Saturday, November 29, 2008

Not Astronaut Material

Back in the days when I thought I could be or do anything, that is, back before reality set in, I thought I might want to be an astronaut. I love the stars and spent much time looking in a telescope we had, thinking of what was out there. I somehow didn't follow that dream (nor a few others), but after reading this news, I'm quite a bit thankful I didn't.

It seems that the space station's drinking system has a "glitch". The fact that the system recycles urine and sweat makes the problem a tad more critical. Ain't NO way! That and having to relearn to use diapers, no honey, I'm glad to be a housewife. They say in some news articles that the future may hold recycling urine for the masses. I do hope I'm dead by then.

I can just imagine. "Honey, does the water smell a little "off" to you today?"
Dh: I'm sure it's fine.
Me: No, really, it's got a little color to it, doesn't it?
Dh: I'm sure it's fine.
(sound of me, retching)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Economy of Plank Horse Fences

Still wondering about the fence colors? I know you couldn't sleep last night wondering. Why does Lexington paint fences white, while Central Kentucky has black plank fences? I found a reference finally that might tell. It could be that white fences were preferred, a stylish and clean look. Yet read on:

Like the different types of fencing, different treatment options for protecting the wood are available. Paint is the most popular choice, but even with paint there are decisions to make. "Black paint seems to be what most people use. It used to be white paint, but black is more economical now," said Goodell.

"Fences painted black look better longer than fences that are painted white. There are different types of paint to use, too, and you need to be careful when you paint. We have had people use latex paint and spray it on the fences before a rainstorm. The rain washes the paint off. I think it is best to use an oil-based paint or an asphalt treatment that will last even longer, and watch the weather, too. Spraying or treating the paint on a dry day with little wind is the best method of assuring the fence gets the majority of the paint."

White favored the use of white paint on his own farm, but he has switched to black paint as a cost-saving measure. "Black paint does seem to last longer and, if it lasts longer, it is protecting the wood longer," he said. "Most of the posts we use today are pressure-treated, which helps to preserve the wood, but I still encourage our clients to paint their fences and posts shortly after we install them.

So that is the reason for black fences and apparently, even new fences in Lexington are going to the black paint. White fences will likely be visible in areas that have already established that as the norm.

Thank you, Costco...

...for the extra five pounds I am gaining this week. I got a message this week on my answering machine stating that their records indicated that I had purchased a pre-wrapped box of gift chocolates. Yes, for once in my life, I thought I just might get going on Christmas and actual buy gifts before the last week before the 25th - and see, just see how it turns out??? This particular batch of chocolates has developed a problem and some boxes show "bloom". Oh, gross, mold??? This bloom is due to cocoa butter rising to the surface of the chocolate oh, good, not mold and causing discoloration. If I would like to return or exchange them, I could.

What I certainly could not do is give the chocolates as a gift and risk the recipient seeing that they had bloomed and I'd given an inferior gift. And, I wasn't sure when I might get to Costco again. And I was curious as to what the bloom might look like. And I'm eating a whole $10 box of chocolates....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cure for Lameness

My friend, Ladina, and I were trading horse tales while watching our young sons extort ask sweetly for candy on Halloween night. Her mare had gone lame. I recommended our horse chiropractor (yes, there really is such a thing) who had helped us out with several horses, applying his vast experience with practical advice. Now, "Larry", he fools you with his accent, large belly, cigarette hanging out of his mouth. You might have to look past the gaps in his teeth and his occasional spitting (if he's on chew, trying to not smoke). Younger than I am and wheezing, he still can twist a horse's back into shape. In short (and he is), he can sometimes work magic. Worth a try, right? Her horse was in pain. I followed up with Larry's phone number.

Some days went by until I again heard from Ladina. When I did, I sat at my computer, read her email and got that high pitched Mickey Mouse laugh, my daughters beginning to laugh with me and not even knowing why we were all laughing. I tried to read her email out loud, but the tears (of laughter) started up, and William and his best friend grew greatly concerned and wondered whatever was wrong with me. Perhaps it was comic relief, such stress we've had lately, but judge for yourself if she is not funny. I think she should start a blog, don't you?

We had the horse chiropractor out last week - I still can't figure out why he didn't get kicked when he wrapped Shania's tail around his arm, pressed on her hip and yanked. I would have. You, too, I'm guessing. However, she is walking much better, even in the cold.

