Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pmasz & Co.

So Piotr visited me here in Nairobi. We went to Hell's Gate and Magadi. A couple of pictures...

More pics here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On unavoidability

In the live of every man there comes this moment that you can not postpone certain things any further. Yesterday was mine.

I have this katana. It is a good, healthy blade. Heavy. But it is not in this class ow weapons that you would spend 1500 US$ just to have it sent to Japan to have it professionally polished (read: sharpened). So yesterday I took my sharpening stone and retouched the edge.

Now batto-ho is scary again...

Friday, November 25, 2011

On Google Music

I used Tor to get relocated to US (at least as long as Google servers are concerned) to initialize Google Music. And there... A bummer! 320 kbps MP3 only. Seriously? No FLAC? Sheesh... Was hoping for a way to run away from iTunes (and its limit of not supporting FLAC) but seems Google Music gets me not any further...

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Quality

So as a part of preparation for holidays in south-east Asia I decided to get International Driving Permit. And that was legen... wait for it ...dary.

I went to AA Kenya and they said it would take 15 minutes. I thought Wow, that's faster than in Poland!. So I left all of my documents with the guy and went for a walk while he was processing...

I came back after 20 minutes and it still was not ready, he's not even started. Oh well, after all T.I.A. So I went for another cruise around neighbouring shops. After 50 minutes it still was not ready for the guy was unable to print something... Yet the document was ready and I saw he made mistakes and he tried to white-out them and re-write over that. Seriously? It was Saturday so he was unable to confirm with his boss if he can re-issue another one so we agreed I'd be back on Monday...

I came around today and he had a new one re-issued (without white-outs ;-) but as he saw me he jumped to his boss and she had to issue third one for he had made more mistakes there! Seriously!?

Monday, November 7, 2011

On scary movies

As my birthday was last week I allowed myself to be dragged into this whole Halloween craze. Not too much, but a bit. I went to the Web and searched for list with rankings in the mood of top 50 scary movies. Why? Just to see perhaps I have missed something. Well, I have. So I spent last 10 days watching thrillers.

And honestly? It is difficult to make a good thriller. So far I liked The Exorcist (of course ;-), The Ward was OK (though predictable), I really enjoyed Invasion of the Body Snatchers (there's something awfully fascinating in classical B&W sci-fi movies from '60s), I was disappointed with The Signs (again - too predictable), the really worst one (so far) was The Ruins. Was positively surprised by The Fire in the Sky, though this one is hardly a thriller... I also really enjoyed The Fourth Kind.

Oh yeah - I do not like gore movies, so I skipped on the Midnight Meat Train, all episodes of The Saw, Hostel, Frailty and the like. I prefer ghost / daemons / aliens... Meat is just yuck...

The funny thing is - there are 13 more movies in the pipeline... Including Omen, Rosemary's Baby, In The Mouth Of Madness and many, many others...

Boogy Boogy Boogy...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On aerial intercept

So we were at Msambweni at my favourite spot, I was sitting on the beach during high tide and letting the ocean waves put some sand in my ears when a shadow passed over me. And I saw this huge bird circling above, making passes at something farther down the beach. So I grabbed my 70-200 and tried to shoot it...

Beautiful...

But then this majestic bird seem to have upset a hawk who regarded this as his territory... And the hawk tried to chase it away...

Well, perhaps one fighter jet could've chased this bomber away, but why take chances? Local ground control actually sent two interceptors to protect their territory.

And eventually the invader has been caught up with and forced to abandon his mission:

Fighter kept patrolling for another half an hour...

You can see the pics in bigger sizes here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On age

When your PESEL number starts with 72 you know you are pretty old. Another hint is - I wanted to write here something sharp, interesting and inspiring. And I forgot what that was...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On teasing one's ego....

Why? Because there's my name next to Piotr's. Of course this only works if you do not know the facts and are somehow led to believe I am any good...
And just BTW - there is no such thing as ego... it's all smoke and mirrors illusion ;-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On evolutionary learning

It all started in around 2003 when I started to learn snowboarding.

