Here’s An Old Joke:  What Are The Two Seasons In Michigan?  Answer:

One January day, years ago, my husband and I were hunkered down in our house in Michigan, in front of the TV, trying to warm up after doing way too much of this:

He was flipping through the TV channels, and suddenly – we saw this:

“What is that?” I asked.

I could see it was a golf course, but where?  And how?  How, in the dead of winter, could anywhere look like that?

When you live in Michigan, you tend to forget that not every place in winter is like Michigan in winter:

In Michigan, some people actually look forward to winter, when they can indulge in their favorite pastime:

No, this isn’t an Arctic expedition.

It’s a bunch of people who get together, load up a lot of gear, find a frozen lake, cut holes in the ice, and go ice fishing:

If they don’t freeze to death, they may catch fish, and if so, kneel down on the ice for photo ops to post on Instagram:

But don’t let their smiles fool you – their faces froze that way 12 hours ago.

My husband and I did not like Michigan winters.

And suddenly, there on TV, in January, was a blue sky and green grass and UNfrozen water and people wearing…


We soon learned that we were watching a golf tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego:

And all that blue was the Pacific Ocean.

My husband and I were glued to the golf tournament.  Not the golf itself – neither of us is a fan – but glued to the views.

The TV station did a brief cutaway for a local news update.  Let’s compare and contrast the San Diego reporter’s attire and surroundings…

With this Michigan reporter’s:

Back to the tournament:

It was an epiphanous moment.

Epiphanous definition:  Life changing.

That was the day the hub and I decided we’d had it with Michigan winters.

There were many other contributing factors, of course, but that would be our last Michigan winter.

We left this behind:

We moved to San Diego.

Today, that golf tournament is called…

It was held last Wednesday through Saturday at Torrey Pines Golf Course.

We didn’t watch, but there were stories on the news that prompted some reminiscing:

“Remember when we saw this tournament on TV, back in Michigan?”
“Yes!  And all we could look at were those blue skies and the ocean and…”

OK:  I know, everyone knows, that San Diego isn’t all blue skies and ocean.

We have many challenges including…

But we don’t have this:

And yes, we miss our families in Michigan.

But we wait until summer to visit.

Michigan weather, January 28:

San Diego weather, January 28:

When Is “Your Clothes Smell Like Smoke” A Compliment?

There are multitudinous objections to people smoking, and one of the non-health-related is, “Ewww!  Your clothes smell like smoke!”

So why, I wondered, would anyone buy clothes that smell like smoke?

This was a widely covered story last October that I somehow managed to miss, but saw in an end-of-the-year stories recap.

It’s all about Arby’s, the drive-through/dine-in restaurant with this tagline:

And, showing their sensitivity to our current world:

This time around, the promotion was all about Arby’s Real Country Style Rib Sandwich:

And what better way to promote a sandwich, than with…

Clothes that smell like smoke?

And who is Arby’s audience for the smokey clothes?  A tweet from Arby’s begins:

“Made for everyone who has ever thought, ‘I wish my sweats were smoked over hickory wood by a Texas pitmaster…’”

Which begs the question:

Have you, or has anyone you know, ever thought this?

Of course not.

Here’s the full tweet from Arby’s:

Product info:  According to this article:

The garments are:

“…hand-smoked by real pitmasters at the legendary Sadler’s Smokehouse in East Texas Sadler’s.”

No, those aren’t slabs of brisket – they’re Arby’s Smoked Sweats.

“The new sweats – made by apparel company Stateline – come in an iconic burgundy shade, as an ode to the traditional pitmaster uniform.  The limited-edition Smoked Sweats are vacuum sealed onsite to preserve the maximum smoky infusion.

“Hoodies are sized S-XXL and retail for $65, while Sweatpants are sized M-XXLand retail for $50.”

So…$115 for a smokey sweatsuit that, after the first time you wash it, doesn’t smell like smoke anymore?

Of course you’re wondering who came up with this idea, and the Arby’s Smoked Sweats website has the answer:

“When you’re sitting in a smokehouse, smoking the meat for the Arby’s Real Country Style Rib Sandwich for hours and hours over real hickory wood, your brain starts to wander.”

I expect my brain would start to wander.  If there’s anything left of my brain after sitting in a smokehouse “for hours and hours.”

“You begin to wonder what a pair of premium sweats might smell like if they, too, were smoked over real hickory wood for hours.  Well, Arby’s found out.”

I don’t think I’d be wondering what a pair of smoked sweats might smell like.

I think I’d be wondering if was such a thing as fake hickory wood and if so, does it come from fake hickory trees?

I found that yes – there are fake hickory trees:

And fake hickory trees are used to make vinyl-that-looks-like-hickory flooring:

But I digress.

By now you’ve surmised that I think the idea of paying for smoke-smelling clothes is ridiculous, but this October article…

…showed me how wrong I can be.  That $115 two-piece smokey sweatsuit:

“Both items sold out almost immediately…”

A visit to confirmed this:

There’s a reason why Arby’s is so vague about what they were going to “throw in the smoker next,” as I found in this article:

“While the first drop of the sweats sold out quickly on October 4, consumers have another chance to grab the limited-edition sweats on Monday, October 11 at Noon EST before they are gone for good!”

“Gone for good.”

So, if you want smokey clothes you’re going to have to try some alternatives.

