Monday, December 27, 2010

Return to Jurassic Park

Today we are headed out to the hot springs near Naga, which Joahnna and I nicknamed "Jurassic Park" because of the vibrant growth and huge cliff walls directly over the springs. We are looking forwards to it since this was one of our favorite parts of the last trip.

Last night uncle Chito treated us to dinner at his house, including his special Bicol Express (very good). I spent some time syncing up with my dad on our favorite topics - guns, cars, and politics - and he also spent some time chatting with Raoul. After dinner we came back to the hotel and watched the kids and adults practice their performances for the reunion.

Yesterday Joahnna took a family photo for auntie Irma, which turned out so well that auntie lyn and imbot both asked for photo shoots with their families, which Joahnna is doing this morning. Work is never done!

Also different for this trip, last time we took a sub notebook, but this time we left it behind in favor of the smaller iPad. So far it has worked quite well, as long as you are willing to slow down your typing rate a little bit (you have to be a little more careful on the virtual keyboard). The biggest limitation of it so far is that we cant use it to download photos from the camera, so we need to borrow someone's laptop to do that. Not a big limitation here in Naga, where we have tons of family, but could limit its usefulness if you were traveling alone.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

How private enterprise saves money

I was reading this article from AvWeb about the SpaceX launch and recovery of their "Dragon" capsule. Sometimes you can save a little money here and there by privitization, but sometimes you can save huge chunks (emphasis added):

It's worth noting that while nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have been dispatched to recover space capsules in the past, an inflatable boat with an outboard motor accomplished the task this time.

Moral roots of liberals and conservatives

I saw an excellent talk on TED about the psychological roots of liberals and conservatives. Makes the point that despite our innate desire to group with like-minded individuals, both viewpoints bring valuable mindsets to the table and if we want to be a whole country again, we need to understand the other half.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Motivation and Reality Checks

I read this article on aero-news about a "new" aircraft being developed. The concept is a "light attack" aircraft, which is basically an admission that our cold-war fighters and attack aircraft are massive overkill for the missions they are being used on. The other interesting thing is that the pilots are all on board for this idea, since most of them can clearly see that the alternative is having their job replaced by a drone.

The light attack concept is simple: instead of building a massive, jet-powered, state-of-the-art mach 3 fighter to drop bombs on camels, go use something that works a lot more like a WWII fighter. After all, they did a perfectly good job at ground attack then as long as there weren't other fighters to shoot them down, which matches fairly well with the conflicts we fight today.

And they're cheap. Prices for these should be close to parity with current drones, if not less expensive, and operating costs are low as well ($600/hr instead of $15,000/hr, per the article). I'm not sure how they managed to get the project going, but I wish them success before someone realizes they're not spending enough money and kills it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Evolution of Presidential Eloquence

The (Uncensored) Evolution of Presidential Eloquence
by Martin Horn

"My friends, circumstances render it impossible that you can flourish in the midst of a civilized community. You have but one remedy within your reach, and that is to remove to the west. And the sooner you do this, the sooner you will commence your career of improvement and prosperity." - Andrew Jackson, Addressing Native Americans while discussing his Indian Relocation Policy

"Moreover, the negro, unlike so many of the inferior races, does not dwindle away in the presence of the white man...From this point of view the presence of the negro is the real problem; slavery is merely the worst possible method of solving the problem." - Teddy Roosevelt (Source: "Winning of the West" by Teddy Roosvelt)

[Spies] are all Jews. Every one's a Jew. Gelb's a Jew. Halperin's a Jew. But there are bad-Hiss was not a Jew. So that proves something. Very interesting thing. - Richard Nixon (link:

"I'm telling you there's an enemy that would like to attack America, Americans, again. There just is. That's the reality of the world. And I wish him all the very best." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2009

"I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008

Just for giggles:

"Go f*ck yourself," -- Vice-President Dick Cheney, on the Senate Floor

Found this series of quotes posted in the comments section of the Economist, and found it sufficiently amusing that it deserved re-posting. - Guy

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homeward Bound

We are just waking up and getting our final internet time in before heading to the airport for our return leg. Just a quick 14-hour plane ride and we will be back in the good old USA!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Out and About

Joahnna and I spent yesterday walking around Melbourne, since she has mostly recovered from the plague. I was hungry so we stopped at the Lord of the Fries on the way to the Gallery of Victoria. I admit that I picked it just because the name was clever.

At the Gallery of Victoria we walked through their modern artists exhibition. Afterwards we stopped in their gift shop and had tea and carrot cake before heading back.

Rather than walking we decided to catch the tram on the way back. Melbourne has a number of trams criss-crossing downtown, and they also have a free city circle tram which runs around the downtown perimeter. It was a nice ride back, and also the robo-guide pointed out the sights as we circled back.

In the evening Glenn came by and took us out for dessert. We started out at Portorussells (?) where we Joahnna and I both had the spicy pudding, and afterwards walked to Max Brenner where we finished up with hot chocolate and cheesecake.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Plague

We moved from Gladdy's house to Glenn's, located in downtown Melbourne, last sunday. However apparently we took some unintended souvenirs along with us -- Joahnna and Zach came away with a cold. They both spent the day yesterday in bed, and the symptoms are starting to spread to the rest of the clan.

I spent the day walking around Melbourne along with Jazylette, JR, and Ning, and later met up with Josh and Kathy. The weather was blustery and cold so we spent a lot of the day wandering through the indoor malls in downtown.

Today Joahnna is feeling better, so we are heading out the gallery of victoria.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Shuttle Bus

This is a photo of the shuttle bus I have been tasked to drive for the next few days (driver shown for scale).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kangaroo Hunt

We've been here for a couple days so far but we didn't really feel like we were getting the full Australian experience, so this morning we told Gladdy that we wanted to go see some kangaroos. It turns out there is a park not too far from her house (Gladdy lives on the outskirts of Melbourne) with some free-range 'roos available, so we loaded up the van with Gladdy, her two children Caitlyn and Jakson, Jazylette, her two children Alton and Jaiden, Joahnna and their intrepid van driver, me.

We drove the van to the park, parked, and started looking for kangaroos. A short walk from the parking lot we started to see curious heads poking up over the crest of a hill. The kangaroos were skittish and maintained a distance of about a hundred feet, so we didn't get any good close-ups, but we did manage to get a few good shots with the zoom lens.

(If you look closely in the above photo, you can see a joey sticking its paw out of its mother's pouch)

Most of all we really felt that we're actually in another country. Of course after that we somewhat spoiled the effect by going to the local Westfield mall, grabbing lunch at (for Jaiden) Subway and picking up some groceries at Woolworth (aka Safeway).

Joahnna is cooking up her signature broccoli beef as I type. Tomorrow is Glenn's wedding, and Joahnna and I have a number of stops to pick up and drop off people throughout the day. Driving around today driving on the left was starting to feel more normal again, so I should be all ready for shuttle bus duty tomorrow.

Monday, August 09, 2010

On our way

We are on our way to the airport to catch our flight to Sydney. From there it is on to Melbourne to meet up with the family. Had a photo of us in the car but guess I can't upload from iPhone. :(

Monday, March 08, 2010

Teaching teaching

I read an excellent article in the New York Times about coming up with methods for teaching the next generation of teachers (or current teachers, for that matter).

The problem is, in a nutshell, that we don't know what makes good teachers good. Economists are happy with this, because they can set up an incentive structure, but as the article points out, teaching is already the 3rd largest profession in the U.S. There aren't a lot of other industries to steal talent from. That means that at some level, the only option is to make the teachers you already have better.

A great deal of the article is devoted to Lemov's Taxonomy. This is mainly the work of one man who set out to categorize the specific actions that good teachers take to maintain control of a class and teach effectively.

Perhaps this is the light at the end of the tunnel. At this point it looks like it needs some larger validation, but the promise of it is that if the taxonomy is correct and effective, you should be able to see results within a year, rather than within a generation.