The Important Work of Our Congress

Saturday, May 12. 2007
While looking up some more some recent congressional activity, I came across this little gem. I tell you, I'm so glad that our elected officials are so busy making the lives of Americans better. I mean ... how would we have gotten by without this one?

Recognizing the 70th anniversary of the Idaho Potato Commission and expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that an Idaho Potato Month should be established.

To spare you the reading, I'll hit the highlight:

"Whereas the State of Idaho's unique climate of warm days, cool nights, mountain-fed irrigation, and rich volcanic soil is conducive to growing world-renowned potatoes;

Whereas Idaho potatoes are top-selling and highly recognized potatoes in the United States due to their consistently great taste, versatility, and nutritional content;"

Wow. If you're curious, I came upon that while looking up stuff relating to a new executive order providing for the continuation of government in the case of emergencies. It got a lot of press on (a social news site), so I decided to check it out myself.

Back to politics

Saturday, May 5. 2007
I've been catching up on news lately. I had a massive post all done up, but no time to write it with job stuff happening. But I thought I'd post this. In addition to the sponsor, it has two co-sponsors. I read the text and don't think anything is provable enough to stick, but it is interesting all the same.

Thanks to my bro for showing me how to look this stuff up.

EDIT: updated the link since it timed out. I think this one looks more permanent.

Some pictures added

Thursday, April 26. 2007
Pictures from Greece.
I was able to get all of the images from spring break taken with my big camera up today. Unfortunately, my battery ran dead before I could get all of the little camera pictures up. So there will be a few more from Santorini. It was a marvelous way to be unproductive and avoid doing real work. This is just what happens when I get near fast internet.

Pictures from Amsterdam
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the images. They were certainly a lot of fun to take.

Second Life

Monday, April 23. 2007
My roommate brought an interesting "game" to my attention today called, "SecondLife". The basic premise of the game is that you are a person living in a world (populated by virtual representations of other real people). Revolutionary, right? This one seems to be done well, though. You can create/sell stuff and there seems to be a whole economy in place.

So I know I'm a weird kid. I thought marcoeconomics was one of the coolest classes I took in college (and I took a SCUBA class). I had 3 immediate thoughts:
1) This is the perfect setting for people to perform experiments in economic policy that would be too devastating to try in the real world.
2) This is an interesting system were one could study creation of wealth.
3) How can I exploit this to make real money?

The last two really get me since I completely don't understand how the world economy is not a zero-sum game. It obviously isn't. Our living standards are way higher than they were 5,000 or even 200 years ago (on average, without addressing inequality which, I know, is a bad standard. look at ireland). Furthermore, this game's generation of "crap" seems to be pretty limitless. If I want to spend the time in the in-game 3D modeler, I can build it. And to make it nifty, I can program scripts to modify my object's behavior. Seeing as I've had a class in 3D modeling and plenty in programming, I deem that I could probably manage to sell something. People love spending too much money on useless crap.

And as I was playing, something REALLY odd hit me. I was speaking in spanish, and reading Portuguese. Let me clarify that have never studied Portuguese and couldn't speak it if my life depended on it. And the bits of spanish I didn't know, I was picking up from context. And this has happened before. Playing Battlefield 2 at different times, I was put into teams with people from different countries. Can gaming be a tool for second language acquisition? It might depend on what time you play, which leads me to another small point.

There are events (like yard sales) listed for specific times, in specific time zones. Coming to Ireland has made me acutely aware of bother language and time (or time zone) issues in communication. Working for a certain company in the past exposed me to the same issues. Could games be training youngsters in global economics/supply chains?

So lets review:
+ Exposure to market economics
+ learning about value-added through increased modeling/scripting proficiency. (to me, this would teach that knowledge leads to economic success, a lesson governments have been trying to teach for years)
+ exposure to multiple languages

Seems like a bargain if a kid were to leverage this for education. It has a few risks/downsides... but the exposure to real (and motivated .. ie, not chat rooms) language while never leaving your home could be invaluable.

By the way...

Sunday, April 22. 2007
The current slow-down in posts isn't due to a lack of things to say. It is due to my ongoing job-hunt. I find that it is in my best interest not to say some things I might have said earlier this year. Also, as my time here winds down, I have less time to keep this up (thus Greece pictures are STILL not up). As my year-long vacation comes to an end, so too will the Dublin stories. I haven't decided how I plan to keep this.

