TV-Akjsonen 2016 & 25m2 of Syria | POL

Because we need more of this in our complex, beautiful, messy, and too often terrifying, world. To provoke action, thought, empathy, and an unshakeable, haunting awareness that, in our modern context, parents console wailing children as bombs rattle cinder block. Communities witness their hospitals and doctors intentionally destroyed. War and genocide propel children across desolate mountain plateaus. That those realities matter, deeply, and deserve our attention and action, regardless of race, creed, gender, or any other rationale by which we justify labeling another as "other", looking away, or becoming so busy with our day to day we forget to look in the first place. 

25m2 SYRIA from POL on Vimeo.

For two weeks the installation was an initiative to promote Norway’s annual fundraising event “TV-aksjonen”. This year all donations went to the Red Cross, and people living in war and conflict. IKEA partnered with the Red Cross to promote the cause.

25 m2 of Syria is an apartment at IKEA Slependen (flagship store in Norway). But it is not one of the "picture perfect" homes that are usually on display. The apartment is built as a replica of the real home of Rana and her family of 9 in Damascus, Syria.

The iconic IKEA-posters and price tags told the story of how people live. Lacking food, medicines and access to clean water. Caught in the crossfire of Syria’s civil war. But most importantly: On every little tag we let the public know just how they could help.

Exclusive: How Elizabeth Holmes’s House of Cards Came Tumbling Down | Vanity Fair

The Theranos story is fascinating. VF's coverage prompted many a question about the larger context in which Holmes's ambition, hopes, and tenacity soared and plummeted. 

Ethan Zuckerman: Solving Other People's Problems With Technology | The Atlantic

Zuckerman speaks to the perils of forgetting empathy and humanity when designing potential solutions.

The Developed World Is Missing the Point About Modern Slavery | TIME

Complex issues need questions not wide brush strokes, a reality well represented by this article.

A Growing Movement To Spread Faith, Love — And Clean Laundry | NPR

Laundry Love, a non-profit, was started by a dear friend. It is an exemplary human-centered research and design initiative, and I am continually reminded by the vision of Laundry Love to design for what people need, what contributes and supports their humanity and place in society. 

NPR's write up. 

Treat violence like it’s a contagious disease |

Dr. Gary Slutkin fought contagious disease epidemics in Africa for most his career. He returned to the USA he was soon shocked by the epidemic he encountered at home: brutal deaths caused by gun violence. Upon closer look, he recognized the patterns. In this critical 2013 TEDMED talk, Slutkin offered a powerful new conceptualization for gun violence, and how it could be stopped. 

Reading the City | The New York Times

So many insightful and thought provoking ideas. Book recommendations too!

A Sunday afternoon indoors at Dar due to the threat of a storm, and associated humidity, and the momentary “Oh, it’s different, the ashtrays are gone.“ Feel free to laugh a bit, but after you’re done, also reflect on the disturbing statistics about smoking in Lebanon. What the lack of ashtrays on Dar’s indoor tables (you’ll still find them outside) denotes is Lebanon’s September ban on smoking in restaurants, pubs, bars, and other indoor spaces.  For the past two years I have gladly sat outside cafes simply to avoid thick smoke. Now, at least in some venues, indoor space can be enjoyed smoke free. Some businesses are quite pointed in expressing their stance that this ban is ridiculous and so, yes, for those who enjoying lighting up, it’s still possible to smoke indoors to your heart’s {dis}content. But for those who would prefer the opposite, options now exist.

For more info, take a look at this BBC article and this Daily Star piece.

Akun Cambodia, Akun | #13


Before relocating to Beirut a few realities weighed on my heart and mind: I would have natural, somewhat long, breaks throughout the year and a bit of a miscellaneous budget (which for me typically translates to travel) to work with, and to use either solely for my own benefit would be a ultimately be a misuse of precious resource.  I made myself the promise that I would mindfully volunteer as opportunities presented themselves and support various initiatives.  It’s a work in progress, like most things worthwhile.  I have found several ventures to invest in, one being Kiva micro-finance loans, and am slowly becoming more involved in volunteer opportunities in Lebanon.  Tension existed though regarding how to translate this promise and mindfulness into the Spring holiday: did I send funding but live simply in Beirut? Did I physically travel to some other location to get my hands in the thick of something?  ”To volunteer during Spring Hols” became the goal. Enter Cambodia, more specifically Foursquare Children Of Promise (FCOP), a NGO that has started and continues to support and monitor over 100 orphanages throughout the country.  Yet a twist.  I wasn’t going explicitly to volunteer.

Jenny is one of my closest friends, the kind of friend you can have a knock down, drag out argument with, in the middle of the street (which we did), and still be just as good of friends on the other side of things.  Her current work is with FCOP and it has easily been five years since we have been in any sort of proximity to one another (yes, Lebanon-Cambodia is closer then most of the other combinations).  I was, more explicitly, going to visit her, with the added layer to learn what I could about FCOP’s work and the SE Asia local I really only had an idea of through stories like “The Killing Fields”.

Within 24 hours on Cambodian soil I was talking in terms of “when I come back”.  Part of how FCOP supports various orphanages and care for their charges in by partnering with medical, dental, and construction teams world wide who come for a few weeks at a time to volunteer their time and much needed services.  I hope, soon, to return as part of a team.  And coming from a family steeped in medical and construction know how, the ideas flowed of how those closest to me could also be involved.  Add in the breathtaking locations like Angkor Wat, an emerald green countryside, complete with water buffalo, lizards, mango trees, and genuinely hospitable people, and I was hooked, willingly, gladly.

FCOP is one of many NGOs bent on supporting the Khmer people and facilitating health, education, and human rights.  Ventures like Common Grounds Cafe in Siem Reap and the Yejj Cafe in Phnom Phen operate with the explicit purpose of providing viable and legitimate training and work experience for street kids, keeping them from other money making ventures such as the sex trade.  Other groups, such as Friends International and Ranja Crafts, either work with local artisans to produce and market their wares or teach trade skills to street kids, again providing legitimate work and working to halt debilitating poverty cycles.  Perhaps the most uplifting aspect of these various groups is they are not fly by night operations but rather have made long term commitments to those they are working with.

“How was the trip?” It’s the typical post-travel question, sometimes asked as nicety, sometimes with intention. To those askers of the latter category my response tended toward “Amazing, but for reasons I am still sorting out.”  There was a sweetness, a rawness, a magic to this short stint that rooted deeply in me. On some very real levels, I needed the time and context more than I realized.  I am appreciative of my current reality and work yet know it won’t be a long term fit; it’s, in some ways, a little lacking in reality, for me at least.  And to other regards, I’m still sitting with the experience as a whole and listening for what it would speak to me.  Akun Cambodia, akun.

How David Beats Goliath | The New Yorker

I read a bit of Gladwell in grad school but this will be a perennial favorite. How an underdog team and coach break the status quo in basketball, and why we would all do well to heed their example.