SGT Waldrop’s Camera

Sgt. Waldrop‘ s Camera

Brandon Bledsoe

2/12/2019

On the 29th of January, I went to look at a lot of vintage cameras for sale on facebook market place. I had been watching it for a bit, and the seller had been bringing the price down over several weeks until I finally went to have a look. I was interested in one in particular, a Rollei Magic missing it’s name plate. I wanted to know which model it was, maybe I could give it to my son who also enjoys using film. The rest of the lot looked like it was mostly junk, but still interesting enough for me to go and see.

The Rollei Magic turned out to be the wrong model, and I almost told the man that I was not interested. The cameras were in two big plastic tubs, mixed in with tons of loose AC adapters, lens hoods, speaker wire, cheap computer speakers. It was basically the detritus that gets passed from junk dealer to junk dealer, with some cameras mixed in. However, I decided it would be courteous to have a look at the entire lot. I began sorting them, telling him what was broken, thinking that if nothing else, I could buy the working cameras for less. I found some things, put them aside, and then I pulled out an unassuming and slightly battered little box. I recognized it as a folding camera from the 1930s. I was intrigued, figuring that it was probably some kind of Kodak model, but the writing on the back said that it was a Zeiss Ikon Nettar, Bob 510/2. I was not familiar with that particular model, but the name Zeiss Ikon I did know, and I decided to pop it open and see if it worked. I first checked the front, the camera came out, the shutter mostly worked after being stuck for a bit. Next I decided to check the inside. I opened it and noticed first the wooden film spool inside on the film side.

For those not familiar, this type of camera uses 120 type film. 120 is a medium format film, still in use and commonly available today. I had some sitting in the freezer at home and had a couple of rolls waiting to be developed. When you load 120 film into a camera, there must be an empty roll in the camera for take up. 35m film winds into the camera, and when the roll is finished, it is released and the user winds it back onto the cartridge it came on. 120 film only goes one way, and is protected from light by a black paper backer rather than a cartridge. The film is placed in the bottom, and the end is loaded onto an empty roll on the top, and as you shoot, it winds onto the old roll. When finished, the roll that the film came on is moved from bottom to top, and awaits the next roll. Many photographers move it when they take the film out, a good habit for being ready.

The empty wooden spool was on the bottom, where it would have been with film coming off of it. There was no take up spool in the camera. The Second thing that I noticed was on the inside of the door. Etched in rather neatly in my opinion, were the words, “SGT Curtis E. Waldrop Tendon, France October 8, 1944.”

That alone convinced me to buy the lot, as the man wasn’t breaking it up, I needed to take that camera home. Once I came home I began my research into this G.I., and a simple google search found a Kerrville Mountain Sun article from 1990. In it, I learned that Curtis Waldrop had been a part of the 143rd Infantry, a Texas National Guar unit, that his battalion was the first one on the beach in Salerno, and that they had entered federal service in 1940. (1)

Using that information, I looked up the 143rd infantry, and found a brief history of their very extensive service in World War II, courtesy of the Texas Military Forces Museum. (2). You may read the full story if you wish, but in short, in that region of France, the 143rd had already been in three major battles, and were still made to push on. They were fighting a determined and prepared enemy, and in October, it took them three weeks to move seven and a half miles.(2)

According to the Museum, all they wanted was some rest, but rest was not to be had.(2)

Turning my attention back to the camera, I decided to track down a manual for it, as I have learned the hard way that small things can completely ruin a photo. Fortunately, cameramanuals.org is a very nice place and they happened to have just what I needed. It was then that I noticed an anomaly. The manual, being for the exported version of the camera, kept talking about the focusing ring being in feet.(3) This would make sense, except that the camera I bought, is in meters. Meters, not feet.

Starting here, I must do a bit of hypothesizing based on the evidence. I make it clear that I have only what is before us to go on. The cameras were made in Germany starting in 1936.(4)

If what I have learned about them is correct, then meters would indicate a German camera, not one of the exports to English speaking countries. There are plenty of ways that SGT. Waldrop could have gotten that camera, but the inscription in the back is indicative of when and where. If he did not get the camera on October 8, 1944 in that particular region of France, then why scratch that specifically into the back? I know personally that men brought things home, trophy’s from the enemy. I had two great grandfathers in that war, one who fought and one who fixed tanks, specifically he was glad he did not fight. However, both men brought home enemy Lugers, amongst other things. Without fighting my great grandfather Bledsoe was able to bring home an enemy weapon, trophies were plentiful.

I do not know what SGT Waldrop’s job was specifically, so I can only work from the default idea that he was infantry and did fight, but I make no assumptions about what he did or did not do in the war, but I do speculate that this camera belonged to a Nazi soldier and that it was collected by SGT Waldrop. I imagine that he carved his name and the other information into the inside with a knife on the day that he got it. Even murkier is the question of, who was the last person to use it. The empty film spool was in the position of feeding out film, not take up. The film that was last in it could have gone anywhere. If it had been the film of a Nazi soldier, which is feasible, the camera was an entry level model, easily available to even a soldier of the time, then I would say the film was disposed of any number of ways, having been anywhere from pocketed, left in the mud, or given to someone as collected intelligence.

