Thursday, August 17, 2017

When an Invention Doesn't Need to Be Invented

According to this New York Times article from January 2010, a group of Harvard students decided to tackle a problem in developing nations, replacing dangerous kerosene lamps for indoor lighting with a much safer LED alternative, powered by the energy of children that love kicking soccer balls.

This eventually lead to the launch of a for-profit company (Uncharted Play) to produce these soccer balls, and a Kickstarter campaign to fund it.

With backing by the likes of Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Ashton Kutcher and other celebrities and philanthropists, these soccer balls were placed in the hands of poor children in Puebla, Mexico, in 2013.

Were these impoverished children's lives changed for the better?


Investigative journalists traveled to Puebla, Mexico in 2014, to talk to the children that received these soccer balls, to find out how well they were holding up and if the kids still liked and used them, a year after they were distributed. What they found out was that nearly all of these soccer balls no longer worked. Many of them stopped working within a few days to a few months after the children received them, not anywhere near the 3 years that Uncharted Play said they would last.

The cost of putting one of these stupid soccer balls into the hands of these impoverished children, was about $60 each.

Was there a better way accomplish the same goal?

Could these impoverished people been provided with a source of light, that would be more reliable and cost effective than these silly soccer balls?

Yes, and it did not require inventing something new to accomplish it.

For example, you could buy a 36 LED solar and dynamo powered camping lantern at Walmart for $15.57.

You could probably get them much cheaper if you bought them in bulk, straight from the manufacturer.

That's more LEDs and more light than the lamp that came with the novelty soccer ball.

And I am pretty sure that if you distributed these to the same kids that received the soccer balls, they would like the camping lanterns better, and after a year of use, there would be more kids still using their camping lanterns, than the soccer balls.

Even better, if you had asked the families in Puebla, Mexico if they could have spent that $60 better, they would have told you that it would have cost them less than that to be hooked up to the electrical grid, which would have provided them with much more than just light, for many years to come.

Think before you act.

If you are going to invent something to solve a problem that has the potential to change people's lives for the better, make sure it is the best possible solution to the problem, before you begin collecting funding, manufacturing, or distributing it to those that need the solution. And make sure you involve the people that need the solution, in your research. You really can't understand their needs unless you talk to them about it, first.

Because sometimes a better solution already exists and just needs the right people to get together and make it possible to get that solution into the hands of those that need it, rather than someone running off half cocked, to invent a brand new implementation of a useless novelty soccer ball.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Everything you need to know about Donald Trump's Presidential campaign

First the concept of "kayfabe":

In professional wrestling, kayfabe is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as "real" or "true," specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature. Kayfabe has also evolved to become a code word of sorts for maintaining this "reality" within the realm of the general public. Though the general public had been aware of the staged nature of professional wrestling for decades, professional wrestling industry did not formally acknowledge this until 1989 when Vince McMahon testified before the New Jersey state senate that wrestling was staged, in order to avoid taxation on his in-house shows and pay-per-view events.

Then suspicions of kayfabe in the feud between Fox and Trump:

Then Hulk Hogan wants to be his running mate?

Any yes, Trump is part of that whole pro wrestling performance crowd, as shown by his participation in Wrestlemania 23:

It would not surprise me in the least bit to find out that Vince McMahon is one of Trump's campaign advisers.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Minimum Wage Awareness Ribbon

What color is poverty? Or more precisely, what would be a suitable color for a Minimum Wage Awareness ribbon?

In the US, poverty has no specific color, it's more like the lack of a color, namely green, like our currency.

People that earn low wages can't afford to all simultaneously go on strike, for a fair living wage. If they could, this country would come to a screeching halt.

So, what I am proposing is that anyone that earns less than $15 per hour, to take a stand and make yourselves publicly visible with the Minimum Wage Awareness ribbon.
Here's how:
  • Take any color ribbon and tie it around an object, such as a hairbrush handle.
  • Knot it and then tie it in a bow.
  • Now slide it off and wear the empty ribbon pinned on your shirt, blouse, or jacket, wherever you go.
  • Wear it to work, school, church, the doctor's office, grocery shopping...everywhere.
If anyone asks what the strange droopy looking ribbon is for, tell them "I make less than $15 per hour. That ribbon is tied around the cash I have left over, after I am done paying for all my expenses."

Maybe, just maybe, if we can get enough low wage workers wearing an empty droopy ribbon, it might make a difference.

