I’m working on some server upgrades for a client, and kind of twiddling my thumbs while I wait for some of the processes to run. So I took a jaunt over to my favorite site for learning new and interesting things, Wikipedia.

Tonight’s fascinating thing I learned: there are fifteen different types of water ice. They’re all different “phases” of ice, formed at various temperatures and pressures (and transitions between temperatures and pressures, as it turns out).

In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle he invents something called Ice-9, and as it happens there actually is a substance called Ice-9– although thankfully it’s not the civilization-ending beastie Vonnegut describes. Some of the later phases of ice were discovered only a few years ago… demonstrating that there’s always something new to learn, even about things as seemingly commonplace as ice cubes.


It was almost exactly 17 years ago that I bought my first car. I was a junior in college and picked up a 1982 Nissan 200SX from a Turkish grad student who was moving back home and needed to get rid of it. A week after buying it, I drove to the Smoky Mountains for spring break and managed to completely bash in the driver’s door by hitting a guardrail at 60mph. It certainly gave the car class… or something… along with the fuzzy blue seat covers I installed to hide the awful coffee stains (or whatever) that were all over the real seats.

A few months later, my friends Sarah and Nat bought me a set of baby keys to hang from my rear-view mirror. They told me the keys represented the keys of Happiness, Life, Love, Luck, and Lust. (Yes, lust… hey, I was a 20-year-old male college student.) I dutifully hung them from my rear-view mirror, and a few years later when I traded in the Nissan for a Saturn I transplanted the keys. After totaling that Saturn and getting another one, I again moved the keys.

For 17 years those keys have hung in my cars, often prompting questions from passengers. Over the years, sitting in the sun, they faded until you couldn’t really read the writing on them and the once-bright baby colors had become a uniform shade of beige.

Now I have my fourth car, and as I was cleaning out my Saturn (with a bit of a tear in my eye– heck, I’ve had that car longer than I’ve had kids) I took down the keys and decided it was time to retire them. But the idea still brings a grin to my face, so I bought a new set of baby keys and labeled them.


I figured maybe Lust wasn’t the best thing to display in my car, and now that I’ve grown older I feel like wisdom might be more useful than luck. But the idea is the same. Who wouldn’t want to have, say, the key to happiness?

So here’s my new set of keys.

They proudly hang from the rear-view mirror of my car, and remind me of two awesome friends who had (and continue to have) just the right mix of humor, goofiness, and wisdom.


We’ve been without a pet for a bit over six months now, and Kyra’s been making her case for why our family needs a little critter running around. Finally Laralee and I relented, and yesterday I took the kids down to Westminster so they could pick out some rats.

Yes, that’s right: rats. It’s easy to associate rats with the sewer-dwelling disease carriers, but in fact they’re smart, social, and very friendly. Apparently with enough work you can train them to come when you call them, and Kyra even claims you can train them to use a litter box.

Apparently they do best if there’s at least two of them– solitary rats aren’t very happy or healthy– so we decided to get three so each kid has one of their own.

Zack picked the biggest one and named her Chocolate:

Alex’s is sort of medium-sized and named Coconut:

And Kyra picked the baby (about the size of a mouse) and named her Bella:

We picked up a decent cage for five bucks via Craigslist (which sure beat the hundred-dollar cages at the pet store!) and stocked it with a wheel, some boxes, a little hammock, and a bowl of rat pellets. Yum!

So far they’re actually quite fun. Who woulda thunk?


Even though we had snow on the ground yesterday, it all melted today and the weather was 65 and sunny. Perfect for a game of ultimate at lunch time. And with all the snow we’ve had this year, the grass is actually pretty green already and the ground was nice and moist without being soggy. In other words, time to play barefoot for the first time this season. Awesome.


So the iPad has hit the store shelves.

I’ve read a couple of articles that talked about how awesome it is, and how it’s really going to revolutionize stuff, and yada yada. I agree that it’s a new thing, and it’s all nice and shiny, and people are excited about it. But I also feel like in a year there are going to be ten competitors doing the same thing, and we’ll be able to choose what really fits us best.

Personally, I don’t think the iPad will fit me.

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing wrote a great piece about why it won’t fit him either. To quote:

Then there’s the device itself: clearly there’s a lot of thoughtfulness and smarts that went into the design. But there’s also a palpable contempt for the owner. I believe in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you can’t open it, you don’t own it. Screws, not glue. The original Apple II came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple II.

The way you improve your iPad isn’t to figure out how it works and make it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn’t a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it’s a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.

Time will tell whether Apple will succeed in the same amazing way they did with the iPod, or whether this will be just another yawn in computing history.


Day Five of spring break: the long trek home.

All went well, and we enjoyed the spectacular scenery along I-70 from the other direction. Dinner at Beau Jo’s pizza in Idaho Springs, which is always a hit. Now we’re back home and looking forward to sleeping in our own beds again.

Overall it was a great spring break.


Day Four of spring break: hiking at Snow Valley, which was decidedly not snowy. It’s a really cool area just outside St. George where petrified sand dunes provide miles upon miles of great hiking and climbing.

We had a few interesting spots where the climbing was a bit more challenging than some of the younger kids had anticipated, but made it through with only minimal scratches. And the weather was perfect.

To finish off the trip, we’ll be having take-and-bake pizza for dinner (yum!) and probably playing some board games or watching a movie this evening. Then it’s the long drive home tomorrow.


April 1 is always a fun day on the internets. Google– err, I mean Topeka– has pulled a great one today by rebranding itself and even offering a detailed press announcement by Eric Schmidt himself.

Also, I can’t resist: