Stop Big Media – Tell the FCC to Stop Big Media

Stop Big Media – Tell the FCC to Stop Big Media
The FCC wants to lift media ownership rules and open the floodgates to wholesale consolidation of local newspaper, radio and television outlets. The FCC needs to hear from you before they hand over local media to concentrated giants like News Corp., General Electric and Clear Channel. Big Media’s drive to control local outlets stifles the competition and diversity that are the lifeblood of a democratic media system.

The FCC under the present administration, more so than ever before, has been facilitating the consolidation of media under the umbrella of only a handful of large corporations. This kind of monopoly is detrimental to our democracy. Local media outlets are quickly fading away. Aside from this stifling democracy, do you really want to hear the same friggin’ Daniel Powter song about his bad day over and over, even as you travel 2500 miles across county?!

Speaking out about this will take you two minutes. Click the link above, complete the form, VOILA! You’ll have been heard by the FCC. Do this immediately, Comments are due January 16

Kiva Kicks Ass: Become a Loaner Today!

I have been reading about microlenders for a while now. I’ve thought a couple times: man, I wish I could help these lenders, or better yet, be a microlender and finance entrepreneurs myself. I just found Kiva, which allows me to exactly this. It’s amazing. Become a loaner now! You can donate as little as $25 and you select the entrepreneurs you wish to lend to. Tara and I have just lent to two entrepreneurs. The details follow.

Vasil_Mindov

Vasil Mindov

Location: Bourgas, Bulgaria
Activity: Food Production and Sales
Loan Use: To buy a packing machine
Loan Repayment Term Range: 14-18 months

Vasil Mindov has special engineering education but he was not able to find an engineering job so after his graduation he started to work as a restaurant manager. In 1990 he decided to start an own business and opened one of the first grocery stores in the city. Later when the big food chain stores opened their stores in Bourgas Vasil had to close his grocery. Then two years ago he opened a small manufacture for cereal and cornflakes. He has no serious competition and the products he makes are very attractive. Now Vasil Mindov needs a packing machine for his manufacture. The loan amount is $ 2000.

Hamburguesas_Mary

Maria de los Angeles Castellon
Hamburguesas Mary

Location: Nuevo Laredo, Mexico
Activity: Restaurant
Loan Use: Buy ingredients and equipment
Loan Repayment Term Range: 12-18 months

Maria Castellón began her business a year ago; she has a Snack store in which she sells hamburgers, hot dogs, quesadillas, and sodas. She has great season which has allowed her to stay in the market and get more clients, that is why she has planned to buy more ingredients and equipment for her commercial space, so she is soliciting a loan of $1,500.00 that she expects to pay in 1 year.

So, you may think: yah right, you’re never getting this money back! Actually, Kiva to data has a 94% repayment rate. Also, from what I’ve read about microlenders the repayment is typically in the 90 percentile. For the recipients of these loans this could mean entry to middle class and could potentially benefit their families for generations to come.

The following explanation is taken from Kiva’s one-pager explaining itself.

What is Kiva.org?

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through loans for the sake of alleviating global poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions (MFIs), Kiva lets you lend as little as $25 to help fund small businesses run by low-income entrepreneurs around the world.

How does it work?

Kiva’s model is similar to eBay. Microfinance institutions around the world post up profiles of qualified local entrepreneurs online. Lenders can then browse and choose an entrepreneur they wish to fund. Kiva aggregates loan capital from individual lenders and transfers it to MFI partners to disburse and administer. As loan repayments are made by the entrepreneur, the MFI remits funds back to Kiva. Once the loan is fully repaid, Kiva lenders can withdraw their principal or re-loan it to another entrepreneur.

Social Impact

Most of the poor in the developing world are self employed entrepreneurs. A small amount of affordable capital can dramatically change the life of an entrepreneur and their family. Despite
the fact that over 10,000 MFIs exist worldwide, less than 10% of the global poor have access to affordable capital. Kiva connects MFIs to a new source of low cost, flexible capital – individuals. This additional capital helps MFIs reach more clients in their local community.

Early Progress

Since concluding an initial beta round in Uganda in October 2005, Kiva has expanded to MFI partners 11 countries (see map). Kiva has also established key relationships with PayPal (free transactions) and Microsoft (research grant to enhance Kiva’s web interface with MFIs). Kiva has also received significant early coverage in the blogosphere and press. Kiva is on track to raise over $1M from +10,000 internet lenders and expand to 25 countries by the end of 2006.

