Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Photo Tip: Turn Off Digital Zoom!

by Ryan Douglas

Did you get a new digital camera for Christmas? If so, please do yourself a favor and immediately turn off the digital zoom option in the menu.

Zoom is useful in framing and composing photos and allowing photographers to capture images that would be impossible to obtain if they had to get closer. That said, many consumers are completely unaware of the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom. It is not complicated, and with a little knowledge you can save yourself from the future frustration of low quality images.

Digital zoom is a fairly recent invention added to many consumer digital cameras. This technology creates an artificial zoom by adding pixels to the image. This made up visual information usually creates pixelated or blurry results. If left on, digital zoom information will be permanently added to your image, leaving the quality permanently compromised.

Optical zoom uses only the glass lenses of the camera to bring the subject of the photograph closer. This means that with optical zoom the image quality should be as the same as if there was no zoom being used at all. This is not a new technology and glass optic magnification goes back to Galileo’s telescope.

If using optical zoom, and further “zooming” is desired, you always have the option to crop and resize in your image editing software on the computer.

Wishing you the best photo quality in this new year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lifelong Learning Activities Can Affect Your Health...POSITIVELY!

by Ken Colen

In academic circles, the seventh year is often referred to as the "sabbatical year." This is a time when faculty and staff are given an opportunity to reflect, refresh, do research and come back recharged to continue the endeavor. This past year was Master the Possibilities Education Center's "sabbatical year"...the seventh year of this experiment in lifelong learning. Due to demand, we didn't have a chance to "retreat and reflect."  Instead, our "reset" was accomplished while "on the job."

 Here's what happened in 2012:

  • We moved to a new trimester framework and associated catalog distribution. Quarterly catalogs were replaced with Winter/Spring (Jan-May), Summer (Jun-Aug) and Fall (Sep-Dec) issues.
  • We published our catalogs two weeks earlier each term than in past years. This allowed an early registration period with more time for you to consider the offerings.
  • We increased class offerings to about 1,200 annually...half of which were NEW.
  • Our roster of students/users topped 7,000.
  • More programs ran than ever before.
  • All but one month recorded the "best ever" enrollment totals.
  • Overall enrollments were 22,000+.
Our "sabbatical year" was a milestone success. With your support, enrollments, suggestions and friendship we did indeed recharge within the learning community we have formed together. 

Our new look and curriculum was inspired by you. We listen to what you want, and if we can lock in qualified instructors, we transmit the idea to reality. Our underlying objective continues to be to gain your confidence as a premier center for lifelong learning and to maintain your support. In a recent nationwide publication, Where to Retire magazine (May/Jun 2012), Master the Possibilities was described as a "stunning success." We are proud of this and challenged to continue with the best in adult education. It is a privilege.

Every time we publish a catalog (this being our 28th) it represents what we have seen as trending and what you voiced to us. We anticipate as well as respond. In this edition you'll find our largest array of presentations and 50% will be NEW. It is a combination of academic, special interest series, art and computer offerings. Our faculty is credentialed and experienced. Our fees are low...many classes are free. If you reside at On Top of the World Communities or Stone Creek, you can attend a free class every day that we are in session.

It's a great time to be a learner. This journey is, indeed, lifelong. It stimulates your mind, opens your eyes to new possibilities, and engages you with others who share your love and learning...and living; "mastering the possibilities" can enhance your life. This is a great experience...welcome to all we do.


Ken Colen is the President of On Top of the World Communities.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Shop for Your Grandkids

by: Adria Byers

You may think you know your grandkids' wants and needs but come Christmas time, their wants supersede their needs 10-fold, and they seem to change daily. Kids these days are tech-savvy, TV-watching zombies who only really listen to their friends' advice and their favorite artist's music over and over and over... So how do you get this uber intelligent and picky child a Christmas gift they will cherish rather than hide in a drawer or closet? These shopping tips will help you become the coolest gift-giving grandparent ever!

First, the age of your grandchild is very important to determining what to get them this year. If the child is a baby or toddler, just about anything you give them will be okay. They won't and can't judge you since they can't really form full sentences yet. But once your grandkid turns five, you better be on your game. Luckily, elementary-aged kids still believe in Santa...well most of them do anyway. So getting them to write a wish list to the big guy will help YOU at the stores! You may need to enlist their mom and dad's help to give you a copy of the list but that should be easy...just be persistent. Most o f the items on this list will be fairly easy to find in stores since most all of them will be from the commercials they see on TV. If you've never heard of some of the items, Google them. Google is your friend!

Now the hard for grandkids between the ages of 11-18. Expect to spend a lot of money on just one item for this demographic! These kids are all about expensive electronics and clothing. However, finding out what they want is easier because Santa is not involved in the just ask them directly. Again, if you don't know what Hollister, Aeropostale, One Direction, and Sperry shoes are, Google it. Google is your BEST friend! 

Where can you find such items without having to take out a second mortgage? eBay and Amazon, that's where. If you haven't had the chance to explore and use these websites, the holidays are the perfect time to get acquainted. Also, if you don't want to navigate crowded stores, traffic or the internet, giving money is the answer. Hard cold cash, iTunes music cards, prepaid credit cards and department store gift cards will definitely put a smile on a teenager's face. You can find most of those gift cards at Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy. It's convenient since you're already going there to pick up your medicine!

Whatever you do, don't give them that sweater you knitted for hours and hours as a Christmas gift. According to kids, that's not a Christmas kind of gift. It's something you give the child on a Tuesday in January when it's really cold outside. That's when they'll appreciate your knitting, trust me!

Follow these steps, and you will be the rock-star grandparent those kids will brag about in school. Happy Holidays! :)

Adria Byers is the Social Media Coordinator for On Top of the World Communities and its entities.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


by Andrew Jorgensen

Solar panels installed atop the roof of the turf care facility at
Candler Hills Golf Club in Ocala, Fla., meet all electrical needs
for maintenance activities.
For obvious reasons, renewable energy continues to warrant significant attention and demand in nearly every industry today. Fortunately, as technology continues to improve and greater efficiency in real-world scenarios are achieved, solar systems are becoming more practical than ever before. In this case study, the method of capturing solar energy for conversion into usable electricity is being utilized with great success at Candler Hills Golf Club in Ocala, Fla.
In 2011, a solar system comprised of 297 photovoltaic panels was constructed atop the maintenance facility at Candler Hills Golf Club. Photovoltaics are a method of generating electrical power by capturing solar radiation and converting it into usable energy. For our system, inverters are used to convert direct current (DC) solar energy captured from panels on the roof into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used to power building utilities and equipment and charge batteries.
The 297 solar panels combine to produce roughly 56,000 DC watts of energy and, for our location in central Florida, approximately 90,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. This is more than enough to meet all of the electrical needs at our facility. Any unused power can be sold back to the energy company because our system is tied back to the power grid through a two-way meter. The system is not connected to a bank of batteries because a storage system is very expensive and not practical for our needs. So if the power goes out, we lose power as well.
Energy production varies with location and time of year. For our locale in central Florida, the peak season for solar energy production is September through April because the sun is nearly perfectly perpendicular to the rooftop panels, resulting in maximum absorption.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that energy production would be highest during the warmer months of May through August, when sun intensity and duration are greatest. The contrary is actually true for two reasons.
First, the angle of the sun is directly overhead, resulting in much of the solar radiation glancing off the panels. Second, extreme heat causes solar panels to be less efficient, which must be accounted for during the summer in southern climates like Florida.
The panels we chose have an 80% energy efficiency rating at 30 years, meaning that in 30 years they will still be producing nearly 45,000 DC watts, or 80% of their original 56,000 DC-watt capacity. The system was designed to produce 115% of our maintenance facility’s current needs, knowing that we will eventually be consuming 100% of what the panels produce as the output efficiency of the panels reduces over time and our energy use increases.
We had considered the solar panel system for some time, but the initial cost was significant, which originally caused us to opt against the project. In early 2011, however, our energy provider announced a photovoltaic rebate program that offered a refund for a portion of the cost of the system. Since it is a rebate, funding had to be provided up front to the system installer, with the rebate check from the energy supplier coming later.
The rebate was dependent on passing a review of the proposed system and building in which the system was going to be installed. Helping us capture the most solar energy is that our building faces due south and has the perfect roof pitch for solar panels. Also, the building is still quite new and the shingles should last another 15 years or more, which reduces ongoing maintenance costs associated with removing the panels for reshingling after system installation. In our case, once our energy provider inspected the system and building, we passed with flying colors and were approved for a rebate of nearly $90,000 toward the cost of the system.
This reduced the cost per watt of the system down to approximately four dollars. Today, we are also able to use the system for a 30% tax credit on our company taxes at the end of the year, further offsetting the cost of the system. So, when considering the rebate combined with the tax credit, the total cost of the system ended up being just 40% of the original estimate.
Furthermore, we recently had an energy audit performed by the energy supplier. The audit resulted in installing several additional energy-saving mechanisms, including photocells on outdoor lights, timers on motors and pumps, energy-efficient fluorescent lighting, and energy-efficient air conditioning in the offices.
Looking forward, our system has a payback of roughly 12 years. This means that in 12 years, when everyone else is still being billed for power, we will no longer have to pass on these charges to our golf customers.
Clearly, it is a way for us to reduce expenses without any adverse effects to course quality. Over the 30-year life of the system, and excluding installation costs, we are looking at a total savings of roughly $200,000 in electrical costs.

Andrew Jorgensen is the Golf Course Superintendent for On Top of the World Communities and Candler Hills Golf Club.