22 February 2013

For the want of a Nail

The older folks amongst the readership may well be familiar adage:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost;
 and for want of a horse the rider was lost;
 being overtaken and slain by the enemy,
all for want of care about a horse-shoe nail.
Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanack 1758 edition

Those who have known Mr. Fuzzy for decades know his life revolves around the art of capturing photons and using them to produce visible images. His life's plan was set by working after high school classes for Charlie Manion at his commercial photography studio; little did either then realize the import of making spare change. In the last forty plus years, Mr. Fuzzy has nearly always possessed (or been possessed some might say) a darkroom - or had ready access to one. His college dorm closet contained no product of the milliner's trade but instead a small, cheap (when cheap meant Italian rather than a top notch German product) 35mm enlarger and four 9x11 plastic trays for developing prints. The lads of the fourth floor were oft amused by the pile of black & white prints washing in the group shower.

It has been a severe trial over the last four and a half years to not have a darkroom, intellectually akin to having no meat in the day's meal; adequate to exist but no joy in that state. An attempt was made to at least develop film in the guest bathroom but the constrained space and odd proportion were so far from optimal as to be abandoned after a few months.

Mr. Fuzzy is elated to announce to those few who read this blog that he has an honest to goodness darkroom now, after much time and some travail. Almost all leather goods stored in the basement molded severely, even if wrapped well and deeply inside a large moving company box. Leather coverings on camera bodies were loosened by the extended humidity exposure.

Dozens and dozens of cases, lens containers, light meter cases, etc., had to be cleaned of the mold and treated to hopefully prevent any recurrence .

Then there were the items damaged or lost by the movers. For instance, the three casters on the Semi-Centennial stand were lost; without the casters, the stand was worthless, without the stand, the camera that rests upon it was unusable. The circa 1910 stand did not fit any modern casters that Mr. Fuzzy could locate. Progress was at a standstill. Then it was discovered that little Floyd had a full blown machine shop. Joe K. turned three steel adapters and viola, the stand was operational and the camera ready to catch sun beams once more after a four and a half year hiatus.

Then it was down to a few missing crucial items like the professional quality light meter, necessary to measure the amount of light emitted by strobes. Mr. Fuzzy thought he had seen it the first year at Stratheden but not since. At long last, it was located, the mold removed and a fresh nine volt battery inserted. It is ancient and has been totally superseded by modern digital meters but this one is an old familiar friend and will remain at labor. "And then there was light" measured... a studio without a light meter is like unto a machine shop sans micrometers.

Another key item unaccounted for was the enlarger lens. All of the various other parts had been found, cleaned and assembled. There sat the enlarger, all in perfect order, waiting to be used - but not possible without a lens. An old and dear friend, Bob N., sent several of his enlarging lenses as a most generous gift. As proof that God has a sense of humor, about three hours after Bob's lenses were unwrapped, the missing lenses appeared.

"Nothing now remains to be considered."

19 February 2013

Love, Floyd county style

A local nineteen year old man is prepping for a double lung and liver transplant to prevent him from dying of cystic fibrosis. Duke University Medical Center will perform the surgery and rehabilitation but the cost is estimated at $1,000,000 and his family has no insurance (think "pre-existing condition"). The Children's Organ Transplant Association required $30,000 deposit just place him on the wait list, a huge amount of money in this relatively poor county (per capita income in Floyd is 64% of the state average).

As soon as this situation became public knowledge, collection jars appeared in virtually every business that Mr. Fuzzy patronizes. Fund raising dances, performances and auctions were held. His friends and total strangers formed "Kai's Krew" to systematize the fund raising. Guess what? In just three months, Floyd county residents and businesses had chipped in $30,000. He and his mother are now in Durham while he takes tests and physical rehab to prepare him for the ordeal of major surgery. His girlfriend reports that his physical therapy is four uninterrupted hours, five days a week; the idea is to make him fit enough to withstand this radical procedure well. Best wishes to Sekai and his family - and God bless this wonderful, generous community who do their best to take care of their own.

On a smaller scale, generousity was at work during the Sunday breakfast at the Cafe today. Rebecca the fabulous chef, brought in the most beautiful Valentine's Day cookies your correspondent has witnessed in his three score and more years. Then she gave them to 'all usual crew' and the waitresses and cooks. Mr. Fuzzy was humbled by her gesture. Below is the cookie he chose and the assortment (somewhat picked over at this point) to give you, the reader, some idea of the breadth of technique and beauty involved.

Mr. Fuzzy wishes he had found Floyd county twenty years sooner. What wonderful people dwell within.

17 February 2013

America's drought

As he descended the stairs this very morn, it was with a sigh of relief that Mr. Fuzzy's eyes beheld the orange glow of the dancing tongues of fire inside the firebox, for it was a cold 13F (-10C) outside with a roaring wind which dropped the chill factor to 0F (-18C). Its good there is no out of doors work on the schedule for today - although farms have a way of altering priorities... As noted in several prior posts, the temperatures remain on a roller coaster of very mild to bitter cold within the same week.

The unequivocally positive news is that the drought was declared relieved as of Wednesday. In fact, not only has Stratheden received goodly precipitation this winter but the forecast through the end of April is excellent:

United States Seasonal Drought Outlook Graphic - click on image to enlarge

Looking at this forecast, one must wonder if  dust bowl years are ahead for the Great Plains, America's wheat fields. Mr. Fuzzy thanks his Tsalagi friends who warned him in 2007 that this climatic Armageddon was in the making; hence the removal from parched (and becoming ever more dessicated) New Mexico to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Wado!

Now the question is how to plan a garden for this growing season. Will it be cool and wet (2009), warm and normal (2010), normal temperature but far below normal rains (2011) or warm and occasional periods of no rain whatsoever even if the average is normal (2012)? Native neighbors in this area of the county (which does not relate to the eastern or western portions of the county when it involves summer precipitation) suspect a new cycle is forming of wet and mild winters with warm and drier summers. Last year saw a game theory of mini-max regret brought to fruition by planting part of the garden for dry, part for normal precipitation and some plants relatively insensitive to God's most precious gift. The strategy yielded fairly good results but was slightly confounded by the dry spell coming late just as peppers, for instance, were fruiting with wild abandon. The drought correlated with insect infestation, causing Mr. Fuzzy to wonder if those nasty little six legged cauliflower chompers had been happily resident in the fields and forests and were driven to the only refuge of tender eats.

As time to start seeds indoors approaches rapidly, the time for dusting off the "Hat of Prognostication" and placing said chapeau upon the noggin to determine the onset of spring. Will it be late, early, or will the roller coaster continue with days warm enough to place plants in the life giving solar rays followed by nights of killing frosts. Should you know the answer, please send a reply as soon as feasible.

The fire is dying down and new oaken logs need be inserted for continued comfort, thusly Mr. Fuzzy hopes that you, kind reader, are warm and comfortable and you have found redeeming merit in your time spent here.