My Wheels – Chapter 5
1952 Ford

1952 Ford advertisementThe fellow who drove my Mercury in that demolition derby was named Terry. He lived in the same town as my grandparents and had been a frequent passenger on the J. C. Higgins bicycle with the pseudo-fins on the carrier. When we got a little older, I was a frequent passenger on the back of his Zundapp motorcycle and we were both frequent passengers in each other’s cars. In Terry’s case that was a 1952 Ford.

Through much of high school, Terry worked in a filling station pumping gas. He got paid a little money but we all know that the real reason was so he had a place to work on his car. Unlike me, Terry was meticulous. He rebuilt and repainted the flathead V8. He sanded and taped the car and worked out a deal to get it painted. He installed new seat covers and added seat belts; Not because they were required — they weren’t — but because they were cool and a good idea. He was pretty much at the end of his project list and had his sights on another car when the Mercury started worrying me a little. I don’t recall what it was that Terry replaced the Ford with but I replaced the Mercury with the Ford. This was the car I drove through my senior year and I think I may have sold it to the same guy I sold the Whizzer to. I’m not entirely sure of that but I do know it’s the car I loaned him when I went riding on the Whizzer the summer after graduation.

1952 Ford SedanImagine the car in this picture with dark blue paint and baby moon hub caps and you’ll have something close to what I was driving in the spring of 1965. Besides two doors, it had dual two-barrels on an Offenhauser manifold, dual points in a Mallory distributor, and dual exhausts. It wasn’t particularly fast by 1965 standards but its description sounded fast.

My Wheels –- Chapter 4 — 1954 Mercury

Trip Peek #7
Trip #59
Thanksgiving 2007

Bellsouth Tower, Nashville, TNThis picture is from the my 2007 Thanksgiving road trip. It was my third Thanksgiving Escape Run and my second in Nashville. For a little variety, I began my trip on Thanksgiving day by heading west then entering Nashville on US-41A after spending a night in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I had ample time for exploring which included a visit to the unfamiliar east bank of the Cumberland River where this view of the very familiar Bellsouth Tower, a.k.a. Batman Building, caught my eye. Also included in this trip were my first ever visits to Music Row, the Lane Museum, and the Bluebird Cafe.

Trip Pic Peek #6 — Trip #1 — Rt66in99

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Lincoln Highway Association
Centennial Tour

lhh100On June 30, two groups of cars will converge on Kearney, Nebraska, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Lincoln Highway Association on July 1. I will be part of the one coming from the east. The launch from Times Square is still two days away on Saturday but I left home Wednesday in order to make it in time. The groups will follow, as close as practical, the original Lincoln Highway route and, if all goes well, I will continue west on the route following the celebration and conference in Kearney.

The journal for the trip is here. This will be the only blog entry related to the trip and will serve to hold any and all comments.

Ye Olde Flex-Master
A My Gear Extra

Flex-Master cameraI am not someone who delights in using old film cameras. I can appreciate that others do and I can appreciate the phenomenal engineering and manufacturing accomplishments embodied in high-end film cameras. But I like the convenience and economy of digital photography far too much to spend my own time and money on anything else — with one exception.

That exception is the camera at right. It’s certainly old and it uses film but it is about as far from high-end as you can get. The exact same camera was sold under a variety of names with prices around three or four dollars. An uncle won this one by investing a quarter in a punch-board in 1940. I never knew him. He went off to war and never came home. My Mom, his sister, ended up with the camera. I remember it being our family camera in the early 1950s.

Flex-Master cameraFlex-Master cameraThere’s not much to it. It’s called a pseudo-TLR. TLR stands for twin lens reflex which means one lens for the photo and an identical twin for the viewfinder. I’m not sure that what feeds the viewfinder on this camera can properly be called a lens at all. It does somehow produce a dim right-side-up but reversed left-to-right image on an upward facing screen. There’s no focus or aperture control and not exactly any shutter speed control. There is a shutter release and a little lever that selects “INST.” or “TIME”. The length of an “instant” isn’t specified but I’m guessing it’s somewhere between 1/50 and 1/100 second. As you’d expect, “TIME” holds the shutter open as long as the the release is held down. The back is held in place by a thumbscrew. Remove it to thread the paper backed film onto the relocated empty spool from the previous roll then close it up tight. Turn the knob on the side to move a frame number into first one then the other red window.

