HORN & WHISTLE
Magazine

The Only Publication Devoted to “The Voices of the Industrial Revolution”
and Related Technologies

Publisher's Blog Page

This page, like other blogging pages, is devoted to personal opinions on a wide variety of subjects, in this instance, my opinions. Some related to Horn & Whistle, and others may not be even remotely related. You don't have to agree with what I say here, but you might find some of this very amusing, mildly amusing, maybe educational; perhaps you'll strongly disagree. But in any case I sincerely hope that you will find this interesting, if nothing else! So let's begin!


It Makes No Scents

Why is it that so many products that we buy today have to have some overpowering and really obnoxious perfume added? The thing that got me started on this particular topic was a package of trash bags that my wife recently bought. They were coated or lined with what I can only consider a really bad smelling perfume of some kind. Ostensibly, this was to mask the smells that might arise from some trash such as garbage, but what advantage is there in covering one stink with another? I found out that the scent is supposed to be that of the aloe plant, but having smelled a real aloe plant, I can tell you that the artificial stink added to the trash bags isn't even remotely close.

What is even worse is that if the bag contains garbage, then you end up with a composite smell, that of garbage and the fake aloe scent. So instead of solving a problem, the makers of these scented trash bags compound the problem. This could be considered the olfactory equivalent of rubbing salt into a wound. But this problem isn't just limited to trash bags. Some soaps, dishwashing liquids, and household cleaners all have some perfume added, and sometimes really terrible perfume. But perhaps one of the worst offenders in my opinion are room sprays that are supposed to take unpleasant smells away from bathrooms, for example.

I made an interesting discover a few years ago. I had an empty spray bottle, and I put plain water in it. I soon found that spraying water mist into the air very quickly dissipated unpleasant bathroom smells. So evidently the way these things work is to put a mist of fine droplets in the air which then must attract scent molecules and either fall to the floor or perhaps get sucked away by the bathroom vent fan. In either case, however, the end result is the elimination of the bathroom smell but without leaving an equally bad, or in some cases, a worse perfume scent behind. I have since discovered that hair spray and a very dilute amount of dishwashing liquid when sprayed as a fine mist will also work very well. Denatured alcohol likewise is very good, but I would not recommend using that as its vapor can be explosive, and it will also spoil some wood finishes and inhaling denatured alcohol mist can be dangerous to one's health.

The point is, however, that it is not necessary to use an overpowering perfume to remove other odors. I realize that of course my perception of what smells good and what smells bad is like any other similar personal perception. It is very possible that some people may indeed like the scent of new trash bags or bathroom sprays, but how about leaving the consumers with a choice. One of the scents I really enjoy is "New Car" smell. I also like the smell of lubricating oil on hot metal surfaces. When I was a child and a teen, there were numerous pumping stations in and around Boston that still ran receprocating steam engines to power the pumps and I always remember the nice smell that was present in all of these plants. Another scent that I enjoy is the interesting smell that you often find around church pipe organs, a composite of shellacked wood, special leather, and other trace scents that I can't quite identify but really in my opinion smell nice. Likewise I have always enjoyed the smell of a newspaper pressroom.

Why couldn't trashbag makers and room deodorizer spray manufacturers incorporate some of these secnts as well. I have had many people, both men and women, young and old, mention that they like the smell of newspapers, so a newspaper scented room spray could in fact be a big seller. As for me, until such scented products come along, I will continue to go out of my way to get unscented trash bags, and when necessary, spray a fine water mist in the air to eliminate unpleasand garbage and cat litter box odors from my home.

Some thoughts about Christmas

I was always of the opinion that Christmas is supposed to be a joyous occasion where we celebrate the birth of Jesus. And we celebrate it in church at special services and through music that is unique for the season.

But what I do not like about Christmas is what it all too frequently becomes. At the risk of appearing Scroogelike and a disciple of the Grinch, I should say however that I sincerely dislike the following: First, the commercialism. Christmas gift-giving and spending have gone out of control. Along with that goes Christmas card sending. When you start worrying and fretting over a Christmas gift or card list, and start doing so months in advance, you are defeating what Christmas should be about. What should be a happy and joyous occasion is now causing you stress and worry, and it’s happening way in advance. Stop this foolishness! I send one Christmas card out, and that is to my wife. Otherwise, I have no time for card sending, card writing, card addressing. Waste of time and energy, and for what? If you send out lots of cards, you’ll get lots of cards in return. So now you have to deal with all this extra paper, extra envelopes and then you have to update your Christmas list and start worrying about doing all this stuff next year. My advice, put all that time-wasting activity aside. Remember, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, not about sending and receiving pieces of paper with pretty colors on it.

A second thing about Christmas that is actually bad is seeing people whom you really do not care about and renewing these acquaintances. If you can survive nicely for a whole year without even thinking about somebody, that should tell you right there that this particular individual is really not at all important to you. So sever the connection. You obviously do not care about this individual. You do not need this person. There is nothing really significant that this person does for you, and likewise you are just about as unimportant to that individual as he or she is to you. So dump them.

