Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Mother Goose

The not fully Assembled—are we then the Disassembled?—met at Belmont on Saturday. A quorum was not achieved since there were only two members present, Johnny M. And Johnny D., perhaps the two who can be considered the Founding Members of the group.

The June 29th date had been settled on nearly a month ago. The members wanted to get a card in before the early transition to Saratoga, and the perhaps prolonged hiatus from Belmont due to the construction of the new arena for the Islanders, a thoroughly ambitious plan that puts a hockey arena within a horseshoe throw of the Belmont grandstand.
It is not yet yet fully known if the 2020 Belmont Stakes will even be at Belmont. It is possible it could be run at Aqueduct. Fine by me. I no longer try and even go. Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.

The card for Saturday's racing was anemic. There were only 61 horses for what was only a 9-race card, rather than the usual 10-race weekend card. There were three 5-horse fields, with eight being the highest number of horses entered in a race. Three races at the recently run Ascot meet accounted for more entrants than found lining up at Belmont. Sunday's card is no improvement, with only eight! races filled. Unheard of. Troubled times have come to the horse racing industry.

The only added attraction for us on Saturday was the entry of Cassies Dreamer in The Mother Goose, a race that once was part of a NYRA promoted filly Triple Crown, but no longer seen as such. Years ago, The Acorn, The Mother Goose and The Coaching Club American Oaks were linked by NYRA and billed as the "Filly Triple Crown," the "Tiara."

The designation was discontinued in 2009, but I saw many of the horses that did complete the series with three victories, notably Dark Mirage, Shuvee, Chris Evert and Ruffian. Davona Dale, Mom's Command and Open Mind were three winners that came later.

The Assembled live vicariously through the majority ownership of Cassies Dreamer by Bobby G's longtime friend, Hayward (Richie) Pressman. True ownership will likely elude The Assembled forever.

Cassies Dreamer has been written about several times in these postings as she progresses from her 2-year-old start to her 3-year-old campaign. Going into The Mother Goose she has six starts, two firsts and a nice sum of $224,2540 in earnings. Richie has shed his New York Bred beginnings and gone all in on Cassies Dreamer in the emotional attachment department.  It is love.

I've met Richie several times and wanted to wish him well. I rightly figured he'd be coming out of the Trustees' Room and heading for the paddock for the saddling of the 8th race.

I caught Richie's attention with my Cassies Dreamer cap that he so generously sent me, and met his entourage, Peter, Rusty Jones, a Kentuckian who is a co-owner of the horse and the managing partner of Turf Stable Racing, and Richie's lovely wife Donna—who Richie named one of his horses after—Sweet Moving D— to acknowledge her love of dancing.

I cadged an invite to the paddock, which admittedly was an ulterior motive for the "ambush" outside the Trustees' Room. The only times I've ever been in the paddock have been because Richie had a horse running. My highest win payouts have been achieved with Richie's horses. I love the times his horses meet my bets in the winner's circle.

The Belmont paddock is usually as tranquil as a monastery, but Saturday it was a bit frantic. Usually the owners meet the jockeys and the trainers, and exchange some small talk before the jocks are told to report for "riders up."

But Saturday was different. A threatened thunder storm was rolling in right on time, with the skies darkening, wind picking up a bit, and lightening flashing in the distance. The jocks went straight to the stalls, mounted, and were told to stay there by the paddock judge. No one wanted anyone to get whacked by lightening.

The jocks were told to go straight to the post, and post time was moved up in hopes of beating the weather. I did get to shake Barclay Tagg's hand, but could exchange no words.

Barclay is 81, thin, well dressed in a blazer, tie and patterned shirt, holding himself with an almost military bearing of a Captain in the Queen's Artillery Regiment. Because of his first name, for years and years I always assumed he was British. Turns out he's very much an American, a graduate of Penn State, and a former steeplechase jockey, a fact I just learned through that marvelous creation, the Internet.

I'd been playing his horses for years, with good success with his turf entrants. I started following him back in the late '80s, so when he got all the attention for his 2003 training of Funny Cide, winner of the Derby and the Preakness, he he was already a household name to me.

I keep a picture of Julie Krone holding up five fingers as she guides her fifth winner to the Saratoga winner's circle on August 20, 1993. Five wins on a card put her with some notable achievers, Angel Cordero and Ron Turcotte. Nice company to join..

