Monday, October 31, 2011

933 Home (Page) Improvement

933 Home (Page) Improvement

Sometimes, people who’ve had high energy and good ideas run out of good ideas before they run out of energy and that almost always spells trouble.

Example:  In his first term, Giuliani cleared the streets of squeegee men, went after low level criminals and in both cases rode the wave of generally decreasing crime.  In his second term, he was out of ideas but not out of steam and opened a Pandora’s box of nonsense that pretty much negated everything good he’d accomplished or taken credit for accomplishing earlier.

Facebook was a great idea.   But you see what’s happened there.  Every time you blink, they have a new revision that makes the site less navigable and more complicated than it should be.

Yahoo has been doing the same by “improving” its mail service, with about the same result.

And now comes Google.  The whole idea behind this outfit was speed and simplicity.  Along the way, they’ve acquired a bunch of companies and integrated them nicely with their main business, the fastest, largest simplest search engine.

And they’ve gotten more complicated than the need to.  They are forever giving their products new “improved” looks, feels and operating instructions.

“Google (insert product name) has a new look.”  How many times a month do you see that?  They were fine to start.  Sometimes, they make actual improvement (color choices for calendar events, for example.) Most of the time, not.

Google Docs has a new look.  Nothing wrong with the old one.  Google+ has been added.  Hey, guys, we already have Facebook and My Space and Linkedin and who knows what-all that’s similar.

Google Buzz has been subtracted (but [gee whiz] you can keep all your old buzzes if you want them.)

Google Maps for Android is “upgraded” every 20 minutes.  What was wrong with the old version?  Maybe it missed locating two gas stations or saloons that it has now added, and which you don’t much need because there already were enough old ones.

Google, maybe, has too many people with too little to do.  Better to keep making unnecessary changes than to fire people.  But can’t you find something that NEEDS to be done?  You know, like copying more books into Google Books or fighting lawsuits for copyright violations from copying the wrong books into Google Books.

We know you’ve become a corporate giant.  But like your soulmates, Apple and S.C.Johnson-a-family-company, we love you anyway.  

So please stop annoying us with nonsense.  Especially that new “tabs” page that defaults to your app store.

Shrapnel:

--Today, 10/31/11 is Halloween and the birthday of my friend Emma McClain.  Would that she were still among us, she would be 98.  She’s been gone since ‘03 but sometimes she still keeps in touch.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com  (you can use the new look, the old Beta version or the simple HTML version and still get through.)
© WJR 2011





Friday, October 28, 2011

932 The Name Game

932 The Name Game

What’s in a name?  Depends on who you ask.  If you ask the New York Police Department’s “Catch a Muslim By the Toe” Department-of-spying it’s a “tripwire” for detecting potential domestic terrorists.

Yes, the NYPD’s  investigators, reports the Associated Press, are tracking everyone who changes his name.  Everyone.  

So when someone lands here to make a better life (does that still happen?) and changes his name from, say, Rachman Ali to -- oh, maybe Roger Ailes, or Sa’ida Pirvani to Sarah Palin, it’s “tag, you’re it?”

But this is nothing new.  A close relative, Max Rotholz, fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s.  He came here only to find Germans, including German Jews, were looked upon with suspicion.  He got around to changing his name --and those of his American-born wife and children -- in 1952.  "Mark Richards" was not exactly a credible choice, given his accent, his manner and his appearance.  But we lived with it.

By '52, the anti-German thing had faded away, at least in law enforcement circles. But almost 50 years later the immigrant-as-suspect is back with us.

Real Americans don’t change their names.  (Except those in show business.  Oh.  Wait. Show biz types are not real Americans, are they?)

So here’s the NYPD, possibly getting daily printouts of the proceedings of Name Change Court and then staking out the perpetrators.  Maybe they should also stake out the judges.  They, after all, are facilitating terrorism.

Another close relative changed her name to something American on becoming a US citizen.  The judge responsible for that fiasco, was the late Eugene Nickerson who was nominated to the bench by Jimmy Carter, related to John Quincy Adams, and therefore himself automatically suspect.

So bring on the cops.  Andrew (nee Ahmed,) watch your step because we will be watching, too.  You think those traffic cameras only watch traffic?


Shrapnel:

--You can’t make this stuff up:  The Brooklyn Bridge is not for sale but there is one on the market in Frankfurt, Kentucky.  The price is zero.  But here’s the catch:  the “buyer” has to dismantle it and remove it from where it crosses the Kentucky River, move the pieces, set them up as they were originally and then maintain it in usable condition.

--Who says we’re a nation of lawbreakers?  When the Pennsylvania legislature recently outlawed the use of car and truck directional signals, everyone -- everyone -- obeyed immediately.  Now, we have to work on Amish buggy drivers, motorcyclists and bike peddlers, because some of them did not get the message and still use hand signals.

--Failing to signal is a symptom of two things.  Thing one:  “I know what I’m thinking, and you too should know what I’m thinking.”  Thing two: “You don’t exist, so why would I signal in the first place?”

I’m the former Wes Rotholz.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to that phony wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR (the initials didn’t change) 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

931 Let's Go Camping

931 Let’s Go Camping

Perhaps you noticed this:  the world didn’t end on October 21, 2011.  Just as it didn’t end on May 21, 2011 or September 6, 1994.  So engineer-preacher-radio station owner Harold Camping has been wrong three times out of three.  

The latest prediction didn’t get the kind of publicity afforded the one in May, nor did it bring in the bucks.  This time, no one spent his life savings on billboards.  No one looted his kids’ college funds to donate to Camping’s 66 radio stations or his TV stations or even to buy a Rolls as a final resting place.

End time predictions have always been a gold mine of contributions.  Unfortunately, Camping’s engineer-like precision has tarnished the value of that gold if not the price.

If old Har is an end-time extremist, are there end-time moderates?  Not really.  Just people sensible enough to not name a date.

They’re all predicting the end of life as we know it.  Even the atheists among us see reason enough to forecast that -- albeit without the folderol of a Second Coming.  (Or even a first coming for REAL non-believers.)   

Take a look at what’s going on in the world today, whether here or in Europe or the Middle East or anywhere else and look in the mirror and with a straight face say to yourself “this’ll all work itself out.”  

As an aside, there were two relatively small earthquakes in Northern California on October 21st.  They did little damage and killed no one.  Was that a preview of things to come?

In the meantime, the usual collection-plate-passing, fear-mongering end timers will continue their rant, even as prediction after prediction (and the accompanying messiah) fails to materialize.

But you still can don your tin foil hat and join them.  Just bring your checkbook and check your skepticism at the door.


Let’s end with a song.



Shrapnel:

--The jewelry folks must be figuring the price of gold is on the downswing.  For awhile, they stopped offering it for sale and instead hawked sterling silver, rhodium and other lesser metals.  But in the last few weeks, the shopping channels seem to have gotten back into the gold business, offering 14K solid stuff at inflated but not hyperinflated prices.

--Spam of the week:  it’s from someone at yahoo claiming to be the New York State Police and citing a vague traffic law violation in a place never visited.  And they don’t give an address.  Let’s not go camping, let’s go fishing.

--Joe The Plumber whose name isn’t Joe and who isn’t a plumber, is running for congress in Ohio.  Good practice to start a campaign with a couple of lies, because that’s what congressmen do.  But can they fit the name “Wurzelbacher” on the ballot space... something California found tough when Schwarzenegger ran for governor.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.  ®
Please address predictions, death threats and comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

930 The First Hundred Years

930 The First Hundred Years

Quick, name all the logos you can identify instantly at a glance even if there’s no written name along with it.  Unless your head has been in the sand for awhile, there’s the Nike swoosh, the Apple apple, the NBC peacock, the CBS eye and the Target target.

But the one that’s been around longest and probably strongest is the Chevrolet whatever-you-call-that-thing.  For want of an actual name, people have been calling it a “bow tie” since 1913.  The car itself has been around since 1911 and has been part of General Motors since 1918.
That thing

Stories abound about its origin.  Maybe it was a variation of the cross on the Swiss flag (Louis Chevrolet was born in Switzerland.)  Maybe it was a wall paper design co-founder William Durant spotted in a French hotel room.  Or a doodle on a napkin.  No one knows for sure.

What they do know for sure is what the oddly shaped little thing stands for, and that it alone is more valuable a trade symbol than the entire rest of the company that makes it.

But Chevy is more than a car.  As a car, it ain’t all that much.  Never has been. As a symbol of America, the good the bad and the ugly, it’s an institution.

Chevy at 100 has come a long way from the first third of its life, spent as a dowdy cheapie for people who couldn’t afford an Oldsmobile, Mercury or DeSoto.  And although the 1957 Bel Air and Impala have come to represent the 1950s as “The” car, it was the ‘55 that changed everything for the brand.

That’s when they first shucked off frumpy for stylish.  That’s when they first built a small block V-8 with some oomph.  That’s when they first could take a corner at the speed limit without that then-famous stomach turning pogo stick ride.  Everything after that was an add-on.

So while Chevy marks its 100th birthday early next month, in a way it’s also its 56th birthday.  

The company website polled drivers and owners, asking which was the greatest Chevy of all time.  The result:  the 1969 Camaro.  Kind of a knockoff of the 1964 Mustang from rival Ford.  Better late than never.

Every car maker runs into quality problems.  Even currently mighty Toyota and Honda have had their share of recalls, some of them truly serious and potentially deadly.   But Chevy owners know -- and have always known -- from quality problems, both serious and frivolous.

GM is not the worst offender in the defect department.  But there have been years when they came close to leadership.  The Chevette, the Corvair, the SSR.  Oy!  These were chart toppers.  And the Aveo is in a class by itself.  Well, not exactly by itself.  There’s always the Renault Dauphine, the Fiat Multipla and the Yugo.

But no one expects anything of Renault or Fiat and the Yugo was only a Balkanized Fiat to begin with.

Chevy at 100 is, indeed, a symbol of what has always been right and what always has been wrong about cars, and about America.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

929 Greasy Spoon vs. Plastic Spoon

929 Greasy Spoon vs. Plastic Spoon

You walk into an Applebee’s or a TGI Friday or any of that kind of place and you don’t know which one you’re in.  Regardless of theme, they’re all pretty much the same.  Booths, tables, oddball solid objects stuck on the wall interspersed with pictures of dead movie stars or baseball players.

The menus are pretty much the same:  mediocre food that’s both overcooked and overpriced.  The wait staff is pretty much the same, generic college kids.

So is it any surprise that joints like these are going or gone bankrupt left and right?

The website 24/7 Wall Street had a list of them.  Bennigan’s, Ground Round, Bakers Square, Damon’s, Don Pablo’s, Gloria Jean’s, Big Boy, Tony Roma’s, Country Kitchen, Black Angus. All have sales down 60% or more compared with last year.

And it’s no wonder.   But it’s not just the recession and everyone cutting discretionary budgets.

To paraphrase Bill Clinton:  It’s the food, stupid.

You want to spend ten bucks for a burger and fries?  Go to McDonalds.  Bring your own vodka concealed in a water bottle.  Add it to your coke.  Leave with change, not to mention a better burger that doesn’t resemble and/or taste like a hockey puck right when it comes off the grill.

You can “cook” a decent frozen chicken with fettuccine Alfredo in your microwave for a third of the price you’d pay at any of these places.

They’re not greasy spoons.  Greasy spoons still abound, most of them local. Their food often is unhealthy, but it generally tastes okay.  The chain restaurants aren’t really plastic spoons either because the flatware is metal.   It’s the food itself that’s plastic.

And they’re using cheaper plastic for the food than they used to.  Had a Ruby Tuesday burger lately?  They once were pretty good.  Now, not so much.

In any of these places today, you’re paying to see a steamer trunk and a logger’s saw and a clarinet pasted to the wall or a picture of Errol Flynn or Babe Ruth.  Keeps your mind off the taste(less) and your eyes off the dirty carpet.


Shrapnel:

--Ever try “Godfather’s?”  It’s the closest you can get to bad pizza, all of which is at least acceptable.  Thanks, President Cain, for outdoing Domino, Pizza Hut, Papa John and English Muffins with Ketchup cooked in an Easy Bake toy oven for worst pizza in America.

--Inner City Broadcasting is in bankruptcy and founder Percy Sutton must be rolling in his grave and wondering about the competence of his son and heir, Pierre.  A friend asks if the checks are bouncing.  Probably not... yet.

--This kind of thing is becoming far too frequent:  Condolences to the family of Rich Koziol, a fine man, a fine engineer and a wonderful colleague.  Rich was 64.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

928 Balkin' Balkanizers

928 Balkin’ Balkanizers

One of the main problems the American left has faced in the last 100 years or so is Intramuralism.  There are more city-states and duchies than there were in pre-unification Italy, pre-unification Greece and post-Tito Yugoslavia combined.

Every now and then, the games stop long enough to get something done.  But mostly, it’s like the Balkans or eastern Europe.  Don’t draw the map in ink, it’s a waste of paper.

And here it comes again.
Occupy Wall Street numbers among its players a small but vocal group of anti-Semites.  Why and why here?  Because, as we all know, the Jews own the banking system and the financial industry.   Oh.  Wait.  We don’t all know that?  Well, that’s okay.  Those who DO know it will be happy to educate you.

New York and Los Angeles, two of the most Jewish cities and two of the most liberal cities and the two most populous cities in America have started showing signs of this particular form of Balkanizing.

As those notorious Jew Lovers at Al Jazeera recently pointed out, there probably are as many anti-Semites in the Tea Party than there are in OWS, but no one cares about that, certainly not the right wing media which have started focusing on all the anti-Wall Street anti-Jewishness.

At the time the Jewish Banker Myth began, there were none.  Now there are a lot.  But no one cultural group is in charge there.  It’s truly an equal opportunity employer, as long as you’re smart enough, sharp enough, greedy enough and don’t get caught.

You can argue until you’re blue-in-the-face that the anti-Semites are but a small and generally unaccepted part of these demonstrations, and you’d be right.  You can argue until you’re blue-in-the-face that there are plenty of Jews on the protest lines, and you’d be right.  But what you can’t argue is that this kind of sub-sub-sub dividing hurts the cause or causes, promotes internal arguments and diverts resources and human energy from the central focus or focuses.




Shrapnel:

--Watching “Sing Off” is kind of like listening to radio with “pop standards,” jazz or the more earnest “oldies.”  You think you’re back in school as the judges over-analyze just as you do when you hear the announcer name all six members of the Modern Jazz Quartet and their instruments. Just shut up and play the music, ok?

--Viewers of “Playboy Club” who don’t know the show was axed have a little surprise waiting the next time they tune in.  Brian Williams’ new magazine show occupies the spot and NBC has stolen a lot of stars to help, including Harry Smith from CBS, Ted Koppel of Nightline fame and Meredith Vieira who just left “Today,” plus a boatload of new producers from 60 Minutes and elsewhere.  Nice to see someone besides Fox hiring someone besides washed up political hacks.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

927 Let's You and Him Fight

927 Let’s You and Him Fight

In 1981 Eric Berne’s book “Games People Play” was a best seller and it put “transactional analysis” on the cultural map.  One of the games Berne named was “let’s you and him fight.”  That’s where a woman sets things up so two guys fight over her and she walks off with a third guy.

This is what’s being played with some of those who want to escalate “Occupy Wall Street” into a bloody urban battle.

Let’s (you guys) break some windows.  Let’s (you guys) break some heads.  Not to say that would be all bad.  But you don’t much hear that stuff from people on the scene.

Here in central PA a few years ago, we had public disturbance over a football game.  Pretty big by local standards.  Everyone around here called it a “riot.”  It wasn’t.  People who used the term -- and that’s everyone from the cops on up and on down -- have never been in or near a riot. Distance changes perception -- both ways.

This space has long said that people who weren’t in New York or Washington on 9/11/01 don’t get the Trade Center or Pentagon attacks.  Distance again.

And those of us who aren’t in one of the more than 100 locations playing (reluctant?) host to Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots and siblings can see the situation in several ways.

We look at the police handling of the protesters in New York and it seems more violent than it might actually be.  Or we look at the protesters themselves and say “they don’t know what they want, they don’t know anything and they don’t have a plan.  They’re just a bunch of shaggy, scruffy college students.”  Neither of these perceptions is necessarily true.

Distance.

A third way of looking at all this is “let’s you and him fight.”  We’ll come down on the side of a “third guy.”

Good will come of the protests.  But blood will be spilled.  Righteous corporate income will be sacrificed along with the nefarious profits that should be destroyed along with the people who take rather than earn them.

In point of fact, most of us are being screwed, which is nothing new.  Unscrewing requires a reexamination of one of the basic axioms of American business:  “Profit and growth ueber alles.”  Nothing wrong with making a profit, and growing.  But how much and how much?  And in what way and on whose back?

Wall Street’s answer to this has been “you don’t understand the wonderful things we do for you.”  Oh, yes we do.


Shrapnel:

Herman Cain’s tax plan?  He calls it 9-9-9.  Should be nein-nein-nein.

--Another one bites the dust:  ABC cancelled the remake series “Charlie’s Angels” almost as fast as NBC cancelled “The Playboy Club.”  Guess viewers just aren’t into pretty girl nostalgia.



I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

926 The Cult

926  The Cult

The Guy in the Sky, if there is one, must be laughing.  Down here on earth, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) is keeping his distance from those of his supporters who say “Mormonism is a cult.”  He does this because the fellow who will roll over him like a Sherman tank passing over a blade of grass for the Republican presidential nomination is a Mormon.  This is just politics.  Or is it?

Mitt Romney, in all his technocratic plastic, robotic and teenage girlie temper tantrumosity is no less qualified to be president than the rest of the sorry pack he appears to be leading.  That is to say we’re going to get a bum deal no matter who runs and who wins.

