Literal Storybook Setting For Sale Off English Coast

Usually murder mysteries involve sleuthing to determine whodunnit. In real life, the current question is “Who’ll buy it?” The object in question isn’t a dead body but a small body of land just off the southwest English coast. Burgh Island, a favorite retreat of the “Queen of Crime” and the inspiration for the setting of two of her books, is up for grabs. With a price tag around $19 million, the list of suspects is likely to be shorter than those in one of Agatha Christie’s crime novels.

The pricey real estate for sale is a 26-acre tidal island off Britain’s southwestern county of Devon. At low tide, Burgh Island is accessible on foot or by car from Bigbury-on-Sea, a town facing the eastern side of the island. At high tide, however, the connecting land is submerged. Those wanting access then may take a sea tractor across. This vehicle’s wheels are submerged for the crossing at high tide while the driver and passengers stay dry sitting on an elevated platform above the water.

Britain has over 6,000 islands around its coast. So, what makes Burgh Island off the rugged Devonshire coast so special? And special it is. Over the years, this small island has been a popular escape for the rich and famous who have flocked to the Burgh Island Hotel originally built in 1929. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson frequented the site, and the Beatles stayed there in the 1960s when playing a concert in Plymouth, some 13 miles away. The hotel’s website describes the place as where Agatha Christie made her “second home.”

But Burgh Island’s history stretches back long before the hotel was built and the wealthy descended. Included in the sale of the island and the hotel is the over 700 year old Pilchard Inn. This 14th century tavern originally served local fishermen and was a haunt of smugglers. The pub is one of the oldest in the UK.

War interrupted the glitz and glamour which had been offered by the island’s hotel in the 1920s and 1930s. During World War II, the site was transformed into a recovery center for wounded Royal Air Force personnel. President Dwight Eisenhower is rumored to have met with Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the hotel before D-Day.

The Burgh Island Hotel is a Grade II listed white art deco hotel. In the UK, a “listed building” is a structure of particular architectural and/or historic interest which is deserving of special protection. “Art deco,” as it is familiarly called, is an influential arts design style taking it name from the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industrials Modernes” held in Paris in 1925. This style favored clean lines and colors which were often bright.

Twenty-five bedrooms and suites are available for guests at the Burgh Island Hotel. These rooms and suites are named after famous guests who’ve stayed there. Planning approval has already been obtained to add twelve more guest rooms. And for pampered pooches, dog-friendly rooms are an option.

For Agatha Christie fans Agatha’s Beach House, built in the 1930s as a writer’s retreat for the famous author, is a big draw. This retreat was situated right on the sea nestled in the island’s rockface. Burgh Island clearly spoke to her as it inspired the settings for two of her books, Evil Under The Sun and And Then There Were None.

The hotel, which is situated on 21acres of the island, offers sea views from all rooms, fine dining, and cocktails in an area with a grand glass ceiling. But the natural beauty of the island also offers guests much to appreciate. Wildlife may be observed, and walks may be taken along the cliffs. An extensive network of footpaths along with a mermaid pool, a naturally enclosed body of seawater, provide ample opportunity for delightful physical activity. And when it’s time to leave, the tide isn’t necessarily a consideration for transportation; a helipad allows arrivals and departures by helicopter.

As grand and amazing as Burgh Island sounds, staying there, much less purchasing it, isn’t in the cards for me. While I’d revel in its natural beauty and be thrilled to see what inspired the incomparable Agatha Christie, I’m not sure I could truly relax. If readers learned anything from her Evil Under The Sun, it’s that, well, evil is in beautiful places just like Burgh Island. Could I walk along the cliff’s edge wondering which other guest might be pushed over the edge to their death below? Could I be a target? And if Poirot’s curtain has gone down, who’d solve the murder?

In any event, $19 million for a writer’s retreat simply isn’t in my budget. Even if my Word Weavers writers’ group pitched in, we’d still fall short of a reasonable counter-offer. Alas, I’ll need to get my Agatha Christie fix another way. I’ve got tickets for a local theater group’s production of “And Then There Were None” in early June. While the set will sadly not come close to Burgh Island’s beauty, I do have a good imagination. And a $25 ticket to see Stagecrafters put this play on is affordable. (For info on their production, go to:

If you can’t afford purchasing Burgh Island either, why not consider spending $19.99 plus tax to buy my annotated version of Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys? The book’s available at: Sorry, the main setting is an English countryside manor instead of an island, but the book is still an entertaining read with much to be learned from the annotations and bonus material. I’ll even set aside money I make from the book towards purchasing Burgh Island some day. And if I’m successful in that aim, those who bought my book will get invites to an Agatha Christie party there.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Who do you think will buy Burgh Island? Have you ever stopped to wonder what places inspired the settings of fiction books you read? How would you feel staying on an island that inspired settings where murders took place?


Hot, Hot, Hot! — Jury Rules McDonald’s Fare Too Hot To Handle

Hot off the press last week came news that a jury found McDonalds liable for selling a chicken nugget too hot to handle. The tasty tidbit was so hot it caused second degree burns on a four year old’s leg. But she didn’t deserve a burn that day, so a verdict against the company known for its golden arches resulted. What nuggets of information and observation can we “take out” of this food fiasco?

The Happy Meal a mother ordered back in 2019 at a McDonald’s in Tamarac, Florida didn’t have a happy ending for anyone. After receiving her order at the restaurant’s drive-through, the woman passed the food to her children in the back seat. As she drove down the road, her four year old started screaming, so the woman pulled over and check on her child. The problem? A hot chicken nugget was burning the girl’s leg. The quick-thinking mom whipped out her iPhone and took a picture of the burns and recorded her daughter’s screams.

To no one’s surprise, a lawsuit soon followed. The complaint named both McDonald’s and the franchise owner, Upchurch Foods, as defendants. The plaintiff claimed these defendants had failed to warn customers about the dangerous temperature of the chicken nuggets. While all parties agreed the nugget caused the child’s burns, they disagreed on the nugget’s temperature. The girl’s mother claimed the chicken nuggets were “unreasonably and dangerously hot” at around 200 degrees. The defendants took the position the food had to be hot to avoid salmonella poisoning; according to them, the temperature was only 160 degrees. Both temperatures sound hot, hot, hot to me.

