Random monochrome

Well I’m back at work on the cabin. So far the progress of one day has been a list of things I need to get. That’s how it goes.

And now, for no particular reason whatsoever, some photos of various things.

A “set up” shot I did to explain to someone else a few points about taking pictures of this kind.
Spider sticks.
“Swirled galaxy”. You wouldn’t believe what this really is. It’s all about controlling the light, people.
Not quite monochrome. This shows the damage to my utility trailer’s suspension. One big repair bill.

And now … back to work. Hardly something different.

The Farcebook Farce

Gee, I haven’t ranted about Facebook for a long time. It had become quite irrelevant to tell the truth as the site is basically garbage and I haven’t been doing much of anything with it. So let’s back up and see how today is going.

After nearly killing myself yesterday by smashing up the ice on the driveway and then splitting more wood, I wake up today to:

1). Four inches of new snow;


2). No Internet connection;

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3). Dead battery in Jojo;

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4). A moronic message from Farcebook saying I can not post or comment for 24 hours due to my offensive posting. What offensive posting? It seems they took exception to a nasty remark I made about them and their incompetent Artificial Intelligence post parsing. How dare I write in German! How dare I use Sarcasm! 

That whole thing started as a bunch of my friends and I were laughing at the fact that now that all the Farceboook employees have been sent home to die of COVID-19 in peace only their idiotic AI is employed to check up on what people write. You can’t complain about any violation of TOS as you get this dumb message:


But in the meantime their Anti-Intelligence algorithm is deleting posts about the forerunner of Jaguar cars because “SS” (Swallow Sidecars) is of course a Nazi term only. Someone noted Chevy Super Sport cars, which also use the initials, managed to get past but not the origins of Jag. It’s okay to be a Nazi as long as you’re an American Nazi?

The irony here being that when acting on an alleged offense to sensibility, specifically ‘promoting Nazism’, they in fact act like Nazis themselves. Hence I commented “Hail victory”, in German, and got banned because German is all Nazi all the time according to Farcebook’s AI. Can anyone not see the irony? It’s drowning in it! *Cue Alanis Morisette* (There’s an extra dimension to that which I won’t go into.)

Meanwhile actual Nazis on Facebook go about their daily abuses uninterrupted – because the AI can’t comprehend intent, only content. Words are not in themselves offensive; only how you use them can be.

In future I shall remember to insult Facebook only in English, so they can better understand what I think of them and their dilapidated failure of a social media web site. If FB dies of coronavirus I won’t cry any.

In the meantime I’m not having a good day. Fortunately I wasn’t planning on going anywhere anyway, except to get a new battery for Jojo and check the mail and … Look, it was going to be my one day out this week. Oh well, guess not.


Car spotting

I’m going through a few old slides, looking for anything worth saving. It seems slide film doesn’t keep even as well as prints as most of them are faded and contrast-y. Not to mention a tad dirty as well. Part of the charm I suppose.

Anyway I came across a half dozen old shot of cars taken back in the 1970s most likely. In some of them the backgrounds are pretty interesting too, showing then-new vehicles which now qualify for collector plates. Also you’ll see an old photo processing kiosk behind the Corvair. The picture of the Barracuda has someone delivering newspapers in it!


1974 Porsche 914 that belonged to my brother’s then girlfriend. I spent a lot of time driving that car – and fixing it. Notice how one image has stood up better than the other, despite being shot in sequence on the same roll of film.

196? Chevrolet Corvair

With a Foto Express, Happy Motoring Exxon station, and a ‘recent’ Japanese import.

1956 GMC

This old truck sat abandoned in town for a very long time before disappearing one day. I suspect it was one of those cases where the owner kept it ’til he died even though he couldn’t use it anymore.

1972 Plymouth Barracuda

Not a hemi! As I recall it had a 440 & six-pack. Used to visit a neighbour on our street from time to time.

1968/9 Rambler American

These were very nice cars. My brother had one. He hated it because he had to buy it for transportation and it was very dull – and it refused to give up functioning.

Porsche 356

Not sure of the year on this as they didn’t change much or often. Around 1960. It belonged to friends of our across-the-street neighbours and used to park in front of our house often. We certainly didn’t mind.

I have more slides to go through, but not more of cars.



The Great Wiper Blade Debate

The weather here has turned worse. How much worse? This morning an RCMP patrol stopped outside our house and scanned the deep ditch on the other side for any sign of a vehicle having slid off into it. They’d had a report with a vague location and were having to check every gully for signs of victims.

When I went out in the crunchy snow to get some wood, it was raining. The dogs don’t even want to be out in it. And they say there’s more of the same to come.

Meanwhile we are treated to ‘news stories’ about whether your wiper arms should be left flat against the windshield or folded out – and what do the ‘experts’ say about it?

Well I don’t know what ‘experts’ they talked to, but this old engineer who’s had more vehicles than any sane person should and has lived the entirety of his getting-too-close-to-a-century-for-comfort lifetime in the frozen North has a few observations on the matter. Also on the news story. Let’s deal with that first, shall we?

