It’s Half The Camera It Could Be

An all-plastic answer to sh*tty Lomography plastic cameras

Like your childhood 126 cartridge film camera, but with fewer Spiderman motifs.

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to procrastinate. And when I open up my draft of Luck Be A Spacelady (my latest Marlowe and the Spacewoman novel) and see just how much more work needs to be done, I need those distractions.

The most recent is my discovery of and subsequent experimenting with half frame 35mm film photography. I had no idea these things existed despite they’re been around for longer than I have.

For those of you also unfamiliar with half frame cameras (but hopefully at least know what film is), here’s a quick explanation: the size of the image exposed on the negative is half the width of a typical 35mm exposure. You get twice the exposures on a roll of film at half the size (for example, 72 pictures on a 36 exposure roll). A more detailed explanation can be found here.

I bought the (relatively) inexpensive Kodak Ektar H35 camera, which came out recently and has received generally good reviews. My other option was to pay a lot of money on eBay for an older half frame camera that may or may not require servicing before I could be confident it worked.

That seemed like a high risk-to-reward ratio for an aspect of photography I might not end up liking, so I went with the entry level approach.

The camera is easy to use. No focusing, no exposure setting, no shutter speed setting. Everything is fixed. You just point and shoot. The only control you have is the ISO rating of the film you use. The camera is set up for using ISO 100 film in a sunny outdoor setting.

This is a blessing and a curse. You don’t have to fuss over settings to get a good picture, but at the same time you can’t fuss over the settings to get a good picture. You get what you what get. If you use, for example, ISO 100 film and the lighting conditions change (going from sunny to overcast or twilight), your pictures will be underexposed and you can’t do anything to compensate.

This also makes the camera a throwback to the cheap old 126 film cameras I had as a child.

Never underestimate the appeal of the nostalgia factor, especially when you start to get as old and close to death as me. I still remember the excitement and joy of receiving a Spiderman 126 film cartridge camera for my birthday as a young boy.

The camera does come with a flash for indoor / darker situations. However, my experience is that the flash isn’t effective beyond about five feet from the camera. I discovered this at the price of a lot of dark, indoor photos that are basically a waste of celluloid.

The opposite of AI, this camera is a fixed and dumb as it gets with respect to controls.

Change the aperture? I’m sorry, Ian, I can’t do that.

The shutter speed is fixed at 1/100 sec, which generally speaking is sufficient to freeze action in a photo. However, I found that a lot of my pictures, particularly those taken from a slowly moving vehicle, exhibit a lot of camera shake. Standing still and holding the camera still generally resulted in no shake, but with this camera I really had to pay attention to how I was holding it.

This is contrary to the concept of using the camera as a no-think point and shoot. A camera that requires no thought when it comes to settings actually requires a great deal of focus (ha ha, no pun intended) when it comes to holding it. It took me a while to figure that out, so a lot of the ‘extra’ photos I exposed on the roll didn’t come out.

Not necessarily a flaw of the camera, but given how light and easy this all-plastic camera is to shake, definitely a consideration to keep in mind when using it.

Maybe I can add some fishing weights (another distraction we won’t talk about now) to the camera to help with that issue.

After shooting two rolls of film, my overall conclusion is that shooting this camera is very much like shooting other film cameras: you will take a lot of pictures and on each roll, you’ll get one or two gems and the rest of the pictures are ‘meh’ at best. Now I might be able to improve the gem-to-meh ratio with more practice, but I will never be able to eliminate all the mehs.

Sure, more complicated cameras give you more control, and an experienced, professional photographer will almost certainly be able to get more gems on a roll through expert use of those controls, but for an average Joe like me, once you get past the reality that most of the pictures on a roll will be merely OK with only a few really good ones, you can be perfectly happy with your efforts and your camera.

I also discovered that who processes your negatives can impact the quality of the scans / prints. Specifically, vendors who scan the film like full-frame 35mm exposures (that is, two exposures per print) can produce poor quality images if the two different exposures have dramatically different lighting conditions. The scanner seems to split the difference, resulting in two terrible images even though the negatives themselves look fine. But if the vendor scans each half-frame exposure independently, the images will be more representative of the negatives.

I learned this the hard way with my first roll of film and when I saw the scans, I almost gave up on the camera. But then I examined the negatives and realized what had happened.

So I’ve made my peace with this camera. It’s fun, easy to use, and if you have a steady hand and the lighting conditions are right, you can get a good, albeit somewhat lower resolution picture. I might even use it again.

That said, I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I want to invest in an older, more fully featured camera. The Ektar H35 is brand new and everything works as it should. The older cameras, while more feature rich and of a higher quality (at least when they were new), are more expensive and, being decades old, have a very real risk of not working correctly out of the box.

If I could buy, say, an Olympus Pen EF brand new and at a reasonable price, I totally would. But paying hundreds of dollars for a camera that might have mechanical problems because it is as old or older than me gives me, a man of not unlimited wealth, pause. Thinking about such a purchase, I am forced to ask myself a couple of salient questions:

How much am I willing to invest in this hobby?

More importantly, shouldn’t I be focused on writing instead?

