Friday, January 30, 2009

505 The Corollary

505 The Corollary 

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." -- C. Northcote Parkinson.

"Work expands so as to occupy all the people available to do it." -- W. Richards.

The first quote is pretty well known.  Parkinson got a lot of mileage out of that one liner, the lead in an essay wrote for "The Economist," the British magazine more than 50 years ago.  And it's as true today as it was then.  It's called "Parkinson's Law."  

Time changes some things, but not others.  It has not changed the validity of Parkinson's Law.  But much has happened in the intervening years, leading to the Richards Corollary.

Companies are canning people faster than Del Monte cans corn.  This has profound effects on the lives of the canned, but for the rest of us, it doesn't mean much.  And this leads to a question previously asked in this space:  What did all of those people DO?  And, for that matter, "who's doing it now?"  The answer to the first question is kind of like figuring out every digit in Pi.  There may be an answer, though improbable.  But chances are we'll never know it.  The answer to the second question is either (a) others have picked up parts of the slack (which they will tell you about emphatically if you ask them, and maybe even if you don't,) or (b) no one.

If the answer is no one, then why'd they hire the canned in the first place?

Let's look at some of the companies recently infamous for job cuts.  

There's Home Depot.  It used to be hard to find someone to help you.  Is it any harder today?  No.

How about AT&T?  Is your dial tone any slower?  Are there fewer bars on your mobile phone?  Does it take any more time to reach a live operator or "customer service" specialist?

Even mighty Microsoft is lopping off 5,000 heads.  You can't get through to them now; you won't notice a difference the next time you try.

Companies hire people and then figure out what to do with them.  Or they hire people to do stuff and then think up and pile on more stuff.  Pretty soon, the new hire is a newly entrenched principality.  When they behead the prince, then what.

The politicians are all screeching about "job creation."  And they need to be.  But we have to be careful about what we hire people to do.

At Bob's Auto Body, they need at least one guy who can operate a dent puller.  If Bob's Auto Body hired a dent puller guy and then three vice presidents to supervise him, it would be General Motors.

Shrapnel:

--Snowfall in Arkansas is God's way of telling us something.  Any idea what?  Maybe this:  Huckabee has no business being in New York and should get home ASAP.

--Ain't electronic communication grand?  My oldest and I both have accounts on Facebook.  This gives us yet another way to not talk as often as we should or as either of us would like to.

--ain't electronic communication grand?  Cops in Switzerland have closed down a pot farm.  They found it by viewing satellite pictures on "Google Earth."

I'm Wes Richards.  My Opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2009 WJR

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

504 The Breakfast Barometer


 It’s easy to have the same thing for breakfast every day.  And the gourmet crowd around here pokes fun at that at least a couple of times a week.

That's because these gourmets don't have anything at all, which is pretty much the same thing as having the same thing every day.

You can tell a lot about someone from their breakfast order.

But not as much as you used to.

One guy has a toasted bagel and coffee every morning and sits down at the same table in the same deli every day.

That thing's in the toaster before he walks in the door.

If he ever changes it, it'll cause adverse reaction in the short order cook, the cashier and the rest of us who come in at that early hour.

The guy's originally from a country where bagels are... well.. not exactly a
staple.  and although he's been here quite some time you have to figure this is someone with a sense of adventure who's discovered something novel here in the new world.

Your correspondent has an egg sandwich every day, which is (as momma used to say) a good source of protein... gets the engine revving.

It's actually the roll that is the centerpiece of this meal, not the eggs.

Surely the doc would prefer his patient eat fewer eggs, and so would the health insurance company.

Just following mom's advice.

Then, there's a guy who wears a tank top that says "iron workers union,"  wears a do- rag and looks like he's got an attitude.

What does this rough and raw looking working stiff eat for breakfast?

First guess would be something like the egg sandwich -- double bacon, home fries and a short stack with real maple syrup, not that sugary stuff.

Nope.

Here's where the breakfast barometer goes haywire.

Oat meal with granola.  Brown sugar.. raisins. skim milk.  Decaf.

The rest of us needle him about that.

But not too much.  After all, he wears that ironworkers tank top for a reason.

You want granola and decaf.

Yes sir.  Anything you like.

But most of the time, the barometer works.

