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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dig Report 2/20/10

AVA snapped this shot at a Bridgewater estate sale as we made a retreat. No, we weren't being chased, but we also didn't feel like we could take too many pictures at this one. It's funny how you can consider someone's privacy in the middle of digging through their junk. Somewhere in there we found our scruples. This was a contemporary that was several years past being a contemporary. In fact it was either in the middle of a failed restoration, or a remodel that never got finished.  This is  another sale where the sheer quantity and quality if items makes it hard to believe that we didn't walk away with something good.  But, then again, I am looking for the dig within a dig and this place had a lot of things I wasn't looking for. We spent about 45 minutes here exploring, but the builders, or the sub-contractors running the sale gave us a luke-warm feeling.

On our way to the next sale (there were only 3 in the paper) we were side tracked by what I can only describe as the great Ubuntu expedition.  Actually, it was another tag sale, which was not in the paper, and found only by the short-cut we were in the middle of taking.  There are 2 streets with large homes on the Danbury/Brookfield border that are huge in every sense of the word.  This is exaggerated by the fact that they are on fairly small manicured plots.  They look nice, but, if you can call a Hummer a gas guzzler, then these are surely an oil drillers dream. My apologies if anyone reading this has a "great" home.

There on the floor of this home was a pile of computer hardware, which looked sold, but still had the prices attached. Being a sucker for computers, and also in the market to replace AVA's Win98 hand-me-down, I asked the obvious. "Is this the sold pile?"  The tag sale leader's response was, "Well, it was, but they never came back with the money, so, it's still for sale."  A quick glance and I knew it was better that what she was using now.  Heck, a Timex Sinclair would be better than what she's using now. Remember those?  Anyway, despite the risk, I purchased both pieces:

Back home I thoroughly expected to find WINxp and several viruses loaded on this PC.  Why? because that's what always happens.  Let me digress - 3 years ago I was still on Win98, and didn't know what I was missing, when I was sent to the store for ice for AVA's  3rd birthday.  Well, as I drove down the road, I noticed a sale and sitting on the porch was a flat-screen monitor.  Hmmm, might be worth a look, but I decided to get the ice first, and then stop back.  Stepping on to the porch, I noticed that the screen was trashed, but I still replied "computers"  when asked by the owners what I was looking for.
   The "father" led me upstairs explaining that there were several computers that he wasn't sure worked.  "They're just in my daughters bedroom." he said, as we topped the stairs. "She may be asleep." as we walked through her doorway. And there she was, flopped out on the bed, college student, probably sleeping one off. I asked, "Is she for sale?" (No, I didn't ask, but hey this was a sale, everything has a price.).  There were three towers on the floor not connected to anything, I just stared at the floor, trying to ignore the snoring behind me. This was too weird.  He eventually said, "You can have em all if you want."  I paused,  I was supposed to be getting ice, so I looked for the one that seemed the newest, with the most USB and Firewire connectors and said, "I'll take this one." 
   To wrap up the story inside this post, that evening as I set it up to test it ,I found it to be riddled with viruses. Dead as a doornail and wouldn't get passed the bios setup. As I looked it over opening the CD drive there was the Gateway re-image disk in the wrong place. After dropping it to the DVD bay, and cycling the power, a very hopeful message appeared: "This will reload all the software on your computer. Are you sure you want to continue?"  Duh.  The rest is tag sale history. All this PC really needed was a little more RAM and for 3 years I couldn't be more satisfied.
   That was the expectation with Saturdays "find" except when I powered up this is what I saw.

"What the heck is this?"  Then I recalled reading about a Linux-based operating system that had some of the more ultra-nerdy folks very excited, and maybe a little smug. Although this system was locked with another users key, it only took one download and disk burn to re-image AVA's new computer with a free operating system that had most of the bells and whistles that come with a new Windows system. Oh, and did I mention that Ubuntu is FREE along with  a  very MS Office-like program called "Open Office"? If you want to see how the smug half lives, take tour of a very stable operating system, which is Ubuntu 9.10.

New computer and flat screen monitor = $40.  Happy daughter and excuse to keep hitting the sales = priceless.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

WLS Radio Family Album

I'm having trouble putting this post into words.  I have a general knowledge of radio history, and I know something about the state of radio today, I just don't know If I can make it interesting.  I think it's ironic that long ago most of the radio broadcast coverage areas were owned by just a few companies, and It's kinda the same now, except we have many radio stations owned by a few companies.  Here is a piece of radio-belia that deserves some attention.  I give you the WLS radio family album.
I know very little about the Midwest, so when I when I picked up this overview of WLS Radio and all their program offerings, and all their staff (50 pages worth). I felt like I had missed something special by not growing up on a farm in the middle of the U.S. in the 30's and 40's.  It's a little hard to see the cover because it is gold embossed lettering over a black cloth cover, which reads "WLS Family Album 1931".   The inside cover should explain it all, but it just starts the detail:
If you want proof that radio was pretty big during the depression of the 30's then this book is it.  My only impression of early 30's media had been, newspapers,  newsreel footage, and the opening to the TV series,"The Waltons"  where the radio seemed to be the focal point of the family. The image to the right just looks strange to me now,  The radio looks almost human, like what a robot built in the 30's would look like. Excerpt from a 1975 TV-Guide: In this next episode of The Waltons, John-boy and Jim-bob build a robot from a Northern Ash felled on Walton's mountain. "Tubee" is so loved by all, he is adopted by the family, allowing them to stretch the series for 3 more seasons.  I think I was hooked on that show as a kid, because I couldn't believe they had all those kids and no TV. Anyway, back to WLS - Here's  a close up of the small text in the above image:

I was still a little confused at this point. So, was the Newspaper the owner of the radio station? or the other way around?  Actually, the whole thing was all about public relations, information, and soft marketing.  WLS  is actually an acronym for "World's Largest Store".  Yep, even in those days what seemed like a true medium of the people dispensing entertainment, news, and crop reports, was originally owned and operated by Sears and Roebuck! At some point in the late 20's S&R decided they didn't want to be in the broadcasting biz and wanted to stick to retail (seems suspiciously short-sighted to me) and chose to sell to a newspaper called the Prairie Farmer.  The full story of WLS, which still exists today, can be found here.  If you are happy with the Reader's Digest version, hang in there, I am almost done.
Here's the office staff:

These next few pages are all I have scanned.  They show an assortment of some of the programming, staff, and extraordinary (oddball?) listeners (click on any page for a larger view).  They really built themselves a "family" operation theme and credo, and succeeded, take a look at just how many family albums there were here.



Coming soon! "Dig Report" 2/20/10 - Greg and AVA are kidnapped by the Ubuntu tribe!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Caption Contest #1

When I draw, I don't often know what I am going to end up with. Maybe you can help?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My gift to you....Chinese spammers!


Not one day after I open up the comments section by foregoing the opportunity to review before publishing and I am blessed with every blogger's burden.  Well here's to you, spambot! I'll be back tomorrow with something familiar.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Silents, Please

It had to have been a little more pleasurable in 1925 to sit down in a movie theatre and not have to "Shush!" anyone.  What sound could you make that would distract someone from a silent movie, or drown out the organ accompaniment?  A while back I was at an estate sale and found a box of papers and in it was a hand bill from this movie theatre:
The star Corinne Griffith was a well know star who had 60 films to her credit by age 22. She did not make it into the sound era, but instead retired in to real estate. She amassed a fortune and died in 1979 as one of the richest women in the world. Visit IMDB for more about her. Here is a picture of her from a book I reported on in an earlier post:

What I really wanted, but couldn't find was a still of the exact location of the Plaza Theater, in Totowa New Jersey.  I can find the intersection of Union and Redmond on Google street view, unfortunately urban blight has robbed all the charm and possibly the theatre as well, take a look:

View Larger Map
There were other movies playing that summer and although this hand bill is missing some of the pages (assumption based on the last page) it is still an excellent sample of the marketing of silent movies of the 1920's in pre-depression America. (feels good to say that).


I have now made commenting available in an un-moderated form, so if you would like to see what you have to say - right away- you now can.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

For What Ails Ya....Wahoo!

I promised to feature more from this book of remedy's from this earlier post. A fascinating assortment of household, medical, saloon, etc. advice from the 1860's.
After doing some research I've found that the Wahoo is also a fish, but the book is referring to the plant (no, there's no Indian tribe known as the Wahoos).  However, it is a fact that Chief Wahoo is the mascot of the Cleavland Indians, but many native Americans feel this is degrading. I prefer not to dwell on other peoples political incorrectness, or oversensitivity. If you would like to see a Wahoo plant go here. Very informative.

If you should be bitten by a rabid...something, here is a page for you.  I don't know when it stopped being called Hydrophobia and became the more familiar Rabies, But here are some cures.
The book and pages are so warped I have trouble scanning something that looks fully readable. I would like to be able to flatten it out, but unfortunately there's no cure for that.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Dig Report: February 13th


I should have been in my glory.  The ad read "Estate Sale: Contents of old carriage house..."  I've learned not to get too excited, digs don't happen every weekend, and even when they do, if you're not the first one there, who knows what you may have missed.  But this image looks good. A big basement tables sagging in the middle from the pile of "stuff".  Upon closer inspection, there was a level of organization at work here that meant it would not be a "dig", or at least my kind of dig. 

Fortunately, I had my tag sale buddy with me.  This time I told her I'd pay her for her photographic skills. AVA took the job, and although her camera died (battery-munching 1st generation Kodak digital) she managed to take a really good picture (above). Nice grouping!  The house was a converted carriage barn and had a lot of charm, but not a lot of contents.  All the hardware was neatly organized and doubtfully was older than 10-15 years.  I found a few business cards that hinted there might have been an operation here older than the furniture recover/repair shop that this had been, but that had been moved or cleaned before this sale.  
Of the few books that filled a single case, I managed to find something that caught my eye:

The Famous Writers Course from the Famous Writers School in Westport, CT is something of a curiosity.  In an upcoming post I will describe the correspondence course in cartooning, which is from The Famous Artists School...guess where? The two are apparently unrelated, however the course look familiar in style and name. I have always been a fan of misleading advertising (gee Greg, can you narrow it down, a little?) and correspondence courses are full of it. I picked up the book because I like to write, and I was impressed by the writers who seem to be like faculty in the school, and are at least quoted, and interviewed in the book.

There was enough scandal and fact fudging going on at the "school" to fill a book this large with some good non-fiction. Take a look at the Wiki article that explains it all, here. It's a good story with an amazing number of possible duped students, and the best part is that somewhere down in Westport today, this book and its companions are still being sold as a course in writing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Digging by Remote Control

I am a big fan of television...not the programming, no, the programming is like tag sale'ing, there's treasure in there somewhere, if you can find it. I am more enamored of the mechanics of TV.  How it's produced, transmitted, how it works.  My parents could always expect to find an old radio transmitter or TV on a table in my bedroom half dissected as I tried to discover what made it tick.  Junk piles would shutter as I walked by, my eyes scanning for something cool, something I could load on my wagon, or skate board, wheel home, and take apart.  I was genuinely fascinated by how things were put together, and got some thrill out of setting every screw and bolt, every wire, free.  It was the 70's and I was in a good era for electronics, only some of the components were solid state, integrated circuit boards and computer chips.  Certainly the things on the junk piles were a generation old and fell quickly to my set of tools and eager fingers.(Cue sound FX "Evil Scientist Laugh") 

So, it's should be no surprise that when I see something that represents an bygone era of technology,  I might just want to hang on to it. Which explains this:

 I found this, as I often do, in a box of assorted items.  Recognizing what it was, I couldn't toss it. I guess what I was most curious about was its age, based on style and design, and how it ran contrary to the technology. This has a photo-electric eye, which is meant to send a beam to the receiver where it would perform the desired function. I can't find anything to back this up, so it may be one of the other technologies (information I will link to later).  The next ones I found at another sale, because remote controls are like potato chips, "Betcha can't have just one!" 

So, Now I have what is more familiar to those of you that might remember these. The "Space Commander" TV remotes actually solved the problem created by the earlier "Electric Eye" models (possibly, the RCA model above, but I have no Model # markings to go by).  The problem was, that the "eye" style were so directional that it was easy to miss your target. Likely causing the remote to be sent like a missile at the TV.  The other problem was that any stray beam of light could cause the TV to respond in an undesirable fashion, "Ladies and gentlemen.... The Beatl--Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom----Ahhh! Change it back!" These space commanders used sound waves to change the channel, Volume, or power the set. Here's  a peek:

Those round things are similar to tuning forks, which when "hit" by the press of one of the buttons would make a sound similar to a "Ping". However, most Americans with their poor hearing could only describe this sound as a "click".  This is why you sometimes here the remote referred to as a clicker. Wikipedia has plenty more information, to see it PING here. One ping only mister.  Well, thanks for reading, but I have a remote chance of saving my marriage if I publish this post and go watch the Olympics with my wife.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Not a lot in this one, but the card is from 1949 and I hung on to it because it made me laugh.  I think the quotation marks are not only unnecessary, but they point the meaning of the "Switch" in an ugly direction. Isn't the graphic message enough to convey the pun of switching your interest in one person and directing it to the sender of the card?  I would argue, that with the quotation marks added, what the card now indicates is that the sender would like the receiver to change their sexual orientation and come on over the their team.  Wow, nothing unfunnier than taking something funny and dissecting it until there isn't a scrap of humor left in it. Sorry about that.  For a much funnier look at Unnecessary Quotations I invite you to visit a blog by the same name.  She has been collecting and accepting samples from around the world for 5 years and some of them are truly laugh out loud. Click Here or the link above.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

