New House, New Flash

February 7, 2009

Well we made the big move from apartment to house.  We got all our stuff moved last weekend and have been working to get everything unpacked, so everything is a mess and I can’t find anything.  It is nice to be in a real house again, we have a yard, space for a garden, and a garage.  But most important of all, God has promised not to destroy our house with a flood.

No Flood

RainbowWhile neither of those are exactly out house, they are the ones across the street and ours is the same layout as the one on the corner.

I also got a new fancy flash for my birthday.  I haven’t had a chance to use it much but so far I am quite happy with it.  Personally I hate using a regular flash indoors I think it looks washed out and terrible, this has lead me to try and shoot without a flash.  This works ok if you have image stabilization, a little better with a very fast lens (if you can afford one), but it still struggles if people are moving around.  I am hoping with this I will finally be able to get good indoor shots.  The top photo is with the camera flash, the bottom photos is with the new flash bounced off of the car ceiling.  Even in this setting where the old flash looks ok, the new one is still much better.

Old Flash

New Flash

Czech Climbing

July 14, 2008

I recently took a trip to the Czech Republic and Croatia to go climbing.  Before leaving we had trouble finding good information on climbing in the Czech Republic in English so I thought I would write up a summary.  This will be followed by a section on climbing in Croatia.

Before leaving we tried to do some research on climbing in the Czech Republic but we could not find an English climbing guide.  This should have been our first clue that perhaps the Czech Republic wasn’t the end-all-be-all in the European climbing scene but we missed it.  We flew into Prague with some limited information from with the idea of finding more when we got there.  We found a climbing shop in Prague and asked asked about good areas to climb, we got a guidebook and some maps to Adršpach from them and took off.  Adršpach is a beautiful place that has tons of amazing looking stone pillars but the rock is very crumbly sandstone and therefore no metal protection is allowed, instead you are supposed to use knotted slings.  In case you don’t know that is a length of webbing or cord with a large knot tied in the end that is used as a nut or stopper.  We thought the routes would have some bolts as knotted slings aren’t the most versatile of protection, but when we arrived we found that bolts were almost non-existent and the ones that were there were very rusty.  This meant the only way to protect the routes was top rope, and you couldn’t get up to the top of many routes.  I suppose you could use the bolts but they were very sparse (maybe three on a 90 ft route) so you would be very run out on very rusty bolts.  Also, many of the rock towers are worn smooth so even routes that are marked as 5.8 have almost no holds, I can only figure that the routes are very old and the holds have been worn off or torn off over the years.

It is a large area and there was a lot of evidence that it used to be a very active climbing area (log books on top of many of the stone pillars and lots of rusty protection) but we were unable to find any decent routes in the 5.10-11 range or any way to protect a route besides top rope.  The area is so big, many of the older routes are not climbable (worn smooth), and the guidebook was so poor we concluded that if you did want to climb there you would have to hire a guide or get a local to take you around.  All in all it is a beautiful area that is fun to visit, but if you want to climb I would head elsewhere, like Croatia.

to Skoda, verb: to drive recklessly

July 4, 2008

The great eastern European road trip is over, from Prague to Split and back again with stops in between.  Overall, more than 1500 miles covering a good chunk of Eastern Europe.  I would say renting a car is a very good way to see Europe, it is quite economical (even with the expensive gas and rental fees) and lets you easily go to out of the way places that most tourists don’t make it to.

For our trip we rented a Skoda, it was a little 4 door wagon with absolutely no power.  For comparison when I got back and started driving my 4 cylinder Toyota Corolla I was surprised by its pep.  The speed limit on most of the highways is 130 km/hr, so of course I tried to cruise at around 140 km/hr.  Getting up to this speed in the Skoda took a little effort, the Skoda was only about 1000 rpm from red lining, and it seemed like we were going really fast but it was only 10 km/hr over the speed limit, and every Audi and Mercedes on the road was still passing us like we were standing still.  Upon returning home and looking at the conversion I realized that 140 km/hr is 87 mi/hr, meaning I was cruising at 87 and sometimes getting up to around 95 mi/hr which might explain most of the painful noises our little Skoda was making.  The scary thing is the expensive cars were still flying by us, they must have been cruising at around 100-110 mi/hr.  If I ever move to Europe I guess I need to buy an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes as apparently that gives you license to drive however fast you want.

We also discovered that a big “L” on the top of your car means you are a terrible driver.  The first time we saw this (but not the last) was in Poland so we dubbed them “Learnskis”.  We decided they must be drivers ed students as that was the only explanation we could come up with for their insistence on driving less than 30km/hr all through town.  If you are ever driving in Europe don’t get stuck behind the Learnski.