Pass The Forks, Please!

When I’ve been in Asian restaurants (pre-pandemic, of course) and seen people using chopsticks with great dexterity…

chopsticks incorrect_02 cropped
Yes, I am chopstick challenged.

I confess to more than a twinge of envy.

I have never managed to master chopsticks.

When I try to use them I’m as likely to get a chopstick in my nose as any food in my mouth.

I do just fine with a fork, but chopsticks…not so much.

Chopsticks have been around for a long time.

Forks…not so much.

Estimates place the use of chopsticks as eating utensils at around 5,000 years ago in China, and spreading to Japan, Vietnam and Korea by 500 AD.

Medieval banquet:  No forks on this table.

Forks were in use for eating by the fourth century in the Eastern Roman Empire, but didn’t become common in Europe – specifically, Italy – until the 14th century.

And then a forking scandal ensued.  “Shocking!” exclaimed some.  “Unmanly,” sneered others.  And the Catholic Church disapproved of forks, seeing it as “excessive delicacy.”

Most of Europe didn’t adopt the fork until the 1700s, which begs the question:

Without forks, how did medieval Europeans transfer the food from their plates – to their mouths?

With knives.

Very sharp knives.

The process was simple:  Poke, tear, stab or spear a piece of food from the plate with your knife, transfer the food to your mouth.  Chew, swallow, repeat.

I probably would have sliced my nose trying to get the food in my mouth.

Used for eating, this medieval ballock knife was also called a “kidney dagger.”

When you were a guest in someone’s home, you did a BYO – bring your own knife.  Then, if you were attacked by a ne’er-do-well on your way home, you’d use the same knife to defend yourself.

As I said – sharp.

As I said – slice my nose.

So – in terms of table utensils, at least – I’m glad I don’t live in the Middle Ages.

I’ll stick to my trusty fork, yes, even in Chinese (or Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese) restaurants.  I’ll be the one mumbling to the waitperson, “Can I have a fork, please?” while my fellow diners display their “Why did we invite her?” looks.

Better that, than a chopstick in my nose.

Today there are many types of forks – in one article I counted 35, including one for ice cream.

Then there’s perhaps the most famous fork of all, thanks to Yogi Berra, who famously said:

Yogi when-you-come-to-a-fork-in-the-road-take-4081880 cropped

I Am In Search Of The Absurd

One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is the opportunity it presents to enjoy the absurd.

I love funny stuff, but I love the absurd even more. 

You know – those human behaviors that make you pause and say…

“Is this the truth?” you wonder, “or is someone making this up?”

Usually, it’s the truth.

That’s the beauty of the absurd.

One blog I posted about the absurd was June 2018, when the United States Postal Service (USPS) came up with the brilliant idea of selling scratch-and-sniff stamps:

The postal service, which has been in financial trouble since Ben Franklin founded it in 1775, apparently decided that scratch-and-sniff stamps would help turn things around.

USPS predicted – incorrectly, it turned out – that hordes of us would welcome the opportunity to scratch and sniff something that had been mangled in machines, spilled on floors, and touched by how many who-knows-where-those-hands-have-been.

Then there was the very first post I did, back in May 2017:

I talked about how I hated having houseguests, how most people hate having houseguests, but that we do it anyway.

Absurd, yes?

I recounted several houseguest experiences, including the time my friend and her husband came to stay for just one night. 

One night – that was doable, right?


After a nice day together, we all turned in.  Then, when I was almost asleep, I heard a noise from the bedroom next door that was instantly recognizable though almost indescribable.  It was female, it was loud, and it began with “oh, oh,” followed by, in an equally loud male voice, “oh, god,” followed by a duet:  “god, oh, oh,” followed by – well, you get it.

But never was the absurd easier to find than after Trump and his parasitic family moved into the White House. 

The absurdity was non-stop, and for absolute absurdity, no one could beat Melania Trump.

March 2020:  Our country had started its miserable slide down into the pandemic.  Was Melania focused on where our country was headed, and what she could do to alleviate the suffering?


She was focused on this:

Building a tennis pavilion at the White House.

So I love the absurd, but – sadly – over the past year I’ve realized that my enjoyment of the absurd had gotten…frayed around the edges. 

My enjoyment of life in general had gotten frayed around the edges.

A daily increasing pandemic death toll will do that.

Oh, I had it better than most, and I knew it.  I hadn’t lost anyone I loved, I didn’t know anyone who’d been infected, and if I hated wearing a face mask, well – just suck it up and do it.

Recently, writer Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times summed up her – and my – situation perfectly:

“Knowing how little I’d lost compared to others didn’t lessen my misery, it just added a slimy coating shame to it.”

So here I was, wondering if I’d ever find anything absurd again.  Wondering if I’d ever again have another one of those “What.  What?” moments.

Salvation came on March 24, with this big announcement:

Who? I thought.

Who the hell is Chrissy Teigen?

And who cares if she deleted her Twitter account?

Well, if the Associated Press (AP) – a respected, credible media outlet – considered her newsworthy…

Perhaps I was onto something.

Something absurd.

It turns out that Teigen, 36, is “an American model, television personality, author, and entrepreneur.”

Which is another way of saying she doesn’t really do anything, but is, instead, famous – for being famous.

She has – had – 13.7 million followers on Twitter, who apparently couldn’t wait to lap up pearls of wisdom like this:

“john” being her husband, singer John Legend.

And this:

The couple have two children, one of whom appears in this image with Teigen, which Tiegen posted:

In addition to posing for photos with her son, Teigen noted another activity the two share:

“Wait til the find out we take baths together.” 

I think she meant till rather than til, and they find out, but who am I to question such eloquence?

Teigen’s eloquence was again on display in this treasure:

Teigen’s husband had been invited to perform at President Biden’s inauguration, and Chrissy accompanied him, taking note of the “literal fucking heroes” i.e., National Guard members.

Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

My search to find out who Chrissy Teigen was didn’t uncover any Nobel Prizes, Pulitzer Prizes or even door prizes, but it did lead to my discovering these important items on her website:

If you, like me, have been craving some basic b*tch hair thingies – problem solved.

And her 13.7 million former Twitter followers?  If these examples are anything to go by, they are bereft:

So all this explains the attention paid to Teigen in the national and international news – in addition to the Associated Press, I found her dumping-Twitter story on CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Variety, People, the Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, ABC, CBC…

And Glamour, which boasts “1115 Stories about Chrissy Teigen”:

I, and I’m certain that you, want to know in which public places Teigen and her husband have had sex.  Ms. Eloquence said:

“One time, at the Grammys, I said that we had sex at ‘that Obama thing,’ and that came out wrong.  Because what I actually meant was…it wasn’t with them or near them…I believe it was at the DNC, actually.”

The story goes on to say,

Teigen also said she and Legend have done it at the Los Angeles boutiques Ron Herman and Fred Segal (“right in front of the juice bar”).  They’ve had sex on a plane too – and not a private jet. 

As for the burning question, Why, oh why did Teigen close her Twitter account?  According to the Washington Post,

Her departure from Twitter came on the heels of her announcing her partnership with Kris Jenner to create a line of plant-based cleaning products, which drew criticism online.

Teigen (left) and Jenner with their brand-new line of cleaning products; Jenner is the matriarch of the Kardashian Klan, who are also famous for being…famous.

Apparently some people were trolling Teigen and Jenner, like this example:

“Seems pretty tone deaf.  Two wealthy women with housekeeping staff, marketing cleaning products to the middle class in the midst of a pandemic.”

Apparently this isn’t the first time Teigen was trolled.

Teigen’s last tweet included this:

“But it’s time for me to say goodbye.  This no longer serves me as positively as it serves me negatively, and I think that’s the right time to call something.”

Teigen didn’t specify what “something” it was the right time to call, but…a mere bagatelle.

So…those 13.7 million former Teigen Twitter followers are sad.  They miss this epitome of eloquence, this model of motherhood, this…this…

Let’s leave the monikers to Glamour, which said it best:

Chrissy Teigen is a national treasure – this is not up for debate. 

As for me?

I’m a happy camper.

Thanks to Chrissy…

When it comes to the absurd…

A Stern Talking-To…From A Book Lover To Book Damagers

Nothing will ever replace the pleasure of holding a book in my hands.

No eReader or whatever other technology comes along next week will ever replace the tactile experience of holding a book and turning the pages, while I’m immersed in the world captured between a book’s hard or soft covers.

I know eReaders have their upside, and I’m not saying I’ll never use one.

But having a book in my hands – no eReader can compete with that.

I love books.  All books.

That doesn’t mean I read all books, or love all the books I read.  But books have been my constant companions since I was a kid, and I mean the walk-into-the-library-and-take-a-book-off-the-shelf kind of book.

And speaking of library books…

This is directed toward the – sadly – many people who, for reasons I can’t comprehend, deface library books.

You deface them with pen, pencil and/or highlighters.  You dog-ear corners and/or tear out a page, or pages.  You bend and then break the spines. 

Then you return the book to the library.  Sometimes a book is so damaged that library staff must remove it from circulation and, hopefully, have the budget to replace it.

Otherwise, staff will make an effort to ameliorate the damage, and return the book to circulation.

The latter is the case with this library book, Potshot by Robert B. Parker:

When I first picked up the book, I glanced at a mark on the cover and thought it was part of the design – the title is Potshot, it’s a detective story, and there’s what looks like a gunshot hole as part of the cover image.

But I immediately realized – no.  That mark was not part of the cover design.

The mark was…a cigarette burn:

What angry or frustrated or I-don’t-know-what-kind-of person would deliberately press a cigarette into the cover of a book and burn a hole in it?

Was it the same person who did this to the book:

And this:

And this:

Or did several sick, sad people contribute to the book’s sad state?

This is far from the first damaged library book I’ve seen, but by far, it’s the most egregious.

A cigarette burn?

So here’s my message to you book damagers:

The book you’re holding is an inanimate object.  It has nothing to do with the rage or frustration or whatever it is you’re feeling.

The book you’re holding doesn’t belong to you.  It belongs to the taxpayers whose hard-earned dollars support the library.

The book you’re holding – and damaging – isn’t conveying your message to its subsequent readers.  All it’s conveying is that a sick person – you – was allowed to get a library card, and has abused the privilege.

Stop taking your problems out on our library books.

Take your problems somewhere else.

This would be a good place to start:

Here’s An Envelope You Don’t Want To See In Your Mailbox:

Unless you’re expecting an income tax refund or an Economic Impact Payment (EIP), an envelope from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not something you want to see in your mailbox.

Maybe you did your own taxes and made a mistake.  Maybe someone else did your taxes and they made a mistake.

Or maybe you’re a criminal, and…

So it was with great trepidation that I opened the envelope from the IRS.  I could feel the tension knotting up my shoulders.  My vision got a bit blurry.  My heart was pounding.

And I didn’t think even I’d done anything wrong!

I started to read.

And then…

The letter turned out to be not only innocuous, but helpful.  The topic was the second EIP, and what to do in case I hadn’t received it yet.  The suggestions included the “Get My Payment” option on the IRS website; the “Where’s My EIP” app on my smart phone; and a toll-free number to call.

The letter also offered this helpful information:


“Remember, the IRS won’t call or otherwise contact you asking for personal or bank account information…”

I guess the scammers who left us a message the other morning weren’t familiar with the IRS’ policy.

At 8:30am – 8:30am!!! – the scammers left this voicemail:

“Due to some suspicious activities related to your Social Security number, we are forced to suspend your Social Security number with immediate effect.  In case you feel this is an error, you may connect to the legal department of Social Security Administration.  In order to connect with Social Security Administration officer, press one.  In case we do not hear from you, your Social will be blocked permanently.  To connect now, press one, and you will be automatically connected to the concerned department.”

The male voice was heavily accented, and the script writer won’t win any Pulitzer Prizes.

But that’s not why we didn’t “press one.”

We didn’t “press one” because we know that doing so would connect me to someone who wanted my personal information or money – or both.

According to this IRS Tax Tip about this specific scam:

There are all sorts of warnings about scammers out there, from the IRS, the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI and others.  We hear the warnings, we read the warnings and then somehow, sometimes, when that scammer calls there’s a disconnect in our brains and…

These billion-dollar statistics say it better than I ever could:

In the U.S., money lost in phone scams almost doubled from 2019 to 2020.

People that get sucked in by telephone scammers aren’t stupid.  But scammers are masters of intimidating people, scaring people, or in this case, romancing people:

These women went looking for love in all the wrong places, and the scammer found them.  According to the article,

“Kofi Osei, a native of Ghana who lives in Randolph, Massachusetts, used fake names on dating sites and opened bank accounts using passports with aliases, according to court documents.  When the women transferred money to those accounts, he quickly withdrew it, converted it to cashier’s checks, and used it to buy cars at auction and for other personal expenses, prosecutors said.”

What’s it all mean?

It’s means we’re all susceptible, myself included.

I haven’t fallen for a phone scammer yet, but…

Fireworks – How Festive! But A Bit Early For July 4, Perhaps?

I hate fireworks.

And if you love them, don’t bother to read anymore.

I’ve long thought that fireworks were much ado about nothing. 

You get in your car, possibly with young children (because teens are way to cool for this), and drive to the fireworks show in bumper-to-bumper traffic with all the other people who love – or pretend to love – fireworks.

Then you watch the fireworks. 

Then you get back in your car, the kids up way past their bedtime and cranky, and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic with all the other people who love – or pretend to love – fireworks.

In the car, the kids have already forgotten about the fireworks.  By morning, you will have, too.

Here in California, fireworks are an especially bad idea because of our ongoing drought conditions:

Which is one of the reasons why, in California, fireworks are illegal in many places.

One of those places is Ontario, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles.  If you’re a resident of Ontario and you’re not sure about the legality of fireworks, you can easily find out, just as I did:

I suspect that the people associated with a home in the 400 block of West Francis Street knew this.

But that didn’t stop them from stockpiling a massive amount of illegal fireworks.

Which led to a massive explosion on March 16, just after 12:30pm:

Two known deaths.

Three people injured.

The home destroyed.

The blasts rained down debris – including ammunition and large nails – over 80 properties, and windows were blown out in homes blocks away: 

At least $3.2 million worth of damage, officials said Friday.

Evacuations of more than 100 displaced residents – 24 families – in the surrounding neighborhood that will remain in place for days, while the fire department’s bomb technicians work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dispose of unexploded fireworks at the scene of the explosion.

“Approximately 60 27-gallon boxes or cases of unexploded fireworks at this point,” Ontario Fire Department Chief Ray Gayk said on Wednesday.

Gayk also said 24 bomb technicians from three counties have been called in to assist in the process.

The FBI is involved, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Imagine yourself in one of the nearby houses.  It’s lunchtime, nothing much going on.  Suddenly, a massive explosion.  Another explosion.  Was it a plane crash?  A gas pipeline?  A terrorist attack?  Your kids are terrified.  You’re terrified.  What should you do?  What can you do?

Imagine looking out your window and seeing this:

Eventually, a police officer arrives at your door, briefly explains the situation, and tells you that you must evacuate.  No, she or he doesn’t know for how long.  But you must go, now.

Where will you go?

Now let’s tally up just some of the costs to the taxpayers: Police, fire department, those 24 bomb technicians, the EPA, the FBI, and the ATF. 

Every one of these public servants endangering their lives, working in an area littered with unexploded fireworks.

As of Friday, experts had burned nearly 200 bins – each holding about 27 gallons – full of fireworks to safely destroy them, Ontario spokesman Dan Bell said.  Other fireworks were too dangerous to move and had to be burned at the scene.

These are people with critical jobs, people who could be needed elsewhere, but instead are involved in this tragedy.

We may never know why the stockpile of fireworks in the house on West Francis Street exploded.

Or why the people associated with this were stockpiling fireworks.

I suspect they anticipated selling the merchandise prior to July 4.

Because so many people, for reasons that escape me, just have to get their firework fix.

I’m betting the police, fire department, those 24 bomb technicians, the EPA, the FBI, and the ATF aren’t fans of fireworks.

I’m betting they agree with me:


Book Review: My Friend Said, “I think you’d like it.” I Hated It.

Publication date:  2019

Review, short version:  More skunks than I have room for.

Review, long version:

A long-time friend and I are avid readers, and while we often talk about books, we have very different preferences in what we read.

Occasionally we’ll both read the same book and invariably, we’ll agree to disagree on the book’s merits – or lack of – and move on.

So when my friend emailed and said,

“I just finished Anne Tyler’s Clock Dance, and it was very good.  I think you’d like it.”

I thought it was a daring statement on her part.  I decided to give Clock Dance a try.

I hated it.

This was my first experience reading Anne Tyler, though she’s published more than 20 novels.  Her genre is described as “literary realism,” and while her website is skimpy on information, it does mention that she won a Pulitzer Prize for a novel in 1989.

Her website also lists numerous excerpts from glowing reviews of Clock Dance that include language such as,

“Delightfully zany…Charming…Tender”

Before I gave up about half-way through the book, I’d encountered none of these.

Tyler’s lead character is Willa, and we meet her at seminal moments in her life:  in 1967 at age 11; in 1977; in 1997; and then in 2017, where it appears most of the story will be told.

By 2017 we’ve gotten a clear picture of Willa – a victim of her mother’s physical and emotional abuse, and her father’s enabling of it.  A victim of her bully husband, dropping out of college at his insistence.  The husband dies in 1997 and at some point Willa remarries, now becoming a victim of a man who infantilizes her – nicknaming her “Little One” and telling her that she, at age 61, is not capable of traveling on an airplane without him.

Willa has “VICTIM” written all over her, and I detest stories where women are – and remain – victims.

The destination Willa wants to fly to is Baltimore, and the reason is so convoluted, and so nonsensical, that it defies credibility.  She gets a phone call from a stranger in Baltimore about a woman named Denise, who at one time was the live-in lover of Willa’s son Sean.  Denise was shot in the leg and is in the hospital, and, says the stranger, Willa must come to Baltimore to take care of Denise’s nine-year-old daughter Cheryl.

Now, Denise is no longer living with Sean.  And Cheryl is not Sean’s child.  There is no blood tie between Willa and Cheryl, no connection of any kind.  What does Willa decide?

She decides to fly to Baltimore to take care of Cheryl.

Wait. What?

The only clue seems to be on page 114:  Willa is hoping for grandchildren.  Willa “longed for grandchildren.”

So Willa is going to Baltimore to take on the care of a stranger’s kid and – what?  Pretend Cheryl is that longed-for grandchild?

Willa needs to get a life.  Her own, and not someone else’s.

Willa meets the child, Cheryl, and it was Willa’s observations of her that turned my feelings about Clock Dance from dislike into loathing:

Page 122:  “She [Cheryl] had a pudgy face and a keg-shaped tummy that strained her T-shirt, and her legs were so plump that the inseams of her shorts had worked their way up to her crotch.”

Page 129:  “Cheryl had soft, tawny skin, unfortunately pouching a bit below her jaw…”

Page 136:  “Cheryl was sitting against her headboard…She wore pink pajamas with cap sleeves that showed her upper arms, which were wide and soft and squishy like a grown woman’s arms.”

Clearly Tyler’s goal was to portray Cheryl as overweight and, therefore, unattractive.

I don’t call this “Delightfully zany…Charming…Tender.”

I call it body shaming, and I call it shameful.

Since I didn’t finish the book, I don’t know why Tyler titled it Clock Dance, and I don’t care. 

I don’t know where the story goes, and I don’t care.

I don’t know if lead character Willa goes through some kind of metamorphosis, stops being a victim and stops body shaming Cheryl.  And I don’t care.

But I’m rooting for Cheryl.  Maybe she’ll grow up and become our first female president.

“Soft and squishy” upper arms notwithstanding.

It’s Pretty Clear…

It’s no news that I am no fashionista.

So it’s no surprise that I only recently became aware of a fashion trend that’s been around for awhile.

“Awhile” meaning since 1983.

And that trend’s longevity is understandable, when I show you what I’m talking about:

helen bonham carter bag lady cropped A gaunt-faced Mary-Kate Olsen leaves a friend's apartment
These well-known actresses obviously shop at the same garbage dump designer store.

Called “street couture,” I learned it goes back at least to 1983 because of this article in the Washington Post:

Wash Post (2)

What Vogue “called street couture” was also known as “bag lady chic,” and it’s easy to find examples of that, as well:

bag lady chic vogue 2012 cropped
Designer unknown; shopping cart not included.

In an indication of our heightened sensitivity, the term “bag lady” fell out of fashion, but the look did not:

Designer unknown; accordion not included.

We now call it “homeless chic,” and rest assured, it is not for women only:

Homeless chic guy cropped homeless chic guy_01 cropped
Designer unknown; sleeping bag (on right), not included.

And lest you’re concerned that this stylin’ is only for the rich and famous or runway models, here are some shots of regular folks – yes, like you and me! – proving that we, too, can have this look:

Kanye West clothing Yeezy

But to avoid committing terrible fashion faux paus, I found an online article with tips for getting the max out of our new look.  Written by someone named “Katy,” we can easily see her stylin’ sense; here’s her photo, along with her advice:

Katy_01 cropped
No diaper in this crotch!

Nothing should be your size.  If it is, you’re doing it wrong.  The key to this look is wearing EVERYTHING oversized.  That means you’re sizing up at least one to two sizes.

Your jeans should be baggy enough to fit a diaper in the crotch.  Please don’t WEAR a diaper, but you catch my drift.

Structured shoes are a must.  If you wear this look with something casual like tennis shoes, it will be bag lady in the WRONG way.

Don’t go too crazy on the jewelry.  This look is all about the mass amount of clothing you’re wearing and if you try to layer a ton of big jewelry, you WILL look like you’re just wearing everything in your closet.

Now, armed with this wisdom, we’re ready to go homeless chic.

And just ignore the nasty naysayers who say stuff like:

Image 1 (2)

Image 2 (2)

Image 3 (2)

Someday…Somehow…Somewhere…When I Finally Go Into A Restaurant Again…

It’s been so long since I’ve been in a restaurant, I’m not sure I’ll remember what to do.

Of course, I won’t be in a restaurant any time soon, since they’re still closed for indoor dining in most places.

Well, not in Texas, but I don’t live in Texas.  I did for a short while, but fortunately left before I had any encounters with the creepy, scary, dangerous creatures that live there.

Like this eight-inch-long Texas Readheaded Centipede (left) and the equally creepy, scary, dangerous you-know-who (right).

But I digress.

Here’s what I envision when indoor dining is allowed again.

I walk into the restaurant and almost have a meltdown.

Walk into the restaurant?  No drive-through, no curbside?

I flop into a chair at the nearest table, just like I do at home.  Then I look down and notice I’m not wearing my usual raggedy gray sweats and slippers, and remember that I’m not at home.  I’m wearing clothes I haven’t seen in ages, and they’re clean.

Or they’re fairly clean, because I dusted them off.

I straighten my posture, then look around the room.

There are people at other tables, and none of them are wearing masks.

I’m almost freaked out by the sight of so many uncovered noses and cheeks and chins, but I steady myself.

A pleasant person comes over, smiles, introduces himself, and hands me several pages with stuff printed on them.

I say, “Thanks, but I brought my own reading material,” and hand the pages back.

Puzzled, the pleasant person says, “You don’t want to look at the menu?”

Menu.  Menu?  The word sounds vaguely familiar.  Menu. 

Then the memory surfaces:  Menu!  That’s how you learn about the food, and the prices!  You read the menu!

Chagrined, I take the menu back and lay it beside my plate as the pleasant person departs.

That’s when I notice some silvery items on either side of the plate.  I recognize them – sort of – though I haven’t seen any for what seems like forever.

Those silvery items are…are…  Wait.  It will come to me.

Utensils!  I have some at home, in a drawer that hasn’t been opened for what seems like forever.

McNuggets and Whoppers:  No utensils needed.

I glance around, hoping no one has noticed my elation at remembering utensils, and spot items on some of the other tables that I do recognize.

Wine glasses.

I’ve had one in my hand pretty much non-stop since mid-March, 2020:

“What should I have for breakfast?  Red or white?”

I begin perusing the menu, my eyes stumbling over the unfamiliar words:

“Bruschetta…Minestrone…House Salad…Caesar Salad…”  OK, salad sounds somewhat familiar.

Salad.  Vegetables.  Right?

But “Angel Hair Pomodoro…Salmon Picatta…Eggplant Parmigiana…Meat Lasagna…”

What’s with this foreign language?  Do you have to be bilingual to eat here?

And what’s with all these choices?  Why don’t they just offer one item, so I don’t get all flummoxed?

The pleasant person approaches my table and I panic.  Is he going to ask me something I’m ill-equipped to answer?

He does.  “What would you like to order?

“Um…” I say. 

Then inspiration hits:  “I’ll have a glass of wine.”

“Of course,” he smiles, pointing to the last page of the whatchacallit, menu.  “Our wines by the glass are listed here.”

“Oh,” I groan.  “You mean you have more than just red or white?”

I am so out of my depth, and his smile has faded into something like what you see in an emergency room, when the nurse behind the counter tells you, as she’s been telling you for the past six hours, “It will only be a few more minutes and the doctor will see you.”

I point to one of the wines by the glass, and he nods and turns away.

What am I going to order?  What do I want to eat?  I know for certain I’ve done this in the past – made a choice and ordered – but I’ve grown unused to making choices.

Especially since the choices are, “Stay home” or “Stay home.”

By the time the pleasant person has returned with my wine, something wonderful has happened.

I’ve remembered that some people who work in restaurants are waitpersons or waiters or waitressesThree memories in one blinding flash!

But not a single memory of what I want to eat.

So I come up with this subterfuge:

I close the menu and say, “Everything looks so good!  What would you recommend?”

The waiter looks – nonplussed?  And my heart sinks.  Was what I asked considered rude?  Does the waiter think I’m quizzing him to test his knowledge and professionalism?  Is he going to call someone over, to expel this miscreant from the premises?

Then he smiles, and my sinking heart starts to rise.

“Our most popular dish is the lasagna,” he says.  “Would you like to try that?”

I nod. Easy.

“Perhaps a house salad to start?”

I nod again.  This is getting easier.

“And another glass of wine?”

I nod and smile.  Easiest! 

Dining out.

I can do this.

It will all come back to me…

The “Pay As You Go” System – Those Were…

Remember these?

Sign_01 cropped larger Sign cropped Sign_02 cropped larger

Pay toilets, or pay as you go.

The bad old days.

The days when you learned – usually the hard way – to always keep correct change in your purse or pocket.

Because if you had to go, and the only toilet around was a pay toilet and you didn’t have that nickel or dime or whatever…

wet pants_01 cropped

And plenty of people were faced with this dilemma, so they found a workaround.  This prompted the pay toilet proprietors to update their signs with warnings:

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What diabolical sadist came up with the idea of having to pay – to pee?

This will not surprise you:

He was the head of the government, and he needed to raise money to pay for his wars.

In other words, you were taxed for using a toilet.

The diabolical sadist was Emperor Vespasian, in Rome around 74AD.MaskelyneToiletLock

After Vespasian, the pay toilet timeline is pretty much blank until the late 19th century.  That’s when John Maskelyne invented the first modern pay toilet in London, or rather, the first modern pay toilet lock (pictured left).

Maskelyne was a magician by trade, apparently of such repute that a professional organization, The Magic Circle, named a prize after him, awarded for “noteworthy contributions by a member or non-member of The Magic Circle to the art or literature of magic.”

I’ve been unable to ascertain what prompted magician Maskelyne to invent a pay toilet lock, but I doubt anyone named any prizes after him for that.

There are conflicting reports as to when pay toilets began appearing in the U.S. – some sources say that was in Terre Haute, IN in 1910; others point to Walt Disney installing them in 1935, in his Walt’s restaurant in Hollywood.

Like he needed the money.kid cropped

However and whenever, pay toilets in airports and restaurants and railroad stations became common, and in almost all major cities in the U.S, people were paying to pee.

I should pause here and note – pay toilets weren’t just for peeing.  But women had to pay every time they went into a toilet stall, while men paid only when they needed a stall.

Still, the fact that women had to pay every time was considered discriminatory by many, and some formed the group CEPTIA (Committee to End Pay Toilets in America).  Lawsuits were filed, and in 1973 Chicago led the way, becoming the first city to ban them.

Pay toilets in America were almost obsolete by the end of the 1970s, though you’ll still see plenty of them elsewhere in the world.  Some of those have done away with the coin-Toilet Paper no_01 croppedoperated locks and instead have attendants in the bathrooms who, in exchange for a tip, will hand you a towel to dry your hands.  In some instances, the attendants hold the toilet paper hostage until you pay up.

So if you’re planning a trip abroad (someday), I’d suggest you fill your pocket or purse with pence or rupees or pesos or cedis.

And I have every expectation that you’ll soon be paying to pee on your transportation, as well.

The airlines, which already charge us for carryon bags, checked bags, oversize bags, the bags under your eyes, snacks, drinks, priority seating, priority boarding, seat selection, ticket booking/changes/cancellations, Wi-Fi, traveling with pets, traveling without pets, runway fees, take-off fees, landing fees, segment fees, and fee fees…

Are missing a significant revenue stream (if you’ll excuse the expression) by not having…

American (2)

Southwest (2)

United (2)

“Dog Days” Take On A New Meaning!

My morning routine:  Start coffee, wake up computer.

On the computer, one of the first things I google is “Biden.”  I want to see our country’s top news stories, and a good place to start is with the president.

Ten headlines appear – the most recent stories – and I scroll through them.

Yesterday morning wasn’t any different as far as my routine, and some of the 10 headlines were as expected – Biden and the COVID relief bill, Biden and immigration, and so on.

But yesterday morning, an identical topic appeared in three of the 10 headlines, in the first, seventh and ninth positions.

And as I looked at those three headlines, I couldn’t help but compare them to headlines from the previous administration.

Here are the three headlines from yesterday:

Three out of the top 10 headlines were about President Biden’s dog biting a security guard.

I couldn’t help but think, “How wonderfully boring.”

And, “What a relief!”

Especially when you compare the dog-bites-security-guard headlines to these, for example:

Trump threatening to make war on North Korea:

Trump threatening to make war on Iran:

Trump threatening to make war on Americans:

After headlines like this, I’ll take dog-bite stories any day.

Every day.

Earlier I used the word “boring” with regards to Biden, and I meant it as a great compliment.

There are many articles that use the words “Biden” and “boring” in the same sentence, like this one:

And I believe those writers mean it as a great compliment, as well.

One writer who put it particularly well was Michael Grunwald, in Politico shortly after the 2020 election:

Here are some excerpts:

“After four years of presidential rage-tweeting, name-calling, gaslighting, race-baiting and all-around norm-breaking, an exhausted electorate decided this week that it was ready to return to politics as usual.”

“Former Vice President Biden ran on a detailed policy agenda, a long record of Washington service, and a poignant narrative of pain and endurance.  But his central promise was more basic: to restore decency, civility, empathy and most of all stability to the White House, so Americans wouldn’t have to think about their president every day, or wake up worrying about his tweets.”

“Biden is an optimist who genuinely sees America as an exceptional nation, a beacon of goodness to the world. He’s corny about his faith in America’s ability to come together and overcome adversity…”

“…America no longer seems to be yearning for a blow-stuff-up guy.  It’s more interested in a put-stuff-back-together guy.

After four years of chaos…

Bring on the dog days!

I’ll take ‘em.


I recently saw a news story that caused two disparate reactions.

The first:  “Good for her!”

The second:  “That is so ageist!”

The story was about an unidentified Australian woman who reportedly was in a pub, celebrating her birthday.  Her purse was on the table, and a guy grabbed it and ran.

The 45-second video appears to have been taken by a security camera.  There’s no audio, and the quality is poor:

Here’s what happened:

The woman chases the man on a sidewalk, and as he turns into a parking lot, she grabs him by the arm, swings him around, and they both fall to the ground.

She wraps her arm around his neck – a chokehold – and grabs her purse with her other hand.  As he struggles to stand, she has her purse in one hand and grabs his shirt with the other.  His shirt is sliding off, and as she’s holding on to her purse and his shirt, and he starts dragging her across the pavement.

Now shirtless, he breaks away, heads to his truck and gets in.  She pulls herself into a sitting position, and by about 33 seconds into the video, she’s on her feet, purse in hand.  She keeps her eyes on him as she heads back to the sidewalk, and walks back in the direction they came from:

The would-be purse snatcher drives away, and the news stories said he’d later been arrested.

It’s easy to understand my “Good for her!” reaction.  Her courage in chasing the thief, the tenacity in her pursuit, her determination to thwart him, and her success are all so impressive.

As to my second reaction – “This is so ageist!” – here’s the reason for that.

I read a number of articles about this event, and it appears the January 19 story was broken by in Australia on February 21.  Here’s the online headline:


How did know the woman was a “grandmother”?

There’s nothing in the print story to indicate the woman self-identified as a grandmother.

There’s nothing in the video to indicate the woman self-identified as a grandmother.

Yet the print and video versions refer to the woman as a “grandmother,” “gutsy grandmother,” “no-nonsense nana,” “nan,” “ninja nan,” “feisty nan” and “super-gran.”

The story was picked up by U.S. media coast to coast, from ABC News in Los Angeles:

To the New York Daily News:

And even internationally – here’s Great Britain’s Daily Mail:

And without exception, every story I saw also referred to the woman as a “grandmother,” or some variant.

It appears that the TV station in Australia started it, and without bothering to verify it, the other media outlets repeated it.

And that’s ageist.

Alternate word:


Yes, it appears that the woman is older than her 20s or 30s or 40s.

But why did they assume that she’s a “grandmother”?

Because it’s an easy, older-woman label to slap on someone, rather than going to the trouble of ascertaining its accuracy.

The woman appears to be older, so she is, therefore, a grandmother.


And the implication is, “Look at what this old lady did!”  As though a person of a “certain age” is too slow or too feeble or too mentally incapacitated or too something to tackle a purse snatcher, get him in a headlock, and retrieve her purse.


This all has to do with labeling people based on their appearance, and I realize labeling people based on their appearance is a much bigger issue than one woman in Australia.

But c’mon, folks:

Book Review:  An OK Book About A Fascinating Subject

Publication date:  September 2018Book

Review, short version:  One rose out of four.

Review, long version:

Suppose it’s 1915 and you’re in the United States.

It may be that you want to go to Europe.

It may be that you have to go to Europe.

Either way, a reminder:  It’s 1915 and there are no commercial airplanes to take you to Europe.  And commercial travel by blimp doesn’t come along until the 1920s.

Your options are:

  1. Cruise ship.
  2. Don’t go to Europe.

So you book your passage on a cruise ship.

And the top-of-the-line, most luxurious cruise ship in 1915 was this:

Postcard, early 1900s, of “The Largest Vessel Afloat.”

The Lusitania.

In May 1915, plenty of people had booked their cross-Atlantic passage on the Lusitania, some with trepidation – Europe was embroiled in World War I, and the German Embassy in New York had put this notice in the shipping pages of New York newspapers on April 22, 1915:

Schedule and warning with line
The schedule listing the “Lusitania’s” May 1 departure date, and the notice from the Imperial German government; both ran in the shipping pages of New York newspapers.

“Liable to destruction.”  No wonder some people were worried.

But the British-owned Lusitania was seen as invulnerable; it was the fastest ocean liner then in service.  And, people were assured, the ship was thought to be so fast and so large that no German submarine could catch it, or sink it.

Besides, the Lusitania was a passenger ship, and even those horrid Germans wouldn’t dare attack a passenger ship.

Would they?

This brings us to Kim Izzo’s Seven Days in May – three of her lead characters had booked passage on the Lusitania, departing New York on May 1, 1915.  The book’s title comes from the number of days they would spend on the ship.

Ny Times_01Those three lead characters are New York heiresses Brooke Sinclair and her younger sister Sydney, as well as titled Englishman Edward Thorpe-Tracey, Brooke’s fiancé.  Brooke and Edward are going to England to be married, with Sydney as Brooke’s maid of honor.

The fourth lead character is Isabel Nelson, who works at the British Admiralty in the top-secret Room 40.

Some of Seven Days in May is the backstories of these characters – we learn about Brooke’s narcissism, Sydney’s political causes, Edward’s financial problems, and Isabel’s supposedly sordid past.

We also learn that the Lusitania was being tracked by the Germans, that the British Admiralty knew it was being tracked by the Germans.   And that Winston Churchill – First Lord of the Admiralty – believed the German sinking of any vessel with Americans onboard would draw the U.S. into the war as allies of the British.

Or so author Izzo says, and she makes her viewpoint clear.

Bullets said to be found in the “Lusitania’s” forward cargo hold.

The sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915 – just 14 miles off the coast of southern Ireland – was shrouded in mystery then, and still is today.  For every fact proposed, there’s someone who staunchly argues otherwise.  The ship was carrying a large amount of ammunition – no, it wasn’t.  It was struck by one torpedo – no, it was two torpedoes.  The death count was 1,128 or 1,198 or 1,201 or something else, depending on who’s telling the story.

Aftermath in Ireland – a mass grave.

Why did this “invulnerable” ship sink in 18 minutes?  Why did the Admiralty try to blame the captain?  Why did so many people die, after the 1912 lesson of the Titanic and that ship’s tragic misuse of lifeboats?

Izzo makes her viewpoint clear about it all, though in her Author’s Note she does allow that “the Lusitania remains an enduring mystery.”

Izzo’s recounting of the Lusitania sinking doesn’t start until page 255 out of 346 pages, but when Sydney and Edward end up in the Atlantic, and Brooke’s whereabouts are unknown, it does make for fairly suspenseful reading.  And Isabel’s behind-the-scenes-in-Room-40 perspective on what the British government does and doesn’t do – before, during and after the sinking – had me shaking my head.

And wanting to learn more.

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I started learning more by watching a 60-minute DVD by National Geographic, Last Voyage of the Lusitania, released in 1994.

Ballard and remotely operated underwater vehicle
Ballard with one of his mini-submarines.

It features Bob Ballard, he of found-the-Titanic fame, this time exploring the wreck of the Lusitania.  Toward the end of the film he offers his theory of why the ship sank so quickly.

Leading up to that there’s lots of video from Ballard’s then-state-of-the-art underwater robotic technology, interviews with survivors who were young passengers when the Lusitania sank in 1915, and tragic shots of recovered bodies in open coffins, waiting to be identified.  Some never were, and some bodies were never recovered at all.

Diver exploring the wreck
A diver exploring the wreck of the “Lusitania.”

The video lists the lives lost at 1,195 – yet another different number from those I cited above – and at one point Ballard says the Lusitania sank in “15 minutes,” again different from the 18 minutes I’ve read many times.

Of the many Lusitania facts, stories and conspiracy theories, Ballard does not resolve whether or not the ship was carrying live ammunition in its cargo hold to help England’s in its war against Germany.  But many people are certain it was, and they’re also certain of this:

That the British government tried to destroy or at least seriously damage the wreck to obliterate whatever might be found by divers and salvagers.

Here are some online examples:

“The Lusitania appears in a much more deteriorated state due to the presence of fishing nets lying on the wreckage, the blasting of the wreck with depth charges, and multiple salvage operations.”

“The wreck is pocked with holes that were probably made with depth charges…we saw a number of unexploded depth charges, presumably a remnant naval exercises.”

Hedgehog_anti-submarine_mortar 1945 photo
Hedgehog mines.

“The wreck was bombed by the Royal Navy.  Depth charges were dropped on the wreck during World War II.  A Dublin-based technical diver, Des Quigley, who dived on the wreck in the 1990s, reported that the wreck is ‘like Swiss cheese’ and the seabed around her ‘is littered with unexploded hedgehog mines.”

Professor William Kingston of Trinity College, Dublin claimed, ‘There’s no doubt at all about it that the Royal Navy and the British government have taken very considerable steps over the years to try to prevent whatever can be found out about the Lusitania.’”

“After its sinking, the British Navy mined the shipwreck to destroy evidence about what was held in its cargo hold.”

There’s a lot more, but you get the idea.

Back to my research…


What Managers Was This Written For?  The Ones On…

(Whether people are working from home, as many have been for the past year, or on-site at the job, there is one constant truth:  Many, many managers are the worst.   Here’s my take on that reality.)

According to its website, Inc. is a business magazine founded in 1979 and “the only majorinc cropped brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders.”

Inc. publishes six print issues annually, as well as daily online articles and videos.

It was an Inc. article that was attributed as the source for a newspaper piece I recently read, that had me shaking my head in both wonder – and disbelief.

Here’s the headline:


Seriously – is this Fantasy Island?

Managers don’t care, “genuinely” or even disingenuously.

Not about employees.

Managers care about scheduling their next golf game, their next three-hour martini-laden lunch, about the gift they need to pick up for their lover spouse.

Managers care about squeezing the maximum amount of work out of the minimum number of employees for as miniscule amount of money possible, to score points with their managers.

Let’s look at a few of the Inc. tips for those “innovative company builders”:

Talk to them

“Chatting with them about things other than work”?  Isn’t that what managers get annoyed about when they spot employees chatting with each other about things other than work?

Manager:  “Ruth and Nathan, it sounds like you’re rehashing the 49ers losing streak on company time.  So I assume you’ll make up the time by working through lunch?”

But who knows?  Perhaps an inexperienced manager will take this advice to heart, and try something like this:

Manager:  “Chris, how’s that hideous cat of yours and will that report be on my desk in an hour?”

Another tip from the article:

Don't be oblivious

C’mon now.

You know and I know that when you look up “oblivious” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of a manager.

It’s highly unlikely that a manager is going to pick up on an employee’s “going through a rough time.”  It’s even less likely a manager has the slightest interest in being “an ear”:

Employee:  Ms. Crain, I’m really struggling with making my rent and my car payment and staying on top of my mother’s hospital bills and –

Ms. Crain:  And this pertains to me…how?

This isn’t the article’s last piece of advice, but I’ll close with it, anyway:

Go beyond

Stop.  I mean it.

OK – let’s pretend that the manager pretends to be interested in pretending to care about an employee’s career goals because the manager read about doing that in the Inc. article:

Employee:  My career goals?  My only goal, career or otherwise, is to get the hell out of this sewer of a company and the hell away from you!

Manager:  Good, good.  Will that report be on my desk in an hour?

What’s it all mean?

The U.S. workplace is no Fantasy Island.

Managers won’t read the Inc. article because they already give themselves an “A” for performance and, well…everything.

And that’s why we’ll keep seeing articles like this:

2015 (2)

2017 (2)

2019 (2)

Here’s A Whale To Watch For

Have you ever been whale watching?

Some people go whale watching and see this:

I’ve been whale watching five times, and saw this:

So I can only imagine the thrill of seeing whales, up close and personal, in their natural habitat, doing their natural whale thing.

For instance, going airborne, like this:

This is a humpback whale, and this behavior is called “breaching.”

Now imagine a seeing a humpback whale breaching, but he looks like this:

This extraordinary creature is Migaloo, and unlike the fictional Moby Dick, this great white whale is the real deal.

And he is great-looking, isn’t he?

Scientists determined that Migaloo is a “he” from skin samples taken in 2004.  They estimate Migaloo was born in 1986, and he was first sighted in 1991, passing through Byron Bay, off the east coast of Australia:

Aussies are crazy for Migaloo.  There’s a website for reporting sightings, with a nifty logo:

There are books and a CD:

And an Australian company, Migaloo Private Submersible Yachts, maker of “the world’s first submersible superyacht…”

When Migaloo is in the neighborhood – that is, off the Australian east coast on his annual migration from Antarctica to Queensland, as he was last June…

It makes headline news:

Why, you may be wondering, would a male humpback whale – picture an animal longer than a school bus and weighing up to 40 tons…

Want to haul his big self from Antarctica to northern Australia?

Migaloo is looking for love in all the right places.

According to,

Each January, around 60,000 humpback whales leave the frigid, food-rich waters of Antarctica and begin the world’s longest mammal migration, a 5,000 kilometre (3,000+ mile), three-month journey to the warm waters of northern Australia where they mate, calve and nurture their newborns: 

And Migaloo may, on his journeys, have fathered at least one offspring:

The photo caption identifies the whales as “MJ (Migaloo Junior) and his mother, shortly after birth.” 

MJ was first spotted in 2011.  Scientists say it’s likely Migaloo’s, but he has neither confirmed nor denied it.

Migaloo doesn’t kiss and tell.

I learned a lot from my Migaloo research, including where his name came from.

According to the Pacific Whale Foundation, when the public learned about Migaloo there was a clamoring to “name the whale.”  It was decided that the naming should be done by the elders of the local aboriginal collective in Hervey Bay, and they named him “Migaloo” or “white fella.”

The website goes on to say,

The elders explained their connection to all white or albino animals and that they appear on earth to be respected and revered; that their unique color demonstrates the need to respect all forms of life even if they appear different than “normal.”  They should be honored with reverence and respect, not discrimination and shame.

And that is a whale tale worth remembering.