Archive for April, 2006

Routine Maint.

Well today was a nice day to put the SV up on the swingarm stand and get some work done. I pulled the seat off, propped up the tank and checked my air filter, which is ridiculously clean considering some of the places I’ve ridden through. Earlier I had figured my fan switch was obviously broken, since I never actually see the fan come on – even with the temp gauge showing as much as 215F. To address that, I wired in a manual switch to flip while in traffic to keep my temps around 190F, and had a new switch mailed to me. Apparently the switch doesn’t kick in until around 225F, so I doubt there was much, if anything wrong with the original. Anyway, I’ve got fresh coolant in the bike now.

My chain needed about 1/4″ of slack taken out of it, and a real cleaning and lubing after camping at Barber last weekend. The brakes, both front and rear, look fine. Something has me itching for a set of stainless brake lines, but if I give it anymore braking power, I’ll need to get the forks redone too. With over 5500 miles on the clock, I should start saving for tires, and think about changing my chain and sprockets while I’m at it.

Anyway, with all that knocked out, it seems like a fantastic time to head out to the nearest twisty road and get in some riding. Off I go!

AMA Superbike @ Barber Motorsports Park

This weekend was great, the smell of race gas, the sound of thousands of horsepower gathered in the name of roasting tires and racing. As is usually the case, I met a lot of cool people at the race, got to drool on some pretty awesome bikes, had a number of people ask me about mine. All in all it was a great weekend. Suzuki pretty much cleaned house, and I got some pretty nifty photos.

Ben Bostrom on his Ducati 999

Mat Mladin on his GSXR superbike

Easter pics

I’m slowly going through the nearly 100 photos I took over Easter. Right now I’m getting ready to upload the first dozen or so to Flickr. Just keep checking there over the next few days.

Basic RAW processing from a non-pro – Bibble Pro 4.7

So the software I blogged about earlier is cool enough to warrant a more in depth look. Obviously screenshots are required, so dial-up or PDA users beware. Not wanting to cause any confusion, or uproar – I am in no way a professional photographer, and have exactly zero seconds of formal instruction in photography or digital image manipulation. To be completely honest, up until about a week ago I had no desire at all to even bother with shooting RAW because I felt JPEG was perfectly ok.

Quite a lot of google searches and much reading led me to want to give RAW an honest shot. In reality, photographer and geek James Betley was the first to guide me towards RAW. I would of course require software that would process the c2r RAW format used by Canon – the manufacturer of my Digital Rebel XT. The XT was shipped with one such application, however it does not include a Linux version – only Windows and Mac. My laptop does have a small WinXP partition, with said software installed, but I would rather do my image manipulation on my desktop, in Linux.

Bibble Pro 4.7 became my solution, and after only a day or so playing with it I’m completely sold. Yeah, that’s right, sold. Unlike some folks in the Linux community, I have no problem paying for software when it works as it should, and allows me to work in my OS of choice. Below are screenshots of a simple processing job on a single RAW photograph I took today. The object is to illustrate how to go from a RAW file to a full sized JPEG, and show off a few functions of Bibble Pro 4.7. Remember, I’m not a professional at anything but soldiering, and there is most certainly a lot more that can be done to a RAW file than I can even begin to dicuss or understand at this point. Anyway, on with the screenshots.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
The default open settings.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
Decreasing the exposure value by one full step.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
Increasing the exposure value by one full step.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
The results of changing the white balance from “as shot” to “shady” and enabling Perfectly Clear with the “Tint Min” setting.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
Sharpening with a value of 100 enabled.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
My mouse is over the button that sends your image to the batch queue – the drop down box allows you to choose what batch operation is done.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
This is where you select the destination for your batch jobs to create the requested files.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
The batch progress bar, bottom right corner.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
The batch queue window.

Bibble Pro 4.7 Screenshot
The batch settings screen for JPEG – Full Size.

While the last shots don’t clearly illustrate how to get a JPEG out of your processed RAW file, they’re all windows you’ll see in the process – or may want to tweak. In short, pull down the drop-down next to the Batch button, and select your desired job type. Click the button, tell it where to send the file, and wait. Pretty easy huh? Now for the final result.

Riding Gloves

Anyone with more knowledge on the subject feel free to chime in, constructive criticism is always welcome. Should anyone feel the need to not be constructive, I ask only that you remember what my job is :-p

So poor ;_;

Well I finally finished up my budget – and I’m not happy. It seems that as I’ve spent longer in the Army – and gained both time in service, and rank – I somehow make less money. I think the biggest hit I’m taking right now is the insurance on my truck. Come to think of it, I failed to take into account any future payments to my Dad on the truck, so I’ll go back to the drawing board with this irritating budget shortly. RAWR.

How this makes any sense is beyond me. My cell phone bill and VoIP bill combined are less than what my cell phone bill was when I first enlisted. My cable/internet bill is shared with my roommate, and thus cheaper than it used to be. I’m allowing $100 to go to my credit card each month, so that is potentially spending money provided there is no balance to pay off on my credit card. I do not typically use it so that shouldn’t be much of an issue in itself.

