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Saturday, December 25, 2004


Depew Disaster

Ready for the Road Next time somenone hears me say, "Hey, let's drive up to Toronto for Christmas... it'll be fun!" please kick me in the tuchis.

Well, we haven't gone on a road trip with all four of us for quite a while, so I thought it would be fun. We hadn't driven to Canada in winter since 1998, so I had forgotten the catalog of ills that befell us for so many of those treks. I forgot just why we swore after that last trip, "Never again!" Why we had limited our driving journeys to Canada to a window of April through October, and why we had gone by air for our Yuletime visits ever since.

This time, our trip went quite well for the first four-fifths of the journey. We zipped through Pennsylvania in record time and blitzed our way from Corning, NY almost to Batavia quickly and without incident and almost without any stops. The weather was just fine, and there was no traffic to speak of.

Then a few miles south of Batavia, after about eight hours of driving, I was ready for a rest. We hadn't had lunch, either, so we stopped at a deli-cum-gas station for fuel and food. Sandy would take over the driving from here.

Depew Disaster As we emerged from the deli, things had changed. The sky was now menacingly gray and huge snowflakes were coming down in profusion.

Sandy got us to Batavia, then onto US 90 heading West to Buffalo. At that point I fell asleep. A few minutes later, I awoke to find that we were somewhere just east of Depew and not moving at all. Snow was piling up on the highway, ice was building up on the windshield, and visibility was deteriorating as we watched.

Route 90 SnowstormOut my side of the car, the scene was quite beautiful, but I was getting a very bad feeling about this situation. Nobody was going anywhere, and after fifteen minutes, I noticed people crossing the snow-covered grassy median to head back East. Not a bad idea, I thought.

Almost an hour passed, and still no movement. By now, it was 4:30 PM, only fifteen minutes or so to sunset. I thought we should turn around; Sandy and the kids wanted to go on.

Finally, traffic started to creep ahead. We soon passed the scene of a multi-vehicle accident, the mangled cars reproaching our stubborn advance towards Buffalo. Ben said they reminded him of the skeletons in the cave in an Indiana Jones movie.

Visibility continued to worsen as we finally got to Buffalo. The kids and I gave Sandy cues as to when it was safe to change lanes - there was no way she could see clearly enough. We were definitely not having fun now.

Somehow we made it to the Canadian border and onto the Queen Elizabeth Way, the highway that sweeps past Niagra Falls and on to Toronto. Two or three miles along on the QEW, as if on cue, the snow stopped and visibility became just fine. We had gotten away with it.

Official 2004 Jansen Xmas Photo It was all worth it in the end, as we made it safely to Peter and Sue's house in Oakville. It was great to see Sandy's Mom and Dad, two brothers, two sisters-in-law, and our three nephews and two neices. And, we got to pose in the Annual Official Jansen Christmas Photo, 23rd Edition, after all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Heading North

PT Cruiser Christmas Lights Abstract
We're heading up to Toronto on Friday to be with the Out-Laws over Christmas. Yes, having displaced my Canadian and formerly Protestant wife, Sandy, from both her country and religion of origin, it's the least I can do (actually, converting to Judaism was her idea, but I do appreciate it.)

We'll be staying with Sandy's brother's family, who generously house and feed the four of us every year. The rest of the family, Sandy's parents and her other brother and his family, come from Ottawa for the holiday, so the whole mishpocha is together.

We had given up on driving to Canada for Christmas several years ago, choosing to fly instead. But this year, when Sandy did her Travelocity/Orbitz/CheapTickets research, the lowest roundtrip airfare was $430 ... each! And that was only if we schlepped ourselves sixty-five miles to Dulles International, a dangerous voyage through the nation's worst traffic jam. Or, if we didn't mind changing planes in Philadelphia (what's that, like ten minutes in the air from Baltimore?) we could leave from our own BWI Airport for the privilege of paying $464 a ticket.

When Sandy told me the news, I thought this called for some creative thinking. Hmmmm, what could we do for $420 a person?

Well, for $264 each, we could fly to Cancun. Now that's a nice idea for late December, if you ask me.

Or how about this? Haven't been to Paris since our honeymoon in 1980. How about we pack up the kids and all fly there for only $324 a person? C'est un marché, non?

Or... and I really like this idea, I found a deal for 4 days/3 nights in Fort Lauderdale, including lodging, for $239 a person. So here's the plan... since this is about half of what it would cost us to fly up to Toronto, why not hold a lottery for Sandy's family? Four lucky Jansens can join us down in Florida - our treat! Isn't that a great idea?

Sandy didn't go for it. Can you believe that?

Oh well, so here's the real plan. We're going to drive this year after all, but not with one of our old rustbuckets. Sandy rented a brand-new Dodge Grand Caravan - that will be a comfortable ride for the four of us, and no worries about breaking down in Batavia, NY.

Monday, December 20, 2004


My First Time in Paris ...

La Pointe de l'Îsle
I was finishing up a week of business in Frankfurt in mid-July 1977 when I got word that there was a meeting I needed to attend in Zurich the following Tuesday. It really didn't pay to fly back home just to turn around again, so I set my mind to thinking where to spend the next few days.

