Friday, July 29, 2011

893 Always On

893 Always On

Those of us old enough to remember early television know that it took a few moments for the sets to warm up and start running.  The vacuum tubes inside them and in radios took a few minutes to get going.

Today nothing’s like that except the toaster and the oven.  Everything else “warms up” instantly.

Why?  How?

Because nothing is ever really “off.”  Not anymore. It’s on “Standby,” breathlessly awaiting your command.

Your cell phone charger draws power when it’s plugged in, even if you cell phone is not attached.  Ditto your iPod, iPad, Kindle, and anything else with a battery.

When your laptop computer is charged, and it’s still plugged into the wall, it’s still drawing power.

When your TV is “off” it’s still drawing power.  It’s on Standby.

See all those lights on your cable or satellite box?  What do you think allows them to shine?  Why, goodness!  It’s the electricity from your wall.

The cordless phone is always on.  To correct that you have to pull it out of the wall once it says “charge complete.”  

The clock on the microwave, the clock on the stove, the clock on the coffeemaker, the night light in the button for your doorbell.

Nothing is off.

Your burglar alarm is always on, and, of course, you want it to be.  Same with your wall or desk clocks -- the few that still run on household current. (And when was the last time you heard anyone say “household current?”)

Now, granted, these are not big users of electricity.  But while rates are as high as they are, they are SOMETHING.  Probably more than the corkscrew bulbs which you bought for an arm or the LCD bulbs you bought for an arm and a leg and which use relatively few watts.

How many TV sets do you have? How many battery operated this-and-that pads and pods and cell phones and cordless phones, cameras and video cameras.  

And how about the refrigerator?  Does the light really go out when you close the door?  Are you sure?  ABSOLUTELY sure?

You push the little push thing on the refrigerator frame and the light goes out.  But you can’t see when you actually close the door.  Maybe it’s a “smart” refrigerator (like a “smartphone”) and can tell the difference between when you push the push-thing and when the DOOR pushes it.  (And you can’t set the timer on a camera and seal the camera in the refrigerator and have it take a picture, because the flash will make it look like the light is on, even if it isn’t.  And probably you shouldn’t sit a small child in the thing and close the door, even for a moment.  Who knows, maybe the phone will ring, you’ll answer and leave the poor kid in there until he suffocates.)


--You can help make this posting more complete.  Do you have a tankless water heater, a “Hoveround” or a sleep number bed?  If you do, please check and see if they’re actually all the way off when not in use.

--A lesbian couple was strolling around at Dolly Parton’s “Dollywood” Amusement center near Knoxville, Tennessee, when a worker asked one of the them to turn her tee-shirt inside out while on the grounds, lest it offend the rest of the patrons because it said “Marriage is so Gay.”  At least they didn’t throw the women out of the place.  Don’t ask don’t tell lives.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

892 I Don't Understand

892 I Don’t Understand

Note to readers:  Today’s post is a blatant violation of my self-imposed ban on writing in the first person singular, because I don’t know how else to say all this.  Apologies.  --WJR.

I don’t understand this imbecile debt ceiling flap over benefit cuts followed, eventually, maybe, possibly, by spending cuts.  It makes no sense.  I think this whole deficit thing is overblown and a propaganda tool to make Republicans look good, when what they're doing is advocating ruin and sedition.

I don't understand the troop buildup in Afghanistan.  

I don't understand the continuation and expansion of Bush's secret prisons by a guy who pledged to end all that.  

I don't understand why a Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh is taken seriously.

I don't understand why guys like Boehner and Reid get anywhere.  (One on each side of the fence.)  

I don't understand why I have to pay for the mistakes of big banks that screwed us and screwed up.

I don't understand why I have to pay for auto company bailouts that cost us a billion dollars while Fiat looks to a profit on its newly minted, newly bailed out Chrysler subsidiary.

I don't understand how or why congress lets  lobbies promote (buy) ideas, write the legislation and bribe them into passing.

I don't understand the attack on separation of church and state.

I don't understand how Supreme Court justices continue to sit while getting favors from people on whose cases they decide.

