Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Story of Innovation and Intuition...

As I mentioned before, I am currently reading the Harry Potter series. I have finished the Order of the Phoenix and after two of the longest books in the series I decided to take a break and read a book I saw on The Daily Show ( is it strange that I get a lot of my world "news" from that show, and that show keeps me some what connected to what is going on?) Anyways, I record The Daily Show on my computer every night and once in a while I will watch a couple episodes in a row.

One night when I was watching Jon Stewart do what he does, he announced that a 21 year old man from Africa, William Kamkwamba was his guest for that show. I never heard of this guy but I continued watching anyway, and I'm so glad I did.

It turns out that when William was 14 years old in Malawi, Africa he did something that would transform his village of Wimbe and his life forever. His family farmed in the village and with the new president in power farmers were no longer subsidized making it more expensive to buy maize, along with a drought that occurred in the early 2000s, the village and country were going through a famine. William was on his way to secondary school to continue his education he enjoyed thoroughly. His father couldn't afford the 80 dollars a year tuition for secondary school so William had to drop out.

Instead of going home and sitting around all day doing nothing, William went to the village library that was supported by American funds, and read books about physics and electricity, things that have fascinated him since he was a small boy. In a book named, Exploring Physics, he read about a windmill and learned how the windmill can harness the wind to produce electricity (just like a bike dynamo produces light when a person pedals). With
the diagram in the book William used parts from his home and a scrapyard near by to build his own windmill at the age of 14. His first windmill was able to light four bulbs in his parent's house and power two radios.

He was discovered by Americans that came to the country to see how their library was holding up. From there everything changed. He was invited to be a TEDster, at the annual TED conference in 2007 in Angola.

He has been all over the continent of Africa for schooling and all over the United States visiting people he met on the way. He is currently a student in Johannesburg, South Africa at the African Leadership Academy, and would like to attend a university in the states.

His story, to me, is one that I wish we heard about happening in the United States, because I believe we are missing that type of drive and innovation. We don't have as many kids that want to be scientists or mathematicians as we used to when we were a growing triumphant nation.

Not only did he build a windmill, but in the book you get a look into his life and how he was always interested in how things worked and didn't fully believe in the "magic" that explained events in Africa. He fully understood how to make a circuit breaker, the difference between AC and DC, and so much more that I didn't have the faintest idea about when I was 14.

This book is truly inspirational to anyone who reads it. If you want to learn more about William and his ventures, here are some links:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Green Bay 21, Chicago 15...

The weekend started with a trip down to Platteville (because it is so on the way to Green Bay) to see Mark's parents. We ate at Uno's, not the chain, and it had some of the best deep dish pizza ever. Went out to downtown Platteville and I can't understand why UW-P isnt the top university in Wisconsin. They had a Brother's Pub....Anyway, on Saturday we went to see the world's largest "M", it stands for Mining.

We went up to Oshkosh to see a buddy on Saturday. He was at a Bacon party so we met him there then went to the campus bars later. At the end of the night, like most nights in Oshkosh we were at Toppers. Sunday we drove up to Green Bay to tailgate before the game, so with a 30 rock of Keystone Light and some paint we got busy.
We had two Packer fans, a Bears fan and a Vikings fan (all we needed was someone to paint themselves in Blue and Silver, but we didnt have any takers). After the picture below we put on some numbers (6 for Cutler, 85 for Jennings, and 4 for Favre, Ray was a goal post) and played some older tailgaters in a game of two hand touch. We won.
The seats were pretty good, 25 yard line, 15 rows up on the Bears side of the field.
I'm sure everyone knows how the game turned out but if not I have a video that pretty much sums it up.
After the game we were cheering and ran into Green Man. Apparently that guy gets paid by Always Sunny to go to games. Pretty nice gig.

In the end it was an awesome weekend and I think it took me until late yesterday or early today to recover from it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A book review/suggested reading...

I'm sure you have seen in the past year the commercials for the movie with Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx about a reporter/columnist who meets a homeless man and they become best friends. The movie is called "The Soloist" and after being led on about a night out in Minneapolis with some friends I havent seen in awhile, I went to McDonalds and searched the movies in Red Box. That one popped up so I decided to give it a go. Tried watching it with my mom the next day but she was out within ten minutes of the movie starting so I sat there and basically watched it myself. It was a decent movie and I knew it was based on a book so I decided to look into it more. There were some interviews and a "60 Minutes" special on it and I felt that the movie didnt give the whole story justice.
I had just finished "The Prisoner of Azkaban" and had to go into Minneapolis for a meeting, had time between the meeting and a grill out some friends were having so I went to Target to pick up "The Goblet of Fire." Sold out. I looked for "The Soloist." Dont carry it. So instead of paying 8 bucks for it I had to pay almost double at stupid Barnes and Noble. Anyways good thing "The Goblet of Fire" was sold out because when I got back to Hudson it was waiting for me on my desk (I got my mom hooked on the Harry Potters series too).
I dont know if it was because I wanted to finish the book really quick so I could start the next HP or if it was just a really good read, but the pages just flew by and I couldnt put the book down.
Steve Lopez works for the LA Times and finds himself befriending a man, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, who happens to be homeless and have paranoid schizophrenia, he also was a student at Julliard in the 70s and can play any string instrument amazingly along with the piano, trumpet and flute. Mr. Ayers loves music and when he is playing or listening his mind is clear and everything is at peace. However he isnt always playing or listening to music and thats when the schizophrenia kicks in. Their friendship grows as Mr. Lopez slowly tries to help Mr. Ayers treat his disease and at times seems like all is lost when Mr. Ayers lashes out. It not only is a story of two men but points out that LA is home to 90,000 homeless people, many of which are mentally ill and the system in place to help them isnt.
I also like the way Steve Lopez wrote the book. He doest try to romanticize the situation or Nathaniel's condition. He tells the story and his feelings the way they happened. For example, Nathaniel likes to go on rants and string together random thoughts, and after a long rant cited in the book the next line states, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into."
Anyway, it was a good read to me and I usually pick up a book, read half of it and never finish it for whatever reason, but this one (and the HP series) seem to have me finishing books in 2-3 days tops.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Garden Update...

As you can see the garden is growing...look at those tomato plants, more like trees. And the squash and zuchini are taking over, they have almost wrapped around the house. My peppers, however are having a little trouble.
If you look closely you can see a jalepeno starting to grow, this is on the store boughten one, not the plants from seed.
This is my squash, kinda looks like an acorn, there are tons of blossoms on this one, so lots of squash to be had in a month or so.
The zuchini is doing about as well as the squash, like I said you kinda have to look for the actual fruit through all the vines.
Here is my habenero. It started out well, but thats about it. It has had a couple of blossoms but no chilis yet.
Finally the spicy banana pepper. This one was the plant that I thought was going to do the best. Well the zuchini and squash have taken that role. However I did notice, and again you have to look hard, a little pepper starting to grow from a blossom, so hopes are still high.

As for this guy, as I was thinning out my jalepeno pepper plants in an effort to give them more room to grow and start producing some peppers, I saw this guy flying around the yard. At first I thought it was a butterfly because that's what it looked like when it was flying. As you can see when it landed it appears to be a grasshopper. He blended in with the ground really well so I could only get good shots when he wasn't in the grass.