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October 4, 2009

Sea Glass — Episode 2: 2009 North American Sea Glass Festival

Four years ago Episode 1 described the nature of sea glass (above and below).

Long story blissfully short: sea glass is sea-smoothed pieces of old broken glass.

Elizabeth Chang wrote an ode to sea glass which appeared on February 25, 2007 in the Washington Post.

Now comes Ms. Chang with an update, published on September 30, 2009 in the Washington Post; the article follows.


Go See Sea Glass by the Lakeshore


One bright fall morning last year, my daughters and I stood in a long line at the North American Sea Glass Festival in Lewes, Del., our precious find clutched in my hands. We had zipped through the display rooms to the outdoor tent where collectors were already waiting, holding plastic baggies of colorful glass. This was the "shard identification booth," the sea glass world's version of "Antiques Roadshow," though the men behind the table, members of the Delmarva Antique Bottle Club (who knew?), looked more like retired farmers than fine arts experts.

A visitor walking by laughed at us. "It's not worth anything," he said. "Get out of line." But despite the amazing hues we saw around us, we held out hope for our find: a frosted, 2-by-2-inch piece of what looked like cut crystal that we had found the previous Thanksgiving at nearby Rehoboth Beach, glittering alone on the packed wet sand, a gift from the sea.

We were quite disheartened after our long wait, then, to learn from expert Peter Beaman that what we had found was not cut crystal but more likely pressed glass, probably from the 1920s or '30s. But our disappointment dissipated as we finally focused on the collections and vendors at that third annual sea glass festival.

Sea glass collecting -- gathering sea-smoothed pieces of old broken glass -- was once considered an arcane hobby. Now it's becoming a national obsession. It has even made the pages of the New Yorker, which recently ran a cartoon showing one person saying to another, "You are my blue beach glass." (Though any true aficionado knows that red is much rarer than blue.)

The North American Sea Glass Association had planned on 1,000 visitors a day at last year's event, said author and expert Richard LaMotte, but wound up selling more than 4,000 tickets. And the group expects healthy attendance at this year's festival, to be held Oct. 17 and 18 in Erie, Pa.

So what do you do at a sea glass festival, besides be disabused of the notion that you've found a priceless shard? You can buy jewelry or just walk around admiring what some folks can do with a piece of glass and some metal or wire. (My mother, the girls and I were entranced by the cellphone charms -- surely among the newest decorative uses for sea glass -- and by an old window transformed into art by hundreds of pieces of glass glued to its panes.) You can listen to lectures on glass identification or enter the "shard of the year" contest, which drew hundreds of entries last year. (The $1,000 first prize went to Linda Boehm of New York, who had found what appeared to be the top half of a red bottle stopper. )

But mostly, if you, like me, walk on the beach with eyes permanently downcast, sweeping the sand for a promising glint, it's similar to attending a Whatever Anonymous meeting, with people freely confessing their addiction and receiving total understanding. A documentary called "From Breath and Fire," shown in the standing-room-only tent, mesmerized the crowd, which laughed in self-recognition at collectors owning up to trespassing on private beaches in search of colorful loot.

For Mary Louise Lauffer Butler, an artist who lives in the Virgin Islands, the conference itself was a revelation. Though she had been collecting pieces for more than 40 years, "I had no idea there were so many avid sea glass collectors and artisans," she wrote in a recent e-mail. Since the festival, she has begun to use glass in her artwork and has begun to organize and catalogue her historic bottle collection, realizing that "I have some true treasures."

Sharon Umbaugh flew in from Hawaii with more than 32,000 pieces of glass in bundles of 400 last year and estimates that she sold half of them at $30 apiece. The collector, who makes her living selling sea glass from her Web site and plans to attend the Erie festival, said she was curious last year to see the difference between pieces of East Coast and Hawaiian sea glass. "Because of the high surf in Hawaii, the glass becomes smoother and more rounded," she said, "so they will look more like jelly beans."

