Preserving my past

As I mentioned in a previous post I have a box of slides that need to be digitized and converted into a better form for viewing.  As I’m discovering, 35mm slides aren’t the easiest thing in the world to work with.  Modern printer/scanners aren’t really all that good when it comes to them, because they’re not print media (pictures), they’re transparent, so they don’t scan very well.  One needs a dedicated piece of equipment to work with them, and the better ones are expensive.

When I first got the slides, I used an app on my Android phone called ‘Lightbox’ which basically did what it says, backlit them so that I could take a picture with a second phone, in order to see the slides as if they were in a projector.  Of course, that’s a quick and dirty method, I need something that can be used to doing the same thing, but with a bit more clarity as well as finesse in bringing out the natural colors and nuances of the slide in question.  I knew that there were dedicated machines to do the work, as well as businesses that are skilled in doing it, but many of the businesses are still in their infancy, charge an arm and a leg for the work, and there’s the bugaboo of sending your memories out to a 3rd party, and you might not get them back.  US Mail has never been an exact science.

20220311_075021[1]When I got home, I had more opportunity to seek out a machine that could do the work and do it efficiently for an affordable price. Oddly enough, I found one that had good reviews on Amazon, and it had a familiar name.  With a little digging, I discovered it wasn’t really made by the company emblazoned on it’s chassis, it was just being used because it was familiar to consumers, but sneakily enough the company name was actually being used in a legal sense.  (Kodak had gone through bankruptcy in the early 2010s and sold off many of it’s lucrative patents) The nuance wasn’t really lost on me, as the company that had processed the slides, made the original film and even produced the camera that originally took the pictures were all one and the same, but it’s definitely a different world.  The Kodak building might still be in Rochester, NY, but it’s most definitely NOT the company it once was.

Even so, after purchasing the unit through Amazon, it took a little trial and error before I could use the unit efficiently.  It has a slider that one can load and push through the unit, which is set up to receive slides of different shapes and sizes, one just has to find the right one and it works pretty well.  I wouldn’t say that it works professionally, but certainly way better than the clunky way the Lightbox app operated.  I was able to hook up the unit to my computer via USB and instantly copy the scanned slides to my hard drive, once I had adjusted the slide for size as well as being sure the slide wasn’t in the unit backwards.  Several times I had to look at a slide to be sure that it wasn’t reversed, going back in my memory about how a certain piece of furniture or light switch was situated in my parent’s house, so as not to give the reverse impression of the items in the slide.

I have about 700 slides and all in all it took me about 3-4 hours to process them.  I did have to scan some of them multiple times in order to be sure they were done properly, since some of the slides weren’t in the greatest of shape after having been stored in various places over the years.  Certainly some of the really old ones (1950s) were completely oxidized and useless, though for the most part they showed people I’d never met and had no idea who they were.  Since my parents are deceased, I can’t use them for reference, and my cousins don’t live close by, so it’s likely they wouldn’t recognize them either.  Who they are will remain a mystery.  Such is the way of historical records sometimes, without proper annotation, it’s just a picture.

But, I’m pleased to have them in my possession, and for the longest time they were just sitting in my brother’s attic, unused, unseen and unknown.  Now I can share them with him, with my cousins and for a new set of eyes, my birth mother, who missed out on my youth and all the adventures I had.  She’s been very pleased and intrigued by the images.  So I’m happy it all worked out.  Thanks Kodak.

Rediscovered Family History

My wife and I are in the process of cleaning the house.  Granted, it’s a 20 years process, starting when we moved into the house back in November of 2000, but it’s an ongoing thing.  Recently, I took it upon myself to work on clearing out the garage, going through the boxes that have been sitting there for the better part of those 20 years, intending to rearrange the space on the sides for better storage since it is just a one-car garage. There are multiple yard machines and other equipment that need to be stored there and the car.  During the summer, the car sits outside, and the inside of the garage clutters up.  Usually, come winter, everything is piled to the sides, and I squeeze the car in.  This year I wanted to do it differently.

In going through the various boxes, I found one that was chock full of black and white photos.  I didn’t recognize the ones on the top, so I figured the whole box was probably from my in-law’s house, so I brought it in and told my wife she needed to look through them, as she probably hadn’t seen them in better than the 20 years.  The box sat in the house for a couple of weeks untouched.  The day before yesterday, she brought me a smaller box with an even smaller photo album on top that said quite whimsically, “Grandma’s Brag Book.”  I opened it up, and the first photo was of a baby with dark hair.  Definitely not me!  I had blonde hair up until age 7.  It was a baby picture of my brother.

1967, 1 year 9 mos

Several pictures in was a shot of me when I was 21 months old.  I was a happy kid when this picture was taken!   Sadly, none of the other pictures are of me; they’re of my brother.  But even so, the box of pictures had a lot of memories in them, places my father had been during World War II when he served in the US Army in Okinawa.

My father, standing outside his quarters in Okinawa c. 1945

I had never seen pictures of him in his Army uniform, though I was aware through his discharge papers (which I still have) that he made sergeant before he returned to civilian life in 1946.  A good number of the pictures I don’t recognize anything in them and only some of them have captions on the back.  Seeing as hundreds of WWII veterans are dying on any given day, it’s remote that any of the people in the pictures are still alive, or they don’t have copies of the pictures that I now have in my possession.

My other issue is what to do with the family pictures going forward?  Seeing as my wife and I decided not to have children, I really don’t have anyone to pass them down to that they would mean anything.  My father’s siblings didn’t have children, so there aren’t any cousins I could bequeath my pictures to.  Sending them to a historical society was a thought. Again, none of my family was either famous or historically significant, so it would just be a pile of pictures of people that no one would recognize.

I wonder what others do with their family pictures when there’s no one left to inherit them?

The mechanics of sleep

I messaged my special one the other morning and commented about how I only managed about six hours of sleep that night.  In her return message, she observed that on nights that precede days off, I tend to get up earlier more often than not, I don’t necessarily get more sleep considering it is a day off, and if necessary, during the course of the day, I can get a nap in (and usually do, not always intentionally).  After thinking about it, I was forced to admit she’s right, that’s what seems to happen.  I may get up to use the bathroom in the morning of a day off, and since I don’t have to be on the go, or getting up to go to work, I can stay up if I wish and accomplish things if there’s a desire to do so, without being rushed.  An interesting observation to be sure.

Too, I’ve been using a CPAP machine for the past 20 years as well.  For a long time when I was working nights, I didn’t get very good sleep during the day, and I mostly attributed it to the fact that I was sleeping during the day and not at night as is considered to be normal.  With the invention and subsequent proliferation of electric, incandescent and fluorescent lights, the possibility of working more than two shifts in a workplace became more common.  Go back to the early years of the 20th century and you don’t find too many businesses able to afford three shifts, mainly because their workers would be in the dark, and if you can’t see what you’re doing, you’re not going to be very productive.

Sleep apnea hadn’t been an issue until fairly recently.  Certain situations and instances when I’d feel particularly tired after sleeping 8-10 hours became more and more common and there were times when my wife told me I’d stop breathing in the middle of the night for a few seconds.  Oxygen deprivation would never set in and I’d invariably turn over and begin breathing normally once more, so it never became a life threatning issue.  Even so, she suggested I speak to my GP about it and he had me scheduled for a sleep study in 1999.

Back then a sleep study was a more involved affair, these days it can be done in your home overnight unless there’s a dire need to do it the old-fashioned way.  Meaning having you to report to a dedicated sleep study lab, be wired up to the machines (as I recall it took a good 45 minutes for all the wiring to be attached to my body) and then attempt to get sleep around 11 at night.  Too, you weren’t allowed to sleep on your side, you had to sleep (or try) on your back, so that you didn’t pull out any of the wires, and the bed was damned uncomfortable.  And you had someone monitoring you all night long, in another room with a light on, albeit somewhat subdued.  The only thing I could equate it to was being in a hospital and being awoken at odd hours to get your BP taken.  Finally, you had to be sure not to have drunk too much beforehand, because you weren’t allowed to get up and go to the bathroom once you were wired to the machines.

Pretty much the most restless sleep I’d had in ages, that I could remember.  When the tech rousted me at 5:30 am and told me I could go, I apologized for not giving him a better reading.  He said it was fine, no one gets much sleep when wired up like a stereo, in an uncomfortable bed, pillows etc.  They get the most that they can and generally get enough in the last couple of hours moreso than in the first ones when the subject is trying to get comfortable.  He said I’d be notified in about a week as to what the results were, but he did mention I stopped breathing more than a couple of times while he was observing.  So he was pretty sure I had sleep apnea, he just couldn’t tell me how bad it was.

I vividly remember driving home from the hospital rather bleary after being dewired from the monitoring machines.  It was right around sunrise, and it was a cold morning.  I had a 30 mile drive home, since the hospital where the sleep study lab was at, was a good ways away from there.  I drove there, had breakfast and then went back to bed, for a nap, which was much more restful than the one I had just previously.  A few days later my doctor referred me to a ENT nearby who confirmed I did indeed have ‘obstructive sleep apnea’ and needed a CPAP machine.  The surgery was available as well, but the machine seemed (to him at least) the better (and cheaper) alternative.

The first machine I got was about the size of a bread box, and cost about $3000.  Fortunately, my insurance covered most of the cost, or else I would have been in Dutch.  It must have been constructed rather solidly as it managed to survive nearly 18 years.  I finally had to get a new one when the motor on the old one burned out.  In that time the provider of the machine actually went through two owners and it was the third that provided me with the unit that I’m using now.

The old one had a serial port for communication, the new one uses WIFI for its connections and communicating with the home base.  The new unit does have a SD card port, but I believe it was put in just as a failsafe in case the WIFI was down or inoperative, so there would be a hard copy of the results for an ENT or other medical person to pull.  In the three years I’ve had the machine, neither my ENT nor the people that provided it have been interested in what’s on the card.

Getting back to the start of this entry, my sleep for the most part with the CPAP is pretty good.  Last night (this entry has been several days in the making, surprise surprise) I slept a little over 9 hours, and when I awoke, I still felt tired.  Right now, about an hour after waking, I feel rested and pretty good.  I should be ok for the remainder of the day.  Most nights I get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep.  Certainly there are nights I don’t, for one reason or another.  But when I’m using the machine and mask, my sleep is FAR better than when I don’t.  Which is why I’m often cautioned by my special one to use it, as opposed to just sleeping on the couch downstairs.  Believe me, I’m trying.