Caretaker Gazette

I’ve used the Caretaker Gazette to live rent-free for the past three years. A friend told me about this publication, which has been around since 1983, and I’ve used it to find positions living as a caretaker in California and Idaho. In exchange for my accommodations, my duties have included keeping trespassers off the property, taking messages, mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool and generally watching over the home when the owners are away.


My subscription includes PDF listings online, weekday e-mail updates and a print version (same as the online PDF) mailed out once every two months.

-- Jane Smith  

The Caretaker Gazette
$30/year online subscription
$44/year online and postal subscription

Available from

Sample Excerpts:

CARETAKER NEEDED late September to May on a self-sufficient comfortable Aleutian homestead. Free housing and stipend. Orcas, eiders, sea otters, caribou, hydroelectric power, Internet, loom, hot tub. Writers and naturalists have prospered here. Please call (907) XXX-XXXX.


CARETAKER(S) NEEDED. Responsible, competent single man or couple, with one child OK, with strong body and alternative minded. Must be enthusiastic about rustic jungle life, experience with off-grid living and solar equipment. No tobacco or alcohol users please. Maintenance of 2-acre homestead in a beautiful coastal jungle area in an eclectic, but rootsy, neighborhood on the Big Island. Care for orchards, garden, and cats. Small but comfortable cabin provided. Please send a letter explaining why you are interested in this opportunity, to: XXX XXXXXX, XX-XXXX Napoopoo Rd, Captain Cook, HI 96704.


HOUSESITTER WANTED during owner’s absence. You can explore the jungle, fish, snorkel in the coral reef, or take some canoe trips. I need a housesitter for the month of June. Have your own bedroom, living room and bath on 3rd floor overlooking the Caribbean. Pay for telephone, electricity, and your own food. Please write to X. XXXXX, XXXX SW 138th Avenue, Miami, FL 33186 or call (305) XXX-XXXX.


HOUSE GUEST(S) wanted to occupy a mountain cottage(s). Full time. Located in the foothills, one hour from Sacramento. Bottom of canyon. Four miles from freeway. You can fish off the porch. Keep all gold found in the river. Must love outdoors, remoteness. Pets permitted. References required. No job. No addictions. Please leave a message, including your name and phone number at (916) XXX-XXXX.


Micofinancing is among the better ways for the haves to help the have-nots. Small loans are made to poor but ambitious workers, who expand their livelihoods with the small loan and then pay it back. Which is then lent out again. The previously recommended agencies Opportunity International, and Trickle Up are great tools for individuals in developed countries to kick-start other folk’s self-development. These agencies do the hard work of identifying and training the recipients, and tracking loans and performance.

But why not use the peer-to-peer model to allow individuals with money to loan to specific individuals in need of a small loan? That’s what Kiva does and it works wonderfully.

Kiva enables you to make small $25 or above loans to an individual or small group of individuals in a developing country. They use these small loans (aggregated to about $200-$400) to finance a food stall, repair shop, hair salon, sewing machine, new cash crop, etc. When they pay it back to you in about 11 months, you can then re-lend it to another person of your choice.

The advantages of Kiva over the other worthy agencies are three fold. One, you can direct your loans to the kind of projects or livelihood you deem the most important or the most sympathetic. Maybe you are into food so you gravitate to funding small cafes or local fruit growers. Or maybe you think women’s sewing centers are a key. Secondly you have more direct contact with the borrowers. They have names, faces, stories. Not a few Kiva lenders have met up with folks they have lent to. Thirdly, while most microfiance agencies are thrifty, Kiva is particularly thin in administration thanks to the well-designed software platform that runs this service.

The payback rate for Kiva is about 97%. That’s a better “investment” than stocks this past year! The variety of folks you can lend to is exhilarating. The karma is good. These loans make a difference. Kiva lends $1 million dollars every 10 days. It is easy to do. A few folks are already on their third cycle of re-loaning the same money they first put up three years ago.

I think the peer-to-peer lending service of Kiva is such a wonderful tool that I have started a Cool Tools Lending Team. The intention is to gather like-minded folks to make microloans to folks needing tools to start or build a livelihood. I’ve seeded the team with the first $300 of loans to three borrowers planing to use the loans for tools and I’ll add up to $1,000 of Cool Tool’s ad revenue as the team identifies borrowers hoping to secure tools. Ideally, other Cool Tool readers will join me in lending small amounts to enable others to self-develop and remake their lives. If you are interested, please join me at the Kiva Cool Tools Team.

