IT’S EXPONENTIAL, DR. WATSON – BY TOM CURLEY

I’m not the first person to see this, but have any of you noticed that 2018 seems like 2017 on steroids? January is barely half over, and it seems like over a half-year has gone by. In 2017, we experienced “Trump Time.”

A crazy story that would have normally lasted a week or two, or maybe even a month, lasted for two days, tops. We were reeling from the insane shit the Shithead-in-Chief did on a Monday, only to completely forget about it because he did something even crazier on Tuesday. And that’s how it went all year.

But something happened, or seemed to happen on January 1, 2018. The crazy went into overdrive. I say ‘seemed’ to happen because his turning the crazy up to eleven was inevitable.

Why? Well, it’s because of the word exponential. Most of us know what it means, but I think most of us don’t really understand it.


ex·po·nen·tialˌekspəˈnen(t)SH(ə)l/

adjective

1. (Of an increase) becoming more and more rapid. “The social security budget was rising at an exponential rate.”

2. MATHEMATICS – Of, or expressed by, a mathematical exponent, for example, “an exponential curve.”


More specifically, we need to understand exponential growth, something that gets bigger and bigger, or grows faster and faster over time.

It’s hard for humans to think like that because we are hard-wired to think linearly. It’s easy for us to understand it takes a guy two hours to paint a room, so he can paint two rooms in four hours. Commonsense, right? That kind of commonsense  is part of our DNA. It helped us survive in the old caveman days. Back then, we had to be able to figure out in a hurry how fast we had to run to get to that tree before the really large saber tooth tiger caught up to us and ate us for lunch.

The best example of exponential growth today is in technology. Like, say, computers. There’s a thing called “Moore’s Law.” It says the processing power of computers doubles and the cost is cut in half every 12 to 18 months.

That was true, but, it is a perfect example of linear thinking.  In reality, the time that computers double in power and drop in cost is taking less and less time. Science and all knowledge, is growing at an accelerated rate.

It has always been that way. The increase in human knowledge has always been on an exponential curve, but the way the curve works didn’t make it seem that way until recently. On an exponential curve, things grow at a steady rate for a long time. Then suddenly, it hits a tipping point and everything begins to race along much faster.

Think about it. Humans have been on this planet as Homo sapiens for a few million years. Most of that time, we spent surviving. And throwing rocks at each other. Then, about 12,000 years ago, we stopped roaming and settled down. Although we still threw rocks at each other.

We created agriculture and civilization. Why did we do that? Because we discovered beer. I know this sounds like a joke, but it’s true. There’s a great documentary called “How Beer Saved The World.’  It’s fascinating, but that’s another blog for another day.

Basically, we had a choice. We could continue to wander around and throw rocks at each other. Or,  we could stay home and make more beer. And throw rocks at each other. It wasn’t a hard decision.Think of all the science — all the knowledge — mankind figured out starting 12,000 years ago up until 1900. By the 1900’s the industrial revolution was well underway. Cities were lit by gas and some places, by electricity. People and industry moved on steam-powered trains. The internal combustion engine was in production.

All this knowledge doubled between 1900 and the 1960’s. From  horse-drawn carriages to putting a man on the moon.

Well, that was fast.

The knowledge of mankind doubled again between 1960 and 1980, then doubled again by 1990.

Can we remember when smartphones didn’t exist? When iPads didn’t exist? They’ve been around for a while, right? Actually, the iPhone came out June 29, 2007. That was just ten years ago. The iPad was released on April 3, 2010. Just seven and a half years ago!

When my step son was diagnosed with kidney disease, he was told he would need a transplant. I asked his doctor if an artificial kidney would soon be available. He said, yes, but not for at least 50 years.

A few years later, he received the transplant and Ellin was the donor. After the surgery was over I asked the same doctor the same question. His answer? “Oh yeah, they will probably make a kidney from his own stem cells. Maybe five, ten years from now. ”

That was five years ago. Today, they’re talking about making kidneys with a 3D printer.

What happened?

Mankind reached the tipping point of that exponential curve. We’re at the point where the curve ends and the line goes straight up. This is when our knowledge quite literally explodes.

We’re way over to the right.

This is not something I thought of myself. There is a fascinating book by futurist Robert Kurzweil, called “The Singularity Is Near.” I highly recommend it.


What does any of this have to do with our Toddler-In-Chief? A lot. In particular, with his mental illness. Literally hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists are screaming at the top of their lungs that this nut job is, well, nuts. and getting worse.

They have collectively pointed out that the stress of the job is accelerating his illness. He’s not merely getting crazier at warp speed. He has gone all the way to plaid!

You can see it yourself and you don’t need a Ph.D either.

Every interview he gives is a trip further down the rabbit hole. His last few interviews have gone from, “Bizarre” to “Unhinged” to “Insane” to “Insanely insane.” Read the transcript of his last interview with The Wall Street Journal. It was a literal word salad. Not a single sentence was complete or made any sense.

I just watched a news conference where the doctor that supposedly just examined Trump said he passed a cognitive mental test and he got all 30 questions right!

Really? The questions were things like “name four animals” and “point out what 3:15 looks like on a clock.” Wow, so the President is sane because he recognizes a cow, a pig, a dog,a rhinoceros and a pussy. He also knows when it’s quarter after three.

Short red hand was. at 3 and is now. moving toward 4. Long blue hand. has moved. to 15.

Do the same test next month.

I think Grandpa is not just losing it. He’s losing it faster and faster each day. It’s time to take away the keys to his car. Remove the big nuclear button from his desk. Get him into the memory care unit at a good nursing home. Hell, you can designate Mar-A-Lago as his official nursing home and lock him in his room. It’s only the middle of January as I write this and I’m hoping we make it to February. Last year, at this time we were hoping to make it to 2020. The month isn’t even over yet and he’s managed to shut down the government. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

I apologize for not finding more humor in all of this. I try, but sometimes it just ain’t there. So, to make up for it. Here are two dogs playing “I Got Your Nose!”.

A THIEF IN THE NIGHT – RICH PASCHALL

The Big Blanket Caper, by Rich Paschall


Crimes like this often go unreported. Perhaps there is fear of confrontation. Perhaps there is embarrassment. Perhaps the deed is temporarily forgotten in the light of dawn. It is evil, nonetheless. Victims need to come forward without fear of retribution. Action needs to be taken against the perpetrators.

The evil doers of these deeds may feign ignorance of their wicked actions. They may say to those who will care to listen to their lies that they meant no harm, if harm was done at all. HA! These especially heinous crimes should be pursued by an élite squad known as the Special Victims Unit in order to bring Law and Order back to the home.

The Big Blanket Caper

We are, of course, talking about those dishonorable reprobates who steal the covers in the night. As a victim you may find that while you were once comfortable in your own bed, a wicked and immoral person has rolled himself (herself) up in your covers, exposing you to the open air. The warmth and safety that you once felt has been taken away by a corrupt person next to you.  Try as you might, you will never recover your portion of the big blanket that was a part of your property. You are left out in the cold, so to speak, while this iniquity goes unpunished. Prior to the light of dawn, there is no way to recover what is rightfully yours so you can re-cover yourself. This depraved action leaves you deprived of your security and domestic tranquility.

As if this encounter was not vile enough, there is also the matter of real estate. You may think that your stake in a territory would be sacred. You may believe what is your is, well, yours. There are, however, dishonorable “land grabbers” that will sneak in to take your space if the opportunity presents itself. You must protect yourself against the wickedness of those who would swoop in to encroach upon the land.

A property deed will not protect you. No proof of your ownership is respected by these degenerates. The pain and suffering they will inflict upon their victims are absolutely unspeakable. The worst criminal offenders should be pursued by the detectives of the Major Case Squad. Often, however, these atrocities often go uncaught and unpunished.

The Case of the Real Estate Mogul

As you have probably guessed, we refer to those corrupt beings who are not satisfied with half of the bed. These noxious mates will take additional territory as if it was the Wild West and they were free to stake any claim they want. It is time to fight back against this villainy. Tweet your dissatisfaction with the term #MyLand. Let the world know we will no longer stand for this wrongdoing.

Victims of the real estate scheme are particularly vulnerable if they momentarily leave their space in the middle of the night due to calling of nature. It is impossible to ignore this call as if it were the phone that would not stop ringing. But beware! You may return to find that the malevolent mate has swooped in to claim half of what was once yours. You are left with just a sliver of land and little recourse against this sin.

Finally, the Big Blanket Caper and The Case of the Real Estate Mogul are not your only worries in the night. The corruption will also take another form. The pernicious conduct that may befall you may actually and quite literally make you fall. If you think the unpleasant actions that have been taken against you are a mere accident, think again!

The Department of In Home Security has issued a black and blue alert as fair warning of the cruel and mischievous outrages that may lay in your path.  These ITDs (Improvised Tripping Devices) may surprise you in the middle of the night as you tumble in the dark. Shoes, flip-flops, gym bags, shopping bags and any other item that may be used as a weapon will be left where you will not see them. BAM! You have fallen on your trip to the washroom or midnight raid of the refrigerator. You have been an unsuspecting victim in what you thought was a clear path in the night. No mere 4 watt night bulb is likely to provide protection against the disgusting action for which the villain will pretend was an unfortunate error.

Rest assured you are not alone and may speak out to bring down these troublemakers.

There are eight million stories in the naked city, these are just a few.  Feel free to bring these sinister actions to the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders!

See Also: A Trip In The Night

MIND GAMES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Why do I remember the name of my fourth grade teacher but can’t remember the name of the new neighbor I’m meeting for the third time this month?

Why do I fall asleep during my favorite TV show but at bedtime my brain won’t shut off for a second?

Why can I rationally know that I can handle something but I still get a knot in my stomach whenever I have to do it? (For me it’s driving around an airport).

Why is it that after I promise not to tell anyone “something”, that “something” keeps popping into my head even when I’m talking to people to whom the “something” would mean nothing?

Why do I get upset with people for doing something I know that I do too? (Like interrupting).

Why do I get totally obsessed with binge watching a TV show but never about writing a novel or working at a soup kitchen?

Why do I keep collecting recipes in a giant folder when I know I’ll never use them? (When I do try a new recipe I go online because who has the time to sort through that giant folder?)

Folders with the recipes I’ve collected over the years

Why can I look for something for 10 minutes and not find it but my husband finds it immediately – where I know I’ve already looked?

Why can I grapple with a problem and fail to find a solution, but hours later, when I’m doing something totally unrelated, the answer just pops into my head?

Why can I “zone out” while driving (you know, you suddenly find yourself way down the road and don’t remember getting there) yet I don’t drive off the road or into the car in front of me?

Why does my snoring husband insist he was “wide awake” when I poked him but you only snore when you are fully asleep?

Why is it that when I learn about a disease or syndrome, suddenly everyone I know knows someone who has it?

Why can I get sick but when I go to see the doctor, my symptoms disappear?

Why can I get a 1960’s song stuck in my head for days but not a single password has ever stayed in my brain for that long?

PLEASE COME UP WITH SOME OF YOUR OWN AND SHARE THEM WITH ME!

 

RAPIDLY. BLINKING.

I was standing next to the bed. Blinking. Rapidly. Garry looked at me. I must have appeared to be in pain or something because he said: “Are you okay?”

He can’t blink.

“Yes,” I said, blinking and frowning. “I was putting the gunk on my rash? So after that, I washed my hands. I must not have washed them enough, because I think I touched my eyes and now my eyes are burning. I suppose I got some of the gunk in my eyes.”

