Some of the biggest insights we’re ever granted are rarely accompanied by brass fanfares or heavenly hosts singing hosanna in the skies above us. No, the ‘ah-ha’ moments that seem to matter most usually come with no more than an almost imperceptible ‘click’. But hear it and we know.
Or how about this? Have you ever once stopped to consider that pen knives got their name because they were designed to, oh I don’t know…sharpen pens?
And from the 6th Century onward, those pens were quills. Feathers. Not the fancy wispy feathers of Hollywood movies, but “moulted flight feathers of large birds”. And the ends of those feathers? They needed to be sharpened to carry a line after being dipped in their inkpot. With a point like that, it’s no wonder quills wrote everything from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence.
Writing is never easy – many of us know that first-hand. But back then, the equipment to do the writing was extensive. Quills, pen knives, vellum parchment, ink wells and the ink to go in them…all to write. And after you had written? Blotting paper to, well, blot. Writing was messy (then and now).
So as time went by, it’s not that surprising that Man (as we do) started tinkering and before you know it, we had the dip pen, the metal-nibbed pen (say good-bye to the pen knives), the fountain pen (say good-bye to the ink wells) and eventually the ballpoint pen.
Though he didn’t invent the ball bearing concept, it was a Hungarian journalist Laszlo Biro who came up with the idea of pairing the little metal ball bearing at the end of a pen with the same kind of fast drying ink he saw newspapers of his day relying on for smudge-free copy. That little metal ball did two things in the Biro design. It kept the ink from drying out by acting as a defacto cap and when rolling, metered the ink flow at a constant rate of flow. Bringing these two known elements together was such a brilliantly simple idea that not long after he and his brother took out a patent, the British government (no less) bought the patent and the Royal Air Force began using the new pen. WWII air crews not only found the new pen sturdy but it didn’t quit writing at high-altitudes like the conventional fountain pen would. A few years after that, the ballpoint was introduced in America and by the late 50-early 1960’s, Frenchman Marcel Bich shortened his name on a mass-produced ballpoint and before the ink could dry, BIC pens were selling for 29-cents in dime stores from coast-to-coast.
Click, click, but not yet…the best was yet to come…
As useful as the BIC was, part of the deal was they came with caps. While it was true the cap had a clip, the clip was clickless. Just last week, I shook out the pen holder on my desk to get the loose caps and reunite them with their mates. Anyone who has ever done laundry has seen shirt pockets soiled by ink who had escaped out the bottom of their cylindrical prisons. So like the quills before them, the ballpoints felt to pull to evolve. That evolution came in the person of Mr. Pat Frawley. With a new non-smear ink formula, it was Frawley and his Frawley Pen Company that introduced the first ballpoint with a retractable tip. Sharp dressers and laundromats all over America rejoiced. The Papermate was born!
Click, click, and click!
Beyond extending their influence beyond the boundaries of the retractable ballpoint pen, the value and Grace in the simple click is how versatile they are.
‘Click’ is the confirming sound that tells you the battery cover on your smoke detector is in right. “Point and Click” is a clever way that software companies indicate to us that even we can operate their application. ‘It’s that easy.’
“Click” is the sound of welcome relief if you’re a member of the Imperial Russian Roulette Society hoping to live long enough to enjoy your 401k.
In a similar vein, anyone who has sat on their living room floor surrounded by the pieces of their Ikea furniture hoping they were going to come to life like the Candlesticks in ‘Beauty and The Beast’ has rejoiced at that simple sound of ‘click’. “It clicked. It’s in…who needs these stinking directions!”
Remembering the days when we kids would fight over who had to get up and turn the dial to change the TV channel, I now think the ‘clicker’ ranks right up there with the microwave and the automatic coffee maker as perhaps the greatest innovation since the wheel.
Clicks are not confined to our games and devices. They have very human connotations as real as any empty chamber in a pistol.
Speaking of firing on empty chambers, I’m still desperately shy on my learning curve with my new smart phone. It’s not clicking and the smart one in the new relationship is not me. But I soldier on, learning some new widget or whistle and generally swiping my finger across the screen the best, and as often, as I can.
Wondering why my learning curve has been more difficult than I imagined it would be has gotten me thinking down another track. For having fallen on my head the way I did when I had my accident when I was barely in college, all the recent news of football players and boxers with slow-creep brain injuries has been bothering me. I do seem more forgetful than I used to be. With all that in mind, I’ve been playing with the idea of using computer games to keep my brain sharp. I went out and looked at Luminosity. It makes sense, but I’m too frugal. No click. So I kept looking.
