Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Over/Under on the rise of the machines in 2020?

From Conversation Elsewhere...

I feel like a broken record having to type this again, for probably the fourth or fifth time in the almost fifteen years now this blog's been going, but...
"Buy it cheap and stack it deep when times are good. Be the ant, not the grasshopper.

If you're just now buying your first gun because of 'Rona and looting, you have an excuse.

If you owned a firearm at any time from November 2016 or earlier, and you're not sitting on at least a six month stockpile at your normal rate of consumption,
over and above whatever you deem necessary for a "Break Glass In Case Of Emergency" stash, you have no excuse. You've seen this before.

The American gun owner is (collectively speaking) a panicky, easily-spooked herd animal. Any random headline could cause the throngs to descend on the local ammo shelves like locusts, and then they talk about it online and the online retailers get cleared out by the case lot.

The domestic commercial ammo supply is predicated on the average gun owner buying a box of pistol ammo every month or two to shoot up at the range and a box of long gun ammo once or twice a year for ditto. It's not geared for everyone who owns a gun to run out and buy three cases at once.

"In Boston, we have our hats..."

I've explained the story before, but for the new people, here it is again:

I was in my local gun shop to use the indoor range for the first time since...*checks iPhone photo library*...March 5th, and the first time in the shop since late March or early April.

The place was cleaned out. I didn't go look at the handgun showcases, but it looked like it was down to a handful of high-dollar 1911s and collector revolvers. The walls were nearly bare. A guy came in to buy some ammo and was told that, for the moment, the stocks were so low that they were only selling ammunition for use on the range or along with the purchase of a firearm.

Fortunately, this ain't my first panic, and I've got months of normal shooting with normal calibers to go before I gotta bust into the ammo cans that look like this...

Monday, June 29, 2020

Busy Little Bee

"Making Catnip Honey"
Nikon D3, 105mm f/2.8 AF-D
1/160th @ f/6.3, ISO 400

My photography group's photo assignment for the week was "Macro, or close-up photographs of small scenes."

I'd never done macro photography of live bugs before...heck, I haven't done much macro photography at all...but when I saw the bees on the catnip plant out front, I put my new-to-me 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor lens on the D3 and went out to try my hand at it. I think I managed a couple decent shots for a first try, and it was fun!

The only hard part was that the dew point out there on the porch was 76 degrees* and I had to worry about the lens trying to fog.

I'd seen a lot of reviews talking about how sharp this lens was and, since they were discontinued way back in '06, they're available pretty reasonably.

*71-75 degrees is "Oppressive". 76+ is "Miserable". It was miserable.

Go shoot something you love.

Your Morning Boost!

Another Vanished Landmark

Apparently the iconic John Jovino Gun Shop in New York City went under last month, with the 'Rona being the straw that broke the camel's already-nearly-broken back.
"The rent, he said, is the number one reason for closing. And then the coronavirus, shutting down business. There's also the trouble with regulations, the slow-down in shipments of ammunition, and people buying on the Internet instead of from their local shop. Finally, Charlie said, “I’m old, I’m 74 years old, I was born in 1946, I am old.”

He'll be retiring after this. He hopes to travel, once the restrictions are lifted, and he's getting offers to teach and advise for security firms in Asia. He's considering it. But saying goodbye hasn't been easy.

From Elsewhere...

"Almost no municipal (and damned few state) LE agencies have the resources or wherewithal to actually *test* gear, whether guns or cruisers or whatever. They all either piggyback off testing done by teh feds or one of a handful of large agencies, or else they buy whatever the chief thinks is cool or saw on the cover of Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement in the checkout line at the Piggly Wiggly."
Once the gun companies have your email in their files as "media", you get inundated with email with inane stuff like "Blastomatic is pleased to announce that the Ass Bend, Missouri Police Department has announced that they are adopting the Blastomatic 2000 as their duty sidearm..."

...for all fifteen sworn officers, because the big gun dealer in the next county over is a Blastomatic LE dealer and goes fishing with the ABPD chief on the weekends. Or maybe the chief thought it looked cool when John Wick used one in John Wick Kills Everybody Again, Part VII.

But that's okay, because on BlastomaticFanForum.com there will be a thread cheering the latest conquest by their favorite marque.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Sunday Smith is up!

Go check it out at the other blog!

The internet was a mistake...

Okay, this is the weirdest, most cyberpunk dystopian plot twist to 2020 yet: Apparently the Instagram Influencer/Mommy Blogger/Wellness Coach* world is being swept by a wave of Q-Anon and COVID/5G conspiracy nonsense.

I'm waiting for the first Instagram shots of someone on the beach in Phuket wearing a sponsored bikini and matching anti-5G tinfoil hat ensemble: "Remember to buy Lululemon and fight the harvesting of adrenochrome from innocent babies!"

*throws cards down, pulls chips off table*

That's it. I'm out. This game has officially gotten too dumb to play.

*Well, frankly I'm not surprised when woo breaks out in the "wellness" world.


If you've wanted to try a "Gadget" Striker Control Device on your Glock pistol, Tau Development Group is having their annual Tau Day Sale.

Just use the discount code "TAUDAY2020" at checkout for 20% off and free shipping!

Hard to believe I've been using them for better than half a decade now. I've grown so accustomed to using the Gadget on Glocks that I get decidedly skittish when holstering a 509, P320, or other striker gun without one.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Old bike, old imaging tech...

Here's that 1951 BSA again, this time on Kodak TMax 400, shot with the Nikon F4.

"So...can we have your liver, then?"

NOTE: Best viewed in full screen. Soundtrack's pretty good, too.

Highlight for Spoiler: In the long run, entropy wins.

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #183...

FN 509 Compact MRD in Tactical Dirt Color with a Trijicon SRO and a Streamlight TLR-7 that is fixing to get shot a whole lot to see how it does. (I mean, it's done fine so far, but I'm looking for an excuse to do a bunch more shooting, and here it is.)

All the Megapixels?

Only a dozen megapixels there.
Many years ago, when the talk of the town was the D810, I remember several of my Nikon-shooting friends at first excited to grab one, and then a few months later lamenting their choice. For example, a friend of mine works for Getty and is responsible for shooting celebrities and events in New York. At 36 megapixels in 2013, he found himself with way too many images that were far too large, which complicated his media storage and seriously slowed down his workflow.

These days, 36 megapixels is less of a burden thanks to evolving computer technology, and maybe someday the same can be said for 61 megapixels. But anyone trying to shoot burst images in 61 megapixels today—a touted feature of the a7R IV—will quickly find themselves inundated with a great number of images that are several times larger than their previous camera and require that much more horsepower when it comes to editing them in a program like Lightroom.

All for what? Posting on Instagram?

Don’t make that face, you know it’s true: nearly every image that is taken is posted to social media or put on a website, then tossed into a hard drive never to be seen again. If you’re telling me you are going to print all these images you’re shooting, pardon me, but you know that’s not true. Knowing that, why do you want 61 megapixels?

Given that I do my photo editing on an old 2014 Mac mini at home and a similarly-spec'ed MacBook Air on the road, I've noticed this with the files from the 50MP 5DS, where RAW images can exceed 70MB. ("Hey, Mr. Editor, can we open a shared Dropbox? These images are too big to attach to an email.")

Regarding printed images, I have only a handful of actual physical prints from the last several years' worth of photography, pretty much all 8x10s. Most were 16MP shots with the 1Ds MkII or the OM-D E-M5. They're fine. The linked article's absolutely right in that we normally view photographs on a screen these days, and most frequently on a screen in your hand. You'd need four current 10.2" iPad screens to display a full resolution image from even those old 16MP cameras.

I've used that aforementioned 16MP 1Ds2 for some full-page glossy shots in Concealment magazine, too, but actually my last several photos in there were with the old 12MP Nikon D700, which I intend to use until the shutter falls out. Given that the shutter on mine has less than 50k shutter activations, and there are D700s still chugging along with over a million, it might be a bit before entropy catches up with it. The electronics will likely get wonky first.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Ten Years in an Hour

Time lapse footage of a decade's worth of images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. At the speed of the video, every second is a day.

You can see by the end that we've entered an extremely quiet period for solar activity.

In other news, our planet's magnetic field is acting wonky, but this is 2020, so nothing's really surprising.

Seems Buggy

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Been hittin' this bottle heavily...

The second in Bobbi's "Home Remedies" art project, shot with an old Nikon D3000 and the inexpensive-yet-excellent 35mm f/1.8mm DX lens.

Wait, what?

The Free-Fall Continues...

After a year spent walking back vague statements made by their CEO hinting that Olympus was thinking about exiting the commercial camera business, Olympus announced that they are, in fact, exiting the commercial camera business.
Olympus said it improved cost structure, focused on high-profit cameras and lenses and took other steps to “cope with the extremely severe digital camera market.” Despite those efforts, however, the company said it “recorded operating losses for three consecutive fiscal years up to the term ended in March 2020.”

Olympus had been struggling even before the jump to digital; while their pocket line of 35mm P&S cameras were well regarded, the move to autofocus SLRs in the '90s left the OM line an increasingly niche product: All manual cameras that still appealed to some for their compact size and high-quality M. Zuiko lenses.

They were fast to get into digital, and it looked to give the company a second wind, but they struggled to find a niche in the digital camera world. With the collapse of the point-'n'-shoot market they were left with their bread and butter: compact, retro-styled mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.

Unfortunately, it seems that the benefits offered by the little Micro Four Thirds sensor, namely a small, lightweight camera with compact lenses, aren't outweighing the desires of the dwindling market, which is lusting after bigger sensors. Full-frame is the future and in the camera market's game of musical chairs, it appears there's only one chair for "retro-styled hobbyist mirrorless cameras with smaller-than-35mm sensors", and Fuji's sitting in it.
[T]hey targeted their later range of mirrorless cameras at a middle market - "people who weren't serious photographers - they wanted something better than a point-and-shoot camera, but they didn't want a DSLR camera".

"That market very very quickly got swallowed up by smartphones, and turned out not to exist."