Well, I had never been to Paris, and there were those five years of well-taught French in the Baltimore County School system behind me... so Paris it was!

I had the concierge at the Frankfurt Intercontinental book me a room at the Paris Intercontinental, just for one night, and then bought a Michelin Green Guide and a Frommer's Budget Guide for Paris, and. I was ready!

The short flight to Orly Airport Friday evening arrived about 8PM, and by the time I got to the Interconti, it was dark. I ascended to my room along with a gaggle of senior citizens from Iowa ... bienvenu à Paris!

The next morning, Frommer's Budget Guide in hand, the first order of business was to find a pension on the Left Bank. After all, I wanted to feel as if I really were in Paris for the weekend. I left my luggage with the concierge to be retrieved later and set out to cross the Seine.

I picked a nice two-story place in the Sixth Arrondissement - the St. Germain district. At age 27, single and adventurous, I was more than happy with my comfortable little bedroom, even if I did have to walk down the hall to use the bathroom.

The little Michelin booklet turned out to be my most useful accessory on this short visit. I was able to pick out the sights I wanted to cram into the next two days, and I easily whisked myself around the city via the Paris Metro.

In those two days, I spent several hours at the Louvre, visited Notre Dame Cathedral, rode the elevator up the Eiffel Tower, dodged traffic at Arc de Triomphe, ascended the twisting, ancient streets of Montrmatre, and hobnobbed with the famous dead at its cemetery.

Paris was everything I had imagined and more - I loved it all. But there is one place, one magical quarter-acre, that stands out in my memory. I can't quite explain it, but that little cobblestoned tip of Isle de la Cité, the downstream end that sticks out into the Seine like the prow of a small boat, had a special attraction for me.

Perhaps it's because of its simplicity and tranquility. There's just you, the river on three sides, and a willow spreading protectively above. The city, with all its bustle and excitement, is held a bay for just a little while, to give you time to be with your own thoughts.

When I saw this place, it was July 21, 1977, and it was love at first sight. And wouldn't you know ... exactly one year later to the day, I met my wife.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Come on an Ego Surfari with Me!

Bethany Surf
Ego surfing. What a wonderful expression!

You know what I mean - we've all done it - put your name into Google and see what comes up.

So let's get right down to brass tacks and see ego surfing in action. I'm now typing ["Steve Rosenbach"] into Google's home page.

Click-WHAM! And here are "Results 1 - 10 of about 1,310 for "steve rosenbach" (0.23 seconds)" according to the message near the top right edge of the screen.

Ok, let's see what we've got here: Yeah, about what I'd expect. The first result is for this very blog, in fact for a post from just eleven days ago. Then there's a link to my portfolio on Usefilm.com and another one to my "fine art photography" website.

Then there's a link to Geoff Snowman's blog (Geoff is our local Microsoft Technology Evangelist and a great supporter of my user group, MAVBUG.)

Ah! Here we go - next comes a hit for something I posted on the Beststuff "russiancamera-user" forum, better known as the Commie Camera Group.

But hey, what's this? The last item on the first page, with the heading, "Wildlands Results," doesn't look familiar at all. I click on the link, and it looks like the results of a mountain bike rally in Bernville, PA. Yes, there's my name, but I'm about as athletic as a garden slug. Oh, maybe it's my cousin, Steven Harry Rosenbach? Yeah, that must be it. Hey, Cuz, give me a yell!

Now I click to go to the next page (I guess with ten results on a page, there are 131 of 'em?) and start to see some funny stuff. Besides some more current items, here's a link to a list of Microsoft Access users groups that must be seven or eight years old. It lists my old phone number at Baltimore Gas & Electric as well as a incorrectly-spelled bge.com email address. And there's a comment I made to Andrew Tobias' website in '98 - for some reason, Andrew credited it to "Dr. Steve Rosenbach."

And so it goes... blog posts, my comments to other photographers and bloggers, MS Access, Visual Basic, and SQL Server questions and answers.

But on page six, I come to the end of the Internet, as it were, for "steve rosenbach". The Google explanation right after the last result is
In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 52 already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.
No thanks, I'll pass on that one.

Now what happens if I ego surf on my "official name," Stephen Rosenbach (no middle name, my parents couldn't afford one when I was born.)

This time, Google proclaims only 357 hits, and runs out of steam on page 4. The links are older (I've become less formal in my old age) and I find stuff like a review I wrote for an Access 97 book that somehow ended up on a bookseller's website in the UK. You never know where stuff goes on the web.

How about just "Rosenbach?" Wow - 142,000 hits! What's all this Rosenbach action on the Internet?

Page 1 starts with the Rosenbach Museum and Library - the legacy of A.S.W. Rosenbach, a root beer magnate and no kin of mine. Just kidding about the root beer. Actually, Mr. Rosenbach was a wealthy Philadephian whose family came over from Germany in the 1800's - practically Mayflower people compared to us just-off-the-boat Rosenbachs. The museum and library houses an extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts. Not that I've ever seen it.

There are links to Museo Rosenbach, an Italian rock band, and Ulrike Rosenbach, a German artist, as well as www.rosenbach.com, formerly the site of a metal fabrication company in Germany, but which now sits forlornly vacant and for sale (nein, danke!). And, what do you know ... at the bottom of page 1 is a link to this very blog.

Page 2 yields a many more links to the Famous Philadephia Rosenbach, link to "Rosenbach Web", which is Japanese (don't ask! - I have no idea,) Rosenbach used pianos, and Der Verwaltungsverband Rosenbach, which if my half-Yiddish, half-German serves me, means something like "the unified Rosenbach administration" - it must be a consolidated township in Germany.

Page 3 has a link about Rosenbach's disease - now there's an honor I could do without; a page with some statistics on NFL-er Timm Rosenbach that includes this accolade: Timm Rosenbach is not in the all-time top 50 in any major category; and much, much more on our Philadephia friend.

This search goes on for eighty pages, and I can tell you there's not much egotistically satisfying for me in all those thousands of hits. I did get a bit of a vicarious thrill to see some links fly by that referred to my cousin Margo (Margo L. Rosenbach, PhD,) but that was about it.

Now, ego surfing for one's name is all well and good, but what about gaging one's contribution to the Corpus of Human Knowledge? Let's try a different form of ego surfing. I'll type in a search relating to something I've written about and see what shows up. Putting any reference to my name or website here would be cheating, so we'll have none of that.

So I'll see how I stack up against the rest of the world on some important academic topic that I've written about in this venue... say... Jews and Chinese food. In goes the search term [Jews "Chinese food"]. And click-KERBLAM! just like that Google serves up 12,900 hits. Ok, I'm not on the first page. We'll I didn't expect that. Not on the second... the fifth... the fiftieth.

To my dismay, a carpel-tunnel-inducing seventy-six clicks later, I finally came across my landmark blog post on Jews and Chinese food.

So much for ego surfing!

Credit Where Credit is Due?

I just ran across this wonderful expression, "ego surfing," about two weeks ago, but I can't remember where. If you are the originator of this term, please write to me so that I can give the you credit you so richly deserve!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Our Readers Write

I'm still amazed to get an email or comment to one of my blog posts. Last week, I actually got two pieces of feedback.

Thanks to Anonymous for this comment on my Focus on Balmer post last week:
Just FWIW, the original signguy (he of the "Hon" sign on 295) died from cancer awhile ago - check out several dan rodricks columns in the sun for details.

His son occasionally staples a "Hon" to the welcome sign but we've been without even that for awhile. I think even the staples have all rusted away so the remenants have disappeared as well - he only lives on in our memories.

Oddly enough, he stopped doing it when it was decided it was "politically incorrect". There was talk about putting up a sign flashing all the different ways the different parts of baltimore says "Hon" but of course THAT wase either to inclusive or not inclusive enough. And of course it would cost money, so
they gave up on it.
As you can see, I haven't been paying attention as I head Baltimore-bound on 295 North lately. On my next trip, I'll check out that sign.

Also, in response to my post, I Owe It To My Bro' , Charlotte P. writes:
I just read your latest blog. How interesting! I graduated from JHU as well with Master’s in Computer Science. So did Bill [Editor's note: Bill is Charlotte's husband]. In fact that’s where we met. I remember having fun in California when the class started. I didn’t want to miss anything so I sent my 8 month pregnant sister to the classroom to take notes for me. Bill told me later that he did remember seeing her there on the 1st day and thought she was crazy. When I finally got back from California a week later, I sat next to Bill by coincidence on my 1st day in the classroom. The rest is history.

8th Night

Eighth Day

Today is the last day of Hanukkah 5765, and although I didn't take this photo last night (it's from last year,) it's exactly what we saw last night as we blessed the candles. It's always gives me a good feeling to see the hanukkia fully lighted, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Ben and I, with the memory of The Jazz Singer fresh in our minds (he saw it for the first time last week!) couldn't help ourselves. Having been duly impressed with Neil Diamond's rendition of Kol Nidre in the film (Yom Kippur will never be the same,) we chanted the Hanukkah blessings with our best Neil Diamond impersonations.

Sir Laurence Olivier would have been proud.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Foggy Morning Gamble

Foggy Serenity Woke up, jumped out of bed... and noticed that it was a very foggy morning. The first thing that went through my mind is, "Be careful driving to work!"

But the next thing was, "How about some foggy morning photos?"

Mystery, solitude, serenity... those were the thoughts running through my mind as I envisioned what kind of photos I thought I would take.

So what next? Take foggy photos in my driveway? OK, what's the shooting location?

As I got ready to leave, I decided to go to a spot that I had photographed before - a small community marina on the Severn River . I would be driving within a half-mile of it on the way to work anyway.
Upper Severn Pier
Once I got there and started shooting, I became aware that I didn't know the first thing about shooting in the fog. It was amazing to realize that I had never done it before, or if I did, I have no memory of it.

Once again, here's where digital camera really helps me. I could see from the images on the little LCD display that I was getting something like what I had envisioned. Back home this evening, a little mucking around with Levels in Photoshop helped spread out the very limited brightness range of the scene so that I could get decent prints.

All in all, I think the foggy morning gamble worked - I do see a little mystery, solitude, and serenity in these images.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


I Owe It To My Bro'

That's My Bro!
"Saaaaaaaaaaaaaay, Bro!"

That's the standard telephone greeting my baby brother Mark (see photo at left) and I have been using since at least the late '70s (I think it originates from the time I sported a "Jewish Afro.")

It was August 1984, a workday afternoon in my cubicle on the 9th floor of the Gas & Electric Building in downtown Baltimore - I was spinning away on some dinky mechanical engineering detail for the nuclear power plant at Calvert Cliffs.

"Hey, I just registered as a special student for a computer science class at [Johns] Hopkins in Columbia," Mark told me.

"That sounds like fun, Bro!" I replied. "Hey, I should sign up too, and maybe we can take the class together."

That last sentence changed my life, and I owe it all to my Bro'.

With a little help from my Rich Aunt Wanda, the educational assistance coordinator at Baltimore Gas & Electric, I was soon sitting next to my brother in an evening grad school class at the Applied Physics Lab campus of Johns Hopkins University.

Class was 2 nights a week, and our routine went something like this: Mark would stop by our house about 6PM, and Sandy would feed us pizza or spaghetti while the two of us watched Star Trek reruns on a little TV in the kitchen. Following the adventures of Captain Kirk lasted until 7:00, and class started at 7:15. Now, APL was 20 minutes away from our house. Which explains why the Brothers were habitually late to class.

But we both enjoyed the class and did very well. We decided to marticulate as genuine grad students for the next semester.

Over the next several years, we took our courses together whenever possible. It was an excellent adventure, and we enjoyed sharing it with each other. Bear in mind that Mark is ten years younger than me, so we never had this opportunity before.

Our favorite course was on the architecture of the IBM PC (remember, this was 1987 or so,) and how to interface with it. That was with Rick Henle of APL, our favorite instructor. We spent long hours in the lab, cobbling together breadboard-y circuits, plugging them into the PC's bus and writing little assembly language programs to make lights blink or whatever.

Having the same last names, Rick thought that we were cousins until mid-semester. From then on, he referred to us as "The Binary Brothers." We liked the sound of that.

After 5 years, Mark and I graduated on a beautiful May morning in 1989 at Homewood, the main Hopkins campus. Having graduated from a dinky little engineering school, I wasn't prepared for how spectacular the ceremony would be at JHU.

Our commencement speaker was scheduled to be Zhao Ziyang, then General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. But events that would only weeks later culminate in what we now think of as "Tiananmen Square" had demanded his return to China. Our quickly-arranged stand-in speaker was - get this - the Secretary General of the United Nations! Hopkins obviously has a lot of clout.

Later that year, still a mechanical engineer at BGE's Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, I got an opportunity to work on a "12-month temporary assignment", a project to revamp and consolidate the many disparate databases on site into a coherent architecture. My part was as a functional expert, being responsible for the requirements for the engineering and equipment segment of the project.

Part of the reason I was chosen was because I had always been the engineering section's informal "PC guy", but what clinched it was my shiny new Master of Science in Computer Science degree.

Well, to make a long story short, that "12-month temporary assignment" morphed into ten good years working in IT at Calvert Cliffs. Along the way I discovered and developed a real feel for database design and database application development. I liked it much better than engineering, and the thing is, I'm much better at that than I ever was at engineering because I have an intuitive feel for the subject. I never really had that connection as an engineer.

Since leaving BGE in 1998, I've worked for several IT consulting firms and two health care companies. The work is interesting and varied, and I'm still learning and growing in it every day. I'm truly blessed to be able to work at something I love as much as this.

And every once in a while, Mark will say in passing, "You know, Bro', you owe it all to me."

To which I reply, "It's true, Bro'. It's true."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Focus on Balmer

Baltimore Inner Harbor
I've always been interested in languages. And not just languages, but dialects as well.

And lucky me, for one of the nation's most outstanding dialects is spoken right here in the Queen City of the Patapsco Drainage Area, Baltimore.

Baltimoreans, who call their fair city BAL-mer, really do have a unique accent. As a young guy, before I moved to New York City, I felt I was too good for Balmerese. It used to grate on my nerves. But after more than 20 years back in the vicinity of Balmer, I've grown to love the dialect.

Geographical terms in Balmerese are very important. For example, I grew up in Balmer Cowndy (Baltimore County,) but now live in Annrundul (Anne Arundel County) in a place called Arnold, which is right by 'Naplis (Annapolis,) although I don't live near the wuder (water.) I do live near the Bay Bridge, though, so it's easy for me to go to the Eastrin (Eastern) Shore.

Moving along to other important topics, everyday speech in Balmer comes out something like this:

When I went off the college in 1967 (to Hoboken, no less!) I worked hard to lose my Balmer accent, thinking it was lower-class and beneath me. But now as I approach senior citizenship, I realize that was foolish - Balmer people are good-hearted, hard-working, and likable.

How likable? For true Balmer natives, Eastrin Balmer expeshully, "Hon" is a nearly universal way of addressing people. A waitress in Hollantaawn (Highlandtown, an Eastrin Balmer neighborhood) will come to your table and ask, "What can I get for ya, Hon?" It's friendly and charming, really.

If you drive into Baltimore from the South by way of US 295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, there is a large sign that welcomes motorists to the city. For years now, some beero in the Balmer gummit has been playing cat to an annonymous mouse (or more likey, mice) over this sign. Despite the city's best efforts, they just can't keep nocturnal Balmerese Partisans from modifying the sign from "Welcome to Baltimore" to "Welcome to Baltimore HON!".

Hey, just look at what a hit "Hairspray" is on Broadway - it's a story straight out of the most Balmer of Baltimore neighborhoods with the most Balmer of Baltimoreans as characters... and the nation loves it!

See ya tamar, Hon!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


A Great Miracle...

A Great Miracle Happened ThereThe Hanukkah dreydle has on its four sides the Hebrew letters, Nun, Gimmel, Hey, and Shin. This stands for the sentence, Nes gadol hayah sham, which means "A great miracle happened there."

The "there" means Israel, or more specifically, the Second Temple in Jerusalem. And the miracle refers to the miracle of the little jar of oil, which should have only been enough for one day but lasted for eight.

This was an "open miracle," a departure from the laws of Nature that is obvious to any witness. Our Jewish sages tell us that the age of "open miracles" is long past, but that there are miracles still - they are just hidden.

And I do believe in miracles. My own understanding of a miracle is when you become aware and open to something powerful, some realization, that had been hidden before.. or that perhaps you had unknowingly been hiding from.

I remember a small miracle that happened to me over twenty years ago. Sandy and I had been living in Long Island with our new baby, Leah, when I was laid off from GE. Fortunately, I quickly got a new job in my home town with Baltimore Gas & Electric. I started working at BGE in February, while Sandy and Leah stayed behind until we sold our house, which was in April.

I would drive up to Long Island each weekend or two to be with them. One Sunday evening driving back through the Meadowlands, I was frequency-surfing on the car radio using the "seek" button to go from station to station. Suddenly I heard Hebrew.

I knew what it was - WEVD in New York City - their motto was "the station that speaks your language." I had heard the Hebrew programs before.

But as I glanced over to the New York City skyline on my left, I suddenly realized that I was listening to Hebrew, over the airwaves, in the latter part of the twentieth century!

It was a language that by all logic, should have died out, along with its people, almost two thousand years earlier. And if not then, any number of times over the intervening centuries, most recently only forty years earlier.

But here it was, on the radio. And here was I, too.

A miracle!

Dear ITAI reader - no matter what your religion, skin color, or country... during this Festival of Light, may your eyes be opened to your own miracles.

Monday, December 06, 2004


A Long and Winding Story

Wherein SteveR Finds Himself In a Digital Dilemma

There I was Sunday morning, back in that same spot in the Maritime Republic of Eastport... OK, just what is this spot and why am I there so often lately?

It's a 3-story office building that houses TKF, a non-profit for which I'm doing some database work. This is the remnant of a side-business I had a few years ago, Binary Brothers Business Computing. Why "Binary Brothers?" I'll tell that story another time.

In any event, in my moonlighting heyday, I did database consulting and created Microsft Access database applications . Nowadays, I don't look for new work. But about two years ago, a friend of mine, who had created and was maintaining the database for TKF, found herself wanting to spend more time with her toddler and less working on databases. She recommended me to the TKF, and so I became their Database Guy. At this point, it only amounts to a dozen or two hours per year.

The building that houses TKF has outside walkways on each floor, and the third-floor walkway is an especially convenient vantage point from which to photograph Spa Creek and Annapolis. So there you are.
Chillin' In The Sun
Now Sunday, I had my new, cheap 512 MB CompactFlash® card in my camera. I had just bought it nine days earlier at the "Black Friday" 6 AM sale at our local Best Buy. I took a few shots as I arrived, just before nine, and then some more after my work was done, about 1:30 PM. No early-morning glowing light this time, but it was a beautiful day and Spa Creek was a deep blue from the cloudless sky above. Down on the pier, right by the water, there were two guys in dark blue pullovers standing in front of a bright red railing. Dark blue?... bright red?... Picture time!

Eastport Christmas
So a few photos of these fellows, a few more pictures across Spa Creek, and then back down to ground level. On a sailboat just about twenty feet away, a man was winding a long string of christmas lights around the mast. Aha!... "Eastport Christmas!" - I had already titled the shot in my head. I took a number of photos in continuous-shot mode, something I rarely do.

I stopped for a minute and looked at the LCD screen to check the exposure, and then hit the "back" button to look at the previous few frames. Suddenly, the monitor went dark and the LCD panel read, "Err 02." "That can't be good," I thought. No, it wasn't. the camera locked up until I turned it off and then on again. I could shoot more frames, but every time I tried to go to that frame near the end, the camera locked up with that same error message.

Back at home and deep in the unexplored hinterland of Section 8 - Reference of the Digital Rebel manual, I learned that "Err 02" means a problem with the CompactFlash card. A problem indeed! Although I could navigate to and see every frame (but one) just fine with the card inside the camera, when I tried to copy the files to my hard drive, I got this Terror Message:
cannot copy file: parameter incorrect
What to do now? Hit the Internet, of course! Using the search terms, recover image"flash card" got me "about 17,200" matches, according to the top left of the Google search screen, which also proudly noted that it took all of 0.32 seconds to find all those results. I usually don't even look at the "sponsord links" that head the list of search results, but this time I did, and noticed a link for "Photo Recovery Experts," which promised "Free recovery software. Free tech support. Editors' choice award." What did I have to loose?

