There Is No Cat

A huge orangupoid, which no man can conquer

Saturday, April 22, 2006

New Toy

Last spring, I stumbled across a Diana-F camera in a thrift shop in Levittown, Pennsylvania. I recognized the name immediately as one of those cheap toy cameras so popular the past few years, similar to the Lomo or Holga. The Diana was made in the 1960s in Hong Kong and given away free with the purchase of gasoline and that sort of thing. The charm of these cameras is that they're not terribly light-proof and that the lenses are crap, which leads to some interesting color aberrations and odd focusing effects. The store wanted a dollar for the camera, so I snapped it up. I knew that even if I didn't like it, I could always sell it on eBay; indeed, when I got home that day, I saw a couple of Diana cameras with bids above $100.

The camera takes 120 format film, bigger than 35mm but not easy to find here in the wilds of New Jersey, but easily available from online retailers like Adorama and B&H. I ordered three rolls of negative print film, one Kodak 160 speed color, one Kodak 400 speed black and white, and one HP5 Plus. (Sorry, I don't remember the exact Kodak films now....) I shot one roll of black and white during an early spring snowstorm here in New Jersey, the other roll of black and white on a trip to Our Nation's Capitol, and the color roll on a brief vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and Wildwood, New Jersey.

And then I got lazy and let the rolls sit on my desk for almost a year.

Last week I finally roused myself to take them to the local photo finishers. The results were interesting. I think they developed the black and white rolls in color chemistry, not really surprising I suppose, so my crappy pictures probably turned out even worse than they would have otherwise. Then again, given that part of the charm of the Diana is the color aberration, I'm not sure what I expected from the black and white shots. The color shots were by and large more interesting.

Here are a few samples. You can see more on my photos page. The versions there are larger, too.

Laura on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach

Laura and I had a good time by ourselves for a few days in Rehoboth Beach. Her top wasn't this saturated in real life.

Sunrise in Wildwood

After a few days in Rehoboth Beach on our own, we took the ferry back to New Jersey to join Laura's family for a few days in Wildwood. This was the sunrise one morning from the balcony outside our room.

The swimming pool at our hotel, unchanged since the 1960s

This swimming pool scene almost looks like I could have shot it with the camera when it was new. This shows off the chromatic problems of the Diana nicely; check out that red sky in the upper left hand corner (made darker by the vignetting the camera is prone to.)

Toys on the floor in the sun

This is probably the best of the black and white shots. It's the one shot on the two rolls that does the shadow thing nicely. This is some toy cars (Mini Coopers) that Laura got from her brother for Christmas and a CD player boombox with a bunch of the CDs Laura uses for dance practice. I like the way the light from the window contrasts so heavily with the unlit parts of the floor.

Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C., from the middle of the street

In May, I spent a few days in Washington, D.C., attending a meeting about digital shortwave radio. I brought the Diana with me. This shot from the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue is not bad; I like the composition of it, and the huge expanse of pavement in the lower half of the photo.

It's been more than 20 years since I shot black and white film. Judging by my results, I could use some more practice. I think I was basically shooting color shots on black and white rather than paying attention to the interplay between light and shadow that black and white captures so well. Well, that was part of why I shot on black and white, to re-learn what it was like. If I shoot more black and white, I'll keep this in mind.

Posted at 1:06 AM
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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Unaware of my civic duty no longer

I'm disappointed: thanks to an initiative instituted by soon-to-be-former Prime Minister Berlusconi and his government, I was eligible to vote in the just-ended Italian elections and I didn't even know:

Italians yesterday were just beginning to realize that their fate had been determined by people who have mostly entered their country only as tourists.

"It seems impossible," the Italian newspaper L'Unita writes in an editorial to appear today, "but the fate of this 2006 election has been decided by Italian émigrés of the second and third generation rather than by any people in Italy -- by men and women who were not born in their native land and, in the great majority of cases, have never lived there."

The "Italians abroad" voting scheme was designed by Mirko Tremaglia, the 80-year-old Minister of Italians in the World. An unapologetic defender of the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, Mr. Tremaglia is said to have modelled the scheme after a Fascist scheme that defined Italians as a race.

Under Mr. Tremaglia's new electoral law, eligible voters are defined as anyone with a continuous line of male descendants going back to a man born in Italy. The voter needs only to register with an Italian consulate, and does not have to speak Italian, have visited Italy or even have parents who were born in Italy.

