Monday, June 30, 2008

#416 Vacation

#416 Vacation

Why do they call them that? It's just different work. Forget the nonsense about re-charging the batteries, refreshing body and mind, seeing new parts of the world.

Tried a flight from anywhere to anywhere else lately? Not only have the prices gone higher than the aircraft, you're lucky if you get a seat, even with a confirmed reservation. Security check when you're flying from Farmingdale, NY to Washington? Sure. Lot of terrorists in Farmingdale, and where else would they fly. If they were going to do something in New York, they'd drive. Or take the LIRR.

So, security checks, shoeless and all, from Farmingdale to Washington. At least the lines are shorter than they would be for, say, New York to Los Angeles.

Have the seats gotten smaller or is it just increased bulk in the passenger middle. Charge to check a bag? Why not charge to carry a bag on board. That's much more complicated. The airlines would have to figure out how to lose or damage carry-ons they never touch.

How about a nice quiet vacation at home, instead of flying hither or yon. After all, there are wonders in your back yard. Beautiful views half a mile away. Good restaurants.

Sounds very relaxing.

Also, put aside a day to hang some of the curtains you foolishly bought the other month. Oh, and the curtain rods.

Checklist: Pencil, level, drill, correct bit, hardware for the rods, and a measuring tape and a ladder.

One day will be enough, right?

Then, there are those pictures to hang and frame. Probably won't get to that the same day as the curtains. But that won't take nearly as long.

Grocery shopping.

How many guitars and banjos need new strings?

Maybe we should look for some fall clothing. After all, it's the beginning of summer -- so the stores will soon be full of fall stuff.

And there's the toilet in the downstairs bathroom, needs attention. As does the kitchen sink. And the front sidewalk needs some work. At least a re-painting if not a whole new bunch of concrete. And maybe we should trim back some of the plants and replace some of the wilting flowers. And steam-clean the ceramic floors in four different rooms.

Yep. Relax, re-charge the batteries. Refresh body and mind.


Tell me again why they call these things vacations?




Shrapnel:

--Let's play sports trivia! No. Wait. That's redundant.

--The New York Jets football team is thinking about legalized ticket scalping. You buy a season "license" (formerly known as a season ticket,) and, if you want, you can sell it at a profit -- legally. Of course, the Jets being the Jets, you're just as likely to re-sell it at a loss.

---When there's sold-out basketball or hockey at the Garden, there are always guys outside hawking tickets. There are always guys outside looking to buy tickets. Why don't they just get together?




I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

#415 Foot in the Florida Room

#415 Foot in the Florida Room

You have to admire some guys. They really do live for their hobbies and do their jobs just to pay the bills. All of the "life coaches" tell us we should find something we love when we look for a job, and then work won't be work. They are, as usual, wrong. Find something you hate. And forget about it at the end of the day.

Foot O'Brien was saying that, sitting at the table in his Kew Gardens "Florida Room," which seems like a strange name for a room in Queens, but that's what it is. Foot got the name Foot by changing his previous name, from Inch, which drew a lot of laughs at closing time. He got the name "Inch" from the Danny Kaye movie about the guy who wrote fairy tales. It had a song about inchworms measuring marigolds. Foot measures stuff, too. He's a business accountant. A bean counter who refuses to eat beans and doesn't really much care for counting.

"See any accounting crap around here," he asks. "No computer. No spreadsheets, no ledgers, not even a (expletive) pencil!"

Foot doesn't bring the office home. He doesn't even have a calculator. But he DOES have a typewriter. Actually, that's not quite accurate. He has a who load of them. Some of them are pristine and shiny. Some are dusty and old. Some are in pieces on a workbench. That's what Foot does. Foot restores typewriters.

For whatever reason -- and if you ask him why, he'll tell you "because it makes you ask me why," which is not a real answer, but it's all you're going to get. He's been doing it for years. It's what he does. Used to be, you had a problem with your typewriter, Foot was the go-to guy. Almost no one uses the things anymore. So no one goes to the go-to guy. Which is fine with Foot. He never cared about your problem. He cared about the machine.