This link led to the website for Flash Fixers, the makers of ImageRecall 3. And fortunately, true to the "Free recovery software" claim, there's a link to download a trial version.

Unfortunately, the trial version only recovers the first ten files it finds - and in this case, those would be images that I already downloaded and burned to CD-ROM.

Their website also has a Recovery Tips section. The very first thing it says is to "...stop doing anything more to the card." That is, don't try to write to it in any way, including, I assume, deleting files.

Being a cheap so-and-so, I really didn't want to spend money right now on the software. So I hit on an idea. Why not delete all of the already-archived images using the camera, that is, put the card in the camera and start using it's delete feature to remove images. Then once I had only new images left, see if the trial version would recover the first ten photos. Then delete those photos and continue the process until either (a) I had all the new images or (b) my luck would run out.

So, totally oblivious to FlashFixer's no doubt wise injunction to not mess with the card, I popped it into my Digital Rebel anyway, and using the camera's own "trashcan" button, deleted the older, archived images, in camera, if you will. Then I took out the card, put it into my card reader, and got ready to use the ImageRecall demo.

Just for the heck of it, I opened Windows Explorer and tried to see if I could copy a file ... I could! In fact, I was able to open Microsoft Office Picture Manager, and using the filmstrip mode, I could see the first several thumbnails just fine. I advanced the filmstrip, and sure enough, for file "img_5396.jpg", the eighth one from the end, there was one of those "can't open this file" icons, the little red "x", in place of a thumbnail. But to the right of that one, the remaining thumbnails looked just fine.

So I selected all of the files except that bad boy number 5396 and copied them to my hard drive, then burned them to CD. Life was good.

Afterwards, I put the suspect card back into my camera, formatted the card, set the drive selector for rock-and-roll, and held the shutter button down. Well, that lasted about 3 shots. I really haven't used the "motor drive" mode much, and I now see why you should invest in a fast card (this 512 MB card is just the rotgut variety, the runt of the SanDisk litter.) It seems as if the "busy" light was on for 30 seconds or so every time I took a few shots in rapid succession. So it took me a loooonnnnnngggggg time to squeeze off 150 or so shots. But, surprisingly, I had no problems. I could even thumbnail-view my way from the last batch of nine to the first. Last time, just trying to go to thumbnail view at all caused the camera to hang up with "Err 02."

Back at my computer, I found that I was able to transfer all the files to my hard disk with no problems. I checked a few of the images, and except for the fact that they were pictures of Nothing, they looked fine.

And now the delimma - do I worry what happened? Was this a one-time glitch, or a sign of more serious problems, either with the card or, Heaven forbid, the camera.

To schvitz over it, or not to schvitz?


Catch of the Day

Lone RowerHere's another image from early last Thursday morning in Eastport. In between snapping photos of the Annapolis side of Spa Creek, I spotted this gentleman serenely rowing his little punt upstream. Luckily, I had my Sigma 70-300mm lens mounted, so I zoomed out to the max and started following him in my viewfinder.

By himself, with just the waters of the creek around him, it didn't seem like much of an image. He was far enough away that even at 300mm, he only filled five percent or so of the frame. But as he passed the Annapolis Yacht Club, the water sprouted vivid reflections. Seeing him and his little punt against a background of megabuck yachts fired one of those special brain cells reserved for irony, and I fired the shutter in response.

I really like this image, but I fear it's too busy. That was my worry even as I shot it.

Lone Rower But as my guy continued up Spa Creek, I thought I might catch him in an open patch of water between a set of supports for the Spa Creek Drawbridge. The large concrete structures provided a dramatic, but visually simpler, context than at the Yacht Club. The early morning sun had set the water on fire with reflections of glowing amber.

All this went through my mind in an instant. Or did it? Maybe I just took what I thought was a pretty picture and am only just now deconstructing it to determine why I took it. I really don't know. In any event, it was a good catch, and I'm glad to have been, for a change, in the right place at the right time with the enough "reach" in my lens to capture it.

Maritime Republic of Eastport

I keep mentioning Eastport and referring to it as "across Spa Creek from Annapolis." Annapolitans regard Eastport as part of Annapolis, although, to quote from the website of The Maritime Republic of Eastport,
...the Maritime Republic of Eastport was founded on Super Bowl Sunday, 1998, when patriots residing on the Horn Point peninsula rose up in revolt against the snobbish suppression of "Annapolis Proper" across the harbor

The MRE does look like the part of Annapolis where all the work gets done, the part of town where an Igloo lunchbox seems more appropriate than a French waiter. Somebody's got to make and repair all those boats to fill all those marina slips to bolster Annapolis' boast of being "Sailing Capital of the World," and that job falls to Eastport. The MRE has some large boatyards just over the drawbridge, and if you walk around, you'll stumble over smaller boatyards just about everywhere.

For those ITAI readers who are vexillologically inclined, here is a web page that describes the heraldry behind the flag of the MRE. It also includes a detailed account of Revolution that created the MRE. Great reading.

