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On Typewriters

May 9, 2011 Leave a comment

For my recent birthday, my lovely wife got me a No. 6 Underwood typewriter. It’s in almost working condition and needs some restoration work, which I have no experience with. I looked up the serial number last night, and it was made sometime in 1935. That’s really quite extraordinary, and it gave me pause.

I wonder what I own that could possibly be in good enough shape to require ‘some restoration’ in 76 years. Probably nothing. The electronic revolution means that anything of interest will have its transistors rot well before then, which is unfortunate. We just bought some nice deck furniture. I’ll be really excited it that lasts us half of the lifetime of the typewriter. Really excited.

So I’m going to restore it and pick up a kit from USB Typewriter. It makes a typewriter into a USB keyboard, so I can use it with my computer. I think it’ll be a neat project, and one day I can see myself clacking away on the same kind of typewriter used by some of the greatest writers of the 20th century, but using a modern word processor. I have no intention of using it as an actual typewriter.

Last night, I lay in bed remembering the typewriter experience. No delete button, no auto correct, and messy ribbon. This typewriter doesn’t even have a carriage return— one must return the carriage by hand. That feels like ‘fire is new’ era technology.

Still, just the presence of the beast, and it is a beast, evokes writing in a way the modern computer doesn’t. There is a feeling, an aura, around the solid piece of metal that we have lost.

Thankfully, 1930s era mechanics are simple enough for me to understand, so I think I should be ok in my restoration efforts. If anything particularly interesting happens I’ll throw updates here. I might shoot some before and after pictures as well.

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Death-Star Economics

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I found this article on the economic sense of the Death Star and thought it deserved a repost.

One of the authors posited the question:

What’s the economic calculus behind the Empire’s tactic of A) building a Death Star, B) intimidating planets into submission with the threat of destruction, and C) actually carrying through with said destruction if the planet doesn’t comply?

What follows is a good discussion of how the Death Star made perfectly good sense, from a certain point of view. The Romans apparently used the same strategy in their empire. If a city seemed to be harboring more rebels, they would raze the city to keep the others in line. It mostly worked for them.

Additionally, there is a discussion of ‘playing chicken’ in the game theory sense. If one convinces his opponent he is crazy and will do what ever he needs to do to win, his opponent will often capitulate. From this perspective, the Emperor may have hoped to destroy Alderaan and save the galaxy. Spoiler: it didn’t work.

I don’t have much to add to the article, but it’s a fun read, so check it out.

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I Hate April Fools, But This Takes the Cake

April 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Here you will find a marvelous story written about the inability of DC residents to easily access cupcakes. It has a fantastic map. Best line: “Activists concerned with public health have recently made such "food deserts" a social justice issue.”

Maybe even funnier than the article, is commenters on the site are confused as to whether it’s real or not. Tremendous.

I want them to get the LHC up and running as a through-time-communicator, so I can send a message back to myself.

“Self,” I’d say, “Read this article. Going to grad-school will make this article the highlight of your day at some point in the future. I have had real discussion, with real people even, about topics not so dissimilar from this. And they were heated.”

Then, I will watch myself tremble. Because it is bitter. And because it is my heart.

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November 15, 2010 1 comment

Sometimes when one writes one must pause to research salient details like: is a horse’s tongue smooth or rough.  This is also known as ‘when the magic doesn’t exactly happen, rather it sits around twiddling its thumbs and glaring at you’.

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