By then, I was trying to rub my eyes with the back of my wrists since apparently my fingers were not eye-worthy.

Garry started to laugh. Then I started to laugh. We both kept laughing.

“One thing always leads to another,” I cackled.

He went back to watching the movie. I found the eye drops. Everything is hilarious. Of course, I suppose it could also be tragic and dramatic.

It’s a matter of perspective.

WEATHER WHINES

Welcome to New England where our most popular regional sport is politics. Football, baseball, basketball and hockey cannot compete with the joys of arguing politics. That this year is politically the worst experience since we drove out the British only means that all our other complaints will have to wait in line until the political rage has been satisfied, at least temporarily.

When politics and sports are finished, we move on to the single sport in which everyone, of any age, can actively compete.

Weather. Or more accurately, complaining about the weather.

Lake Otsego

From bitterly cold to stiflingly hot, we’ve got the weather to cover it.

Winter is too long, too snowy, too icy, and much too cold. I couldn’t agree more. Everyone is cranky and whiny from the first flakes through final melting. Of course, mud season, the inevitable followup to the heavy snow, is no one’s favorite, discounting the dogs who revel in it.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Spring? What spring? Where are the flowers? Why can’t we get a decent spring season? Is this the punishment of a malign deity?

Until the lilies bloom, New Englanders are cranky.

Pink petunias

Some time during May, summer drops by, usually in mid-afternoon. The morning is comfortable until the temperature goes way up and the humidity moves in. The leaves on the trees droop and it is definitely summer. Always too hot. Muggy. Humid.

Or, maybe it’s not hot enough.


“Hey, how come it’s June and we still need heat?”  

In summertime, those triple H days — hot, hazy, and humid — give us a collective headache. Everyone complains. Relentlessly.

Autumn is New England’s winning season. It is everyone’s favorite time of year — except it’s much too short. There are oceans of dead leaves to shovel. We rate our autumn by the brightness of leaf and you can stand on line in the grocery and hear people commenting that “this one isn’t as good as the year before last. Does anyone remembers 2012? Wasn’t that a doozy?”

We live in the “Snow and Long Commutes” region. Especially the snow. And Worcester.

On a bad year, heavy rains from a tropical storm can push all the way up the coast. Those drenching rains ruin the fall foliage. Which makes everyone cranky.

And whiny.

We recover if the Sox are in the playoffs, but become downright grim if they aren’t.

Speaking of whiny, I know people on Facebook who, in the middle of a summer-long drought during which we haven’t gotten a drop of rain, will rant furiously on the day the drought breaks. I bet they’d be even more whiny if their well went dry . That would be a serious rant!

New England. What’s not to love?

HEARING GEORGE RAFT – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Most of you who know me from these pages or my working days know I’m hearing challenged.

It’s a life-long disability that’s has gotten worse over the years. At this point, hearing in my right ear is all but gone. I still have about forty percent hearing in my left ear — with hearing aids.

I’ve had a bittersweet relationship with hearing aids.

I hated them as a teenager. These were the primitive “portable radio receiver in a pocket with a cord in your ear” hearing aids. It was worse than being called “four eyes” when I wore the aids. There were lots of jokes, smirks and knowing winks at me. Oh, right, I also wore glasses.

hearing aids

I was short, wore glasses and hearing aids — and was one of a handful of black kids in my classes. I was also painfully shy.

Fast forward to college and my discovery of radio. College radio would lead to a wonderful career and brand new alter ego, the familiar TV News Guy. I turned my hearing disability into an asset. Friends pointed out diction problems, and speech therapy followed. Presto, I became the black guy with great diction. Amazing!

A few awkward social encounters convinced me to wear my hearing aids regularly. The new models were smaller and less conspicuous. Eventually, they would be invisible, all inside the ear.

My hearing problems gave me certain advantages. Court clerks would make sure I had a good seat for cases I covered. Judges would admonish lawyers to speak clearly so that all could hear. Ironically, I understood more testimony in some cases than my peers with normal hearing. Yes!

