Monthly Archives: March 2010

This is the modern world

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When my parents wanted to move the TV, they’d unplug it, wheel the cart
from one part of the room to the other, and plug it back in. (And then
spend several hours fiddling with the rabbit ears, trying desperately to
pull in Channel 13, or, if we were really deluding ourselves, Channel
17). Yesterday I realized the modern world that we’ve heard about has changed our lives to the point where a simple rearranging of furniture in the living room sends me off to owner’s manuals and wiring diagrams in the hope of getting our crazy home entertainment system (so large you’ll lose consciousness) back into something like the same arrangement it was in before we moved it to the other side of the room. What used to be just a TV set is now more of a monitor, to which is connected a cable box with DVR, a DVD player, a VCR (yes, still), and two Playstations (thanks for fighting the forces of backward compatibility, Sony!). All of it was also connected to my stereo (remember stereos? We used to listen to music on them), and the nest of wires in back of all this is not to be believed, or tamed. So, rearranging the furniture in the living room required two solid hours of rewiring electronics (including fishing the cable back through the maze by which it got to the old location), testing, and swearing. Electronics generate a particularly inventive course of curses.

The video is apropos of nothing but the title, but you don’t need a reason to listen to The Jam.

Health fads, 1940

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George’s Health Club 1940, originally uploaded by carljohnson.

Proving that nonsense health fads and pointless pampering aren’t anything new: in 1940, you could take the elevator up to the fifth floor of the City and County Savings Bank Building (now the FedEx Kinko’s) to George’s Health Club and enjoy a luxurious pine needle bath, electrical vibration, or even a (gentle, one presumes) colonic irrigation. And there was a registered nurse in attendance, in case the pine vapor rays got to you.

Typewriter pr0n!

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Remington keys 4

Image by carljohnson via Flickr

If, like me, you spent a significant part (though hopefully it won’t turn out to be the majority) of your life in the 20th century, you may share an unreasoned love of typewriters. I got rid of my last typewriter, a lightly and lovingly used IBM Selectric, back in ’95, once it was clear that I would never again want to cast a keystroke that wasn’t captured in the e-world. But that didn’t dim the romance of keys, carriage and bell, and the entire industry that grew up around it. My long-time home of Syracuse was the original home of Smith (later Smith-Corona) typewriters, as well as at least three other typewriter factories. Typewriter money built three of Syracuse University’s landmark buildings. I still have a beautiful Remington Noiseless, proud product of the Remington factory in Ilion – I fell in love with it at a junk shop on the west side of Syracuse and walked its heavy frame through the slums to get it home. It still serves a decorative purpose, a rare beauty that carried two sets of characters on each striker, but my dream of finding a second one for parts and getting it back into working order is a dream deferred.

So if you share this love that dares not carbon copy its name, you’ll appreciate this wonderful site: The Martin Howard Collection of Antique Typewriters. These are marvelous creations from the earliest days of typewriting, before QWERTY was the rule, and every one is a gem, a technological dream from another time. Please to enjoy.

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That one perfect spring day

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Yesterday was that day, that one perfect spring day when everyone comes outside. I rode through Washington Park, and it was full of people. Crossings in Colonie, full of people. Corning Preserve, full of people. Westland Hills Park – well, to be fair, I didn’t even know it existed, but even there there were at least a few people. Bright, sunny, warm, wonderful day. People were friendly. I had a long chat with some folks at the boat launch, which almost never happens, while watching the rowers come in off the river. A guy who almost hit me actually (and sincerely) apologized, and I was in such a good mood I brushed it off like nothing had happened. (And in fact the sun was definitely in his eyes). It was that kind of day.

Craziest ride route ever, covering some of the most dangerous streets in Albany, hills just for the hell of it, back streets I’d never been on before, all because I had to run to the Down Tube to get a patch and tube, having forgotten my saddlebag when I changed bikes. The Roubaix now has a new chain, two rings, cassette and brake pads (odo 8374.6k) – you’re supposed to replace them every thousand miles or two, and they had five on them, so it was definitely time.

“Let me just fuel up my headlamp”

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Troy and Albany Automatic Lighting 1895

1895 – a simpler time, when cars did not yet rule the roads, bicycling was all the rage, and all you needed to do to extend your riding pleasure into the evening hours was to bolt a kerosene lantern to your frame, light the wick, and off you went . . . .

Oh, wait. Maybe the lighting and the bicycle have nothing to do with each other. Never mind.

On the other hand, Fixie Pr0n for you flatland elitists. The Helical seems to have been the work of the Premiere Cycle Co. of New York, N.Y., and the tubes were made in a helical twist. The Zimmy was by the A.A. Zimmerman Manufacturing Co. of Freehold, N.J. When this ad appeared in a Troy directory in 1895, Arthur Augustus “Zimmy” Zimmerman had recently (1893) become the first amateur World Champion road cyclist. He was one of the greatest names in American sport a mere 120 years ago.

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Ghost bike, José Perez

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Ghost bike, José Perez, originally uploaded by carljohnson.

A ghost bike in memory of José Perez, at the connection of Broadway to Quay Street, Albany.

“José Perez, Bicyclist, killed by car 08-03-06 Albany, NY”

Located here.

Hopefully a reminder to everyone. Bicyclists need to ride safely – drivers need to give us a little room and courtesy. Also? Hang up and drive!

More on ghost bikes here:
www.ghostbikes.org

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Time to answer my spam!

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She blinded me with computer science

Image by carljohnson via Flickr

The e-mail spammers seem to have just about given up; although some of them are now bothering to spell all the words in “My friend in Christ” correctly, they are now actually including the word “SPAM” in their subject lines, pretty much daring you to open the latest Nigerian timeshare bequest franchise opportunity. But comment spammers have gotten much more sophisticated, stringing together sentences that are not only entirely in proper English, but which sometimes seem sincere and perhaps even relevant. Such as: “Hey there . . . I just needed to say thanks for sharing your ideas with this site. After checking out all of this blog, I’m interested in a few of your feelings on the latest earthquakes ravaging various countries. Thanks.” Then they blow it by signing it “Car Insurance Cheap Quote” and linking to a malware site – but I was touched for a moment! If you really wanted to know, my feelings are that earthquakes are bad, and should be outlawed. Someone named “Debt Consolidation Help” – and if that were my name, I’d go by the nickname “DC” – wants to know just what template I’m running on this particular website. He truly likes it. Well, thank you, DC. And Alisa Wheatcroft, who, judging by her link, is very big in the candleholder industry, wrote me a wonderful treatise on how people used to customize vehicles with neon lighting. That the entry she was commenting on had nothing to do with any of those words does not in the least diminish my appreciation for the time she, or her robot, took to comment.

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Bi-Centennial Tablets

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North East Bastion Fort Orange marker DSCN1123

No, not the bicentennial with the quarters and the barges – Albany celebrated the bi-centennial of its charter as a city (which came some 65 years after the initial settlers) in 1886. Celebrations were done in high style then, and for this one, 42 historic tablets were placed around the city to remind us of our past. Some of these tablets still exist, some have disappeared. I would have thought that this one, Tablet No. 1,  had disappeared, having never seen it, but a fellow Flickrite recently posted a photo of it and was good enough to share its location, on a wall among the tangles of highway, just down Broadway from the remodeled Holiday Inn Express, under one of the Dunn/I-787 flyovers. Its original location was “fifty feet east of the bend in Broadway, at Steamboat square,” on a granite block “with a slanting top to shed water and surrounded by an iron railing for protection.” The tablet, like its surroundings, has come down in the world, but at least it’s still there, reminding us. 

“Upon this spot, washed by the tide, stood the north east bastion of Fort Orange. Erected about 1623. Here the powerful Iroquois met the deputies of this and other colonies in conference to establish treaties. Here the first courts were held. Here in 1643 under the direction of Dominie Johannes Megapolensis, a learned and estimable minister, the earliest church was erected north west of the Fort and to the south of it stood the dominie’s house.”

My Dutch friend tells me the spelling was and is “dominee,” but all the histories here have it as “dominie;” Megapolensis was a Hellenization, quite the style at the time, of the family name, Van Mekelenburg. He was the first clergyman of the Dutch Church here in Albany, and after his posting here went on to New Amsterdam.

  

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