Make what is old new again

While working on a project titled “The Climate Change Manifesto” I wrote a quick sectioned called make what is old new again. I thought I would share what I meant by that and hope that this idea might carry on into the near future. I have a side hobby of fixing up old typewriters and making them as close to new again as I can. Sometimes putting them back into working order means I have to have new parts made and for anything made after the 1950s that means using a 3D printer to make new keys or feet that have rotted out. The idea of using a 3D printer to create new parts for an old machine is nothing new, however there are a few people out there that have come up with ways of making typewriters a 21st century product. The USB typewriter is an open source product that can convert several styles of typewriters into a working keyboard for a computer. When connected to an Ipad or tablet the typewriter can mimic a laptop with a lit up screen sitting on the carriage of the typewriter. more about this product can be found at http://www.usbtypewriter.com

This isn’t the only piece of old equipment that is finding new life in the 21st century. Old vacuum tube AM radios are finding new life with blue tooth routers and mini-jack being added to century old technology. These old wooden radios are able to broadcast podcast and new music via cell phone without needing to plug anything in. For more about these old but new radios check out at ExceptionalRadios at http://www.etsy.com

With technology becoming more available and at a cheaper price there isn’t much that we couldn’t fix if we just put in the effort. Currently, my ability to fix things on typewriters is limited, however there is new material coming out that expands my ability to fix more typewriters. Rubber material is available now to create new rollers for carriages, new rubber feet for older pre-WWII models, or handles on older models like the Royal #10. New laser printers are available that could possibly replace those glass panels if they are broken.

Maybe I am being too much of an optimist, delaying the inevitable fate for technology that has seen its day come and go. At the local Michael’s store I saw the box for a Memory Keepers typewriter, brand new and produced in China. I don’t know what this says about typewriters in our culture these days, could the demand be so high that a new over priced option is a viable option? The new typewriters cost $175 and most collectors that have bought one to try it out only complain about the cheap parts and being over priced. the overall opinion i have seen is that anyone would do better to buy an older model at an antique booth and oil it up. I haven’t used the new machines even though I have been curious but when the going price could pay for three or four machines at a flea market i would rather save the older ones and let the new model sit on the shelf.

I hope this kind of behavior becomes the new normal, fixing and refurbishing older technology to fit into our new lifestyles. There is something missing from this digital age. Craftsmanship and quality have been sacrificed for the promise of a new and better model next year. There was a time when you could buy one product and it would be with you, loyal and reliable till the end, for have a century or more. What happened to that kind of quality? Why don’t we value our time or money like our grandparents did, instead choosing to stand in line for half a day trying to get a new Iphone? As a society, when do we start to realize that we have become disposable like the shitty products we have been fed to purchase?

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A Vision of the Future

When I imagine what the world will look like, specifically my area of Michigan, I see a drastic change from the world we have today. Some of the things we no longer have include supermarkets, a large number of cars, and less people. There will be some resemblance of our current normality. Local governments will have more power compared to state of federal. Roads will still be around. Electricity will be available to those that can figure out a power source. Libraries will be the main source of knowledge and entertainment.

Economically, the main stores will include reuse merchandise. Items that can stand the test of time and be fixed by a steady hand. This won’t be the electronics that we have today. Cell phones won’t be around. Home phones will return as the norm, for a while. The post office will send correspondence if it is still around after a republican administration. With a return of a reliance on the post office will come a return of earlier technology like the typewriter. Some people as about ribbon and how to get more? The bright side is that ribbon is a fairly easy product to make, also if the ribbon is still in good condition it can be reinked and used several times over. I can’t think of any modern technology that has that ability.

We will see a line in human history marking when humans stopped building tools that were reliable and sturdy. The quality of tools will mean more than how pretty they are.

Slate records and the hand crank Victrola will be items of luxury. The mechanically inclined will be the most valuable people to the general public. They will be the gateway to an easier life and a reminder of the world we once had. Communities will have to return for the sake of the population at large. Neighborhoods will no longer be boxes to hold your stuff, instead everyone will rely on sharing of goods and supplies to get by. Festivals will no longer be a place to sell and buy goods, instead a place to share and enjoy one another’s company.

Acoustic music will be the norm and making those instruments will become a new craft, revived from the local need. Old hand crank or foot pedal sewing machines will be a sign of luxury again. I don’t know if money will survive. People might think it was a nice idea and some will hold onto it thinking it is special while it is not edible and doesn’t serve any purpose besides existing. Festivals and local customs will be dictated by the seasons. Blueberries and other crops will become a focus point and become more than just a garnish in a salad. The first two R’s in reduce, reuse, recycle, will finally be used. While these items are saved and restored for future generations, life will be easier than if they had disappeared along with the rest of civilization. Mechanics will be the wizards of the future, speaking words like Metric and Inches as if it was a foreign language only they can understand. Life will become more simple while becoming more dangerous with people dying from diseases we consider a hindrance these days. In the end, everywhere will become a small town. Jobs will no longer be the concern on people’s minds. With the fall of banks and corporations the only job people will have is to survive. In order to survive people must work together, and hopefully remember the mistakes of the past and not repeat it in the distant future.

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Gardening in Modern Times

As I mark the borders for the garden I will be planting in the spring I take a few things into consideration. At the moment, my garden is directly in the ground with top soil and years of compost added over the years. A lack of ambition last year created a thick layer of weeds I will have to clean out as I clean out the compost piles as well. There will be a week or two of work before I can plant anything, the payoff afterwards will hopefully be a low maintenance garden that I can maintain.

On the side of my house I have three raised boxes for square foot gardening. The end goal for those boxes is to do herb gardening only a few feet outside of the kitchen. 8×4 ft per box gives me a lot of room for herbs I use and can store over the winter once they are dried out.

The back yard has two large plots that are being converted into square foot gardening beds. In previous years, I used intensive gardening technics, this involves turning the soil once, never stepping on the soil and adding compost at the beginning and end of each planting year. The upside is that the plots being converted are already fertile with dark soil that drains well while retaining water. With the square foot gardening, I will be able to use more of the available space for higher crop yield and preventing weeds throughout the season. The down side is that for any vines I grow I need a trellis to have them grow up. In square foot gardening plants grow up, not out. This can be a major benefit but it adds to the cost of the project.

Planning the garden is fairly basic. The higher plants per box need to be planted in the northern rows to prevent shading the smaller plants. If you plant corn they are in the northern squares. Plants like radishes, carrots, or beets would be in the southern squares. In the middle squares, you can plant medium sized plants like peppers and tomatoes. All of these plants can share the sun and soil if you let them. In the past I learned that using organic gardening technics can have far better results than those that use artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Every year I have a group of praying mantis that return to my yard and eat everything I don’t want to have there. Pest have never been a problem with my personal army of alien looking killers.

I don’t know what the spring will bring, or how hot the summer will become. What I do know is that with the rain barrel and compost system my crops in the past have never been effected by drought or intense heat. Some crops like heat including tomatoes and peppers. Beans and broccoli on the other hand you can forget it. grow those in the spring and enjoy them while you can. I tried to grow these in autumn and it never works out. By the time the temperature drops for them to thrive it is almost winter and I never get to harvest before the first frost.

My tomato seedlings are an inch tall now. Peppers haven’t sprouted yet and I don’t know if they will. The house is at a steady 62 degrees and I’m guessing they need more heat than that. I hope they start to show themselves, we will have to wait and see.

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Michigan Tunguska

Last night there was a green meteor spotted, streaking across the sky with a loud explosion heard in some areas. Buildings shook and the sight was captured on film in several states. I didn’t see it. it was reported to have happened around 1:30 am and I was in bed an hour before that, not that I would have been outside at 1:30 in the morning in the middle of winter. I did find video footage on Youtube after I heard about it. the images reminded me of the meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013. Those videos are also available on Youtube for those that are curious. The only reason I mention the Russian event is because of the explosion heard last night. In Russia, windows were blown out of buildings with car alarms hollering for miles around. People were injured from the broken glass, filling hospital emergency rooms in some cities. These things are rare events and while they can be destructive like the Tunguska incident in 1908, the odds of something like this happening to a major city are equivalent to the same person being struck by lightning, winning the lottery, and finding Jimmy Hoffa’s corpse. Still, it’s exciting to know that the universe might have it in for you at any random time.

My choice of books has changed this week, switching to David Sedaris and his older work, Me Talk Pretty One Day. The essays were easy to connect with as somebody who went to speech therapy as a kid. I knew exactly what Sedaris was referring to about the odd situation it is for a kid to be taken to the side like that and told you’re different, and not in a good way.

The fog is thick outside as I write this. The temperature is 45 degrees and the snow has been melting for two days. Tomorrow we are supposed to have thunderstorms. I can’t figure out if this is winter or not. It’s not the winters that I remember as a kid. We haven’t had enough snow in recent years to build a snow man if one was so inclined. Living in Michigan it is expected that we have harsh winters and yet the snow I remember seems to be north of us. It’s always north of us and continues to move higher on the map as the line for expected snow fall migrates. I won’t be surprised when they say it is another warmest winter on record.

My days have been busy organizing my books and figuring out what I will keep and what will be donated. The room empties out as I fill boxes with titles I know I will never get to. Even if I did they would be as an audiobook and not the physical thing. It is amazing to see the subjects I collected over the years, seeing how my thinking had changed and the things I once considered important. Titles on Buddhism and eastern mythology filled one box, spy novels from the cold war era filled several others. I couldn’t tell you how many times I found a book and asked myself what the hell was I thinking? While shopping for used books, I expected myself to be extremely bored for the majority of the rest of my life. That’s the only answer one could have for the number and type of books I have on hand. Almost have of the books I have will be donated this week, then comes some organization for the rest of the house. Things are shaping up and tomorrow comes mapping out the garden. Stay tuned.

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