: I have to point out I discovered Kiva through Mike’s Blog. Also, Mike has offered to match lending for each person that notifies him. He kindly matched my lending for Vasil and Maria. I’ve mentioned Mike here previously, a wonderful fellow.

Free Knowledge: Open Manufacturing

Aaron Fulkerson

That’s free like speech, not like beer. I received a link to this article in Minnesota Technology magazine today. It has a short piece about wikis and MindTouch. I wonder where my free knowledge shirt went. I love that shirt! This is what my focus has always been. Knowledge should be open and free (within reason). Obviously I’m not talking about publishing the recipe to saren gas, but I am talking about, among other things, opening up how we manufacture and engineer. Imagine if all our engineering were open and accessible to anyone who had the desire to review and contribute. I’m talking about chemical, pharmaceutical, automotive, software, aeronautical, whatever engineering. People could review, contribute, and assist in improving. What if, for example, an electric car’s design, manufacturing, parts purchasing, etc was completely open? Think about how quickly this could improve. Surely there is more overhead in manufacturing than in software, but the process would certainly be improved were it open. Sticking with the electric car idea, perhaps all the laid off auto-workers could even start their own boutique car company. It’s not impossible or unrealistic. The costs of goods sold are significantly lower than what they used to be in car manufacturing. What’s the business model? The same that exist for open source software. Let’s say for the electric car it could support and services.

: I should have known. I mentioned this to Brian, the electric car example that is, and sure enough there is a post at MAKEzine about an open source car, which is really just a bunch of useful links on the topic. I would really like to explore this further. Especially since it would actually be practical for me now that I’m moving somewhere other than Minnesota, which simply wouldn’t be conducive to an electric car with my commute.

Ashby’s First Birthday

Ashby_1year (15)

Ashby turned one year old on Saturday, January 6. It is hard to believe she’s already one. I think back to those first three months…man…that was scary. Things are much more stable now. We’ve had so many milestones already. She got her harness off for her hip dysplasia and report that her hips are normal at about three months, which was a huge relief. Then at eight months my fears of SIDS ended because research shows SIDS drops way off at that age and is no longer an issue at one year. She crawled. She signed for the first time. She’s spoken her first word: ‘dadadada’. She led us on a wild goose chase to determine why she’s anemic. She’s walked (with the aid of a walker toy). And more. I’m glad she’s sturdier now. She’s a lot more fun now that I can ‘rastle’ with her.

For Ashby’s birthday weekend the wonderful and very talented Jj Killins (our neighbor we will surely miss after we move) took photos of Ashby again. She’s amazing. For the full photo set click “Ashby’s One Year Set” below. Tara and Brenda also took Ashby to Target to get more photos taken. I can’t stand these places though because you don’t get the digital copies. What’s the point? I want nothing to do with that; although, the photographer took some surprisingly nice shots. I prefer Jj’s though photos though. I know most photographers aren’t like Jj (meaning they don’t provide digital copies), but it’s just nonsense.

Ashby_1year (8)On Ashby’s birthday she also went to the playground, one of her most favorite things to do. I stayed at home and work. Partially because I have so much crap to do, but also because I knew if I went I would steal the show from Brenda (Tara’s mom) who doesn’t have much time left before we move. When Ashby went down for her nap Tara and Brenda did a great job decorating the kitchen. After Ashby got up we sang her happy birthday, took a ton of photos, and let her taste cake for the first time. Tara got a cake from Byerlys, this awesome grocery store chain they have in Minnesota. It’s got a great meats and cheese section. This is where I got the four different sashimi grade fish for our New Years’ Eve sushi night. Around Christmas time they have a pianist. The place is all carpeted. And they give a free cake for first birthdays! The place rules. Anyhow, Ashby stuck her finger in the cake, didn’t know what to do, I put it in her mouth, and she jerked her head back as if her finger had an electriccharge. She paused, stuck her finger in again, tasted, and concluded this was some good stuff.

Tara and I plan on getting Ashby an aquarium once we move to San Diego; so, we didn’t really get her much for Christmas. However the in-laws gave her a hippo-walker/ride-on toy that Ashby promptly stood behind and charged about the house with. Also, she received a Leap Frog console that communicates with the DVD player. She checked it out for the first time today and seemed to understand she was manipulating the TV. I’m not yet sure how successful that one will be.

