Frontline's Kiva.

I just saw a 15-minute special on Frontline that blew me away. An organization, based in San Francisco, called Kiva (site is currently overloaded), had the absolutely brilliant idea of allowing individual Americans to provide micro-credit loans to individuals in developing countries who have expanding businesses.
One man who was interviewed on the program said he could, in a small way, be much like the Gates or Rockefeller Founations. If his lendees paid the money back, which they typically do, he could then reinvest the money in another business. With grantees able to reach computers in their communities, “progress reports” are more like personal correspondence as account managers on the ground handle the day-to-day administration.
I saw the effects of Grameen Bank style lending when I was in South Africa ten years ago when i worked at the Rockefeller Foundation. (Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi that founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 just won the Nobel Peace Prize.) The country was just about 4/5 of the way through its Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings and blacks had finally, finally won some freedoms after apartheid; mostly, those freedoms were political – rarely economic. We visited a slum in Johannesburg that was filled with people, all working away at whatever they could – selling sodas, fixing tires, building houses. One business was raising chickens to provide eggs to the town and there was a largish building housing thousands of chicks; the building was paid for, in part, by micro-credit. I saw, with my own eyes, the power of micro-lending: people gained financial leverage, social clout, self-confidence, better cash flow, and technical skills to manage their funds (all of which, interestingly, I could myself use).
I wish I had invented Kiva. Congratulations, Kiva.

Parallels and Virtual PC for Mac

There’s a ton of information out there about installing Windows on an Intel-based Mac using Parallels Desktop for Mac. Essentially, one loads Parallels on one’s computer, follows the instructions via PDF et voila, Windows on your Mac while you’re running OS X.
There’s very little information out there (actually, none) about what one should do if one has invested previously in Microsoft’s now-unsupported Virtual PC for Mac. A few years ago, I bought Virtual PC so that I could be sure that the sites I was creating looked and worked well on 90% of computers (e.g. Windows). It was a necessary investment.
It turns out that Microsoft, in its semi-finite vision, bundled the Virtual PC application with Windows XP Professional. There’s no way to unbundle them; they live together on a few, unusable, CDs in my office cabinet. I found an old Windows XP install disk to try to load with Parallels and it worked. Except, when I re-booted XP and was asked for my Product Key, the key from my old (legitimate) Virtual PC disk was useless or, at least, not recognized by the new XP just loaded. Microsoft gave me a way to purchase a new key, for USD 200.00, but I already own a valid copy of Windows XP and I don’t want to pay an additional $200.00 for XP. I’m going to call my friends at Microsoft and I’ll see what they can do for me.
Postscript (10/31/06): It turns out that you cannot upgrade from Virtual PC for Mac to a plain old, vanilla version of Windows XP Pro. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with three different Microsoft tech/sales folks, and, alas, that’s the story. For those of you with Virtual PC for Mac and who are now going to use Parallels with Windows XP, you’ll have to buy a new version of XP, straight out. While I understand Microsoft wanting to make money on a newer operating system, the company really should have an upgrade path for semi-dedicated Mac users who are committed to ensuring that Windows, well, works.


In Judaism, David is an important, if not critical, figure. David is a warrior, a king of the Jews, a human willing to fight the largest of giants; moreover, he is the precursor to Jesus Christ for Christians and, for Jews, an ancient ancestor of the true messiah, who will arrive one day.
Over the past six months, I’ve become enamored of three musicians named David. All of them are somewhat kindred spirits, men with beards who crawl through the world they love to see grace and dishonesty more clearly. In their songs, this grace takes on the form of infatuation and uncertainty while the dishonest part comes through knowing that grace is a shadow of utter beauty. The modern world does not allow us too often a glimpse of earth’s inherent gloriousness but, when it does, we distrust our own eyes.
David Berman of the Silver Jews is fantastic and untouchable. A founder of the famed band Pavement, I’ve heard that Stephen Malkmus (the lead singer) pretty much quit Pavement after hearing the album Bright Flight in 2001. Check out the awesome Silver Jews’ videos.
My next musical favey Davey is David Bazan. Formerly of Pedro the Lion, his new album, Fewer Moving Parts, is lonely, depressive and glorious. The album contains two, equally great, versions of the same songs: electric and acoustic. He looks like a lunatic at his MySpace page. He’ll be playing New York on November 3. I won’t be there.
The final David is a secret.

New To-Dos.

I’m absolutely fascinated by to-do lists apps, task managers, Getting-Things-Done applications, and online software that help you be productive in less time with less effort, better thought-processes, more focus, stronger results, and more successful completions. I love the idea that you enter a lot of information into a manager and then have it organized and presented to you for production and completion and then repeating tasks and groups of tasks can be repeated to secure one’s place in the workaday world.
None of the ones currently on the market do this. Mostly, they’re just fun to play with. I enter information that looks like this: “This is a task” or “I need to do this” or “I wonder if this thing will crash” and then see how I categorize it. Then I’ll end up being dismayed by a particular oddity of the program and give up on it for six months until there’s a new version out. Repeat as needed. I go back to my large piece of paper that lists all of the most important real tasks I have, such as completing a design, calling a client, or sending a proposal. These are organized in a flat structure (currently there are about 30 tasks that need completion within the next few days). The paper is full. I cross out an item when I’m finished doing it. Then, when that piece of paper no longer feels useful, I re-write the list, which takes me about 5 to 10 minutes of thought and care.
Oh, so what are the new applications I’ve been trying? For what’s it worth, they are the nicely designed Ajax-based Remember the Milk, the wood-styled and potentially useful Midnight Inbox, and the note-taking application aptly called myNotes. The esteemed folks at Omnigroup have publicly announced an application they’re working on called Omnifocus, but there is no release date in sight. I still prefer Paper.

