Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Apartment fire

Apartment fire

Apartment fire

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 11:04 AM PDT

Apartment fire near downtown houston.  Montrose area.  3 blocks from my balcony view!

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Large fire in downtown Houston

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 10:57 AM PDT

A large building fire is growing in downtown Houston. It appears to have originated around Dallas and Waugh street.

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Large fire in downtown Houston

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 10:53 AM PDT

A fire is burning in the Montrose district of downtown Houston on the corner of Dallas and Waugh. Four buildings are currently on fire.

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Developing America’s Next Leaders Through Robotics

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 01:15 AM PDT

In the world of high profile sports, we think about superstars, big scores, and supersized contracts. From high school through college all the way to the pros, kids dream of being a superstar. It's less about team, and more often about "me." In Milwaukee, as the Wisconsin Badgers fought the Oregon Ducks for a chance to reach basketball's March Madness, just a few blocks away another event drew a completely different crowd. A large contingent of dedicated high school students, surrounded by mentors aided by thousands of parents, students, and cheering spectators helped them navigate their way through a Midwest regional robotics competition. This event focuses more on teamwork, rather than individual victories in helping to shape tomorrow's leaders.


As you walk in the US Cellular Arena, you immediately feel the energy. Loud music pumps the beats of Katy Perry, One Republic, and Lorde as colored lights fill the area. The crowds cheer and clap as the announcers raise their amplified voices as if a championship prize fight was about to begin at Madison Square Garden. Participants wear face paint and customized T-shirts and outfits. Team mascots fill the arena with personality and drama. At center stage, a group of sophisticated high tech robotics maneuver, dart, and shoot large red and blue balls in a series of coordinated moves. The atmosphere seems more like NCAA basketball, NASCAR, and a rock concert all rolled into one. In reality, this was the 33rd US FIRST 2014 Wisconsin Regional Robotics Competition, bringing teams from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, North Dakota, and California together for team competition. FIRST is non-profit organization created in 1989 promoting the concept of "Practicing gracious Professionalism®." Their vision is "to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."


The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of high school students, along with mentors "to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard "kit of parts" and a common set of rules." The regional event challenges teams, red vs. blue, made up of three teams each. The six team field goes through a 2 minute challenge, first having the robots shoot large balls through specific areas on the floor through preprogrammed computer codes, followed by a period where the students take over with joy-stick control.  The teams with the highest point totals move on through the competition, culminating with the finals when ranked teams can form new team alliances to win the final regional competition, and a chance to attend the national competition in St. Louis.


As you walk through the "robotic pits" they resemble a NASCAR pit. A long list of who's who corporate sponsors and suppliers include GE, Rockwell Automation, Motorola, Google, and Microsoft. Power tools and computer diagnostic equipment fill the area. While some may think this is a world for geeks, it's far from the truth. Team # 537, the Chargers from Sussex, Wisconsin provided some context to the perception.


Eric Thompson, labeled as the Human Player for #537, plays football, is in the National Honor Society and spends about 3 to 4 hours a day on robotics, plus weekends. He had four tests to prepare for the coming Monday. Eric added, "Being in robotics has helped me in time management." Adam Klager, a short red-head from Sussex, WI is the Secondary Driver. He is taking two AP high school classes and is in the chess club. He says working in robotics has helped him learn important leadership skills, a reoccurring theme of other robotic teams.


Team advisor and coach for Team #537 is Lori Hinytz. She commented, "I really don't have any background in robotics, but I know how to lead." She tells her team of 60+ students how to be humble in victory and not gloat in success. As a kid her parents described her as a nice combination of "spunk and sass." Her robotics team treats her with respect and listens intently to what she says. After the first day of competition her team was seeded in first place and took a moment to be interviewed on the school bus. She says, "Your head and your heart have to be on board to be successful in whatever you are doing" in school and in choosing your career. As she continued Lori's eyes welled up in emotion, saying again, "That's the heart." Later Hinytz posed for a photo in front of their pit area. She said being the robotics advisor for Hamilton High School is about how students can become leaders and team players through robotics, rather than focusing on the awards. She describes her kids as being "remarkable, resilient, and never ending."


Hinytz demands success and achievement and can multitask with the very best. During her interview she jumped up and announced to the team, "If you haven't already texted your parents to pick you up, do it now!" Without skipping a beat, she sat back down and continued the interview. Forceful, a strong leader, with an empathetic side, she commands respect.


Each team at the FIRST event brings their own image and personality. Veronica Boratyn, Team #111, Wildstang from Schaumburg, Illinois sported a tie-dyed T-shirt and talked about being a girl among all the guys on the team. She didn't mind it at all. She is planning for a career in biomedicine. Anton Zaytseu from Team #192 GRT came from Palo Alto, California with spiked red hair to go along with the team's all-red-hair motif. Bradley Donavon from Team #3018 Nordic Storm wore a Viking's headpiece. His team eventually qualified to the national competition.


Back at #537's pit, John Block, a tool and die manufacturer and mentor for the team spoke about how parents help keep the program going. According to John, the student team "has gotten so good at the machining practices the mentors have a stand back approach, letting the senior students teach the incoming students." John added that his son, who has mild autism also benefited from the program. He said the experience helped his "son go from being quiet, to someone with an air of confidence." When companies hire robotic team members, they don't treat them as students, but rather as professional employees. Their leadership skills help them as they develop their career paths.


As the teams continued to jockey for position and place, team #537 began to fade after compiling at 9-0-1 record heading into the finals. In the end, #537 fell out of contention as other team alliances eventually qualified to attend the national robotics event in St. Louis. As the FIRST event concluded, the judges formed a line on the arena floor to award the event champions, and hand out honors for robotic innovation, achievement, teamwork, academics, and safety. Team coaches, staff, and students went through the line shaking hands and giving "high fives." The audience cheered and applauded each other.


Back in the pit area of #537, one team member stood alone. The team's robot was in the arena and the empty pit area was framed by the awards from past wins. In the background, you could still hear the announcer talking loudly on the P.A. system, as the audience continued cheering and applauding. But, in pit #537, it was silent. If you listened carefully, you could almost still hear Coach Hinytz talking about the students she still inspires… "they're all remarkable, resilient, and never ending." Words to remember in the classroom, in sports, robotics, and our lives. Truly, leaders are being developed right here.

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180 hours of occupying the parliament

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 07:32 PM PDT

it's the 180th hour of occupying the legislature.
Inside the building, the students divided into different groups to fulfill different needs. Medical team, live broadcasting, supply, security and so on. Also there are professionals like medical doctors and lawyers are also there to help out.
They have a schedule of when should be doing what, and every 30 mins or so, some group leader will make minor announcement, like, the meal has arrived, or we need to clean up our places now, or simply just cheer their spirits up with a speech or some activities.

This social movement will still be going on until the government responds properly.
Their main requests is withdraw the trade pact that was signed without any supervision, and also pass a law that will specify how Taiwan will sign any agreement with China.

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A special prom date

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 07:03 PM PDT

I just wanted to share this very special moment. My son Ed is a senior at Arrowhead High School in Hartland, WI. He is a very outgoing friendly boy. He has participated in Key Club and Best Buddies his freshman and sophomore year. Steph is also a student at Arrowhead and is a special needs student with Downs Syndrome. Ed rode the bus with Steph his freshman and sophomore years and they have been friendly throughout high school. Steph has had a "crush" on Ed since they met. Every year she has asked Ed to the homecoming dance. He has laughed and did not think much of it. As he has gotten older he has seen the value of having all kinds of friends and he decided that this year, he would be the one to do the asking. So with permission from her parents and the school, Ed decided to ask Stephanie to the Senior Prom. The video is attached. Best Buddies is donating a limo for the event. Kids have re-tweeted, liked and otherwise spread the video all over local social media. twitter Ed was just being Ed. I am very proud of my so

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Posted: 24 Mar 2014 04:26 PM PDT

Stilt fishing in Sri Lanka


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Oil Spill in Galveston

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 03:01 PM PDT

Spending spring break on a cruise ship that is not going anywhere. After two days of travel to get to the port, we were given next to no communication about boarding and the oil spill. Many of us purchased hotel rooms only to find out (5 hours later) we could get on the ship about 10 pm. We never left the port and have lost a portion of our trip. The communication is still near non existent and we are on a floating hotel that cannot serve decent beer or wine because we are still in port. Guests are getting pretty frustrated.

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Galveston oil spill

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 02:16 PM PDT

I am sitting on deck of the Royal Caribbean ship that is grounded and can't believe there doesn't seem to be any news coverage of the spill. Here are my pictures. We are stuck and for many of us, very frustrated by the whole situation. Sent from my iPhone

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The Voice from London

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 12:50 PM PDT

23rd March, 2014
A group of students protested in UK, supporting their peers in Taiwan.

