Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Bitten by the Bug -- Again!

View from the Other End
Bitten By the Bug, Part 1
Sky Research 8” F/2.9 Dobsonian, circa 1981
My first serious telescope, a Sky Research 8" F/2.9 Dobsonian, circa 1981

Bitten by the Bug, Part 2

In the early 1980s I used the rich-field Sky Research dob for a number of years, but was keenly aware of its shortcomings. While it sported an unrivaled F2.9 aperture, ideal for dim, extended objects requiring more light grasp than magnification, it was a poor planetary scope, due to its short focal length and large secondary mirror obstruction. Still, I kept it in the camper shell of my Toyota truck, to have handy whenever the mood struck. And I enjoyed some spectacular views of nebulae, in the mountains of northern New Mexico at night, where Orion's nebula shone like a Hubble picture.

Sky Research 8” F/2.9 Dobsonian Reflector

And then one morning, on the way to work at the TV Repair Shop, I got in a traffic accident, and the scope was thrown around the back of the camper shell, which fractured the composite body tube around the eyepiece focuser mount. I put the scope into storage for a number of years, until I could decide what to do with it. Years later, I replaced the 9.25 inch diameter body tube with a 10 inch diameter construction type concrete form tube, which required replacing the glass aperture plate (the original scope had the secondary mirror mounted to a clear glass aperture plate up front, with no mounting spider like an open-tube Newtonian), with a makeshift threaded rod and plumbing cap secondary mirror mount and spider. In the process I painted the new body tube red, with the rocker box now white.

Inside the Rich Field Newtonian

I was still looking for a stargazing solution, however. For a while I used my Dad's Edmund Scientific 4.25" newtonian, which he'd bought in the 1950s. I remember one summer night at Altura Park viewing Mars at opposition, and sketching surface detail in that scope. It certainly performed above its weight limit!

Tasco 3”, 700mm Reflector Telescope

One thing led to another, and eventually I was left with the red/white/blue shorty dobsonian, and a beaten up old Tasco reflector, the kind once sold in department stores. Not the best instrument for a serious amateur. It's this little red scope that I've been having fun with recently. It's easy to take down and store in my garage, and gives an adequate view of brighter objects from the city. But I'm keenly aware of its limitations.

Zhumell 25x100 Astronomy Binocular & Case

This isn't the first time I've been down this road, being bitten by the astronomy bug and wanting a better viewing instrument. Within the last decade I started using a 7x50 binocular, mounted to my Bogen camera tripod, and enjoyed the views, and especially the ease of setup, tear down and storage. But I wanted an instrument with higher magnification and light grasp, so eventually got these Zhumell 25x100s. That's 25x magnification and 100mm (about 4") aperture. Bigger than the little red reflector's 3" mirror, almost as big as my Dad's old Edmund Scientific reflector, though a much shorter focal length, and fixed magnification, as the eyepieces aren't removable.

Zhumell 25x100 Astronomy Binocular

Forget handholding these babies. It's not even a suggestion to have a tripod, but mandatory. They weigh north of 15 pounds. But I've had some fun viewing with them, using both eyes, first using my Bogen camera tripod (which is almost too flimsy for them), and later with this cobbled together-frame that positions the binos at eye level, reclined in a zero-gravity lawn chair. Perfect viewing comfort.


But alas, this frame is too large to store with easy access in my garage, so has been relegated under a pile of clutter, along with the folding chair, in my storage shed. But I have been busy sketching ideas of different binocular mounts.

Parallelogram Binocular Mount

First is my version of a parallelogram mount. This is an articulating arm, mounted to a tripod, that attaches the binocular to an L-bracket on one side and is counter-weighted on the other. This kind of mount permits the binocular arm to be moved up, down and sideways without changing the aiming point of the instrument. Set a reclining chair next to the tripod and you're all set. These are available for purchase, but this was my sketch of a homemade version.

Astronomy Binocular Mount Studies

Next are two more sketches. The one on the left is an alt-azimuth mount that attaches to a tripod and has those low-friction bearings like on a Dobsonian reflector scope. The problem with this idea is the eyepieces don't have 90-degree prisms, so pointing the instrument at the zenith means getting in an awkward position underneath. And because the tripod's directly below the instrument, there's no room for a reclining chair.

