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Sunday, January 30, 2005


The Heroic Purple Finger

By the symbol of dipping their forefingers into small vials of purple ink, the People of Iraq today betrothed themselves to democracy and the rule of law.

With the web equivalent of a four-inch high headline, the online edition on The New York Times said it all: Iraqi Voters Turn Out in High Numbers Despite Attacks Intended to Deter Them.

Even amidst the Dodge City-like atmosphere of places like Baghdad and Faluja, heroic men and women, Suni and Shia, turned out in large numbers, risking their lives to vote, to exercize their new right to have a say in the future of their country.

Of course, there is much that still needs to be done - months and years of travail and frustration no doubt lie between today and the dream of an Iraqi goverment of, by, and for the people.

But today was an amazing start, and The Purple Finger will go down in history as another symbol of humanity's struggle for freedom.

Suggested Reading

Some articles that I think worth reading about the Iraqi election:

We Won! by Steven Schwartz

The Blue-Finger Revolution by Ryan Sager

Friday, January 28, 2005



Yes, as of today, I am, at least in some quarters, a Senior Citizen!

What the heck happened? I remember the amazing surprise 40th birthday party Sandy threw for me as if it were last week. Leah was 7, Ben was 3. Fifteen years have gone by in a flash.

So will I turn around next week and find that I'm seventy?

Not all is bleak, though. Denny's and IHOP will now give me Senior discounts and I can join the Arnold Senior Center and take basket-weaving or whatever for fifteen bucks a course.

Presents will be graciously accepted. Send money - cash or PayPal will do just fine. My Canon i9900 13"x19" printer just arrived, and it's not that the printer cost so much (it did, but I saved my pennies for it,) but the eight colors and 13x19 paper will soon bankrupt me.

Dejunking After All These Years

Disaster Area - FEMA To Arrive Soon
Ah, I remember now what I've been doing these past fifteen years - piling crap up in my basement office.

That desk you see here is a hollow-core door - they're pretty big, right? And as you can see, it was pretty hard to see any door surface showing through all the junk.

Beyond Hope
But the desk was the good side of the office. Take a gander at the disaster on the other side!

All this detritus was a blight on my Glorious Soviet Camera Collection, too - it was overwhelmed by the papers and bits and pieces of anything and everything that I'd throw there.

It was actually kind of like an archeological dig site. There were layers of artifacts - you could dig down and find photos I took in 2002, family history research I did in 2001, and so forth.

A New Dawn
I had planned to tackle the office weeks ago, and the longer I put it off, the crabbier I got.

In desperation, I made a valiant effort over the past few days. Getting started was the toughest part, but once I got over that hump, I was on a roll. I used the basic two-pile method - one to keep and one to get rid of. The "get rid of" pile grew and grew ... and look! I can see the door/desk now!

A New Dawn
It was amazing - out went papers from 1996 that hadn't seen the light of day since... who knows? I also got rid of things like my FoxPro 2.5 manual (that version was released in 1992) and other out-of-date software and books. Anyone want a complete set of Access Advisor Magazine 1993-1996? Too late, it's gone.

Now my Soviet Cameras stand proudly under the gaze of Comrade Gorbachev. I found quite of few "lost" items, too - almost like finding money.

I feel much better now. It just wouldn't do to march into Seniordom carrying around such a load.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Coming to America

For my entire adult life, I've marked every January 20th as the anniversary of the day my family came to America in 1951. That includes me. Yes, I arrived on these shores just days before my first birthday.

My mother and her family, from Kalisz, Poland, miraculously managed to survive in Poland during the years of Nazi terror. In 1946, they made their way to a Displaced Persons camp in American-occupied Germany at Hof-Saale, just West of the westermost tip of Czechoslovakia. They were moved around a bit by the authorities to various DP camps and by 1949 found themselves settled in the beautiful little town of Amberg in northern Bavaria. A former military barracks outside the ancient wall of the 11th-century town served as home for the refugees.

That's where I enter the picture - I was born in Amberg at 3PM on Saturday, January 28, 1950 at Marienkrankenhaus (St. Mary's Hospital.) Mom says the sisters at St. Mary's took good care of us both.

Grandpa Jakob and
Living with my grandparents Jakob and Mila and my uncle Joe (who was age five when I was born,) and Mama Mila's sister Hinda and her husband and daughter, I got plenty of attention and love those first months in Amberg - and, looking at that photo of "Pop" Jakob proudly holding me, I was pretty well fed, too.

By this time, tens of thousands of war refugees had immigrated to the Unite States under the Displaced Persons Act, and initiative by President Truman in 1948. Thanks to this law, our extended family obtained visas and headed for a new life in America.

To prepare to leave, my grandparents, Uncle Joe, Mom and I traveled to Bremen around New Year 1951.Arrival in Bremen 1951This photo shows us arriving in Bremen by train. Mom tells me that there were photographers waiting at the station, speculatively taking photos of arriving passengers. You would pay them a few marks, give them your forwarding address, and they would send the photos later. And Bremen photographer Herr Ludwig Michael Schmidt of Breite Straße was true to his word. In the past few years, I've seen at least five other photos exactly like this one belonging to other refugee families. And they all looked as happy as we did (well, all but Uncle Joe - he looks as if he were ready to throw up.)

To take us to our new life, the government and People of the United States provided us with an all-expenses-paid one-way cruise from Bremerhaven aboard the USNS General C. H. Muir (T-AP-142)
. The General Muir was a liberty ship built by Kaiser in 1944. Decommissioned in 1946, it was brought back into Naval service in 1950 for transporting troops and equipment to Occupied Germany. USMS Gen. Ch. MuirAs part of the implementation of Truman's Displaced Persons Act, it brought refugees back on the return trips. The Love Boat it was not, but it was a free and a generous ride.

The General Muir left Bremerhaven January 8, 1950. Mom was assigned to a small cabin because she was a mother with a baby. The rest of the family were in crew quarters during the trip. Mom says that everyone in our family got seasick except for her and me.

Mom on board the General Muir, 1951
The General Muir arrived in New York City January 20th. Because all of the refugees had already gone through significant processing in Germany before boarding and had already been issued Green Cards, most passengers only had to go through customs at a regular berth in New York City. However, I caught measles aboard ship, so Mom and I had to be quarantined on Ellis Island for 10 days.

Twelve years ago, Mom was reminiscing about this adventure, so I asked her if I could tape what she was saying and later transcribed it. So I'll let Mom tell you about it in her own words:
I remember I was running around at Ellis Island with you naked [for medical examinations], bundled up inside my coat.

I was too young [she was 19] and naive to be scared about the responsibility - I mean sometimes Immigration did reject people. We were separated from Mama Mila and Grandpa, too - they went on to New York City while we were quarantined on Ellis Island.

When we finally got to New York, the HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] put us up in some fleabag hotel... only I didn't
know it was a fleabag hotel at the time. To me it was great. They gave us an allowance every day for spending. I remember being introduced to cornflakes then... I was fascinated by the little boxes that you could cut open and eat out of.

The first thing I wanted to do was walk down Fifth Avenue and go to the Automat! I went with my girlfriend Alice from the DP Camps... she had already been in New York for a while.

I was sorry to leave New York - because we had lots of friends. Different people would come by the hotel to see us every day. At that time, New York was full of refugees, and they would go out to the docks every day to see who was arriving.

So then we came to Baltimore. Uncle Leo was so happy to finally see his sisters and have their families here [Leo Jachman, my grandmother's brother, immigrated to the U.S. in the early 20's and hadn't seen his brothers and sisters since then] He was especially happy because Sylvia was getting married later that year, to Willy, and now he could have his sisters share the simcha!...
As Mom said, our ultimate destination was Baltimore, where Mama Mila's brother Leo lived. He sponsored all of his surviving brothers and sisters with the exception on Uncle Michele, who had lived in Morroco since the '20's. Aunt Ester had settled in Queens, New York, but the other three siblings and their families all were in Baltimore by the time we arrived. Six of Mama Mila's eleven brothers and sisters had been murdered by the Nazis, but the survivors were now safe and ready to start a new life in a generous and accepting country.

It's a great American story, one of hundreds of thousands from that time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Gigabyte Adventures

Back last July, I reported that my desktop PC was periodically rebooting itself - usually at the worst time, like in the middle of a long, unsaved Photoshop edit.

That PC was a handbuilt affair, assembled in May 2002 by my brother Mark's technopal, Steve Becht, from pieces I ordered from Newegg.com. Steve is a great guy who knows more about PC guts than anyone that I know, and he's very generous with his advice and his time. There are so many PC's he's assembled out there that Mark and I started referring to them as Becht®PCs.

