Give Me Something For The Pain

i’m currently editing several Word 2000 docs, length varying between 20 to 200 pages.

A couple of things are driving me crazy/mad/nuts/insane:

  • adding 3 different types of headers and footers (title page, preface, and main)
  • empty pages which don’t show online in the Print View, but which suddenly appear in the PDF
  • automatic / manual hyphenation

Previously I used to work with FrameMaker. A difficult program to learn, but once you know how… It does it exactly what you want. In Word there are always side effects. When you start changing something at one end… something else falls apart. Unfortunately FrameMaker isn’t an option. And so I need to become a Word expert fast. I have seen some great work done in Word. It is possible…

…meanwhile give me something for the pain.

[update May 01] add to my list of Word woes and wailings above:

  • removing a cross reference without replacing it by another

Ten Laws of the Modern World

Forbes on:

Ten Laws of the Modern World

Gilder’s Law: Winner’s Waste. The futurist George Gilder wrote about this a few years ago in a Forbes publication. The best business models, he said, waste the era’s cheapest resources in order to conserve the era’s most expensive resources. When steam became cheaper than horses, the smartest businesses used steam and spared horses. Today the cheapest resources are computer power and bandwidth. Both are getting cheaper by the year (at the pace of Moore’s Law). Google is a successful business because it wastes computer power–it has some 120,000 servers powering its search engine–while it conserves its dearest resource, people. Google has fewer than 3,500 employees, yet it generates $5 billion in (current run rate) sales.

via Hactivate


Experimenting with WP Themes

Over 6 months after my first feeble design attempts with WordPress 1.2, I’m having a closer look at the theme functionality WordPress 1.5 offers.

If you have any issues regarding usability, fonts, colors, etc – please feel free to leave a comment.

[update April 25]
checked the new design on sm windows and it looks… well… different. Esp. the font and colors.

The comment box is slightly smaller in size in Opera, but the proportions look about right in Firefox and IE.

To Dos:

  • Remove centered line at the bottom of the page
  • Add space between page link and content border
  • Stripey comments
  • Would like to add the Chiperoni Blue Skies or similar somewhere on the page.

REM: With WP’s theme functionality, the old design is just a click away…

They’re dissecting WP themes over at UrbanGiraffe


Blogs Will Change Your Business

Business Week has launched a blog at
and explains why business cannot afford to ignore the blogosphere:
Blogs Will Change Your Business

[update April 26]
excerpts from Om Malik’s comments on Business Week cover:

sell when Business Week’s cover says buy

Now that blogs are in the cover of Business Week, you can safely say two things – blogs have gone mainstream, and blogs are over.

OK with me… never liked the hype anyway.

Business Week cover means that companies will pay attention to blogs, hire consultants who at best are *dumb* in the ways of blogging, spend millions of dollars, make some people rich and eat into the ever shrinking marketing budgets.

hire me: I’m a savvy blog consultant

[update May 18] gapingvoid says:

The reality is, blogging is hard […]. It’s like figure skating- it looks easy, but it isn’t.

Expect a corporate backlash against blogging in about six months, once all the meatpuppets who read the recent Businessweek front-pager start finding this out the hard way.

I agree about the corporate backlash.


Malawi Madness: Everything has its own time

while browsing through Bloglines, i stumbled across this new blog from Nkhata Bay in northern Malawi:

A story of the most unlikely couple you could imagine, from Clapham London who packed it all in to discover a new reality. In 1993 on the shores of Lake Malawi two naà¯ve 26 year olds, Paul and Claire Norrish begin to construct their dream ‘lodge’ in the remote African town of Nkhata Bay

I guess, the blog is new, judging from the test postings. Nevertheless, I encourage you to read the 3 long entries describing how the authors moved to Nkhata Bay. Included: a letter by the former Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, describing the political situation in Malawi in 1993.

And here’s the link to their lodge:
Njaya Lodge


Goodbye Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Freehand?

Today’s top news should prove interesting to follow:

Adobe said the Macromedia purchase, Adobe’s biggest-ever takeover, brings together two “complementary” products. Adobe is paying 43.8 times operating profit and 7.5 times sales for Macromedia, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Source: Bloomberg

What will happen to the Macromedia products where Adobe offers a similar product?

  • golive vs. dreamweaver
  • photoshop vs. fireworks
  • illustrator vs. freehand

I’ve used all of the above software, except Golive, at different intervals and for various length of time in the past couple of years. I’m sure a couple of these tools will be discontinued very soon. Or continued half-heartedly and then dropped like Allaire HomeSite.

The deal itself is not without issues from a competition standpoint since the resulting business will almost certainly hold a sizeable chunk of the GUI market that would make it difficult for some smaller vendors to play in. The companies have overlapping product sets and a product portfolio that goes in many different directions.
Source: Silicon Republic

calendar General

RSS Calendar

Create events your subscribers can import into MS Outlook (VCal) or Mac (ICal)

If this tool also offered some kind of an export/upload for outlook / mac / palm calendars… i could think of a number of useful ways to use it!


Working on the Nyika

Read Jeff’s and Leslie’s blog from Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi:
Working on the Nyika

The Nyika – Vwaza Trust (referred to as the Trust) was established in 2004 to promote for the benefit of the public, the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of primarily the Nyika National Park and the Vwaza Wildlife Reserve. The Trust also aims to advance the education of the public in nature conservation, in particular those who live in adjacent areas. Recently, with the involvement of the Peace Parks Foundation (South Africa), Malawi and Zambia signed a memorandum of understanding that will lead to the creation of the Nyika – Vwaza Trans Frontier Conservation Area.

see also: Ministry of Tourism, National Parks & Wildlife > Wildlife Conservation Projects

Excerpt from Jeff’s latest entry:

Maybe the reason that I feel a bit down at times is that everything here is past its use by date. It’s all a bit sad. The forest, planted at great cost and with such expectations, is dying and no one really knows what to do with it. It is self seeding and presents a huge problem. In places it’s impenetrable. In most of the original forest trees are falling at odd angles resembling a giants game of Pick up Sticks . The houses and offices are falling down or in a severe state of disrepair, the responsibility of the Dept of National Parks and Wildlife who have no money. The roads are also in a sad state of disrepair. It’d be impossible to access Chilinda in a two wheel drive as one could in the past.

CMS General

Java vs. PHP CMS/Portals

there’s a long but interesting discussion going on about content management systems at The Server Side. See:

Ask TSS: Do any Java CMS/Portals match the PHP ones?

There’s a lot of references to useful tools (both PHP and Java). Cos of the sheer number of different tools it’s all the more important to have a complete list of requirements.

As usual, these kind of exchanges tend to turn somewhat “religious” whenever developers are around.

Couple of commenters seem to feel that Java is better for large sites:

Use java-solutions @work where longlasting and big software is an issue and use php-solutions @home or in shorttime and smaller projects.

What is your opinion?
What tools offer the best usability for the content guys?


Internet Resources on Malawi

Comprehensive list of Malawi links at Columbia University:

African Studies: Malawi


copy writing tips

Five B2B Copy Myths by Jonathan Kranz, March 29, 2005

The next time you write, forget about trying to appear “businesslike” and really get down to business. Be direct, forceful and concrete. Write as if you were talking one-to-one with a good friend you respect. When you blow the dust off your prose, you’ll find the clarity you need—and the conviction that wins your prospect’s attention.

See also the summary at B2Blog


Open Source CRM Solutions

Open Source CRM Solutions Written in Java

General Malawi-related

white Landcruiser phenomenon

No where is the white Landcruiser phenomenon more prevalent than in Zambia or Malawi. In the city of Lilongwe, Malawi, you can find a typical African town with dodgy mini-taxis held together by pieces of tape, bustling markets and poor people. However you can also drive three minutes into the new city centre and find a brand new glass building that wouldn’t look out of place on the streets of Manhattan, where the car park is full of new 4WDs, courtesy of European donors. I wonder what the Africans to whom the aid is supposedly directed must think of these circuses that roll into town, buy new vehicles and laptops, and just as quickly leave without much tangible progress.


I know of at least one African who wouldn’t mind having a white Landcruiser job with a salary paid out in US$. I remember we used to discuss the perks and benefits of a job at the IMF or WHO while we were at school.

I agree that there’s something amiss if the brains of Africa prefer working for NGOs and international organizations. Africa needs entrepreneurs that create jobs and build industries. But issues such as widespread corruption, high crime rates, bureaucracy, and volatile political systems don’t make building a business any easier. And like everywhere in the world, people weigh the pros and cons based on their personal life situation and then decide.

Some of the funds would be better spent on grass roots projects with mid- and long-term goals… such as education.


Otitis Blues

I was grounded this week. No day job. No blogging. What felt like a bad cold was diagnosed as otitis media, a severe infection in the middle ear, which can lead to meningitis or can rapture the eardrum or cause hearing loss. It is – may I add – somewhat painful. But I’m back online. And feeling much better.

Just a note on the sideline, it’s great when you have a doc that cares. My doc has been very caring. Yes, I know – that’s what doctors get paid for. But it’s not the norm. It’s the little things that count like explaining the medication or offering telephone standby after hours. And judging by the very few encounters that I’ve had so far (and may they remain few), the Swiss medical system is more patient-friendly than on the northern side of the border.

Here’s my contribution to keep blog content more balanced…

While traveling back from the doctor’s, I sat next to an elderly lady holding a poodle-like dog in her arms, which had obviously just been to the hairdresser’s… The dog, not the lady. I made one mistake: I commented on the dog’s appearance. Too late. The lady seized the opportunity to tell me all about the dog breed.

“It’s isn’t a poodle”.
“There’s only 2 Bedlington Terriers in the whole of Basel”
“No breeder in Switzerland. We had to go all the way to Germany.”

(much shortened version)

Hmmm – well my idea of a dog is somewhat different and looks more like the one in zkoo’s excellent photos [1] [2] [3]. Needless to say, dear readers, I politely listened. Thankfully our common journey was only a couple of stops long. After the lady had disembarked, another woman sitting opposite said that nearly everyone on the bus had heard the story at least once! Well, that’s one bus to avoid.

Nyambadwe Hill
Found a photo of Nyambadwe Hill in Blantyre. I used to scramble up this hill with all of my dogs. There’s a splendid view of Blantyre and the surrounding Michiru, Soche, and Ndirande mountains from the top.

NZZ on blogs
I just saw that another article about the recent blogger meeting in Basel has been published at NZZ online (in German only). There’s a summary at