Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marcella Armstrong's Journal

I have received my grandmother's journal back from Joan and Don Joy! So, now to get it scanned, and restored in a new cover. I'm going to see if the Bessenberg Bindery can do this kind of job for me.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Pile of Long-Lost Slides

I found a handful of loose slides and today I'm scanning them. This batch needs a lot of hand-restoration with Photoshop; I'll leave the touchup of dirt and scratches to later, but just getting the colors even remotely correct has been a challenge, since these are old and have not been properly stored.

This one seems to be me, on the right, maybe circa 1969, in Seattle, but I'm not certain where. Is this in my yard at the time? I don't know. I think the boy on the left is Michael, the son of my mom's friend whose name escapes me at the moment. I look to be about two. I've never seen this picture before. There's probably a story behind it. The slide is marked July 1970, and I think my parents' relationship was either hopelessly broken or badly damaged at this point. I don't look happy. But maybe I'm reading too much into it. When I look at it I feel as if I'm on the verge of remembering what it was like to be that two-year-old boy (I had not yet turned three), as if those memories are still in there somewhere!

This next one was over-exposed to begin with and the dyes are very faded, meaning that it lets most light of the light from the scanner through, and comes out almost white. This means it requires a lot of darkening and contrast-enhancement to see much of anything, and there is hardly any color left to correct. I'm sure a pro could get this looking better, but here it is: Richard, Joan, and Susan Armstrong perhaps around 1955. Are they all in the water? The way the shot is framed, it is hard to tell. Hand-written on the slide is "at Sun Lake, Washington."

Next, a fantastic photo of my mom. This one was remarkably well-preserved. The slide is stamped "61R" which I'm thinking might indicate 1961 -- was this taken at Fircrest School?

This next one is my father's family in Eatonville, Washington: Thanksgiving, 1975. I'm not certain who everyone is, but Amby, Mary, Elmer, Sally, Aaron, and Ted I recognize.

And finally, my mother at Niagara Falls. My father wrote "Fascination" on a label on the slide's cardboard holder! The colors have held up reasonably well but this slide is badly stained and very dirty. I was able to clean some of the gunk off with emulsion cleaning fluid but it will still need a lot of touch-up in Photoshop if I'm ever going to use this one for high-resolution printing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Newly Found Photos of the Armstrong Siblings

These photos came to my mother Susan Zahner from Lenore Frimoth (Beck) in 1996. Some of them were in rough shape; I put Photoshop through its paces to get as much contrast as possible out of the originals, and used my new tablet to do a lot of touch-up to fix dirt, stains, scratches, and even tears. Time-consuming, but I'm very pleased with the results!

Dora Armstrong (Bagley), around 1915.

Ruth Armstrong, Richard Armstrong, and Ella Grace Armstrong (Ruth and Ella Grace later married and took the names Beck and Findley).

Richard and Ruth, exact date unknown. My grandfather looks like he was probably under two years old.

This one indicates 1906 or 1907 on the back of the photo.

Richard, age 12, and age unknown (perhaps around 18).

The Cherry Pudding

Dick Zahner recently found a few more photos and documents that had been my mother's and grandmother's. To introduce these, here is a short story written by Ruth Beck (Armstrong), my paternal grandfather's sister. The Cherry Pudding (PDF file of page images, 513K) The story describes an idyllic day in Iowa nearly 100 years ago, in 1912.

My great-aunt Ruth dedicated this story to the memory of my grandfather, Richard Armstrong. The characters she mentions include Uncle Harvey (I'm not sure who that is), Aunt Harriet (Hattie), "the baby" Ella Grace Findley (Armstrong), Dora Armstrong (Bagley), and "Grandmother" (Ruth's grandmother, who I'll have to find out more about). I know very little about my grandfather Richard's family and childhood, but this story has just helped remedy that. There's even enough detail given that an enterprising cook could probably make the cherry pudding described, or at least a close approximation.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Summer's Over

This is not really on topic, but... we're back from a week's vacation in Grand Marais with my father and stepmother, visiting from California.

I made a video -- my first -- using Apple iMove, and uploaded it to a brand-spanking-new YouTube account. The video is our family vacation, in the form of a music video for Jonathan Coulton's song "Summer's Over" (Thing a Week #51).

Here is the video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSVuCYOYYKM

I find Mr. Coulton's lyrics to be simple but beautiful; the song has been stuck in my head for the last few weeks.

Summer’s over
You’re going back to school
I’m staying here
Where else would I go?

Watch the leaves turn
Close up the swimming pool
Winter comes in
Sooner than you know

Nights get cold
And the flowers let go
Bide their time
Under the snow
As they go down they say

Summer’s over
Because it has to be
Just like before
Around and around

It’s a circle
Bringing you back to me
Stay where I am
I’m lost and found

When you go
You come back again
Close the door
The cold’s getting in
As I go down I say

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cross-Blog Information and Introductions

In order to try to avoid boring people with material they aren't interested in, I have divided my writing up into five separate blogs. The downside to this is that I have a tendency to wander from one area of interest to another over the course of a typical year, so it may look like I've dropped off the face of the earth. In case anyone is interested in following what is going on in one of my other blogs, I thought it might be useful to post this road map once in a while.

Geek Like Me Too is my general-purpose personal blog. The most recent postings are about a recent Jonathan Coulton concert in Pontiac that I attended and recorded. I have provided recordings of the show as a set of MP3 files, of interest to geeks who like music.

Geek Like Me is its predecessor, done in Blosxom, now still up only for archival purposes.

