Friday, April 30, 2010

Guys Do It, Too

No time for a full typecast this week, but I thought I'd share another one of those confluence of interest moments with you. (Otherwise known as I just learned a new search term this week.)

First, this Make post started it all, by showing an antique sock-knitting machine connected to a windmill, which is turning out a scarf worthy of Dr. Seuss or your favorite Gallifreyan. Sock machines aren't made anymore, at least not of this quality: they are fairly complex to work and wildly expensive and so of course this wind-powered monstrosity is tickling my want receptors.

Knitting machines come in other forms, too. I passed up a "flat" knitter once, on the basis that it was too freaking big for our house (true) that I didn't know how to work it (also true) and that honestly, we don't need it (yet again true.) I should also mention that I still regret that. (So very, very true.) Of course, it's all the clickety-clack parts that get me worked up. I'm sure I would lose interest after the fifth blanket or so.


Intrigued, I poked around a little more on the Tube of You, and found this former engineer's forays into the world of home-made, computer-driven knitting paraphernalia. (See version one and its successor.) Perhaps not as green as the wind-powered setup, but as a software and computer guy, I've got to give it up for correx37's esprit de knit. And for those without a workshop and the smarts to put together something like this (raises hand) I submit a much humbler -- though no less impressive -- homebrew solution. And if you feel the need to go large-scale, try it with with hard hats and diesel engines and a big hook.

True enough, my own efforts at the blending of the machine and fiber arts are modest by comparison, but I had not considered tapping into my geek as well. Patterns abound for that scarf, for example, and of course there's the world of mathematics to provide inspiration. Now, if only there was a way to rig up needles to typebars...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Find: Accept No Substitutes!

I spent a little time checking out the latest privacy imposition from Facebook[1] which means flicking through screens, opting-out of various ways my personal information can be used to "personalize" sites I never visit. [2] Anyhow, much like the highest court in the land [3] I have discovered the Intertubes is a scary place. I could be a well-trained dog, for example. Or you could. Or we all could. Scary!

But what to do? Get an impressive-looking seal, that's what. Now all you keyboarding canines out there can rest assured that documents that cross my paws, er, "hands" are 100% certified and legit. Just look for the seal!

The Great Seal

I am told by my human companions that forging such a seal would be nearly impossible unless you have opposable thumbs and one of these[4]:

Stamp kit[5]

(Ha ha! Thumbs! Like that's ever going to happen.)

If you are engaged in Monsieur Packer's analog letter exchange thingus, and you receive a poorly-spelled, blotchy, rambling letter claiming to be from me, don't believe it!

...unless that poorly-spelled, blotchy, rambling letter also features that stamp. Then you know it's the real analog deal. (Yo.)

[1] You might argue that Facebook is by design an invasion of privacy, and I'd agree with you. It's also darn handy for keeping up with old friends. But that's all I want the site to do with my information, thanks.

[2] Hey! I'm 40 now. Bring on the grumpy old man act.

[3] Email? Text messages? Who can keep up?

[4] It also helps if you have a great deal of patience for picking up tiny rubber letters with a pair of plastic tongs, and picking up said letters after spilling a tray on your desk.

[5] The letters are perforated, so I'm not sure what the razor blade is doing in there. Maybe to end it all when you've just spent far too long picking through tiny, inky type trying to sort out the "i" slugs from the "l" slugs.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Feeling Blue?

I'm back and somewhat rested after my milestone weekend, and among the many projects I tackled this weekend, I set out to finally distinguish my AlphaSmart Pro from the other two Pros we have kicking around the house. You might remember it from a post not that long ago:


You can see that I put a sticker on mine to keep it sorted out. Despite their age, the Pros see some use in our house, especially my son's. He needs a distraction-free place to type up essays and reports, and given the temptations of a wireless Internet household, the AS fits the bill.

Screwdrivers in hand, I set to disassembly. My digital camera ate a few pictures I had taken of the guts sitting on the table, but this is the one that matters: the three parts of the case with all electronics taken out and all stickers (and rubber feet) removed. (Tip: a hairdryer is great for softening up sticker glue.)

Shell Shucked

All shelled with the electronics set aside, it was time to take paint in hand and try it out. But first, a message of positivity from the AlphaSmart builders of yore:

AlphaSmart Easter Egg

Yes, let's hope so! I used a product called "Krylon Fusion" this time instead of the fabric/vinyl dye I used from my typewriter spray-job. I'm unsure about the Krylon. It certainly does stick to plastic as advertised, without priming or any prep beyond just cleaning. And the color choice is much broader. I went with blue: my favorite color, and one that would hopefully look good against the light grey keys of the Pro and the charcoal background. Things looked good as it dried in the garage...

AlphaSmart Pro, pimped

...and still better after drying overnight.

AlphaSmart Pro, with poppies and camera strap

Mercifully, I didn't zap anything when I had it apart, and the Pro started up like a champ, even retaining all my files (which I had backed up first, naturally.) I like the color, and now I've got a temptingly empty rectangular space on the bottom where the old sticker used to be that calls out for decoration... perhaps my free souvenir bumper sticker from the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot. I still think the vinyl dye went on thinner and feels less "painted plastic" to me when held, although it's possible that I just laid on a thicker coat of paint this time. My wife's already looking to get hers customized, so I'm sure I'll get more practice soon.

I'm pleased with the results, especially with the ease that everything came apart and went back together. It's like the AlphaSmart was made to be customized.

What kind of artsy stuff have you been up to?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

For Tea

20100415 typecast

Typed on a Sperry-Rand Remington Premier:
Sperry-Rand Remington Premier, c 1960s?

Day after update:


By my lovely wife and kids! Mrs. Moon, consider yourself on notice.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I Feel the Need

...the need to paint. Must be the sudden burst of Spring in the air, but I'm looking for another victim-typewriter to doll up, after seeing Duffy's marvelous job on his big honkin' Royal and seeing the "Twolympia" (an SM9-in-a-SM3 body) on the Portable Typewriters group. I spotted a modern Royal Safari III the other day featuring the same yellowed-with-age plastic body style as the Pimpwriter. I passed it up, but I'm starting to think that maybe I need to take spray-can in hand and do another one up...

Also, I'm itching to try the "sheep dip" method of cleaning out a typewriter, namely, dunking/flushing the whole thing in warm soapy water and then drying it out, versus all the meticulous brushing and digging and picking that I normally do for machines. I think I'd like to try it on a beater first, before soaking a more vintage machine.

Hmmm. And it had a thick felt typing pad and everything... hmmmm!

Post-Thrift Update:

Or maybe not. I gave the Royal a hands-on try, and a more careful looking-over. Mechanically, it was fine, but the ribbon cover panel was completely MIA, so... not worth it. Although it did jog my memory about the Remington Premier that I have around:

Sperry-Rand Remington Premier, c 1960s?

This one could certainly use a deep-cleaning, and it's that all-plastic body that loves to be painted. I'm looking into paint color choices now.

Friday, April 2, 2010

At the Half

Page-and-day-wise, I just crossed the halfway point in my NaNoWriMo 2009 transcription, a mere (counting on fingers) four and a half months after finishing the draft in the first place. And I still consider this the "beginning" of the story, which either means I've rushed the back half, or hopelessly padded the front, or both, most likely.

Slow and steady, slow and steady... but mostly just slow.


I'm trying to complete it before the expiration date for the "free proof copy" offer occurs, because I'd like to actually see this once through to completion. This may have to wait until 2011 for the 2010 offer, though. At least I'm planning ahead.

Anyone else making slow headway on a creative endeavor? I could use some cheerleading and/or mutual support.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush have a Baby, on the Head of a Pin

You can keep your hot-tub-based time travel. There's only two forms of time-travel I find acceptable -- a big blue Police Box and thrift stores. Still high on yesterday's unexpected ink-acquisition (nobody expects the French ink-acquisition) I made the usual trek out and about. It was a good day.

First, a Hermes Baby, something I've been watching for for some time. I've really taken a shine to travel-sized typewriters, and I think I'm slimming down the bigger, bulkier members of my collection to get a little more focus on these ultra-portable machines. I like the compactness, and the Baby is very compact. So much so that I hardly recognized it in its tiny case, sitting on the shelf. I've managed a dusting and need to work the keys a bit but I can already tell this is a slick little portable, and destined to be an on-the-lap machine come November. This is a 1943 model, with smooth (not crinkle) paint, with a cool "marbling" effect I've never seen on a typewriter before. And of course, those excellent flip-up ribbon covers.

Oh Baby

And an overall shot:

Hermes Baby, c 1943

Trying to keep my composure on the way to the checkout line, I peeked down into the display case and saw a tattered baggie with these inside:

Old Film Stash

Fogies in the audience may recognize this as three boxes of 126 film (for bigger-style Instamatic cameras) and three pouches of 110 film (for the skinnier "pocket instamatic.") I owe thanks to whatever local hoarder had the good sense to go to K-Mart, um, over thirty years ago and then promptly forget about this film in the back of the drawer. And then again twenty-five years ago, and again five years later. The film may be completely shot, but the plastic cartridges are what's valuable to me. You may remember that my very first camera was an Instamatic, as I suppose was true of many people my generation. Flawed though it was, the film-in-a-cartridge format was simple for small hands to use, nearly impossible to ruin (at worst, you would expose one frame), and cheap and plentiful, at least during the Carter/Reagan/Bush I eras. Now it can serve as a lightproof housing for 35mm film, thanks to various hacks posted online.

Even more exciting for me, though, is the sudden rush of memory I got when handling these boxes. Sometime around thirty plus years or so ago, when that first box of film was sitting unbought on a California K-Mart shelf, I was standing in the middle of our dusty country road with my dad, working on my first-ever pinhole camera, which consisted of a simple box rubber-banded to the front of a 126 cartridge. Pretty much this one, in fact, even down to using a nickel to wind it. This was an experiment in a science-kit-of-the-month-club that we had joined, and I remember standing out in the road, trying to get a picture of our little pre-fab next to the empty dirt lot, right on the other side of the City Limit line. If I close my eyes, I can hear the cicadas thrumming in the tall weeds in the ditch behind me, my elbow resting for balance on the plastic newspaper-mailbox attached to our regular mailbox so I wouldn't topple back into the murky water. I'm pretty sure I'm wearing Keds with orange reflective dots on the heels.

As I recall, the pictures were a disappointment to me, caused, no doubt, by our less-than-tiny tinfoil pinhole board, and the shaky, unsteady hand of an under-ten photographer who was used used to the great gravelly wind-wind-click rhythm of his high-tech Instamatic. This isn't photography! Well, maybe not. But it's a solid memory, and now I'm rushing back to it in my own time machine.

World Pinhole Day is coming up near the end of the month. I'll be forty then, and some of this film nearly so. I think it might be time to break out the rubber bands and a nickel, find a mailbox someplace to lean against, and pin down a new memory or two.