Wednesday, April 29, 2015

1479 Baltimore: Letter to a Young Old Friend

Across time, I’ve rarely found cause to disagree with your views, but today is different.  You’ve posted much on social media about the conditions in Baltimore, condemning racism and I salute you for that.  But please hear me out on rioting.

I’ve covered disturbances since the 1960s. I’ve seen the aftermaths and they are ugly.  Baltimore is no different from Harlem or Newark or Los Angeles.

When streets are washed in blood, then dried by fire, what is accomplished?  Usually it’s the very people and property of the afflicted who suffer the most.

You posted an article “Black People Riot for Justice, White People Riot for Pumpkins and Football.”  The white part can be true and stupid.  But we can write those riots off as the work of addled college kids with too much time, too much money and too few uncontaminated brain cells.

A “riot for justice” is not a riot for justice. It is a riot for rage.  And often -- nearly always -- the rage is justified. But not the destruction. What’s destroyed in hours and minutes takes decades to rebuild.  And the cost is not just money and property and lives.  It’s trust and a willingness to heal.

Yes, we have a race problem in this country. Part of it is learned, some of it may be tribal.  Part of it is because violence prone police don’t read the papers or the internet and learn from the mistakes of their counterparts or think they can get away with mistreating people.

Rioting has a non-physical component.  It’s a threat: “Do this or I’ll come for you and put you into the hell in which I live.”  Think about how you respond to threats.  You don’t cower in a corner or pack up and leave.  You say “Oh, yeah? Bring it on!”

Well, newsflash. That’s what many people do.  You mention the racist comments from the readers of the articles you posted.  What were you expecting?

Riots don’t change hearts and minds.  Sometimes, demonstrations do.  But not riots.

And look at this: when people who are wronged riot, they’re destroying the part of the city in which they live and work, not the part where the people with the power and will to make changes ever go. They ignored the area yesterday, they’ll stay out of it today. They’ll stay out of it tomorrow.

And as soon as the story is off the front page and out of the 6:30 news, they’ll forget what happened.  But not completely.

What they’ll remember summarizes thus: “I can’t trust ‘those people.’”  There’s that concept again.  Trust. Yes, it works both ways.  But the only side over which you have any control is your own.

Send an army of cops out to control an uncontrollable crowd and you build hatred.  Send an uncontrollable crowd to put the cops in their place?  Same thing.

I can understand that you’re looking for a fast fix. We all did.  But there IS no fast fix.  It’s a slow process.  And every thrown brick makes it slower.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

1478 A Kiss from the Electric Company

Oh, goodie, it’s time for the monthly energy report from GougeElectric!  The envelope please.

Oh, goodie.  We get “below average.”  Big time. Almost as below as our “most economical” neighbors.  And down from “superuser” status of only a few months ago.

The lower the use figure, the better the grade.  Like golf.  Low score wins.

Time was, we were higher than the highest spendthrift users on our block.  You know the type:  they never turn the lights off.  Their electric stove is on for three meals a day.  They have an old washing machine and an industrial capacity clothes dryer into which they feed the weekly laundry of two adults, three teens and a newborn.

They hoarded 100 watt bulbs when you still could get them and they burn them by the dozen in 3,000 square feet of interior space.  They have sunlamps and soldering irons.  They have an electric grill on the deck.  They have a 150 gallon hot water heater that leaks.  They have central air conditioning that keeps their house at a steady 68 degrees all summer and electric heat that keeps the temperature at 78 degrees all winter.

We’re better than that.

We have a gas-fired furnace and a gas fired tankless water heater.  We are soooo eco-friendly.

The furnace came with the house.  But the water heater was an add on. It cost a couple of grand.  But we’re walking sandwich signs for Earth Day.  The add- on will start paying for itself in 2035 at which time the median age in the house will be 107.

And then there’s the gas bill.  Used to be pennies. Now it’s dollars.  Combine the two, and we still save a bit. Not anything that would buy us a Kia let alone a Lexus.

