Monday, September 25, 2017

1849 Self Driving Cars

1849, year of the gold rush.  Crossing the great expanse of the United States in search of riches.
2017, year of the parking space “rush,” seen above. Racing along the Cross Bronx Expressway in your self driving Smart forTwo?  Wedged between two 18 wheelers, one leaking goo resembling Log Cabin Syrup and smelling like a combination of Chanel No. 5 and a spittoon.

Racing isn’t exactly a term you’d apply to this or any other major highway.  But if you can go at half a mile an hour and pass three cars during that half mile, you’re a winner.

As we’ve been told by major brand car makers and internet sites, the self driving car is just around the bend.  It’ll soon be here and traffic jams like this one which starts at 3:30 am each day and lasts until 3:29 am the next, will be a thing of the past.

Pure nonsense.

So far, the test cars act like a demolition derby but with new tin and real injuries.  Eventually they’ll overcome the technical problems.  That’s when the real work begins.

If you think gun owners are a clingy lot, wait until you see what happens when instead of “coming for your guns,” the next Obama-like president will actually come for your cars.

Where is Charlton Heston when you need him? “You’ll get my car when you pry the steering wheel out of my cold dead hand” (and off that telephone pole.)

Americans love their cars.  Traffic jams or none, they want that autonomy and control that goes with making your own route and your own schedule.

There are an estimated 230-million privately owned cars and trucks on the road right now.  (That’s some busy road!)  

Replace all of them with self drivers?  Not in five lifetimes.  Banning them may be legally possible.  But such a law can’t be enforced. And yet, all the manufacturers are racing to be first with a practical and affordable model.

Driving these days is scary enough without having no control over your vehicle.  Drivers will go through the motions even if there’s no steering wheel and no pedals, just as they do now when they’re passengers.

And remember, please, computer reliability is an oxymoron. We may have progressed beyond the Blue Screen of Death.  But we haven’t yet been able to eliminate this phrase from the lingo: “I’m sorry to keep you waiting but our computers are slow right now.”

A slow computer in a self driving car will brake to a stop only after first hitting and killing that pedestrian.  What happens when your self-applying brake encounters “error #2314a,” a complete disconnection from the brain?  It will no longer be funny to see news footage of cars driving through the McDonald’s line when that particular McDonald’s doesn’t have a drive-through window.

Yes, self driving cars are inevitable.  But they’re not going to be here tomorrow.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, September 22, 2017

1848 Gravity: The Jury is Out

Scientists disagree on this.  But most seem to believe something completely wacky about the theory of gravity.

Yes, there are those who believe that gravity is real and that every time you drop something, it falls down until you catch it or it hits the ground.  Absolute nonsense.  It’s a liberal plot to make you feel guilty.

Have you ever seen gravity?  Or smelled or tasted it? Of course not.  Oh, yes, there is a consensus among scientists that it’s some kind of invisible force like positive thinking or good will, corporate generosity and government efficiency.

Scientific consensus is not science.  We all know that. It’s guesswork.  If it were real science, everyone would agree.  A fact, after all, is a fact.

Oh, sure, every time we dropped something, it fell down.  We know that.  But what we don’t know -- can’t know -- is whether the next thing we drop will follow suit.

It could just hang there in mid-air.  Or it could move up. You just never know for sure.  Wessays™ is known for its bold neutrality and takes its usual radical middle position.  That is to say, there may be a good scientific basis for the existence of gravity, but the other side has some good points, too.

Among them:
--When you’re watching an action movie and see a car drive off a cliff, land on rocks below and burst into flame, that’s fake.  Hollywood can do that with models, computer animations and your willingness to suspend disbelief.  That car did not drive off a cliff even if you saw it with your own eyes.

--Blimps float in the air. They fall up.  How do you account for THAT, you tree-hugging solar powered liberal freaks?  Same with hot air balloons.

--Submarines seem to fall lower in the ocean. But they always float back to the surface.  Well, not always but most of the time.

--Sometimes, you start to fall. Often you return to upright before you hit the ground.  How do explain that, you socialist, folk-singing smarty pantses?

If gravity were real and you dropped a soccer ball or basketball, it would just sit there.  But does it?  No. Sometimes it rolls into the street and if you chase it you could be hit by a passing car.  Where’s your gravity now, huh?

Remember, gravity is only a theory.  Further study is needed.

The word “theory” has different meanings.  It is commonly thought of as a synonym of “guess.”  In science, “theory” is something that can be regularly tested with the same results, not something “we think may happen.”

