Several years ago, Pittsburgh had some terrible weather, the type that knocks down trees, washes out roads and destroys houses. In some areas, power was out for days. Our family made it through without much trouble. We were the lucky ones.
Several miles from our home, who I will call Kelli and her family were away on vacation, so they didn’t see the devastation. When they did get home, they discovered the culvert in front of their house had become clogged and all the run-off water that normally went past their house had been running through the lower half of the house.
I remember as a kid, thinking that a flood would be fun. Just have a small boat or raft, wait for the water to come and lift you up. Then I saw a movie that showed a real flood. It isn’t water coming-it was a wall of churning debris. The water is filthy. Think of it as sewage. When the water has gone, it leaves a thick layer of fine dirt which has penetrated every crack. Nasty stuff.
An automobile that has been submerged is considered unsalvageable. A washing machine, lawn mower, anything with bearings or a gear box can only be recovered if it is disassembled down to its basic components, washed, dried and lubricated in a very short time-we’re talking hours-not days.
Some things do survive flooding. Refrigerators and freezers are sealed units. They do remarkably well. Plastic, kitchen ware and clothing can be recovered.
Now remember, Kelli and her family had been on vacation. Everything had been under water for a couple of days before they even knew about the problem. To add to the trouble, Kelli didn’t have flood insurance and was not independently wealthy. The community itself was low income, and Kelli was one of many in trouble. The Mayor took out the yellow pages, turned to the section with churches and started down the list.
That’s when our church learned about Kelli. After our worship service on Sunday, many members of our congregation were told to go home, put on their “grubbies” and come back to help. We rinsed off clothes, furniture and appliances with a garden hose, shoveled mud, busted out soaked dry wall.
I found Kelli and asked, “Do you have damaged photographs?” I had just read a book called How to Save Your Stuff from a Disaster, by Scott M. Haskins. It had a lot of neat ideas and I wanted to try them out.
She nodded sadly and said, “We threw them all out.”
Then I said, in my usual tactless way, “Too bad. They could have been saved.” At that moment, I believe I doubled her feelings of loss. Clothes, furniture and appliances can be replaced. That only takes money, but each photograph is unique and is irreplaceable.
Fortunately, the photos had not been thrown far and I was able to gather many of them. In the next few weeks, I recovered more than 400 of them.
Photos Versus Water
Photographs are processed in water, so being wet doesn’t automatically mean they are destroyed. I knew that from when I ran my own darkroom. Once, I left one of my prints in a jar of water. After a few days, the emulsion (the chemical coating on the paper) came unstuck. I was able to lift the paper out of the jar but leave the image suspended in the water.
Over the years photography has improved. However, many of the principles are the same. Recently, I experimented with some modern color photographs and found that some start to deteriorate after about two days. The surface of the print starts to look dull. This means the chemical coating on the paper is starting to break down. On the third day, the photo started to develop little red spots. The spots got larger and changed color to a bright yellow. Finally the whole picture turned white when the image was completely gone.
Then there were some other photos that were unaffected by immersion for one week. So there is no guideline to tell you how much time you have. Best to “err on the side of caution” and recover them as quickly as possible.
How it was done
It’s the long exposure to water, plus the effects of dirt, chemicals, mildew and decay that determine the fate of a flood-damaged photo. The flooding had happened on a Thursday night and I was trying to recover them on a Sunday, three days later. I gathered up as many of the photos as I could find, put them in a plastic tub and drove away, after advising Kelli that if they found any more photos, they should rinse them and then store them wet inside the freezer.
Cleaning the Pictures
I placed the pictures in a tub of water and gently washed them by rocking the tub and by dipping them in and out of the clean water. Knowing how fragile each photo can be, I held it very carefully by an edge or corner. Then I laid it in a 9” x 13” pan and covered it with a piece of wax paper, and went for the next one. This wasn’t a fancy cleaning job, just something to get the dirt off. When the water was dirty, I changed it. I did this as quickly as possible because the longer I took, the softer the image became.
Preserving the Pictures
There were a lot of photos and I didn’t have time to dry them all at once, so when the cake pan was full I put it in a freezer. This was to stop further damage from the water and any mildew. By the end of the day, I had five of these pans in our freezer. Now, with further damage to the photo stopped, I could take my time in doing the next part of the recovery and I could do it at a time of my choosing. I wasn’t worried about getting the picture back to Kelly quickly. She had her hands full of other things.
Drying the Photos
When professional photo services want a nice glossy print, they use special equipment to dry the prints. Of course, I didn’t have that. After thawing some pictures and discarding the wax paper, I laid some of them face up on a water safe surface. Others, I hung on a temporary clothesline in the garage. I dried them overnight. The next day, I took more photos out of the freezer, washed and dried them.
Many of the photos had been stored in stacks. This was both good and bad. Since they were stacked, the water didn’t penetrate each photo and this helped preserve them, but it also meant they were stuck together. I didn’t try to pull them apart. That would have destroyed the image. Instead, I soaked them in my clean water until they came unstuck, usually less than an hour.
Most of the photos recovered well. But some of the recovered photos had a very interesting appearance, a red and yellow border, because those portions were exposed to water for a long time. Considering what they had been through, it was a wonder that there wasn’t more damage.
I learned that Polaroid photos may be washed but should not be soaked. They are made of two layers of plastic with some special chemicals sandwiched between them. These chemicals absorbed water to make a thick jelly. I had to peel apart the layers, wash away the chemicals, and glue the top layer to acid free paper with acid free glue. Fortunately, there were only a few of them.
The Return Visit
Even weeks later, Kelli’s house was in chaos. The house had electricity and a new furnace. All the dry wall had to be replaced. The washing machine and dryer were damaged beyond repair. There was furniture stacked in her yard, covered with tarps, along with a sign warning scavengers that “This is not junk.”
I knew it would be months before things returned to “normal”, so I didn’t hurry to return the salvaged photos. When I did return them, the family was very glad that I had been able to save their photos. I was pleased that what I had read worked so well. I did receive a reward for my services. The family brought from the freezer some more photos, all carefully frozen and ready for recovery.
The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) Library of Congress
When making any movie, writing any script, taking any photograph, the author should have in mind his audience. This video is for people who are unfamiliar with amateur radio. This script is the skeleton of the final results. Written dialogue is only a suggestion of what can be said. People will always tell things in their own words—except for Big Dummy, who is used in the video as a way to ask simple questions and, therefore, allow for discussion or explanations.
At the very end of the video, Big Dummy will be revealed as a skilled amateur radio operator.
EXT. DAY Field Day Area:
Sound of softly ticking clock.
Establishing shot of South Park. Trees, Field, Wildlife, sound of a clock ticking a bit louder. .
People sitting in their shelter.
No one is doing anything—just waiting.
A person flexing his index finger and thumb, as if he were going phony exercises.
CU of clock, 1 minute to 12 noon. “Tick, tick, tick, tick.
A person slowly puts on his head phones and mike. He carefully adjusts it.
ECU of clock: 30 seconds to 12 noon. ‘TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK.’
CU of radio. It is on but there is a low hiss but no heterodyne.
XECU of clock 15 seconds to 12 noon. ‘TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK.’
People hunker down to their notebooks and radios. Everyone is ready for something but it is not obvious what. The guy exercising his fingers positions them at a keyer.
XXECU of clock as it ticks down the last five seconds. Each tick sounds like a drum until the second had is straight up.
One second of absolute silence.
Quick series of freeze frames.
Suddenly, everyone is talking. People are turning their radios. Much heterodyne. Morse code noise. People calling:
Six PIP of many operators.
C Q Field Day. C Q Field Day. N 3 S H calling C Q from South Park Pennsylvania. Over.
Animated Map of USA. Specific areas lite up to show the station broadcasting
Response to CQ:
Amateur Radio June 27, 2020
The Search for Elmer
Originating from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
More examples of communication
Who Is Elmer?
EXT. DAY Field Day Area
Car Interior. POV
BD getting out of car.
A stereotypical Big Dummy walks up to several hams. He looks like he has no idea where he is and walks like a bull in a china shop.
Wires and cables all over the place,
BD (Big Dummy) Voice Over
Wow. What is going on here?
BD walks up to some radio operators.
Hi guys. I was told to ask for Elmer. Who is Elmer?
I am Elmer
A Spartacus Moment.
I am Elmer
Two hams together.
I am Elmer
I am Elmer
The BD is obviously confused.
Elmer is the name given to a person who helps another person learn about amateur radio.
A group of 50+ hams say in unison.
Hi. I am Elmer.
A Sexist Moment
BD notices that one of the Hams is a woman.
You have girls that are ham radio operators
This generates many evil looks from the women hams and other hams: Anger, amazement, you stupid idiot, shaking of heads.
What is a Ham?
Why are you people called “hams”.
That’s a good question. Originally, ham referred to a bad actor. To the professional broadcasting world, us nonprofessional operators were “bad actors”. We were hams.
When government allotted which radio frequencies were to be used by which group, they gave us the high frequency range, because everyone believed that they were useless. To everyone surprise, the amateurs found ways to transmit much further than anyone thought possible and we could do it with less power.
People were impressed, but we are still called “hams”.
Why so many Antennas?
EXT. DAY Field Day Area
DB looking up at antenna.
Montage of many antennas
Why do you need so many antennas?
Each antenna has a resonance or frequency – kind of like a guitar string. Our challenge is to get our antenna vibrating at the same rate as an antenna in Alaska or Siberia. When we do that, then we can talk to each other.
Establishing shot: Person with guitar.
CU: Guitar string being plucked.
CU: Guitar string vibrating.
MS: Person tuning the guitar. Sound of pitch changing.
EXT. DAY Field Day Area
Can’t an antenna work on more than one frequency?
Yes, we can force it, but we lose some signal strength and when you are trying to send a signal thousands of miles with only 100 watts, you don’t want to lose of it.
Your typical commercial radio station is putting out thousands of watts of power. We are very weak, so we use very big antennas.
YouTube Video: ATT Archives – Similarities of Wave Behavior (Bonus Edition).mp4
Planning for Field Day
EXT. DAY Field Day Area
How did all this stuff get here?
Physically, we started putting it up yesterday. However, our plans for this year started at the end of field day last year. Or you could say it started may years ago because we’ve been doing this for many years.
INT. NIGHT: Operators around table, reviewing the plans for Field Day,
Camp Set Up maps.
The 80-meter, we can put that here.
The tower will go here (pointing to map)
EXT. DAY: Flash back of the day before field day
Montage of setup.
Montage: Putting up the antenna.
Putting in anchors.
Stringing and Connecting coax
Putting up Tent
Setting up table.
Positioning radios on tables
Connecting cable and coax.
Powering Up Equipment
Positioning the trailer.
Lilting the tower up.
Raising the tower.
The Potato Gun (a joke)
Music: such as the final scene in the Good, Bad, and the Ugly.
Ham pull out his gun which looks like something from Men in Black..
Operator, with snake eyes, looks from side to side.
Down the field is another person.
They look at each other with steely eyes.
He takes a few steps to one side. The other man takes a few steps the other way.
First man takes a large, unknown item and slips it into the barrel of the gun.
The two men stare at each other.
Music get more dramatic and louder.
The second man takes off his hat with his left hand but still holds it. We never see his other hand.
The music stops.
Both look over to a third person with a tape recorder.
I think the batteries died.
Suddenly, he raises the gun, aims it high and shoots.
The ball flies, with line streaming behind.
It passes over a tree limb.
The other man catches the ball in the hat
It is a potato with a string going through it.
He attaches a heavier line.
