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May 30, 2008

Weeny Alligator
last update: 05/30 @ 19:26
After our visit to South Florida, this ‘gator at the National Zoo seems pretty small. It was a bit warm but with beautiful blue skies a perfect day to wander the grounds at the zoo today. It’s too bad Sarah had errands to run, Robert and I had a great time.

May 29, 2008

Odd Train of Thought
last update: 05/29 @ 16:14
(No Robert content here; sorry.)

The set up for this train of thought was a Nepali couple walking around Mall with backpacks on. I saw them this morning when I was heading home from a parent/teacher conference. They looked much like I imagine Western trekkers look like wandering the Himalayan foothills. It was a very nice transposition, in my mind.

This afternoon, I was walking down by the river and noticed what I took to be a small secret service detail out and about with someone important. That being somewhat unusual in Old Town and me playing with Twitter (one of the latest and greatest Internet ideas), I “tweeted” (that’s what you do on Twitter) a little note about seeing that unusual sight.

Doing that made me think about the book I’m currently reading, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time. It’s really a fascinating read that I highly recommend about a mountaineer who, in the process of fulfilling a promise to build a school in a remote Pakistani village, discovers the need for lots of schools and more infrastructure in that part of the world (beloved by serious mountaineers for the Himalayas). You can support this worthy cause on the web site of the Central Asia Institute — buying the book helps too.

One of many memorable moments in Greg Mortenson’s quest to educate the poor covered in the book takes place shortly after the US started bombing Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. He was flying out of Pakistan, where he happened to be during the attack, and across the aisle in the plane was a bearded man wearing a black turban staring out of the window with binoculars. When they flew over the lights of ships below, the man pulled a satellite phone out of his pocket and headed to the bathroom.

The point of the scene was that the Taliban (and by extension extremists, and by further extension terrorists) are very resourceful. With most of their infrastructure wiped out, they used commercial flights to keep track of the US Fifth Fleet. I briefly wondered if these days my tweet might be seen as a bad thing: reporting the location of someone important enough to have a security detail.

The book resonates for me because of Mortenson’s belief that the best way to fight extremism and terrorism is through education — that’s not why he started building schools in late 1990s, but it became apparent as he spent more time there. Showing the poorest of the poor that there is something to live for seems to me to be the only way to fight terrorism.

That belief in the value of education is also driving another project I’ve been reading about: One Laptop per Child. Another worthy cause, that is trying to better education for the world’s poor.

That was an odd train of thought to run through my head while looking at some folks in suits trying to not to stand out down by the Potomac on a lovely, warm day.


May 27, 2008

And the winner is…
last update: 05/27 @ 15:31
…All the kids! Robert and his class had their annual gymnastics show today. They really do like showing off their stuff and this year they each were awarded medals. Clearly, Robert was a very happy gymnast.

They each did forward and backwards somersaults, cartwheels and straddle jump. And almost as impressive, they all were quiet as they waited for each of their turns.

May 23, 2008

Oxon Hill Farm
last update: 05/23 @ 20:23
After the tragedy earlier in the week (of which Robert remains blissfully unaware), we took advantage of a 4 day weekend and great weather to catch up with the animals at Oxon Hill Farm; this time we were joined by Evan and his mom Sue for a picnic and wander around the farm. It was a great way to start the weekend and the summer season. There are, of course, more photos in Robert’s Section.

May 21, 2008

Can’t be good news
last update: 05/21 @ 16:29
This isn’t looking good…

Not a really what you want to see…
last update: 05/21 @ 16:15
Our across the street neighbors were having some trees worked on when there was apparently an accident. I’m impressed at the level of response but also worried about what that level of response means.

May 19, 2008

Trike-a-Thon day
last update: 05/19 @ 20:41
The annual Trike-a-Thon was today at Robert’s school. He clearly had a good time — here hamming it up with one of his friends. They really liked wearing their helmets. Robert didn’t take his off until he was informed, “we don’t wear bike helmets to the dinner table.”

May 14, 2008

New Friends
last update: 05/14 @ 22:58
Robert made friends (and hammed it up a bit) with the animals in this sculpture while we were in Miami and points south last weekend. We had a great time and we avoided the rains that where flooding Mid-Atlantic. There are lots more pictures in Robert’s section.

May 07, 2008

last update: 05/07 @ 10:42
Robert decided he needed a keyboard for the train he was driving on the front porch this morning. Hmmm…. we just looked at the photos from the Tweetsie trip, including the mouse mine train. Maybe that has something to do with it….

May 06, 2008

Fun with blacklights…
last update: 05/06 @ 15:31
Robert and I took a trip down to North Carolina over the weekend (Sarah had too much work to do to join us). Robert’s favorite part was this Mouse Mine Train trip on the grounds of the Tweetsie Railroad. There are more photos of the fun in Robert’s section.

Why Microsoft Word?
last update: 05/06 @ 09:21

(no Robert content here, sorry)

I was talking with a long-distance friend last week. Her computer was running slow and she thought removing some unused software might help speed it up. But she accidentally removed Microsoft Word in the process of cleaning up. She asked if I had a disk that she could borrow to reinstall from. I hunted around but couldn’t find anything very recent so I suggested she just download OpenOffice. She was a little dubious but went ahead and did that.

The next time I talked with her she reported that OpenOffice passed her tests (I’d warned her that it might not be perfect for heavily formatted files or the very latest version of Word files): she could edit and print her files. Then she asked why people spend hundreds of dollars for Word or similar software when there were free alternatives.

I had trouble thinking of any reason for a home user (and writer) like her. I did point out that larger organizations often feel more comfortable with the idea of support from Microsoft (I didn’t think to point out that the support is often difficult to access and may not really help much). And those organizations may feel the need to be compatible with the latest and greatest file formats (though not many organizations upgrade to the latest and greatest quickly).

So I really had some trouble with her question and I wonder if the inertia of always using Word is the real reason so many copies are sold and installed on PCs (of course Word is often bundled with the purchase of a new PC so the cost is hard to see and clearly much less than retail).

The best answers I could come up with that there was no marketing behind OpenOffice other than word of mouth and that OpenOffice is a late comer in terms of a really solid, stable, compatible alternative — in my opinion, it is all three now but has not been for too many years.

You may want to give OpenOffice a spin: it’s more than just a word processor, it also includes a spreadsheet program, presentation program, drawing program and database program. If you try it out and find it useful, consider donating time or money to the project. If it doesn’t work for, just remove it.

May 02, 2008

last update: 05/02 @ 12:56

My boys are southbound. Headed toward a fun weekend in the NC mountains for Pop-Pop’s birthday! ….And I’m here. Work & school overwhelmed me, I freaked out and decided I need to not go anywhere this weekend or take vacation days. Robert appears to be having a fine time as he plots which relative will read which new story book I sent with him first. I will miss them as I lounge in my bed reading the New York Times Sunday paper uninterupted..

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