The Practical Radical

Framing Our World – A Photo Collage

June 30, 2010
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This is a collage of photos done for the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006 by KK Law. The photos were part of a larger exhibition focused on the perspective of youth on their city. Enjoy!

Generations of Woodwards

Cottonwood Gardens

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Framing Our World – A Photo Collage

June 30, 2010
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This is a photo collage done for the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006. The photos are part of a larger exhibition focused on youth perspective on the urban environment. The photos exhibition was mounted by EYA and UN-HABIAT. Photos done by KK Law.

Generations of Woodwards

From the roof of Woodwards 1

From the roof of Woodwards 2

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Fight, Flight or Unite – What’s the strategy?

June 27, 2010
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Lots of issues around violence and when to use it have come to the fore for me in the past few days – the Afghan war and the G8 riots being the most media prominent. Yet, its my current favorite TV show Boston Legal which describes it best.

There was a great episode where one of the lawyers got into an altercation with a bruiser at a bar. Said lawyer taunted said bruiser, who punched him. View the video to see one way our of this situation.

As you can see his solution was unique – but it brings up the question for me of when do you fight, when do you flee (and maybe fight another day) and when do you bring in help.

In a more metaphorical way, this scenario is often revisited in one’s career when you are faced with a serious conflict (say getting fired or majorly jerked around) and the aforementioned three choices. Though at first blush, going on the offensive may feel like the right thing, upon sleeping on it the answer often seems to be to walk away. The long-term strategy often becomes bringing in others to help you.

I follow the idiom that revenge is best served cold.*  It is more important to determine my immediate interests and needs than it is to go for the throat. But, then again, sometimes it sure would be nice …

* this phrase is alternatively attributed to Klingon Khaless the unforgettable; a quote by Pierre Ambroise Francois Choderios de LaClos (1741-1803) in his book Les Liasons Dangereuses; or as old Mafiosi saying from Sicily.


A General and a Rolling Stone: Should the Rebel Bite the dust?

June 23, 2010
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Mcchrystal - The Rebel General

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is a rebel.

From his hard partying, authority bucking days in West Point to his current post as commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, he does it his own way. We have often seen greater leaders in the military such as Patton and Macarthur (linked to a book and a movie on the subject) who do amazing things on the field, but have not so amazing relationships with the political types back home. McChrystal is cut from this cloth.

McChrystal and his aides seemed to have been caught drinking their own koolaide and dished some interviews to Rolling Stone, from which an article was written critical of the President – “Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss [McChrystal] was pretty disappointed.” – and Vice-President – “Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”.

Unfortunately, the kafuffle about whether the General is respecting the President overshadows the real focus of the article. The article was about whether the General was pursuing an un-winnable war with a strategy that is radical and questioned by many.

The strategy he is advancing – counterinsurgency  or “COIN” – calls for sending a large number of troops to both pummel the enemy as well as befriend the civilian population and rebuild its government. As the article states, this is a long process, much longer than Obama’s promised stand down slated for next year, and is not generally supported or understood by the troops, who see it as putting them in danger by limiting their ability to defend themselves. Though in an ideal world I like the concept of an army multi-tasking and play both the role of the peacemaker and the warrior, I strongly question the ability or the desire of American soldiers to undertake this.

Please read more of the Rolling Stone article here entitled “The Runaway General“.


Trophy Hunting

June 18, 2010
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The following are the tweets from the Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff leading up to the execution of convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad.

Another execution done in the name of one’s God by the State. In a country which questions the reach and role of government in private citizens lives, this is the cruelest of ironies.

There is the inhumanity of the murder, compounded upon by the inhumanity of a “firing squad” execution, compounded upon the ignominy of declaring it on twitter and inviting everyone to watch the press conference.

Doing this in this way shows the true intent of this “justice”  – demeaning it to nothing more than a big game hunt with the hunter putting the killers head on a plaque in his den.

The Press Conference.


Nairobi Reflection 3: High Touch/Low Tech

June 17, 2010
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Community Mapping has always been quite an amazing tool – it localizes knowledge, draws on the “mappers” personal and community experiences, identifies interconnectedness – all this coming together and increasing social capital (if you are interested in the concepts of social capital read Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone; to better understand how it relates to mapping, read up on John Mcknight’s Asset Based Community Development). You can check out some of the work that the International Centre for Sustainable Cities and UN-HABITAT has done on community mapping by checking out their draft asset mapping manual.

As I have written about before, the Kibera Mapper’s project take this to the next level by combining the “soft” components of mapping – working with community, getting them to identify their “assets” or “social capital” – with the “hard” components of mapping – turning out maps which can be used in community organizing and advocacy. These organizing and advocacy outputs can be used to influence decision makers such as planners – I like to thing of it as the “pointy stick” of mapping, where you can drive your message home with great success.

What is even more exciting is how low tech this has become. Using what they call Walking Papers mappers are able to draw directly onto a map and then have it scanned and that be uploaded directly to a digital map. No GPS, no uploading to an onsite computer. The definition of High Touch/Low Tech.

A Walking Paper example - the barcode in bottom right allows the map to be scanned and lined up with an offsite digital map

Anyways, I am re-blogging Mikel’s post from the Map Kibera blog. It gives a lot more detail and new insight into mapping — real-time — in the field.

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Nairobi Notebook 2: The Sustainability of Good Works

June 14, 2010
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Nairobi Notebook

NOTE: I had a wonderful lunch when i was in Nairobi with some of the people from the Map Kibera project (you can read my previous blog on this here, or go to their website mapkibera.org). What fascinated me was the stage they were at in regards to the growth of their project and their concern about assuring that the project was sustainable. This  got me thinking about sustainability and NGOs. Here are my musings on the subject …

Just as the coin for business is, well, coins, the coin for NGOs is change. Positive change. It is what every NGO assumes it will be able to achieve when they start, and what many fail to do. The challenge often for NGOs as with for-profit companies is achieving and sustaining their success.

To achieve success an agency agency needs to plan, to plan they must have a  “business model” – guidelines to better understand where they stand in relation to their own development.

One traditional for-profit model is that of the “business cycle” or “S curve”.

aides1.jpg (11156 bytes)

This model  is used to understand the growth  of industries and organizations. However, the S curve does not recognize key components of a healthy system – specifically the phases of destruction and renewal. A healthy forest is one that has trees grow older, die, and then become the fertilizer for the new growth. The S curve is silent on these phases of destruction and renewal. Ironically, it is the paradox of having things dies that assures the longterm sustainability of a healthy system.

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K’naan at World Cup

June 11, 2010
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Wish I was there!!

Some quotes left regarding the video:

CENTRAL AMERICA, AFRICA, & SOUTH AMERICA WAVE YOUR FLAGS with PRIDE!!!!we might be 3rd world countries but my god we are stronger then any wealthy nations

Respect and love to K’naan. Thank you for waving the somali flag. One day somalia will be the country we knew. Peaceful, best weather on earth and beatiful people like u

K’naan You’re the best ever and your song will be the best song world cup in Africa I’m very proud of you K’naan and thanks for the

woow k’naan well done man,,,, u really made me cry when i sow my flag woow i dont know what to say K’naan love u so much 

You know in a weird way this performance really moved me… just such a mix of cultures in the crowd, thousands of them coming together to sing a song about being proud of who you are and where you come from, and to have a man from somalia, a country thats been through so much to sing it, it was very powerful 🙂

For one month, the world is at peace, and the only battle that takes place is on the field. For a brief moment in time, EVERYONE is united. You can see that in this video


RIP Floppy – Thanks for the Memory!

June 10, 2010
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Oops ... wrong floppy

We'll miss you!

At the end of April, Sony announced they will stop manufacturing the 3.5 inch floppy disc, even though they sold 12 million in 2009. A sad parting to a revolutionary product.

I remember fondly moving from the 5 inch limp black floppies, to the crisp, firm multi-colored 3.5s. They made a comforting kachunk as they went into my computer. And they were durable … I still have a few around and an external drive. Though the CDs and then DVDs hold more, they did not shine a light to the protection that hard plastic covered disk gave.

Thanks for the memory!


Humor in Dark and Digital Times – A Video Mashup

June 9, 2010
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Dark or black humor has always been fascinating to me – finding something funny in dismal times clearly shows how resilient humanity can be.

My introduction to black humor was Monty Python, and more specifically the movie the Holy Grail. Two of my favorites are Black Knight and Bring out Your Dead.

With the digital age and youtube we now don’t have to wait for geniuses such as Python to write and produce videos and get them to TV, the movies or VHS. Now with little production time and no cost, videos reflect what is happening now, and can have direct and immediate impact.

One example of this real-time dark humor is in regards to the spill in the gulf. A great video was done by John Clarke and Brian Dawe of the 7.30 Report (Australia) which skewers the duplicity of BP.

On a different (musical) note demonstrating the use of humor in dark times, is a music video done by the Best Party from Reykjavik, Iceland to Tina Turners song “Simply the Best”.

The Best Party is like the Rhino Party and other spoof parties who are created as a protest to the traditional parties in the political system – this party was created due to the massive lack of confidence in government after the country went bankrupt. What is ironic is that in this case the Best Party,  whose comedian leader campaigned on clean politics, free towels in city swimming pools and a polar bear for the zoo, took over 30 percent of the vote and won six seats on the 15-seat city council. Humor in dark times trumps.

Dark humor is an effective tool, and yet in the end Python gets it right.


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    Practical things that make me radical

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