Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Miscellania”

Ups and Downs

Yup, my mousepad needs a good scrub, but I smile every time I look at it!

I made it to Wellton yesterday, where my travel trailer is parked! The summer bake was not kind to the Defiant, among other things. After unloading all the junk clogging its main aisle and setting it on the concrete patio, I found that the overhead living room lights no longer work, and a change of bulbs had no effect, so that will probably come down to trying to locate a similar fixture, assuming that its rather cheesy slide switch is deceased. More significant is that an apparent windstorm from the east ratcheted the forward roof vent fully open, but I was able to crank it closed again without difficulty. The rearward roof vent over the bathroom, however, was not so fortunate. That one, being just a couple of years old, opened and then Read more…

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The ARB Digital Tire Inflator

Airing back up after a rough trail has just gotten a lot faster, more convenient, and more accurate.

I’ve mentioned this product before, but it’s worth reviewing again for anyone who airs down tires more than occasionally. This post is more video-centric, but you can get more product details here. Most four-wheelers (day-trip rough trail enthusiasts) approach readjusting tire pressures like many campers approach basic no-frills overnighting. They rough it, and enjoy jettisoning convenience. They poke something/anything into the tire valves to let air out, and periodically check pressure with a pocket tire gauge. Then to air back up at the end of the trail, they monitor the built-in gauge on their favorite air pump. Since their vehicles are light and typically use tires that Read more…

I Had the Cutting Board Blues

The 7-minute video below presents two ways to address kitchen knives that seem to dull too quickly – the Epicurean Cutting Board and the Edge-Mag knife sheath. They are both very good products that are worth their price – except that the Edge-Mag needs an easy mod before it should be put into service. As-is, I can’t recommend it. Modded, it’s a definite winner.

The presentation itself is not a winner, there being two strikes against it. I’ll mention my end of the difficulties below, and save the hardware geekoid aspect for another post. The non-geekoid aspect of the geekoid aspect is simply the toll that age and heavy use take on electronic gizmos. Much like myself, they get cranky and obstinate. They develop quirks. Thus in this video, you’ll notice audio volume changes, tiny pieces of the video missing, and audio going out of sync. I’m working on exploring the issue and getting the bugs out of the process, but whether I will succeed or not is unknown at this point.

The other strike is that I do not particularly enjoy being in front of the camera in the few videos that I create, for reasons that become obvious once you take in the footage. But some presentations for topics become more communicative when a human being is there, yapping at you. It looks more like an honest word-of-mouth recommendation than some kind of paid viral product sales job. I enjoy the creative process of making videos, but I do not enjoy being in them.

From the start, I wondered “Why bother with a video with its setup, capture and editing, when I could just take a few snaps and write that I like these two products?” After all, a writeup is so much easier. And then people will never discover that I pause and say “Umm” a lot when I try to speak while I’m waiting for the next thought to rattle down the pipe. “Why bother” is that video is a realm that I’ve done a few times out of necessity. You’d think that if you can capture stuff in photographs passably well, then capturing them in video surely can’t be much of a difference, right? Nope. There is remarkably little similarity, other than looking through a viewfinder and pressing a button. If you want to get past the home movie stage, it’s a lot more complex and more involved. A really good video never reminds you that it’s a video about something, drawing attention to itself. It just presents its topic, and that’s what you dwell on. I don’t know how easily this skill comes to some people, but as for me, no, I can tell it doesn’t. It requires a different way of thinking and approaching that I’m simply not used to. It also requires a lot more energy and effort, start to finish. But, since I find it interesting and mysterious, thus you are made to suffer for my art, my learning process. I certainly prefer that to my having to suffer for it. So, out they come one by one, here and there. Fortunately for you, you can let them pass by unwatched, and no one’s the wiser. Win/win!

I’ll insert here a loose quote from Martin Scorsese, the noted film director, who I guess has either semi-retired or has a lot of nervous energy. He’s running ads promoting his new course on film directing. I’ve seen it here and there on the Internet. In it, he notes something in his fast, clipped tone, something a lot like, “When you’re starting out at this and have gotten a chance to take on a project, if you watch that day’s footage and don’t become physically ill – and I mean physically ill – then you’re doing something wrong.”

Well, I’ve done some event coverage videos in my former life that I thought were okay for what they were, at the time. Car shows, gymkhanas, road races, mud bogs. Many were merely photo stills with Ken Burns slow-zoom effects and soundtracks, and some were real action videos. Some were a mix of the two. I posted them, proud and happy. Event coverage means that they must be done and posted in a very timely way, so they don’t need to be filmmaking epics. Then on a passing whim, if I watched any one of the “real videos” a few months later, it became obvious that it had problems. I can’t specifically identify a fix to a lot of those problems, but they are certainly there. I can smell the faint stink wandering between capture limitations, editing issues, and sound. Rewatch the same video a year or two later, and it’s an embarrassment. The raw footage is okay – you can only get certain set vantage points at an event with one guy and one camera, after all – but the editing, the way the final presentation comes across, is head-in-hands awful. It’s not that I had learned a lot in the interim, but that I’d finally been able to separate myself from the work enough to be objective.

The difference between me, a guy just goofing around with a camera, and a trained and skilled pro, is that he can see his mistakes the first time he looks at just the raw captures of the day. Me, I’m glad to have gotten anything at all, so my disappointment usually takes months or years after the project has been completed and posted. I may not know how to do a certain part of it better, but I do come to know that something is seriously wrong…eventually. The pieces do not fit, or do not work together to do what I was assuming they did. If nothing else, I want to move that sense of disgust much further forward. Thankfully, I have never recognized enough at any one viewing to become physically ill, despite the stakes being personally quite high for me at the time. But, I do recognize – with considerable delay – that the bulk of video work that I post is at kindergarten level. That’s humiliating of course, but it also makes me want to be able to sense what’s wrong during the process, and see some options on how to address it. These days, I can only do so much with the equipment I have, the energy and time periods that I have available, and the simple types of pieces that I want to do. I don’t even need to get good. I just want to get to that point where I can look at it later with the same viewpoint I had when when I first completed it.

The video above? Well, it’s horrid too, but at least it’s obvious what’s wrong, and what would be needed to fix it: raw footage without glitches in it, more aggressive editing to shorten it up and give it a sense of direction, and certain casting/personnel changes. I’m doing what I can to see what can be done about them, although there aren’t a lot of options for problem #3. Still, as far as I’m concerned, this is progress already – I’m recognizing specific problems during the editing process. Oddly, the whole goal is not to get to where you the viewer enjoy watching any videos that I may churn out while I continue to fumble around with this new-to-me format. That is of course important to me, but when push comes to shove, the absolute priority is that I progress enough in the process such that I’m satisfied with the end product. Unless I like it first, I can’t really hear whatever you might have to say about the effectiveness of the presentation (not the topic itself). Are we having fun yet?

A Vital Reminder

How about a little inspiration? How about a lot? What is your dream for this time of your life? How determined are you to realize it?

The video below says it’s about piloting the fastest manned fixed-wing aircraft ever built, but that’s just the dressing, complete with some of the most impressive in-flight photographs I’ve ever seen. The majority of it is a message about life and living, for every person that Brian Shul can reach. With humility and uncanny humor, he delivers an account that I believe you will get much out of. I sure have. Runtime: 1:11.

Problems vs. Opportunities

I received the missive below  from a good friend of mine, who happens to instruct art classes at a local college. As an admirable artist, teacher and person, now and then he gets an inspiration to get creative with problems. In this case, fashionable school policy prohibits the possession of a recyclable water bottle on school property, so reusable water bottles abound and are frequently mislaid. Thing is, not one person in this class has ever reclaimed theirs. That’s odd, because commercial water bottles can get pretty pricey if you don’t want your water to leak and taste like plastic, so my friend has not yet found an alternative to adding them to the waste stream – other than relabeling his little lost & found display collection as…

“Dear friend,

“In the future, examples of lost, misplaced and recovered water bottles
will be used to determine dynasties and earth ages of forgotten
civilizations and generations.

“Unearthed pottery shards and extinguished campfires are uninteresting and
commonplace.

“Oakton Community College is proud to announce the first museum-level
collection and overview of this kind.

“Subscribe now and receive minute-by-minute updates as to how this dynamic
new field of anthropology develops!”

My Favorite Advertisements?

Hey kids, do you wonder why Grandpa or Grandma is so screwed up? It’s because of ads like this from the Soda Pop Board of America. Read that copy!! Not surprisingly, that’s a reversed image of a Coca-Cola bottle.

[Caution: this is one of those posts that started small and, well, just got out of hand as I began mulling over things. Enjoy. Or not.]

This is a peculiar post, because I am weary of ads. Ads are all you now see on TV, online, by the road, and in printed material. We’re inundated by the stuff, so now ad men are advertising in a “viral” way so that it appears to not be what it is. So, it takes some effort for me to think back and ask myself, “What ads have I actually enjoyed?” There aren’t many.

The first is a whole series put out by the Doyle Dane Bernbach firm for Volkswagen in the 1960s, when the task was to market a car designed in the 1930s, a “people’s car” to highlight progress from the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in the Fatherland. It was an antediluvian copy of an existing Tatra model, but it was still well thought out for what it was in that era, and it was inordinately tough. The Beetle was small and homely, and once it was timidly pushed into the market in an era when “longer, lower, wider” prestige were what sold, it was bought only by a few minimalist nonconformists seeking relief from the fins, chrome, and tonnage. What did the mainstream market look like? Like this:

The new 1960 Pontiac!

Or this: Read more…

A Cellular-Challenged Campsite

Just letting you know that I’m in a very notable campsite at the moment, but the cellular signal is one bar, and the Internet is unreachable throughout most of the day. The only exception is email, which works on its own unique time table. Viewing websites and uploading even one photo is not possible, let alone some videos I have waiting. The stories that I have in mind depend on them. I am amazed that I can, with difficulty, even post this bare notice! It’s a fluke of timing and atmospherics, I guess. When I move to a more cellular-friendly site, I’ll post some more useless fluff.

So, we wait.

Ooo! More Junk Mail Friends!

Apparently, I’m more popular than I thought! Witness the following emails I received recently:

“Greetings,
I am Judece Michael Tisioh, writing with due respect, trust and humanity, I got your email address after an extensive on-line search via network power charitable trust for a reliable person. Please exercise a little patience and read through my letter, I feel quite safe dealing with you in this important message, I will really like to have a good understanding with you and i have a special reason why i decided to contact you, I decided to contact you due to the urgency of my situation. I’m writing you from hospital bed, therefore this message is very urgent. I have a donation to make which I will need your assistance to carry it out, I will be 62 years old this coming month, I’m a widow and a government worker for many years here in Ivory Coast. I have sum of $4.9 Million, Four Million Nine Hundred Thousand United States Dollars with my late husband Hon. Michael Tisioh, I want to donate to orphanage homes and Charity organizations through you.
“I have a serious cancer disease and will be going for my third surgical operation, although the doctors had already confirmed that I will only last for few months but I am glad that the lord has kept me safe and guided me to accomplish my desires. I want you to contact my house helper, I have given him the documents of the funds and have directed him to a lawyer that will assist you to change the documents of the fund to your name to enable my bank transfer the fund to you.
Victor Bailly Joshua.
Address: Avenue 16, Wade Ave,
Abidjan 16, Cote d’Ivoire.
Email: vbailly17@gmail.com
He will give you the documents and direction on how to contact the lawyer i contracted to assist you, the lawyer will do everything on your behalf here in Ivory Coast to ensure the success of my fund transfer to you.
This is the favor i want from you after you received the fund under your control.
(1) Give 20% of the money to Victor Bailly, he has been here for me throughout and i promised to support him, therefore you will take him as your child.
(2) Give 60% of the money to charity organizations, orphanage homes e.t.c, on my name so that my wishes will be fulfilled.
(3) The remaining 20% should be for you and others that you may personally wish to assist.
Remain Blessed,
Mrs. Judece Michael Tisioh.

This message has been scanned for viruses and
dangerous content by MailScanner, and is
believed to be clean.”

And the following personal message from one Susan Williams, entitled “Hello Dear”:

“Hi
How are you? I must confess that you’re a nice looking gentle man on your profile.Are you married?, Can we be friends?????
Susan”

The latter is especially engaging because it was marked “To: undisclosed recipients”, which means it was broadcast to a ton of people like myself. You know, guys with that same kind of sensual masculinity that I have. Makes me feel special, because “Susan” knows I’m handsome by the photo of me that is missing from my profile page. Somehow, I have the feeling that any reply will eventually turn to the topic of finances. How is it that my mail program segregated these great opportunities into my junk mail folder?

Sheesh!

Road Locomotives

Once cutting edge technology, these steam tractors are still very impressive accomplishments.

Different weeks here in Butterfield bring different sights. This week, it’s a couple of steam-powered threshing machines that have been moved out of a large shed and parked on the grass. This won’t do the grass much good in the long run, since the prodigious weight on the rear wheels of these things visibly compacts the soil! These two are not the largest I’ve seen, but they are certainly large enough.

Advance Thresher Co., Battle Creek, Michigan. 1881-1917. At their peak, they produced 1,000 annually, along with much more harvesting machinery of various kinds. (The rear platform and boxes on this one are not original.)

They are referred to mainly as steam threshing machines, though the terms traction engines, road locomotives, and tractors are often bandied about. We think of them today as steam tractors, but that connotes plowing as the main function, which is not really accurate. They were actually designed mainly as Read more…

The Butterfield Marauders

Not having been started for months, this little motorbike sputtered for awhile before it was able to idle.

Out for a walk a couple of weekends ago, I returned to camp to find that a motorcycle gang had moved in. Okay, maybe it was more of a motor scooter gang, and all of their bikes were vintage and very similar. The rider in the photo above told me that his mount was a Hirscheiser, spoken in a tone which assumed that I had heard of it, or at least should have, had I been civilized or at least housebroken. You know, Hirscheiser! Nope. My memory banks coming up dry, I didn’t think to ask for the spelling, and a modest search online didn’t produce anything. Nonetheless, a half-hour later, fifteen riders of the little bikes putted down the road toward downtown, happily looking for trouble.

I thought these were all there was, until I later peeked out of the Intrepid to see a stream of them heading toward town.

Nearby were parked two Indian motorcycles, 1946 and 1951 models. The stuff of legend, Indian motorcycles predate Read more…

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