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Tonight I opened a bunch of snail mail and dealt with it. The wording on the advertisements I received said:


  • join the inner circles

  • Choose from hundreds of destinations

  • Be on the inside and receive special benefits.

  • Now it's easy to spot the good guys.

  • No more sleepless nights! No more worry!

And I want those things, oh yes. I want to exercise choice as I steer my little boat down the stream, I want to have good judgement and be free of worries, I want a few especially close relationships with people (a family, basically) who will give me special consideration because they love me. The advertisers have it so right, it's kind of a shame they can't really offer those things.

Also, I just made my 100th loan through kiva.org. I was sure this would happen from the day I first heard about Kiva. Cumulative efforts over time are kind of magic; now that I'm on my fifth year of lending monthly I make 4 or 5 loans in an average month, because of all the money getting paid back on prior loans. I'm not sure which of this batch the 100th was, but we'll say it was Zinsou Francis Boko, who sells electrical parts door-to-door in Benin; he has the coolest name.

He also still needs $50 to fulfill his loan, hint, hint.
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Friends who are moving are sending me delicious, tempting links. Oh, how I would love an Oxford Gossip Bench. Alas, no place to put one, but what a cool name for a piece of furniture.

Though I'm not putting in new money right now, I redeemed some credit today over at www.kiva.org... so here's good luck to Noella Talifilemu who is buying baking equipment, Nak Naem who is buying piglets, On Yen who is buying fishing nets, and Maulalo Salatielu who is also a baker -- she's just buying ingredients, which is not my usual thing, except that she's in business for herself at 20 and has no children (you go, girl). With apologies for the cultural/national stereotyping, I seem to be developing a soft spot for both Samoans (the loan amounts are small) and Cambodians (they so often pose as couples, and tend to be cute together). Isn't it strange that I'm helping two Samoan women but I know I can't point to Samoa on a map? My mother would think the map matters -- I bet she knows physically where every one of her Kiva loans have gone -- and I can't explain either of our positions on the issue.

I'm having great knitting successes, but getting a little worried that the yarn-cone I'm knitting with is barely shrinking after most of a sweater has come off it. I have another cone even bigger than the first. What do I have to do to destroy it, hmm, knit a car-cozy? Or maybe I'll use it for the latest design I'm drooling over:

You can see it better on the flickr page, which is doing a pretty good job of preventing a hotlink of the full image despite my viewing its source.

Oh, yes -- the cold is on its way out. Farewell, virus, I'm back to my energetic self. My quads are KILLING me after yesterday's squats though. It's not entirely fair, considering that I did do squats the week I was sick, and only slacked off by 20 pounds. I guess that was enough to save my ass (and I say that very literally), but for quad maintenance I need the brutality that only comes from yoga.
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On the nonlinear evaluation of money:

If you've got a dollar and you spend twenty-nine cents on a loaf of bread, you've got seventy-one cents left. but if you've got seventeen grand and you spend twenty-nine cents on a loaf of bread, you've still got seventeen grand. There's a math lesson for you.
~Steve Martin

Yep, personal finance has been on my mind lately, and not just because of the economic wibbly-wobbly on Wall Street. I've been trying lately to help a friend work through some stuff, and my own situation crosses my mind from time to time. I learned recently about a ratio where people compare the amount of their mortgage to their annual income; I'm not sure what this is called, but apparently 3:1 or 4:1 is a pretty normal ratio. Apparently we are underhoused, because ours is about 1:1 these days. Interesting. (I think we started at around 2:1, but since then we've paid down some of the balance and gotten pay increases). Would any homeowners on this thread care to share their ratio?

Kiva.org, my favorite source of microfinance endorphins, is also up to some new antics -- two new things. They have "lending teams" now, which allow you to count your loans toward a larger total. (I just joined "Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious", who seem to be going up against "Kiva Christians" but are not winning yet. I'd like to note that I see this as a rather friendly competition though: effort from both sides is a great thing.)

The other new feature, more important, is that payments made on loans are now immediately available for reloan. I'm sure you're thinking "big deal": most payments made on loans of $25 or even $100 are only a few dollars, not enough to make a new loan. But when you have 20+ loans out at the time, as I did, with some of them almost paid back... well, it freed up $800 of Kiva credit. I was too busy to reloan right away, and so now I have $900 of credit and Kiva's out of entrepreneurs because of a surge of traffic. Zowie. Oh wait, some cattle folks from Azerbaijan just showed up, but I don't really like those... anyway, I'll be able to nudge the needle on the Atheists team all by myself if I ever get to see a good batch again.
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To my surprise, I had three Kiva loans fully pay me back last month. Intizar Sohbatov, Celia Cala and Anna Bezruk are back out of debt.