It might get others to see just how many people are affected by poverty wages, that they are not just teens working part time for pocket cash, not the lazy or uneducated,. Maybe we can make everyone aware that they are our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors...hard working people we see everywhere, every single day.

With enough awareness about how many people are affected by low wages, maybe we will have more support from the voting public to pressure the politicians in Congress to raise the minimum wage up to $15 per hour, so that low wage workers can have some cash left, that they could tie that ribbon around.

Are you with me?

Like, share, pass the word, wear a ribbon if you are affected, and make some ribbons for the low wage workers you know.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Free Online Educational Offerings from Saylor

Screenshot - 8_22_2013 , 7_06_27 AM Ever consider going to college and perhaps majoring or minoring in Computer Science, but don't really have the time to show up for classes, don't really want to go into debt paying for 4 years of college, and really don't want to fuss and bother with taking a bunch of classes that have absolutely nothing to do with your chosen major? (skip things like Psychology, Modern Dance, English Literature, and Art History?)

Maybe you should look into the offerings at Saylor. They have 2 different Computer Science offerings, depending on whether you want to major or minor.

They use all free materials that are available online, including materials that are unique to their program. Once you have completed all of the materials for each course, there is a final exam that you can take that does count, to prove your mastery of each course.

Once you have completed all of the courses in the program, they will issue you a certificate, free of charge. While this isn't exactly the same as a 4 year degree from a traditional college, you'll pretty much have the same knowledge as someone that paid for their schooling, except perhaps all the unrelated nonsense from courses having nothing to do with Computer Science, that one is usually forced to take. See their FAQ for more information.

And if you aren't quite ready for taking the required math courses to complete their Computer Science program, perhaps need to brush up on Algebra first, or fill in some of the holes left over from a less than adequate high school education, you can go back and take the high school math courses that you may have missed out on or forgotten the material.

Not interested in Computer Science? Perhaps Business Administration, Communications, or Political Science would be more towards your liking. Or maybe you really do want Psychology, Art History, or English Literature. (sorry, they don't have Modern Dance)

Or maybe you need some Workplace Skills, Job Search Skills, or some courses to help with Career Advancement.

Take a look, pick something that seems interesting and give it a shot. With 305 different courses, you are bound to find something that you'll like or need. And you really have nothing to lose. It's all free!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Would you donate something like this to your local food pantry to feed the needy?

The Box

Peeking inside

Is this real food?

Do you consider this food? Real food?

A local food pantry that used to give out real food now gives these packs out to the people that they serve. They have been doing this for about 4 months. Included in the pack is 1 package containing a Slim Jim-like beef stick and a small cheese stick, 1 extra individually wrapped cheese stick, 1 single serving of apple sauce, 1 single serving of sunflower seeds, 1 single 4 oz. serving of juice, 1 single serving of mini animal grahams. Lots of fat, sodium, and carbs in that little box, This same food pantry also gives out single servings of cereal in little bowls with tear off paper lids, and single serving 8 oz. juicebox size containers of milk.

It doesn't matter what the family size, everyone gets the same amount of packs....4. And you get 3 bowls of cereal, and 1 box of milk. You can only get food from this food pantry once a month.

These packs are produced by ES Foods.The company claims they were designed to be snack packs for after school programs. Or lunches for schools without cooking facilities (they make packs with sandwiches in them). And they were not designed with adults in mind.

This food pantry used to give out bags of real food, stuff you could feed a family with for more than a day...bags of rice, boxes of pasta, cans of tomato sauce, quart size pouches of powdered milk, full size boxes of cereal, cans of tuna, bags of dried beans, cans of baked beans, cans of vegetables, boxes of macaroni & cheese, cans of beef & gravy, jars of peanut butter and jelly. You used to walk out of there with 2 large paper bags of groceries, packed full. Then suddenly this, in one little plastic bag.

Now this is a big deal to me for the following reasons:

  1. I am one of the people that rely on this food pantry for food. Don't get me wrong, I am not being ungrateful or looking a gift horse in the mouth.
  2. What bothers me about this is that most people I know would not consider the packs they give out to be real food. Most parents would not send their kid to school with Lunchables because they are unhealthy, over priced, and do not contain very much food. While these convenience packs they are giving away are not Lunchables, they are pretty much equal to them.
  3. What they are giving is 3 breakfasts, 4 lunches (maybe), screw you for dinner. What if you have a family of five, 2 parents and 3 kids? Or 1 parent with 4 kids?  What they used to give out fed my family of three, for days...breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What they gave out was much healthier food, with lots of stuff we all could eat.

