Certain typewriters belong in certain families, and I can think of no better typewriter for the son of a US diplomat (not me, my wife) than the Underwood Golden Touch Diplomat. I had been looking for a machine as a birthday gift for my son and saw this on eBay for a reasonable price (Because he is turning six in two months, I was not willing to pay as much for my son's machine. He still treats many things with less delicacy than an older person would.) At first he wasn't thrilled with the unsexy looks of the utility grey. He liked the glass keys of his sister's machine and the bright colors of other more expensive machines (Royal QDLs, Princess 300s, and Groma Kolibris), but he changed his tune when I told him that this typer was named after mommy's job. He was sold, and I negotiated an acceptable price with the seller.
(By the way, I would have tried to typecast this entry with the new machine, but the boy has been typing on it since he got it.)
I have been pleasantly surprised by how well the machines I have bought have been packed. I don't want to push my luck, but I am three for three. I have sent to each of the sellers a link to how to pack the typewriters well, and they have each followed those instructions. This third seller, though, should teach classes on how to pack a typewriter. She achieved perfection.
The box came undamaged (again, I live in China, so the typewriters travel a long way to get to me), and when I opened it I saw nothing but a thick piece of green foam.
That foam covered the bottom and top of the box, and it was placed on all four sides of the typewriter's case. As you can see in the photo above, the seller also packed the corners of the box tightly with packing paper and wrapped plenty of bubble wrap around the case. That typewriter was not going to move in that box, no matter how much it got tossed around by hurried shipping employees.
After opening the case, I also discovered that the typewriter had been generously covered with bubble wrap and the typebars had been packed down with newspaper. My son also received some unexpected ephemera.
None of my kids had ever seen carbon paper before, so this was a treat for everyone. The original instructions telling us how to unpack the typewriter were also in that folder.
And my son stepped away from his machine for a second, so here's a look at the typeface. I do need to clean the machine and change the ribbon.
I am happy with this purchase. I find something attractive about a machine meant to serve a singular purpose and designed simply to serve that purpose. This machine is heavy, feels solid, and has few physical blemishes. The keys offer a nice resistance when I push them, and I am someone who enjoys setting key resistance as high as possible. I like the feeling of work. I think I'd be happy writing often on this machine, and I am happy that it made my son happy.
Funny thing, though. As my wife was looking at the machine, she turned to my older daughter and said, "Now we're the only ones in the family without a typewriter." To make a long story short, I need a machine that is more portable than my SM9, so I will buy another typer that my oldest child can use and that I can cart from place to place. I may also get to buy another for my wife.
Last night, Mog died. She lived for just over eleven weeks, and my daughters saw her take her first breath and her last. For the final few minutes of her life, those breaths were terrible, desperate, and quick. They caused mini convulsions. I told my daughters that they didn't have to watch them, that I would comfort Mog for them, but they wouldn't relinquish their vigil. During Mog's short life, my kids demonstrated just how responsible they could be when choosing to care for others, and in a time of great despair, they acted bravely while demonstrating a commitment to doing what had to be done. Through eyes blurred by tears and a fear of losing something they had nurtured and grown to love, they made one kitten's final moments as comfortable as possible.
Mog was one of six kittens born to a sray cat we refer to as The Mom Cat. TMC, a tuxedoed feline, has an unfortunate mustache that resembles the one worn by a certain 20th century German tyrant, but she has mothered her young with a patience and affection never show by that similarly mustachioed human.
Mog was a part of TMC's second litter. Her first litter had been born about six months earlier, a litter of seven. Two of those cats are currently strays, and we see them roaming the neighborhood from time to time. Another kitten from that litter was hit by a car before it was two months old. The other four all found homes, but the people who gave those kittens homes took them from their mother when they were only four weeks old. To avoid all these problems, my family--and my kids, who are homeschooled, in particular--decided to take TMC in and allow her to give birth in our home. Homeschool science at its best.
TMC gave birth in my daughter's closet, where the kittens stayed for about the first three weeks of their life, until TMC moved them to the walk-in closet I share with my wife. The birth went well, and my children remember that Mog, the only kitten with white paws, was the fourth born. She was also the runt, but one feisty runt.