Picture from Flex-Master cameraPicture from Flex-Master cameraI believe both of these pictures were taken with the Flex-Master. The first one is known to be from the winter of 1950. The other is probably from the next spring. It’s one I frequently use as an “on the road” Facebook profile picture.

I said I appreciate folks who work with film cameras and I know some, too. One in particular, Jim Grey, lives close enough that I’ve passed a few junk classic cameras his way. Jim not only gets a lot of pleasure from his cameras, he gets some very nice pictures from them, too. I recently asked Jim about the Flex-Master and he told me where I could buy film for the camera and also where to get it developed. There aren’t many choices. It’s tough enough finding processing for film from a still-in-production Canon or Nikon let alone something out of a seventy-three year old punch-board prize. Nor is it cheap. With postage, two rolls of 127 black & white film came within pennies of twenty-eight dollars. Processing, with postage but without prints (you get jpgs), is $16.50 a roll.

Picture from Flex-Master cameraPicture from Flex-Master cameraOne of the first places I tried the camera was in front of the 1886 Hayesville Opera House after Cece Otto’s American Songline concert. I managed to totally botch two of the three pictures I took of Cece by doing double exposures (Now, there’s something you don’t hear of much in the digital world, Chauncey.) and the one that did kind of turn out has a building that looks like a reflection in a fun-house mirror. I’m guessing that the film wasn’t held flat but I don’t know why. The picture of the Roebling Bridge with Cincinnati in the background doesn’t seen so distorted so maybe the film got pulled tighter later in the roll… or something. Both pictures have a pair of vertical scratches that I think line up with rails molded into the camera back which I’m guessing are there to press the film flat. Matching scratches can be seen in some of the pictures taken with the camera in the ’50s. Just remember that “far from high-end” statement near the beginning  of this article. 

If the first roll had been a complete disaster, I’d have given the other one to a friendly Hoosier camera collector and saved my self $16.50 in processing. Since the disaster was less than complete, I’m going to take the “seventy-three year old punch-board prize” along on my upcoming ride in a fifty year old car on a one hundred year old highway and see what develops.

Picture from Flex-Master cameraDoyle Bankson, that camera winning uncle, is buried at Colleville-sur-Mer in France. His parents (my grandparents) placed his name between theirs on this tombstone in Ohio. Part of me felt really silly using the camera he won as a teenager to take a picture of a stone more than four-thousand miles from his grave. Part of me didn’t. article is being posted on Father’s Day. That’s somewhat, but not entirely, a coincidence. Dad took quite a few pictures with the Flex-Master. He was in some, too. Here’s a picture of Dad, my sister, and me that was taken with a twelve year old punch-board prize.

Butt Weight, There’s Less

19-Jan-2013The title of this post is how I imagine Ron Popeil hawking some magic weight loss device on a late night infomercial.
I already have such a device. Well, it’s not really magic and it won’t work for everybody but my smartphone did actually help me lose a few pounds.

First off let me say that I have not tried every weight loss trick in the world.
I have, in fact, tried almost none. I’ve weighed far too much for far too long but sugar and cholesterol and other levels have been fine so my doctor hasn’t beaten me up about it. I didn’t, and still don’t, beat myself up about it either even though I wasn’t happy about it. Every now and then I might scan an article on weight loss but they tend to be about various diets to follow, groups to join, or people to pay to tell you what to eat. Then, somewhere along the way, I saw an article claiming that simply tracking consumption was one of the most effective aids to losing weight and that clicked with the geek buried — ever deeper — inside me.

In my head, I somehow managed to relate computerized calorie counting with Quicken. I’ve been a Quicken user since about 1994. Entering numbers into a computer program felt natural to me and sometimes even fun. I’ve never used Quicken’s budget management features though I’ve no doubt they are wonderful. Simply tracking my money helped me get most of my bills paid on time and allowed me to see when a tight spot was approaching. That “tracking helps lose weight” claim seemed perfectly legit to me.

That getting my phone involved made sense was no doubt due in part to a recent addition I’d made to my money tools. I try to track cash expenditures but I’m not terribly good at it and have learned to accept a fair sized miscellaneous expense at the end of each month. Not long ago I installed a free app, Cash2QIF, that lets me enter the cost of my breakfast while I’m still sipping coffee then electronically transfer the data to Quicken later. The miscellaneous expenses have not gone to zero but they’re smaller. Entering calories at the same time seemed like something that might work.

