Edu-Tech Conference

9 07 2008

Last week I got the chance to attend the largest educational technology in the world. One person told me there was 18,000 people at the conference, and hundreds of exhibitors showing their wares. There were formal presentations and lectures to attend, but by the end of the three days I found myself wandering around the exhibition hall more and more.

This place fascinated me. It reminded me of the Dallas Auto Show. Plush carpet, over-sized signs hanging from the ceiling, plasma TVs, bright colors, and lots of tiny seating. Yeah, tiny seating. The larger exhibitors would do ten minute presentations every few minutes to lure people into buying their solution to lagging test scores. Everyone seemed to have a different approach to seating as well. Here are a few examples:

The seating in the last picture is my favorite.  Each seat is a letter on the keyboard.  It is too bad the product that company was pushing was worthless.

The other thing that stuck out to me about the conferences was the high number of technology experts (aka Geeks) there were.  I guess it shouldn’t be too shocking considering what the conference was about.  There was a band on stage one night playing music (one song was about Wikipedia. . .go figure) and being simulcast in the virtual world of 2nd Life.  You could watch the band in real life, or go down the hall and watch the digital avatars of the band awkwardly move and play in front of the Alamo (since we were in San Antonio). I heard one group of geeks talking at a nearby restaurant one night, but could never get their jokes. The punchline of one joke was, “And then I told her it must have been a Linux server!” This was followed by much laughter.

It was a good few days.  I got some ideas for things to do next year, and some free stuff from some vendors.


Fantasy Tour de France

6 07 2008

For those of you who are interested, there is a new way to watch your favorite cycling competition.  It had to come sooner or later, and finally we have Fantasy Cycling Challenge.  You can now create a roster of tour riders and track their progress during the next three weeks.  You are given a salary, and must create a roster for each stage of the race.

Don’t worry, you have until July 9th before the points start to count.  The next few stages are practice.

Thorns and Sin

30 06 2008


When I set up my Picasa account I added pictures of these Honey Locust thorns we have on our property. Some of you may have heard my refer to these in conversations. Let me just say a few things about Honey Locust. I hate these thorns. They are evil. When I think of sin, an image of this plant springs into my mind. More than once I have had a thorn from these bushes push its way THROUGH the sole of my shoes and stab me in the foot. When God told Adam that the land would produce thorns, I believe he had these suckers in mind.

I pruned some near the house back to mere stubs during the spring, but have watched them steadily grow back over the last few months. With a free day last week I took some out, and attacked more in the field on Saturday. You see the only way to fight these things is to take a shovel or pick axe and pull the entire root system out. It takes work, but unless you attack the root you will be out there in two months getting stabbed in the foot again.

As I was sweating and nursing a few puncture wounds while I pulled and dug, I realized how very much like sin these thorns really are. You can try to hide both with quick fixes and cosmetic remedies, but this is only temporary. To get lasting results you have to attack head on, and most likely it will hurt.

Not only is going after the root of sin and honey locust the best course of action, but unfortunately it is not a permanent fix.  There is no guarantee it won’t come back in the same place, but hopefully each time you fight it, and tear more of it out by the roots it will become a little more rare. I hope that next summer these thorns will be more harder to find.

New York City Quick Hits

18 06 2008

This last weekend I took a flight up to New York to see my lovely wife while she is on a business trip.  These little weekend trips are great because we don’t have to pay for a hotel, and can also eat for half price on the Novartis per diem.  Here are some things which stuck out to me on the trip:

  • iPods.  I have never seen so many people with the white ear buds stuck in their heads.  I don’t even think most people were listening to music because they kept touching their iPods over and and over.  It was like they only wanted to listen to the first twenty seconds of each song, then went looking for another Justin Timberlake song to nod their head to.
  • Dirty in so many ways.  On the train ride back to New Jersey one night, the only two open seats next to each other were right in front of the restrooms and we were forced to sit there. While we sat there, a mere three feet from some of the foulest filth imaginable, and watched people slip in and out (sometimes two at a time. . .) we realized that if we could go into our back year and rub our hands in dirt, Texas dirt, we would feel cleaner than any hand sanitizer could make us.
  • Public Transportation.  Aside from my last point about the overall dirtiness of the experience, I was impressed with our ability to navigate our way around the city.  The complexity of the system is amazing when you think of all the different levels of tunnels and stairways crisscrossing their way under the entire city.
  • It is all so old.  Here in the Great State of Texas the land is either for the most part undeveloped or newly developed.  Shopping centers and buildings are torn down and rebuilt every few years to keep them looking new.  Nothing looked new in New Jersey.  Only only Time Square looked new in New York.  I don’t mean this to be all bad.  There were some very quaint buildings that looked nice here and there, but for the most part I couldn’t understand why someone didn’t tear a lot of it down and build a descent looking building.

Veritas Wine & Bistro

8 06 2008

This week Laura and I celebrated our fourth anniversary with a fine meal. After reading reviews about some of the new fine dinning establishments in town I choose Veritas because. . . .I am not sure why. I guess their menu sounded the most interesting.

I think what I liked most about Veritas is that it wasn’t trying to be like any of the other “nice” restaurants in town. There is more of an asian theme at Veritas than Christopher’s or Maddens, but what sticks out is the wine. After we had sat down for a few minutes at our table, the sommelier (wine steward) came over to offer suggestions. He seemed to know what he was talking about, and didn’t make me feel like tasteless idiot–which is a plus.

My humble suggestion for anyone not a wine expert (speaking from experience here) would be to order a “wine flight.” This gets you three smaller glasses of wine set up by the sommelier (there’s that word again) to help you find what your looking for. When he brings the wines, you also get an explanation about the differences and some things to look for in the taste.

And now a word of warning.  This is not the place to go if searching for hints of oak and boysenberry in your pino grigio is not your cup of tea.  The entire place is geared toward waxing poetic about grape juice.  Also, the portions are much smaller than what you might find at a place like Cheddar’s.  In the end I actually enjoyed this part, because even though I cleaned my plate I didn’t have that overly full feeling for the next four hours.

So, overall I give Veritas my endorsement if you are looking for a special night out.

New Camera, New Pictures

12 05 2008

Laura and I used our economic stimulus package to buy a nice camera and learn how to take nice pictures. This weekend Laura enjoyed the wonderful weather and rode her horse, Al. I took the opportunity to try out a few functions of the camera.

In honor of my impending greatness in the field of photography. I set up a Picasa account.

Sunday Ride

A Slippery Slope

2 04 2008

One of the shows my wife has liked to watch over the last few months is “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”  She started off watching some of the other shows about crazy large families–the Duggars, et al–but settled on this family.  At first I rolled my eyes and would leave the couch to find a book to read instead, but eventually I found myself watching to show too.  Only when Laura first tuned the channel there, of course.

I think last week I past the point of no return when I found myself flipping to the show on my own late at night after finishing my lesson for the next day.  At first I think it was an unconscious decision.  There is not much to watch at night anyway at 10:30, right? When I realized it was one I had not seen (the family’s trip to the Crayola Factory) I did not notice how excited I was, how I sat up a little straighter wondering what crazy things are going to happen.  Nor did I pick up on my own inventory of how much bigger the sextuplets are starting to look.  None of these things triggered my awareness of being a “fan” of the show.  No, it was when I saw that Kate was using a new camera to take pictures of the boys, and was happy for her (because we all know how much she hated her other camera).  No one ever mentioned that it was new, but I could tell.

That was when it happened.  It hit me like a bolt of lightning hard enough to make me drop the remote–I liked watching Jon & Kate.