Wednesday, January 30, 2013

1129 Frank

1129 Frank

No one called him that.  Everyone knew him as “Bubby.”  He was a meter reader for Con Ed.  Made a decent living.  Not a fortune, but enough to drive a Packard, the clipper model, a little down scale but still a Packard.

Bubby had a union card.  He had a route.  He’d amble through his days looking at electric meters and gas meters and writing down what he saw, then get into his green Packard Clipper and deliver the results.

Guys like this are still out there, but not for long.  The electric companies of America are replacing the meter readers with digital devices.  The modern era has arrived.

But the modern era techno-Bubbies don’t just write down what the little dials on the meter say.  The new brainy digital stuff knows what you use and when you use it.  Is your washing machine certified Energy Star?  They know by how much electricity you use for it and when you use it.

Is that fair? Is it right?  Well, today, saving money on (unionized) workers is the current Big Thing.  It’s almost as important as outsourcing and “offshoring.” Bubby’s heirs in south Queens will have to find other work.  Con Ed doesn’t need them anymore.

Frank was good to his mother and father.  And mom and dad respected him.  He was a diligent worker with a good trade.  His brother John was a construction guy.  They haven’t yet figured out how to replace him with a microchip.  If he’s still alive, he’s probably still working and probably at the age of 108.

John was less pretentious than Bubby.  He drove a Renault.  Gotta have a cheap car when you’re in a trade that has ups and downs like installing PermaStone.  Still, no microchip can do that.

You have to go with progress.  No doubt about that.  But what else do they find out about you by knowing about every kilowatt minute you use and when you use it?

The family -- Ozone Park people -- was not against technology.  Bubby was the first guy on his block with a tape recorder.  The parents were the first on the block to have a television, and we’d gather in their yard or on their porch to watch blurry black and white TV shows.

What, one wonders, would they think of technology that put people out of work and gave big corporations the inside scoop on when you run your flat-screen, your computer, your washing machine and your wireless telephone?

So, here’s to the memory of Bubby, a nice Italian boy from Southern Queens, a prince of labor with a clipboard and a green Packard Clipper and a welcoming smile.  A guy who could make a shut off notice seem like a birthday card.  A guy who could fudge the figures when you weren’t up to paying your bill.  Which, of course, he would never do.  Never.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

1128 Four Wheels and An Engine

1128 Four Wheels and An Engine

Cars are getting better all the time.  Better gas mileage.  Fewer emissions. Better construction.  More sensible and safer interiors.  Better visibility.

And it doesn’t matter whether the maker is one of the majors like Toyota, GM and Ford (the current iteration of the “Big Three”) or one of the margin players like Subaru which has become bigger because college professors and aging hippies no longer can buy Saabs; same with  Chrysler and Germany’s Big Two.  They’re all better than they used to be.

But still:  four wheels and an engine.

What happens when these guys stray from the basic formula?  They go out of business.  Anyone seen a Messerschmitt three wheeler lately?  How about the flying cars and the cars that turn into boats?  Nope.  Four wheels and an engine.

This same principle applies to other large, complex and customer-dependent corporations.

Which brings us to the two major political parties.

But wait, you may be saying:  political parties aren’t industrial companies building durable goods.  They’re representative of ideas, actions, ideals, principles.

Really?

The parties are private corporations with huge government and private subsidies that produce one product and one product only:  elected officials.

Just like Chevy and Fiat.

When they stray from their version of four wheels and an engine, they go out of business.  

The Republican Party has long been thought of as “the party of business.”  But they’ve lost the blueprints and they’re heading for chapter seven.  They are not doing their jobs.  They are not producing winners.

Their showrooms are dingy.  Their production lines are antiquated and so are their body designs.  

They keep pushing niche cars, when their bread and butter is four wheels and an engine.

Ford learned early on there was no market for Mercury.  Chrysler and GM have each shut down two major brands.  The market wasn’t there.

GM knows there’s just so far it can promote Cadillac.  Car buyers know niche when they see it.  The main GM players are Buick and Chevrolet.

