Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New blog post - on poop!

Pretty please, someone read my new blog?  Ok fine, I'll re-post it here.


Every morning, like a silent, stolid army, the fisherman families and slum residents living on the beach come down to the breakers to take their morning toilet run.  A trove of squatters spots the landscape, some relieving themselves quickly and rushing off to work, some taking their time, staring out at the horizon like it’s a good bathroom reader.  As I run along I dodge as many turd piles as trash pieces.  It’s one way to get a rough gauge for the amount of diarrhea in the community.

I noticed this morning that while seemingly all the men and most of the children (male and female) participate unashamedly in this ritual, the women are entirely absent.  Where do they do their business in the morning?  How do they get rid of it? And more importantly, if there’s a way for them to use the toilet without using the ocean turning the beach into what is surely every public health professional’s nightmare, why couldn’t the men and children do the same?

The much-acclaimed World Toilet Organization is tackling some of these issues.  It sees the “toilet taboo” as one of the biggest barriers to improving sanitation, and seeks to popularize the work of building and maintaining toilets for the 2.5bn people it estimates lack them, through such kitchy marketing campaigns as World Toilet Day and The Big Squat.  There’s also the World Toilet College for toilet design and maintenance capacity development, and the annual World Toilet Summit & Expo.  It seems to be working – they’ve gotten a ton of press and a number of avid followers – but these things take time.

Without much knowledge of the subject, my guess is that the biggest issue is the social one – convincing people that they need toilets, that open defecation is unsanitary and will lead to disease.  Is there some opportunity here in the disparity between women’s and men’s pooping routines?  I guess it depends on where the women really go, and whether their methods are any more sanitary than the beach.  Until then my neighboring slums will continue to use the ocean as their toilet-cum-garbage can, and I will continue to dodge the turds.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New professional related blog posts

I'm making a concerted effort to populate my new, work-related blog.  Really I am.  Even though it's been three months and I have a grand total of six posts.

Have a look - some perspectives on corruption in Kenya and a note I posted on the India Development Blog, my organization's unofficial (and very popular) blog for researcher opinions, on entrepreneurship (original post here).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blast from the past

I just had a monster reminiscing session (mmm, procrastination).  And realized that my old Kenya blog was not only not public, but not accessible anymore because my host URL had expired.  So now it's public, and available here:


There's a bunch of depressing stuff about the evacuation, but also click back to the posts pre-Jan 2008 - an amusing journey back to Peace Corps for anyone who was there with me, and a window into my real developing country experience for those of you in India.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New website launch!

It's not perfect, it definitely has some kinks to be worked out... but I think it's safe to say our new website is a big improvement over the past one.  

We're trying out a fancy new interactive web design where each researcher is a real time content creator, so that the site is (in the words of our director) an "open kitchen" to showcase the research and work initiatives we have going on in progress, rather than just our polished completed products.  They're supposed to be writing a blurb to explain this philosophy, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

If nothing else, what's exciting is that I can direct you to much more in-depth, interesting pieces of content:
Main site homepage (complete with new URL): http://www.ifmr-cdf.in/
My programme group (restructuring and new group description coming soon... hopefully along with improved URL, this one is gross): http://ifmr-cdf.in/pg/groups/1223/strategy-advisory-group&type=Program%20area∫=1223
My profile!  View all the interesting, or not so interesting, stuff I've been working on over the past year, plus wire posts and bookmarks and all sorts of other junk: http://ifmr-cdf.in/pg/profile/jsprague

Watch for updates and improved site capability coming up soon!  I hope...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Look at me, I'm so professional

I finally decided I wanted to write some blogs that were actually work/life/career related, but didn't want to compromise my ability to bash people and concepts at will, tell embarrassing stories about my life, and be generally unprofessional.  So I created a new blog:


Check it out, and follow if you're actually interested in my work.  If you're just interested in my shenanigans in India, keep reading this one.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shameless propagandizing

Check out our snazzy new brochure!

This is exciting because it is way, way, WAY less text than I've ever seen on a description of my organization to date. It's still a little hard to understand, but it's a vast improvement.

If you don't believe me, check out the text on our current website - which is also undergoing a major overhaul, relaunch scheduled for this month. But no guarantees on content quality.

Friday, August 14, 2009

This is why I love the internet

I was browsing through comments from my old blog posts today and wandered across a note from Mike Gannet. Turns out this guy was a Peace Corps volunteer 45 years ago in India, and spent 20-odd years working in and around the country in the 60s-80s. India doesn't have a Peace Corps program anymore but it's amazing to see how similar the experiences are and how much the country looks the same. Check out his picasa album for Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Kashmir and more circa 1966 - http://picasaweb.google.com/Gannettm.

Great pictures Mike, cheers and thanks for getting in touch!