Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Just before I woke up, I had the kind of nerd dream I haven’t had since I was a hyper-hormonal 14-year-old. I was a redshirt leading a landing party from the USS Enterprise on a planet they’d never been to before. We were walking through what resembled a Greek temple, but every one of the columns was a 20-foot-tall woman dressed in the flashiest of toga-like garments, a la Maxfield Parrish. (Oh, like you haven’t daydreamed yourself in this episode, or one just like it, too.)

The rest of the party acted as if the women were statues, but every one of them smiled at me with a come-hither look in her eyes. “Do these seem especially life-like to you?” I asked the doctor, and after a pause just long enough for him to give me the side-eye, he told me that he was sending me on mandatory shore leave as soon as possible.

Each member of the landing party had an assignment that took them to various far-away parts of the temple, leaving me alone in the central room with the statue women. One in particular seemed to be admiring me in a way that I hadn’t been admired in years. She hadn’t a stitch of clothing on, and posed knee-bent with her hair gathered up in her hands on top of her head. I stood gazing up at her for longer than my whole adolescence, hardly breathing until she finally cracked a smile and stepped down off her pedestal.

Nothing good ever happened to a redshirted crew member suddenly separated from the landing party, but then no redshirted crew member ever ran from the woman statue who came to life, either, so I followed the script and stood my ground, waiting for the fadeout to commercial and the next scene when my corpse would inevitably be found by the doctor, face covered in blotchy red marks and all traces of one vital element or another leached from my inanimate tissues.

Strangely, that didn’t happen. The dream veered right into the kind of extraterrestrial relations that only Captain Kirk gets to have on a weekly basis, so maybe the costume department got my uniform wrong, or the uniform color was a TOS-TNG crossover. Whatever, I’ll take it.

Beam me up | 9:07 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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I can literally hear two lawn mowers and a leaf blower right now. Are people getting up early on Saturday just to piss me off?

Kmn | 8:10 am CDT
Category: damn kids!
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Friday, September 23rd, 2016

There were people out mowing their lawns at seven o’clock this Friday evening. I don’t want to brag, but you wouldn’t catch me doing that even if I were going on a week-long vacation and I hadn’t mowed for three weeks. Friday evening is the start of Saturday, my day of rest. Mowing the lawn on Friday night is not just wrong, it’s a sin you can never get out of your soul. Let the grass grow!

No mo | 6:50 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

B introduced me to the concept of too much fruit this morning. How this is a thing is beyond me, but she’s the foodie and reads about food all the time, so she ought to have the most up to date info on nutrition. Or, she’s reading stuff that’s bullshit. But whatever, she says there’s a thought that we shouldn’t eat too much fruit because the sugar’s bad for us, and although I concede it’s possible to eat too much of anything, I have my doubts that we or any two randomly-picked Americans have ever in their natural lives eaten too much fruit. Conversely, it’s very likely we or any of those same Americans ate too much sugar on almost any given day of those same lives, but they most likely get it from drinking Mountain Dew and eating candy bars, not from fruit. So I’m calling bullshit on this too much fruit idea. I can’t fathom how it could possibly be a thing any of us have to worry about for more than a moment or two.

Fruity | 7:49 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, September 17th, 2016

So Donald Trump said that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Whoopty-fucking-doo. After years of saying Obama was not, why am I supposed to believe this is anything other than the most rank kind of cynicism? Why am I supposed to believe he’s not lying again? He said it, but why on earth would anybody expect me to think he believes it?

Whoopty-fucking-doo | 8:33 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, September 11th, 2016

I can’t look at Facebook today. There is so much 9/11 “never forget” death porn that I just can’t stomach it: jet planes flying into the twin towers, or the twin towers collapsing in clouds of pulverized concrete, or people diving from the tops of the towers to their deaths. Surely we can memorialize this event without being gruesome about it.

gruesome | 12:35 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Here’s a random memory that popped into my head as I was taking out the trash:

I used to work with a woman I’ll call Lilly, for the purposes of respecting her privacy. We worked together while I was stationed at RAF Chicksands in central England and, coincidentally, we both went to language school in San Antonio at about the same time. I didn’t know her well, so my impression of her may have been wrong, but she seemed like a rather quiet person with a disposition on the sunny side. I never saw her angry, until one night at Chicksands.

