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On a slow news day, what better time to Keep up with Don Quixote. The good news is, I crossed the 1,000 page Rubicon, so I am now officially 70% of the way to becoming a Cultured Man (the book jacket begins with: “One cannot consider oneself cultured if he has not read El Quixote.” (Who am I to disagree))

It dawned on me at some point — maybe around page 800 — that I am actually reading two novels, the second one having been written after the publication of the first, which was obviously very successful. Like many sequels (“The Hangover II”?), Cervantes’ second volume starts off glacially slow and doesn’t pick up the pace until about page 900, when DQ and Sancho stumble upon a Duke and Duchess who, having heard of their exploits, set out to mock them, pretending to buy into Quixote’s illusion. What saves the book here is a shift in the dramatic center from DQ to Sancho Panza, whose cowardice at every turn provides hilarious counterpart to the by now tedious gallantry of our Knight Errant. I’m reading a particularly gruesome part where a group of women who have been cursed by a witch grow whiskers thick as broom straws on their faces. In order to reverse the spell, they appeal to DQ and Sancho to mount a wooden horse named Pegasus and ride, hooded, 3,000 miles across the sea to some place called Canadaya. You can see why most adaptations of the work stop shortly after the windmills.

After a morning putting the house in shape for tommorow’s dinner with my team, Lorraine released me on my own recognizance to sprawl slothfully across the divan with an IPA one hand and………well, she’s kept the remote, in case I want to “check on the score” of the NFL game.

Tomorrow is Martin’s birthday. Been a long time since we’ve seen such eloquence and courage in a politician. Before him there was Lincoln, and the crown jewels of American prose:

Far beyond
Our poor power
to add
or detract

You can almost see him in those lines, surveying the battlefield at Gettysburg, the cries of wounded muted in the background.

Dec
5

Next week we have the board meetings for FINCA International and the Holding Company, so this week the office boils with activity as we prepare our reams of documents and reports for the boards and various committees. Reviewing them, I am always amazed are the sheer extent and scope of the efforts of my brilliant, hardworking team, and silently revel in my good fortune to have attracted such amazing talent. I would never tell them this, of course, as they would probably ask me for more staff and higher compensation. Not that they don’t all deserve it, but in our social enterprise world we have to be perpetually concerned not only with the competitive forces of the marketplace putting downward pressure on our operating costs, but even where these are not so pervasive we have to do our best to keep our prices low and affordable for our clients: the lowest income entrepreneurs on the planet.

So it’s a good thing I keep my people too busy to read websayito entries like this one.

Speaking of compensation, towards the end of Chapter 28 in Part II of DQ, Sancho Panza makes yet another unsuccessful plea for a wage increase, given that fulfillment of his master’s ultimate promise — of making his escudero governor of a small state — appears increasingly remote. Don Quixote hears him out, and, using a common employer tactic, asks Sancho how much he thinks he should get. When Sancho tells him he thinks he is owed 20 years of back wages, Don Quixote laughs and then unleashes a stream of vituperation upon his long suffering servant, who, reduced to tears, begs forgiveness.

Somehow, I don’t think this would work at FINCA.

At the risk of bringing the Wrath of the Kardashians (sounds like a Star Trek Pre-Prequel, I know) down upon my head, I’m going to dedicate this blog to Keeping Up with the Hidalgo instead, from whom I have had an involuntarily three week separation owing to my trips to London to promote the book (see the media page for BBC and Telegraph interviews) and Tanzania to video some FINCA client interviews (coming up as soon as I figure out what Ali G called “The Techmology”)

But let’s do a nod to Kim, if only to keep her publicist at bay. Seriously, since she got wind of our “Who’s Life is Cooler” smackdown the woman gives me no peace. Tweets me every other day: ‘Hey, Rupert, didn’t see Kim as a key word in your last post. Whazzup with that? Her Followership not happy.’

Meanwhile, I continue to gain ground on Miss Popularity, with my Followership up 3% since last week while Kim gained a risible 1% over the same period. This corresponded to 2 more for me and an increase of 113,146 for Kim. I’m still good, right, as long as the velocity of my growth is superior? Anyone know of a good online calculator I could access to figure out exactly when I will overtake her?

Anyway, back to Don Quixote. He dispatched Sancho Panza into Toboso to inform his Otro Significante, Dulcinea, that DQ is in town and wants to see her. This is a dilemma for Sancho, since, although he suspects that Dulcinea is just another of his master’s delusions, he convinced DQ to come to Toboso as a way to get him to abandon his hermitage in the mountains. Then he hits on a great solution: since his master is crazy, he will convince him that the first hag they meet on the road from Toboso is, in fact, his beloved Dulcinea, who has been transformed by some wizard’s spell into an ugly old bag.

I know, but keep in mind, this thing was written in 1615.

My ranking on Amazon has risen from being in the 200,000s to the 20,000s, which means, as the Mad Men say, “something is working, we just don’t know what.” I also got an email from Amazon marketing the Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook. Was it the INDIE Business podcast interview? The Apocalyse Not Yet blog? Quemosabe.

The Zambia videos are in — finally! — but I’m having some technical difficulties with the download, but we’ll work it out, and yagonnaluvem, I promise.

We haven’t checked in with Don Quijote and Sancho for a while, but there was a good reason. It took them 80 pages to say their goodbyes to their families before they DQ mounted his nag Rosinante and Sancho his burro and they headed out to Toboso to try to find Dulcinea. 80 pages! People were patient in those days.

May favorite part was when Sancho was trying to negotiate a small salary from DQ, instead of waiting to receive his compensation in the form a the kingdom his Knight Errant had promised to give him at the end of their journey. It reminded me of the days when John and I hired people for a few hundred bucks a month to run our pilot programs in Central America. DQ put Sancho off, telling him that any number of people would kill to be his escudero. It worked, and Sancho came out of the negotiation empty handed.

How little things have changed.

So the intro to the “Segunda Parte” of Don Quixote can only be described as surreal. Miguel resorts to a device which today would be unthinkable: he has his main characters confront a supposed “scholar” who relates to DQ and Sancho all the mistakes in the “Primera Parte” (like Sancho riding off on a mule in one chapter and reappearing on a horse in the next, not to mention him being left in the company of 100 “escudos” (gold coins) in one chapter and then no further mention being made of them — come on! The guy was broke!) and then gives them the opportunity to explain them away (which they do, with the credulity of Admiral Poindexter at the Iran Contra Hearings “Uh, I don’t recall…”) — but then comes the really amazing part: Sancho asks the scholar if there is going to be a sequel to the Primera Parte, and is told that “Well, some are saying that DQ should stop here, quit while he’s ahead, in other words, while others are clamoring for more of the same.”

Wow. So that’s where Hollywood came from.

But, to contradict my wife, Sweet Lorraine, let’s ask the question: What about me? Given that “The Handbook” is already flying off the shelves (Barnes and Nobles has been unable to keep it in stock in Bethesda, Arlington and Georgetown, at least), should I be thinking, already, about “Son of The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook”?

This, of course, carries some risk. Son of “The Blob” — well, who would have believed that a ball of jello could reproduce. Maybe asexually. Rocky II through XXXXIV, we know about that one.

Truth is, I long to return to fiction. Oh, please, as Papa said, let me “invent rather than describe.”

The world seems on hold right now, with all our tyrants treading water in Libya, Ivory Coast, Yemen, Iran……and, yes, let’s not omit China which wants to make certain that dangerous artists like Ai Weiwei don’t get any traction similar to the protesters in the Middle East. Stick to designing Olympic Stadiums, dude, is the government’s message.

Speaking of China, I learned in the preface to Part II of “Don Quijote” that Cervantes was invited by the Emperor of China back in early 1600s to establish a Spanish college there, and to serve as its rector. The problem was, the Emperor wanted Cervantes to self-finance the venture, which was clearly not on. At the time, Cervantes was relying on the patronage of his prinicipal benefactor, the Count of Lemos. Interesting to reflect on what might have been had Cervantes accepted. Bull fights in Beijing, pitting samurais against water buffalos? Unknowable.

As Part II opens, DQ is convalescing in his home when his faithful escudero, Sancho Panza shows up, banging on the door, demanding to know what has become of the feifdom DQ promised him at the outset of their first “salida”. This encounter is greatly upsetting to DQ’s landlady, who accuses Sancho of being an “enabler” to her tenant’s madness. The Priest and the Barber are on hand as well, and bring news that “the Turk” is once again threatening to invade Spain. DQ tells them he has a great idea as to how to meet this threat, which he intends to share with the King. Share, the Barber implores him.

“If I tell you, how do I know you won’t steal my idea?” Don Quixote wants to know.

“I will keep him honest,” the Priest volunteers.

“And who will keep you honest?” DQ asks.

“Well, the Catholic Church,” the Priest responds.

Hmmmmmmmm.

Turning from tyrants and crusaders to real heros, I met an inspiring social entrepreneur from India yesterday, P.N. Vasudevan, who runs Equitas Microfinance Company. Vasudevan and his team manage to reach 1.5 million clients with the lowest priced loans — 26% — of any MFI in India, while delivering an ROE of 25% to their investors. In addition, Equitas is piloting programs to deliver other benefits to their clients in the areas of health care and making their microenterprises more profitable, which is a direction I want to take FINCA in in the future. Note to self: go to India and check it out.

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