Wednesday, June 30, 2010

724 Calendar Boy

724 Calendar Boy

Keeping an electronic calendar has its drawbacks. Like when you're at the doc's or the dentist's and you have to make a follow up appointment. And his or her office is the only one in the world that doesn't have a Wi-Fi connection. So you say "well, I can't get to the calendar but let's make the appointment and if it's no good, I'll call you later in the day." Anticipating this, you can print a few months worth of future calendar pages and have them with you at the appointment.

Then when you go to read the pages and make your follow-up you realize you can't read the compressed fonts you've printed. Or worse, yet, you can't figure out what you wrote. "Py Am Ex" on a calendar entry. Does that mean "Pay American Express," or does it mean "Pay Alimony to my Ex?" It can be especially confusing if you have neither an American Express card nor an ex spouse. In any event, such a calendar note would not preclude you from making a follow up with the dentist. But what if it says "Brd?" Is that Brad? Or Bird? Or Byrd? If you don't know a Brad, you can narrow it down. Bird? Is that my volunteer day at the Audubon Society? Or is that the day of Robert Byrd's funeral?

Sitting in your home office, you might pick up other clues in familiar surroundings. But when you're at the doc's and there are six people waiting behind you to check out, the pressure's on and you can't think. So what's the solution? A Blackberry or iPhone? C'mon. $80 bucks a month for a glorified Palm Pilot?

Another answer is carry a date book. A Day Timer or Day Runner. Too bulky. Plus smart appointment makers know that having more than one calendar is an invitation to time disaster. It always comes back to this: Little scraps of paper. No technology beyond a pencil. No internet connection needed. No cellphone needed. No $80 bucks a month needed. It's easy. It's convenient. It's free.

On January first of any give year, you may have to tote around 365 3x5 cards. But each day your burden lightens by one card. By the end of June, you're down by half. Keep the internet calendar as a reminder of birthdays and anniversaries, but nothing else. Sometimes, the best tech is low tech -- or even no tech.


Shrapnel:

--It's really tough to mourn the loss of a former Klansman. But Robert Byrd did a lot more good in his later life than he did harm in his earlier life. Bye bye Byrdie.

--"Progressive" lenses in your glasses, are they really progress? The eye doctor says "they take some getting used to and sometimes you feel a little dizzy or drunk for awhile." A cheap high, Dr. Matt. But you don't want to be ahead of me on the highway any time soon.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

723 Appliance Repair

723 Appliance Repair

The Sears guy was here the other day to fix what turned out to be a leak in the washing machine's water pump. He had a replacement on the truck and made the repair perfectly and in short order. But not without some discussion. He was informed about a Bloomberg interview of some years ago in which a highly regarded retail analyst (whatever that is) said that when "...Eddie Lambert takes over a retailer, the competition cheers." Eddie is chairman of Sears Holdings, the company that now owns Sears Roebuck and K-Mart.

On his way out the door, the technician said "the company is likely to call you in a day or so to take a survey about the repair. Please remember they're asking about me and not their corporate stuff. He was assured of understanding and a good rating. Using Sears appliances for almost 50 years, 40 of them without a problem, makes you wonder what's happening in that company. The four year old washer and dryer are perfect examples of stuff that belongs in landfills.

So, the automated survey comes in and the technician gets the highest possible rating... except for the question "How likely are you to recommend Sears to someone buying an appliance? What are you, nuts? Who can recommend a company whose once proud name brand has become a bundle of computerized scrap metal designed not to be outlived by your grandma who just turned 99 and isn't in the best of health?

"May we call you back?" asks the machine on the phone? "Sure, go right ahead." Let's hope it's soon!

The local repair outfit won't fix stuff from this company. Why? Because they say they can't get shop manuals and some parts. So who ya gonna call? (Ghost Busters was unavailable.) You want the thing fixed? Lots of luck.


Shrapnel:

--Got a magnifying glass for Father's Day. Nice gesture, but it doesn't work even though it's good one. Little type is little type and it does not matter how strong the magnification. And at a certain time in one's life, an electron microscope will do little good.