Our jobs at Chix seemed really super-cool at the time, mostly because we weren’t allowed to tell anyone about it. I’m still not allowed to tell you about the details, but there is one aspect of the job that’s important to this story: We banged out a lot of text on teletype machines, which are a kind of electric typewriter. They printed all this text on that old computer paper with the holes along the sides that came out the back of the machine in one long ribbon of paper that never seemed to end.

The text was considered classified material, so after it was no longer needed, the paper had to be destroyed. The military preferred to destroy classified paper by shredding it, and at a station like Chix there was a lot of material to destroy, so they built some impressively huge shredders to do the job. Unfortunately, Chix didn’t have one of these monster shredders. They had a furnace at the back of the building in a dirty, stinking room called the burn room. Nobody wasted a moment’s imagination naming that room because it didn’t deserve it.

At the end of every shift, we collected all the paper in bags, labeled the bags so we knew where they came from, and piled the bags in the burn room. A couple times a week, two or three airmen were given the responsibility of firing up the furnace and burning as much paper as they could, a dirty job made even dirtier because they had to break open every bag and sort the paper from the garbage. It was strictly verboten to put garbage in the burn bags, but people did it anyway, and nothing but paper could go in the furnace, so all that garbage had to be picked out by hand.

I’m pretty sure it was a swing shift or mid shift when I found out how much Lilly hated being on the burn detail. I was sitting at the far end of the aisle I worked in — and let me back up to describe the aisle for you: We worked on what was called the operations floor, an open room filled by rows of tall gray steel cabinets. There was a gap between each cabinet big enough for one of the teletype machines to sit on a shelf. We sat in the aisles between the rows of cabinets, facing the teletypes. Our seats were in an aisle wide enough for us to sit back-to-back with room behind us for one person to walk.

The cabinets were chock-full of electronic equipment that hummed and buzzed and clicked. All that electronic equipment generated a lot of heat, so the room was kept very cold by refrigeration units blowing cold air up through vents in the floor. We wore headphones while we worked, and between the noise coming the headphones, the chatter of the teletype machines, and the rush of air blowing through the ventilation system, it was pretty easy to sneak up on us.

Enter Lilly. Did I mention she was a tall woman? At least as tall as I am, maybe even an inch taller. Dressed in green fatigues, covered in soot, dripping sweat, and face as red with rage as her hair, she seemed to appear in the blink of an eye. One moment we were all concentrating on our work, and the next minute this red-haired fury was in our midst. She held a torn-open burn bag in one hand and bellowed, so we could all hear her: “I AM SICK OF PICKING YOUR GARBAGE OUT OF THE BURN BAGS!” Then she swung the burn bag over her head, smashing it against the floor like the hammer of Thor, where it burst open, scattering paper, orange peels, apple cores, and paper cups dribbling coffee everywhere.

We were caught dead to rights. Written across both sides of the bag was our address and the date it had been sealed up. I don’t recall if that fixed the problem or not, but I will never forget the way Lilly glared at us with disgust before stalking away.

And I never saw her angry again. Maybe she got it all out that one night.

trash talk | 10:42 am CDT
Category: My Glorious Air Force Career
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Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

I was pretty sure I’d be in Stevens Point by suppertime today. In fact, as I type these words, I was supposed to be checking into a finely-appointed room at the Best Western alongside the exit ramp of the Interstate. Then, after changing from office attire into more comfortable clothes, I would’ve gone out to dine on the tastiest grilled sandwich and french fries I could find, after which I would return to my room to flip through a hundred channels of cable television before turning off the set in disgust fifteen or twenty minutes later. The next three hours would have been spent trying to figure out what do with myself before lights out.

Oh, it would have been glorious!

I’d been subpoenaed to appear in the court of Portage County in connection with a case I investigated last year, the details of which I shouldn’t divulge because it would put you in mortal peril — not because you don’t have the clearance for the top-secret nature of my work, but because they’re really so mundane, they’d put you into a coma. Suffice it to say I was scheduled to appear in court tomorrow morning at eight and, because it’s a drive of two and a half hours from Madison to Stevens Point, my boss allowed as to how it would be better for me to leave tonight and sleep over rather than depart Madison at something like five in the morning to get there in time.

It was a huge relief when I heard that the trial had been postponed and I didn’t have to go. Not that I mind appearing in court; I’ve done it a number of times already for similar cases, but for some reason the prospect of spending two-plus hours in a fleet vehicle driving in a straight line to spend the night by myself in a sleepy town in central Wisconsin did not fill me with excitement.

With any luck, the defendant will settle before the trial is rescheduled and I’m subpoenaed again. It could happen. I can dream.

dreams | 7:47 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, September 5th, 2016

Dammit, I did that thing again where I find a typewriter in a thrift shop, and then I buy it. I was getting pretty good at not doing that second part. And this was less than a week after I bought a typewriter from Goodwill. “I think there may be something wrong with you,” My Darling B observed as I tucked the typewriter in the back seat of the car, and she may not necessarily be wrong.

57 Royal Quiet De Luxe

There’s a resale shop next to the studio where we go for yoga on the weekends. It was open on Saturday morning after our class was finished and I haven’t been there in ages, so I told B, “I’ve just got to duck in here a minute, just to check things out,” and in I went. I don’t think she believed for a second that I was going to “just check things out,” but she went along with it anyway.

The shop sells stuff gathered at estate sales: furniture, china, books, tools for the work shop or the yard. They almost never have any typewriters, although a month ago, maybe two, I spotted an unusual Remington electric and wanted to see if it was still there. It was so broken that it would at best be a research project I would dissect and eventually throw away, so it would have to be marked down quite a bit for me to take it home, but I figured if it was still there, they might accept any offer, no matter how low, for me to take it off their hands.

As it turned out, they still had the Remington, but behind it was a greenish fiberglass carrying case that could only be holding a Royal portable. I cracked it open and, sure enough, I found a Royal Quiet De Luxe. It had a tan paint job and white key caps, the first one I’ve seen like that.

It was a bit dark in the corner of the shop where I found it, so I took it to the counter where there was some daylight, hauled it out of the case and got a good look. The poor thing was a mess. For one thing, it looked at first as though all the key caps had been painted white, or maybe all the letters had been rubbed off from heavy use, because they were all blank, but after I tapped one of the keys three or four times to see if the type bars moved freely, I could just make out the letter “G” on the key cap, and there was a gritty white residue on my finger. Every key had such a thick coating of this residue that they appeared to be blank.

The bail was sat cockeyed across the platen and I couldn’t straighten it out because a screw was missing and someone had rather flimsily repaired it by pushing a paper clip through the hole and bending it over to hold it together. It was not a repair that could have resulted in an enjoyable typing experience.

I already have two Royal QDLs at home: a 1951 QDL that appears to be the same model that my dad had on his desk, and a 1950, when they still put glass tops on the key caps. I didn’t need another typewriter. When you’re talking about need, one is the limit, two if you must have an emergency backup. I have more than two. In point of fact, the exact number of typewriters in my possession is not known, but it’s more than fifteen. So “need” is not a thing with me. I crossed the line into obsession long ago.

The typer was priced at twenty-five bucks. I offered the shop keeper ten, hoping he would counter with fifteen. Instead, he offered it to me for eighteen, still a pretty good deal. I took it home, spread newspapers on the dining room table, got some cleaning solvents from the basement and a pile of rags from the hall closet, and set to work.

rubbing the residue off the key caps

The white residue came off the keys very easily. I remember there was a similar-looking residue, although not as thick, on the keys of the Royal QDL that I’m going to call “Dad’s typewriter” from now on. I also read about it in the “My Old Typewriter” blog, where the blogger suggested removing it with Goo Gone. I used mineral spirits on half the keys, Goo Gone on the other half, and I have to say I think the Goo Gone worked a bit better. It also smells nicer. I don’t remember what I used to get the residue off the other QDL, but whatever I used, it hasn’t come back yet.

Almost all the type bars moved freely except for the “B” and the “K,” which wouldn’t fall back after striking the platen. I used a toothbrush to flush the segment with lots of mineral spirits while banging away at the keys, rapping out Quick Brown Fox and We, The People over and over until all the type bars rose and fell back freely.

While I was banging away at the keybank, I noticed that the ribbon failed to advance. I tried switching the ribbon direction, but it still wouldn’t advance and I couldn’t turn the spool with my finger in either direction. The mechanism seemed to be frozen. I lifted the Royal up so I could see it from underneath, shined a flashlight into the works so I could see what I was doing, and with a little experimentation learned that a piece of steel that was part of the bracket holding the advance wheel had been bent out of shape so it pressed against the wheel. I gently squeezed it with a needle nose pliers until I could turn the wheel with my finger. Presto! The ribbon advanced automatically once again.

After putting a new ribbon in the typer and rapping out a few more quick brown foxes, I could see that the key slugs needed a good cleaning. No matter how vigorously I scrubbed the slugs with a toothbrush or slathered them with mineral spirits, though, they remained stubbornly crudded up.

crudded-up type face

Turned out the filth clogging the key slugs was so old that I had to use a dental pick to get it out. The mineral spirits helped soften the collected crud, but the bristles of my toothbrush just weren’t stuff enough to dig it out of the tiny nooks and crannies in the type face. (Must remember to buy a brush with extra-hard bristles next time I’m in the store.) The dental pick was especially good at this, however. It was tedious work, but returning this crisp type face to the printed page was worth it.

type face on 57 Royal QDL

One of the last things I had to do before I called it a day was fix the bail. I could type on the machine all right, even with half the bail hanging at a wonky angle, but that bent paper clip was bugging the hell out of me. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a hardware store in town that had screws in stock that were small enough to do the job, so I had to “borrow” a screw that was holding down the cover of a junker Smith-Corona I haven’t gotten around to cleaning up yet. The screw was not quite as long as the one it replaced, but it was just long enough to do the job until I can source a replacement.

I haven’t cleaned the cover of the Royal QDL yet; that’ll be a project for another weekend.

57 Royal QDL | 9:02 am CDT
Category: hobby, typewriters
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At what point do you believe push-ups have occurred? I ask because My Darling B says that we do push-ups when we yoga, but I don’t think we do. We plank, which it the top of a push-up, and we chadurunga, which is lowering from a plank to the floor. I would argue that that is not a push-up because there is no actual, you know, pushing up. We never plank and chadurunga, plank and chadurunga, plank and chadurunga. We could, I suppose, but I have never been to a yoga class where they did that.

Sometimes we chadurunga and up dog, which is lowering from a plank but stopping before our bellies touch the ground, then straightening our arms while leaning forward, while at the same time doing a back bend, looking up at the ceiling. And although we are lowering ourselves down, then pushing ourselves up, that is definitely not a push-up the way I learned to do push-ups in gym class, or in the military.

What I learned was this: Push-ups usually start in the up position. I don’t know why, but I suspect it had something to do with the sadism inherent in gym instructors and sergeants. Hands are directly under your shoulders, arms straight, back straight, feet flexed so you’re on your toes. Then you lower yourself, still with your back straight, until your chest just touches the floor, but never so that it rests on the floor. Your arms should always bear all your weight in a push-up. When your chest touches the floor, you push back up until your arms are straight again.

