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 discovery 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 or 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.


Got Some Idle Time to Kill?

Then here is a silly page to while away time. See if you can play some "Music" on this most unusual VIRTUAL KEYBOARD INSTRUMENT. (Sorry, this probably will not work on a smart phone; it uses Flash. View this link on your computer.)Here is the link to the page. The Talented Cat
Like it? Want to see more funny stuff; puzzles, games? Let me know via the link at the bottom of this page.


Computer mind reading ability.

Here's another interesting thing for you to have some fun with. When you click on the link, you'll be presented with an array of 21 ordinary playing cards. Pick one, and only one. Now, the directions say to memorize the card. But I have had some people tell me that in the course of going through the subsequent instructions, they inadvertently forget which card they chose. So amend the instructions by actually writing down the name and number of the card you choose, such as "3 of hearts," or "King of clubs," etc. Then with your slip of paper with the card name in front of you, go ahead and complete the instructions and see if indeed your computer can figure out which card you chose. You'll find it HERE. After you've completed this, if you wait 30 seconds, you will automatically be taken to another interesting website that I created that deals with another of my passionate interests. To come back to the Horn & Whistle pages, click your browser back button twice.

Please note that this page also uses Flash and may not work on all smart phones. View this link on your computer for best results.


What is the Best Train Horn?

That's an easy question. The horn collectors who have Nathan M horns will tell you that the M is best horn of all and that nothing beats an M5 in good condition. Likewise, those who have Leslie RS horns definitely know that the Leslie RS is the best horn, except that those who have Leslie S horns have no doubt at all that the Leslie S series is the only horn to put on a train. But the folks who have Nathan Ks know that when it comes to train horns today, the K is "where it's at," except for those who have Nathan P horns, who will emphatically state that the Nathan P is their favorite train horn. Of course that is unless you consider the Prime 920, which as the Prime 920 owners will tell you is the only train horn that you need to have if you are into collecting train horns. But then there are those who have the earlier Leslie tyfons, the single note honkers that were the first air powered signals to put on locomotives, but if you say that, then the owners of early Wabco horns will argue that "you don't know anything until you've heard a Wabco on a locomotive! So who is right? What does a railroad want in a train horn? Let's see...it should be loud, reliable, easy to maintain, need very little care or attention. Therefore, it seems to come down to this simple fact. Whatever a collector owns is the best, at least in his opinion.


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 bad is wasting time with people whom you do not care about. 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 realize that this is somebody you really don't want to bother with or need to see. 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.

If there is anything about Christmas that really in my opinion should be stopped once and for all, this would have to be the inevitable Christmas newsletters 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 Christmas newsletters are like accordions; diabolical and evil entities that should never have been invented in the first place and should be assiduously avoided at all costs. 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 will certainly reconsider.

Newsletters do have their place, however. Even accordions have their place too, but I have no idea where their place might be. Hopefully it is far away from wherever I happen to be. Newsletters have a useful function when they 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. Oh, and please, if you do so, give up playing accordions, at least around me. Thank you!


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 fry is produced, but my question is WHY do so many people 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 can result. 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 that 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.


How to Appear Really Ignorant without Much Effort

If you want to appear not very bright, just disregard proper grammar when speaking, and you'll soon convey the impression that "Duh, I ain't too swift!" Here's an example. I recently heard somebody say, "Can me and Bob come over to visit?" Stop and think about this for a minute. Leave out the other person, Bob, for a moment. Now say it. "Can me come over to visit?" Who in his right mind would ever say that? "Can me do something?" Me is not the right pronoun for a subject in a sentence; the right one is I. At least you could say "Can I and Bob....etc" but even that sounds much better if you put it in the right order which is to put the other person first, then yourself and say, "Can Bob and I....etc." But even that is not really what you meant because you are asking for permission, so Can is not the right verb to use here. May is the one you want. Can implies the ability to do something, whereas May asks for permission to do something that presumably you are able to do. What you really should say is, "May Bob and I come over to visit?" Now you've got it. But I hear so many people say "Me and somebody...etc." There's an ad I hear on the radio about a famous brand of socks, and the idiot who starts speaking first begins a sentence with "When me and my business partner....etc." Holy Crap! This guy's supposed to know better. "When me and my...." Dope, do you know how stupid and self-centered you sound? You should be saying "When my business partner and I....etc."

When a person who is from another country starts learning English, we can certain expect and forgive such mistakes, after all, learning a new language is complicated and difficult, and mistakes are the norm for a while until you really get the hang of the second language. But my beef is not with foreigners who are trying to learn English. My beef is with people who were born here and grew up with English and still make these stupid mistakes, because in those cases, it is most likely laziness at work here. You make no effort to speak correctly because after all you are successfully getting your message across, so why bother? Unfortunately you are getting your message across, but you are also getting a second message across, one of lazy ignorance.

Another one I often hear is the use of "Aren't I?" when a person asks a question and expects agreement, such as "Gee, I am really in pretty good shape for my age, aren't I?" If you actually deign to take the time to think about what you are saying, would you ever say, "I are really in....etc.." Of course not. You'd say "I am," instead. So the correct way of asking this question is to say, "I am really in pretty good shape for my age, am I not?"

I don't need to give examples of all of the common English grammar mistakes that I hear. The point is that making these mistakes implies to the other person that you are lazy, that you never bothered to learn, that you don't know or care how you sound, and whether or not it is true, the implication for the other person is most likely, "well if this guy is too ignorant or lazy to speak correctly, how ignorant or lazy might he also be in his work if I hire him in my company, or depend on him for some serious and exacting task, etc?"

Generally, when a foreigner to this country makes an effort to speak English, there is a high probability that this person will make mistakes. But, mistakes are forgiveable when you are learning, and a good hint that the person is a foreigner will be a strong accent. But when I hear people speak otherwise unaccented English but still make blantant grammatical errors, I have to wonder, and although it is wrong to generalize, nevertheless it has been my observation that in general, people who were born in the USA and grew up with English as their main and most likely only language, who also make lots of mistakes in grammar really are not among our brightest citizens.


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 extol 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 aforementioned 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.

 

Agree? Disagree? I'd like to hear your opinion, which you can send HERE.