Certificates

Last weekend, as I was scanning our important family documents to make backup digital copies, a thought struck me. These several pieces of documents that we keep in one plain folder actually explain who we are, define our place in this world, show what we’ve done and what we’ve become. Our birth certificates certify our birth like we needed validation for being alive.  The baptismal certificate explains the faith we were born into. Our diplomas showcase our education. Titles and deeds prove our possessions. Passports not just define our nationality, they also control where we can go.

It’s amusing that we hold these certificates and titles and identification documents in very high regard, close to our chest, locked up in our safes. We all go through life accumulating them until one final certificate voids them all. The death certificate nullifies all others and certifies our demise like validation was needed.

I guess life shouldn’t really be about certificates. But society expects and demands them so I went ahead, set this thought aside, and finished making my digital copies.

 

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Hand Held

Kindle Fire, Asus Transformer, iPhone 4s, iPhone 4, iPhone 3G, iPod Touch, iPad, Dell Mini

I read somewhere that education must adapt to meet the way information and knowledge are delivered and transmitted in today’s always connected world. The article says there should be less emphasis on memorization for its own sake; less focus on remembering things that would not contribute to the real world or for that matter, the future world.

The basis of this notion is that information just follows us around nowadays. Answers to whatever question are a few keystrokes, a couple of swipes or a voice command away. The accumulated knowledge of humankind doesn’t have to be kept within the gray matter or within the four walls of libraries; it can stay, alive and moving, along the white matter of the cloud. People don’t have to painstakingly search for a piece of information anymore. Information simply flows from one device to another, patiently seeking out the person, the group, the tribe or the organization that would invoke it from whatever piece of electronics they are currently holding.

I don’t think this means we stop studying history, or that people who have a natural inclination to remember dates and details have to do so. It just means that you probably don’t have to know exactly when something happened. You just need to know it enough to be able to pull it later on and discern whether it’s correct or not.

I’ve been in love with this idea of portability and quick access to information. I like the idea of being able to move around the house and read, watch and listen in the any room, check and re-check the feeds, emails and the updates from wherever.

I bought a Dell Mini three years ago because I wanted something smaller and cheaper than a laptop that we could use for light web browsing and quick emails. It runs on Ubuntu OS and we still use it today if we need something handy.

I personally use the iPad and the iPhone 4s, Faye has the iPhone 4, Rakesh has the iPod Touch and I gave Kareena my old iPhone 3G so she can use it like an iPod Touch. Yes, we love Apple devices.

Faye uses an Asus Transformer tablet because we wanted something that can handle flash. The Asus is an impressive tablet – it is well designed and well made. The complete Android integration with everything Google was also a welcome surprise as Gmail, Calendar, Contacts and Picasa web albums automatically load into the device. I must admit I wanted it for myself after I played with it.

Our latest toy is Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The tablet integrates with everything Amazon as your Kindle books, mp3s in the Amazon Cloud Player, Amazon Prime streaming videos and all of Amazon’s merchandise and content automatically sync. This 7-inch tablet is not as full featured as the Asus and iPad but it is likewise a wonderful and fully functional device. Rakesh has even started reading Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus on it.

Now, we only have one TV and we dropped cable almost a year ago. We only watch shows through Netflix and Hulu. So even though I’d like to think that we are plugged in and engaged, we are still not completely slaves to media and technology. We are not as up to date in the entertainment pop culture.

The way tablets and hand held devices are altering the delivery and consumption of information; I find that they also update the family dynamics. We still sit around in our family room but instead of doing traditional things, we talk about things we stumble upon, apps we are currently playing, digital magazines and newspapers we are reading. We watched all episodes of Avatar, All Grown Up, Rugrats, Ramsay’s Best Restaurant, Phineas and Ferb, Dual Survivor on Netflix. We watch newer shows like Modern Family on Hulu. We read and peruse the free eBooks from Amazon and iBooks. We turn on Facetime or Skype or Google Voice to talk to families and friends in other states or countries. We play Club Penguin, Poptropica or Alchemy. We take turns with Temple Run. We review Greek and Roman mythology on Wikipedia. We watch YouTube and scour the net for Filipino shows and videos. We talk about news and headlines from Flipboard, Pulse and other feed aggregators.

We do a bunch of things, individually and together. Except we do them on these little magical devices. They are our hand held portal to the universe. I wonder if I’ll see the day where we just inject data or plug our brains directly into the feed or the grid. I better stop now before I geek out.


Dance

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. ”
Khalil Gibran

 

“Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf. “
Rabindranath Tagore


Beaches: a quick retrospective

While I was posting the piece on Texas beaches, I thought about why I keep going back to the shore and why I insist of bringing Faye and the kids to the water’s edge. It wasn’t a mystery, really. It wasn’t some subconscious longing for some unremembered memory. I knew the beach for me meant family. My family and I had spent many holiday trips to the beach – Batangas to La Union to Cebu. We had a lot of fun frolicking along the sand. It was a good feeling to be with people you feel brave with amid this vast expanse of power. It was a good feeling to be with people that provide meaning amid this unrelenting waves of nothingness.

I remember going back to a beach of my childhood in La Union and I was surprised to see that it wasn’t the beach I remember anymore. The shore wasn’t as wide as I remember it and the sand wasn’t as soft. Do you have a beach from your childhood that you remember? Have you been back lately? How has it changed? If you haven’t been back, can you still picture it clearly? Did it have any significance to you back then? Does it now?


Texas Beaches

Texas beaches aren’t really famous. They don’t have the nice vistas of  the upper Pacific coast, the Hollywood appeal of the lower California coast or the allure of Florida beaches.  But there are over 367 miles of Texas gulf shoreline  and over 3,300 miles of bay shorelone from Louisiana to Mexico and though the gulf water is not crystal, the sand not quite white and powdery, and scenery not as world-renowned, they are varied enough to appeal to a lot of people.

There are undeveloped beaches here that are perfect for people who are soul-searching or just fascinated with the vast emptiness on the left, on the right and beyond. There are areas for wildlife and bird watching. There are beaches for partying and for crowd-watching. There are beaches that allow you to park right on the sand while some beaches have shower and changing rooms.

We have not explored much of the coast yet but here are some we’ve been to since we’ve moved to Texas.

1. Rockport – I got interested in Rockport beach when I read that they have the Blue Wave certification. The certification means that the direct stakeholders pretty much take care of the beach and the surrounding areas.   The beach is clean, has restroom and changing facilities, has playground and picnic areas and bird nesting areas.

Rockport

Rockport

2. Surfside – This is the beach we go to most often when we need our sand and salt fix. The kids love the non-stop wave action here and love the fact that this is a drive-on beach and that we can park right at the edge of the water.  We’ve been here early in the morning, later in the afternoon, during peak and off-peak seasons and we haven’t had a bad experience yet.  My wish-list includes renting one of the beach-front houses for the weekend.

Surfside

Surfside

Surfside

Surfside

3. Corpus Christi / Port Aransas – I think that the further you head into the Mexican side, the better the beaches get. The Mustang Island beach, either on the Corpus side or the PA side is very nice. Port Aransas looked more like the beach town with all the tourist trappings. This place must get very active during summer and spring break time. We visited and stayed with friends from the Philippines during this trip and although it was a quick overnight trip, we loved the area and we’ll definitely come back.

Mustang Island

Mustang Island

4. Galveston’s Stewart Beach – This is a very accessible beach and was our first foray into Texas beaches. The park features umbrella and chair rentals, volleyball courts, an outdoor pavilion, snack bar, souvenir shop, restrooms and showers.

5. Galveston Sea Wall – Went here early one morning to fish.

6. Moody Gardens Palm Beach – If you want to go to Galveston and get feel of the beach without dipping your feet into gulf waters, the Moody Garden’s Palm Beach is perfect for especially if you have younger kids. There’s white sand, beach umbrellas and chairs but it also has a lazy river, a wave pool and a splash pad.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach


Austin (and surrounding areas)

10 Things We Loved!

1. The Oasis on Lake Travis –  Watch the sun trickle down Lake Travis while sipping margaritas and savoring beef fajitas. Incredible views, wonderful food, warm conversations and a melodramatic way to end the day.

The Oasis on Lake Travis

The Oasis on Lake Travis

The Oasis on Lake Travis

The Oasis on Lake Travis

2. Barton Springs –  The three-acre natural spring within Zilker Park has 68-degree water that needs some getting used to but is a perfect balance to Texas’ hot summer days. We loved it, the kids loved it!

Barton Springs

Barton Springs

Barton Springs

Barton Springs

Barton Springs

Barton Springs

3. Natural Bridge Caverns – When you have visitors from out of town, you go to the Natural Bridge Caverns. If you have people in your party that don’t want to go, you can always drop them off at the Premium Outlets in San Marcos.

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

4. Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum – Three floors of interactive Texas history. This is a very nice history museum with an IMAX theater to boot.
Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

5. Black’s Barbecue – On the way back to Houston, a stop at Lockhart.  In a sea of barbecue joints, Lockhart apparently has some of the best and oldest in Texas. Always go for the moist brisket.
Black's Barbecue

Black's Barbecue

6. Covert Park at Mount Bonnell– Drive on up Mt. Bonnell road to this park that give you a a very nice view of Lake Austin.
Mt. Bonnell

Mt. Bonnell

Mt. Bonnell

Mt. Bonnell

7. Austin Food Carts – Awesome food carts. They are all over Austin; some are stationary and some move around. We’d love to sample them all.  So far we’ve tried Hey! Cupcake, Fry Baby, Coat and Thai, Flip Happy Crepes, The Zubik House and a few more whose names I can’t remember.

Austin Food Cart

Austin Food Cart

Austin Food Cart

Austin Food Cart

8. Wimberley Glass Works – mind-blowing glass-blowing store and exhibit in Wimberley, Texas. Cool dudes in their undershirts and aviator sunglasses displaying the hot art and expensive science of glass works. I can only afford the glass shards, unfortunately.

Wimberley Glass Works

Wimberley Glass Works

Wimberley Glass Works

Wimberley Glass Works

9. The Inn Above Onion Creek – Stay at the inn and you not only get to stay at an amazing room, you have access to a perfect porch, almost perfect views and glorious breakfast and 3-course dinner.  Highly recommended.

The Inn Above Onion Creek

The Inn Above Onion Creek

The Inn Above Onion Creek

The Inn Above Onion Creek

The Inn Above Onion Creek

The Inn Above Onion Creek

10. Gruene, Texas– Good lunch at Gristmill River Restaurant, a massive cotton gin brick boiler room turned restaurant. Also stopped by Gruene Hall, a famous Texas landmark.


Both my eyes

“Didn’t have a camera by my side this time.
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes.
Maybe I will tell you all about it
When I’m in the mood to lose my way with words.”
– John Mayer 3×5

The evolution of the camera is truly remarkable. The ability to instantly digitize light and image has transformed us all into photographers, into photo and photoshop enthusiasts and fanatics. A study done recently forecasts that the amount of data produced globally is doubling every two years and will reach 1.8 zettabytes, or 1.8 trillion gigabytes, by end of 2011. In terms of personal use, most of our hard drive, usb drives, external backup drives and cloud storages are filled with megapixels after megapixels of digital imagery.

I remember a time when our family had physical albums that were displayed on a shelf. The albums only held the best photos, the most cherished of memories. The camera, the film, the prints, the photo albums – they were all expensive commodities and so they were used with utmost care, with careful consideration, with an exact purpose, with calculated restraint.

Personal photography back then was very frail and fraught with mistakes. The film was prone to failure, not because of the film, but because of the person handling it. Light and shadow were not easy to capture correctly and you can’t just auto-stabilize or auto-adjust a shot.

We threw out a lot of photos, wasted a lot of film, over- or under-exposed a lot of shots. We regretted many lost images and uncaptured moments. And because we only had one or two good shots, we don’t get to capture the entire scene.

Much as these sound pathetic and unimaginable to the younger generation, those photos that we took were unmistakably, deeply human. They were rough on the edges, imperfect for sure but somehow they felt more valuable or at least more personal.

Now, cameras are attached to our hips. They are on our phones and our tablets. We always have a small one in our bags and we wear DSLRs like sunglasses and sunscreens. We’ve become obsessed with the shutter. We click and then digitize life and landscape like there is no tomorrow. Granted a professional photographer will take a hundred shots to get the one that’s perfect. For the rest of us though, we’ll just go ahead and upload all one hundred photos onto our online albums.

We take pictures of everything now, nothing missed, nothing taken for granted. It’s like a 360 degree panorama of our lives. We take wanton snapshots and convince ourselves that we are doing it so that in the future we can remember. The funny thing is we seldom look at those photos because there are just too many of them, folders after folders, gigabytes after gigabytes. If we do, we look at them as slideshows using a 1-second interval so that we can go through them as fast as possible. Yes, the way we look at pictures has changed, too. In the future, our kids are probably not going to look at them either because they’ll have their own mountains of photos to deal with.

The curious thing about all these is that I’m not against digital cameras at all. I love them and I’m guilty of taking as much photos as my SD card can store. I personally profess that nostalgia shouldn’t get in the way of technology. Digital cameras, without doubt, have done so much for so many people. We’ve been exposed to thousands upon thousands of amazing photos of people, places and events that would not have been previously possible. We now have instant access to friends, family and events.

Today though, I’m on a porch at the Inn Above Onion Creek, sipping iced tea, enjoying the light breeze accented by the ceiling fan above me, looking down at acres and acres of rain-thirsty trees, watching the clouds thicken and pass lazily by.

And so I pause.

Maybe I should put my camera down and just look, really look, at the scene in front of me with just my eyes. And when I find the urge to point-and-click, maybe I should pretend that I have film inside, that I can only afford one or two shots and that the rest of the scenery is really just for me. And years and years later, when I happen to glance at the one or two photos again, I’ll be fine with filling in the details, I’ll be OK piecing together the puzzle from soft, unreliable memory.

I see the sun rise on the front porch. I see the sun set on the back porch. I’m enjoying the confluence of nature and technology, consuming and creating, breathing in and breathing out. Whatever happens in the middle will be a collaboration between digital and organic memories.

cue music:
“Today skies are painted colors of a cowboy’s cliche’
And strange how clouds that look like mountains
In the sky are next to mountains anyway

Didn’t have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes
Maybe I will tell you all about it
When I’m in the mood
To lose my way but let me say

You should have seen that sunrise
With your own eyes
It brought me back to life
You’ll be with me next time I go outside
No more 3×5’s”

-John Mayer 3×5

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