Saturday, February 25, 2012

SCUBA Julie, Part One

I'm going to put it out there. Like many of the swimmers I've met, I'm terrified of drowning.  We're talking recurring-nightmare-where-you-almost-die terrified. (Have psych people ever figured out why people have those?) I have no idea why so many people who are, in fact, GOOD swimmers are so scared of drowning but there you go.  Perhaps it is this underlying fear that made me so excited to learn SCUBA, literally breathing underwater.
Through a series of very generous gifts from my family, I was able to sign up for a PADI Open Water course and tackle my first item on my adventure bucket list.  After completing this class I can dive anywhere in the world at a depth of up to 60ft as long as I have another certified diver with me.  I took my class with Seguin's SCUBA Center over six intense weeks.  5 hours of class, including 3 hours in the pool, after a full day's work is especially tiring.  That being said, I had a blast doing it.

Personal Gear
The class is made up of a combination of classroom and practical lessons.  Classroom lessons came with 60+ pages of reading a week and homework.  Each week there was a quiz at the end of class and a final exam at the end of the course.  There are a lot of warnings and 'what to do if this goes wrong' lessons but given that you're an airbreather underwater you're thankful to know it.  I will warn you that some of the explanations offered for changing pressure and how a compass works will make you cringe a little bit if you are familiar with these phenomena but it's not worth trying to correct anyone.  The part that I found most interesting was calculating how long you can safely stay at a give depth.

Class Photo
In the pool, every time we went under, I had to tell myself to keep breathing.  It's easier to breathe through a regulator underwater than above water which made it a little bit easier.  Surprisingly the most difficult part was the actual swimming in SCUBA gear.  You're caring a hefty amount of weight between the weight belt and the gear, and you want to be somewhere in the water column instead of the top or bottom.  The first week we were allowed in the deep end, I was either on the bottom of the pool or on the surface.  By the last week, I could show off a little bit more.

 All of my instructors and divemasters were knowledgeable with great sense of humor.  We learned every single skill in that book and practiced until we could do it right.  We had joked with each other and learned extra skills such as blowing bubble donuts.  We're not done yet though.  In June we complete part two by doing a weekend of open-water dives at Lake George.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Make New Friends...

...but keep the old. One is silver and the other's blue?

After many years of devoted service through frat parties, birthdays, backpacking through Europe, and general abuse I decided to retire my Canon point and shoot.  I knew this day would come sooner or later so I had been looking around at different options.  Ever since I blew through a single use underwater camera in Jamaica, I've been coveting an underwater camera or housing so I wouldn't be limited to multiples of 24 pictures per snorkel outing.

Three generations of cameras
On the hand, I would love to upgrade to a dSLR.  Ever since I was little I've been intrigued by cameras and photos.  My dad worked for Kodak and my mom is a Christmas card picture perfectionist so I was bound to either love or hate photography.  I was almost done with high school by the time I reluctantly gave up on my childhood fantasy of being a national geographic/sports photographer.  By that time I had a film SLR camera and was learning to use it pretty well by the time I left for university.  However, I thought the better decision was to leave the SLR at home and away from the dorms.  Now, living safely away from campus and supposedly more mature, my trusty film camera is outdated and oddly constraining after shooting digital point and shoots with adjustable ISO and the like.  Unfortunately, dSLRs and even dSLR-bridge cameras are a bit of a stretch on my budget right now.  I also want to make sure I know if I want to take the intermediate step in a dSLR-bridge or take the plunge into dSLR world with all of its lenses and romance.

New Camera!
In the end, I went with the Panasonic DMC-TS3, one of the newer ruggized point and shoots.  The two major components that drew me to this camera were the 40ft waterproof rating and the color.  To be fair, I did scour Amazon, dpreviews, B & H photography, Best Buy and others for reviews on the camera before I made my final decision but those are the two characteristics that really stuck.  I also like that I can play with the shutter speed and have more ISO options than my Canon.  My gripe against the camera is its performance in low light.  Or rather complete lack of performance in low light.  I'm still hoping that I can figure out some magically combinations of setting to make them tolerable but for now I'm switching back and forth between the Panasonic and the canon depending on the situation.  

I would still like to level up in camera's before I start doing some serious traveling but I have something to tie me over for now.  I'm trying to figure out a way to experiment with both a dSLR and a dSLR-bridge camera before I make a decision.  
Anyone want to help me with some consumer research?

Some sample pictures from the Panasonic:
Patch Collection through a pinhole

Winter landscape

The details can get a little fuzzy

Artsy Underwater bubble shot (major reason for purchase)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Have You Had Your Cherry Pie?

My last featured holiday tradition was from my father's side of the family.  Today I'm sharing one from my mother's side.  If you went to primary school in the United States you probably heard the fable of George Washington and the cherry tree.

As the story goes, when George Washington was a lad he chopped down his father's cherry tree with an ax.  When confronted about the incident young George said 'I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree.'

Somewhere along the line, my family started having cherry pie on George Washington's birthday.  Since I went away to college I haven't had my cherry pie or at best substituted with one of the cherry pies from Stewart's convenience shop.  Having invested in the equipment to make meat pie earlier this year, I figured cherry pie wouldn't be so difficult. Luckily this pie is pretty simple because I was sorting out some details of my upcoming spring break trip while I was baking.

I attempted my first solo lattice crust.  Free cutting parallel lines and rolling a uniform crust is still more difficult than I think it ought to be. There is definitely a level of finesse to weaving and sealing a lattice.  I think I managed to hide all of the cracks though. I was so nervous that the crust was going to come undone while it was baking.
Completed Lattice
Of course it wouldn't be on this blog if there wasn't some kind of twist.  The recipe I used called for switching the temperature of the oven part way through baking.  Somehow when I was changing over the temperature, I switched on the delayed bake timer and could not figure out how to switch it off.  As a result I had to bake the pie for an extra 15 mins to get the color right.  I can only hope that it didn't make the crust too tough.  I'm taking this pie into my very international lab tomorrow and share a little American culture with everyone.  Hopefully there's enough to go around.

Finished Product

Sunday, February 12, 2012

3 Steps to Long Hair: Phase 2

Phase Two took a much different shape than I was expecting.  5 months of growing out a pixie cut left me with a choppy, feathering mullet.  I was heading home for the weekend so I took a shot in the dark and called up my stylist from high school.  If anyone ever needs a haircut in Livingston County, look up Shear FX in Geneseo.  I walked into the shop after driving for 4 hours with no idea of what I wanted to look like.  I know my former phase 2 haircut wasn't going to work so I offered 3 specifications to whatever Laurie could think up.
  1. No more feathery mullet
  2. Include sweeping bangs
  3. A definite shape with some attitude
Laurie was asking me about how I style my hair now and we joked about the days when I had brightly colored hair and was known to spike it on occasion.  I felt a little bad for the mom sitting next to me with the wide-eyed tween listening to my coloring stories.

Colors from days of old: Crazy Grape and the Blazing Red highlights.
I ended up with a much more subdued hairstyle for phase 2 than the days of old.  I give Laurie major credit for this one. It's a little hard to see how much it's really grown since August but I'm so happy to actually have a 'look' again. I'm still debating keeping the bangs but for now they're nice.

Phase 1 (Left), Phase 2 (Right)

What do you think? Should I keep the bangs?