My wise old grandmother always said, “It’s good to be familiar with things.”

Did you know?

Many decades ago I was a champion typist in the State of Texas, on both manual and electric typewriters. I had taught myself to type using a Gregg Typing book that I checked out from the Kingsville Public Library….

Gregg Typing manual

….and an 1896 Underwood typewriter that my granddad brought home from the Missouri Pacific Railroad shops that were closing.

Underwood typewriter

By the end of May 1966, I was typing 70 words per minute (WPM) on that Underwood. My goal had been 60 WPM because my wise old grandmother told me that 60 was what the best business typists were able to do.

I enjoyed typing so much that my wise old grandmother helped me set up my very first business for the Summer 1966, a typing business catering to students at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University—Kingsville). While my friends were out in the hot South Texas sun washing cars, pulling weeds, and mowing lawns, I was inside typing papers and make a lot more money than they were.

My little typing business made so much money from 1966 to 1973 when I graduated high school that I started collecting music, starting with The Beatles and The Who. By the time I went off to college, I had over one hundred albums and a couple hundred 45’s (smile and nod your head if you know what a 45 is).

When I got to tenth grade—high school in Kingsville; ninth grade still was in junior high—I signed up immediately for typing class in summer school because it was a required course and I wanted to get it out of the way since I already knew how to type.

I got to class and was immediately taken aside by the teacher, Miss Short, because of my last name. Turns out that the reputation of my dad and his three brothers preceded me, and she warned me against following in my family’s footsteps in her class. She wasn’t going to put up with me.

Our class had 30 students and 30 manual typewriters. However, the school had just received a brand new IBM Selectric, and Miss Short warned us against even touching that typewriter. Typing class during the summer was 3 hours long on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with a 15-minute break halfway through. I sat there for the first 90 minutes bored as hell—

aaaa ssss dddd ffff
jjjj kkkk llll ;;;;

Bored, bored, bored.

During the break, I went over to the IBM Selectric, turned it on, put some paper in the roller, and started typing the lyrics to my favorite Beatles songs. Miss Short, who was out in the hall, heard the electric typewriter noise and thought that someone was simply holding down the keys and screwing with her priceless typewriter. When she saw what I had done, she admonished me and told me to stay after class. I figured I was getting kicked out of class.

Just the opposite. She admonished me again for touching the typewriter but then asked me if I wanted to do personal typing for her instead of sitting in typing class. Uh, okay….. Sure. Got an A+ in typing, my first A+ in high school.

For Christmas 1971, my wise old grandmother bought me a Smith Corona Coronet Electric typewriter.

Smith Corona Coronet electric typewriter

I was the happiest 17-year-old on Earth, or at least in Kingsville, Texas. I used that typewriter through Christmas 1974 but still had it and the Underwood through April 1993.

In 1976, on an IBM Selectric II, I typed 306 WPM over a 5-minute typing test with 6 errors. It was a very unofficial test, timed by a group of friends in the Student Programs Office of the Texas A&M Memorial Student Center. I never told anyone until now that I cheated; I had my own IBM Selectric II which I had bought myself for Christmas 1974, so I was extraordinarily familiar with it. My wise old grandmother always said, “It’s good to be familiar with things….”

I got my start in computers in June 1978 when I bought an Apple computer. I replaced the computer in May 1983, switching to IBM computers and keyboards. I have never looked back at my decision there, and I’m still an IBM/PC/Windows devotee.

For the longest time I had an IBM keyboard because of the tactile feel and audible click of the keys. It was the most comfortable keyboard to type on. Then mass-produced keyboards for home computers hit the mainstream and IBM eventually followed suit with the crappy computer keyboards. I eventually succumbed to carpal tunnel syndrome, now called repetitive stress injury. Pianists, organists, and fast typists particularly are subject to it.

In April 2003, I resorted to voice recognition using Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS). Although I liked it, I enjoy listening to music when I work, and the music interfered with DNS. Thus, I went back to keyboard typing, but my typing speed continued to decrease and the number of errors increased. I was lost and depressed. Getting old sucks. JMHO.