Three loans down means I got to make four new ones this month -- zowie! All of them are still raising funds, which is why I'm providing links; you can look at their businesses. By the time you look they may be funded, but still.

Carlos Alberto Rodriguez Cano in Nicaragua, good luck buying zinc for the roof of your house.
Agnes Mamboleo in Tanzania, a music store / salon is a rather brilliant idea.
Vicenta in Peru is running an internet hangout for the local youth... I wonder if the local parents totally hate her, or if they ask questions the kids look up on Wikipedia.
Hellen Bbabalanda & co is a group in Uganda trying to buy sewing machines, battery charging machines, grocery store stock and used clothing.

It's amazing the things that constitute business plans in the developing world. While cruising around looking for loans I liked, I saw several people running battery-charging businesses this time, which is the first time I remember seeing that. A lot of people are trying to build additions to houses this time as well; it must be the season. I should really be more open to funding those... face it, I had to borrow to pay for my home too, and my mortgage is proportionally bigger (a 30-year term!) than anything these people are asking for.

Along similar lines -- I just want to mention how much I respect my loan recipients. Most of them are running their own businesses, which takes imagination and chutzpah. And all of them have better ideas about what to do with $25 than I do. By making a loan I'm nodding and saying, yeah, that is a better idea than anything I have at the moment.

Microfinance and knitting never get old. :D
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"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
~ R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path

Life is complex: it has both real and imaginary components.

I went in to work today (the only day this week I went in to work). What I didn't get done is my goals for this quarter: they are hopeless. What I did get done that was really good: lots of financial chores. One was following up from yesterday's bank business and the other was dealing with 401(k)s at Zillian (I can start contributing!) and my last company (the company matching is done, so I can roll it over). Heads up, all youse who have 401(k)s, the limit in 2008 is still 15,500 -- it is NOT going up this year. The IRS apparently announced this in October and caught a lot of people by surprise, and most of the Internet is still wrong about it.

(This personal finance PSA brought to you by the letters I, R and S.)

Tomorrow I'm flying to Seattle, which I still haven't really internalized. I bought two tubes of lipstick just because they smelled good, and went to kiva.org to try (again) to catch up on my loans through them. They're still limiting each loan to $25, which kind of puts the kibosh on that. For the moment, when they're in that situation I'm just going to donate the money, I think. I gave a $50 Kiva gift certificate to my mom for Christmas... so, oh well, I hope she finds two entrepreneurs she likes.
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As a followup to my last post, I think I'll post about something that hardly ever draws comments -- Kiva. :) (I do have some new friends, though, so hey, new friends: Kiva.org is where microfinance meets match.com. You can pick your favorite third world entrepreneur and lend them $25 (or more), and then track their progress and get your $25 back when the loan is repaid. I basically think it is the bomb.)

I'm excited because Kiva now has lender pages.1 Here's mine:


As you can see, my first loan to Yesenia the fishmonger is almost paid back. When she's done I'll probably withdraw that money to my bank account, as final proof that the whole thing isn't a scam; then I'll re-lend it. Squee. :)

Kiva is now looking for volunteer translators and editors, and, sadly, a volunteer software developer. So much for me going to work for them. I can't blame them for asking, when the TIME Person of the Year was "you" and half the magazine was about crowdsourcing... someone just might say yes. Won't be me though. It's that whole problem with having to work for a living.

1I poked around a little bit... I found a guy my age who, even if all his loans are the minimum amount of $25, has $3200 in the Kiva system right now. Yet his myspace profile makes him look like someone I wouldn't care to meet in a million years. Really now... "lick me where I pee"? People, oh, people, you are so obstreperously complicated.
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I had definitely been wondering why only two of my Kiva loans have had payments made on them. It's because the other three, the three that were to Kenya through the Women`s Economic Empowerment Consort, just got disbursed. This includes one from July. What, do they do it quarterly or something? Oh, how slow you are, Kenya!

Microfinance obviously is not a good hobby for the really impatient. On the other hand, I too have had to wait a few months or weeks for important paperwork to happen... college applications, grad school applications, various legal contracts, and yeah, loan applications. I guess it's unfair to ask third-world economic progress to be any faster. Oh, how slow you are, world.
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Look look! Now that I've put in my bit, Jane only needs another $25 to expand her quarrying business (yes, a woman in the business of trucking sand around. You go, Jane). Jane's picture and description of her business are here:


C'mon, who's going in on Jane with me? You get your $25 back in 10 to 12 months.

Edit: nevermind, loan is all raised -- someone else took my bait overnight. :)
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  • I bench pressed 100 lb (using dumbbells) on Thursday since I had [livejournal.com profile] heisenbug there to help me get them into position, and it was good. Four point something reps.

    I'm not allowed to work on backbends for the moment since I went a bit far with my spine on Weds. The extra energy is going into hip flexor stretches. Bend backwards, you stupid hips! And rotate out, too, and be willing to move to the side and stuff! Well, they must be doing okay since I did get into bound half lotus on both sides Saturday in the gym, although on the left side I'm relying a lot on shoulder flexibility to get the foot. In other news, I can now sort of jump backwards from firefly pose to chaturanga, although I still land with my feet way apart because I don't have time to pull them together in midair. Jumping is probably the wrong way to think of it -- it's more of an attempt to snap yourself straight before hitting the floor, while slowing the inevitable fall with hands and back. (For what it's worth, I think of my regular jump back to chaturanga in this way and I'm one of only a couple people in the studio who land silently.)

    I find this page on a progression to press handstands quite interesting, thanks [livejournal.com profile] nevers, although I am nowhere close to their step #1 (straddle-up) and can already do their step #2 (press headstand), which makes me feel abnormal. I tried a few press headstands with my head on an aerobic step today (step #3) and it went nicely enough... the step with one pair of risers is challenging but doable. With two sets of risers I can't quite press, but if I cheat and jump myself there I can press from that to a handstand (against the wall). Fun!

  • Fruity Cheerios are a bad idea. I'll "whole grain" you, you people who don't say a word about oats being the first ingredient in regular Cheerios and corn being the first ingredient in this crap. Like we don't eat enough corn-derived food already. :(

  • I can't help it... it still drives me crazy to go to the gym, be the only woman (or sometimes one of two) in the free weight area, then walk back toward the locker room and see all the women in that women-only room. Helloooooo ladies! You are creating the imbalance! Come out!

  • After years of sending me catalogs with no luck, Tiffany's has managed to seriously tempt me; I think I might buy either these classy earrings or these more funky ones. (If I bought both I might have to consider myself a bad person. But they're both so pretty!)

  • Yesenia, the fishmonger who I loaned $100 to in August, has paid back $16.53 of her loan. Eeeeee, the kiva thing is working!! Also, Kiva is finally 501c3 now, which means that they can be externally audited (good for reassuring those who think it's a scam). In September few of the loans appealed to me and they were begging for a flat-screen monitor to be used in setting up the first-ever Kiva kiosk in a popular retail store, so I bought them a used one. Nothing about that on their blogs yet, but whatever, it'll happen.

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Does anyone remember back when I was talking about microloans (friends-only link)? Well, I did do some research and found a few funds that are fronts for microloan-based investments, but I never found anything that let me be more personally involved, and I never bothered to invest.

Enter a post on sowhatcanido at blogspot that told me about Kiva.org. Unbelievable... it's EXACTLY what I was looking for. It lets you, as an individual person, choose the micro-businesses you would like to micro-support (and these are masons, shoe sellers, fishmongers, haircutters) even if you only have $25. You can see pictures of the people. When a loan is fully funded the entrepreneur gets the money, and over the next few months the lenders get emails on how the businesses are doing. After the loan is paid off in full (and while this is not guaranteed, repayment rates are extremely high), the money is returned to the lenders, who may withdraw the money or re-invest. Loans are mostly for less than a thousand dollars total.

I'll mention the one downside now: these are no-interest loans as far as the lender is concerned. However, in my opinion the power of choosing who you're supporting, and actually hearing about how they're doing as time goes on, makes up for that. I am looking right now at a woman in Honduras who wants to buy more stock for her tiny grocery store and still needs $200. Yeah! Why not?

A CNNMoney article on Kiva

I've been interested in this sort of thing for what feels like ages now. It may come as a surprise to hear me say this since you all know how much I hate being in debt, but I think loans are wonderful. Money (like water) is most powerful when it's swishing around, and loans are a way to swish money between those who'd rather have it now and those who would rather have it later because, like me, their imaginations are failing them for now. Without loans I'd never have gotten the education I did. And being on the other side of loans like this is a pretty cheap way to potentially do a lot of good. Assuming you get your money back, all it costs is the interest you would have gotten... and, although interest matters when it comes to retirement savings, it's not that much if you think of it as a charitable contribution. And your bank is giving you crap for interest rates anyway. :)

I want to keep the focus on Kiva, but surely you know that once I start talking about finance I don't shut up THAT quickly. )



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