OLPC Now a Reality

There’s been lots of buzz in the past months about MIT Media Lab’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project.   According to a WorldChanging article posted Saturday, the OLPC is now a reality — the first 1,000 units rolled off the assembly line in Shanghai and headed for Argentina & Brazil last week.

On one level, a self-powering, portable, kid-friendly computer — and for under $150, no less — is very appealing.   And sure, the idea of giving children in underdeveloped countries like Cambodia, Nigeria, Libya, & Thailand the opportunity to connect to the sum of human knowledge on the Internet seems a noble notion.   But Randy over at electrogeek.com wisely posed a question that’s been weighing on my mind too…   Do Starving Children Really Need a $100 Laptop?

Are notebook PCs really the key to a better life (or even better learning) for children?   Countless genuises — people whose ideas changed the world — existed long before the advent of semiconductors, so it hardly seems likely that the lack of a computer will truly hamper any child’s learning ability or intellectual potential.

I’m baffled why more people can’t see that funding books, teachers, & schools is more appropriate than placing gadgets in the hands of impoverished children.   John Wood, founder of Room to Read, sensibly notes that a $2000 library can serve 400 children, costing just $5 per child.   A $10,000 school can serve 400-500 children, or under $25 each.

As I’ve wondered before, maybe we need to seriously consider the wisdom of introducing computers into kids’ lives at too early an age.   Does technology magically equate to a more efficient learning environment for children — or could it actually become a barrier to kids learning to think creatively and solve problems?

Homeward Bound

Gretchen & Annaliese headed back to California this morning after a fun-filled Thanksgiving week with us. The week began with a trip to the horse stables for Annaliese to ride horses Texas-style. Of course, we had a great Thanksgiving with Gretchen, Annaliese, our moms & Uncle Whit. We also worked in Happy Feet and finished off the week with a trip to the mall to let Santa in on this year’s wish list. It was great to catch up with Gretchen and we gained some valuable insight on parenting.

Gretch & 'A' enjoying T-Day

Made in America Marathon

When our TiVo has nothing better to do, it often records shows that it thinks we might like, based upon our past viewing habits and ratings of previously recorded shows. Thanks to this TiVo Suggestions feature, I recently discovered “John Ratzenberger’s Made in America” on The Travel Channel.

Ratzenberger, (a.k.a. Cheers’ Cliff Clavin and a vocal talent in every Pixar movie) goes across the country touring factories & businesses that make everyday items — like Crayola crayons, Craftsman tools, Airstream trailers, Tootsie Roll candy, Serta mattresses, Delta faucets, & Campbell’s soup, just to name a few.

For those of us still too stuffed on turkey to move — or smart enough to avoid shopping on “Black Friday” — The Travel Channel is airing an all-day “Made in America” marathon tomorrow (Friday) beginning at 8 a.m. Check it out!

Karma Dishes Out a KO Punch? Maybe Not…

In these ever-vigilant, hyper-alert times, the measures taken often cause more problems than prevented…

Case in point, Trey's PS3 Saga.

After a long, cold night at Camp Target for a PlayStation 3, he rushed home, console in hand, hoping to quickly turn a tidy profit via eBay since the demand was through the roof — PS3s were fetching upwards of $3K on Friday.

Now, the eBay folks understandably want to protect their patrons, so they had “special guidelines” for ALL PS3 console auctions. Trey created his listing in full compliance with eBay's regs, but a few short hours before the auction was due to end, the online auctioneer pulled the listing, claiming that there were indications of it being a “fake” and it'd been pulled to protect the seller and/or patrons.

Long & painful story shortened — the eBay folks wouldn't provide a single clue to what had caused Trey's auction listing to be red-flagged as suspicious of fraudulence. Once confronted, they just calmly apologized and politely refunded his listing fee.

Fed up with eBay's shenanigans, Trey posted the PS3 on a local car forum that he & a buddy started a few years back called AnythingCars.com. It was listed for about 10 minutes when he received a call with an offer for $1,000 cash and, given that PS3 60GB consoles were (by that time) only selling for roughly $800 on eBay, he jumped at the offer. So after paying $100 for a girl to sit in line at Target for the first 6-7 hours while he was at work and the $650 for the console itself, he netted about $250 off the deal, a mere fraction of what he'd hoped — certainly nowhere near enough to justify the long, frosty hours spent in line.

Had the goons at “fleaBay” not pulled his auction for “his protection,” he had every reason to anticipate (potentially) a coupla Gs of profit. If they'd just made an attempt to contact him to verify the legitimacy of his auction listing, all of the heartbreak & disappointment could've been easily avoided.

Trey chalks it up to karma — like some kind of payback for his greed — but I don't see anything wrong with seizing an opportunity when all parties involved are fully aware. He didn't intend to deceive or profit from another's ignorance.

Nope, I don't consider this the heavy hand of karma giving Trey a smackdown. Instead, I think our society is developing such a heightened sense of insecurity that we cripple ourselves in defense. Sure, we'd be foolish to throw caution to the winds, but isn't there a better balance to be had?

The Payoff…

Trey’s long, cold night loitering outside the front doors of Target paid off with a voucher for a shiny, new Playstation 3. Now he has it posted on eBay and hopes to rake in some extra cash for Christmas.

Trey living the homeless life for a PS3 voucher

The Line Forms to the Right

Like elsewhere throughout the country, crazy people have lined up at stores around the Basin awaiting a chance to purchase a Sony Playstation 3. And our friend Brad (a.k.a. Trey) is no exception. He secured his 5th place position in line at 9:00 a.m. today (Thursday) at Target for one of the vouchers that will be passed out at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow (Friday) morning. Currently, PS3s that will retail at $600 are fetching upwards of $3k on eBay, so we’re hoping that the price holds up so the drinks will be on Trey next time!

Trey settles in for a long cold night in line at Target