That is one push-up. But push-ups are never done singly, that I know of. In gym class, I’m pretty sure we never did less than ten push-ups, and in the military I think the minimum number was 25. Whatever the minimum is, push-ups are definitely always plural, and any number less than five seems kinda wussy. So my guess would be that push-ups start at no less than five.

push-ups | 8:39 am CDT
Category: Life & Death, yet another rant
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Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

I completely lost track of time and forgot that Labor Day was coming up on Monday, giving us a five day weekend, until I was in our weekly meeting Thursday afternoon. Someone said something about taking further action on Monday, resulting in a dogpile of derisive comments about coming in to work on a day off. And I didn’t join in on the dogpile because I was clueless, but when I realized half a moment later what they were talking about, I raised my arms in the air and made a little whoo-hoo! sound, which got chuckles all around when they realized why I was celebrating

More weekend | 8:46 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, August 29th, 2016

I crept slowly through the living room this morning with my phone held low in one hand, scanning the floor with the light from its screen, looking for the carcass of the mouse that I heard Scooter murdering in the early hours before my alarm went off. Didn’t see it, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t somewhere outside the little glowy patch of light from my phone, and on top of that my eyes are pretty bleary at five in the morning. I made a mental note to look again when all the lights were on, and get My Darling B to help.

As I got ready for my shower, I noticed mouse poop all over the bottom of the tub. Made sense. For whatever reason, Scooter likes to crawl into the tub to play with his toys, so if he caught a mouse it wouldn’t be unexpected at all for him to take it to his playground to bat it around a while. I rinsed the poop out of the tub, then climbed in and turned to close the shower curtain. I was more than a little surprised to discover I was being watched.

Two beady little black eyes were peering out at me from the upper folds of the curtain. I only had to shift a little to the left or right to catch sight of the little brown blob of fur behind the eyes. Little bugger must’ve run up the curtain to escape from Scooter. If Scooter didn’t run up after it, that only meant Scooter didn’t twig to the idea that the mouse went up. If he had, that shower curtain would’ve been hanging there in shreds, or he would’ve pulled it down to the floor.

The mouse made no move to get away, thank goodness. I wasn’t moving very fast yet, and neither was my brain. I thought at first that I might catch it in a plastic bag, but five seconds later I thought that was as stupid an idea as any I’ve ever come up with and forgot about it. Then I thought maybe I could hit it with a blunt object, figuring I had a reasonably good chance of hitting it, and if I didn’t kill it outright, I would probably stun it and get at least one more shot at it. Trouble with this idea was, I couldn’t find a blunt object in the bathroom suitable for clubbing a mouse to death.

While I was searching the hall closet, my eyes feel on the vacuum cleaner. I’ve sucked up some pretty big objects with that vacuum cleaner. In point of fact, I’ve accidently sucked up lots of the stuffed toy mice that B buys from the pet store. There must be a half-dozen of those under the cedar chest. If the vacuum can suck one of those up, surely it can suck up a real mouse, which is probably a lot more flexible than a stuffed mouse made of felt.

Only one way to find out.

The mouse still made no move to get away as I plugged the vacuum cleaner in, rolled it over to the end of the bathroom where the shower curtain was, and posed with the hose in my hand, like a sprinter in the blocks getting ready to jump. Totally wasted effort. When I switched on the vacuum and jabbed at the mouse with the end of the hose I aimed a little low and ended up sucking a whole bunch of shower curtain into the hose instead of the mouse, which just sat there, patiently waiting for me to go away, as I pulled the curtain out of the hose. When I switched the vacuum back on, I brought the hose down from above this time and found the bullseye on the first pass. *schlup!* went the mouse, disappearing from view so suddenly it was like watching a visual effect from a 1970 TV show.

I hesitated a moment before plucking the bag out of the vacuum, because the last thing I wanted was to be chasing a dusty mouse all over the house at five o’clock in the morning. The experience of being suddenly ingested by a household appliance must’ve stunned it into a coma, though, because it didn’t move at all as I yanked out the bag and sealed up the hole with packing tape. Then all I had to do was make a quick trip out to the garbage can in my underwear, and I was done cleaning up that mess.

from on high | 6:01 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags:
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