Please be very careful with promoted posts on Facebook

For “promoted post,” read “advertisement.”

I’m using as an example one that showed up in my newsfeed yesterday, from a company which calls itself “wewinns.”

They are offering a complete date set of Morgan silver dollars for $199.99 (reduced from $699.99!)

Beautiful, right? The Morgan really is a gorgeous piece, especially in uncirculated condition. Notice the first description:

Morgan Silver Dollars are an excellent way to own a piece of history, while concurrently investing in the physical precious metal silver.  Morgan Silver Dollars are composed of 90% silver and 10% copper.  They weigh 26.73 grams.  This equates to approximately .7734 Troy ounces of silver and approximately .1 ounce of copper per coin. Uncirculated collectible coins.

Next, we have coin highlights:

Coin Highlights:

Arrives inside of a protective plastic slab courtesy of the NGC or PCGS!

Struck from 1878 to 1904!
• Contains .77344 Troy oz of actual silver content.
• Bears a face value of $1 (USD) backed by the federal government.
Issued a Grade of Mint State 66 by the Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
• Obverse features the effigy of Liberty.
• Reverse includes the American bald eagle.

When I was a kid, collecting coins was much less complex. Coin grades were:

  • Cull
  • Fair (F)
  • Good (G)
  • Very Good (VG)
  • Fine (F)
  • Very Fine (VF)
  • Extra Fine (XF)
  • Almost Uncirculated (AU)
  • Uncirculated (Unc)
  • Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)
  • Proof (P)

“Cull” was a damaged coin with no value, and “Proof” – as today – are specially-created strikes for collector. In between, coins were graded largely based on the subjective opinions of countless coin dealers.

Now, things are a lot more complicated, but a lot more formalized. The PCGS that this advertisement invokes has a very detailed designation and a numerical grading system by which coins are qualified. According to their website, MS66 is defined as “Well struck with a few marks or hairlines not in focal areas.” In other words, a pretty, uncirculated coin.

The next statement from the “wewinns” website reiterates the condition of the coins you will supposedly get:

Each of the Morgan Silver Dollar Coins offered by us in this product listing is available to you in Mint State 66 condition from either the PCGS or NGC. Coins in Mint State 66 condition are five grades below the perfect grade of 70 on the Sheldon numeric scale. A coin with an MS66 certification has minimal, but apparent, detracting marks or hairlines.

Following more generic information about Morgan dollars, the sales website goes on to say:

In this product listing, we guarantee you a Mint State 66 condition Morgan Silver Dollar.

Now things get interesting. After some more description of the beauty and rarity of the Morgan dollars, we see this:

Each Morgan Silver Dollar is presented in circulated condition with most major design details visible, and is protected in an archival crystal-clear case that allows for easy and safe viewing of both sides.

“Most major design details visible.” To me, that sounds like an F-12: “About half of detail now worn flat. All lettering remains visible.”

But then in the next bit, we go right back to the shiny new coins you thing you’ll be getting:

Year: 1878 to 1921
Grade: Choice BU
Strike Type: Business
Denomination: $1.00
Mint Location: “S” – San Francisco
Metal Content: 0.7734 troy oz
Purity: .900
Manufacturer: US Mint
Thickness: 3.1 mm
Diameter: 38.1 mm

I have no idea what “Strike type: business” means, unless it just implies general circulation coins and not a proof.

I was curious enough to click the “Contact Us” link on the bottom of the page:

Email:[support@wewinns.com]
Phone: +86 181 2462 2758

Is anyone suprised that country code 86 is China? My email to the support staff read as follows:

I am interested in your offer, but I am confused.
Your ad says the following things:
“Uncirculated collectible coins.”
“Issued a Grade of Mint State 66 by the Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.”
“Each of the Morgan Silver Dollar Coins offered by us in this product listing is available to you in Mint State 66 condition from either the PCGS or NGC.”
“In this product listing, we guarantee you a Mint State 66 condition Morgan Silver Dollar.”
“Each Morgan Silver Dollar is presented in circulated condition with most major design details visible.”
“Grade: Choice BU”
So, are these coins that you are offering uncirculated, with a grade of 66, or are they circulated and in generally poor condition? You are aware, are you not, that a full set of Morgan dollars in grade 66 typically sells for over $125,000?
I look forward to your speedy response.

But I will be surprised if there is any response at all. If you get anything at all from this outfit, I’m pretty safe in thinking it will be a collection of very poor-quality coins, and that their website will be gone – only to resurface the next day with a different name.

Now I won’t go so far as to say that every advertisement promoted by Facebook is painfully deceptive or outright dishonestly false… but in my experience, a vast preponderance of them are just that, and a large percentage of them come from China. And Facebook continues to happily take their advertising dollars, and countless people are defrauded by unscrupulous enterprises.

It is worth noticing that the current PCGS quoted price for a complete date set of Morgan dollars in MS-66 condition is $165,605.00, and a complete date set in F-12 condition (Fair) is quoted at $1,272.00… so heaven only knows what you might get if you drop $200.00 into this Chinese bank account.

Be very careful with these ads. Discuss this with vulnerable loved ones, particularly the elderly who might be more susceptible to greasy advertising techniques like this.

Edit: Another, very similar ad page is found at
https://www.silver-ccoins.com/products/1878-1921-morgan-dollar-silver-coin-lx-1, and it uses almost identical wording, with a lot of additional promotional fluff added. The company behind this one is Vankin Co. Ltd. in London. Beware.

Edit 2: This report focuses on an individual who was conned into buying counterfeit silver dollars (made of steel); the report ends by indicating that these bogus dollars were likely mass-produced in China. One more red flag that this particular deal and ones like it should be run away from at great speed.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Once Upon a Time, A Long Time Ago… it was Great to be a White Male in America

I grew up in New York City in the ’50s. So when a friend of mine posted this, and I watched it, I was naturally struck with feelings of nostalgia for times and events in my life that are now gone forever.

But along with the nostalgia and wistfulness was an overpowering awareness that I was watching the documentary of a reality that only existed for some Americans. The stark contrast, totally ignored in this yearning little video, is well represented in this image from Life Magazine:

Those happy folks in the back, smiling in their car… those are the people we see in the video. The ones in the front, waiting in a bread line, were not even visible anywhere.

It was great to be white in the ’50s.

You grow up in that environment, and you grow up a racist, and a sexist, even though there may not be a malicious bone in your body. Racism and sexism were in the blood and bones and DNA of society, and you were bombarded with blatant or subconscious reminders that women’s place was in the kitchen (barefoot, pregnant, and with no vote)¹, and black lives didn’t only not matter, they were totally invisible.

See Dad and Jim play. Watch Mom and Mary wash the dishes. And enjoy it.

This one was relatively subtle. There was much, much worse out there.

With a history like that, anyone born in the ’50s or even the ’60s is going to have these attitudes driven deep into their psyches, and they are devilishly hard to expurgate completely. That’s why a person who wants to have a positive effect on the world around them needs to pay attention to the advice below (which applies to any “-ism,” not just racism) and practice it on a daily basis. Not unlike alcoholics in recovery who realize and understand that they are never really “cured,” these ways of thinking will surface at a moment’s notice given half a chance.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes

¹ Things have improved, at least on the surface – but sexism in American society is still a very real phenomenon, particularly in the workplace. Advertising agencies, still embarrassingly aware that sex sells almost more than anything, still pump out sexist ads, although in the #MeToo era, some companies are issuing mea culpas (but only when they get caught out).

As for racism? Sometimes I wonder if we’ve made any progress at all since Selma. Some of the things I’m seeing now in terms of voter suppression in Georgia and other GOP states recalls a very dark stage of American history, as outlined brilliantly by Heather Cox Richardson.

Games People Play at 3 in the morning (otherwise known as Numberwang!)

First, a little backstory:

Numberwang! A bit of silliness from the BBC show That Mitchell and Webb Look.

As you can see from watching this little clip, there’s no rhyme or reason at all to any of it, which makes it all the more fun.

We have a clock from Brookstone (I’ve had it for literally ages) that projects the time and outside temperature on the ceiling when it’s dark, and also functions as a barometer.

Unordered Strait: Numberwang!

