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Speaking of Unkillable Trees…

Posted 2012.09.19 14.41 in Pointless Blather, Work by Stephanie

A week or so ago I was walking around the area near the office, when I noticed some trees that looked surprisingly, inexplicably, like olive trees. I knew it was highly unlikely that there were wild olive trees growing near the office, so I had to find out what exactly these were.

I clipped a branch with some of the ‘olive’ fruits and brought it into work for examination.

The fruits, while looking sort of olive like at a distance, look too pale up close. And the texture was all wrong. Though, they did have a single largish pit inside. On the other hand, I’ve read that olives are inedible until they are processed, so what do I know? I’ve never seen a raw fresh-off-the-branch olive, so maybe this is what they are like.

So I did some searching, found some various tree identification forms, but nothing came up with these trees. I realized that all the stuff I was finding, was only discussing native species. Whatever this was – and especially if it was olive – it was not native.

Finally I just did a search on olive trees, and damn if the images that come up don’t look like what I’ve got here. Except…not quite.

Then I figure it out. This is a Russian Olive tree. It is not related in any way to the traditional Greek kind of olive tree. It got its name based on looks alone. (So I do know what an olive tree looks like after all!)

Russian Olive trees are an introduced / invasive species. They thrive in all kinds of conditions, and of course easily tolerate our cold winters. And like my Siberian Elm driveway tree, they are very hard to kill.

After having originally spotted just a couple of these next to the office building, I’m now noticing them all over the place around the office. There must be over a dozen along the bank of the drainage ditch by the office, and a few dozen more along the road. Another dozen around the corner between the service road and the freeway. And even more up by the railway tracks near the freeway overpass.

They’re everywhere!

I have to confess though – I’m sorely tempted to try and transplant one of them, or a cutting, or just bring some of the fruits / seeds home. I’d like a mock-olive tree in my front yard.

An unkillable mock-olive tree, that is.

Late Night Camera Repair

Posted 2011.09.14 22.41 in Hobbies by Stephanie

This week has really been a huge bust. After the various failures over the weekend, I’ve been suffering at the hands of medical professionals and the various tests to which they’ve been subjecting my leg. I’ve been feeling bummed out with photography and cameras.

Tonight I’m sitting here about ready to go to bed and then I decide, just before turning in, I’m going to at least mess with a camera. I’ve got this little Chaika-II on my shelf, I vaguely remember putting some film through it when I first got it, but then the shutter/winder siezed up. It’s just been gathering dust since then.

So tonight I decided, I’m either going to fix it, or I’m going to reduce it to a pile of parts. And based on this week’s track record, I expected the latter result.

Still, it was a very inexpensive camera, and I’m not a big fan of the half-frame format, so I was ready to make the sacrifice. Worst-case scenario, I’d get to see the insides and maybe learn something.

Chaika II

I removed the four screws I found on the top plate, and the top easily slid off. A few parts and a spring fell out, and right away I could see that only three screws should have been removed – the fourth one should have stayed put as it was holding some parts to the top plate. Fortunately I’m pretty good at figuring that sort of thing out, and it only took a few moments to see how the parts fit back together, so I wasn’t any further behind.

Looking at the winding / cocking mechanism, it’s a lot like a funny little clockwork. The shutter speed is part of that clockwork, and setting the shutter speed just tensions a spring – the more the tension, the faster the shutter. What I realized was that, like a number of other early eastern-bloc mechanical cameras, you are not supposed to set the shutter speed until after winding and cocking the camera. Odds are, I did that out of order at one point and got the thing jammed.

It ended up being a very simple straightforward fix, and once again this little camera is clicking along. Not bad for 10 minutes work before bed – it took longer to do this write-up than it did to fix the camera! I’m even thinking about running some more film through this little camera, just for the heck of it!

Lomo Lubitel

Posted 2009.10.02 20.28 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

The Lomo Lubitel (Olympic Edition) is a Soviet-made Twin Lens Reflex camera that was made by the Leningradskoye Optiko-Mekhanicheskoye Obyedineniye – or Lomo for short.

The first Lubitel was made in the 1950’s but this model is based on their later Lubitel 166. According to the serial number, this particular one was made in 1980 – same year as the Moscow Olympics, and the reason for that red logo next to the viewing lens.

Aside from the comemorative aspect, there’s not too much to brag about. The body is plastic and metal, the taking lens is 75mm f/4.5 and the shutter speeds are 1/15 to 1/250. It’s supposed to have a Bulb setting, but this doesn’t work on mine. And even if it did work, there’s no way to attach a cable release, so bulb wouldn’t be too useful. Wierdly, a cable release was included in the box.

The Lubitel takes 120 rollfilm, and the Olympic version has a counter and automatically cocks the shutter when you advance the film. The film advance is a bit stiff and took 1/3 of a roll for me to figure out how it actually works. There is a X-sync hotshoe on the left side, but the shoe is slightly strangely sized and it’s difficult to get a flash to work right. It does work though, you just have to tinker with it.

Whining aside, here are a few shots I took with it, once I figured out it’s quirks:

I had taken some indoor shots but the flash wouldn’t work so they didn’t come out. The outdoor shots all have a wierd sort of dreamy feel to them. Like there’s something unreal about the light, the sky. There’s also a wierd fog effect that I think might be internal reflections. The 6×6 chamber is not matte, it is black but more of a ‘satin’ or ‘semi-gloss’ so it’s possible for light to reflect around in there.

Now that I know the camera’s quirks I’ll have to try another roll (with some more-interesting subjects) and see how it goes.


Posted 2005.10.12 11.13 in Hobbies by Stephanie


Signal Mechanical Alarm, ca 1960s, 1st Moscow Watch Factory, USSR

Signal Mechanical Alarm, ca 1960s, 1st Moscow Watch Factory, USSR

In early 2005, for the first time in five or six years, I was in the market for a time piece. I wanted something interesting, with character, something a little unique. Definately not digital. No plastic.

My search initially led me to a very nice Citizen Eco-Drive. But it was out of my price-range — about $500. I then turned my eye towards mechanical watches. No quartz, no battery, no solar. My budget was too tight for anything new and current — fashionable new mechanical watches are very costly — so my attention turned to the vintage section on eBay.

There, I came across an inexpensive ‘vintage’ watch from the 1980s – that happened to have been made in the U.S.S.R. That began my love and fascination of Soviet timepieces – which would be a webpage all its own – so for more info on Soviet/Russian watches, just see the links below.

Quickly I found myself with a small collection of Soviet watches. I then realized they would need service sooner or later (like cars, mechanical watches need to be properly maintained). When the watches themselves are so inexpensive, it didn’t make sense to pay high prices for professional service – yet the watches are good quality and will need service. So there was only one logical solution.

I proceeded to start teaching myself watchmaking.

Learning & Research

Movement Caliber 10BT, 1951, Bulova Watch Co., Swiss

Movement Caliber 10BT, 1951, Bulova Watch Co., Swiss

The internet can be a great resource, if you know how to search and where to look. Suffering from chronic insomnia helps too. Insomnia, and an obsessive-compulsive need to always learn new stuff.

I started finding websites of watch enthusiasts, amateur watchmakers, and watch manufacturers. I started reading everything I could find on the subject. I would read and re-read things, memorizing parts, draw sketches of wheel trains and motion works. I found a few horological forums, and read all the posts and articles I could find about watch making and repair.

Along the way I came across the TimeZone Tool Shop, an online store that sold watch parts and watchmakers’ tools. They sell the kits that are used in the TimeZone Watch School. I immediately ordered the Level 1 kit, along with some other watch parts, and got to work. I must admit, although I have heard a lot of good things about the TimeZone Watch School, I have not yet enrolled. I keep planning to, but then I keep thinking I’d rather spend the money on another Soviet watch, or some more tools or watch parts. I will definately do it sooner or later though. If not the Level 1 class, then certainly the Level 2.

Without taking any courses, or buying any books, I have managed to teach myself enough just by reading (and reading, and reading) as well as getting helpful advice from some very kind people in the forums. So far I have repaired a faulty day-date mechanism in a Soviet watch, replaced a broken mainspring and bridge in a 1950’s era Bulova, and started designing & building my own watches.

My Home-Made Watches

These are my home-made, custom designed watches. Watches in this section are ones I have designed and made entirely by myself. Either for my own enjoyment, or as gifts for friends or family.

My first self-made watchSM #1

Swiss Automatic ETA 2836-2
Hour, Minute, Seconds, Day, Date
Hour & Minute hands; Pink (Orange Glow)
Case Specs:
36mm diameter (excluding crown) x 42mm long; 11mm thick; 18mm lug width; all stainless steel, mineral glass crystal and display back. Crown 5.5mm. Water resistant to 3 atmospheres.
My first watch project. A fairly simple assembly of off-the-shelf parts, but a good learning experience and fun to make. Plus, nothing beats wearing your own watch!


My one-handed watchSM #2

Swiss Mechanical ST-96
Hour only
Case Specs:
36mm diameter (excluding crown) x 42mm long; 11mm thick; 18mm lug width; all stainless steel, mineral glass crystal and display back. Crown 5.5mm. Water resistant to 3 atmospheres.
I’ve seen a couple one-handed watches elsewhere on the internet, and I thought they were really unique and interesting, so I decided to have a go at it myself. My interpretation makes the watch as simple as it can get – it tells you nothing but the time.

Resources / Links

Vostok Amphibia Mechanical Watch, ca. 1980s, Chistopol Watch Factory, USSR

Vostok Amphibia Mechanical Watch, ca. 1980s, Chistopol Watch Factory, USSR

General Information Links
Alan’s Vintage Watches
Christophs Watch World
TimeZone Watch FAQ
The Watch Guy
WatchUSeek Articles
Educational / Watchmaking Links
Per’s Horology
TZ Watch School
Soviet / Russian Links
Andreas Ulbrich’s Komandirskie site
Mark Gordon’s Russian Watches Collection
Michele Cuoccio’s Russian Watches Website
Russian Watch Forum at WUS
Forums Links
Poor Man’s Watch Forum
TimeZone Forums
WatchUSeek Watch Forums
Commercial / Shopping Links
Dashto Horological Supplies
Jules Borel & Company
Mark II Watches
Otto Frei
RLT Watches
Somal Canada
Time Zone Tool Shop