, complexities, yet it remains simple in theme. Also, it is filmed in Berlin, and the gods willing, I am off to Berlin this week to visit friends!

13 February, 2009

One Love

Unless I got my dates mixed up, tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Not a day we celebrate in our household, at least not in the conventional or (commercially) traditional sense. At most, we shyly say the words, "Happy Valentine's Day" and smile at each other. Much in the same way we might say, "Happy Groundhog Day", if we happened to know when that was. Still, I'd like to send loving thoughts out to all of you who read this blog. It means a lot to me that you return day after day.

I've published another video of the Playing for Change songs. All are good. Some are so touching they bring tears of joy every time I hear them. Enjoy.

11 February, 2009

New Horizons

Realise that my anxiety about the economic crisis has dripped onto the pages of this blog. So, in celebration to positive constructive activism, you can read this article that talks about the...

Momentum for the Covenant of Mayors is gathering pace and by 10 February 2009, 372 cities from thirty countries had signed up for the Covenant of Mayors and a further 104 cities had expressed an interest.

Glad to note that Hamburg's mayor has made a promise of 40% reduction by 2020. Now this is more of what we need.

Why reinvent the wheel?

Dear Mr. Geithner,

Please take note. Prime Minister Brown in Britain has a few things to say about steps his government has undertaken since last October in respect to dealing with banks for their irresponsible and excessive risk taking. Please watch this video; maybe there are some lessons to be learnt here. If what the American banks and Wall Street are looking for are details about short term and long term dealings, Gordon Brown speaks of 9 short term steps already pursued in assuring "no bonuses for failures" and five long term goals still being looked into. Short, but convincing. How is it that the British government can act within weeks of the crisis, and your government can not?

It can start with a public declaration of "profound and unreserved" apology from the bankers.


Curious But Puzzled

10 February, 2009

Same old, same old

During this last week, I find that I am very frustrated reading articles about the haves-or-have-nots of the US stimulus bill.

Actually, I am sure that just three weeks ago, plus one day, on the eve of Obama's inaugural ceremony, in an obvious collective rush of jubilation, studies stated that Americans (including the small folk and the big brass) were willing to "give" Obama a six-month honeymoon to start working out some of the major kinks in the system. Now, three weeks later, to heck with the six months! Let's pout, pose, and position every bloody Republican congressperson, probably every Republican senator (not holding my breath on those three yes-no-maybe-so votes), and a newly voted-in Republican chairperson against the bill.

All the talk seems to be about the imperfections of the bill and the question whether the spending will produce the right results. Well, you know what, at this late point in time, they might just have to give it a try anyways. If hindsight were really as good a predictor as Dr. Phil says, then we (the whole world!) wouldn't be in the present pickle.

What makes this whole bickering back-and-forth so frustrating, is hearing the politicians speak as if they think they know what they are talking about when it is so obvious they don't, as if the outcome of this stimulus spending is predicable, as if they are voting on principle instead of what they should be doing: voting out of desperation in a fleeting attempt of stem the tides of some very bad wrongs.

I don't know about you, but the American recession isn't coming, it has already arrived. At least in my very humble circle of friends it has. Two friends in New Zealand have lost their jobs because their companies' main offices are in America and the first thing the American companies did was close down their foreign offices, even though these foreign offices both were bringing in money. Two other friends have lost their homes in the States. Five friends in the States were made redundant in the last two weeks. One friend, who was working at the company for the last 18 years, was given one week's severance pay. These facts I have just taken off the top of my head. Give me some time to actually think or research the situation; I'd probably come up with a lot more examples.

So, here is my plea to all you Republican and Democrats politicians out there in Washington, just vote yes. I do not care why you are voting no, so save your breath and explanations. But, if you vote yes, I will read every single article or interview you put out there for me to consume. I’ll even promise to remember your name.

09 February, 2009

07 February, 2009

Progressive Education circa 1940

Even though my children were born in the 20th century, they have few or no memories from that century. That is, other than that what they experience in their day-to-day learning at school. This video, from the 1940s, is an idealistic representation of the teaching methods my children experience in their high school today.

Idealistic, because even though the ministry of education encourages the practices shown in the video, in reality my children sit in rows and the teachers use frontal instructional form 90% of the time. They are also learning 80% of their learning material by rote; so let’s throw in some 1920s teaching methods in there. My children are being taught 1920s to 1940s educational methods by teachers raised, in the most part, in the 1960s, and this is suppose to help them prepare for working in the 2020s. Is it any wonder my son believes school is a place to pay penance for having been born in the wrong century, and life outside and online is where you really learn through communication, connectivity, and collaboration.

04 February, 2009

3 Degrees of Lending: 1st Degree

A while ago, I wrote about how begging is just being asked to give. Next, I’d like to write about various forms of borrowing or lending money, thus this post’s title, Three Degrees of Lending. Today's post is on the first degree, what I call “pass the baton” lending.

To explain what I mean by “pass the baton”, I’d like to present two concrete examples of using this form of lending. The first example is something I have done since finishing my university studies over 25 years ago. I pay a small monthly allowance (automatic bank transfer) to a student throughout his or her university career. Nearly always, these students are foreign scholarship students whose scholarships pay for basic university fees, but do not cover the high costs of living in Germany. (The monthly allowance is humble, but it does perhaps pay for bus fees or a month of coffee) When they finish their studies and are properly employed, they are to pay this “pass the baton” loan to another student. Thus, over the years, more and more students receive this modest relief and recognition for the work they do.

The second example, of “pass the baton” lending is a system I am currently in the process of setting up. This system will be private micro-financing groups consisting of a modest amount of businesspersons (e.g. 4-6), each contributing a modest sum of money (e.g. 100 USD). Each group will lend their capital as credit to a women’s co-op micro-financed business endeavour. I am working with other global community volunteers in four countries (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Cameroon). These volunteers, both on the ground and online, are setting up Village Phone Salons, whose goal is offering mobile phone services to rural communities.

Some of the Village Phone Salon groups (e.g. women co-ops) are seeking credit to start up their Village Phone Salons, in areas where no micro-financing agencies are available. Thus we are setting up the above-mentioned private micro-financing groups. The estimated credit needed to set up one Village Phone Salon is 500 USD. We plan to work out an agreement with the first ound of women co-op receiving loans; one which stipulates that they will not only pay back their credit over a defined period of time, but they will also agree to offer practical assistance and guidance to the second Village Phone Salon in the future.

It is our hope that this type of lending plan will find success in these local communities. What do you think, does it sound interesting?