New Batteries

I recently got some new batteries. My favorite new gadget is a lithium-ion battery about the size of a cell phone with some jumper cables to start your car. It was only $27, cheap.

Sometimes my car battery runs down in cold weather and my car won’t start. Fortunately, the engine starts easily once I get it to turn over. This little jump starter has just enough juice to start my tiny Honda 4 cylinder engine.

I could not get it to work the first time. I emailed tech support, the design had changed, the instructions neglected to mention a hidden ON button. Then I suddenly realized, I was talking to tech support for a battery. The next time, the jumpstart worked perfectly.

I thought this was such a useful feature, why don’t all cars have Li-ion batteries as a reserve, built right in? Then I thought about it. The standard lead-acid battery is the reserve power. You could have a Li-ion battery as the reserve to the reserve. At this point, you might as well run the whole car on electric batteries, and you’ve got a Tesla.

I was also surprised to get a battery replacement for my 2 year old iPhone 6s. Apple didn’t just replace the battery, they gave me a brand new iPhone for free.

My iPhone wasn’t holding much of a charge lately, so I tested it and it only had 54% capacity! I called Apple Support and my iPhone was covered under an extended replacement program. I was eligible for a free replacement battery. I had a new iPhone on my desk FedEx overnight about 12 hours after I called. I set it up and checked its battery capacity: 103%.

People often complain that their iPhone batteries don’t last very long. That’s because they use their iPhone all the time.

New Photo Gadget

I bought a new photo gadget that totally revolutionized some old photo gadgets I already owned. Here is the entire rig:

On the left is a Manfrotto Super Clamp, I bought it decades ago. It had a brass stud and mini ball head to attach a camera, but I lost them somehow. I also recently bought a Glif, the bracket on the right end. It’s a clip to mount an iPhone to a tripod. I tested it but it didn’t work very well, using a tiny phone camera on my tripod made for large format cameras. Maybe the Glif would work better with the Super Clamp, if only I hadn’t lost the parts.

I looked online for replacements and instead, I found this interesting Manfrotto Heavy Duty Flex Arm. It has a hex stud to mount in the Super Clamp at one end, 20 inches of flexible extension arm, and a 1/4″ tripod head at the end.

Now all I really need is a mini ball head to make it easier to swivel the Glif and iPhone camera into position. A cheap one will do, I bought this for $7. It’s not a very good swivel head but the matching Manfrotto 494 is $65, this will have to do.

It’s really easy to clamp this anywhere and bend the arm into place. I clamped it on my old photo enlarger and it makes a great copy stand. The 20″ extension puts the camera out in the middle of my work table so I can copy huge originals, like a tabloid 11×17 double spread. Here is a pic of the rig clamped to my kitchen cabinet, I used a paper towel to avoid clamp marks. Oh no this looks like a setup for coffee demo videos.

After I got this rig and used it a while, I discovered it had another uniquely useful function. I clamped it to my bed’s headboard, to hold up my iPhone so I can watch video in bed.

RIP Dr. Raymond Smullyan

Today I noticed an New York Times obituary for mathematician Raymond Smullyan. I was immediately drawn in by the photo of Smullyan demonstrating some very basic algebra.

Smullyan was a college dropout and autodidact. I was amused to read an account of his academic history.

One of Smullyan’s teachers at the University of Chicago…Rudolf Carnap…recommended Smullyan for a mathematics post at Dartmouth College.. Smullyan had no formal qualifications at this time but was already working on mathematical research for future publications. He taught at Dartmouth College from 1954 until 1956, being awarded his B.S. from the University of Chicago in 1955. He had never completed sufficient courses to merit the award, but to make up the number Chicago credited him with a calculus course which he had never taken but was teaching.

The NY Times published a quiz of Smullyan’s math puzzles, but I was terribly disappointed at one question, presented as a logic puzzle. Here it is, with a correct solution reached by an incorrect procedure.

That is utterly ridiculous. Any high school senior will immediately recognize this as a basic algebra question, not a logic question at all. It is hardly worthy of Smullyan’s legacy. Here is the proper method of solution, with nice graphics produced by Wolfram Alpha.

Edit: I decided the solution needs more explanation. We are told the price of a large bird (represented as x) equals the price of two small birds (2y). So we get (x = 2y). Then we found the price of five large birds (5x) and three small (3y) is (5x + 3y), the same as three large and five small, plus 20.  Since 3x + 5y is 20 less than 5x + 3y we add 20 to make them equal as (3x + 5y + 20). We could simplify that equation to (x = y + 10) but the Wolfram solver is just as happy to work with our original, unsimplified equations.

Result: {x = 2y, 5x + 3y = 3x + 5y + 20}

The two equations represented by lines will intersect at only one point, which is a solution that works for both equations.

This is a simple solution of two simultaneous linear equations. It may look complex, but it’s basic Algebra 1. It is merely a literal translation of the problem into equations. It could be solved without plotting by substitution, but graphs are always fun (especially if I don’t have to plot them myself).

I was expecting a spark of genius, and ended up back in high school. But perhaps that is not so bad. I was recently employed as a mathematician, one of my colleagues gave me this XKCD cartoon. I understand it completely.


Fleetwood Mac, Peoria June 26, 1976

I found an old 35mm negative, a single strip of six poorly exposed pictures of Fleetwood Mac playing the Peoria outdoor amphitheater. I recovered the underexposed images (mostly) but I like the poor quality, it makes the pictures look grittier, like they were taken in a club, rather than outdoors in the blazing sun. And I was really close to the stage. I have pics of everyone except Mick Fleetwood behind the drums. You can barely see Mick in the background of one picture. Somewhere, I have color slides of this concert, including the warmup act, Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer group. I only went to this concert to see Jeff Beck.




