Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Rube Goldberg Vivitar XC-4 with XC-A


The Vivitar XC-4 has a peculiar mix of features. M42 screw-mount lens, with manual stop down metering, typical of off-brand cameras of the era.  Slightly unusual for an M42 camera are the electronically controlled cloth shutter and the LED metering instead of a mechanical meter.  Operation is a bit different than the typical stop-down camera--the lens stops down at the first half of the shutter travel and remains stopped down even when the shutter button is released.  What is very similar to the stop down button on a Minolta SRT series is actually a stop-down cancel--pushing it will re-open the lens to full aperture without having to take a picture.  Another minor oddity is the marking of the PC sockets on the front of the camera--there's the nearly universal X for a strobe flash, but instead of an M for bulbs, the other socket is unusually marked with an A.

The XC-A accessory is one of the stranger ideas I've seen in cameras, and explains most of the oddities of the XC-4  The XC-A has its own 6v battery.  It clips on to the hot shoe and couples with the shutter dial like 60's era clip on meters. Unlike a clip on meter, there's no meter, no photocell, and no shutter control, and there is a cord that is just long enough to reach the PC socket marked A.
The XC-A turns the camera into a slightly clumsy stop-down aperture priority automatic camera.  Holding the shutter button halfway mechanically trips the lens stop down mechanism, turns on the meter and sends an electric signal out the A socket based on the meter reading.The XC-A reads this signal and mechanically turns the shutter speed dial until the exposure meter indicates "good".  After a second or so the shutter button stops whirring (There's a tiny ringing/clicking that remains) more pressure on the shutter button takes the picture.   If you hold the shutter and light changes, the shutter dial will track the light changes--but if you push the shutter early, the camera will take the picture before the exposure is set.  
If I understand this right, the light meter sends an electronic signal out of the camera to be translated into mechanical motion, coupled back into the camera to physically turn the camera's shutter speed dial, which then sends a signal to the electronic shutter.

As far as I can tell this camera is working properly, although the light seals have turned to jelly.  It needed some exercise when I put batteries in the camera,  but after shooting and winding about 25 times the shutter became reasonably reliable.   The lens aperture blades are oily, and it needs the help of the aperture ring to return to wide open.  Battery was dead in my shutter speed tester, so I haven't tested it to see if it is worth film testing yet.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Weight loss update

The big story is that I'm down from an estimated 265 pounds in early August (257 when I bought my scale) to under 210 pounds--more than 50 pounds in less than 4  months.   I've gone from obese to merely overweight.  The Eat to Live diet has been much easier to follow than I expected.  I'm not any hungrier than before the plan, and while there are foods I miss, no difficult cravings.

My breakfast started out as oatmeal with banana.  Now I almost always have a large fruit smoothie--mixed frozen fruit briefly microwaved but not thawed, a ripe banana and 4-6 oz of unsweetened almond milk.  This winds up about a pound total of fruit, or 24 ounces liquid with the almond milk.   I'm not hungry first thing, so I take this to work in a thermos.    If bananas get ripe faster than I can use them I freeze the excess on their last useful day and use them with a few seconds more in the microwave.   If part of the frozen fruit is berries, blend them first with the almond milk to break up the hard bits, then add the remainder of the other fruit.  Thermos should be dry, otherwise you wind up with little bits of ice.  Fruit is on the unlimited list, oatmeal is a whole grain, supposed to be limited to one serving a day--plus I like the fruit better.  Often I'll add cocoa, vanilla and another banana (reducing the other fruit and not microwaving if the bananas are room temp).

On the weekends I cook a large batch of something and divide that into single serving deli containers for lunch and occasional dinner through the next few weeks.  Also on weekends I try to experiment a bit, trying something new before I put it in my work lunch.  Alton Brown's Winter Soup is really good, but because it is time consuming I make a double batch.

