Monday, August 16, 2010

All I have to do is dreeaam, dream dream dream

(Anyone get my title reference? Again, not one of those songs that translates well to text... Sigh. Everly Brothers "All I have to do is dream." We used to listen to it in my tap class a lot).

ANYWAYS. I only mention dreams because I saw "Inception," and loovveed it! (It's about dreams, that's where the title comes in. And I have had interesting dreams ever since the movie!... total coincidence). It was complicated enough to be cool, but simple enough to never cause confusion. Or it was just well explained maybe. A lot of movies that try to be all clever with manipulating reality always have to stop the plot and start literally explaining what's going on, which sounds stupid and shows that the writers were kind of confused about it all too. But I never got that feeling with "Inception." It seemed like a well thought out and clear concept, although the ending wasn't my favorite (I won't spoil it, don't worry). It wasn't awful, but... not brilliant either. Ok, well this isn't a movie reviewing blog, so I'll leave it at that. It's just kind of neat to see how quickly movies (blockbuster movies, to clarify) go global these days. It used to take months for movies to get from New York to Vermont back in the day, and now they make it to East Africa in a matter of days! (Am I allowed to publicly use the phrase "back in the day" at my age? Well, I guess considering that I use that phrase to describe any period of time ranging from paleolithic times to just a few years ago, it's probably allowed. I'll let you judge the exact period of time I'm referring to given the context).

Now let's continue with the theme of technology (it's a theme--advancements in the film industry are reliant on technology! So there). Technology also happens to be the theme of the next term at Educate!, but that's not where I was really going with this, just a side note. My dad sent me an interesting article the other day about the unintended (and unexpected) consequences of sending computers to Africa (in this case, Ghana). To summarize (although you should look at the link, lots of great pictures!), a lot of people and companies donate old, used computers to places like Ghana thinking that "ok, a crappy old computer will be better than no computer," and then it ends up in a computer graveyard where people basically mine this old technology for gold (for circuits and contacts), copper wiring and other various parts--probably not what the donors imagined at all!

This was particularly interesting to me because I've (for some unknown reason) been put in charge of all the computers at my office! It's fun to complain about because I really know no more about computers than your average joe (and definitely not much at all about PCs. wooo macintosh!), but it's also sort of a fun challenge. During middle school and high school, I was interested in about every activity one could ever be interested in (usually lasting for a period of about two weeks. I played the flute when I was 11 for a week. Learned how to play one note). Anyways, so thanks to my computer nerd brother and dad, one of those phases was computers! I spent two weeks teaching myself to type on a DVORAK keyboard and learned probably two programing codes for blogging, and then I think I moved onto to figure skating or something much more fun like that (figure skating didn't last long either, not that fun it turns out). So, the point is, there is a tiny little itty bitty part of me that's interested in computers, so it's sort of exciting... in a challenging, frustrating kind of way.

So to make a long story even longer, I thought this article was interesting because while we do have some great used computers at our office, and we were just generously given two new computers (yay!), we definitely have some crappy, useless, space-taking computers that people still try to use from time to time, hoping they might work (I do have plans to try to fix them). So I applaud those computers miners in Ghana for not wasting their time trying to use broken, shoddy electronics. I'm not referring to our computers really, but to people donating computers (not that any potential computer donors are reading this blog), if it's not useful to you, it's probably not all that useful to people in "developing" countries either! (If it's just annoying to use, but it works, then ok, but if it's totally worthless, then it will be worthless to everyone... unless you're a computer genius, which you probably aren't if you've never owned one before and haven't had much experience using one... or if you're relying on the skills of an "I only use computers for internet and writing" kind of person... like me). Ok, I'll get off my little computer donations soapbox now...

The point is, I'm gaining a fascinating new perspective on technology in Uganda! And it's not only through my limited work with computers, but also through talking with people here who are: designing and marketing solar panels; building energy efficient stoves (this is one of the Educate! scholars!); exploring new ways to make coal ("biochar".. charcoal made out of corn); making plans to buy solar run buses; laying the groundwork for establishing fiber-optic internet, which will probably eventually be the fastest in the world; and many other cool things! It's neat that because sub-Saharan Africa missed out on some of the earlier stages of all this technology, they're now skipping ahead and in line to be on the forefront of green energy and cell phone/internet technology. Now, if only they could say the same about waste management and sewage systems... Alas.

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