Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Author: marathon (page 1 of 10)

Three cheers for Moms who play (hard!) with their kids

Andinismo

Doodle is quite the enthusiastic outdoorsman

 

The locals use the word "Andinismo" to mean "exploring the Andes Mountains". So far our experience of the Andes has been limited to areas in close proximity to civilization.

I felt it was time to do something more, and summer was almost gone.

Following a two day scouting trip by Doodle and I a few weeks ago, Sudoku joined us this past Sunday for a three day attempt to reach the La Paloma glacier, the lesser of the two glaciers visible from downtown Santiago.

streams through needle-like tundra grass

We picked the warmest sequence of days we could find, but the temperature still dropped below freezing at night where we slept.

The 20 km trail toward the glacier was quite busy on Sunday afternoon, but once night came at our base camp around 9000 feet, it would not be until midday Tuesday that we would see another human being.

It's safe to drink the water at certain places along the hike. Here's a little log of that for those interested:

  • At 1.5 hours of ascent, you'll cross the potable Agua Larga, marked with a wooden sign.
  • At four hours, you'll reach La Lata, a marshy pasture area with horses. The water here is said to be safe to drink, but I didn't trust it because of the presence of horse and hiker feces in the area. However, just above La Lata, there is a stream much like Agua Larga which shows none of the copper/ sulfur discoloration indicative of the non-potable waterways. We took water at that stream.
  • At six hours, you'll reach Las Cascadas, where two major waterways join, but none of the water in that area is considered potable due to the high concentration of metals.
  • At seven hours, Piedra Carvajal appears to be a former glacier lake, but now filled with tundra and very clear streams of water running through it. This water is said to be safe, and it's your last chance for water before the glacier. [Sudoku: The grass here was so tough that some spots of blood appeared on my hand when I touched it!]

The hike was hot and dusty and we had some boot problems and other difficulties with our cobbled-together gear. Fortunately, the three of us are all fairly close on shoe size right now, so we were able to swap around to mitigate the effects of boot irritations.

[Sudoku: My toes only came within about 2.5" of the end of Dad's boots, but they were pretty comfortable.]

By the time we reached our intended overnight spot, La Lata, the air had grown noticeably thin.

The peaks ahead of us were amazing under light of sunset. The stars would have been great (Doodle saw five shooting stars on our scouting trip), but we had a dusk that seemed to last forever and a full moon.

Here in Chile, we've grown quite accustomed to having grazing animals around us when we slept outside in the countryside. Nonetheless, it was a bit unnerving to have horses nonchalantly grazing right up against our tent all through the night.

[Sudoku: I woke up several times to hear Dad shooing the horses away from our tent again.]

We woke feeling good on Monday morning and went for the glacier. It was clear and dry. (there was no dew on the tent.) I couldn't keep up with the kids, so I stopped about an hour short of the glacier's scree-field base and they went to the glacier without me. (And I had the camera with me. Hence no actual pictures of Paloma glacier. Sorry! Here are some.)

camping with grazing animals

On the way down we had the thrill of watching a pair of soaring/gliding condors -- practically stationary in the air just above us -- as we approached one of the steepest sections of the trail.

I never saw a mouse, but I did see a hole in a bag of cheese left inside a backpack we hid in the rocks back at the camp site.

the enchanted tundra field at Casa Piedra Carvajal

Here are some of my takeaways regarding Andinismo:

  • we form a route by connecting water points like camels in the desert and those water points are often glorious
  • the tremendous scale of everything boggles the mind, and the lack of vegetation makes it very difficult to tell how far way things are because there is no reference object
  • managing the sun and the cold is difficult but doable, even for lightly-equipped folk like us
  • appreciating the tenacious plants and sometimes invisible mountain creatures

a wall of ice, but not actually as vertical as it appears

 

The animals we saw over 3 days: Horses, cows, snakes, lizards, mice, foxes, toads, and condors.

[Sudoku: The boys did a great job making sure we had everything we needed for the trip. They have short hair though, and weren't able to warn me about the big tangle I had by the end of our trip!]

[Doodle: Once, when we were hanging out around some small pools of red water, I noticed that it wasn't the water that was red, but that there were hundreds of tiny, red bugs, all crawling over each other.]

He who teaches his own child

is twice educated.

Snapshot of a Saturday morning

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-7-41-05-amThe sun will be up soon, and everyone but Rosebud is up and at it.

Sudoku and I are coding. She doesn't have any freelance work this morning, so she's working on some of our family projects, as am I.

Milkmaid is cleaning up around the apartment and washing the produce brought yesterday by "Wonderful Man Jr".

Carman's off work today, as usual on Saturday. He's been working from home most of the time now, but spending lots of time on the phone with his boss. His freelancing is starting to click. He got the "rising talent" status recently on one platform. But no coding for this morning; he's working out the chords for "Downeaster Alexa" on the guitar.

Rosebud just woke up and gave everyone their morning hug. Let's see ... Yup, she got bigger overnight again.

And finally, Doodle is hard at work on the farm, trying to get in his chores before the sun comes up. Yes, we're starting to do some farming, right here in the city. Doodle is doing the physical work for our top-secret pilot project and, later today, Rosebud will be doing the data collection.

And now the room begins to brighten. Here comes the sun.

Max Ventilla on modern education

I would argue that youíve had one big trick that humans figured out over the last 500 years. Before computers, it was fossil fuels.

But now weíre discovering how to pull free mental work out of the ground. Thatís going to be a huge trick over the next 50 years.

The idea that you can pull free physical work out of the ground, that was a really good trick, and it resulted in all of these exponential curves. But now weíre discovering how to pull free mental work out of the ground. [using Artificial Intelligence]

Thatís going to be an equivalent, huge trick over the next 50 years. Itís going to create that same kind of inflection point, and itís going to create even more opportunity and much more displacement.

I have a hard time understanding how the way that we best prepare the next generation for that future, is to have literally all of education policy, all of education decisions determined by folks that donít really have a foot in that world.

Iím not saying that all of the sudden, ďOh, itís about software.Ē The worst use of software in technology is in replacement of humans. This whole, ďOh, I give an iPad to a kid, and I walk away.Ē Thatís craziness. AR and VR, thatís not going to be it, either.

Itís about human beings. Itís about the relationship that kids have with their peers, with adults. Thatís what creates the motivation that creates the learning, but it seems odd to me that the purpose of school is to prepare kids for the future, and you donít have people in the mix thinking about education or education policy, who are very familiar with the future at all.

[In a typical school setting] you say, ďOK, well, I canít grade 20 different demonstrations of knowledge that come back from 20 different kids, so Iím going to standardize, Iím going to say, ĎThis is the way Iím going to test you, so that I can grade it quickly,íĒ youíre essentially training kids to think like computers. Thereís an irony ... youíre training humans to do the kind of thinking that computers are getting better and better and better at doing.

You have an education system that was created for a mass production era, and now weíre in a mass customization era. You have a traditional education system thatís all about turning generalist agrarian producers into specialized consumers of goods and information. Weíre entering an era where being a producer of knowledge, being a producer of goods, being a producer of jobs is the way to be successful. It is the way to be happy, and itís possible because you have these unbelievable platforms that have been created that elevate the individual through the combination of digital technology and society.

Taxi battles of Santiago

The taxi battles are in full swing here in Santiago, including mass protests and even violence against some Uber drivers and, in a few cases, riders. What follows is an editorial from La Tercera (from around April 16th) that does a good job of capturing some of the nuances of the situation.

AGRESIONES A CONDUCTORES DE UBER

La ciudadania ha sido fuertemente impactada por las imagenes de taxistas agrediendo a conductores de la empresa Uber. Algunos de los casos reportados dan cuenta de altos niveles de violencia y amedrentamiento, que incluso han alcanzado a los propios pasajeros de estos servicios. Se trata de hechos inaceptables, respecto de los cuales se ha extranado una actitud de mayor firmeza por parte de la autoridad, la que se ha limitado a condenar el vandalismo.

No resulto apropiado que el ministro de Transportes calificara inicialmente de "piratas" a este tipo de vehiculos, porque con ello enlodo injustamente la imagen de estas empresas y dio pie para cuestionamientos que previsiblemente podian derivar en violencia. Es saludable que con posterioridad haya templado sus juicios y se abriera a buscar una regulacion para estos nuevos servicios. Pero frente al vandalismo el gobierno no puede ser indeferente, y cabe dar senales nitidas de que la integridad de la ciudadania no esta en entredicho. En tal sentido, es indispensable preservar el principio de que la protesta legitima no puede confundirse con la violencia.

El gremio de los taxistas debe asumir que este nuevo tipo de servicios basados en aplicaciones de ultima generacion, con un modelo de flotas flexibles y de altos estandares, con tarifas competitivas, no se podra detener, porque responde genuinamente a demandas de la ciudadania que el actual sistema no logra satisfacer. Su actitud amenazante de que estas aplicaiones "deben ser dadas de baja" en tanto no se alcance una solucion que las regule, solo contribuye a su propio desprestigio. La discusion debe orientarse hacia la apertura del parque de taxis y la incorporacion de las nuevas tecnologias que faciliten el servicio de transporte. Cualquier diferencia o reproche debe ser canalizado por las vias institucionales, ya sea ante el Ministerio o ante los tribunales.

 

My translation:

Aggression Toward Uber Drivers

The citizenry has been heavily impacted by the images of taxi drivers assaulting Uber drivers. Some of the reported cases include high levels of violence and intimidation, and have even been directed toward the passengers of these services themselves. These are unacceptable acts, for which is needed an attitude of greater firmness by the authority, which has been limited to condemning the vandalism.

It was not appropriate that the Minister of Transport would initially qualify as "pirates" these type of drivers, because this unfairly muddies the image of these companies and gave rise to questions that likely could lead to violence. It is healthy that the government subsequently has tempered its judgments and is open to seek a regulation for these new services. But against vandalism government can not be indifferent, and it should give sharp signals that the integrity of citizenship is not in question. In this regard, it is essential to preserve the principle that legitimate protest can not be confused with violence.

The union of taxi drivers must assume that this new type of application-based service, with a model of flexible fleet and high standards, with competitive rates, will not be able to be stopped, because it responds genuinely to citizen demands that the current system fails to satisfy. The union's threatening attitude, that these services "must be written off" as a solution, only contributes to their own discredit. The discussion should be oriented towards the taxi park opening and integration of new technologies that facilitate the transport service. Any difference or blame should be channeled through institutional channels, either to the Ministry or to the courts.

Old Turtle song lyrics

Doodle and Rosebud just love to sing, so I'm trying to work hard to stay ahead of them and feed them new music. This morning I thought of a very singable old song about an old turtle that the older kids really liked when they were that age, but I couldn't find the lyrics anywhere, so here they are:

Make a World to make Old Turtle Smile, by Douglas Wood

 

A breeze upon the lake helps make the world

A falling snowy flake helps make the world

A butterfly, floating by, helps make the world

A tall and growing tree helps make the world

A golden humming bee helps make the world

and every dream you dream helps make the world.

 

Every time we care, we make the world

Every time we share, we make the world

With every helping hand, we make the world

When we try to understand, we make the world

If we could only see we make the world

It's up to you and me to make the world

Maybe we can make a world to make old turtle smile

 

A river flowing clean helps make the world

A meadow growing green helps make the world

a falling star, falling far, helps make the world

a yellow harvest moon helps make the world

a summer afternoon helps make the world

and every laugh you laugh helps make the world

 

And every time we care we make the world

with every hug we share we make the world

with every helping hand we make the world

when we try to understand we make the world

if we could only see we make the world

it's up to you and me to make the world

Maybe we can make a world to make old turtle smile

 

But every lie that's lied, every lonely tear that's cried

makes the world more tired and weary, makes the world more sad and dreary

And every war that's started makes the world more brokenhearted

We have a special calling, you and i, to hold the light of love up high

 

So please remember you help make the world

and everything you do helps make the world

and everything you are helps make the world

Every song you sing helps make the world

It's not an easy thing to make the world, but...

You and I, and the birds that fly

You and I, and the stars up high

You and I, and old turtle, help make the world.

A Smoggy City … of Opportunity

7436757736_79a9d7dc49_m{This is for all the 14-30 year-olds out there who are feeling suffocated by a lack of opportunity in their world. (possibly aka "a job with a future")}

The smog in Santiago is a downer.

Smoggy Santioggy.

We don't really know how harmful it is, but we big folks try to work around it with our exercise.

But ... kids gotta play. Every day.

It certainly brings a smile to all faces when someone announces, "It's super clear right now!" That's typically after a rain or a sustained wind -- both of which are rare as hens teeth here.

It's also hard to tell the difference between real "esmog" and the "fog" that often comes over the city.† This is a complex topic that I will discuss later if enough people bother me about it; we have a unique vantage point when it comes to air-quality watching.

But my thoughts about the smog have matured recently as I've watched Carman's life unfold. He is now five months into an opportunity that US minimum wage laws would have denied him, had he been there. He is scrambling and stressing every day, trying to please his superhero-seeming (when it comes to all things digital) Chilean boss.

And that's right where he needs to be.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke when he is young.

So, what does that have to do with the smog?

I am coming to see the smog as an indicator of opportunity. It represents the option of taking a risk. It represents immaturity, wildness, unregulated-ness.

London was a very smoggy, smoky place during the golden age of opportunity there. Likewise New York City.

Opportunity, like smog, can be dangerous.

Opportunity implies the freedom to fail and often comes without a safety net, harness, and airbag.

So, if you're looking for opportunity, consider following the smog: Santiago, Mexico City, Beijing...?

Thanks to Flickr's Bilobicles Bag for the image.

UPS in-store packaging costs (and related hidden costs)

Yesterday, 10mar16, I had a need for a fairly typical size box so that I could ship a custom drawer insert (26x20x4, 6.5lbs) from the Santa Barbara, CA area to Portland, OR.

I didn't want to go hunting for the right sized box, so it seemed convenient to use the in-store packaging service of UPS. Together with the hidden costs involved, the total cost of their packaging service came to a whopping $85.

I declined. More details of how it transpired:

The rep with whom I spoke first went hunting in the storage room for a box that would work. He found a "32" box and said he would cut it down to make it work.

Based on the weight of the drawer insert, he initially mentioned a price of $40. Then he asked how well it needed to be packaged.

I said, "Well enough that it would meet the rules for a UPS insurance claim if there was damage."

Him: "How delicate is the item?"

I said it was pretty tough -- essentially a hardwood box.

He eventually decided on a packaging price of $59 (including tax).

When I expressed some surprise, he said that he was figuring it as about halfway between the minimum packaging and something very fragile.

Then I asked what total package weight and dimensions I should expect when the package was complete. He said 10lbs and 31x31x11.

I took a little timeout at that point and conferred with my shipping experts (who are available for consultation by the way -- contact me below if interested). They found that our commercially-discounted UPS shipping for that package would be $XX (not sure if we're allowed to publish that number to the public).

Anyway, based on our experience of something like 1,000 similar package shipments, we estimate that the difference in shipping for that excessive packaging was $26, bringing the total cost of their service to $85.

We've also found it better to self-insure than to buy the UPS insurance. I guess we believe in them more than they do. Or it could be they have problems with fraudulent claims.

It's too bad that UPS can't find a way to cut the fat on this. They should be uniquely positioned to offer crazy-cheap packaging, but instead it's the other way around: this is probably one of the places where they pick up significant profits.

I'm determined to find a better way because I'm going to be doing a lot of this. Since the shipment isn't urgent, I'm going to try ordering a stout custom box to be sent to Santa Barbara. We'll see how that goes.

Update on 12April2016: The custom box ordering went well. I was able to get a box of about 26x20x4" made from double-wall cardboard and sent to Santa Barbara for about $30. All who saw the box were impressed by its quality.

But dude ... they need competition!

At the time I ordered the box, they were saying on their web site that, if you place your order before 10AM or something like that, the order would ship out the same day. So, I got my order in well before their deadline. That was on a Friday.

On Monday, I received a shipping notification. So I wrote them :

"That was unexpected. I sent in the order in early Friday morning. Shouldn't this have shipped Friday?"

Their response was simply:

"Going out today due to the production load."

Wow.

No apology or even acknowledgement that they broke their promise.

So, for all you folks considering getting into the custom box business, I say PLEASE DO! There's a heavy "production load" to the point where the current providers are swaggering around like they have a monopoly.

Worried about building a web site that can support this? Worry not. If need be, I will build it for you at a sweetheart price. I want to see this happen.

If you do decide to go live with offering this service, please contact me!

 

 

Unusual: Sea Birds in Santiago

449348812_787181f04d_mAround 8AM today, Sudoku and I turned away from our screens and looked at each other quizzically. Outside we could hear a strange bird call ... and it was loud!

I couldn't identify the call, but, once I saw the distinctive birds, I immediately remembered. Sea gulls.

Continue reading

Older posts

© 2017 Harrison Farm

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