Tragedy theory

Recently I went to the birthday party and not-really-going-away-party-even-though-he-was-leaving-Africa-for-home-that-week of a friend of mine who has worked in Africa on and off for several years since he graduated. He was working in something that I think was called community based environmental management: development speak for getting people to take care of the trees and stuff. Like a volunteer I crashed on his floor and we talked some more after the party. I asked about his plans and his choice to return even though his girlfriend will be staying in Nairobi (you guys know who you are so if you wanna be named, add your comments to this page). He said he’d had enough working on aid projects and wanted to do something where the people involved get to make real profit.

This all got me thinking about the kind of work that so called development agencies, like VSO and the others, are doing out here and the philosophical and economic principles upon which they are based. As you know I have been thinking lately about The Tragedy Of The Commons and how it might be used to explain or justify modern approaches to economic governance. This blog hasn’t been very political for a while so
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Inventing small contraptions

Spoon power! (and that’s nothing to do with the Tick)
spoonpower (24k image)
Here is a snap I took last thursday in a class I had with our Stage 1 IT students.

OK, I didn’t completely stop teaching students. One of the classes I do take is an additional one for the new students. One afternoon per week for one hour we — myself and Pauline (another teachner, not the principal) go to the dining hall (psychologically not a classroom) and do some fun (I hope) stuff with them. This week I had them playing Balderdash/Call My Bluff: making up fake meanings for obscure words. Last week they were making small rubber-band powered vehicles!

Here are some more pics from that session…

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Things moving

I had a very nice weekend: Friday was the birthday of a friend in Nairobi, for which there was a fabulous Italian dinner at a posh restaurant in the city, and Saturday was another birthday, this time of Katie the Peace Corps volunteer from up the road in Tala. Katie and I went and stayed with my friend in town and we all celebrated both birthdays. Saturdays celebration was a quiet night in with some home cooked food and a game of scrabble but oh boy, how I miss quiet nights **with company** like that.
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Two thirds

Yesterday, being 7th, was the 16th month-anniversary of my arrival in this land; two thirds of the way through my service. This morning, while running, I got annoyed with uninvited company once again. One child ventured too close to me and I reached out and slapped him upside his head with the back of my hand. Another I told to “Fuck Off” with such vehemency that gobbits of runner’s phlegm sprayed in his direction. And Im not even ashamed. Well I’m not ashamed of the actions themselves, Im ashamed of being so stupid that I couldn’t see how doing so would only make the kids more excited to try and run with the mzungu but keeping just out of arm’s distance, or spitting distance, depending on which incident they witnessed.

But it has set me to thinking, this morning, about why Im so bad tempered for no reason.
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The Most Metal Wins

A minibus stormed past me this morning as I was running by the side of the road. It was accompanied by thunderous engine noise and a stormcloud of black diesel exhaust. As it neared my shoulder it let out a terrifying trumpet of motorhorn blowing. I kept running, but only just.

Of course I was expected to leap into the bushes. The rule of the road, here in Kenya, is that he with the most metal wins. Motorists don’t so much give way as back down. Vehicles and, by extension their drivers, are arranged in an hierarchy depending on how much metal there is in their vehicles. Pedestrians and joggers are at the bottom.
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Tragedy Of The Commons

A while back I did the second part of CISCO Netork Academy Instructor training together with my colleagues here at HRC. One of the subjects we covered was Frame Relay which is a technology that is often used to send much of our Internet data from one place to another when those places are a long way from each other. Compared with Ethernet, which is used often for similar purposes when the places are very close, Frame Relay seemed like triumph of fairness from which lessons might be learned even by those of us who do not, consiously, use computer networks in our day-to-day business. My reasoning worked like this:
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