Keep Your Eye On The … ?????

There is very little news today that doesn’t carry the name ‘Trump’.  It makes it very difficult to concentrate, to focus, to find anything ELSE in the news! Trump had a very busy week firing people last week, spent most of the weekend spewing garbage through his tweeting thumbs, and put down virtually every individual or group he could think of who wasn’t 100% in his camp.  Let us recap …

He fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, basically for two reasons: 1) last year Tillerson astutely called Trump a ‘moron’, and 2) Tillerson spoke out against Russia, saying that a nerve agent used on a former Russian spy in Britain last week “clearly came from Russia”, and that Russia is “an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”  The moral of this story:  Never speak the truth if you work for a liar.

He fired Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, basically for three reasons:  1) when Trump asked McCabe who he voted for in 2016, McCabe said he did not vote; 2) McCabe’s wife ran for State Senate in Virginia in 2015 and as part of her campaign funding received funds from a group affiliated with former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who happens to be a friend of Hillary Clinton; 3) McCabe was involved in the Russian/Trump investigation from the start, and Trump hopes his firing will discredit McGabe’s ultimate testimony.  No obstruction of justice here, right?

One of Trump’s many attorneys (he just hired another yesterday) called for Rod Rosenstein to end the Russian investigation, prompting many to fear that there would be an effort to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump went on a tweetstorm the entire weekend, thrashing James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and most of all, Robert Mueller.  He referred, as he has many times before, to the investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ and claimed the team was heavily partisan (Mueller himself is a republican – there goes that argument, Donnie-boy).  And of course, he couldn’t have a proper tweet-storm without blaming Hillary Clinton, so he did.

And then there was Cambridge Analytica, which I am not even going to tackle this evening, other than to mention that it is a whole new section of the spiderweb that ought to bring about the downfall of the regime!  But it won’t.

It’s old, folks.  Even though he was obviously on a triple dose of steroids last week and over the weekend, he keeps singing the same ol’ song, and it isn’t even a pretty song.  It’s got no rhythm, just a convolution of percussion sounds that eventually wear on the eardrums as well as the psyche.

Oh … and in case you missed it …

Y’know what else is getting old?  Another impending government shutdown is scheduled to take place at midnight on Friday if our illustrious Congress doesn’t get their collective butts in gear and pass a spending bill.  Yawn.  I could write this script, but I’ll let you remain in suspense for the next few days.  Meanwhile, let’s chat for just a minute about that spending bill.

The spending bill is for a massive $1.3 trillion.  Let me show you $1,300,000,000,000.  I am unclear where that money is going to come from, since they reduced revenues by cutting taxes on all those who could actually afford to pay taxes!  Since the bill is bouncing around in the House at the moment, I do not know all of the provisions, but here is part of what I do know.

It includes $80 billion in new military spending and $63 billion in domestic spending (anybody see a problem with that ratio?). Democrats and republicans are still arguing over whether it should include funding for Planned Parenthood.  It is likely to expand the right to conceal carry across state borders.  It will not include monies for the long-planned railway under the Hudson River, mainly because Trump said he would veto any bill that included it.  It is not likely to include ACA (Obamacare) subsidies.  It is unlikely to contain a much-needed overhaul of sexual harassment policies.  It will almost certainly re-authorize CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) for six years.  $1.6 billion for Trump’s damn border wall is still under discussion in the House.

And that’s just about all any outside of Congress seem to know for the moment.  The House must vote on it, then send it to the Senate, where they will debate and likely disagree with at least some portion, then it will go back to the House, back to the Senate, and then everybody has to be in full agreement in a final vote by midnight Friday night.  Mitch McConnell and other congressional leaders seem fairly confident, but … after the last few fiascos??? I’m not.  Funny, isn’t it, how little attention the spending bill has had in the media the last several days.

Oh, and another thing you may have missed …

Sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s company has filed for bankruptcy AND, more importantly, has cancelled all non-disclosure agreements.  This means that company employees are now free to tell of any form of sexual misconduct they have witnessed while employed by the company.  Score one for justice!

One final tidbit …

Vladimir Putin won the election in Russia and will serve {yawn} another six years.  Are we surprised?  Not when he disqualified his chief contender!  Look for him to abolish elections in Russia before 2024, as there is already talk of it.

I would like to see somebody stifle Trump’s urges to rant and rail at everything and everyone.  Apparently all the adults in the White House were on hiatus over the weekend. It is painfully obvious to those of us who think at least a few hours a day that Trump has much to hide, much to fear from the results of Mueller’s investigation, for he is acting as guilty as the kid with chocolate all over his mouth saying, “Who me?  I didn’t eat no cookies …”  There is danger in his unhinged state, but it would be a mistake for us to focus exclusively on his child-like antics and take our eyes off the ball.  I fear that is what the media is doing, and it is certainly an easy trap to fall into.  Stay tuned and I will tell you all about his new lawyer … how the heck many lawyers does one man need, anyway?

Voting In America

The New York Times has started a series on voting in America, which will run up to Election Day in November.  I thought the first part of the series, originally published on 10 March 2018, was worth sharing with you.  It is a bit lengthier than my average post, but there are points here that I think we all need to consider as we head into the midterms.  Please take a few moments to read and think about these things.

Vote. That’s Just What They Don’t Want You to Do.

This is a fragile moment for the nation. The integrity of democratic institutions is under assault from without and within, and basic standards of honesty and decency in public life are corroding. If you are horrified at what is happening in Washington and in many states, you can march in the streets, you can go to town halls and demand more from your representatives, you can share the latest outrageous news on your social media feed — all worthwhile activities. But none of it matters if you don’t go out and vote.