The Great Lakes can produce yet another kind of glass, said LaMotte, who added that one should "keep in mind everybody up there calls it beach glass, not sea glass." The lake glass comes from dumps along the shoreline or from heavy shipping traffic. Because the glass is more contained by the lakes and can be repeatedly washed against rocky shores, some pieces there are smaller, more pebble-size, he said.

The Erie festival will feature more than 40 vendors and lectures on new subjects, such as sea glass marbles, which may be the remainders of ships' ballast. But many attendees will be there for the simple pleasure of it. Last year, Linda Smith flew in from Everett, Wash., to display about 3,000 of her best, most colorful shards and repeatedly say, "I don't sell any of it," while her husband hovered nearby like a Secret Service agent. Smith said she is often asked what she does with her collection. "My answer would be three-fold," she wrote in an e-mail. "I simply collect it, I organize and reorganize it by color and condition, and I truly enjoy it for what it is, debris transformed into beauty."

As a woman with many glass bowls full of this debris, I know exactly what she means.


Details about this year's upcoming festival here.

Richard LaMotte's book (below),


"Pure Sea Glass," should be on the coffee table or guest room nightstand of every house within walking distance of waves.

October 4, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Safe Slice


From the website:


Safe Slice™

Safe Slice helps you safely grip and chop fruits, vegetables, and other food, keeping your fingers out of harm's way.

Soft finger grips provide comfort while you hold food and solid protective shield keeps your fingers protected from the blade.

Compact for storage and portability. 

7" x 4-1/4" x 1-1/2".




October 4, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rio 2016 — Chicago didn't stand a chance

Even with the Obamas doing their level best.

[via Milena]

October 4, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Fire Alarm Dust Dome


Just the thing for the holidays for the obsessive cleaner who's got every vacuum attachment known to man.

Use it as a tree decoration when you're not vacuuming your fire alarm.

From the website:


Fire Alarm Dust Dome

Fire alarm dust dome fits over fire and CO2 detectors to keep them dust-free so they function properly year round.

Fit head onto any ordinary household vacuum hose to remove dust from detector without having to use a ladder.

Also works on outlets, thermostats, figurines, other dust collectors.

Recommended by fire departments.

8-1/4"Ø x 6"H.




October 4, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Snow Crash at M.I.T.?


"M.I.T. is the closest you can get to living in the Internet."

So said a hallmate of M.I.T. senior Cristen Chenea (above), who related it to New York Times reporter Tamar Lewin in a story which appeared on this past Friday's front page about the rapid rise of uncensored, unedited student blogs on college websites as a source of information for prospective students.

Jess Lord, dean of admissions at Haverford College, told Lewin, "We're learning, slowly, that this is how the world works, especially for high school students."

Just wait till vlogs take off....

October 4, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pet Watering Top


From the website:


Pet Top®

Pet Top provides a neat and convenient water supply for your pet when you're on the go.

Take it to the park, in the car, on a walk, to the beach, anywhere your pet needs a drink.

Fits all standard water bottles — includes adapter for short-neck bottles.

Adjust the flow of water by turning the cap.

Water flow stops when pet stops drinking.  

Easy to carry — fits in pocket.

Dishwasher safe.

3" x 1-1/4".



October 4, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Zombies of Gainesville: University of Florida Takes Down Emergency Response Plan


Up until word got out last Thursday, the University of Florida website contained a detailed six-page-long plan for a response to a zombie attack, labeled Simulation Exercise No. 5.


Alas, once the flag went up the school took it down.

You could look it up.


As Kevin Kelly pointed out, once something's online it's there forever, if you look hard enough.

Sure enough, my crack research team (where've they been lately, anyhow?) drilled down and found not one but two sites that have the full plan.




Excerpts appear above.

October 4, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Trailer Hitch Alignment Tool


From websites:


Trailer Hitch Alignment Tool

A simple one-person solution takes the hassle out of trailer alignment.

Make a time-consuming and aggravating process quick and easy.

Just align the brightly colored markers on the telescoping rods and you're ready to attach hitch to boats, campers, RVs, trailers and more.

Steel rods with magnetic bases adjust up to 42".



October 4, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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