Help Me Build a School and Give the Life Long Gift of Education

Children Benefit From New Room to Read SchoolThe sun burned off the morning chill and the only sounds were the river and feet walking along a dirt path on the three-hour hike to a school in Bahundanda, Nepal. The trekker reached the school after climbing 1300 vertical feet in the last mile. The school had eight classrooms, each overcrowded with students who sat crammed on benches without desks. The headmaster showed the trekker the library. There were so few books that the teachers did not want to risk the children damaging them, so they were pad-locked in a cabinet. The books were likely ones left behind by other backpackers, and therefore not age appropriate for the students. Before leaving, the headmaster said to the trekker: “Perhaps, sir, you will someday come back with books.”

This unplanned detour on a 21-day hiking trip caused John Wood to quit his successful career as a technology executive working for Microsoft in China and to establish Room to Read. Since 2000, Room to Read has built 221 schools, established 3370 libraries, donated 1.2 million books, funded 2,344 long-term girls’ scholarships, and established 108 computer and language labs.

I recently read John’s book titled “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.” My goal for 2007 is to raise $11,000 to fund a complete school in Nepal. Please join me in this endeavor and contact me at blog [at] waltmire dot com.

Listen online or download Jerome McDonnell’s interview of John on Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview.

RTR seeks to intervene early in the lives of children and help provide them with an education and the lifelong gift of literacy. The countries of current focus are Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Africa, South Africa.

To increase the likelihood for success, Room to Read (RTR) enlists community involvement. Our challenge grants require villages to raise a significant portion of the overall expenditures through donated land, labor, materials and cash, thereby allowing our cash donations to go further so that we can help more villages. Our challenge grants act as catalysts for community building while also maximizing the local participation and expertise brought to our programs to ensure they are run efficiently and effectively.

Will Google Provide a Free Web OCR App?

Today I had an image of a document that I needed to convert to text. In this age of free web apps I wondered whether there was a Free OCR web app. I found Jon Galloway’s post which basically concludes there are no satisfactory free OCR app. He did find Microsoft Office Document Imaging acceptable, but its not free and its not on the web. It comes with Microsoft Office XP and Microsoft Office 2003. I also discovered this web OCR app, but I did not get a chance to try it because the document I needed to OCR was in PDF format.

All this got me wondering whether Google will provide a free OCR app in the future. Google is doing a load of OCR work with their Book Search project. Did Google write its own OCR software or did it purchase the software from a third party? Duff Johnson proposes Google wrote its own OCR software. If Google did, it might be easy for them to provide that app free to everyone. Will they?

Judges are Real People (even when acting in an unreal world)

Recently the Seventh Circuit started podcasting oral arguments. Now, Judge Richard Posner of that circuit has taken a step into Second Life. He is no stranger to technology as he blogs at The Becker-Posner Blog. James Au provides a transcript of Judge Posner’s December 7th Second Life question and answer session. The discussion covered serious topics, but Posner showed his sense of humor when he ordered the raccoon to appear. Just another example of how judges are real people (even when acting in an unreal world).

Documentarians All Around

The talks hosted by TED are incredible. TED is an annual conference were speakers talk about the latest ideas in Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED), and also Business, Sciences, and The Arts “… in fact any subject area offering something fresh and important.” The talks are available at TedTalks and you can subscribe to their podcast feed.

Today I was listening to Peter Gabriel’s talk. He described the work of Witness, the organization he founded in 1992. Witness describes its mission:

WITNESS uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools of justice.

His talk reaffirmed the power of video and photography to expose human rights violations. Recent news stories about a conference of Holocaust deniers show the important documentary power of an image. One of the reasons the existence of the Holocaust is not reasonably doubted is because there is video and photographic evidence.

Now that many cell phones have video and photography functions, the ability to easily and quickly document human rights violations is enhanced. Programs like GrameenPhone are bringing cell phones to the developing world. If Witness partners with programs like GrameenPhone, its net will be expanded, and human rights violations will be reduced. People with cell phones are now documentarians.

The Launch

I have been thinking of starting a blog for a while. As I read more blogs it became obvious that blogging was an excellent idea. I particularly like Jay Rosen’s idea of a blog as “a little First Amendment machine.” Ideas are quickly dispersed and tested in the blogosphere. It provides an excellent forum for the Marketplace of Ideas.

I must thank Professor Diane Murley for introducing me to blogs in my Advanced Electronic Legal Research Course in 2004. I know some of my classmates thought blogs were a waste of their time, but I’m glad they were covered. Blogs have and continue to expose me to new ideas, subjectmatter, and products, which I would not otherwise discover. They influenced the direction of my legal career. They prove an important legal resource for my current work at the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court.

I like Ernie the Attorney’s post on why and how to start a blog. I also like his quote of Martha Graham where she said:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you…

You can find more about me and the purpose of this blog here.