Wednesday, June 30, 2021

MINI 025 A New Kind of Spam

 Press 1 to step into my web.

 

The “missed call” was sort of familiar so I called back. A machine answered.  It said “thank you for returning our call. To continue setting up your account, press 1.”

 

Setting up my account?  What account?  I hung up. This was brilliant. If I call them and press 1, I will have done the unthinkable. I will have called them to do business.  What business? Probably the business of giving them my name and phone number, thus making them ineligible for the “do not call list.” And giving them the license to sell my data to any bidder.

 

My data aren’t worth much.  But this was clever.  Some day they’re going to really crack down on unsolicited callers.  You know the type. Purveyors of such bologna as “there has been suspicious activity on your Amazon account.” Or “We’ve noticed that your new car warranty has expired and…” Or “This is the Fraternal Order of Police of NewRoses PA inviting you to contribute to…”

 

Those people.  People with computers who chose an area code and exchange and then dial every possible four following digits in order until some dumb bug flies into their web.

 

Oh… and if the call was legit… this post presents a marvelous new opportunity for a tech savvy crook with a few bucks and the time to spend them on a dialing machine.

 

I’m wesrichards@gmail.com my opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. © 2021

 


Monday, June 28, 2021

4738 A Tale of Two Buildings

 

The lady approaching 90 lived in a six room apartment in Manhattan.  Not a fancy place.  But the rent was cheap because when she moved in, they still had real rent control.  So she was paying way less than the place was worth and the landlord tried to buy her out.

 

Stubborn old girl had no place to go. Didn’t need all that room. Didn’t use all that room. Wouldn’t move.  An investor’s nightmare.  He could have made two apartments out of her place. Maybe three.

 

The landlord was an upstanding citizen with no more than the usual strikes against him you get in that business. And he was absolutely aghast when fire mysteriously broke out and destroyed just that one apartment. 

 

You can know this because he kept saying it to police, the housing department, the fire department, the other residents of the building and in an ad in the local weekly Pennysaver.

 

The lady approaching 90 roomed with a friend a couple of floors down. The landlord rebuilt, savoring the idea that he’d finally get someone to pay big bucks.  But LA90 wouldn’t move.

 

Place was all rewired and spiffed up… painted.  The hinges oiled; the lightbulbs replaced.  Most of the furniture.  The stove.

 

Sometimes the good guys win.

 

Sometimes it’s better not to own your own roof.

 

Like the little tower on the shore off Miami, built of sticks and stones and sitting on shifting sands.  You know the place. It’s been in the news a lot lately because a lot of dead people remain buried in it. Not where they expected to be kept when they died, not a one of them.  Not permanent residencies, any of them.

 

While there was no reason to believe anything major would go wrong with that apartment uptown, there was plenty in the little Florida town only a chamber of commerce could name, “Surfside,” and the building only a real estate huckster could name, “Champlain Tower.”

 

The building is approaching 40, much younger than the Lady Approaching 90, but with nonagenarian signs of age.

 

Cracks in the walls.  A leak below the basement. When 12 stories sit on sand, water below the basement is a sign something’s going to fall.  And as you well know, half the place came down in a crushing cascade.

 

And most of the people who lived there -- owners but without authority to fix up the place -- have died or are missing and presumed dead which everyone thinks but no one will say.

 

So now, the county springs into action.  Let’s check out all the buildings approaching 40. There’s a standard on the local lawbooks requiring that.  Probably have two inspectors for a thousand high-rises. Should be done by the time buildings that are still standing turn 50.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Friday, June 25, 2021

4737 The Cheerleader

  You may think this is an a-bomb but it isn’t. It’s just a teenager reacting to a perceived slight.

 

Old saw: When a dog bites a man, that’s not news. When a man bites a dog, that’s news.

 

New Saw: When a 14-year-old girl goes on a tirade and is punished, that’s not news.  When the US Supreme Court says she shouldn’t have been, that’s news.

 

This is about Brandi Levy, a teen from a backwater in North Central Pennsylvania.  As a high school freshman, she didn’t make it to the varsity cheerleader squad at her high school.  So she did what any normal red-blooded American teen would do in such a case.

 

She went to an internet cafe.  She sat down at a desk and signed on to one of her social media accounts and let loose what has been reported as a vulgar attack shaped much like a mushroom cloud.

 

The school noticed.  It reacted. It booted her from the junior varsity squad. She and her parents took the school to court.  The case made its way up through the appeals process.  It landed on the request-for-ruling inbox at the US Supreme Court.

 

Surprisingly, the court said it would consider the case. Even more surprisingly, it did. Then it ruled for Brandi and against the school.  The ruling was 8-1.  This was the first freedom-of-speech case won by a high school student in 50 years.

 

The ruling puts limits on what a school district can demand of a student off campus and during non-school hours.  But it didn’t eliminate everything.

 

The court vote was 8-to-one with Clarence Thomas dissenting.  Thomas generally votes ultra conservative and anti-government except in cases when the government seems useful to him … which in this case, it did.

 

The court has maintained first amendment free speech rights for students as long as what they do doesn’t disrupt the ever-so-smooth functioning that school districts like to pretend is their hallmark.  Ms. Levy’s Snap Chat comments were posted in 2017.

 

She said in an interview she was surprised the court took the case.  So were the usual clutch of court-watchers.

 

Her post was riddled with the F word and showed a picture of her and a friend raising their middle fingers.

 

In his majority opinion, Justice Stephan Breyer wrote that schools have an interest in protecting a student’s right to express unpopular opinions, especially when it’s done off campus.

 

We have no data supporting that Ms. Levy’s position was unpopular.  But even in ruling for her, the justices indicated it was unpopular with them, despite their votes.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

MINI 024 Let the Boss Eat the Bill

 

It was really good, thanks. Sorry about having to leave in such a hurry.

 

News item: A table of diners at a restaurant in New Jersey dined and dashed. They left without paying.  This steamed the 20-year-old woman who waited the table, even though steamed, the server was not on the menu.

 

She took off down the street and when she caught up with them, they kidnapped her, threw her into their van and took off.  She escaped at a traffic light.  Not terribly badly hurt. But pretty badly shaken.

 

Nice try, young lady. But dumb.  A thirst for justice can be slaked in other ways.  Let the boss worry about that kind of thing. Call the cops.

 

The bill came to 70 bucks. The van drove off and the girl and the restaurant still got stiffed.  And being that she’s probably a part timer without benefits, she had to pay to get patched up.

 

And then, they probably sent you home before your shift ended.  Which means you lost two parts of your meager paycheck.

 

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

Any Questions?  wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Monday, June 21, 2021

4736 Get Out of Getting Out the Vote

 Let’s pass the plate and find a way to defund the politicians who don’t want you to vote … except for them.

 

A lot of politicians are trying to make it harder for you to vote.  Maybe it’s time we civilians tried to make it harder for them to get voted for.

 

Let me explain something to you. It’s a rare politician who leaves office poorer than he was when he started. Nothing wrong with making a buck.  It’s not THAT they do it, but how. 

 

How they do it is by panhandling, which is illegal if you do it on the street but lauded if you do it at fund raising events and by taking it under the table by promising the world and delivering maybe half.

 

They do it by convincing enough of us that they have our best interests at heart. True, if your interests include working a short week for a good paycheck, early retirement, and lauding it over others.

 

It’s better than welfare. People who receive welfare sometimes get inspected by outsiders.  Office holders don’t have that problem. They inspect each other.  Like cops.

 

They do this by asking each other if they took graft or slept through a rollcall vote or were out on the town with each other’s spouses.  That’s the extent of it.  After we have to assume they’d be truthful, because they’re members of congress or the state legislature or the school board.  A higher calling than you, a dumb wage slave pushing broom at Kmart or running a conglomerate.

 

OK, so if they’re depending on your vote, why are they trying to stop you from voting?  Well, that’s kind of selective.  They want you to vote for them, not just anybody. Ballots are secret, so how do they know who you’re voting for?  

 

By assuming. Assuming has to be based on something, right?  Maybe your neighborhood. Or your skin color. Or the language you speak at home.   

 

SHRAPNEL:

--The temperature hit 115 degrees in Phoenix.  Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.  Right… and people are drying out along with it.

 

--Here’s further proof climate change is a myth perpetrated by a liberal cabal of people who hate America. A tropical storm hit Alabama and killed eight kids from a home for abused and neglected children.  But that was really heavenly revenge for taking down all those Confederate statues.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Friday, June 18, 2021

4735 Watch Watchers

 

Would you be seen in public with something like this on your wrist? 

 

Does anyone still wear a watch?  Do you remember when you wouldn’t leave home without one?  When you felt naked if you did?  Or lost?  It really wasn’t all that long ago.

 

Do you now have a drawer full of these things… with dead batteries, or lapsed self-winding mechanisms or which haven’t been wound since forever?

 

Do you open the drawer as you used to and contemplate which watch to put on?  Or do you just go there out of habit and stop yourself from pulling it open because “Hey wait, there’s nothing in here I need today.”

 

Yes, there still are people who wear watches.  Some of them just like the reminder on their wrist.  Some STILL feel naked without them. Others think of them as jewelry… necklaces or rings for your wrist.  

 

There are showcases in every jewelry store filled with beautiful watches.  Catalogue companies show you watches -- plain and fancy -- with their own brand names on them, making them forever unusable as collectors items.

 

And there’s a TV shopping channel that remains on the air only because it is financed by a watch making factory. (Their most recent ex-benefactor was a goat farm and two guys who made lotions and potions from the milk -- but who have since moved their advertising to another channel.)

 

They don’t call themselves “The Watch Channel” but they could.  Of course, that would bring down the Wessays Legal Team for stealing our long-running Clock Channel which displays world time interactively and plays background music using only songs about time and its measurement.)

 

But the onslaught of the smartphone has pretty much killed the mass market for watches and is making a dent in the alarm clock trade, too.

 

It’s also killed big chunks of the camera industry. Who needs to schlep a heavy and clunky box when your iPhone or Samsung has six lenses and takes pictures far beyond your own skill level -- and fits in your pocket?

 

The only thing the phones don’t do is make and receive calls well.  And they may have solved that problem with the new system under construction, 5G.

 

There’s an old joke we’ve reworked for the new age. “The restaurant is terrible. The good news is the portions are small.”  New version:  The phone is terrible. But the battery lasts forever.”

 

OK, back to watches.  Ever try to get a battery changed?  You need two people, a body builder and a brain surgeon.  This is a tough combination of people to find.

 

The muscle guy may be able to get the back of the watch off if he or she tries really hard.  The brain surgeon will be able to fish out the tiny battery and insert the new one.  Oh, and health insurance no longer covers reclosing the watch. You have to do THAT yourself.  

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Mini 023 Naming the Drugs

 

Today’s mini blog was made possible in part by a grant from Sunshine Pharmaceuticals, makers of Folkitol the drug that does nothing but has an endless lists of side effects.  Ask your doctor if Folkitol is right for you.

People have made fortunes by making up stupid names for pharmaceuticals.  Some of them probably have figured out the Wessays System for naming, even though our patent doesn’t expire for another eight years and there’s no generic.

 

Here is the system.  Take a common word and change some of the letters around.  Example, the picture up top.  You can figure out its original components. There are three of them.

 

That drug isn’t real.  Here’s an example from the real world.

Abilify. It’s “ability” made into a verb.

 

Lyrica. Celebrex.

 

Are you listening, Big Pharma? Here are some suggestions -- freebies, and so far unused.

 

Spryngbaid for that youthful feeling.

Nitsbegone for body bugs

Fondmakeys for memory problems

Longatuda combats Latuda.

 

I’m Was Richer. My opinions are my own but you’re walking toodumb. ®

AniKwestors? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Monday, June 14, 2021

4734 Old Racket, New Twist

 Tools of the trade, both old and new.

 From our “Nothing New Under the Sun” Department: the protection racket.

 

Back in the day, local hoodlums and hooligans would prey on store owners.  Smash a window or start a fire.  Demand money to protect against window smashers and firebugs.

 

Conducting that kind of business is risky.  And it’s labor intensive.  Not only that, but this is the age of globalization and national retailers.

 

So the hoods and hooligans can’t try this at, say, Wal-Mart (most of them don’t have windows anyway) or Macy’s where you have to make appointments with district or regional managers if you want to sell anything -- even unbroken windows.  And whomever you need to see will always be “in a meeting” or “in the field.”

 

Today’s protection rackets are run from the basements of computer geeks holed up in mommy’s basement in Bulgaria.  Theft of service and ransomware attacks take no street hooligans. And a lot of the time mommy doesn’t even know what’s going on in her basement.

 

“Oh, my little son Stoyan. He’s only 43. Came to live at home and all he does is sit in the basement and play video games.” 

 

Well no, mama.  He’s not exactly playing video games. He’s collecting bitcoins and other cyber currency.  How do you think he can afford that Benz he drives and by the way, why is he behind in the rent?

 

The protection racket has gone international.  As far as we know the ransomware is always incoming and the bitcoins outgoing.  But then, if little Jimmy from Aniston, Alabama is in his mommy’s basement playing ransomware games, his mommy isn’t aware, and neither is the Associated Press nor Cyberbully Digest (dot-com?)

 

Through some accident of good luck, US officials figured out and stopped the ransomware attack that temporarily disabled the Colonial Pipeline and drove gasoline prices through the roof all up and down the eastern seaboard.  But that kind of good luck doesn’t come with every incident.

 

And the hackers are usually more advanced than the highly educated software engineers who put up websites they think they have safety tested but who can’t read their own coding.

 

So… criminality has come a long way since Izzy opened his bagel bakery in the Bronx and the locals came a-visiting with sledgehammers and cans of gasoline.

 

Advice to the hoods and hooligans of cyberspace: Buy a beater, not a Benz.  And pay the rent to mommy on time and in cash.

 

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

Any Questions? Wes Richards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 Tools of the trade, both old and new.

 

From our “Nothing New Under the Sun” Department: the protection racket.

 

Back in the day, local hoodlums and hooligans would prey on store owners.  Smash a window or start a fire.  Demand money to protect against window smashers and firebugs.

 

Conducting that kind of business is risky.  And it’s labor intensive.  Not only that, but this is the age of globalization and national retailers.

 

So the hoods and hooligans can’t try this at, say, Wal-Mart (most of them don’t have windows anyway) or Macy’s where you have to make appointments with district or regional managers if you want to sell anything -- even unbroken windows.  And whomever you need to see will always be “in a meeting” or “in the field.”

 

Today’s protection rackets are run from the basements of computer geeks holed up in mommy’s basement in Bulgaria.  Theft of service and ransomware attacks take no street hooligans. And a lot of the time mommy doesn’t even know what’s going on in her basement.

 

“Oh, my little son Stoyan. He’s only 43. Came to live at home and all he does is sit in the basement and play video games.” 

 

Well no, mama.  He’s not exactly playing video games. He’s collecting bitcoins and other cyber currency.  How do you think he can afford that Benz he drives and by the way, why is he behind in the rent?

 

The protection racket has gone international.  As far as we know the ransomware is always incoming and the bitcoins outgoing.  But then, if little Jimmy from Aniston, Alabama is in his mommy’s basement playing ransomware games, his mommy isn’t aware, and neither is the Associated Press nor Cyberbully Digest (dot-com?)

 

Through some accident of good luck, US officials figured out and stopped the ransomware attack that temporarily disabled the Colonial Pipeline and drove gasoline prices through the roof all up and down the eastern seaboard.  But that kind of good luck doesn’t come with every incident.

 

And the hackers are usually more advanced than the highly educated software engineers who put up websites they think they have safety tested but who can’t read their own coding.

 

So… criminality has come a long way since Izzy opened his bagel bakery in the Bronx and the locals came a-visiting with sledgehammers and cans of gasoline.

 

Advice to the hoods and hooligans of cyberspace: Buy a beater, not a Benz.  And pay the rent to mommy on time and in cash.

 

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

Any Questions? Wes Richards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Friday, June 11, 2021

4733 What (Not) to Name the Baby

  His name is Dan.

 

Names run in cycles. Maybe in fads. Time was, you could walk into a crowded room and yell “Hey Jennifer!” Half the girls or women in the room would turn around.  “Hey, Bob!” would do the same for men and boys.

 

Each year around now, someone will come up with lists of the most popular names for newborns. 

 

They’ve been collecting statistics like these for more than 100 years, most recently by the Social Security mavens.

 

This year there’s also a bottom for the chart.

 

Donald is fast approaching that coveted spot.

 

No one wants to name the baby “Donald.”  Well, not exactly “no one.”  The name has fallen from its lofty perch of 555th most popular in 2019 to 610th.

 

But as recently as the early 1990s it was within slow-pitch distance among the top 100.

 

Now, analyzing this sort of thing is kind of like analyzing a particular Wall Street security or giving a Rorschach test to your ex-spouse.  It’s iffy.  In fact, it took some doing to figure out why the name took such a nosedive when it did.

 

People like to name their kids after presidents.  There was one guy in the Bronx a long time ago, Franklin Delano Markowitz. I did not make that up.

 

“Ronald” wasn’t all that popular until one got elected. “Barack” made a tiny blip when Obama was elected.

 

But “Donald” is not only falling, it’s taking down names associated with it. “Baron,” “Jared,” “Ivanka,” and “Tiffany” are on the same downhill run.  And in the mid-90s, “Melania” was rising.  Now, it, too, has fallen. 

 

“Donald” is not alone.  The name “Karen” also is falling. Once popular, it has become a symbol for outrageously self-righteous, self-admiring, and otherwise irritating women.

 

The devastating hurricane “Katrina” sent that name circling the drain.  When Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn, that name and its variations plunged into the deep end off the high board. Monica dropped into the briny deep during the Clinton years.

 

Know anyone named “Isis,” once a deity now a symbol of terrorism?

 

My paternal grandpa was German and his name was Adolf.  You know what happened to that one. Just a little bad luck for gramps.

 

As for me?  Well, I could never get a straight answer from my parents about why they chose Wesley.  And for the record, I don’t like it. Never did. 

 

But I got even, though unintentionally.  Half the older relatives, born overseas could not pronounce the letter “W.”

 

I’m Ves Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re velcome to them. 

 

Any Questions?  wesrichards@gmail.com

© VR 2021.

 


MINI 030 The Other Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is in big trouble. The State Attorney General issued a fire-breathing report about how he improperly tou...