The price of gasoline is kicking my E4 ass as well. I’m currently allowing myself $80/month in the truck – that isn’t even two tanks. I am allowing myself the same on my motorcycle, which should get me roughly three times the mileage. Of course every 4th paycheck or so I will have to dip into the “personal” spending money for routine maintenence.

I do believe it is time for me to start looking to legal ways to suppliment my income. I don’t think I’ve got a good enough handle on the whole photography thing to hope to use that. Right now I’m looking at my toolbox, and my guitar cases and trying to think of realistic ways to squeeze another $200ish a month out of them. ;_;

Excellent RAW processing, in Linux!

So I was almost prepared to ditch Ubuntu on this desktop, and do the unthinkable – run a machine 100% WinXP. What could cause such utterly irrational thinking? The lack of decent RAW processing tools in Linux. There is a dcraw, and ufraw plugin for The Gimp and maybe I’m just an idiot – but they’re both useless IMNSHO. Enter the think-tank I like to call #linux where someone suggests that if I’m going to pay for software to process RAW image files – I should use a dedicated application, such as Bibble Pro.

Initially this suggestion was sticking to the thought that I would be installing WinXP again, though it was mentioned that Bibble Pro may well be available in Linux as well. A visit to their site proved this to be true. What’s more impressive was the ease of installation. I run, as stated before, Ubuntu Linux a Debian based distro. Bibble Labs just so happens to supply a .deb package. I do not have tons of stuff installed on this machine, and the only dependency I had to resolve was xlibs – too easy.

Right now all I can say is that this application works quite well at processing RAW files. At least the minimal mojo I am personally capable of asking it to do is done rather quickly. I would say it is much faster than the packaged software that came with my Digital Rebel XT in Windows – and with more tools. Anyway, watch my Flickr – I’m sure I’ll be shooting in RAW a lot more to play with this.

Broken Lense

Bleh. Either Friday night, or Saturday morning my 18-50mm Sigma lense met its death from blunt force. I’m going to take it in and see if I can have it fixed, but I’m not very hopeful they’ll be able to do anything at a price that doesn’t just say “get a new lense”. Most non-henious.

edited to add: I got the lense fixed locally for $85. I think that’s a fair price to pay for the less than 24hr turn around.

Looking for shots

I woke up insanely bored and figured it would be a good day to ride around and look for something worth photographing. I ended up riding across Pine Mountain again, only this time I went through Pine Mountain Valley first. I rode past an old rusting, falling down barn – so I pulled over to take a few shots. I’ll post a few inline here, the rest are on my Flickr as usual.

new turn signals

SV on Pine Mountain

Old Barn black and white

I’ve taken to using the small size shot for posting in the blog, if you want to see the full size image, go to my Flickr page and view it there – heck you can even leave comments if you feel like it.

mmm bambi sausage

Ok, so I have this venison pan sausage from my brother’s kill this season. I had some of it for breakfast yesterday while I was camping. Pretty good stuff, but I have a lot of it here in my freezer. No one in their right mind would argue with me about the quality of military food, even at the DFAC (that’s dining facility for those of you that don’t know). I’d rather spend my own money, out of my tiny paycheck, to buy food to survive myself. Only at my poorest moments do I enter the DFAC and brave whatever “meal” they have prepared.

Anyway, I decided to cook tonight and obviously venison sausage seemed like a great key ingredient. Not having any recipies of any kind I was forced to improvise. For someone with no idea how to cook, this might have been a problem. Not so for this man, I learned to cook when I was hungry while most kids were trying to figure out why girls sit down to pee. Clearly it is time for a run down of ingredients.

  • .75-1lbs Venison Pan Sausage
  • 1 diced White Onion
  • 1 diced Green Bell Pepper
  • 3-5 Thai Peppers
  • 2-3 Eggs
  • 1 stick of Butter
  • 1-2 cups of diced potatoes
  • .5 cups of cheese
  • ~6 flour tortillas

Heat up a skillet, or griddle, or whatever it is you prefer to cook in, and heat up those tortillas. Put them in something insulated so they’re still warm when you finish cooking the rest. Melt maybe 1/6th of the stick of butter onto your cooking surface, and spread out the sausage to begin browning it. Once you have a decent amount of grease going, toss the diced potatoes into the mix and move it around to avoid burning your chow. Once the potatoes begin to brown go ahead and add your diced onion and bell pepper, along with your whole Thai peppers. I did this on a griddle @ 400F. After about two minutes, cut the heat back to around 250F and let it simmer for a minute or three. While that is simmering crack open your eggs, bust the yolks, and whip them up for a few seconds with your handy dandy fork. Now, spread out your current mixture of sausage, onions, peppers, and potatoes into a layer about .75 inches thick and do your best to evenly pour the eggs on top. Crank the heat back up to around 400F and stir it around until you think you’ve got cooked eggs. Roll the contents up in your tortillas, and enjoy.

