Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Oh, blog, blog, blog. I've got a lot to get out of my system. I've been without an Internet connection for a while, so you're about to read a backlog of blogs.

A blog jam, if you will.

Jeez, I kill myself sometimes.


As the Washington trip draws to an end, I find myself planning for the next round of my working life. I specifically took a day off after my arrival back in Calgary to decompress from the vacation, gather my thoughts and prepare to go back to work. I am making real plans to be successful in my career. And where is that going to take me, you might well ask. Now that would be telling, wouldn't it? :-)

I enjoyed watching other parents deal with their children on this trip, and reflect back on my own parental skills. I saw good and bad practices exhibited, but I revelled in the fact that for this week, I was just a casual obsverver. I consider myself a talented parent. I wanted to joke around and talk with kids, but that would be teaching bad tricks (trust of strangers). I did get a chance clown around, thanks to a like-mided parent. One morning, as I walked up to the elevator, I spotted a dad that was roughly my age, and he had two kids (about 5 and 7 years old) in tow. As I approached, he said to them, "... now, this man is going to be your new dad." I looked at them with a quickly manufactured stern face and quipped, "I hope you two are good at keeping your room clean." They looked a bit surprised, but I think they were used to their dad kidding around with them. It was a nice way to break the ice - I ended up chatting with the man for a few minutes before we each went on with our days.


I bought a book while shopping at a science-oriented store. It's called "What Einstein Told His Barber", and my instant interest and the ease with which I fell into reading it front to back in four days is pretty typical of my style of generalist knowledge. The book has nothing to do with Eistein or his barber (if he even had one) - it is a big FAQ of common, why-does-that-happen questions and answers that Einstein (had he been asked) would have given his barber.
"How does a flame know which way is up?"
"Does 100% humidity mean 'under water'?"
"Why does the shower curtain want to stick to your leg when you take a shower?"
... stuff like that. I found it fascinating. It really underscores my learning style. I like to learn about scientific principles when they have a practical application, and I like to put them into a framework of greater understanding. I would have been a really fun high school teacher. Too bad the pay for that position is so poor, or I'd be doing it in a flash.

One of the things I missed while I was away was ... music. As we were checking out of our hotel, I discovered that there was a piano in the lobby. I couldn't resist opening the keyboard case and banging out a quick tune. I didn't care who was paying attention - if felt good just to play. I don't think I get enough music in my life. I envy my brother, who takes one evening a week to have his music, in the form of a Friday-night jam session with the garage band that he is in. I'd like to re-start my piano lessons (and don't get me started on why I'm not taking lessons right now - it's a long story).


Grant, I have a new standard to which I will measure your collection. The American History museum had a technology wing. I saw ENIAC, UNIVAC, an IBM punchcard reader (just like the one I used to use as a kid), an Apple I with a wooden case, one of the original sending and receiving units that Samuel Morse used (did you know that they orignally used blocks similar to an offset press to send messages?), and lots and lots of neat junk. Hours of fun.


The Holocaust Museum (visited yesterday, the second-last day of my Washington visit) was really, really heavy - heavy on the heart, heavy on the conscience. I was touched and deeply moved by the suffering that all of those poor souls went through. Strong lessons are hard to take sometimes. The horrors that I saw and felt at that museum are as close as I ever, ever want to come to what the Jewish population went through in the 1930s and 1940s. Even with such vivid evidence - pictures, video, artifacts - I found it hard to believe that any group of people could inflict such cruelty on another group. Everyone who has ever been tempted to classify or categorize any person or group should be forced to go through that museum, read the accounts, hear the survivor's voices crack with emotion as they tell stories that evoke anguish more than fifty years later. I hope the dread and sorrow I felt at that place haunt me as a reminder for the rest of my days. Even at that, I'll count myself as one who learned the lesson of tolerance the easy way.

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