-- KK  

Sample entrepreneur:

My name is Khursheed Bibi. I am a fifty-year-old woman. I have lived in the city of Pakpattan, Pakistan, for 15 years. My husband, Mr. Rafiq, is a mason. I have three kids: one son and two daughters. My son runs a furniture making business. My elder daughter is in 9th standard and my younger in 8th standard. I run a decorative embroidery business. I embroider dresses and sell them in clothing markets. I charge $3 per dress. I invest my income in my daughters' education (paying school and tuition fees). I've successfully repaid two previous loans from Asasah (a microfinance institute of Pakistan). Now I am applying again for a loan to buy lumber to expand my son's furniture making business. I am the leader of a group of entrepreneurs sharing this loan.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko


Presented in the form of manga (a comic book for grownups), this is the most succinct course in career counseling I’ve ever seen. Not what career you should pursue, but *how* you should pursue it. You can read this masterpiece in an hour, but it will take a lifetime to work out the details of those six lessons. This compact sermon will make the most difference to those just starting out in the workplace. The six quick lessons [with my comments in brackets] are:

  1. There is no plan. [The economy changes too fast for your career to have a plan]
  2. Think strengths, not weaknesses. [Find your advantages]
  3. It’s not about you. [Serving others serves you best]
  4. Persistence trumps talent. [Keep showing up]
  5. Make excellent mistakes. [Take risks, but fail forward]
  6. Leave an imprint. [Do something that matters]

Each point is given consequential flesh in this engaging story. In my experience these six lessons highlight the skills needed at work better than, say, the bestseller Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And it is far more fun to read. I’ve bought copies of Bunko for each of my kids and for a few adult friends currently struggling with their path. I’ll probably re-read it myself in a year.

-- KK  

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need
Daniel H. Pink (Art by Rob Ten Pas)
2008, 160 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:


Money for Nothing


It’s a deceptive title — but in part that’s marketing. Seth Godin, master marketer, sums up the best way to drive traffic to your website (or store, or organization, etc.).

Three words: be useful, unique and updated.

Yep, that’s about it. If you can be useful to others (offer value), be unique (by positioning and branding, and being memorable and distinctive), keep showing up, and be current, you’ve got it made.

It’s also a good recipe for life.

This free PDF sermon is short, breezy and right on.

-- KK  

Money for Nothing
By Seth Godin
2007, 13 pages
Available via Squidoo

Sample Excerpts:

No one cares if your lens is good. They care if it’s great. Irresistible. The one and only best spot online. Not in your opinion of course, but in their opinion.

The Personal MBA


I once dabbled with the idea of getting an MBA. After a life avoiding any work in a business, I wanted to start one of my own and knew zero about it. Like many folks, I thought a heavy-duty school program would cure my ignorance and inexperience. But an official MBA degree can easily cost $100,000. I figured out I would learn more spending $500 in self-education. So I devoted $200 for books and the other $300 actually starting a small mail-order business (the fee went for an ad). In two years I learned more about how business really worked than any MBA graduate I had met. No matter what they tell you, an MBA is not essential for landing or handling a good business job. The chief “skill” you’ll come away by your degree is a diploma, and a network of indebted friends in business. The latter is actually useful.

There is another option to an overpriced degree, which is the self-education path outlined above. Pursue your own Personal MBA in tandem with actual experience doing some kind of business. Josh Kaufman has put together an excellent and very hefty reading list which forms the core of his PMBA course. It is downloadable as a free PDF. The recommended readings are wide, deep, holistic, and very good. You could purchase all of these easily available books for $500, and if you combine study of them with actually trying stuff, you’ll be far ahead in the business game.

If you go this route, you need to supplement your self-education with a network of live humans engaged in business (the only part of a certified MBA you’ll miss).

Kaufman has recently updated his annotated recommended reading list. No PDF yet, but his website is chock full of the new material.