What does a car builder or any other large corporation do when sales slump?  Generally, they fire the top brass and start over.  For Republicans, the time to do that is now.

Oh... and efforts to prevent people from shopping the competition don’t work, either.  So trying to block Democratic Party voters with phony i.d. laws or changing the way a state distributes its electoral votes for President isn’t going to work.  You have to make something people want to buy, as all you free marketeers seem to know but do nothing about.

The job of a party is manufacturing winners.  Any other business that has done things any other way has failed or will fail.

The Dems have their niche cars, too.  But they know they’re niche cars.  

So if you don’t want to be the Whigs or the New York Liberal Party or the Greens, throw the bums out.  Start over.

Stop being the party of no.  Stop, as the governor of Louisiana said, being the party of stupid.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

1127 Sorority Equality Fraternity

1127 Sorority Equality Fraternity

French motto makers will be rolling in their graves over that one.  But this is the 21st century and now, the Pentagon has knocked down one of the last bastions of male exclusivity, the battlefield.  Can the New York Friar’s club be far behind?

All of a sudden, it’s okay.  A day or two ago, it wasn’t.  What changed?  Times? The whim of the Department of Defense?  The number of women who can carry a 60 pound backpack while performing a timed run of between 1 and a half and three miles?  

(The various service branches have different specifics in basic training, another point of inequality, but the services have different needs.)

The Secretary of Defense says the physical requirements will be the same for men and women.  Certainly they will be at the beginning.  And certainly there is no scarcity of women with those qualifications.

Can any woman qualify for the Navy SEALS or the Army Special Forces?  Hard to tell.  The best guess is probably not.  At least not now.  But who knows what the future will bring?

Combat readiness and experience certainly will be helpful in post-military civilian life.  Guy knows the woman he’s about to attack has this training will think twice before he tries anything funny and will get the surprise of his life if he doesn’t know but tries anyway.

But that’s a side issue, though a decent one.

The public eventually will get used to this.  Many of you can remember when a woman firefighter, cop, letter carrier, railroad engineer or doctor was either non-existent or rare.

Now, it’s normal and no one seems to give it a second thought.  How long did that take?  Not long.  There are continuing objectors, but they’re the same cranky types who object to women doing anything but baking pies and popping out litters of children.  (The objectors’ club isn’t all male.)




Shrapnel:

--Women in combat are not the only potential “new equals.”  The people who give out the Hollywood awards are thinking about dropping gender requirements for actor, actress, and so on.  Great if it happens because the presentation TV shows will shorten enough to fit in their time slots.

--When the Republican Party calms down and returns to normal, it probably will become the source of the first woman President of the United States.  But not until the Palins and Bachmanns and Coulters and their male counterparts are shifted back to the margins from which they came.

--A friend suggests that men should be allowed to work as nannies and he’s right.   Not that they’re barred from those jobs by anything but the unwillingness of people to hire male help of that kind or the agencies’ apparent reluctance to list them.  And given the antics of many of the women who do those jobs, giving some men those jobs sounds better all the time.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

1126  Sleep On It

Frustrating!  Buying a mattress is pretty close to the way you had to buy used cars in olden days.

The “old” mattress here is not so old, but it’s worn out. (No snide comments, please, about either laziness or athletic activities!)  Still have three years to go on its “unconditional” ten year warranty.  This is a problem, since the maker went out of business two or three years ago.   So much for “buy local.”

We are inundated with ads for mattresses with user-variable firmness (a glorified airbag with a remote control,) mattresses made of “space age” materials that didn’t exist a generation ago and “conform to your body shape.”  (Most of us would rather not be reminded of our body shape, thank you.)

We are inundated with ads for phone order warehouses (“leave the last ‘s’ off for savings.”)

Even shopping TV sells mattresses, and offers “White Glove Service,”  which means they don’t just plop the thing at your front door, they’ll go upstairs, set it up and then take the old one away.

