Friday, February 26, 2010

Rhodia, Record-Setting, and Rubbing Alcohol

Real Life is keeping me from stringing together more than a few sentences at a time these days, but just to prove that I'm still breathing, a Little Flower Petals-inspired Update Just to Update...
  • I'm not big on shilling stuff, but if you use fountain pens -- and if you use your hands to write with, you owe it to them to get one -- you should without delay lay those selfsame hands upon a Rhodia pad of some kind. You might remember that I carry one of these around for random NaNoWriMo scribblings. As my everyday-use pen went inexplicably missing for about six weeks, I had to switch over to another in my collection, a Parker something-or-other that redefines the phrase wet writer. To compare it to a fire hose of ink would be disingenuous to fire hoses. It bleeds through just about everything, necessitating writing with the nib upside down, to get a finer line and slow the tidal wave of Quink. Except on the Rhodia paper. There's a bit of drying time as the ink sits there on top, trying its damnedest to feather or bleed or soak through... and it simply cannot. I'm not sure what crazy French faerie magic was involved in making this stuff, but it's astounding. I've seen them in the U.S. at both Borders book stores and at larger Target stores, and of course, online is always an option. Their (oddly-named IMHO) "web notebook" looks like a serious contender for the Moleskine throne, without the notorious Moleskine paper-quality issues. Pricey yes, but considering that you can write on both sides of the generous amount of pages, likely less than you would pay in equivalent Moleskines. Once I work through my backlog of other notebooks, I may go solely over to the orange and black for portable paper happiness.
  • Speaking obliquely of NaNoWriMo, my transcribing has fallen by the wayside thanks to the Olympics, or so goes my excuse. I regret not being able to get the Canadian coverage of the games, as they tend to be 100% complete with 100% less inane chatter. Although I'm thrilled to hear the announcers point out when athletes set personal records in the games: I don't remember that from years past. As parents of a couple of sport-engaged kids, we're always telling them how important setting a PR is vs. placing first, or scoring the highest, or whatever. It's an unexpected burst of civility amongst the televised flag-waving, and I appreciate it. (Though I'm still skipping over the longer cross-country skiing events. Zzzzz.)
  • My issues with the vintage camera have changed. I'm trying to flush out all the old gunk that's floating around the mechanisms with regular alcohol baths. (For the shutter, not for me, though it's tempting.) Camera shutters were designed to run "dry," that is, without any lubricants in the way, much like the segment of a typewriter (look! hobby confluence!) After having to break out the solvents to remove the front lens, though, some of the stuff sloshed around and is now gumming up the works. Sigh. This is a common problem, and one typically resolved by taking apart the shutter, cleaning all the bits, and reassembling. Ha. I'm sticking with my soak-and-dump-and-wipe technique. It runs great when it's soaked, so I know this is just a gunk issue -- once the solvent evaporates, it leaves a fine layer of yuck behind, and that's what's jamming it all up. I'm accepting all donations of patience.
  • Also: advice to potential restorers: rubbing alcohol is not good to use. It contains oils and other additives that will make things worse in the end. I'm using 90% alcohol from the pharmacy, the other 10% is water, which I force out by leaving the assembly in a sealed plastic bag with a couple of those dessicant pouches you seem to get in all electronics purchases these days. A dry, clean shutter is a happy, snappy shutter.
  • One more bit of camera thrills: run, don't walk and check out this hand-built SLR (single-lens reflex) camera body. I'm still picking up my jaw from the floor. Also, my own foray into bellows restoration has proceeded just as far as it was nearly two years ago. That is: I've written about it, and then left things sitting on the shelf in my "good intentions, hard execution" pile. I've since found an easier way to work out the bellows-making, though I'm now considering following the examples from our home-brew camera maker and the folks in this flickr topic and rolling my own out of the shutter and lens from the big Autographic (seen here with the bellows removed.) I may raid the boy's Lego collection a la M. Moon to make the support infrastructure, and using a little black foam-core for all the dark bits. Check back in two years to see if I've made any progress, won't you? Joe V, I'm always looking to you to raise the photographic bar. I expect a full report on how you've done this exact thing forthwith.
  • Hey, #typosphere, have you signed up for a pen pal yet? What about working on your submission for Silent Type 2: Electric Boogaloo? Consider this your nag. The pen pal project aspires to be something more successful that my own disaster-fraught attempt (Traveling Type, anyone?) The mere fact that someone has sent a letter and someone else has received it already puts its success rate well above my own. And what about your poems? I've even got my wife to play along, so now you simply have no excuse. (Note: not because she's isn't creative or brilliant or lovely -- she's all three, in great number -- but because she looks upon the t-sphere with mild amusement and head-shaking futility. Her poem reflects that.)
  • And finally, I think my work PC desperately needs a set of these.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Design Decisions

