Sunday, June 29, 2008

Red Devils Return to Pacifica #2 -- June 29, 2008

Maybe I'm just looking more carefully, but I think I've seen more fireworks stands this year than ever before. I took this one at the Pacific Manor shopping center after my haircut yesterday. We had a picnic for dinner at Pedro Point and saw stands at the Ace Hardware and the shopping center.

This is also, coincidentally, post number 200.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Signs of the Times #18 -- June 27, 2008

The San Francisco Arts Commission ( has set up a series of posters representing characters from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (one of my favorite novels). Artist Owen Smith made this image to represent the author.
I took this photo Tuesday on Market near Fifth.
There was an evil-looking red sun this morning. In the afternoon, the wind was blowing and I didn't smell smoke.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's Hard Work Being a Cat #12 - June 25, 2008

I took this on 15-June-2008.
The air has been full of smoke from more than 100 grass fires. Yesterday before lunch I could smell it while inside an air conditioned office building.
The fireworks stands are up. The Gilroy city council considered banning fireworks because of the fire danger. Watsonville may consider it, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One Year -- June 24, 2008

I launched this blog on 24-June-2007, after a false start on Geocities earlier that month. 197 entries later, I can say I've met many nice people and learned some interesting things.

I took the opportunity to review the topics I have covered so far. I see some personal interests that I have missed and will have to be sure to cover in the next year.

1906 1
Abraham Lincoln 2
animation 1
April Fools' Day 1
Ardenwood 2
Armistice Day 1
Automotive history 19
aviation history 5
Barney Oldfield 3
barry bonds 5
baseball 16
Batman 1
Billie Ritchie 1
blog-a-thon 1
book 6
boxing 2
bridge 1
buster keaton 1
cable cars 12
california historical society 1
Carl Nolte 1
cat 11
catching up 4
Catholic Schools Week 1
Charlie Chaplin 2
chinatown 1
Christmas 7
Cliff House 2
Columbus Day 1
comics 3
curtiss 1
DARPA Challenge 1
Dashiell Hammett 3
Devil's Slide 1
Disneyland 3
Doctor P. H. Van der Weyde 12
Dodgers 2
duck 1
earthquake 3
Easter 1
election 1
escapology 2
Fathers' Day 1
ferry 1
fire 3
firehouse 8
fireworks 2
Flag Day 1
Ford 1
Fred Karno 1
Friday the 13th 1
Gelett Burgess 3
George Washington 1
Gertrude Stein 1
Giants 22
Golden Gate Park 2
Good Friday 1
Good Shepherd 2
Half Moon Bay 2
Halloween 2
Harry Potter 1
hats 2
holiday 23
horse car 3
horsecar 3
Houdini 2
Independence Day 1
ipod 3
Italy 1
Jasper Fforde 1
jazz 3
John Stephenson 1
Juan Marichal 1
jury duty 1
Knox 10
Land's End 3
Lincecum 2
llama 1
locomotive 8
Lon Chaney 1
Luciano Pavarotti 1
Manufacturer and Builder Magazine 13
Memorial Day 1
Michael Chabon 1
mothers' day 1
movies 8
msr 1
muni 2
music 4
new year 2
New York to Paris Race 1
newspaper 1
Norman Mailer 1
Nut Tree 1
obsolete technology 4
Ocean Shore Railroad 2
opera 1
oracle 2
otr 1
Pacifica 16
Patton 1
phonoautograph 1
podcast 1
Presidio 2
racing car 12
radio 4
Railroad history 12
Reminiscences of an Active Life 5
restaurant 4
Saint Igantius 1
Saint Joseph's Day 1
Saint Monicas 1
Saint Patrick's Day 1
Saint Valentine's Day 1
samtrans 8
San Francisco history 39
San Francisco State University 1
serials 2
Sherlock Holmes 1
ships 2
sidewalk art 1
signs 17
silent movies 8
slapstick 3
sound recording 1
Stan Laurel 1
stanford 2
statue 6
storm 10
Sutro Baths 1
Tanforan 2
telephone 1
Thanksgiving 1
The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion 5
Thomas Flyer 3
Tom Lantos 1
train station 1
transit 20
Veterans Day 1
Victor Hugo 1
war 1
what is this 2
White Motor Car 2
why 6
Willie Mays 1
Willie McCovey 1
wright 1
Yerba Buena Gardens 2

A special thank you to the people who have taken the time to comment on my rambling observations.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Signs of the Times #17 -- June 23, 2008

The San Francisco Arts Commission ( has set up a series of posters representing characters from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (one of my favorite novels). Artist Owen Smith made this image to represent the dingus itself, with a map of important sites from Hammett's life and the book.

I took this photo today on Market near Drumm.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

DVD: Houdini the Movie Star #2 -- June 21, 2008

I had the opportunity to watch another movie on Kino's set Houdini the Movie Star. The Man From Beyond was another title that I have always admired. The plot is less admirable. The movie starts with a brief, confusing statement about reincarnation. Then it shows two survivors of an Artic expedition trying to reach civilization. François Duval, "a half breed", is about to abandon Doctor Gilbert Trent when he spots a sailing ship trapped in the ice.

The scenes where they explore the long-trapped ship has a good spooky atmosphere. Duval discovers a man frozen in ice and starts to chip away. I was afraid Duval was looking for food.

The movie uses a fairly complex set of flashbacks, switching between the Artic and civilization or upstate New York. The ice man, Houdini, is shown from about the shoulders up. The doctor tells Duval "Get those wet things off his legs." He hands Duval a scarf and says "Wrap this around him." Duval bends down for a moment and drops a pile of wet clothes. At that moment, the ice man, Houdini, awakens and runs up on deck. He is wearing a bulky breechclout.

The doctor, for some reason, decides not to tell Houdini that he has been frozen for 100 years and brings him back to civilization or upstate New York. A subtitle seems to suggest that he has amnesia. He doesn't seem to be confused about riding in an automobile. He does remember the leading lady, who seems to be the reincarnation of his 1820 love. I feel ungentlemanly to mention it, but the leading lady is not attractive.

There is only one escape. Houdini is thrown into an insane asylum. The keepers wrap him in sheets and put him under a cold shower. One keeper remarks that this was a dark ages trick that the authorities would not allow any more. I wonder what group insisted on that. They make a good use of a flashback: the keepers look in the room and Houdini is gone. He later explains to the leading lady how he escaped from the sheets, used them to climb the wall and kick out the window, then let himself down the outside wall.

Bits of the movie are obviously missing. Nita Naldi hardly has anything to do. There are some shots that appear to be out of place. I enjoyed the piano score by Jon Mirsalis.

The remote for the dvd player needs new batteries, so I couldn't watch any of the extras.

It has been very hot.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Signs of the Times #16 -- June 19, 2008

The San Francisco Arts Commission ( has set up a series of posters representing characters from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (one of my favorite novels). Artist Owen Smith made this image to represent Brigid O'Shaughnessy and detective Sam Spade. I wonder if Hammett took her name from City Engineer MM O'Shaughnessy.
I took this photo today on Market near First.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Signs of the Times #15 -- June 17, 2008

The San Francisco Arts Commission ( has set up a series of posters representing characters from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (one of my favorite novels). Artist Owen Smith made this image to represent gunsel Wilmer Cook and detective Sam Spade.

I took this photo today on Market near Fourth.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers' Day -- June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers' Day to all my fellow fathers. I miss my dad.
I took this photo at Powell and Market about 7am in May 2002. It shows car 10.
The Giants are doing poorly against the Athletics. I enjoyed seeing the orange jerseys and cap brims Friday night.
We went to Chevys this morning.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Flag Day -- June 14, 2008

I took this shot of the flag at the Parade Ground in the Presidio on 14-December-2007.
I worry about the museum that the Fishers want to put on the Parade Ground. It's going to look out of place.
Vizquel made a straight steal of home yesterday. He scored the Giants' only run.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gelett Burgess #3 -- June 11, 2008

Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) was a San Francisco writer. His most famous compositions were "The Purple Cow" and "The Ballad of the Hyde Street Grip." Here is one of his less well-known poems:
My feet, they haul me Round the House,
They Hoist me up the Stairs ;
I only have to Steer them and
They Ride me Everywheres.

Monday, June 9, 2008

1904 Thomas Model 27 Racer -- June 9, 2008

This 1904 Thomas Model 27 Racer was offerred on eBay in April, 2008. I couldn't afford it.

Saturday we gave blood and got All Star Game tee shirts. I also got my two gallon pin.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Reminiscences of an Active Life #5 -- June 7, 2008

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde was born in Nymegen, Holland in 1813. He went on to live a remarkable life of achievement in the sciences and the arts. He died in America in 1895.

While serving as editor of Manufacturer and Builder Magazine, he wrote many articles, including the ones which gave this blog its name. In 1893 and 1894, he published a 23-part (!) memoir in the same periodical.

Here is the fifth part. He discusses his career as a photographer.

Louis Daguerre built on the work of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in developing photography. François Arago was an influential scientist and politician.

William Henry Fox Talbot invented the calotype, the first photographic process to use a negative to produce a positive. The Doctor criticizes him for patenting his work.

The image comes from the first installment, in the February, 1893 issue.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Reminiscences of an Active Life.


From Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 25, Issue 6, June 1893

(Continued from page 99.)

4th. Career as a Photographer.-- The French government published in 1839 the description of an invention made by Daguerre, and consisting in the production of pictures of natural objects by the chemical action of the light itself, requiring no artistic training, but only mechanical manipulation guided by the judgment and knowledge of the manipulator.

As soon as I had read the description, my love for experimenting in the fields of physics and chemistry induced me to bring this invention at once to a practical test, and after some failures in the first attempts, I succeeded at last, and became soon one of the pioneers in that interesting pursuit, which was especially fascinating by reason of its novelty and the astonishing results so easily obtained.

It is not as well known as it deserves to be, that the world is indebted to Arago for the immense progress made in that invention. It was his eloquence and powerful influence which induced the French government to prevent the taking out of a patent by the inventor, and the consequent monopoly which would have resulted when this art had become private property. Arago, therefore, proposed that the government should buy the secret of the method of Daguerre’s invention by granting him a pension of several thousand francs for the rest of his life, and then publish it for the benefit of the world at large.

Arago held that so important a step in the practical application of science for the benefit of art, would, for its full development, require that the combined activity of the brains of several men should be directed in this pursuit, by making the process public property, and not smothered by patent privileges and consequent monopoly. As proof, he pointed to England, where, several years previously, Talbot had made a similar invention, intended for the same purpose, but by entirely different methods, and took out a patent for it, so as to secure for himself the exclusive benefit of its application. Arago pointed out that no progress had been made in England, where this novel art had remained perfectly stationary. He predicted that if the details of Daguerre s invention were published to all the world, scores of investigators would be induced to apply their ingenuity and make experiments to find improved methods.

The results confirmed the anticipation of the great philosopher, who had previously become known over all the world as the discoverer of many new electric phenomena, and was also the principal founder of a new magneto-electric theory. He was acknowledged as a most fascinating speaker on scientific subjects, and it was by his eloquence that he induced the government to grant to Daguerre the liberal pension referred to above. Daguerre’s previous collaborator, Niepce, died a few years before Daguerre perfected the method, of which he gave a full description, explaining the different steps of the operation, which were then at once published by the French government.

After the details of this important invention were made public, they were at once translated in the different languages of Europe and soon published in different countries. In consequence of this, many scientists began experimenting, and met with more or less success in proportion to their ability in practical manipulation. Some of them even improved upon it, and published their improvements, which again stimulated others, so that in a very few years the art was so far developed that it became possible to make it the basis of a well-paying business, which, by further improvements, has been generally prosperous, and more so now than ever before. These improvements have been continued even to the present day, and will be described later.

The original invention of Daguerre consisted in three different manipulations: first, a thin plate of silver, or silvered copper, was taken, and after cleaning the polished surface carefully with a piece of cotton wadding, Paris red, and a few drops of alcohol, it was exposed to the vapor of iodine contained in a closed box, and when it had assumed a yellow color, it was placed in the focus of a camera obscura to receive the influence of different shades of light, pertaining to the image of exterior objects; after some ten or fifteen minutes it was taken out of the camera (guarding it carefully against exposure to daylight) and placed in a box on the bottom of which was a little iron cup with mercury in it, which was then heated to the temperature of 1800 Fah., when the picture appeared.

The third step was to remove the iodine film which was easily done by immersion in a solution of common salt, or, better, of hyposulphite of soda, by which washing the picture was made permanent and could be exposed to daylight, when the image was seen to be formed by an extremely thin film of mercurial vapor, or rather by an amalgam of silver and mercury, adhering to the plate.

The first improvement made on the process of Daguerre was to make the picture more permanent, as the mercurial film could easily be rubbed out. This was accomplished by a solution of chloride of gold and hyposulphite of soda, which was poured over the plate and heated over an alcohol lamp. The second improvement was to shorten the time of exposure, which was accomplished by adding to the previous exposure of the plate over iodine, a second exposure to the vapor of bromine. Then the film, which was an iodide of silver, was changed to the double film of iodide and bromide of silver, which was so much more sensitive to light that the time was reduced from about ten minutes to a single minute or half a minute, and even less.

As Daguerre had expressed the positive opinion that the process was only adapted to produce landscapes, I confined myself to those in the beginning. I had for some time been making a collection of lenses of different kinds, such as biconvex, plano-convex, periscopic, chromatic and achromatic, and was therefore not in need of calling in the help of venders of lenses (often calling themselves opticians, without understanding the a, b, c’s of optics). As I had more than one camera obscura, it was easy enough to adapt the proper lens to one of these cameras, make a wooden frame for a plate-holder to be substituted for the ground glass, and the principal part of the apparatus was complete, as the other parts -– the iodine box and mercurial-vapor box were comparatively mere trifles.

The explanation of the interesting facts I have related is very simple indeed, when we consider the fact that sunlight has the property of decomposing certain compounds. Thus, for instance, it acts continually on the leaves of plants, where it decomposes the carbonic acid always present in the atmosphere, and which is the product of the combustion of carbon and of the animal respiration. This almost magic influence of the sunlight separates the oxygen from the carbon, setting the oxygen free, which, being a gas, is diffused in the air, while, by the circulation of the sap in plants, the carbon is deposited as woody fiber under the bark, and so the plants grow. A similar action takes place in the Daguerrean process; the influence of the light, which differs in quantity in different parts of the silver plate, decomposes the combination of the silver with the iodine, setting the volatile iodine free and leaves the silver as a fine, delicate, spongy film on the surface, which then easily absorbs the mercurial vapor, forming a delicate amalgam.

(To be Continued).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Firehouse #8 -- June 5, 2008

Another view of company 34, in the triangle between Geary Boulevard and Point Lobos Boulevard near 41st Avenue. The mural depicts the phoenix in the fire department logo. I took this photo on 09-February-2008.
Things I forgot to mention:
- Matthew Bruccoli died. I enjoyed his writing about F Scott Fitzgerald.
- Bo Diddley died. I remember that in the sixth or seventh grade we were out in the yard at recess talking about music and I mentioned Bo Diddley. One guy started laughing at me and making fun of the name and saying how stupid it sounded. A few years later we were in high school and I heard him telling someone how cool Bo Diddley was. I told my wife about that and she said "You don't hold a grudge, do you?"
- Even though turnout was generally light on Tuesday, our polling place was very crowded. A parcel tax will do that.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

2008 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest -- June 3, 2008

Defending champ Leonard Oats won the 46th Annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest in Union Square. It was cold, but there was a good crowd. Read more about it on my cable car site:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Aviatrix -- June 1, 2008

This photo is from the cover of Aero and Hydro: America's Aviation Weekly, 03-October-1911. Sadly, the cover was scanned in such a way that the aviatrix's name was cut off. She looks like a real flier, and not someone who was just posing in an aeroplane. The most famous female fliers of the time were Matilde Moisant and Harriet Quimby.

Speaking of fliers, we saw many pelicans heading north as we drove along the Great Highway this evening.

Update 06-April-2009: The Library of Congress Flickr photostream ( has several shots of a lady who looks much like this aviatrix, some apparently taken about the same time as this one. Her name was Helene Dutrieu. She was Belgian but later married a Frenchman and changed nationality. She drove ambulances during WWI and later established an aviation prize.