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Pharrell's 'Happy' Recreated Using Pots, Pans and Cups

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 12:48 PM PDT

This is a little video I made a few days ago on my free time to show how sometimes you don't need musical instruments to make music. With all the drame going on in the world right, I think we all need a little "happy." Enjoy!

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Cheetah Family

Posted: 24 Mar 2014 10:09 AM PDT

During our morning safari drive in Kruger National Park, we came upon a family of Cheetah lying in the grass. To my pleasant surprise, something in the distance sparked their interest and they all sat up at the same time allowing me to get this shot.

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Posted: 23 Mar 2014 07:04 PM PDT


In my life there has been a lot of change in my life whether it be all the moves I have made or the choices that I have made (This of course can be said for anyone.) However despite all this change there has been one thing that has stuck with me through out all the changes I have faced and that was, Batman. He was there in the beginning for me and has been there through the darkest valleys I have walked through and as well my triumphs. Batman taught me how to be a good man, how to never give up on someone even when they have given up on themselves, he taught me to never doubt myself and he also taught me to talk. In the beginning of my life I was born with a speech impediment that left me unable to speak clearly. As a result I would go to multiple speech therapy sessions that would help me to talk cleary and be understood. In the mornings I would go to a speech therapist and in the afternoon I would practice reading out loud to work on my pronunciation of words. Often they would be children books, but gradually I was given some choices and I would drift into the world of comics and time after time I would choose Batman. So in a way Batman helped me find my voice. As I grew past this age my love for Batman didn't shrink as normal childhood whims instead it grew. It even grew into a favorite memory of my father and I, as we would go to Borders, and as my mother would browse for books. He and I would go to the magazine section he would pick up some motorcycle magazine and I would pick up a Batman Comic and dive into the mythos of Batman. Furthermore Batman was there during the biggest period of adjustments in my life from when I moved across the country or when I would switch schools. Either way during these periods of transition I would always have a period of intense loneliness before I would make friends and during this time Batman would be there to help through that time. When I moved across the country Batman was there for me on the Justice League TV show and when I switched schools he was there for me in the comics. As a result of these changes Batman has become a part of me so much so that my friends often say it's my obsession (which is true). However its not my obsession because it allows me to escape life and find comfort in something that I have known since childhood, but rather for the change in the mythos itself. I remember growing up watch the campy Adam West show and Super friends. As I would grow Batman changed as well first into the Batman the animated series, then Batman Beyond and finally the Dark Knight Returns. As I began to read the darker stories about Batman I found that the stories started to echo real life and I found in these stories a man who saw a society that was broken, ravaged by despair, mayhem and the darkness of mens' souls. In seeing this face of society he didn't crawl into a ball, but instead used his own tragedy as a motivating source to become a symbol of hope and fight against fear. This is the aspect of Batman I became obsessed with, the indomitable will that is portrayed in every telling of his story. A lesson that I have tried to take to heart, so much so that when people ask me, what my ultimate goal is I am left with only one answer, to be Batman. I know this is impossible because I will never have the wealth of Bruce Wayne or the physical gifts that he posses, but I can try to reach a place where I have his will and can affect my community in such a way that it will be better off. I think that it is important to note at this time that Batman is not just a character of ink and pencil, but also a beacon of hope. Whether it would be for Batkid in San Francisco or I, Batman has been there as a constant reminder to fight against the forces of nature and man that would push us down and try to diminish our light. In the end he is more real to me because of this, he forces me to look at the world around me and listen to the voices of pain and try to make it better. This is Batman and in his 75th year after 8 live action movies and a 9th appearance on the horizon his message has not been diluted a drop, but instead it has been amplified to a point that it reaches millions across the world and will continue to make change happen not only on a local level, but a global level.

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Batman Unmasked

Posted: 23 Mar 2014 02:08 PM PDT

Christopher Motta is a lifelong Batman Fan. According to Motta, Batman helped him cope with many difficult circumstances in his life - from losing his mother as a child to his everyday struggles as a chef.

Attached are photos from the video of Christopher Motta wearing Batman clothing throughout his life.

I caught up with Motta on his favorite Batman comics, meeting Adam West (1966 Batman) and what sees for the future of Batman.

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