Temp 095 Ashby First Birthday (15)
Temp 022 Temp 079
Temp 076

Microsoft Word as a Blogging Interface

So, I’ve talked long and hard about how in this Web 2.0 world we should stop trying to replace desktop apps with crappier web based ones. This has been reinforced at every conference when watching a demo blow up in the face of the presenter (hell, it’s happened to me) because the application is entirely in the browser. Today I installed Microsoft Office 2007. I know I just slammed Outlook and I will continue to do so, but Outlook 2007 has some much improved handling of IMAP and as previously mentioned I’m stuck with Outlook so, what the hell, I installed the whole application suite. Allow me to segue: I don’t really use Microsoft Office opting instead for TextPad, OpenOffice, DekiWiki, or just an HTML editor. Anyway, I’m writing a paper for work and I launched Word for shits and giggles to check out this ‘ribbon’ interface. To my surprise what do I find? In the new Word you can configure it to post directly to one of many different blog engines. Brilliant! This could be a really nice interface for blogging! You can open existing posts, embed categories, add new categories, publish as a draft…I’m impressed. The only piece missing is the ability to browse your Flickr photo share by date, tags, set, whatever, and drag and drop the photo in pre-defined sizes into Word and have them linked to the full size image on Flickr. At the very least, let me browse all my Flickr photos. This would be the missing piece that would easily make this the de-facto standard for posting to one’s blog. OpenOffice needs to do this.

: So, I’ve tried to use Word as a blogging interface. Worthless. You can’t view or edit the source HTML, which is a must because it doesn’t have an interface for photo sharing sites or a means of easily floating images, setting alt tags, etc. This post to blog feature has less than half the functionality it needs to be useful. I still think the concept is a great idea though, but it’s like my dad used to say: ‘if you’re going to do it half-assed, don’t bother doing it."

Political Persuasion Quiz

I found this quiz on memorandum that allegedly gauges your political persuasion on a scale of 0 to 40, where 0 is as liberal as it gets and 40 uber-conservative or whatever. Clearly this is as scientific as 25 question survey can be. I scored a 14 out of 40. I surely don’t think myself this liberal because I’m very conservative fiscally (just not socially). Not that liberal is a bad thing. I suppose my Civil Libertarian views slide me toward the left on a survey like this. Some of the indicators are rather silly and stereotypical. Really, is want for more prisons a hallmark of conservatism? Is disdain for immigrants and homosexuals? Maybe it is. I guess this makes me liberal.

Microsoft Outlook is an Amazing Piece of Crap

I’ve been using Thunderbird for a while now. I’m a Windows user on my laptop. I wish I could use Suse (as I have in the past) or Ubuntu (as I have in the past), but it’s hard to dogfood when you’re using Linux, and Linux support on laptops, in my experience, isn’t the greatest; especially when you have newer hardware. Anyway, Mozilla Thunderbird is wonderful. Use it. Outlook is a piece of shit. I was using Outlook 2003 until last July when, right before OSCON, my laptop hard drive failed on me. I was so fed up with it and how hard it is to backup I gave it up (again). Now I feel forced to use Outlook again because I don’t have a calendaring solution and synching addresses with my blackberry is just too damn hard. Without my calendar in my hand, I tend to miss appointments. For my final justification I really need to dogfood our own software and we have an Outlook plugin.

Iamporting/exporting in Outlook is a joke. How anyone on the Outlook team thinks they should release software that is (intentionally undoubtedly) that shitty on something so fundamental should be fired. No, being fired isn’t good enough, they should be…I don’t know…publically flogged or something. I’m not even going to bother outlining all the ways that Outlook is a piece of shit. It would take me too long. Let me say the following: with a Core 2 Duo and 2 Gigs of RAM no application should drag your laptop to a grounding halt. With Outlook running I get out of system resources errors! It takes me an hour to export only 5 months of email and 30-45 minutes to import it. Thunderbird stores your emails on the file system and not in some bullshit proprietary file, backing it up is as simple as synchronizing that folder with your NAS. Thunderbird has useful junk mail filters. Outlook doesn’t. Thunderbird can actually handle IMAP elegantly Outlook does not.

Like I said Outlook is shit. As soon as I went back to Outlook 2003 I get this problem where it will not retain my network password for my email account (POP3). I scoured the Internet for a fix including Microsoft’s useless knoledge base. The only thing I found was this fix that required deleting a registry entry. It didn’t help at all. So, I tried installing Outlook 2007 on the off chance this would resolve the issue. It didn’t. Now I have Outlook 2007, which is even a bigger, crappier, resource hog than Outlook 2003, but this one has big obnoxious shiny bubbly buttons! W00T! Ridiculous…I want Evolution and the ability to synch! If Mozilla could provide the ability to synch Thunderbird and Sunbird I would be in heaven. I researched this as well, all to no avail. I can’t be alone in this camp. There has to be a sizable minority of Outlook users out there who only use it for synching with their Treos or Blackberries.

New Year's Eve: The Walker and Sushi

Tara and I again held a garage sale yesterday. We've got a lot to unload before we move. We're losing at least a third of our square footage in the move from our current home to a condo in downtown San Diego (which we still haven't found). People are grabbing our crap at a steal compared to what we spent on it. Yesterday we sent off a sleeper sofa, loveseat, coffee table, and two end tables for $400. It should be painful considering what we spent for this stuff, but I think it's cathartic more than anything else. Stuff. Who the hell needs stuff. I suppose it's useful when you have a little one, but Americans just have too damn much stuff. Sell it all!

I am so full. I just devoured a ton of sushi and tempura veggies. We've made sushi a New Year's Eve tradition in the last few years. This year it was especially gooood. I don't know what I did different, but it was especially good tonight. I started cooking at 4pm and didn't get done until 7:30pm. I took some breaks though to see Ashby. I used red snapper, salmon, yellow fin tuna, and marlin. The best was my spicy tuna and spicy marlin rolls, which I made with rooster sauce. Goood…

NewYear 015 NewYear 006

   

Earlier today we went to the Walker Art Center. I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned 60+% of modern art is just complete crap. I'm not saying it isn't art, I'm just saying I think it's crap. My opinion, obviously. I saw one piece today that took up an entire room. There were posters everywhere, fabrics and clothes strewn all over the floor, garbage and crap everywhere. This was a big room. It was not pretty. I understand art is about evoking emotion, but I find it difficult to appreciate something that absolutely disgusts me and provides me with no introspection beyond: dirt bad. This room was as if a schizophrenic had lived there for years. It reminded me of the schizophrenics and bipolars I've known in the past. Oddly enough they were artists too. I didn't particularly care for their work either. But the art-elite always did. I guess occasionally they would create a piece I could dig, but in general it looked like it was crap a schizo or manic threw together in a weekend. Funny, this is exactly what it was. Perhaps I'm just not sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate it. I did really like this one piece in which the entire room was constructed to be a cave-like labyrinth made out of packing tape and plywood. It was huge and pretty crazy. There were also books wired as bombs throughout the exhibit, soda cans, trash, mannequins, brick walls, and other objects. The book-bombs were, I'm assuming, explosive ideas and the entire piece was about representing the artist's mind. I think. It was creepy. It was cool. Very original. I liked it. I wish I could have taken pictures of some of the pieces we saw at the Walker, but we were quickly informed we were not to take photos in the museum. 

Walker 028 WalkerArtCenter (12)
WalkerArtCenter (5) Walker 009
Walker 023 Walker 021

I think Ashby had a good time. I don't think there are many (almost) one year old children that could spend 1.5 hours in a museum of modern art and not make a nuisance of themselves. Ashby was cool as a cucumber and seemed to enjoy the place.

Enough blogging, I'm going to go back to drinking my shaum-pag-ny and stress about all the crap I need to get done for our next release at work…

Ashby's First Christmas

Christmas was a tad somber this year. Our impending move to San Diego has definitely put a damper on the season for the Boone family. It has been difficult for Tara and her family. Brenda came down to Shoreview for a few days with Tara, Ashby, and I. Then on Christmas day we all drove up to the North Shore of Lake Superior (just north of Duluth) and spent the day at the Boone's house. Ashby made out like a bandit of course. She woke up an hour early Christmas morning as if she knew what was going on. The first few gifts we opened with here were a bit confusing for her. She got the hang of it pretty quickly though and finally was simply bored with all the 'stuff' she was having to unwrap. She is really enjoying the musical table Brenda got her. Julie and Paul bought her a beautiful pink dress, which we've already used in a photo shoot (photos to follow). Grandma Roe sent her many many gifts. She especially appreciates the plastic farm animals. I'm sure I'm forgetting gifts sent to her by others, but this is all I can recollect right now. I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season.

Christmas 2006 038 Christmas 2006 031
Christmas 2006 032 IMG_0109
IMG_0100 IMG_0049
IMG_0050 IMG_0025