I see it on my TV, it’s everywhere online,
When I’m drinking morning coffee or sipping evening wine.
Infected numbers rising, the death toll’s rising, too.
I have to say
As of today
I’ve got the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
It started in December, in China so they say,
No one here was worried, cause China’s far away.
But then it started spreading, and heading our way, too.
And came the day
We’re on our way
To the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
Can’t find those precious facemasks, or ventilators? No way.
Our doctors and our nurses are in danger every day.
The Dow is in the toilet, the economy’s headed there, too.
There is no doubt
We’re all about
The Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
Can’t go to school, can’t go to work, can’t even see our friends,
We’re all just staying home these days, who knows how this will end?
Social distancing’s become the norm, and washing our hands, too.
As the USA
Leads the way
In the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
So, I’m turning off my TV, I’ll skip that stuff online,
I’ll drink a lot less coffee and drink a lot more wine.
I’m scared that I might have it, and give to others, too.
Can’t get a test
I need a rest
From the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.
It’s been a while since I featured Numbnuts in the News, but my newspaper had such a collection that I had to share them.
Let’s start with Ian Simmons and Joshua Reinhardt, both 34. Last month they were pulled over on I-10 in Florida after a trooper clocked them going 95 mph:
The trooper determined that Reinhardt was the subject of an active felony warrant for violation of probation, so driving that fast and attracting attention to yourselves probably wasn’t their best idea.
No, this was their best idea:
They had a stash in two bags marked “Bag Full of Drugs.”
What a good idea! If Simmons (above, bottom image) and Reinhardt had forgotten where they’d put approximately 75 grams of methamphetamine, 1.36 kilograms of the date-rape drug GHB, 1 gram of cocaine, 3.6 grams of fentanyl, 15 MDMA tablets and drug paraphernalia…
All they had to do was look around and say, “Oh, thank goodness! There’s our stash, in those bags marked ‘Bag Full of Drugs!’”
A bit of research and I learned that Simmons and Reinhardt bought the bags here:
But as you can read in the small print, the point of the “Bag Full of Drugs” is to have fun fooling people into thinking you’re walking around with some “amazing swag.”
Not with controlled substances that can get you 30 in a Florida slammer.
Last fall a guy walked into a bank in Dunfernline, Scotland. He was carrying a pillowcase with something bulky in it.
The bulky item was a meat cleaver, and he was there to rob the bank.
Before he announced his intention, however, he removed the cleaver and put the pillowcase over his head – a clever disguise.
Except for one thing:
He’d forgotten to cut eye holes in the pillowcase.
This was Matthew Davies, 47, and unfortunately, no image of him appears to be available, so I’ve improvised (left). Just pretend the eyeholes aren’t there, OK?
When Davies realized he couldn’t see anything, he removed the pillowcase from his head, made a lot of noise and threatening gestures with the meat cleaver, and got away with almost £2,000.
He then strolled out of the bank and headed home, and a brave bank customer followed, then alerted the police. Davis was arrested at home, where police found cash, a pillowcase and a stun gun in Davies’ house.
In late February Davies was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.
Some stories reported that as Davis was heading home, he stopped to pet a dog.
The dog had no comment.
And finally, this guy:
Also last month, Adrian Afriyie Ansah-Asante, 23, was driving around Waterford Twp., MI when he was pulled over by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.
“Oh, no,” you’re thinking. “Not another guy going 95 mph with Bags Full of Drugs!”
Asante was pulled over because Sheriff Bouchard noticed that Asante’s SUV was fitted out with “big police-style bumpers, an array of lights on the back and a decal that read ‘Emergency Response.’”
The car also featured a radar-type thing on the dashboard and a police-style computer.
The problem? The police car was a fake, and Asante was a fake – not a cop or a member of any Emergency Response unit.
Clearly, Asante had gone shopping at Fake Police Stuff R Us.
His shopping included a loaded gun and a large knife.
Asante’s sentencing included a felony concealed weapons charge and misdemeanor possession of flashing lights, a $50,000 bond and GPS tether.
Review, short version: Thumbs up for the movie, thumbs down for the ending.
Review, long version:
I’m not sure why I wanted to see Puzzle.
I’d barely heard about it when it was released, and I’d never heard of the people in it: Kelly MacDonald, Irrfan Khan and David Denman.