He talked about poultry and how to applying it down the leg, rubbing it up and down the hurt leg. Ask me if I knew how to make one or where to get one. Well I have a friend, Leslie who raises show chickens and could probably talk her into letting me borrow one but I couldn't figure out how rubbing one of those fancy black and white chickens on Shania's leg was going to help.

He told me I could get one from a guy down by the tracks. Back home, that means where poor people live and yard birds are their dinner. When I tentatively asked about where to find one - he said, "the track, you know, Churchill Downs, they use them all the time." It got even more confusing when he asked if I was using Devil's Claw on her - because that would be like a rabid chicken that chases you across the yard - squalkin' peckin' clawin' and a flappin'. I'm sure your chickens are civilized and don't behave that way. I finally figured out that he was talking about a poultice, not poultry. So much for country life or country talk.

I am so fortunate to have friends that make me laugh. But Ladina, anytime you need a chicken for your horse, you just holler. I'll lend you one.

Thanks to my friend, Valerie, who sent me a link so that I would know there are people nuttier than I am. And to Becky, I've got specifics for you: heavy breed chickens need heat lamps below freezing. Bantam breeds should have them below 40 degrees F. Hope yours are keeping toasty.

And then I hit him.....

Dh was commenting last weekend that Hilary Clinton was considering the position of Secretary of State. I remarked that it would make two women who consecutively held that position.

Me: Interesting.
DH: Well, it is a position for a secretary.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Discover Your Inner Palette

By answering seven questions, you can determine your color personality for home decor with the Color Sense Game. I am Leather, Stone and Wood. What are you?

My Town Monday - Fence Color

The county where I live is a "bedroom" community, not just for people, but for horses. It is not unusual to see large horse trailers rolling down my street on the way to deliver a horse to be bred, rehabilitated or trained in a facility nearby. Some of them are only here a short while, and then, it is back to work somewhere else as they are again trailered back home.

Once outside the city limits, it is not unusual to see the roads lined with black four-board fence. Occasionally, you will see a fence of a different color. For example, a neighbor one mile from me painted his fence brown. (Of course, he also painted the trim on his brick house pink and purple. He apparently walks to the beat of a different drummer.) Mostly, however, everyone here conforms to black fence paint. It is pleasing to see it go on, connecting disjointed properties with a common theme.

I don't know who decided that fences in our area would be black. There are advantages to black paint, which isn't always "paint". I used to use roof sealer cut with mineral spirits to paint our own four board. It is thick and water proof but the smell is nauseating. It can be sprayed on, however, if you have enough fence (and money) to hire someone to do it. Sometimes, you'll see men spraying fences along the road completely covered with black tar or paint, their eyes peeking out over bandannas covering their noses and mouths. Until the weather turned colder, black acrylic paint was my choice as I can paint it easily and it doesn't smell and people aren't breaking open their pillows for feathers to add to the tar.

Despite a quick Googling of fence paint, I've not yet uncovered why my region of central Kentucky wears black paint, but eastern Kentucky, specifically, Lexington, sports white paint. Flying or driving into Lexington, you will see miles and miles of it. It has it's advantages over black paint. One is that it doesn't show bird poop like black fences, but I can see no other advantage. I will continue to study this phenomenon and see if I can uncover any historical basis for the choice of paint color in Kentucky fences.

Write about your town, and tell Travis.

Speaking of paint, I've tried two paint colors so far in our main room and still we are not satisfied. I have painted and painted. And because the paint color doesn't go with curtains we very much like, I am going to have to paint it all over again.

And more about paint! We traded Ginny (Anna's former horse) yesterday for a small paint horse she and I will share. He has two blue eyes and is black and white. His name is Phantom of the Opera or Phantom for short. And he is short. And safe. That's good.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Learnin' Him Right

This is for you Texans, just so you know I'm learnin' the boy right. Here he is trying to steal his first rifle. I'm so proud. Now, I have to go get him up for Sunday school.

BTW, did you know that most Kentucky long rifles were actually made in Pennsylvania? We like to take credit like that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Today's Notes

My day was overscheduled, margin-less. Lauren was to have an appointment to have her wisdom teeth evaluated for removal. I had just enough time to take her and get home, change, pack a sandwich and leave to go do some horse trading. Snuggled nicely in my schedule, I should have had enough time to do that, and return home for a social event the girls had that started at 5 p.m. Or so I thought.