TODAY’S QUOTE (Attn: Robt. Mueller):
-“When you strike at a king, you must kill him.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

-Did the three recent incidents where spectators were hit with a bat or ball affect Yankees ticket sales and if so, in which direction?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

1847 The Missing Shoe

Let’s start with TODAY’S QUOTE:
“We will bury you.”  --  Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev to western ambassadors meeting in Poland, November 18, 1956.

Maybe you misremembered the outburst, Mr. K banging his shoe on a table. There’s controversy about that and no clear film.  And the photo at the top of this post may have been retouched.  So maybe it didn’t happen.

But this one did:
If the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, “...we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” -- President Donald trump, September 19, 2017.

So basically the same thing, separated by almost 61 years and half a world.  Two fragile and infantile dictators get on the world stage and threaten to destroy pretty much everything thereunder.

Except that in Khrushy’s case, the threat wasn’t military, it was economic. It came from the same playbook as all the other Soviet brags:

-We invented space travel.
-We invented steam locomotion.
-We invented the department store.
-We invented the Polaroid camera.  And the Tesla. And Cheerios, the Hershey Bar and Seinfeld.

Or the Soviet lies:
-The Tass bureau in Rockefeller Center is not a collection of spies.
-The Soviet mansion in Glen Cove is not a spy's nest.
-We have no missiles in Cuba.
-Okay, we do have missiles in Cuba but they’re not capable of reaching Miami.
-Okay, they are capable of reaching Miami, but they’re unarmed.

It wasn’t until Presidential Svengali John Foster Dulles, AKA Dr. Evil attached an armed conflict implication to the shoe-fit that we thought of it as something explosive to worry about.  Again… remember, these are two separate but equally famous Khrushchev-isms.

In trump’s case, it is military. There’s no mistaking it for anything else.  Just wait until Huckabee and the other know- nothings try to walk this one back.

Of course even if trump wanted to make it happen, he couldn’t.  His generals are too busy with more important matters. Like controlling when Ivanka can visit the oval office for her daily spanking or how the armed services can appear to get rid of transgender soldiers without actually getting rid of them.

But let’s go back to Khrushy’s shoe, which is easier to read than it is to say. There was controversy about whether what he banged on the lectern was actually a shoe.

The Wessays’ Dept. of Investigative Journalism has conducted an exhaustive search for proof -- or at least strong evidence one way or the other.  It was led by former CIA assassin Al Kinstrey, private eye who wore a light Glen Plaid summerweight suit, a straw fedora and shoes with thick gum soles as a disguise.

Kinstry reports that he watched as a technician in the film lab (yes, we still have a film lab) paused the picture and zoomed in to what looks to be a shoe.

The photo is grainy and a touch out of focus.  Assassin Kinstrey, Private Eye says he could not determine whether it was an actual shoe or an implement used in the Russian table game “Siberia” which is played by slamming the edge of a shoe- like  paddle on the edge of two-million ruble coin (a 1.5 million rubel coin if played in Belarus, and yes, they spell it two different ways) and getting the coin to land in a small basket on the opposite side of an electrified net stretched across the table. (The Russians invented electrified nets.)

Kinstrey says he’ll investigate further as soon as they remove his cataracts and may then be able to get a clearer picture.

Meanwhile, trump is memorizing the alphabetized  26 letter 12 number code for a nuclear launch.  And as for his speech?  All that was missing was the shoe.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, September 18, 2017

1846 It's in the Bag

The controversy over plastic grocery bags has finally died down some.  Yes, yes. Let’s all be good citizens and not throw these earth killers into the landfill where they’ll outlive all of us.

Some municipalities are banning them. Some of merchants are charging a few cents to discourage us from using them.  And the so- called shopping “clubs” don’t use them at all, making it attractive to pay fifty bucks a year to buy discounted Cheerios in -- ahem -- plastic bags that hold enough to fill your coal bin if you decide that burning oats will reduce your carbon footprint, which no one knows for sure is true.

There’s a slight advantage to burning Cheerios as opposed to some other fuels.  Lighter, for example. Cleaner going down the chute to the coal bin.  But then you have the plastic bag problem all over again.

Every place that uses a large number of plastic bags has a recycle bin where you can return them. Supposedly, they’re melted down and re-formed into new ones.

The recyclable bags have caused problems of their own.  They are flimsy.  They tear easily.  A head of lettuce or a cantaloupe even one without sharp edges will rip through them with ease.  And how many lettuce heads and cantaloupes have any edges at all.

Fact is, you can cut one of these bags with nothing more than a sharp look.  So to protect your groceries, kindly and sympathetic checkout people will double the bags.  Sometimes that even works.  You can get your lettuce home and only the inner bag is torn.

Carrots are another story entirely.  Carrots -- especially those you buy by the bunch rather than the bag -- are the unsung secret weapons of the parking lot defenseless.  You see a little old person loading the trunk with plastic bags and say “easy target for robbery!”

Don’t be too sure.  The intended victim could pull the carrots through the prefab hole in the bag and stab you before you even know what sliced you.

And don’t bother running off.  Police are well trained to canvas the hospitals and clinics for people who come in with carrot wounds.

The best part about these bags is you don’t have to worry that your toddlers will consider them a toy and stick their heads in and suffocate.  No one has ever died of grocery bag suffocation.  At least no one willing to go on the record about it.

These things are so porous you can drop them in the cells of inmates on suicide watch.

--Someone finally noticed there’s now a “Bio Hazard” sign posted in the room where these masterpieces of blather are concocted.  Why? Well, it’s of a reminder of the power of words… and besides, there was no “Nuclear Waste Dump” sign available.

--For the first time in recent memory, the Emmy awards show was worth watching. Colbert was first rate as MC, had a truly funny opening monologue including a cameo from the real Sean Spicer. And the thing was paced perfectly, not a minute wasted.

--Well, maybe part of a minute. In the requisite obituary department the TV Academy said goodbye to a long list of household names including Roger Ailes. Guess they were trying to be fair and balanced.

“At long last, Mr. President, here’s your Emmy.” -- Actor Alec Baldwin who played trump on Saturday Night Live.  trump had been nominated for Emmys for his role in “the Apprentice,” but failed to win and claimed the voting was fixed. To paraphrase Baldwin: to win an Emmy, you have first to win the popular vote.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, September 15, 2017

1845 It's Never Nothing

"Honey, what's wrong?"


"No, really. You look annoyed.  What's going on?"

"Nothing.  Really.  It's nothing."

It's never nothing.

In the eons-old jousting between men and women, women have taken to (a) denying what they'd really like to tell you or (b) refraining from punching you out over some slight, real or imagined or (c) admitting you know them well enough to perceive the radiation of "something is wrong" vibes from them.

What's truly scary is when you, the guy, know what is wrong and you can't get the lady to confirm it.

The other day on arising, the look of scorn came over "her" face.

"What's wrong, honey?"


"No, really you look annoyed.  What's going on?"

"Nothing.  Really, it's nothing."

But it WAS something.  It always is.

The t- shirt was too tight.

It took two days, but finally:  "You look like a meatball in that yellow t- shirt.  You look like a sausage."

AHAH! It WAS something.  It always is.  In this case, it's a "so what?" moment.  But that almost never solves the problem.

You didn't put the cat out.  You didn't take the garbage out.  You had one-too-many glasses of wine at dinner. You didn't load the dishwasher.   You DID load the dishwasher but you still came back with spotted dishes.  You didn't wish my mother a happy birthday.

"But your mother's been dead for 30 years."

"No matter.  You still should have called.” OK. He calls. “The number you have reached is not in service.”  Or worse:  “Hello?” “Hi, Mrs. Klutzhammer, it’s Don.  Just calling to wish you a happy birthday.”  “Don?  You must have the wrong number. It’s not my birthday.” “Aren’t you Mrs. Klutzhammer?” “No.” Click.

“Okay, honey, I called. She didn’t answer, but I left a message.”

Or maybe the car needs washing.  Or the laundry needs washing. Or "You told me not to buy two packages of bath soap at Sam's Club two weeks ago and we'll soon be out of the stuff."

The complaint could be legitimate.  If you can pry it out of her:  “Can’t you get rid of that 1920 refrigerator in the back room? It doesn’t work and it just takes up space.”  “But dear it was my grandmother’s. It’s all I have to remember her by.”

Sometimes it’s not:  “Why do I have to do all the moving of stuff around in this house?”  (Why does anyone, including you?  Does it make a difference which side of the room is home to the philodendron plant?)

Freud is said to have asked "What do women want?"

The answer is "nothing, dear.  Really. Nothing."

No it ain't.  It's never nothing.

--Sometimes you can’t solve a problem by simply cutting the Gordian Knot. Sometimes you have to actually learn how to untie it. And then actually untie it.

-“We have a deal.” - Donald trump after a White House dinner with congressional Democratic leaders.

-“There’s no deal.” - Same guy the next morning.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

1844 trumpnosis

We start with the idea that most people who read this page are of sound mind.  Or close to it.  And to that, we add that most people who read this page are men and women of good will. Or close to it.

That means that you are relatively sane and relatively willing to hear things with which you disagree and say “well, his opinions are his own but I’m not buying” or “well, he can sometimes be amusing so I’ll keep reading,” or “maybe like the monkeys typing Hamlet he’ll eventually come up with something worth hearing.”

