Wednesday, December 30, 2015

1584 Three Little Words

1584 Three Little Words

No, not “I love you.” Not “Go to Hades.” Not even “Stop the music.”  These three little words are “I don’t know.”

How refreshing this kind of conversation would be:

Bob Schieffer: Sir, in hindsight, what could you have done differently about the rise of the Soviet Union?
Franklin D. Roosevelt: I don’t know, Bob. I just don’t know.”

Or

Wife:  Why can’t you remember to turn the garage lights out when you’re finished in there?
Husband:  I don’t know.

No one likes to hear those three little words.

The other day someone wrote an advice column about things to not say in a workplace.  Top of the list? “I don’t know.”

What?  All of a sudden we’re all supposed to be know-it-alls?

Sometimes I don’t know is a good answer.  If a stranger asks directions and you don’t know, you tell him and he finds someone else to ask.  Public service on the ground. (Or you can play a joke: send the questioner in the wrong direction.)

Saying you don’t know makes you feel stupid.  Even if the question is stupid.  Albert Einstein asks the stranger on line ahead of him at McDonald’s “What is the cubic root of 17?”  (The answer is just over 2.57, in case you’re curious.) Even if you know the answer, what good is it?

Feeling stupid about a question like that is defeatist. This points out the difference between “stupid” and “ignorant.”  Ignorance is curable.  Or at least treatable.

But some people are reluctant to say those three little words because they fear being thought of as a dummy.

Sometimes you can avoid this problem. Here’s an example.
Guy on a train platform: “What time’s the last train to Clarksville?”  Other guy on a train platform: “I don’t know, but I have a schedule, let’s look it up.”

Many of us don’t carry train schedules or “Best of the Monkees” song books, though either might come in handy.  

If you don’t know the answer -- whatever the question -- say so.  You may look like a dope.  But you’re being honest and at least indirectly helpful.  Not as helpful as having and giving the answer. But helpful nonetheless.

And for those of you who won’t take “I don’t know” for an answer, something should be done about you.  What?

I don’t know.




Shrapnel:

--Lessons from Trump. Like a small New England or West Virginia mining town, Japan says it won’t admit refugees from Syria.  “No big wave of foreigners here,” they say “we don’t have the room.”  

--We don’t hear much about what may be the most important decision the next president will have to make, picking a nominee  for associate justice of the US Supreme Court.  Clinton or Sanders will give us the other Clinton or Obama or someone like them. But who would a President Trump or a President Huckabee pick?

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

© WJR 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

1583 The Paper Clip Theory

1583 The Paper Clip Theory

When was the most recent time you went out and actually BOUGHT a box of paper clips?

Gotcha!

You CAN’T remember.

But you have one, maybe more than one. It’s on your desk or in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere in the house or the office.

So, how did they get there? Maybe you inherited them from a poor uncle (everyone talks about RICH uncles. How about the poor ones; the middle class ones?)

Maybe they just appeared. Poof!

The conclusion: there’s a finite number of paper clips in the world, and they just keep circulating. It’s a non-renewable resource, but one that’s not likely to be exhausted, like, say, oil, Brazilian rosewood, or Buicks.

You get a bunch of papers in the mail, and they’re clipped. You save the clip. Use it again when you need one. You send it to someone else who sends it to someone else. Eventually, one or more come back to you and it’s not because of your magnetic personality, either.

The physicist Stephen Hawking has not responded to inquiries about a “big bang” theory of paper clippature. He’s a bit busy these days, and slow to answer his e-mail. But there’s word in the scientific community that he will soon deliver a paper on the anti-magnetic properties of black holes in space and may postulate that that’s where the clips come from.

There are factories that make them, you say. Oh yeah? Have you ever seen one?

“Invention” of this marvel is generally credited to a Norwegian working in Germany in 1890, Johann Vaaler. It is said he needed a device to pin together the extra vowels and consonants in his name.  The extra “a” kept floating away and the extra “n” kept falling off. But is this true? Perhaps. But what was his inspiration, really? Maybe the paperclip was the work of a higher spiritual being.
(There’s also speculation that the American William Middlebrook was the inventor, and he too had extra letters in his name, i.e. “l”, “d” and possibly “o.”)

Thus, the “Intelligent Design” theory of paper clippage.

Some theologians and their followers assert that this marvel of technology had to be thought up by an outside intelligence, that it is too ingenious for the human mind to accomplish on its own. (What they are really saying, of course, is that it is too ingenious for THEIR minds to grasp.)

They insist that their notion of the origin of paper clips be taught in science classes, alongside the big bang and “ever circulating” theories. This would require the rewriting of every science textbook at huge costs to already financially pressed school districts.

So, in the end, this battle is about money, not science or even theology.

Shrapnel:

--After umpteen upgrades and new versions, Microsoft word still doesn’t allow punctuation in its title blocks. That’s the bad news.  The good news… Word doesn’t easily allow APA or MLA formatting either thus eliminating two of the greatest sources of interrupted reading inflicted on anyone who is forced to read or write anything in those so- called styles.

Grapeshot:
-Why do word processing programs have to fool with the spacing in the middle of the page? (see above.)

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

© WJR 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

1582 Don't Read This Post

1582 Don’t Read This Post


We had planned to take the day off. This was going to be a gesture in support of those who think any work done on Christmas is part of the imaginary war against the holiday and its celebrants.


So we expect low readership today as the faithful practice being faithful.  But then there are families on the fence about things.  Sure, go to church. But don’t let that stop you from watching the kids rev up the engines of hyperactivity as they open the presents under the tree.


And there are those who need a break from this kind of mini riot.  If you’re seeing this on 12/25, you may be one of those.

So, a piece of advice:  if you’re reading this as shelter, turn off your computer and seek solace from more traditional sources -- naps, booze, food, bell ringing, whatever -- because the rest of the post will be stream of consciousness nonsense not worthy of your attention.  At least not today.


  • “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” did not make Esquire magazine’s top ten worst list of Christmas songs this year.  Number one was “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney and Wings. Other artists on the list include (but are not limited to) Springsteen, Tiny Tim, Justin Bieber, the Jackson Five and Lady Gaga.
  • CNN spent a good chunk of Thursday morning (Eastern Time) showing what amounted to a still shot of people awaiting admission to the church in Bethlehem for midnight mass.  They could have saved a bundle in satellite fees by showing a picture postcard and no one would have known the difference.
  • Many people you don’t know went to great lengths to wish you a “merry Christmas” on Facebook.  That’s from the “just in case” department. (He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake... ) so if you can’t be good, hide it.


  • Many people you don’t know went to even greater length to wish you a “merry Christmas” on Twitter.  These are people who normally can’t say “hello” in under 140 characters. Good discipline, if they continue down that path.


  • Most Chinese restaurants and takeout joints are open today. But there’s new competition. Many McDonalds that used to close for the holiday also are open.
  • If the sun is setting and your analog watch says 10:45, it is upside down and it’s really 4:15.  If the sun is setting and your digital watch says 10:45, you are upside down.  And you’ll be hung over in the morning.
  • Pay no attention to southern tornados and the northeast heatwave.  Global warming, as all patriotic Americans know, is a hoax. These conditions won’t last long, only until the start of the floods and famine.


  • Legislators who do nothing at work all year are now back home, also doing nothing.  No one will notice the difference but the operators of bars, brothels and bookie joints in Washington and 49 of the state capitals.


Grapeshot:
-See, I told you it wouldn’t be worth reading.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

1581 No One Chewed Gum

1581 No One Chewed Gum


LONG ISLAND CITY 4, NY (Wessays™)  -- These days, you don’t need a map or a GPS to know you’re in New York City.  All you do is stand on a street corner.  Any street corner. If you can see at least one Starbucks, a bodega, a Duane Reade and an Asian deli without turning your head, you just know.


Here in former postal zone 4, now the overdecorated 11104, a few brackets east of the Ed Koch Bridge, it’s a little harder than in midtown Manhattan. You might  have to turn your head a little.  But it’s all there.


Here, a few brackets over from the 59th St. Bridge, the prevailing winds are from the west.  And in the days just after World War II, when three or four people -- immigrants, mostly -- still called it the Queensboro Bridge because that’s what the signs all said -- every day was an aroma festival.


Just down the Boulevard was a large and prospering factory area.  Not a “complex,” not an “industrial park,” not an architected commercial zone. Just a bunch of factories and warehouses.  Random buildings with missions.


Eagle Electric, Bulova, Adams gum, CN disinfectant, Executone, Swingline, Borden’s, Silvercup, Sweetheart Soap etc.  Slightly to the north, the vast Pennsylvania Railroad switching yard 192 acres of open space, the Howard Johnson central commissary  and the factory where Steinway made pianos.


But it was the scents that defined Zone 4.  The good and the bad.


The good:  Silvercup, now a movie studio, was a bread factory.  They baked seven days a week in the wee small hours in the morning.  By the morning rush hour, the air was filled with the delicious smell of baking bread.  It didn’t matter that the smell was better than the taste.  Especially after we learned the bread was held together by calcium sulfate.  


Calcium sulfate is what they put on food labels once they had to list ingredients.  Calcium sulfate goes by two less innocent and more common names in the non-food real world: gypsum and plaster of Paris.


No matter.  The smell made you hungry.  It made you hunger for a sandwich.  And plaster of Paris or not, Silvercup was better than its biggest competitor, Wonder Bread.


One day, a resident kid took a visiting relative to the candy store up the block for morning coffee (no Starbucks, Duane Reades, bodegas or Asian delis yet) and she noticed the chewing gum rack was full and dusty.


Why?  No one in Zone 4 chewed gum. Candy bars, sure, strange sweet concoctions probably loaded with dangerous “food grade” chemicals, wax lips, wax bottles of sweet syrups, Necco Candy Buttons glued to long strips of paper… sure. But no one chewed gum.


And therein lies the story of the second dominant aroma.


Boiling gum base, the indestructible “delivery” ingredient in chewing gum.  When they cook it, it smells like a tire fire.  They win wars by boiling this stuff on enemy lines. And Tuesdays and Fridays, Adams, the people who made Chiclets, Dentyne and Black Jack gum turned the zipcode into a multi-acre stinkbomb.


Those winds from the west did a fine job carrying the stench far and wide, but mostly to the east.  On a really windy day, you could smell it from the Midtown Tunnel to Douglaston.


Okay, it stank.  But what harm is there in a little extra air pollution from an area with almost as many active smokestacks as people?


Well… we just didn’t want to inhale rubber, latex, wax, fats and emulsifiers.  So no one bought chewing gum, and no one chewed it.

Shrapnel:


--Speaking on behalf of many people who do not celebrate, please understand that we are pacifist conscientious objectors in the so called war on Christmas. But we wonder if there’d be less paranoia if people actually practiced what the man for whom the holiday is named preached.  Merry Christmas.


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

© WJR 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

1580 WestraDamus 2016

1580 WestraDamus 2015

With 2016 upon us, we offer the 27th anniversary edition of the WestraDamus antidictions, those for the year 2015 presented each December or January for the year gone by and generally wrong.

'Damus started as a parody of the forward looking astrological year-enders appearing in the supermarket tabloids, almost always wrong but never acknowledged.

The Non-Prophet has grown into an American institution, like the Donald Rump, the Heritage Foundation, Ted Cruz, the Public Television begathon, global warming, Ronda Rousey, Reality TV and the war in Syria. So, we continue and for the first time on a serious note.


There is no way to parody, demean and degrade the attacks in Paris in November or in San Bernardino in December and we’re not going to try. Likewise, the situation in Syria, the rise of the so-called “Islamic State,” the newly minted refugee debate… Well, you just can’t make fun of those.

Oh. Wait. There is one thing:  All those Ebola isolation tents we bought but didn’t really need?  We’ll used them to house the onslaught of Syrian refugees and Honduran toddlers we’re expecting.

Now that I have you in a cheery mood, some of the other top stories that we know will happen last year.

January:
The staff of “Charlie Hebdo,” the French version of “Guns and Ammo” magazine, will fend off an attack by unarmed members of the Brady Campaign, killing six invaders and wounding 44 others.

Putin will withdraw occupying troops from Crimea saying it was all just a joke and issue an invitation for Ukrainian freedom fighters to join him for some boiled potatoes a la vodka at his office in the Kremlin.

A measles outbreak at a California amusement park will provoke calls to get vaccinated against Disneyland.

February:
The Federal communications commission will bar internet services from intentionally slowing low value traffic and promise it will prosecute offenders as vigorously as it has cell phone companies for adding hidden fees to monthly bills.

Last month’s measles outbreak will spread from Disneyland to Las Vegas forcing medical authorities into putting the entire city and its casinos under quarantine.

Russian leader Putin will hold a news conference to promise a thorough investigation following the murder of his chief rival, but will immediately dash from the lectern so no one catches him in the act of laughing hysterically.

March:
Federal investigators will determine that police in Ferguson, Missouri operated fairly and legally when an officer shot and killed a black man, Michael Brown, for walking in the gutter instead of on the sidewalk -- a Felony in the St. Louis suburb.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu will cancel a scheduled appearance before congress on realizing that he would honk off President Romney for not first consulting him.

Authorities in Germany will determine that a fatal plane crash was caused by the failure of  the mouse’s treadmill, and was accidental rather than the rumored intentional suicide run by the pilot, Ahmed Futtenbergerstein.

April:
Finally a nuclear deal both the US and Iran can agree on.  We will promise to recruit inspectors from the membership of the Guide Dog Foundation and they will agree not to bomb us until they’re ready.

A Jury will declare the Boston Marathon bomber not guilty because he had a tough childhood, is not a bad person and used an American-made pressure cooker.

Hillary Clinton will announce she will not seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2016.

May:
The Labor Department will start including the populations of China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Monaco in its unemployment rate, raising the number of heads counted to 3.428 billion and bringing the unemployment rate to 3% including unpaid and underage workers.

Ireland will announce legalization of same sex marriage after which the population of Woodside and Forest Hills will immediately double.

The State Department will remove Cuba from the list of terrorist states and fill the missing slot with Michigan.

June:
The Congressional Freedom Caucus will ask the Supreme Court to declare Obamacare illegal and promise in return to release Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy from captivity in South Carolina.

The Labor Department will reject requests to drop Monaco from the US unemployment figures because not doing so would make the numbers look even worse.

In an effort to reduce greenhouse gases, June will not bust out all over.

July:
Cuba and the US will agree to open embassies in each other’s countries.  The US will build in Havana’s Barrio Luz Rojo district and Cuba will build in Miami, establishing a northern beachhead.

A bad guy with a gun will open fire in Lafayette, Louisiana, killing two people and wounding seven others and then will be brought down by three full rows of good guys with machine pistols.  The coroner will rule the gunman’s death a suicide.

Saluting the newly mandated acceptance of gay leaders, Boy Scout CEO Robert Gates will say “it’s time to unite behind the force for good of scouting… right behind… and one at a time.”

August:
Indonesia will record its third major air crash of the year, proving once again that things happen in threes.

Germany will perform the same kind of transformation that gave us “the New Nixon” by supporting the bailout of Greece and accepting thousands of Syrian refugees. The New Nixon turned out to be pretty much the same as the original and so will the kinder gentler and more generous Germany.

Newly appointed female US Army Rangers will disprove Annie Oakley’s theory that you can’t get a man with a gun.

September:
Pope Francis will cancel his planned visit to the United States saying “they’re all nuts over there and I’m a pretty busy guy… too busy to fix them until they all finish rehab.”

In announcing his resignation, House Speaker John Boehner will admit that his eyes are blue only because he’s wearing colorized contact lenses and that his real eye color is Jack Daniels Brown.

Scientists in Johannesburg will announce the discovery of a previously unknown human ancestor, homo nalidi, but later admit it probably was planted there by PT Barnum when his “piltdown man” was found to be a fake.

October:
In a stunning reversal of policy, President Romney will pull all American troops out of Afghanistan but will continue to supply allies with weapons.

Bain Capital, denying a link with the President’s change in Afghanistan policy, will announce it is spinning off “iHeartRadio” and acquiring the military tank division of Kawasaki Industries of Japan and Consolidated Dart Guns of Massapequa, NY.

Johns Hopkins will announce that it is not going to fill its existing vacancy for a brainless, delusional, lying brain surgeon.

November:
For thoughts on the Paris attacks please see the introduction above.

The presidents of China and Taiwan will plan to meet under the same roof for the first time but will have to postpone it because they can’t agree on the shape of the table.

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer will announce it is spinning off 184 of its 837 subsidiaries and will deny rumors that it had plans to move its headquarters offshore to avoid paying taxes.

Federal investigators will disclose that the Department of Labor artificially lowered the unemployment statistics by hiring 4.2 million new workers.

December:
For thoughts on the attack in San Bernardino please see the introduction above.

Two off duty police officers in a fender bender in Rahm Emanuel’s driveway will shoot each other dead and investigators will lose the security camera video.

Former New York State Senator Dean Skelos will be found not guilty of charges he squeezed payoffs and no- show jobs from legislation- dependent corporations for his otherwise unemployable adult son and will join Sheldon Silver’s law firm.


And we end with some questions:  
-Why doesn’t Facebook have a Twitter account?
-Where does Bernie Sanders get his hair done?
-Have you ever seen Andy Lack and Ed Wynn at the same time?
-Have you ever seen Donald Sterling and Sheldon Addlebrain at the same time?
-Would you buy a used car from Ben Carson or Brian Williams?
-What ever happened to Bruce Jenner, he seems to have disappeared?
-If Putin can’t fully restore the Soviet Union, will he at least revive the Warsaw Pact?
-Is Ted Cruz part basset hound?
-Should Wessays™ adopt the ad slogan “Free, but still overpriced?”
-Why can’t you subscribe to the Washington Post with one click?

Antidictions will be available for all of 2016 at http://westradamus.com/

See you next year. If there IS a next year.

© WJR 2016

Friday, December 18, 2015

1579 Planting Trump

1579 Planting Trump


Here’s a scary bunch of thoughts.  What if Trump is a plant, someone who’s been working undercover -- maybe knowingly, maybe not -- for the Democratic party.  Somebody who’s so outrageous he couldn’t get elected sheriff of Mayberry let alone President of the United States.  Someone who is a fount of such preposterousness that it would be unthinkable that his candidacy would go anywhere.  


And what would happen if by some fluke he won the Republican nomination and then the election?


When pigs fly.  No, impossible. Nah.  Can’t happen.


“Can’t” is a word of such strength and finality that it’s rarely challenged and rarely defeated except in the world of self improvement books and other fairytales.


Oh, and in politics, the art of self enrichment polished with a thin layer of lip service to public benefit.  And -- only when necessary -- a small token of actual public benefit.


We Americans are generally first to circulate a conspiracy theory.  It’s surprising that this one hasn’t yet come to life.  Backroom Democrats fearful of losing to someone crazy, put forth a Republican who can out- crazy them all.  And there are few you could accuse of out- crazying people like Rubio, Cruz, and those walking self- parodies, Jeb! Bush, Ben Carson, Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina.


Enter Donald Trump.


If there’s one thing we love more than conspiracy theories it’s bad boys, or at least people who play bad boys on TV and in the movies.  Real bad boys are not as welcome in our hearts as the fakes.


Michael Corleone is more to our taste than Martin Shkreli or Jihad John. And who is more fictional than Donald Trump?


And why is he resonating with so many people?  Is it because he says what they think?  Is it because he makes us feel good about our inner violence, something left over from the early days of homo sapiens?  


Probably not.  We like violence as long as it doesn’t touch us directly.


We like punks from Queens who shoot their mouths off.  Who better than Trump to get that vote.


So ask yourself this:  If I want a second coming of the Clinton years, if I’m “Ready for Hillary,” how can I make sure she wins?


A two pronged attack.


Prong One: destroy the in- party opposition.  That’s underway as the Sanders campaign faces charges of pilfering her data.  


Prong Two: Find a credible crazy to run as a Republican.


Is that what’s happening? To help you make up your mind, two quotes:


“Nothing this evil can be accidental.” -- Novelist and right wing darling Ayn Rand.


“When you see a great Machiavellian plot (unfolding in America) it’s an accident.”  -- Corporate miracle worker Frank Stanton.


Shrapnel:


--Michigan is a mess. The legislature is trying to fix it by repealing laws it thinks are no longer valid.  Among them: swearing in the presence of women and forbidding “endurance contests” like charity runs and walkathons.


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

© WJR 2015