2/07/2016

Winter 2016 - "Snowpocaylpse on Vacation"

Last year, almost a year to the day, I had written an entry regarding our almost unheard-of march from hardly any snow to a record 110 inches.

In the past five out of six years, this time in February seems to be the focal point for blockbuster winter storms, be they nor'easters, blizzards or heavy rain.  The first or second week in February, without fail, systems come out of the Gulf of Mexico and bomb out over the Atlantic, giving us feet instead of inches.

This year, however, seems much different.

Mother Nature rewarded us for our travails with warm temperatures in November, and this Christmas with temperatures in the 60s to near 70.  This January, we had hardly any snow, and then nice, mild temperatures.  Then she said, "OK...since you all suffered through feet of snow last year, I'll give you inches at a time."

(Compare this to last year, when snow was almost up to my shoulders and to see a completely clear and clean sidewalk was a marvel.  I nearly freaked out every damn time Harvey Leonard touched the weather map, pointed to the huge wall of water out the mid-Atlantic and traced a path to Cape Cod, then pointed out the polar vortex and traced a path to Canada and cold.)

El Nino, the warm-weather phenomenon, also lent a hand.  It has kept the arctic Polar Vortex at bay, so there haven't been days upon days of bitter cold weather, which help along the blockbuster storms.

The biggest fear I have is that the T will fail yet again.  Compared to last year, it has been less of a worry, with the ability to work from home.  It will certainly tone down that anxiety of riding in sardine-can like conditions, or seeing signs reading FOREST HILLS 20+ MINUTES, or reading about 90 minute delays on the Needham Line.

Winter 2012 was the first winter I had moved to West Roxbury.  There was hardly any snow, and it hit 80 degrees in March.  2016 won't be as kind, but it certainly won't be as ferocious this year.

1/31/2016

Not your usual (shotgun) wedding

When companies/institutions state that "your safety is paramount" after something grisly or accidental has happened, it's commonly brushed off as being too nit-picky, for want of a more colorful word.  When it happens to be a wedding reception costing well north of half a million dollars, where one of the guests forgot to lock the safety of his gun...well, it's a tough call, but a necessary one.  The Waldorf Astoria made the right, if unpopular, decision to cancel the wedding reception while an active police investigation was going on.

Some people are muttering "first world problems," "the one percent deserves this," etc.  It's also very tempting for people to call the bride a spoiled princess for emitting a blood-curdling scream after she was told her wedding reception was cancelled.  She'd be much worse off if she found one of her bridal party, parents, relatives, or even her newly-wedded husband, on the floor bleeding profusely while FDNY EMS were attempting to rescuscitate them - and then stating, "We did all we could; this one's non-viable; call the medical examiner."  Then they would be preparing for a funeral, to which they would sit shiva instead of enjoying a honeymoon.

Even though it's heartbreaking to have the perfect wedding ruined completely by carelessness, it's also a lesson for all of us that in the end, the reception could have been marred by other factors - an angry uncle being too drunk, a spinsterish sister getting frisky with a waiter, an ex bashing their other exes' main squeeze, or an obnoxious guest with a huge chip on their shoulders getting into a fight with anyone they encountered.  If you focus too much on how much money you lost on a reception instead of counting yourselves lucky that it could have escalated to an uglier plane, the only thing people will agree upon is that you're too shallow, superficial and petty to be married in the first place.

[Side note: On the other hand, there are those perfectly happy being married in their backyards, with the justice of the peace (or maybe Elvis?) and a BBQ reception, or City Hall, in front of the mayor, and then a nice dinner at a restaurant.  It would be stress-free, no-fuss, no complaints about the registry, no ugly bridesmaid dresses, no tuxedo rentals, and a much lower price tag.  And the money saved can go to a new house.]

1/17/2016

All it took was a word

I ride the MBTA three days out of five, plus the occasional weekend.  I've survived fare increases when they've occured, and in some circumstances, have changed passes to save money.

