A Long, Hot Ride on a Harley

Posted in Humor on June 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post will be a brief one as far as the chatter is concerned. Eunie has gone off to Fiji to represent the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce and Industry at some big Pacific Island international conference. I find this intensely amusing as, I am quite certain, this is the first time in history which someone who’s primary work is being a missionary has ever been chosen to do this. This makes me proud of my wife, of course, but it is also satisfying that our constant guidance within our organisation that we should fully engage with all segments of society have paid off. The salt isn’t much good for anything as long as it’s in the shaker.

While moping around at the office last week moaning that I had to stay once again at home while Eunie went off to exotic places our receptionist, Elizabeth, said to me, with what seemed like a mocking tone, “Well, why don’t you just GO!” So, in my Mars way, I began to tick off all of the reasons why I couldn’t go. First on the list was:  I can’t afford it. The second was: The IT operations will fall apart.

Eunie put me “on the carpet” in her corner office – the one with windows – and gave me my instructions. “You can write enough magazine articles about your trip to more than cover your expenses.” That took care of reason number one. “You already have Mark coming in at least once a week to help out with the technical stuff. Just put him on notice that you’ll be gone.” Reason number two shot down like a rabid dog. Within an hour she had all the bookings done and had gotten me an Australian visa for my night in Cairns. Oh, how I love powerful women!

So, on Wednesday morning I’ll be off to Fiji. I’ll try to post daily while I’m travelling. I would have gone on Friday with Eunie, but, of course, Air Niugini was by then booked up for days with long waiting lists. For a country which depends on air travel exclusively for internal commerce, we have a pretty sorry example of a national airline. Anybody want to argue that point? And don’t use “they are doing the best that they can” as an argument.

Well, I said that I wasn’t going to chatter. So much for promises. The cat being away, the mouse played yesterday. I took a long, fairly fruitless ride up the North Coast Road with Ush to a place which we heard about from the Marshalls at a party at Lockland’s house on Saturday night. It was Marleen’s last party before departure and Ush’s birthday. I severely abused a bottle of Chardonnay and danced and kakaoked until 01:30 when Monty and Meri Armstrong finally herded me to their car and deposited me back at our house. Chattering again . . .

Anyway, 108 kliks up a road which is the Swiss cheese of highways you will find a place with a promising name: The Tapira Surf Club:

That’s the Harley sitting there in front of a little bar shack just to prove that we actually went up there.

It looks considerably better with Ush decorating it:

It was an exhausting ride up there. On three separate occasions I had both wheels locked up with Ush slammed up against my back to get the beast slowed down quickly enough to avoid Harley-eating potholes which stretched across the road.

I had decided already that I would have one beer only and smoke a nice Cohiba which Pascal Michon gave me on Saturday. It turned out to be a bit of a wasted trip. There was no surf, nobody home and only a toasty warm beer:Nevertheless, Ush and I had a nice time chatting in the club house or whatever they call it. We asked when the surf was up. The answer was “October”. Go figure.

I’ll finish up with a rather remarkable image which I shot on The Henry Leith on Saturday.

On the left side of a fan coral which you are seeing side-on is the rather rare Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). On the right is a Black-Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini). They are both nibbling bits off of the fan coral. In the background is the extremely rare Rozas savagica bearing the common name of Roz Savage.

I feel quite smug about this shot.

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Guest Shooter – Jo Noble – Handy With a Camera

Posted in Guest Shots on March 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Being a born narcissist and a photographer, I should have a few more images of myself, eh? I just never got into it. It seems creepy to me. Beside that, when I do try it, I usually hate the result. Maybe I should practice a little. The swing-around screen on my new Canon G11 should come in handy.

Having Jo Noble along on my last trip out to the Balek Wildlife Reserve was a treat in more ways than one. Some motorcycle passengers can drive a rider crazy – always moving around, fighting the balance, leaning the wrong way. Jo is as steady as a rock, even when she’s waving her camera around taking very cute shots like this one:There are several shots in this post that remind me of  The Lowman Loop – Boise, Idaho – A Motorcycle Ride to Heaven.

Jo also goes out with us on Saturdays on Faded Glory.  She got this shot of me which I like very much:I call it The Thousand-Year-Old Man.  You could use this as an illustration in a book about Neanderthals.