The sketch on the right is for a counter-weighted frame that positions the scope in front of the user, reclined in a chair, with the up/down pivot of the frame being located adjacent to their ears, meaning as the viewer tilts their head up and down the binocular can follow with the eyepieces right in front of them. I didn't show the rest of the idea, which is a reclining chair mounted to a rotating platform. While it would represent the ultimate in binocular viewing in comfort, I'm not convinced of its easy of storage or portability. Oh well, at least the idea is documented on paper.

Since I did drag the short-tube Dobsonian out of the storage shed and cleaned it up (except the mirror is still needing cleaned), perhaps I'll put it through its paces during these next few weeks, and see how I get on with it, before deciding on buying either a parallelogram mount for the big binoculars, or a larger, longer Dobsonian-style Newtonian. And if I do decide to make another gear acquisition, it's incumbent upon me to give my older gear away to someone who'd appreciate it, perhaps starting their own journey into star gazing.

These are the problems of a part-time sky watcher, who has bigger dreams than his pocket book or available room can accomodate. But I suppose there are worse problems.

Stay well, and keep looking up.


Monday, January 11, 2021

EKG Paper Typing

EKG Thermal Paper & Canon Typestar 4
EKG Paper Typing

This EKG thermal roll paper is thin -- thinner than the Brother letter-sized thermal paper sheets that I like (and return-gifted a pack to Gregory Short, in exchange for him sending me this roll of paper). But it's still thicker than the Staples-branded fax paper, and prints darker. I think I'm going to like it.

I do need to make another dispensor holder for this new roll; my other holders still have paper in them. I'm thinking about making it as simple as possible, simple enough that almost anybody could make one. And I'll use one of those thin metal serated tear-strips from a pack of plastic wrap or aluminium foil. Probably use a bamboo skewer to hold the roll in the dispensor. Maybe a video about it.

Canon Typestar 4

I like that the front, thermally-sensitive side is rolled facing inward to the roll. It seems to protect the coating better. And once rolled through a thermal typewriter, it tends to reverse-curl the paper to flatten it out rather well.

Since this paper was a gift, I do need to find the source online, and determine whether the price is sufficiently thrifty to recommend to others. But I really like the dark "imprint" it makes, along with the nice grid pattern. Thank you again Gregory for this gift!


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Typewriter History

1961 Hermes 3000
Typewriter History, Page 1
From Sandia Lab News, June 8, 1962

Typewriter History, Page 2

Here's the video I made of Sterling Carter's Remington:


Monday, December 28, 2020

Ribbon Winder Project

Ribbon Winder
Ribbon Winder

The heart of the system are these machine screws that function as axle bolts. The ribbon spools are secured to the bolts tightly with a set of lock washers and nuts. Meanwhile, the axle bolt is free to rotate in the hole of the angle bracket.

Ribbon Winder

The 3/8" nuts are tightened using a chuck key wrench from a Dremel Moto-tool kit.

Ribbon Winder

Here are both ribbon spools attached to their respective axle bolts. The oddly-shaped brackets are from my assortment of odds & ends spare hardware bits & bobs; they function as washers to help clamp the spools to the bolts, via the lock nuts.

Ribbon Winder

The wooden plate is installed mainly to keep the ends of the axle bolts secured, and the bolts parallel to one another while winding. The plate is secured to the base with a short thumb screw that functions as a locating pin. Also seen is the Dremel chuck key wrench, whose middle hole is a perfect fit for the locating pin.

Ribbon winder

Here's a detail of the locating pin, removed from its hole.

Ribbon Winder

Here is the other side of the winder, with wooden plate installed. The wide brackets on the spools are more of those miscellaneous hardware brackets I had stored away. They do seem to function rather well to keep the ribbon spools nicely secured, regardless of how wide the central ribbon spool spindle hole is.

Ribbon Winder

One feature not obvious in these still photos is that an electric screwdriver, with drill bit chuck attached, can be chucked onto the end of the take-up spool bolt, and with backtension applied to the supply-side spool, the ribbon can be wound on with tremendous speed and efficiency. Here's a video about this project:


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Wayward Stargazer

iPhone 6S, Zhumell 25x100 binocularsiPhone image through eyepiece of Zhumell 25 x 100 binocular

“Wayward Stargazer”

Last night, the night of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, I spent out on the streetside with the Zhumell 25 x 100s on a Bogen tripod, which gave a very crisp view for family and passersby. I did try a few iPhone snaps through the eyepiece, but nothing to write home about, except for the moon photo above.

