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!