Water and sanitation a human right: UN

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations General Assembly has declared access to clean water and sanitation a ‘human right’ – a move which could help bring such basic necessities to more people.

On Wednesday, the 192-member world body adopted the resolution on the back of deep concerns that some 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation.

The resolution calls the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation ‘a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights’.

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Things Are Still The Same

It has been a while but some things never change.

There is still the same old whitewash on the walls, with some rubber stains growing like rot at the waist-level, only because my expensive armchair keeping scraping against the hollow wall whenever I step out of it.

The wall – a piece of prime estate that should be utilised – has remained vacant in some parts. Some colleagues left their part of the wall alone – some, like me, try to cover the deadwood by scattering flowers over it. No matter how much we scatter, bits of the dead still pokes through from below, an eye staring heavenward. There is a poster that my predecessor left behind – a Formula One poster denoting the various racetracks in 2008, I think. The bikini-clad girl is somewhat impotent, yellowed. I don’t think it will turn on any male libido in the office. I decorate the wall with postcards of cars and various automotive paraphernalia. It’s a feeble attempt, a masquerade and I hope no one will see through it.

The carpeting is still the same, perhaps getting a bit dustier as people get more relaxed and accustomed to the environment and start walking barefooted on the carpet (I can’t do it – my feet will itch). The carpet is still the same, I guess, except for a pile-up of crumbs from the snacks that I binged on while hunkered over my workstation, from the patch of coffee that I accidentally spilled some time ago. Or was it Coke? It looked like a bloodstain, this darkening patch that refused to go away, no matter how many carpet cleanup squads they sent.

The air-conditioning is the same. It comes to life at 7am in the morning, if I recall correctly. Sharp, nonetheless. A mark of our clinical efficiency. The air-con seeks out each and every corner, every crevice and fills it with cold air, as if it thinks such will wake up the drowsy person that is me, sitting at his workstation, peering over lifeless morphemes to be strung together so that they can be understood, easily consumed, for the masses. It is cold after a while and I will put on a jacket. Or make a cup of green tea for myself.

Like clockwork, someone will stride into the office an hour later. It is our help. S/he is here for another day, like every other day. There should be applause, a standing ovation for such courage, coming here to face a cerebral firing squad. How much matter dies everyday I do not know but gradually, even the very best lose themselves, a pale shadow of what they once were. These heroes, there ought to be a retirement village for them. We should find them some employment! Make them sew buttons onto shirts or something! Don’t lose them to the enemy! But still, we lose them. Some we keep. But there are changes, small ones that we pretend not to see. Those who are keepers, who stay, they come in every morning but not at 8am any more. They grab every bit of rest they can. Half-time. And we send them back to the frontlines but come Christmas, they’ll be sharing turkeys and drinks with the enemy. Just a day. And then it’s back to war.

Will I rise above your material mess

Or sink clasping thy chaos close to breast?

Breakup

Dear G,

This is it. I think we need to stay apart from each other for a while. Try some new things, go out and see the world, if you know what I mean.

For too long I’ve been stuck with your incessant flow of e-mails (now if only we had coffee like that, our lives would have been much perkier).

It has got to stop.

I can tolerate it no longer, this random lambasting, this negative energy.

I’m gonna be zen about it. Let’s give each other a month’s break and we’ll see how from there, ok?

Good luck in your future endeavours, Gmail.

Yours truly,

B for Blackberry

On Conversations With Stakeholders

In my line of work, I sometimes have to explain why I use Facebook and Twitter for my media platform.

A, an editor of a print publication, asked me: “What’s the use of Facebook or Twitter?”

I hemmed and hawed. Finally I said:

“We don’t really know how such social media platforms will turn out in the future so we’re just staking our presence there.”

B, the managing director of a firm, said over lunch that he is interested in entering the Facebook platform but not Twitter.

If I recall correctly, he dismissed Twitter as something of a fad.

Such dismissals are quite common in Singapore, which largely stems from a couple of reasons.

  1. Newsmakers’ clients are largely conservative and not tech-savy. Based on anecdotal evidence, this sample ranges from 40+ to 50+ years of age, which puts them in the silvering generation. Ipso facto, the majority of the spending power also lies with this group. They are the ones who buy Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Jaguars. And they are probably Mandarin-speaking, consume traditional media and have traditional family values. 
  2. Online media is not as advanced in Singapore as it is in the US. We have the daily broadsheet, The Straits Times, here, which is consumed massively in terms of circulation. Print media is still deeply entrenched in the mindsets of the population.
  3. Online ad units are regressive. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is that even as technology advances with HTML5, Javascript, Flash, Flex and what-nots (I’m just throwing out names here), online ad units are still so backward and intrusive. They seemingly love to pop out of nowhere and fill up my screen. No wonder people use adblockers to kill off all the ads.

All these reasons, I realised, can be subsumed under one giant set: Compared to print, there is no money to be made on the Internet.

But

What’s the ROI from Twitter? A very difficult question to answer, yet you’ll find the solution if you can also measure: “Whats the ROI of a conversation in real life”. Since many brands have an objective (return profit to shareholders or owners) ensuring this is a high priority task will be difficult for many corporations.

Jeremiah Owyang, “Why Brands Are Unsuccessful In Twitter“, Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang

There are no answers right now. But having conversations with your stakeholders cannot be that bad. It’s called networking.

On Newspapers, Online News & Paywalls

Full disclosure: My opinions could be biased since I do work for an online news aggregator.

I see paywalls, vis-a-vis online news sites, as nothing more than defensive exercises to protect the publisher’s print subscription, and consequently, their ad revenue.

Print readership can be kept thriving – if such an adjective can still be used to describe readership in this contemporary times – by “walling” off the free Internet playground that is the free news site.

Ultimately that is the raison d’etre of paywalls. As much as publishers like to claim, I wouldn’t agree that the walls are there to monetise their content.

Still I think there are other models that work. For instance, a combined model of free news, albeit truncated, and paywalls a la straitstimes.com. But where would the ST go from here?

Then again,

Is it an absurb notion

that because people are accustomed to getting content for free on the internet, they have a right to do so and that charging money for online access to people’s work, whether it’s film, music, television or journalism, is ipso facto a form of extortion.

David Mitchell, “Rupert Murdoch May Be Evil, But That Doesn’t Mean His Paywall Is”, The Guardian

No thoughts at the moment. My fragmented multi-tasking online mind cannot take the singularity of this exercise. Hurhurhur.

Too Loud

I cannot remember when it began.

When the silence became much louder such that everything else strove to fill it, an overflowing glass.

And turning on the radio only increased the static.

Happy Things I Like

Simple things make me happy.

Like a home-cooked dinner of prawns with fried shallots, fresh.

And the smell of scrambled eggs wafting around the messy kitchen.

No gourmet cuisine, no island kitchen.

I don’t need to earn big bucks nor drive a fancy car.

I am still happy.

Are you?