We’ve heard it for so long – and so often – that’s it’s almost like one word:
Roe v. Wade – the Supreme court’s 1973 landmark decision that made abortion legal in the United States.
And we’re going to be hearing a lot more about it:
Today the identity of the anonymous “Roe” in Roe v. Wade is no secret – she was Norma McCorvey, a Texas resident who, in early 1970, wanted a legal abortion and couldn’t get one.
She connected with two attorneys, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who had a plan to legally challenge and overturn Texas’s restrictive abortion law in federal court. They needed a plaintiff who wanted a legal abortion and could not afford to go to California or New York (where abortion was legal) to get one.
McCorvey wanted her identity to remain hidden, so Coffee assigned Norma the pseudonym of “Jane Roe.” Coffee and Weddington filed the class-action lawsuit in federal district court in March 1970. From there, the case worked its way through the appellate process and eventually, the Supreme Court.
So she was “Roe.”
But – who was “Wade”?
Wade is also no secret – but I, and I’m betting many people, had no idea who or what she or he was.
He was Henry Wade (1914-2001), the district attorney of Dallas County where McCorvey lived. Coffee and Weddington named Wade as the defendant in McCorvey’s case because he enforced a law that prohibited abortion.
This 2018 Washington Post article…
…had some insightful things to say about Wade.
Regarding Roe v. Wade, the article says that “America has forgotten (or never knew) that Wade mostly shrugged his shoulders at the whole thing”; that “he never showed any personal animosity toward abortion”; and quoted from David J. Garrow’s book, Liberty and Sexuality:
“[after the decision was announced, Wade] ‘made no comments to the press’ about a case he ‘had never taken any personal interest in,’ despite the fact that it ‘bore his name.’ He did privately acknowledge later in life that ‘in some cases abortion is justified.’”
Two attorneys had found their plaintiff, who happened to live in Dallas County. Wade happened to be the county’s district attorney.
A plaintiff in a different county or state, and Wade’s name would never have been attached to “perhaps the most controversial Supreme Court decision in U.S. history.”
There’s a quote from Shakespeare that speaks of greatness, and how some have “greatness thrust upon them.”
I’d say that Henry Wade had fame thrust upon him – whether he wanted it or not.
I was watching a 2016 National Geographic video, Sea Monsters: A Definitive Guide, and finding it anything but definitive.
It was rife with speculation, suppositions and unanswered questions, when I wanted facts and pictures and videos, and up-close-and-personal experiences of people who had encountered sea monsters.
I know “monsters” is an unfair word – one definition is “an imaginary creature that is typically large, ugly, and frightening.”
Add the word “sea” to “monsters” and it gets really scary – after all, we’ve explored only 20 percent of our oceans, so who knows what’s down there?
Mariners have been telling sea monster stories for centuries, and they must have seen something, right?
And they’d come home and tell their stories of what they thought they saw, and listeners would draw images of what they thought they heard…
A sea full of monsters.
And there are a lot of strange creatures in our oceans:
And these three creatures were found in that meager 20 percent of the ocean we’ve explored – just imagine what’s in the other 80 percent!
Which brings us back to Sea Monsters: The Definitive Guide.
And my new word.
And about time.
The National Geo film did include a few actual scientists, and one talked about something that had washed up on an ocean beach. It looked like this:
Or maybe it was this:
What these three images have in common – and what the scientist called them – and what my new word is, is:
The perfect word!
A combination of “glob” and “lobster,” and here’s the definition:
“An unidentified organic mass that washes up on the shoreline of an ocean or other body of water. A globster is distinguished from a normal beached carcass by being hard to identify, at least by initial untrained observers, and by creating controversy as to its identity.”
My spellcheck doesn’t like the word, but I sure do.
Globster was coined by British biologist Ivan T. Sanderson in 1962, after a mass of something washed up on a beach in Tasmania. It was described as having “no visible eyes, no defined head, and no apparent bone structure”:
And it was big: 20 ft by 18 ft and estimated to weigh between five and 10 tons.
What else could you call it, but a…
Apparently no photographs exist of the Tasmanian globster, but plenty more recent globster photographs do.
Like this one, from Fiji in 2020:
And this one from the Philippines in 2018:
And this, also in 2018, in New Zealand:
The last, it turns out, was actually one of these:
A lion’s mane jellyfish:
In fact, globsters that wash up on beaches are identified by scientists – mostly as various decomposing species of whale, though there are a few people out there trying to trick us:
As a scientist explained the globster phenomenon in this Newsweek article:
Once the animal dies and starts decomposing,
“Gas buildup inside the body cavity causes bloating and distortion. Various parts drop off or are scavenged by sharks as it floats around. Different parts of the flesh break down at differential rates.”
And all of that can cause this sperm whale:
To become this:
So, though the National Geo program disappointed me…
Learning a new word thrilled me.
I can’t wait to use it – I’ll be the life of the party!
There are two kids in the above photo I want you to remember.
Here’s a close-up:
We’ll meet up with them later.
As to – why weren’t these adults at work, and why weren’t these kids in school…
According to this article in the October 18 San Diego Union-Tribune…
The “vaccine mandate” in the headline:
“Governor Newsom’s mandate, announced earlier this month, made California the first state in the country to say it will require the COVID-19 vaccine for schoolchildren once it receives full federal approval.
“California students age 12 and up will be required to get the COVID vaccine after it becomes fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for their age group. First the mandate would be phased in starting with 7th to 12th grades, followed kindergarten to 6th grades.”
The adults made a choice to stage a “sit-in” as part of a statewide protest of California’s upcoming COVID-19 vaccination requirement.
These same adults made a choice to have their kids skip school on October 18, to participate in the protest.
These same adults who, a year ago, were protesting distance learning and demanding their kids return to in-person learning:
On October 18, their kids could have been in the classroom.
Instead, their parents took them out of school.
How many kids? As reported in the Union-Tribune article, in the San Diego area:
San Diego Unified School District: 1,300 students; Ramona Unified School District: 1,700 students; La Mesa-Spring Valley School District: 520 students; Poway Unified School District: 225+ students.
The article didn’t list other districts, but no doubt you can add to the list.
Why did the parents tell their kids to skip school?