Fast forward to May 2017. I had my business partner, one Joey Thaidigsman, a sophomore computer science major at the University of California at Berkeley (and with a 3.96 GPA!), build me a fine fine fine new super computer (named The Beast) to handle all my video and photo editing needs, leaving my old computer relegated to being 100% a music computer.

Once The Beast was up and running, I added a Sound Blaster X Katana sound bar to my music system and hooked it up to both computers so that I could also listen to music on The Beast. Once that was done, I decided I wanted a new keyboard. I was going to buy the best keyboard I could find.

That’s when I discovered gaming keyboards. IBM might have quit making their fine fine fine keyboards but that didn’t mean that the IBM feel and clickyness was gone forever. These gaming keyboards are also called mechanical keyboards because they have mechanical key switches rather than the rubber dome keys of mass-produced cheap keyboards.

I went to Fry’s Electronics and bought the most expensive mechanical keyboard they carried, a Razer Blackwidow Chroma. It didn’t work. After four hours with Razer tech support, it still didn’t work. They told me to return the keyboard as defective. However, they wanted me to return it directly to them and spent another 15 minutes getting me a Return Merchandise Authorization number. Unfortunately, the number woould be emailed to me within 24-48 hours. Huh? Email it to me NOW!

I disconnected, repacked the Razer, and took it back to Fry’s. Since Razer had lost me as a customer at that point, I chose the most expensive Corsair they carried. Took it home and couldn’t get the cool keyboard colors to work. Logged on to their web site, downloaded the most recent firmware, and the keyboard colors went crazy. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. After five minutes, I was dizzy and nauseated, and had accomplished absolutely nothing. I repacked the Corsair and took it back.

At this point I decided to look at non-gaming mechanical keyboards, of which the selection is about 10% of those available for gaming. I even got into trouble at Fry’s for opening every keyboard box in the mechanical non-gaming section and trying them out. After all my testing in the store, I came home with an Azio MK-Retro keyboard, a “typewriter inspired mechanical keyboard.” Looks just like that 1896 Underwood typewriter:

MK-Retro typewriter-inspired mechanical keyboard by Azio

The keys are not backlit like the gaming keyboards, and they are round, which might cause problems for people who grew up with the square-key computer keyboards. It has no extras, like macro programming, or gaming key programing, or USB ports, headphone jacks, etc. It’s just a quality mechanical keyboard.

The whole purpose of this typing dissertation, though, is to tell you something that has amazed me. My typing speed has increased and my typing errors are down. I think it has something to do with the tacticle feel and the audible clicks of the keys, letting you know exactly when you have pushed a key and created a corresponding graphic on the screen. It’s really cool.

So if you’re a touch typist, especially an elderly experienced touch typist like me, but you have noticed over the years that your speed has decreased and your errors have increased, I can highly recommend a mechanical keyboard. Especially if typing is a significant part of your livelihood as it is mine.

For price comparison, the cheap plastic/rubber keyboards were as low as $6.99 and as high as $39.99 at Fry’s. The non-gaming mechanical keyboards started at $49.99 and went as high as $129.99. The gaming mechanical keyboards started around $99.99 and went as high as $229.99.

Here’s my workplace now. Ignore the cat food. It’s not mine. Seriously, I don’t eat cat food….

Russel Ray's work place

The little queen, though…. well, my desk is her favorite place to eat, and if there’s no food when she jumps up on the desk, she’ll plop her butt in front of the computer monitor and sit there looking all abused and neglected, demanding to know why I don’t love her anymore….

Zoey the Cool Cat

My next purchase: A new desk. Jim and I just closed escrow on a new home, so we’ll be moving during the next 30 days, and this old desk will go straight to the trash with a new desk being delivered to the new digs.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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Picture of the Moment—Finest and most bestest ever!

Picture of the Moment

My wise old grandmother had lots of hummingbird feeders throughout the trees in her yard, and ever since I got my hands on an SLR camera in 1966, I have been trying to get a halfway decent picture of a hummingbird in flight.

Yesterday I took my new Tamron 150-600mm lens to Balboa Park for a walk around the many gardens. I knew where the hummingbirds hung out so I was hoping to get a chance to try out the lens on those fast flyers.

I switched my camera settings to AI Servo focusing for to better track fast-moving objects, set it to use the 19-point autofocus system, and set it to take up to five pictures per second, and went to work.

Following is one of the pictures I came home with.  I rank it right up there at #1, bestest and mostest fine fine fine Russel Ray hummingbird photo ever.

Hummingbird in flight

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Friday Flower Fiesta (6-23-17)—San Diego flowers in Balboa Park

Friday Flower Fiesta

I spent a couple of hours yesterday morning in Balboa Park taking pictures of flowers. Following are fourteen of them.

It was a cold, wet, cloudy morning so there was dew on many of the flowers and plants. My new lenses (16-300mm and 150-650mm) were able to capture the dewdrops, something my older lenses were not good at doing.

Succulent flowers

Unknown purple flowers

Cactus flowers

Succulent flowers

Rose

Yellow rose

Magnolia

Succulent flowers

Cactus flower

Unknown yellow flowers

Cactus flower and thorns

Cactus flowers

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

SNIPPETS—Friendliest little pirate

Snippets

SNIPPET ONE

Happy World Girafffe Day!

Happy World Giraffe Day!

SNIPPET TWO

Someone’s upset that Dean Spanos took his big boy toy San Diego Chargers and skedaddled to Los Angeles.

Fuck you, Spanos!

SNIPPET THREE

Let’s all be stars!

Be a star!

SNIPPET 4

Here’s the boat I didn’t buy this past weekend at the San Diego International Boat Show. The only reason I passed on it was because it came with a helicopter and I just couldn’t see myself flying around in a helicopter.

Atessa IV yacht

SNIPPET 5

You know you’re in love with your dog when you teach it how to dig in the sand at the beach. I like that the dog is paying attention.

Teaching your dog how to dig in the sand

SNIPPET 6

My wise old grandmother (MWOG) used to adopt one-eyed cats and dogs, and three-legged cats and dogs from the wild and give them a forever home. I had never seen a pirate or a tripod in the wild since 1973 during my final 5 months living with MWOG, until a few days ago when I went to feed our feral cat colony at the San Diego Jetty. The friendliest little pirate came to eat and let me pet it.

Pirate cat at the San Diego jetty

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About—Surfers and crabs

Out & About

Time flies by when you’re having fun….

I spent yesterday at the Surfing America’s 2017 USA Surfing Championships. Surfing is one of those sports where I change my Canon 760D’s settings to AI Servo tracking using all 19 focus points and burst mode. You might be tempted to just take videos and then capture a still photo from the video. Don’t. The still photo won’t be anywhere near as good as if you simply shot a still photo to begin with. Even with my drone’s 4K video, which is considered “movie quality,” a still capture is pretty poor. Just remember that videos are videos and still photos are still photos, and never the two shall meet….

I’m only 10% of the way through cataloging all the pictures from yesterday but here’s my favorite surfing picture so far.

Surfer at Surfing America's 2017 USA Surfing Championship, Oceanside CA

I admit that I spent as much time watching and photographing wildlife as I did surfers. Following is one of my favorite wildlife pictures from the day. I told this big fella that I would make him an Internet star; he just sat there oblivious, seeming to smile at me, so……………….. (Check out his little goatee, too!)

Crab at Surfing America's 2017 USA Surfing Championship, Oceanside CA

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About—Moral: Park the car, get out, and walk around

Out & About

When I arrived in San Diego in April 1993, on one of the corners between where I hung out and where I lived there was a small model train store with a neon “Frank the Train Man” sign in the window. Although I wasn’t in a position to start collecting model trains again, I often stopped in just to look around.

Frank Cox, the train man, had died of a heart attack in 1989. He had been born in England in 1907 and had moved to San Diego at the age of 13. He opened his model train shop in 1943 at 4310 Park Boulevard. The store I used to visit was located at 4207 Park Boulevard. That address now is Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano. The store I used to visit had a large neon sign, which was installed in 1947. Sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s, the store closed but the neon sign was saved and moved and installed at the top of the stairs at the original location at 4310 Park Boulevard.

Original neon sign from Frank the Trainman, San Diego CA

After graduating from high school in San Diego, Cox worked in the old Marston’s Department Store in downtown San Diego where his father headed the shoe section. During the Great Depression, Cox switched jobs, hiring on with the Ben Hur Coffee Co. near the train tracks downtown. After visiting a train collector in 1941, an experience which he said changed his life, he became Frank the Trainman. Just two years later he had opened his own train shop. Due to declining health, Cox left his shop in 1981, turning it over to Cooley.

Recently I discovered that the original campus still existed for San Diego State University, then called San Diego Normal School, so I went to explore it. While I was wandering around, I discovered that the 2-story building where the neon sign is located, the original location of Frank’s shop, has been painted on one side to look like a train, a steam locomotive.

Building painted to look like a train

That probably has been there for a couple of decades but you’ll never see it if you’re just driving by. How sad that the only people who see it every day are a few employees of the San Diego Unified School District which currently is housed in the buildings of the old San Diego Normal School.

It wasn’t until a couple of days ago while researching information for this blog post that I discovered that Frank the Trainman’s model train shop still is in business, albeit it at 4233 Park Boulevard, just a few storefronts north of the location I used to visit. It is operated by Frank’s employee, protege, and successor, Jim Cooley, who also has an eponymous museum next door where displays include 15 cars from 1886 through 1933 and 25 categories of antiques represented by model trains, cast iron toys, spittoons, tools, cuckoo clocks, license plates, World War I posters, phonographs, typewriters, and cameras. The museum features “primitive” cars which Cooley defines as cars which have one or two cylinders and represent the development of the automobile. The majority of the cars have not been restored and chances are you won’t see them anywhere else. I guess you know where I’ll be going, soon.

Moral of this post: Park the car, get out, and walk around.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About—Copper Creek Falls Trail, San Elijo Hills

Out & About

If you haven’t discovered meetup.com yet, I can highly recommend it. If there is something you want to do but you’re not doing it, I can pretty much guarantee you that there are other people just like you, and you can meet them on meetup.com.

One of the photograph groups that I’m a member of introduced me to a year-round waterfall on Copper Creek. Year-round waterfalls in San Diego County either are rare or are very difficult to get to. The one on Copper Creek is easy to get to. The trail out and back is 2.7 miles but they are an easy 2.7 miles with virtually no elevation gain on a well-used path, provided that you take the Copper Creek Falls Trail. There are 12 named trails in San Elijo Hills, some going over steep mountains. See the trails here: San Elijo Hills Hiking Trails

There is parking at coordinates 33.093945, -117.204883. Enter those into Google Maps and you’ll be on your way.

The entrance I took after parking goes by a dead sewage treatment plant:

Dead sewage treatment plant in San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Dead sewage treatment plant in San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Dead sewage treatment plant in San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

On the way to the falls, you’ll see the creek, ponds, mini-falls, cute little bridges, and flowers.

Copper Creek, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Thistle

Bridge over Copper Creek

Copper Creek, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Castor flowers

My research indicates that this area was copper and silver mines from around 1857 into the early 1900s. There are remnants of the mines and operation structures throughout the area. The waters behind the small dam is said to be where ore would be cleaned before transport.

Copper Creek, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

I always find structural ruins to be of interest, and I was not disappointed at Copper Creek Falls.

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Mining ruins at Copper Creek Falls, San Elijo Hills, San Diego County, California

Copper Creek’s water comes from the Escondido Creek Watershed, which begins in Bear Valley above Lake Wohlford. The creek flows through a series of man-made ponds, part of the mining efforts, all the way to San Elijo Lajoon.

The Copper Creek Falls Trails takes you through a grove of Eucalyptus trees which apparently were planted for firewood during the mining days.

There were three vertical mining shafts over 300 feet long and one horizontal shaft over 200 feet long but those shafts were blasted in decades ago for safety.

Fellow photographer sitting on the largest part of the dam
Fellow photographer sitting on the biggest part of the dam

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat