Manual Typewriter

I mentioned that I use a manual typewriter for typing the pages going in to “the red notebook”.  Well, here it is; a Hermes 3000 typewriter.  I might be older than the typewriter, but I’m not certain.typewriter

During one “university term paper season” my Smith Corona electric typewriter quit working and the repairman said it would take a couple of weeks to get it fixed.  The school library had at least 100 IBM Selectric typewriters, but they were in such high demand that a 1 hour time limit per session was put in place so that everyone could get a chance to use them.

I didn’t like the idea of waiting three or four hours for one hour of time on the typewriter and I didn’t want to steal time from my girlfriend’s typing sessions by using her typewriter, so I bought this Hermes for something like $10.

The electric typewriter is long gone, but I kept the manual one.

Absent some compelling reason, if you have electricity, skip the electric typewriter and use a computer and printer.

So, I guess it is true that an electric typewriter is more obsolete than a manual one.

Or perhaps it is not a manual typewriter but actually a highly energy efficient portable word processor with an integrated printer and a 100% effective anti-malware system.

Mom’s House

The contractor has finished the renovation of my mom’s house.  Next is putting it up for sale.  The bathroom cabinets, sinks and faucets were replaced, the shower door glass was replaced, the carpet was replaced, the inside and outside of the house was painted and the landscaping was converted to what people mistakenly call desert landscaping (hint…it’s gravel).

I have used the book metaphor for a life before.  “The End” was written in dad’s book nearly 13 years earlier and the same was written in mom’s book back in November.  After the house sells, their  books will receive a short addendum and then will join the books of my grandparents and my fiancee.

A Clean Hot Mess

Earlier this week, my car’s air conditioner high pressure hose “popped”.  It was 19 years old, and the last time I had looked at it, it looked OK, so I was mildly surprised when I heard the pop and saw the cloud of oil/Freon erupt from the engine compartment.

I must say, driving home in the 122F degree heat wasn’t the most fun thing to do.

One of the jobs I did “way back when” to eliminate the need for university student loans was fixing air conditioning systems, so I had the knowledge and about 15 years ago, I bought the specialized tools needed to do my own air conditioning work.

Working on a car air conditioner is hot work.  First is just the normal “working in the heat” and then, when charging the system, there is the added heat from the car’s engine.

I was hoping the shop rates would be low enough to convince me to let a shop do the work.  No…. The shops wanted around $900 to do the work…the car cost only $500


I spent a few hours in the heat and $85 for the hose, O-rings, compressor oil, Freon 134 and the dryer/accumulator.  If I were to count the gauge set and vacuum pump, that would add about $600 to the repair cost.  But I had purchased these items in the late 1990s and have used them several times a year (mostly on neighbors’ cars) so I consider those to be paid for already.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a firm believer in “get the right tools and do it yourself”. The first time, the cost of the tools, will be about what it would cost to have someone else do the work.  So, you don’t save much money the first time you have to do the work.  The savings start when (not if) you have to do the same job again.   Plus, you aren’t dependent on someone else to take care of you.


I grew up in the computer age when it could safely be assumed that the bandwidth of an internet connection was measured in bits per second…not gigabits per second…not megabits per second…nor even kilobits per second….but bits per second.

Because we knew that bandwidth was a scarce commodity, we were careful to ensure that we didn’t try to use the entire network bandwidth and we were also careful to make sure that minimum amount of data was moved.  It probably took twice as long and required twice the effort to write the software, but we had to do it.

Fast forward to today.  I think most software writers assume that bandwidth is nearly unlimited and that there is no concern for the amount of data that is moved across a network.

My example of this  is Microsoft Windows 10.  Each day, I turn on the computer, it opens more than 25 connections to a server that, according to the whois records, belongs to Microsoft Corporation.  This ends up saturating my internet connection.  If I’m lucky, it only lasts for a few minutes.  If, like today, I’m unlucky, this will go on for several hours.

I live far enough out of the city that my best internet connection speed is 1.8Mbps and until the processes finish their connections to Microsoft, my internet experience reminds me of back in the day when Teletype Model 33 and 35 ASRs were pretty much all that was commonly available for use.  These ran at 110 bits per second….for text, which is all they printed, that is 10 characters per second!

I will probably head to the thrift store to see what is available for “old” laptops under $20 and see how well Linux runs on it.

For what it’s worth, my favorite distribution is Slackware Linux.  I use it at work on some test servers that I operate.

Pop Up (Tent) Trailer

When our now 19 year old daughter was 2-1/2, we bought a pop up (or tent) trailer.  She called it our “little house”.

Last year (2016) we did not use it–my wife was taking a college class.   The year before (2015) we did not use it–we drove to upstate New York.  The year before that (2014) and every year prior, we used it several times per year.   We even used it when she was undergoing chemotherapy for her breast cancer.  Her thought was that since she was going to feel bad, she might as well do it in a comfortable setting.

When it’s not being used, it sits at a RV storage lot and the bright sun slowly degrades the plastic parts on the trailer.

Today, we brought it home…my wife backs the trailer much “more better” than I…she threaded it in between two cars the first time and without having to pull forward.

So, after setting it up, we took care of everything that needed to be replaced/fixed/maintained.  It took about 8 hours in 105F degree temperatures to take care of everything that needed attention and it’s now ready for camping.

The city enthusiastically enforces the “a RV can only be parked in a driveway for a maximum of three days” ordinance, so tomorrow it will go back to the storage lot and we’ll bring it back Thursday night so we (she) can pack it for a weekend trip to the mountains.

Tonight I put the movie “The Long, Long Trailer” on the television.  It somehow seemed appropriate.


My Red Notebook

I was asked about “my red notebook”.  It is simply a small 3 ring binder that holds typed recipes that I think are worth saving.  My hope is that in 40 or so years, my daughter or one of her kids will try the recipes in my little red notebook.

Going off on somewhat of a tangent….

Recently I had to dig through some engineering documentation that spanned from the 1940s through the 1980s.  The old stuff was typed on paper and was easy to handle.  The later stuff was a bit of a challenge because there were 3 sheets of paper and four 8 inch floppy disks.  The three sheets of paper didn’t answer my questions, so I assumed the stuff I needed was on the floppy disks.

I’m a geek. Geeks know lots of other geeks and we all like challenges.  I was able to call around to the more ‘pack rat’ minded folks and collect the needed stuff to (after some repairs) read the disks.  I got lucky as the floppy disks were still readable…sometimes the magnetic coating flakes off or heat warps the media and the disk is ruined.

It was great in a retro sort of way — an old CP/M computer with 8 inch floppy disks, a green CRT monitor (80 characters by 24 lines) and a copy of Wordstar.  Three of those four floppy disks were empty.  The fourth one had only the three page document that was included in the file….sigh…..

Coming back to my red notebook.

When I started my little red notebook in the early 1980s, I did not have a computer, so I typed everything on my manual typewriter.  I found that using a cheap typewriter ribbon and a good bond paper would make something that would easily survive the accidental drips and such that are likely to happen in the kitchen.

When I did get a computer, I typed the recipes on the computer and printed it out on the dot matrix printer.  Remember “near letter quality” printing?  That worked, however, after a few years it seemed like the ink would fall off of the paper and I would have to reprint the recipes.  But, by then dot matrix printers had been replaced by ink jet printers and that kind of ink smears when it gets wet.

So, I went back to using a manual typewriter and a good archival quality bond paper for my recipes.  I can’t think of an easier way to store small amounts of writing so that it will be readable in 30-40 years.

Unlike the ‘new’ 8 inch floppy disks, the 70+ year old typed documents were easy to read.

This reinforced my decision to continue with the typewriter.  I wonder if in 40-50 years, CD-ROMs, DVDs and USB thumb drives will be just like the 8 inch floppy disks.