Saturday, March 20, 2021

A Long (but shortened - really) Post About Disability and Easter Seals

This will lead to Easter Seals, so wait for that. ‬

I was part of the original March of Dimes campaigns that were a response to the polio epidemics. I was on radio and TV broadcasts that harangued people to give their dimes to support research to design, produce and distribute a safe and effective polio vaccine. (This may sound familiar to people alive and cognizant of the events of 2020... even though there was no real reliance on charity donations in 2020. But you get the idea.)

The first widely available polio vaccine (the Salk vaccine) came into wide use in 1955. That was too late for my mother and 3-year-old cousin, neither of whom survived.  I was infected, but survived. But not without consequence. Prior to her death, my Mother thought I had a flu.  It wasn’t. Certainly not the “China flu.”

The polio virus attacks and kills nerve horn cells. These cells of the nerve system communicate with the motor nerves, the nerves that activate muscles, distinct from the nervous system that transmits feelings such as pain or pleasure.  

I haven’t studied this, but for some reason a polio infection can follow a *path* ... for some it may be one arm, for others, two legs, for some one of each on one side, for others an appendage plus an involvement of the throat - a restriction of the ability to swallow, however mild, is not uncommon.  For me it was primarily one leg - the left leg. 

For some of the early years this meant that I just needed a brace on the left leg - a brace attached to the shoe that reached mid-calf. Being the overachiever that I am (striving to over-achieve is an almost universal characteristic of polio patients,) I found ways to break the brace without even trying. Restrict me? Hell no, I can do anything!

Eventually I gained enough weight (lots of meat and mashed potatoes were a wonderful aid to weight gain) so that I needed something more than a leg brace. Well, Dad eventually gave up welding the brace to repair it. (See footnote 1) With the weight gain came falling. I attempted to mitigate that by walking right next to walls, balancing myself, as I navigated school hallways. This was only partially successful.  Yes, it reduced the number of falls, but when I DID fall, much of the time  my right knee would end up smashing into the wall - in this case the hallway walls were brick, not forgiving. (See Footnote 2)

At some point my medical care team decided I needed a crutch. Initially Dr. McNutt (his real name, and pretty appropriate - in a good way) had predicted I would never walk at all. What did he know?  Now I was fitted with a Canadian (forearm) crutch. It was made of aluminum (light weight - yay!) and featured adjustments for both overall length and distance between hand grip and forearm cuff.  Perfect, eh?

Yup, it worked.  Well, except that I USED IT “WRONG”! Normally someone with a weaker leg uses a crutch on the opposite side. The stride is “strong leg side” then “weak leg side accompanied by crutch on strong side.” It sort of makes sense. But when the “weak” leg can actually bear NO weight (my case once I reached a certain weight,) that doesn’t work.  You need to bear weight on the weak side, no matter what. So I used the crutch on the weak side, even though medical science said that was “wrong.” Worked (and works) for me. There are other aspects as to exactly how I orient the crutch in respect to my body and left leg, but it’s rather difficult to explain in words, so I won’t.  Just leave it that that is also “wrong.” But it works.

What does this have to do with Easter Seals?  I’M GETTING THERE. I’m not into the whole brevity thing, dude.

When you are young and very different, especially before society sort of decided that the disabled community suffered discrimination and deserved at least a modicum of justice and equal access, things hurt. But when that discrimination, that hurt, is “normal”, when it is accepted as just the way it is, you internalize it. After all, it’s somehow justified, just the way it is, right? Without realizing it, you identify with your community. For the most part, that community looked like you - maybe the disability was totally different, but still you saw yourself in those who, like you, went to “special” schools, where classrooms were filled with others with polio, cerebral palsy, seizures, impaired vision up to and including blindness, mental deficiencies that could even manifest as absolutely hilarious cray-cray trains of thought and outbursts. (For example Karl Flinschpach really thought he was a Diesel engine. I kid you not; it was hilarious getting him to say “I’m a diesel!”) You get the picture.

Instead of being some weird and absolutely frightening hell scape, this was your unbelievably eclectic, comical and entirely loveable family. If you were lucky (I was) your biological family understood this and not only accepted the other “freaks” but took you to their homes and parties on weekends so you could have human, normal social interaction. I mean, who the fuck defines “normal”, anyway?

Enter ... Easter Seals.  The dominant society tries to define what is normal; thus the activities they program into their group interactions exclude me and my peers. We weren’t exactly picked first, second, or even next-to-last for the pickup baseball game. Rugged hiking? Fuhgettabowtit - the invitation for that party never arrived. So you’re lucky you didn’t even know about it - until you learned about it after the fact as the in crowd kids could only talk about how cool it was.  About how David finally got to first base with Sally. How extraordinary the next activity was going to be - they’d probably even forget about the last outing, and David would get even further.

Don’t get me wrong - I had great friends, peers, who cared about us, who included us as much as they could, even went out of their way.  These people are still my friends, to this day. That’s many, many days later.

But still, to be left out by default, just out of habit, wasn’t nurturing.  Not their fault - they really didn’t know how to do better; no one had taught them.

But Easter Seals did know how to do better.  In that era they supported and organized Summer camps for us. In my case, the heroes that staffed those 2-week Summer camps came from near and somewhat far.  Their names were Clifford E. “Pop” Horton (the first prime mover in our area,) Dale and Jo Spurgeon, Charlotte Koehler, Prudence Washburn, Mimi Olds and Harry O. Jackson. Plus many, many others whose names I either can’t remember or only partially remember. (One female counsellor, had the last name of Stone I can’t remember her first name ... though I clearly remember her face and body. She nearly seduced me when I was a young teen and we were alone together in the cabin - it’s probably good I don’t remember her full name.  Sadly, there was no denouement. As in nudity.)

It was at Easter Seals camps that we were all physically “equal” regardless of our wildly differing abilities. Some could barely tread water in their PFDs, but were deliriously joyful nearly drowning. Counsellors with laser vision (ironically lasers were invented much later,) kept watch so that Easter Seals would not be sued. I was fortunate - I was able to swim well, learned to row a boat, then paddle a canoe (that was a BIG graduation and point of pride,) then sail a small Sunfish or Dagger, then actually sail a fucking aluminum Grumman canoe using a paddle as a rudder and my teeth to work the sheet controlling the sail.  Try THAT, non-gimp people.

Decades later, when one of my employers routinely promoted Easter Seals donations annually, I would bug my co-workers to give. I probably annoyed them more than usual - which is saying a lot. Since then I have not followed Easter Seals. The last I remember they had shifted their primary focus to research into and prevention of birth defects. I unreservedly support this.  Each new born deserves to live and grow without stupid handicaps and hurdles. I’m pretty sure they still support camps and activit├ęs for those not so lucky, whether by birth anomalies or post-natal disease or accident. 

If you’ve made it this far (believe me, this is the short version - try being attacked by a dog when you can’t run!) thank you. Share it out.  If you didn’t make it this far, well, you don’t know who you are right?  And WTF, man?



1. Dad grew up right next to railroad tracks. It was the era of steam and Dad especially loved steam. Whenever he heard the whistle of an approaching locomotive he would run through the house and out the front door. The screen door had no latch, so he could just burst through and the door’s spring  would slam it close.  Grandpa Dunbar decided to install a simple latch to “upgrade” the house to a more modern, civilized property.  He showed Dad how to open the door and warned Dad he could no longer just burst through.  As you can guess, in Dad’s heightened excitement when the next whistle blew, he burst through the door, breaking the latch.  Grandpa quietly repaired it and gave Dad another talk.  Next whistle? Same thing - run, bash, broken latch.  Grandpa didn’t say a word.  He just quietly removed the latch.

2. After a move to a new city, I found a new general practitioner for my health care. On one visit I described to my doctor how from time  to time my right knee would seemingly just give out, and down I would go. I described how I used to hit that knee against the bricks of the hallway walls in public school, and that I thought I might now be having issues with the knee. Doc took a look and didn’t feel anything amiss. An X-ray was in order. But he also examined the rest of the leg and declared “You have no quads!” So unbeknownst to me, right leg had been affected as well. Which meant I walked with my right calf and butt muscles, and my left arm. Dr. Blair is a good man, and thorough, Jeffrey.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Rewiring the Thorens TP-16 Tonearm

Pictures only for now - text will be added later.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Detour: Back into Hi-Fi - Part 1

For the last several years, any spare time/hobby attention has been photography.  As with all things crammed into “spare” time outside of work, effort and attention has been characterized by spurts, stops and starts.  At least that’s how it works for me ... and throw in age.  Off-work hours summon one to just kicking back, accomplishing little except raging on Twitter against the current orange moron in the White House.

As retirement approaches, I’ve taken stock of what will be important other than non-attachment.  Oops! Well, there’s duality for you!

I’ve gotten pretty close to my last camera/photo gear kit - the detail is for another post.  So it was on to rebuilding a satisfying system for reproducing music.  HiFi.  In the current market of digital music and a dizzying array of equipment to deliver it to one’s ears, a true, two channel high fidelity system would seem nostalgic at best.  I mean, you’re confined to ONE ROOM, mostly one seating position. And you really need to pay attention.  How can you “multi-task”, pay attention to your iPhone, glance at the 24-hour news channel, respond to text messages?

But for me, it’s not nostalgic.  Not at all.  Digital “music”, no matter how high resolution, played through digital, solid state devices, doesn’t move me very much.  Oh, it will “do”, but sufficiency isn’t what music is about.  Music is about emotion, above moving one’s spiritual needle, not just filling the ear with anything other than nothingness.

Since the late 90s I’ve peripatetically followed a company called DECware.  The first product brought to market was the Zen amp - a single ended triod (SET) class A, tube/valve audio amp that puts out a whopping two watts.  Watt??? Er... what???  Tubes? What’s the appeal?

Before we delve into that, it’s more than twenty years later, and DEC/High Fidelity Enginerring is not only still in existence, but, if you peruse the website, has a vastly expanded product offering.  The range is not just various power amplifiers, but includes preamplifier, a phono stage (preamp for turntable cartridges,) a DAC (digital to analog converter,) speakers, cables and other HiFi paraphernalia.

The Zen Amp has been updated and upgraded through the years.  With a bit of cash available, I placed an order for what was, at the time, the latest edition, the SE84UFO.  A special, 25th anniversary edition (SE84UFO25,) had been released since I made my choice.  But at three times the cost of the SE84UFO, it wasn’t in the picture.  Unless I wanted to resume bachelorhood.

Most DECware products are built to order - there is no stock - and all products are sold direct; there is no distribution or dealer network.  So after about a 10-week wait, the SE84UFO arrived.  It was well packed and after a 25-year wait, unboxing and inspecting for any visually obvious problems (there were none,) I was finally able to connect it to sources and speakers ... and enjoy some sonic and musical love.

That is where the adventure began.  To be continued.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Using the Stearman Press SP-445 Developing Tank - Part 2

I have used the SP-445 three or four times since my initial post.  Executive summary:  It works.  Well.  If you need to develop 4x5 and don't have an actual/proper darkroom, get it.  If you have a proper darkroom and have an established, well-working workflow, it's not necessary unless you need an alternative to deep tanks.

Longer summary:  The only issue I encountered was loading film into the holders.  The user guide delivered with the tank advise to practice loading with some scrap film.  Did I do that?  As someone with 40 years of experience ... no.  While doing so would have saved some time for the first attempt, I did get the sheets properly loaded.  After some fiddling. 

The "issue" is that the tabs that keep the film properly loaded are "subtle" enough that until you have experience, you aren't aware of them.  Not practicing could result in disaster, but I got on OK.

During processing, when agitating I found the best for me was to hold the tank in one hand, gripping both at the side and over the top.  It's hard to explain without a drawing (my drawing skill is less than limited,) but think of it as gripping at a top corner - I am most comfortable using my left hand, even though I am right handed.  Even thought he lid seats securely, this grip makes me feel the tank and its contents are more secure - the lid can't fall off if you've got it in a firm grip.

That's it.  The system is simple, elegant, it works.  Highly recommended, it has saved me time and effort.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Using the Stearman Press SP-445 Developing Tank

Part 1

Nearly five years ago I moved house.  The new digs are an improvement in pretty much every way.  But there is one exception - I lost the darkroom facility I had crafted in the basement of the former house.  Admittedly it was s very crude setup, and only accomodated loading and processing film - no printing.  Since I was scanning, that was OK, though I don miss printing.

To compensate after the move I joined the Flower City Arts Center, which has truly great darkroom facilities and bargain rental rates.  But I just didn't use the facilities that much; due to work I was only able to go on Saturdays.  So I didn't renew my membership every year.

So I've made do at home by loading 35mm and 120 film onto reels and into tanks in a dark bag.  As my desire to work more with 4x5 sheet film returned and increased, I still didn't have a way to process at home since I only have deep tanks, which require total darkness.  

Faced with renewing my membership at Flower City and not really using the facilities as much as I needed, I decided to research daylight tanks that might work for me.

In the past I had used a Yankee Adjustable Cut Film Tank, which accommodates up to 12 sheets of film.  In fact, I still have one, but damn if I can find the rack that carries the film! The problem this tank that I always experienced, though, was uneven development, particularly at the edges of the negative.  This was caused by the design not allowing proper flow of chemistry during agitation.  Before I adopted deep tanks as my sheet film processing gear, I solved this problem by not placing the lid on the tank and raising and lowering the rack for agitation.  But that means the tank is no longer "daylight" - so I was back to square one.

Another option is the HP CombiPlan tank, a discontinued daylight tank.  I actually have one that was given to me, but the loading guide is missing so even if I wanted to try it, I can't.  Add all the negative reviews of this overly complicated kit, and I quickly discarded this option.

I had heard of the Stearman SP-445 tank, the result of a Kickstarter campaign, but had mostly forgotten about it until a web search turned up links to the website, YouTube videos and reviews.  At $90USD it's not that expensive, though I had to evaluate whether I wanted to take a chance - $90+ is not chump change for me.

After cogitating for a few weeks, I decided to order it from Freestyle Sales, my go to for a lot of photographic needs. 

(Aside:  I can buy Kodak film from Freestyle cheaper than I can here in Rochester - the film is made here, shipped to Freestyle in LA, then back to me.  You'd think Kodak Alaris would promote the use of film here in Rochester with great pricing, where yes, there is a rich reserve of photographers who not only know and used film, but who actually helped design and manufacture the stuff!  But no.   Grumpy mode off.)

Earlier this week the SP-445 arrived, along with a new darkroom thermometer and a Nikkor 75/4.5 SW via Japan.

Six sheets of film had been exposed and were awaiting processing:  2 sheets of Delta 100 shot as EI tests and 4 sheets of FP4+ needing N+2 and N-2 development.  So I was waiting for the weekend to arrive when I could test out this new kit.

The two sheets of Delta are hanging to dry and I can judge my first test drive a success.  Details will in Part 2 soon.  But overall I am pleased.  I made no disastrous mistakes, but I learned enough to improve my technique.

I still plan to build a proper darkroom which will accommodate processing more than four sheets at a time, which is the limit of the 445 - get it?  4 sheets of 4x5 = 445.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Dark Gene

No, not Gene the name, gene as in genetics, as in nature vs. nurture.

There had been a nagging feeling for years that I was fighting depression, or at least a depressive tendency. It seemed I was always fighting to present a positive, optimistic face. Not only to the world, but to myself. That is hard, hard work ... especially when you grow up in a millieu where anything but sunny-side-up optimism is proof that there's something wrong with you as a person ... as a being.

It all came to a head many ago when personal crisis opened the gate to full-blown, clinical depression, calling it from the shadows of dysthymia. Enter Zoloft, which was a big part of saving my life. Talking with my support team, researching the subject, I learned that duh, it's the brain chemistry, stupid. All the "it's all in your head" crowd that wants you to tough it out, control that which is uncontrollable through pure grit, are missing the point.

I should have known.

No, it's (probably) not all brain chemistry, but that is a big component and if you don't address that, you're stuck.


The video is long, but, I think, worth the investment. Matthieu Ricard was a bit of an influence in my migration to Zen & Buddhism. I was reminded of him again when I read Change Your Mind, Change Your Brain, which was also an influence on me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Kit

After much consideration and experimentation, I decided on the kit I will take to Paris.  I think.  
Initially I thought I would take the Fuji 18-55 kit zoom - after all, it’s autofocus and has image stabilization.  And it’s optically excellent.  But with practice I got better with manual focus lenses on the X-Pro1.  And I have just never got on with zooms.  Even the very nice manual focus Tokina 70-150 for my OMs has not seen the light of day for over a decade.
So the line up starts with the native, auto-focus Fuji 18/2.  It’s one of Fuji’s older primes and by some reports isn’t as good optically as later lenses, but it certainly is no slouch.  For the kind of work I do, it’s perfect - 28mm equivalent field of view, which I love for street work.  I have a feeling I will use it a lot.
Second is the OM Zuiko 35/2.8.  F2 might be nicer, but I don’t have one and it is larger and heavier than the 35/2.8.  I’ve always loved the rendering of this OM lens.  On the X-Pro1 it will provide a field of view of 53mm on a “full frame” camera/sensor.  If you only have two lenses for travel and street photography, 28 and 50 are the way to go.
I deliberated whether to take a longer lens and finally decided to go with it, so am packing the OM Zuiko 50/1.8.  I have a 50/1.4 which would give me one more stop exposure.  But the 1.8 is so small and light.  The 50/1.4 isn’t THAT much bigger, but it’s enough that the camera would balance quite differently than the 35/2.8 much less the Fuji 18/2.
What?  No film?  Well yes. Of course  I’m taking the Olympus XA.  It’s pocketable yet has rangefinder focusing and a lovely (if quirky to some) 35/2.8 lens.  It’s great at either quick street work or more deliberate shooting.
I had considered taking an OM body thus having use of the Zuikos on a film body as well as the Fuji.  I still may, but have pretty much decided to keep the kit as small and light as possible.  Too many choices does not promote good photography.