I opened up the 4 packs and divided them up among the family members, according to what each person could consume. My hubby is a diabetic, so he can't have the juice, apple sauce, or cookies. He also doesn't have teeth, so he can't have the sunflower seeds. I have gall bladder issues, so I can't have anything too fatty, which means I can't have the cheese, meat, or sunflower seeds. I also don't like sugary drinks, so I can't have the juice. Daughter is a vegetarian, so can't have the beef sticks. So I ended up with all the applesauce and cookies, daughter ended up with all the juice and sunflower seeds, and hubby got all the beef and cheese sticks. Now the big question: What is for dinner? That was a question I used to be able to answer after visiting this food pantry.

This particular food pantry is serviced by Feeding America (aka Second Harvest). This is the organization where you can donate money at the cash register of the supermarket, when you do your food shopping. This organization discourages people from making food donations. They claim food donations are bad because they never get enough of the right items and too many useless items. They claim that money is better. They claim they can get more food, better food,  for your money than you can because they buy in bulk and know what they need. If you donate to this organization, this is what they are now buying with your money. Is this what you'd buy? Can you do better than this? Could you buy better food, more food?

Other food pantries in my area are run by churches, serviced by food donations from parishioners. They give out real food, normal food, food that answers the question, what's for dinner? You get 2 bags of real groceries, and you can go twice a month. Two of them even gives out stuff like 10 lb bags of frozen chicken legs, fresh eggs, fresh produce, frozen fish, venison roasts, loaves of fresh Italian bread, hams and turkeys for holidays. They don't get any help from any of the large regional food banks and they are serving their community much better. One of them has a couple of community cookouts during the summer, where they invite the needy to a nice barbeque and provide some fun social interaction with the, music, games for the kids. They will even come and get some of the shut-ins, with parishioners providing transportation. If they can do stuff like this, why can't Feeding America provide even a fraction of what they do? What the hell happened to make such a sudden drastic change in the amount of brains behind this organization?

Maybe, just maybe, Feeding America needs new management, people that really care and use their brains to provide real food with the money they are entrusted. Maybe that would better serve the hungry, and do right by the donors that support the organization, spending their money more wisely.

I used to support this organization with cash donations, back when things were much better and I could afford it. I used to encourage other people to donate to them, too. I even did so on this blog. I won't any more, not till they show some evidence of having more than 2 brain cells running things.

I am suggesting everyone follow my original advice for donating to a local food pantry:

Your local food pantry will need your help, more than ever, during this time of economic crisis. If you can spare anything at all, please consider making regular donations of food to the one closest to you. A little bit can go a long way and help a lot of people get by this winter, and beyond.
These are the kinds of items they would always be in need of:

  • spaghetti and other pasta products
  • spaghetti sauce (preferably with vegetables or meat)
  • canned meats (like tuna or chicken)
  • shelf stable milk that doesn't need refrigeration (something like Parmalat)
  • canned and dried beans
  • peanut butter & jelly
  • hot &cold cereals
  • pancake mix & syrup (get the "complete" kind that doesn't require eggs)
  • rice
  • canned fruits and vegetables
  • soups and stews (stuff with lots of meat & vegetables)

Just think healthy & nutritious, and don't give anything that you wouldn't eat. This is not an invitation to clean out your pantry of all your unwanted crap. They don't want your dust covered cans of gourmet liver paté and jars of pickled baby corn, that neither you nor your dog would eat.

If you are giving anything that requires something else to make it a complete meal, be sure to buy the other item to go with it, such as is the case with stuff like pasta & sauce, pancake mix & syrup, peanut butter & jelly, and cereal & milk.

When in doubt, contact your local food pantry and ask what they need most, or if they are willing to accept an item you may want to provide, before you make your purchase.

Probably about the easiest way you could do this, is to just pick up at least one extra non-perishable meal each week, when you do your shopping for your family. Then drop off the food you bought at your local pantry, on your way home.

If you are having trouble locating a local food pantry near your home, pick up your phone and call churches in your neighborhood. Many of them serve their community by running a food pantry.

Most do not require the people they serve to be a member of their church or even hold any religious beliefs, at all. And they don't use it as an opportunity to preach their flavor of religion to the people they serve, either. So if you are an atheist/agnostic, this shouldn't be an issue for you. Don't let it stand in the way. (Who cares why churches help, as long as they help and do it fairly.)