Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Visiting the monuments in DC

From Wikipedia: Capitol Building

We are in D.C. visiting my Mom. She is here working as an Einstein Fellow for NSF and has a great basement apartment in a row house right near Capitol Hill.

More pictures to follow.

Kate keeps helping me type. I will post more when the kiddos are in bed.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Powerpoint, I love you . . . I hate you.

The Cotton Beltwide meeting has a contest each year where the graduate student with the best presentation wins a cash prize. I won every year when I was a graduate student. I have a hard drive full of powerpoint presentations. I use them at work to present data, proposals, ideas, just about anything. I love powerpoint. I am "good" at powerpoint.

I hate powerpoint though. I used to sit in classes where the prof relied on powerpoint and fall asleep as soon as the lights went down. My favorite teachers spurned powerpoint for transparencies with a projector or chalkboards. (Plant Phys with Bruce Smith was an exception. That man could not stay out of his own projector's way. Three months of trying to read the Calvin Cycle off of his shirt pocket and bulky ties. The only day he was a great teacher was when he put the projector away and taught us about schizophrenia. His sons both suffer from clinical schizophrenia and he was a devoted advocate for people that suffer from mental illness. A day I will never forget.)

This Potential powerpoint slide captures it perfectly (Yes, I know it is ironic/sad/contradictory that a powerpoint slide communicates this so clearly. . . That is why I love powerpoint. Wait, I hate power point. . . So confused.)

Edward Tufte - Check out his explanation about powerpoint and the shuttle explosion.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


From November 2010

Leila asked me to write a moment that captured Aleah's personality for her birthday. As I talked about what to write about with the other girls they each wanted one. We will see how I do.

We had a picnic after work one evening with a dozen breeders and our bosses. Leila wasn't feeling well and I needed to get the kids out of the house so I dragged them along. We were the only ones with family there.

When I opened the of the van, Aleah jumped out and ran into the mix of mostly middle aged men playing horseshoes and washers. She grabbed my boss's boss by the hand, gave him a quick hug and inserted herself onto their team. For the rest of the night she moved from group to group, playing first horseshoes, then washers, and finally bocce. She laughed at their jokes and told her own and cried on the way home because she wanted to stay longer.

From November 2010

At dinner a few weeks ago, I got after Aleah for "talking baby talk." Colleen, turned to me with her hands on her hips and said contemptuously, " Me no talk baby talk, my age. Aleah talk baby talk." And chuckled to her self. Ever since she will tell you proudly that she doesn't use baby talk, "her age."

She is currently asleep face down under my chair. She won't take naps, another part of "her age" she tells me. When I ask her about her nap today, total denial.

When it gets dark, she will come in and inform us that "The clock say, 'nighttime'." Yawn loudly, stretch and ask for help to get into her pajamas.

Me and the kids
From November 2010

Sometimes I get stir-crazy and want to do "Something Fun." Last week the girls and I went to Ames to go bowling or ice skating. The first bowling alley we went to looked like it had been closed for a decade. No lights. Railing falling down. Then we went to the ice skating rink. It was closing for a hockey game in 15 minutes. We loaded back into the van and went to the bowling alley/laser tag/arcade/pizza place. I only yelled no whining because we are having fun once.

Emily bowled 87 points and only beat me by ten. Colleen insisted on using a heavier ball than the other girls and would carry it like a boulder to the edge and give it a push. It got stuck once halfway down about three feet from the bumpers.

American Gothic Emily
From November 2010

This is a great picture of Leila and Emily lurking in the background. We went to Nauvoo to go to the temple, but of course we forgot to call ahead, assuming it would be open on a Saturday in October. It was closed for cleaning and new carpets. I have been to the Salt Lake Temple three times and every time it is closed for repairs or cleaning. There is a message there. I try not to think about it.

We had a great time wandering around the sites and then we drove back. On the way back we stopped at the American Gothic house and took some pictures. Emily has studied it in school and was in perfect form at all times.

Emily has also started cooking. Last night she made the entire dinner - homemade mac and cheese, edamame beans, and sweet corn. Today she is making pigs in a blanket, but since we don't have hotdogs made mile high biscuits and then meatloaf "pigs". She insists on doing it by herself without much consultation.

From November 2010

Kate's classic pose is thumb in mouth, hand in hair, on her knees. She doesn't walk, or really talk, but has mastered communication by grunt, yell, lean, and grab. She wants me to hold her as soon as I get home and I end up carrying her in the backpack carrier or on my shoulders until bedtime. She is basically spoiled rotten.

Blog Stats after 6 years

From November 2010

Image from Wordle applet

When Aleah turned 6 a few weeks ago, I realized it had been some time since I have written here. Between work and laziness, I have not spent a lot of time writing.

I was surprised to see some of the changes in blogger when I logged in that show stats on number of visitors etc. Apparently, this blog has had 1838 page views since June of 2010. Now that isn't near as many as wildly popular blogs (I like Roger Ebert's blog and Orangette are two I frequent. I don't know how many people visit their blogs a day, but each post gets hundreds of responses so it has to be huge), but I am surprised that there are that many eyes looking at my blog.

The majority of visitors to this blog still go to my post about Riverbend. I still don't know what happened to her, but I wish I did. Apparently people all around the world are still thinking about her enough to google her and visit my blog occasionally.

The next most popular post was Chicken Killers. The other posts are about equal in number of visitors. The reason these are higher I suspect is that if you search the phrases in the titles my blog comes up in the top number of links on google. I have gotten the most comments on posts about political issues, books, and my visit with my Dad in Hawaii.

Of those 1838 page hits, a bunch of them are me as I compulsively check my blog for comments. I have a widget that lets me see where visitors to the blog are from and I can piece together some of visitors to this blog. Many are friends or family from Texas, Utah, Indiana, or Boise as our lives have drawn us away and scattered us across the planet. But, for the rest of you, please let me know you were here and leave me a comment, even if I don't know you.

Because, unlike Facebook that is presumably only visible to Facebook-Friends (and any commercial entities that mine those relationships for ad revenue) this blog is open to the world, and I like that. This last year my use of Facebook has increased and my blog posts have decreased to only 17 so far this year. Part of that is I have felt my life in a crazy-busy routine and part of it is laziness that Facebook appeals to. I can write 20 words instead of an open letter to the world. I can peruse my "friends" in just minutes, but it isn't the same as a blog. It has been nice to reconnect with old friends that way and it feels more like a conversation than this blog has. On the whole, I prefer this medium. My virtual door is open to visitors that can drop in and say hello. Just like my own home, except if you visit in person I can promise pie.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Problem Diagnosis

I have a problem. I am a chronic perfectionist. For those of you who don't live with such a disorder, let me enlighten you.

For example:

My wife is a great quilter, mostly machine piecing, but is currently working on a large hexagonal hand-pieced quilt. As we sit and watch TV at the end of the day, she works on her quilt. I thought, I should do something like that. So, as I thought about what I wanted to do, I found this:

We actually have three blocks that we bought at Pike's Place Market in Seattle hanging in our bedroom.

Leila laughed at me. Because this is crazy.

I did make a quilt once, I did some appliqué for a quilt for my sister's son. But a kite and some clouds are not small geometric concentric shapes.

My attempt lasted just a few minutes. Then I was frustrated because I couldn't do it. Of course.

Many times I have run into the same thing. I have woodworking projects half finished in my garage because I tried to make cabinets before I knew how to make a box. (I had a hard time with my mortise and tenon joints and making the doors just right). I did make a workbench that I am proud of, but it took all of my willpower to keep going because it wasn't turning out like the ideal.

Plato described "ideal forms" that exist in an eternal sphere. In this mortal plane, actual representations of these ideal forms always fall short and exist like shadows on a cave wall flickering in the firelight. If a hypothetical person was forced only to see the shadows on the wall, he would believe that the shadows are the true forms.

Unfortunately for me, I have a mental image of what this ideal form should be - whether it is a song I am trying to play on the violin, how my house should look, the report I need to write, the woodworking project gathering dust in the garage. When I attempt to mimic that form, my imitation falls short, and I become discouraged and frustrated because I can't do what I meant to do.

What is the solution? It is to embrace the shadows on the wall. Because even shadow puppets are better than nothing. My neighbor gets so much done that is done so well, but each project is flawed when you look close. Most people would never notice. Probably no one would notice the flaws in what I do but myself. So that is my goal: To let myself do imperfect work. To begin where I am and see where it takes me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New camera

The same day a generous friend of our offered to give us a camera Leila came home from grocery shopping with a new camera. Now poor Kate won't have to cry about how no one took her picture because she was the youngest. There just are some gaps in her life. Luckily, she looks enough like the others that we will just even up the pile with the pictures we can't match up with her older sisters. (Don't tell her I said this.)

From Sept 2010

Work has been busy and I am behind on seed orders and marker projects which I have to finish tomorrow before the next round of selections have to be finished.

Fall in Iowa is just about perfect. The humidity drops, the temperatures mellow and the trees begin to turn while the grass is still green. This has been a wet year and we have been pushed out of our yard by mosquitoes and it has been nice to be able to be out working in the flower beds. It definitely makes the other 11 months worthwhile.

From Sept 2010

Loving sisters, except when Colleen is mad. She has developed quite a forceful personality and has strong opinions that she expresses very angrily.

From Sept 2010

Future Opera Star - Colleen makes up long songs about pigs, Jesus songs, and going to bed.

From Sept 2010

Kate usually plays accompaniment on the piano.

From Sept 2010

"Mine Dolly name . . . Dolly"

From Sept 2010

Emily wanted a haircut "Just like Kate's." Pretty good.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Back from "vacation"

So yesterday evening Leila and I were watching Psych on Hulu and commented that I had already seen this episode. She turns to me and says, "You must have seen that while on vacation." and went back to watching the computer buffer the episode.

I spent two or three days each of the last few weeks looking at yield trials in Nebraska and Iowa, apparently on vacation. I have been busy at work and at home. I have turned on my computer and pulled up my blog, thinking I would turn it on and write on my blog, but I haven't.

Things that have happened that should have had blog entries:

Aleah's first day of school - she was super excited even though she has a hard time waking up early each morning. She usually sleeps in until 9:00 and even getting her up in time for church is a struggle. Once she started school, she has caught pink eye, the stomach flu, and a couple of colds. After a month we are starting to get into a working schedule - we carry her downstairs, get her dressed while she bonelessly eats breakfast, and then she dashes off to school with Emily.

Emily's trombone - Emily is in 5th grade which has band and they had a day to try all the instruments and she decided she wants to play the trombone.

Leila's sewing machine - her sewing machine broke after our basement flooded. Something must have been sitting on the foot pedal because when she went to use it after we cleaned everything up the motor was burnt out.

Fall here has come like a thief in the night. The corn seemed to dry overnight and how the combines are running.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Looking for new sci fi

I love books and am completely addicted to science fiction. But, I feel like I have hit the wall. I have read all of the scifi books available at our local library, except all of those knock-off Star Trek and Star Wars novels that should never have been published.
The Huxley Library is pretty good for a small town, but has a clientelle that devours Mennonite romance novels. There is a whole wall of shelves for it and two racks of sci-fi - Appalling. Every time I go I request new books to add to their collection. It is an uphill battle.

This is what I am up against:

I have reread all of the Garth Nix books until I don't even try to start at the beginning any more. I just pick up one of the Abhorsen series and flip to a random spot and begin. The next day I do the same. It takes longer to finish a book that way. It is like bootstrap reading. I am out of new Connie Willis novels also. Ursula LeGuin added some new Earthsea novels that are quite good, but I bought those. I also read the Left Hand of Darkness three times this year.

From regular fiction my standby's also seem stale. I still bring Chaim Potok's The Chosen with me when I travel (Not science fiction - more like orthodox Jewish fiction). I haven't seen anything new out of Mark Salzman recently. I really like Chabon's Amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay - about Jewish comic book illustrator's in the 50's. Some scenes were pretty racy, but beautiful writing.

I tried getting some nonfiction and branching out into the real world, but I still am hunting for something to fill the fictional part of my reading diet.

Any suggestions? I need something new to devour.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chicken coop

This is the chicken coop that I built for the infamous Huxley 6 chickens:
During construction

It is a 4'x8' A frame with the nesting boxes and roost in the top of the triangle. The bottom is open so the chickens can peck around in the grass.

The roof sides are removable for cleaning the coop and the ends also open on hinges to access eggs and the chicken run below.

Entertaining the neighborhood

The runway into the top of the coop can be opened and shut from the outside. It is hard to see, but there is a wire that runs to the bottom that goes through an eye at the top of the coop and then out the side.

Anyway, the most complicated of my woodworking projects - lots of angles and no table saw or miter saw. I am embarrassed to admit but I basically threw a temper tantrum when I started it because it seemed too big of a project to get done and the chickens were getting big and smelly in the garage. So I am publicly apologizing to my wife and children for growling at them while working.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Dam to Dam Run

This last Saturday I ran the 20K Dam to Dam race. I have been running again since I discovered I wasn't getting in shape sitting at my desk answering emails and going to meetings. I did a 10K last fall in Huxley when I wasn't really prepared and felt like I was going to die. I kept running through the whole race, but I was 2nd to last to finish and the ambulance followed me the last three miles. The ambulance drivers kept calling out encouraging comments and laughing. I knew deep down they were just waiting for me to finally keel over so they could take me in.

I run most nights after the kids are in bed in the dark along the trail or to the high school track. We also splurged and bought an eliptical excercise machine and I have used it while watching netflix movies in the basement. I also bought cross country skis and went out this winter some along the same trails.

If I had better self control I would go to bed early and get up early to run in the daylight before work. The stars shine bright in Iowa once you get out of town though, except for a distant glow from Des Moines in the South and Ames in the North, like a false dawn. It is quiet on the country roads and when the moon is out it is so bright that I cast a shadow. With a new moon, I find myself jumping over puddles that aren't there and dodging branches from my imagination and usually head home before I hurt myself in the dark. Some nights I stop and look up and try to imagine the prairie is still there in the dark.

I am slow still, but steadily increasing. During the race, I was wet and tired. It started raining as I was running to the starting line and continued till the very end. The last two miles I barely could put one foot after another. The day after the race I hurt so much I slid downstairs on my bum instead of lifting my feet each step. But three days out, I feel ready to go running again.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I learned something about myself while I was in Hawaii. If everyone else was jumping off of a cliff, would I do it too? Yes, I would And, I will lose my glasses and rental car keys at the same time. Luckily, a kid swimming nearby spotted them in the sand under the cliff and dove for them.

I went to Hawaii to visit the winter nursery site where I had three projects nearing harvest. I spent a couple of days taking pictures of the germplasm increases and taking notes.

From Personal

Almost every night I ate sushi for dinner at Morio's sushi. It is run by him and Junko - the waitress and maybe had room for 12 people. Each night I got a seat outside or in the corner because the rest were reserved. They sat empty until the reservers arrived. Meanwhile, Morio sent reams of people away that walked in looking for somewhere to eat. The food was very good, fresh. Each meal comes with complimentary miso soup and salad. Some nights they brought me edamame beans also. No drinks at all on the menu - no soda pop, no lemonade, no alcoholic beverages. Some customers brought their own sake and beer.

From Personal

I went snorkeling while I was there. I am not the best swimmer, but when I have a snorkel I feel like I can swim all day. Somehow the rhythm of holding my breath and lifting my head to breathe I get off kilter and occasionally take in water. Once that happens I continue to take on water till I feel like I am half drowned. But, give me a snorkel in the ocean with fish, coral and wildlife to look at and I am in heaven. I saw a bunch of tropical fish, two large sea turtles, some crabs, starfish, but I didn't find any squid or octopus.

I went to Shark's cove on the north shore and Hanauma Bay near Waikiki. Hanauma Bay is a national water park. It is full of wildlife just off shore, but is full of tourists. Sharks' Cove had just as much to see, but it is far from Honolulu and was almost deserted. There is more surf just outside of the tide pool area, but the tide pools would have been fine for even kids to swim around in.

I had to hurry when I went to Hanauma bay on Saturday. I ran down to the water, swam across the bay and back, and then raced up the mountain and down again to my car. I had an appointment to meet my Dad for lunch. I hadn't seen him for almost 20 years. My parents were divorced when I was 12 and he came to visit when I was 13. He wrote us letters once after that and once he called when I was almost 14.

It was like he died. He didn't send money, visit, or call. His parents didn't have any contact with him either. None of his old friends knew about him or his disappearance. I went back to visit Teton when I was 19 and all of his old friends were dumbstruck to hear that he had disappeared so completely. Not one could believe that he left us and never came back.

Apparently, he has been living in Hawaii for the last 8 years. Before that he was travelling around the southwest doing who knows what. A friend of his contacted Anna last year after he had a stroke. She was concerned that if he died there would be no next of kin to notify. She gave us his number and I called him a few times. It was very odd to talk to a ghost that sounded so eerily like my older brother Marc. He changed cell numbers without telling any of us and disappeared again after we moved to Iowa. So when I got to Honolulu, Anna got me his friends number and I asked her to tell him I was was in town.

He called me back Friday before I was due to leave and we agreed to meet for lunch on Saturday at his favorite cafe near his house. When I came in the hostess, said "You must be Gary's son - He is over there." I went over to the booth and sat down. He doesn't look like I remember. For one thing, he is shorter than me now, grey hair, and had gained weight and then lost it. I would not have recognized him if I past him in a crowd.

We talked pleasantries and small talk. He then said he couldn't imagine why my Mom would have wanted to divorce him. He doesn't remember things like they really happened. In his mind he was the one that was abandoned and rejected. None of it was his fault and he did nothing wrong. I told him that since he had left without any money or contact that divorce was inevitable and reasonable. The silence was awkward enough that Bill, the Bahai pastor that Dad had asked to come along for support, came over from the next booth and we spent the rest of the time sharing pictures of my family and talking about children, work, etc.

It wasn't quite what I envisioned as a reunion with my long lost father. But it wasn't as bad. I would have like to have an apology of some sort for the years of silence, but I can live without it.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Loving New York

For spring break we went to visit our friends the Cooks in New York City. Doug is a professor at NYU-Abu Dhabi, but is teaching this year in New York. I never really thought I would like such a big city, but there is something about NY that even after just a week made me wish that I could move in and make myself at home. According to this site, it is stereotypical for me to like Manhattan, and now Brooklyn. I should add that Roosevelt Island is the best of both.

The kids and I at the Manhattan Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge from the park

Central Station at night

Me at Times Square along with more tourists than I can count, but no one from NY

The Queensborough Bridge - The view from our friends apartment

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Doing well in Chile

We have electricity, phones, internet, but limited gas as of today. The earthquake was sure a jolt - first my bed started to jiggle a little and I thought - what are the people next door doing? Then the whole room started to shake hard. I started for the door and gave up and sat against the wall until the shaking ended. The lights went out and we stumbled into the dark streets. The whole city was up and driving around or walking. Rumors were rampant.

Things are quickly returning to normal though. Hopefully we will fly out on time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I had a strange series of dreams last night. It started as I lay awake listening to the baby fuss. As I drifted back to sleep, I was thinking about key choices in my life and somewhere in there I think I drifted off to sleep. In my minds eye, I could clearly see my life like a tree with decisions at each joint and like flashes skipped from end branch to branch until I landed where I am now and I awoke almost shaky from the trip.

I saw myself living in different cities, doing different jobs, sometimes my family was different, sometimes I was different. In one flash, I was teaching in a community college in LA. In another, I stayed home with the kids. In a few, I wasn't married or didn't have kids. One track I was still in Indiana, another I was teaching in Texas, another working at some office building in Boise.

There are three main branching decision points to my life I realized. The first was to go to BYU. A difficult choice - I broke out in hives when I was making it and spent many a sleepless night worrying and debating it internally. At the time, I wanted to get away from all those Mormons and I had a scholarship to Oberlin College. After talking to Dr. Mooney - Looney Mooney my highschool English teacher, who pointed out that it seemed to him that the decision wasn't about schools but about who I wanted to be. Then it was clear.

The second was to go on a mission. Another internal struggle. I fought and cried and didn't want to go. I worried about whether I had the strength of character and belief to be really able and worthy to go. But I felt pushed again. It felt right.

The third was to get married. An easy decision. Scarily easy. I realized tonight that was because my future had shifted the moment I stepped into that first day of Genetics. Somehow the decision was made as I sat down next to Leila and began to talk. I didn't realize I had made any choice other than where to sit down. Because of that moment, I changed majors, got a job in a plant genetics lab, met Leila, started studying with her, hanging out with her. Who I am changed in that second.

At the end of that year, my roommate and best friend, Craig, was engaged to be married on Aug. 13th. I had told my sister, who was also engaged and probably doesn't even remember, not to get married on that date because I wanted to be in Utah for his wedding. So one night, Mom calls me and tells me that Anna is going to be married on the 13th of August. Oh, I was mad. I couldn't believe it.

That night I was out with Leila. I told her I thought she should come home with me, and we would tell my family that Anna couldn't get married on that date because we had secretly been engaged and planning on getting married the same day as Craig too. That would show them.

Leila cocked her head and said, "No, the 20th would work better for me."

The next morning she stopped by as I was packing to go home to visit before I started my internship in Florida and let me know her family felt like the 20th would be a fine date for a wedding.

So it was decided. So it happened. Which was crazy. And ten years have flown by. Four children. A funeral. Moving from Utah to Texas to Indiana to Iowa. As I lay awake thinking about the different visions of possible lives, I realized that none of the alternatives I wanted. They didn't feel right. Just this one.

I guess I will now get off the computer, maybe clean up our messy house, or maybe I will go cross country skiing, maybe I will make Emily breakfast, maybe I will get dressed and go get Leila flowers for Valentine's day. Either way, that decision will probably have impacts I can't understand. But, right now I feel like for some reason I am where I want to be.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Summer garden plans

The best thing about February is planning for summer. We get stacks of seed catalogues normally, although some haven't found us at our new address yet. Someone once asked me how you get a seed catalogue. I just can't figure out how to get off of the list. Once they have you on the meta-gardener mailing list you can never get off. It is like moving to a new area to escape from the church. Somehow those hometeachers will just keep finding you.

So I have big plans for summer gardening.

1. Add 50-100 strawberry plants to our front flower beds.
2. Replace the bushes devoured by japanese beetles with berry bushes.
3. Expand tilled garden area behind the garage.
4. Re-lay the brick around the raised beds. - need to put sand down and a border edge.
5. Build a container for compost heap - I never have gotten compost heaps to work well so I am looking at methods that help to rotate the compost. Maybe one of the round barrel types or something.
6. Plant peppers and herbs in any empty space in flower beds
7. More bulbs - we NEED more daffodils. Desperately. I planted 100 tulips this fall.
8. Decide which patches of phlox to encourage this year and which to tear out.
9. Rake out leaves left in the flower beds from last year.
10. Get some more mulch for inner flower beds, again.
11. Trim bushes, again.
12. Decide what to do with the front corner that last year went to weeds - maybe eggplants and geraniums? with lettuce borders?
13. Remember to put iron and phosphorous on the roses along the side of the house
14. Divide some of the hostas?
15. lettuces, spinach, basil, sage, oregano, parsley, peas, carrots, tomatoes, onions, endive, rosemary. Am I forgetting anything?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Where are you on the internet?

From the Opte project: A visual map of the internet from 2005

When I started college in 1996, I had a telnet and a gopher account to go online. I remember just a few websites that had pictures and no movies. When I got back from Nicaragua, the inventor of Napster came to talk at BYU about the future of the internet and intellectual property. Ironically, around that same time, I watched a pirated version of the Lord of the Rings someone from the lab had downloaded from the internet before it came out in theaters.

The internet has grown and grown. It has infiltrated almost every home and cell phone in the US and across the world. This is a universe of information that for the most part is freely accessible. I did almost all of my research for my last paper sitting at my desk and querying databases and the internet. I have 1000s of .pdf files saved on my harddrive that just a few years ago I would have printed out and bound.

I get emails now from friends in Nicaragua that live in towns where we struggled to find a telephone and had electricity only part of the day. Crazy.

I was just thinking today as I was reading a sci-fi novel that our present didn't turn out like the future depicted in the book: No flying cars, no fusion powered vacuum cleaners, no settlements on mars or the moon, no aliens with consulates in Chicago, no interstellar travel. Now none of that seems plausible for our future, but if someone had described the internet to me 20 years ago I would have thought that was pretty absurd also. So who knows. Maybe.

from xkcd.com - illustration map of the internet

From Discover magazine 2006- diagram of how data moves around the world on the internet. with representation of the world as a flat disc.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Solution for Afghanistan or Heart of darkness?

I read this fascinating article in the Washington post online.

Jim Gant was special forces in Afghanistan in the tribal areas. While he was there he made the decision to embed himself in the local tribe and make a deal with them to fight alongside them. To fight in their battles. To die for them if necessary.

He is arguing for a personal relationship with each one of the tribal warlords. One where American soldiers live, fight, kill and die with the tribal leaders. This has the potential to make true allies where we have none. But, and there is a big, but there is a great potential for abuse. By choosing sides, we may be choosing the wrong side. American fatalities will rise. Special knowledge of language and cultures will be required.

It appears that his proposals are getting some attention in military circles. Let's just hope he isn't like Mr. Kurtz.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Freezing in Iowa . . . And happy about it

When I heard about the winter storm watch yesterday I was excited. We were expected to have 8-10 inches of snow with 35 mile an hour winds, and the storm delivered. Schools were closed today. Visibility was low and it never got about 0, again. We have had three weeks of below 0 F weather.

Amazingly, I have not complained and I will be sad to see the winter go. Since we moved from Texas and to the frozen midwest I have whined and complained all winter long. Cold dark days filled with snow and freezing temperatures make me antsy for spring when the garden is growing and it is warm. I love the heat and humidity of the summer. I rarely complained in Texas even when it was 105, 90% humidity, and sweltering. Leila dreaded it because she hates the feeling of sweat beading up on her brow as soon as she stepped outside. I rode my bike to work and spent most of the summer in a cotton field and my winters in a 95 degree and humid greenhouse. I don't think that I sweat normally or something.

So what has changed? Iowa is colder than ever.

1. Long underwear - I now have a full complement of very long, very warm long underwear. I am warm when everyone else is shivering for once.

2. Wool socks - Even my feet are warm.

3. More weight - although I grumble to Leila, the last ten pounds I gained I think have helped me stay warm in the cold.

4. No animals to take care of in the cold - although I miss my little farm constantly, it is nice to not have to worry about water freezing, snow in the barn, keeping the chickens from getting frostbite, moving hay, finding the cows and pigs at the neighbors barn, and all of the other winter chores. This may also explain the extra ten pounds. Gotta do something about that.

and last but definitely not least:
From early january 2010

5. Cross country skis - I bought them off of ebay, they have old three pin bindings and I have had to repair the shoes already, and I ski like Goofy in that instructional cartoon, but I look forward to getting out in the snow every night. The cold isn't so bad if I get to flail about on skis every night.

From early january 2010