They’ve Always Been With Us – And They Always Will Be

It’s easy to imagine this scenario:

You consider yourself a savvy person, and when it comes to your phone, you always check your caller ID before you answer.  If you don’t recognize the caller’s name and/or company name and/or phone number, you let the call go to voicemail.

It’s likely a robocall, and you’ll check it later.  Maybe.

But now your phone rings, and since you live in San Diego County, here’s what you see:

San Diego Gas & Electric – SDG&E is your utility company.

“Hmmm,” you think.  “Why would SDG&E be calling me?  Oh, hell – are they calling to tell me there’s going to be a rolling blackout?  Or there’s some sort of problem in my area?”

Your savvy self is suspicious, but you decide to answer.  If it is SDG&E and if it is bad news, there’s no sense in postponing it.

You:  Hello?

SDG&E:  Hello, this is Ashley Martin – I’m a customer service representative from SDG&E.  Your telephone number, 619-111-1234, is identified with SDG&E account number 123456789 and home address of 1234 Almond Street, residence of Frederick and Catherine Simmons.  Am I speaking to Mr. Simmons?

(You’re starting to feel less suspicious – this isn’t a robocall, and the connection is clear – not that distorted long-distance-eastern-Europe stuff.  She has your correct telephone number, address and names.  As she’s talking, you’re opening your laptop, googling SDG&E and logging into your account.)

You:  Yes, this is Fred Simmons.  (You’ve got your account open on your laptop.)  What did you say that account number was?

SDG&E:  That account number is 123456789.

(That’s your account number, so your suspicion level decreases a bit more.)

You:  Is there a problem?

SDG&E:  Mr. Simmons, on October 15 we notified all SDG&E customers by text and/or email that we were changing our payment system, and all customers who pay via direct deposit from their bank needed to contact their bank to update their information. 

(She knows you pay SDG&E by direct deposit from your bank – she must be on the level.  But…)

SDG&E:  Our records indicate that your SDG&E account number 12345689 has not been updated, so your current balance of $566.12, payable on or before October 19, is now more than 30 days overdue.  This means your gas and electricity service will be shut off at 8pm this evening.

You:  That can’t be right.  And I never got an email or text from SDG&E about anything.  I’m on my laptop – I’m going to open my bank account and check.  I’m sure that payment went through.

SDG&E:  Go right ahead, I’ll stand by.

(Silence while you access your bank account.)

You:  Yes, I’m showing a payment of $566.12 to SDG&E on October 19.

SDG&E:  SDG&E shows no record of that payment, so there appears to be an issue between you and your bank, Mr. Simmons. 

You:  I’ll call the bank and get this straightened out and –

SDG&E:  Mr. Simmons, since it’s 7:35pm now and you’re going to lose power in 25 minutes, may I suggest you provide your credit card number and we can handle your overdue payment that way?

You’ve now gone from savvy – to scared.  Your only option is to give this person your credit card number or your power is going to be shut off.

What do you do?

Hang up.

Here’s why:

According to the article,

“SDG&E has received 178 reports of scams this year that have cost customers about $173,000.  In one instance this spring, an impersonator told a homeowners association its electronic payment did not go through.  The HOA made multiple payments and ended up losing $26,000.

“Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest investor-owned utility in California, has reported a surge in scams.  So far this year, PG&E has received more than 23,000 reports from customers who combined to get swindled out of nearly $1.3 million in fraudulent payments.  That’s more than twice the number of reports PG&E received in all of 2021.”

And this fraud isn’t limited to California – the article referenced this source:

Which said:

“Utility imposter scams were the third-most common scam category according to consumer claims tracked by the FTC.  The Better Business Bureau (BBB) describes common scams involving utility company imposters threatening to shut off services if payment is not immediately collected.  According to the BBB, utility scam victims experience a median financial loss of $500.”

And the scammers don’t limit themselves to residential customers, says the Union-Tribune:

“Another ruse involves scammers calling restaurateurs just prior to lunch hour, threatening an immediate power disconnection.  Owners and managers worried about losing their noontime crowd may be vulnerable to fraudulent demands for payment.”

The problems – and the losses – have become so widespread, especially during the holidays, that this group:

Declared November 16 as Utilities Scams Awareness Day:

Ah, for the good old days.  When the only things on the November calendar were things like National Nachos Day (November 6), National Play Monopoly Day (November 19) and, of course – Thanksgiving.

SDG&E assures us that they will never call customers and tell them they must make an immediate payment over the phone or their service will be disconnected.  And:

“As for suspicious actors who may show up at your door, SDG&E says all of its employees on company business are required to carry a photo ID badge.”

If someone from SDG&E had called me as in my imagined call at the start of this post, I would have answered.  Could I have fallen for this scam?

Here’s what SDG&E says:  If someone calls and asks for a payment, hang up and call SDG&E customer service.  If you get a text or email from SDG&E that looks suspicious:  Ditto.  If someone shows up unexpectedly at your door, even if they show SDG&E ID:  Ditto. 

Here’s hoping your utility company is offering the same advice.

Now:  We know that thieves have always been with us.

And thieves will always be with us.

Like those guys in the image at the top of this post.  They aren’t putting their revered pharaoh to rest.

They’re the guys who came in right after the revered pharaoh was put to rest:

Tomb robbers:

Thieves will always be with us, so it’s up to me to take what steps I can to protect myself, and that includes lessons I’ve now learned about utility scammers. 

And also this, from a story on – no coincidence – National Scam Awareness Day.

It’s about “trending crimes” I’d never heard of – have you?

“Thieves are stealing paper checks from mailboxes, ‘washing’ them with nail polish remover, and filling in new amounts and payees – causing endless grief for victims and their banks, which typically foot the bill.”

“Nail polish remover” as a weapon?

Here’s an example of a washed check:

The victims of this washed check are a veteran and his wife.  He mailed a $230 check at a post office and now they’re out nearly $5,000 because the bank hasn’t yet agreed to a refund.

He paid an account by check.

My husband and I still have a few accounts we pay by check. 

We’re going to change that.

And I don’t mean later, I mean…

If I Go There, Can I…

There’s a government agency that I’ve never heard of – I suspect there are many of those – called the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS.

In 2014 IMLS announced that there were 35,000 active museums in the U.S.  I found higher and lower counts, so I decided to go with that one.

I’ve worked in two of those 35,000 – a fine arts museum and a science museum – which by no means makes me an expert on museums.  Far from it.

But those eight years did give me some insights, and here’s one of the things I learned:

Many, and I suspect most, museums tend to take themselves very, very seriously.

You can tell by reading museum mission statements:

“…to inspire, educate, and cultivate curiosity through great works of art.”

“…to foster in its audiences a passion for understanding the world around them and a lifelong love of learning.”

“…to engage and inspire a diverse range of audiences by pursuing an innovative program of exhibitions, education, publications, and collections activities.”

No matter how many museum mission statements I read, I couldn’t find one that said its mission for visitors was to …

“…just have fun.”

Which has a lot do to with why a lot of people don’t go to museums.

Then I recently heard someone refer to a museum I’d never heard of, and thought, “I’ll bet that museum wants visitors to just have fun.”

Welcome to the…

And no – it is not a museum dedicated to those crappy unsolicited messages that show up in our email accounts that are supposed to go directly into a spam folder but all too often do not.

I’m talking about the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN:

Here’s Austin, MN:

And soon as I discovered this was for real, I wondered if the SPAM Museum might be a museum where visitors have fun.

Because…when you think of museum dedicated to SPAM, what can you do but laugh?

And entire museum dedicated to something that comes out of a can, looking like this?

A product that, during World War II, soldiers referred to as “ham that didn’t pass its physical” and, “meatloaf without basic training”? 

According to various online sites, SPAM was introduced by George A. Hormel on July 5, 1937.  Hormel had founded George A. Hormel & Company in Austin, MN in 1891, and its business was packaging and selling ham, sausage and other pork, chicken, beef, and lamb products to consumers.

But there was one meat item that didn’t sell well – pork shoulder.  It was considered an undesirable byproduct of hog butchery, which left Hormel with a lot of unsellable pork shoulders and no profits from that part of the pig.

Consumers were already accustomed to canned meat – in 1926 the company introduced Hormel Flavor-Sealed Ham, America’s first canned ham, and added a canned chicken product line in 1928.  

Then someone came up with the idea of taking those pesky pork shoulders and putting them in cans, too.

Who was that someone?

According to this article on

It was Hormel’s son Jay who came up the idea of canned pork luncheon meat – likely being careful to not refer to the meat as pork “shoulder.”  And then…

“According to current Spam brand manager Nicole Behne, there’s no one Hormel team member credited with inventing the final ingredient blend…”

That final ingredient blend, says, was pork shoulder, water, salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate (for coloring).  That remained unchanged until 2009, when Hormel began adding potato starch to sop up the infamous gelatin “layer” that naturally forms when meat is cooked. 

So SPAM was launched in 1937, and a few years later a terrible thing happened for the world, which would prove to be fortuitous for Hormel:

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  The U.S. declared war on Japan on December 8, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. on December 11 and the U.S. declared war on Germany and Italy that same day.  U.S. military were heading overseas, and that meant a lot of food had to go overseas as well.

Delivering fresh meat to war zones was pretty much impossible, but canned meat – now, that was doable.  During World War II Spam (pictured) became a ubiquitous part of the U.S. soldier’s diet, frequently three times a day.  Over 150 million pounds of SPAM were purchased by the military before the war’s end.

I would have thought that when the war ended, soldiers returning home would refuse to eat the stuff.

But a visit to suggested otherwise in this article:

“After the war, the troops reportedly brought their appreciation for the canned mean to the home front, and Spam ingrained itself in Americana.”

And that article linked to this article:

Many believe that SPAM stands for “spiced ham,” and indeed an early can says exactly that on the label:

But the “six things” article says otherwise:

“The Name is Still a Mystery
While many assume that Spam is short for ‘spiced ham,’ only a handful of people know its true origin – and they’re not telling…Other theories under the acronym category include ‘special processed American meat’ and ‘shoulders of pork and ham.’”

Whatever the true origin of the name “SPAM,” my favorite is the most recent acronym, seen in current SPAM commercials:

There’s so much online information about SPAM – including how many flavors of SPAM (15) – that I started going into SPAM overload.  So I circled back around to my original premise:

Is the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN fun?

The Hormel Foods website assures us:

“The SPAM Museum is stuffed with interactive exhibits that bring the iconic history of the SPAM® Brand to life like you’ve never seen it before!”

“Go behind the scenes and behind the can for an experience adults and kids will savor…And best of all, admission is FREE!”

And free is fun but…what else will I find at the museum?

Well, the exhibits look cool:

And I can learn fun stuff including:

  • In 1959 the one billionth can of SPAM Classic was produced.
  • The first SPAM Museum opened in 1991, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Hormel Foods.
  • In 1995 Hormel sponsored the #9 SPAM race car in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series:
  • SPAM introduced the SIR CAN-A-LOT character in 2012, it’s first-ever spokes-character:
  • As of 2021 Hormel has produced more than nine billion cans of Spam, sold in 44 countries.
  • The SPAM Museum – no surprise here – has both an on-site and online gift shop, where you can find a veritable plethora of SPAM-related items like these:

And speaking of plethoras, while the SPAM Museum does not have a restaurant, the website has a more-than-a-lifetime supply of recipes:

That isn’t to say that you’ll starve while enjoying the SPAM Museum.  Volunteer guides – known as Spambassadors – offer visitors small bits of Spam on a toothpick or pretzel stick, commonly known as Spamples:


I’m thinking this is a museum that does not take itself very, very seriously.

So, while I’ve yet to visit the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN in person, my conclusion is:

The SPAM Museum does look like fun.

But perhaps the most fun of all is the original SPAM premise:

That it all started close to a century ago when a bunch of folks at Hormel were sitting around wondering, “How the hell do we turn this unprofitable pig part…into money?”

And someone said, “Mix it up with water, salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate, cook it, and put it in a can!  We’ll call it…we’ll call it…

“What should we call it?”

And a deep, commanding voice came from the heavens and intoned…

“Call it…


Update:  ‘Tis the season…

I don’t know that anyone asked Hormel Foods to do this – I’m doubtful – but, says this article, in celebration of the holidays, Hormel has created a new SPAM product:

Hormel said,

“The makers of the SPAM® Brand wanted to create a limited-edition seasonal variety that captures the magic, warm flavors and nostalgia we all crave during the holiday season.  And with SPAM® Figgy Pudding, the brand did it all in one can.”

The November 21 article advises:

“The product launched last week, and is already sold out at and Amazon.  Your best bet now is, or you’ll have to resort to the secondary market (not making this up) on eBay, where prices are already double the list price.” was selling SPAM Figgy Pudding for $9.98 – operative word:  “was.”  When I checked on November 23 and again this morning, they were “out of stock.” 

And alas, it appears that eBay has run out of Figgy Pudding as well:

Here are some examples of what SPAM Figgy Pudding had been offered for on eBay on November 23:

Looks like we know who bought up all that Figgy Pudding to price gouge on eBay.

Looks like no SPAM Figgy Pudding for most of us this holiday season.


There Are Headlines…And Then There Are GREAT Headlines

The purpose of a headline is to catch your eye, draw you into the article, and encourage you to read the entire piece.

A headline will catch your eye.

A good headline will catch your eye and draw you into the article.

A great headline will catch your eye, draw you into the article, and make reading the article…


So irresistible that we’ll think, “I like how this media outlet covers the news!”  We’ll return to that outlet for more of their stories.  Maybe share them with others.

I’ve seen a slew of great headlines recently, prompted by this:

On November 15, Trump announced he was running for president in 2024.

That night, the next day and for several days after, I feasted on great headlines.

Let’s start with this November 17 editorial in my hometown newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The article opened with:

“Since launching his victorious campaign to be president in 2015 by saying Mexican immigrants bring drugs and crime and are rapists though ‘some, I assume, are good people,’ Donald Trump has repeatedly shown he shouldn’t be trusted with democracy.”

No one can accuse that writer of mincing words.

The editorial also talked about coverage in other media outlets of Trump’s running-for-president-in-2024 announcement:

“The New York Post relegated Trump’s announcement to page 26 of Wednesday’s edition, teasing to the story on its cover with the four words, ‘Florida Man Makes Announcement.’”

Here’s that New York Post:

Great headline!

Or perhaps I should say, bottomline?

And speaking of irresistible, The New York Times cited another great headline from the New York Post:

Here’s the headline:

The Union-Tribune editorial also mentioned this from CNN:

Irresistible!  The article was a veritable feast of Trump’s “false and misleading claims,” though the writers assured us was “not a comprehensive list.”

And that story led me to this one:

Here’s one example from the story:

“‘When the wall was finished, that’s how we set all these records.  We have records that nobody can even compete with right now,’ Donald J. Trump said.”


“The Trump administration constructed 453 miles of border wall over four years, and a vast majority of the new barriers reinforced or replaced existing structures.  Of those, about 47 miles were new primary barriers.  The United States’ southwestern border with Mexico is over 1,900 miles.”

And Fox News – Fox News! – was the reason for this great headline about Trump’s announcement:

Here’s another great headline, recounting the audience reaction to Trump’s announcement:

Trump’s speech was so awful that it took security guards to force some people to stay.

Now let’s take a headline-related stroll down Memory Lane and a great headline from 2015 that didn’t get the attention I think it deserved.

So I’ll offer it now:

“When Donald J. Trump bought a fixer-upper golf club on Lowes Island here for $13 million in 2009, he poured millions more into reconfiguring its two courses.  He angered conservationists by chopping down more than 400 trees to open up views of the Potomac River.  And he shocked no one by renaming the club after himself.”

It was business as usual for Trump.

Just FYI, here’s a map showing Lowes Island, the Potomac River, and Trump’s golf club:

So, why do I consider the above headline from 2015 a great headline?

Because it caught my eye, drew me into the article, and made reading the article…


Plus, any article that recounts Trump’s abysmal ignorance of history is going to keep me reading.

What’s the “history” that Trump “dressed up”?

“Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating ‘The River of Blood.’”

Here’s the pedestal and plaque:

Here’s a close-up of the plaque:

And here’s the problem with the plaque, says The New York Times article:

“‘No.  Uh-uh.  No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,’ said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historical preservation and education group devoted to an 1,800-square-mile section of the Northern Virginia Piedmont, including the Lowes Island site.”

“Mr. Gillespie’s contradiction of the plaque’s account was seconded by Alana Blumenthal, the curator of the Loudoun Museum in nearby Leesburg.

“(‘A third local expert, who said he had written to Mr. Trump’s company about the inscription’s falsehoods and offered to provide historically valid replacement text, insisted on anonymity because he did not want to cross the Trump Organization by disclosing a private exchange.’)”

I’m trying to imagine who came up with the idea of a fake Civil War memorial to put on Trump’s golf course.  It couldn’t have been Trump, whose knowledge of history might stretch as far back as what he had for breakfast that morning.

I can just hear Trump explaining our Civil War:

“Yeah, it was that war where – and I know this stuff, I’m a big history fan, everybody knows that.  People come up to me all the time and say so.  They say, ‘Mr. President’ – that’s what everybody calls me – they say, ‘Mr. President, you sure know your history.’  And the Civil War was a war, and it was where everybody was nice to each other.  You know – civil?  Nice?”

In his first 18 months in the White House, Trump screwed up history facts many times, according to this June 2018 article:

This article (great headline, by the way) was written too early to include my personal favorite of Trump’s history gaffes, from his July 4th speech in 2019:

“In June of 1775, the Continental Congress created a unified army out of the revolutionary forces encamped around Boston and New York.  Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory.”

Gaffe #1:  There were no airports in 1775 for the army to take over.

Gaffe #2:  Fort McHenry was a battle site in the War of 1812, not the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

Gaffe#3:  “The rockets’ red glare” is a lyric from our National Anthem, inspired by the battle at Fort McHenry in 1814.

Trump’s remarks generated many great headlines, both national and international, like this one from the United Kingdom:

It also generated a social media storm, including this:

So it likely wasn’t Trump who came up with the fake Civil War memorial idea, and it must have been one of his toadies.

There have been and are so many, I couldn’t begin to guess which one.

After The New York Times story in 2015, when reporters pointed out the fake memorial discrepancy – that it was a lie – Trump offered his usual, useless, illogical responses:

“‘That was a prime site for river crossings,’ Mr. Trump said.  ‘So, if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot – a lot of them.’”

In true Trumpian fashion, he repeatedly said that “numerous historians” had told him that the golf club site was known as the River of Blood, but he said he didn’t remember their names.

Then he said the historians had spoken not to him but to “my people.”  But he refused to identify any underlings who might still possess the historians’ names.

Finally, as reporters persisted, telling Trump that local historians had called his memorial a fiction, he responded with:

“‘How would they know that?”  Were they there?”

Well, no, Donald.

Were you?

In summary…

The Bad News:

Now that Trump has declared he’s running for president in 2024, we’re going to see a lot of Trump-related headlines.

The Good News:

Some of those headlines will be great headlines. 

And on November 6, 2024 this will be the greatest headline of them all:

I Think I’m Having A Thanksgiving…

I’m guessing most of us know that if you’re making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, it costs more this year – significantly more:

Inflation is hitting most all of us, and here comes my conundrum – my “confusing and difficult problem or question”:

Americans are hurting from inflation, yet Americans are also handing over money at a “record pace” to…

“Figures released November 9 show the U.S. commercial casino industry had its best quarter ever, winning over $15 billion from gamblers in the third quarter of this year.”

In other words, in just three months – July, August and September – gamblers gave $15 billion+ to casinos.

Let’s consider that $15 billion+.

The population of the U.S. is around 332 million people, and we know not every U.S. resident goes to casinos.

So let’s hypothesize that half of U.S. residents go to casinos – 166 million people.

For those 166 million people to lose $15 billion+ in three months, each of those 166 million people had to lose at least $90 at casinos.

Now let’s go back to those more expensive Thanksgiving dinners.  The CNN article says:

“A feast for 10 with 12 menu items including a turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie mix will cost $64.05 on average – up $10.74 from last year.”

So an increase of almost $11 for a Thanksgiving dinner for 10.

How many of those 166 million people who lost at least $90 in the third quarter at casinos – are also whining about the high cost of Thanksgiving?

Many of them.  I’ll say most of them.

Maybe all of them.

Yet how can they whine about the high cost of Thanksgiving, when they’re losing money at casinos – money that would have covered that $64.05 Thanksgiving dinner for 10…

With money left over?

That’s my Thanksgiving conundrum.

So, if any of you out there can help me figure this out – people complaining about the high cost of Thanksgiving while they’re doing this…

But if you can’t solve my conundrum – that’s OK.

And let’s all…

“Free”?  For Whom?

I recently saw the above ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

This immediately prompted the questions:


For Whom?

And this answer:

Not us taxpayers.

Who are the “Airmen of Note”?

The ad describes them as “The Premier Jazz Ensemble of the United States Air Force.”

Suggesting that there is more than one “Jazz Ensemble of the United States Air Force” and those others – the not “premiere” – are then apparently inferior?

Of course, this called for a visit to the Airmen of Note website:

Where we learn that the Airmen of Note…

“…is one of six musical ensembles that form The U.S. Air Force Band…the current band consists of 18 active-duty musicians, including one vocalist.”

Here they are:

I couldn’t help but notice that there is a female member in Airmen of note:

Perhaps the Air Force decided that “Airmen and Airwomen of Note” didn’t have quite the same cachet.  And perhaps the Air Force also decided that “Airpersons of Note…”

Didn’t cut it, either.

Either way, this jazz ensemble was advertising a “FREE CONCERT!” which meant free admission.

But the concert cost plenty.

Cost us taxpayers, that is.

I could find no recent articles about the cost of Airmen of Note and/or all the military musicians playing their little hearts out, courtesy of us taxpayers.  This article from 2019:

Used figures from three years earlier:

“…in 2016, the 136 military bands maintained by the Department of Defense, employing more than 6,500 full-time professional musicians at an annual cost of about $500 million, caught the attention of budget-cutters worried about surging federal deficits.”

I realize that $500 million – even $620,840,225 in 2022 dollars – is barely a drop in the bottomless bucket also known as national defense budget, which in FY 2022 was around $777 billion.

It’s just that…I don’t believe it’s an effective use of my tax dollars to pay thousands of military people to play music.

And back in 2016, then-Senator Martha McSally seemed to feel the same, according to this article:

“Martha McSally, a Republican Congresswoman from Arizona, made waves this week by attacking the Air Force’s bands.  ‘We have hundreds of people playing the tuba and clarinet,’ she said at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.  ‘If we had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or gun.’”

That was March 2016, and then came this article in June 2016:

“Last week, the Arizona Republican [McSally] pushed forward, introducing a plan that would limit all military ensemble performances at social functions outside official military duties.”

“‘For every dollar that is spent on our bands to entertain at social functions, that’s a dollar we’re not spending on national security and our troops and families,’ said McSally, a retired Air Force colonel.

Martha, thanks for trying.

“‘This is not an attack on the arts,’ she continued.  ‘I’m a vocalist myself.  I care deeply about the arts…While our communities certainly do enjoy being entertained by our military bands, they would prefer to be protected by our military.’”

Apparently McSally’s “plan” went nowhere, and McSally went home in December 2020 after losing a special election to Senator Mark Kelly.

I can find no recent evidence online of anyone in the House or Senate challenging the Defense Department’s use of military members in bands and our tax dollars paying for it.

The above Air Force Times article, on the other hand, quoted several people who spoke about military bands “shouldn’t be underestimated” in the headline.  Here’s one of them:

“Senior Master Sergeant Matthew Ascione, guitarist and co-writer on many original songs for the band, said joining Max Impact gave him the opportunity to ‘serve my country and use that power and influence of music to further the goals of the Air Force…I make sure it gives me that emotional movement, because I know that if it moves me, it may move other people.’”

Well, Senior Master Sergeant Ascione, that’s really nice, but I’m wondering – how exactly does your writing and playing music “further the goals of the Air Force”?

And if the music “moves other people,” what is it moving them to

Is it moving people to…


To borrow Martha McSally’s phrase about a “manning crisis” in our military, according to this September 19 article, we’re having exactly that:

“The U.S. military’s all-volunteer force (AVF) is slowly dying…the armed services are struggling to meet their recruiting goals like rarely before.  The Army is the most affected, projected to fall short by up to 15,000 soldiers, with a larger deficit expected next year.  

“Experts point to a variety of reasons, such as insufficient pay and benefits, a difficult work-life environment, ‘culture war’ issues, COVID-19, and a strong job market.  Even if each were ‘fixed,’ the core issues driving the AVF’s decline still won’t be reversed.”

Can the Air Force track any – even one – enlistment by people hearing its music?

Where’s the payback here?  Where’s the ROI – the Return on Investment?

The taxpayers’ investment?

I’ve been talking about the Air Force bands, but let’s take a look at all these bands we’re paying for.

This guide came in handy:

It’s dated 2018 and you’ll see it comes with a “may be outdated” disclaimer, but here’s what I’ve learned:

Air Force:  17 bands.
Army:  88 bands.
Marines:  10 bands.
Navy:  11 bands.
Coast Guard:  1 band.

What?  No Space Force Band?

That’s OK.  When the Space Force does get a band – or two or 50 – this September article says they have an official song for their band(s) to play:

And since I had to read the lyrics, so do you:

I also listened to a recording of Semper Supra and, wow – talk about being “moved” by military music!


Not when I’m paying for it.

I know the Department of Defense will never agree to give back the money we taxpayers are spending on military bands, so I’ll offer an alternative.

Take those half-billion+ annual dollars and start fixing this:

What is this?

It’s images that show just some of the issues facing many military members and their families who live in military housing.

As this March 2022 article put it:

“In 2018, Reuters reported on the dangerous conditions that military families have faced in base housing, including mold growth, toxic exposure, lead-based paint and asbestos, pest and rodent infestations, and water and sewage issues.  Many conditions were exacerbated by poor or slow response to maintenance requests.

“…three residents of military housing told the subpanel that many of the issues meant to be corrected by the reforms persist throughout the system.”

So, how about it, fellow taxpayers?  Are you with me?

Disband the bands, put the personnel to work with that “wrench or gun” that Martha McSally talked about, and use the money to help provide decent housing for our all-voluntary military?

So we can stop seeing headlines like this recent example:

And stop seeing ads like this:

And stop paying for – Heaven help us – stuff like this:

Which would you rather pay for?

Movie Review:  The Best “Boleyns” Ever

Release date:  August 2021 in UK, August 2022 in U.S.

Review, short version:  All thumbs up.

Review, long version:

When a program is produced by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), I know it will be well done.

When a program is carried by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), I know it will be well worth watching.

Put these two powerhouses together and – you get outstanding:

If you’re a fan of English royal history, Tudor history, the Boleyns, and/or Anne Boleyn, then The Boleyns:  A Scandalous Family is must-see viewing.

My fandom of all these topics started a long time ago with my first novel about Anne.  Since then I’ve read many more novels about her, plus biographies, and watched Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1972), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), Wolf Hall (2015) and whatever else I could find.  Some more than once.

But The Boleyns stands out for me because it’s the facts, insofar as they are known, spoken about by articulate experts, with well-done reenactments:

Reenactors portraying (from left, clockwise) Thomas Boleyn, Anne Boleyn, Thomas Howard (Anne’s uncle), and George Boleyn.

And an interesting thing about those reenactments is that Henry VIII – Anne’s husband and eventual executioner – appears infrequently, more in the shadows than not, and to the best of my recollection had little or no speaking role at all.

But then – this is the Boleyns’ story, after all.

There are many articles online about the documentary, but I thought this description from a PBS station covered it well:

“Based on 16th-century sources, including rare original letters and documents, this new three-part series uses insights from leading Tudor scholars and dramatic re-enactments to bring this story to life from the family’s own perspective.

“Tight-knit, cunning and power-hungry, rising from obscurity to the apex of power, the Boleyns played a dangerous game and paid the ultimate price…A riveting story of love, sex, betrayal and obsession.”

The Boleyns garnered a lot of reviews, some negative – like this one from the United Kingdom, where The Boleyns premiered in 2021:

And this one, also from the UK in 2021, had a rather cheeky (as the Brits would say) headline:

When The Boleyns debuted in the U.S. in August 2022, reviews were largely favorable, and I’ll close with this one:

And how did the Boleyns get that “last laugh” in the headline?

Here’s how:

“The Boleyns changed the course of British history and left a remarkable legacy in the form of two magnificent monarchs:  Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne, and Queen Elizabeth II, a direct descendant of Mary Boleyn”:

USPS:  I’m Angry, And I’m Sad, And…

I’ve done more than a half-dozen posts on this blog that were critical of USPS – the United States Postal Service. 

And I’ve enjoyed doing every one of them.

This time, though – there’s no enjoyment here.

I’m angry, and I’m sad, and that’s because…

It’s personal.


Somewhere, someone employed by USPS is enjoying a windfall.

Not a large windfall – not enough for a month’s rent or car payment, but still…

A windfall is a good thing for the recipient.

But this time, not for the person who provided it:


My younger brothers – twins – had a milestone birthday coming up, and they were celebrating by going on a five-day bro trip to a U.S. city they’d never visited.

I wanted to treat them to birthday dinner, so I decided to purchase a gift card they could use on their special day.  I wouldn’t be there in person, but they’d dine with my gift and that was how we’d celebrate. 

A nice plan except, as it turned out, for one circumstance:  They live in Michigan and I live in California.  So to get the gift card into their hands, I sent birthday cards to both brothers, and enclosed the gift card in one.

Are your alarm bells going off?

Mine weren’t.

Buy gift card, insert into birthday card, insert card into envelope, seal, address, apply stamp and mail – easy!

I’d asked my brother to let me know when the card and gift card arrived, and he did.

He also let me know that the envelope flap was unsealed.

And the gift card was gone.

The envelope hadn’t been torn open or slit open – none of this:

No, someone, somewhere at USPS unsealed the flap, took the gift card, and sent the envelope and card on their way.

No need to seal the envelope back up.  Nothing in it now but a birthday card.

How do I know the thief was a USPS employee?

Because I went to the post office, walked inside, and put both birthday cards in the indoor slot:

From the local USPS employees’ hands the cards went to Michigan, each to my brother’s homes and in through their front door mail slots, so – no hands on that mail between California and Michigan other than USPS employee hands:

When my brother shared the news, I experienced a rush of feelings, all bad:  anger, sadness, helplessness, frustration, disappointment in my fellow man/woman, ripped off, more anger and more sadness.

This wasn’t just a theft from my brothers and me, it has a wider context:

We trust USPS to do what they promise to do:  Deliver mail from us and to us.  Unscathed, intact, and reasonably on time.

As a high-ranking USPS employee put it very recently,

“For over two centuries, the Postal Service has honored its fundamental commitment to protect the sanctity of the U.S. Mail.

I’ve thought a lot about this since the theft happened, and my thoughts go back and forth.

“Maybe,” I speculated, “that postal worker will use the money to buy Christmas presents for their kids.”

And then,

“Maybe that postal worker will use the money to buy drugs.”

Maybe it doesn’t matter.

The point is the theft, not what the thief did with the money.

You could ask – logically – “Why didn’t you purchase an electronic gift card?  No post office, no snail mail, your brother pulls out his phone and dinner is paid for!”

Yes, I know.  The internet abounds with sites like this:

But…I’m just old-fashioned enough to have wanted my brothers to enjoy the heft of the gift card in their hands, the pleasure of placing it on top of the dinner tab, and maybe the anticipation of putting the gift card back in his wallet to enjoy spending the bit of balance left somewhere else.

They’ll enjoy none of that, and I won’t get to hear about the wonderful birthday dinner I’d treated them to on their milestone birthday.

And here’s an irony.

On November 9 as I was sitting at my computer writing this post, I heard this local news story about a USPS mail carrier here in San Diego County:

“A U.S. Postal Service mail carrier from Oceanside’s Brooks Street Station pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing over $2,000 from customers, announced San Diego Attorney Randy Grossman’s office.

“Breanna Wares, 39, admitted to stealing gift cards, cash and jewelry from around 20 residents along her route, according to her plea agreement.”

This thief definitely merits the How-Low-Can-You-Go award:

“The attorney’s office said most of the addresses on her route were located on the U.S. Marine Corp Base Camp Pendleton and many of the victims were active members of the military.”

Stealing from our military.  As low as you can go.

A quick online search revealed that those military members – and I – have plenty of company, because theft by USPS employees is everywhere, not just here in San Diego County.

Here’s a story from Illinois:

And Connecticut:

And Alabama:

And USPS is very aware of internal theft:

But USPS isn’t stopping it.

The USPS Office of Inspector General has a hotline for reporting postal employee thefts, but I decided not to bother after reading this:

“Unless you are contacted directly by one of our investigators, there will be no communication from our office, outside of the confirmation that the Hotline received your complaint, and which may advise you that your matter has been referred to another entity for appropriate action, where and if applicable.”

You see that reference about referring my “matter” to “another entity”?

Here it is:

Why waste my time?

No – all I can do is let go of my feelings of anger, sadness, helplessness, frustration, disappointment in my fellow man/woman, ripped off, more anger and more sadness.

And learn from this experience.

What Do My Mouth And A Cat’s Litter Box Have In Common?

I don’t bake, but I have baking soda in my house.

What the heck is baking soda?

And why is it used in baking?

I had never pondered these questions before, but as I was about to recycle that empty, ubiquitous, orange Arm & Hammer baking soda box, some impulse prompted me – for the first time ever – to read it.

Box top, back and sides.

According to the box of Arm & Hammer, there are dozens of reasons to have baking soda around besides baking.

And a long history to go with it.

How long?

This long, says

Here’s the back of the box, with just some of the ways to use Arm & Hammer baking soda:

But wait – there’s more.  The internet abounds with articles about uses for baking soda – I found 10, 30, 50, and topped out at 101:

Let’s go back to – what the heck is baking soda?

My research says it’s this:

“Sodium bicarbonate (IUPAC name:  sodium hydrogencarbonate), commonly known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3.  It is a salt composed of a sodium cation (Na+) and a bicarbonate anion (HCO3−).  Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline, but often appears as a fine powder.  It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda (sodium carbonate).  The natural mineral form is nahcolite.  It is a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many mineral springs.”

That formula looks like this:

And if you understood all that, you get an “A” in chemistry today.

As to – why do we use baking soda in baking?

Because somewhere, someone somehow acquired the ingredients of NaHCO3, experimented by trying them with some other ingredients, and discovered…

“Look at how soft and fluffy my bread is!”

They may not have understood why, but – as the website explains it:

“… baking soda releases a carbon dioxide gas which helps leaven the dough, creating a soft, fluffy cookie.”

And not just cookies, but bread and cake as well.

Arm & Hammer didn’t invent baking soda, and they make no claims to that on their website.  Instead, they say:

“…in 1846 brothers-in-law Dr. Austin Church and John Dwight began preparing bicarbonate of soda for commercial distribution.  They proudly packaged this simple, yet versatile product by hand into paper bags in their first factory:  Mr. Dwight’s kitchen.”

John Dwight and Company was officially formed in 1847 to sell Dwight’s Saleratus, saleratus being Latin for aerated salt, another term for baking soda. 

In 1867, says the website, the Arm & Hammer “logo was born”:

“It symbolizes the myth of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, who would strike his mighty hammer on his anvil.  Over time, this strong and powerful icon becomes recognized as a symbol of quality all across the world.”

And speaking of myths, this seems like a good place to pause and dispel the myth about Arm & Hammer getting its name from a guy named Armand Hammer – a myth that many people, including me, thought could be true, until several websites clarified:

“It is often claimed that the brand name originated with tycoon Armand Hammer; however, the Arm & Hammer brand was in use 31 years before Hammer was born.”

Myth dispelled.

Over the years Arm & Hammer experimented with lots of other baking soda uses, like in 1972, when they decided that our fridges and freezes stank – and only they had the cure:

As marketing ploys go, this was pretty good – convince people to buy this product specifically made for fridges and freezers BUT that needed to be changed every 30 days, and voila!  Millions of boxes going into shopping carts.

As the Los Angeles Times put it 1994:

“By the industry’s own score card, boxes of baking soda are sucking up odors inside nearly nine out of 10 American refrigerators.  More refrigerators are likely to have baking soda than working light bulbs.”

Another use:  In 1986, says the Arm & Hammer website:

Lady Liberty Gets a Lift
In preparation of the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary on July 4, 1986, 100 tons of ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda are used to gently clean and beautify her.  We remove 99 years of coal tar without damaging the delicate copper interior.”

I wanted to verify this and found some websites confirmed it, while others used words like “apparently,” and others simply referred to generic “baking soda.”

So – can Arm & Hammer can make that Lady Liberty claim?

I think I’ll choose to believe it.

But there’s no doubt Arm & Hammer definitely can claim this – a variety of products:

You’ll notice that one of the products is cat litter, which brings us back around to the title of this post:

What Do My Mouth And A Cat’s Litter Box Have In Common?

Arm & Hammer puts their baking soda in their cat litter.  The website says:

“Whether you’re a one-cat or multi-cat home, ARM & HAMMER has the best kitty litter to give all your cats the freshness they deserve.  Find your purrr-fect ARM & HAMMER kitty litter below.”

“Below” was by my count was 16 pet products that will help you avoid this:


And this:


And this:

I love that “Do not attempt” in the lower-left corner.

And here’s what my mouth and a cat litter box have in common:

I put baking soda in my mouth.

My dentist suggested brushing with baking soda because I’m a big-time iced tea and coffee consumer, which can stain teeth.

According to this and other websites:

Can brushing with baking soda whiten teeth?
Yes, it can, because an alkaline solution is made when baking soda mixes with water.  This leads to the release of free radicals, which help to break up plaque on the teeth and surface stains.  In addition, for anyone experiencing mouth ulcers, baking soda is an effective treatment.  It also assists in freshening bad breath by neutralizing acids from leftover food particles.

How often is it OK to use baking soda to brush teeth?
The Journal of the American Dental Association states that baking soda is safe for daily use.  It is a good idea to only use baking soda to brush the teeth once per day.  Use a good fluoride toothpaste to brush teeth the rest of the time.

Baking soda is an effective teeth whitener when used appropriately to brush the teeth.  Keep in mind that it is also important to maintain regular dental visits and continue using a good toothpaste with any baking soda brushing routine.  For the best results, consult with a family dentist to find out the best uses for baking soda when brushing teeth.

And yes – I know Arm & Hammer makes a number of oral care products including toothpaste, but I figure…

If plain old Arm & Hammer baking soda was good enough for her…

For sure it’s good enough for me:

O, Canada…I Think You’ve Been Cheated By…

Intending no disrespect to Canada’s national anthem which begins, “O, Canada…”

But O, Canada – I think you’ve been cheated.

Here’s the story:

In early October the Frito Lay Company, maker of these:

Announced in a news release:

Frito Lay was proudly unveiling a “statue to commemorate Cheetle, the official term for the brand’s orange dust”:

If you’re not a Cheetos consumer, you may be wondering about the phrase “the brand’s orange dust.”  Cheetos are a finger food, and the orange dust is a powdery substance that sticks to your fingers, making them look like this:

The news release describes the statue as an “almost-17-foot-tall, impressive homage to Canadians’ cheesy, orange-dusted fingertips” and…

“…is of a hand proudly holding a Cheetos Puffs snack, with its Cheetle-dipped fingers boldly on show…”

Closer inspection reveals…

That the hand missing two fingers.

I don’t know why two fingers are missing.  Maybe Frito Lay was facing budget restraints?  Or dealing with supply chain issues?  Or…

But that isn’t the cheating part.  Stay with me, here.

If you’re wondering about the reference to “Canadians’ cheesy, orange-dusted fingertips,” the statue unveiling took place in Cheadle, described in this article by the venerable Food & Wine magazine…

As “a town of around 100 people…about 30 miles east of Calgary in south-central Alberta, Canada…” 

Now, not to disparage the town of Cheadle in any way – I’m sure it’s a nice place, and I found this nice picture online:

But why would Frito Lay choose such a small place to unveil such a big statue?

The news release explains:

“The Cheetos brand, rooted in mischievous fun, was on the lookout for the perfect home for its statue until it came across a hamlet in Alberta with a kindred name, Cheadle.  (What could be more perfect?)”

Well, I’m stumped.

Seriously – what could be more perfect?

World peace?  An end to the pandemic?  Marjorie Taylor Greene deciding to become a cloistered nun?

And also seriously – don’t book your airline tickets for Cheadle, Alberta, Canada because, says this article:

“…the unique piece of art won’t stay in Cheadle forever, according to the news release.  Cheadle residents and visitors can check out the big, cheesy fingers until November 4.  Then, the monument will embark on a tour of other locations in Canada.”

And in my opinion, the “around 100 people” of Cheadle should say “good riddance” because the Frito Lay orange fingers statue was there under false pretenses.

Here’s the cheating part.

The Frito Lay news release defined “Cheetle” as:

“…the official term for the brand’s orange dust.”

The news release also says,

“‘Cheetos fans have always known that the delicious, cheesy dust on their fingertips is an unmistakably delicious part of the Cheetos experience, but now it officially has a name:  Cheetle,’ said Lisa Allie, Senior Marketing Director, PepsiCo Foods Canada.”

Lisa, Lisa, Lisa.

How can you claim that the “cheesy dust” now “officially has a name:  Cheetle” when this story:

Proclaimed that very same thing in January 2020?

“‘Cheetle is defined as ‘that orange and red dust symbolic of true Cheetos fandom,’ according to a news release from Frito Lay and spokesman Chester Cheetah.”

And this article, also from January 2020, said the same:

“…‘Cheetle’ is by no means a new term.  A Frito-Lay rep told HuffPost the company trademarked the term with that particular spelling 10 years ago.

“In addition, brand mascot Chester Cheetah used ‘Cheetle’ as a hashtag in 2015…and the term (also spelled ‘cheedle’) was added to the Urban Dictionary in 2005…”

And Lisa at Frito Lay, your very own news release from January 2020:


“Now, ‘Cheetle,’ as the orange and red dust symbolic of true Cheetos fandom is officially known, is taking over a new snack for Cheetos fans to enjoy in the new year:  popcorn.”

You see?

Frito Lay said that “Cheetle” was “officially known” close to three years ago, yet they had the nerve – the unmitigated gall – to tell the residents of Cheadle, Alberta, Canada that the orange dust “now officially” had a name.

This, as well as the almost-17-foot-tall statue, was the impetus for all the Cheetos/Cheetle/Cheadle excitement.

Well, I call it…




I’ve searched the Frito Lay website as to where they were going to display the statue after the Canada tour, but they’re not saying.

But if they think they’re going to bring this…

…to the U.S. and try to flimflam us – in, say, Cheadle, Montana:

Or at Cheadle Lake in Oregon:

Or at actor Don Cheadle’s former home in California:

Well, Frito Lay, think again.

Because when you get to the U.S./Canada border…

We’ll be ready:

P.S.:  If you’re noticing less Cheetos in the bag, and you’re concerned about a reliable, ongoing source of Cheetle fingers…

Worry no more. 

PepsiCo, parent company of Frito Lay and maker of all 21 types of Cheetos, was mentioned in this recent article:

“In mid-October, PepsiCo, whose prices for its drinks and chips were up 17 percent in the latest quarter from year-earlier levels, reported that its third-quarter profit grew more than 20 percent.”

Here’s one reason why PepsiCo’s profits rose 17 percent in one year:

“…if you buy a bag of Doritos, expect about five fewer chips.  Frito-Lay reportedly confirmed that they dropped the weight of bags from 9.75 ounces to 9.25 ounces.  ‘Inflation is hitting everyone,’ a spokesperson told Quartz.  ‘We took just a little bit out of the bag so we can give you the same price and you can keep enjoying your chips.’”

The Doritos bags look the same and the price is the same:

You’re just getting more air and less Doritos.

And rest assured, if PepsiCo is doing this with Doritos, it’s doing this with all its snack foods including 21 types of Cheetos.

But that’s OK, because everyone’s paycheck has gone up 17 percent from a year ago.


Hello?  Anyone out there?

I’ll close with offering my own statue of a giant hand, a 16.5-foot response to PepsiCo and their shrinkflation practices they thought we consumers would be too stupid to notice:

My giant hand statue is currently on loan to Milan, Italy where it resides in the Piazza Affari, the square in Milan where the Italian stock exchange has its headquarters.

But I’m going to bring it back to the U.S. and loan it to PepsiCo so they can install it at their global headquarters in Harrison, NY.

Looks nice there, don’t you think?

A Tempest In A Toilet

When a toilet makes local, national and international headlines, I want to know about it.

The story first appeared here, on October 19:

It was quickly picked up by national media:

And then international media:

(I particularly liked how the Daily Mail’s multi-purpose headline addressed both the $1.7M toilet issue and California Governor Gavin Newsom’s presidential ambitions.)

All this led to a profusion of potty-mouth headlines:

While in the meantime, Governor Newsom intervened:

And the Chronicle’s reporter was no doubt congratulating herself on coining a new word:


What’s the cause of this tempest in a toilet?

Let’s start with the where:

Noe Valley, a neighborhood in San Francisco:

The population is around 22,500 out of San Francisco’s 887,000 residents.

An online site described Noe Valley as…

“…a quaint, in-demand place to live that’s geared toward young families.  The neighborhood features tidy rows of Victorian and Edwardian homes, and thanks to surrounding hills, has some of the city’s sunniest weather.  Stroller pushers and dog walkers jostle along 24th Street, which is stocked with bakeries, wine and cheese shops and relaxed cafes.  A weekly farmers’ market is held in the modest town square.”

Here’s that “modest town square”:

Which this article…

Described as evolving from:

“… a defunct gas station, to a parking lot, to a farmers market and now to a town square that is a quite large community gathering-place.”

The space is used “to encourage community-building events, including live music and political meetups.  On Saturdays, the town square plays host to a lively farmers market”:

What the town square is not playing host to is an appropriate public toilet.  The October 21 San Francisco Chronicle article noted:

“…at the Noe Valley Town Square, a ratty Porta Potti leans in the corner, unlocked only on Saturdays for farmers’ market vendors.”

The San Francisco Chronicle says the proposed $1.7 million toilet is just that – one toilet enclosed in a structure, presumably with a sink – in 150 square feet of space.

The project has already been in the works for nearly a year.

It won’t be ready for use until 2025.

And that $1.7 million price tag?

That, says the Chronicle is “about the same as a single-family home in this wildly overpriced city.”

Here’s a cost and size comparison:  Proposed Noe Valley toilet, 150 square feet, $1.7 million.  The above single-family San Francisco home recently sold for $1.475 million; 1650 square feet, two bedrooms, 1½ bathrooms.

Why that $1.7 million was ever approved, why the cost is so high, and why the construction will take so long is a crazy, convoluted story that you can read about if you wish.

I read about it, gnashed my teeth, then took two Advil and a long nap.

That $1.7 million is in limbo, being reviewed by a committee in the California State Legislature…

And for now, the residents of Noe Valley will continue gathering in their treasured town square, enjoying the live music, and shopping at the weekly farmers market.

And when they need a public toilet, well…

Here it is:

Wait – Is It Really 6am…Or 5am…Or…?

Have you been busy turning your clocks back this morning?

Politicians have been busy, too, but not with clock changing.

Instead, politicians are busy with election-related stuff.

The 2022 election being tomorrow and all that.

Republicans are busy with full-time sucking up to Donald Trump.

Democrats are busy with full-time pretending that they aren’t going to lose the House, the Senate, and then the White House in 2024.

So maybe when the election dust settles, the politicians – while they still have their jobs – could turn their attention to this issue, one that everyone wants resolved:

Daylight Saving Time is important because:

  1. Everyone says “Daylight Savings” but there’s no final “s” in “Saving” so everyone is wrong.
  2. People in most states must change their clocks or they’ll be way early or way late for work.
  3. It’s the only thing members of the Senate have unanimously agreed on in recent – or long-term – memory.
  4. All of the above.

Answer:  #4.

And – yes!  #3 is true, hard as that is to believe.  Back in March:

“After losing an hour of sleep over the weekend, members of the United States Senate returned to the Capitol this week a bit groggy and in a mood to put an end to all this frustrating clock changing. 

“So on Tuesday, with almost no warning and no debate, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to do away with the biannual springing forward and falling back that most Americans have come to despise, in favor of making daylight saving time permanent.  The bill’s fate in the House was not immediately clear, but if the legislation were to pass there and be signed by President Biden, it would take effect in November 2023.”

The stop-changing-clocks legislation has a rather sweet name:

The Sunshine Protection Act went to the House, and since then…

That was in July, and this was in September:

This is now:

And this will be us for the foreseeable future:

Because in the House, according to the The Hill article:

“‘I can’t say it’s a priority,’ Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill recently.

“‘We have so many other priorities, but it doesn’t mean because it’s not a priority that we’re not trying to work on it.  We are…’”

We are…

Not a priority.

And the day after election day, passing the Sunshine Protection Act won’t be a priority either.

Because the day after election day, lots of politicians are still going to be busy, but not because they’re doing this:

They’ll be busy with other priorities like this…

And this:


Maybe I’m wrong?

Maybe on election day, Democrats won’t lose the House, the Senate, and then the White House in 2024!

And then the House can pass the Sunshine Protection Act…

And President Biden will sign it…

…and we can stop changing our clocks…

And we’ll all live…

Book Review:  Boring

Publication date:  April 2022

Category:  Humorous Fiction, Contemporary Women Fiction, Contemporary Romance.

Review, short version:  Three skunks out of four.

Review, long version:

Katie Cotugno’s Birds of California has two main characters:  Fiona St. James, 28, and Sam Fox, 31.  They’re both actors, and years ago they starred in a hit TV series, Birds of California, which ran for four years.  Apparently, both are gorgeous.  She’s a good actress, and smart.  He’s B-list actor, and shallow.

At the beginning of the book, Fiona has been out of acting for a long time.  She had a public crash and burn, and her self-destructive behavior led to the show’s cancellation when she was in her late teens.  This was followed by a number of years of more self-destructive behavior, and ongoing, multiple posts on social media by people who loved to point out how flawed she was.  She eventually got some help, though she’s still quite capable of going off the deep end. She’s now living with her father and younger sister, and managing the print shop that her parents started.

Fiona’s mother abandoned the family 10 years ago.  Instead of going to the print shop, her father sits at home and doesn’t do much.

At the beginning of the book, Sam is still in the acting business.  He left Birds of California before it was cancelled because his agent promised Sam great movie roles.  Though years have passed, the great movie roles haven’t happened and Sam is still working in television.  His latest series has just been cancelled.  He feels like a fraud and fears he’ll be exposed.  He has huge credit card debt, he’s about to lose his leased car, and he can’t pay his next month’s rent.

Sam never knew his dad, and his mother is receiving treatments for terminal cancer.    

At the end of the book, Fiona is still quite capable of going off the deep end.  She’s still living with her father and younger sister, and still managing the print shop that her parents started. 

Her mother is still gone, and her father is still sitting at home.

At the end of the book, Sam still feels like a fraud and fears he’ll be exposed.  He’s still unemployed, still has huge credit card debt, is still about to lose his leased car, and still can’t pay his next month’s rent. 

He still doesn’t know his dad, and his is mother is still receiving treatments for terminal cancer.

The end.

For less boring Birds of California reading, I recommend:

13 Or 15?

If you took U.S. history in school, you probably learned that at the start of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) there were 13 colonies:

Thirteen colonies is the accepted fact, and 13 was the number of stars and stripes on the first American flag.  The number of stars has grown to 50, but our flag continues with 13 stripes today:

So, if “How many colonies were there at the start of the Revolutionary War?” appeared as a question on a test, you would have answered “13.”

You would have been wrong.

If this came up as the Final Jeopardy! topic…

And the answer was ““Number colonies at the start of the Revolutionary War…”

You would have written, “What is 13?”

You would have been wrong.

At the start of the American Revolution, there were 15 colonies, an almost-unknown fact that I recently learned in a fascinating PBS documentary, America’s Untold Story.

I highly recommend this four-hour film – it’s full of important information about our country, much of which we don’t find in our history books.

The part I’m focusing on is the 15 colonies story, but this needs a bit of backstory, plus this caveat:

I’m a history lover, not a history expert.  Don’t use me as a source – your history professor will not be impressed, and quoting me about how many colonies won’t win Final Jeopardy! for you.

So, as I understand it…

Ponce de León statue in St. Augustine’s Plaza de La Constitución.

Spanish Florida was established in North America in 1513, when Juan Ponce de León claimed peninsular Florida for Spain during the first official European expedition to North America.  Ponce de León named the territory “la Florida” which means “full of flowers” or “flowery.”

That Spanish claim was enlarged as several explorers landed near Tampa in the mid-1500s, and they wandered as far north as the Appalachian Mountains and as far west as Texas, in largely unsuccessful searches for gold.

In their wanderings the Spanish explorers claimed every foot of ground they walked on for their mother country – as all good colonizers do.

After the British settled Jamestown, VA in 1607, more British began arriving on the east coast and doing the wandering-claiming-colonizing thing as well.

Then came the Seven Years War (1754-1763), also known as the French and Indian War.  The British had captured Spanish Cuba and the Philippines and, in order to get these valuable colonies back, Spain was forced to give up Florida.  Signed on February 10, 1763, the First Treaty of Paris gave all of Florida to the British.

Now we come the 14th and 15th colonies, but first I wanted to double-check if what I learned in America’s Untold Story was accurate.

According to this and other articles:

“…the British took control of Florida in 1763.

“The British separated the area into East Florida, with its capital in St. Augustine, and West Florida, with its capital in Pensacola.  Under British rule, East Florida consisted of what is the modern boundary of the state, east of the Apalachicola River.  West Florida included the modern Panhandle of Florida, as well as parts of what are now Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama”:

There they are:  the 14th and 15th colonies.

Now, we tend to think that during the American Revolution, everyone in the colonies wanted to gain their independence from Great Britain, but that wasn’t the case. 

Depiction of the Boston Tea Party, 1773.

Historians have estimated that during the American Revolution, between 15 and 20 percent of the white population of the colonies, or about 500,000 people, were loyal to Great Britain, which earned them the moniker of “Loyalists.”  They were horrified that many of their fellow colonists – who were supposed to be loyal to King George III – were instead throwing chests of tea into Boston Harbor and harboring traitorous notions about “independence.”

Thousands of these Loyalists became refugees, fleeing the 13 colonies, many of them to East and West Florida.


When the Continental Congress formally declared – in 1776 – that their new nation would henceforth be known as the “United States,” the 14th and 15th colonies in Florida were not considered part of the big picture

As a prize of war, Spain had ceded Florida to the British in 1763.


Because of that 1763 First Treaty of Paris, Florida was a British prize of war – the Seven Years War – rather than territory settled by English colonists.

And there’s the bottom line:

Thirteen colonies rebelled against Great Britain, but the 14th and 15th colonies – East and West Florida – remained loyal to Great Britain until the end of the war in 1783.

And Florida didn’t join the United States at the end of the Revolutionary War.  Rather, it was handed back to Spain by the British, and Spain kept it for another three decades.

But that’s another story.

So now I know that what I learned in school was wrong:  While the American Revolutionary War was fought by many who resided in the 13 colonies, there were, in fact, 15 colonies.

This got me wondering what other “facts” in history textbooks are wrong – here are a few examples I found online:

History textbook:  “Columbus first reached North America in 1492.”

Correction:  Columbus never reached North America.  He explored Caribbean islands and the northern coast of South America.

History textbook:  “Before the Civil War, greenbacks [paper money] were redeemable for either gold or silver coins.”

A $1 greenback, first issued in 1862.

Correction:  There were no greenbacks before the Civil War. They originated in the 1862 Legal Tender Act, during the Civil War.

History textbook:  “The 15th Amendment of the Constitution…guaranteed voting rights to all citizens.”

Correction:  The 15th Amendment did not guarantee voting rights to all citizens.  It omitted women, making the 19th Amendment necessary.

But – here’s a fact I encountered in my research (and triple-verified) that just might make you the Final Jeopardy! winner:

If you answer “Florida…”

I’m sorry!

Your answer is correct, but it had to be in the form of a question!