Again, according to the Union-Tribune, one parent said she thinks “the COVID vaccine is not needed, and she doesn’t like that it is being forced on people. ‘It feels very anti-American to be, my way or the highway,’”
She said she had her kids skip school “to teach them that it’s okay to stand up for what you believe in” and that “some things are worth fighting for.”
Another parent said her kids missed school Monday to show the school board she’s willing to pull them out of the district if they are forced to take the COVID vaccine.
She also said it’s very rare for a child to die from COVID.
That last thought may be comforting.
Unless the child that dies is yours.
And in case that parent missed it…
What these parents are disregarding – and teaching their kids to disregard – is the safety and health of others.
You don’t get vaccinated to protect just yourself. You get vaccinated to protect yourself, which helps protect others.
These parents were also disregarding the issue of student absence impacting school funding. For example, going back to the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, attendance was down five percent below normal, according to Superintendent David Feliciano. The district had 520 more students absent than usual, which equated to a revenue loss of about $29,000, he said.
So, the kids lose learning time, the schools lose revenue, and the parents…
Ah, the parents.
Let’s invite the parents to fast-forward say – six years.
The kids in this picture…
…are now in high school.
Let’s call the one on the left Rob, and the one on the right Emma.
Rob’s mother calls upstairs to tell him it’s time to leave for school.
Rob: I’m not going to school today.
Mom: What are you talking about? Of course you’re going to school!
Rob: They want us to do homework, and I hate homework. Remember, during COVID, when you had me skip school and said it’s OK to stand up for what I believe in? And that some things are worth fighting for? Well, I believe homework isn’t fair, and I’m standing up for what I believe in.
Emma’s mother calls upstairs to tell her it’s time to leave for school.
Emma: I’m not going to school today.
Mom: What are you talking about? Of course you’re going to school!
Emma: But Mom, remember, during COVID, when you told me to skip school that day and said you were willing to pull me out of the district school? Well, I’m having a sit-in. I hate my school. I hate all schools, and I’m not going anymore!
Perhaps these parents’ October 18 actions will come back to bite them in the ass.
Like the old idiom says…
“This is not a new idea. We already require vaccines against several known deadly diseases before students can enroll in schools. The Newsom administration is simply extending existing public health protections to cover this new disease, which has caused so much pain and suffering across our state, our nation and the entire globe over the last 18 months.”
– Dr. Peter N. Bretan, president of the California Medical Association, whose organization “strongly supports” the governor’s decision.
When Star Trek’s William Shatner had his October 13 ride on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft, Shatner didn’t exactly “boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Others had ridden in a Bezos’ spacecraft, including Bezos himself, back in July.
And Shatner didn’t even get into outer space, but rather to the “edge of space 65.8 miles up,” according to this article:
But boy, oh, boy – did Bezos get the publicity he craves.
And the money.
Shatner flew for free, but two of the other passengers “paid undisclosed sums,” said the CBS story.
Bezos is cagey about disclosing what it costs for a Blue Origin trip.
Just like he’s cagey about disclosing his net worth. Fortunately, Forbes doesn’t hesitate: Bezos was worth about $199.6 billion as of October 20.
And Bezos isn’t the only rich man who’s cashing in on what we’ve come to call “space tourism”:
Richard Branson (net worth: $6 billion) and his Virgin Galactica is another, and Elon Musk (net worth: $209 billion) with his SpaceX is yet another.
Yup, space tourism is an industry, and rich people are willing to pay plenty to make the richer people even richer.
So the timing was right on October 17 for my newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, to invite readers to “Have Your Say”:
The invitation referenced Shatner’s trip, and that…
“…some complained such resources would be better directed at solving problems here on Earth. What do you think of space tourism?”
Readers were invited to submit essays of 500 or fewer words for possible publication, and I expect many people will have lots to say about this topic, pro and con.
Let’s stay with that idea of, “such resources would be better directed at solving problems here on Earth.”
There is NO way that Branson, Musk and Bezos..
…are going to wake up tomorrow and say, “Holy rocket science! I should quit space tourism and direct that money to solving problems here on Earth! Like preparing for and containing pandemics, and securing cyberspace, and solving food insecurity, and…”
But how about our government?
Could our government perhaps be persuaded to stop spending money on useless space projects, like this one:
Meet “NASA’s Lucy”:
Estimated cost: $989.1 million.
That’s the better part of a billion dollars.
Of course, NASA lowballs costs, and it seems highly likely that a 12-year mission is going to generate some unexpected expenses.
Especially since NASA’s Lucy launched on October 16, and on October 17 it was already having problems:
So, what is Lucy’s billion-dollar mission?
According to the New York Times article:
“NASA embarked on a 12-year mission to study a group of asteroids on Saturday with the launch of Lucy, a robotic explorer that will meander through the unexplored caverns of deep space to find new clues about the creation of our solar system.”
Here are the asteroids that Lucy will “meander” around:
The asteroids are swarming around Jupiter, located fifth from the sun:
To assist in its clues-about-creation quest, Lucy is equipped with all sorts of devices with names like L’TES, L’LORRI and L’Ralph, which is all very alliterative, but not my idea of a beneficial use of my…
I’m sure it would be lovely to understand everything about the creation of our solar system, and perhaps someday we will.
How about someday, after we’ve made much more progress addressing life-threatening issues right here in the United States?
Issues that might have been a step closer to resolution, had that $1 billion been better used.
Here’s a partial list of those issues, in case anyone from our government is listening:
Now think of the impact on this list, if even half of NASA’s budget had been spent on it:
The author of this article put it much better than I could:
“With people struggling to eat in the richest country in the world, is exploring space how our tax dollars should be spent?”
“$23.3 billion is a lot of money for NASA, which has little to no direct impact on everyday Americans’ lives. Sure, space is cool to learn about and the advancement of science and technology is very important, but parents who can’t feed their children probably don’t care about some rocks on Mars.”
“NASA should not be a priority when issues such as poverty, food insecurity and homelessness exist in America. Our tax dollars should be spent on us – improving our infrastructure, helping the poor, bettering education and solving climate change.
“To be clear, government funding for research is very important and NASA should not be abandoned. Knowledge should be accessible and space shouldn’t be treated like a personal playground for the ultra-rich. Right now we need to focus on fixing the problems here on Earth before we try to figure out the age-old mysteries of space.”
I was doing research for a blog post and clicked on this article from early October 2021:
It was the subhead that caught my eye:
“The U.S. will begin phasing pennies out of circulation in 2022 and stop minting the coin in 2023”
Really? I thought.
I hadn’t heard or read about that anywhere – local or network news, my newspaper or online.
The Independent story wasn’t about phasing out pennies – the only other mention that subhead got was the last sentence in the article:
“…as the US will begin phasing pennies out of circulation in 2022 and stop minting the coin in 2023.”
I considered the source: the Independent.
It’s a British online newspaper established in 1986 as a national morning printed paper that went online-only in 2016. The website and mobile app claim a combined monthly reach of almost 23 million, and the Independent’s reporters have won a number of awards.
For quite some time I’ve figured that the Independent had good credibility, and I’ve quoted the newspaper in a number of my blog posts.
I figured the phasing-out-pennies subhead was credible and I wanted to know more, so I googled it.
And it didn’t turn up in any of my go-to sites – the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times or my local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, nothing on NPR, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN.
This got me wondering about the veracity of the penny story.
The earliest article I found about doing away with pennies was this:
The website appears to be related to finances, and the subhead referenced an announcement from the “U.S. Mint.” The article talked about the “high cost of making new pennies” and “how stores will handle transactions without pennies,” and concluded with how eliminating pennies will benefit everyone:
“It is estimated the average person loses $38.92 in pennies throughout their lifetime. Change will be easier to count and manage, and purses will be lighter. No more looking under car seats, under couch cushions, sifting through the coin jar, etc.”
I thought it looked legit.
I reread the story. After the conclusion, there was a list of penny-related story links that I’d skipped the first time around.
This time I looked at them. And looked past them.
And saw this:
The story that had seemed credible to me was a joke, and I’d missed it.
Fool me once, shame on me.
At least I had some company.
The next reference to the demise of pennies was this June 7, 2021 article:
I thought it looked legit.
The Newswire website says it does “press release distribution” – for a fee – and whoever wrote this press release also referenced the U.S. Mint announcement, and used some of the same information from the above CashMoneyLife website.
The author even firmly assured us:
“Don’t worry – it’s not a Volkswagen-level April Fool’s joke. This is the real deal. And it’s arguably the biggest coin news since 1857 when Congress discontinued the half cent, which believe it or not, people weren’t thrilled about at the time.”
If this author’s source was the CashMoneyLife story, I guess the author didn’t get past that list of related links to see the punchline:
Fool that author once.
And apparently this author as well, on July 1, 2021:
I thought it looked legit.
Tally appears to be a debt consolidation website, so – money-related. The article’s author included interesting historical information about the penny, and good arguments about why it makes sense to discontinue it.
The author also mentioned that the “U.S. Mint”:
“…will officially phase out penny production in late 2022, and it’ll complete its last batch of penny production on April 1, 2023.”
Note the use of the word “officially.”
No suggestion of an April Fool’s joke here.
So in addition to the Independent, I’d found three sources for the penny demise story: CashMoneyLife, Newswire and Tally. The first identified as a joke, but the second and third stories were presented as fact.
My next stop was the official source – the U.S. Mint:
Specifically, to the “News” tab where I searched for “cease penny production” in the 2021 news releases:
Then I looked for any news release that mentioned “penny” in 2021:
Again, nothing about the penny’s demise.
So – what started as an April Fool’s joke then evolved in June into a genuine, this-is-not-a joke story, and was taken a step further in the July article as “officially.”
On September 23, 2021 the story appeared on CoinCommunity.com:
The link in the post brings us back to the original CashMoneyLife.com April Fool’s joke, but in no way indicates the story isn’t for real.
And that brings us to early October, and that Independent article’s author who saw something, somewhere about the demise of the penny, and repeated it as fact.
I offer this, though not as an excuse:
At first I hadn’t noticed that April 1, 2021 date on the CashMoneyLife.com website:
If I had noticed the date, I probably wouldn’t have assumed the article was an April Fool’s joke.
The first time I read that article, I didn’t look at the related links or past them, and didn’t see this:
How many articles have I not read all the way through? How many have I skimmed for relevant information, perhaps missing the most important information?
When it comes to the internet – to any news source…
I need to notch up my skepticism, and scale back my credulity.
But before I start ranting about the U.S. Navy/federal government’s use and misuse of our tax dollars, let me offer some context.
There was a story on the news the other night that posed the question,
“Can you collect unemployment if you’re fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine?”
The short answer is,
“Probably not, because being fired for refusing the COVID vaccine could be considered being fired ‘for cause.’”
I was happy to hear it.
The story cut to a man-in-the-street interview and this whiny doofus:
“I think that the state should pay for their unemployment benefits…even if they don’t get vaccinated. Because it’s the right of the individual – that’s what our country is about.”
Some people just can’t get it through their thick heads that the “state” doesn’t pay for anything.
Local, state and federal governments derive their incomes from us taxpayers, so whether it’s a new storm drain, a new state highway, or a new aircraft carrier, all – and I mean all – of it was paid for with our….
Which brings us back to the above headline about the Navy selling two aircraft carriers.
For one cent each.
Let’s talk about the two aircraft carriers.
They’re the USS Kitty Hawk and USS John F. Kennedy.
Both went into service in the 1960s.
I found cost estimates for the Kitty Hawk ranging from $265 million to $400 million. I couldn’t find a cost estimate for the Kennedy, but since they were both aircraft carriers built around the same time, I’ll use those figures.
Let’s meet in the middle and say each ship cost $330 million to build.
That $660 million translates into around $5.5 billion today.
Here’s what the aircraft carriers looked like in their glory days:
But ships get old, as all machinery does, and according to the above Insider article,
“The Kitty Hawk was decommissioned in 2009 and the John F. Kennedy in 2017. Both have spent their time since being maintained in naval yards.”
The Navy decided it was time for the old ships to go to their final resting place.
In this case, that place is International Shipbreaking Limited (ISL), based in Brownsville, TX, formally known as EMR International Shipbreaking Limited, LLC:
You’ll notice the red arrow pointing to the “Sell to Us” option.
Click on that, and we learn this:
ISL also provides helpful, illustrated links of “What we Buy,” including “Marine Structures and Vessels”:
Vessels like the USS Kitty Hawk and USS John F. Kennedy.
On the “Sell to Us” page ISL talks about how they “guarantee you a fair price.”
How, I wondered, was ISL paying one penny per vessel a “fair price”?
These are big ships, each more than 1,000 feet long, and they must contain a lot of “scrap metal and items containing metal.”
And the Navy said, “One penny each, and their yours”?
Wait – it gets worse.
According to this article:
On previous occasions, it hasn’t been the Navy selling old ships to the salvage company.
It was the Navy (i.e., us taxpayers) paying the company:
“…often the Navy is the one paying millions more to contractors to take decommissioned vessels away for scrapping, which can be a very complex affair.
“For instance, the service is looking at a bill of more than $1.5 billion to dismantle the former Enterprise, its first nuclear-powered supercarrier. The total estimated cost to dispose of the hulk of the ex-USS Bonhomme Richard, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship that was ravaged by a massive fire last year, was pegged at a more modest $30 million.”
And in the situation with ISL, according to this article:
“The navy previously paid ISL to have the company tow and dismantle decommissioned vessels, including the USS Constellation and USS Independence.”
So – why did ISL let the Navy (i.e., us taxpayers) avoid paying millions with the Kitty Hawk and John F. Kennedy?
Again, according to the Independent:
“A spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, Alan Baribeau, confirmed that ‘The contract values reflect that the contracted company will benefit from the subsequent sale of scrap steel, iron, and non-ferrous metal ores.’”
I’ll just bet the “contracted company” will “benefit.”
The contracted company – ISL – is going to make so much money from salvaging the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS John F. Kennedy that they apparently don’t even need those millions the Navy (i.e., us taxpayers) has paid in the past.
I suppose, to some, charging only two cents instead of millions makes ISL heroes.
I suppose, to some, spending only two cents instead of millions makes the Navy heroes.
Not to me.
Let’s scale this back a bit – from thousand-foot-long ships to something we can all relate to:
The world is full of companies like this, practically begging us to sell them our old, junky cars:
The arrangement is very simple:
“Our junk car removal team buy and picks up junk cars across the state of California, paying cash for cars and typically picking up within one to three business days…our junk car buyers in California will drive to wherever your vehicle is located to pick it up free of charge. That’s the Clunker Junker promise.”
This and other companies do the same thing as International Shipbreaking Limited, just on a smaller scale. The companies pay us, they take the car away, they process it, and make money selling what they’ve salvaged.
But in the case of the Navy, it’s been we, the people, paying the salvage company to take away old ships, process them and then make more money.
This makes no damn sense to me.
Well, perhaps brighter days are ahead.
Perhaps in the future when the Navy decides to junk a ship, they – I mean, we – will get paid more than a penny for it.
For years there’s been talk of getting rid of the penny, and good arguments made for that, like in this 2020 article:
“Each penny costs about 2 cents to produce, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Mint…The Mint manufactured more than seven billion pennies in the 2019 fiscal year, at loss of nearly $70 million.”
If the goverment decides to phase out pennies, ISL will have to cough up more than one cent to take a decommissioned ship away and scrap it.
Maybe ISL will pay something closer to that “fair price” they talk about:
It means I just learned something new, and that’s a good thing.
For instance, I recently learned that 75 milliliters is 2.5 ounces – a measly amount when a cosmetics company is charging a whopping $56 for 75 milliliters of face glop.
$22 an ounce?
I think not.
Even more recently, I learned something new in this Washington Post story:
I learned that if you have one of those Roomba robot vacuum things, and you have a dog, there’s a possibility certainty that if when your dog poops on the floor, the robot vacuum will slide into the dog poop and smear it all over your floor.
I’ll admit I was a bit was skeptical, until I read this article:
Which assured me that:
“You see, iRobot had a poop problem. There are dozens if not hundreds of YouTube videos documenting the phenomenon, as a Roomba approaches a pile of fresh dog droppings, hovers over it a bit, and then makes a snail-like trail of fecal smears across the hardwood or carpet. It’s honestly probably among the most widespread and unintentionally hilarious (depending on your point of view) consequences of mainstreaming robots.”
iRobot Corporation being the maker of Roomba robot vacuum cleaners since 2002.
I checked YouTube, and indeed – there appears to be a plethora of videos posted about this topic.
Because I care about you, I’ll share from just one:
In this brief sequence, we see that the robot vacuum making its approach…
The robot vacuum being unable to recognize and avoid the poop.
The robot vacuum now being permanently unusable.
Until, says the Washington Post article, the debut of the…
“Roomba j7+, the latest version of iRobot’s popular home vacuum.”
The new $849 Roomba j7+ “claims to give customers ‘even more control over their clean,’ with a camera that can identify and avoid pet droppings. Instead of smearing it all over the floor, the device will gracefully avoid the poop…”
Not just avoid it, but gracefully!
And not only that, the Roomba j7+ will…
“…snap a picture and text it to your phone if you’re out, the company says.”
I’m not sure if the Roomba j7+ is sending the picture to ask, “Shall I go through it or around it?” or possibly, “Just a heads-up – Woofer has left a sign of his affection for you in the family room,” but just imagine this scenario:
Thanks to the pandemic, you’ve been unemployed for almost a year. You’ve finally – finally – landed an interview for a job you really – really – want. And you think you’ve nailed it!
Your phone rings (you were so nervous that you forgot to put it on mute) and as you apologize to the interviewer, you grab your phone to shut it off, fumble, and accidentally drop it on her desk. She sees this:
Interviewer: Someone sent you a picture of poop? You: Ha! It was a something! My vacuum cleaner sent it!
End of interview.
But don’t despair!
iRobot created an entirely new division in their tech department, and you just might fit right in.
You see, before the folks at iRobot could teach their new vacuum how to recognize dog poop, avoid it, take pictures of it, and send said pictures to your phone…
It had to create, acquire and/or otherwise simulate beaucoup dog poop in its laboratory:
According to iRobot CEO Colin Angle in this article,
“This is one of those stupid, glorious things. I don’t know how many hundreds of models of poo we created out of Play-Doh and paint, and everyone [at iRobot] with a dog was instructed to take pictures whenever their dog pooed. And we actually made synthetic models of poo to try to further grow our database.”
