There’s bad translation, and then there’s this.


Found this abomination at the “Selling It” section of the May 2014 Consumer Reports. is full of such things, but this example is so egregious I felt as though it deserved its own shout-out.

The accompanying text said,

“Bang Indeed. The buyer who inserted this battery in his new “pay as you go” phone needn’t have worried about the warnings. “Sure enough,” he writes, “the phone did not work.”

I’ve talked about products made in China before, but it’s also worth remembering that the appetite for cheap Chinese goods is not driven by the Chinese exporters and manufacturers, but rather by American importers who buy their junk, exerting such downward price pressure on their suppliers that the quality goes from the toilet into the septic tank. It’s difficult to walk through Wal-Mart or Dollar Tree, to name two examples, without finding “Made in China” stamped on the goods. While getting American families up to living wage standards would help, it would take a miracle to break people of the habit of buying cheap trash just to save a dime. Frankly, I don’t have an answer, but I know that the current situation is doing nobody any good, except for those who manufacture and sell this type of garbage, balancing their bankbook on the backs of low-wage workers and low-wage consumers.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The People Here *still* Don’t Want a War.

Newser, one of my favorite aggregators, recently published a summary of an article by Stephen Peter Rosen at Wall Street Journal entitled

We Need to Sell Young People on War

Even though the body of the article is behind a paywall, if Newser’s summary is any indication this entire premise is pure kack. Never forget that Congress and the President make war, but it’s our soldiers who fight them; to the latter, honor and respect – to the former, my disdain. If every congressperson who voted to waste noble American blood and resources on futile and inhumane causes were given a weapon and shipped to the front lines, the votes would quickly be different. As Chaucer spake, moste witerliche:

“Up roos tho oon of thise olde wise, and with his hand made contenaunce that men sholde holden hem stille and yeven hym audience. “Lordynges,” quod he, “ther is ful many a man that crieth ‘Werre! Werre!’ that woot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bigynnyng hath so greet an entryng and so large, that every wight may entre whan hym liketh, and lightly fynde werre; but certes, what ende that shal therof bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. For soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his mooder that shal sterve yong by cause of thilke werre, or elles lyve in sorwe and dye in wrecchednesse. And therfore, er that any werre bigynne, men moste have greet conseil and greet deliberacion.”

For those not comfortable with Middle English, this is what Chaucer wrote:

“And up rose an old man, and with his hand he made signs that men should be silent and listen to him. “My lords,” he said, there is many a man who cries ‘War! War!’ who knows little of what war means. War, at its beginning, has such a great and large commencement that any poor yutz [my translation] can jump in and find war; but it is certain that it is not easy to say what the end will bring. For of a truth, when that war has once begun, there is many an unborn child who shall die young because of this war, or else live in sorrow and die in wretchedness. And therefore, before any war begins, men must have great counsel and deliberation.”

The only reason war is justified – in my poor and simple view, is to “support our lands, and our houses, and our wives, and our children, that we might preserve them from the hands of our enemies; and also that we might preserve our rights and our privileges, and our liberty.”  [1] Insane conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, waged to preserve what we consider to be our oil, our power, and our influence do not now fall under this head, and never shall.

Take note: I believe in a strong defense against all enemies foreign and domestic. I do not believe in disbanding the military. But I do believe that a vast percentage of our nation’s resources are being squandered on inhuman and inhumane causes. Have a look at the OMB’s chart showing the president’s 2014 recommendations for discretionary spending:


With so many people in this country out of work, with so many children going to bed hungry every night, with so many roads and bridges crumbling to the point of catastrophe, with funding for education and science being cut year by year, a military budget that size is unconscionable and obscene. This is not building a world that works for everyone, but a travesty of global proportions.

With apologies to Bobby Darin, the people here *still* don’t want a war.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] Paraphrased from The Book of Mormon, Alma 43:9


Change Nothing, Sell More


The webcomic “Doc Rat,” by Jenner (a practicing physician somewhere in the wilds of Australia) has long taken potshots at the marketing department of drug companies. It’s no coincidence that the marketing floor is represented by weasels.

I’ve written about the nature of persuasion before, but sometimes an example of the extreme folly of advertising and marketing rises to the surface, and I feel moved to share – a recent marketing campaign for Shreddies, a Wheat-Chex-like cereal sold in the UK, Canada, and New Zealand.


It was a good seller, and popular, and as well known as Wheaties or Cheerios in the USA, but the manufacturers wanted to breathe new life into the product, and so Kraft Foods came to advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather with a unique request – to re-brand Shreddies as a leader, without having any news about the product to work with, and while keeping in mind that focus groups showed that Shreddies’ customers liked it just the way it was. The resulting campaign was devious, brilliant, humorous, and successful, all at once.



All they did was rotate the image of the cereal by 45°, altering the visual perception of the product.




And despite the fact that the product was identical, taste-testers actually reported a difference in flavor – and a positive one to boot. They liked it better. Not content to rest on their laurels, the company milked the campaign for all it was worth:


The campaign was percieved by many as being tongue-in-cheek, but there were many who did not… and as a result, the sales of shreddies increased by 18% in the first month, and remained higher for many months thereafter. You can read the details of the campaign and see some video clips at Visual Targeting.

There are two main parts to marketing: 1) convincing your target audience that they absolutely need what you have to sell, whether or not they do, and 2) tailoring your product to what your target market actually wants and values. This bit of marketing jiggery-pokery addressed the second in a brilliant way, without the manufacturers having to do anything whatsoever to the actual product.

That’s funny, but it’s also scary. We are being bombarded on a daily basis by upwards of 5,000 ads a day, up from around 500 in the 1970’s [1]. That is an incredible amount of clutter to either tune out or sift through, depending on what your needs are. And almost every one of those ads is using targeted persuasion techniques to get your attention and influence your purchasing behavior. President of the Marketing Firm Yankelovich, Jay Walker-Smith, has said, “Consumers don’t hate advertising. What they hate is bad advertising.”  There is some truth in that; I’ve mentioned some of my favorite advertising spots before, and if all advertising were as clever as these, I’d be persuaded to watch more of them. At the same time, it’s important to remember that this advertising has only one purpose – pushing every single one of your buttons in the hopes that you will open your wallet.

A couple of good tips:

  • Nothing is free. You’re paying for it somewhere else. A “gimme” is only a good thing if you’re willing to pay the price elsewhere, and if that price has value for you.
  • A sale is not a sale. It’s simply a retailer cutting an inflated price back to the profit level he wants in the first place. (Liquidation sales can be the exception to this rule.)
  • Saving 20% on an item is not a good deal if you can’t afford the other 80% in the first place. Don’t buy things you don’t need.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] CBS News.


Nano Art

ibm atoms 1989


In 1989, IBM created the first nano-sculpture created by manipulating individual Xenon atoms via a scanning-tunneling microscope. Later they took this technique to the next level by creating the world’s tiniest movie.

Despite this being an advertisement, it’s still a stunning achievement. Since then, many artists have explored the limits of creativity at the very smallest scales.


The World’s Smallest Sandcastles Built on Individual Grains of Sand by Vik Muniz and Marcelo Coelho


Nano Trek. “Measuring only 8.8 µm, this replica of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701D was “fabricated in one-billionth scale by 30 kV Ga+ focused-ion- beam CVD using phenanthrene gas.”

See more like this at Zyvex Labs.


For all your tiny crap. From the 49th International Conference on Electron, Ion and Photon Beam Technology and NanofabricationBizarre/Beautiful Micrograph Contest (2005)\

TITLE: Chisai Benjo
Description: An effective method of dealing with defects is to find a collection site. 
Magnification: ~15,000X
Instrument: SII NanoTechnology Inc. / SMI2050MS2 

Submitted by: Takahashi Kaito (SII Nanotechnology Inc.)

On a slightly larger scale but still amazing is the pencil-tip art of Dalton Ghetti,



or the mind-boggling sculptures of Willard Wigan:



As we can see, art doesn’t have to be large to be impressive.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Hannibal Lecter… Musician.

The things we learn. Seriously. It appears that Sir Anthony Hopkins was a musician and composer before he was an actor; his piece “And the Waltz Goes On” was composed in November of 1964, but was never performed until Hopkins took the bull by the horns and sent it to André Riu, who loved it. The waltz was performed by Riu and his orchestra for the first time in Schloß Belvedere in Vienna, with Hopkins in attendance. The video below is a performance by Riu in Maastricht; it’s wonderful to watch the audience’s reaction, along with Sir Anthony’s, as he listens to his composition.

You can also watch a lovely 2011 interview with Hopkins by Richard Wilkins on the Today Show, in which Sir Anthony discusses his life, his music, and the collaboration with Riu, and we see extracts from that first performance in Vienna.

I was thoroughly delighted to learn of this little bit of ephemera, and I love waltz music anyway, so it was a double win.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Telling a story with one picture


I saw this photo on reddit today, and then discovered that it’s been shared hundreds of times. I have not found an original source, nor a definitive description, but the words most associated with the image tell the story of a poor Philippine farmer who sacrificed much to put his son through college. Upon graduation, the son expressed that his father was his greatest pride. Some captions indicate that the boy’s mother died in childbirth.

As mentioned, I can’t verify any of that [1]… but the picture seems genuine, and doubtless represents the efforts that millions of parents around the world have made to ensure that their children have a better shot in life than they did. It speaks of love, devotion, and sacrifice, and warms my heart beyond description.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] Note: if anyone who happens to read this knows of the original source or background for this image, shoot me a comment and I’ll update the post.

TV: It’s all smoke and mirrors

A humorous item from the past: If you’ve ever wondered what’s actually on a letter or document that someone in a TV show is reading, here’s a good example from “Leave it to Beaver” (Season 2: Episode 6 “Her Idol,” at time stamp 18:35)

Beaver Letter

Mr. Ward Cleaver
435 Mapleton Drive
Mayfield, State

My Dear Mr. Cleaver,

This paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with anything; it is here only to fill up space. Still, it is words, rather than repeated letters, since the letter might not give the proper appearance, namely, that of an actual note.

For that matter, all of this is nonsense, and the only part of this that is to be read is the last paragraph, which part is the inspired creation of the producers of this very fine series.

Another paragraph of stuff. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. My typing is lousy, but the typewriter isn’t hot either. After all, why should I take the blame for these mechinal imperfections, with which all of us must contend. Lew Burdette just hit a home run and Milwaukee leads seven to one in the series. This is the last line of the filler material of the note. Oh, my mistake, that was only next to last. This is last.

I hope you can find a suitable explanation for Theodore’s unusual conduct.

Yours truly,
Cornelia Rayburn

Ja ja, so ist das Theater, mein Lieber. Nichts als Illusion.

The Old Wolf has spoken.