The Zhumells are individual eyepiece-focus, you have to adjust each eye separately, so I adjusted them for my corrected vision while wearing glasses, and that seemed pretty close for most people. Luckily there's enough eye relief that I can see a full field of view even wearing glasses.

Tonite, a day later, I used my Panasonic Lumix G5 camera with Tokina 70-200 F/2.8 lens, to try for a better view of the planets. This isn't really astronomy-grade imaging gear, the resulting image is barely comprehensible, but here it is:

Jupiter & Saturn

And here's the kit:

LUMIX G5 + Tokina 80-200 F/2.8

I've always been attracted to visual astronomy. The allure of digital imaging doesn't tempt me; if I wanted a nice image of some distant galaxy I can see a Hubble Telescope view online. Oh, I certainly understand the idea of stretching your imaging skills as much as possible, but often these days it's a race to who can spend the most bucks, and I'm not interested in that game.

The observing skills I'm most interested in involves learning the night sky, and learning to see astronomically. Which, I remind myself, can only happen when you get out there under the stars.

How about you; do you stargaze?


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Cozy Afternoon

Cozy Afternoon

The Olympia Reporter is a champ to do quick typings on, hardly any finger force is needed and it'll lay down ink on paper as quick as you can wiggle your fingers. It did, however, start to show a bit of piling-on, when doing rapid, staccato typing (which, we are advised by our typing instructors of long ago, not to do). So a bit of Tri-Lube oil on the carriage bearing rails and Bob's your uncle.

I realize it's been several weeks since I blogged, and decided that I don't always have to wait until something extraordinarily important comes along that needs to be shared. Actually, rarely has this blog been extraordinary, in all the years since it started (2006 to be exact). But a little bit here and there is better than none at all. Even if it's just a simple observation in the warmth of a sunny afternoon's light.

Stay well, and go do something creative.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Typewriter Club Live!

Typewriter Club Live

I missed last week's meet-up, so was looking forward to today's. But then, during preliminary checks of my system, I discover the mic input on my Mac Mini suddenly is line-level only; two weeks ago it would detect a mic input and automatically switch. Since then, there's been a (so-called) "update" and now things are different. I ended up having to use an amplified video microphone instead, which worked okay but didn't have the sonic isolation of a lavelier mic.

After the meeting today I did some internet sleuthing but couldn't find an easy fix. Until I decided to try my Audio Technica input adapter, that combines a separate 3-pin headphone output and mic jack input into one 4-pin connector. Once plugged into the Mac's headphone jack, it worked fine. Go figure. Another good reason to check things out before hand.

I also continue to have technical issues with the HDMI connectors from my cameras, their connectors are very glitchy if the camera is moved. I need to cobble together a cable attachment that fixes that issue, because moving the camera around is important if you have to do show-and-tell with typewriters.

As I alluded to in the typing, it was difficult for me to concentrate on writing anything worthwhile, consciously knowing (?) others are watching. Maybe I should think of it more like a performance, in the way that professional entertainers and musicians are used to concentrating fully on their work, while others watch. Performance typing. Heh.

This week's meeting was different from previous ones in the sense that we did more ad hoc typing, on occassion there being little or no talking, just tapping away on our machines. That was refreshing. I especially like watching several of our members actually write letters, doing something productive.

I started the meeting with my MJ Rooy and Hermes 3000, later bringing out the Groma Kolibri and Smith-Corona 5-series electric. A fun time was had.

I encourage you to tune into the Typewriter Club on Sunday mornings at 8am Pacific Time Zone, on Gregory Short's Poor Typist channel.


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Dvoracek's The Pinhole of Nature

Dvoracek’s The Pinhole of Nature
The Pinhole of Nature

In my many years of practicing pinhole with paper negatives, I felt partially out of touch with Nick's practice of color negative rollfilm. But as I've matured, I can see the advantage, as he has continually documented his home and community through his blog, in a way that is simultaneously a record of the time and place he lives in, and also an art form. It's the consistency of his work that continues to impress me.

More recently, Nick has indicated he's gearing up to explore the 4x5 sheet film format, which I look forward to seeing.

Here's the link to Nick's The Pinhole of Nature.

There's also a wealth of information at the now-defunct F295 Pinhole Discussion Forum.

You can peruse an online PDF of Fox Talbot's seminal work, The Pencil of Nature, here.

Here's my video review of Nick's The Pinhole of Nature:


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Nipping at the Type Bar

Olympus Reporter
“Nipping at the Type Bar”

This is about as real-world and gritty as it gets: Jitters, my former electric type-bar 6-series Smith-Corona, now in its new home:

SCM Coronet Automatic 12

My brother is about as far-removed from a writer as you could imagine. Yet here he is, enthused about his new typewriter and immensely enjoying tapping out stories from his colorful life. I've tried to give him some encouragement, while also letting him have the freedom to write just the way he wants to write, to conform to no man's idea of what writing should be like. It's the joy of creating words to paper that he's discovering, while it's also sometimes painful for him to recall in detail some of the trauma he's experienced. It's typewriter therapy; some of us need it more desparately than others -- another good reason to give away a machine to someone who needs it.

I'm humbled by the opportunity to bring this gift into his life, that promises to help blossom some as yet unseen potential hidden within him.

Here's Jitters next to the blue manual Galaxie Twelve of the same era. Definitely a family resemblence:


Speaking of family typewriters, this is a good opportunity to show off the family Hermes 10, which I need to get back and do a video review of.


It's interesting to see similarities with the Hermes 3000, especially in the carriage area and the six function buttons above the keyboard. This really is like the electric version of the 3000. And also represents the Venn Diagram overlap between the Cults of Hermes and Type Bar Electrics. Because I'm ecumenical that way!

My video review of the Olympia Reporter:

I hinted above of something I've been toying with for a while now: using the right platen knob to do a carriage return. I first tried this with the little Hermes Rocket, only because its carriage return "lever" is such a diminutive afterthought, as reaching back with my left hand to the rear of the machine seems so awkward, whereas simply pulling the right platen knob fully to the right, then giving it a spin one or two clicks, seems easier and quicker. This sounds like sacrilige, not using the machine's controls properly. But in the case of my Olympia Reporter, the drive belt is slipping and the machine won't complete the return cycle on its own, while lacking a manual return lever.

Smith-Corona 5TE

Type bar electrics represent the red-headed step-children of the typewriter collecting world. Other than the blue Smith-Corona 5-series Electric with its snazzy raised red logo on front, or the pre-war IBM machines, few others of this ilk garner much praise or desire amongst the Typosphere -- at least, that's my impression. Yet they remain the evolutionary end-state of type bar machines; what came after were daisywheel and thermal electronic machines, then the computer revolution hit hard. Yet type bar electrics are entirely practical machines, offering the economy of cloth ribbons while needing virtually no finger pressure to operate, able to perform at blindingly fast speeds -- certainly faster than I can type with any degree of accuracy.

How about you: do you share a secret history, or fascination with, these electrified hybrid marvels? I'd like to hear your story. Leave a comment down below. Thanks.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

If This is a Marxist Typewriter Why Do I Like it So Much?

Groma Kolibri
If This is a Marxist Typewriter Why Do I Like it So Much?

A signed plaque of the Connie at The Airplane Restaurant in Colorado Springs:
USS Constellation, CV-64

One of the few snapshots I still have from my years on the Connie. Note the double "Battle E" award insignia painted on the worn and greasy nonskid flight deck, earned by our performance in training up for this deployment. "Haze gray and under weigh" was one of our favorite sayings; here it's literally visible:

An excerpt from "The Sea, A Grave," written in January 1979, just a few weeks after the Shah of Iran was deposed and the USS Constellation sped across the South China Sea and Indian Ocean (outrunning our oiler and escort ships, averaging about 27 kts) to keep station off the Arabian Sea, because gunboat diplomacy:
The Sea, A Grave

Note that this was typed on the Senior Chief's red IBM Selectric II, after-hours, but with his permission. He wore some nasty scars on his face and arm, along with a command button -- unique for an enlisted man, but he commanded a riverene patrol boat during the Vietnam conflict, where he also earned the scars.

I have three volumes of this rubbish, containing perhaps a few gems. Maybe someday I'll share more.

When I exited Uncle Sam's Canoe Club I still had lots more poetry to type, and couldn't afford a Selectric, so instead bought a Smith-Corona SE100 daisywheel machine at the local Service Merchandise store. Such are the early years of my typewriter history.

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