And that means you habitually look for the right in people.  

But Donald trump has reset your brain. You may be trumpnatized.

And now is the perfect time to break the spell because he has been out of the public eye for some days as everyone scurries to cover every fallen tree, flooded home and missing kitten from Houston over to Key West and up the panhandle to Georgia.

Out of the public eye, does not mean out of mischief. But it does mean the section of our brains that was constantly focused on the White House has given that muscle seizure a shot at relaxing.

You have been somnambulized into believing that his words have any relation to either his actions or the time he says them.  They don’t.  Here’s just one example.  click here

But in 2000, Matt Lauer asked trump about running for president and said something different:

Scroll to :52 seconds into the link and start there. You only need a few seconds.
(The Jesse he’s talking about is Jesse Ventura.)

Okay, you say, he had 17 years to forget.  But this is typical trump.

Nothing has changed.  Say today, deny tomorrow.  And yet, when he speaks, especially nowadays when he’s actually our so- called president, you’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Most recently, he “made a deal” with the democrats to keep the government running through Thanksgiving and to aid hurricane victims.

You think “Well, this time he’s acting “presidential,” so maybe there’s some hope.”

Or: “Maybe there’s some little kernel of truth in what he said this time.”

Or: “Well, he made a deal with Pelosi and Schumer on hurricane aid and the debt ceiling so maybe he’s starting to come around this time.”

He has you trumpnatized. Your rational brain tells you he’s a tyrant toddler, one notch removed from Kim Jong-un. You know he lies every time his lips move.  You know you can’t rely on what he says beyond the moment he says it.

And yet, your emotions and background tell you … maybe this time.

It’s tough to let go of a piece of thinking that you’ve held at some level for all the years since birth.

And you’re shocked, horrified and baffled when he reverses himself.

In this state, you say to yourself “I must have missed some hidden meaning or some hidden agenda in what he said.”

He meant it at the moment, which ever particular “it” is on the table.  And there’s no hidden meaning or hidden agenda.

Okay, now I’m going to bring you out of your trumpnotic state.  I’m going to count to five and at the count of five you’ll be fully awake, feeling refreshed and relaxed, and fully conscious.

One… two… three… four…

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, September 11, 2017

1843 Wessay #1843 One of Our Worst Days

The eleventh day of September seems not to have been our lucky day in awhile.  While hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Texas was earlier… there’s still plenty of work ahead there.  And hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and Florida is winding down, but its aftermath will be with us for a long time to come.

And it is 9/11, the 16th Anniversary of that terrible day so long ago -- at least it seems so long ago -- that terrible day when evil, hate- filled lunatics destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, damaged the Pentagon… and the day heroic passengers overpowered the hijackers and crashed a jetliner heading for the White House into a Pennsylvania farm.

It’s a day the fates pick to remind us of our vulnerability.  And for those unaffected to be grateful for their un-affected-ness.

The farther you are from this kind of event or series of events, the less direct the effect on you.

Belle Fourche, South Dakota is the geographic center of the country. People there, if so inclined can relax in their isolation and watch the devastation in Houston, Tampa, Havana, New York, Washington, and elsewhere, imagining they’re so distant from all that that it never will affect them.

Belle Fourche is a newcomer to that position, the center only since Alaska and Hawaii became states. Before that, it was a short distance from Lebanon, Smith County, Kansas. People there are unlikely to cluck about outlying tragedy and go about their business because that’s at the heart of Tornado country.

They can feel exempt only until the next twister rips their roof off and drops two cows and a Buick in their living room.   Or even worse, doesn’t rip off their roof but still drops the cows and the car into the house.

Covering the hurricanes for TV should come with combat pay.  Especially since each of the networks sends one or more tiny women out in winds that wouldn’t break a sweat picking them up and sending them into the next county.

No worries.  There are lots of tiny women who can do at least a passable job of saying “it sure is windy here” while standing knee deep in a river that has a road under it and fighting to stay upright and upbeat.  

For awhile, it looked like the wind might blow Anderson Cooper all the way to Smith County Kansas and while he’s not a big guy, he’s not a flyweight either.

Take it from an old hand at national coverage: there’s a monkey-see-monkey-do/Polly wanna cracker aspect to competitive newsing.  Earth to ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, the Weather Channel and anyone else with a national audience:  No one is doing a lot of switching back and forth among you.  People pick a channel and stay with it.

If you don’t have 58 reporters in 58 puddles or standing next to swaying palm trees or nose deep in snow, chances are nobody will notice.  And think of the combat pay you’ll not have to pay.  And the hospital bills.  And the sick days.

In the meantime, the stricken areas do what the stricken areas always do. Wait and rebuild.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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