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What to do when it’s wet outside

A rainy day on Hvar
A rainy day on Hvar

This week: Toothache; Winter weather; Photo restoration; How do you date a photo?; Backing up the backup

It’s not been the best of starts to the week. No. 1 cat Risha is not very well.

He was off his food last week, which anyone who has ever met him will know as being completely unheard of. He eats and eats and somehow never manages to put any weight on!

Tea time
I really don’t want this

But on Saturday morning he refused all food, so we went to see the vets.

There are too really nice and friendly vets in the practice in Stari Grad. It’s one of those places where you don’t need an appointment, you just turn up. I waited a couple of minutes and then was ushered into the examination room.

Risha refused to get out of his carry case. He dug his heels in and was not coming out, no way. Risha has a love-hate relationship with vets, going back many years. He loves to hate them on every visit! I took the top of the case – it’s one of those that is made for just these circumstances – and the two vets examined him. It was a quiet day at the surgery.

His temperature was normal, lymph glands weren’t swollen, heart and lungs were clear, so they looked in his mouth. At which point he objected and scratched the senior partner’s hand.

He has broken an upper canine tooth, but also he has a decayed molar. It seems he has tooth ache, and it must have been hurting when he chewed. When the vet touched a tender spot, that was it.

Risha with toothache
Risha with toothache

Looking back I think it has been coming on for a while. I’ve noticed a few times over the last month that when he was chewing meat, some bits would be removed from his dish and deposited on the floor. I hadn’t noticed his broken tooth and have no idea when it happened.

He got an injection and some pain killers there and then and we came home with antibiotic tablets and an oral anti-inflammatory and painkiller.

That’s when the fun began. He has never liked tablets, so I have hidden them in tuna fillets from tins. The strong taste of the tuna masked the tablet. But as he didn’t want to chew anything I had to try a different approach. I ground the tablet up in a pestle and mortar, then mashed up the tuna and added the powder. He cleaned up the purée.

By Monday his appetite was returning so I’ve kept up the process. The vet wants to operate next week to check all his teeth, clean them as necessary, and see about extracting the remains of the Canine tooth.

Now I'm hungry
Now I’m hungry

Feline dentistry is not easy because their jaws are so small. For now I will keep up with the medication then take him to the dentist. That’s one of my least favourite visits. I wonder if I have transferred my phobia to him?

Winter weather

After the hail of last week, we have had more strange weather this week.

Rain on the plain
Rain across the Stari Grad plain

I could smell wood smoke on Monday morning and when I went out I saw my immediate neighbour had lit their wood stove for heating – in May! It was just 11ºC outside

I’ve updated the weather statistics from my weather station. After several periods of much needed rain in April and more this week, the annual total is creeping upwards. But we are still more than 125mm below the running average for this point in the year.

Cumulative precipitation graph
Cumulative precipitation graph for 2019

The daily maximum and minimum temperatures are both below the running average. May is usually a warm month, but I have got my winter NATO sweater out again this week for work in the garden – that is, when it hasn’t been raining.

Average high and low temperatures
Average high and low temperatures for 2019

I’m not sure what effect this cold will have on everything outside, I’ll have to wait and see, but it is just another strange manifestation of weather.

Weeds continue to grow and I continue to remove all those which are going to seed. At least the big ones that I can see. Some of the small weeds I suspect are doing their own thing, out of sight, out of mind.

I’ve had no more sightings of snakes, it’s been too cold. If they have any sense they will have gone back to hibernation until the sun comes out. But I did read about the man in Texas who thought he saw a Rattlesnake under his home and called Pest Control.

When they crawled under the house and shone their torch, there were dozens of them. They removed a total of 45. They didn’t say what they did with them though, after they removed them.

Photo restoration

I had said last year that I was going to try and scan some of the thousands of negatives, slides and prints that I have amassed over the years, during the long winter nights.

Instead, I was learning how to programme, designing and developing this website and generally doing other things. Looking back I’m not exactly sure what “other things”, but I was doing them! Consequentially the scanning never got done.

As several days this week have been cold, wet and I have a deadline for an article on old police motorcycles coming up, I decided to spend the time inside profitably doing some scanning. However I also had a pile of negatives which I have been going to repair.

I’ve taken thousands of photographs over the years and before I started with digital, and I went completely digital in 2004, I almost always took colour photographs and ⅔ were colour slides. They are all stored in cool, dark cardboard boxes, with sachets of desiccant to prevent moisture damage.

Colour prints are on 35mm film strip, some of which over time, because the strips have all been stored together in a film envelope, have become stuck together. Almost all the film is Kodak, so it’s good quality. Reading up on restoration, I found that there is a good chance of separating the strips if you are careful, have the right equipment and work slowly.

I have various photo chemicals including some Kodak Fotoflo 200. This is a wetting agent. That is a chemical which reduces the surface tension of water, so it doesn’t leave streaks. I also have a big bottle of distilled water, a film squeegee, film pegs and line.

Negative repair equipment
Necessary photo negative repair equipment

First job was to sterilise a plastic container with boiling water. Then I used 200ml of distilled water and heated it in the microwave for 30 seconds until it was around 50 C. I added 2ml of Fotoflo 200 and mixed it. It actually makes the water feel slippery.

I added the stuck together bundle of film strip and set the timer for 10 minutes. I was concerned because the strip almost immediately went milky and turned a pale purple colour. However, trusting the instructions, I put the lid on the container and left the strip to soak.

Add the negatives
Add the negatives and leave to soak

Coming back I found I could gently peel the first strip away. There was noticeable marking of the negative strip.

Surface damage
A surface coating of of debris

I rubbed both sides with a Q-Tip, under water in the container, then removed it, ran over it with the squeegee and hung it up to dry over the kitchen sink.

Cleaned film strip
Surface now restored

By which time, I could peel off the next strip. And so on, until I had all of the strips separated, cleaned and hung up to dry.

Hang up the strips
Hang up the strips to air dry

Once completely dry I put them into separate paper holders and then began scanning.

How do you date a photo?

I have a completely separate computer, just with the various scanning devices attached. That way, it has minimum programmes, no junk, is not connected to the internet and has ample storage for some very large files.

Scanning some of my large photographs, at the highest resolution, takes up 400MB of space per photo. A single frame of a 35mm film takes up 85MB, when scanned at high quality, but not the highest possible. So with each film strip being 24 frames, It is around four minutes to scan each frame, then more time to adjust, name and save each frame, means that it is around two hours to completely finish a single film.

I have an awful lot of film strips to scan!

But scanning is only one part. You need to index them and name them, so you can find what you are looking for. A number is simply not good enough.

Sometimes an old photo will have a date and location written on the back. But this doesn’t happen with negatives. Occasionally the negative holder will have information on it.

I remember taking these photographs at a school on Bransholme, but helpfully I’ve dated the holder.

Dated negatives
Dated negative holder

Even though the film strip has been protected, the paper had stuck to the film so I had to cut the holder up and put everything in the water bath, before I could separate the film from the paper holder.

Once the separated strips were in the scanner, I was very happy with the results. The first ones I scanned were over 30 years old, but looking at the finished scans, you wouldn’t know it.

Fishing lake
North Cave fishing pond in the spring

True, I am using an advanced scanner and some sophisticated software, but the detail and colour from each frame is really very good. This is one of those jobs that I have been putting off, so the bad weather this week has done me a favour!

This photograph was taken in the early spring in 1979 and is a colour slide, so had the month and date of processing stamped on the card holder.

Beverley Westwood Spring morning
Beverley Westwood Spring morning

If you have old photographs, negatives, slides or prints and you value them, I would really suggest that you scan them yourself, or get them scanned, because there are the
historical records of tomorrow.

Apart from which, it is nice to just look back at some of the photos I took and think that they are really still quite good, even after 40 years.

Autumn in Church Street 1981
Autumn in Church Street 1981

Backing up the backup

Computers are not infalible – a bit like people and email! Press the wrong key or mouse button and everything can go horribly wrong. But the wrong key is probably just one of many things. Click on the wrong link in an email and you can get anything from a nasty dose of advertising viruses to having your computer and all its files locked and held to ransom.

I have always made a habit of backing data up. Remember CD’s? Yes, that was a long time ago, but I used to back data and photographs up to two CD’s, of different makes, all numbered and stored properly. I do still occasionally look for something on a CD and what is more, I can find it.

DVD data storage discs
Commercial DVD disc storage for CD and DVD discs

Then there were DVDs, which hold a lot more data followed by double sided DVDs. Again, I wrote data, documents photographs and the like, to two different makes of DVD. The received wisdom was that CDs and DVDs had a limited life of perhaps 20 years. Well the first CD’s I wrote have passed this threshold and are still OK (touch wood).

I have kept the CDs and DVDs in numbered folders, with each disc indexed on a programme called Where-is-it. I have been using this software for more than twenty years since I purchased a user licence, although it has not been updated since 2014.

Disc storage folder
Disc storage folder

However it still works and I have my disc catalogues that the programme creates to refer back to. Searching on-line I can’t find out whether the creator has stopped developing, died or what has happened. The website is still there but a web search suggested the programme has been discontinued. A shame because it is both useful and functional.

That set me off looking for alternatives. It is always a good idea to have a plan B. I have 32 current catalogues,several listing up to 75 discs, then there are 25 former catalogues, which all means an awful lot of data on photos, files, EXIF and thumbnails. This week I had some software fail following the latest Windows 10 upgrade, so I had a hunt around and came up with WinCatalog 2018.

This progranne is only available for Windows machines, but you could of course use an emulator on a Mac. If you already use Where-is-it, then the catalogues you have created can be imported into Wincatalog. I’ve downloaded the programme and whilst I don’t plan on scrapping Where-is-it while it is still working, I now have my plan B.

Having spent days this week scanning old photographs I had around 100 gigabytes of data. I scan every vintage photograph, and especially the 35mm slides, at very high resolution. This creates single files of 300MB or more.

I now use 1 Terabyte external hard disc drives (HDD) for storage. You can get larger capacity disc drives, but it takes an age to reload data from them. These are mechanical HDDs simply because the cost of solid state storage was still too high, for discs of this capacity when I bought them. In the last 12 months or so, the cost has reduced dramatically and looking today, I can buy a solid state drive, made in China, for the same price as a US made Western Digital mechanical hard disc drive.

But having off line storage is just one part of the backing up equation. How do you know that the files on your computer, lap top or tablet, are the most up-to-date and are the ones you should be backing up?

The answer lies in another piece of software called Free Files Sync.

Free Files Sync is another piece of open source software, that relies on donations from grateful users and the hard work of volunteer programmers to keep it in existence. Describing how it works simply, it scans files you have on your computer and then checks the external hard disc and finally copies the latest files across to your backup. It does a lot more besides, but in essence, it automates the backup of data.

One thing to remember is that having spent all the time end effort, not to mention money, on the software and hardware to keep your digital valuables safe for the next 100 years, make sure that you separate the backups, so should one be destroyed, the other should remain safe.

Data disc Library
Data disc Library

Keeping everything together, piled on the computer is not a good idea. NRC

5 Responses

  1. Elizabeth B

    Poor Risha. Hope he is feeling better soon. Libby and Amber have been to the vets for teeth cleaning and Amber had a couple of extractions. In the end we found that their teeth just needed a good clean but not a cheap visit!

    That photo of Church Street in 1981 is telling … not a car in sight. Think it is a bit different these days. We’ll see if we can get you a. More current version!

    Lovely to get your news. Elizabeth x

  2. John Fox

    Hi Norman.
    I really enjoy reading your blog and I’m pleased life is treating you well.
    Best wishes
    John Fox

  3. Marcy

    I hope Risha improves. My Khan had to have 4 front teeth removed a while back. Surgery, antibiotics and revisit were $$$ but it beat the alternative.

    Love the detail and pictures. That fall picture was exquisites.

    I am using vinegar on my weeds. It kills weeds and nothing else. Safe for the environment and saves my back.

    Have a great week. Marcy

  4. Andy Obridge

    No need to say about the weather Norman! Of course your statistics are more accurate than my memory but am sure we were almost drought conditions this time last year. beaches full or tourists by now as well.
    Dreading having a look around the yard and garden when I feel brave enough to go and look!
    The olives were so full of seeds, just hoping some have hung on!

  5. Dorcey Wingo

    Good of you to see about Risha, I know he will be fine now.

    Yes, back up those important pics. Your system is very impressive, Norman! I have over 40,000
    speedway motorcycle pics and would hate to lose them.