The market for standalone cameras has fallen dramatically - by one estimate, it dropped by 84% between 2010 and 2018.
The company to which they're selling the camera division swears up and down that they're going to streamline the business and continue to advance and support it. But they said that when they bought Sony's VAIO computer division, too, and when's the last time you saw one of those at Best Buy?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Historical Reference

Take As Needed

From Elsewhere...

A friend wrote:
I don't like the term virtue signaling either, and for the same reason. What's even more hilarious are people who use the term liberally against their political opponents, but who themselves are epic virtue signalers to their own peers. I do notice a lot of actual virtue signaling, especially in the past six months, but I think that's mostly because social media turns some types of people into awful people. Or maybe just provides a powerful avenue for awful people to self-identify. Not sure which.
In this case, the medium definitely shapes the outcome. I replied...
Basically, social media allows people to divide themselves into tribes based on opinions and shared values. Social capital in those tribes is then accumulated by espousing those values more extremely than one's peers and being the first and most vocal proponent to shun those who deviate.

It's like watching the history of the Christian church for the first five or six hundred years played at 1000X fast forward, and on an endless loop. 
(With pagan Vandal & Sassanid infiltrators cheering on every divisive opinion.)
If you're in a virtual community defined by concern for social justice, then the person with the most concern for social justice will have the most social capital. If you're in a community defined by being edgy, then the edgiest edgelord is at the top of the heap. You think (Black/Blue) lives matter? Well someone thinks they matter even more than you, you quisling.

*looks around*

How about we give nuclear weapons to the unborn?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


What's the most humiliating moment you've had at a camera store? I ask, because I just experienced mine.

The other day I popped the finished roll of Ilford HP5 in its green & white canister out of the Nikon N80, where I'd been using it to experiment with the red filter, and a roll of Kodak T-Max out of the F4 where I'd been ditto with a yellow filter.

As I'm getting ready to head out the door, I see another green & white canister with no leader sticking out, sitting there on the shelf. It had been behind a camera, and I thought "Huh, another roll of Ilford," and tossed all three canisters in the bag to take to the store.

I hand them to the dude at the lab counter at Roberts on Friday morning, and he tosses them into the envelope, saying "The two black and white rolls will be ready next Friday, and the color will be ready Monday."

"Wait, color?"

"Yeah, this one's Fuji 200 color film."

Ah. The green and white canister I grabbed off the shelf must have been the Fuji. I could have sworn it was Ilford HP5. "I don't even know what's on that color roll, dude. I only use those for test rolls and I can't remember what camera I would have shot that in. It's a mystery roll."

Monday afternoon Roberts sent me the scans off the roll of color film...


I was almost too embarrassed to show my face in the store this morning.

Yes, I'd gone to Holliday Park and shot up most of a roll of color film through a red filter, trying to get dramatic sky behind the ersatz ruins. Because I'm an idiot and didn't keep better track of what film I'd put in the N80.

The funny part is that this isn't even an old 1980's vintage camera with electrical tape over the film window on the back to make up for light leaks caused by dodgy old seals around the window.

I got this camera from a friend who'd used it less than twenty years ago for work stuff, and the film window is uncovered because it doesn't leak. I'd just glanced at the window, saw "green & white", and thought "HP5"...because surely I wouldn't have Fujicolor 200 in a camera for anything other than a test roll.


I hate to use the term "virtue signaling" because it's one of those words and phrases, like "privilege" or "feminism" or "racism", that's been divorced from its original meaning and is swung blindly as a cudgel by low-information ignoramii in online culture wars, but it's entirely appropriate in this case.

As you've no-doubt heard by now from various enraged kulturkampfers, a re-boot of Warner Brothers' classic Looney Toons is going to strip Elmer Fudd, hapless wabbit hunter, of his shotgun and Yosemite Sam, the rootin'-est tootin'-est pistolero in the West, of said pistols.

Instead, Yosemite Sam will roam the Old West with sickles and Elmer will hunt wabbits with that traditional hunting implement, the scythe.
"The show will stay true to the spirit of the original, while reflecting modern sensibilities, the EP said. What does that mean exactly? Maaaaany sticks of dynamite, elaborate booby traps and cannons-at-close range will very much be in play, in addition to the requisite anvils, bank safes and pianos that famously fall on unsuspecting heads."
Strictly speaking, the bit about reflecting modern sensibilities is true. Leaving the "maaaaany sticks of dynamite" in is accurate, since the target audience's mommies and daddies are way more likely to have been blown up with IEDs than shot with small arms fire.

I also note that, while we are apparently trying to protect children from seeing images of Elmer wielding Joe Biden's approved home defense weapon in a cartoonish or comedic fashion, Mr. Fudd's speech impediment is still treated as hilarious. How retrograde.

(EDIT: To clarify, it's not about the guns being essential to the funny; it's the big, virtue-signaling deal being made of it that's hilarious.
I mean, the funniest, most epic Bugs v. Elmer cartoon ever had Elmer wielding a spear to 🎶 kill the wabbit, KILL THE WABBIT! 🎶)

Automotif CLXX...

A 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 spotted over at 56th & Illinois. Just enough patina to suggest a well-cared for (but not pampered) original that sees frequent use, but not in winter.

I suppose it could be an L78, but it's most likely the more pedestrian L34.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Front Porch Safari

Lightly cropped from the original

I've been wanting to get shots of a chipmunk for a while, but the little critters are so wary and so fast. Normally just the act of turning your head to look at one will send it streaking into the nearest concealment at top speed. They're like quantum squirrels: The act of observing them alters their velocity and position.

Yesterday's front porch safari with the 5DS and 100-400 glass finally paid off. It was raining and one settled in on the neighbor's front porch to enjoy a snack. I brought the camera to my eye slowly while looking away from it then turned my head. As I suspected, it didn't panic over a camera lens the way it would over a pair of eyeballs. The minute I lowered the camera, it scarpered.

Screen grab off a 100% crop in p-shop.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Books Report

Last week I sat down and tore through Marko's latest novel, Ballistic, mostly in two marathon sessions.

The story is moving along, Aden is integrating well with the crew of the Zephyr and wondering if he should come clean with his ersatz family, and at the same time finally sees his sister and we get some backstory about the origins of his bad blood with his Captain of Industry dad. (Now we know why there aren't many Fathers Day cards sent in the Ragnar household.)

There's a bit intrigue and shady dealings for our happy-go-lucky smugglin' crew, and the tough sergeant character we'd been following in the Gretian occupation forces gets some uncomfortable revelations. All in all, there's the sense of pieces being moved into place for some major denouements in book three, Citadel, due out next year.

That's the source of the only real complaint, if you can call it that, in the reviews of the Palladium Wars series.

These aren't standalone novels, in the tradition of Weber's Honor Harrington books or David Drake's adventures of Leary & Mundy.  The atmosphere of Marko's series feels heavily influenced by modern TV sci-fi, and it's best to think of each of the novels so far as being a piece of a story arc equivalent to about three-to-five episodes of The Expanse, rather than a self-contained "monster of the week" episode of Firefly.

Having finished Ballistic, I'm now settling down to finish off 1493.

Fraktured Fairy Tales

How had I not seen the official video of Rammstein's "Sonne" before? It's so...German.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Automotif CLXIX...

Pulled the Zed Drei over to the shoulder of Illinois St. to grab a pic of this 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham. This was the last year before they were downsized to the 108-in. wheelbase G-bodies that were the final hurrah of V8 rear wheel drive Cutlasses.

1976 and '77 Cutlasses are distinguishable from the '73-'75 models by the rectangular headlights, which were actually illegal on vehicles in the US from 1940 until the mid 1970s.

The clean white Cutlass being half in shadow and half in sun proved a bit of a dynamic range challenge for the sensor in the old D700. I had the F5 loaded with Ektar 100 along as well and took a couple nearly identically composed shots. It'll be interesting to see how the film turns out.

Way to take one for the team, Amy.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Fight Club

Now this is pretty hardcore:
"She awoke to the sound of a bear approaching her," Foy said. "It immediately attacked."

The bear scratched the young woman's arms and legs, but then it began to bite her leg. Her wounds were not life-threatening.

"The only weapon she had was her laptop. She hit the bear with it and stunned it long enough to escape inside the house," Foy said.

"She fought back vigorously, which is what you should do with any wildlife in California.
What laptop for bear? This is where you'd want a good, solid 15"-17" gaming laptop with a hefty battery, and not some flimsy little 13" airweight glorified tablet with a keyboard.


(Sorry, about the above string of nonsense characters. Holden leapt onto the keyboard while I'd stepped away for a moment. Although I note he closed his brackets, which makes him a more fastidious typist than the average denizen of social media these days.)

Controlling the money supply...

The Wikipedia article on Yapese rai stones is fascinating:
"Although the ownership of a particular stone might change, the stone itself is rarely moved due to its weight and risk of damage. The names of previous owners are passed down to the new one. In one instance, a large rai being transported by canoe and outrigger was accidentally dropped and sank to the sea floor. Although it was never seen again, everyone agreed that the rai must still be there, so it continued to be transacted as genuine currency. What is important is that ownership of the rai is clear to everyone, not that the rai is physically transferred or even physically accessible to either party in the transfer. In this, the rai stone monetary system can be thought as an early example of a distributed ledger, similar to those used in modern days blockchain technology. 
In 1871, the Irish-American David Dean O'Keefe was shipwrecked near Yap and was helped by the natives. Later, he assisted the Yapese in acquiring rai and in return received copra and trepang, which were valuable exports in the Far East. O'Keefe provided the Yapese with iron tools. As a result, a form of inflation set in and rai stones acquired with his help were less valuable than more ancient ones."

Thursday, June 18, 2020

"Cocking the hammer on her Glock with a click!..."

That's some sexy Nikon F5 product placement in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. When the movie came out in May of 1997, the F5 had been on the market for a year and was still the $3,000+ king of the camera hill. 3D color matrix metering, five autofocus points, built-in motor drive that could shoot at eight frames per second; the marketing slogan was "Imported From the Future".

There's one problem with the scene above, where the camera reaches the end of the roll of film and suddenly starts rewinding, startling the baby dinosaur by making the whirring mechanical buzz everyone in the theater would have been familiar with as "camera rewinding film".

