31 Aug

Losing the “sounds of an era”

Ringing telephones, cash register bells, and typewriter keys — all sounds once ubiquitous, now disappearing rapidly. In today’s column, P-I business writer Bill Virgin discusses the sounds that are gradually being eliminated by modern technology.

“Radio newscasts used to use as a background sound effect a clattering wire machine. But news wires have been fed to newsrooms by computers for more than two decades (no clanging bells to alert editors to a bulletin). People might still hear that sound and associate it with a newscast without really knowing why — but for how much longer?”

27 Aug

The superwide mystery

In 2543, at an interplanetary conference of costume historians, a paper was presented. This paper discussed an unusual style of dress from late in the 20th century: the Super-wide jean.

“Given the size of these garments, the main question people have nowadays—of particular import to re-enactors of the Industrial Age—is ‘how did they keep them up?’ Several theories have been proposed. Some believe that the items were fastened to the wearer’s undergarments with snaps, hooks and eyes or lacing.”

26 Aug


Topher’s Breakfast Cereal Character Guide lists characters that appeared on cereal boxes and in advertising — from the Biblical Elijah, featured on Post Elijah’s Manna cornflake cereal (later to become Post Toasties) in 1904, to the life story of Cap’n Crunch, to the recent Hulk and Spider-Man cereals. It’s fun to see so many cereals and characters here that I had forgotten.

18 Aug

Alternate history fun

You know, I thought for sure I had posted here about Today In Alternate History, but it’s not coming up in the search, so I’m going to mention it now. TIAH is a great site that includes daily listings of what happened in various alternative timelines on a particular date. It’s fun to compare the alternate history with real history, but it’s also fun to watch the storylines developing through the tidbits of information we get each day.

If you like this, you should also see The Annotated Today in Alternate History, in which another blogger is posting commentary about the original TIAH posts, comparing them with real history. If you are not familiar with the nuances of the historical events altered on TIAH, this site can help you figure out what was changed.

If you’re wondering “what the heck is this Alternative History thing she’s talking about?”, Uchronia is the site that can explain all — an exhaustive bibliography of alternative histories with an extended introduction to the topic.

18 Aug

The Retro Motels of Highway 99

The Retro Motels of Highway 99 is a photo essay of some of the great old highway signs on Aurora Avenue North/Highway 99, which used to be the major route between Canada and Mexico, and is now the home of skanky run-down motels frequented by hookers and drug addicts. Some of these signs would have looked much better photographed at night when the neon glow would hide the rust and neglect; others haven’t had working neon in years, so it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, it’s a fascinating bit of rapidly disappearing Americana.

18 Aug

Where I’ve been

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been unusually ill. Still am. I’ve got a couple of posts saved up that I’ll get posted today, but in general I’m just not so energetic right now. I don’t eat chicken any more but I swear I would love some chicken soup right now. And 7-up, like I used to have as a child when I was sick. Chicken soup, 7-up, and a pile of comic books. sigh.

05 Aug

An era has ended

I discovered something interesting while browsing The Seattle Public Library Equipment page tonight:

“Typewriters? They are no longer available at Library locations.”

Wow. Can you believe that? Typewriters are completely gone from the Seattle library system? I wonder when that happened? I remember using typewriters at the library to work on my r?sum?, but it was a long time ago. Still, it surprises me a bit that they are all gone.

04 Aug

Hewn and Hammered

Hewn and Hammered is a brand-new weblog about Craftsman, Mission, and Prairie design and architecture. The blog isn’t just about house restoration, but will also discuss the work of current and historical A&C artists and craftspeople, and include articles about the history and philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement.

The site is edited by the editor of the excellent Typographica web site, so it ought to be good.

04 Aug


Or, um, not. (And maybe a link not exactly safe for work.) A friend sent me a link to The Bulge and I have to say that this is one of the funniest web sites I have seen in a while. In the “funny-stupid” sense. The animated GIF is the funniest part. I may have nightmares now, featuring a floating, rotating Bulge.

03 Aug

Test your language skills

I’ve posted about some of the BBC language sites before (particularly the Gaelic ones, if I recall correctly), but I just found the mainBBC Languages web site, and it’s pretty darned neat for learners of several different languages. They have lessons posted in several different levels, including audio and video content, and if you’ve previously studied French, German, Spanish, or Italian, you can take an online test to see which level you’ve achieved and which resources best suit your ability.

I passed all the questions in the German test (which might rank me a little more highly than I ought to be), and came in at the beginner level in French (which is about right), and the site recommended specific programs and exercises would be best for me. The programs and exercises are all available for free right there on the BBC site. It’s really a great resource.

Don’t forget to visit the “Other” section, where languages such as Greek, Gaelic (both Irish and Scottish versions), Welsh, and Chinese can be found, though I don’t believe there are ability assessment tests for those languages on the site.

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