Note that the election was decided by these "Italians abroad".

I'm going to have to contact the Italian consulate here. As a fourth generation descendent through a continuous line of male descendents going back to Italy, it's my right to have a say in who governs a country my great-grandfather left in 1885. Laura's grandfather left Italy in the 1920s, so she's eligible too.

How do you say "hoist by his own petard" in Italian?

Posted at 7:20 AM
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Jonesing for a Paul Lukas fix

Laura and I have long been fans of the world famous 'zine Beer Frame, of which 10 issues were produced by inconspicuous consumer Paul Lukas. It totally changed the way I look at the grocery store forever. I have a Beer Frame bowling shirt and the incredible Beer Frame CD EP of songs about products. I think we even met Paul at the Anywayfest in Columbus several years ago. It's been several years now since a new issue of Beer Frame graced our lives, and I know at least one of my friends who reads this site regularly (hi, Shirley!) misses it as much as we do. So it was a real pleasure to find that Paul is still around, and still writing from his skewed perspective. In particular, he covers the undercovered sports uniforms beat for He mentions in his FAQ on the site that there are still a couple of back issues of Beer Frame available, so if you missed out, here's your chance to pick up one of the most fascinating 'zines ever published. The book mentioned in the FAQ is pretty damned good, too.

Posted at 10:32 PM
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Friday, April 7, 2006

Where I Was

Elaine wants to know Where I Was. This is going to be kinda dull, I think; not much has changed.

1 year ago: I was married to Laura for a couple of years. I was working the same job I'm at today, but without the added excitement of an impending layoff. I still had my ponytail and beard and mustache; I don't miss them. We were in the same house that we bought from my parents a few years ago, and I was in the middle of our first major project, remodeling the master bedroom. A year later, we're still paying it off, but we're very happy with how it turned out.

5 years ago: I was engaged to Laura for a few years. I was doing the same job I am now, but as a direct employee of the company for whom I'm doing it rather than at a distant remove (I'll have to tell the story of that distant remove here soon). The bubble had burst, and working there was becoming distinctly uncomfortable, as the layoffs and buyouts which would eventually cost 80% of the company's employees their jobs had started. We were living in a rented house that was too small for all our stuff, but which was otherwise nice. I liked the woods in the back yard; it made a great place for me to run an antenna for my shortwave radio. I wasn't blogging here yet, but I had two other blogs, one (now defunct) about shortwave radio, and the other (mostly dormant recently, but with intentions to revive) about my genealogical research.

10 years ago: I was dating Laura. We had been together for about a year; by the end of the year, we would be engaged and living together, but that hadn't happened yet 10 years ago (I'll have to write down the story of how we got engaged some time). I was doing the same job I would be doing five years later, but hadn't yet taken on responsibility for the famous research lab's external web site. The world's largest startup had just been expelled from its mother's womb; I was originally slated to stay with the mothership, but wound up with the startup, taking over responsibility for the internal web site of the famous research lab. I was living in the same house I live in today, but my parents owned it then. I didn't have nearly as much stuff as I do today. I had my own web site, but not at my own domain; my URL had a tilde in it (and it was on the same machine that Jorn Barger used at the time). If you had said the word "blog" to me at the time, I would have thought you were creating a new onomatopoeia for vomiting. So would everyone else, even Jorn, who didn't coin the word "weblog" until December, 1997. I had recently bought my first domain for my radio club. I was still participating in Usenet, but increasingly disenchanted with the presence of spammers and the harvesting of e-mail addresses. By June, when the program that automatically posted the FAQ that I maintained to the net accidentally wiped itself and the FAQ out, I was ready to quit Usenet and move to the suburbs.

Posted at 8:18 PM
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Thursday, April 6, 2006

Michael S. Cox is a spammer

Michael S. Cox apparently thinks that only people that Michael S. Cox thinks are unattractive hate spam. Maybe that's because Michael S. Cox is a spammer.

I dunno, I met Dori at SXSW last month, and I thought she was kinda cute, myself.

Posted at 9:02 PM
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Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Let's Get Naked

In honor of CSS Naked Day, I've removed the stylesheets that normally make There Is No Cat such a delightful design experience. Now, you can marvel to the wonder of my site's semantic structure. Yay!

Posted at 10:17 AM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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