My disability provided many laughs in my career.

In the early 70’s, Boston Mayor “Kevin from Heaven” White started a new program to assist senior citizens. It was called “M.O.B.”. Forgive me, I forget what the acronym exactly meant, but it was a PR blitz for seniors. They needed a spokesman for MOB. Someone who senior citizens would easily recognize.

MOB? How about George Raft??

I got the call to interview the legendary old-time star of gangster movies on Boston City Hall Plaza. We met just after Raft had a liquid lunch with the Mayor’s people. The veteran actor, wearing his trademark fedora, greeted me with a grunt. A brief exchange about the interview, then we rolled cameras. I asked the questions. Raft grunted.

George_RAFT_headshot
George Raft

I asked Raft about “Bolero,” a film where he displayed tango expertise which earned his keep before he was called to Hollywood. “Call me George, pal” he rasped with a smile.

I called him George and he said “What”?

I figured he was kidding with me. I tried it again.

“What, kid?” was the reply. Back and forth several times. I could hear the cameraman giggling.

“George”, I tried again, pointing to my hearing aids.

“What’s up, kid”? Then, it slowly dawned on him. Raft pointed to his ears and gestured. Cautiously, I took a look. I thought for a long moment before speaking.

“George”, I said slowly and carefully, “You need to turn on your hearing aids.”

Raft gave me a long look, then that familiar smile which typically preceded him mowing down guys with a machine gun. He snapped his fingers. A crony walked over, reached in and turned on his hearing aids.

“Thanks, Pal”, George Raft smiled with relief.

I couldn’t resist the moment. I pulled out a coin and began tossing it in the air and catching it. Raft stared. We shook hands. He smiled over his shoulders as he walked away.

Just so you know, I was half an inch taller than the guy who used to duke it out with Bogie and Cagney.

Thanks, Pal.

“What?”

THIS IS A TEST AND ONLY A TEST? – TOM CURLEY

The big story a while back, or at least one of them, was a false missile alert that went out to the people of Hawaii saying a missile strike was imminent.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people freaked out, ran around in circles and hid under their desks. It took about a half hour for news to come out that it was a mistake.

Oops!

What was also not surprising, at least to me, was how many people ignored the warning. They looked at the alert on their cell phones and went “Nah, gotta be a mistake.” And they were right. It was a mistake. It was supposed to be the weekly test of the EBS, the Emergency Broadcast System. Some poor schlub pressed the wrong button.

Not that button!!

And in the poor schlub’s defense, it was easier to do than you might think. The system is on a computer. There’s a pull-down menu that has two selections, right next to one another.


1. Send missile alert.
2. Send missile alert test.

He hit number 1.

So of course, the computer said, “Are you sure?” and he hit “Yes. “Which is not surprising either. It’s a brain thing. You see what you expect to see. You hear what you expect to hear.

The real question is, what idiot set up that program? For something this important, you should have to at least go to separate screens to for each choice. The back-up responses the computer makes should be a little more robust.

This is how the program should respond to you pressing option 1.

“Are you sure?”
Yes
“Are you really sure?”
Yes
“Really, really, really sure???”
Yes
“You do realize you’re about to scare the shit out of millions of people, right?”
Yes.
“For Christ’s sake, stop looking at porn on your phone and pay attention to me! You really meant to press option 2, the TEST button, right!?”
Yes.
“Finally!”

The EBS system has been around since 1963. We’ve all grown up listening to weekly tests on the radio and TV.

And only a test!

This isn’t the first time an accidental alert went out and nobody paid much attention to it. When I was in college during the 1970’s I worked at my college radio station, WVHC. Back then we got our news from teletype machines.

When a really important story broke, the machines would start dinging like a slot machine that just hit the million-dollar jackpot. You were supposed to drop everything and run to the machine to see what was going on. I was working one weekend at the station, doing a live show. I was there by myself. Suddenly the teletype machine went crazy. I ran to the machine and read the copy. It was an EBS “White” alert.

