March 28, 2015

Whipped Cream, Wurst, Spaghetti, and Other Delights

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 9:43 am

Thought I would take a slight detour from all the seriousness of late (most of which I haven’t been posting about here, but will at some point) and examine a bit of pop cultural evolution and other delights. I speak (again, as it turns out) of one of the most famous album covers of all time, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights:

Desert Fox

It might be described as the album cover that launched a million mid-life crises (or pubertys). Go into nearly any home occupied by a man in his 60’s and up today and you will probably find a copy of it, probably barely played (I know, I’ve looked at many). Occasionally you’ll find one or two other HA&TB albums but most likely this will be the only one. I admit it: Even my own family had one (did Dad instigate buying it? Surely). I will also admit that I actually loved the album even before the ol’ hormones kicked in and I came to fully appreciate what was on the outside as well as what was coming out of the speakers. Part of that probably came from my playing the trumpet, but I think I still would have taken to it. It’s fun music.

Turns out the model used for the cover, Dolores Erickson, has something of a local (to me) connection, living here in Washington State, which I first became aware of here (note the update). Since I’ve started playing my old horn again, I’ve had the old HA&TB albums out playing them for songs that I can start learning. And while searching for sheet music I started coming across various WC&ODs. . . .paraphernalia. Mostly take-offs on the cover. Doing a more complete search, I came up with quite a lot of them (many not fit for a family-friendly blog such as this).

And it got me wondering: Could this be the most copied album covers of all time? I was all set to create The Definitive Compendium of WC&ODs, but found that. . . . .someone else had already done so. Here are a few of my favorites anyway, but follow the link to see the full panoply.
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March 18, 2015

A really modern artifact

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 7:50 pm

This here, ladies and gentlemen, is my old trumpet:
Desert Fox

Played it for probably 10 years back in school, quit after graduation and have barely touched it since 1980. Yes, I’ve schlepped it around the whole time. It’s a Bach though I’m not sure how good it really is. I was never very good at it, although I played first trumpet as a senior. Lack of practicing, mainly because I wasn’t that into band music (I just did it for the chicks, ha).

Anyway, I had taken up guitar about 18 months ago (almost two years actually) because I wanted to learn some new skill in my old age and always wanted to learn guitar (for the chicks, ha). It’s been tough slogging. The last 3 months or so my left (fretting) forearm has really been hurting and I was wondering if maybe it was from the guitar, as I’d recently started doing bar chords which require a lot of muscle in that area. So I stopped the guitar for a couple (now few) weeks to see if it helped (maybe), and in the meantime took out my old axe and started noodling around.

And you know I wasn’t too bad at it. Yeah, my lips were completely out of shape and I could barely hit a middle G consistently, but it was actually kind of fun fiddling with it. And I’ve made really decent progress lately, although my playing time is limited due to lips muscles giving out after 15-20 minutes. But I’m hitting high D’s already and halfway decently.

I admit I’ve always been a Herb Alpert fan but I never played his stuff back in school. I’ve started getting a little practice with one of his old song books, mostly just for the fingering practice and such, although I’d like to play some of them at some point. Unlike the guitar, I actually know what I’m doing. And what I should be doing. And how to get there. In a way, I’m kind of making up for my high school (and before) playing days, by practicing and doing the things I wasn’t very good at then, like hitting high notes bang on right from the get go. That always scared me. “How can I just pop out a high G??!!”

Holding it may even be helping my forearm.

So, who knows, maybe I’ll end up switching to play trumpet again. I would really like to learn those old Tijuana Brass tunes. Maybe even join an Oom-Pa band? One thing is, I actually look forward to practicing it, which was becoming a chore with the geetar.

Semi-historical archaeology

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Archaeological exploits possible in Mom’s deep-freeze

I’ve sometimes wondered what tomorrow’s archaeologists might deduce from those two massive, rusting cocoons of steel. After all, these appliances were built in the early 1960s – when a deep-freeze was a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. Back then, if you bought a freezer with your husband, it meant you were never getting divorced. It would be too much work to move it out of the basement. And so there were actually chest freezers made by International Harvester – the same company that manufactured trucks and tractors. In other words, a freezer could double as a bomb shelter for a family of five.

