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Bill Gates rarely does interviews. That usually goes double if the questions are about anything other than the latest charity efforts of his foundation. So

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Bill Gates Opens Up: Drives a "Normal Mercedes," Thinks a Legacy Is "Stupid," Commits "Minuscule" Inheritance to Children

bill gates 05.jpg
Bill Gates rarely does interviews. That usually goes double if the questions are about anything other than the latest charity efforts of his foundation. So the in-depth interview he gave to the UK's Daily Mail this weekend is worth reading.

Let's tackle the revelations, shall we?

To be sure, Gates manages to redirect many of the the trivial palace-intrigue questions lobbed at him by Mail reporter Caroline Graham back to philanthropy. But he does cover topics ranging from his children's place in his will, his driving habits, and his preferred mode of reading.

On his children's inheritance and reports that they will "only" get $10 million apiece:

"'It will be a minuscule portion of my wealth. It will mean they have to find their own way.

They will be given an unbelievable education and that will all be paid for. And certainly anything related to health issues we will take care of. But in terms of their income, they will have to pick a job they like and go to work. They are normal kids now. They do chores, they get pocket money."

On his day-to-day family life and the wheels he keeps in his garage:

"I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one. And I'm still fanatical, but now I'm a little less fanatical. I play tennis, I play bridge, I spend time with my family. I drive myself around town in a normal Mercedes. I've had a Lexus. The family has a Porsche, which is a nice car that we sometimes take out. We have a minivan and that's what we use when it's the five of us. My eldest daughter rides horses, so we go to a lot of three-day shows. The kids are a big part of my schedule."

On forcing his poor kids to use a Zune MP3 player:

Has he succumbed to the inevitable pleas from the children for an iPad, iPhone and iPod? His face hardens: "They have the Windows equivalent. They have a Zune music player, which is a great Windows portable player. They are not deprived children."

Whether he went to the big U2 show at Qwest Field and if he brought anyone home with him:

"We went to the concert with my daughter and three of her friends, so there were six of us and we took the minivan. I drove."

Did Bono invite them backstage? A long pause, then: "Umm, no--actually, he stayed at our house."

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If he'll ever go back to work for Microsoft:

"My full-time work for the rest of my life is this foundation."

Will he ever return to helm Microsoft?

"No. I'm part-time involved. But this is my job now."

On the importance of getting out of the office:

"It is important to me to get out into the field. I went to Uttar Pradesh [in northern India] recently. It was a long way from this . . . "

He waves his hand around the conference room.

"It is important to see places. When you go into a ward with kids who have cholera, it's horrific. They are losing their vital fluids and their brains are shutting down. As a father, as a human, it's just horrific."

Current reading list:

"At the moment I'm reading Getting Better by Charles Kenny, and I'm going to China soon, so I'm reading The Dragon's Gift, about the history of Chinese aid to Africa."

Favorite book:

His pride and joy is the Codex Leicester, one of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks, which he bought in 1994 for $30.8 million.

"I'm lucky that I own that notebook. I've always been amazed by Da Vinci, because he worked out science on his own. He would work by drawing things and writing down his ideas. Of course, he designed all sorts of flying machines way before you could actually build something like that."

He says it would be one of the first things he'd rescue from his home in a fire, but adds, "I have documents by Isaac Newton and Abraham Lincoln. I have some pretty nice art too. It would be a shame to lose any of that."

On Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and how he managed to convince him to to pledge half of his fortune to charity (also, Gates' calling Zuckerberg's girlfriend his "finance" was apparently an error. Don't worry, ladies, the two are not yet engaged.):

He is friends with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 27, who has already pledged to give most of his fortune away. Gates lets slip that Zuckerberg may be engaged to Priscilla Chan, his long-term girlfriend: "I didn't say to Mark, 'Give me all your money!' He was predisposed to do it and he came to me seeking advice.

"His fiancée Priscilla thought about education and he gave money to Newark, New Jersey, and we did a co-grant so that some of our people who had some expertise in that field could help him out. He deserves credit. I started meaningful philanthropy in my forties. He's starting way earlier."

His "legacy":

"Legacy is a stupid thing! I don't want a legacy. If people look and see that childhood deaths dropped from nine million a year to four million because of our investment, then wow! I liken what I'm doing now to my old job. I worked with a lot of smart people; some things went well, some didn't go so well. But when you see how what we did ended up empowering people, it's a very cool thing.

"I want a malaria vaccine. If we get one then we'll have to find the money to give it to everyone, but the impact would be so huge we would find a way. Understanding science and pushing the boundaries of science is what makes me immensely satisfied. What I'm doing now involves understanding maths, risk-taking. The first half of my life was good preparation for the second half."

The definition of "geek":

"Hey, if being a geek means you're willing to take a 400-page book on vaccines and where they work and where they don't, and you go off and study that and you use that to challenge people to learn more, then absolutely. I'm a geek. I plead guilty. Gladly."

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