There's some science friction between some science factions

The title of this post may make no sense to you. If so, I apologize, I just like the way it sounded, and it was better then that overdone article title: "Science: Fact or Fiction?" My love of science fiction is no secret. I have mentioned my favorite author Robert Heinlein many times before, and I still re-read his books every now and then, even though I know the outcome. During a summer when one of his novels, or collections of short stories was always in my possession, I began looking for Heinlein's first published stories in the pulp science fiction books of the 40's and 50's.  I never found any, but the ones I did find fit in with my interest in old paper and the anachronistic view of the future from a very pre-digital era.
  The stories are good and the cover art is true to the contents, not created for shock, or titilation, almost always an illustrated page out of the feature story:
The ads in these "Pulps" are typically just as good, if not for their imagery, for their promise:
The "Friction" between the "Factions" I referred to was the conjecture that an author's politics are part of his stories or vice versa, and the labeling of the reader for following an author for what he believed in rather than for what he wrote.  Then there is the argument that Science creates science fiction, and then the opposing argument that Science Fiction (or the free-thinking minds of authors) has influenced or spurred advances in science. While you  ponder that grey matter blender, here's another nice cover from Astounding 1950:
I think both arguments have valid points, look at the  innocent child on the cover above, yet inside is a story by non other than L. Ron Hubbard. It would be hard to argue that his writing didn't contain some fictional cum practical applications of his ideas ala Dianetics. And in the second argument, well, it may not be science, but Heinlein is credited with the invention of the water bed, or at least the idea of it.  Either way, if you pick up the right Sci-Fi novel, be fore -warned, you may not be able to put down anything by the author.  

In conclusion, I never did get to buy a Heinlein pulp cover, but I did find one on the web, so I'll know what to look for:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Every so often I find something...Crappie

Okay, so it was a bad pun (the fish above is a "Black Crappie").  This post really could have been titled: "Tales from the sticky drawer III" . If you recall (and I don't blame you if you don't, but go here for a refresher) I was in the basement of an old house and somehow found may arm wedged deep in hole where a drawer should be. The drawer would have been there except I had removed it to reach papers from another drawer that wouldn't budge.   The papers I pulled out were all related to hunting, fishing, and trapping and I have been going through them during these winter doldrums.

The black Crappie (poor fish, probably eternally jealous of the rainbow trout) just couldn't afford better public relations.  However, he came inside a mint condition catalog from 1957 that is a masterpiece in graphic design: 
Or maybe it's just average, but it looks pretty good for being 53 years old. Because this was the home of a collector, and possibly an antiques dealer, I couldn't tell where the antique'ing business ended and owners personal life began.  Some of the letters were addressed to the owner, so it must have been his interest to go hunting and trapping, but in this next collage of tips and advise was one book from 1929, where everything else had been from the 40's & 50's.
I can safely say that the owner was a true trapper.  Among the pile of papers was an interesting receipt:
This is from November 1950, and it looks as though it was a good month.  38 skins and they were all muskrat, except for one weasel (he must have squealed on the muskrats and then tried to weasel out of the deal.) I honestly didn't know that Sears provided this kind of service, I wonder when they stopped?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Go See the Flagpole Radio Cafe this Weekend!

There are lots of reasons to go the the Flagpole Radio Cafe this Saturday, the least of which being that one of my bits was accepted and will be performed by the Cafe Players.  However, there are several better reasons. The special guest, Phil Bowler is an essential for Jazz lovers for his skill and for the people he's performed with see a clip of him performing here with a solo at about the 4 minute mark. Other reasons for going would be that it's a good night out, nearby, and you are supporting the arts, locally.  You can see ticket prices and more information here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I.Q. Test......Answers!

Well, if you are wondering why I am about to give out answers to an IQ test, you might want to read the previous post first. (I'll wait.......(foot tapping)......good!) Okay, here is the answer to the "What's Missing" images:

Sorry to any "Twilight" fans, but the man in the picture is not a vampire and should have a shadow.

This one was a little more difficult because it was a busy image and you may not know what purpose an oar lock serves.  Well, if you were to say that sometimes life has you going in circles, it was during those times when  you were missing an oar lock. 
Here is the answer to the Picture Arrangement:

That's 41352.  If you didn't get that answer, don't worry. This "story" has 2 other acceptable sequences as well: 43152 and 14352.  My answer was to rip up 1,5, and 2 and just lay down 4 and 3 as the sequence. Mother always said, beware of women in large hats. "Just tell the driver to keep going." She'd say.

Next time:  Go see the Flag Pole Cafe! Saturday February 6th, and just in time for the Super Bowl: Fishing Tackle!