Monday, May 02, 2016

1637 The Myra Project

One of the major computer makers has named the Wessays™ Secret Mountainside Laboratories the main contractor for the Myra Project.

This is derivative.  It would never have been thought of had it not been for Siri, Apple’s “digital assistant,” the one who guides you to the nearest pizza joint or charging station for your Tesla.

Siri was kind of an electronic version of Eve of Adam and Eve.  She gave birth to the no name electronic assistant in Android systems, Cortina at Microsoft and Amazon’s “Alexa.”

An electronic quartet, perfectly in tune with all the habits your electronic device has learned about you from sources legitimate and illegitimate.

Soon they’ll be joined by Myra, the digital assistant with a difference.

Myra doesn’t coddle you.  Myra argues.  Myra is blunt and to the point.  Soon, all of America will be Myramaniacs with a smattering of Myraholics.
“Myra,” you will ask, “where is the nearest pizzeria?”

And the reply:  “Pizza?  You want pizza? You lose 20 pounds… maybe then we’ll talk pizza. Meantime, if you’re hungry, there’s a new ‘Granola Bazaar’ 12 miles from your location and they have top rated sprouts.  You want directions?  Maybe I could call them for you and order for pickup?”

How does she know your weight?  Heh heh heh.

“Myra,” you will ask, how’s eastbound traffic on the George Washington Bridge?”

And the reply: “First, you can’t get there because traffic is backed up from Lodi. Second if you DO get there, you’ll find construction on the upper level right lane and you know the mess that turns into.  Third, EZ Pass only at this hour.  You don’t have one. Why didn’t you take the tunnel, stupid!?”

“Myra,” you will ask, “When was the war of 1812?”

And the reply: “Are you (expletive deleted) kidding?”

“Myra,” you will ask, “when does the Jets game start?”

And the reply: “The Jets?  Why would you want to know that?  Three PM, eastern time, you loser.”

“Myra,” you will ask:  “What should I give my mother-in-law for her birthday?”

And the reply: “You could give her the Hope Diamond wrapped in Aladdin’s Lamp and you still wouldn’t be good enough for ‘her baby.’ Give her what she really wants… Grandchildren.”

“Myra,” you will ask, “how many grams in a cup?”

And the reply:  “How should I know?”

The possibilities are endless.  But there are some last minute bugs to work out.

“Myra,” you will ask, “Will you please tell my spouse when I leave work?”

And the reply: “Spouse is a marriage partner. The word comes from the Latin sponsa or bride and sponsus, male partner in marriage.  May I direct you to a translation site?”

“Myra,” you will ask “where is the nearest pizza parlor?”

And the reply: “Look!  Asked and answered. Is it that you just don’t listen or that you’ll think I’ve forgotten something we discussed five minutes ago?  Ask again and I’ll fry your motherboard.”

Gotta tweak the code a bit and fix that stuff.

Shrapnel:
-- Cheer and jeer for Target Stores.  Cheer: Pro LGBT bathrooms. Jeer: dropping their pharmacies and turning them over to CVS.

Today’s Quote:
--“If this material works out, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans.” -- President Obama drawing laughs at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

1636 Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One

Presidential hasbeen Rafael (Dead Ted) Cruz has announced his choice for a vice presidential running mate.  

The envelope, please.

And the winner is… (fanfare)

Carly Fiorina
Yes, the lovely and talented Carly reared her lovely head, looking even more like Hillary Clinton after a six month Nutrisystem binge with overtones of Nancy Reagan, or maybe Margaret Hamilton.

Rafael has little chance of becoming the nominee.  And here he is, strutting about with his “running mate.”

In past years, we have had plenty to say about Carly and some of it’s worth repeating.  So here is the part you may have heard before from about a year ago when she hadn’t yet sought the nomination and was then called “Getting to Know Carly Fiorina:

If you want a woman president just because “it’s about time,” but you hate Hillary, you’ll love Carly.

Carly “the destroyer” Fiorina turned two of the world’s most important tech companies into unintentional non- profits then ran for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in California and lost.  Her main asset?  Well, aside from wrecking a couple of major corporations, she doesn’t often bother to vote.  A real political scientist. Study the subject to death, but don’t DO anything.

We first came to know of Fiorina when she was running Lucent, the successor to the fabled Bell Labs, founded by Alexander Graham Bell. Its scientists won eight Nobel Prizes, produced the first transistor and the optical router among other things.  Many other things.

On her watch, Lucent stock lost half its value and later was acquired by Alcatel for chump change.

Then, Fiorina fell up and was named CEO of Hewlett Packard.  Fortunately for him, co founder, David Packard was dead by that time. The other founder, Bill Hewlett, followed his friend to the grave a few years later.  We’re unsure whether there’s a connection. But he lived long enough to know that the masterstroke hiring of Fiorina was something he couldn’t live with.

(In the event that you think this is an anti-woman diatribe, note that the present head of HP, Meg Whitman, is doing a fine job… as she did at eBay.)

Fiorina is the anti- Hillary.  She says as Secretary of State Clinton accomplished nothing. Fine person to disparage non- accomplishment.

Fiorina is not running “on (my) sex.”  Oh?
Actually, she’s not running at all.  Yet.  But she did spend the weekend in New England, and it wasn’t because she’s a Barry Manilow fan.  She’s also visited Iowa, that bastion of political Me First excellence and its southern soul mate, South Carolina.

She’ll declare this spring.  And figure she’ll be doing what she’s been doing in the campaign so far, bashing Clinton and not much else.  

She figures she’ll neutralize the lone woman angle if both she and Clinton are nominated. Please remove your blinders, ladies.

Voters in both parties deserve better than they have been offered so far.  On the Republican side: A couple of inexperienced unseasoned senators, two huckster governors, two huckster ex- governors. Oh, and Trump.

On the Democratic side a former first lady nobody likes, an aging “independent” Senator with good ideas and no way to make any one of them real, a couple of present or former state officials of such low wattage they should be packaged as energy saving light bulbs.

Makes you long for the good old days of political giants like Walter Mondale, Ross Perot, Bob Dole, Ralph Nader, John Anderson and George Wallace.

But of Carly we can only say it wasn’t enough she killed two companies that didn’t need to die and now she wants to be President? In hockey, they call three goals by one player in one game a “hat trick.”  

Laurence Peter would be proud.

Today’s Quote:
--“I have never worked with a more miserable sonofabitch in my life.” -- Former House Speaker John Boehner, asked about failed presidential hopeful Rafael “Ted” Cruz.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2015, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

1635 My Famous Dead Singer is Better than Yours

Let’s start this one with


Today’s quote:
--“In death, a man becomes 10-thousand times greater than he was in life.” -- Salvador Dali, famous dead self- promoter and painter of melting watches.


This has become a year of famous or almost famous singers who have died.


Here’s an alphabetical list:


Asawa, Brian*
Bowie, David
Dawg, Phife*
Feek, Joey*
Frey, Glen
Haggard, Merle
Kantner, Paul
Paul, Billy
Prince
Sinatra, Frank Jr
Vanity*
Wemba, Papa
White, Maurice*


That’s probably not every one.  But close enough for rock.


Those with asterisks after their names are people you probably never heard of.  So, how about we look at some of them.


Brian Asawa was a countertenor who sang at the Metropolitan and San Francisco Operas. There aren’t a whole lot of roles for guys who sing in the same range as contraltos.  But Asawa was the best since Alfred Deller and unlike Deller didn’t bother with the stuffy old English ballad nonsense and focused on Purcell and Handel. Asawa was 49 and had heart trouble.


Phife Dawg was a founder of the hip hop ensemble, “A Tribe Called Quest.”  His real name was Malik Taylor and “Tribe” is just now gaining fame. He was 45 and had kidney problems.


Joey Feek was a Grammy- nominated mid level country singer. She was 40 and died of cancer.


Vanity aka Denise Matthews, 57, was best known for the song “Nasty Girl,” and was a friend of Prince’s. Cause of death unknown.  But she had kidney problems, too.


Maurice White was a founder of Earth Wind and Fire. He was 74.  Parkinson’s.


Papa Wemba was “the king of Congolese Rumba.” He was 66 and collapsed during a performance in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.


As for the bigger names…


Billy Paul, 81. His biggest hit was “Me and Mrs. Jones” in the early 1970s. Often forgotten by the mainstream, he just kept keeping on, and pleasing his knot of devotees -- and devotees they were -- with material old and new.
Paul Kantner was a founder of Jefferson Airplane, Glen Frey was a founder of The Eagles, Frank Sinatra Jr. was well known because of his name but not his work.


As for the Superstars, Prince, Haggard and Bowie… you had to have slept longer than Rip Van Winkle to not know who they were.


And here’s where we run into trouble.  Each of these men had huge legions of fans.  And after each died, their lives were celebrated with the power of a high- category earthquake.


Each were fine artists and showmen. Each had “legendary” attached to their names, first by publicists and record promoters, then by fans.


There was an attractiveness about each.  And each was a printer of money, some of which they actually kept.  But when you stripped away the “legend” part, you found three men who were bound to their audiences more by schtick than by artistry, strangeness more than musicality, and special effect shows more than musicianship.


Sure, mourn the loss of your favorite.  But remember whichever cult you joined, it’s just a cult.


And for goodness’ sake don’t fight about which was the best.  Each was good in his own way.  But “great” and “legendary” should be reserved for greats and legends.


Also, please remember the quotation from Dali.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

1634 Microsoft Raises the Rent

You, yes you, the one running Windows on your computer. You didn’t know you were a tenant, did you? Or that Microsoft was your landlord.


Well, time to wake up.


How is this possible, you ask? How can a tech corporation that is so critical to your devices be your landlord?  Two ways.


Way one:  when you run Windows, you’re doing it under license.  You don’t own it.  You own the right to use it.  Ever read that “license?”  No?  Well, no one else has either.  But if CEO Satya Nadella wakes up on the wrong side of the bed one morning and decides he doesn’t like you because you run Android or (perish forbid!) Apple’s OS he’s free to suspend or even revoke your license.


That’s probably never happened, but it could.  


Then there’s way two: something you have along with that license, something you probably never heard of… Onedrive.


While you may never have heard of it, you use it.  You’re using it this very moment.  Onedrive is micro’s “cloud.” And it puts stuff you save in it.  Lots of stuff. How?  Who knows?  But it’s there. You can check.  Go ahead.  It’s part of Windows 8 and 10. And some lucky ducks have it on Windows 7.


So what, you say?  It sounds like something handy in case your hard drive blows up?  Well, yes. It is. Sort of.


Step back a moment and think about this: you get a letter from the electric company. The headline is “Devour Power Proposes Changes in Residential Rates.”


You know without further reading that your bill is going up.


So the other day, Microsoft sends an email to all its tenants -- you included -- with the subject line “Changes to Storage Limits. The amount of free storage is changing.”


Changing?  You think “oh, goodie.  More space.”  No, licensee, not more.  Less. A lot less. Two thirds less. The current allotment of free space is 15 gigabites. The new limit will be 5 GB.  And “we’re discontinuing the 15 GB camera roll bonus.”


“It was a difficult decision,” says the MSFT Ministry of Truth.” And it apologized for the inconvenience.  That’s always good. Apologies for inconvenience show the cuddly side of a corporate carnivore or a public one for that matter.


It’s time to remind ourselves that there’s a difference between an inconvenience and a disruption. A run of the mill traffic jam is an inconvenience.  Running out of peanut butter on the first day of a new school year is an inconvenience.  


Radical changes to your lease on Onedrive is a disruption for those who use it on purpose and a head scratcher for those who don’t know they do.


It’s like your real landlord announcing he’s creating another apartment on your floor by taking away your dining room, second bedroom and the half bath. Oh, and your rent remains the same.


Of course, there are ways to use more space, just not for free.  And anything that once was free and now isn’t… is a rent increase.


Shrapnel:
--Hail and good luck to Jim Micklaszewski, NBC’s Chief Pentagon correspondent who is retiring. No other reporter has ever covered that beat with his clarity and insight. It’s hard to imagine a report from the pentagon without tossing to Mik.


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

© WJR 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

1633 Why Bernie Lost New York City

(GREENPOINT NY) -- This part of Brooklyn doesn’t get a lot of the tourist trade. It’s an old neighborhood filled with old people, old things and an old waterway.  


There are some of the few remaining wooden water towers.  There are buildings from a century ago that no developer is ever going to try to gentrify.  If you want to come here, you have to work at it. You have to take the G Train. And if you get here, there’s little to see and less to do.


Even on a sunny day, it has a cloudy feel.


But this was Bernie Sanders’ shining city on the flatlands Tuesday, the high spot in his New York primary run.  He absolutely crushed Clinton like a paper cup. Seventy to 30.  The rest of the city turned him into a Crinkle Cup, the kind your dentist gives you to rinse and spit.


And while he won other neighborhoods in the five boroughs, it wasn’t the outpouring he said he expected and certainly hoped for.


Are New Yorkers turning into a bunch of raving conservatives?  Are they longing for the glory days when the economy boomed with a Clinton in the White House?


No. In this contest between two “New Yorkers,” Hillary is the native and Bernie is the carpetbagger.


Bernie is from Brooklyn.  Fairly typical child of immigrants of his age.  And the accent and hand gestures haven’t died. You never leave the ghetto. Not entirely.


But he left Brooklyn for Vermont in the 1960s when he was in his mid-20s and has lived and worked there ever since.  No one in Poultney thinks he’s a down- east Yankee.  But the typical Brooklyn Child is no longer typical in Brooklyn.


Hillary Clinton was born in Illinois, lived a good many years in Arkansas and now lives in Chappaqua, NY.  That’s a bit up river from the city.  But it’s a different world.


As of 2013, the median home price there was about half a million dollars, twice the state average.  The real estate website Zillow says Chez Clinton is worth about $6 Million.  The town It is 75% white.


Burlington Vermont’s median home price is about half that of Chappaqua. There are no homes for sale in the Clintonspheric range. Burlington is 92% white.


The feel in Chappaqua is more monied than in rural Burlington.


New York City is fast dividing into two camps: rich and poor. The middle class is evaporating.  But the typical New York voter wants to be more like Hillary than Bernie.


And that’s why she won.


Sanders is from a bygone era. Jewish, boisterous, opinionated, blunt, annoying.  What you see is what you get.


It’s charming in a nostalgic way, especially to those of us who didn’t flee the city to mountain greenery until retirement.


Clinton is from a more modern version of town: not quite as boisterous, easily as opinionated, but with her opinions rooted in air and subject to changes in wind direction.  A chameleon hoping to be all things to all people.  And at least equally annoying.


There aren’t enough New Yorkers of his era left to push Bernie over the top.  And the strivers and wannabes who replaced that breed are much more like Clinton.


Even if they don’t know it.


Shrapnel:
--The Republican primary is barely worth mentioning because everyone knew Cruz was toast, Kasich was going to rank 2nd and Trump would win by a mile, which he did.  But one interesting fact has escaped much notice.  Trump lost in his home borough, Manhattan.


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

© WJR 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

1632 A.M. Radio and the Afterlife

AM radio, regular radio as we old timers call it, is on its death bed.  It’s been there before. But now it seems all but certain that as its shrinking and aging audience dies, so will it follow.

But wait. There’s a new sheriff in town.  It’s the American Society of Mediums.  The what?  Yes, the lobbying group for the men and women who make their living talking to your dead relatives has stepped up to the plate.

Little known fact:  AM and shortwave signals are how they work their magic. You want to talk to aunt Margaret who died in 1943 or Napoleon, members of the ASM will get you there.

Oh, they will have little beads or a crystal ball or a Ouija Board.  But those are just props.  The real secret is in powerful little radios each member carries.

Ever meet a medium in a bikini?  Or Speedos? Of course not.  No place to hide the machinery.  Will they come to your home or office for a consultation?  Absolutely not, at least not those who are members of the ASM.  The gear is at their home, storefront or traveling show tent.  It’s hard to move.  No, you have to go to them.

But over the last few decades, AM radio transmission has met enemies that no one foresaw.  It’s called “RF,” short for radio frequency or RFI for radio frequency interference. It describes a kind of audible hash that makes contact with those in the afterlife harder.

You’ll never see a member of the ASM with fluorescent lights in her house.  Not even those energy saving corkscrew bulbs.  Fluorescent lights cause interference with transmission and reception.

So do cell phone towers, neon signs, steel beamed buildings, even the electric meter at your house.  And then there are power lines, computers, modems, wifi routers, light dimmers, wired smoke alarms, garage door openers, surge suppressors, washing machines, microwave ovens and traffic lights.

And over time, we have put more and more of these devices into use.

They don’t just affect reception, they affect transmission.  Fifty years ago, you could hear radio stations like WOR, New York, WLS, Chicago and WSM, Nashville over half the contiguous 48 states at night when signals bounce off the ionosphere.  No more.

Even the crummy little WFLF near Cypress Gardens, Florida cast a respectable signal from the Jersey Shore to Houston.

Those days are gone forever.  

But the unrecognized collateral damage is the seers and communicators with those in the afterlife.

The ASM has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to increase the allowable maximum power of AM transmitters to one million watts from the current 50-thousand.

But the FCC is in no mood to do anything but euthanize the entire AM dial.

And while you think we’re being frivolous, just wait until you meet aunt Margaret in heaven. “Why did you stop calling?  Did I say something wrong?”
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

1631 A Crab about Grab

We’re getting grabby. Not physically.  “Grab” has become another one of those overused and useless words we hear in everyday speech. And hear again. And again and again.

The waiter will “grab” you those extra napkins you asked for… he’ll grab you more coffee.  He’ll grab your check.  

Think about the literal meaning grabbing coffee.  See that waiter with the bandaged hand?  He actually grabbed coffee.   

You can grab a cab.  You can grab a derriere (at your peril!) But you cannot “grab some news” as one radio guy used to say.

Overuse of “grab” is almost as obnoxious as having to hear "no problem" instead of “yes” or “thank you” or “you’re welcome.”

But this kind of overuse is like carbon dating.  Ten years after the fad dies off the people who use it are showing their age.  
If someone refers to the “cat’s meow,” you’ll know he or she is over 80 and probably over 90.  “Cool” has had three revivals, once in the 1940s, then after a one- decade break it returned in the 1960s and then again in the late 1990s.

With “cool” you need additional corroboration for this kind of carbon dating.

“Dig.”  Do you “dig rock ‘n’ roll music?” Do you “dig ya later?”  You are a child of the late 50s.

If you use “fat” as a compliment or appreciation (“that’s FAT!”) you’re a child of the 80s.

When an older person uses a word or phrase younger than his obvious age, it’s pretentious.  And on that note, I’m going to grab a beer and watch the cool game on the tube.  Want to join me? No problem. Just grab a chair, ya dig?



Shrapnel:

--Here’s a(nother) one those studies that academics use to state the obvious and help keep the cash flowing.  Results in a sentence:  Everyone lies but politicians lie more than others especially this year.  And we learn it at our parents’ knees when they tell us “be sure to tell grandma how much you like the birthday present” even if you don’t.

--Congrats to our friend and colleague Kevin Gordon who’s going to work at Public Radio at Temple University in Philadelphia as the afternoon drive personality.  Can someone on a classical music personality.  If you can call someone in that job a personality, Kevin’s the proof.

--We are a few days shy of ten years since our move from New York City to NewRoses, Pennsylvania. At one point, Wessays’™ advocated the abolition of New Jersey and the annexing of the resulting property by two “real” states, New York and Pennsylvania.  But after ten years in PA, we have learned to love NJ.



Grabbing Today’s Quote: “Are you sure John O’Hara started this way?” -- John Henry O’Hara of Pottsville PA, author of Pal Joey, Butterfield 8 and numerous brilliant short stories and columns of vitriol for magazines and newspapers.

Grabshot:
-“Grab” or a word starting with those four letters appears in this post 20 times and that should be enough for the grabbiest of grabbers.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com from which I will grab them.

© WJR 2016