While I was on my recent vacation down to the Universal Orlando resort recently I wound up purchasing a souvenir for myself, one that cost more than $25. That is unusual for me. I have become very frugal now that I am retired and on a fixed budget.
Now when on vacation, I do enjoy spending money on cocktails, whereas in my usual state I very rarely drink anymore. But on vacation, well, I regard some cocktails as simply part of the experience. In recent years, I have also become fond of buying some caps. But that is more a matter of my thinning hair. My scalp becoming more bare means that sun is more of a problem for me, certainly more of a problem when my hair was much thicker. So I like to have a collection of caps from the places that I have visited. But that is another story for another time.
Other than that, I feel that I prefer to spend less money on myself.
However on the 14th of March I was over in the Islands of Adventure park. I had arrived for my “Resort Guests Hour Early Opening” so that I could go and have breakfast over at the Three Broomsticks. Afterwards I went on the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey attraction. But then I had time on my hand before my 1100 hours reservation for lunch over at the Mythos, Grotto of the Gods, restaurant. So I used the time to explore some of the shops, not just in Hogsmeade Village, but also the shops in the Lost Continent area. I found such a shop around the entrance to the Eight Voyage of Sindbad Show.
It was called the Coin Mint. They had displays of many medallions, and some of them attracted me. The had coin blanks about 1.5 inches in diameter where they could use a hundred pound coin press to emboss an image on both sides of the coin blank. There was a sheet of the various images that could be embossed. (Sad to say, that it did not occur to me to save a copy of the sheet so that I could scan it).
I found two images that “called” out to me, and on a whim, I decided to order a medallion for myself, done in Bronze. When I got home I put the medallion on a 17 inch cord with a Magnetic Clasp.
I include images of both sides of the medallion below.
I have a Problem
There are some books that I can highly recommend. this includes a book that I intend to talk about later on in this essay. The problem in my recommendation for this particular book is that there is not necessarily any one certain thing that I can point to that makes this a recommendable book, it is kind of complicated.
There is, for example, a book such as Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. I have always loved this book since it sparked a new wave of “Realism” in late 18th and early 19th century English literature. Instead of a florid style of writing and the stilted language of the British nobility that filled the pages of English literature, Jane Austen brought a simple story of the middle class problems with a family consisting of too many daughters and no sons. It was a story written in simple direct language and a clear direct manner.
In many ways it was such a ‘breath’ of fresh air that was complemented with the writing style of Charles Dickens. It was the Dickens massive collection of writings that burst the limits of the English literary circles that had been so confined. Bringing literature to the entire nation of Great Britain, indeed his popularity spread to the Americas as well. He brought a concern for the plight of the lower classes to the fore and he touched the lives of millions.
Yet, it was Jane Austen who really led the way for Dickens, and it seems only mildly strange that Jane Austen never intended to start a revolution in literature, she didn’t even intend to publish her stories. She wanted to write a stories to amuse her younger nieces. That is why the stories were written so simply, yet so clearly, and with great irony! In her lifetime they were published anonymously and she derived little income. Yet her influence in the world of literature was to become very large after her death, just as Dickens was to have a huge influence on the world of literature while he still lived. The style of “Realism” was to be their legacy.
This makes it very easy to recommend the books of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to young readers. Even though the details of the works are clearly dated, the style is infectious and is still enjoyable even now in the 21st century.
What is My Problem?
My problem is that there are also books that I have found most enjoyable, but without the clear cut reasons for recommendation that I could offer for “Pride and Prejudice”, or “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby”.
The book that I want to recommend is “The Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder and published in 1981. The new machine of the book is the Data General Eclipse MV/8000. And the book details the high pressure world of a computer engineering team racing to design and build a new machine from the ground up in a blistering race of time.
Data General had gotten itself into a pickle. They needed a new computer to compete with the VAX computer from DEC that had begun the race to enter the new 32 bit minicomputer market.
The senior designers for Data General were assigned the “sexy’ job of the designing the new generation computer that would put Data General into the race. They were being sent to the new Data General Research center in North Carolina. There to begin the “Fountainhead Project” that would bring the laurels to the company.
In the meantime, the remaining computer designers in Data General would stay in the corporate headquarters in Westborough, Mass and were given the more humble job of improving existing Data General products, such as the 16 bit Eagle minicomputer.
When the “Fountainhead Project” ran into difficulties and delays, Data General faced the prospect of falling behind the “hated” Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)!