Well, two problems, actually.

The first is that the F5 didn't automatically rewind its film at the end of a roll. You needed to tell it when you wanted it to rewind. As a matter of fact, since inadvertently bumping a rewind button at the wrong time could be an expensive disaster for a pro photographer, it required a complicated hand jive involving a shielded button and a locked lever at opposite sides of the camera's back. (This survives in the two-button setup to format cards in Nikon's pro digital bodies.)

The second is the noise the camera makes as it rewinds. Like I said above, everyone in the theater would know what it was because it was the sound Uncle Fred's Kodak made when he was done with a roll of film at cousin Suzy's birthday party. That's why the foley artist put it in there; it's the stock "camera rewinding" noise.

The Nikon F5, on the other hand, has a film transport so silent that unless you're in a very quiet room, you won't hear the camera rewinding at all. Other than the faint vibration in your hand, there will be no clue that the camera is silently whirring the film back into the canister for processing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Overheard in the Kitchen...

Me: "Dammit!
RX: "What's wrong?" 
Me: "There's not a cloud in the sky.
RX: "That's the first time I've heard someone say that in a disappointed tone."
See, I had plans to go to Holliday Park this morning fairly early with a wide-angle lens, a red filter, and a Nikon full of black & white film to take pictures of the ruins with a dramatic sky for a background. Looks like that's getting put off until tomorrow morning.

Showing up with lube would be inappropriate and awkward.

Automotif CLXVIII...

Sunbeam Alpine, Nikon F5, Ilford Pan F Plus

Annoying Terminology...

Two phrases often used in journalism get under my skin because of the ignorance in which they are rooted.

The first is when it's intoned that someone shot "an unarmed man". There's no requirement that someone be armed or not to use lethal force. You may reasonably believe they are armed. You may reasonably believe they are trying to become armed. You may know they are are unarmed and yet still have a reasonable belief that they still present an immediate, otherwise unavoidable, threat of death or grievous bodily harm to yourself or another innocent individual.

Actually, that latter part is the whole nut of whether deadly force is legal or not: Do you have a reasonable belief that they present an immediate, otherwise unavoidable, threat of death or grievous bodily harm to yourself or another innocent individual? If so, their actual status of being armed or not is immaterial.

The other annoyance is when the newsreader breathlessly intones that "the death has been ruled a homicide." Well, no duh, Sherlock. We all saw him shoot the guy right there on video, and he was delivered to the coroner full of bullet holes, so we didn't need to wait on the official ruling from the medical examiner to know this; that was just a formality.

All "homicide" means is that a dude was killed by another dude, as opposed to dying of natural causes or being hit by a mysterious piano falling out of a cloudless sky. It's not a criminal ruling. It's up to the legal system to determine if the homicide was a justified one or not.

Monday, June 15, 2020

A glimpse of the past...

Now and again The Onion shows a little spark of the wit that used to make it consistently fire back in the Web 1.0 days...
"While Sheila does enjoy our extended line of breakfast foods, that is only one small facet of her rich and complex identity as a human being: Sheila also speaks fluent Italian, likes U2, is bisexual, and enjoys cross-country skiing. Let us make it clear that Sheila never serves the pancakes herself, but now and then goes to a diner near the courthouse where waitresses and waiters of a variety of races serve them to her.”"
Maybe someday it will ascend back to its former glory and not leave the Babylon Bee and Duffleblog to carry the load. Satire is getting increasingly hard in this ever more ridiculous cyberpunk dystopia.


There's a dude in the neighborhood who's been here at least as long as I have, and on nice days over these last dozen years the curb in front of his house has been graced by a succession of cool and eclectic bikes, mostly British or Italian.

Yesterday I stopped and parked my bicycle to get shots of this 1951 BSA with the RX100 in my shirt pocket...

I had the Nikon F4 along as well, loaded with Ilford HP5 black & white film, but it'll be a while before we can see those...

The latest battle in the hashtag wars...

Apparently the K-Pop division flanked the QBoomer corps and pushed them into the sea in the battle of the hashtags...
"For some reason, K-Pop fans decided to start tweeting popular QAnon hashtags like “#QAnon” and “#WWG1WGA,” shorthand for the conspiracy theory’s slogan “Where we go one, we go all.” Understandably, this was more than a little frustrating for the Q-obsessed conspiracy theorists. Hilariously, this resulted in even more conspiracy theories involving George Soros and antifa to explain the surge in K-pop tweets including the QAnon hashtags."
Imagine trying to explain any of this to your 1999 self.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Hey, look!

There's a new Sunday Smith post up at the poor, oft-neglected other blog!

This post brought to you with the assistance of History of Smith & Wesson and Smith & Wesson Hand Guns. (The latter work, by the way, is a delightful period piece originally published in 1945 and an absolute steal in the Kindle version at a dollar ninety-nine.)

Automotif CLXVII...

