The Golden State:  Not So Golden For Some Students

Of all the sad situations in our world – and there are many – I think one of the saddest is of students who want to go to college, are qualified to go to college, and would make the most of college, but can’t…money

Because they can’t afford college.

When a lack of money stops someone from becoming an outstanding teacher, a brilliant doctor, an amazing technology expert, or whatever career they aspire to, not only do they lose out, but so does our society and our world.

So it especially saddened me when I saw this story:

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SDSU – San Diego State University – is part of the California State University (CSU) system, which is comprised of 23 campuses offering higher education to almost a half-million students.

And according to this story, over the past 10 years SDSU has failed to award $20 million in available scholarships to deserving students – who want to go to college, are qualified to go to college, and would make the most of college, but can’t…

No SDSU (2) fixed fixed
For some, no becoming leaders…

Because they can’t afford college.

Let’s do the math.  According to the article, the current annual cost of tuition and fees at SDSU is $7,488.

So four years of tuition and fees would run about $30,000.

If we take that $20 million and divide it by $30,000, it equals 666.

By my reckoning, 666 students could have attended SDSU for four years, their tuition and fees paid with that $20 million.

That’s 666 people on their way to becoming teaches, doctors, tech wizards and more – SDSU offers 95 bachelor’s degrees in everything from Accounting to Japanese to Women’s Studies.

No campus (2) walking to class…

But that didn’t happen, and that’s an incalculable loss.

Why did SDSU fail to give away all that scholarship money?

According to the article,

“Campus officials said SDSU has been hobbled by an outdated scholarship management system that can make it difficult for students to find and apply for the awards.”

It’s clear that SDSU has known about this system failure for a long time.

The article goes on to say,

“Until the early 2000s, SDSU students typically had to visit an office on campus and thumb through large binders to see which scholarships were available.  They would file a paper application if they located one.

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…no experiencing life on campus…

“SDSU later developed its own scholarship management software, which worked for a while.  But school officials say the current version can be confusing, time consuming and incomplete.”

And to this day, students are still required to file an application for every award they seek.

So the school officials knew their system sucked.

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…no posing for graduation pictures.

But wait – it gets worse:

SDSU is adopting the Blackbaud Award Management System, which is used by 19 other CSU campuses.

If 19 of the 23 campuses in the California State University system were already using this system – what was SDSU waiting for?

A hand-written invitation from those 19 other campuses?

SDSU President Adela de la Torre says she’s been working on the problem with faculty and staff, noting that, “We all agreed that the fund distribution sitting below 70 percent for several years was not acceptable.”

“Not acceptable”?  How about careless?  Negligent?  Egregiously negligent?

Madam President, do you know the difference between “we will endeavor”  and “we COMMIT”?

Madam President also said that “the university will endeavor to award at least 90 percent of its scholarship money each year.”

“Endeavor”?  Is that like “try”?

How about “The university will award…”

How about “The university commits to awarding…”

How about “As president, please must hold me accountable for awarding…”

no degree croppedAnd sadly, Madam Pres, you’re too late for those 666 future teachers, doctors and tech wizards.

Perhaps they went to another college.

Perhaps they didn’t go to any college.

The California State University system’s lengthy mission statement includes the following:

  • To provide opportunities for individuals to develop intellectually, personally, and professionally.
  • To encourage and provide access to an excellent education to all who are prepared for and wish to participate in collegiate study.

To that – for SDSU – I would add:

  • To maximize those opportunities and access, we award scholarships to eligible students, but it’s too bad our system is confusing, time consuming and incomplete.

SDSU’s fall semester starts in August.

How many students won’t be going there because…

system sucks cropped fixed

Book Review:  You May Need Wine To Go With All This Whining

Publication date:  April 2019book cropped

Review, short version:  Two roses out of four for the wisdom; two skunks out of four for the whining.

Review, long version:

Even the title is whiny:  Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault.

“Aren’t my fault!”

“Aren’t my fault!”

Can’t you just hear a four-year-old whining that?

On the other hand, as author/cartoonist Cathy Guisewite lists those fifty things in chapter one, I had to admit I agreed with some of them:

“It’s not my fault I was raised to think everything is my fault!”

Cartoonist Cathy Guisewite
Cathy and alter ego “Cathy” – the early days.

“It not my fault that women’s magazines have covers declaring we should embrace our beautiful natural curves, but 16 articles inside on how to get skinny!”

“It’s not my fault that things that shouldn’t matter – still matter.”

Whiny or otherwise – she’s right.

So Guisewite has some good things, and wise things, and funny things to say.

But still, in between chapters one and 48 it seemed like there was a whole lot of…


About her life then, when she was so busy with her comic strip, and her life now, which whine cropped fixedhas gotten even busier:

“I thought than when I quit my job, the pace of all the change would slow down.  But it didn’t.  It sped up.”

About her weight, which involves a lot of body self-shaming:

“I remember the morning of a big meeting when I couldn’t get my ‘fat’ skirt buttoned.  Couldn’t get anything buttoned.  Nothing fit except for  my bathrobe.”

About her relationships with her mother, father, friends, the husband who became her ex, other men, and this, to her daughter: whine cropped fixed

“Is it too much to ask you to spend five minutes brushing your hair before you leave the house?”

About life in general, which isn’t fair to women, and the women’s movement, which didn’t deliver as promised:

“My days are too short, my lists are too long.  People aren’t where they’re supposed to be.  Everything’s changing without my permission.”

Then again, maybe it isn’t all whining.  Sometimes Cathy even sounds like me.

The reason Cathy sounds like me and many other women is that her comic strip, Cathy, was the first to speak humorously and directly to a female audience.  On everything from trying on bathing suits to boyfriends, she spoke the truth in a funny, relatable way.  She let women know they weren’t alone in their struggle in a world that was radically changing – ready or not.

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Guisewite was born in 1950, which means she was coming of age at the same time as the women’s movement.  She got a degree in English from U of M, then worked in various advertising agencies, and drew funny pictures about her work and life and relationships “in which to dump all my aggravations,” as she says on her website.

Her doodlings led to a comic strip, Cathy, in 1976, eventually appearing daily in 1400 newspapers, before she retired the strip in 2010.  That’s a remarkable 34 years, a long life for a comic strip, and even more remarkable because this was – and is – a field where men far outnumber the women.

comic strip -- facebook
Guisewite started her “Cathy” comic strip in 1976, and as technology evolved, so did “Cathy.”

Tackling a book project sounds like a bad idea for someone whose life has already “sped up,” but Guisewite says Fifty Things was a chance to reconnect with her comic strip readers, now “in our grown-up years.”

So grab a glass of wine, skim the whining, and enjoy the wisdom.

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How Does He Lie To Thee?

As a public service, the Washington Post provides “The Fact Checker,” a “running list of the false or misleading claims Trump says most regularly.”

fact checkerAccording to the Post website, the “column first started on September 19, 2007 as a feature during the 2008 presidential campaign,” and was revived as a permanent feature on January 11, 2011.

On January 20, 2017 The Fact Checkers got very busy, and they’ve busy ever since.

That’s the day Trump was inaugurated, and told his biggest lie of all:

“I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.”

The Post periodically publishes Fact Checker updates, the latest on June 10:

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But The Fact Checker website pages provide much more than periodic updates of the ever-increasing number of Trump’s false or misleading claims.

There’s this handy graph, an excellent aid for visual learners like me:

Image 2 (3) Final

Then they go deeper – when I scroll down the page I can “Search the database,” filtering by “topic” or “source.”  I chose “Biographical record” and up came 354 matching results:

Image 3 (2) Final

A little further on was this Trump lie – excuse me, false or misleading statement – one of my favorites:

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Going back to the “Search the database” image, you’ll see a small image that looks like this:

pinocchio 4 cropped

This is the “Fact Checker rating” and here’s how it works:


A little more exploring brought me to “Bottomless Pinocchios”:

download larger cropped


In December 2018 The Fact Checker introduced the Bottomless Pinocchio.  The bar for the Bottomless Pinocchio is high:  Claims must have received Three or Four Pinocchios from The Fact Checker, and they must have been repeated at least 20 times.  Twenty is a sufficiently robust number that there can be no question the politician is aware that his or her facts are wrong.

The Bottomless Pinocchios are maintained on their own landing page, so of course I immediately went there:

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Now we’re really going deep.  I can “Jump to a claim,” and then, when I “Hover over Pinocchio to read a claim,” we go interactive:

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It’s going to take me awhile to explore all this.

I can imagine how exhausted The Fact Checkers must be – they’re the ones doing all researching and checking and compiling.

So it’s understandable that their last published update was back on June 7.  There’s so much material to work with, because Trump’s lies – I mean, his false and misleading claims – never stop.

And because I know they’re so busy and exhausted, I thought I’d pitch in and help The Fact Checkers with some fact checking of my own.

This from a Trump Twitter storm on July 11:

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What Is A “Poll Tax” And Why Is It In The News?

The term “poll tax” has been in the news recently.

And while I’ve heard the term many times, I had only a vague idea of what it was.

Research time.

“Poll,” which – appropriately – rhymes with “stole” – appears to be an old English word that meant “head.”  If you wanted to know how many people lived in your town, you did a “poll” count, or head count.

In the American colonies, governments implemented a “poll tax” by taking a head count, and charging a fixed sum on every liable individual.  In other words, if you were alive, you were taxed for it, and the poll tax became a major source of government revenue.

poll tax_1900

Poll taxes fell out of favor in some states as populations grew, settled land, land values grew, and governments realized they’d make more money charging a property tax.

But poll taxes still hung around, sometimes in the form of hunting or fishing license fees and later, driver license fees.  And we still pay those fees; they just go by a different name.

If you didn’t like it, the various local governments simply shrugged and said, “Hunting and fishing and driving are optional.  Just – don’t pay it, and don’t hunt or fish or drive.”

Where it got ugly was in locations in which, if you wanted to vote, you paid a poll tax.

Again, voting?  Optional.  Can’t afford the poll tax?  Then don’t vote.

24thamendment01 largerAfter losing the Civil War (1861-1865), former Confederate states set up poll taxes of $1 or $2 per year between 1889 and 1966 as a prerequisite to voting.  This Jim Crow-era tool was used to disenfranchise those who couldn’t pay – first, African Americans and then, poor white Americans.

The end of the voting poll tax was the 24th Amendment, which passed in 1964.

But we still use the word “poll” in several different ways:

  • A record of the number of votes cast in an election: “Apathy might cause the poll to be unduly low.”
  • The places where votes are cast in an election: “The polls have only just closed.”
  • To take a sampling of attitudes or opinions: “The latest Gallup poll indicates…”

Which brings us current and using “poll” in news headlines.

First, Florida voters passed Amendment 4 in November 2018:

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Which led to headlines like this:

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Which has now led to headlines like this:

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Let’s start with:

Why are felons deprived of their right to vote?

Depriving someone of their right to vote when they’ve been convicted of a serious crime is a tradition that goes back to ancient Greek and Roman times, transitioned to Europe in the Middle Ages, and survives right up to our current day.

It was a form of “civil death,” the reasoning being that people who commit what we now call “felonies” have “broken” the social contract, thereby giving up their right to participate in a civil society.

poll tax_1918

As Europeans emigrated to the American colonies, they brought the tradition with them, and as the colonies became states, they began to formalize “civil death.”  In 1792 – nine years after the end of the American Revolution – Kentucky became the first state to establish criminal disenfranchisement when it ratified its constitution, which included this language:

“Laws shall be made to exclude from…suffrage those who thereafter be convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

In one form or another, other states did likewise.

Then, over the last few decades, the trend turned toward ending – in various degrees – felony disenfranchisement.  It’s a state-by-state policy choice, which eventually created a morass of rules that look like this:

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The Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan law and public policy institute, put it this way:

“Navigating this patchwork of state laws can be exceedingly difficult, especially because election officials often misunderstand their own states’ laws.”

Now let’s talk about former felons in Florida.

In November 2018 the people of Florida approved Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to former felons who had served their sentence, excluding those convicted of murder and sex felonies.

poll tax_1933

The amendment passed by a 30-point margin – 64% of voters – which made the will of the people of Florida very clear.

In June 2019 the Florida legislature passed, and Governor DeSantis signed, SB7066, which requires people who are eligible to vote under Amendment 4 to complete “all terms of sentence” before they can vote.

The legislature and governor’s SB7066 defined “all terms of sentence” as including payment of all restitution, fines, fees, or outstanding costs associated with the conviction.

It’s estimated Amendment 4 would affect 1.4 million felons.  Reports show that about 500,000 of them have unpaid fees or fines that could prevent them from registering to vote, due to the amended amendment.

poll tax_1945

Just hours after DeSantis signed the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, the Brennan Center for Justice, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that SB7066 creates two classes of returning citizens:  a group wealthy enough to afford their voting rights, and another group who cannot afford to vote.

Other civil rights groups suggest that SB7066 violates the prohibition against poll taxes enshrined in the 24th Amendment – the amendment that ended the pay-to-vote system.

And many people point out that those 64% of Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which never made any mention of court fines, fees or restitution.

poll tax_1960

The voters of Florida didn’t ask for court fines, fees or restitution, but the Florida legislature and governor did.

Why did the legislature and governor do this?

Just doing our jobs, says Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes:

“I think via this legislation, we are doing our constitutional obligation to define those undefined terms in the amendment.”

Anti-poll tax button, 1940s.

The ACLU and many others disagree:

“The right to vote should not come with a price tag.  Florida’s new law is un-American and unconstitutional.”

And many see it as blatant racism, given the disproportionate number of African Americans in prison.

Amendment 4 could have enfranchised thousands of African Americans, who tend to vote Democrat.

Florida has a Republican governor and a Republican majority in its legislature.

It’s a critical “swing” state in presidential elections.

So – “just doing their job,” or implementing a poll tax?

“Unamerican,” or sadly, very American, considering today’s bipolar politics?

All those 1.4 million former felons can do…

Is wait:

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When It Comes To Privacy, In This Country It’s Either…

We have a rather skewed sense of what to keep private and what to reveal.

Two recent news stories brought this thought to mind.

In one story we reveal more than we should, and in the other we reveal less than we should.

Revealing More Than We Should:

In early June, someone bought a lottery ticket in California and won the $530 million megaMega-Millions jackpot.

That person has a year to claim their prize, and if they do, her or his name will be online, on TV, on everything and everywhere.

In California, as in many other states, rules decree that the names of lottery winners must be made public.

The reason given by lottery officials has to do with transparency.

They say things like lottery spokeswoman Patty Mayers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in April 2019 – that the agency favors a policy which “protects the integrity of the lottery” and is “rooted in a tradition of transparency.”

Public figures love talking about transparency.  Usually when they’re demanding it from someone else, but not of themselves.

The rational is that showing an actual winner demonstrates that the game is fair:  “Look!winner cropped  My neighbor won the lottery!”  And that everything is above board:  “See that big check?  They’re really getting all that money!”  But most importantly, it boosts sales:  “I never bought a lottery ticket, but now I will!”

Unfortunately, along with the money, winning a lottery can also bring heartache, financial ruin, and even death.

We’ve all heard the horror stories – the Internet abounds with them:

Image 1 (2)

The guy who make bad financial decisions, and end up broke and living in a storage unit.  The woman whose windfall allows her to invest in the wrong thing, like heroin or meth, until an overdose kills her.  The people who make good decisions, even charitable decisions, but die at the hands of a greedy family member or friend or someone they don’t even know.

It’s easy to say, “Anonymity won’t protect people from the greedy if the winner tells them about winning,” and that’s true.

But if the winner is anonymous, then telling is the winner’s choice.

And it should be their choice, not the state’s.

Happily, I’m not the only one who thinks so:

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Revealing Less Than We Should:

Even if you haven’t participated, you’ve probably seen the commercials for and other companies – they’re called “direct-to-consumer DNA 23andmetechnology.”  You submit a saliva sample and get results about your genetic information.

If you want to take your results further – do deeper genealogy research – you can upload your results to and compare your results with others who have done the direct-to-consumer test and added their results to GEDmatch.

I’d never heard of GEDmatch until April 2018, when California law enforcement announced the arrest of a man suspected committing at least 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California between 1974 and 1986.  Dubbed the “Golden State Killer,” 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo was arrested with the help of GEDmatch and genetic genealogy:

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At the time I thought, “What a great use of technology!  Here’s a new tool to help law enforcement catch criminals.”

And in fact, it has.  According to a June 7 Associated Press (AP) article, picked up by other media, since DeAngelo’s arrest at least 50 other killings and rapes have been solved nationwide by using this strategy:

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And each time I heard about one of these cases, I thought, “Good!  One less criminal on the streets, one more person and/or family with some measure of resolution.”

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other critics started making waves.  According to that AP article, “They believe broad genetic searches violate suspects’ constitutional rights.”

And ACLU attorney Vera Eidelman wrote, “Blockbuster investigations, as gratifying as they are, shouldn’t obscure the very real dangers of government access to sensitive information”:

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So GEDmatch has updated its policy to establish that law enforcement only gets matches from the DNA profiles of users who have given permission.  Users have to opt-in:

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The AP article described this as a “95% reduction in GEDmatch profiles available to police.”

Leading investigative genetic genealogist CeCe Moore said, “We can be sure there are hundreds of cases that would have been solved in the coming months or years that very well won’t be now.”

I think this is crazy.No privacy

Thanks to social media, we’ve become a society – a world – where we give away our privacy, much of it “sensitive information,” on a daily basis.

In many public places, security cameras follow our every move.  Satellites in space track you through your phone.  We talk to our Alexa and other virtual assistants.

Our data is collected, sold to third parties – think Facebook and Cambridge Analytica – and used for all sorts of purposes.

Our data is stolen, as in this recent story:

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Privacy, schmivacy.

We’re so busy giving away our privacy that we barely think about it anymore.

So the ACLU is concerned about “suspects’ rights”?

How about the victims’ rights?

This one story says it better than I ever could:

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In April 2018 in southern Utah, 79-year-old Carla Brooks was sleeping when a man she didn’t know came into her house and woke her up, put a cloth in her mouth and sexually assaulted her.

carla cropped
Son Barton, Mom Carla.

It was genetic genealogy that identified Spencer Glen Monnett, 31, who faces first-degree felony counts of rape and object rape, along with a second-degree felony burglary charge and misdemeanor charges of sexual battery and simple assault.

Carla’s son Barton Brooks, 47, said he’s shocked by the DNA privacy debate.

“If my fourth cousin gets caught because of my DNA, that’s his problem.  He shouldn’t have committed a crime,’’ Barton Brooks said.

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In spite of the ACLU and others, this important work continues:

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So You Want To Go To The International Space Station?

Are you excited about NASA opening up the International Space Station (ISS) to tourists?

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Because I care about you, there are just a few teensy-weensy things I’d like to mention before you start packing:

Part 1:  Before You Go To The International Space Station

According to AP News, “private astronauts will have to meet the same medical standards, training and certification procedures as regular crew members.”

I wondered what “medical standards” the private astronauts will have to meet, so I went looking and found this:

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It’s an 83-page document that includes topics such as “Fitness-for-Duty Orthostatic Hypotension Standard” and “Permissible Outcome Limit for Microgravity-Induced Bone Mineral Loss,” but I decided to start with this section on page 26, subtitled “Pre-flight”:

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Do you know what the hell the “JSC FMC” is?  How about “MORD”?

Apparently you’ve forgotten how much our government loves acronyms.

Before you read anything in this manual, you need to go to pages 12-14 and memorize the list of 83 acronyms.  Here’s a sample:

Image 3 (2) fixed

Then, and only then, you’ll know that JSC is “Johnson Space Center,” FMC is “flight medicine clinic” and MORD is “Medical Operations Requirements Document.”

Got that?

confused_01 cropped
Oh, no!  What’s a “CMO?”

It’s crucial that you know your acronyms and their meanings.  What if there’s an emergency on your spaceship and the captain orders you to “Get the CMO, bring me the AED, and stand by for ACLS/ATLS!”

You can’t very well say, “Dude, I’ll have to go get my acronym list to understand what you just said.”

A response like that will get you bounced from ISS training faster than you can say, “STD,” which in NASA-speak means “standard,” and not “sexually transmitted disease.”


You will be tested in the morning.

Part 2:  Before You Go To The International Space Station

Brace yourself:  I have some bad news, and some bad news.

The AP article says that NASA “has contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to fly future crewed missions to the space station.”

You’re certainly aware that Boeing is the maker of the 737 Max, and that all 737 Max aircraft have been grounded since March – all 394 of them.  Here are just a few:

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737 Max jets parked in Seattle.

In mid-June Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg conceded the company’s “mistake”:

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Muilenburg expressed confidence that the Boeing 737 Max would be cleared to fly again later this year.

What’s “later this year”?  August?  Halloween?  Bartender Appreciation Day?

(The latter being December 1, in case you have a bartender you’d like to appreciate.)

So suppose your flight to the space station is on a Boeing spacecraft, and it gets you there…

And then Boeing realizes they made a “mistake”:

They don’t know how to bring their spacecraft back to Earth.

The launch was great fun and went really well, but then, when it’s time for the return trip…

you_01cropped final fixed

Will CEO Muilenburg once again express confidence that Boeing will have your return trip figured out “later this year”?  Next year?  Some day?

Hope you had travel insurance.

The other bad news:  SpaceX is also the builder of spacecraft for ISS trips.

SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk.

I googled “Elon Musk crazy” and got 10,900,000 hits:

Image 5 (2)

I’ve never considered “Elon Musk” and “rocket scientist” as synonymous.

Do you really want to go to the ISS – or anywhere – on a spacecraft built by a company whose owner has said,

“I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution?  I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer.  A third, digital layer that could work well and symbiotically with the rest of your body.”


“I would like to allocate more time to dating, though.  I need to find a girlfriend.

Elon Musk cropped
Sure, Elon.  Whatever.

“That’s why I need to carve out just a little more time.  I think maybe even another five to 10 – how much time does a woman want a week?  Maybe 10 hours?  That’s kind of the minimum?  I don’t know.”


“I’m not an alien…but I used to be one.”

Still not convinced?

Then read on:

spacex explosion

SpaceX Update (2)

Looks like your ride to the Space Station isn’t going anywhere soon.

Part 3:  Before You Go To The International Space Station

Here’s the last thing I’ll mention about your trip to the International Space Station:

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As of today – and we know this will increase – the cost of your round trip is $58 million.

And once you get to the ISS, you’ll be paying for your own life support, food and water.

As of today – and we know this will increase – it’s estimated that will cost you $35,000 a night.

Your stay on the ISS can be up to 30 days, and because you’re a take-it-to-the-limit kind of person, you’ll go for that 30 days.

So, 30 X $35,000 = $1,050,000.

But here comes the really expensive part:

That $35,000 per day does not include Internet, which will cost $50 per gigabyte.


Wow, that science experiment looks…um…interesting.

Now, according to NASA’s website, here’s what astronauts do on the space station:

“The station crew spends their day working on science experiments that require their input, as well as monitoring those that are controlled from the ground.  They also take part in medical experiments to determine how well their bodies are adjusting to living in microgravity for long periods of time.

“Working on the space station also means ensuring the maintenance and health of the orbiting platform.  Crew members are constantly checking support systems, cleaning filters, and updating computer equipment.”

Boring, boring, boring.

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Wow, that food looks…um…interesting.

And the food?

“An astronaut can choose from many types of foods such as fruits, nuts, peanut butter, chicken, beef, seafood, candy, brownies, mac and cheese, and spaghetti.  Available drinks include coffee, tea, orange juice, fruit punches and lemonade.”

Talk about boring!  No burgers, no beer, no marijuana-laced muffins?

And because it’s so boring, you’ll want to spend time on the Internet, posting pictures of yourself floating around in that microgravity, working on those experiments, eating that yummy spaghetti.

Want to post this picture of you floating in microgravity?  That will be $50, please.

But at $50 GB, you’ll get only 51 hours on Facebook!

And you’ll want to show all your friends how you’re cleaning those filters, but one GB gets you only a measly four hours on Skype.

As for watching TV – $50 is only 10 episodes of your fav show, hardly enough to qualify you as binge watching.

This may be the deal breaker.

But don’t get discouraged.

NASA plans to return to the moon by 2024.

You can save up more money to pay for more GB…

And you can practice your moonwalk:

moonwalk cropped

Movie Review:  “The Facebook Dilemma” Is OUR Dilemma (+ 2 Updates)

Release date:  October 2018Frontline

Review, short version:  Thumbs up for FRONTLINE, thumbs down for Facebook.

Review, long version:

The Facebook Dilemma, a two-hour FRONTLINE documentary, aired on PBS in October 2018.

I recently watched it.

FRONTLINE, on air since 1983, describes itself as a “long-form news and current affairs series.”  I find their programs to be very well-done, professional, and most importantly – credible.

I also found this one to be sickening.

It should have come with a warning:

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I can’t determine which part of the program made me the sickest, so here are just a few:

The Facebook robotic talking heads, who were so adept at toeing the company line while disavowing any responsibility for putting profits above peoples’ lives; for Facebook’s involvement in our recent and future elections; and for their continued enabling of the spread of inaccurate information and deliberate misinformation.

What the hell is a “Vice President of Social Good”?

These employees have titles like Vice President of Social Good, Vice President of Global Policy Management, and Product Manager for News Feed Integrity.  Those titles all translate into:  Zuckerberg/Sandberg Ass Kisser.

The numerous people from all over the world – the U.S., Egypt, Ukraine, the Philippines, Myanmar, England and elsewhere – who raised their hands and tried to tell Facebook about the consequences of its failure to acknowledge problems and fix them.  Here are a few of their statements:

“I tried to talk to people who are in Silicon Valley, but I feel like it was not being heard.”  – Wael Ghonim, Arab Spring activist


“You see years and years and years of people begging and pleading with the company, saying, ‘Please pay attention to this,’ at every channel people could find, and basically being ignored.”  – Zeynep Tufecki, UNC Chapel Hill

“I think the main response from Facebook was, ‘We’ll need to go away and dig into this and come back with something substantive.’  The thing was, it never came.”  – David Madden, Tech entrepreneur

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, in the documentary and elsewhere:

  • “At Facebook we have a broad mission: We want to make the world more open and truth o meter croppedconnected.”
  • “We are focused on privacy.  We care the most about privacy.  Our business model is, by far, the most privacy-friendly to consumers.”
  • “I don’t have that specific answer but we can come back to you with that…Again, we don’t know, I can follow up with the answer to that…I can get back to you on the specifics of when that would have happened.”
  • “Lean in!”

The Man Himself, Mark Zuckerberg, who somehow manages to say – to us, to the media, and yes, even to the U.S. Congress – stuff like the following with a straight face:

  • “Our mission:  Making the world more open and connected.”
  • “We’re a technology company.  We’re not a media company.”Liar Liar (1) cropped
  • “At Facebook, of course, we believe that our users should have complete control of their information.”
  • “We’re not going to share people’s information, except for with the people that they’ve asked for it to be shared.”
  • “So if you believe, like I do, that giving people a voice is important, that building relationships is important, that creating a sense of community is important, and that doing the hard work of trying to bring the world closer together is important, then I say this:  We will keep building.”

Are you feeling sick yet?

Sick because you know – as I do – that since The Facebook Dilemma aired last October, nothing has changed.

Oh, sure – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been poking a stick at Facebook for the past year over the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other screw-ups – at least, those Facebook has been caught at.

This past April numerous media reported that Facebook said it expects an ongoing investigation from the FTC could result in fines ranging from $3 billion to $5 billion:

Facebook Fine (2)

Since Facebook’s estimated worth is $500 billion, that fine doesn’t seem like much more than Zuckerberg’s lunch money.

And in June we learned that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is joining the FTC to step up the government’s scrutiny of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Facebook:

Ny Times (2)

The New York Times story said that Representative David Cicilline (D-RI), chairman of the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on antitrust, plans a set of hearings, testimony from executives from top companies, and subpoenas for internal corporate documents over the next 18 months.

Of course, we’re seeing how well House Democrats have been doing with hearings, gathering testimony, and getting results from subpoenas:

subpoenas (2)

The New York Times article went on to remind us, “If you’re big enough to be drawing antitrust heat, you’re big enough to have a lot of lobbyists, lawyers and employees in congressional districts all around the country.”

“A lot of lobbyists”?  According to – which drew the information from the Senate Office of Public Records – in 2018 Facebook spent $12,620,000 just on lobbying:

Lobbying Money (2)

Back to The Facebook Dilemma, which clearly is OUR dilemma.

There is no doubt that Zuckerberg, Sandberg et al will go on thinking that rules are for fools, and will follow their own rules despite all the saber rattling by Congress, the FTC, DOJ, other agencies and regulators.

And what are those rules?  They’re…

Commandments fixed

Update, June:

Not yet afraid of the damage Facebook is doing?

Then be afraid of this:

“Deepfake video.”

This is a new term for video that’s been doctored to show the same person but saying different words.

It uses AI – artificial intelligence – and it’s called “AI-manipulated media.”

Deepfake video jpg

This Zuckerberg video was created by two artists and shows a computer-generated image with an impersonator voicing Zuckerberg saying, “Imagine this for a second:  One man, with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures…”

The artists uploaded the deepfake to Instagram, and in June the video was seen around the world.

It’s not a perfect replication of Zuckerberg, but it’s close.

Close enough to fool the people who believe that anything they see on Facebook is true.

Because if it was fake – Facebook would take it down, right?


Facebook does not prohibit false information from being shared on Instagram or its main Facebook service.

There will be more deepfake videos.  The technology will get better, the videos and voices of higher quality.

We’ll see deepfake videos of world leaders, of politicians in our 2020 election.  We’ll reach a point where we can no longer discern what’s deepfake and what’s real.  As one expert put it, “A deepfake could cause a riot; it could tip an election; it could crash an IPO.”

Facebook knows deepfakes are misinformation.

And misinformation does not violate their policy.

Facebook Deepfake (2)

Update, July:

Earlier I talked about Facebook saying it expects an ongoing investigation from the FTC could result in fines ranging from $3 billion to $5 billion.

On July 12 it happened:

Update 1 (2)

On July 12 this also happened:

Update 2 (2)

Update 3 (2)

Rave: How Cool Is This?

As I was perusing the July 13, 2019 New York Times Best Seller Hardcover Fiction list I got to the end and thought…

wait what

I read it again to reconfirm, and then one more time to re-reconfirm.

My eyes had not deceived me:


Nine of the 15 – that’s WAY COOL!

AND YES, I know all-upper case is online shouting, but this really is something to shout about.

See for yourself:  Here’s my less-than-perfect reproduction of the July 13 list with my count added in red on the right.

Read ‘em and smile:

NY Times 1 (2) Fixed

NY Times 2 (2)

NY Times 3 (2)

I went online to find out if this huge disparity had happened before.

No one seemed to be talking about this happening before, or if this was a first.

Then I googled to find out who else was celebrating this, and so far, sadly…nytbest cropped

No one was.

And that’s too bad.

Because the New York Times Best Seller lists are pretty much the first and last word on the books people are buying, and the staying power of each book.

you go cropped fixedLike #1 Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing – 42 weeks on the list.

That’s staying power.

Plus new books by already published authors – #4 Danielle Steel, Lost and Found.

And new books by first-time published authors – #15 Linda Holmes, Evvie Drake Starts Over.

Wow – not bad for a first novel!

Here’s another reason it’s too bad no one has (yet) taken notice of those nine out of 15:

Pudding (2)

This article is from 2017, when author Rosie Cima did a fascinating exploration of “gender balance” on the New York Times Best Seller list, which Cima called “the equivalent of the Billboard Hot 100 for literature, tracking the weekly 10-15 best-selling books since the 1940s.”

Cima crunched a lot of numbers and provided a lot of visuals, including this one:

Pudding 2 (2)

And this one:

Pudding 1 (2)

At the end Cima concluded, “The gender ratio on the Best Seller list has been frozen at under 50% since the early 2000s.  The statistics suggest publishers and critics aren’t giving these new young authoresses the chance they deserve.”

Cima’s numbers covered decades.

I won’t focus on decades.

I’m focusing on just this one amazing week:

The week of July 13, 2019.

When WOMEN dominated the New York Times Best Seller Hardcover Fiction list:

Woman 1 (2)

For Those Guys In The Catholic Church It’s…

The Catholic church made all sorts of headlines in June:

Image 1 (2)

Image 2 (2).jpg

Image 3 (2) fixed.jpg


Item #1:  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:  Nothing Has Changed

The bishops’ conference was June 11-13, an assembly of nearly 300 members in Baltimore.  Its focus was the Catholic church sex abuse scandal, and it came practically on the heels of the bishops’ conference in Rome in February, which was also about – guess what – the sex abuse scandal.

Whew!  Those poor guys barely had time to unpack and get over their jet lag!

bishops conf
At the Bishops’ conference in Baltimore:  Every one of these guys is on his phone and missing the ya-da, ya-da, ya-da.

So all the guys sat around for three days and talked, which – when it comes to the church and sex abuse – they’re really good at.


This time around there was a lot of ya-da ya-da ya-da about bishops holding each other accountable for committing sexual abuse, and for covering up the crimes committed by their fellow bishops.

“In the past, only Rome was involved in the investigation of bishops, and the process was surrounded by secrecy,” said an article in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR).

In that same article, I learned about the new and improved reporting process, which sounds neither new nor improved.

The bishops came up with the idea of a toll-free phone number for receiving reports of “certain complaints” against bishops.

Why only “certain” complaints was not made clear.

Also, allegations will now be reported to the “nuncio,” an Archbishop named Christopher Pierre, the pope’s representative in the United States, who lives in Washington, DC.  He’s also referred to as “His Excellency.”

Papal Nuncio Christopher Pierre; just call him “His Excellency.”

His Excellency Christopher reports to the Vatican, then sits around and waits for the Vatican to empower him to do an investigation.

If that happens, His Excellency then investigates.


NCR noted that this new and improved system “has no provisions providing for transparency.”

As far as I can ascertain, the system has no provisions for reporting allegations to local law enforcement, either.

Since I’m talking about the bishops’ conference and how nothing changes, I’ll include this:

di nardo at conference cropped Image 4 (2)
This is Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, looking holier-than-thou at the conference. Just before the conference began on June 11, DiNardo was making his own headlines.

DiNardo is head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and it was to him that Laura Pontikes came in December 2016 to report that his deputy in the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, Monsignor Frank Rossi, had manipulated her into a sexual relationship that had gone on for years.

DiNardo’s solution?  He simply allowed Rossi to take a new job as pastor of a parish two hours away in east Texas.

On June 4, 2019 – three years after the meeting with DiNardo and a week before the conference – the church temporarily removed Rossi, announcing in a statement that he was being placed on administrative leave.

nothing cropped

 Item #2:  The Vatican’s New Document:  Courtesy Of The Know-Nothings

Speaking of the Vatican, that brings us to Item #2, the June 10 release of its document with the lofty title of “Male and Female He Created Them:  Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.”

According to the Washington Times, the document is “intended to help Catholic teachers,

versaldi cropped larger
The Know Nothings:  Versaldi (above) and Zani (below).

parents, students and clergy address what the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education called an ‘educational crisis’ in the field of sex education.”

Let’s start with a basic.

Catholic clergy, from priest to pope, take a vow of celibacy.  The definition of celibacy is “abstention from sexual relations.”

Yet somehow these guys are positioning themselves as experts “in the field of sex education.”

Somehow these guys feel they’re qualified to “help” Catholic teachers, parents, and students deal with the very complicated issues around sexual relations and sexual angelo-vincenzo-zani-croppedorientation, issues that even the most highly educated experts grapple with.

Upon what do the Catholic clergy base their qualifications as sex experts?

They’ve read about sex in books, maybe?

The document was co-signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, the head of the department charged with overseeing Catholic education, and Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, the secretary.

A cardinal and an archbishop.

Two more celibate know-nothing sex experts.

Item #3:  The Lord’s Prayer:  Is Nothing Sacred?

While all this was going on – the pope’s conference about sex abuse and the pope’s document about sex education – somehow the pope wasn’t too busy to say the Lord’s Prayer.

That is, change what is said in the Lord’s Prayer.

is nothing sacred croppedWhich, you’ll be relieved to know, has nothing to do with sex.

The pope has officially approved changes in the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, probably the most famous prayer in Christianity.

Instead of saying “lead us not into temptation,” people should now say “do not let us fall into temptation.”

After the announcement, an explosion of controversy erupted:

Image 5 (2)

“Very upsetting!” said one commentator.

“It just makes you wonder, where does it stop?” said another.

“I was shocked and appalled,” said yet another.  “It is not only deeply problematic, it’s almost breathtaking.”

Perhaps those who don’t like the changes, and anyone who’s unhappy, should call that toll-free hotline that the bishops at the conference are creating to field complaints.

Here’s the number:

1-800-FUCK-OFF cropped

Rant: Thank You For Your (Tax Dollar) Donations

The July 4 event in Washington, DC was both a waste of our tax dollars, and Trump’s salute to himself – and the dictators he so admires:

monitors 3 cropped Hitler parade 1939 fixed
Washington DC, July 4, 2019 Germany, 1939
blue angels russia 2017 cropped
Washington DC, July 4, 2019 Russia, 2017
tank_03 cropped North-Korean-2018 cropped
Washington DC, July 4, 2019 North Korea, 2018
U.S. jets china jets
Washington DC, July 4, 2019 China, 2017

Despite persistent queries from the media – and we taxpayers – about the cost of Trump’s “Salute to America” presidential vanity project, the government has not responded.

I suspect it’s because the government doesn’t actually know what the cost was.

But then, our government spends all sorts of taxpayer dollars and has no idea what they’re spending it on.

Remember this one:

Pentagon 2 (3)

And this one:

Pentagon 1 (2)

I did my own estimate so we schmucks, who paid, can read it and weep:

Costs Final Final (2)

I confess I’m disappointed that despite the president’s earlier promise about military hardware on view on July 4…

“But we have the brand-new Sherman tanks and the brand-new Abram tanks and we have some military equipment on display.  Brand-new.  And we’re very proud of it.”

There were no Sherman tanks, brand-new or otherwise.

Possibly because the Army hasn’t used Sherman tanks since the 1950s?

And – more disappointment, this time in myself.  In Trump’s July 4 speech he recounted a Revolutionary War event that somehow I’ve missed in my research:

“Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do…”

I didn’t know there were airports in the 1700s.

But these folks did:

Twitter (2) darker

The president called his July 4 “Salute to America” the “greatest political journey in human history.”

I think it was probably the greatest rip-off in human history.

Or then again, maybe that was…

Those $640 toilet seats.

navy-toilet-296x300 home depot $12.36
On the left is what’s purported to be the Pentagon’s actual $640 toilet seat; shall I let them know I found this nice one on the right at Home Depot for just $12.36?


Heads-Up To SCOTUS:

Our U.S. Supreme Court – SCOTUS – receives more than 7,000 requests to hear cases per year.

supreme court logo croppedThat’s a lot of requests.

SCOTUS agrees to hear between 100 and 150 of those petitions.

Whoa!  That seems like so few out of so many.

And the people/groups filing those petitions have already been through a lot, including slogging through our labyrinthian court system, where nothing happens expeditiously and everything costs a great deal of money.

Here are two cases, one of which hopes to go to SCOTUS and shouldn’t, and one I hope will go to SCOTUS and win.

Rip-Off Attempt  #1:  The Case SCOTUS Should Skip

Headline 1 (2) fixed

SDG&E – San Diego Gas & Electric – is our not-so-beloved utility company.  It is, in my opinion, best-known for trying to squeeze every possible penny from its customers, while paying maximum amounts of money to itself and its shareholders.

In this case, SDG&E has filed their SCOTUS petition because they believe the California Public Utilities Commission and the 4th District Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court violated their constitutional rights by denying the company permission to charge customers $379 million in leftover wildfire expenses.

“Leftover”?  What does that mean?

It means money SDG&E owes to plaintiffs and wants to screw out of its customers.

The dispute over the $379 million dates back more than a decade, when SDG&E first applied to recover the money from customers.  This was following three of the worst wildfires in a devastating firestorm in San Diego County in October 2007.

Harris Fire 2007
San Diego County, October, 2007.

The three fires combined to kill two people, injure 40 firefighters and destroy 1,300 homes.

Investigations into the causes of the wildfires found they were sparked by SDG&E equipment that had not been properly maintained.

SDG&E was confronted by plaintiffs alleging more than $5.5 billion in damages, but resolved those claims for $2.4 billion.  It recovered $1.1 billion from insurance and $824 million from legal settlements with third parties, leaving $476 million in unrecovered losses.

Read:  The “leftover.”

So SDG&E filed an application to charge customers $379 million, which – when I do the math – still leaves around $100M unaccounted for.

Perhaps SDG&E is planning to sneak that part of the “leftover” into the nebulous category of “other charges” that appears on my bill each month?

Bill (2) fixed

To that $379M SDG&E want to collect from us, let’s add that $100M, plus beaucoup bucks in lawyer$$$$$$ fee$$$$$$, for a case that one opponent called “a Hail Mary pass,” and another described as both “specious” and frivolous.”

If SCOTUS agrees to hear this case, I hope they tell SDG&E to…

hit_01 cropped

Rip-Off Attempt  #2:  The Case SCOTUS Should Hear – And Agree With Me

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No one is disputing that the painting by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro, Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain, once belonged to the Cassirer family.  Julius Cassirer, a German industrialist and part of a prominent Jewish family in Berlin, acquired the artwork in 1898, the year after Pissarro painted it.

“Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain,” Camille Pissarro, 1897.

No one is disputing that Lilly, Cassirer’s daughter-in-law, inherited the painting in 1926 after her husband’s death, or that the painting belonged to the family for four decades.

Nor is anyone disputing that, as the persecution of Jews escalated, Lily needed to get out of Germany.  In 1939 as she tried to leave, a Nazi official forced her to surrender the painting in exchange for the exit visa she needed.

And Rue Saint-Honoré became another of the estimated 600,000 paintings acquired, confiscated, and stolen by the Nazi government.

The painting passed through many hands before it was purchased in 1976 from a New York gallery by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a Swiss art collector and descendant of a German steel empire family.  In 1993 Rue Saint-Honoré was then acquired from the Baron as part of a $350 million purchase of his collection by his soon-to-be-namesake museum, Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza.

So here’s the dispute.

Did the Baron know or suspect that Rue Saint-Honoré was owned by a Jewish family and confiscated by the Nazis?

Did the museum know or suspect the same?

The Third Reich amassed hundreds of thousands of pieces of artwork – worth billions of dollars – and stored them throughout Germany.

The descendants of Lilly Cassirer say the Baron and the museum knew, or should have suspected.

But in a trial in Los Angeles that concluded in late April, U.S. District Judge John Walter sided with the museum.

Now, the baron was no slouch when it came to art collecting.  Among other red flags, the Cassirer descendants claimed that the baron was a sophisticated art dealer, and that he purchased Rue Saint-Honoré for $275,000, approximately “half of what would have been expected in a dealer sale,” according to their expert.  The expert concluded that, “There is no reasonable explanation for this price other than dubious provenance.”

Another red flag:  The baron who, when indicted in 1972 by Italian authorities for illegally exporting art from Italy, allegedly joked, “I buy the stuff in Switzerland and the United States, but how it gets there I don’t know.  I can’t check all that.”

The judge, on this issue, seemed to agree:  “There were sufficient suspicious circumstances or red flags which should have prompted the baron to conduct additional inquiries” about the provenance of the painting.

Also at issue:  There are international agreements – though non-binding – that appeal to the moral conscience of participating countries to return confiscated art works, and encourage public and private institutions to apply them as well.

Lily and Claude
Claude Cassirer as a young boy with his grandmother, Lilly Cassirer.  She was forced by Nazis to surrender the painting in exchange for a visa to flee Germany.

But the judge concluded that the museum had purchased the painting in good faith, and “The court…cannot force the Kingdom of Spain or Thyssen-Bornemisza [museum] to comply with its moral commitments.”

So for now, Rue Saint-Honoré continues to hang in the museum in Madrid.

And instead of passing the painting from generation to generation, Lily Cassirer’s descendants have passed the lawsuit.  From Claude, the grandson she raised who began the lawsuit in 2005, then to Claude’s daughter, and then to her son, David.

I believe the baron knew.  I believe the museum knew.

I hope David Cassirer continues his slog through our labyrinthian court system – where nothing happens expeditiously and everything costs a great deal of money.

I hope his case reaches SCOTUS, and becomes one of those few out of so many that the justices agree to hear.

And I hope that after more than 80 years, Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain will once again grace the wall of a Cassirer home.

The Pissarro painting, “Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain,” hanging in Lilly’s parlor in Germany in the 1920s, where Claude Cassirer played as a child.

Book Review: Too Much Fiction In This Fiction


Publication date:  May 2019

Review, short version:  Two roses out of four.

Review, long version:

I love English royal history, and British writer Alison Weir has been one of my go-to authors for years, for both non-fiction and fiction.

With her non-fiction books – 19, according to her website – I count on Weir for her great writing, meticulous research, and presenting only the facts as facts.

With her fiction books, I knew she still used that research, but could expand into what-ifs and might-have-beens.  Weir has written nine novels, and authors of novels are free to imagine, to tell the story any way they choose.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that Weir let her imagination run free in her latest novel, Anna of Kleve:  The Princess in the Portrait.

Anna is the fourth in her series about the six wives of Henry VIII, and here’s where Anna fits into that old saying about the fates Henry’s wives:

Wives Top row left to right:
Divorced – Katherine of Aragon
Beheaded – Anne Boleyn
Died – Jane Seymour
Bottom row left to right:
Divorced – Anna of Kleve
Beheaded – Catherine Howard
Survived – Katherine Parr

We should also add “survived” after Anna’s name, since she did, in fact, survive Henry VIII’s disgust, rejection, and anger.

Back then, people could – and did – lose their heads for less.

allison booksAs in her earlier books, Weir used her research throughout Anna of Kleve.  As always, her writing and storytelling were good.  And as always, with her fiction, I believed that Weir was telling the story based both on what she knew to be true, and what she thought could be true.

In this case, I think she may have gone overboard.

Or as Weir said in her Author’s Note, the book has “a storyline I suspect will provoke some controversy.”

I was well acquainted with Henry VIII’s disgust with, rejection of, and anger at Anna after their marriage.

But Weir is the first author I’ve read – ever – to suggest that Henry’s reactions were caused by his discovery on their wedding night that Anna, never married and supposed to be a virgin, had instead given birth sometime prior to their marriage.spoiler alert

This is the storyline Weir was referring to above.  She then weaves in a complete fiction about who Anna had sex with, where and when she gave birth, the sex of the baby, what happened to it afterwards, her ongoing relationship with the child’s father, a second pregnancy by him, and revealing her identity to that now grown-up first child just before Anna died.

Yup, that’s an imagination running free.

So free, that not long after the book’s publication, two British newspapers made headlines out of it:

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In the first article Weir says, “Was some scandal locked away in Anna’s past?  It is inconclusive and speculative, but I think you might find it convincing.”

I didn’t, but I’ll allow it’s possible.

And it’s possible Weir felt she needed to spice things up to make Anna’s life more interesting to the reader.  I sometimes think of Anna as Henry VIII’s forgotten wife – not noteworthy, like being his first wife or last; not the mother of his only legitimate son, like Jane Seymour; not sexy like Anne Boleyn, or sexy and unfaithful like Catherine Howard.

no drama croppedSo perhaps to some, Anna may seem rather dull.  She was German and barely spoke English, so no reputation for witty remarks handed down through the ages.  She’d led a quiet life, and was getting on in years for that era – age 25 when she married Henry.  Seven months later Anna agreed to an annulment, she remained unmarried, lived the rest of her life in England, and died of an illness at age 42.

She was mostly a No-Drama-Anna.

But did she or didn’t she?  Was she or wasn’t she?

Weir says Anna did, and she wasn’t.

I say only Anna knows for sure, and even now, after more than 400 years…

Anna Not Telling (2)

You Can Count On Our Government To Keep Thinking Of New Ways To…

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has many responsibilities, that, according to its website:

…Require the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector.  Our duties are wide-ranging, and our goal is To do 3 (2) fixedclear – keeping America safe.

With a to-do list like that, it’s no surprise that DHS almost overlooked this crisis on our southern border:

A one-mile long section of the border wall was in need of paint.

Specifically, in need of paint “to improve the aesthetic appearance of the wall.”

This is according to an email sent by DHS to Congress in early June.  And if there’s one word that comes to mind when I think of “DHS” and “Congress,” it’s…

aesthetic cropped cropped

To give you an idea of the scope of this project, it involves not only DHS, but also the Department of Defense (DOD), members of the U.S. military, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), according to CBS News:

A Customs and Border Protection official confirmed the assignment to CBS News, indicating the Department of Defense was asked to conduct the “application” of the paint, with CBP financing the paint and “associated materials.”  The estimated cost of the paint and equipment is approximately $150,000, the official added.

CBP also stated that improving “the aesthetic appearance of the wall” was “the primary objective of the operation.”

So let’s start with that “primary objective.”

“Aesthetic” means “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.”

Next, let’s do a quick Q&A:

Q:  Who’s idea was painting the wall?
A:  An unidentified…um…aesthete at DHS noticed the wall’s lack of…um…aesthetics.more or less cropped

Q:  Where is this happening?
A:  More or less around Calexico, California.

Q:  Where is Calexico?
A:  West of San Diego, around 120 miles.  No, wait – that’s the ocean.  Maybe east of San Diego?

Q:  How much wall will be painted?
A:  Probably a mile, give or take.

Q:  How long will it take?give cropped
A:  About 30 days or so.

Q:  How many U.S. military does it take to paint one mile of wall in 30 days?
A:  Could be 100, maybe more, maybe less.

Q:  Is this costing U.S. taxpayers money?
A:  Maybe.  Sort of.  Give or take.

Q:  I heard it was $150,000.
A:  You can’t put a price on aesthetics.

We’re very big on wall painting in San Diego, so I wondered if something like this was the DHS and DOD and CBP’s “primary objective of the operation”:

san diego la calors ice cream 727x545

San Diego – 4223 30th Street

La Calors – 1955 Julian Avenue

Year of the Rooster Colossus

Year of the Rooster
2596 Violet Street

National Ave & S. Evans Street

Alas, no.  Apparently they’re going for basic black.

That’s according to a reporter from Vice News, who visited the wall – I mean, the “operation” – talked to these military personnel, and posted this video:

Image 1 (2)

Notice those spiffy, spotless, military-issue painter’s overalls?  I wonder if those were part of that $150,000 for the “estimated cost of the paint and equipment”?

The military personnel were polite, but not exactly forthcoming when the reporter asked, “Why are you painting the wall black?”

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If you’re wondering why the above images are rather dark – it’s because the military is conducting the “operation” at night.  The reporter – logically – asked, “Why are you painting at night?”

Image 3 (2)

Shortly after that, an authoritative voice summoned the personnel away from the “operation” and – end of interview:

Image last (2)

I do hope that those aesthetically minded folks at DHS are so pleased with the “aesthetic appearance” of their operation that they’ll decide to make the entire wall more…um…aesthetic.partially-yellow cropped

After all, you wouldn’t paint part of one wall in your home and just leave the rest…um…unaesthetic, would you?

Now let’s do the math.

Currently, there are barriers of one form or another along 654 miles of our southern border.

At $150,000 per mile, painting those 654 miles would be just $981,000,000.

And like the man said, “You can’t put a price on aesthetics.”

I guess some people just don’t get it:

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