However, the film could have even been last used by an American, as the films metal ends say “ANSCO film.” ANSCO was an American company, which had been acquired by the German firm of AGFA in 1928.(5). This tells me that film could have been used by an American or a German as I have been unable to determine which brand was sold in which country, it could have been both in all markets. What does need to be noted is that upon America’s entry into the war, with Hitler having declared war on the United States, ANSCO was seized by the U.S. government as an enemy property.(5). If ANSCO was still sold in Germany in 1944, then it probably would have been older stock. I do not know how long companies kept film on shelves back then. I believe it would have been black and white film, due to the camera it was in, and who would have been paying for it. Black and White is fairly shelf stable, most of what I have expires in 2022, giving it a best by of four years, as it is mostly from 2018. The film is a dead end. I originally thought that if it had been American film, it would have been on a metal spool, but I later learned that America was using wood again, with metal going to the war effort.

What I do know is that the engraving done by SGT Waldrop is in a place that would not normally be open to be scratched on. In that place should be a metal plate. The purpose of that plate is that it keeps the film in place. Film, even when pulled taught, needs something to hold it in place for the purposes of focusing. When a camera is focused, it is not enough that the lens is focused, but also the film must be the correct distance from the lens for that focus to produce a correct image. The film plate is not present, and could not have been in place when the carving occurred. I do not know where it is, or when it came out, but it had to be out when he carved his inscription. It could have been put back after that, the metal tabs to hold it are still there. I cannot say what happened to the plate, but I think perhaps, he took it out to make his inscription and could not get it back into place, or simply did not mind, that he did not intend to use the camera, film would probably have been hard to come by, as military supplies were difficult for that region at the time. Really, for all that I know, he could have put it back, used the camera quite a bit at home, and it was lost later, but I do not believe so. I think that the last user, was the original owner, but I have little evidence in that way, and all that I do have is put before you.

Either way, I talked to a friend of mine, and he had the idea that if the camera had belonged to a Nazi soldier, and if that person was the last to use it, that I should make the first photo I took on it ( the fact that I was going to use it was never in question) something significant. I did some more digging and was able to determine that SGT Waldrop, having passed in 1991, the year after the article about his unit and their reunion was written, and had been laid to rest in Kerrville, Texas, barely an hour from San Antonio, where I lived at the time. I cleaned the camera up as best as I could. The lens is dirty on the inside, and after minor attempts to get to it, I gave up for fear of making it worse. I made a new plate from a cut up capri sun box, and I drove the camera to Kerrville, so that the first photo could be of the grave of the man who brought it home.

His grave, (and that of his wife) is at the bottom of the photo, partially cut off on the left, and with my Subaru Outback ruining the shot. As you can see, I forgot about the parallax, and so what I thought to be a shot dominated by the grave and foreground is really a large shot with the grave barely in the foreground. Also, my plate was a bit thick, so the film was scratched on the way through (the black lines running the length.). The camera only has four shutter settings, 1/25th of a second, 1/75th, Bulb (open as long as your hold the button) and T, which I figured is like bulb but it opens with one depression and closes with a second. To today’s film, these are all pretty slow. The fastest is 1/4 of a second and for reference with 400 ISO film, my go to film especially for a cloudy day, it would be much too slow, only 1/60th of a second is needed to avoid camera shake, and really the light meter was saying 1/250th. 1/4th was just too slow, and the shutter was prone to sticking on that one, so I went the other way, I loaded Ilford Pan F, a 50 ISO film, and decided to work in whole seconds. Turns out, even on a day that is rainy, this region of Texas has a lot of light, and I did not have whole seconds to work with, so I did my best. Two out of the eight shots were usable, the rest were very overexposed, but I only needed one to accomplish my mission.

That is my story of SGT Waldrop’s camera. I have not contacted the family, as I do not feel the need to. Firstly, I have made no claims on SGT Curtis Waldrop other than the fact that he was a soldier who was in a particular region of France at a certain time, which has been proven. My speculations about the camera are my own, and make no assertions on him whatsoever. As for the idea that they could help the story, I am not sure they could, I got the camera from a picker, who got it from another picker. I think that as they things normally go, that it was cleared out as part of the estate in 2016, and has worked it’s way around to me. I feel that had they known, or if it was significant, then it would not have been there. I do not feel the need to bother these people. I will continue to use the camera, mostly near dusk or on very overcast days. I put some camera seal foam on the metal, hoping to alleviate the scratches without causing a new problem. My wife thinks the more things I introduce into the camera that were not supposed to be there, then the more that will go wrong, and she is most likely right. I hope you have enjoyed this little story, and if you have some evidence to contribute, please do.

I thank SGT Curtis E. Waldrop for his service and time spent fighting against the Nazi menace. As a veteran myself, he is my brother, but I am not able to stand in the shadow of those who fought in that war.

