I’ve read most of Oliver Sacks’ books. I’m not a book critic so I won’t go into detail about why I like his writing but in short, he was humane, learned and interesting.
Yesterday I bought the last book he ever published, “Gratitude”. I got it on my Kindle. It was a great read, if short (It’s only 64 pages). In my opinion it’s one of his best.
I was disappointed to reach the end so soon, but the last lines of the book contained this insight, which was worth the cover price alone: “And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life – achieving a sense of peace within oneself.”
I took this photo when I was thinking about doing bottle photography. I’ve since abandoned that particular idea because:
a) I no longer need the money, and
b) I dislike advertising in general and alcohol advertising in particular.
c) I didn’t have a proper studio.
Anyway, if something needs to be advertised in order to sell, I’m not sure I want to help. I’m also generally against consumerism and added to that, I think alcohol is a bad thing for a lot of people and therefore banning alcohol advertising would be a good thing in my opinion.
So whilst I enjoyed (Sort of) trying my hand at product photography, I’m not sorry it didn’t work out.
Since it’s late and I have nothing better to do, I thought I’d just post a quick review of my Summicron 35mm 2.0.
I bought this (Used) lens on eBay about a year ago. I think I paid over the odds for it, in hindsight. The (Cypriot) bloke I bought it from said it was unused but I looked up the date of manufacture a couple of days ago and it’s apparently 2000-2004. It seems to me unlikely that it was sitting in the box for more than 10 years…
Anyway, it’s in mint condition so who knows. I’ve only used it on three rolls of film (All Tri-x) but the results have been fantastic. It’s pin-sharp edge-to-edge; nice and contrasty and I don’t see any distortion, even when using it for portraits from nearest focus.
This is a solid lump of metal and glass. The only piece of plastic on it is the little focus grip, which is unfortunate but nothing’s perfect. It’s quite heavy for such a small lens. I think the barrel’s made from from brass, whereas the black version of this lens is made from aluminium. As I said, it’s quite a diminutive piece of engineering – the filter size is only 39mm. My old Canon 35mm 1.4 L was a monster by comparison.
I recently listed this lens on eBay (I was planning to sell it and my M6 body) but got hardly any interest. It may have been that I’d priced it too high – I’m not sure. Maybe there just isn’t much of a market for this particular model.
At any rate, I’m happy to hold onto it for now. It’s a joy to use and the results are fantastic.
I got this camera about a year ago. I’d had one before and only put one roll of (Colour) film through it before selling it but this time I was determined to use it.
However, I found myself looking at the negs from the last roll of Tri-X I put through this one and feeling distinctly underwhelmed (Not that they were lacking in technical quality, just that they were a bit boring). This was only roll number three too. Not exactly heavy use.
So I listed it on eBay, reasoning that it was too expensive to have lying around. I had it on there for about a week before I had a change of heart. This was inspired by looking back at some photos from film numbers one and two, some of which I was very pleased with. Additionally, I had sent a print from it to a Japanese bloke and he had seen fit to frame it, which encouraged me.
It’s a very nice piece of engineering. It’s solid metal, glass and leather. The only plastic bit is the wind-on lever shroud. Everything about this camera is quality. The controls feel silky smooth. It has heft. The ergonomics are perfect. There’s nothing extraneous on it. It feels as though it’ll last a hundred years and it probably will, if looked after.
I took it out in the dusk tonight and shot some pictures of the housemartins wheeling over the garden. Not sure if I got anything but I just got back from posting the film away so I’ll know in a few days.
I hope to hold onto the M6 for the foreseeable future. It’s such a good tool, I really enjoy using it and it yields great results. (The lens I have for it is a Summicron 35mm F2.0, which is as nice a thing as the camera body but I’ll review that in another post.)
One thing I forgot to do was add the olive oil but I’m not convinced it made a huge difference. I used Doves Farm organic flour since I try to avoid pesticides.
Anyway, I had a slice of it toasted for breakfast this morning and it was fine.
I’ll make some more tomorrow. This time I might add some herbs to the mix. Possibly a few olives too. I’d like to use unsalted black olives but I can’t find any at a reasonable price so I’ll go with what I have.
Making your own bread isn’t much cheaper than buying it from the supermarket, in fact it the cost is probably about the same once you factor in electricity for the oven.
Nonetheless, there’s something satisfying about making your own, so I think I’ll continue.
The cat hasn’t been well lately. Primarily, he has been losing weight. We couldn’t work out why so we took him to the vet. They took some blood and the vet said possibly a thyroid problem.
We got the results the next day and sure enough his thyroid looked to be out of whack. They took more blood which confirmed things.
Hyperthyroidism can be nasty. The symptoms in humans include:
The symptoms are probably much the same for cats I should imagine.
The treatment options we were offered for Gus were:
Radio iodine – a permanent cure but requires a two-week stay at the vet’s, so we ruled it out as he gets stressed there.