These food fortresses would be so impenetrable – and their contents so meticulously bagged and Saran-wrapped – that a cinnamon roll could easily survive into the year 2329 without a whisper of freezer burn. And so scientists could still survey the contents to see how the people of the late 20th century and early 21st century lived.

Heh.

My parents had one but I have not yet gotten one. Mainly because for two people it’s not really worth it. We used it for two reasons. First is, my parents were in the Air Force and so every couple of months would drive down to Great Lakes Naval Station and stock up at the commissary there, and put lots of the frozen stuff away. Second, when I was younger they’d go in on a side of beef with someone else and so we’d have all these white-butcher-paper-wrapped packages in the freezer for months at a time and slowly work our way through it.

December 13, 2014

We’re just skin-packed sperm delivery systems, after all

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 10:42 am

Study proves high heels do have power over men

The allure of high-heeled shoes is no secret among women, who have used them to entice men from the streets of Ancient Rome to the New York City sidewalks of Carrie Bradshaw. Heels have also been a controversial symbol in the battleground of sexual politics.

Now a scientific study in France has measured their power.

Scientists from the Universite de Bretagne-Sud conducted experiments that showed that men behave very differently toward high-heeled women. The results, published online in the journal “Archives of Sexual Behaviour,” may please the purveyors of Christian Louboutin or Jimmy Choo shoes — yet frustrate those who think stilettos encourage sexism.

I’ve contemplated these things before from the anthropological perspective. I’m assuming in the study that they put the same woman in the same outfit and such but with different shoes so they were able to control for the effect of the female herself. I wonder if there’s an element of simple height at work as well, not just the usual suspects of heels as presented in the article (“a lengthened silhouette and sensual jutting buttocks”). At any rate, it seems like a decent study.

December 10, 2014

And speaking of modern artifacts. . . .

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:27 pm

If Archaeologists Uncovered Today’s Society, It Might Look Like This

When Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered Pompeii with volcanic ash, it preserved an Italian city as it existed during the era of Pax Romana. Centuries later, excavators found, among other things, dried summer fruits in the markets, sealed jars of preserves, and painted frescoes. It makes you wonder: If excavators in 2450 uncovered today’s society, petrified in time, what would it look like?

Daniel Arsham’s latest work, Welcome to the Future, teases that out.

He didn’t actually try to create a Pompeii-like thing of today — you could just take some houses and diet them with ash to get the effect — but he created something of a palimpsest of modern life. Kind of neat.

A Tale of Two Cities Speakers

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:22 pm

Desert Fox

That’s only one, and in truth it’s actually two sets of speakers (creative license, donchaknow). I just thought I’d pass this one on quickly: This is one of a pair of Advent speakers I bought a few months ago. I had another set that I’d bought from Craig’s List earlier, but I just took those down to Hawthorne Stereo on consignment (go buy them! Spend lots of money!). Why? They were really virtually identical! Close to the same years, models, condition, etc., although the ones I sent to consignment had a bit of a water/sun/something mark on the top. So why did I decide to keep one set and give away another, or even buy a second set to begin with?

Yes, I know I could have stacked them but I don’t have the room.

The answer is: $25.

That’s what I paid for the second set. I was at an estate sale and they were going unsold on the second day, so I grabbed ‘em. See, I’d been looking for a pair of these Original Large Advents in the walnut cabinet for some time. They’re not particularly rare, as they made gazillions of them, although the original walnut ones are a bit harder to find than the so-called “utility” cabinets (vinyl covered particle board). I’d always kind of wanted a pair when I was a teenager, but never got any ($$$) and by the time I could afford them, I was off at school and such and didn’t care much anymore. But when I started getting back into such things, I decided to get a nice pair of them. So I kept looking at estate sales and at Goodwill, etc., for some that needed some work that I could buy for cheap. Mostly estate sales though because they’re usually cheaper.

At any rate, I didn’t have any luck for a long time and finally saw some on Craig’s that were in great shape and decently priced, fully functional, etc. So I got em. Loved ‘em. For several weeks. Then I stumbled upon these other ones. The cabinets and cloth grilles were probably in better shape than the other ones, but these needed new foam around the woofers and one tweeter didn’t work. And $25! I probably could have gotten them for $10 but I knew the lady doing the sale.