A two-day trial ensued. The victim, who was left scarred by the burns to her leg, did not testify as she is autistic. In good news for the fast food giant, the jury determined McDonalds had not been negligent and dismissed the plaintiff’s argument the product served was defective. Nevertheless, McDonalds was found liable for failing to provide instructions regarding the safe handling of its food. Additionally, the franchise holder was found liable for negligence and failure to warn customers about the risk of hot food. Further court proceedings will be held to determine the amount of damages which must be paid to the plaintiff. I’m betting it won’t be chicken feed.

What a sad event in the history of chicken nuggets. Debuting in 1983, the fast food favorite came into being as a response to a 1977 government report urging Americans to eat less red meat. Too much red meat could cause a heart attack. To avoid killing customers by its burger-heavy menu, McDonald’s turned to chicken to combat this peril.

And McDonalds was serious about producing good chicken nuggets. It hired world-renowned, Luxembourg born chef Rene Arend to create this new menu item. If the chef who’d been called upon to make dinner for Queen Elizabeth II and for the King of Belgium could make royals happy, certainly he could titillate the taste buds of the common throngs eating at fast food restaurants.

These poultry morsels sold as McNuggets are made from ground chicken–boneless white meat taken from the breast, rib, and tenderloins. The ground meat is seasoned, mixed, and pressed into molds with one of four shapes: ball, bell, bone, and boot. The shaped chicken mixture is covered with a light tempura batter. Although McDonald’s menu item McNuggets contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, deep-frying is involved. Please raise your hand if you do NOT understand deep frying involves placing meat in extremely hot oil making whatever is pulled from it hot as blazes for awhile.

Apparently Americans have a difficult time understanding food items served hot might possibly burn them and care should be used. Back in the 1990’s McDonald’s was sued by a woman who suffered third degree burns, ultimately needing a skin graft, from hot coffee that spilled in her lap. In that case, as in the recent McNuggets case, a customer purchasing from the drive-through window with the order being consumed in a car was involved. The coffee purchaser decided she wanted cream in her coffee and placed the steaming hot coffee between her legs to steady the cup while she pried the lid off to add it. She didn’t get to enjoy cream-enhanced coffee, but she did emit some screams.

Despite the questionable wisdom of the customer’s actions, a New Mexico jury awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages to the coffee-drinking plaintiff as a result of McDonald’s “reckless” actions in serving hot, hot, hot coffee. That monetary award, which was entered even though the plaintiff was found 20% at fault in the incident, was later substantially reduced. This “Hot Coffee case” became the poster case for what the public viewed as frivolous lawsuits.

Thirty years later society finds itself in the same position. Customers are upset when they are given what they ordered–hot menu items. Hello! Hot means that you might burn yourself and should proceed with caution. Isn’t supervising children who are eating hot food items and not placing hot beverages between your legs just plain common sense? Well, as they say, “common sense isn’t so common.” Is McDonald’s really expected to warn people to hold the coffee cup in their hands or put it in a cup holder–not between your legs?

What’s next? Will there be a lawsuit by a customer who gets “brain freeze” from eating a cold McFlurry? By one who chokes on French fry because they swallowed it whole without chewing it? Aren’t those consequences which might be expected? McDonald’s isn’t a customer’s mother and shouldn’t have to tell its customer something they should be able to figure out themselves. If it serves a defective product, such as meat containing salmonella, then of course McDonald’s should ante up, but it can’t be responsible for everything. Consumers need to act responsibly, and just because someone is hurt does not automatically mean the seller is accountable.

Let’s give the courts a break today by nipping lawsuits like the hot coffee and chicken McNuggets one in the bud by preventing them from arising. Think before eating. Blow first and avoid a lawsuit later.

WONDER-ing Woman:

What do you think a restaurant should warn you about regarding their food? Do you expect hot foods will be hot and might burn someone eating/drinking them if they aren’t careful? What’s the best way for a restaurant to give a warning about food to a customer?

Reading, Writing, and Raccoons–Masked Invaders Fall From Ceiling at Texas High School

As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about with gun violence at schools, now some Texas parents are concerned about masked invaders dropping into the classroom–literally. Nothing to disrupt the lesson like a raccoon falling from the ceiling. Yes, an Austin high school is faced with raccoons roaming the halls and scaring students. Well, at least the students are learning about raccoons in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Yes, it’s furry times at Austin’s McCallum High School where sightings of raccoons soared in April. Six catches and releases were documented in the span of a three days. Some students witnessed an assistant principal and resource officer cornering a masked invader under a stool before coaxing it outside. Hmm. Do you think the released raccoons just came back to scamper down the hallowed halls of learning again?

One day three separate raccoons were captured within an hour’s time. Sounds like the basis of a great math word problem to me, i.e.. If the school resource officer nabs eight raccoons during the school day, how many raccoons does he capture in an hour?

Two of the critters entered the school’s main hallway together through a weak ceiling tile; they then proceeded in opposite directions to check out the campus. Another raccoon emerged from a school bathroom; however, it turned and ran the other way when it saw people. Maybe he had a guilty conscience from “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room.”

A close encounter of the raccoon kind occurred in a classroom. A student was startled during class when a raccoon plunged from the ceiling and landed on the floor within close proximity. What a great conversation piece when the student’s mom asked if anything interesting happened in school that day.

Not all of the invading critters the McCallum HS staff are forced to deal with are alive though. The rotting corpse of a dead raccoon had to be removed from the school’s walls. In addition to being a gruesome sight, the smell it emitted tormented the school’s students.

Why are the raccoons targeting this high school? Well, the building is seventy years old, so it likely offers holes and loose ceiling tiles which the furry omnivores take advantage of to gain access. Reporters for the high school’s newspaper researched the varmint problem and discovered articles about infestations from the 1990s, the early 2000s, and the 2010. Raccoons have, apparently, been around for awhile and like the premises.

Surprisingly (at least to me) the raccoon is an intelligent and inquisitive creature. Perhaps they are drawn to the school’s learning environment and are attempting to further their education.

But what are raccoons doing in an urban environment? Aren’t they forest creatures. Nope. They are now EVERYWHERE. Because of its adapta-bility, the raccoon is able to use urban areas as a habitat. To live in any area, all it needs is food, water, and cover. Schools such as McCallum HS fit that bill with the school building providing shelter, water available in bathrooms, and food to be found in the cafeteria. Who knows? Maybe the raccoons are drawn by the aroma of mystery meat and, unlike the students, enjoy eating it.

