Monday, May 29, 2017

Grab-&-Go Typing

Barefoot Lap Typing at the cigar store

Post-Script: Here's the video I made about typewriter carrying bags:

That adding machine I mentioned at the end of my typecast ended up consuming 16 hours of tinkering time over the course of two days, but in the end I can proudly say that the darned thing works like a champ! It's a Burroughs key-operated adding machine, the kind using the planetary gear mechanism that was first developed in 1912. I don't know the exact date of manufacture, as the serial number database is rather sketchy for these portable machines, but I estimate sometime in the 1920s.

Here's a glamour shot of the machine:

Burroughs Key-Operated Adding Machine

And here's a close-up of the number wheels with their complex planetary gear system. There's an even more complex mechanism behind these wheels, a rod with a series of spring-loaded cogs that slide back and forth to lock and unlock a tiny gear train, the mode of which depends on whether the number keys are being pressed down or released (when the number wheels actually turn). There's also a complex mechanism that clears the wheels when the handle is pulled.

The entire machine was jammed up solid when I got it home. The clearing handle mechanism was locked up, and all the number wheels and their gears were frozen solid. It took many hours of degreasing, lubricating, brushing, scrubbing and sweating to get things unjammed. Then some of the wheels would intermittently jam up when the numbers were pressed, while others would spin too freely and enter erroneous numbers. I finally figured out how to adjust the sliding cogs to the right position to get everything working.

Burroughs Adding Machine Planetary Gears

The body is painted metal, a bit scratched and marred, but some Windex and car wax helped a lot. It's slightly larger than what a person might want on their desk, but given its complex mechanism and the time invested in repairing it, I'm more than pleased. It's rather a lot of fun to enter all nines into the display, then add a one and watch the ripple carry-over increment all the wheels, from right to left, to zero. Kind of like a fidget spinner, for when you're bored, but slightly larger. (A few years from now, will anyone even remember fidget spinners?)

Here's the video about the adding machine:

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 22, 2017

Found Photograph: Two Men


Post-Script: I can't help but think about the film Blade Runner when I handle prints like this. I think of Harrison Ford's character Rick Deckard meticulously examining the snapshot photos from the android Leon - photos that were intentionally made deceptive by the Tyrell Corporation who manufactured Leon, photos from Tyrell's neice, but serving to give the android some semblance of a real human past. Though we aren't mere androids, I can't help from feeling that, somehow, these old snapshots serve much the same capacity, helping to fill in the missing bits of our understanding of a past that remains in many ways just as mysterious to us as Leon's did to him.

I found this print at the same thrift store, on the same day, that I found this blue Smith-Corona Electric.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Value of a Virtual Community

Noah' Car

Post-Script: Noah is now in his own room at the hospital, and is mostly sleeping. Skin grafts will begin in a few days. Thank you all, near and far, for your thoughts and prayers.

I sat out on the back porch this afternoon, Olympia SF in my lap, typing while smoking a cigar. I hope this typecast isn't permeated with the aroma, for you sensitive nonsmoking readers. I observed that, while the last round of adjustments seem to have mostly fixed this machine's line spacing issues, there's a bit of wonkiness on the first letters after a carriage return. So not 100% yet. Repairing these entirely mechanical devices is, appropriately enough, an analog function. It's not like it's either entirely broken or entirely perfect, a Boolean logic function, but always somewhere in between, in that fuzzy gray area of real life. Such it will be with Noah's recovery, too. We'll give him all the support he needs. Best of all, the body has built-in healing systems of regeneration, unlike this inanimate assemblage of metal.

I feel the need to get at least one video produced this week, but haven't settled on a topic. And I need a haircut, and the barbershop doesn't open till tomorrow. Maybe something to do with reading through the archive of Noah's old typings, and the value of getting kids started with typewriters - even though, in his case, he really hasn't been using a typewriter for a few years. Still, there's something about these strictly mechanical devices as enablers of creativity, for this generation of millenials who didn't grow up with them as a regular part of their lives.

Regarding the top photo of Noah's car, I wasn't certain about posting it online, but there it is, in all its ugliness. I don't intend on keeping this blog entirely focused on this family issue, but I'll keep you updated as events warrant. Thank you again for all your thoughts and prayers.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The Line Writer Rediscovered


I want to publicly thank all of you who have offered support during this difficult time period. As you may know from reading my previous entry, my grandson Noah, a.k.a. The Line Writer, was involved in a serious car wreck yesterday evening. He was ejected from his car at highway speed and the vehicle ended up on top of him. He is conscious and fairly lucid, with a bit of short-term memory issues. He has a broken shoulder and burns to his face, other shoulder and torso from being pinned against the car's hot exhaust pipes after the wreck. There are also bad abrasions from "road rash," along with major bruising. He is expected to be hospitalized for several weeks while he undergoes skin grafts for the burns. Then will come a lengthy period of rehabilitation. But we are only taking this day by day.

Today, after returning from a hospital visit, I was leafing through a folder of Noah's old typings and unearthed some short pieces that were never published to his Line Writer blog, which I have now done so.

I was reflecting on these short typings, many just snippets no longer than a Tweet or Facebook posting. Yet here they are, some seven or so years later. The lesson I take from this is to never underestimate the power of planting a typewriter in a kid's life, even if he does lose interest in it after starting puberty and the only remaining evidence is a folder of these paper scraps. Plant the seed, water it, give it some light and stand back, because you never know what might spring forth, perhaps many years later.

Today at the hospital Noah was asking if I'd draw him some mazes for him to solve. Sure, I said. But now, as I sit here typing, I'm think that this marvelous kid probably said that as much to make me feel better as for himself. That's why he's such a great person. I suppose now I better get busy drawing. As my friend Michael told me today, "God's got this." And I believe him.


Would You Like Red or Green on That?

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

I'm praying for World War Three to start. Hopefully the sooner the better. A huge nuclear holocaust, of epic proportions. The bigger the better. Well, at least big enough to give good reason for the Russians to drop the big one on little old Albuquerque, New Mexico.

They (the Russians) thought they had good reason to, back in the days of the Cold War. Albuquerque was the location of Sandia and Monzano Bases, now part of Kirtland Air Force Base. It includes Sandia National Laboratory, an offshoot from Los Alamos after WWII, whose main mission remains the engineering of the nation's nuclear stockpile. After the war, and before the nuclear weapons complex was built up to its eventual large-scale industrial size, Sandia Base was the location of the manufacture of the nations' early A-bomb arsenal. An important target then, and remains so today; of strategic importance for an enemy to include on its target list.

But I really don't care what reason they might have to drop a hefty thermonuclear weapon here, just that they do it. Sure, lots of innocent people will die. Some less innocent than others, however. After all, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

There's a scene from the first Star Wars movie. Obi-Wan, Luke and Han are gazing down on the outpost of Mos Eisley, when Obi-Wan says "You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy". They could have been gazing down at Albuquerque from atop Sandia Peak, the meaning would remain the same. Or take another reference from a tale much older than Star Wars, that of the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, who also were destroyed by fire from above.

There's something monumental about the idea of a place whose people are so evil that the very name becomes condemned for all of human history.

People I know personally, family members, have suffered over the years because of the evil of this place. Once again it happened - is happening now - because an aggressive, road-raged driver purposefully and methodically ran my grandson off the highway last night. He was thrown from the car, it rolled and rolled, and landed atop him. He's suffering a severe concussion and potential brain injury. He has a lacerated kidney, a destroyed shoulder, is missing part of his tongue, and has plenty of road rash. He was due to graduate high school in a month. A passenger in his car was also seriously injured. His life, and ours, won't be the same.

Of course, the driver of the other car got away with it. Again. Hey, this is Albuquerque. Things happen. Man up. Deal with it, we're told, or be a little whining bitch.

If you're a tourist from out of town, here's a fun, touristy thing to do: make the ghost bicycle tour. This is where you drive around Albuquerque and try to identify all of the ghost bicycle memorials that have been erected at all the various locations where cyclists have been murdered by car drivers. For any of you with latent homicidal tendencies, this is the surest method to get away with murder: run down a cyclist in Albuquerque. Or pedestrian, if no cyclist is available. Guaranteed no prosecution. It's just an accident. And the local "media" will always report the story with this factoid: the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet. Or the pedestrian must have been "jay walking".

On second thought, scratch that idea. You probably don't want to be a tourist here. Most tourists end up being robbed or car jacked. Best spend your money somewhere else.

Okay, sure I'm upset, but do I have to take it this far? Well, consider this: some places are just "ate up". That's a good old term from my younger days, that you don't hear used that often any more. Ate up, as in consumed. Totally given over. No possibility of redemption.

I'm a spiritual guy, actually; I believe in the power to redeem and restore failed people. But not everyone. Some are too far gone. Like that rabid animal. Just has to be put down. That's little old Albuquerque. Somebody should put her down, for everyone's good. A big flash, brighter than a thousand suns. Boom.

And would you like red or green chile on that?

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee


Post-Script: In my desire to keep this piece a one-pager, I ran out of room to mention that we've also tried a Bialetti brand Moka Pot, stove-top espresso maker. While it makes an okay espresso, it's always a bit burnt-tasting, because of the heat required to get the little thing to generate steam pressure. But it is a genuine espresso experience, in the sense that this has been the traditional way many Italians make their daily coffee; or so the advertising informs us.

About that top picture of the beans; these aren't the darkest, oiliest coffee beans I've ever seen. I was struggling for a decent coffee-related photo this morning, and this was all I could come up with. As I mentioned in the piece, we've for years bought our beans from Winning Coffee, who do their own roasting. But their main roaster dude (is that a title?) finally moved on after many years, and since then the beans haven't been the same. Also, I know several coffee geeks at work, and these people are truly obsessed, in ways I never was. For example, I don't like straight espresso, preferring it sweetened with sugar and a dash of whole milk. Not so these hardcore types. They've also informed me that dark, oily beans supposedly don't work as well in an espresso machine.

So then there's this thing called "third wave coffee;" which, in case you didn't get the memo, is already outdated by "fourth wave coffee." But here in New Mexico, we're usually a few years behind everyone else, so we've just now seen so-called third wave coffee shops spring up around town. Sometimes news travels slow along I-40 from LA. These are places that do pour-overs and siphon extractions, and also offer cold-pressed coffee. And their espresso beans are less dark and oily, the results a bit more bright chocolate tasting. Kind of like the recent trend in bitter, hoppy IPA beers. You're supposed to like them, because everyone else who matters likes them. Except I don't like them; I prefer dark ales, porters and stouts, by the way.

The thing is, I still haven't had a decent cup of coffee at a third wave coffee shop. The pour overs and such taste like old Navy coffee, which is where you brew a pot in a percolator, then dispense the results, via a large container, back into the machine and re-perk it for a second time. The kind of coffee where the spoon will stand straight up in the cup without touching the sides. Where us younger fellas would need a mess of sugar and creamer just to make it palatable; unless you were an old Chief Petty Officer, beer gut hanging over your uniform belt, your coffee cup hand permanently deformed into that hook-shaped cup-holding posture. These old boys could walk up the steepest shipboard ladders, in the roughest seas, without spilling a drop.

I also got into trying Vietnamese coffee. Even went to the trouble of buying a little metal coffee maker, with the Vietnamese-brand coffee and sweetened condensed milk. Tastes like some dessert beverage, not something you'd want to drink first thing in the morning. Oh well.

As I said earlier, the Aeropress is the only alternative method I've tried that's any good. But it's one cup at a time, and you have to get your process down exactly. Scientific, laboratory-grade repeatability. If you alter the grind, or water temperature, or any other "process parameter" by just a smidgen, the results will vary wildly. It's like developing black & white film. Your agitation method, how long you stir the grinds in the hot water, how soon you start the press, whether you use it right-side-up or upside-down, paper or metal screen filter - these all effect the results to a noticeable degree. Some mornings it's great, others you get this bad taste in your mouth and wonder whether you should've first brushed you teeth (is there any coffee-flavored toothpaste out there?). Even our Starbucks Barista machine varies from day-to-day. Weird.

But then there's the old drip machine. This morning I brought it in from the garage, dusted it off, washed out the tank and carafe, and made a pot. Wonderful, basic, fresh, hot coffee. Like coffee was meant to taste. And enough for a refill or two.

Typecast via Smith-Corona Silent-Super. This is the first chance I've had to put it through its paces since last week's successful repair session, and it types wonderfully. There's still a bit of smearing on some of the uppercase characters, something to do with the way the type slugs hit the type guide fingers on the way to striking the ribbon, that will require more tinkering at a later date. But I'll live with it for now. This is why I'd never make a good typewriter repairman, it takes too long for me to get all the bugs worked out of these sensitive machines. The customer would be calling me, months later, inquiring about their unit, and I'd hem and haw about how I'm still testing it for reliability.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 01, 2017

"A Fine Mess"

Olympia SF

A brief short story, composed at the nearest Duncan Donuts accompanied by a cup of their brew. No, not Starbucks fancy, but serviceable, not too strong coffee. I was inspired by a round of typewriter repairs I did last week. For this Olympia SF, I found a fix to the nagging issue of the line spacing problem, which I'd once thought was a permanent condition. Just a bit of courage, inspired by the Right Reverend Ted Munk and his Typewriter Repair Bibles, was all it took. No, there's not yet such a manual for the Olympia, but I did further tinkering and had some success.

This short story is for all of you typewriter collectors out there who think their collecting problem has gotten out of hand. Read and heed. And maybe chuckle.


Post-Script: Here's the video on what I did to fix the Olympia.

Labels: , , , , ,