Book Review: Don’t Waste Your Time Or Money On This Super Stinker

book_01Publication date:  November 2018

Review, short version:  My usual limit is four out of four skunks, but I made an exception for this super stinker.

Review, long version:

When Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers came out, I didn’t need to read the reviews.

I’d enjoyed her previous seven books, and was looking forward to this one.

Early on we meet the lead narrator, Frances, and I liked her immediately.  She’s on her way to a high-end, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere health spa because her life was in Meltdown_02 croppedmeltdown.

Serious meltdown.

But that doesn’t keep Frances from being, at turns, wry, funny, wise and foolish.  She says and thinks things that are so well put I started writing them down.

For instance, she had to fill out an online questionnaire to qualify as a spa guest, and since Frances thought most of their questions were none of their business, “She cheerfully lied her way through it.”

Frances is a successful romance novelist, but she doesn’t read reviews of her books because “her skin was too thin.”  Then she reads one bad review, and “A quite extraordinary pain in her chest radiated throughout her entire body.”

I was right there with her.feet scale_01 cropped

Frances is one of those rare women who doesn’t have issues with her weight, and she gets bored with women who do:  “The recent weight losers, the thin women who called themselves fat, the average women who called themselves obese, the ones desperate for her to join in their lavish self-loathing.”

“Lavish self-loathing.”  So well put, and so true.

So I liked Frances, and I liked how Moriarty introduces us to, and gets us acquainted with, the other eight spa guests in Frances’ group – the Nine Perfect Strangers – along with spa owner Masha, and her staff.  Moriarty does such a good job of giving her multiple characters different voices and unique circumstances that I had never had one of those, “Wait – which one is this?” moments.

brick wall_08 cropped bestSo I was cruising along, really enjoying the story – especially Frances – until I ran into a brick wall on page 225, half-way through the book.

The nine guests and spa staff are together in a meditation room when the guests discover they’ve just consumed smoothies laced with LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms), courtesy of Masha.  Her goal was “heightening the senses” of the guests for their “guided psychedelic therapy.”

date rapeWHOA.  This is SO not OK.

It’s way beyond not OK, and I was furious.  My first thought was of GHB, the date-rape drug that’s also administered without the recipient’s knowledge.  My second thought:  Slipping anyone any drug without their knowledge is horrible.  And illegal.

Yet Moriarty incorporated it as a part of her storyline, and what followed were way too many pages of the various head trips each of the guests is forced to take.

The head trips are followed by Masha and the spa staff leaving, and locking the guests inwatching security cameras the room.  While they try to figure out how to escape, they’re watched and listened to on monitors by Masha and staff in her office.

First drugging people, and then holding them captive and spying on them – this is Moriarty’s idea of good storytelling?

Now I was both furious and disgusted.

At about page 250 I started skimming, right through the next 200 pages to the end.  I couldn’t wait for this book to be over – this book, which I started out enjoying so much.  I’ve never had this experience before, to go from such a pleasurable read to truly rotten one, all in one book.

All I could think was, “I’m so glad I got this from the library and didn’t spend $30+ on it.”

Now I decided it was time to read some Amazon reviews, to see if anyone agreed with me.  How I wish I’d done this before I wasted my time!  Here are some excerpts from the negative ones (and there are 12 pages of them):

  • I really disliked this book, and skipped from about the 30% mark to 90% to only know the ending.
  • It started fairly well but swiftly deteriorated.
  • This book is the first of Ms. Moriarty’s books that is in trash
  • This book is a huge disappointment.
  • Wait for reviews before buying her next.
  • Oh my goodness, this is her worst book.
  • Really awful book.
  • This one was awful…a huge letdown.
  • Her worst book.  Very disappointed.
  • I’m shocked Liane Moriarty wrote this.
  • Left me incredibly disappointed.  I do not recommend this book!
  • An utter disaster.
  • Absolute rubbish.
  • I wanted to love this book, but ended up hating it.

At least I’m in good company.

And I hated it, too.

sixteen thumbs-down cropped

How To Turn A First Date Into A Last Date

Stupid commercials have been around since, well – commercials have been around.vintage_radio1

And commercials have been around since before television.

That’s right – on-air commercials started with radio.  When radio was a new medium, its primary function was delivering commercials to listeners, for which the radio stations and/or networks were paid by the advertisers.

But the guys in charge knew that people wouldn’t listen to nothing but commercials all day and all night, so they came up with the idea of putting on programs to break up the vintage tvcommercials.

Radio existed to bring you commercials, not programs.  The programs were just padding.

