Time of Day operator, April 1937

A Time of Day operator and an exchange name: Ah! Telephony!

I clipped this item from the Chicago Tribune some time ago. With Time of Day service vanishing, I thought I should share this bit of the past here. (Click for a larger view.)

Related posts
No Time of Day in LA
Telephone exchange names
MOre EXchange NAme NOstalgia
Mike Hammer’s answering machine
“This is the operator speaking”

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Time of Day operator, April 1937

Stark Masonic Theosophy

handwritten frontispiece - physica, metaphysica, hyperphysica


magickal schematic x 2


kabbalistic schema


kabbalistic schema (detail)


figura cabbalistica


instrumentum fiat natura


transmutation schematic


mysterium magnum studium universale


allegorical alchemical motif


instrumentum divinum - alchemy symbols


celestial configurations for metal transmutation


alchemy model


Johann August Starck Stark was a Professor of both oriental languages and theology in St Petersburg, Königsberg and (mostly) Darmstadt. He was a prolific author, particularly noted for his studies of comparative religions.

Starck joined the Freemasons in France when he was about twenty years old. The story goes that when he was in Russia he met with a Rosicrucian who had been closely acquainted with a founder of a Masonic Lodge in Florence in the early 18th century. The founder was a collector of ancient manuscripts and that Lodge became a centre for Rosicrucian, alchemy and theosophical discussion and enquiry. Secret knowledge divined from the 11th century Knights Templar, as laid out in the manuscripts, greatly contributed to the founding of Hermetic traditions within the developing Masonic fraternity in Germany.

Starck appears to have been what you might call a significant player in German Freemasonry as a direct result of his being exposed to the Florentine teachings. He was a leader of a faction (oh yes, Life of Brian correspondences seem appropriate) called the Klerkikat which joined with the existing Knights Templar order of Freemasons, the Strict Observance, but a schism eventually developed due to Starck’s peculiar brand of Masonic beliefs. He was accused of being a Catholic and became quite an unpopular figure despite his receiving plum academic and civil appointments (he was a colleague and friend of philosopher Immanuel Kant). Apparently many of the ideas formulated or advocated by Starck persist into modern day Freemasonry.

One of the more notable subjects of his authorship appeared in the 1803 book, ‘Triumph of Philosophy’, in which Starck:

“claimed that the Illuminati, a freemasonry group founded by Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830) in 1776, stood behind the French revolution and were secretly pursuing similar lawless and godless schemes in German lands and elsewhere.”
How does any of these conspiracy and esoteric shenanigans relate to the intriguing images in this post? The simple answer is: I’m not really sure. They appear in three manuscripts recently uploaded by Wolfenbütteler Digitale Bibliothek and all are attributed to Johann August Starck (or at least, they are listed under his name as author). It would seem they are either copies of, or notes and symbols dervied from, the renowned ‘Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer’ (Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians) from the late 18th century.

-Ms. Cod. Guelf. 454 Nov.
-Ms. Cod. Guelf. 455 Nov.
-Ms. Cod. Guelf. 456 Nov.

As you might imagine, background research about this topic is apt to lead a person to some ‘interesting’ websites to say the least, where everything from the world bank, Cagliostro and the twin towers make an appearance. Consequently I’m only going to recommend the Starck biography in the Immanuel Kant teaching site at Manchester College. Anyone with a deeper interest in all of this has already gone off on their own searching quests no doubt. Related: alchemy/‘La Très Sainte Trinosophie’.
Stark Masonic Theosophy

Home Carbonation System

home carbonator.jpg

I drink a lot of seltzer. So much that my fiancee says I couldn’t survive without bubbles in my water. After trying a SodaClub home soda maker (picture above right) and realizing it would cost $70 to buy a special part for it, I found a really detailed resource for building my own, simple home carbonation system for under a $100 using a CO2 tank, regulator, hose and a carbonator cap (details below). It took ten minutes to build. I love having very good homemade soda on the cheap and not having to lug around seltzer bottles or worry about it going flat. With a scuba-like tank in the kitchen, guests always ask “What is that?!” and I really love demonstrating. When one friend of mine said he didn’t like soda, I whipped him up a mango soda from this special puree of mango I had. He absolutely loved it! And a by-product of the cost of producing low cost seltzer water is that I can experiment with different flavored sodas. I mean some really wacky stuff, like lychee-tangerine or coconut-lucima. If I don’t like it, or it tastes weird, I don’t feel guilty about draining the entire liter or two-liter bottle.

My 20lb system makes over 1133 liters of carbonated water. In practice, efficiency is not perfect, with unavoidable losses in the hose and headspace. But at current prices of $20 per 20lb tank-fill, the cost to convert tap water to seltzer is under $0.02 cents per liter. A single fill of a 20lb tank charges over 500 bottles, which will keep you supplied for 1.5 years if you consume an average of one bottle daily. In terms of break even, assuming that you can find liter bottles of seltzer water for $0.99 per bottle, then it’ll take roughly 100 bottles for the system to break even. I definitely drink a liter a day, so it only took about 3 months for me to break even – not to mention all of the labor and space that it saves to lug in and store 8.3 dozen liter bottles of seltzer water.

I found a CO2 tank on eBay for about $30 bucks, including shipping. I use a dual gauge CO2 regulator; a single gauge one for CO2 output would work also, but I prefer the dual as it also tells you the amount of gas in the CO2 canister ($20 on eBay). You also need a hose (or “gas fitting tube”). To avoid the site’s detailed instructions on how to fit the CO2 hose onto a 2 liter bottle of soda, I bought a special carbonator cap that lets you easily insert the hose ($11 from Northern Brewer). You can’t refill a CO2 tank in NYC, as it violates several ordinances. However, you can exchange your empty tank for a full one for $20 at a local welding supply place (other spots include keg brewers and anywhere that refills fire extinguishers).

The operating instructions are fairly straightforward. On a dual gauge tank there are two gauges and two valves, one for the main tank and one for the output. The valve between the CO2 tank and the regulator, I’ll call the CO2 valve and the valve between the regulator and the carbonator cap, I’ll call the output valve:

1) Fill up a one- or two-liter bottle.
2) Screw on the carbonator cap fairly tight (it’s a ball release
cap, so you simply push the entire cap to release it from the hose afterwards)
3) Make sure the Output valve is completely shut off
4) Turn on the CO2 valve and watch the CO2 tank gauge shoot up (this will be
the remaining pressure in your tank)
5) Slowly turn the Output valve open until the pressure reaches about 50 PSI
(I’ve been experimenting with various PSI’s – 50 PSI works best for me)
6) As you feel the bottle get full (don’t worry, I read recently
that two-liter soda bottles are rated to handle 200 PSI), pick it up and start
shaking vigorously as you would a bar drink (this helps carbonate the water).
7) Turn off the CO2 valve and then the Output valve
8) Remove the carbonator cap

Incidentally, it was a SodaClub home soda maker I bought on eBay that inspired me ultimately to build my own home carbonation unit. The SodaClub unit has a proprietary design whereby it is nearly impossible to refill without a special adapter and the adapters I found online cost $70 bucks (more than I paid for the SodaClub). So rather than spend $70 to fix an inherent problem with the SodaClub (and I would still need a 20lb canister sitting somewhere in my house), I did some research and found this site. For about $95 bucks – less than the cost of a new SodaClub (they retail new for about $100) – I have more than 10 times the soda making capacity (SodaClub claims you can get 110 liters of soda). I should add that I’ve seen plans on eBay for $5 or $10 bucks for how to construct your own soda fountain gun that spurts out bubbly water on demand. With mine, the end result is the same, but the carbonator unit I built is so much simpler and cheaper and it doesn’t require a heat sink or a refrigeration unit.


– Alastair Ong

Home Carbonation System
Info available from Richard J. Kinch

Soda Supplies & Parts
$5+ (extracts)
$11 (carbonator cap)
Available from Northern Brewer


Related items previously reviewed in Cool Tools:

homecarb_homebrew.jpg
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing

homecarb_promash.jpg
ProMash

homecarb_thermos.jpg
Thermos Beverage Bottle Insulator


Home Carbonation System

It’s Dollman Monday!

While attempting to solve the problem of a “Poison Pistol”, going off as we speak, Doll Man makes crooks assume the position!

Did you notice the big rubber stamp on the cover? Collectors of Golden Age comics know this stamp well. It says “Bonnett’s Ohio’s Largest Back Issue Dealer of Magazines and Comics 502 E. 5th St, Dayton Ohio”. TONS of Golden Age comics you’ll see in collections and at conventions have this stamp from this used bookstore. Apparently thousands and thousands and thousands of comics went through the store in the 40s and 50s and 60s and got this rubber stamp defacing. The store started in 1939, the year Superman got his start, too. They must have rubber stamped a few Action #1’s in their day. Frank Pauer, ace cartoonist and editor of the National Cartoonist Society newsletter, took me to the still existing Bonnett’s a couple of months ago when I was visiting him. Alas, it was closed for the evening. Frank says the bookstore still sells comics (and incidently lots of fetish tapes and magazines), but have finally abandoned the stamp thingie–the ultimate humiliation.


(click for a closer look)


It’s Dollman Monday!

Computer Workstation Ergonomics

I spend almost every waking moment in front of a computer. I’m what you might call an indoor enthusiast. I’ve been lucky because I haven’t experienced any kind of computer-related injury due to my prolonged use of computers, but it is a very real professional risk. I get some occasional soreness in my hands or wrists, mostly after marathon binges where I’ve clearly overdone it– but that’s about the extent of it. All too many of my friends have struggled with long-term back pain or hand pain. While you can (and should) exercise your body and hands to strengthen them, there’s one part of this equation I’ve been ignoring.

I’ve been on a quest for the ultimate computer desk for a few years now, and I’ve talked at length about the value of investing in a great chair. But I hadn’t considered whether my current desk and chair is configured properly to fit my body. What about the ergonomics of your computer workstation?

The OSHA has an official page on computer workstation ergonomics, which is a good starting point. But like all government documents, there’s a lot more detail here than most people will ever need. The summary picture does give you an idea of what an ergonomic seating position looks like, though. How close is this to the way you’re sitting right now?

OSHA computer workstation diagram

Microsoft doesn’t get enough credit for their often innovative hardware division, which first popularized ergonomic computer input devices, starting with the Microsoft Mouse 2.0 in 1993 and following with the Microsoft Natural Keyboard in 1994. With Microsoft’s long-standing interest in hardware ergonomics, perhaps it’s not too surprising to find that their healthy computing guide is one of the best and most succinct references for ergonomic computing I’ve found. But you don’t have to read it. I’ll summarize the key guidelines for computer workstation ergonomics here, distilling the best advice from all the sources I found.

I know I’ve harped on this, but it bears repeating: a quality desk and chair will be some of the best investments you’ll ever make as a software developer. If you value your physical health, this is not an area you want to economize on. Hopefully you’ve invested in a decent computer desk and chair that provide the required adjustability to achieve an ergonomically correct computer workstation, too.

Computing ergonomics, adjustable desk and chair

1. The top of your monitor should be at eye level, and directly centered in front of you. It should be about an arm’s length in front of you.

Computing ergonomics, monitor position

2. Your desk surface should be at roughly belly button level. When your arms are placed on the desk, your elbows should be at a ~90 degree angle, just below the desk surface. The armrests of your chair should be at nearly the same level as the desk surface to support your elbows.

Computing ergonomics, desk surface

3. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees at a ~90 degree angle. Your seat should not be pressing into the back of your knees; if necessary, tilt it slightly forward to alleviate any knee pressure. Sit fully back in your chair, with your back and shoulders straight and supported by the back of the chair.

Computing ergonomics, legs

4. When typing, your wrists should be in line with your forearms and not bent up, down, or to the side. Your keyboard should be directly centered in front of you. Other frequently used items should be nearby, within arm’s reach.

Computing ergonomics, arms

When it comes to computer workstation ergonomics, these are the most basic, most commonly repeated guidelines I saw. Ergonomics is a holistic discipline, not a science, so your results may vary. Still, I’m surprised how many of these very basic guidelines I’ve been breaking for so many years, without even thinking about it. I’ll be adjusting my home desk tomorrow in hopes of more comfortable computing.

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Computer Workstation Ergonomics

Penguin Celebrations series

First, I have to give credit where credit is due: I first read about this series the other day over at Galleycat.

This new “Celebrations” series comprises 36 titles; all of the categories (fiction, biography, etc.) are represented here.

What’s great about these? Nothing, if you plant your feet firmly in the “nostalgia is a disease” camp. Lots, if you value simplicity and elegance in design and typography. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, though, it’s fascinating to read what Penguin’s John Miles says in The Penguin Collectors’ Society’s Penguin by Designers about the original designs that inspired these: “No matter how grand or famous the author the typographic treatment was exactly the same. So Robert Graves got exactly the same treatment as a little-known writer of a crime novel.” That’s an amazing thing to contemplate and speaks to the power of the Penguin brand.




Penguin Celebrations series

QotD Roger Mandel

“Quite broadly, I think of the fine arts as a method by which humans ask the big questions not necessarily knowing the answers, whereas design enables people to create answers quite concretely.  A strength of RISD (Rhode Island School of Design)’s balanced curriculum is that the fine artists help the designers consider the big unanswereable questions as they work on their chairs and buildings, while the designers inform the fine artists about how to make their ineffable expressions tangible. Art’s about more than being creative, it’s about developing a system of thought, by which you can solve complex problems to improve aspects of the world’s concerns.  More concretely, proportion, functionality, texture, and surface beauty are broad design attributes anyone should learn because they enrich visual literacy and acuity. Art education without elements of design is not useful in the end–which is why art teachers have had a hard time justifying to boards of education and parents that the visual arts are important in the curriculum.”ht I.D. magazine, September/October 2007How would you rewrite this paragraph if you replaced “fine arts” with “sciences”?  Talk amongst yourselves.
QotD Roger Mandel