27 March 2011

VIDEO: Santa Catalina Golf Cart Journey

I took some video when we rented a golf cart on Santa Catalina Island. Primarily, I captured the water front, habor, and portions of downtown. Watch the video below to get a taste of the island!

The following pictures add some context to the video's location. I only captured a short segment of the golf cart ride!

Starting point of Video, along Avalon harbor

Northern extent of golf cart journey

Returning golf cart to rental place

view of Avalon and Casino from out at sea

25 March 2011

Breathtaking Island Getaway minutes from Los Angeles

Hello there! Let me start off by apologizing for the post gap! I have been tied up with final exams and moving into a new home! Time to dust off the sexton and get back to work.

I recently returned from a three day visit to Santa Catalina Island, about sixty minutes south west of Long Beach, CA. The island is largely undeveloped 80% of the land is occupied by the non-profit Catalina Island Conservancy which manages and preserves this gem of natural beauty. Avalon, the island's main town, is nestled in hills overlooking the north-facing harbor where homes, hotels, and restaurants are tightly interwoven amongst steep curvy streets. The town has a quiet, sleepy feel, and the downtown can be circumnavigated on foot in less than 20 minutes!

Avalon Harbor, with Casino in background

Catalina Island is a mixture of modernity and quirky tradition. Cars are restricted on the island resulting in a ten year waiting list to bring one out. Subsequently, golf carts are the preferred transportation method on the island. (Yes, they are available for rent!) Several locals proudly pointed out how Avalon is a town of contradictions.

Avalon has a 3rd St with no 1st or 2nd. There is a bird park with no birds. The town's Casino has no gambling. The island has a post office, but no mail delivery. The private yacht club is open to the public. 
Downtown Avalon

If Disney operated an island, the result would be Catalina. As it turns out, the island is largely owned and operated by a corporate interest: the Wrigley Family (of the chewing gum fame). In 1919, William Wrigley Jr bought a controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company which oversaw use of the island. All property is owned by SCIC, and most homes and business exist on leased land.

Pier and Harbor
Avalon town and harbor
I really liked my stayed at the Casa Mariquita Hotel. Perched on a hill about five minutes walking from the water, we had beautiful panoramic views from out room. The room was nicely furnished and recently redecorated, and the hotel has a unique layout which provides many semi-private balconies and nooks to read a book or enjoy the sun and views. The staff was extremely friendly, offering a warm welcome and insider's tips and advice about the island. I would highly recommended this hotel for an overnight stay on the island.

Casa Mariquita Hotel

Overall, I enjoyed my trip to Catalina. To get a better feel for the island, click here to see the locations of the above pictures! I will follow up this post with more specifics on the island's attractions and activities. If you live in Southern CA and need to get away from it all, Catalina is an hour away by ferry!

13 March 2011

The Day the Ocean Moved

The footage of Japan's ongoing catastrophe is beginning to collect on the internet, and the situation is horrific. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake lasted several minutes, and trigged massive tsunamis which traveled 10 km (6 mi) inland in some areas. Despite Japan's rigorous seismic building standards and earthquake preparedness, destruction has been widespread and devastation.

Here are satellite images showing before and after views of the scene on the ground in some of the hardest hit areas of North Eastern Japan

Ishinomaki (Point A)

Natori (Point B)

Sendai (Point C)
Thanks to the New York Times for the excellent article.

According to CNN, the quake moved Japan's coast up to 8 feet, and caused earth's axis to shift approximately 10 cm. The power of this earthquake is hard to fully comprehend.

Imagery of Tsunami in progress

05 March 2011

Can we Live Underground on the Moon?

The Indian Space Research Organization recently announced the finding of a huge underground cavern on the moon. Its approximated to be 1.7 KM long and around 120 meters wide.  It is thought that an entire lunar city or base could find inside the cavern

Indian researchers issues a report in which they claim the cavern would be ideal for a future human lunar settlement. Being deep underground, the void would be protected from radiation, space debris impacts, dust, and extreme temperature change. According to the report:
Lava provides a natural environmental control with a nearly constant temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit), unlike that of the lunar surface showing extreme variation, maximum of 130 degrees Celsius (266 degrees Fahrenheit) to a minimum of minus 180 degrees Celsius (-292 degrees Fahrenheit) in its diurnal (day-night) cycle.
In theory, building a base in the cavern would hugely decrease the difficultly of establishing a base on the moon. The nature shield of the lava rock would save immense amount of structural materials and insulation.  With any luck, humans will soon be living inside the moon like a colony of ants inside of juicy peach!

 Thank you to Gizmodo for the report!

03 March 2011

Student Housing in Santa Barbara

As another school year quickly draws to a close, the annual 'where am I gonna live' dance begins! I figured I can make this process a little easier by sharing some of the knowledge I have learned while being here in SB.

Greater SB area
The above picture depicts the great Santa Barbara area. Two main concentrations of student housing exist.

Isla Vista
The red rectangle outlines Isla Vista, which is adjacent to UCSB. Isla vista, or IV as its known locally, is a tighly packed ocean-front square mile of student apartments, late-night eateries, parties, and terrible parking. Everyone bikes to and from campus, and there is a lively nightlife. Rents in IV can be very expensive and the apartments tend to be funky; it is truly a student slum. The area attracts many UCSB students due to its proximity to the university, but many city college kids live in IV as well for the complete, wild party experience. An express bus connects City college and Isla Vista, so IV is a convenient option for those who don't wish to drive all the way downtown.

Red = main party zone aka Del Playa ave
green = 'downtown' w/ stores and resteraunts
bluish purple line = border between IV and campus

The Mesa
The area surrounding Santa Barbara City college (in the blue circle) is known as the mesa. It is a much more normal, residential neighborhood than IV, but still has a high concentration of students. Essentially the Mesa is more convenient for attending city college, but IV offers CC students a more wild, social atmosphere. Again, the 15x express bus connects these areas back and forth for easy transit.

The Mesa and downtown
City College shown in red
Gold star = transit center
Downtown Santa Barbara
Downtown is a very cool neighborhood! Lots of shopping, (21+) nightlife, and walkable streets make it a nice place to be. If you live close to the the transit station at 1020 Chapala Street, than both city college and UCSB/IV are a short bus ride away!

Goleta is the rest of the space between Santa Barbara and UCSB. It is less fancy than Santa Barbara, and has more sprawling suburbs. Lots of affordable housing is available in Goleta, but primarily in quiet, family oriented neighborhoods. No student crazyness here! If you live close to one of several bus lines in the area, transport to campus is manageable. Many areas of Goleta are accessible only by car, and this makes getting to campus a big pain as Goleta is congested with poorly-configured streets.

The Bottom Line
IV is where the action is, and is popular w/ UC and CC students. Rents are expensive and space is cramped. Amazing social opportunities abound, because you usually live blocks from your friends! Everyone bikes to UC or buses/drives to CC.

The Mesa is more quite, and more convenient for city college kids. Not as common to see UC students living here. The "lower" mesa is cheaper and more popular w/ students, but as you climb away from the ocean and up the hills, the houses get bigger and more expensive.

Santa Barbara and Goleta offer lots of variety. If you want to live in a family style setting, getting away from the mesa and IV would be a good bet. Lots of families in SB and Goleta rent rooms to students. Goleta is more suburban, while Santa Barbara's neighborhoods tend to be more upscale and densely populated.