A 1950s Fero Antimagnetic Watch

Here is a 1950s Fero Antimagnetic watch with a 15 rubis Ebauche Bettlach (EB 1343) movement and a peripheral second hand. The dial is exquisitely designed, with guilloche reliefs in the shape of circles and solar rays and a hexagonal star in the center. I call this an early version of a skeleton watch, because it’s sealed between two panes of plexiglass. You can see the movement when you turn it over and you can also see through it.

The downside to this is that I cannot open the watch because the seal (which accords it a certain resistance to water and most definitely to dust) will be broken. The upside is that the plexiglass modulates the ticking of the movement, making it softer and more interesting. This effect can also be seen when the watch is wound, and you’ll be able to hear both those processes in the video.

You can tell this watch was loved, because it’s well-worn. The gold plating is barely visible anymore but in spite of all the wear, there are no significant scratches on it. This means its previous owner(s) wore it a lot and cared for it.

The movement ticks at 18,000 beats per hour and it has a power reserve of 37 hours. The diameter of the watch is 37 mm and the distance between the lugs is 18 mm. The movement itself has a diameter of 25.6 mm and is only 4.2 mm thick.

The Fero brand, trademarked in 1959, belonged to the Fero Watch company, founded by Roger Ferner as Fero & Cie. before WWI in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The Fero name actually comes from its founder and is made up of the first two initials of his two names (FErner ROger). Fero also made watches with the following names: Feldmann, Ceneri, Farad, Ferio, Hello, Legation, Maloja, Pantheon and Tango.

Fero did not manufacture its own mechanisms. Instead they purchased and installed movements from some of the best Swiss watchmakers such as Anton Schild, Bettlach, FHF and others. They did design their own watch cases and their designs were quite distinctive, as you can see here. Fero watches are quite rare these days and it’s fairly difficult to find one in as good a shape as this one. I know, because I found another, likely older than this one, whose bezel and case are completely corroded, so I’m not sure how I’m going to restore it.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos!

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Tight-fitting clothes vs. classic, comfortable tailoring

Here’s my take on the subject of men’s clothes. I realize I’m going against current trends with this view, but thanks to my recent experience with severe back pain, I’ve gained additional insights into the effects that clothes have on our posture, our bodies and ultimately our health. I know and I have seen first-hand how some clothes can provoke back pain and others can relieve it, and that’s what I talk about in this video. I hope it helps you!

A quick fix to the chime of our baroque clock

We recently purchased an ornate Baroque wall clock which was working perfectly fine at the store. When we got it home and put it on the wall, we discovered that the crystalline chime it makes each half-hour had disappeared. I assumed that it was a minor issue, so I opened it up carefully, after which I discovered that the hammer which struck the bell inside the mechanism had gotten stuck during the transport. After I got it unstuck, the clock started chiming again. Not an earth-shattering discovery but we were happy. Here’s a look at the process:

My video recording setup

After working with this setup for over a year, I wanted to share it with you, having gained full knowledge of its advantages and disadvantages. It is what works for me at this time, in my particular situation, but it may help you as well, if like me, you make your own videos and don’t have a team working behind the scenes.

This 3-4 camera setup is what I use to film my wife’s shows: Ligia’s Kitchen and De Vorbă cu Ligia. For my own videos I use a more basic 1-2 camera setup, since I have to be both in front and behind the camera.

Let me state the advantage and disadvantages first and then I’ll give you the exact list of equipment.

The advantages:

  • The big iPad displays allow for proper framing, focusing and exposure control. I always disliked those tiny screens on DSLRs and video cameras.
  • The iPads have big batteries (except for the iPod Touch) that allow for hours of filming.
  • The featherweight iPod Touch can be mounted  in all sorts of unusual spots (including overhead).
  • Live viewing and control of the video feeds (things such as focus, exposure, white balance), including instantaneous switching between the feeds, from a master iPad. One person can manage all of the cameras at once. This setup allows up to four angles at a time.
  • Lightweight, small and highly portable setup.
  • With the aid of dedicated apps, you can get very good control of the video quality and look, right in the camera, without having to resort to a lot of post-editing.

The disadvantages:

  • Video quality isn’t on par with what you can obtain from a good DSLR with a good lens or better yet, from a dedicated, professional video camera. The dynamic range isn’t there, the noise levels are fairly high, the focus isn’t crisp enough. What you’ll need to do to compensate is to make sure your lighting is as good as you can get it.
  • The battery life of the iPod Touch is terrible. Have an external power source (plug or power bank) readily available if you need to record more than 30-45 minutes of video.
  • Also, the iPod Touch has a much slower processor than the iPad, so don’t attempt to use it as a master controller or for video editing. Use it only as a slave camera and be prepared to wait for good, long times when it updates itself with new Apple software and apps.
  • The on-camera (iPad Air and iPod Touch) microphones don’t offer good sound. The iPad’s microphone is passable from a close distance when nothing else is available, but that of the iPod Touch sounds tinny, no matter the situation. Use shotgun, dedicated or lavalier microphones for better sound.
  • You’ll need good WiFi signal in the room where you’re recording video, if you’re going to want to manage the video feeds from each iPad camera on a master iPad.

The equipment list:

  • 4 iPad Air units: mine are 128 GB first-generation models, I got a great deal on them at B&H Photo about 1 ½ years ago, I think they were old stock and they were making room for the 2nd generation iPads. I went for the largest capacity available because I wanted to be able to record lots of video without needing to stop and download. It just so happened that they also had 4G LTE, which was a nice plus. It was the right decision.
  • 1 iPod Touch unit: I got this because it was small and I wanted to use it for overhead angles, where a heavy camera might fall on my head. I didn’t want to use my iPhone, just in case it ever fell from its rigging. (An iPod is cheaper to replace than an iPhone.) It was the right decision. The short battery life and slow performance were unexpected and disappointing, but it does its job when needed.
  • 5 iOgrapher cases for the iPads and iPod Touch: check out their website, they keep working on their cases and have developed new ones to fit the new gadgets from Apple. I love their cases because they work both handheld (they have two big handles on each side) or mounted on a tripod. And they have mounts for external microphones and lights, right on top where they’re needed.
  • 5-6 iOgrapher lenses: I use a mix of Telephoto and Wide Angle lenses made for the iOgrapher cases, they use a 37 mm mount. They’re not pro-level lenses and they have a bit of distortion and chromatic aberration around the edges, but they’ll do the job.
  • 2 Rode smartLav+ lavalier microphones. This is where our iPhones are useful. We put them on Airplane mode, plug these mics into them, start up the Voice Memos app and slide them in our pockets. We get to record great audio with little fuss.
  • The following iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone apps: the built-in Camera app that comes with iOS, RecoLive MultiCam and Filmic Pro.
  • 1 or more video lights. There are a ton of options here. We use this one. Its advantage is that it comes with interchangeable color filters that shift the temperature of the light.
  • 2 or more softboxes mounted on C-stands for each set.
  • 1 hair light such as this one. I mounted it on a C-stand that I extended to its maximum height and lateral length. You may need to use some sandbags to stabilize the stand.
  • We also use the room’s own lighting for effect and illumination. I tend to use cold temperatures for the studio lights (white CFLs and LEDs) and warm temperatures for the room lights. I know people say you shouldn’t mix light colors when you’re shooting video or photos, but I like it. When they’re mixed the right way, they give me a “live” white balance, an in-studio “look” for my video, which is better than doing it in post.

If you have any questions or if I’ve forgotten to mention anything, let me know in the comments. I hope this helps you!

Solid advice on back pain

I recently finished reading a book called “Ending back pain: 5 powerful steps to diagnose, understand and treat your ailing back“, written by Dr. Jack Stern, a back surgeon. Here’s the English cover:

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And for those of you who are in Romania, here’s the Romanian cover:

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Some of you may remember that I dealt with a bout of debilitating back pain in 2015-2016. As a matter of fact, as I write this short book review, I get to celebrate a year of living a fairly normal life again — as opposed to crawling on all fours and unable to walk, hopped up on pain killers and yet still in excruciating pain.

So it is with the authority given to me by first-hand experience that I recommend this book to you. Back pain has become an epidemic nowadays, because of the way most of us live and think, and there’s a very good chance that if you’re reading this and are over the age of 30, you’ve had some back pain. I know 25-year olds who are struggling with back pain. This was unheard of just a few decades ago. Back pain used to be a thing old people complained about. Not anymore.

This book truly does what it promises to do in its title. It walks you through its five steps that help you self-diagnose your back pain, guides you in the process of selecting a specialist to assist with your recovery and gives you solid advice about how to stop the pain from reoccurring.

What I liked about it (and there are many things to like) was its holistic approach. The author doesn’t stress surgery, even though he’s a successful and experienced surgeon. Like me, he thinks surgery is the absolute last resort. Even more so, he talks a great deal about natural ways to treat the back pain. He’s not entrenched in the allopathic approach which, let’s be honest, has failed quite miserably in the treatment of back in recent decades.

What you’ll take away from the book depends on your particular situation, but what I want you to understand going in, is that back pain is a complicated beast that can have many causes: physical, psychological, genetic, postural, mechanical, food, lack of exercise and so on. Your particular back pain, even though it may have the same symptoms as that of someone else, may have entirely different causes. That’s where this book shines: it talks about those causes and helps you to identify what’s really ailing you, what’s at the root of your back pain.

I’ve gained valuable insights through the reading of this book. It confirmed things I intuited when I was sinking deeper and deeper into a spiral of pain and despair and revealed new things to me about the nature of my particular back pain. It’ll do the same for you if you read it in earnest, studiously and with the intent of getting to the bottom of things.

Good luck and good health!

A suggestion for this new year

Since this is my first post of 2017, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year!

Now I’d like to suggest that you do something. I know you’d like me to post here on my blog more often. And that’s one of the things I’d like to do this year. But there is one place you can go where I post a lot these days: my Facebook page.

I’m not kidding. You’re missing out on a lot of good stuff if you aren’t following my page. As you know, the main subject of my website is how to make one’s life better. The things I talk about, the photos I publish, the videos I make, are by and large geared toward that purpose. My Facebook page deals with the same subject, except I can post a whole lot of stuff there that doesn’t necessarily belong on a website, like a quick video or a link to an article, or a photo that I didn’t take, or an inspirational quote, etc. So go to my Facebook page and follow me if you’re interested in this kind of stuff.

I bet you’ll also be interested in the photo albums I’ve posted there. For me, they’re sources of inspiration when it comes to making my life better and I hope they inspire you as well. Here’s the list, feel free to browse through them:

I believe some of you will have a couple of concerns as you start going through the photos, so let me address them here:

  1. Most of the photos aren’t my own. I wanted to post them anyway, because they are truly inspirational, whether they are scenes from nature or photographs of beautiful things. Where I knew the photographer, I gladly gave credit. Where I didn’t, I didn’t. If you do, let me know and I’ll quickly add a caption giving credit where it’s due. Also notice I said most of them aren’t my own. That means that interspersed between all those photographs you’ll find mine as well, and I didn’t credit myself either.
  2. It might seem like I’m overly concerned with things, with possessions. It’s not that. It’s about drawing inspiration from beauty and looking to re-create beauty of that sort in my own life. All of us have this innate need for beauty in our surroundings, for quality in the things we use, and yet most of you (I excluded myself from that group long ago, sorry) are content with the average or the sub-par. Sure, you’ll bring up money as an excuse but just like with anything in life, there’s no excuse for anything you really want to accomplish. I myself would rather go buy a top-notch coat from the thrift store than pay double or triple that price for an average coat at the store. Money isn’t a concern. You can always find a way to make your life more beautiful, more interesting, more worth living.

Anyway, the point of this long-overdue post is not to berrate you but to inspire you. If you want to be inspired and to learn good things, you need to folllow my Facebook page. And this website, naturally.

Thanks!

The story of a pair of shoes

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I’ve owned these monk-strap shoes for over 10 years. I photographed them this morning for the purposes of this post. These are one of the pairs of shoes I use around the house for all kinds of work: home office, going to the cellar to fetch firewood, going into the dusty attic to put or get various things, renovation work, etc.

I used them last night as we mounted this restored door frame back in place, as I used a miter saw in the cellar, carried the various parts up to the house, used a nail gun to secure them in place and assemble the frame.

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You can see these same shoes in this video.

I also used them when I built our garden shed in Florida.

In spite of all the wear and tear I’ve put them through over the years, a little elbow grease always gets them looking great, and that’s a testament to the craftmanship of the shoemaker. The brand (Mario Calugi) isn’t as important here as the lesson to be learned from the experience.

Lots of people make a big stink about how wearing leather contributes to animal cruelty but the truth of the matter is, using every little bit of an animal that’s going to get sacrificed for its meat anyway, is the right thing to do.

Furthermore, taking proper care of your belongings, especially the ones made from other beings (because animals are beings, not things) is crucial and it is part of showing respect for the sacrifice of that animal, for the protection its skin profers you and for the hard work that went into making the finished good you now have in your possession.

Good leather lasts a lifetime if you take care of it. Great shoes also last a lifetime if you take care of them. Yes, it means changing the soles when they wear out, it means treating the leather and polishing it, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s part of being a good, responsible human being to take care of your stuff. Please do it.