Okay, but our carbon footprint is so low!

And the electric company is swooning at our miserly use.

Another year or two and there will be so many of us Earth Day poster children that GougeElectric’s stockholders will start complaining about decreased earnings.  The company will ask for a 23 trillion dollar rate increase and settle for an average of 30 bucks a month from each of us.

Meantime, taxes will rise for the gas companies.  So the price of natural gas will go up and our net savings will be… um… negligible.

These sandwich signs are heavy.


--Speaking of things electrical, have you noticed that washing machines that are supposed to be able to tell time can’t?  With the exception of coin laundries, new machines say they’ll be done in an hour and then stay up all night.  Speculation: the washer and dryer are more than “just friends.”

--There also may be something going on between the stove and the microwave.  They’re always texting each other.  And they’re always on the phone at the same time.
And for the Formality Police: Fragment count: 6.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

1476 If it Ducks Like a Quack

Alas, poor Dr. Oz.  Some colleagues are trying to get him thrown off the faculty at Columbia University.  And the good doctor is ducking as the brickbats keep coming.

It’s not that he’s a bad teacher on those few days he gets around to teaching.  And it’s certainly not because he’s a bad doctor.  If we’re to believe the words of patients and peer reviewers, he may be one of the best cardiothoracic surgeons now practicing.

But there’s a little matter of his TV show.  Five hours a week he appears before the cameras dispensing advice to young and old, lean and fat.  “But,” he said in taking the witness stand and cross examining himself on his program a day ago, “it’s not a medical show.”


This is where he gets in trouble with other professors who think he should be removed from the faculty.

In words kinder than these, they believe he’s dispensing quack remedies to the unwitting swarms of (mostly) middle aged women who consider his every word the last word on whatever is the program’s subject of the day.

He’s showy. He’s self promoting. He has the oozy charming personality and leading man good looks right out of movies like “Topkapi” or “Istanbul Beneath my Wings.”

Thing of it is, part of his bedside manner -- or tubeside manner -- is 1950s used car salesman.  The Columbians object.  Bad remedies, bad science they say. And a bad reflection on the school.

Academics, especially disheveled ones, always say that about the better looking and more successful. And this crew has ties to grants from places pushing Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs.

Oz wants foods with GMOs labeled.  But it’s easy to infer that he opposes them and wants you to, too.  Fair enough. There isn’t really enough evidence of their effects yet.  You should have a choice.

But the lotions and potions Oz promotes on TV often don’t have a whole lot of scientific heft either.

So is this academic politics and jealousy?  Or an effort to protect the public? Or both? Or neither.

In truth, Ozzy is stretched pretty thin.  Five hours of TV a week, probably recorded in two or three days, doesn’t leave him a lot of time for thinking, for surgery, for teaching or for running the various “public service” programs he is head of or nominal head of.

Oh, and in making personal appearances before congress… invitations that are tough to decline.

At one hearing, he admitted that he used “flowery language” about some weight loss stuff he was hawking.  He says he “passionately” studied them. Believes in them.  Passion?  Perhaps a dispassionate study would serve us all better.

When does he exercise his passionate studying?  On the limo ride to the studio?  Or perhaps during a moment’s pause while operating on someone’s heart or lungs?  Maybe on the shuttle from New York to Washington for more fun with congress?

So is he God’s gift to medicine, or is he a quack ducking?

(For more on this subject, please see Wessay 1437 from June, 2014.)

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1476 Your Visit to Slovakia

Hope you enjoyed your trip.

While You Were Out:

-One of your Facebook friends enjoyed all those pictures you posted from Bratislava and then burglarized your house.

-The cat carved a road map on your $3,000 leather couch.

-Your mother left two dozen phone messages because she doesn’t use Facebook and didn’t know you were away, then called the cops to say you were missing.

-The police made a “wellness visit” to your house and discovered the burglary.