--The local Hooter's has closed, to be replaced by another chain restaurant. Those of us with lascivious minds first went there to babe watch. But what we found was innocent looking young women trying to legitimately make a buck and embarrassingly under-clothed college girls learning to ward off the dirty old men (and women.) The food wasn't bad, the waiters were generally sweet ladies, and there's nothing sexy at all about this establishment.

--Many have serious reservations about walking through Central Park at night, though today's crime rate has fallen to near zero. But now fear of violence is focused not on roving gangs of thugs, but on falling tree limbs -- in broad daylight and good weather, yet. A six month old baby killed and the mother seriously injured -- and this is not the first incident of this kind in the last year or so.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

722 L.R. Doty

722 L.R. Doty

Lake Michigan is no Lake Superior. But it's still a Great Lake where you can't see from one end to the other. And the L.R. Doty is a a pipsqueak of a boat compared to the Edmund Fitzgerald. But the Doty was the last of the great wooden ships of the century before last to be discovered at the bottom, and that discovery happened in June of 2010 pretty near Milwaukee. You have to wonder why it took so long. The Doty went down in what was by all contemporary accounts a hideous storm in 1898.

So how did they know that the wood they found off Milwaukee was in fact the Doty? Easy. It looked like the Doty, measured properly and was more or less fully intact. The fresh water and near freezing temperature keeps what the lake takes in pretty much its original condition. If they get to look closer -- and probably they will -- they may find 17 bodies inside, the captain and crew dead in the water and preserved better than any funeral director can -- and for much, much longer. No hole boring worms in the waters of the Lakes. In fact, not much of anything 300 feet below the surface.

Things can move slowly when it comes to the Lakes. The tip that sent the divers to the right spot came 20 years ago from a commercial fisherman who was doing some deep water work and found what he thought might be the Doty or at least part of it at the end of his line. There was a minor explosion of local interest, but no one wanted to take the plunge. Until now.

Also unlike ocean wrecks, this one -- like all the lake wrecks -- has an owner. In this case it's the people of the state of Wisconsin. That has both an up and a down side. The up is they finally found it. The down is they can't move it or take anything from the upright ship without permission of the historical society.

This was the only remaining large wooden steamer wreck on the Lakes still unaccounted for. One hundred twelve years in the making.




Shrapnel:

--Broadcaster Andy Fisher may have lost a little time and a little muscle after having what appears to be a mild heart attack. But he hasn't lost his sense of humor. He writes that while under the knife, he got his two stents worth.

--The various news services are reporting people boycotting BP gas stations. That's a lovely protest, but meaningless. It only hurts local business men and women who are the owners or tenants and buy their gasoline from Amoco/BP.

--It's more than two months since the oil gusher started in the Gulf of Mexico. You'd think by now the big agri-processors would have come to the rescue. They could market pre-oiled frozen fowl and sea creatures to a willing Microwave America.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

721 John and Sheldon

721 John and Sheldon

A couple of old radio and TV guys who likely don't know each other and who probably wouldn't have much to say to each other if they did, but who are in kind of similar situations. John is John Palmer, who served two terms at NBC News, doing such programs as Sunrise and Today and Weekend Today and Nightly News and radio News on the hour. Some cement head let his contract lapse. John went to Monitor TV, the Christian Science Monitor's feeble early attempt at TV. Later, in a stoke of pure genius, NBC hired him back. Now he's doing stuff for some cable outfit called Retirement Living Television. Most recently, he interviewed Greenspan. John was smooth as an oil slick on the Gulf of Mexico and warm as toast. But he asked tough questions. He's pushing 75 and probably doesn't need to work. It's to our benefit that Tim Russert brought him back to NBC and to our benefit that we can hear and see him pretty often, despite the obscurity of his present workplace.

The other guy is Sheldon Sharpless who had worked for a small radio station in a small town for 50 years. That is not a typo. Where Palmer was and is smooth and urbane, Sharpless is rough and rural much like his listeners. He was fired the other day by the guy who leases the station from its owners. Advertisers defected in large numbers. Someone started a "bring him back" page on Facebook which at latest count has about 1600 names, which is most of the population of the depressed former mining town Sheldon served.

The listeners and advertisers want him back on the air. The lessee has dug in his heels and seems unable or unwilling to move. The cases are not exactly similar. But the message is the same: don't screw with the old timers. They know all the tricks you think you invented. And they will be back.

Shrapnel:

--Almost everyone loved Jimmy Dean, whose "Big Bad John" decorated the top of the music charts more than 40 years ago and whose sausages kissed a lot of taste buds and probably helped clog an artery or two, but so what? When Jimmy died at age 81 recently, the folks at Sara Lee who now own the sausage factory and the brand name, put up a short note saying how he'll be missed... but didn't mention they fired him from the ads six years ago because he was "too old." Yeah, almost everyone loved Jimmy.

--This is unusual considering who said it and where he's from. An eye doctor, a native of Central PA who has worked for the VA says "that form of socialized medicine, for all its flaws, works far better than anything else we have or that has been approved in congress." This goes against the grain of many in his town, and he's only one voice in the wilderness, but a clear one.

--Legalese Translation Department: When you hear "the lawsuit is baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves and welcome our day in court..." read between the words. They usually mean "guilty, your honor, but we're going to try hard to wiggle out of it."


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

720 iPitch

720 iPitch

We all want iPhones. Or at least most of us do. These smart phones are smarter than the average smart phone. They can do zillions of things like check your e-mail, surf the web. track your investments and thousands and thousands of other things. GPS, movies, radio, on and on. The iPhone does everything brilliantly -- except make and receive phone calls. Guy next door has one. Our houses are attached. In order to have a phone conversation he has to be outside on the porch.

The iPad is similar, except no phone and it's bigger. The iPod, Pad, Phone, all have one thing in common: the iPitch. No one but no one on the internet or in the computer business can push ads -- mostly self ads -- into your eyeballs. Everything comes with an iPitch. We all know the internet is one big sales tool, decorated with most of the world's knowledge, speculation, unedited news and edited news, videos, porn and propaganda as decoration. We live with the ads because the decoration is so useful.

Apple knows how to maintain the "cool" factor. All their stuff is the very definition of the word. But as soon as you buy the latest cool tool, you get inundated with stuff they want you to do -- because they profit from it. "Garage Band?" "iWorks?" "Safari?" Extraneous stuff that ties you to the company. As soon as you've spent the rent on "apps," and such, they come out with a new version, which they then iPitch to you.

So, what do you do if you want a small, portable, internet ready computer? An iPad? Or are you better off with the more standard mini computers from companies like HP or Asus or Acer or Toshiba or Dell? Consumer tip: if you go for any of these minis, buy one that DOESN'T have Windows 7 "Starter Edition." All that it starts is the Microsoft version of the iPitch, which is "UPGRADE NOW OR I WILL KILL THIS PUPPY!"

But that iPad is soooo coooool. Maybe it's worth the iPitch to have one. Or not.


Shrapnel:

--Father's Day Goofiness: "Hello Dad, the people at Hallmark insist that I call you today." It's a good thing Hallmark doesn't tell this obedient fellow to jump off the roof.

--Father's day started in 1909 or so as kind of "counterprogramming" to Mother's Day. Mother's Day is an offshoot of the British "Mothering Day." But neither would still be with us today without, um... Hallmark.

--Was it Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy or "Love Lucy that did a funny bit about vacuum cleaner salesmen damaging things while demonstrating his machine in someone's house? Anyway, life imitates art in Syracuse, NY. There, two salesmen are charged with some crime or other for wrecking a $1300 mattress while demonstrating THEIR machine, but cops aren't saying exactly what damage was done.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

719 Speaking Clumsily

719 Speaking Clumsily

Carl Henric Svanberg must somehow be related to Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean, hotel maven and known for the quote "Only the little people pay taxes." Svanberg is chairman of British Petroleum and told America the other day that he likes, respects and wants to safeguard the "Small People." Later, he apologized for "speaking clumsily" in his general mea culpa to all of us affected by the oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico, which is all of us.

Maybe we should cut him some slack because he's not a native speaker of American English. On second thought, nah. He has enough flunkies to read his comments before he delivers them, and surely some of them know the language.

His apology had an insincere ring reminiscent of Leona's rantings. People speak clumsily all the time. But we Small People resent it when we're all lumped together with everyone with less money than Leona and Gates and Buffett and Carlos Slim and Mike Bloomberg and the Walton family. After all, we're the guys who keep BP and its rivals (or co-conspirators) in business.

Some have called for the federal government to take control of BP. That same government has done such a fine job taking over General Motors and some banks, that maybe they should nationalize the thing. Then combine it with GM and AIG. Form a new mega-conglomerate. Call it G-Paig. It'll confuse all the former lobbyists on the boards of the so-called regulatory agencies, it'll confuse Wall St. It'll confuse the lobbyists who haven't yet made the transition from bag men to federal agents. And it will confuse the Small People.

No. Wait. The Small People already are confused. Mystified, maybe. The latest nonsense comes from BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, who says it's too early to tell what caused the initial explosion. No it ain't. It was caused by cheapness. It was caused by watching the bottom line more carefully than watching the hardware. And the people. It was caused by slapdash construction on the run. And it was caused by conducting an experiment in deep sea drilling before knowing how it worked.

Hayward is British. So no slack for him on destroying the language, either.

Shrapnel:

--Here's to representative Joe Barton (R-TX,) top House recipient of oil industry campaign contributions and who apologized to the chairman of BP for what he called the government "shakedown" of the oil company. The Republicans were so incensed that they threatened to strip him of his seniority on the energy and commerce committee. But then, congenial old Joe apologized for the apology, so everything's just fine now.

--The minerals agency that should have had a handle on this whole BP situation was founded by Reagan's interior secretary James Watt. A perfect example of how Republicans can "regulate" by putting industry officials and lobbyists in charge of watching the chicken coop. But that's not the worst of Watt's wackiness. This is the guy who wanted all but almost unrestricted wood cutting and ranching on federal lands, something even Reagan didn't like.

--Drill, baby, drill! From now on, unrestricted oil drilling. But the drillers need to be oil executives and the drills need to be electric and the drilling needs to be done while both driller and drill are submerged.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

718 A Feeling For The Organism

718 A Feeling For The Organism

Today, June 16, 2010 would be the 108th birthday of one of the most important people you never heard of. Barbara McClintock, winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine had in her 90 years given important lessons to us all, even those of us who eat corn instead of studying it to death. She was a leader in the field of cytogenics, figuring out cell structure and function and spent most of her career at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a private research lab and now a degree granting institution on New York's Long Island.

Her most important scientific work probably was her discovery of how genes transport from one place to another and turn on and off the characteristics or conditions they control; the theory of "jumping genes." For most of us, that's obscure stuff for which she took gobs of ribbing and bigger gobs of her era's anti-woman mind set. Her Nobel Prize came decades after her discoveries. But her great general lesson for the rest of us was coining or at least popularizing the phrase "a feeling for the organism."

That came in answer to frequent questions that can be paraphrased as "Why do you keep staring at all that corn and all those microscopic thingies." No one knew corn like Dr. M. And there's the concept many of us miss today. She developed a feeling for the organism. Do we?

If BP had a sufficient "feeling for (its) organism," they might have avoided the disaster now plaguing the Gulf Coast and vicinity. If we develop a feeling for another organism, the Tea Party movement, we might be able to stop it. If energy "regulators" had some feeling for THEIR corn, we might not be paying so much for the vegetable today while wasting megatons of it on ethanol. If the cops had developed a feeling for an organism, they might have caught and convicted John Gotti much earlier. If the Pentagon and State Department had developed a feeling for an organism, we might have prevented 9/11.

There are all kinds of things we should be staring at until we can anticipate the next step. How did McClintock know what she knew? Her biographer, Evelyn Fox Keller, who wrote a book with the same title as this posting, quotes her as saying she didn't really know, and going on to add that there are limits to explicit and concrete reasoning, that it's imperative to get inside whatever it is your studying.

As Constantin Stanislavsky told his acting students, "be an orange." It might land you a Nobel Prize.


--Shrapnel:

--So the Pentagon Panners-for-gold have struck or at least found possible trillion dollars in minerals under Afghanistan. This raises two questions: (a) why are the Pentagonistas going prospecting while there's a war to get out of and (b) is this why we're there in the first place? Also, don't get too excited because UN standards mandate a digging process that could mean ten years before they come up with the first rock.