As seems requisite with posts like this, here are some example photos taken with the Kodak Ektar H35. I’d say any deficiencies are due to my middling photography skills, but honestly, except for the camera shake, the results are all down to the camera. Even poor framing isn’t entirely my fault, as the viewfinder is not through-the-lens and doesn’t have any parallax offsets printed on it.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

A functional, but not perfect and DEFINITELY cheap-looking viewfinder



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Posted by on 21 November 2022 in Angst, Art!, Life, Photography, Reviews


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A Drought of Good Ideas or How I Can Singlehandedly Save Our State

I live in a state prone to droughts.

And wildfires.

And, these last few years, a very unpleasant outbreak of politicians. They’re running rampant, all over the place, screwing things up. We’ve been trying to resurrect dinosaur raptors to hunt them down, but the scientists haven’t figured out how to make that work yet and these annoying ethicists keep telling us it’s a bad idea anyway.

But mostly droughts.

There are a lot of problems associated with droughts. The one most often bandied about is the whole lack of water thing.

I will freely admit that is definitely a major drawback of a drought.

Probably one of the top three drawbacks.

But while many will say that is the biggest negative, I have to respectfully disagree.

(We are still allowed to respectfully disagree, right?)

The biggest problem with a drought, particularly a statewide one, is the reduction in good ideas.

Hear me out.

Every time the weather dries up and the rainfall dips well below expectation, we get a politely worded nasty-gram from the water company, telling us of mandatory water restrictions.

What are mandatory water restrictions, and how does that play into fewer brilliant insights?

It’s a convoluted path from that letter to more statewide cases of “duh…”, far too complicated for me to get into here. But the long and the short of it is that we have to reduce our water usage by a certain percentage. This year it’s 20%. So I can only:

  • water 80% of my lawn
  • flush 80% of my toilet
  • wash 80% of my clothes and dishes
  • make 80% of my morning cup of joe
  • shower off 80% of my body

I make up for the lower volume of coffee by supplementing it with alcohol. I get the illusion of a full cup and I’m numbed to the misery that is my life living in this state right now.

Everything else is just a write-off. Not, to be clear, that I get any sort of tax break for it or anything. Just pure loss. Sigh.

My lawn is 20% less green (or 20% more brown if you’re a pessimist).

My toilet is…well, let’s not go there. The pessimist’s view is the only correct one on that front…

Bottom line, my showers, along with everyone else’s, are shorter. At least 20% shorter. And if you feel particularly guilty about the condition of our environment / climate (and in this state, that’s a significant portion of the voting population), even shorter.

And where do most people get all their great ideas?

That’s right.

In the shower.

Now there are folks out there who would argue most people are stupid anyway. And while that is largely true, this problem is more severe in that it makes the smart people dumber. I mean, our state legislature passed, and our governor is considering signing, a ban on liquid soap! Because water is used to manufacture it!

Now if that isn’t an order of magnitude more stupid than your garden variety idea, I don’t know dumb.

(And, as many people have told me in the past, I do know dumb. Intimately, according to some of them.)

But I can’t be all doom and gloom here. There has to be a way out, right?

There is. I had to take an extra long shower and risk a steep fine to find this path to redemption, but I deemed it worth the cost.

Here’s my ingenious shower idea to save everyone in the state:

We need more water.

More water means we won’t have less of it. And if we get a lot more water, we’ll no longer be dealing with a shortage.

Now I didn’t stop the old idea engine there. As the water cooled my heat-waved cooked brain, the little grey cells cranked out more ideas. Ideas on how to get more water to our state.

Sure we could import the water one 500mL bottle at a time, but that strikes me as mighty inefficient

You can have both!

• Build desalinization plants. Our state has an abundance of coastline, and before it gets choked off by the offshore wind mills people keep saying we need to build, we should plop some desalinization plants in there. Stake a claim, as it were.

As an added bonus, harvesting the byproduct of those plants could make us the world’s largest supplier of that essential mineral, salt. Heck, we might even become known as Salt Valley.

Or Sodium Chloride Valley.

Something like that. The important thing is we’d get water, salt, and profits galore.

Though we’ll need to make sure the wind mills are pointed away from the salt piles. That could get ugly…

• Construct water pipelines. I can’t help but see in the news that other states have such an abundance of water right now that they are flooding. Flooding! Imagine having too much water! I certainly can’t. Well, if we can build oil pipelines, why not water pipelines? Heck, those states are probably so eager to get rid of their excess water that, to paraphrase a former president of ours, they’d pay to build the pipelines themselves!

• Tow icebergs to our state. As previously mentioned, we have an abundance of coastline in our state. (Maybe too much? I wonder if we could build a pipeline to ship some of it elsewhere, such as landlocked states? Probably some money to be made there. I guess I know what I’ll be mulling during my next shower). Why not have barges go up north, grab some of those pesky, ship-sinking icebergs, and bring them down here? Sure, they’ll have to navigate all those future offshore windmills, but with all the money they’ll make selling the icebergs to us, those ship captains will be able to afford fancy, expensive navigation systems.

