Thursday, March 12, 2015

New York Post, meet NPR

The New York Post has been running a bunch of subway ads recently:
My only response is: NY Post, meet NPR.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Boott Cotton Mills

I recently visited the Boott Cotton Mills (yes two t's) and was amazingly impressed by everything. They actually have a whole bunch of ancient power looms running every day.

A loom works by passing a shuttle back and forth with each step - and the shuttle has a little bobbin of thread in it. The reel you see there actually spins around and auto-loads a new bobbin in to the machine when the last bobbin runs out of thread. By loading different colored bobbins in order, you can make patterns. A couple of things are really amazing about this:
  • The machines are a combination of wood, metal and leather. There is not a scrap of plastic in the whole thing (except possibly for the counters at the top which look like they were added later).
  • Iron was like plastic back then, you could mold it with relative ease into precise, intricate shapes. Wood was used for comparatively simple forms. Those red wheels you see needed only to hold the force of taut thread, yet they were made of iron so thick I could have stood on it.
    Note: I'm pontificating here about materials... please correct me if you know better
  • Although the machinery was super heavy, it had a very fine touch too; the subtle force of a thread governed the power cycle.

This isn't a loom, its one of the machines to ready the cotton for threading. 

To make patterns these wooden things dance up and down in special order. Each one holds a specific arrangement of threads.

Cams at the bottom lifted them upwards against strong springs holding them down, while light springs on pulleys at the top took up the slack.

Go and visit! It really isn't far from Boston and it is well worth the trip.

Also, I want to call attention to an Awesome Foundation grant we just granted. For someone who wants to make actual nice looking clothes from the new fabric made on these century old machines.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thanks, Waze

I usually love Waze. However, adding 41 minutes to my already too-long commute just for BP gasoline seems idiotic.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Rental Cars are America's Trains

I recently found myself in Lancaster California without a car. I tried renting a bicycle - but the only one they had was a souped up mountain bike that cost $65 a day. Public transportation to the LA airport (a 1.5 hour drive without traffic) would take 5 hours by train/bus, or 12 hours if I left after 7:00 pm.

So I jogged over a highway to the corner of Drivers Way and Motor Lane to rent a car. I am not making this up, those are the actual street names as you can see below.

As I'm lamenting the fact that my only reasonable travel option is to drive myself in a car – I notice the familiar architecture of rental agency building. Yes. The rental car building was a historic train station.

And now there isn't even a remnant left of its former utility among the highways and parking lots.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

When delayed, go to Death Valley

Since I wasn't planning on taking a real vacation, I didn't bring a camera. Luckily this guy brought one - if you look really carefully in his viewfinder you'll see me running shirtless across a dune.