Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Woodland Wildflowers in Maine

May is woodland wildflower season in Maine. Our cool, wet weather has been good for flora and for late season flu. Luckily, I didn't need to walk far into my woods to find spring and sunshine.

Wild Geraniums open to sunshine.

Mayflowers are budding below the White Pines.

Star Flowers shine from mossy rocks.

But what is blooming above the Forget Me Nots?

Here's a close up
of my mystery bloom.


I'm taking next week off from blogging. 
I'm finally over the flu, 
but I need to catch up on work 
before the kids finish school. 
So much going on at end of term!

Next post will be June 6th.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Daleks Hack MIT: tales from a college road trip

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.)

After years of living by a college campus, passing tours of engaged parents and bored teens, I have crossed the line. Over April break I became one of those parents. To minimize ennui, I let my 17-year-old son take the driver’s seat, both metaphorically and literally. We drove a thousand miles in a week. My son set the itinerary, mapped our route and split the driving. We visited only one college per day to allow for in-depth exploration. Our sample ranged from small liberal arts schools in the mountains to big, urban universities.

My favorite moment was on a tour of MIT: my son pointed up at a building and whispered, “Is that a Dalek up there?” Daleks are evil cyborgs from the British sci fi series, Dr. Who. A full size replica was indeed perched on a tower. It was hack week at MIT. Another year, the students constructed a replica of a police cruiser and installed it on the dome of the main building with a parking ticket. MIT offers a Pirate Certification if you take pistol, archery, fencing and sailing for the Phys Ed requirement. You’ve got to love geek humor.

Back when I was a graduate student at MIT, women were a small minority, but now the gender ratio is near even. Our tour guide was an attractive sorority sister from Dallas, majoring in material engineering. Diversity had improved too: there is no single majority race on campus. Daleks, however, are still under represented, but given their mission of universal conquest, that might not be a shortcoming. Without visiting, we wouldn’t have realized how much the campus atmosphere had changed. I’m using MIT as an example, but all of our campus visits produced surprises, both good and bad, and lots of helpful information. Fit is such a personal thing.

My son strongly recommends attending classes to get a flavor of both the teaching style and the student body. Some admission departments list classes prospective students can visit and others link to the course catalog and ask you to contact the professor. Your child (not you) should email professors 2 weeks in advance. My husband is always pleased to have prospective students attend his lectures at Bowdoin College. As much as I wanted to visit classes with our son, I foraged for food so he could blend in with the students and approach professors. We met up for lunch and the helpful tour/info session.

The road trip was worth it not just for college applications; it was also a good bonding experience. I still anticipate a stressful senior year ahead of us. Any tips from survivors?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spring FINALLY Comes to Maine (GBBD)

1. Jacob's Ladder wildflowers
(Thanks, Carol, for the ID.)

In Maine, spring doesn’t really kick in until May, 
and then everything blooms all at once in my garden and woods.  

2. First to flower is the Forsythia, burning through my woods,

3. Where Wood Anemones bow with blooms,

4. And Partridge Berry rambles.

5. In sun dappled patches, Low Bush Blueberry thrives.
(Thanks, Les, for the ID.)

6. Wild Violets are easier to identify.

7. True to name are Forget Me Nots.

7. Azalea fades as Cherry blossoms unfold.

8. More Azaleas follow.

Visit more Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts @ May Dreams Gardens.

Gardeners, thanks for helping me ID the mystery blooms.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Feed by M.T. Anderson envisions the world through Google's glasses

Image from Google for the NYT
Feed was published ten years ago as fiction (for teens and adults), but the chilling future that M.T. Anderson predicted is now our near present. Google is developing eyeglasses to screen the internet…constantly. A contact lens version is in development, and Apple is working on wearable computers. Is this good innovation or a futuristic nightmare?

In Feed everyone, except the poor, has a computer chip embedded in the brain so that a live internet feed is constantly visible. The eyeball becomes the new computer screen. Pop-up banners, custom-tailored to the individual, encourage shopping. Memories can be shared like YouTube videos. Chatting is as easy as thinking, assuming anyone can think with all that distraction.

Titus, the teenaged boy narrator, explains:

“The braggest thing about the feed, the thing that made it really big, is that it knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are. It can tell you how to get them, and help you make buying decisions that are hard. Everything we think and feel is taken in by the corporations…”

“I don’t know when they first had feeds. Like maybe, fifty or a hundred years ago. Before that, they had to use their hands and their eyes. Computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase, and opened it to breathe.”

What I loved about Feed, beyond the fabulous writing, was how the new world is shown to us without interpretation. We hear adults and even the President speaking in jumbled slang like teenagers. A rare metaphor triggers a sweet love affair. As the world disintegrates into chaos with uprisings, vanishing suburbs and skin lesions, people keep shopping and partying. The rebel hackers who resist the feed appear to be lunatics. Or are they the only sane ones left?

Personally, I believe the danger isn’t in technology but in how we use it. Consider the ethical as well as the practical consequences of new technology... or while texting, you might walk into a bear. I bought a paperback copy of this book (without compensation) so that it would be easy to share with my family and add to our physical library. Perhaps in defiance of the feed mentality?

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@Barrie Summy