It must have been one of the trailers leading into a DVD I was about to watch, and when I saw that jigsaw puzzles were what the title was referring to…
And jigsaw puzzle contests were an important element of the film?
But…there was something about that woman that tugged at my heart, just in that brief trailer.
She continued to tug at my heart all the way through the movie.
“She” was Agnes, played by Kelly MacDonald.
Agnes, wife of Louie and mother of almost-grown sons Ziggy and Gabe, has no life outside taking care of Louie, Ziggy and Gabe. Housework, laundry, making meals, followed by more housework, laundry and making meals.
In other words, she has no life.
Agnes doesn’t complain. In fact, she doesn’t express much emotion at all.
We come to Agnes’ birthday, and one of the gifts is a jigsaw puzzle. The gift is completely out of the context of Agnes’ life, and she puts away somewhere.
But one day, something prompts Agnes to open the jigsaw puzzle. She spreads its 1,000 pieces onto a table, and starts fitting it together.
Agnes completes the puzzle.
She discovers she enjoyed completing the puzzle.
She discovers something she enjoys, for herself, that has nothing to do with anything except her.
And she discovers – she good at jigsaw puzzles.
Agnes is about to go on a journey that will change her life.
One scene that particularly touched me takes place as Easter approaches. Agnes is at home, sitting at the table, dyeing Easter eggs, and crying.
And I thought, “She’s dying and crying.”
And she was – weary of her monotonous life in which she’s totally taken for granted. She’s the meal maker and the housekeeper and the errand doer, a fixture like the fridge and the TV and the toilet.
Agnes allows the satisfaction she gets from mastering jigsaw puzzles to take her on that journey, and it will include deception, jubilation, and – horrors! – forgetting to make dinner because she’s engrossed in a puzzle.
Or rather – two puzzles…
One is the jigsaw in front of her.
And one is – where her journey will take her.
So – thumbs up for Puzzle, except…
Thumbs down for the ending, because it’s ambiguous.
And I like stories that are neatly resolved and wrapped up, all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.
But life isn’t like that, and neither is Puzzle.
Or, as the reviewer at rogerebert.com put it,
“Puzzle wisely doesn’t complete the whole picture in easy or obvious ways, but rather gives us the space to consider the solutions for ourselves.”
Unlike myself, my beloved husband, bless his heart, is not one for bad-mouthing people.
So this past Thursday, when I heard him exclaim, “He’s despicable!” I rushed to his side to see who he was talking about.
He was reading this story:
What? I thought. But why?
I read more articles, trying to understand, like this one…
And this one…
And they all said basically the same thing – even though Trump has repeatedly insisted states get their own supplies of critical medical equipment necessary to aid patients and protect medical professionals from coronavirus, the federal government is outbidding states on orders.
But none of them explained why.
Why would Trump tell governors to buy their own critical medical equipment, then allow the government to outbid states trying to do that very thing?
Was it for the sake of that smug, self-satisfied look he gets when he’s thinking, “I won, and you lost”?
Was it Trump’s self-gratification from making this (he thinks witty) remark:
“The federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”
Review, short version: Four roses out of four for both.
Review, long version:
I recently had the good fortune of learning that books by two of my favorite authors were being released at around the same time.
That meant hours of great reading straight ahead!
But, to clarify: “Books by two of my favorite authors” is a bit of a misnomer. Those authors, Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker, are, sadly, deceased – Parker in January 2010 and Francis in February 2010.
But – happily – their quality books are still being written, Francis’ by his son Felix, and Parker’s by novelist Ace Atkins.
Prior to their deaths, Robert B. Parker and Dick Francis were prolific writers – Parker had several series with different lead characters, but I’m focusing on his Boston detective who goes by one name: “Spenser.” This list includes the recent additions by Ace Atkins:
Here are the books Francis wrote solo, wrote with his son Felix, and that Felix has written solo:
Both series are mysteries, Parker with his detective, Spenser, and Francis mostly with a different lead character in each book. Parker’s Spenser series is sequential, and I recommend reading them starting with his earliest, The Godwulf Manuscript, published in 1973. It’s the best way to see Spenser evolve, and keep track of other characters who appear, and then reappear in later books.
The Francis books don’t have to be read in sequence, though several of his lead characters do make later appearances so I’ll recommend reading those in order as well, starting with Dead Cert in 1962.
While both authors’ lead character is a first-person narrator, their approach is very different. Spenser is a delightful wise ass; the Francis lead characters tend to have more gravitas. Spenser lives in Boston and many books are set there, with some elsewhere. The common thread in the Francis books is the connection to horse racing, though I’ll emphasize that these are not horse racing books.
For instance, in Francis’ most recent, Guilty Not Guilty, the lead character is a volunteer steward at a racetrack but with a full-time job in insurance. What all of Francis’ lead characters do have in common is a common-man-gets-into-big-trouble theme – and how will he get himself out of it?
Parker’s detective Spenser usually gets hired by a client who may or may not have something to hide. Spenser is sometimes the hardboiled private investigator, sometimes the compassionate hero, and always the smart mouth. In Ace Atkins’ latest, Angel Eyes, Spenser has a mystery to solve and lives to save – including his own.
When Francis and Parker died barely a month apart in 2010, I was sincerely sad.
And when I learned that Ace Atkins would continue the Spenser series, and Felix Francis would continue in his father’s tradition – I was skeptical. I felt there was no way their books would be anything but poor substitutes, would fade, and be forgotten.
I’m delighted to say that both Ace Atkins and Felix Francis are doing a wonderful job, staying true to their predecessors’ “voices,” and delivering highly readable, entertaining and satisfying stories.
I’ve read all of Parker’s Spenser series, and all the Francis books, and enjoyed every one of them. I’m hopeful that a new book from each will be out next year.
In early February the San Diego Zoo celebrated the birth of a hippo, the ninth calf born at the zoo.
The baby, named Amahle – which means “beautiful one” is Zulu – is indeed a beauty:
She weighs about 100 pounds and as you can see, is dwarfed by her mother, Funani. According to the Zoo’s website, adult female hippos have an average weight of 3,000 pounds, grow to 11 feet in length and are five feet tall at the shoulder.
Amahle is especially precious because the hippopotamus is currently listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species:
The primary threats the animals face are illegal and unregulated hunting for meat, and habitat loss.
And according to my research, a more recent threat is poaching hippos for their teeth. As elephant ivory and rhino horns become increasingly more expensive and policed in Asia, poachers and wildlife sellers have started replacing them with hippo’s teeth, which are made from a material similar to ivory and which can also be used in traditional Chinese medicine, and carved into art objects…
Stories are emerging of pods of hippos being machine-gunned down and all their teeth removed and sent to Asia.
So Amahle – every hippo – is precious.
Except for these:
Perhaps it’s not fair to say these hippos aren’t precious, but they definitely aren’t welcome:
Instead of living in Africa, their native habitat, these hippos are in Columbia, in South America:
How did they get there?
According to a 2019 story from CBS News,
“The story of Colombia’s hippos starts in Villa Napoles, the former estate of Pablo Escobar, who in his heyday had four hippos smuggled there for his private zoo.
“By the 1980s, his cocaine empire made him the wealthiest and most feared drug lord in the world. For Colombia, it was a reign of terror. He’s said to be responsible for some 7,000 deaths.
“Around the time Escobar met his death [in a police shootout] in the early 90s, the government relocated most of the animals to zoos, but not the hippos which were basically allowed to roam free.”
“Roam free” – because hippos are extremely difficult to catch, and it was deemed too dangerous and impractical to move them from the ranch.
“Roam free” – in a place with no natural predators and plenty of food and water.
The article estimated the hippo population at higher than 50.
That number was updated in this more recent article:
“The four hippos living there remained and multiplied over the subsequent years. The population has now expanded to around 80 individuals and spread beyond the confines of Escobar’s estate into the small lakes dotted around the surrounding areas.”
And that’s the problem.
More hippos mean more interactions with people. In Africa, hippos cause more human deaths than any other large animal. So far, there are no known attacks in Colombia.
As for the environment, scientists analyzed water quality and other environmental factors in the areas where the hippos roamed over a period of two years. They found that the animals were altering the chemistry and biology of local lakes:
“At night they feed on land, where they become covered in nutrients and organic material. Then in the daytime they move to the water, taking these materials with them. This can have negative consequences for the aquatic ecosystem.”
