I’m so confused. This Pledge to America unveiled by congressional dorkwads to great fanfare today: It’s just more of the same snake oil congress has been selling us since probably a bit before my time, isn’t it? The gist of it, and correct me if I’ve got it wrong, is: ‘The other guys suck, we rock, vote for us.’ And you can be confident they’re not just telling us what we want to hear because it’s, you know, a pledge.
The thing I’m confused about is, what kind of congenital defect would have to be buried deep in their brains that would let them even think about trying to palm such shitbuggery off on us yet again?
I Got Your Pledge Right Here |
10:36 pm CDT
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant
| Tags: politics
While I was prowling the aisles of the Madison Antique Mall this morning I spotted this Corona Sterling sitting amongst the china, figurines and other bric a brac. Carefully picking my way past the tightly-packed shelves so as not to become the not-so-proud owner of a newly-broken Humel, I managed to get a close look at this pretty little manual.
Flipping open the top, I found serial number 1A 22553, and a quick check of the Typewriter Serial Number Database revealed it was manufactured by the L.C. Smith & Corona company in 1937. Its beautiful maroon paint job was still in excellent condition. I couldn’t bang out a quick brown fox in the library-hush of the antique mall to see what kind of condition the action was in, but I did gingerly press down a few of the keys along the right-hand home row and found they were a little sticky but otherwise in good condition.
The sixty-five dollar price tag tripped my cheap trigger and kept me from taking it home, but not from snapping a photo I could moon over later.
Finders kee … how much? |
3:25 pm CDT
| Tags: typewriters
New coffee toy! It’s a coffee grinder. My grandmother had one of these; I think my aunt (her daughter) has it now. Not exactly like this one; hers was a wooden box with an iron crank on top. If memory serves, she kept pennies in it. The last time I asked her, she said she hadn’t used it to grind coffee in years, which is a pity because a coffee grinder like this one is praised by one and all as the best way to grind coffee. It grinds all the beans to granules of a uniform size, and you can adjust it to make the granules course as sand or fine as powder. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Mine has a plastic body and the grinding teeth are made of ceramics, but even though the materials have changed, the mechanism is practically identical. I dump a measured amount of beans through the sliding door in the top, and when I turn the crank, ground coffee comes out the black spout in the bottom. It’s simplicity at its finest.
What makes this particular make (or model?) of coffee grinder really wonderful is it cost me only twenty bucks, fifteen to purchase the grinder and five for postage and handling. If you visit a kitchen gadget store you’ll find that most of the coffee grinders like this one, called a “conical burr grinder,” sell for upwards of eighty bucks! I looked, but I could never find one cheaper than forty-five dollars. My cheapskate gene kicks in at a double sawbuck, so I never took one home.
Until I read a tip from the Lifehacker web site about a compact coffee grinder called JavaGrind. For fifteen bucks, I didn’t see how I could pass it up. I ordered it on-line from You Know Who-a-zon and it came in the mail yesterday. Took it out for a spin the first time this morning and I can tell you it does just what they say it does. No missed beans slipped through, no extra-fine powder turned to sludge and clogged up the filter. My only complaint is that there’s no easy way to hold on to the round plastic body, so it tends to pry itself from my fingers whenever I crank a little harder to force a particularly reluctant bean through the grinder. I may have to disappear into the work shop to knock together a wooden box, just like grandma’s, that will hold it firmly while I turn the crank.
You Too Can Afford To Grind Your Own Coffee Beans |
9:44 am CDT
Category: coffee, food & drink, play
I’m of two minds when it comes to recycling parts of old typewriters for jewelery or other artwork. My first reaction is revulsion. Typewriters have an intrinsic value to my nerdy sensibilities that is so great I could probably be persuaded to sentence key-cutters to jail terms that would raise an eyebrow on Charles Manson. In my shiny happy world, I would be most happy if every old typewriter was adopted by a loving caretaker so devoted to his responsibilities that he eventually subscribed to a correspondence school to learn typewriter repair so he could restore his machines to their former glory.
Back in reality, it’s unfortunately impossible to rescue every old typewriter put up for sale on e-bay and other auction sites because of the sheer volume, to say nothing of the shipping charges required to send a thirty-pound typewriter through the mail, and restoring all those machines would require raising an army large enough to make Patton, were the old bastard still alive, glow radium green with envy. Some of those keys are going to get cut, there’s just no way around it.
Now that you’re aware of my misgivings, I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m even a little bit warmed when I see a Royal typewriter carriage recycled as a display stand for pierced earrings. I spotted this disembodied carriage while browsing the aisles at the craft store Anthology on State Street.
Just Hanging Out |
6:38 pm CDT
| Tags: typewriters
Hey! This is my last week of near-absolute freedom to do whatever I want before I start my new job on Monday! Yay, me! I think.
There are still all kinds of things to do around Our Humble O’Bode before the snow flies, but I don’t know how many of them will get done in these last five or six days because I’m feeling a very strong urge to relax and do nothing in anticipation of re-entering the work force, an urge I think I just might indulge at least a little bit.
I spent yesterday morning and a bit of the afternoon tidying up the basement work shop. It didn’t look like tidying up at first. It looked a whole lot more like I was gathering up all the lumber that was leaning against the three walls of the work shop and throwing it all on the floor in a big heap, not an improvement at all. I needed to make some room on the floor, though, so I could knock together a frame that I eventually tipped up and screwed to the back wall, then added arms to so I could pick the lumber up off the floor and stack it on our new lumber rack.
I used to have something like this before I knocked down a wall to make room for a bigger work shop, but as it was part of the wall that got knocked down, I haven’t had a storage rack for months and lumber’s been piling up all around the walls of the room. This sucked in a big way. Every time I turned around in there I knocked something over. Finally, yesterday, I scrounged up some scrap lumber, cut it to fit, cleared a spot on the floor and screwed it all together, and voila! Storage for most of the lumber that was previously clattering to the ground because of my elbows.
It took me a little more than an hour this morning to fax a copy of my military discharge to the Department of Administration. They love to collect documents like that, and now that I’m working for them they’re putting together a file on me. I supposed that should make me worry, but I’m getting old enough that my paranoia doesn’t kick in until the commandos in stealth helicopters land in my back yard. Jane from the DoA doesn’t even register on my paranoi-o-tron.
You’d think the public library would have a public fax, wouldn’t you? I would. You can do just about anything else there: answer your e-mail, write a novel, print a form, and you can even check out books yet. But they don’t have a fax machine. “You could go to Kinko’s on Monona Drive,” the librarian suggested.
I figured I’d need a cover sheet to send a fax, so I sat down at one of the terminals and composed a very simple one when I couldn’t find a free template on-line. The computer locked up, though, when I tried to print it, and the librarian couldn’t figure out why. She logged in to the terminal right next to it (because I was still logged in to the locked-up terminal and couldn’t be logged in on two machines) so I could try again. “Is there a word processor on this machine?” I asked her, after a quick glance at the vacant directories.
“Sure,” she said, then came up short as she poked around in the same empty directories I’d just been through.
I thanked her for her help, jumped in the car and headed for Kinko’s. Did you think there were still places like Kinko’s out there where you could get big print jobs done? I sure didn’t. I was positive that everybody printed everything on computers any more, but no. The Kinko’s on Monona Drive is a classic offset print shop, with three big, stinky lithograph printers visible in the back of the room and piles of print jobs stacked on the countertop. I thought for a moment I’d been sucked through a crack in time to my days working in the basement of the Iola Herald.
“Help you?” the guy behind the counter asked me.
“If you can send a fax for me, yes,” I answered.
“You think we can do that?”
I smiled at him. “You guys have printing presses. There’s probably a fax machine in here somewhere.”
There was, and he did. He even had a printed cover sheet for me. Three minutes later my fax was on its way and I was headed home again. Total elapsed time from the moment I left the house to go to the library: one hour. Wish I’d thought of Kinko’s in the first place.
Time out |
3:20 pm CDT
Category: adventures in unemployment, ch-ch-changes, daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, work
| Tags: anachrophilia
I finished off the last of the books I’ve been reading this month:
Of A Fire On The Moon
I’ve never read anything by Norman Mailer before. This is one hell of a way to start.
I’ve picked up Of A Fire On The Moon at least twice, once when I was in high school and again when I was in college, but I wasn’t ready for Norman Mailer then; I’m not sure I was ready this time, but his novelization of the Apollo 11 moon landing has become part of the canon of moon landing lore, so it became a part of my permanent collection. When I got to feeling as though I needed another infusion of moon lore, I cast my eye on my books to be read, thinking, I need something that puts a different slant on the story this time, and man, I got it.
Mailer inserted himself into the story, called himself Aquarius, and tried to write about it as if he could somehow render it more dramatic than it already was. The astronauts and the technicians at Nasa bugged the hell out of him with their teamwork mentality and their inability to speak in anything but dry, clipped technospeak, but they were engineers, all of them, and so focused on their goal that most of them slept, when they slept at all, on cots in their offices and breakfasted on coffee and cigarettes. Of course their words were dry and clipped.
Mailer wanted them to be poets or, at least, a bit more lyrical. More like him, I would guess. If men were going to all the trouble to walk on the moon, he wanted them to be able to bring that experience back to the people they kept insisting they were doing it all for, the People of Earth, not at all an unreasonable request, but not possible in that day and age when they had to cobble together a lander that was so technologically complicated it had to be flown by not one, but two total engineering geeks. Poetry was not their strong suit.
I didn’t care much to read the details of Mailer’s life, inserted into the frame of the story, and the age of Aquarius stuff didn’t do much for me in setting the tumultuous stage the rest of the nation was playing on. It was distracting and seemed dated: When he’s not describing the moon landing, Mailer’s descriptions of his mayoral race or his partying seems to drag on like the babble of a self-absorbed beatnik, banging on bongo drums in a run-down coffee house.
Still and all, it was indeed a fresh perspective on one of the grandest stories of our country.
I’ve been reading the stories of William Gibson ever since I read, then re-read, then re-re-read Johnny Mnemonic in the pages of Omni Magazine back in 1981 (I still have the issue, deeply buried somewhere in the archives here at Drivel HQ). His style reminded me of Michael Herr’s Dispatches, a tattered copy of which I kept in a jacket pocket and read snatches from as compulsively as you’d pick at a scab, (I meant that to be a compliment. I hope he’d take it that way) and did the same with Gibson, too, after I discovered him.
Gibson’s prose combines stream of thought with a relentless hyperawareness of his surroundings, but with an artist’s control so that his observations don’t come tumbling out like the cataracts of a class five whitewater river. The result is a body of work that describes the world around his characters with the same attention he gives to their thoughts, motives and appearance. Everything in Gibson’s stories comes alive.
The Greatest Show On Earth
Richard Dawkins has a way of explaining things that seems to piss a lot of people off. Although I’m not in that camp of people, I can see why. He writes out most thoughts with such finality that they sound almost as if he’s issuing decrees from on high. That may be his purpose, now that I think of it, to put him in the same league with the anti-evolutionists he argues against.
For quite a while I avoided books like this, thinking, What’s the point? It doesn’t change the mind of anyone who doesn’t believe in evolution. But that doesn’t appear to be the point of this book. It’s more to the point of filling in the gaps in my own knowledge of evolution, and strengthening knowledge is never a bad thing, whether you’re for or against a topic as contentious as this one.
10:12 am CDT
Category: books, entertainment, hobby, play, space geekery
Gloomy & wet all morning, cold and gray all afternoon – perfect day to stay in the basement, playing with trains. Haven’t done that in quite a long time, and the neglect is apparent in one glance at the layout: track torn up, box cars lying on their sides. You wouldn’t look at it and ask to take one of the choo-choos out for a spin. More like, ask for the phone number of a good insurance adjuster, or the name of the Hurricane that blew in the day before.
Cleaning up should have taken all day, but I managed to pack and stow several boxes of kits and wires, then clear off the layout right down to the table top, in just a couple hours. Then, standing back, I took a long look at the layout and thought about what I wanted to accomplish here.
When I began to build the Lost Continent Railway, I did it the way I learned from back when the boys and I set up our Lionel train set: we cleared a big, flat space in the middle of the floor to work in and started piecing together lengths of track. There was never any plan. So long as the train could go around and around, turn off on a siding, and maybe cross over so we could crash them once in a while, we had a great time with whatever emerged of its own accord.
That’s pretty much how I started building a model layout, too, although I did have one or two must-haves in mind. From the moment I started, for instance, I knew what I wanted was a layout that was all about passenger cars and steam engines. I pictured a passenger terminal tall and grand as a cathedral, with a shed over a dozen of sidings in a yard that would hold dozens of cars, and a long, sinuous track leading away from the terminal and wrapping its way around the rest of the layout.
On the way to that dream, I ran into a few road blocks: First, I don’t have a basement with enough space to build a layout vast enough to comfortably hold a broad, towering passenger terminal surrounded by long, sweeping curves of glistening track. We have boxes filled with stuff that we store in the basement, because piling them up around the walls of the living room would make us look like hoarders. I also have a small workshop in one corner of the basement where I can pound nails into lumber and otherwise perform small acts of mayhem that I pass off as maintenance on Our Humble O’Bode. I’ve had to scale back the model train layout a bit to fit into the remaining corner of the basement left over for it.
Second, even if I did have the space to build a layout as grand as my dreams, it turns out that a model railroad is a money monster almost as ravenous as a sailboat or a high-maintenance mistress. I don’t have even a tiny fraction of the disposable income I’d need to build the layout of my dreams. With what’s left over from my modest weekly allowance after I buy a six-pack of beer and take My Darling B out for pizza, I could put together a small passenger station with a pair of platforms where I’ve built up a yard on one end of the table. On the other end of the table I think I have enough room to shoehorn another four-track yard into the foreground where I can model a commissary and other buildings that would make up a passenger car servicing department. It’s all about passenger cars, after all.
I can almost see it, squinting my eyes while I gaze long and hard at the now-cleared table top. But for now, the cleanup will have to keep me happy until the next rainy day.
All the live-long day |
6:18 pm CDT
| Tags: choo-choo trains, scale model
Was I supposed to do anything today? I couldn’t remember, so I made up an answer: No. Then, I rolled my bike out of the garage and went for a little ride.
First, I rode a route from my house straight up Monona Drive and Atwood Avenue to Walter Street, where I could catch the Capital City Trail into town. I don’t like riding in the road, for lots of very good reasons. For instance: Monona Drive is in about the worst shape of any city road, including the ones that are dug up. There are potholes and pothole patches all along the right-hand side of the road, and I end up hitting almost every one of them because they’re either too big to miss or I’m crowded over there by traffic.
Or, for instance: I can ride pretty fast, but not so fast that the rest of the traffic doesn’t seem to be rocketing past me. It makes me a little twitchy when they do that, especially now that almost every vehicle on the road is a pickup truck big enough to make a county snow plow look cute and cuddly. Most drivers are surprisingly accommodating when it comes to making room for me on the road, but there are still people out there weaving all over their lane, the lane next to theirs and the lane of oncoming traffic while they’re texting. Hence the twitchiness.
But, as it turned out, riding straight up Monona Drive was the quickest way to get to the trail. For safety’s sake I’ve tried riding up the sidewalk, scofflaw that I am, but the sidewalk is in even worse shape than the road is so I can’t ride very fast. Also, I try to avoid hitting pedestrians. That adds a lot of time to the trip, too. And I’ve tried finding a route along the back roads, but that takes me on such a roundabout route no matter how I do it that it almost doubles the amount of time to get to the trail. So straight up Monona Drive it was.
Once on the Capital City Trail it was a quick and easy ride up to the Yahara River trail, which goes literally right past the back door of the building where I’ll start work a week from Monday. I tried to bike the trip as fast as I could today without cranking so hard that I made it uncomfortable – I don’t want to get to work all sweaty or totally crapped out. Elapsed time from door to door: thirty minutes. When I go slow, it takes forty-five. Now I’ve just got to make myself do it.
After the dry run I wended my way back to Willy Street to stop at Saint Vinnie’s thrift shop to see what goodies were lying around, waiting to be adopted and taken back to a good home. I found a Smith-Corona Coronet electric typewriter that would have made an interesting addition to my collection, if only my collection weren’t already too damned big, or I owned a pole barn along the highway where I could start a typewriter museum. There would have also been the problem of getting it home, since it didn’t fit in my backpack. I left this fantastic bargain for someone else to snap up.
Since there wasn’t anything else I felt a need to take home from St Vinnie’s I saddled up and headed down the street to take a few photos. My first target: the pharmacy across the street from St Vinnies that used to be Schaeffer’s. It’s just reopened in the last two or three weeks under new management and the sign over the door indicates it’s now a pharmacy and costume shop … because nothing says Halloween like prescription medicine, right?
Then there were the Pac Man ghosts. I don’t know if they have some special significance, or if someone working in a local print shop had a little extra time on their hands and they were just feeling playful. Either way, Blinky the Ghost first appeared on the boarded-up door of a house on the south end of Willy Street and, shortly after that, on the wall of Mother Fool’s coffee shop. That’s it. Nothing else I wanted to point out. Just wanted to snap the photos and blog about them, because it didn’t happen if you don’t blog about it.
I made just one more stop at Batch Bakehouse, because it was on the way home and I was getting hungry. I knew they baked deliciously fluffy baguettes, because we pick them up at the co-op all the time, but I didn’t know they also baked yummy muffins, rolls and other pastries. “Is that a blueberry muffin?” I asked, pointing at a fat, sugar-encrusted gut bomb in the display case.
“Blueberry and lemon,” the smiling young lady behind the counter answered. My tongue dropped from my mouth and I covered the countertop in drool. She correctly interpreted my response and sent me home with one.
Morning Bike Ride |
3:16 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: bicycling, typewriters
I stumbled upon this Smith-Corona Super Coronet waiting on the counter for someone to take it home from the Willy Street branch of the Saint Vincent de Paul’s thrift store in Madison. Unfortunately, I didn’t take it home because I couldn’t figure out how to make it fit in my book bag and carrying it under one arm would’ve made steering my bicycle a problem.
I couldn’t take it for a test drive because it wasn’t plugged in, but somebody had been using it and left the sheet in the carriage, apparently offered up as proof that it worked. The ribbon was a cartridge type, which I thought might have been a problem until I got home and googled for more information. That’s when I found that everyone offers cartridges for sale, so there must still be a few Coronets in use out there, which just boggles my mind.
Vinnie’s tends to price typewriters a bit high, if you ask me. They wanted twenty bucks for this, which is about the going price on most internet sites, but I’m a tightwad who won’t pay full price if I can help it. Sometimes if they sit on the counter a while and cool off the price comes down a bit, so this typewriter might yet see in the inside of my basement lair. I’d give them a fiver to let me take it home.
Smith Corona Super Coronet |
3:00 pm CDT
| Tags: typewriters
Here’s an ER Doctor can not only treat you, he can size up your financial situation at a glance. He’ll also write up a helpful critique of your lifestyle and publish it in the local newspaper at no extra charge!
Dr. Jones wrote this letter to the editor back in August, 2009, but it’s gone viral and showed up today in my daily Facebook parade of Very Wise Posts, followed by comments of “So true!” and “Amen!” Thank goodness for Facebook or I might have missed this!
During my last night’s shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B; tune for a ring tone.
Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid.
She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer. And our President expects me to pay for this woman’s health care?
Our nation’s health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture – a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. A culture that thinks I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me.
Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.
Starner Jones, MD
All I can say in response to that is: Well put, Doctor Jones! You’ve hit this nail squarely and soundly on the head. Anybody who’s in such desperate need of medical care that they would resort to applying for Medicaid ought to be willing to demonstrate their dire straits by not only swearing off beer and cigarettes forever, they should also voluntarily submit to blood tests to prove it! It’s an inconsequential interruption of their civil rights to secure such a huge measure of help.
You also have a sharp eye for fiscal responsibility, Dr. Jones! Now that the price of gold has skyrocketed to more than $1,200.00 an ounce, gold teeth should, of course, be pulled from the mouths of every Medicaid patient and hocked to help defer the cost of further medical treatment. I’m sure suitable replacements cost only a tiny fraction of the benefits reaped from each gold tooth surrendered.
And tattoos! Don’t get me started on tattoos! Used to be you hardly ever saw them, but now that our clean-cut American culture is going down the tubes you can’t swing a stethoscope without hitting somebody covered in tattoos. Since we’re paying for their medical care anyway, anybody on Medicaid should sign a consent form agreeing to have all their tattoos removed by laser surgery. I understand it’s almost painless and takes only a few days to zap each tattoo into oblivion.
People on Medicaid shouldn’t have the disposable income to spend on cable television, SUVs and roomy apartments or, god forbid, their own homes! Anyone applying for Medicaid ought to direct-deposit their paycheck into the system so that every penny of their income could be accounted for. Any money not used to cover their medical treatment would be refunded, of course, and ought to be more than enough to rent an efficiency apartment in a decent part of town. As for transportation, god gave everybody two good legs, and nobody’s too good to ride the bus to the ER.
You, sir, are my hero! Keep up the good fight!
You Don’t Need Medicaid, You Need A Spanking! |
12:31 pm CDT
Category: current events
| Tags: creepy social developments