Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Winter Organic Farmer's Meal

Mmmm! This was probably the most satisfying vegetarian meal I've ever had. Maria made it entirely from organic produce we receive in weekly deliveries from Organics To You. Most of their produce is from local farms. In the case of this meal, all of it may be with the exception of the pinto beans and the olive oil (although both are organic). Starting from the top of the plate, we have Chiogga beets with their distinctive red and white rings, roasted red and purple potatoes, boiled acorn squash and carrots then enhanced with a brown sugar and butter glaze, kale sauteed with pinto beans and caramelized onions, and finally an artichoke. I didn't actually eat the artichoke, not my favorite vegetable, but put it on the plate for the shot.

This morning Maria said that she was thinking of making a vegetable smorgasbord but after eating it, when I asked her what she would call it, she said it is a winter farmer's meal. So there you have it. Thanks honey!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Technology and Service in Cambodia

I've been doing a lot of reading about Cambodia lately including Michael Freeman's book, various blogs and some MDG materials. Tonight I came across a growing social business named Digital Divide Data (DDD) that is set up as a 503-C in the US and as an NGO in Cambodia. DDD's mission is two-part: to deliver high-quality digitization services to clients (one of which is the Harvard Crimson newspaper, and to provide to their employees "fair wages, health care, education, and career advancement opportunities". Many of the employees, moreover, have physical challenges suffered because of land-mines, polio or other misfortunes of their poverty-striken lives in Cambodia.

I can't say enough about an organization like DDD. They not only bring technology work to a country trying to raise itself out of poverty, but they bring work to the very people who have the most difficulty finding work: the physically challenged!

Their latest newletter reports that their employment has now reached 450 (from an original 18 in 2001) with an annual budget of $1.5 million, sixty percent of which is from earned revenues with the remainder from donations. There are a lot of people in need of work in Cambodia, both in the city of Phnom Penh and in the countryside. You can participate in DDD's mission to raise up this wonderful country by helping their employees with their education. DDD has a scholarship program where an employee (referred to as an operator since they operate using computers) pays half of their educational costs and the donor pays the rest. They ask for $240. per year from a donor to cover the educational costs of the scholarship.

If you're moved by this type of investment in a country's and a person's future, go to their web site and look at some of the videos. They are moving.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Art of Possibility

Ben and Rosamund Zander, in their book The Art of Possibility, speak about operating within the realm of possibility as opposed to constraints. It's a similar message to Frances Moore Lappe's message from her book, Getting a Grip. Kilong Ung also speaks of this in another way. The viewpoint that they all share, of abundance as opposed to scarcity and constraints, applies to how we each see ourselves in the world. Yes, there are scarce natural resources and constraints do exist on our lives. But, as the Zanders put it, there is a difference between survival and survival-thinking. The former has to do with having the necessary inputs and environment in which to survive, something that can be applied directly to poorest of the poor in this world on a daily basis. Survival-thinking, on the other hand, is how a person who is not dealing with daily survival perceives their actions and behaviors. 'I have to drive to work because of the distance I need to travel.' 'I have to continue working toward a fat retirement because otherwise I will end up losing out when the time comes to retire.' These are some examples of survival-thinking.

Rather than think that way, why not look at the possibilities we have. Sure I've got to keep working to pay my mortgage, but there are so many ways that I can help solve problems in this world.' Ok, I'm not a marketing writer so I don't have the cute phrases to catch your interest. But you get the point.

Papert-style education and locative media devices

Seymour Papert, formerly an MIT professor and now at the University of Maine, is famous for his studies and publications on enhancing students' creativity in education with the use of technology. He professes the use of constructionist learning as opposed to instructionist learning. See this Papert speech for more information.

I just came across an interesting project named Frequency1550 by Waag, an organization in the Netherlands whose original mission was
"to make new media available for groups of people that have little access to computers and internet, thus increasing their quality of living."

Frequency1550 is a mobile game uses 3G cell phones and GPS devices to transport students back to medieval Amsterdam where they compete with other students to find answers about the city in those days. Although I love the idea of putting the control in the hands of the students, this is part of the constructivist learning strategy, I was surprised that students can sabotage other students by planting bombs to go off in particular locations.

Creative Media For the Community

I'm finishing up a Digital Storytelling course at Portland Community Media this week. This course has been a gentle, but exciting, introduction to creating a story with digital images, voice over, music soundtrack and Photoshop-created graphics. Taught by a born storyteller, Tim Rooney, a staffer at PCM, the course is geared toward digital media newbies interested in learning the art of digital storytelling to tell their own personal or a community-interest story. No video is used in this course, just still images and graphics. The goal of the course is to have each student become familiar with the basics of these tools: PhotoShop, Apple's Final Cut Express and GarageBand, and to learn how to tell a simple story. My story is entitled From East to West and is about my move from the east to the west coast. From the many themes that I could have chosen, I decided to focus on my own personal feelings, in particular what may have (or not) motivated me to want to move and what places I have here in Portland that replaces some important places to me in the Boston area. It won't be a perfect project. The idea is to get your feet wet with the tools and finish the project. So Tuesday night I plan on finishing it in the three hours alloted to me during class. If it's not done in time, I hope to be able to finish it very soon, before Tim chooses the time to have the stories aired on cable tv and put on the PCM web.

I'm really stoked about this medium of communication! I've always wanted to apply myself to the creative arts, having tried drawing, watercolor painting, photography, acting and guitar. I never got enough traction with any of them. But the combination of left and right brain synergy that is required to do great digital storytelling feels just right to me. I get to be technical (I'm sure my programming will enter the fray at some time in the future of a project) and I get to apply my creative instincts.

After completing this first project I will be looking for another project to do. I might even take the other PCM digital storytelling class which includes video. As Maria embarks on her para-legal education in January, I will be embarking on my new, exciting hobby.

Now... how can I use this new found talent to help eradicate poverty, or make for better communities in the Portland area, or help reduce the effects of global warming, or get people to eat locally and organic more?