I washed mine down with a chilled Paulaner Salvator, of course that isn’t required – wash it down however you wish.

Two Wheels Only and Wolf Pen Gap

Ride report time folks. Friday evening I gathered up some camping gear, loaded up the SV, and headed for the mountains of North Georgia. My departure from Ft. Benning, GA was delayed several hours because I was not particularly motivated, and I needed to wire up a flip switch to kick my radiator fan on (the fan switch died on the SV.) Once I was all packed up and ready to go, I still needed to stop and get ice, water, a small cooler, and some cooking gear suitable for camping. Per my initial schedule I should have been north of Atlanta by the time I left the Ft. Benning/Columbus area.

The directions I was going to follow from Mapquest kindly routed me directly through heavily traffic laden suburbs of Atlanta – and then smack dab through the middle of town. This added at least two hours to my trip, and I was still in Atlanta when the sun went down. I ended up taking the first route I could find to I-85N and super slabbing it to I-985 to Gainsville, GA where I caught GA-60 to Two Wheels Only. Of course the only way I had to know where I could catch GA-60 was my GPS, an old dusty Garmin etrex Legend.

Lesson learned: Ride highways through rural areas, hop back on the freeway and take advantage of the HOV lane in urban hell.

It was nearly 2300hrs by the time I finally rolled past TWO. Yes, that’s right, I blew right by it, and promptly dropped the SV in a sandy pit across the street. Having fully loaded saddle bags and frame sliders combined with the location of the drop to result in only one smashed left front turn signal. I’ll take that as a sign that $DEITY wants me to get flush mount LED signals. Anyway, some folks that were staying at TWO walked across the street and helped me get the SV upright again, and guided me into the camp area.

Setting up camp became a race against Mother Nature and her desire to soak every non-covered object she could find. Initially it appeared as though I was victorious, having my tent fully erected and all of my gear inside prior to the downpour. Roughly an hour later Mother Nature had the last laugh. $26 tents from Target are not the most waterproof of tents on the face of the earth. While things clearly could have been worse, I was not a happy camper, nor was I in the mood to camp for another night. My mind was made up at that point, I’d be leaving in the morning.

My typical camping habits came through again, and despite looking at my watch at 0200hrs wondering “Will it ever stop raining”, I was awake at first light – four hours later. Cold, sore, damp, and hungry. I should back up for a moment and note that given the size of my luggage, and my motorcycle – I had no pad of any kind, nor did I bring any kind of sleeping bag. No, this infantryman had his trusty poncho liner, and a balled up rain/cold-weather jacket. I actually ended up putting my riding boots back on in the middle of the night because they’re leather and gore-tex lined, at the very least I wanted dry feet.

For breakfast I broke out my Coleman propane burner and cooked up a pot of beef flavored Ramen noodles. When the noodles were finished, I set them off to the side and cooked up some venison sausage from my brother’s kill this past season. I ended up sharing the sausage with other riders at TWO as I had more than I could eat myself, and no good way to get it back to Ft. Benning with me. No sense letting it go to waste.

After breakfast I broke camp, and loaded the SV back up. As the roads were still quite damp I debated riding Wolf Pen Gap Rd. (GA-180), but I decided to ride sane and go for it. Most of the ride was in 3rd gear, with plenty of it in tight turns I felt the need to be in 2nd gear for. There is no run off, and there are few guard rails. Slide off the road, and tumble down the side of a small mountain. Thanks but no thanks, I’ll enjoy the scenery and keep the rubber side down. There was a lot of gravel in the road, and a few fallen branches to keep things interesting so even on dry pavement I’m not entirely certain I’d have ridden any faster. The road was fun though, but I can certainly see how the squidly would not fare well on such a road.

One jaunt down GA-180 and back was the end of my first TWO experience, I met plenty of nice folks, to include a guy with the same name as my Dad, and the same bike – who hapens to be from Columbus, GA. Despite the bad weather, and bad ride up I had a good time. I stopped on GA-60 headed back towards Dahlonega to try taking photos of moving subjects, and managed to get one good shot of a VFR going by. There were a lot of bicyclists on the road so traffic was moving fairly slowly, but the ride back down GA-60 was quite fun as well.

Returning to Ft. Benning I ended up taking GA-60 to US-19, and riding US-19 into Atlanta where I hopped on I-285 to bypass Atlanta and hit I-85. I forgot of course that in the 3 years I’ve been stationed at Benning I-85 @ I-285 is always under construction. I contemplated lane splitting, or riding down the shoulder, but I didn’t feel like facing the potential reaction of crazy Georgia drivers. I ended up taking US-27 ALT South into Warm Springs, GA and riding GA-190 over Pine Mountain again on my way back to Ft. Benning/Columbus. After riding GA-180 (Wolf Pen Gap Rd), Pine Mountain seems a whole lot less twisty.

All in all I had a good trip, and of course a few pics are below, the rest are in a Flickr set here.

busted blinker

Camped out at Two Wheels Only

Fully Loaded

Attempts at panning

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