A Technological Throwback: Typewriter Time

Back in the fall, I ordered a copy of the Tom Hanks book Uncommon Type: Some Stories. The book is a collection of short stories that all have a common thread…each one features a typewriter in some form or fashion.

I’ve always liked typewriters, even if I was a little frightened of some of their mechanics when I was a kid. (I think I was afraid that if I put my fingers near the ribbon, someone would accidentally hit a key and leave a permanent letter on my hand. That probably helps to explain why I’ve never gotten a tattoo.) At my high school, the typing classroom was filled with electric typewriters. I can still hear the clicking…

I usually end up with some kind of new gadget each summer. This summer, my “new” technological acquisition is a manual Remington typewriter.

It’s just my type.

This is a Remington Quiet-Riter with a case. A very HEAVY case, I might add. I suppose you could call it an analog laptop.

Now, for all you kids out there, a typewriter is a machine that you use to type words directly on a sheet of paper. If you make a mistake–depending on the model–you are stuck with it. Autocorrect has no say in whatever crazy mistake you–yes, you–make.

phone fails GIF
…and you can’t blame autocorrect. It’s all on you.

So, if you’re going to use one of these things, you might want to do a thorough review of your and you’re and which word is applicable at the appropriate time.

With that being said, it’s amazing how much I had to re-learn in order to use a manual typewriter. For starters, I thought my typing skills were pretty good. And they are…as long as I have a backspace button. (I’m the fastest draw around on that backspace button, but it does little good when you’ll just be typing gibberish since you can’t erase what you’ve already butchered. Correction fluid is your friend.) Also, the apostrophe was not where I expected it to be, and I’ve discovered that I have to type much slower. If I don’t, the keys have a tendency to get a little tongue-tied.

Will it replace my computer? Not in this day and age, but I am using it to try my hand at creating unique greeting cards. If I use it for too long, though, I might re-develop some old habits that would need to be corrected when I return to the computer…

typewriter GIF
DING!

I’m sure I’ll be using the typewriter sparingly, but it does show me just how far we’ve progressed technologically in a relatively short period of time. And, much like the stories in the Tom Hanks book, it brings back images of a simpler time where we were much more connected…despite our current level of perceived connectivity.

An Observation: “Real” Ice Cream

This is an ice cream sandwich.

I couldn’t seem to wait five whole seconds to take a bite.

It’s no ordinary ice cream sandwich, though.

Nope, according to the box, it’s made with real ice cream. REALLY, REALLY, REAL ICE CREAM.

Naturally, this claim made me pause and think.

Does the fact that it’s branded as real ice cream mean that ice cream is a naturally occurring substance? I’m envisioning a breed of dairy cow indigenous to the Arctic Circle producing frozen milk (and somehow producing refined sugar and vanilla–naturally–at the same time).

It’s an udderly preposterous idea.

cow GIF

I don’t know that I’ve ever had fake ice cream, although the cows should be happy to know that I’ve been carrying authentic imitation leather handbags around much longer than I’d care to admit.

Still, what constitutes real? In the simplest terms of the word, if it exists, then it’s real. Perhaps it’s a tool the company used as confirmation that consumers aren’t imagining things; however, I don’t suspect that too many ice cream marketers are terribly concerned with their customers having existential questions about their product. (Granted, if you leave one of their ice cream sandwiches out in the heat for a few minutes, the ice cream part won’t exist for very long.) I know that I don’t tend to get too philosophical in the frozen foods section. My overriding feeling in the frozen foods section is guilt and shame with each sugary box o’ goodness I pile into the cart. Matter of fact, that’s my overriding feeling during the entire grocery shopping experience.

shopping GIF

Nothing like overthinking a snack. For real.

An Observation: Nailed It

I broke a nail.

That always bugs me.

Before you start thinking, “Geez, how vain can she be? It’s just a nail. Get over it…” allow me to fill you in on some background information.

You see, I was born with the capacity to grow teeth. Two sets of them, as a matter of fact. The first ones started falling out when I was around five years old.

“Don’t worry,” I was told by a well-meaning adult (without a degree in dentistry, I might add). “You’ll get permanent teeth where those used to be.”

“Really?”

“Yep. Just don’t keep running your tongue through the space where the old one was, or the new one won’t grow back.”

scared dog GIF
NOT the best advice…

With the discovery that I was going to have plenty of teeth, a nervous habit was part of the package deal—nail-biting.

I began biting my nails around the same time I started reading. (I don’t think the two are necessarily related, but when you start reading the newspapers as a toddler, it’s bound to increase your stress level to nail-biting capacity.) I don’t remember many instances from my childhood in which I was satisfactorily able to scratch an itch.

And it’s all because I had teeth and a nervous disposition.

Fingernails are advantageous for a number of reasons besides itch-scratching. They can be used for scratching off potentially lucrative lottery tickets, they can double as a flat-head screwdriver in a pinch, and they have the capacity to bring together a cross-section of society to gossip in harmony and unity through a ritual known as a manicure.

If I put the clipping under my pillow, will I get a dollar? At least a quarter, right? No? What a rip-off.

I did save money on my high school prom because I didn’t have long enough fingernails to require a manicure. Still, I had always wondered what it would be like to have beautiful nails. My curiosity, however, was not enough to defeat the lifelong habit.

Then, wouldn’t you know it, my teeth intervened again…in a different manner.

Teeth GIF
Calm down there, teeth.

When I was in college, I had to have a root canal. (It would be the first in a series of root canals that have since made manicure costs appear minuscule.) Due to a number of factors, my bite shifted slightly when the permanent crown was affixed to the offending tooth. All of a sudden, my primary nail-biting teeth no longer functioned as nail-biting teeth.

At first, I didn’t know if I should have taken my concern to the dentist.

“Excuse me, I need to schedule an appointment. The reason? I can’t bite my nails anymore and it’s driving me crazy.”

(That’s really right up there with someone under house arrest complaining to the police that they can’t easily slide through open windows at night on account of the ankle bracelet. I decided to let that one go.)

However, the years that followed have been years of unprecedented growth. I never knew I had such lovely hands when actual nails were attached to the ends of my fingers. I’m a musician and I’ve even turned down opportunities to take up the guitar more seriously because I would have to cut my nails.

So, yes, it’s a big deal to me when I break a nail these days. They represent a habit I was successfully able to overcome through willpower and sheer determination. (Well, okay…physical limitation is the more accurate way to describe it. It worked, though. The determination thing just makes for a better story.) Yes, it’ll grow back. Yes, I’ll just have to deal with the asymmetry for a little while.

But, it’s not so much an issue of being a little vain as it is an issue of complete and absolute vanity. They’re my nails and I want them to look pretty. So there you have it.

A Follow-Up: Still Learning to Crochet

Back in March, I issued a challenge to myself and my students. I told them about persistence and practice…and then found myself telling them I was going to finish crocheting a scarf by the end of the academic year. (Here is the link back to the original post so that you can see where my skills were and why I issued the challenge.)

Well, here we are.

Take that, challenge!

Congratulations to me…it’s a scarf!

Is it perfect? No. Is it a functional scarf? Well, I managed to sweat while I was wearing it (it is May), so I suppose it does its job quite well. Plus, it’s a fun color. Who doesn’t like fun colors?

It’s relatively short, I had to unravel it more than a few times, and the number of stitches may vary from row to row…but I managed to start figuring out how crochet works.

Beyond that, I’m just thrilled that I was able to make my point. (Whew!) While this will likely end up in the pile of projects that I look upon with pity a few years down the line, it’s proof that I can and did learn the basics of crochet. (You should have seen some of my first knitting projects. Oh, wait…you can. Here.)

I hope that anyone who is reading will also realize that in order to master a skill, you have to keep at it. I’m going to need to practice a LOT more than this to be allowed to declare myself a real crocheter.

So, what should I make next? (Rectangles only for now, please. After all, I’m still learning.)

An Observation: The Future

I remember when the year 2000 seemed like a distant, futuristic, bizarre milestone that would see human beings colonizing the moon, taking weekend getaways to Mars, and driving flying cars.

Well, we’re not exactly flying around in our fuel-efficient hybrids, those colonies on the moon never quite materialized, and those weekend getaways are reserved for a fake astronaut powering his way through space in a Tesla.

space earth GIF by mannyjammy
Something about a left turn at Albuquerque…umm…hello?

Instead, when the year 2000 rolled around, we were told that our computers probably weren’t smart enough to understand that 2000 was not 1900. Once we sorted through that interesting situation, we had to get used to writing “00” on all of our checks, voters in Florida had a difficult time figuring out how to use paper ballots, and one of the most popular movies of the year starred a volleyball named Wilson.

I still held out hope that we’d at least have our flying cars by 2015, according to “Back to the Future Part II” theory. However, given my own personal observations of highway drivers in 2018, flying cars probably aren’t the best idea and should probably stay in our imaginations for the time being. (If stoplights and speed limits are still viewed as mere “suggestions,” we need a little more practice on the ground. And don’t get me started on the left-lane-slowing-to-a-crawl chronic offenders.)

Deep down, I think we were all secretly thinking that our future would look something like this…

the jetsons GIF

So…what did you envision the “future” looking like when you were a kid? What surprised you the most that has happened? What would you like to see that hasn’t happened yet?

A Message of Thanks: Teacher Appreciation Week

I was raised by a teacher.

I watched my mom pour every ounce of what energy she had left after taking care of her two sarcastic, trumpet-playing, too-close-in-age-to-do-anything-but-fight-like-cats-and-dogs kids into grading papers, writing lesson plans, and pulling extra duty in concession stands until the day she retired. I knew she worked hard, but it’s hard to completely understand any job until you’ve done it yourself.

I have been a teacher for over seven years now. Once you actually take on that role, you instantly develop a deeper appreciation for those who walked down that path before you.

You also develop a deep appreciation for those teachers who had you as a student.

See that kid? Yep, that’s me. This was when I knew everything…until I grew up and realized how much I still had to learn.

I have many, MANY teachers and mentors whose lessons have stayed with me well beyond the classroom door. They could see the best in me…usually during the times that I couldn’t see it in myself. On my first day of kindergarten, I was so excited about getting to go to school like the “big kids” did. I was ready to learn about big words, big numbers, and big ideas. My teachers were incredible, incredible people who fueled my enthusiasm for learning in a big way.

“Thank you” will never be enough. I could say “thank you” a million times and it still wouldn’t be enough. However, I hope you will accept my thanks and know how much you were and still are valued.

Oh, and for the record…

I promise that I didn’t mean to paint part of the floor red working on a class project. I didn’t mean to bump my head on the bars at recess trying to do my best Mary Lou Retton dismount. And…I’m sorry I made a last-minute visit to a restroom while I was on a high school field trip about 180 miles from home. I left that restroom thinking I’d been left behind because NO ONE was in the lobby of the hotel…turns out the chaperones were going crazy trying to find me and the entire bus full of kids was parked in plain sight. (Yeah. Sorry. Again…I have to say it…THANK YOU!)

An Announcement: Exclamation Point!

In keeping with the overall general tone of this blog, excessively wordy wordiness, and the effort to stave off boredom, I hereby have an announcement to make.

Surprise! What could it be?!? (Besides an experiment gone wrong with the iPad Photo Booth…)

Oh, what was it? Eh, I guess it wasn’t really important. Simply writing a blog post with the constraints on my time nowadays really is an announcement. However, I suppose I could delve a bit into the history of the exclamation point to justify the headline.

For example, did you know that the exclamation point didn’t have its own key on a lot of older typewriters? Interesting. I guess that shows the level of emotional restraint we were expected to show in our written announcements back in the day. I mean, if you wanted to type an exclamation point, apparently you had to type a period, hit the backspace button, and add an apostrophe above the period. (Voila…a homemade exclamation point.) Whatever brought forth that level of emotional response simply had to be worth the extra effort it took to type such a character.

shooting star GIF

But, now that I have your attention…you weren’t expecting that, were you?

I was genuinely curious to see how many people actually read the past the sensationalized headlines they are presented with every day on the internets. If I had chosen a different title for this blog post, what might you have expected? (Yeah, I’m sure you really wanted a lesson in the history of punctuation, but I couldn’t type out that headline and not give you what you thought you were going to read.) If I hadn’t included such a pretty (ugly) picture, would it have been worth your time?

Relax, I’m not giving you a grade on your level of interest in what I have to say. I’m just curious. Thoughts?

An Observation: Pi Pie

I’m overthinking about Pi Day.

Of course, I learned about 3.141592somethingorother in school. Being the mathematical non-genius that I am, I have had very little to do with pi outside of my academic career. My dad loved to ask me about what I was learning in school during those years, so I kept at least one equation using pi in the back of my mind all the time.

Father Dearest: What’s the formula for the area of a circle?

Me: Umm…I’m pretty sure it’s pi-r-squared.

Father Dearest: No. Pie aren’t square. Pie are round. (Grin.)

(You can see where I get my senseless of humor.)

I didn’t think too much about the connection between the two until a student brought me a gift a few years back on March 14. You know, 3/14.

Yes, pie-r-round. And tasty. But…this one’s in a square box, so…I think my brain is going to implode.

It wasn’t until recently, though, that I really stopped to consider something.

Do they call it “pie” because pies are round, thus making the use of pi more relevant? Or am I overthinking this as usual?

The etymology is quite interesting. Upon performing a little informal research, I found that the word “pie,” while it referred to meat or fish enclosed in pastry, could also be associated somehow with the magpie and its nesting habits of collecting miscellaneous objects and that’s when I started to trail off in my research and wound up watching YouTube videos of pie recipes because I never learned much beyond figuring out the area of a circle using the formula that my dad would later use as a way to make me groan about his deliberate grammatical mistake the way all teenagers do when an adult tries to tell a joke and…you know, I’m always more excited for Fri Day than Pi Day, but that’s beside the point.

morning GIF
Oh, man…I’m never getting this song out of my head now.

I’m just gonna go get myself a pizza pie. With pepperoni. More round objects…on top of a round object. Sheesh, why don’t they just call it pi-peroni? (Overthinking…I know…)

math pi GIF by Chris Timmons

A Work In Progress: Learning To Crochet

Practice makes perfect, right?

That’s the point I was trying to make to one of my classes recently. When you teach music, one of the most challenging parts is getting kids to realize that practicing on your own is what moves you forward as a musician. Time, effort, and patience are virtues.

I’ve been knitting for a while. I cringe when I think of the first scarf I finished and gave away as a gift, because it was evidence of my lack of experience and skill at the time. I kept working at it, though, and–as long as whatever I’m knitting is supposed to be a square or rectangle–it looks pretty good.

Crochet, on the other hand, continued to confuse me for some reason. Every time I would try to learn, I ended up with really colorful knots to throw in the trash.

drawing blog GIF
Umm…is my scarf supposed to look like this?

“Oh, but crochet is so much easier than knitting!”

Yeah, that was never exactly what I wanted to hear while I was tying yarn into the kinds of knots that would confuse an Eagle Scout. I couldn’t get the hang of it. So, I put it away for a while and decided that maybe crochet wasn’t for me.

Well, not too long ago, I opened my big mouth and told one of my classes that I was going to prove that you can learn anything you want to if you’ll just make up your mind to do it.

And then I heard myself say…

“By the end of this year, I’m going to crochet a scarf.”

Gasp.

scared dog GIF
Wait a second…what did I just say? Great. Can’t back out now.

I asked myself some questions that afternoon.

Why did I say that?

Umm…you wanted to prove a point. Now you just have to–you know, prove it. Don’t worry. Setting that little deadline will help. Maybe.

Why is knitting so much easier for me than crochet if crochet is supposed to be easier?

My best answer for that one?

I like doing things the hard way.

(I’m stubborn. We’ve established that.)

Okay, so maybe the best way I can say that–to boost my self-esteem–is to say that I like a challenge. If everyone can crochet, well, by golly, I’ll take it a step further and knit instead. However, I’ve created a hole in my own argument here, because crochet apparently is a challenge for me, so now I guess I have no choice but to learn it. Darn. (Darn. Darning. Something else I need to learn. My socks have holes, too.)

Well, no going back now, so I got started with crochet…again.

Nope. That technique didn’t work. (I don’t think that is a technique, technically speaking.) This really is a ridiculous way to pass the t…
…wait a sec…this actually looks like something!

Is this perfect? No, not yet. But, if I keep working at it, I’m sure it’ll be some kind of scarf by May…when it’ll be a thousand degrees outside and no one in their right mind will need a scarf…but I digress.

However, I’m making my point.

If I can learn how to do this thing that frustrated me to no end by taking a little extra time to slow down the process, taking the advice in the videos and the articles, and practicing over and over and over…then perhaps learning other stuff is possible, too.

I’d stay to explain more, but I need to get back to work on this lovely orange scarf that I said I’d finish.

An Observation: Catnip-It-In-The-Bud

Apparently, word has gotten out about the lady living in the neighborhood who doesn’t have a cat but really, really loves cats.

I came home yesterday to TWO cats near my front door. After I parked my car, one of them scampered away from me like a typical skittish feline. He didn’t go far, and my guess is that he wanted a front row seat to listen to the other cat…who would shortly establish himself as the grouchy, whiny old man of the neighborhood.

All I wanted to do was pet at least one of the cats. That’s all. I love listening to a sweet little kitten purr for as long as I possibly can…well, before the eye-swelling allergens kick in.

You see, I’ve had lots of cats in my life. I had one of them for fifteen years. He was quite handsome and he knew it, going through life relying on his looks instead of developing his personality. (He was lazy and he didn’t play. Not even with catnip. What kind of cat doesn’t play? He just sort of sat around with a permanent expression on his face that said, “Look at me. I’m beautiful. Now, feed me and leave me alone so that I can clean my paws for three hours and grace the end of the sofa with my stunning good looks.”)

However, it was during my college years that I developed a severe allergy to cats, and he lived out his retirement years in my mother’s garage.

My old cat. Gorgeous…purred a lot…didn’t do much else.

Anyway, I approached the yellow tabby standing near my doorstep, trying out my best “here-kitty-kitty” voice and making cutesy little noises that people always make when they want to be friends with a small animal.

This cat didn’t want any friends. This cat pranced over and parked himself under my parked car and HOWLED. I tried to coax him out, but he wasn’t having it. He was treating me like I had invaded his space.

All I wanted to do was PET THE CAT. Oh, and perhaps offer to FEED THE CAT. How ungrateful could one cat be?

Finally, after listening to what sounded like the equivalent of a dying moose (seriously, I was just TRYING TO PET THE CAT), I decided enough was enough. It was time to shoo him away. I needed to get back in the car and I didn’t want to run over the little guy. I couldn’t reach him (and I didn’t feel like trying to reach that far, thus spending my evening cleaning up cat scratch wounds), so I gingerly took my umbrella and eased it under the car, slowly reaching towards him as a gesture of “okay, game’s over.” I figured the mere sight of it would startle him out of his hiding place.

Nope, he wasn’t budging. He was a ROCK. A rock that batted back, hissing and fighting with the end of my umbrella as it sat lifelessly in front of him.

For a second it seemed a little bit like trying to catch a cat……..fish.

The other one, meanwhile, was sitting a few feet away, staring at me like, “Whaddya expect me to do?” 

Lazy Cat GIF
I appreciated his support. No…really, cat. Just go on and sit there and do nothing. Thanks.

He went home shortly thereafter, leaving me with the lone holdout.

Speaking of fish, if they’d been paying attention, those cats might have picked up on the scent of tuna fish. Cats love stinky food, after all. I eat LOTS of tuna fish. (I need to stop saying that. “Tuna fish” is overly redundantly redundant. Tuna is fish. I can’t remember the last time I told someone I was going to eat a salmon fish. Anyway…) I practically hoard tuna. I take it with me to work nearly every day. I was more than willing to share my tuna and/or go out and buy more stinky cat food for the little guy, but…man. He just wouldn’t shut up. OR move.

He finally sauntered out of his hiding spot and went home so that I could leave.

I’ve decided I’m not approaching that one again (should he make his way back to my doorstep)…and it might also be time to invest in stockpiling more vegetables around here. (Why are they so terrified of cucumbers?)