April 18, 2005

I Thought They'd Never Leave

The Cardinals have shut the door, finally, so now it's safe for me to reveal where I placed my bets on Poolitics. I didn't want to influence their thinking.

I've got $2.40 on Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, and $1.20 on Claudio Hummes. High roller, I am.

Environmental Heresies

This is definitely worth a read: Environmental Heresies, a short piece in Technology Review in which Stewart Brand proposes some flipflops that the green movement should take. He makes good arguments for a fresh look at urbanization, genetic engineering, population growth and nuclear power.

Brand's Whole Earth Catalog was a fixture on the coffee tables of my youth, so he's got a lot of streetcred with Boomers. It will be interesting to see if his ideas take root.

April 16, 2005

April (and Alex) in Paris

Our nest is temporarily empty: on Thursday Alex left with 21 of his classmates on a week long trip to Paris. It's going to be a great adventure for him. He's been to Sweden (twice), Denmark and Lithuania, but never France and never without us. If all goes well, he'll come back a little wiser about art, French history, and maybe snails. His access to computers is limited, and it takes time to figure out the phone system, so I was tickled to hear from him this morning at the end of his second full day:

Hey, we're in Paris, and it's going well. I'll be brief; as the
keyboqrds are just weird and I have limited time on the computer.
I've been unqble to get q phone cqrd, qnd neither hqs qnyone else, so
I ,q y not be qble to cqll:

if you send ,e qn emqil; Ill get it, eventuqlly:

i'n keeping q journql; qnd tqking lots of pictures:

okqy; ill check ,y ,qil qgqin to,orroz;

bye1 i love you guys


What's with the bizarre spelling? My touch-typing QWERTY boy is having his first experience with the AZERTY keyboard. He'll adjust quickly, I'm sure. You can use this picture as a secret decoding ring.

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April 12, 2005

Morning Thunder


I was in the middle of a dream when I felt a sharp jolt, and heard a loud crack, followed by a series of jiggles and 15 seconds of slowing fading rumbles. Probably my 20th earthquake in 25 years of living here. I knew it was close because of the abruptness of the initial motion. Quakes further away have a more gradual sway to them.

I walked down the hall and heard the sheets rustle as Alex sat up in bed. It's unusual for him to be anything other than catatonic in the morning. He didn't remember feeling it, but it's probably what woke him up. Seventeen years old and he's never been awake for one. I opened the Powerbook and went right to the USGS-Caltech Seismic Net site. Turned on the TV and saw nothing, but the local news AM station was abuzz with people calling in reporting how it felt. Amazing how different the experience is depending on where you are.

It was a 4.0, a few miles east of here in the mountains. No damage reported. Someday the news will be worse.

April 10, 2005

Papal Pooling

I've always been fascinated by Vatican politics. The last time we went through a papal succession (twice in one month) there was no internet to spread speculation and background information. Now, it's everywhere. Nieus over de kardinalen en het conclaaf is a multilingual Belgian blog that does a nice job of compiling news reports and interviews.

Going beyond merely watching the process, a little wagering is one way to make the conclave more interesting. Poolitics has a pool going on who the next pope will be, and I'm getting ready to pitch a few dollars into the breach. I need to read up some more before betting, but I'm leaning towards Arinze or one of the Latin Americans. Best Betting had Dionigi Tettamanzi as a shoo-in earlier this week, but now Arinze has taken the lead.

Ordinarily, I think gambling is for dopes. I managed to spend three days in Vegas last week without betting a single dime. Betting on future events, on the other hand, is more interesting because a little bit of homework can give you an advantage over those who just guess. Should be an intriguing week.

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April 03, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

We're back after three days in Sin City watching the regional matches of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Why were we there? Because Alex is on the team from High Tech High, and he's been spending late nights and weekends getting the bot off the ground. We stayed way way way off the strip... 20 miles away in fact, at a place that June immediately recognized as being similar to the island the Prisoner woke up in: MonteLago Village Resort. When it's completed, it's going to look like a Disney version of a seaside village in Italy. For now, it was pretty but eerie, and it made us glad to have seen the real Italy. For the short drive, though, we got ourselves a large suite for half the price of a single room on the strip. The kids from High Tech High, on the other hand, were stacked four to a room in a Best Western.



The competition was held in the arena at UNLV. Words can't really capture the experience of watching six 120-pound wheeled machines lurching around a basketball court, lifting up tetrahedrons and dropping them on top of larger tetrahedrons, while simultaneously trying to block the opposing team from doing the same thing.

The design of the game was ingenious, requiring strategy, cooperation among teams, and of course, an able robot. The competition went on for a full day of practice runs and two days of matches, all accompanied by a very loud soundtrack aimed at 17 year olds... pretty good music I thought. High Tech High ended up just under the middle of the 38 team pack and made it through the quarter finals.

Things like this make me optimistic about the next generation.

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