Life Span, Animals.

Two moths beat their wings against our kitchen window today. Our daughter asked if we could let them in. It’s coldish – about 45 degrees right now – and our daughter asked if we could let them in. We could not. It made me wonder what about the life spans of different animals, besides us.
Wikipedia has an entry, listing elephants (80), birds (15), and corals (100,000). Moths, it turns out, live one to two weeks, like most butterflies.

1.6 Billion.

So, Google paid $1.6 billion for You Tube. I’m psyched for the giddy You Tube guys, who, unfortunately, made fools of themselves online.
Not that it’s gonna happen, but here’s how I’d divvy up the $1.6 billion if I had just sold You Tube:

  • $200 million would be divided equally to 200 friends and family members. That comes to $1 million each.
  • $100 million would be evenly divided among my 60 employees. That comes out to $1.67 million per staff member.
  • $20 million would go to the two universities that were fortunate enough to grant me degrees. The funds would be tagged for the art and literature departments only. That’s $10 million each, if I did the math correctly.
  • $50 million would go to each of my immediately family members, which amounts to about ten people. Let’s see. That’s $500 million right there.
  • I’d probably give about $100 million dollars to charities. These would include humane societies, hunger and food security organizations, and a few choice political think tanks.
  • $20 million would go into my own business and a few crazy ideas I have about helping individuals do better things online. These would include online applications, desktop applications that are missing for Mac, and a new online magazine called “Stanley.”
  • I’d probably buy a new Saab.
  • I might consider investing in real estate in far-out places like Paris, London, and Berlin. The homes and the car would amount to $10 million, which would include extra money for traveling to and from and furnishings and food.
  • I’d probably buy some extra life insurance from Lloyd’s of London or something.

Let’s see, that leaves me about $650 million. What the hell am I going to do with that?

We Got Snow.

It’s probably not hard to believe, but I looked out the window today and saw those first few snow flakes fleeing from the sky onto half-leaved trees. It was lovely. The snow won’t stick, according to neighbors. It will soon. The air outside has a bite to it and the clouds are sometimes low. It’s usual that, around Hallow’s Eve, the snow comes and stays for five or so months. Environment Canada predicts a more mild winter for the nation generally, which means the areas largely to the north of us.
The polar bears are in trouble.
So is the ice shelf.
So are we all.
In other news, a friend of mine, who recently survived breast cancer, made some fine t-shirts that are funny in a serious kind of way. Advertised as being “for tough cookies with black humor,” some of the shirts are “form fitting,” which seems as fitting as anything. They’re truly unique and very bold.
More locally, Dan Messing of Stunt Software (a software design firm in Winnipeg), released its new version of Overflow, a nice little application that does one thing nicely—allow Mac users to categorize their increasing lot of good applications like Overflow and provide space for the lot. It’s even been picked up by one of my favorite bloggers, John Gruber, at Daring Fireball. Congratulations, Dan.

Better Results.

For some reason, I really like the new Apple ad called Better Results. (Don’t analyze it or me too much.)
Speaking of which—that is confessions and results—I sometimes will have days where I’ll be in front of the computer somewhere between 8 and 20 hours a day. It’s not so much a problem with 8 because that’s what one is supposed to do as a worker guy (or schlong, as my friend MR used to say). But when I’ve worked something like 12, 14, or 16 hours (the latter is rare), using the Command + Copy, Command + Paste, Command + Undo and Command + Redo keyboard shortcuts, my body starts to adhere to the protocols of the desktop mind-finger dance.
For instance, I’ll walk away from the computer, move a pumpkin and a gourd around in front of the house and then realize I don’t like the results of the new arrangement. So I’ll try to mentally hit Command + Undo and nothing happens. The pumpkin and gourd stay in the same spot that they were previously.

No Water.

Our daughter turned on the tap this morning to wash her hands in the bathroom and there was self-worry that she had done something wrong. She had not. After scuffling around and across the basement for a few minutes, we noticed a truck outside that read “Drinkable Water” and a smaller, but still large, sign that said “Pull Here.” There was a pickup truck in front with a man inside reading the newspaper and drinking a coffee from Robin’s donuts. I stepped outside to ask what the problem was and he said that there was a huge watermain break down the street and that we could use the potable water that they had brought in.
I was relieved, even tearfully happy. The city had noticed the break and would repair it by this afternoon. A crew had been scheduled for the repair. I was thinking about how this crew works. Do they, like firefighters, sit around the Department of Waste and Water, awaiting the call of duty?
Today was Yom Kippur, a day of atonement, apologizing, remembering, fasting, and the not drinking of water.