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Time Travel Hijinks

Posted 2012.02.02 21.06 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

If I had a time machine, I think one of my hobbies would be to leave unmistakably modern detritus in the past, at sites that I knew were going to become archaeological digs in the present. You know, just to mess with the heads of the archaeologists, and screw up theories and stuff like that.

For instance, I’d go back to Pompeii in A.D. 79, and maybe leave an empty Coke can in Caecillius’s house. Or I’d visit Hastings in A.D. 1077 and scatter a handful of spent rifle cartridges around the former battle field.

Or if I could find out all the places that Time Team was going to visit on their next season, then I’d spend a weekend visiting all those spots in the past, and leave empty beer bottles for them to find in their trenches.

Honestly I think that would be priceless, to see Tony Robinson trying to explain how it seems like the whole medieval period found Miller High Life very popular, and that they appeared to have invented the ‘Bottom Bottle Opener’ several hundred years before the Miller Brewing Company was even formed.

Alexander and Me

Posted 2007.05.28 0.00 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

The telephone. I hate it. Ok I don’t hate it. But I don’t love it either. What I really hate is the telephone answering machine. But that can’t exist without the telephone. I also hate how the telephone and its infuriating ringing tries to demand instant attention.

When I’m in the middle of something, and the phone rings… I’m in the middle of something. Why does the phone expect I should drop everything and come running at its beck and call. You know, if you have company over and you are talking with them and the phone rings, they get sort of uncomfortable and anxious, if you don’t answer the phone. Some people are physically disturbed by a ringing phone, like they MUST answer it.

You know why this is? Because we were CONDITIONED at youth to respond to a bell. School, anyone? Blasted bells, we’ve been conditioned like Pavlov’s dog. We MUST PERFORM when the bell rings. And the blasted telephone and its infernal bells, tries to demand our attendance when it rings.

You know what I hate? When I’m at a retail store, there at the counter to buy something, and the clerk puts ME on hold because there’s a phone call. I’m a real live person, who has travelled bodily to their store, money in hand, and yet I must wait quietly while the lazy SOB on the telephone gets priority treatment. Why? The telephone rang its bloody bells! Bells aside, the clerk could answer the phone and put the caller on hold to finish transacting business with me, but that would imply they broke their childhood conditioning. Far be it from any child to heed the schoolbell but ignore the teacher ringing it.

Ok, so what, right? I hate the telephone, what to do about it?

Well, I made a decision. I went back in time, to confront Mr. Bell, and try to dissuade him from inventing the blasted thing.

Yeah, that’s right. What I did was, I travelled back to early 1875, and tried to intercept Bell when he was on his way to visit Joseph Henry (then director of the Smithsonian Institution).

The problem was, I was never much of a student of modern history, math has never been a great strong point, and sometimes I get really worked up about an idea but I kind of play fast and loose with the details and hope things will just work out.

So, what happened? Well first off, I got there late, missed Bell before the meeting, but got to him afterwards. He was already pretty fired up, and wasn’t really interested to listen to what I had to say. In fact, I will go so far as to say he was pretty insufferable. Then he got a little pushy with me, at which point I finaly lost my patience and, well, I kicked Mr. Alexander Graham right in the Bells. Having got his attention for a few moments at least, I gave him a good talking to, then beat a hasty retreat.

Now of course, you’re all looking around and calling bull-$#!t because there’s still telephones everywhere.

Yes, this is true. I concede that I failed in my attempt to make the telephone not exist. However — I will claim a small victory in that very few telephones today use actual bells any more. Most of them beep, whistle, sing, bark, or buzz, in order to get peoples’ attention. So at least the Pavlovian conditioning we have from elementary school bells, is less of an issue when dealing with the telephone. Oh, and one unexpected result — the audio quality of telephones today is atrocious. There’s even an audio term for it “telephone quality” (as opposed to “CD quality” for instance). Telephones used to be as clear as crystal, as if the person were actually there speaking to you. Now, you can clearly tell you are talking through wires and tiny speakers. Never saw that coming.
Further research has revealed that Bell’s phones were in fact of such low audio quality, that most-insufferable so-called inventor Edison was able to lend a hand at improving the sound quality. If my meddling was responsible, then I do apologize Mr. Bell – the thought of that hack Edison finding some excuse to lay claim to some part of your invention… is most unfortunate.

I suppose if I’ve learned anything from all this, it is that it is actually harder than I thought, to alter history.

One of the latest designs in spoken-word telephony