Monday, December 27, 2010

When it snows, it pours

I need to add one more thing to the list of things we take for granted: our cars!
As a Venetian, I am almost ashamed to admit my dependency on wheels, but that is part of my split personality.  I just lived without a car for two months and didn't miss it one bit.  Now that I am back in Massachusetts, though, I can't live without it...  It goes with the territory.
The string of unfortunate events that started with the boiler failure, followed by the soot invasion and the loss of electricity in Nick's room, continues unabated.  On Christmas day, uncle Mark called to let me know that he had inadvertently backed into my car at Leslie's Christmas party.  I couldn't take a look at any potential damage, I told him, since Nick took the car immediately upon returning from the party.
The car hasn't been back in my driveway since.  It is currently sitting at the Subaru dealer, where it was slated for an oil change today.  One day too late, as it turns out.  Now, instead of changing the oil, I have to change the whole engine instead...
When it rains, it pours.  Actually, it has been snowing here for the past 24 hours. When it snows, it blizzards.
It would be way too easy to blame Nick for this additional, expensive surprise ($5k).  After all, the car conked out while he was at the wheel...  And he "should have" noticed the boiler had stopped working before I came home just 5 days ago.
There is no point in trying to find a culprit here, though.  It wouldn't change how things are right now.  One has to accept, and move on.  I must be shedding some bad Karma...  And lots of money that I really don't have.  Money that could have gone towards buying Nick his own car.  So he can have a job and learn the value of money.
Oh well. It looks like we'll be vying for the use of the same old car -- with a brand new engine -- when we return from Santa Fe.  Nick says he'll plow snow to repay me when we get back.  We'll see...

Now, I'm gonna book us a limo for Wednesday so we can leave this mess behind.
I'll deal with picking up the car when we return on January 15th.

Then I am going snowshoeing to clear my mind.
Then I'll hopefully jump into my neighbors' hot tub.
And try to forget these earthly woes.

Festina Lente!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wrapping things up for Xmas

It seems appropriate that the next post after my homely homily of Thanksgiving should be one dedicated to the next big holiday.  It makes sense, given my academic calendar...  Things got really busy after I came back from the States following Thanksgiving break. Really really busy.
I am writing this entry on Christmas Eve, just after the annual holiday gathering with Jackie's family, aunts and uncles, brothers, sisters, parents and grandmother.  Nick and I were late, as expected.  This time we didn't abort the mission though, so we showed up two hours after the planned time, more or less nonchalantly.  And it was no big deal.  Nervous as I was, it was great to see all of these familiar faces of people who love us.  It made Christmas better this year.  Certainly better than the ghosts of Christmas pasts.  Today's Xmas party wrapped up a couple of years of awkwardness in my relations with Nick's grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I feel relieved about it.

Yet I can't help but also feel that this is a rather subdued Christmas season overall.  Families and friends still wrapped up presents for each other, yet it seems that the frenzy of holiday shopping simply wasn't there this holiday season.  Not in Italy for sure, and apparently not in the US either.  It must be the "economic crisis"...  Everyone's feeling the pinch.  And perhaps these tempi di vacche magre are making us more keenly aware of the extraordinary support network that our families really are.  It is probable that at least one out of 10 of us (or even 1 of 5) is currently benefiting from some form of economic support from our nonni, parents, siblings or relatives.  It's the ultimate "safety net" keeping our economy afloat...  Let us rejoice in our families and friends!  Let us be grateful when we can give support and when we can receive it.
This is the true spirit of Christmas, I think.

I flew back from Venice on Tuesday, the winter solstice, December 21st: the shortest day of the year.  Nick picked me up and drove me straight from Logan airport to a Planning Board meeting at Spencer town hall.  Being the chair of the board, I make special efforts to be there when meetings are planned, despite my hectic schedule.  It was about 9:30pm (3:30am according to my jetlagged body) when I finally got home. And the house was freezing cold.
The heat had failed.  

Nick thought it was due to running out of oil, so he called the emergency fuel service while I was at my meeting.  The van was making its delivery when I got home.  It soon transpired that indeed we didn't need any fuel at all, since we had enough already.  It was the boiler that had malfunctioned.  After trying unsuccessfully to repair it, the fuel company guy left and I called my boiler maintenance 24-hour service who attempted to repair the boiler as well.  By the time he left at midnight (6am in Italy) I had fallen asleep in my 43 degree bedroom.  When the boiler guy startled me out of my slumber, I came downstairs and engaged in a rather lengthy conversation with him speaking purely in Italian.  I even complimented him for how good his English was!  Only when he plainly said: "I don't speak Italian" did I finally snap back to the fact that I was actually in the US, in my freezing home in Spencer, and not still in Venice.  Very funny in retrospect.  Quite puzzling to the guy, I am sure.
There was nothing he could do to fix the boiler tonight.  They will be back first thing in the morning.  So I ended up sleeping in my electric blanket wearing the same clothes I had flown back in (plus a hat)...  The shortest day of the year was followed by the longest night, inevitably.  It felt like the coldest night too.  And, to top it all, we even had a lunar eclipse -- a rare cosmic event on the solstice, I am told.

All of these factors, combined with the heat failure, would seem to represent some sort of an omen.  There is a message here somewhere.  Something about taking things for granted.  Like heat in the house.  Or a moon in the sky.  Or even a family waiting for you at Christmas...  Perhaps the message is that earthly concerns are dwarfed by cosmic events (and vice versa).  And that neither of them is necessarily a big deal -- although they can be -- depending on how you look at what is.  Hmmm...

The next day, after showering at my neighbor's house, I still managed to have conference calls about the DEW and Bump projects and get my house inspected (now I can finally put walls back up in the kitchen!), while the technicians finally fixed the boiler and restored heat to the house, which, as I soon discovered, had been covered by a very fine, almost imperceptible, layer of soot that had somehow filtered upward from the basement into all of the kitchen and bath area, and beyond.  It would make the aethalometers we used in Venice go berserk!  Can't be too good for our respiratory tracts...

These unexpected emergencies were a lot more than I planned to deal with upon return, as I was also trying to wrap up the Venice projects that were completed just last Friday, which feels like it was a month ago.  Even though I slept with one on, it is amazing how quickly I changed hats this time... I will be wrapping up the Venice projects from Santa Fe, where Nick and I will be next Wednesday, December 29 until January 15.  I will cover this year's Venice projects in upcoming posts, once all of the results are in, as I transition to the upcoming Santa Fe Project Center season in 2011.

Meanwhile, now that the presents have been accepted and unwrapped, it's time to unwind a bit and enjoy this wonderful time of the year.  It is sufficiently snowy to qualify as a "white Christmas" (albeit barely) here in the hills of Spencer.  It was also white in Venice right before I left, just like when Nick was "born there", nearly 20 years ago.

This is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.  Enjoy it!

Buon Natale a tutti e a tutti una buona notte!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A thousand years of gratitude

Thanksgiving day has got to be one of the quietest days of the year, at least here in New England.  The fall foliage has been shed and the trees are bare.  You can see through the woods now, which is something that I have always found attractive for some reason. I just went for a walk around Wilson farm, just up Castle lane.  It was most serene out there.  Quieter than after a snow storm.  And a bit lonely. Everyone was indoors enjoying their turkey with family and friends. Except me... and all of the rest of the world.
In Italy, as well as everywhere else on the globe, this was just another Thursday.  So, why was I so sad?
I like Thanksgiving... It's my favorite holiday.  It exudes a certain peace and tranquility, a hominess and coziness, unadulterated by mass consumerism. It's a purer holiday and a more introspective holiday, unattached to specific creeds and unassailed by mandatory gift-giving and guilt-induced behaviors.  It's about family and friends. And food.  Lots of food.  Soporiferous food.
We had a great thanksgiving dinner in Venice last Thursday.  As is now customary, the 27 WPI students pooled their resources and produced a veritable feast at the Settemari clubhouse.  It was succulent.  The best yet -- as we say every year...  We were blessed by the presence of three generations of the Cocola family, with Jim's father and son Milo there together, with mother and grandmother as well.  I think this will be a memorable Thanksgiving for the Cocola family for years to come, even though Milo may not be old enough to really remember it later in life.
The day after this early celebration, I flew back to the US from Venice as I do every year, while the VPC students take their Thanksgiving break by flying all over Europe, from Ireland to Greece, to Spain and Germany and everything in-between.  Meanwhile, I just got done interviewing the students who will join WPI music professor Fred Bianchi and myself in Venice next fall. I expect we will have some interesting interactive musical projects in Venice next year!  I look forward to it.  I accepted 32 students (out of 48), and had to reject 16. I also interviewed and accepted all of the Santa Fe applicants, and co-advisor (and friend) Prof. Guillermo Salazar will help select the remaining 12 WPI students going to Santa Fe in the spring of 2012.
Last year, I had avoided Thanksgiving altogether, by flying to the UK after the WPI interviews to spend time with Adrian and his family in Oxford.  This year I had been invited by Natalie and Dave to spend Thanksgiving at their house in Paxton, but I also had the option of accompanying Nick to Thanksgiving with his mother and grandparents in Connecticut.  After some discussion and introspection I had agreed to join Nick in Connecticut with Jackie, her mother Ellie, grandmother and granddaughter Irenes, as well as Jackie's siblings Ken, Jim and Leslie, with their respective spouses.  As seems customary in my family, Nick and I couldn't get our act together quickly enough to make it to CT in time for the family dinner.  So, I decided to abort the mission and sent Nick to show up late for the meal "by shelp".  I regretted it afterwards, but I guess this type of family reunion is just too much for me to handle, still.  Too many memories...  Jackie stopped by later and we made plans to spend Christmas together as a family to make up for this year's debacle.
I am grateful for this thanksgiving holiday this year.  It has shown me again -- as if I needed confirmation -- what truly matters to me most.  Family and friends are indeed our greatest treasures.  As I already had a chance to write before, and even though I have expressed my gratitude to my family, mentors and friends from time to time, giving thanks is a habit that one must practice continuously, relentlessly and authentically.  Indeed, as the cartoon above says, one day a year is hardly enough to cover the thousands of thanks we ought to be profusing on our fellow men and women on a daily basis.
So, thank you all, Nick and Jackie, friends and family, colleagues and students, partners and mentors for all you have done to make my world what it is... which is great indeed.

Grazie Mille!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tempus Fugit

Time flies when you're having fun... Or when you just simply get busy, as I am prone to do from time to time.
I guess the start of the academic year at WPI has put a real damper on my blogging... Sorry about that.  Three months have passed since my last entry and -- of course -- lots has happened in the meantime.
Where to start?  There is no way I can summarize everything in this entry, so I will just hit the highlights and will fill in the details later.  First of all, let me say that I am writing this from Venice, where I have returned since the last blog entry which I wrote from here.  I am sitting in the NEW Venice Project Center office, which is far better than the legendary VPC of yesteryear.  We are now on the "other" side of the Grand Canal (de ultra as our ancestors would say), near the Rialto market, on the Fondamenta de le Tette, whose translation is unsuited for underaged readers of this blog. Suffices to say that it has to do with the "oldest profession in the world".
Since August, Nick and I have returned to the US where he started his studies at Quinsigamond College in Worcester.  I am very proud of him for getting himself on the college track, which, among other things, also involved getting his driver's license.  These are major milestones for Nicolo', veritable rights of passage that mark the relentless trajectory of our lives.
While Nick stayed back on Castle Lane to get ready for his new life as a full-time student, I managed to go sailing quite a bit: first with Jonathan a couple of times, then with my MIT advisor Joe Ferreira and finally with my WPI friends Dave and Natalie.  I also traveled to Santa Fe twice to set up the 6 projects for the first full contingent of 24 WPI students who will spend term D at the newly minted Santa Fe Project Center (SFPC) with me and former provost John Orr.  I enjoyed living in Steve Guerin's former home overlooking "the city different", with our Croatian guests from GIScloud (Marko and Dino), whose "google docs of GIS" was well received at MIT and deserves a separate blog entry of its own.  I had fun with my friends there while I got a lot work done and was invited back during term A to give a presentation to the statewide Metropolitan Planning Commissions meeting in September.  Steve and I have proposed a major project to the NM State Transportation Commissioner, which promises to transform mobility into a full-fledged utility -- like water or electricity -- with end-of-the-month billing for one's transportation usage...