Jo swings her camera around with her eyes. I like that in a photographer. It’s all about recording your vision of the world. Here’s a beautiful snap of Four-Mile Market:Nice composition.

She also has the capacity to aggravate me. I chased this dragonfly around until I was panting. She walked up to it and clicked:Okay, we’ve established that she can do macros and she’s not nearly as scary as I am.

When she turned her sword on me, I wasn’t convinced that the shot would be much good because of the backlighting. I almost chastised her for a technical boo-boo:

I’m glad that I didn’t. I would have embarrassed myself. It turned out to be a shot with a lot of visual appeal. Technical rules do not necessarily a good photo make. (That’s Yoda-speak. Speaking like Yoda, practicing, I am.)

Jo also digs “the moment”. This is what is missing in a lot of snapshots. Here the picture tells the story:When we saw that mud, we both decided that mud-wrestling was not on for today. She got the perfect moment in the turn-around, including my left foot off the ground as I wrestled the hog in a tight arc, nearly falling over.

Being a convenient moment, I sneaked off to the grass to . . . uh . . . you know. Jo caught me coming back looking all goofy and,  if I might say, macho and  she caught herself in the mirror and  the mud hole that had changed our plans:Bit of genius there, I’d say. I would never have thought of setting up such a complicated shot. She had it all lined up and was standing there waiting for me to step onto my mark.

What would a motorcycle ride be without a shot of yourself in the reflection off of your friend’s helmet:It would demonstrate a lack of imagination, I’d say. Jo didn’t fail the test.

Next time you take a friend for a ride on your Harley, choose one with a camera and smart eyes.

Thanks, Jo Noble, for a super Guest Shoot.

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Harley Madness – The Ride to Balek

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on February 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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After a week of being sick with sinusitis and bronchitis and not having time to take off of work to heal, I was ready yesterday to cut loose for an afternoon. Having a boss who is particularly in tune with my needs (my wife of 45 years, Eunice) gave me the privilege of saying, “I’m going for a Harley ride this afternoon, to which she responded, “Get out of here!” Long-term monogamy has its advantages.

My dear wife was likewise approving of my riding companion, Jo Noble, who had been . . . ah . . . shipwrecked here in Madang for several months. Jo is the Steward (I think that is the correct term) on a large yacht which is here in Madang awaiting major repairs before traveling on to where it is that large yachts go. I’m sure that I’ll never know. Jo is the very nice young lady you met on our trip to Nob Nob for the post Lightning Down a few days ago. Here she is fooling around with the Harley on the road out to the mountains on the way to the Ramu Valley:

The road this far is “improved”, which means there are fewer giant potholes and the gravel is not so loose that you risk a rash at every corner.

We took a couple of breaks for photos. Here Jo tries to remember how ‘left’ and ‘right’ are somehow magically reversed as she attempts to photograph herself in the rear-view mirror of the Harley:

I didn’t ask to see the resulting image.

Our plan was to cross this river ford and ride for a few kilometres up into the beautiful mountains. However, when we looked at the deep mud at the ford, we decided not to spoil the day by wallowing in the muck with the Hog:

So, we turned around and headed back to town to the Balek Wildlife Reserve, using our noses to guide us to the famous “Stinky River”.

For this shot, Jo asked if I thought that she looked “too silly”. Little did she realise that she was asking the wrong person. Silly is a way of life for me. I’ve made a career of it. I think she looks just fine:

One wants to visit Balek in the morning hours. In the afternoon the giant limestone cliffs from which the spring emerges block out the light and make photography a challenge.

I did manage one nice shot of Jo in the cave with only the natural light coming in. The colours on the rocks in the cave are psychedelic:

On my last trip to Balek, I had forgotten about the giant eels. This time we managed to coax one out. This was the best shot that I could get:fdsa
There are several that live in the river, along with some fairly large turtles.

At the village, we got the classic “Baby in a bilum” shot:

Babies are normally hung in string bags from trees for their naps.

I hate to do a post without a weird critter shot, so here it is:

This giant millipede seemed to be curled up for a nap in the sun.

