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America, December 28, 2007

Goodbye Bernard, May You Rest in Peace

We did our best, but it was your time

dc ymca
Tonight I kissed a man. I put my lips to his without hesitation, without thought. I didn't think of the blood on his face, only of pinching his nose. Of exhaling with force into his mouth, of filling his lungs with my breath.

All the while, my beloved Amy pushed against his chest with rhythmic thrusts, compressing his heart to make it pump. Pushing hard, she only stopped to feel for pulse. Faint. Gone. Faint again.

She, the medical professional, the physician assistant in George Washington University Hospital's intensive care unit. Me the husband who heard the crash in the YMCA National Capitol men's locker room.

At first, I thought it was just someone slamming their locker door. It happens often, so I didn't give the noise a second thought. But as I went to turn in my key, a man came out of the locker room saying there was a passed out patron on the floor, not breathing.

In I ran to check on him. Yep, out cold, labored breathing, blood form a head wound pooling on the floor. I was out of my element - I didn't know what to do, but I knew who did. Amy, the medical professional, was downstairs waiting for me.

With a dash and a yell, she appeared at Bernard's side and we rolled him over to start CPR. She compressed, I breathed, and we tried to revive him. He breathed on his own a few times, with a pulse here and there, but he never came back. His eyes never focused. He was on his way before the DC Firemen arrived.

They took over, in a measured response. He had left us, and they knew it. They tried, they took him to the hospital, GWU even, where the doctors tried too. But it was Bernard's time to go. And so he went.

Goodbye Bernard. Rest in peace. I knew you only in your last moments, when I passed you in the gym tonight and then as I tried to fill your lungs, but you went quick. You went peaceful. And you went with love at your side.

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America, December 23, 2007

One XO Laptop Per Obsessive Fanboy

xo laptop
I really have an XO!
Wow! My XO laptop from One Laptop Per Child is finally here. It really exists and it's in my very hands. I never really knew if this moment would happen.

Now, I never doubted that OLPC could build the laptop, or that it would be clock-stopping hot technology that everyone would want. I knew it would be the geek gadget to have this Christmas, I'm just surprised I have one, now.

I've been obsessed with OLPC for the last two years, ever since I first heard Nicholas Negroponte start talking about a "$100 laptop" in February 2005. Since then, I developed thought leadership on his grand plan through OLPC News, my obsession turned digital as a website that tracked the program's every move.

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America, December 8, 2007

A Florida Running-Moon Vacation

amy and wayan
A Running Moom
What to do after you and your beloved have a legal wedding in Georgia? Why have a running-moon vacation in Florida, of course!

But what is a "running-moon vacation"?

That is when you fly down to Vero Beach, Florida to see your Mom and spend the entire long weekend running. Now Amy and I were not running from the law, or her father, we were running for the fun and joy of it.

Starting with easy three and four mile runs at the Memorial Park Fitness Trail, Amy and I built up our warm winter in the tropics stamina for Saturday's grand challenge: the 24th Annual Jack Island Cross Country Run.

Don’t be fooled, the Jack Island run is a challenge. It may look like an easy four mile loop on a picturesque island in the Indian River lagoon, but once you get there, you realize that its four miles of hot, sweaty trails through swarming noseeums as the Florida morning heat dehydrates you by the minute.

Continue reading "A Florida Running-Moon Vacation"

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America, November 22, 2007

Legally, We are Married

amy and wayan
Amy and Wayan
Wow! What earth-shattering news today! Can you believe it? OLPC took G1G1 global and extended it to December 31. Yes, I know, it's shocking, but it's not the most exciting moment in world history today.

Nope, that honor goes to Amy Ross Vota. Yes, read that name again, slowly this time: Amy Ross Vota. Today the Betrothed Butterbean is no longer legally betrothed. She is my wife. In a mad dash to the Cobb County courthouse in central Georgia, Amy and I wed today in a quick civil ceremony.

Continue reading "Legally, We are Married"

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America, October 15, 2007

Portland Taxi Driver Perfection

portland taxi driver
Portland Taxi Driver
A musical frog. That's what my crazy Portland taxi driver is trying to show me as we speed through the city. A wooden frog he rubs with a stick to make sing, which is somehow more important than lanes, lights, or the cars around us.

After I relaxed, realizing that Andrew knew every street, curve, and alley in Portland, I too enjoyed the harmonious amphibian. It was just one of many curiosities that Andrew brings to his job as he bought me to my many destinations. And Andrew brought me many places in Portland.

When I travel for business, getting places in my city of operation is the largest source of frustration. I have no clue where my meetings are, beyond and address that may or may not be logical to the city grid. Often, I don’t even have an address, locations are often all known to inhabitants, but confusing to visitors. Directions like "turn left where the old schoolhouse used to be" do me no good.

