Mysterious Forces At Work?

So I just wrote a piece bashing the obscene expense of getting into film photography these days (Film-flam, ma’am). To be fair, I did point out that everyone should get a chance to try film if they could and I certainly am not suggesting people don’t use film if they want to and can. It’s like an artist using either watercolours or acrylics, right? Different media to achieve the artistic end.

Now, while looking for something else entirely, I’ve found this in my vast collection of oddments:


Serendipity, perhaps? I still have my functioning (other than the meter) Pentax Spotmatic. At least in theory my mind should still be sharp enough to rig up some sort of tray processing arrangement and formulate the necessary chemicals from readily available (even if not ideal as this is C41 process) substances. The worst part would be that the film is over 10 years old and hasn’t been stored properly. Hmm.

Of course I have a few projects in the way (like getting wood, and having just replaced the battery in the P850 to be able to use it again). But still …

Should I do this? Will I do this? Time will tell.

Addendum: looking up some C41 kits I find they fall into two categories; too expensive or not available here. This will need more thought.



Film-flam, ma’am

I keep seeing posts from people using film to make pictures. This is good. It’s nice to know the ancient art is being kept alive. But I wonder how they manage it these days. So I looked up some prices on equipment and chemicals.

Oh my gawd.

Unless you are heir to a vast fortune I don’t know how you’d do it. A single roll of B&W film blows away $20. Let’s compare that to digital: same money would get you 32GB of SD card with change leftover. My Canon manages about 10MB per picture, so every GB is one hundred pictures; hence 3200 photos for less than the cost of 36 on a roll of film.

Backyard, 1964

Now if you decide to develop your own, you’re going to need a film tank and a darkroom or at least a changing bag to load up the tank and some chemicals. Tank $30 and up, often way up. Bag: another $30. We’ve spent $80 already, and that’s without a camera. You should at least be able to get one of those cheap. *cough* Someone I know gave away 600+ of them just last year, and about two dozen of those were Nikon/Nikkormat SLRs. *cough*

But you need developer and fixer at the very least, plus some bottles and measuring cups and stirring sticks and miscellaneous. Let’s see … good ol’ use-it-for-anything Kodak D-76 is only … $40?! Well that makes up a gallon. At least the fixer is only $15. What have we spent so far? $135+ and all we’ve got is (hopefully) negatives. (Yes, there are numerous DIY/homebrew developers and fixers but for someone just starting out adding in the extra variables of using these is probably not such a good idea as it will increase the likelihood of poor results and thus discourage the beginner.)

Now here’s where you can cheat and scan the negatives to digital to make prints. Otherwise you need a darkroom, enlarger, printing paper, trays … Yeah let’s go with the scanner option.

Yard Sale, 1972 – note the ‘Photomate’ printer on the right

The greedy side of me is reeling now because of the huge amount of equipment given away last year. At current used prices the contents of the ol’ family dark room must have been worth a few thousand dollars. The philanthropic side of me is giddy at the prospect that somewhere some people interested in film photography got a break, and heaven knows we hardly ever get those anymore. I like to think that equipment is being used again, not trashed. Especially the Ansco tanks. Really the best multi-film tank design ever.

Well I still have my 35mm Pentax Spotmatic film camera, but the outlay for doing even a single roll of B&W film (there are no nearby processors of any kind) is just ridiculous to me. I could spend that same hundreds of dollars on yet more digital toys and take even more pictures.

But then I’ve done the film thing. For decades. It was the only way then, and even today a photographer can learn a lot from doing even one roll of film. Like digital is cheaper, for example.

Of course you can bide your time and shop around and find some used bargains. You could even get together with some like-minded friends and form a photography co-op. Think of it like a university course: Film 101.

And if you ever want to hear the ramblings of an old photographer … well that’s what I’m here for.

Always something going on at our house, 1978


The Return of the Kodak

On a whim I spoke with the woman at the ‘battery counter’ in the local pharmacy and asked her if it would be possible to get the KLIC-5001 battery that my Kodak P850 takes. She said she’d do some research and find out. Later in the day she called and said she could get it, but only as a two pack and for $23 – which is about the same price I can order them in from Amazon with shipping. Well I prefer to shop local whenever I can, so the batteries are on their way. Should arrive Thursday.

In anticipation of having that quite nice camera working again (aside from the broken flash), here’s a few old pictures from it which show why I like it. Oh it’s only 5MP (see my many comments on why that’s not important, elsewhere in this blog) and a mere 12X zoom, but it’s a nice camera with a Schneider-Kreuznach lens that’s sharper than either of my Canon zooms and on par with the marvelous Nikon.









That last one needs a bit of explanation. The workmen are placing steel netting over the rock face to prevent loose stone from tumbling down onto the road below. My seemingly high vantage point is due to the slope of the road combined with a telephoto view, not because I was on the mountain with them. Oh and if you look closely you’ll see there’s four people up there.

What exactly I’ll do with the old Kodak once I get it ‘re-powered’ I don’t know. Probably program in my favourite settings and take it with me wherever I go for ‘grab shots’ that I formerly did with the Kodak V1003 and that the Nikon W100 doesn’t really work well for.

I admit the position of some of the controls on the P850 drive me crazy, and it has nested menu selections that are hard to find. But for a point-and-shoot that’s not going to be used for the ‘tricky’ stuff it’s certainly sufficient.

Ready for the war?

Amazingly just as gasoline suppliers switch over to “cheaper to produce” Winter Blend there is suddenly an attack on a Saudi oil installation that knocks out “half production capacity”. Neatly this is blamed on Iran, because certain parties want a war with them.

Couldn’t be anything to do with wanting higher oil profits, could it? Couldn’t be a small bit of explosive barely damaging anything exaggerated to epic destruction, could it? Couldn’t be an excuse for a certain moron to start a war for political gain, could it? Couldn’t be the public being lied to yet again like so many other times in the past re oil and war, could it?

Mmmm … could be.

Could be that a certain president who borrowed tons of money off the Saudis needs to repay them. Could be that a certain president who is controlled by and owes money to Russia needs to give them a further boost (they sell oil too, you know). Could be that a certain president needs to win another election and what better way than to have a war so anyone who stands against him automatically becomes a traitor.

You’re going to get hosed, people. I guarantee it.

The only thing working against this transparent conspiracy to rake in cash and solidify political power is that the ‘man at the top’ is such a stupid, incompetent, bungling moron he can’t possibly pull it off no matter how much foreign help he gets. All of his businesses have gone bankrupt (the reason for borrowing millions from Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China) and all his prior attempts to start a war have failed. This is one of the hallmarks of the true terrorist: being so bad at it they don’t actually succeed at their supposed goals.

Nevertheless we’re all in for an uncontrolled sleigh ride down the frozen slopes of Hell, and we can only hope for the sudden natural deaths of a large number of people to prevent it.

What’s that you say? It would be impossible to keep such a conspiracy secret? What makes you think they’re even trying to? They only have to fool some of the people all of the time to get away with it.

Why do I think this? Because I’ve been around more than half a century and I’ve seen it all before.

And we’re seeing it again: Oil Price Jump

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One plainchant whinge coming up.

I shall try to recount the events of the past few days as they relate to my health, but frankly my memory is full of holes these days.

My assistant having left last soggy Sunday, it is left up to me to do things like bring in wood. It was raining the first half of the week so nothing was happening then. Still had the ‘standard’ symptoms, and then things got a little odd.

Thinking the nightmares might be related to one type of pain killer I switched to another – and got new problems. Here it was Thursday (I think) and I was feeling pretty sick suddenly; numbness in my lips, shivering, face and eye pain … just really terrible without the usual signs of having a cold. Not having any assistance from the medical profession at hand (really they haven’t done anything for this for nine years now) all I could think of was that my nervous system is affected by constant bombardment of pain killers as well as a constant bombardment of pain. If this makes no sense remember it’s the thinking of someone who is frankly a little unstable due to the symptoms. Or something.

I also noticed when taking pictures in the dark that I’m unstable on my feet at ground level now. I don’t hold still and it seems like the world swims around me at times. Daylight is different; somehow the visual cues cut in and my lack of balance is compensated for. I should try standing still with my eyes shut and see if I fall over.

Anyway, pretty obviously something is wrong, has been for years, and is getting worse. I don’t know how often I’ve recounted that to doctors but all I get for feedback at best is agreement on symptoms.

So Friday events transpire that I must go out to the cabin and get the remaining logs sliced and brought in before the weekend rain. Oh, also a couple of tables someone wants. I hook up the trailer and go to do it.

Oh boy. It isn’t that much wood (about 1/2 a cord) but it takes forever. Cut, rest, load, rest, cut, rest, load, rest … over and over. It takes 2,987 days. Okay, about three hours really. And I’m amazed it’s only that.

Started with unloading the wheelbarrow that was left full of dirt and blocking the back door. Now full of water too, which means it weighs a lot and needs tipping out and then dumping. This so I can get inside and take the legs off the two tables and load them into the Xterra. That takes longer than it should. Then I get on with the wood.

Well I did it and brought it home and the person who wanted the tables … only wanted the one. Thanks. I needed that extra work. Came over right away and got it, but really it could have waited until the next day when I was able to stand up again. There went Friday; too tired to eat, too painful to sleep.

Saturday rain held off while I unloaded the wood. Hoorah! It took three goes with a lot of increasingly longer rest periods between rounds. And that ended that day.

Now, to understand this you need a frame of reference. Last fall when I was harvesting wood I’d go out and load up the trailer with rounds (slicing logs already brought in from the forest previously) and bring it home and then unload it. All in one day. No problem. Now it takes me two days to do the same and there’s a lot more resting between efforts and a lot worse results afterward.

Sunday. Feeling sick. Missed sleep again in the night. Had to take extra antacid pill. Naprosyn didn’t do much for the pain, but then neither did the 10mg cyclobenzaprine I took Friday. Slept in even later than before. Pain in the joints and of course the legs which won’t go away no matter what I try. This makes me think the leg pain isn’t muscular or even neural. But what do I know?

I know I’ve got to be able to get up early enough Tuesday to go to the dentist. I know I’ve got to go back to the forest several more times and haul in a lot more logs and slice them up and bring the rounds home and stack them.

I don’t know how I’m going to do this.

And as for next year …

Amazother thing

Today we’re going to talk about everyone’s nemesis and nobody’s friend, Amazon. In the words of Gracchus “If a criminal has what you want you do business with him”. Beyond that axiom I can’t think of a single reason for doing business with them. Aside from the complaints of poor working conditions they inflict on employees and the obscene profits made by Mr. Bezos, here are a few of the things I don’t like about how they do business:

1). Sorting. Did you know that if you re-sort search results you sometimes get different results? Not the same results in a different order; different results. Try it and see. This is beyond sense as well as beyond logic. They must figure that if you choose “price: lowest to highest” you’re some kind of cheapskate who should only be offered the poorest quality merchandise. It’s bad enough that no matter how specific the criteria you enter you get results relating to any one or more of the keywords and not the whole, even when using their sidebar categorizations.

Sometimes it is the third-party sellers that are to blame: they like to put their junk under many different categories, related or not, so that they show up no matter what you’re looking for. You never know when someone looking at camera equipment might suddenly decide that what they really need is a new pair of socks.

2). Price-Pong. They play this game two or three different ways. Since we’re never told what the rules are it’s hard for us to understand, much less win. In one version (related to the above complaint about third-party sellers) items are listed with stupidly low prices to get first place in the sorting order, and then the rest of the cost is made up as “shipping charges”. Okay so this item costs $0.01, but the shipping is $19.98. Yeah, I’ll buy that one – instead of the one that’s $14.99 with free shipping. I may have been born at night, but not last night.

Similarly, the price sort may list a higher price first because the listing is by the ‘new’ offer and the sort has been done on a basis of ‘used’ offers. So the $18.99 version of an item shows up before the $15.99 version because someone has a used edition of the first version for $13.99. Did you follow that? No? Good: you’re not supposed to be able to.