I don't understand why the Pentagon, king of waste and excess, gets a free pass.

I don't understand why Murdoch is demonized for simply finding a niche and filling it, and why the blame is on him and not his customers.

I don't understand why speculators continue to manipulate the price of gasoline apparently without fear of reprisals.

I don't understand why we kill the space program but continue pouring money into Pakistan.

I don’t understand how the very people who want government to take a hands-off position on most everything insist on making a woman's right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term exempt from their march to anarchy.  

I don't understand what happened to the idea of shared sacrifice.

I don't understand how politicians get away with painting congressional district lines that make their geography look like skin lesions you'd have removed if you had one in any of those shapes.

I don't understand how states and industry can take away the right of workers to organize, and that workers no longer seem to WANT to organize.

I don't understand how states build border fences with Mexico at huge cost and to no effect.

I don't understand why AK-47s are legal in places where there is no war.

I don't understand what people hope for or expect when they force the price of gold far beyond its worth and turn it into another weapon for the survivalist militia.

I don’t understand how a one percent increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average is a “market rally” or a one percent drop is a “plunge.”

I don’t understand how business continues to cry poverty and for tax cuts while not creating jobs.

I don’t understand how corporate profits continue to rise and unemployment doesn’t shrink.

I don’t understand how owners of National Football League teams send their men onto the field for high-paying crowds of ticket holders to  cheer the players’ head injuries, and then deny health insurance to retirees when serious medical problems develop a decade later.  This is the 21st century version of “The Lady or the Tiger.”

I don’t understand how the president we elected to fix all this has just allowed (or maybe made) all this stuff worse.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions (and questions) are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

891 Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)

891 Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)

Not since Bessie Smith died in a car crash in 1937 had there been a public voice like that of Amy Winehouse.  Smoky, dusky, tragic lyrics with wry twists and turns.

Winehouse died in a kind of car crash of her own, although she was in her London apartment at the time.  Her whole life was a car crash.  Addiction, alcoholism, who knows what psychological problems.

Some of the Winehouse “legend” was schtick, but she really was in bad shape, a lazy artist who maybe had it too easy with a hit album at the age of 19 and a voice and style that barely needed practice and rehearsal.

She was a raw-living, raw singing queen of the tabloids and people often went to her concerts to see whether during them, she’d self-destruct, which she often did.  They went to boo her and then to cheer her and to be fascinated with her as they would be watching an open cesspool that smelled like perfume.  She, like the pool, confused the senses.

Now the news reports say the fans are flocking to London to say goodbye.  No need. You can do that from home.

One moment she could be a skinny British kid who had many too many, weaving back and forth in front of the microphone, tottering on heels that were too high, legs that were spindles, her hair a black beehive after an air raid, and then she could charm you, wrap that magic sound around your ears and heart and mind and you forgot you were looking at a car bomb that could blow up in the next second.

A day earlier, Winehouse’s mother had said “she seemed out of it just the day she died.”  How do you tell?  To most of us, she always seemed “out of it.”

The speculation now centers on the question of where her music would have taken her and taken us had she lived.   Impossible to tell.  But she had the ingredients that could have finally emerged as an accomplished matured artist.  A Bessie Smith.  An Alberta Hunter. At least a Tracy Chapman.

She didn’t let her whiteness or her Jewishness or her Britishness get in the way of her art, uncommon among white Jewish girls from Britain.  Those things were crowded out by what must have been an early life in the tattoo parlor, and a later life in the throes of booze and drugs and a studied “I don’t care” attitude.

So, what’s left is her music and her memory, both startling and powerful.  Eventually, the memory will fade and so will the novelty and power.  It always does.

There’s no message in this death.  And even calling it “premature” doesn’t make sense. As her mother Janis is quoted as saying, “it was only a matter of time.”

Amy:  Back to Black

Bessie: Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

890 Wendi's No Burger Queen

890  Wendi’s No Burger Queen

A woman recently sized up Wendi Murdoch as “definitely not Ghetto.”  The speaker has authority on such when it comes to America.  She is an astute observer of the passing scene, a reputable and capable journalist accustomed to and skilled at piercing the shells worn by most of the rest of us.  Just not this time.