At any rate, I took them home, reformed them and (because I am electronically illiterate) had the tweeter fixed (just a cheap electronic component), actually at the aforementioned Hawthorne Stereo. I took them home, hooked them up, and. . .they sounded the same as the other ones. Meaning excellent. L-O-V-E. And here they’ve sat for these few months.

See, even though they’re virtually identical, I kept the cheap ones because they mean more to me since I snagged them for cheap and fixed them (mostly) myself. They’re my “find”. And I love that! I found them by chance just sitting in some guy’s basement at his estate sale, probably forgotten for 20 years, but still in good condition. It’s just not the same as buying them all ready to go that someone is selling to make money at. Plus I got the satisfaction of bringing them bad to life (mostly) myself.

I wouldn’t say they’re my favorites. I have a pair of Smaller Advents that I adore, partly because they were the first classic speaker I bought and refurbished (at an estate sale for $25!) and I love the sound and the design which is far more interesting than the big ones. And there are my bought-new 1980 Genesis’ that I think sound better in most respects, besides being my oldest pair. But these are in my home office and I probably listen to them more than the others just because I’m in here more often. And I can listen to them for hours without getting tired of them (that can happen, btw).

So remember that next time you see some old object at a Goodwill or a garage sale or something. Ask the owner about it. He or she will more often than not probably have a good story to tell you about it, and if you buy it, you’ll have become part of the object’s history.

December 1, 2014

A wee bit of computer archaeology

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:22 pm

How the World’s First Computer Was Rescued From the Scrap Heap

Eccentric billionaires are tough to impress, so their minions must always think big when handed vague assignments. Ross Perot’s staffers did just that in 2006, when their boss declared that he wanted to decorate his Plano, Texas, headquarters with relics from computing history. Aware that a few measly Apple I’s and Altair 880’s wouldn’t be enough to satisfy a former presidential candidate, Perot’s people decided to acquire a more singular prize: a big chunk of ENIAC, the “Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer.” The ENIAC was a 27-ton, 1,800-square-foot bundle of vacuum tubes and diodes that was arguably the world’s first true computer. The hardware that Perot’s team diligently unearthed and lovingly refurbished is now accessible to the general public for the first time, back at the same Army base where it almost rotted into oblivion.

Pretty neat. It’s too bad the whole thing isn’t preserved so we could really see what it was like to run it. Worth the read.

Another related item. . . .
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November 19, 2014

Oooo. . .real game archaeology!

Filed under: Media, Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:12 pm

Bangor native plays key role in designing children’s archaeology game

“Dig Quest: Israel” is a free educational app for iPhone and iPad users ages 7 to 11 that allows children to learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Lod Mosaic. During the game, users piece together the scrolls to discover their meaning, and “dig” for the mosaic.

“We wanted this to be something where kids feel like they were the expert … that’s empowering,” Rosenblatt said.

Must not be out yet because it’s not in the App Store yet.

UPDATE: See comments. I got a copy and started playing it. Kinda fun. I did the first level of putting together pieces of scrolls. They were not that difficult, but hard enough to have to think about some. And they added in a bit of high tech, as you had to scan the scroll to “read” it; I would have liked a bit more explanation of that process, but whatever. So go for it and come back and tell us what you think.

November 14, 2014

I survived the 1980s. . . . .twice!

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:32 pm

I’ve almost made it through the 1980s. But I just cheated by checking the ArchaeoWife’s flight status online. Back then we would have the paper itinerary and would just go to the airport when it was supposed to arrive. If it was late, we sat there and waited. At some point we realized we could call the airline to check, which is better, but not like checking the flight status whenever you want. I would have called, but I would have sounded like a moron (or an old fart) calling up when I could check it online.

But otherwise, I made it through. Being out in the field the last couple of days was easier to make it through, although I was checking email and text messages quite often. I tried using the iPod today but it kept playing the same song over and over, so I quit. Was well-rested anyway, so I didn’t mind too much.

What did I learn this week? Well, I know why I drank so much, there was nothing else to do! Seriously, a couple of lessons, both applicable to archaeology actually. I’ve criticized ‘experimental archaeology’ a lot, the sort where a bunch of people decide they’re going to try to build a pyramid or a boat or whatever in two weeks or something like that. I’ve maintained that while it can kind of clue you in to some of the complexities of doing certain things, the time is too short to really learn how to do it with the tools and techniques of the day. It does well when a specific hypothesis is being tested, although most often that’s only a portion of the process and could just as easily be done in the lab.

Relevance to this: It was more difficult than I’d thought, largely because I soon realized that there were hundreds of little things that I’d forgotten about. I mentioned the bread situation earlier in the week, and also that we didn’t have Mr. Coffee Iced Tea pots so I hadn’t really drunk much iced tea back then — until I had one of these things to make it easily with. In essence, I didn’t have the infrastructure already in place that would have really let me work within the limitations of the 1980s. For example, I would have had a phone book handy, and I also would have known more off the top of my head about the way things work than I do now. Nowadays, if I need to know something I look it up on the Web. Back then, a lot of things I’d just make sure I knew about, like store hours and such.

I would have had a Walkman or whatever for work. I would have had whatever tapes I wanted to play on it. I would always have a watch on to know the time, instead of relying on my cell phone. I would know where to get coffee or soda if I needed it that didn’t involve a Starbucks. And who knows what else I’ve not thought of?

It’s that store of accumulated knowledge that makes a big difference, and it’s what is limiting about experimental archaeology: Unless you’ve spent years building, say, Viking ships, you wouldn’t really know the ins and outs of Viking ship building that the average Viking ship builder would have. It’s a lot of “knowing what you know” and also “knowing what you don’t know” and how to find out with the tools of the day. Or just being good with not knowing.

I guess the short way of saying that is, things don’t exist in a vacuum. When we didn’t have the Internet, we made sure to know most of the things we needed to know by asking other people or making things part of our general knowledge base. When we didn’t have cell phones and the Web, we made sure we had phone books around, or at least a lot of numbers close by. I remember setting our clocks by calling a certain number on the telephone, rather than looking at our radio-controlled clocks, or phone or computer. Who would know anything about that in a few hundred years?

So I’ve learned quite a bit, I think. I learned that I forgot an awful lot about what I was doing back then and how I was doing it, from the bread that I ate to how I made tea. I learned a few new/old exercises from the weight room that I’d quit doing for whatever reason; some I may integrate back into my workouts, though to be fair I may have dropped many of them because they were doing bad things to certain muscles or joints or whatever.

I also learned that I can actually survive daily life without obsessively checking Facebook and various web sites. I’ve been wondering for a while if I needed to start disconnecting a bit. I may even stay somewhat disconnected. Who knows, I might try to Live In The 1980s once a week just to remind myself of how good and bad we have it now compared to then.

I suppose the biggest difference is still computers and especially the Internet. So much is basically the same: We drive cars with gas engines (mostly) that are better, but largely the same; we still wash clothes in washers and dryers; still cook food on the stove, mostly the same stuff but with less seasonality; we (or at least I) exercise by moving a bunch of cast iron around; we watch a box with pictures and sound; etc. But now we have instant access to virtually any sort of information you could ask for, from “What time is the hazardous waste station open?” to academic papers (given the proper access), to recipes for just about anything, to videos from whenever, to any number of guitar chords for almost any song ever written, etc. etc. etc. All this week I’ve seen something and wanted to “look it up”; but I couldn’t. The name of a song on the radio. A book that I wanted to read (Hawthorne’s “The Custom House”). Info on valerian root. Now we take it for granted if you want to know something, you can search for it on the Web. Send email to nearly anyone. Post a photo on Facebook for your family and friends to see. That, I think, is both a quantitative and qualitative change.

The things I really missed or would miss if I really had to Live In The ’80s again:
– Streaming music (aka, Pandora).
– Caffeine free diet soda.
– Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker
– Being able to search for anything on the Web

Things I really miss about the ’80s:
– Actually hanging out with people more of the time (preferably with lots of beer)
– Being able to talk to people at the gym without earbuds in their ears
– MTV with VJs playing videos and telling us something abut the bands
– Wordperfect 5.1!

Oddly, I had a really difficult time with that last part. I’ve always looked nostalgically back at the ’80s, but thinking about it. . . . I guess I don’t miss “The ’80s” so much as I miss the person I was in the ’80s.. Hmmmm. That shouldn’t surprise me but it kind of does.

November 12, 2014

Living in the 1980s: Day 2

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 3:44 pm

Day 2 of the 1980s! How’d it go? To start with, I cheated again by driving the Forester. Had to take four 5 gallon cans of roof paint to the hazardous waste station and wasn’t going to try to fit them in the Civic (or my Mustang). Come to think of it, what would I have done in 1984 with that stuff? Probably. . .I don’t know. Taken them to the dump and just tossed them in? Also cheated by having to look up the hours and address of the transfer station (=dump) because I didn’t have a phone book. Turned out I didn’t go anyway (too small of a load) but I felt bad looking it up on the Web. I was also going to have to look at my paper map to figure out how to get there instead of just looking it up online or on my phone. I also, because I couldn’t check the time by phone, went by the hazardous place before it was open.

Couple other observations: Appliances and food. Our new refrigerator isn’t that different, although the freezer is on the bottom and it’s probably more efficient. The stove is another matter: it’s got a glass/ceramic top. No open burners. On the one hand, it’s easier to keep clean and looking nice because there aren’t burners and the aluminum dishes to get all gunked up. OTOH, it requires cleaning nearly every day to keep it that way AND with specialty cleaner. And there’s some junk baked onto the bottom of the oven that we can’t get up, so it’s not that different after all. Our cookware is anodized nonstick (Calphalon), much better than the Teflon-coated junk we used to have. Still, we also have plain aluminum Revere Ware that we use most of the time anyway. We always make popcorn in the microwave as well, no popper anywhere here.

From yesterday, I mentioned tea; Yes, the Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Pot was introduced in 1989, so it was either boiled-and-cooled tea or sun tea before this. I love love LOVE my Mr. Tea (as I call it). I had one for like 15 years and finally had to get a new one. Use it twice a week at least. That, combined with the Luzianne, changed my tea drinking habits considerably. Chalk another one up for progress there.

As for food, the supermarket isn’t really recognizable. Back then, you went there for groceries and beer (okay, and other junk, too). Now they have pharmacies, delis, banks, etc. Produce is radically different. Nowadays, I can get watermelon almost year round. True, in February they’re small and $5 each, but they’re there. Some things are still pretty seasonal, squash for example. And pomegranates, which I never would have been able to get back in Wisconsin (maybe still can’t for all I know). Oh, and gas at many of them. And let’s not get started on loyalty cards — no more coupon clipping! Well, some.

I came to some resolution on the sweetener issue. I learned that Sweet ‘n Low was introduced in 1957, but I’m not sure when it was readily available for home use. I’m pretty sure it was common in restaurants in the 1980s. So I’m using regular sugar at home, but if I get something outside I’ll use the pink packets. I kind of cheated and went to SBux twice. Yes, it was cheating, more or less. I only got tea in the morning, but got an herbal tea in the afternoon. There were places in Madison, and I suppose some restaurants, where you could get a tea back then, maybe not an herbal one though. Its rather striking how much I relied on myself back then to bring anything to drink wherever I was. We had coffee vending machines (blech) in some buildings on campus, but unless you had a thermos or a coffee maker at work, you were kinda stuck going to the donut shop or nearby restaurant.

Cats: For one thing, they’re chipped meaning if they get lost, they can be located. Even without a collar. We are also using some clumping litter made out of walnut shells or something. That’s totally different. Actually, I may prefer the plain clay litter myself. They have a wider array of food, of course. No more Tender Vittles though! But a much bigger variety. Tons of structures for them to goof around on, too. But, you know, they’re still happy with a spot in the sun and a ball of yarn to play with.

Was still kind of difficult not to surf the Internet when I was getting a bit bored.

LPs are kind of a pain. They’re fun every now and then, but they take up an awful lot of space and you have to flip them over every 20 minutes.

How did we do archaeology back then? Man. Topo maps were hard to come by. Aerials were hard to come by — now we just go to Google Earth. Mapping in the field was done by hand. We’re still writing stuff down on forms though, and taking lots of notes. But we have pictures to look at with our digital cameras immediately. We can call from the field, most of the time, and be in touch with the office. We write our reports with graphics and such embedded in them, and send them to clients and such by email so we can get nearly instant feedback. I remember a few weeks ago we had a client who didn’t use email and it was really a pain. Everything happened so slooooowly! That’s probably why reports have gotten so much bigger and more elaborate, they figure if we can do it, then we must do it.

Fortunately, one of my favorite shows is on at 8 so I can watch it. Otherwise, I’d stay up late or just not see it. No On Demand in the 1980s. . . .

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