Collecting and arranging and making art

Between blogs like Peter Nencini’s and Lisa Congdon’s A Collection a Day I’m finally seeing a focus for my ongoing interest in both collecting and attempting to document my collections. There is also a connection to scrapbooking here.

In a way, this work pulls me back to my interest in the work of Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters but also Andy Worhol’s grids of soup cans and Brillo boxes.

I have a long time interest in mail art and met the artist and stamp maker Leavenworth Jackson through that medium. Here work, too, is a piece of this puzzle.

In short, it’s not just the collecting, it’s also the connecting and arranging (and photographing) for both meaning and visual interest.

iPad on Eaarth

iPad on Eaarth

I knew it was just a matter of time before I bought an iPad although I thought it would be a bit more time, like maybe a year so I could get version two.

At the same time that I’ve learned about the technical intricacies of computers I’ve gotten the most out of them when I know them well enough so the technical stuff falls into the background and I’m left just doing the task at hand, which, for me has mostly been writing and/or communicating.

How long it takes a person to learn this stuff well enough for it to fall into the background (different for each person) is the key to whether they’ll stick with it long enough for it to fall into the background… I know many people to this day who’ve been using computers for years yet still struggle with the simplest tasks (this is true in both the Windows and Macintosh worlds).

It’s doubtful that the iPad was conceived for these people but my guess is it’s what at least some of them have always wanted in a tool.

In my early days it was Apple IIe/AppleWriter, IBM PC/WordStar, the Radio Shack model 100, Macintosh/MacWrite, the AlphaSmart keyboard and a few others and lately I’ve been struggling to use my iPhone as a writing tool. I knew the iPad was going to be a sweet spot in this quest for the tool to elegantly fall into the background and now that I’ve had it for a week I can say I was right.

The Macintosh SE/30 felt right: it was the original small Macintosh box with enough power so that people who knew how to use a Mac could work fast without the machine getting in the way. The iPad is like that: the speed of the thing feels right: the design and power under the hood makes using it feel more natural. Apps launch and the screen rotates at speeds that seem right, not too slow, not too fast, just right. And the iPhone OS is simple, clean, and varnished so it’s difficult to get lost under the hood because there is no hood.

I was concerned that looking at my images on the iPad’s glossy screen might not be a great experience (I’m not a fan of glossy screens for everyday computing) but in all honesty, the images look fantastic. Part of it is that they’re backlit as they would be on any computer screen but part of it is the ergonomics of the iPad: holding the image in your hand (like holding the web in your hand as Jobs said) is very different from seeing the same image on a MacBook’s similar glossy screen. It’s a very odd observation but after hours of looking at images on both my wife’s MacBook glossy screen and the similar iPad screen I like the iPad experience better. I can’t explain it.

The iPad’s built in apps for writing, email, calendar, contacts, and more are spectacular. I’m quite sure that these things and maybe even the entire iPhone OS will migrate to an Apple “computer” at some point or, the line between “computer” and “pad” will be blurred even more.

And this leads me to the one thing that I’d like to see as an improvement. I’m a touch typist: I can type quite fast using all of my fingers with eyes on the screen. The iPad on-screen keyboard, while much better than the iPhone’s is still, an iPhone keyboard with awkward shift key sequences and smaller size which makes touch typing difficult. Yes, one can get the keyboard dock or connect any bluetooth keyboard but that’s not what I want because it’s not attached and one can’t prop the combined thing on one’s lap.

What I want is a hybrid of the iPad and the MacBook Air. Call it Apple’s netbook or whatever you like, but I want a full hardware keyboard attached to the iPad with the option of detaching it at any time. I find holding the iPad for any length of time tiresome I don’t particularly like typing with it on my lap or on a table; being able to rest it on its keyboard, like one can a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro would be a nice advantage. And, you’d lose the trackpad of course as you’d have a multi-touch screen.

That’s my only wish so far.

Frankly, I’ve not been able to use the iPad much because the second day it was here my wife Anne got ahold of it and downloaded a book (Eaarth) she has to read for school for next year to try out reading on the iPad. As an avid reader she was skeptical of both Kindle and iPad for serious reading but so far she seems to like it and I may not get it back for a while which is fine by me: ammunition for buying another one.

The fact that my wife could pick the iPad up and in less than a minute buy and download a book and start reading is what the iPad is all about. She’s not an unsophisticated computer user but she’d never used an iPad before. As I said, the device falls into the background more quickly than any other computing device I’ve ever used. It feels like 1984 (birth of the Mac) all over again.

Everyday objects

Pocket knives


Warren, Connecticut. I used to collect these things but then when I lost one to TSA just after 9/11 I stopped. No hard feelings, just can’t always remember to leave these things at home. Note the various one handed knives, the thin French fruit testing knife and the black Kershaw with the Damascus (folded steel) blade.

Truth be told, the very thin Swiss Army knife is in my pocket more than the others when I’m not doing outside chores. I use the larger Gerber/LL Bean nylon handle knife for chores.



A variety of flashlights including a Surefire headlamp that’s in my pack on hikes and two Surefire G2 lights, all of which run on CR123 batteries (in tube) which have a ten year shelf life.



I’ve had these for a while and they’re incredibly useful.

Everyday stuff

Everyday stuff

I decided to do a "pocket dump" of things I carry daily.

For every "thing" you see here there are numerous others that I bought and tried and put in a drawer because I don’t like them. I have a bunch of watches, a bunch of wallets, numerous pocket knives, numerous things to hold my keys, many pocket notebooks and hundreds of pens. Actually, I only have one cell phone.

I see that the watch is a few minutes off, I’d better go reset it.

LL Bean Self-Illuminating Field Watch
This is the highest-end watch I’ve ever bought or owned and I love it. The regular LL Bean field watch is similar but after a while it loses its glow in the dark. This watch stays lit forever so on long night flights or in a dark room you can see what time it is. Worth the extra money to have this feature to me. It’s a bit on the heavy side but it’s built to last and no doubt LL Bean will stand behind it with their no questions asked warranty.

County Comm A&P Keyring
This simple 6″ cable keyring with male and female connector is incredible. No more keys and rings getting tangled up in your pocket. It’s flexible and it’s easy to take apart to get keys off. I love this thing and I guess that makes me an uber geek. Browse County Comm’s site, no doubt you’ll find some geeky tools you like.

Nite Ize S-Biner
The little carabiner clip on the keyring allows me to hook it to a belt loop or to my pack but isn’t nearly as big as a full-size carabiner (which I have plenty of as an ex-climber).

Streamlight Nano flashlight
This flashlight lights the walk between our garage and house at night as well as the front door so I can find the keyhole to open it. In other words, this small light packs an LED punch. However, it has a fatal flaw: you turn it on and off by twisting it’s body and that’s also how batteries are loaded. After a while it can come apart in your pocket spewing batteries and the LED end into pocket or worse, floor. I have a few of them and will use them up before switching to another type.

iPhone 3G
We only recently got cell coverage out here in rural Connecticut where we live and I don’t travel for a living anymore, so, we’re late to having cell phones. As a Mac guy (from 1984) I wasn’t going to get anything but an iPhone and I’m glad I did. I love the thing and while we still don’t have great coverage out here, I’m finding it useful when I occasional travel and on hikes.

The small notebook/journal is a simple blank book covered with katizomi-she stencil-dyed paper that I love. Each time I return to Hiromi Paper I buy more of them because I love the patterns.

Victorinox Swiss Army Bantam Alox pocket knife
I have a lot of pocket knives, I’ve been collecting them for close to twenty years and some of them are expensive, handmade numbers that are beautiful. However, this little knife will cut things and open a beer bottle and tighten a screw and its so thin I hardly know it’s in my pocket. I use it more than all of my other fancy knives put together.

Uni-ball Vision Elite Stick Bold Point Roller Ball Pen
Being dysgraphic I can’t write with a fine point pen. I need a pen that let’s a lot of ink flow to mask the unsteadiness of my crappy handwriting. This one’s one of the best I’ve found and the ink dries fast enough so that being a lefty, I don’t smear it all that much.

The handkerchief was my late father’s. He died in 2000 and I started carrying his handkerchiefs then. They’re built to last and my guess is I’ll die with them intact.

Eagle Creek Wallet
Eagle Creek doesn’t make my wallet anymore and I’m glad I bought a few of them which should last me a while. I like their designs, and they stand behind their packs, luggage and accessories.

None of this stuff is very fancy or high end but it has served me well for many years. My guess is the object in this picture that’s worth the most money is the rainbow colored Apple keychain fob that I’ve had since the early 1980’s.

Benjamin Franklin Quotations

I’ve been collecting quotations for years and figured I’d put my collections online for others to use as they wish. Enjoy these quotations, use the comment form to share any Franklin quotations you don’t find here.

More on Benjamin Franklin:

We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.
– Benjamin Franklin

One of the greatest tragedies of life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts.
– Benjamin Franklin

There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.
– Benjamin Franklin

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.
– Benjamin Franklin

If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.
– Benjamin Franklin

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
– Benjamin Franklin

Clean your finger before you point at my spots.
– Benjamin Franklin

He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.
– Benjamin Franklin

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.
– Benjamin Franklin

He that falls in love with himself, will have no rivals.
– Benjamin Franklin

Continue reading

Anne’s end table pile

Anne's end table pile

Warren, Connecticut. I decided to rent a Canon 1D Mark III for a week just to see what it’s like to shoot with a "serious" pro camera. I knew it was big but for crying out loud, the thing is BIG. However, in about ten minutes it feels great in one’s hands. Setting it up is easy for any Canon DSLR user and of course, it works well with all canon EF lenses. It has a 1.3x crop which is a bit rough on the wide side but not quite like the more common 1.6x crop on most Canon DSLRs.

My friend Lenny says I should be careful about getting used to it and he’s right, it’s quite a fantastic piece of machinery. Built like a tank, fast as all get out, weather sealed, quiet shutter, clean images with great color and for my taste, 10 megapixels is about right for the kinds of printing I do.

One can dream….

Japanese matchbox labels

Flickr member maraid has an incredible collection of scanned and photographed Japanese matchbox labels and other ephemera in her flickr collection. It’s incredible to browse through it and makes me want to get started scanning and photographing my own collection of matchbook covers and ephemera. A great winter project.

German Threaded Junk

German Threaded Junk, 1 inch tall

I don’t know about you but I have jars, cans, and boxes of old nuts, bolts, and "junk" like this in my basement that I’ve both inherited from the pack rat we bought our house from and which I’ve collected over many years. I promised my wife that this is going to be the year I clean up and organize this stuff and so, I set up a table and started sorting. Of course, the sorting gets interrupted every time I find a thing like this which I know nothing about yet think is interesting. I now have a bigger collection of interesting crap that has no use than seemingly useful crap that also probably has no use. Nothing has been thrown out and now all I’m doing is looking for cool junk to photograph. Sigh, my poor wife.

Well, I found a use for this totemic piece of junk. Recently my Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens fell apart in my hands: a screw fell out and it sounded like something was loose inside when shook, never a good sign. It was out of warranty but I had Canon fix it and I just got it back. What to shoot to test the lens? Ah, the German threaded totemic figure sitting on my desk.

Hey, the lens works.

Note: This piece of brass is 1″ tall.