-They found drawers open and the contents scattered.

-They found a large rectangular outline over your fireplace where apparently a painting once hung.  Your mother said it was an authenticated William Larkin from 1610, while your insurance company says it was a forgery from 1938.

-Your Ming vase somehow got smashed and the fragments were on the living room floor.

-The burglars apparently took your computer but left the monitor and keyboard.

-There is evidence they tried to remove your piano but couldn’t get it out the side door.

-Someone used your chef’s knife to put a 12” slit in your Sleep Number Bed and most of the air has escaped… but you liked a hard number anyway, right?

-They also failed to find the cat which probably is hiding in the attic.

-Police discovered your car in the long term parking lot at JFK and broke open the trunk expecting to find your body.  Then they ticketed your car for an expired inspection.

-Your body wasn’t there so they assumed you were kidnapped and posted a national BOLO alert.

-Reports of sightings came pouring in from five states three of which you’ve never visited.

-Your neighbors say they last saw you two weeks ago and you looked fine.

-Except one who reported a strange smell coming from the back yard.

-CSU dug up the yard and found nothing suspicious.

-The owners of the house behind yours called animal control to remove the body of a dead skunk.

-Russia recalled all Tupolev aircraft for use in the war of Ukrainian Aggression, leaving you no immediate way to return to the US.

-You have realized there is a heating gas shortage in Slovakia and at the same time found that the Tourist’s Guide to Spoken Slovak does not have the phrase “Why did they turn the heat in my hotel off?” But you can show this to the desk clerk: Prečo má môj hotel otočil teplo off?

-I’m going to slip this note into a baggy and nail it to your front door, um, what’s left of it.


Pop corn pops. So does the weasel and a pimple. But “pop” has become the latest instance of financial and fashion word abuse.  Someone should pop the next guy who overuses it.

This is an “all new” Wessay, as are almost all of them. But what’s with “all new” on TV?  Are there somewhat new or partly new episodes of CSI Miami or Dateline?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

1474 Getting to Know Carly

If you want a woman president just because “it’s about time,” but you hate Hillary, you’ll love Carly.

Carly “the destroyer” Fiorina turned two of the world’s most important tech companies into unintentional non- profits then ran for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in California and lost.  Her main asset?  Well, aside from wrecking a couple of major corporations, she doesn’t often bother to vote.  A real political scientist. Study the subject to death, but don’t DO anything.

We first came to know Fiorina when she was running Lucent, the successor to the fabled Bell Labs, founded by Alexander Graham Bell. Its scientists won eight Nobel Prizes, produced the first transistor and the optical router among other things.  Many other things.

On her watch, Lucent stock lost half its value and later was acquired by Alcatel for chump change.

Then, Fiorina fell up and was named CEO of Hewlett Packard.  Fortunately for him, co founder, David Packard was dead by that time. The other founder, Bill Hewlett, followed his friend to the grave a few years later.  We’re unsure whether there’s a connection. But he lived long enough to know that the masterstroke hiring of Fiorina was something he couldn’t live with.

(In the event that you think this is an anti-woman diatribe, note that the present head of HP, Meg Whitman, is doing a fine job… as she did at eBay.)

Fiorina is the anti- Hillary.  She says as Secretary of State Clinton accomplished nothing. Fine person to disparage non- accomplishment.

Fiorina is not running “on (my) sex.”  Oh?
Actually, she’s not running at all.  Yet.  But she did spend the weekend in New England, and it wasn’t because she’s a Barry Manilow fan.  She’s also visited Iowa, that bastion of political Me First excellence and its southern soul mate, South Carolina.

Figure she’ll declare this spring.  And figure she’ll be doing what she’s been doing in the campaign so far, bashing Clinton and not much else.  

She figures she’ll neutralize the lone woman angle if both she and Clinton are nominated. Please remove your blinders, ladies.