Here’s another Colin Angle quote, from the TechCrunch article:
“The glorious career of roboticists may not have been fully realized when we were sending people home and creating hundreds of models of poo. Sending people around to photograph and create synthetic models of poo. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of images of all different shapes and sizes of synthetic images were required, but this is not demo code, clearly.
“You imagine it, we probably attempted it to grow a large enough database with both real images, images of fake poo and synthetic images that were manufactured of poop to serve as a training model for our robot.”
Frankly, Mr. Angle, I’d prefer not to imagine it.
In this article, Angle did admit that while they’ve mastered the dog poop problem,
“We can’t do pee,” says Angle. “It has to have some 3D aspects to it.”
But with the poop – they’re solid.
This, says TechCrunch, takes the form of the “Pet Owner Official Promise (P.O.O.P.), which guarantees a free return for the new j7+ if the Roomba runs into (and over) a poop problem”:
Apparently Angle loves talking about this so much that he even made a 42-second video, starring himself, which includes many words of wisdom such as these:
What Angle doesn’t address in the video – or elsewhere – but some articles do, is concerns about privacy.
For instance, the Washington Post article references “the intimacy of the data” devices like the Roomba j7+ collect, and:
“‘People are used to thinking about whether Alexa is listening in on their house, or what the Ring doorbell is capturing outside, but they might not realize that the existence of a camera on their vacuum could present those same types of concerns,’ said Tom Williams, assistant professor of computer science at the Colorado School of Mines and director of the Mines Interactive Robotics Research Lab there.”
I pooh-pooh that concern.
Seriously, are you kidding? Everyone knows that as soon as you joined Facebook, any vestiges of privacy you may have had are done, gone, finished! Haven’t you seen the disclaimer on Facebook’s homepage?
So, to summarize:
I’ve learned that an old Roomba and dog poop are a bad mix.
I’ve learned that the new Roomba will gracefully avoid dog poop.
I’ve learned that I’ve spent so much time and energy researching and writing about this that…
I had the good fortune to live in San Francisco when it was affordable.
But affordable or otherwise, when you live in San Francisco, you have at least some awareness of what a big deal the second Monday in October is:
It’s Columbus Day.
Except it isn’t.
In San Francisco it’s no longer known as Columbus Day.
It’s now known as Indigenous Peoples Day and Italian American Heritage Day, and the dual celebration today – Monday, October 11 – was preceded by this yesterday:
October 11 is a San Francisco city and county Holiday.
October 11 is not a California state holiday.
October 11 is very confusing.
According to this 2021 article:
In California, Indigenous Peoples Day and Italian American Heritage Day are also celebrated in Santa Barbara and Sacramento, though it’s not a city and county holiday in either. The cities of Berkley, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo and South Lake Tahoe observe only Indigenous Peoples Day.
The state of California does not observe Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day or Italian American Heritage Day as a state holiday.
So if you, for example, live in San Francisco and you’re a city or county employee, it’s a holiday.
But if you’re a state employee, no holiday for you.
If you’re a federal employee, October 11 is a holiday and it is called “Columbus Day.” According to this website:
“All non-essential federal government offices are closed on Columbus Day, and all federal employees are paid even if they receive the day off.”
And how about where you live? Here’s a map by states, though it doesn’t whittle it down to individual counties or cities or – for all I know – neighborhoods:
The focus of Columbus Day is – was – Italian-born explorer Christopher Columbus’ arrival in what we now call the Americas in 1492.
In my online research I came across this scholarly paper written in 2003:
The paper begins by saying,
“On October 12, 1492 Christopher Columbus set foot upon one of the Bahamas. Europe’s Age of Exploration had begun…the voyages of Columbus set into motion a series of historical events that resulted in the exploration of a new world. And therefore he has captured the imagination of mankind and became a metaphor for discovery, adventure, bravery, daring, perseverance and much more.”
Columbus has also become a metaphor for controversy. How so?
The paper goes on to say,
“There are at least 150 Columbus memorials in the United States…”
That was 2003.
Fast forward to September 2020:
The article says,
“At least 33 Christopher Columbus statues have been taken down or are in the process of being removed since the renewed Black Lives Matter protests began in late spring, according to a count of local reports.”
“Protests have targeted Columbus because he is accused of the genocide of indigenous people. A 2019 study published in the journal Quarterly Science Review estimated that between 1492 and 1600, about 55 million people in the Americas died.”
And not all of those 33 Columbus statues were peacefully and quietly removed by local authorities, according to this article:
“In St. Paul, demonstrators toppled a ten-foot-tall statue that stood in front of the Minnesota state capitol. In Richmond, protesters pulled down an eight-foot-tall statue in Byrd Park, carrying it about 200 yards before setting it on fire and throwing it into the nearby Fountain Lake. And, around 12:30am Wednesday, police in Boston received a report that a marble statue of the Italian explorer and colonizer had lost its head.”
And it isn’t just statues – the Columbus controversy conversation has extended to places named for Columbus, including this one:
And how about our nation’s capital, Washington, DC – the DC standing for “District of Columbia”?
I don’t know how far we, the people, will go in the Columbus conversation.
I do know this irony: Columbus wasn’t on a journey to discover a “New World,” as North, Central and South America came to be called. Instead, according to History.com:
“Columbus intended to chart a western sea route to China, India and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia. Instead, on October 12, 1492, he landed in the Bahamas, becoming the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings established colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland during the 10th century.”
That new sea route Columbus was seeking would increase trade, and that meant increased wealth.
Increasing wealth by exploiting local resources – from precious metals to people – was and is the primary reason that humans have always ventured into the unknown.
Across oceans, like Columbus; across land masses, like Lewis and Clark; and now, into outer space, as this writer suggested almost 30 years ago:
“Space colonization means much more than Antarctic-style research habitats on the moon or other planets for an elite group of astronauts. Space can be colonized and provide Earth with the equivalent of the New World that Columbus ‘discovered’ in the 15th century.”