Bored with Solitaire, Rick has turned me on to Rise of Atlantis. After an hour or two of painful experimentation trying to wrap my head around exactly what the object of the game was all about (and with growing exasperation, telling him to please stop hovering over my shoulder with his ‘helpful’ coaching), I’m getting it. While all I’m doing is playing a game, I’m flexing muscles of pattern recognition, speed, problem solving, strategy and some good old fashioned competitiveness between me and my Better Half. It’s all good, it’s fun, meets my cranial needs…and it’s free. Click!
I believe in love-at-first-sight in all its facets. Some of the best things in this life happen when they’re least expected. It applies to friends on a bowling team or those on an adventure. It applies to the people at work and those I meet while at the store. It especially applies to the person you spend your life with. You may have never met them before, but what do we say when it happens? “We clicked.” And you know it to be true.
Earlier today, we worked out a list of things we needed from the store. Eggs, coffee and so forth. If Dustin Hoffman is a very good driver, I’m a very good shopper. I don’t know why, but I love the search-and-destroy mission of knowing which aisles in which stores have the best this or that. And I do. It pleases me to step up and do what I do well as my share in keeping the Household operating.
Three stores and 90-minutes later, I was back home unloading the trunk. Even with our reusable canvas bags and the plastic handled ones from the stores, there were just too many little pieces making a one-trip transfer too awkward. So to make the task of getting the groceries inside easier, I took the time to repackage and consolidate the treasures into a configuration that was pick-up-able. But even then, I only got as far as the edge of the sidewalk before I had to set it all down again. My load was still clumsy and not balanced quite right. So there I was, futzing with this and putting that inside with the other, generally getting a handle on the last hurdle of getting our treasures inside when it started to rain. Granted, it wasn’t snow, but “Are you kidding me! Really?”
Just then I looked up and saw Rick coming around the corner. Quickly grabbing his share of the handled bags, groceries were inside and put away before I could say ‘paper or plastic’.
I didn’t call him for help (too stubborn). I had no idea of whether he’d heard me return or not, but there he was. After all these years together, there I was, clicking all over again like I had the first afternoon we’d met. No brass fanfares or heavenly hosts singing – just ‘click’. And in an instant, I knew all over again all I would ever need to know…just like I had back then. It was the same sound.
My proposition to you this week is simple. Click it.
Be listening for the clicks around you. Do some clicking of your own. Pay attention if one of those barely imperceptible sounds goes off in your head or better yet, your heart. If we’re honest with ourselves, none of us is really alone. Just like back in grade school, whether your crowd was nerd or jock, it was good to belong. You belong and so do I. Hear that? It is good to be in the click.
DID YOU KNOW? The first patent for a ballpoint pen was issued on 30 October 1888, to John J. Loud, a leather tanner, who was attempting to make a writing instrument that would be able to write on his leather products, which then-common fountain pens could not. Loud’s pen had a small rotating steel ball, held in place by a socket. Although it could be used to mark rough surfaces such as leather, as Loud intended, it proved to be too coarse for letter-writing. With no commercial viability, its potential went unexploited and the patent eventually lapsed.
EARL KENNETH “Ken” FORSSE
(September 25, 1936 – March 19, 2014)
The man who gave us Teddy Ruxpin, the hit talking animatronic doll of the early 80’s, has passed away. He was 77.
“He died at home on March 19th of congestive heart failure after several years of declining health, said his wife, Jan Forsse, 67. The news was first reported by a Teddy Ruxpin Facebook fan page.
An inventor, [Disney animator] and TV producer, Ken’s most famous creation was the Teddy Ruxpin, a talking toy bear with a cassette player in his back with eyes that moved as he “read” aloud stories.
Like the Cabbage Patch dolls before it and the Tickle-Me-Elmo after, the heavily advertised toy sold out during the Christmas of its 1985 launch, prompting parents to scour store shelves. It was the best-selling toy of 1985 and 1986.
“He thought about Teddy all the time and was always writing stories,” said Ken’s wife Jan. The two didn’t have any children together, but Ken already had adopted two, aged 18 and 21 at the time of their marriage in 1987.
“It was like he was a child,” she said of the doll. “He had a birthday.””
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Forsse; http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/teddy-ruxpins-creator-ken-forsse-passes-away-n62996Photo: ken_forsse__teddy_ruxpin__by_mathuetaxion-d7bgm4b: http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2014/083/7/8/ken_forsse__teddy_ruxpin__by_mathuetaxion-d7bgm4b.jpg and http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20800658,00.html
JAMES RODNEY SCHLESINGER
(February 15, 1929 – March 27, 2014)
Willful Aide to Three Presidents, Is Dead at 85
“James R. Schlesinger, a tough Cold War strategist who served as secretary of defense under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford and became the nation’s first secretary of energy under President Jimmy Carter, died on Thursday in Baltimore. He was 85.
His death, at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, was confirmed by his daughter Ann Schlesinger, who said the cause was complications of pneumonia. He lived in Arlington, Va.
A brilliant, often abrasive Harvard-educated economist, Mr. Schlesinger went to Washington in 1969 as an obscure White House budget official. Over the next decade he became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, director of Central Intelligence, a cabinet officer for three presidents (two of whom fired him), a thorn to congressional leaders and a controversial national public figure.
His tenure at the Pentagon was little more than two years, from 1973 to 1975, but it was a time of turmoil and transition. Soviet nuclear power was rising menacingly. The war in Vietnam was in its final throes, and United States military prestige and morale had sunk to new lows. Congress was wielding an ax on a $90 billion defense budget. And the Watergate scandal was enveloping the White House.
In the days leading up to Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, Mr. Schlesinger, as he confirmed years later, became so worried that Nixon was unstable that he instructed the military not to react to White House orders, particularly on nuclear arms, unless cleared by him or Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. He also drew up plans to deploy troops in Washington in the event of any problems with a peaceful presidential succession.”
JEREMIAH ANDREW DENTON, Jr.
(July 15, 1924 – March 28, 2014)
Vietnam POW and former U.S. senator, dies at 89
“Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., a retired Navy rear admiral and former U.S. senator who survived nearly eight years of captivity in North Vietnamese prisons, and whose public acts of defiance and patriotism came to embody the sacrifices of American POWs in Vietnam, died March 28 at a hospice in Virginia Beach. He was 89.
The cause was complications from a heart ailment, said his son Jim Denton. Adm. Denton was a native of Alabama, where in 1980 he became the state’s first Republican to win election to the Senate since Reconstruction. Adm. Denton lost a reelection bid six years later. But he remained widely known for his heroism as a naval aviator and prisoner of war, and particularly for two television appearances that reached millions of Americans through the evening news during the Vietnam War.
In the first, orchestrated by the North Vietnamese as propaganda and broadcast in the United States in 1966, he appeared in his prison uniform and blinked the word “torture” in Morse code — a secret message to U.S. military intelligence [that confirmed for them the use of torture on American POW’s] for which he later received the Navy Cross.”
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremiah_Denton; Washington Post reporter Emily Langer, Published: March 28 http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/jeremiah-a-denton-jr-vietnam-pow-and-us-senator-dies/2014/03/28/1a15343e-b500-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/29/us/politics/jeremiah-a-denton-jr-war-hero-and-senator-dies-at-89.html; and Photo: 140328_jeremiah_denton_ap_605: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/jeremiah-denton-vietnam-pow-republican-senator-alabama-105157.html
SOURCES, PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS:
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Man Sharpening a Quill Pen by Gerrit Dou: http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/images/paintings/co/624×544/wmrii_co_ldboa1999_169_624x544.jpg AND http://www.vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=88783; antique pen knife: http://wwww.antiquesnavigator.com/; Quill: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quill; How Ballpoint Pens Work: http://home.howstuffworks.com/pen2.htm; 4_Bic_Cristal_pens_and_caps: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballpoint_pen; Extended Position: Rowan University College of Engineering – Mechanical Design & Synthesis with Dr. Hong Zhang with Credits: Jesse Butch, Rohith Gowda, Greg Miller, Kyle Pillion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwbpnV9ry2g; The History of the Ballpoint pen (retractable and Papermate): http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/ballpen.htm; Russian Roulette (Accept – Capa) cropped: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_S48eP89x2Dg/TFO7VGu0E9I/AAAAAAAACOE/5JJ_lLq-eO4/s1600/Accept+-+Russian+Roulette(Capa).jpg; The Rise of Atlantis: http://cdn-games.bigfishsites.com/en_riseofatlantis/screen2.jpg; Stand By Me (Wil Wheaton as Gordie Lachance · River Phoenix as Chris Chambers · Corey Feldman as Teddy Duchamp · Jerry O’Connell as VernTessio): http://riverjudephoenix.blogg.se/2010/january/; let_me_kiss_you_hard_in_the_pouring_rain_by_pictureputtonen-d58fo1s by by PicturePuttonen: http://pictureputtonen.deviantart.com/art/Let-me-kiss-you-hard-in-the-pouring-rain-316498816; Caveman_Memo_thumb: http://edocumentsciences.com/stop-signing-documents-like-fred-flintstone/
– ## –