I had to leave Nick in Massachusetts on his own, while I spend term B in Venice with 27 WPI students, who have been working on seven very challenging and important projects for my hometown since October 24:
  1. The redesign and release of Venipedia - the hyperlocal wikipedia for Venice we created in 2008
  2. The continuation of our DNA project on the origins of the Veneti (or Venets as some call us)
  3. The creation of PreserVenice - a non-profit for the preservation of Venice's material culture
  4. The assessment of the impacts of Cruise Ships on Venice and its inhabitants
  5. The re-measurement of canals, to see what changed in the 15 years since our initial UNESCO studies
  6. The creation of a pedestrian model for the city with a mobile app to catch the elusive vaporetti
  7. The study of the evolution of Venice's retail sector since WWII
Each of these projects warrants an entry of its own, which I will put together once some final results begin to emerge.  For now, click on the links above to take a look at each team's web page.
Since I've been here in Venice, a lot has happened as well.  I've driven to Ljubljana (Slovenia), which is a mere couple of hours from Venice, and I managed three important meetings there: (1) a lecture at the University of Ljubljana's Dept. of Electrical Engineering thanks to our old contact from the failed Divertimi EU project, Marko Tkalcic, (2) a dinner with Robi Petric who runs the web site and is eager to collaborate in our quest for the genetic origins of the Veneti, and (3) a pick up of 2 portable aethalometers from Grisa Mocnic of Aerosol thanks to the kindness of VPC alumn Jeff Blair and of Tony Hansen of Magee Scientific.  These instruments have been monitoring emissions from cruise ships since I returned from my overnight trip to Slovenia.
Shortly after that, we had a weekend visit from Evie Ansel, who is helping with our project to restore traditional Venetian watercrafts, and who also had the fortune to participate in a one-of-a-kind orienteering race by row boat on the canals of Venice, courtesy of the glorious Settemari aeno-ludo-gastronomic association.  Even though we placed 8th out of 10, we did well and had lots of fun finding the culinary check points in the meanders of Venice's waterways that I know so well.
Right now, I am hosting my freshman year roommate from WPI, Ruudje Arends and his son Jake who is studying in Amsterdam, the Venice of the North.  Even though we all support Pitura Freska's desire to turn Venice into the Amsterdam of the South, the connection with Holland is that Jacob Rudolph Arends III and the IV are from Aruba, which is part of the Netherland Antilles, so they are actually Dutch nationals.  Sadly, Jacob Rudolph Arends Jr., Rudy's dad, died just days before this long-planned trip, so we're doing our best to make it a merry occasion.  I hadn't seen Rudy for a quarter century and it's been great to catch up with him.  He just left today.  We are going to reconvene in Amsterdam with Joe Moreau on 11/11/11 for the 30-year reunion of the famed IAO - Italo Aruban/American Organization.  It's already in my calendar.
Thursday, the students will cook the traditional Venice Thanksgiving dinner, one week early, at the Settemari clubhouse.  It's a great way to mark the midpoint of the term, before the long holiday break next week.
At the end of this week (Friday), I fly back to the US for Thanksgiving week, so I can interview 48 WPI students who would like to come to Venice next year, plus 12 who want to go to Santa Fe in 2012.  Despite my best efforts to dissuade perspective students from applying en masse, Venice is still one of the most attractive of WPI's global project centers.  Santa Fe also is the most popular of WPI's domestic centers. I will pay the price of such popularity by interviewing 60 students in three days starting next Monday -- a non-stop marathon from 7am to 10pm, with a student every half hour...
But I will get to see Nick and that will more than make up for it.  I really miss the man. We spent so much time together for the past couple of years that it's hard to not see him for a whole month.

As usual, I have a lot of irons in the fire, but I am managing to keep things from getting too hectic.  And I am squeezing in some fun times in there as well, as I am apt to do.

Nevertheless, even when one tries to live in the now, "clock time" ticks away incessantly...

Until the next now...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shady business (Venice 3D)

After the recent release of the Google Sketchup 3D buildings for the entire city of Venice, all kinds of possibilities are opening up for us at the Venice Project Center.  We could map our numerous GIS layers onto the 3D city, as Kyle has done with our fountains dataset, but we can also start to attach information to each building as the fascicolo del fabbricato has never been able to really do.
More interestingly (albeit possibly less usefully), we can perhaps exploit the underlying 3D models to produce three-dimensional applications that we could only dream of before.  Steve and I toyed around with the idea of visualizing building data by projecting infographics onto the physical 3D model of Boston and even went as far as proposing a 3D, head-tracking, single-person viewer of a virtual 3D model of Boston.  I wonder if these are now feasible in Venice.  It may be great fodder for a fall IQP.  I'll have Ben check into the actual programmatic possibilities.
During the recent heat wave in Venice, I found myself walking around the city while purposely hugging walls and traipsing only where there was a cooling shade.  Some campi, like S. Maria Formosa and S.Zanipolo are mostly shadeless, and difficult to bypass without stepping out into the scorching sun, but I somehow managed to weave myself a variety of paths - variable depending on the time of day and the corresponding sun angle.  It made me think that a mobile app to steer one on the shadiest route would be "really cool" (pun intended).  Since in Venice we call a glass of wine an ombra, this app could appropriately steer wary travelers and locals alike from shade to shade by mixing the 3D projection algorithms of ambient pixel and redfish and the Google 3D buildings, while providing the location of "watering holes" both for water fountains (a la Kyle) or for wine and cicheti at the local bacaro.  It would be an interesting and marginally useful novelty that may steer tourists off the beaten path and into some of the more authentic parts of Venice...
Maybe we can combine it all with a Venitude app that might also buzz and divert the traveler when near places of interest, like public art or a visitable church or museum, as we have proposed in our Divertimi project with the EU, which we are still waiting to hear about.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Venetian DNA: a first look