It’s a perennial conundrum for the world’s oldest democracy: Why do so many Americans fail to go to the polls? Some abstainers think that they’re registering a protest against the awful choices. They’re fooling themselves. Nonvoters aren’t protesting anything; they’re just putting their lives and futures in the hands of the people who probably don’t want them to vote. We’ve seen recently what can happen when people choose instead to take their protest to the ballot box. We saw it in Virginia in November. We saw it, to our astonishment, in Alabama in December. We may see it this week in western Pennsylvania. Voting matters.

Casting a ballot is the best opportunity most of us will ever get to have a say in who will represent us, what issues they will address and how they will spend our money. The right to vote is so basic, President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965, that without it “all others are meaningless.”

And yet every election, tens of millions of Americans stay home. Studies of turnout among developed nations consistently rank the United States near the bottom. In the most recent midterms, in 2014, less than 37 percent of eligible voters went to the polls — the lowest turnout in more than 70 years. In 2016,

The problem isn’t just apathy, of course. Keeping people from voting has been an American tradition from the nation’s earliest days, when the franchise was restricted to white male landowners. It took a civil war, constitutional amendments, violently suppressed activism against discrimination and a federal act enforcing the guarantees of those amendments to extend this basic right to every adult. With each expansion of voting rights, the nation inched closer to being a truly representative democracy. Today, only one group of Americans may be legally barred from voting — those with felony records, a cruel and pointless restriction that disproportionately silences people of color.

In the months leading up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, when the House, Senate and statehouses around the country are up for grabs, the editorial board will explore the complicated question of why Americans don’t vote, and what can be done to overcome the problem. The explanations fall into three broad categories.


A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before.

Stories like these are distressingly familiar, as more and more states pass laws that make voting harder for certain groups of voters, usually minorities, but also poor people, students and the elderly. They require forms of photo identification that minorities are much less likely to have or be able to get — purportedly to reduce fraud, of which there is virtually no evidence. They eliminate same-day registration, close polling stations in minority areas and cut back early-voting hours and Sunday voting.

These new laws may not be as explicitly discriminatory as the poll taxes or literacy tests of the 20th century, but they are part of the same long-term project to keep minorities from the ballot box. And because African-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, the laws are nearly always passed by Republican-dominated legislatures.

In a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s strict new voter-ID law, a former staff member for a Republican lawmaker testified that Republicans were “politically frothing at the mouth” at the prospect that the law would drive down Democratic turnout. It worked: After the 2016 election, one survey found that the law prevented possibly more than 17,000 registered voters, disproportionately poor and minority, from voting. Donald Trump carried the state by fewer than 23,000 votes.


The legitimacy of an election is only as good as the reliability of the machines that count the votes. And yet 43 states use voting machines that are no longer being made, and are at or near the end of their useful life. Many states still manage their voter-registration rolls using software programs from the 1990s. It’s no surprise that this sort of infrastructure failure hits poorer and minority areas harder, often creating hourslong lines at the polls and discouraging many voters from coming out at all. Upgrading these machines nationwide would cost at least $1 billion, maybe much more, and Congress has consistently failed to provide anything close to sufficient funding to speed along the process.

Elections are hard to run with aging voting technology, but at least those problems aren’t intentional. Hacking and other types of interference are. In 2016, Russian hackers were able to breach voter registration systems in Illinois and several other states, and targeted dozens more. They are interfering again in advance of the 2018 midterms, according to intelligence officials, who are demanding better cybersecurity measures. These include conducting regular threat assessments, using voting machines that create paper trails and conducting postelection audits. Yet President Trump, who sees any invocation of Russian interference as a challenge to the legitimacy of his election, consistently downplays or dismisses these threats. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s State Department has not spent a dime of the $120 million Congress allocated to it to fight disinformation campaigns by Russia and other countries.


Some people wouldn’t vote if you put a ballot box in their living room. Whether they believe there is no meaningful difference between the major parties or that the government doesn’t care what they think regardless of who is in power, they have detached themselves from the political process.

That attitude is encouraged by many in government, up to and including the current president, who cynically foster feelings of disillusionment by hawking fake tales of rigged systems and illegal voters, even as they raise millions of dollars from wealthy donors and draw legislative maps to entrench their power.

The disillusionment is understandable, and to some degree it’s justified. But it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. When large numbers of people don’t vote, elections are indeed decided by narrow, unrepresentative groups and in the interests of wealth and power. The public can then say, See? We were right. They don’t care about us. But when more people vote, the winning candidates are more broadly representative and that improves government responsiveness to the public and enhances democratic legitimacy.

These obstacles to voting and political participation are very real, and we don’t discount their impact on turnout. The good news is there are fixes for all of them.

The most important and straightforward fix is to make it easier for people to register and vote. Automatic voter registration, which first passed in Oregon just three years ago, is now the law or practice in nine states, both red and blue, and the District of Columbia. Washington State is on the cusp of becoming the tenth, and New Jersey and Nevada may be close behind. More people also turn out when states increase voting opportunities, such as by providing mail-in ballots or by expanding voting hours and days.

The courts should be a bulwark protecting voting rights, and many lower federal courts have been just that in recent years, blocking the most egregious attacks on voting in states from North Carolina to Wisconsin. But the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has made this task much harder, mainly by gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 case. Decisions like that one, which split 5 to 4, depend heavily on who is sitting in those nine seats — yet another reason people should care who gets elected.

In the end, the biggest obstacle to more Americans voting is their own sense of powerlessness. It’s true: Voting is a profound act of faith, a belief that even if your voice can’t change policy on its own, it makes a difference. Consider the attitude of Andrea Anthony, the Wisconsin woman who was deterred by the state’s harsh new voter-ID law after voting her whole adult life. “Voting is important to me because I know I have a little, teeny, tiny voice, but that is a way for it to be heard,” Ms. Anthony said. “Even though it’s one vote, I feel it needs to count.”

She’s right. The future of America is in your hands. More people voting would not only mean “different political parties with different platforms and different candidates,” the writer Rebecca Solnit said. “It would change the story. It would change who gets to tell the story.”

There are a lot of stories desperately needing to be told right now, but they won’t be as long as millions of Americans continue to sit out elections. Lament the state of the nation as much as you want. Then get out and vote.

Jolly Almost-Spring Monday!!! 🌺

Good Monday morn, my friends.  I hope you all had a fine weekend, good weather and did something fun.  Spring is on its way … no, it isn’t in the air yet, at least not where I live, for the air is still cold and shadowed by clouds.  But there are signs.  The first was these tiny crocuses  that sprung up in my postage-stamp front yard.  We also saw some lovely daffodils growing in front of a restaurant on Sunday, and I thought it would be a great idea to gently dig them from the ground and relocate them to my own yard, but a kick in the posterior from Miss Goose convinced me otherwise.  Then the second sign of spring … ants!  One of the Significant Seven had, unbeknownst to me, tossed its cookies in the hallway floor, and by the time I noticed it, there was a trail of ants going to and fro!  And the third sign came Friday when I gave the outside of my refrigerator a good cleaning, bleach and all!  Bye-bye old drawings, photos, receipts, coupons and scraps of paper, cute fridge magnets, et al … just a pristine, bright white fridge now!  And so, spring is on its way.  Remember that when the work week starts to wear on your good zen!

I may have spent all my energy on the fridge project, for I did not feel up to baking this morning, so you’ll just have to settle for what I could find in the pantry to go with your coffee this morning.  So, grab a cuppa and relax for a few, for I have something awesome for you this morning! I am taking a brief departure from my usual jokes, funny stories, etc., because I thought these pics and this man’s talent were worth an entire post.  I hope you’ll agree!

With spring on its way, as I noted above, one would not think I would be featuring, of all things, S-N-O-W this morning, right?  But I came across something that I found truly amazing and I just had to share it with you guys!  Think of it as my last tribute to winter, if you wish.

Meet Simon Beck …Simon BeckSimon Beck is an artist, though his medium is not paint or clay.  His medium is snow. The world’s first snow artist, Beck first began his work 2004.  At the time he was a freelance orienteer map maker and wanted a form of exercise that didn’t hurt his troubled feet.  Living in the French Alps, the snow presented a natural canvas, though Beck, prior to that moment, didn’t consider himself much of an artist.  “I only do snow drawings.  I wouldn’t take paint brushes and paint a picture if I didn’t have good snow. Lots of people are much better at a painting than I am.”

Les Arcs Ski Resort in the French Alps

His drawings are created by running in snowshoes across freshly laid snow. Each image takes him up to 11 hours to make and covers an area about 100m x 100m, requiring him to travel up to 25 miles as he marks out the pattern.Beck produces about 30 snow drawings every winter in the northern hemisphere, mostly in the Alps. He started out doing it for fun and now it is his main occupation. “When you have a blank piece of paper you draw on it. So drawing on a blank snowfall seemed like a natural thing to do.”

The drawings are made using only a compass, and by counting paces. “Normally you want to start in the middle but of course you can’t start in the middle because you have to get there somehow. If it is a star you have to walk in a straight line to the middle, then take a compass bearing, and then work out the other bearings.”Simon wears snowshoes, and by running in them makes a path. He cannot step outside the path since this will disturb the fresh snow. “It is actually quite a puzzle to work out the best way of doing it. Usually you will do a way which is passably good, but you will know you could have done it a slightly quicker way. Once you have been going about an hour you get quite a network of tracks going through the area of the drawing and you can get from A to B quite easily. You will always end up backtracking because you get hungry to go back to the start to get your food.”

Just last month, Beck transformed Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, into a snow art installation for The Great Northern, an annual 10-day winter celebration in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.There is only so much I can include in a single post, so if you’re interested in seeing more of Mr. Beck’s art or learning more of his technique, here are a couple of links:

Snow Art Showcases Beauty of Winter – Simon Beck

Simon Beck’s astonishing landscape and snow art illustrates the cold beauty of mathematics – in pictures

The Story Behind Simon Beck’s Stunning Snow Art

Tsunami memorial design on the reservoir at Arc2000 in Savoie, France

I hope you’ve enjoyed these pictures.  Have a wonderful week, and remember that spring is definitely on the way! 🌷  Remember to share a smile today … your smiles are far too gorgeous to keep hidden!  Love and hugs from Filosofa!


Conservation … A Strange Definition

Lion-not a trophyAt what point in the evolution of our vocabulary did the word ‘conserve’ come to mean ‘kill’?  I did not get that memo.  To me, the word conserve means protect, save.  A January CNN Special Report  carried the following headline:

Trophy hunting: ‘Killing animals to save them is not conservation’

I agree 100%.


Ryan Zinke

In December 2016, Trump named Ryan Zinke to lead the Department of the Interior (DOI).   On his first full day in office, Zinke rescinded the policy that banned the use of lead bullets and lead fishing tackle in national wildlife refuges. On June 2017, Zinke recommended that Bears Ears National Monument boundaries be scaled back. In August, Zinke 2017 added the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to the planned list of monuments to be shrunk as well.  Last month, Trump, acting on Zinke’s advice, lifted the import ban on elephant and other big-game trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe to the United States.  Zinke, himself a passionate trophy hunter, justified himself against critics by saying that he had his best childhood memories of hunting with his father and that he was anxious to promote hunting for American families.  What the heck ever happened to family picnics and games of Monopoly???


Don and Eric Trump … and dead leopard

Zinke recently established a new commission, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC).  The purpose of the commission?  In a nutshell, to make it easier to kill wild animals.  According to Zinke, it is about removing barriers to importing trophy hunting animals and relaxing legal restrictions on hunting and importing endangered species.  I repeat … its purpose is to make it easier to kill wild animals, even those on the endangered species list!  And in case you are not already mad enough, this commission will cost the taxpayers of the U.S. $250,000 per year … that’s a quarter of a million dollars!

Tiger, Petchaburi, ThailandAllow me, please, to introduce to you the members of this group:

  1. Paul Babaz, President of Safari Club International (SCI)
  2. Bill Brewster, U.S. hunter actively engaged in int’l and/or domestic hunting conservation
  3. Ivan Carter, Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance
  4. Stephen Chancellor, Chancellor Foundation for International Wildlife Conservation
  5. Jennifer Chatfield, Wildlife and habitat conservation/management organizations
  6. Cameron Hanes, Archery and/or hunting sports industry
  7. Peter Horn, Tourism, outfitter, and/or guide industries related to international hunting
  8. Chris Hudson, Wildlife and habitat conservation/management organizations
  9. Mike Ingram, U.S. hunters actively engaged in int’l and/or domestic hunting conservation
  10. John Jackson, President, Conservation Force
  11. Gary Kania, Vice President, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
  12. Terry Maple, Tourism, outfitter, and/or guide industries related to international hunting
  13. Keith Mark, Tourism, outfitter, and/or guide industries related to international hunting
  14. Olivia Opre, U.S. hunters actively engaged in int’l and/or domestic hunting conservation
  15. Erica Rhoad, Director of Hunting Policy, National Rifle Association
  16. Denise Welker, U.S. hunters actively engaged in int’l and/or domestic hunting conservation

Information courtesy of FACA Database


Cecil the Lion and Dr. Walter Palmer, his murderer

Of the sixteen council members, at least ten are known to have ties to Safari Club International, an international organization composed of hunters dedicated to protecting the freedom to hunt.  One ‘esteemed’ member of SCI is Dr. Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion in 2015 in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.  Mike Ingram, the ninth on the list, set up an illegal non-profit in 2016 that was used solely to sell access to Donald Trump.  Peter Horn, #7 on the list, is the vice-president of Beretta, a gun manufacturer.  Ivan Carter, #3, is a television personality hosting such shows as Dallas Safari Club’s Tracks Across Africa, and his own Outdoor Channel show, Carter’s W.A.R. Denise Welker, #16, killed an elephant in Botswana on one of Carter’s safari hunts. She received an award last year from SCI underwritten by the NRA.  Number 14, Olivia Opre, is a former Mrs. Nebraska who judges the televised Extreme Huntress competition for female trophy hunters.  These are not nice people.

wolvesDespite the fact that polls show that between 80% – 90% of Americans are opposed to big game hunting, this committee has been established at our expense to make the killing of animals easier.  Now, you all know I am an animal lover, but even so, just what gives humans the right to take the life of an animal for no good reason?  Who deemed that lions and tigers and elephants were put on this earth so man could take some perverse joy in killing them?  Frankly, the way I see it is that every creature on this earth has as much right to life as I do.  If my house were on fire, I can guarantee you that I would not leave until I had gotten every last one of the Significant Seven to safety, for their lives are as valuable in the grand scheme of things as mine.  Most of you probably wouldn’t go that far, and I understand that, but to viciously murder an animal just to hang its head over your fireplace and brag???

trophy hunting 2The United States is already the largest importer of hunting trophies by far, accounting for a staggering 71 percent of the import demand, or about 15 times more than the next highest nations on the list—Germany and Spain.  What, I ask, is there to brag about?  More often than not, it is not a fair contest, for the animals are actually enclosed, and safari guides lead the hunters (who have often paid upward of $250,000 for this ‘privilege’) directly to them.  Sport?  I don’t think so.  The lion, tiger or bear stands zero chance against a man with a huge rifle.  It would be rather like one football team beating another whose hands and feet were bound together with duct tape!

bearsThis International Wildlife Conservation Council has not one single member from the Sierra Club, from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), from International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), or any of the other organizations that actually DO work toward protecting and preserving the animal kingdom.  Not one.

elephantsI began this post with a musing about the word ‘conserve’.  I think I have it figured out now … it is to conserve/preserve the right of wealthy, arrogant Americans to kill the innocent.  That must be the definition Trump’s and Ryan’s slogan “Make America Great Again”.

Once again, I hang my head in shame for what my country has become.


They Have Killed My Country and Murdered My God

This post by my young friend, Anam, needs no introduction from me, for her words say it all.

Fade Into Oblivion

They have killed my country and murdered my God
and called it collateral damage.
They have buried my homeland
under their bombs and the cries of its residents.
The women of my country are their playthings
And the men are prisoners of war.
My house has collapsed in on itself
burying its inhabitants under six feet of rubble
like a grave.
Colonisation, The Occupation, Ceasefire.
I can’t hear my own thoughts
Maybe that’s what they want to do
Overwhelm you with external destruction and voice
So you have no idea who you are
They blaspheme my God and place of worship
call Him a liar
spit upon His shrine
challenge His authority
believe they are better off without Him.
My country has become their playground
Paradise on Earth, now even worse than Hell.
I think the dead are luckier
They can’t see their beautiful land littered
with bullet shells, bombs…

View original post 186 more words

Saturday Surprise — Let’s Travel!~~

Good morning and Happy Weekend!  Today I considered writing a piece on St. Patrick’s Day, but somehow I just couldn’t get into it.  And, because of the religious connections, I thought perhaps it was best I leave it alone. I will, however, end with a few funny St. Patrick’s cartoons. And anyway, given that I am getting a bit fed up with my own nation of residence this week, I thought it would be fun to do some traveling, and thus I went in search of new and interesting places.  Sit back and take a few minutes, if you will, to travel with me before starting your weekend activities.

Today let us begin our journey in Villa De Leyva, Colombia, where I have found the most unique house to show you!  Remember when you were a kid and on a snowy or rainy day, stuck indoors you played with such things as Matchbox cars, plastic horses, and that all-time favourite, modelling clay?  Remember how you used to build little clay houses … what?  You didn’t?  Seriously?  Well, anyway, some of us did that.  Here in Villa De Leyva, there is a real, life-size clay house!  Atlas Obscura says …

“Casa Terracota is a fully habitable two-story cottage made entirely from clay. It’s a blend of both architecture and art; a gorgeous creation that lets visitors imagine what it would be like to live inside a giant piece of artisanal pottery—though this house goes far beyond what anyone could ever dream of making in a typical high school art class.”

The architect, Octavio Mendosa, has called the house the “world’s largest piece of pottery”.  Mendoza sculpted the entire abode from clay, using no other materials to support the two-story structure. He then let it bake and harden in the sun, which transformed the pliable clay into solid, sturdy ceramic.

Its walls slope and curve, much like the way the surrounding hills roll toward the horizon. The inside is airy and welcoming, with functioning bedrooms, sitting areas, and even bathrooms all made from clay. The furniture, too, was born from soil and water. Colorful tile mosaics add vibrant pops of color to the baked, earthy inside.I would absolutely adore living in this little house … well, not so little, really, at 5,400 square feet … about 4 times bigger  than what I have now!

I landed … phlumph … in Texas, hot on the trail of a different story, but then I happened upon this and I liked it better.  You’ve all heard about the ‘killer bees’, right?

In the 1950s, South American scientists were attempting to cross European honey bees with African stock to bolster local honey production and engineer a bee subspecies that would thrive in the subtropical climate. Problems arose when a few African queen bees escaped from the Brazilian apiary and began mating with the locals, resulting in a volatile hybrid subspecies.

The individual bees themselves aren’t deadly—the venom in their sting is actually slightly less powerful than that of a European honey bee. However, they’re far more aggressive when provoked. When the Africanized bees sense a disturbance to their hive, they swarm and sting in droves. Even the noise from a passing vehicle or the rumble of a lawnmower can trigger a defensive attack that can be fatal.

The escaped bees and their progeny spread northward throughout the Americas, killing hundreds of people and animals along the way. When a swarm of about 3,000 of the “killer bees” was found in a monitoring trap on the outskirts of Hidalgo, Texas, it proved the unwelcome immigrants had finally crossed the Mexican border. (Should have been a wall to keep them out, yes?)While most places greeted this news with angst, Hidalgo’s mayor decided to erect a monument, and the city became known as the “killer bee capital of the world”!

And while we’re here in Texas … y’know how they always say “everything is BIG in Texas”?  Well, the bee was certainly big, but here’s another … a {meep meep} roadrunner named Paisano Pete!In 1980, Fort Stockton mayor, Gene Cummings, purchased this fiberglass roadrunner to be the town’s mascot, and had it placed in the center of town at the corner of Main Street and Dickinson Boulevard. The city then held a “Name the Roadrunner” contest offering $50 to the best suggestion, and after fielding a number of suggestions, Paisano Pete was the winner.For 13 years, Pete was the world’s largest roadrunner, at 11 feet tall and 22 feet long.  But then he lost his title to a larger statue in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

I must admit that I chose this one for its virtually unpronounceable name:  Fjaðrárgljúfur.   However, even beyond the name, the scenery is unique and worthy of a look.Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon a bit off the path off Iceland’s famous Ring Road. At just over a mile long, it certainly doesn’t boast the enormous expanses of the world’s other mighty canyons. But what it may lack in size, it absolutely makes up for in beauty.The river was formed from melting glaciers some two million years ago (now just how do they know that???) and it whittled out strange geologic patterns. The walls jut in and out, swerving back and forth so the water takes the shape of a blue snake slithering across the terrain.  There is a walking trail across the tops of the crags, where it is said one feels as if he is standing atop a kingdom.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our brief tour of some places we don’t get to see every day.  And now, as promised, a few St. Paddy ‘toons to start your weekend with a smile!  Have a terrific weekend, my friends!

St. Pat toon

Putin Controls The Light Switch???

I was so tired tonight that I could barely stay awake, and I was actually thinking the unthinkable – to go to bed without publishing a morning post.  And then, as I made one last scan of the headlines, I saw this:

Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants, U.S. Says

And I was suddenly wide awake.

Russia interfered with our election in 2016.  That is no longer speculation … that is fact.  But guess what?  That isn’t all they are capable of doing.

“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec, a digital security firm. “From what we can see, they were there. They have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation.”

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued yesterday, 15 March 2018:

“Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors—hereafter referred to as “threat actors”—targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.”

To put it simply, if Russia so chose, they have the capability to shut down our power grids, water systems, air traffic controls and more.  U.S. Intelligence agencies have been aware for a year and a half that the Russians had this capability, and last June issued warnings to utility companies.  The latest information comes on the heels of Trump finally imposing the sanctions against Russia that were unanimously passed by Congress last year.  Could these sanctions be the ‘political motivation’ of which Mr. Chien speaks?

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times

The groups that conducted the energy attacks, which are linked to Russian intelligence agencies, appear to be different from the two hacking groups that were involved in the election interference. That would suggest that at least three separate Russian cyberoperations were underway simultaneously. One focused on stealing documents from the Democratic National Committee and other political groups. Another, by a St. Petersburg “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency, used social media to sow discord and division. A third effort sought to burrow into the infrastructure of American and European nations.

Russian cyberattacks surged last year, starting three months after Mr. Trump took office. American officials and private cybersecurity experts uncovered a series of Russian attacks aimed at the energy, water and aviation sectors and critical manufacturing, including nuclear plants, in the United States and Europe. In its urgent report in June, the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. notified operators about the attacks but stopped short of identifying Russia as the culprit.

By then, Russian spies had compromised the business networks of several American energy, water and nuclear plants, mapping out their corporate structures and computer networks.  In an updated warning to utility companies on Thursday, Homeland Security officials included a screenshot taken by Russian operatives that proved they could now gain access to their victims’ critical controls.

Rather like the hacking of our 2016 elections, which the intelligence community informs us is ongoing and is expected to affect the mid-terms this November, our response to this situation seems rather tepid.  The sanctions Trump imposed yesterday fell short of those that had been passed by Congress last year.  Trump finally joined our allies in stating that Putin was in all likelihood responsible for the chemical attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK, but it took him two weeks.  Will he instruct our intelligence agencies to actively pursue these hackers?  Can the agencies act without his blessing?  If so, will they?  These are questions whose answers are beyond my field of knowledge, but I think they are important for us to ask.

If you haven’t read One Second After by William Forstchen, I highly recommend it.  I read it a few years ago, and while I did not write a review, I did write another post in January 2017 that summarized the book and touched on the “what-if” of an enemy effectively shutting down our power grid.  While I am not an alarmist, I do recognize there is potential for disaster here.  The potential has been there for a while, but I ask you this:  Do you actually trust Donald Trump to do everything in his power to stop Russia from interfering in our elections, or even worse, from causing infrastructure disruptions likely to cost millions of lives?  I don’t.  His promise to “keep America safe” is naught but hot air.  It is time he step up to the plate, or else step aside and let somebody else bat.

And on that note, I shall now go to bed and try to sleep.

And This Is Why …

It was the story I had not seen that raised my hackles late last night.  It was buried somewhere among stories of the PA18 election, Rex Tillerson’s firing, Stormy Daniels, Devin Nunes and of course, the ringleader Trump.  It was reported by NBC News and ABC News, but there were no ‘Breaking News’ alerts.  I found it on my friend Scottie’s blog post, then went in search of.  The story?

Gun-Trained Teacher Accidentally Discharges Firearm in Calif. Classroom, Injuring Student

Even that was wrong … THREE students were reportedly injured.  By a teacher.  A ‘gun-trained’ teacher.  A ‘reserve police officer’.  And as if there weren’t already enough irony there, the class in which this happened was “Administration of Justice”.  Still want to put guns in teacher’s hands, Wayne LaPierre, Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump?  Still think it’s the best way to ‘protect’ our children?  Think again!!!! Now, the facts of the matter …

Dennis Alexander

  • Dennis Alexander, a reserve police officer, was pointing the gun at the ceiling Tuesday to make sure it was not loaded when it discharged inside his classroom at Seaside High School in the coastal community of Seaside, California. Alexander was not authorized to have a gun on campus.
  • Alexander was teaching a gun safety lesson in an administration of justice class and was about to show the students how to disarm someone when the gun fired.
  • While none of the three children sustained serious injuries, one student did have bullet fragments in his neck, as authorities believe the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling.
  • The class proceeded until the bell rang signaling the end of class. Nobody called for a nurse or paramedics.

Fermin Gonzales, age 17, was one of the three injured students.  His parents were not notified of the incident by the school, but only found out when Fermin, at the end of class, left school and called his mother from a relative’s house.  His parents took him to the hospital where he was treated and released.

Details of the other two injured students are not available at this time … I’ve searched all over. Even now, 24 hours after the fact, there is very little in the media about this incident.  WHY? Police arrived at the school three hours later, and then only after Ms. Gonzales had contacted them.  The school, apparently, had no plans to launch an investigation.  Alexander was placed on administrative leave from his teaching job and he was also placed on administrative leave at the Sand City Police Department, according to both school and police officials.

The school district sent a letter to parents saying its human resources department, the high school administrators and the Seaside Police Department “immediately [emphasis added] began investigating the incident, including interviewing students in the class.” It said counseling was made available to students and that it could not release any other details “due to the nature of this personnel incident.”

It is fortunate that there were no serious injuries.  This time.  What about next time?  And the time after that?  And Alexander was trained in the use and safety of firearms!!!  What about Ms. Jones, who never in her life held a gun in her hand until the school district told her she must.  What about Mr. Peacock who has a terrible temper and now has a gun in his pocket?  Wake up, NRA!!!  Wake up America!!!  Teachers packing heat will eventually lead to student deaths.  There is no other possible outcome!

And it doesn’t stop there.**  There was another incident yesterday, even less reported than the one above, for I have found very few references to it.  In Alexandria, Virginia, a school resource officer — a five-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department — accidentally discharged his weapon while inside George Washington Middle School. No one, including the officer, was injured.  Presumably the old media adage “if it bleeds, it leads” applies here, and since nobody bled, the media doesn’t find it that interesting.

Two days prior, Trump tweeted:

“Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!…….”

Both of the shooters above were “highly trained experts”, and look what happened. I really do not care about 2nd Amendment rights … I care about lives, especially the lives of our children.  If the U.S. Congress has a single shred of humanity, if they care one whit about our children, they will pass strict gun regulations, not take the coward’s way out and put the onus on the teachers.  Nope, Donald Trump and Congress … this monkey is on your backs.  Do something right for a change!

** Additional information

The Island of Misfits …

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I worked for a small company, just over 100 employees total.  Since it was a small company, just starting up, all of us in management wore many hats.  My primary title was Comptroller, but I also wore the hats of Human Resource Director and Logistics Manager.  It was around 1990, I think, and one of my accounting staff had resigned, so I placed an ad in the local paper (this was before and CareerBuilders).  In the ad, I plainly stated that the applicant must be savvy in Microsoft applications, such as Excel and Word, and have a general understanding of Accounting software.  One lady who came in to interview seemed quite nice, but …

Me:  So, tell me about your computer experience, particularly in Microsoft applications

She:  Well, to be honest, I’ve never used a computer, but if you can show me how to turn it on, I think I can figure out the rest.

No, friends, I am not joking.  That was exactly what she said.  She was the least qualified candidate imaginable for the position, and no, I did not hire her.

Under the current ideology of our federal government, however, I would have hired her. The reigning philosophy in the big White House at the moment, seems to be to hire the person who has no qualifications whatsoever, just so long as they meet certain criteria:

  • Must ardently deny that the emissions of carbon into the atmosphere by the activities of humans have any effect on the environment
  • Must ardently support the right of every man, woman and child to own at least one gun, preferably an assault-type weapon
  • Must be willing to lie, cheat and steal on command
  • Must be a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and support their mission
  • Must have net assets totaling more than $1 million
  • Must not be burdened by either compassion or a conscience
  • Must either have traveled to Russia in the past year, or have significant business holdings in Russia
  • Must be able to change your opinion 180° within 30 seconds flat
  • Must have a history of sexual aggression or perversion
  • Must be willing to agree with Donald Trump 100%, all of the time, even when you know he is wrong
  • Must be a WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant)
  • Must strongly oppose any form of nationalized universal healthcare

And finally, the most important …

  • Must have no experience or expertise in the field for which you are applying

We have seen so many examples of this …

  • Scott Pruitt – tapped to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) … an agency he had sued 14 times as Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma
  • Betsy DeVos – appointed as Secretary of Education, though she has no teaching background, no degree in education, and has promoted taking funding from public schools to establish charter schools, that would benefit a very small number of students
  • Jefferson Beauregard Sessions – appointed as Attorney General of the U.S., despite, or perhaps because of, his well-documented racist attitudes
  • Ben Carson – Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), though his field of expertise is medicine/surgery, and he has nothing that qualifies him for the position
  • Jim Bridenstine – Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), despite having no background in scientific research, no college degree in any hard science

And the list goes on … and on. Any Human Resource director would be having nightmares over this rag-tag staff!  But now, we can add two more from just the past two days.

Mike Pompeo has just been selected, though not yet confirmed by the Senate, to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.  I won’t ramble on about this one, for I did that yesterday.  And the latest?  Trump has appointed Lawrence Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as head of the National Economic Council, top economic advisor.  I am applying for a new passport next week … I foolishly let mine expire.  Let us learn a little bit about Mr. Kudlow, shall we?kudlowIt is said that Kudlow has been wrong about almost everything for at least the past several decades.    Take this one, for example:

“Despite all the doom and gloom from the economic pessimistas, the resilient U.S. economy continues moving ahead. There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen.  The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth consecutive year with more to come. Yes, it’s still the greatest story never told.” – Larry Kudlow, 07 December 2007

Note the date … according to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research (the official arbiter of U.S. recessions) the recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, and thus extended over eighteen months. (A side note: President Obama, who has often been blamed for the recession by the GOP, did not take office until January 20th 2009, fully 13 months after the official start of the recession, and just 5 months before its end.)  And this is the guy who will now be advising the president, the man who leads the nation into either poverty or prosperity, on economic issues???

In 1993, when Bill Clinton proposed an increase in the top tax rate from 31 percent to 39.6 percent, Kudlow wrote, “There is no question that President Clinton’s across-the-board tax increases … will throw a wet blanket over the recovery and depress the economy’s long-run potential to grow.” This was wrong. Instead, a boom ensued.

The list of his faux pas is long, but the above examples should be enough to convince you that this man does not understand basic economic principles and wears blinders to shut out reality most of the time.

Kudlow’s background includes a degree in history from The University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.  Kudlow also attended, but did not complete, Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he studied political science and economics.  He should have stayed there longer.

He worked in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Reagan … remember ‘supply-side’ economics and the ‘trickle-down’ theory?  But it is what he has been doing since that is mind-boggling in light of the position he was just awarded.  He hosts a talk radio show.  “The Larry Kudlow Show” airs on Saturday mornings from 10am to 1pm ET and via nationwide syndication via Westwood One.  I hear Alex Jones of InfoWars is being considered to replace Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy.  🙄

Suffice it to say that this is yet another on Trump’s long list of inappropriate appointees.  He obviously goes looking for the least capable, least qualified for each position.  We can only hope that they all get voted off the island before they destroy the island altogether.

Island of misfit toys


Good People Doing Good Things — The Next Generation

Since the February 14th school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we have been applauding the young people who stepped up to the plate and said ENOUGH!  Those young people have protested both online and in person, demanding that stricter gun laws be put into place to keep our schools, our society safer.  We are all proud of these young people, and many of us have said that if there is hope for this nation to get back on track, that hope lies with this generation that is just now coming of age.  In keeping with those thoughts, I decided to make this generation the focus of today’s Good People post, for many of them are doing some truly wonderful things.

Meet Jessica Russo.  Jessica, age 20, lives in Staten Island, New York, and is a junior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts pursuing a degree in political science with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies, as well as Latino and Latin American Studies.  During her freshman year, one of Jessica’s best friends was sexually assaulted.  Seeing what her friend went through fueled a desire in Jessica to both spread awareness and also provide resources to victims of sexual assault.

Among Jessica’s goals are to create a dialogue among peers, professors, and faculty on college campuses in order to increase the knowledge these individuals have about sexual assault.

Jessica knew that her goals were far too big to be accomplished alone. In response, she created an Executive Board made up of students at her school who share the same passion for ending sexual assault as she does. She also has created volunteer opportunities for those who want to be involved in her campaign, Silence to Sound, such as regional researcher, a position where students will be able to research resources for the campaign’s database. Interacting with student groups on campus in order to host events is part of the work that continues to further her mission.

She has created, using her own money, a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.  Her website is equipped with school specific resources for sexual assault survivors at over 110 schools in four states. This includes Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois and Wisconsin.  The group’s mission statement is:

“We at Silence to Sound seek to create a safe and resourceful space for a discussion of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. We aim to ensure gender equity and safety through dialogue and action. We advocate for survivors with resources for reporting and seeking emotional support. Furthermore, our end goal is the complete prevention of sexual assault through a changed societal attitude toward consent and safety for all.”

She has conducted webinars along with three other women from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana where they speak about gender-related issues.  This is a young woman who saw a problem, saw a need, and is doing something to solve the problem and fill the need.  Another shining example of our next generation.

Levi Fallavollita was 11-years-old and living in Tucson the first time he was threatened with a gun.  It was indeed a frightening experience, but rather than let it change him, he decided to let it help him change the world.  Levi realized that he was not alone, that other kids were going through similar experiences of being bullied, and he wanted to reach out to them.

Levi began by writing a book, The Good The Bad and The Bullies. That spawned book signings in his local community and “Nights of Sharing” workshops, where kids and adults came to talk about their experiences. That inspired Fallavollita to publish another book, Be Courageous, featuring a collection of those shared stories — including a 73-year-old woman who still remembered the pain of being bullied as a youngster.

Word got around. Soon, Fallavollita was writing monthly columns for the local newspaper and appearing on television news. He collaborated with the Fund for Civility, which was founded by the family of Arizona Congressman Ron Barber after he and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords were shot in January 2011 outside a grocery store in Tucson. That earned him an invite to Washington, D.C., where he talked to members on the House floor about his “Be Courageous” project. He was also recognized for his efforts with a Daily Point of Light award that was established by former President George H.W. Bush.

Be sure to check out Levi’s Facebook page.

Before I introduce the third good young person, I want you to check to be sure you are sitting down, for the sheer energy of Miss Talar Terzian is going to knock your socks off!  Talar, 16 years of age, lives in Gainesville, Florida and attends Oak Hall school.  Her grandfather was a Vietnam War veteran, and through the years Talar met many of his combat comrades and heard their stories.  As she grew older, she began to notice that female veterans did not receive near the attention the males did, and the female vets’ stories went largely unheard, especially in the history books.

Talar started the Female Veterans Journaling Project. The Female Veterans Journaling Project aims to provide every woman veteran nationwide with a journal to write in. While the long-term goal of the project is to pair every woman veteran with a journal, Talar’s currently working on her short-term goal of providing every female veteran in Florida with a journal. Talar decided to approach the representation of women veterans through the journal project because she believes it has the potential to touch the lives of many women veterans, by helping them see that their voices and stories are valued. In addition to the journals, Talar is also developing an app to connect women veterans with one another so that they can share their experiences with one another on social media.

And while the Journaling Project is what initially brought this young woman onto my radar, the thing that qualified her for today’s ‘Good People’, in researching Talar, I found something else!

As Alejandro López, writing for the Gainesville Sun stated, “Talar Terzian boasts a loaded résumé that would make a college graduate blush. She’s traveled the world on the strength of her scientific acumen. She’s helped author a handful of research articles. She’s founded a volunteer organization to help female veterans, and sits as first-chair clarinetist with the Oak Hall Pit Orchestra.”


Recently named to the International Science Olympiad, Talar’s love for science stretches back to sixth grade. Motivated by her science teacher, she entered the science fair, creating a natural, organic laundry detergent that would eventually win her the regional title.

Last year, Talar was recognized for the portable washing machine she built from landfill-bound material and fitted with a biosand filter of her own design. Used in conjunction with steel-meshed screens, the resulting biofilm removes phosphates from the water before it is reused for irrigation.  Move over, Euell Gibbons!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted just from reading about all this girl has done in her short 16 years!!!

These three are but a small sample of the young people, our future scientists, politicos, doctors, lawyers and more, who are already making their mark on the world.  I think they give us good reason to hope for an even brighter future, don’t you?

Note to Readers:  You may remember my Good People post on February 7th  featuring Dr. Daniel Ivankovich?  Two weeks ago, much to my amazement, I received a message via Facebook Messenger from none other than Dr. Ivankovich himself!  This is the second time since I started the Good People feature that the subject of my post has contacted me to thank me.  It is such a heartwarming experience … beyond words!  I wanted to share our short conversation with you: