Trigger Warning: Cruelty to Animals

Wall Street Journal, 24 December 2019, p. A6

U.S. HALTS BOMB-SNIFFER DOG PROGRAM AFTER DEATHS IN EGYPT, JORDAN

by Jessica Donati

The U.S. has stopped providing bomb-sniffing dogs to Egypt and Jordan after an investigation disclosed that several dogs in those countries died because of mistreatment and neglect, U.S. officials said Monday.

The report was triggered by a whistleblower complaint and published by the State Department Office of the Inspector General … prompting the department’s response.

The report found that two dogs died in Jordan of neglect and mistreatment this year, including one death caused by heat stroke and another by poisoning from an insecticide.

Three out of 10 dogs provided to Egypt in August 2018 have died, the report found. Egyptian authorities have refused to grant U.S. personnel access to the dogs or their kennels. The U.S. Embassy has requested medical reports for the dogs that died this year.

Hedgebrook to Self: There’s Always Centrum

Years ago, when Calyx Publisher Margarita Donnelly was still alive, she told self about Hedgebrook. She said, It’s the most magical place. But you can only go once. So don’t waste it.

Self had Hedgebrook, that tantalizing lure, in the back of her mind, for decades. Eventually, she started writing a novel. Then she thought: This could be finally be the project I can apply to Hedgebrook for.

She did not hear back on her application, for almost a year.

Wow, they must have tons of applications, self thought.

Finally, because her landlady was pressuring her to extend her lease, and self didn’t want to do that if she was going to Hedgebrook, she decided to call Hedgebrook.

“Umm, hello,” self said. “Have the results of next year’s residencies already been released?”

Impactful (maybe also painful) silence.

Who is this?

“Marianne Villanueva.”

Another long silence. “The results were announced six months ago. We’ll have someone call you.”

And that’s when self’s gut fell all the way to the bottom of her shoes.

Sure enough, someone did call to tell self she’d been rejected. Not wait-listed. Just flat-out rejected. “There’s Centrum, if you like the area,” said the caller.

“Oh,” self said. “Thanks so much for the recommendation.”

Stay tuned.

Covered California is a Scam

Every day, self gets a message in her in-box: You have until Dec. 15 to sign up for mandatory health insurance.

Then: GET HELP PICKING A PLAN BEFORE DECEMBER 15.

Then, a glorious array of plans starting at $871/month, and going up all the way to $3,000/month.

Then,

PLEASE CONTACT US. WE MAY CONNECT YOU TO A MARKETPLACE-REGISTERED AGENT OR BROER WHO WILL CONTACT YOU TO HELP YOU ENROLL, THROUGH A SERVICE WE’VE PARTNERED WITH, HELP ON-DEMAND. AGENTS AND BROKERS ARE TRAINED BY THE MARKETPLACE AND LICENSED IN THEIR RESPECTIVE STATE. THEY ARE USUALLY PAID BY THE INSURANCE COMPANIES WHOSE PLANS THEY SELL.

The above message is giving self all kinds of trills of alarm: “They are USUALLY PAID BY THE INSURANCE COMPANIES WHOSE PLANS THEY SELL.”

These ‘brokers of health’ will get all your vital information, and end up telling you the same thing you know already: Health insurance is mandatory, here are the plans: $871/month, $918/month, $1,001/month, $1,300/month.

When the IRS penalty is $700, doesn’t it make better financial sense to pay the penalty, which is less than even just one month’s premium?

Even on a plan, annual deductible is $6300, so you would be paying roughly $12,000 year and some, FOR ROUTINE CARE.

Self tried yesterday to enroll in a national health insurance plan. As soon as the rep learned self was a California resident, she said, “Sorry, can’t help you. You have to choose a plan from Covered California.”

The system of health care in the United States is in the hands of snake-oil salesmen.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Dear California Residents: Health Insurance is Now REQUIRED

Self receives an e-mail informing her that she has 84 days to sign up for a health plan if she wants to avoid an IRS penalty.

After providing the necessary information on yearly income, age, gender etc. here are the choices self was given: (If below $70,000 annual income, you may qualify for financial aid!!! Of course, everyone in California earns AT LEAST $70,000/yr. Because if you don’t, and you live here, you have got to be pretty stupid. Just sayin’. Plumbers and electricians start at $160/hour.)

Of course, you could always go the Do-It-Yourself/Home Depot route. And enroll in classes like Do-It-Yourself Drywall or How to Wield a Plumber’s Wrench and Do It With Confidence. Pray you never mess up.

Kaiser Permanente

  • Monthly Premium: $916.71
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

CCHP Health Plan

  • Monthly Premium: $1,085.67
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

Blue Shield

  • Monthly Premium: $1,229. 14
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

Health Net

  • Monthly Premium: 1,303.65
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

How exciting that self is being given an opportunity to sign up for $1,000/month medical insurance! Will you just look at that stellar array of choices, ranging from $1085.67 to 1,303.65. And she thought paying $500/month for COBRA was bad!

When’s the deadline to start paying $1,000/month? Dec. 15.

Whew! She’d rather put off paying $1,000/month to the last possible moment. That way, she has until Dec. 15 to feel not-so-poor.

Self wonders who came up with this genius plan to get all California residents on health insurance. Medical insurers?

Of course, now she feels very very embarrassed that she cares so little about her health that she even considered NOT getting health insurance.

But now the government is forcing her to action! No more prevaricating!

WAIT: The IRS penalty is only $700.

To avoid it, self was actually considering paying $1,000 a month.

lol lol lol

This is what self will do: She will CALL THE IRS and ask them what the worst thing they can do to her is.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Fans Deserved Better. The Characters Deserved Better.

It’s only been a few days, but already self wants to forget.

She agrees with what USA Today’s Kelly Lawler says below:

‘Game of Thrones’ Ends with a Whimper

This isn’t what we signed up for.

When Game of Thrones premiered eight years ago, it was instantly clear that the series was something different. It was a story that broke the conventions of the fantasy genre, not one that was a slave to them. Tragedy and injustice were as baked into the series’ identity as dragons and battles.

But that’s not the show that aired its finale Sunday night. In the final episode, The Iron Throne, the show was unrecognizable. It was hacky; it was cliched. Every character left standing received a saccharine coda. Closure is one thing, but pandering is entirely another.

The Iron Throne would have been a fine ending for a different kind of TV show. It would have been a satisfying landing for a series that had long warmed hearts.

Self still can’t bring herself to watch the last three episodes in their entirety. She only watched the last half of the finale, just before Jon sticks a sword into Dany and she dies with nary a WHY? Or a look of wounded betrayal. Come on! Jon didn’t look anguished when he did it. The whole scene was so by-the-numbers. Empty, empty, empty. And for a series that dominated self’s life for at least eight years, that is a huge disappointment.

Stay tuned.

Jane Austen Feels It Necessary To

Defend the novel.

Northanger Abbey, p. 34:

Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers.

Dracarys!

Dracarys! Dracarys! So bored with Dracarys but whatever, there’s another episode tomorrow, self’s attitude is somewhat tepid. Meh?

This morning, in front of Paradiso, there was a man (who looked exactly like a hippy, even though this is Cork) holding up a sign that said FREE HUGS. It was ADORABLE. There were people actually enthusiastically hugging each other. And self was so slow grabbing her camera that she got nothing.

Anyhoo, back to Game of Thrones. This is a penultimate episode — YES! Who knew that self is almost regretting how much time she had to spend to: a) sign up for HBO Now; b) un-sign-up for HBO Now when she found out it didn’t work in England; c) sign up for Sky TV; d) find out how VPN works (Honestly, before she left the States, she had no idea what VPN was)

She has not yet managed to finish watching Episode 4. It is really, really hard to watch,  ESPECIALLY the Brienne/Jamie hook-up which generates NO HEAT WHATSOEVER. Also it is hard to watch Joe Dempsie doing probably the worst acting of his life (Who is that he’s pretending to be? That’s not Gendry! Just an HBO construct! He might be off the show now — except for maybe five seconds in the finale. He might be luckier than Arya, though. SHE has to keep up that stone-cold assassin act all the way to the bitter end. And, girl, you’re doing yourself no favors by suddenly assuming the mantle of Savior of All Mankind. Just look at what happened to Emilia Clarke. Being a Messiah really interferes with a performance)

A Forbes writer was saying something about how easy it was for Euron to kill a dragon, all he had to do was aim his “magical giant ballista” at “a measly dragon” and self does agree that it is pretty ludicrous, twice as ludicrous because it’s EURON and all he does is chew up scenery. It would have been better to have CERSEI aim the “magical giant ballista” but the script has her everlastingly stuck on a stone balcony, bringing her A+ sneer game.

Self will watch the opening credits. If it doesn’t have a particular name, YAWN she won’t bother watching.

Stay tuned.

The Night King: Another Missed Opportunity

So Arya killed the Night King, stabbing him in the exact same place he was stabbed by the Children of the Forest.

The Children of the Forest haven’t appeared much in the series (hopefully they’ll be in the prequel) but the image of a blade plunging into the chest of a captive man is, you have to admit, super-arresting and chilling.

And here is an image from an article in Den of Geek, which asks: Could the Night King actually have been a Stark?

was-once-one-of-the-first-men-1557161292.jpg

Which again makes self super-despondent because it reminds her that in the last two episodes EVER of Game of Thrones, the bad guys will be played by the tag team of Cersei/Euron, even though, to self’s mind, the Lannisters are pretty much done (except for Tyrion, who’s turned into such a sad sack)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Snark: Game of Thrones S8: E4

How much did self hate this episode? She couldn’t even get beyond the first 10 minutes.

Spectacle and ‘big’ scenes that make no sense make for very poor storytelling.

At least, in Episode 3, Melisandre was there to lend some gravitas to the proceedings. Even then, Arya killing the Night King was a bit — too easy. There was so much footage of her stuck in a library and dodging the wights (good extended sequence). Suddenly, Melisandre shows, reminds Arya to say “Not today” and Arya mysteriously runs away. Only to re-appear at the exact moment the Night King reaches for his sword to behead (?) Bran. (Oh, that was super-tops of Bran to remain so still — even, abject — in his wheelchair. Self has not liked Bran for a few seasons, but in this season he is positively shining)

Self cannot believe the last two episodes EVER of Game of Thrones are going to have so much Euron. He’s like the Iron Man of the series and he does not deserve it. Go away, Euron. Instead of more Euron chewing the scenery, we could have had small, quiet moments of connection between Brienne/Jaime (not sex) and Arya and Gendry and Jon and Ghost.

Oh, and after all the angst of Tormund/Brienne/Jamie, Tormund sees the writing on the wall and basically goes, Oh well! I’ll just lose myself with two whores. What? Not even a tear shed for what-might-have-been? Oh well. Guess he wasn’t as hung up on Brienne as the show led us to believe.

The happiest ending for the show would be for Sansa to take everything — have her stomping over Danaery’s corpse with some really kickass Dominatrix boots.

Arya is not a character anymore. She’s just a stone-cold assassin. Without Gendry, her character has no depth. Her interactions with Gendry in Episodes 1 and 2 were the most unforced interactions we’ve had on Game of Thrones for quite a while. These two just have a natural chemistry (See: Forge scene, Episode 2). It’s a crime to have her utter nonsense to Gendry like: “Anyone would be happy to be your lady” blah blah. It’s even more of a crime that Gendry goes down on one knee to propose. And what fool told Gendry to make his eyes super-big and round for that scene? Joe Dempsie is one of the most natural actors on the show. Here he obediently followed directions instead of going with his instincts. If you want to know what should have been on camera but got left out, go read the New York Times interview with Dempsie.

So, Gendry is tied to Dany now whereas before he was tied to Jon. So in the big battle, Gendry will be against the Starks. This truly, truly sucks. Will Arya have to kill him? Oooh!

Stay tuned.

2020: The Race

So far, five Democrats have declared their candidacy:

  • Of the five, four are women. FOUR.
  • One mayor, Julian Castro, from San Antonio, TX, a state that is greatly impacted by the issues of the border wall. This Stanford grad delivered part of his speech in Spanish.

It is clear which groups are most angered by Trump.

We are outraged by the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and by the male posturing of the President and his enablers: Senators McConnell and Graham. By the hypocrisy of Senator Susan Collins.

Also clear: Democracy won’t die with Trump.

Stay tuned.

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