Of All The Options Out There, I’d Never Heard Of This One:

We know there are many ways to die, but who knew there were so many after-death options?

Such as those described in this undated article:

“Burial alternatives” aren’t something I spend time thinking about, but a recent article about yet another after-death option caught my eye:

Are they talking about composting as in:

And…

This sounded so weird…and even creepy…that I was curious.

According to the above Los Angeles Times article, the human composting process is:

“…natural organic reduction, a method in which human remains naturally decompose over a 30-to-45-day period after being placed in a steel vessel and buried in wood chips, alfalfa and other biodegradable materials.  The nutrient-dense soil created by the process can then be returned to families or donated to conservation land.”

Hmmm.

I guess they are – sort of – talking about this:

The article said that California is joining Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Vermont in allowing human composting, and mentioned a Seattle, WA company, Recompose.

Here’s what happens, according to the Recompose website.

If the deceased, family and/or loved ones so choose, Recompose offers what it calls the “laying-in ceremony”:

“The laying-in ceremony is similar to a graveside service or a green funeral and allows you the opportunity to honor your loved one with care and respect.”

“The body is present on a dark green bed – the cradle – and shrouded in natural cloth and greenery for the laying-in ceremony.

“At the end of the ceremony, the cradle is moved into the threshold vessel, where the transformation into soil begins.”

The next step is “soil transformation” – the “composting” part:

“Your loved one’s body will be surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa, and straw in a vessel where microbes will naturally break the body down.  The entire process, from placing your person into the vessel to finished soil, takes between six to eight weeks.”

I’m surprised to say that I thought I’d be feeling squeamish at this point – but I wasn’t.

How about you?

And now the last step:  Soil transformation/giving back:

“Once complete, similar to ashes from a cremation, the soil can be used however you choose – to enrich a garden, plant a tree, or spread across multiple locations.  If you prefer not to keep all, or any, of the soil, we will donate it to Bells Mountain, 700 acres of conserved land in southern Washington.”

Well.

As with every topic these days, there are widely differing points of view.  Again from the Los Angeles Times article, here’s a pro-human-composting opinion:

“Supporters say it’s an eco-friendly alternative to traditional end-of-life options.  Cremation, for example, is an energy-intense process that produces carbon dioxide emissions, while traditional burial uses chemicals to embalm bodies and a nonbiodegradable coffin to store them.”

“…for every person who is composted versus buried or cremated, the environmental impact is immediate.  The companies that offer human composting say that for every person who chooses the option over burial or cremation, it will save the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon from entering the environment.”

And – not that anybody asked them – but the Catholic Church chimed in with their anti-human-composting point of view:

“The California Catholic Conference opposed the bill, saying the process ‘reduces the human body to simply a disposable commodity.’

“‘The practice of respectfully burying the bodies or the honoring the ashes of the deceased comports with the virtually universal norm of reverence and care towards the deceased,’ said the group, which is the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in California.”

I could comment about the Catholic Church comporting with the “virtually universal norm” of not allowing priests to sexually abuse children, but I won’t

Recompose and other companies that offer human composting aren’t in this business for entirely ecological reasons, of course – this is a business, after all.

In this article:

The Seattle Times called Recompose “the first full-service human-composting funeral home in the United States,” and said:

“Recompose costs $5,500 for everything:  the body pickup…the paperwork, the process itself and an optional service.”

That doesn’t seem out of bounds, when you consider the figures from this 2022 article:

“A 2021 study from the National Funeral Directors Association shows the median cost of an adult funeral with viewing and burial is $7,848…The median cost of an adult funeral with viewing and cremation is $6,970.”

And really – human composting doesn’t seem any stranger than some of the options offered in the above Lexikin article, like these: 

There’s this option if you like bling:

And this option if you like to sing:

And…What the hell is this thing?

(The above three after-death options involve using cremated remains for a Memorial Diamond, a Vinyl Compression record, and Plastination, in case you were wondering.)

Now that I’ve had some time to process all this, human composting doesn’t seem all that weird or creepy to me, as I’d thought earlier.

How about you?

My normal modus operandi for closing a blog post is to have the last word, but this time I’ll turn that over to Katrina Spade, founder of Recompose.  Below are excerpts from this interview:

I think Spade’s use of the phrase “death care” as a natural follow-up to “health care” is worth noting:

“…the problem is that people choose their death care, or they – I should say, they don’t choose their death care.  They just go with the default.  A lot of the time, it’s not a meaningful choice.  It’s just, I guess I’ll cremate Grandma.”

Katrina Spade.

“…it is worth noting that when you look at the avoidance of pollution from cremation and conventional burial…we’re saving about a metric ton of carbon per person.”

“…because we use so much plant material to cocoon the body, the final result is a cubic yard of soil…”

“I set out on a plan to redesign death care.  Could I create a system that was beneficial to the Earth, that used nature as a guide rather than something to be feared, something that was gentle to the planet?  That planet, after all, supports our living bodies our whole lives.”

Part 2 of 2:  I Love Learning…

(This is the sequel to Part 1 from Friday, September 30.)

I started Part 1 by talking about the new word I’d learned:

Trumpiest

And how well it applied to Trump’s fake coats of arms.

How did I first learn about Trump’s fake coats of arms? 

I was doing research for an earlier blog post and happened across this article:

The article is about Trump’s Boeing 757 which he modestly calls “Trump Force One,” and recounts many details about the plane’s interior including this:

“Fabrics were flown in from Paris, including the Trump family crest embroidered into the headrests of the seats with gold thread.”

Trump family crest?” I thought.

No, no, no, no, no.

No family crest, no coat of arms, no, none, none of the above.

There was absolutely no way Trump has been awarded a family crest (that is, a coat of arms) by a monarch.

Of course not.

As I said in Part 1…

Trump stole it.

In Part 1 I said that Trump has two fake coats of arms:

Now let’s move on to Trump’s fake coat of arms #2, above on the right.

In 2008 Trump was marketing his new golf course in Aberdeenshire, on Scotland’s east coast.  But the above fake coat of arms #2 he was using in his marketing materials ran afoul of the coat-of-arms authorities in Scotland – and I mean really afoul – and it was big news.

In Great Britain:

Nationally:

And internationally:

According to this article:

“The crest used by the billionaire to promote his controversial proposals has fallen foul of a 336-year-old law.

“He faces being brought before an Edinburgh court, fined, and ordered to remove the insignia and any flags bearing the design.”

Now, this is where things get confusing, and things often do when Trump in involved.

The above Daily Record article described Trump’s law-breaking coat of arms as follows:

“The crest shows the Trump name along with a spear-wielding fist above a knight’s helmet on a shield of lions and chevrons and is understood to have been designed by the tycoon himself.”

That describes the image on below on the right, which was copied (stolen) from Joseph Edward Davies’ legitimate coat of arms on the left:

The image on the right was clearly not designed by “the tycoon himself,” though I have no trouble imagining Trump saying exactly that.

While this article:

Says that Trump began promoting his golf course in Scotland:

“…with a coat-of-arms that someone in the Trump Organization designed:   a shield with three chevrons and two stars, with a helmet above the shield and a crest of a lion waving a flag…”

Which clearly is this image:

The closeup on the right is a variation in living, lurid color.

This is the fake coat of arms #2 is what Trump was using in Scotland.

Mistakenly – in my opinion – the Scottish authorities eventually granted Trump permission to use fake coat of arms #2.  Probably because they were enraptured by this description, no doubt also concocted by “someone in the Trump Organization”:

“Three chevronels are used to denote the sky, sand dunes and sea – the essential components of the [Scotland golf resort] site – and the double-sided eagle represents the dual nature and nationality of Trump’s heritage.  The eagle clutches golf balls, making reference to the great game of golf, and the motto ‘Numquam Concedere’ is Latin for ‘Never Give Up’ – Trump’s philosophy.”

I’m sure Trump was pleased with this description, especially the Latin part.

Renowned Latin scholar that he is.

Though perhaps Trump a bit less pleased that he now had a coat of arms legitimatized by Scotland.

In this instance he was no longer breaking the law, and we know how Trump loves doing that.

The Trump toady who wrote the above description failed to mention that the “double-sided eagle” – more correctly know as a “double-headed eagle” – has long been a symbol of royalty, and material and spiritual power.  For example, the imperial Romanov dynasty of Russia used it:

As did the Habsburgs, imperial emperors of Austria-Hungary:

Were they still around, I doubt either imperial house would have welcomed this Trumpiest connection.

Trump’s coat of arms with the double-headed eagle clutching golf balls…

…is without a doubt the Trumpiest part of this Trumpiest travesty.

Seriously?  The eagle is clutching golf balls?

Now I’m imaging that “someone in the Trump Organization” who designed phony coat of arms #2:

Toady #1:  Trump told me to, like, come up with a new coat of arms for the Scotland golf course.  Like, yesterday!  What am I gonna do?

Toady #4:  Just google coat-of-armsy stuff and throw it together – like lions!  Lions are hot on coats of arms.

Toady #1:  Lions, OK.  What else?

Toady #4:  Oh…stars and bars and crap like that, you know? 

Toady #1:  Yeah, got it.  Hey – what about an eagle, like on the one-dollar bill?  You know, holding stuff in its feet, right?

Toady #4:  Right.  And…(thinks for a moment).  Why not give the eagle, you know – two heads?  Cuz two heads are better than one?

Toady #1 (snickering):  I thought you were going to say because Trump is so two-faced.

Toady #4:  Shhh!  Don’t let anyone hear you say that!

Toady #1:  Yeah, yeah, you’re right.  Hey, what should our two-headed eagle be holding in its feet, like on the one-dollar bill?

(Several moments of silence, and then…)

Toadies, in unison:  Golf balls!

And fake coat of arms #2 was born.

The ball-clutching eagle can be seen at Trump’s gold courses in Scotland and Ireland:

Which clearly are benefitting from displaying Trump’s fake coat of arms:

Where’s does this all leave us?

Well, I learned a new word – Trumpiest – and if I may say so, used it widely and, I hope, well.

Trump will continue waving his flags with his fake coats of arms at his U.S. and European golf courses:

And pissing off people:

And remember Mr. Tydings from Part 1, the former United States senator from Maryland who is the grandson of Joseph Edward Davies? 

Joseph Edward Davies married Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1935 – she was the socialite who built Mar-a-Lago.  In 1939, British authorities granted the legit coat of arms (below, left) to Davies which Trump then stole after he bought Mar-a-Lago, slapped his name on it, and has used it ever since – without permission (below, right).

In the 2017 New York Times article, Mr. Tydings was asked what Ms. Post and his grandfather would make of Mr. Trump.

“‘I knew him and the way he operates,’ Mr. Tydings said.  ‘And the way he operates, you don’t sue Trump, because you’ll be in court for years and years and years.’

“His grandfather, he added, ‘would be rolling over in his grave to think Trump was using his crest.’”

As for me – I think I’ve just found a Trumpiest that may out-Trump the coats-of-arms Trumpiest.

This has to do with Trump’s claim of declassifying the government documents he’s been illegally hoarding at Mar-a-Lago.

According to this September 22 article:

This from Trump:

“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified – even by thinking about it,” Trump said.

Part 1 of 2:  I Love Learning…

I do love learning new words.

I’m not referring to the words that get added to dictionaries each year, as in this article:

Although those words are always worth noting, especially this one:

Click on the word and sure enough, there it is in Merriam-Webster:

Fun…but not where I’m going with this.

The “new words” I’m referring to are words that have been around for awhile, but are new to me.

And the word fitting that description is one I heard only recently for the first time:

Trumpiest

My spellcheck sure doesn’t like that one.

It appears that using “Trumpiest” goes back to at least 2020:

It was in use in 2021:

Right up to the present:

And not to be outdone, the New York Times

…jumped in with the three degrees of adjective comparison:  positive (or negative), comparative, and superlative.

Like in ugly, uglier, ugliest but it’s Trumpy, Trumpier, Trumpiest.

But even in its widespread use and all its degrees of comparison, an awareness of Trumpiest eluded me.

Until this article about the results of the recent New Hampshire primary:

And Trump’s reaction to the primary results:

“‘Nice!  The “Trumpiest” people ALL won in New Hampshire last night.  MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!’ Trump wrote on Truth Social on Wednesday.”

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to suggest that Trump thinks describing something as “Trumpiest” is high praise, indeed.

I, on the other hand, would be insulted beyond words if someone described me or anything about me as “Trumpiest.”

And for the purpose of this post – yes, I’m finally getting around to the purpose – I will utilize “Trumpiest” as an insult.

Think “liar.”  Think “cheater.”  Think “fraudster.”

Allow me to introduce my choice for the Trumpiest thing I’ve ever encountered:

The image on the left features three lions and two chevrons on a shield, below a gloved hand gripping an arrow.

The image on the right displays a two-headed eagle, three chevrons and two stars on the shield, below a lion gripping a pennant. 

In my research I encountered articles that referred to these images as a “coat of arms.”  Other articles refer to the images as a “family crest.”

Because I can be a real jerk stickler about these things, I wanted to learn the difference, and which was correct.

It’s actually pretty easy:

A coat of arms is a detailed symbol used to identify families or individuals.

The family crest is a smaller part of the design, often located at the top.

So:

Coat of arms, family crest at the top, plenty of garni all around.

So these are coats of arms:

You don’t hear a lot about coats of arms in the U.S., but this is a matter of serious importance to many people in Great Britain.  It’s called heraldry, which is:

Coat of arms of England’s Duke of Norfolk.  The first Norfolk coat of arms was granted in 1397.

“The art and science of devising, displaying, and granting armorial insignia and of tracing and recording genealogies.  The use of heraldic symbols, or ‘coats of arms,’ as a means of identification spread through European nobility in the 13th century.

“Only the highest classes of people in medieval Europe used coats of arms, as they were the only one with ancestors distinguished enough to have been granted them by the kings of the time.” 

“An individual had to be granted a coat of arms by a ruling monarch to be able to legally use it.”

If you were granted a coat of arms by a ruling monarch, it was a big deal.  Your coat of arms said you’d arrived.  You weren’t just somebody, but somebody important.  You proudly displayed your coat of arms everywhere including on your armor:

Over the front entrance of your castle:

Incorporated into your castle windows:

And people – including people who couldn’t read – recognized your combination of symbols, your high rank, and treated you with respect.

Respect, because you’d earned it.

Unlike the user of these coats of arms:

These coats of arms are the Trumpiest thing I’ve ever seen.

They’re coats of arms used by Donald Trump.

Let’s start with the complete coat of arms on the left:

The emblem is used at Trump’s golf courses across the U.S.  At the Trump National Golf Club outside Washington, it’s everywhere – the pro shop, the exercise room, the sign out front:

You can buy Trump golf balls with the coat of arms:

And in a truly Trumpiest manner, Trump has incorporated his coat of arms into the American flag:

Now, you know and I know there’s absolutely no way a ruling monarch had granted Trump a coat of arms.

No.

Trump got his coat of arms the old-fashioned way:

He stole it.

According to this article:

“…Mr. Trump’s American coat of arms belongs to another family.  It was granted by British authorities in 1939 to Joseph Edward Davies, the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the socialite who built the Mar-a-Lago resort that is now Mr. Trump’s cherished getaway.”

On the left below is the real deal: Mr. Davies’ coat of arms; on the right – the Trump fake:

“…the Trump Organization took Mr. Davies’s coat of arms for its own, making one small adjustment – replacing the word ‘Integritas,’ Latin for integrity, with ‘Trump.’”

Obviously because Trump doesn’t understand the meaning of integrity, in English or Latin.

“Joseph D. Tydings, a Democrat and former United States senator from Maryland who is the grandson of Mr. Davies, learned that Mr. Trump was using the emblem, at least at Mar-a-Lago, when he visited the property. Mr. Trump had never asked permission.”

Are you shocked?

Me, neither.

Trump bought Mar-a-Lago in 1985, and I’m picturing him walking around, gloating, surrounded by his usual toadies.  He points to something on a wall – perhaps above a fireplace:

Trump:  What the hell is that?

Toady #1:  Sir, that’s the coat of arms of Joseph Edward Davies, who received it when he was married to Marjorie Merriweather Post and they were living here at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump:  What the hell is a coat awhatis?

Toady #2 (frantically waving his hand):  Sir, I know!  I know!  It’s like…an award…I think? 

Today #3 (also waving his hand):  I know, too!  A coat of arms indicates, like, someone who’s powerful!  It was given to Davies by the monarch.  Of England!  Like, only monarchs can do that.

Trump:  It says you’re powerful?  And it’s from a monarch?  Well, what the fuck?  Why don’t I have one of those watch-a-callits? 

(He looks around at his toadies, whose heads hang in shame.)

Trump:  Do I have to come up with all the great ideas?  What am I paying you assholes for?

(Silence)

Trump (pointing to coat of arms):   Take that thing down and put my name on it.  And tell those dummies in the marketing department I want that thing everywhere.  And I mean everywhere

Toadies (in unison):  Sir, yes, sir!

Trump:  Everywhere, goddamnit!  Including the bathrooms!  I’ll show people who’s powerful, including when they’re wiping their –

Toadies (interrupting, in unison):  Sir, yes, sir!

And Trump’s fake coast of arts #1 was born.

But wait – how did I learn about Trump’s fake coats of arms in the first place?

All that and more in Part 2 on Monday, October 3.

This Is San Diego’s New Homeless Shelter:

When:  A recent September morning.

Where:  Park Boulevard and J Street, downtown San Diego, CA.

A tourist stands on a sidewalk, looking at the above building.  As a passerby – who happens to be a San Diego resident – approaches, the tourist asks a question.

Tourist:  Excuse me, hello!  I’ve been admiring this beautiful building – do you know what it is?

Resident:  I do – it’s San Diego’s newest homeless shelter.

Tourist:  That’s…a homeless shelter?

Resident:  Yes!  And (a bit boastfully) I happen to know quite a lot about it.  Would you like to know more?

Tourist:  I would!

Resident:  Well, everyone wants to know “What did that building cost?”  In today’s money, it cost $250 million.  It’s more than 360,000 square feet, and nine stories.  And you see that dome?

Tourist:  Yes, I was wondering about that.

Resident:  That’s a steel-and-mesh lattice dome.  We’ve come to think of it as iconic – it’s recognizable from all over downtown:

Resident:  The shelter has a state-of-the-art theater that seats 300…

Resident:  And a dining room with wonderful views…

Resident:  Free Wi-Fi…

Resident:  And a nice outdoor area…

Resident:  And plenty space around the building if the homeless would rather pitch their tents there than sleep inside:

Tourist:  Well, I am just amazed by all this. 

Resident:  Yes, it’s impressive, isn’t it?  Oh – I didn’t mention, the building has won several awards, and…Hey – since you’re so interested, why don’t you take a tour?

Tourist:  They give tours…of a homeless shelter?

Resident:  Sure do!  Or – kill two birds with one stone!  You like art?  Take an art gallery tour…

Tourist:  An art gallery?  Wow!  I have to say…I’m amazed at what you’re doing here.  My city – well, every city could learn a lot from San Diego about taking care of the homeless. 

Resident:   Well, we do think of San Diego as America’s Finest City.  Although…I should mention that…ah…that this building didn’t start out as a homeless shelter.

Tourist:  Oh?

Resident:  No.  It started out as the San Diego Central Library.

*****

No, this conversation hasn’t happened.  Yet.

According to this article:

“…the majority of patrons at downtown’s Central Library are homeless.”

The article attributes this imbalance – in part – to this:

“The ratio has been amplified, in part, because of a nationwide decrease in library visits over the past several years while the number of people living without shelter has increased.”

The article does not suggest – so I will – that a decrease in library visits may also have something to do with the Central Library becoming a less desirable destination.  The article quotes San Diego Public Library Director Misty Jones:

“‘We need to make this a safe place for everybody,’ she said, adding that incidents involving drug use and psychotic episodes are a daily occurrence at the library, and too often the solution is to escort a person off-site, sometimes with instructions not to return.

“There has been a string of overdoses at the Central Library, and a homeless person died by suicide after jumping from an upper floor of the library in August 2019.”

Perhaps Mom is disinclined to take her child to the Central Library in case they encounter this:

This is a big problem – and it’s not a new problem.

In 2015, two years after the Central Library opened, according to this article:

“About 3,000 people visit the library every day, and staff estimates about a third of those are homeless, an issue officials knew existed way before opening the facility.

“But in just a 60-day period, the Central Library had 60 calls to service by the San Diego Police Department.  The types of disturbances included 11 calls involving some kind of violent behavior, four robberies and nine welfare checks.

“[Misty Jones, the San Diego Public Library director] admits they have had to increase the number of temporary suspension letters to patrons because of behavioral issues.  They also see the need to boost their uniformed police presence inside.”

The NBC 7 story goes back even further – to 2010 – and a City Council member saying that the Central Library…

“…would become an economic boondoggle or turn into a gold-plated daycare center for the homeless.

The Central Library may not be a gold-plated daycare center for the homeless – yet – but they’ve certainly rolled out the metaphorical welcome mat for them.

Back to the Union-Tribune article:

“The Central Library already has a Veterans Resource Center staffed by People Assisting the Homeless, and another office staffed with an outreach worker from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“In the fall semester, another office will be staffed by SDSU intern Maria Temporal, who is earning a master’s degree in social work…to provide another level of help for homeless people, as she is a trained mental health therapist who can do one-on-one counseling.”

“San Diego Public Library Director Misty Jones welcomes the addition of the social worker…and she is optimistic the move will create a better environment for all library visitors.”

The article also talks about Lianne Urada, an associate professor of social work at SDSU, who’s done research into how libraries can address homelessness in their cities.  She said:

“The public library presents a unique opportunity to access an otherwise hidden population.”

Urada said the Central Library is following a national trend of major cities recognizing the role libraries can play as a type of homeless services provider, and that “a growing number of libraries across the country are providing assistance to their homeless patrons…At least 31 other libraries in the country have added social workers and other social services professionals to their teams.”

And while the Central Library does have a homeless and mental health office, said Urada…

“‘What they need is to have some professional social worker who can really help with crisis management.’”

So…

“Libraries as a type of homeless services provider.”

“Crisis management” at a public library.

“Drug use…psychotic episodes…suicide…violent behavior”

I say:  Enough is enough.

I am aware of how fortunate I am to have a home and food and so many things that homeless people do not.  I have compassion for the homeless, and I know that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

I know that anyone – including me – can become homeless.

I do not – and never have – objected to my tax dollars being spent on helping homeless people, whether the need is temporary and permanent housing services, food, clothing, health care, substance use treatments and more.

And according to MyNeighbor.org, a San Diego nonprofit, my tax dollars are spent to help the homeless.

On a city level:

“In the 2020-2021 San Diego budget, the city spent $64 million through its Homelessness Strategies Department, which oversees and develops homelessness-related programs and services.”

And at the state level:

“$10.7 billion has been earmarked in the 2021-22 budget to fund 50 housing and homelessness-related programs across California.”

And the federal level:

“…in 2021, the U.S. federal government enacted over $51 billion in funding for selected homelessness and housing programs.

But damn it, I do not agree with a library evolving into a “gold-plated day care center for the homeless.”

I say it’s time for public libraries to stop kowtowing to the homeless and start prioritizing the people who pay for public libraries to exist:

Us.

The taxpayers.

How to do that?

Here’s how:

Ask people entering the library for current proof of residency.

The California DMV – and probably your state, as well – has a list of documents it accepts as proof of residency including a rental/lease agreement with signatures of the owner/landlord and the tenant/resident; deed/title to residential real property; mortgage bill; home utility bill…

You’d like to visit the library?

Just show your current proof of residency.

Is it a nuisance?

Yes, it’s a small nuisance.

Certainly a smaller nuisance than this:

And if someone is a tourist who wants to visit the library, they’re required to show their out-of-state driver license.

I believe this is worth trying.

I believe this will help us take back our libraries.

It’s time to rescue this:

And all public libraries…

From this:

Memo To Governor Ron DeSantis:  I Can Help You Do Better Next Time!

To:  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Re:  Transporting Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

Ron, look at the audience, not the camera.

Ron, you’re making lots of headlines these days regarding the events of September 14.

You know – September 14, when you sent two airplanes to pick up 50 Venezuelan migrants in San Antonio, TX to dump take them to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

But before I get to those headlines, this event begs the question:

You’re the governor of Florida, so why did you want migrants from Texas?

According to the Migration Policy Institute:

You have nearly three-quarters of a million “unauthorized population” right there in the Sunshine State.

So, why migrants from Texas, Ron?

I found the answer to that question in a September 19 ClickOrlando.com article, which suggested you somehow knew that those 50 migrants in San Antonio were “intending to come to Florida.”

Were they standing around somewhere in San Antonio with signs reading “I’m Intending To Go To Florida”?

Well, back to those headlines.

Lots of headlines, Ron, and the look – well, may I be frank?

This is not a good look for you.

Here’s just a recent sampling:

Among the above and other sites was this, for example:

A Texas sheriff has opened a criminal inquiry into your “migrant stunt.”

And this September 20 article:

Suggests that what you did smacks of “family separation.”

And, uh-oh. 

You and a bunch of other people are being sued:

“In addition to Gov. DeSantis, the lawsuit also named the state of Florida, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, and their accomplices as defendants.”

Ron, you have “accomplices”?  Whew!

And this story, from a TV station in Jacksonville, FL…

…says that sending the two airplanes with migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard cost $615,000.

That’s $615,000 of Florida taxpayers’ money, Ron.

And maybe some of my federal tax dollars, too?

No, this not a good look for you, Ron.  Not a good look at all.

But don’t despair:

I can help you do better with your next move-the-migrants event.

We know you’re going to keep at – you’ve allocated lots of money for exactly that purpose:

“In June 2022, DeSantis signed the 2022-2023 Freedom First Budget, totaling $109.9 billion.  That budget allocated $12 million for a ‘program within the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) to transport unauthorized aliens’ out of the state.

“…the $12 million for that program is allocated to ‘facilitate the transport of illegal aliens to Martha’s Vineyard and other sanctuary states.’  DeSantis began proposing that Florida send migrants to the Vineyard and other locations as early as April 2022.”

But Ron, what if instead of spending taxpayers’ money to pick up migrants in Texas and put them on expensive airplanes to send them somewhere…

Why don’t you – as they say – think globally, act locally?

Locally, as in – why don’t you pick on pick up migrants right there in Florida?

And then move the migrants via a cheap, short bus trip to a local location?

“Local” meaning – this location:

Mar-a-Lago!

Ron, it’s right there in Florida, in Palm Beach!

Mar-a-Lago is owned by your good buddy:

And if you just explain what’s going on to Trump, I’m sure he’ll be fine with the idea.

Trump known for being a reasonable, rational kind of guy and all.

Ron, let’s look at the advantages of taking your migrants to Mar-a-Lago.

We’ll start with security.

Mar-a-Lago has a nice, big gate:

And just last year, we taxpayers paid big bucks for a security upgrade:

What’s that?  I know, I know – when it comes to security, maybe Mar-a-Lago isn’t quite the greatest…

But wait!

The migrants you send there won’t have any reason to try and escape, because Mar-a-Lago has everything they need.

For instance, it has nice rooms:

And by that I mean available rooms – it says so, right on the Mar-a-Lago website:

“We will be happy to show any unoccupied room to…those who are interested in overnight stays.  Please contact the Front Desk to schedule an appointment and to discuss room availability and pricing.”

Don’t worry about that “pricing” stuff.

I’m sure Trump will comp your migrants.

Mar-a-Lago has restaurants…

…with plenty of food for three squares a day – guests are…

“…welcome to dine for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, and can choose to dine indoors in our opulent, historic Main Dining Room, in the Teahouse, or on the al fresco Patio.”

And if the migrants need a change of clothes and/or some toiletries, the Trump Boutique…

…carries…

“…plush Frette bathrobes, tee shirts encrusted with Swarovski crystals, aromatic candles, the Trump Signature line of skin care & body products and much more.”

I know the migrants will especially appreciate those “tee shirts encrusted with Swarovski crystals” – just the thing to wear to their asylum hearings, yes?

And Ron, you don’t need to pay for taxis to take the migrants to their hearings, because Mar-a-Lago offers transportation:

“Four (4) types of luxury vehicles from TRUMP National Transportation Service’s fleet will be available to accommodate the various transportation needs of…single individuals to large groups.”

And Mar-a-Lago offers so much more – a fitness center, a spa, and I mustn’t forget the Mar-a-Lago Club:

“…an oceanfront experience unlike anything ever had before.  The complex includes a 132-foot by 50-foot pool, whirlpool, a private beach, and a charming full-service beachfront Bistro.”

Plus, with stunning artwork like this to admire…

And all that interesting, easily available reading material…

By the way, Ron – just between you and me – did you get a load of the ugly carpet?

Talk about tacky!

But other than that…

Your migrants should be quite content at Mar-a-Lago.

And no worries about anyone expecting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago neighbors to open their generous arms and hearts to the migrants, like the folks on Martha’s Vineyard did:

No, no worries about that at all.

And Ron, I’m telling you, if you send your migrants to Mar-a-Lago, there won’t be any talk about pesky “class action lawsuits.”

No sheriffs starting a “criminal inquiry.”

No one suggesting you’re forcing “family separation.”

No, your migrants will happily stay at Mar-a-Lago…

And thank you for it!

What’s that you say?  You don’t think Trump would like your migrants-to-Mar-a-Lago plan?

Look, I know you and Trump have had your differences…

Ouch!  “Gutless”?

Wow, that must have really hurt a sensitive guy like you.

But you and your buddy Trump can work that out.

And then…

Won’t that be great?

And Ron – if, after all this, you’re still fixated on flying migrants out of state, then at least consider saving us taxpayers some money on the transportation and consider this alternative.

Now that you and Trump are BFFs again, don’t pay to charter this:

Just tell Trump you want to borrow this:

He won’t be needing his plane for a long, long time.

Not where he’s going:

How To Body-Shame And Make Million$$$

I’ve written about TV commercials many times on this blog.

And every post included one or both of these laments:

First: Why are these and so many other commercials so stupid?

Second:  Is nothing private anymore?

Now my next offering about commercials, this time around for…

Not to be confused with:

THE LUME Indianapolis is a “multi-sensory experience that will feature nearly 150 state-of-the-art digital projectors showcasing famous master paintings.”

No, the Lumē under discussion here has a macron – a diacritical mark – over the e, which makes the pronunciation of Lumē sound a lot like “looney.”

Which is apropos, as my research soon revealed.

The scene:

I’m at home on a Sunday evening, watching a program on CNN.

Program pause, commercial break, and I see this:

I wondered why, instead of filling the screen, the commercial had all that blank blue space on either side.  It looked like a very amateurish video on an influencer-wannabe’s Instagram site.

Then I started paying attention to what the woman was saying, and the first thing that registered was her suggesting that…

“A pea-sized amount of Lumē applied between your butt cheeks…”

This was a first.

I’d never heard “butt cheeks” used in a commercial.

And then:

“The average crotch has an odor score of five to six out of 10.”

Another first.

I’d never heard “crotch” used in a commercial.

And what determines the “average crotch”?  How many crotches are needed to determine what’s “average”?

And what about “odor score”?  How is that determined?

Is it something that involves judges, like the Olympics?

Now the image changed, making use of that blank blue space…

With graphics including “Stink Level.”

What is this stuff? I wondered.

The 30-second commercial’s last visual answered that – sort of:

Lumē.

I wanted to know more…

Or did I?

I’d already encountered “butt cheeks,” “crotch” and “stink level” in one commercial.  Was spending more in this environment going to improve my life?

Well…

But…perhaps this was a too-good-to-miss opportunity for mockery?

Yes!

My first destination was YouTube, to find the commercial I’d seen and confirm what I’d heard. 

Found, watched, confirmed.

Then I watched a longer Lumē commercial – two minutes and 18 seconds – where an actress began by applying “a pea-sized amount of Lumē” (that sounded familiar) “to your privates,” with this piece of fruit standing in for your “privates”:

Other language included:

  • Kiss your stinky butt good-bye.
  • Butt incense.
  • In bed doing some stinky-winky.
  • Your junk smells so awful, you’re bad at playing hide-and-seek.
  • Use it on pits, feet or any other stinky crevice.
  • You’ll be able to geni-tell the difference (geni-tell as in genital).

Message received:

Our bodies are God-awful smelly but Lumē – and only Lumē – will make us less smelly and therefore more socially acceptable.

And happy.  Buying Lumē will also make you happy.

The commercial encouraged me to go to the Lumē website, which I did:

Where I was exhorted to…

Apply Anywhere You Have Odor
Think pits, underboobs, belly buttons, tummy folds, butt cracks, thigh creases, vulvas, balls, and feet!

Yet another commercial first: “vulvas.”

And wow – who knew “underboobs” was a word?

Who knew our bodies possessed all those odor opportunities?

This person knew:

Meet Dr. Shannon Klingman, Lumē spokesperson and an OB-GYN who, says her website,

“…worked for 10 years to create a solution that would work for ALL body odor, not just smelly pits.”

Apparently not satisfied with her tacky self-made videos, Shannon hired the Harmon Brothers ad agency:

I guess because she wanted to get a “crap-ton of eyeballs” looking at Lumē.

Who knew “crap-ton” was a word?

In this Harmon Brothers news release…

Shannon said,

“…so when we created this revolutionary product, we knew we needed to find a way to talk about it publicly.  Who better than Harmon Brothers, the agency whose success was sparked by making the smell of human odors easy to talk about.”

Who knew that “making the smell of human odors easy to talk about” is the new benchmark for successful advertising agencies?

The news release is dated January 2019 and says that Harmon Brothers launched their first Lumē ad just before Christmas.

The ad:

“…features a made-from-scratch musical number…the leading lady manages to convince the viewers that they actually want body odor – just so they can experience the pleasure of using Lumē to dismiss it away.”

Who knew someone could convince us that we want body odor?

The ad was more than four minutes long, and because I care about you, I watched it so you wouldn’t have to.

Here’s the “leading lady”:

At 1:55 into the commercial I learned that bacteria eat the fluids on our skin and then the bacteria…

But no worries – at 3:20 in we’re assured that with Lumē, your HOO-HA:

Can smell OOH-LA-LA:

But only if we…

Click the link and get Lumē today:

I guess the Harmon Brothers – the folks known for “making the smell of human odors easy to talk about” – were doing something right.

According to the 2019 news release:

“For Lumē, sales are up 526% and the company is on track to grow from $1.5 million annually to $15 million annually based on current indicators.”

And in late 2021, Lumē was acquired:

No financial terms were disclosed, but one website – I can’t testify to its veracity – valued Lumē “in the range of $10M-$37.5M.”

What do I think of all this?

Well, Lumē proved to be something easy to mock, and that’s been fun.

But it also proved to be something ugly and exploitative.

And I think Lumē – and Shannon – stink.

NOT because I object to someone coming up with an idea, bringing the idea to fruition, and making lots of money from it.

I admire the entrepreneurial spirit.

What I think stinks is Klingman’s message that our bodies are disgusting, smelly, and hopelessly repulsive and will continue that way forevermore unless we buy her product.

It’s one more advertising campaign like so many – telling us that unless we purchase their brand of lipstick or shoes or cars or whatever…

We are doomed…

We’ll never be happy…

And we are stupid.

I think this Lumē reviewer …

Said it very well:

“This ad is a direct attack on women and our self-esteem…”

“Calling women’s vaginas ‘stinky crevices’ is not only revolting and insulting but it’s completely incorrect!  Vaginas are self-cleaning, thanks.  When are you going to put out ads about men’s stinky penises? 

The whole thing is absolutely all about creating an unnecessary need and then meeting it.”

Klingman and her Lumē ads are a perfect example of using blatant body shaming – for women and men – to make Klingman lots of money. 

And while she’s body shaming and making millions, she’s mouthing meaningless sentiments like these, from an interview:

“If I can be an inspiration to young girls and women around the world and make the path a little clearer for them to dream and develop and problem solve, then I have done a good thing.”

“It feels great to know that in our small way, we are making a big difference in the lives of women.”

What a load of…

Let’s go back to what I talked about at the beginning of this post – the two laments I have with the commercials I’ve written about, and so many, many other commercials:

First:  Why are so many commercials so stupid?

Because people like Shannon Klingman and her pals at Harmon Brothers advertising think their audience (you and me) is stupid, and they have to dumb-down their message to get us to buy their products.

Second:  Is nothing private anymore?

No.

In summary:

Dr. Klingman, take your Lumē products and stick them in your…

The Nazis: Their Gifts Just Keep On Giving

The Danube River is the second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia.  It rises in the Black Forest mountains of western Germany and flows for 1,770 miles to its mouth on the Black Sea:

Along its course it passes through 10 countries:  Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine.

River cruises on the Danube are popular, like the Viking River Cruise’s Budapest-to-Bucharest trip that follows this course:

You’ll see I marked “Iron Gate” with an arrow.  It’s a gorge on the Danube.

Here’s a Viking River Cruise in the Iron Gate:

It’s not the only ship in the area.

There are others there are well:

According to this article:

“Europe’s worst drought in years has pushed the mighty river Danube to one of its lowest levels in almost a century, exposing the hulks of dozens of explosives-laden German warships sunk during World War II near Serbia’s river port town of Prahovo.”

“The vessels were among hundreds scuttled along the Danube by Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet in 1944 as they retreated from advancing Soviet forces, and still hamper river traffic during low water levels.”

“However, this year’s drought – viewed by scientists as a consequence of global warming – has exposed more than 20 hulks on a stretch of the Danube near Prahovo in eastern Serbia, many of which still contain tons of ammunition and explosives and pose a danger to shipping.”

The sunken ships pose a danger not only to shipping, but to the local fishing industry of both Serbia, and Romania across the river.

And the wrecks present a massive threat in terms of human life and the environment – according to an August 23 New York Times article:

“The wrecks contain nearly 10,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance according to the Serbian authorities.”

Ah, the Nazis: their gifts just keep on giving.

Here’s a bit more about Germany scuttling their ships from this article:

“The ships, some still laden with munition, belonged to Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet that was deliberately sunk by the Germans as they retreated from Romania as Soviet forces advanced.

“Historians say up to 200 German warships were scuttled in September 1944 near Prahovo in the Danube gorge known as The Iron Gate on the orders of the fleet’s commander as they came under heavy fire from the Soviets.  The idea behind the deliberate sinking was to at least slow down the Soviet advance in the Balkans.  But it didn’t help, and Nazi Germany surrendered months later, in May 1945.”

The appearance of the sunken ships was not a surprise – they’ve been hampering shipping for years.  And for years there were plans to take the ships out of the muddy waters, but the operation was considered too risky because of the explosives they carried and there were no funds to do it.

Fortunately, it appears that’s about to change – somewhat.  Again, according to the Star Advertiser:

“Now, the European Union and the European Investment Bank have agreed to provide loans and grants to finance the operation to remove some of the vessels near Prahovo in order to improve the traffic capacity of the Danube.  The total cost of the operation is estimated at 30 million euros ($30 million), of which about $16 million are grants.

“Alessandro Bragonzi, the head of the European Investment Bank in the Western Balkans…said the project consists of the removal of 21 sunken vessels.

“‘It has been estimated that more vessels are underwater, up to 40, but those that are currently impeding the fairway conditions of the Danube, especially during periods of low water level, are 21’ Bragonzi said.”

On August 30 NBC reported:

“Experts say the salvage operation will consist of removing the explosive materials from the sunken vessels and then destroying the wrecks, rather than dragging the ships out of the river.”

Removing explosives safely, disposing of them safely, destroying the wrecks, cleaning up from destroying the wrecks – a huge, costly, and dangerous process.

Here’s another dangerous gift from the Nazis that keeps on giving:

Riverside, CA 2009:

Charlottesville, VA 2017:

Washington, DC January 6, 2021:

This is Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, 32, of New Jersey.

He participated in the January 6 attack on the Capitol and, according to this article:

Prosecutors portrayed him as:

“…an extremist, who hoped for a second ‘civil war.’  The government presented evidence of Hale-Cusanelli using racist, antisemitic and anti-gay slurs, yelling obscenities at officers protecting the Capitol, and later enthusiastically boasting about breaching the building to a roommate.”

“Video showed how he joined the mob on the west side of the Capitol…Another video taken that day shows him moving a bike rack, which police had been using as a barrier against the demonstrators.  When a group of rioters eventually broke a window on the Senate side and gave the mob access to the building, Hale-Cusanelli followed them in.”

This article…

 added:

“One Navy seaman said Hale-Cusanelli told him ‘he would kill all the Jews and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and he wouldn’t need to season them because the salt from their tears would make it flavorful enough,’ according to prosecutors.”

“Hale-Cusanelli was indicted on five counts:  obstruction of an official proceeding, entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly or destructive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.  The obstruction charge is a felony.  The rest are misdemeanors.”

Update:  September 19:

I waited to upload this post because Timothy Hale-Cusanelli was scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, September 16. It appears sentencing has been delayed.

Prosecutors are asking for 6.5 years.

Prior to his arrest, Hale-Cusanelli served in the U.S. Army Reserves as a human resources specialist and also worked as a security guard at a Naval base.  In court filings the government said he wore the “Hitler mustache” to work. 

Will he wear his Hitler mustache in prison?

Book Review:  What A Cheap, Cheesy Rip-Off Of Two Dead People

Publication date:  May 2022

Category:  Women’s Friendship Fiction, Mothers and Children Fiction, Women’s Domestic Life Fiction

Review, short version:  The above skunks and more.

Review, long version:

Perhaps, in this post’s title, instead of “cheap” I should have used the word “expensive,” since the dust jacket on Emily Giffin’s Meant to Be says “$28.”

But I got the word “cheesy” right:  “not very good or original, and lacking style in a way that is embarrassing; shabby.”

And I got “rip-off” right, too:  “a cheap, exploitive imitation; an inferior imitation of something.”

Meant to Be is based on two actual people, and I know that authors base characters on actual people all the time.  Sometimes those characters are described as “thinly disguised.”

But there was nothing “disguised” – thinly or otherwise – in Giffin’s two lead characters, Joe Kingsley and Cate Cooper.

They’re straight, direct rip-offs of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy:

JFK, Jr., Carolyn, and her sister Lauren, died in the crash of the plane he was flying in 1999.

But the rip-off wasn’t enough for Giffin.  She also somehow presumes to think she knows John and Carolyn so well that she writes each of them in the first person, as though she’d somehow been privy to their thoughts.

Utter nonsense.

Giffin is nothing more than a Kennedy groupie.  In her author’s note at the end of the book, she writes:

“After I graduated from law school in 1997, I moved to New York, took the bar exam, and went to work at a large firm.

“I had never lived in a big city before, and it was crazy to think that I might at any moment run into JFK, Jr., or his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, whether on the subway, in Central Park, or at their usual Tribeca haunts, from El Teddy’s to Bubby’s to the Odeon.”

Did I say “groupie”?

Maybe I should have said “stalker.”

In just the first few pages of, and then throughout, the book, we’re practically smothered in information Giffin simply lifted from JFK, Jr.’s life:

Joe Kingsley and John Kennedy – same initials.  Joe has a dog named “Thursday,” JFK, Jr. had a dog named “Friday.”  Joe’s family is American “royalty,” like JFK, Jr.’s. family. Joe’s father died when Joe was three, like JFK, Jr.’s father did.  Joe’s father is buried at Arlington, like JFK, Jr.’s father is.  Joe’s father had a rocking chair, like JFK, Jr.’s father did. 

It continues….

Joe’s father served in World War II, like JFK, Jr.’s father did.   Joe’s father ran for Senate, like JFK, Jr.’s father did.  Joe’s mother is a fashion icon, like JFK, Jr.’s mother was.  Joe marries a woman whose first name begins with “C,” like JFK, Jr. did.  Joe is a pilot, just like JFK, Jr. was.  Joe’s plane crashes, just like JFK, Jr.’s plane did.  There’s a “Kingsley curse,” just like the “Kennedy curse.”

And as for the Cate character, I don’t know much about Carolyn’s background so Giffin may – may – have showed a scintilla of imagination there.

It’s almost as if Giffin was on a deadline for her next novel and desperate to come up with a storyline, so she copied some online JFK, Jr. and Carolyn stories, pasted them into Word, then hit the “Find and Replace” feature:

So, I think Meant to Be is tripe.

Even the cover of the book is a rip-off:

I headed on over to Amazon to see what others were saying about the book and – no surprise here – I’m out of step with 83% of Amazon reviewers and the 4.3 out of 5 stars rating.

So I skipped the four- and five-star reviews and went straight to one- and two-stars – here’s a sampling:

Skip this one
In Author’s Note Emily writes that the characters are purely fictional, while she uses John and Caroline’s story to create the story line of this book.  Keeping the story of their tragic loss alive for $$$.  Unoriginal and will not read her books again.

Don’t bother
I hated this book because the author just lazily re-wrote the romance of JFK and Carolyn Bessette, all of which is public record and therefore required zero creativity or real imagination…

An embarrassment for the author and me
I’ve read other Giffin novels. They’re simple and somewhat trite, but I’ve enjoyed the sentimentality.  This one was dreadful.  An embarrassment for the author who spun this pathetic “novel.”  An embarrassment for me that I finished it.  

I, too, am embarrassed that I finished Meant to Be.

There are so many other worthwhile things I could have been doing with my time.

Such as…changing the stale air in my tires…

“America’s Finest City” Isn’t Looking So Fine After This:

This story taking place in San Diego – often called “America’s Finest City” by us locals – came and went in one day.

But it stuck with me.

It has to do with shopping carts

A rather pedestrian item that we don’t give much thought to.

And we’re so accustomed to seeing abandoned shopping carts this that we barely notice this:

Of course, not all shopping carts are abandoned:

We’ll circle back around to shopping carts and the homeless shortly.

This shopping carts story stuck with me because my husband’s parents owned a small grocery store.  When customers walked off with (stolen) shopping carts – to transport their purchases to their homes or to the bus stop, for example…

 …the shopping carts had to be replaced.

His parents had to pay for those replacements, and this wasn’t something they could just write off as “the cost of doing business.” 

That cost had to be passed on to customers – to those who stole and to those who wouldn’t dream of stealing a grocery cart.

And it isn’t just small stores that pass on the cost of stolen shopping carts – most, probably all stores do this:

“The Food Marketing Institute reports that nearly two million shopping carts are stolen each year, translating into a per-store loss of $8,000 to $10,000 annually – and that’s only in the food industry.

“Shoppers wouldn’t think of borrowing a car to get their purchases home, but these same people assume that as customers they are allowed to take baskets and carts with them.”

Stores are fighting back, of course – some turning to companies whose business is shopping cart theft prevention, like this one:

The options might include high-tech electronic systems – for example, the shopping cart is fitted with an electronic locking wheel clamp or “boot…”

…and transmitter with a thin wire is placed around the perimeter of the parking lot.  The boot locks when the cart leaves the designated area, and store personnel must then deactivate the lock with a handheld remote control to return the cart to stock.

Then there are low-tech options such as vertical posts at the store entrance to keep carts from being taken into the parking lot, or mounting a pole taller than the entrance onto the shopping cart, so that the pole will block exit of the cart:

And this news story:

Demonstrated how to get a shopping cart lock to release:  Insert a quarter.  When you return the cart, your quarter pops out of the lock.

High-tech or low-tech, who pays for this theft prevention?

Here’s looking at you, kid.

And me.

A system that isn’t proactive like these, but rather reactive, is the one that’s been around the longest:

A cart retrieval service collects carts found off the store’s premises and returns them to the store for a fee.  Who is that fee passed on to?

Here’s looking at you again, kid.

And me.

Shopping cart retrieval services are all over the country and can range from one guy in his pickup truck to large-scale operations like this:

This is RMS, offering shopping cart retrieval services right here in San Diego.

I said I’d circle back around to shopping carts and the homeless, and here goes.

We all know that some homeless people use shopping carts.  And sometimes those shopping carts end up in homeless encampments:

According to this article:

In recent months in downtown San Diego and other areas where the city has increased enforcement of laws prohibiting sidewalk homeless encampments:

“During cleanups, crews toss shopping carts…into a trash truck, where they are crushed and hauled to a landfill.”

The article also says:

“City officials originally were asked in mid-July why shopping carts found in homeless encampments were destroyed rather than given back to their owners.  The question was referred to RMS, and conversations with city officials on Friday still did not explain why carts were destroyed.”

Yet Matthew Dodson, president of RMS’ cart-retrieval service CarTrac, said he was unaware that the city was destroying shopping carts until contacted for a comment about the policy.

So America’s Finest City ducked the question and referred it to RMS, RMS didn’t know San Diego was destroying shopping carts, and oh, by the way – according to Dodson, “destroying shopping carts is illegal”:

“A section of the California Business and Professions code states cities and counties must notify retailers if shopping carts are impounded, and they must be held 30 days before being discarded or sold.”

Unsurprisingly,

“City officials have not commented about Dodson’s claim about the code violation.”

City officials can be amazingly mum when it suits them.

A supervising public information officer for San Diego said the city does contact RMS when people report shopping carts in public places through the city’s Get It Done app.

This public servant also unhelpfully noted:

“Cart owners have the option to install theft prevention devices that would eliminate these carts from ending up in canyons, riverbeds or sidewalks.”

So this person is suggesting that it’s not San Diego’s fault that San Diego is destroying shopping carts – it’s the cart owners fault because the cart owners haven’t installed theft protection devices?

San Diego shoppers are paying for stores to replace stolen grocery carts and paying for San Diego to destroy them.

Does any city official see how screwed up this is?

And continues to be?

The Union-Tribune article was dated August 14 but I haven’t posted about it until now because I kept checking for follow-up articles – something that would indicate that America’s Finest City has stopped throwing away shopping carts.

As of a month later…nothing.

Nothing except a continuation of this:

One more shopping cart crushed, two more to go.

Can Something Be Good And Unpleasant At The Same Time?

I’m partial to penguins, and when I see them, it makes me smile.

So when I saw the above picture, I started to smile.

That felt good.

But then…

The picture reminded me of something unpleasant.

That was bad.

Now, how could a picture of adorable penguins remind me of something unpleasant?

Let’s start with the where, who and what:

The penguin picture is from the ZSL London Zoo’s annual animal weigh-in (ZSL stands for Zoological Society London).

According to this story:

“With more than 14,000 animals in their care, ZSL London Zoo’s keepers spend hours throughout the year recording the heights and weights of all the animals – vital information which helps them to monitor their health and well-being. 

“The annual weigh-in is an opportunity for keepers at ZSL London Zoo to make sure the information they’ve recorded is up-to-date and accurate, with each measurement then added to the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), a database shared with zoos all over the world that helps zookeepers to compare important information on thousands of endangered species.”

So it wasn’t just penguins who were getting weighed, but – as in often the case – penguins getting much of the attention.  In addition to the image at the top, there were plenty of others, like this:

I hop on the scale, get weighed, hop off the scale, and get a fish!

These ZSL London Zoo residents are Humboldt penguins, whose native habitat is along the coasts of Chile and Peru in the southeastern Pacific Ocean.  They’re described as “medium sized,” grow to be about 26 to 28 inches long and weigh about 10.4 pounds.

And I’m betting that if one of those penguins weighed in at 10.9 pounds or even 11 pounds, they wouldn’t be banished from the ZSL London Zoo’s Penguin Beach exhibit for being overweight.

They wouldn’t be told, “You’re suspended without pay and if you don’t lose that extra weight, you’ll be terminated.”

But if you were a flight attendant, that’s exactly what could – and still can – happen to you.

I know, because I was a flight attendant.

When I was flying (this was back shortly after the Wright brothers’ first flight), every time my fellow crew members and I checked in at our home base airport to go on duty – work a flight – each of us was weighed.  And the senior flight attendant wrote down our weights.

Just like the zookeepers do:

If you were a pound or two over your maximum weight – as decreed by the airline – you might get off with just The Look from the senior flight attendant.

You know – The Look.

I was never suspended or terminated for my weight, but I got The Look a number of times.

Just showing up for work meant gut-clenching, high anxiety – every time. 

And then…whew. Dodged the bullet again.

If you were 10 pounds over, you could be suspended without pay, and advised to lose the weight and come back in two weeks for a weigh-in.

But more than 10 pounds?

Unemployment:  Likely.

I must mention that weight requirements did not apply to the cockpit crews.  They get FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) physicals and if the FAA says a cockpit crew member is good to fly – regardless of their weight – then they fly.

But not flight attendants.

This article:

Described a weight-related termination case:

“In 1972, Sandie Hendrix, a stewardess at United, was fired after weighing in at a 127 pounds.  (Hendrix was five feet two, and the limit for her height 118 pounds.)

“Her story made the national news, but not everyone was on her side:  one nationally syndicated columnist, writing about the possible end of the airlines’ weight rules, bemoaned a future in which ‘human hippos’ start handing out the trays.”

“Human hippos.”

It was all about female flight attendants, and how they looked.

Nothing to do with the fact – and it is a fact – that flight attendants are on airplanes for one reason:

Your safety.

Whether that’s safety demonstrations before flights take off and land, administering first aid and medical care in emergencies, or saving your life by helping you get off the plane as quickly and safely as possible in the event of a crash or water ditching.

And more recently – and regrettably – flight attendants have also had to deal with a tsunami of “unruly passengers,” many due to face mask and other COVID-related issues.

The beverages, snacks and whatever served by flight attendants are just window dressing.

A flight attendant’s value should never have been, and should never be, determined by their weight or anything else about their appearance.

But it was, and still is.

The above New Yorker article also references Diane Tucker, a flight attendant who has worked for United since 1968:

“Tucker started every workday by hiking her skirt so that an older woman, known as an ‘appearance supervisor,’ could peer underneath.  ‘We lifted our skirt and showed our girdle,’ Tucker said.  ‘They didn’t ask me whether I had my manual or my flashlight, or whether I had enough money to get a taxi if I needed it – they just wanted to know if I had my girdle on.’”

“…some women took diet pills or starved themselves to avoid losing their jobs.  ‘If there was any suspicion that you didn’t look exactly the way the appearance supervisor thought you should look, she would have you hop on the scale in front of everybody,’ Tucker said.  ‘If you were ten pounds over what your maximum was, they would remove you from your flight.’”

If removing a flight attendant from a flight leaves the crew shorthanded according to FAA regulations, then the airline must find a substitute before the flight can take off.  This can cause a flight delay which can cause angry passengers, sometimes passenger compensation, and sometimes trouble with the FAA.

But some airlines thought all that was preferable to having “human hippos” handing out the trays.

In the 1990s airlines began to drop or relax their weight standards for flight attendants, according to this April 1994 article:

“USAir yesterday became the latest airline to drop its weight standards for flight attendants, settling a 1992 lawsuit filed by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

“American Airlines, to settle a lawsuit, agreed in 1991 to relax its weight standards overall and to increase the weight limits further with age.  As part of the settlement, American reinstated some flight attendants who had been dismissed because their weights violated the old guidelines.”

In these and other cases, it took lawsuits to bring about changes.

“Weight standards for flight attendants have been the subject of legal battles since the mid-1970s, when flight attendants began to assert that it was a form of sex discrimination to require them to meet weight requirements as a condition of holding their jobs.  Many flight attendants saw the weight standards as a throwback to the era when they were ‘stewardesses’ and automatically lost their jobs when they married or turned 32.”

The article noted that United Airlines was still using weight restrictions for flight attendants, but a few months after the above New York Times article, that changed, according to this July 1994 article:

But the flight attendants weren’t done with United Airlines:

“United Airlines discriminated against female flight attendants from 1989 to 1994 by requiring them to stay thinner than their male counterparts, a federal court ruled Wednesday.

“The court said United’s weight policy was discriminatory on its face.  The rules required women to stay within the ideal weight range for women with medium body frames.  By contrast, men had it easy, the court said.  Even men with small body frames were free to bulk up so their weight fell into the range for men with large body frames.”

“‘They wanted attractive, sexy flight attendants,’ said flight attendants’ attorney Edith Benay, referring to United Executives.  ‘It was just a lack of respect for women who were doing their job well, in some cases for many years.  All of a sudden, when they started to gain weight, they were out.’”

And apparently, some airlines are still showing that sexist, discriminatory mentality.

From 2015:

“According to an unnamed crew member, a flight attendant for Qingdao Airlines was recently grounded from flying because she weighed too much.  The crew member, who refused to be identified, told the South China Morning Post that the airline had previously suspended – or even fired – flight attendants who exceeded the airline’s height-to-weight ratio.”

From 2020:

(Note:  The “9st” in the article is “9 stone,” a British weight measure.  One stone is 14 pounds; “9st” is 126 pounds.)

“A flight attendant who was fired by Malaysia Airlines for being overweight has lost an unfair dismissal case.

“Ina Meliesa Hassim, who had worked for the airline for 25 years, weighed 9st 7lbs when her contract was terminated in 2017.

“The company stipulates that cabin crew’s Body Mass Index (BMI) must fall within the ‘healthy’ range to continue working for the company.

“At 5ft 2in, Ms Hassim needed to weigh a maximum of 9st 6lbs to stay in the ‘healthy’ bracket.”

And this, from January 2022:

“Former employees said it [a ‘glamorous Emirates face’] was so important that there was an ‘Appearance Management Program’ run by image and grooming officers dedicated to ensuring flight attendants meet the airline’s standards.

“But where Emirates appears to go further than industry norms is in its weight requirements.  Former cabin crew said image and grooming officers monitored and punished flight attendants deemed overweight.

“Internally at Emirates, these officers were known by some former staffers as the ‘weight police.’

“‘Weight police’ punishments include taking crew members off flights and job loss, some former employees told Insider.”

So – some foreign carriers are still operating in the aviation Dark Ages, while domestic carriers doing away with weight restrictions for flight attendants are showing some level of enlightenment.

I’ll wrap this up with two wishes.

Wish #1:  That not just more airlines, but more passengers become enlightened as to the qualities that make great flight attendants.  Which is not their weight, or their age, or whatever other “flaw” some ignorant people choose to find with their appearance.

And that we’ll see less crap like this 2015 article – and this attitude:

“As flight attendant Marcia served me water, I caught myself counting the wrinkles on her face.  If I went by the wrinkles on her face, I would say that she was a great grandmother.  Her co-worker Sheila was as round as a butterball turkey.”

And that we’ll see more articles – and appreciation – like this recent story:

“An 86-year-old American Airlines flight attendant was recognized by the Guinness World Records this week as the longest-serving and oldest flight attendant in the world.

“Bette Nash of Boston has been working at American Airlines for 65 years, which Guinness says is a record.”

Nash has her own memories of the bad old days:

“‘You had to be a certain height, you had to be a certain weight.  It used to be horrible.  You put on a few pounds and you had to keep weighing yourself, and then if you stayed that way, they would take you off the payroll,’ Nash recalled.” 

Wish #2:  Now that I’ve done my therapy by doing this post, I wish that the next time I see a ZSL London Zoo story about the penguin weigh-in or any story about penguins, I’ll have only smiling, and not unpleasant, thoughts.

They Just Don’t Build ‘Em Like They Used To

A notable news story over Labor Day weekend was the delay of NASA’s second Artemis launch attempt.  It was originally scheduled for August 29, but on that attempt…

Actually, Artemis was originally scheduled to launch in 2017.  But who’s keeping track?

Other than me and millions of other taxpayers?

So the August 29 launch was moved to September 3, and that, too, was scuttled:

This and other articles recounted issues including “engine temperature problems” and “dangerous fuel leak” and “hydrogen leaks.”

When you hear what Artemis costs, you may wonder – as I did…

“I paid #@%!&%@! dollars for this #@%!&%@! thing…and it leaks?”

A September 3 Associated Press article said,

“With a two-week launch blackout period looming in just a few days, the rocket is now grounded until late September or October.”

Of the entire Artemis program, this article noted:

“NASA’s own auditors recently estimated that a single launch of the rocket will cost $4.1 billion – eight times greater than what the agency estimated in 2013.”

And since we’re talking costs, the total cost for Artemis from FY2012, when the Space Launch System (SLS) program began, through FY2025 will be $93 billion. 

So, years late and billions of dollars over estimates, but who’s keeping track?

Same answer as above.

Now let’s compare and contrast that piece of machinery with another piece of machinery our government built – this:

This is the USS Texas, a Navy battleship that was launched 1912 and commissioned in 1914.  According to the Battleship Texas Historic Site brochure:

In World War I, Texas served as part of the Battleship Force of the Atlantic Fleet, participating with the American squadron in maneuvers in the North Sea against threats from the German High Seas Fleet.

Facing the German High Seas Fleet…

…was no walk in the park.

Texas survived World War I and after some modifications, from 1927 to 1939 it served as the flagship of the American fleet in the Atlantic and Pacific, representing American naval power:

Texas circa 1928.

During World War II Texas saw action in the invasions of North Africa (November 1942), Normandy (June 1944) and Southern France (August 1944).  Moving into the Pacific in late 1944, Texas provided support for the landing at Iwo Jima in February and March 1945.  In April it took part in the invasion of Okinawa, the largest amphibious assault of the Pacific theater.

At the end of the war, Texas carried many prisoners of war from the Philippines to Pearl Harbor, and made three voyages from Pearl Harbor to California, bringing nearly 5,000 troops home from the Pacific – troops like these:

Texas was decommissioned in 1948 but instead of ending up in a scrapyard, it survived and is the only battleship in existence today that fought in both World War I and World War II.

Texas is still around.

One hundred years after it was launched.

That’s what I meant by this post’s title: 

They Just Don’t Build ‘Em Like They Used To

If Texas was being built by NASA, it would still be sitting somewhere, unfinished and/or unseaworthy, instead of facing down our enemies in World War I and World War II.

While NASA whined about engine temperature problems and leaking fuel and asked us taxpayers for more money.

And more money.

Again, from the brochure:

“Texas was scheduled to be used as a bombing target, but Texas citizens launched a successful statewide fund drive to save the ship.  The U.S. Navy towed it to Texas to become the nation’s first permanent memorial battleship, and it was officially transferred to the state in ceremonies at San Jacinto Battleground in April 1948.  For 35 years, Texas was administered by the Battleship Texas Commission, then it became part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1983.”

I’m not going to pretend that Texas hasn’t needed plenty of maintenance since it took up residence in Texas – of course it has.  But as the above paragraph states, it wasn’t our federal tax dollars that brought the ship to Texas – it was a “successful statewide fund drive.”

The people of Texas wanted Battleship Texas, and they put up their money to make it happen.

Texas was in active service from 1914 to 1948 – 34 years.  It served our country well, and continues to do so.

According to the foundation in charge of its care – the Battleship Texas Foundation:

“The mission of the Battleship Texas Foundation is to preserve and enhance the Battleship Texas and develop this historic ship into a premier museum and visitor attraction.”

Texas has been and will continue to be source of knowledge about our country’s past – and its future.

And to that end, on August 31 the ship was towed from its location in the Battleship Texas State Historic Site:

Texas is in Galveston for repairs estimated at $35 million, to “repair the hull and ultimately restore the ship to its former glory,” according to this Associated Press story:

“In 2019 the Texas legislature approved the funds to fix the hull.  The foundation plans to make other fixes that it’s paying for.”

The people of Texas and donors to the Battleship Texas Foundation are paying, not U.S. taxpayers.

And,

“Travis Davis, the foundation’s vice president of ship operations and who was aboard the vessel during it trip, said Battleship Texas did really well during its journey:  ‘She’s been a champ the whole time.’”

Texas has been a “champ” since it launched in 1912.

While this thing…

Languishes on its launchpad, waiting to try another launch attempt in “late September or October” or more likely…

Waiting until the…

Or perhaps – unlike the long-lived and well-traveled Texas – the only journey Artemis makes will be this one…

This Was An Excellent Landing

I’m not being facetious in the title.

This happened around 10:30am on a recent Thursday morning.

Yes, the plane looks pitiful:

But when we pull back from the picture to see where the plane ended up – in El Cajon, CA – you’ll see why I think this was an excellent landing.

El Cajon is located about 16 miles northeast of San Diego: 

The population is around 107,000 people in 15 square miles – pretty dense.

Now let’s look at where the plane crashed:

The plane crashed on Greenfield Drive.

And do you see those yellow lines on the map?

That’s the Interstate 8 freeway.

The plane crashed where Greenfield Drive and the I-8 intersect.

Freeways in San Diego County – including the I-8 – often look like this:

Now let’s go back and look at the plane…

It crashed on Greenfield Drive between the east- and westbound-sides of the I-8 freeway.

Not on the freeway.

Not on the nearby houses, schools, churches or businesses.

Not like this plane near El Cajon just eight months earlier:

This plane crashed, burned, damaged a home and took down power lines.

There were no survivors in that crash.

In our excellent landing, the pilot survived.

And what about other people – was anyone hurt?

According to this article:

When it hit the street, “the aircraft grazed an SUV.”

That must have been horrifying for the driver.

Fortunately, she was uninjured, able to pull her car over to the side of the street, and later talk to reporters:

One reporter suggested that after such good luck, she should buy a lottery ticket.

Excellent.

I haven’t found any follow-up stories so we don’t know much about the pilot who survived this:

We know he’s a San Diego resident but don’t know his name.  He was taken to a hospital “for treatment of significant but apparently not life-threatening trauma.”

We know that, according to the CHP, “Alcohol or drugs were not considered a factor in the crash at this time.”

We don’t know if the cause of the crash was a pilot error, mechanical failure, both, or neither.

We don’t know if the pilot was trying to land on the I-8 freeway – as some articles have suggested – or if he had another option in mind.

We don’t know where the pilot was coming from or headed to.

We don’t know if the excellent landing was due to the pilot’s skills, a copious amount of good luck, or both.

But considering that aircraft crashes in San Diego County neighborhoods seem to be a regular – and often fatal – occurrence, according to an NBC 7 San Diego recently aired story with these statistics:

And considering that one of those crashes took place this past October in Santee, about three miles away from El Cajon…

And that Santee crash killed the pilot, and a UPS driver who was months away from retirement; several others were injured; two homes were destroyed…

…and at least another five homes were damaged…

I’d say our El Cajon pilot’s landing was…

Let’s Be Honest:  No One Truly Enjoys Having…

There are some traditions I think we should terminate.

One in the presidential pardon for turkeys.

I don’t pardoning mean these turkeys:

I mean pardoning these turkeys:

Here’s another tradition I think we should terminate:

There were two catalysts for this post:

First, today is Labor Day, that end-of-summer holiday when many people are having houseguests or are houseguests.

And second, a recent Dear Abby letter in which the writer described the annual two-week visit from her brother and his wife:

“She is rude, nags my brother and asks him if he has showered, changed his underwear, etc.  She treats him like a child, and ‘reminds’ everyone else how smart she is…She expects everyone to wait on her because of the distance they’ve traveled.  We feel three days is long enough.  How do I tell them without hard feelings this not an acceptable length of time to stay?”

Abby wimped out and said, in part:

“Tell your brother and his wife that while you love them, you are unable to accommodate them for longer than three days and, if they wish to stay in your city longer than that, they will need to arrange other accommodations.”

“…and stick to your guns without arguing or explaining further.”

While I agree with Abby’s last sentence, instead of all that “unable to accommodate” stuff, I will offer this response:

“We don’t do houseguests anymore.”

Five words:  Simple, direct and honest.

Or, if you feel the need to soften the shock of your response, add a preface:

“We’d love to see you, but…”

The BUT is critical.

And so is this: 

There must be NO pause between the “you” and “but.”

No chance for them to interrupt.

Say it like this:

To that response many would cry…

Did you?

When I said “We don’t do houseguests anymore” was your first reaction that I was wrong or selfish or something equally bad, and/or that’s not what nice people say, and/or everyone has houseguests because that’s what people do?

Yes, that’s what people do, and that’s why houseguest horror stories abound:

When I googled “houseguest horror stories” I got more than a million results.

But we continue to have houseguests because…because…

Here’s why:

The worst reason to do anything.

How could you possibly say “No” your parents, your siblings, other family members, your best friend, your sort-of friends, your not-really-friends but they’re going to visit your city, your neighbors from when you lived next door before you moved seven years ago, a person you’ve never met but he’s a relative of the neighbors from when you lived next door…

We say “Yes” because…

Otherwise, they’ll think we don’t love them.  Or…

Otherwise, they won’t love us anymore.  Or…

Otherwise, they’ll think we’re bad people.

Otherwise schmotherwise.

I was going to start this sentence with “The worst houseguests are…”

But I can’t decide which is the worst.

How about the cousins you haven’t seen in years who are in town to take their four kids to the nearby theme park?

They show up at your front door – no call, no text, no heads-up of any kind, and:

“Hi!  I’m your cousin Louise, remember me?  We’re in town to go to WunderWorld and I just remembered you live here, so we cancelled our hotel reservations and…can we come in?”

Or the people who call and invite themselves to your place for 10 days?  You spinelessly succumb, and politely say…

“Well!  Now that we’ve settled the dates, what do you like for breakfast?  Coffee?  Juice?  Toast?…  Oh?  You like Eggs Benedict?  With fresh Hollandaise sauce?  And…what’s that?  You said your girlfriend does too, but she’ll want vegan?  Vegan Eggs Benedict?  And…champagne?  Did you say champagne?”

And then there are the houseguests who – no surprise here – are also the biggest liars:

“We won’t be any trouble, I promise!  You’ll barely know we’re there!”

And the last part is true.  They’ll be nowhere in sight when it’s time to do the dishes or pick up the tab at a restaurant.  But they’ll definitely make their presence felt when shortly after they arrive, they advise that they’re accustomed to having clean sheets and towels…

Every day.

OK.  I have decided on my ultimate worst.  My ultimate horror story of…

In my very first blog post back in May 2017, I recounted a pre- “We-don’t-do-houseguests-anymore” story of a girlfriend who asked if she and her Significant Other could say for one night.

I didn’t want houseguests, but I was spineless and said “Yes” (excuse:  she’s a close friend) and so they arrived.

And it was fine – we had pizza and salad delivered, we chatted, the evening wound down, and we said good night.

And I ended up like this:

Not because my houseguests were snoring – though that would have been bad enough.

But rather because my friend and her Significant Other – in the bedroom right next to mine – were having egregiously loud sex, complete with groans, moans, “Oh, Gods!” and a variety of other sound effects.

The noise seemed to go on forever.

Then…the big crescendo.  A few more “Oh, Gods!”

And finally…silence.

I was furious.

They were guests in my home for ONE night – and they couldn’t refrain for just ONE night?

Or at least…have sex without the sound effects?

Apparently not.

When they left the next day, them thanking us profusely for the lovely visit, and me, smiling and struggling mightily not to give them the Evil Eye for disturbing my sleep…

That’s when I decided:

When houseguests arrive, you can no longer be yourself.  You have to be upbeat and cheerful, even when you’re feeling neither.  When they recount their trip to the local zoo with 133 accompanying pictures, you have to be enthused and impressed, even when you’re feeling neither. 

And when your houseguest arrives with his dog in tow – the dog he hadn’t mentioned he was bringing – you warmly welcome him and his dog, even when you’re feeling warmth toward neither.

I say:

No more…

And I invite you to join me in putting out the Unwelcome mat:

And mastering the response:

And making your sentiments known.

I did.

I have since May 2017.

Right at the top of this blog:

Hey, Guys – Great Example You’re Setting For The Students…

The two guys in the above image should look like they’re ready to party-hearty.

It was a big day and should have been a happy occasion.

Instead, the guy on left – arms crossed, tense, with a surly – even belligerent – expression, does not look like he’s about to don a party hat and hoist a brewski.

The guy on the right – shoulders bowed, eyes lowered – looks like he’s reading a eulogy at his best friend’s funeral.

It was Monday, August 29.

The men are San Diego State University (SDSU) head football coach Brady Hoke (left), and athletic director John David Wicker.

The occasion was a news conference ahead of the Saturday, September 3 start of SDSU’s 100th football season – certainly something to celebrate.

And the game will be played in SDSU’s brand-new $310 million Snapdragon Stadium:

Yet another reason to celebrate.

But Hoke and Wicker weren’t celebrating:

In fact, Hoke looked as if he was about to leap off his chair and throttle the reporter who’s asking a question.

Hoke and Wicker didn’t like the questions that reporters were asking.

The reporters were asking about a local story that’s now gone national:

“Gang rape allegation.”

Gang rape allegations against members of SDSU’s football team.

As the reporters persisted, Hoke and Wicker abruptly got up and walked out of the news conference:

Guys, great example you’re setting for the SDSU students who look to you for leadership.

Instead of answering the tough questions, you ducked them.

When the going got tough, the tough got going – out the door.

According to this story:

“Monday’s sit-down with Wicker, Hoke and several reporters started with Wicker and Hoke issuing statements regarding the allegations.  A school official said the two men would not take questions about the incident, but would talk about football and the upcoming season.”

“But after the statement, the news conference grew heated, with reporters repeatedly asking questions about who knew what about the alleged rape and when, and why the school did not move to address the matter internally.  Wicker and Hoke then walked out.

“About 15 minutes later, Wicker returned and answered questions related to the allegations.”

I’ll give Wicker some – but not a lot of – credit for returning. 

What are the allegations against the SDSU football players?

That multiple SDSU football players gang raped a 17-year-old girl in October 2021.

According to the Union-Tribune:

“News of the rape allegations became public when the Los Angeles Times broke the story in June.”

Much of the media attention is focused on – and suggesting a possible SDSU cover-up of – the alleged gang rape.  Of prioritizing protection of its football team over the possible harm done by some of its players.

When questions about that were raised at the August 29 news conference, Hoke and Wicker walked out.

That story made headlines, too:

Not a good look.

And at the big game on Saturday, if reporters ask Hoke and Wicker more of those #&@!#%!* questions…

Will they walk out again?

This story will continue to play out in the local, national and international media for months.

It’s got all the elements of headline news:  a high-profile football team, big money involved, alleged gang rape of an underage girl by multiple football players…

And as that happens, I hope San Diego State University will put on a better face than the two the guys whose first impulse, when they couldn’t stand the heat…

Was to get out of the kitchen:

Ask And You Shall Receive…But You GOTTA Ask – First, Nicely; And Then…

I’m $103.46 better off, and not because these companies raised their hand and offered me the money.

I had to ask.

I was not satisfied with two online transactions, but I could have shrugged and decided, “Oh, well, I’ll just live with it.”

Or, “It’s not worth the hassle.”                              

Or, “I don’t have time for this.”

No.

I won’t just “live with it,” it is “worth the hassle” and I’ll find the time.

First:  DoorDash.

My husband and I have ordered meals with DoorDash a few times and been happy with the results, but this last time – three strikeouts.

Three items were missing from the order.

Three items!

We ate the rest of the meal, and I could have left it at that.

Happy Bear!

Instead, I went online and “chatted” with a DoorDash representative.  To their credit – no hassle.  They offered a $40.68 DoorDash credit toward my next order, which was significantly more than I’d imagined.                             

I gladly accepted.

If I hadn’t asked – no $40.68 credit.

Second:  Amazon.

Happy Bear!

A $62.78 credit from Amazon was a different story.

A professional acquaintance sent us a gift he’d purchased through Amazon.  We couldn’t use it, so I went through the Amazon return process, which in this instance – like earlier instances – was very easy.                          

Then I waited for the credit to show up on my Amazon account.

And waited.

And waited.

I went on the Amazon website and spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to talk to a customer service person.  Somehow I found it, and then all I had to do was click a button and my phone rang a minute later.

Not-So-Happy-Bear.

The customer service person was very pleasant, but also adamant that the credit would be issued to the sender, not the receiver.

This was not right, and I knew it wasn’t right.                

We went back and forth about this, including at one point, my saying, “If the sender had ordered the gift from Macy’s and I walked into Macy’s and returned it, then Macy’s would give me a refund.  Are you saying this is not Amazon’s policy?”

Really-Not-Happy Bear.

She insisted it was not.

I insisted that the refund should come to me.    

I don’t know if she just got sick of my insistence, or if it was coffee break time, or what, but she asked if she could put me on hold. 

A few minutes later she came back on and advised that the $62.78 would be credited to my Amazon account.

Happy Bear!

If I hadn’t asked, nicely at first, and then…

So – one online chat, one conversation:

Total back in my pocket:  $103.46. 

Ask and you shall receive…

By now I’m…

Loaded for bear, as they say, and it’s a good thing – I have another Amazon return, this time for items that I purchased.

Back story:

I ordered three packages of undershirts for my husband, and specified the size.  I didn’t notice that the seller was “Star Hills” – I rarely notice the seller’s name.

Amazon charged my credit card for the purchase.

Not-So-Happy Bear.

When my order hadn’t arrived 13 days later, I decided to cancel and look elsewhere.  I went online and typed in my cancellation request, and received this reply from Amazon:

“I sent your message to Star Hills.  Give the seller a couple days to respond.  If you haven’t heard back from Star Hills in 48 hours, or if they haven’t been able to help you, please contact us again.”

Hmmm.                                             

I hadn’t had this experience with Amazon before – telling me I’d be contacted by a seller?

So I waited.

The next day, Star Hills responded:

“Dear Buyer, It seems like a lost shipment.  Would you like a replacement sent asap?  Kindly advise.”

I immediately responded, “Yes, please send a replacement asap.”

Not-So-Happy Bear

I waited.

And waited.

Nine days later, when my order still hadn’t arrived, I requested a cancellation and refund.

Instead, Star Hills sent me tracking information and it appeared that the order would arrive the next day, which it did.

Really-Not-Happy Bear.

Twenty-four days after I’d placed my order.

And the order was wrong.

There were two packages of undershirts instead of the three I ordered, and they were all the wrong size.               

So, I went through the Amazon return process again, and this time Amazon accepted my return request.                     

Happy Bear!

Now I’m on my way to the UPS store to drop off the undershirts. 

From here on in, it should all be easy-peasy, right?

Right.                             

Except…

The paperwork indicates I’m returning three packages of undershirts, and I’m returning only two – which is all I’d received, and all that Star Hills is going to receive.

Is this going to get complicated?

Well, if it does…

Bring it on.

Like I said, I’m…

You Want Fries With That?

I make no claim to being an art expert.

But that doesn’t stop me from writing about art.

I learn a lot every time I research a blog post topic, and here’s something that I believe is true:

There are such extremes in the art world that the phrase from the sublime to the ridiculous is completely appropriate.

The sublime, for example, was a mid-July story about the discovery of a previously unknown van Gogh self-portrait discovered on the back of another van Gogh painting.

The ridiculous, for me, is just about anything connected to the world of contemporary art, like a recent story from this and many other sources:

Yes, you read the headline correctly.

Welcome to Michael Lett, “a contemporary art gallery in Auckland, New Zealand” according to the gallery’s Facebook page.

As the story goes, an Australian guy who considers himself an artist named Matthew Griffin ordered a McDonald’s cheeseburger, walked into Michael Lett Gallery, took out a pickle from his burger, and flung it onto the gallery’s ceiling:

Fine Arts, Sydney – the gallery that represents Griffin – refers to this as a “sculpture” in their press release.

I know this image of the press release is impossible to read, so I’ve enlarged the important part:

The sculpture’s title – showing very creative thinking here – is:

Pickle

The Fine Arts, Sydney gallery explains:

“The show includes four new works by each of the four artists the gallery represents, each exhibited for the first time.  The themes these works touch upon, including Pickle, are related to transience, distance, and time.  From here, flinging the pickle from the ground up is an example of distance.”

I know that when I first saw this image:

The thought that immediately came to my mind was, “Distance! Yes, of course!” and I’m sure that’s true for you, too.

Actually, the thought that came to my mind was…

#@!*&!#%…?

Here’s yet another so-called contemporary artist creating his so-called contemporary art, and being treated as though he has credibility, if the price tag on this “sculpture” is anything to go by:

That’s $10,000 in New Zealand dollars.

And what do you get for your $6,275/$10,000?

Not Griffin’s Pickle, according to this story:

“…any purchaser of the work won’t receive the exact pickle from the exhibit but will be given ‘instructions on how to recreate the art in their own space.’”

So you give “artist” Matthew Griffin $6,275/$10,000 and he says,

“Go to McDonald’s, buy a cheeseburger, go home, extract a pickle from the cheeseburger, and throw it at the ceiling.”

See Matthew Griffin.  See Matthew Griffin pictured right.  See Matthew Griffin pictured right, laughing all the way to the bank.

Lest you think the art world isn’t taking Pickle seriously, let’s hear from Ryan Moore, the director of Fine Arts Sydney, the gallery that represents the pickle flinger:

“‘People don’t have to think it’s art if they don’t want to.  Anything can be an artwork, but not everything is,’ he told news.com.au.  ‘What makes an artwork is when whatever an artist makes or does is able to be used as art:  when the object or action is thought about or talked about as an artwork.  And that’s what we are doing here, which I think is great.’”

I’m sure Moore thinks his commission on this $6,275/$10,000 “sculpture” would be “great,” too.

Here are some additional enlightening comments from Moore about Pickle:

“…a deliberately ‘provocative gesture’ designed to question what has value…’”

“…questions ‘the way value and meaning is generated between people.’”

Reminder:  What he’s talking about here is a pickle, clinging to the ceiling with nothing but the assorted sauces and inherent stickiness it was served with.

“Generally speaking, artists aren’t the ones deciding whether something is art is not – they are the ones who make and do things.  Whether something is valuable and meaningful as artwork is the way that we collectively, as a society, choose to use it or talk about it.

“As much as this looks like a pickle attached to the ceiling – and there is no artifice there, that is exactly what it is – there is something in the encounter with that as a sculpture or a sculptural gesture.”

The “gesture” that comes to my mind involves my middle finger, but I’ll let that go for now.

And here’s the last of gallery director Moore’s insights:

“It’s not about the virtuosity of the artist standing there in the gallery throwing it to the ceiling – how it gets there doesn’t matter, as long as someone takes it out of the burger and flicks it on to the ceiling.”

Let’s thank Ryan Moore for providing us with many examples of artspeak, and if you want to know more about that, just google “artspeak sucks” and this and other articles will clarify:

“True artspeak is impenetrable to any sane person, who will recognize it as words arranged nonsensically and purported to be profound.  People don’t know what artspeak means, because artspeak means nothing.”

And how about reactions from people who speak intelligible English, rather than artspeak?

Reviews of Pickle – as the Newshub headline suggested – have been mixed.  According to this article:

Pickle viewer comments included:

“I got kicked out of a McDonald’s by the police for doing this when I was a teenager, now it’s art.”

“That thing is going to leave a nasty stain on the ceiling.”

It appears that the nay-sayers were outnumbered by Pickle lovers:

“…many praised the artist for his brilliant work with one simply calling it ‘superb’ and another saying ‘love it.’”

“One commenter added:  ‘I’m siding with the genius crowd on this.  Genius.’”

“Another added:  ‘I hate pickles.  I love this.’”

At this time, it’s unknown if anyone purchased Pickle.

Or rather, purchased the right to be “given instructions on how to recreate the art in their own space.”

Now…

Before you book your plane tickets for Auckland, New Zealand to visit the Michael Lett gallery and view Pickle

The exhibition closed on July 30.

But – to help alleviate your disappointment, a reminder:

Your space has ceilings, and your town has McDonald’s, and McDonald’s has cheeseburgers, and cheeseburgers have pickles, and that leaves us with just one burning question…

NASA’s Mission Of Educating Us Just Educated Me About A New Late-To-Work Excuse And More:

Are you, like me, having trouble finding good excuses about why you were late for work?

The old excuses of traffic, weather, being arrested, etc. just not working for you anymore?

Well, NASA has now given me new language for being late to work:

This came from a story about NASA’s Artemis 1 which, according to many online articles like this one from CNBC…

“Artemis is the name of NASA’s lunar program.  It represents a series of missions for which the agency is developing its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule, which would deliver astronauts to the moon.  Boeing is the lead contractor building SLS, while Lockheed Martin is leading Orion development.”

The mission of Artemis is to put the U.S. astronauts back on the moon for the first time since 1972. 

It was begun by NASA in 2012 and scheduled to launch in 2017.

Now, according to this article:

“The space agency is aiming for a lunar-orbiting flight with astronauts in two years and a lunar landing by a human crew as early as 2025.”

See?  Artemis launch delayed from 2017 to 2022. This is what NASA calls a…

So I’ve got my new late-to-work excuse ready for next time:

“Ms. Colby, I had a schedule slip this morning.”

She’ll be so awed by my originality, she’ll probably give me a raise.

Otherwise, I can’t say I’ve learned much of anything from NASA except how to waste money, and I’ll reference Artemis 1 for that, as well:

“Paul Martin told a congressional subcommittee today that each of the first four Artemis missions will cost $4.1 billion and projected the agency will spend $53 billion on Artemis from FY2021-2025.”

“That does not include development costs.  His office projects the total cost for Artemis from FY2012, when the Space Launch System (SLS) program began, through FY2025 will be $93 billion.  Of that, $53 billion is for FY2021-2025.”

Wait.

There is something more to learn from NASA.

Specifically, that the above-mentioned Paul Martin said each of the four missions will cost “$4.1 billion,” and that “$93 billion” total…

With a straight face:

NASA Inspector General Paul Martin.

Martin’s straight face is especially impressive, considering the first of the four Artemis 1 missions – which is supposed to launch Monday, August 29 – is unmanned.  Again, according to the AP article:

“No one will be inside the crew capsule atop the rocket, just three mannequins swarming with sensors to measure radiation and vibration.”

So instead of sending humans, we’re paying $4.1 billion for three dummies to go on this dress rehearsal?

Shouldn’t there be some kind of discount for no humans on board?

And can I pick the dummies?  I’ll start with this guy:

Elon Musk being a space enthusiast, and all.

And a dumb idiot, and all…

At that same hearing NASA Inspector General Martin also…

“…pointed to ‘varying degrees of technical risk that will push launch schedules from months to years’ beyond current plans, leading to his estimate that the first return to the Moon ‘likely will slip to 2026 at the earliest.’”

Now the 2025 astronauts-on-the-moon launch “likely will slip to 2026 at the earliest”:

Armed with my well-rehearsed straight face, I’ll say:

“And Ms. Colby, my arrival time tomorrow will likely slip to noon at the earliest.”

This is good stuff I’m learning.

Here’s another Artemis-related article and more good stuff to learn:

This goes back to November 2021 and NASA Administrator/Head Honcho Bill Nelson…

…who was explaining that “bumps” in the above AP headline as follows:

“Congress did not provide enough money to develop a landing system for its Artemis moon program and more money is needed for its Orion capsule.”

Here we’ve got a combination straight-face-and-more-money request:

“Ms. Colby, this company does not provide enough money for me to live in the lifestyle to which I could become accustomed, and more money is needed…”

NASA Administrator Nelson also “made note of China’s ambitious and aggressive space program, and warned it could overtake the U.S. in lunar exploration.”

Way to go, Bill! 

Blame China for needing tons more money for Artemis 1!

Why not?  We blame China for everything – the mega-billion-dollar trade deficit, building better high-speed rail systems, for hogging all the pandas…

Yeah!  Blame China!

“Ms. Colby, my schedule slip this morning was due to vomiting up the three-week-old leftover Chinese food I ate for dinner last night.”

By now you may have gathered that I am not a NASA fan.

Or NA$A, as I like to spell it.

I don’t deny that there’s much to learn beyond the confines of our planet, but $93 billion to put astronauts on the moon?

Hell, we’ve already done that a half-dozen times…

But – $93 billion taxpayer dollars aside, I have learned lots of good stuff from NASA.

And if NASA Administrator Bill Nelson can say this with a straight face:

“NASA is committed to help restore America’s standing in the world.”

I’m confident that I can now say, straight-faced:

“Ms. Colby, I’m committed to help restore America’s standing in the world, and that requires my taking the rest of the week off to get started.”

Yet Another Reason To Dislike Diane Keaton… Correction: Two Reasons

I don’t recall the first time I saw Diane Keaton in a movie, but I do recall how unimpressed I was.

Keaton’s hat is from her self-named clothing line.

Since then, I haven’t seen a movie because Keaton was in it, but rather despite that.

My impression of the characters Keaton has chosen to play include words like shallow.  And vacuous.  And ditzy.  Same character, over and over again.

And inevitably, there would be a scene in the movie – often more than one – where an actor would ask Keaton’s character a simple question, and her response was this or some version of it:

Actor:  Do you want a salad?

Keaton:  Oh!  Well…hmmm.  Y-e-s-s, but, uh…Well, I…I…don’t…I…well.  You know?  I, ah…no, but I…well…maybe if…hmmm?  OK.  OK!  I mean, maybe, unless…I…uh…What?

Pity the poor actor who then had to ask what she wanted for an entrée.

So I didn’t like Keaton’s acting, and…

And what’s with the hats?  Are these some sort of trademark?  Some reminder to all of Keaton’s…what?  Endearing eccentricity?  Wonderful sense of whimsy?  Forgetting to wash her hair?

I hadn’t seen Keaton in quite awhile – which was fine with me – and then she appeared at my Sunday breakfast table, included with my newspaper on the cover of a recent Parade magazine.

No hat this time, but with her hair looking like it had been styled at the nearby wind farm:

No need to waste time on Keaton’s interview. I’ve seen her interviewed and she’s as shallow and vacuous and ditzy in person as she is on screen.

“Well,” I thought, “I can skip this issue of Parade.”

And I mostly did, except to page through it because I do like to read the weekly Ask Marilyn Q&A by Marilyn vos Savant.

And on my way to Marilyn, something in the upper-right corner of page seven caught my eye.

And gave me yet another reason to dislike Diane Keaton.

Two reasons, actually.

In the Keaton article was a sidebar entitled Keaton Cues, and here was the first “cue”:

Interviewer:  “Fashion must-have?”

Keaton:  “Turtleneck.  My neck is disgusting, and I hate it.  But I don’t want to chop it off because I want to stay alive!”

Dislike #1:  Keaton has just engaged in…

Body shaming:  the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about some aspect of their appearance.

Dislike #2:  Keaton has just engaged in the worst kind of body shaming:

When Keaton referred to her neck, I assume she’s referring to the fact that as a 76-year-old woman, her neck has transitioned from how it once looked to how it looks now.  This is a part of aging for many women:

It’s just a fact of life.  We age, our skin ages and can lose elasticity, muscles can weaken, gravity can play a role.

And the neck can be the first, and most noticeable, place it shows.

So Keaton is self-shaming her body for showing signs of aging (Dislike #2) and in a larger sense, suggesting that all women with aging necks should feel likewise (Dislike #1).

What she’s saying is,

“My neck is disgusting and yours is, too, and I hate my neck, and you should hate yours, too.”

Referring to part of her body as “disgusting” instead of…

  • Celebrating that she’s had 76 years of life – which many people don’t get to have…
  • Appreciating that she’s still appearing in movies – when most actresses her age were discarded by Hollywood long ago…
  • Expressing gratitude that she’s rich, and doesn’t have to choose between paying for food or paying for her medications…

Keaton instead felt compelled to share with the Parade magazine readers – an audience that ranges from 50-80 million, depending on what website you’re reading – that her aging neck is “disgusting…”

And your aging neck is, too.

And you should hate it, too.

I suppose that maybe we should applaud Keaton for demonstrating her firm grasp of the obvious with her final sentence:

“But I don’t want to chop it off because I want to stay alive!”

Well done, Diane.  You’ve connected the dots and comprehended that chopping off one’s neck is not conducive to staying alive.

But you sure don’t comprehend that an aging body is the privilege of a continuing life.

Not disgusting. 

Not hate worthy.

Well…

This really goes against the grain, but I suppose that maybe Keaton deserves a second chance.

Let’s hit the rewind button and ask her again about her “fashion must-have,” and see if she can come up with a better answer.

Me:  “Diane, what is your fashion-must have, and this time, without the body shaming of yourself and others?”

Keaton:  Oh!  Well…hmmm.  Y-e-s-s, but, uh…Well, I…I…don’t…I…well.  You know?  I, ah…no, but I…well…maybe if…hmmm?  OK.  OK!  I mean, maybe, unless…I…uh…

I Hate It When People Get Scammed – Especially…

Let’s call this couple George and Linda Smith.

According to this article:

  • Older people are swindled out of more than $3 billion each year.
  • More than 3.5 million older adults are victims of financial exploitation each year.
  • Seniors targeted by fraudsters suffer an average loss of $34,200.

I’m reasonably certain these statistics do not include seniors targeted by this fraudster:

According to Ballotpedia.org:

“Save America is a leadership PAC (political action committee) created by President Donald Trump on November 9, 2020, following the 2020 presidential election.”

This article:

States that:

“Former U.S. President Donald Trump raised $250 million in donations in the weeks after the November 2020 presidential election for an organization ostensibly intended to fund court challenges in support of his false claims that the election was fraudulent.  Instead, he directed that money to an unrelated political action committee, or PAC, according to congressional investigators.”

“The committee said some of the money Trump’s campaign raised in the weeks after the election went to paying down campaign debt and into the coffers of the Republican National Committee.  A large amount also went to a new leadership PAC called Save America, which was formed three days after the election.”

“It was grift, pure and simple, but on a massive scale,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, in a prepared statement.  “Donald Trump was not content to just ignore the will of the American people and attempt to steal the 2020 election in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy.  He was determined to make a lot of money doing it.”

And many of those “American people,” according to this article:

Are “retirees” like the couple pictured above.

The scammed couple pictured above.

And the money continues to pour into Save America from retirees, and people of all ages.

OpenSecrets.org states that as of June 30, 2022, Trump’s Save America PAC had raised almost $104 million in 2021-2022.

Let’s do the math:  $104 million divided by 20 months.

That’s averages out to $5.2 million per month.

Most – perhaps all – of those donors think they’re supporting Trump’s bid for the White House in 2024.  They believe he’s their man, the only man who can Make America Great Again, the only man who can SAVE AMERICA.  And even if it’s only $5 or $20 or $30, they’ll give what they can to help Trump win.

They donate money, and they also buy stuff like this:

Here’s the problem:

Trump isn’t running for president in 2024.

Not yet.

And until Trump declares that he’s running for president in 2024, he can spend the Save America PAC money pretty much any damn way he wants to.

And he is.

A sampling from this article:

“The money in the Save America PAC, unlike money contributed to a standard campaign committee, can be used to benefit Trump in innumerable ways.  Memberships at golf clubs.  Travel.  Rallies.  Even payments directly to Trump himself, as long as he declares it as income.”

From Politico:

“According to Save America PAC’s new filing, tens of thousands of dollars were paid to law firms representing top Trump aides who have gotten subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill.”

In addition…

“Out of $1.35 million the PAC spent on ‘like-minded causes and endorsed candidates,’ $1 million went to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows’ new nonprofit organization, the Conservative Partnership Institute.”

And back to the June 14, 2022 Washington Post article, and more Save America spending:

  • $1 million to the America First Policy Institute, an organization that aims to be the core advocate for Trump’s political vision.
  • More than $200,000 to hotels owned by the Trump Organization.
  • $5 million to the company that ran Trump’s January 6 rally outside the White House.
I wonder what Kimberly gets paid to act as this guy’s babysitter?

The article goes on to note:

“Donald Trump Jr.’s fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle (pictured), ‘was paid for the introduction she gave at the speech on January 6.  She received compensation for that’ – to the tune of $60,000.  The speech was a little more than two minutes long.”

Did George and Linda Smith know the money they took from their retirement savings was going toward paying Kimberly Guilfoyle close to $30,000 per minute to speak?

I doubt it.

I also doubt that the Smiths know about this recent Save America spending:

“Donald Trump’s Save America political action committee…gave $60,000 to a fashion designer associated with former First Lady Melania Trump. 

USA Today reported that according to the Federal Elections Commission, from April 7 to June 24 of this year the Save America PAC made six payments totaling $60,000 to Hervé Pierre Braillard, the French designer who styled Melania during the Trump presidency.

“…nearly 2.5 million people donated to the Save America PAC, which formed just days after Joe Biden’s victory.  Of those 2.5 million, two-thirds of them stated their occupation as retired.  Instead of cracking down on voter fraud, however, some of the retirees’ money was used to settle the bill with a fashion designer.”

I wonder if ole Hervé is the one who “styled” this memorable garment of Melania’s:

I’m betting that Save America also paid for this recent update:

“It appears that Trump’s 757 is airworthy and ready for campaigning once again…the substitution of the ‘T’ for the American flag on the tail gives us a good clue that Trump is not ready to step away from political life.”

Here’s the new paint job with the flag on the tail:

The article is referencing Trump’s Boeing 757 that he narcissistically calls “Trump Force One.”  It’s the plane he used during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Back in 2021, the plane that, according to this article:

“…today it sits idle on an airport ramp in Orange County, New York, about 60 miles north of Manhattan…One engine is missing parts.  The other is shrink-wrapped in plastic.”

“Flight records accessed by CNN show the 757 hasn’t been flown at all since Inauguration Day.” 

That would be Inauguration Day, 2016.

At some point, Trump decided off with the old and on with the new, and in March 2022 we learned this:

Trump’s Save America PAC blasted a question to supporters:

“DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE NEW TRUMP FORCE ONE?”

“‘Do you remember Trump Force One?’ the email reads.  ‘Before becoming the greatest President of all time, I traveled the Country in my plane, known as Trump Force One.  I have a very important update on my plane but I need to trust that you won’t share it with anyone:  my team is building a BRAND NEW Trump Force One.’”

The article noted, “The box making a donation recur month-to-month was pre-checked.”

(In Trump World, the box making a donation recur month-to-month is always pre-checked.)

Did George and Linda Smith and others donate towards Trump’s new plane?

The above July 2022 Live and Let’s Fly article says now it’s back on with the old plane, and forget about “building” the new one.

Estimated cost to fix the old plane:  high six figures.

This begs the question:

Trump has now spiffed up his old plane, so what happened to the money that George and Linda Smith and others donated back in March to buy him a “BRAND NEW Trump Force One”?

Maybe the Save American PAC repurposed the money to update the old plane?

Because after all, says the December 2020 Washington Post article:

“‘…there’s no prohibition on how they use the money.’”

“Donors to the committee, of course, probably don’t know any of this.  Yes, there’s some fine print once you get to the contribution page explaining that the money given will go to Save America up to a certain point, but the impression one gets from the campaign’s voluminous emails is that the money will go to Trump’s dubious efforts to wrench a second term from the jaws of electoral defeat.

“What has obviously happened so far is Trump and his team have figured out a way to parlay his base’s concerns about the election – concerns Trump has been hyping for months – into a well-stocked bank account with few limitations on how it is used.”

And let’s not overlook this:

The day after the Department of Justice – with a valid search warrant – entered Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, Trump’s Save America PAC sent an email with this headline,

“BREAKING:  THE FBI RAIDED PRESIDENT TRUMP’S HOME:  MAR-A-LAGO”

Only Trump and his toadies would figure out how to monetize Trump’s criminal acts.

The email included that personal touch, without which no Trump communication would be complete:

“Please rush in a donation IMMEDIATELY to publicly stand with me against this NEVERENDING WITCH HUNT.”

And – unfortunately – people do keep rushing in donations:

People like George and Linda Smith.

The next time they and others like them walk over to their computer or pick up their phones and see this or something like it…

…will they reach for their credit cards and checkbooks?

It makes me sad to think how many nice people – retired and otherwise – are continuing to get scammed by the greatest con man of all times.

But folks, I have to say it:

Now…

Conclusion:  California Says:

(On August 17 Part I of this post began as a California issue, but it turns out – this problem is nationwide.)

Gas and oil well owners just walk away from their wells, and somehow we taxpayers are responsible for cleaning up their mess?

Yes, says this article:

“When oil and gas companies go bankrupt or stop taking care of their equipment, their wells fall into the state’s hands.”

This makes no sense to me.

I wondered if all these wells were on state lands, and since states issue drilling permits, in some twisted way that makes the states (and the state taxpayers) responsible?

Not so.

In this story:

We meet a guy in Wyoming named Bill West.  There are “more than a hundred defunct natural gas wells on his 10,000-acre property.”

Two decades ago West gave a Michigan-based company permission to drill for coalbed methane on their land.  “We got quite a lot of money out of it, lease money,” said West.

Orphan well, Wyoming.

The wells changed hands, and the company that bought the wells – High Plains Gas, Inc. – went out of business four years ago, leaving behind fuse boxes, internet boxes and thousands of feet of underground pipe.

West made a lot of money from the drilling on his property, so surely he’s now responsible for at least some of the mess, right?

Wrong.

“‘They just walked away and left everything sitting,’ said West.  It’s up to the state to take care of it now.’

What’s wrong with this picture?

The NPR article quote Jill Morrison, executive director of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, an environmental group in Wyoming:

“‘…the industry has not been held accountable by the regulators and by the government to pay the cost of doing business.’

“‘We’re going to quickly be in the tens of millions of dollars responsible for plugging and reclaiming oil and gas wells if we don’t require upfront bonding,’ she said.”

Orphan well, Louisiana.

“That means making companies pay the full cost of plugging wells even before they start drilling.”

In other words, when companies get a permit to drill, they should pay a hefty bond that covers the cost of plugging and reclaiming the well.  If they plug the well themselves, they get the money back.  If they don’t, the state would have the money on hand to do the job.

The companies are – of course – opposed to this idea.

You and I are handed the tab.

My takeaways?

First:  I did not know there were 35,000 orphaned gas and oil wells in California.  I didn’t know that some of them are leaking methane.  I didn’t know that when that happens, other chemicals like benzene, a known carcinogen, and volatile organic compounds that are the building blocks of smog, are also often being emitted.

Second:  California taxpayers (but NOT just California taxpayers – keep reading) appear to be on the hook for fixing this mess.  According to the earlier Associated Press article:

Orphan well, Kansas.

“In June, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a budget that includes participation in a global effort to slash emissions call the Methane Accountability Project.  The state will spend $100 million to use satellites to track large methane leaks in order to help the state identify sources of the gas and cap leaks.”

Um…excuse me?  The “state” will spend $100 million?

No.

The state taxpayers will spend.

In addition, says the Associated Press article,

“A new [California] Senate proposal would provide hundreds of millions of dollars to plug wells and reduce pollution from them, especially in hard-hit communities.”

Just put it on my tab.

Third:  Orphaned oil and gas wells aren’t unique to California – they’re all over the country:

According to this news release:

“The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are 3.3 million abandoned wells around the country that are orphaned or idle.”

Enter your federal tax dollars!

This news release says the federal government…

“…has allocated $4.7 billion for orphaned well site plugging, remediation, and restoration activities.”

That would be $4.7 billion of our tax dollars allocated to 26 states to “address orphan wells” that you and I didn’t create, didn’t profit from, but somehow are responsible for.

And it appears we are responsible, because if we don’t clean up the orphan wells that the companies abandoned…

Then some, or many, of the estimated three million+ orphan wells in this country will keep on leaking methane and other gases into the air, increasing climate change; causing health problems and even death; and possibly causing explosions.

Bad for climate change, bad for our health…

And bad for this homeowner:

According to the story, a man named Bruce George owned three abandoned natural gas wells in Bradford, PA.

In February 2011, according to the Department of Environmental Protection’s investigation, one of the wells, about 300 feet from the home, caused an explosion.

The explosion destroyed the home.

Fortunately, homeowner Thomas Federspiel was outside of his home.

And at least – in this rare case – the abandoned wells owner was held accountable.

And perhaps more companies will be held accountable by states, starting with Colorado:

“Oil and gas companies in Colorado will now have more financial responsibility to plug aging wells and remove contaminants from surrounding areas under new rules approved by state regulators this week.

“It’s the first overhaul of the financial assurance process for oil and gas companies in decades, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which unanimously passed the rules Tuesday.  The commission requires oil and gas companies drilling in Colorado to secure bonds as a guarantee to plug wells that are no longer being used.

Orphan well, Colorado.

“In a statement, Commission Chair Jeff Robbins called the regulations, ‘a model that is now the most robust in the country with by far the highest financial assurance requirements.’” 

So – circling back around to my home state…

Heads up, California – Colorado is way out in front here.

In this situation, Colorado is proving itself the most proactive, forward-thinking, lead-the-way, first-in-the-nation state.

Not only is California not measuring the amount of methane gas leaking from orphan wells, now it’s lagging behind Colorado in addressing future wells issues.

The story above about Colorado is hopeful news, going forward.

But what about those millions of abandoned wells already in the U.S.?

Congratulations, taxpayers!

You’ve just become new parents…

Part I:  California Says:

I love living in San Diego County.

I’ve lived in other places, and I know this is the right match for me.

And I’m glad I live in California, the super-blue state.

One reason I’m glad is because California considers itself a forward-thinking, proactive state.  And it does, in fact, often lead the way, becoming the “first in the nation” as these examples show:

And when it comes to climate change, we like to think we’re leading the way there as well.  For instance:

Anything climate-related, California considers itself front and center.

And in May, when Governor Newsom proposed a budget:

It included a:

“$47.1 billion climate commitment – an increase of $32 billion this year – to tackle pollution, build climate resilient water supplies, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, ensure grid reliability and accelerate clean energy solutions, and protect communities from extreme heat.”

A big “climate commitment.”

What’s not to like about that?

How about this:

“California claims to know how much climate-warming gas is going into the air from within its borders.  It’s the law:  California limits climate pollution and each year the limits get stricter.

“The state has also been a major oil and gas producer for more than a century, and authorities are well aware some 35,000 old, inactive oil and gas wells perforate the landscape.

“Yet officials with the agency responsible for regulating greenhouse gas emissions say they don’t include methane that leaks from these idle wells in their inventory of the state’s emissions.”

First:  How can California calculate how much climate-warming gas is going into the air from within our borders if leaking wells aren’t part of the calculation?

Sounds like a Do As I Say, Not As I Do on California’s part.

Second:  Why are there “35,000 old, inactive oil and gas wells” littering California’s landscape?  If they’re not in use, why haven’t the oil and gas companies removed them and plugged them and done whatever else responsible owners should do?

Here’s what one of California’s inactive – often called “orphan” – wells looks like:

Now multiply that by 35,000.

Oil and gas wells are all over the state:

That’s a lot of ugly.

And, apparently, dangerous.

Let’s talk a bit about what some (perhaps many) of these orphan wells are leaking – methane gas:

  • Methane (CH4) is a colorless, odorless and highly flammable gas, composed of carbon and hydrogen.  It is a potent greenhouse gas, meaning it affects climate change by contributing to increased warming, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Methane traps 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.  Nearly 20% of the planet’s warming can be attributed to methane.
  • Methane reductions are crucial to slowing today’s unprecedented rate of global warming and helping avert our most acute climate risks including crop loss, wildfires, extreme weather, and rising sea levels.

And these methane-leaking oil wells aren’t new news – according to this May 23 article:

“‘We’ve been trying to get the state to address idle orphan wells for years,’ said Maricruz Ramirez, a community organizer with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.  ‘All these issues have been brought up time and time again, and we’re sure this is not a unique occurrence among the thousands of idle oil and gas wells that go unchecked every year.  The state can’t continue to drag their feet on matters like this while simultaneously preaching their climate leadership.’”

“Climate leadership”?

California touts its “$47.1 billion climate commitment” and how proactive we are about anything climate-related, yet the state is allowing methane gas to leak from abandoned wells?

So there’s the methane/climate change issue.

Orphan wells, Bakersfield, CA.

The USA Today article above also mentions methane health-related issues, including:

“…blurry vision, vomiting, headaches and in extreme cases, asphyxiation.”

Plus, there’s the possibility of the wells leaching toxins into groundwater, which is used for drinking water by close to 50 percent of the people in the U.S.

And again from the USA Today article, there’s the danger-of-explosions part:

“…the levels detected in spot readings at four of the long-dormant wells reached 50,000 parts per million – high enough to explode – within a few yards of each of those wells…”

“The real risk, the state engineer said, lies underground, with unknown amounts of methane possibly building up in tight spaces and exploding.”

That story was about six leaking oil wells Bakersfield, CA in May.

Here’s an update from June:

“A total of 21 oil wells have been found to be leaking methane in or near two Bakersfield neighborhoods, and more than two dozen are being tested by state and regional air regulators.”

The 35,000 wells are described as “abandoned” and/or “inactive,” but the “orphan” wells have “parents” – the owners – and three of them are mentioned in the article:

And yet, says the Desert Sun,

“Idled wells are a burgeoning problem in California’s century-old oil fields.  A state study concluded two years ago that taxpayers could be saddled with more than $1 billion in cleanup costs if operators walk away from their responsibilities to properly plug and abandon them.

“A report released Thursday by a consumer advocacy group and a coalition of environmental justice groups concludes costs associated with the industry to the state could top $10 trillion by 2045.”

“Taxpayers could be saddled”?

Yes:  And not just California taxpayers, but federal taxpayers as well.

Orphan wells, Texas.

Conclusion:  Friday, August 19.

Book Review:  “Truly, Madly”…Sadly

Publication date:  March 2022

Category:  Performing Arts; Rich & Famous Biographies; Actor & Entertainer Biographies.

Review, short version:  Three out of four roses.

Review, long version:

A woman and a man. 

Big egos, big insecurities, big romance.

Infidelities, notoriety, divorces, abandoned families, mental illness, more infidelities, more divorces, heartbreak.

All the elements of a blockbuster movie.

But when all these elements are combined in real life…

More often than not, the outcome is…

The book is Truly, Madly:  Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, and the Romance of the Century by Stephen Galloway.

I added the “Sadly” in my post’s title because that’s how it ends.  And I already knew that, but…

It was even sadder than I’d realized.

The “Romance of the Century” in the book’s title was what the French would call une grande passion – a great passion, a can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other attraction between two people.

Une grande passion is très épuisant:

Very exhausting.

Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) was a British actress, famous for starring as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).

Laurence “Larry” Olivier (1907-1989) was a British actor, famous for both his roles on stage and in films.

Their romance was not just big – it was headline-making, dramatic, loving, despairing, sometimes loud, sometimes whimpering.

And for more than two decades, millions of people found it…

Fascinating.

When they met, both Leigh and Olivier were married to others and each had a young child.  They abandoned their families and ran away together, which might work well in a movie script but in real life, a lot of pain was inflicted on innocent bystanders.

But – Leigh died 55 years ago.  Olivier died 33 years ago.  

Why, I wondered, write a book now about these two people when – according to some online sources – nearly half the world’s population is under 30?  Which means half of the people in the world were born after both Leigh and Olivier were gone, and plenty of them have never or barely heard of the actors and seen their movies?

Olivier starring in “Hamlet,” 1948.

The logical place to go for answers was author Galloway’s website, but it appears he doesn’t have one.

Next, I looked online for magazine and newspaper articles about Galloway.  I found book reviews, but nothing about the why now?

I did find a 45-minute podcast, StoryBeat, on YouTube.  And while Galloway did talk about Truly, Madly at length, the show host didn’t ask and Galloway didn’t say why he wrote about Leigh and Olivier.

And why now?

Galloway did offer this about Truly, Madly:

“The book was an exploration of not so much love, as passion.”

“I wanted the book to be a biography of their marriage, not two biographies.”

I guess my why now? will go unanswered.

Leigh and Olivier are tragic figures, Leigh due to suffering from bipolar disorder that was then called “manic depression.”  It was little understood, there were no medications for it, and as one article put it:

Leigh in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” 1951.

“Leigh’s moods would swing from vertiginous highs to debilitating lows.  During the highs, she never seemed to sleep and would indulge in extraordinary excesses, sexual and material; during the lows, she could barely function.”

Olivier’s suffering was due in part to watching Leigh suffer and being unable to help her, and also from dealing with her highs and lows.  After 20 years of marriage (1940-1960), they separated, then divorced.  Both continued to work, Olivier achieving much, Leigh achieving much less due at least in part to her illness.

Leigh and Olivier:  une grande passion

Intense.  Extreme.  Overwhelming.  

And from my perspective, exhausting.

Better to read about it, than to live it.

These Two Guys Think They Can Get Away With Murder:

In January 2016 during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said,

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?  It’s, like, incredible.”

I’m not aware of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – also known as MBS – making the same statement publicly, but apparently he believes he can also get away with murder because apparently, he has.

Jamal Khashoggi (pictured), a Saudi Arabian journalist and dissident and a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

Less than a month later, came this:

Shortly after that, came this:

The G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, November 30-December 1, 2018, where the world’s leaders didn’t seem to mind posing with MBS:

And doing this:

Time passed, as time tends to do, and nothing changed, as it sometimes doesn’t.

Seven months later came the June 2019 G20 Summit in Japan.

Where again, the world’s leaders didn’t seem to mind posing with MBS:

And posing for more pictures:

MBS and the late Shinzo Abe, former prime minister of Japan.

And more “exchanging pleasantries”:

And more time passed.

Then came this, February 2021:

And nothing changed.

Then came July 2022:

President Biden and MBS, July 15.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and MBS, July 26. 

 

French President Macron and MBS, July 28.

Of the Macron handshake, according to this article:

“Rehabilitation tour”?

I doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman thinks of this as a “rehabilitation tour.”

I doubt that needing “rehabilitation” has ever crossed his mind.

Because, as the Washington Post article summed it up so well:

“…the war in Ukraine and a downturn in the global economy have reaffirmed the Saudi kingdom’s status as a critical source of global energy and investment and brought world leaders pleading for assistance, including an increase in oil production.  

“Macron, Biden and some other Western leaders have also argued there is no way to address global crises, such as the war in Yemen, without the help of the crown prince, who could rule Saudi Arabia for decades.”

And as for Trump committing murder…

So far he hasn’t shot someone “in the middle of Fifth Avenue.”

But he has, perhaps, gotten away with murder, too

Multiple murders.

Including this man:

The man above is Mark Urquiza of Arizona, with his daughter Kristin. 

Mark was 65 with no known pre-existing conditions when he contracted COVID in June 2020.  He passed away on June 30, 2020, three weeks after initially contracting the virus.

In August 2020 Kristin was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention.  She said:

“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old.  His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump. 

“And for that, he paid with his life, by trusting the President’s repeated insistence that the pandemic would go away.

“My dad, like so many others, should not have died from COVID-19.” 

Kristin’s Facebook page, Marked By COVID, was started to build “an awareness campaign so fewer families are forced to endure this”:

Did You Grow Up With This In Your Kitchen?

If you grew up, as I did, when salt and pepper shakers made a daily appearance on the dinner table…

Then it’s quite possible that one of these young ladies resided in your kitchen:

These are the Morton Girls, found on…

Morton Salt.

Motto:  When It Rains, It Pours.

Morton is the salt I grew up with and still use every day…

And when I opened the door to the kitchen cupboard where that iconic, cylindrical, navy blue container of Morton Salt resides, I got to thinking…

I know nothing about Morton Salt.

Time to rectify that.

First, let’s get the scientific stuff out of the way.

Healthwise, salt gets a bad rap these days; some restaurants don’t even put salt and pepper shakers on their tables and if you want salt, you have to ask for it. 

And when you use that saltshaker, sometimes other diners give you The Look – you know the one I mean – as if you were sprinkling your fries with cocaine.

But the truth is – salt is necessary for human life. 

It’s too much salt that’s the problem.  Too much salt can contribute to all sorts of health issues – high blood pressure, which is linked to conditions like heart failure and heart attack, kidney problems, fluid retention, stroke, and osteoporosis.

Here’s why salt is necessary for human life, according to this and many other articles:

“As salt dissolves in a solution or on food, it breaks into its component ions:  sodium and chloride (Na+ and Cl, respectively).  The salty flavor primarily comes from the sodium ions.

“Salt plays a crucial role in maintaining human health.  It is the main source of sodium and chloride ions in the human diet.  Sodium is essential for nerve and muscle function and is involved in the regulation of fluids in the body.  Sodium also plays a role in the body’s control of blood pressure and volume.

“Chloride ions serve as important electrolytes by regulating blood pH and pressure.  Electrolytes are compounds, often salts, which dissociate into their ionic components in solvents like water.  Chloride is also a crucial component in the production of stomach acid (HCl).  Humans excrete salt when sweating and must replenish these lost sodium and chloride ions through their diet.”

OK, Science class dismissed!

Second, something else about salt.

It’s been used by humans for thousands of years, from food preservation to seasoning.  Salt’s ability to preserve food helped eliminate dependence on seasonal availability of food, and made it possible to transport food over large distances.

Salt was often difficult to obtain, so it was a highly valued trade item, and was considered a form of currency by certain people.  Many salt roads – routes by which salt was transported to regions that lacked it – had been established by the Bronze Age (3300 BC to 1200 BC).

Nobody knew about salt’s health benefits, but the financial benefits were huge.

Third, back to Morton Salt.

According to the Made in Chicago Museum:

Meet Joy Morton (pictured), born in Nebraska Territory in 1855 (his first name was a tribute to the maiden name of his mother, Caroline Joy).  Joy’s daddy was rich, but instead of following his footsteps into the newspaper business, Joy went to work in the railroad industry.  This work brought him to Chicago, where 25-year-old Morton went into business in Chicago, eventually buying his way into a salt firm called E.I. Wheeler & Co.

The museum’s website says,

“By 1885, Joy and his brother Mark took over full financial control of Wheeler & Co. and rechristened it Joy Morton & Company.  As with hundreds of other businesses, Morton benefited from a right place/right time element, as Chicago was the rapidly growing central hub between the big salt mines of the East and the new ones in the expanding West.”

“The Morton Salt Company was already the undisputed top dog of the industry by the early 20th century…”

And the Mortons were innovators:

  • In 1911 they added magnesium carbonate to prevent their salt from caking.
  • They created a new container with a pour spout and a blue paper label.
  • The Mortons adopted the When It Rains, It Pours slogan, based on an old saying, It never rains but it pours, a clever reference to the fact that Morton’s salt wouldn’t cake together when the humidity rose.
  • From this concept, the first Morton Girl, with her yellow dress and umbrella, emerged, to look like this in 1914:

Another Morton innovation:

Goiters – an enlarged thyroid (pictured) – is something we don’t hear much about anymore, but at one time they were a major health problem. 

During the early 1920s, Dr. David Murray Cowie of the University of Michigan had championed a theory that adding iodine to common table salt could help combat goiters.  Since goiters were linked to iodine deficiencies, making small doses of iodine more readily available in an affordable, everyday food additive seemed the ideal course of action.

By the fall of 1924, Morton became the first company to sell iodized salt nationally, and it quickly emerged as a new prominent selling point.

The advertising was updated but the Morton Girl remained, though she has changed her fashions six – or possibly more – times, including this 1930s version:

Which, according to the Made in Chicago Museum,

“The full-scale Morton Girl logo on the back of this 1930s container includes far more intricate Shirley Temple-esque detailing than the simplified miniature logo on the front side.”

Morton Girl’s last fashion change was in 1968 – here are six of her iterations:

And here’s something that hasn’t changed.  Let’s go back and look at the front of that 1914 Morton Salt container:

The weight in 1914 was “26 OZ. (1 LB., 10 OZ.).”

And in 2022, it still is:

No shrinkflation here.

But of course, Morton Salt has evolved, or at least its packaging has.

The side panel now contains “Nutrition Facts”:

The Morton Girl on the back of the container has shrunk, to make room for other stuff:

And Morton Salt has a website – something not even imagined back in 1914:

It also has a Facebook page:

And an Instagram page with more than 11 thousand followers:

Now let’s circle back around to my growing-up years, for on last change.

Mom’s disposal of the empty Morton Salt box, and mine:

I’m betting Joy Morton would approve.

Now that I’ve read so much about salt, Morton-wise and otherwise, I can state unequivocally that I am an expert on the subject.

Though somehow, I’m guessing you’ll take that with a grain of…

Or, better still, with…

I Have An Honest Question And I’m Hoping Someone Will Give Me An Honest Answer:

This is a question that’s puzzled me for a long time.

I’m not in any way denigrating or minimizing the efforts of Americans who go to other countries to help people and/or animals.  I’m certain the work they do is worthwhile, and often lifesaving.

One medical example:  Americans affiliated with Doctors Without Borders:

One helping-animals example:  American author Delia Owens.

According to a July 19 New York Times article, in 1974 Delia and husband Mark Owens…

The Owens in the North Luangwa National Park in Zambia in September 1990.

“…moved to Africa to study wildlife, an experience they wrote about in their co-authored nonfiction books, The Eye of the Elephant, published in 1992, and Secrets of the Savanna, released in 2006.  At their research camp in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, they studied the migration patterns and social behaviors of lions and hyenas.  In 1985, they moved to Zambia, where they maintained a 5,000-square-mile preserve to prevent poaching of elephants and other wildlife.”

The Owens were in Zambia until 1996, when they moved to Idaho.

So – important work by Doctors Without Borders, important work by Delia and Mark Owens.

It’s just that…

Doctors Without Borders is spread out over 70 countries.

While here in this country, according to government agency HRSA (Health Resources Services and Administration), there are millions of medically underserved people.

Here’s a 2021 HRSA map of U.S. medically underserved counties in green:

Why would a U.S. doctor or nurse go to Haiti, for example, when her/his services are so desperately needed for so many people right now in the U.S.?

This article from 2019 demonstrates what I’m talking about:

“In the medical desert that has become rural America, nothing is more basic or more essential than access to doctors, but they are increasingly difficult to find.  The federal government now designates nearly 80 percent of rural America as ‘medically underserved.’ 

“It is home to 20 percent of the U.S. population but fewer than 10 percent of its doctors, and that ratio is worsening each year because of what health experts refer to as ‘the gray wave.’  Rural doctors are three years older than urban doctors on average, with half over 50 and more than a quarter beyond 60.  Health officials predict the number of rural doctors will decline by 23 percent over the next decade as the number of urban doctors remains flat.”

Then there are Delia and Mark Owens, and others who leave the U.S. to help animals in other countries.

While in this country, in September 2021 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service…

…proposed delisting 23 species from the Endangered Species Act due to extinction.

While the Owens were in Africa (1974-1996), here are three of those 23 species that were going extinct:

It’s not my intention to single out the Owens – many people go to other countries on behalf of animals, and this article lists 10 ways to do that:

Options include:

Why are people going to other countries, while animals are going extinct here and now?

The Owens story came to my attention in a roundabout way.

Delia Owens today.

I’ve mentioned that Delia Owens and her husband co-authored two nonfiction books about their African experience.  They also wrote a bestselling 1984 memoir, Cry of the Kalahari.

Then in 2018 Delia published her first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, and it’s been phenomenally successful:  168 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and 15 million copies sold.  A movie based on the book opened in mid-July and brought in $17 million on its opening weekend.

All of this has drawn a lot of attention to Delia, some of it not what she was looking for, according to this article:

“…the novel’s, and now the film’s, commercial success has been clouded by renewed questions about Owens’s conservation work in Zambia, which was clouded by controversy following the death of a suspected poacher in 1995.  The death happened during an anti-poaching patrol, which was part of a conservation project run by Owens and her then-husband, Mark Owens.  The shooting was recorded by an ABC crew that was filming a documentary about the work the Owens did there.  After the episode aired in 1996, Zambian officials opened an investigation, but the victim was never identified and the case was never solved.”

When Delia was asked about the incident during an interview with the New York Times in 2019, this was her response:

“I was not involved,” she said. “There was never a case, there was nothing.”

The July 19, 2022 New York Times article above references this article:

Author Jeffrey Goldberg says, in part:

“The country’s director of public prosecutions, Lillian Shawa-Siyuni, confirmed what officials at the Criminal Investigation Department of the Zambian national police told me:  Mark, Delia, and Christopher Owens [Mark’s son] are still wanted for questioning related to the killing of the alleged poacher, as well as other possible criminal activities in North Luangwa.  ‘There is no statute of limitations on murder in Zambia,’ Siyuni said.  ‘They are all wanted for questioning in this case, including Delia Owens.’”

While in this review of the Crawdads movie, the author notes:

“The release of the film version of Where the Crawdads Sing has drawn fresh attention to Owens’ troubled past as a wildlife conservationist and bestselling nonfiction author in Africa.  In short, Owens’ husband Mark ran what was effectively a lawless armed militia while battling poachers in Zambia and eventually the couple was forced to flee the country, where they are still wanted for questioning in a 1995 murder case.”

Perhaps it would have been better for the Owens to stay stateside and help keep the Bachman’s warbler and those 22 other species from going extinct.

Perhaps it would have been better for these three aid workers from Doctors Without Borders to have stayed home, as well:

So, circling back to the beginning of this…

If anyone out there can answer my question – and educate me – I’d be grateful:

Is The Only Good Fly A Dead Fly?

When I look for a video on YouTube, I also get a vertical row of additional videos on the right-hand side of my screen:

Most/all of these videos have no relevance to what I was searching for, and I have no idea how the YouTube whatchamacallits select these videos to accompany my search results.

Normally I ignore the videos, but one of the above caught my eye and sparked my curiosity:

I like stories about art, and the headline got me wondering…

Why does that lady have a fly on her head?

My mind then jumped to a story from 2020 about a fly landing on the head of then-vice president Mike Pence:

Which then brought to mind the expression…

Which then got me wondering – how many other idioms include the word “fly,” meaning the insect, not (for example) a “fly” in baseball?

And then that got me wondering – why do we use flies in idioms when flies are such nasty, filthy, maggot-laying, disease-carrying pests?

Which then got me wondering – do flies deserve their bad reputation?

This is how my mind sometimes works.

Sometimes it’s scary.

But sometimes it leads me on a journey of learning new things, and I love that.

So here’s some of what I’ve learned, if you care to join me on the journey.

Why Does This Lady Have A Fly On Her Head?

There are plenty of articles online that attempt to answer that question, including this one:

The official title of this painting is Portrait of a Woman of the Hofer Family, and it was painted around 1470 by an unknown artist. It resides in the National Gallery in London.

Why-the-fly theories from the articles include:

  • The fly might have been included as a symbolic element.  Flies have been used in art as a symbol of mortality, and the woman is holding a forget-me-not flower, so it’s possible that this artist is using the fly as an expression of remembrance for this woman after she has died.
  • Flies were sometimes seen as a symbol of sinfulness, so its presence might be intended to ward against evil and illness.
  • The artist added the fly looking as realistic as possible to puzzle the viewer, to make them wonder if a fly has landed on the painting. 
  • The artist may be showing off his skill in creating a three-dimensional image on a flat panel.
  • It’s a joke – the fly has been tricked into thinking this is a real headdress, fooled by the painter’s mastery.

The answer to, Why does this lady have a fly on her head?

No one knows for sure.

What Was The Fly Seen Round The World?

The painting led me to remember former vice president Mike Pence and the fly on his head (pictured) during the only vice-presidential debate of the 2020 election.

I discovered I wasn’t the first person whose brain had made that leap:

“After this week’s vice-presidential debate in the United States, the fly that landed on Vice President Mike Pence’s head was more of a sensation than the details of the debate – at least on social media.”

The author, an art historian, goes on to talk about why-the-fly-in-the-painting theories, and concludes with, “The point is that flies still remind us of unpleasant things.”

And yes, watching Pence suck up to Trump for four years was unpleasant – sickening, actually – but I must give him credit for showing some spine on January 6 and not caving in to Trump’s relentless bullying. 

Segueing to…

How Many Idioms Include The Word “Fly”?

“No flies on us” is an old British idiom used to describe someone who’s quick to understand things and not easily fooled:  “Yeah, he’s a smart one – no flies on him!”

There are many “fly” (as in insect) idioms – here are a few you may have heard/used:

The only fly in the ointment in an otherwise perfect wedding was that the bride tripped when walking down the aisle.

I wish I’d been a fly on the wall at the meeting when you said that!

Yes, you’ve got some money issues, but filing for bankruptcy would be killing a fly with an elephant gun.

So you (well, I) can’t help but wonder…

Why So Many “Fly” Idioms When We Think Flies Are So Disgusting?

To ascertain just how disgusting flies are I needed to look no further than this website:

Orkin, an American company that provides residential and commercial pest control services, has been around since 1901.

So I figure they know a thing or two about flies:

“House flies…create an eyesore in homes and often fly in people’s faces or hover over food.  While these behaviors are frustrating on their own, these insects also carry a variety of bacteria and other disease-causing organisms.

“With their diet of feces, trash, rotting produce, and spoiled meats, house flies constantly pick up pathogens.  The insects then carry these germs and leave them behind wherever they land.  The transfer process only takes a matter of seconds.

“In addition to spreading the bacteria that cling to their bodies, these flies often vomit and defecate where they land and feed.  These pests often gather in kitchens and buzz around food, so this behavioral tendency adds to the potential spread of house fly diseases.”

The article goes on to suggest that house flies can carry at least 65 illnesses that infect people including food poisoning, dysentery, diarrhea, anthrax, cholera, salmonella, tuberculosis and typhoid.

After reading this I was feeling borderline queasy, but I still wanted to know…

Do Flies Deserve Their Bad Reputation?

I say flies do deserve their bad reputation, but in the interest of equal time, I decided to discover if flies have any redeeming qualities.

These folks say flies do:

“Although they so often share an antagonistic relationship with humans as an annoyance or a potential carrier of diseases, these insects also serve many important ecological roles. 

“They are the second most common pollinators, behind only bees.  They help to keep the environment free of decomposing animal flesh.  And as a common subject of genetic research, they also help to advance the frontiers of human knowledge.”

And according to this 2019 article:

Dr. Erica McAlister, who was interviewed for the article, is the Senior Curator of Diptera at Great Britain’s Natural History Museum.

“Diptera” being “a large order of winged or rarely wingless insects including the housefly, mosquitoes, midges, and gnats.”

Dr. McAlister thinks flies are “the best animals on the planet.”

The article goes on to say,

“Perhaps most compelling is the direct role they have in our lives.  Although few of us realise it, without flies and other decomposers we’d be up to our eyeballs in poo and dead bodies.”

(Those Brits do have a way with words, don’t they?)

“‘Their larvae are cleaning up after us and the adults are pollinating for us.  This is why you’ve got to love a fly,’ enthuses Erica.”

Well, “love a fly” is a stretch even for my imagination, but I’ll now concede that flies do have some redeeming qualities.

Just as I thought I’d completed my why-the-fly journey, one last question occurred to me:

Why Is The Opening Of Men’s Pants Called A “Fly”?

Any guesses?

I had none, so back to the internet I went.

And found Unzipping the Origin of “Fly” by Rob Kyff at Creators.com:

Fly, derived from the Old English flowan (to flow), has acquired many meanings over the centuries, e.g., a winged insect, a baseball hit high into the air, the space above a theater stage, and a late-1960s word for cool.

Fly also came to mean something attached by one edge, like a flag or banner flying from a rope or pole.  With this meaning in mind, 19th-century tailors used the term fly for a flap of cloth attached at one side to cover an opening in a garment.”

Kyff also noted,

“Interestingly, fly seems to be used exclusively for the opening on MEN’s trousers.  Has one woman ever told another that her fly (or barn door) is open?  I think not.”

And Google Books brought me Why Rattlesnakes Rattle…And 250 Other Things You Should Know by Valeri Helterbran, who says, in part:

“…a fly is not the buttons or zipper but, more correctly, the flap of material used to hide these mechanisms of closure.  The distinction has been all but lost, and the flap and fasteners are now almost universally called a fly.”

So – my why-the-fly query is now at least somewhat satisfied.

But now that I think about it…

Am I about to start on another journey?

Why Does A Rattlesnake Rattle?