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Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

While we were at the Rwenzori View Guesthouse, I picked up a book called “The Invisible Weevil,” by Mary Karooro Okurut. I finished it when we stayed at the Kingfisher Lodge on the edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The book gave me some background on life in Uganda since it became an independent country. I wouldn’t say I liked the book. I thought the story was contrived in a very convenient way so that all the points that the author wanted to convey could be easily included. T- read the book after I finished it and she said it sounded like it was based on many news headlines all tied together in a storyline. The characters are not well-developed. On the other hand I was appalled by many of the events in the story; rape, mass murder, AIDS, corruption, hatred, stupidity, ignorance. It’s all there.

Getting to know Uganda and a little of its story made me appreciate at least one part of US history. I’m sure terrible events did happen in the early formative years of the country even if those events aren’t very prominent in history textbooks. And let’s face it, there is corruption and violence in the USA today as well. We are not exempt, nor are we “better.” But one thing I feel is special, is the precedent that George Washington set by stepping down from the presidency instead of trying to stay in office indefinitely. It is even more impressive that he behaved that way when there was no law limiting the number of terms a president could hold office. He may not have won if he ran again but he also didn’t use corrupt means to try to hang on to power. In that act he set the USA on a course that many young nations don’t seem to be able to find. There seems to be a lamentable tendency for people to accept when their heroes of independence set up a new dynasty.

Some people may say that this is due to an ignorant and uneducated people or leaders. Maybe. I don’t believe the people of the early US were any less ignorant. But I do think young nations would do well to find the most reluctant statesmen (or women) as their new leaders. Power may change them when they have it but at least you start with a person who doesn’t want to be a tyrant or dictator or king.

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During our time in Paris I read the book I picked up in Geneva while visiting CERN called “A Zeptospace Odyssey, A Journey into the Physics of the LHC,” by Gian Francesco Giudice.  Most of the first part of the book, I was keeping up with the analogies and feeling like I was learning something about quantum theory etc.  Now that I’ve finished the book, I think I need to read it again, because I didn’t absorb all the information.  I had tried to read about some of the seemingly crazy phenomena that happen at the quantum scale (or in zeptospace) in another book.  And I thought that this book by Giudice did a better job of explaining some of those phenomena.  But after explaining the Standard Model, the book goes into the subjects that are still being studied; the unknowns that the LHC is to explore.

I think it is an interesting topic and the book lays to rest all the chatter about how the LHC may create black holes that will destroy the world and all of us.  I had a hard time believing that such a thing as the LHC could be real; that the technology and the observations are not all just fiction.  On the other hand, I am convinced that while there is huge expense of money and energy in developing and running the LHC it does have the capacity to advance more than just science.  There are so many other ways that a project like the LHC can contribute to society as the book does a good job to illustrate.

I am particularly interested in the idea that the GRID could be another development on par with the Internet and World Wide Web and that it builds on those technologies/ideas.  My main observation in regards to the GRID is that while it could improve access for more people to computing resources, I am, in general, inclined to think that decentralized resources are better for people in the long run.  I’m not sure my criticism of the GRID idea is really justified (maybe I don’t understand it well enough).  I thought of the GRID idea as analogous to the electricity grid that is used say in the USA and most developed countries.  While it is certainly reliable and has contributed a lot to development, it also breeds a lack of understanding of the resources being used and almost encourages wasteful usage (e.g. the energy consumption in the  USA).  The electricity company makes more money the more you use right?  So with regards to the electricity grid, I think that if each of us had to have and maintain our own electricity producing equipment we may be more conservative in our consumption.  Maybe the availability of GRID computing resources will encourage similarly wasteful usage of computing which would, possibly, also create more energy demand.

Well, I’m sure my reservations won’t stop the forward progress of the computing industry…

Anyhow, the book was interesting and like I say, I’ll probably read it again.

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World Cup Blues

I am sad tonight because Brazil is out of the South Africa World Cup.  I think they were the better team.  Holland came out playing the referee from the first whistle.  I thought the referee was biased.  Countless fouls against Brazilian players went without a whistle and where a card seemed warranted it usually didn’t appear.  The other direction there was whistle after whistle and cards – a red card to boot.  Holland’s first goal came from a free kick that the replay showed was a theatrical dive by Arjen Robben – either that or sliding over someone’s toe from left to right really does cause them to jump up in the air, kick both legs back and flop on the ground with arms raised above their heads.  The laws of physics don’t apply at every scale I guess.  I used to think Robben was great.  Now, I would put him in the same category as Cristiano “don’t touch me because I’m made of glass” Ronaldo.   It’s ironic that Robben declared recently that he isn’t, in fact, made of glass.

Boo!

T- is even more sad because she had Brazil, Italy and USA to cheer for and all three are out.  Ghana and Spain are our new surrogate teams.

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4:30AM in Helsinki:

It is 4:30AM and I am writing this post at the lobby of our Hostel in Helsinki.

The trip is going well so far although we are both feeling quite tired. I started to notice the age in my body, he he he. Some differences are good others not. I can now understand the significance of jet leg. Well, I am not yet sure if that is the case or if it was all the snoring symphony in the room to blame. But we have not slept at all, therefore we are awake at the lobby at 4:00.

The Bags:

So far so good. I wish they were lighter as it is recommended that the backpack should be around 15% of your body weight – I tried but after several cuts on my packing list I decided that 20lbs was good enough and I should work on the other number in the equation – let’s see if I can put some weight.

My hubby is also carrying 20 lbs. The only difference is that in top of that, I am taking 14 lbs on my camera backpack. Ixe…

The Flight:

We arrived at the Miami International Airport with plenty of time and everything went very smoothly with the check-in. The flight was also good without much turbulence but my seat… I had the mid-row and oh boy, I am small but I felt so crunched. I could not move, therefore I did not sleep at all!!!

The flight left 1 hour after schedule. Hubby took quite good naps and went almost oblivious of the activities in the flight. A boy 3 rows behind us was in very bad shape and had 3 seizures. A four person team of doctors and nurses provided assistance during the flight but things did not seem to get much better. Once we arrived at Paris there was a team of paramedics waiting for our flight. I hope things got better after they finally reached the hospital. From what I got it was a mum with two boys. One of the boys was such a sweetheart completely glued in the arms of one of the doctors.

Connections:

From Paris – we were not impressed by Paris (just kidding) we got our flight to Helsinki. The flight was good and I got sleep a bit. It is though hard to believe that one day has already gone by.

Helsinki, FI:

In another post.

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Test Run

We leave today.  We did a test run on the train yesterday with all our luggage.  While in Fort Lauderdale we had trimmed down some things from our bags.  But just walking from the car to buy the train ticket to the bench to wait for the train was enough to convince us that it would be good to lose a few more pounds.  It’s hard because we really have very few clothes packed at this point.  All the other stuff feels like essentials.  And all those other things serve to make you feel secure.

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Since we moved out of our apartment last weekend, we’ve stayed at my parents’ house and in a garage apartment behind my grandparents house. The whole time we’ve been trimming down our luggage to the bare essentials for the trip and finishing up with the remaining details. Every day has been a little less busy than the day before. Today, our last Saturday in Florida, there were no items on our to-do list. We had a barbecue with some friends in the afternoon.

The location in Fort Lauderdale was fantastic, right near downtown and the beach. Yesterday we walked around the East Las Olas and Riverwalk areas of downtown Fort Lauderdale. We walked about eight kilometers in all. We were four blocks from home when the rain started. We stood under a covered driveway and watched as the water rose almost to the top of the curb. After the rain stopped I walked the last four blocks to home barefoot. I didn’t want to have soaking wet shoes two days before we take off as these were the only shoes I would bring on the trip.

We also spent some time with my grandparents. They told us stories about their younger days: the risks they took when they moved here; the crazy ideas my grandfather had to buy a chicken farm or a junk yard; how my aunt picked out the house here in Fort Lauderdale; how they had a two-year plan and always had a backup plan if things didn’t work out.

The wife says that have some of the character traits of my grandfather. I can see some of my wife in my grandmother. Staying here was good for us. It gave us a chance to take care of ourselves in unfamiliar conditions and without any routine to rely on. We are not trying to do much. Maybe the heat has helped to slow us down.

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Homeless

We got rid of our other car.  And, we are out of the apartment.  It may not sound like much.  I’ve moved countless times.  But this was not a typical move.  We were trying to downsize from a full house and garage to carry-on luggage.  We’re not all the way there yet.  But we are close.

We visited some friends last night.  The steak and the company was great.  We also got to see the Fox.  It seems like she hasn’t been too much of a pain.  We saw her spot under the table and her bed where she has her stock pile of bones that she finds in the house.  Greedy.

The news from Brazil is that Pipa is in love with BB.  Well, maybe BB is in love with Pipa.  Quem sabe.

For a few days we are here with our parents.  We’ll see how the week goes.  We’d like to stay with grandparents for a few days before we leave on the trip.

All is going well so far.  I’ve officially stopped working.  But, there was no shortage of work this weekend.  We got a few more things to do, but I think our pace will be more relaxed starting from now.

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