MUCH better than an iPhone!

July 23, 2007

I’ve been reading about this project for a while, and I’m glad to see it finally go into production.  A $100 laptop, designed for children, to get computers into places where there has been a historical lack of technology.  Three cheers for OLPC!


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

July 21, 2007

I’ve read it.  I liked it.  No spoilers here.

Who’s the leader of the club…?

January 28, 2007

Susie and I took the kids for a surprise visit to “Disneyland Resort Paris” last weekend. We told them we were going to London for the day, and the next morning instead of taking the train home, we surprised them by getting on the Eurostar instead. We got in on Sunday afternoon, and left on Wednesday. For those of you considering a trip to “The Park Formerly Known as EuroDisney,” here are a few observations:

1) French train stations suck. They’re all (and I mean every one we saw, stopped at, or passed through) gray concrete and glass and cavernous. They aren’t so much “buildings” as “big bus shelters.” They keep the rain off, but they don’t keep the wind out, because it’s the kind of building where it’s a roof held up by posts, and there are walls but they don’t go all the way to the roof (or even the floor). They actually have space heaters scattered about, built in. The waiting rooms make the NY Port Authority bus station look like a suite at the Ritz. Have a look at the station right at the gates to Disney here.

2) Some French people are actually not rude. By this I mean the people who work at Disneyland, who are exceptionally well trained in “the Disney Way.”

3) Many Disneyland visitors (and I mostly mean the French ones) are extremely rude. F’rinstance, when the four of us were wandering through the “Alice in Wonderland” labyrinth, enjoying letting Lily “lead” us, more than once we were literally physically shouldered aside by… pairs of adults. Yes, grim faced, determined, these couples acted as though they had been told that if they were not FIRST to the Red Queen’s Castle at the end someone would take away their escargot. They have no concept of “getting in line” for something. David actually missed not one, not two, but THREE chances to get an autograph from Stitch (of Lilo & Stitch fame) because of both pushy children, and parents who shoved their children in front of him. Infuriating, and giving the parents the evil eye resulted in, of course, a gallic shrug (which, if you’ve always wondered exactly what that means, is a little shrug with a look of “And this is my problem, how, exactly?”)

4) If you’re going to go, and don’t mind a little cold, go in the low season. Waiting times for most rides was under 5 minutes, and there’s enough to do indoors that you don’t mind the wind so much. And besides, the kids don’t care, as long as they’re bundled up (and sometimes even if they’re not).

5) If you’re going to do anything requiring a reservation (breakfast with the characters, for instance) take the first slot of the day. No one else does, and you get much much more value for your time. We did the character breakfast. The restaurant was set up with 25-30 tables, and there were 5 characters wandering the room interacting with the diners. There were only 6 full tables for the first seating. Halfway through the characters leave, and 5 more come out. Still only 6 tables. We had a blast having Mickey, Donald, and the rest at our table the entire time we were there, rather than having to fight for a few minutes of their attention with the other diners (and, see #3 above).

6) Eurostar: Nice train. Take the direct one from London to Disney, and avoid the change at Lille Europe. A missed connection, a late train, and your travel day is ruined.

All in all, a great trip, despite #3 up there, and #1 was only a problem at the end. If you’re on “the list” you’ve probably been pointed to the slideshow highlights. If not, drop me a note and I’ll send you directions.

Wow, this was a “fluff piece,” wasn’t it? 🙂

There I go, thinkin’ again…

January 17, 2007

You know, I want to write about politics. I want to write about the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have thoughts on this, as some of you might well imagine. But it seems so… pretentious. I just said in my last post that I knew what I wanted to write here, and I do. But it’s just so heavy. So I’m going to just jump in.

I’ve seen pictures and videos of the Iraqi and Afghan armies, and heard the stories of the “rigorous” 2-day, or 2 week, or whatever, “basic training” program that they go through, and then I see them, on the news, walking the streets of Baghdad and Qandahar, looking completely unprepared. I hear stories of them helping insurgents, because they consider us occupiers rather than allies, because their imam has told them we are tools of Satan, or because they are using their newfound power for their own gain rather than to help their country. I see and hear all of this, and I despair of ever getting our troops out of there, because until those armies (and police forces, and anyone else with the official power to use force) thinks of themselves as professional and capable they will be little more than poorly trained Wild West posses.

But I have a suggestion…

No one in the world creates a more powerful or more deserved feeling of esprit de corps, belonging, and competence than the US Marine Corps. If you’ve ever known a Marine, you’ll know what I mean. Their boot camp is grueling, demeaning, and demanding. It will tear a person down to nothing, then take that nothing turn it into a Marine. That Marine will never doubt his abilities or his loyalties, which are never to himself, but to his country, his Corps, and his comrades. This is the training we need to be giving to the Iraqi and Afghan armies. Then they will see themselves as protectors of their country. Then they will see that they have the real power, not the insurgents. And they will see that the real honor comes in using that power to build, not to destroy.

So I suggest that we take the two armies, in turns, to Parris Island and run the recruits through the full boot camp course. Teach them what it means to be a part of something bigger. And give them the actual skills they’ll need to defend their country. And once they have the skills and confidence to do that, THEN we can leave them to it.

The wheels on the bus

January 6, 2007

Susie and I were talking last night about President Dubya, and his extensive use of signing statements when signing legislation. These things bother the hell out of me, frankly. The president is changing the law by instructing officials how to interpret and enforce it (or not to enforce it). A simple example: Congress passes legislation that says, “It is illegal for the US or its agencies to use torture, ever.” The president signs it (because, who wouldn’t?) and then adds a signing statement that says, “But I instruct everyone in the government not to prosecute anyone for violating this law if they do it in support of whatever we decide ‘national security’ means – and besides, ‘torture’ means what *I* say it does.”

Whatever else you may think of him, the man’s got balls. I don’t know what to expect from the new Democratic majority, but I know that I’m looking forward to the day when the short bus pulls up to the White House to take Dubya back home…