Thursday, July 26, 2007

One Laptop Per Child

When I first heard about the One Laptop Per Child initiative, I was a bit skeptical. For those that are unfamiliar with this program, it is basically an initiative to provide inexpensive laptop computers to children in developing countries. According to the website for the program (, "Most of the nearly two–billion children in the developing world are inadequately educated, or receive no education at all. One in three does not complete the fifth grade. The individual and societal consequences of this chronic global crisis are profound. Children are consigned to poverty and isolation—just like their parents—never knowing what the light of learning could mean in their lives."

Sure, there's really nothing you can disagree with in this claim. But is providing these children with a laptop computer really the best way to combat this problem? Immediately, 2 major problems came to mind.

First, wouldn't there be other aspects of education that could be invested in rather than the development and purchasing of these computers? You know, those small issues such as books, teachers, schools, etc. It seems to me that the inadequate education in these countries exists largely because the country does not have the educational infrastructure nor the resources to provide an education for its children, and not necessarily because the kids are having trouble connecting to Wikipedia. But perhaps this is a better approach, because it is apparent that the average American is outraged when someone tries to open a new school in Africa to provide a quality education for students (see Oprah - nasty blog comments). The whole laptop program also seems to have an aura of a very insular, short-sighted American mindset. It doesn't even seem like the computers are all that well-made, as the power generator hand-crank broke off in Kofi Annan's hands as he tried to demonstrate how it is used.

So this led me to my second problem with the program. The computer is a stripped-down version of laptops that you or I would be accustomed to seeing. No peripheral drives, memory supplied by flash cards, etc, all leading to a much lower price than we would be accustomed to. The goal is to get the cost down to $100 per laptop. Now $100 is far cheaper than any laptop that the western world can ever find, but it still seemed like a good amount of money for someone in a developing, third-world country - perhaps because $100 is still a decent amount of money to someone living on a postdoc salary. So I did a little research to find out how far $100 could go in an African country. With a little help from Google, I was able to find out that the average Ethiopian earns an annual income of $100. So does this mean that the average Ethiopian should do without everything for a year just to buy a laptop. Supporters of the initiative are quick to point out that these laptops would be sold to governments to distribute to children, but wouldn't this money still be better served to improve education, health care, and providing food for the population? It seemed obvious to me that these laptops would be quickly found on the black market, sold in exchange for enough money that could be used to feed a family for a year. And where would these laptops wind up? Probably some neo-hippie in Madison or Berkeley would be using one while sipping a latte made with organic, shade-grown coffee beans at the local coffee shop.

Now what I didn't consider (and I must say that I'm rather disappointed that this didn't occur to me) is that these laptops might not even be used for educational purposes. This third option should have been abundantly apparent to me, as I often spend far too much time checking out sites like,, and more recently, facebook while at work. Could the children using these $100 laptops use them for something that's not education-related? I came across some news in support of this possibility the other day on Yahoo, where evidently some students in Nigeria were caught surfing the interwebs for pornography. I suppose that some might consider that to be educational....

Monday, July 23, 2007

Books on Tape

My boss swears by books on tape. She buys alot of them and she told me I could borrow some anytime for my commute or for traveling to see Jason. I took one with me to Missouri this weekend. Even though Jason was with me, he said he was tired. That way, he could sleep and I could listen to the book.

The book I borrowed was Tess Gerritsen's "Body Double." Maybe its because so many people I know are pregnant but this book freaked me out. I am so glad I didn't borrow it for a trip that I was taking alone! I think I would enjoy reading it better. Unfortunately the voice on the CD's was Anne Heche... I could think of worse voices to hear... Rosanne Barr or Fran Drescher come to mind.. but her voice became a little annoying. If you are up for a good thriller, and you are not pregnant, you could give this book a try.

Old Missouri

Jason and I headed to Columbia this weekend for Bec and Cameron's wedding reception. We had a great time and saw lots of old friends.

We got into town on Friday, headed to a BBQ, then to Louis and Jen's house (they were great hosts.. and we paid them in cheese!), then to Cooper's landing for the Thai food that I have missed since I left Columbia. I couldn't believe how much Columbia has grown since I left.. I haven't even been gone for 2 years!
Saturday we had breakfast at the old Chesapeake bagel place, now B&B. Different name, same place. They still have trivia questions for free bagles. It was so nice to have a bagel place right across the street! Then I had lunch with my old lab after they were done in the field. Then we relaxed a little before heading to dinner at Jazz (I had a fried oyster Po'boy..mmmmm) and we even saw some old friends we played softball with. Joel was playing guitar at Jazz (he and his band played at our wedding cocktail hour).

Then came the reception at the alumni center. It was great to see so many old friends and I think a good time was had by all... so good that there was an after party at the Heidelberg.. we closed it down.
Sunday we had brunch at Boone Tavern and then headed back to Cooper's Landing for a boat ride on the Missouri. I think I am still recovering from the trip but I am so glad we went!

For more pictures from our trip, click here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Old friends, food, and CHEESE!

This weekend, I made my first of many trips from central Iowa to Madison Wisconsin. It was not before I had lunch with a couple of friends from Missouri. Tom, Alberto and Natalie were all in the area for various reasons but we got together for lunch on Friday with a couple of Tom's friends. It was a nice time to catch up although I will see them again this weekend... but it is always good to see (and hear from) friends from grad school.

As for the road trip to Wisconsin, I think I shuffled through my entire ipod... I just wasn't in the mood to listen to anything in particular and I sort of have ADD when it comes to music. Once I got to Wisconsin, I relaxed at home for a while but we made it out to see the movie 'Knocked Up.' It was pretty funny, not as good as 40 year old virgin but it is definitely worth seeing. Then we had some burgers from Dotty Dumpling's Dowry.

Before I headed back to Iowa, I wanted to pick up some cheese to take to lab (and keep for myself). We went to one of our favorite cheese and produce stores. I got some great cheese.. butterkase and gouda.. but I had to laugh at this sign.
I always thought it was a little crazy that they actually play those commercials in Wisconsin!

Friday, July 13, 2007


The news arrived today that Rickey Henderson has been hired to the coaching staff of the New York Mets. You know, the team that knocked the Braves out of the top spot in the NL East last year. Man, how I love it when someone beats up on anything coming out of Georgia. But I digress...anyway, it did get me thinking about Rickey in his heyday. I don't really remember his best seasons in the early 80's when he made stealing over 100 bases in a season seem routine, although I think he came close to those stats in the late 80's as a member of the Yankees. I do remember how he made it look so easy though. Whenever he was on the bases, the game changed. Suddenly, the batter didn't seem nearly as important as Rickey leading off of first, just daring the pitcher to throw the ball. If there was ever a time that it would be relatively easy to be a major league batter, it must have been when Rickey was on base. He was so distracting to the pitcher that the batter must have had better pitches to hit.
In the late 90's as Rickey's performance began to decline, so did the art of base stealing. Everyone seemed to be caught up in the power displays of McGwire and company that stealing bases and stretching base hits into extra bases seemed to disappear. Everyone was trying to hit the ball out of the park. Heck, Nike even had a memorable commercial back then starring Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux trying to hit it out of the park. I believe the commercial was called something like "Chicks Dig The Long Ball".
If Rickey was best know for his prowess on the base path, he was almost as famous for talking about himself in the 3rd person. Always something like "Watch out, Rickey's going to steal second". I tried finding some quotes online, but the best I could come up with comes from just a few years ago when he called the San Diego Padres GM to let him know that Rickey still wanted to play. "This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball." Classic.
I don't know what Rickey Henderson will be like as a coach. I'd like to think that he might be a good influence on some of the younger players on the team. He's been a "special instructor" for the past couple of years in spring training, and he's been often attributed to the improvements seen with Jose Reyes, the current shortstop and leadoff hitter for the Mets (not to mention the major league stolen base leader). The Mets also have a few young guys coming up that could certainly benefit from that kind of instruction - especially Carlos Gomez, who I hear is even faster than Reyes. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Hopefully it will be better than Rickey's stint with the Mets as a player around the beginning of the decade. That didn't go so well. I think the end was in 1999, when during the playoffs against Atlanta, he and Bobby Bonilla were playing cards in the clubhouse rather than associating with the rest of the team.
Finally, I came across a funny little article on ESPN's page two that I think epitomizes the personality that is Rickey Henderson. Enjoy....

friday Feast number ???

This one is actually from a couple of weeks ago but I never answered it and I don't like today's questions
How many pieces of jewelry do you wear most days?

2- engagement ring and wedding ring

What is your favorite instrumental song?

I don't know the name of it but the song at the beginning of Field of Dreams.. I LOVE french horns.

Who has a last name that you like?


Main Course
Name a popular movie you’ve never seen.

Star Wars.. pretty much any of the first trilogy (as far as I can remember)

Fill in the blank: Nothing makes me ___________ like ____________.

cringe, cotton balls (its a long story)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Welcome to Iowa

Today was moving day. I have to say it went pretty well but we didn't really move a whole lot and I think we may have picked one of the hottest days of the year (at least so far). We made it safe and sound. Jason will drive back to Madison tomorrow and I will start my new job on Monday. I don't have any exciting thoughts, stories, or recipes to share right now (although I have many to catch up on later). It is nice to be back in Iowa, it has been 7 years since I have called it home (it would be better if Jason were calling it home as well). Of course my sister handed me a request for Grand Jury Duty the within an hour of walking in the door.. just my luck!

We had dinner with Nathan, Heather and Ella at a Mexican restaurant in town that was quite good, although it always bothers me that they bring out the food almost immediately after you order it.

Oh, and by the way, if you want to make fun of the Iowa motto go ahead but you should take into account that before "Fields of Opportunities" it was "We Make You Smile."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Birthday America

I can remember when I was a kid in my hometown. The Fourth of July meant one thing.. candy. There would always be a parade with lots of candy. The holiday meant hanging out on the town square and enjoying the day with the others in my hometown. There would usually be some form of entertainment. I can remember one year when someone was singing the national anthem, I was there with Jamie, I think... if it wasn't you Jamie, I'm sorry. We were both singing along. I knew at that time I wasn't (and was never going to be) a good singer, although I can sometimes carry a tune, the national anthem is probably one of the hardest songs to sing. But Jamie and I sang our little hearts out along with the music. Until this older woman came up and tapped us on the shoulder and told us that it was so disrespectful to our country to sing like that. I was so embarrassed. My grandma knew who she was and told us not to worry about it but I can still remember the red nail polish on that first finger in my face. I wasn't trying to insult our country. At that time in my life, the US was perfect in my mind. Of course, I still had things to learn about government and international politics. Weren't there kids around doing much worse things than singing off key?
Today I am sure that I will hear Ray Charles' "America" and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" and yes, the National Anthem about 100 times. Will I sing along? Sure.. but in my car with the windows up or quietly under my breath. Would I tell some kids to stop singing along because they are being disrespectful? No way.

If anyone is interested in more pictures from last weekend, you can see the wedding pictures here and more Breezy Point pictures here.

As for our plans today... I seem to be a little under the weather. However, I think we will make an afternoon game of kickball with our softball team followed by a BBQ and of course the fireworks. Happy 4th of July everyone!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Holiday weekend

Jason and I have had a busy weekend. We traveled to NY for what was supposed to be 5 days. As an earlier post mentioned, we arrived on Friday instead of Thursday. It cut a little into our relaxation time, but we have still had a great time.
On Friday we came in and I went shopping with Natalie for a dress to wear at the wedding on Saturday (there is nothing like last minute shopping!) and Jason relaxed. Then we went out with some friends and left the next morning for a wedding in White Plains. Sunday we headed to meet Jason's parents, brothers and other extended family at their beach house at Breezy Point. It was beautiful outside and I only got a little sunburned... I must have forgotten to put sunblock on my right foot! Then it was time for a relative's 65th birthday party and 4th of July fireworks over the bay (the bay is on one side of the island and the ocean is on the other). I will post more pictures when we get home. I hope everyone has a great holiday!

Just a picture of all of us at the birthday party.