See, ever since I passed the age of 12 I have always been afraid of winter sports for they seemed so injury-prone. I have had this vision of a small skiing accident where left ski goes too much to the left while the other one goes too much to the right... You make one small, stupid mistake and you end up with twisted out knees and not attending Aikido classes for at least three months. But then Beata convinced me to try snowboarding. It looked more safe, at least it seemed difficult to fuck your knees up... At this stage my Aikido was at the point that I was confident to fall anywhere on anything so I tried snowboarding and loved it ever since. As I was making my first steps Beata was already advanced enough to show me good and bad snowboarding. And we both embarked on journey for perfection. For beautiful half-circles in the snow, straight back, chest forward, not exposing your butt and for gentle skimming the snow with the tips of your left glove... I spent serious amount of time and conscious effort to polish my technique and eradicate obvious errors. We were lucky enough to meet some good teachers who gave some tips and gave us something to work with... And then there was just practice, practice, re-assessment and again practice and practice and practice... Very, very Zen

And then it hit me. I grew this idea that given enough amount of time and proper mental attitude your body will naturally find the proper, correct way of snowboarding. The assumption here is that if you learn proper technique you will not only gain total control of the snowboard (and thus - yourself), but also the flow will be effortless. So if you loose control due to something in a bad style - you will remember - do not go there. If you get in tight corner and you do not loose control because you were doing things right - you will remember - that's the way to do it. Of course our bodies are lazy - if you find more efficient way of snowboarding - with time you will have tested if while relaxed you still have control of your board... So given sufficient amount of time and exercise (and I mean - mathematically sufficient) you will learn the proper technique even without the teacher.

Admittedly having a good teacher is a great shortcut - you do not have to re-invent the wheel, you are shown the proper way right from the beginning. Just try to copy ;-)

I guess the question is - how much longer would it be without the teacher?

And what about Aikido?

Only thing I miss in Kenya...

Apart, of course, from good aikido teacher....

Monday, October 10, 2011

On why I want Nikon D800

Why? No, not the gazillion megapixels. There is one simple reason - according to all rumors circulating the Web it - supposedly - will have 100% viewfinder coverage. Can't wait...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Left elbow down

Well, I guess if you play with fire you get burned. Yesterday at Aikido class I broke left elbow...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Second take on Mt. Kenya

This was my second attempt at Mount Kenya. This time women were left behind and there were only four of us, guys. We took Chogoria route. We did not find anyone at KWS station at the mountain foot so we just drove in. The route took us through equatorial jungle, later becoming bamboo forest.

On our way to park gate we met some guys in old Land Rovers (like seriously Out Of Africa old) going down and these guys told us there was no way we'd make it to the gate in our car. We just laughed at them and Bartek even said Whatcha mean we won't make it? Of course we will! I will have a sandwich while we do. Admittedly we got stuck like four times in the mud, but I have seen enough Camel Trophy documentaries to know what to do. We cut some bamboo, dug some mud from under the tires and we stuffed the bamboo there.

Thus we got out of mud and ploughed on uphill, soon reaching Park Gate at altitude 2950 m, as you can see here:

From there another seven clicks - no mud there, just some creeks:

and kinda uneven road:

and we reached Road Head at altitude 3300 m. Here we camped, drank and sang next to camp fire (we brought our own wood and charcoal ;-)

And all of us slept in my trusted tent: Bartek on the left, then his dad - Piotr, then my bag and Father Arek on far right

Next morning I had a moment catching spider webs lit by morning sunlight from underneath.

Oh well... We all have our idiosyncrasies, don't we? Soon we packed our stuff and moved up towards Mintos Hut.

Mintos Hut (altitude 4290 m) was actually a shed made of metal sheets, kinda windy and cold. I was kinda tired so I excused myself from the rest of the evening.

I could not sleep much this night. I would think this was the altitude - when I tried to sleep I would try to breathe through my nose, and there would be not enough oxygen, so I'd wake up suffocating, only to recover by breathing through my mouth. Then I'd try to sleep again but I'd wake up from the same sensation. Funny. We got up at 01:00 and set off to reach Lenana Point. Here just before setting off:

It was kinda funny to walk - practically on Equator - in the night in sub-zero temperature only with headlamps... We reached Lenana Point (altitude 4985 m) just before sunrise:

The scenery was beautiful:

Here's the view for second highest point in Africa - Batian (altitude 5199 m)

As it was freezing cold (no, not the temperature but the wind chill factor) we did not dwell too long at the peak - just a few photos and we were off. We reached the hut at 0930, greeted by some Hyraxes.

We reached the car at 1345 and set off back home. Unfortunately while we were climbing up it has been raining down here and the mud we experienced on our way up got even more tricky. We got stuck once but I requested for a try and managed to pull the car out of the mud. The second time we got stuck we hanged on the floorplate in the middle of the jungle, only some 6-7 km down from the park gate. It was about 1500 hours.

At 1700 we decided this is beyond our ken. Of course - no cell coverage ;-) So we send our people to get some assistance. While Piotr and Bartek were walking 17 km downhill in all this mud, Arek and I still tried to move the car. We dug the hole from behind to free the rear axle, then from front to free front axle, then from the side to remove the mud from underneath the car. But the thing would not move. So I lifted the car on a jack by some 20 cm, put some tree branches under the wheels, then let the car down... I gained like 5 cm, but there still was not enough weight on the wheels - the car would not move. At about 2000 hours it started raining again and we gave up. At 2210 Piotr and Bartek came with the rescue - there are a bunch of guys who make their living by helping cars out of the mud on this very road... The moment Piotr and Bartek got into the car they just passed out ;-) The mud rescue team tried (in pouring rain) for two and a half hour, but at about 1230 they gave up. This was beyond their ken as well... They promised to come back at sunrise and disappeared into rain... We slept in the car. Not very comfortable... I woke up at about 0700. No rescue in sight... You know - T.I.A. - these guys might as well have given up on us. Uncertainty was the worst - you just do not know if you are being rescued or not...

They arrived at about 1200, altogether 12 people, some rescue guys, some priests and a lovely Polish nun who brought hot chocolate and clean towels and ham sandwiches... Call for help worked - 10 people just pushed the car out of the mud as if it was a toy... We've been stuck there for 22 and a half hours. Soon we reached the lower gate near KWS station:

I have never been so dirty in my life. I did not sleep properly since Wednesday (I managed to hit myself on my ear with a jo on Wednesday Aikido class to the point that I bled and I could not sleep Thursday night), I did not eat properly, I got running tummy from drinking water from stream up there (and later pooed all over the mountain). I was exhausted, dehydrated, sleepy but very, very happy.

And I will never eat Mars bar again. Ever

More pictures here

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On wisdom...

Years (literally) after TKC told me that ai-hanmi is omote and gyaku-hanmi is ura I slowly begin to understand what he meant... It's amazing how certain things need to grow and mature inside you for you to be able to comprehend them... Or - if you prefer - how you need to grow up and mature to comprehend certain things you already have ;-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On chicks and aliens - edited

I go to the bar and there are loads of beautiful women here in Kenya, and most of them - sadly - chasing after white dude. It feels a bit like being a rock & roll celebrity... Of course all of this is fake, but it still is there nonetheless, all of it right at your face. And they can be very persisting. Unfortunately sometimes it gets to the point that unless you tell her in the face to fuck off they will not let go. And I do not like being this rude...

So I am sitting at the bar sipping on Corona and thinking of the good old times in Mexico when this really beautiful girl takes a place next to me and tries to strike a conversation. Agenda is obvious - to get the white guy. But after very few words I realize that - as getting laid would be easy - getting to actually talk would not. Even though she did actually try. These people, especially those who were brought up outside Nairobi (or Mombasa) have such a different view of the world that makes any conversation impossible. It's not just that they do listen to different music and do not know who Pink Floyd or Franz Kafka were. Apart from biological similarities some of them are as alien as dolphins. Apart from drive for sex there is no common point. Their culture, education (if any), tradition, language, set of values... it is so different from ours that it actually put you in a very weird spot. I looked at this beautiful girl and thought that she being there at the hand reach and so willing... this made me feel so alien... All I wanted was to talk. But talk is not possible. Understanding is not possible. Sex? Sure, that has no value here (unlike for our culture). Money? Sure, people were forced to learn. But talk? Discussion? Exchange of thoughts? Forget it... So again - quite predictably - nothing happened...

But then it struck me - if communication with our own kind is so difficult - how can we ever hope to communicate with Aliens? We can communicate on this very superficial level, but can we hope to ever understand them?

And also - the same I guess applies to Arabs, Chinese, Indians, all of those who were not heavily exposed to Western culture. It is a cliche, but unless you experience it yourself you will never understand how deep and dramatic this divide is. And all these cultures co-exist here in Kenya parallel to each other, meet on very superficial level but do not mix, do not exchange thought, values, ideas...

And then we - Europeans - are surprised the Turkish live in Germany in their enclaves... Of course they do. Same shit, different place...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Longonot: take six

I have been to this mountain / crater already several times, but it is always nice to re-visit this place.

And yes, I am wearing Cebe Supermarks ;-)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dangerous skies

So we sit today at the canteen enjoying (not so good) lunch. Table just next to us was deserted, but plates were left there with some leftovers. And as we eat - a huge (and I mean - huge) eagle swooshes by and picks up some of them leftovers. And this reminds me of a time I was in Mamba Village and had food there and I walk with my plate from the bar to hide from the sun under garden umbrellas when another of those big ones flies by and rips food off my plate. Not at empty table, but from a plate I was holding in my hand. Then I looked around and I saw that natives were shielding their food with another plate or just with their elbows so that the big birds can see they can't fit in there... But that was close to National Park. Today we were in the city centre and still your food was not safe. Today one dude brought his plate to the table outside and then went back to collect cutlery. As he was gone the bird flew in and picked up a piece of meat and flew away without stopping. One smooth swooosh of giant wings - said birds were at least 1.2 meters wingspan. We were there perhaps 20 minutes and this monster flew by at least 8 - 10 times... And this reminds me the other day I was doing iaido on my roof and was attacked on the back of my head by one of them monsters... Just a pass by - it flew away before I realized what was going on... Good for him, I had already my katana in my hand... And now seriously - where else are you forced to fight your your food (which already is on your plate) with eagles? How cool is that...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

On Japanese swords and guitars

So after a lot of dreaming and bitching and moaning I finally got my first wah-wah. This one:

Thanks, Rado ;-)

And this is where the work begins... It's just like iaido. In playing guitar you first have to coordinate fingers on fretboard with fingers strumming the strings. But when you add wah-wah then you have to add coordination of your foot. You want the wah to be in right position when you touch the strings, open (or close) it as soon as you play the sound and you want to return wah to starting position before you string another chord. First strings then wah... Strings then wah... and so on.

In iaido it's first step then cut. Not: cut while stepping, not: cut before step... First step then cut. Step then cut...

Same shit ;-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

On revisiting old statements

My D-SLR history was like this Nikon D70, then Nikon D200 and then Nikon D700. I was really, and I mean really happy with D200. This was the best camera I ever had, it had perfect balance of pro functions with acceptable price point and pictures were silky butter smooth...

I think that in photography (but not only) people tend to compensate for not having time for it by buying newer, more expensive equipment. I also wanted to take better pictures but had no time to play with my camera, lenses, filters... So I bought better body (read - more expensive) even though the previous one was just perfect. Of course my photographic skills have not improved but for some time I quenched my thirst for new toys ;-)

When Nikon announced D700 it initially looked like natural evolutionary step forward from D200. Yet there were some things I did not like about it, I think I wrote on that like 2 - 3 years ago... One of those functions I dismissed as unnecessary gimmick was LiveView. I seriously thought I would never use this function. The same is ability for movie making - if I want to make a movie I will buy a movie camera - for me D-SLR is for taking still pictures. The other day a friend asked me if he can use my camera for some MPEG encoding tests (don't even ask) and I realized I didn't know how to make a movie with my D700! BTW - I still do not know...

Yet yesterday we were camping at Naivasha lake and I dug out Hoya R72 infrared filter and I put it on AF 50mm f/1.4 and tried to take some pictures... I set exposure compensation to +2.0 EV and snapped some test pics... The filter is so dark that even in full equatorial sun I could see nothing in viewfinder. The way forward is to set the camera on tripod, compose pic, find focus points, etc. and then put on filter and then snap pre-composed picture. But I had left my tripod back in Nairobi... That left me snapping frantically random pictures without any idea of what the outcome would be... Pure example of hip shooting ;-) Then, after a while I played with menus and  knobs and so on until I reached dreaded LiveView function... And the camera translated picture with +2.0 EV and showed it to me on the screen! I could aim again! Not through optical viewfinder, but though camera rear screen. It was difficult in full sun - you do not get to see much, but with shading the screen with your hand you do get the idea of what image composition is and so on... So I take all my bitching about LiveView back - if you shoot IR - it does come handy... Some samples below.





P.S. I know I should've swapped red and blue channels in Photoshop, but it just choose to crash yesterday evening...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Old one...

Was testing new Microsoft RAW codecs and their NEF performance when I stumbled upon this one... Taken in Mombasa during last Xmass... Guess this was when we got drunk and collected a backpack full of crabs that Pmasz later deepfired... And yes, this is moonlight ;-)


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On Karajan

I like Herbert von  Karajan, I like yellow covers of Deutsche Grammophon discs. I like good quality content, well engineered and played on nice hi-fi in good, quiet environment...
Now, admittedly I never cared enough to actually read Karajan's biography, I definitely prefer to listen to his music. It's just that as an engineer I know a thing or two...
He was one of the pioneers of new medium (in early 1980' CD was a major step forward from vinyl), he also was the first one to introduce all-digital recordings, where even master copy was digital. On the other hand - Ken Ishiwata (the guy behind Marantz) said Karajan was placing the microphones too close to the instruments (in so-called near field) which introduced distortions and his recording are not as good as they could've been... But to the point.
In vast bowels of the Web I have found this...

  

As I said - I don't know much about his bio, but... anyone cares to explain?
I mean - on one hand Herbert fuckin' von Karajan, and on the other.... Somalia? WTF?

It reminds me a bit Robin Williams' rant on Easter: on one hand you have history of betrayal, crucifixion, death, resurrection and on the other... Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies... You clearly see the connection there, right?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Awesome...

Have you seen this?