Monday, October 30, 2006

Smoke THIS!

156 Smoke THIS!

You know where the worst air in the world is, right? It’s in the doorway of any office building on the planet during “normal” working hours, say seven in the morning until about ten at night.

All the smokers gather and smoke.

They can’t (legally) do it in the building. So they do it outside. Rain or shine. Snow, hail, gloom of night. All that.

But there are two new wrinkles in this.

Some states forbid smoking with in a prescribed distance from an entryway. This is why the governor of California has put up a large tent twenty one feet from the entrance to the state office building in Sacramento.

The gov can hold meetings there and puff on his stinking cigar without breaking the law which says you have to be at least 20 feet from the building to smoke.

Some municipalities are ready to outlaw smoking in your own car. Or anywhere in the open.

So far, that’s only obnoxious.

Here’s the latest rub: some companies will (a) not hire smokers and (b) will demand that existing employees who smoke get into a smoking cessation program.

Probably, they’ll include nicotine in their pre-employment drug tests. Cool move, guys.

Skirting this is probably a matter of the way the rule is written. If you smoke or “use tobacco” just say no. Not to the nicotine but on the application. They tell you you can’t be hired because you have nicotine in your system. Show them your nicotine chewing gum or lozenge. That ain’t tobacco.

Once you get the job, you’ll have to switch your addiction to the candy, at least while you’re on the job.

Or maybe they’re going to send undercover operatives in fake FedEx trucks to watch you through blacked out one-way windows. Wouldn’t put it past anyone these days.

Black helicopters, too. They can fly over your house and using heat-sensitive lasers figure out whether you’re smoking (or growing pot.)

Smoke in the basement. Or kill the weed when you hear the sound of a chopper nearby.

If everyone at work gives up smoking, everyone at work who smoked is going to get very cranky and stay that way. This will kill any remaining morale, slow production and cause more sick days more often.

But no one will die of second hand smoke. No. Instead, they’ll die of people going postal or chocking each other. It’s a lot more efficient than killing via second hand smoke and in the long run a lot cheaper.

Nicotine’s an antidepressant. Give up smoking, get depressed and sue the company that banned you from smoking on your own time and in your own home.

If there aren’t law firms that specialize in that, there will be.

Burn incense in the front doorway of your office or factory. It’s more irritating than cigarette smoke and no one’s tested any of it for second hand effects.

Better yet, burn your garbage there.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, October 27, 2006

To Change A Lightbulb

155 To Change A Light Bulb

How many Wessayists does it take to change a lightbulb? One. Because there’s only one Wessayist. But a lot depends on the lightbulb.

Let’s see: unscrew lightbulb. Screw in new lightbulb. Turn on lamp. Voila!

But it’s not that simple anymore.

First, you have to make sure you have the right bulb.

If you put a 75 watter into a socket with a warning that 60 is the max, what happens when you turn the light goes on? The light goes on. But maybe, also, the shade gets a brown spot (the light’s too hot,) or the socket melts.

So what happens if you get one of those lightbulbs that look like drill bits or corkscrews and use a whole lot less electricity?

They use seven or ten or 23 watts. But they give off as much light, they say, as a 60 or a 75 or a 100 watt bulb. Oy. Decisions. Can you use a 23 watt bulb that emits 100 watts of light in a light that’s marked “60 watts maximum?”

Let’s call the GE “Hotline” (there’s a phrase for you!) and find out.

Yes, says the guy, you can safely use our 23 watt bulbs in a light that calls for a 60 watt maximum and yes it will light as brightly as a 100.

What about ceiling fixtures, we ask.

That’s a little trickier, according to Mr. Kilowatt up in Schenectady. It’s okay to use in a covered ceiling fixture or a recessed ceiling fixture, but not in one that’s both covered AND recessed.

Okay, now we know the lay of the land.