Online I brought up the NYT coverage of her achievement in Saturday's paper. I re-read the piece and was reminded that another female jockey  Georgina Frost, rode two winners that day on the card. Thus, female jockeys rode 7 of the 10 winners that day. Historic.

I would have liked to confirm something I always tell people: that two of Julie's winners that day were trained by Barclay Tagg.

It is no shame in racing to lose to a superior entrant, And this year's Mother Goose was no exception. In the race as the 1 horse was Dunbar Road, a Chad Brown trained filly making her fourth start for mega-buck owner Peter Brant. Brant and Chad have been gobbling up victories ever since Peter came back into the game.  Chad leads all trainers at the meet with the most money won: $4.6 million. No one else even has $2 million. Brant is ranked fourth as an owner with money won: just under a $1 million. Attention will be paid when they enter a horse.

Dunbar Road deserved to have the money she had bet on her. She was being ridden by Jose Ortiz, who would go on the ride four winners on the card, and was sporting Beyer speed figures that were only going up: 76; 89; 90, with two wins and a close second in a Grade 1 race at Gulfstream.

She won with authoritative ease, and went off at 30¢ on the dollar, paying the minimum for place and show, $2.10.  Cassies Dreamer chased, even being in front of Dunbar Road three-quarters into the race. But the lion's share of the purse goes to the winner. Cassies Creamer finished fourth, and would take home $15,000 of the purse money.

I wasn't with the Cassies Dreamer's owners as the race was run, instead going back to my third floor Clubhouse perch to rejoin Johnny M. Will Cassies Dreamer keep going against stiff competition, or will the owners and the trainer start to look around for a more forgiving condition?

The horse is till eligible for "non-winners of two, other than," NW2x. And having started out as $50,000 claimer, the horse still has plenty of conditioned claiming eligibility or starter allowance conditions remaining. After a horse wins two races, the water gets deeper.

Cassies' breeding shouts turf, and turf is where she might move back into the winner's circle. Her race before The Mother Goose as taken off the turf. But, she won in the slop. If she does turn into a decent turf horse she'll be a double-barrel threat because the conditions that take a race off the turf are the conditions she excels at.

And the weather? Did it pour on The Mother Goose? No. The rain held off and delayed the 9th race with a typhoon-type downpour. Unfortunately for Cassies Dreamer and her connections, her race was the 8th race, the feature, since there were only nine races. Thus, she missed a wet track that would have greeted the 9th race, but that one was carded for the turf, and thankfully for me and the winner I picked, did remain on the turf.

Cassies Dreamer loves the slop. Some horses just outperform themselves when they meet the wet stuff. Cassies Dreamer missed getting her favorite surface by about a half hour. Such is racing. The racing Gods did not intervene.

Small fields, small payouts. Winners were picked to the point I was just about writing checks to myself. But the amounts were small; the enjoyment however remains huge.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Income Inequality

Even if you don't follow politics with zeal, you've probably by now heard the phrase 'income inequality.'

Current presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are big on using the phrase. The freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC, to all) is big on it. New York City's mayor Bill de Blasio is perhaps the biggest of all on it. (At 6' 5' the mayor is tall, and is sometimes referred to as 'Big Bird' by those who do not particularly like him. So yes, he's big on things.)

Has anyone ever really looked at their cable bill? The ones from Verizon now are pretty easy to read. Each month, there is an additional array of charges, taxes, fees, whatever, that for me at least inflates the bill by $37.96. Want a breakdown? Easy.

  • NY State and Local Sales Tax           $6.24
  • 911 Surcharge                                     .35 
  • NY State and Local Tax Surcharges     5.14
  •  (The first item wasn't enough. The 
  •   surcharge is greater than the tax)       
  • Federal Universal Fee                        4.04 
  • Video Franchise Fee                           6.17
  • Regulatory Recovery Fee-Federal         .06
  • Regional Sports Network Fee              7.89 
  •  (I questioned this one once, 
  •  thinking maybe I'm missing out on a 
  •  sports cable channel. No. It's some 
  •  sort of community fee for local 
  •  broadcasting. Perhaps to stream 
  •  Little League games. How precious.) 
  • Fios TV Broadcast Fee                       4.49 
  • FDV Administrative Charge    
  •  (Too tired to ask what FDV is.)           .99 
  • NY Municipal construction                 2.49  
  • Surcharge
  •  (I guess I helped rebuild the
  •  Tappan Zee Bridge and paid for
  •  the change in signage to the
  •  Mario M. Cuomo bridge)

  • Subtotal                                       $37.96
The expense of the cable bill is a pet peeve of mine. When Hillary Clinton was a New York Senator I wrote to her about the fees. No answer.