The line is pulled back and hooked to an antenna to it.
They return the potato to the mess area.
Later, the scullery picks up the potato, notes the hole through the middle, ponders a moment, shrugs her shoulders, and adds it to the others.
EXT. DAY Field Day Area
Sunday, we will take it down (beat) until next year.
Ham walking round the park, looking at the setting.
Hot Seat Questions
Rapid series of Hams in the interview chair.
I am (Call Sign)
My name is (First Name)
Rapid series of Hams in the chair.
Why are you a ham?
Because it is fun.
Who needs a reason?
What is the most interesting contact you made?
What is the longest distance…?
Have you ever responded to an emergency?
The BD is still in the big dummy mode.
Director’s Voice OS
Cut. Print it. That’s a wrap. .
EXT. DAY Cameraman starts to take down his camera. Director is making notes in his book.
The BD, in Big Dummy mode, changes to a person who is no longer playing a part. He looks directly at the camera, puts on the hat with his call sign, smiles and says:
Hi. I’m N7TDX (beat)
and my name is ______ (beat)
But you can call me Elmer.
Purpose of field day.
What are the contester designations?
A GOTA station for visitors.
Contact map. Location lights up when someone is transmitting.
Tired of being buzzed by kamikaze gnats and flies? Give them an incentive to go some where else, such as the fly version of the Hotel California, where you can check in but not check out.
Material: A jar or bottle with a wide mouth, or a disposable water bottle. In this example, we see both possibilities.
Other Materials: Paper, Tape, Fruit, Scissors or knife
With a plastic water bottle, make it into a wide mouth bottle by cutting off the top.
Make the paper into a cone shape. Secure with tape.
Ensure there is a pencil sized hole in the point of the cone.
Cut off paper so that the cone fits snugly into the mouth of the bottle.
The bottom of the cone should be about ½ inch from touching the bottom of the bottle.
Bait the trap. They are ‘fruit’ flies, so I use ‘fruit,’ must smell good to them. I use just enough fruit to attract a fruit fly.
I eat the remainder of the fruit (Optional)
With the bait in the bottle, tape around the top of the opening to secure the cone to the bottle. Ensure there are no gaps between the bottle and the paper cone.
Set the trap where it would be easy to find, for a fruit fly.
What will happen?
The flies will follow the scent of the fruit and go down through the hole in the bottom of the cone. When trying to escape, they will fly up the inside of the bottle to the taped seal. You will know you caught some because you can watch them searching for an exit. Eventually, they will stop, where they will have some time to contemplate the shortness of their lives.
After several days, you can throw the bottle away or clean it and start over.
Note: A fruit fly is about 4 mm long, or about the height of a capital letter in this document. Regardless of what is flying around your house, this trap works.
I’ve been collecting seeds, mostly seeds from the ornamental flowers around the house. Each type of seed has to be handled in the right way to separate the seed from extra foliage, little pieces of leaves, fluff and sand. Petunia seeds are so small, they fall through the mesh of my finest sieve. I like working with Celosia seed. They will fall through all sieves except the finest.
Sometimes, I have to let a flower stalk ripen and dry before I can collect the seeds. Other times, I must crush the dried seed pods with my thumb. Purple Cone flowers require patients. I must wait until the flowering head is black and dried. Then I put them in a metal container with a tight lid and shake them. Sometimes, I pour the seeds from one container to another while I blow on them.
When I’m satisfied with the purified seed, I will take 10 seeds, put them in a small plastic bag with a damp paper towel and watch to see if they will germinate. Sometimes, I must wait a week before I see those little green sprouts. Sometimes nothing happens.
While doing this, it occurred to me that the people of our world are going through a similar process. We are being winnowed, crushed, sifted, and sorted.
We’ve been without regular church services for half a year. When the doors open, how many people will be there? How many will be so small that they fall through the smallest sieve, or how many won’t make it through the largest sieve. How many can’t endure a little breeze and will fly away like chaff. How many can’t stand being crushed?