For me, this whole thing was what it is all about. I found a real thing, that belonged to a real person and went hunting for the story, and in the end, added to it myself. The camera did not find it’s way to a dump for an ignominious end, but instead it lives on. I’m rather certain that Sgt. Waldrop’s family remembers him, but now so will I, he has taken a step towards immortality.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

1.https://www.newspapers.com/image/?spot=3611596&fcfToken=754c746a666c474c4f4a4a6631593551333148366463333566456d70506543337a4a66336e5050726a6f6659745a7a7939524656786277754c67723243747478

2.http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/36division/archives/france/hyman4

3.http://www.cameramanuals.org/zeiss_ikon/zeiss_ikon_nettar_02.pdf

4.http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Zeiss_Ikon_Nettar

5. http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Ansco

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Analog Photography

    When I was a kid, my dad worked as essentially a large scale repo man.  He had one of those awesome Polaroid cameras for documenting the stuff to be repossessed.  We, the kids, were not supposed to grab it and take pictures.  With that said, Mr. B (for your privacy) if you are reading this, I apologize, I know that film cost money, but we couldn’t help it.  I admit it.  I also do not think we opened any new packs, if it helps, but thank you for making sure we could find your Polaroid.  I’m sure you noticed a lot more than you let on.  

    My first camera was an analog camera, a great 110 that was Ninja Turtles themed!  In fact, film was how I found out there was no Santa Clause.  I was clicking away as we cleaned out a home for my disabled great aunt, with some film I had gotten for Christmas.  My mom told me to stop, I said it was my film, she said she bought that film.  Poof, delusion nailed out.  In all honesty, I kind of figured, but I had a kid sister to act for, and it was still fun.  

    Seventeen years of Digital cameras later (minus me taking 35MM film on my trip to Germany) and the analog/instant photo is making a come back!

How many of you know someone with an instant camera?  I bet most of you (self depracating joke would be to say both of you) know at least one person who has an instant camera, and it is probably some kind of Fuji Instax.  This is my little red beast!

    I have had it for a couple of years now, and it is showing its time in service.  It has been dropped by me, and dropped and thrown by a toddler several times.  It may be running out of time, and there are more advanced models out there, but for the price (between 60-70$) you cant beat this thing.  Point, Click, Bam! Classic instant photos with that good old vintage look.  

    In fact, that is what I bought mine.  I bought it for the point and click, capture a memory, not many second chances (and at around 1$ a shot retail be careful with the second chances) stick it in a journal and move on.  Wow… today is that day where everything comes full circle. That was part of how I started this blog, I was putting our families journal online.  My plans have changed some, I was learning as I went, but that was the idea take photos of our family and glue them in.  Here’s a look back at the Savage past, the infant stages.    

    We have evolved since then.  I do still stick the pictures into my journal, and wouldn’t ya know it, Midori and The Travelers Notebook have accessories for doing just that.  I also have a few extras because I just enjoy them.  

     I have also gotten another camera, which is far less point and click, The Lomo Instant.  Based off of a camera from the former Soviet Union, Lomography has made taking vintage and ruddy photos into an art form.

    This one does have some lenses, and yes there is the ever nifty double exposure mode, but what it really has is a company with soul! Lomography Is a bit hipster up front, but you are going to get some of that when you bring back photos that cost money the moment you hear the click.  They have a shop, you can join and share your photos with the comunity, which I will do when their platform gets a little more user friendly.  Even better, they have the Ten Golden Rules.  I have been trying to abide by the one that says take your camera everywhere, but that is harder than it seems when it is bulkier than a cell phone.  However, we know what my rules are, and one of them is to have a bag.  Now I have one to carry everywhere, and the camera too!  Do not let those rules get you bogged down, use them for inspiration really.  They will help you figure out how you want to embrace this resurrected tech.  

     I went through some experimanetal phases.  I read about a man who took a Polaroid a day (yes it was most likely the actual Polaroid stuff, not just people using the term today) and they are all an album online.  It was a really moving series, which I want to recreate myself.  I started trying it out, and the result was the life in instant photo series posts you see on here.  They did not work, but my desire to complete a Jamie Livingston type experiment lives on!  I have a pretty good stock pile, I just have to figure out how to put them up.  I will get back to formatting later.  Anyhow, a word on the Lomo Instant.  That thing is in no way user friendly.  If you buy it, it will come with some little printed photo cards with printed suggestions, use them.  If you do not you will end up with a lot of blacked out or whited out photos.  You can learn all the ins and outs of this camera, but those cards help you not to waste film.  

    I took my camera to a Red Sox vs. Rangers game and when people realized what I was doing, they started offering to pay for a photo of them and their family that they could hold.  They are great for more than just your journal, you can give them away, you can hand them out, you can start a conversation about something tangible in your hand that is imperfect.  I went through my computer the about a month back.  My hard drive was getting full.  when my first son was born I bought a decent digital camera, DSLR, and went banana sand which taking photos for the next four years.  I ended up deleting 30,000 photos.  That number is not exaggerated, it is in fact rounded down.  Let that sink in, 30,000 photos deleted.  There are around 17,000 more.  That is a decades worth of photos total, but man what was I ever going to do with all of them?  They were not even separate photos, I would point the camera at my kid and hold the shutter down.  It was like a stop motion film, but less fun.  If nothing else, the cost of analog photography slows you down a little.   

    Don’t get me wrong, I have so many memories of my family preserved that did not eat up money or physical space, but at the same time, I almost stopped enjoying taking them.  You have seen me say, do not let recording life stop you from living it.

    I do not know about you, but there is something great about a simple photo, with little to no jargon involved, that looks like it came from the 80s, not taken on a smart phone, on real film.  The ironic part is that you will still want to show it off, and that will require some very digital stuff.  A scanner, or a smart phone with a scanner app.  That is how I do it.  

    If you go down this self developing road, start with the Fuji Instax.  I still have days where I want to throw the Lomo.  Here are my tips:

  1. Order your film on Amazon, it comes out a little cheaper if you buy it in the three pack bundle.
  2. Never buy the Polaroid film (in mini 8) it is the same as the Fuji, and costs 16$ for ten shots, where as Fuji is 20$ (retail) for twenty shots.
  3. Get something to stick your photos in, they dislike pockets, a little tin or something will work.
  4. If you use the travelers notebook, embrace the analog photos
  5. Don’t wait, life isn’t getting longer.

That is what I have for you.  Well that and this.  

    This is my stash of film for while we are in New York, and there are already two packs in my kit bag!  This is the wonder of Amazon, it makes the cost hurt sooo much less.

What is your favorite analog photo?

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

15th Anniversary of the First Human Space Flight, 1976, Stamps of the Soviet Union

On 12 April, 1961, Yuri Gagarin did something that was beyond the scope of words to describe the magnitude properly.  He had become the first human being to fly in space in his Vostok spacecraft.  
    This stamp, which came out after Gagarin had died, was made to commemorate that monumentous occasion.  

Yuri Gagarin

      This is a beautiful piece, in my opinion.  The details:

The top text is the title.  The text under the portrait is his name, Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin.  The text on the medal translates as Pilot Cosmonaut, and I believe the medal to be Hero of the Soviet Union.  Gagarin is seen here wearing the rank of “Polkovnik” or what the United States calls a colonel.  The Piece has a face value of 50 Kopeks.  These are numbered, mine being 110,464 of 450,000.

   Gagarin would die in 1968 piloting as MiG-15.  As I understand it his two daughters are alive and doing very well, both very prominent in Moscow.  With the Cold War over, we can stop and give Gagarin’s contribution to humanity the respect it deserves.  He was the first representative of this species in space.  This year marks the 56th anniversary of Colonel Gagarin’s 1 hour 48 minute trip.  Gagarin also oribited the earth during this trip.  

Close up, Portrait of Polkovnik Yuri Gagarin, 15th Anniversary of the First Human Space Flight, 1976, Stamps of the Soviet Union
Hero of the Soviet Union: Pilot Cosmonaut

Credits: World Book Encyclopedia: 2013, Volumes G and A, G-P.5 A-P.829, entries “Gagarin, Yuri” and “Astronaut”

Where do we begin?

This space has not had a true update in a bit.  I have been moving and such.  Let us begin there.  Let us get back to what this blog used to be.  It was first and foremost whatever I, the author, wanted it to be, and I always wanted it to be true.  True to me specifically, and yet I have danced around topics and applied enough tact to make myself sick.  What happened to the truth?  What happened to the alcohol fuel, tobacco burning, dioneysian blog posts that made at least one person think, or made me feel like I was actually doing something with this?  

     Well it is all coming back.  I described this to one of my professors as a “no s*** window into my life,” but somewhere along the way I forgot that.  This is not as dramatic as it all sounds?  Sometimes I got off writing about pencil sharpeners.  I can tell you why I stopped doing that as much, because everybody that enjoys graphite and would feels the need to write about it (me included) and I was not reading theirs, so I stopped asking them to read mine as often, that is all it was just kind of a courtesy thing.  So let us begin with an update.


We were reasssigned to Fort Sam Houston…well isn’t that peachy, leave Massachusetts, leave the circle of Boston, leave Framingham, and go back to the Ghetto.  No I am not hanging out in the wrong parts of Texas, no I do not need to give it a chance, I am allowed to dislike an entire state without offering a reason, and the city of San Antonio, for that I can give reasons.  I am not saying that I will not enjoy things here, I will, I always find something to do, but for me this place will always be too far South West.  Now we do live two minutes from where the medics are made, and that always strikes me as a little funny.  

    Let us be honest here.  I planned every detail of my last day at Framingham State as best as I could.  I had a vision in my head and I was going to do my best to make sure it happened.  I would not settle for something anticlimactic as the semester just being over and me not coming back.  I made a playlist…I even wore the exact same outfit on my last day that I had worn on my first, if you will allow for the fact that I have of course bought new underwear since then.  Even my socks were the same.  I know because they are the ones I wear with my Doc Martin’s.  I cant guarantee that it was the same pair of socks, but there are only three pairs of these, and I have had the same three this whole time.  It was a private little joke that only I was in on.  

This may be the only picture of me from that day.  Zander was there out of necessity caused by the moving schedule and such.  Nobody minded, I have lots of photos of plenty of my friends playing with him.  The point is the sweater, it book ended my time at Framingham State University.  I thought it was hysterical.  I even made a play list.  That’s right.  I made a SOUNDTRACK for my last day.  Most people did not notice that I had it playing most of the day walking around in my personal little movie.  

I went out on country roads.  My buddy Steve camethrough (without knowing it) and we went and smoked before I walked off the campus at almost exactly the same time I had left a night class on my first day.  Couldn’t have done it without you buddy.  

We decided to road trip out of MA.  I know I have a lot more stuff I could talk about, especially people and it may come back to me later, but this will be longer than it is already going to be.  We had some help getting cleaned out of our house, very grateful, and then I had to leave everyone.  We had some friends when We’ve left other places, but they were army people, they knew what it was like.  Here?  We were attached.  So we put a bunch of crap in the outback and went trecking out with kids for 1800 miles, and around 25 days.  We visited family.  We visited friends.  I spent a good bit of the time dealing with that feeling that I am unsure if it is caused becaus we were in between and it wouldn’t go away until we had a house to put together, or if it was just the dread of where we were going.  The kids actually did really well with all of the hotels and such.  We spent New Years in a hotel room enjoying each other’s company.  If you are bored and want to get to the point, here’s one.  Home really is where the heart is, for me, I really am just happy the wife, kids, and I are all together.  

The little guy and his hotel bed.  They were happy as long as there was a bathtub to play in.  Kids know how to keep it simple.  

This whole home is where the heart is thing being true is not news.  What is news is this: you are not required to continue taking people’s garbage just because you are related to them.  I am not saying that all the little motivational Facebook posts about leaving negative people behind are at all true, much to the contrary, I am sure that more often that not people are not looking in the right direction.  I have been there, I have forgotten to blame myself because I did not want to accept that I was the problem, but more often than not we know the type.  My sister is great at this kind of thing, posting about people messing people up when she can’t make a sandwich without a family fight and the cops coming.  That’s what I’m tired of, pretending I care.  I love my family, but you know what I’m tired of telling them that they need to do to fix the situation.  My mother and grandmother are ready to pull their hair out, my mother has the kids and doesn’t get any sleep, and when my family and I come we are mostly spectators to this circus.  AND we never say anything about it.  That stopped back at the beginning of this paragraph.  I do not blame her kids, you have them, stop fooling with that Stalingrad dumpster fire until she pulls it together.  Everyone turns on everyone so fast, and I feel like phone calls are just sirens telling me what she has done now.  It has driven people out of business and before we know it her final revenge will be complete and my kids wont get to see you at all due to the early grave it has driven you to.  We get tired of coming to see everyone and trying to dance around the mess that she has made.  Call me what you will, but I am serious.  We don’t mind helping with the kids, so long as we are not telling ours to wait around and get what is left.  However!  We did get my grandparents to go to the Tennessee Aquarium.  That was awesome as always.  That place should get an entry to itself.  

Some more travels later, we found ourselves on the way to San Antonio for real.  Now here is the catch.  When this trip was over, I was going to have to get up the next day, get on an airplane, and do the whole thing again.  It was cheaper than shipping our second car.  I was going to have an awesome post all planned out for you guys, I was going to go to Route 66 and drive as much of it as possible before hitting Texas.  It was going to be awesome!  I bought a book and spent most of January planning it out.  Then our car was broken into.  I found out from my wife while I was sitting on my second plane waiting on them to check out the equivalent of a check engine light, which is admittedly more serious on a plane.  I guess the crew heard my displeasure at someone having busted a window out.  I looked over in the next seat and there was Woodford Reserve and a Coke.  They kept appearing.  Here’s to the employees of American Airlines.  My road trip went by the wayside, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, home to my family that is.  Here’s the thing.  We are smart enough to take the DVD players out every time we stop.  We did not have a lot in the car.  My bag that was in there I had put in that morning so that my wife would not have to carry it down the stairs herself with the kids.  All in all they took clothes, my writing stuff, Liam’s toy bag, My wife’s clothes.  The only real valuable–as far as single items go, stuff adds up–was my Nintendo 3DS.  Yes I know this is a First World problem to have.  Yes we are insured, yes we can and have replaced most of that stuff.  However: it was ours.  I hate being stolen from.  A part of me hopes that they were able to sell that stuff and feed their kids, or maybe a kid who had nothing has those toys, but I know thats wishful thinking, and that part of me is small.  The bigger part of me comes from a place where we fought and dueled to build a reputation so that people would not steal from us.  We hate thieves, and that bigger part of me would–and I say this unable to make those who don’t know understand–that I really would break someone’s limbs over my kids toys, my wife’s clothes, and some fountain pens.  The worst part is, it killed the little good I saw in this place.  I have gone to concerts in Worcester MA, parked in an alley with money in the cup holders, actual bills, and people did not smash windows and take money, never has that happened in my life.  Two days in this place?  Thieves hang, no I do not want to hear the rest of the story.

End of the day, my wife and kids are safe.  All is well.  We now live on post, and the house is actually really nice.  People say your blog is supposed to help people.  Here it is again: putting a house together with two kids is slow.  I do not mind living on post, and Liam and I have some nice places to skateboard, and a park, and if we want, we can bike to the grocery store.  What’s amazing is having friends who love you enough and know you well enough to pack the perfect box to try to cheer you up.

We have been selling off some more stuff online.  Here’s some more tips.  #1 be prepared for people to think their stuff is worth way too much.  I read an anthropology paper that did a good job explaining this.  #2 be prepared for people to not be able to read.  Even if you put the words “Will only meet at X” or “I have a Subaru, I cannot deliver a couch” people will not realize they don’t know where X is until they are “almost there” or they will ask when you can drop the couch off.  To sell online is to need golf shoes to wade through the stupid. 

OH!  I wrote a novel while we were traveling.  I did it by the national novel writing month standards.  It is 52,000 words of crap.  But I did it.  I wrote a novel.  My support crew were all amazing.  I might even revise it.  I wrote a book.  That’s a bucket list item gone.  I am actually kind of pleased with the novel.  Next step is to print it and begin revision.  

Now we are here, refining our lives, cementing who we define ourselves as.  I have managed to have a pretty good, INCOWRIMO, international correspondence writing month, despite being busy, my bag of writing stuff having to be replaced, not actually being able to open the mailbox, and getting a late start, I am on 28 letters and it is not the 28th.  I have gotten some really good ones from the address exchanges.  

Now I prepare to leave you, back to our regularly scheduled programming, the knives and pencils, the books and movies, with some new stuff.  I hope to see more readers because I have a lot to write.  It is almost baseball season.  Zander has turned one…

Ganger-Bjorn

Books that someone else says you have to read, part 2: going the library.

I try to break this up into bits so that each post does not turn into a small novel, but when I embarked on my reading list I almost bought To Kill A Mockingbird.  The problem is what if I didn’t want to keep it on my shelf? I refused to finish it fourteen years before.  I decided it was time to practice what I preach, and head for the library.  

Firstly, we have to establish my motivation.  I told the part about the movie where a character is tearing through a reading list, and I read quite a bit as well, but I was at Barnes & Noble performing one of my favorite summer rituals, looking at the wall of summer reading books from the lists.  I always like to see what the state says the youth should be reading for better or for worse.  However, it makes me happy and so I do it.  Some obvious winners are seen!!!The Scott Westerfield books are something I read when they were new, and am really happy to see them suggested to a new generation

Anyhow, that’s when it was time to start the list, and when I talked myself out of buying a book I was not sure I would like.  To the library.  This is the fun part though.  I went to the Marlborough Public Library…which I was sure I took pictures of…have to get one offline. 

Now knowing that To Kill A Mockingbird is THE American Classic, and knowing that the reading lists are out, I proudly marched into the library and asked for a copy.  To be laughed at by librarians is a new experience.  Of course I should have realized that every copy was checked out by the students who actually have to do summer reading…

Luckily libraries can now order copies from each other, and email you that your book is in! However I did feel rather silly…but I got to take the miniature me to the kid’s library!

Ganger-Bjorn

Gone for a bit…

The title in this case is correct, I have spent some time away.  Oddly I have gotten some more readers, which is not something I am going to argue with, welcome, and I hope what you see here makes you want to stay.  Reasons I have been gone?  I am glad you asked.  School of course always takes up a good bit of my time, but the semester has been out for a while now, I am actually finding that I need to begin preparing for a return in September, that is no easy task as I have to figure out child care for Zander.

FACT:  attempting to retain suitable infant child care, even before you factor cost, is enough to put anyone into a “dealing with beuarocracy” coma.  I am one of those people who hates having to call the bank, fix errors at the post office, deal with insurance, and the registrars office, daycare in the state of Massachusetts is a tangled nightmare of laws, rules, and stuff you are not sure about.  The daycare provided by Framingham State University is excellent, however my son was bitten by a problem child, and I may have lost some of the composure I pride myself on when I asked which child and the worker stated very simply the law did not allow her to tell me.  I wrote her an apology, she did her job very well, but that is one of those laws that I just do not quite understand.

That was all just a side note.  It has been quite a while since we go into the gear and rules.  A brief recap, at this point you have some form of a bag you are comfortable carrying for a good bit, and either in it or your pockets is a note book (and a spare) some pencils (maybe pens too) and a knife.  The Knife also makes rule #1, always have it.  I recommend of course, out of all my others, a good Swiss Army knife made by Victorinox, do not by knock off, your paying for your own security here.  In all seriousness, I used the tweezers out of mine to pull the thorns out of my son’s hand the other day, no waiting, just work.

So your new rule is going to sound familiar.  In my world we say “know your route of ingress and egress before proceeding.”  In army medic terms that means we were taught to not go after the wounded before we knew we had a way out.  It sounds rough, but the medic is a resource the entire team needs, and cannot be wasted being shot by the same guy who created your casualty.  You may have heard it as “when in doubt know your way out,” from “Zombieland.”  Mine goes deeper than that though, it is this “Rule #2 Have a plan inlcuding going in and getting out.”  In this case it refers to travel, but also the ability to lodge or travel.  This is where you ask yourself what could go catastrophically wrong with this trip, and render me unable to continue on, eat, lodge, or if am hurt.  This is the contingency phase, think up the problem, write it out and fix it.  In my story the catastrophic thing was relatively small, the possible death of a debit card, but the consequences were possibly immense.  

Here are a couple of stories to go with this.  The aforementioned travel.  The Ganger took a little trip back to Tennessee for a wedding.  My Cousin decided some time back to ask his girlfriend to marry him, she says yes, much more recently they had a very lovely wedding.  Everything was excellent, the music was superb if I do say so.

The trip is rather long, and as I took the four year old with me, rather stressful.  That is not to say it was not a good trip.  It was actually an amazingly good trip, but I am a planner.  There are too many variables in long distance, long time travel, many dangers.  Add in a kid and the risk goes up fast, The Bear intends to come out on top of everything from a car accident to an attack.  Call me paranoid, but we all made it through right?  I prepare, I follow the rules, I drive one of the safest cars in the world (Outback, 2016) and I ready myself and my tools.  We had stopped in Washington D.C. to go to the National Postal Musuem, when we left the gargage my debit card would not register when I tried to pay.  Here is where my plan came in, I do not hit the road outside of my main stomping grounds-where friends can help-without about $120 in my pocket.  I called my wife and told her I would stop and test the card as the boy and I needed some food.  I had used some of the cash to pay the garage, and I sized the situation up calmly.  I was calm, as I knew that I could provide a meal for my son and I, and if I shopped around well enough I could get us a room, or if my mileage math was right I could get us back home on about $60 with room for another meal if need be.  Whichever way it went, my son and I had the basic needs covered for that night until help could be Western Unioned, or we could go home.  That peace of mind came not from money, but from a rule that was followed to the letter.  In the end, the garage machine must have been faulty, as my card worked fine and the trip proceeded as normal.  I had given this kind of advice to a friend who lives abroad.  She did not follow it, and was not registered at the embassy when the Paris attacks occured.  The only real consequence was that she had to listen to the ganger gripe at her.

     This is just one possibility.  Most of my problems can be at least “treated” by a small amount of cash until help can be gained.  We also carry a first aid kit, maps, and my edc kit, which now includes a pay as you go phone and minutes card.  My phone failed while we were there, but again we established reliable communication, and borrowed a GPS, but if not we had maps.  Rule 2 is have a plan, so sit back and say, what’s the least that could happen and then plan for it.  

This is just kind of a comeback, we will get back to all of those things we love to do here and more.  You will notice a name change as the Ganger decided to not simply copy the title of his ancestor.  More posts to follow, after I have made some decisions how far I want to take this in some ways.  Follow on for pictures from the trip.

Ganger-Bjorn

Couple of notes, we went to the PEZ visitor center, yes just yes.  The chain on my cousin is a Grimfrost King’s chain like I recieved for father’s day, and speaking of which I got to spend mine at Fenway parl with my family and run the bases with my sons.  During my son’s birthday we played a record breaking 65 games of skeeball.

Never should we ever…

Right now my adventures, and for that matter my blogging is at a minimum, the semester started just under two weeks ago and the laser focus is back.  That is not to say that college is not an adventure.  I have already taken this farther than you ever could have convinced me back when that I would.  I have committed fully to the experience, minus living in a dorm and such, I am married and have a child after all.  Maybe that is why I always show up to school with a smile on my face, I live with one child, not five thousand adolescents experiencing freedom for the first time.  I am sorry if that seems low, but I have lived in the barracks, it seems to be about the same.

Anyhow I have created a small group of pencil junkies at school.  Two of them asked for care packages when I took my little trip to CW earlier in the month, and they were well provisioned.  Now in all fairness one of those people was Carl.  I already knew Carl, the fact that I applied to the college he works at is pure coincidence.  The other person is Tyler, who graduated right after we met, but we decided we would make such good friends that he drove from Rhode Island to come and see us, talk pencils and watch X-files.

These two are innocent of something I have committed before.  I have witnessed this going on some at school and at various places at large and this is just my take on it.  No matter what our passion or how passionate we are about it, never should we ever be snobs.

I have done it, I probably still do, although I would say I do it in the privacy of my own home, but even then I fight it.  I have recognized my need to be appreciative and thankful and I try to work on it.  That is why I am here, with an exhortation against stationary snobbery.

First let us recognize that many of the pencils, pens and notebooks we love are luxury items from a relative perspective.


It is ok to admit it.  They are luxuries, they are indulgences, they are the exploration of our passion.  We also cannot allow them to be what causes us to belittle something that is ALL that someone else has.  This is not a rant on equality.  It is simply a consideration.  Imagine a middle school child among us whose family keeps them supplied with all their needs school supplies included, but a blackwing is simply out of reach.  That does not mean that we should not write about them, that we should not post pictures of them.  I simply beg that we stop to consider before we describe something that is functional as “cheap” or “garbage.”  Let us consider some of our less expensive utensils and paper.

There is very little to be called fancy about these items.  They are filler paper in a binder, a notebook with no name, and pencils selected from the brands of staples, CVS, office depot, Dixon, and the novelty holiday sort given away at school parties.  They are also the the items who witness the labor and drive of those who want to succeed.  Those who have had the supplies they needed and maybe had to erase a little harder to use the hard red eraser, but wanted to ensure their homework was perfect.  As I said they are not fancy.  The paper has no name, the pencils are mostly named after the store they are bought at, but you can put a point on them and do work.

When I was in school my mother made sure that within reason we got the supplies we wanted when the school year started.  FiveStar and trapper keeper were common, along with boxes of Ticonderoga and Elmer’s.  Now that I am paying for my school supplies I still buy the brands I like for college, but I stare very hard at what a five star notebook costs (and for the price realized I could take school notes on Moleskine) and wondered why my mother didn’t tell me I was insane that paper is paper.

I am not innocent in this.  I must constantly flog myself with the memories of Iraqi children who were living in relocation camps who aside from probably being excited to have enough to eat, could not contain themselves when they found out that we had sent word home that there were schools, but no supplies and people had come through and shipped us boxes and boxes of supplies.  The generosity of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.  This is my exhortation, that before we call something garbage, before we describe it as cheap, that we consider for a moment those who treasure these tools as their own, that they are more careful with their no name number two than we are with a 602 due to having forgotten.

I write this not out of self righteousness, but out of the awareness that I have never shown the gratitude and joy that I saw on the face of a very specific Iraqi girl from the camps when I sat down beside her on the hood of a small broken yellow car in the camp, and from my pack pulled out a small backpack full of supplies for her.  We should live to achieve that kind of satisfaction and appreciation.

Hrolf The Ganger.

Savings challenges.

People have been wondering how I do things like fund a random trip by train to New York to go touring for a day and my pencil habit.  I’ll admit I don’t have a specific way…yet.  The pencils themselves came out of my allowance I had saved, and my comic habit suffered a little in exchange.  So be it.  

      First off my wife and I use the envelope system for some things and a budget on the rest.  We run a little bit of investment here and there nothing big, it really amounts to just multiple savings for the time being.  However to do things like randomly adventure it is a good idea to have a side savings, so this is what I looked and found.  The weekly savings challenge and the daily penny challenge.   

 
The weekly challenge starts at 1.00$. The increment increases by a dollar every week.  The idea is that you stuff this amount in a jar.  Now I started a new bank account, and jars (having free checking will help the bank account part.)  The amount does start to get higher, by the time you’ve done half of this you are putting 26$ in a week and it keeps growing.  The touted savings after one year is 1378.00$ which is nothing to scoff at. 

     The penny challenge is daily.  It starts at 0.01$ and doubles everyday.  This is where the envelope system and doing our allowances in cash comes in handy.  We already have a decent stash of change on hand to carry this out, but I am guessing that it will evaporate pretty quickly into those jars as the amounts go up.  I am doing the jar and bank account for this one as well.  The savings at the end of it is supposed to be 667.95$.  This is also a decent little savings.  

  However these are challenges, and these are the difficulties I see coming.

  1. Remembering to do something daily or weekly is usually a short lived challenge.
  2. Having the correct amounts on hand for your jar.  There are a lot of very odd numbers on the penny challenge.  I would advise not to be afraid of doing a small amount of rounding to make it work with whole dollars if possible or even to the next change increment I.E. Turning 1.11-1.19 all into 1.20.  
  3. Having the cash on hand as well for the weekly one, even if you use an ATM you get whole larger bills, you will have to be willing in both cases to not be afraid to inconvenience a cashier for change when you are already checking out.  
  4. Again just keeping up with it, I am putting the checklists next to my calendar so that I see them everyday.  
  5. If you use a new bank account make sure you have free checking with no minimum amount and no monthly fee as this could quickly kill your savings.

     It will be a pain and towards the middle of the weekly one the amounts may even become a challenge.  If you can pull both of these off though you will have saved 2045$ after a year. This is my plan for future adventures.  You can use it for whatever you like though, saving for a down payment, vacation, an investment (my bank asks for a 1000$ minimum to start most investment funds.). I wish you the best of luck and I hope this helps you fund and plan adventures and that it is fun along the way. 

Hrolf The Ganger

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