So I picked up a free “calorie counter” app and set out to track what I ate. In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious to me that things would have fallen apart rather quickly if, as was my assumption, I really had to determine and enter a bunch of numeric values. Fortunately the app provided access to a database of foods so it was easy to determine the calories in the three 16 ounce glasses of carrot juice I was drinking everyday. Just kidding. Carrot juice can indeed be found (I just checked) but so can things like Smithwick’s and half pound ‘burgers. Find the food, tap to enter, and the appropriate calories are recorded along with other nutritional data like fat, carbs, vitamins, etc.

Even better is the app’s use of the phone’s camera to read bar codes. As a kitchen challenged single male, I eat a goodly amount of packaged foods. With dinner in the microwave, I can point the phone at the package before pitching it and the calories, carbs, and calcium I am about to consume are instantly recorded. I also eat out a lot and menu items from many restaurants are available in the database.

My rate of reduction is a long way from remarkable. Twenty-two pounds in twenty-weeks. Barely a pound a week. A friend who went on a low-carb diet a while after I started recording calories has lost more than twice that in less time. I like his results but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t stick to that or any other real diet. I haven’t really cut out anything in particular. I have a target number of calories per day. I don’t panic if I miss it but I’m aware of it and try to do better the next day or the next one or the one after that. Most, but not all, weekly totals have been below the target.

5-Jun-2013The number on that scale is significant for a couple of reasons. First off, I think it may be the first time I’ve been below 200 this century. Secondly, it’s near a halfway point of sorts. The most generous of guidelines puts my “ideal weight” around 175 pounds. When I started counting calories on January 19, I was 47 over. Half of 47 is 23.5 and the 22 pounds that I’ve lost is within a large smidgen of that. I don’t know that I’ll ever make it to that “ideal” but it no longer seems completely impossible.

The app I’m using is the Android version of MyFitnessPal. I didn’t do much research so I don’t know that it’s the best available. I do know that it has the features I was looking for plus some I wasn’t but which have proven key to my continued use. It also has features, such as counting vitamins and connecting to scales, armbands, and other devices, that I doubt I’ll ever use.

A significant boundary was crossed about halfway between the two pictures. During the middle of some night in April, I went from being officially obese to being officially overweight. Yeah, that’s a lot like learning that your checking account isn’t overdrawn as much this month as last but I’ll take it.

My Gear – Chapter 16
Nikon D5100

Nikon D5100I didn’t need this camera. My three year old D40 was working just fine and was all the camera I really needed. But, while facts and logic may have slowed me down, they didn’t stop me. Although I can’t entirely deny the attraction of more pixels, that was not the the primary or even secondary reason I wanted this camera. The main attraction was the supposed superiority of the D5100’s CMOS sensor over the D40’s CCD. Secondly, I desired vibration reduction (VR) lenses. Yes, I could have simply bought VR lenses without the camera but I had convinced myself that putting money into lenses then attaching them to the lowly D40 was not wise. As I said, facts and logic only slow me down.

So, when finances allowed, in September of 2011, I spent right at a grand on the D5100 and a pair of lenses. One lens was simply the VR equivalent of the 18-55 mm D40 kit lens. The other was a 55-300 mm zoom that gave me some more range (300 mm vs. 200 mm) over the lens it replaced in addition to VR.

In many respects, the D5100 is just a slightly better and slightly bigger D40. It is still near the bottom of Nikon’s DLSR offerings. The higher resolution is nice and I believe that the VR lenses have helped from time to time but I’ve no hard evidence to support that. The CMOS sensor does deal with low light better than the CCD but I can’t shake the feeling that the D40 produced some brighter images in the “middle light” of an overcast day. That could certainly be an illusion and I’m really quite pleased with the D5100’s overall performance.

Not everything about the camera is just a step up in specifications over the D40. There are three obvious additions and all are related. First, the D5100 does 1080p video. Then, since you really can’t have the viewfinder mirror flapping around while recording video, a “live view” has been added which locks the mirror in the up position and puts a through-the-lens view on the rear mounted 3″ LCD screen. Both video and stills can be recorded in this mode. I’ve experimented a little with video and do use live mode occasionally for one handed shots. It’s also handy when I ask someone to take my picture who is baffled by an eye level viewfinder. Lastly, to make live view even better, the screen is fully articulated so you can record in assorted odd positions.

One subtle difference from the D40 that I’m starting to appreciate is the ability to record JPEG and RAW files simultaneously. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I just use the JPEGs as I always have but once in awhile I’ll salvage a picture with a little HDR processing using the RAW file.

My Gear – Chapter 15 — Garmin nüvi® 2460LMT