Last night I watched this documentary:

What are we doing here? is the story of three brothers and a cousin as they travel overland from Cairo to Cape Town, exploring the question of why charity has largely failed to end poverty in Africa. I was intrigued when I read the synopsis, and so I decided to purchase the DVD to watch it (since I couldn’t find anyone else who had a copy).

Overall, I felt that the Kleins did a good job of keeping their own opinions out of their documentary. They never claimed to be experts. They only wanted to learn. And as such, I felt they did a decent job of showing multiple sides of a complex question, always using clips of others’ opinions.

The film lacked a bit of depth because¬†they only spent 6 months filming the video (I felt like the two years it took me to do a very similar trip wasn’t enough time), and they had to skip multiple countries. But I guess I can’t really blame them for that – a multi-year trip is a lot for one documentary.

Sometimes the Kleins struck me as a bit inexperienced or naive, but then they never claimed to have any prior background in development or aid. I would predict that should they do the trip again, they would probably talk to some slightly different people and ask some slightly different questions. But overall, I think they did a good job of managing their task given their prior knowledge.

The best part of the documentary was the light in which they portrayed Africans. The world is filled with images of sick, helpless, impoverished Africans. What are we doing here? features a number of intelligent Africans who are acutely aware of the adverse effects of aid in their countries, and are often better posed to offer solutions.

There were two people that struck me the most. One was a Kenyan woman working in an HIV/AIDS clinic whose thoughtfulness on how to battle both HIV and aid was striking. The second was a Kenyan news anchor who was not afraid to tell a Kenyan NGO worker to “stop whining” about a river having too much or too little to water and to start taking action into his own hands. Unlike many Africans featured in the media, the Africans I know often resemble these women. What are we doing here? gives them a powerful voice.

Overall, it was worth a watch. I wouldn’t necessarily pay for it again, but I’d be happy to lend you my copy.


Normally I greatly dislike when celebrities attempt to meddle in development and aid. They often know very little about what they’re getting involved in and end up doing more harm than good (like Jessica Simpson’s project to send shoes to Haiti, which is not helpful).

But George Clooney’s idea to use private satellites to keep a close eye on the activity in Sudan as the country votes for a possible North-South split strikes me as a) somewhat hilarious and ridiculous, and b) actually pretty good.

Clooney jokes by saying,¬†“We want them to enjoy the level of celebrity attention that I usually get.” But in doing so, it’ll be much harder for any party to fabricate events in case the outcome is disputed (as often happens when any African country goes to the polls). Read the full article here.

This is the first time I’ve seen an example of celebrity aid that a) uses knowledge/experience from an area that the celebrity actually knows something about (aka being in the spotlight) and b) could actually have a positive impact. Bono, please take a lesson from George Clooney.

Over the winter holidays, my brother and I went to a trapeze lesson at Streb in New York City. I had never done trapeze before, but I’m keen to try pretty much any sport / physical activity. In two hours, I learned how to do this:

A few notes after the fact:

  1. It’s not as hard as it looks.
  2. I’m not afraid of heights, but man was I nervous every time before I jumped off the platform.
  3. The backs of your knees are going to be in severe pain afterwards.
  4. I would totally do this again.

(Note: This is the nerdiest post I’ve had… ever. If you are not a nerd and an engineer, you might want to do a bit of background reading here first.)

If someone tells you that they’re going to “SolidWorks World,” where do you think they’re going? To a 3-day workshop on computer-aided design in Texas? Nope. Try again.

Probably to an amusement park. One based on SolidWorks, of course. Here are some examples of the rides:

1. The Revolve: This one involves lots of spinning and is probably pretty fun.

2. The Smart Dimension: I’m not really sure what this one does. It sounds boring.

3. The Cut Extrude: This one just sounds painful.

Is it bad that I now want to draw out a comic strip depicting SolidWorks World?

(This could totally be a roller coast. I’ll call it Spiral. Image from here.)

Click here for answer.

The French Quarter in New Orleans. Super touristy. Super awesome. Especially when you get off the main drag into some of the smaller streets.

When I listen to country music or wear a cowboy hat, it’s usually as a joke. But I have to admit that I rather enjoyed spending last night in a live country music bar in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Some shots below.

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