What I noticed is that the reasons given for extending the wiper arms were not the right reasons for doing so. They talk about people thinking it will reducing the wear on the blades. Well, no not really. The ‘experts’ are correct on this one: most of the wear comes from running the wipers, not just leaving them pressed against the glass. The other complaint they had was that leaving them pointing out will strain the springs and eventually reduce the pressure exerted on the blades. Technically correct, but it’s doubtful you’ll own the car that long. Even if it happens, you replace the springs and the problem is solved. Then the warn about the sudden snap of the arms folding back down possibly breaking the windshield. I suppose there is a possibility of this, but then again you could also win the lottery. The fact is many times this has happened and because the pressure is spread over the blade the chances of the glass being damaged are near nil. I have seen a chip produced from an arm with no blade on it suddenly whacking down, but again there was nothing to spread the impact force out. It did not shatter the glass.

The thing is the article I read completely missed the real reason why people put the arms up: it makes it easier to clear away the snow and ice. Especially the ice. The biggest probability for any kind of damage in this area is getting iced-down wiper blades freed. And we know they make wonderful dams for blocking snow removal.

So what does this expert say? Leave ’em down unless you’re expecting freezing rain. Like we’re getting today. All three of our vehicles have their blades down, but the van isn’t licensed the Xterra isn’t going anywhere and Jojo is parked underneath. And I’m staying inside. The weather is too lousy to go out in.

Side note: Monday was going to be full moon and once again the sky was blocked with cloud. It was also going to be Mercury’s transit across the sun, but no chance of seeing that either. There will be another full moon next month, but the next Mercury transit isn’t for 30 years. I’m sure I’ll miss that one too, on account of being dead.

Meet Jojo

Jojo is a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. She’s very nice, but she has a couple of quirks.

First of all, she messes with your mind. After decades of driving gasoline and diesel vehicles of many configurations, having one whose engine runs only when it needs to is disconcerting in the extreme. I mean you put it in gear, start moving, and then the engine starts! I find myself constantly thinking “the engine has stalled” – partly because I have driven many examples of rolling junk for which this would be the case.

She sneaks up on people too. She’s so quiet she can be right behind you and you’ll never know. I can see why some people think these types of vehicles need some sort of audible notification system added. Perhaps a digital recording of a 426 Hemi played back through external loudspeakers? Maybe ice cream van bells? I don’t know.

It shall be interesting to see how much gasoline she consumes. She’s already ahead of the Xterra, in that both left the city with a full tank and by the time they got home an hour later Jojo was still full and the ol’ 4×4 was down 1/4.

That’s a point: Jojo is not replacing the Xterra, but supplementing it. For most driving she will be the wheels of choice, but when it comes to hauling the backroads … well sometimes you need 9.5 inches of ground clearance. I have one, maybe two more loads of wood to haul in and that’s not a nice thing to do to a young SUV.

We’re looking forward to the next necessary big city trip to see how she does there. Haven’t pushed all the buttons or tried all the modes out either (it has an Electric Vehicle mode which sounds interesting).

Am I cheating on my wife or vehicle with a younger mechanical woman? No, because actually this is for her. Nice though Jojo is, she doesn’t suit my driving needs or my personality.

The Whale and Jojo

The only other flaw is the colour: would it kill manufacturers to offer some shade other than black, white, gray, or silver? She’s a bit hard to spot in the parking lot as she looks like so many others. That’s a terrible thing to say, isn’t it? Maybe if she had a bright red stripe …


My Photography – Part Three


I was thinking about how to categorize the types of pictures I take, and realized that although some fall under distinct headings others cross the lines a bit. No matter; it gives me an opportunity for segue from one to another.

The majority of pictures I take to this day remain “grab shots”. They are not art, nor intended to be anything other that a quick “look at what I saw today” pic to share with my friends. Since most of my friends’ shared interests are old cars, there tends to be a lot of pictures of old cars. Some rusty and derelict, others roadworthy and running. Typically something like this:


This was taken with my “goes with me” camera, the Kodak V1003. But sometimes when I’m out and about I find something a little more extraordinary and under circumstances that allow a bit more artistic effort, like this 1930s Chevy taken with the Kodak P850:


The resolution on this is 2592 x 1944 (in the original) which makes it a little dicey for an enlarged print. Besides, my wife would not appreciate seeing this on the wall anywhere.

The second most prolific category of my pictures would probably be best described as “documentation”. I tend to document things I do like building buildings or harvesting firewood. Again these are not the most artistic of shots and are not meant to be. They perhaps could be, if I put more effort into it. So far I haven’t. An example here taken with the V1003:


Sometimes what I document is one of my other hobbies, which usually amounts to “look at what I found” but also can yield results like this:


(I modified a ‘dollar store’ toy car and photographed it on blue metallic paper reflecting the sky. A bit surreal, is it not?)

Where are we at? Category number three I think. That would be wildlife. Sometimes domestic, because we have two dogs and three cats and they do strange things. More often it’s real wildlife because we live out in the middle of nowhere and bears, deer, moose, et cetera wander through whenever they feel like it. This gives me more of a chance to produce some truly artistic images:


Wait, that’s my cat Hannibal. He’s not wild. Let’s try again!