Gas prices? Filled with tax underneath the pump price. When you buy gas outside your locality you realize there can be a wide price difference. Attributable to tax.

Sales tax. I think it's over 10% in Chicago, and a hair's breath under 9% in most parts of New York state, no matter where you are.

College education? Big story there amongst the candidates. Forgive the debt? Someone paid the bill, loaned the money, and now the strategy is to not allow them to collect? Someone's going to be mad.

There could have never been a time when there weren't people with more than others. "The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer." That phrase has been around a long time.

Campaign claptrap and folderol. Much easier solution than trying to give money to balance the scale. Income inequality?

I'd have a lot more money if things cost less.

Friday, June 21, 2019

How Do I Say Thee?

I'm sure a good number of people are familiar with the sonnet 'How Do I Love Thee" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that 19th century Romantic poet. I'm sure either the sonnet, or Browning, or both, have been an answer on Jeopardy.

The series Billions has run its course for the season. Twelve episodes. I would strongly expect there will be another season. And in the next new season I'm sure we can expect everyone to be out to fuck everyone else.

When I was young and sillier than I am now, I loved to go to dictionaries and see how they defined the curse words I knew. I loved how dryly the definitions read. Of course there is only one great curse word that sits on top of the mountain. The word Richard Burton called that great Anglo-Saxon word of all time: fuck.

I'd have loved if Richard Burton did a complete soliloquy containing as many iterations of the word as anyone could mash in there. It's a pity Shakespeare stayed away from the word. But then again, he probably valued his head.

No worry. If you ever feel a need to hear the word repeated in as many iterations as a screenwriter can work into his characters mouths, you only have to tune into any episode of Billions and listen to the f-bomb fly.

All the characters utter it. Even Richard Thomas, a long way from his John Boy role on The Waltons as he plays Sanford Bensinger, a composite character of a financial buyout titan. Is he Carl Icahn?

Having Richard utter the word is a shock to anyone who watched The Waltons and followed John Boy's march to maturity. It's almost like having Shirley Temple uttering the word because she broke a nail. It's jarring.

It's no surprise that a 12-episode miniseries is a progression of each episode advancing the viewer to the windup. And Billions is no exception.

The season can be summarized as Chuck getting back in the prosecutorial spotlight as New York's Attorney General, a job that doesn't require him to ever appear in Albany; Wendy's tussle with the Medical Board over the suspension of her medical license; Chuck's private war with the U.S. Attorney General "Jock" and the U.S. Attorney for New York's Sovereign District, Bryan Connerty.

Then there's Taylor Mason, the breakaway hedge fund that Bobby Axelrod so wants to destroy for the temerity to break ranks with Bobby and go out on his own. Bobby tells you when you're through. Not the other way around.

The penultimate episode has Bryan Connerty getting his safe-cracking brother to gain access to Chuck's father's safe. Bryan is certain the Rhoadeses are up to something hugely illegal and wants to see what the wiretaps can't tell him.

Along the way, we have the Feds busting in on Chuck Sr. as he lays in bed with his Native-American mistress and love child in an upstate motel. Pure embarrassment. But, a pure endorsement that sex doesn't end when you're past 60. The old guy has has "got it together" as Bryan admits to having seen him naked.

Bobby and Rebecca continue their dance to save the Saler enterprise. (Read Sears) But somehow, underneath it all, you do have the sense that Bobby is still Bobby Axelrod, and he smells financial gain beyond saving the ice cream counter that Rebecca fondly remembers from growing up. Bobby is not sentimental.

Taylor has already pinched the company that supplies Saler's with their appliances. And the alternative manufacturer, acquired by Rebecca, turns out to be toxic with the stain of child labor at its manufacturing plants in South America. Oh-oh. Bad news on the doorstep.

Now we get to the word fuck in all its grammatical glory. Looking the word up in the OED we get two entries. One for the verb, one for the noun. "Coarse slang" on both.

Sir Richard was of course right. It's the greatest word in English language. And dead certain a shame Shakespeare didn't get to use it.

Fuck. How do I say thee? Let me count the ways

No need to repeat the definitions, you can look them up yourself. What I always love about the OED is the section that iterates the phrases, or other compounded uses of the word. Thus, we are treated to the examples: fuck about adv; fuck around adv; fuck up adv; fuck off adv; fuck-me adj; fuck-up comb; fuckwit noun; fucker noun; fucking vb, adj, adv.

The final episode is of course the wind-up. And it's here we get to count the ways people get fucked.

The opening and closing of the episode treats us to how elaborate the equipment has to be for Chuck to get a spanking from the dominatrix. Definitely assembly required.

The prelude also has Bobby asking Rebecca to do him a favor and get Wendy a "state changer." Take her somewhere where she can get things out of her head. Spa, shopping, something. Rebecca knows just the thing.

If you know your famous people, then it's easy to spot Mark Cuban in fron of earth moving equipment, greeting Wendy and Rebecca and introducing them to the gentleman who is going to teach them to run heavy equipment for the day. (Famous financial celebrities now and then make cameo appearances. Not Bernie Madoff, however. Porn stars have also been on the bill.)

The scene further unfolds with Wendy and Rebecca in separate cabs of earthmovers, graders, front loaders, going free reign on a large tract of land. They smash junker autos. They have a ball playing with boy toys. Back at the pub for a celebratory drink they congratulate each other on having moved "fucking" earth today. They resist the advances of the local lotharios and head outside for Axe's waiting helicopter to take them back to prosaic urban life.

Bobby outmaneuvers Rebecca, gains control of Saler's with John Boy's fucking help, gained from eating pancakes created by a chef flown in for just that: breakfast. Pure Axelrod.

Bobby has designed his torpedo to kill two birds with one shot. Taylor's holding in a stock now loaded with crushing debt has sent his fund's value plummeting. Rebecca's relationship with Bobby is over, even though Bobby has pointed out the closing of Saler's for parts will personally net Rebecca at least a billion dollars, and probably laudatory profiles in all the financial publications, Rebecca can't see past the betrayal. Bobby has fucked Rebecca and fucked Taylor. Look for a new gal pal for Bobby next year.

Wendy's anticipated suspension of her medical license has been bought off by Bobby contributing $25 million for pancreatic cancer research, obviously a pet project of the Medical Board members. Good deeds do go rewarded. Wendy is back with a verbal warning. But, Chucked is fucked when Wendy realizes her husband didn't come to her rescue. Chuck's not going to get fucked anytime soon by Wendy. since shes spends the night at Bobby's apartment, all chaste surroundings, in a guest bedroom. No fucking going on there. At least not yet.

A fucked Taylor is forced to crawl back to Axe Capital, with his team, working under the umbrella of Axe Cap.

But like a Shakespearean play, we do get some great soliloquies. And one of the best characters to deliver them is Chuck and Waylon "Jock" Jeffcoat.

Jock, being from Texas, with a great mane of silver hair, nice suit and tie and imposing build, comes out with some beauts. Like, he's going to come out "cleaner than a choir boy's pecker." "I'm here to crush you, loud as a cow elk trying to squeeze out breached twins." God, what is it like to grow up in Texas? The man is Will Rogers with a diploma. And Will was from Oklahoma.

Chuck of course is one for the stage. He gets in Waylon's face with an extended soliloquy, in Italian, from something is grandfather said. Chuck's memory and breath control is showstopping, and ends with that most Italian of gestures of all that is the back of one's hand scraping the chin and stopping in front of his oppo's face. A long way to go to say "fuck you." It's beautiful. Even Jock gets a kick out of it. Two stags clashing horns in the forest. And neither one is in Albany or Washington D.C.

The die is cast. Jeff threatens destruction. Chuck says come and get me. The traps are set. But which one will catch who?

Back at the U.S. Attorney's office on St. Andrew's Place in New York, Bryan is exhibiting information withdrawal. He's desperate to know what's on the redacted tape recording of a conversation in Chuck Sr's dining room. He knows if only he can get to the tape. But by law, he's prohibited from listening to the full tape. His No. 2, Kate Sacker is adamant that Bryan stop trying to find out who the "idiot" is referred to on the tape. Bryan is convinced it will lead him to the person he can flip to get the Rhoadeses convicted on conspiracy and bribery charges over the development of Sr.'s real estate project.