• Knock a comet out of its orbit and smash it into Death Valley. Talk about a win/win. All the other water solutions require taking water from someone else. Sure, they probably won’t object, but if they do, who can afford to wait the years it will take to wind through the courts? Now space ice, that’s basically free. No one can complain when we take that. And just imagine the show when that thing impacts the desert! Why, we could sell tickets to the event, probably pay for the whole endeavor that way!

Even better than all the water we will get through these above genius ideas, think about all the jobs these projects will create! Unemployment will be so low, I predict it will go negative! Imagine that! Negative unemployment! We will indeed be living in amazing times where everyone is required to hold at least two jobs. I can hardly wait.

Now I can already hear some of you naysayers whine, “Geez, Ian, those sound like great ideas at first, but do you have any concept of how expensive they would be? How will you pay for them?”

To which I’d reply, “Someone got out of the shower too soon this morning. Private industry will pay for this!”

“No they won’t,” I hear you retort. “No one in their right mind would fund those sorts of ideas!”

And in this current drought of wisdom, I have to concede you may be right. People may be too befuddled to make the right call and instead decline to invest in my projects.

But that’s OK. Because I took an extra, extra long shower (and even flushed the toilet 100% to clear away any brain-fogging fumes), and came up with an even more capital idea of stunning brilliance:

We’ll raise taxes to pay for it!

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Posted by on 5 September 2022 in Angst, Life, Technopocalypse


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And This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Chairs

Ah, there’s not quite anything like taking your dog for a walk early in the morning.

Cool and refreshing outside, always appreciated during the summer.

Birds flitting about and singing and generally spreading good cheer.

The drone of cars zipping down the road blessedly absent.

All the other morons living in the city are still in bed, for the most part, so I don’t have to interact with them.

That last one’s the most important for me. Sure, there’s still the occasional early bird out and about, walking their dog or just exercising, but the numbers are low and that makes life more tolerable for an introvert like me.

I’ve been getting up early and walking the ol’ poocherino for a couple of months now. All part of the “build a better, healthier me” project – regular exercise, consistent sleep cycle, occupying the dog so she doesn’t go insane with boredom, collecting chairs.

I was ruthlessly surprised by these fearful chairs

A sampling of the chairs I have encountered in my wanderings

Yes, collecting chairs. People leave their unwanted chairs out on the curb, as one is want to do, and I collect them.

I’ve got quite a few four-legged buttock-bearers crammed into the former man-cave turned abandoned chair warehouse, just waiting to get called up and moved inside. I find it’s prudent to have backup chairs for when the inevitable structural failure strikes an in-use, indoor chair. When a leg buckles and you have a guest on the floor, nursing a suddenly bruised backside, you want to have a replacement near at hand.

So yes, things were going swimmingly with my new routine. Couldn’t possibly be better.

And then things got worse. Much much worse.

You see, I had been naively strutting up and down the neighborhood streets, a big goofy grin slapped on my face, gawking at the birds, wheeling freshly found chairs on my dolly, and relishing the light morning breeze. Not a care in the world weighed down on me. In fact, I’d never felt more care-free.

But the cats ruined it.

Cats ruin everything.

You see, one day not too long ago, I was staring at the clouds and soaking up the bird song while pushing an ottoman in front of me when I suddenly and unexpectedly came to a stop, the hand holding my dog’s leash violently yanked back. The ottoman and dolly continued a few feet, rolling into the street before falling over.

I followed the length of the leash to the dog and discovered she had planted herself on a lawn, lips smacking and jaws snapping.

She was eating something.

That something, upon investigation, turned out to be a cat turd.

My dog, that licks my hands, arms, and face at every opportunity, was eating a cat turd.

When I tried to pull her away, she resisted. Fiercely. Eventually, after much snarling and barking on my part, I managed to separate my dog from the feline fecal matter and, much chagrined, I continued our walk.

But it was too late. The damage was done.

So unnerved was I by my dog’s choice of early morning repast that I could no longer enjoy the breeze, listen to the bird song, or relish the silence of the wee morning hours.

No, I had to watch my dog and make sure she didn’t try for a repeat performance.

Which, of course, she did.

Sure you want to move that rook there? You'll need to wipe it off on the grass if you do...

She was always at least five moves and one quark ahead of me the whole time

As much as I believe my dog is an idiot, I have to concede that she’s a wily beast too. Preventing this unauthorized diet quickly turned into a battle of wits.

A game of chess.

Transdimensional chess.

And I was losing.

Much to my horror, I discovered that this fecal ‘treat’ wasn’t a one-time experiment for my dog. It turns out she actively seeks out and attempts to eat these terrible ‘tootsie rolls’.

Was it possible I’d simply been so enamored of my peaceful “dawn’s early light” surroundings that I failed to notice.

I say attempts to eat because now that I’m watching, I stop her. But I can’t help but wonder, over these past few weeks, how much of her diet was being supplemented by this…unorthodox protein.


The soothing therapy of my morning walks has become a waking nightmare. No more quiet. No more birds singing. No more chairs.

No, now it’s all turds. Turds all the way down.

I tried walking at night instead, but that just makes it harder to see what she’s trying to eat (like I need to see!). And I can’t judge the quality of the chairs encountered in poor lighting.

I tried walking without the dog, but she’s gotten it into her head that she’d entitled to these morning walks and blocks my every attempt to exit the house without her.

My dreams are full of cat turds, dogs with cat turds in their mouth licking me, and chairs with cat turds stuck on the bottom of each leg.

Life has become a living, cat-turd filled hell.

And to top everything off, that nice ottoman that rolled into the street?

Hit by a car.

What are the odds?

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Posted by on 18 July 2022 in Angst, Life, Sheds


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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Clues – ‘new’ radio play and, it turns out, Bob Ross revival piece

I quit social media about nine months ago and I haven’t felt more alive and empowered since…well, since I started using social media.

So it goes without saying that I highly recommend dropping it. You’ll be much happier and think more highly of your IRL friends once you can no longer see the nonsense they post online.

But there is a drawback. At least for me.

Because I no longer check out Facebook, Twitter, and the like, I missed an important post a few weeks ago.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Clues, a Marlowe and the Spacewoman radio play in two parts, was released by the KFJC Pandemic Players. It aired on KFJC on June 1st and June 8th, but because I missed the announcement, I also missed the opportunity to hear it live and, even more devastatingly, to plug it to you, my loyal readers, before it was broadcast.

(OF course, given I’m no longer on social media, I’m not sure how much plugging I could have done even if I had known).

That said, an archive of the broadcast is available online here (just scroll down to the entries for it and you can download Part 1 and / or Part 2, depending on how linear (and complete) you like your audio adventures to be.)

This radio play has it all – mystery, Bob Ross, murder, social media influencers, art critiques, francophone musical assassins, and, in Part 2, at least one (non-Batman) penguin gangster.

Title notwithstanding, you don’t need anything but your ears to enjoy the story.

While my first radio play for the Pandemic Players was an adaptation of a chapter from my Marlowe and the Spacewoman WNSMIPLBIL (Work Not So Much In Progress Lately Because I’m Lazy) Luck Be A Spacelady, this script is a new stand-alone story written exclusively for radio and, more specifically, for the Pandemic Players. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you guys enjoy listening to it.

Even if you won’t see any posts from me on social media alerting you to this WordPress entry or the radio play…


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Hey you crows! Get off my lawn!

It’s no use denying it any longer: I am old.

I’d like to say it crept up on me and came as a complete surprise, but that wouldn’t be true (and I’m now too old to have time for lies). No, I walked right into it, loud and proud, and there is no one else to blame but my wife.

Yup, it’s all the Missus’ fault.

She’s the one who led me down this path to the Final Destination of aching backs, stiff limbs, and an inability to hear people clearly in a loud room.

She’s the one what done it.

You see, a few weeks ago the Missus had the ‘brilliant’ idea that turning off our electronics and going to bed at 9pm would be conducive to both our mental and physical health. That infamous ‘blue light’ emitted by LCD panels would stop disrupting our circadian rhythm and the over-the-top insanity and blatant stupidity of social media would stop riling us up and eating away at our peace of mind.

It seemed like a great idea at the time. Just because we were in bed at 9 didn’t mean we had to turn out the lights and go to sleep. Only ancient people go to sleep at 9pm, and I’m not there yet! No, we could do other things, such as read, meditate, converse, and re-center ourselves, all to recover from the day that had just passed.

In her defense, I wholeheartedly embraced this plan, blissfully unaware of the dire consequences that awaited me. 9pm? Phone is off. Tablet is dark. Teeth are brushed. And I am under the covers, holistically experiencing myself and the current book I’m reading until such time that I can’t keep my eyes open, and the book drops to the floor while I blindly reach out to turn off the bedside lamp.

The change this new routine introduced was remarkable. In the span of a few days, I went from a charming, avowed night owl to a bright-eyed, worm-catching early bird that is the envy of the murder of crows loitering around my front yard, eyeing me angrily as I deprive them of a food source.

It didn’t take long before I realized I was in trouble.

I had became my parents, who I can’t call after 8pm because they’re in bed by then. And my grandparents, who I rarely had occasion to call when they were alive but definitely, when I did call, did so before 8. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

And, you know, old.

Unfortunately, with this transition to old age came inevitable, soul-crushing wisdom. Wisdom that helpfully reminded me that I am mortal and felt compelled to continue by pointing out that old mortals are closer to death than young mortals. Knowing Death is now just around the corner had a moderately deleterious effect on my mental well-being.

In other words, it freaked me out and left me in a panic to find ways an old fogie such as myself could delay that inevitable intersection between myself and the Universal Adversary.

I started to exercise. Not in some vain attempt to improve my physique and impress the fairer sex. Oh no, those days are long gone.

I was exercising solely for my health.

Keisters. They're the first thing to go.

Promotional poster for the Oscar-winning movie, “Ass”

So now when I involuntarily wake up at 5am every gorram morning, I check my pulse (yay, still not dead!), drag my wrinkly, sagging ass into the bathroom where I take all the anti-inflammatory medications needed to reduce the mobile island of pain my body has become to something closer to a tolerable, unending ache, followed by the anti-diarrhea pills that counter the side effects of the anti-inflammatories, get dressed, and then, and only then, submit myself to the dragging and pulling by a large, disgustingly youthful dog that wants to walk faster than I am capable of.

Much faster.

Actually, I do this twice. By evening, the pain of my morning exertions has faded enough that my fear of dying rises to the forefront again and I repeat the dreadful process. Except instead of starting by getting out of bed, in the evening I finish by getting into bed and the circle of hell life is complete.

I call these walks, but really, when you become a man of my advanced years, it’s more of a halting shuffle.

After a couple of weeks, I found I no longer had to force myself to hit the sheets at 9. Instead, I find that when this witching hour arrives, I’m genuinely exhausted and eager to retire. Sure, the anxiety that Death may come for me while I slumber colors my dreams, but it isn’t enough to keep my broken body awake.

Not that my night owl progeny respect this new schedule. Oh no. They don’t start stomping around and shouting at their computer games until 9:30, and they get progressively louder from there.

The Missus is almost as bad.

That’s right, the Missus. She’s not in bed with me at 9 as part of the routine she came up with. Oh no. She’s still up because it turns out the “screens off at 9” policy didn’t agree with her, she needs the blue light to combat some sort of vitamin deficiency, and apparently all the interesting news and social media posts happen late at night.

On other words, she decided to stay up late and remain young at heart.

Which only further cements my senior citizenship. Because of my altered and offset sleep schedule, I am now alone just like most other old people and, to add insult to injury, when I’m trying to sleep, annoyed by all the racket made by everyone else, just like most other old people.

I cry and wail myself to sleep because of the loneliness, but everyone else in house is making too much god damned noise to hear it.


It’s just not fair. Though I really shouldn’t be surprised. My diabolically loud offspring are just barely into the double-digits when it comes to their years on this Earth, and the Missus, well, she is 2 years younger than me.

I just have to be patient (and not croak over the next 24 months) and then she’ll be old too and at last I will have my revenge (and some company in the early morning hours).

Unless I’m ancient by then. If that happens, who knows when my schedule will overlap with those of the living.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some neighborhood crows milling about on my lawn that need yelling at.

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Posted by on 21 June 2022 in Angst, Life


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The Nostalgia Is A Lie OR What Was I Thinking???

I’ve been into retro computing for quite a while. I’m not hardcore, like some folks, but I have a few machines I’ve collected over the years.

The first computer I bought with my own money (after having worked an entire summer to save up enough) was a 286 desktop clone. So when I got into the retro habit, I started with the familiar x86 line: a 286 luggable. But that got old fast (pun only partially intended) and I felt the need to upgrade from 16 bits to 32. That lead to a 386 luggable. Of course, both of those had monochrome displays and I had a sudden hankering for low resolution color graphics, so naturally that led to a Compaq Pentium laptop.

Actually, in the cases of the 286 and Pentium, I bought two machines each, one to use and one for parts.

As a result of (and/or perhaps feeding) this interest, I’ve been enjoying some of the retro computing channels on YouTube – LGR, RMC, and the 8-Bit Guy to name three of the big ones I regularly watch.

But like with all drugs, eventually the initial hit isn’t enough and to get that high, I found I had to not get more of the same, but go further back.

All the way back, it turns out, to my very first computer. A Timex Sinclair 1000, which my parents bought me for Xmas one year.

The Sinclair range was built to be inexpensive and boy did they ever manage to do that. The computer was slow, unstable, and lacking in just about everything (color and sound and memory and a proper keyboard being just a few of the major shortcomings).

But there were peripherals you could get to improve them, along with games, and that’s what I started getting for Xmas( and birthdays. Well, one peripheral, the 16K RAM pack, and a lot of games on tape.

No, not IBM mainframe computer tape. Cassette tapes. The older among you know what I’m talking about.

The games took forever to load and often required more than one (or two or three) attempts before you got them running.

Good times!

One year I got two text adventure and one graphics game as gifts from my parents. The text adventures were Shark’s Treasure and Space Commando. The graphics game was Mazogs.

8-bit adventuring: just as violent as 16-. 32-, and 64-bit adventuring!

The monster is on the right. Or is it? After all, who’s the real monster here?

Mazogs was awesome. By Timex Sinclair standards, anyway. You ran around a maze, searching for treasure and trying to avoid the spider-like monsters. Past adventurers, imprisoned during their failed attempt, could be called upon to help you.

I really liked that game. And so did my kids, when I set it up on an emulator for them.

But I have a distinct memory of complaining to my parents about how crummy the two text adventure games were in comparison.

I think my expectations for computer games in those days were colored by the computers my friends had – Commodore VIC 20s and Commodore 64s, primarily, and the graphics-heavy games those came with. Text adventure just didn’t qualify as a game in my mind.

When my retro itch pushed me further back, I remembered those games and complaining to my parents and, well, I felt guilty. Guilty for dissing a gift from my parents.

So I got it into my head that I would unbox the old TS1000 from storage, hook it up, and finally, properly play those games.

This is where the Retro Computer Industrial Complex rears its ugly head.

First was the games. I went looking for Shark’s Treasure and found it on eBay, sealed in the original packaging, for $150.


Turns out that retro games, especially in their original format, is part of a collectables racket and the Retro Computer Industrial Complex is there to cash in!

Now I wanted to play the game, but not part-with-$150-to-do-it wanted to play the game.

Paradoxically, seeing it on sale for $150 only made me want to play it more.

Fortunately, more searching found another seller with the game in a sealed package asking only $20. While still steep, all things considered, it seemed like a bargain compared to $150.

The past is prologue! The future is...a lot better and easier to use than the past, to be brutally honest.

I don’t remember so much cursing when I originally used this, but I’m pretty sure that’s just poor memory.

So I ordered it and turned my attention to the computer itself.

Funny thing about really old computers from the 70s and 80s that hooked up to your TV: they don’t work with modern monitors.

Not to worry! Big Retro is right there to cash in.

I bought an RCA-to-VGA adapter, $20, only to discover the TS1000 has an RF output, not RCA (despite the plugs being similar).

Returned that and ordered an RF-to-VGA adapter, $65. It arrived with the menu system defaulting to Chinese, the ‘manual’ a mish-mash of unrelated, oft-mispelled English words smooshed up against pictures of menu screen shots, and a steeper than expected learning curve.

It took me 5 minutes to figure out how to turn it on, and another hour of randomly changing configuration settings before I was able to get my TS1000 to display on the monitor.

At last, success! Time to load a game!

It's mint in box! At least, until I opened it...

My own personal ‘Rosebud’

Well, my Shark’s Treasure hadn’t arrived yet, but I had a big fat manila envelope containing a number of games I’d gotten as a kid. So I popped it open, dumped out the contents, and there, at the top of the pile?

Shark’s Treasure.

Oops. But it was just the tape and not the packaging or the picture card with instructions that came with it, so I’m still gonna come out ahead.


Ha! Because when I popped the tape into my Marantz PMD-430 portable tape recorder and hit play, I made another discovery.

The tape recorder didn’t work any more.

So that went off to the specialty repair shop ($85 for an assessment and, oh yeah, a 6-8 week wait time due to other vintage recording devices ahead of mine in the queue!).

I’m telling you, if there was a single stock I could buy to invest in Big Retro, I’d go all in, bet the family life savings.

At this point, I’m getting desperate. My hands are shaking, I’ve got a flop sweat that won’t quit, and I really, really need to play that game. Or any text adventure game for the TS1000.

They have emulators. I’ve used one before (to show my kids Mazogs). But that’s not running on actual hardware, it’s not the same thing.

But I needed my fix so bad I swallowed my pride and downloaded an emulator.

Of course, without a functioning tape player, I couldn’t translate the tapes I had into .wav files that I could ‘play’ into the virtual TS1000.

But no worries. People have already converted a lot of these tapes to a file format that can be loaded by emulators.

Huzzah! I’m saved.

Except no one bothered to do this with Shark’s Treasure.

I looked.

I really, really looked.

Let’s just say that the problem is so bad that once this blog goes live, if someone types “sinclair shark’s treasure” into Google, my site will most likely make the first page.

(Leave out the “sinclair” and you’ll get a bunch of hits about some B movie.)

Think this is hard to read? This is from the emulator, which allows you to turn OFF the RF distortions.

Even the opening screen has a bug in it!

I did, however, find Space Commando. Since I have that tape too, I didn’t feel too guilty downloading a copy of a nearly 40 year old tape-based game published by a long defunct game company.

And I played it.

And that’s how I discovered that the nostalgia is a lie.

The big, fat, back-stabbing mother of all lies.

Now I still enjoy the YouTube channels and playing on my other, slightly more modern vintage computers (because unlike the TS1000, you can actually do things on them).

But the Timex Sinclair 1000 experience? It’s terrible.

Don’t get me wrong. I knew that going in. I remembered how horrible the membrane keyboard was, and the constant crashes when you bumped the computer and the 16K RAM pack slipped, and hunting for the right volume on the tape player when trying to load a game (which took ~5 minutes each try).

I remembered that.

But it seems nostalgia and time take the edge off all bad memories, and I had forgotten just how terrible the experience of using the computer was.

Even when I set the emulator to run at 32x the speed of an actual TS1000, it was glacially slow. The whole screen flashes with each key press, and the computer cannot handle a typing speed greater than about 20 characters per minute.

(This typing speed limitation isn’t quite as apparent when using the original membrane keyboard because three quarters of the time it wouldn’t register the key press.)

But worst of all? The game sucked.

All that guilt about complaining to my parents decades ago?

Totally justified. The game was unplayable. No proper instructions. Horrible text parser. Glaringly obvious bugs. Minimal description…IN A TEXT ADVENTURE GAME! Not to mention the very linear game play: given a choice of two directions in each room, the wrong choice always leads to immediate death. When you could figure out the correct command, you couldn’t help but feel shepherded.

And, in retrospect, all of these shortcomings were entirely predictable. This machine was cheap, so it’s functionality was severely limited. The real miracle is that there were games available at all.

Which doesn’t explain why I still kinda sorta wish I could play Shark’s Treasure…

So I’m over the Timex Sinclair ‘reboot’ though not, sadly, before I ordered a replacement ‘cheapo’ vintage tape recorder while waiting for my original unit to be repaired. And now I’m stuck with an RF-to-VGA converter that I’ll probably never use.

But that’s OK. I’ve been reminiscing about the first printer I ever used, a dot matrix machine that made a lovely grinding sound as it printed, and I’m watching a couple of them on eBay.

The nostalgia may be a lie, but it is extremely addictive.

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Posted by on 27 September 2021 in Angst, Life, Retro Computing, Technopocalypse


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Of all the times to be happily married!

I just discovered the secret to dating, and damn if I can’t take advantage of it.

Yes, I have learned the key to meeting women, but the Missus will do me grievous bodily harm if I try to take advantage of this knowledge.

Which isn’t to say I want to! I’m quite happy with my current matrimonial state, thank you very much.

But boy is it galling to know this now and not, say, when I was in my late teen / early twenties, miserably lonely, and terrified of (meeting) women.

Now I could turn this into a best-selling self-help book for lonely hearts, but that sounds like a lot of work and frankly, I have enough unfinished writing projects on my plate right now.

So instead, I’ll just tell you for free. If this technique leads to a happily ever after for you, all I ask is you drop me a note thanking me for my advice and maybe put me in your will?

If getting a lawyer involved is too much trouble, I also take cash.

What exactly is this ground-breaking miracle approach to attracting women?

(Sorry, don’t know if this works on men, but if I had to guess, given men are all heartless jerks, probably not.)

Four words:

Wheels on your dog.

Carrying the jack around in case of a flat gets really old

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. Better…stronger…faster.

Unfortunately, I paid a steep price for this knowledge, a discovery precipitated by very personal, very bad news.

My dog can’t walk any more unassisted.

The vet says he’s not in any pain but hobbling along on three legs wasn’t working out too well so we got my ol’ buddy a set of wheels.

To make them cooler, I tried to paint flames on the sides of the frame. But that didn’t work out: my cowardly dog is deathly afraid of fire.

The jerk.

Let me tell you, dorky looking or not, every time I take my dog and his training wheels for a walk, I get stopped at least once by a passing, cooing over how cute he is and asking what’s wrong with him.

Sometimes it’s even, get this, a group of women!

And then I get the watery, sympathetic eyes look.

If ever there was a moment to get all weepy and in-touch-with-your-emotional-side and confess how hard it’s been to deal with your best friend’s failing health and if only you had someone to commiserate with over a coffee at the nearby Starbucks (there’s always one nearby) say this Friday at 7, this is it.

What can I say? He can’t help himself – this bewheeled pooch is a chick magnet.

Now to be clear, I’m not saying that getting a puppy whose breed is predisposed to joint issues in their old age and then waiting for nature to take its course is a winning dating strategy.

Unless you like playing the long game.

But I’m also not telling you to slap a pair of wheels on a healthy dog and then drag him or her around the neighborhood looking for phone numbers. Because if a serious relationship develops from that, well, she’s gonna find out about the fake wheels at some point or you’re going have to start bribing your vet.

Which I guess means you do have to play the long game.

Well crap. I guess my dating secret isn’t all that practical after all, and certainly isn’t going to move a lot of paper in book form.

At least I’m already in a happy, healthy relationship. I guess that’s the silver lining?

Look, I’m not some creepy guy trying to take advantage of his dog’s failing health to meet women.

And I’m not some creepy guy trying to live vicariously through you as you do the above.

No. I’m a good guy. Really, I am.

You see, I’m just trying to be relevant and provide useful advice to folks. It just turns out I’m terrible at it.

So just forget about this post. The sooner, the better.


Unless you do already have a dog.

A dog that needs wheels.

That you haven’t been walking regularly.

If that’s the case and you’re looking for love, well…now you know what to do.

I take tips, mentions in wills, and five-star reviews on Amazon.

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Posted by on 13 September 2021 in Angst, Life


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Treading Carefully: Social media is more mine than field lately

This bellows, like the internet, is filled with a lot of hot air. Rancid, putrid, toxic hot air.

I wouldn’t put my lips on that mouth either

Like political party affiliations, social media isn’t all evil.

However, what evil does exist is hardcore and overwhelming. The amount of good I’ve encountered online has been dwarfed by the deluge of anger, hatred, sanctimony, vigilantism, arrogance, and presumption, to name but a few.

Along with irony. Such as the irony that some will interpret my above view about people on social media as itself being angry, sanctimonious, arrogant, and presumptive. And probably bigoted too.

Most of these people will also be the source of my problem with social media. Eff ’em.

You can no longer have an opinion online unless it’s the ‘right’ opinion. And one person’s ‘right’ opinion is sure as shootin’ another person’s ‘wrong’ opinion.

Where once disagreement was tolerated and maybe even vigorously (but respectfully) debated, now the vast majority of disagreements are treated as proof you’re evil by many who disagree (the “How dare you!” crowd).

Say the ‘wrong’ thing and you can lose friends. If a large enough audience sees it (or is made aware of it via screen cap), you’re barraged with distributed messages of hate. You can end up run off social media (with many smugly saying, “Good riddance”) or, in what are becoming less and less extreme cases, threatened with rape or murder and being doxxed or even swatted.

When did people’s closely held, ‘undeniably true’ beliefs become so fragile they couldn’t withstand frank discussion?

When did a difference of opinion become a hate crime? When did the words “I disagree and here’s why” become hate speech?

When did civility become verböten?

When did “You’re wrong!” literally become equated with “You deserve to die!”?

No matter what I say, I know that speaking my mind will upset someone.

So for a long time now I’ve been keeping my head down and my mouth shut about certain topics because I have no idea who might be offended or how they’ll react.

But lurking on social media doesn’t protect you from seeing what’s happening to others.

People piled onto. Bullied. Threatened. Even driven to suicide.

Angry mobs jumping onto the latest outrage bandwagon without knowing all the facts because the perceived transgression is so antithetical to their belief system that even checking the facts is considered giving too much ground to that damned dirty other side.

It is shockingly easy to think this is OK at first, when your beliefs and the mob’s are aligned.

Until the mob moves into territory you think is hallowed ground, or at least neutral territory.

Then you begin to perceive the danger to yourself. Or possibly experience it directly.

It’s exhausting and disturbing to witness, even when I don’t support the attacked belief or statement.

So I’m stepping back from social media. Have already, in fact. I’ve gone cold turkey for a week now, and so far, my hands are steady and I don’t miss it.

The lunatics are running the asylum. They can have it.


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It’s the End of the World and Everyone Is Mad at Me

2020 came and went and somehow, miraculously, against all expectations, the world didn’t end.

At first, I felt relief.

Well, as much relief as anyone surviving 2020 can be expected to muster.

Which is not a whole lot, to be honest.

But then the new year rolled in and, as the weeks and months passed, I realized that 2021 is actually 2020’s way of saying, “Ha ha, you thought the worst was behind you? Eff you, the end is still on, baby, it just wasn’t bad enough by December 31st. But no worries, we’re just about there now!”

2021 has not been a great year. And most of what’s been horrible about it is down to people.

People being angry.

I see what you did there and it upsets me greatly...

Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.




About everything.

Long gone are the days of stoic fatalism where people suffered in silence and just got on with life.

Remember those days, when we understood that life is hard, and the universe doesn’t give a crap about being fair?

Ah, so nice and quiet.

But now I can’t go anywhere (online or in the real world) without someone getting in my face about something.

Maskers, anti-maskers.

Vaccers, anti-vaccers.

Left, right.

Serial comma users, non-serial comma users.

Frankly, it makes me kinda hopeful that we’ll return to lockdowns.

(Oh yeah, lockdowners, anti-lockdowners.)

Because at least then I can stay home and avoid the real-world confrontations without people judging me as some sort of crazy recluse.

Crazy recluses, (somewhat less?) crazy extroverts.

Honestly, if there is anything that has contributed to my complete and utter lack of interest in fixing anything, it’s the current climate of universal, mutually exclusive outrage.

There is no dialogue anymore, just screaming matches and doxxing and death threats against those that fail someone else’s purity test.

I’m sick of it.

I’ve got people mad at me for my refusal to be an activist. I’m told I’m not ‘good’ enough and I need to try harder and I owe it to them to be on their side.

By different people who, incidentally, happen to vehemently disagree with each other.

Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

And yes, I’ve lost friends over this.

So congratulations, world. All that screaming and yelling has finally succeeded in normalizing something for me, though probably not what you were hoping:


In today’s social environment, caring is a lose/lose proposition so I did the only rational thing I could:

I stopped caring.

I don’t care about causes I opposed a few years ago.

I don’t care about causes I supported a few years ago.

I don’t care about causes I was already luke-warm to.

I don’t care because I’m exhausted.

With the smug self-righteousness.

The hubris of folks thinking they have the monopoly on ‘Truth’.

The irrational, spitting-mad fervor.

The sheer volume of the noise.

The people on one side of an equation thinking the above critique applies only to the people on the other side of that equation.

So I give up.

I cede the battle for the world to the nut jobs, and I fervently hope they wipe each other out so when the dust settles, the sane people can dig out and go, “Finally, the global temper tantrum is over, the world as we knew it has ended, and now we can rebuild a better, kinder world that recognizes there is no such thing as absolute truth and a difference of opinion isn’t a declaration of war.

Yeah, I’m angry too (clearly). But I’m just venting, not trying to convert anyone. To do that, I’d have to care, and as should be abundantly clear now, I don’t.

In the meantime, I’m going back to what I’ve been doing for months now: retreating into my TBR list and losing myself in a good book.

Turns out I do still care about good books, so maybe there’s hope?

Ha, who am I kidding?

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Posted by on 7 August 2021 in Other Blogs


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