In the ghettos of Europe, people bought or made and wore simple outfits -- often plain black hats and coats.

In the ghettos of America, people buy $200 sneakers and Saturday Night Specials.

In the ghettos of China, the women buy Manolo Blahnik shoes and Louis Vuitton  handbags.

Wendi Deng Murdoch started life as Deng Wen Di.  That’s Mao’s metaphor in “simplified” Cantonese for “Cultural Revolution” Deng.   Just so you know where she came from.

Since her birth in 1968 she has:

--Stayed with an American couple as a student, a couple whose marriage mysteriously broke up soon after her arrival.  She green-card married the guy, 30 years her senior,  who...
--Divorced her when she was said to have had an affair with a younger man.
Later she:
--Married another guy.
--Divorced the new husband.
--Got work with the Murdoch operations in Hong Kong.
--Put herself in Murdoch’s path.
--Married him and had two children with him.
--Lobbied and politicked her children into the family trust originally only for the older Murdoch “kids.”

And she will most certainly become a rich widow, unlikely to be found wearing her Blahniks to lunch at Wendy’s or Burger King.

Gold digger?  Nah.  Power luster, maybe. Just normal behavior for that particular ghetto.

There’s no doubt she’s smart, well educated, multi-lingual and throws a good right hook. And at 43 she’s as good a chunk of eye and arm candy as you’ll find in her demographic especially when seen alongside her husband who is starting to look like a troll, as many men do at 80 through no fault of their own.

But let’s not put her on that pedestal, even though she helped remove some of the tension of her husband and stepson’s appearances in front of Parliament.

And no one ask her “Where’s the Beef?”


--Colorado granny-ager Yukari Myamae was only doing what we all want to do, groping back at a TSA agent. At first they wanted to charge her with sexual abuse for grabbing and twisting the left breast of an agent.  They changed their minds but deny rumors they’ve offered her a job groping passengers.

--Apple stock has been on the rise lately.  But don’t get the idea that it’s the new Berkshire-Hathaway, even though both appear to be one-man shows.  Apple is based on innovation which won’t go on forever.  Berkshire is based on sound investment strategies, mostly in a huge collection of names you know and trust.

--Professional boxers need a union.  Else they will spend their declining years dottering from brain injuries, hearing bells that no one else hears and drooling.  At least in the NFL, the players can try for post career health insurance.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

889 Too Much Data

889 Too Much Data

“Your heartbeat is irregular.” The machine that measures blood pressure had that little aside one day this week.   It didn’t actually come out and say it.  It flashed a little symbol that looks kind of like an electrocardiogram and that’s what that symbol means, at least according to the instruction book.

Omygod!  Irregular heartbeat!  Another step closer to death’s door.  Yikes!

Okay.  Let’s be scientific about this.  It may be a “false positive.”  Let’s re-check.  

Hmmm.  No more irregularity on the second try.  But wait.  Maybe that was a “false negative.”  Is there such thing as a false negative?  Should we call 911?  

“What is your emergency, sir?”  

“I had an irregular heartbeat!”

Or even worse:

“I had an irregular heartbeat followed by a false negative.”

They’d send someone, alright.  Guys in white coats and carrying huge butterfly nets.

With absolutely no personal or family history of serious heart trouble, the machine is either an electronic wiseguy or it provided too much data.  Or both.

Note, too much DATA, not too much information.  Most dictionaries no longer make this distinction, but here’s a reason to mark them wrong.  There IS a difference and it’s an important one.  

There was no “information.”  But there was a datum.

Maybe such a datum should not be in the hands of the average user.  Or maybe the machine should be less sensitive to what probably is an anomaly.  

On the other hand, maybe someone should make a machine that measures data overload in your brain.  Get that little symbol on the heart machine and you go right to the brain machine, which tells you “hey, Jack, you over-reac’.”

In any event, the will’s in order (thanks Robert Shapiro and the rest of your Legal Zoom Dream Team,) and the bills are mostly paid.