At first glance, this looks completely random – but notice that it uses all the numbers from 1 to 6 – what I call an unordered strait. And that’s Numberwang! Points if you see it and call it out and wake up your partner. More points if you can get a picture of it (because, naturally, pix or it didn’t happen).

Random numbers don’t count for anything, but the minutes tick off, and the temperature typically drops .1 or .2 degrees at a time as the night goes on, so depending on the season of the year, all sorts of combinations are possible.

In my own schema, some configurations are worth more than others:

That’s a match. Numberwang!

As you lie there at night with the hamsters running on the wheels in your head, as you remember all the embarrassing things that happened to you in eighth grade, you can often spot one of these coming up. Of course, if there’s five minutes to go before Numberwang! it’s entirely possible that the temperature will move by a tenth or two, and then you’ve lost until the next combination comes around.

Numberwang!
Numberwang!
Numberwang!
Numberwang!
Numberwang!
Numberwang!

Matches are good, and I’ve seen a lot more than I’ve been able to capture. They’re pretty high on the list of scores. But there are some others that are fun to find as well.

This is what I call a “jagged strait.” (This one is simulated)

When the numbers run in sequence, but sort of zig-zag up and down.

Palindromes are fun to catch.
Numberwang!

But the ones that are the hardest of all are what I call the bonanzas. I’ve only caught two of them in 11 years, and you can imagine why they are so difficult – the confluence is very rare, and you have to be awake at just the right time.

Bonanza 3’s
Bonanza 4’s

Strangely enough, I caught these two within a week of each other, after playing this silly game for about 5 years. And I haven’t been able to get another one since.

Here are some of the ones I hope to get as time goes on (simulated images):

Bonanza 5’s

This one is hard for another reason – by the time the temperature gets into the 50’s at night, it’s going to be too light in the morning or the night to see the time on your ceiling unless you sleep in a very darkened room, which we don’t.

Bonanaza 1’s

This one is only going to happen in the winter, and it can also happen at 1:11 AM. Double your chances, but still difficult.

Bonanza 2’s.

Also cold!

Bonanza Null

Colder still! Nulls will only happen if you have your clock set to 24-hour time, which we don’t.

Ordered Strait – Numberwang!

This is a Winterwang, when it’s still dark at 5 AM – but have never yet been able to nail this one.

Numberwang also shows up in the wild – on grocery receipts and gas pumps, or car odometers. In fact, any time you happen to notice an interesting pattern in numbers anywhere, it’s Numberwang! and you can award yourself as many points as you want… before you rotate the board!

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Wang tax:

Round and Round the Tech Support bush, the user chased an answer…

HP: “That’s a software problem, call Microsoft.”
Microsoft: “That’s a program issue, call the vendor.”
Vendor: “That’s a hardware problem, call Dell.”

Today’s iteration of this problem came whilst attempting to register my bank card with Google Pay so I can pay with a tap of my phone. (PS: I’ve done this before successfully, but we have a new bank.)

Digital Wallet Verification: “We need to send you a one-time code, but the phone number you gave me doesn’t match our records. We could send you a code by email, but you don’t have one on record. [Yes, I do. My bank emails me all the time.] You’ll have to call the number on the back of your card.”

Customer Service: “Sorry, we can’t see your phone number. All we can do is block your card if it’s been lost or stolen.” Me, shouting: “NO! FOR THE LOVE OF MOGG DON’T DO THAT!!”

Financial Institution: “Your phone number in our system is correct. The problem is with Digital Wallet.”

Digital Wallet: (rinse and repeat, but this time get elevated to a manager) “We can’t change your phone number here. We can only verify what your bank gives us.”

Me: “But I just called my bank and they said my data is accurate.”

Digital Wallet: “You need to have your bank reach out to their client services and make sure the card record is correct, not the account record. And since you have two failed attempts, we can’t verify this card.” [Turns out I have to wait 7 days to try again after their system unlocks the card.]

By now I’ve been on this hellish merry-go-round for over an hour.

Financial Institution [Time: 1640 hours] “Our offices are now closed. Please call back during normal business hours.”

Exit user, weeping.

Technology: it’s a great servant when everything works well, but when something goes FUBAR it becomes a hellish taskmaster.¹

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes

¹ In all of these calls, every agent was doing their best to be helpful within the parameters they were given. But the major challenge for me was understanding them (except for the manager at Digital Wallet, who was an American). I’m a trained linguist who speaks a jugful of languages and is familiar with a hogshead more, and I have the hardest time attuning my ears to these outsourced accents. They’re just bad.

Embittered plea to Corporate CEO’s: “When you outsource your customer service function, please make sure that the agents are capable of speaking with an understandable accent.”

I can’t imagine how hard it must be for someone who is only used to Great Plains English.

If you can’t say somethin’ nice…

Thumper had a hard time remembering his dad’s advice, but he got it in the end. And it’s advice that holds its value through the years.

While living hard against the north foothills of Salt Lake City, I would walk out my back door almost every day and hike into the mountains, often up City Creek Canyon. If you go past the water purification plant as far as the road will take you, you will encounter Rotary Park, dedicated to Marion Duff Hanks who was a prominent Rotarian and a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Featured centrally in the dedication is the Rotarian 4-way Test of any principle:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Bernard Meltzer is credited with something similar with regards to the spoken word:

“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”

The Greeks have a proverb which I first learned from my wonderful modern Greek professor at the University of Utah, Bill Cocorinis:

“Η γλώσσα κόκαλα δεν έχει και κόκαλα τσακίζει” (I glossa kokala then exi kai kokala tsakizi), which means “the tongue has no bones, but it breaks bones.)

Whoever coined the old saying about sticks and stones was trying to make a legitimate point, but it’s not universally applicable: words can hurt far worse than sticks and stones, and the damage they can cause can last long after broken bones have healed. The scars from verbal abuse and bullying can last a lifetime.

The name of this blog is taken from a concept promoted by R. Buckminster Fuller which came to be called, in its simplest form, The World Game. It deals with building a better world, or in his own words,

“Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

-R. Buckminster Fuller

John Denver incorporated this concept in his eponymous song:

I want to play in the World Game
I want to make it better it’s ever been before
I want to play in the World Game
I want to make sure everybody knows the score
About using less, doing so much more

John Denver, from the album “It’s About Time” – Sony Music Entertainment

So to you, to me, to all of us – let’s do our best to keep our words soft and sweet, because in the words of Andy Rooney, we never know when we may have to eat them.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Where were the adults in the room?

I wrote this post on August 25, 2020, but never finished it simply because life got in the way. I’ve updated it a bit to reflect recent events.

Clearly, there were none.

America is not Liberia, where in 1927 “the most rigged ever” gave Charles D. B. King 243,000 votes despite the existence of fewer than 15,000 registered voters.

America is not Ukraine, where results were contested, candidates were poisoned with dioxin, the media was biased, and voters were intimidated.

No, this is America, where even in the most hotly contested and controversial of elections, the result was a peaceful transfer of power.

Until now.

Now we have an individual in the White House, an impeached president who was elected despite losing the popular vote by a margin of at least 3,000,000, who has been dog whistling to his base that “the only way he will lose is if the election is rigged;” making loud noises on Fox News that he won’t commit to accepting the results of the 2020 election and ensuring a peaceful transition of power; and doing all he can to disparage mail-in voting and make it difficult or impossible for countless millions of underserved Americans, who tend to vote dominantly Democratic. to vote.

This is unheard of. It has never happened in our history. It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s shameful. And there’s not a single person in this administration who has big enough balls to shout into the *president’s face, “You can’t do that! If you lose an election, you’ve lost, and you accept it with good grace!”

Of course, “good grace” is not something compatible with this administration. But it’s truly one of the most frightening things I have encountered in my lifetime here on American soil. And given that we are currently living in one of the most challenging years ever, what with Covid, BLM, police overreach, a tanked economy (oh, it’s great if you’re rich – not so much if you’ve lost your job, your business, or your insurance), and the most polarized political climate I’ve ever seen, that’s saying something.