Continue reading "Portland Taxi Driver Perfection"

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America, October 7, 2007

A Sweet DC Kiss

a dc kiss
A sweet DC kiss
I remember the first time I saw a sweet DC kiss. Last summer, I watched a moving truck take a too-tight turn and ruin an Ohioan's vacation in Washington DC. Then Metroblogging DC's Brownpau saw a serious DC parking lot kiss, offender unknown. And who could forget the Metrobus DC kiss that sent passengers to the emergency room?

Each time, I felt sorry for the recipient and wondered if the kisser got away with their transgression. Or even felt guilt in the subtle hit-and-run style of hitting a parked car and then driving off. Saturday morning, I found the answer the hard way.

In mid-post about Dousing IMF Protestations, I got a call from my next-door neighbour, Joe Martin: "Did you hear that crunch? Sounds like someone just hit your Mom's truck."

Continue reading "A Sweet DC Kiss"

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America, September 16, 2007

Bye Bye Geekcorps, Hello Mercy Corps

Wayan Style
Geekcorps Style
Yes, as you may have read in the Associated Press article on the OLPC price increase, I am now:
"the former director of the Geekcorps international tech-development organization and current editor of the OLPCNews blog."
Friday was my last day as head geek, able to stop entire conversations with the simple, "I'm with Geekcorps," which inevitably lead to a half-hour discussion on technology in the developing world.

For three years, I led Geekcorps, starting with a handful of CD's from the previous staff and one program in the field. Through blood, sweat and a few tears, we built it into a successful organization.

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America, September 1, 2007

A Cemetery Conclusion

a sad moment
Moment of sadness
When I was young, I used to fear cemeteries. I was always very scared to be near them, which proved a problem when my family moved in behind the Vero Beach Cemetery.

Then I met a grave digger making a new hole on day and asked him if he feared the dead. His wise, southing response?

"I worry more about those four feet above the ground than four feet below it."

Since then, I've not worried about graves, and to an extent have become fascinated by headstones, markers of lives long past in few words and two dates. Like why we bookend lives with birth and death?

Was there not a parent that has a story before we start? Was there not change in life at least a few months before us? Then, do we not live on in our children? In memories of us throughout the community? In work and deeds that transcend our short lives?

Some grave markers are overly religious, with symbols of preferred gods or saints, others have images and etchings of the deceased. But even if it's just a name and a date, I still find meaning.

Continue reading "A Cemetery Conclusion"

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America, August 25, 2007

California's Capitol Corridor Commuter Connection

California tranist foaming
California transit foaming start
After a week of the Global Social Benefit Incubator, I needed a break. I needed an escape from thinking about sustainable international development and San Francisco called my name. Even better, the Bay Area is served by a great rail network, perfect for my transit foamer fetish.

First up, I called Kristin and Mark, the dynamic duo behind Inveneo and asked them for a lunch date. Ever the gracious hosts, they agreed to meet me at the 22nd Street Station in San Francisco, a short hop north of Santa Clara on the convenient CalTrain that stops at the Santa Clara University front door.

After a relaxing six mile run (and a shower) I bought my $7.50 train ticket and settled in for a wait at the Santa Clara train station. A wait entertained with model railroads and a very interesting but annoyingly noncommercial train museum complete with model trains but no postcards or other purchasable train memorabilia.

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America, July 27, 2007

Amy, Will You Marry Me?

amy's engaged
Amy said "Yes!"
What do you do when you love your girlfriend? When you feel she is Miss Right, worthy of cohabitation, even if it requires a half-million dollar mortgage?

First off, you discuss the future with her. Life as Mrs. Vota, legally bound to a highly visible, globe trotting uber Geek with an addiction to technology and transit foaming on the Internets and even the streets. Then, when she accepts your insanity, you go ring shopping.

But don't tell her that you're buying an engagement ring. Oh no, you do your best to fake her out. You bitch and moan about diamond prices, you defer ring shopping trips, you even question the whole idea of engagement rings until she gives up and stops pestering you.

Its then, when she least expects it, like a Ross family vacation to Fripp Island, South Carolina. And where she least expects it, like the Bonito Boathouse Restaurant & Sunset Lounge, that you pop the question. Down on one knee, surprise engagement ring in hand, you ask her, "Amy, will you marry me?"

Continue reading "Amy, Will You Marry Me?"

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America, June 25, 2007

Arrested for Photography - Past and Protest

arbat coke ad
Innocent advertisement
See this innocuous advertisement for Coca Cola on Moscow's Arbat Street. Does it look like a Russian state secret? Like it would have any value to a Chechen spy? Or be the basis for arrest if you took a photograph of it?

I was arrested for taking a photograph of this very sign when I lived in Moscow and I refuse for that to happen in America.

It was a damn cold night in Moscow, -34C. I know this number for the bottom of that Coke ad had a thermometer and when I saw just how cold it was, I pulled out my camera to document the moment - a tropics boy in the frigid north.

No sooner had the flash illuminated the night that two of Moscow's drunkest finest stepped out of the shadows and asked me for my documents. A standard small-time bribe shakedown I'd easily brushed past before. This time, they didn't quickly return my documents.

And then I spent a long, cold night in a Russian holding cell waiting for the police day shift to arrive and straighten things out. Yes, I was quickly released, unharmed if a little hungry and sleep deprived, when sober minds took a look at me and my paperwork. But that's not the point.

The point is that this experience, while maybe expected in Russia, is now playing out in America. A country founded on freedom of expression and a right to public discourse. A country where unrestricted photography by private citizens has played an integral role in protecting the freedom, security, and well-being of all Americans by contributing to improvements in civil rights, labor practices, and police activity.

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America, May 18, 2007

I am on 60 Minutes this Sunday!

olpc documentary
Look Ma, I'm on TV!
Are you in the USA? Do you have access to the American infotainment juggernaut? Then turn your attention to the CBS News program "60 Minutes" this Sunday, May 20th at 7pm.

Famed reporter Lesley Stahl will be covering MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte's progress with One Laptop Per Child, his dream of one-to-one computing as an educational boost, a way for children in the developing world to "learn learning". Ms. Stahl will have on-location reports from OLPC testing in Brazil. With 13 million viewers on average, the coverage of OLPC should be a major boost in profile for the project.

Lesley Stahl will also be interviewing an obsessive follower of OLPC XO advances, a technology in development expert who publishes the informative and influential OLPC News, Wayan Vota.

Continue reading "I am on 60 Minutes this Sunday!"

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America, March 17, 2007

Banking Home a Half-Million Dollar Mortgage

There is an interesting alternate reality to your every day financial life. In this separate dimension, strange voices on telephones promise to send you a blank check. Blank but for the amount, there it says $500,000.

Five hundred thousand dollars.

Have you ever seen that much money? Have you ever held a check for it? I have not, not yet anyway, of those voices on the telephone wait for me to find something to spend it on before they will send me the check.

And not just anything, but a house, a home, a domicile to call my very own. And those voices, whispering in my ears from many sides tell me I should do it. I should take that blank check and buy a home.

Maybe buy a dream home in the Petworth neighbourhood of Washington DC. And a dream it is, perfect for a settled life of domestic bliss. See the video for yourself of what $500,000 buys in my housing market.

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America, February 21, 2007

I'm gonna be on National Public Radio tonight!

That's right, I'm going to be on National Public Radio talking about a $100 dollar laptop, tonight, Wednesday Feb21 @ 7pm. station list)

Think about it, a $100 dollar laptop. Wouldn't that be great! You could buy one for everyone you know. Better yet, what about a $100 laptop designed for students?

Imagine a classroom full of children, faces aglow with laptop screens, all learning at Internet speeds; the next Bill Gates, the next Jerry Yang, the next Sergey Bergin. Now imagine all three in the developing world, better known for abject poverty than power computing.

That is the dream of Nicholas Negroponte, a MIT professor and technology futurist, as well as a dream of many in the development community. In a distinct difference, Mr. Negroponte has run with his dream and now his nonprofit, One Laptop Per Child is designing an appropriate-technology laptop, the Children's Machine XO.

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America, February 17, 2007

Flickr Photo Pools: Hacked or Just Gone Mad?!

This morning I was looking to add a post to Metroblogging DC, the hyper-local view of Washington DC that I love. But when I went to my DC Metroblogger Flickr account to find the transit foamer image I wanted, my web wanderings took an unexpected turn.

When I clicked on my Transit Foamer photo pool, where I have images of public transport options worldwide, I found a whole different kind of foamer staring back at me. Shocked, I refreshed the page, thinking it was a temporary error, but the new "foamer" was still there.

To my relief, when I clicked through, it was my original photo, but back at the photo pool page, the foamer only shifted locations.

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America, January 8, 2007

See Way More Wayan on Flickr Photos

One oft-heard complaint about my amazing, cutting-edge Belly Button Window is the dearth of photographs on my posts. With an average of one or two photos per entry, readers are always asking for more visual context for my writing content.

In the past, I was hesitant to put all the extra images online, partly due to the bandwidth costs and partly due to the lack of an easy, yet visually pleasing user interface. Now, with the advent of Flickr, both problems are solved.

Flickr allows me to host hundreds of photos at original size, with scaled down versions that can load quickly on slower bandwidths. And I've taken advantage of this service to the tune of almost a thousand images so far in a variety of photo pools.

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America, January 1, 2007

Building Garden Boxes in the Afternoon

Heading back to Florida from Puerto Rico, Mom and I get to discussing her new back yard. She spent the summer adding in fill, sod, and plants to give her a new green space. She also demarked the back yard with a nice wooden fence.

Left over from the fence were a hundred plus pieces of wood where the builder cut each fence plank down to size. Looking at the pile of wood, Mom wondered if there was a way to make them into a raised garden. A garden a foot or two above the grade of the back yard, so Mom could work on the plants without hurting her back.

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