Monday, December 31, 2007

Hell In A Handbasket - updated

Just got another e-mail from the IU Kenya folks. Looks like things are getting worse:

All:
The situation seems to be worsening in Kenya and in Eldoret. The only IU staff currently remaining in Eldoret are Joe and Sarah Ellen Mamlin. Shawn Woodin and his family along with 3 other ex-pats have evacuated Eldoret via charter plane and are heading to Nairobi looking for any flights out of the country. All travel to Kenya for IU Kenya participants remains off limits until further notice from our office. We will continue to update as more information becomes available.


We'll keep you updated.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hell In A Handbasket

For those of you following along at home, Kenya's having a pretty rough time with election results from last week. In all likelihood the incumbent president fudged a lot of votes in order to stay in power and has really pissed people off. You can read a detailed history of the current events from the New York Times here.

Also, we just got the following via e-mail from the IU Kenya folks:

All:
Due to the Presidential Elections on Dec 27 and the resulting unrest due to Pres. Kibaki claiming victory and being sworn to begin his 2nd term, we are suspending all travel to Kenya until further notice. Bob & I will be in daily communication with Joe and Shawn and will keep all informed about the situation on the ground in Kenya. Please do not request information from Shawn as this may quickly overwhelm the communication capabilities at this time.

We will update all via this distribution list on a daily basis and are optimistic that the situation in Kenya will stabilize quickly and we can once again support rotations to Kenya.

We hope that things calm down, but we're not about to go if it's unsafe, so we'll keep you updated here.

--Marc and Lisa

Friday, December 21, 2007

One Laptop per Child

OLPC Laptop

I'm writing this post from an XO laptop. One of our friends here in town got one through the give-one-get-one promotion (Only open through Dec 31!). My review of this way cool dude follows.




Hardly Limited

The whole thing is solid state, and encased in what looks like a pretty child/element proof case. It's a little hard to use as the keyboard is small, but that might get better with use. It worked right out of the box with my wireless usb wheel mouse which is pimp. It's got a webcam, microphone, sd card slot, and three usb slots. The usb slots can be used for hardware, or upgrading or repairing software with a usb flash drive. It really is pretty zippy for the limited hardware.

Sweet as Sugar




The window manager (sugar) is completely new and different from mac or windows. There are hard keys on the laptop for going back to the home screen (seen above) and it's really easy to see what you have running (the icons surrounding the XO guy in the middle. All of the available apps are the icons across the bottom. The networking is pretty easy too, however one limitation is that it really only connects to ssid broadcast access points with the gui. I had to drop down to the terminal to sign on to our home network. Another cool feature is that you really don't have to explicitly save. Whenever you close an application the current state is saved to your journal. You can return there at any time and go right back to where you were.


Activities Galore
Some of the activities are really cool including a kind of graphical logo called Turtle Art:



There is another activity that is really cool called Pippy, which is an interactive inroduction to the python programming language.



There are at least 3 different tools to create music including an application that allows you to graphically mess with fm synths, reverb, and other cool toys. There's even an oscilloscope that uses the built-in mic for input!



Using the browser, you can download other software too including an old version of SimCity and dedicated gmail and google maps clients.

There are a couple of other cool apps. Tons of the coolest features don't become evident until you have a bunch of these little guys around.

Final Impressions

First off, the open platform is simply amazing. There is a button on the keyboard that will show you the source for most of the applications! Since it's built with Linux, they have really been able to leverage some cool projects. Currently, it's definitley an early adopter type product with a few bugs (we crashed the music app pretty easily). The ones that we get here in the states don't come with the solar panel or hand crank chargers *bummer*. Overall, I can definitley see where this little guy could change the world, like cellphones have.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sustainable?

Frequently, I find myself struggling, trying to explain my diet to other people. It really has a complex underpinning which is difficult to describe in a short period of time, and also so foreign that most people blow me off as crazy.

Michael Pollan does a good job of shedding light on two current affairs in an article in the New York Times: Our Decrepit Food Factories - New York Times

Just one reason why I stay away from CAFO piggies.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Human Spirit

Just read a story over at BBC World and it reminded me why we go to Kenya.

Stories like these illustrate the perseverance of the human spirit despite unimaginable adversity.

Enjoy!

--Marc