I tremble to think what could happen if the Orange Screechweasel loses the electoral vote and calls on his base to rise up against the “liberal, radical, Communist” horde who rigged the election so he could not win – despite decades of Republican gerrymandering, voter suppression, roll purging, and most recently, dismissing mail-in balloting and hamstringing the US Post Office. This could be an absolute catastrophe.

Here ends what I had written before the election.

And it was.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

It was worse than could have imagined. People died, including one Capitol police officer who was beaten to death by “protestors.” They were not protestors, they were armed thugs. They were not “Antifa,” they were almost exclusively Trump cultists.

But even today, more than 2 months after this disgraceful event, there are no adults in the Republican party who are willing to shout into the faces of their brainwashed, “Stop the Steal” colleagues, “You can’t do this! You are destroying American democratic traditions, and wiping your feet on the Constitution!” Nobody. Any opposition comes across like someone whispering in a hurricane, and it’s just as disgraceful as the events of January 6th, just as shameful as a year-long trumpeting of “The Big Lie,” just as destructive to our nation’s political landscape as the 4 years of the most heinous *administration the White House has ever seen.

America is a wonderful land, full of storied, honorable traditions and good people who want nothing more than to provide a good living and a safe place for their families, people who would reach out to each other and give the shirts off their backs and their lives if need be for those around them.

But Congress is full of some of the most repugnant individuals I have ever encountered in my life, and I’m counting people like George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Strom Thurmond, Spiro Agnew, and Joseph McCarthy in that assessment. Our nation has a deep-seated illness, and these people are the symptoms. The illness was born of 50 years (at least) of Republican gaslighting and disinformation, designed to marginalize people of color, Democrats, and anyone they considered “other.”

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told Harper’s writer Dan Baum for the April cover story published Tuesday.

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Harper’s Magazine, April 2016 “Legalize It All

This quote was backed up five years later by another Nixon aide:

“[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

–H. R. Haldeman (quoted in Christian Parenti’s, Lockdown America, p. 3. Unsourced quote.

People of good conscience cannot allow this madness in our government to continue. We need to elect more people like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, young, fiery progressives who have the courage to stand up to the exclusionary, white, evangelical, xenophobia of people like Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, MTG and Lauren Boebert. These people are those of whom John the Apostle wrote, “Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”

We need Medicare for All. We need election reform (H.R. 1). We need corporate reform (repealing Citizens United). We need equality of economic opportunities and the elimination of such great financial inequality in society. We need so many things to heal the illness that festers at the heart of our nation.

Only adults in the room can make that happen.

Let it be so.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

You want to do *what* to that duck?

Warning: NSFW Language

In an earlier post, I offered up an explanation (by smarter people than I) of how a sign in a Chinese hotel offered “smallpox” as an option for guests.

This one popped up in a feed somewhere today, and though I had seen it before I never took the time to find out how such an awful translation could have taken place.

In traditional Chinese, “乾爆鴨子” (gān bào yāzi) means dry fried duck, or duck cooked in very little oil which causes the skin to pop and crackle more than usual.

When written in simplified Chinese characters used in the People’s Republic of China, this becomes 干爆鸭子, pronounced the same way.

However, simplified Chinese often reduced more than one character in traditional writing to the same character, hence 干 (gān) means “to interfere, to concern,” 乾 (gān) means “dry” as in dried food, and 幹 (or 榦) (gàn) means “tree trunk, capable, to do.” In simplified characters, all of these are written 干, and there are many, many other meanings of gān or gàn as well.

The last character also means something entirely different, as in the phrase “I’d love to do him/her.”

For some odd reason, this last meaning was very popular with a poorly-designed automated translator:

“Notoriously, the 2002 edition of the widespread Jinshan Ciba Chinese-to-English dictionary for the Jinshan Kuaiyi translation software rendered every occurrence of 干 as “fuck”, resulting in a large number of signs with irritating English translations throughout China, often mistranslating 乾 (gān) “dried” as in 干果 “dried fruit” in supermarkets as “fuck the fruits” or similar.

(Wikipedia, “Radical 51”)

The software was later corrected, but the embarrassing results are still seen in many places, as China seems heavily dependent on machine translation.

Amazing to me is that companies don’t understand the importance of using professional translators when dealing with other countries, at least if they want to be taken seriously.

老狼說話了。

Please be very careful ordering from Facebook ads

My wife passed me this item to look at – and it looks like a really good idea. We have a small flock of chickens so we don’t worry about composting much, but there are things like potato peelings and bones and such that the girls (and Pongo¹) won’t eat, so it would be nice to have something to reduce these scraps to something usable.

Amazing price, given that the most popular composter on Amazon runs for about $400.00.

I mean, who could turn down an offer like that?

Just for fun, I put one in my cart to see what shipping for a 22-lb (10kg) item would cost from California.

Any guesses?

$4.95.

Ok, with anything else discounted, this whole deal would fall into the “Too good to be true” category. So let’s do just a bit more research. Going to Scamadvisor.com, we find this summary:

Add this to a 1% trust score overall, and that’s more red flags than Tootle was confronted with when he jumped the tracks to play with the butterflies.

From “Tootle” – a Little Golden Book

Notice that the original ad claimed that there were only 65 left in stock. When I checked earlier this morning, it was down to 34. Now, it’s not beyond possibility that they got a new shipment within the last few hours, but the odds are better that these numbers are randomly generated to give the appearance of desirability and scarcity.

I suspect people who order this will never receive anything, or will be shipped cheap slum² that functions poorly and breaks quickly. Whatever the case,

“The bitterness of poor quality lasts long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Source: Unknown. Attributed to Benjamin Franklin or Aldo Gucci without verification.

Who knows, I might be passing up on the deal of a lifetime, but this is not something I’m going to gamble $35.00 on.

For what it’s worth, a large percentage of ads that appear on your Facebook wall are put there by spurious companies for spurious merchandise. Stolen artwork and intellectual property are high on the list; teeshirt companies that pop up, sell stuff with Peanuts™ or Calvin and Hobbes™ or something else that’s not licensed, promoted by photoshopped images of Carl Sagan or Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson, vanish into the mist before they can be prosecuted, and pop up the next week with a different name (and most of these outfits are, predictably, in China).

The takeaway here is Be Very Careful when ordering merchandise from an ad on Facebook.There are legitimate concerns out there, but far too many of these ads (which Facebook is more than happy to accept advertising dollars from) will burn you badly. Do your research (that doesn’t mean watch some sleazy YouTube video) and protect your loved ones.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes:

¹

Pongo

² “Slum” is what carnival hucksters call the cheap trash that you win when you play their midway games. As opposed to the major prizes that are very difficult to get.

Pedal to the Metal, and other expressions for speed

Pedal to the Metal

I’m drivin’ a truck
Drivin’ a big ol’ truck
Pedal to the metal, hope I don’t run out of luck
Rollin’ down the highway until the break of dawn
Drivin’ a truck with my high heels on

Weird Al Yankovic, “Truck Driving Song”

The origin of this phrase is pretty irrelevant because it’s so obvious – you’ve got your accelerator pedal pressed down as far as it will go, all the way to the firewall.

Put the Hammer Down

This is essentially equivalent to “pedal to the metal.” It also appears in Weird Al’s lovely tribute to truckers:

My diesel rig is northward bound
It’s time to put that hammer down
Just watchin’ as the miles go flyin’ by
I’m ridin’ 20-tons of steel
But it’s sure hard to hold the wheel
While I’m still waiting for my nails to dry

Weird Al Yankovic, “Truck Driving Song”

Other expressions for speed are not as straightforward.

Balls to the Wall

Despite how you might be tempted to sexualize this phrase, it has nothing to do with enthusiastic reproduction. It’s an aviation term, originating at least from the ’60s and probably much earlier.

Notice the throttles with their round handles; when you have the need for speed, push those babies all the way to the control panel. Now one thing I learned when I was taking flying lessons in Key West in 1972 is that typically you shove those throttles forward when you want to go up; if you want to go faster, you point your nose down to reduce drag. That may seem counter-intuitive, but you get used to it. And you learn to juggle the two in such a way that you can put the plane where you want it to go, and at the speed you want at the same time.

Balls Out

Again, nothing to do with Harambe. Oh wait, that’s another expression. Well, still – this one is the steam engine version of “balls to the wall.” Old trains and industrial steam engines were equipped with centrifugal governors to regulate the speed of the device being controlled.

Those balls would spin around, and the faster they went, the farther out they would go because of centrifugal (or centripital, I dunno, dammit Jim I’m a linguist not an engineer) force, pulling a linkage to adjust the amount of steam being sent to the prime mover. So when the engine was going as fast as it could, those governor balls would be out as far as they could go, hence “balls out.”

Both Ears Down

This is an oldie but a goodie. If you’re not of a certain age, or an antique automobile enthusiast, you probably won’t be able to make heads or tails of this one.

The steering column of a Ford Model-T had two levers, one on either side.

Frontenac Auto Company

The one on the left adjusted the spark, and the one on the right was the throttle. In other words, the one on the right was your “gas pedal,” and the one on the left manually adjusted the timing of the spark (this was in a day before the self-adjusting distributor was invented.)

So the faster you went, the more you had to advance the spark to avoid engine knock, meaning both levers were gradually pulled downward as speed increased. Exactly how this was done is shown in the following schematic:

Notice that for maximum speed, (upper right-hand corner) both levers were down as far as they could go. Hence, “both ears down” came to mean pushing your brand-new Model-T to the max.

Rattle your dags

This one is exclusively Australian. Dags are matted clumps of wool and dung that hang off a sheep’s rear end… huge dingleberries, if you will. When a daggy sheep gets to running, those undulating gems make a rattling sound. Dag is descended from the British Daglock which was a dialect term borrowed into Australian English in the 1870’s. It essentially means “get a move on,” or “hurry up.”

I’m sure there are a lot of expressions out there that I don’t know, but these are some that always stuck in my mind.

The Old Wolf has spoken.¹


Footnotes

¹ Note: I’ve been saying this a lot longer than Kuiil has, but not as long as Chien Jaune.

For the Ward Clerks out there

If you happened to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the ’60s and were ever called as a Ward Clerk, or one of the assistant clerks – Historical, Financial, or Membership – you may remember the old Adler 200 typewriters.¹

Long before the advent of computers or word processors or even IBM Selectrics or Daisy-wheel typewriters, Adler was the go-to brand if you wanted a typewriter with an unusual font. I don’t know how many Adlers the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased over time, but I’d bet they kept a lot of factory workers and typewriter repair personnel in business for decades.

The LDS Adler had a specific keyboard layout, as well: you didn’t have to shift for numbers (because they were used mostly for entering financial records) and symbols were on additional keys.

The font that came with these machines was OCR-A, a font created in 1968, in the early days of computer optical character recognition, when there was a need for a font that could be recognized not only by the computers of that day, but also by humans.” (Wikipedia) It looked like this:

In the case of financial donations, members would fill out donation slips (being admonished to always write their names the same way each time):

and clerks would painstakingly transcribe these slips onto a ledger sheet on the typewriter, which was then sent by snail mail to headquarters where the records were scanned and entered into mainframe databases. Other information was also recorded using these machines, which were built like Sherman tanks, and like a Timex watch they would “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin.”

Ward clerks often served for extended periods of time; whereas service callings in the Church today generally only last a few years, back in the day it was not uncommon for a clerk to serve for decades, especially if he did a good job.

The Ward Clerk

He kept the minutes, typed each note,
And put them in the file.
The membership he knew by rote;
He labored with a smile.

The ordinations, births and deaths
He faithfully recorded
For forty years, until at last
He went to be rewarded.

The people he had known so well
Turned out to shed a tear,
And pay respect to this good man,
Gone to another sphere.

But as the choir rose to sing,
They saw with consternation
The good man from his coffin step
To count the congregation!

-Author Unknown

It is said in the navy that the Captain may command the ship, but the E-7’s (Chief petty officers) keep the show running. Much the same could be said about a ward or branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Bishop or Branch President may be in charge, but the ward clerks keep the wheels greased and everything running smoothly so the leaders can focus on ministering rather than administering.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Footnotes

¹ The typewriter photos used in this post are from typewriter hunter Jake Fisher at the Typewriter Database.