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1943D Lincoln Cent - 500 Wide.jpg

The old pennies continue to arrive in my hand, at both McDonald’s drive-through and the Fry’s supermarket across the parking lot. Just yesterday I got a 40-year-old penny in change from my $1.09 coffee, again with plenty of mint luster. And about a week ago, something wonderful ker-chunged out of the Fry’s autocashier machine, after I fed it a twenty for some groceries. It was a 77-year-old penny, and one-of-a-kind for US coins: It was struck in steel in 1943, because in 1943 American bronze was going elsewhere, primarily into shell casings.

Although it certainly looks its age, the penny was clearly not a parking-lot penny. It had some dirt and oxide on it but none of the pits and scratches that parking-lot service will impress on a coin. Even when I was a kid they were curiousities. Ever so rarely we’d get one in change, and when we did we put them in our penny jars. I don’t think I’ve seen one in the wild since 1965 or so.

Now, if you remember, take a look at the pennies you get in change. I’d be curious to see how widespread this phenomenon is.

And the next time we get one of those little glass bottles of heavy cream, I think I’m going to start a penny bottle, with nothing but 20+ year old pennies in it.

_…_ _…_

In my spam bin a few days ago I found an email pitch for…wait for it…a Monkees fan convention. I will readily admit that I was a big Monkees fan when I was 14. The band recorded some good material, with the caveat that not all of it was used in the TV show, like their wonderful cover of the Mann/Weil song “Shades of Gray.” But a Monkees convention? Their show went off the air 52 years ago. Half of the Monkees are (alas) dead. Who’s the demographic? Sixtysomething Boomers? The con is real. If it were in the Southwest I might even be talked into attending, just to see who else shows up. (It’s in Connecticut.) It’s funny how I remember the TV show as being hilarious. Carol and I watched a few episodes on Netflex a couple of years ago. It had its moments, but I would not describe it as anything better than whimsical. Of course our standards for humor have gone up. That’s what standards do.

_…_ _…_

Summer weather in Scottsdale ended pretty abruptly last fall, skipped autumn entirely, and went right to winter. Of course, for us that means daily highs in the 50s and 60s, and nightly lows in the 40s. This year, we were dipping into the 30s in November. Carol’s had to cover some of her plants with old towels and pillowcases to protect them from radiative freezing, and that was even before the winter solstice. It’s been a mighty chilly year in a lot of places, including some you don’t generally associate with cold weather, like Saudi Arabia. You will not see anything mentioned in the MSM. Of course it’s weather. But line up enough weather in a row, and you get something else, heh.

We don’t get three dog nights here. (That’s a big part of why we’re here.) But we’ve been having some two-dog nights lately, even though there are six dog beds in the great room alone:

Two Dog Night - 500 Wide.jpg

_…_ _…_

Once again, a reminder: Those links and (very) short bits I used to do here as “Odd Lots” I’m now doing on Twitter. I have 512 followers, and that’s more people than those who read Contra regularly. You can find me on Twitter at @JeffDuntemann. I’ll probably be doing more of these “wander” items here, plus longer form essays as they occur to me.


  1. TRX says:

    > Twitter

    /dev/null, then.

    “Traffic on the blog is down, so I’ll reduce it further by fragmenting my infrequent posts among Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat in order to force potential readers to follow me across multiple formats!”

    I hear mailing lists are the big new thing, with EXLUSIVE CONTENT!


    1. Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Hmmm. (No Instagram and no Snapchat, BTW.) I could bring Odd Lots back, but what I mainly need is the energy to post as often (or even half as often) as I did a few years ago. Will work on that.

    2. Jeff R. says:

      Somewhat in the spirit of TRX’s post, but more directly: I will not be following you on Twitter.

      I’ve spent inordinate expressive energy in the last 24 hours trying to find the right way to explain why Twitter is not my cup of tea, but every attempt ends up sounding like an anti-social-media rant and/or a smug dig at you personally, Jeff. But that is far from my intention.

      Nevertheless, at nearly 60, I’ve seen many, many times how rejecting other people’s fun, for my own reasons, ends up almost always misinterpreted as a putdown. Like when I said “no thanks” to smoking weed in the dorm. Or “no thanks” to drinking and partying with the boys after work. Or “no thanks” to the neighbor who tried to seduce me. In all cases — always — it’s because I know those temptations would be bad for ME, not because I’m judging anyone else. I really never give a bleep what other people do; it’s hard enough just tending to my own affairs. But people end up hating anyways.

      Let me just express a deeply sincere “thank you” for the long run of very worthwhile posts in Contra, including the Odd Lots, which I always enjoyed. Yours was one of only a handful of blogs I followed regularly. In all cases, the high bandwidth of those blogs made them worth the time to me. To put it more quantitatively, the ratio of high information density to low time cost kept me coming back. It was a great run, Jeff, and I got a lot of value and enjoyment from following your blog.

      Things change, though … that’s life, and it’s OK.

      1. I don’t take it as a putdown. (I’m *very* difficult to offend. Being offended is dumb, and usually a passive-aggressive control strategy.) Ultimately, the whole problem stems from just getting old. I was furiously productive as a younger man. I’m 67 now, and a lot of that energy is gone. I’m going to try and figure out an efficient way to keep Odd Lots in the blog, as that format was one of my own inventions and has been with Contra since it was Contra. Maybe before. (I’d have to go read the ancient entries I posted as VDM Diary to be sure.) The solution may involve better time management. That’s a problem I’m keenly aware of and will eventually solve.

        Twitter can be a serious nuisance, but when I post a promo there, I sell books. I certainly don’t spend as much time on it as a lot of people, since time is energy, and energy is in short supply. I sell books here too, but it’s a smaller audience, if a much more loyal one. I’m pretty sure at this point that most of the people who read Contra and read SF as well have already read most or all of my SFF. In short, I’ve mostly saturated this market, and while I hugely appreciate that, I need to be present in larger markets as well.

        Most people either love Twitter or hate it. To me it’s just a tool for selling books, which at the bottom of it all is getting other people’s attention long enough to get them to look at my list.

        I appreciate the comment, and comments like these help me “steer” a beast that I’ve been tinkering now for 22 years. I may not manage it today (I’m within ~3000 words of finishing a 100,000+ word novel) but I will post an Odd Lots here in the next day or so. Maybe today, even if it takes a third cup of coffee. Good luck and thanks for explaining at length. And thanks much for being here as much as you have!

  2. Jim Dodd says:

    I used to love the cartoon “Underdog” because, well, it was a dog! And I liked Wally Cox, too – the voice of Underdog. But I watched an episode a few months ago and just didn’t understand why I used to like it so much – aside from the dog part.

  3. Roy Harvey says:

    I thought a link to your other life might be worth posting.

  4. Wamgo says:

    I don’t do Social Media, full stop.

    I’m in my late fifties and am a “Late Adopter”. I daily drive cars made before 1985, only got my first cell phone in 2009 (has it been a decade now?…..sheesh), and listen to old MOR, easy listening, and classic pop albums (mostly from the thrift stores-if it isn’t blues, hard rock, crappic rock, country, or specialized ethnic or alternate-lifestyle-favorites (Judy, Liza, Barbra, etc) it can be had mint for cheap) on a record changer out of a console stereo. I could tell you several of my other old codger habits, but you get the idea.

    But my thoughts on pennies….I used to work for a vending machine manufacturer and we did a changer mechanism for coin operated stamp dispensers for the Post Office. These were the same machine as a popular candy bar vending machine but for the changer, which the Post Office specified had to be able to handle all current US coin denominations from pennies to the half dollar and the Sacajawea (p? not sure) dollar coin. This made a machine that was utterly foolproof and the industry leader in reliability into a maintenance disaster that would choke at the slightest provocation. One known failure mode was the US steel penny. Not only would it not accept the steel penny, it would not reject it either and it would lock up and the changer would have to be manually cleared. This was because the magnetic mechanism used to reject Canadian coins, which are mostly the same as US coins in diameter and weight but which, save the penny, are magnetic. Magnetic dimes or nickels would reject, but magnetic pennies would choke, as would a washer of the correct diameter if it was steel as well. (A little known fact is that commercially made washers are all either at least slightly larger or slightly smaller than any known US or Canadian coin, to prevent fraud. Otherwise certain washers would work in coin changers, steel ones in Canada and nonferrous ones in the US, if the weight and thickness were in the right ballpark.)

    The USPS eventually removed and destroyed many millions of dollars worth of these machines, but before they did they made life tough for us. Several employees resorted to either buying rolls of legit 1943 steel pennies and using them in the machines at strategic times, which was legal, or getting rolls of Canadian pennies and buying postage with them. That was illegal and had they been caught the USPS might have prosecuted them, but they were smart enough to hit closed post offices randomly, wear gloves and face disguises, and park away from the Post Office. Every time either of these two events occurred a veritable mountain of paperwork was generated.

    The simple solution of course, was simply to use our regular changer that accepted dimes, nickels, quarters, and later on the smaller dollar coins. But the Post Office had some bizarre regulation that said that they could only buy machines that accepted all valid US current coinage. A regulation made, of course, by the Post Office itself. It was to empower them to spend a lot of money on custom hardware and for former postal executives to build a consulting sinecure for themselves.

    So, as I said, the Post Office removed and destroyed many millions of dollars worth of these vending machines and bought the current byzantine automated kiosks, which photograph each user and require a credit card for use.

    In my opinion, the answer is simple-get rid of the Postal Express Statutes (which is not to say get rid of the Post Office-which as any postal employee will tell you is expressly constitutionally provided for); let it be largely replaced except for ceremonial and legal purposes and to serve the one percent of the population, and shrinking drastically, now not served by UPS or FedEx.

    Lysander Spooner made the case of how perfidious the Postal Express statutes are a hundred and fifty years ago, and he was right. A less efficient organization than the USPS does not exist. It exists to provide makework for the otherwise marginally employable and because of political influence of the direct mail (i.e., junk mail) industry.

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