Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Sorry about the light blogging the past few weeks. Not having a laptop has affected my ability to get online when I want. We just got done helping with a Japanese team which was really a great and a lot of fun. They funded the construction of a community center in one of our communities. It is quite a large building that the school and community can use for meetings. It was very cool to work with the Japanese team. Everybody on the team understood at least a little English which made it easier to communicate. However, I kept forgetting and speaking Spanish to them because in the last year anybody who I have talked to that is not a native English speaker is a Spanish speaker and I am just used to it.

We had a 3 day weekend this weekend which was nice. I am now teaching every afternoon at the Refuge (5 hours of class every day) which is cool. I am able to understand the students better this semester and answer their questions easier. The new computers are very helpful. We have a class of 20 instead of 16 because we have more computers. What we are missing now is monitors.

I am now working on setting up a backup system for the office. When the lightning struck, we lost a hard drive and quite a bit of info because there was no backup. We will see how it turns out. We are also probably going to start teaching English before work a couple days a week for the FH staff.

That's it for now, but I will try to blog more frequently then I have.

Saturday, August 28, 2004
Here is an article on water supplies in poor countries. It is a mixed bag. While over 1 Billion people have been given access to clean water in the last 12 years, a staggering 4,000 children still die every day due to sickness caused by unclean water.

Friday, August 13, 2004
There is now updated info about getting to Brazil from Pucallpa over on the Pucallpa page of our website.

Also, if I were a polytheist, I would think that the computer gods were aligned against me. Yesterday my nearly brand new laptop fritzed out on me and now will not load Windows. I haven't had time to try and fix it yet, but I think it was having troubles with the hard drive. This does not make me a happy camper after I have spent the last 3 weeks installing, repairing, and replacing a never-ending number of computers fried by a lightning strike.

On a brighter note, this afternoon I will be taking the donated computers (actually a combination of the donated computers and computers from the FH office that we replaced with the donated computers) over to the Refuge of Hope. Class starts again Monday after a 2 week break and there will be newer computers for everybody! Now all we are missing is monitors. We can double the number of computers (and therefore students) in the class if we continue to use the older computers. But in order to do that we need to get monitors.

Also, everybody in the office is now running Windows XP on more then adequate computers so the donation has made a big difference. It makes my life easier not having to work on Windows98 here in the office. My next task is to set up a backup system for the office. We lost data when the lightning struck and I don't want that to happen again.

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Peruvia, another blog, is a great summary of English language news on Peru. I heartily recommend checking it out daily. For example, today there is information on the inauguration of a bridge to link Brazil and Peru as well as info on Peru's gas reserves. So if you are interested in learning more about Peru, read it every time you get a chance! It is now linked in the right column of my blog as well.

Sunday, August 08, 2004
I fixed the link to the Economist article on malnourished a couple of posts down. I will summarize it below, but really you should read it yourself.

It recounts the story of a primary school in Malawi, Africa that began a free lunch program in 1999. School enrollment immediately doubled, largely from increased enrollments from families who previously did not send their children to school. "These families were so poor that the long-term benefits of education seemed unattractive when set against the short-term gain of sending children out to gather firewood or help in the fields. One plate of porridge a day completely altered the calculation." Interestingly enough, even when much more students from poorer families were enrolled ("Anywhere in the world, poor kids tend to perform worse than their better-off classmates.") test scores improved significantly. "Better nutrition makes for brighter children. Most immediately, well-fed children find it easier to concentrate. More crucially, though, more and better food helps brains grow and develop."

Worldwide, the proportion of people severely malnourished is decreasing. But much work remains to be done. "Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to disease, according to the UN's standing committee on nutrition. Hunger weakens the immune system."

"Sadly, the battle against hunger is harder to win than it should be. Food shortages tend to occur in countries with callous, despotic rulers. That is why a 14-year-old male North Korean refugee is on average 25cm shorter than his South Korean peer. In the long term, economic growth and improved agricultural technology offer the surest cure for malnutrition."

The article then goes on to suggest some quick, inexpensive, fixes such as iodizing salt, fortifying flour with iron, vitamin A supplements, breastfeeding, educating women, etc...

Here's the money paragraph:
"Many of the things that would ease hunger are worth doing anyway. Policies that promote economic growth or better education would be desirable even if they had no impact on nutrition. Democracy and freedom of speech are attractive in and of themselves. But it is also worth noting that rich, well-educated countries never go hungry, and that no democratic country with a free press, no matter how poor it may be, has ever suffered a famine. Unfettered reporters provide early warnings, and accountable governments know they have to respond to emergencies. The recent crushing of the independent media in Zimbabwe is one reason why the World Food Program expects trouble this year."

Read the whole article. It is worth your time.

Thursday, August 05, 2004
The lightning situation is slowing down. It looks like most everything will be repaired by Monday. Paying for the repair is another matter... :)

On a completely unrelated note, the annual UN Human Development Index is out. This is a ranking by the UN of most countries in the world.

Some notables:
1 Norway
4 Canada
8 US
12 UK
16 France
85 Peru

UPDATE: I mistakenly linked the 2003 report. It is now corrected to the current report as are the numbers. Thanks to an informed reader.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004
The last few days have been uber-hectic as lightning hit the office and fried just about everything that was plugged in. Six computers were fried, along with phones, a TV, the equipment for the network, power stabilizers, and a printer. I spent 14 hours yesterday getting the network back online and a bunch of the computers switched out. The building didn't have a ground and also didn't have a lightning rod so everything got toasted. I wasn't in the office when it happened but I guess it was something else. Of the computers that my brother sent down only 2 were fried. Hopefully we will have insurance to cover the costs of replacing this stuff. Gotta get back to work!!


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