Checking the Mail

John checks for mail at Rural Route 2, Box 619, later to become 292 Heather Lane.

In 1965 we moved into a newly-built house on the outskirts of the town of Long Lake Minnesota.  Today considered an “exurb” of Minneapolis, at that time it was a rural community at the very edge of urban influence.  I turned twelve on the day we moved in and was starting to explore the possibilities presented to a teenager in those years. 

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Full House

Eight years later, we re-create a photo given as a Christmas gift to our parents in 2011.

Growing up in a home headed by a “ham” (an amateur radio operator), we often would hear my dad’s radio conversations with remote, distorted, and static-filled voices.  In one such contact, the usual exchange of technical banter was augmented by a personal one.  Dad mentioned that he had a “full house”, the poker hand, in describing his children: three boys, and a pair of girls.  

We all overheard such over-the-air dialogs, as well as evenings filled with the clicks and beeps of Morse code.  Such are the experiences of the children of a zealous radio amateur.

But it has been a very long time since we were all together for any extended time under the same roof.  My dad’s Morse code telegraph key went silent a few years ago, and it is the second passing of a parent that now brings us together to figure out the final disposition of their possessions.

The last time we spent this much time in such proximity we were on a family backpacking trip in 1972.  It was a wonderful and new shared experience, but as teenagers there was always plenty to bicker about.  Some things never change.

And although we still sometimes act like squabbling siblings, the things we argue about are no longer the outrages of personal space violations (“Mo-om, he’s looking at me funny”).  Instead, they are the banalities of politics.  On the things that matter, we all seem to agree!

Over the course of four days we came together under the roof of the house our parents enjoyed at the end of their lives and we applied our individual strengths and skills to the task at hand.  We unearthed familiar artifacts, discovered old photos, revived faded memories, and re-told family stories as the contents of a very full house were processed by the “full house” of siblings.

Csuri Exhibit Poster

“Gossip”, by Charles A Csuri, 1990.

When we consider the impact of computer graphics we usually think of Hollywood motion picture special-effects, or beautifully crafted images and commercials from high-end marketing firms, which both seem like products of the east and west coasts.  We don’t think of midwestern artists or public university departments as being part of that world.  Yet this is exactly where much of the pioneering work in computer graphics was done and its commercialization was born.

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Third Tail

Third Tail
Lake Zumbra (Victoria MN), 9:00 pm 8 April 97. 
Kiev-88 80mm, 5 minutes at f/4 on PMC400.

Notes from Thor’s astrophoto journal:

On April 8, a friend joined me to observe Hale-Bopp at my nearby and nearly-dark site at Lake Zumbra.  We enjoyed watching the very young moon set, then went about preparing to take some pictures. I was hoping to get a shot taken at a smaller lens aperture so the stars would have less distortion than in my earlier photos.

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City Cometscape

City Cometscape
Lake Calhoun looking at Minneapolis, 4:00 am 23 March 97. 
Kiev-88, 80mm , 20 seconds at f/4 on PMC400.

Notes from Thor’s astrophoto journal:

I thought that the view of comet Hale-Bopp over a cityscape would make a striking photograph.  There were only certain view angles and observing times that worked however.  To get the comet to hang over downtown Minneapolis in March, the time worked out to be around 3:00 am along a northeast line of sight.  Surprisingly few vantage points existed; the streets headed off in the wrong direction, or the view was obscured by trees,  buildings or streetlights. 

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Hale-Bopp over Hyland Tower

Hale-Bopp over Hyland Tower
Bloomington MN, 4:00 am 15 March 97. 
Kiev-88 80mm f/2.8, 30 second exposure on Tech Pan 120 film.

Notes from Thor’s astrophoto journal:

This picture was taken with a Kiev-88, which is a Russian-made clone of  a Hasselblad (a high quality  camera that was taken to the moon).  It uses the larger size 120 format film.  A colleague suggested that this unused camera should be stored in my office  instead of his.  And since I had no use for it there, I decided I should try it out on one of my comet photo outings.

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4.3 Please show your permit

Another challenge in making photographs of the night sky

On a summer camping trip with my family some years ago, I attempted to make a star trail picture showing Mt Hood in Oregon as reflected in one of the nearby alpine lakes.  Unfortunately, that remote location was not quite remote enough, and I found that other campers were intruding on my composition. 

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4.2 Skinnydippers

An unexpected hazard of night sky photography

Taking pictures at night is often a solo experience, and while it is true that there are times when one is quite alone, there are plenty of times when the abundance of humans on the planet provides company, desired or not.

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The Color of the Moon

I was 16 years old when Apollo-11 landed on the moon.  Color television had been invented but most TVs were still black and white.  I had seen a few color televisions on display and in other homes, but the color was usually awful, partly because the broadcasting signals had to be compatible with black and white sets. 

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Cows and other hazards of astrophotography

I have encountered various unexpected events while photographing the night sky.  Some are spectacular, like the flash of a brilliant meteor exploding in the sky and lighting up the landscape.   Some are startling: the crash of a tree felled by a nocturnal beaver.  Some are annoying: the competitive calling of amorous ducks and their disruption of the mirror lake surface I was trying to photograph. And some are downright dangerous. 

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