Monday, March 31, 2008

1 more day to Enroll!

Just wanted to give a quick update on my status -- I arrived in Delhi a few days ago and was whisked away from the airport around midnight by some new friends - the principle of the Chiragh Grammar School (in Meerut, India) and her son. Over the past few days we've been getting ready for the new school year to start- April 2nd is just around the corner!
(This is the quality picture taken from the OLPC laptop -- click for full resolution.)
(Side note: I'm posting this from one of the OLPC laptops that the school had donated from friends in the US. Lots more to come on these gems, but the current point is that I can't post pictures from them to the blog, although I can post video from them to the blog, see entry a day or so ago. So I'll have to edit this post to add pics separately, bummer.)

The current plan for teaching is to try to elevate the student's understanding of electricity and magnetism. These subjects are covered in their science class and text books in class 6, 7, and 8, to varying degrees. Since I'll have the small, combined 7th and 8th graders, I have some freedom with respect to the depth of coverage. I'm going to try and let the students complete some hands-on-hardware experiments, as well as software simulations on the laptops. As such, the first few periods are set aside for the students to 'explore' (that's code for play with) the laptops -- then it's down to business! Keep checking back as I may try to post some of the documentation generated in the course.

For more info on the laptops I've got, check out the following:

More to come!

Narrating videos the world over.

So remember how I posted a video of the Iditarod first place racer, Lance, coming down the stretch back a few weeks ago with my Iditarod 2008 wrap up?

Turns out that I was the main commentary for other videographers! James J Keller, a sponsor of Mitch Seavey (2008 All Alaska Sweepstakes winner), happened to be standing next to us and I ended up on the web because of him, as well!

[Picture pinched from JJ Keller website]

>> Check out the my voice and his camera moves here.

This video from across the street and higher up gives a good feeling for the ambiance that night as well!

Also, he's got quite the IROD website if you're interested in more video footage.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

All Alaska Sweepstakes

Thanks to AD for keeping me in the loop on this one. You might remember the winner of the Iditarod a few weeks ago, Lance Mackey, who was going to try to set another record this year, by winning three major sled races.

Last year he set a record by winning the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod in the same year.
This year he set another record by repeating last years performance.
And he would set yet another this last week if he'd won the All Alaska Sweepstakes.

Unfortunatly, it was not to be, as a worthy competitor, Mitch Seavey, put his son's wedding plans on hold to win the race and Jeff King also finished before Mackey.

Mackey's third place finish doesn't go quietly, though, as tragedy befell his team near the finish. With less than 22 miles left in the 408 mile (three day) race, a snowmachine clobbered Mackey's sled, and some of the wheel dogs! Full writeup of the incident here by Anchorage Daily News.

Lance Mackey with main Lead dog and stud, Zorro.
[BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News archive 2007]

So sad, as the one dog, Zorro, that was critically injured (life in jeopardy now) was Mackey's main stud dog -- 40 of the 80 dogs in his kennel being related to Zorro!

Friday, March 28, 2008

OLPC Video

Just trying to post a quick video from the XO / OLPC laptop!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Carbon neutrality in the skies

After reading the following in the Singapore Airlines magazine, I had to think some more about what was happening each moment I sat happily cruising around the world:

"Flying in an A380, you are personally creating less carbon dioxide
than you would do driving the average family car. You will also be
using less fuel, at around 2.9litre per passenger per 100km."**

Turns out that I'm not nearly the first to post about my carbon footprint while cruising around the world -- not surprising. These folks have a few articles about the upcoming super jumbo jets that are actually designed to be more fuel-efficient per passenger than any other passenger planes.

Says one carbon-neutral flying blogger: "So, here's one way to reduce your carbon footprint - once it comes along insist on flying with the A380."

Unfortunately, as the Telegraph points out, because of how the jet is configured (with full onboard hotel-suites in place of multiple rows of passengers), the per-passenger footprint goes down. EDIT: The per-passenger footprint goes up; I meant the efficiency goes down! (thanks SP) If we could measure on a per-square-foot scale (which might actually equal one economy class seat!), the numbers might make sense again.

The good news is that Airbus and Boeing aren't the only ones thinking about the impact of cruising through the friendly skies: Virgin Atlantic recently flew a 747-400 jumbo jet on (20%) biofuels. This, in conjunction with Richard Branson's "Virgin Earth Challenge," a $25 million prize (any chance we can get that in Pounds or Euros, Dick?) for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.


Oh, and folks, let's just put the Gossamer Albatross (pic below) out of our heads for the moment, cause it's seriously depressing for someone like me who would actually love the chance to cross an ocean under my own leg power.

** Can anyone point me towards a resource to compare this 2.9L/passenger/100km figure to other modes of transportation?

I'm one of many lost 20-somethings...

Over the Pacific I read an interesting article (click here) about how many educated / successful kids are moving back in with the parents or having other general crises about what to do with their lives in their 20's.

At least I'm not like this one kid they mention, that graduated from NYU in international journalism that donates sperm and undergoes psychological testing for a paycheck -- as he waits back to hear about his real job application, to be a pro dog walker...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Iditarod 2008!

Sorry for the delay, folks, here is my post about the Iditarod 2008! Sorting through a few gigs of pics and movies wasn't easy, but here I give to you some of the best moments captured digitally. I was visiting a college friend (with a few other college friends) who has lived in Nome for the past few years, and it was really helpful to have a local around! Thanks AD!
First off, where is Nome? It's a small town (3,500 people) in western Alaska, on the Bering Sea. This time of year the Bering Sea is frozen there, so the only way to get to it is by airplane.

Places Not to Fall Down Episode 7:

(Joe actually fell through to some liquid water trapped between layers of ice, wetting him up to his calves, necessitating one of the fastest "Run to Nearest Bar" times of our trip!)

(and shown on the back side, 7181 miles from Sydney, where I was 2 weeks ago. I know, I know, carbon footprint!)

Nome is the finish of the 1049 mile Iditarod Dog Sled Race, where mushers and their teams of sled dogs take between 8 and 18 days to cross from Anchorage to Nome. There's not even a road between these two cities, so dog sled is one of the only ways to get around! (Here's me at the finish line)

After a few days in Nome, we got to cheer on the first place musher as he and his dogs crossed the finish line. For a great pre-race story, check out "Iditarod racers set their sights on Nome" in the March 2008 edition of Alaska Airlines magazine (sorry, I can't find one online).

2008 Iditarod, First place finish, defending champion, Lance Mackey!

These guys and gals are as tough as they get, and Lance is no exception. Having conquered cancer, he has won his second Iditarod in a row, as well as multiple other sled races in Alaska. Check out his wikipedia page.

A bit later in the race, we got to welcome Scott Smith to Nome, which was exciting as he was the musher staying with us at AD's place.
One of Scott's lead dogs, Puma:

It's pretty sweet to see a team mushing across the frozen Bering Sea, as JR caught on film so well (click image for full resolution):
Not quite as cool, but still neat to be walking down the street randomly and get passed by an Iditarod finisher on their way to the burled arch finish line:

After the race, we got to go with Scott (in between his much deserved naps) to the dog lot, where the dogs rest before flying back home:
Some dogs wear blankets and sleep in kennels, but others don't. The dogs have slept for a few hours at a time over the past 10 days on just straw in well below freezing weather (in fact many dogs got sick because of the approaching-freezing temperatures outside of Anchorage this year, I heard). They're amazing animals who are just used to the cold!

After a day or so, the dogs are put in their kennels and flown home on Alaska Airlines, on one of their sweet 737-400 "Combi" combination planes, which are half full of seats (back half) and the rest of the space is reserved for cargo (frong half).

One other cool thing I got the chance to do up there is herd a herd of reindeer, on foot and snowmachine (snowmobile). Here's me on a snowmachine (behind the herd):
And a closeup of the herd:

And one random other picture showing this town's 100 year history, from when it was a booming gold town (gold on the beach!) with a population of 20,000 people, to now, when the population is lower, but has better tools for the job. Here's the old truck on the left, and the new one on the right!

Brief Tacoma, WA visit

On the way home from Alaska, I had the chance to briefly visit Dayna and her family, which was great. Dayna was a pro at the "relaxing" pace of touring that I was after, and so we got a really enjoyable *rain free* day to see Tacoma. We took in some Chihuly glass sculptures, in and around the Union Station and glass museum.
Before that we'd wandered north of Tacoma to the site of the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge, that all of us engineers learned about in school. The bridge was rebuilt (click the link above to see a video of it collapsing), and now, there is a second, parallel bridge to carry the excess traffic.

There's some serious potential for tidal power generation, although I'm told that folks have looked into it and it's not cost effective. Looking down from the train bridge, and watching some seals try and swim towards the ocean (to the right in the photo) was like watching a shrimp on a treadmill.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Back in Los Angeles -- but not for long!

Just wanted to post a quick one to let folks know that I made it back from Nome, Alaska just fine where I had an awesome time visiting friends, meeting the Nomites, and welcoming the mushers and dogs of the 36th Iditarod Dog Sled Race -- an update will be forthcoming on those topics!

I'm definitely back in Los Angeles, by the look of things:

Bikes and sports cars rule, but classy bikes on the back of sports cars rule even more!

There are still idiots in the world, like this "treehugger" Hummer driver.

And In-N-Out still makes their fries from fresh potatoes, so all is right in the world!

More to come, if I can find some time!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Two more pics from Oz

I kinda like these two noteworthy pics (click to enlarge) that I forgot to include in the last update:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Syndey & surroudings

When my 6 weeks in New Zealand came to a close, I had the chance to layover in Sydney for 6 days, and spent it in the city and surrounding areas. Unfortunately I happened to be there for the week culminating a month of celebrations for the gay / lesbian community, which wouldn't have been so bad except that I couldn't find a place to stay for a reasonable price!
The good news was that they had an awesome parade, which I really didn't take any good pictures of. Here's one of mine; you can search the internet for others (Sydney Mardi Gras):
On a friend's recommendation I ended up taking the beautiful walk over the north side of the harbor from the Spit to Manly. I was blown away by the number of sail boats and windsurfers.
This next picture is from the Blue Mountains, the Three Sisters rock formation (there used to be 7 sisters, but four got warn off with the elements over time. The Blue Mountains were awesome. They're blue because of the gasses given off by all the eucalyptus trees.

Besides that I spent a day down in Wollongong and the Royal National Park, as well as 2 days up by Collaroy beach (north of Manly). If you want to see a video that I took of wild kangaroos fighting, email me. More to come, as I'm currently in Nome, Alaska for the Iditarod, 2008!