She was the first of the new litter to scale and escape the barrier we had set up to keep the kittens in our closet, she explored the rest of our apartment more fervently than her siblings when the kittens played outside our closet, and she fought valiantly while nursing for a spot that would allow her comfortable access to her teat of choice. She also loved playing with people, wrestling with her siblings, cuddling with her mom or each person in our family. Most important to me, though, she did not whine as much as her brothers.
During this entire kitten experience, my daughters cleaned litter boxes and handled each of the kittens each day. They also made sure that mom and the kittens received all of the food and water they needed, even during a frightening 24-hour period during when we thought that TMC had either been hit by a car or had abandoned her kittens.
A few days after giving birth, TMC began spending a few moments each day outside, getting a deserved break from her kittens and roaming her old stomping grounds. (She also spent time with the kittens from her previous litter.) One morning, shortly after she began taking breaks outside, she did not return home. We kept checking every hour for her, but she was never waiting by our building's door for us to let her in. She had never spent more than 90 minutes away from her kittens, and after not seeing her for four hours, we knew we had to help the kittens survive. I went to a local cat shop and bought some powdered goat's milk and syringes, and we began feeding all six kittens every two hours. We also used wet tissues after each feeding to stimulate the kitten's urinating and pooping. (We did not follow the mom's lead and lick the area. Using a wet tissue made me uncomfortable enough.)
For the next 24 hours, we fed the kittens and stimulated their bowels. During the night, I let my kids sleep and took over feeding duties. When you're exhausted and feeding five kittens that look just alike, you must focus deeply to ensure each kitten gets the nutrition it needs. During these night feedings I noticed that Mog took milk from a syringe more easily than her litter mates, and it was then that I began to think that if we did end up keeping a kitten, this was the kitten we needed to keep.
The next afternoon, we discovered that TMC had walked into an open storage room on our compound and a worker, not knowing that she had entered the room, inadvertently locked her in. Luckily, a security employee heard her meowing and alerted us to where she was. (Everyone on our compound knew that we were looking for her.) Upon gaining her freedom, TMC made a mad dash to our apartment, her milk engorged mammaries swaying from side to side and making it difficult for her to move in a straight line, and ate and drank and spent the next 24 hours with her kittens, leaving only to eat, drink, and visit the litter box.
Two kittens needed to go to their new family when they were seven weeks old; otherwise all of the kittens were with their mother for at least eight weeks, which is tough on a house that went from zero pets to seven in just a few hours. All six kittens also found good homes. In fact, everything seemed to be going well with this experience, and even the Christmas tree withstood Mog's apparent love of climbing.
But yesterday, everything changed. Mog didn't bounce around as much as usual, and she began vomiting and having diarrhea just after noon. At 6:30 yesterday evening, my older daughter called the vet and we agreed to monitor Mog until the morning, when the Canadian vet would be in the office. If she were still having trouble then, we would bring her in. Otherwise, the vet gave us instructions for how to care for Mog in the meantime. Unfortunately, there are no 24-hour vet clinics in Chengdu because after supper Mog's health began deteriorating rapidly. My daughters acted quickly and persistently and as a team as they tried to nurse Mog as the vet had prescribed. The gave her warm towels and blankets and tried to keep her warm and make her comfortable. She just never responded positively to any of the treatment. At midnight, Mog became listless. But my girls never stopped caring for her. Through their tears and their fear of what might come about, they fought for her. They never gave up on her, and I had never been a prouder father.
We had a post mortem done earlier today because we wanted to know how a cat could go from bounding around the house to dead in 24 hours. My wife and I thought about distemper because today would have been the day for Mog to get her immunizations. But Mog didn't have distemper. The vet reported that she contracted some "freak, acute bacterial infection" that overwhelmed her quickly. Of course, we're left with the big What If. What if we had taken her to the vet rather than just monitoring her? But we don't even take our children to the doctor for vomiting and diarrhea until they have been doing it for 24 hours. I have to believe this was a freak infection. The other choice is unbearable.