20100212 typecast pt1
Agfa Jsolette/Isolette
20100212 typecast pt2
Tiny screws from an Agfa Isolette

Typed on an Olympia SM-9
Olympia SM-9

UPDATE: Obviously, patience won the day. After letting it soak for a while in alcohol and working the lens a bit more, the little bugger has come free. I'm facing an evening with cotton swabs and toothpicks to get all the nasty stuff out of the crevices, but I'm over the moon that a project actually worked with little more than a couple of cuts.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lo-Fi Update

More from the digital keychain cam. The best shots seem to be the ones I plan the least: I've discovered that the lens (if you can call it that) is sitting off-center in the housing of the camera, so any attempt I make to line up a shot is doomed to fail. I'm forced to just shoot and move, shoot and move... I don't know if I'd call the experience "Zen" but it's certainly a pleasure, trying to spot those scenes that would make an interesting shot, and then seeing how the camera "interprets" that vision.

One rule I've made for myself is "no correction or cropping." Except for the occasional black and white conversion, these shots are "SOOC," or "straight out of the camera." I'm not a purist about photographs, and I believe a little conscious tweaking of parameters or exposure times or filters is part of the art form that is photography. I am not a photojournalist, and I am not documenting without introducing my own prejudice into the images. The selection of a subject and the first cut of photos to save or rejectt introduces my own bias. Instead, I consider this exercise a surrender of control and an embracing of chance, a challenge for myself to see the unexpected and the unusual even in my familiar daily walk. All of the shots I've posted in this series are from the same four-block area around my office building. Ever time I set out with the camera in my pocket, I feel like I've exhausted the possibilities: that I've shot everything there is to shoot. Luckily, I've been wrong each time.

Vanishing Point

Off Road Vehicle

The Geometry Overhead

Red House



Piercing the Clouds



Friday, February 5, 2010


So I've gone and signed up with Twitter, solely to throw a vote or two in the Shorty Awards for best Twitter feed (I'm hooked on MarsRovers.) I still don't Get It Fully, as the kind of people with which I exchange messages don't have hyper-developed thumbs from life on a smart phone's keypad. I know this has been brought up before within our circle, but being neither a celebrity in need of ego boosting nor a robotic probe in need of Congressional funding, I don't see what normal mortals use the service for.

It's been pointed out that once upon a time, in select parts of the world, mail service was far more frequent than today, providing an analog (or analogue) for email. I refuse to believe this is like tweeting -- mail is a personal one-to-one correspondence with no length limits, Twitter is a simulcast of tiny info-bursts, with no clear recipient in mind. I'm just now realizing the brilliance of the service's name, as wandering through the site brings to mind the cacophony of tromping through an exotic bird enclosure, with each brightly-plumed resident trying to out-shout the others in search of a mate. Maybe I'm looking at Twitter all wrong. Maybe I should be using this a a means to disseminate my DNA, if you know what I mean. My wife may take issue, though.

A little quick searching makes it appear that the "hashtag" #typosphere is previously unknown on the service. (A search of #typewriter finds many a keycutter, I don't recommend hunting there if you're squeamish or prone to anger. Sadly, I'm both.) I'm certainly not one to encourage a me-too attitude -- just because I'm jumping off a bridge doesn't mean you should do it -- but if you're already out there in the jungle amid all the other twits, give a shout to #typosphere and maybe we'll all land in the same friendly tree.