Like with the people who are obviously trying to lose weight.

Raisin bran, fat free milk, black coffee or a can of slim fast and TWO post-
breakfast cigarettes.

A sure sign of someone who thinks he or she is fat.

The people who really mess up this way of predicting personality and behavior are the people who have something different every day.

Most of the time, they don't make up their minds until they're at the order
counter... and generally, they're one or two ahead of you on line... especially when you're in a hurry.


Breakfast Shrapnel:

--If you turn a hard roll upside down, it's incapable of righting itself.  So, a little sensitivity here.  After all, the poor thing's going to be someone's meal, eventually.


--Historians may disagree.  But the greatest achievement of the Clinton administration was mandating those nutrition labels.  But does anyone police the data?


--Does anyone actually LIKE those cereals with the dried strawberries?  Raisin bran, sure.  But cardboardy berries -- feh!

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

©WJR 2005, 2009


Portions of today's entry were based on a larger work broadcast on Bloomberg Radio.


Monday, January 26, 2009

503 Recession? Not for Uncle James the Smuggler

503 Recession? Not for Uncle James the Smuggler

 

Uncle James the smuggler  is on the corner of Broadway and 125th one recent Saturday night, making his living.  And not a bad one, at that.  Uncle James is about a zillion years old, but still has all his marbles and rolls them around in a 15 year old Buick, a little rusty, but with a good engine, good enough for the round trip to Virginia every few weeks, and the return, with a trunkload of smuggled goods.


James comes back with enough cigarettes to supply the neighborhood, but not so many that he’s a cop magnet.  The car rides even – no tell-tale trunk dragging. The Buick?  Still passable transportation, but not the kind of car some trooper on the turnpike’ll stop just because the guy behind the wheel is black.


Uncle James the smuggler was thinking about a BMW or maybe a Lexus.  He’s got the money.  But that would attract too much attention.  So he sticks with the Buick, runs about two, maybe three miles an hour over the speed limit, attracts no attention.  Sometimes, and this is even better, he’s got Aunt Mae in the car with him.  Just an older couple driving to New York from a southerly direction.  Under the racial profiling radar of several states.


Uncle James the smuggler used to sell packs.  You want Kools or Newports or Marlboro Lights or whatever?  $4.00 a pack and a nice profit, even with the hours on the road and the gas prices.  Cost you twice that at the deli. James never dealt in cartons.  Sparked too much competition.  Guy could buy a carton for, say 40 bucks and sell the packs for five a piece. 


But times have changed.  Now, no packs.  Just singles.  So James is skirting the law in a whole new bunch of ways.  Can’t smuggle. Can’t sell on the street.  CERTAINLY can’t sell singles.


“Nobody’s got money.  I sell the singles for a buck a piece. You want ten, it’s 75 cents each.  Everyone’s happy.  Pack brings me 15 bucks, minimum. Cost me three bucks. That’s a dozen dollars profit.  A little less when you subtract the gas money.”

In World War II, they sold singles over the counter.  After the war, Truman put a stop to that.  Well, Truman and the tobacco lobby.

But no one’s got any money.  Bloomberg makes cigarettes more expensive than the rent.  So, it’s singles on the corner, where there’s no recession.


Shrapnel:

 

--The new computer won’t run software for the Palm PDA.  Too much security.  A relief, since those Palm terrorists lurk everywhere.

--The good guys shouldn’t get sick but they do.  A nice young fella, Aaron O. is in the hospital with some preposterous combinations of ailments.  Wish him well.

--Happy Chinese New Year.  It’s the year of the Ox.  A year to think about less meat.

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

©WJR 2009

 


Friday, January 23, 2009

502 Exit the Drama Queens


502  Exit the Drama Queens

Shlomo Tzedaka, the last Bronx Jew is at the table at his kitchen, cube of sugar between his lower lip and lower jaw, glass of tea on the 1954 Formica table with the rusting chrome legs and, sitting on the only one of the vinyl chairs that hasn't a rip, he says "you notice Hillary started acting and sounding like a world leader as soon as she found the ladies' room nearest her office at the State Department?"

"Yes," says the visitor.  "She sounded like a Secretary of State.  Lot of gravitas.  Full throated. Smart."

"I'm down in the coffee shop with Irving this morning," says Shlomo, "and he says 'she sound like that during the campaign, she'd be President now.'  I can't think of a way to deny that."

His visitor says "yeah, maybe.  But it's sure a far cry from the cackle and the shriek we saw for so long..."

The drama queen is gone, long live the secretary of state.  Where was she when we needed her?

Shlomo says "then there's the Kennedy girl."

His visitor notes Ms. Kennedy is over 50 and only guys his age think of her as a "girl."

"Yeah, waddever.  She's got 'personal issues?'  What?  She broke a nail?  Another Kennedy Family Crisis? I mean I feel sorry for Ted, but he's old and we all gotta go sometime.  She don't want us to know how rich she is?  We know how rich she is.  Who cares.  And the governor?  Whoever he picks'll be okay.  We're not likely to get another Jim Buckley out of him."

The drama queen is gone, long live the junior senator from New York.

Shlomo says "we've been pretty lucky with senators and governors in this state.  We've been pretty lucky with secretaries of state, even when we've had schmucks as President.  It's gonna be fine."

The visitor reminds him that Colin Powell was a nearby Bronx neighbor.

"Yeah, when he was a kid.  Now, he's got Queens and Saigon written all over him.  But not bad."

One drama queen turns into a Foreign Secretary or Minister of Foreign Affairs of note -- at least for now.  One drama queen exits, period.  

"We'll do okay," says Shlomo Tzadeka, the last Bronx Jew.  "We always land on our feet.  Come, have some tea."


Shrapnel:

--We asked earlier in the week whether we should keep "subheads" in the body of the posting.  The "Focus Group" has spoken.  And the answer is "no," so, no it is.

--Listen carefully to those commercials trying to sell you gold.  When you do, you'll find them so full of "shoulds" and "mays" and "coulds" and "mights," they really say nothing.  I'm sticking with the late Chet Currier's advice:  don't bother.

--Hold on to this datum:  a new survey shows Americans feel three-to-one are more optimistic now that Obama is President.  It's a great start.  But let's see where it is a year from now.

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

501 Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

501 Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead

With apologies to L. Frank Baum.

Baum gave us "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" in 1900.  It was neither his first nor his last book, but it's the one we remember, often because of the film, which many early critics panned and which endures to delight and confound countless millions.

Why?  Because much like "Alice," "Wizard" is filled with parallels, allegories and lessons.  And if we'd learned them, we might not be in the bad spot we're in as a country today.  Failing to learn at least gives us some useful descriptions.

The man behind the curtain?  Dick Cheney.  An impotent, incompetent snake oil salesman who promises us our missing brain, heart or courage.  In the Oz book, Cheney will only grant our wishes if we kill the wicked witch of the west.  Or, more accurately in today's America, the wicked witch of the southwest.

Worked for Dorothy with an iffy outcome.  Worked just fine for us, even though our witch still walks and talks and breathes.  That's okay.  As long as we realize now what we should have realized almost a decade ago:  Neither the witch nor the wizard have a shred of power except what we give them.

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM WITCH AND WIZARD

What we learned, or RE-learned these last eight years is that the U.S. Presidency is designed so that even with an ill suited dolt in office, the country continues to function, at least on some level.  We learned that as the White House takes a pick ax to the constitution, to the separation of powers, to the economy, to the ecology, we carry on.

We learned that we can't treat other countries as Germany treated Austria and Poland in WWII.

We learned that the Laffer Curve is a laugh.

We learned that it's perfectly okay to let a major city drown after a hurricane, as long as the city is filled mostly with minority members of the opposition party.

THE NEW WIZARD

The new wizard doesn't have all the answers, hasn't made ridiculous promises, and even has taken down the curtain, or so it seems.  He's collaborating with others, rather than holding out the preemptive false promise of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties.  Think of it this way:  the guy has a double tough job.  He has to clean up eight years of damage and run the place all at the same time.  He has to be the Oncologist-in-Chief, the Carpenter Foreman, re-paver of the yellow brick road, demolition director, construction manager and President of the United States all at the same time.

Can he do it?  Not alone.  But together, Yes We Can.

Shrapnel:

--The Great Inauguration Day Fear arose when Sen. Kennedy had to be rushed from the official luncheon at the Capitol to the hospital.  The fear was the poor man was going to die minutes after the man he backed was sworn in.  And it didn't happen, and we should be glad.

--The right wing whack jobs commented on air during the inaugural address.  Today, we should reverse that tide.  We should comment snidely as THEIR show plays today.

--Question to readers:  do the subheads in this piece, "What we learned..." and "...New Wizard" make it easier to read or is it a distraction?  (You have just become a focus group.)

I'm Wes Richards, My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

500 What Would Martin Say -- This Time

500 WWMS This Time

Here we go again. It's the national Martin Luther King holiday. And we're hearing from countless hangers-on and ne'er do wells about what "Martin would have thought..." about this and that. Or what he would have said.

Each year on or near this holiday, we devote space and time to reminding people who are co-opting Dr. King's legacy and history and life experience to imagine and say with great authority what he would have said or thought or done about something. Easy enough to do, impossible to check. It's astrology writ earthly. We just don't know and we can't know.

What would Martin think of the bailouts, or the recession or Bush or the oil market or the Steelers and the Cardinals in the Super Bowl.

Imagine this: "Martin would have favored Pittsburgh." Or "Martin would have favored Arizona." It's downright silly. We don't even know if he knew anything of the NFL or cared. It's equally silly to say "Martin would have thought Bush a dangerous imbecile," or "Bush kept us safe from attacks." Most of us probably would guess the former, but no one knows for sure.

Of the Presidential inauguration, there is less guesswork. It's impossible to imagine anything but a reaction of pride and hope and love for the man who won. Not just because Barack Obama had one African parent. But because of what he made of himself and did so in an amazingly short time.

But we also have to think that Martin would have advised Barack to be cautious. Martin was aware of the bumps and potholes in the road that come with years of being bumped and shoved into or tripping over potholes. We have to think that Martin would tell Barack to be aware that he has, for his race, to meet a higher standard than his opponent or his Vice President does.

Herein, we violate one of the principles of Martin's "Dream" speech, in which he directs us to look at character content, not skin color. The fact of the matter is that the character heading for inauguration is above and beyond what most of us expect or deserve. That's a given. But we must also be mindful of this: the right-white-wackos are just waiting to brand the new President with a racist label.

It's happening already. And to deny it or to look the other way when it happens is perilous, dangerous and to be guarded against.

The guy's got enough to do without that. So let's make sure we do what we can to take race out of the mix.

Shrapnel:

--Let's form a new organization, SPA, the Society for the Prevention of Algebra. With calculators and computers, it's as outdated as the slide rule. And uglier.

--A friend points out that the furnace always quits on the coldest day of the year. More accurately, the coldest NIGHT of the year. So far, he's been right.

--In olden days, the car also would quit on the coldest night or hottest day of the year. That's changed. Now they quit entirely without rhyme or reason.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.
(C) WJR 2009



Friday, January 16, 2009

499 Your Update Is Ready

499 Your Update Is Ready

The computer sometimes says it needs new clothes or code or something, and that it's "updates are ready now."  Sometimes you can make the annoying little box informing you go away.  Sometimes, it just restarts the computer for you.  At this point, there's no choice but to let the thing go through its gyrations and 15 or 20 minutes later your job is to re-connect to the internet, get rid of extraneous stuff it's put on your "desktop" and try to remember what you were doing when the computer threw you out and re-dressed.

In the future, we are told, "smart" appliances will also be connected to the internet.  Can't figure out why, but that's the word.

Which means, we get uncalled for "updates" for more than just our computers.

Can you imagine the little touch screen on your stove telling you "Updates for your burners are now ready.  Your burners will shut down in three minutes.  Please do not start cooking until the update is complete or you may lose your meal."

Or:

You put a couple of slices of Wonder Bread in the toaster, click on "file," a drop down menu appears and you click "toast."  Another drop down menu appears and you choose from among light, medium or dark.  This is followed by a "dialog box" asking you if you want to make "medium" the default setting for this operation.  You click "yes."  Then comes the bad news.  "Updates are available for your toaster.  Restart your toaster now?"

"Hello, this is Sears.  Updates are ready for your washing machine now.  You will not be able to use your washing machine until the updates are installed.  If you're already washing, the tub will drain and re-washing will begin after installation.  Please remember to add detergent, bleach and softener when it does."

You drive your Chevy Volt to the re-charge station, plug it in, swipe your credit card and the machine flashes a sign "Updates are ready for your electric car.  We will restart your electric car after the installation."  Your in a hurry?  Forget it.  Updates take precedence over your lowly needs and schedule.

Telephones, refrigerators, TV sets (especially HDTV sets,) coffee makers, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, trombones, door locks, windows (the kind you look through, not the kind on your computer) even pacemakers will all be updated by remote control.

This Wessay will restart while you're in the middle of reading it.  But it will have been updated.

Shrapnel:

--Everyone got off survived the Hudson River plane crash.  That makes the US Airways pilot a hero.  How much did US Air add to the passengers' bills for the cooked, chopped goose dinner?

--Global warming, anyone?  It's one degree above zero here at the Wessays secret mountain laboratory.  Everybody, talk -- raise some hot air, please.

--Oil prices are still falling.  But gasoline prices are rising again.  Anyone have an explanation?

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

498 Heimlich, anyone?

498  Heimlich, Anyone? 

 It was 35 years ago this year, when Dr. Henry  Heimlich first told us  about his now-standard method for helping choking  victims... saving countless lives. Many are here today only because of this simple procedure. 

 But many people wouldn't need it if they didn't bite off more than  they can chew, advice mama gave us all from the moment we started eating solid food as infants.

 As is often the case with mama's advice, (a) we don't take it... or (b) we don't look for the concepts behind it and try to apply them elsewhere.  

 So, what we need is a Heimlich maneuver that works on more than a careless food hog at the lunch counter. If there were such a thing, we might have a different world. 

How? 

Well, the United States may be choking on debt.  Coughing it up may eventually happen, but for now, maybe we need a Heimlich maneuver to speed it  along.  Some companies are choking on acquisitions. Their  eyes are bigger than  their stomachs. They ingest everything in sight and need a Heimlich  maneuver, to harmlessly dislodge things. 

Can we choke on growth? Of course.  If we eat too fast or eat too much.  If you notice the way things happen in nature, you'll see that very little of consequence grows to maturity overnight.  Maybe bacteria or fruit flies.  And you'll also notice that when something DOES reach maturity, it stops, or at least slows down. 

We go through cycles of binge buying and binge expansion, and we proudly stand there basking in the glow of our bragging rights, only to find that we've often bitten off more than we could chew.

There are so many examples it's hard to know where to start -- plus it's a rampant condition and therefore unfair to single out any  one or even any dozen examples other than the couple we mentioned.  But if you look around you, you will find them on your own. 

 Sometimes the medicine to fix this affliction is pretty bitter. Sometimes, it's administered behind bars -- or in bankruptcy court, when it could have been prevented with the accounting equivalent of a calorie counting chart and a bathroom scale. 

 But the thing about those tools is this: if they are to work, you have to actually USE them.  And sometimes in our rush at the table, we forget -- or ignore rational self  regulation of our appetites. 

 There is no financial equivalent of the Heimlich maneuver.  Not the various bailouts, the thawing of credit or the end to the dizzying spending of American resources on a needless war.  And until there is, think about another piece of advice from mama: when you're full, leave the table. 

Parts of this entry are based on an essay first broadcast on Bloomberg Radio.  

Shrapnel:

--The Madoff story shows a major flaw in law.  It doesn't matter how severely or painfully the guy is punished if convicted.  The law does almost nothing to make his victims whole.

--The same's true of a drunk driver who hits and kills a pedestrian.  Sure, the guy goes to jail and is made to suffer.  But what does the law do for the dead guy or his family?

--Next week at this time, we will have a new President.  Will America change overnight?  No, that'll take some time, so please be patient.

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

©WJR 2004, 2009.



Monday, January 12, 2009

497 The People Rest

497  The People Rest


The local district attorney, a Republican with a minimalist eduction and still smaller skills,  but with a heart of gold, decided to take his staff out to a holiday lunch on the taxpayers' dime, and on company time, so he rounded up the staff, locked up the office at midday, put a "closed" sign on the wall and for two hours, on went the party.  Justice?  Let it wait.  

This did not sit especially well with judges, police, bailiffs, defendants, witnesses, court clerks, corrections officers and defesne lawyers.  But, as the DA righteously pointed out, it's his office and he gets to decide when it's open.  It did not sit well with the local newspaper which printed a front page story about the whole thing.  Spoilsports!  Next thing you know, the people, as we are called in court cases, will vote this guy out of office and he'll have to get a real job.

This guy brings new meaning to the courtroom one liner, "the People rest."

What's worrisome is that this could spread to other government agencies, religious denominations and private companies.

"Hello, you have reached the Moote Pointe Fire Department.  Our gallant fire fighters are out for the next two hours.  Please leave you name, address and the address of your fire at the sound of the tone..."   That would never happen.  Would it?

"Hello, you have reached the rectory at St. Barnabas Church.  All of our priests are attending a holiday party right now and we will re-open at 3PM.  If this is an urgent call for last rites, please leave your name and phone number at the tone..."  Not gonna happen.

"Hello, you have reached the headquarters of the General Electric Company.  We are out of the office for the next two hours, enjoying our annual holiday luncheon.  To report a light bulb problem, please press 1.  For jet engine service please press 2.  For NBC, please press 4.  As soon as we're back in the office, someone will return your call."

"Hello, this is the superintendent of schools.  We are not available for teaching or any other schoolesque function right now because we're out having a holiday party.  Please call back later."

In radio, we've all had moments where we've wanted to shut down the transmitter and head out to the "Do Drop Inn" for a couple of hours of peanuts and beers.  But we don't do it.  Neither does your doctor.  Nor your hairdresser.  Chances are, neither does your lawyer, unless he gets elected District Attorney.

Your priest, minister, rabbi or imam won't do it.  Your doctor or dentist will have an on-call substitute if he does it.  Your elected officials won't allow you to know when they do it.

But here in Stonewall, PA, justice stops for two hours each December so the district attorney can party with his staff, pay them for a full day and let the justice system hang there.

Shrapnel:

--The government's figures are all fudged.  The Consumer Price Index, the inflation rate and most other statistics are complete fakes.  So when they tell you the unemployment rate is 7-point-something percent, you know it's really higher.

--Nine days, Barrack, until you replace that putz in the White House.  We expect great things from you.  Don't let us down.

--Hawkers of gold and gold stocks and gold investment and mutual funds are fond of pointing out, gold has never been worth zero.  But as the late Chet Currier pointed out regularly, you can't eat gold.  So if you're buying, go ahead, but don't forget in really really hard times, a Big Mac is worth more than a mine full of metal. 

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

496 Deductible or Deduct A Bill

496 Deductible Or Deduct A Bill

It's that time of year again.  Yes, after the annual post-holiday let down you get to deal with some brand new nuisances, the first of which is that everything has gone up but your paycheck.  The nastiest surprise is always that first purchase at the pharmacy.  New year, new deductible.

Mrs. Groanboan, 82, is on the pickup line at the drug counter.  Her generic Romulex now costs more than her car payment.  Real Romulex would cost her two months' car payments plus her firstborn, who, fortunately, is out of the country, and besides who wants to take in trade a guy in his late 50s and two car payments for a bottle of pills that lasts 31 days.  Mrs. Groanboan faints at the bill.  Pharmacy "technician" (what is a pharmacy technician, anyway?) Amy Sarah (almost all pharmacy technicians are named Amy or Sarah or both) jumps the counter, pops a smelling salt under Mrs. Groanboan's nose, revives her, returns her credit card and receipt and sends her and her bottle of generic Romulex on their way.

Amy Sarah keeps a supply of smelling salts at the register every January, February and March.  A lot of fainting goes on at the drug counter in the first quarter of the year.  She can, when she does her taxes, deduct a bill for smelling salts, because it's necessary for her job.  The rest of us would like to deduct a bill or two from our pharmacy budgets.

If generics are getting this pricey, maybe someone will come along and make sub-generics, knockoffs of the knockoffs.  It happens in fashion.  So why not pharmaceuticals.

Not a bad idea in pills, so what about expanding it to other fields.  We've already done it with clothing.  How about cars.  Can't afford a Cadillac?  Someone should build a generic version.  It would look like a Caddy, but without the nameplate.  It would have the same active ingredients as a Caddy -- four wheels, two doors, an engine, a transmission and brakes.  Not good ones, necessarily, but active ingredients, nonetheless.

Just don't buy one until about mid-year, when you can deduct a bill instead of paying a deductible.




Shrapnel:

--Free food abounds in the shopping clubs, at least on weekends.  If you plan your moves right, you can get a whole meal on the house.  Wait for a shift change before you hit the cheese and crackers stand for the fifth time

--Two George Bushes, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter had lunch with Obama at the White House earlier this week.  What do you think they talked about?  Best guess is baseball, dogs, cats and children,  the only things all five of them know about.

--I have heard from about half a dozen readers and listeners on the previous post, "Man Without a Blackberry."  Several admitted they are in the same boatload of Blackberry-less outcasts.  A smaller number confess to dropping theirs in the sink or toilet, some accidentally, others on purpose.


I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

495 Man Without a Blackberry

495 Man Without a Blackberry

Is there anyone else out there without a Blackberry?  Seems everyone from Barack Obama on down has one and is constantly using it to accomplish all the world's important business.  People say they live and die on the thing and they love it.  They've trained their thumbs, fat and skinny, to operate that teeeny tiiiiiny keyboard.  And they spend all day every day writing solutions to the world's problems, making laundry lists, to-do lists, reading e-mail, cruising the internet and Facebook and My Space and You Tube and all that other critical material.

Makes a fella feel left out.

Half the time, the Blackberriers are faking it, of course.  There are tens of thousands of people with nothing to say and no reason to say it, and these are the pretenders.  They've set the device to ring all by itself periodically so they can pull it off their belt or out of their briefcase or purse and stare at it in wide-eyed wonderment and thumb furiously in response to something that isn't there.  A real self-esteem builder, this machine.  Makes you feel wanted, needed, appreciated and busy.  Makes others think you're oh so important.

A neighbor pretends to be a commodities trader and he's always pacing around outside, cigarette in hand, drawling at the top of his lungs for all to hear.  Is there anyone on the other end of the phone?  Probably not.  But he's designated himself as Mister Importante.  And in a way he IS.   He's a pioneer.  He's among the first to fake electronic communication.  Without Importante, people wouldn't yet be faking messages on their Blackberrys (or is it Blackberries or Blacksberry?)

Here's another pioneer, a woman, a stranger.  We are pedestrians waiting for the red light to change.  I am talking to myself.  She is on a cell phone.  She takes it from her ear and asks me "do you have a cell phone?"  I say "yes."  She says "if you turn it off and put it to your ear you can talk to yourself without looking like you're nuts.  That's what I'm doing."

Lesson learned.  Lesson spread.  Stranger woman had the concept.  Mister Importante raised the art to a new level.  Blackberry fakers have taken this art to its highest form.

Is this an important tool?  Or is it merely another way the phone company can squeeze another few bucks from you?

Shrapnel:

--All those marketing calls have stopped, at last.  Or most of them.  They were infuriating, but now it's lonely without them.

--Calendars don't record appointments, they produce them.  Think about it.  Now that you have your 09 PDA or appointment book set up, you put in stuff you never would have written down otherwise and don't need to.

--If a cough drop prevents or cures coughing, why doesn't a gum drop prevent or cure gum disease?  Maybe some day they will.  But this is like waiting for the other shoe to drop.


I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

494 Just a Second

494 Just a  Second

A new social movement is developing worldwide at this very second.  Well, maybe not at this very second, but at the second that WOULD be this very second if they hadn't started fooling with the clock the last day of 2008.  

We heard it explained this way by clock maven Bobby "Mainspring" O'Brian at his shop on Queens Boulevard, somewhere around Woodside.  Mainspring says the clocks had to have one second added because the earth is slowing down -- "...like the rest of us."  Mainspring says it drove him absolutely nuts to adjust all the watches and clocks and such he has for sale.  "I get this bulletin from some guy in the middle of a  mountain somewhere out west, and he says they have to change everything around.  I wasn't going to do it.  Who would know?  But I knuckled under.  Every damn watch and clock.  One second more.  And I had to do it on New Year's Eve, to boot!"

Some of the rest of us haven't knuckled under.  We steadfastly hold to the old clock.  We are Old Clock.  Orthodox Clock. Clock Purists.  No fiddling with time here.  

A second here, a second there, and before you know it, you're dealing with minutes.  Nope.  We are working on convincing you to repeal the change if you made it.  Working on a website (Mainspring, feeling guilty about his wimpish behavior on New Year's Eve,  has offered his computer, but doesn't want anyone to know it.  "Can't risk being thought of as a subversive.  Not in THIS neighborhood.")

Next, they'll want to add and subtract all kinds of things.  They'll want do overs for all kinds of events that can't be done over.  If you can do over 7pm, you'll soon be able to do over, say, June.  Whatever happened to the March of Time?  It's not a march?  It's a halting amble, with a second removed here and inserted there?  Whatever happened to "Time On My Hands?"  Not on your second hands.  And who thought we'd be taking the song "Turn Back the Hands of Time" literally.

Leap second, they call it.  Mainspring says he thought a leap second was what you called the guy in the corner when he bolted over the top rope and stopped the boxing match.

Time is supposed to be precise.  This is downright sloppy.


Shrapnel:

--The Montague County Jail of Fort Worth, Texas has been closed and its inmates transferred elsewhere.  It wasn't so much that the jailbirds had reclining chairs and curtains in the cells.  What finally did it was the discovery that the cell doors locked from the inside.

--New year, new statistics.  They're always ga-ga about the first birth of the year.  But you rarely hear about the first death.

--Pinch yourself.  You are not dreaming.  We really DID elect Barack Obama President, probably the highlight of what turned out to be a nightmare of a year.


I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(sm)
(C) WJR 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009

493 WestraDamus Predictions for Last Year

493 Westradamus' Predictions For the Past year - 2008


This is the 20th anniversary of the Westrdamus predictions, presented each January for the year gone by and generally wrong.  'Damus started as a parody of the Astrological predictions in the supermarket tabloids, almost always wrong and never acknowledged as such.  But the non-prophet has grown into an American institution, like the Smithsonian, the National Institutes of Health, NOAA Weather and hedge funds.

2008 is an election year and the winner of the Presidential race will be former media mogul and present New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, an independent.  Mike campaigns on a platform of universal health care, stem cell research and overpopulating Westchester.  His Democratic opponent, Ed Koch concedes before election day and his Republican opponent, Newt Gingrich has yet to admit defeat.

In the middle east, the Palestinians will admit they don't exist and return the Stolen Territories to Israel.

The price of crude oil will hit $67, causing a spike in the price of gasoline, heating oil, cooking oil and WD-40.  Rival entrepreneurs will retaliate by buying silicon futures, thus driving up the price of all spray products, General Electric stock and snake oil.

The governor of Illinois and a financial wizard, Bernie Madoff, will be arrested, the former for trying to sell his state's third US Senate seat and the latter for cheating his honest investors, guys who deal in hedge funds, derivatives, gold futures and Amway soap.

O.J. Simpson will be cleared of wrongdoing in a motel break-in after the former football great, actor and non-murderer explains to a sympathetic Nevada jury that he was "...only trying to get my stuff back."

Britney Spears, on court order, will purchase underwear from her local J.C. Dowdy's.  Los Angeles police officers will be assigned to a daily "pants check."  Tough duty, but some one's gotta do it.

But the big story of the year will be the economy.  General Motors will surpass Toyota as the number one in car sales, sending its stock through the roof.  Lower interest rates will free credit, sending American business into yet another borrowing binge.  New banks and bank holding companies will spring up to meet the demand, proving once again that the spirit of entrepreneurship remains vibrant.

Notable deaths in 2008: Josef Stalin, Gertrude Berg, Adam Clayton Powell, and the guy next door - the one who plays Salsa records at top volume at 3 a.m. None of these people actually will DIE in '08, but their earlier deaths will remain notable.

People you thought were dead, but aren't, include former New York Governor Hugh Carey, actor Peter Falk, Yoko Ono, NPR's Carl Castle and Howard Stern.

And finally, you will win the lottery.

This blog will be available all year long at Westradamus.com on the internet.  But why would you want to read it again?  In fact, why did you read it this time?

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

(C) WJR 2009