Archive for technology

Talking Techie — Part II

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 16, 2015 by wordsandpixels

OK, OK. You know who you are. We saw you smiling.

There’s so much talk these days about the iPhone 6S, Or is it 7? Or maybe 8?

Well, just for giggles, we took a photo (yes, I know, I used my iPhone’s built in camera) of the “latest technology” from the year I was born (plus or minus a few years :-).

IMG_3109 (1)

Wanna think about something? The so-called “new technology” pictured here made people fearful. Fearful of someone stealing secrets from their phone conversations. Fearful of getting caught out in the proverbial thunderstorm and not being able to call 911 (yeah, they didn’t have 911 in those days, just checking if you’re paying attention!)Fearful about…well, you get the idea. Every time new technology is introduced, people get afraid.

Every summer I helped out my grandpa and grandma on their farm in Bellefontaine, OH. And one of my tasks was to feed the sheep at some ungodly hour, like 0400 hours. What did Robin Williams say in “Good Morning, Vietnam?” (“What does the “oh” stand for in 0400? Oh. My. Gawd”

RIP, Robin. We’ll make sure technology doesn’t screw things up too badly for the next generation. Especially for the sheep…err, people.

More 1948 technology, Hastings, New York, September 2015.


Gnashing Teeth, WordPress, Computers….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 16, 2013 by wordsandpixels

IMG_1685As readers of this blog know, I have been very fortunate to be allowed to teach a course entitled “Shoot Film!” at Westchester Community College.

So I wanted to change my blog appearance. I wanted to remove a bio-like front page and have users go straight to the blog. Simple, right?

Wrong. When you went to you got the dreaded “404 Not Found” error.

A lot of searching, Googling, checking boxes, etc., etc., resulted in only frustration. How can I fix this? Hmmm. I kept reading. I kept searching. Finally, there it was. The answer. Go in to your blog site, the advice said, make a few changes, and make sure you save those changes. Ninety-nine out of one hundred times that will do the trick.

It did. I think. I hope. This, as they say, is a test. It is only a test. In the event of an emergency you will….well, you get the idea.

Here goes.

The accompanying photograph, incidentally, shows my youngest son Zach, who teaches earth and physical science at John Jay Middle School in Northern Westchester, at work on my computer. He doesn’t suffer from the same brain short circuits as does his dad. When he wants to use technology to help teach, a few quick keystrokes and, voila!, it’s done.

Baby boomers aren’t that fortunate.

A 65 yr-old Hiker, a 65-yr-old event, and a 65-yr-old camera and (gasp) FILM

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 21, 2013 by wordsandpixels

IMG_0049Starting a 2,200 mile hike on my 65th birthday (March 30), got me thinking. Here I was, 65, starting out in the year of the 65th anniversary of Earl Shaffer’s historic first thru hike. What else could I do to honor this milestone (besides finish in one piece)? Aha! Why not use the same kind of camera Earl Shaffer (left) would probably have used? (It’s hard to see in the accompanying photograph, but it sure looks like a Kodak Retina, with the shallow case protecting the folding front.)

And why not use FILM? That old, trusted media that doesn’t show you the results right away. You have to wait until you pull it from the fixer and hold it up against the light to see if the image “turned out.” The media that doesn’t allow you to change from ISO 100 to 25,600 from one frame to the next. It’s a tad heavier, at 609 grams or about 21.5 ounces, than most digital cameras. A definite game changer is its fixed 50mm f/2 Schneider Xenon. Nice lens!

For many photographers, especially those coming home from WWII, the Retina (made in IMG_1531Germany, ironically, for Kodak) was their introduction to 35mm photography. Today, there are thousands of them sitting in attics and basements. Throw a roll of film in and off you go.

Not so fast! In many cases, there might be a light leak in the bellows, the shutter speeds are bound to be sticky and slow, the rangefinder may need adjustment or any other of a half-dozen maladies caused only by the passage of time. Had these cameras been in daily use, they’d probably work fine.

I wasn’t so lucky. My Retina II, gotten off eBay, needed a lot of work. Fortunately, however, there is a shop in Providence, RI named Zacks Camera Repair and their motto is, “We do the impossible.” And yes, they do. A call to owner Michael Zachs (401-273-7247) and a tour of his website convinced me he was the man to do the job. At a reasonable price.

Michael did the miraculous and in short order not only repaired what was wrong, but covered her in a new leather coat. How’s that for style?

Next blog we will talk about the photographic approach necessitated by such a rig, how we foresee things going, etc. And, oh yes, a report on the contents of our 27 pound pack!

Food for Thought

Posted in Ramblings, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 17, 2013 by wordsandpixels


For for ThoughtThere are two schools of thought about solving food needs along the Appalachian Trail. The first says “live and let live” which means getting food in whatever form you can find it, wherever you find it, and at whatever cost you can afford. Apparently that has worked for about half those that hike the trail.

The other idea is to buy either all or some of your necessary calories at home, (see photo to visualize $600 worth of food) put them in boxes and mail them to various “drop box” locations along the way i.e. U.S. Post Offices, hotels, motels, etc. Then you know that (unless it’s Sunday and you need the P.O. Open) you will get predictable food instead of the Ring Dings Sam’s gas station sells.

The problem with idea #2 is it takes a lot of time, money and effort to make the drop box system work. As indicated above, if you arrive at the P.O. five minutes after it closed, you’re SOL until Monday morning, especially with increased cutbacks in the USPS system. However, as indicated above, you can send drop boxes to a lot of different destinations using FedEx, UPS, etc.

The good news is that the USPS has a medium sized Priority Mail box that costs about $13 to mail, no matter the weight or the distance. In my case that means gourmet instant Cappucino, high-quality Gorp, mini Cliff bars, golden raisins, etc. Bon appetite.

Test Hikes

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , on February 6, 2013 by wordsandpixels

This past autumn I did a bunch of AT hikes, mostly in NY and CT. It gave me a chance try out my gear, much of which was very new to me. In the “old days” a backpacking stove, with fuel, weighed a few pounds. I still have my Svea 123, a beautiful little one-burner Swedish stove made of brass. It used unleaded gas and required a certain amount of finesse to light without setting your beard on fire, but once going it roared like a lion and made short work of cooking.


Today’s little alcohol stoves weigh only a few ounces, even with fuel, and does the job (albeit it slightly more slowly) just as well. The tent is another big change. Instead of a five pound, two-person tent, I’m setting forth with a 23-ounce “tarp tent” which is a hybrid tent/tarp combination. Sort of a tarp with bug netting and a bathtub floor to keep out the rain. What a great idea!

The total effect of all this new technology is a pack weight (before food and water) of 20-25 pounds. Add food and water and you’re easily up around 35-40 pounds. I never weighed my pack in the olden days, however, but I swear 50 or 60 pounds was not unheard of. You’d get a hernia just lifting it up onto your back!

As far as clothes go, there has been a dramatic change as well. We used to wear cotton jeans and wool sweaters, and then wonder why we were cold and wet for days. Today’s nylon and spandex dries quickly but more importantly weigh ounces instead of pounds.

So, I am the old dog learning new tricks. It’s fun! It’s interesting! Is it necessary? Probably not. “Grandma Gatewood” hiked the AT in her 70’s, wearing Keds sneakers and a long raincoat. She used a shower curtain for a tarp. And she made it!

Here’s to hikers from all walks of life, from every background, who hiked the Appalachian Trail their way. And loved every step!

The Countdown Begins

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by wordsandpixels

This first blog entry is a test of sorts — to see if all the bits and bytes are in harmony — but it’s also a way of announcing the “countdown” portion of the hike. Plans have been finalized, equipment tested and unnecessary gear jettisoned, and the countdown clock (so to speak) started.


Eight weeks from now I’ll be hiking north, having started from Springer Mountain, GA on a 2200 mile journey to Mt. Katahdin, ME. The trip will take between five and six months. I’ll start slowly, so slow that my “trail name” should be “Turtle.” By the end of the trip, I will have averaged 15-20 miles a day. By the end of the trip I will also have lost between 20 and 40 pounds, my legs will be as strong as a bull’s and my heart will hopefully still be beating. I know there will be a profound emptiness in it, traveling without my love, best friend and companion of thirty years, my beautiful wife, Ann. She has promised to send me my favorite Pepperidge Farm cookies via mail drops.

I just inserted a photo to see how it (hopefully) works. Still trying to decide whether to bring iPad. It would make journaling easier, provide safety storage for photos and make zero days (days off) easier. But on the other hand, isn’t the purpose of hiking to get away from daily chains like technology? Technology, however, like weight-saving titanium and nylon, also makes hiking easier. So, is it a fair comparison? Hmmmm. Stay tuned. That’s all for now.