He can look up when each of the typewriters was built. Not just the year, but even the DAY. He's a guy who does his job to pay the bills, leaves the office in the office, has a Florida Room in Queens and has forgotten more about typewriters than Smith or Corona ever knew.

If you ask him -- and often even if you don't, he'll talk your ear off about typewriters. Just don't ask him about pencils or beans.


Shrapnel:

--Another incident of nuke plant workers sleeping in their chairs. It's tough to sit there all night long staring at steady meters, but this is a health issue. Causes atomic piles.

--Some states facing a budget deadlock are preparing to furlough some workers. They're called "unessential." Why does any state have ANY unessential workers?

--Talk about prices! A gang stole an orchard full of Japan's special "Bride" peaches, worth thousands of dollars a bushel. Either that or Japan has been invaded by an army of invading squirrels.



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)2008 WJR

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

#414 Hypermiling

#414 Hypermiling


If the word's new to you, get used to hearing it. It's going to be around for awhile. Hypermiling is doing everything you can to squeeze use out of every drop of gasoline you buy. And these days, that squeezing can help.

But people, being people, are going to start doing even stranger stuff than usual behind the wheel.

You're going to find people who coast to the stop light, then turn the car off until it changes from red to green. Does this really save anything? Don't engines use a lot of gas to start the engine?

Tip: Don't take the key out of the ignition when you do this. There are a couple of reasons. First, you have to fumble to get the key back in the ignition and that takes too much time. Second, technically, you are illegally parked. No kidding. The cops can tag you for that.

Coasting downhill in neutral isn't a great idea, either, although it might save gas. Your engaged transmission gives you more control when you are slowing down and saves wear on the breaks. If your object is to save money, you're not doing it. Ask anyone who's had to have an early brake job lately.

The big thing about hypermiling, though, is going the speed limit instead of 20 mph faster. This one really CAN save fuel. Ever wonder about those EPA milage figures? They get the stats by running cars on tread mills, not roads. And what speeds do they use? The speeds you never travel -- 25, 35, 45, 55, 65 mph.

If you do that on an actual road, Hot Roddy who's behind you in the fast lane while you go 53 miles an hour is going to blow a gasket. Not in his engine -- in his head. And he'll do something stupid, like try to get around you and hit the car driven 48 miles an hour in the slow lane.

It's going to take some getting used to.

And you don't want to be around when some guy staring at his tachometer, making sure it stays at under 2000 rpm hits a stopped school bus he didn't see because he's looking at the tach.

Chances are we're going to take a senisble approach to hypermiling and do to it what we do to everything else. We'll do it to the extreme and then, after awhile, forget about it.

But gone should be the days of doing 80 on Route 80.




Shrapnel:

--Ashes to ashes, dust to dust? Better not empty the ash tray. All life is sacred.

--There are few, if any true synonyms in the English language. But we've become obsessed with substituting one word for another where we don't need to. And it sounds odd when we don't.

--Figured that jailing a few Enron crooks would keep everyone else on the straight and narrow? Didn't work. Let's see how many of the recently arrested financial wizards do time -- and bet short.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)WJR 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

#413 A Letter

#413 A Letter

When was the last time you got an actual letter in the mail? You remember letters. They start out with something like "Dear So and So," and go on to tell you something, and then end with something like "Yours truly," or "Sincerely yours," or some-such?

More to the point, when was the most recent time you WROTE one? In ink. Without the magic of Microsoft or of an ink jet printer? Just a ballpoint or (gasp!) fountain pen on paper?

Such communication is so rare today, that when you get an actual letter, you have to focus to understand what it is. Not that your mailbox is empty. No, there's plenty in the mailbox. Ads, bills, maybe -- if you're old fashioned -- a magazine or two. But a letter? Some people of majority age today have never written one, and never received one. They are deprived. They need help. You can help them. You can write to someone born in the mid 1980s. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Something simple, like "Dear Billy, We're really enjoyed our cruise through the Persian Gulf. Thanks so much for sending us the tickets. Love, Mom and Dad."

There, it's been done for you. All you have to do is revise it slightly, if your kid's not named Billy or he didn't send you on a cruise to the Persian Gulf (tourism there is down for some difficult to discern reason, so maybe his name is Joey and he sent you on a cruise from the gas station to, say, Dunkin' Donuts.)

Probably, Billy will send you an email or a text message asking you what you call that thing you had delivered into his mailbox. If he even has a mailbox. If he ever looks in it.

On the other hand, maybe you'll start a trend. Nah. The letter really HAS gone out of date. It's just a piece of nostalgia, like Bakelite, incandescent lightbulbs and Oldsmobiles. There's still some of that stuff around. But if it weren't, no one would die from the lack.

Those of us who remember hand written letters as personal or intimate and typewritten letters as formal and official don't always remember them fondly, either. You had to have a decent handwriting for the former and when your fingers erroneously typed "Synseerly" at the end, you either had to either erase the word (that never worked convincingly,) or start the whole thing over.



Shrapnel

--Menthol's been in cigarettes since Spuds came on the market in 1924. Seventy five percent of African Americans who smoke, smoke menthols. Not smoking makes people rrrrreallllly cranky.

--Some members of congress want to remove flavorings from cigarettes. Menthol is included. Going to bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "angry black male" (and female.)

--Vick's Vapo Rub is mostly menthol. It's harmful if you swallow it. Maybe they should ban that, too, or at least decorate it with Surgeon General's warnings.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)2008 WJR

Friday, June 20, 2008

#412 I Don't Care

#412 I Don't Care

You know how reluctant I am to use "I" in these diatribes. But there's no way around it this time. Sorry, but I don't care if you care.

Getting older changes things. Or at least some things. And lately, I find myself caring less and less about the stuff that used to seem terribly important.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to vote for Obama and for all the right reasons. BUT...

I don't care if you don't have good health insurance, pay $5.00 for a gallon of gas (if you're really GETTING a full gallon, which you hae no way of knowing.) I don't care if the earth heats up or cools down, if you can't buy an incandescent light bulb, if breaking energy saving bulbs exposes us to mercury poison, if the unemployment rate is 30 percent in 2015, if the dollar falls, if the stock market falls,
I don't care if the whales are not saved, if I'm 25 pounds overweight, smoke, drink and cuss. I don't care about your great works of charity (are you sure you're altruistic?)

I don't care if your kids can't read, if your turnpike gets sold to a bunch of Europeans, if your beer provider gets sold to a bunch of Europeans. I don't care if the Today Show falls to number 2 in the ratings, if there are hormones in your beef and chemicals in your water or your Barbie Doll, that your flowers don't grow, that your corns and callouses do.

Caring is slightly over-rated. Acting on caring is WAY over-rated.

So, go ahead and put prayer back into school, and make Christianity the state religion in the process. Go ahead and outlaw abortion, gay marriage, pornography, affirmative action, and Social Security. I don't care that our rights are being eroded by the minute by people who claim to want small government but really want more. I don't care if you close down the tobacco industry, flood defense contractors with money. Go ahead, turn the mental ghetto into which Blacks/Jews/Muslims/Hispanics are forced to live.

Go ahead and idolize (in the original sense of the word) your heroes: Reagan, Goldwater, Kennedy, J Lo, P Diddy, M King, Hitler, whomever. And don't restrict yourself to mere mortals, dead or alive. Include your flat screen TV, your Ipod, your Iphone, your PC and your SUV.


Go ahead. Knock yourself out. I don't care.

Shrapnel

--I love Olbermann's show and tolerate Chris Matthews'. But these aren't the right guys to put in Russert's chair on Meet the Press. The show needs a news guy, not a commentator, even one on the correct side of things.

--If you buy kosher meat, here's something to avoid: Agri Processors. They're as Kosher as the next guy. But not when it comes to treating their employees.

--Bush is hustling to Iowa. Good job, Georgie. But that won't make up for what you did and didn't do in New Orleans.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)2008WJR

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

#411 Off The Page

#411 Off The Page

When there's heavy pollen or mold in the air, some people without allergies get itchy eyes or a runny nose or a scratchy throat. The explanation is completely logical. Irritants irritate. But allergies are so off the radar for most people without any, that they feel the symptoms but don't connect with the reason.

There's something else that can affect us with similar itchiness, and the stimulus check is a perfect example.

People look at these things and get uncomfortable. It's not because they're too small, or to late, or to meaningless. It's for a completely different reason.

There's a picture of the Statue of Liberty on the left side of the check, and she's looking left -- she's looking off the page, instead of looking right, or having a spot on the right side of the check, where looking left would signify balance.

It's not something that people pick up on easily -- but pick up on it they do, and it seems wrong.

Check out any major magazine. If a portrait is on the right side of the page, the person will be looking toward the fold in the middle. If the portrait is on the left side of a page, it'll be looking at the opposite border. Even in a group shot, the people on the right will be looking toward your left most of the time. No one looks off the page in Newsweek or Time or Forbes or Fortune or Sports Illustrated or People.

Same thing with over the shoulder graphic still shots on television. It took some doing, but the NBC graphics people, absolutely the best in the business had to be reminded for awhile. Now they don't. If the picture is on screen left, it looks at screen right. And vice-versa.

Admittedly, this is a small asteroid in the current galaxy of world problems. But it makes people itchy -- like ragweed in August, even people without hay fever or people without training in newspaper layout or television graphics.

Solving this problem won't make the check any bigger. And it won't end the war, lower unemployment, raise interest rates in the savings account or lower them on the credit card. It won't reduce our dependence on foreign oil, stop poisoned toys from entering the country or ease worries over global warming.

But it WILL help reduce the mental pollen and that's at least a small step.


Shrapnel:

--Pennsylvania retracted its motorcycle helmet law a few years back. A new study says biker head injuries have skyrocketed. Are you surprised?

--If you don't want to wear a helmet, don't. If you splatter what little brain you have all over the highway, go right ahead. Just don't do it when I'm behind you in traffic and the rest of us have to pay for your bravado and stupidity in lost time.

--A fairly good sized Harley gets about 50 mpg. They're not working on a hybrid. That they no longer leak even when empty is high tech enough.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)2008 WJR

Monday, June 16, 2008

#410 Russert

#410 Russert

What Would Tim Say about all the fuss. He might say "I died. That's bad. I hope I rest in peace. Someone please take care of Big Russ. Thanks for putting me on every front page in America. Now, enough, already."

That would be fairly typical off-the-air Russert. On the air, he'd probably do what his colleagues did, an endless series of tributes, all of them deserved, all of them inadequate.

This was a guy who filled the room without trying. Think of what would have happened if he HAD tried. NBC's top guy in Washington died of a heart attack the other day. On the job at the time, as he was most of the time.

The political class feared him and the gentlemanly sword with which he severed many of their heads, but always from in front and never from behind. Nothing big, he'd say. Just doing his job -- a job he learned not in the law school from which he graduated, but on the back of the garbage truck where he worked for so many hot summer days. Big Russ, his father, had bigger things in mind for his boy. But all that's in Tim's book, and needs no recounting here.

Early political experience with Pat Moynihan and Mario Cuomo gave him an edge over the rest of the reporting pack. Most people who work as political operatives and journalists do the operative jobs when they can no longer get work in broadcasting or newspapering. Tim did it in reverse.

They went on and on about him on Friday the 13th, a fateful day, as it turned out. Brokaw, Williams, Couric, Schieffer, Olbermann; all the heavyweights who worked with him, for him and against him on NBC and the rival networks.

But they missed a few things. Like how as Washington bureau chief he kept first rate but aging correspondents on camera, a real TV no-no. Like how that law degree never got in his way. (Almost no one who watched him doing election coverage or hosting "Meet the Press" even knew he had one.) Like how he could show up at the "Today Show" newsroom in New York, for a morning segment and be back in Washington for a knowledgeable crosstalk on MSNBC a few hours later and Nightly News after that.

They say he revived the dieing genre of the Sunday morning talk fest. He'd tell you "nah, you're thinkig of Brinkley." He was not entirely right about that, and the ratings proved it.

A big guy. Wide. Too heavy. Worked too hard. Too long. Loved the political soap opera. Knew it was important. Told us why. Not a pretty boy.

But he didn't much like big fusses about mere mortals. Probably including himself.

You'll miss him. Even if you don't realize it.

(Editor's Note: Richards was a news writer on "Meet the Press" from 1992-2000.)



Shrapnel

--A recent study says vinyl shower curtain liners emit toxic chemicals. A new worry: second hand toxic chemicals when someone else in your house takes a shower. Soon we'll get Surgeon General's warnings on the labels.

--Middle Easterners are buying a majority interest in New York's Chrysler Building. Not a bad idea. Gives them a chance to survey their second kingdom all at once.

--For once, Rush Limbaugh is right, although he didn't quite put it this way. The election is not about McCain vs. Obama. It's about how racist we are, or aren't.


I'm Wes Richards. My Opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)2008 WJR

Friday, June 13, 2008

#409 The Association

#409 The Association

The big corporations all have monitoring services. They scan the Internet, air-check radio and TV broadcasts and read every newspaper and magazine on the planet. And they tell their clients about every mention, good, bad or indifferent.

These words will probably draw a lawyer letter from Coca Cola. So before they issue a cease-and-desist order and the names here get changed to protect the innocent, on with it:

On the table sits a water bottle with the following printed on the label: "Bottled by a member of the Coca Cola Bottlers' Association..."

The fond hope is that such is a member in good standing, which means adherence to the Association Code of Conduct, no dues in arrears, and one who attends every meeting and is fully practiced in the Secret Handshake.

The sentence conjures images of a bunch of guys sitting around the reverse osmosis machine, turning on the spigot and letting the water fall into the bottles. After that, they do their closing ritual, sing the final hymn and send the bottles off to the capping factory. (The label doesn't say the bottles were capped by a member of the Association, after all.)

Maybe it's just one member. But that would be one busy person, so probably not.

Associations used to be just that. Groups of people associating. Now it's groups of companies associating. Well, corporations are legal people so why not.

Members of associations used to be called members. The word "associates" never applied. But why under use a good word like that. And that is how the unemployment rate grew to 100 percent. Ah, you say, the unemployment rate is nowhere near that. But it is. However, the rate of association is about 95 percent. See no one's an employee anymore. They are all associates. So rather than an unemployment rate, we should have a disassociation rate.

The Labor Department reported today that the disassociation rate climbed to 5.5 percent in May, 2008, up one half of one percent from April.

People who lost their jobs were shown the front door rather than the "associates' entrance," because if they were ushered out the "associates' entrance," that would be rude reminders that they once were associates, but aren't any more.

Careful of those doors marked "Associates Only."

Shrapnel:

--Welcome, vegans. You now can share one of the great joys of meat-eating without violating your principles. That round red thing in your refrigerator may be a killer tomato, right up there with chicken and beef in the salmonella department.

--Good news: The real estate slump hasn't hit Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Bad news: In order to take advantage of same, you have to live in Baton Rouge. Louisiana. But, hey, living in mosquito netting is an exercise in character building.

--Got a note from the IRS. Says a stimulus check's in the mail. And they'll respect me in the morning.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C) 2008 WJR

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Horse of a Different Color

#408 Horse of a Different Color

Big Brown wasn't so big the other day, eh? The colt was a sure thing at the Belmont. No chance anyone would top him. Everyone knew that. Um, everyone except the horse.

This was going to be a finger snap. Fortieth anniversary of the last triple crown. Half the guys betting weren't even born when Affirmed crossed the finish line in 1978. Big Brown was the Horse of the Century. Everyone knew that. Um, everyone except the horse.

Big Brown drew the inside straw. Was going to be on the rail. Big Brown didn't need the rail. In fact, Big Brown LAUGHED at the rail. "Who needs your stinkin' rail? I'll win from the outside. Or anywhere in between." Everyone knew that. Everyone but the horse.

The horse that couldn't lose lost. Dead last. That's never happened before. Dead last. The jockey said "I had no horse...." The horse laughed a horse laugh. He said "Mile and a half? I think I'll amble."

They stopped feeding Brown the steroids April 15th. That why he copped a plea out of the gate? Problem with a nail? That the answer? All of a sudden, he didn't give a damn? Horse racing gods saying "...too much bragging, let's teach everyone a lesson?"

The horse doc said he wasn't lame. The jockey said he wasn't listening.

The bookies are grateful. No one bet anything on Da'Tara. Thirty-eight to one in a race starring Big Brown? Waddayou nuts?

This was going to be a low bucks Belmont. No one with any sense put anything on Big Brown. Favorites never win. This favorite was going to win. Big. By lengths and lengths. No one bet this race, you'd have to be a moron.

Mile and half's a huge race, though.

Even so, there's nothing about this horse says he couldn't have done it without breaking a sweat.

So what happened?

From out of nowhere, Brown says "enough. I want some hay." Or "Hey, what the hey." Or "Hay? How about a stroll."


Same thing as the Super Bowl.

The wrong winner.

Only this time, the smart money didn't bet.

And the dumb money cashed in, big time.

Who's bragging now?

Shrapnel:

--You CAN make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Ask any member of congress about pork and earmarks. Not only can they tell you how to proceed, they can tell you how to steal the purse.

--Purse snatching is illegal. Unless, of course, you're a corporate CEO or a member of any branch of government. You do it, you go to jail; they do it, they get extra stock options, contributions and re-elected.

--Purse snatching of the on-the-street variety is one of the few things still prosecuted democratically. You steal a purse and get caught, changes are you go to jail. And it doesn't matter whether the purse is Gucci, Prada or Wal-Mart.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)2008 WJR

Monday, June 09, 2008

#407 Obama and the Jews

#407 Obama and the Jews

Many among us think we Jews have a dual loyalty -- a mix that's one part America and one part Israel. And for those of us for whom this isn't so, which is most of us, the fault may be a mix that's one part translation and one part failure to learn and teach.

The translation problem arises thus: the word "Israel" is used two ways. The first is an umbrella term that covers the historical past, present and future Jewish people, of any ethnicity, of any citizenship and of any era. the second is the country in the Middle East. They are not the same thing. And it's because of that confusion and our failure to point it out that the confusion remains.

It's almost impossible to find a Jew anywhere in the world who doesn't have an emotional soft spot in his heart for Israel, the place over "there." But a soft spot is not the same as a dual loyalty. The Jews of America (or China or India or Italy or Ireland or anywhere else you think we aren't, but we are) is to America (or China or Italy or Ireland or wherever we live.)

Sure, we all want to see Israel continue to thrive and prosper. But that doesn't mean dual loyalty.

Most American Jews are Americans first, and have the same needs and wants and hopes and dreams of any other American.

When an American politician (even a Jewish one) is courting the Jewish vote, what does he or she do? Promises aid and security to Israel. Good.

Now, what about the price of gasoline?

Far away places don't rate nearly as high as the cost of health insurance, the education of our children, the price of fuel or the price of vegetables.

Barak Obama has the same problem grasping this as Hillary Clinton and almost every other candidate for every other office, including guys named Bloomberg or Schumer.

The question for Jews and for everyone else is can this guy get us out of the down-spiral that we've been in for the last eight years? Can he do something about the shrinking value of the US dollar, the hugely inflated costs of food, energy and health care? Can he end a futile and stupid war and keep America safe?

The answer to all of the above is "mostly yes, just not in a big fat hurry."

That's where your voting head should be. And his.

Next time you pull up to the gas pump, open the tank, put in the nozzle, squeeze the handle and watch the numbers fly by, remember it's Georg Putch who put it there and John McCain --maverick?-- who will keep the dial spinning merrily away. Fill your tank, drain your wallet. Remember who did that to you.

And who didn't.



Shrapnel:

--A couple is two of something. It's not "some" or "a few." And it's an "it," not a "they."

--If you're more than a couple of years older than I, you're an elder statesman. But you're too old to serve as a first term president. We've had those, and should know better.

----Now, what say we go for a couple of cold ones. That's two. Pitchers will be okay.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)2008 WJR

Friday, June 06, 2008

#406 The Recipe

#406 The Recipe

Couple of new studies out this week. Absorb them quickly, because the opposites are sure to emerge before you can run out and get the ingredients for the magic potion that will extend your life, prevent Alzheimer's, reduce your risk of cancer and not damage your heart or raise your blood pressure.

First off, just living raises your blood pressure unless you spend most of your waking hours meditating -- i.e. sleeping.

Then, you have to remember a couple of the more recent studies of coffee consumption. It lowers your cholesterol, if you believe one, and raises it if you believe another.

The two studies are about salt and red wine. The former isn't as bad for your heart as we've been hearing for the last 40 years. The latter covers the rest of the ground.

And there are the egg studies. Eggs either are good for you or bad for you. Depends on the study. Milk helps you lose weight, or it doesn't -- depending on which study you believe.

So here's the recipe. Get a bottle of red wine. Chill. Pour a glass. Get a box of salt. (Iodized is better. Really.) Then pour some salt into the wine, stir and drink. Repeat as needed.

There. Two simple and potentially inexpensive ingredients and you've immunized yourself against all kinds of bad things. Tastes awful. Maybe add a little sugar. (Stay away from the artificial sweeteners. Not healthy. And don't be making any cell phone calls while drinking. And don't hang out under high-tension wires while drinking.)

A simple concoction that will protect you against all the stuff you fear.

Six months from now, someone will have a new study that proves that the first study was wrong. The salt industry does not have a lobby. The wine industry does. So THAT study will not be refuted. In fact, behind the scenes, you can bet there's a furious effort underway trying to figure out some health benefit. Why should red have all the good luck?

Makes you wonder what's in the research pipeline. Are they going to figure out that eating five servings of fruit per day causes warts? Probably not. They're still trying to work out what "serving" means. To some people it's a whole cantaloupe. To others, it's half a blueberry. Or a glass of red wine with a dash of salt.

What if they find out smoking doesn't cause anything?





Shrapnel:

--A local legislator has sent out e-mail on how government is becoming "more transparent." Getting information is a simple process. The forms you fill out run about 20 pages and the wait is no longer than two years.

--Transparency is the newest over-used meaningless word. Who wants to see through government? What we need to see through is the walls they build around themselves.

--I've seen my senator. Forget transparency. Translucency will do, thank you.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.(r)
(c) 2008 WJR

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

#405 Newsletters, The New Junk Mail

#405 Newsletters: The New Junk Mail

Now that you've been using the internet for years, you probably get most of your junk mail electronically. That's not to say that there still aren't some of the usual ads in your "regular" or "snail mail" mailbox. But fewer. Paper's way more expensive than electrons -- at least for now. And the guys who pick up the recycling deserve a break.

What you get via USPS these days is usually from people you do business with, anyway. Department stores, groceries, personal injury lawyers. But now, you also get a lot of "newsletters" you might not have in years gone by.

The least useful and most annoying are the ones from your health insurer. If there's more than one policy in your household, and it is with the same insurance company, each "member" will get his or her own, personal, individual, specially marked copy. You all can sit around the living room at night, put a little Sinatra on the turntable, lower the lights and read the thing to each other. Or in unison. You can turn it into drama, with one person reading the story narration and others reading the quotes in each article.

Or you can do what most people do and that is scan 'em and throw them out.

Here's a guide to all of them. There are three kinds of articles. (1) Maintain your health (and make fewer claims.) (2) Here's what we're doing to make your life better (hiring people we don't need and making up stories and printing pictures of them.) (3) Pharmacy plan adjustments (as in we're lowering the price of stuff no one uses to show you we're lowering something beside coverage, and raising the prices of everything else you need.

The could save paper by sending one copy to each household.

So could the AARP. Two members? Two newsletters. AND two magazines. AND two pitches for everything they pitch, and they pitch plenty. This is not against the AARP. After all, Exxon has a lobby, so why shouldn't we old folk?

But save paper, guys.

The AARP newsletter is chock full of useful information. Like which mega stars you've forgotten about are turning 50 or 60 or 70. Or truly useful stuff like "How to Avoid Paving Scams." Here's how you avoid paving scams. If you think your driveway needs patching or sealing, pick up the Yellow Pages and find a contractor who lives and works in your area. Avoid guys who approach you and say "we have some extra asphalt from a job we did down the street. How about we do your driveway so we don't have to schlep this stuff back to the shop?" Fifty three words. Don't waste your time with the rest.

If you have spare time, maybe you could write a newsletter about yourself and send it on to the AARP and Blue Cross. And while you're at it, send a "wish list" to Macy's and ask for a bid on the stuff.

They won't respond.



Shrapnel:

--Auto thefts are down 23 percent nationwide since the mid 1990s. That proves only one thing. The thieves can't afford to drive your car, either.

--We're no fan of Wal-Mart. Shopping there should be a crime. NOT shopping there already is.

--Not everyone thinks your house is less valuable now than it was a year ago. One example: the exterminator. Another: the tax collector.



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Monday, June 02, 2008

#404 Tailored to Fit Your Needs

#404 Tailored to Fit Your Needs

Ever notice this in the newspaper? When they have no ads to put in the ad space, they put in a little box that says "Sell Your Stuff -- Quick! Advertise in the Daily Bugle" or "Read Walter Winchell each Weekday in the Daily Bugle?" These are called "house ads," and they're there to make the paper look busier than it is.

But newspapers aren't the only places for these. You see them in magazines -- even big magazines. "Clip this coupon and get 97.3% off the cover price."

Now, comes the phone book. Not the REAL phone book, the one that tries to look just like it. And it's loaded with house ads. Here's a favorite. "Tailored to fit your needs."

Brilliant.

Somehow, the publisher has discovered my needs and "tailored" its book just to little old me. This raises suspicion. So, time to borrow my next door neighbor's copy, to determine the differences. He's a good guy. Totally different in age, geography, skills, taste in clothing, taste in music and probably taste in food.

Guess what. His book is page for page the same as mine.

Someone goofed.

If his book is tailored to suit his needs, and mine is tailored to fit mine, and his needs are different, the books should be different, right?

Maybe it's the word "tailored" I don't fully understand.

Grandfather was a tailor. He made men's' suits in Europe at the turn of the last century. Never met the guy. But I'm told his customers thought his suits properly fit. This is what comes to mind when hearing the word "tailor."

There is a blank spot on the first shelf of the book shelf in my office. And the book fits there perfectly, maybe because I threw out last year's in the middle of the publishing cycle, because while it fit my shelf, it didn't fit my needs.

Maybe I should take the book to the local tailor here and he can fix it up by cutting out stuff I don't want and putting in stuff that I do, but which isn't there.

Seems like a lot of trouble to go through to change a phone book. Plus, then they'd have to say "CUSTOM tailored to fit your needs."

No advantage to that, except maybe custom tailored snob appeal.

Shrapnel:

--Times have changed in the banking business. Wasn't long ago, you'd ask the teller to change a single for the meter and you'd leave with four quarters and a mortgage. Now you leave with three quarters and the fourth is deducted as a service fee.

--Some banks are open on Sundays, now. A real service. Let's you cash a check to spend at the liquor store, which also is open Sundays, now.

--The Federal Reserve keeps lowering interest rates. The banks get the memo and cut the return on your certificate of deposit. But they don't read it all the way down to where it says cut the interest on your credit card.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them. (r)
(c)2008 WJR