Wednesday, October 31, 2018

International Hard or Feature News

Brits spent £419 million on Halloween this year

UK candy

Research predicted that British people would spend more than 419 million pounds this year on Halloween candy (or "sweets" as they call them), pumpkins, costumes, decorations and food (one assumes that they mean party food). This is a 5% rise from last year.

What People Spent Their Money On (2017)

Halloween's origins came from the pagan festivals in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, but Halloween itself (especially trick-or-treating, and costume parties) was not as big in the UK until fairly recently. Many believe that's because of the popularity of Halloween in the U.S. Halloween popularity grew more in the past 40 years in the U.S., and now it's very big, even with adults, and those traditions have gone back over to the UK, since they get a lot of our movies, TV etc.  Some in the UK are not happy that Halloween has been combined with, or eclipsed, their Guy Fawkes Day celebration, which is November 5th.  Since that ritual historically involves burning a Catholic in effigy, which is now controversial, people in the UK may turn to Halloween as a better alternative.

In 2017, 52% of people in the UK spent money on Halloween. By contrast, almost 70% of people in the U.S. celebrate Halloween, spending 9 billion dollars. The UK may have a long way to go before they reach anywhere near the levels of Halloween mania in the U.S.

Me in costume, wishing you a Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2018


Playing the Lottery

 Powerball and Mega Millions

Recently, there were two big lottery jackpots in the U.S. The Mega Millions jackpot was over 1.5 billion, while the Powerball was about $688 million. Those are very large numbers. Most people would love to have that much money, even if they had to share it with another winner.  When surveyed, most people say they would share their lottery win with others (presumably family or friends). Almost as many said they would invest it. The rest would quit their jobs, pay off their houses or travel. With that much money, though, you could do all of the above.

 Lottery loser

Many winners end up spending or losing it allOne couple built a water park. Another created a trust for her family and named it after her favorite dessert, rainbow sherbet (which she bought along with her lottery ticket). Another put money into campaigning for marijuana legalization.  Experts say you should be prudent: Hire a good financial advisor. Don't quit your job. Save your money for the future. They also advise you to help out relatives, take a vacation and spend some of the money on yourself.  If you buy a ticket with a group from work, make sure to be careful beforehand, taking these steps, so that there are no hard feelings afterwards if you win.

Mega Millions odds

A lot of people love to buy lottery tickets, especially when the jackpot is so large. However, your odds of winning are very low.  The odds of winning either jackpot were 1 in 300 million. According to this math professor, the odds are 0.00000033 percent, or basically zero.  You're more likely to get struck by lightning, or give birth to quintuplets without fertility drugs, or be killed by a vending machine. Here is a list of very silly things that are more likely to happen to you than winning. One smart man used math to win the lottery in various countries, including the U.S., but they changed it so that no one can do that any more.

progressive slot machine

 You're much more likely to strike it rich if you go to Vegas and play a progressive slot machine (around 1 in 25 million). However, playing the lottery only costs $1 or so, while it will cost you a lot more to drive or fly to Las Vegas and stay in a hotel. However, if you play at a local casino, such as Oaklawn in Hot Springs, your odds aren't all that much different than winning in Vegas (this varies by state). Blackjack has the best odds, though, followed by craps and roulette.  Slot machines and the Big Wheel have worse odds than the other games. Good luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Sandra Day O'Connor

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor released a statement Tuesday that she's retiring from public life completely, due to being in the early stages of dementia.  Brooke Blevins of Baylor University admired O'Connor (the first woman on the Supreme Court) and her commitment to education, particularly in the area of civics. She discussed that in a statement yesterday.

screencap of iCivics web site

O'Connor started the online learning program iCivics.  Specifically, it's "free online interactive games and curriculum designed to teach the core principles of civics to middle and high school students." Dr. Blevins was one of the first to study the effectiveness of iCivics. Justice O'Connor honored Dr. Blevins and her associate, Dr. Karon LeCompte, for their research.

Dr. Brooke Blevins

Baylor University has a summer program (iEngage Summer Civics Institute) where they implement the principals learned in the program. Dr. Blevins hopes that the country will commit to educating our youth about civics and understanding their role as informed, active voters in society. She praised Justice O'Connor's legacy, which she said had a "deep impact" on her life and work.  Coincidentally, O'Connor retired from the court in 2005 to take care of her late husband, who had Alzheimer's.

Sandra Day O'Connor being sworn in

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Listening Posts (Campus or Community)

Listening Post graphic from

In journalism, a "listening post" is a place where the press can get information, news, or sources, such as the police station.  In this assignment, we've been directed to talk about the listening posts in our own lives.  Not being a traditional student, I don't live on campus, so I don't get very many opportunities to speak with other students. When I do, it's on a very casual basis.  Also, we've only lived in Magnolia for a few years, so we don't know very many people outside of the university.

students chatting graphic from

This is my third year of being a student at SAU, so I know a lot more people than I used to. Since it's a small campus, I run into people I know quite often now. In my first class this semester, in fact, I've had conversations with some of the students, especially those who are also not traditional students. There are at least 5 of us "older" students in there, and I chat with some of them before and after class.  I'm always running into someone I know, though, on campus, or at campus events like the football games.

No Sex Race Religion Politics graphic from

My husband and I make a point not to discuss anything controversial with our acquaintances. It's hard to have a less-than-superficial discussion with people if you're avoiding anything controversial, though. Still, it's important, especially if you live in a small town, to avoid discussing topics that might be touchy. Like most people we grew up with, we were taught never to discuss sex, religion or politics in "polite company," so we mostly adhere to that.

ladies having lunch cartoon from

I meet with a small group of people for lunch when I'm on campus (I only come in Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester). Some of the women that work for Aramark go to lunch around 11am, which is right after my class, so I usually sit with them. They know me, since I've been coming there so often, for a few years now.  We're all around the same general age, so it makes it nice to have someone to chat with about things like marriage, family, household, diseases, etc. Sometimes I do hear some good gossip about people at the university, or in Magnolia. I think this is probably the closest thing I have to a local listening post.

funny cartoon from

I don't mean to sound like I don't talk to younger people, because I do; but as I said, not very much.  I sometimes run into people from my photography class last year, or from one of my other Mass Comm classes, and it's always nice to catch up.  Sometimes I even get a hug! 😁 It's also nice to talk to the people in this class, and sometimes I come early and hear them talking. It can be very fun to listen to the chatter.

Our house is next to only one other house, in a cul-de-sac, so I do sometimes talk with my neighbor, and she loves to gossip and tell stories. I've heard some interesting things from her about the town and about some of the people in it. I don't know most of my other neighbors. We mostly just wave when we pass each other. I walk my dog, Brandy, quite often, so that's when I see most of them. I see other dog walkers, and sometimes we chat for a few minutes. Or I'll chat briefly with the kids down the street when they pet the dog.

professors at an SAU event in August

We go to many functions at the university that seem like parties or dinners, but they're all work-related for my husband. For me, they're more social, but they're not people I know, so it's all casual conversation.  Occasionally I will hear something interesting. There was a dinner we went to a few years ago where the local D.A. was sitting near us, and he was a great story-teller. He had many interesting things to say. Unfortunately, he passed away last year.  Apparently he was quite a good friend to SAU, too.  I enjoy going to Mulegating and other functions, but they don't really allow for much conversation.  We've had some of my husband's colleagues over for dinner, and that's a lot of fun, but for the most part, it's all work-related, not "just for fun." There's very little news that's discussed, and if there is, it's about people or issues on campus that I don't know.

The only other people I talk to are those who I've paid for repairs or something else. I don't have my own car, so I pay someone to give me a ride to school, or sometimes shopping.  The current driver is Trisha, who's really nice, and I enjoy talking to her. We get along very well.

Facebook Friends Day video screencap

I hope I don't sound too boring, or lonely, or desperate for friends! It's just that if you move often, like we do, it's hard to keep making friends. I have many friends, but they're all over the world. I keep in touch with them via phone, email, and social media (mostly Facebook). That's probably where most of my "listening post" is. I spend quite a bit of time every day on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, texting, and email. Some of it is work-related, but the rest is not. I have 2 Facebook accounts, 3 Twitter Accounts, 2 Instagram accounts, and 3 main email accounts that I check regularly.

I don't plan to become a "regular" news reporter. I plan to keep writing TV articles and reviews, and interviewing TV people (as I already do on my website). So my "listening post" is more online, and on TV, than in town. If I lived in L.A. or New York, then it might be different. I would probably have some local entertainment sources that I could interview in person rather than by phone or internet. I would get to know the local people and have more sources.

screencap of the Magnolia Banner-News

While I live here in Magnolia, I do read the local newspapers online. We used to always subscribe to the local paper, wherever we lived, but they do a poor job of holding the paper when we're out of town (which is often), so we stopped subscribing. I wish there was a better way of connecting with other people in town and finding out what's going on. When I first moved here, I was shocked that there was no public transportation (among other things), and I had a hard time finding people to do things, like plumbers, repair men etc. Eventually I did find some, but it took quite a while.  Websites like Craigslist don't deal with people in small towns, so they're not very helpful. I'm sure that most people who live here get their local information when they go to church, or meet people through their children's schools, or other local/family events.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Public Records (State, National, International)

A company in California called  Urgent Dogs of L.A. (UDLA) has been ordered to Cease and Desist because of numerous violations, mostly relating to failure to apply for tax exempt status in time and claiming they were tax exempt on their Instagram page when they weren't.

They also claimed on Instagram that particular dogs were at their place, when they were at other shelters. They used photos of the dogs to get donations.  They also implied in a video that the Attorney General of the State of California had approved of their donations. These are deceptive advertising methods of which the state doesn't approve.

They were ordered to pay fines totalling $20,000 and to provide an accounting of their assets, payments, and all contracts and leases as well. The person named in the Cease and Desist order is Jonathan Cossu (AKA Jonny Preston); he will have to pay the fines and provide the material, and he may also be arrested.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Public Records (Local)


Dr. Tsunao Saitoh and his 11-year-old daughter, Louille, were murdered in May 8, 1996 outside their home in La Jolla. Dr. Saitoh was a  research neuroscientist at UCSD; they were returning from his lab. Someone shot them in their own driveway. Neighbors heard the shots but didn't call the police. He was found slumped in his car; Louille had run a short distance before being shot.

This is a cold case. They know what kind of gun killed them (a Grendel P-12 .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol), but there are no suspects. Saitoh was a well-respected scientist and had no enemies as far as police could find. He and his daughter don't appear to have been involved in any kind of high risk activities.  Saitoh was researching Alzheimer's Disease.

The shooting may have been a professional murder, but there's no way yet to know for sure. This article has some wild theories about this. The police have ruled out robbery as a motive. Saitoh was estranged from his wife. The police are very interested in any information about this crime.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Campus Hard or Feature News

CommUniversity Day banner

Stony Brook University had a community fair Saturday, September 22, to improve community relations and let the locals know that they're welcome on campus any time.

open air market
The four-hour fair, CommUniversity Day, featured many fun university activities, such as marching band, dance and choral performances, science demonstrations, the traditional Stony Brook rubber duck races, and an ice cream social. Video

article about housing issues

 Historically, Stony Brook students haven't felt very welcomed by the local community. Inexpensive student housing is very difficult to find in the upscale area, and there have been many complaints in the past few years about noise from students and other housing code violations. Many of the complaints have come from the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners organization.

Bruce Sander
 Bruce Sander, leader of the group, was impressed by Stony Brook's efforts and hope that they can continue to discuss the problems.  The first 3,000 visitors received a free reusable tote bag. Photos

marching band

Final Project: Visual Journalism

2018 Best TV Comedies