Shared posts

27 Mar 18:14

The Making of Interstellar's TARS and CASE Robots

by Will Smith

I've been waiting to see something like this. I loved TARS and CASE the most out of everything in this movie, and it's amazing to see how they worked on set, and the man who made them feel alive.

26 Mar 18:46

Epic 18 Month SSD Endurance Test Is Over

by Will Smith

This is just absurd how good these things are.

We've advocated using SSDs in most PCs for several years, the benefits of having a drive with virtually no latency and a ton of bandwidth are obvious. But the longevity of flash memory used in SSDs has been worrisome--each flash memory cell can only be written to a finite number of times. That number of writes is large and SSDs use a variety of techniques to manage wear and keep your data safe when cells inevitably fail, but the manufacturer's endurance estimates for most SSDs range from writing a few dozen terabytes to several hundred.

To test SSD endurance in the real world, The Tech-Report has spent the last eighteen months writing petabytes of data to a sextet of SSDs, noting the total amount of data written and the condition at the time of their failure. The results are in, and the Samsung 840 Pro was ultimately the winner, but seeing how the different drives failed might be informative when you're deciding between MLC and TLC drives or different controllers for your next SSD purchase.

Of course, as the price per gigabyte for SSDs continues to drop, longevity isn't that much of an issue for home users. Typically people upgrade to larger SSDs before they have an opportunity to wear out. However, with new processes coming that promise to dramatically increase the density of flash memory, SSD endurance will become much more important.

30 Mar 08:00

Milling Time: Testing the Shapeoko 2 CNC Machine

by Ben Light

Pretty interesting beast.

Over the past few months, I've been working with various desktop CNC milling machines. I first tested the Othermill, which I really enjoyed using. The next desktop CNC machine I tested was the Shapeoko 2. Shapeoko is an affordable, open source CNC kit that has been on the market for a few years. Originally a Kickstarter project, it grew into a robust product originally sold through Inventables, and now the Shapeoko 3 is about to launch--sold exclusively through

Given that the company is on its third generation product, there is already a large online Shapeoko community. Tips, tricks, and mods can all be found on the site’s forums. Numerous videos on YouTube show you everything from step-by-step mill assembly to machine calibration, and even material-specific best practices. That’s a compelling asset.

My Shapeoko 2

The mill itself is also very user friendly and lends itself well to modification. If nothing else, the Shapeoko is a very robust X, Y, Z plotter that is incredibly hackable. If you have plans to build your own job-specific machine, the Shapeoko’s parts would be great bones to start with. I have seen watercolor painting CNC’s, DIY laser cutters, even Zen garden sand printers built from this chassis.

If the Othermill is Eve, then the Shapeoko is Wall-E.

Putting It Together

As I mentioned, the Shapeoko 2 arrives as a kit and must be user-assembled. The company sends everything you’ll need to put it together: wrenches, zip ties, a tap, even goggles. The ad claims you can build the Shapeoko in a weekend. I found this to be true if you're experienced in assembling kits (especially tapping holes) and have two solid days to devote to the build. For first-timers it will take a little longer, and there’s no need to rush.

Shapeoko mid-build, getting the gantry together.

Confession time, at the moment, my machine is mostly built. I assembled the X, Y, and Z gantry, put together the mill bed, installed the stepper motors and timing belts--all in a couple of days. The online directions are straightforward and thorough. And the build was an enjoyable process, and helps you learn how the machine works for future maintenence. But I eventually hit a wall, not because the assembly became difficult, but because I was faced with too many options. Which wiring system is best for me? What kind of enclosure do I put the motor controller electronics in? Do I want my e-stop on the left or the right? Well now I have to build a work table for the CNC to sit on, should it have drawers? Should I use a triceratops as a speed control knob?

Needless to say I'm still working on it.

Almost finished with my Shapeoko 2 build

So to actually get some testing done, I called up my friends Mark and Nick at Floating Point, a Brooklyn art/design collective. They were kind enough to let me spend some time with their assembled and working Shapeoko 2.

CAM Software

As far as CAM goes, Shapeoko says that “as long as your program can export standard gcode, Shapeoko can work with it.” So if you already have a favorite software, it will likely work just fine.

Back when these mills were being sold by Inventables, they recommended Easle (probably because Easel is developed by Inventables). Now they recommend MakerCAM for the newest Shapeoko 3 model. For all of my testing, I used Easel.

Easel web app

Easel is a free web app that works in your browser. It’s fairly barebones, but clear and easy to understand. You can import SVG files or draw your designs directly. This is a nice feature, basic shapes and icons can be quickly created and then milled. This cuts out the steps of going back and forth from one software to another, a typical practice in most CNC operations. I like the simple materials list and automatic tab function. They are smart, simple features that will make milling easier for beginners.

Tabs can be easily added to designs so parts don’t go flying

Cutting Options

You have a few options for what does the actual cutting. The basic kit comes with a standard rotary tool that clamps on to the Z-axis. The full kit comes with a quiet, speed-controllable spindle that mounts using the same clamp. Or you can purchase a custom bracket to attach a heavier duty woodworking router. I performed all of my tests with the quiet cut spindle.

Truth in advertising: the spindle made very little noise and was more powerful than I expected. I don’t think I’ll waste any time using the rotary tool on my mill, but I am curious how the router will perform as the Shapeoko’s cutter.

No matter which cutting option you pick, the spindle controls work independently from the rest of the CNC. The speed and power are not tied into the rest of the machine. I wasn’t crazy about this design choice, I foresee myself forgetting to turn on the spindle someday or setting the wrong speed during a job and breaking some bits.

Noise, Mess, and Materials

This is definitely a workshop-only machine. The mess is not contained and if you’re using a rotary tool or router as you cutter, the noise will be too much for inside a home or office. But it’s suitable for any garage, basement shop, or makerspace. For my testing, I milled wood, machinable plastic, acrylic, and aluminum.

This machine is ideal for wood. The spindle is beefy and cuts through with no trouble. Half of the pre-set material choices in Easel are different wood species. You have the ability to slide pieces of lumber through the mill, this allows for working with material longer than the 12” x 12” mill bed. Thick material can be quickly clamped down using the bench clamps that come with the kit. Definitely a win for woodworkers who want to get into CNCing.

I had a lot of luck milling acrylic too. There was little to no melting and very sharp edge details. If you don’t have access to a laser cutter, this will do the job. It does smell a bit though.

Milling Acrylic

I didn’t have as much luck with aluminum or machinable plastic. But then again, I never have luck milling machinable plastic...why do I keep trying?

For aluminum, there was a lot of chatter during the cutting. I only had it clamped down, in hindsight, I should have used some double sided tape for a more secure hold. But I wasn’t thrilled with the cut quality. I don’t think I’ll be cutting too much metal with my Shapeoko.

Milling Aluminum

Shapeoko 3

The Shapeoko 3 will begin shipping soon, and it is expected to be a much more rigid and rugged machine. Inventables has also come out with a new model, the X-Carve. A bigger more rigid take on the existing Shapeoko design, that is completely backwards compatible with Shapeoko 2. I’m excited to see both of these machines in action.

Who’s This For?

I think that the Shapeoko 2 is good for tinkers and people who want to fully understand and modify their own CNC. It’s really for the “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it” crowd. And if wood is your material of choice, I don’t think you’ll be able to find a better more affordable solution out there.

This mill needs occasional maintenance, parts need to be tightened, calibration from time to time. Basically, this machine needs a little love. But the Shapeoko has so much potential, as well as a lot of character--something I never thought I’d say that about a CNC.

Photos by Ben Light. Find more of Ben's projectson his website.

28 Mar 17:04

alpha-beta-gamer: Pacapong is a glorious mash-up of Pacman,...


Well, this is definitely a thing. via Osiasjota.


Pacapong is a glorious mash-up of Pacman, Pong and Space Invaders with multiple maps and cool retro music, It’s a wonderful blast of retro arcade fun.  It even features cameos from a certain retro primate. PacaDonkeyPong anyone?

Play Pacapong, Free (Win, Mac & Linux)

29 Mar 16:45

March, 29th


Little known fact: Ducks eat snow.
Ducks are valuable snow removal implements.

March, 29th

29 Mar 14:34



Women are strange and terrible creatures, it seems.

19 Mar 20:03

How to make a straw-bale pollinator garden

by Rusty

So, this is pretty neat.

Straw bale gardens are unique. They fit anywhere, support your plants, provide ample space for roots, suppress weeds, and raise your garden up off the ground where it is easier to reach. Plus, if you have bad things in your garden soil, like nematodes or potato scab, straw bales can provide a clean slate. And […]
26 Mar 13:07

A Dangerous Book

by Juan


05 Mar 08:05


04 Mar 09:56

wendyortizart: Worked on this concept/study while my little one...


I think this is also mommy stuff.


Worked on this concept/study while my little one napped .. Now back to mommy stuff. ✨

19 Mar 09:50

sarapocock: Cats can be assholes, but…


for sure


Cats can be assholes, but…

24 Mar 12:38

Reagent Mixer arrives at 20X24 in Ashland

by Bob Crowley

Only 30L per day!

Our neighbors at New55 are 20x24 Studio which is an amazing thing because together we have concentrated all US instant film development under one roof.  Ted McLelland runs their engineering and contributes to New55, and one of his key areas of responsibility involves the making of reagents - also known as processing developer, goo, jelly or paste - for both black and white and color products.  Yesterday, one of 20X24's large units arrived in Ashland and was quickly set up by the experienced ex-Polaroid riggers who still move large things around New England.

In this series, Ted inspects the newly-arrived Big Mixer that uses heat, pressure, vacuum, large stirring vanes and lots of valves and gages interconnected in such a way as to produce about 30 litres of reagent a day.  That translates into enough reagent to fill a few thousand pods. This mixer was installed and run in Connecticut for the past several years, but now is under the same roof as the Pod Machine, which it feeds.

Ted McLelland and the equipment used to make reagents
newly arrived at 20x24

Inspection of the heat exchanger, which
controls the process temperature

The vessel in which the reagent is mixed
under heat and pressure

A large motor and gearbox turn the mixer.

25 Mar 15:24

Particle Physics Glimpses Inwards of Fukushima Meltdown Site

by Scott Wilson

This is pretty fascinating.

Time-lapse of the reactor pressure vessel scan resolving as more muons are tracked through it - (Image via NHK)

Time-lapse of the reactor pressure vessel scan, and the muons tracking through it (Image via NHK)

The blisteringly hot epicenter of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown has finally been exposed by a massive machine that uses space-based beams to look through reactor shielding. This method, called Muon tomography, has essentially provided the first pictures from within the interior of the now-defunct reactor.

Outside of the controlled environment of a functional reactor, scientists explore the mysteries of nuclear meltdowns using equations and computer modeling; The alternative of simply cracking open a fractured containment vessel and taking a good long look inside is not recommended. For obvious reasons, doing so would exacerbate an already catastrophic environmental disaster.

This poses a bit of a conundrum. In order to determine whether or not a reactor has melted down and breached its pressure vessel, someone has to get a good look inside of it—where high levels of radiation lurk.

Using billboard-sized detectors, which are filled with inert gases designed to detect and track the path of subatomic particles called muons, scientists have produced a remarkably clear image of the interior of Fukushima’s containment vessel.

An image which shows: nothing. But nothing is exactly what you would expect to see if the core’s fuel has melted down and escaped the pressure vessel.

Muon tomography, in a sense, is a bit like taking an X-ray image, only on a cosmic scale. They are effective for penetrating relatively flimsy things like human skin and nylon carry-on luggage. But particularly thick materials— say, the containment vessel for a nuclear reactor, which is explicitly designed to prevent radiation from seeping through—is not as conducive.

Diagram showing the detector setup and images from the reactor interior - (Image via TEPCO)

The detector setup and images from the reactor interior  (Image via TEPCO)

Enter muons. Muons are high-energy subatomic particles. Outside of specialized particle accelerators, they are primarily generated by cosmic rays hitting Earth’s atmosphere: the charged protons collide with atmospheric molecules and split into muons. They exist, on average, for only two microseconds, which is still plenty of time for them to penetrate Earth’s crust and other structures.

Making use of those high-energy rays to get a glimpse into large structures is not new. Most famously, muon tomography was used in the 1960s to get a glimpse inside one of the ancient Egyptian pyramids in Giza.

The tomographs have not revealed anything unexpected in the Fukushima Daiichi Number One Reactor, which is a good thing; the calculations and models used to simulate the meltdown and all potential outcomes appear to have been accurate. However, the details of what the interior of the reactor pressure vessel currently looks like helps resolve lingering matters of uncertainty—like whether or not all of the fuel melted out, or if some was left which will warrant special clean up.

The situation as a whole remains unappealing. The plans to scrap the reactors (rather than simply entomb them, as we did after the Chernobyl disaster) will take 40 some years to complete.

The post Particle Physics Glimpses Inwards of Fukushima Meltdown Site appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

26 Mar 02:15

Timeline of the Far Future of Our Universe (infographic)

by Jolene Creighton

So, this is sort of cheerfully depressing.

Assuming the universe exists in a state similar to how it is now, without the big rip, big freeze, big bounce, big slurp or any other proposed scenarios taking place,  what will our descendants see when observing distant sources of light? Or rather, what will they not see? How will the universe change over the next few trillion years?

From Quarks to Quasars is two people, Jaime and Jolene.
We want to make the world a more sciencey place.
We’re doing that, but with your help, we can do even more.

FQTQ takes a lot of time, money, and effort.
Here, you can support us, get to know us, and access extra content:

Stop by and say hello. 

The post Timeline of the Far Future of Our Universe (infographic) appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

21 Nov 20:02

Wrapping a feral colony for winter

by Rusty

Sometimes bees do dumb things, and people put in a ton of work to help them out. But awesome images here of what a naked, natural hive looks like.

This past spring, in a remote little outpost in the high desert of Oregon, a feral swarm of honey bees decided to nest. They chose a massive cottonwood adjacent to a popular campground and hung their combs from its aging limbs. With no protection other than a nearby garage and a canopy of leaves, the […]
05 Feb 19:42

Bee plant survey results

by Rusty

This is a tremendous resource.

In the attached .pdf files, you will find the results of the Honey Bee Suite Bee Plant Survey that you answered at the end of November 2014. In that survey, I asked where you lived and which plants you actually saw bees foraging on—both honey bees and native bees. The list is unique because it […]
23 Feb 23:41

Final thoughts on Flow

by Rusty

Rusty wraps up a lot of my thoughts on the whole Flow extractor thing.

No matter what anyone says, the Flow™ hive does not revolutionize beekeeping. Not even close. If the system works as the creators claim, it could perhaps revolutionize honey harvesting. But the rest of beekeeping—the daily caring for bees—does not change. The idea that anyone can have honey on tap without having to mess with bees […]
09 Mar 22:45

An act of defiance

by Rusty

Why flowers are important.

Honey bee nutrition is getting a lot of press these days, and rightfully so. Many bee experts—including Marla Spivak, Zachary Huang, and Randy Oliver—believe that a lack of good nutrition may be a major factor in declining bee health. It is possible that many of the viruses and other pathogens that are plaguing bees are […]
25 Mar 13:56

K.B. Spangler and Christopher B. Wright Discuss CleanReader on Twitter

by Christopher Wright

On Authorial Intent

I'm going to add a little context, but for the most part I think the tweets should speak to themselves.

Yesterday I heard about a service called CleanReader, but didn't pay too much attention to it. This morning K.B. Spangler, a fantastic web cartoonist AND author, had some very clear opinions on it:

Gonna be grumpy about #CleanReader now. Rant mode enabled (1/5)

— K.B. Spangler (@KBSpangler) March 25, 2015

23 Mar 04:40

Of Uber, Lyft and how ‘corporate civil disobedience’ works in...


Click thru for full text. I really dislike these companies.

By Ben Wear - American-Statesman Staff

I’ll say upfront that I don’t believe Uber and Lyft’s flouting of municipal and state laws across the country will lead us to a “Lord of the Flies” scenario where the social contract disintegrates and it becomes every U.S. man, woman and child for themselves. There’s a very good chance that the “transportation networking company” business model is a one-off. No other large companies are emulating it so far, to my knowledge.

But what they’re doing is jarring, to say the least.

23 Mar 19:21

March, 23rd


Scandinavian design.

March, 23rd

23 Mar 19:28

Pones and Bones: A Trip to Anti-Narnia.

by Peter Watts

Anti-narnia indeed. SFX gore galore.

I'll name the artist here as soon as I find out who they are.

Cover by Philippe Jozelon.

We open with trailers for Coming Attractions: to the immediate right you can see the French cover for Echopraxie, from Fleuve.  I like it. Whoever the artist is, they’re channeling a bit of a Giger vibe.

Immediately below, on the other hand, is the cover for Head of Zeus’s UK edition (they’re the guys who put out the Firefall omnibus; the stand-alone Echopraxia  appears slotted for a May release).  I think I may like this cover even more than Firefall (and I liked that a lot)— it has a kinda literary feel to it, plus it’s the first time I’ve seen the word “fucking” quoted as part of a front-cover blurb (even if they did asterisk out a couple of letters).

But what I especially like is the contrast between these two covers: the cool palette vs. the hot one, the light vs. shadow. I kinda wish they could be front and back covers of the same edition…

I'm pretty sure I do know who this artist is, but I think they prefer to remain anonymous.

Cover by Jessie Price.


And Now—Our Main Attraction. (Please turn off your cell phones.)


Up in the frigid wastes of Scarberia— not too far from the Magic Bungalow, as it turns out— there’s an unremarkable door  set into an unremarkable brick wall in an unremarkable industrial park.  It’s nothing you’d look at twice, if you didn’t know that it was a portal to a whole other world.  Think of it as the back of the wardrobe, from those Narnia books.

Assuming, of course, that the Narnia books had been written by HP Lovecraft.

One of the cool things about having fans is that you never know what any one of them might turn out to be.  You answer an email from some anonymous reader and they turn out to be half an industrial rock duo with NASA connections, or an astronomer whose brain you can pick when you find yourself on thin ice.  I have a whole subdirectory of such wondrous fans, ripe for exploitation.

A few of them have turned out to be economists; I’ll be exploiting them a fair bit over the next few months. But only one of these economists has a partner who makes disembodied bodies for a living.  The company she works for is called MindWarp, and you’ve seen their handiwork in everything from “12 Monkeys” to “Pacific Rim”.  Not to mention “Hannibal”, for which they do pretty much all the rubber work these days.

Thanks to Joe Fenner (the Economist) and Jenn Pattinson (the Rubber Woman), I got a chance to take my whole family to antiNarnia for a visit last week.  Some of what we saw has yet to appear in public. I wish I could show it to you— some of it moves— but the unaired stuff is embargoed.

If you watch any kind of genre at all, though, you may recognize a fair bit of what follows. (All pics can be embiggened by clicking.)

I believe this was from the episode where the crazed violinist use a bow to play the guys vocal cords.

I believe this was from the episode where the crazed violinist use a bow to play the guy’s vocal cords.

Not sure which instrument this guy was played on. Maybe the kettle drums.

Not sure which instrument this guy was played on. Maybe the kettle drums.

One of these people is an economist. One of them builds corpses. One of them will be spending a lot of time in therapy.

One of these people is an economist. One of them builds corpses. One will be spending a lot of time in therapy.

If any of you are still watching "12 Monkeys", this is where the virus came from. (It looked sexier in the tank.)

If any of you are still watching “12 Monkeys”, this is where the virus came from. (The crayons? This pic was taken in MindWarp’s on-site daycare center.)

The brain in Mesopone's hands is FX.  The tribble on Micropone's head is not.

The brain in Mesopone’s hands is a bit of FX. The tribble on Micropone’s head is not.

The truly creepy thing is, these things don't just look real; they feel real, too.

The truly creepy thing is, these things don’t just look real; they feel that way, too.

A bit of whimsy to lighten the mood. Also a sampling of the production Mindwarp has had a hand in (just out-out-of-frame: every Saw movie ever made). "Pacific Rim" surprised me; I thought that was all CG. "Black Robe" surprised me too; that was mostly missionaries and Iroquois. (Although I guess there were some pretty explicit torture scenes in there...)

A bit of whimsy to lighten the mood. Also a sampling of the productions to which MindWarp has contributed (just out-out-of-frame: every Saw movie ever made). “Pacific Rim” surprised me; I thought that was all CG. “Black Robe” surprised me more; that was just missionaries and Iroquois. (Although I guess there were some pretty explicit torture scenes in there…)

Tell me this wouldn't be the coollest chick-flick crossover ever.

Tell me this wouldn’t be the coolest chick-flick crossover ever.

I'm not entirely sure.

I’m not entirely sure.

Mesopone, aka "The Meez", holding a tragic reminder of the Human cost of the Polish Alcohol-Industrial Complex.

Mesopone, aka “The Meez”, holding a tragic reminder of the Human cost of the Polish Alcohol-Industrial Complex.

This is not a movie prop. The proprietor built it for the sole purpose of dropping down on unsuspecting trick-or-treaters during Hallowe'en.

This is not a movie prop. It was built for the sole purpose of dropping down on unsuspecting trick-or-treaters during Hallowe’en.

Who doesn't wish they had a basement storage room like this?

Who doesn’t wish they had a basement storage room like this?

Lesser FX houses would just build a solid mannequin, slice it up, and paint the slices.  Not these guys. These guys built the body from the inside out— viscera, skeleton, musculature— and then carved it up.  I don't know if mere pictures can convey the icky verisimilitude of the result.

Lesser FX houses would just build a solid mannequin, slice it up, and paint the slices. Not these guys. These guys built the body from the inside out— viscera, skeleton, body fat, connective fascia, musculature— and then carved it up. I don’t know if mere pictures can convey the icky verisimilitude of the result.

The tragic cost of teen pregnancy...

The tragic cost of teen pregnancy.

Dream therapist.

Dream therapist.




23 Mar 07:55

Lord Dying - Dreams of Mercy


Saw these guys live at the Highline with Annie, along with Ancient Warlocks, Ramming Speed, and Valient Thorr. Many battle jackets were to be seen.

Dead simple, fun video. Not to be watched if you're afraid of evil dwarves, though.

Click here to download Summon the Faithless on iTunes: Music video by Lord Dying performing Lord Dying - "Dreams of Mercy" Directed by...
23 Mar 07:45

LORD DYING - "Poisoned Altars" (Official Music Video)


Die Yuppie Scum

LORD DYING - "Poisoned Altars" from the album 'Poisoned Altars' SUBSCRIBE: Purchase via Relapse:
11 Mar 04:16

Introducing a Wishlist for Scientific R Packages


Even if you don't give a shit about R, this will help you learn about FOAAS.

There are two things that make R such a wonderful programming environment - the vast number of packages to access, process and interpret data, and the enthusiastic individuals and subcommunities (of which rOpenSci is a great example). One, of course, flows from the other: R programmers write R packages to provide language users with more features, which makes everyone's jobs easier and (hopefully!) attracts more users and more contributions.

But what if you have an idea, or a need, but not the time or confidence to write a package for it? I can't speak for this blog's readers, but I've been writing R for about two years and it took a good long while before I felt comfortable contributing upstream to CRAN. Or, what if you do have the time, and do have the confidence, but want to spend that time well, on things that you know other people will find useful, and don't know what that is?

After a conversation on Twitter (where all the best R things happen) we've decided to create a dedicated repository to serve as a wishlist of scientific R packages - appropriately named "wishlist". We're still getting the "meta" documentation together, but it's open and accepting ideas!

How to contribute

If you've got an idea for a package, but are looking for collaborators, open an issue! Explain what the package does, what its necessary features are, and what the use cases are. What sort of help are you looking for - someone to write the entire thing? Someone to work on integrating a particularly thorny piece of C++? A statistics expert to check the implementation of an algorithm? Are there any C or C++ libraries we could integrate? Are there libraries in other, less-easily-integrated languages which we could use as a template for what the package should do?

Once an idea is accepted, it lives on the wiki. If you've got the time to work on a project, head over there and see if anything strikes your fancy. If it does, contact the original authors and the other volunteers, start a repository somewhere, and have fun! Just make sure to note ''on'' the wiki that you're working on it, and where you're doing so, for the sake of future readers :).

What to contribute

The only criteria for an idea's inclusion is that the package serve a clear scientific use (as an example: "wouldn't it be nice if we had an API client for this data repository?" qualifies. rfoaas probably wouldn't). A good heuristic would be: if you can explain how this package would benefit scientists or researchers in a way that's convincing to you, propose it!

23 Mar 00:59

Gallery of photographs processed in R3 Monobath

by Bob Crowley

Some really good results, and some good images, too. Really impressive development on the old rolls.

Here is a gallery with just a few of the excellent examples we have by using R3 Monobath.  All were scanned on an Epson V750 in automatic mode. Large files have been uploaded and you really should click on them once or twice to view them full size. Enjoy. And here is a link to an R3 Resource Page.

Want to try R3 but can't be bothered to measure and mix? New55 is now offering R3 at a reasonable price to help raise funds and promote the cause of easy large format photography. Please join in supporting New55 here.

Efke 25 4x5. Ted McLelland

Ilford Pan F Plus  D Fyler

Ilford Pan F Plus R Crowley

TMX 120 D Fyler

TMX 120 D Fyler

TMX 120 D Fyler

TMX 120 D Fyler

TMX 120 D Fyler

TMX 120 (crop) D Fyler

TMX 120 D Fyler

TMY 135 R Crowley This was a lost roll, unprocessed for 20 years.

Tri X 6x7 R Crowley

A very old roll of Pan X 120 found in a flea market TLR and processed in R3

19 Mar 20:40

Enlightenment and Freedom from Suffering

by Brad

I feel like this post is going to annoy Lev.

PlaeOfShrimpThere were 325 comments on my previous post the last time I checked. I haven’t read all of them. But a number of them appear to be discussing the matter of Enlightenment. Someone said that Zen is definitely a religion because it promises Enlightenment, which is the freedom from suffering.

I never really understood that. My teachers never said anything remotely like, “This practice will bring you to Enlightenment, which is freedom from suffering.” The only places I ever saw or heard statements like that were in books and magazine articles that I did not trust, or from people who clearly had no idea what they were talking about. Those people and, of course, Yoda from Star Wars.

I can’t tell you whether the practice of Zen will lead you to Enlightenment and relieve you from suffering. I’ve done this stuff for over thirty years now, though, so I may be able to say a little about what it seems to have done for me.

To me, meditation — zazen specifically — is a way to decrease some of the distractions of the mind. We don’t realize, generally, how incredibly distracted we are by the processes going on in our own brains. But if you work on dealing with some of your distractions you discover that there was a whole world out there you had not noticed before because you were too distracted to perceive it. Do this for long enough and a shift in perception/understanding occurs. At least that’s how it was for me.

I don’t like words like “Enlightenment” or “kensho” or “satori” or “awakening” or any of the other terms commonly used to refer to what happens after you do this process for a long time. They’re inaccurate and misleading. However, after years of doing this process I had a number of interesting shifts in my understanding of things. There was one major shift and countless clusters of others that accompanied it and that keep on occurring even now.

People tend to picture these experiences as a change from confusion to certainty. In a sense that’s kind of the way it is. But the certainty is more about what’s not true than about what is true.

For example, before this stuff started happening to me, I would have pictured Enlightenment as giving me, among other things, certainty about whether there is or is not a God and whether there is or is not life after death. I thought the answer would be either yes or no. How could there be any other answer to questions like that?

Now I comprehend that there is another answer and that is; “framing such questions in the form that requires a yes or a no as an answer is absurd.”

The problem is that EVERYONE HATES THAT ANSWER. You hate it. I hate it. The Pope hates it. Pat Robertson hates it. Richard Dawkins hates and despises it so much he hacks up a giant phlegm ball and spits on it. Deepak Chopra hates it more than Oprah does. You will never make big money with that kind of answer.

I understand now that the very way I was trained to think and to communicate my thoughts to others does not allow for me to answer these questions any better than that. There is no linguistic solution to this particular problem. When I say that there is certainty, that’s what I’m referring to. This aspect of the problem is certain.

Language communicates common experience. If you have seen a plate of shrimp and I have seen a plate of shrimp, then when I say “plate of shrimp” to you, you have some idea what I’m talking about. But if you said “plate of shrimp” to an inhabitant of the planet Mephiras in the Andromeda Galaxy, zhe would have no idea what you were talking about.

Sometimes, if I’m talking to someone else who has sat with their own minds for a few decades, I can discuss matters like this and can communicate about them. But I can’t put straightforward answers to these kinds of questions into a blog or a book. I’ve tried. Dogen tried. Lots of people have tried. It doesn’t work. The questions themselves make it impossible. Although if you sit for a long time observing your own mind, you can sometimes read things like the stuff Dogen wrote (to take one specific example) and they’ll make sense to you.

