Balls to the wall has nothing to do with testicles. Neither does balls out.
Both expressions mean working at maximum effort or speed, and the balls in question are part of a device invented in the 17th century — the centrifugal governor.
Please, allow me to explain.
James Watt designed the most widely known centrifugal governor in 1788 to prevent his steam engines from running out of control.
On the diagram below, the balls (labeled #3) are attached to lever arms linked to a vertical shaft. The horizontal shaft is the engine’s drive shaft.
I know fiction is not the focus of this platform, but it’s what I do. I’ve been writing on and off for years and years, and it took a global pandemic to get me to take it seriously.
I signed up for Medium in May with the resolution to relentlessly practice in public and have been doing so ever since.
Friends and readers have described my fiction as: gritty, angsty, literary, realistic, unfiltered, minimalist, relationship-focused, evocative and bordering on transgressive.
I’m most interested in very short forms — either micro-fiction or flash fiction. …
Up early with the bats in a soft rain, I’m walking down a steep path to the climate station we’ve set up at the river. The forest is silent except for some restless insects and one or two birds.
I raise the kerosene lantern high to take the readings of temperature and humidity. Droplets of water hiss as they strike the glass.
Back up the hill, I shrug my way into the kitchen area and set the lantern down. A deck of cards in order by suits and an empty gin bottle sit on the table.
Not my doing.
Three six-foot-plus Samburu warriors sat at the bar, their left hands curled around half-liter bottles of Tusker. Their right hands caressed the shafts of long, lion-killing spears.
The bar was in Maralal, Kenya, where the pavement ended about a day’s drive out of Nairobi. It was August and hot. The radio was playing Christmas songs by old country singers like Big Jim Reeves.
I hadn’t expected that, and I hadn’t expected the bar to feature a ping pong table with the Tusker logo.
We tourists walked in and found a table. I went to the bar to get beers and…
When I arrived in Fort Portal, Uganda, back in 1998, Jackson’s samosas ruled supreme over the street food scene. He peddled two flavors from the three-wheeled cart he pushed around the town’s potholed streets: potato curry and beef and peas.
I was working on a chimpanzee project not far from Fort Portal and always bought a samosa or three from Jackson when I was in town for supplies.
No fan of peas, I stuck with potato curry.
It was a good thing I did.
As the months rolled by, I was never disappointed by the spicy, savory filling and the…