-- KK  

[This post was originally part of Cool Tool's Five Good eBooks. ]

The Personal MBA: Mastering Business Through Self-Education
By Josh Kaufman
2005, 33 pages
Free PDF
Available from ChangeThis

Josh Kaufman’s website

Sample Excerpts:

The Personal MBA is not:

A credential. If you read these books, you won’t have corporate recruiters beating down your door, and you won’t have a pretty certificate to hang on your wall when you’re done. You will, however, have an understanding of business that’s comparable to completing a traditional business school curriculum, along with the pleasures of not having to mortgage your life for that understanding. You do not need a certificate to be able to understand, use, and hold an intelligent conversation about advanced business topics. (Employers do, however, respond well to portfolios. If you build a portfolio of notes to capture what you learn through the Personal MBA, you’ll have a tangible asset to prove your hard work and dedication during the interview process.)

A stand-alone venture. You can’t learn about business solely from books (or sitting in a classroom); you have to be willing to go out and learn by doing. Whether you’re working full-time for a company or building your own business, a great deal of your knowledge will develop as a direct result of your day-to-day work experiences, which provide the necessary context for understanding what you read. Reading books is not enough; application of what you read is essential.



RankForest has many more features, and friendlier interface. Unfortunately, you can track only one book for free. And you don’t get historical info; you have to register a book to track it. For more books, and more features you need to pay a monthly subscription, beginning at $3/month and up. Other goodies in the paid version include the option to add other online bookstore rankings, like Barnes and Noble, complex graphing options such as racing two books, alerts, and so on.


Free to track one title
$3/month+ for more than one title



TitleZ is a new free site (for now), It’s been in beta for years. You can track many books for free, and get some handsome graphs of their ranking. The good thing is that TitleZ will instantly give you the back history of a book’s ranking back to 2004. The downside of TitleZ is that you can’t export the data, or do much else.


A TitleZ track of my 1994 book, above. Below is a comparison chart of my two books in print.


Free as long as it’s in beta

TitleZ * RankForest


Amazon sales ranks have become a surrogate for measuring actual sales online. When Amazon says a book ranks 2,000 it means it is the 2,000 besting selling book that hour; it doesn’t tell you how many were sold. In fact often a few copies sold can move a book’s rank, depending on time of day, week, or the rest of the world of books. (Use this chart to make a rough correlation between rank and copies sold if you really need to know.) Nonetheless, because these ranks are public (unlike bookstore sales) and easy to grab, they have become a great way for anyone to monitor how a book is selling. In the past it might take 6 months before sales of books were reported. Now authors and publishers with new books will check hourly to see if their rankings have been improved by a radio interview, or book review.

But you don’t need to be the author or publisher to have an interest in how a book is selling. Trendspotters long ago discovered that books are good canaries of ideas, and that monitoring clusters of books gives you a zeitgeist reading, very similar to Google’s Hot Trends, which monitors search terms over time. Also keep in mind you can track other things on Amazon besides books: CDs, games, software. You just need Amazon’s ID for each item.

While you can just check the Amazon page to see what a product’s ranking is, what you really want is something that constantly tracks an item and compiles the data into graphs, charts, and spreadsheets. There are several websites that do this. I previously recommended JungleScan, the original Amazon tracker, for a free way to track Amazon rankings. The site was abandoned last year (although its owner says he will revive up “someday.”)


TitleZ is a new free site (for now), It’s been in beta for years. You can track many books for free, and get some handsome graphs of their ranking. The good thing is that TitleZ will instantly give you the back history of a book’s ranking back to 2004. The downside of TitleZ is that you can’t export the data, or do much else.


A TitleZ track of my 1994 book, above. Below is a comparison chart of my two books in print.


-- KK  

Free as long as it’s in beta

There are other trackers out there, some catering to publishers, but these two are the best for non-publisher types.

Micro-Loans Online

This year the father of micro-finance and founder of the Grameen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in inventing and promoting micro-loans in the developing world. A micro-loan is as little as a few hundred dollars invested into a one-person business with minimal qualifications. That tiny borrowed amount can launch a vegetable stand, repair shop, or bicycle taxi — a living in other words. As each micro-loan is repaid (and most are), the effects of that small goodness are amplified and leveraged by being loaned out and invested again and again. Micro-loans are the world’s only perpetual motion machines.

Previously I’ve recommended the micro-finance cool tools of Trickle Up, Opportunity International, and my favorite, Heifer International, as three ways to leverage small amounts of money for maximum global good. (Micro-finance programs are not a panacea. For a critique start with this article in Forbes.)

The news now is that it is there are many other outfits that offer individuals (like us) ways to leverage as little as fifty dollars via micro-finance programs online. Unleashing compounding good is only a few clicks away. Make a loan, or outright grant, using your credit card, or even PayPal.