Back safely at the office, we coaxed Eunie out to take our picture with the Harley:

I needed a fun day. Sometimes we all do.

I got one!

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The Only Harley Davidson in Madang – The Coastwatchers Monument

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on February 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Some of you may have already seen the image below of me sitting on my Harley Davidson 883 Sportster with the famous Madang Coastwatchers Monument in the background. I put it up on my Facebook page a couple of days ago. Even if you have seen it, you may want to have a read or two of excellent articles about the Coastwatchers here and here. Take a few minutes to contemplate the raw courage of those who sacrificed themselves daily to protect others.

MadDog at home in Madang on the Harley:

Now, if only I had the time to ride it.

Okay, okay, I’ll tell the truth. Yes, it is me on my Harley, but the real subject of the post today is yet another blah, blah, blah about camera esoterica. That’s right – yet another geek attack.

As I am hopelessly addicted to natural light photography, passionately hating flashy lights, I have a natural interest in cameras, cheap ones, which can take good pictures in very low light levels. These are rare beasts. Since I refuse to pay more than about US$500 for a camera (I give a camera a hard life!), my options are quite limited. That’s why I was anxious to get my hands on a Canon G11.

There’s no way that you’re going to cram even a modest 11 megapixels onto a sensor the size of your pinky nail and not  get a bunch of noise when you push it to high sensitivity in low light. The question is how much  and what kind  of noise. There’s noise and then there’s noise. Have a look at this (you’ll have to click to enlarge – you’re looking for speckles):

Keep in mind that the image was taken by the light coming from my computer screen – nothing else. That’s pretty dim. The image looks fine as long as you don’t make it so big that you can see the speckles.

Now have a look at this shot, again clicking to enlarge:

Much better, eh? You can see the little drops of condensation on the can. You can even make out the weave of the beer cozy.

What happened? Well, I ran it through a filter in Photohop called Noise Ninja Pro. I have used the filter for years; it’s the best noise management system that I know. However it seems to be able to handle the noise from the G11 sensor much better than the noise from my previous G series Canons, the G9 (noisy) and the G10 (very noisy). This all has to do, I’m sure, with some fancy math such as cubic splines and other tomfoolery which I forgot within nanoseconds of passing my exams. Hey, it’s somebody else’s job!

Anyway, the G11 is capable of producing images shot in very low light at ISO 3200 which, while noisy, can be used as-is for small formats and cleaned up with a good noise filter for larger presentations. Have a look at this beautiful fish woman artefact taken by the twilight coming in through the window of our house:

Above is the noisy, but still useable RAW image reduced and converted to JPG.

This is the same exposure treated with Noise Ninja Pro (no, I’m not getting paid for this):

A very nice image.

At the risk of putting you out cold, here is a final sample pair. I took this shot at mid telephoto off of our veranda at first light when I could barely read the numbers on the camera knobs and the plant itself was in even deeper shade. I could barely see it:

Again, it’s noisy, but look at how nicely it cleaned up:
Okay, you can wake up now. It’s over.

I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

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The NEW, IMPROVED Madang – Ples Bilong Mi

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 18th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’ve opened up this ‘free’ WordPress site to preserve what I had before. I may end up moving again.

If you’re a hard-core reader, please stick with me.  I’m not dying. I’m just having a little blog problem.

As a tidbit of information for today, here’s a photo of the Harley being uncrated:

The Harley Comes to Madang

It felt so very weird riding it up Modilon Road.

More to come – stay tuned.

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Returning to a town near YOU – If you live in Madang

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 3rd, 2008 by MadDog
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There hasn’t been much to talk about for the last three days except building and packing crates.

On Wednesday, Jim and I finished up the crate for the Harley. Here’s how it looked before we zipped it up:

The Harley in its crate

Yesterday, Eunie and I built the crate for all of our other stuff. I don’t know where it’s going to go in our house. It’s already like a musty old museum in there. At least everything we own will be in one place again, hopefully for the rest of our lives.

As a parting shot, here are a couple of photos of Eunie and I with our crates:

Eunie with our crates

Me with the crates

Just one day of grueling paperwork remains before we head back to Indianapolis to turn in a rental car (more on that story after it’s safely turned in) and hop a flight to Buffalo where our son, Hans, will be picking us up for the trip to Canada.

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On the Road – Springfield, Illinois – A Frozen Harley

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on April 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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I have certainly experienced more miserable episodes in my life, but yesterday will remain fresh in my memory for some time to come. This is how I looked when I arrived in Springfield, Illinois yesterday evening about 7:00:

Frozen Sportster

No, I have not gained 70 kilos!

We knew we needed to get two crates built in just a few days before leaving for Canada – one for the Harley and one for all of our other stuff. So, when we looked at the weather forecast, we suddenly realized that we needed to leave on Saturday, because it was going to get impossibly cold and rainy by Monday. We rushed around packing and disposing like mad Saturday morning and left for Terre Haute, Indiana on Saturday afternoon. The ride down there, with Eunie leading the way in the little Dodge something-or-other crammed to the max with all of our stuff was tolerable. It was cold, but I’ve had worse rides.

We stayed in Terre Haute Saturday night and went to church on Sunday morning to visit long-time supporters. It was COLD! I asked the pastor to put out the word that I needed any warm coveralls that might be available. A kind family supplied them within an hour, along with insulated underwear. I left the church looking about as bulky as the photo above.

We got about a third of the way to our destination, Springfield, (no Simpson jokes, please – that’s officially Springfield, Vermont, as I understand it) and, of course, it started to pour down freezing rain. I was pretty well soaked within five miles.

It was one of those situations in which all one can do is keep saying – can’t stop, can’t stop, can’t stop. There wasn’t any alternative but to ride on. We were deep in Amish Country, and people in little black horse buggies were eyeing us suspiciously as we blasted past them.

However, God, in his grace, put a little tavern on the corner where Illinois State Highways 32 and 36 meet. I did not think I could stay on the bike for another mile. I was shivering so hard that I had little control and the road was very bumpy.

We stopped. I lumbered behind Eunie through the door and got the usual curious looks from a couple of farmers nursing their Miller’s Lites.

I could hardly speak. Eunie had to help me get my helmet off. After explanations of our predicament, one of the farmers said, “Why don’t you drive over to the Wal-Mart and get a rain suit?” (I wish I could mimic his accent in print, but it would be impossible.) Eunie did so.

While I waited, I had a Miller’s Chill (oh, the irony of that!). I had taken two Panadine an hour or so ago. The gaggingly-sweet beer, together with the codeine, improved my disposition and delivered a much-needed dose of false bravado. I began to feel like Superman. I imagined bullets ricocheting off my manly chest.

Eunie returned in less than an hour with a gigantic two-piece nylon outfit which was presumably designed for Paul Bunyan. It was all that could be supplied. The waistband of the pants reached up to my shoulders. If I ducked my head a little and held them up in front of me, I could actually hide behind them. I managed to get them fastened at the level of my armpits. The jacket was a slightly better fit.

So outfitted, we resumed our journey through the rain.

Now my problem was my fingers, face and feet. The part of my face not covered by the shield felt as if fifty ten-year-olds were shooting at my chin BBs which had been soaking overnight in liquid nitrogen. My boots were full of ice water – I couldn’t tell for sure if they were really still there and I couldn’t move my head around to have a look. I could just see the road in front of me through my rain-splattered face shield and my gloves on the handlebars. I could only assume that my hands were still inside them.

And then, as if my magic, the rain stopped – and it got really cold!

When I needed to work the clutch lever, I had to look down at my hand and will it to squeeze. My left foot somehow operated the shift lever by moving my whole leg up and down. My right hand, on the throttle, no longer operated at all. It was simply frozen into a death grip. I worked the throttle by lifting and lowering my shoulder and arm. I’m sure that I performed some of the slowest gearshifts in Harley-Davidson history. I prayed that I would not need to stop quickly.

I pulled up beside Eunie at a stop light outside Springfield and said that, if I made it there, I wanted her to get some photos before I got all the gear off. I also said that if I didn’t make it, I insisted that she take photographs of ambulance personnel prying my cold, dead hands off of my Harley.

Here I am after she helped me off the bike: 

Frozen MadDog

Hapily, Eunie, I, and the Harley are soon to be in sunny Madang.

No matter how long I live, I am determined never to be that cold again.

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