But it’s not because he’s a member of a church with the word “Christ” in its formal name and at the same time is accused of being “not Christian.”  You’d think the name would demonstrate sufficiently the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ view of itself and ward off that kind of challenge.

Actually, the Mormons are at a slight strategic advantage over their accusers.  They have a long history of being mocked, oppressed and isolated.  So reason dictates that at least some among them can transfer lessons learned to others who are mocked, oppressed and isolated.

A cult is nothing but an organization -- usually a pretty zealous organization -- with which you disagree.  Most can be fought on rational grounds.  Resorting to name calling is a last ditch effort of the fearful.

It’s the same kind of crap Al Smith faced when running for President.  It’s the same kind of crap JFK faced when running for President.  Both those guys were Roman Catholic.  And Smith’s era was a little more dignified in its mud-slinging. But just a little.

What about the guys who define Christianity so narrowly as to eliminate anyone but themselves.  Is THAT a cult?

So if you want to oppose Romney as a candidate and as not-conservative-enough, there’s plenty there.  And if you want to oppose him as too-conservative, the reasons multiply like rabbits.

Yes, the LDS church has beliefs and practices that are, well, different.  And they don’t help themselves with the general public by keeping a lot of them secret.  But, then, neither do the Scientologists, the Rosicrucians and the Masons, the Skull and Bones and the police department.

Shrapnel:

--Here’s a quote from Chairman Joe:  “No Mormon ever called me ‘Jewboy.’”  Not to his face, anyway.

--The hits just keep on coming.  RIP Bill Brown, late of CBS/FM the poster boy for disc jockeys in that format.  Bill was 69.

--RIM should change its name from Research In Motion to RSM, Really Slow Motion.  Another day, another multi-continent Blackberry outage.  CBS on-line Headline:  “Rim Promises Improvements, Users Scoff.”


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

925 Nobel Prizes

925 Nobel Prizes

There should be a Nobel Prize for stating the obvious because that’s what many of the winners do.  This year’s economics award goes to two guys who figured out that economic policy and government spending have something (not sure what) to do with economic results.

Duh!

Spend more than you have and you get into debt which sometimes you can’t pay back.  Spend less than you have and you can save some money.

Who knew?

At some future date, the Nobel Prize in Physics will go to someone for discovering that “When you drop something it goes down, not up.”    The Peace Prize will go to someone from a country you never heard of where war between two factions has raged for 600 years and the discovery will be “if you stop shooting, you can at least talk about your differences and maybe even agree on some compromises.”

Of course, in recent years, the peace prize has gone to some people who either started wars or egged them on or did nothing or had no hand in either their start or their end.  Barack Obama (2009), Jimmy Carter (2002), Yassir Arafat (1994), Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho (1973).  In 11 of the last 110 years, the committee didn’t award any peace prize at all, a choice that should have been increased by at least four, if not more.

Alfred Nobel was an arms maker and the inventor of dynamite.  No Peace Prize winner, he.  But like the Rockefellers, the Fords, and Andrew Carnegie, guilt closes in, sometimes after the fact.  Hence, a lot of nouveau millionaires with medals.

The literature prize?  Often a prize for making the clear obscure.  You ever read any of these winners?  Some, you have to (Faulkner, Steinbeck, Camus, Sartre, Toni Morrison.)  Half the time you go away saying “huh?”

To its credit, the Nobel Foundation has added only the economics prize to the original list in Nobel’s will.  These days, it’s surprising they give no medals to “Best Rap Video,” “Coolest Electronic Gadget,” “Most Corrupt Politician,” “Knuckle-draggingest College Football Team” or “Dumbest Starlet.”

But the Prize of Prizes still should be for Stating the Obvious.




Shrapnel:

--Amber Miller, 27, of Westchester, Illinois, ran the Chicago marathon and immediately afterward gave birth to a baby girl, described by her doctor as “healthy.”  She said she ran the race at 39 weeks pregnant because “I’m crazy about running.”  Only the first two words of that quote count.

--You need this but don’t know it.  Exam gloves for typing on a computer.  Else, there’s no way to keep the keyboard clean and smudge free.  Keyboards are made of the same stuff as eyeglasses, which also are impossible to keep clean and smudge free.

--In St. Mary’s Georgia, Camden County is thinking about using prison labor to fight fires.  They want to put several cons in each firehouse, supposedly saving about half a million dollars a year.  Some places just can’t get rid of that slave mentality.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011