Creativity at its best

1. I say that I have a business plan and would sell cow shit for Rs500, people would not even care to laugh, taking pity on me that I have lost it all. Take this! http://www.poopsenders.c0m. I dont know how long will they last or for that matter will they even start, but the idea itself is brimming with creativity.

2. Classical animation – the art of making each frame individually – is long dead giving way to keyframe based animation using computers, but this and this are perfect example of out of the box thinking. Impressive.

NGOPost

Tired with the toilet paper you receive every morning and want some real news about India, things happening at the grassroot levels. An amazing initiative by Nitin and Parul – http://ngopost.org

Nothing captures the essence of the website better than this poem composed by nitin himself.

Keep up-to-date with social work
Learn, get inspired, don’t be a jerk!
It’s where news is crispy as toast
NGO Post, NGO Post!

You report stories, you rate them too
The good ones remain, you throw out goo!
It’s where your participation matters the most
NGO Post, NGO Post!

Stories to discuss, ideas to share
Actions to follow on opportunities there!
It’ll act as your collaborations host
NGO Post, NGO Post!

If you are an NGO, share you deeds
Want volunteers? post your needs!
It’ll be the site you love the most
NGO Post, NGO Post!

Death Valley

Route: CA85 -> CA17 -> CA1 -> CA46 -> CA101 -> CA58 -> CA178 -> CA395 -> CA190 -> Badwater Road -> CA127 -> Freeway15 -> Freeway215 -> Freeway15 -> Miramar Way.

If someone asks me right now, whats the best thing that happened to me after I came to America, without a second thought my answer would be ‘Death Valley Trip’. Before even going into further details of the trip, I urge you to click here to see what I went through OR if you have your cup of tea near by, click here for slideshow and just relax.

The desire to do a long bike (motorcycle) ride was there from the day I bought my bike, however the bike did not support me in the beginning. Two weekends worth of work was enough to bring it to an agreement. So it happened that I decided to come back from Mountain View (near San Francisco) to San Diego, a distance of 500miles. But the support was strong enough to push the distance still further, to a modest figure of 1000miles. And to share my burden was another enthusiastic biker dude friend of mine – Shree Ankit Srivastava – from UCSD, who dindt need a second to think, to jump in to the trip.

The journey started on 21st of Sept from 707 Continental Circle Drive, Mountain View, CA 94040. I was supposed to meet my partner biker dude at Bakersfield, about 350 miles from Mountain View. A rough calculation of averaging 45 mph put the time to 8 hours. My plan was to start at 12:00 noon and reach bakersfield at 7:30pm. As it usually happens with my other plans, I started an full hour and a half late from the scheduled time. A third of it was spent on shipping my stuff back to San Diego, another third in packing the rest of stuff (a large backpack) on my bike, and the last third at Gyros, a mediterranean restaurant which was in mountain view itself where I had my lunch. So around 1:30 with a small prayer to god, I started, thinking that I could still make it to Bakersfield by 8:30, if not by 8:00.

The first hour of my ride was filled with just two thoughts (which are usually the thoughts I have before all my adventure trips) – the ‘why thought’ and the ‘what if thought’. Why am I doing this? Whats the need? Why cant I not do this? and What if I am not able to make it? What if my body gives up half way? and this time, What if the bike stops supporting me?. But they were all ephemeral. Most of the ride from there is well documented in the photographs. Sorry if you are texty kinds of person, but the photos should speak for the ride. What is not documented is a couple of incidents/condition that occupied my mind later on. The first was an accident I witnessed around 6:00pm (No I was not involved in any way). An SUV was smashed into a Saturn, and I was probably the 4-5th person to reach the site. What I saw there was gory enough not to elaborate on the blog, but I will move ahead by saying that the accident was enough to send me into a gloomy contemplative mood. From then on was the most difficult part of the trip. It was getting dark, already 7:30, and I was still a good 160 miles away from Bakersfield. To top it up, the weather became unfavorable with rains starting to pour down, although not heavy enough, and I decided to continue in rain. Slowly the temperature too started dipping and I had to wear all the clothes I was carrying, three jackets, two socks, two pants. Next to add to the fun, the geography too was trying to test my limits. The route became too hilly, to push my average speed down to 30miles on road. The final blow came when I read the sign, ‘Next Services 82 miles (130kms)’. Another quick calculation, and I knew that I did not have enough gas to carry me through. The gas station was a good 10 miles back, but I had no options. All through that 82 miles I might have seen 10-15 cars at max. All in all this part of ride was enough to give me the adrenalin rush, more than I needed. I finally reached Bakersfield at 12:15am where thankfully Ankit had already booked a room in a motel.

The next day was much more comforting. The body got used to the riding position, have someone else drive with you gives you a mental boost that someone is there is anything goes wrong, the routes were really scenic, the weather friendly, and traffic minimal. Starting from Bakersfield at around 11:00, the first awesome drive was all along the kern river which ended near Lake Isabella. This is where someone allegedly stole Ankit’s one glove. From there heading north on 395 was where we achieved highest average speeds. The ride through death valley was also fascinating. For one stretch of 17 miles we turned our bikes off as it was all down hill and that too almost straight from 4956ft (1500mt) to 5 ft (1.5mt). The change in temperature was quite evident. Stopping for a while at Stovepipe Wells, where the san dunes are, we finally reached our destination for the day, Furnace Creek, in the heart of Death Valley at about 7:30pm. It was surprising to see all European tourist there, on inquiring we were told that in summers 99% of tourists are from Europe. We camped at the Furnace Creek Campsite and were in bed at about 10:00. With sweet memories of the day, with a goody goody feeling we both slept without dreams that night.

The final day was supposed to be tiring. We had to cover about 400 miles, and the last stretch would consist of Freeways :(. The start was slow, stopping numerous times on the Badwater Road, touching the lowest point in western hemisphere, at a depth of 282ft below sealevel. It was a fun ride. Mostly straightish kind of roads with no oncoming traffic. Stopping at the old town of Shoshone for lunch, we were all satisfied with our trip. Knowing that the last part wont be as exciting, we were soaked completely in the views of Death Valley. We hit the freeways at about 3:00pm. With a long monotonous sleepy ride of 200miles we finally reached home at about 7:30 in the night.

For those who know about the Nanital trip, this was quite different from that trip, but the feeling at the core was the same – ‘Freedom’.

Nanital Extended

My fascination for long random trips started with the most random trip on my life – Bike trip to Nanital. Six of us – D, Motu, Charsi, Sutti, Amit Singh, and I, started at 4 am in the morning from Kanpur on two bikes and a scooter hoping to reach Nanital, and for records we did. Tomorrow I am going to start for yet another trip – but this time the learning grounds would be different. I plan to go from Mountain View to San Diego via Death Valley,

trip2

My Route

Starting tomorrow afternoonish I will reach bakersfield in the night, there another friend of mine from San Diego will join me for the rest of the trip. Sat morning we will start for Death Valley, stopping at the Furnace Creek campsites, and Sunday back home. The total distance for me would be around 1000miles (1600kms).

Biking (motorcycling to be specific and biking here usually means cycling) in America is a lot different from what it is in India. Some things make it easier and others hard. For one the roads are much better here in America, so one usually rides much faster, averaging 50miles (80kmph) on highways and freeways. In India the figures are the same but the units are kms, so one usually averages 50kmph. A distance of 1600kms here is then equivalent to 1000kms in India. What makes it little more difficult in America is that you dont have help on the road, not even nearby on most highways, so if anything goes bad with the motorcycle you are all on your own. Moreover the speed makes it little more dangerous, as you know if you fall, you fall.

On the things that make it easier is information. One can pretty much pre-plan the trip in great detail (which I am not a very bit follower of), but if you get lost (assuming that you dont have a GPS, which again I am not a very bif fan of), you are on your own. In India, the chances of loosing your way is high as the roads are not well marked, but you can easily get back on track taking help of locals. Another difference worth mentioning is the bikes themselves. Here anything lower than 500cc is not even considered a proper bike, infact mostly people ride 650cc and above, which is almost 4 times the cc’s commonly used on Indian roads. Anyways, enough on comparison, and this without even doing a long trip here ;).

Wish us luck for the trip, hoping that the bike and body will support us all the way with gods grace.

Is this front focus

I earlier had the problem of front focus on my camera, after getting it repaired, I tried a few focus test. I get mixed results on this, so anyone with more experience claim about the focus issues here?

Test 1

100% crop 1

This is the test chart from http://www.focustestchart.com/chart.htm. Here I feel that none of the lines are properly in focus. The pink box shows where I tried to focus. Is this because of low light condition.

ExposureTime – 1/200 seconds
FNumber – 1.80
ExposureProgram – Aperture priority
ISOSpeedRatings – 400

Test 2

100% crop 2

In this second test I just cranked up a Corel vector graphic and tried to focus on the monitor screen. This looks good to me and in focus.

ExposureTime – 1/25 seconds
FNumber – 1.80
ExposureProgram – Aperture priority
ISOSpeedRatings – 100

Test 3 (Worst)
100% crop 3

This last test blows me away, I try to focus on the corner and this shows a heavy front focus. Is this because of low light? Is this because the actual area where the camera focus from is slightly shifted? I just used the center AF point for all the three tests.

ExposureTime – 1/15 seconds
FNumber – 1.80
ExposureProgram – Aperture priority
ISOSpeedRatings – 100