“Negative consequences” like their waste impacting the area’s water system, causing excess algae production that can lead to harmful algal blooms similar to red tides. This can harm both humans and animals, including the lakes’ native species.
“Negative consequences” like the concern that hippos are displacing native wildlife, like manatees and giant river turtles:
As the hippo population in Columbia continues to expand, scientists are at a loss for safe and humane solutions.
Killing the animals has proven highly unpopular with the Columbian people, so “We can’t just kill the hippos,” said biologist David Echeverri in the CBS News article. He works with CORNARE, the environmental agency in charge of tracking and managing the hippos in the region. “And the other solution is relocating hippos or sterilizing hippos,” acknowledging that would be an expensive and dangerous process.
And this more recently, from Gina Serna, also with CORNARE:
“It’s urgent. We already have a report of a family of hippopotamuses in the Magdalena river. The Magdalena connects almost all of Colombia, so they could move into any part of the country.”
And from the Newsweek article,
“On one hand, they’re a local tourist attraction and curiosity,” said Jonathan Shurin, an ecology professor at UCSD. “On the other, they pose a real risk to the public and the environment. There’s real public resistance, in Colombia and elsewhere, to removing them by lethal means, but no resources to capture or sterilize them.”
For now, signs warning “Danger, Hippos Present” are posted:
And the Columbian hippo population just keeps growing.
Africa: The continent where hippos belong, and are vulnerable.
Columbia: The country where they don’t belong, and are a threat to people and the environment.
And Amahle, our baby hippo at the San Diego Zoo?
I wish her a long and safe life, despite the havoc we’re wreaking on our planet.
In the very early hours of Saturday, March 14, CNN announced:
This bill, H.R. 6201, is the Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, a multibillion-dollar stimulus package aimed at assisting millions of Americans directly hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.
What only a select few know is that’s there’s a provision buried in the bill that reads, in part:
“To ensure that the President is receiving the most up-to-date information on the well-being of the American people, we require that he be the first of the American people to experience the hardships they, too, will be experiencing.”
As a result of this provision, my hope is that in the very near future, when Trump ducks out of an Oval Office meeting into his Executive Bathroom, he’ll experience this:
He’ll yell out and several of his toadies will rush to the door:
Toady #1: Yes, sir?
Trump: I’m out of toilet paper! How the #!*$!%*#!! can my bathroom be out of #!*$!%*#!!ing toilet paper?
Toady #2: Well, you see, sir, the store shelves are empty and –
Trump: I don’t care about that! Just get me some #!*$%!%*#!!ing toilet paper!
Toady #3: Yes, sir!
(A few minutes pass)
Toady #1: Sir? Sir, are you there?
Trump: OF COURSE I’M STILL HERE, YOU #!*$!%*#!!ing IDIOT!
Toady #1: Sir, we have everyone out checking the other bathrooms and the supply cabinets, we haven’t found any toilet paper so far but we’re moving as expeditiously as we can, and…
Trump: Are you wearing a tie?
Toady #1: A tie, sir?
Trump: YES! A #!*$!%*#!!ing TIE! ARE YOU WEARING ONE?
Toady #1: Well, yes sir, but…?
Trump: Crack open the door and toss me your tie.
Toady #1: Yes, sir! Right away, sir! (Pause, then door opens slightly) Here you go, sir.
Trump: Close the #!*$!&*#!!ing door! (Short pause) Why the #!*$!%*#!! do I have to solve all these big problems myself?
(Sound of flushing, and more swearing)
Of course, to fully ensure that Trump is experiencing what we’re experiencing, in addition to the toilet paper shortage, let’s include supermarket shelves empty of paper towels, baby wipes, hand sanitizers, bottled water, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, soap, peanut butter, pasta, rice, beans, canned goods and many other food items…
And of course, Trump can’t be tested for coronavirus because we can’t, and we can’t be tested because…
Oh, wait. It appears that most of us 331,000,000 U.S. residents can’t get tested, but somehow, Trump did:
But most of all, let us remember the people who are losing their jobs and incomes.
Trump claims he doesn’t take a presidential salary, so instead we’ll deprive him of the income from his businesses, which is substantial, according to this article: