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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
When the numbers run in sequence, but sort of zig-zag up and down.
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.
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):
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.
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.
Colder still! Nulls will only happen if you have your clock set to 24-hour time, which we don’t.
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!
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.
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.
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:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.