For lunch at work I rotate chili (usually twice a week--same as before the diet, with mushrooms instead of meat) different vegan soups and bean dishes.  I'll also take 2 or 3 fruits, a cooked vegetable and a couple servings of raw vegetables like celery, cucumber, sweet peppers or carrots.   This is more food than I used to eat, and I need almost all of my lunch break to eat it.

Dinner is most often a large salad (Large as in a serving bowl for one person) with lots of different ingredients-mostly kale and spinach, sometimes mixed lettuce (not iceberg--it is OK on the diet, but I don't like it as much) or cabbage.  Cabbage gets shredded, the other greens get run through the slicer blade of my food processor.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts and seeds, usually half an avocado or a handful of canned beans or cooked frozen edamame.  Sometimes I'll add fruit, usually diced apples, sliced grapes and raisins, with a raspberry dressing and pistachios.  When I don't do fruit, I'll add raw onions and/or buffalo chickpeas (Frank's is milder than I expected here, sriracha sauce has a bit more bite)  At first I was entirely using commercial dressings that are supposed to be avoided, since then I've discovered a recipe for tahini-garlic dressing that I like, with Fuhrman-legal ingredients.  I add an extra clove of garlic, sometimes nutritional yeast, liquid aminos or fresh basil.  Other occasional salad ingredients are bell peppers, poblano peppers (mildly spicy) celery, carrots, radicchio, Mrs Dash garlic-herb.  Pomegranate turns out to be good in salad even with a garlic dressing.  I still have more nuts than Dr. Fuhrman recommends, and not entirely raw nuts.   Having lots of stuff makes a salad much more interesting--each bite is slightly different.

I'm no longer snacking after dinner or between meals (except when I run out of time to eat lunch I will sometimes finish on my next break), and that has been much easier than before the diet.  I've weaned off coffee and almost all caffeine, rarely drink diet or sweetened soda anymore--instead plain seltzer water with lemon.   If anything I'm a bit less tired than I used to be, and if I do need a temporary boost a can of diet pop is enough--that's every few weeks.

A food processor is nearly essential, used daily. I'm happy with the  Cuisinart I bought based on online reviews.  A high power blender is almost as important, especially for smoothies.  I've shopped at thrift stores for temporary clothing until I figure out what my permanent size is--I was to the point where my original pants would fall off without a belt, but still well above my goal weight.   Even my head has shrunk slightly, I had to adjust my bump cap at work 2 sizes.  Weekly weight loss seems to have slowed from 3-4 pounds per week to about 2 pounds--that might be due to less exercise, could also be slowing as I get closer to the goal weight.  I've gone from size 42 pants to 36.

Even though I haven't been as strict on salt reduction as Dr Fuhrman recommends, I have tried to add barely enough salt to taste good.  Combined with much less packaged food my taste for salt has changed--I used to love Campbell's bean with bacon soup.  It is now too salty to enjoy, like several other packaged foods I've tried.  Finding a restaurant with food that matches the diet is a bit hard, so far I've only tried Chipotle Sofritas.   I could probably manage at most salad bars, but I haven't tried that yet.

Christmas I went off diet a bit--about an ounce of ham, a small piece of no-bake cheesecake and one piece of my favorite Esther Price chocolate.  Neither of the sweets were as good as I'd remembered, and neither made resisting going farther off diet more difficult.  If I go back to eating chocolate at all, it will probably be very small pieces of dark semi-sweet instead of milk chocolate with caramel.  





Saturday, December 12, 2015

Good Guys with Guns on the Daily Show

I just saw a video of The Daily Show's Jordan Klepper "testing" the theory that good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns, with the inevitable scripted comedic failure.  Apparently quite a few people believe that this is evidence debunking the concept, that this was a real test rather than a scripted comedy show.

I watch almost no TV, so I'm unfamiliar with Jordan Klepper--he appears to be playing the part of a stereotypical conservative blowhard.  Even assuming this wasn't scripted and he was trying to prove rather than disprove, the scenario was among the most difficult for a marginally trained person to deal with--Few people other than SWAT team members are trained in clearing a building, and the scenarios used as SWAT training are deliberately more difficult than most real life situations.  

Like most trainers, the one in the show thinks most people should have more training, and it was at least edited to appear that he claims that a lifetime of training is required to be effective.    In every case I'm aware of spree shooters have no more victims once someone else shoots towards them--even if the spree shooter isn't hit.  I have yet to hear of a good guy with a gun making things worse (for anyone but himself in one case) in a spree shooting.  It isn't plausible that the various gun control groups would ignore such a case if one existed.  (I also think it more likely that the trainer's actual views are that a basic CCW class does not qualify you for SWAT duty, not that basic CCW is useless)

The trainer also said that very few spree shootings are stopped by armed civilians--I think he said around 3%.  He didn't mention on camera that successful spree shootings rarely take place where it is legal for civilians to be armed--I don't know exact figures and they would depend on definitions, but I would be surprised if over 3% of spree shootings are where CCW is generally available and legal. The Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt is the only incident I'm aware of where concealed carry was legal and widely available.  California is one of the few remaining states where carry licenses are issued at the discression of law enforcement rather than based on objective criteria.  

Few if any gun advocates claim that a gun will solve all violence, or that everyone should be armed--most of us think that if you don't want to be armed, you shouldn't be armed.    Rather, the majority of people who have taken the time to obtain a license have reasonable expectations, and on balance will do significantly more good than harm even if they don't succeed every time.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Low willpower, successful diet

I'm a big fan of Penn Jillette (and Teller) partly for his act, but more for his overall attitude, politics and what he's done with his fame.  I listen to his podcast, Penn's Sunday School.  Recently he lost over 100 pounds in a few months on a vegan diet, advised by Ray Cronise.  Penn is writing a book, but he explained that the diet is based on Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live plan, with undisclosed modifications to be more effective.  (Ray's website is awful--poorly organized and extremely slow to load, so I haven't found a whole lot more about the additions other than it has something to do with cold temperatures helping to burn calories)

A while back Penn had Ray on the podcast.  I was listening in the car while eating Chocolate Riesen candy...A couple days later I ordered Eat to Live.

The Nutritarian diet recommended by Dr. Fuhrman is relatively simple, although it will require major changes to the diets of most people who need it.

The strict form of the Fuhrman diet is (from memory):
Try to eat at least a pound of raw green vegetables per day, unlimited maximum.
Try to eat at least a pound of cooked green vegetables per day, unlimited maximum
(These are the most important)
Try to eat a half cup of beans or legumes per day, unlimited max
Unlimited fruits and colorful vegetables
Limited starchy vegetables--corn, potatoes, squash.
A few ounces of nuts and seeds, raw are preferred.
No meat or dairy
No processed grain
No processed sugar
No processed oils or fats

A less strict version allows under a pound per week of animal products.  There is no counting calories or restricting amounts of the main foods.  Fat is OK from most unprocessed plant sources.   It appears that vegans should take a B12 supplement, but other vitamins as needed.

It was a week after the book arrived and I started the diet that I got a scale--I was surprised at being "only" 257 pounds.  "Loose 20 pounds or more in 6 weeks" on the cover appears to be a bit conservative--I lost that much in the first 4 weeks I had a scale (a week or so after starting the diet).  Last 4 weeks I've been tracking my weight on the fitness app on my phone, average weekly weight has dropped 3 pounds each week.

It has taken a bit to figure out meals.  I love salads, so that part hasn't been a problem--I have a mixing bowl full of kale and spinach, raw mushrooms, red or green onion, half an avocado, maybe bell peppers, carrots, celery, lettuce,  radish, edamame.  I'm not completely on the diet for dressings, I use one of several commercial lite dressings which have more fat and/or sugar than Dr Fuhrman recommends--but I try to go easy on them.  I also like beans.  Even before the diet I was in the habit of making 2+ gallon batches of chili to freeze for lunches, I just left the meat out of the last batch.  I'm now adding mushrooms instead of meat to a lot of dishes.   Sometimes I'll just have a family sized package of microwave veggies or a vegan soup and a smaller salad.

Other areas where I haven't followed the official version--I haven't worried much about salt other than going to the low end of tasting OK,  I didn't throw away all my low-meat foods in the freezer (but I'm replacing them with no-meat) and I haven't cut out caffeine yet.  (I've been reducing caffeine for the last few years anyhow by necessity, since drinking it past about 2pm affects my sleep)

The most amazing part of this diet to me is the low amount of willpower needed.  I miss some of the things I've had to give up, but since I can eat as much as I like of other things there's very little struggle.  It seems easier for me to entirely give up the candy bowl at work than to have a reasonable amount.  It is odd to me that a fruit smoothie is considered better than a bowl of oatmeal (Oatmeal is allowed but limited).  If you're going to do smoothies, get a really good blender.   I bought a 3 horsepower Oster Versa blender because reviews said it was nearly as good as a Vitamix at less than half the cost.   I'm going to want a better food processor, I've got a mid size.  I've lost several inches around the waist--I can now take my pants off without unbuttoning them.   I've got a way to go, I'm still officially obese--but I'm moving in the right direction for the first time in decades.

Another thing is that this isn't meant to be a temporary diet--If I go back to my old habits, I'll go back to my old weight.  Rather, once I'm down to a decent weight I'll be a bit less strict, but I expect to stay on something close to this forever.  If it continues to work as well as it has, it will be worth it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bell & Howell Auto Reflex (Canon EX/EE)

In the late 60's and early 70's, Bell & Howell were the US distributors for Canon cameras. The Bell & Howell Auto 35/Reflex is the US version of the Canon EX/EE introduced around 1969.   Shutter priority auto exposure with manual capability.



Rather than fully interchangeable lenses as most SLRs, it has a combination lens--the rear elements, focusing mechanism and diaphragm are fixed, the front elements are changeable with a simple screw thread.  In theory this is an optical compromise--but with the advantage of much cheaper accessory lenses since they only require the front optical elements and no mechanical parts.


 The diameter of the 125mm front element is large compared to conventional lenses of similar focal length--see the comparison to a Minolta f2.8 135mm below.  Front to back is about the same but the Minolta has a much smaller diameter despite a wider aperture.   Only 4 lenses were available, 35, 50 and 125 shown above, and a 90mm.


Aperture is either controlled by the auto exposure system, or it can be manually set by a dial around the rewind crank. In either case the aperture value is only visible via a needle display in the viewfinder, the dial only has 1.8 and 16 marked.  Lenses are either f:1.8 for the 50mm or 3.5 for the others, it is necessary to reset the film speed dial when changing from one type to another.  A peculiar result of this arrangement is that the maximum film speed is greater with the 50mm lens than the others.  The maximum marked is 800, but the 3.5 lens can only use about 500.  (Theoretically the 1.8 lens should be able to use around 2000--2 stops past the max of 500)  At the time 35mm film maxed out around 400.


The main distance scale is only accurate for the normal lens.  On the accessory lenses there is a scale on the lens, with a dot on the focus ring. To use the scale the lens ring needs to be rotated to match, it appears to be easiest to set both to infinity.  Unlike the normal focus scale the dot moves and the scale remains stationary.

The viewfinder is a bit odd for a film SLR (but somewhat similar to modern DSLRs), likely to allow a bright screen despite relatively slow f3.5 lenses--the finder has no matte screen to judge depth of field, only a microprism for focus, and an uncommonly bright fresnel screen that is far more "in focus" than the film will be.  An additional advantage in an old camera is an exceptionally clean screen--since the rear lens never comes off, there is less opportunity for dust to stick to the focus screen.

Like the Sears Auto 500 from earlier, this is an easy to use automatic SLR with compromises to meet a price--but the photographic compromises are considerably less.