- March 11th, 2012
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This semester has been brutal. Things to not appear to be letting up at all. I haven’t even exposed a single frame of film in more than a week. Not fun.
I tell myself I am going to stop shooting 35mm film at least once a week. A roll of 36 exposures takes forever to go through. Once you have been spoiled by the detail of larger formats you just end up underwhelmed by the contents of the tiny little 36x24mm frames.
Then I think about the one role where 35mm shines: pocket camera. My ancient Kodak Retina IIa is not exactly the lightest camera in existence, but it will fit in my pocket. It also has a nice Schneider-Xenon 50mm f/2.0 lens in a near-silent Synchro-Compur leaf shutter. The shutter speeds are limited to whole stop increments from 1s to 1/500s, plus bulb. The aperture only ranges from f/2 to f/16.
Using a slow film, like the slew of discontinued films around which the camera was designed, opens the full range of available shutter speeds and apertures. The other option, and the one I exercise, is using a film that both pushes and pulls well. Several ASA400 emulsions fit that bill quite well. A hefty stash of gifted, but expired, Agfa APX 400 means that when I load a roll that is the emulsion I go with. On my most recent roll, overcast and rainy days were on the horizon. The decision was made to push the film to ASA3200, and even still several exposures called for f/4 at 1/500s. A winning combination if I do say so myself.
Instead of just putting the Kodak on the shelf, to look pretty, when I run out of my stash of Agfa film I think I’ll go ahead and extend its life by ordering a case of Arista Premium 100 and seeing how that goes.
Three, maybe four, weeks into the semester and I have already done more work this semester than in the previous four or five combined. For the most part, all of my time is now spent doing homework. My training schedule for the MS150 has all but evaporated. Even when I do take a few hours to ride, I find myself pedaling away while trying to make sense of the most recent tidbits my fluid mechanics textbook has thrown my way.
At this stage in the game, failure is not an option. Thirty is rapidly approaching and I have absolutely no intention of returning to the military, enlisted or commissioned. No, this degree needs to be completed above the standard so I can move on and really start a new chapter. Perhaps once I have more than just a DD-214 to say that I have accomplished some things in my life, focus can be taken off of the fact I have a DD-214 and exist as someone other than a former infantryman. For now, that will provide purpose in the next three semesters. The prospects of an engineer’s salary might provide some motivation as well.
Nobody ever shoots a full roll of film and loves every single frame, but on my most recent outing I came pretty close on two rolls. When you only bring three rolls of 120 film and a square format Mamiya C3 to shoot the pace slows down a lot, after all you’ve only got twelve exposures per roll. Keeping things flowing is important, but you definitely do not want to go off releasing the shutter when you are not within a hair of certainty that the resulting negative will contain the image you desire.
For my last shoot of the semester break, I only ended up shooting the two rolls of black and white film I brought – Kodak Tri-X Pan 320, and Ilford Delta 3200. The roll of Kodak Portra 400, the best color negative film in existence for portraiture as far as I am concerned, I had with me will have to wait for another time. Having never shot with this particular girl before I was unsure how things would go, but it was evident from the start that if nothing else we would at least have a good time. When I took my film out of the tanks and held the negatives up to the light, I knew I had some winners.
Words I heard many times as a private, and probably told my privates a dozen times as a sergeant, still hold true today. You either give it all you have, or stay at home. With my first attempt at the Houston-to-Austin MS150 cycling benefit for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society coming up in 104 days, it is time to put in extra training effort. What does that even mean? Hours of intensity training on my mag trainer to build endurance, and at least a 80 miles of actual road riding every week.
My personal goals are as follows:
Completing the first goal is entirely up to me, and I think it is well within my grasp. The second goal is going to take some help from anyone who feels like donating to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is something they’d like to do. If you’re one of those people, the following link will take you to my donation page and you can help me with my goals while also helping those who have been touched by a terrible illness: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/ajmartinez
Fall 2011 proved to be an incredibly stressful semester for a number of reasons, but I survived and did well enough to continue my pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree. When grades posted, I had managed to turn what started as my best grade into my worst, and what started as my worst grade into my best. In the spring, I will see if I can manage to just keep them all at a respectable level. At any rate, the prospect of actually finished one of the four degrees I have started in the last eleven years still exists and that was really the best Christmas present I could get myself.
As far as Christmas itself went, I made out pretty well with some gizmos for my road bike, a stein from Germany for my beer, and some new clothes. I also picked up a new-to-me large format camera, a 4×5″ Shen Hao, with a 135mm f/5.6 Symmar-S MC lens. That will help me blow off some steam in the limited free time to come, and hopefully let me make more things to hang on my wall. The gifts I gave out this year were all framed darkroom prints from photos I took this summer in Scotland. People seemed to enjoy and appreciate those, so it may become a tradition for as long as I can source film, paper, and chemistry.
A week of solid use has me convinced that the Kindle Fire was a worthwhile purchase. While it hasn’t displaced any of my textbooks yet, I was able to cut my laptop out of the mix for the week. The courses I’m taking right now are not computationally intensive on the scale where I need to write anything in MATLAB to solve equations. Wolfram Alpha has been sufficient for my needs thus far. I’m able to keep up with news, friends, and entertainment very easily.
Now, this device has cost me a good deal more than the $200 initial cost. The ease of integration with Amazon’s multitude of online stores makes purchasing things a little too easy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Between 2001, when I graduated high school, and the day before my Kindle fire arrived I probably bought somewhere on the order of 10 books of my own choosing (read: not textbooks). I’ve purchased eight books in the last week alone. My classical music collection was leaving a lot to be desired, and two classical collections were purchased to address that problem. Somehow, in all of my years of Apple use I never once purchased anything from iTunes. A week with the Kindle Fire, and I have to exercise restraint for the sake of my credit card.
After a few reviews were out in the wild, I decided it wasn’t too much of a risk to pull the trigger on my own Kindle Fire. This should be prefaced with the fact that I see no point in tablets. I have computing ADD – if I’m using something that purports to be a computer it’d better be able to multitask its face off. Fortunately, the Kindle Fire seems to be marketed more as an eReader with some mobile entertainment features and not as a laptop replacing tablet. My intentions with this device are simple: reduce the weight of my backpack by purchasing engineering textbooks digitally. As an Amazon Prime member, the free content offerings from Amazon are a nice benefit. The question is, will this device do what I want it to do well enough that I feel like I didn’t blow $200 on something I won’t use?
A solid day of use may have provided some insight into my last question. Books that are published as print reproductions, which as far as I can tell is marketing speak for low-resolution image exports of page layouts, may not be of any use at all on the Kindle Fire. Magazines published this way are certainly not worth a second glance – full zoom fails to yield text that is in any way a joy to read. Viewing PDFs of lecture slides is not a problem, and for the last several semesters that’s how most of my required material has been delivered, so at least there’s that. Publications that actually take the time to format their content for mobile devices are excellent. While I’ve never used an original Kindle, and can’t comment on the differences, I will say that using Kindle-specific content is very enjoyable. Two such publications are Science News, and The New Yorker. The latter is delivered through a standalone application, rather than the Newsstand, but offers several features that make content consumption more dynamic for the user – namely the inclusion of links to multimedia content which the Kindle Fire happily plays. The former populates the Newsstand, and reads much like a Kindle eBook.
As far as the other features are concerned, the Kindle Fire seems plenty capable of handling most light tasks pretty well. Silk, the browser Amazon spent so much time talking about, is kind of a dud in my opinion. It’s certainly not the fastest browser I’ve ever experienced. It loads pages though, and renders most things pretty well. The browser does seem to report as computer rather than a mobile device, leading to some pages coming up in a less-than-ideal format. The Amazon Appstore leaves a lot to be desired, for instance Dropbox is not available. Fortunately, you can get the apk directly from Dropox and it functions just fine. Anyway, it’s not going to replace my desktop by any means. My laptop will still be coming with me in the event I need MATLAB or any of the other major software suites I have installed on it. For light browsing, chatting, video, audio (through headphones, the speakers aren’t that great), and the obvious Kindle features I think this device will work just fine for me. Your mileage may vary.