--Things in threes, including the need for repairs: the car, the living room ceiling and now the washing machine. Thank goodness the third one reared its head. Its absence was starting to become worrisome.

--Everyone who bills you wants to be paid electronically. They say it saves you stamps and saves the environment. It certainly doesn't save YOU time, but it gets them their money a lot faster than old fashioned USPS.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010




Monday, June 14, 2010

717 Active Resistance

717 Active Resistance

Now that Toyota's bulletproof reputation is in tatters, it's time to hit them while they're down.

The Camry is almost eleven years old. It was built in the year 1999 but it's a year 2000 model except for the driver's side door, which is a 1997 junkyard replacement following an encounter with a highway railing. Little has gone wrong with this car in the decade it's been on the road. But some time ago, the interior fan quit, and that's a repair no one but the dealer wants to touch.

The local dealer looked it over and decided a small electrical part was at fault and replaced it. The part, an electronic resistor, cost something like 28 bucks. But the bill was $140. What? Well, the "book" says it takes 90 minutes to install this part. The real time is 20 minutes. But dealers go "by the book." Think the "technician" (nee mechanic) got a chunk of that $140? Not likely. And this is nothing new.

Once a 1971 Pontiac Grandville, nicknamed "The Forrestal" for a hood long enough to land an F-14, just like the aircraft carrier of the same name, developed an electric chair problem. The electrical seat would not move. A small rubber connecting sleeve between the seat motor and the seat itself broke, rendering the seat immobile. The part was worth 79 cents. But the repair could not be made without removing the seat and then putting it back, which meant welding. The mechanic (in those days they still called them "mechanics," asked if the position in which the mobile seat froze was comfortable. The answer was "yes." so the repair never was made.

That same car's fan broke, and that time it wasn't a resistor, it was the ventilation motor itself stopped working and they had to saw through the fender wall to replace it.

Customer: "Why don't they make a hole or a little door so replacing the fan would be simple?"

Mechanic: "They do, but only on Cadillacs."

Later, "Customer" owned a Cadillac, a living room on wheels. With a V8 engine that threw a rod and died at 80-thousand miles, stranding the driver.

My kingdom for a horse. And a resistor.



Shrapnel:

--The Broadway revival of "La Cage Aux Folles" has won eleven Tony nominations. The original was a "must-miss" years ago despite a couple of invitations to the theater. At the time, the daily walk to work up 8th Avenue in the 40s was a daily lesson in the transvestite and transsexual subculture, and that was enough.

--There hasn't been a shooting war of international consequence in western Europe since WWII, only places of which you'd never heard in places like the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia. So, apparently, the way to avoid war is to learn geography. Wars no longer occur in places you know, so if you know every place, there'll be no wars.

--Rich at the beer and ribs shop got some cleaning stuff for the kitchen there. Bad news. Like good coffee, good ribs should never be prepared on a clean anything.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

716 Take A Number

716 Take A Number

The markets gyrating and oil spilling into the gulf at who-knows-what-rate, maybe it's time to consider some ways we use numbers.

We all rely on them. We're trained to believe they are immutable, absolute and real. And in a vacuum, they often are. But they're rarely in a vacuum. Given that, it's pretty easy to fudge a figure. But it's not just fudging figures and cooking books that rattle our cages. It's more basic. Numbers, like words, often represent concepts. And when they do, we often don't grasp what they're trying to tell us.

Some examples, starting with little stuff: let's say the temperature on a January night is ten degrees, with the wind blowing from the north at at ten, giving us a wind chill factor that makes it feel like five below zero. C'mon. Five below, eight below, six above? Meaningless. We don't feel the difference. It's cold, and that's all we know. Same in summer. It's 96 degrees on an August evening and the humidity is 85%. You can't tell the difference between 94 and 96, all you know that it's rrrrreally hot and sticky.

The distance between New York and Los Angeles is about 3,000 miles and once you're wheels up, it takes in the neighborhood of six hours until you're wheels down, assuming all goes well, and no one is sets his shoes on fire or smokes in the boys room or loses his temper or makes bomb jokes. To Mars, the trip takes about a year. To Pluto, maybe eight years, which we still can grasp. But how about to the nearest solar system? That's measured in light years and once you're at that level, you have no context, no bearing and no clue.

Let's say a car hits a light pole in front of your house. End results include a busted up car, a busted up light pole and some cuts and bruises. Easy to understand. But if it's a 200 car pileup on the highway, even if you see the video on television, you have no real understanding of it.

A Marine is killed in Afghanistan. We "get" that and we mourn. Ten or 20 or 50? That we don't conceptualize. It's just numbers and they don't mean anything to us.

A tsunami or hurricane with significant damage? Unless we're there, it's just numbers. Does it make a difference if there are 180 thousand dead and injured and a mere 125 thousand? Of course it does. But it's unlikely we have an emotional understanding from the numbers alone.

Maybe this is built in self protection. Sympathy with a human calamity and making efforts to help are normal human reactions. But were the numbers and the concepts they represent fully able to hit us in the heart, we might be distracted to the point that we no longer could function.

So maybe there's a good reason to keep the "num(b)" in numbers.
Shrapnel:

--Anyone want an extra 716 commas, unused and in their original wrapping? They're the ones that haven't been placed between "own" and "but" in the signoff below. Thanks to all who advised against using them, which is everyone who responded.

--Congrats to the Blackhawks, winner of this year's Stanley Cup. First time since 1961. We Islander fans can sympathize.

--What goes around comes around. New York State has changed the background of its license plates to yellow, which last was used in 1986. Once again, cops on your tail will be able to read your tag.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

715 Oil Doesn't Kill People

715 Oil Doesn't Kill People...

People do. You have to understand what's going on in the Gulf of Mexico. There's a big oil spill from an offshore rig run by BP and built in part by Dick Chaney's "former" company, Haliburton. There was an explosion and it killed eleven men on the platform, men whose wives say there was plenty of trouble there before the Big Bang, plenty of warning something awful was about to happen.

But please, you tree hugging environmentalist wackos, this "spill" is enormously beneficial for the United States. BP, the fourth largest corporation on the planet has done you a huge favor, and what's your reaction? You moan and groan about contaminated water, the bumbling efforts to control the outflow (Why control it? It's good for you!) And there are egrets or some other over breeding birds dead, but we have too many of those and the geyser from miles below the surface of the water is serving to thin the flock -- which everyone knows needed thinning.

Then there are the fishermen who say their ability to catch has been hobbled. Nonsense. These guys just don't want to have to clean the oil balls off the bottoms of their boats. Lazy lot, they are.

And the sorry lot of tourist bureaus who say this'll kill the industry. Nonsense. Oil is good for you. Once the weather warms, the tourists will flock to Florida, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana to bathe in the skin-soothing stuff, maybe snitch some samples to put in their cars or to cook.

The unemployment rate in the region soon will plummet. This "disaster" has or will create tens of thousands of "clean up" jobs. And they have to move fast with that, before the hurricane season. Those storms'll blow all that stuff away and everything will be back to normal before they collect more than a couple of paychecks. Or it'll put all the oil on shore where the wages are lower.

This is good for the economy in other ways. For example, it'll make oil a little scarcer raising the price a penny or two at the gas pump and helping civic minded oil companies all over the world and their stockholders and executives to prosper.

So stop maligning BP. They are our ally not our enemy. And while your at it, stop blaming Bush and Cheney. They were long out of office when this all happened. And as Jules Feiffer wrote in the mid 1950s "Big black floating spots are good for you." He was talking about floating air pollution. But floating at sea is just as good.

Shrapnel:

--Okay, grammar police, this is for you. In the sign-off on these posts, should there be a comma between "my" and "but?" Comments welcome.

--In response to a survey, United Airlines has sent a letter of apology. "Sorry for the inconvenience." When are people going to learn the difference between inconvenience and disruption?

--The Wall St. Journal reports that cheetah's like the scent of Calvin Klein scents. Nice to know someone does. But for this we need the WSJ?



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Monday, June 07, 2010

714 Rosebud & Book Look

714 Rosebud & Book Look

Here's to Rosebud Butts. Who? Just one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century and an unsung and often unknown hero to millions, a guy who could have gotten a patent but didn't. Robert Rosebud Butts invented Long Island Iced Tea in 1976 at the Oak Beach Inn, a thorn in the side of many a neighbor and a gathering spot -- later several gathering spots -- for Long Islanders who couldn't or didn't or wouldn't make it to the Hamptons.

Long Island Iced Tea is a worldwide phenomenon, now more than 30 years after its invention, which may have been an accident. 1976, it was. The drink has vodka, rum, tequila, gin, a little cola and a lemon. There are variations, of course. But it's a powerhouse which when poured into a tall glass looks like iced tea. Goes down like a coke, kicks like an NFL player.

But like so much else these days, it is deteriorating. People put all kinds of junk in it. Bitters in Britain, sour mix in New Zealand. It's the kind of thing you think of when you look at your liquor cabinet and realize that every bottle is down to the end. What to do? Throw it all in together and see what happens. After two of them, no one cares anyway. Except where they replace the tequila with peach schnapps. Yech!

The OBI is gone now, paved to make a highway, to the relief of area people who didn't want a road but wanted the OBI less. Rosebud's gone, too.

In its purest form, it is the most significant Long Island agricultural product since the potato.


Book Look

What Hath Bush Wrought? John Wydra (Infinity Publishing)

Friend and former colleague John Wydra is one of those guys with a basso that fills a room and is the envy of us mere baritones in radio. Unfortunately, when we get to meet some guys who sound like that, they often to turn out more Ted Baxter than Ed Murrow. Not this time. An actual working brain pilots John's solid And sound knowledge of what's right and what's wrong. And a respect for facts. The book, published in 2009, came across the desk recently and the first reaction was "can't we get over Bush?" After reading it, the only possible answer is "No, we can't and we shouldn't." Why? Maybe in knowing about what the guy did will prevent us from a repeat performance by someone else.

Wydra wrote this thing as if it were an ongoing news story and that's what it is. In it you will find a huge, well indexed, well attributed and sourced collection of the combination Three Stooges-Dracula administration we labored through for eight years. Every known mis or mal deed we know of is here.

Iraq, the war on terror, the cover-ups, the corruption in great detail. Of particular interest was what went on and didn't go on during with the various financial, consumer and environmental watchdogs, which in large part explains where America is these days. There's a bit about Bush's relationship to the Enron scandal. There's Katrina. And there's a long chapter giving historical perspective. You'll find more than you want to know written in a serious grown up manner by a serious grownup.

Amazon has it. So does the publisher. You can get a preview on John's Website which well worth checking out for a "wyde" ranging look at the world around us.

Richards Readometer Rating: 1. No question (But it's already a paperback.)
===Readometer Key:
1 - Buy it.
2 - Wait for the paperback.
3 - Take it out of the Library.
4. Flip through it at the book store.
5. Forget it.


Shrapnel:

--There's rarely anything good to say about Big Pharma, but here's a one-time exception for Bristol-Myers Squibb. They've come up with a drug (ipilimumbab) that fights tumors and apparently can dramatically increase the survival rate for people with melanoma, which kills 50-thousand people worldwide each year. It's on fast track approval testing at the FDA and may be available by December, 2010.

--Antioch University is like the weather in Taiwan and in central Pennsylvania -- if you don't like it, hang in there, it'll change in a short time. The school has renamed its adult distance learning school "Antioch Midwest," according to new president Michael Fishbein. This is the fifth name change since the division's founding in the 1970s.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Friday, June 04, 2010

713 Nothing Has Changed But the Distance

713 Nothing Has Changed But the Distance

What's wrong with us, anyway? Have we forgotten how to talk with one another? Have we forgotten how to work together? Have we forgotten that we're all Americans? Nothing here changed during the month abroad. But the month gives us distance and maybe perspective. And from this perspective, even the good guys in government and politics are bad.

Seven thousand miles off shore, it's easy to forget the Palins and the tea party and the Keystone Kops Congress. From a distance, we look like a bunch of nut jobs and NOBODY is running the asylum. The two major parties in Taiwan are as vigorous a pair of opponents as anyone can imagine. But when push comes to shove, it's country first and party second. They have differing views about the role of government. And about relations with the mainland, about 140 miles away, shore to shore. But they don't try to destroy each other as we do here. At least not so's you can see it.

We have returned to continued nattering about minutia. We have returned to a place where efforts to contain the largest oil contamination in our history are offset by drilling still more potentially dangerous wells. We have returned to periodic stock market mini-melt downs caused by... what? Human error at a computer terminal? Or nerves about what's happening to two countries of the European Union, one small and one medium? Free market, or fear market?

We return to the continuing battle between those who want "small" government (which really means no government or anarchy,) and those who want to maintain fairness and at least nominal equality. And they are beating each other to death.

When you read or view or listen to the news, can you conclude anything other than "everything's a crisis!"

The philosopher and social critic Charles A. Richards of Austin TX likens us to a scorpion stinging itself to death for want of an external enemy. If you think that's extreme, take a closer look at the debate over Arizona's immigration "reform" law and its ripple effects.


Shrapnel:

--Fox Business Network reports NBC Chief Jeffy Zucker has a 30-40 million dollar golden parachute in place for when Con Cast takes over. A brilliant producer, but not much of a network CEO. Forty million?

--Speaking of Fox TV, with Simon Cowell of the show, will anyone watch "American Idol" next season? There's no reason to unless you like to hear the screeching that passes for singing these days. Maybe they can get "correspondent" Sarah Palin as a replacement for Cowell.

--Art Linkletter has died at the age of 97, leaving behind a zillion acre ranch in Australia and what's left of the profits from his ownership of the tourist film sale concession stands at Disneyland, not to mention decades of vapid television. He tried to lure us into the Norman Rockwell myth and in many cases, succeeded. He elevated the banal into high art, which did no good for art, but plenty of good for Art.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

712 Sam, So So, Milk, Nellie

712 Sam, So So, Milk, Nellie

The previous post, 711, is the final thought on the Taiwan trip. This was written earlier.

(Taipei) -- Anyone here who deals with the tourists has an English name. A reliable source says many of them will use any English word with a sound they like. Hence, says the source, we have people named "Milk" and "So-so" or Nellie or Daisy or Sam. Sam is the young guy who owns the 7-11 right downstairs. He must be all of 28 or 30 and he works a zillion hours a week in his little store.

Sam does not speak a word of English, or at least he didn't at the start of this trip. Now, he can say "hello." Your correspondent came over here with maybe a dozen words in Mandarin, and the count may be up to 14 or 15 by now. So Sam's not doing badly. No matter. Young Sam is something we don't have as much of in the US anymore. He's a merchant. He knows what his customers want and he gives it to them. Beer, wine, liquor, candy, laundry detergent, thousand year old eggs, newspapers, paper and plastic cups, dish washing liquid, phone cards, Milk from cows, soy beans, almonds. Eighty varieties of tea. Cigarettes (way cheap.) Microwaveable burgers and sandwiches and salads (awful!), what ever.

There is no charge for the microwaving. But if you want your stuff in a plastic bag, there's a $1.00 NT charge -- about four cents, USD. Sam likes it when the Americans arrive. They all want bags. That's a profit center. This trend already has made its way to the States. But not as thoroughly as it has here. They don't have nearly as much land to fill. This guy works hard for the money. He's in at the crack of dawn, he's out... very late. If we all worked like this guy, we'd be dead. Here -- to repeat a phrase more than is proper -- the furious energy of Chinatown carries him along.

The translators are reluctant to question Sam closely. They don't want to seem nosey. Very Chinese, but not great for reporting. So, young Sam will remain only an outline for us. But please remember that the last major great merchant in the United States, Sam Walton, built an empire. Maybe this Sam will, too. And with any luck, he'll treat his employees better than Mr. Walton.

We have not met So-so or Milk. Nellie Wong (aw' c'mon!) was a fellow student in the grad school days. But these are the kinds of monikers that are used here now. Brother in law Tien Chi calls himself Tony, sometimes. Does this work in reverse? Right now, Uncle Kung the Younger (now about 80,) is trying to figure out a Chinese name for your correspondent. Uncle Kung the Older (age 90) doesn't want to have anything to say in the matter.

Shrapnel:

--There are Apple "i" Stores all over the place here. But you still can't buy an iPad. The gizmo went on sale in Japan and in Australia this weekend and stores were mobbed, but Taiwan will have to wait.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010