Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Monday, September 24, 2012

Writing Materials Circa 1912 in Montgomery Wards Catalog

The Kansas City warehouse was the gateway to the West.  For typewriters from this catalog and additional back story, visit

Just think how much ink one one of the glass pens would hold.

I like the fact that some of these brands are still around today.  "Blue Black" is still common nomenclature as well.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Metallic Typing and Fictional Mail

I owe the inspiration for this post to two fellow bloggers.  First, I need to commend Ledeaux of Dante's Wardrobe for catalyzing fictional correspondence among our family members.

Second, I'll give a shout out to Florian at Maschinengeschrieben for showing that typing on aluminum foil can be done.

Before I get to the aluminum foil typing, I need to explain the path to this little exercise.   MEK read the information on fictional correspondence and decided it might be a good way for our family of word nerds to communicate.  Hannah F. and Claire F. readily agreed.

One thing lead to another and a reply to a Dr. Sottenmeyer in the future was required. Why aluminum foil?  Well, it is obviously a superior medium for surviving time transmission.  Duh!  Or something like that...

This aluminum post was brought to you by Olympia!, our perky SM3.  I guessed that the sans italic would translate well to foil.  The trick to getting a clean impression is to use two pieces of paper underneath and one on top.  This sample was done with the ribbon vibrator running.  It takes a harder key strike that way.  Turning the ribbon vibrator off makes the aluminum impression easier but leaves no typed hard copy.  Life is full of tradeoffs.

Olympia says "Click here and look at me!"

But that is not the end of the story.  Sure enough, Dr. Sottenmeyer found the transmission at the research library in 2195 and sent a return package.  It was an elaborate package with instructions on the making of synthetic paper including a sample of the necessary Adamantium.  Addressed to the Scientific American, it arrived on time in the late 1800s.  Like magic, the 1898 Scientific American Cyclopedia was updated by way of an Errata sheet!  Time is fluid that way.

This is one of the most awesome books, ever!  You can download digital copies, but it is not the same experience as browsing 114 year old pages to find recipes for everything including alloys, paint, paper and ink.  Some would say it is an essential post-apocalypse library addition.

This type looks suspiciously like it came from our gold Royal.  Hmm.

In theory, the recipe should eliminate the need for metallic transmission media.  But that assumes the technology of 2012 is as good as that of 2195.  We shall see.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TED - Ideas Worth Spreading (in pen *)

* This is where you find out why I type and use a keyboard.

My Spousal Unit, MEK, and I had the distinct pleasure of attending a live simulcast (that was redundant) of Wednesday's sessions at the TED2012 conference. This event was hosted by the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and sponsored by a local web design firm, VML.

So, what is TED and why did I actually take notes?  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.  It is a fusion of ideas from creatives that are placed out on the web for our mutual benefit.  TED talks are fast paced "Ideas Worth Spreading".   A TED or licensed TEDx conference is synergy in action.

From past experience, I knew just how fast TED goes.  In theory, I could just look all the talks up on after the fact.  However, with a maximum length of 20 minutes and a few 3 minute talks interspersed, there can be an awful lot of content thrown at an audience in the course of six hours.  TED features some of the best minds and best speakers on the planet.

These few pages just barely skim the surface of a TED event.  If you read any of this and something catches your eye, dive into the TED website  It's one of the best ways you can possibly waste time.

As for February 29th, the new director at the Nelson, Julian Zagazagotia, encouraged the audience to always do something extraordinary every four years with our extra day.

REWIND >>>>>>> Back to the first page for some commentary....

The first thing you will notice is that my handwriting is horrid and always has been.  But I can actually read my own writing this time, so I will count that as progress.  Bonus:  After the introductory talks, the other 27 pages of notes were done in an almost completely dark auditorium.

The opening speaker was Scooter, the Muppet.  Scooter talked about the tangible vs. the digital - felt vs. pixels.  My favorite line that pretty well sums up TED:
   "TED is like the Academy Awards for Nerds."

Yep.  And next, the director of the Defense Applied Research Projects Agency (DARPA) carried on the Nerd theme:  "You should be nice to Nerds."  She used the history of flight as a narrative to talk about technology; including technology oriented towards defense.  Latest projects:  a Mach 20 glider/jet and a woodpecker sized robotic hummingbird.

One of the guiding precepts for DARPA:   

What would you attempt if you didn't fear failure?  What would you attempt if you could not fail?

She also delivered one of the better inspirational lines of the day.  DARPA was founded after the surprise launch of Sputnik with the mission of "preventing strategic surprise".  Some of their work and grants are pure research to push boundaries.  Many have defense applications.  It is a heavy responsibility and sometimes overwhelming.  On one of those occasions, a coworker sent an email that said: 

     "There is only enough time to iron your cape, and back to the skies with you."

The next great idea comes from a research group at MIT that is working on commercialization of giant batteries to help buffer the electrical grid, have a place to put daytime energy production and assist in distribution of power in major metropolitan areas.

The lead researcher enlisted young, smart scientists in need of PhDs to get the practical applications down.  Conceptually, the cycle is similar to what happens in aluminum smelters, but at much lower temperatures and with abundant natural materials (local dirt).

So where are they now and where are they headed?  Today, a pizza box diameter cell stores 1 kilowatt hour.  In construction, they have a bistro table sized cell that will store 4 kWh.  Within two years, these will be stacked in modules.  With an investment by Bill Gates, among others, they are on their way to a shipping container sized battery that will store 4 megawatt hours ( MWh).   This is huge.

Best line:  "We choose to work on grid level storage, not because it is easy, but because it is hard."

Next up:  Robots.  Robot quadrotors, to be precise.  As a bonus for you James Bond fans, the talk featured a video of a squad playing the theme on actual instruments.

Let's just hope these little guys don't get hooked up with Tesla/DARPA death rays.

Go here for the Bond video:  UPenn Quadrotors playing the Bond theme

And go see Vijay Kumar's TED talk at

Next up:  T. Boone Pickens on energy policy.

T. Boone Pickens is not a shy man.  Every wildcatter has to have a strong ego, but this is one geologist with brains and charisma.  I have to give TED credit for bringing up difficult and controversial subjects.  In this case, he is concerned with national security and points out that oil is

     Dirty, Expensive and Theirs (as in countries that don't particularly like the U.S.)

Factoid:  There are 12 aircraft carriers in the world (counting the Russian scrap heap China is bringing back to life).  Eleven belong to the U.S. and at any given time 5 of them are in the Gulf region and 5 are in rotation ready to go back.  More here:  WIRED Danger Room on China's Carrier

And now for a dose of historic irony:  100 years ago, our choice was between oil and whale oil.  We chose oil because of the same rationale listed above.

Having made a huge play in wind energy and losing $150million in the process, he is looking short term at what is next.  His answer is what made wind unprofitable to start with:  natural gas.  Because of increased exploration and hydro-fracking, the price of natural gas dropped from $9.00 per MCF to $2.40 today.

He's crusty and brutally honest in admitting that this is a bridge to some unknown energy source of the future.  However, he firmly believes the bridge needs to be used now before more of U.S. blood and treasure (and GDP) flows to OPEC.

Wrapping up:  An update on past annual TED prizes.

A TED prize is awarded to a worthy idea or project that needs human capital to grow.  The first couple caught my eye. 

The Encyclopedia of Life is dedicated to Global access to knowledge about life on Earth  A TED talk in 2007 got this project off the ground.  The goal is to create a page for every species on Earth.  This started as a concept in 2007.

This deserves its own line:  at year five, they are up to 1.9 million species.  Amazing.

In order to make this happen, the founders had to talk scientists into giving away their work to populate the pages.  That was hard at first, but community sharing brings dedicated citizens into the mix.  Trading data to help fuel conservation is worth it.

Hence a quote from this talk repeated again:  "Science is changing."

Which brings me to the end of this blog entry, but not the end of the TED session.   The science is changing theme continued with an update on SETILIVE   Remember that movie with Jodie Foster?  No, not the creepy taxi one- the one with the search for extraterrestrial life.  Would you enjoy doing that?

Here is your chance to help crowdsource science.  SETI is listening and you can help classify portions of the radio spectrum.  If you flag something interesting, they will turn the Allen Telescope Array back to the source.  Right now, the SETI program is focused on exoplanets and especially those in the "Goldilocks zone".  Did you know that NASA just reported on a highly compressed water world?  We live in interesting times.

     "Science is changing."

That's it for tonight.  I hope you read this far and you give TED a chance.  Do some keyword searches and just bump around in there.  Let me know if you find something really cool you just have to share!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Master at Work - Pens and Journals

My kids volunteer at a local living history museum, the Mahaffie stagecoach stop along the original Santa Fe trail.  Their last big event, The Wild West Show, drew participants from all over the Midwest.  This display belongs to a gentleman who participated in the two year reenactment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Along the way, he kept journals with reproduction paper, binding, pens and inks.
Travel writing desk.  The books and paper are made from scratch.  The pressed marbled cover is a period reproduction.
Water reduced carbon black pigment inside.

Travel journal from the Lewis and Clark expedition reenactment.  Notice the compressed paper cover.

Hawk and goose feather quills.  The ends take six precise cuts.

He keeps a separate journal for events.

Reproduction ink and labeling.

So many pens!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Writing Supplies...and a Confession

We'll start with the confession: my handwriting is really, really horrible. Below you will find recently acquired writing materials from an antique mall and estate sale. However, you should not expect this to result in a pencast on this blog. Yep, that bad. I can't draw, either – that's why I do photography.

The good news is that gingercat (Svetlana's codename for my youngest daughter) has artistic skills obviously not inherited from her parents. I helped her set up her own blog and she looks forward to productive pencasting after she overcomes first post writer's block.  My elder daughter was inspired by the quill and pen journals of a Lewis and Clark Expedition reenactor and may give it a try as well.

Estate sale materials from someone who did oil leasing and basic stratigraphy

I love these graphics!  Perhaps gingercat will make better use of these than I could.

The Royal QDL likes the new paper.  Sadly, it is still in need of cleaning and a more competent typist.  My wife loved the button.  She is a long time Beatles fanatic.

Tasty, and still ready to go after many years.

I work for a coatings company and am amazed this ink is in such good shape.

Gingercat and I looked for fountain pens at an antique mall, yesterday.  Junkies...
 Pen fans:  How old is this ink?  I also have a half bottle of Parker Super Chrome in blue.  The bottle isn't quite as photogenic and the tin isn't so great, but I'll post photos on request.

Once we have a pen to work with, we'll post the results.