If you don’t see something new in this space day after tomorrow, it’s probably because your correspondent should have called 911 and didn’t.


--Cheers for Glen Campbell, who triumphed in this first concert since announcing he has Alzheimer’s.  Yeah, he needed a teleprompter, but that’s no sin.  And yeah, he botched a few lyrics, but so would anyone at age 75 -- he still sings pretty and plays brilliantly, but enough face lifts, Glen.

--Attempts to reach the main news page of the London Sun earlier this week first redirected us to a story about Rupert Murdoch being found dead in his garden and then to a Twitter page of parodies.  Hackers at work. C’mon, guys, all we want is to see the daily page three pictures of naked ladies.

--And THIS was on the website of the local paper here in Mount Tantamount PA early one morning: Our site is currently undergoing a redesign and will be back in a couple hours.  (Emphasis added.)  Guess the editors had the night off.  Or even worse, they didn’t.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

888 Get Rupert!

888 Get Rupert!

It’s like when they put Al Capone away for tax evasion.  Here’s this guy and everyone knew what he did, but they couldn’t throw him away for being a louse, so they threw him away for not paying his taxes.  If he’d been a little quieter about it all, they probably would have ignored him.

Now, comes Rupert Murdoch, another sleaze of a character whom the politicians and others want to “get,” and they’re approaching it all like they approached Capone.   It’s called Kill the Big Man with Liittle Things.

Murdoch owns and runs this vast media empire, filled with sensational newspapers, wildly right wing television and lots of other stuff that helps people in power and some people who want to be in power grow their insecurities and insomnia.  For the record, he also runs the world’s greatest trade paper, the Wall St. Journal and a few other respectable rags like the Times of London.

And all the time, like Capone, he gets up there and looks innocent, and he counts his money and tries to stay above the chaos his empire creates in the US, in Europe, in Asia and in his native Australia.  Jolly Aussie pirate, Midwestern ex-New York mobster, all the same.

So his newspapers commit crimes while reporting on guys who commit crimes, and occasionally commit crimes against the innocent.  But that really doesn’t bother all the people with their noses in the air and their holier than thou attitudes.  What bothers them is that Rupert is Rupert.  And they’re trying to bring him down for that.

Notice what happened when they put Al in jail?  Did organized crime die in Chicago or anywhere else?  Is it dead now?

Rupert is a 21st century fella and they’re using 21st century means to try to put him down.  They figure they can’t just get him for being who he is, so they’ll attack his sources of income and starve him to death.

Did the Murdoch papers cross the line?  Certainly.  Should they be punished for it?  Yes, of course.  If NewsCorp were accused of making lead-painted dolls that killed little girls, they’d sign one of those consent agreements, the kind say “we didn’t do anything wrong and we’ll never do it again.”   

That’s not going to happen here.  They’re going to pound on Murdoch until he dies, which, given his age, might not take long.

In the meantime, ask where the money he makes comes from.  Or better, WHO it comes from.  You want to starve the beast?  Get people to stop buying “the Sun,” the New York “Post” and get people to stop watching Fox TV.

(Disclaimer:  your correspondent is a life-long journalist, does not now and never has worked for any Murdoch property, doesn’t know the guy from Adam and generally abhors his politics.)


-- A friend, Mark, rented a Ford Crown Victoria for a vacation drive.  It -- and every Crown Vic -- looks like an unmarked police car.  So if Mark is driving the unmarked car, is it still unmarked?

--Sheryl Crow the crow update:  There now are five sunflowers blooming on the stalk.  That means by this time next year, there will be free sunflowers all over the place.  This will not sit well with the local flower shops where they charge big bucks for the blooms they sell.

--Little Ricky Sanatorium has raised half a million dollars for his presidential campaign.  A princely sum that would have done him good in the 1780s.  Which is where what passes for his thinking remains.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

4744 The Running of the Bull

  Newsday Photo   A bull escaped from a farm in Moriches on New York’s Long Island and has been playing hide and seek ever since.  It’s not ...