Yes, eagles stop by too. Both taken with the Nikon P610; you can see why I like its long zoom capacity. I think this is one of my all-time best photos.

Another great one is this scenery shot, taken quite some time ago with the Kodak DX3900:


I regret that this sunset exists only in a low-resolution mode as the sky has never looked like that since, although there have been many beautiful sunsets on the lake.

Another low-res shot that I may one day redo with the P610, providing the building is still standing, is this one: the Church of Nowhere;


The final category (yes, I’ve lost count) would be “abstract”. Sometimes I do real-world abstracts like this (P610 shot):


And sometimes I go full-blown crazy like this one I call “Hunter S. Thompson”:


Pretty far from a “grab shot”, as it entailed painting some small wooden cubes, placement of metallic paper, and some post-processing with a default distortion filter. I like doing really crazy things like this but I guess a lot of people don’t like looking at them. I would do more if I could, regardless of whether or not anyone wants me to.

When it comes to post-processing, I usually don’t. I know some photographers who use it extensively and to good results; it’s just not my style for the most part. If I do anything outside the camera it’s a little framing crop or some contrast tweaking to get results that look like what I remember seeing when I took the shot. Every once in a while I let loose, as in a certain ongoing series of pictures that go together as part of a story. Here’s one example on the extreme side from that series:


Somewhat garish I’d say, and I’m the one who did it. A more effective ‘processed shot’ would be this one of ravens, which involved cropping to eliminate background clutter and enhance composition, and tonal change to give it the right ‘feel’:


Well this entry has gone on for quite some length and probably should have had a warning about that at the top but … It is only a glimpse into what I have done. I hope to do more in the future, if circumstances allow. Not for any reason beyond my own amusement, you understand. And perhaps to compensate myself for the thousands of images lost in the Great Disaster of ’18. It was sad and surprising to see how many pictures had vanished. Not all masterpieces by far, but in some cases experimental and in all cases historically important to me. My future is certainly now shorter than my past, but it’s the only time frame any of us have to live in.


Automatic versus Manual

Flipping through various blogs my eye was caught by one touting the virtues of manual transmissions in vehicles. I didn’t read it all the way through because the first few lines were enough to tell me it was an opinion piece, not an evaluation. But herewith my own opinion, based on the fact I’m a very clever person. Or I’m magical. Whichever. We won’t mention the engineering stuff, okay?

First of all it is true that a manual has advantages over automatic. No matter how you slice it, standards are lighter weight and more efficient. They simply have fewer parts, and therefor greater potential for giving more miles per gallon (never mind the metric measurement system for fuel consumption; it’s awkward and clumsy and shouldn’t be used).

Notice the keyword here is potential, because realization of that potential depends on the driver’s ability to properly use the stick. Sure, everyone who can operate one without jerky starts and smoking disks and grinding gears thinks they know how. But merely being able to shift without damaging anything is not the same as knowing how to drive a manual transmission. Now it’s anecdote time (for demonstration purposes only).

I know a person who has a four cylinder, standard shift vehicle. They complain frequently about how poor the fuel economy is, and it numbers terms it doesn’t even come close to my six cylinder automatic vehicle (both are 4×4, by the way). How could this be? Well I had the opportunity to ride with this person and found out. They do not know how to drive a manual transmission. Really don’t. No clue as to when to pick up or drop a gear. Whereas there is no immediate danger of damage, in the long term that poor little runabout is going to be run into the ground prematurely because of the misuse.

Now automatic also have certain other advantages over standard, and in some odd applications you may not think of. It’s not just a matter of compensating for a lack of driving skill. For one thing the torque converter gives a distinct advantage over a clutch in getting going on grades or when pulling a load. Yes, automatic is better in most small to standard truck applications – if it’s actually being used as a truck. Toting a trailer? Auto is your best friend. You can ease things back and forth much more subtly when you don’t have to slip a clutch to do it, and that is an action which is hard on clutches. The torque multiplication of the converter can also be a bonus in towing situations. The major downside is the manufacturer not installing a heavy enough transmission to take the duty. Most auto overdrive units in trucks, no matter who made it, end up junked out all too quickly because they’re meant for light use – as in a passenger car or unladen truck. Even then they are prone to premature failure. Too often the cheapskates don’t even bother to put a fluid cooler on the rig, but they’ll still claim it can pull 5,000 lbs. Sure it can. On a flat level surface during a mild Spring day.

So you see both types of transmissions have their advantages, and faults. Much of it depends on who is doing the driving and what driving they are doing. But even the best operator can’t make up for tightwad manufacturers scrimping on design. Before you buy any vehicle research the used market for whatever type you’re looking at, and see how many references there are to major problems of the same type indicating an inherent design failure. In other words if you keep see “rebuilt engine/transmission/whatever” coming up over and over for the same model (especially newer years and lower mileage) it’s probably one to stay away from.

Oh and don’t blame me for any of them. I haven’t done that stuff since the 1970s.