Road Trip Vacation: Out West and Back Again

We've recently returned from a three-week road trip through the U.S. It covered around 5,400 miles spread over about 85 hours in the car and a 7,000-foot elevation change, with an average speed of 64.0 mph (max of 90.8 mph), across around 13 states, and using countless gallons of gasoline.

It's the kind of trip I've been wanting to do for a while, but have always had difficulty finding the time for, let alone the sense that it was the best use of money and energy (on that point, with the way energy prices are headed, perhaps it was one of the last opportunities for such free-wheeling). But we did it, and it was great, and I'm thankful for the privilege and resources that made it possible to see the land in that way.

You can view my photos of the trip, and then fill in the gaps and see some different angles from Anna Lisa's photos from the same.

Some highlights include:
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Upcoming conference for Indiana bloggers

Blog Indiana 2008Are you a blogger in Indiana? Are you interested in learning more about blogs and blogging? Consider attending the upcoming Blog Indiana 2008 conference in Indianapolis on August 16th and 17th, 2008. The event is a 2-day blogging and social media conference that aims to promote education, innovation and collaboration among Indiana’s fast-growing blogging community. The lineup of sessions looks great (even if it didn't include me as a presenter and panelist, and even if it wasn't sponsored in part by Summersault). You can learn about blogging basics, legal issues, corporate blogging, monetization, podcasting and videocasting, analytics, and much more.

The cool part is that the conference is only $49 for both days, and even cooler, I've got a 15% discount for you if you use this link to register. If you're interested in blogging and social media at any level, I hope you can make it.

Scott McClellan's What Happened

What Happened by Scott McClellanIt took a few different stops along my vacation road trip route to find Scott McClellan's new book, What Happened. One bookseller noted that the first printing had sold out and that they were waiting on the publisher for another round. I take this as a good thing for Mr. McClellan - if you're going to write an insider's account of life in the George W. Bush White House that puts you in extreme disfavor with your former colleagues, political party, and the President himself, you might as well make sure you get a chunk of money for it. But for those of us who always found Mr. McClellan's role in the U.S. Government to be distasteful at best and outrageous on most days -- especially his part in selling the importance of invading Iraq to the world -- it's somewhat disgusting to see that he's now making money by telling the story of that role, even if he is expressing significant regret along the way.

It's certainly too little too late for someone who was often the public face of a government that we now know was actively misleading its own citizens about Iraq, wielding its power to practice malicious (not to mention illegal) personal attacks and then covering them up. If you believe in the power of the press and public opinion to help shape U.S. policies (or to at least hold the government accountable for its actions), and if you know how much the press regurgitated White House statements without critical evaluation or follow up in the last seven years, then you might say that Mr. McClellan is fairly directly responsible for a lot of unnecessary death in the world.
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A $3 Trillion Shopping Spree

GunsWe all love to splurge a little once in a while. Save up some money and do something nice with it, really go a little beyond our normal spending - maybe it's a vacation, maybe it's a nice gift for a friend, or maybe it's buying universal healthcare for 300 million Americans.

Huh?

Oh yeah, universal health care was one of the things I bought on my $3 Trillion Shopping Spree. I did it at the website 3trillion.org, which asks the question: "The occupation of Iraq will cost $3 trillion...can YOU spend that money better?" It's an interesting exercise, and a great way to put the costs of the U.S. presence in Iraq into perspective.

Here is the full list of purchases I put in my cart:
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A scary new angle on immigration: traffic congestion

On the road, finallyI don't usually read USA Today, but in doing so this morning I saw that there's a perverse new angle that some organizations are taking on the issue of U.S. immigration policy. It was manifested in an advertisement taken out on page 2 of the front section, with a single photo of a long line of traffic at a stop on an interstate highway. The text in the ad basically says that illegal immigrants from Mexico, in their unending contribution to the population here, are causing Americans to have to sit in traffic congestion longer than ever before. The call to action is clear: if you want your freedom to drive wherever you want whenever you want to remain intact, we have to keep those Mexicans out of our country.

Oh my.
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Solution for Google Treasure Hunt "zipfile" question

You may or may not have been following the Google Treasure Hunt competition, a puzzle contest designed to test your knowledge of Computer Science, networking, and low-level UNIX trivia (as described on the Google blog). It's also a way for them to find potential engineers to be assimilated --er, hired. I took one of the questions for a spin today, and thought I'd post my methodology to solve it. It probably wasn't the fastest way, but it worked for me; if anyone has suggestions for improvements, let me know! Here's the puzzle:
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