February 2015


While it is is still very chilly today, there’s still a slight feeling of spring in the air. The sun seems more abundant, more powerful. 

We still have a lot of snow on the ground but my spirits are lifting and the winter blahs are starting to dissipate. 


Earl and I are sitting at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station awaiting our train for our weekend in New York. The train is currently on a 90 minute delay. I am not surprised by this.

We are spending the weekend with Jamie in New York. Tomorrow night we shall see “Kinky Boots”. I am looking forward to relaxing a not driving in the Big Apple. It’s not my favorite place in the world but it will do for the moment.

If we ever get there.


I have mentioned this before in the past and there’s a link at the top of my blog that leads to further information on my interest in the subject, but I got my start in computers in the retail realm. While I had a passing interest in the cash registers I saw as a youngster at the grocery store and at Kmart and Sears, I wasn’t really intrigued with how they worked until the opening of the Ames Department Store in my hometown. If memory serves correctly, the store opened in 1977. I remember going during the grand opening and purchasing a red and blue toy airplane. Besides the excitement of buying the airplane, I was quite fascinated with the cash registers they were using at Ames. They looked like the cash register used at the little grocery store in town, but with many more buttons and some extra pieces on the side. Even at nine years old, I noticed the difference.

It turns out that the cash registers at Ames were the first generation of computerized cash registers. I use the term “computerized” loosely, because the machines were entirely mechanical. There were no electronics anywhere in the guts of these cash registers. However, the extra buttons and the additional mechanism I observed were actually used to punch a computer tape. In later years I found out that these tapes were removed on a regular basis and sent somewhere official where they were fed into an IBM (presumably) mainframe computer. Hence, computerized inventory.  All of the items at Ames were marked with a department number; some items also had a three digit SKU number as well. Cashiers could fly along punching in these extra numbers and the store executives were assumedly happy with the inventory information they were receiving.

Legacy technology like this fascinates me. Yes, it took a little longer to get through the checkouts in those days, but to think that all the mechanics in those cash registers could do so many different functions is incredible to me. Unfortunately, while there are many of the grocery store models of these cash registers out and about just waiting to be restored and cherished, I haven’t seen an inventory control model in many years, aside from one picture taken in a landfill, at least until a fellow restorer sent me an eBay listing.

Yesterday, this arrived.

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Aside from the three lower buttons in the very left hand column, this cash register is identical to what I remember from Ames in 1977. The owner warned me that it needs a lot of work; he couldn’t get the drawer opened and the motor just buzzes.

Last night I started taking the register apart and figuring out what I had gotten myself into. The cash drawer is now working. I didn’t expect to find any money inside, and I didn’t, but I did find a receipt that indicates where this cash register came from. This register was last used in May 1986 in an Alco Discount Store.  I had never heard of Alco until that moment, a quick Google search showed that they are in the process of going out of business. They’re a discount department store chain some in the midwestern United States.

Getting this cash register working again is going to be a project that I am looking forward to. While the wind is still whipping and the Arctic winds keep blasting our area, it’s good to step away from technology and just tinker around a little bit. Doing so let’s my mind wander a little bit and I find it relaxing.

I’m looking forward to getting this working someday. It’s my way of preserving some of our early computerized heritage.


I was recently listening to a political talk show on satellite radio. I normally enjoy such endeavors, but there was something about the moment that was just rubbing me the wrong way. As I thought about it, I realized that there were actually two things that were rubbing me the wrong way.

Firstly, the hosts was using words such as “totes” and “deets”, for example, “I totes have the deets on what Chris Christie was doing yesterday.” I don’t know who came up with the idea that a person using the words “totes” and “deets” in this way was suppose to be taken seriously, but nevertheless, the person speaking is a respected political journalist and apparently quite successful in their endeavor. I think this speaks volumes as to the direction of the National Average IQ.

Secondly, the conversation was about the 2016 election and the viability of Jeb Bush running against Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Election. The only thing that was running through my head regarding this discussion, other than the fact that “totes” and “deets” were smattered amongst the dialog, was, “really? There’s no one else that can run? There isn’t anyone else from some other family, some other part of the country, anywhere, out there, that can run for President without assaulting the citizens with a big ol’ helping of leftovers?

Is there anyone in the general populace that is excited by government these days? Does anyone find them productive? Intelligent? Representative of the populace that they serve?

Talking about this with Earl made me realize that I need to stop paying close attention to politics for a while. Fox News is a joke. The whole lynching of Brian Williams is beyond ridiculous (he got way more press than the whole WMD debacle in Iraq back in ’02 and ’03). And quite frankly, the slate of corporate sponsored politicians is getting tiresome.

I have narrowed my talk show consumption down to one show. The guy is a moderate, has a sensible head on his shoulders, doesn’t have an offense accent and has a great selection in hairstyle. If you want further details, ask me in the comments or send me an email.

I’m not going to tolerate the dumbing down of syntax during a debate nor am I going to get all excited about a ballot that is mediocre at best. I expect better. We deserve better. I don’t have the answers.

Maybe someday I will.


Maintaining the winter theme of my last post (a week ago!), today I took some pictures of the beautiful day we had today. The only downside of the day was that the temperature barely reached 0ºF. The wind chill is predicted to be below -30ºF tonight, so we’ve been doing what we needed to do around the house.

I’m so ready for spring.

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Yesterday, unable to fly due to the weather conditions, I decided to go out in the Jeep. My first stop was the visit my mother and nephew, who were home relaxing on a winter afternoon. We had a nice visit. It had been too long since we last visited.