Same with TV.

With so many commercials it’s inevitable that there would be some real stinkers, and a recent 30-second Senokot TV commercial has to be the biggest stinker of all.

If you’ll excuse the expression.

The setting:  A woman and man are in a bakery.  He purchases two coffees at the counter, turns and bumps into her.

coupleHe smiles and says, “Sorry – first dates can be a bit uncomfortable.”

She responds, “Yeah, I know.  Kind of like my constipation.”wait what



The man, eyebrows raised, looks puzzled.  This would have sent any normal guy running for the door, but we haven’t heard the advertiser’s message yet.

“I am so backed up,” she continues.  “Believe me, I’ve been trying.”

He appears to gulp, and perhaps looks paler than a few seconds earlier.

Since when is this a topic on a date, let alone a first date?  Is the advertiser suggesting that this is normal, that this is what dating people talk about?

At 14 seconds into the commercial, this graphic appears:

let's not talk about.jpg

Of course, for the remainder of the commercial we do nothing but talk about it.

Then comes the announcer, and a new graphic:

First graphic

Announcer:  Senokot’s natural vegetable laxative ingredient means occasional constipation won’t be on your mind.

She says, “Did I make it…more uncomfortable?”

By “it” I assume she means the awkwardness of a first date, not the state of her bowels.

The poor guy looks plenty “uncomfortable.”

“Nnn – no,” he says.  “It’s fine.”

Poor guy.  Pained – but polite.

Well, at least he’s got good manners.

OK, the end is in sight.

If you’ll excuse the expression.

Last grapic.jpg

Announcer:  Say “No more” to occasional constipation with clinically proven, effective Senokot!  Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

I think the guy should get back his money back for the coffees, and now run for the door.

shooting a spot
Just a few of the folks we can thank for this commercial.

Just think of all the people involved in getting this commercial from concept to in your face:  Creative director, art director, writers, director, editor, lighting and sound crew, hair, makeup and set styling people, actors, set builders, graphics designer, announcer, plus the Senokot people who approved the commercial.

They all thought this message was going to make viewers say, “Wow, that convinces me!  From now on, it’s Senokot for my occasional constipation!” and run right out and buy some.

Viewers who, I’ll mention, are eating dinner, because the only time I’ve seen this commercial is at dinnertime.


What a wasteland.

If you’ll excuse the expression.

eating dinner_05
It’s that %?#$!&#! Senokot commercial again…

Ode To My Kitchen: The Most Unused Room In My Home

Or, why you do NOT want to come to my house for Christmas dinner…

I am no cook
But I like to look
At food magazines and such.
The pictures are neat
And I love to eat
But to cook – well, not so much.
I won’t win a prize
For my apple pies
Of baking I’ve nothing to boast.
My cakes turn out flat
And much worse than that
Hell, I struggle just making toast.
 burning toast_01
I once had a wish
To fry up some fish
Which into the trash I did dump.
The people I feed
Oh, where does it lead?
To a date with a stomach pump.
 scraping garbage into wastebasket.png
I’m giving up hope
My cooking’s a joke
No matter how hard I strive.
I promise I’ll stay
From the kitchen – away
So my family and friends survive.

merry-christmas-the end cropped

And Now It’s Time For Another Edition Of…

This “Wait…What?” moment is brought to you by your tax dollars.

wastedSpecifically, the tax dollars that pay the salaries of both a clerk and supervisor at the District of Columbia Marriage Bureau.

And because the District of Columbia – that is, Washington DC – is not a state but a stand-alone Federal City, we’re talking federal tax dollars.

Your federal tax dollars.

The media thus far have declined to name the clerk and supervisor, so for storytelling purposes, I’ll name them.  Let’s see…

abbott_and_costello_show Abbott and Costello? No, they were smart.
tom and jerry Tom and Jerry? No, they were funny.
dumb cropped YES

Because the clerk and supervisor were just so embarrassingly…nescient.

Last month Gavin Clarkson, a resident of New Mexico, and his then-fiancée Marina, a resident of Washington DC, went to the District of Columbia Marriage Bureau to apply for a marriage license.

Clarkson presented his New Mexico driver license for ID to the clerk, whom I’ll call Dumb.ready_01

Dumb rejected Clarkson’s license as ID because…

Are you ready?

“She thought New Mexico was a foreign country,” said Clarkson.  Dumb told Clarkson he would need an international passport for ID, since he wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

Clarkson protested the clerk’s decision to her supervisor, who was obviously Dumber, and who also failed to recognize New Mexico as a state.

“My supervisor says we cannot accept international driver licenses. Do you have a New Mexico passport?” queried Dumb.

laughing_01Clarkson said the employee checked with the supervisor twice about the issue.

By now, said Clarkson, “All the couples behind us waiting in line were laughing.”

If I’d been in line waiting to get a marriage license, and the line was stalled because  federal-tax-dollars-paid U.S. citizens were unaware that our country has a state called “New Mexico,” I would not have been laughing.

The online stories are sketchy about how Clarkson finally convinced Dumb and Dumber that New Mexico was, indeed, a state.  Did he:

  • Google “U.S. maps” and point to his home?
  • Find “New Mexico” on Wikipedia, where it says New Mexico has been a state in 1912?
  • Show Dumb the Ballotpedia page from Clarkson’s recent unsuccessful run for New Mexico Secretary of State:


Later on Facebook Clarkson said:


The license was issued, the couple married, and in a statement the director of media and public relations for DC Courts apologized for the couple’s “slight delay.”

The director did not apologize for Dumb and Dumber’s…dumbness.

Nor did she indicate if she’d be requiring Dumb and Dumber to memorize our other 49 states.


Movie Review:  Well Worth Watching Because They’re…

american experienceWhen PBS television has an American Experience documentary on the schedule, I want to see it.

Because every American Experience I’ve watched has been excellent.

And what’s not to like?  They’re all about us.

According to their website,  American Experience “brings to life the compelling stories from our past that inform our understanding of the world today.”  The series began airing 20 years ago, and has featured more than 300 stories on just about any topic you can think of, from The Great poisoner's_01San Francisco Earthquake (1988) to Reagan (1998) to The Circus (2018).

It’s two documentaries from the current season that I’m reviewing, The Poisoner’s Handbook and The Eugenics Crusade.  Both are extremely well done, and full of fascinating information that doesn’t feel like facts flying at you, but instead, easy-to-watch stories…

All about us.

EugenicsCrusade_01One documentary is a story about science gone wrong – and one about science gone right.  But these aren’t “scientific” documentaries, nor are they “dumbed down” for the non-scientific.  Both offer entertainment, information, and will have you saying, “I didn’t know that!”

Science gone wrong:

The Eugenics Crusade tells the story of well-intentioned people whose goal was to perfect humanity, believing that healthy babies made happy families – and who would argue with that?  By the mid-1920s the eugenics movement was mainstream, its beliefs popular and practiced, and supported by law, up to and including a Supreme Court decision in 1927.

eugenicsWhere the good intentions went wrong was in the forced sterilization of those considered “unfit” to have offspring – but who was fit to judge the “unfit”?

In the name of perfection, more than 60,000 Americans were sterilized – many from immigrant groups, the poor, Jews, the mentally and physically disabled, and the “morally delinquent.”

The movement was discredited during the 1930s, and forever put to rest when Hitler became a proponent of eugenics.

Or, chillingly, not quite to rest:  That decision by the Supreme Court has never been overturned and still stands.  Forced sterilization is permitted in half the states in America by laws that have not been challenged or overturned.

Science gone right:

The Poisoner’s Handbook tells two parallel stories:  One, the goal of protecting citizens arsenicfrom the unintended consequences of progress; the second, the birth and evolution of forensic science, the most believed testimony in modern-day courtrooms.

In the early 20th century, progress in the U.S. was marked by new inventions, discoveries and products, and the widely held belief that “new means better.”  Some of the new enhancements – all in the name of “progress” – included lead in drinking water, arsenic in makeup, and radium in household products.  The average American home was a treasure chest of poison.

Radium+spray+pepsi+co_3487bc_5828591As more and more people died of poisoning – some accidental and some deliberately administered – in the 1920s medical examiner Charles Norris and his chief toxicologist Alexander Gettle became pioneers the field of forensic science, solving cases of suspicious deaths and revolutionizing criminal investigation.

If you’re a fan of the CSI:  Crime Scene Investigation shows, you can thank Norris and Gettle for their brilliance – and perseverance.

When you watch The Eugenics Crusade and The Poisoner’s Handbook – or any American Experience – you’ll be entertained and informed.  And you’ll no longer say, “I didn’t know that!” because…

NowYouKnow-02 cropped

A First For Me – And Perhaps You, Too?

I read it, then blinked to be sure my vision was clear.

HeadlineI read it again.

And burst out laughing.

I have never, EVER see the word “Farts” in a headline before.

But there it is, from my newspaper, in black and white.

