Fun for Nerds: “Nibbus Maximus”

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[Thanks to Boing Boing for this nerd news.]

So, who knew? There was an event called “Nibbus Maximus” and it was held to unveil a grand creation by Jim Woodring. Woodring is a comic artist who works mainly in ink. This helps you understand better the fact that Woodring created a 7 foot tall ink pen that weighs 25 pounds and actually works. Believe me, I was just as amazed as you are when I first saw the headline. Being a bit of a pen connoisseur (or simply an enthusiast), I had to click on the link to see more pictures of this amazing feat.

“Nibbus Maximus,” aptly named because the nib of this pen is, indeed, large, is just the name of the ceremony held to unveil this pen. But, I think this event should just escalate into a huge competition to see who can create the largest pen that actually works. Eventually, the pens will have to be lifted to the event with cranes and it’ll become like those pumpkin festivals where they’re hauling in trucks with ten-foot long platforms to accommodate the pens.

Moving on, you can read more about this event at the Gage Academy of Art. There is an entire Flickr feed for pictures from this event, but here are some of the highlights:

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Christmas Shopping for Nerds

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Personally, I consider nerds the easiest brand of people to buy for when it comes to the holidays. After all, nerdiness means openly declaring a love or affinity for something and adhering to that thing. As long as you’re not overly fickle, people will know what to get you. Me? I’m a nerd of the reading and writing variety, so it’s pretty simple to win my heart with a Borders gift card, a new book, or some kind of writing utensil. Because I’m crazy about reading and writing gifts, that’s what I’ll focus on in this post.

I think I’ve mentioned typewriter jewelry before in a ‘Fun for Nerds‘ post, but I have to mention it again in the nerdy shopping guide. In my internet research, I found a website that’s actually called typewriterjewelry.com, so that’s probably a good place to start. They even make cufflinks! Cufflinks made from typewriter keys! There are also bracelets, earrings, necklaces, money clips, all sorts of items made from typewriters.

Of course, the most stereotypical gift for anyone, let alone nerds, is a book. The Daily Beast has a handy guide of gift books for the last minute shoppers amongst you. These books range from biographies to potboilers, but the list is by no means exhaustive. Writers at The Daily Beast also chose their favorite books of 2010, which might be a good place to look, and Slate did a similar post.

Finally, there are a plethora of writing related presents you could give to the nerds in your life. When I want to ogle journals that I am unable to afford, I like to check out Kate’s Paperie, which has a truly staggering amount and variety of journals to wish for. In terms of actual writing utensils, Kate’s Paperie can also help you there. I like Staedtler markers and pens, as well as Uni-Ball, but sometimes it’s a good idea not to over-think a gift for the pen afficianado in your life. Personally, a pack of Bics would make me very happy.

So, I was able to cover your bases if you know anyone obsessed with typewriter paraphernalia, paper goods, or books. What ideas do you guys have? Which nerd demographics have I left out? Let me know in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Typewriter Paraphernalia

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I don’t know why it is that almost all of my “Fun for Nerds” posts this semester have included typewriters in some fashion. Perhaps it’s because I think of the typewriter as a very nerdy device, something for a long-forgotten age of writing that is only sought out by the nerdiest of writers, those who wish those pesky iPads would go away. Or perhaps it’s just because I follow a lot of nerdy blogs and the people at those blogs are also fascinated with typewriters. In any case, here’s the thing about typewriters — I really like them, but I would not want to write on them. I think they’re archaically beautiful and make a fantastic clickity-clack sound when you type, but as I’ve  said here before, I need  my backspace key. It seems like a waste to keep a typewriter just lying around doing nothing, but I found two posts this morning that used typewriters as art.

Both posts come from BoingBoing — your source for all things nerdy in the arena of art, culture, and video games — but both posts also sent me elsewhere. The first post was about Keira Rathbone, an artist who uses typewriters as her medium. According to her website, Keira creates the art by “typing out letters, numbers and symbols in place of brush strokes and pixels results in beautiful enigmatic images.” I was intrigued to say the least. Rathbone’s art is entrancing and I spent most of my time on her site simply marveling at the fact that a typewriter created those pictures.

Secondly, BoingBoing sent me to the dieline, a package design website of all places, for truly awesome typewriter tins. This very photogenic post contains a variety of vintage typewriter cartridge tins to feast your eyes on. I love these, they all have gorgeous typography on their metal cases. All of the tins are from different countries and they all have very unique designs. Surprisingly, the tins seem to be fairly affordable. Check them out!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: A “Type-In”

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So, I have several different quirky news items queued up and waiting to be put into a “Fun for Nerds” post. But when I saw this one pop up, courtesy of BoingBoing, I knew it had to be posted today! Apparently, a group of typewriter enthusiasts in Philadelphia are gathering on December 18th at a pub in Philly to strike a blow for typewriter lovers!

The BoingBoing post says that a whole new group of young typewriter enthusiasts have emerged in the world. Surprisingly, a Google search for typewriters and typewriter fans yields many results. One website offers typewriter merchandise ( including a truly awesome necklace that I have my eye on ), another is a blog run by the owner of a typewriter shop, and the photo website Flickr has an entire pool for typewriter photos! I have to say, that last one is a lot of fun to browse. Typewriters just have a certain charm about them that a laptop doesn’t have.

And yet, laptops have a backspace key. And I desperately need that backspace key.

According to the post, activities at the “type-in” will include opportunities for enthusiasts to  “enter a typing competition, buy and sell at a typewriter swap meet, and consult with an experienced typewriter technician, who’ll offer tips to keep that vintage machine cranking out words smoothly.”

I know we have some typewriter fans here on the blog, so share some of your typewriter experiences in the comments! And, as a supplement, what do you think of fleeting technologies? Do you pine after vinyl records and typewriter keys, are you blazing forward into the iPad age, or are you finding a happy medium between the two?

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: David Foster Wallace

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This morning, Newsweek posted something that caught my eye instantly because of the author it involved: David Foster Wallace. I had never heard of David Foster Wallace a year ago. Last fall, I was a student in Dr. Kennedy’s Advanced Writing class where we read copious amounts of David Foster Wallace’s work.

I remember being so filled with trepidation as I printed out Wallace’s articles from Harper’s Magazine because of their length. But as soon as I dove into Wallace’s “Tennis, trigonometry, tornadoes: A Midwestern boyhood,” I was in love. I loved Wallace’s style, the way he dealt with the topic and his conversational, but slightly pretentious, tone.

This past summer, I read Wallace’s confusing, yet awesome, novel entitled The Broom of the System. I could go on forever about that novel, but I won’t bore you. Suffice it to say that I marveled at the way Wallace made the readers grow along with his characters in that novel.

In short: I love David Foster Wallace.

So, imagine my excitement when I saw Newsweek’s headline: “From the Mixed-Up Files of David Foster Wallace.

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Fun for Nerds: the automatypewriter

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As with all of my latest nerdy findings, this post comes to you courtesy of Boing Boing, the blog for all things technological, cultural, and scientific. I seem to keep stumbling upon strange and interesting kinds of typewriters, and today is following that pattern. Meet the automatypewriter!

For some reason, I am not able to embed the video here in my post, but you can click this link to view the automatypewriter. This amazing invention runs on “an Arduino, which is connected to a computer via USB,” according to Boing Boing. An Arduino is an open source circuit board for programming, according to my brother. You can read more about how the automatypewriter at the blog post and learn about the science behind this fascinating machine, but what I’m interested in is what the typewriter does and how it changes the nature of fiction in our society.

The automatypewriter here is rigged to play a role-playing game (or RPG) called “Zork.” The typewriter types out a situation that’s taking place, then you can prompt the machine with what you’d like to do next. For instance, in the video, the typewriter tells you that there is a mailbox, the typist writes “open the mailbox,” and the typewriter does so to move the story along.

So, this seems somewhat similar to those old Choose Your Own Adventure books that I used to read as a child. I’ve never played an RPG, so this reminds me of those books where you choose where and how to advance the story, but everything is initiated by a book or, in this case, a typewriter.

The machine also reminded me of  the old Smarter Child bot that existed on AOL Instant Messenger in the 90’s. At one point in the video of the typewriter, the machine says something about computers and the typist responds with “or typewriters,” to which the machine replies, “I beg your pardon.” That just took me back to those days when my brother and I would try to trick Smarter Child into saying that it was stupid. In a weird way, this automatypewriter is both an older version of Smarter Child (because it uses an antiquated machine or medium), and a  newer version of Smarter Child (because it’s a new kind of technology powering this machine).

Despite these similarities, the automatypewriter seems to be a whole new kind of technology and a whole new way of interacting with fiction and the written word. The end of the video even proclaims that this is an example of ‘interactive fiction.’ What do you make of this? Would you be interested in interactive fiction? How do you think interactive fiction would change the literary world?

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Hint Fiction

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This morning in my news feeds, something caught my eye and I just had to bookmark it for later because it would not leave my mind all day long. In one of my feeds, there was a link to something called Hint Fiction, which proclaimed the most amazing feat I have ever heard of.

Hint Fiction is a book of stories that are all told in twenty-five words. I guess you could call this micro-micro-fiction. To be able to tell a story in twenty-five words is, I think, a definite skill.  To be able to have an impact with just twenty-five words, to connect with your audience somehow in, virtually, the blink of an eye, must take discipline and a whole lot of practice.

This is a really intriguing idea to me. Of course my first thought is: how on earth do you fit all that a story needs and necessitates into twenty-five words? Look at it this way, I wrote about 50,000 words last year for National Novel Writing Month and my story is still not finished. At 50,000 words there is more in that story for me to tell. So, how can it be done in twenty-five? One hundred words? I can see that, I’ve even done that before. But a quarter of that amount? I just don’t understand…

If you’re interested in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, (or fewer?! How could you do it even less than 25 words?!), you can find it at Amazon. I may have to buy it simply out of curiosity. Contributing authors include prestigious names such as Joyce Carol Oates, Ha Jin, Peter Straub, and James Frey, as well as emerging writers too.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Books as Dominoes

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Boing Boing is the blog that just keeps on giving. When I check my RSS feeds, I know that Boing Boing will be serving up something enjoyable — and most likely nerdy — for my reading, watching, or listening pleasure. This morning, it happened to be a video of industrious bookstore employees who had set up a rather impressive dominoes display using the wares they sell in their enormous warehouse-sized bookstore.

Here, for your enjoyment, is the video:

You can learn more about the clearly awesome bookstore featured in this video at their website: Bookmans Entertainment Exchange.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Unconventional Typewriters

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Rasmus Malling-Hansen, 1835-1890, Danish inventor, minister and principal at the Royal Institute for the Deaf-mutes, reads the website of the Malling-Hansen Society. I’m sure this man contributed much to the education and aid of deaf-mutes, but I’m afraid he will only be remembered for one thing: the writing ball.

Image source: http://http://www.malling-hansen.org

The tech, culture, and books blog, Boing Boing, featured an intriguing invention this morning that I simply had to click on to learn more about. Turns out that this device is called a writing ball. After poring over the instructions for its use for quite some time and trying to study the mechanics of the writing ball solely from this photo, I still can’t figure out how it works. Boing Boing did highlight this passage from the writing ball’s webpage for explanation on how it works:

The whole apparatus (the writing ball included) is mounted on a stationary foundation plate in such a way that it can be moved down against a spring, when the writing ball or one of its pistons are forced down by the finger. The foundation plate has an upright anvil under the centre of the ball and directly under the paper frame. When a knob of a type piston is depressed, the paper resting on the anvil, below the same receives an impression. When the finger pressure on the type piston knob is removed, the instrument swings into its normal position. The escapement mechanism moved the paper frame that held the paper on space until the end of the line was reached. By pushing the button on the left in front of the ball all the way down, the carriage was turned concentrically back to the beginning of the line and moved one line to the left.

See what I mean? Confusing. The Malling-Hansen Society’s website claims that this writing ball was the superior typewriter design, but it did not succeed commercially. At least, not when it was first invented. In 2007, the site states, the writing ball was sold by collector Uwe Breker for 80,000 Euros. If only Malling-Hansen could know somehow what his writing ball sold for in this age of admiration for oddities.

Know of any interesting designs for everyday inventions that we use? Post them in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds

 

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If you’ve found this literary journal blog, there’s a chance that you’ve been called a “nerd” once or twice in your life. I know that I’ve been called a nerd, and I’ve self-branded myself as a nerd as well. Personally, I wear that badge with pride because “nerdy” things are the things I like the most in life.

In this first installment of Fun for Nerds, we have an article from the website boingboing, which features fun news stories about technology, culture, and games. Earlier this week, boingboing posted a video entitled People and Their Desks. This is a fun short film about how creative people organize their desks.

Personally, I know that my desk is an important part of my life and my creative process. I’ve surrounded myself, through my desk, with the things that inspire me and put me in a creative mood. I have a shelf over my desk, which I’ve filled with some of my favorite books. I have a calendar, of course, plenty of pens (I’m something of a pen addict), and my paper journal is there as well. The desk is, naturally, close to an outlet for premium laptop charging, since I do virtually all of my writing on my laptop.

So, check out this short film and then comment about what your creative space looks like. What’s the space you have now and what would be your ideal creative space? How different are they?

— Honeycomb Editor, Mary Egan