Afterwards I was feeling adventurous but cautious. I originally intended on heading straight home, since there was more snow moving in, but I decided to go against sense and I drove north towards Lake Ontario. As I approached the City of Oswego, I saw flashes in the sky. A fireworks display was starting up. Normally this is a summertime thing, so it was kind of cool to see fireworks in a snowy sky.





It was all part of the “Warm-Up Oswego Festival”, which was underway. Folks were milling about the downtown area even though it was snowing pretty good. The restaurants and the like were quite busy.


I had fun walking around and taking pictures of the downtown area. I stepped away from where the folks were going to restaurants and the like and took a few photos of the snowy Port City.




Oswego was the closest city to my hometown. While it’s not the most spectacular city in the Empire State, there’s something interesting to me about it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s on the shores of Lake Ontario, it’s a college town or what, but Oswego does feel comfortable to me.

And I had fun playing in the snow there last night.


I am sitting in our local Panera enjoying a nice little supper whilst surfing the Internet on my iPad. I’ve mentioned before that this isn’t one of those nice, cuddly Panera locations with a fireplace and the like. This one is loud, crowded and has the atmosphere of a hospital cafeteria. The space is way too small for the traffic that it tries to accommodate, so they’ve expanded the store a couple of times. I’m sitting in what used to be a bathroom. The self-serve drink station is separated from the lids, napkins and lemons by a hallway. People often spill their drinks in transit.

Because of all the additions to this location, it’s getting more difficult to people watch while enjoying a meal here at this Panera. One of the reasons I mingle in public spaces is because I like to people watch. I don’t necessarily want to interact with people, but I get a kick out of watching people. It’s kind of fun to watch people eat, especially the late teens to mid twenties crowd. They rarely have panache as they like to eat with the mouth full of food. The dot com crowd has no time for table manners.

My bout with the sniffles is coming to a close on schedule. I don’t feel as nearly congested as I did yesterday. That heavy feeling is subsiding. My coughing frequency has been reduced and I’m not feeling as irritable as I did before.

The woman at the cash register, which is dubbed “Tap To Pay”, tried to grab my iPhone out of my hands so she could enter my credit card number by hand instead of letting me do the ApplePay thing. I nearly broke her hand because no one, and I mean no one, touches my iPhone without my permission and I don’t know what she thought she was going to do, because there are no numbers on the screen when it comes to ApplePay. That’s one of the many security features. The slight snag in the payment workflow turned out to be that the cashier hadn’t bothered to press “TOTAL”, which would have told the cash register to start accepting payments. I pointed this out to her and she gave me a blank stare and did some mouth breathing. I refrained from lecturing her on how ApplePay works.

Watching these young ladies talk with their mouths full, whilst they peck at their phones at the same time, makes me wonder if me and my contemporaries were that annoying when we were in high school. Perhaps I’m old and I’m starting to show my age in general old-man-like crankiness.

Eh, I’ve earned this point in my life. I enjoy what I have and what I get to do.


Here it is the first week of February and I’m proud to announce that my annual 48-hour bout with the sniffles is in full swing. Earl is out of town on business this week, so I’ve been kind of moping about the house, consuming lots of soup, making honking noises through several boxes of tissues and doping myself to nearly insanity via NyQuil.

It is my plan to be back to normal, well, at least my version of normal, by tomorrow night.


Unable to fly on Saturday because it was just too dang cold, Earl and I bundled up and went for one of our “crazy” Jeep rides. I put the word crazy in quotes because people always say that our rides are out of the ordinary. The ride wasn’t one of our longest, not by a long shot. At 7 hours and 15 minutes of driving time, we had time for wonderful conversation, reminicing, political debate and exchanges of socio-economic opinion. As always, when we spend time together, we had a blast.

Our ride took us through the North Country of New York State. The North Country is the area between the Adirondack Mountains and the St. Lawrence Seaway, right along the Canadian border. Admittedly this is my favorite part of The Empire State. I enjoy it in both the winter and the summer, for different reasons depending on the season, but one of the things that I enjoy most is the vibe. It’s somewhat economically depressed up there but everyone we’ve ever talked to in those parts seems to be down to Earth. Good ol’ boys and all that.

Along our travels we stopped at the St. Lawrence Centre Mall. Built in 1990, this modestly sized mall outside of the Village of Massena has seen better days.

A rough estimate tells me that about 75% of the storefronts are vacant. The western end of the mall wasn’t really heated anymore. We found it to be quite chilly. Only two of the five anchor locations are still populated, only JC Penney and Bon Ton remain. Hills/Ames, Sears and one of the anchor (we couldn’t figure out what it used to be) are all empty. Another typical anchor location actually houses an Ice Arena, which was part of the original plan when the mall was built.

On the bright side, the Food Court still had a decent number of options. I noted on the listed hours that the mall closes at 7:00 p.m. during the week; most malls in these parts are open until 9:00 or 9:30 p.m.  There wasn’t much in the way of shopper traffic when we walked around, stretching our legs. That’s what we do on these long rides, walk around and stretch our legs in a shopping mall.

It kind of makes me sad to see these shopping malls slowly dying, but things change and people change and it’s important for those that market to the public to keep up. I hope that the St. Lawrence Centre finds it’s way to a new found glory someday.

The rest of our trip was wonderful. We stopped at our favorite Buffalo Wild Wings in the Empire State, on Arsenal Street in Watertown. Admittedly, we enjoy seeing the soldiers and such from nearby Fort Drum. The place is always packed, the beer is always good and there’s always cheering of the various games on the televisions.