The kids cry off and on, as do my wife and I, and we have spent a good amount of time today consoling each other. The kids are left with legitimate questions that I can't answer. They took care of six kittens and their mother. They helped find homes for five kittens. We made sure the mother was spayed. But why did we only get 11 weeks with Mog? It's not right, it's not just, and it's not fair, and unfortunately, I cannot rationalize this for my children. But I can help them see that it's always best to do what's right and that eleven good weeks, even with the loss at the end, is better than no weeks and no loss. I can help them see the benefits of taking the hard right over the easy wrong and that loving and caring and action are always better than indifference and inaction. First, though, they just need to know it's okay to be sad.
Thank you for reading.
This is my first typecast. I didn't want to make it too long in case it didn't work out, but I had fun doing it. As I state in the typecast, I would not have bought a typewriter if it didn't somehow fit into my current worldview/set of values. I would like to spend some time writing/thinking about this in the future. I don't think we spend enough time reflecting on the why of our actions, so I'm taking the opportunity to do this.
I do want to own more than one machine. I want to have one to travel around with, and I would like a spare in case one needs a repair. Also, I do plan on getting back into the classroom, and I would like to have enough typers to give students a chance to work on them if they so desire.
Two things I desired showed up in the mail today, my daughter's 1946 Royal QDL and my new printer/scanner. I need the printer scanner so that I can begin typecasting, but before setting that up, I wanted to write a bit about my daughter's first typewriter (and the second typewriter in my family's home).
My daughter, Eleanor, who is eleven, spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder as I searched for my first machine. During that time she fell in love with shiny black typewriters with glass keys. She is a budding novelist (she's started two novels, one of 25,000 words and another of 13,000 words), and I wanted to encourage her writing, so I went looking for a shiny black machine for her.
Because we live in China, eBay, Etsy, and ShopGoodwill are about our only options for buying typewriters at a price we can afford, but my wife's career gives us access to the US diplomatic postal service, so shipping isn't much of a problem--the machine just travels more distance. After spending a lot of time searching for my first machine, I began noticing that ShopGoodwill may actually have the worst value as far as quality for each dollar spent. Prices there seem to be going higher than I see on eBay. Etsy is usually more expensive, but I found a better deal there for my SM9. Nonetheless, I've discovered that the shiny black machines with glass keys are in demand and fetch high prices. However, my daughter also told me that the matte black finish is okay, as long as the typewriter has the glass keys in pristine condition. Luckily, I found the QDL for her on eBay at a price that I thought was fair. I waited until the final second to put in my bid, and I only had to spend four dollars more than the initial bidding price (but $28 less than the maximum price I was willing to spend).
I paid for the machine immediately after winning the bid and sent a note to the seller with a link to how it should be packed. The seller wrote back and told me that the machine would be packed well, not referencing the link I sent her. I hate that kind of ambiguity. What might be "well" to her might not be well for a trip to China. In response, I sent her a note and told her that I copied the packing info into the text of my note in case she had trouble with the link I sent. And that reply may have made a difference because the typewriter was packed well.
The entire package was wrapped in brown paper, and only one corner tore during shipping.
The outer box was structurally sound, and inside that box the typewriter case was wrapped in plastic and wrapped in another box. I could quarrel with the amount of packing paper around the inner box, but I was just happy that everything seemed to be cared for and did arrive in the condition advertised.
Inside the case the typewriter was packed tightly and the typebars were also packed down.
Isn't it a beauty?
I love the looks of this machine. I just keep walking over to it and staring at it. My daughter has already warned me about remembering that it's her typewriter, but she did also say that maybe once a month we could switch machines for the day. I couldn't imagine a machine being in better physical condition after 70 years (and the glass keys are in mint condition). In fact, because it came with the original warranty card, we know that this typewriter was bought on 2 November 1946 by Loretta Verte.
Great piece of ephemera
I enjoy thinking about who Ms. Verte was, why she was buying this machine, where she bought it, and for what purpose she bought it. Maybe Eleanor and I can google that name later and see what comes up.
While the typewriter did look beautiful, there were a couple of problems. It could use a new ribbon, but the one I ordered won't be here until Tuesday. That's not a huge problem, as my daughter has been enjoying working with the ink that's left--in both red and black. We've also discovered, however, that the backspace key and the bell do not work. (The backspace key moves the carriage back when pressed, but when you release the key the carriage moves back to its original position.) The machine could use a good cleaning, so we'll see what happens after that. Luckily, these are two problems that she can and is willing to work around, and they are two problems that may be able to be fixed, if not by me one day, then by a repairman somewhere.
Overall, I am very happy with this machine and my SM9. And there is already a third on its way, a typer for my son, who will be six in March.
Thanks for reading, and please lookout for my first typecast. The plan is to discuss my rules for the typewriters I purchase.
Today, it arrived, my birthday present, my Olympia SM9. It's either a 1966 or 1967 model. The serial number, in case someone can let me know the exact year, is 3054506.
It came in a box that had been damaged: the box had been slightly bent and a hole had been put into one side. That damage, however, didn't matter because the seller (I bought it from a very nice woman on Etsy) had packed it just as I had suggested. This especially pleased me because the typewriter went from California to Chicago and then on to China, where my family and I live. I tried visiting antique shops here looking for a typewriter, but they are scarce and overpriced. Shipping one was my only option.
I'm not sure what the odor was emanating from the case, but it wasn't pleasant. I didn't detect mold, but maybe some cigarette smoke mixed with moth balls mixed with a musty feral cat. I have few words that really capture this unique and never before sensed smell. The typewriter didn't carry the odor, just the case. The stink did go away fairly quickly, especially after I wiped the case down.
And, now, the unveiling.
I couldn't be happier with the condition of the machine--just as the seller described
My older daughter doesn't think it's a very pretty machine, but I find the attraction in its utility. From what I've read this machine is a workhorse and one that should give me few problems. I wanted a machine that would last and that I could begin using as soon as it arrived. It needed minimal, if any, cleaning and a new ribbon, but that was it, except for one small matter I knew about when I bought it. There was a good bit of dried adhesive stuck to one side of the machine.
The crusty adhesive
I rubbed olive oil on the adhesive and patiently chipped it away with both my thumbnails, then my older daughter's thumbnails, and finally a plastic accessory to one of my son's Play-Doh sets. After almost an hour of work, not a trace of the adhesive was left.
Goodbye sole blemish
Everyone in my family has spent some time typing on it, and my son and younger daughter both want one too. In fact, my younger daughter, who is 11, has a 1946 Royal QDL coming to her. She likes the black machines with the glass keys, and since we homeschool, this is a great opportunity for her to study engineering, mechanics, history, and writing. If I get brave enough, I'll buy a machine that needs some fixing up and see if we can make it work. (I'm nervous about giving my new Olympia a thorough cleaning. I'm afraid I'll break something or never get it back together again.)
After typing a page with the new machine, I find that I will have to learn how to type all over again. (I learned to touch type on a computer--Mavis Beacon--at the age of 28, right before beginning grad school.) It will take some skill to hit the keys with the correct pressure, and I will need to be more exact in which keys I hit. I seem to hit more than one key at a time, which causes the typebars to stick. I do enjoy new challenges and I am having trouble not typing, so I look forward improving.
One thing I didn't get in the mail today was the new printer/scanner that I ordered. As soon as that arrives, I will begin typecasting. I can't wait to do this, but I do get some time to practice before exposing my lack of skillful typing to the rest of the world.
A final full view of the machine, set up on a cabinet that is the perfect height for standing while working, which I prefer
Thanks for reading.
Today should be my last day without the ability to typecast or write on a typewriter. My first typewriter, an Olympia SM9 (the first edition with the turquoise keys and DeLuxe badge), is scheduled for delivery tomorrow afternoon. This first typewriter is a birthday gift to me from my wife. It's the first time she's bought me a typewriter, but it's not the first time she has wanted to buy me one. And while watching California Typewriter did help encourage my obtaining my first typewriter, I have wanted a typewriter since one romantic day in October of 1996.
On that day 21 years ago, my girlfriend, the woman to whom I've now been married 18 years, and I were walking around Insadong, a small neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea, popular for cozy tea shops, porcelain goods, and antique stores. It started snowing while we were out, and the snow, the dark wood and warm fires of the tea shops, and the nostalgia-inspiring antique items made the day quite special for our new relationship.
In one of the antique stores, I found a red portable typewriter from the 1930s. I don't remember the make or model, but I do remember it came with a case and had the original manual. (And, yes, it was a QWERTY keyboard. I've never seen a Korean typewriter keyboard, although they do exist.) I don't know from where the inspiration came, but I told Tisha, "I would really like that typewriter." I had never wanted one before, and I actually had never typed on one. In fact, I didn't even know how to touch type. I did have a degree in English literature, but I always had someone type papers for me, and then I began hunting and pecking them myself after gaining access to a PC and word processing software.
That red machine, though. I wanted it. I wanted to work on it. I found it inspiring.
I asked the price and discovered I couldn't afford it. However, Tisha offered to buy it for me. Her generosity made me uncomfortable. I wasn't a person who did well in relationships. I rarely took them seriously, and, honestly, I was too self-centered to make them work. Even though I saw a future with Tisha that I hadn't with anyone else, I didn't want to feel indebted to her, nor did I want a reason to feel guilty in case we never saw each other again after she left Korea the next month. (My employment contract required that I stay until the end of December.) So I discouraged her from buying the typewriter, and she didn't buy it.
Had I known, though, that we'd still be together, that we'd marry, that we'd have three kids, then I would have let her buy that machine. Or if I had been a better man, one who would receive gifts without feeling indebted, who didn't have a need to control every aspect of every relationship, then I'd have a great wife and a wonderful red machine. But then tomorrow, I might not be expecting that SM9.
My desire for a typewriter is about much more than just a tingle I felt 21 years ago. It fits into the life I want to create during the second half of my time on earth. And this new blog will explore that decision, along with others and include my thoughts on education and on why Link Deas is a more suitable moral exemplar than the terribly overrated Atticus Finch. (Although, I homeschool my kids now, when I work outside the home, I am an English teacher.)
By the way, here's a picture of a Remington typewriter with Korean letters:
Thanks for reading.
A quick note: I'm still working on the design of this blog, but I'm not all that savvy with computers. So things will take shape slowly, and I appreciate your patience with me.
Enjoy this sudden burst of expression.
In 2014, Pew reported on the state of reading in America. They found that almost a quarter of all adults had not read one book in the previous year. As I reflect on my and my friends' educations and now that I have kids in school, I think I might know why such a large number of people don't read books.
Language Arts classrooms may actually kill the joy of reading for people? How have reading logs, literature circles with assigned jobs for students, reading schedules, and assignments that ask students to make predictions about the text become so popular? If a student reads fervently before entering the classroom, why change anything? Why must teachers make sure that all students read the same book according to the same schedule? I hope teachers aren't under the assumption that there are "must read" books that all students must have read before they leave school. For every 50 books a teacher can put in that category, I can add 100 more that are equally valid.
A challenge: someone, anyone please find me any research proving that these Language Arts class activities actually lead students to a love for reading--or even help them become better readers. Regarding a love for reading, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest it has the opposite effect. And, actually, I have evidence that the best thing a teacher can do for students as far as becoming better readers is let them pick the books they read and give them time to read those books. No more needs to be done. At least that's what Stephen Krashen argues in this 2012 lecture called "The Power of Reading."
I know too many intelligent people with graduate degrees, including me, who did very little of their assigned reading in middle and high school. Some of my friends and I actually have (graduate) degrees in literature, yet we didn't learn to love literature until we escaped the confines of the Language Arts classrooms and the silly exercises demanded of the students who visit them. We developed our love for reading while reading as adults read. In a quiet room, sometimes with a pencil, savoring the story and hoping to find ourselves tingling rather than trying to find a point. Because if a book moves us to tingle, we'll understand, and even mount a search for, its importance.
Thanks for reading.
Soon I'll be using this space to write about my many thoughts on education. After taking eight years off from teaching, I'm back in the classroom, and I have many problems with the current way education is imposed on children.
As you can see from the blog's title, I champion Link Deas as the character in To Kill a Mockingbird most deserving of readers' admiration. Sometimes you need to cause a disruption to make a point. While discussing my feelings on the way education is done today and how it should be done tomorrow, I hope also to discuss why I think too many teachers and students have misread To Kill a Mockingbird and made Atticus Finch the most overrated hero in literature.