I've been following a couple of threads through my reading tonight. They each seem to have to do with foreign service - of the lower case variety - and technology used to connect and transform lives.
Uzbekistan Diary is a chronicle of one woman's experience as "a North American journalist working to promote an independent press in Uzbekistan." Sharp, funny, and down-to-earth. This is storytelling from the edge of a completely different culture, and the kind of writing which keeps me checking back each day. (Some contrast to Pepys - see below, which I'm also reading daily!)
Another thread is a project in Laos, where rugged bicycle-powered computers using open source software and WiFi will link villagers with one another and with the internet. It is a project of the Jhai Foundation, under the direction of Lee Felsenstein.
"He's one of my heroes," writes Danny O'Brien about Felsenstein. "If you've not heard of him, he was the moderator of the Homebrew Computer Club that kickstarted the PC revolution. He designed the Osborne-1, the first popular portable computer. He rolled out the first primitive public network in 1972 - teletypes scattered in cafes and libraries across Berkeley. So when he says he wants to place 'computer technology in the hands of ordinary people,' he's very serious."
I first heard about this project in the NYTimes Magazine - Ideas of 2002 issue - in an article entitled, "Pedal-Powered Internet, The." Now I find through BoingBoing that Paypal donations could close a funding gap and make the project happen this year. I thought about it, read about it, and decided to give. (I you are also so inclined, please put "Remote IT" in the "For" field.)
And then the third thread led me back to visit the village of Ortahisar, Turkey, to see what's happening on the Kilimwomen weblog - and there is a beautiful new rug in progress. It makes me so happy to visit that site and know that I built it and then was able to go there to teach Hatice and Sultan how to post photos and entries. They get visitors from all over the world now, and Hatice is preparing for the university. Communication = hope and change.