Surgery- again, a permanent cure but he’s old and we didn’t want to put him through it.
Dietary restriction of iodine – expensive and not as good as the option we chose.
Methimazole gel – this is what we settled on. You apply a small amount of the gel to the inside of the ear once a day. The drug suppresses production and release of thyroid hormones. Side-effects are rare apparently. Costs are £34 per month for the gel, plus about £35 every three weeks for a blood test to check thyroid levels. All things considered, I think we went for the best option.
Hopefully Gus will get well again with no side-effects. Costs per annum will be about £1000, which is quite steep but he’s been a great cat and we don’t mind spending the money.
Edit: I’ve discovered that on methimazole, cats can be expected to live for only 3-5 years after starting treatment. They can also suffer liver damage if their hyperthyroidism is left untreated for too long. More here.
I don’t remember how I first came across them but IIHS’ small overlap videos caught my attention.
You probably aren’t aware of IIHS if you live in the UK but they’re the America equivalent of Euro NCAP.
In their small overlap crash tests, the IIHS send cars at 40mph into a solid barrier. The car impacts the barrier with only a small percentage of its frontal area.
This is quite a brutal test but it has a purpose: a quarter of all road deaths are attributable to this type of crash.
So I thought about my three star Euro NCAP 2003 Fiesta and the hairy road I have to drive on to get out of this village and decided a more modern car was in order. In the end I bought something newer with a five star NCAP rating.
Question is: was it money well-spent?
Road deaths per billion kilometres (621,371,192.237 miles) travelled in the UK were 3.6 in 2013. I travel about 10,000 miles per year in my car. This means I have approximately a 1 in 17260.31 chance of being killed on the road each year (In an average car).
If my five star Euro NCAP car halves my risk of being killed versus the 2013 average (Generous estimate), I now have a 0.0029% chance of being killed in a year, versus a 0.0058% chance before the new car.
The new car cost me a fair chunk of my savings. Was it worth it, solely on the safety criteria? I think not but in our new risk-averse world, safety sells.
To Edinburgh on the M8 today. It’s not my favourite road. The last time I drove along it there was a storm and my wee car was getting blown about quite a bit. Then there was the road works, the lorries, the spray, the surface water. All in all not a great trip.
Today was better but still not great. You have two choices on the M8: the slow lane, where you trundle along at 45-55 mph sandwiched between lorries; or the “Fast” lane, where traffic goes a little bit faster but you find yourself being harassed by people in a more of a hurry than I usually am.
The M8 on a sunnier day.
My brother commutes on the M8 a few times a week (I used to do it myself) and it’s even less of a joy at rush hour. All it takes is a breakdown or a crash and your 90 minute commute becomes a three-hour headache.
A partial answer would be to add a third lane on each side. There’s work in progress at the moment where it looks like this is being done for at least parts of the whole. However adding the required lanes for the entire length of it would cost a huge amount.
As an occasional user, I would be happy to pay a toll to fund the third lanes. Commuters might have a different view as it would obviously be more expensive for them but on the other hand they would have a better road. This is one of the main transport routes in Scotland and it’s completely inadequate in its current state. I wonder when it’ll get better?
This printer actually belongs to my brother. I use it to print short-run brochures for him. I also do the occasional print of my photographs but lately I’ve been thinking that’s a little pointless as I have a good monitor and they look the same on the monitor as they do in print.
This is a nice piece of equipment. It prints up to A3+ (329 x 483mm) and I have actually used it to print some images on that size paper but the problem you then have is finding an off-the-shelf frame to fit. A3 is much more common and not that much smaller.
It uses 10 inks to give very nice colour and black and white prints. If I’m printing photographs, I use Ilford Gallerie Gold Fibre silk, a beautiful baryta paper. It seems to work well with the Pro 10 and has the added benefit of smelling like a true silver-based photographic paper. I’m not sure how archival it is. To my eye, the prints are indistinguishable from a proper darkroom silver print. (Note: Ilford Imaging Europe Gmbh went out of business, so this paper will soon be out of stock everywhere.) Which reminds me that Pixma inks are the pigment type, meaning they should be quite durable prints.
A set of inks is currently about £80 from Amazon, down from about £110 when I first got this printer. The cartridges are pretty small so they don’t last very long. I couldn’t guess how many sheets of full-colour print you’d get out of a set but it’s fairly expensive to run. The print head has never gummed up despite the printer sitting idle for months at a time, which has been a bonus.
This printer has been superseded by the Pixma Pro-10S, which looks to be a similar spec but no doubt has detail improvements.
I tried using the Pixma wirelessly but the connection was very unreliable so I reverted to plugging it into a USB port and it now seems fairly happy. (The only available space for it was on the bedroom floor next to the door so I’ll no doubt be stubbing my toe on it at some point.)
Anyway, if you’re in the market for a photo-quality A3+ printer with pigment inks, this is a great choice.