Sunday, September 13, 2020

Breathing Smoke

    It might have been my imagination, but I was out in the backyard, trimming the trees and roses, yesterday, when I irrupted into a coughing fit and could swear that I smelled, and believed I was breathing smoke from the ongoing fires.  These fires aren’t so close that I can see them – or even see smoke I know comes from them, but the sky is gray rather than blue and the coughing diminished when I went back up to my study and spent a few minutes breathing air-conditioned air.
    Since reading Lives of a Bengal Lancer as a child, I’ve been concerned about what I breath.  One of my reasons for giving up my last motorcycle was to eliminate breathing gas fumes while filling the tank.
    In the 50s, The Conquerors, featuring John Wayne and Susan Hayward, was shot near the town of St. George, a mere 100 miles downwind of some ongoing nuclear tests.  Out of the 220 cast members, 92 have died of cancer.   Howard Hughes had selected the site and was convinced his decision had caused the deaths.  He spent $12,000,000 and bought up every copy of the movie and presumably destroyed them – no great loss, the movie wasn’t very good.  John Wayne’s portrayal of a barbarian warlord was described as catastrophically bad and Susan Hayward was described as underwhelming as his lover.  The film was listed as one of the 50 worst films of all time in 1978.

    The Southern California high-heat and Covid 19 sequestering have given me plenty of time to strengthen my broken right leg – that is the knee-cap area.  One might argue that I am inclined to ignore medical advice; which is true, but in this case I asked the orthopedic surgeon (and my son is a witness) if there were any exercises I could do to improve my ability to walk somewhat normally.  The surgeon hemmed and hawed and among other things said I was above the recovery curve and described me as an over-achiever – probably another case of a doctor fearing a future law-suit.  I have experimented with exercises that weren’t helpful, but in recent weeks seem to have managed better.  I haven’t been on any recent hikes, but I’ve worked in my yard almost every day without mishap and with fewer cases of “almost” falling over.  Also, I have one particular exercise that transforms me from a stiff awkward cripple into a near normal-walking person almost instantly.

    I have for some time sought the perfect “going light” camera set up.  I’ve tried different cameras over the years, the Olympus E420, the EPM-2, the OMD-EM1 and the EM5ii.  With Pentax I’ve acquired the KS-1 but preferred the K-70.  More recently I purchased the Nikon Z-50 with its two kit lenses.  
    The other day I was going through some old digital photos and thought my very first serious digital camera, the 6MP Hewlett Packard Photosmart R717, produced some pretty good shots.  Susan left it in the back of her car on a hot day in Tucson and fried the electronics; so I couldn’t actually use the one I had, but I checked eBay to see if any used R717s were being offered.  I still have the excellent little R717 belt case and recall that it was an excellent setup for hiking.  I could leave my R717 in the case while starting out, but take it out to snap a quick shot when anything interesting or scenic happened.  There were a couple of R717s on eBay but neither was attractive.
    I next gave Ricoh GR cameras serious thought.  In size they seemed close to the R717.  I compared the 16MP GRii to the 24MP Griii and thought the former might be the best re-entrance into the point-and-shoot world.  Although Ricoh claims much more than point & shoot capability for their cameras, point-and-shoot is the way I would expect to use them on hikes.  I ordered the $639.95 Grii with a $45 case, an extra $49.95 battery and a $12.29 strap.
    Contributing to the decision to buy a Grii was the sky which remains gray.  There is no need to take better cameras out under such a sky.  Perhaps by the time I get the Grii the smoke will have dissipated and I’ll be able to carry a better camera, but I feel pessimistic.  I will perhaps feel the way I did when I was hiking with an R717: out for the hike and not intending to do a lot of shooting, but just in case some particular scene seemed irresistible, I could have it on my hip and could whip it out.  

    I walked out back just now to police dog-poop off the grass.  I couldn’t smell smoke, but then I couldn’t smell the dog-poop either which probably doesn’t prove anything.  John Wayne denied that he had gotten his cancer from the nuclear tests.  He argued it was the six packs of cigarettes he smoked every day.  



Doug said...

Little House on the Prairie cast was filmed near a nuclear site & a lot of the cast have died from cancer, Landon & French are 2 of them but there are more who died from cancer on that show.You can check it out. Btw, what exactly are the exercises you do to strengthen your legs since your injury?

Your friend,

Lawrence Helm said...

Just saw your comment. I post irregularly and don't think to check for comments. Sorry.
As to my exercise, I have done squats, but my biggest concern was the leg movement required for walking and the squats went beyond that. So my most significant exercise currently is on my stairs. I can now go down backward with just barely enough leg strength to take a step with my weak leg. I have not put that to the test yet going down the stairs.