Readers of this blog may recall several posts over the years concerning our quest to trace the origins of the Venetians using DNA analyses (type "dna" in the search box on the right of the blog to see them all) . There are competing theories and references to the legendary origins of the Veneti (or Enetoi?).
We're either originally from Paphlagonia, or from Lusatia (Poland) and we may or may not be related to the Veneti of Gaul (Britanny) mentioned by none other than Julius Caesar (see detailed map online). Since we learned that a study of DNA haplogroups may shed light on these hypotheses, we launched our Venice DNA Project in 2008.
The idea for the project was born in 2004, after I read  an article on the Phoenicians in National Geographic magazine. I bounced around the idea with WPI faculty colleagues for a while, until my happenstance stumbling upon a brief mention of the Genographics project in Wired magazine in 2007, which lead to my decision to begin exploring the topic in 2008.  That fall, thanks to the enterprising team of WPI students, we began our collaboration in the Genographics Project, collecting our first sample from my mentor Count Marcello, and continuing the collection in the fall of 2009, with the last team of WPI students studying the Origins of Venice and its inhabitants.
You may also remember the big flurry of media attention that we inadvertently attracted to this project in conjunction with the Funeral for Venice of  We are hoping that the release of our results will quell any leftover smolders from that overblown controversy.  This past May, the Genographics project released the results of the DNA analyses conducted on the 156 Venetian cheek-swabs we had sent to the Unitat de Biologia Evolutiva of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.  After two years of work, we were finally able to look at the DNA evidence which Kyle faithfully tallied up for a first look at where we stand, his Canadianess betrayed by the use of French labels in the maps. Out of  the 156 samples we collected, 57 were not viewable on the Genographic site for one of two reasons: 34 were Invalid (not enough DNA?) and 23 others (labeled Faulty in pie chart) simply failed to show up on the site.  We have initiated an inquest on these issues and we are hoping to retrieve at least some of these unusable samples.  "In the end" (as Adrian is fond of saying), the total number of valid samples thus far is 99.  Two thirds of these (66 out 99) show the genetic pathway in the map above, which we are told is a very typical "European" trace (blue pie slice), which confirms that Venice has been a melting pot, rather than the home of a distinct gens. Ironically, my DNA (probably of Spanish origin), that of my brother-in-law Alberto Gallo (clearly a Gaul)  and Kyle Miller's (a Canadian of British descent) all had the same exact lineage, which we shared with the overwhelming majority of other participants as shown in the map at the top of the post.
 Of more interest to me are the two sets of samples which show a path through the Balcans (labeled "Greek" in pie) and perhaps the most intriguing one which I labeled Paphlagonian in the google chart, which looks like the map down here. Unfortunately, only 6 of our samples display this genealogical profile, which skirts all four of our main target areas: Trebizond, the Veneto, Britanny and the Baltic.  A DNA pattern that could reconcile all theories and references in the literature... hmmm!
While I was in Barcelona in June to visit Prof. David Comas, I perchance met a young Polish researcher, Krzyszof Rebala, who - by pure luck - happens to be focusing his attention on the Venedi of Poland, which he has thoroughly studied without finding any distinguishing trait to clearly separate them from other European populations.  So far then, the Venetians we sampled  do not seem to have any really striking DNA patterns nor do they seem to be related to the Wends of Lusatia, which paradoxically might give fuel to the controversial Venetic theory of a pre-celtic settlement of Veneti across the heart of Europe.
Since the Genographic project is slated to wrap up next summer, I discussed with Dr. Comas the options we have left to complete our research project.  Here is the plan I sketched out in Barcelona:
  1. Collect another 100 samples in small villages in the Veneto hinterland to seek out purer DNA strands for the ancient Veneti of NE Italy
  2. Collect 100 samples in Paphlagonia, near the Turkish city of Trebizond, with the help of Jeremy Chapman, whom I met in Istanbul in June
  3. Collect 100 samples in Brittany where the Armorican tribe of seafaring Veneti (aided by Asterix's own tribe, I am sure) put up a good fight against Caesar's navy in the battle of Morbihan
  4. Then match all these samples with the samples that Krzyszof has collected in Poland and see what, if any, match we may find across the four geographical areas.
I think these are challenging but interesting follow-ups that are worth pursuing, but the logistics are tough (and possibly costly).  We could definitely use some grant support to pull it out.  This may well be the mission we assign to this year's Origins team.  We shall see what happens.
More details on our results and on the final plans for this project in an upcoming post.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Mediterranean "tour de feu"

After finally arriving in Venice on June 13 and welcoming the arrival of Ben Lichtner (the Brown intern from Santa Fe I mentioned in a recent post), Nick and I quickly departed again for a whirlwind (working) journey around the Mare Nostrum.
But first we spent some time with the nonni (Wilma and Cino), the zii (Barbara and Alberto) and the cuginetti (Barnaba and Samuele), met some friends and business associates, moved into our semi-habitable house and enjoyed some homemade nonna meals.
It was a brief but welcomed respite before Nick and I embarked on another epic coast-to-coast voyage, this time from the Western coast of the Mediterranean (Barcelona) to the Eastern one (Istanbul), and across the Aegean from Kos (Greece) to Athens (after navigating our way through Santorini and Ios).  Barcelona was wonderful, as was Istanbul, in different ways.  Nick and I were in Barcelona alone, then were joined by Laura Sabbadin in Turkey with whom we drove through Thrace and the Aegean coast of Anatolia down to Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus, an ok place, hence yellow on map), hitting Troy (disappointing: red on map), Pergamon (good: green) and Ephesus (very good).  We were all positively impressed by the hospitality of Turkish people. Nice!
Ben Lichtner caught up with us in Kos (not so good = yellow) and tracked back with us all the way to Athens (disappointing/red), by way of Santorini (good) and Ios (even better).  The markers with a black dot on the map signify overnight stopovers. We had fun adjusting to each culture, language and food, at times feeling like real tourists (i.e. slightly overcharged for inferior food or taken advantage of by suspicious taxi drivers), but generally adapting to the local mores with unexpected ease.  The trip had three work-related stops, each of which will be the subject of future posts .
  1. In Barcelona, I finally met Prof. David Comas of the Unitat de Biologia Evolutiva of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra whose research group has analyzed the 166 DNA samples of Venetians we collected in 2008 and 2009 for the Genographic project.  We discussed a joint research project.
  2. In Istanbul, we met Jeremy Chapman, a recent WPI graduate and friend of Kyle's, a turcophile who has been living in Constantinople for a while and will be helping us organize future DNA collections in the Trebizond area of northern Turkey -- formerly known as Paphlagonia -- where the Veneti (or enetoi) are supposed to be coming from, according to authoritative, albeit not-necessarily-reliable, sources such as Homer, Titus Livius and Strabo.
  3. In Kos, Greece, Ben and I were the last (dulcis in fundo or cherry-on-the-cake) presentation at the second annual WIT conference on the Modelling, Monitoring and Management of Forest Fires. The sandtable demo that Ben put together on the fly (after learning that Steve couldn't make the trip) awed and inspired the audience several of whom may follow-up with Simtable.
Since our flight back to Venice left from Athens, we were forced to visit the disappointing capital of Greece, whose only redeeming qualities, besides the Acropolis and the Archelogical Museum, is the absolute must-see of any Athenian tourist: the changing of the guards (every half hour or so) in front of the Greek υπουργείο of ανόητος  περιπάτους, which probably inspired the eponymous Monty Python's skit (or viceversa)...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oxford Energy Futures

After leaving the US on June 6th, Nick and I first stopped in Oxford, UK, where we spent a week at Rawlinson road with Kseniya, Adrian, Masha and Kiril (Karen was away in France on a wine-gathering tour).
While Nick enjoyed the local skateboarding scene, Adrian and I prepared for our joint lecture at the Oxford Energy Futures conference hosted by the Oxford University CPD center at Rewley House.  The conference was really interesting, spanning the gamut from wood-derived energy to nuclear fusion and everything in-between - solar, wind and tide energy being still the primary technologies of promise.
Our dual presentation was very well received, especially the Energence web site demo by Adrian and my shameless plug for Bump which entailed handing the Droid phone I got from Google I/O to the audience so they could shake the phone and see the beautifully hypnotic accelerometer display that Josh Thorp endowed the application with.  We met a number of notables at the conference and it appears likely that Adrian and I may be invited back to lecture at Oxford in the fall.  Quoite Noice!
I also made time for a bit more work on our Energence enterprise, which (in a nutshell) is a company that Adrian and I founded to allow municipalities to monitor compliance with CO2 emission targets, based on the  "Merton Rule", which is named after the London Borough of Merton, where Adrian and I concocted the idea of a "Merton Gauge" while he was the chief environmental officer there and I was advising a team of students from WPI, while on a stint at the WPI London Project Center. The Merton Rule is now a national standard adopted by all local governments in the UK and Adrian Hewitt, FRSA, is Mr. Merton Rule (also known as "the green evangelist").  In abidance to the Merton Rule, new buildings throughout Great Britain now have to produce 10-20% of their energy on site, using renewable technologies, in order to contribute to the abatement of the carbon footprint of the town as mandated by a national law.  Energence provides a simple, web-based system that makes it possible for city officials to check whether these installations actually meet their targets once the buildings are occupied and the renewable equipment is in operation.
Together with Constantin Windisch-Graetz, our chief financial officer who happens to be the descendant of a Styrian prince, Adrian and I traveled to Beaconsfield (inexplicably pronounced Baconsfield, a feature of British language that continues to puzzle those of us who aren't native speakers) to discuss municipal leasing programs with Ken Hunnisett and David Cranmer of Cranmer & Lawrence.
The confusingly palindromic duo of Chris Martin and Martin Watson of EMC (the Energy Monitoring Company) who are providing us the hardware necessary to monitor energy production (and soon consumption too) at our building sites (appropriately starting in Merton, of course) were also in attendance at C&L.  Given the potential for a huge demand for these web-addressable, GPRS energy data loggers, we are discussing with EMC how to ramp up production and streamline installation.  Later in the week, I also finally met Ed Cotterill, our chief of operations, who had replaced Adrian as the chief environmental officer in Merton, after Adrian left for the private sector.  I think we have a very good and complementary team of people who are also fun to be with and pub-worthy.
Our initiative is shifting into high gear and picking up some real momentum. On this very day, a short month after Nick and I spent that week in Oxford, Adrian, Constantin and Ed are hosting a major workshop at the City of Westminster on Victoria Street, London. Half of the boroughs of London are in attendance, as well as representatives of the Energy Saving Trust (EST), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the acronymically anagrammatic Greater London Authority (GLA).  Down in Santa Fe, Redfish -- or more accurately John Guerin (Steve's dad) in Phoenix, Arizona -- has put in extra time to make sure that we have as many devices as possible on line in preparation for the event, which could be a major turning point in our own Oxford Energy Future.

In bocca al lupo!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Halfway home

July 2nd is the 183rd day of the year...  the midpoint of 2010.  It's an opportune time to catch up with some blogging after some pretty busy time at our halfway house in Spencer.  Since the last blog post, Nick and I have spent a fruitful month of May in Massachusetts, where Nick signed up for his first semester at the Quinsigamond Community College and I tied a few loose ends at home, wrapped up the Bump project and attended the 2010 commencement at WPI.  I even managed to squeeze a quick trip to UNH for an update on the DEW project and a concomitant trip to Maine to help my friend Jonathan put his wooden boat in the water.
 The highlight of that trip was an evening cruise on Jonathan's Lyman Runabout from Georgetown to Boothbay (a 15 min. boat ride vs. a 50 min. drive!) for dinner at Scoop's house there, with John Meehan and Evelyn Ansel, a talented young lady who is following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather by building her first wooden boat while on a semester-long hiatus from Brown University.  It seems likely that she may become the second Venice intern from Brown in the summer of 2011, after her fellow brownian Ben Lichtner of the Santa Fe Complex, who is in Venice this summer as part of the SantaVe exchange, whose alumni now include Tyler White, Kyle Miller, and Ilan Shomorony, who collaborated with Ben on a great piece of interactive art in the summer of 2009.
From the porch of the McAskill's cottage in Boothbay - which I had last visited approximately a quarter century ago - we witnessed the most triumphant moonrise "ever-ever" (as Nick would say)  and then proceeded to circumnavigate Southport island to cap the evening.
Immediately thereafter, I attended the second annual DSO weekend at Hampton Beach and even saw a very powerful Michael Franti & Spearhead concert with Scoop and Brenda on Lansdowne street, in the former home of the mythical Metro club of yesteryear.  Franti's reggae is extraordinarily energetic, and his message, attitude and persona are among the best I have witnessed firsthand.
Right before leaving Massachusetts again, I met up with Adrian on US soil and spent an afternoon visiting with the New Urban Mechanics duo (Chris and Nigel) and then meeting up at Thoughtbot with my old ATΩ pal James McElhiney and his Haitian business partner Rousseau Aurelien of FutureFridays, a very exciting entrepreneurship incubator company they started after successfully launching  Over a very special homemade Negroni, we discussed how Adrian and I will be able to contribute to their goal of starting four new successful companies every year.  I am very grateful to Jamie's wife, Louisa Bertman for being such a great artist and for including me on her mailing list for her open studio, which allowed me to reconnect to Jamie, another "brother" that I had lost touch with, but whose professional life has much in common with mine.
The next day, Adrian and I attended the wedding of our de-facto Energence legal counsel Jason Cofield with lovely Twilight Seward at Boston University.  Finally, Adrian, Nick and I got on the same plane and traveled to Oxford together for the start of our European working vacation, which will be the subject of the next few summer posts from Venice, where Nick and I will be until the end of July, after my real meno uno birthday...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tracking Home

Since the last post, Nick and I drove back from Santa Fe by way of Las Vegas and San Francisco and got busy with our "other" lives in Massachusetts as soon as we got back, hence the radio silence on the blog channel for this past month.
It was an epic coast-to-coast adventure.  Especially the California detour.  After paying another visit to the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas (we are now "frequent liers") to see Jackie, who was half-way through her grueling Bikram instructor bootcamp, we headed to San Francisco, hitting Death Valley and Sequoia National parks along the way.  Un-be-lie-va-ble!
As desolate as some of these landscapes are, they are the next best thing to traveling to other planets.  Since they escape description, one must see them to understand what I am talking about.  So go see Death Valley and definitely go see the giant sequoias.  The "biggest" trees on earth.
At a height of 85 m, General Sherman is smaller than the "real" bell tower of Saint Mark (100m), though taller than the fake one at the Venetian.  It is not the tallest tree in the worldHyperion, a California redwood, a little further north on the coast of California is twice as tall.  A "mere" 2700 years old, General Sherman is half the age of Methuselah, which is also in California.  Except for the widest tree, which is a baobab in South Africa (where, as an aside, the FIFA Soccer World Cup is about to start), California is home to all of the other tree record-holders in the world, and General Sherman is the biggest by volume...  Humongous both in height and girth.  And unexpectedly very soft - kind of spongy - to the touch.  Really weird texture, much like mulch.
Whereas on the way down to Santa Fe in March we recorded timelapse videos of our entire drive, this time around we did less of that, but we compensated by recording "tracks" using the BUMP application, which is now working quite well, as can be seen from the map below, which is a composite of thousands of GPS and accelerometer readings across the entire continent... Impressive! (more on this later)

View Larger Map

We are now about to leave Massachusetts again to head to Europe on June 6th.  We'll be back on this side of the pond on August 2nd.  We are real nomads... Nick and I.  Our travels are testing the limits of Dopplr.  We bounce around like Bedouins, set up tents in far-away places like Tuaregs.  Like Berbers, we are without a real home.  We might as well live in yurts (which for some reason is one of Jackie's unfulfilled fantasies).
As much as he likes the excitement of travel, Nick is starting to complain about it a little.  He misses his SVS friends.  Conversely, many of our friends and colleagues complain that we're not around enough...  It's tough to have to leave, but, then again, if I had never left Venice in the first place, I would have never met any of my American friends.  If I hadn't left Spencer to go south and west, I would have never met my great friends in Santa Fe, like Steve and Josh who now miss me (as I miss them) when I go back east...  You just can't win.

Tonight, a  census volunteer finally caught up with me in Spencer after trying several times.  He is a retired Indian Ph.D. physicist whom I vaguely remembered having showed up (as an abutter) at one of our planning board meetings a while back.  "What am I gonna do?  Stay home and watch TV?" is his reasoning for volunteering to be a census-taker.  My kind of guy.  When he asked me if I was in Spencer on April 1st 2010, I had to think about it.  Then I remembered that April Fool's was when I quit smoking (again) in Santa Fe.  "So, is this your home?", the Indian scientist asked.  "I guess so..." I said hesitatingly.  If I am going to be counted anywhere in the US, I guess Spencer is the most appropriate place for me to call home.  I am here about 5 months of the year, these days.  But I don't like to pick "favorites".  In my mind, all of my haunts are "homes" in equal measure.  After all, as I am equanimously fond of saying:  "I spend half of my time in Spencer, half in Venice and half in Santa Fe".

Robert Frost said that "home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in"...  That implies someone else is home to let you in.  Who are "they"?  Now that Jackie is gone, nobody was home in Spencer to let us in, and the castle felt abandoned (as real castles often are). What if you own the house and let yourself in with the keys?  Is that home too?  Or is it where you keep your clothes and lawnmowers?
Being a vagabond has its pluses and minuses, like anything else.
Like Homer, our mobile apps can help us track the odyssey that is our life.  Like Ulysses (which for a while was my acronymically witty middle-nom de plume), I may some day return to my Ithaca: a place I will call home.  Like Marco Polo in Calvino's Invisible Cities, perhaps I just find my hometown everywhere I go.  All of these places are "almost but not quite entirely unlike" Venice as Arthur Dent (or Douglas Adams) would say...  Some subtly so, like the Sequoia of Saint Mark, some more blatantly so, like the Venetian.
In this very Frostian quote, Calvino expresses our struggle with ubiquity in space and time:
"Marco enters a city; he sees someone in a square living a life or an instant that could be his; he could now be in that man's place, if he had stopped in time, long ago; or if, long ago, at a crossroads, instead of taking one road he had taken the opposite one, and after long wandering he had come to be in the place of that man in the square. By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else's present. Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches." 
My answer to this existential conundrum is to be both the man that watches and the man who sits in the square, in an attempt to live out as many possible futures as I can -- simultaneously.

That's me:  ubiquitously omnipresent (yet everabsent) Fabio Polo.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Santa Farewell

It's been a very successful term here in Santa Fe.  The seven weeks flew by and it was snowing here on this May Day 2010, just like it was when the students first arrived in mid-March.  We had a couple of final dinners at the Cowgirl and at Maria's and everyone flew back home on Sunday.  Nick and I will start our drive back shortly.
Last Thursday, the two WPI teams presented their results at the Santa Fe Complex.  The presentations, which made front page news on the Albuquerque Journal North, were well attended by local city officials (including a city councilwoman), as well as representatives of NGOs, friends of the Complex, and even some WPI officials (former trustee Karen Bean) and alumni (Paul Kalenian).  Mayor Coss, who had already attended a set of preliminary presentations, could not be there in person, but sent a very nice letter instead (click on image).
The first project, that explored the feasibility and desirability of developing a Municipal Electric Infrastructure, received more attention in the press, since the issue has been somewhat controversial over the years.  Our team successfully developed an estimate of the replacement cost for all the components of the Santa Fe grid ($100M), and explored ways in which the city can meet its Sustainable Santa Fe goals.  They concluded that the city could afford to own and operate the local grid with little or no increase in the electrical rates for the citizens and businesses.  It is a solution that could even help attract new businesses to the area, in addition to reducing the city's carbon footprint through the use of renewable sources of energy.  It would open the door to innovation...
The second project, on the redevelopment of Saint Michael's Drive, also received good media attention, especially because of our collaboration with young students from the De Vargas Middle School, with whom the WPI team collected and organized a baseline of GIS layers and other data pertinent to the  redevelopment of St. Michael's Drive.  Using skillful, multi-projector presentations that simulated the potential applications of a fully ambient and interactive room, the students persuasively demonstrated how such a platform would facilitate the process of participatory planning and urban design.  The team succeeded at conveying the feasibility and desirability of an interactive urban platform that would allow city officials, planners, professionals and all citizens to visually assess the socio-economic impacts of specific design choices affecting the physical, economic or regulatory systems within the city.  We hope that this project will convince the city to fund the Complex to develop the first "real" prototype of the Santa Fe Ambient Platform, patterned along the lines of the Venice Table and the sand table applications developed by Simtable, perhaps with a bit of EventFlow, borrowed from the Redfish applications in Florida, San Francisco and the UK.
It's been a nice term overall.  Great weather, as always... Great students!  Good progress on our Bump and NASA DEW projects.  A paper accepted at a "Greece Fire" conference.  Better clarity on the "killer platform" for urban information harvesting.  Great new accommodations with awesome views at Las Vistas on Gonzales.  Great high-altitude exercise regimen!  And I even stopped smoking again.  On April's Fool day a month ago.  It was easy.  Pesce d'Aprile!

I like Santa Fe.  I like the fact that I could go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing just yesterday!  It's nice to be able to extend the snow season until now.
But we have to get back to the East Coast now.  Time to go...
Farewell Santa Fe!  Until the next time... (August maybe?)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Grand Family Adventure

This past weekend, the Carreras took an unforgettable family trip from Santa Fe to Las Vegas and back.  Jackie had come to visit Nick and me in Santa Fe on her way to a 3-month Bikram Yoga instructor training course in Las Vegas.  Since neither Jaq nor Nick had ever seen the Grand Canyon, we drove together from Santa Fe to Flagstaff, and then circumnavigated the whole thing in a 750 mile counterclockwise loop that brought us to Las Vegas and eventually back to Flagstaff by way of Hoover Dam.  For the occasion, I sported my telegenic Jedediah-the-Amish look, as one can see from the photos and videos from this adventure.

View Grand Canyon in a larger map

Wow! what a trip!  I had forgotten just how sublime the whole experience can be.  I saw the Grand Canyon with Nonno, Nonna and Barbara in 1979, after graduating from Chicopee Comprehensive High School. Thirty years seem such a looooooooooong time ago, when measured by the yardstick of my personal timeline...  Yet, the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where the Colorado River is still carving its way through stratum after stratum of geological layers, is at least a couple of billion years old!  Humbling to say the least.  We are so insignificant in the bigger scheme of things...  All the more reason to dare, no?  If we carpe every diem for our entire existence, the whole thing will be less than a blink of an eye in geological time, even when measured with a creationist hourglass in lieu of carbon dating.

The Grand Canyon is so big that I could actually feel my brain wavering between extreme interpretations of its puzzling scale.  At one moment it felt immense, eternal and majestic, and the next minute my brain seemed to also entertain the paradoxical plausibility of its being actually very small and toy-like.  This mile-deep gash into the earth's crust is ten times longer than the Venice lagoon, and about 1000 times older.  It defies comprehension both spatially and temporally.  To paraphrase Ram Dass: "if you think you're so important, go spend a day on the Grand Canyon"... or a weekend in Las Vegas.
The whole drive was "epic" as Nick would say and, appropriately, he cued up some epic Ennio Morricone music at key moments of extreme landscape intensity.  I have never felt so engulfed by geological ambiance in my life.  I could really "feel time" as I drove on across the ever-changing, other-worldly landscapes of the Arizona Strip and on semi-abandoned stretches of the mythical Route 66, in hog-heaven (I think I will come back here on a Harley).  Many times, I felt I was driving along the bottom of an ancient ocean or cutting across a prehistoric riverbed, half-expecting a dinosaur or an alien spaceship to surprise me as I rounded the next corner...  Phenomenal!
Saturday was an extraordinary day.  We should have days like that more often... We woke up in Flagstaff, had breakfast at Macy's on Beaver Street, drove to the South Rim, stopped at many lookouts along the Kaibab trail  and on Desert View Drive, then crossed the Colorado river at Navajo Bridge to enter the Arizona Strip on our way to Vegas.  At the end of long day characterized by awe-inspiring natural beauty, we drove into the fakest city in the world (a veritable Futurama) at midnight on a Saturday and we went to sleep right in the heart of SinCity ... at the Venetian.  Of course.  I think I will ensconce into a separate blog entry my personal considerations about this unique piece of architectural  kitsch that may teach us something about the real city that we know and love.  It was all Nick's idea, and Jackie and I loved it (albeit reluctantly).  Nick skateboarded around the strip until 6am.  Whatever else happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas...
It was the perfect way to end a Grand day for our crazy family.
As Jackie said: "From Canyon Road, to the Grand Canyon to the Grand Canal, in the space of a day".

Grand indeed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

James Brody - archipelago in the sky

On Sunday, James Brody, a Santa Fe composer, teacher and friend died in a car accident in Minnesota.  He was an active participant at the Santa Fe Complex where I had a chance to interact with him briefly, as we collaborated on a sonic tribute to Venice on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Venice Project Center.  All I really did was to make available to James the Sounds of Venice recordings that a group of WPI students collected in Venice a few years back, which include over 100 characteristic sounds that are unique to Venice.  James quickly created a medley of the sounds and then proceeded to produce a more sophisticated set, that he named Archipelago Venice.

In case we needed another memento mori, James premature departure from this earth ought to remind us of our impermanence and instigate us to be bold to the point of recklessness in our self-expression...
What are we so afraid of?  What's holding us back?
Memento Audere Semper!