Customer:  Does your 30 day return policy apply to mattresses?
Customer service rep: Of course, sir.

But it really doesn’t.  You’ve already let them take the old one away.  And when you sleep on the floor, your body shape conforms to it, not the other way around.

Most people seem not to care all that much about which of the handful of jointly or private equity fund-owned mattresses they buy, they just want a decent night’s sleep.

Sealy owns Stearns & Foster and Bassett and in turn is owned by KKR, the private equity company which bought it from Bain Capital.   Simmons and Serta are jointly owned but operated more or less separately by Ares Capital and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Got all that?  No?  Okay, here’s a summary:   all the major brands are owned by two entities neither of which has anything but a financial interest and a fixation on the bottom line.  And it’s not YOUR bottom we’re talking about here.

There are no “mattress guys” in the mattress business as there are no “car guys” left in the auto business.

Which brings us to the used car lot aspect of the “buying experience,” as retailers now call shopping.

A carnival atmosphere.  “Yay! You’ve come to the right place.  Tell ya what I’m gonna do.”  Forced, in your face “friendliness.”  You wonder where all the guys who sold Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Plymouths and Mercurys went?  Now you know.

It’s hard to deal with the big tooth human hovercraft at the Mattress Carnival.

At classier shops, the sales people have smaller smiles and correspondingly smaller teeth.  But they all sell the same stuff.  And usually at the same price.

So, you pick your poison:  glad handed to death or intimidated.

The big stores and the chain stores have too many choices.  Confusing.  The small stores have too few.  

So maybe the answer is to find an empty cover and a dealer in hay and straw.  Stuff your own.  It’s like having one of those adjustable firmness air mattresses without the remote control.  But much cheaper.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

1125 Near Death of a Dinosaur

1125 Near Death of a Dinosaur

The new phone book has arrived.  The official, baby bell edition, not one of the 234 imitators trying to compete for a shrinking ad dollar as printed phone books go the way of printed newspapers.

The arrival once was a cause for celebration.   Admit it:  when it arrived each year, you checked to see if you were correctly listed.  You looked up friends.  You sunk your teeth into the Yellow Pages, once the second most important reference book in your library... after the unabridged dictionary.

In the five boroughs of New York, the dropping of the books in front of your apartment door sounded like a series of gunshots.  The books were heavy.  Crack! Crack! Crack!   In the suburbs they made a satisfying thump as someone heaved them into your driveway.

Even in rural America, you could hear the books drop.

Not anymore.

Phone books?  Phone pamphlets is more like it.

No residential listings.  Just white page business phones and yellow page ads for lawyers and pizza.

The phone company tells you if you want to look up a number, go to their website.  Okay.  When you go there, it asks you to choose a state.  Okay.  When you go there it asks you to choose a place.

If you place isn't listed, you’re out of luck.  You can, for now, get a free copy of the residential directory by calling and begging and threatening.

But wait, you’re saying now: there are all kinds of websites that give you phone numbers.  Yes, but gradually, they’re moving behind their own paywalls.  Even the once-excellent MSN White Pages has scarcely any free lookups left.

Google dropped its pretty good phone search function years ago.

So now, it’s MSN, Spokeo, and three dozen other pay-per-view sites.  Expensive.  Often inaccurate or outdated.

There is an advantage.  Everyone has an unlisted phone number without paying the customary fee for it.  But even that has a downside.  Robocalls are made by dialing random numbers.   So Senator Klutz can still reach out and touch you.

Current conventional scientific wisdom has it that common birds are the descendents of dinosaurs.  Perhaps so.  And as Whateversaurus Rex has shrunk into a pigeon, so have the Great Phonebooks of the past have shrunk into anemic booklets.

You know what happens to you when you stand beneath a perched pigeon at exactly the wrong time, right?

Well, don’t stand under the new phonebook, either.  You never know.

Shrapnel:

--Today is inauguration day.  It also is Martin Luther King Jr. day.  We note with sadness as we do each year at this time that people have still not gotten his message but merrily and in tones of great authority co opt his image and memory for their own agendas.