So that’s Enlightenment in 200 words or less. What about suffering? Does this practice lead you to freedom from suffering?

Well… my friend Logan died last year and that made me very sad. It still does. A couple months ago I caught a cold and I felt like shit for a few days. Next time I catch a cold, the same thing will happen. I sometimes wish I had things I don’t have. I sometimes wish I did not have things I do have. I dislike doing certain things that I nevertheless must do, like my taxes. And so on and on.


Any excuse to run this pic again is good enough for me. Look! It’s in color now!

What would relief from suffering look like? Would it look like Father Yod in his swimming pool full of naked girls? Would it look like Neem Karoli Baba sitting under a blanket with a bunch of people asking him questions and feeding him oranges? Would it look like Tom Cruise in a mansion in Beverley Hills with enough money and fame to buy him anything on eBay or Craig’s List? Would it look like Krishna, perpetually beautiful and immortal?

What are you asking for when you ask for an end to suffering? Do you even know? Maybe you do, but I don’t.

Are you asking for a way in which you can do your taxes and enjoy it? Are you asking for a way in which you can have cancer and yet not feel shitty? Do you think that exists? Do you wish it existed? Will wishing it existed make it so?

Don’t fill my comments section up with answers. Thanks.


April 3, 2015 Pomona, CA Open Door 2 Yoga 6 pm 163 W 2nd St, Pomona, California 91766

April 24-26, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY ZEN & YOGA RETREAT


July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER

August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT

August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT


Every Monday at 8pm I lead zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 am I lead zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Registration is now open for our 3-day Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center April 24-26, 2015. CLICK HERE for more info!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

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Are you suffering from too much money? Relieve your suffering with a donation to the continuing operation of this blog!

20 Mar 23:31

How the vampire became film’s most feminist monster

“What do you see in my eyes?”  “Death.”

from 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter

The image of the cinematic vampire femme fatale is so ubiquitous, it’s strange to think that Dracula’s Daughter, its earliest iteration, was the only one of its kind for a generation. It becomes markedly less strange, though, when these characters are seen as dots on a timeline, with a rise in cinematic vampire women paralleling changing social attitudes about feminism. What easier form is there for an ambitious woman than a monster, and what better way to subvert derogatory attitudes then by making them infinitely powerful and alluring?

Dracula’s Daughter arrived at Universal in 1936, an unwanted stepchild of its horror family, more famous for an absence of Bela Lugosi than the presence of anything in particular. Studio disillusionment was palpable in the way it was sold: The trailer halfheartedly promised, “More exciting than DRACULA,” with the exclamation point sheepishly excised. But the film offered images that became a blueprint: Contessa Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) is a woman of preternatural self-possession, with intellect and powers above those of mortal men. She also trends toward the Sapphic—a poster warned, “Save the Women of London from Dracula’s Daughter!”

The film itself, though with fewer Gothic thrills than its predecessor, is buoyed by a focus on the psychology of its namesake, inviting feminist interpretations. Zaleska—who keeps  a manservant to clean blood off her evening cloak, and bends others to her will almost as an afterthought—longs for independence from Dracula’s ways, burning his body in hopes of shaking the family legacy: “Free to live as a woman,” she vividly imagines, “free to take my place in the bright world of the living!” She even hopes psychiatry can cure her, though it takes only one fetchingly aimless young woman to push Zaleska off the wagon. And smarmy Dr. Garth (Otto Kruger) soon discovers her powers easily overcome the male condescensions of science. The only thing stronger than Zaleska… is death. (Exclamation point sheepishly excised.) 

The movie underperformed, and ended up being the last of Universal’s initial run of classic-monster movies, but Zaleska—longing to escape from patriarchal obligations—became the first onscreen vampire with a feminist agenda. Appearing less than a generation after American suffrage, a mere eight years after full U.K. suffrage, and three years before Countess Zaleska could have voted in Romania, that’s no small feat.

Vampirism is a charmingly reliable metaphor for a particular brand of cinematic feminism. There’s no more economical embodiment of the powerful woman as both terrifyingly predatory and soothingly seductive. Whether it’s Hammer’s chemised pin-ups or hyper-stylish Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger, tucking desiccated conquests out of guests’ sight, the vampiric woman reflects both the horror premise that a powerful woman is a direct threat—a literal bloodsucker, out for domination—and the fantasy premise that even if a woman who casts no reflection is out to kill you, she’ll still take the time to look her best. And as the cultural discussions around feminism shift, so too do onscreen portrayals of vampire women. 

The transformative nature of vampirism, and the autonomy that comes with it, is crucial. Dracula had his captive brides, but usually, the lady vampire is an active, independent figure in her narrative; she holds the frame with that force of will. Vampirism in film is largely its own occupation—cinematic vampires are consumed with the hunt for blood, the search for love, or the nature of immortality itself. A female vampire is, by default, a career woman. She might not always be elite (as with the blue-collar vampires of Near Dark), but vampirism provides her both goals and resources—a powerfully feminist combination. It also suggests freedom from prescribed sexual and social mores, a narrative pulp culture has never hesitated to explore.

Though some filmmakers (like Jean Rollin) explored this connection through original mythology, many drew on foolproof source material. Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novel Carmilla is a playground of psychosexual Gothic tropes, including a lesbian vampire whose desire for a milquetoast ingenue eventually blows her cover. Carmilla is a mysterious firebrand perfectly suited to cinema about women’s taboo appetites. Roger Vadim adapted it as the surreal, slightly straightwashed baroque feature Blood And Roses, but perhaps the most familiar exploration is 1970’s The Vampire Lovers. A more-faithful-than-expected Hammer adaptation of Carmilla, it follows enigmatic Carmilla (frequent Hammer star Ingrid Pitt) as she ingratiates herself with virgins of the country gentry, drawing them away from fiancés and fathers, and putting them under her influence. With Carmilla seducing victims in a very literal sense, that influence is largely erotic, to nobody’s surprise: the source material is Sapphic, the studio is Hammer, and the gaze of the lens is male. 

But Carmilla’s intent reads as something other than mere lust, bloody or otherwise. Pitt’s cool-eyed dismissal of men’s opinions repeatedly swamps the frame—the real warning sign, the movie suggests, of her evil. In the soft-focus, softcore Hammer wonderland, intimate moments with her familiars are framed as enthusiastic love scenes or as bittersweet struggle. Carmilla is tempted to kill the girl she loves—at the psychic behest of the horseman who haunts her steps, which only underscores hatred of men as the major conflict.

Coming in the midst of second-wave feminist discussions of sexual freedom as crucial to an independent life, women’s eagerness to keep Carmilla’s company suggests a mirror to political lesbianism, the movement that emerged within the second  movement in which activists were encouraged to disown men altogether, regardless of sexual orientation. All three of Carmilla’s targets abandon men’s attentions in Carmilla’s favor. In that light, the film hints at a campy undead female solidarity. (The film beat the cult honeymoon-disaster tone-poem Daughters Of Darkness to the post by a year: Daughters also had the subtext of sisterhood at the expense of men, with vampire Elizabeth Bathory attempting to rescue a newlywed from the clutches of her abusive husband.)

The lustful-vampire sisterhood quickly became one of horror’s most popular low-budget tropes. It got a particularly explicit narrative in 1974’s Vampyres, which is more concerned with the sex life of its lesbian couple than any vampire lore. But even that movie claims as its most uncanny moment a post-coital male victim awakening to find seductress Fran (Marianne Morris) watching him with unblinking eyes, an inversion of the usual sexual gaze—both his and the camera’s. And in Tony Scott’s The Hunger, one of cinema’s most stylish takes on the female vampire, Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) sets aside David Bowie himself in favor of the more modern Dr. Sarah (Susan Sarandon)—who decides she wants nothing to do with the lifestyle to which Miriam’s consigned her. Though Scott’s original ending left it ambiguous whether anyone survived, MGM insisted on an epilogue that showed Sarah making the most of the luxe afterlife, with Miriam a half-living specter of her past.

Reportedly, neither Scott nor Sarandon approved of the ending, seeing it as too neat a finish for a story suffused with the visual entropy of addiction. But it was the beginning of a new era for the vampire femme fatale—one who sought to examine and understand her nature, and who often rejected her expected role, or asked the audience to reject their expectations. These were Dracula’s granddaughters. 

Some of the most deliberate deconstructions of the vampire woman are those that actively engage with the supposed eroticism of the familiar image, turning it into an element of horror. In Interview With The Vampire, Neil Jordan uses Claudia’s immortal ennui as currency, trading on the unsettling imagery of Kirsten Dunst growing up and getting wise when the men around her didn’t want her to. Claudia becomes keenly observant and bitter about her forced girlhood, killing the man who kept her in girls’ dresses, and claiming his partner as her lover in a scene staged as near-religious iconography, designed to raise questions about the sexual expectations placed on women in a man’s world. (It’s the same monstrous-girl taboo that became the linchpin of the moody, understated Let the Right One In.) However, in an age of debate about sex positivity and its portrayals in popular culture, Jordan himself returned to the unerotic identity in Byzantium, in which Gemma Arterton’s sexuality-as-performance in skintight dresses and thick eyeliner are shot with such asexual detachment, they take on the the wildlife-documentary dread of an insect luring a meal. 

Feminism has become so powerfully entwined with the pop-culture image of the woman vampire that it’s possible to remove the signifiers of vampirism and maintain a perfectly recognizable vampire narrative. Park Chan-wook followed up Thirst (in which a female vampire is ruthless beyond death) with the Connecticut Gothic masterpiece Stoker. The pitch-black comedy centers on the uncanny, incestuous, uncomfortably-erotic exchange of power between young India (played with exhausting alertness by Mia Wasikowska) and her sociopathic uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who comes to town with a seductive fixation on India, just as the maternal figures in her life start mysteriously disappearing. India is initially seduced by his interest, but soon she discovers her real interest is in her own potential for destruction instead. (Even her primary sexual experience is masturbation—this is a young woman decisively realizing codependence doesn’t suit her.) In her triumphant moment, she eclipses her male influencer, accepts her appetite for death, and learns at last to protect the women of the family—all without a fang in sight.

The bloodless vampire is more the exception than the rule, of course. The genre still eagerly returns to some common signifiers, even after the pulp taboo has lost its thrill: the enigmatic calmness, the subtle effects on the natural world, the gleaming blood, the supernaturally pale skin. (There’s feminist subtext to be found in movies featuring vampires of color—Hollywood has doled out N’Bushe Wright’s Dr. Karen Jenson, whose vampiric limbo in Blade rallies her to the cause, Lucy Liu’s vengeful Sadie in the D-movie Rise: Blood Hunter, and more recently the Girl from A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night—but largely, cinematic vampirism is still a white woman’s game.) 2014’s Only Lovers Left Alive centers a quietly feminist vampire that embodies all these qualities: Eve (Tilda Swinton), a bohemian dilettante with the calm mien of long and unquestioned autonomy. Even her thirst is easily satisfied with bagged blood, with hunting as a last-ditch option; she’s a rare glimpse of the vampire with nothing left to rebel against. 

It’s noteworthy, then, that A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was also released in 2014. Its nameless vampire girl (Sheila Vand) is stranded in Iran’s mythical Bad City, a positively misandrist edge-of-the-wilderness town ringed by a ditch of men’s corpses. Within its cultural context, the Girl stalking the night and eliminating men who threaten women is such a feminist character that she doesn’t even need a name. Her very presence is vengeance against violent men (mistreating a woman—or suggesting the intent to—is a one-way ticket), and the vampire is just the form in which that social resentment has been most recognizably made flesh. Women still can’t safely walking home alone at night. The vampire-girl signals her supernatural nature simply by her fearlessness.

It’s striking to realize that the Girl and Eve would hardly recognize each other if they met. They’re two of Dracula’s daughters who have split markedly far from that matriarch of the family tree. The breadth of the trope visible between them feels like the fulfillment of Le Fanu’s haunting Carmilla conclusion: “…to this hour the image of Carmilla returns to memory with ambiguous alternations—sometimes the playful, languid, beautiful girl; sometimes the writhing fiend I saw in the ruined church; and often from a reverie I have started, fancying I heard the light step of Carmilla at the drawing-room door.” That’s the nature of any cinematic idea that so directly reflects its cultural climate. In these films, the changing nature of these vampires mirrors the promise that women will be what they must be to survive.

08 Mar 21:24

An Honest Liar

by Brad

Value-in-magical-thinking beat?

On Friday my friend Bryan Clark told me about a film called An Honest Liar and I took him up on his invitation to go see it. I’m glad I did. It’s a really good film.

It’s a documentary about the Amazing Randi. James Randi is a Canadian magician who made a cause of exposing other magicians who, rather than being honest about their use of tricks and sleight of hand, presented themselves as psychics and faith healers. Randi was angered by how these people used the same sorts of tricks he entertained audiences with to lie to their followers and swindle them out of their money.

In the Seventies, James Randi famously exposed the fakery of spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller and phony faith-healer Rev. Peter Popoff. Yet, even after being exposed as fakes, both Geller and Popoff prospered rather than faded away.

James Randi is a big fan of hard-line Skeptics (with a capital S) like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Neither appear in the film, but after the screening I saw at the Nuart Theater, co-director Tyler Maesom did a Q&A in which he mentioned this. I think he said they interviewed Dawkins for the movie but didn’t use it in the final cut. Maesom also mentioned that he’d gotten interested in the Amazing Randi because he was raised a Mormon and had a lot of anger around finding out he’d been lied to by the Church.

This got me thinking of another documentary I saw at the Nuart Theater, New York Doll. This film tells the story of Arthur “Killer” Kane, bass player for the New York Dolls. It’s also the subject of one of Robyn Hitchcock’s best songs, NY Doll. In a nutshell, after the New York Dolls’ short and explosive career came to an end, Arthur Kane found himself adrift and broke in Los Angeles, doing lots of drugs and attempting suicide by jumping out his kitchen window.

Los-Angeles-Mormon-TempleThen one day, Kane happened to walk into the big Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Boulevard. The Mormons took him in, got him off drugs, gave him a sense of purpose and even helped him get the Dolls back together for one last show with the original members. Then just 22 days after that show, Kane died of leukemia at age 55. He’d had the disease for a long time and it was the prospect of the reunion show that kept his spirits up enough to keep on going.

I started to wonder; Would Arthur Kane have been better off if, instead of the lying Mormons, he’d run into the truth-telling, falsehood-debunking followers of Richard Dawkins instead?

We know the answer. Dawkins and his friends could have offered Kane plenty of hard truths but no comfort. Kane wouldn’t have made it to that Dolls reunion and his final years would have been much sadder than they were.

Sure, all that stuff in the Book of Mormon about Joseph Smith finding golden tablets that mysteriously disappeared before anyone else got a look at them and the rest of it is bullshit. The way they flip-flopped on the issue of whether black people could go to Heaven and their intolerant stance on homosexuality is reprehensible. Yet in spite of this, they are able to do their members a lot of good in ways that skeptics are woefully unable to.

I think that in Zen, we try to find the Middle Way through all of this. The Zen attitude towards its own scriptures and ceremonies has always been thoroughly skeptical. To cite just one example, even though the Lotus Sutra says Buddha could fly and that his lectures were attended by all sorts of weird beings from alternate universes, nobody in the Zen lineage ever insists that you need to actually believe any of that stuff. And even though we hold elaborate religious style services with plenty of chanting, bowing and incense offerings to statues, there is never any pressure to believe that some kind of magic happens when we do that stuff.

I’m basically a skeptic. But I’m not a hardline skeptic. I see the value of a certain degree of faith. It’s rational to have faith sometimes. Not faith in the supernatural, but faith that what we know is not all there is to know.

Groups like the Mormons and others like them offer what they offer for a price, and that price is that you must believe. In a brilliant article for the LA Weekly called Why I’m Not an Atheist, Henry Rollins speculated on the origins of religion and said some of the same stuff I often say (Henry, do you read me?). He said, “Since there aren’t enough resources for everyone to have a personal cop monitoring their every action, there must be a mega-cop so huge that his omnipresence is invisible and unquestionably powerful. This is what I figure religion is. Try to be good. Being human, you will make mistakes, but all is not lost. You can ask to be forgiven; by meditating on your mistake, you will see that it would be unwise to repeat the behavior. Throw in the idea of punishment and reward and it’s a workable system.”

Yet that system is breaking down under the weight of skepticism and the wider understanding of how the universe really works. It’s harder and harder for people to believe in their old Gods. Some try to take up arms against science but it’s a fight that’s doomed to fail.

What we need is a religion without beliefs. Fortunately we already have one and it’s been around for a long time.



April 3, 2015 Pomona, CA Open Door 2 Yoga

April 24-26, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY ZEN & YOGA RETREAT


July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER

August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT

August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT


Every Monday at 8pm I lead zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 am I lead zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Registration is now open for our 3-day Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center April 24-26, 2015. CLICK HERE for more info!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

*   *   *

It is rational to donate to the continuation of this blog since you are reading it. You can donate as little as one dollar! It all helps.

19 Mar 17:17

March, 19th


I'm not sure what's happening here.

March, 19th