Let’s see if the 23 watt bulb really throws as much light as a 100. For this, we haul out the digital camera and take a picture of the 100 watt “regular bulb.” Then we switch to the corkscrew bulb and try to take the picture again. But the camera gives us a “low light” alert which means the 23 doesn’t throw as much light as the 100.

Kilowatt is on a break, so we can’t reach him for a second time.

So we put in the lower watt bulb, and save a bundle on electricity. But we also go blind trying to see under it. But that’s no problem because (1) seeing is overrated and (2) health insurances covers treatment for blindness.

A winning situation all around.

But before the blindness sets in, there’s one more light bulb related project and that’s changing the 40 watt halogen bulb in the living room torch light.

This thing is screwed in with actual screws. And to get at it you have to take off a mesh shield that looks like it is supposed to protect you against flying glass shards in the event of an explosion.

Unfortunately, there is no obvious way to do this.

So instead of unscrewing the bulb, let’s unscrew the entire top of the light.

This requires a ladder. (It’s a very tall torch light.)

Once off, the lamp head is impossible to replace on the poll without dismantling the entire lamp.

And the sections of the poll won’t come apart,

So the thing sits in the garage awaiting surgery.

And the answer to the question at the start is: None

It can’t be done.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Some Accumulated Minor Wisdom

154 Some Accumulated Minor Wisdom

Not big stuff. Just little things.

--Every cloud has a silver lining. Except the one that’s pouring rain on you right now. Besides, silver is selling at about twelve bucks an ounce. That’s cheaper than Unleaded Regular. Or bottle water. Or Johnny Walker Red.

--The grass really IS greener in the other fella’s yard. It’s a fact. You can prove it with a spectrometer. And the autumn leaves are redder and yellower and browner. It’s because you are living a lie.

--The guy ahead of you on the supermarket line, the one with a can of soup and a box of tissues? He will present the cashier a one hundred dollar bill of dubious provenance. Once determined that the bill is not counterfeit, the checker will realize that she doesn’t have $97.48 in change and will have to call a manager for help. The market safe will just have been emptied and its contents leaving in a Brink’s truck for the bank. It will take 20 minutes for them to come up with the money. Meantime, three mommies with a total of eleven kids in toe will have checked through a week of supplies each on the line next to you. The mommies and the kids will be home way before you are.

--You can get out of jury duty by loudly crying “fry the son of a bitch” at the judge, even in a traffic case. You can achieve the same result by making loud death threats against the President. That will, however, slow you down.

--Do not practice your kissing technique with a live wall socket.

--The car battery will die three days after the expiration of the five year warranty.

--The TV networks ARE sending you messages.

--Meteorology is more like astrology than astronomy. But meteorologists are generally better company than astrologers.

--Only old and demented people listen to talk radio.

--The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye. And elephants are getting taller because of genetically engineered saw grass. Pandas also are getting taller. That’s because of genetically engineered bamboo and because of secret atomic tests in China.

--Curry can cure warts. So can Pepsi and nitric acid.

--Medicare cannot cure warts.

--You have been selected to enjoy a free weekend in the Poconos. All you have to do is sit through a three hour multimedia sales pitch. No obligation, of course.

--The New York Times is less liberal than the right wing thinks, and more conservative than the left wing thinks. It’s also in lots of trouble. But if you buy a copy every once in awhile, the owners may survive.

--There’s no business like show business. It’s almost clean compared to most of the rest. And no producer has been convicted of robbing thousands of people of their retirement income.

--One of the many new sleeping pills is NOT addictive. This has caused major changes in the advertising of its competitors. While they used to say “like all sleep medicines, XXX can cause dependency….” They’ve had to change that to say “like MOST sleep medicines.” This has caused great angst at the pharmaceutical companies and great glee at the advertising agencies.

--AND FINALLY… people who end the news by saying “and finally” should be sent back to sewing school or cooking school or Famous Mechanics Institute” or wherever they learned that phrase.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, October 23, 2006

Voting Booth Conversions

153 Voting Booth Conversions

It happens all the time…. Well, maybe not all the time, but a lot. You go into the voting booth, knowing exactly what you’re going to do and then, suddenly, change your mind or your heart or whatever it is you use to make decisions.

