Bally Bazaar: a memory of my favorite pinball machine

Before computer games, there were pinball machines. If I had a nickel for every time I played one of those beasts in the 60s… well, I’d have all my nickels back. And it would be a significant pile.

We’re not going to talk about my addictive personality at the moment – that’s a given, something the Goodwoman of the House never tires of reminding me. But of all the pinball machines I ever played – and there was a pile of them – this one was indisputably my favorite. It showed up at the Jigger Shop (Cheshire Academy’s hole-in-the-wall luncheonette and post office) and was an instant favorite.

The full specs of this game are here at the The Internet Pinball Database – I’ve culled one or two photos to give you a feel for what it looked like.

bally1

Full view, photo by Tim Brady

bally2

The playing field, photo by Tim Brady

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The back glass, photo by Alan Tate.

bally.jpg

Bazaar flyer from Bally.

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Closeup of the reward schema.

This one was the first machine to have the feature of closing the flipper gap when you hit a certain bumper (in this case, the “U”), which allowed you to keep a single ball in play much longer. If you lighted all the L-U-C-K letters, you would light up one of the crescents at the top of the back glass. In addition to replays for certain score levels, you were granted a free game for lighting crescent 5, and another for lighting crescent 9. Those replays were accompanied not by bells or whistles but by a loud mechanical “snap” which was unique to any machine I had ever played.

Nowadays, modern pinball machines are totally electronic, with amazing graphic displays and what seems like THX-quality sound, and frightfully complex playing fields. If you’re not from the generation that was addicted to these machines, the old ones operated with magnets and solenoids and mechanical relays, long before printed circuits became ubiquitous. Despite being simple by comparison to today’s machines, many of them were frightfully clever, and all of them were designed to be maddeningly captivating.

I imagine that being a pinball repairman was a full-time career back then. Lots of moving parts to break, lots of resistors to fry.

I haven’t played a pinball machine in decades, and I was no “pinball wizard,” but I keenly recall the blood-pumping hours I spent in front of these machines, and this one example in particular.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Extracting a Light from a Christmas House

So, like my wife and me, you love Christmas (or Hallowe’en houses) and you love to set up your Christmas village, and now – it happens more often than you’d like – you’ve pushed one of those never-sufficiently-to-be-accursed clips all the way into the house and you can’t get it out.

You’ve worked at it with tweezers and hemostats, and you’ve got one side out, but that other one is just unreachable. Yarg snarl yarg.

Here’s what I do, and I hope someone finds it useful.

1) The first thing to do is get one side out all the way. With a long tweezers or a hemostat, this is usually pretty easy.

20171031_135347

2) With a thin piece of duct tape, pinch the metal clip to the body of the lightbulb.

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3) Now you can push the lightbulb all the way back into the house and have enough room to grab the second clip.

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4) Out it comes. Take off the duct tape, re-seat the bulb, and you’re good to go.

Happy Holidays!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

WOT: (Web of Trust) – A valuable extension

I’ve mentioned WOT in a number of my previous posts, but I thought I’d give it a bit more exposure, given the amount of scams, fake news websites, and general internet douchebaggery that is so prevalent right now.

Web of Trust is a FREE extension that adds a small circle after any clickable link on your computer to let you know how trustworthy that site is. Here’s an example – recently I was trying to remove a hijacker that redirected me to Spectrum’s search service when an unknown URL was encountered:

WOT

Notice that the circles can be green, yellow, and red – just like  stoplight. That’s your first clue – but it pays to drill down for more information as I mention below. Green is generally trustworthy, yellow is questionable, and red is downright dangerous. A gray circle with a question mark means there is no information (yet) about the site in question.

Some dangerous websites will be flagged by Google directly (Click image to enlarge)

Google1

If you have a paid version of Malwarebytes, known malware websites will be automatically blocked:
Malwarebytes

But if neither one of these help, WOT will give you a warning for red-circle links that looks like this (Click image to enlarge):

WOT1

You’ll notice that you get a summary of ratings and reasons why the website is not trusted.

In addition, search engine results can be previewed simply by hovering your mouse over the colored circle:

WOT2

and then you can follow the “click to view details” link to get a full page of information about the website.

WOT3

As with anything that is crowdsourced, one needs to be cautious. A tool like this could be used to give bad ratings to a website by an unethical competitor, so look at the dates of the reviews and get an overall feel for the page in question. In general, though, I’ve found that this tool tends to be self-correcting, so if one person rates a site untrustworthy for malware, and five other more recent users give reasons why it’s safe, I feel pretty confident that the first review is either spurious or outdated.

If you want to rate websites yourself, you can create a free account, log in, and provide details of your experience.

In addition to protecting you from viruses or other malware, WOT can be very useful for verifying whether news sites are reliable or not.

An example: Today on Facebook I saw a link to a story that there was a second shooter in Las Vegas:

Facebook

That yellow circle told me right off that this story is questionable. Hovering over the warning gave me this:

WOT4

And a subsequent search on Google for yournewswire.com confirmed that this is a notorious clickbait, inflammatory, fake-news website:

Founded by Sean Adl-Tabatabai and Sinclair Treadway in 2014. It has published fake stories, such as “claims that the Queen had threatened to abdicate if the UK voted against Brexit” (Wikipedia)

It pays to be safe, and it pays to be careful. This little extension works well with Window 10 and earlier versions (I’ve tried it on XP and 7 both), it’s free, and it provides a wealth of information about internet dangers. I highly recommend it.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Pity the poor translator

One doesn’t work in the translation industry for decades without having some strong feelings about seeing bad translations.

Once when I was in an oriental market, I picked up a packet of dried squid for snacking on.

I already know what you’re thinking. Shut up. 

I think it’s a product of Taiwan, but I’m not sure, because it looks like it’s destined for both the US and Japan.

On the package, it says (spelling errors are transcribed as found):

“This product is under strict ouality control with perfect packing and quality when leaving the factory. Please keep away from damp, high temp or sun expose. If found any defectives when purchasing please retrn the product by airmail to our Administration section and inform the purchase for our improvement we shall give you a satisfactory reply. Thanks for your Patronage and welcome your comments.”

If “ouality” is such a priority, why don’t such asian exporters ever run their documentation or packaging under the eyes of a native English speaker? I could think of a number of reasons:

  1. They’re cheap
  2. Their own estimation of their English ability exceeds actuality
  3. They know the product will sell just as well even with lousy translations
  4. They don’t give a rat’s ass
  5. All of the above

Me, I’d be embarrassed to sell a product in a foreign market with errors like this – but it’s a problem of long, long standing. Translation is often given short shrift in business plans. Too many managers think, “Oh, my secretary Miss Yin speaks English, she can do the translation and I’ll save money.” With the concept of “face” so prominent in Asian cultures, it surprises me that they don’t understand this sort of cost-cutting makes their enterprise look bad. On the other hand, perhaps the average American consumer doesn’t care either.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere when writing about translation, but I wish I had kept a copy of an ad that appeared on our bulletin board in the early 80’s when I was working for a now-defunct translation software firm. It showed a manager reaming out some poor drone, and the caption was “Because you let your brother-in-law do the translation, our ad says that our new camera exposes itself automatically!

People in the translation industry are certainly aware of the problem, and resolving it would certainly create a lot of work for a lot of people… but would also deduct from the bottom line of the manufacturers, and that has always seemed to be the driving factor.

Automation has affected a lot of industries for good and for ill. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, many trades have been relatively untouched except for better tools and a proliferation of codes and regulations. But thanks to CAT tools* and the Internet, the translation industry has been radically transformed from a field where educated professionals could seek out high-quality clients and agencies vied to find high-quality translators into an absolute circus where millions of people in third-world countries offer abysmal services for 3¢ per word and agencies expect the lifelong journeymen and journeywomen to meet these kinds of prices (with concomitant reductions for repeated text, of course.)

The professional translators who have been willing to buy the tools and deal with the agencies to stay in their field have my undying respect; I got out of the circus years ago as a way to make a living.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


*Computer-Assisted Translation tools. This is the only CAT tool I still have:

20161209 Sensei Helping.jpg

And, frankly, he’s not much help in the work arena, but he does a world of good for my heart.

“My hat, it has three corners…”

I learned this song as a child, as many of us probably did at camp or elsewhere.

My hat, it has three corners,
Three corners has my hat.
And had it not three corners,
It would not be my hat!

Or, in German:

Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken,
Drei Ecken hat mein Hut,
Und hätt er nicht drei Ecken,
So wär es nicht mein Hut.

It’s sung to an old Italian folk tune, “The Carnival of Venice“:

Only recently, thanks to a Facebook post by a respected friend and colleague, did I learn that the tune has a lot more attached to it than one simple verse.

The starkly minimalist play by Samuel Beckett, “En Attendant Godot” (Waiting for Godot) contains the following song in French, which is endlessly iterative:

Un chien vint dans l’office
Et prit une andouillette;
Alors à coups de louche
Le chef le mit en miettes.

Les autres chiens en ce voyant
Vite vite l’ensevelirent
Au pied d’une croix en bois blanc
Où le passant pouvait lire:

Un chien vint dans l’office…

A dog went into the kitchen
And stole a piece of bread;
The cook came out with a ladle
And beat him till he was dead.

Then all the dogs came running
And dug the dog a tomb,
And wrote upon the tombstone
For the eyes of dogs to come:

A dog went into the kitchen… (repeat forever)

There are other translations of this song as well; some claim that the German version is the original, which Beckett appropriated for his play:

Ein Mops kam in die Küche
Und stahl dem Koch ein Ei.
Da nahm der Koch den Löffel
Und schlug den Mops entzwei.

So kamen alle Möpse
Und gruben ihm ein Grab
Und setzten einen Grabstein,
Auf dem geschrieben stand:

Ein Mops kam in die Küche…

(Like most folk songs, there are numerous versions with slightly varying words; there is a bawdy German song, non-iterative, that begins “Ich bin ein junges Weibchen” that uses the same melody as well.)

And here’s the Hebrew version:

אל המטבח בא כלב
ועצם שם חטף
אז הטבח חבט בו
הרג אותו עם כף

כל הכלבים אז באו
וקבר לו חפרו
ומצבה הקימו
עליה הם כתבו:

אל המטבח בא כלב…

El hamitbach ba kelev
Ve-etzem sham chataf
Az hatabach chavat bo
Harag oto im kaf.

Kol haklavim az ba’u
Vekever lo chafru
Umatzeva hekimu
Aleiha hem katvu.

El hamitbach ba kelev…

It is interesting to note that all of these versions can be sung to the same tune, although it is not always used in every interpretation of “Godot.”

The concept of the eternally iterating song poked my memory, and I recalled that when I was a young child, my mother and I would end up rolling in laughter after doing this one for what seemed like hours:

Twas a dark and stormy night!
Three robbers sat in a cave!
“Tell us a story!” said one,
And this is how it begun:

‘Twas a dark and stormy night…

Mother was an actress, and a good one – so every iteration took on a different character when it was her turn.

Finally, there’s this gem written by writer/composer Norman Martin in 1988:

Be grateful. Be grateful, I say, that I didn’t choose to post the 10-hour version!

Many thanks to my colleagues in the translation community for the various versions (whom I shall not name unless they tell me they wish to be identified!)

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Deseret Alphabet remembered

I have written about the Deseret Alphabet before, in a somewhat unusual context – today I came across a nostalgic article at the Deseret News commemorating this bit of linguistic whimsy. It appears to have begun development as early as 1847, which would make it closer to 170 years old.

lark is up

The poem above, from the Deseret Second Book (page 31), reads as follows:

The lark is up to meet the sun,
The bee is on the wing;
The ant its labor has begun,
The woods with music ring.

And shall I sleep while beams of morn
Their light and glory shed?
For thinking beings were not born
To waste their time in bed.

Clearly the authors of these primers were not above a bit of plagiarism; the first stanza of this poem is by William Holmes McGuffey (1800–73)

The original second stanza reads,

Shall birds, and bees, and ants, be wise,
While I my moments waste?
O let me with the morning rise,
And to my duty haste.

McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer, newly rev., lesson 81, p. 54 (1849).

The transliteration of the Deseret Alphabet:

Deseret Alphabet

In the course of a study of Deseret as part of my MA in linguistics, I discovered that it had an added and unplanned benefit; reading the journals of Brigham Young, some of which had been transcribed into Deseret Alphabet during the days of enthusiasm for the project, I discovered that these manuscripts served as a window into the dialect and pronunciation of the scribes of the day. Since people transcribed the English they way they pronounced it, one could not only determine that various volumes were transcribed by different people, but also have a fair idea of what they sounded like when they spoke.

𐐜 𐐄𐐢𐐔 𐐚𐐃𐐢𐐙 𐐐𐐈𐐞 𐐝𐐑𐐄𐐗𐐤.

Milkshake, Hold the Cup

Berkeley Breathed, creator of “The Academia Waltz,” “Bloom County,” and “Opus” (there, Melissa, I used an Oxford Comma, I want a gold star) has long been a favorite of mine, right up there with Doonesbury and before that, Pogo (Mogg’s teeth, I miss Walt Kelly. I can’t imagine what he would be doing with the rich fodder this recent election and current administration would have given him.)

And cartoonists sometimes repeat a gag, because reasons. But Breathed has taken this particular punchline and recycled it at least twice, with various results. The first appearance was in 1978 or so:

Bloom County - Hold the Cup (3)

The Academia Waltz

The joke was good enough to launch his next and longest-running effort:

Bloom County - Hold the Cup (2)

The very first “Bloom County.”

But there was still more outrage to be had:

Bloom County - Hold the Cup

Another Bloom County

And Jim Davis, never above using imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, even worked it into one of his Garfield strips:

Garfield - Hold the Cup

Remind me never to go to Irma’s diner. She must be related to the lady who runs the “Bank of Ethel” over at Dilbert.

Now, the last question in my mind is, “How many people have actually gone to Burger King and tried this? If I were behind the counter, I’d simply say “Hold out your hands” and see where things went from there.

On that note, I am reminded of the story about an American couple on vacation in Wales. On their journey they find themselves in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and decide to have a bite to eat, all the while debating the pronunciation of the town’s name.
They stop for lunch and one tourist asks the cashier, “Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us?”
The young lady behind the counter agrees.
“Would you please pronounce where we are for us – very slowly?”
The girl leans over the counter and says, “Buurrrrgerrrrr Kinnnnggg.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.