Leonard Nimoy

I should write something about Leonard Nimoy, a long, eloquent tribute. But I really don’t have that much to say. Or maybe I just can’t say it all at once. Maybe it will come in little bits over the next few weeks or months. Star Trek premiered when I was 8 years old so I am old enough, just barely, to remember a world without Star Trek and old enough to remember when it was just another popular TV show but it’s not easy to remember. It seems like Star Trek and its characters have always existed and they have a kind of reality beyond mere fiction.

Right from the start I loved the character, Spock, and I wanted to be like him – not totally unemotional but dignified like Spock. The best thing about Star Trek is the interaction between characters but if I had to pick just one favorite from the original series it would be Spock. And if I had to pick a favorite from all the different Star Trek series? Honestly, I guess I would have to call it a tie between Spock and Picard and I love that the two of them got to meet each other.

But Leonard Nimoy was more than just Spock. A character I enjoyed as much as I did Spock, or maybe even a little bit more, was William Bell in Fringe. He was only in a few episodes but he was an enigmatic and hugely important character. For a whole season or more they talked about the mysterious William Bell and when he finally appeared, what a thrill to see that it was Leonard Nimoy! This and other later appearances were especially sweet because I could see how shockingly old he was and I thought, “He might not be with us much longer,” but at the same time I had hope that we would get to see him acting in something just a few more times.

Please go watch this video (embedding disabled)

Feathered Friend

This is a sample of what I’ve been seeing outside my window. I took this through the small window in our front door at maximum zoom so it’s not a very good photo but I sort of like it anyway.

I Might Be Vintage but I’m Not Antique

I know this isn’t an official definition but I have a strong feeling that anything made in my lifetime cannot be an antique and anything made since I have been an adult cannot be vintage and that last is a bit of an emotional compromise because I really feel that anything made since I was about 10 cannot be vintage. A couple of days ago I joined an antique sewing machines group on Facebook. (Oooo, big surprise, right?) It appears that some members were recently up in arms because someone had posted a picture of a sewing machine from the 1980s. The 1980’s? Really? Well, you can bet that if I had been there I would have been in the group wielding torches and pitchforks.

It occurs to me that everyone has the same definition: “made before I was born, antique; made when I was a kid, vintage.” So, if you’re in your 20s that means that there are a lot more antiques in your world that there are in mine. But what are the real, official definitions of these terms? I found this article on the Difference Between Vintage and Antique on eBay, which seems like a reasonably authoritative source since it’s a site where people are buying and selling things. According to the article, antique is anything valuable or collectable that is over 100 years old. Vintage is anything valuable or collectable that is over 50 years old. There is some flexibility in the definitions, especially for vintage. But, the bottom line is, everyone really needs to stop calling stuff made in the 1980s “vintage.” And it’s certainly, most definitely, NOT antique.

More About W&G Sewing Machines

Yes, I am still obsessing over the Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines. But it could be worse; I could be bitching and moaning about the weather. (and I probably will later)

I want one of these. Want, want, want, with a powerful, powerful want! But it’s not going to happen, at least not a treadle model because I simply have nowhere to put it. Even if someone gave me one I would have to refuse it. (and then I would cry for the rest of my life)

Seriously though, this is a really fascinating machine. The way it works is very different from other machines. This lady talks rather slowly, especially at the beginning of the video but be patient. This is well worth watching.

Mid-Week Music Break

I think most of us here in the northern hemisphere are getting really freaking tired of winter, so I went searching for summer.

WARNING: One of the artworks in this first video is a nude. You can read about this composer on the Youtube page.

And this is lovely. I can picture myself sitting outside on a summer day, just daydreaming…

I Was Wrong

UPDATED

I had an “I love it when I’m wrong!” moment today. (Also an “I love the Internet!” moment) If you watch Mythbusters you probably recall Adam Savage declaring, with child-like glee, “I love it when I’m wrong!” when an experiment yields a result that is contrary to what he was expecting. Well, generally, I dislike being wrong as much as most people but there are some moments when the thrill of discovery completely outweighs the disappointment or embarrassment at having been wrong.