Ancient Imagery of the Future - See It Now!

Doh! After relating the very nice plug I got from Hin Chau on Photoblogs.org, I forgot to give you a link to Hin's amazing website, Ancient Imagery of the Future". This handsome bloke from Down Under has an eye you wouldn't believe! Just look at this beautiful amusement-park-ride photo - in Black & White, yet! And this unusal piece of street photography. There's a lot more. Go see it. Now.

My Mistake

In yesterday's post about Canadians toppling a Saddam-like statue of President Bush, I mistakenly called them Torontonians. Well, it's possible that there were some people from Toronto there, but the affair actually took place in Ottawa.

Also, to my great dismay, it turns out that the Canadians had a model to follow for this exhibition of ignorance and poor taste - a similar event in San Francisco last April. Looks like there was one in London earlier this year as well.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


We Are Not Amused ...

Sending the Wrong Message

Now I'm an easy-going guy, but this makes me really, really, angry.

I appreciate good political street theater as much as the next guy, even when I don't agree with the sentiments expressed. For example, while I disagreed with their politics, I admired the imaginative shenanigans of the ladies of Code Pink during the runup to this year's election.

But these Torontonians have, in my opinion, stepped over the line. With this Stalinist/Saddamist statue, are they really comparing President Bush to Saddam or Stalin? And do they really believe this "Bush as Emperor" pap? Is this really what Bush and the U.S. deserve for the effort to provide the opportunity for Iraqis to build a free society for themselves?

Reason Abandoned
You can and should argue the policy decisions, but to compare Bush to Saddam is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

And look at the expressions of glee on these people's faces Mr. Bush topples Why not AK-47's shooting into the air as well?

As a lifelong Democrat, segregation-boycotting, McGovern-voting, Clinton-supporting, mostly-liberal American, I have to believe that most of my fellow citizens, even those who voted against President Bush, are disgusted with this spectacle.

I hope eveyone in this crowd is forced to move to Ottawa and freeze their collective tuchis off.


Saturday, December 04, 2004


Endorsement from Down Under

Buddah & BubbaIn Monday's post, I wondered out load how how it was that ITAI reader Debi got to this site via her ex-boyfriend in Western Australia. Debi replied that she was surfing for his name, and that brought her to this thread on Photoblogs.org. Please allow me to quote from Debi's former beau, Hin Chua:

One of my favourite blogs is Steve Rosenbach's 'Imagine There's An Image' at http://therosenblog.blogspot.com

It's not a visual diary at all; in fact, while his photos are nice, I really go there for the writing. It's basically a series of reflections of his life and photography, accompanied by photographs. Steve writes very well; he's very forthright in his opinions and he always seems to have an interesting story from his past to tell.

I love his blog because it's quite different to the rest of the herd, combining good photography AND writing...

Wow! I'm floored, flattered, and touched! And here is the best part:
...and for the fact that as a Chinaman living in Australia, it's always interesting to see what a Jew in Annapolis is getting up to.
Right on, Bro! There's that Chinese-Jewish connection again!

And Hin, I think that there's something to the comparison of a "Chinaman" living in Australia and a Jew living in Annapolis. Baltimore, about 40 minutes away, is truly an American Jerusalem. It has a large, coherent, and knowledgable Jewish community with wonderful spiritual and educational resources. Also, demographically, Jews make up a significant part of the population of Baltimore, Baltimore County, and Howard County. We Hebrews living in the Jewish Outback of Anne Arundel County, on the other hand, are a tiny minority. I certainly still feel like an outsider, even after living here longer than any other one place in my life. And this feeling is something internal to me, it's absolutely not the result of any mistreatment to me as a Jew while living here - there has been none.

But then, I've always felt somewhat different. Being an immigrant and a Jew, I have always had a an auslander's view of society. That's not to say it's better or worse than the "norm," only different. And for that, I've always found reason to be both grateful and delighted.

And if I may wax philosphical for a moment, I think that one of the collective roles G-d assigned to the Jewish People is to act as outsiders, to have a different viewpoint to offer. Ivri, the Hebrew word for "Hebrew" (as in a Hebrew person,) is based on the root AYIN-VET-RESH, a verb stem that can have the meaning of "to be apart or across from" or "to be on the other side."

So in a way, it seems right and proper, an expression of one "outsider's" solidarity with another, for "... a Chinaman living in Australia ... to see what a Jew in Annapolis is getting up to."

Let me conclude today's post with an enthusiastic injunction to all ITAI readers to visit Hin Chau's excellent photoblog.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Early Morning Drama

Annapolis from Eastport
If you've been following this blog, you know I'm fascinated by reflections in water. And I'm finding, once again, that early morning (or late afternoon/early evening) is the time to catch the most dramatic reflections.

I think it's because the low angle of the sun acts like a spotlight on the horizontal surfaces of the buildings and boats, which then have plenty of light on them to reflect back onto the water. Whatever the reason, get up early or hang out late if you want to catch the good light.

I took this photo at 7:30 AM yesterday morning from Eastport, across Spa Creek from Annapolis. Full disclosure forces me to admit that this exposure was a mistake, as I didn't notice that my camera was still set for an exposure compensation of minus 1-1/3 stops. I saw the error of my ways right away on the LCD, set my camera back to "neutral", and took several more "normal" exposures.

Back home last night in my digital darkroom, I decided to open the "bad" file in Photoshop Elements and see what I could do with it. All it took was to lighten up the high values with the Levels dialog to brighten up the buildings and reflections. This left the dark values in the sky and the water pretty much as they were and resulted, I think, in an image that has more dramatic impact than the original scene.

To us old-timers, there's nothing too surprising about this - we all know about how underexposing transparency film can sometimes increase saturation and contrast to produce a more dramatic version of what we see with our eyes. There's no free ride, though. In the old days, this technique could result in noticibly increased grain in the dark areas, like the sky in this photo. In the digital world, the equivalent of grain is noise. When I magnify todays' photo on my computer screen, I can see the noise in the dark areas.

On the other hand, the photo prints really nicely as a 10-inch wide print. The noise isn't noticible at this size, but I wonder how it would look enlarged to 20 or 30 inches?

One thing I can say for sure is that this image as a 10-inch print passed a critical test.

My wife likes it!

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Global Garage Sale

Praktica MTL5I've decided that my next Big Boy's Toy will be a Canon i9900 wide-carriage printer. I wanna make those big prints!

Big prints, sure, but no big wallet. So Sandy says, "Why don't you sell some of your old cameras?" Why not indeed - I don't have any expensive equipment, but every little bit helps. And somewhere in early 2003, I got a little Praktica-crazed (not that there's anything wrong with that!) and managed to by 8 or 9 1970's/1980's-era Praktica SLRs before the fever broke.

Nowadays, although I occassionally take one of my beloved Soviet rangefinders for a spin, I never get around to excercising these Ostie beauties. I also have a few lenses, the best of which is a CZJ (Carl Zeis Jena) 135mm f/3.5 Sonnar.

So out came the tripod and a slightly-chipped frosted diffuser panel from my basement's drop ceiling. I tooks some photos, I wrote some ad copy, and by nightfall, two cameras and the CZJ lens were on the auction block at The Devil's Own Website.

CZJ 135mm SonnarThis morning, when I stumbled downstairs to my PC, still in my gatkes to check my email, I found a welcome correspondent in my Inbox: "endofauction@ebay.com".

Just moments earlier, at 03:42:53 PST, I was informed, someone had purchased my lens using the "Buy it now!" option. Wow, that was fast!

As I looked more closely at the email, I noticed that my buyer wasn't just someone from Omaha - it was a gentleman from Hong Kong!

Over the course of the day, we exchanged several genial emails. We discussed things like shipping costs, for sure, but we also just chatted aimiably like two friendly people at a garage sale. It turns out that we both have Canon 300D digital SLRs. He's ordered a M42-to-EOS adaptor and will use the solid, metal-bodied old Zeiss glass on our favorite Wunderplastik camera. Why not!

The lens is now on its way, in the good care of the U.S. Postal Service, and should be in his hands by next Wednesday at the latest.

Part of me is just taking this experience in Twenty-First Century stride, but part of me is in awe of the whole thing. I'm still old enough to remember how exciting it was in tenth-grade in the 60's to get a letter from a pen-pal in Nice. As an engineer at GE in the 70's, I still remember "telecopying" pages, one page at a time, feeding the paper clumsily onto a stupid drum and watching it spin like an idiot for six minutes a sheet. Now I got a guy twelve time zones away on the other side of the world to buy my lens ...in six hours... while I slept! That part of me is happily flabbergasted. Wow!

Now, anybody want a really nice Praktica MTL5?

Word Fashion

Just a little aside to this story: As I was writing this post, I jumped to Merriam-Webster Online to use their thesaurus. And on their front page, I saw this headline: "Pleather" - The New Word in Fashion.

I followed the link to this article, which lists a number of neologisms in their new Eleventh Edition, including the aforementioned "pleather."

Now I'm quite impressed with myself, as I had just used "pleather"...twice!... in my "ad copy" for the two Praktica cameras, each of which, I proudly proclaimed, came with a pleather case.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Bargain Store Mirage

Rainy Night at Ollie'sOllie's Bargain Outlet is a chain of stores where the merchandise is made up of manufacturers closeouts and liquidation stock. Their motto is "Good cheap stuff." You just never know. My usual reason for heading to Ollie's is to check out their computer books. Some books on technology that I work with everyday, SQL Server 2000, for example, can be as much as three or four years old and still perfectly useful to me.

So this rainy night, I pulled up to Ollie's and found this shimmering crazy wet mirage floating in the wet asphalt in front of the store. And by the way, I did find a "good cheap" book on SQL Server performance tuning - an impressive Microsoft Press harback for $9.99. You just never know.

The "Stuck at 85 Posts" Mystery Revealed

All I had to do was check out Blogger.com's list of known issues:
Stats collection has been temporarily turned off, so you will not see your post count increasing on your dashboard or profile. We plan to restore this functionality in the short term but have needed to stop collecting the information for now in order to stabilize the database servers.
So I don't need to worry about that problem anymore - it'll take care of itself.

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