Edit: I found the rest of this roll of film, there are much better pics in there. I managed to get Mick Fleetwood in a pic. Oops, looks like the previous 6 pics are flipped left to right, I’ll have to fix that.


1991: Apple’s Blueprint for Disaster

Today I am releasing another historic Apple document from my archives, “Blueprint for the Decade, An overview of Apple technology and strategies.” Download it here as a 19Mb PDF.

This strategic briefing was published in October 1991, six years after John Sculley ousted Steve Jobs. This is the business plan that brought Apple to the brink of disaster, only to be saved by Steve Jobs returning in 2001. It certainly was the Blueprint for the Decade, it just wasn’t the kind of decade Sculley wanted.


Eicher – Myers Family Cookbook

Everyone in my family, even my aunts and cousins, wants this Eicher – Myers Family Cookbook. I inherited it from my Mother, I think it is her handwriting. It appears to be from around 1955, so it could be her mother’s cookbook. This does not appear to be The Family Cookbook, it is a family cookbook. It’s mostly dessert recipes.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Since everyone wants a copy, I photographed the entire book and I am presenting it here as a huge 144Mb PDF file. I took these photos with my iPhone 6s 12-megapixel camera, using studio grade lighting and photography equipment.

The recipes are handwritten in cursive, in an address book with tabs from A to Z. There are gaps of dozens of blank pages, which I have not digitized. Recipes are scattered throughout the book, some seem placed at random. But there is a vague scheme here: B for bread; C for corn, cakes and cookies; D for dumplings and oops we need more pages for cakes and cookies; M for meat and muffins; P for Pie and pudding; S for salad, sauce, and shortcakes; and W for walnuts. You can easily see which are the favorite recipes, by the stained pages.

Tucked in between some pages are recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines, brochures, etc. I have tried to preserve this ephemera as I found it, in the order I found it. I carefully unfolded the clippings and put them under glass to keep them flat. You can hardly tell they have been folded for 60 years. I photographed the back sides of these items too. Some were fascinating, like this crudely printed color advertisement for quilt patterns.


I was particularly amused by a lard pamphlet. Apron-clad women are marching in the streets carrying signs declaring their love for lard.


I am considering donating the original manuscript cookbook to the University of Iowa Libraries’ Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts collection. The Library is digitizing dozens of historic cookbooks. I contacted them and they expressed interest in acquiring this and other cookbooks from my Mother’s collection. Perhaps it would be fairest to all my family that everyone has digitized copies of the book but none of us possess it, the original is in a library. But I didn’t want to let this cookbook out of my hands without making a copy for myself and my family first.

The Last Stat Cam

In the late 1980s, the digital graphics studio where I worked in LA did an incredible thing: they bought a stat cam. I thought it was the last thing we needed, we were an all-digital studio, we had high end drum scanners and Agfa imagesetters. Stat cams were such a pain to use, that’s why everyone was switching to digital. So I wondered why the boss wanted such an expensive but obsolete device like this. Our company never bought anything but the high end machines. Even today, a used top-end Agfa Repromaster stat camera can cost thousands of dollars. I found this picture on a University surplus auction site, starting bid $50. What a deal.

Agfa Repromaster

Static Cameras were the standard for graphic arts production for decades. Designers would paste their graphics and type onto a white paper sheet; the stat cam would photograph it and convert it to a film used to make printing plates. The films could be as large as two newspaper sheets, the typical paper size of high speed printing presses. I’ve done some amazing things on stat cams, even back in the early 1970s.

The boss said he bought the camera for the old-school printing guys we hired. They assured him they had clients with enough stat cam work to pay for it in mere months. I didn’t see how that was possible. Studios that ran stat cams were going out of business because they were losing their customers (and employees) to digital production companies like us. There were thousands of graphics studios with stat cams that were desperate for work. The Repromaster reached the pinnacle of analog film production just as the analog process became obsolete. The lenses were superb, the quality of the films it produced were perfect. Faster and more elaborate electronic controls would be useless. This was the last stat camera anyone would ever need. We didn’t even need one. We never had one single customer for the stat cam. Agfa stopped making the Repromaster years ago. They are antiques, today you can find them in the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies.

Stat cams were designed for only one job, to make perfect film reproductions of flat artwork. If you wanted to do this job today, you would use a digital camera on a copy stand. I just built one, almost by accident. But I will write about that in my next post.

Amish Cook Book

Here is a scan of a cookbook from my Mom’s collection. It is entitled “AMISH COOK BOOK of Recipes from Our Amish Neighbors” and was published by the Grace Methodist Church of Oelwein, Iowa, Woman’s Society of Christian Service. It is undated but I believe it was produced in the early 1970s.

This tiny 4.25 by 5.5 inch booklet has 112 pages and was produced on a script typewriter with hand drawn illustrations. Click on this link to download the booklet as a 68.7Mb PDF file.

Amish Cookbook Cover

Amish Cookbook

My grandparents were Old Order Amish, although my parents were not. Our house always had lots of Amish aunties babysitting, cleaning, and cooking, so I grew up eating a lot of traditional Amish cooking. It’s usually simple fare.

I found an amusing Amish cookbook in my mother’s collection. It is very small, about 3×5 inches and printed on a mimeograph. I especially love the old IBM Selectric script font. This was definitely not produced by the Amish. Sometimes they ask their Mennonite friends to do this sort of work. Mennonites often live near Amish communities, but they are not restricted from using technology.

I am presenting the first recipe in the book, and I promise that someday I will scan the entire book and publish it here.

Update: I scanned and posted the entire cookbook, it is now available online at this link.


© Copyright 2016 Charles Eicher