Earth hour: Vote Earth – your light switch is your vote. Ballot box rigged by Nepal Electricity Authority

What to say? Just heard this on the FM4, an Austrian internet radio station, about Earth Hour. “We’re encouraged to switch off all non-essential lighting for one hour”.

“VOTE EARTH: your light switch is your vote.”

Welcome to Kathmandu, where Earth Hour has been going on for many years. Currently the zealously green government has been giving the citizens of Nepal an enforced buy-one-get-16-free option on these votes and stuffing them in the ballot box for on their behalf.

Every day, for 16 hours the government turns all of your switches off – both inessential lighting and everything else with it. Additionally they topped up the Earth Hour manifesto with turning off non-essential street lighting, traffic lights, mobile phone company power supplies, all industrial machinery, my local bakery’s ovens, power supply for kidney dialysis machines, ECG machines and anything else you can think of that has a cable with a plug at the end somewhere.

Long after the world switches its non-essential lighting back on and starts wasting energy again like there is no tomorrow (and that is looking increasingly more likely), we here will be sitting in the dark. Either that or burning Olympic-size swimming pools of imported diesel in generators to keep normal life going.

The irony is that the power we are missing would be hydro-power. But due to years of incompetence, rampant theft of power and some dry weather, the system is more than a little creaky.

Here’s a tip for all Earth Hour participants: at 8.30pm, go the whole hog (not the half hog), flick that big red switch on your fuse box. Enjoy!

Hello moto

You may be familiar with the term ‘Hello Moto’ from the soothing default ring tone on Motorola mobile phones a year or two back.

A friend here in Kathmandu has such a phone and I used to greet him, Hello Moto. Moto means fat in Nepali so it was minor, oft repeated joke to greet him with ‘hello fatty’.

Oh how we used to laugh.

One time went to get drunk with food with an Australian friend. As we got drunk and the level of humour waned, Hello Moto was mentioned a few times. She asked part of the table, does Helomoto mean hello in Nepali?

Oh how we laughed.

This is not so funny but I was reminded recently of a quote of Mark Twain’s which this kind of illustrates:

“Better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

I am not sure I wholly agree with this though it comes from the pen of a genius observer of humanness. I think it is meant to be reserved for those who broadcast, who are overly present, who have appear to have an abundance of earwax preventing them from listening.

For the rest of us (I’m a ranter, though it might sound like broadcasting – and I would love to have my ears de-waxed one day) it is good practice to keep asking dumb questions and learning. Curiosity is an essential and very healthy part of enjoying life (could it be taught in school?). Its always good to ask why, even if you might appear dumb asking. Its foolish to be afraid to ask, though sometimes difficult.

Dumbness is (mostly) in the ear of the beholder. Can you behold sound? I just looked that up. I am a fool.

Related and unrelated at the same time, I read recently that over half the world’s population now have mobile phones. Quite amazing. They’ve made huge differences to peoples lives. And no doubt caused a large amount of pointless traffic accidents. I see people here just applying the brakes and parking in the road at the slightest feel of a vibration in the pocket. Motorcyclists stuff their phone between head and helmet, blah blah blah. Young girls in tight jeans wander across the road smsing.

Anyway – environmental time now – enjoy them while you can. To cut a huge and tough story short, we’re living in the ‘Century of declines‘. Take the time to brood over the content of that link on Richard Heinberg’s website. Basically, the earth’s resources are depleting like booze at a cheap wedding. Yes trees are being lost at an amazing rate (and thanks for washing rather than wiping – stick that on the bottom of your email!), yes oil supply is peaking any time after lunch, yes clean water (or any water) is in short supply in certain places, uranium has 50 years based on current reserves, rhino noses and tiger balls (natural resources? To some people, yes…) – the list goes on. And it goes on to some surprising places. Peak Helium anyone? Peak natural gas? Peak Phosphorus? Peak the-metals-that-make-mobile-phones-work? Peak Everything?

Researchers studying supplies of copper, zinc and other metals have determined that these finite resources, even if recycled, may not meet the needs of the global population forever, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If they, our ancestors, live like westerners do, it goes on to say. But they’re certainly taking a refreshingly, wonderfully long, long view, even if the outcome is pretty final. How long is forever and for who, I wonder?


Peak natural gas = tricky to make nitrate fertiliser without natural gas, which enables such a massive population to be fed.
Peak Phosphorus = similar to above except phosphate cannot be ‘made’ naturally (e.g. nitrogen fixing plants) and at the moment we’re flushing most phosphate down the toilet to be lost in the sea, rivers, landfill etc. See
Peak Helium – Yes, no more party balloons! And many more things besides. Look it up!

“Don’t worry, the scientists will come up with something!” For some things, they just can’t.

Anyway, on a more positive note, 50 years from now, the world will be even more interesting than it is now! Hurrah!

Hello Moto!

The Procrastination Killer

This post is recyculation from here:
It says on the blog that it has only been read 39 times at the time of writing, so perhaps it needs a little more coverage. Maybe the counter is broken.

“Today I will do everything that should be done, when it should be done, and as it should be done. I will perform the most difficult task first because this will destroy the habit of procrastination, and develop the habit of action in it’s place!”

To spare you clicking the link he, she or it says:

The following was taken from the book “The Laws of Success” by Napoleon Hill. If you repeat this phrase 12 times a day, out loud, each morning it will sink in. I swear that your mind will turn back to this statement when you are not using your time wisely and haunt you!

So there you go if you want to be successful. But is the most difficult task always the most important? Or least fun? I am still struggling with a to-do list and diary. Maybe using these two things should be top of my list.

Good luck with it!

Oh, and do click the link to see if the count goes up any.

How clean is your anus right now?

OK, it is not a question I would like to ask you, and probably not one you’d like to be asked either. For the majority of us, I guess, since our parents stopped helping us sit on the toilet, what we do behind the locked door has been shared with no-one else, and our techniques are very personal. It has long become something we don’t think about but just do.

The first time you travel to an Asian country, perhaps with the exception of Thailand (excuse the website, but the article is to the point), you’ll see that there are other ways to do these basic things.

Using toilet paper to clean yourself down there makes about as much hygienic sense as cleaning yourself with a towel and imagining you’re rubbing off the dirt. We’ve got a very unhygienic way of cleaning a place of our body that we would like to be very clean.

Worth reading this interview with Rose George:

So that has got the cleanliness thing out of the way. Then there is the ridiculous amount of toilet paper use:

The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country’s love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.

I don’t have any data on the size of the average American butt.

None of this really applies to me. Since being in Nepal I am, more or less, a washer again. Fresh as a daisy, that’s me.

What do other people think about this? As mentioned in the first line, I am not going to ask you. But there is a small window on this very personal world in the comments below this article. A lot of people just don’t want to get what the article is saying. Where does this abhorrence of shit and shitting come from?

One thing I am curious about: how much toilet paper do women use compared to men? Is there any data on this?

Update: for those curious about washing, see: – thanks to David for his self-promoting comment below.

Violinist in the Metro

I am just sitting in a cafe (The Factory) in Kathmandu using their free internet. Someone, wearing a trilby hat, is experimenting with his violin over the incompatible music coming through the sound system. Think partial cats mating or dog’s paw being stood on, partial concert violinist warm up. He is pretty good but just inconsistent. And in the wrong place.

Anyhow, my friend sent me this this morning. Very interesting story. I can relate to it, though not because of the guy fiddling in the corner. I realise I hardly walk anywhere, I bike. And if I’m not biking, I am running. And if I am not either of the above, I am doing something, going somewhere. I don’t fart around enough by half – and I don’t even have a proper job. According to Kurt Vonnegut, that’s all we’re here to do.

I am in Kathmandu. Stinky as it is, it is the perfect place to fart around. Tomorrow I will begin on a professional level.

Anyhow (again), read on and reflect:

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning.

He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.
He collected $32.

When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it.
No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an [sic] social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

My additional thoughts would only be that so many people do things because they are “fashionable” that they forget to look at things with their own eyes, listen with their own ears, and appreciate anything with their own hearts.


I don’t know who added the italics, maybe my friend. It also reminds me of something a student from some far northern part of Norway once taught me. We had risen early to go to Masada overlooking the dead sea. Basically his idea was to take a photo with your brain: line up your camera (head); close your eyes for around 60 seconds – the longer the better; open them for a few seconds only; close again, for a short while while your eyes write the image to your soft disk.

I tried it once in Morocco, it works pretty well. When I think of Morocco, I think first of that image. So, next time your batteries go flat…

We need to talk about toilets

I got published! After a long time writing this thing, and then quite a bit of heavy editing, I appeared in print.

Sometimes when you stop and think for a moment, the things we do can seem a little strange. For example flushing the toilet. It is a wonderful system: clean, hygienic, and effortless – the greatest accomplishment for public health of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But, then, I’m shitting and/or peeing into 10 litres of fresh drinking water, thus immediately turning it into toxic waste, adding a few chemicals like bleach or toilet freshener, cooking oil poured down kitchen sinks and unused medicines washed down hospital sinks. It’s then pumped through an underground sewer network, joined by heavy metal-containing runoff water from roads and industrial areas. And not to forget the 159 toilet rolls per household per year – that’s about 270,000 trees flushed away every day worldwide according to the WWF. And then we try to get all the stuff that went into the water, out again – at great expense – the water was needed only for transporting our waste from A to B.

Can this really be the best way to deal with our daily excretions?

Download the article in PDF form here:

See the Die Maske website for more information about the project: – click the little union jack for the Union Jackish language.

Me in plural

Well this is a bit weird, but we’re just practising for taking pictures at Everest basecamp – subject to anybody wanting to have their picture taken that is. There we need to somehow capture the physical change that spending time on the mountain brings. It is a before and after shot – but we’d like to bring them together in one frame. Will be a challenge!

Everest changes, Everest changes people, Faces of Everest – what to call it?

Here is a plan for a photography book that friends Alex and Billi are going to do. Billi is climbing Everest this season and Alex, mentioned before on this blog, will be up there taking pictures.

I have never been involved in the making of a book before. It is pretty tricky. Do we want to do it to make the book, or make money. How to find some money to make the project happen, to cover the 2 or so months to get the material and edit it into a draft? Who really buys these kinds of books? How many get printed? Are coffee table books all loss leaders?

We’ve sent the proposal out to quite a lot of people now. We’ve had a lot of feedback: From the point of view of the (pre-)proposal, it is not snappy and salesy enough. Perhaps there is not enough writing proposed (600 words, perhaps 1500 is nearer the mark)? And from someone involved in expedition leading, that the residents at base camp are already rather treated like lab-rats: medical research, physiological research, pictures, books and so on.

Anyhow, see what you think. Click the picture above and download the 3 page proposal. See what you think. Would you buy a copy? What would you call it?

Oh – and faces of Everest is kind of there already, and is interesting:


“When you take that many long-suffering, war-torn groups and put them in the same place, how can you not have peace?” asked former president Jimmy Carter, who will lead talks among the various Ethniklashistani groups. “This hatred cannot possibly last long.”

I am planning a trip to Janakpur with Erin. It currently postponed due to the violence and shutdown of the Terai region. She was trying to explain what was happening – I have not been keeping up. What she told me reminded me of a piece in the Onion (America’s finest news source) that I read in print over 8 years ago. It seemed apt. It is a piece of genius writing.

Read it here: and do forward it to any of your friends working in the peace industry!

More craziness in Nil’in, Palestine

More craziness in Ni’lin. I spent quite a bit of time there last summer. The story is quite simple. Nil’in is a small village who land has been annexed previously for a nearby settlement and now more land is being lost for a section of the ‘security barrier’ (The Wall). The route of the wall / security barrier is in the hands of the army and has little to do with green lines or previously agreed borders, only security. In this case, the fence / road / ditch etc will leave a large buffer between it and the settlement. Good bye olive trees.

Anyhow, the villagers are rightly protesting this. I can’t remember all the details of court cases and subsequent appeals but whatever happened the construction goes on relentlessly. An average protest aims to walk from the village square to the current point of construction activity and peacefully stop the work there. Rarely does it get that far. Sometimes its gets close to the construction but then the tear gas flies and everybody runs. Sometimes the protest is stopped in the village itself. Sometimes a ‘shit gun’ is used on the crowd. Basically something that smells like very raw sewerage is sprayed on to people. It makes you want to wretch to smell it and it is ver hard to get rid of. Later in the protest rubber bullets, or rubber coated steel bullets to be precise, are used. If you’re very unlucky, live ammunition will be used. I have been in this situation and it is terrifying. While I was there, two were killed. One a 10 year old boy (Ahmed Mousa) was shot in the head by a military policeman (or was it border police) from quite a distance (maybe 100m from route of the barrier) while playing with friends in the early evening. Another was killed by a rubber (coated steel) bullet shot to the head.

Anyway, enough. It is a shocking way to deal with legitimate protest.

As Groucho Marx said: Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.

To get a feel for how it is, you can see a trailer from a documentary that never was: “Closed Military Zone” by Eran Vered and Rick Berman.

Back to the recent issue. See the release below:

13th Friday 2009, Ni’lin Village: An American citizen has been critically injured in the village of Ni’lin after Israeli forces shot him in the head with a tear-gas canister.

Tristan Anderson from California USA, 37 years old, has been taken to Israeli hospital Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. Anderson is unconscious and has been bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth. He sustained a large hole in his forehead where he was struck by the canister. He is currently being operated on.

Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500m. I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After 5 minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed.
– Teah Lunqvist (Sweden) – International Solidarity Movement

The Israeli army began using to use a high velocity tear gas canister in December 2008. The black canister, labeled in Hebrew as “40mm bullet special/long range,” can shoot over 400 meters. The gas canister does not make a noise when fired or emit a smoke tail. A combination of the canister’s high velocity and silence is extremely dangerous and has caused numerous injuries, including a Palestinian male whose leg was broken in January 2009.

Apparently the guy is doing much better but still in a serious state. Good luck to him.

For more information:

and for balance, through don’t spend too much time reading the comments as they might make you feel physically sick: