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Archive for February, 2009

Sometimes the train tracks need to be crossed for a good photo.

Sometimes the train tracks need to be crossed for a good photo.

 

Recently on Facebook there has been a viral meme spreading called 25 Things. In it someone write twenty five things about themselves and tag twenty five people who repeat the process including tagging the original person. I was not tagged for a while then recently I was, I felt that I should write twenty five things but only tag those that tag me, in effect ending my branch of the tree. If I had not read an article (that I can’t find right now) about how this meme spread I might not have been interested enough in doing this. After writing it I thought I could repost it here.
 

The rules for this meme is to write twenty-five things about yourself and tag twenty-five people including the person who initially tagged you. Sort of a chain letter of narcissism. I was initially hesitant about writing one of these, then I was tagged and felt I should end the spreading on my side by simply not tagging anyone new except those that tag me in theirs (not a long list).

  1. I have a compulsion to make people laugh through words, it does not always work but I feel that I should try.
  2. Due to this I am usually shy around new groups of people until I know what types of humor will make them laugh.
  3. Ever since I was little I wanted to be a scientist, I imagined an organized lab with incompressible equipment and most importantly myself in an awesome lab coat. I have come to realize that as a physicist I will never have the clean lab nor the lab coat.
  4. I love playing games with other people: card games, board games, video games, laser tag and anything that requires planning and strategy. However I don’t care much for team sports like football (both kinds) or basketball.
  5. I used to play a lot of video games during and before high school, now I find that I rarely play any game that is not with friends in the same room.
  6. The best I have done in any sporting events is being a part of the second place novice male recurve archery team for Edinburgh University and eighth place in a fencing tournament for novice male foil for UCSB.
  7. I just got my driver’s license at the end of last summer and that might be because the guy giving me the test was texting throughout the whole thing. 
  8. I have a general aversion to talking on the phone, don’t know why I have it but I find myself almost always preferring any other means of communicating. I really should learn semaphore to help with this.
  9. Growing up I never thought much about religion as an institution, I generally thought along buddhist lines with karma but never identified with a single religion. Looking back I can see that it was a generally progression to being an atheist. 
  10. While an atheist I still find my diction to be flavored by religious phrases and imagery.
  11. I want to live without having any regrets, in the end I want to be happy.
  12. I read everything that I can, if nothing is available I will start reading signs, ingredient labels (some good stuff there) or even the safety card in airplanes.
  13. When writing I spell out numbers two words or less in length and try to follow grammatical rules. Texting takes me a while.
  14. While I consider myself at least a decent photography I find myself really bad at taking photos of people and events. 
  15. I don’t like wearing just t-shirts. Whenever I can I like to either have a collared shirt, something hooded or a sweater. However I don’t go all the way and wear blazers like a philosophy major.
  16. I enjoy mooching rides from people. For almost all of the school breaks (aside from summer) I have found a ride with someone to someplace sort of near my home. It is always fun to see if a conversation can be kept going for five to six hours. Unless we are stuck in traffic, that is never fun.
  17. I associate various bands, albums and genres with particular periods of my life, for example: the first two Franz Ferdinand Albums remind me of Edinburgh while Jack Johnson and the Beatles remind me of my freshman and sophomore year at UCSB. 
  18. I love science: physics, chemistry, biology, geology, materials and astronomy. Sure there are some I would rather just love a surface level but overall I really enjoy learning about what we are learning. 
  19. I probably own more then forty feet of books, a majority of that consists of science fiction, fantasy and science books. It is unlikely that I will sell any of them.
  20. When writing non-academically I use the words “so”, “well” and “but” o the point where it starts to bother me.
  21. I really dislike so many of these with starting with “I”.
  22. I have never figure out how to use a semi-colon except in computer languages.
  23. I enjoy a good story be it from friend, a book, a movie, a TV show, anime, video games, the internets, music, poetry or art. Especially if there are lasers involved. 
  24. I love baked goods. It could be that I rarely had any freshly baked items growing up (maybe four times a year) but I do love well baked items or those that are at least half butter or sugar.
  25. I am content with calling pi/3 roughly one.

I really should have spent the time writing this working on my lab report, it has been glaring at me this entire time.

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LaTeX

The Santa Barbara mission at sunset.

The Santa Barbara mission at sunset.

Three weeks ago I was writing a lab report for my senior physics lab, the first lab report I had to write in over a year (other labs were all notebook based) and I chose to do it in Microsoft Word 2008. Suffice to say it was a relatively frustrating experience with some very delicate formatting that could not be disturbed by changing fonts, font sizes or line spacing.

While writing the report I looked over my friends paper and it looked amazingly more professional than mine. He used LaTeX, a typesetting language used for any document that requires specific typesetting. It is used extensively in the science academic community because I instantly recognized the default font and format as that used by professors throughout out my time at college.

Now I have a new lab report to write and I am attempting to do so all through LaTeX (alright I initially wrote most it in TextEdit). So far I have have gotten through the 141 page tutorial up to mathematical typesetting, essentially I skimmed over most things I did not need except for the command to display pi. 

One nice thing about LaTeX is that the file can be read by free applications on any operating system and they will display the same results. This is very helpful when needing to send rough drafts between my lab partner and myself as he uses three operating systems.

So far I am using TeXShop and it is all working great. Once a document is written with all of the appropriate tags it needs to be typeset, which is sort of a render or a compile of the document, and if there are no errors (like the wrong command) a PDF file will be the output.

When I first heard about LaTeX I wanted to learn it but I had no motivation, now that I am using it as a tool instead of an abstraction I feel that I am learning it better. In a way it is similar to most learning, if it has to be done either through a class or a job then there is more motivation to learn.

Since it is free I recommend giving it a shot for formatting a final object intended for printing or distribution. I won’t be using it for humanities papers or every day typing (that is taken care of with MacJournal or TexEdit) but for any future lab report it will be my program of choice.

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The roof of the San Francisco Academy of Science.

The roof of the San Francisco Academy of Science.

Today I was accepted into the Physics and Astronomy department at the University of British Columbia. This is not an official acceptance yet as the graduate school itself has to also accept me into the program. It is nice in a way to hear back at this stage, it means that in the near or semi-near future I will get a definite yes or no from the school (I am in the same state with New Hampshire).

Unlike the other programs I applied to this one is a Masters program in Canada. I would have applied to the doctoral program but I could not, instead one transfers into the program from within the masters program. I really don’t know how I feel about this method of doing things, on one side if it turns out that I really dislike the school or simply research in general I can stop easily at a Masters and move on. Or I could continue onwards.

Once I hear back from the graduate school officially I will see if they have a day to visit or at least more information about the process. I am hesitant about the UBC for two main reasons: the lack of communication (sent by mail instead of e-mail and in general) and I don’t know if they have enough research that I am interested in at the school.

Reading the acceptance the year pay was listed at $20,000, normal for a program. Except it is probably in Canadian dollars. I then checked craigslist for a quick view of the cost of living and housing was on par with Seattle in terms of the numbers being shown and they were also probably in Canadian, so it will be a comparable to the other schools in pay.

Just waiting now to get more information, in the meantime I have next weekend scheduled for the University of Washington open day.

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One fish, two fish, three fish, blue fish.

One fish, two fish, three fish, blue fish.

I thought Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was going  to be good. I told my friends about it and most asked if it was going to be a movie.

They have been answered.

Now the classic will be treated to a touch of cinema art by having aliens thrown into the mix. What could make it better? The aliens and Austen are brought to us by Sir Elton John.

As a form of art I am more hopeful about the zombies, there the story will be integrated with the original, the alien one will rewrite it completely. I wonder if Gort will make it in?

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A surprisingly docile butterfly.

A surprisingly docile butterfly.

Over the weekend I went to the butterfly grove in Goleta in a very lepidopterist move. In the beginning of the school year I remembered hearing about the a butterfly grove being near the campus so I looked it up. I found some mentions of it on the internet, finally finding the information at the  Santa Barbara Hikes website. 

Before going I looked up the grove on flickr to find out what to expect. What I noticed in all of the pictures was an off cast to the light, I thought it might have been one person but as I looked farther they all had it.

So when I went to the grove I was surprised to find my pictures had the same tint as the ones I saw before. I tried out a polarizing filter but it did not help the color cast, rather it reduced the light so I could not get a steady photo at 200mm. 

I thought it could be caused by the prolific eucalyptus like in the Blue Mountains, turns out that they don’t actually have that effect. So it could be air coming off the ocean or maybe simply unexplainable butterfly dust. I am sure it is that.

At about eleven in the morning almost all of the butterflies were still asleep on the branches, most looked like dead leaves with a few bright oranges interspersed between. A few single butterflies fluttered around the trees and as I was leaving one landed on the ground right in front of me. I started to hesitantly take photos and slowly inched closer until I was about a foot away. 

In the end I really wished I had a good 100mm macro lens.

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Beach at Night

 

 

Manzanita Beach at night.

Manzanita Beach at night.

 

I find long exposure photography to be a fun (if sometimes cold) way to see an area with fresh eyes. Last week I went out to the campus lagoon and beach to get some night shots with a clear sky and a full moon illuminating the ground.

At the beach I found it to be high tide with seaweed scattered haphazardly across the sand. An upturned shopping cart adorned with kelp sat forlornly next to the lagoon outflow. I really liked the cart, so I used it as the focus for my beach shots.

Some aspects of night photography in the winter I did not expect were the cold and constant loss of night vision. Because of the cold I wore gloves, this made it difficult to adjust anything on my camera, especially lens caps. Night vision is continually thrown out of whack when the LCD screen lights up bright white amid the darkness. I could have turned the screen off but I did need to frequent the screen as light was too low to focus properly.

To help focusing, especially autofocus, I found a flash light to illuminate an object in the middle distance to be handy for the camera’s autofocus. A strong flashlight would be ideal as mine only worked up to about ten feet or so.

For exposures I found a minute to work well in the lighting, my camera only goes up to 30 seconds beyond that is bulb. A timer on my cell phone let me get to sixty seconds within a quarter of a second. With such long exposures I could not use a white balance filter since there would be no light. In the end I used photoshops Camera RAW to fix it.

Finally I used photoshop and iPhoto both to edit the photos. iPhoto was a bit faster and easier to use but it could not give the same in depth color control as photoshop. For the above photo I pulled up the blues and purples of the photo to help the sky look a bit more vibrant. I tried to increase the black level, which really helped the crispness but destroyed the dark trees. They become indistinct blobs of foliage. 

Next I want to find a good place to do long exposure shots of either people on the bike paths at night or cars on a busy road.

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Another Short One

 

Santa Barbara Dock

Santa Barbara Dock

My parents are visiting for the weekend so I have been spending all day with them, suffice to say I have not done any of the work I should be doing. I did however take some nice photos of Santa Barbara country as we have been going around wine tasting.

But I am don’t have the time right now to say much, so here is a a simple photo.

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