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  • Michael Krakovskiy 8:24 am on May 17, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: and optical physics, Atomic, , computer chair, Electromagnetic radiation, , , Japanese museum, molecular, ,   

    The Fantom Photo Album 

    Being a fan of photography has its upsides and downsides. On one hand photographers notice more things. Beautiful things. Unusual things. Things that only can be seen through the lens of the camera that lives inside your brain.

    On the other, if they don’t have a camera handy, or the batteries are dead, or there’s too little light, or if taking photos is prohibited or just simply not wise – photographers become agitated and miserable. Oh, the most wonderful moments that should be simply enjoyed can be poisoned by worrying about lighting, f-stops above all — the lack of camera in your hands.

    The shots that did not happen – those are the worst. They linger in your head for a while, but then the moment passes, and the fata morgana of the perfectly composed and exposed picture dissolves into the bitterness of a missed shot. It’s even worse if you just did not have the guts to take out your fully charged, properly equipped camera and point it’s soul stealing eye at the situations, people, things and places that simply must be photographed.

    Let’s see, off the top of my head, three shots that did not happen and still drive me nuts:

    1) A young woman occupying the two-person seat of the R40 train (you know, the one next to the cab), bathed in the unearthly greenish glare of fluorescent lights, opposite a guy reading a newspaper and another one dozing. She is as pissed off as can be, the expression on her face a mask of anger, sadness and disgust. Yet she is dressed in a brilliantly colored butterfly costume, with big transparent wings. I just did not have the heart to take out my camera from my bag.

    2) A bum sitting in the street, slumped in a cheap computer chair, kind of like the guy on the logo of my website. He rested his head on the handle of a shopping cart filled with ivory colored computer towers and topped with an old CRT monitor, a keyboard and even a couple of mice and modems. I think I even noticed a hub in there somewhere. The yellow plastic of old equipment and the depressed, bearded and unwashed guy would have looked ordinary in a cubicle farm, but outside in the midday New York sun they looked sad and alien. My camera was with me, but I forgot the flash card at work.

    3) Japanese museum, a glassed in stand containing a samurai’s suit of armor, surprisingly small in size. The ghostly reflection of a petit Japanese girl’s face just would not line up with the dark opening in front of the horned helmet. The museum was closing, the lighting was dim, and I just did not feel like waiting for the perfect shot.

    But then again, there are times when you take a picture, and then feel that you probably should not have. Those primitive people that feel that a photograph steals one’s soul might be onto something. It sure feels that way sometimes.Being a fan of photography has its upsides and downsides. On one hand photographers notice more things. Beautiful things. Unusual things. Things that only can be seen through the lens of the camera that lives inside your brain.

  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:33 pm on May 14, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: BASIC, Computer memory, , Core, Core dump, Electromagnetic radiation, , Ferrite, Ferrite core, Ferrites, Jay Dubya, Lockheed Electronics Company Inc., Magnetic core, Magnetic-core memory, Non-volatile memory, , Sinclair Spectrum, , Wang   

    Of Wangs And Core Dumps 

    I started learning programming on a Soviet computer called Iskra 226, a few of which were given to our after school program by the kind Navy bureaucrats. I vividly remember finding a BASIC program already stored on the hard disk that cheerfully asked a few questions about the weather and the megatonnage of a warhead and then quickly calculated the size of the epicenter, severity of fallout and whatnot. The teacher was not amused and asked me to delete the program before anyone else had a chance to see it..

    Although Iskras turned out to be less popular with other kids who preferred Soviet knockoffs of Sinclair Spectrum which had good graphics and buttloads of nice games that could be loaded from audio cassettes, I preferred the loud monochrome screened monster. You see Iscras had peripherals – a dot matrix printer that sounded like a machine gun and a humongous hard drive that sounded even louder.

    Later I learned that Iscra was a clone of a Wang 2200 computer. And even later I learned a bit more about Dr. Wang’s company. So, continuing my Computer History Through Coffee Mugs Series, I present to you a prized mug from my collection:

    As it turns out, Dr. An Wang also happens to be the inventor of magnetic core memory, a technology that always fascinated me. Here is a core memory plane from my collection:

    Core memory stores bits by sending current to donut shaped rings of ferrite. Wikipedia article explains how this works. Early core memory arrays used a small amount of larger ferrite cores. Later ones, like the one on the above picture used buttloads of tiny little cores. From what I heard, these amazing devices were assembled by third world garment workers. By hand. Under microscopes. If you have any doubt that this is true, take a look at these close-up shots that clearly show that this is done by hand:

    Jay Dubya Zee shed some light on how horrible is the job of people who assemble camouflage nets. Think about how much worse is doing something like this:

    How much ram is this you might ask? The back of the card holds a label. It says:
    Lockheed Electronics Company, Inc.
    Data Products Division
    Core Memory 8k x 18
    2001002326-1A1 HK022

    These days core memory is still used in aircraft and spacecraft because it keeps the information when power is off and is supposedly less prone to radiation.

    The word wang these days mostly means “penis”, a common name of a Chinese restaurant, is used on t-shirts, as a sentence enhancer or just at random. Also, unexplicably, “wing-wang” is another name for a dollar.

    Memory dump files are called “core dumps” to this day because of core memory. Also it is common to refer to core dumps of dilithium and chockolatium.

  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:10 am on January 3, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Black light, Carnival glass, Depression glass, , Electromagnetic radiation, , Luminescence, , , radium/phosphorus paint, , , Troitskaya Tower   

    Watch Out, Radioactive Man! 

    Ok, since we are on the subject of things that fascinate me. How about radium glass?

    When I was little, I’ve read in some book about special red glass from which the red star on top of Kremlin was made of. It turns out that a little bit of radium must be added to the glass mix in order to get a deep red color.

    From here:
    When seen from below, from the ground, the stars do not seem particularly large, yet the points of each one are 3 to 3.75 meters apart. The lighting inside the stars is controlled from a room in the Troitskaya Tower. The framework of the stars is made of stainless steel and they are faced in special three-layer glass which is ruby-red on the outside and milk-white on the inside. Each star is lit by a 3,700 to 5,000 watt bulb and, to protect the bulbs from overhearing, cooled air is forced into the stars through hollow rods 24 hours a day. The stars are so designed that they can revolve smoothly in the wind.

    Oooh, oooh, look at this picture of the star being installed. Man….

    Anyways, back to my rant.

    Turns out that besides being popular as an ingredient in all sort of “medicinal” remedies, from enemas to pills, radium was used in many sorts of glassware. The color of radium impregnated glass has a very distinctive look. These days such items are called “Depression Glass” because it was very popular during the Great Depression or “Radium Glass”. A very distinctive feature of such glass is that it glows when exposed to uv light (aka black light).

    Here is what green radium glass looks like with and without uv light.

    Freaky, huh?
    My cigar ashtray is made out of the same greenish glass.

    There is also “Carnival Glass” that was popular in the 1920s. It is sometimes made of radium glass, but with a glaze made of iridium and other unobtaniums.

    There is not too much radioactivity in this glass, so it’s pretty much considered safe. I would not reccomend eating off it, but for collecting it’s ok. There are tons and tons of this stuff on eBay.

    Oh, I forgot to mention that I want to add a radium/phosphorus paint to the hour and second arms and numbers on my watch. The modern “glow in the dark” paints suck.

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