Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Under Reconstruction

I'm making a few changes to the blog.

I'm deleting the fine art stuff for various reasons. I do plan to have a little of it in another location, which I will send to anyone who emails me or asks in a comment.

More after the jump - click here!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Tiny Victory

The revamped Communications Decency Act, put in place after the CDA was ruled unconstitutional in 1998, has just been ruled unconstitutional.

See: Online Pornography Law Appeal Denied

If it is legal to do, it should be legal to photograph and legal to show. Period. It is my job as a parent to keep my child away from things I object to, not the government's.

More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

They Might Be Giants

I've owned a Polaroid camera, and in a faintly nostalgic way I thought it was too bad that they stopped making Polaroid film. (Note: they have NOT stopped making self-developing film. Fuji still makes a few kinds, mostly for passport photo machines and things like that.)

Well, inspired by Edwin Land's famous quotation:

"Don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible."

these people have decided that they won't go down without a fight. Dr. Land, by the way, was the inventor of Polaroid film - the first Polaroid cameras were known as "Polaroid Land Cameras" or just "Land Cameras."

The Impossible Project

They've leased the building and bought all the equipment from the Dutch factory where integral Polaroid films were made, which means they're very serious - that took real capital. Their intention is not simply to revive integral Polaroid films - they can't do that, as many of the components are no longer available. They intend to invent entirely new kinds of integral self-developing film products, sold under a new brand identity - they didn't buy or license any trademarks from Polaroid, which is still a going concern - which use the same back technologies as existing cameras. They've given themselves a year. I kinda hope they make it.

More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Am Avenged

I have just reclaimed my manlitude by repairing the oven, which kept coming on by itself. Yes, by itself.

The control had come loose inside the control panel while the oven was turned on: if you turned the knob, you didn't actually turn the potentiometer that controls the oven temperature. It has a multi-part shaft, so while you thought you were putting the knob back on properly, you weren't actually engaging the control. The intermediate shaft wasn't seated on the final shaft and so turning it didn't do anything.

I had to figure out how to take it apart so I could get at it. Every other gas stove I've ever fiddled with had a cooktop that lifted like the hood of a car: this one wouldn't.

I couldn't find a manual online, so I went to Sears and looked at a similar range. The salesman didn't know how to open it either, so we looked in the manual:


Well, that was a fine how-do-you-do.

Anyway, I came home and eventually figured out how to get at it, what was wrong, and fixed it. With NO manual. So there.

More after the jump - click here!

Well, That's the Last of Them.

It's very, very cold here in Chicagoland. Yesterday about 10AM, I noticed I was colder than I needed to be, since I was in my HOUSE. The thermostat's ambient temperature indicator read a distressing 58F. Since the thermostat was set to 70F, this was a cause of some concern.

(This is kind of a long story, and probably not that interesting, but I feel like writing it down...)

The first approach - fiddling with it - produced no appreciable result. A little research indicated that perhaps the breaker was blown. Nope, no blown breakers in breaker box. I reset the breaker anyway just to see what that would do. Nada.

My next hope was that the thermostat itself was broken. I hied me to Menards to see what I could see. Since we don't have central air, an inexpensive round thermostat seemed to be in order. I obtained one and installed it - only to find that it was broken. So I returned to Menards... only to find that both of the other ones in that model were also broken (or at least open.) So, somewhat irate, I got the next model up and installed that. Bupkiss. I read about how thermostats work and hotwired the signal wire (incidentally, the old thermostat had a mercury switch, which technically makes it hazardous waste. More about that later. Also, the wires were cloth-covered cable. Both original, and the house is seven years older than I am.) What that should have done is told the furnace, "I want heat and I want it until the floor starts to melt." No go.

We excavated the utility closet where the furnace lives and examined it as best we could. Pilot lit. Power on. No other visible signs of non-workingness, although a few of the wires likewise had their insulation dry-rotted completely off. Hoping that it was a bad connection, I did a little research and called a reputable furnace technician. By this time it was about 1 PM and the house was not very warm, although my wife had a good fire going and the temperature had stabilized around sixty degrees.

The technician arrived and examined the furnace. His diagnosis was a bad main gas valve, which is a $600 repair. He pointed out that even if he fixed that, though, the furnace was pretty much shot. It was also original, which means it was ~45 years old. Holes in the heat exchanger, flameouts, missing blast shield, you name it. I agreed that it was foolish to put $600 into something that was far, far past its design life, and we priced out a new furnace.

Some tense waiting later, the financing was approved (6 mos no interest no payments, although I plan to pay it off early. I just didn't have the cash on hand.) He left, promising that the installers would show up between 7 and 9 that night, for no extra charge, which is pretty amazing.

The installers arrived right at 8, and after some car jockeying in the driveway they got to work. It took them about two hours to remove the old furnace, including a lot of banging and Sawzalling. We had to take the back door off its hinges to get it out and the new one in, so the back door was in the kitchen for a while, which likewise distressed my daughter. (She does not like it when things are out of place.) Then after the new one was in place they had to measure for a new intake plenum - the new one is a foot and a half shorter than the old one! There was no room indoors to fabricate, so the poor man had to go outside and set up a table: by this time it was after 11 and about 10F outside. At least I had lots of light for him while he worked. Meanwhile the 'prentice hooked up the gas and electric connections. I installed the third new thermostat of the day - the furnace came with a nice digital programmable one. I knew that was going to happen (the tech told me) and in the meantime had returned the other two. We ran new signal wire as well.

After some rewiring necessitated by 'prentice mistakes (which I quietly pointed out to the installer while the 'prentice was in the other room - I held the light for him while he wired it, and I knew what the problem probably was) the furnace got running about 2:15AM. By that time the installer had been on shift for 18 hours, but while he wasn't bubbling he was still working hard. It was very impressive and I mean to write a nice letter to his employer commending him. The furnace ran pretty much the rest of the night and got the house back up to temperature. At its lowest point, the house was probably 56F at the center, the living room (where the big fireplace is) was probably 60F, and the far bedrooms were probably 50F or below.

While it seemed long and arduous at the time, in retrospect it's really kind of amazing that they could remove the old furnace, install and set up the new one in six hours. The installer said that between the close quarters and the cold slowing him down while he built the new plenum, it actually took longer than usual! They took the old furnace away and cleaned everything up, too. They also took the old thermostat, since they have a system for dealing with them. I was tempted to keep it and get up to mischief with the mercury somehow, but I decided not to fool with it.

That furnace was the last major thing that came with the house when we bought it: we've replaced the washer and dryer (we bought some used ones when we got the house - it didn't come with any,) the dishwasher (ditto,) the refrigerator (twice - the one that came with the house died a few months later,) the air conditioner (ditto that one,) the range hood, the range, and the water heater. It still needs lots of work but at least now we're on a new cycle.

More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

While You're Waiting

While you await my pontification, here are a couple of interesting articles on recent developments in the professional photography world.

David Harrington over at Photo Business News and Forum has this on Lawrence Lessig's new book, "Remix," which is a screed endorsing the wholesale theft of intellectual property:


There is a link to a very funny interview with Mr. Lessig on The Colbert Report which is worth watching.

And A Photo Editor has this to say about the copymaker photographer Richard Prince being sued by Patrick Cariou, whose photographs were appropriated by Mr. Prince for his latest kindergarten art project photomanipulation work.


Sadly, here's what I think about the situation:

I have come to one inescapable conclusion.

Copyright in the future will belong to those with the money to enforce it. It will be enforced against those with the money to make reparation.

I would not be at all surprised if, at the end of many days, we end up with a system like Canada has where there is a tax on blank recording media, which is redistributed to copyright holders under some regime I won't pretend to understand. This will be like that, but bigger - all ISP's, all broadcast/cable/satellite bandwidth providers, etc, will pay, and it will get divided up so Disney et al can limp along in perpetuity. Anybody who wants to will be able to steal my photographs and do whatever they want with them, end of story. In other words, it'll be just like now, but I won't have the forlorn hope that some intern at a company with actual money will steal something from me and I'll be able to get some kind of recovery.

More after the jump - click here!

Still Here, Just Busy.

The weather's been bad, the day job's been busy, and I was in a car accident, so I haven't had much fun ranting or photography to do.

I'm fine, my truck needs body work but is mechanically sound, and things are calming down a little. More as events warrant.

More after the jump - click here!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Not To Gloat, but Bye-Bye JPG Magazine

I'm not a big fan of this "user-provided content" model for commercial enterprises. If you want to use my work to make money, especially when you are demanding large chunks of licensing rights, pay me. And while I thought JPG Magazine was a nicely laid-out mag, it didn't take long for me to decide I wasn't going to submit pictures to it for token payments while they got all kinds of publication rights and all the money.

Well, it turned out there's not that much money in that particular game:

JPG Magazine Says Goodbye.

Now, several perfectly nice people have lost their jobs, and for that I'm genuinely sorry. But like people who invest in Ponzi schemes, it's hard to have sympathy for people whose business model involves what, to me, seems like a fundamental disconnect with reality. JPG was basically the print version of Flickr. Why, exactly, does Flickr need a print version? I don't know. And apparently it doesn't.

Sorry, guys. Use the lesson learned and try again.

More after the jump - click here!