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Archive for August, 2008

Wine Stained Barrels

Wine Stained Barrels

So maybe last time I posted about this I was not being as serious as I could have been. In fact I believe I was not being serious at all. But I do actually have a way to alter drinking age laws to prevent colleges getting sued for unsupervised and prevent heavy drinking in high school.

Make the drinking age a two tiered system. Have it be legal for those over the age of eighteen to drink alcohol, be it at a bar, a pub, a restaurant or a friends house. But keep the twenty-one year old limitation of purchasing alcohol. If those under eighteen want to drink at a friends house, at home or in a dorm setting they will still need someone over twenty-one to buy them their drinks, which is happening anyway. If they can buy their own drinks at bars or other places then they are in a supervised (relatively) area and those concerned will know where they are.

Another benefit for this system is that stores and business that sell alcohol will not need to change any of their rules or policies since for them nothing will have changed. Twenty-one will still be the age to purchase alcohol for off-site consumption so the store can keep their current signs and training methods. Furthermore this will prevent (if it is done on a state level and not federal) interstate booze runs. Kids from one state won’t be driving across state lines in order to purchase alcohol and bring it back.

The main concern about those drinking under the age of twenty-one is drunk driving. Drunk driving is not okay at any age and to help prevent it in this eighteen to twenty-one range there should be harsher punishments for DUI for these ages then for those over twenty-one. A large fine and rescinding their drivers license for a year or so should help deter (I know this is essentially the current punishment) younger DUIs.

Allowing for younger people to drink legally at a younger age will promote and encourage responsible drinking. With it being legal schools can teach responsible drinking practices openly without fear of retribution and lawsuits. 

I spent last year in Scotland where the drinking age across the board is eighteen. My friends and I did not go out and binge drink every night as can happen at home, rather we just went out to a pub had a few drinks and walked back without getting completely wasted, blacking out and waking up the next evening. I do not think that America is ready for an overall drinking age of eighteen, but lowering part of it will help with many of the problems faced by Universities and other establishments on how to address a problem that seems so prevalently embedded into our culture.

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a political pole.

On left: a political pole.

It seems that every day in the news is an article or report on how McCain and Obama are faring in the most recent poll. The news is about how a recent event effected some subgroup of voters and changed their opinion of a candidate by 2.5%, with a margin of error of 3%. Polls are all good and fine if one has to fill a full day of news reporting when there is only, say, a quarter of a day of news available.

Part of me feels that political polling is flawed in its current form. Namely that it is done (maybe not all polling) by calling home phone numbers from either voter registry or picked out of a phone book and asking the important questions (like how do flag pins make you feel?). Alright so they call home phones, thats fine, it is probably around dinner or during The Daily Show. Except recently there has been a surge of political activism in my generation, okay maybe it is more of a removal of apathy instead of activism, and I feel that we are not represented in the polling system.

Why are we not being represented? Well it is because active voters under, say, 25, do not have their own land line phone numbers. If we are in college then all we have is our cell phone (or mobile for international readers) either under our own plans or as part of our parents. After we finish college and move out to apartments, or back home, likely we would use our mobile phones more and might not have a land line installed or activated. So when pollsters call around asking us about our views we get missed since they do not call cell phones.

For this election season I won’t be looking at any of the polls. Except for the last one.

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The Enchanted Waters of Sligachan

The Enchanted Waters of Sligachan

Legend has it that the waters running through Sligachan on the Isle of Skye are enchanted. Years ago there lived the greatest warrior of Scotland, a woman named Scáthach. One day word of her greatness made it to the halls of the mightiest warrior of Ireland Cúchulainn. Upon hearing this he knew that he must go and fight her. So he set sail to the Isle of Skye to face her in battle. When he arrived on island he demanded of the first person he saw, a trainee of Scáthach, that she come and fight him in battle.

She came out and they fought. The fought all through the valley, shaking the earth and the trees, causing animals to flee. While they fought Scáthach’s daughter fled to the nearby river and cried, for she knew that her mother could not win. As she cried into the water several residents of the land of faerie came through the water, for it was a gateway between their world and ours. They saw her crying and knowing the cause told her to wash her face in the water of the river. Upon doing so she gained the knowledge of how to stop the terrible fight and save her mother.

She ran up to the lodge where her mother lived and along the way gathered nuts and herbs. Once there she threw them into the fire fanning the smoke out into the valley. Upon smelling the scented smoke both Cúchulainn and Scáthach realized how tired and exhausted they were from their fighting. They both laid down their weapons and headed to the lodge. When they arrived Scáthach’s daughter had prepared a meal fit for both mighty warriors. Once Cúchulainn ate under the roof of Scáthach he became her guest and they could do each other no harm.

Since this tremendous battle it is said that if you hold your face in the waters of the river for seven seconds you will be granted eternal beauty.

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Cinque Terre

 

The sun setting over Italian vineyards.

The sun setting over Italian vineyards.

The train ride from Rome to Pisa is likely a popular one for tourists wishing to see the fabled leaning tower. Returning to the historic streets of Rome before the sun sets. Yet Pisa is not the final destination on those train tracks, it is just a minute long pause on the way to the region of Cinque Terre.

I did not get off at Pisa, instead I continued to Vernazza, the fourth of five coastal villages on the Italian coast. Each village is connected by rail, boat and trail. I have since talked to people who have traveled to Cinque Terre and found it alright, another stop, just some villages on the coast. Oh sure, they were awfully nice little towns but they were not wowed by this. I think I know why.

Those who did not love Cinque Terre took the trains betweens the towns, finishing one town, hopping on the train to the next. I took another path to see the five villages, I took the trails. They snaked their way through the hills near the sea, parts shrouded by low dusty trees, others open with shrubs and rock. Seeing the area this way made each town a reward, a treasure that glimpsed into and out of view as the paths wound about. The trail changed between stone steps a few feet across to a dusty foot wide path cutting across a forested hills.

My first day I went between Vernazza and Monterosso, the hardest stretch between the towns (hardest along the ocean anyway). At the end near Monterosso stone steps led between vineyards and yards. Along the path was a small shack with two men selling their wine. Dogs and children ran up and down the path, much faster then myself. Monterosso itself was the most commercial, and largest, of the five. As the sun set on the town I started back to Vernazza, I caught up to the sunlight and looked back to see the vineyards illuminated by the fading light.

The next day I walked from Vernazza to Riomaggiore. Luckily by going in this direction the path started out hard and gradually got easier as I approached the end. The best gelato in Italy was in Corniglia: honey (locally made) and cinnamon. At the edge of that town was a steep switchback going down to sea level. Enjoying my gelato I started down and passed some very tired people heading up the path. The looked enviously at my gelato as I walked lightly down to the sea.

On another section of path was a picnic table covered in cats. On the table resided a pail with a sign on it. Written in several languages was the message: “Please use the food in this bucket to feed this homeless and unloved cats. Thank You!”. The cats appraised me for food potential as I walked by, their food dish was full. I wonder how those cats are doing.

My original plan was to walk to the end of the towns and back in one day. Once I reached Riomaggiore I decided to take the train back. The threatening clouds also influenced my decision.

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Driving

Keep Driving

Keep Driving

Like many people my age (twenty by the way) I have yet acquire my drivers license. So for the past few summers I have been getting my license. Every summer I start off with the arduous goal of practicing all summer and getting it by the end. Since habit is hard to break I have been doing the same this summer.

Except now I feel I am actually ready to take the test. I thought I heard somewhere that you need to make an appointment a bit before hand, so I checked the website. Both of the local DMV’s were completely booked. So I checked another sort of nearby. It was booked until September 26th. I go back to Santa Barbara on the 19th.

It is a DMV website, I assumed that it is not that up to date so I called to get an appointment. After some pleasant elevator music I found out something I did not want to hear. They were actually all booked to the end of September. I asked for the nearest available appointment – Fairfield. About sixty miles away.

I suppose if I fail I can try again on Winter break, then Spring break and then summer again. It is not like I need my drivers license, I just cleaned and tuned my bike.

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Drinking Age Solution

A sad lonely glass.

A sad lonely glass.

 

Recently in the news has been a revitalization of the drinking age discussing. One of the causes of this resusitation has been a petition by college professors to lower the drinking age. They argue that the current drinking age encourages binge drinking of college students. Proponents for the current drinking age posit that it reduces drunk driving accidents and deaths. Both sides have good evidence for their arguments.

I have a simple solution to appease both groups. Lower the drinking age to eighteen only at Universities and only for students. Since the students are already at the university when they drink they won’t be driving home. And those who would be driving are still not allowed to drink until they are twenty one. One of the problems of this proposal are universities that are not contained campuses like UC Santa Barbara and are spread out across cities or areas.

The main reason for this change is that it will produce an upswing in college applicants. If there as the associated status of being able to drink with being in college more high school students will try harder and actually go to college.

I am sure segregating people based on age and educational status will have no problems what so ever.

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Looking south down the Sonoma Coast

Looking south down the Sonoma Coast

 

I started with a list of 39 graduate schools to look into, after slashing that list down based on general principles (website design, research areas, location) I made it down to around twelve. From that twelve I have narrowed it down to my final eight. Well final with the caveat that I can always add or remove schools until the deadline. So not really final. More like the top eight including the top four who will receive my GRE and Physics GRE through the free four universities I get to choose to send it out too.

Anyway here are the eight I am considering (in no particular order, well alphabetical I suppose):

My favorite of these is of course the one that accepts me.

As for the photo, it was taken yesterday (same day I did the redwood one) on top of a hill on the Sonoma County Coast, just south of Jenner and the mouth of the Russian River. It was seven exposures at f/29 since I wanted a longer shutter speed for smoother waves. Again I processed in Photomatix to get the HDR effect. One problem I have noticed with HDR (it could be I don’t have enough experience) is that it can make the sunniest day, this photo being about 2pm in the middle of summer, look dark and gloomy. Especially in the middle.

I will either need to work on that or just take coaster photos at the beginning or end of the day.

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A redwood shedding its bark.

A redwood shedding its bark.

Today I went hiking around Armstrong Grove in Sonoma County, a redwood forest and towards the end I found this tree. Well I suppose I did not really find it as it happened to fall right across the old path. I carried my camera, extra lens and tripod through the rest of the forest so I was glad to find a good subject for a photo. One thing about redwood forests, unless you have a fisheye lens they are hard to photograph. Try taking a picture of the tree in the forest.

For this photo I used:

  • Aperture f/11
  • Shutter speeds 6 to 1/40 of a second
  • 22mm on my 18-55mm lens
  • 8 shots total

I compiled the shots with Photomatix set to:

  • Strength 100
  • Luminosity +10
  • White point 0.800
  • Black point 0.126
  • Gamma 1.20
  • Temperature +3

Everything else was at the default settings, or at least the setting it was at the last time I used it.

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I really liked the look of the barrels when I did an HDR shot a day or so ago, so I decided to go back down and try it again. In order to get a full range of exposures I had to use my cell phone to time out a two minute exposure because my camera can only go up to thirty seconds before switching to bulb (I used a remote to keep the picture steady). I read Calvin and Hobbes while waiting.

I also finally convinced myself to buy the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens today I am looking forward to the manual approach to photography. That and the f/1.8 speed setting for low light situations. I hope I will be able to do a outdoor night shot of Storke Plaza at UCSB when I get back down there in a few weeks.

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Meta-Post

 

Under The House

Under The House

So why do I have a blog? Occasionally I ask this alongside of: why am I even putting this online?

These questions usually come up when I post something that I know is not the best thing out there or even the most mediocre thing out there. Yet I seem to post it anyway. My answer to myself is that I want to have one post a day for as long as I can, once a single day lapses then it becomes so much easier to put a post of for another day. Then another. Soon the blog falls to the wayside much like my first blog at PNN. With the blog falling out of sight and mind it is hard to come back to it, it is much easier to start a new one with new goals and hopefully a new audience (or an audience depending). 

When I am in school I write an e-mail home every week about what I have been doing or often what I should have been doing. The e-mails tend to average around 1300 words each. This gave me plenty of opportunity to write creatively during the school year. Then summer hit (if you go from Scotland to California it does literaly hit). I stopped writing. I needed an outlet in which to write. I also like taking and sharing photos.

Thus I created this blog. 

Creativity is a fickle thing when it comes to writing every day. I try though to be original, mildly entertaining or at least provide a nice picture. Sometimes creativity does strike and I come up with a series of posts on the same subject. Other times I look at my photos until I find one that I like and write about it. Then there are those times when I don’t feel like doing anything and just post a picture with a few words. Finally there are days like today when I conduct a short bit of introspective blogging on my own blog. This does lend itself to rambling.

One feature of WordPress blogs is the easy to access daily hit graph in the admin section. I really wish they did not have this. The mere presence of the hit counter causes me to compulsively check it to see how my blog is doing. I hoped, in the beginning, that there would be some correlation between what I post and the hits I get in a given day. So far no pattern has emerged. A second problem is that I base my concept of the day on local time (-8 GMT) while the little graph (and the whole website) on GMT. So while I do post once a day my time I sometimes post two things in a day or none at all. Again this does not help me and my compulsive need to track statistics.

Rambling is hard to stop. So about that photo up there. I took that in the crawlspace under my family house with a Nikon D60 and a tripod. I compiled about seven shots to make the HDR photo seen above, I might do some more HDR shots of the wine barrels as I feel that they turned out particularly well.

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