The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind -- fantastic new book about a how a Malawian teenager harnessed the power of the wind

I reviewed The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind for Good. I think it's one of the best books I've ever read. Here's an excerpt of my review:

William Kamkwamba's parents couldn't afford the $80 yearly tuition for their son's school. The boy sneaked into the classroom anyway, dodging administrators for a few weeks until they caught him. Still emaciated from the recent deadly famine that had killed friends and neighbors, he went back to work on his family’s corn and tobacco farm in rural Malawi, Africa.

With no hope of getting the funds to go back to school, William continued his education by teaching himself, borrowing books from the small library at the elementary school in his village. One day, when William was 14, he went to the library searching for an English-Chichewa dictionary to find out what the English word "grapes" meant, and came across a fifth-grade science book called Using Energy. Describing this moment in his autobiography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (co-written with Bryan Mealer), William wrote, "The book has since changed my life."

Using Energy described how windmills could be used to generate electricity. Only two percent of Malawians have electricity, and the service is notoriously unreliable. William decided an electric windmill was something he wanted to make. Illuminating his house and the other houses in his village would mean that people could read at night after work. A windmill to pump water would mean that they could grow two crops a year rather than one, grow vegetable gardens, and not have to spend two hours a day hauling water.

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Radio Free Africa

"Freedom of expression and of thought was not invented by the West. It has existed in traditional societies -- even primitive ones -- for centuries. Human progress would not have been possible without it. I'm saying this as a black African from Ghana because today around the world, we have 'educated' barbarians who want to suppress this freedom by arresting and jailing dissidents, writers, journalists and those they disagree with." -- George Ayittey on the BBC, September 20, 2009.

Ayittey, whose famed "cheetahs vs. hippos" TED speech I've blogged before, is co-founder of an inspired new project called Radio Free Africa. (thanks, Emeka Okafor) Read the rest

Attention artists, inventors, and small biz entrepreneurs: apply for a GO Ingenuity Fellowship

Diana Alexander, director of operations for the GO Campaign says:
GO Campaign is a US nonprofit dedicated to bettering the lives of orphans and vulnerable children throughout the world. We believe education and vocational training can be inspiring and life-changing. The GO Ingenuity Award has been established to encourage the sharing of innovation and invention with marginalized youth eager for a better future.

GO Campaign announced they will award a maximum of five GO Ingenuity Awards (GIA) to artists, inventors, and small business entrepreneurs to stimulate the next generation of "makers" and turn makers into role models and sources of inspiration for children in their community.

Up to five GIAs will be awarded in amounts ranging from $500 to $2,500 each to selected applicants who are eager to share their skills with marginalized youth in developing countries in ways that educate and inspire youth to harness their own ingenuity.

The one-year, one-time fellowship grants emphasize the sharing of innovative artistry and technology in informal, hands-on learning workshops with youth. Complete Guidelines and Application available at Application deadline: December 1, 2009

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Boston's amazing Papercut Zine Library needs a home

Aaron sez, " is 'a free lending library that specializes in independently published media, particularly zines.' They have been kicked out of their space in Cambridge, MA and are desperately looking for a new home. Their needs are relatively small, but it can be tough getting the word out. I encourage anyone in the Boston/Cambridge, MA area to check out their site and see if you can help. It would be a shame to let all the wonderful zines become unavailable!"

I dropped in on this place a few years ago and was absolutely charmed and delighted. This is a very worthy cause indeed.

Papercut needs new space for August 15 (Thanks, Aaron Read the rest

Spider and Jeanne Robinson need help

Beloved Hugo-award-winning writer, dancer and choreographer Jeanne Robinson (wife of Spider Robinson) has cancer, and it has taken a turn for the worse. Spider Robinson describes their financial situation as dire ("running on fumes") and so he's asking for cash to help them get through this. There's lots of ways to give, from bidding in a charity auction to attending a benefit concert to buying Spider's books. I've just sent them what I could spare -- Jeanne and Spider have given me so much pleasure and wisdom over the years, it was an honor. I hope that some of you who've been touched by them will do the same.
As some of you know, I've been dealing with a rare biliary cancer for many months. It has already taken my gall bladder, bile duct and most of my liver...and it's not done yet. It looks like in a matter of weeks I'll be facing chemotherapy, in an attempt to at least slow its progress...

There are many things I need as I prepare for my third act--supplements, prescription drugs, counseling, expensive alternative therapies, etc--and they all cost I don't have. So, after all these months of being silent and private about my illness, I recently said yes to my close friend Michelle Meyrink when she asked if she could organize a benefit concert for me.

Others have since jumped in, including my Vancouver Buddhist sangha, Mountain Rain Zen Community, and a dear friend in Florida, Jan Schroeder, who has been auctioning donated items (such as rare Babylon 5 scripts and other SF memorabilia) on eBay for me.

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$25 baby incubator for premature newborns in poor places

From FORA TV, this video of a presentation by George Kembel, co-founder of the Stanford, about the "Embrace," an extremely low-cost incubator for premature newborns. The challenge: design better technology to help keep premature newborns alive. The reality: the most at-risk newborns are in rural areas, far away from hospitals where $25,000 incubators are housed. The solution: a $25 "incubator" with materials that can be heated up in a pot of boiling water.

Awakening Creativity / FORA (thanks, Blaise Zerega) Read the rest

Flooded Louisville Free Public Library needs your help

Joshua sez, "Steve Lawson and the Library Society of the World are trying to raise money to help the Louisville Free Public Library, which was hit by horrible flash floods last week. Could you help us help the library out?"
So a lot of those books we sent them in the spring are now covered in water and sewage. And so are the bookmobiles. And the mechanical equipment for HVAC. And the data center. And $50,000 worth of new computers. The initial estimate is $1 million in damage, but they must just be guessing at this point.
Louisville Free Public Library needs your help (Thanks, Joshua!) Read the rest

Digital Open tech innovation expo for global youth: 10 more days to submit projects!

Boing Boing and Boing Boing Video are partnering with Institute for the Future and Sun to support the Digital Open, in which youth around the world are invited to submit technology projects "that will change the world--or even just make life a little easier or more fun."

The final deadline for submissions is August 15, 2009, but projects posted before the deadline will benefit significantly from feedback from the Digital Open community. We are giving away more than $15,000 worth of very cool prizes including laptops, video cameras, recycled billboard backpacks, solar-powered gear and more. We've already received 49 projects from eight countries: Argentina, Canada, India, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, the UK and the US!
More online: Read the rest

Afghanistan mass grave coverup: update on evidence.

Following up on last week's post about our government's attempts to block investigation into mass killings in Afghanistan by a US-backed warlord (see this NYT article by James Risen):

There is an update to the story today from Mark Benjamin at Salon, where you can also read through the archive of related FBI documents in PDF form.

And Ben Greenberg writes in from Physicians for Human Rights, the organization that discovered the mass grave where the victims were buried. They've been investigating the case and advocating for appropriate action since 2001. Ben says:

We've produced a 10 minute documentary video about the massacre and the three federal investigations that were impeded by the Bush Administration. It's called War Crimes and the White House: The Bush Administration's Cover-Up of the Dasht-e-Leili Massacre.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has also produced a report based on high resolution satellite imagery that shows evidence of when and how the mass grave site was subsequently dug up. A blog post on the satellite imagery report is here and the main images from the report are available here, along with a .kml file that can be used with Google Earth.

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Iran: More on the life and death of Neda Agha-Soltan

An amazing piece by Borzou Daragahi, in Tehran, from today's LA Times on the life and death of Neda Agha-Soltan (shown above in a family photo). Her death, documented on cellphone video and spread online, has become a potent spiritual emblem for the popular uprising in Iran.
The first word came from abroad. An aunt in the United States called her Saturday in a panic. "Don't go out into the streets, Golshad," she told her. "They're killing people."

The relative proceeded to describe a video, airing on exile television channels that are jammed in Iran, in which a young woman is shown bleeding to death as her companion calls out, "Neda! Neda!"

A dark premonition swept over Golshad, who asked that her real name not be published. She began calling the cellphone and home number of her friend Neda Agha-Soltan who had gone to the chaotic demonstration with a group of friends, but Neda didn't answer.

At midnight, as the city continued to smolder, Golshad drove to the Agha-Soltan residence in the eastern Tehran Pars section of the capital. As she heard the cries and wails and praising of God reverberating from the house, she crumpled, knowing that her worst fears were true. "Neda! Neda!" the 25-year-old cried out. "What will I do?"

Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, was shot dead Saturday evening near the scene of clashes between pro-government militias and demonstrators who allege rampant vote-count fraud in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The jittery cellphone video footage of her bleeding on the street has turned "Neda" into an international symbol of the protest movement that ignited in the aftermath of the June 12 voting.

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Adopt a Classroom, help kids and teachers, get a tax-break

Patricia sez,
I am fortunate enough to teach children who have a variety of disabilities, ranging from Autism, Mild Mental Retardation, to Specific Learning Disabilities. Many of my students come from low income households where even items as simple as crayons are not easily attainable. It is rare that special education students get what they truly need in a system where budget cuts take away the most basic tools for these wonderful children.

Last year Cory adopted my class through Adopt a Classroom and I'd like to make Boing Boing Readers aware of this wonderful website.

Whether you choose my class or another, 100% of your tax deductible donation (as little as $25) goes directly to the teacher and you are informed of every item purchased. The budget cuts are worse than ever this year, but I know there are people out there willing to help.

I hope this doesn't sound like an advertisement. I am a teacher, with 2 California Teaching Credentials and a Master's Degree. I work for LAUSD, one of the largest school districts in the country. Yet, if I don't get donations or use my own money, my class doesn't get things as simple as printer ink and crayons.

I also always make sure to thank my donors personally from all the kids!

Patty's class

Adopt a Classroom (Thank, Patricia!) Read the rest

Tibetan Exile Group Seeks Your Used Audio Recording Gear

A Tibetan exile group in Northern India (whose work I've reported on previously for Boing Boing, WIRED, and NPR) is seeking used voice recording gear for an upstart independent community radio station.

At left, a photo I shot of Phuntsok Dorjee with a fellow volunteer, setting up a wireless network relay point inside a tribal family's garage on the top of a mountain at the southern edge of the Himalayas. Goats and routers, under the same roof, not far from the Tibetan Government in Exile's home of Dharamsala, India.

Phuntsok says,

"We have 10 students in the radio team but have only 2 Sony IC voice recorders. A friend of the organization will be in San Francisco sometime in early July on his way to India and he can bring for us the voice recorder if we manage to get some."

Got any used voice recorders, or related gear you're not using? Email him at: phuntsok at These are good folks, doing innovative work without a lot of resources.

Related: A Wireless Network for 'Little Lhasa' (Xeni on NPR)

Previously:BBtv Vlog (Xeni): Tibet's uprising and the internet - Boing Boing Xeni on G4's AOTS re: Tibet and China's 'net blackout - Boing Boing Vlog (Xeni): Tibet report - monks forced to participate in staged ... Hacking the Himalayas: Xeni's stories and trek-blog from Tibet and ... NPR "Hacking the Himalayas": Wireless Network for 'Little Lhasa ... BBtv WORLD (Tibet): Inside Lhasa - Boing Boing NPR "Hacking the Himalayas," part 2: Connecting exiles online ... Read the rest

Germans protest new Internet Berlin Wall

Markus sez, "300 people gathered today in Berlin to demonstrate against the German net censorship law. The Deutsche Bunestag (German parliament) will vote on that law today. Lots of banners with slogans like 'New Berlin Wall?', 'IT-Courses for politicians' and 'Don't worry, we're from the internets' showed a colourful protest in front of the Brandenburger Gate close to the Reichstag."

Demonstration against Censhorship in Berlin (Thanks, Markus!) Previously:Germany to build the Internet Berlin Wall - Boing Boing Read the rest

Lazyweb: turn the new version of Opera into an unstoppable grid of proxies for Iranians

Danny O'Brien's got a doozy of a lazyweb idea: "Here's a way to mash-up two of the most talked-about Internet issues today. Opera launched their web-server-in-a-browser, Opera Unite, today. Iranian protestors are looking for proxies to get around Iran's blocking. So why not write a Opera Unite service that acts as a simple, quick-and-dirty proxy for Iranians? Danny O'Brien lays down the challenge."
Instead of a real http proxy (like Psiphon), the best implementation would simply let you append a URL to your Unite URL and get a website back, like "". That would get rid of handing over your cookies to an unknown third-party; it'd probably also discourage people using the service for private communications (no https, in Unite -- it'd be great if Opera fixed that!).

Maybe I'd also stick in a geoip check to make sure the incoming requests are coming from a known Iranian IP block, just so users could feel worthy that they're just catering to Iranians (you could pull them out of this free geolocation database). That way we wouldn't be creating a permanent global clunky, insecure proxy network -- or at least not until Iran recovers and starts its own phishing services.

I know I'm not a good enough JS programmer to pull this off, but the Unite JavaScript API certainly appears to permit cross-domain XMLHttp calls, and you can catch generic HTTP requests using'_request',somehandler,false);, so it is theoretically possible (and here I hand wave to the implementation Gods).

wanted: spartacus, an opera unite web proxy for iran (Thanks, Danny! Read the rest

Book drive for Canadian aboriginal youth in remote communities

Science fiction writer Dave Laderoute sez,
If you live in Ontario, or want to (quickly!) send some books to a good cause, the Lieutenant Governor of the province is doing his annual drive for new books for kids living in remote First Nations communities. These are generally small, isolated communities located deep in the northern boreal wilderness. Most have a population under 1000 and are accessible only by aircraft. Kids in these communities often have access to only old books in bad condition, so our province's Lieutenant Governor launched this annual effort several years ago to refresh community libraries with up-to-date titles.

The deadline, June 21, is only a few days away, unfortunately. If someone from outside Ontario REALLY wants to help out, feel free to get hold of me directly at and you can make arrangements to send a book or two to me, and I'll get it into the donation stream. But for those of you who live in Ontario, or nearby (I'm lookin' at you, folks in northern New York, Michigan, Minnesota, etc.!) this is a great chance to get some new reading material into the hands of kids who really, really need it.

For Cory's benefit, I know where my brand-new hardcopy of "Little Brother" is going. I'm quite happy to live with my digital copy and get the dead-tree version into the hands of a young Aboriginal kid.

Book Drive for Aboriginal Youth (Thanks, Dave!) Read the rest

Iranian election uprising: Twitter tracks it real-time, Iranian bloggers evade 'Net Censorship

Wagner James Au says,
Iranians around the world are making extraordinary use of Twitter and Twitter APIs to send updates and coordinate the uprising that now disputes Ahmadinejad's election. (Some background from Andrew Sullivan here) Last night Tweets from Iran seemed to go silent for several hours, apparently after Iranian government intervention, but protesters just used and other workarounds to keep the information stream going. (As one developer supporter put it, "Open APIs equal freedom.") The mainstream media has been tragically slow to cover what seems to be a major social upheaval fueled by Twitter.
BB reader Luke adds,
Persiankiwi on twitter is tweeting like a crazyman about the protests happening RIGHT NOW in Tehran and has just posted this video on Youtube. Also this twitter user is posting. They reckon the protests are largely peaceful and also guess at least hundreds of thousands are on the streets.
Link to Twitter search for hashtag "IranElection." Some Twitterers I'm following on this issue: @persiankiwi, @ johnperrybarlow , IranRiggedElect, @Pouyan. Here was a liveblog post over at HuffPo by Nico Putney. Here's a piece by Nasrin Alawi. Please add other resources you're following in the comments. Read the rest

Uganda: "Invisible Children," Joseph Kony's Army, and How It Ends.

Above, an earlier a rough cut of the film Invisible Children. The movie appears to be an ongoing work in progress, and as much an advocacy movement as much as it is a work of filmmaking. Richard Metzger writes,

This is one of the most fucked up things I have ever heard of: A Ugandan warlord by the name of Joseph Kony kidnaps children from their parents who are powerless to do anything about it. He is feared as if he has voodoo powers and any kids trying to escape from his army have their tongues cut out or are killed.

The young guys who organized the "How it Ends" event made the film. I saw it on Rick Sanchez's CNN show last month at the gym and it is WEIRD and disturbing. I ran home and looked it up.

The interesting thing about their movie (much of it online at their site) is that they were these these young guys from San Diego who made skateboarding videos and were best friends. They had the idea to go to Africa to have an adventure and shoot it for a movie. What they found was Joseph Kony's child army. The story had not been really been told before that. They brought it back with them and started a movement. They've been on Oprah and Larry King. They're heroes, full stop.

It's riveting scary, stuff. A nightmare. A human rights disaster of the worst kind.

The film: Invisible Children The event in DC: How it EndsAnd: Night of the Rescue. Read the rest

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