My Keynote Talk on the Web, Global Culture, and Monumental Screw-ups – Now on YouTube

Update: welcome to everyone popping over from my Peru travelogue on

And if you imagine your group would want me to come by and speak, here’s who you want to call.

Last year I was asked by Web Directions North, a gathering of assorted bigshots from Google, Yahoo!, etc. — people who literally convene to design the Internet itself — to deliver a closing keynote on the future of the Internet’s influence on global culture and politics.

Naturally, my take was illustrated with people dancing in the streets, teenage males being given fake boobs, and coffee made from civet poop.  I’m happy to tell you it got a long standing ovation.

You can see the whole talk online here.  It’s broken into bite-size pieces, organized loosely by the point I’m making, each about the length of a pop song.  If you dig the chunk above, click to the YouTube page with the whole shebang.

My new New York Times puzzle is up

Circular Reasoning, a new puzzle I designed and wrote for the op-ed section of the New York Times, is up!

My brief companion essay is here, and the introductory essay by novelist Arthur Phillips, who introduced me to the editors, is here.

It’s meant to be hard and yet amusing enough that you’ll want to share it with a friend or family member and work it together as part of your long holiday weekend.  Did my best, anyway.  Enjoy!

My Kiva Loan Scoreboard: 375 Loans, Zero Defaults

Yesterday morning, for the first time in my account, three loans — to a Nicaraguan tailor, a Peruvian student, and a Filipino grocer — were paid in full.

Sure, you can pocket the money when it comes back. (Which is almost always does — Kiva’s overall default rate is currently less than two percent. Given recent stock market downturns, you may well do better with Bolivian woodworkers than the S&P.) But where’s the fun in that?

So today, the $25 that came back from Nicaragua, I sent to a student in Costa Rica. The cash from Peru went to another shopkeeper in Uganda, and the money that came in from The Philippines went to a teacher in Mozambique.

When your loans get repaid and you shuffle the money off to somebody else, it feels like you’re running your own tiny foundation.  It’s really fun.

And remember: this costs me virtually nothing, other than the time value of the money while it’s out of my hands and the rare one or two percent of loans that default.  (That said, I haven’t had a single default so far.)  And for that fair price — a few farthings above free — you get to reach across the world like this:

Sample Image

Neat, huh?

Now that repayments are starting to keep my account almost reloaded on its own, this is starting to look like a lifetime hobby.

It’s one you might enjoy yourself.