Naturally this required further research, so I googled the story.

“Farts” is not only in the headlines, it’s in almost every headline:

Headlines final

Yes, this was a new one on me.

Perhaps because farting doesn’t generally make news headlines.  Everyone farts, so this isn’t exactly news.

Except, now it is.


Where:  Dania Beach, FL, in line at a Dollar General in late November.

Who:  Thirty-seven-year-old Shanetta Wilson.

What:  Shanetta farted – or “passed gas” as some stories prefer.  Not yet newsworthy.

Some stories – and headlines – reported the woman farted “loudly.”

Nope.  Still not newsworthy.

not newsSeriously.  Can you imagine if the media did stories about every person who “farted loudly?”

What then:  A nearby male customer, John Walker, complained.  Whether about the odor, the noise, all of the above or something else, isn’t specified.

But newsworthy?  Nope, again.  I’m sure this isn’t the first time someone complained about another’s fart.

And then?

knife_03 croppedJohn and Shanetta got into an argument.  Shanetta took exception to whatever John said, and, according to the sheriff’s report, allegedly “pulled a small folding knife out of her purse and told the victim she was going to ‘gut’ him while moving as if to attack him.”

She “cocked the blade back in her right hand as if she was about to strike,” said in another story.

OK:  Now we’re talking newsworthy.

Shanetta left the store without actually attacking John, but instead of cutting out – if you’ll excuse the expression – she was still nearby and arrested by police when John identified her.

She was charged with “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill,” and her bail was set at $2,500.

I’m going to wax philosophical and pose the question:

What would you do?Odor in the elevator

You, like John Walker, are in close proximity to someone – in line at a store, in an elevator, in bed with your partner, in church – and that someone farts.  “Loudly,” or otherwise.

Would you say something?

I wouldn’t.  As a kid I was taught that the only appropriate comment after a fart is “Excuse me,” and that’s by the farter, not the person/people suffering from it.

Now suppose you’re the farter – again, in line at a store, in an elevator, in bed with your partner, in church.

Would you say something?News Anchors

This TV news anchor on the left posed that question to his co-anchor.

The co-anchor’s response:  “I would try to say that it wasn’t me.”

I guess that option didn’t occur to Shanetta, in the heat of the moment.

If you’ll excuse the expression.

The takeaway?

The next time you’re in proximity to someone who farts, don’t say anything.  Now that we’ve seen you could actually be putting your life in danger.

Just hold your breath.

It’ll pass.

If you’ll excuse the expression.

Shanetta and excuse me
KSAT-TV in San Antonio, TX thoughtfully provided an illustration, along with Shanetta’s mug shot.  Next time, Shanetta, let it pass.

This Is One Very…

NatureWhen PBS airs Nature I know I’m in for a treat.

The photography is amazing, the narration is informative and sometimes humorous, and the animals are at their best – living their lives in the wild where we’re privileged to join them for awhile.

I recently enjoyed a new Nature mini-series, Super Cats.  The series featured plenty of time with large and small wild cats including lions, tigers, bobcats, the elusive snow leopard, Africa’s black-footed cat – called “the deadliest cat on the planet” – 31 cats in all.

But without a doubt the coolest cat was the one with partially webbed

That’s right – webbed feet.

It likes the water.

When it’s hungry, it goes fishing.

It’s called…

The fishing cat.

Fishing cats are about twice the size of domestic cats, weighing between 11 and 35 fishing_cat02pounds.  They live in south and southeast Asia, and we find them near water because that’s their primary hunting place.

They’re handsome cats, with dark stripes on their face and shoulders, and spots on their sides and legs.  Fishing cats’ bodies are muscular, and their legs are shorter compared to cats who chase their prey across wide, open spaces.

And then there are those webbed feet.  They come in handy when the fishing cat is perched on a rock, waiting to scoop up a fish, and the webbing is equally useful as the cat glides through the water and then…catch perched reversed

Gotcha!  Dinner is served.

That webbing between their toes also keep fishing cats from sinking when they’re walking across muddy wetlands, and they do sometimes hunt away from streams and lakes – their diet can include snakes, rodents, young deer and yes, they’ve been known to invade farmer’s chicken coops.

Super Cats features a segment with a mother fishing cat showing her two kittens water for the first time – and they’re curious, but nervous.

Mom makes it look easy
Mom makes it look so easy…

The mother demonstrates her expert hunting technique, moving smoothly through the stream and catching a fish in her mouth.  The kittens learn that water can mean food, but catching that food, well…

Caught a Salad.jpg
Mom, look!  I caught a…a…salad?