Whether it’s a relative or a former friend, acquaintance or whatever, your singular lack of interest for an entire year should tell you what you already know: this person means nothing to you. Remember this rule about Christmas guests: All my guests bring me joy, some by arriving, and some by leaving. When you can admit to yourself that a particular individual brings you joy by leaving, then wake up and realize this is somebody you really don’t want or need. Even if the person is a relative, it doesn’t matter. Relatives happen by chance. Just because somebody is related doesn’t mean that this person has to be important. If you obviously don’t think about or contact such a person for a year or more, and likewise you don’t receive any contact from him or her, there it is! Spelled out very clearly for you. You two don’t give a s--- about each other, so stop pretending once a year that you do. You’ll both be better off for not perpetuating a pretense and your time and effort wasted on each other would be much better spent with a good friend whom you actually do care about. Remember, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, not stressing yourself out over people you do not care about and who in actuality mean nothing to you.

Another thing about Christmas that should not be is the inevitable Christmas newsletter that some misguided idiots send out. You’ve all received at least one of these on occasion. It’s always written in the third person, and it tells you all of the events that have happened in the lives of the author and his/her family over the past year. In most cases, this is the only contact that you have with this person or from this person. Christmas newsletters are most of the time thinly veiled brag sheets, and they are also an indication of extreme laziness and selfishness on the part of those who send them out.

Of all the bad things that Christmas has degenerated to, the Christmas newsletter is in my opinion the worst of all. If you are guilty of this practice, then let this be your wake-up notice. Most people do not like them. My own feeling is that I take such a notice as a sign that I can write you off my list of friends and acquaintances once and for all. You’re lazy, you’re a phony, you are selfish, and you like to brag. You don’t really care about me as a person; rather you think that I have a need to hear about your previous year’s accomplishments. You have in all likelihood not received any personal communication from me for a long time, which should already tell you that you are not important to me. Guess what? If I receive a Christmas newsletter, I won’t even read it. I’ll see whom it is from, maybe look at the first few sentences, and then I toss it in the trash. If you’re on my postal or e-mail address list, I will remove you as soon as I can. So while my actions might be more extreme that those of some, keep in mind that you are pissing me off and that I am done with you from that point going forward unless you send me a specific communication that is addressed to me, in which case I may reconsider.

Newsletters do have their place, however. Newsletters are used as a means of communication by various clubs and organizations, publications and businesses to notify club members and customers of meetings or of special activities or sales that their mailing list members should know about. Organizations send out newsletters to inform interested persons of their events and activities. That is what a newsletter’s function is and should be. But individuals who send out blanket newsletters to presumed friends and acquaintances at Christmas about their activities are different. They are lazy people fulfilling what they perceive as an obligation to send out Christmas greetings. In effect, you’re acting like an organization communicating with its membership except that you are not an organization, and the recipients of your notices are not members of your organization, so you are in effect using the wrong tool for the wrong purpose.

So my advice to all for this holiday season is, start paying attention to what Christmas is really about. Worship and give thanks in whatever way seems right for you. Stop wasting time with pretenses and activities which, if you look at it realistically, cause you stress and extra work. Keep in mind the rule about all guests bring pleasure, some by arriving, others by leaving. Avoid those who bring you pleasure when they leave. And likewise, don’t be a guest who brings pleasure when you leave. Start celebrating Christmas for what it really is; you and everyone you know will be happier in the long run.


Attention Young Ladies! Please, Get Out and Stay Out
of the Fryers' Club

First of all, I did not misspell the name of the club. You might think at first that I meant "Friar's Club, but I did not. What I refer to here is a peculiar vocal defect which is called Vocal Fry, that is often used by young women as a way presumably to sound sophisticated or maybe for emphasis, but usually as an affectation. I refer of course to a certain creaky, buzzy voice sound of either low or indeterminate pitch. Unfortunately the resulting sound is all high frequency harmonics and as such is really unpleasant. I have looked at on-line videos of the human voice and have seen how it is produced, but my question is WHY do so many folks feel the need to do this?

I also do not know why it is mostly younger women who do this. Perhaps they think that if they talk with a lower frequency, they will sound more like men and thus maybe be taken more seriously. The problem, however, is that when you force a voice out of its normal pitch range, all kinds of bad stuff results. If you make most sound producing devices try to produce frequencies lower than what might be considered normal for their basic design, the result can be indeterminate pitch, distortion, and often the production of lots of very high frequency harmonics. Wind and brass instrument players know what happens when they try to play their instruments at pitches below that at which they were designed to play. This seems also to be true with voices, which then means that artificially trying to talk with a lower than normal pitch will not improve tone quality, but rather degrade it to noise. At any rate, if any of you young ladies are reading this and if you think you are sounding either good or impressive when you do this, wake up! You're sounding terrible.

 

I Can’t Help It, That’s the Way I Am.

And there, readers of these pages, you have in writing one of the biggest cop-outs, lame and phony excuses, and really poor ways to deflect blame that you will ever see. How often have you heard somebody say this, or maybe even said it yourself. It is nothing but an excuse to go on doing whatever loser activities you were doing when you tried to justify it with that short phrase.

Yes, to be sure, there are some things that we can’t help. A blind person can’t help being blind and we need to show such a person special consideration. A person with heart disease should not be stressed out or expected to do any serious heavy lifting. A deaf person can’t help missing out on sounds and can not be faulted for having some difficulties with activities that the rest of us take for granted. These situations are different. What I refer to here is the use of the phrase in reference to some behavior; somebody who behaves in a certain way and then says, “I can’t help it……etc.” When used in that context, these words are an excuse. They are a way to deflect blame. After all, who can blame somebody for something “he or she can’t help, because that’s they way he or she is?” Actually we can ALL blame the person, because he or she is not really fooling us. We KNOW that the bad behavior can be controlled and altered, but the person does not really want to do so. And the interesting thing is that most of us, whether or not we are aware of it, are indeed astute enough to realize the absolute insincerity of the statement and that it is indeed just an excuse for the individual who uses these words to go on acting or behaving in a way that creates problems and ultimately even dislike and disdain.

I recall a person who had frequent displays of temper towards his wife and immediate family who said, “I can’t help it, that’s the way I am, I have a short fuse.” Yet no matter what disturbing things went on when other people were around, this person kept himself under excellent control and did not show any signs of anger or displeasure. Obviously he could and did in fact “help it,” regarding the control of his emotions. When alone with family, he could be a jerk; but when company came or he was in public, all of a sudden the behavior which “could not be helped,” was very well controlled. And that is just one example. I am sure we can all think of other examples. If somebody has some incurable physical impairment that prevents his doing certain things, that is probably something that legitimately can’t be helped. But the interesting thing that I have noticed is that people who are legitimately in that situation rarely use the expression, “I can’t help it, that’s the way I am.” Most of the frequent users of those words can indeed “help it,” when they really want to or need to. These are the people with whom I have an issue, because they are fakers. Well, guess what, you lame-brained phony bastards, you aren’t fooling me (and most other reasonably normal folks either!)

So be very aware when you hear somebody use that phrase. Pay attention and you will quickly see just how phony they really are. Phony, lazy, excuse-making losers. And if you have an opportunity to do so, call them out on it. Invariably they will get angry, because nobody wants to be exposed as a sham, but that’s what they are. And if you yourself hide behind these words, wake up! Realize that the most likely person that you are fooling is yourself. The rest of us, at least subconsciously, know your true motives. Maybe you need to get in touch with yourself and make a concerted effort to grow up. One thing is certain, we do not appreciate your disingenuous excuses or your willfully executed unacceptable behavior.

 

Quick and Easy Way to Learn a lot about Another Person

Want to know quite a lot about another person without having to do any Internet searches or spend a lot of other time? Here's the easy way that will at least get you a general idea. Ask for a self description, or try to steer the conversation around to some topics on which the person will be willing to make statements. Pay close attention, and then believe the opposite. This will usually give you at least a rough estimate. For example, when a person makes a lot of "tough guy" statements, and says things like, "Oh, I'd never put up with that, why if he said that to me, I'd....so and so and blah, blah, blah, etc." you can rest assured that this person will in reality probably put up with quite a lot.

When you hear somebody extoll his absolute honesty in all situations, watch out. You will probably not have to wait too long or look too hard before you will find at least a minor falsehood forthcoming soon. Oftentimes a person who repeatedly tells you how honest he is will indeed be one of the more disingenuous individuals that you will encounter. Unfortunately, it is human nature for many people to tell us about themselves or present themselves in ways that they wish us to know them, but more often than not, these verbal presentations are not accurate, which is why I made the statement that you should expect the opposite. Here's a classic example. A person says, "I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but....." and then he will follow this up with a lengthy dissertation on the aformentioned dead person's faults. Another equally egregious example is when somebody says, "I don't mean to scare [alarm, worry, upset, etc] you, but...." and then the person will proceed to tell you something that he knows will indeed scare, worry, alarm, or upset you.

So while following the above advice won't be the same as doing a comprehensive background search or hiring a private detective, it will give you at least a general, initial approach that will show you some indication of the type of person you are dealing with. I have seen and heard on more than one occasion somebody issue forth a lot of "tough talk," regarding how he deals with people who oppose him, but more to the point, I have observed this individual acquiesce to the demands of others time and again. So there is a classic example of the stated behavior and the actual behavior being exactly opposite.

Following this rule won't have 100% accuracy as far as predicting actual behavior, but if you do embrace it, you will find that it is reasonably accurate most of the time, and thus it is a good initial indicator to use in sizing up another individual and at least a starting point to help you decide if you want to continue with this person or not.