Bryan cracks. He breaks the evidence seal on the tape and listens to the full tape. Bryan has been fucked. Big time.

Bryan is the idiot. The Rhoadeses have set him and Jock up to break the law. In a murder-solving recap by Inspector Poirot, Chuck explains to a very fucked Bryan the elaborate sting operation they have played on Bryan and Jock. Flashbacks to what we hadn't seen fill the screen.

Chuck always knew Bryan could be made to cross the line. He knew they were bugged. He concocted enough conversation to give the listening Connerty the belief that something of a major illegality was being concocted by the Rhoadeses. They purposely crafted their conversation to lead Bryan to think there was someone who could be flipped and used to bring the house down. The "idiot." Guess who the idiot was?

They bugged Bryan by having Kate replace Bryan's flag pin with a flag pin with a bug in it. A conversation between the equally overzealous Jeffcoat and Bryan, where Bryan is ordered to beak the law is captured. Bryan at the computer listening to the tape late at night in the office is captured via a video feed. Bryan is fucked. A picture of that is what comes out of Sr.'s safe that is being emptied via a Bryan Connerty executed search warrant. Oh Bryan, what have you done? A Fordham boy who went to church and stayed in touch with mom at the holidays.

So, will next season give us no Waylon Jeffcoat and no Bryan Connerty? Only their agents know for sure. Will we see the rise of Kate Sacker?

The prior season ended with a new alliance being formed between Chuck and Axe. Now we're going to see a new alliance between Taylor and Chuck to bring Axe down. Taylor is poised to watch the two stags kill each other and leave him standing.

We know that's not going to happen. The two stars are not getting written out. Unless the show is not going forward. Then everyone gets written out.

What we can count on, are great soundtrack selections. Peter Townsend's "Behind Blue Eyes" plays as Bobby calculates. What color are Damian Lewis's eyes? Dave Hause's "Sabateurs" plays as the players drink scotch and figure out how to fuck each other.

There's a lot of scotch being consumed when these people think. And then they fuck each other often.

Any less fucking and the show would be cancelled.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Death in the Family

I'm not much of one for reading memoirs, biographies, or autobiographies. Non-fiction, murder mysteries and police procedurals tend to make the night stand.

But years and years ago, I did read Molly O'Neill's 2006 memoir of growing up with her five brothers, one of whom was playing right field for the New York Yankees, Paul O'Neill.

In the '90's I always saw Molly's byline in the New York Times, writing about food. Then, perhaps as an excerpt from her book, or just an article, she wrote about sports in her family. The piece appeared in the Sports section of the Times, and was so well read that readers expressed interest that Molly be reassigned to the sports beat.

Of course Molly became a famous food writer,restaurant owner and chef. She wrote cook books and ran cooking schools. Her writing was compared to the giants of the genre. She has now passed away at 66.

Anyone who ever followed the Yankees in the '90's and early '00's knows that Paul O'Neill was a major contributor to the Yankees' four World Series titles. The cover of the book is a clue that even though there aren't as many O'Neills as there were Gilbreth's of  'Cheaper by the Dozen', you know you're going to read a heart warming tale of a family coming of age.

The O'Neill family was headed by a father who had been a minor league player who was running an excavation business. Thus, the family photo of Molly and her five coltish brothers—all skinny arms and legs—loaded into a front loader. It speaks volumes.

Dad wanted a baseball team, and after Molly, he got five male youngsters he could put through the paces. He built a baseball diamond on the property. How could he miss grooming a professional player? And of course he did.

Molly, the oldest, was mom's lieutenant. And Paul was the youngest, the baby of the brood, who always gets more attention than the others. Molly tells of the family's devotion to following Paul as he played for the Yankees. In the pre-Internet, cellphone era, they made sure they had a radio handy to listen to Yankee games.

The one aspect of the book that to me was the most endearing was the story of the neighbor who returned all the baseballs that had been blasted onto his property (mostly by Paul) when the family moved. He made a point of coming over with an arm full of hard balls and wishing the family well on their departure from the neighborhood.

I still laugh at this because in my garage is a small collection of baseballs, softballs, and tennis balls I've found nestled in the shrubs, or ivy that I never tried to find who they belonged to. Our property in Long Island suburbia is not anything large enough to be next to a homemade baseball diamond, and if a ball was visible, I did throw it back over the fence as it landed. But the ones I've found otherwise are stacked in the garage.

