Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Blogging in bursts

The title about sums up activity on this blog last year. Expect that to continue. I wish I could blog more: I have far more ideas for blog posts than ever get written. But despite the demands of work I still really enjoy writing this blog, so worry ye not: the determination is mostly definitely there to continue with it. I’m still also trying to encourage the odd guest post, but it seems such others are even more pressed for time than I am.

And with that I wish you a happy (rest of) 2014.


I’m back

Howdy all! Or at least howdy to everyone still paying any attention. This corner of the blogosphere has been remarkably quiet these last four months, such that the use of the present tense in the title of my previous post (Why I write what I write) was starting to look embarrassing. Alas some changes in my personal life and general pressures of work had just overrun my urge to blogviate.

However, normal(ish) service should at last resume shortly, starting with a post that has been over a year in gestation and really deserves to see the light of day …

Ton up, tone down?

Dear readers,

This blog post is my 200th; in cricketing terms I have brought up my double ton. I thought I would take this opportunity to ask you: how’s it going? Not in the generic greeting sense of the question, but what do you think of this blog? What is the experience like as a reader rather than a writer?

My average post now gets read by around 200 people (a lot more sometimes, especially if the Blattman links to me). That readership declined a bit since I was more or less offline for 2-3 months earlier this year, but I am keen to rebuild and to keep the readers I already have. So please tell me what you like about the blog and what you do not like.

In particular I am interested to know what you think of the tone. I like to read the odd rant or snark myself, so long as it is well written and not too tiresome, so sometimes I deliberately dial it up a bit. I also like to use jocular idioms and the like to distinguish what I write here from the drier stuff I churn out in my day job. I am unlikely to cut that out entirely since if I do not enjoy writing the blog then I’ll just stop. Also sometimes humour seems the only way of responding to some depressing news. But I am aware that some people may treat what I write less seriously as a result, and that’s fair enough. Do you think I should tone it down a bit, carry on in the same somewhat varied tone, or (even) dial it up more?

Other feedback is also most appreciated. Just beware that it can be hard for me to respond to specific requests for posts. I am happy to spout my two cents on any subject related to this blog’s theme (I try to stay on topic), but I need an ‘in’ to inspire me to write something. So apologies to the few of you who have written in with such requests which have then gone ignored.

All comments gratefully received.

yours, MJ (blog age 2 and a bit)

Back soon

My longest blogging hiatus – a month and a half now – coincided with this blog’s second birthday. I gather that this may be a fairly typical blog burn out time. In my case, however, it has simply been caused by humongous amounts of work and also work stress. Writing an anonymous blog is not something to do when stressed! The worst however appears to be over and I hope to be back blogging again shortly. Thanks to all my readers who have stayed with me!

Development blogging and the US election

I don’t think there are many American politicians I would care to meet. I loved Obama’s idealism, but, just like Tony Blair, he ain’t even come close to walking the walk on environmental issues. So I’m left feeling all Fox-Mulder-ish: I want to believe but final proof is always just out of sight, and you end up reluctantly concluding it always will be. >90% of congressional representatives and 100% of Republicans would seem to belong firmly in the do-not-invite-to-dinner category. It’s deeply unsettling to find Republicans would even consider electing some of those loonies to the White House.

But you didn’t come here to read my thoughts on US politics, so why the rant? The answer is not that I suddenly found politics, but that US politics, and in particular the race for the Republican nomination for US President, has found this blog. I hadn’t realised I touched on issues of much concern to all those Americans who lack even a passport, but not so!

‘Chet’, who shall hereafter be known as ‘the bigot’, thought that my previous piece on Homosexuality and development aid, has special relevance to the election campaign by Massachusetts’s former governor, and his “homosexual agenda”. The bigot attempted to post a comment under said musings of mine, linking to a piss-poor hatchet job on the afore-mentioned governor’s campaign*, with a series of probably libellous articles all under the enlightening heading: “MR for President? Read this First!” Hmm … don’t think I need to actually read any of that to work out what you’re trying to do.

Fortunately (unfortunately for ‘Chet’) he fell foul of my comments moderation policy, which vetoes all boorish bigots. If the comment was an attempt to create a Google bomb then it failed, because a quick Google search on his key phrase did not turn up the bigot’s hatchet job web-site. So maybe my comments moderation policy is far from unique. I’ve marked it as spam just to help anyone else who may get some similar nonsense.