While inside the basements of Data General, the “humble” team, headed by computer engineer Tom West, decided to begin a project in semi-secret that could become a backup plan in case the fancy machine foundered. In that case, his project, code named “Super Eagle” could save the day for Data General. With his lieutenants, Tom West decided to take the Eagle and using a bit of stealth turn it into a 32 bit machine without top management being the wiser.
However, to complete this semi-secret project in time to be able to save the company, West had to take great risks. He decided to rely on new computer chips that had not proven themselves, and that had uncertain prospects for mass production. He had his middle level managers bring on promising college graduates (who had never designed anything so complicated before), but would be youngsters who would would work all their waking hours feverishly to get in on the ground floor of a new machine. In their world it was called playing “Pong”; if you played and won, you would get to build the next machine!
Another huge risk that West took was in allowing Tracy Kidder into the lab to observe everything and to document the race against time to take silicon, plastic, wires and put them together in a coherent pattern that could handle the new micro-code that they had to write at the same time as the circuits that would accept the micro-code were being wired together. Tracy Kidder was also there at the frantic debugging sessions as the hand wired circuits were brought to life, the micro-code would be inserted and bring the “Soul” of their new Eagle computer to become real.
What results is a riveting story of engineers bringing to life a computer, admittedly a bit of a “kludge”, but nonetheless under budget and on time to rescue the fortunes of Data General when the “Fountainhead Project” did indeed falter and fail.
At the end of the book, I could let out a great sigh of relief, and I felt that I had indeed watched a team of dedicated young engineers breath a “Soul” into their New Machine! I can indeed highly recommend this book as a behind the scenes look of a high tech “arms race”, exciting all the way down to the last page even for non-techies!
One of my favorites pieces of music; O Fortuna by Carl Orff from the opera Camina Burana. And in this case performed by conductor Andre Rieu. This piece is in Latin, which makes it very sonorous, and I might even say dramatic. There is a translated version in the second You Tube video below, for those not up on their Latin.
video by Woodcreek Faction on YouTube
I have been looking at this artwork for a couple of months now. I found it on Etsy.com and I really like it. I have been wanting to order it. It is a reproduction of some of the original art work for the Disneyland Tiki Room (which I visited back in December of 1966). The artwork is loaded on a wood panel 11″ by 14″ and hand rubbed on the wood. I am really looking forward to receiving this artwork and hanging it on my wall! I should have it in perhaps 2 weeks.
I was just on the site today to take another look at it when I noticed the notice to the effect that there was only 1 print left! So I decided that I had better order it right now! And not take the chance that I will not be able to find this item in the future. So that is what I did, I ordered it just now, and I have confirmation in my inbox that my order is entered and being made up right now.
They have other attraction posters available such as:
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
- the Haunted Mansion
- the Jungle Cruise
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- WDW Monorail System
- Star Tours
I would like to get some of these, what do you think? Which ones would look good on my walls?
I came back from Florida and it snows!
It seems almost a bit odd that I would come back from a vacation in Florida where the weather that was unseasonable cold, only to come back to New Jersey and find that there was a ‘bomb cyclone’ on the way. Actually this is the fourth such storm to strike this March. There was a lesser storm on the day before I flew out of New Jersey. I had to drive through snow flurries to get to the airport at 0300 on Tuesday the 13th.
After returning from Florida I had thought that the snow season had finally ended, only to find out on this past Monday that I could expect another, larger storm to strike on Wednesday! But none the less, I include a recitation of this incident under my category of “My Favorite Things”. That is because now that I have retired I now longer have to worry about shoveling out the driveway to get to work!
The snow began at 1200 yesterday and I thought that perhaps it’s magnitude had been underestimated. However when the snow began it fell so heavily that I could not see the houses across the street. On the Weather Channel they estimated that the snow would fall at a rate of 5 cm/hr, with the snow lasting for 12 or more hours! However, I had plenty of groceries in the house, and there was absolutely no need for me to go out of the building for anything.
As a matter of fact, there was no need for me to even leave the apartment, and I did stay in all day. This morning I woke up at 0500 and decided to do a load of laundry, not a problem since I have a laundromat right in the building. Right at 0600 I heard a scraping noise, and looking out the window I saw the snow plow clearing out the parking lot. There were even a couple of guys on foot scraping the snow off of the walkways! So no snow shoveling for me! It was nice to watch from inside of my warm apartment. The city snowplows have already cleared the roads, so that there should be no problem with me going to visit mom later on today.
This is truly one of My Favorite Things moment.