Stonehenge and Solitaire

My visit to Stonehenge in 1994

When Management Graphics adapted their film recording technology to support motion picture film formats, it was quickly adopted by movie studios to bring special effects from their computer memory images on to film.  There were some problems however, and one of the most serious was the difficulty in obtaining the full brightness range found in typical scenes, especially when they included lights—candle light, desk lamps, car headlights, streetlights.  Any light source, even a glimpse through a window to the bright outdoors, would cause a large flare in the final film frames, washing out detail in the scene.  Our customers complained, and we started down a path to research and solve the problem.

We understood what the fundamental issue was: halation, an effect caused by the glass faceplate of the cathode ray tube used for creating the image.  The bright spot on the phosphor screen was internally reflected at the glass surface which then illuminated the phosphor coating.  If phosphor were black, this would not be a problem, but phosphor coatings are white, as are most materials made of fine powder, and it resulted in this internal reflected light overexposing the film.  In the absence of a black phosphor, there were few other ways to mitigate the halation effect.

An example of halation on a photographic film plate.  The circular haloes and flare are apparent around the street lights in this 1910 image.

One of our customers was incorporating our film recorder into a full workstation system.  Quantel, a company in Newberry, England, had become successful in the early years of digital video and was looking for a way to expand its editing tool offerings into the motion picture market.  Quantel’s engineers understood the halation problem as well, but they didn’t want to rely on our figuring out a solution: they had an aggressive development schedule. 

Continue reading

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Enjoying the beauty of the BWCA in Superior National Forest. See https://www.sylvansport.com/go-field-notes-boundary-waters/

Andy Warhol, the celebrated pop artist of the 1960s, is credited with the quote “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Well, I guess we have reached the future, because here is our fifteen minutes.

We are the proud owners of a trailer that converts into a tent-like camper. It’s made by a US company, Sylvan Sport. We first learned about it from my cousin Bonnie Norman, an early adopter of nearly everything, and when I finally relinquished my VW Eurovan Westfalia pop-up (to a deserving family eager to enjoy and care for it), this was the obvious replacement. We have enjoyed our “Go Trailer” for several years now and somehow (from Bonnie?), Sylvan Sport learned of our enthusiasm and wanted to feature us on their website.

Our travel plans this last year were modified, along with everyone else’s in this time of covid rules. We didn’t make the cross-country trips we expected, but substituted numerous short trips to our wonderful Minnesota State Parks. I also redeemed a coupon from the Gerard sisters, to guide me in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a destination I was embarrassed to admit as a lifelong Minnesotan, I had not yet visited.

It was a beautiful fall week and I took my usual collection of cameras. Sylvan Sport sent a photographer to capture it as well, and a writer later called to interview us. The result is a promotional piece on their website that depicts the experience nicely, despite being truly impossible to portray the full beauty of Boundary Waters.

Nightscape Odyssey Goes to Press!

By the miracles of modern technology (a technology I contributed to!), it is possible to self-publish a book without a minimum printing run of thousands or more.  I recently took advantage of one of these services to make a limited edition of my collection of stories and essays, Nightscape Odyssey, posted previously on this site. 

It was tricky to get the layout just right; it took two proofs, but I’m happy with the result and the experience was satisfying, especially taking delivery of the final copies.  Even more satisfying was giving them away as gifts. 

If you didn’t get one, it was because you probably aren’t one of my nephews or nieces, whom I felt should have some artifact of their odd uncle’s interests, and stories about what road trips were like way back when.   Don’t worry though, if you really want a copy of this book, the same company that published them for me can make one for you!  You’ll have to pay the going rate however, and you may find it more than you want to shell out for just another coffee table book. (https://www.blurb.com/b/10435240-nightscape-odyssey)

But if you don’t insist on an actual physical hard-cover book, Nightscape Odyssey can be had for free!  A pdf version is available for download (20MB).  I hope you enjoy it!

Watching for Perseids

Extracted from a frame in the timelapse series showing a Perseid meteor streaking along the path of the Milky Way toward the current position of Jupiter.

Every year in August the Earth passes through a comet debris field, and when a grain of comet dust falls through the atmosphere it heats up and vaporizes, showing as a streak of light and sometimes leaving a glowing trail.   We enjoy seeing them as “falling stars”. 

This year, as part of our Covid-coping strategy, we were on a two-day camping trip to a state park during the meteor shower.  It was a fortuitous coincidence, unexpectedly accompanied by clear weather.  I set up some cameras hoping to capture the meteors, but they were elusive.  As a consolation, I assembled the frames into a timelapse and although only a few frames caught meteors, they did capture some of the other beautiful elements of the night sky.

The brightest star is actually planet Jupiter, and it has a bright companion to the left, Saturn.  The Milky Way is visible as it moves slowly across the sky with them.  Some of the bright spots move more rapidly.  The steady ones are satellites, the others are airplanes.  Mid- and high level clouds form, move, and evaporate over the duration of the timelapse (3-1/2 hours).

A meteor itself is a momentary flash, leaving a faint streak on the image frame.  A sharp-eyed observer may find some in the video, but it only shows as one frame among the 30 per second.  One such frame has been extracted, showing a meteor strike seemingly aimed at Jupiter.

I have accidentally enjoyed the Perseids throughout my life, as I have often been on camping and backpacking trips in August.  The night sky is awe-inspiring in any dark sky site and it is all the more so when accented by the long bright streamers created as we travel through comet dust.

Swedish Candelabras – Finis

It is considered good practice to finish up the old projects before embarking on new ones, but that doesn’t seem to be my way.  The new one gets started and the old one languishes in its nearly complete state, sometimes for years, until I grant amnesty, allowing it to fade into memory.

I had reached the point in the Swedish candelabra project where the challenges of woodworking had been solved, a working prototype had been made, a dozen pieces had been crafted, and all that was left were the trivial details of wiring the electric LED candles.

It turned out that, while not technically challenging, it was incredibly tedious, threading wires, stripping insulation, soldering the bulb contacts, splicing connections and gluing the simulated plastic candlesticks in place.  The first one I assembled took hours.

With eleven more to go, I found lots of excuses to not do them.  Eventually however, when the summer heat advisories provided reason to retreat to the cool workroom in my home, I would complete one, or maybe two, each day.  Eventually I reached the last one, by which time I was proficient– only an hour of assembly!

I can now declare this project complete, and I look forward to displaying the candelabras in our windows when the season shifts once again to long cold nights.  I hope they are seen by the passing neighbors as signs of hope, warmth, welcome, and good cheer, just like the ones we enjoyed in Sweden.

The ancestral home of my great-great-grandfather Sven Johan Lundberg in Mulseryd, Sweden, during a light snowfall last December. If you look closely you will find that each window hosts a welcoming candelabra.

Swedish Candelabras

A modest Swedish house in Skalo, Poldi’s ancestral home. Nearly all the houses are in this traditional red color with white trim.
A close up shows the candelabras in the windows, a wintertime custom here.

While in Sweden over the Christmas season, we noticed the popularity of candelabras placed in the windows of people’s homes.  In these northern latitudes where the darkness of the winter night dominates the few hours of daylight, the distinctive chevron of lights provided a cheery greeting from the windows of the traditional-styled Swedish houses.  

I thought it would be a nice accent to our own home with its not-so-traditional windows cut into a mansard roof.  Surely Ikea would have such an item, with some suitable unpronounceable name, but I was disappointed.  Perhaps I needed to shop the Ikea stores in Sweden rather than our Americanized versions of them.

Continue reading

The Best Dinner of My Life

It is a concept that was introduced to me by my colleague Phil, who while recalling a dinner that we both participated in, described it as the best he had ever had.  This struck me as one of those hyperbolic statements one sometimes makes in the competitive company of peers, but after contemplating his superlatives for a moment, realized it was true, and then adopted that same experience as my own best meal of a lifetime.

Continue reading

Copenhagen Solstice Celebration

After checking in to our extremely compact room in Copenhagen (“you’ll find a towel, blanket and pillow for the second person in a drawer under the bed”), we decided to find a local establishment for dinner.  The modern phone is an amazing tool for this as it allows you to locate restaurants within walking range, and even get a sense of their menu and pricing and how others have reviewed them.  

We identified a candidate and walked the few blocks through the new winter night to find it.  The European style bistro seemed just right for the occasion, so we entered and immediately found ourselves inside the coat check room.  We weren’t sure we wanted to surrender our coats; it might be cold or drafty in there, but there was no option.  All coats were checked; we were told that there simply wasn’t enough room inside.  

Continue reading