What was that?

Well, there were three alerts back then. A “blue alert”  was a test of the EBS system. When they sent that out, you had to play the “Blue alert” tape cartridge.  It basically said:


“This is a test, and only a test, of the Emergency Broadcast System. In case of a real emergency, you will be informed of where to tune to get more information of the actual emergency. Again, this is only a test.”


Then you would hear an annoying tone that was supposed to activate automated radio stations. Or something like that. I always thought it was just put there to be annoying.

Then you had the “White” alert. This announced some kind of “national emergency”.  We never knew exactly what that was.

Hey, it could happen!

And then there was the “RED” alert. That was the one where there was an imminent nuclear strike, and we had 15 minutes to kiss our asses goodbye.

Goodbye ass!

I can’t tell you what the “White” and “Red” cartridges said because they were sealed in envelopes above our broadcast console and we were NOT ALLOWED TO EVER OPEN THEM! Unless of course, we got the alert which told us to do so.

Hey, it really could happen!

So, when the “White” alert came over the wires, I looked at it, and at first, I went “Wow, now I get to hear what the “White” cart says!” And then I went “Nah, someone just hit the wrong button.”

I went back to my show. It became a big story the next day. But not for the reason you’d think. It turns out,  nobody paid any attention to the alert!  Radio stations all over the country looked at it and they all went “Nah, someone just hit the wrong button.”

The government was very upset. They should have been relieved.

Yes, I know Obama was not President in the 1970s. You get my point! Lighten up!

I’ll never forget one day back when I was Program Director for the radio station. I came down to the studio. A freshman was on the air. He’d just finished playing the “Blue” cart. When it was over he looked at me, very seriously, and asked,

“Tom, if there  was a nuclear war, do I really have to stay down here and play the Red cart?”

At first I was going to say “Yes, it’s your patriotic duty as dictated by the FCC and God Almighty that you spend your last moments on this planet warning your fellow citizens they’ve got  moments to live!” Then I realized he would probably not get the joke.  Sometimes my humor is subtle.

Instead, I said “Dude, you do what you gotta do”. He was so relieved.  Freshmen are adorable.

This is called a “call-back” in the comedy biz.!

I grew up during the height of the cold war. In grade school, we had regular “duck and cover drills”. In some, we would have to duck under our desks when our teacher suddenly yelled “DUCK!”

And at least once a month we all had to leave our classroom, go out into the hall with our coats and sit cross-legged against the wall with our coats over our heads.

We were not allowed to sit next to a window. Why? Well, if you were sitting next to a window when a nuclear bomb went off, the flying glass could put your eye out! I’m not making that up.

I will never forget one day, when I was in sixth grade, we were doing our drill when one of my classmates stood up and started shouting: “What is wrong with all of you? Why are we sitting here with coats over our heads? If a nuclear bomb goes off, we are all going to be vaporized in seconds!! This is stupid!”

And just like that, like the moment when your cousin tells you Santa isn’t real, it dawned on all of us: “Wow, that makes sense.”

Needless to say, much crying, hysteria  and gnashing of teeth ensued. The Principal was not amused and tried to suspend the child for pointing out the obvious. Fortunately, she didn’t succeed.

Does the EBS system make any sense?

In the case of nuclear war, not really. Do we really want to spend the last 15 minutes of our lives crapping our pants because we know what’s about to happen? As far as the “White” national emergency alert, there has been one time that it should have been used.

Another call-back! I’m on a roll.

No, not that. I’m referring  to September 11th, 2001.

Not one radio or TV station played any kind of alert that day! WTF?

We baby boomers grew up with the potential threat of total nuclear annihilation. It was part of our daily lives. Deep down, we never believed it would happen. Even after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was the closest mankind came to ending it all, we didn’t believe it could happen.

But these days? I don’t know anymore.

DUCK!!