--Anyone else bothered by Ford’s current slogan “Go Further?”  It’s go farther, people.  Farthermore, it’s hard on the ears.

--So a former fast peddler is now a back peddler.  Lance Armstrong “tells all” about his doping to Oprah in efforts to resurrect his image.  Move over, OJ and all the steroid-shamed professional athletes, make room for your fellow phony, Mr. Bicycle and save some room for the guy with the fake girlfriend while you’re at it.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

1124 Cannonballs

1124 Cannonballs

Just over two years ago, we had some advice for President Obama which he did not take.  We praised his intelligence, sensitivity and good heartedness, but also suggested in fairly blunt terms wrapped in a history lesson that he should display a little anger and a little backbone to re-tell the main point in euphemisms.

With the string of executive orders about guns, he finally has come around.  But by now, the opposition that was treading water in 2010 has learned speed swimming and how to use Vladimir Siminov’s ingenious APS underwater rifle.

Efforts to deny the president his rights under Article II of the Constitution will fail.  But not completely.  The disloyal opposition has Obama in its sights and those underwater rifles (really!) have had almost 40 years to prove themselves, and they have.

And the thing we forget about executive orders is that the next executive in the oval office can reverse them.

And the thing Obama never dealt with is the moron opposition in congress, where Representatives pretty much live in gerrymandered districts and therefore are responsible only to their own particular amen choruses (Thanks for that phrase, Patrick Buchanan) and have little to no regard for the national interest.

Even some former NRA lobbyists have little argument with the Obama plan.  The main guy in that corner is one Richard Feldman who heads the Independent Firearms Owners Association and is author of the book “Ricochet... the Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist.”  Feldman says some of what the President wants makes sense.  Tepid.  Odd, considering the source.  But a good beginning.

It’s likely the NRA thinks Feldman, a Washington lawyer, is right up there with Benedict Arnold and the Rosenbergs.  And the degree of his or his organization’s influence may be small.  But it’s a thread to pull.

To read the post from November 8, 2010, click here.  (caution, minor adult content.)


Shrapnel:

--So far, the highlight of American Idol Season 12 is the faux war between judges Mariah Carey and Nikcki Menaj.  Beneath her clown suit and wigs and her indescribably bad records, Menaj has shown a little technical knowledge of music.  Carey is the brain dead answer to “X-factor” judge Britney Spears only older, better looking and with a legitimate claim to musical artistry.

--You have to feel sorry for poor Jamie Dimon, CEO of the Chase bank and whose salary has been slashed in half because of last year’s huge trading losses and to show regulators that the bank’s board of directors is a dandy watchdog.  Dimon was unfazed.  You would be too, if you took home a mere 11 million dollars a year even though it was cut from more than 23 million.

--Boeing’s “Dreamliner” could be a nightmare for the company now that everyone on earth has grounded it because its batteries catch fire.  You’ve heard this here before:  it’s always the low tech stuff that screws up, things like O-rings, the glue that doesn’t hold fast and allows heat shields to fall off, seats that come loose and seat belts that don’t when they should.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Who Ya Gonna Call? Goat Rustlers

1123  Who Ya Gonna Call?  Goat Rustlers

(NEW ROSES, PA) -- The local paper here reports that “up to two dozen” goats were stolen from a farm in mid to late December.  This is serious business.

State Police are on the case.  They have search warrants for every goat farm in the region.  They will find the missing goats and arrest the Awful Horrible Person who made off with them.

We all know how important goats are to the local economy and ecology.  Where else can you find animals that ingest soup cans, discarded vacuum cleaner bags and any other old junk?  Goats are the ultimate recycling kings and queens.  They turn otherwise dangerous materials into … well … goat excreta which we all know is great for crops and biodegrades in a matter of a few moments.  Goats turn metal into fertilizer.  They are valuable.  They give milk which is made into “Goat Cheese” which is exotic and expensive, thus boosting the local economy.  And they have cute goatees.