Grameen Foundation
Inspried by the original Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Minimum contribution, $100. One of their projects is Village Phone — cell phones that women buy on loans and then can rent to others for income. “The Village Phone program in Uganda, the first of GF’s efforts to replicate the pay phone program outside Bangladesh, continued exceeding expectations in 2005. More than 3,500 microfinance clients have bought and now operate a Village Phone as “Village Phone operators.” Besides the boost to operators’ incomes, the program is creating a national telecommunications network. Of Uganda’s 56 districts, 53 now have at least one Village Phone operator. Often, Village Phone is the first local telephone that villagers have. Having a quick means to communicate has contributed to higher levels of productivity, savings, and safety for entire communities.”

Namaste Direct
This is one of the most direct person-to-person micro-lending programs. When you give to Namaste Direct, you are informed of the person who receives your loan, how they used the money, and their progress. ND can also arrange a visit to the lendee — this will turn your loan into a life-changing experience for you as well. But because of this directness the giving area is limited — currently to Mexico and Guatemala. No minimum contribution.

FINCA Village Banking
FINCA makes loans directly to the poorest villages. They aim their lending to 10-50 neighbors who come together to form a village banking group, and who in turn decide who should get what and how much. FINCA specializes in small loan amounts ($25-$500) for the very poorest. The minimum contribution to their program is $25. While a few hundred dollars is powerful, with only $5,000 you can start a whole village bank for micro-loans, thereby compounding the power of micro-finance to an entire small community.

Minimum contribution, $100. Since they accept PayPal, I found this program really easy to contribute to. (Get with it, others!) Unitus, like Accion below, funds other local micro-finance programs, rather than direct loans to individuals. “Unitus seeks to identify highest-potential emerging MFIs (Micro-Finance Institutions) and help them to achieve exponential growth.”

Accion is an umbrella institution providing technical assistant to local micro-lending institutions. Minimum contribution, $35.”ACCION is leading the effort to make micro-lending financially self-sustaining. Micro-lending programs have the potential to cover their own costs. The interest each borrower pays helps to finance the cost of lending to another. In most poverty alleviation efforts, every person helped brings the program closer to its financial limits. Successful micro-lending programs, on the other hand, generate more resources with each individual they help. As a result, well-managed micro-lending programs generate more income than they spend. Once they become economically viable financial institutions, they have the ability to access a virtually unlimited source of lending capital – the billions of dollars invested in the world’s financial markets. Several of ACCION’s partners have already made the transition from nonprofit, charity-dependent organizations to banks or other regulated financial institutions.”

My suspicion is that over time the inherent self-sustaining qualities of micro-lending will mean it won’t need charitable support to keep expanding. But the idea is still in its infancy; billions of people are still out of its reach. That means that every dollar given today will not only cascade its blessings on many others, but funding micro-lending now will also greatly accelerate the time when anyone in the world will have access to a small loan.

God bless us all, everyone.

-- KK  

Modest Needs

Has someone ever helped you get you out of a hard place with an act of kindness? If so, you should consider passing that gift onto someone else. You can dispense a few $10 bills from your ATM to the homeless in your area; or you can employ this amazing website which does something similar with greater effectiveness.

Modest Needs, a minuscule non-profit, grants modest (under $200) one-time cash gifts to those who require just a little help to get them through a tough time. A need, if honored, is granted within 72 hours, with no strings attached. Modest Needs does this with commendable efficiency via the web (it’s not hard to be broke and still get online), heart-warming sympathy (every request is read by a volunteer), and impressive reach (220 requests granted this year, or 7% of the million dollars sought for). Modest Needs’ entire finances are completely transparent on their website. Since their inception they have spent $0 on fundraising and $0 on advertising. They are astoundingly thrifty (total annual cost to run this charitable operation: $24,000). The rest of the small change they collect goes to those to whom small change can make a big difference. They accept contributions from folks like you. It runs fast all year, not just at Christmas.

The founder Keith Taylor began Modest Needs by giving 10% of his $350 a month earnings as a way to return a no-strings kindness paid to him when he most needed it. He told me, “Those who need help can always ask for it at Modest Needs, absolutely for free. How much money we raise matters less – to me, anyway – than simply providing a vehicle for human kindness.”

It’s quite brilliant. Release a few bucks from your PayPal account. Return a random kindness. Maximize a small gift.

-- KK