I returned home to find Daisy (our Beagle-dor, Beagle-Lab mix) had thrown up. That in itself isn't unusal, except she was shaking and her pupils were markedly different. Never made it to horse trade, as I rushed her to the vet. During our discussion, the diagnosis came to me. She'd gotten kicked by a horse. Yep, said the vet, that could explain it all. Concussion.

She is now fine, though a bit sheepish in her movements. Likely, she'll not chase a horse again soon. We've told her not to, but does she listen? It moves, she chases. So, maybe some horse trading tomorrow. Who knows what the day may bring?

Horse Trading

Ginny is hopefully on her way to a new home today. Ginny is Anna's horse, and let's just say things aren't working out, and she needs a new situation. And we need a new horse. As Anna is riding less, we hope to find a good saddle horse for trail riding that Anna, dh and I can share. A friend who buys and sells horses for a living said he'd be willing to trade us Ginny for one of his stock. Said he had a few good, safe, broke horses we could come see this weekend. He sent some pictures. What do you think? I think there's a horse in my future!

For those of you that are unfortunate enough to live in a warmer clime, it is 16 F (-9 C) here this morning. Very invigorating. If you are a penguin. Which I am not.

I fixed up the heat lamp on the chickens yesterday evening. It is difficult to free range chickens that refuse to leave the coop and sits huddled under the heat lamp.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Brown Paper Packages

A package arrived yesterday from FedUp. It's Christmas season again or at least it is in my friend's organized household. I received her Christmas card last season the day after Thanksgiving. I hadn't even absorbed the five extra pounds yet from my meal the night before and she'd already moved on to the next season.

Shopping on the Internet certainly is a way to get the presents purchased and in the house without a young inquiring mind who sort of still believes in Santa but is at the age where he just can't quite believe it anymore, but then doesn't want to not believe. Friend just wants to keep her older boys from shaking the box until the contents are no longer usable.

When it arrived, William wanted to know what it was. Not wanting to tell him it was for friend's son, information that would shoot straight into William's ear, out of his mouth and into the intended recipient's ear, I told him it was for friend's husband.

William: I bet it's fish tails!
Me: (Picturing chopped off fish tails) What?
William: You know, F-I-S-H tails.
Lauren: Mom, I think he means lobster tails.

My dh often receives a gift certificate, with which he buys lobster tails, from a mail order steak place which I will not name because if you even so much as read the name, junk email and catalogs will start flying out of your computer and bury you in a pile of unsolicited appeals to buy their very good, but high priced goods.

Appeased at being understood, William went back to shaking her packages.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Please Welcome Chuck to the Blogosphere

I'm happy to encourage and introduce a new blogger! Shortly after guest blogging for me, Chuck sent a Wordless Wednesday post. I politely told him - Go get your own blog! Chuck has many amusing stories and insights into small town Kentucky life, so please go see Constable Chuck and see what he has to say.

Kentucky Math

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When You Thought You've Seen Everything....

...your daughter tells you about keyboard pants. Truly, the only option is to send both daughters to a convent. It's the only way to save them from this perverse world.

You know, it took me awhile to get used to Borg-like appendages on ears that made people appear to be talking out loud to themselves. Now, you'll have to question whether the boy in front of you is typing up class notes or playing with himself.

It comes with a joystick located behind the zipper. How original. I wonder if that's optional and you can get a discount if you provide your own joystick. Sorry, couldn't resist.

And since this blog could quickly degenerate, I leave you to your own thoughts on this (hopefully short-lived) fashion statement.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Town Monday - Guest Blog by Chuck

I'm on vacation from blogging for just today. I've invited my friend, Chuck, to guest blog for me as we live in the same town. Please give him a hearty welcome to the world of blog writing. When you finish reading, write your own MTM and tell Travis.

My town (pop. About 7,000) is really two different towns or a town with two or even more distinct sections. There is an Interstate Highway that runs East-West through the town.

The portion of the town that is south of the interstate consists of “modern” places. There is a Wal-Mart, a large Kroger grocery store, a fast-food burger place, two franchised restaurants, several banks, a movie rental palace, a Radio Shack and the hospital.

About ½ mile north of the interstate is a historic main street. Main St. runs generally parallel to the interstate. The Main Street business area is only about two blocks long. One side of one of those blocks is actually taken up by the county courthouse and the county jail. On Main Street you will find two sit down restaurants, both locally owned; a combination used bookstore and coffee shop; a delicatessen and sandwich shop; a knitting store; a small ice cream store and a department store.

Running down the middle of Main Street is a railroad track. Twenty to thirty times a day, a CSX freight comes slowly rumbling through. There is diagonal parking on one side of Main Street and occasionally someone backs out of a parking space into a passing train. Of course this shuts the town for a while as the train stops until everything is cleared up.

Then there are the “other” areas of town: There is a transition area between the interstate and Main St. This area is a transition between the modern and the historic, with buildings becoming less modern as you get to Main Street. There are some businesses on the streets that intersect and run parallel to Main Street.

These are all most all in buildings that used to be residences. Here you will find doctors, lawyers, two small restaurants, a beauty shop and a barbershop. These buildings, as well as the ones that are along Main Street are part of one of the Historic Districts in Town. The Historic Districts Commission must rule on the “appropriateness” of any change to the outside of one of these buildings.

Finally there are the housing developments. Most are similar to the developments of single-family homes that you will see in any suburban area. There are a few patios homes developments and a few apartment complexes and even a trailer park or two.-- Chuck McC

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Reputation Precedes Me

Christine offered me a ride to a piano class that both her son and mine had Saturday afternoon. Just before she arrived, I decided to have a cup of hot coffee to revive myself, as I had been running all day. I also indulged in a chocolate iced cupcake, as a way of making the coffee more enjoyable. What harm could one small cupcake do?

William and I climbed into her van which does not at all resemble Eugene (our much used van), and I pulled on the shoulder harness and locked it in. Adjusting further, I noticed ("OH, NO!" I said aloud) I had gotten chocolate icing on the strap. I turned my hand and saw it on the fingers of my left hand. Instinctively, I licked the icing off.

I looked over at Christine who had at first a strange look on her face, but then began laughing when I told her it was chocolate icing.

"I thought it was poop," she said. Just like that. Evidently, she reads my blog.

Junosmom 2, Mice 0.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Chuck is getting a lot of press on my blog this week. He will be guest-blogging on my My Town Monday this coming week. I wrote yesterday about how he announced to the entire world that I was ancient and "preserved". I should say "Constable Chuck" for in this month's election, Chuck found out the Friday before that no one was running for Constable in his district and that very day was the last to register to be a write-in candidate.

With eight solid votes, Chuck won and is now a constable with the power to....well, no one seems to know. They are researching it at the courthouse. In the meantime, he has been sworn in and shared with me his oath of office taken in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Oath of Office
Do you solemnly swear that you will
support the Constitution of the
United States and the Constitution
of this Commonwealth, and be
faithful and true to the
Commonwealth of Kentucky so long
as you continue a citizen thereof,
and that you will faithfully execute,
to the best of your ability, the office
of Constable according
to law;

and you do further solemnly swear
that since the adoption of the
present Constitution, you, being a
citizen of this State, have not fought
a duel with deadly weapons within
this State nor out of it, nor have you
sent or accepted a challenge to fight
a duel with deadly weapons, nor
have you acted as second in carrying
a challenge, nor aided or assisted
any person thus offending, so help
you God.

Interesting. You'd think that in say the past 100 years or two, that they'd get around to changing the wording on dueling. I mean, gees Louise, who ever heard of people dueling in this day and age? OH, wait a minute. Kentucky, West Virginia (yes, Rod, a nod to you) I guess maybe it wasn't all that long ago. And perhaps dueling has just changed. Now, people can't be bothered to duel properly, with "seconds". No, like fast food drive-through's, dueling is accomplished with drive-by's. It doesn't at all have the same class, does it?

Congratulations, Chuck on your victory!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Older Than I Look?

While volunteering at the thrift store this week, I found the back room to be excessively chilly while the front room was overly warm. Moving back and forth between the two while putting out merchandise, I found myself having to put on and then remove my sweater because of the uneven heating of the building.

I tried to prevent any hot flash jokes from my co-worker, Chuck, by saying that I knew I was getting older, but that wasn't my problem yet. It was the building's heating system.

Chuck said more or less, that he wouldn't guess I was old enough for hot flashes. "You can't be more than thirty-six."
I smiled, and said I knew he was just being nice to me, but I appreciated the sentiment.

Chuck continued, "Thirty-eight?"
I stuck my thumb in the air and gestured upward.

"Forty??" his voice rising in pitch of disbelief. Certainly I wasn't that old!
I shook my head, smiling sadly. No, older. Thumb gestures upward. "Forty-TWO?"

Now, up to this point, I'm feeling complimented, so I admitted "No, Chuck. I'm forty-eight."
My tiny bubble of self-congratulation was quickly burst as he let out a loud,
"OH MY GAWD!" and people in the shop laughed and turned to look at the old lady I am.

He recovered nicely by saying that I was well-preserved. Great. I'm going to go take my Geritol now and go to bed. It's past nine o'clock.

Clay (rooster) met his maker yesterday by way of varmint. I had guests in the house yesterday and thought I might be considered a little more eccentric than they already know I am to have a smelly paralyzed rooster in the house. So, I took him in his plastic container to near the chicken coop so he could watch the hens. When I returned home last night at 8 p.m., the container was tipped over and he was gone. The varmints are coming to attack earlier each evening. Part of me is relieved - it was a natural death and I was tired of nightly having to give him a bath (he couldn't move you know, so you can visualize....) Part of me is sad for him. I hope the raccoon or possum chokes on his bones, though.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Zip On, Zip Off

At the thrift shop where I volunteer, I'll occasionally come across a sleeve of fabric with one half of a zipper along the top. Here is a photo of one:

Of course, being the mother of a boy, I recognize this fabric for exactly what it is: a pants leg that has lost its pants. I have two questions for you then. Whyever would someone donate just the pants leg without the remainder of the pants? Did they think we might have a table of pants that look like this, waiting for another pants leg to show up?

Now in theory, it is a very interesting design. Boys might be cool in the morning, but as they run and get all sweaty, zip off the (as Wm calls them) "pants sleeve" and voilĂ , you have shorts. In theory. In practice, you go to pick your son up at the neighbor's, where you left him wearing pants. He is now in shorts and has no idea where the missing parts of his pants have gone. Or worse yet, he knows where one of the pants sleeves are located. No doubt, the other has already migrated to our local thrift store, looking for a pants to zip on to.

Or, maybe it's gone looking for other things that seem to lose their way in our house. For example, scissors. I must have some one hundred pair somewhere in the house. Needles (watch where you sit!). Lately, hair dryers seem to have wandered off. We have three. My hair air-dried this evening and looks it. Pens (where do they all go? I buy them by the truckload!) No doubt I have elves stealing things. I hear them running in the drop ceiling in the basement. Or could that be a colony of mice preparing for winter?

I've set traps, feeling the mother tiger justification to kill in the name of protecting my family from mouse-born disease and disgust. William was quite concerned when he heard me mention that it sounded like a whole "colony". I'm not sure what monster that conjures in his mind, but he won't go in the basement for fear that the colony will get him.

Clay (rooster) lingers. He doesn't get better or worse. Perhaps I should get him one of those little doggy wheelchairs to make him mobile except, oh yeah, chickens only have two legs. He still couldn't move.

I had the pleasure of turning on the new solar fence charger yesterday as the neighbor's rowdy and unmannerly horses leaned on our electric wire. Shocked the crap out of them! Yeah!

Monday, November 10, 2008

To Make You Laugh

First I went here:

to watch this skunk video but had more fun looking at shoes I'd never wear.

My Town Monday: How to Eat Chili Dogs

Today, I'm writing about My Town of Origin. I grew up in Cincinnati where chili is so well loved, there are restaurants where they serve only Cincinnati Chili. If you've never had it, well, you've not yet lived. It is rumored that the recipe arrived with Greek immigrants and is as much a secret as that for Coca-Cola. Still, families try to approximate the seasonings, to make it at home, especially if you no longer live in Cincinnati and can't run to Skyline or Gold Star for the real thing.

It can be eaten several ways: as a bowl of chili, over spaghetti topped with cheese and/or onions, or on top of a hot dog for a chili dog with cheese. Not having grown up with Skyline Chili, my poor culturally deprived family tries to eat chili dogs straight on. That is, they hold the dog perpendicular to their mouth, causing them to get cheese on or up their noses as demonstrated below by Lauren.

Even though they have cheese on their faces, they seem to ridicule my obviously well-honed technique for bringing the chili dog in obliquely to the corner of my mouth, leaving my nostrils free of cheese. Here, Lauren tries to approximate my technique, but obviously, I have some more coaching to do. Too much head turning in the photo below. Obviously going to get cheese up the old schnoz.

