Sunday, September 1, 2013

10 things older people might know about

Them times, they are a changin.  It seems like the more things change, the more we forget the things that we used to do.  I'm old, of course in a chronological sense i'm middle aged, but in my 12 year old mind I am at the age where I would have everything figured out and I would be master of all I surveyed.  I would like to tell my 12 year old self a few things. This is a list of stuff that we used to do a long time ago back when things were different.  Now we don't do them anymore.

1. Add color to margarine - Margarine and butter.  The eternal battle.  In many cases margarine is just fine.  But way back when, margarine had to be uncolored.  You could get your margarine along with a little capsule of coloring agent to make it yellow.  It had to do with a government regulation concerning the competition of milkfat v.s. vegetable oil.  It seems the butter lobby (yes there is such a lobby) successfully implemented various legislation to not allow margarine to be colored like butter and in some states, it had to be colored a yummy pink.  Who wouldn't want pink toast?

2.  Full Service - Trust your car to the man who wears the star.  That meant gas too.  Full service.  You pull up to the station and you tell them to 'filler up'.  The service attendant would then proceed to fill your tank, check your oil, wiper blades, and washer fluid.  Sometimes they would pour some of the gas on the ground to round the total fee up to a round number (yes gas was this cheap).  Of course now we pump our own gas and the only attendants you will see are in Oregon where they have made a law that all gas must be pumped by 'professionals'.  The rest of the country can't afford to employ attendants.

3.  Side B -Early on, music came on two flavors of records.  the 45 and the 78 LP (Long play) Record. Record albums and cassette tapes both were not a collection of single songs, but rather a musical story told on both sides of the record.  Singles were where the hits of those albums lived.  People bought them for the hit, but what did you do with the other side?  Stick a song on that nobody was going to hear.  (You had to buy a converter to allow the single to be played on your hi fidelity sound system).  You don't put 2 hits on a single or you'll sell 1/2 as many singles.  Albums like Pink Flloyd's Dark Side of the moon and Moody Blues Days of future Past were meant to be listened to in a row in that order and the breaks between the sides of the albums were planned.  Now you get individual songs and you put them in the order you like and you never hear a break unless you have a free Spotify account.

4.  Collect buckets of Nickels - As is my wont, I once again go to gambling for an informational moment.  Back in the day, You would plunk coins in a slot machine and coins would then issue forth assuming a paying combination.  These nickels were collected in cups that resembled cottage cheese containers.  Giant counting machines would tally up your coins and the cashier would issue cash.  Now slot machines take cash or paper tickets and pay out in paper tickets.  These tickets have a big bar code on them that will allow a cashier; human or automated, to pay your due.  The ticket system saves the casino big money and of course eliminates several low end cashier jobs in favor of a few more high tech jobs in maintaining the computers involved.  An interesting side note.  These slot machines no longer make the tell tale clink clink sound when paying off naturally so the sound of coins falling into a hopper is still played as the ticket is printed out.  I'm sure there is a whole generation of young gamblers that wonder what that noise is.

5.  Crime was worse but we didn't know it - The year is 1980.  It starts the worst crime statistics recorded since the 1960's.  Sure crime had been increasing every year SINCE 1960, but decade of 1980 is the peak at a total of 5,741 crimes per 100,000 people in the U.S. in 1989.   For those of you keeping score, that's 5%.  Fast forward to the tumultuous year of 2011 and you will find that our overall crime rate went down to 3295 per 100,000 people (3.2%).  You ask the average person and they will say things are as bad as they ever were.  Nope.  Not.  What's the answer?  Why is crime going down?  There are many theories of why crime is going down.  The two things that had nothing to do with it were the most interesting.  Concealed Carry permits for guns had no appreciable effect on crime rates.  Gun control laws also had no effect on crime rates.  I personally found this to be really interesting.  The paper I got a lot of my information from is pretty well sourced and very interesting:  Understanding why crime fell in the 1990's.

6.  Soft drinks were mixed - These days when you are thirsty, you go to your local vending machine or convenience store and purchase a carbonated beverage.  Why carbonated?  Because it's fun!  Flavored drinks are better when they are fizzy it's a known fact.  Well back before World War II, you would get your soda at the drug store and you would request the flavor that would be mixed with the soda water to create your own personalized thirst quencher.  Now days it's all prepackaged.  An interesting side note.  Non carbonated beverages are making a comeback.  I personally don't drink carbonated drinks because they are the favorite snack of my pet ulcers.

7.  The internet was called the Library - This blog is really made possible through the information gleaned from the millions of pages on the Internet.  I would love to think that I have this information at my command due to my mental faculties.  Instead I must admit that all I really do is add pithy commentary to information that is freely had.  Growing up this information was only gained in the library.  The Dewey Decimal System was the google of the day and the sometimes friendly Librarian would be able to easily direct you to the constantly maintained organization of books and periodicals.  What is the library now?  Well, I know there are still books there.  Compact Disc's as well as DVD's are there as well.  It is also a place you can freely connect to the Internet.  I can't imagine how long the book part is going to last.  Oh it has a decade or two left in it, but the tide is definitely pulling out on the venerable printed word.

8.  You owned your music - More specifically, music didn't have an ownership definition that the regular person would understand.  The music industry controlled the quality, the format, and the price of recorded entertainment.  I remember I used to pay about 12 dollars for a record album.  Why?  Because that was the price they figured I would pay.  If I wanted to play that album on 8-track tape,  I would have to purchase it again.  The price was determined by a market that had no competition and often I would have to buy a particular artist's work several times to be able to play them on different sound mediums.  So once I bought the medium, I owned the music it conveyed.  The cassette tape caused a bit of pause in the music industry because with equipment that was affordable by joe-six-pack, a backup recording of your Styx Paradise Theater album could be made and played in your car.  How much did you pay the music production company?  Nothing.  This trend has quickly caused a problem.  The music industry had to start competing with free.  Now music is not owned, but licensed and you can play that music on many devices with amazing sound quality.  More and more the use of music is payed for through commercials or by the song.  Now it is made clear that you never owned the music, but rather the medium it's on.

9.  Shoes were repaired  - The cobbler's kids go without shoes.  This was a saying that made sense when they had cobblers.  Also known as shoemakers, the cobbler would make and fix shoes.  Shoes were made by these artisans with skill and pride.  They cost enough that when the sole wore out, you replaced them with another sole.  Shoes would remain in repair for quite a long time. A cobbler might even suggest that you put taps on your shoes.  Little metal edges that clicked when you hit the pavement.  Why?  So the heaviest points of your step wouldn't wear out as quickly.  The dancing part came later.  Now, shoes are manufactured and thrown away.  Like so many other things.

10.  Gasoline was different - When you buy gas today, not only do you pump it yourself.  but you are pumping a different substance.  When you pump Regular gas. you really aren't.  in the 1970's.  Regular gasoline had lead in it.  There was Regular Leaded and Unleaded and Premium.  This was the same time that Diesel gas was much cheaper than regular.  Now, Diesel is very expensive, Regular IS unleaded but changed its name and there are 2 other grades of gas that are simply higher octane.

I'm sure these things exist today in one form or another to some extent.  But they are still not the regular icons that they used to be.  Change Change Change.  They say change is good.  They are probably the ones initiating the change.

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