Thursday, December 28, 2006

Edinburgh

Last week, my family was in town and we headed up to Edinburgh, Scotland via train. We got some Brit Rail passes which allow you to travel anywhere you want in the UK via train at no additional charge for the period of time you purchase the pass. It's a bit expensive but ends up being a good deal due to the high cost of train fares in the UK. On our journey, we had an inside view on Santa's whereabouts. It appears that in this modern age he has given up the reindeer and is going with a helecopter. Indeed, he waved to us from the helecopter.

We got to see Edinburgh Castle as well as taking a trip down the "Royal Mile." The Royal Mile is where lots of the city's historical events took place. One highlight was getting a picture at Adam Smith's grave, the father of modern Economics. (You know the supply/demand concept? He's the one who first presented the idea formally in his book The Wealth of Nations.)

On the trip, I also discovered the brilliance of scarves. I got a Scottish made lambs wool scarf and found that it keeps one quite warm by cutting the wind and providing general toastiness.


Me and Adam Smith


Edinburgh Castle at Night


Edinburgh Castle Canon (interestingly, it's never been used. There is a modern canon fired from the castle daily at 1 pm to give the ships in the harbor a signal to set their clocks by.)

More pictures posted here.

Photography Tip #2

There is a general rule of thumb in photography called the "Rule of Thirds," which can help improve the quality of a picture. The basic concept is to imagine there is a 3x3 grid laying on top of the frame. When lining up the picture, center the picture in such a way that the intersection of the imaginary lines have points of interest from the picture. This helps to give a good balanced view of the photo and focuses the eye on natural division points in the picture. For example, if you have a picture of three basketballs lined up in a row, try to line up a seperate ball on each intersection.

Mississippi Squirrel Revival

Check out this funny Ray Stevens song and the lyrics.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Photography Tip #1

Identify your subject and zoom in on it. People sometimes make the mistake of placing a person they're taking a picture of way far back in a picture of some giant piece of architecture such as the Eiffel tower or Big Ben. Bring the subject closer to the camera and have the background be the background. The viewer of the picture wants to see the subject up close and the fact that they were in relative close proximity to the sight.

Cameras

If you're looking into getting a for real camera, let me know and I can give you some tips. Going down either the route of nice point and shoot or DSLR are both valid options when going digital. If DSLR is the route for you, I'd recommend either going with Canon or Nikon. Once you choose one or the other, it's kind of like getting married. They make all the lenses/appliances within a family. So you begin investing in the family and the greater the investment, the tougher it is to switch from an escalation of commitment standpoint.

I went the way of Canon but Nikon has very good equipment as well. Not that other camera companies don't have good products; it's more that Canon and Nikon are top grade and have lots of support and availability to purchase parts/get service.

Again, not necessarily trying to push towards DSLR as one can take some very nice pictures with point and shoot cameras. They've become much more advanced to the point where you can do almost as much with some point and shoots as DSLRs or SLRs. Photography really is an art and takes a certain amount of natural ability in having an eye for things. There are definitely principles to keep in mind and the more you do it, as in anything, the better you get. Probably way more than you wanted to know. :-)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tech Tip

When in Internet Explorer, to quickly go to the address bar without taking your hands off the keyboard, press alt + d. This will highlight whatever is in the address bar and allow you to enter the next destination, surfing fractionally quicker.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dublin

This past weekend, I made a short hop, skip, and jump on over to the isle of the leprechauns. While I didn't see any of the wee folk, I did get to see and experience some neat stuff. First, I took a tour around the city on a bus which had commentary on Irish history and the various sites. I've done a tour such as this twice and found it to provide a good broad feel for the city. It helps in getting the lay of the land and figuring out where things are prior to doing some detailed investigation on foot.

Before researching the trip, I didn't realize that Ireland has only been an autonomous country since 1921 when it ratified the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Previously, it was a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland which is still on the same island as the Republic of Ireland chose to remain a part of the UK and as such is a separate country.

After the bus tour, I took a brief tour at the Guinness factory. This is similar to the World of Coke museum in Atlanta. Interestingly, the Guinness family has given away lots of money to help maintain or build churches. I then went and checked out Dublin castle. There are lots of government offices located here so it is not quite as castlesque as one might anticipate. The Chester Beatty library is located adjacent to the castle and has a plethora of old books and manuscripts.

It was then on to check out St. Patrick's cathedral. The cathedral is allegedly built on the site of St. Patrick's original church building when he came to Ireland in the 5th century A.D. I also went to Christ Church Cathedral and actually attended a singing service. The acoustics were quite nice even with a small choir.

On Saturday evening, I went on a musical pub crawl which was one of the highlights of my trip. A couple professional musicians (fiddler/percussionist and guitarist) gave a nice synopsis of traditional Irish music as well as humor and various bits of Irish trivia. They played a bunch of Irish folk songs and taught us a few which we sang along with. Towards the end of the evening, they issued what is known as the "local call" during which the audience members are requested to share a song from their home country. Not one to shy away, I volunteered and played a rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama." Playing in an actual Irish pub was a very cool experience.

I also got to see the "Book of Kells" which were a couple of ancient manuscripts of the Bible in Latin written in the 8th century. The pages were decorated with ornate illustrations. The exhibit had other old manuscripts as well. Apparently, many times they used cow hide as a parchment.

Another museum that I checked out was a Viking exhibit. The Vikings invaded and lived in Dublin back in the early part of the 2nd millennium. They were known as Danes when not on warring raids and Vikings when conducting activities of battle. A common misconception is that they did not wear the horned helmets which people commonly associate with them but rather a leather helmet. The food in the couple pubs I ate in was quite tasty as well. I had beef pie for one meal, salmon for another and lots of potatoes. Yum! Someday, I'd like to go back and check out the countryside which is supposed to be very beautiful.

Unfortunately, I left the battery to my camera sitting in the charger in my flat in London. I did, however, get a disposable camera and will at some point upload pictures after getting them developed and scanned.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Threadless.com

This site, Threadless.com, has lots of funny and/or random shirts. My personal favorites are Darth Vader trimming the hedges and the Bicycle Miles Per Gallon infinity shirts.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

London Carolers

This evening while on the way for a brief run in Hyde Park, I heard the unmistakable sound of Carolers sing-sing-singing. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to join them in hearty melody. We sang "Silent Night" and "The 12 Days of Christmas."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunrise, sunset swiftly flow the days

Currently, the projected sunrise and subsequent sunset in London are scheduled for 7:48 am and 3:53 pm. I'm told the day will get progressively shorter. 8 hours of sunlight seems such a short period of time. By sunlight, I mean lighter than night since many times the clouds cover the sun for a large portion of the day. It's strange to look out the window at 4:15 in the afternoon and see things all dark. And we're not talking the sun's just started going down. By that time, it's down for a long winter's nap.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

British Museum

Today, I spent a bit of time at the British Museum which has an extensive collection of artifacts from all eras. Two notable items I saw were the Rosetta Stone (which the British absconded with following military actions with France in the early 1800s) and parts of the Parthenon. No, I did not make a quick trip to Athens. A man with the named Lord Elgin obtained these parts of the Parthenon back a couple hundred years ago. This was accomplished with permission from the authorities though some felt they should remain with the original structure. On the other side, the pieces were likely preserved much better in the British Museum rather than face damage from vandalism and weather.

I also went and watched the ACC championship game at a BBQ place called BoDean's owned by a guy from Kansas City so you know it was some classic KC style cooking.

Current listening: Licoln Bruster: Let the Praises Ring



This is a nice picture of Regent's Park in Autumn bloom.
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