Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from the House Full of Nerds!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays/Holy Days from all of us to all of you!

Vintage Technology Obsessions passed the 30,000 page view mark sometime last night.  I appreciate your visits, comments and all your creative endeavors.  The Typosphere is a darned nice place to be.

As for the handsome guy at the center of this photo, be sure to read about the Origins of the Christmas Squirrel at

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas Was So Two Weeks Ago

It's interesting to me just how short the American post-Christmas attention span is.  We have this huge build up starting before Halloween (our local CVS had nutcrackers and zombie masks out at the same time), and by December 27th Christmas is just a dim memory made foggier by leftover cookies and family feast remains.

Christmas was so two weeks ago, but I am still enjoying gifts including a little something that Claire lovingly modified for my amusement.

We'll just say that no board book or mini bit of kitsch artwork is safe from her and her pens.  These particular books had moved from her closet to a donation pile over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Each page has an added hidden Nerd symbol.  The rocket was really hard to find.

Yep, every letter of the alphabet is now a monster.  At first I thought the "Q" was smoking a cigar - that is until the girls pointed out the fingernail.  Very much my kid in so many ways...
Claire received multiple sketch pads and pens for Christmas.
Thus ends Christmas 2011.  As long as the Mayans were wrong, we look forward to another season of lights and nerdy fun at the end of 2012.

Really, I mean it.  Christmas is over.  We take down the decorations this weekend.  Some people have a hard time letting go, but the the next post will be something entirely different - promise!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Gifted ROYAL Quiet De Luxe

I love typewriters!  And, like many aficionados of these fine machines, my tastes have become more refined.  Sometimes I enjoy aesthetics more than function, but the latter has become more important to me over time.  That and unique typefaces.

With that in mind, I posed a rhetorical question to my brother the recovering newspaper journalist turned teacher (paraphrased):
Me:  Would you be interested in a portable typewriter?
Answer:  Maybe.
Me:  That's as good as "yes" to me.  So, would you prefer something classic with glass keys, or something more modern that might be a tad easier and have a few more functions?
Answer:  You know, I would really like something that Hemingway might have used to write columns in the field.

Ding! Ding! Ding!  We have a winner!

As it turns out, I have two machines that Hemingway might have preferred.  The first, a Corona 3, is still a little glitchy and takes an uncommon ribbon (my brother is unlikely to transfer new ribbons on to existing spools).  The second is a 1947 Quiet De Luxe.  I love the typeface on this one and it is very easy to get along with.  But with multiple odd typefaces to choose from and the Torpedo 18 being my favorite overall machine, this poor QDL spent all of its time in a case.

So out came the QDL for a final cleaning and wrapping up with a bow for Christmas.  Thanks to MagicMargin for posting tips on cleaning wrinkle finish.
The technique worked great on the QDL.  It looked pretty good to start with, but the cleaning pulled off a lot of embedded skin oil and dust.  I cheated a bit with the case.  Even after washing it still looked pretty dull.  I wiped it down with just the slightest bit of penetrating lube and it looks fabulous!

Oh, credit where credit is due to the Classic Typewriter Page for resources on writers and their typewriters:

I was surprised at what a difference proper cleaning makes.  I had already lubed the mechanical bits earlier this year, but it really didn't need much more than that and a new ribbon to work like new.

Such pretty keys - and forever safe from key choppers!

I am helping my Dad resurrect a 50s square QDL.  It received lube service and 25% cotton paper for Christmas.  I am unhappy to report that my local Office Max no longer appears to carry standard large ribbon spool replacements.  There are tiny spools hiding inside the box on the peg where these normally were found.
The bow deserves its own photo.  It is vintage from a collection of ribbons and bows my step-mother had kept from her days of running a clothing store.  So sparkly!

How's this for subtle wrapping?  We hid it inside a bag until time for the official gift distribution.
I am happy this machine has a good home and will be used on a regular basis.   My brother plans to keep it in his office and have students do occasional laps with it just so they can see how old school journalists kept it real.

My girls liked the QDL and its typeface, but understood the need to have machines in use.  Besides, Claire got an Olympia Socialite for Christmas.  But that machine, and her sister's Olympia SF, are a topic for a later blog entry.

Note to the Typosphere:  After creating a more than adequate back story for the Christmas Squirrel, I realized that I have done zippo typewriter related since my travels to Florida earlier in the month.  For those of you that like more regular typewriter posts, thanks for the patience - especially with the weird Star Wars knockoff. 

One of my vacation projects was to get our computer setup more refined.  The scanner now lives next to the Dell Precision 4600 (new refurb) connected conveniently through a Tardis USB hub.  And to think my first exposure to computers was a cutting edge Apple II way back when.  At any rate, scanning typecasts should be an easier task.  Now I just need to clean off my old laptop for Claire and convert an old tower into a RAID Network Attached Server.  Etc.

Bonus factoid:  Claire and I are going to start attending an amateur radio class the first Saturday in January.  This is her idea and she really wants a broadcast license.  Guess that means we'll be shopping for radio gear in the next few months.  I'm guessing that NERDY1 is not a valid call sign.  Too bad.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Origins of the Christmas Squirrel- Part 2: A Hero is Born

Our Shrine to the Christmas Squirrel.  Thanks for the socks!

Origins of the Christmas Squirrel:  Part 2
Enter the Hero Squirrel 

America loves its heroes to come from humble origins. But who could have guessed that the squirrel who saved Christmas was a carnival sideshow reject?

Zippy the Squirrel was the youngest member of the famed “Amazing Bushytail Family”, a staple of the carnival sideshow scene in the Wisconsin Dells from 1906-1953. The Bushytails deserved their fame. In addition to their renowned prowess on the flying trapeze, one brother was a large carnivore tamer, two sisters juggled fire and miniature chainsaws and the oldest brother performed a strongman routine – once lifting a clown car with a complete complement of the visiting nineteen member Ringling Brothers' clown contingent.

Zippy, unfortunately, possessed only one somewhat unmarketable skill: he could run really fast.

It's not that the Dells' management didn't try to market Zippy. For awhile, he was the “Amazing Flash”; a gray blur racing around the three rings while the rest of the family was up on the high wire. Audience members that even noticed considered that act to be boring. They gave him skates and had him do Jammer duty during human short track competitions. He was too fast and the roller girls went on strike until he gave up the jersey.

Fortunately, what Zippy lacked in marketable athletic skills were more than compensated for by his charm and wit. During a fleeting flirtation with literature, audiences were enthralled when Zippy took on the title role of “Othello” on the side stage.

Zippy came to love the bright lights and Shakespearean intrigue. He loved the attention. More than anything else, he loved making the children in the audience laugh as he threw in a few off-script motions inspired by the great Charlie Chaplin. It looked like he had found his niche.

And then came the Santa market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression. Audiences who could still afford the carnival turned their attention to more dramatic and pedestrian fare such as staged cage matches between the Two-Headed Woman and the Tattooed Man.

While the rest of his family toiled to create ever more dangerous, and enticing, carnival fare, Zippy was relegated to the back bench. He assisted with ticket sales, kept the books and helped dole out money (when there was any) to the performers at the end of each week. He took his job seriously, but missed the bright lights and the feeling that he was actually accomplishing something. He was saddened to see that the few children who showed up were generally worse for wear. They were grubby and wore tattered shoes and socks nearly ready to fall off their feet. For these Depression battered kids, smiles were few and far between.

But it was in the back office that Zippy learned to love listening to the radio. While his personal misery increased along with the rest of the nations, he could take solace in the weekly radio dramas.

By 1933, the carnival was in pretty sorry shape. Zippy shared the near fanatical dedication of the owners to the cast and crew, but money could only go so far. So far, his families skills kept them from the fate of Henrietta the Dancing Pig (pork chopped) and Sid the Singing Horse (stew). He missed his friends and feared for his family. He desperately wanted to help. He wanted the carnival to go on...and he wanted to see children smile once again.

The year 1933 should be remembered as the year that everything changed, but it was a year that people prefer to forget. However, this was the year a new hero emerged. A hero who loved the radio. A squirrel who turned out to be the best and most willing audience for FDR's Fireside Chats.

In the Fireside Chat of August 22nd, FDR talked of the Origins of the Great Depression and attempted to soothe the fears of a public weary of Edison's annual September propaganda on the failure of the Sleigh of Holding. “Christmas will come!”, his voice practically boomed from speakers in living rooms across America. He announced the creation of the Sleigh Engineering Corps; the WPA's version of the manned lunar landing program of the 1960s. FDR spoke of patience and hope. “With the formation of the SEC, the formidable might of U.S. science and industry will solve the Santa problem by 1940. We will help put a present under every tree, provide clothing for babes in arms and a turkey for every table. No longer will Americans suffer through the indignity of squirrels in every pot.”

It was these words that triggered Zippy's moment of Genius. He saw in a flash that the real problem wasn't the lack of overall sleigh capacity. The problem was in the trivial, yet necessary, things that were placed in the sleigh along with presents that brought joy and hope.

It was in that moment that Zippy declared, “I shall bring them socks!”

In the dead of night, Zippy gathered his family together and shared his daring plan. He piled a knapsack full of nuts and with a cheery farewell darted off to the North Pole under an Aurora draped sky.

Hope Arrives

With the help of government mathematicians, Claus Enterprises calculated to the second when output and capacity would collide to yet again doom Christmas. The evening of September 21st found Santa well into his fourth eggnog awaiting the inevitable resonant blast of the steam horn announcing their annual bottleneck. He fell into a fitful slumber, face down in a Sears catalog.

He was surprised to be awakened by the Chief Elf shaking his shoulder. He was shocked to see the time: 2:00 AM tomorrow! Yes, it was September 22nd and, like magic, the Sleigh of Holding was still accepting a tremendous volume of goods running off the main plant's conveyor.

The Chief Elf could hardly contain his excitement as he informed Santa that the sleigh had been remeasured and that new calculations indicated it would keep up with the assembly lines until Christmas Eve!

Santa straightened his hat, squared his shoulders and picked up the red phone to call the President. By sunrise, FDR had signed the controversial Executive Order mobilizing the National Guard to stop the presses and forever end the distribution of the annual “Santa Fails” edition of newspapers across the country. He took to the airwaves on September 24th to deliver the good news and decry the excesses of the media barons in what later came to be known as the “Tesla Was Right!” Fireside Chat.

Christmas was coming. And hope had arrived.

There Will be Heroes

In the rush to get ready for Christmas, Santa did not have the time to contemplate exactly what might have happened with his sleigh. Given the past four years of misery, he was quite content to be thankful for miracles.

Christmas Eve arrived and Santa launched with a full sleigh and a long and blissfully complete address list. Imagine his surprise during his first delivery of the evening. Up on the roof, he started unloading and checking items off the “good” list:

A chainsaw for Dad. Check!
A new dress for Mom. Check!
A violin for little Susie. Check!
A BB gun for little Billy. Check!
New socks for all... “What!”

“What?”, Santa almost shouted. “No socks! Surely the elves packed socks for them!”

But as he rummaged frantically through the sleigh, he discovered that not only were there no socks for the Aaronsons of Eastport, Maine, there were no socks at all! None! The sleigh was absolutely barren in the sock department.

Santa vacillated between shock and anger as he dropped down the chimney. His feelings turned toward pure shock when he found that the Aaronsons' hearth was already adorned with neatly arranged, brand new socks!

The pattern repeated throughout the evening. Every house already had warm, comfy socks under Christmas trees, on mantles and tucked neatly in stockings.

Santa was high over Omaha when he finally started to put two and two together. “Hmmm...maybe it wasn't Tesla after all...”

On a normal Christmas Eve, Santa's long journey would end in Ozette, Washington before turning north and home. But this was no normal Christmas and Santa saved a special transcontinental sprint for his last stop. Onward to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue he flew with the jet stream to his back.

He was greeted by a grateful FDR in a strangely dark and quiet Oval Office. But Santa had to break a bit of bad news while celebrating the good. Few people knew of FDR's paralysis; one side effect being that his feet always felt cold. “I am sorry good sir.” Santa said in a sad, quiet voice, “But I don't have any new woolies for your feet.”

As if on cue, they heard a skittering sound cross the roof and then come down the chimney. And there, emerging from the fireplace, came an ash and soot covered bushy tail followed by the rest of Zippy with two pairs of hand-woven goodness clamped firmly between his teeth.

And that, dear readers, is how Zippy Bushytail saved Christmas. With new found optimism, the American people dug in and started to turn the economy around. But that Christmas evening in 1933, FDR, Santa Claus and the Christmas Squirrel agreed that the country was still hanging by a thread and that some secrets are best well kept. The Executive Order directs the Secret Service to scatter fresh acorns on the White House roof every December 24th in perpetuity. It also allows this particular state secret to be unsealed on December 25, 2133.

State Christmas Secrets are well protected in an undisclosed location.  Thanks to Wikileaks for helping liberate the true story of the Christmas Squirrel.  Otherwise, this vault will not be opened until Christmas, 2133.
 On the latter subject, you will have to pretend you have never seen the true story of the Christmas Squirrel. You will certainly have to deny knowing its source. So, from the author, I wish you a hearty Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

Now, please move along. Nothing to see here. ;-)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the whole crew at vintagetechobsessions!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wishing you a Merry Retro Christmas!

I love Christmas!  For a photographer and fan of all things retro and kitsch, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.  Vacation is coming and I will have time to catch up on typecasting, but in the meantime here are a few signs of Christmas from years gone by.

We'll start with the creative and crafty.  Fortunately, I have encountered no objects made from slaughtered typewriters.

This is an amazing assemblage of otherwise forgotten silver serving ware.

It took one of my musically inclined kids to notice that these include old sheet music.

I keep forgetting how cool the cup and light decorations look.
Of course, the decorations we find today in our local big box store will look like it came from a certain era.  I am fascinated how materials and design can become so thoroughly embedded in a cultural period.  Will we look back on the light up inflatable yard creatures and remember a long, long recession, or will we wax nostalgic upon 2011 twenty years from now?

This little guy reminded me of David Sedaris and his Santaland Diaries monologue.  "Oh little Elf..."

From the "What were they thinking?" category.

Once upon a time, someone thought this gift set looked cute as opposed to vaguely disturbing.
And then there are the many faces of Santa. 
Such a heavy burden.

Wise Santa is watching.
There is such a thing as too happy.

Glowing, blow molded decorations remind me of my own childhood.  I can't say a single mean or snarky thing about them.  This is as about as good as Christmas gets.
We're preparing for Christmas.  The girls got through concert season.  My wife has been baking up a storm.  We're doing a bit of shopping and enjoying the challenge of family handmade-or-thoughtful-and-less-than-$5.00 presents.  I have two typewriters in cleaning and service mode (SM9 with robot type and a Wizard branded Brother) getting ready for gifting to the next generation of addicts.  Vacation starts the day after tomorrow.  All is well.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!