Monday, December 25, 2017

1886 Gone Fishin' (Update 1) 12/31/17

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year.

Wessays will return on Wednesday, January 3, 2018.

Brooklyn Bluegrass Collective

Friday, December 22, 2017

1885 Dumbed Down, Numbed Up

Let’s take a new look at Occam's razor.  It’s an old saw that says the simplest answer is usually right and the simplest method is usually best.

Maybe. But it’s hard to judge nowadays because we have run out of simple.  Cutting the Gordian Knot was a fine and true example of simplicity. King Solomon’s splitting the baby to resolve a conflict between two women each claiming it was her kid was not, even if it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Today, everything is a production number.  Maybe we have a biological need for moving parts.  At one time you could fix those parts with a little duct tape, a hammer and a screwdriver. Now when you look under the hood of your car or the workings of the government or some corporations and nonprofits, you scratch your head as you ask “what is all that stuff?”

But there’s a problem.  Not only has life become over complicated, it has become digital.  And that means fewer moving parts. So if our need for them is biological, we have to manufacture our own.

Show of hands: what does an MP3 look like? No hands?  No surprise. Like gravity, we know what it does but we don’t know what it is.  We can hear it played, but we can’t fiddle with it. Or touch or smell or taste it.

So we complicate other things.

The simple way around complicated telephone trees is to make the first option “For an operator, press 0.”  Of course if that happened, no one would listen to the rest of the choices because nobody wants THOSE kinds of moving parts.

Tuning a television set is another of these kickline-like techno- processes.  It’s time for another show of hands. Raise your hand if your TV remote didn’t work and you wanted to change channels with the controls on the set itself.  Do you even know where they are?

A few hands up this time.  Y’all must be geeks.  When was the last time you heard that satisfying mechanical click of a knob that turned the set on?  

A faulty knob on a radio or TV or record player could be unsoldered and replaced.  Okay… no duct tape involved. Real moving parts, though, get mechanical fixes.

The refrigerator had a similar simplicity and mechanical satisfaction: One knob.  Two fields of settings, “colder” or “warmer.”  Today’s refrigerators -- smart fridges -- are amazing feats.

“You have two pounds of hamburger meat in the freezer.  It will expire in 21 days.”  Thank you but I’ll wait to use it.  The next day, SmartFridge tells you “You have two pounds of hamburger meat in the freezer.  It will expire in 20 days.”  When the countdown gets to a week, the refrigerator will start to get nasty. “Hey, George, that meat in the freezer has only a week to go, you’d better get a move on.”

And on the eighth day it yells at you.

Marvelous.  Of course you can disable that feature. Oh. Wait. No you can’t. It’s built into the box’s electrical system and behind a wall that runs the height of the machine so you can’t get at it.

Once upon a time if your cat got stuck up a tree, you’d call the firehouse and they’d send over a guy with a ladder and a net. Now you have to jump through 911 hoops and it takes forever.  Not dissing the emergency phone system, but people have started clogging the lines with stuff like “McDonald’s is out of chicken nuggets. I need a cop.”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

1884 Current Events Summary

In olden times, the definition of an Associated Press "Flash" was "An item of three words or fewer that no one will misunderstand.”

Tax Bill Passes.
Image result for mitch mcconnell

Mitch, Mitch you son of a... uh... gun!

The blind and the uncaring approved the tax bill while the whiners and scatterbrains held a hand-wring-in reminiscent of a hippie era love fest only without the sex, drugs and rock n roll.  The procedural things that are out of alignment with the House version will be fixed today and trump will sign it into law.

This senate reminds one of a coven of old men with erectile dysfunction and when they finally get up, don't know what to do other than congratulate one another.

The bill is a minefield disguised as a theme park and no one has a map.  It is based on unsound or disproven premises and the only reason it passed was to give republican politicians what I hope is the last hurrah of this congress.  It's something they can take home to the cheers of the people who purchased them at auction.

You think the slave trade is dead?  It isn't. These men and women are bought and sold, traded and while not separated from their families, they are separated from reality.

Infrastructure rehab: There will be none apart from what's already on the books until the real estate moguls like trump and Corker figure out ways to make a buck.  

Ultimately, they will come up with an answer organized crime has used for years: use diluted cement.  You won't see the effects for years until a bridge falls down or a highway buckles in summer heat.

Kim Jong Un: I don't know why he hasn't developed a fatal brain tumor. It’s something we know how to produce and have done so.

 Why the mighty North Korean armed forces haven’t haven't put this pig on a skewer and slow roasted him? What do the security people in Washington mean when they say a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable?  

China is moving things around on its border with North Korea to be able to enforce a trade blockade should one develop.  And it keeps the NKs at home. China doesn't want them.  They are the palestinian of the far east.  This is not a new policy. And if anyone knows how to build a wall, it’s China.

Reminder: the United States did not pull out of the Paris accord.  Only trump did. The states and even the big corporations still support and will continue implementing the recommendations to reduce the man made components of climate change.

So one guy says “nah.” And even though he’s the President of the United States, he’s still just one guy.  All he’s accomplished is alienating our allies -- real and imagined.  

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, December 18, 2017

1883 Censored!

This is the first installment in an irregular series, “The War on Thought.”

George Carlin gave us “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television”
and you won’t see or hear them here, either.

 But now the trump administration has given us seven words or phrases
you can’t say in budget documents.  And here they are:

-Evidence based
-Science based

More specifically, these words allegedly cannot be used in budget
documents circulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
according to a report in the Washington Post.  
Asked about such things, the CDC’s parent agency, Health and Human
Services, says “language suggestions were made."

What could be behind this?  That’s an interesting question because the
answer could be we’re in even more trouble than you think.
And that could mean that the zombies and dolts in our brave new world
could be smarter than we think.

Look at it this way:  Words are symbols of concepts they represent;
shorthand.  Kill the word and eventually you kill the concept. Now what
interest could a bunch of politicians overseeing an agency of doctors and
researchers have in concept killing?

Let’s take one of the words and follow it backward:  fetus.
What is a fetus? It is an agglomeration of cells that under certain
conditions may (or may not) eventually turn into a living being.
 It’s a pretty neutral word.  But if you can’t use it in a budget document
on birth control or abortion, and you need to, what do you call “it?”  
Some possibilities:
-An agglomeration of cells that under certain conditions may eventually
turn into a living being.  That’s pretty awkward.

-A blob of protoplasm.  Too wide a definition.

Oh! I know! How about an “unborn baby?”
 If everyone uses that phrase instead of “fetus,” our whole perspective
on abortion and birth control shifts to a particular political view.
 Maybe your view. But maybe not.

When they take away words, they take away concepts. When they take
away concepts, what’s left behind is mental oatmeal and its cousin
mental packing peanuts.  Don’t let this happen to you.

In Memoriam
Aaron John Oleksa (1983-2017) of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania left us this
weekend after a long series of illnesses.  Behind that winning and sincere
smile was a heart filled with love, courage, generosity and talent.

These last years put him in a motorized wheelchair, a place no one should
have to live. But to Aaron it was just another of the many punches he was
forced to endure.

Now, there will be no films with his name as creator or editor; no
perceptive remarks and notes. No continuation of the dialog that began
a decade ago as we tried to reshape each others’ political views, but
always in the spirit of brotherhood and good will.  Someday, Aaron, e
will continue that ten year discussion.  But it’ll have to wait for now.

Goodbye, good friend. May you rest at last.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, December 15, 2017

1882 Sports Dept. Covers Snowstorm

1882 Sports Dept. Covers Snowstorm

Each year around now, we re-post our budding TV stars’ guide to reporting on snow storms.  This year, something a little different.  This year the Wessays(™) Academy of Journalism presents a hypothetical situation.

It’s December.  The temperature is low. The precipitation probability is near 100% and at absolutely the wrong time, the snow starts to fall and actual news breaks.  

What to cover?  Not enough staff to report both adequately.  Okay, here’s the plan:  send the reporter out to the tree where firefighters rescued the cat and ask the sports guys to cover the storm.

So Ned and Ted suit up and start their play by play.

NED: I don’t know, Ted, this looks like a big storm coming up … I normally don’t take sides but in this case, I’m hoping the plows will win.

TED: Well, these teams have a long term rivalry.
(shuffles papers, finds what he’s looking for, resumes his part of the pregame.)
T: Looking over the stats it seems that each time these teams have met the plows get battered in the early innings but come back later to clean house.

N: The first flakes are falling as snow takes the first swing and you can see the tension building on the field.

T: Yes, Ned, the salt spreader has come up from the minors and this is his first major league appearance. We saw part of his warmup earlier today.

(Video: men load salt into a truck.)

T: Salt is a family guy.  Comes out of Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Won the NCAA Saline Trophy when he played for Penn State.

N: Salt is spreading but those flakes are really coming down now.  Sand is looking on, waiting for a signal from Salt. Salt can call Sand in right about now. But it looks like he plans to handle this first onslaught alone.

T: Sand was almost traded to Fairfax, Virginia a few seasons back. But they sent him for an engine transplant instead, and he’s good as new.