Geek Versus Guitar is about guitar playing. Recently I've recorded a few Jonathan Coulton songs myself. It will also be about learning to produce songs with my home studio.

Praise, Curse, and Recurse is about programming topics, mostly Haskell, Python, and Scheme. My free time has been devoted to other things but I will no doubt be back around to programming before too long.

The Marcella Armstrong Memorial Collection is about my family history, and the big task of scanning, restoring, preserving, and archiving family photos and documents. Of interest to any family members, but also of possible interest to people doing their own similar projects.

Tales from the Potts House: William Hope Hodgson contains information about the "Hodgecast" podcast available on iTunes, in which I record classic William Hope Hodgson novels and stories. I have more podcasts planned in both this series and possibly others in the near future.

Anyway, there it is... please join me on any of these blogs that might catch your interest. I always have far too many projects going at once!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Brian at Seventeen

I think this may have been Brian's high school graduation photo, but I'm not entirely certain, since I have several similar ones.

Brian at Ten

I think Brian was about ten when this portrait was taken.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

March of 1973

The skin tones are kind of ghastly after rough color restoration, but here we are! I was five, he was three.

I am hoping to eventually acquire some of the more specialized Photoshop plugins for doing more accurate and nuanced color correction.

Brian at One

He had to Beat the Young Girls Off with a Stick

Color Shift

Here is an excellent example of how the scanner software can correct very faded photographs. Here is a grade-school portrait of Brian; I think this might have been from the first grade:

The original is terribly faded:

It still could benefit from some work; the colors have faded unevenly. But even so, it is quite a surprise to find that he was wearing green!

Brian Dennis Potts

His middle name comes from our great-grandfather, Richard Armstrong's father, Dennis Armstrong, whom we never met. And I forgot his birthday!

Sorry, Brian!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Best of the Blue Album Web Gallery

These are my favorite pictures from the blue album. Uploading pictures to Blogger seems to be pretty unreliable, so I am hosting them offsite. Here is the link:

The Best of the Blue Album Web Gallery

This gallery contains about 51 images at modest sizes for web viewing. The files were created by using Aperture's Web Gallery feature. The original album has about 150 pictures.

The Blue Album, Cover

This is why I called it the Blue Album.

The Blue Album, Page 10

This is one of the digital photos I took of a page in the Blue Album. These were done just for a reference as to how the prints and captions were laid out on the page. These are photos that I also have as slides, although I also found a couple of prints of slides that are missing from the sets of slides.

The Blue Album, the Missing Photos

These are the photos of Linda that I managed to miss when making my high-resolution scans. I think there is another copy of at least one of them in the collection.

The Blue Album

Before our family vacation, I was able to take apart and scan the pages from a large-format photo album that I'll just call the "Blue Album." This album was easy to disassemble because it was held together with a string. The full pages were too large to fit on the scanner, but I took digital photos of each page to help preserve the layout, and then took a high-resolution scan of each photo, and a lower-resolution scan of each caption.

The photographs in the Blue Album are in mixed condition -- some of the black-and-white portraits are absolutely mint, but many of the color snapshots are fading badly. The pages are fibrous, acidic black construction paper, as was commonly used. It sheds little black fibers everywhere, so despite my best efforts at cleaning the scanner glass and dusting the pages between scans there are little black fibers on some of the images. I will need to do some extra cleanup with Photoshop in some cases. Some individual pictures have torn spots where glue has stuck to the prints, but most of them are in decent enough shape. I considered various preservation options up to possibly soaking the prints off the pages, but in the end just reassembled the album and put it in a sturdy drop-front box from Archival Methods. I made several gold DVD+R backups of the images. I will eventually get these sent off to Linda.

Anyway, we took the train to Gaithersburg, Maryland, and I took the album in its big black box with me. I presented the reassembled "Blue Album" to the family. Linda and David got a chance to look at it, and Joan and Don took it back to Myrtle Beach, along with Marcella Armstrong's journal. I have not yet finished reading and transcribing the journal yet, so I am hoping to borrow it back at some point, and perhaps to get it bound in a new cover while I'm at it.

Meanwhile, I have also done a first round of cleanup and enhancement on the images from the blue album. I am trying to come up with a more efficient workflow -- uploading images individually to Blogger tends to be very slow and unreliable. Aperture can export a web album, so I'm trying that. I've taken my picks for the best photos from the Blue Album and put them into a web album. On this G5 iMac, Aperture takes a very long time to generate the web album -- in fact, it has been at it for a couple of hours, but the time estimate keeps going up, not down. When it is done, I will upload this web gallery separately to my Dreamhost space and provide a link here.

While assembling the gallery, I realized that I apparently missed scanning the images from one of the album pages. These are three black-and-white portraits of Linda. The page they are attached to was badly torn, so I probably was having trouble getting the photos onto the scanner without tearing the page apart completely. I must have set it aside to scan later and then reassembled the book without getting to them. Fortunately, I do have the low-resolution digital photo of that particular album page, although it shows some distortion due to the angle. I may also have other copies of one or more of these prints elsewhere in the collection. If not, I'll have to see if I can eventually get these three portraits scanned.

One last thing -- while there are numerous pictures of me in this album, including some I don't think exist elsewhere in the collection, there are unfortunately none of my brother Brian. Apparently this album was assembled before pictures of Brian were available. This doesn't mean there aren't lots of pictures of Brian! I have many, many more in the collection, and will get to them as I work my way through the project.