Who could get through elementary school without paying tribute to the “Three Billygoats Gruff?”  Stealing goats is a horrendous crime. (An horrendous crime for grammar luddites.)

Twenty four missing goats.  Posters have gone up on telephone poles throughout the region.  “Have you seen this goat?” is posted along with pictures on the local cartons of milk -- both cow’s and goat’s.

Who would do such a callous thing as rustling goats?!

What’s even more horrible is the thought that these goats would be butchered and sold for their meat.  It’s just not right.

It’s even worse than sneaking into someone’s garden and rustling vegetables.  “Unhand those carrots, Mr.  I have my assault rifle at the ready.”  Is there a stand your ground law here?  “It was self defense, your honor.  I was just protecting my castle.  I saw the thief with his hands full of my organic carrots, identified myself, said I was armed. Demanded he put them down.  Fired a warning shot when he didn’t.  And finally, had to kill him.”

“Sir, shooting a rabbit in your garden is not a crime.  Unless it’s out of season, which this one was.  Twenty-five years to life.”


Shrapnel:

--A video has surfaced in which president Lenin of Egypt has called Jews “bloodsuckers.”  The video is from about two years ago when he was chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood and was expected to say such things to keep the contributions rolling in.  Of course, we can all assume that as leader of the most populous Muslim state in Africa, he will have changed his tune.

--Chances are pretty good jurors will find Jodi Arias guilty of murder and there  are at least two reasons to think so.  First, she admitted the killing and her claim of self defense isn’t going to wash.  Second, these jurors don’t want to be subjected to the kind of hate fest that befell the Casey Anthony jurors when they came back with a not guilty verdict.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

1122 Insulting Tim

1122  Insulting Tim

David Gregory won’t be prosecuted for producing a high-capacity ammo clip from under his anchor desk on national television after the Newtown murders.

Gregory is host of “Meet the Press,” the granddaddy of Sunday public affairs programs that started on WOR radio a million years ago and has been an NBC staple for only slightly less time.

Gregory and company went to the DC police and said they were planning to show the empty clip on TV and the cops said that was illegal, which it is.  Gregory did it anyway. Now, the administration in the district says it won’t prosecute because blah blah blah … first amendment … blah blah blah … low level crime... blah blah blah...

Okay, fine.  Gregory could have put up a graphic of the clip and that would have done the same job during his interview with the NRA’s walking dead executive director, showing the evil device without breaking any laws.

Gregory is in the chair vacated by the premature death of Tim Russert who turned “Meet the Press” from a sleepy, sloppy time filler into appointment viewing.  Tim was shaped by the pirate template of journalists.  He was a buccaneer you couldn’t face down, but a graceful man who could say more with an impish grin and a not-so-impish scowl than Gregory can say in 13 weeks of non-stop talking.

Would Russert have shown the clip?  Probably not, but who knows.  The guy’s dead, after all.

Tim was an avid reader of the New York Post.  But that doesn’t mean he was a murdochian sycophant.  He was an avid reader of the Washington Post, but that didn’t mean he was a Grahamian sycophant.

He understood the power of the Sunday pulpit he preached from.   And Gregory insulted the guy’s memory with a sensationalist piece of nonsense.

It’s nice that NBC won’t have to spend megabucks defending Gregory.   It’s cool that he got away with flouting the law for the sake of making a point.  But he’s insulting the House that Tim Built.


(Disclaimer: your correspondent wrote parts of Meet the Press for eight years.)

Shrapnel:

--Today’s blog was made possible by a grant from Pullman Motors of New Roses, Pennsylvania.  Worried about guns?  Visit Pullman for the country’s widest selection of certified pre-owned Sherman Tanks and armored cars.

--You know you’re ordering on line too often when you can accurately type all 16 digits of your credit card, its expiration date and the “security number” on the reverse side from memory.  Amex users get a break, the number is only 15 digits.  The benefits of “membership.”

--Every candidate for the title of Miss America was an individual face on the same body.  And have you noticed that historically two thirds of the winners are either from the south or the midwest?  Except not this year when the winner was from Brooklyn.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments and expended shells to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

1121 Two Great Figures, Two Wrong Quotes

1121 Two Great Figures, Two Wrong Quotes

The two figures are Cicero and Adlai Stevenson.

Age before beauty:

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance."      - Cicero , 55 BCE

And Now The former Governor of Illinois, two-time presidential candidate and one time UN ambassador:

In America, anyone can become president. It’s one of the risks we take.”

Let’s take these one at a time.


Cicero was wrong because most of us don’t understand either debt or deficit.  Neither is the evil people are expected to believe both are.

Deficit spending is necessary to end recessions.  Ultimately, countries get back on their feet.  Debt is a whole 'nother smoke.  Much of the national debt is owed to the American people, people who lend money to the government by buying treasury bonds of various denominations and at various return rates.  Everyone profits from the national debt.  We get funding for necessary programs.  Bond buyers get a decent return on their investment.

Cicero was talking about a different era.  This is not ancient Rome.  

The United States government is not a household running on a budget.  And it is not a business like Ace Hardware or Alcoa.  It is infrastructure, philosophical, legal and economic.  And the conservative notion that it is anything else is just nonsense wrapped in ignorance.

In middle school history, we learn about the three branches of government:  Executive, Legislative and Judicial.   But there is a fourth branch, capital.  Capital accounts for many of the decisions of the other three.  And it affects your life more and more directly than most of the rest.  Capital is the lubricant and the circulation system.  Movement of money is more important than the money itself.

Yes, we owe too much to China.  Yes some spending is out of control.  But a “balanced budget” is a wrongheaded pipe dream.

Follow the verbal genesis of “public assistance.”  In this country, it was first called “home relief.”  That described an effort for Americans to help less fortunate or coming on hard times to get back on their feet.

Then, we started calling it “Welfare.”  That broadened the principle.

And now, it’s either “public assistance” or “Human Services.” And by implication, that includes everyone.  Maybe we should go back to home relief.

Now for Adlai:

Not "anyone can be president."  One has to work one's way up through a corrupt and artificial two party system that is dominated by people who absolutely control nominations and often the results of elections.  

How many congressional districts are gerrymandered?  Maybe a better question is “how many are not?”

Until last year, almost every legislator was “safe” which means he or she would win relatively easy re-election just by declaring candidacy.

That’s a little less true now in 2013 because the tea party faction is ready willing and able to conduct primaries against Republicans deemed insufficiently conservative or religious or pro-gun.  That’s going to get us nowhere because anyone who wins the primary will win the election, given the shapes of the districts.

Take a look at the boundaries of your congressional district.  Chances are if you found a mole of that shape on your skin, you’d run -- not walk -- to the nearest dermatologist/oncologist.

Term limits sit on a slippery slope.  On the one hand, they would keep careerist drones out of office.  On the other hand, they would result in congressional staffers and lobbyists instead of elected officers writing and approving legislation even more than they do now.

So, Adlai and Ciccy, it’s time for a reality check.  One that won’t bounce.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

1120 A Lot of Brass but No Soul

1120 A Lot of Brass but No Soul

You get a certain age and some things begin to wear out.  Backs, various joints, memory.  It’s the kind of deterioration we all either have experienced or will.  So, we adjust.

Those of us who have spent a lifetime playing stringed instruments begin to do things differently.  We learn to play sitting down if that wasn’t our style to start.  We put aside our ten pound Les Pauls and go for the new breed of carbon fiber guitars that weigh next to nothing and sound like well aged pieces of wood.

Then, there’s the banjo, and this is a problem.  Banjos are made mostly of stuff from hardware stores.  The bigger and better ones weigh a ton.  Even seated, they’re hard to hold without strain.  You look at players like Earl Scruggs who played standing until he was in his 80s; wore a banjo that weighed almost as much as he did.  Guy must have had a back like a mule.