A little over a year ago I posted a photo of a rusty old sewing machine that I had assumed was a hand crank model. Well, today someone posted a picture of the same model machine, complete and in much better condition, on Facebook. It was electric! And, having a company name, I was able to Google it and find this fantastic page about this machine and the company that made it – Willcox & Gibbs.

It is really a very interesting machine. It uses only a single thread instead of a spool and bobbin like most machines and I would so love to play with one. It’s a long article but well worth reading. It’s not only about the machine itself but even more about the company.

UPDATE: The earlier Willcox & Gibbs machines were hand crank so I could still be wrong, or rather, I could have been right in the first place. I found another page about Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines with more about the machines themselves and more pictures. There’s also a link to a video.

A Quick Observation

Have you ever noticed that “getting the last word” on the Internet is not quite the same as getting the last word in the “real world”? It seems like everyone wants to have the last word but in cyberspace if you post the last comment you always wonder, or at least I do, “Did anyone even read that?”

This ‘n’ That

I don’t know who created this but it is perfect for me right now.

But, you know… I don’t know why I feel that way because I really only have a few things going on and none of them are a really huge fat hairy deal and there’s nothing that’s, “OMG! Do this immediately!” but… I don’t know… there are just all these things that I need to be sure and not forget and little things I need to do soon(ish) and things I want to do but I’m putting off for no particular reason except that I want to do them but not right now but I still keep thinking about them anyway and it’s just more than I want to have to think about and yes, I know this is one stupidly long sentence but that’s what my brain is like right now so I’m going to leave it this way. Oh, and also… I’m getting really freaking tired of cold, gray weather.

But, moving on…

I had one of these when I was a little kid but not exactly like these of course. I can’t remember what it was. A dog maybe? Mine was just cheap plastic but it’s amazing how much fun such a simple little toy can be to a little kid. It was easy to understand how it worked but I found it kind of fascinating.

Aren’t these beautiful?! Ever since I saw this sad old hand-crank sewing machine I have sort of wanted one. I say “sort of” only because I don’t know where I would put it if I had it. I have nowhere to display it like it deserves to be and nowhere at all that it wouldn’t be in the way. If I were to find one in an antique shop for a really good price though, I might not be able to resist temptation. I don’t necessarily even want a fully restored one, just one that is somewhat functional and not in too bad a condition.

Sew Cranky is another hand-crank sewing machine site. I do love a clever website name. This one makes me smile. And even more.

I love these glass tables. Actually, the tables themselves are really not my style but I love what they do to the room.

And finally… Apology Notes. It would be really hard to stay mad at #12.

Quotes From Here and There

Overalls are life!here

…I continue to be kind of oddly convinced that it says something about America that a book and its resulting movie about a fetish that involves pain and torture and bondage and the like is a runaway hit and that very fetish is socially acceptable while people who dress up as fuzzy animals are somehow giant weirdos, but that’s not what I’m thinking about tonight.here

(Well, darn. That’s two from the same blog. I never do that but I can’t give up either one so I’ll just make both of them a “here”. Onward…)

…when it seems like every single other one of my town’s 15,000 residents are at the same store, and they’ve all run across their oldest and bestest friend, and they have to park their carts diagonally across the aisle while they talk… there (I really hate when people do that.)

But there’s something about driving an SUV through a foot of unplowed snow on a long driveway that approximates the feeling of remoteness. here

This was all rather depressing news to me because, until fairly recently, while listening to the music, I’d always pictured a snaggle-toothed Mother Ann Lee, Shaker supremo, striding around the hills in her bonnet exhorting the birds and bees to make chairs, not love; a mental image I found quite amusing.there

It’s really hard to exorcise the 1939 MGM film from your mind and to do something originalhere

It’s easy for those whose dreams have come true to say that anyone can achieve their heart’s desire, but for every one of them I suspect there are thousands who have not and will not make it, no matter how much they dream and how hard they work.there

Fiction and Truth

Many years ago I read The Wine of Violence by James Morrow. (I actually think I still have that book somewhere.) At the time it was the weirdest book I had ever read and I appreciated it for its weirdness even though, in general, I would have to say it was “not really my cup of tea.” Some years later I read The Continent of Lies. Again, weird but far from being one of my favorites.

A couple of days ago I finished reading Morrow’s novella, City of Truth. It is set in Veritas, a city (or perhaps a country?) in which no one is able to tell a lie and even metaphors are considered abhorrent. Every child is required, at about age 10, to undergo a horrific “treatment” that renders them permanently incapable of telling a lie. This makes for a very bleak society in which there is almost no art and everyone speaks the blunt, unvarnished truth, without even so much as a figure of speech. But there is a subversive group of people who have somehow learned to overcome their conditioning and are able to tell lies and create and enjoy art. One man is convinced by a member of this group that “lies” (specifically the psychological effect of a positive attitude) could save his terminally ill son.

The “What if everyone had to tell the truth?” question has been done to death in all kinds of fiction, but this somehow feels different, maybe because the story is, overall, very bleak. Morrow likes to explore questions of psychology and morality but he doesn’t come to any firm conclusions. Is it better to always tell the truth? Is it better to be able to lie and to at least conceal or soften some truths? If asked the first question without the second most people would probably agree that it is better to tell the truth, without thinking about the implications of complete truth. But the real world in which everyone is able to lie, usually undetected, has many problems. Obviously a balance would be best. Truth need not mean that we can’t have art and that we can’t be kind.

These questions seem to me, rather silly. Most of us know the difference between a truly bad lie and a merely kind or courteous lie. In between these are “lies of convenience” (I was stuck in traffic. The check is in the mail.) that we know are wrong but that somehow don’t seem so bad. There are, of course, people who push the limits, people who tell lies in order to sell us stuff, to sway us to their cause, or to get elected. We must expose and punish liars but this leads to finger pointing, witch hunts, and better, more careful liars. What more can anyone say? We are an imperfect species. Trying to get rid of our imperfections is like killing bacteria. The strongest bacteria survive and multiply but we can’t stop trying or the bacteria will wipe us out.

Embedded

I am generally not a fan of military science fiction but Embedded by Dan Abnett was a Kindle monthly special a while back and that’s really all the incentive I need. Science fiction novel? $3.99 or less? Why not?

This book, however, aside from the shooting, the bleeding, and heads being blown off, actually is a pretty interesting story and is very well-written. An aging, cynical journalist investigates a conflict that the government is trying to cover up or downplay. It’s not a war or a conflict; it’s merely a “dispute” and no one will say what it is really about. Unable to get any straight answers, he gets himself “embedded” into the mind of a soldier.

The ending, though it resolves most of the major questions, leaves things wide open for a sequel, which I will definitely read. I was disappointed to find that it is not out yet.

Furry Alarm Clock

I’m a morning person. I am usually up by 6:30 but this morning the bed was feeling especially good and I had no urge get out of it. But then I heard a pitiful meowing in the hallway. The world was coming to an end and I had to get up and fix it. He usually wants to go back outside at that time of morning so, knowing it was cold outside, with several inches of snow and a layer of ice underneath that, I was having gleefully evil thoughts of letting him outside and making him stay there for an hour or two.

So I got up and got dressed and found my two furry friends standing around looking like something was wrong or like they wanted something but they didn’t want out and there was already food and water in their dishes. In no more than a minute they just went and laid down in their favorite spots and went to sleep. They didn’t want out; they didn’t want food; they didn’t even particularly want petting. They just wanted me out of bed. Some friends.

Here’s the guilty party himself:

And… I would say “his partner in crime” but she’s been unusually good this morning.

The Big Blue Valentines Day Gift

Most of our past car buying experiences have gone something like this: We tell the salesperson what we are looking for and add that we are not terribly picky about color except that we absolutely do not want white, black, silver, or gray. So the salesman shows us something in a nice color that has way more bells and whistles than we are willing to pay for. Then he shows us a less expensive model but it’s in one of our do-not-want colors. We buy it anyway because they don’t have anything in a nice color that’s in our price range.

But this time we decided to be “difficult”. You know what being difficult gets you? It gets you a lot of stress, a lot of waiting, a lot of failure to communicate on the part of the car dealership and, eventually, a dark blue, extended cab, 4X4 F-150. Our first choice was the “Flame Blue” (Actually, my first choice would have been yellow but F-150s don’t come in that color anymore.) but this darker blue – they call it “Blue Jean” is nice. It’s acceptable and I’m happy with it. And, aside from the color, this truck is kind of awesome.

We didn’t plan on it being a Valentines Day gift but it just happened that we finally got it two days before Valentines Day so we both agreed that this is it. Actually it’s perfect. I wasn’t asked this year but I had planned, when the question, “What do you want for Valentines Day?” came up, to say, “Something non-fattening.” And that’s exactly what I got.

Quotes From Here and There

There’s a lot to be said for “dumb” hardware.here

Let me assure you, I’m doing my best to refrain from using expletives.there (Warning: Turn down your speakers)

Contrary to what seems to be the orthodox futurological opinion, self-aware machine intelligence will not take over the world and destroy us all.here

It was then that I really began to appreciate that in order to understand change you really have to sit still.there

And More (lazy blogging) Links

UPDATE: I have to add this one: Best! Typo! Ever! (Seems a bit questionable though. The S and the Y are nowhere near each other on the keyboard.)

Old UK Photos

Paintings by Rob Gonsalves – One of my favorite artists. I have seen some of these before but more than half of them are new to me.

Reclaimed Mines – Useful things to do with abandoned mines.

Strange and cool things found while hiking

Photoshop Your Dreams

Mid-Week Music Break

Another cold front is headed our way so how about a few minutes of spring? (To be honest, I picked this one mainly for the photos. The music is nice, nothing special, IMO.)

Random Linkage

Wondermark – Exceptionally well-drawn social commentary comics. I like this one. And this one.

Rotary Snow Plow – Scary/cool! And Train Fanatics is a pretty cool site.

Open Domesday – I was going include a link to this in my post yesterday but I forgot. It’s “the first free online copy of Domesday Book,” an 11th century census of England.

The Bayeaux Tapestry – Something else I meant to link to yesterday. Very interesting.

No Big Bang? – New origin-of-the-universe hypothesis. It will be interesting to see if this goes anywhere. The Big Bang has become such a firmly fixed idea.

InsectaAwesome kinetic lamps!

Millennium Falcon Quad-copter – Admit it; you want one.

13 Things – In particular, #2. I don’t want to live in Paris but if I did I would want that to be my home.

Icehenge – Beautiful!

If you’re squeamish about bugs you might want to skip this video but I hope you’ll watch it because it’s seriously awesome.

English History

It has always bothered me that I know very little of the early history of England. In U.S. public schools all we get is maybe a paragraph briefly explaining what feudalism was and a mention of the Battle of Hastings without saying why it was important. Never mind; just remember that it happened in 1066. That’s all you need to know. So, when The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England by Marc Morris showed up in the Kindle monthly specials list I pounced on it like a kitten on a catnip-filled toy mouse.

The book covers nearly the entire 11th century and I was surprised at how much detail is actually known about this period in English history. Apparently just about everyone who could write (and that wasn’t very many people at that time) was writing a book or chronicle or something about what was happening in the world right then. Of course these writers were as likely to be biased and revisionist as political writers today but Morris compares sources – where they agree and where they disagree – and comes up with a pretty good picture of events and life in 11th century England.

I can see how a lot of people might find this period in history extremely tedious – the battles, the brother and cousin murders, the land grabs, and so on – but in this book it is well told and filled with dry humor. For example:

If we had to sum this new society up in a single word, we might describe it as feudal – but only if we were prepared for an outbreak of fainting fits among medieval historians.

I consider this book a great find and there are a couple more books by the same author that I intend to read.