The raccoon invasion at the Texas high school offers the opportunity to learn about these animals. Native to North America, raccoons are easily identified by their “bandit mask,” black fur circling their eyes which assists against glare, and their ringed tails. Grayish-brown body fur leads to a ringed-tail. Usually raccoons are nocturnal, but they can be active during the day to avail themselves of food sources. Their small body, typically weighing between 11 and 26 pounds, is still big enough to scare students whom they fall next to from a ceiling.

While these furry invaders don’t carry guns, they might, some parents fear, carry rabies. Raccoons, along with foxes, bats, and skunks, are deemed a primary carrier of the rabies virus in the US. According to the Center for Disease Control, however, only one human has ever died from a raccoon strain of rabies. But would any parent want their child to be victim #2?

Raccoons do provide some benefits by their presence. With their broad taste palate, they help to control insects and rodent populations. Let’s give the McCallum HS parents a multiple choice test with one question. Which do you prefer: A. raccoons running rampant in the school B. insects and rodents running rampant in the school C. Neither A nor B. (If asked, I’d choose answer C.)

While school officials place humane traps, catch and release raccoons, fix loose ceiling tiles, and ramp up hallway and bathroom monitoring, McCallum HS could have some fun with the raccoons’ presence. Maybe a raccoon could become the school’s temporary mascot. Raccoon drills could supplement shooter drills.

Even better, the history teachers could offer a new unit–The Impact Of The Raccoon On US History.” Students would learn some interesting tidbits like raccoon meat was commonly eaten by Native Americans and early European settlers. (Yuk! I’d pass.) Raccoons also played an important role in the North American fur industry in the 19th century. In fact, having a raccoon coat was all the rage for the sporting set back then.

A raccoon even received a pardon from President Calvin Coolidge. The menu for an upcoming Thanksgiving dinner at the White House included raccoon meat. Coolidge stepped in to spare the furry animal and thereafter adopted Rebecca as his pet. Aww! Rebecca Raccoon. Don’t you just love alliteration?

Sadly, with all the violence in the world today, including and especially with shootings at schools, having a raccoon problem in a high school doesn’t seem so awful in comparison. In a perfect world, students could focus on learning and not worry about being shot by an assault-rifle bearing intruder or having a possibly rabies-carrying raccoon with insect and/or rodent breath fall from the ceiling on them. Let’s hope McCallum HS makes the best of a bad situation by being thankful they have the lesser of the two possible problems and take advantage of the chance to learn more about raccoons with whom we share the world–and sometimes a school building.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Be honest. What was your first reaction to learning raccoons were running around in a school? Did you laugh? Cringe? Scratch your head? Should teachers embrace the idea of “when life gives you raccoons, make a raccoon lesson out of it”? If so, how?

Pollen Storm Rages — Prolific Production Something To Sneeze At

Ah, the joys of spring–blooming flowers, warmer temperatures, the start of the baseball season. But spring also provides an upsurge in allergic reactions to pollen, the yellow stuff that brings you the blooming flowers and multiple soundings of AH-choo. Bad as any allergies in the spring are, worse is that a pollen storm is upon us, and it’s not limited merely to springtime.

Over the last few years allergists have noted a disturbing trend. New adult patients are seeking help in dealing with seasonal allergies for the first time in their lives. Even established patients are coming in with complaints of significantly worse symptoms than in the past. Allergy symptoms are affecting patients earlier in the year and the symptoms are more severe.

How many people are we talking about? According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 25% of adults had a seasonal allergy in 2021. I’m no math whiz, but this figure is about a quarter of the adult population. That’s a lot of sneezing and annoyance going on and a burden to those who must repeatedly say “Bless you.”

The telltale sign of allergic reaction to pollen is itching which impacts the eyes, nose, and throat. Allergies, in addition to making the sufferer feel miserable, impact sleep quality and cognitive function. As a result, those with allergies seek medical care (increasing the demand for medical providers) and relief from medication both over the counter and prescription. (And we all know how increased demand can turn out from the lack of toilet paper during the COVID crisis.)

Why are allergies worse now than in the past? According to scientists, a big factor pushing adult-onset seasonal allergies is climate change. Research published in 2021 established the pollen season now stretches three weeks longer than it did three decades ago. Climate change has caused the Earth’s core temperature to rise; thus, the ground thaws earlier in the year. The returning warmth triggers trees to flower and produce pollen earlier than ever.

Not only is the season longer, but 20%+ more pollen now contaminates the air. The amount of pollen contained in it has simply exploded. The explanation for this great rise? The combustion of fossil fuels increases carbon dioxide. (Or for those of us who took high school chemistry, CO2.) When carbon dioxide levels rise, trees and plants produce more pollen.

Atlanta allergist Dr. Stanley Fineman calls what’s happening a “pollen storm.” But storms come and go relatively quickly, right? There’s a thunderstorm or a hurricane, and in a matter of a few hours or days, the phenomenon is over. Not so with a pollen storm. It can last year round.

Spring isn’t the only allergy season. In the spring, which admittedly has the highest pollen levels, pollen typically comes from trees. These include the pine, hickory, and juniper trees among others. When summer arrives, grass pollen takes over. Those allergic to grass pollen are said to suffer from “hay fever.” (Don’t ask me why they didn’t call it the obvious “grass fever.”) When it’s fall, weeds, particularly ragweed, take over the pollen production.

Pollen, a fine powdery substance, is one of the most common allergens in the US. It’s an airborne allergen which can be picked up and carried by the wind. Although annoying to humans, this substance is crucial for the environment. It’s a plant’s only form of reproduction allowing fertilization of other plants of its species. Pollen is also an essential food for bees, providing the winged insects with both protein and nutrients. Can you imagine the world without plants and honey? It wouldn’t be a pretty or a sweet place.

Since getting rid of pollen isn’t an option, perhaps modification of human behavior is in order. Aside from lowering our dependence on fossil fuels, humans can also made decisions about where to live and when to go out into the big wide world where pollen is found. People suffer allergies to pollen from different plants, and different plants grow in different locations. Rain and cool weather drop pollen levels. So rainy Seattle might be a better location for some allergy sufferers. On the downside, the price of not sneezing is less sunny weather there.

If pollen is your body’s enemy, a helpful thing to do is to keep an eye on pollen levels. These are the specific pollen level in a particular location. Those who study pollen, which is known as palynology (why not achoo-ology??), can obtain a pollen count from the air to determine pollen levels. The count requires determining the number of grains of pollen in a cubic meter of air. Of course, some pollen must first be collected. How? Take a rod with a sticky substance on it and attach it to a roof and then analyze what’s collected under a microscope to do your count. (I’m not kidding.)

Pollen counts vary from day to day and hour to hour. They are lower in the morning, which would be the best time for outdoor activities. (Mow your lawn and walk your dog early in the day!) Information on current pollen conditions can be found online. According to, 57% of the country is in a medium-high status for pollen counts as I write this. The site provides information specific to your area (search by city or zip code), including what the top allergens are. My area is under siege from oak, hickory, and juniper.

Plants and trees are part of our world. If we want the shade, beautiful greenery, and blooming flowers, then we’re forced to deal with pollen. Knowing this airborne enemy is out there, we need to keep an eye on our surroundings (what the current pollen levels are), plan activities around the environmental conditions (be outdoors in the morning as opposed to other times of day if possible), and seek advice and treatment from an appropriate medical professional when required. While pollen may cause us to sneeze, taking care of ourselves in light of its existence is nothing to sneeze at.

WONDER-ing Woman:

What, if any, allergies do you suffer from? Have you noticed an increase in the pollen visible in your local area, i.e., on cars, etc.? Does the lengthening of the pollen season impact your view of climate change? If so, how?

Finland’s Admittance To NATO Brings Bullying, Beaming, and Beer

The number of domestic mass shootings isn’t the only thing getting bigger these days. The North American Treaty Organization, familiarly known as NATO, has grown too, welcoming a new member–its 31st–in early April. The expansion of the military alliance met with varying reactions across the world, spanning the range of bullying by Russia, beaming by Finns, and the hoisting of a special beer by beer drinkers.

For many adult Americans, NATO is a distant memory from history class during school days. But the organization, established on April 4, 1949 by the signing of a treaty, is alive, well, and gaining in size. To refresh your recollection, or perhaps enlighten you if you napped or passed notes during history class, let’s review some basic facts about NATO.

This defensive alliance was founded at the beginning of the Cold War. The crux of the organization’s existence is the agreement to provide mutual defense. The idea is that an attack on one member is an attack on all; member states must come to the aid of a fellow member who is attacked. NATO stresses it’s solely a defensive alliance; it is not out to “get” or attack any particular country. But, of course, anyone with a brain can figure out what country the group is worried about being an aggressor. (Did you guess Russia?)

NATO has added members as the years have passed. The organization’s current member states consist of 29 European countries and two North American ones (Canada and the US). The total number of members should rise in the near future as Sweden’s application to join is pending. It’s good to know who has pledged to have our country’s back should the US be attacked and to see who Uncle Sam is expected to help if the roles are reversed. For a complete list of countries who belong, see

Finland joining the NATO group may not seem like a big deal, but history says otherwise. The Nordic country was part of the Russian empire until the end of World War I. It then adopted neutrality after World War II. So, for some seven decades, the country has avoided joining the defense alliance. Why? Given that Finland and Russian are neighbors, remaining neutral seemed a logical way to keep peace in their neighborhood.

What happened to change Finland’s long-held stance of non-military alignment? Well, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine alarmed the Finns. (And it alarmed the Ukranians even more!) Could Finland be Russia’s next target? Joining NATO appeared to be a more and more attractive option. Emphasizing this shift in thinking are the results of opinion polls taken by Finnish broadcaster Yle. The poll results showed only ~33% of Finns desired to join NATO in 2018; however, by 2022, that number soared to almost 80%.

Accordingly, Finland applied to become a member of NATO. Following approval of its application, the country was formally added to the defense pact group in a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 4, 2023, the 74th anniversary of the organization’s founding. Woohoo! A double celebration!

Well, not everybody celebrated. This development came as a strategic and political blow to Russia’s president. Vladimir Putin had complained about NATO’s expansion towards Russia in the past. Even prior to Russia invading Ukraine, Put demanded NATO refrain from further expansion. Apparently Russia’s military actions spoke pretty loudly to Finland, triggering its application for NATO membership. Oops! That backfired on Putin, didn’t it? His declared goal was less NATO, and he succeeded in getting the opposite.

Needless to say, Finland’s choice to join the defense alliance went over like a lead balloon in Russia. The Kremlin stated Russia would be forced to take countermeasures. First up? Cyberbullying. A pro-Russian hacker group paralyzed Finland’s parliamentary website. The group, known as NoName057(16), claimed responsibility and noted their actions were in retaliation for Finland joining NATO. Undaunted, Finland remains a NATO member. (I mean, the worst the hackers could do was to lock down a government body website? Really?)

In contrast to Russia’s reaction, NATO leaders are beaming. Adding Finland to their defensive fold effectively doubles the border NATO has with Russia. The northern neighboring countries share a border of ~830 miles. Russia is now exposed a tad more with this expansion. Further, adding the Finnish military is a huge win for NATO. Although the country’s population is only 5.5 million, its military forces are well trained and well equipped to repel a Russian attack. In fact, it has one of the largest artilleries in Europe. Moreover, its very capable military could assist NATO in dominating the Baltic Sea.

The Finns, of course, are excited to have added protection from the defense alliance in case its big (bully) neighbor decides to become aggressive with it. How excited are they about joining NATO, you ask? Why they were so excited that a Finnish brewery in Savonlinna near the Finnish border with Russia launched a new beer to mark the auspicious occasion. Olaf Brewing created an IPA it named OTAN. This name comes from the abbreviation of French words for the pact–Organisation due traite de l’Atlantique nord. Cleverly, this name is also a play on words of the Finnish phrase “Otan ollutta,” meaning “I’ll have a beer.” Continuing its fun with the new beer, the brewery describes the product’s taste as having a “taste of security with a hint of freedom.” The freedom referenced? Finland is expected to follow suit with Norway and decline to allow forces from NATO allies stationed permanently in that country. But if there’s an emergency, those forces will be there to back them up.

The news that NATO has expanded is just the tip of the story’s iceberg. Why a long-standing neutral country chose to join and the reactions of NATO leaders, the Finns, and Russia add much context to the seemingly simple growth of an organization. Digging below the surface provides a better understanding of the development’s importance in world affairs and even offers information on a new beer to drink while discussing this current event. Cheers to NATO’s expansion and our learning the rest of the story!

WONDER-ing Woman:

Without clicking on the link above, how many of the 31 NATO countries can you name? Was Finland’s decision to join NATO a good one or has it simply poked the (Russian) bear? Is it reasonable for Russia to fear NATO expansion?

US Supreme Court Fetches Trademark Case Between Jack Daniel’s and Dog Toy Maker

It’s tough to be a US Supreme Court justice now. When the high court isn’t deciding controversial cases about abortion rights, members are fighting the fallout from Justice Thomas’ acceptance of free travel to exotic and expensive locations. Maybe what they need is a good laugh. And the March 22nd oral argument in Jack Daniel’s Properties v. VIP Products provided just that. I mean, could YOU keep a straight face discussing dog poop?

Slugging it out in the legal arena in this case are two large businesses. In one corner is VIP Products, the second-largest dog toy company in the nation with gross annual revenues of $15 million from its over 500 products. (We Americans do love to spoil our fur babies…) In the other corner is whiskey producer Jack Daniel’s whose Black Label Tennessee Whiskey is the best-selling whiskey in the world. The company owns the oldest registered distillery in the US and has been producing its whiskey under that name since 1875.

What could a dog toy company and a whiskey producer possibly be fighting over and take to the highest court of the land no less? The two are wrangling over a major trademark issue. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies a company’s goods and services. This mark makes the company’s product stand out and be identified with it; so, if another company has a product similar in such a way as to cause confusion in a consumer’s mind as to whom it belongs, a trademark infringement lawsuit could result.

What Jack Daniel’s is barking about is a VIP Products’ dog toy mimicking the shape and look of a bottle and label of Jack Daniel’s Black Label Whiskey Old No. 7. Its idea was to parody the distinctive label and square-shaped whiskey bottle and produce a toy for a dog and a good laugh for its owner. Their product? A squeaky dog toy dubbed “Bad Spaniels” that looks like a botte of said whisky bearing a label identifying it as “Old No. 2.” And the jokes about dog poop came rolling in.

The dog toy causing the brouhaha (or is that barkhaha?) is one in VIP Products’ Silly Squeakers line which began selling in 2014. The toys in this line are given parody names for liquor, sodas, etc. Other Silly Squeakers offerings are Mountain Drool (Mountain Dew), BarkParty (Bacardi), and Doggie Walker (Johnnie Walker Scotch). Apparently those companies didn’t howl about the audacity of VIP Products getting a laugh by parodying their product.

Not amused, however, was Jack Daniel’s. Consumers might (GASP!) confuse the dog toy with their (upscale) product. The liquor company turned its nose up at it–and not because it reference No. 2. Jack Daniel’s filed a lawsuit alleging trademark infringement, i.e., keep your dog toy out of our (sales) yard. Because trademark law is federal law, the court hearing the case was a US District Court.

Jack Daniel’s won round one in this dogfight with the district court ruling in its favor in 2018. Supporting that decision was evidence 29% of potential customers were likely to be confused about Bad Spaniels being affiliated with the liquor brand. Really? Who are these people? Sounds like some potential customers may have been imbibing too much JD if they reached that conclusion. Dog toy and iconic liquor brand. Why, of course, they’d go together–NOT!

But the dog toy had its day in 2020 when an appellate court in 2020 (yes, the wheels of justice grind SLOWLY) partially reversed the lower court’s ruling. Why? The parody was speech–as in free speech. Thus, the dog toy triggered higher First Amendment scrutiny as “an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection.”

Jack Daniel’s wasn’t about to lay down and play dead after the appellate court’s ruling. The company appealed to the US Supreme Court providing the opportunity for it to hear a major trademark case in which free expression duels with trademark law. Is a parody of a trademark considered protected speech under the First Amendment? Or should the main federal statute on trademark, the Lanham Act, apply making the key inquiry whether a likelihood of confusion of the consumer exists? Only the Supreme Court can tell us for sure.

Before the oral argument on March 22nd, various individuals, businesses, and even the government took sides. Unsurprisingly, Nike, Campbell’s, and Levi Strauss aligned themselves with the liquor producer. Respectable business just don’t want their products associated with distasteful things like dog poop. Feeling strongly about this situation, Nike and Levi Strauss filed briefs supporting Jack Daniel’s. The Biden Administration urged the Supreme Court to hear the case; when the court agreed to hear it, the Justice Department sided with the liquor company.

A number of law professors are firmly in the dog toy company’s camp. Their logic? Reason dictates VIP Products wins. VIP’s attorney notes the Bad Spaniels toy is nothing but a parody involving a “pretend trademark on a pretend bottle.” UCLA law professor Mark McKenna agrees commenting “there’s no plausible argument that anyone is buying the Silly Squeaker toy thinking it is a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.” Should a potential buyer bother to look, a tag’s affixed to the toy stating the product is “not affiliated with Jack Daniel’s distillery.”

Oral argument offered the chance to hear high-powered lawyers and Supreme Court justices literally saying “dog poop” and discussing the acceptability of a specific dog toy. Now we can all hold our breaths (like when we’ve discovered dog poop on our shoes) until the high court announces its decision–an event expected to occur before the Supreme Court’s summer recess.

As an attorney, I lean heavily towards the First Amendment’s free speech protection. Even if trademark law were applied, I don’t see how consumers can reasonably confuse a squeaky dog toy with a Jack Daniel’s product. On a more practical level, I’d approach the case as a dog owner. I don’t care who produced the toy or who the product’s affiliated with. I want my dog to be happy; if she’d like it, that’s all I need to know to influence my buying decision if the money’s available to pamper her. And it’s pet owners who are buying these products. Panting to see which side will squeak by with a win (pun intended).

WONDER-ing Woman:

Would you think a dog toy that looks like a liquor bottle was affiliated with the producer of the drink? Does the First Amendment only cover “serious” speech as opposed to humorous speech? Had you heard of this landmark trademark case before this post?

Uproar At School When Students View Renaissance Masterpiece

Everything’s fair game as the source of controversy these days–even teaching students about Renaissance art masterpieces. An uproar erupted at a Florida school recently when sixth grade students were shown pictures of Michelangelo’s the David in art class without prior notification to parents.

Why would this lesson be so controversial as to require advance warning to moms and dads? The Italian artist’s statue features the Biblical figure in the nude. The result of this art lesson? Some enlightened students, a handful of enraged parents, and a principal forced to resign.

Before diving into the school drama, let’s learn about the art object in question. Michelangelo’s statue is an approximately 17 foot tall, 12,478 pound marble sculpture completed in 1504. The figure depicted is the Biblical character of David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath as told in I Samuel 17.

Why would the statue show David nude? Wouldn’t shepherds need some type of protection from bushes, animals, and the elements? The artist’s conception was David was facing the biggest (pun intended) challenge of his life armed (and apparently clad) merely with his faith in God, a novel and inspirational artistic expression. Previously, artwork portrayed David only post-giant-slaying and triumphant; Michelangelo, though, presents him pre-battle and tense.

The Florence Cathedral commissioned this piece of art intending to have it as one of a series of statues positioned along the church’s roofline. Religious leaders weren’t put off by David’s lack of clothing. In fact, they found the workmanship of Michelangelo on the figure’s body to be so beautiful they decided not to place high on the cathedral’s roof, but in the middle of a popular square, the Piazza della Signoria, for all to admire.

Although Michelangelo Buonarotti (familiarly known as “Michelangelo”) is the artist credited for the statue, he didn’t begin the work. An artist named Agostino di Duccio started the project in 1464, using a gigantic gleaming white marble block from a quarry in the Alps of northern Tuscany. But, alas, Agostino, didn’t complete the piece.

Fast forward to 1501. Michelangelo, then only 26 years old, was already the most famous artist of his day. He requested to finish what had previously been started on the huge block of marble. And work on it he did, sculpting away from 1501 – 1504.

After completion, the statue remained displayed in the Piazza della Signoria until 1873 when it was moved to Florence’s Galleria dell Accademia. The statue survived World War II intact to face an attack in 1991 by a hammer-wielding man which damaged its left foot. But given the statue’s age (over 500 years old), its (nude) body is in remarkably good shape.

Other than Mona Lisa, David is likely the artwork most familiar to the average person. So to find a discussion and viewing of the piece include in an art lesson is hardly surprising. What is surprising, though, is the uproar and fallout from a picture of the statue being shown to middle grade students at a charter school.

While David stood in an Italian art museum being admired by flocks of visitors annually (think millions), art students at the Tallahassee Classical School viewed an image of the marble statue. But some parents were outraged when they learned after the fact of the inclusion of a picture of this masterpiece in a lesson. A couple of parents complained advance notification wasn’t given that a “controversial” topic would be discussed in art class. Another parent went so far as to call the image shown “pornographic.”

Who knew a Biblical figure portrayed in a Renaissance masterpiece was controversial? Sure, the statute is of a nude man. But a naked body doesn’t necessarily equal pornography. Certainly by the time students are in sixth grade, they have seen an unclothed human body. If they can’t view a naked body, how can anatomy or sex education be taught? While the latter may be controversial depending on how it is taught, a naked human body is how God made us. Did He mess up and fail to give us fig leaves from the start? He didn’t seem to have a problem with Adam and Eve walking around in the buff.

By making a big deal out of seeing a nude in a non-compromising situation, what are we teaching students? That they should be ashamed of their bodies? That a human body isn’t beautiful? That a tasteful piece of art incorporating a nude figure is disgusting?

Nevertheless, rules are rules. If the school’s policy was to provide advance notice to parents when such artwork is shown, then protocol should have been observed. Further, parents who disagree with the content of a school lesson have the right to their opinion and to remove their child from the classroom during that lesson. In this case, the school board chairman indicated 97% of the parents were fine with the lesson while only 3% objected to it, which was their right.

Following the “controversial” art lesson, the principal resigned under pressure. According to reports, this situation wasn’t the only reason for her departure, but at the least it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Scratching their heads over the news story are Italians who can’t fathom why crazy Americans are criticizing a Renaissance masterpiece. Florence’s mayor, Dario Nardella, even issued a personal invitation for the former principal to visit his city and personally view the artwork.

Meanwhile back at the school, you can be sure more care will be taken to provide advance notification to parents when controversial topics are to be addressed in class. The staff’s homework? Figure out what is “controversial” and from whose point of view.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Were you aware how long it took Michelangelo to sculpt his statue and how big it is? How much input should parents have over the content of specific school lessons? Are both beauty and pornography in the eyes of the beholder?

The World’s Most Wanted Man–ICC Issues Arrest Warrant For Putin

No wanted posters are needed for this alleged criminal. Everyone already knows who he is and what he looks like. Who’s being sought? Vladimir Putin, the Russian Federation’s president, is the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (“ICC”). Let’s learn more about Putin’s current sticky situation.

It wasn’t a happy St. Patrick’s Day for Vladimir Putin. On March 17th, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for him. Apparently no four-leaf clover was handy in Russia to prevent this undesirable event from occurring. While undoubtedly Putin has been involved in many unscrupulous endeavors (such as poisoning political rivals like Navalny), for what is he in the crosshairs with ICC?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of the war in Ukraine, which Russia invaded at Putin’s direction. As if invading another country wasn’t bad enough, Putin has gone even further. He’s charged with the war crimes of illegal deportation of citizens (specifically children) and the unlawful movement or transfer of citizens (specifically children) from Ukraine to Russia or Russian-occupied territory. What Putin’s done is worse than taking candy from a baby. He’s ripping young children apart from their families, culture, and country.

Why would such heartless actions be undertaken? The Russian president, who claims Ukraine is rightfully a part of Russia, has found a devious way to “take over” Ukraine. He’s engaging in a systemic effort to erase Ukrainian identity by re-educating Ukrainian children to be Russian. (That’s going far beyond the reading, writing, and arithmetic typical of children’s education.)

How widespread is this plan? The answer is both astounding and heartbreaking. Ukraine reports more than sixteen THOUSAND children have been illegally transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied territory. Possibly hundreds of thousands were moved. Yale University researchers found Russia held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children in 43+ camps and other facilities. Hundreds of Ukrainian children were taken from orphanages and children’s homes to Russia where they have since been adopted. These children are protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. But what does Putin care about international standards of conduct? Apparently nothing.

In addition to international standards of conduct, Putin could could care less about the ICC. Russia, who’s not a member state of the ICC (surprise, surprise), calls ICC’s action in issuing an arrest warrant for its president “null and void.” Regardless of ICC’s authority, Russia doesn’t deny bringing Ukrainian children to Russia. Its spin on the situation is that its actions are a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in a conflict zone. Of course, Russia fails to point out who started the conflict and brutally continues to wage it.

What happens now that an arrest warrant’s been issued for Putin? Unfortunately, the ICC has no authority to enforce its arrest warrants. But the warrant’s issuance obligates the 123 ICC member states to arrest Putin if he travels to their country. Putin’s travel wings have thus been clipped because if he travels to a member state, he risks arrest.

Unless Putin is arrested, though, no trial can go forward. ICC doesn’t try defendants in absentia. (This means no show, trial is a no go.) While Putin’s in power, then, a trial is probably unlikely. However, experts foresee such a proceeding in the event of a change of regime. In the meantime, Putin rules with a black cloud over his head. The ICC is respected internationally, so its issuance of a warrant against him weakens the Russian president’s global standing and could weaken his position in Russia as well.

While this warrant’s the first issued in connection with Ukraine, Putin isn’t the first serving president to be the subject of an ICC arrest warrant. He’s in some less than desirable company with Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir. That’s a terrifying threesome!

Since Ukraine and Russia aren’t ICC member states, how did the international tribunal become involved? Forty-three states referred the Putin situation to it. Ukraine has, unsurprisingly, granted the ICC jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed in its country. Clearly, the matter is not simply Ukraine v. Russia. Numerous countries in the world are concerned about the likely commission of war crimes. And what more dastardly war crime is there than crimes against children?

Two bright spots result from these disturbing Russian actions in Ukraine. First, the backlash may weaken Putin in his own country and cause him to reassess his actions against Ukrainian children and perhaps Ukraine as a whole. Second. world citizens have the opportunity to learn about the ICC, an organization with which most of us are not familiar.

The ICC is not new, having been established in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and aggression. The tribunal acts when member states are unable or unwilling to take such actions themselves. ICC’s legal basis is an international treaty known as the Rome Statute of 1998. (Three guesses where the treaty was signed….) Although the treaty was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome (surprise!) on July 17, 1998, it didn’t take effect until July 1, 2002.

Based in The Hague, Netherlands, ICC leads high-profile investigations of high-profile suspects. The court is comprised of 18 judges who are divided into three chambers: pre-trial, trial, and appeals. Its trials must be held in the presence of the defendant and conducted in public. The court’s website provides updates on pending cases and information on those targeted by its proceedings. (Check it out at:

Although ICC’s proceedings may not be perfect or universally accepted, at least some mechanism is in place to investigate and take action against those committing war crimes. At best, Putin may be called to account for his actions and dealt with accordingly. At worst, Putin’s image is tarnished, perhaps forcing him to rethink his treatment of Ukrainian children. Sadly, while Putin’s steps against Ukrainian children are occurring now, what he’s doing will reverberate far into the future. Who’s our future? Children, including those scarred emotionally and hurt by Putin’s decisions. While Putin’s a “wanted” man to ICC, his conduct is clearly NOT wanted by caring world citizens.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Are you surprised an arrest warrant has been issued against Putin? Why or why not? Do you see Putin ever standing trial for his actions? What’s a fitting punishment for someone who’s committed war crimes against children?

Shooting For The Moon To Establish A Lunar Time Zone?

NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and private companies are all shooting for the moon–literally. Dozens of lunar missions are planned in the not too distant future, raising a complicated issue. How will the various countries and businesses coordinate lunar activities if no standard moon time exists? The suggested solution? Assign the moon its very own time zone.

The time on the moon is not merely an academic question. It’s a practical one given the focus on moon projects already in the planning stages. NASA, for example, is publicizing its landing of the first woman and the first person of color on the moon as soon as 2025. (American mice are disappointed they won’t be included in the crew to determine whether green cheese can be found there.) Additionally, NASA has a long-term project to establish a lunar base. (Given supply chain issues on Earth, getting building supplies to the moon may make that project even more long-term than NASA thinks.)

The situation is complicated by the time currently used for lunar missions. That time is tied to the local time at mission control–wherever mission control is for that particular mission. Let’s say two lunar rovers are on the moon side by side. For the American rover, the time is 3:00 p.m., the time back home at Cape Canaveral. But the time for the nearby rover belonging to a different country is different; the time back at its own mission control in Russia or China, for example, applies. One rover might be preparing for happy hour while another one is just rising for the day. Missions run by NASA and ESA will need to interact and communicate with each other to perform joint observations or to rendezvous, so timing is important. Talk about a coordination headache!

A November 2022 meeting of space agencies at the European Space Research & Technology Center in the Netherlands addressed the lunar time issue. Attendees agreed an “urgent need” existed to establish a common lunar reference time. ESA is in favor of assigning the moon its own time zone, but the agency wants an international agreement to set the way lunar time will be measured. A joint international effort is being launched (pun intended) to standardize how we would measure time on the moon. So never fear, actual rocket scientists will be working on a lunar time solution!

Some challenges exist in creating a lunar time zone. The first issue is a thorny one. Will one agency be solely responsible for maintaining the proposed new lunar time? Precedent exists for such a framework in the way Earth time is measured. Since 1967 that time has been addressed on a global scale referred to as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) with terrestrial time based on highly accurate atomic clocks. The global UTC standard is maintained by the Paris-based Bureau de Poids et Mesures (that’s weights and measures for those readers who don’t parlez vous francais). Given today’s political climate, it’s not not a stretch of the imagination to envision a lack of unity among countries as to who should maintain (perhaps even control?) lunar time.

