Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Important things in life

A friend of me just sent me a nice email. It is in italian. Scroll down for an english translation.

“Quando ti sembra di avere troppe cose da gestire nella vita, quando 24 ore in un giorno non sono abbastanza, ricordati del vaso della Maionese e dei due bicchieri di vino…”
Un professore stava davanti alla sua classe di filosofia e aveva davanti alcuni oggetti.
Quando la classe incominciò a zittirsi, prese un grande barattolo di maionese vuoto e lo iniziò a riempire di palline da golf. Chiese poi agli studenti se il barattolo fosse pieno e costoro risposero che lo fosse.
Il professore allora prese un barattolo di ghiaia e la rovesciò nel barattolo di maionese. Lo scosse leggermente e i sassolini si posizionarono negli spazi vuoti, tra le palline da golf. Chiese di nuovo agli studenti se il barattolo fosse pieno e questi concordarono che lo fosse.
Il professore prese allora una scatola di sabbia e la rovesciò, aggiungendola nel barattolo; ovviamente la sabbia si sparse ovunque all’interno. Chiese ancora una voltase il barattolo fosse pieno e gli studenti risposero con un unanime “Sì!”.
Il professore estrasse quindi due bicchieri di vino da sotto la cattedra e aggiunse il loro intero contenuto nel barattolo, andando così effettivamente a riempire gli spazi vuoti nella sabbia. Gli studenti risero.
“Ora”, disse il professore non appena la risata si fu placata, “voglio che consideriate questo barattolo come la vostra Vita. Le palle da golf sono le cose importanti: la vostra famiglia, i vostri bambini, la vostra salute, i vostri amici e le vostre Passioni; le cose per cui, se anche tutto il resto andasse perduto e solo queste rimanessero, la vostra vita continuerebbe ad essere piena. I sassolini sono le altre cose che hanno importanza, come il vostro lavoro, la casa, la macchina… La sabbia è tutto il resto: le piccole cose.
Se voi mettete nel barattolo la sabbia per prima, non ci sarà spazio per la ghiaia e nemmeno per le palle da golf.
Lo stesso vale per la vita: se spendete tutto il vostro tempo e le vostre energie dietro le piccole cose, non avrete più spazio per le cose che sonoimportanti per voi.
Prestate attenzione alle cose che sono indispensabili per la vostra felicità: giocate con i vostri bambini, godetevi la famiglia ed i genitori finchè ci sono; portate il vostro compagno/a fuori a cena… E non solo nelle occasioni importanti! Dedicatevi a ciò che amate e alle passioni, tanto ci sarà sempre tempo per pulire la casa o fissare gli appuntamenti. Prendetevi cura per prima cosa delle palle da golf, le cose che contano davvero. Fissate le priorità…
Il resto è solo sabbia.
Uno degli studenti alzò la mano e chiese cosa rappresentasse il vino. Il professore sorrise: “Sono felice che tu l’abbia chiesto. Serve solo per mostrarvi che non importa quanto piena possa sembrare la vostra vita: ci sarà sempre spazio per un paio di bicchieri di vino con un amico.

English version

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 glasses of wine.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.. They agreed it was..

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous «yes!».

The professor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed..

«Now,» said the professor as the laughter subsided, «I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions – and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car».

«The sand is everything else – the small stuff».
«If you put the sand into the jar first,» he continued, «there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you».

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented.
The professor smiled and said, «I’m glad you asked».

«The wine just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of glasses of wine with a friend.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Educational Software

Here I would like to collect a list of software pieces that could be useful in teaching, or simply that are useful in transmitting knowledge to children.

I personally used some of these with my kids (currently aged 9 and 12) since the age of about 6.

I will be refining this entry over time, so the first edition will be necessarily not clean nor complete.

Kids like colors and paints.
Artrage by Ambient Design is a very interesting paint program.
It simulates well the brush with oil colors, on many different types of canvas. Also allows pastels, chalk colors, and many mixed techniques. Artrage basic edition is free and there is an even more powerful version with additional features and effects. Artrage is available for Windows and for Mac.

A number of websites exist with templates that can be used for fill painting on pc or to be printed on paper for real coloring action. Here is a website with a nice selection of cartoon characters.

Also the basic paint programs that come with the basic operating system can be a good start.
Windows paint is also useful for some quick sketch.

I like physics simulation software.
Phun by Emil Ernerfeldt is a great free software for building machinery and to test what happens. Phun is a simulation environment in which you can play with bidimensional objects.
Go search in youtube for many examples of exilirating "Ruby Goldberg" machines, like this
here is the phun commercial.

Crayon Physics by Petri Purho. This is somewhat simpler than phun. It is like a game and comes with a numers of levels to be played.

Rube Goldberg machines
this makes the kids go crazy.
look if you can find "the incredible machine". it is an old pc game, easily found in cd attached to game magazines.

Anim8tor by R. Steven Glanville
Pivot Stickfigure Animator by Peter Bone
Plastic Animation Paper :
just fun to see xiao xiao animations, in many places all over the net, for example here
Artoonix: a great software for animation. fun to use and to prepare .avi or flash files.

Stellarium: this is a wondeful "home planetarium" ideal to learn how to recognize night sky, constellations, stars and planets.

Celestia: this is more like a "space simulator" in which you can arrange a trip among the solar system planets, accelerate time, and change observation perspective. A lot of details are available. Also ultra detailed maps are availaple for many celestial bodies.

Google earth: earth, the moon, and even mars
Nasa World Wind: a sophisticated environment from which you can access meteorological and environmental data