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:

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。

When lawyers get their comeuppance

Ain’t it a grand and glorious feeling?

by Briggs

I know some really good, decent, and ethical attorneys. At least two. But it’s always nice to experience that warm glow of Schadenfreude when you see the firm of Dewey, Cheetham,and Howe get a well-deserved comeuppance.

“Following [Mad] magazine’s parody of the film The Empire Strikes Back, a letter from George Lucas’s lawyers arrived in Mad’s offices demanding that the issue be recalled for infringement on copyrighted figures. The letter further demanded that the printing plates be destroyed, and that Lucasfilm must receive all revenue from the issue plus additional punitive damages. Unbeknownst to Lucas’ lawyers, Mad had received a letter weeks earlier from Lucas himself, expressing delight over the parody and calling artist Mort Drucker and writer Dick DeBartolo “the Leonardo da Vinci and George Bernard Shaw of comic satire.” Publisher Bill Gaines made a copy of Lucas’ letter, added the handwritten notation “Gee, your boss George liked it!” across the top, and mailed it to the lawyers. Said DeBartolo, “We never heard from them again.”

Wikipedia

When I learned of this, I was reminded of the “fangs-down” letter Gary Larson received about his “Doing a little more research with that Jane Goodall tramp?” cartoon. Turns out Ms. Goodall thought the cartoon was a crackup, and it was eventually published in National Geographic’s centennial edition. (Documented in Gary Larson’s The Pre-History of the Far Side.)

Gary Larson

Then there was Beasley Allen, a Montgomery-based law firm that filed a class-action lawsuit against Taco Bell alleging their taco filling did not meet the minimum USDA qualifications to be called “beef.” Beasely Allen later dropped the suit, pointing to “changes in marketing and product disclosure” by Taco Bell.

“Bullmeat,” said Taco Bell, and published the following full-page ad in USA Today:

Beasley Allen never apologized. But law firms are not known for that little social nicety.

Back in 2015 I had my own brush with infamy (and some satisfaction), when a legal firm in Washington, DC sent me a Cease and Desist letter for supposedly maligning the manufacturer of a worthless weight-loss product called “Pro Bio-Slim.” The gory details are still around as an earlier post in this blog; I pointed out all the flaws in the request and 5 years later have yet to receive any sort of follow-up from the attorneys in question.

Like I said, you can find good attorneys out there if you turn over enough rocks. Many are, in the words of Herman Melville,

“… one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds.”

Melville, Herman, “Bartleby the Scrivener,” 1856

I’m grateful for legal services rendered throughout my lifetime, all the while trying to avoid the necessessity. But because the world of law is largely a world of confrontation and hostilities, the profession seems to attract a surfeit of thermonuclear douchebags, and it’s always heart-warming to see one or a number of these (the collective noun is “a litigation of attorneys”)¹ get taken to the social cleaners.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes:

¹ Not to be taken seriously. Some others are:

  • A descent of relatives
  • A windbag of politicians (I have my own, but it’s not suitable for a family-friendly blog
  • A groan of puns

And a list, comprehensive but not complete, of these fanciful collective nouns can be found here.

Blast from the Past: I’m resigning from adulthood.

This lovely bit of forwarded whimsy reached my inbox in 1999, but I suspect it was written earlier and probably passed around by fax machine. I have been unable to identify the original author; if anyone can identify the writer, I will happily add correct attribution. But in today’s climate of political and pandemic upheaval, I thought this was worth sharing again.


I am hereby officially tendering my resignation as an adult.

I have decided I would like to accept the responsibilities of a 5 year old again.  I want to go to McDonald’s and think that it’s a four star restaurant.  I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud puddle and make ripples in a pond with rocks.

I want to think M&Ms are better than money because you can eat them. I want to lie under a big oak tree and watch the ants march up its trunk.  I want to run a lemonade stand with my friends on a hot summer’s day.

I want to think a quarter is worth more than a dollar bill cause it’s prettier and weighs more.  I want to go fishing and care more about catching the minnows along the shore than the big bass in the lake.

I want to return to a time when life was simple. When all you knew were colors, multiplication tables, and nursery rhymes. When I didn’t know what I know now. When all I knew was to be happy because I was blissfully unaware of all the things that should make me worried.

I want to think the world is fair.  I want to think that everyone is honest and good. I want to believe that anything is possible.  I want to be oblivious to the complexities of life and be overly excited by the little things again.

I don’t want my day to consist of computer crashes, mountains of paperwork, depressing news, how to survive more days in the month than there is money in the bank, doctor bills, gossip,

illness, and the loss of loved ones.

I want to believe in the power of smiles, hugs, a kind word, truth, dreams, the imagination, Santa, the Tooth Fairy, a kiss that makes a boo‑boo go away, making angels in the snow and that my dad and Superman are the strongest people in the world.

So…..here’s my checkbook and my car‑keys, my credit cards and the bills too, my 401K statements, my stocks & bonds, my collections, my insurance premiums, my job, my house and

mortgage, my e‑mail address, pager, cell phone, computer, and watch. I am officially resigning from adulthood.

And if you want to discuss this with me further, you’ll have to catch me first, cause…

“Tag!”… “You’re it!”


No, I wouldn’t trade my experiences of a lifetime for anything, but it would be nice to be free from some of the stress and hassles of daily life. By the way, if you’ve never seen a lovely German film called “Erleuchtung Garantiert” (Enlightenment Guaranteed), I recommend it.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

An Ode to Trump

This was originally an “Ode to Berlusconi,” written in Italian, which I published earlier. I think it deserves a bit of cultural appropriation; it’s brilliantly crafted. The English translation ©2020 by Old Wolf Enterprises, Inc.

Il Presidente Trump si puo’ definire un por-
tento di abilita’, oltre che un uomo politi-
co di prim’ordine. Meriterebbe di essere de-
cantato con rime sacre come ad altri è gia’
capitato. Meriterebbe un monumento di ster-
minata mole marmorea che fungesse da e-
co indistruttibile nei secoli, in modo che il fe-
lice e caro nome di questo grande comunica-
tore potesse tramandarsi in eterno. Stron-
catore di malgoverni e uomo tutto d’n pez-
zo come nessun altro, il cavaliere ci incu-
te rispetto e ammirazione. Di Trump si par-
la in lungo e in largo e ci condurrà fino alla mi-
tica era di benessere con la sua onesta faccia e
seria. Tutti noi cittadini dell’America unita scor-
giamo in lui l’uomo del destino e perciò lo sor-
reggeremo con tutte le nostre forze nel mu-
tevole clamore delle folle, alzando un applau-
so a Lui e al suo Governo!
President Trump can be defined as a marvel of ability, and in addition, a first-class politician.  As has been done for others in the past, he deserves to be extolled with sacred rhymes. He is worthy of a marble monument of immense size which would serve as an indestructible echo through the centuries, so that the beloved name of this great communicator might be known throughout eternity. A man who crushes misgovernment, a man of impeccable character like no other, this knight arouses within us feelings of respect and admiration. Trump is spoken of far and wide, and with his honest and serious face, he will lead us into that mythical era of prosperity.
All citizens of a united America see him as a man of destiny, and as a result we support him with all our energy amidst the ever-changing clamor of the crowds, raising plaudits to him and his government!

Now…
Read Every Other Line…

Presidente Trump si puo’ definire un por-
co di prim’ordine. Meriterebbe di essere de-
capitato. Meriterebbe un monumento di ster-
co indistruttibile nei secoli, in modo che il fe-
tore potesse tramandarsi in eterno. Stron-
zo come nessun altro, il cavaliere ci incu-
la in lungo e in largo e ci condurrà fino alla mi-
seria. Tutti noi cittadini dell’America unita scor-
reggeremo con tutte le nostre forze nel mu-
so a Lui e al suo Governo!
President Trump is a first-class pig. He deserves to be beheaded. He is worthy of a monument of dung, indestructible throughout the centuries, so his stench might be passed down through eternity. A turd like no other, he buggers us far and wide and will lead us into misery. With all our energy, we citizens of a united America will fart in the face of Trump and his government.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Satire: It’s legal, Madam.

Some folks have really, really thin skins.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

I suspect Ms. Parker, whoever, she is, has never been inside Barnes and Noble… or any bookstore for that matter. Peruse the shelves of any respectable bookseller, and you’ll find works from every point along the political spectrum, from Holy, Holy God, Thank You For Appointing Trump Emperor of the World (I’m sure something similar exists) to Bob Woodward’s Fear, and anything inbetween. ¹

The Humor section will be chock-full of collections of political cartoons from such geniuses as Pat Oliphant, who pilloried everyone that deserved it regardless of political affiliation.

If Ms. Parker’s train of thought were carried to its very illogical end-of-line, every bookstore in the world should be boycotted for carrying an item that someone happened to find offensive.

It’s called “The First Amendment.” Satire and Parody are Constitutionally protected speech.

But in one thing, Ms. Parker is right. This book is very disrespectful; comparing 45 to a pig is most unfair to the pigs of the world.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Someone needs to write this book:

♫ You can’t get there, the road is under construction ♬

Mad Magazine™ was wonderful back in the ’50s and ’60s. I seem to recall that as I grew older, either my sense of humor changed – I started appreciating Harvard Lampoon’s work in the late ’60s – or the quality of the writing diminished.

At any rate, some of the early stuff was priceless, and still relevant to today’s challenges. One example that keeps surfacing in my mind every time I hit a detour is this gem, written by Tom Koch and illustrated by Bob Clarke.

Peeved at Obstructions
(Sung to the tune of “Eve of Destruction” Barry McGuire)

You save up all year long to take a nice vacation.
You make a lot of plans to drive across the nation.
You dream of all you’ll see with great anticipation.
You’ve only got a week to reach your destination,
But that seems like enough, you feel no consternation.
Then they tell you over and over and over again, my friend,
That you can’t get through; the road is under construction.

You’ve never been to Maine or Utah’s scenic section.
You call the auto club to help make your selection.
You pay to get your car a thorough trip inspection.
So you can drive afar and feel you’ve got protection.
Then, when you’re almost there, you seek a cop’s direction.
And he tells you over and over and over again, my friend,
That you must turn back; the road is under construction.

Vacation here at home, our president keeps sayin’.
Don’t spend your dough abroad, he fervently is praying.
So you head for New York do do your summer playing;
Or maybe to the west a travel plan you’re laying,
To see those snowy peaks and geysers wildly sprayin’.
But the signs warn over and over and over again, my friend,
That you can’t get there; the road is under construction.

The challenge is real. In preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UDOT undertook the I-15 corridor reconstruction project.

“The project involved the reconstruction of 16.2 miles of interstate mainline and the addition of new general purpose and high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes through the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. The project also included the construction or reconstruction of more than 130 bridges, the reconstruction of seven urban interchanges, and the reconstruction of three major junctions with other interstate routes, including I-80 and I-215.”

While the project was sorely needed and the end result was beneficial, for four years, the commute from outlying areas to Salt Lake City was a major pain in the patoot, with commuters searching out and jealously guarding favorable and secret bypass routes.

But wait, there’s more!

In 2009, UDOT undertook the I-15 Core reconstruction project, rebuilding 24 miles of I-15 from Point of the Mountain to Payson in just 35 months. The design-build strategy meant that the entire stretch was torn up at once, instead of doing a few miles at a time. The inconvenience was so significant that I was moved to memorialize the experience in video:

In retrospect, I really shoudn’t complain at all; nowadays our nation’s crumbling infrastructure could use a bit of help, and I think subsequent generations would appreciate our putting up with some inconvenience if it means that their bridges won’t collapse underneath them. But when you’re behind the wheel and trying to get to work (or to a vacation destination), the aggravation can certainly raise one’s blood pressure.

Bonus Section

Since I happened to be on the subject of MAD Magazine, another extract from the same article is precisely the reason our family threw out all our TVs over 20 years ago (the kids were absolutely devastated, but somehow they survived):

The TV Victim’s Lament
(Sung to the Tune of “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan)

How many times must a guy spray with Ban
Before he doesn’t offend?
And how many times must he gargle each day
Before he can talk to a friend?
How many tubes of shampoo must he buy
Before his dandruff will end?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

How many times must a man use Gillette
Before shaving won’t make him bleed?
And how many cartons of Kents must he smoke
Before the girls all pay him heed?
How many products must one person buy
Before he has all that he’ll need?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

How many times must a gal clean her sink
Before Ajax scours that stain,
And how many times must she rub in Ben-Gay
Before she can rub out the pain?
How many ads on TV must we watch
Before we are driven insane?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

Full disclosure: My mother single-handedly raised me on the income from commercial advertising, so I feel a bit sheepish about this, but the onslaught of advertising, much of which has now moved from the airwaves to the internet, still rubs me the wrong way.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Dangers of Reading

The following is a translation of an extract from the Library and National Archives of Quebec (BAnQ). Visit the site for the full article with images (in French).

On February 20, 1902, coroner Charles Alphonse Dubé met with several witnesses at Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire in the Pontiac district. He wanted  to determine the cause of the death of Mrs. Evelina d’Aragon, found dead in bed. After investigation, he concluded that the latter committed suicide by taking a dose of strychnine “in a moment of insanity.”

In his statement  to the jury, Dr. Dubé, who was well acquainted with Madame d’Aragon, declared that she left to her husband, Alfred-Saint-Louis, a note which read: “Dear Alfred, now free. Your taste for the bottle, your first companion, will satisfy you. Evelina.  Although these words suggest that Mrs. d’Aragon, who was pregnant at the time, committed suicide because of her husband’s alcoholic addictions, Dr. Dubé believed that the reason is quite different.

In order to demonstrate that Ms. d’Aragon was not in full possession of her mental faculties at the time of her death, he stated that she suffered from exalted and romantic ideas that she had certainly acquired by reading many novels.  Dr. Dubé affirmed that:  “There is nothing in the world to distort judgment, and to exalt the imagination like the reading of these novels, where everything tends to excite intelligence and lead to a false interpretation of ordinary things of life.

So watch yourselves out there, those penny dreadfuls will rot your brain. {heavy sarcasm}

The Old Wolf has spoken.

With a party like this, how can our quest fail?

Ran across this little game on Facebook; since it didn’t involve a phishing quiz or the inadvertent revelation of any personally-identifying information, I thought I’d play along. The results were delightful.

I removed real names for privacy reasons.

Rehpotsirhc the drowsy, hoarder of soba and Care Bears.
Dlanor the cold. Hoarder of peanut butter cookies and sandals.
Nna the curious, hoarder of raisins and cordless vacuum cleaners
Rehtaeh the Anxious, Hoarder of lime tortilla chips and afghan blankets!
Ael the Uncomfortable, hoarder of potato chips and coffee mugs.
Arual the tired. Hoarder of apple pie and pillows.
Licec the Wise, hoarder of popcorn and pruning shears
Drahcir the Morose, hoarder of bananas and air-conditioning units.
EnnaInot the mildly amused, hoarder of meal replacement shakes and trees.
Nirtak, the quiet, hoarder of iced tea and Real Simple Magazine!
Rotcèh the Cool, Hoarder of Chinese Noodles with Pico de Gallo and Kleenex!
Norahs the grumpy, hoarder of sugar-free chocolate and books (vu den?)
Ardnassac the eternal, horder of egg yolks and pink sticky notes.
Sirraf the bored, hoarder of pies and controllers.
Leahcim the Curious, hoarder of tortellini and pinboards
Evets the Content, hoarder of apples and gift cards.
Anasus the happy, hoarder of cake and shoes.
Divad the Amused, hoarder of vanilla sheet cake and essence oils.
Arual the cold, hoarder of protein bars and cat grass
Samoht the pissed-off, Hoarder of turkey sandwiches and ring binders.
Anil the anxious, hoarder of orange and Pomeranian.
NnaEd the tired. Hoarder of leftover curry and random strangers.
Aitit the Hungry, hoarder of bananas and bookshelves.
Lisses the relaxed, Hoarder of apricots and books 😀
Trebled the Grateful, Hoarder of Boiled eggs and White Boxers.
Ainos the sleepy, hoarder of buttered baguette and tweens.
Nosilla the Purposeful, Hoarder of Crumpets and Old Diaries.
Aneres the anxious, hoarder of apple pecan French toast and snoring husbands.
Samot the Hopeful, Hoarder of Camembert and… Camembert.
Ecafinob the Amused, Hoarder of Peanut Butter Toast and Pillows.
Yllib the Half-sozzled, Hoarder of Nuts and Small Clockwork Devices.
Hgalahs the Woozy, Hoarder of Baked Potatoes and Dictionaries.
Ael the Achy, Hoarder of E-liquid.
Lorac the Hungry, Hoarder of Grapes and Headphones

We are ready!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Really Not Important

Sandwiched between articles on “A New Reason for Dehorning” and “Brown Coal” in the Kansas City Sun of May 6, 1921, one finds this little bit of whimsy – perhaps the editor was desperate for something to fill two column inches on a really slow news day.

Whatever the case, the text reads:

Really Not Important

An investigator claims to have discovered in some dusty archives that back in the days when the pilgrims landed each person coming to America from England was required to bring with them eight bushels of corn meal, two bushels of oatmeal, two gallons of vinegar and a gallon each of oil and brandy.
In view of the fact that nothing of importance hinges on the truth or falsity of this statement, not much time need be consumed to ascertain whether this is truth or fiction.


I was pointed to this gem by the inimitable XKCD, which cites a grudging respect for the fact-checker of the Kansas City Sun that day.

The rest of the page is viewable as a free clip here; some of the articles are stolid and mundane, others exude a hint of humor – such as this ad for the Peerless Bowling and Billiard Parlors:

Of course, like the green-coffee extract hawkers of today, the copywriter may have been deadly serious in claiming that bowlers never get appendicitis.

Perusing old newspapers can be just as entertaining as Netflix.

The Old Wolf has spoken.