Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Computer Generation

Back in Arizona State University days as part of my Accounting major I took computer programing and we learned about two languages in use then, Fortran and Cobol. Doing our lab work, we had to create certain programs and I remember those large stacks of "punch cards" that had to be kept in the correct order. We would then go to the card reader and input our program to test it. It was tedious but rather exciting when the program worked as anticipated.

Then later in my own small CPA business, I came across a "programmable printing calculator" that was rather large but you could run repetitive programs that you created to get the result of common accounting problems. Very cool. That machine did not last long as it was stolen in a robbery. When it was finally recovered by the police I got it back, but the need for it had moved on. I think about that time came the HP 12 calculator which I still have and will continue using back home. I have two of them, but that is another story.

The next stage was that real computer, the Apple II which would run spreadsheets and word processing. We were using IBM Selectric typewriters in the office for financial reports at the time but once again we were robbed! They took the typewriters but I'm sure they did not know what to do with the computer and so left it in my office. The typewriters were never recovered but even so, the typists did not want them back as they were using the Apple II and found the convenience of correcting in the machine as well as other benefits. So, we entered the computing age with new PC's.

Client computing had become the standard but the small PC's weren't ready for that yet so we purchased a large computer as big as a refrigerator which used huge disks. I think one of us had to take one home every night as a backup! It was cumbersome but worked for some time as the PC capacity began to soar.

After years of growth and the use of the PC's expanded, we passed through stages of problems and expansion but it was certainly the way to do auditing and accounting. About that time, the portables came into use. I remember one of the first ones being as large as a suitcase and about as heavy. I checked in at a flight one day but at arrival, it came out of the chute with it's attached keyboard hanging loose and had some damage. The baggage handlers certainly had no idea what it was nor how fragile it was. Surprisingly it still worked. Later at the Phoenix airport I could not get it to work at the security check and so Shirlyn had to come to the airport and take it home! That was well before 9/11!

Now after retiring from that type of office work, my wife and I at the suggestion of one of our daughters-in-law went with Apple MacBook Pro machines and what a blessing that was. So user friendly and secure and the learning curve has been relatively easy. We love the programs that came with it and while at first I thought we would need to use a few old MicroSoft standbys, that was a mistake and now we are all Apple. Thank you Steve Jobs.

Now Steve Jobs is retiring as CEO of Apple, Inc. and I think he will be remembered as one of those inventors on the level of Thomas Edison or the Wright Brothers having changed the world. 

Now I am an intermediate level blogger and continue to discover new things that make life pleasant and somewhat productive. Things in this area do not seem to slow down, but keeping up is less of a challenge than in the past. This blog is evidence of that. In future Blog posts I will discuss some of the tools we have discovered and now use that may be of interest to you as a reader.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fruits, Vegetables and Photography in Brasil

Edible plants grow better in Brazil. There is such a wide range of good edible fruits and vegetables that it is a joy to visit the outdoor markets. It is a joy because you know that soon you will be enjoying some remarkable treats. Things like Mousse de Maracajá which is so addictive I think it can’t be part of a diet. (To make it, you use one can of condensed milk.) The Maracajá fruit itself we’ve never seen in the US. Of course the familiar fruits and vegetables are here, but the pineapple is sweeter, the peaches are huge, the tomatoes are usually ripe but still look green, a cabbage barely fits in a plastic sack, and the tangerines are called Mexericas and are bigger than navel oranges! What about peppers here! There are too many kinds of bananas to mention, all with good flavor. I will mention though that the potatoes here cannot compare to those great Idaho Spuds.

A Small Saturday Street Market

Bananas - Bananas - Bananas

Also in Red and Green!

PHOTOGRAPHY - The cameras we selected to use here were predicated on the fact that there is almost always something to record and remember. While the small Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 has a protruding lens, even when closed, it disappears well in my ScotteVest camera pocket. We are not tourists here. Carrying a regular DSLR camera around just doesn’t work. Having the smaller cameras with us much of the time makes it possible to take photos when they appear and most of the time no one even notices. 

I must say that having three very important books loaded on my Kindle reading app has made a great difference in the use of this camera as well as any other digital camera such as my Nikon D40. The most important book is one I recommend for all camera owners. Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition by Bryan Peterson. Having the book available on my MacBook Pro laptop allows quick reference with great color images whenever a skill needs tweaking. The book will put you in the practice initially of using the “M” mode on your digital camera, one which most point and shoot photographers would never voluntarily use. After a few weeks of carrying the camera and using this mode, I began to really understand what makes a great “creatively exposed” photo. Aperture and Shutter Speed are the two easiest parts of the exposure lessons but then along comes ISO which became my friend after a few weeks of having to think about all three parts of this Photographic Triangle.

Today’s smaller cameras often have one setting that most people use at all times. It is the “iA” setting which means “intelligent Auto” and is the setting with which the photographer does not need to think. The camera makes all the decisions for you. Because the “i” in the symbol is a lower case i, perhaps it should be thought of as “not so intelligent.” If you learn to know and use the many other settings in these cameras, your ability to take much better, creatively exposed photos will increase and your satisfaction with your camera will rise exponentially.

The other two important books I will reference later in another Blog post. Both of them are more specific to the camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, and the photo management system with the Apple Aperture 3.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The People of Brasil

 Fifty years ago most Americans had little knowledge about Brazil. When I was called to go there, my family had to get out our Atlas to find it. It was an unknown, but probably dangerous and scary place and certainly not one of the world’s best places to visit. Now, we know much more but that knowledge is focused thinly on Rio - isn’t there a movie about that - and what about Carnival - isn’t that just like Mardi Gras - and the Amazon - still a dangerous place - and most know that it is down there in South America. Some people have visited there but out of a hundred people you might meet, you probably would not find one. Now, isn’t the Olympics going to be down there in Brazil? 

People live here in Brasil (that is not a spelling error - it is the correct spelling here). The people don’t speak Spanish, they speak Portuguese. They are real people and if you get away from the tourist areas, you will find them living with hopes, dreams, challenges, progress, families, schools, cities, hospitals, governments, farms, stores, houses, cars, motorcycles, trains, buses, airlines and they are friendly, warm and caring people. If you could speak their language, you would soon have lots of friends here. (Click on the Photo for Stunning Detail)

Grandfather Inspiring Grandson in the Garden

In my occasional walks I observe and sometimes meet real people. Here is a grandfather and his grandson. As I passed by he was teaching his grandson how to harvest the lettuce while leaving most of the soil there. This is the front yard. It is functional, beautiful, and a place of peace for this family. In the picture you can’t see the ornate fence that secures this home because the photo was taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 camera which easily fit between the iron rods. Perhaps you might consider the tall drab grey wall as being ugly but not to them. It represents security and privacy. You might notice the tomato plants beginning to produce but you would not recognize the plants at the foot of the wall as being edible. They are and are used extensively here in many recipes. 

Above the carport roof you see what looks like an unfinished part of the house. It is not. It is a large open air area used for family gatherings. Usually it has cooking facilities there in addition to the kitchen down in the house. It is cool in the summer and usable year round. You see the driveway which is always clean and washed down. You see roses and some towels hanging out to dry. This is a happy place in a troubled world.

I asked the grandfather if I could take this picture. At first he did not understand why anyone would want to do that but then he gave me permission. As I showed them the resulting picture on the camera, they smiled and were pleased with the result. He is a happy man and loves this grandson.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ipatinga, Brasil - The City that Steel Built

Ipatinga, like most of the smaller cities we have visited in this state sits in an area of many small mountains or hills. The main streets tend to be on the bottoms between the hills and the residential areas branch off, even going up into the hills themselves. (Enjoy these photos from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 by clicking on them.)

Only by knowing where the sun rises or sets can you figure North, South, East or West here.
Streets are put in and houses spring up along them with little apparent planning or consideration for the grades. This puts some of the houses on locations with great views. I suppose that property costs are not so much based on the views because some of the housing is not that well conceived. 

A view lot for sale but the grade is almost straight down!
Many houses look like long-term works in process and may never be completed, while other neighbors homes look expensive. Zoning seems to be non-existent here. Since the city began back in 1962 the most planned areas are around the steel mill which occupies a huge area including railroad facilities and a hospital. The rest of the town seems to have just grown around that beginning. Probably no one expected the number of vehicles that are now here as parking is a problem almost everywhere you go in commercial areas of the city. In the center where most of the popular shops are you literally have to be lucky to find a spot and have to buy a parking slip from one of the “meter maids” to avoid a fine. There are a few parking lots but they cost two or three times as much and are not always convenient to where you want to be. 

Officer, how can I get my car out of this space?
Of course walking is always part of the solution. The bus systems here seem to be well used with standing room only during rush hours. We haven’t had occasion to use the buses yet. There are lots of Policia Militar vehicles on the roads but they do not enforce traffic laws here. Speed limits and stop signs are posted but no one obeys them and in fact if you try to, you get honked at. 

At night, this is a peaceful place except during Soccer games.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Iguaçu Falls, Surely One of the Wonders of this World and now Google+.

These Cataracts Just Go ON and ON!

What purpose will this Blog eventually serve? Right now, it gives a place for reporting some experiences, photos and allowing others to follow and share. As we use this Blog we will add more value as we learn the value and benefit.

Iguaçu Falls sits at a conjunction of Brasil, Paraguay and Argentina. It is on the list of most visitors to Brasil as a must visit and deserves to be there. It is a park land of visual experience that cannot be appreciated without being there but some photos may help in that enticement. (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Shirlyn and Bree on a catwalk.

Those are People Down There!

Shirlyn was watching for the Anacondas!

With trains, buses, pathways, elevator and catwalks, this experience is to be fully appreciated in every aspect of this marvelous location. You should plan at least 3 to 5 days when you go.

Tim invited us to join the new Google+ site and it looks promising. We have not felt FaceBook was really useful for us except for seeing photos our family members post, but we tire of reading about "new friends" and links to people we don't know. This appears to give us more control of who we communicate with and has some features that may help families plan to share experiences. Over the next few months we will begin to learn about its features. Let us know how you see it and how you think it can be useful. If you are not a "member" yet and want to try it, send me an email and I will invite you.