Archive | July 2011

Creative Videos We Love: II

Mario on Paper

See Eric Power’s Kickstarter Campaign here.


Miniature Earth

This was required watching for all Starting Artists and sparked some of the best discussions.


Her Morning Elegance

Frequently copied {Kindle commercials anyone?} I even saw a commercial inspired by this masterpiece on an Emirates flight to South Africa. Well, as Charles Caleb Colton said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”


Lost Generation

This one is actually the product of inspiration and is extremely well done. The original was a political ad from Argentina that won the silver lion in the Cannes Lions Contest 2006.


The Girl Effect

Beautiful use of text animation and makes its points perfectly. Also a fave of the Starting Artists students.


OK Go!

OK Go never ceases to amaze me with their inspired music and witty videos. Boy do I wish I could be a fly on the wall for their video brainstorming sessions!

Enjoy 4 of my favorite music videos of all time. Mari


All Is Not Lost


Here It Goes Again


This Too Shall Pass


Last Leaf

Clean Water

2.6 billion people, or 38% of the world, lacks access to what the Word Health Organization (WHO) calls “adequate sanitation.” Inadequate sanitation made diarrhea the top 5 cause of death in the entire world in 2008 followed only by heart disease, stroke, respiratory infection and pulmonary disease. If you narrow your focus to just the developing world, diarrhea is the number 2 cause of death (WHO).

While diarrhea is a preventable disease, clean water systems relying on improved infrastructure are slow and costly to deploy. Recently, I started reading more about some of the challenges facing water and sanitation initiatives in the developing world. Mari and I have also reached out to a couple of incredible organizations including Potters for Peace and  Engineers without Borders and hope to work with them further when we are on site in Ecuador.

I have been  reading about something called Point of Use (POU) water treatment in low income areas. This is essentially water treated on site, something like a Brita filter or Iodine tablet, rather than relying on larger infrastructure. There is an incredibly illustrative article in Environmental Science and Technology by two professors at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Mark Sobsey and Christine Stauber called A Practical Solution for Providing Sustained Access to Safe Drinking Water in the Developing World.

The study compares several POU methods based on it’s consistency in producing sufficient quantities of safe water to meet daily household needs. The team also weighed  cost, reliability, filtering time and data on continued use after implementation to identify the most promising.

Chlorination – A treatment using a small amount of bleach, has been promoted for some time by Center for Disease Controls (CDC) but is costly and harder to deploy in the developing world. In addition, another drawback is that it requires a constant supply of chemicals that frequently are not available in more remote areas.

Solar Water disinfection (SODIS) – A very accessible form of water treatment is shown to reduce diarrhea rates by 31%. Also, it is as effective as chlorination at killing bacteria. This treatment is simple and easy to deploy. Two liter water bottles are agitated and then left in the sun for 6 hours, often laid on the corrugated roof of the home. Clear disposable water bottles are readily available and the process is simple to teach to end users.

The major drawback with SODIS appeared from field studies that showed that it could not be the only form of water treatment for a community. Because water needed to be bottled in small volumes and left for an extended period of time, people would often supplement their water needs with unfiltered water. All water for washing hands and food preparation ideally should be treated. In the end, users were at a higher risk to a disease-borne illnesses than studies predicted. Even so, I appreciate the simplicity of SODIS. Learn more about it in the following video.

Ceramic FilterPotters for Peace developed a low-tech manufacturing process to create water filters for remote areas. Check out this inspiring video on Potters for Peace. By mixing sawdust and unfired clay bricks a mixture of clay is developed that is semipermeable. This clay is used to create a filter with small pockets of air distributed in the ceramic, created when the sawdust burned away in the firing process. The ceramic filter lasts for about 2 years and due to its low cost and simplicity in deployment it did not have the same problems as SODIS in user adoption. The study mentioned above rated it as the second best method of water treatment in the developing world.

Biosand Filter – These filters mimic the naturally purification process of water. As water travels through sand and gravel bacteria and protoza become blocked. While this filtering process was less effective than some of the other filters (SOIDS kills 100 times the number of bacteria) it was rated as the most feasible systems in the developing world. People continued to use and maintain the filter after implementation and due to its low cost and accessibility it was possible to deploy these filters to remote areas. Check out this website to read more about biosand filtering.


Those volunteers seeking funding for water and sanitation initiatives note that USAID recently received funding from the Gates foundation and is accepting project applications here.

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Peace Corps Book List: II

This is the second installment of a list of books recommended to us by friends and returned volunteers as well as by the Peace Corps itself. See the first book list post here.

Again, all of the books on the list can also be found at your local bookstore, at, or as eBooks & audio books. Click on the book cover or book title for a link to the book.

Happy Reading, Mari & Paul


Mountains Beyond Mountains

by Tracy Kidder

This book appears on nearly every list of recommended reading for Peace Corps volunteers. It’s not hard to see why. The story of Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist, is part memoir (he enjoyed a nontraditional childhood that included living in a bus!) and part inspirational journey of a doctor on a mission.

Dr. Farmer is the founder of Partners in Health, an organization that focuses on community-based health care in some of the world’s most impoverished areas. Kidder follows Dr. Farmer on his travels to Haiti and Peru and back to Boston as he treats patients, advocates for affordable medicines, and fundraises. Although Mari has read this book, we’re thinking of re-reading it together to re-learn the lessons of this remarkable individual.


Banker to the Poor

by Muhammad Yunus

Also part memoir and part inspirational journey, this  books is the story of Dr. Yunus and his quest to help Bangladesh’s neediest individuals. As a Professor at a university near Jobra, he encouraged his economics students to interview the rural poor of this village in order to understand the local economy.

Through this inquiry, Dr. Yunus learned about the predatory practices of local money lenders and decided to do something about it by taking out a small bank loan on behalf of the poor craftspeople of the village. Thus, microcredit was born and would become the founding principle of Dr. Yunus’s Grameen Bank.

A timely read as Bangladesh’s government has effectively ousted Dr. Yunus from his organization, this book should be required reading for anyone considering working in international development. In 2006, Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Noble Peace Prize, something the government can never take away.


The World Is Flat

by Thomas L. Friedman

Newly updated from its original printing in 2005, this popular (yet controversial) book outlines how globalization is flattening out our world.

Now, neither of us has yet read (or listened to it since we got it as an audio book) so we’ll reserve judgment until we have. It should be of particular interest to Paul, who traveled to India last year to meet with an accounting outsourcing company there.

After we read (or listen) to this, we’ll be sure to check out this recommended reading, too:

The World Is Flat?: A Critical Analysis of New York Times Bestseller by Thomas Friedman.


Here are two more books we have not yet read but that we are excited to read soon:


Creative Videos We Love: I

Western Spaghetti

Made by PES, check out his other films here.


Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers

Thanks to **Rachel** for showing me this one!


Human Tetris

More about the Project GAME OVER here.



This is one of my students’ favorite animations. See other BLU Projects here.


Joshua Allen Harris’s Inflatable Sculptures


Camp Frankie

Our friend **Frankie** invited us and 16 other people to canoe to a small island in Maryland to camp for the weekend. We had a blast as you can see from the video.

Happy Camping, Mari & Paul

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