Monday, May 31, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The car that could save the world

This is the car that could save the world:

This is Citro├źn's 2CV, designed shortly after World War Two to be cheap, reliable transportation. It was capable of carrying lots of luggage for farms and made to handle off-road use as easily as on-road. It wouldn't sell terribly well in its original form (at first it topped out at 40 mph, and the last model, produced in 1990, could only make it to the mid-70s), but a modern remake, with the same basic principles in mind, would be excellent.

The main things the 2CV got right:

-Designed to do just one thing, and do it damn well: The 2CV was designed to get people and light cargo from point A to point B, and it did it better than almost any other car made in its age (and, arguably, better than many newer cars). It wasn't meant to be pretty, it wasn't meant to be fast, it wasn't meant to be a luxury car, and it certainly wasn't any of these. It was transportation, pure and simple.

-Efficient use of space: The average occupants per car vary depending on time and location, but it's around 1.3 people. There are certainly situations where you need to carry more, but at least 70% of rides are transporting only 1 person. The 2CV seats 5, but the back 3 seats double easily as storage space, effectively making it easily convertible between a 5-seater family car and a 2-seater light truck. The roof is removable canvas, making it easy to carry large objects.

-Low weight: The 2CV minimized weight in many ways, from folding windows instead of windows that rolled down, to the previously mentioned canvas roof, to a front-engine, front-wheel drive system. This contributed to the car's fuel efficiency: often better than 50 miles per gallon, comparable to a Prius but without any batteries or computerized controls.

A revamp of the 2CV, or at least a car made with the same principles in mind, would very much help current concerns about pollution, as well as fuel consumption and runaway consumerism. We don't need station wagons that can top 130 miles per hour, or cars with a hundred pounds of chrome bling. We don't need SUVs that seat 7 for a mother of two living in the city. We need efficient transportation, both in terms of construction costs and fuel usage.

The availability of a car like this wouldn't alone change the world, not by any means. There are certainly issues, such as the conspicuous consumption that has led to many of the inefficiencies of current cars, that need to be addressed, but a vehicle like this, designed around being a good, solid method of transportation, would almost certainly help.

[Photograph from Wikipedia]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Edited foggy night photos

I increased the contrast in certain ranges to make the tree in the back stand out more and I took out a bit of green.

I increased the contrast of the tree and played around with the colors a bit.

I darkened the foreground and brightened the range containing the ray of light and the building.

This one is an HDR composite of three photos. I've been working on trying to get HDR photos looking better, as most of my attempts thus far haven't been terribly good.

Monday, May 3, 2010

High Heels Kill

A couple weeks ago I took part in the Sexual Assault Resource Agency's Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, in which men, well, walk a mile in her shoes (primarily high heels). It raises money and awareness for sexual assault resources in the Charlottesville area. It's quite hilarious to watch dozens of men parade along the Downtown Mall in high heels, and it was interesting to give it a shot myself, too. At the same time, though, it just reinforced something I've been thinking for a long time.

Now, I want to make perfectly clear that I'm not blaming any victims of criminal activity for what happened to them. No one should have to be subjected to violence or other crimes, and things like dressing scantily are not "asking for it" as some people say.

That said, it cannot be denied that there are certain actions that put people at risk. I occasionally find myself in less than favorable neighborhoods at hours I'd rather be in bed. When I have to do this, there are certain things I do to keep myself safe. I stay aware of my surroundings, I try to stay unencumbered, and I don't wear shoes that make it impossible for me to move faster than a crawl without falling on my face.

This last one, as you may have guessed from the intro paragraph, is my main point. Things like wearing high heels is inherently risky. High heels have a long history, but numerous branches (notably in Venice, Turkey, and China) began as a way of inhibiting movement, either to control women or show that a person's social status was above that requiring manual labor. They are, from a personal safety standpoint, a very bad choice.

However, they continue to thrive, as they're attractive and societal norms make them expected in certain situations. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but it cannot be denied that they put women at risk. Not a large one, to be sure, but given how much fuss is made over preventing sexual assaults, even small improvements should be considered. Encouraging women to ditch high heels, or at least choose ones that can be kicked off in the event of an emergency, would save lives.

I think, though, that this isn't the direction society will head. Saying that not wearing high heels, or tight wrap-around skirts, or other clothing that restricts free movement, is frowned upon. The argument is that women (in a broader case, people in general) shouldn't have to restrict their lifestyles to stay safe. In an ideal world, this would be perfectly true. In the real world, though, this argument breaks down. There are people out there (not very many, but a few) who will hurt others, and if people are concerned about falling victim to those acts of violence, it's foolish for them to ignore actions they can take to stay safe, whether it's staying in groups when in unsafe areas, not getting trashed at parties, or, god forbid, wearing flats instead of heels.