Like so many animals in the wild, fishing cats are threatened by loss of their habitat.  The International Species Information Service lists only 256 worldwide, with 68 in U.S. zoos.

So I’m grateful I was introduced to, and have the chance to appreciate, a cat that doesn’t sing for its supper…

But sure can swim for it.

cat under water cropped reversed

Johnny Jet Has Spent A Little Too Much Time On Fantasy Island

Johnny Shark PlaneAnd now it’s time to mock yet another ridiculous article about how to make your working life something other than boring, tedious and degrading.

This time the article offers advice on “How to ease into your work routine” after you return from vacation.

The author, John “Johnny Jet” DiScala (left), has a modest 1100+ word bio on his website where he overshares about guess what – himself.  His birthplace, his asthma, and his college girlfriend, but nowhere in his bio could I find any mention of what he does for a living, though he’s “traveled more than 100,000 miles a year since…1995.”

I’m figuring he’s not a minimum wage employee at a fast food restaurant.

Perhaps overexposure to high altitudes have kept Johnny Jet from picking up on this reality:

Typical American on workation.  “View?  What view?”

Most working people who go on vacation are, in reality, on workation, meaning that throughout the time they’re away, they’re in contact with co-workers, managers or both; they’re responding to work-related emails and texts; and even attending meetings via Skype and other technology.

So to bring Johnny Jet back home from Fantasy Island and assist with his future advice articles, here are the realities vs. his fantasies:

Johnny Jet’s Advice Reality Reality
“Don’t go back to work right after your vacation is over.” You never really left work, so going back will be no big adjustment. inbox_02 cropped
“Take a day or two to relax and recuperate before heading back into the office.” You can’t.  You used up your measly vacation time on your workation. no more vacation cropped
“On your first morning back, take some time to plan out your day.” You’d better have your day planned before you arrive, and hit the ground running when you do. hit the ground_02 cropped
“Be sure to give yourself alone time.” A bit challenging, since you’re in a room with 47 other cubes, all occupied. office cubes_03
“Take a short break every three hours to breathe deeply and get back into the groove.” The last time you took a break, HR had a little sit-down with you. getting yelled at_01 cropped.jpg
“Interact with others at the office…Your co-workers will want to know about your trip.” No, no, no, no, no, no.  Do not even think about whipping out your phone and sharing 98 photos of you parasailing above a Caribbean beach.  Even if that was the one time you weren’t connected to the office. zero interested
“Conversations about your vacation will help you form bonds with your co-workers.” No, no, no, no, no, no.  Conversations about your vacation are boring.  No one wants to hear about it, and haven’t you got work to catch up on? get to work

So, John “Johnny Jet” DiScala, you keep sharing all that great advice and we’ll keep it in mind.

If we ever take a vacation.


Book Review:  Team W Hits One Out Of The Park!

new-authorsPublication date:  September 2018

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

Isn’t it great to find a new author you really like?

By “new” I mean new to me.  They’d written earlier books, but I just hadn’t discovered them.

But when I like that author, I go find those earlier books, and look forward to their next one.

Sometimes, though, after finding that author and reading a number of their books, I stop reading her or him.  For various reasons, their books don’t appeal to me anymore.  They keep writing basically the same book, and I get tired of it.  Or they start writing a different type of book, and it doesn’t resonate with me.  Or the book reads like they were glass oceanrushing to meet their deadline instead of focusing on telling the story.

I’m not saying the authors I stop reading aren’t writing good books; I’m saying they aren’t writing books I’m interested in.

For various reasons, three authors whose books I’d stopped reading are Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig.

Then these three authors wrote a book together, The Glass Ocean.

I decided to give it a try.

This sounds contradictory since I’d given up on White, Williams and Willig, but the storyline intrigued me.  Most of it takes place on the Lusitania, a British luxury ocean liner that was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in 1915 during the first World War:Lusitania-New-York-Times-Newspaper

Of the 1,959 passengers and crew aboard Lusitania, 1,198 lost their lives including 128 Americans.  Rumors and conspiracy theories have surrounded the Lusitania ever since, but that’s not the focus of The Glass Ocean.

Instead the focus is three female lead characters in two time periods:  Sarah in 2013, and Caroline and Tess in 1915.  The book moves back and forth between time periods andreading_03 characters, but there’s none of the muddle that can sometimes happen when authors use this storytelling technique.

Sarah, 30, is an author and historian; Caroline, 24, the aristocratic wife of a wealthy merchant; and Tess, also 24, is a forger and grifter.  They’re all connected and not just by the Lusitania, though the ship’s sinking as told through Caroline and Tess’ eyes is a highlight of the book.

The Glass Ocean is a great mix of history, intrigue, romance and suspense, and the surprises kept me guessing all the way through.  I cared about the characters, and how forgotten roomthey dealt with their lives, in both this century – and the last.

In the book’s Acknowledgments the authors refer to themselves as “Team W,” and I was curious as to why White, Williams and Willig, already three bestselling authors, would join forces.  An online search didn’t answer my why, but I did learn that The Glass Ocean isn’t their only collaboration – in 2016 Team W published their first, The Forgotten Room.

That book debuted on The New York Times best seller list, so it looks like they hit that one out of the park, too.

Maybe I haven’t quite given up on White, Williams and Willig.

white williams willig

team w cropped

Say “Hello” To Mars And “Good Bye” To Billion$

NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

In an earlier blog I suggested that NASA actually stands for “Needless And Stupid million bestAssignments.”

The NASA budget for fiscal year 2019 is $19.9 billion, give or take a few million.

That’s a whole lot of Needless and Stupid Assignments.

Case in point when, in late November, the folks at NASA were doing the Happy Dance:

InSight artist concept cropped
InSight Lander:  Does this look like almost a billion dollars to you?

InSight Lander had successfully landed on Mars.

It was, in my opinion, needless and stupid.

It was also expensive:

Insight Lander cost $828.8 million.

InSight – which, because our government can’t resist acronyms – stands for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport,” a NASA Discovery Program mission that has now placed “a single geophysical lander on Mars to study its deep interior.”

Which got me wondering, “Why is our government spending my tax dollars to ‘study’ the ‘deep interior’ of Mars, or any other aspect of Mars?”

Simple answer:  Our government wants to colonize Mars with Americans before anyone else, especially the Russians, get there.  That way, we get first dibs on the choicest living locations, which might look like this:

Mars Housing

Then I started wondering, “How many tax dollars is the government spending to ‘study’ Mars?”

A million here, a million there…

As for what we’ve spent on just our Mars missions, according to my guesstimate, it’s in the neighborhood of $10 billion+.  Here’s the what, when and cost:

Spacecraft Name Year Cost
Insight Lander 2018 $828.8 million
MAVEN 2013 $671 million
Curiosity 2011 $2.5 billion
Mars Phoenix 2007 $386 million
Dawn 2007 $446 million
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 2005 $720 million
Opportunity 2003 $400 million
Spirit 2003 $400 million
2001 Mars Odyssey 2001 $297 million
Deep Space 2 1999 $29.2 million
Mars Polar Lander 1999 $110 million
Mars Climate Orbiter 1998 $193.1 million
Mars Pathfinder 1996 $175 million
Sojourner 1996 $25 million
Mars Global Pathfinder 1996 $154 million
Mars Observer 1992 $813 million
Viking 1 & 2 1975 $1 billion
Mariner 9 1971 $5.5 million (estimate)
Mariner 8 1971 $5.5 million (estimate)
Mariner 7 1969 $5.5 million (estimate)
Mariner 6 1969 $5.5 million (estimate)
Mariner 4 1964 $5.5 million (estimate)
Mariner 3 1964 $83.2 million

Keep in mind that the dollar figures are from that year.  So, for example, the $83.2 million in 1964 is actually $662 million today.

Further math is your option.billion deux cropped

And all of the above is just for study purposes.  When we start talking about putting Americans on Mars, according to SpaceNews:

“Transportation costs alone could total over $100 billion before the first Mars mission in 2035.  A ballpark cost of the first Mars mission in 2035 would total $230 billion.  Second and subsequent missions, occurring at three-year intervals, would cost about $142 billion each.”

A billion here, a billion there…

phobos and deimos
Here are Phobos and Diemos, the moons of Mars – compare them to our moon, with its diameter of 2,159 miles.  They’re puny!

I think that’s a lot of money to spend to go someplace that doesn’t even have a decent moon.  Unlike the lovely orb that lights up our nighttime sky, Mars has a couple of puny little rocks called Phobos and Deimos, and I don’t think you’ll ever hear Creedence Clearwater Survival singing, “Bad Phobos Rising,” do you?

But to fair – and clearly I’m committed to that – let’s compare and contrast Mars and Earth:



Supports life? No. Yes.
Average temperature? -81 degrees Fahrenheit. 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cost to get there? $10 billion+ so far. $0 – we’re already here.
Great place for a destination wedding? Takes a year to get there – a long time to wait for gifts. We’re already here.
Has tallest mountain in solar system? Yes, Olympus Mons. Who cares?
Has a TV show named after it? Mars on the National Geographic Channel. Never watched it.
Has the largest dust storms in the solar system? Yes – on Mars they can last for months and cover the entire planet. They’re inside my house, but I’m going to do something about that – seriously.
Fun fact? A 100-pound person on Earth would weigh around 38 pounds on Mars. Now that I could get into.
Have pieces of Mars been found on Earth? Yes, from meteorites ejected from Mars. If Mars is coming to us, why are we going to it?
Atmosphere? It’s mostly CO2 – carbon dioxide – the stuff that spews out of car tailpipes. If we don’t do something pretty soon, Earth will be, too.

So where were we?  Oh, yeah – on Mars.

In a day-after-the-landing article CBS News announced:

Selfie Headline_01.jpg

And here it is:  The InSight Lander selfie:

Mars Landing

A selfie.  Now, that makes it all worthwhile:

The most expensive selfie in the universe.

So there’s our $10 billion just to “study” Mars.

And soon, that billion here and billion there will turn into…


Birds, You Can Do Better

It has the hallmarks of an ancient Egyptian site – a sphinx, pyramids, ankhs, hieroglyphics, sacred gods atop head adornments, gold face masks, balloons…



Oh.  Apparently it’s not an ancient Egyptian site.

Instead, it’s a recent offering from Angry Birds’ entitled Powerslave Tournament.

I’ll talk about that title in a bit.

In case you’ve been living in a cave, Angry Birds is an immensely popular video gameangrybirds on phone franchise.  Angry Birds was created by Finnish company Rovio Entertainment in 2009, and that’s a long time for any video game to survive.

The Birds shows no sign of getting less angry.

The series focuses on multi-colored birds vs. green-colored pigs, their enemies.  I got hooked in 2015 and I’m not embarrassed to admit it.

The reason I’m hooked is because it’s fun, and involves some strategizing, hand-eye coordination, geometry, a touch of physics, and blowing things up.  You can get rewarded with online versions of gold stars, a gold crown, and if you win the tournament, a gold trophy:

Gold Crown.jpg

Hey – I never said it was brain surgery.  It’s just satisfying entertainment.  Winning is fun, and nobody dies.

The Rovio team shows a lot of creativity in their themes, sound effects and graphics.  It’s the graphics I started out with, so let’s go back to that.

I hadn’t seen the ancient Egyptians graphics theme before, and it, too, is clever.  Evil pigs disappear and return and wrapped as mummies.  The star-lit sky is streaked with lightning.  The sphinx – which has bird face, rather than a human – makes ominous noises:


So I’m having fun with the game, but I really have to question Rovio’s choice of title:



I think this goes way beyond poor taste and right into the realm of truly, politically incorrect.

C’mon, Angry Birds team.

Cause now, I’m getting angry.

what were they cropped

Americans Are Always…

The United States was founded by dreamers.

From the earliest Spanish settlers in St. Augustine, FL in 1565, to the pilgrims who landed plymouth rockat Plymouth Rock in 1620, to the millions of immigrants who’ve arrived since and are still arriving, if you had a dream – the U.S. was and is the place to make it come true.

These dreamers always envisioned – and still envision – a better life.  For most, that equaled more money.

We’re still a country of dreamers, and that “more money” is very much a part of our lottery line_01 betterdreams.

But now, instead of traveling across oceans, we travel to the nearest mini-mart.

And buy a lottery ticket.

And why not?  When there’s a $1.537 billion possibility for a $2 investment.

That’s the amount someone recently won with a Mega Millions ticket purchased in South Carolina.

And we may never know who, because in South Carolina, lottery winners aren’t required to go public.

And if the winner is smart, she or he will never go public.

Winning a huge amount of instant money is an instant invitation to people who are buddy croppedrelated to the winner, know the winner, or just heard about the winner who arrive, hands extended and entitlement attitude in place, singing “Buddy, can you spare…”

Best to stay unnamed and unknown.

Unfortunately, only a handful of states allow anonymity, and the rationale is interesting:

“Winners need to be public so the public has faith in the lottery,” said California Assemblyman Phil Ting.  “Beneficiary anonymity cannot overshadow governmental accountability to the public.”blah blah blah

“We want the public to know these games are fair and that they can see someone actually won,” said Adam Prock, director of communications and legislative affairs at the Minnesota Lottery.   “The Legislature has made a priority of government transparency.”

“We’re dealing with public money.  And the public has the right to know who’s getting the money,” said James Carey, acting director of the New Jersey state lottery commission.  “It’s important for the integrity and transparency to see who the winners are.”

“Accountability.”  “Transparency.”  “Integrity.”

Yup.  When I think of “government,” those are the words that come to mind.


People looking for handouts aren’t the only pitfalls of winning big – stories abound about lottery winners whose great good luck turned into very bad outcomes.  For instance:

  • William Post won $16.2 million in Pennsylvania in 1988.  In 2006 Post died alonedoris murray and penniless, living off of welfare payments.
  • Doris Murray won $5 million in Georgia in 2007.  A year later she was found stabbed to death in her home, her former boyfriend charged with killing her.
  • Abraham Shakespeare won $17 million in Florida.  In 2010 his body was found buried under a concrete slab in the backyard of an acquaintance.

But even with all the moochers and all the bad endings, we dreamers will go on buying lottery tickets.

In 2017 we spent $73 billion chasing the dream.

And why not?  After all…

Somebody’s going to win.


Part 2: It’s True, I Do…

ink stained fingersAs I talked about in an earlier blog, I love newspapers and I read mine every day.

The printed-on-paper, hold-in-your-hands-and-get-newsprint-on-your-fingers version.

I get a helping of current events, unbiased writing from intelligent, articulate reporters, and a dose of humans, sometimes acting wisely and other times…not so much.

Human behavior is very much the theme of Sunday’s The (almost) Back Page, a collection newspaper betterof short pieces mostly about people’s penchant for doing stupid and/or weird things.

A recent Back Page had three stories that particularly caught my eye, since all were reptile-themed and all happened within days of each other.

Our first story takes place in Kansas City, MO when a landlord was just going about his business, evicting tenant Sean Casey.

On this property was a hot tub.

And in the hot tub:

Catfish yes

A seven-foot 200 pound alligator.

Sean called the alligator “Catfish” described him as “a big and cuddly lizard who smiled all the time.”

“I could pet him and he would wag his tail,” said Sean.

Sean’s other roommates included three pythons, rabbits, and several domesticated animals including cats.  Catfish had full freedom of the house, and I’m guessing he didn’t have to work too hard for his dinner.

It’s illegal to own alligators in Kansas City, MO so Catfish was rounded up by authorities and taken to a wildlife sanctuary.

Here’s Sean visiting Catfish – as affectionate as ever:

alligator hugging-01

Our second story is crocodile-related and comes to us from St. Augustine, FL.

Brian Hatfield broke into the Alligator Farm Zoological Park and jumped into a pond:

Man breaks in

The pond was full of crocodiles.

Big crocodiles.

Security video shows a nine-foot crocodile lunging at Brian, who escaped the water and sat down on the bank of the pool.  At that point, the “crocodile locked onto his left foot,” according to the park’s director.

Various articles don’t mention why Brian did this, but I suspect he read about Sean and Catfish, and thought, “I’d like to cuddle a big reptile, too.  Maybe it will wag its tail!”

Brian was arrested and being held without bond.

And, alas, without any cuddling.

Perhaps the best part of the story was that before he jumped into the pond, Brian took off his shorts and shoes.

The shoes?


Talk about “reptile theme”!

Croc shoes crocodiles_02.jpg

Crocs…………………………………………………and crocs.  Get it?

Our third reptile-related story happened in Davie, FL when authorities captured an unidentified owner’s pet.

This six-foot+ Asian water monitor:

Asian water monitor lizard

Yes, in Florida it’s legal to own Asian water monitors.  You can buy a cute little baby monitor online for $170 plus shipping, while an adult will cost you $750 to $1,000+.

The monitor was first reported in August but wasn’t rounded up until early November.  During that time it terrorized residents of a suburban Miami neighborhood, lurking in their back yards and scratching at their patio doors.  It probably didn’t make the local rodents and frog population too happy, either, as those are its dinner du jour.

Which doesn’t mean it wouldn’t take a bite out of you.  It would, and gladly.

asian cuddlingThe owner of a wildlife removal and rescue company said the monitor was “released,” meaning its owner didn’t want it anymore and turned it loose.

So it’s ironic that authorities returned it to its owner, and issued a criminal citation for the monitor’s escape.

Can’t you hear the conversation?

Owner:  Dude, I told you to get lost!

Monitor:  Dude, I wanna cuddle!

After reading this, wouldn’t you agree…

Men Really Are