Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's started.

This is probably my favorite time of the year. It's somewhat cold in the morning, but not too bad. If I leave the window open in the bedroom when I go to work, it's just the right temperature when I'm ready to go to sleep in the morning.

When I get up in the afternoon, there's still a few hours of sun - and plenty of time to go out for a long walk, a drive across town, or just wander over to the park across the street and listen to the Twins on the Radio. It's not hot yet, and the bugs won't be out for another few weeks. (Aside - it's funny how much you forget about bugs when it's the middle of January. When it's been months since you've seen a fly wander onto your computer screen, you tend to forget the things exist. Then by the middle of July, you forget that there's a time of the year they aren't even a factor.)

Sunday mornings around 6am are the best time to go out hiking or just wandering around the neighborhood. There is almost zero traffic. The fog is still on the lakes at this time of the year. You may see your breath, or you may not. The radio is filled with sleepy announcers and weekend news shows. The animals don't expect you to be out yet, so they do unusual things like congregate in front of your lawn at the first sign of light (the ducks do this often on our street, as does the neighbor's cat -- but usually not at the same time.)

For about a month, it seems like Minnesotans trick themselves into thinking they can put away their jackets and forget about snow falls. Then we suddenly go from a few 60s and 70s to three inches overnight. A few days later, it's back to spring. By the middle of May, we're pretty sure we're done with winter -- and then summer hits us with all of its humidity.

Anyway, it's short, but enjoy spring. We seem to finally have found it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

While I'm on the topic of gadgets, here's a Hamster-Powered Paper Shredder.

Don't have a hamster for your hamster wheel? How about a USB-powered hamster wheel that goes faster when you type faster?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

For sale: One Radio Teletype machine, circa 1930s or 40s. Open to anyone willing to come and get it.

For the last 15 years, my bedroom in my parents' house has had this rather large machine in the corner, collecting dust and confounding anyone who entered the room. It was given to me many years ago, after another radio enthusiast was going to find a way to trash it, but thought it could still have some use. It's a radio teletype machine from the WWII era, a machine used to send and receive radio signals that are converted to text. In a way, it's a very early forerunner to the fax machine. The technology is still used, albeit not nearly as much since satellites came along a few decades back and the Internet become more popular over the last ten years. However, these days all it takes is a program on a floppy disk on a 20 year old computer to replicate what this old machine could do. I last tried it out a few years ago and it still works, even if the paper is quite yellow and frail, and you'd be able to hear the machine running from outside the house.

This past weekend, the family and I managed to move it past numerous narrow doorways and new floors and get it out to the garage where I've got a few weeks to find someone to take it. It's awfully heavy (it took all four of us), and I couldn't really think of anyone off hand who needs one. Still, I'd much rather find a place for it -- I'd hate to see something potentially worthwhile tossed to the curb.

I could talk about radio for a long time, to be honest. That I can sit with a 60 year old machine and still pick up conversations between people across the globe fascinates me. The idea that all of this could be replaced by a laptop is amazing and also a little dispiriting - where is the joy in spending time cutting the right amount of wire and running it out your front window to pick up a newswire from Switzerland when you can just look it up? Much of the fun in an old machine like this is getting it to work. Thankfully, I still have a few old radios around -- the nicest is this one from the early 50s. On this, I was able to get a station from South Africa sounding as clear as something down the road. You don't get that experience with online radio -- as fun as that is anyway.