Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Pretty Selectric Knockoff

I visited Ole Kehlet yesterday. He maintains a squeeze-in typewriter repair shop on 16th Street, in the old shady section of the area of Sacramento known as Midtown. The purpose was to stand embarrassed at his counter while he deftly undid the damage I had done when I had tried to force-feed a Selectric III font element to my Selectric II.

BSI Model 180, Made in Holland, with Brochure and Manual

I had acquired a Selectric II about a year and a half ago, at the beginning of the current flare up of my obsession with typewriters, fascinated with the engineering marvel it is, and as an icon of the 1960's and 1970's; a time when I was moving from grad school and into the work force. But it barely functioned, and was set aside with all the others that would get attention by and by. I eventually took it to Ole a few weeks ago, who poked at it for a bit and finally deemed it hopeless, offering me one in his stock for the price of servicing, $65.

I was excited to have a functioning Selectric II, which reminded me so much of the reports and papers I had written as a young geologist. Excited until the Selectric III element incident, anyhow, which brings us back to my visit to Ole's shop yesterday. A visit there is never a quick in-and-out. Time must be allowed for conversation - no, for listening to Ole. His hands seem to work automatically as he talks, waving them over your typewriter not even seeming to touch it but disassembling it just the same. Yesterday he talked about the Selectric's system of levers, a mechanical computer, really, that orient the ball around the two planes putting the character struck into position. Slack-jawed, I comprehended only that it was a complex and amazing engineering feat.

A thin band of spring steel orients the element horizontally, and I had managed to mangle it by my dumb and dumber action. New old stock is the only source for these bands. Although he said he only replaces about one a year, he went through the complicated process of installation and calibration smoothly, and my machine was back to working order while I watched and listened.

Unfortunately, despite the increasing interest in typewriters, work has not been coming in the door with enough volume to cover even the small overhead it requires to run his shop, so he is going to close it by the end of the year and work from his home. In the meantime he is beginning to distribute excess stuff. Some typewriters he has are worthless, despite their rarity, and he has been giving them to a guy who disassembles and sells them for scrap metal. He showed me the BSI, an IBM Selectric II knockoff, made under some sort of agreement with IBM by Business Systems Inc. (BSI) in Holland. He said I could have it, else it would be scrapped. Looking at the new-appearing machine, unmarred on the outside and which even inside had not gathered dust bunnies, obviously very little used, I had to take it. So the two monstrous machines came home with me.

So far I have typed about five pages with the BSI, a couple of letters and playing with different font elements (but no Selectric III elements, which I now know to identify by their yellow labeling) and it seems to operate perfectly, although sounding a bit clunkier than the IBM - even my wife noticed.

Now I have the problem of deciding what to do with it. Hang onto it, I suppose, as a back up for the Selectric II. As if I had the space to do that. It's to these crazy quandaries that this delightful obsession leads us.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Catching up on Correspondence

Western Tanager
perched on
blooming agave
I've spent our last morning down in the way far south of California here in Borrego Springs catching up on some letter-writing with my Lettera 32 and casting a bit of type for this blog.

Typecasting and letter-writing in the wilds of the Anza-Borrego Desert


Rush hour in Borrego Springs
.
Father Junipero Serra, founder of the Spanish missions in California. Metal sculpture by Ricardo Brecceda
.
Fan palms in Surprise Canyon
.

.
Colorado Fringe-Toed Lizard in Surprise Wash
,
Surprise Grove of fan palms


.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Desert Sojourn

Hilda and I have been camping for a month here in the Anza-Borrego Desert in the far south of California. Sounds adventurous, but the reality is that we are staying in a luxury RV resort with a pool, golf course; all that kind of stuff. What follows is a "typecast" written a couple of days ago, plus a bunch of photos. I trust you will bear with this "what I did on my spring vacation" post, but hopefully at least my worldwide Typospherian friends will enjoy this glimpse of Americans at play in a unique and lovely place.

The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park includes 2,400 square kilometers in Southern California
.
Blooming hedgehog cactus and cholla cactus on Ghost mountain
.
Morning at our campsite in The Springs at Borrego
.
Friday morning farmer's market at Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs

Breakfast with gleanings from the Farmer's Market


Sunset and swirling clouds over the San Ysidro Mountains
.

.
One of "our'" flycatcher parents bringing breakfast to a pair of hatchlings. Despite the large treat it carries, it still manages to give me a scolding where I'm sitting in my chair with camera and book.
.
.
This evening we noticed that one of the flycatcher hatchlings had contrived to tumble from the nest it the low shrub outside our trailer. We scooped it up and replaced it, apparently no worse for wear, while the parents scolded anxiously.
.
.
An immature black-headed night heron, per my interpretation of our bird book, at the artificial cascade near the 9th green
.

..
Cholla cactus in Lizard Canyon
.
Blooming cholla cactus on the Lizard Canyon road
.


.
Fishhook cactus and granite boulders
.
Chuparosa makes a colorful splash of color
.
Wind-sculpted granite bedrock near Miner's Wash Indian village site
.
Joey, our brave Shih Tsu of the desert
.
Typing under duress
.
The desert in the vicinity of Borrego Springs is the perfect setting for the metal sculptures of Ricardo Breceda
.
.
A weekend gathering of Airstream owners at "The Springs". Weekends are livened by gatherings like this, but otherwise this time of year is the tail end of the tourist season, and the park largely empties out during the week.
.

.
The desert sky is impressive night and day. I got lots of practice with star photography. Need more practice. Need full-frame DSLR camera and a fast wide angle lens. About $8,500 should cover it.
.
First light illuminates the fan palms. My favorite time of day. Cool, great light, and full of promise.
.
Blooming cholla and barrrel cactus
.
Morteros, i.e., bedrock mortars, at an indigenous village site. Probably my most satisfying photo of the trip, for what I learned in processing it, but mainly for what I hope it says about the generations of mothers that passed down these morteros to their daughters, and a culture that lived in balance with its surroundings for thousands of years. Now as a result of overuse of water in a desert and the resulting overdraft, the groundwater that enables agriculture, a community, and yes - luxury RV resorts and golf courses - will be used up in less than 50 years. 
.

All photographs copyright 2014 by Tony Mindling


.



















Friday, March 14, 2014

Oh Boy! A Corona Flat Top

A couple of weeks ago I took a chance and submitted a bid based on a blurry eBay ad and a hunch. The thinking was a) I "need" a Corona flat top, b) the poor presentation might inhibit other (smarter) bidders, and c) it's just fun sometimes to let it all out and throw down a few bucks on the whirl of the eBay roulette wheel.


The tidy package arrived yesterday unscathed by its trip from Pennsylvania, and I whipped out my box knife with anticipatory thrill. Anxiously I unwound a few layers of bubble wrap from what turned out to be a pristine case with ("What the heck is that?!) a knob poking from a curved slot in the case. 

Inside a nearly unscathed 1936 Corona Standard flat top, from the second year of production ...

.



... and those marks it does have represent the patina of years of careful use; the decal on the paper table worn by the passage of many sheets of paper and the wear spot on the front of the frame where someone's right palm had naturally rubbed while hitting the space bar. 

Other than the detached carriage cord, everything seems to work, albeit with the hesitancy of decades of slumber. I'm looking forward to waking it up this weekend. 

Stand by for my first flat top typecast.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Island in Time

The Point Reyes National Seashore

Looking north on Tomales Point, with my beloved "Minnie Winnie" and the historic Pierce Point Ranch in the distance. The Pacific Ocean is to the west (left) and Tomales Bay to the east.
From my vantage point on the southern part of Tomales Point is does indeed seem to be an island, with Tomales bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. But when the Point Reyes Peninsula was dubbed "Island in Time" in the late 1950's by a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, the sobriquet also captured its transitory nature, and the opportunity to preserve it from the pressures of development.

A pause to look back on Tomales Bay on my way to a hike on Tomales point
.
A mama elk in the Tomales Point preserve

Tomales Bay from Tomales Point

Where the Pacific Ocean meets California

Papa elk

Despite the apparent scowl, I really am quite happy here
.
On the Pierce Point Dairy Ranch, established about 1850. The Tomales Point trail starts here.

An 8-mile hike rates a PB&J snack, cup of tea, and a dip into "The Martian", by Andy Weir

.
Sundown near Elephant Rock


A paddling adventure on Drake's Esterro
.
Drake's Estero

A break during paddling Drake's Esterro to contemplate a 6-mile upwind paddle to return to the put-in at Drake's Bay Oyster Farm 
.
A trail to the ocean. 
I think one of life's great pleasures is to experience the sensations of a walk through woods to the ocean. On the Bear Valley and Miller Point Trail you are rarely out of earshot of the rippling of a creek, birdsong, and the earthy dampness of deep woods. Then there is a hint of a breeze carrying salt air, and finally the woods open up to the immensity of the ocean and the rhythmic wash of the surf.

Looking north from Miller Point
On the last day of my visit I decided on a pilgrimage of sorts to Miller Point. California's Congressman Clem Miller was key in preserving Point Reyes from developers. By the time funds were available to purchase the land bulldozers had already plowed up roads and building pads, and homes were under construction. Plans had called for a highway from San Francisco, boat harbor, restaurants,etc.

Even once the land was secured from the real estate developers it was not safe, as the park service had plans for a "theme park" development akin to the Yosemite catastrophe, with a huge campground, boat rentals, snack bars, and shops. Fortunately the preservation movement managed to grab the reins. Now this lovely land of beaches, sand dunes, rocky shorelines, lagoons, open pasture land, and forested mountains is as it was when I often visited it in the 1950's and 60's with aunts and uncles, with high school friends, and later with my children. 
.
Eric at Kehoe Beach, 1975
.
On Kehoe Beach