I'm going to Paris!

Thursday, April 12. 2007
One more travel destination before I go back to the US. Mixed emotions on going to a wonderful city and actually having to set foot in that country. I learned a little Greek, but I'm not learning French. And if they don't like it, I'll start speaking German.

Naw... just kidding. I'll feel pretty bad for not knowing French. I just need to learn other stuff between now and then.

Leaving the Islands

Wednesday, April 11. 2007
Transcribed from my notebook, written on 29 March 2007. Omissions/edits in brackets.

"I'm on the ferry headed back to Athens. Through the windows, I can see lights, but I don't know what they are. I've been lost since we stopped in Paros.

"I wish the ride were shorter... or at least less crowded. We left at 3:30pm and are scheduled to arrive just before midnight [turns out, we got in at 1:15am]. We've been picking people up at every island stop. The boat got crowded at Naxos and even moreso in Paros. For a while, we got kicked out of our random seat to our assigned ones. Then somebody tried to kick me out of that. Since we were hungry,we gave up and headed to the back of the boat for some food. Worst burger ever. We saw some of the MIT kids, though. Funny how similar our plans turned out to be. And now, I've found a quiet spot in the middle of the ship to just sit and relax a while longer (there is a drunk Greek man in my assigned seat that isn't keen on letting me sit in his section).

"I would have loved to keep exploring the islands, but there are certain comforts of home I am glad to be headed towards. Free internet, laundry, and the ability to flush toilet paper are high on my list of things to enjoy in a hurry. And drinking tap water. [Upon arriving at home in Dublin, I went into the bathroom, and flush a honkin' wad of TP just because I finally could.]

"On the whole, this vacation was exactly what I needed. I saw amazing and beautiful things, relaxed, slept, met fun people, and generally recharged for about a week and a half. To top it all off, I've seen two emails alluding to two possible job offers: a student position at SAS and a full time position in at Motricity [for which I'm past the tech test and onto the interview stages!]. I still need to jump through some hoops for both, but at least I'm hearing back. I was getting worried - might have had to find a summer job as a courier in Chicago or bartender in Ios.

"So now I can refocus. Finish classes, graduate, tour my parents around Ireland, and head home [err, scratch the parents, add Paris]. Maybe I can even manage a few day layover in Chicago for a quick little visit. The real world approaches fast; no need to encourage it to come any quicker."

Ios was fun

Wednesday, April 11. 2007
Transcribed from my notebook, written on 26 March 2007. Omissions/edits in brackets. Also, this is slightly out of order as I was on Ios before Santorini.

"Amanda's birthday was the day before our ferry ride to Ios. We were drinking appropriately hard. They woke up appropriately hung over. And Amanda spent the ferry ride in the head. We were all glad toget off the boat, but we had no idea where to get picked up. Fortunately, the owner of the hostel saw us and snared us.

"The view from the hostel was amazing. Well worth the hike through the town and up the side of the hill (through the old village). We spent both evenings at the hostel taking pictures of the sunsets. And after the sun wend down, the stars came out in their full glory. From my window, I could see Orion, the moon, and about a thousand other stars. My bed was under the window, so everything was framed in the [panels of the window].

"The second day was spent on ATV's (we had so much fun in Paros that we had to do it again). That was Sunday and Greek independence day. A lot was closed, but still beautiful. We found a beach on the other side of the island that looks like it would be packed during high season, but was completely empty. Actually , we had two adjacent beaches completely to ourselves.

"We didn't spend much time on the beach because the water was cold and we were hungry. Our quest for food landed us on the north-east side of the island in a restaurant in which our waiter got up from his meal with his family to help us. Some of the best food of the trip. We felt a little bad about interrupting, but he didn't seem to mind when we saw him at the bar later that night.

"Everyone showed up at Flames. The bar had opened just that night. We saw servers from 3 of 4 restaurants we ate at plus the bunch of MIT kids that were staying in our hostel. We all got pretty drunk again and ended up dancing. The 8 americans being crazy around a dozen or so calm locals. Let tourist season begin. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I starting getting hit on pretty hard by the blond. [Matt and Amanda rushed out to give me ... umm.. "room to work"].

"And then the blond girl threw up. outside the bar, indian-style. Dublin reflexes kick in[*]. I'd been friendly with the bouncer earlier. I told him [that if he got me a hose], I'd handle the clean-up, but he just waived me off and laughed. Next on the list: get her + her friends moving. Andother guy and I hooked her under the arms, lifter her, and walked her home where I'm told she passed out. This morning was a little strange - I think she's embarrassed. What she doesn't know is that this is a fairly average night out [...] and you don't loose points for that. I have to admit, my point system has changed a lot since moving to Dublin. There is a small chance I'll see them again (we're on the same island for a couple of more days), but I wouldn't be sad if that didn't pan out."

* Dublin reflexes really exist. There is a certain etiquette to being (or a friend being) sloppy drunk. And if you misbehave, there is a proper way to correct yourself to lower the chances of you a) getting kicked out, b) getting kicked out in a manner that will prevent you from going back and c) increasing you chances of getting into the next place. There are also certain care procedures that should happen once somebody gets a little too drunk. It's all very scientific.


Wednesday, April 11. 2007
Transcribed from my notebook, written on 26 March 2007. Omissions/edits in brackets. Also, this is slightly out of order as I was on Ios before Santorini.

"The ferry ride in today was pretty calm and pretty short. Arriving was a bit of a surprise, though. The boat pulled up to what looked like a shear cliff, but surprise - there was a port at the bottom[*]. We had no problem finding our ride and were on our way to the hotel/hostel in no time.

"The island itself is amazing - and totally different from Ios or Paros. It is much more up and down ("mountains" and ridges everywhere) and the land has an ash-like white color. Very apparent that this is/was a volcano. And I get to see all of this with a dog by my side listening to gentle waves breaking on the stones under this black sand beach.

"We have three nights here, but I'm not quite sure what we are going to do. Everything is just opening (the hotel we're at opened only hours ago), but nothing appears busy. We've been exploring islands for the past few days, which is fun, but I'm not sure how much more we can do. I figured an island this famous would have more,but maybe I should look in the guide book.

"One saving grace may be a group of girls staying where we are. They could just be some nice, new people with whom I can talk over a beer... or a mildly fruitier selection on the beach. New people are always fun + can usually be counted on for something to do when Matt and Amanda feel like sitting in the room and taking a nap [at this point in the trip, they were both pretty worn out]. I can't blame them for wanting to do nothing - I just prefer doing nothing on a beach it is unlikely that I'll ever see again. New people also let them have more "them" time. And that's fine with me. I can settle with sitting on a black beach sipping cocktails [...]. Life is good."

* A few weeks later, in the comfort of my apartment, I can across a CNN story telling of a Greek cruise ship that ran aground and sank in the Santorini harbor. This came as little surprise having seen the harbor (the old one is shallow and boats moor far away - the other is new & still under construction). Just an interesting side-note.


Wednesday, April 11. 2007
Transcribed from my notebook, written on 22 March 2007. Omissions/edits in brackets.

"We made it to Paros. It's not that Athens isn't lovely, that just wasn't the idea of the trip. Neither was a canceled ferry and a full-gear [roughly 45lbs of stuff] run to catch a rival ferry, but you gotta do what you gotta do. The ferry ride seemed short enough and we are here, now.

"I'm on the beach; the wind is strong enough to move my pen about . But I'm here to relax, [and I'm going to do it if it kills me]. The clouds will eventually break. And if they don't, I'm enjoying the wind. And the view. I'm sitting on a rock, back on a tree, gazing over the shallow end of a natural harbor. On the opposite hill rest dozens of cozy white houses with a few blue tops. It kinda is just like the postcard. At first, I wasn't blown away, but I'm beginning to appreciate the simplicity that seems to dominate this island. It is the perfect place to breathe fresh air, sleep in, and enjoy the little things that go unnoticed... like the ability to flush toilet paper down the john.

"I keep thinking about coming back. This was always planned to be a trial run; [my next trip will be the real deal]. No phone, no stress. Relatively cheap and absolutely stunning. So far, I've not been disappointed. [...]"

My Eurotrip

Friday, March 30. 2007
You've all seen the movie Eurotrip. Well, I just got back from one. Skeezy guys, long bus rides, sketchy/illegal cab rides, cancelled ferries and the inability to flush toilet paper for 11 days. Yeah. Stories and updates to follow shortly.

