Friday, September 20, 2019

Mini 008 Random Numbers




Looking back over the past few months, we find our number system bollixed to the point of complete confusion.  

Hence, we’re going to start over from scratch starting Monday.
That post will be marked #4500.  The number was picked at random from the graphic above.  There’s no real reason for it, but it’s going to be easier to keep things in order.

The numbering committee first wanted “Vol.2 No. 0001.” That’s too complicated and it was overruled by the Deputy Managing Editor who was on a power trip when some fool left him in charge.  But he probably was right.

Numbering is just a housekeeping help, anyway. And as we all know, it’s tough to find good help these days. (We’ll also be looking for a new Deputy Managing Editor. The current guy is going to be promoted to his level of incompetence where he’ll probably self-destruct.  He’s going to become Director of Facilities Management, a job for which he is singularly unqualified.)

© WJR 2019 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

2030 Shoot at the Clouds but Expect Only a Drizzle



2030 Shoot at the Clouds but Accept only a Drizzle
 \Can anyone figure out the meaning of a medical bill?  Patient A was billed 76-thousand dollars as of the end of last month.  Blue Cross paid 14-thousand. The patient paid 16-hundred.

You’d think this would be for fixing every bone in the body… or excising a cancerous brain tumor.  Nope. Just routine stuff. Fixing this or that which moved out of place or removing easily reached faulty tissue.

Remember the TV series and the movies, “The Six Million Dollar Man?”  They ran in the 1970s.  Colonel Austin, the lead character had six million dollars’ worth of replacement parts. Six million in today’s money?  They’d have to rename the series “The 380-Million Dollar Man,” and that’s with an average annual inflation rate of under two percent a year.

If the Six Million dollar guy went into the hospital this year, parts providers would add an extra 22 million.  So maybe the name should be the 402-million dollar man.

That’s the bad news.  The good news is that no one pays list price, even though it seems we do. The sticker price is fiction.

Except for things like aspirin at 50 cents a pill that sells in MegaMart for two bucks per hundred.  And TV rental.  If Dish or Cablevision charged you at hospital rates, your $100 a month bill would range in the low four figures.

It’s a wonder that they don’t charge you for every push of the emergency call button.  There have been reports that if it’s a routine nursing need you will be charged one fee.  Urgent would be available at a higher price and impending death would cost even more.   They don’t do this yet, but it’s only because they haven’t figured out how to make the call button multitask.  The airlines are working on a similar device for calling the flight attendant. 

Then there’s coding.  Coding is what determines what the insurance company will pay for getting you repaired.  Every tiny procedure has a code number… a secret code number.  The data entry clerk knows what they mean or can look them up in The Random House Dictionary of Secret Medical Codes (also available via subscription on the internet.)

You don’t have one of those books or websites. Sometimes the information leaks, though.  Here’s one example. The medical code 408B-63554a is a new travel pack of generic paper tissues. 408N-63554b is one that’s been opened by someone else. “A” costs $15.00. “B” is available for $13.50 if it’s no more than half used.

So billing is a combination of secret codes, manual data entry, enormous prices no one expects to be paid and the at-cost delivery of an itemized bill that runs more than ten pages, as many do.

By now you may be asking “isn’t there a way around this? Something simple to follow and to question?” Of course not. They’ll keep seeding the clouds and take what they get. If you’re lucky.
But like so much else these days, don’t be surprised if people are staying up nights to think of something worse.
-----

Remembering two fine reporters who passed away Monday. Sander Vanocur, 91 and Cokie Roberts, 75. He of the effects of dementia, she of complications of cancer.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 
Comments?  Send ‘em to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Monday, September 16, 2019

2929 Honest Abe, Moscow Mitch and Rudy






You’d like to die rich, right?  One of the best ways to do that is to retire as a successful politician.  Can you name many recent ones who died poor? If you can, it’s probably because they squandered the loot they got after leaving office.

Of course, some rake in the money while still in office.  But let’s discount those because we want to count only the honest Abes, not the Moscow Mitches.

The best real job in the world is ex-president of the United States.  You get retirement bucks, get to charge a lot for giving speeches, write books which don’t often sell but you get to keep the inflated advances.  The Secret Service protects you and yours.  Where else can you legally be treated like that except maybe in the witness protection program?

Members of congress often turn into lobbyists, often for causes they claimed to oppose while in office.  Of course, they can’t just jump ship and start lobbying.  They are legally required to ease into things.  One noted defeated US Senator from an important eastern state formed a strategic consultancy.  He’s rolling in dough. Perfectly legal. And he went right from the Senate to the new job.

And then there’s America’s Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, the pretend New Yorker now working on yet another divorce… from a woman he’s been married to for 16 years.  

When Garden City-raised Rudy made the previous divorce announcement at a news conference, he was still married to his previous wife who hadn’t yet gotten the memo.

The current battle is being fought in public, because if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be Rudy, early on described by Jimmy Breslin as “A small man in search of a balcony.”

The guy is up to his nose in dollars.  To the point, says the NY Times, that he’s working hard to reduce his income so as to pay lower alimony.  His target figure is somewhere between three and six million dollars, down from about three times that only a few years ago.

What does he do for all that money? Sorry… that’s classified.  But he did serve trump without pay which is okay because trump often doesn’t pay even people who do charge for their service.

But back to Rudy. Of course, we all believe that his current “very good friend” is just, well, a very good friend. Can’t be any hanky panky, right? After all, the woman is the mother of one of his employees.  At least he’s dating in his own demographic. Oh, wait! Did I say “dating.” My mistake.

SHRAPNEL:
--A man burned down a 117-year-old synagogue in Duluth, MN. Nothing left. The police say it wasn’t a hate crime.


GRAPESHOT:
-In solidarity with our worker brothers and sisters at GM.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

2028 Bolton Unbolted





Can you imagine anyone in public life who’s more of a Cuckoo clock than the cuckoo-in-chief? Well, even as our collective national intellect contracts there’s a glimmer of hope. Or to paraphrase 21st Century philosopher Stephen Colbert put it -- A stupid president has saved us from a very smart warmonger.

But don’t get all happy just yet. We still have trump and probably still have John Bolton, too.  Probably sooner than you think he’ll pop up on Fox news, hammer in hand, mustache akimbo. Rupert and his sons have issued an ultimatum: “If you want this guy back on the air, wand him for metal before you let him past the lobby desk.”

The man of a thousand fuses is sparkling and ready to get back into the fray.

This is not a new topic for this space. We’ve long been a fan of Bolton’s. Here’s an example from March of 2011:  

--Nutcase former UN Ambassador and possible Presidential candidate John Bolton says the US should kill Gaddafi.  Good thinking, John.  Any decent hit men on your payroll these days, or did you want to do this job yourself?

Another from April of this year
“We’ll be talking to John Bolton in a different capacity.” -- President Trump explaining why he chose respected general H.R. McMaster as national security adviser over the scary former UN ambassador who 
might as well re-polish his resume because the quote translates into “hit the road, Jack.”

How did we think that was going to be the president’s durable thought?

 That’s a mere two examples. There have been at least nine mentions or full length stories since 2009.

Get out the wrench and un-bolt him.

QUOTIN’ BOLT’N:
“There’s no such thing as the United Nations. If the UN… Building lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a difference.” (He was UN Ambassador at the time.)
“I think the international criminal court could be a threat to American security interests.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I would love to be President.”
“I am not a neo-conservative.”
“To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”
“We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction.” (He was W. Bush’s arms control guy at the time.)

SHRAPNEL:
--The Democratic Presidential debate put ten of the “leading” candidates in the televised spotlight.  Some called it a ten-way tie. At least Biden looked mostly like the front runner the polls say he is.

--The one liner of the night goes to businessman Andy Chang, who in discussing healthcare said “I’m Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” It went over everyone’s head including the Wise Men and Woman of ABC News who were running the show.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please send comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

2027 9-11



The last thing they saw from the air

Have we made the world a better place since 9/11/01?  No.  It’s just that the slow dissolution we like to think started then is less visible.

After all, “very good people” wearing swastikas or brandishing racist flags don’t bring down whole buildings in a single strike.  They just disparage and dispirit us in small groups. People in charge of legislation always have substituted hot air for substance. And still, they do. But we have become less susceptible to it. 

We seem not to have a large group of brilliantly plotting terrorists on our shores -- at least any we are able to identify.  Now we have bedbugs of human beings, cockroaches, deer ticks who are taking us down one at a time and we don’t always recognize it.

We elect madmen to high office.  We oppose them with other madmen.  All the while, we pretend everything’s just fine.  Rome isn’t burning. It’s rotting.

9/11 is floating into history now except for the few people directly affected.  Like the friends and loved ones of the victims, the still-hospitalized first responders and the cuckoo clock Giuliani. Oh and the latecomers who want to own it.

It’s like D-Day or Armistice Day.  It’s like the landing of the Mayflower. Or Haym Solomon’s birthday.  It’s already in the American history textbooks, even the ones approved by the Texas Board of Education, which whitewashes everything. 

And did we learn anything from the events of and immediately after that day 18 years ago? Sure.

We learned that it’s perfectly fine to place closed circuit cameras everywhere.  Not “virtually” anywhere. Not “almost” anywhere. Actually anywhere. Orwell wouldn’t be proud. He would be relieved that his predictions in “1984” were just mistimed and not inaccurate.

We have learned to distrust Muslims.  We have learned to embrace conspiracy theories about everything.  It’s not just JFK and the moon landing anymore. The paranoid state is today’s iteration of this country and much of the rest of the world.

We have devalued the concept represented by the word “terrorism” by applying it to events that may frighten, but don’t terrorize. We have learned to sleep with one eye open. We have learned to watch our backs in areas and circumstances that never before warranted watching.

“Homeland Security” is an excuse to track your phone calls, your snail mail, your email and the websites you visit. It’s something to wave in front of a sheepesque public allowing TSA agents to grope you at the airport.  No backpacks in the stadium. Open your packages.  Random luggage searches.

And we have simultaneously become both oversensitive and desensitized. 

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments?  Send ‘em here:
wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Monday, September 09, 2019

2026 When Your Memory Foam Forgets



Is your memory foam mattress’ memory selective?  Like when that special someone spends the night, does he or she leave a lasting impression?  If there’s a second special someone, does the memory of the first one lingering on?

And what happens when the mattress gets old and starts forgetting things?  Maybe they should start combining memory foam mattrii with digital assistants.

“Serta! Barbie is coming over tonight. Please set for her size.” “Setting dimensions for Barbie.”

“Hey, Sealy! Ken’s coming over tonight please set for his size.” 
“There are two people named ‘Ken’ in your contact list. Which would you like to set for?”

“Wake up, Simmons. I’m about to make the bed with fitted sheet ‘tan number five.’ Please adjust.”
“You have washed ‘tan number five’ 14 times.  It has shrunk by 2% from the original.  Pulling in my corners two inches each and will restore when the fitted sheet is on properly.”

“OK, Springaire.”
Listening.”
“The grandchildren are coming over for lunch today. Please adjust to withstand their bouncing.”
“Are they bringing the dog?  Listening.”
“Yes.”
“Adjusting for bouncing grandchildren plus dog.”

Memory foam is not just for mattresses anymore.  They put it in everything they can.  Shoes, pillows, pen grips, chairs of almost every description including car seats, baby strollers and carriages.  They put it in dog houses and don’t be surprised if they start putting it in carpet padding and Fitbit bands.

And -- this is only rumor -- one of the major bathtub makers is experimenting with an eye to developing a non-skid, waterproof bathtub liner.  That’ll be followed by a waterproof digital assistant.  We already have the technology for that with showerproof radios.

And now a word from our sponsor:

Does your memory foam mattress forget you?  Is it aging?  Try Reviva-Foam and make it smile again.
Reviva-foam is not for everyone.  Side effects include new or increased sagging, lumpiness, flattening or depressed centers. If any of these conditions develop, stop using Reviva-Foam and call your mattress doctor immediately.  Not recommended for children under six. Use only as directed and make your mattress remember you.

GRAPESHOT
-The reason trump uses markers: they no longer allow him to handle sharp instruments.

-The reason Facebook shouldn’t face antitrust charges: There’s no monopoly on stupid.

-If everything is offensive, who do you complain to?

-A hat-tip to NOAA for drinking trump-aid and reversing its position on whether hurricane Dorian would flatten Alabama.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments?  Send ‘em here: wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019



Friday, September 06, 2019

2025 Martha the Dog Lady and Her New Little Friend




Say hello to her new little friend.  Martha the dog lady bought a handgun the other day.  This could be a dangerous thing.  It’s small and black and is to be joined by a younger and bigger brother, a semiautomatic rifle when the money’s there.

Martha has never fired a gun, or so she says.  But she is known for her brilliant hand-eye coordination.  So when -- if -- she goes out to practice, there will be many targets with knocked out bullseyes and silhouettes of evildoers with holes in their hearts and heads. A good gal with a gun?

In the meantime, she’s not worried about trouble from the evidently shady people who sold it to her.  When they came to her house in the woods to deliver, her dog Flako the Pit Bull got mad at them and growled and snarled with great ceremony, full believability and authenticity.  Flako, T.P.B. is young and vigorous. But here is a truism about any dog of any size or disposition:

If the dog doesn’t like you, you are not likable.
And if you are not likable, you are dangerous.  And if you’re dangerous you are not welcome “here,” wherever “here” happens to be.

Pit bulls aren’t nearly as scary as their rep.  But they can play the part well if encouraged and rewarded with hugs, treats and stuffy toys after the fact.

Here boy! There’s a Milk Bone in it for you if you scare the pants off the mailman.

Martha, little old lady that she may be, is welcoming, mostly. But she also holds a grudge and not close to the vest.  So it’s likely her neighbors with the megawatt boom box and the muffler-less trucks will turn the volume down and Midassize, even though the current model of King Midas is as wimpy as the Burger King king is creepy.

As for the guns in general… there are more of them than there are of us.  Federal figures say there are 393-million civilian owned firearms. Those are just the ones we know about.  There are 363-million people (that we know of and not adjusting for undercounting in, um, certain areas.)  So everyone can have one and there are tens of millions left over for those who want to come back to the cockroach buffet for seconds or thirds.

But Martha has a right to bear arms against… what? The boom boxes and no-muffler-trucks? Is there a meth “lab” in their basement? If so when -- not if, but when -- will it blow up?  She needs a license for Flako. She does not need one for the Glock.   But the dog can be a big help when the meth lab explodes.  You know… a little barrel of brandy around his neck?  Maybe wake up the sleeping beauty in time to escape the flames?

The dog is more reliable than the gun.  He is mostly self-maintaining. He’s licensed.  He’s loyal. 

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® Parts of this basically true story have been changed to protect the innocent from getting glocked for telling the tale.
Comments? Send ‘em here: wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Mini 008 Random Numbers

Looking back over the past few months, we find our number system bollixed to the point of complete confusion.   Hence, we’re goin...