You'd think I'd get a little respect, having eaten these all my life, but nooooo, it's just too much fun to poke at the old lady.

Other interesting (or not) facts:

The restaurants are called "chili parlors".
My dad once lived over one. Said the smell of chili cooking in the morning was nauseating.
Chili spaghetti is served with oyster crackers. I remember in high school that "wise guys" would sit down and ask for just an order of crackers (or cheese) to fluster the waitress. Those kind of guys annoyed me. Grow up, already, I thought.
You can now get Skyline Chili frozen and in a can.
Cincinnati Chili contains cinnamon.

Visit my town by making chili without ever leaving your home!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Part of My Menagerie

The Little Chickie that hatched the other day has been soundly rejected by its mommy, despite repeated attempts to reconcile them. Many chickies are raised without mamma and she is doing fine.

At the same time, we have a foster kitten from Animal Control. It, too, lost its mommy early. She was the only one (of four) that survived being dumped. We are watching to see that she lives before adoption (or until we can't bear to part with her).

They are too young to know that one eats the other, normally. As you can see, the two Japanese Chin dogs (I had to put "dogs" 'cause they're so weird looking you might mistake them for hairy rats) love licking both babies. Paris, (on left) might mistake them for squeaky toys and can't be trusted.

Other notes:
Sadly, Clay (rooster) is not going to make it. Though he rallied at first with the vitamin, I think it was too late to reverse the paralysis which now seems to be in his lungs. On the other hand, chicken management has become easier with all the hens in one coop.

It is cold here - high of 45 F. I don't like cold.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Science Friday: New Chicks

I'm always amused at city folk that ask me if we have to have a rooster to get eggs from the hens. (The answer is "no".) We've recently hatched yet another egg producing a yellow chickie (see left). This was an egg taken from the new red hens and due to its color, is likely sired by their half or full brother, Clay. It seems to be a trend - inbred chickens - as we considered with the parentage of a chicken hatched a month ago, he should likely be named Oedipus (rooster Lester with his mom, Ara). I suppose breeding management should become a school topic here. (I am waiting for some wise comment about inbreeding and Kentucky. Go ahead. I was born in Ohio.)

After the chickie was hatched, Raven (the surrogate mom) continued to sit on a few eggs, one of which hatched today. She promptly began pecking at it, and though we might think she was just trying to get it on its feet, she looked decidedly not nurturing. The chick is now under a heat lamp. Generally, all eggs hatch together because the chicken will start incubating them all at the same time. A well-meaning child placed said egg under the chicken two weeks into her incubation of the first egg, putting its hatching two weeks off from its sibling. The newest chick appears to be part Lester, part "Hawk" (William's name for one of the new red hens) and therefore, isn't inbred.

Speaking of Lester, I promised him to someone else just as Clay, the nicer, younger rooster developed paralysis. So Lester is gone, and Clay looses more control of his body daily. I finally called a large animal vet for advice. He suggested Riboflavin (B1 or B2) deficiency and that I freerange (do that) and feed good poultry feed (also check). So, I got him some Vitamin B drops from the pharmacy in a desperate attempt to save him. It is not likely to work. So for the first time in a long time, no rooster in my yard calls to tell the sun to get up. No worry. Oedipus is either a rooster or very, very disturbed. Or both.

The hatching was timely, as we just watched Magic Schoolbus "Cracks a Yolk".

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Impact of Technology on Music: How Has the Quality of Music Changed?

Guest Blog by Lauren
Lauren wrote this essay for a class she is taking. I thought it was interesting and wanted to share with you.
Copyright 2008 Lauren and LifetimeLearning

From the early twentieth century, music was listened to by many through the use of the record player. Through advancements in technology, the cassette tape was made available, then the Compact Disk. (CD) The switch was made to mostly digital recordings on cassette tapes and CD’s for convenience, but some of the quality of sound that record players have because of analog recording has been all but lost. Increasingly, the people of our modern-day culture have settled for less quality for the convenience of the newest gadgets and gizmos, though there still remain a few audiophiles that hold on to and strive for the perfect sound. The quality of music has also been impacted by wide availability of music on the Internet.

Analog vs. Digital. What’s the difference? In analog recording, the actual sound waves are carved into a surface of a vinyl record. Sound is produced when the needle of the record player vibrates, and the sound is amplified through speakers. So the sound coming from the record player is directly related to the original sound when it was recorded and every sound is recorded in its entirety. In digital recording, the sound is converted into a sequence of numbers. The numbers can be played back through a CD player, or another form of player that “reads” the numbers and sound is produced. One example to help understand the difference between analog and digital is the comparison of a film camera vs. a digital camera. In a film camera, the film is the exact light representation, what your eyes see, whereas a digital camera is a digital interpretation of the light sensor, converted into numbers just like making a CD.

Quality. What about it? When you think of the “quality” of music in general, there are two different ways to think of it. One is quality of sound, either by the way of recording (analog or digital) or hearing a certain range of notes with no scratching or static within it. The other way of thinking is the quality of musicianship of the actual musician performing the piece. Now, everyone has their own opinions about what is “good, quality music,” but if you were given the choice of listening to a recording by the London Philharmonic Orchestra or a recording by some town band performing the same piece, which would you choose? This question could be unfair in a way, because in some cases it would depend on the music education of the individual answering to be able to answer such a question. But regardless of the music education an individual has had, most people can pick out what sounds good, and what doesn’t, if given the opportunity to listen to the recordings side by side. Yet, in our modern day, most people have grown accustomed to the way things sound. For instance, I own an iPod, and I thought iPods had excellent sound quality. But in comparison to an analog recording, it doesn’t hold a candle to the sound produced by a record.

How has Technology Changed the Quality of Music? It used to be that everyone listened to music from a record player. But we traded in better sound for convenience for both recording and listening. There are certainly benefits of recording digitally, which music producer Robert DiFazio explained in an interview. Basically, when you’re recording digitally, it’s possible to fix any little mistake. You could pick any place in the entire piece and move things around and make them sound just “right.” Or if the artist messes up, he wouldn’t play the whole piece over again, you could just record over that spot. But is that necessarily good? DiFazio said, “…one can make the argument that digital recordings have lowered the artists’ expectations of themselves.”
This argument grows closer to the truth each day. If music artists record their music digitally, and do start to have lower expectations of themselves, will the ability for these artists to reproduce live music be something of the past?
The comparison to recording analogically is a little different. DiFazio spoke of what it’s like when recording by analog:

“When the clients know that the tape is running, they are on point. They are not expecting me to perform a miracle as soon as I hit stop. ‘Oh I was off key,’ ‘Oh I was out of time,’ ‘Oh can you move this snare drum around.’ No! This is a tape machine, this is no different than what you have in your cassette player. You can’t just cut those individual sounds out and move them around. You have to cut out the whole thing. If you all screw up, then maybe I can fix it. But if just you screw up, then maybe this isn’t a keeper.”

It’s easy to see that recording digitally has changed the way music is produced and the way it is heard. In an interview with Carl Beatty, he explained the difference of sound between digital and analog:
“…what digital doesn’t do well with is low level signals. In terms of ambience and all the things that make the reverb (reverberation) kind of incoherent and out of phase, that’s all low level detail. So if digital is not handling that, or doesn’t know how to handle that stuff, you can hear it in analog.”

He also explained that the average person just doesn’t care if the sound quality is not that great:

“I think it’s personal. I used to say to my students, ‘people don’t care what it sounds like, the average audience doesn’t care what it sounds like. It’s been proven…”

So how did we slide down this slippery slope of poorer quality music? Between the growing availability of music and the advancements in technology, which continue to provide convenience over quality, we have come to where we are today. Yes, the quality of music has changed. But the question remains, will the sound we have now remain the same? Or will technology continue to advance and recover the quality of sound we once had in analog recordings?


Robert DiFazio. December 2007. How Analog and Digital Recording Techniques Influence the Recording Process.

Carl Beatty. October 2007. Can Digital Recordings Sound as Good as Analog?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Temptation by Anna

This oil painting of William was created by Anna from a photograph taken by In the Good Shepherd's Care. The photo of the oil painting doesn't do it justice, but you can get an idea of her wonderful talent and hard work. I continued to be amazed by my children.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Textbook French

Anna is learning about the weather and temperatures in French. Trying to help her lessons and conversation, I am relearning French as I am able. We were discussing yesterday that the French say, "J'ai chaud", literally "I have hot" to say that the person's body is experiencing rising temperatures. To say "Je suis chaud" or literally, "I am hot" means to express one is gay. I asked how she knew that it meant that and she said it was right there in the textbook. I took four or five years of high school and college French, and they never told me that. I guess times have indeed changed.


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