Like cozying up to some smoldering ruins:

Hanging out in an airport smoking lounge:

Maybe moving next door to a nuclear power plant:

You could go to Arby’s online store and buy their meat-scented wrapping paper and make your own clothes:

Or, you can just go on Arby’s Instagram page and do what these folks did – complain about this…and other stuff…

How Long Will It Wave O’er The Land Of The Free…

It was only a 50-minute video.

And I don’t consider myself a particularly sentimental person.

But I’d gotten sentimental – to the point of tears – by the time the video ended.

There’s something parades, and marching bands, and people waving American flags…

And carrying the flag…

And even wearing silly flag-themed costumes…

It all got to me.

The film was A&E’s The Star-Spangled Banner, a 2004 program focused on the huge – and hugely famous – flag that inspired the song that became our national anthem.

To give context to that flag, the film did a great job of providing background information:  During the War of 1812, on September 13, 1814, British ships began a 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor: 

The British failed to capture the fort, and the next morning the fleet withdrew.  To celebrate, the fort’s commander ordered that the fort’s current flag be taken down and replaced with the huge (30’ x 42’) flag.  It could be seen for miles around – as far as a ship anchored eight miles away on the Patapsco River, where an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key would put pen to paper and call it the flag “the star-spangled banner.”

The film goes on to detail the efforts over the years to restore and maintain big flag, and there’s also great information about that on the Smithsonian’s website.  The Star-Spangled Banner is on view at the Smithsonian:

And though it’s taken a lot of punishment during its 200+ years, you can see it’s still huge.

And beautiful.

And seeing it made me proud.

And sentimental.

And sad.

Because seeing this film about the Star-Spangled Banner reminded me of a quote:

“The establishment of our new Government seemed to be the last great experiment, for promoting human happiness, by creating a reasonable compact, in civil Society.”  – George Washington, 1790

Here’s the definition of “experiment”:

A course of action tentatively adopted
without being sure of the eventual outcome.

What Washington said is true – our form of government was and is an experiment, though I think many of us complacently believe that since it’s been around for more than 200 years, it’s here to stay.

But history tells us that no form of government has any assurance of enduring, and here are a few examples:

Hitler, suicide, 1945.

Adolph Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich” lasted from 1933 to 1945.

The Romanov dynasty began its rule over Russia in 1613.  During the Russian Revolution of 1917, Bolshevik revolutionaries toppled the monarchy, ending the dynasty.  Tsar Nicholas II and his family were later murdered by Bolshevik troops.

The Romanov family, murdered, 1917.

England had been ruled by a series of monarchs for more than 600 years when a civil war began in 1642.  It would eventually topple the king, Charles I, from his throne; he was tried and executed in 1649.  England became a republican Commonwealth led by a non-royal “lord protector,” Oliver Cromwell.

There’s do doubt that Hitler and his adherents believed that their “Thousand-Year Reich” was here to stay…until it wasn’t.

Charles I, executed, 1649.

No doubt that most Russians believed the dynasty that ruled the country for more than 300 years would always do so…until it didn’t.

No doubt that the people of England believed in their monarchy system was inviolate…until it wasn’t.

And there’s no reason to believe our form of government will always be our form of government.

Many Americans learn to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at an early age, but I’m guessing not many have read the lyrics.

When we do, we see that what we sing is actually two long questions:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there; o say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Today we can answer “yes” – that star-spangled banner still waves o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But for how much longer?

All About Animals

Last Thursday was a big day for me in terms of animal news.

First thing that morning, the face above greeted me on the front page of my newspaper.

I LOVE that face.

Who could not love that face?

When I saw it, I burst out singing that wonderful song by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, Look at that Face:

Look at that face, just look at it!
Look at that fabulous face of yours,
I knew first look I took at it,
This was the face that the world adores.

Look at those eyes,
As wise and as deep as the sea,
Look at that nose,
It shows what a nose should be!

As for your smile, it’s lyrical,
Friendly and warm as a summer day,
Your face is just a miracle,
Where could I ever find words to say?

The way that it makes me happy,
Whatever the time or place,
I will find in no book,
What I find when I look
At that face!

OK, I didn’t exactly “burst out singing” – to spare my husband.  He encourages me to sing all I want, as loudly as I want…

Whenever he’s out of the house.

Anyway, I love that little guy’s face.

And we’re neighbors!

OK, we’re not exactly neighbors, but we both live in San Diego County, the little guy at the San Diego Zoo.

And he is a he, an orangutan, born on January 4 and named Kaja, “in honor of an island in Kalimantan, Borneo, where orangutans are rehabilitated before being released into the wild,” according to this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The headline talks about “critically endangered orangutans” but I’m not going to talk about that and no I’m not in denial it’s just that I watch a lot of animal shows and every animal on every show is endangered except maybe mosquitos and that’s enough talk about endangered species without my adding to it.

OK – I mean that, exactly.

Orangutans, I learned, are interesting – they spend most of their lives in trees, and live exclusively in Sumatra and Borneo in Southeast Asia:

Kaja and his kind are the only great ape found outside of Africa, and they have babies only every seven to nine years – the longest birth interval of any land mammal.

Orangutans can live to over 30 years old, and sometimes to age 50.  When Kaja grows up, he’ll have a very different look than he does now, if he resembles his father, also pictured:

Those flaps on the side of Dad’s face are fatty tissue called “flanges,” and turn the male into a chick magnet.

I wish Kaja a long and happy life, and very full flanges.

So – that was the morning’s animal news, and then that evening, the local TV news announced this:

I love penguins!  But I didn’t know that January 20 was Penguin Awareness Day, which, according to this website…

…is not the same as World Penguin Day, on April 25.

Penguins are so cool, they get two international days of recognition!

As one website put it:

“We love penguins for lots of reasons:  They walk around in tuxedos, they have a cute waddle, and they’re unique!  When they get in the water, they transform, losing all awkwardness as they become mini-torpedoes.”

One local station took that “unique” to a new level with a story about a penguin species I’d never heard of:

These guys are waddling around in blue tuxedos, hence their name:  little blue penguins.  The “little” comes from the fact that they’re the smallest penguin species, only 12-13 inches tall and weighing around three pounds.  “About the size of a burrito,” as one TV station put it.

Little blue penguins mostly live in Australia and New Zealand, though they’ve been spotted in Chili and South Africa, and they sometimes go by other names:  little penguin and fairy penguin.

Something else unique about little blue penguins, according to, is their courtship displays:

“Males take a particular stance, with heads facing up and wings back, while braying to females.  If the female accepts, she will join the male in a courtship ‘dance’ where they march in circles together and make braying calls.”

After which most become monogamous, meaning that during every breeding season they work the crowd…

…until they find each other, do a little dance, make a little love, and hatch one or two of these cuties:

I don’t have little blue penguins for neighbors at the San Diego Zoo, but the Zoo does have African penguins. 

And how’s this for synergy?

In April 2020 when the Zoo was closed to visitors due to the pandemic, the staff let some of the animals go on field trips, and a penguin visited the orangutans:

“The orangutans and penguin both enjoyed getting to know one another, approaching the glass to get a closer look.”


I enjoyed all things animal last Thursday, and I enjoyed researching and writing this post, as well.

It was a nice break from the ongoing bad news about endangered animals, and all the other ongoing bad news.

And I’m betting you know what I mean…

What’s A “Wordle”?

Is “Wordle” a typo – it’s supposed to be “worlde,” an old-fashioned way of spelling “world?” 

Or is it “waddle”? 

Or is it “woodle,” a hybrid designer dog (pictured) created by mixing a Welsh Terrier with a poodle?

No.  I’ve learned the word actually is “Wordle.”

I’d never heard of it until this New York Times headline appeared in my inbox on January 3:

“What’s a ‘Wordle’?” I thought.

But I was focused on other things, and forgot about it.

Ten days later, this Washington Post headline arrived in my inbox:

What was with this “Wordle” stuff, that both the New York Times and the Washington Post felt it story-worthy?

Eventually I’d learn that as august a publication as the 104-year-old Forbes Magazine has climbed on the bandwagon:

Forbes, which offers “articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics…and related subjects such as technology, communications, science, politics, and law,” apparently feels Wordle is so story-worthy that one of their senior contributors is doing a daily column about it.  In which he exhorts us to…

“…be sure to follow me on this blog for daily Wordle answers!”

Back to my introduction to Wordle.

I went to the source – the Wordle website:

That’s it – one page, a grid, and a keyboard.

No additional pages, no flashing lights, no ads.

And no game instructions, not that I could see, so went back to the search page and read this:

“The color of the tiles will change…”

And then what?

And what do the color changes mean?

I had to go elsewhere to learn how to play.

But the internet abounds with articles that told me how, and now, somewhat educated – including learning that Wordle is free – I returned to the Wordle website.

And stared at the screen.

I had six tries to come up with the correct five-letter word.  Where do I start?  Do I just think of a five-letter word and enter it, and see if anything sticks?

Apparently – yes.

I clicked on five letters, and clicked “Enter”:

The game indicates:

Green = right letter, right position.
Yellow = right letter, wrong position.
Gray = wrong letter.

My first attempt was five strike-outs.

Well, this was fun.

I did at least learn that the day’s word didn’t contain the letters Q, U, E and N.

Now all I had to do was try to figure out which of the thousands of five-letter words in our language did not contain those letters.

And there are thousands of five-letter words in our language – according to the New York Times article, about 12,000.  But the game’s creator, Josh Wardle – and yes, the name of the game is a riff on his name – narrowed the list to “about 2,500, which should last for a few years,” the Times writer cheerfully predicted.

And one of those 2,500 words recently caused a great deal of flap:

“The first sign of a backlash against Wordle has emerged”!
“…caused a lot of anger on Twitter”!
“…most of the responses are too sweary for us to repeat here”!

The anger, from British and Commonwealth players, came from the January 12th word – “favor” – which Brits spell with six letters:  “favour.”

That, and the fact that Wardle is British, but appears to favor American spellings.

So overwhelming was the anger that on January 13 the Washington Post spoke of a “Transatlantic Rift”:

“Bloody American spelling,” tweeted one disgruntled player.  “I thought a Brit invented this?”

“My mum is also appalled by the Wordle scandal – we deserve justice!” tweeted another.

Wardle could not be reached for comment.

But I mostly missed all the flap because I was still staring at my screen…

Thinking of other words to try.  “Bland?”  No, that has an N.  “Frame?”  No, that has an E.

Then I started thinking about lunch.  Wait!  How about “lunch?”  No, that has a U.

Well, this was fun.

There’s no question that for many people, Wordle is fun.  The number of participants has grown from around 90 in early November to 2.7 million in mid-January.

And all sorts of media have taken notice.

People are being analyzed…

People are figuring out how to cheat…

And people are ripping off the game…

But as for me, I’m still staring at the Wordle screen.

I’ve tried another word and got five more grays.  I’m now 0 for 10 letters:

And it is time for lunch.

But…well…let’s give it one more try…


Now all I need is a word with O in the third position…

And it’s got to be the right word with O in the third position…

And no Q, U, E, N, B, L, A, C, K, W, no second O, or D or S and…

Ready for another try, and…


Can you tell by my word choices that I have NO idea what this word is?

But that’s OK.

I know that if I skip lunch, and dinner, and persevere, I can solve this before Wordle changes the word…

Update:  I never did figure out the day’s word.  I learned, courtesy of our pal at Forbes – who got it in four tries – that the word was “proxy”:

Well, that was fun.

“Here’s Something We Want The Pope’s Opinion On” Said No One,

In my research for this post I learned that Pope Francis does something every Wednesday called a “General Audience.”  It’s a ticketed event, complete with a dress code, prayers, a homily, some singing, and the Pope gives a themed speech.

In other words, it’s an opportunity for the Pontiff to pontificate.

I’m guessing that most of the time, the audience looks like this:

But the Pope’s first General Audience in January had many people taking notice.

And many taking umbrage.

It seems Pope Francis decided to share his opinion about people who choose not to have children.

And this is his business…

People having or not having children is none of the Pope’s business

Especially since the Pope is celibate.

Celibate:  Abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, typically for religious reasons.

So, unless the Pope has been secretly making donations at his local banca del seme (sperm bank) …

The Pope is childless by choice.

OK for him – but not for us?

That’s what he said in his General Audience, according to this story and many others:

Here are some highlights:

“Having a child is always a risk, however, it is riskier not to have one.  A man and a woman who does not develop a sense of fatherhood and motherhood, they lack something main, important.”

“And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity.  And in this way, civilization becomes aged and without humanity because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood.  And our homeland suffers, as it does not have children…”

“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society.  The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies:  It is enriched, not impoverished.”

The Pope was particularly peeved at people who have pets instead of children:

“We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more.  And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one – but they have two dogs, two cats…Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children.”

And those pet owners – childless or otherwise – had plenty to say back, in news story interviews and especially on Twitter.  Some humorous, some not:

Opinion writers also had plenty to say about the Pope’s statements, and I think this headline summed it up best:

People choose not to have children for myriad reasons.

And those myriad reasons never were, are not now, and never will be…

Any of the Pope’s business.

All in favor, say…

Once Again, I’m SO Out Of Step With The Times

There’s a phrase that I use – and maybe overuse – in my posts.

But it seems to perfectly fit the moment, my jaw-dropping moment of astonishment and disbelief about something.

Like in late December, when the illustrious and articulate Marjorie Taylor Greene, referring to Kwanzaa, tweeted:

My astonishment and disbelief were expressed this way:

That “Wait” part means, “Wait a minute.  I need to catch my breath.  I need to regroup.  I need to try to make some sense of this, though there is no sense to be made of it.”

The “What” part means, “Did I just hear/read/see what I think I did?  Did I misunderstand?  Can somebody help me out here?”

Yes, Marjorie Taylor Greene did tweet that.

Happily, on January 2 Twitter permanently suspended Greene’s account, though not for her Kwanzaa tweet.  But any reason to shut her down is good enough for me:

No “Wait…What?” needed here.

I have no jaw-dropping astonishment, no disbelief, that this crazed woman’s personal Twitter account was suspended, and I’m delighted to hear it’s permanent.

That was the good news on January 2.

But I got some bad news on January 2, as well.

That’s when I saw a story stating that my favorite “Wait…What?” is now on the 2022 Banished Words List:

And not just on the list – it tops the list:

And my “Wait…What?” appears as a subhead in this news release from Lake Superior State University (LSSU), originators of the list:

The university’s website offers some background on its list:

“In 1976, the late and ingenious Lake Superior State University Public Relations Director W.T. (Bill) Rabe released the first tongue-in-cheek ‘banished words list’ as a safeguard against misuse, overuse, and uselessness of the English language – and as an imaginative publicity stunt.  National and international reaction from the news media and the general public was so enthusiastic that Rabe predicted the Banished Words List, as he put it, ‘would go on forever.’”

We’re also told that the school receives “tens of thousands of nominations for the list,” and for 2022’s list those nominations came from “most major U.S. cities and many U.S. states, on top of Norway, Belgium, England, Scotland, Australia, and numerous provinces in Canada.”


I certainly agree that there are words that should be banished – “Marjorie Taylor Greene” being three of them.

But…my beloved “Wait…What?” is banished?

And why is that at the top of the list?

Here’s the explanation:

1. Wait, what?
Most frequently found in text or on social media, this ubiquitous imperative question is a failed “response to a statement to express astonishment, misunderstanding, or disbelief,” explained a wordsmith.  “I hate it,” added another, because the command query is an inexact method to convey the utterer’s uncertainty or surprise.  “I don’t want to wait,” either, continued the second impassioned nominator.  Misuse and overuse.

Here’s the full list, with “Wait What?” in the largest font:

Here’s its companion image, of past Banished Words and the year they made the list:

Seriously?  “Okay” made the list in 1979, and “No” in 1985?

Who are these people, trying to banish “Okay” and “No” and – worst of all – “Wait…What?” from our vernacular?

Research reveals that Lake Superior State University was founded in 1946, and has around 2,000 students, giving it “the distinction of Michigan’s smallest public university.”

I suspect it may also be Michigan’s coldest university.  LSSU is located in Sault St. Marie, in Michigan’s upper peninsula, near the Canadian border:

Here’s a closer look:

According to a website that rates places to live:

“Sault Ste. Marie averages 109 inches of snow per year.  The US average is 28 inches of snow per year.”

“The annual BestPlaces Comfort Index for Sault Ste. Marie is 5.7 (10=best), which means it is one of the least comfortable places in Michigan.”

So, considering all that snow and discomfort, I figure back in 1976 the folks at LSSU were sitting around, snowbound and shivering and uncomfortable, and somebody said, “Hey!  Let’s warm things up by putting together a list words that are misused, overused, and useless!  I’ll get us started.  Hmmm…let’s see.  How about ‘détente’?  And, ah…‘input’?  Oh!  And ‘macho’!  Yeah, I really hate that one!”

Well, however the list came about, this year the folks at LSSU have gone too far.

I’m OK with the other words on the list, especially this one:

10. Supply chain
Word-watchers noticed the frequent, unfortunate appearance of this phrase toward the end of this year as the coronavirus persisted.  “It’s become automatically included in reporting of consumer goods shortages or perceived shortages.  In other words, a buzzword,” concluded one analyst.  “Supply chain issues have become the scapegoat of everything that doesn’t happen or arrive on time and of every shortage,” noticed another.  The adverse result:  overuse ad nauseam.

So, my beloved “Wait…What?” has been banished.

But I choose to continue being out of step with the times, and continue using it.

Because nothing else so ably expresses my jaw-dropping moment of astonishment and disbelief about something.

Like when Marjorie Taylor Green, after being permanently banned from Twitter, then and only then decided:

“Twitter is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth.”

Which is rather amusing, when you consider that Greene still has her official congressional account @RepMTG, and is still using it, as recently as January 13:

Trump’s Handwriting Is On The Wall – But Are We Reading It?

It wasn’t front page news, and it wasn’t a “huge” story – it hit my newspaper on page three, and measured maybe five by five inches:

But it was Trump’s handwriting on the wall, a loud and clear declaration of his intent after he wins the presidential election in 2024.

And make no mistake:

If Trump is alive in 2024, he will run for president.

And when he runs, it sickens me to say it, but – he will win.

In early January Trump endorsed the Hungarian prime minister, who’s running for reelection this spring.

If I were handed a map of Central Europe with the countries unidentified, I’d have to stop and think before pointing at Hungary.  And of course, I couldn’t name the Hungarian prime minister.  So, for my clarification:

Here’s Hungary:

Hungary is about 36,000 square miles, and has a population of around 10 million.  The country’s capital and largest city is Budapest, and Hungary is a member of the European Union.

And here is the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán:

Orbán is a Hungarian politician who served as prime minister from 1998 to 2002, and now since 2010.  He’s the leader of Fidesz, a national conservative political party.

So, a not-so-large country led by a not-super-high-profile guy.

Why would Trump bother to endorse him?

On January 3 Trump said,

“Viktor Orbán of Hungary truly loves his Country and wants safety for his people.  He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade, and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming Election.  He is a strong leader and respected by all.  He has my Complete support and Endorsement for reelection as Prime Minister!”

Here, in contrast, is what some media outlets say about Orbán:

“Mr. Orbán and his party have steadily consolidated power in Hungary by weakening the country’s independent and democratic institutions – rewriting election laws to favor his Fidesz party, changing school textbooks, curbing press freedoms, overhauling the Constitution and changing the composition of the judiciary…a far-right foreign leader who has touted turning his country into an ‘illiberal state.’”  – New York Times 1/3/22

(Once again, for my own clarification:  Illiberal:  opposed to liberal principles; restricting freedom of thought or behavior.)

“Consider what Orbán has done in recent years to consolidate power and establish himself in the mold of a prototypical authoritarian:
Seized control of the university system in the country.
Changed election laws.
Altered textbooks to reflect his anti-immigration stance.
Cracked down on independent media.”
– CNN 1/4/22

“Since taking power in 2010, Orbán and his far-right Fidesz party have embraced one-party rule, radically overhauled Hungary’s constitutional system, and promoted what Orbán calls ‘illiberal democracy.’”

“Orbán’s hardline stance on immigration and increased control over the country’s press, judicial system, and academic institutions have also raised questions about Hungary’s membership in the European Union.  Last year, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), a group that monitors the health of democracies, ranked Hungary among the world’s top 10 autocratizing countries.”  – Insider, 1/3/22

“…Orbán, who has championed ‘illiberal democracy’ and become a pariah among European Union members…During the past decade, Fidesz, Orbán’s political party, has introduced a new constitution that weakened judicial independence and human rights protections.  Orbán has also curbed the rights of journalists and expanded government control of the media.”  – Washington Post, 1/3/22

Hell, this guy – Orbán – built not one, but two border walls:

Trump and Orbán – in matching, overly long red ties – had a bromance at the White House in 2019:

And Orbán endorsed Trump twice – in 2016…

…and in 2020:


And Trump is telling us – loudly and clearly – that when he wins in 2024, Orbán’s playbook is the one he’s going to follow.

With additional tips from the likes of Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan, Bolsonaro, bin Salman…

And who’s going to stop Trump?  These suck-ups?


They’re too busy with other plans, as described in this January 6, 2022 Union-Tribune editorial:

“Since Trump asserted the election was stolen after TV networks declared Biden won, state-level Republican operatives in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan have set plans in motion to allow them to throw out election results they don’t like.  Their main method is to rewrite state laws to shift the certification of results from nonpartisan officials to partisans, and to allow these partisans to decide which ballots to count and which to reject.  They are also preparing legal arguments that state legislators have the authority to override voters decisions.”

This writer in New York Magazine summed it up well:

“…the scary thing is that Trump’s admiration of the Hungarian apostle of ‘illiberal democracy’ is most clearly aspirational…Orbán is what Trump dreams to become.

“…the Hungarian leader is a wizard at giving himself authoritarian powers that distort democracy into something very dissimilar, much like the ‘heads, I win; tails, you lose’ system Trump transparently favors where his manifest greatness cannot be legitimately repudiated.

“So in Orbán’s Fidesz party, we see Trump’s vision for the GOP:  a populist model featuring Christian nationalism seasoned with racism and xenophobia, endless attacks on ‘globalist elites,’ and an ever-heavier thumb on the electoral scales.”

Trump’s handwriting is on the wall.

It’s A Good Day When The Big Front-Page Story Is This, Instead Of COVID:

This past Friday, we San Diegans had a visitor.

Lots of visitors come to San Diego, but this one made the front page of Saturday’s San Diego Union-Tribune (above image). 

And not just the front page – it was the big story on the front page.

And frankly, it was a welcome respite from all the big-story-front-page bad news about COVID.  Yes, there was a COVID story on the front page, but it was relegated to the right column.


According to the Union-Tribune

…and other sources, on Friday morning around 9:40am, a sea lion was spotted at State Route 94 and State Route 15, as shown on this map:

The sea lion was three miles from San Diego Bay and about eight miles from the ocean.

Apparently, it was trying to cross State Route 94 – a four-lane freeway – and heading for the center divider.

Drivers pulled over and got out of their cars to stop traffic and allow the sea lion to cross safely:

Which I have mixed feelings about.

One the one hand, those motorists standing on the freeway probably saved human lives.  The sea lion weighed 200 pounds, and if a vehicle had hit it, it’s terrible to think of what might have happened to the passengers in that vehicle.  And if that vehicle hit other vehicles…

On the other hand, for those motorists to get out of their cars and walk onto a freeway…

Perhaps San Diego should install a sign:

Well, I’ll leave that for wiser heads than mine.

The freeway image appears to have come from this video, shot by a passenger in a stopped car:

You can hear her saying, “A seal on the freeway – what the hell?”

I would have said the same.

It’s only because the animal was identified by experts in news stories as a sea lion that I knew what it was.  There are lots of sea lions and seals in the San Diego area, and I’ll admit I couldn’t tell you the difference.

Time to educate myself.

I turned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they made it easy:

There we go, and now let’s go back to our wanderer.

Whom we learned was a male.

And whom I’ve named Peri, The Peripatetic Sea Lion.

While Peri was doing his wandering thing, motorists were calling the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the CHP was calling the SeaWorld San Diego Rescue Team.

But – why was Peri crossing the road?

I know, I know – to get to the other side.

The news stories didn’t say, but it turns out that Peri is indeed peripatetic.

And this isn’t the first time Peri has been picked up by the SeaWorld Rescue Team.

According to one of the team members,

“In the beginning of November, this sea lion was rescued from Harbor Island Drive near the airport.  After about a week of care, the animal was deemed ready and was returned.  In December, the same sea lion was seen right along the boardwalk in Mission Beach, near a deli in Mission Bay, and on the Navy Base in Point Loma.”

Here’s a map of Peri’s wanderings.  The numbers indicate the locations mentioned by the Rescue Team member, and the star was Peri’s latest location:

Time to rescue Peri.

Friday, 10:30am:  The SeaWorld team arrived and approached Peri with caution – a sea lion can inflict painful bites when it feels threatened, or even just cranky.  And Perry had just slogged a long way across land – I’m thinking he just wanted to chill:

Gotcha!  The first of three nets landed on Peri.  This wasn’t the team’s first rodeo, and they know the drill:

Peri was gently but firmly eased into the container:

Loaded onto the SeaWorld truck:

And taken to SeaWorld:

Where he’s spending about a week in rehabilitation, and posing for photo ops:

One article suggested that Peri’s rehabilitation will include testing to determine the cause of his wanderings, and I imagine that will include some time with a sea lion therapist:

Therapist:  Peri, nice to see you again.

Therapist:  What’s that?  Sure, since you’re here, I can check your teeth.

Therapist:  What we need to address today, Peri, is why you’re…

Therapist:  Peri, that’s a nice trick, but I need for you to engage here.  What?  You say you did a trick, and now you expect a fish?  Geez…

Therapist:  OK, so – why don’t you stretch out on that lounge chair and get comfortable?  That’s good, good.  Now, Peri…Peri?  Are you awake?

Therapist:  That’s it!  I give up!  Tell the team to take Peri back to the beach and turn him lose!

I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Peri.

And since I gave Peri his name, I think I’ll also give him a theme song.  How about…

Hello, Everybody!  It’s Time To Play…

The television game show Jeopardy! has been around for many years, and I have never been on it.

And I will never be on it.

I don’t aspire to be on Jeopardy! because I would make a lousy contestant.  I’d freeze up, I’d choke up, and at some point I’d probably throw up.

The opposite is true for this Jeopardy! contestant:

This is Amy Schneider who, as of Friday, January 7, has achieved 28 wins, and won $1.02 million playing Jeopardy!

She’s been making headlines for weeks:

Her 14th win – December 20th:

Her 22nd win – December 30th:

Her 26th win – January 5:

The fact that she’s a transgender woman has appeared in headlines:

And the fact that she was robbed made headlines, too:

To achieve the success that Amy has, you have to love accumulating facts, most of which you’ll never use – unless you appear on Jeopardy! 

If you appear on Jeopardy! you must have retained those facts, and be able to access a specific fact in a matter of seconds. 

For example, here’s a Final Jeopardy! question Amy faced in December:

The Final Jeopardy! music is playing…the clock is ticking…Amy and the other contestants are writing…

Amy nails it – and wins!

The Carpathia, by the way, was the ship that rescued the roughly 700 surviving crew members and passengers of the Titanic.

How is Amy – how is anyone – able to learn, retain, and access obscure stuff like this?

Amy says, “Just be curious.”  And, “The way to know a lot of stuff is to want to know a lot of stuff.”

Well, I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never be on Jeopardy!


If you are curious, and you know a lot of stuff, and think you’d be a great Jeopardy! contestant…

And to demonstrate that I’m not the least bit jealous or anything…

Let me add to your vast store of knowledge with a fact I recently encountered that just might help you nail that Final Jeopardy! question:


You’re on the show…the Final Jeopardy! music is playing…the clock is ticking…you and the other contestants are writing…

Show Host:  Time’s up!  What’s your Final Jeopardy! answer?

Show Host:  Oh, no!  That’s not even close!  The answer is…

Show Host:  And what was your Final Jeopardy! wager?


Show Host:  Oh, that’s too bad!  How humiliating!  You bet it all and lost everything!  You’re going home with nothing!

While Amy…

“Already the highest-earning female contestant in the quiz show’s history and the woman with the longest winning streak, on Friday she became one of only four Jeopardy! players to reach seven figures in regular-season winnings.”

January 6 – Then, And Now

Excerpts from the remarks made by President Joe Biden on January 6, 2022 in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol:

For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.  

But they failed.  They failed.

And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.

Close your eyes.  Go back to that day.  What do you see?  Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol the Confederate flag that symbolizes the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.

Even during the Civil War that never, ever happened.  

But it happened here in 2021.  What else do you see?  The mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol.  American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears.  Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers.  

A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers.  Dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.  

Over 140 police officers were injured.

We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack – sitting in the private dining room of the Oval Office in the White House watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, the nation’s Capitol under siege.

This wasn’t a group of tourists.  This was an armed insurrection.  

They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people, they were looking to deny the will of the people.  

They weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election, they were looking to overturn one.  

They weren’t looking to save the cause of America, they were looking to subvert the Constitution.

And here is the truth:  The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.

He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest, than America’s interest, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.

He can’t accept he lost even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said:  He lost.

That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.  

He’s done what no president in American history, in the history of this country, has ever, ever done:  He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.

And so, at this moment, we must decide:  What kind of nation are we going to be?

Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?  

Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?  

Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?  

We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.  The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.

Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections.

It’s wrong.  It’s undemocratic.  And frankly, it’s un-American.

The second ‘Big Lie’ being told by the former president’s supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted.  

The truth is that no election, no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.

So, let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.  Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results.  He built his lie over months.  It wasn’t based on any facts.  He was just looking for an excuse – a pretext – to cover for the truth.

He’s not just a former president.  He’s a defeated former president – defeated by a margin of over seven million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.

Those who stormed this Capitol
and those who instigated and incited
and those who called on them to do so
held a dagger at the throat of America – at American democracy.

Diana Dies A Second Death

You may have heard the expression, “Death by a thousand cuts.”

Its original meaning had to do with death by torture, but today its usage has to do with a figurative slow and painful death.

The expression came to me recently, and the thousand cuts were inflicted with words, not weapons.

The death was of Diana:  The Musical, and words are the those of the reviewers.

The Diana refers to Lady Diana Spencer, who married Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne of Great Britain, in 1981.

They had two sons, and divorced in 1996.  Diana died in a car crash in 1997.

A tragic story for many reasons, and not what comes to mind – not to my mind, at least – as a topic for a musical.

I associate musicals with singing and dancing and general good cheer, and Diana’s life and death were anything but that.

Though I must allow that death sometimes is the focus of musicals – Carousel, for instance, by Rogers and Hammerstein, which debuted in 1945.  When that show starts, the lead male character – Billy – is already dead.  The story is told in flashback, and there’s singing and dancing and good cheer, and then we see…

Billy kill himself.

A more recent example is the musical Titanic, which opened in 1997.  We all know how this story ends – the Titanic sinks in 1912 and more than 1,500 people die.  Who wants to see a musical about that?

Apparently a lot of people did – it ran for 804 performances and won five Tony awards.

So perhaps the creators of Diana decided that her death would also be good grist for the musical mill.

I became aware of Diana early on because it premiered here in San Diego, at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2019.  In the months prior to opening, Diana got plenty positive of media coverage like this:

“…the hotly anticipated musical…Industry insiders expect Diana will later transfer to Broadway…”

And once Diana opened, some reviewers had good things to say, including this:

“…an intimate, sympathetic look at the People’s Princess, one that positions her overwhelming popularity as a millstone around her neck and finds its story arc in the way she learned to wield it, to redirect that popularity in more subversive, noble ways.

“Taken all together, Diana is a worthy, persuasive tribute to what endeared the People’s Princess to so many, and an insightful picture of the struggles she faced behind closed doors.”

But this “Review Roundup” on offered reviews that weren’t so good…

“Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times:  Diana, built around superficial musical comedy triggers…The performers manage that modern Broadway paradox of being supremely competent and completely unconvincing…choreography is a panting commotion.  When Diana’s shocking ending comes, it has no more emotional weight than an old CNN news clip.  We already know the story.  Sad, sad, sad – but wasn’t she glamorous!  Diana turns a complicated life into light entertainment…”

Diana and Charles.

Death by a thousand cuts had begun.

And continued:

March 2019:  “The show does attempt to tell the story of the other people impacted by this relationship but in trying to present all sides evenly, it ends up feeling unfocused.  So much time speeds by and many things get touched upon, but no real depths are revealed about Diana, Charles, or their marriage…Under the guise of plumbing the emotional depths of a complex marriage the show instead finds entertainment by turning Diana into Dynasty.”

Charles introduces Diana to Camilla.

April 2019:  “…most songs and lines are unmemorable and leave audiences simply remembering the drama and the storyline.  To put it simply, it feels as though Diana’s life is narrated to us through typical contemporary musical theater songs, with not much added originality in style.  The musical’s determination to hit all the dramatic events overlooks their characterization of Diana, Charles, and Camilla.  They are simplified into mere characters, rather than actual multifaceted people.”

August 2019:  “The editor of royal-centric magazine Majesty has already declared, that “‘It is in such bad taste that it’s best ignored.’”

Diana continued in San Diego through April 2019, began previews in New York in March 2020, then was shut down by COVID.  Left in limbo, the director opted to film the show on the stage of an empty New York theater, and it premiered on Netflix on October 1, 2021.

And the death by a thousand cuts continued:

“What a genuinely bizarre work of art this is.  Written by Joe DiPietro and the Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan, Diana: The Musical has the look and feel of an intentional parody; a sort of Springtime for Hitler for Daily Express readers.  You could stick a pin in almost every song and pull out a line that makes the whole endeavour feel like it was specifically created as a berserk prank against the world.”

“The show received several one-star reviews from media outlets and was lambasted on social media platforms, with several users even branding the production ‘the worst show of the year.’

“Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, described the show as ‘a Rocky Horror Picture Show of cluelessness and misjudged Judy Garlandification.  I can imagine masochists getting together for Diana: The Musical parties, just to sing the most nightmarish lines along with the cast.  The rest of us will need a long lie down.’”

Then…at last…the Broadway premiere on November 17.

And the Broadway closing on December 19 after 33 performances:

By now the thousand cuts had become blood spilled ‘round the world:

From England:

To Australia:

To New York:

To Hollywood:

To Washington DC:

To San Diego:

What was the “hotly anticipated musical” and a “worthy, persuasive tribute to…the People’s Princess” back in 2019 became, in November 2021 “the flop of the year,” “aesthetically and morally mortifying” and, “devoid of insight, and ricocheting between dull vulgarity and vacuous hero worship.”

Diana died in 1997, and now Diana died, 24 years later.

I feel badly for the many people who invested their hearts, minds, time and energy – and hopes – into Diana.

I feel badly for the many people who invested their money – and hopes – in Diana.

I feel badly that all that’s left is the show’s website, with its closing date:

But rather than feeling badly, let’s move on and forget about Diana:  The Musical.

And remember Diana like this:

Diana, 1983:  Beautiful – she knew how to choose, and wear, hats!

Diana, 1994:  Bold – some called it her “revenge dress,” worn after her husband announced his adultery on television:

Diana, 1997:  Brave – in Angola, walking through a live minefield:

Diana, today:  At peace:

‘Tis The Season For Stories About New Year Resolutions, And Let’s…

Over the past few weeks, print, online and on-air media have been hammering us with 2022 New Year’s resolution stories.

The number of resolutions on offer range from small:

To ridiculous:

To insane:

Sixty New Year’s resolutions?

This story describes its resolutions as “modest”:

And this one as “funny”:

And there’s a slew of New Year’s resolution articles that are sports-related, like this one:

There are health experts offering resolutions:

And financial experts offering resolutions:

And fashion experts offering resolutions:

For this post, I googled “new year’s resolutions 2022” and got more than 71 million results:

We are drowning in a sea of New Year’s resolution stories:

And I haven’t even gotten started on stories about how to manage resolutions, like this one:

And I won’t get started.

Because the bottom line is:

New Year’s resolutions are a set-up to fail.

And I refuse to set myself up to fail.

Not that there isn’t plenty of room for improvement for me – there is.

But I think New Year’s resolutions are not the way to go.  They’re often unrealistic, frustrating, and ineffective.

What do you think?

If, over the next week or two, a friend or family member or co-worker asks about your New Year’s resolutions, perhaps consider saying:

“My resolution is to not make resolutions.”

And if they start making negative noises.

Feel free to…