In Greece

Thursday, March 22. 2007
Made it past Athens and the Acropolis. In Paros, its raining. Tell you more later.


Sunday, March 18. 2007
I always say the weather in Ireland is crazy. Well the past 24 hours takes the cake. St. Patrick's day was warm enough (light coat weather) that turned from very sunny to pretty windy and rainy by about 11. By 12, the rain had all but stopped and it was pretty nice again. Today was sunny when I woke up. I went about consolidating arrangements for Greece, and then I got an IM from amanda. "Look outside." I pulled up my shade and it is SNOWING. And not just a little snow. More like, I-live-near-the-artic-circle-and-i-can't-see-50-feet snow. I haven't seen it snow like that since the ice storms that knocked power out to half of Hickory. And the wind was swirling all around. You could see shifts of snow from where the wind had switched back and compressed a few disperse flakes into a wall of snow. Also, snow isn't supposed to fall UP. UP I said. If you haven't heard it, you should listen to the Lewis Black stand-up segment on when he saw lightning during a snow storm. That was his signal that the weather was out of control. This is mine. 20 minutes after I was alerted to the snow, THERE WERE BLUE SKIES! What the ****? And now everything is gray again.

I'm going to Greece. Where the weather is predictable: warm.

Happy Paddy's Day!

Saturday, March 17. 2007
Happy Paddy's day ... from Ireland. Today was pretty crazy. Despite drinking last night, I had to get up early to get up early to get across town before the parade started. We watched the parade on TV because the streets were too **** crowded and the weather was ******. The girl downstairs later confirmed that we had done the right thing.

Ireland didn't win the six nations tournament due to France pummeling some crappy country, but it's all good. Duke lost. The bars were packed, mostly with American tourists (most of which made me ashamed to have my accent). It isn't that I'm ashamed to be American -- I love my country. It is just that some of the people aren't right. But every country has that, I suppose.

The Brazen Head was good again tonight. It is quickly becoming my favorite bar. Outdoor heating and plenty of seating go miles in my book. Plus I can order my drinks 2 people deep and get them 1 person deep. That's just good bar-tending ("Jameson & Coke and a Guinness, please "-- and the guy didn't bat an eye).

But now, I need to go to sleep. I have to do laundry and pack tomorrow. I ship out for Greece on Monday. I sure hope the money comes through quickly.

excerpts from an email back home

Friday, March 16. 2007
okay - you know I don't like to name names or anything like that, so I'm trying not to do so here (unless previously named -- I have my own rules). I'm being intentionally vague. The people who did all this know who they are, but nobody else does.

"Don't take the lack of updates as a sign that I'm slowing down; I've just been busy. This semester, off the top of my head, I've been to Spain, Sweden, and Amsterdam (the Netherlands). I just got back on Tuesday and am headed to Greece on Monday. Between travel, class and job hunting, I've just been busy.

"This week, in particular, has been pretty good. I went to amsterdam, which is an amazing city. I toured the house anne frank lived in (so now I've seen a hiding place, the nazi headquarters, and a concentration camp) and saw a Van Gogh museum. The stair cases in the buildings are so small that they actually have pulley systems on the top of the buildings to lift furniture up the the desired floor... think of those cartoons where somebody got smashed by a piano. They're a little less
far-fetched now. The red-light district was creepy. I seriously couldn't look any of the girls in the face. And they use all sorts of methods to get your attention.

"I came back and amamda's (amanda is a good friend of mine) sister and friends were here. [omitted] I played host to the 2 friends for 1.5 days. They were a lot of fun [... snip...] They had to catch a bus at 5am, so I "stayed up" with them to make sure they caught it (as I'm pretty used to 5am buses). [omitted]

"My ex-roommate got in today, and after [this morning's festivities] I met up with her for dinner and a few pints. And I just got back in. Tomorrow is St. Paddy's day (well, today is), and Ireland has a chance to win a big rugby tournament. The city was crazy after we beat England; I can't imagine what it'll be if
we win it all.

"So don't take the lack of updates as a lull. If anything, there is more going on. But it is almost 'normal' now... so I don't think to really write it. "

So that's what's been up. I'd like to write more, but I don't see it happening while I'm in Greece. Maybe when I get back. Only 2 months till this whole adventure is over. Wow...