Thursday, July 27, 2006

These United States

California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, ... and home. Finally finally home, after over a month of travelling, the latest being driving from San Francisco to Columbus with Oliver (with a whole two days reverie in Columbus between Shanghai and San Francisco). As much as I would like to, I don't have anything all that coherent to say, so I'm going to have to try to the bullet-format blog post ...

  • There is a lot more traffic on I-70 in St. Louis and Indianapolis than there is in Utah.
  • Hotels west of Denver are expensive.
  • The Mojave River looks pretty much like you'd expect.
  • Hoover Dam: Expect Delays, 2003--2008
  • What's in Kansas isn't all that bad; there just isn't much. Also, the slogan on the tourbook: "Kansas: As Big As You Think." And here we were hoping we were wrong ...
  • There are lots of ADULT SUPERSTOREs in Kansas and Missouri. The ones I wanted to visit were usually coupled with "JESUS SAVES Pornography Destroys" signs. Isn't free speech grand?
  • Limon, CO: Left In the Middle Of Nowhere
  • If the TripTik suggests going around Kansas City instead of straight through on I-70, you should take the suggestion.
  • Illinois and Indiana are really similar, except Indiana has worse construction delays.
  • There is a lot of empty space in this country. I hear all of this stuff about how the population is rising exponentially, but we really do have places to put them all, and it can't be that big of a problem, as long as we can feed them all and someone fixes the energy problem. Oh, and global warming, that's another thing we should fix. Not that I think people should be having so many babies per se, but I'm just saying, the US of A is still fairly large. I have also become much more aware of how little I know that I would like to: exactly how much land is unused in this country that could be used? How much is used for farming, how much for animal raising? How much would it cost to make trucking a purely local venture and make long distance transportation of goods be left on the trains? Would that really help the environment? Just how much of a water problem is there? I want to know numbers, and I am just now figuring out which questions to ask.
  • The new cool thing for cars to have is fans on their rear bumpers. They are shiny and spinny and very distracting.
  • Lanya has a kitty who likes to meow. And who bit my nose.
  • Delilah is incredibly easy to find on the radio, regardless of location.
  • Las Vegas is shiny. In more ways than one.
  • Bailey's Chocolate Bar in St. Louis is totally my kind of place, especially since it was Lanya's treat.
  • The City Museum, also in St. Louis, would be an excellent place to have some sort of event, like a wedding reception or a ring premiere.
  • The Glenwood Hot Springs in Colorado seems like it would be a fun place to go ... at night ... in the fall or spring when it's cheaper and there aren't kids around ....
  • Check the hotel room before you leave. Really.
  • Despite all of the talk about how different we all are, the United States is amazingly homogenous. We just need to communicate better is all. "I'm right; you're wrong," isn't exactly effective.
  • It's very strange to be exclusively with one other person for a week and then to all of a sudden have them not be around.
But now I'm home, and there is work to do. I currently have no trips scheduled. It's quite a relaxing feeling.

Monday, July 17, 2006

For Security Reasons

July 8, 2006; Fudan University, Shanghai, China
Backdated for reasons which will become obvious ...

Other background: I was in China for RSI (just like the one typically held at MIT, but in Shanghai, with Shanghainese students, instead), teaching useful science communcation skills, also known as LaTeX and how to give a presentation ...

Well, I'm stuck in the computer lab tonight until 10p.m. (it is currently half past three, but I'm expected to start answering more questions around five), so I figured I'd try to actually write up a blog post. Of course, there are all sorts of problems with this idea. First of all and are blocked in China. So... yeah. Other various problems I have mostly circumvented by giving in and bring my laptop, wisteria, into the lab today. Now let me explain this lab. Dell, being one of the corporate sponsors for RSI-Fudan, gave us 35 "state of the art" computers for the kids to do their projects on. Please ignore the fact that anything with a cathode ray tube quit being state-of-the-art around the turn of the century. On the other hand, the Dell guy who came to opening convocation brought with him a bag full of fifty 256Mb USB sticks, which has turned out to save our asses quite a bit as far as giving the kids a place to store their work. And, hey, I get one too! The other immensely interesting thing about this particular lab is that it is configured to only access websites that originate within China. In case you were wondering, there aren't many particularly useful English-language sites originating in China. So, after a lot of hoo-haa, we got a proxy server set up. But lots of sites are still blocked from this room. It's not a site, but ssh is also blocked, which is more than just mildly annoying. AIM is blocked, but jabber is not. Some sites are blocked only every now and then. Examples include such things as and Not that anyone would want to use those anyhow. Besides, if it's not working now, just keep trying, and it might work again in a little bit.

There are about ten computers in the RSI office which don't have these issues. The only things blocked on them are the things that are blocked throughout China, e.g., (Interestingly enough, is not blocked, and contains much of the same information as wikipedia... and googling ofte brings up a wikipedia result, but I'm just now allowed to actually view it. Or the cached page.) On the other hand, ... they all have viruses, which have already claimed at least one staff member's pictures from five weeks in India. That, and I'm stuck here, not there.

UPDATE: ooooh yeeeeah