Anyway, Steve built and set up the PC for me, and it soldiered speedily and without a hitch until the rebooting started last year. Steve generously offered to look at it for me, and soon determined that I was suffering from burst capacitor syndrome, an ailment of quite a few motherboards made over the previous year or two.

At about the same time, my good friend and Wunderprogrammer Woody Butler mentioned that he had an excess PC made from leftover parts from one of his many, continuous upgrade projects... a 1gHz Duron with 512MB RAM - not as speedy as the Becht-made Athlon 1800XP+, but very, very cheap and ready to plug and play. So I decided to let the Becht®PC sit for a while and began to use the "Woody PC," upon which I'm typing this blog post at this very moment.

I had actually bought another PC from Woody about a year before - sort of. I had decided that I wanted to put a PC on my home network to act as a server, running Windows 2000, SQL Server 2000, and Internet Information Server. That way, I could practice my database and web development skills. As it happened, Woody had just done an upgrade and had a complete set of PC innards that he let me have at a good price. I stripped the guts out of an unused UMax 300 mHz PC, one which still had a perfectly good case, power supply, floppy drive and network card, and installed Woody's parts. So now I had a little server of my own.

Now if you're counting, the "Woody PC" I bought last July brought the desktop PC count in the Rosenbach household to two working and one nonworking. Whoops, I forgot Ben's eMachine, a 366 mHz Celeron box that he still used as a recording and mixing console for his band.

At my Mom's late last year, I was using her dial-up internet connection one night and got totally frustrated with how slow the whole mess was. And it wasn't just the slow connection - it was her ancient 166 mHz PC with all of 48 MB. Over the years, "Operating System Decay" had set in and slowed it to a crawl, even when not connected. So I decided that Mom should have a new, or rather, newer, PC.

And it just so happened that Woody was getting rid of yet another one, this time a 1gHz Athlon with 768 MB RAM, so I bought that one. Once I got it home and loaded Windows XP, I realized that it was quite a lot more than what Mom needs, so I thought I'd keep it for myself. Mom would get the eMachines 366 - I figured that once Ben and I would reformat and reconfigure it, it would be more than enough for her.

By early January, I had a little money come in from a small MS Access consulting job I did, and I decided it was time to fix the Becht®PC. A new ASUS motherboard ($74), a video card ($33) and 1GB of DDRAM ($133) was what SteveB suggested, so that's what I ordered. Newegg delivered less than 48 hours later, Steve did his surgery, and now I have an even speedier PC than before (the motherboard bus speed is higher, and the separate video card and extra RAM really help programs like Photoshop fly.)

But wait, that's not all... daughter Leah talked us into buying her a spiffy new laptop last semester, and she returned the 900 mHz HP Pavilion that we got her two-plus years ago.

With a manual keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) switch bought on eBay, Ben and I set up our "Lab" in the basement with 4 PCs, ranging from the 900 mHz 256MB Hewlett-Packard to the 1.4 gHz 768MB "Woody" server. That's in addition to the Becht®PC, which is going on my office desktop.

With both Leah and Ben home for the time being, we also have three laptops, connected wirelessly to our network. So if I counted right, that's eight computers running chez Rosenbach (the little eMachine is awaiting a memory transplant and a hard drive graft before leaving for Mom's.)

So what are we (Ben and me) gonna do with all those computers? Beats me. I think it's the result of a sort of addiction, like when I started collecting Soviet rangefinders, and later on Praktica SLRs. I started with one, and before I knew it I had thirty or so.

Actually, I'm hoping "the Lab" will prove more directly useful. I'll dedicate one PC to beta software, so that I don't have to worry about messing up a "production" PC. The Windows 2000 machine with SQL Server 2000 and IIS will remain pretty much as it is. One machine will become a domain controller, and we'll convert our peer network to a Windows Domain. File server, print server?... why not? I'm basically an application and database developer, and I don't know much at all about networking, so it will be an opportunity to learn. One of the boxes will host Cold Fusion Server and other Macromedia development tools - that will be for Ben, who at eighteen is the senior Cold Fusion developer at the small company where he works part-time. Finally, I'll get my flatbed and film scanners off of my desk and hook them up to one of the "Lab" computers.

Whatever happens, I can tell you that our basement, usually an icebox in the Winter, is quite toasty right now.