Voters in both parties deserve better than they have been offered so far.  On the Republican side: A couple of inexperienced unseasoned senators, two huckster governors, two huckster ex- governors.

On the Democratic side a former first lady nobody likes, an aging “independent” Senator with good ideas and no way to make any one of them real, a couple of present or former state officials of such low wattage they should be packaged as energy saving light bulbs.

Makes you long for the good old days of political giants like Walter Mondale, Ross Perot, Bob Dole, Ralph Nader, John Anderson and George Wallace.

But of Carly we can only say it wasn’t enough she killed two companies that didn’t need to die and now she wants to be President? In hockey, they call three goals by one player in one game a “hat trick.”  

Laurence Peter would be proud.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

1473 Are We There Yet?

Each report on air travel is worse than the one before.  If flying ever was worth the effort, it certainly hasn’t been lately.

Jimmy Carter’s deregulation did what deregulation always does, it turned order into chaos.  What was supposed to spur competition has all but eliminated it.

We locked the horse out of the barn after 9/11, and that’s more or less understandable.  But the way passengers are treated?  That’s neither understandable nor is it worth the sucker’s price you paid for your “seat.”

And speaking of airplane seats, you know where they get those new anorexia chairs? From companies that recall infant car seats because they’re too big or otherwise compromised.  Anyone wider than a fishing pole or taller than a yardstick gets to ride in the world’s greatest source of self inflicted physical discomfort.

You pay extra for:

--checked baggage.
--four extra inches of legroom (when available)
--WiFi (when available)
--Some form of taxation you never heard of (and usually don’t notice.)
--Some form of taxation you have heard of. (always available.)
--Food service consisting of microscopic leftovers from soup kitchens.
--Beverage service with its patented warm coke, warm orange juice, warm bottled water, milk on the edge of sour and booze they get the same place they get their food.

If you have a metal knee or hip, you’d better bring a notarized letter from your doctor on your way through the metal detector.  If you’re wearing a sari, a dashiki or hijab, you’re sure to be seated next to an undercover TSA cop.

If you live in flyover country, there are no nonstop flights to anywhere.  If you live in a major city, yours will be number seven in a line of eight flights awaiting assignment to a runway.

When, eventually, you reach your destination, your plane will be late. Your suitcase will be lost.  You’ll be hungry, tired, dehydrated and a carrier of whatever disease the coughing guy in the next row is spreading.

But it’s not just planes.  It’s also trains.  You’ll ask yourself “will we hit a freight train with 150 cars heading for a toxic waste dump or an oil storage farm?

Or “How late will we be?” Even if you leave on time.

And then there are buses:  you know, those large vehicles with drivers who can’t read maximum height signs on the bridges they try to cross under?  Who can turn a two hour road trip into a five hour road trip and still break the speed limit by half?

And a car isn’t always the best bet, either.  Even though every state is crying poverty, every highway has single lane traffic at a crawl through construction zones.  And bad lighting. And blind intersections. And blind curves.

The days of the great ocean liners is well past. Instead we have floating cities called cruise ships.  You take your chances of contracting some evil affliction, being banned from your toilet and one of the six Versailles-like dining rooms, or being pushed overboard in your wheelchair.

So the answer to “are we there yet?” is “only if we’re not going anywhere.”

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

1472 The One-Eighty

It’s 7 in the morning. You’re on the cross town bus, crawling along through morning traffic.  You’ve arranged for a babysitter.  You’re heading to work as a register clerk at MegaMart. Your phone chirps.  It’s a text from your manager.  

She says “Hi, Lucy! We don’t need you today. Please take the day off.”

You call and explain that you’re already on the bus, that you’ve booked a babysitter and you’re due in at 8.

Boss says:  “Sorry, L, our software says it’s going to be a slow day and we can’t use you.  Do a 180 and go home.”

If you’re in New York or several other states, they owe you a half day’s pay for that.  If you try to collect it, you’ll get it. And then two weeks down the road they’ll find or create some minor infraction and fire you.