Hunting up a suitable light weight guitar is not a problem.  Hunting up a great sounding banjo that doesn’t double as free weights at the gym is another story.
First, they’re not well balanced.  All the weight is on one end.  Second, the bodies are made of combinations of wood and metal parts designed in the Victorian era and the roaring 20s long before amplification existed.  You had to be loud enough to be heard in a band.  And in vibration, weight equals volume.  Today, there are amplifiers to take care of that.

So the hunt is on for a light weight banjo.  And the choice of many is an all metal body with fewer than usual parts or even one of the new bodies made of carbon fiber instead of metal.

This upsets the purists.  “Metal?” one asked?  “Unlike wood, metal doesn’t improve with age.  Metal has no soul.”

Tell that to the millions of players of trumpets and cornets and trombones and French and baritone horns, saxophones, flutes, tubas, Sousaphones, triangles, kettle drums, euphoniums, bells, Dobros and even washboards and musical saws and kazoos and slide whistles.

The soul is in the player not in the materials.  In his or her hands and mind and lungs.

Shrapnel:

--A lot of us expected the BCS Championship game to be a bit closer than Alabama’s 42-14 win over previously undefeated Notre Dame.  But the Irish were out played from the start.  Can we go back to sleep now?

--Does anyone do traffic control on TV spot breaks?  How many different lawyers trolling for disfigured or dead users of pharmaceuticals, victims of auto accidents, receivers of structured settlements who “need cash now,” and phony trade schools can you cram together at one time?  It seems endless.

--Speaking of crammed together, where do they get the term “back to back” episodes when they mean to tell you about showing several in a row?  If they were truly “back to back,” the first one would run normally and the second would run backwards.  Actually, some episodes of some shows would be better if seen in reverse.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© 2013 WJR

Monday, January 07, 2013

1119 Live Long and Carb Load -- Fat is Beautiful

1119 Live Long and Carb Load -- Fat is Beautiful

This is about two guys from the old country, relatives, but not blood relatives.

Maxy was a health nut.  5’11”.  Ate right.  Drank only occasionally.  Abandoned cigarettes ten minutes after the Surgeon General’s report came out.  When his weight soared to the unacceptable 166 pounds, it was salad city until it got back down to the barely acceptable 165.  Golf.  Bowling. Swimming.

Ludy was a freer spirit.  Same height.  Much heavier. Ate what he wanted.  Smoked a pack and a half of Pall Mall reds a day.  Never exercised.  Never!  

Both men died at the age of 71, one from cancer and the other from a heart attack.

This is anecdotal evidence to support the just-now released study of the results of a bunch of other studies that says overweight doesn’t mean earlier death.  It’s in the Journal of the American Medical Association which has more peer review eyes of needles to jump through than anyone needs or anyone else requires.

The medical conspiracy theorists (see Wessay #1118) will tell you that stuffing your face with Big Macs and washing them down with 151 Rum is not the best thing you can do for yourself.  And they have a point.  But the point isn’t nearly as pointy as it once was.

The Harvard Medical crowd and others are tut-tutting a lot.  But the statistical study and the anecdotal evidence points in the opposite direction.

Late last week, a friend mentioned he wasn't sure what to do with a Dunkin' Donuts gift card he'd received.  He doesn't drink coffee and he's just lost weight... and those donuts!  Recommendation:  the Boston Creme is pretty good.  Stay away from the double chocolate... it's dry. The plain one needs to be dunked, and that's not good with water or orange juice. Share the double bacon croissant and extra cheese with a countermate.  Fat is fabulous.

So does it really pay to ban transfats, limit the size of soft drinks, demand more physical activity from today’s generation of couch computer kids?  Well, chances are it won’t hurt.  But apparently it’s not the ward-off-death magic formula we’ve been told it is.

No sooner did the ink on the longevity study dry, when another, new poll popped up and told us that Americans don’t know the deadly dangers of obesity.  What?  Okay, guys.  Which one is right?

Go for the science, not the survey.  And go for the Boston Creme.



Shrapnel:

--Maybe Al Jazzy isn’t as bad as previously thought.  One of the recent top stories is how Egypt’s President Lenin is “cracking down” on people who make fun of him thereby “undermining his standing.”  And it’s already taking potshots at Fox News (after Murdoch thought about buying in and then didn’t.)

--Oh, happy day!  The NHL and the players finally have reached a tentative contract agreement and maybe -- just maybe -- there’ll be a season this year.  Cause for celebration for all hockey fans and the manufacturers of dentures.

--Farewell to Bob Jones, 70, the last of the really really good hosts of radio shows featuring the Great American Songbook.  Bob was able to present the music without sounding like the wiseguy pretentious Mr. Showbiz types that gravitate to that genre.  Warm sound from a warm guy.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions (and my calories) are my own but you’re welcome to them (except the calories.) ®
Please address comments to Wes Richards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Friday, January 04, 2013

1118 You Call This Coffee?

1118  You Call This Coffee?

A Keurig coffee maker has taken its place on the kitchen counter.  If there’s anything that will drive you to Starbucks, this machine is it.  Even if you hate Starbuck’s.

The company that makes it, the pretty respectable Green Mountain folks, are counting on some truths about its customers:

1.  They are lazy.
2.  They are used to paying four-bucks at Starbucks
3. They have more money than they know what to do with.
4. They consider coffee makers kitchen sculpture.  (Probably they have a panini maker, a slow cooker, a Nu-Wave Oven, a Ninja Blender and an exotic brand of toaster or toaster oven as part of their display.  But don’t be fooled by claims that “we use our microwave only for storage.”

Those little cups you put into the machine make the worst slop you’ve ever tasted.  Oh, it looks like coffee.  And it even SMELLS like coffee.  But it isn’t.

It doesn’t matter what they call it:  “Breakfast Blend” or “Dark Magic” or “Sumatran Reserve” it’s still weak and tastes processed.

(Why is everyone’s “breakfast blend” watery and weak?  At breakfast most of us want to wake up.  We need that morning “snap” to clear our heads.  Breakfast blend should be re-labeled “Late Afternoon Almost Decaf.")

There are, of course workarounds.   The newer Keurigs “brew” three quantities of liquid, selectable with a push button.  Only the smallest makes anything resembling a good cup.

So you use two smalls to half-fill your mug.

At ten bucks for a dozen “K-cups,” you might as well go to McDonald’s... although their stuff has taken a nosedive since they went fancy.

(Two other places you should never order coffee:  Wendy’s and any Asian restaurant not in Asia.)

So what’s a coffee lover to do?   Well, you can get fill-your-own K-cups.  You can stuff them with store bought, fair trade, organic espresso.  But it still tastes lousy.  Cheaper, though.

The main reason for trading in the Mr. Coffee for the Keurig was cleanliness.  There’s almost no one who can make a mess with a Keurig.  Even the biggest slob in the house (“present, teacher) can’t get grounds all over the floor with one of these.

But desperate times require desperate measures.  So the next thing to do is hunt for that previously mentioned stovetop percolator.  As reported earlier in these pages, no one seems to sell those.  But Amazon does.  And they work.  And yes, there’s the danger of a daily mess.  But you can throw the worst store brand coffee in the world (are you listening Wal-Mart?) into the thing and still come back with a cup worthy of the name.


Shrapnel:

--Proof positive that Al Gore is just another crappy, creepy multimillionaire politician.  He has sold his liberal TV network to Al Jazeera.  So Current TV goes from Keith Olbermann and David Bohrman to Ali Babba and the 40 thieves.

--Of course, Gore and his partner had the right to sell that dog.  But to wrap it in an act of activism is preposterous.  Here’s the quote from Gore and co-owner Joel Hyatt: "Al Jazeera, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us."  And Gore added some nonsense about giving voice to the underserved.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013