1969 Chevy Camaro RS/Z28 parked out in front of the Safeway at 56th Street & Illinois Avenue. My headcanon says the original owner popped for the dealer-installed crossram dual-4bbl intake setup, but I didn't wait around for the driver to get back to see if they'd pop the hood. It motored off while I was coming back out of the store with my Ruffles and French onion dip.

It's days like this I'm glad I bother to drag a real camera around with me.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Pöpcýcle Fïsh!

Found on Facebook, with help from a friend...

Holden approved!

Holden doesn't look to be a purebred example of any of the three main cold-weather landraces: Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest Cat, or Siberian, although one or the other of his parents likely was. I've taken to just referring to him as a Northern Floofloaf.

He's got the dense multilayered coat and ear tufts, as well as the big furry paws, complete with tufts of fur between his toes that give him often hilariously terribad traction on hardwood floors when pursuing Huck.

Itch Scratched...

I was wracking my brain trying to tell Bobbi the name of the story that had H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard as traveling companions across the prairies of Hell in the afterlife.

It was "Gilgamesh in the Outback", by Robert Silverberg, in the shared-universe anthology book, Rebels in Hell.

That's the book in the series that also has Martin Caidin's "There Are No Fighter Pilots Down In Hell", which is a must-read for aviation geeks, being a tale of a "Devil Went Down to Georgia"-style duel between said Devil and the (fictional) greatest 'Murrican fighter pilot ever, with the stakes being the souls of all the fighter pilots, which are held in Limbo by the power of the titular song.

Anyway, back to "Gilgamesh in the Outback"... Apparently Silverberg had so much fun writing it, that he wrote two succeeding novellas in the setting, and the three are available combined into standalone novel form as To the Land of the Living.

Automotif CLXVI...

'86-'89 third generation (A70) Toyota Supra, which is maybe my favorite, appearance-wise. It also remains affordable relative to the increasingly-unobtainium 1990s-vintage A80 Supras.

Normally-aspirated ones were reasonably quick for their time, with a DOHC 3-liter straight six putting out 200bhp.

The A70s were just a little on the plush side, and just a little too lardy, to be considered sports cars, as though they were constantly reminding you of the "+2" part of "2+2". Think of it as a Japanese Camaro RS, with the Turbo version being a Tokyo-edition IROC-Z.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Overheard in the Office...

I'm sitting at my desk, Bobbi is down the hall in the tub. Suddenly I hear a voice from the bathroom!
RX: "Can you bring me a pencil?" 
Me: "A what?!?
RX: "A pencil. There's one stuck in the wooden block mounted over my desk..." 
Me: "Sure, yeah, I mean... I heard you, it's just that I've been on this planet just over half a century at this point and that's literally the first time I've ever had someone in a bathtub ask me to bring them a pencil."
(She needed to mark a particularly annoying vocabulary error in the book she was reading, not scrawl a new geometrical proof on the bathroom wall.)


Unlike Ilford's page explaining the use of colored filters with B&W film photography, Hoya's page actually gives photographic illustrations rather than just text.

Come to think of it, it's weird that Ilford's page doesn't include illustrations, since they're basically in the "illustrating things" business.

Anyway, this is triggered by the arrival of a Tiffen 77mm Red 25 filter here on my front porch.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Not Exactly Sunshine and Buttercups

Yesterday before lunch I finished The Last President, which is the final book in the Daybreak trilogy.

I'll just make three spoiler-free comments:

  1. While the author is no bloodthirsty GRRM, he's not afraid to whack a viewpoint character to whom he's let you get good and attached.
  2. While there are a couple of straight-up good guys and one or two boo-hiss villainous characters, most everyone on every side is pretty three-dimensional. Sometimes you find yourself cheering for characters you'd started out viewing as mustache-twirling bad guys...and vice-versa.
  3. I did not see that ending coming. Heck, I didn't even really see the middle coming. This is no formulaic set-piece a la Stephen King's The Stand.

Also, social media groupthink scares me worse now than ever before.

It works!

Roberts uploaded scans from my test roll in the F4 and there weren't any light leaks & exposures looked good.
Slow shutter speed with the 50mm f/1.4 wide open & 200 speed film

Looks like it's good to go!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


I wish I'd grabbed an F4 back when the film camera market was at its bottom, back around 2014 or so. Secondhand camera sellers like KEH were knee-deep in good condition used ones for not much over a hundred bucks. Now it's looking like even scuffed ones, like the...er, "well-loved" sample above from Roberts, are going for $200 and up.

The reason I wanted one is because it's a neat camera to have if you like Nikon's pro cameras; it's the first Nikon pro body with autofocus and automated film handling.

The reason I didn't want to pay much for it is because it wasn't going to see a whole lot of use. I already have an F5, which has an autofocus system that is loads faster and more accurate and is my most frequently used film camera.

Also, while the F4 still has old-school dials for things like shutter speed and exposure compensation and you still need to use the aperture ring to adjust the aperture manually rather than spinning a control wheel, it's still way automated and electronic so it doesn't scratch the same itch as my MMM* Nikon FM2n. So it's more historically interesting to me than anything; it's like having a black powder revolver that you take to the range only rarely because it's a hassle, but it's still neat.

Right now I'm waiting on the test roll to get processed down at Roberts. I'm not a huge fan of plain old Fujicolor 200, but they carry 3-packs of the stuff at Meijer's, CVS, Walgreens...heck, even at Amazon, so it makes for a reasonably inexpensive and easy way to check a new film camera for light leaks or shutter issues.

If the test roll turns out good, I'll throw a roll of Ektachrome in it and go have some fun.

*Metal, Mechanical, Manual


From a conversation elsewhere...

Part of the problem with social policy here in America is that it is conducted like a South Pacific Cargo Cult. We looked around and saw that the majority of successful people owned their own homes and had college degrees, so we figured that if we grabbed any old slacker and subsidized them a home and a college degree, then they, too, would become successful. It's got cause and effect completely out of whack.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Tab Clearing...

Outside Commentary on the "Abolish MPD" Movement

There's a lot of Big Rock Candy Mountain fantasizing going on with this "abolish the Minneapolis Police Department" idiocy...

Annette Evans of On Her Own noted that this is:
"The drive to feel safe without considering being safe, on a societal scale."
Which is spot on. It's the politico-legal equivalent of keys between your fingers.

Another friend offered an astute observation:
The homogeneity of the Minneapolis government surprised me. The very same individuals who have been selling themselves as extra-full of compassion and antiracism have also been personally and exclusively in charge of the MPD for the last twenty years. And now they are acting as though it's some sort of invasive species they have never seen before and are shocked, shocked I tell you, to suddenly observe it in their midst unbidden.

They can disband the MPD all they want, they still made it themselves.

It's like "My car, with me in the driver's seat, just ran a red light and hit the school bus? Naughty car! I'll just trade that thing in right away!"

Monday, June 08, 2020

Maybe you didn't think this through?

Plumbing new depths of tone-deafness...

Continuing Reading

Given the events of 2020 so far, with memes seemingly taking a life of their own and animating crowds in the streets for everything from Re-Open protests to the George Floyd marches, Bobbi recommended that I read a book titled Directive 51.

I started it on Wednesday, having finished up The Dogs of War, and as of last night I'm almost done with the second book of the trilogy, Daybreak Zero.

I really wish that dystopian post-apocalyptic SF didn't have such a "TORN FROM TODAY'S HEADLINES!" vibe these days.

Social Experiment

Jeremiah Ellison, city councilman for Ward 5, tweeted a similar message Thursday, writing, "We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. And when we're done, we're not simply gonna glue it back together. We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response."
This would have interesting second-order effects. I am looking forward to the flourishing of a vigorous Minneapolis outlaw street racing scene.

Also, every Libertarian in Minneapolis who's ever been told "If you think that would be so great, why not just move to Somalia?" is in danger of dying of irony poisoning.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Unexpected Literary Subgenre

Via a current piece at DNYUZ, "The Agonizing Question: Is New York City Worth It Anymore?", I was made aware that there's practically an entire subgenre of essays consisting of farewell letters to the Big Apple.
"The literature may be thin when it comes to “See ya, Chicago” or “Later, Los Angeles” odes, but ever since Ms. Didion set the standard 46 years ago, the “Goodbye New York” essay has become a de rigueur career move for aspiring belle-lettrists. It is a theme that has been explored continuously over the years by the likes of Meghan Daum in The New Yorker and Luc Sante in The New York Review of Books.

Lately, the “Goodbye” essay has found renewed life, as a new generation of writers works out its love-hate relationship with the city in public fashion. Recently, opinion-makers like Andrew Sullivan and David Byrne have scribbled much-discussed New York-is-over essays; literary-minded Generation Y writers have bid not-so-fond farewells to the city on blogs like Gawker and The Cut; and a dozen-plus writers, including Dani Shapiro and Maggie Estep, published elegies to their ambivalence toward New York in “Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York,” an anthology published last month.
Which makes sense, when you think about it. Gotham is a magnet for writers of every stripe, and deciding to leave it would be the sort of thing about which a writer would feel compelled to write.

(h/t to The Online Photographer)

The Dreadtone!

There's a pharmaceutical commercial on TV that has a gentle piano soundtrack in the background. Thing is, the first chord on the piano soundtrack is the same note as the opening music NBC uses to announce a breaking news report, so my spinal-cord level reaction on hearing the commercial start from a room away is "Oh, Christ, what's blown up now?"

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Disqualified Opinions

You can't talk out one side of your mouth about how you proudly never watch the "mainstream media" and then out the other side, claim that the "mainstream media" is ignoring thus-and-such.

Obsessive Silliness...


Insert comment about "'Viral' is born, not made."

Friday, June 05, 2020

Hey, I know that dude!

Prof. David Yamane of Gun Culture 2.0 is interviewed on the topic of "COVID & Guns".

War Correspondent

At least with a pro grade camera like a 1DX Mark II, he could have swung back at the dude with the crowbar and jacked him up pretty good.

It's risky business getting out there to get the shot.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Quelle Surprise!

In news that will come as a shock to absolutely nobody with a Netflix account, the Hillsborough County, Florida Sheriff says that the will left by Carole Baskins' vanished husband is faker than pro wrestling.
"They had two experts deem it 100 percent a forgery. But, we knew that...we knew that before," Chronister told 10 Tampa Bay.

According to Chronister, the problem was that the statute of limitations had expired for any crime related to the will.

"The will had already been executed at that point," Chronister told Brightside anchor Rob Finnerty. "But, it certainly cast another shadow of suspicion, by all means."

Overheard in the Office...

Me: (seated in front of computer when brainstorm hits) "Wonderpants!
RX: (down the hall, getting ready for work) "That is such an obvious name for underwear that surely it is a thing that already exists. Probably in both 'o' and 'u' spellings." 
Me: "Hang on... Yup, the 'o' spelling is boutique underthings out of Australia and... Ehrmagerd, I got as far as typing 'wunder' in the search bar before Siri suggested 'wunderpus photogenicus', which is the most wonderful name for a critter ever and...whoah! Octopus strangulation!"

More like being a war correspondent than usual...

1992 me rode around downtown Atlanta leaning out the passenger window of a friend's Dodge Daytona Turbo Z with a roll of high-speed Kodak Gold 1600 film in my Canon AE-1 Program.

2020 me thought briefly about grabbing a DSLR, bump helmet, and ballistic goggles before deciding that nah, I don't want none of this.


"The year after I graduated from high school, Kodak commanded 90% of film sales and 85% of camera sales in the United States. When I was in Photo School, it had 145,000 employees worldwide and was described as "the bluest of the blue chips," blue chip being a term for a dependable investment.
Kodak's peak year was 1996, believe it or not.

Kodak, according to Wikipedia, doesn't even have six thousand employees worldwide anymore. And their film business, such as it is these days, is actually a separate British company called "Kodak Alaris", created when the rapid collapse of the film titan and resulting bankruptcy triggered a multibillion dollar claim from the UK Kodak Pension Plan.

Kodak was even at the forefront of digital imaging*, but managed to fumble an early lead because nobody envisioned just how quickly the film market would collapse. Digital was definitely second fiddle to the film cash cow in Rochester, right up until said cash cow abruptly died.

*Remember the clunky lungfish that was the Apple QuickTake 100 back in '94, with its pixellated 640x480 images? That was made by Kodak.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Book Review

"10 weeks ago a crack mercenary unit was evacuated from Biafra for a war they didn't win. These men promptly scattered back to their homelands or to the Paris underground. Today, still unemployed but looking for a contract, they intend to continue being soldiers of fortune. If you have a coup to launch, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the Cliché-Team."
I just finished re-reading Frederick Forsythe's The Dogs of War, which is, along with The Wild Geese, probably the definitive Seventies mercenary novel.

Understand going in that this is a lot more of a novel of intrigue and the mechanics of setting up a mercenary operation than it is an action novel of small unit combat. The actual portions of the story that generate spent brass and what novelists persist in referring to as "cordite" smoke take place in the last dozen pages or so.

The characters in the mercenary outfit are like a group of friends rolled up a party for a Top Secret game back in the day, hence my opening paragraph.
Curt: "Okay, my guy's gonna be German, and he's a smuggler, so I'm putting the most points in Knowledge and Deception." 
Mark: "I'm gonna have a huge dude with massive Strength and Life Level. He'll be a Belgian dude nicknamed 'Tiny' who's, like, a wizard with a bazooka." 
John: "My character's this really high-dexterity wiry little Corsican dude, who's got mob connections and I'm putting all my skill points into knife-fighting. His trademark is carrying a big-ass Bowie knife everywhere that he keeps razor sharp."
Along the way you get a look at buying weapons and equipment legally and illegally, smuggling Schmeissers, forging End User Certificates, and all the stuff that eventually became tropes in novels of the type.

There's plenty of intrigue, the plot steps along nicely, and the outcome is always in doubt. Also, the ending is still one of the more unexpectedly jarring ones I've read.

Recommended reading.


Nikon F5, Ilford HP5


I don't mind you BSing me a little bit, Mister President, but don't you ever pander to me like I'm some sort of gullible imbecile.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Forever Altered

Picking up some rolls of film from the local shop can be fraught with memories sometimes...

These negatives are precious to me now. This was Rannie's second-to-last trip to the vet. The silver halide particles on the negatives were forever altered by the photons that bounced off Miss Rannie Wu...just like I was.

The negatives bear physical witness in a way no digital sensor can.

What a catastrophe!

This Current Year was already awful but now it's just getting gratuitous.

Pestilence, plagues of locusts, Japanese murder hornets coming over here and taking jobs away from decent hardworking American murder hornets, police brutality, riots, and now that bitch Carole Baskins has Joe Exotic's zoo...
Carole Baskin, whose longstanding feud with Joe Exotic was chronicled in the hit Netflix docuseries "Tiger King," has been awarded the zoo once owned by her nemesis.

An Oklahoma judge ruled in favor of Baskin's Big Cat Rescue Corporation Monday in its lawsuit against the Greater Wynnewood Development Group, LLC, (GWDC). The latter company once was owned by Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage.
The order gives Baskin control of about 16 acres of land in Garvin County, Oklahoma, that is home to an animal park with an array of big cats.