All I know is, a young Paul O'Neill didn't whack them over the fence.

The Garden Hose

You wouldn't know it to look at it, but a garden hose has a mind of its own.

An inanimate, flexible, hallow rubber object does what it wants when you want it to do something else. I have been confounded by garden hoses probably ever since I was eight years old and was helping my father water the lawn.

It's not because it's Father's Day that I mention my father. It's because last night the hose in front turned itself on. But more on that in a bit.

Growing up in the house in Flushing there were no outside spigots to attach a hose. I don't remember any houses on the block that did. It wasn't until sometime in my thirties that we added a spigot on each side of the house.

Until then, my memory is that we attached a hose to the spigot in the cellar by the enormous porcelain tubs that were there to take the discharge from the washing machine, a dangerous looking contraption that had the rollers on the top so that water could be squeezed out of the wash and it could then be hung on the line outside merely damp, not dripping. No one I know lost a hand to the washing machine, but the potential for an accident was there every time a towel was fed through the rollers.

Well, the cellar window was opened, a two-light paned hatch (never locked), hinged on the top, and the hose was passed through the opening and brought to either the front, or the back. If the back needed watering, the hose was strung along the cellar floor and out through the back the storm door. I spent so much time wrestling with the hose that it's a wonder I didn't want to be a fireman.

The homes of that era were once heated with coal, and the hatch window on the driveway side could be flipped out to accept the coal chute, that went into the coal bin. Some homes still had the coal bin in use for a workshop. I still remember one house in the neighborhood that was serviced by a coal truck. Everyone else had converted to oil or gas.

My memory predates coal heating, but my father would tell of me when he and my mom shoveled coal into the burner. Apparently, we weren't advanced enough to have a "automatic fireman" feed that would deliver the coal without so much manual effort. I still have a few of the coal shovels in the shed. They were used to shovel snow. Memories.

A hose just being a flexible line wouldn't seem capable of knotting itself. Or developing a kink that pinches off the flow of water. But there never seemed to be a time in stringing that hose to either the front or the back that it didn't someone knot itself, or got caught on something and require a retracing of steps. Nothing ever went smoothly.

Eventually, with outside spigots things got a little better, but there was still the occasion of a snag. A hose has a mind of its own.

Forward to the present dwelling with outside spigot and hose reel for the back, and hose holder for the front, and you would think nothing will ever delay you. Wrong.

The y-connector allows for two hoses to be attached to the spigot, and toggle tabs allow for separate on/off operation.

Even with a hose reel, in the back, pulling the hose across the patio still results in the kink, or tangle with a piece of furniture.  Since there are sprinklers in the front, there is less need to use the front hose.

Even though it is recommended that when not in use you should turn the water supply off to the hoses, I've taken to leaving it on. The connections are tight enough that there is no dripping, even tiny. And we're always home, so if something happens, then water can be turned off.

The front hose is wrapped around a simple wall-mounted holder that is behind the shrubs. The nozzle is a typical lever handled nozzle, is one of those Dram models that allows you to create specialized flows by rotating the front wheel.

Since the water is always on, using the hose is simple. You unwind it, and press the nozzle. The human side of this is that it takes someone to press the nozzle to make water come out. Unless something else happens. And apparently that something else happened Saturday night, early Sunday morning.

At 2 A.M. trip to the bathroom for bladder became apparent to the ears that water was running somewhere. Upstairs toilet? No. Downstairs toilet? No. Dishwasher, washing machine? No. Following the sound leads to explore what's going on outside the front door. Sound is louder, pavement is wet, but where is the water coming from?

Check the front spigot, but no leaks at the y-connector. Then, the source is identified. The front hose and nozzle has somehow partially slipped off the holder, bounced the nozzle on the pavement, with the weight of the nozzle pressing down on the handle. A spray of water is squirting up, saturating the front door and pavement. The hose has somehow turned itself on.

Easy solution. Turn the spigot off. Problem identified, and solved. But how did the hose turn itself on in the first place?

Turns out on Sunday morning after my wife woke up, she told me about the water being on, spraying the front door, and her going out to turn off the spigot. I then told told her I turned the spigot off at 2:00 A.M. Apparently she didn't turn it off tight enough, and there was still water coming out of the nozzle.

The hose obeyed one of Newton's law of motion: a body in motion tends to stay in motion. When I used the hose on Saturday I must not have draped the nozzle in a 4, or 5 o'clock position. I must have left it high on the top, 12 o'clock, and the nozzle inched its way down, hit the pavement and turned itself on.

Which of course creates the other law of garden hoses: they have a mind of their own.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Can you pass away if no one knows you're alive?

Such might be the question that can be asked as we learn of the passing of Nicky Barnes, a drug kingpin who is now reported to have passed away seven years ago in 2012, at 78 or 79 years of age.

Apparently his daughters did know he was alive, but since he was in the Witness Protection Program they kept his demise a secret, even as seven years elapsed.

After perhaps 20 years of a lifetime prison sentence, Nicky Barnes started to cooperate with the Federal government and began to supply information which lead to the prosecution and conviction of his former associates, former girlfriends, and even his ex-wife. He felt betrayed by them, and felt his betrayal of them was justified.

Nicky Barnes was released into the Witness Protection Program after his cooperation secured his release from prison in 1998. He lived a thoroughly anonymous life, but did surface in 2007 to meet with a New York Times reporter as a book about his life was being published and a movie, American Gangster was being released about the life of another drug kingpin, Frank Lucas. Despite being every bit as big a dealer as Frank Lucas, Nicky's life is cast in a tangential light. Frank is who the movie is about.

One nugget from the Barnes obituary that I never knew is that Nicky Barnes was the inspiration for Jim Croce's hit, 'Bad, Bad. Leroy Brown.' Nicky Barnes's name was Leroy Nicholas, but he was widely known as Nicky. I will next hear the song in a fresh light.

Why are we now hearing about Barnes's death seven years after the fact? Although unstated, it may have something to do with the passing of Frank Lucas, who just passed away at 88 on May 30. in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. His nephew confirmed his death.

It is thoroughly possible that Nicky Barnes's daughters, one of whom is a former prosecutor, felt it was now time to close the book on their father, one of the two major drug traffickers from the 1970s.

Whatever Nicky and Frank did, they weren't the last to do so.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

And What Are the Chances of That?

What are the chances I will read about two people with the same surname, Boettcher, on the same day—today—in two very different sections of the same newspaper, The New York TimesI'll let the very serious readers of the book 'Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence' by Jospeh Mazur try and figure it out.

In case you're just awakening from a coma, you should know by now there is a new champ on 'Jeopardy,' Emma Boettcher, who in last night's telecast unseated the reigning champion James Holzhauer.

James Holzhauer was no ordinary champion. He won for 32 straight evenings, nearly setting the all-time record for money won in non-tournament games. Along the way, James set records for money won per game several times, breaking his own single game records.

And due to the advance taping of the show, the episode that just aired was filmed on March 12th, showing the end of James's reign before the start of his streak was aired. Thus, Emma Boettcher was unaware on March 12th that  she was dethroning a 32 consecutive game winner, all because his winning streak had yet to be aired at the time.

If any of this might sound confusing, it's all true. Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity and the affect of gravity (or TV taping schedules) on elapsed time might need studying. Or not.

At least for now, that we publicly know, Emma is the new 'Jeopardy' champion, Her story is everywhere.

And where did I read of the second occurrence of the name Boettcher today? In the obits section, where else?

Donald M. Fraser, 95, who exposed a 'Koreagate' plot to buy political influence in the late 1970s has passed away. Fraser, is not Boettcher, but a 1980s book 'Gifts of Deceit' about the Korean scandals is by a Boettcher, a Robert Boetttcher, and is mentioned prominently in the obituary.

Are Emma and Robert somehow related? I have no idea. But if I understand some of the discussions of probability in Mr. Mazur's book correctly, reading about them on the same day was eventually guaranteed.

Sure, today is the day I read their names on the same day in the same newspaper. So this is a coincidence, no? Well...

Mr. Mazur points out that when such events happen—and these types of things happen all the time to people—we tend to think of only the one day that it does happen. We're not counting all the days that have proceeded it when it didn't happen. We're thinking it's a 1-out-of-1 occurrence, when it's actually a one in probably many million occurrences. Given enough chances for it to happen and it didn't happen, sharpens the long odds that it's going to happen sometime.

Thus. if I've been reading the newspaper every day for 58 years, 365 times a year, there have been 21,170 chances so far that two similar names should appear on the same day. Given the population of names, the chances of Boettcher appearing on the same day to my knowledge just means that it was bound to finally happen.

I should have known it all along.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Billions at 10

The tenth episode of Billions has already aired. Can you believe it? The season is going by faster than a $50 dollar bill at a CitiField concession stand.

No major machinations. Axe has called everyone in on New Year's Day. He's a self-motivated driver, and he expects everyone else to be like him, even if he has to make them.

The episode is appropriately named, 'New Year's Day' and is somewhat prosaic compared to other twists and turns of other episodes. There is absolute comic relief when Wags cuts his vacation in South Beach short and returns for the gathering.

It seems Wags has encountered a young thing that he thought was just right for him. At least while on vacation. They enjoyed each other enough for the young lady to lift Wags's Patek Philippe heirloom watch that his father left him (You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.) and disappear. This has devastated Wags way more than he will outwardly show.

Wendy has the answer and a youthful, cheerleader-looking female appears at the offices and takes Wags into a conference room. Bobby remarks that the floors are a little hard in there, but sex is not what is going to console Wags. Cuddling is.

Wendy has arranged for a professional cuddler to hug Wags and let him cry his eyes out. Which he does. The water works have opened. Wags will be better in no time.

The gang at Axe Capital is staging a simulated hearing for Wendy's medical license review. Even in simulation, it's not going well for Wendy. She's emotional and potty-mouthed: the word fuck escapes her lips, and once is too much. She's got to cool off. Maybe get Taylor to drop the complaint. 

Meanwhile, over at Taylor Mason's they too are running a simulation of the hearing. They're trying to make sure Taylor presents himself as a patient, rather than a client for Wendy's services. A patient should be accorded doctor-patient confidentiality, and the breach of Taylor's records would violate that. Very bad for Wendy.

Spoiler alert. The upshot of the Medical Board proceedings will become a moot point because Wendy has supplicated herself before Taylor and convinced him enough of her contriteness. Taylor relents, says he will withdraw the complaint, but tells Wendy she owes him one.

Meanwhile, Chuck and his dad are bribing the Secretary of the Treasury, Krakow, to lift sanctions on a bank that is willing to give dear old dad a sweetheart loan to move the stalled development along.

Unbeknownst the the Rhoades family, Briian Connerty in his role as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District has convinced a Federal judge to approve bugs to be installed in the Rhoades household. The walls have ears, and Bryan and Kate are listening.

The approval of the bugs comes with provisos that certain things cannot he listened to. Kate assures the judge that there will be a "taint team" in place to rule on what can and cannot be listened to, particularly anything where the Rhoadeses lawyer is present and their conversations are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Connerty agrees, at least until he realizes from the tapped conversations that there is a paper, signed contract between the Secretary of the Treasury and Rhoades Sr. as to the arrangement and reimbursement for the action of the Secretary lifting sanctions on the bank that is granting the sweetheart loan to Chuck Sr.

The signed contract is the evidence Connerty needs to prove the conspiracy. But it is locked away in a wall safe in Chuck Sr.'s apartment. No joy. No rapture. Connerty has hit a legal roadblock.

The final scene in the episode takes place is an Irish bar of the kind you might still find tucked away in the Bronx, Upper Manhattan, or in small sections of Brooklyn or Queens. The place is full of bruiser guys and gals who pretty much pretend they were born in Ireland and are veterans of The Troubles directly.

(Note: Hitting the pause button at the right time tells you the bar, The Assembly, is at 73rd Street and Cooper Avenue, which happens to be in Glendale Queens. You're going to have to know Queens to be able to get there.)

Bryan easily finds his brother Jackie, who is about to be overtaken in a bar fight until Bryan raises a bottle in the air and orders the pugilists to rethink their actions—which they do.

Bryan's brother is still thrown out by management. He and Bryan are well-known to the owners and they leave willingly.

Bryan might be a Fordham Law School graduate, but the brother is more likely a graduate of Sing Sing, especially when it becomes known to the viewer that Bryan's brother is a safe cracker and Bryan is about to give him an assignment.

All series now have soundtracks, and Billions is no exception. The Irish bar setting is brought to us with a lively rendition of 'The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn' performed by the Pogues.

Bryan is certainly going to find out what troubles he can get himself into.