You’ve seen all the ads. You’ve read the paper, watched the TV news, heard the radio news and the talk shows. And you know exactly what you’re going to do… and then, you don’t do it.

Oh, there are exceptions. Everyone –absolutely everyone -- voted for Hubert Humphrey, except not enough to do away with the Lyndon Johnson war. At least that’s what you’re hearing now.

For the most recent war, Iraq II, we hear the mounting death tolls every day. We see the splinters that have become Iraq. We make up our minds to vote out the scoundrels who put us “over-there,” and then what? Do we do it?

We participate in polls that say America thinks Congress is doing a rotten job. Throw the bums out. But when we’re asked about our own Representative or Senator we say “Oh… well, he’s doing a good job. I’m going to vote for him – or her, or it.

So it’s YOUR guy who’s okay and throw the rest of them out.

Does that work?

But the issues in 2006 aren’t Iraq and the economy. There’s only one issue: who controls the major political parties.

The average American doesn’t really give a hot rock about politics. The average American wants a smooth ride and not too much fighting along the way. The average American isn’t a zealot for or against anything, the average American is okay with compromise. Maybe even a zealot for compromise.

The Party in Power has been taken over by religious extremists and their defenders. The Party Out of Power doesn’t stand for anything. Its been taken over by deer-in-the-headlights extremists, if you can call frozen stiff as an extreme. Probably you can.

Recent news items indicate anecdotally that heavy Republican areas imbedded in so-called “Blue States” are ready to vote Democratic themselves, having had enough of the war, the phony lift in the economy and the religious intolerance of what the Republicans have become: The American Baath Party.

With any luck, the gomers and goobers in western New York and northern Pennsylvania and Orange County, California will have had their conversions to blue-ness before getting into the voting booth instead of while standing inside one.

But don’t trust that. Hanging chads were not just an aberration of the late 20th century. They have become a way of life. Or maybe a way of death.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, October 20, 2006

Zucker Punch

152 Zucker Punch

So NBC has decided to carve up the peacock like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Aging vunderkind Jeff Zucker the more-or-less head guy and certainly the head-headcount reducer has decided not to spend mega-millions on prime time programming and instead put on more of the cheap and vapid game and reality shows that are the “adult westerns” of today.

Not a bad idea, considering the other rot they’ve had in the last few years. They rode the number one spot in prime time for many more years that statistics would suggest they should. Now, they’ve sunk to #4 in what is essentially a three way race.

“Seinfeld" was a hit but called itself "a show about nothing." What followed was less.

But here’s the curious part. They lead in the early mornings and for Nightly News. And in the name of efficiency they’re going into that part of the bird's innards with the knife, too. That squeal of agony you hear is Steve Capus, newly minted president of the news division,$ tearing out his beard in anguish.

Here’s their idea of efficiency: Establish a business news channel and plunk it in a plush New Jersey suburb. Low-ish cost, no unions, etc.

Then establish a cable news channel that should by rights be number one but never has been. Put it in a swamp where they used to raise pigs and parcel out many – if not most – of the jobs to a temp services agency.

Now, years later, bring the news cable channel back to New York, where they have lots of room because they’ve fired everyone else they could find. Plus, they own the parts of the General Electric (Nee RCA) Building where they’re headquartered and ownership abhors a vacuum.

They haven’t said so, but they’re going to “consolidate” jobs. Which means Matt Lauer and Brian Williams will have to stay late and sweep up, directors will have to time their own shows and teleprompters and field crews will be staffed by NBC Pages and high school sophomores. Production associates will be drawn from the ranks of the leading Middle Schools.

Zucker and Capus will handle the plumbing and electrical chores. Retirees will be brought in as consultants to for both the writing chores and elevator maintenance.

Pierre the security guard will continue at his desk in the lobby, but will also be operating the transmitter and polishing the brass banisters.

Didn’t they just open a New Orleans bureau (after Katrina in a barn door-stolen horse arrangement?)

Well, maybe they’ll close it and cover from Atlanta. They can’t give Atlanta up because they still owe on the loan. But they can lean-down some of the money-draining lesser bureaus. Like Washington. Now that Greenspan’s out, who needs Andrea Mitchell? And Russert… does he get overtime for that Sunday show?

Huntley and Brinkley are rotating in their graves. Huntley clockwise to the right, Brinkley counterclockwise to the left.

When you have peacock for dinner, do you get yams and cranberry sauce? Maybe. You may also get crow pie for dessert.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

Disclaimer: Zucker and Pierre are acquaintances, Capus is a friend.

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Let's Hear it For Haskell

151a Let’s Hear it for Haskell

That’s Haskell Nussbaum, 37, former New York City Parking Violations Judge and author of a new book, “Beat That Ticket.”

In it, his former-honor gives us some tips on how not to pay a parking ticket earned in New York. Good plans. He says find a technicality. Don’t tell a sob story. Defend yourself in person, but leave the ticket itself at home.

Why? Because the scans of the tickets the city sends to court are so crummy half of them can’t be read. And that’s an immediate dismissal.

Nussbaum says the courts are under so much pressure to “clear cases” that an illegible ticket will get you off the hook in 20 seconds.

Very funny, your former honor. But why stop at mere parking tickets.

Other judges should write books, too.

In fact, publishing this book without a set of companion volumes is rank discrimination against perpetrators of everything from 7-11 stickups to mob hits… everything from perjury to heading Enron or WorldCom. Anything from poisoning your neighbor’s cat to starting a war.

So, let’s get on it. And start at the top.

Sandra Day O’Connor, now retired from the US Supreme Court should lead the way. Probably has the time. Probably could use the money. Certainly has the knowledge.

Can you see this title on Amazon.com or in your neighborhood Border’s or Barnes Ignoble? “Beat That Constitutional Violation – How to Pitch A Winning Case to the Supreme Court Of the United States.”

“Smile at Clarence Thomas,” a book like this can say. “Especially if you’re a woman.”

“Wear a Bush-2000 button on your lapel.”

The Rehnquist Court was the slowest moving (laziest?) in history, so they’re obviously not worried about clearing cases. But it shared with the New York Traffic Court one stately pillar of the law: rule on technicalities, not substance so they can’t say anything bad about you. For this, the Rehnquist Court and its immediate successor is famously famous.

How about some advice from a retired judge about getting out of a murder case. Lance Ito could do that one. “Bring in a TV Camera and play to it instead of the lawyers and jurors.” “It’s easier if you’re a football hero, but the rest of us have some muscle, too.” “Make sure your ‘dream team’ has too many players to fit at the defense table.”

Why restrict this concept to judges? How about retired prosecutors like, oh, say, Rudy Giuliani?

He could write a book on how to present case so an appeals judge will overturn it. Lots of experience.

In fact, all retirees can write books on how to beat the systems in which they worked.

“How to Spot a Short-weighting Butcher.”

“How to Fix a Barcode Scanner So The Register Shows You One Price But Charges You More.”

“How to Run a Racket,” by An Anonymous Retired Godfather.

“How to Attract Little Boys,” by a retired clergy-person.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

“Beat That Parking Ticket by Haskell Nussbaum, ISBN 0978682564.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Flying Objects

150 Flying Objects

Identified and semi-unidentified flying objects just can’t seem to satay away fom Kathleen Caronna.

Who?

Kathleen Caronna, the woman hit by the “Cat In The Hat” balloon during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1997.

First, the “Cat,” now Cirrus SR20. What’s that? It’s the airplane that smacked into her bedroom the other day, killing owner Cory Lidle, the Yankees pitcher, among others.

No, she wasn’t home at 20 to 3 that afternoon. But ordinarily she would have been, and that day, she was heading there right about when the plane hit. Good timing. But it does make you wonder.

First a renegade balloon, now a badly flown private plane.

Someone should drop a light-weight and inconsequential object on her pretty soon, to get past the “things happen in threes” scare.

At least do it before the autumn of 2015. Since the first two incidents were spaced nine years apart, Kathleen has about nine years before there’s a potential third incident. Get it over with.

This woman was in a coma for a month after the balloon thing. This time, she’s conscious, of course. But she’ll probably be pretty rattled for the same one month.

The New York papers and television and radio stations are reporting that Caronna visited her bedroom after the fire was extinguished. But there aren’t a lot of quotes from her floating around… nor her husband nor her son.

--

All of a sudden, this Lidle fella’s become a hero. And famous. What about the other guy in the plane? You don’t see his name much. It was Tyler Stranger. He’s dead, too. Don’t bother Googling him. You won’t find much. Here’s a quote, though: “the most dangerous thing about flying is driving to the airport.” The source of that is not exactly reliable. It’s from “Vivablog,” whatever that is. It gives no source and no context. But it sounds like the authentic thought of a Single Engine Cowboy. Even if it was made up (which it might have been.)

--

The whole thing sent a collective shiver through New York. We’ve developed a kind of aversion to planes hitting buildings, even insignificant planes hitting insignificant buildings. Our famously thick hide is not yet thick enough to shrug this off as we do power failures, transit mini strikes, traffic jams, high prices and each other.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Martians Have Landed

149 The Martians Have Landed

This is unfair to Martians. To smear them with what you’re about to hear, that’s really libelous. But they won’t sue.

This is about a guy named Rod Brady, who had some kind of terminal degree where you thought you should call him “doctor,” and he could smile and say “just call me Rod.”

At the time, Rod was the head of Bonneville Broadcasting, which is owned by the Mormon Church and run from Utah. They had a radio station in Manhattan. Corner of Madison and 52nd.

Rod was new on the job, and he went around the country to all their radio and television stations and had staff meetings. We never had staff meetings before that. Now, we had staff meetings, seminars, all kinds of great wasters. Apparently, out there in the boonies, they have time for all that.

Rod gets up at the meeting and he says “I walked here from my hotel and saw maybe 200 or 300 business on the way, and thought ‘those are 200 or 300 businesses which probably don’t advertise with us. We should get their business.’”

Harvey was there. He was a salesman. Very successful. Just sorta smirked at the comment. Gordie was there. He was a salesman. Very successful. Just sorta rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. Ed was a salesman. Very successful. Missed the meeting. Was out somewhere, selling. Or maybe at the movies.

Dr. Rod? He taught us a thing or two, having had the experience of visiting New York once with his family and now, in the second day of his two-day “getting to know you” tour.

All this happened in the mid 1980s. By the late-1980s, Rod and the California ditz (can a guy be a ditz? Yes.) Anyway, Rod and this ditz put the very successful operation so deep into the hole they never did get to dig out. Ditz got fired, the station got sold, Rod was kicked upstairs so he could work his magic on the church’s other businesses.

They didn’t get New York and didn’t get that they didn’t get New York.

So if all this happened decades ago, why tell the story now?

Because it’s happening again.

K-Mart/Sears, Wal-Mart and Kohl’s have opened “design offices” in Manhattan.

All three weren’t accustomed to and couldn’t believe that the Big Guys of Seventh Avenue wouldn’t come out to the sticks to do business with them. They couldn’t believe it for so long that went it continued not to happen they figured (they always do this) “who needs ‘em. They were astonished that the top guys not only didn’t want to go to Arkansas and Minnesota and Michigan and Illinois, they didn’t need to.

Half the manufacturers who do business with Wal-Mart are in effect captive subsidiaries. It was simply stunning that someone – anyone – said “no,” and survived.

So Wal has a suite of offices. Two floors. Walk through Wal’s and see if you think they get it. Ditto the other guys.

When those leases are up, they’ll renew them once to save face. But somewhere in the middle of the renewal term, they’ll sublet the space and get out. And no one will notice.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wash The Water

148 Wash The Water

If there were a way to wash the water, the Queen of Clean would find it. Water, after all, comes out of the ground and is therefore dirty. If it’s dirty, it has to be cleaned. Thoroughly. Often.

Alas, all one can do is add chemicals (yech!) or run the stuff through filters (they, too, need cleaning.) And that’s not nearly enough.

She’s a one-woman autoclave, and the house sparkles.

We had a deal when we moved here. We’ll do a little every day, not try to clean every room every day. That went out the window on Day Two.

You can use a full can of Pledge in two weeks if you work at it. Around here, that’s hardly the heavy lifting. Around here that happened before there was a stick of wood furniture in the place.

We’ve already worn out the stainless steel sink in the kitchen. (It’s actually two sinks and, says the Queen of Clean, it should have two sets of faucets. But up in the bathroom, where there ARE two sinks with two sets of faucets, “that’s one too many.”)

The washer and dryer downstairs? They cower when they hear the basement door open. If they could run and hide under something, they would. They want to unionize. Say they’re overworked. You say you didn’t know appliances could talk? They can. They do.

Just the other day, the stove was overheard saying “cook all you want, but PLEASE stop with the steel wool when there’s nothing there to scrape off.”

We have an outdoor deck that gets a good breeze most days. But not enough to get rid of dust no one can see. A broom resides out there permanently. We’re going to get it a coat for the winter.

The walkway was put in poorly and that resulted in a nice multicolored Alexander Calder-like pattern. But the builder covered it over in a nice shiny white after five months of nagging.

Back in Manhattan, you couldn’t leave a single crumb in sight, else the roaches would march. There are no roaches here. But heaven forbid the crumb radar sounds a warning.

Then there’s the dining room table. It’s a beautiful, almost-hand-made light cherry thing with matching chairs. Very expensive. Impossible to hurt. Sturdy.

And it’s a sore point. It’s TOO nice. Requires too many steps to clean.

Last night, we signed a post-nup. It included a promise that if either of us is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, this hard-to-maintain table and all other items of clutter would be disposed of before the full thrall of the disease.

A legal contract, witnesses and all.

And it will be broken. Count on it.

In the meantime, if anyone knows how to wash water, please let the rest of us in on the secret.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, October 09, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out, Felix

147 Eat Your Heart Out, Felix

Only in America. A cat that doesn’t make you sneeze. Eight grand and you have to wait a year for yours- and answer a lot of questions about how you’re going to make a home for him.

Well, him or her, since you can’t choose gender, fur length or much of anything else. And they might put a computer ID chip in your pet. Or is it you “animal companion?”

Let’s here it for the geniuses of Allerca, a company in California (where else?) that’s come up with genetically engineered kittens that don’t give off the stuff that make people sneeze and their eyes water and swell and itch.

Poor Felix. A simple ally cat, possibly relegated to the Great Litter Box in the Sky.

Or Sylvester. At least now Tweety won’t sneeze and give his position away during Sylvester’s battle for survival (namely eating birds.)

Or Garfield. Alas, poor Garfield. Second class cat, along with Felix and Sylvester. After all those years of feline glory.

You have to wonder about paying four grand for a cat, plus shipping and handling (a charter jet ride to an “authorized” veterinarian in your area. Two thousand more for that, in round figures. And two thousand more if you want a better spot on the waiting list. The Alerca website says this can save you months – even years of waiting.

Oh, and they’ll throw in a bunch of “superior” cat food for your trouble.

Mice, birds and cicadas worked for millennia. But not for these cuties.

Most people found their cats at the animal shelter – or were found by kitties in the neighborhood.

But, of course, the faint of heart were unable to put up with an occasional sneeze or watery eye.

So, what’s eight grand among friends, right?

If you want a cat, you can get one any day of the week. No waiting.

For eight thousand dollars you can get the best home theater system made. And a cat.

For eight thousand dollars, you can get a house full of semi-decent furniture. And a cat.

For eight thousand dollars, you can pay for your freshman year’s tuition at most of the community colleges in America. And a cat.

For eight thousand dollars you can buy the services of a cleaning man or woman who’ll do a much better job than you will. And a cat. And you’ll have plenty left over.

For eight grand you can help a New Orleans family of 12 rebuild. And a cat.

For eight grand you can probably buy a judge or congressman. And a cat.

For eight grand you can buy a fallout shelter just in case North Korea decides to use the A-bomb it says it has. And a radioactive cat.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Year of Retirement

146 A Year of Retirement

The first rule in this space is “don’t write in the first person singular.” That’s been broken only once previously and will be for the second time now.

I retired on October 11, 2005, and it’s now about one year later.

Retirement is a killer, so ‘tis said.

But I’m not yet dead.

Slower of wit, perhaps. Slower of gait because of a bum knee, which also is observing its first anniversary, sure.

But none of the personally defining characteristics have changed so’s you’d notice. I still get cranky over very little – and do so very quickly.

But what the hell.

Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available. That’s for sure. Things that used to be done from a corner of the desk now occupy its center. Things that I never before thought of doing have become major skills. Things that used to be major skills have been shoveled to the desk corner.

I’m playing a lot less guitar these days, watching a lot more television. I’m better read than at any previous time since my youth and I know how to (1) change the filter on a gas furnace, (2) remove a “permanently” installed air conditioner, (3) wire a wireless home network, (4) polish and touch up furniture, (6) make a plant grow even when it says it doesn’t want to (anyone remember “talk to your plants?”)

My grocery shopping skills, always excellent, have become finely honed.

I have learned that New York City really IS another planet to those out here in the country. And I have learned that real country people think of Moote Pointe as “the city.”

I have learned that Newsday and the New York Times and even the New York Post are far better newspapers than regular readers realize, that New York radio and television really are better than regular listeners and viewers realize.

I have re-learned how spaced out academia can be, how brutal are its politics, how underworked so many in that trade can be.

I have learned not to miss the ocean or the subway and to appreciate the beauty of the mountains. They aren’t the Rockies, but they’re just fine, thank you.

Every day is pretty much like every other day, and sometimes I have to check the calendar to know what day it IS. A disease of the retired.

But there are a lot of advantages. I can choose the particular imbeciles for whom I do piece work. I can sit in the sunroom and watch some of the most beautiful leaves I’ve ever seen. I can (and sometimes even DO) sleep until 9 in the morning.

There are a LOT of advantages. There are a lot of people who probably would do the world a favor by climbing aboard this bandwagon.

The President and Vice President come quickly to mind. The Speaker of the House and his Public Morals Management team. Bernie Kerik. The guy running CBS Radio, and his boss. It’s a long list. But guys, you can jump with your golden parachutes and stop doing harm by merely signing a couple of pieces of paper. You’d do us all a favor.

Apologies for all the capital “I’s” in this item.

Or as they say in the typical Consent Agreement “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’ll never do it again.”

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On The Bus

145 On The Bus

Nice bus. Modern. Runs on “clean natural gas.” Directly in front is a sanitation truck owned by the same municipality, Moote Pointe, PA. It runs on not-so-clean, unnatural diesel. It belches black soot back at us the whole way. The two engines cancel each other out. The air remains unchanged.

Uncle Hog is the bus driver. He’s about 5’5” x 5’5”, bearded, shorts, tee shirt and is listening to Jesus-FM. That means the rest of us are, too.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir takes a break after “Rejoice, Rejoice!” We get traffic and weather together. The road to hell is moderate to heavy and moving freely in both directions. The forecast is forecast calls for rain on earth. They used to give the weather only when it was “good.” Now, they’re moving into the new century by giving actual weather forecasts. Rain on earth, hot and humid on the Lake of Fire. 72 degrees and sunny in heaven.

Commercial for “My Father’s Place,” which used to be a saloon on Long Island but now is the Throne Room at Heaven’s Gate Apartments. And then there’s the commercial for Motel 666. (We’ll leave the firelight on for you.)

Back to music. A rousing bluegrass selection from the Nickel Mountain Boys, “Schoolhouse Breakdown” featuring Pop Granger’s lightening fast mandolin solo.

Just as we segue to “Jesus Loves You,” we swing into the parking lot of America’s One True Church, Wal-Mart, where worshippers get off and new ones get on.

Uncle Hog is whistling with the song.

Then it’s off to the America’s Second True Church, Moote Pointe State University, where this morning, they are giving out Bibles. Green bound Bibles. Passing them out to students, most of whom reject the offer.

You might, too.

Uncle Hog has stopped the bus long enough for us to note that the Bible guys are characters you’d best avoid.

One has that drugged-up evangelists’ smile/smirk/sneer. He’s in a suit. His jacket is buttoned. He must be the senior guy here. One of his companions, also in a suit, with less of that evango-look on his face, is digging more books out of a carton. The third guy looks like a New York detective with a bad hangover.

This morning’s paper has a letter from student saying these guys make her uncomfortable and they disrupt kids on their way to class. Ordinarily, the discomfort defense doesn’t sit well. This time, you have to agree. These guys would make a corpse twitch.

Uncle Hog returns from a side trip to the coffee shop, but he’s not carrying coffee. He gets back on the bus and we’re off to catch up with the garbage truck.

Most of the passengers at this point are elderly women who ride for free. Good thing, too. The got on carrying armloads of stuff from the Church of Wal-Mart and would take forever to put them down, rifle through their purses for the fare ($1.25, exact change only) delaying the race with the toxic fume-mobile.

And Uncle Hog just HATES to be late.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, October 02, 2006

Left Out -- Again

144 Left Out – Again

Always the last to be picked for basketball. Baseball. Even hide-n-seek.

Usually voted for the losing candidate.

Never had a stolen identity.

And here it is once more. Left out.

The battery in this laptop computer refuses to catch fire.

And, yes, it IS a Sony battery.

Tried everything. Left it on for a week. Put it near the stove. Loaded every program in the machine and had them all running at once.

No fire.

Not even close.

Yeah, it’s warm. But not firetrap warm.

Can’t cook eggs on it. Can’t even keep the coffee warm.

Left out again.

Our ever-vigilant Homeland Security Department is likely to ban laptop computers and iPods from flights for awhile. Or at least, they may ban the batteries. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you probably can use that little space where the battery is supposed to fit for some of the newly re-cleared carry on items, like hair gel and Listerine and goo for the baby’s diaper.

Conspiracy theorists believe the burning batteries are part of, well, a conspiracy.

The logic goes like this: if the Shah of Iran hadn’t been such a crook, we wouldn’t have gotten a radical Islamaniac regime in Iran which would mean gasoline was only $1.00 a gallon and batteries wouldn’t explode.

The connection? It’s the middle east, it’s the conspiracy theorists. It’s the Department of Homeland Insecurity. You want logic?

Now to the safety issue: if Lithium Ion batteries in computers can catch fire, explode, melt down, should we be watching out for other devices they power?

Digital cameras: “Say Cheese!” Grilled cheese.

iPods: Hotter songs than ever.

Calculators: Here’s a hot number.

Hearing aides, LCD flashlights, nightlights and heaven knows what-all else get these batteries.

Wristwatches: Salvador Dali comes back to life. The melting watches in the pictures have nothing on the real thing, especially if it melts while on your wrist.

And those of us picked last for basketball would at last belong.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR