Review, short version: Four roses for him, four skunks for her.
Review, long version:
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary presented me with a conundrum:
To finish, or not to finish?
To finish: I really liked the lead male character, Leon. He’s a palliative care nurse working at a hospice. He’s kind and sensitive and considerate. And he’s on quests to help two people simply because he cares about them so much.
Not to finish: I really disliked the female lead. First, her name was “Tiffy.” And second…
Well, I really didn’t need a second reason. An adult woman choosing to go by the name of “Tiffy” was reason enough.
But there were plenty of other reasons to dislike Tiffy.
(OMG, I don’t even like typing her name.)
The story starts with Tiffy in desperate need of a place to live. She and boyfriend Justin had been living together, but he dumped her.
But not yesterday or last week – he dumped her three months earlier. But she’s still living at his place, even though Justin is now engaged to someone else.
And she owes him three months back rent. The word “parasite” comes to mind.
Tiffy is self-centered, and clueless about social boundaries. She dresses in Bag Lady Chic (yes, there really is such a thing), I guess to demonstrate her free spirit.
Tiffy on Tiffy:
“That’s what I’m thinking, and that’s what comes out of my mouth.” (I don’t consider a lack of self-censorship admirable.)
“I am very good at not thinking about things, though, so I’ve just…resolutely not thought about it.”
“This rush of doing something ridiculously spontaneous – the total aliveness of whirling yourself off-plan and shutting up all the bit of your brain that tell you why this isn’t a sensible idea…God, I’ve missed this.”
The last was promptly followed by Tiffy running into the ocean, spraining her ankle and nearly drowning.
The premise of The Flatshare has possibilities – Leon is looking for a flatmate, and Tiffy is looking for a place she can afford. He works nights and is away weekends, while she works days. So, though they’d be living in the same space and sleeping in the same bed, their paths never need cross.
They start to leave each other notes, which, as time passes, become more personal.
The book’s point of view switches between Tiffy and Leon, both first-person narrators, and when the focus was Leon, I got very caught up in his story – the depth of his caring for his hospice patients, his worry about and love for his brother Richie, his backstory.
As for Tiffy…O’Leary introduces the plot device of Tiffy having been severely emotionally abused by Justin, and after she moves out, his abuse – now combined with stalking – continues. And while those circumstances brought on my sympathy, it was too late for me to like her.
After the final chapter, there’s a two-year-later Epilogue with Leon at his best and Tiffy still…Tiffy.
But – as if they’d simply vanished – there’s no mention of Richie, or Justin, or two other important characters, Mr. Prior and Johnny White. Important story lines but no resolution.
Perhaps O’Leary will write a sequel where they all end up living together, and call it…
Until recently, Katie Hill was a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating Republican incumbent Steve Knight in November 2018 as part of the Democrats’ “blue wave.”
She represented California’s 25th District:
From January 1, 2019 until her resignation at the end of October:
Whatever important things Hill did during her time in office, nothing garnered attention like the headlines that began in mid-October:
Stories like this began appearing after the website RedState.com, described as a “conservative political blog,” posted stories about Hill with nude photos, private texts, and headlines that included Bisexual Rep. Katie Hill Allegedly Left Her Husband For Her (Male) Legislative Director and, CA Rep. Katie Hill Allegedly Involved Female Staffer In 2-Yr ‘Throuple’ Relationship.
I haven’t read past those headlines, nor will I.
Another member of the U.S. Congress behaving badly?
Hill denied the affair with the (male) legislative director, Graham Kelly. He’s a House employee and a relationship with him would be a violation of House rules.
She did not deny the relationship with the campaign (female) staff member.
After the RedState.com stories appeared, Hill talked about “the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation.”
Hill and her husband of nine years, Kenny Heslep, are in the midst of an acrimonious divorce.
As for her reference to “hateful political operatives,” on October 31 the Los Angeles Times stated that “The main authors of the articles were former campaign advisors to Steve Knight, the Republican congressman ousted by Hill a year ago.”
Knight denied having anything to do with anything, and didn’t respond to requests for interviews.
Heslep, who in September had told a podcaster that he was ready to talk publicly about his split with Hill, now wasn’t responding to requests for interviews. According to his parents, Heslep claimed his computer had been hacked just before the images of Hill were published.
Events moved quickly. The House had adopted rules last year that bar members of Congress from having sexual relationships with subordinates – as Hill was accused of having with Kelly – and the House Ethics Committee began an investigation.
Hill admitted to a consensual relationship with the female campaign aide, but continued to deny a relationship with Kelly.
Hill decided to resign. Again, according to the Los Angeles Times, Hill advised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she planned to step down, but Pelosi urged her to say and fight, at least for a while longer.
“I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me,” she said in a statement addressing the ethics inquiry. “I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain. This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and the people close to me is despicable and will not succeed.”
But the effort did succeed. Because they – the people who revealed the stories along with Hill’s photos and texts – succeeded.
In her resignation speech on October 31 Hill said, in part,
“Yes, I am stepping down, but I refuse to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful. The way to overcome this setback is for women to keep showing up, to keep running for office, to keep stepping up as leaders. Because the more we show up, the less power they have.”
She also said,
“I am leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching. I am leaving because of the thousands of vile, threatening emails, texts and calls that made me fear for my life and the lives of the people I care about.”
And, at the end,
“So today as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings, not just because of corruption, obstruction of justice, or gross misconduct but because of the deepest abuse of power – including the abuse of power of women.
“Today as my final act I voted to move forward with the impeachment of Donald Trump on behalf of the women of the United States of America.”
I think it’s worth pausing to think about what Hill did.
She was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for a possible sexual relationship with a subordinate, which she denied. Nothing was proven or resolved before her resignation.
She’d had a consensual sexual relationship with a campaign staff member, which she admitted. That staffer may have been involved in a “throuple” with Hill and Heslep.
She’d posed for photos with and without that campaign staff member, and in some of them, Hill was nude.
She’d allegedly posted those photos, nude and otherwise, on an online site several years ago.
So far, none of this is illegal.
What it is – is dumb.
Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Hill forgot the #1 rule in our online world:
Once in cyberspace – always in cyberspace.
She had to know that posting nude photos of herself online, and of herself and the female campaign staffer, was leaving her vulnerable to future exposure. She ran for and won a political office, knowing those photos were out there, just waiting to be revealed by someone.
Someone – perhaps the unemployed, vindictive husband she was divorcing, who had to borrow money from his parents to hire a divorce lawyer, and whined, “I am not looking for anything excessive, she is still fighting even basic spousal support.”
Someone – perhaps the vindictive Republican opponent whom she soundly defeated in 2018, capturing the last Republican-held U.S. House seat anchored in Los Angeles County.
Hill also forgot the #1 rule in our political world:
Do what you want, but don’t get caught.
Forgetting these two rules were Katie Hill’s only “crimes.”
And lest we forget, misconduct – sexual and otherwise – by politicians has been around as long as politicians have been around. Here’s a by-no-means-complete list of members of Congress who recently got caught:
Representative Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) was investigated by the House Ethics Committee amid allegations of sexual harassment. He completed his term and chose not to run for re-election.
Representative John Conyers (D-MI) resigned after paying a sexual harassment settlement to a former staffer.
Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) resigned after multiple reports of inappropriate behavior toward female staffers.
Senator Al Franken (D-MN) resigned after eight women accuse him of sexual misconduct.
Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) resigned after news broke that he had settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with $84,000 of taxpayer money.
Representative Pat Meehan (R-PA) announced his resignation following reports that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint with a former aide.
Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) acknowledged he both took and emailed nude photos of himself, then decided not to seek re-election after the photos were leaked.
Representative Timothy Murphy (R-PA), married and an outspoken opponent of abortion, resigned when he was revealed to have strongly encouraged his mistress to get an abortion.
Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is charged with misuse of campaign funds, including financing romantic flings with lobbyists and congressional aides. His trial is set for January 2020.
Representative Chris Collins (R-NY) was never charged with sexual misconduct, but rather accused of, and plead guilty to, insider trading charges. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17.
Not all members of Congress resign when they’re caught. Some go through an investigation and are exonerated. Some are not. Some finish out their terms, some don’t.
Some are still members of Congress.
Hill could have stayed, and continued serving.
But the exploitation of Hill’s sexuality (she was the first openly bisexual member of the House), the supposedly “pornographic” photos, and the systematic, organized destruction of her professional and personal lives overwhelmed her. She was, understandably, afraid of more photos being released, more personal information revealed, more pain.
And her enemies were too strong, and totally committed to bringing Hill’s House seat back into the Republican fold.
I find it perfectly ironic that the among the first people to announce their candidacy for Hill’s seat is not Knight, her former opponent, but rather George Papadopoulos, Trump’s former campaign adviser and a convicted felon:
According to the October 29 Daily Beast,
“Former foreign policy advisor to President Trump and author George Papadopoulos is now running to put California’s 25th Congressional District seat back in Republican hands,” reads a statement on Papadopoulos’ newly minted campaign website. “Help fight back against Democrat corruption by joining George’s campaign today!”
Perfect: A Republican convicted felon fighting back “against Democrat corruption.”
The Hill story aftermath?
Hill has already been added to the online Congressional Misconduct Database, and Wikipedia’s list of Federal Political Sex Scandals in the United States.
She’ll be grist for the media mill for another week or two, then fade from the headlines.
Hill’s name will appear in stories during the Papadopoulos and other campaigns to fill her House seat, with many of those stories continuing to emphasize words like “bisexual” and “throuple” and/or “nude photos.”
For now, Hill is out of office, out of work, and I assume out of the home she shared with Heslep.
She will, at some point, start picking up the pieces of her life, and her life will go on.
So yes – I feel sorry for Katie Hill.
Just as I felt sorry for another woman named Hill who, 28 years ago, was also disrespected by men, battered by the media, and left to pick up the pieces of her life.
And I feel sorry about how little things have changed.
1991: Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas hearings, and several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Committee’s questions to Hill included “Are you a scorned woman?”
In late October and into November, California was once again being ravaged by wildfires.
And once again, Trump was being his usual ignorant self:
I think the November 3 San Francisco Chronicle did a fine job of refuting this. The words in bold are my emphasis:
Trump’s tweets have consistently failed to note that more than half of forested land in California is under federal control. Experts also note that forest management is just one of many factors that can affect wildfires’ severity.
Many of the blazes that have devastated California since 2017 have been brush fires, not forest fires, and many ran through large swaths of private land, including the Camp Fire.
Newsom’s office pointed out Sunday that the governor suspended permitting and regulatory requirements in March to speed wildfire fuel-reduction work in 35 high-hazard areas.
At the same time, it said, Trump proposed a $40 million cut in the hazardous-fuels reduction budget for the U.S. Forest Service, which manages much of the federal government’s forests.
Trump’s above tweet not only displayed his usual ignorance, but also his usual inaccurate self – he can’t even quote himself correctly.
What he “told” then-Lieutenant Governor Newsom “from the first day” they met was NOT that “he must ‘clean’ his forest floors.”
It was back in November 2018, and Trump visited an area in California devastated by a wildfire.
During that visit Trump told Newsom and then-Governor Jerry Brown how the people of Finland prevents wildfires in their forests:
“They spend a lot of time raking.”
This supposedly from a conversation Trump had had with Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö.
When asked, Niinistö said that he and Trump did discuss the California wildfires when they’d met the previous weekend in Paris, and he’d told Trump that “we take care of our forests.”
But nothing about “raking.”
The people of Finland promptly showed that though they were a small (population around 5.5 million) country, they had a big sense of humor.
And because I thought the Finn’s posts were so damn funny, I wanted to revisit the posts as a reminder that Trump HATES being laughed at – so let’s keep laughing.
We need laughter now, more than ever:
And this, more recent, same topic:
I’m pleased to give Governor Newsom the last word — his November 3, 2019 response to Trump’s ignorant tweet:
Yeah, me neither. We changed our clocks yesterday due to damn Daylight Saving Time.
That time change scrambles up everybody’s sleep for awhile.
And that’s why, back in November 2018, we Californians voted to do away with the twice-a-year clock changing and all that “Spring Forward/Fall Back” stuff.
We voted on Proposition 7, and a clear majority of us – 60 percent – said, “Let’s stop this clock-changing crap.”
That was a year ago.
So why are we still doing the clock-changing crap?
Here’s one reason:
Here’s the process:
For Proposition 7 to become a reality, a law must be passed by two-thirds of the California legislature.
For two-thirds of the California legislature to pass a law, there must be a law to pass.
That law took the form of Assembly Bill 7, or AB-7, introduced by Assemblyman Kansen Chu, a Democrat who represents California’s 25th Assembly District:
Chu introduced the bill on December 3, 2018.
It’s been languishing in the legislature ever since.
Languishing, like 19th-century woman on her fainting couch, in need of smelling salts to revive her:
AB-7 reads, in part,
Existing state law sets the standard time for California and sets Daylight Saving Time to begin each March and end each November. Existing law allows the state to set the standard time to year-round Daylight Saving Time if federal law authorizes the state to do so.
Existing federal law does not currently allow a state to set its standard time to year-round Daylight Saving Time.
This bill would set California’s standard time to year-round Daylight Saving Time after the federal government authorizes the state to do so, as specified.
So the passage of AB-7 would only happen if the California Legislature passed it by two-thirds and then federal government authorized it.
Strange but true – back in March, Trump said something I agreed with:
Me, agreeing with Trump?
Bring me the fainting couch!
So it appears that the federal government would authorize AB-7, and in California we could forget about changing our clocks and trying to adjust our twice-a-year sorry asses.
But…AB-7 isn’t going anywhere, and it appears the reason is none other than…
California Assemblyman Kansen Chu.
The guy who introduced AB-7 in the first place.
In September Chu announced that he was making a two-year bill out of AB-7. Chu said he made the call because he wants to further consult his constituents:
“As this is an issue that impacts all Californians, I want to take the next few months to ask my constituents their thoughts on permanent Daylight Saving Time vs. permanent Standard Time,” he said in a statement.
AB-7 was very clear:
“This bill would set California’s standard time
to year-round Daylight Saving Time.”
Now Chu wants to cruise around the 25th District and ask people if they want permanent Daylight Saving Time or permanent Standard Time?
While he’s at it, is he going to “ask his constituents” if they want French fries or onion rings with that?
“It is important to me that my constituents are heard, and putting a pause on moving the bill will give me the opportunity to do more outreach.”
Assemblyman Chu, your constituents have already been “heard.”
They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t prevaricate. They didn’t obfuscate.
In November 2018, your constituents were some of the seven million+ voters who said yes to Proposition 7.
In fact, if you look at this map of the Proposition 7 votes by county:
You’ll see that your 25th District voted solidly green – in favor of Proposition 7.
Proposition 7, the bill that “would set California’s standard time to year-round Daylight Saving Time.”
Assemblyman Chu, what part of this don’t you understand?
Well, while we’re waiting for Chu “to do more outreach,” the U.S. Congress has the opportunity to fix the clock-changing crap. And not just for California, but for the whole country.
It’s Senate Bill 670, the Sunshine Protection Act:
And in case you can’t read the fine print at the bottom, here it is:
S.670 was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on March 6, 2019. On October 31, 2019 Rubio – fainting couch time again – also said something I agree with:
“It’s my hope that Sunday, November 3 will be the last time that we have to do this ridiculous changing of the clocks back and forth. It makes absolutely no sense, there’s no justification for it. It has strong support in the House and in the Senate, the White House, the president said he would sign it. I hope we can get this bill passed because I just think it makes all the sense in the world, and this changing of the clocks back and forth makes no sense at all.”
But Rubio introduced the Sunshine Protection Act back in March.
And since then it, too, has been languishing, this time in the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. That’s a standing committee made up of 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
So what the hell have these 26 people been so busy doing that they can’t move along a simple bill that “has strong support in the House and the Senate, and the White House”?
I guess they’ve been busy with this:
Because of this…
Looks like we’re stuck with Spring Forward/Fall Back.
Half-empty planes. If you didn’t want the middle seat of three, or if you preferred a window seat over an aisle seat, or if the passenger in front of you dropped his seatback down into your lap – you just moved to an empty seat. There were plenty of them.
If the plane was a widebody, you could stretch out across the four or five center seats for a nice, long nap. Pillows and blanket were free, and clean. I’d stretch out, cover up, and mumble, “Wake me up when the food arrives” to a passing flight attendant.
And that food – while never great, it was free. There were hot entrees, and you had a choice of entrees: “Omelet or fruit plate?” “Chicken or beef?” And I’m not talking just in first-class – free food for us peons in coach, too.
There was a charge for adult beverages, but juices and sodas were free. Now we’re lucky if we get a gratis glass of water.
That “now” brings me to “now” – and the latest in torture, I mean, in commercial air travel:
That’s right – in October Australian airline Qantas completed the first non-stop flight from New York to Sydney, Australia.
For 20 agonizingly long hours, passengers were trapped in a Boeing 787-9 for 10,200 miles of together time.
Now, this wasn’t a for-real commercial flight – it was a practice flight. It was a “let’s see if this plane can actually fly non-stop from New York to Sydney” flight.
I doubt that Qantas put it quite that way to the passengers.
After all, what if the answer was…
Qantas Captain: “Folks, I’ve got some good news…and some bad news. The good news is, we’re only 100 miles from the coast of Australia. The bad news is, this little experiment of ours has proven we can’t fly from New York to Sydney without refueling, so we’ll all be swimming those last 100 miles.”
As a hedge against this, the flight carried only 50 passengers and no cargo. Some of the passengers were Qantas employees, who, prior to going, were told by their managers,
Qantas Manager: “I’ve got some good news…and some bad news. The good news is, you’re getting a free trip from New York to Sydney. The bad news is, you’re getting a free trip from New York and we hope to Sydney.”
So, a few more practice runs and I guess Qantas will launch its regular service.
Well, I’ve got some bad news, too. An airline can’t make any money with only 50 people on an aircraft that can be configured to hold up to 330 passengers. And no cargo? No profits there, either.
So I figure Qantas will pack that Boeing 787-9 full and begin a new phase in torture, I mean, in commercial air travel:
Twenty hours of this:
And, as so often happens, the flights will be overbooked. But no worries – Qantas will accommodate you in the baggage hold with these passengers:
One, last, not-so-minor thing:
Qantas made this New York to Sydney trip in a practically empty Boeing 787-9. It needs a plane that can make the flight with a full load, and as one article noted, the new Airbus A350-1000 “may have the necessary potential.”
Considering that we’re talking about making this trip in a Boeing aircraft, and considering Boeing’s recent headlines and history, perhaps Qantas should go aircraft shopping…