Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The new layout

I had used the old layout for close to a full decade!
So I suddenly decided to get another one. You like it?

Friday, December 25, 2015

How do you organize things?

I've arrived at a point where I have acquired so many things, that it makes it hard to find a thing if it's been a while since I used it.

If I make a system with many boxes, that takes up too much space, and I probably can't remember what I filed a thing under anyway.

Too few though, I end up like my "gadget shelf", which is now so crowded that it's just luck if I find anything, and to drag it all out and be systematical would take an hour.

Any good tips?

Breakfast Club Dancing; Molly Ringwald

Breakfast Club is having a rennaissance.
For me personally, the dance scene is the heart of the movie.
Note especially Molly dancing on the stair. Seriously, how do women move like that?! It just seems they are constructed a different way.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Oberon Design

A few years ago, I bought an Oberon iPad cover in thick leather, embossed with a beautiful design based on an old drawing. It is stunning, though with the downside that it is hardly lightweight.
Since then they clearly expanded a lot, despite making leather and metal designs are quite resource-demanding. I find their designs, now both in leather and metal, to be gorgeous, and if I need another lifetime and it's female, I know at least one place to get my jewelry.
OberonDesign.com --- Page of sample designs

It seems van Gogh's Starry Night is becoming iconic. It was
Also used in the excellent CGI movie Home.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brilliance is always opposed

Yoshihisa Maitani was probably the most brilliant and visionary camera designer we had had. He invented the compact Olympus Pen camera and the SLR version the Pen-F (with a big system of lenses and accessories), and he invented the Olympus OM-1, which brought about a wave of other manufacturers finally seeing that an SLR camera needs not be able to double as a mace.

Here is a speech he made where he talks about what he had to go through to get his visions engineered and produced. It is funny, and fascinating both from an engineering and social perspective. After he had produced two cameras which shattered sales records like glass, his ideas were still actively resisted in the company!

[Alternative link, though the article is split up in many pages.]

There are some rrrrealy bright people out there

A town has rejected solar panels for some, er, unusual reasons.
Here is a part of it:

Bobby Mann said he watched communities dry up when I-95 came along and warned that would happen to Woodland because of the solar farms.
“You’re killing your town,” he said. “All the young people are going to move out.”
He said the solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Was not worth the wait... (Miley Cyrus nude)

(Sorry, this is the style all the way through.)

I'll bet many many of Miley Cyrus' fans have been wishing for a nude shoot of her. Well, now it is here.
But don't get too excited; it is not all that great. In fact I would say it's just about as boring as it could be.
This photographer, Terry something, gets the chance to photograph one of the world's most famous young singers in the the nude (what a chance!)... and what are his preparations? They were:
1: Saying 'Take off your clothes.'
2: Saying 'Stand in front of this plain white background.'
3: Putting a flash gun directly on the camera, guaranteeing the most flat and boring light we could get.

There were a couple of attempts to be "provocative" with a black dildo and such, but other than that, clearly neither he nor Miley thought this event to be worth going for any interesting, pleasant, or exciting expressions, poses, or compositions.

Of all the 120 photographers I dealt with when running my nude sites, I don't recall any of them ever sending me a submission which was this lazy and boring. And most of them could have done this job way, way better.
I think things like this gives nude photography a bad name, as if it needed it.

[If you're still interested, here they are.]

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Get relaxed on grammar

If you are writing, and ever have doubts about grammer*, don't miss this lecture. It's even funny.

I think I may continue to spell it "grammer" just to make a point...

To me, "grammar" obviously comes from "grammatics", but then got to be used instead of the correct word, and the original forgotten. Surely a cosmic joke that this happened to the name of the field of protecting proper use of words!  :-)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Us, drinking on the job?? Never!

Olympus offer

[Update: would you prefer the Flag Ship camera?  Check out this amazing CyberMonday offer on the Olympus E-M1]

TCG found this: Only until November ends: the excellent Olympus E-M10 with two lenses for only $450. That is a fantastic deal on a great system camera starter kit.

(Last day today, by the way.)
EmptySpaces informs us:
"That 40-150mm lens is a hidden gem...it's plastic-y but dang is it sharp."

It's like the 45mm 1.8 I have praised: It's also a plastic body, but that doesn't stop the optics from being excellent.
Its 'partner' which came out around the same time, the 12mm, has a metal body, and costs twice as much. But it's no better; actually some say the 45mm it a notch better.

I love metal things in terms of sheer feel. Like the PRO lenses for example. Fantastic feel to them.
But Plastic can be a very, very good material these days, costs less and weighs less.

Do you know a good web host?

Do you know a good web host?
I have maybe half a dozen low-traffic domains looking for a host. Reliability is good, but good service is essential.  Good friendly service, speedy answers and handlings, 24/7.

Currently I'm still with my old host, which I love, but they are geared to very high-traffic sites, and the prices are thereafter (and they don't do shared hosting). That made sense when I had sites which had over 100,000 visitors per day, but now when I no longer have such busy professional sites, I'm hoping to find a host for a handful of domains for under, say, $20 a month.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The fifty-mm lens

I wish I could be kewl and say "I've always come back to the fifty-mm" or something.
But I can't, I just don't care much for it, sorry. As an artist I feel like I am trying to play volleyball with a straightjacket.

"But it's what's closest to the way we see things." Yeah, that's great, for documentary work.
But as a wannabe art photographer, I don't want to show things like we always see them, I want to see and show them like we *don't* always see them.

People work in a myriad of different ways. Some photograph the world. Me, I don't, really. I make pictures, using a camera. I used paint and canvas many years before my first camera, and still do sometimes. There, as with photos, I love pictures which have elements of both the real and the abstract.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Even abstract boobs too racy for US TV

Don't miss this wonderfully funny talk by Stephen Colbert about what is art and what is porn.

For example, one of the most celebrated, and justifiedly so, pieces of fine art, is Amedeo Modigliani's  Nu Couché (New Coochie?), which just sold for $170M.
(I remember in the eighties when a van Gogh set a world record with five million. I guess fine art is getting even better.)

Seriously, nude or not, it is a classic and genuinely beautiful painting, and for childishly squeamish forces to pressure media into showing it like this:

... is not just ridiculous, it is a crime against art, and a serious malfavor towards the children it's supposed to "protect". Imagine growing up in a "protected" home, having no idea that the other sex has these parts, and then turning 18 and going to college! (Or to log onto the Internet...)

Anyway, if this is porn, I wish they would tell me how they did it. I would like to start a "porn" web site, sell ONE painting of a nude for hundreds of millions, and retire in style.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Beware of phishing

Beware of "phishing" (emails pretending to be from banks or other important sites, trying to trick you into writing in your login on what looks like the real deal, but is a fake site).

This one sounds good... "somebody sent me five grand!!? Gotta look at that," and you click on the link. (Don't click on links in suspicious mails, instead, go to your browser and go directly to Paypal or whatever. There you can see if there's any truth to whatever they claim.)

I spotted this because firstly it's unlikely, secondly it was not sent to my email address, thirdly, it did not have my name in the mail, just said "dear Customer". Yeah, right.

Even the link is disguised.  If one uses Apple Mail (or surely others too), hover the cursor over the link, and a popup will show you the address where the link really goes to. In this case something containing "sharefile" and "download". So it may be a link to a virus or such malware.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Friday, November 06, 2015

Making a violin

From the newest musical instrument to a quite old one, in design anyway. This is a very kewl video of a pro carving out a violin. Yes, there's a surprising amount of carving!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

"There is a Twitter for you"... Oh yes?

To me, superficial communication is to meaningful communication like weeds are to flowers or crops. So you can understand my feelings about Twitter, whose very nature is designed to make weeds prosper.

 Okay... so Twitter is now advertising. (Spamming, call it what you want. I certainly did not sign up for it.)

Here we go, this is what my spam mail said:

"...no matter what you’re into, there’s a Twitter for that."
"From the events everyone's talking about to the conversations around the neighborhood, connect to what matters most to you on Twitter."

Wow, that makes it sound very relevant, doesn't it?
It even makes it sound important. Like a vital service to humanity.

But I'll postulate that far from being comprehensive, this is actually very narrow.
It may be comprehensive for people whose horizons span from "what everybody is talking about" to "the conversations around the neighborhood".
And those have their place, fair enough.

But what about if "what I'm into" is Nietzsche's philosophy? Color theory? String theory? Fractal art? Camera optics? The French Revolution? The nature of consciousness? Shakespeare? Dadaist art? Modern architecture?

Try to discuss those subjects meaningfully in parts of 140 characters.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Mayby you have heard of the movie "Teeth"?
It's a film about a young woman due to growing up next to a nuclear plant has sharp teeth in her... wombabaloobabbalambamboom. And when men enters her with their... dingdingdangadangalongdingdong, and she doesn't want them to, they fare badly. I'm sure I don't have to draw a diagram.

I didn't think this could possibly be a good movie, I just saw it out of curiousity and because it was free on Amazon Prime. But Surprise, it was actually pretty good. I think the viewers who expected Night of the Living Dead only with genitalia were disappointed, and gave the movie the bad reviews it often gets. But the producers were smart and realized that this movie could not make it in the horror movie market as it is today, meaning tonnes of blods, guts, and limbs flying in all directions.

So instead they made a good story out of it, and actually gave it quite some humor.
If you find yourself sometimes rooting for the beautiful gender in the sex wars, I think you'll like this one.

Jess Weixler is the innocent but not harmless heroine.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Playboy... pulling its own fangs?

This is apparently not a hoax, though I had great trouble believing it:
Playboy will stop featuring fully nude women. Article/video.

I'm sure I don't know.
On the one hand I feel protest, on the other hand, it may just make sense for them. Their nudity features were rarely very interesting to me. The "Girl Next Door" was so disingenuous; for how many lives next door to a perfect, big-bosomed beauty with perfect coifed hair, perfect make-up, perfectly retouched skin, and walking around naked in a super-luxury home?
And the articles or at least interviews (of such guys as David Bowie and John Mellencamp) were actually often the most interesting feature.

I just hope it isn't a big nail in the coffin of the "tasteful nude" (or "simple nudes" as I called them on Domai). I hope people looking for nice nude women will be able to find them, and not only all the most extreme sex acts in the world. (I stopped counting when semi-medical conditions were included in the list of fetishes.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

New grip I made (update: alternative surface, photo)

Some may not like the unusual form with the edge I gave the grip featured below (it was partly necessitated by the shaped of Olympus' embryonic grip-shape on the body). So I decided to update an earlier grip which worked great, but I was never happy with the look. It looks better now with the Skateboard Grip Sheet (Amazon), and it of course works even better too. (The grip that stuff has...)

I have actually made it on top of a pretty flat and useless grip I bought from Olympus, so in this case there's no doubt whatever that I can get it off again without remains.  :-)
Here is a grip/ridge I made for tablets before I found the SG sheet.

Also, to reiterate: Such a grip, if you have followed instructions about putting on Sugru, will not fall off in your hand. It's a cousin to super-glue, crazy strong. (Sugru tips.)
(btw, I have just modified the top to have a stippled, almost fuzzy, surface. It meshes better, and it hides the unevenesses which I had to give up removing totally.)

I must say, that in terms of pure grip functionality (if you don't count the big, integrated grips on the big SLRs) this is far better than any commercial grip I have tried.)

The camera before:

Below, alternative surface, made with light stippling with toothbrush. It makes it mesh better and hides unevennesses (which can be tricky to get rid of).

By the way, on both cameras, I have also put the Sheet on the little, flat thumbgrip on the backside. Makes it easier to find with your thumb, and improves the hold yet a little bit.

After it cured fully (24 hours), I tried to rip the grip off. Okay, not with my full strength, I am a quite big fella after all, but I couldn't budge it. There was not a hint that this was not there to stay.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Make your own camera grip easily

[Update: a different grip featured above]

Being pretty much retired now, I have had time to play amateur inventor, and I've worked a lot on enhancing grippiness or put grips on things like cameras and tablets. I don't think I'll earn any money on this invention, but I'd be highly pleased if it eases the lives of other people a little, as it has my own.

Many cameras still don't have decent grips. That's a pity, for a good grip really helps.
I bought an official Olympus grip, but it was costly, it added 100 grams to the compact camera, and added bulk too. Oh, and you had to take it off to change batteries.

I've written about Sugru before. (You can get it on Amazon too.) It's a fantastic material. A quick description is that it is like a combination of super-glue and play-do. It's not cheap though, it comes in small quantities, and it takes a day to set.  But it has so many fun  and useful uses that it boggles the mind. And new ones are being found every day.

I used three of their mini-packs for this grip (about $9).  It's very easy to use. You just take it out of the air-tight little package (once it's opened, it starts to set. You have lots of time to use it, but don't expect to use half a mini-pack a week later, unless you have invented a 100% air-tight closing method).

So I just squeezed it a bit, to warm it up and soften it, and then I plopped it onto the camera and molded it into a grip. One may compare it with one's hand's grip, to imagine the optimal size and shape.

When I do this the next time, I may use a pack more, to get a bit more bulk to hold onto, to curl the fingers around.

On my earlier experiments with older cameras, otherwise succesful, the issue was to get a grippy enough surface. But I have now found something great: Skateboard Grip Sheet. That is a bit like rough sandpaper, but it's designed to get uptimal grip under the extreme use skateboarders put it through!

I cut this out to size and form, and put it on the Sugru before the latter dried. The Sheet is self-adhesive, and Sugru is basically glue, so they stick together!

Then I trimmed and patted the edges a bit, and molded a little bit of Sugru over the edge of the Sheet to hold it.

Sugru is funny: if it's in a thin sheet or string when dry, it's very flexible. But in a lumb, it feels as hard as oak! This grip feels very confidence-inspiring.
(I've been doing a lot of things with Sugru this year, and haven't been let down yet.)

Sugru sticks really well to almost anything, even glass, but you can remove it later with a sharp knife etc. In some cases it's doubtful if you can get everything, like on very uneven surfaces. See this official video. On porous surfaces, like fabric or leather, obviously it'll always leave at least a stain (depending on the chosen Sugru color).

So this venture cost me maybe fifteen buck all in all, and added only about ten grams of weight and hardly any bulk to the camera.

Of course the great thing about these materials is that anything you don't like or wouldn't fit your hand about my grip, you can make different. It can be almost any size and shape. And of course with more patience, it can be made to look as pro as you want.

And the grippiness of the Sheet surface! OMG! as the young 'uns used to say. I would say that it's about THREE TIMES grippier than any rubber surface I have ever tested. It's just fantastic. Nothing slides anywhere on this surface.

(Here is the OM without added grip. It has a fain hint of one, but not much.) 

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Rats saving lives? Nahhh.... ?

Hero rats, as they are called, are trained over months, and sniff out landmines safely, reliably, and much faster than human operators.

Monday, September 28, 2015

About being contrarian

It was quite some years ago, but I was an adult and had already been a spiritual seeker, a thinker, and a keen student of philosophies, life and beyond for many years.

I was in conversation with the girlfriend of a friend. I forget what we were talking about, but I said something like "nah, I don't want that, it's too popular".

She looked up at me with her clear blue eyes and a smile and said: "but isn't that still letting others decide what you do?"

Ouch! That got to me. Here was this young little apple-cheeked chit of a girl barely out of her teens, and she was teaching me a basic life lesson I should have learned long ago!

If you are making a choice mainly to be different from others, you are still letting the others make the decisions for you.

I suspect that many highly successful, mature, intelligent people are still in this trap without realizing it. If a book is very popular, they can't possibly be seen reading it. If a viewpoint is normal, it's obviously not for them. Et cetera.

This is not deciding, it is reacting.

The Lollipop

A little eye candy for the gals.
I'm sure he trains, but he does not have the typical unnatural bulgy bodybuilder body.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cheap comics for a good cause

Do you like to get interesting comics for a great price?
Do you like to support a good cause (how about free speech?)?
Here you can do both: The Humble Bundle comics collection. You decide what you pay, and the  profits go to Comics Legal Defence Fund, which I have supported more than once before, which helps authors and publishers who are being prosecuted for selling "indecent" comics.

Recommended. Warmly. It is a solid adult-comics bundle (high-quality ebooks, choice of several file formats), and it includes such comics events as Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol. 3! (Much different from the movie.) And Bone vol. 1. Both first-class comics for adults.

(Oh, by the way, before you press the Pay button, make sure your email address is written in just above. It won't work otherwise, and they don't make that very clear.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Crazy with a capital Cray"

Mike Johnston rings the right bell with this article.

"...So he was prosecuted for sexually exploiting a minor.
"Who was the minor? Himself. They were nude pictures of himself. Selfies, as we aging-out hipsters say now.
"Mind you, this teenager did not post said pictures on the Internet. They were not available for public viewing. They were just on his own phone, apparently kept private as a personal matter between himself and his girlfriend, who is the same age and also shows up in several shots...and who was also prosecuted for exploiting her minor self."

Friday, September 18, 2015

I'm gonna whip...

[Warning: mild profanity. So mild it may offend.]

I've not been able to imbed movies on Blogger (apart from YouPoop and Vimeo), so here is a link. A classic blues/folk song. Quite funny.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ray Jessel... nobody saw this coming

(Don't watch this if you are offended by any mentioned of privates, even in latin terms.)


Sunday, September 06, 2015

Hail Phoebe (video update)

Phoebe Cates (screenshot from Fast Times At Ridgemont High). The most underused film beauty from the eighties?

Update: Russ said:
How can we forget the iconic slow-mo swimming pool fantasy scene

Iconic is the word! Best bikini scene ever. She's a goddess.

(I did not even look for this scene because I thought NoBoobs would have deleted it in a New York Second. But clearly there's a world of difference between topless and nude, even if the nude only shows pubic hair. Odd world.)
 (By the way, in the scene when she enters the bathroom, Judge Reinholt (Brad) was faking his self-'abuse' with a big realistic dildo. Phoebe shot backwards out of the bathroom like a startled cat!)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Not a "better mousetrap"

[Thanks to TOP]

Ralp Waldo Emerson did not actually say any thing about "a better mousetrap". It was a perversion of what he did say, and which I find has much broader relevance:

"If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods." —Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tiffany Aching closes Terry Pratchett's career.

Terry Pratchett, alas, is dead.

I was not surprised when I saw that Terry Pratchett's last novel, published post-mortem this week, is currently the number One bestseller.
I am glad it is a Tiffany Aching book that he managed to get out, she is my favorite witch, and the witches may well be my favorite characters of his. Tiffany is righteous, and smart, and strong. (The cranky eldest witch, Granny Weatherwax, actually takes off her hat to Tiffany at one point, something  which I'm not sure ever happened before.)

I would say "get it!", except I would recommend reading her books (five) in sequence, starting with the wee free men. The books start with her being around six, and in her late teens in the last one. So seen as a whole, you might say it's a big growing-up, or coming-of-age story. In an usual way, since it's less about boys and more about power and magic and responsibility and how can you fight an invisible, intangible enemy...

I'm not generally a fantasy reader. Most fantasy seems stuck in about twelve of the same ideas all the time, most Tolkien-related. There's only so many times you can read about orphans' destiny and magic swords. But: Terry Pratchett's book are not like that, not by a long shot. His books can be about anything, including suddenly a time travel story or whatever. But they always holds together.
They have great characters, and they are FUNNY.

Update: Anonymous
 Anonymous said...
That cover really blows,

Yes sadly I agree. The shade of green of the dress is just wrong (though she does wear green and blue. She intends to wait with wearing black til she is old (source: "I Shall Wear Midnight).). And he clearly does not know how to draw a young woman's face. (I had two choices of covers to show. The other one was worse.)
It's a pity, it's actually quite rare that they find a really good artist for book covers. They should look at among comic book artists, particularly comic book cover artists, there are some excellent ones amongst them.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

3D "Life"

My friend, artist Zeppelina, sent me this:

Thought you might like this..... 3D printed forms, based on the Fibonacci number system., and as beautiful as they already are as sculptural forms, they spin them under a strobe light, and they become fascinating and quite magnificent.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Robin

I was reminded of something I read in the Batman magazine letter column when I was a kid. Somebody asked the editor:
"Doesn't Robin freeze in the winter, given that his custome has bare legs?"
The editor answered:
"1) Robin is tough, he's no girlie-boy.
 2) He is actually not bare-legged, he's wearing pantyhose."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Batman Equation - Numberphile

It's fun that it's not just an approximation, it's a perfect Batman logo. If you put in on an issue of Batman, nobody would remark on it.

On Quora somebody asked who wrote it, and this answer came:

I wrote it many, many years ago. I was teaching at a few art schools throughout the greater Sacramento area, and I used it to engage my students in the topic of graphing.  One of my coolest students (Mr. Wilkinson aka i_luv_ur_mom) posted it to Reddit back in 2011 and it went viral.  These days, I'm a full time professor over at American River College, doing every thing I can to make math as enjoyable as possible.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Great Olympus offers

If you have considered the Micro Four Thirds system (and you really should, compact and top quality), then right now there are two amazing Olympus offers of next-newest models with kit lens:

The compact workhorse:
Olympus E-PL6
For only $269

And the amazing:
Olympus OM-D E-M5
for just $499

Both are dirt-cheap ways of getting a really good camera with standard zoom lens, and near-endless possibilities for expansion later with fancy lenses and such. And unlike five years ago, now speed and image quality is fully competitive with the big, heavy Canons and Nikons.

Friday, August 07, 2015

How Amazon saved my life

An article about the surprising advantages of self-publishiong, by Jessica Park.

Bestselling trad-to-indie-author Barry Eisler, famous for turning down a six figure deal from St. Martins Press to go out on his own, took a lot of heat for having compared an author’s relationship with a big publisher to Stockholm syndrome*. The truth is that it’s not a bad comparison at all. Snarky, funny, and exaggerated, perhaps, but there is more than one grain of truth there, and I just know that authors across the country were nodding so violently that we had collective whiplash.

* Stockholm Syndrome: the tendency of long-term hostages to start to sympathize with their emprisoners. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Revolution cover


"Revolution" now always reminds me of the Beatles' virtuoso rock rendition of that live on TV, and it makes me sad that we did not get more of Beatles as a rock band.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Down to size

"It's an American tradition to cut people down to size just because they brought so much joy into our lives." 
- Carl, The Simpsons

(I'd even say it's a world-wide phenomenon.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Don't argue, use friendly chatter

Ever had a stupid conflict in public? You know you're right, but you will never convince the other person, because he will lose face. And the details are not the point anyway.

There is another way:

"I didn't know that. I was totally wrong, and I apologize.  Say, those earrings are fantastic! Did you make them? They really make your eyes light up. Where might I get something like that for my niece?"

It seems like this approach (shortened form) would be so fake that anybody can see through it. Many can, but it WORKS ANYWAY. It does not even have to be a compliment. Simple talk in a friendly way about something the other person is interested in, with sincere interest, and within one or two minutes at most it will be almost impossible to for them to stay upset.

I know it works because it was used on me. A person came over and ordered me to come to a meeting with a salesperson. I pointed out she could not give me orders because I was not her junior. Very clumsily with no segue she started talking about the photo mag I was reading, and in half a minute I had no energy or interest to be upset, and accepted her invitation (no longer an order). So even when very crudely done, and on a person who is fully aware what is going on, it works.

By the way, don't worry about being a fake. You can believe anything you want, can change any belief anytime, and there's enough truth in anything for somebody to believe it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The harsh jungle of battery competition

I just remembered something that happened some years ago: I was back in Denmark, and walking in an industrial district in Glostrup, outside Copenhagen. I walked past a big gate leading in to a very large parking lot, and in the back of it was a very, very large building, with a large sign saying "Duracell".

And there it was: right dead center in the middle of the driveway and gate, lay a battery. It was a Danish brand: Hellesen. You didn't see them very much these days. And this poor battery was totally dry and flattened by having been driven over multiple times by big, full, Duracell trucks.

What are the odds? And I've never seen such in-your-face symbolism. The independent Danish battery manufacturer, figurative and literally flattened by the trucks of Duracell invading the country. (And I see that Hellesen was in fact later bought up by Duracell. They may not have liked it, but it's surely preferable to bankrupcy.)

(Don't get me wrong, this is not me 'sticking up for the underdog': if Duracell makes a superior product, and they probably do, that's just how competition works. But I just had to laugh at such striking symbolism.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Eraser tip

Do you know why your eraser sometimes will make a hard-to-erase dark streak on the paper?

Because there was finger oils on the eraser.

So: don't touch the parts of the eraser that you use on the paper. 

(I had to learn this from comic creator extraordinaire Dave Sim (Cerebus). You'd think somebody would have known and mentioned it in the 500 books I have read about making art and the materials, but nope.)

Cerebus: Dave Sim's 3,000-page "comic book" about... God, the Universe, and Everything. 
(No kidding. 300 issues. Took 24 years.)

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Leica IIIc -- UPDATE 3

[Big update below the images on casting the top plate.]

As the stalwart reader will be aware, I have a modest camera collection.
I am not a serious collector, those who only buy mint (flawless) exemplars and don't touch them without cotton gloves, and give thought to the monetary value of his collection. I just have them because some cameras, like some other machines and artefacts, strike me as beautiful and give me pleasure.

For years I held back on getting a Leica. The Leica M3 type is very expensive, even used and decades old, because they are still useful. And a Leica lens is very expensive if it's in decent condition.

But finally I wanted one, and I cheated a little bit; I didn't buy an M3, I bought an earlier model, a IIIc, which is a bit more complex, and which I don't think many use for real photography (though I think you could).
[Update: thanks to Jim S: This is actually a IIIc, a much older model than I though, it's from the forties! Quality keeps. Also by the way, wiki says it was die-cast.]
And instead of a Leica lens, I found a Leica-compatible Canon lens, which I find very beautiful.

Gorgeous machine. I'm told the levels and such on top were difficult to make in those days (the fifties) (See comment below.)

I love such a big, deep "eye".
(Click for big pics. Makes a difference.)

UpdateBert says: 
Nowadays we take curved surfaces and other organic shapes for granted in product design, thanks to computer-assisted design and fabrication (CAD, CAM & CNC* machines). But when you consider that those cameras were made long before this age of computers, then the intricate contouring of the top plate takes a whole different value.

I have no direct experience with the machines used at the time. But to admit that I have no idea of how some of the features of that part were created still says a lot. I certainly would love to see the equipments used to make those, some must have rivaled in complexity with clockwork.

It is beautiful work, for sure. A product of days when manual labor was cheap and long hours were the norm. 

Wow, we struck it rich here. I wrote to just two people I thought might help, and it turns out our friend Kelly (remember the propeller?) knows a LOT about it! Take it, Kelly:

(I am sending this as a return email instead of commenting on the post directly because I included a couple of photos that I couldn't get to show up as a comment.)  

 I collect old cameras too, so I got mine out to take a closer look, and actually, I can answer this.

 Back in the day, before CAD/CAM, they were able to make extremely complicated machined parts, particularly with aluminum, that were as good as the ones made with CAM setups today.  What the CAD and CAM combinations make possible now is the combination of much of the machinist's magic into the design process and the automation of a lot of what required a skilled machinist.  It still takes a skilled machinist to set up the CAM to make a particular part, but once it is set up, the CAM can then make dozens or thousands of parts without the skilled machinist.  So it is very possible that this part could have been machined.  

 Normally, an intricate machined part such as the top part of the Leica is normally machined from a casting and not from a billet.  Normally the starting point is what was called a 'sand casting' in which a 'pattern' [a model] was made usually out of wood and sometimes coated with resin, epoxy or simply paint and then set on a flat surface and then covered in a container with what amounted to wet fine sand which was then compressed, often with wood mallets.  The wood pattern was then removed from the sand, leaving a cavity in the wet sand the shape of the pattern.  They then poured molten metal into the sand and when it cooled, they would wash off all of the sand and have a metal part which was very close to the final part.  That casting would then be further machined for screw threads, sizing, polishing, etc.  You then use the same wood pattern to make the next sand mold for the next casting, and you could usually make a few thousand parts before the pattern was worn or damaged.  

 However, that is not what I think they did here.  I think what they used to make this part was a 'die casting' instead of a sand casting.  A die is machined from a billet of something able to withstand temperatures and abrasion, such as certain types of stainless steel.  Aluminum is poured into the die and then the cooled part is extracted, usually by a special machine.  This casting is then machined to make the final part.  

 The advantage of the die casting process is that you skip having to make a sand mold for each part, you simply pour in metal, pull out the part, pour in metal, pull out the part, etc, and you can make the castings relatively quickly with one die.  The other advantage is that you can make very very fine castings that many people think are machined.  

 The downside is the cost.  A die can cost a few thousand dollars, sometimes over a hundred thousand dollars, to make, but it is good for several thousand castings before it needs to be remachined or replaced.  A sand cast pattern usually costs between a few hundred dollars to maybe a few thousand dollars to make.  Sometimes, particularly for larger parts, they will use several wood patterns of the same part in an automated process. 

 The reason I think this is a die casting is because of the lettering.  To put lettering on a sand casting, they would usually glue on pre-made letters onto the wood pattern or use a steel or wood stamp to press letters into the sand mold after removing the pattern, producing raised letters in the finished part.  In a die casting, the letters are usually (not always) recessed because if the casting is damaged in the extraction, it is easier to clean metal chunks off of the raised lettering on the die than it was to try to dig metal pieces out of recessed lettering in the die.  Also, raised lettering was sometimes easier to machine onto the die.  I understand that sometimes really fine small lettering could be electroplated onto the die surface.  

 Anyway, the Leica part has recessed lettering, some fairly intricate such as the Leica logo, and the serial number, which I think was probably done with an insert into the metal die.  The die casting was probably then machined and polished.  The sides are not perfectly parallel, as they might be on a machined part, but have an almost imperceptible angle which probably facilitated extraction from the die.  The edges are rounded with some compound curves that actually would be very very difficult to machine in a production environment.  On mine, I can see where the corners have some odd rounding that is indicative of dressing and polishing of a casting and not machining.  It was probably a fairly expensive part at the time, being a fairly complicated casting, but the technology was probably on par with companies making carburettors for cars or the housing for aircraft instruments, examples of which I am sure you can think of.  Remember that when new, this Leica probably cost as much as a decent used car, so they could afford a few expensive parts, but I don't think they had to do much to this part, probably tapped a few screw holes, polished the edges and the top, milled the bottom part to mate with the other parts, and probably rubbed paint or ink into the recessed lettering.   

 The newest technology is to use CNC machines to manufacture the die out of graphite instead of steel.  The die is good for only a few hundred castings, but my friend Wayne with the machine shop says that when they make them, the graphite cuts like butter and once you have the programming done for the CNC machine, they can make a graphite die very inexpensively in a few minutes.   His customers are telling him that the resulting casting looks as good or better than a machined part, usually better than the parts coming out of a steel die, but the part cools so fast in the graphite mold that they get a lot of casting imperfections.  The trick seems to be to heat the graphite die up towards a thousand degrees before pouring the part, but they haven't got the technology completely figured out yet, but they have been making aluminum cast parts in steel die molds for sixty or seventy years.  

 Anyway, that's my take on it.  I have included a couple of photos of my Leica.  Mine has the Leica 1.5 lens which is probably a 'bigger and deeper eye' than your Canon lens.  Mine also seems to have a built in light meter and a couple of other frills.  I used to try to take photos with it, but it jammed a few years ago and I haven't tried to fix it yet.  In the photo is an early model HP-12c calculator with a die cast case and a modern SigSauer which are examples of intricate die castings that can be mistaken for machined parts. 

Kelly out

It's half a stop faster than my lens. But look at all those blades in the aperture! That's a sign of a quality lens, because they are more expensive and difficult to make like that, but you get nice circular highlights in out-of-focus areas, not oddly shaped ones as with fewer blades. (My Canon lens has nine blades, also very respectable.) Leica lenses are spendy, very, and fast lenses much more so, I daren't guess what this lens cost from new.

Amazing, that camera (I'd say also a Leica IIIg) is almost a dead ringer for mine. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Grove's wooden watch is not like Washington's wooden teeth

If I wore a watch much, I think I'd get this one. I have a profound weakness for quality design and quality materials, especially natural ones well used.

Grove makes many unusual and sexy things out of wood.

I'm also hooked on their case. It comes in sizes for iPad Mini, iPad Air, and the new thin Macbook. (Though surely many other brand's products will fit in one of them.) This may be the most stylish case I've seen so far.
Update: I got it myself now, and I've gotta say I'm slightly disappointed. Naîvely I thought it would be this mavellous hardwood construction made possible only by modern lasercutting technology, but instead it feels more like felt covered with wood veneer. I expected it to sound like wood when you knocked on it, but it's too soft for that.  It is possible it's the only way it could be done within a certain price/weight limit, but still, sigh.

I love that since it's lasercut, it's not just lines in the wood, each facet is actually totally flat! 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Beethoven, Symphony 5, graphically shown

This is awesome. What a mind these guys must have had to write such beautiful complexity.

Which of the classic composers was it now?... when one of his colleagues refused to let him see the paper music of his new symphony, he simply attended a performance and then went down and wrote down the whole dang thing! Went back the next night to correct any mistakes he'd made. Holy cow.

Ken said: The piece of music that was transcribed was Allegri's Misere which was transcribed by Mozart. The restriction on transcribing was actually the Popes ruling.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Taylor Swift - Shake It Off

I like this song. And I think the video is so funny. Especially the parts where they left in the "takeouts", the bits where it didn't quite go right. The first one I noticed (that one and a couple others may have been acted) is where she has thrown up the scarf, and comes down and lands right over her head and for a second she moves like she can't see and don't know what's happening. There are many. You don't often see that in a culture where perfection is seen as very important. (There is much wisdom in the saying "Perfect is the enemy of Good".)

Oooh, the teacher asks: "So, what is two plus three? Johnny?"
Johnny answers: "Five."
Teacher: "Very good."
Johnny: "'Very good'? That was perfect!"

Friday, June 19, 2015

BlackRapid camera strap review

BlackRapid camera strap review

Camera straps are one of those things which have hardly changed since the birth of cameras. It's just a simple strap which goes up to your shoulder. Okay, now they are wider and made of ballistic nylon, and long ago they were leather. I have a pre-war Rolleiflex double-lens reflex camera with its original strap, it's leather and I can't believe how narrow it is (and how worn). Must be around a centimeter, under half an inch. But the camera is clearly very used indeed, so it seems the strap has held for over half a century.

About seven years ago, I found a one-man company who made a strap called the Y-strap. Unfortunately he has since closed shop. The brilliance of that strap was mostly in the simple idea that you put in on the shoulder opposite the camera, so it wouldn't slide off, and secondly that the camera was mounted in such a way that it would slide on the strap, so in less than a second you could grab it down by your hip and swing it up and fire.

This excellent idea has fortunately been continued by a slightly bigger company called BlackRapid. (Though I can't say if they knew of the Y-strap.) They make several models (admittedly some of them seem to push the raîson d'etre thing a little), and they are all based on the same idea as the Y-strap. But they have added several features, most importantly a big, comfy stretch of padding which rests on your shoulder, so even with a heavy camera and long hours, the risk of discomfort is minimized.

I've bought two: the Yeti, which can carry one or two cameras (one on each side of the body), and the Metro, which is the "compact model" for minimal space use when traveling. I am just trying out the Metro (which of course has the smallest shoulder pad), and even with my heaviest camera and heaviest lens, it feels very comfortable. Of course I can't yet vouch for how it will feel carrying it for five hours, but I can say that it does not at all feel like I'm carrying the heaviest gear I have. And that's just with the most compact strap, so that induces trust.

I found out about this strap from a video on Luminous landscape, and it was mentioned that many of the photographers on their long-range camera expedition were using BlackRapid straps, so clearly the word-of-mouth recommendations are strong.

Note: BlackRapid likes to mount the strap via the tripod thread. But if it fits you better (for example to have the tripod thread free), you can also use either side strap mount, though you may have to use a keyring-ring as go-between. 
Note 2: Some Amazon reviews complain about the prices, but I think those are people who haven't tried them yet. The Metro I think has a quite fair price ($39). The Yeti costs quite a lot more ($99), but when you pack it out: man, it's impressive. That is solid gear, I think you really get a lot for your money. (Of course it's about equivalent of two good straps, plus extras to secure it around the shoulder, I guess in case you're photographing from a plane doing stunts...)
Also the steel bits are kewl. They seem like they could lift a car (I wouldn't be surprised), and they are even nice to look at, with semi-black anodization (similar to Apple's "Space Grey").

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Variations on a cat

I got this shot from TCGirl, her daughter had shot it with cameraphone. I quite like it, love the super-relaxedness of the cat, but maybe there was finger prints on the lens, cuz it's hazy. So I decided to do what I could do with it. I used Snapseed app on iPad (due to my M.E. which keeps me in bed much of the time, an iPad on a floor stand is a blessing for me; I've actually realized that it has become my main computer de facto.). 

So I increased contrast and sharpness, etc, and you see the result in picture number Two, no longer washed out. 

Then I decided to try the "Glamour Glow" filter which I'd used sometimes to help poor skin on models on Domai. (Typical: I paid like $130 for the suite to get the filter on the Mac, on the iPad it's included in a three-dollar editor.) 
Result: it reaches out much more, it's more three-dimensional, it's "glowing", vibrant...   Compared to it, the middle version looks weird, flat. 

But is it a bit too "pop"? (Clicking to see them full size helps.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A nice afternoon in a restaurant

Three very good friends and very old ladies were in a restaurant.

Ida said: "The young people these days don't appreciate a good restaurant any more."

Molly affirmed: "And they are so distracted by their phone toys that their brains hardly function on their own anymore."

Nelly expanded: "Thank god that won't ever happen to us." Then Nelly knocks under the table for good luck. After a second she turns and calls out: "Come in!"

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jane Horrocks

It's all her own voice.

Wallpaper: Magna Carta

[Thanks to Google]
You know what makes a weally weally kool wallpaper: The Magna Carta (large copy).
Not only does it look great, with the subtle tones and wonderful ol' timey scribley text, it also reminds us that there was a time before anybody put on paper than that nobody should be above the law, and that the law should be for the good of the people, not just whatever the current king felt like it should be.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Facebook, the Borg

As an illustration of the "think" of Facebook...
This is the access a BBC app needs on an Android device:

And these are the areas that the Facebook app "needs" access to:

I must admit I decided I could make do with using facebook in a browser if I needed it on Android. 

Is a new Victorian age coming?

Amazon, who I had previously been so happy about not being paranoid about materials with nudity or sexuality, is apparently beginning to hide these more and more, so they don't show up in regular searches, but only via a direct link.
OMG, I really thought the Internet would the death stroke to this mentality.

Annette Kellerman promoting a woman’s right to wear a fitted, one-piece bathing suit in 1907. She was later arrested for indecency.