Sand Sculpture at Fort Meyers Beach

2011/02/08 2 comments

DSC_0508I attended the American Sandsculpting Championship at Fort Meyers Beach and was really blown away by the works. I had expected some nice sand castles with flourishes. But what I got were sculptures taller than me that often looked like stone and seemed impossible to execute in sand.

The rules are that the artists are allowed only sand, water, and tools to build the works. So no internal framework, no supporting members, and no glue (though I understand they are sprayed with a diluted glue mixture AFTER completion to hold them against the elements for viewing and judging).

Turns out that Fort Meyers Beach is one of the premier location for sand sculpting. Many beaches have sand which is composed of coarse roundish grains. Much of the sand on the Florida West Coast is very fine and powdery which is easy to see. What’s not so obvious is that the grains are more angular and this combined with the small size makes the sand much more cohesive and perfect for building and sculpting.

Official Site: http://sandsculptingfestival.com/

More of my pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/asantaballa/sets/72157625881886039/show/

–Al-

Categories: Art Tags: ,

Regina Brett and her 50 Life Lessons

Regina Brett was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. A columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, she wrote a column entitled “50 Life Lessons” in 2006. This has become the most widely distributed column she’s had to date and reading it, it is easy to see why. It’s a wonderful combination of pith, common sense and wisdom that can speak to us all. It came to me at a particularly weak moment and immediately captured my attention so I’d like to share it with you.

More on Regina Brett

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Originally published in The Plain Dealer on Sunday, May 28, 2006

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here’s an update:

1.    Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2.    When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3.    Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4.    Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5.    Pay off your credit cards every month.

6.    You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7.    Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8.    It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9.    Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10.    When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11.    Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12.    It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13.    Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14.    If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15.    Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16.    Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17.    You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18.    A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19.    It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20.    When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21.    Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22.    Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23.    Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24.    The most important sex organ is the brain.

25.    No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26.    Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27.    Always choose life.

28.    Forgive everyone everything.

29.    What other people think of you is none of your business.

30.    Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31.    However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32.    Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33.    Believe in miracles.

34.    God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35.    Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36.    Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37.    Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38.    Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39.    Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40.    If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41.    Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42.    Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43.    All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44.    Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45.    The best is yet to come.

46.    No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47.    Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48.    If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49.    Yield.

50.    Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Categories: Personal

The First Disk Drive

2011/01/14 1 comment

Can’t believe I never heard of this before after all these IT years (decades). The first production dick drive was the IBM 350 disk storage unit which came out in 1956. It had 50 platters and weighed over a ton. And all that area gave it a whopping 5 megabytes (NOT gigabyte). It was not large enough to hold a single image from one of out modern high megapixel cameras.

I can’t find a price for it but the computer system with the disk drive leased for $3,200 per month. And that’s 1956 bucks.

It’s crazy making to compare that to what we have now where it’s not uncommon for folks to have a terabyte  at home for about a hundred bucks. But this stuff was incredibly advanced for it’s time. Before this processing was mostly done on tapes. If someone needed to know how many of a product was in stock an operator would have to run a job and mount a tape which would then be read sequentially until the item was found and printed out. The idea that a production computer could reach right into its permanent storage at any point was as radical as the interplanetary internet is today.

http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/storage/storage_350.html

http://www.technologyevangelist.com/2006/09/the_hard_disk_drive.html

http://asterhost.info/amazing-facts-and-figures-about-the-evolution-of-hard-disk-drives/

–Al-

Categories: Tech Tags:

The Scarlet Pumperpennny Gets a Mac

2010/12/28 1 comment

A friend of mine just received a MacBook Air for Christmas. I thought this may be an interesting opportunity to follow someone through learning the Apple way which is so “easy an intuitive”. She would probably prefer I not use here name, so I’ll call her the Scarlet Pumperpenny.

Scarlet is a very intelligent lady. She currently uses computers (Windows) heavily throughout the day and has done so for many years. She uses a desktop at work but has a personal laptop so she is no stranger to varied sized keyboards, mice, and touchpads.

She emailed me a bit worried that she would have trouble using it. I immediately replied that she would have nooooo trouble at all based on the consistent plaudits I’ve heard from the Applerati over the years and my own experience learning Macs. Certainly if she could handle those clunky PCs, the Mac would be effortless to learn.

Looking forward to her first story!

–Al-

Categories: Tech Tags:

My Aunt Died of Stubbornness

2010/08/11 2 comments

My aunt died of stubbornness. That may sound like a strange statement, but I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.

Let me back up. We all die. Someday. If we eat badly we may die of a heart attack. If we hang around dangerous areas in the city we may die of an impromptu stabbing. If we drive recklessly we may die in a fiery crash. But if we do none of these we still die.

However, if we die of the heart attack, people say “He never took care of their diet. He died because of their diet.”

If we die of stabbing they say “I’ve told him a zillion times to be more careful where he goes. He died because he went where he should have avoided”.

If we die in a crash they say “What can he expect driving the way he did? His driving killed him”.

So even if we expect that death is inevitable and that we all die of old age eventally, there is a recognition that certain events can bring on death. And that is why I say my aunt died of stubbornness.

My aunt was 83 when she passed away. She was one degree away from being a recluse, leaving her home less than 4 times a year. She was overweight. She had cholesterol level up the wazoo! So you may think it obvious that she died of those things.

But three years ago I decided for myself that she was no longer functional enough to live unattended. I didn’t push it, but I recognized the time had come when the situation  was becoming untenable. I wasn’t ready to push the family yet, but I knew in my mind the time was coming.

Every year we get together (got together) at my aunt’s house for a “near-Christmas” dinner,  This was where we made a point of visiting her in a party mood with a timetable that did not conflict with the zillion plans everyone has for the holidays. At this last one, my sister noticed a really abnormal amount of mosquitoes. Please realize we live in South Florida so enough mosquitoes to raise our attention is a huge amount of the things. I pointed ths out to my sister and to my aunt’s granddaughter to indicate “the time has come”.

Now with their support we found a great ALF (Assisted Living Facility). I cannot praise these institutions enough. They are almost the exact opposite of what we used to call “Old Folk’s Homes”. These are organized as individual houses with 5-10 residents. They are in residential neighborhoods. You could have one next door to you. The key is that their quality of life is far beyond what we used to think of when “we need to send x to a ‘home'”.

My aunt refused to go for 4 months.

No matter what I did, what my sister did, what her granddaughter did, she refused. Sometimes in a quiet way. Sometimes in a boisterous way. But always in a concrete way. “I’m not going”.

Eventually we had the “disaster”. I got a call from a cousin that she had tried to call my aunt and gotten no response. She visited my aunt and was not able to get in, but my aunt said through the door that she had fallen and was unable to open the door. My cousin called me, I rushed over, and the short story is that we spent the night and part of the next day in the emergency room. Best as we could determine she had spent two days on the floor.

The one good thing that came out of that episode was that my aunt had no choice but to move to the ALF. She went directly from the emergency room there.

And there was a big surprise. She loved it. Within a couple of days she was comfortable. By the end of the week she was telling family how nice the other residents were. The situation seemed to have turned out much better than we could ever have hoped.

The second Friday we got a call from the ALF just to let us know that they had sent my aunt to hospital because she was complaining about upset stomach. I assumed that was the ALF being extra cautious with a new patient. But when I visited her on Saturday I immediately realized this was not the case. She was bloated and looked absolutely awful. Talking with the doctor let me discover that she had a serious pool of blood behind her abdomen. That by the time she had come to the hospital a significant amount of damage had already occurred to her organs.

Also not to belabor this episode, she was dead in two days.

What I learned from all this

(a) The ALF was the right choice. Not by my estimate, but by my aunt’s reaction.

(b) My aunt was “healthy” enough to have lasted another year or two.

(c) My aunt missed out on a couple of years of higher quality of life than she had been living by refusing to go earlier.

Those years were stolen by her own stubbornness. She did not need to die when she did. She could have stuck around a bit longer to the natural end of here life. All gone.

So it makes me think, what am I stubborn about. Are all the things I fight for worth fighting for. What am I missing out by refusing some path. I am sorry she is gone, and hope that stupid stubbornness never bring another episode like that into my life.

–Al-

Categories: Personal

Math Really can be Beautiful

2010/07/21 1 comment

What do you get when you plot the roots of polynomials using different colors for each degree? Incredibly rich artwork! Thanks to Dan Christensen for producing them and John Baez for making me aware of them. Don’t know either one, but managed to bring some joy to my day!

–Al-

Categories: Tech

Haiti Six Months After the Quake

2010/07/15 1 comment

Haiti was in our thoughts right after the quake. While time may have moved it from the forefront of our consciousness, Haiti is still in dire straits. Only about two percent of the rubble is cleared. Read and see more at http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/07/12/in-focus-haiti-six-months-after/

Remember how long it took to get back to normal after the hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana. Remember that was with USA sized resources. Imagine trying to tackle a disaster with Haiti’s resources. Help is still needed.

Categories: Uncategorized