Thank you, James, for being insatiably creative...  We will miss you!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Equinox update

Nick and I completed our epic transcontinental adventure last Saturday (March 13), after logging almost 4,000 miles of driving from our home in Spencer, MA to Santa Fe, across 14 states and the continental divide.  As you can read in our #nfga (Nick and Fabio's Great Adventure) tweets (fed automatically to facebook), Nick and I shared the driving through great American landscapes.  Nick got his first speeding ticket in Indiana and had a very close call with a giant moose/elk in Idaho...  Memorable indeed. We managed to get 3 great days of skiing in there at Jackson Hole (Wyoming), Alta (Utah) -- which was our favorite loveliest ski destination -- and Steamboat Springs (Colorado).  We were bushed by the end of our last run and made a beeline to New Mexico to rest and relax.  We arrive Saturday March 13 at 2am.
About a foot of fresh snow was on the ground by the time the students arrived on Sunday.  What a start of the term!  It has snowed several times in this first week of the WPI spring term (Term D) here in Santa Fe -- over half a meter in all...  Gave me a chance to experience some great high-altitude outings on cross-country skis, snowshoes and a borrowed pair of powder skis. Awesome landscape, but demanding at elevations exceeding 10,000 feet (over 3,000 meters).
Today, to celebrate the vernal equinox, I figured it was appropriate to scale el Monte del Sol on snowshoes to celebrate the halfway point between the shortest and the longest day of the year, when the sun and the moon share the celestial sphere equally.  Sun mountain is one of a pair of conical peaks that offer very accessible yet grandiose views of the northern New Mexico plateau from Albuquerque to Los Alamos, Santa Fe and the Sangre de Cristo mountains where the Santa Fe Ski Area is nestled.  The twin peak in what some people have called the "wonderbra" of Santa Fe is appropriately called the Moon Mountain.  Perfect for an equinotial hike.  Inspired me to write a couple of #hikeku to honor the moment... at noon.
        This past week the two teams of WPI students were off too a great start, meeting City officials for both the St. Michael's Drive redevelopment project as well as for the Municipal Electric Infrastructure project.  The were even interviewed by the New Mexican newspaper, though the article about their projects is still in the works.  They will be interviewed again later this week.
It's great to be in Santa Fe.  It's healthy and fun.  Nick and I love it...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rites of passage

Nick and I are on our second continental traverse right now.  We left Spencer on Friday afternoon after a very eventful week.

View 2nd Cross-country road trip - the Northern route in a larger map
On the very same day, Wednesday March 3, 2010, Nick successfully completed his GED (General Education Development), which is the equivalent of completing High School and also passed his learner's permit test, so he will be allowed to drive with a licensed driver.  All of this, just in time for our big crosscountry trip from Massachusetts to New Mexico.  It's a real coming of age for Nick!  Wow!  Congratulations my dear son!  I love you.
Now you can look forward to college and life with full confidence.  I am so grateful for this...
In true Venetian/American spirit, we are celebrating Nick's rite of passage with our own version of the Northwest passage, pioneered by our fellow Venetian, Giovanni Caboto, except we're doing overland on our automatic Subaru Forester.  We have driven 800 miles so far, and Nick has been at the wheel at least half the time.  He's a good driver.  And I tried to keep my comments to a minimum... my tongue hurts from biting it and my knuckles are just back to normal color.
It took us a while to pack and leave on Friday, but it was still daylight when Nick drove us out of Castle Lane and to the Pike (Interstate 90 West) which is going to take us clear across to Wyoming.  Easy. And loooooong.
We spent the first night with John Meehan at Taconic Lake, in Grafton NY.  John and I went for a cross country ski trek through the woods to start the day.  Perfect way to inaugurate a cross country trip. Nick and I left at noon (again with Nick at the wheel) and drove 11 hours, clear across upstate New York, bypassing Utica, Syracuse, Buffalo (NY), Erie (PA), Cleveland and Toledo (OH).
We are currently in Wauseon, Ohio.  Ready to leave for day 3.  We're hoping to make it to South Dakota after lunch in Chicago.

Things are looking up.  It's the dawning of a new era.

Nick is now a young man.  And he's going West.

And he's taking dad along with him....

Follow our tweets on the right sidebar of this blog or on twitter.  
Look for the hashtag #nfga (Nick and Fabio's Great Adventure).  
The soundtrack to our trip is provided by Joe Moreau... Thanks Joe!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Our latest project was featured in the Boston Globe a couple of days ago.  It's going to be called BUMP (Boston Urban Mechanics Profiler) and it's a good example of "subliminal" crowdsourcing...  BUMP will collect road condition information for free and without any human intervention (once it's turned on), using the accelerometers and GPS that are becoming more and more ubiquitous inside smartphones.
WPI's City Lab has been developing an automated Pothole Mapping Device since the year 2003.  Based on the concept of City Knowledge -- a municipal information infrastructure approach developed at MIT -- the Pothole Mapper was designed and built to automatically detect bumps and record their locations using GPS.  It was intended to be utilized in municipal vehicles that already roam the streets of a city to provide routine municipal services, like police patrols, garbage collection, street sweeping and plowing and the like.  The device will unobtrusively collect the bump data and several of these devices will, over time, produce a map containing clouds of dots around pothole locations, with the intensity of the bump providing a measure of the pothole's severity. Mayor Menino expressed serious interest for the device and plans were made to install the prototype in his SUV in 2006.  Logistical impediments conspired to canceling the planned installation and the device went back into the lab. Meanwhile, as City Lab explored a patent application for the device , other researchers (from MIT!) leveraged our idea to assess road conditions using additional sensors (see reference #1 in linked paper). Following up on several years of research projects which lead to the development of a prototype Pothole Mapping device, we have proposed to the City of Boston to explore a second-generation  device that will be built upon the Google Phone and the Android platform. Mayor Menino's office of New Urban Machanics has given us the green flag to develop an operational prototype that will establish the feasibility of the project. BUMP will be developed by City Knowledge LLC and the Santa Fe Complex and will initially be an Android app, despite the cool graphic that accompanied the article, which unfortunately shows an iPhone and has led to some of the misguided negative comments about the iPhone that can be found at the bottom of the online article...
Development will take place in Santa Fe in the next couple of months while I am down there with a group of 8 WPI students.  Since Nick and I are repeating our epic continental traverse in both directions, I hope we can use BUMP to profile historic route 66 from Santa Fe to Chicago this May, on our return trip.
Wouldn't that be cool?

Get your bumps on route sixtysix!