N: Forty Two mile an hour wind gust from the west/northwest now.  Snow beginning to pile up some points on the road and sidewalks. Plow is moving in from the outfield.  Yes he is… pushing away one of the first snow piles.

T: Can we see a replay of that push?

(Video:  Plow pushes snow away, graphics department puts an animated circle around the snow pile.)

Unlike most sports, there is no clock in Snow Removal.  Major League Storm considered switching from innings to timed quarters.  That would need the approval of 60% of the team owners, and the League gave up because it couldn’t muster the votes.

Plus the TV people complained, fearing they couldn’t squeeze in enough commercials between quarters and didn’t want to pay for a half time show.  But that wasn’t their only problem.
They’re still trying to figure out whether it’s okay to put competing auto dealer commercials in the same commercial break and whether the cat story warrants interrupting the game.  There are no time outs in snow removal.


--The FCC has eliminated net neutrality. This means your internet pr v i d e r  can   sl     ow… parts of your s e r  v   i ce if it doe n ‘t approve of w hat you’re reading.  Also   bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb co  co completely.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

1881 And the Horse You Rode In On

1881 And the Horse You Rode In On

Moonlight and magnolia, starlight in your hair
All the world a dream come true
Did it really happen, was I really there, was I really there with you?
We lived our little drama, we kissed in a field of white
And stars fell on Alabama last night
© Sony Music

Not exactly what Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parish had in mind when they wrote the song in 1934. But a Star fell on Alabama last night. The Star was Roy Moore, the horseback riding, gun toting, mall prowling, teen pawing deposed judge who wanted to be the Republican Senator from the Republicanist state in the Confederacy.

It was a tiny victory and a huge one.  Tiny, because Democrat Doug Jones won by about one point. Huge because Alabama hasn’t sent a Democrat to Washington since the Dixiecrats moved into the Republican Party.

Huge because the voters defied the president they elected. Huge because Jones’ win will cut the republican majority in the senate to one vote, possibly ending the rubber stamping of everything the alt-right wants from the legislature it has bullied and bought into absolute power.  Huge because it sends a message to the Senate Insanity Caucus:

Turn out the lights
The party's over
They say that all
Good things must end
Call it a night
The party's over

Not exactly what Comden, Styne and Green had in mind when they wrote the song in ‘56.  But apt.

Both candidates came out of the courthouse.  Moore was the chief judge of the state court until he was ousted for refusing to remove a house-size lawn ornament with the ten commandments from the lawn.  And was then removed again for instructing his judglings from marrying gay couples.

Jones was the US Attorney who prosecuted klansmen for the Birmingham church bombing and other high profile cases. He’s everything you’d expect to lose in Alabama: Pro choice, pro integration, pro Obamacare. He believes in the dangers of climate change, the benefits of education, doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve and is a fan of (shudder) the New York Yankees.

There are no stories that have him prowling shopping centers and stalking teenage girls.  There are no stories that have him touch-wooing 14-year olds.

He didn’t ride a horse on the campaign trail and to the voting booth.  

Did Jones win the election, or was Moore so bad in the eyes of enough voters he lost? Moore had plenty going for him.  The girls, the guns, the horse. Anti gay, white supremacist. How bad was all this? So bad that even Alabama’s most republican republican, Richard Shelby, now the state’s senior senator, couldn’t support him.

But maybe some good Americans have mischaracterized the people of Alabama, believing they’re all a bunch of red neck racist phonies.  What a relief to be so wrong about so many.  

This result was a surprise. But as the fictional Alabamian Forrest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, December 11, 2017

1880 Electric Tales

1880 Electric Tales

Back in the bad old days New Yorkers would say “I don’t trust air I can’t see.”  One reason for that is little neighborhood electric generating plants scattered here and there in lower Manhattan, spewed who knows what-all into the air.

There aren’t any of those left.  So now there’s a lot of air downtown you can’t trust because you can’t see it. But in their day, they were common and Liam O’Malley was one of the last guys with a job you probably never heard of, Master of a DC Plant.

In the early days of electrification, there weren’t AC and DC, there was just DC, which boy genius and thief Thomas Edison said was the most efficient way to transmit power.

There’s a problem with that. DC -- Direct Current -- doesn’t travel well.  That’s why they don’t use it anymore.  AC -- alternating current DOES travel well and that’s why you’ve never seen the place that sends electricity to your house.  It might be a few miles away. But it could just as easily be in Bulgaria.

What, exactly, does a Master of the Plant do?  It’s pretty simple. When the machinery stops and doesn’t make electricity, he restarts it.  If that doesn’t work, he fixes the machinery.  And if THAT doesn’t work, he sends a telegraphic message to Con Ed which eventually does… something.

Liam is the author of the question “Who put the con in Con Ed?”  He had, he said, plenty of time to think up stuff like that because he had the soul of a poet and most of his time on the job was spent reading the Echo newspaper which carried stories from Ireland and with lifting weights which made him look like a weightlifter.

Back in Liam’s day, you asked him “what do you do for a living?” he’d answer “I make electricity for you.” And he was able to say with some pride that making electricity was a noble and useful occupation and working for Con Ed was a noble position.  

After some help from the deregulation crazies, utility companies can be either a supplier, a transporter or both.

Back then, the job of a utility was making things work. Today, that stuff is a sideline.  Today, the job of a utility is hunting for another utility to buy or to be bought by.  Second on the list is protecting the stock price and overpaying executives who wouldn’t know 110 volts from a banana split. Third: they still generate power because they have yet to figure out how to be an electric company without the fuss, muss and bother of actually making electricity.  But fear not, even now, and even without the help of Tom Edison, they’re getting close to a solution.

Here’s how:  by conducting wars in the stock market and the board room.  Regular readers are aware of my maxim: When the real game is at the conference table, the team on the field can’t win.

The suits are so busy writing their separation agreements, unloading or loading up on stock options and inventing fairy tales about how anti competitive practices benefit the customer (or the school children or the hockey game) that they don’t pay attention to when Joe and Josephine come home, flip up the light switch and nothing happens.

But the day is near when Con Ed, LIPA, Dominion Resources, First Energy, Florida Power and Light and Duke Energy all outsource their production to China and concentrate on what they really like to do: Shuffle paper that appears to increase profits, and cash their bonus checks while reducing the workforce by half… always a sure stock price booster.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, December 08, 2017

1879 This is Your Dog On Drugs

1879 This is Your Dog on Drugs
A veterinarian in Oregon prescribes pot for your pooch.  He is Brian Maas in Bend, a small riverfront city in where the marijuana laws drive Attorney General Sessions nuts.

Two types are available: one for pain, and one for anxiety. Many scientists both in and out of Oregon, (both high and not high,) recommend this treatment.  

The jury is still out on whether it really works and whether there are the usual four million side effects that modern pharmaceuticals remind you of between scenes of smiling people in TV ads.

Now before you get all lathered up, Dr. Maas’ pot has been de-psychotrope-ized.  Not being an expert on such matters, the question that occurs to many people is “what’s left after they defang it?”

Generations of dog people have fed their pets booze.  The poodle down the street prefers Jim Beam to Johnny Walker, but will be happy to drink either. Very happy.  She also seems to prefer Budweiser over Miller, but that’s probably because “Bud” has only one syllable and is therefore easier to bark.

The docs who use this form of treatment say it’s less debilitating than the usual dog and cat tranquilizers. And there’s no argument here about relieving the pain of a suffering animal or the anxiety of a dog or cat that refuses to get into carrier or car because it means a trip to the vet’s and probably an injection of some kind.

Note: the dogs don’t smoke.  The pot is put in oils or other stuff they eat or lick.  If the dogs DID smoke, you can bet that the Surgeon General would be all over the canine bong and joint crowd.  There’d be warning labels on the packages.  The animal’s health insurance cost would skyrocket and you’d likely see public service announcements featuring Nancy Reagan with her oh-so-sound advice, “Just say Woof.”

The feds are getting in the way of clinical testing.  And where are all the states’ rights advocates? Probably out cooking their meth while Rover’s arthritis is getting worse and South Dogpatch won’t allow a treadmill run to determine whether the dog is arthritic enough to be considered for pot.

Any kid from middle school age on up knows how to and where to buy a joint and how much he should pay. But a mature dog or cat with the aches and pains that sometimes come with age is shut out.

Next thing you know, the ATF will be raiding Dr. Flickenheimer’s Kennel and seizing the brownies for evidence.

Meantime, pets are suffering needlessly.

SHRAPNEL (Animal farm edition):
--An overweight squirrel in Maplewood NJ has been caught in the act of stealing chocolates, lip balm and tissues a homeowner traditionally leaves outside for delivery people at holiday time. Breaking into a bag for candy and throat lozenges is one thing.  But lip balm?

--Alas, poor Alice Hoyle of Bath, England. Someone stole her cow.  Well, not exactly a cow.  An inflatable cow she uses as a lawn decoration to promote a charity that helps real cows.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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4745 An Ounce of Cure

  Forget the ounce of prevention and the pound of cure.  With everything getting odder, let’s make it a Troy Ounce of prevention.   While “n...