November 29th, 2013


Thanksgiving Inside The Snow Globe

The All Day Snow

Wednesday's lake effect snow pretty much ignored us, but places right on Lake Michigan south of us, like St. Joseph, got 12-16". Today we woke up to a shallow, soft looking blanket of white -- the neighbor's trucks were all buried at 8am.

Looking out the windows, it really did look like the inside of a snow globe. Alas, I once again didn't get up and shoot the heaviest snow, but we did get couple of soft inches -- maybe 4-6"? We'll see in the morning.

1:30pm Snow Globe (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

4:40pm Snow Globe (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

The Dinner

Following on last Thanksgiving's success with brining wings and thighs, we repeated the experiment. The wing tips, well three of them, since the fourth was missing, went to make broth. The four remaining wing parts went on top of the glass pan with the stuffing so the juices would baste the stuffing, the four thighs went on a roasting pan.


And maybe all that L-tryptophan is in that lousy white meat? (grin)

The Spread -- 4 Thighs, 4 Wings, NO white meat, potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, roasted root vegetables and pumpkin pie. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

The Cook -- Mrs. Dr. Phil. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Hope your Thanksgiving celebrations -- or your ordinary Thursdays -- were equally wonderful.

Dr. Phil

Because Pie, Dammit

And You Thought Thanksgiving Was All About Turkey

A friend on Facebook posted, "There were six kinds of pie - apple, cherry, pumpkin, pecan, key lime, and chocolate." I am terribly jealous. (grin)

See, not only is pie a fine food in its own right, it also makes an excellent breakfast. And it seems that pie lovers don't discriminate between meat eaters and the various flavors of non-meat eaters. You know, the vegetarians, the vegans, the fruitarians, the air ferns...

We had pumpkin pie last night. Oh, seriously yum. By Christmas, we are likely to add mince meat (with or without any actual meat). Sometimes we've had pecan pie or pumpkin pecan pie. Very fond of pecan lies -- everything from a Southern so-sweet-your-teeth-hurt pecan pie to a more genteel Northern pecan pie. And such a shame that Mrs. Dr. Phil's cousins in Arkansas send us a box of cracked pecans every year. Most of them go into making stollen for Christmas presents, but sometimes we get a pecan pie out of the bounty.

I saw an article referenced in the last week about some survey regarding people's pie preferences for Thanksgiving. Amusingly the totals didn't add up to 100%, because they allowed for multiple pie situations. Not surprisingly, pumpkin topped out at like 84%. Pecan, mincemeat and sweet potato pies came next, followed by apple. Blueberry was in there somewhere. And then the other American classic, cherry pie, which I know is enjoyed by a number of people in my circles of acquaintances, but came in only about 5%.

That my friend also had key lime pie made me jealous -- I adore key lime pie. And on Mrs. Dr. Phil's side, there's a family recipe for sliced lemon pie which is quite amazing and quite the acquired taste.

Anyway, I sincerely hope you had pie in your holiday, the more the merrier.

With condiments as needed. Whipped cream. Hard sauce. Cheddar cheese for an Apple pie. (double-layer-grin)

Dr. Phil

What A Dreadful Excuse For A Children's Movie

My mother was always good at getting us marvelous books when I was a child. One was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Which was so good, we saw no reason to see Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka until very recently. Thanksgiving night was a slow night for television. I saw no need to see a third NFL game. Thanksgiving is Detroit and Dallas at home, no matter how bad they are, though this year both won. Especially the Lions, which beat up on Green Bay 40-10.

Here's another movie I'd never seen:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Turner Classic Movies, Thanksgiving, 8-10:30pm

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a dreadful adaptation, a loose -- very loose -- adaptation of the classic children's book Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books.

What gets me is how well loved this 1968 movie is. Still, the reviewers were mixed as to whether anyone over the age of twelve would be its audience. I was ten when this came out and I can assure you, I would have hated it then, too.

Honestly, what were they thinking? In the book the car is a real mystery, with its quirky dashboard which changed when you weren't looking and the mysterious GEN II license tags. The car looks nice in the film, but even its history and rebuild is a shady shade of the book's brilliance.

And then the movie gets weird. We're supposed to make of it that the latter half of the movie is just the shaggy dog story told by Dick Van Dyke to the children, a fact that they had to make more explicit in the novelization of the movie, I understand from the Wikipedia entry, all in service of deviating from the REAL book.

In addition to wiping out the mystery of the book -- if you buy the whole story/dream sequence
-- then there's NOTHING magical about the car in the movie. Poop.

And then there's the whole Holocaust-like business with the children being hidden. And the rather anti-German Vulgarian plot just adds to the Holocaust motif. And the children's battle tactics? Straight out of Babes in Toyland. AND Dick Van Dyke pretty much abandons them to make their own escape.

And his own children? Not well behaved, though they don't seem to suffer long for their bad behavior. I mean, they were TOLD to stay put and they STILL fell victim to the nasty child catcher. Ugh. Did not like. Not at all.

The studio wanted to pair Julie Andrews with Dick Van Dyke again, but she wisely stayed away from this Turkey because she thought the female lead was too much like Mary Poppins. Hmm, maybe that's why they showed it last night -- it's a turkey. (evil-old-sourpuss-grin) Nothing but a Shitty Shitty Bang Bang.

Meanwhile, here back in daylight on Black Friday, we're enjoying a Hitchock marathon on AMC. End of Vertigo. Rear Window now. Hard to go wrong with either Alfred or Jimmy. Later on it's the 50th anniversary of The Birds. Just in case the turkeys of Thursday need their revenge.

Dr. Phil

Gotta Love The Internet

So we're watching Rear Window on AMC this Black Friday afternoon, and it occurs to me -- I don't know 1950s 35mm SLR cameras well enough to know what camera and lens Jimmy Stewart is using. For one thing, as often happens in films and TV, the brand name is blacked out. But the Internet comes to my rescue and my second guess on the camera seems to be right. (First guess was a Practica, but that should have been a screw mount, not bayonet -- M42 Pentax/Practica mount.) See this forum:
Rear Window. Jimmy Stewart. c.1954. Which camera?
Lynn Loeffel , Aug 21, 2004; 10:35 p.m.

All right all you classic camera people, in the 1954 film "Rear Window" by Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart (also starring Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr) is often seen using his camera with an extreme telephoto lens to spy on the neighbor across the way. It drove me crazy trying to find evidence of what that camera was. I didn't see any insignia or markings. Had to be an SLR by shape of it. That was no rangefinder. But what is it? Anyone know?
Jonathan Stark , Aug 21, 2004; 10:48 p.m.
It's an Exakta. Not sure what model, but it couldn't be anything more modern than a VX (Varex). Now as to what lens it was, that question perpetually generates a lot of discussion among Exakta enthusiasts, but there's some consensus that it was a Kilfitt 400/5.6.

Peter Naylor , Aug 22, 2004; 01:19 p.m.
Hey, great question, Lynn - and one that's been vexing the Exaktaholics out there for yonks. "A V, or not a V, that's the question". OK, let's give it some Sherlock Holmes application theory, and eliminate the impossible. It can't be a Kine Exakta or Exakta 11, because they didn't have i/c pentaprisms. So, it's either going to be a V or Varex, and seeing as the 1954 movie was made in the US, you'd have to suspect the former. (Little bit of Exakta history here - US market models were not marketed as "Varex"'s, because Argus had taken out a copyright on that name, for a camera that never went into production - Strange But True ..... ) The other possibility is that it's a VX/Varex VX, and for the same marketing reasons, more likely to be a VX. Now, V models were only made in 1950/51 and are considerably rarer volume production-wise than the next VX model, made from 1951 right through to 1957, but of course here we're only concerned with up to 1954. So, statistically, you'd have to go with the VX. Now, the visual comparisons! From front on, both are very similar. Mid 54 VX models lost the bi-polar flash synch connections, but that's not visible in the vidcap. The other usual comparison also isn't valid, ie in that the standard lenses on the V have no diaphragm assistance, but the VX ones now have a preset aperture ring. You can't even use even the other usual comparison, ie that the Zeiss f2 Biotar on the V is much slimmer and in a black finish, whereas the same lens on the VX is much fatter and now finished in plain shiny alloy, because we ain't got no standard lens here, just that Monster Kilfitt 400mm job. So, what are we left with,, in the way of distinguishing features? Well, sitting here while I'm typing with one eye while staring at both my V and VX with the other, one thing is apparent. The strap lugs are positioned differently! The ones on the V are absolutely at the East/West ends of the top plate, whereas those on the VX are slightly further forward. In time comparison terms, the V's are at the absolute 9am/3pm position, but the VX's are at more like the 8am/4pm position. So, bearing in mind that all the vidcaps I've ever seen of Jimmy Stewart clicking away with his mystery Exakta on Raymond Burr doing away with his wife, aren't sharp enough to perceive the subtle differences in strap lug location - can anybody in our illustrious Forum advise if they've got a bigger, better and sharper vidcap series from Rear Window, sharp enough to enable them to differentiate here? One other aspect is that the V's strap lugs are sited higher, ie above the level of the top cover, but the VX's are slightly below that level. Oh, yes, before I finish - I don't think the blacking out of the Exakta name was anything to do with advertising, or the prevention thereof. Remember, 1954 was smack bang in the middle of the Cold War, with Korea still a vivid memory and the Hungarian Uprising not far away. Exaktas were the then State-Of-The-Art SLR, but came from East Germany, or the German Democratic Republic, or Soviet-Occupied Germany, depending who you believed and where you were back in 54. The masking of the "Exakta" nameplate was surely just a concession to the politics of the time, with Joe McCarthy and his Hollywood witchhunting in full swing. PN

Jonathan Stark , Aug 22, 2004; 01:40 p.m.
Ahhh, Peter, the strap lugs! You're a genius! Of course, that's a Varex VX -- the strap lugs are too far forward to be a Varex.

Now to complete my descent into Exakta-nerdiness(!!!), I'll cast my vote that it's a version 1 Varex VX. When I enlarged that movie frame to full screen it surely looked like there's no shutter release guard on that camera. A version 2 would have the guard. Makes sense, version 2's were just coming out in 1954, maybe after the movie was filmed.

François Pottier , Jun 16, 2013; 04:59 p.m.
(A long time ago,) Peter Naylor wrote:

the Zeiss f2 Biotar on the V is much slimmer and in a black finish, whereas the same lens on the VX is much fatter and now finished in plain shiny alloy, because we ain't got no standard lens here

Actually, about one third into the movie, when Stewart first picks up the camera, he can be seen taking off the standard lens and mounting that huge telephoto lens. The standard lens looked shiny to me, not black, although I could be wrong.

The L.A. Times puts it more succinctly:
According to Wikipedia, the camera and lens featured prominently in the movie was a 35mm Exakta Varex VX with a Kilfitt Fern-Kilar f/5.6 400mm lens.

Seeking some confirmation, I found this 1954 Life magazine article on “Rear Window.” The lead image is a closeup of a large lens. Clearly visible in the lens is the marking “Kilar 1:5.6/400″ – backing up the Wikipedia article.

Camera Quest article on the Kilfitt 400/5.6 Tele-Kilar
The 400/5.6 Kilfitt is arguably the most famous Kilfitt lens, and one of the most famous camera lenses EVER. The 400/5.6 co-starred with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 film "Rear Window" mounted on an Exakta.

My theory is that for any odd thing you want to look up on the Internet, you'll find at least three web pages devoted to it. Having included material from three web sources, my work here is done.

You gotta love those who relish in tracking down minutiae. (self-grin)

Dr. Phil

The Myth of Unlimited Bandwidth


The actual rate of data transfer is only as fast as the slowest link in the chain. And the transfer interface between protocols. WiFi can be considered pretty fast at times, but not as fast as a hardwired 100Mb or gigabit connection. So in the office WiFi is the limiting factor, unless I have a cabeled connection. At home, DSL is the limiting factor.

It's plastic, it's fluid.


DSL is set up with variable speeds. What you buy is a guaranteed minimum bandwidth rate. If the DSL grouping you're on isn't saturated, you can get way faster service than the minimums. Which is, for us, most of the time.

We used to get something I called Friday Night Gaming. Our bandwidth took a nosedive on Fridays, whether by every neighborhood kid jumping onto World of Warcraft or everyone jumping on streaming video. When we first got the Sony Blu-Ray player with WiFi, we had Hulu+. Excessive buffering on Friday nights meant we really couldn't use it then.

Eventually, we dropped Hulu+ -- too few of the things we wanted to see -- and reactivated the Netflix account as streaming video only. Early on we still had some buffering issues, but not so much anymore.

It may be that Netflix streaming is more efficient than Hulu+. But it's also that our DSL is through the local Allendale Telephone Company. And despite being a small carrier, since they serve the university, they've more than kept up with their technology. So I expect that the local fiber optic system continues to be upgraded.

You know, we still have to deal with the Last Mile problem. You can have all the fiber optic bandwidth you want, but if the last connections involve coax or twisted pair copper wires, then there is automatically a limiting factor.

Right now we're still half a mile from the network box with the fiber.

Of course some of you will say, whatcha bitchin' about? Cable Internet is faster than DSL. To some extent, sure. But our Telco is much better run than any cable company I've ever dealt with. A lot of cable situations don't do a great job of firewalling, either inside or outside the system. In one study, some techs found that a newly connected device gets attacked within twelve seconds on a cable modem. Yes I have security enabled. But even better is to get your net provider to stop some of the crap ever getting to you.


Of course, using more Netflix streaming over our WiFi DSL eats into our bandwidth. With both of us connecting, while watching streaming, it's a LOT slower to pull down big downloads at the same time.


The real reason for this post surfaced on Thanksgiving evening. Got a Facebook message from a cousin asking if I was on the phone with my mom -- she kept getting a busy signal. I wasn't on the phone, but I got on the horn and tried Greensboro. Got a busy signal.

But... there are busy signals and there are busy signals. This one was cutting in too early. Seemed like a trunk line busy signal to me.

Back a long time ago, when I used the dorm's payphone to call home every Sunday, sometimes I couldn't get through. Busy trunk lines. Most especially on high volume holidays -- the obvious ones like Christmas, New Year's and Thanksgiving. And Mother's Day. (grin)

But for years there's been an orgy of building fiber optic bandwidth over long distances. When we were in the U.P., a train actually ran from Baraga to Houghton. The railroad had leased buried fiber cable rights along their right-of-way and had to run the trenching and cable laying machine down the tracks.

For a while, there were people worried about overbuilding the infrastructure. But streaming video, etc., has eaten into that reserve capacity.

And given the amount of large minutes long distance plans, I guess I'm not totally surprised that the phones can still get clogged.

But it was unexpected after a long run of clear sailing.

Oh, and yes I did call my mother today. And yes, she's okay. And no, she wasn't on the phone last night. And yes, I sent a new message to my cousin saying it's all right in Greensboro.

Technology -- you gotta love it.

Dr. Phil