C&O Kanawah 2-8-4
You didn't think I'd let you read all this prose without a single photo, did you? Not that it has anything to do with my Gigabyte Adventures, but here's a shot of a "Kanawah 2-8-4" locomotive that belonged to the C&O Railroad, a photo from my visit to the B&O Museum last Saturday. This beautiful monster was built by Lima Locomotive Works in the mid-1920's.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Catching Up on My Thanksgiving Resolutions

Back around Thanksgiving, I mentioned that there were some things I had been thinking of photographing, including So believe it or not, I actually have done some of that. Herewith are some of the results:

My Son the HotDog
On the way up to Canada last month, we stopped at a deli-cum-gas station in Pennsylvania, and as I pulled up to park, I noticed this huge picture of a hotdog on the side of the building. I knew I had to photograph Ben against that wall, and after our bathroom breaks, he good-naturedly gave me this James Dean pose. I think my HotDog of a son did it with great relish, don't you?

This past Saturday afternoon, I did finally pay a visit to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. Well, only to the free part - there are a bunch of old steam and deisel locomotives and such adjacent to the parking lot. To see the really nice stuff you have to enter the museum and pay (14 bucks for an adult,) but that's for another day.
B&O Museum, Baltimore
In general, I wasn't too excited about the photos I took at B&O except for this one shot - almost the last photo I took. I was lurking around the outside of the museum building, a beautifully restored 1884 roundhouse. Frankly, I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was looking to see if I could find a way to sneak into the roundhouse for free. It was about 1 hour before closing, and all I wanted to do was take a few photos of the magnificent roof from the inside.

I found one door that opened into a little maintenance alcove, still outside the wall of the roundhouse, but with a high window giving a good view to the inside of the roof. The late afternoon sun was streaming through the clerestory windows, dramatically lighting the radial beams of the roof (I'm a sucker when it comes to radial lines in an image - can't resist.) There were two paint cans on the ground, and standing on them, I could just reach the bottom pane of the window to take this photo - the brick wall behind me reflecting off of the glass.

Note to self: Make some time to visit the Museum another day, and make sure you're there an hour or so before sunset, so you can get photos of the roof with dramatic lighting from the inside. Oh, and don't forget to bring fourteen bucks!

Monday, January 17, 2005


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Did I tell you that I'm a member of Procrastinators Anonymous? Yes, I'm a charter PA member, and I'm on the planning committee for our 1998 Annual Convention.

It seems that I've been in a photo slump since mid-December or so, so I'll start my first post of 2005 with (a) someone else's photograph and (b) an excavated image of my own from 1978.
Lakeside Cyclist by Ben Rosenbach
Here's a photo by my son, Ben, posted here with his permission ("... as long as you give me credit, Dad!") While we were visiting Sandy's family in Oakville, Ontario during Christmas, Ben wanted to take into Toronto and maybe shoot some pictures. It takes me a while to be convinced to go out into the cold and the snow, but Ben finally prevailed.

Not really knowing where the heck we were going, we headed in the general direction of Toronto, about 10 miles away. At one point, we got off the expressway to stop at a park along Lake Ontario. It didn't look like much to me, but Ben saw what I didn't, and came away with what I'd call is a pretty nice image!

Brunei Coke
Here's another image I found from my previous incarnation as a young photographer in the '70s. This is scanned from a Kodachrome slide I took with an Olympus OM-1 on a business trip to Brunei.

I can already here you saying, Brunei? where the heck...?

So check out this map to see where it is. Although it's not obvious by the map, Brunei shares an island with Borneo, so that gives you an idea of how unusual a destination it is.

I was in Brunei for a few days in October 1978 with several of my fellow General Electric co-workers. We were there on the prospect of providing the local electric utility with gas turbine-generators for an expansion they were planning.

I may one day write some more about Brunei, but for now, I just wanted to post this old photo... I really like it. Of course, there's the bold red and the nice repeating pattern of the old-fashioned coke bottles. But what really appeals to me is the one bottle with Chinese characters. The various elements, including the Chinese characters, combine to produce an image that is familiar and yet exotic, all at once.

Motivation ...

My sincere thanks to ITAI reader Avi from Israel, who wrote to tell me that he's added this blog to the "favorites" list on his brower. Avi, your email encouraged me to finally sit down and post after several weeks away from the blog.

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