The Legislature, in its attempt to bring in more revenue to a debt riddled, maintenance-hungry MBTA, took what was supposed to be a 5% biannual fare hike to a 10% biannual increase by changing the language of the bill to "annual".  (That meant what would likely be a 2.5% per year increase changed to 5% per year.)

Sneaky?  Well, what do you expect when the Legislature doesn't have open-access laws and can do just about anything behind closed doors, sight unseen?

Of course, after heaps of outrage, the T may "listen" (read: concede that the public is onto them and attempt to mollify their anger) and honor the 5% increase all along (or maybe 7.5%).  That doesn't forgive the Legislature's underhanded tactics in attempting to grab more money away from passengers than the T is entitled to.

Those kind of tactics would be more fitting for a corrupt backwater, but for Massachusetts, it's expected.

1/10/2016

You didn't win the Powerball jackpot - 2016 edition

In 2013, when the jackpot for Powerball eclipsed $600 million, I had my opinions regarding this zenith of lottery mania.

In this current edition, where the jackpot could be a possible $1.3 billion come Wednesday, two ignorant statements have been circulating, plus the very real possibility that the companies sponsoring Powerball have been involved in a rigging scandal for smaller jackpots.

First, the scandal.  You would really have to have a priori knowledge and powerful software to rig the numbers in your favor. (For comparison, read the Michael Larson Press Your Luck scandal.)  Yes, people who get caught lottery rigging face serious charges and lengthy jail terms, but usually what happens is that security gets stricter and the play matrix (the numbers you fill out on paper) change so the odds of repeating the feat are far less.  This is why it gets harder to win because it gets harder to cheat.

Now, for the statements.

1. "A single person shouldn't win the entire jackpot."
2. "Give one person X amount while giving everyone else Y amount."

Lotteries in the United States have always been seen as vice, so if you're a winner, Uncle Sam takes 25% and withholds it until tax time, where they charge you another 41.6% (top tax bracket of 39.6% plus 2% Affordable Care Act surcharge).  Depending on your state, you will likely pay state and local income taxes.  Thus, to say "a single person shouldn't win the jackpot" reeks of envy.

Also, the experiment of capping a jackpot has also been exploited to the advantage of the few.  Until 2011, a game called Cash Winfall in Massachusetts had a top prize of $2 million, and if the top prize wasn't won, the top prize would "roll down" to increase the payout of the lesser prizes by a factor of 10.  CashWinfall was shut down by the Massachusetts lottery after they discovered syndicates (groups of players) bought hundreds of thousands of tickets to guarantee themselves a lot of "roll down" winners.

What is true, however, is that a single person won't win the jackpot if several other winners have the same sets of winning numbers.

Number #2's odious undertone is that lottery jackpots should be made into welfare for everyone.  Lotteries are not vehicles for hide-bound socialism...it's winner take all, not "everyone gets a medal." $1.5 billion by everyone in the US yields a princely $5...hardly a poverty-buster.

Whoever the winner(s) of the $1.3 billion jackpot may be, remember there are also smaller prizes to be won.  You may win $4 and take the cash back for a cup of coffee and a muffin. If you choose not to play, that's fine too - just don't be insufferably rude and obnoxious to others who feel $2 is a gateway to a dream.

UPDATE: The $1.5 billion jackpot has been split by three people in California, Florida, and Tennessee.

UPDATE II: Michelle Malkin weighs in.  A hoax article about a hedge fund manager winning and other Powerball scams seem to highlight her premise.

1/07/2016

It's 1995 all over again

In January 1995, the biggest network affiliation switch occurred when long-time NBC affiliate WBZ became a CBS affiliate, while WHDH (previously WNAC and WNEV) became an NBC affiliate.  This was due to CBS's purchase of Westinghouse Broadcasting, and Westinghouse Stations became CBS owned and operated (O&O) stations.

That will change in 2017, when WHDH loses its affiliation with NBC.  NBC will run its owned-and-operated station, NBC Boston, on Channel 60 (currently WNEU), currently Telemundo Boston.  Also in the deal, New England Cable News will be folded into the news operations wing.  It will be the second UHF-based  NBC station in Massachusetts (WWLP in Springfield is first one)

What happens to WHDH?

I don't know, but the chances of WHDH becoming a Fox affiliate are slim.  Cox Communications has WFXT wrapped up; unless Sunbeam Communications, the parent of WHDH, makes an offer WFXT can't refuse, no way would they want to give up that affiliation. Even if they were successful, it would reek of what happened in Miami (same channel number, same affiliation swap, same mess).

I could see WHDH collect the CW affiliation of its siser station, WLVI-56.  It would be the first time a new major network would be on a VHF station in Boston, but would leave WLVI as an independent again.

NBC, however, could go right for the throat and purchase WHDH and WLVI outright, put NBC Boston on Channel 56, and force the CW affiliation onto Channel 7.  That's least likely, as NBC has not been pleased with WHDH's preemptions and wants a much better signal.

Stay tuned (no pun intended)...

12/27/2015

The shallow end of the Twitter pool

I estimate that most of the entries on this blog are about 700-800 words (plus or minus), and in the past I used labels so people could find my posts easily, but I don't anymore. (OK, I admit I got lazy.)  I prefer whole sentences and paragraphs to Twitter, which I once used but feel it does little than spew shallow thoughts - and even worse, people chasing whatever comes out of their spleen with a stream of idiotic, equally superficial hashtags, as if they're attempting to justify that shallowness.
If you're raging and feel Twitter is your only savior, put the smartphone down and walk away, because the problems you have can't be solved in 140 characters.  World peace, clean water, and single payor everything cannot be had with a vanity hashtag...and if your purpose is to avoid face-to-face confrontation and you're using Twitter as a crutch, resolve your inner conflicts with a trained professional instead of writing a stream of venom you're going to regret later on.
The rule "if you don't want your parents/boss to see it, don't post it" is key here, because in these electronic times, all that's needed is a bloviating post about a political candidate you despise (or opposite that, a gushing post that would make a PR head applaud) to condemn you.  It's much easier than a background check, and dream jobs have been dashed and people immediately terminated because they thought the stream of Twitter discomfiture would cleanse them of their demons.
On a side note: this blog celebrated its 9th anniversary a couple of weeks ago (for those who never saw it or came in late, the first post is here) and this current post will be my 896th.

12/24/2015

Nutriloaf U

A recommendation to the colleges who have students whining and whipping their hands about "culturally inappropriate" foods in the student cafe: feed the students prison food for a week.

I have never been to prison, but after watching Lock Up several times, the food they serve is intentionally not a foodie's paradise.  There is no banh mi, muglitawanny soup, fried chicken, anadama bread or sushi.  It's to meet daily nutritional requirements, and all the better if it's made to be unappealing and gross.

Those who really misbehave get a concoction called Nutriloaf - a mix of "milk, flour, potatoes, carrots, margarine and sugar" that looks and likely tastes nasty.  Those who get Nutriloaf do everything in their power not to get it again, and that means avoiding solitary confinement.

Add to that the very real prison experience of being watched like a hawk, and only having ten to twenty minutes to eat, and with guards taking away your food or sending you to solitary confinement for even the slightest of infractions, such as putting too much salt on your SOS (creamed chipped beef on toast), and no longer will a self-righteous pill of a college studen't bitch about the banh mi not being crisp enough or the sushi rice not having the correct vinegar and water content.  They'll even see chicken pucks (chicken patties) as a good meal.

Maybe a prison experience is too harsh.  Send a few Marine Corps drill instructors to these elite colleges, and give these special snowflakes the Parris Island/San Diego boot camp experience, where they will marched everywhere, be barked at to drink water, give facts on demand, be "smoked" (forced to exercise as punishment) and be insulted in everything they choose.  Then the self-righteous pill would be too busy screaming "SIR/MA'AM, YES, SIR/MA'AM" to complain.

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