On the other hand, I gather that the smart money is on Obama to beat anyone other than that governor, so, if I want Obama to win (do I care?), maybe I should have accepted the comment? All in all this is why so much of American politics suck. Everywhere else in the world, most politics is about the battle for the middle ground, but in the US it too often seems to be about who’s the biggest nutter in the asylum. I’m surprised they haven’t nominated Jack Nicholson …

Here endeth the rant.

* I shall deliberately refrain from mentioning his name or linking to the hatchet job website, for fear of doing the bigot’s own search engine manipulation work for him.

Break time

I am flattered. Despite not posting for almost a month my blog is still getting plenty of visits each day. My silence has not been intentional; just a result of work overload. Now I’m looking forward to a few days holiday over the festive season. But I have some ideas for blog posts dying to see the light of day and I’ll be back blogging in the new year. I also hope that I might have the chance to blog on some of the ideas that you, my readers, have requested I opine on.

2011 has brought us a significant reduction in the global tally of the biggest baddies, all the more pleasing for how unexpected the whole Arab Spring was. Elsewhere the recent aid and climate change global confabs in Busan and Durban have shown a new pragmatism in international diplomacy. If we treat the likes of India and China as the global powers they are, then they may be persuaded to assume their responsibilities as such? If Western ideals have taken something of a hit in the process, then we should perhaps be proud of ourselves for a moment; for surely there can be no better demonstration of real development than that our ‘charges’ now have a mind of their own, and can argue their case with as much moral and intellectual clarity as the old imperial powers.

Who knows what 2012 will bring us? The ugly side of conservation and development will no doubt need some further exposition, and I shall endeavour to bring you a view from the coal face. For now I wish you all good seasonal cheer and bottom up thinking of a different kind! I’m off to develop my own waistline …

Telemarketing & Development

Although off-shore call centres don’t exactly have the best reputation in the West, up to now the rise of this form of cut-price telemarketing has been something of a development success story … up to now. Today I received a call from one – how did they get my number? – pushing some incomprehensible development something and climate change related wotsit MSc and short courses at some Dutch university. If I could name and shame them I would, but the name was too garbled and I had better things to do than to ask for it to be repeated. I know that fees for overseas students are vital to keeping alive many Western universities, but this was scraping the barrel.

So to anyone mad enough to contemplate repeating this abomination here’s a hint: if you’ve got my phone number, you’ve almost certainly got my email address. If your unsolicited marketing piffle makes it past my spam filter at least it won’t be mangled beyond comprehension by someone whose boss makes them watch British TV soap operas so they can empathise with their customers.

Greatest Hits

Another week, another milestones: this is my 100th post on Bottom Up Thinking (plus one guest post). Since I started my readership has climbed considerably. For those newer to my blog, but interested to know what are the ‘must reads’, I therefore thought I’d provide a selection of my ‘greatest hits’. Note this is not the same as the top posts on my most read list (which is highly dependent upon random eddies in the blogosphere), but a personal selection; included are some hidden (rarely read) gems that I thought worth highlighting.

Defining one’s terms

Happy 2011 all! Lots been going on in the blogosphere while I’ve been away. (Don’t you guys take a break?) One thing that took my eye was the somewhat tangential debate that followed Alanna Shaikh’s otherwise great post on the disconnect between how aid actually works and how it is portrayed in the Western media. Banditman Lee correctly called out Alanna for confusing Aid and International Development, a mistake I’ve heard others made. Lee laments:

“If smart and engaged people can’t tell the difference then how can we expect anyone else to?”

J asked for some definitions, which I cheekily suggested as follows:

  • International Development = what we want to happen (mostly broad-based economic enrichment, but you can chuck in all your multi-dimensional stuff too)
  • Aid = a charity-based way to soothe our guilty consciences* that kinda pretends to deliver International Development (and other important stuff too, like saving lives)

The important thing to remember is that there are other (and probably better ways) to skin the International Development cat, and that while Aid has a role to play, it has an unfortunate habit of distracting attention from some of the more important ways we could help. Equally, Aid can do more than just contribute to economic development, indeed it seems to be at its most effective when it does so; e.g. the conservation-development nexus in which I work and on which this blog focuses.

* Guilty consciences as in “veil of ignorance” luck of the draw in where one is born, our countries partly got rich exploiting them in the past, and we still screw them with the international trade rules. Not saying we should feel guilty, just that charity tends to prey on those feelings.

ps. Any would-be commenters out there may want to consider instead commenting on Alanna’s original post where most of the debate, such as it is, currently lies.

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