Another Sweep of the Big Hand

stuss_enterprise_d08.jpgOnce again the big hand sweeps past the top of the age clock. I celebrated by snapping off yet another tooth. I figured with the stock market in the toilet I would try the old tooth fairy strategy. But it didn’t work out cause I swallowed the darn thing. Just kidding…well mostly…my teeth have always been a weak spot for me. They’ve been chomping on stuff for a long time now. Unfortunately, they are not in the best shape and lately they seem to be breaking off. So…another sojourn to the dentist with a big bag of money and I won’t look like a hillbilly anymore.

Over the past year I have kept a closer eye on the space industry since it was always an area of interest to me. It’s good to see more countries getting into the game. The Indians (think turbans not tomahawks) have sent a spacecraft to orbit the moon and so has China and Japan. I’m still intrigued by the Google Lunar X PRIZE which is a $30 million competition for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit video, images and data back to the Earth. There are currently 14 teams registered for the competition. I wish I had the smarts and money to join in. That would be an interesting legacy to leave. By the way, if anyone wants to buy me a cool Google T-shirt for my birthday go right ahead 🙂 (size Large please).

I had thought earlier this year that I might get more involved in some of my old space-related interests but that never panned out. Instead I’ve been getting a local chapter of Engineers Without Borders up and running. We have identified several rural farm villages in Bolivia to partner with over the next three to five years. They are close together, well…relatively speaking, and both have requested the same help. Initially we will be working on irrigation projects but it’s hard to say where it will end up. Each community is just under a hundred families or so and are located high up in the Andes mountains. We will make the first site assessment visit next summer.

boliviaThe more I have studied poverty I am convinced that you cannot donate people out of poverty. The people must be willing to commit their own time, resources, and money into improving their community. If we can simply shift a community away from a survival mentality and towards an entrepreneurial focus then we will have made a difference. Bringing engineering expertise to the problem is only part of the plan. I see us making several visits to a community; meeting with the people and their leaders. Establishing what the status quo is and surveying the local area for ways that we can release the entrepreneurial talents of the community by opening up new markets.

We’ll start small, build trust by bringing in some simple infrastructure improvements, and in each progressive visit we will build a longer range master plan of community improvement. I am amazed at how much of the world exists on a dollar a day or less. Farming across the world is routinely accomplished on one acre plots. Often it is difficult for these people to even grow enough food to provide for their own families. We can bring simple agricultural advancements to these farmers that will improve their crop production with very little investment on their part. Simple irrigation techniques can make dramatic differences in the crop yields of these small plots. We can show them how to produce higher value cash crops that can be sold in the local markets and increase their ability to purchase medical supplies, education, and perhaps most importantly expand their own business.

RiverWalk in PuebloMy photography interests have taken a back seat to everything else that’s been going on. I have managed to snap a odd picture here or there but no major outings except to the Chili Festival in Pueblo. But that was at night which limits things unless you drag along a tripod. Here is a picture of the Pueblo River Walk where the Arkansas River flows through town. We ended up buying a half-bushel of medium-hot fire roasted chili peppers which are now in the freezer. Perhaps I’ll write up another story about that event.