Humans have always explored – and exploited – and we always will.
Perhaps someday we’ll have holidays named after these outer space explorers:
Giving my money to a retailer should be easy – right?
And usually, it is.
But not this time.
The scenario was simple:
From whom: Macy’s How: Online. What: Clinique moisturizer.
“Clinique,” by the way, is an American manufacturer of skincare, cosmetics, toiletries and fragrances, with a British actress – Emilia Clarke – as their first Global Ambassador.
I guess they couldn’t find any American actresses who could look this silly while touting Clinique products:
I don’t spend much on cosmetics (read: nothing) so I figure it’s OK to indulge myself with a rather pricey moisturizer. One bottle lasts for months, it’s kind to my skin, and now it was time for a new one.
Normally, the process is easy – go online, select my product, proceed to checkout, credit card number in, product on its way.
I did notice an offer on the left-hand side of my screen:
I didn’t want a “Free Gift.” I knew I wouldn’t use it. I’d end up dumping the product and recycling the packaging, so let’s not waste it.
That was my attitude.
Macy’s or Clinique – or both – begged to differ.
When I clicked on the “Proceed to Checkout” button, I got this:
Wait – I can’t complete my purchase without selecting a “Free Gift”?
You’re forcing me to choose a “Free Gift” – or else?
This is crazy.
But I wanted to finish this and do something more interesting, so rather than find some other place to buy it…
I chose their #@!%*#! “Free Gift.”
My order went through, and a few days later the package arrived containing both what I wanted – and didn’t.
Meet my “Free Gift”:
Goop and Glop:
These were much smaller, try-this-and-you’ll-be-hooked sizes.
Let’s start with Goop.
Normally I’d be wildly enthused about anything that suggested I “take the day off.”
But in this case – take the day off from what?
Doing the dishes? Paying my bills? Taking out the garbage?
I was suspicious as to how a small jar of goop was going to somehow enable me to do any of that.
Plus, I’m always skeptical of a product that comes with French subtitles.
As though baume démaquillant has some kind of je ne sais quoi that – what?
Justifies its very hefty price tag for the full-size container – $34 for a meager 3.8 ounces?
And what’s with all the lower-case letters? Is this some sort of affectation that’s supposed to catch my eye and make me say, “Oh, look! No upper-case letters! How droll! I must have it!”
And what, exactly, does Goop claim to do?
According to the Clinique website, when applied to my face, this…
“Lightweight makeup remover quickly dissolves tenacious eye and face makeups, sunscreens. Transforms from a solid balm into a silky oil upon application. Cleans thoroughly, rinses off completely. Gently helps remove the stress of pollution so skin looks younger, longer. Non-greasy. Non-drying.”
So…it dissolves, transforms, cleans, rinses off, helps, and removes.
That is one busy jar of Goop!
It’s amazing to think that stuff that looks like this…
Can claim to do all that.
But – put it on my face?
Next: Glop, or “moisture surge 100H auto replenishing hydrator.”
Again, all lower-case letters.
Again, the French subtitle: “soin auto-réhydratant.”
I’m sensing a pattern here.
Especially when it comes to the price:
$56 for an even more meager 2.5 ounces.
Unlike the Goop, Glop is clear, or almost:
This is another product I’m supposed to put on my face, this time for…
“a 174% immediate moisture boost that keeps skin hydrated for 100 hours.”
Interesting claims, though I saw no evidence offered.
This product, once applied to my face, promises to…
Deliver, help, and lock in.
And all I have to do is…
“Use morning and night on clean skin, or use over makeup as a dewy highlighter.”
“Dewy”? I want to look like something that is wet with dew?
Glop is not just for my face!
“More ways to use this multitasker: as a five-minute mask, cuticle treatment, frizz smoother, or dry spot fix for knees and elbows.”
Which frizz and where, I wondered.
And what, exactly, am I treating my cuticles for?
They’ve never treated me to anything.
In case we’re not clear about the primary place to apply Goop and Glop, Clinique provides us with this image of where our face is located:
And Clinique provides us with yet one more suggestion.
It’s the one suggestion I gladly followed with Clinique’s #@!%*#! “Free Gift”:
The “famed cathedral” in the headline is Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, more formally known as the “Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington.”
I’d assumed the “famed cathedral” that the article was referring to was Washington National Cathedral.
That’s not what caught my attention.
The “artist” in the headline is contemporary artist Kerry James Marshall, “renowned for his wide-ranging works depicting African American life.”
That’s not what caught my attention, either.
What I focused on – and started wondering about – was…
What the heck are Confederate windows doing in Washington National Cathedral?
The windows depict Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee (two left panels) and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson:
Here’s how they looked in the cathedral until 2016, when things changed (more about that to come):
As for how the windows came to be there, it took quite a bit of research online, and at first the information was scanty, like this, from a recent Washington Post article:
“…the Lee and Jackson windows…were donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and installed in 1953.”
“United Daughters of the Confederacy.”
A name that might spark approval in some, condemnation in others.
Who are they?
It seems to depend on whom you ask.
According to their website,
The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC):
“…was founded in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 10, 1894, by Mrs. Caroline Meriwether Goodlett of Tennessee as Founder and Mrs. Lucian H. (Anna Davenport) Raines of Georgia as Co- Founder.”
“…the Objectives of the society are Historical, Benevolent, Educational, Memorial and Patriotic and include the following goals:
To honor the memory of those who served and those who fell in the service of the Confederate States.
To protect, preserve and mark the places made historic by Confederate valor.
To collect and preserve the material for a truthful history of the War Between the States.
To record the part taken by Southern women in patient endurance of hardship and patriotic devotion during the struggle and in untiring efforts after the War during the reconstruction of the South.
To fulfill the sacred duty of benevolence toward the survivors and toward those dependent upon them.
To assist descendants of worthy Confederates in securing proper education.
To cherish the ties of friendship among the members of the Organization.”
Here’s a different view about the UDC, from a New York Times opinion piece:
“In truth, the organization did more to advance white supremacist ideology during the first several decades of the 20th century than any other organization in American history.
“Its leaders glorified the Ku Klux Klan. They romanticized slavery as a benevolent institution that featured happy, faithful and well-fed bondsmen and women. They spoon-fed these values to the young through racist primers and essay competitions that rewarded children for parroting white supremacist views. This distorted version of history nurtured a generation of well-known segregationists and formed the basis of Southern resistance to the civil rights movement.”
And this, from Smithsonian Magazine on September 24, 2021:
“‘The movement launched over a century ago by the UDC to install Confederate monuments and memorials in public places was not an innocent act of heritage, pride or civic beautification,” National Museum of African American History and Culture curator Paul Gardullo tells Smithsonian magazine.
“Instead, he explains, ‘It was a concerted effort to mark and embed a false myth of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction across the national landscape in an attempt to help reinforce segregation, Jim Crow, and racial intimidation and terror of African Americans.’”
Let’s go back to 1953, when the UDC’s Confederate windows were installed in Washington National Cathedral.
I really had to do some digging for this, but found some plausible information on a website called “Emerging Civil War,” which claims to offer a “fresh perspectives on America’s defining event.” Here are the articles:
I also found information in this 2002 Washington Post article:
Here’s some of what I learned:
“In 1953, when the United Daughters of the Confederacy finally had the money to install stained glass windows of Lee and Jackson at the National Cathedral, the cathedral was delighted to take their money.”
The amount of money the UDC offered was $130,000, about $1.2 million today. It appears that that funding paid for the Lee window, as the plaque below it read,
“…gratefully built by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.”
The plaque below the Jackson window said it was erected by the UDC “and his admirers from South and North.”
“Records show that a northern philanthropist, Wall Street banker James Sheldon, matched the group’s funds for the Jackson window.”
One of the articles described the Lee and Jackson windows as having special appeal to UDC members for their “ability to memorialize their organization and the legacy of the Confederacy,” and quoted from a history of the UDC about the windows:
“Here, where the nation’s heroes are to be honored side by side, the patriotism of the Confederacy shall have recognition. No boy from either side of the line must ever stand in this great gathering of soldiers and wonder at the absence of a Southern hero. One must be there lest the question be: were the men who wore the Gray really patriots; did they fight for their country to keep it the way their forebears founded it? They were and they did; and, for their sake, their beloved leader must have place where the great spirits of our nation’s history are to be enshrined.”
At the dedication service in 1953, President Eisenhower said Lee was a man…
“…who could be a soldier who could fight for his ideals in which he firmly believed but who remained, at the same time, a great noble character.”
But even with all this attention, apparently the Lee and Jackson windows didn’t draw crowds of admirers; in the 2002 Washington Post article, a cathedral spokeswoman said,
“‘Most people are surprised when they find out we have windows for Lee and Jackson. Not many people come asking to see them. They just kind of stumble on them.’”
The windows stayed in place, often unnoted and unremarked upon, until 2015.
The windows hadn’t changed, but the world had.
In 2015, the cathedral’s then-dean, the Rev. Gary Hall, said:
“The windows were installed in 1953 to ‘foster reconciliation between parts of the nation that had been divided by the Civil War. While the impetus behind the windows’ installation was a good and noble one at the time, the Cathedral has changed, and so has the America it seeks to represent.
“‘There is no place for the Confederate battle flag in the iconography of the nation’s most visible faith community. We cannot in good conscience justify the presence of the Confederate flag in this house of prayer for all people, nor can we honor the systematic oppression of African-Americans for which these two men fought.’”
The Confederate battle flags were removed and replaced with plain glass…
…and the church would “hold a period of public discussion on issues of race, slavery and justice and revisit the question of how to treat other depictions of the Civil War on the windows.”
Then, in 2017:
“Officials at Washington National Cathedral will remove two stained-glass windows that pay tribute to the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, a decision reached after two years of discussion and made more urgent by the recent racially tinged violence in Charlottesville, VA.”
“… [the windows] will be cleaned, conserved, stored and potentially moved to another part of the church to be used in an educational setting unaffiliated with worship.”
“While cathedral leaders look for replacement designs, the windows will be covered with wood that is painted to emulate the stone around it.”
“The United Daughters of the Confederacy did not return requests for comment, and Dean Hollerith said that he had not heard from the organization in an official capacity about the decision.”
Employees set up scaffolding to remove the stained-glass windows in 2017:
And covered the empty spaces:
Which brings us to September 2021 and the headline that started this post:
I went back to the United Daughters of the Confederacy website to see if they ever commented on the alteration of, and then removal of, the Lee and Jackson windows.
I didn’t find a direct reference, but on their homepage is a lengthy “Statement from the President General” that concludes with this:
“Join us in denouncing hate groups and affirming that Confederate memorial statues and monuments are part of our shared American history and should remain in place.”
So now I know what the heck Confederate windows were doing in Washington National Cathedral – how they came to be installed, and now, removed.
I’ll leave the rights or wrongs of it to wiser heads than mine.
The above image appeared in a September 23 Washington Post story with this caption:
“Flight attendants and crew members around the country are training in self-defense with federal air marshals.”
Not that learning self-defense is sickening.
But the need for it in this case – is.
It’s sickening that flight attendants and crew should need self-defense training in case they have to deal with what are now called “unruly passengers.”
And since the same article noted that “the FAA said this week it has received 4,385 reports of unruly passenger incidents” in 2021, it appears the need for that self-defense training is – sadly – well-founded.
Flight attendants have reported being punched, fondled, spat on, and subjected to racial and homophobic slurs by passengers who are drunk and/or refuse to wear face masks and/or are looking for someone to take out their anger on and/or are simply – assholes.
So on September 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came up with a brilliant solution:
Pass the Buck:
“One week to respond”?
The “unruly passenger” issue has been painfully evident for the better part of a year, and the FAA is giving the airlines “one week” to solve the problem?
The airlines are supposed to “crack down harder” – how? Short of shooting these people who punch, fondle, spit, get drunk, refuse to wear a mask, and otherwise behave so egregiously that sometimes flights must be diverted so their sorry asses can be removed from the plane?
Plus, it’s the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) who have the lawmaking and enforcement power – not the airlines.
OK – wait.
Congress also has lawmaking and enforcement power. What do they have to say about all this?
On September 23, Congress did what they do best.
They kicked the can down the road:
They held a hearing.
Specifically, this subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing:
A two-hour-and-45-minute hearing that:
Provided some great photo ops:
Started at 10am and made everybody late for lunch, doggone it!
And brought us the following pearls of wisdom:
“As the nation works to get to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge in public air rage incidents has exacerbated the already-tenuous workforce situation in our aviation sector and eroded confidence in air travel.” – Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), chairman of the subcommittee
“It needs to be a civil experience for everyone on the plane, and obviously there are additional safety considerations for being tens of thousands of feet up in the air in a metal airplane when thinking about this.” – Rep. Garret Graves (LA), the top Republican on the subcommittee
“The FAA inspectors who handle these cases are also responsible for conducting oversight and surveillance of the aviation system’s safety. They can’t continue without some relief.” – Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
So – the FAA’s contribution: Buck passing.
Congress’ contribution: Can kicked down the road.
But – but – some relief may be in sight.
Courtesy of Delta Airlines:
According to the article:
“Delta Air Lines is urging airlines to respond to the extraordinary surge in unruly behavior in the skies by creating a national ‘no fly’ list of barred customers, according to a memo sent to flight attendants on Wednesday.”
Note: This is a different list from the government’s No-Fly List, says the article; that list “was created to thwart terrorism and is maintained by the FBI, not airlines, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said.”
Delta already has more than 1,600 people on its own “no fly” list, according to the memo.
And, says this article:
“United Airlines reportedly has more than 1,000 on its own banned-from-flying list. American, JetBlue, Southwest, Hawaiian and Alaskan airlines all have their own lists of personae non gratae.”
Thank you, Delta Airlines, for setting the example, going back all the way to August 2020 and this story:
The answer to the headline question is a resounding “yes” – you can be banned for not wearing a mask, and for other unruly behavior:
“Delta’s no-fly list is perfectly within its scope of rights, experts stress.”
“‘The legal reasoning is pretty straightforward,’ says Sharona Hoffman, co-director of Case Western Reserve University’s Law-Medicine Center. ‘They’re a private business, and private businesses can have rules.’”
“Eduardo Angeles, a lawyer who served as Federal Aviation Administration associate administrator for airports during President Barack Obama’s administration, said, ‘No one has a right to fly. Instead, you’re just a participant navigating the free market: You have several options [to get to your destination] – car, train, foot. And in this way, an airline is just like a restaurant: It can deny service to somebody for reasons that are specific to [it].’”
So, to all airlines, I say this:
While you’re waiting for the buck-passing FAA and the can-kicking Congress to fix the unruly passenger problem…
Share your no-fly lists.
Love those no-fly lists.
Enforce those no-fly lists.
Every name of every asshole who boarded a plane and decided that the rules apply to other people, but not to them.
And declare them…
Not for a year.
Not for five years.
Everyone on every no-fly list is…
When potentially unruly passengers are faced with the probability – no, the certainty – that they will never board any U.S. commercial airplane again, I believe some of them – no, many of them – will refrain from causing trouble on our airlines.
As you can see from this headline in the September 22 San Diego Union-Tribune:
Christmas shopping this year is going to be challenging, and early shopping “is a must.”
So I’ve put together some helpful hints about what not to buy, and what to buy, and put under the Christmas tree for me.
Part 1, the what not to buy post, ran on September 29, and here is my eagerly awaited…
Part 2: Buy This
Once upon a time there was a kid in England who was expelled from school, and served time in prison for petty crime.
While in prison the kid had time to mull over his future. He had some artistic talent – sort of – and one day, the lightbulb went on. He realized he could combine art with crime and become a street artist, spreading his graffiti all over streets and walls and bridges, and making himself an all-around “pain in the arse,” as the Brits like to say.
Because graffiti is illegal, the kid knew he had to hide his identity. “I know,” he thought. “I’ll have just one name, like those famous blokes do – Bono and Cher and Fabio!” He chose the name “Banksy” – for reasons I’m still pondering – and to this day his name and identity remain unconfirmed.
That was the early 90s – fast forward to today.
Today, according to Smithsonian Magazine, Banksy is a “graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateur,” creating artworks – sort of – that sell for millions.
Like this one:
This is Game Changer, auctioned at Christie’s in March 2021, selling for $23,176,314 and becoming Banksy’s most expensive artwork ever sold in auction.
I think I’ve figured out how Banksy chose his name.
He’s laughing all the way to the bank…See?
Back to my Christmas gift.
Now, no worries.
Banksy’s Game Changer is not on my “Buy This” list!
This Banksy is:
Originally, this piece was called Girl with Balloon and it looked like this:
But when it was up for auction in 2018, that darn provocateur Banksy had a trick up his sleeve.
On auction day, just as the gavel was coming down on Girl with Balloon and the buyer’s $1.4 million bid, Banksy triggered a shredder he’d hidden in the bottom of the artwork’s frame!
The shredder stopped about half-way through…
The result was this:
Banksy renamed it Love is in the Bin, the purchaser paid and took it as is, and according to Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, Love is in the Bin became “the ultimate Banksy artwork and a true icon of recent art history.”
And not only that, said Branczik,
“Love is in the Bin was born of the most spectacular artistic happening of the 21st century. When Girl with Balloon ‘self-destructed’ in our saleroom, Banksy sparked a global sensation that has since become a cultural phenomenon.”
Whew! That Branczik is a guy who knows how, when life gives him lemons – to make lemonade.
And now, apparently, that 2018 purchaser has absorbed all she could of her “cultural phenomenon,” and Banksy’s Love is in the Bin is up for auction again, according to this September 3 article on CBS:
But holiday shoppers who are shopping for me, please note:
“Love is in the Bin will be offered at a sale in London on October 14.”
“The piece has a pre-sale estimate of $5.5 million to $8.3 million.”
What I’m hoping is that this time around, at the auction we’ll have an even more “spectacular artistic happening” and Banksy’s shredder will finish the job.
Will become this:
Banksy will rename it Don’t Shred a Tear, Argentina.
Plus, with Banksy’s entire artwork shredded…
Voila! It’s become installation art:
Installation art: An artistic genre of three-dimensional works that are often site-specific and designed to transform the perception of a space.
And I’ve got the perfect “site-specific” space to install it: