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?

Here’s An Entrepreneurial Option I Hadn’t Considered

(This is a story that involves an incident at a homeless encampment, but it is not a story about homeless issues.)

There was a time when I thought I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

I’d grown weary of the 9-to-5, five days week.  Weary of horrible managers, and coworkers who were more slackers than workers.  Weary of endless meetings, and office politics, and work that was sometimes mind-numbingly boring.

“I want to work for myself,” I’d think.  “I want to be an entrepreneur.  And get rich, like these guys…”

But doing…

What?

That’s where I was stumped.  I couldn’t think of anything I was burning to do that I could turn into a viable business.

Silly me:

I never considered…

Like one group of entrepreneurial folks recently did.

These were not your everyday thieves.  You know – break into a home or business, grab the goods, get caught on video, get caught, arrested, convicted.

No, sir.

This group demonstrated a number of the qualities described in this article:

The 20 Signs list includes:

#1:  You plan your work, then work your plan.
#2:  You are self-motivated.
#4:  You are a risk-taker.
#6: You’re a self-starter.
#8:  You take advantage of available resources.
#9:  You love to juggle many tasks at once.
#11:  You’re not afraid of failure.
#12:  You’re a creative problem-solver.
#17: You’re a go-getter.

Here’s the story, from San Jose, CA:

But before anybody stole acquired anything, the thieves entrepreneurs built an underground bunker to house their acquisitions:

Clearly an example of…

#6:  You’re a self-starter.

And they didn’t just pick any old location to build their bunker – they chose a homeless encampment, knowing that homeless encampments are places most people avoid. 

Nobody’s going to stroll into a homeless encampment as say, “Anybody seen bunker around here?” – right?

So again yes, from the list…

#12:  You’re a creative problem-solver.

Then our group built their bunker.  Various articles described it as “elaborate” and “sophisticated,” and it is:

Walls and a ceiling and sturdy wooden beams for support.

#1:  You plan your work, then work your plan.

And not only that, there were also electric cords that were “plugged into somebody’s else’s source.”

Another source, like a home or business.  And when that family or business saw their electric bill increasing for no apparent reason, well – California utility companies increase our rates on a regular basis for no apparent reason.  We’re used to it.

#8:  You take advantage of available resources.

While the bunker building was going on, our entrepreneurs were also conferring about whom to rob acquire items from, and when.  This would have required extensive research, a careful assessment of potential gains, and probably an excessive amount of whiteboarding, because no meeting is complete without that.

Yet another entrepreneurial quality checked off our list:

#9:  You love to juggle many tasks at once.

A date was chosen:  Monday, July 11.

A source was identified:  An electrical contractor business.

The potential gains identified:   Power tools, hunting shotguns, ammunition and other items.

#17:  You’re a go-getter.

Transportation would be needed to move the items, so our group stole acquired three pickup trucks from the same business, a real time-saver.

#4:  You are a risk-taker, and #11:  You’re not afraid of failure.

Monday, July 11:  Our entrepreneurs acquire $100,000 worth of power tools, guns, ammunition and other items.

True entrepreneurs, one and all!

But then, alas…

On the very day our group implemented the heist Part II of their business plan…

One of our entrepreneurs exhibited a quality that definitely was not on the 20 Signs list:

Stupidity.

According to this article:

“Officers saw one of the stolen trucks in the area and stopped a man near the vehicle on Monday, after the theft was reported to authorities.

“Police said that man was searched by officers because he was on probation for auto theft and that he had a ghost gun, the term used for privately assembled firearms that are usually impossible to trace because they are not registered and do not have serial numbers.”

Oh, dear.  Our entrepreneur was already on probation for auto theft, and now he’s found with a stolen acquired truck and a ghost gun?

One thing led to another, and on Tuesday, July 12 the bunker was searched, and five more people were arrested:

Police tweets were tweeted:

Pictures of guns, ammo and power tools were taken:

Shadows were interviewed:

Headlines were made, including internationally, this one from the United Kingdom:

And this one, from Fox News:

Fox News suggested that our thieves entrepreneurs were left-wing Democrat communist deep state pinkos led by Hilary Clinton who were going to foment an uprising to reverse the November 2022 election results if any Republicans won.

I’m not sure how power tools would fit into that plan, but since it’s Fox News, it must be true.

And it fulfills the last item on our 20 Items list:

#2:  You are self-motivated.

Based on all this, I guess I’ll have to accept the fact that I’m just not entrepreneur material.

Nevertheless, if I may…

I’d like to make one suggestion that was not included in the 20 Items article for our San Jose entrepreneurs to consider:

#21:  You love putting together a business plan
and meeting with venture capitalists

If your business plan is going to include a team photo, you might want to consider a different image than this one:

What Would You Do For A…

There’s a TV ad campaign that’s been around for years and poses the question,

What would you do for a Klondike Bar?

A Klondike Bar being a square of ice cream coated with a thin layer of chocolate.

The commercials suggest that people would do just about anything to get a Klondike bar, such as enduring painful removal of body hair with tape:

The Klondike commercials came to mind when I read a news story that made me want to ask folks:

What would you do for a selfie?

A selfie being a self-portrait taken with a smartphone camera and then uploaded to as many social media sites as possible in the hope that it will go viral and millions of people will see it and understand that you actually are pretty awesome after all.

I understand that some people will go to great lengths to get what they believe will be the perfect selfie.

But I think this guy went too far:

“An American tourist in Italy survived a fall into the crater of Mount Vesuvius after he tried to reach for his phone to take a selfie, according to Italian police and local officials.”

Yes, the Mount Vesuvius in Italy:

The Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano:

Mount Vesuvius, which in 79 A.D. erupted in one of the deadliest volcanic events ever recorded in Europe.  For nearly two days, a violent cloud of hot gas and ash spewed out of the volcano’s main vent, blanketing the city of Pompeii in lethally hot volcanic material.

The Pompeii – a thriving city of around 12,000 people that was buried under millions of tons of volcanic material that killed more than 2,000 inhabitants.

You’ve probably seen images of their remains, like this:

And this:

And that selfie-craving American who fell into the crater of Mount Vesuvius?

He’s been identified as Philip Carroll, 23, from Baltimore, who was hiking on the famed volcano with his family earlier this month.

Now, hiking on an active volcano is definitely not something on my bucket list, but it is for some.

And it’s also a big business.  You can get your tickets here:

And from many other websites.

So Philip Carroll and his family on Mount Vesuvius wasn’t unusual.

And Philip wanting a selfie on Mount Vesuvius wasn’t unusual.  Hell, it was practically mandatory, wasn’t it?

What was unusual – or at least, unfortunate – was that when the family…

“…accessed the top of Vesuvius through a forbidden trail…”

Uh-oh.

Even I, who have never hiked in my life, know that when a trail is “forbidden,” there’s probably a good reason for it.

“When the family reached the top of the volcano…Carroll reached for his phone to commemorate being atop the 4,000-foot-high volcano.”

But Carroll fumbled the phone, and it fell into the crater of Mount Vesuvius.

“Instead of recovering the phone and snapping the perfect photo for Instagram, the man slipped and dropped a few feet into the crater.”

That “dropped a few feet into the crater” turned out to be 15 meters, which is 50 feet.

Even I, who have never fallen into a volcano in my life, know that 50 feet is a damn big fall, especially when it’s into a live volcano.

When the rescue team reached Carroll he was unconscious.  At some point he woke up, the team extracted him from the crater and he was treated in an ambulance farther down the mountain.  Carroll had suffered abrasions on his legs, arm and back, as was shown on Facebook:

Even I, who have never taken a selfie in my life, know that this image of Carroll is not a selfie.

“Carroll was taken into custody by the local police.  It’s unclear what charges he may face.”

I’ve found no follow-up stories so we don’t know what charges, if any, Carroll faced.

Maybe…Selfie Stupidity?  Might that be a crime in Italy?

Let’s ask the Italian polizia:

I’d say he made his feelings clear.

What the myriad news stories about Carroll also don’t talk about – but I will, here, for the first time ever – is that Carroll wasn’t the first to have a cell-phone-Mount-Vesuvius-related incident.

Remember those earlier pictures, the remains of Pompeii residents who in 79 A.D. were caught unawares and buried in tons of lethally hot volcanic material?

They were caught unawares because they were distracted.

Distracted because they were taking …

This May Be The Best $159.58 I’ve Ever Spent

My dentist has a sign in her office:

I’ll paraphrase that to fit a recent experience:

And what do we keep on our PCs and laptops and whatever other devices except files that we care about?

Files that matter:

Work-related stuff, if you’ve been working from home or always work from home; and personal files – maybe medical records, insurance records, information about your home or car or warranties; plus your Christmas card list, birthdays list, restaurants you’d try again or wouldn’t.

For me – I have a lot of files including yearly lists of all the books I read and movies I watch; Word and Publisher and Excel docs from 700+ blog posts (plus hundreds of jpeg and png images); reams of other writing; projects I’m working on; family and other pictures…

I have a lot of files.

158,625 files, to be exact.

I know this because they suddenly became inaccessible, locked in my hard drive with no way to retrieve them.

Here’s what happened:

I walked by my computer one Tuesday afternoon and glanced at the screen.  It was black – that was normal – except for one sentence across the top, which was not normal.

A sentence which struck terror into my heart:

ERROR:  NO BOOT DISK HAS BEEN DETECTED OR THE DISK HAS FAILED.

What the hell?  Just all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I’m in big trouble?

I was.

Panicked, I called my computer guy, whom I’ll call Computer Guy, or CG.

I read the sentence to CG and he said that yes – it sounded like my hard drive had failed.  And as tech-challenged as I am, I knew what that meant.

No computer.

No internet, no email, no access to my files.

No nothing.

CG arrived the next afternoon, 24 agonizing hours later, and confirmed:  My hard drive had failed.  

He tried several approaches to access the hard drive and – no luck.

So he packed up my tower and hard drive, and took them home for additional testing.  On Thursday – after yet another agonizing 24 hours – he confirmed:

I needed a new hard drive.
He couldn’t access my files to download them to the new hard drive.

CG said he’d return to my home Friday afternoon with my tower and a new hard drive, get me set up and…

That was another 24-hour wait.

But I won’t keep you waiting:

CG said he could restore all my files.

All 158,625 of them.

For one reason.

I have…

I am not doing a commercial for Carbonite.

It just happens to be the backup system that my previous CG suggested in 2021.

But I am endorsing some kind of backup…

For the files you care about.

I resisted the idea at first – I didn’t want to spend the money, blah, blah, blah.

But because CG strongly recommended backing up my files, I subscribed to Carbonite and paid $75.59 for the first year.

At the end of the first year I considered not renewing – I hadn’t needed Carbonite in 2021, so why get it again?

Especially at the increased price of $83.99?

After wavering for awhile, I resubscribed for 2022.

Back to the present.

CG set up my computer to download all my files from Carbonite, and he told me it was going to take hours.

“You have a lot of files,” he said, shaking his head.  “You have more files than some companies do.”

The file download lasted until Saturday morning, a clear demonstration that I have WAY too many files.

And it’s time to delete stuff I don’t look at and don’t need.

But my files?  Yes, my files were back in place.

If I hadn’t had a backup system…

OK:  I’ve used words like “agonizing” and “horror story,” and I know that’s overboard.

In the big scheme of life, these are computer files.

Not the war in Ukraine.

But in my life – and I’m betting in your life – we care about our files.

So I’ll offer this for you to consider:

Backup your files.

And…

Yesterday Was One Month Since The Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade Decision, And The Ohio 10-Year-Old Rape Victim Is Only…

Let’s correct that:

The tip of the tragic iceberg.

What else can you call this story, but tragic…

…when a 10-year-old girl is raped and becomes pregnant?

And she can’t receive the medical care she needs in her home state?

And adding to the tragedy is a guy named Jim Bopp:

Bopp is an Indiana lawyer, the general counsel for the National Right to Life, and he’s the author of a model law written for state legislatures considering more restrictive abortion measures.

Of the 10-year-old girl, Bopp said:

“She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child…We don’t think, as heart-wrenching as those circumstances are, we don’t think we should devalue the life of the baby because of the sins of the father.”

According to Wikipedia, Bopp has three daughters.

I wonder if he would have been quite so righteous if one of his daughters had been a pregnant, 10-year-old rape victim?

If he would have told his daughter that she’d be forced to carry the baby to term, and ultimately understand “the benefit of having the child”?

The Ohio girl’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade is reaching into many areas, including a woman’s fallopian tubes.

In this article:

A doctor was quoted about “the horrible downstream effects of criminalizing abortion care.”

“Downstream effects”?

The article examples include:

  • An obstetrician delays inducing a miscarriage until a woman with severe pregnancy complications seems “sick enough.”
  • A lupus patient must stop taking medication that controls her illness because it can also cause miscarriages.
  • A sexual assault survivor chooses sterilization so that if she is ever attacked again, she won’t be forced to give birth to a rapist’s baby.

Let’s talk about the sexual assault survivor.

She is Julie Ann Nitsch, who provided this 2022 photo showing her in a hospital in Texas, before surgery to remove her fallopian tubes.

From the Associated Press article:

“Nitsch says she chose sterilization at age 36 rather than risk getting pregnant by another rapist.

“‘I ripped my organs out’ to avoid that, she said.

“Nitsch said she ‘saw the writing on the wall’ after Texas enacted a law last year banning most abortions after six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest.  She said she sensed that Roe vs. Wade would be overturned, so she had surgery to remove her fallopian tubes in February.

“‘It’s sad to think that I can’t have kids, but it’s better than being forced to have children,’ Nitsch said.”

And Nitsch is not alone:

“Dr. Tyler Handcock, an Austin OB-GYN, said his clinic has heard from hundreds of patients seeking sterilization since the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision.  Many choose this route because they fear long-acting birth control or other contraceptives could also become targets, he said.

“His clinic scheduled a July 9 group counseling session to handle the surge, and every one of his 20 patients who showed up to hear about the risks and ramifications of fallopian tube removal made an appointment to have the surgery.”

The Associated Press article details other “downstream effects,” but let’s turn here for the most obvious downstream effect:

The article quotes from a May 14, 2022 editorial in The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most well-known medical journals, which says in part that Supreme Court Justice Alito’s…

“‘…shocking, inhuman, and irrational’ draft opinion ‘utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion.’”

The Lancet also says this, loud and clear on the cover:

And it’s not just “Alito and his supporters” who will have blood on their hands.

It’s every person, female and male, in Congress, in state legislatures, judges and governors and local officials and their supporters, and people like Jim Bopp, who believe they – not we – should have control over our bodily autonomy.

Well, we know what we have to do:

Update:  Caitlin Bernard is the Indiana obstetrician-gynecologist who provided the abortion for the 10-year-old rape victim. 

She wrote an opinion piece for the July 22 Washington Post and summed up this tragic situation better than I ever could.

Dr. Bernard said, in part:

“Next week, the Indiana legislature will contemplate dramatically restricting abortion, as many states have done since the Supreme Court overturned Roe.  Lawmakers will debate the particulars of the law and thus the fate of my patients.  They will debate whether to include an exception for rape, whether to require a child incest victim to testify under oath that her family member abused and impregnated her before she could access medical care, how sick someone needs to get before they will allow us to save her life, whether to allow a mother to spare her baby from the worst suffering, to spare herself from the unimaginable agony of watching her baby die in her arms.

“But they will never face my patients.  They will never stand in their shoes or hold their hands.  They will never know their pain.  Legislators are the last people who should be in the business of deciding who gets medical care and who does not.”

Now, This Is One Happy Little Giraffe:

Every time I look at the above picture, I smile.

I’ve got a thing for giraffes, as I talked about in my May 20 post.

That post was about the little gal on the right, Msituni (pronounced See-TU-Nee, Swahili for “In the forest”).  She’s now five months old.

The giraffe on the left, Nuru, is grooming Msituni. 

Msituni is liking it.

The image was taken last week in the East African habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Because I felt like ending the week on a high note, I’m happy to say that now – thanks to human intervention and creative thinking – Msituni is thriving and doing all the things a giraffe her age should be doing.

She was about six feet tall at birth, will grow to around 14 feet tall…

…and she’ll eat up to 75 pounds of leaves a day.

When Msituni is three to four years old, she might start having babies.

But in the meantime, Msituni can be found frolicking with the rest of the giraffe herd in the Safari Park’s 60-acre East Africa savanna habitat…

And just being cute:

Geez, What A Hypocrite

On June 24, 2022 when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, it wasn’t enough for Justice Clarence Thomas (pictured) to know he’d helped eradicate a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy. 

He couldn’t just sit back and say, “There!  That’ll show ‘em!”

No, Thomas had to add his own two cents’ worth in his concurring opinion, according to this any many other articles:

“…that the justices ‘should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including GriswoldLawrence, and Obergefell’ – referring to three cases having to do with Americans’ fundamental privacy, due process and equal protection rights.”

In other words, says the article:

“…that the Supreme Court ‘should reconsider’ its past rulings codifying rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.”

The article continues,

“The court’s liberal wing – Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – echoed concerns in a dissenting opinion released on Friday, writing that ‘no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work.’

“‘The constitutional right to abortion ‘does not stand alone,’ the three justices wrote.  ‘To the contrary, the Court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation.’”

The writer of this article:

Expanded on Thomas two cents’ worth:

“…Thomas wrote that the high court has a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in Obergefell vs. Hodges (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage, Lawrence vs. Texas (2003), which protects same-sex relations, and Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965), which protects married couples’ access to contraception.”

Thomas wants to “correct the error.”

I wonder if Thomas feels that was about another Supreme Court landmark civil rights decision, this one from 1967.

Some background:

1958:  Virginia residents Mildred and Richard met in high school, fell in love, and got married.

A few weeks later, local police raided their home in the early morning hours.  Mildred and Richard were arrested, and charged with breaking the law.  They pled guilty and were each sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended on condition that the couple leave Virginia and not return together for at least 25 years.

Their crime?

Mildred Loving was black and Richard Loving was white, and their marriage violated Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made marriage between whites and non-whites a crime.

What crime?

The crime of miscegenation:  a mixture of races especially marriage, cohabitation, or sexual intercourse between a white person and a member of another race.

Virginia wasn’t the only state with anti-miscegenation laws.

In fact, only nine states have never enacted anti-miscegenation laws:  Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Though Mildred and Richard had married in Washington, DC, their marriage wasn’t legal in Virginia.

The Lovings appealed their conviction to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which upheld it.  They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear their case.

In 1967, in Loving vs. Virginia, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the Lovings’ favor and overturned their convictions.  Its decision struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. 

In 1967, the remaining 15 states with anti-miscegenation laws saw them overturned by Loving vs. Virginia – here’s a map, showing all 16 states in gray:

So, how about it, Justice Thomas?

Is Loving vs. Virginia one of those Supreme Court rulings that needs to be “reconsidered’?

Is Loving vs. Virginia one of those “errors” that needs correcting?

Oh, wait.

Silly me!

Of course you’re not – look who you’re married to!

Vincent, I Hope You’re Smiling – Perhaps A Bit Smugly – About This

The Dutch post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 and died in 1890.

In 1888 he wrote to his brother Theo,

“I can do nothing about it if my paintings don’t sell.

“The day will come, though, when people will see that they’re worth more than the cost of the paint and my subsistence, very meagre in fact that we put into them.”

And van Gogh’s paintings didn’t sell – there are stories of him selling “one” painting in his lifetime or a “handful” of paintings, a poor showing for an artist who created more than 850 paintings and nearly 1,300 drawings and sketches in an artistic career that lasted only 10 years.

No one, including van Gogh, considered him a successful artist.

So I hope van Gogh is smiling over the excitement this recent story is creating:

The image below on the right is an x-ray of the back of the image on the left:

The image on the left, according to the article is: 

“…van Gogh’s Head of a Peasant Woman, an 1885 study for a larger painting, The Potato Eaters, widely considered one of Van Gogh’s masterpieces.”

The image on the right “had been hiding in plain sight, inside a painting that had belonged to the National Galleries of Scotland for over 60 years.”

The “hiding in plain sight” image on the right is believed to be a van Gogh self-portrait, discovered by a conservator at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art when she x-rayed Head of a Peasant Woman ahead of an exhibition – a routine step.

According to this article:

“…the x-ray showed ‘a bearded sitter in a brimmed hat with a neckerchief loosely tied at the throat.  He fixes the viewer with an intense stare, the right side of his face in shadow and his left ear clearly visible.’”

Back to the Washington Post:

“Hidden under layers of glue and cardboard was another painting on its reverse – a portrait of a man in a hat with a scarf tied around his throat.

“‘I saw it then and there,’ senior curator Frances Fowle said.  ‘It was a self-portrait by Van Gogh, on the back of our painting.’”

Why would van Gogh have painted something on the back of another painting?

“Van Gogh was known to reuse canvasses because of lack of money, and Scottish conservators believe that was the case here.”

Lack of money was also a reason van Gogh painted so many self-portraits – “no fewer than 35,” according to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which has examined the x-ray of the newly uncovered painting and deemed it “almost certainly” a van Gogh self-portrait.

Van Gogh couldn’t afford to pay artist models, so he painted himself, experimenting with colors and light and techniques, as in this self-portrait from 1887:   

Van Gogh self-portrait, 1887, the Detroit Institute of Arts.

According to various articles:

“Van Gogh became his own best sitter, saying, ‘I purposely bought a good enough mirror to work from myself, for want of a model.’”

So what looks to be a major discovery was painted, and on the back of the canvas another image was painted to save money on canvasses.  By an artist who frequently painted himself, because he was too poor to hire actual models.

And – an artist who gave many of his paintings and drawings to others, only for them to often throw away those gifts.

So, who’s the culprit who covered the self-portrait with cardboard and glue…

And why?

The self-portrait, says this Washington Post article:

“…had been covered in cardboard, most likely by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger [pictured], the wife of van Gogh’s younger brother Theo, in 1905, when she sent Head of a Peasant Woman to an important exhibition in Amsterdam.”

I’m imagining what was going through Johanna’s mind, how excited she was that Head of a Peasant Woman by her dead brother-in-law Vincent was going to be in an important exhibition! 

Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, 1889

She turned the painting over, and there’s a…oh.  “Is this another one of those self-portraits by poor old Vincent?  And not even finished?  I’ll just cover it up so it doesn’t distract from the good stuff.”

Johanna sent Head of a Peasant Woman to Amsterdam, and van Gogh’s self-portrait went unseen for over a century.

National Galleries of Scotland said its experts were looking at how to remove the glue and cardboard covering the self-portrait without damaging Head of a Peasant Woman.

The lost-now-found self-portrait x-ray image will be on view at the July 30-November 13 exhibition, A Taste for Impressionism, at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.

If all this excitement isn’t enough to make Vincent smile, I’ll add this recent story to the mix:

Van Gogh’s Fields Near the Alpilles (1889) was expected to sell for around $45 million at Christie’s Auction House May 2022 auction.

It sold for $51,915,000.

And it joins a list of van Gogh paintings that have sold for millions, including these top five, according to this 2022 article:

Irises; price:  $53.9 million, 1987
A Wheat Field with Cypresses; price:  $57 million, 1993
Portrait of Joseph Roulin; price:  $58 million, 1989
Portrait de l’artiste Sans Barbe; price:  $71.5 million, 1998
Portrait of Dr. Gachet; price:  $82.5 million, 1990

Vincent, I’d say there’s no doubt that people feel that your works are…

“…worth more than the cost of the paint and my subsistence.”

Geez, What A Hypocrite

On June 24, 2022 when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, it wasn’t enough for Justice Clarence Thomas (pictured) to know he’d helped eradicate a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy. 

He couldn’t just sit back and say, “There!  That’ll show ‘em!”

No, Thomas had to add his own two cents’ worth in his concurring opinion, according to this any many other articles:

Thomas wrote,

“…that the justices ‘should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including GriswoldLawrence, and Obergefell’ – referring to three cases having to do with Americans’ fundamental privacy, due process and equal protection rights.”

In other words, says the article:

“…that the Supreme Court ‘should reconsider’ its past rulings codifying rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.”

The article continues:

“The court’s liberal wing – Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – echoed concerns in a dissenting opinion released on Friday, writing that ‘no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work.’

“‘The constitutional right to abortion ‘does not stand alone,’ the three justices wrote.  ‘To the contrary, the Court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation.’”

The writer of this article:

Expanded on Thomas two cents’ worth:

“…Thomas wrote that the high court has a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in Obergefell vs. Hodges (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage, Lawrence vs. Texas (2003), which protects same-sex relations, and Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965), which protects married couples’ access to contraception.”

Thomas wants to “correct the error.”

I wonder if Thomas feels that was about another Supreme Court landmark civil rights decision, this one from 1967?

Some background:

1958:  Virginia residents Mildred and Richard met in high school, fell in love, and got married.

A few weeks later, local police raided their home in the early morning hours.  Mildred and Richard were arrested, and charged with breaking the law.  They pled guilty and were each sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended on condition that the couple leave Virginia and not return together for at least 25 years.

Their crime?

Mildred Loving was black and Richard Loving was white, and their marriage violated Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made marriage between whites and non-whites a crime.

What crime?

The crime of miscegenation:  a mixture of races especially marriage, cohabitation, or sexual intercourse between a white person and a member of another race.

Virginia wasn’t the only state with anti-miscegenation laws.

In fact, only nine states have never enacted anti-miscegenation laws:  Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Though Mildred and Richard had married in Washington, DC, their marriage wasn’t legal in Virginia.

The Lovings appealed their conviction to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which upheld it.  They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear their case.

In 1967, in Loving vs. Virginia, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the Lovings’ favor and overturned their convictions.  Its decision struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. 

In 1967, the remaining 15 states with anti-miscegenation laws saw them overturned by Loving vs. Virginia – here’s a map, showing all 16 states in gray:

So, how about it, Justice Thomas?

Is Loving vs. Virginia one of those Supreme Court rulings you think should be “reconsidered’?

Is Loving vs. Virginia one of those “errors” that needs correcting?

Oh, wait.

Silly me!

Of course not – look who you’re married to!

Book Review:  Let’s Not Do This Again

Publication date:  April 2022

Category:  Humorous American literature, political fiction, fiction satire

Review, short version:  Four out of four skunks.

Review, long version:

I’m not opposed to profanity, when used judiciously.

Sometimes profanity can perfectly express an emotion.

Sometimes profanity can be funny.

But that’s when profanity is used…

Judiciously.

In Grant Ginder’s Let’s Not Do That Again the profanity starts early, is overused and quickly becomes boring.

It brings to mind the saying,

The habitual use of profanity is not progressive, just unimaginative.

A few early examples from the book:

Page 7:  “fuck”
Page 8:  “fucking,” “hell,” “shit”
Page 9:  “Goddamn it”
Page 12:  “assholes,” “jerk-offs,” “fucking”

We get a bit of a reprieve, and then…

Page 28:  “fucking”
Page 29:  “fuck”
Page 30:  “Goddamn it,” “fucking”
Page 34:  “fuck,” “fuck”
Page 36:  “fuck”
Page 37:  “shit”
Page 39:  “fuck,” “fucking,” “shit,” “son of a bitch,” “fucking”
Page 40:  “fucking”
Page 41:  “fucking,” “fucking”
Page 43:  “shit”
Page 44:  “fucking”

Sometimes the profanity is used in combination with other words, such as “New York Fucking City” and “Patty Fucking Hearst,” which is a variation, but not a particularly creative one.

Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.

So, what is Ginder’s book about?

His website says the book is: 

“…a poignant, funny, and slyly beguiling novel which proves that, like democracy, family is a messy and fragile thing…”

“Smart, funny and tear-jerking, Let’s Not Do That Again shows that family, like politics, can hurt like a mother.”

So, another (yawn) dysfunctional family.  Add in politics (yawn), so they’re even more dysfunctional.

But still, I could go for “funny” and “smart.”  And “tear-jerking” can be good.

Those qualities are all good – if they’re not lost in an incessant sludge of profanity.

Profanity is the last refuge of the truly ignorant.

I stopped listing the profanities above after page 44 because that’s where I stopped reading.  And that was more than enough.

It appears that many read Ginder’s book and thought it was great, like the raves quoted on Amazon from reviewers at publications I respect including Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

In fact, the Washington Post was one of a number of raves that compared Let’s Not Do That Again to Veep, a TV show that ran for seven seasons from 2012-2019.   

I did a blog post about Veep in 2019, in which I also lamented its excessive use of profanity – “That just tickles my twat!” was one of many examples I cited – so yes, I can see the comparison.

If I’ve come off sounding like a major killjoy, wet blanket and all-around prude – so be it.

And guess what?  I don’t care.

Life is too short to waste my time on books like Ginder’s that show such a lack of skill, style, and command of our wonderful language.

And such a lack of respect for his readers.

In San Diego We Love Our Beaches – So Why Do We Leave Them Looking Like This?

(A few weeks ago I did a post about raw sewage and trash from Tijuana contaminating San Diego beaches.  The mess in this post isn’t from a foreign source – it’s local.)

San Diego County has beautiful beaches, and in the summer they’re a prime destination for residents and visitors.

On July 4 that influx of people expands, enjoying the water and sand and sun all day…

And fireworks at night, including the Big Bay Boom:

And the next morning our beaches look like the picture at the top, and like this:

There’s even an official name for it:

The “Surfrider Foundation” in the above image is a nonprofit that:

“…is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network.”

For a number of years Surfrider has hosted the July 5 Morning After Mess Beach Cleanup Series:

And every year – unfortunately – there’s always plenty of litter to clean up on San Diego’s beaches.  For July 5, 2022:

Volunteers – bless them – turn out every year to clean up what others leave behind.  This year 429 volunteers picked up the better part of a ton of trash from the seven beaches with the highest concentration of beachgoers and reputations for post-Fourth of July trash.

Who are those volunteers?

They’re all sorts of people of all ages, including families:

And they’re willing to spend their time and energy cleaning up after others, changing our beaches from dumping grounds back into attractions.

What were those volunteers finding?

Much of the litter is single-use plastic – bags, drink cups, straws, utensils, plates, containers – mixed with food packaging, abandoned toys and clothing, flyaway balloons, fireworks, grills, chairs, broken boogie boards, shoes, sunglasses, backpacks, metal scissors, action figure parts, and food waste, food waste and more food waste, like this:

And – to my surprise – this:

This surprised me since smoking isn’t allowed on most San Diego beaches.  Yet according to this headline:

Cigarette butts are the number one thing the Surfrider volunteers find every year.

And lifeguards and law enforcement – understandably – are too busy to enforce the no-smoking law.

So some beachgoers abandon their trash, despite exhortations from the environmentally concerned, from the media and others to “pack out what you pack in” – in other words, bring garbage bags, pack up your trash and take it home.

Take some responsibility, for $@!%#$@* sake!

So, who’s leaving their trash behind…

And why?

It turns out that wiser heads than mine (of which there is a countless number) have been studying people who litter for many years.  And since I was curious about the who and the why, I did some online reading of articles like this:

From this and other articles I learned that while lots of people wouldn’t dream of going to a beach and leaving their trash lying on the sand – including me – at the same time, lots of people – including me – have gone to a movie theater and done this:

Me, a litterer?

Litter is litter, whatever its location.

The theory here is that “the decision to litter is based on the actions of other people – for both good and bad.  If an area is already highly littered, people are more likely to add more litter, while the cleaner an area already is, the less likely people are to disrupt the scene by littering.”

We go to the movies and know other people are going to leave behind their drink cups and popcorn containers and candy wrappers, so we do it, too.

Another theory has to do to with the location of trash cans:

“…the distance to a trash receptacle is a strong predictor of littering, so the farther away you are from a trash can or a recycling container, the more likely you are to litter.”

Now, San Diego beaches have many trash cans:

Plus, early on the morning of July 4, the Clean Beach Coalition puts many of these trash and recycling boxes in place:

So proximity shouldn’t be a problem.

But as the day goes on, if those containers look like this:

Some people decide it’s easier to leave their trash where it lays; the trash containers are all full, so why bother?

Another theory:

“People are more likely to litter when they feel no sense of ownership for parks, walkways, beaches, and other public spaces.” 

“It’s not my beach so it’s not my problem” – right?

Conversely, another theory is that “some people leave litter in the outdoors as a way of marking territory or claiming ownership – a kind of ‘litter as graffiti’ behavior.”

Then there’s the theory that some people feel a sense of entitlement:  “Someone will clean up after me.”

And who knows?  Maybe that goes all the way back to our earliest experiences of loading up our diapers, and someone else taking care of our mess.

So there are lots of theories, but here’s a fact:

Litter wasn’t always the gargantuan problem it is today.  Once upon a time, if you tossed an apple core out the car window…

Animals would eat it, or it would decompose, and no harm done.

But then came this:

And that was a relatively recent development:

“Production of plastics leaped during World War II, nearly quadrupling from 213 million pounds in 1939 to 818 million pounds in 1945.

“Come V-J Day, however, all that production potential had to go somewhere, and plastics exploded into consumer markets.” 

“Thanks to plastics, newly flush Americans had a never-ending smorgasbord of affordable goods to choose from.  The flow of new products and applications was so constant it was soon the norm.  Tupperware had surely always existed, alongside Formica counters, Naugahyde chairs, red acrylic taillights, Saran wrap, vinyl siding, squeeze bottles, push buttons, Barbie dolls, Lycra bras, Wiffle balls, sneakers, sippy cups, and countless more things.”

And consumers considered plastic disposable – it went out with the trash, along with that apple core and squeeze bottles and Wiffle balls and, and, and…

It took years to understand that…

“‘Unlike other materials, plastic doesn’t break down,’ said Alex Ferron, manager of the Surfrider San Diego chapter.  ‘Unlike paper and aluminum, where it’s breaking down and becoming inert, plastic breaks up.  So while you might not be able to see it, after some time it gets smaller and smaller, and all throughout the cycle of doing that, it’s getting eaten.  So it’s finding its way into our food chain, into fertilizers, it’s getting absorbed as rainwater.  It’s truly everywhere.’”

Even cigarette butts, said Ferron, contain “acetate plastic fiber.”

Of course we all know all of this.

And we do this anyway:

Still, there was a note of hope after the July 5 Surfrider’s Morning After Mess Cleanup:

Many of our volunteers remarked that the beaches seemed cleaner than in previous years, which is a great sign,’ said Ferron.”

Then she added, correctly:

“‘Despite that, we cannot lose sight of the fact that even one piece of trash on the beach is one piece too many.’”

Perhaps we’ll reach never reach that point of not “even one piece” of trash on our beaches.  And your beaches.  And our/your parks and sidewalks and streets and highways.

But perhaps someday – and soon, I hope – there won’t be enough trash left on San Diego beaches for Surfrider volunteers to make another one of these:

Dear Abby:  You Dogged It Big Time, This Time

I’m a faithful Dear Abby reader – I often think her advice is spot on, and now and then, it even applies to a situation I’m dealing with.

This time, however, I thought her advice was awful.  Egregiously awful.

And if the letter writer takes Abby’s advice, I believe the writer will regret it.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Abby:  My husband died recently.  I have been approached by a much younger man for a sexual relationship.  I want to, but I feel he is too young.  I’m 61, and he’s 37, the same age as my son.  We have been friends for years, and I am unsure if I should change the relationship.  I see no future in it except occasional sex.  Should I drop it or consider the possibilities?
– Thinking About It in Ohio

Here’s Abby’s response:

Dear Thinking:  Before dropping it, carefully consider the “possibilities.”  At 37, this person is not a kid, he’s an adult.  Something like this happened in my family years ago.  A close friend of a relative’s son announced he had fallen in love with her.  It took her a little while to adjust her thinking, but the result was a very happy marriage.

You dogged it, Abby.

Here are the most important words in the writer’s letter:

“for a sexual relationship.”

Abby, you somehow missed this, and instead went off the deep end about someone and so-and-so and yada yada they lived happily ever.

But the man wasn’t talking about happily ever after.

He wants a sexual relationship.

It might be for a night, a month, a year, multiple years.

But it’s a sexual relationship.

And instead of giving the guy credit for being honest, you encouraged the woman to have delusions of walking down the aisle and all that can precede it.

But…the man said “a sexual relationship,” and he meant exactly that.

Not cuddling and cozy conversation after sex.  Not waking up together in the morning.  Not sharing coffee and kisses before you start your separate days.

No romantic dinners in candle-lit restaurants where he says “I love your sense of humor,” admires her intelligence and enumerates the many things they have in common.

Not sending each other short, sweet “Thinking of you” texts with hearts and happy faces.  Not romantic getaways to a tropical beach and sunset walks. 

And definitely not this:

There’s a name for what the man wants, and even an acronym:  FWB.

And there are rules for FWB.

Lots of rules.

And lots of articles about the rules:

“So you’re great mates who just both happen to be single at the same time, why not add a bit of ‘no strings attached’ fun into your friendship?

“In order for a friends with benefits (FWB) relationship to blossom, experts and our readers agree that there needs to be a strict set of rules.  Here we discover the meaning of a friends with benefits relationship, how to find a pal and how to do it orgasmically well.”

A sampling of the rules:

No warm and fuzzies.  Before getting into FWB make sure you’re 100 percent fine with having sex without anything deeper.”

Stay safe.  You are not obligated to be exclusive in a FWB so it’s crucial to stay safe and STD-free.”

Keep in mind what this is.  You are not building an intimate relationship, but rather just having fun and enjoying one another physically.”

Abby, here’s the advice you should have given the woman:

Dear Thinking:  You’ve been invited to have an FWB relationship – friends with benefits.  Believe him when he says he wants a “sexual relationship.”  Don’t dress it up, put a ribbon on it and pretend it’s something else.  Don’t hope he’ll fall in love with you.  And don’t think he’ll change, or worse – that you will get him to change.  Go online and read about FWB and the rules entailed.  Then, if you truly believe you can live within those parameters – go for it.

I Could Go To Jail For Stealing A $10 Lipstick – These Folks Stole $8.4 Million Of Your Tax Dollars And Our Government Gave Them A…

Let’s say I walk into a department store in San Diego, where I live, and shoplift a $10 lipstick.

And I’m caught.

Here’s what can happen to me if I’m convicted:

For a misdemeanor act of shoplifting – which this is, because the value of what I stole is under $950 – the penalty may be six months in a county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both a fine and jail time.

That’s the law.

It doesn’t matter if I think the law is stupid.

It doesn’t matter if I tell the security guard who apprehended me that I’ll give the lipstick back.

It doesn’t matter if I tell the judge I’m really, REALLY sorry.

A fine, jail time, or both.

That’s the law.

Now instead of shoplifting a $10 lipstick…

Let’s say I steal more than $8 million taxpayer dollars in a COVID scam, like these people did, as recounted in this December 2020 article:

“The federal government has seized $8.4 million in pandemic-related loans obtained by a family running a fake ministry in Orlando who then tried to spend some of the money on a $3.71 million house in Disney World’s Golden Oak neighborhood, according to court records.”

The family was dad Evan Edwards; mom Mary Jane; daughter Joy, 36; and son Josh, 30:

The name of their fake ministry:  ASLAN International Ministry, which doesn’t appear to have a website, but was getting attention on the Ministry Watch website in December 2020.

Ministry Watch is an independent evangelical Christian organization whose purpose is to review Protestant ministries for financial accountability and transparency, and to provide independent advice to Protestants considering making donations to them:

“A so-called international ministry based in Florida who didn’t appear to do anything ministry-related allegedly obtained millions by defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program, federal authorities say.

“CNBC reports that U.S. Secret Service agents seized more than $7.5 million from accounts at Bank of America and another $868,000 from First American Trust from ASLAN International Ministry.  The information came from a civil forfeiture complaint filed in U.S District Court in Orlando, FL.”

So, this sounds like a story with a happy ending – not for the Edwards family, but for taxpayers.

The family had gotten $8.4 million in pandemic-related loans under false pretenses and now the government had taken it back.

How did the Edwards family get the $8.4 million?  According to the Orlando Sentinel article: 

“It began after Joshua Edwards, a vice president of ASLAN International Ministry, applied for $6.91 million for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, or PPP, according to a federal complaint signed Monday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Andrejko.”

Remember the Paycheck Protection Program? 

It became a law on April 24, 2020, and its purpose was to help businesses, self-employed workers, sole proprietors, nonprofit organizations, and tribal businesses continue paying their workers and survive the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

That was April 24, 2020, and I’m betting Josh Edward started filling out the fraudulent application same day. 

As this April 2022 article put it:

“The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to be a lifeline to small businesses during some of the darkest months of the pandemic – $800 billion distributed from April 2020 to May 2021.  And as we now know, some $80 billion of those taxpayer dollars ended up in the wrong hands or misspent.”

Josh Edwards…

“…submitted documents that painted a picture of a successful Orlando-based ministry that employed 486 people on a monthly $2.76 million payroll and had revenue of more than $51 million in 2019.  He submitted IRS forms and a cover letter from an accountant that showed summaries of ASLAN’s bank accounts.”

The Edwards family waited, but not for long – in 2020, the government was in a hurry to get the money to people, and people were anxious to get it. 

The big day came:  First Home Bank notified Josh Edwards that ASLAN International was eligible to receive more money than he had asked for:  a total of $8.4 million.

Josh applied for $6.91 million and we taxpayers gave him almost $1.5 million more than requested.

But wait, you’re thinking.

This all happened back in 2020.  The story has a happy ending.  The government got our tax dollars back, and the Edwards are all rotting away in prison, right?

Wrong.

The Edwards fraud story was resurrected in this July 1, 2022 NBC article:

The article goes into great detail about the family’s fraud, up to September 17, 2020 when the Edwards family, in their Mercedes, was pulled over by three Florida Highway Patrol cars. 

Then we get to the point:

“…more than 18 months after the Florida traffic stop, authorities have yet to charge any member of the Edwards family with a crime.”

The NBC article says,

“The Edwards did not challenge the seizure of the $8 million in loans, all of which was recovered by the Justice Department.”

“The federal government has taken no action against the Edwards since then, according to a search of public court records.” 

Let’s go back to the April 2022 NPR article I cited above.  This was an interview with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, who said:

“We actually have now had over 1,200 indictments in total in our investigative work – about 900 arrests and almost 500 convictions.”

And those arrests and convictions make headlines, like this one from March 2022:

William Sadler (pictured) fraudulently got a measly $1.7 million in Paycheck Protection Program money.  He “pleaded guilty to federal fraud and money laundering charges,” and was facing “a maximum sentence of 82 years in federal prison.”

And the Edwards family…

Gets nothing?

No…

No…

No dressed in an orange jumpsuit, facing a judge in a courtroom…

No…

No.

Here’s the $8.4 million-dollar question:

Actually, I have two whys.

Why aren’t all four Edwards in prison?

And why did NBC reporters revive this story more than 18 months after it happened, when there is nothing new to report?

There is no new development making headlines anywhere else that I could find.  The few current stories I did see, like this one…

…were all just a rehash of the NBC July 1, 2022 story.

Why now?

I contacted the three NBC reporters and ask, but haven’t heard back from them.

Heaven forbid that an NBC news reporter should respond to an NBC news consumer.

I did find items of interest in a link in the NBC article that went to this 2021 article:

It sems the Edwards family had reappeared in Canada, both in person:

Evan Edwards and his daughter, Joy, pray for people at a drive-thru event in an undated video that has since been removed. 

And online – this is dated September 12, 2021:

The Roys Report article says:

“…previous contributors to ASLAN International have received an email purporting to be from ‘Edwards Family Ministries’ with little text besides the subject line:  ‘948 salvations so far!  It’s been a year of Harvest in 5781!  Happy New Head of the Year 5782 – PTL!’”

The email included links to the YouTube videos (above) depicting members of the Edwards family asking for money.  The videos were “quickly taken down,” according to NBC. 

The Roys Report goes on to say:

“Edwards Family Ministries’ address at the end of the email matches the one for Aslan International Association in Alberta, Canada.”

Here’s what that looks like:

“And while the Edwards aren’t listed anywhere for the Canadian organization, their Florida nonprofit uses the Canadian organization’s information as their own.”

Here’s where the Florida nonprofit link takes us:

And on this page is a link to an “Annual Report” dated 4/28/22:

The document is signed by “Joshua Evans.”

The Roys Report closed with this:

“News 6 in Orlando reported last year that the family was being investigated by the Edmonton (Alberta) Police Service in addition to the U.S. Secret Service.”

It appears the Edwards family – in 2020 – was being investigated by Canadian police as well as by the U.S. government.

But when NBC contacted U.S. authorities for its July 1, 2022 article, all they got was this:

“A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida emailed NBC News that the office declined to comment.

“Roy Dotson, the national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator for the U.S. Secret Service, which led the investigation, said, ‘Due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, the Secret Service cannot provide any additional information related to this case at this time.’” 

In summary:  From September 2020 when the Edwards family was pulled over in Florida – in their Mercedes – to now is 21 months.

The Edwards family’s Aslan International Association in Alberta, Canada is still in operation, now blessing – and bilking – unsuspecting Canadians.

They’re still filing annual reports as Aslan International Ministry, Inc.

Law enforcement in the U.S., and possibly in Canada, are still investigating.

No one is still being arrested.

Evan Edwards’ book is still available on Amazon:

And we’re all still wondering…

I Knew This Was Happening But I Never Knew Its Name

I drink a lot of Gatorade so it’s always on the grocery list.

Recently my husband returned from the supermarket with another supply, and he mentioned that these bottles were different from the bottle in the fridge.

They were:

In the fridge: bottle on the left, 32 ounces; new: bottle on the right, 28 ounces.

Different packaging but similar in size.

Less content.

Higher price.

It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed I was getting less of a food item in the same or similar-size container.

Years ago, coffee came in a one-pound can (below, left), but today that almost-the-same-size can hold 11.5 ounces of coffee, plus air:

And canned tuna – that used to be six ounces, then it shrank to five, and now it’s 4.5 ounces “NET WT” or “Net Weight,” and four ounces “DR. WT” or “Drained Weight”:

The can size has not changed appreciably.

So I’d know about this for years – the practice of food companies keeping the container size the same or similar, reducing the contents, and charging us the same, and often more.

The food companies believing that we consumers were/are too stupid to notice.

I’ve known, and so have you, but I hadn’t known the name for this.

Until I read this article:

It’s called “Shrinkflation.”

“Shrinkflation” was coined back in 2015 by British economist Pippa Malmgren in this tweet:

This article…

…defined shrinkflation as:

“…the practice by which companies reduce the size or quantity of a product while the price of the product remains the same or slightly increased.

“In some cases, the term may indicate lowering the quality of a product or its ingredients while the price remains the same.”

While the Associated Press article called it…

“…the inflation you’re not supposed to see.”

Shrinkflation isn’t out there in plain sight, like gasoline prices – nobody can miss those, especially here in California. Here’s what I’m paying in San Diego County:

And how about Mono County, CA:

No, shrinkflation doesn’t look like that.

Instead, shrinkflation looks like this.  The quotes and images are from Reddit:

The Associated Press article listed a number of other examples including “…Cottonelle Ultra Clean Care toilet paper, which has shrunk from 340 sheets per roll to 312…”

…and goes on to say:

“…shrinkflation appeals to manufacturers because they know customers will notice price increases but won’t keep track of net weights or small details, like the number of sheets on a roll of toilet paper.”

“Companies can also employ tricks to draw attention away from downsizing, like marking smaller packages with bright new labels that draw shoppers’ eyes.”

Like I said – these companies think we’re stupid.

Here’s something else these companies have in common:

“No comment”:

When PepsiCo was asked why the 28-ounce Gatorade was more expensive than the 32-ounce, “it didn’t respond.”

“Kimberly-Clark – which makes both Cottonelle and Kleenex – didn’t respond to requests for comment on the reduced package sizes.”

“Proctor and Gamble didn’t respond…”

“Hain Celestial Group didn’t respond…”

And what’s our response to shrinkflation, besides anger?

The internet abounds with articles like this one:

That offer suggestions like these:

  • Compare the unit price of similar products to see which is the best price.  The price per unit is usually really tiny on the item or the shelf price tag.  
  • Substitute store brands for brand names.  Store brands are usually the last to shrink.
  • Stock up if you can find the older, larger sizes.
  • Use store apps and loyalty programs for discounts.

These are all valid ideas, but consider the practical application.

Many people grocery shop on their way home from work.  They’re tired, they’re hungry, and all they want is to get their stuff, get the hell out of the store and go home…

Standing in a crowded supermarket aisle, comparing unit prices that are 2.3¢ on one brand and 3.2¢ on another brand…moneysaving, but not real practical.

We consumers are not stupid, but we’re often rushed, distracted, and exhausted.

From personal experience, I can verify that clipping coupons (or downloading them), while time-consuming, is worthwhile.  My husband always has coupons in hand for trips to the supermarket, and he always saves us money.  It might be $3 or $10 or $28, and we gladly take it.

And if companies are making more profits off us from shrinkflation – well, we’re a capitalist country and that’s how we roll.

I’m not being cavalier about it – just realistic.

As a guy in the above KENS5 TV story put it:

“‘I’m asked very often, is this an illegal practice?’ said Edgar Dworsky of ConsumerWorld.org.  ‘It isn’t.  They comply with the law.  They put the net count or the net weight right on the package.’” 

So, shrinkflation isn’t illegal.

I guess all we can do is do what we can do to deal with shrinkflation.

Well, perhaps there is one more thing:

Go on social media and gripe about it.  Post pictures and comments like the Reddit examples above.  It may not change anything, but you might feel better for it.

I just did, with this post.

And I do feel better for it!

I Know Our Country Is Divided, But There ARE Things We Have In Common – And That’s…

It’s no news that our country is extremely divided.  We often hear, read and see evidence of that, like this June 25, 2022 article:

So on this Independence Day holiday, let’s take a break from all that.

Let’s take a journey across the U.S. to celebrate that for all our divisiveness, our 50 states still have a lot in common.

Like…officials.

I’m not referring to officials, as in politicians. 

I’m referring to something useful.  Interesting.  Straightforward.

Like…

This guy:

Meet the big-eared bat, the official state bat of Virginia – so designated in 2005.

Virginia, and all states, have a list of “officials” – the expected ones like official state flags and state seals and state mottos.  Such as:

And all states have unexpected officials, as I’ve now discovered.

Like Nebraska – it has an official state drink:

Officially designated in 1998, Kool-Aid was developed in 1927 by Edwin Perkins and his wife Kitty of Hastings, NE.  The original Kool-Aid had six flavors, but today you can slurp up dozens, including sugar-free.

And Alabama?  Check out their official state crustacean:

This became official in 2015, and it’s OK if you call brown shrimp by its other names:  brownies, green lake shrimp, redtail shrimp, golden shrimp, native shrimp, and summer shrimp.

And how about Idaho?  No surprise here:  an official state vegetable:

And a museum to go with it.  The potato became the official State Vegetable in 2002, and the museum pre-dates that – it opened in 1988, and is in Blackfoot, ID.

Now, you may have noticed I’ve used the word official a number of times.  But how does something become an official something?

State legislatures and the governor declare them so.

And it’s not just a bunch of politicians standing around one morning before the session starts, saying, “Hey – we don’t have a state pickle!  Let’s get one!”

There’s a process involved.

Sometimes the process is started by residents who could benefit from having their item designated official.  You don’t think the idea for a state vegetable in Idaho just came out of nowhere, right? 

Or, the request might come from schoolkids, perhaps as a class project to show how government works – all those committees and subcommittees and meetings and…

Or how the government doesn’t work.

Or maybe that official idea comes from you, because you think your state has a lack and you aim to fill it.  If Alabama has an official state crustacean, shouldn’t New Mexico, too?

Whoever the citizens are and whatever their motives, they must contact their state representatives to make a request for a bill.  If the representative has the time and inclination and agrees, they’ll draft a bill and introduce it.

The bill winds through the state’s legislative process and if both houses approve the bill, it’s sent to the governor for signing – and she/he can veto all or part of the request.  (“An official state pickle?  Seriously?”)

If the governor eventually signs, then the bill is enacted, and that entity is proclaimed a new state symbol.

You may be wondering – as I am – don’t state politicians have better things to do than debating their state’s official dance? 

They do, but they’d rather discuss the Square Dance vs. the Funky Chicken.

And considering our current state of politics…perhaps that’s best.

Back to what our 50 states have in common.

According to the July/August 2022 issue of Food Network magazine, people in all 50 states have a “food specialty”:

The article didn’t specify Bowl of Red What, and considering that it’s Texas, perhaps that, too, is best.

Here’s the list from the magazine of all state food specialties, in case you were wondering about your state:

Another commonality among our 50 states?

All states have weird landmarks, according to this article:

In Virginia, for example, we’ll find Foamhenge:

This landmark is a life-size, styrofoam replica of England’s Stonehenge with 14-foot-tall foam-stone pillars, built in 2004.

And, according to this article:

Every state has an obscure fact. 

Such as:  In 1986, Delaware became the home of the annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin Competition, the sport of hurling or “chucking” a pumpkin by mechanical means for distance.  The devices used include slingshots, catapults, centrifugals, trebuchets and pneumatic (air) cannons.

Alas, in 2016 injuries and lawsuits resulted in a suspension of the competition, so if you’re looking for a nice, gently used trebuchet like this one:

Just head on over to Delaware.

No what-do-our-states-have-in-common list would be comprehensive without mentioning that all 50 states have some weird laws – at the state, county and city level.  This recent article was helpful:

From this and other articles, I’ll pick three states – how about Connecticut, West Virginia and California?

Connecticut:

A pickle must be able to bounce.  Well, that’s at least one of the tests used to determine whether or not a pickle is legally fit for human consumption.  Pickles dropped one foot should bounce, according to the Connecticut Food & Drug Commission.

West Virginia:

If you see roadkill in West Virginia, it’s completely legal to take it home and cook it for supper.  The state law says that wildlife “killed or mortally wounded as a result of being accidentally or inadvertently struck by a motor vehicle” is fair game (get it?).  If you’re in need of recipes, Jeff Eberbaugh’s Gourmet Style Road Kill Cooking (pictured) was a runaway success in West Virginia when it was published in 1991.

California:

Because my home, California, is the state with the highest population, and perhaps the greatest amount of weirdness, I figured it deserved recognition for three laws, not just one:

  1. It’s illegal to walk a camel down Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs between the hours of 4pm and 6pm.
  2. In Los Angeles, you’re not allowed to wash your neighbor’s car without their permission.
  3. In Arcadia, peacocks have the right of way in all driveways and roadways:

Our journey is coming to an end, and I’m getting hungry after all this research.

So to complete our list, how about…

A Best Sandwich!

And the July/August 2022 issue of Reader’s Digest just happened to provide, as the magazine put it, “the 50 greatest ways to fill two slices of bread (or just one, or a bun, or a biscuit…).”

I’d barely turned to the first page and I was already salivating: 

All 50 sandwiches looked/sounded so good, I came darn close to gnawing on the magazine.

And as far as that official pickle, even with all my research, I found no state with this…yet.  

But eating pickles is something else our states have in common – Americans consume about 20 billion pickles every year.  We celebrate National Pickle Day on November 14; a number of states have Pickle Festivals; and no Pickle Festival would be complete without a… Pickle Queen!

1952, Mount Olive, NC.

This has been a fun journey, discovering that our 50 states have so much in common.

And all this called to mind the lyrics of a song from the musical Gypsy:

We have so much in common
It’s a phenomenon.
We could pool our resources
By joining forces from now on.

“…joining forces from now on.”

Now, wouldn’t that be…

To Update The Old Saying, In This Case…

(If you read this and start thinking, “This only affects San Diego,” think again.  This involves your federal tax dollars.)

If you haven’t been to San Diego, chances are you’re still familiar with this local icon, the Hotel Del Coronado:

Located right on the beach, Hotel Del opened in 1888 and has been the setting for many movies including the wildly popular 1959 Some Like It Hot, starring (below, left to right) Tony Curtis, Jack Lemon and Marilyn Monroe:

Hotel Del is a popular place for visitors both for the hotel and the beautiful beach.  You are cordially invited to visit Hotel Del.

But alas, lately – not it’s beach:

Here’s why:

In fact, beaches from Coronado south to the Mexican border were closed due to sewage contamination– see the red dots:

And unfortunately, this is not a one-time-only event.

It’s routine.

2021:

2020:

2019:

2018:

I could go back further, but you get the idea.

Raw sewage from Tijuana moves north through the Tijuana River Valley across the U.S./Mexico border and empties into the Pacific Ocean. Currents carry the sewage north, closing beaches along the way:

This is a big problem, and not just for the San Diego area:

This is a local problem:  San Diego is a top U.S. travel destination, and visitors spend more than $11 billion here annually.  Our beaches are big part of the attraction…

…but if visitors can’t enjoy the ocean, they’ll spend their money elsewhere.  This impacts every local business, from restaurants and hotels to gas stations and surfboard rentals – both the owners and the employees.

This is a health problem:  For people and the environment:  In a 2020 60 Minutes story, an interviewee cited for Leslie Stahl some of the contaminants in Tijuana sewage: 

“…fecal coliforms, drug-resistant bacteria, benzene, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium medical waste, and DDT, which has been banned for years in the United States.”

This toxic cocktail is combined with assorted trash including plastic and tires, dead animals and sometimes a dead human:

All this is pouring into the Pacific Ocean.  But it’s not just swimmers and surfers and birds and other wildlife who can be harmed. 

Let’s say you live in Ohio, and you’re treating yourself to a dinner at a nice restaurant.  You order the grilled tuna, flown in fresh this morning from the West Coast:

This is also a national problem:  Millions of your federal tax dollars have been spent trying to fix the Tijuana sewage problem, much of it coming from the Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s not fixed, and this is still happening:

What, exactly is the cause of this problem?

What I learned from my research is that there’s no “exactly,” because it’s a combination of factors: 

Too many people in Tijuana overloading an inadequate sewage system. 

Promises made, like this one from 2018:

And promises broken.

As for the money spent – there’s been a lot of that, but obviously to little effect.

Like this state funding in 2017:

And upcoming federal tax dollars:

Here are just a few more examples of federal tax dollars spent on the Tijuana sewage problem:

1995:  $157 million from IBWC (International Boundary and Water Commission)
1997:  $239 million from EPA
1998:  $42 million from EPA
2011:  $93 million from EPA

The money keeps flowing.

And so does the sewage and the contamination.

In mid-June, just as the tourist season had gotten underway, that contamination closed beaches from Coronado, location of Hotel Del, south to the Silver Strand and down to Imperial Beach:

And it looks like the problem is worse than anyone realized, according to this “new testing”:

“Beach closures that were once thought of as largely a wintertime occurrence now appear poised to become a year-round phenomena in San Diego’s South Bay.”

“It’s because the ocean is more polluted than previously thought.  A spate of recently shuttered shorelines followed a May 5 rollout of a new DNA-based water-quality testing system nearly a decade in the making.”

So, better testing = more beach closures.

The article continues:

“For years, environmental regulators thought sewage pouring over the border from Mexico was largely the result of heavy winter rains that flushed polluted runoff and wastewater through the Tijuana River channel into the estuary in Imperial Beach.”

“However, recent studies out of UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Stanford University have identified a defunct wastewater facility in Tijuana as a major source of the pollution.  San Antonio de los Buenos sewage treatment plant at Punta Bandera is estimated to be dumping as much as 35 million gallons of raw sewage a day into the Pacific Ocean.”

Here’s another map, this one indicating the San Antonio de los Buenos sewage treatment plant:

Let’s stop and think about this:

“As much as 35 million gallons of raw sewage a day into the Pacific Ocean.”

How much raw sewage is that, per day?

Picture an Olympic-size swimming pool:

The pool is 164 feet long, 82 feet wide, and 6 feet deep. 

It holds about 660,000 gallons.

Now think about 53 Olympic-size pools full of shit and trash and the occasional dead body being poured into the Pacific Ocean…

Every day.

Sickening, isn’t it?

And it makes people sick – again, from the June 14, 2022 Union-Tribune:

“The [beach] closures are necessary to protect beachgoers from dangerously high levels of bacteria and viruses, according to county public health officials.  Swimmers who ignore the restrictions could be at risk of diarrhea, fever, respiratory disease, meningitis and even paralysis.”

Going back to the map, above –

“When ocean currents move northward, referred to as a ‘south swell,’ they can carry plumes of feces and other pollution as far north as Coronado.  Such conditions are prevalent in the spring and summer, according to health officials.”

So why doesn’t Mexico get their shit – literally – together and fix the problem?

Because they don’t have to.

Sewage from Tijuana is flowing out of the city so their problem is solved.  If their system causes problems in another country – the U.S. – that’s not Mexico’s problem.

And what’s the U.S. going to do? 

Declare war on Mexico? 

So:  Will this $630 million from the EPA fix the problem?

If so, it won’t be anytime soon:

I’d say “moves forward” is way overstating the progress, when all the EPA is doing at this point is asking for public comments.

As though the public hasn’t been commenting about Tijuana sewage problems since the 1930s, according to this article:

“Water pollution has been an ongoing concern on this side of the border since at least 1934 [almost 90 years ago], when the International Boundary Commission was instructed by the U.S. and Mexico governments to cooperate in sewage mitigation.”

The public comment period is “now open and will end on August 1, 2022” according to the EPA website:

And then, says the June 17 KPBS article:

“Once public input has been incorporated, officials will select an option with an eye toward starting the design process in the fall.”

Here are the three options the EPA is considering, with my public comments:

In addition, I’ll offer some great comments from the June 19 San Diego Union-Tribune:

I love the word claptrap:  “absurd or nonsensical talk or ideas.”

“Bummer Summer” indeed.

Now, that’s an idea I can get behind.

Update:  The beaches from Coronado south to Imperial Beach finally reopened on June 21:

That’s the good news.

The bad news?

Officials “hope” this EPA $630 million plan “can be completed by 2030.”

Until then, this will keep happening:

A plume of sewage empties into the Pacific Ocean and flows north from the city of Tijuana, upper left.

And so will this:

Update: Well, the beaches were reopened.

Until this, from the June 30 San Diego Union-Tribune:

I’m Concerned This Might Put Political Satirists…

The phrase “political satire” has been around for a long time.

What is political satire?  Here’s a good description:

“Political satire is a humorous, ironic, or sarcastic examination of the political arena in an attempt to expose absurdity and hypocrisy.  A combination of humor and political analysis, political satire can skew more toward bringing laughs or toward activism, depending on the content and the intent of the satirist.

“There are many different forms of political satire, including prose, editorial cartoons, and fake news.  A controversial issue, satire with a political bent may be viewed as anything from mere folly to unpatriotic or even rebellious behavior in some parts of the world.”

And as for my saying political satire has been around for a long time, some sources point back to the days of Aristophanes (c. 466 BC- c. 386 BC) in ancient Athens:

Aristophanes is also known as the “Father of Comedy,” as the inscription on the above image’s pedestal clearly states.

Since then, wherever politicians have existed, people have been satirizing them.  First with prose, then cartoons were added, like this example from 19th-century France, poking fun at King Louis XVIII, nicknamed here as “Old Bumblehead”:

These days we can also watch political satire, like Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”:

While closer to (my) home, San Diego Union-Tribune political cartoonist Steve Breen hits them out of the park on a regular basis:

But now, I’m concerned that our current political satirists could be put out of work.

Because these days, I’m seeing politicians actively satirizing themselves

And doing it so well…

That our political satirists may have to consider a different career direction.

Take this recent headline:

Representative Mary Miller, R-IL…

…was at a Trump rally and, referring to the Roe vs. Wade decision said,

“President Trump, on behalf of all the MAGA patriots in America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.”

Don’t hold back, Mary.  Tell us how you really feel.

No political satirist could have would have imagined this.

Next recent example:

Rhode Island Democratic state senate candidate Jennifer Rourke…

…was at an abortion rights rally at the State House in Providence “when my Republican opponent Jeann Lugo punched me multiple times in the face.”

Don’t hold back, Jeann.  Show us how you really feel.

No political satirist would dare to even hint at such a thing.

And why would they, when the politicians are doing the satirizing of themselves – for themselves?

But here’s the best of the recent self-satirizing stories, and no surprise, it’s…

The short clip was shared by filmmaker Alex Holder, whose documentary Unprecedented

…a three-part film about the final months of the Trump presidency, is slated to be released this summer and has been bought by Discovery Plus.

In the “bizarre clip” – filmed at “The White House, December 5, 2020” – Trump enters the set, seats himself, and looks up, fixated on the image of himself on a monitor.

At :13 seconds into the video Trump – known for his modesty – exclaims, “Beautiful!”

Trump remains mostly fixated on the monitor, and here’s what follows:

:19 I don’t think you want to have the water in the picture, right?

:21 You can take it (gestures).
:24 Yeah, put it over there, Nick.
:29 Yeah, might as well take the table (referring to the table that had held the water glass; someone briefly on camera removes both).

:32 Good, very good, thank you.

(And then, one second later:)

:33 You know what you can do, Nick?  Put the table back cause it’s missing something.  Put the table back and put the water on the table without the thing on top of it.

(Table returned, napkin returned, water glass returned “without the thing on top of it.”)

:50 OK… (Trump adjusting table and water glass) How does that look?  (Lifts glass off napkin).
:58 Go ahead, take it out (Trump pushes away napkin).

1:01 Yeah.  All right. (Trump makes more adjustments to water glass position.)

1:05 Right?  Let’s go.

At 1:11 the video clip ends.

No wonder Holder’s documentary has three parts – it took most of Part 1 to get rid of the water glass, and table, then return the water glass, and table, and…etc.

NO political satirist could EVER have made up Trump’s behavior in this video.

Because no political satirist – no sane person, period – could be so obsessive, so narcissistic, and so stupid.

So Trump, Trump Jr, Ivanka and Eric all agreed to participate in a lengthy documentary about themselves – no surprise there.

But apparently this came as a surprise:

“The Jan. 6 committee has subpoenaed documentary filmmaker Alex Holder in regard to footage and interviews Holder and his team shot while following former President Donald Trump and his inner circle throughout the 2020 presidential campaign.

“Holder’s company, AJH Films, confirmed to Rolling Stone on Tuesday that he has been subpoenaed, will sit for an interview with the panel on Thursday, and has ‘fully complied with all of the committee’s requests.’”

And I think that is…

Important Conversation Starter – Or Cheap Publicity Stunt?  What Do You Think?

Back in May I did a post where I started out by talking about Spain’s government considering a bill allowing women to take days off work if they are diagnosed by a doctor with severe menstrual pain, with the government footing the bill.

If this happens, Spain would be the first Western European country to support what’s called “menstrual leave.”  But Spain wouldn’t be the first country – a half-dozen other countries have menstrual leave.

None of which, of course, is the U.S.

There are pros and cons around menstrual leave, but as I was researching and writing that post, my attitude was in favor of anything that destigmatized menstruation.

Destigmatize:  To remove associations of shame or disgrace from.

In favor anything that would lessen, and someday eliminate, period shaming.

Period shaming:  A consequence of the social construction of menstruation as an undesirable bodily event 

Shaming by men, shaming by other women, shaming by ourselves.

Anything, I thought.

And I meant it

Until I saw this:

And this:

It’s a breakfast cereal.

The cereal creator is INTIMINA:

And INTIMINA’s website says the company is:

“…a Swedish brand that offers the first and only range of products dedicated exclusively to all aspects of women’s intimate health.  Our mission is to provide a comprehensive collection of products and information for women at every stage of life, from the first menstruation to beyond menopause.”

Here’s their Period Crunch announcement:

So, “INTIMINA Brings Period On The Kitchen Table…”

But INTIMINA does not bring Period Crunch to the kitchen table.

As I learned from reading various articles including this Australian publication:

Period Crunch is not available to buy at your grocery store.

Or online.

Or on the black market.

Or anywhere.

You can, however, send an email “to register your interest in receiving a box of Period Crunch.”

Which I did – more to come on that.

Period Crunch – as I learned from assorted websites – is wheat-based, and “colored with freeze-dried raspberry powder which gives it a fruity flavor.”

And dyes the milk “a distinctive red.”

The box includes conversation starters, and a diagram of the female reproductive system for people to identify where the uterus is located because, says the INTIMINA announcement:

“This follows research from INTIMINA that reveals 82% of people cannot correctly identify where the uterus is.”

I find that 82% hard to believe, unless the only people surveyed were men.

Anyone with a uterus who’s experienced menstrual pain – sometime excruciating, debilitating pain – knows exactly where in the body that pain is coming from…

Month after month, year in and year out.

And to emphasize INTIMINA’s point – in case you haven’t picked up on this:

“Every piece of the statement-making cereal resembles a uterus and has been released by INTIMINA as part of our campaign to encourage more dialogue about menstrual health.”

Here’s a close-up of pieces of Period Crunch side-by-side with an illustration of a human uterus:

It appears that the Period Crunch cereal pieces include some other organs besides the uterus, but I won’t quibble.

What there are no images of – from INTIMINA or elsewhere – is the cereal in a bowl with milk dyed “a distinctive red.”

I won’t quibble with that, either.

Here’s my quibble:

I know I said I was in favor of anything

But this is not it.

Because – predictably – there’s been a negative response.

Here’s a sampling from Facebook:

Here’s a sampling from Instagram:

Here’s a sampling from YouTube:

All these YouTube videos were recorded by men.

Every video is negative, with comments including “disgusting,” “make womb for breakfast” and “Rather have some Painful Rectal Itch cereal.”

These videos have gotten thousands of views.

These social media platforms do nothing to – as the INTIMINA announcement suggests:

“… increase the visibility of menstrual wellbeing across the world, normalize conversations about menstrual health, tackle stigma and bias, and raise awareness of intimate health conditions.”

Instead, these videos and posts and a number of the online articles I read contribute to the negativity around periods, and having conversations about them.

So – will I be receiving a box of that uterus-shaped, wheat-based, colored-with-freeze-dried-raspberry-powder-which-gives-it-a-fruity-flavor-and-turns-the-milk-red cereal?

INTIMINA’s emailed response said, in part:

“Thank you so much for your interest in receiving a box of Period Crunch!  A limited number of boxes have been created and due to such a high demand, we no longer have any boxes left.  However, if any become available, we will be sure to let you know. 

“We have been overwhelmed with such a positive response with requests coming in from all over the world and are thrilled with the excitement that has been created around Period Crunch.” 

First:  I’m sure INTIMINA “no longer has any boxes left.”

And that’s because there were no boxes to start with.  The cereal box and bits could be easily created with graphic design software. 

And – though I said I wouldn’t quibble about this – why, pray tell, isn’t the milk turning red in this image?

Second:  I’m sure INTIMINA will let me know “if any become available.” 

In the meantime, where all those fortunate people who created that “high demand” and did indeed receive a box of Period Crunch?  Where are their online comments?  Where are the pictures of them slurping up cereal and smiling with delight?

Third:  I’m sure INTIMINA is “thrilled.”

Thrilled – because INTIMINA got national and international attention, which no doubt led more visitors to their website, and no doubt led to more sales of their “range of products dedicated exclusively to all aspects of women’s intimate health.”

Products, which appear to be priced from around $11 to well over $100.

Thrilled – because their cheap publicity stunt worked.

And that’s what get my vote:

Is This Crazy?  Is It Absurd?  Is It – Perhaps – Machiavellian?

There’s nothing funny about an STD – sexually transmitted disease.

And there’s nothing funny about HPV – human papillomavirus, which is an STD.

So this recent news story isn’t funny.

What I’m grappling with is…is this crazy?

Absurd?

Or perhaps…

Machiavellian?

Here’s the story:

I’ve read many articles about this, and discovered that each contained pieces of information that the others didn’t.  Here’s what I’ve put together:

Missouri, 2017.

A woman and man have unprotected sex in his car.

In court documents she’ll be identified as “M.O.” and he as “M.B.”

M.B. is variously described as M.O.’s “then-romantic partner,” “then-significant other” and “then-beau.”

At some point, it appears the relationship ended.

In 2018 M.O. learned she had HPV – human papillomavirus.

Apparently M.O. believed that she’d contracted HPV from that encounter with that man – M.B. – in his car in 2017.

The man’s auto insurance carrier was GEICO.

You probably know GEICO from all their ads starring the GEICO gecko:

According to this article:

I learned that:

“She says the man was negligent and didn’t tell her about his health diagnosis, despite having a throat cancer tumor that was confirmed to be positive for HPV.”

She contacted GEICO.

According to the CNN article:

“In February 2021, the woman – anonymously identified in documents as M.O. – submitted a petition to GEICO directly.  She alleged that her sexual partner negligently caused or ‘contributed to cause to be infected with HPV by not taking proper precautions and neglecting to inform and/or disclose his diagnosis,’ according to court documents, and that his ‘insurance policy provided coverage for her injuries and losses.’

“She made a final settlement offer of $1 million to resolve her claims, the documents say.”

I find it curious – one of many things about this story I’ll find curious – that the woman apparently wasn’t directly suing the man she believes gave her HPV, but rather his auto insurance company.

Curious, because there’s a plethora of law firms out there who are ready, willing and eager to take on your case against the person who infected you an STD, like this law firm:

Is it possible that M.O. decide to sue GEICO because of their deep pockets, which, according to a May 2022 article I found:

“GEICO revenue in Q1 was $9.554 billion, up from $8.923 billion in 2021 Q1, according to Berkshire’s 10-Q.”

Are deep pockets, indeed.

That “Berkshire’s”?

Think Berkshire Hathaway.

Think Warren Buffet.

According to this article:

“Warren Buffett has owned shares of Geico stock since 1951, and Geico became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway in 1996.”

Deeper than deep pockets.

Another curiosity for me:  None of the articles mention the fact that even as the man was having unprotected sex with her, she was having unprotected sex with him.

Where is her responsibility here?

None of the articles explained why, after the HPV diagnosis in 2018, M.O. waited until February 2021 to contact GEICO.

Yes, one article said:

“At a gynecology exam about a year after the relationship began, the woman was diagnosed with HPV, according to court records.”

So that brings us to 2018 – why the lag time between 2018 and February 2021?

And…was the car the only place M.O. and M.B. had sex?  No bedroom sex, no balcony sex, no sex anywhere else where she could have been infected?

Was M.B. the only sexual partner she had after that encounter in the car – no other sexual partners between 2017 and contacting GEICO in 2021?

None of the articles say.

So M.O. contacts GEICO and, according to this article:

“The insurance company refused the settlement offer, saying the woman’s claim did not occur because of normal use of the vehicle, according to court documents.”

Actually, people have been having sex in cars since cars were invented.  Perhaps GEICO should have said “because of intended use of the vehicle”?

Either way, her request for $1 million was denied by GEICO.

After that, all the articles agree, M.O. and M.B. went into arbitration.

But none of the articles I read detailed what was being arbitrated here.  Was the guy – M.B. – disputing that he and M.O. had sex?  Had sex in his car?  That he gave M.O. the infection?  That his auto insurance carrier should pay her?

Don’t know.

But we know what the arbitrator decided.

The Associated Press article says:

“An arbitrator eventually determined she should be awarded $5.2 million for damages and her injuries.  She then filed a motion in Jackson County Court seeking to confirm the award.”

“GEICO claimed it did not know the man and woman had entered into arbitration and, when it found out, it sought to intervene in the court case.  The company argued the arbitration award was reached through collusion and fraud, violated its rights to due process and was unenforceable.”

Is it possible…just possible…that there was collusion between M.O. and M.B., figuring they’d get a cool $1 million from GEICO and share the spoils?

Don’t know.

This, from the NPR article:

“…in April of 2021, GEICO sued both M.O. and M.B. in federal court, asking the court to rule that the insurance company isn’t liable for the woman being infected with HPV, and that it doesn’t have a duty to defend the man from her claims against him.

“GEICO says the car owner’s claims for coverage should be dismissed because they’re barred by a number of legal doctrines, including ‘fraud, collusion, illegality, laches, and unclean hands.’”

What the heck are “laches”?

“A doctrine in equity that those who delay too long in asserting an equitable right will not be entitled to bring an action.”

And “unclean hands”?

“A legal doctrine which is a defense to a complaint, which states that a party who is asking for a judgment cannot have the help of the court if he/she has done anything unethical in relation to the subject of the lawsuit.  Thus, if a defendant can show the plaintiff had ‘unclean hands,’ the plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed or the plaintiff will be denied judgment.”

Looks like GEICO was pulling out all the stops.

Which brings us up to June 7:

“The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a $5.2 million judgment on Tuesday involving a Jackson County, MO woman who said she unknowingly caught HPV, the human papillomavirus, during unprotected sex in the luxury sedan of a former male romantic partner in 2017.”

I have to pause here and wonder – what the hell does the car being a “luxury sedan” have to do with anything? 

Is M.O. supposed to be mollified because she was allegedly infected with HPV in, as the Washington Post went on to put it:

“…2014 Hyundai Genesis – a luxury sedan that Kelley Blue Book raved ‘leaves very little to criticize.’”

And the NPR story was just as bad – their headline included an image that was similar to the car allegedly used, as though the make and model of the car have anything to do with anything:

Early on I was speculating about this story being absurd, and this part of the reporting certainly is.

So the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the judgment against GEICO.

Now this, from the Kansas City Star:

“In a related federal court case, GEICO is contesting the idea that the claim is covered under its insurance policy.  The outcome of that case would determine whether the company has to actually pay the settlement.

“Correction:  An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that the decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals meant insurance company GEICO must pay the judgment claim.  The insurance company is still contesting the decision in federal court, arguing that the claim is not covered under the policy.”

The NPR article noted:

“The federal case is set for a jury trial, which is currently slated to begin in a Kansas City courtroom in October.  Since GEICO filed its federal suit more than a year ago, well over 100 docket entries have been made.”

So:  

M.O. is unhappy.  She has HPV and no money yet from GEICO.

M.B. is unhappy.  He has HPV and HPV-caused cancer.

GEICO is unhappy.  This pesky thing isn’t going to be resolved for months.

Guess who is happy about all this?

The lawyers.

Crazy?

Absurd?

Machiavellian?

I’m going back to my noting that M.O. apparently isn’t suing the guy she claims infected her with HPV – but rather his auto insurance company.  If the federal court finds in favor of M.O., then…

If person A goes to the home of person B, and they have sex, and A is infected with an STD, does A sue B’s homeowner’s insurance company?

If persons C and D have bathroom sex on an airplane and one of them is infected with an STD, does that person sue the airline?

If persons E and F have sex under the stars in Yosemite National Park and one of them is infected with an STD, does that person sue the National Park Service?

I know that my questioning of M.O.’s story and motives will anger some people.  That questioning any woman’s story and motives is deemed unsupportive of women, and worse – can have a negative impact on all women, as suggested by many following the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp recent court case:

But…there’s just something troubling me about M.O. suing a deep-pocketed insurance company rather than suing M.B., the alleged source of her HPV.

And waiting so long to do it.

I’m closing this with more questions than I had when I started.

Trump Wants “Equal Time” And I Want Him To Have It:

For the first time EVER, I agree with Donald Trump.

I want him to have “equal time.”

Equal time with Al Capone:

In October 1931, gangster Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion.  

Equal time with Harvey Weinstein:

In March 2020, movie producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes against women.

Equal time with Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (“the blind sheikh”):

In October 1995, Abdel-Rahman was convicted of seditious conspiracy and sentenced to life in solitary confinement.  He died in federal prison in 2017.

Yes, I want Trump to have equal time:

11 years in prison.
23 years in prison.
Life in prison.

Served consecutively.

Father’s Day:  A Brief But Heartfelt Tribute

Father’s Day is Sunday, June 19, and I use this opportunity to take special note of a family member who’s the father of two, and a man who’s clearly interested in being a good role model for his children:

Doesn’t this image just warm your heart?

Father and sons together, bonding, sharing the fun of killing.

With a gun.

Or perhaps it was “guns” – I expect by this age, Dad has bought his boys their own guns.

That’s what a loving father does, right?

I can envision the three of them together, moving quietly and carefully through the woods on a crisp fall day – and then…

Spotting their prey!

Dad shouts, “Kill it!  Hurry up!  Kill it!”

And one son, or the other, or maybe both, take aim and shoot and kill.

Dad is proud.

The boys are proud.

And America’s love affair with guns
Is passed from a father to his sons.

Welcome To The Emperor’s New Clothes, 21st-Century Style

(I’m using the words “con man” as an all-purpose term instead of specifying “con woman” or “con person” or “con whatever.”)

The Emperor’s New Clothes, an 1837 folktale by Hans Christian Anderson, is in part a story that’s been around as long as humans have:

The con man.

And the phrase “Emperor’s New Clothes” has, according to scholars, become “a standard metaphor for anything that smacks of pretentiousness, pomposity, social hypocrisy, collective denial, or hollow ostentatiousness.”

Read on to see why I’ve referenced it.

*****

If you were among the nearly 40,000 victims of con man Bernie Madoff who were swindled out of billions of dollars, you were feeling some sense of relief back in 2009 when he was convicted and sentenced to 150 years in prison:

If you’re someone who’s been conned in this scam:

You’re hurt and angry, and you’ve got plenty of company:

“A shocking number of Americans will spend Valentine’s Day not only broken-hearted – but dead broke – after being swindled by digital-dating deceivers.

“The lovelorn were grifted out of $547 million by dating-app scammers last year, a shocking 78% increase over the previous record $307 million in losses in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

“The number of reported cases climbed from 33,000 to 56,000, or 70%, over the same year.”

Oh, sure – there are lovable con men, like these guys…

But that was a movie, and nobody actually got stung.

Here – in my opinion – is another real-life, contemporary con man.  He’s been conning people, and some are falling for his bullshit.  Some have even bought his bullshit “art.”

He was making plenty of headlines a year ago, though I learned about him only recently:

Meet Salvatore Garau, born in 1953, from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.  According to this website:

“Salvatore Garau’s work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $34 to $26,636, depending on the size and medium of the artwork.”

Here’s a sampling of what I assume is Garau’s work, from his Facebook page:

Or…maybe they go this way?

Or…maybe it doesn’t matter?

Garau’s been around for awhile, creating his works and occasionally selling them.

And – again, from his Facebook page – he occasionally makes headlines:

The headline translates to, “Today’s altarpieces Garau’s gaze towards the sky.”

It maybe lost something in the translation.

So Garau is selling some artwork, and making some headlines.  Seems like an OK life for an artist, sì?

Maybe, but in 2021 it will…

Diventare molto meglio!

Become much better!

Let’s go back to those headlines from a year ago.  There were plenty of them, national and international, like this one:

I’m quoting directly from the article because it’ so absurd that even I – who loves the absurd – could not make this up:

“…artist Salvatore Garau sold an ‘immaterial sculpture’ – which is to say that it doesn’t exist.

“To be fair, the artist might disagree on conceptual grounds.  For Garau, the artwork, titled Lo Sono (which translates to ‘I am’), finds form in its own nothingness.  ‘The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight,’ he told the Spanish news outlet Diario AS.  ‘Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.’

“Lo Sono went up for sale in May at the Italian auction house Art-Rite.  The pre-sale estimate valued the piece between €6,000-9,000, according to AS, but competing bidders pushed the price tag to €15,000.”

“Competing bidders.”

It wasn’t just one idiot – multiple idiots were competing to buy nothing.

And one of those idiots paid €15,000 – $18,300 – for it.

“The lucky buyer went home with a certificate of authenticity and a set of instructions:  the work, per Garau, must be exhibited in a private house in a roughly five-by-five-foot space free of obstruction.”

I can’t show you a picture of Lo Sono – nor can anyone else – but I can show you an image from the “Italian auction house Art-Rite” showing the sale of another of Garau’s…um…whatevers:

The name of this…um…whatever is Davanti a te, or In Front of You.  The website notes:

Intangible sculpture to be placed in a place free of encumbrances
Variable dimensions, 200 x 200 cm circa
Work accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the artist

Selling price:  $28,887.

Another idiot!

Has Garau got a con going?

Can you doubt it?

He created nothing – twice – and was paid more than $47,000 for it.

Incurring practically no costs to himself at all:  for art supplies, for crating and shipping and insuring artwork, for publicity. 

Would you like to not see more of his…um…whatevers?

Here’s Buddha in Contemplazione, meaning Buddha in Contemplation, installed in February 2021 at the Piazza Della Scala in Milan:

Cost to artist:  One roll of white tape from Lowe’s, $4.78.

Of Buddha, Garau said,

“Now it exists and will remain in this space forever.  You do not see it but it exists.  It is made of air and spirit.”

Uh-huh.

And again from 2021, here’s Afrodite Piange or Aphrodite Crying in New York, a few steps from Wall Street:

Cost to artist:  One hula hoop from Target, $6

Of Aphrodite Garau said,

“You don’t see me but I exist, right above this white round shape.
“I am Aphrodite, an intangible sculpture made of air and spirit.
“Still don’t see me?  And yet I am here, in front of you.
“And I cry because I am beauty and love which is disappearing.”

Stronzo!

And not only are idiots throwing money at Garau, the Italian Cultural Institute in New York…

…bought into this nonsense!  Their website says (I’m assuming from 2021):

“From Saturday, May 29, therefore, the digital platform ‘Stanze italiane’ of the Italian Cultural Institute of New York – which represents a new way to show Italy as a country going beyond traditional styles and open to the new, the unprecedented, the unexpected – will offer a preview of the video documenting the positioning in New York of the new immaterial sculpture by Salvatore Garau Afrodite Piange:  a white circle with a red dot at its center, on the notes of an intense soundtrack that is almost endowed with a co-protagonist role, featuring Anna Tifu’s violin, Andrea Cutri’s guitar and the drums played by Garau himself, a member of Stormy Six in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Gosh, I overlooked the cost to the artist of that “red dot”:  ½¢ also from Target.

An article dated May 2021 said that Aphrodite Crying is “the third in a cycle of seven ‘immaterial’ works that will be installed in as many cities around the world.”

I’ve been unable to find any information that indicates Garau has graced our lives with any further installations.

In fact, I’ve been unable to find anything online about Garau beyond that flurry of interest in spring/summer 2021.

Perhaps Garau – like his “art” – has become invisible.

Or “intangible,” as in his Aphrodite Crying:  “an intangible…made of air and spirit.”

And perhaps that’s just as well, because Garau is being sued:

“A Gainesville artist who created an invisible sculpture is suing an Italian artist for profiting off his idea.”

“Tom Miller, a multidisciplinary performance artist, installed his sculpture called Nothing at Bo Diddley Plaza in 2016.”

Tom Miller at Bo Diddley Plaza, with his invisible sculpture. Or, maybe not.

“Now, he said an Italian artist is trying to sell a different ‘nothing’ for $18,000.

“‘The space in our world is legitimate to work with as an artistic product.  So the idea is fashioning nothing into a sculpture, and that’s what the lawsuit is all about,’ said Miller.”

If Miller wins his lawsuit, I wonder if Garau will pay him with…

Invisible money?

My takeaway?

I am sincerely sorry for many of the nearly 40,000 victims who were conned by Bernie Madoff.  Sure, some of them were just plain greedy, but many more of them were hardworking people who trusted Madoff with their life savings, and lost it.

I am sincerely sorry for the thousands of people who went looking for love in all the wrong online places, and were conned out of $547 million last year, and those who are being conned as we speak.

But I am not, and never will be, sorry for the idiots have been – and may well continue to be – taken in by Garau’s con game.

Garau personifies not only the Emperor’s New Clothes, but also an old saying from arguably the world’s greatest con man, P.T. Barnum:

Let’s Look At Some “Let’s” Headlines:

My Sunday newspaper devotes a full page entitled The (almost) Back Page to stories that may not make big headlines but nonetheless may be interesting. 

Now and then some of the stories make me curious enough to learn more, like a recent Sunday’s collection.

And sometimes, when I learn more, I like to share.

So…

Let’s Hand An Eight-Year-Old The Car Keys

Gastonia, NC – population around 77,000 people – is located about a half-hour east of Charlotte, NC:

TripAdvisor’s Things To Do In Gastonia, NC list includes Carothers Funeral Home at #10 out of 38, which may tell us something about Gastonia, though I’m not sure what.

Fortunately, the funeral home’s services were not required for consequences of this event:

A mother and her eight-year-old son were visiting relatives in Gastonia one evening in late May.  For reasons unexplained, Mom handed the kid her car keys and told him to go start the car.

Now, based on my observations, most parents are reluctant to hand over their car keys to kids twice that age – 16-year-olds – even when they’ve completed driver training and gotten their driver license. 

But here’s Mom, willingly handing her keys to and eight-year-old and telling him to start the car?

So he did.

And he drove away.

With his one-year-old sibling in the back seat, whom Mom had left in the car while she was visiting the relatives.

The eight-year-old drove the car two miles home, and apparently decided, “Nah, let’s keep going.”

And he did. 

In the meantime, Mom (who didn’t want to be identified) discovered the missing car and children and had called 911.  Deputies spotted the car and got the eight-year-old to stop.  They gave him a roadside sobriety test, cuffed him and read him his rights.

OK, I’m kidding about the last part. 

It should have been Mom who was cuffed and charged, and according to the WSOC-TV story, perhaps she will be:

“Police said the 8-year-old isn’t facing charges, but that his mother could be investigated by the Department of Social Services for possible neglect.”

Gosh, tell an eight-year-old to start the car?  Leave the one-year-old in the car while you’re in the relatives’ house?  What did she do with her five-year-old?

Drop her off at Cavendish Brewing Company, which is #16 on the TripAdvisor List? 

“Here’s $10, sweetie, you have a couple of brewskies while Mommy visits with Aunt Erna.”

Let’s Get Within 10 Feet Of A Bison

Ahhh…Yellowstone National Park:

So beautiful, and so many great things to do:  Hiking, biking, riding horses…

…photography, camping, picnicking, touring…

And some things not to do – including this:

Let’s talk logistics here.

Like the woman in the first story, this event also happened at the end of May and this woman is also unidentified, except as age 25 and from Ohio.

This woman was within 10 feet of the bison when she was gored and then tossed 10 feet.  She sustained a puncture would and other injuries, and park emergency medical providers responded and transported her via ambulance to a hospital in Idaho.

As of May 31, “The incident remains under investigation, and there is no additional information to share.”

Well, there is this one piece of information:

I’m sure the woman was relieved to hear this.

Let’s talk more logistics.

First, it’s not like staying away from Yellowstone’s wild animals is a big secret – signs abound throughout the park.  This one includes a picture of the very same animal the gored woman should have avoided:

Second, park regulations require visitors to “Stay more than 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes, and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves.” 

Third, why would anyone with any sense approach a bison?

For an opportunity like this?

This incident happened a few years ago. The woman taking the selfie had a child with her and, according to the National Park Service,

“They heard the bison’s footsteps moving toward them and started to run, but the bison caught the mother on the right side, lifted her up and tossed her with its head.” 

“The family said they read the warnings in both the park literature and the signage, but saw other people close to the bison, so they thought it would be OK.” 

“OK” – like handing your car keys to an eight-year-old.

Well, here’s hoping the Ohio woman will put her photo op to good use:

Let’s See If These Robots Work Better
Than Elon Musk’s Self-Driving Cars

Again, from late May.

This story isn’t about dumb people, but about what may be a dumb idea:

I read “robots” and I think this:

C-P3O from Star Wars, right?

Heck, I don’t want to wait until I’m “elderly” – I want a C-P3O right now!

But…no.

Instead, the robots look like this:

I’m pretty sure this thing isn’t going to bring me wine.

According to The Verge:

“The state of New York will distribute robot companions to the homes of more than 800 older adults.”

“The scheme is being organized by the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), and is intended to help address the growing problem of social isolation among the elderly.”

The article goes on to clarify that “growing problem”:

“An estimated 14 million Americans over the age of 65 currently live alone, and this figure is projected to increase over the next decade as the boomer generation ages.  Studies have suggested that long-term loneliness is as damaging to an individual’s health as smoking.” 

The robot, called ElliQ, was built by Israeli firm Intuition Robotics and, says this article:

“…will remind [seniors] to take their medication, help contact loved ones, book an Uber ride and even engage in small talk and crack jokes.”

That all sounds great, though I can see it possibly going south in some situations:

ElliQ:  Good morning, Sam.  How are you today?
Sam:  Oh, I’m fine.  Hey, ElliQ – knock, knock.
ElliQ:  Did you say…“Knock, knock”?
Sam:  Yeah!  It’s a joke.  I say, “Knock, knock” and you say, “Who’s there?”  OK?  So, knock, knock.

(Silence)

Sam:  ElliQ?  Knock, knock?
ElliQ:  Who’s there?
Sam:  Nobel.

(Silence)

ElliQ:  The Nobel Prize was awarded in 2015 to two researchers for the drug ivermectin.  Sam, have you taken your drugs this morning?

I’m not saying companion robots for the elderly aren’t a good idea – perhaps they are.

What I’m questioning is the New York State Office for the Aging distributing more than 800 of the robots, an investment of “$700,000 in the pilot program,” according to the New York Post

“Pilot program.”

By definition, a pilot program is “a small-scale preliminary study conducted to evaluate feasibility, duration, cost, adverse events, and improve upon the study design prior to performance of a full-scale research project.”

Distributing more than 800 ElliQ doesn’t sound “small-scale” to me.

Nor does $700,000.

For what is, after all, an experiment.

Maybe before New York spent $700,000 taxpayer dollars – state and possibly federal tax dollars – couldn’t they have experimented with giving just one or two or a half-dozen ElliQ to the elderly, to ascertain that these things actually work?

Work better than, say…Elon Musk’s self-driving Teslas?

Book Review:  I Liked Another Book!  I Really Liked It!

(I posted a book review last Friday, and normally wouldn’t do another so soon.  I guess I lost my head after reading two books so close together that I liked so much.  Unheard of!)

Publication date:  May 2022

Category:  Contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy.

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

I’ve read many book-related books:  books about book clubs, books about bookstore owners, books about book writers, books about book editors.

The lead character in Emily Henry’s Book Lovers was a first for me:  a book agent.

More correctly, a literary agent.

According to this article:

“What is a literary agent?  In short, they’re the person whose job it is to sell your book to a publisher.  Literary agents work to present great manuscripts to potential publishers, and while the agent’s primary role is to sell books and negotiate contracts, your agent can also be your motivation, your first editor, and your biggest supporter.”

Henry’s lead character, Nora Stephens, is described on the Book Lovers dust jacket as…

“…a heroine for her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent…” 

Nora, single and 32, has a sister, Libby, 28, who’s married and a mother of two with a third on the way.  Both live in New York City, and even more important – both are New Yorkers.

The sisters’ relationship is complicated, and so are they.  Their father abandoned them when Libby was still in the womb, and since then Nora has seen her role as her sister’s protector – from their loving but flaky mother, from things that go bump in the night, from the world in general.

But does Libby need Nora’s protecting?

Libby does need some time away from her overly busy life and two small daughters before the third arrives, and she convinces Nora to join her for a three-week vacation in Sunshine Falls, a small North Carolina town.  Libby chose Sunshine Falls because it was the setting for a novel she’d read and loved.

But does Libby have ulterior motives?

Nora needs a vacation, but Nora doesn’t take vacations.  Her work, and protecting Libby, are her life.  When she dates, the relationship is brief and ends badly.  When she cries – well, she doesn’t cry.  Period.

Nora hasn’t cried in 10 years.

Now let’s meet Charlie Lastra, “a bookish, brooding editor,” also from New York.  Nora considers Charlie her “professional nemesis,” and you know they’re going to mix like oil and water.  Their exchanges are snarky and entertaining.  Their attraction is growing.  But Charlie…

Is also complicated.

And Charlie – another diehard New Yorker – is, inexplicably, also in Sunshine Falls.

Will Nora and Charlie stop snarking and start kissing?  Will Libby liberate herself from Nora’s well-intentioned but overdone helicoptering? 

Will Nora cry?

And if so, why?

I didn’t like Henry’s last book, People We Meet on Vacation, and I was iffy about Book Lovers.  I’m glad I took a chance and read the book, because this time around I enjoyed the story, the writing, the characters and changes they went through.  And I enjoyed the surprises.

I liked another book.

I really liked it!

When It Comes To The Kardashians I’m…

The above image, known as Three Wise Monkeys, has long represented an old proverb:

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

I’m using the image to describe how I feel about anything Kardashian-related:

Don’t make me hear it, don’t make me see it, or it will make me vomit.

The Kardashians, about whom I know enough to know that they’re famous for being famous…

…and that’s more than I want to know.

For years I have studiously avoided everything Kardashian-related.

Until a recent article caught my eye in – of all things – the Health section of my newspaper.

Something Kardashian-related – in a newspaper’s Health section?

Dared I hope that all the Kardashians decided to be cryogenically frozen – kind of like popsicles – and be thawed out maybe…a thousand years from now?

This required investigating.

The article I read in the San Diego Union-Tribune originally appeared in the Washington Post, on May 10:

The story says that on May 2, Kim Kardashian attended the Met Gala, which goes by several names:

“The Met Gala, or Met Ball, formally called the Costume Institute Gala or the Costume Institute Benefit…”

And its purpose:

“…is an annual fundraising gala held for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City.”

Kardashian, who clearly hates having her picture taken…

…garnered plenty of attention, though much of it was not favorable, for several reasons.

Reason #1:  Kardashian was wearing a very famous – even iconic – 60-year-old gown, originally worn by Marilyn Monroe in 1962, when she attended a birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden for President John Kennedy and sang Happy Birthday to him:

The dress was designed for Monroe, and no one has worn the dress since Monroe’s 1962 appearance.  According to this article:

“Kardashian borrowed the dress from Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Orlando, not an accredited museum.  The novelty museum bought the work at auction in 2016 for $4.8 million.”

I love how the writer snarkily noted that Ripley’s is “not an accredited museum.”

Here’s the dress in Ripley’s Believe It or Not:

The artnet article continues,

“Textile conservators, including the former head of the Met’s fashion conservation department, Sarah Scarturro, blasted the socialite.”

The article linked to Scarturro’s Instagram account, where she went on at length, including this:

“‘When I was the head of the Costume Institute’s conservation lab, I had to swat off requests by people…to have irreplaceable objects in the collection be worn by models and celebrities.’”

So, huge pushback from people knowledgeable about the fragility of old textiles.

Though I can’t help but wonder how Monroe’s dress – a one-of-a-kind, worn-once, “irreplaceable object” – ended up in a tacky roadside attraction like this:

Side-by-side with stuff like Ripley’s Lizard Man?

Why weren’t Scarturro and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute front and center in 2016 when they could have been the high bidders for Monroe’s gown, instead of Ripley’s?