Thursday, November 08, 2007

CouchSurfing

Here's a potentially exciting, or scary, combination of technology and travel. For no charge, anyone can register at couchsurfing.com to become a member of what amounts to an accommodation exchange network. In registering, you agree to take on two roles in the project.

The first role is that of a host. As a host, you sign on to provide accommodations (the proverbial couch) to a surfer at your leisure. Yes, you announce to the world your willingness to open your house to a complete stranger!

As a surfer, you search for and request accommodations at the destination of your choice. If you can work out a consensual arrangement with a host, you are on your way to being a guest in the home of a person you have never met who lives perhaps half a world away!

So what's the upside of this system? Here's what one surfer has said: "I won’t set foot in hotels or hostels anymore. I won’t not couch surf anymore. You get a lot more cultural interaction. You get to meet people. Instead of going off a guidebook, you stay with someone who lives there. You see the country you’re going to see instead of the Americanized version of it. And you make a friend. It’s a much more personal experience." (For this and other happy quotes, see http://www.bellinghamherald.com/lifestyle/story/227898.html.)

There's the obvious question to ask about all of this. How do you avoid the seemingly inevitable outcome of getting paired up with an ax murderer? The system's safeguard is a pretty commonplace idea on the web today--the marketplace of peer review. Like eBay, Amazon, and other Internet exchange sites, hosts and surfers have the opportunity to provide feedback to the community about their experiences with particular individuals. Why does this peer feedback not comfort me all that much in this particular context ? Could it be that one bad experience could cost you more than a few dollars?

As if you haven't guessed, you can count me out on the couchsurfing deal. I'll stick to Motel 6, the Chinese Tibetan Medicine Hotel (small, hard beds and all)...anything but a couch that I really know nothing about, despite the faith I might have in humanity (a lot) and the Internet (somewhat less).

~Steve

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

High School Triple Crown

Well, we have three more high school open houses under our belts. It was a crazy Sunday of dashing from St. John's College High School to the Academy of the Holy Cross to Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. Memo to local Catholic high schools--coordinate your open houses!

Actually, it was fine. We were able to knock three schools out in a couple of hectic hours and not blow three different days on our tour. Out of the blur, a couple of observations stand out in my mind.

St. John's looks very familiar. From the campus with the rolling hills, to the red that is everywhere inside and outside the building to the ever-present ROTC kids, St. John's reminded Desi and I very much of Bishop Ahr.

Stone Ridge has a seventh floor! Stone Ridge is located on a very, very hilly piece of land. As a result, the complex of buildings meanders up and down, with lots of stairs and a couple of elevators. At the very top is the old mansion that was the original building on the property. The attic of this mansion, which is where the art classes are held, is six stories above the ground floor where you enter the school. No excuse for Stone Ridge students to be out of shape!

I want to go back to high school! There are so many things going on on these beautiful campuses, things I'd love to take advantage of, both inside and outside the classroom. Everything from lessons on Catholic catechism to opportunities to do pottery to great athletic fields and tons of instructional technology. High school for 40 year olds! We'll show them how to do it!

As things stand right now, Julie seems to have picked Visitation, Holy Cross, and St. John's as her front runners, with a Good Counsel visit still to come. Desi and I figure we'll panhandle nearby whatever school Julie chooses...

~Steve