Exeter Energy

Last Friday, we were honored to host a Phillips Exeter Academy meet and greet for prospective Exeter students and their parents.  It was a marvelous evening getting to talk about the school that has affected our lives so much, and to meet with others that are currently going to the school, have gone to the school, work at the school, and are considering going to the school.  But before we get into that I want to reflect how Exeter has changed and will most likely change my life.

A year ago, at about this time I was driving the streets of Exeter with Stephen, my oldest son.  We had elected to do the prospective student interview on campus.  We had the option of doing it in Houston, but had weighed the two options and decided on campus was the best way to go.  Exeter stresses that there is no difference between on vs. off campus interviews.  It does not give you an advantage from their point of view.  But I believe it does from ours.  First, I wanted to see the campus.  Second, doesn’t it make your interview stronger to say, “I’ve seen the school, and it looks like a good fit for me?” instead of saying it looks great on paper.  Third, doesn’t it speak to the commitment that is being made to travel all the way to campus for the interview thereby showing how important this is to us?

Exeter was more than I imagined.  The campus is huge and beautiful.  And is a wonderful community of students.  I was amazed at how alive our tour guide was, and I wished the same for my children.  I had to confess to the interviewer that the place felt a little magical and reminded me of Hogwarts from Harry Potter.

It was during this trip that I got a follow up call from Surya about the HP job.  And it was largely the cost of the school and the regular paycheck of HP that pushed me into taking it.  (Though I still feel I would have made more in real estate.)

After the time in Exeter, we went to Boston.  I have always liked Boston.  I have often dreamed about how nice it would be to live there with MIT and Hardvard there, the startups, the hackerspaces, and the subway.  (Unlike most Texans, I actually would like to be able to get around without having to drive.)

It was a month later that we got the acceptance letter.  And it was in March of last year that I started my new job at HP.  Around that time I also found myself in a prospective student meeting at the Ross’ house here in Houston.  It was there that my wife and I were thinking and asking all the same questions that we heard this past Friday.  What is it like?  Is it worth it?  Is it safe?  Are we sending our son out to the world a little too early?

It was that summer that my mother decided that the situation required her special attention.  She hopped in a car, drove the 2,000 miles to Exeter, rented an apartment, bought furniture, and began looking for a job.  She also did some advanced checking of the campus by driving around on a regular basis.  It was only a day or two before her out of state license’ plate and special interest in the school was noticed by the Exeter police, and she soon had company on her daily trip. 

We went up in September to visit her, and get Stephen installed in school.  It was a powerful mix of excitement at the opportunity, worry of rather this was the right decision or not, and sadness that this seemed to mark a definite turning point when Stephen would be branching out on his own.  It was great to meet the other parents, the teachers, his advisor, and the staff.  They all did a good job of making us feel that this was the best thing to do.

A month later in October we went back for parent’s weekend.  We got to attend his classes, meet with his teachers, see many of the activities and benefits they have on campus.  (One of the things I really liked was the modern dance and ballet routine that they have.  Personally I think dance should be a required course.  Actually, I think a little of everything should be required.)  I like the PE program where each semester they have to take 3 sports.  This time around Stephen was exposed to crew, fencing, and squash.  While he liked all three, it looks like squash is going to have the longest effect.

In November he was home for Thanksgiving.  And in December he came home for Christmas.  At the end of the break we had the meet and greet, and we were able to provide some informed answers to the types of questions that were similar to the ones we had not so long ago.

What is it like? 

Imagine a place where people like to learn and to explore.  Imagine small classes of 12 or less students where the teacher and students sit at a table and discuss the material.  Imagine a place were new challenges and opportunities are constantly being sought and offered.  That is Exeter.

Is it worth it? 

If you are willing to push yourself, if you are willing to try to become the best you that you can become, then it is worth it.

Is it safe? 

Exeter is a small country town where everyone knows pretty much everyone else.  People keep an eye for each other, and know when something is out of place.  There is a city police and the academy also has their own police department.  And there is a 5 to 1 student to teacher ratio so the students have a lot of supervision.   I feel very confident that it is safe.

Are we sending our son out to the world a little too early?

Yes, it feels that way.  That is why we are heavily considering the possibility of moving to Exter this summer so that next year he can be a day student and live with us.


If you or someone you know is in  or about to be in high school, then I would recommend that you at least explore Phillips Exeter Academy at exeter.edu.

Nathan & Christopher go to SpaceCityCon in Galveston, TX

Space City Con is a Sci-fi, comic, fantasy, game conference that is currently being held in Galveston, TX.  My youngest son, Christopher and I went today and had a blast.

It was held at the Moody Garden Hotel and Convention center.



We saw all sorts of things.  Here is a sampling:



We met many creative people. 

Brian Parker who wrote a zoombie novel called Gnash and Self-Publishing the Hard Way, and some other books.


There were all sorts of characters there including people from Dr. Whol 


And all sorts of neat stuff for sell.

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Christopher of course was on the prowl for comic books.  That was his main motivation for going.  But there were only about 4 vendors selling comic books.20140104_123554 20140104_125822

Chris Chomiak from Bedrock City comics was very helpful.  He said to just email him what we were looking for and he would have it sent over to the location on FM 1960 near our house. 

Somebody pulled the fire alarm.  We all had to excite the building and the fire department came.  No reason for alarm.


There was an interesting caution sign.  I think they mean for it to indicate that pedestrians might be hit by a car.  but I can’t help thinking that turning on your left blinker might make people dance around.  Take a look and let me know what you think.


Saw a person with a minon backpak and one with an evil minon backpack.


We also met Jason Poland who publishes Robbie and Bobby about a Robot and his boy.



And we met Emily Rose who is an artist.  You can see some of her art on her website Death’s Pale Horse.


There were characters from Mario which were going around playing Mario music.  They also took time out to play with light sabers.  (Anything can  happen at these conventions.)

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We also got a Super man minon drawing from Robert James Ludeke.




There was a room dedicated to playing all sorts of games.  I do not know much about these, but the boards looked really interesting

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There were a lot of people dressed up.  Here is a person dressed as the Joker from Batman.20140104_160318


We did end up playing Zombicide .  It was really fun.  And it was a collaborative game instead of a competitive one.  All the players were against the zombies and we were helping each other and interacting in very mutually supportive ways.  I definitely recommend it.

I understand that it started out on Kickstarter and was a big success.


We made one last trip to the exhibit hall and met up with two more creative people:  Matt Gordon & Jessie Jordan.


We also met Bruce Small who wrote Transyltown.


Here are just a few things we bought while we were at the convention:


Some of the bumper stickers were really good:



Christopher can’t wait to go to the next one.  And I am looking forward to it too.


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Business trip to san fran


End of China’s Demographic Advantage

In 1965, about 80% of China’s population would be considered dependent.  The vast majority of this is children.  China introduces the one child policy that reduces the number of children over the next few decades.  This frees up more people to work, frees up more resources, and allows for China to compete with the rest of the world on low labor costs.  In 2010, the decreasing “dependent” population changed direction.  That was the lowest year of the dependent population, and from here out China will see an increasing dependent population.


However, the growth in this group comes from “elders”.  People who are retired.  People who no longer and will be unlikely to participate in the labor force again.  Here is the projection from WikiStrat.


The “elder” population will slow China’s growth.  They will consume more resources than the previous dependents population that was made of children.  And unlike children which could be expected to start contributing to the labor pool as early as 10 years old.  The elder population are not expected to enter this pool.

The elder population while not likely to contribute to the labor pool, their experience and knowledge could drive the transition from a labor based economy to a wisdom based economy.

Cypress Coffee Club – stories from the trenchies

Each Tuesday morning a few of us in the Home Happiness Industry get together to swap stories, share ideas, and figure out how to help people have a happy home experience.

But sometimes the stories of home unhappiness are more interesting to share.  Blake the inspector talked about issues he has had with his home builder.  He also talked about home inspections in unsafe neighborhoods where agents suggested his CHL would come in useful.

This lead into a discussion about visiting vacant homes only to find squatters in them.  And even one story of a home under construction where a dead body was found.  A murder on a property is something that has to be disclosed (if known).  And it can negatively affect home value.  Not so many people are OK with the thought of a death taking place where they live.  The house in question was in the framing stage.  The builder figuring they would loose more by finishing construction and having to report the murder, decided it was better to tear down the house and start over.

This lead to another discussion about a foundation being backwards and it was discovered in the framing stage.  builder got a crane, picked up the framed house, moved it to an adjacent lot.  Re-poured the foundation. and then put the framing back on it.

Jim also bought an interesting relationship tidbit.  Apparently in relationships where chores are split 50/50, there is a higher divorce rate.  This lead into all sorts of discussions about why that might be, and a discussion on how the method of doing chores varied between each of us and our spouse.

We had a really good time, and it was worth while!

Catalogue of Life

Found a website that lets you drill down from Kingdom all the way to species called the Catalogue Of Life: www.catalogueoflife.org/annual-checklist/2012/browse/tree



King Phillip Cried Out For Good Soup

At least that is memory aide that I learned in high school to remember the different layers of biological taxonomy.


Each species is grouped into genus by a common traits.  The genus are group into family.  Family into Order.  Order into Class.  Class into Phylum.  And finally Phylum into Kingdom.  There are different number of kingdoms depending on who you talk to, how they define life, and when they learned taxonomy.  Let’s look at six of them.

Archaebacteria, Eubacteria, Protista, Fungi, Plantae, Animalia

We humans are under the Animalia Kingdom.  Here is how it maps out for us:

Domain Eukarya

  • Kingdom Animalia
  • Phylum Chordata
  • Subphylum Vertebrata
  • Class Mammalia
  • Order Primates
  • Family Hominidae
  • Genus Homo
  • Species sapiens

What I am looking for is a website that will let me click on Animalia, and see the different Phylums.

I found a highly scientific tool at the NCBI called Taxonomy Browser.   But it only includes single celled lifeforms.  And it is targeted at the specialist.

Any ideas?



Mars One – More Reality TV and Less Real

Have you heard about Mars One?  Here is what they say they are:

Mars One is a private, apolitical organization whose intent is to establish a colony on Mars through the integration of existing, readily available technologies from industry leaders world-wide. Unique in its approach, Mars One intends to fund this decade-long endeavor through an interactive, reality TV style broadcast from astronaut selection to robotic construction of the outpost; from the seven month flight through the first years on Mars.

Now, I love the idea of going to Mars.  I am OK even with having one way trips to do so.  (Got to die somewhere, right?)  I really love the video they put together:

And I would love to believe that they would be able to pull it off.  But they do not have the funds or the staff to pull it off.  They do not have the billions that would be required or the expertise.

Here is the timeline that they currently plan:


This will be the year in which our astronaut selection begins! Who will be the first four humans on Mars and who are to follow every two years after? Anyone who meets the criteria and feels they are up to the challenge can apply. Mars One will maintain 40 trained astronauts during the full duration of its missions.

By the close of 2013, Mars One will build a replica of the Mars settlement on Earth, likely in a cold, desolate environment, to help the astronauts prepare and train and for a realistic environment in which to test the equipment. The astronaut selection and the preparations in the simulated Mars base will be broadcast world-wide for the public to view.


The supply mission will be launched for Mars in January 2016. It will land on the Red Planet in October 2016 with its cargo of 2500 kilograms of spare parts, solar photovoltaic panels, and general supplies. It will land close to where the outpost is expected to be.


What will most definitely happen is that in 2013 a call will be put out for volunteers wanting to go to Mars.  There really will be training and a mock up built here on earth.  It really will be a media spectacle.  There will be sponsors for the show.  And it will make considerable amount of money.  Probably in the $100 of millions.

What will not happen is actually sending anything into space.  The entire event will be done here on the grown, with no hope of anything be launched into orbit.  There will especially not be anything or anyone going to Mars because of this.

Why?  Well you see, the ground stuff is safe and cheap.  It also makes for better TV.  But anything that is actually sending things to space is costly, risky, and does not make for good TV.  It won’t happen being funded this way, with this group of people.

I wish it were otherwise.  And I hope I am wrong.  But I do not see how I could be…