Freedom and Economics for Prison Inmates


My dad works closely with an organization called "Good News Jail and Prison Ministry". It is an organization that supplies Christian chaplains to jails and prisons in the U.S. and internationally.

My dad also recently sold his day-to-day business, D.P. Associations and is now deciding how to spend his time. His recent idea is to start a vending machine business to both fund the chaplains through GNJPM as well as to provide job opportunities for the inmates that are coming out of jail. Running a vending machine is not rocket science, but it does make money. Kind of the bottom line for what inmates in transition need.

Anyway, my valuable input to this whole affair is to brand the vending machines as "Snack Prison: bars behind bars" and encourage hungry customers to set their candy and chips free!

If I can provide any help to any other valuable endeavors please feel free to call my agent.

(Stuff That Matters) Permanent Link made 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Africa Journal - What's up with the guidebooks?

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of james_michael_hill

What is the deal with the guidebooks? If orphans and AIDS are such a huge problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, then why is my lonely planet guide book completely devoid of any mention of orphans, AIDS, health care, etc.

(Travel) Permanent Link made 9:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Africa Journal - Stereotypes

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of james_michael_hill

In the process of getting ready to go to Africa I realize that I'm having to review some stereotypes that I have had but haven't really been aware of.

  • Myth 1: Africa is homogenous. In fact, I am realizing that Africa appears to be far more diverse than America, the continent. Just looking at the variety of races represented in Africa is a starting point to see that.
  • Myth 2: If someone is a black African then they understand other black African's cultures. In fact, I am realizing, from working with a black Nigerian colleague that he doesn't know any more about Zambia than I do.
  • Myth 3: There is an African "problem" to be solved. In fact, as I begin to grasp the diversity of the continent I am also beginning to realize that where there *are* problems, they can be very different in nature. Even the "orphan problem" is drastically different in Zambia than in Sierra Leone.

I am looking forward to working through more of these issues as the trip unfolds. I am also looking for what Africa has to teach Southern California, particularly in regards to technology.

Feeling a little naive today....

(Travel) Permanent Link made 8:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Africa Journal - Traveller's Medicine


Surprisingly, not too many crazy shots are required for travel to South Africa and Zambia. In fact, all I had to do was make sure that I was up to date on my regular immunizations and get a Typhoid vaccination whose effectiveness wears out after two years anyway. This is an interesting data point because it *may* suggest that in terms of medicine and public health these parts of Africa are only different in terms of the scale of the problems, not the scope of the problems. I'm not going anywhere in a jungle, so maybe that would require extra precautions, Africa or not. Basically the places where I am going are - medically speaking - like the U.S.

Except for malaria. Malaria is caused by a parasite that lives in humans and female mosquitoes. It doesn't do anything to the mosquitoes and the mosquitoes just move the parasites from person to person. Over time people who aren't killed by malaria build up a resistance to it, which goes away after they stop being exposed to the parasite. So I have to take Mefloquine (aka Lariam) once a week for six weeks to kill any little buggers that get in my system. My fear of malaria has greatly dropped after getting more information about it and after talking to my Nigerian grad student who thinks of it more like the flu than as a dangerous threat. One of the great side effects of Lariam is "vivid dreams" and "visual disturbances." So after I eat my scone and drink my coffee, I'm downing my Lariam. Bring on the hallucinations!

The CDC has a great section on malaria here and I'm going to try this do-it-yourself mosquito trap while I'm in Africa. What fun!

(Travel) Permanent Link made 9:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Weekend Experiment #2: WiFi Telephone Calling

07142007024.jpg 07142007023.jpg

Oh, if only it were always summer and the research would flow like bubbles from a Woodbridge hot tub all the time:

The other cool experiment to occur this weekend was that after nearly wetting myself about T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home WiFi Cell phone announcement, I subscribed to the plan, got a new phone and wifi router for home, canceled my landline, and made my first WiFi phone call with T-Mobile's system. I think this is a fundamental shift in phone computing/communication that dwarfs the iPhone.

Using the hand-set I registered with UCI's network guardians so that the phone's MAC address was recognized on campus. Nearly instantly I was making unlimited calls everywhere on campus with much better reception that I had previously.

Several funny things happened. First I realized that I had gotten in the habit of walking toward windows when I was on my cell phone. Now, that's not the right thing to do with this phone. Second T-Mobile apparently has arranged that the phone will make unlimited WiFi calls from all T-Mobile Hotspots. So suddenly all Starbucks are also effectively cell phone towers. Futhermore, anytime I plug my laptop into a land line network I can turn it into a cell phone repeater by turning on Wi-Fi sharing. Which means that if I can get internet access internationally with my laptop, I can make unlimited calls to the U.S. with this phone and avoid the outrageous roaming fees.

In a lot of ways this is like Skype with SkypeIn and SkypeOut, but let's face it, it's a lot more convenient to use a cell phone to make calls and stay connected than a laptop. Futhermore, the cell phone gracefully transitions from cell to wifi and back again.

Okay, now the bad things. When I cancelled my home phone number, my DSL also got cancelled. T-Mobile assured me that this wouldn't happen, but it did. So I lost broadband at home in the process (hence why the experiment was going on on campus). I have a work order in with Speakeasy to set up a "One-Link" DSL line which cuts AT&T out of the picture. It costs $5.00 more than my previous broadband access, but it allows me to have DSL at home without any phone company involved.

Secondly, I haven't rigorously tested the hand-off from cell to wifi and back. Other reports suggest that wifi to cell is seamless and cell to wifi takes a minute or two. But in using the phone I never even noticed when it switched back and forth.

Finally, we haven't tested the Starbucks thing. It's just a matter of time of course, but fair disclosure/ buyer beware.

(Stuff That I'm Messing With) Permanent Link made 9:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


You just pulled a Palmer. Don't try and deny it. Thanks a lot.

Posted by: Nate at July 20, 2007 12:01 PM

That's rampant consumerism at work. Yes!

Posted by: Nate at July 20, 2007 12:03 PM

Weekend Experiment #1: Solar Power

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of sabellachan

One of my personal gripes about research here in Irvine, is about how we aren't effectively utilizing two of our strategic Southern California resources: sun and traffic. Well this weekend, the first domino fell. I am happy to report that I successfully charged my PowerBook G4, a bluetooth GPS unit, and a Nokia N84 phone from the sun via a Brunton solar panel. It felt really ubiquitous because suddenly that nagging problem of power was *gone*.

Now, granted there was a lot more gear involved. The solar panel is about the size of a beach towel, but folds up to the size of a laptop. It outputs 12V so you can use it to charge a car battery, or use the new ubiquitous power supply, the cigarette lighter plug. Both the GPS unit and the phone came with car chargers, so that was a snap. The PowerBook was a little more tricky. I first tried to use a transformer to alter the 12V to 120V and then plug in the white Apple brick into it. But the loss of power in the (2!) transformers could not be compensated for by the solar panel. Instead I used an airplane seat power adaptor (which I have never had the opportunity to use). With a little help from a hack saw I managed to get it to fit into a car lighter adaptor that Paul Dourish had lying around. So with the airplane cable and the adaptor the power went straight to the powerbook without any transformers. Viola! Now the solar panel was enough to trickle charge the laptop.

I didn't do a good job of timing the charge, but in bright sunlight it took roughly about 30 minutes for a 10% charge, so back of the envelope says a full charge would take 5 hours, which is consistent with the solar panel documentation.

One can daisy chain the solar panels up to a total of three to increase power output, so that would presumably be enough to match wall power recharge time, and be enough to run the powerbook while plugged into the solar panel. Currently the powerbook has to be off/suspended for the charge to be able to keep up with the discharge. The solar panel costs about $350.00 right now, so a daisy chain of three ain't cheap.

But it was really really cool and it demonstrated to me that none of our infrastructure is built to support solar panels. Because there is very little way for me to actually use it on a day to day basis. However, since I'll be in Africa in two weeks....

(Stuff That I'm Messing With) Permanent Link made 9:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Africa Journal - What does it take to get out of poverty?


I serendipitously watched a "TED" tech talk by Hans Rosling about the "developing world." The concept is hard to pin down because the reality is that there is a wide spectrum of poverty in the world. Even within a single African nation. Watch the talk here.

Hans presented some interesting axes on which to think about overcoming poverty. In order to create an economic market you need:

  • Schooling for the participants
  • Health for the participants
  • Information
  • Credit (to buy a bike in the picture on the left)
  • Infrastructure

He also presented a variety of ways to think about the concept of "development." You can be developed in any of these and not necessarily the others:

  • Human Rights
  • Environment
  • Government
  • Economic growth
  • Education
  • Health
  • Culture

(Travel) Permanent Link made 8:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Africa Journal - African Finances

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of james_michael_hill

The first cultural difference that I've run into has been in booking airline tickets. When I booked some plane flights for internal travel in Africa I used a site call They have an option on their website to pay for your plane tickets immediately or in installments over 3, 6, and 9 months.

This seems to suggest a different approach to managing money, because, of course, the credit card itself is supposed to offer the installment plan for anything you buy. Maybe Kulula offers it as a no-interest or low-interest loan? That would make the terms better than a credit card.

Anyway, something different is happening with money. Does this tie into attitudes about micro-finance? Tip of an iceberg or just random service offered by

(Travel) Permanent Link made 9:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Denny's Receipts

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of SpacePotato

I went to a Denny's this past weekend and was surprised both by the good service and by the receipt. Denny's now gives you a receipt for your meal which itemizes the order by person even when you are in a group. That would have been very helpful back in high school. It's an answer to the dreaded, "Can we have seperate checks please?"

(General News) Permanent Link made 10:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


I'm surprised state law allows Denny's. It's too Midwest. You should get someone on that.

Posted by: Nate at July 11, 2007 12:14 PM


Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of darkmatter - Bus Strike Expected to Complicate Commute for Thousands in SoCal - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

SANTA ANA, Calif. — The first bus strike in Orange County in more than two decades disrupted the commutes of thousands of riders Monday after 1,100 transportation workers walked off the job.

Companies sought to help employees cope with the strike by setting up car pool hot lines and other resources for people who have no transportation. Transit officials braced for plenty of confusion and frustrated residents.

About 70 percent of Orange County Transportation Authority riders don't have access to a car and half are members of families making $22,000 a year or less, according to the agency's chairwoman, Carolyn Cavecche.

"Scaffolding" is a term that I use to describe all the junk that you have to do in order to get something accomplished. Usually you find yourself thinking about scaffolding when you say things like, "Oh! But before I do that I need to..."

The scaffolding for getting to work this morning was very heavy. First I get out to the bus stop. I think I have missed the bus. So I go to Starbucks and get something like breakfast while I read "Diffusion of Innovations" until the next bus arrives. So I go back to the bus stop. No bus. Curious I start to think about how it might have come to pass that I missed two buses. Then I recall a notice about contract negotiations on the OCTA web page from last week and conclude that the bus drivers are on strike. A quick phone call to the Chief Household Officer confirms this. As I am one of the people mentioned in the article above without access to a car, I arrange to borrow the car for the day from the CHO. I get to campus and realize that, because it is June, I don't have any incentive passes that allow me to park on campus for free (as a reward for riding the bus). So I go to the parking office and get a new year's worth of passes. Then I park in the parking lot and realize I don't have a pen in the car to fill out the pass that sits on the dashboard. So I go into my office and get the pen, return to the car, fill out the pass go back to my office and finish building the scaffolding for work today by blogging about it.

Not all scaffolding is bad.... Like making coffee, that has a lot of scaffolding, but I enjoy it. Now to build that one....

(General News) Permanent Link made 9:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


The Other Side of the World

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of james_michael_hill

Departing for Africa in about two weeks.

Song from Rich Mullins, "The Other Side of the World":

Well the other side of the world
Is not so far away as I thought that it was
As I thought that it was so far away
But the other side of the world
Is not so far away
And the distance just dissolves into the love
Into the love

And the New Jerusalem won't be as easy to build
As I hoped it would be
As I hoped it would be easy to build
But the New Jerusalem won't be so easy to build
There's many bellies to fill and many hearts to free
Got to set them free

But I see a people who've learned to walk in faith
With mercy in their hearts
And glory on their faces
And I can see the people
And I pray it won't be long
Until Your kingdom comes

(Musings) Permanent Link made 6:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


USAA Deposit at Home


Yet another reason why USAA rocks: USAA is a financial services company. I do most of my banking with them. They have no branches as far as I am aware. From my perspective they are a completely online bank.

Typical criticisms of this are that you can't get cash and that you have to deposit checks by mail, which is slow. Well USAA addresses both problems. They will reimburse you up to $10.00 a month in ATM fees charged by other banks. And now the COOLEST of all things. If you want to deposit a check you simply scan it and upload it. It goes immediately into your bank account.

I'm totally excited about this because it is fast and even easier than putting it in a deposit envelope and mailing it. I don't know how they deal with countering fraud, but as far as I'm concerned it's awesome. It took me about 5 minutes to scan and deposit two checks and the money was in my account immediately.

(However, it took me 5 friggin' hours to get the software for the scanner set up!)

(Cool) Permanent Link made 1:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)