Why Bill Gates is so interested in HIV and Malaria

It is finally time to share on my Weblog what I’ve been telling friends for the last two years when they ask why Bill Gates is so interested in funding treatments for HIV and Malaria….

“Bill Gates wants to keep Africans alive long enough that they can buy Windows Vista (a.k.a. ‘Longhorn’) when it finally ships.”

(I’d been holding off on this one because it seemed too offensive, but the latest slippage (to January 2007) of this release of the Windows operating system broke down my resistance.)

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Personal solution to traffic jams: Motorhome and Driver

My friends in Cambridge and Berkeley like to complain that the U.S. is a rich man’s world.  A trip out on the highway reveals that in fact it is not.  If the U.S. were a rich man’s world, the rabble would be paid to ride public transit instead of clogging the highways and getting in the way of rich folks’ monster SUVs.  Perhaps every Mercedes would come with an automatic device to fling subway tokens out the sides of the car.  In a rich man’s world, as in London, an electronic toll of $20 would be collected from every driver wishing to enter an already-crowded highway or section of a city.

A lot of rich pilots whom I know don’t own especially fancy cars.  They can’t be bothered to trade in their old Honda Accord for a new $100,000 BMW or Mercedes because the fancy new car won’t get them anywhere any faster than the existing car.  Plenty of rich folks in California, however, do spend more than $100,000 on a car.  And during this past week they get onto the highways blocked off by civil unrest and demonstrations against restrictions on illegal immigration.

What would be an intelligent way to spend serious $$ on ground transportation?  How about a $120,000 diesel-powered 40′ motorhome?  It wouldn’t be as much fun to drive as a BMW M5 and it would certainly be difficult to park in the city.  You solve both problems by hiring an illegal immigrant to act as your driver.  You send him to schoolbus driver school for a few days and let him sleep on the fold-out dinette in the RV at night. Now when you go to the beach, it will still take the same two hours at 5 mph on the clogged freeways that it always took, but you won’t care because you’ll be at home.  You can read in an easy chair.  You can do some writing at the dinette table or refer to your files.  You can make phone calls and take notes.  You can watch TV.  With a mobile phone data connection, you can use the Internet.  You can take a nap in the bedroom in the back.  If you get hungry, you can fix yourself a grilled cheese sandwich in the kitchen.  You’re at home in your second house, so waiting for friends or traffic jams isn’t anywhere near as annoying as it would be if you were in a car.

How about the environmental impact of getting around in 20,000 lb. buses instead of an SUV or a big German sedan?  As it happens, the engineering of SUVs and big German sedans is so spectacularly inefficient that the gas mileage is about the same.  The monster diesel-powered SUVs get as much as 9 miles to the gallon.

New advertising campaign for Winnebago:  “RVs:  They’re not just for camping and traveling anymore” or “Motorhomes for commuting”.

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How do I turn a T-Mobile voicemail into an MP3 file on my computer?


I have a T-Mobile voice message that I would like to save as an MP3 file on my computer (for eventual publication on my Web site).  What’s the best way to do this?  I can forward the voicemail to another T-Mobile customer.  I can play it back from my phone or, with a PIN number, from any phone.

[Problem solved, with free software, thanks to a kind reader’s email: http://www.gizmoproject.com/ ]

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Dumb towns getting dumber; smart towns getting smarter?

On our trip through Kansas, it was impossible not to notice the difference in average intelligence between Lawrence, the university town, and Liberal, a beef-processing and Walmart town.  In 1900, the costs of moving away from one’s home town were high.  You’d see your family and friends only once every year or two.  You’d talk on the phone or communicate via telegraph only in an emergency.  These costs discouraged enough folks from moving that every town had its intellectuals.  They dreamed of moving to Manhattan, but they never did.  You’d find them at the library, in the local theater company, running a Great Books club, etc.

In 2006, you can move 300 miles away and get back home every weekend on an Interstate highway in a few hours.  You can move 2000 miles away and get back home every month for $300 round-trip on an airliner.  For a fixed $20 per month, you can get a voice-over-IP phone and make unlimited long-distance calls.  For free, you can exchange email and instant messages.  You can get the benefits of moving, associating with other smart interesting people, without many of the costs formerly imposed on those who moved away from their home towns.

What’s the result of all of this investment in transportation and telecommunications infrastructure?  Where formerly intelligent people were more or less randomly distributed and “lay where they fell”, our society is now sorting people by intelligence into smart and dumb towns and regions.

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