The second challenge is a scientific one. Will lunar time be independent of or synchronized with Earth time? While this may seem like a simple question, the issue is more complex than you might think. Comparing lunar time and Earth time is like comparing apples and oranges. First, let’s consider the disparity in what a “day” is in each location. On Earth, time is measured in relation to the Earth’s rotation on its axis. One complete revolution, a day, takes 24 hours. A lunar day, in contrast, is 29 1/2 Earth days based on how the moon rotates. The time between one lunar high noon and the next is 708.7 hours (and you think you’ve experienced some LONG days…), which does not neatly convert into minutes and seconds.

Further complicating things is that atomic clocks run differently on Earth and on the moon. Such clocks, which establish UTC time on Earth, run slightly faster on the moon due to lower gravity. Atomic clocks run slower in stronger gravitational fields such as Earth’s. Lunar clocks would gain 56 millionths of a second (don’t blink or you’ll miss it!) each Earth day; eventually this disparity would result in problems with precise measurements which are crucial for navigation. And that doesn’t even take into account that clocks tick at different rates in orbit around the moon as opposed to on the lunar surface. (Strains of Chicago’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” are flowing through my brain.) But what’s a few seconds’ difference? Everything. Accurate navigation requires rigorous and exact timekeeping.

Hopefully Earthlings will be able to put their heads together and come up with a viable solution to address the lunar time issue to allow for further exploration of and learning about the moon from the lunar surface. The best answer to Chicago’s song query is that it’s time for mankind to work in collaboration for the good of all on our planet. Who knows? If we mess up the Earth badly enough, a lunar base may be our best chance for survival. Let’s shoot for the moon regardless of what time it is there.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Were you aware time could be calculated down to millionths of a second? Are lunar missions a waste of taxpayers’ money or an investment in Earth’s future? Should governments work jointly on not only the lunar time issue but on lunar missions as well?

Pigs Aren’t Flying Yet, But Taxis Will Soon In Dubai

How does Dubai top being the site of the world’s tallest building? Why it works to get other things soaring up into the sky like flying taxis. Pigs aren’t flying yet, but prototype flying taxis are. And Dubai has pledged to launch such a transportation service by 2026.

For those who may not be able to pick Dubai out on a world map (such as me), Dubai is located on the eastern Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf Coast. This location would seem to make it more likely that the emirate would focus on issues related to oil production than advanced transportation systems. But the reality of modern-day Dubai puts the need for efficient transportation front and center. Rather than a heavy reliance on oil production as was the case in the past, Dubai’s economy now relies greatly on real estate, transportation, and tourism. In fact, it is a major global transport hub for passengers and cargo.

Not only is Dubai’s capital the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, but it is the most congested when it comes to traffic movement. Daily traffic continues to worsen as the population booms to over 3.5 million people. Those residents combine to put 1.8 million registered vehicles on the road. Getting from Point A to Point B is a pain for residents as well as tourists visiting this shopping mecca.

What’s the government to do to address this problem? Dubai officials have pondered the issue for several years. In fact, the emirate’s talked about offering flying taxis since 2017. But now it’s moved on from just talk, talk, talk. Prototypes of flying taxis have been displayed, sites have been identified for where the flying taxis will take off, and the goal has been set to put this from of transportation in operation by 2026. Until then, of course, traffic congestion will continue to regularly cause headaches.

Dubai seems to be a hotbed of innovation. The world’s tallest building, the Burj Kahlifa, which rises 2,717 feet (over half a mile) into the sky and holds several world’s records, is a prime example. Additionally, the desert oasis contains broad strips of engineered coastal real estate, including an artificial archipelago with the Palm Jumeirah, the world’s largest man-made island. And how big is the island? Well, it’s so big that it can be spotted from outer space.

But now, the emirate moves from architectural wonders to technological ones–flying taxis. In February, Dubai’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the current plan to forge ahead with having this transportation option running by 2026. During the World Government Summit in Dubai that month, a promotional video was shown featuring a 6-rotor electric flying taxi produced by Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, California. (Hopefully said taxi is clearly marked “Made in the USA.”)

So it’s been confirmed a flying taxi can work, but what exactly is one? The term merely refers to an air taxi, a small commercial aircraft or helicopter for short flights on demand. The Joby prototype can fly over 150 miles before needing to be charged and has a top speed just under 200 mph. Perfect for a congested metropolitan area, Joby’s flying taxi takes off and lands vertically. The cool acronym for this feature is VTOL (because we don’t have enough acronyms in the world to keep up with.) The VTOL ability means no runway is required for the flying taxi. Even better, the electrically charged vehicle produces ZERO emissions.

Electric vehicles must, of course, be charged. Dubai’s vision for flying taxi service has that need covered. The vertiports where passengers board and the taxis will take off and land will be equipped with charging stations. Four vertiports are envisioned at prime business and transit hubs–Dubai International Airport, downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah Archipelago, and the Dubai Marina. These plans, if effected, would make Dubai the first city in the world to contain vertiports.

Beyond obtaining flying taxis and securing a place for passengers to board them, manpower is essential to offer this form of transportation. Someone has to fly the taxis, right? Typically, these taxis seat four passengers and a pilot. At least for now. Apparently the plan is to transition from human pilots to remote pilots. It remains to be seen if passengers will be comfortable with no visible pilot in the taxi while soaring among the skyscrapers of Dubai’s skyline and over the waters of the coast it borders.

The government of Dubai might scrape the bottom of some oil barrels to fund a flying taxi fleet. However, will individuals needing transportation in Dubai be able to afford such a means of transportation? Those touting the flying taxi plan claim the price for them is in the range of limousine services or a little higher. Limo services are already at least 30% higher than taxi fares in the emirate. But the businessmen and free-spending tourists who show up in the commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates might be willing to fork over the payment needed to fly high above the traffic congestion to get to their next business meeting or to a desired leisurely activity, respectively.

Necessity, they (whoever they are) say, is the mother of invention. The necessity for providing relief to traffic congestion has led Dubai to aim high–to the sky actually. If you can’t beat the traffic congestion on the ground, hop into a flying taxi to travel high above it for a speedier, but more expensive, means to get where you desire to go. And watch out for flying pigs while up there; they may be next.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Assuming cost isn’t an issue, would you utilize a flying taxi? Why or why not? Does your answer change if the conveyance is piloted remotely? Do you see any challenges or problems with flying taxi service?