Our Lucy and her MegaMart are fictions.  But the situation is real, at least in the view of the New York State Attorney General who is looking into the practice according to the Wall Street Journal.

And he’s naming names:

Target, Gap, Abercrombie, Ann Taylor, Burlington, Crocs, Penney’s, J. Crew, L Brands, TJ Maxx/Marshall’s/Home Goods, Sears, Urban Outfitters and Williams-Sonoma, to use the Journal’s list.

The half-baked excuse for those who commented for the article?  “We’re doing our best to be fair.”  “We know it’s a problem and we’re working on it.”  “We need to stay lean and mean.”

Mean enough to disrupt lives of mostly minimum wage workers who are trying to stretch a buck to make ends meet and often failing?

Software rules. Igor the computer (all computers are named Igor) has decided the traffic count at Mega’s will be 20% below normal today.  Bad weather.  A weekday after a holiday weekend.  Some reason.

Heaven forbid they’d keep the help on duty and open enough registers to handle a smaller crowd faster than at the usual snail’s pace.  But no, they have to squeeze every crummy dollar into the top line.

The retailers have taken a page from the restaurant trade and made it worse.  Waiters, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders and hosts are often “cut” as they call it when business is slow.  They report for work and they work.  Then they’re sent home before the shift ends.  At least they get paid something.

Maybe enough to pay the babysitter.  Maybe even that and the bus fare home.

These practices view workers as machinery.  Turn ‘em on when you need them, unplug them when you don’t. We had a labor movement, once, for things like that.  And unions.  No more.  Not in retail or food service.

Can you see this practice spreading?  Be great fun in businesses like medicine or car repair or news gathering.

“Good morning, Dr. Barnard.  Your patient just died so we won’t be needing that heart transplant today. Take the day off.”

“Hi, Clarence. It’s John. Yeah… John Roberts. Listen bud, we have a low caseload today so don’t come to work, ok?”

“Good morning Mr. Holt. Please hold for Andy Lack, please…”  “Lester?  Andy here. It’s going to be a slow news day.  We won’t need you until tomorrow.”

“Good morning Mr. President.  This is Mary from HR…”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

1471 Hillary for Champion

Note to readers:  I lied.  I didn’t mean to.  But plans for a weekly posting for Wessays have been postponed and the thrice weekly schedule will continue.

1471 Hillary for Champion

This stiff wants to be America’s champion? Fine. Get her a box of Wheaties and a Babe Ruth mask and let her swing her big bat all over the land.

America doesn’t need a champion any more than it needs a tea party and its young and restless.  It needs a President. And no one who has announced for a major party nomination is worthy of the title, let alone the job.  For that matter, neither are most -- if not all -- of the people “everyone expects” will eventually announce.

First let’s clear the air about Grandma Clinton and the three jobs she’s had since you first heard of her: First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State.

The first lady does nothing.  Oh sure, Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Johnson and even Mrs. Eisenhower had their little causes.  Nancy Reagan’s big job was keeping her beloved Ronnie as close as awake as he could get.  

Hillary Clinton as first lady was so busy standing by her man and trying to bigfoot congress on health care reform that she might as well have gone on vacation for eight years… which maybe she really did.

As a US Senator, she made sure the roads in Chappaqua were more or less free of potholes while campaigning on the winning premise that she wasn’t Rick Lazio.

As Secretary of State she was queen of the telephone. She operated at State like she was the psychic hotline in reverse.  Everyone heard from her.

In her favor: the Benghazi screwup was the fault of the Republican-dominated congress which cut the security budget.  Yeah, yeah, lives were lost.  But lives are being lost every hour of every day… many of them in wars she supports.  THAT’s a problem, not a handful of people in a Libyan hick town.

America is its own champion.  If we weren’t, there are always Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali, until recently the Atlanta Braves, the Pittsburgh Steelers, whoever won the most recent national spelling bee and Gene Autry's horse.

We need someone who can untie or cut the knot that congress has become.   Someone who can help close the wealth gap without taxing everyone else out of existence… get our troops back home from at least some of the wars we’re fighting… ferret out bad cops and reward good ones.  Ferret out bad teachers and reward good ones.  End the freeloading charter school drain on public education funding.

It can’t be that difficult once he or she disembowels the dummies who are trying to disembowel the rest of us.

Hillary combines all of the vices of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton and the virtues of neither.

Not to mention she’s running a close second to Nancy Grace and may soon overtake her as most obnoxious person on the planet.

And send your contributions to Wheaties for

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

1470 Downsizing

Time to cut back a bit.  This blog has been running three times a week since the fall of 2005 and its radio equivalent since 2000.  That’s about 2,000 different Wessays™ in 15 years.

It’s time to find new ways to get into trouble, anger people and remain a Certified General Nuisance.

So starting next Thursday you’ll see one of these each Thursday before noon eastern time.

If the Google analytics department to be believed, the number of people stopping at this site has ballooned considerably over time and I’m grateful for that.

If I can make you think or make you laugh or -- better yet -- both, I am grateful to you and satisfied.

When I left Bloomberg in the late 2000s, I thought I had a book deal.  The goal was to write 1,000 of these posts and put the least worst 100 or 150 between covers.  The deal fell through, but doing this “work” had become a bad habit, so I continued.

I just kept writing.  And writing. And writing.  Now, a little less.

Talk show godfather Barry Gray once wrote a daily column for the New York Post back when it was respectable.  But he gave it up when he decided “no one has something to say five days a week.”

Giving it up feels wrong.  Cutting it down doesn’t feel right, but it feels less wrong.


--Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are just like the traveling driveway paving scammers.  Make promises, take the money. And like the fake pavers, they can’t and/or don’t deliver what they promise.


-Note to Rand Paul: stop spinning the wheel, pick some positions and stick to them.

-Note to Ted Cruz: Fulgencio Batista called and asked you to come back.

-Other note to Ted Cruz: Stephen Harper called and asked you to honor Batista’s invitation.

-Note to that pizza joint that won’t cater gay wedding receptions: That 800-grand in crowd funding is ordinary income and has to be reported to the IRS.

-Not that they deserve one, but is there a humane way to curb the enthusiasm of the Westboro Baptist Church’s smear campaign against gays and Jews?

-Note to Netanyahu: Are you familiar with the old Yiddish expression “you’re too smart for your own good?”

-Note to President Obama: Are you familiar with the old Yiddish expression “you’re too smart for your own good?”

-Note to Hillary Clinton: You may be familiar with the old Yiddish expression “you’re too smart for your own good,” but no worries… it doesn’t apply to you.

-Note to Linc Chafee if you’re serious about running for president, get a new hair stylist, one that doesn’t make you look like Howdy Doody.

-Note to Bob Schieffer: No no no… don’t retire!

-Note to Brian Williams:  And stay out!

And Finally:  An actual spam email promoting a scam that’s supposed to save you from scammers.  You can’t make this stuff up.... and you’d best not believe a word of it when you read this:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is compensating all the scam victims and your email address was found in the scam victim's list. This Western Union office has been fully mandated by the IMF to transfer your compensation to you via Western Union® Money Transfer.

However, we have concluded to affect your own payment through Western Union® Money Transfer, $5,000 twice daily until the total sum of $1.800.000 Million is completely transferred to you. We can not be able to send the payment with your email address alone, thereby we need your information as to where we will be sending the funds, such as; Receiver’s name:................... (Your Full Name) Address:......................Country:..................& Phone number:...................

Reply back on ( ) with your full information. Note that your payment files will be returned to the IMF within 72 hours if we did not hear from you, this was the instruction given to us by the IMF. We will start the transfer as soon as we received your information.

Director Western Union®
Tel; +229-9977-9742

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

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 ...