Monthly Archives: October 2010


A few months ago, we had to have our cat put to sleep. I’d had him for about 15 years, and he’d had various health issues, but in the end it was cancer that got him. It was pretty traumatic, because he’d been a good companion, especially through some fairly depressing times when there were days it seemed my only reason to get up in the morning and go to work was so that I could continue to buy cat food.

I’ve lived with cats more years than not in my life, and this was the first time in more than 20 years we’d been really cat-free. It was inevitable that we would get another cat, but for a while it was hard to even think about it. Eventually the desire for another cat began to outweigh the melancholy. What turned the tide was a practical concern: we discovered that we were being visited by a mouse.

The mouse was coming in and out though the stove top. I saw it coming up through the grates around the burners. Under the stove top is a large, mostly empty space, with a vent in the back that the mouse could get in and out through. We presume he was going down the back and possibly into the basement. I haven’t yet found any signs of an actual mouse nest, but we can’t move the oven—it’s a massive six-burner Wolf range that probably weighs as much as three ordinary ovens (you can see it in this post).

In fact, we think the mouse has been there for a while—before our cat died, he’d taken to hopping up on top of the oven and walking around on the stove, which seemed kind of odd behavior. Of course, as long as the cat was around, we never actually saw the mouse. The mouse was, like a certain former dictator, “contained.”

Which brings up to the last weekend, when the MSPCA adoption center was having a “kitten adopt-a-thon.” All of the kittens they had out in foster homes would brought to the center, and people looking to adopt lined up to see them. It was kind of an odd set up. The cats were all in cages with name tags, and when someone found a cat they wanted, they took the name tag to claim them. People were let into the room about ten at a time, to help keep the kittens from being too overwhelmed. There were about 50 kittens, and they were all really cute. The event was scheduled for four hours, but all of the kittens were claimed in an hour. A few of the kittens were in litters with the mother. We had considered before we went over that we might try to adopt a kitten and the mother together, and it worked out that indeed there was a pair we could take together. So now we have Ida and Sam:

And it has turned out to be a good thing that we did. Sam is very playful but skittish, and he’s clearly adjusting to is new home a lot faster because his mom is here. And Ida is very sweet. And that mouse’s days are numbered.

This is only a test

A while back I was wandering about in the local antique mall. One of the vendors was closing up shop, and marking everything down 80 percent. It was a random assortment of undesirable junk for the most part, but I did see in one case a small cardboard box with two old lenses in it. The price written on the box was $10, so the sale price to me would be two dollars. How could I resist?

The style of shutter and the names Ernemann and ICA suggest that these lenses probably came off of a couple of “pocket” folding-type cameras made between WWI and the late 1920s, when those companies were swallowed up in the consolidation that produced Zeiss-Ikon. Not too surprisingly, the shutters don’t work very well. Slow, by a factor of about 100. They still operate, which means they can probably be cleaned and made well again, but it wouldn’t be worth the expense.

I put them aside for a while, and went on to other things, but the the other day I decided to try to clean up the glass on the Ernemann—probably the better of the two lenses, and would likely cover 4×5. It was fairly dirty, having been poorly stored and handled over the years. I managed to get most of the grunge off—you have to be careful not to scratch the coatings on these old lenses—to where I figured I could actually get an image out of it.

The lens did not quite fit the spare Graflex lens board I have, it’s too loose, but this was remedied with a strip of gaffer’s tape. I just forced the shutter to stay open with a cable release, and figured to make the test with the Speed’s focal plane shutter. Unfortunately, I don’t the correct cable to sync a flash to the focal plane shutter, so I had to make with available light from the window. Fuji FP3000 instant film seemed to be the thing to try here, because patience is not my strong point. I pulled a couple of shots to gauge the exposure, and then added a yellow filter. I had to just hold the filter up in front of the lens; I have no idea what the thread size of an Ernemann Doppel-Anastigmat is, and most of my filters are sized to fit my Nikons. The end result:

Squash, sweet potatoes, green tomatoes, and onions from the CSA on the counter. These instant prints, especially with the high-speed film, tend to be a little soft no matter what lens is used. I’d have to say, not bad for an 80-plus-year-old lens that cost me all of a dollar. So the next test will have to be with real film and better light.