Mainly Price-Pong is played by raising or lowering the price of any item you’ve shown any interest in until they find the point where you will buy. This includes taking it down to your “trigger point”, and also sometimes raising it up so you think you’d better grab it before it gets too expensive. What’s really inexplicable is how an item can be $13.66 one day, when not “on sale”, and then suddenly $28.44 the next. Or $9.99 and then $24.67, to quote prices of both the DVDs I was looking at recently. The joke’s on them: instead of buying either, I bought neither. Unlike so many of their customers I do not feel obligated to spend money with them. I suspect part of this is a ploy to justify their over-priced and not very valuable “Prime” service, which would allow you to buy with “free” shipping at any time you think the price is right. Well I don’t need to spend money on that either; I tried it, and it was pretty much worthless. On the whole buying from Amazon is more like stock market speculating than retail purchasing.

3). Here today, gone tomorrow. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen items offered by the company itself just vanish from availability overnight. This seems a little odd. Usually when something is going off there is some warning; a price reduction commiserate with a clearance for example. In the case of used goods … well if there is only one and it sells that makes sense. You kind of have to wonder about “Only 3 left in stock! More on the way!” as well.

4). It’s ‘Walmart’ spelled with an ‘A’. Always low prices? Well “low” is a relative term, not an absolute like “lowest”. You should keep that in mind when shopping anywhere. Retailers always want you to think they have the lowest prices, when in fact none of them could guarantee such a thing. Not even with “price matching” (which has many caveats allowing them an “out”). If you price clothing at the Big A you can laugh yourself silly. Seriously; nobody buys that obviously low-quality rubbish for those pseudo-designer prices, do they? Would anyone expect the stuff to even fit? I doubt there is such impetuous optimism in the world these days. And woe unto us all if there is.

5). Setting a bad example. Because of what they do, other on-line retailers are doing it too. Everyone wants to be Amazon now, and they include “marketplace seller” listings in with their own. Well if I wanted to buy from some other web site, guess what; I’d go to that web site myself. At least some of them allow you to filter out the non-host listings. Big A doesn’t do that: you have to look at individual listings to see who is offering the item.

6). They should change the name to “Yangtze”. Although the extremely poor translations of the Chinese descriptions on many items are good for a laugh, there is an apparent dearth of goods made anywhere else. Furthermore, listing of country of origin is more than a little bit spotty. There are few things I will side with politicians on, but the over-dependence on Chinese goods is one of them. We should never have let it get this far out of hand, and not for any simplistic, bigoted reason. I certainly don’t agree with certain current efforts to curtail this phenomenon by merely taxing imported goods, as this does nothing to elicit an alternative source. We still need the stuff, and we’ll still buy it. It’s the same stuff, with the same supporting of corrupt and uncaring government with their horrible human rights abuses and abysmal environmental damage, but now it’s more expensive stuff due to ineffective additional tariffs. If we could see where the products came from ourselves perhaps we could make our own choices about whether or not to buy, for our own reasons.

7). Here’s a suggestion for you. At best the suggestions Amazon makes are humourous. Okay, they’re laughable. The ultra-simplistic artificial intelligence seems to have the reasoning of a three-year-old: if you bought a DVD, you must like all DVDs. Subtleties such as “this one is a good movie, that one isn’t” don’t enter into it. True, you can’t really expect them to rate all the movies, but they could build a more accurate assessment of your interests given the large amount of data they collect. Of course that would involve more advanced programming, and hence a further expense.

At worst the suggestions are just a waste of space on the page, or an annoyance in your e-mail. Their grasp of “related items” is as tenuous as their grasp of sorting relevance. Maybe they should just leave off their pretended evaluations and stop wasting time and space with what amount to little more than wild guesses. And yes I admit I look at things I’m not interested in, then delete the items from browsing history, just to mess with their metric. To be fair, I also look at and then delete items I am interested in. I do this usually because the price has gone up before I decide to buy. Too bad for them.

While we’re at it, let’s question the “Amazon’s Choice” designation. Choice based on what? Surely not any objective evaluation of the offering. Most likely another AI analysis indicating something that makes the most profit for the company, either by margin or volume.

8). Now you tell me! Ever look something up on Amazon and think you’ve found a deal, only to be told at the ‘check out’ stage “this item can not be shipped to your location”? Never an explanation as to why, they just ain’t gonna. Okay, so don’t show it to me then. They know where you are, so if they can’t get it there (for whatever unspecified reason) they shouldn’t offer the item to you. Sheesh! You’d think you were trying to mail-order cocaine or something. No, that they’d probably allow.

9). It’s all the same to me. “New for you”, “Recommendations for you”, “Related to items you’ve viewed”, and “Explore more items” amount to identical algorithm analysis output, just redundantly displayed in four locations. Never mind “Recommended items customers often buy again”; I’m just sure that having bought one 55-250mm Canon EF-S lens people naturally go back and buy a dozen more. And while we’re at it …

10). The site is a frigging mess. I consider it a prime (pun intended) example of how not to organize a web site. Superfluous listings, redundant links, illogical organization, and nonsensical categorization. If a digital tornado blew through their servers it could only improve things. True again some of the problem is third-party, but the host sets the rules and can make users keep in line. They simply don’t want to. In a way, every botched listing by a third-party seller is a promo for any more accurate listing by the host itself, so where’s their incentive to correct wrong images or confused descriptions? People listing with Amazon need to understand: they aren’t your friend, they’re your competition.

All these things could be improved on, and indeed they do ask for suggestions on improving things. Although to actually undertake such changes would mean they’d have to spend some of their ill-gotten gains on self-policing, reprogramming, and policy changes. Since we can readily see their over-all attitude is one of “meh, we’re making money anyway” any change is unlikely to happen. Except perhaps for the worse, if they discover a means of upping profits at the expense of degrading service. Heaven forfend anyone should take pride in their work, right? The problem starts at the top: Mr. Bezos’s motto would appear to be “I’m rich; nothing beyond that matters”.

Caveat: everything is subject to change without notice, including the web site and my observations on it.

Past work

It’s raining again this week so I’m not out taking pictures or harvesting wood. Instead I’m digging back through files to present some older images.

One of the things I use photography for is documenting projects. Some of them have been extensive, like this whole-house renovation done in 2016. Never mind the story behind it, as it’s one of those “how did I ever get myself into this?” tales. The house itself is a brought-in-on-a-truck-and-bolted-together up/down design that filled many of the streets around here as the town expanded rapidly in the 1970s. Since then it went through numerous ‘upgrades’, many of which inflicted serious problems I had to correct. You just wouldn’t believe what I found. Good thing I’m an engineer, eh?

The bedroom pictures pretty much tell the story: bad design with no closet yet still intruding into the next room. An amateur finishing of basement space:


So, gut and re-frame (I literally was able to tear the walls apart with my bare hands) to make the space more practical:

And finish it off nicely:


The kitchen was a ‘simple’ update, which involved refinishing all the cabinets, moving the dishwasher, fixing plumbing errors, correcting wiring mistakes, and …

Here’s the livingroom with the renos partially started. That knee wall was to replace a flimsy iron railing that was merely screwed to the floor and yet was expected to keep people from tumbling down the stairs:


Much nicer once the work is complete:


One of the biggest challenges was the patio door in the dining area, which had been installed without a proper header. Retrofitting that (without disturbing the door or outside wall) was not easy:



Outside the now nice (and safe) door you can see the redone deck, which had just broken plastic trellis screwed on to keep people from going over the edge. I like the yellow boards better, for both safety and aesthetic reasons:


It’s hard to imagine, but this is the second time I’ve totally renovated an entire house (meaning every room needed work) by myself (no assistants). In this instance I hired someone to do the floors as I was running out of time. In fact the people were moving in while the floors and details were being finished up. Hopefully it will be the last time I try anything so foolish. The first time was our former residence (back in 2009 – I was already having health problems then), and I’d be hard pressed to say which was more work. In time this one was quicker: six months as opposed to nearly two years, but I didn’t have as many interruptions.

I found this toy car while I was doing the place up, so I “renovated” it as well: