Amazon hides “all reviewers” has changed how shoppers see product reviews written by other customers. It now shows “verified purchase only” reviews written by customers who bought their item directly from Amazon. Reviews from “all reviewers,” on the other hand, are now visible only if you can navigate to a page that lets you sort and filter reviews.

The new policy is Amazon’s attempt to shut down the paid “review mills” that churn out boilerplate 5-star reviews. But the policy also affects long-time reviewers such as myself; I still want my reviews to be visible on Amazon — because everybody relies on Amazon’s reviews — even when I didn’t send my local dollars away to an online vendor.

Amazon is also limiting customers to 5 reviews a week for items purchased elsewhere. The new restrictions will no doubt reduce the number of fake reviews, but they also benefit Amazon by prioritizing purchases made directly from their website, and hiding all the thoughtful, detailed, honest reviews from people who just want to share their experience of the same product purchased elsewhere.

To display the hidden reviews, start at a product’s main page. Click the number that follows the “star” rating;  on the next display page, click that number again, then under “Filter by,” click “All reviewers.” See what I mean about “hidden” reviews?


And, oddly, the review limitation doesn’t apply to books, music, or video, or reviews from Amazon’s own Vine reviewer program, wherein merchants send free products to a select group of reviewers, but under Amazon’s control.

More info from Geekwire here:


Remarks by President Trump at National Prayer Breakfast

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate ReleaseFebruary 02, 2017
Remarks by President Trump at National Prayer Breakfast

Washington Hilton

9:11 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mark. So nice. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s a great honor to be here this morning. And so many faith leaders — very, very important people to me — from across our magnificent nation, and so many leaders from all across the globe.

Today we continue a tradition begun by President Eisenhower some 64 years ago. This gathering is a testament to the power of faith, and is one of the great customs of our nation, and I hope to be here seven more times with you. (Laughter and applause.)

I want very much to thank our co-chairs, Senator Bowzman and Senator Coons, and all of the congressional leadership — they’re all over the place. We have a lot of very distinguished guests.

And we have one guest who was just sworn in last night — Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State. (Applause.) Going to do a great job. Some people didn’t like Rex because he actually got along with leaders of the world. I said, no, you have to understand, that’s a good thing. (Laughter.) That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. He’s respected all over the world, and I think he’s going to go down as one of our great, great secretaries. We appreciate it. Thank you, thank you, Rex. (Applause.)

Thank you as well to Senate Chaplain Barry Black for his moving words. And I don’t know, Chaplain, whether or not that’s an appointed position. Is that an appointed position? I don’t even know if you’re a Democrat or if you’re a Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year — the hell with it. (Laughter and applause.) And I think it’s not even my appointment, it’s the Senate’s appointment, but we’ll talk to them. Your son is here. Your job is very, very secure, okay? (Laughter.) Thank you, Barry. Appreciate it very much.

I also want to thank my great friends, though, Roma. Where’s Roma? Beautiful Roma Downey. The voice of an angel. She’s got the voice — every time I hear it, that voice is so beautiful. Everything is so beautiful about Roma, including her husband because he’s a special, special friend, Mark Burnett — for the wonderful introduction. So true. So true. I said to the agent, I’m sorry. The only thing more — I actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said, you don’t want to do it, it’ll never work, it’ll never, ever work. You don’t want to do it. I said, listen — but I really fired him after it became the number-one show. It became so successful, and he wanted a commission, and he didn’t want to do it. That’s what I really said. (Laughter.)

But we had tremendous success on “The Apprentice.” And when I ran for President, I had to leave the show. That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it. And they hired a big, big movie star — Arnold Schwarzenegger -– to take my place. And we know how that turned out. (Laughter.) The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster. And Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, okay? (Laughter.)

But we’ve had an amazing life together, the last 14, 15 years. And an outstanding man, and thank you very much for introducing me. Appreciate it. It’s a great honor. (Applause.)

I also want to thank my dear friend, Vice President Mike Pence, who has been incredible. (Applause.) And incredible wife, Karen. And every time I was in a little trouble with something, where they were questioning me, they’d say, but he picked Mike Pence — (laughter) — so he has to know what he’s doing. And it’s true, he’s been — you know, on the scale of 0 to 10, I rate him a 12, okay? So I want to thank you. Thank you very much. Apprentice it. (Applause.)

But most importantly today, I want to thank the American people. Your faith and prayers have sustained me and inspired me through some very, very tough times. All around America, I have met amazing people whose words of worship and encouragement have been a constant source of strength. What I hear most often as I travel the country are five words that never, ever fail to touch my heart. That’s: “I am praying for you.” I hear it so often — “I am praying for you, Mr. President.” (Applause.)

No one has inspired me more in my travels than the families of the United States military, men and women who have put their lives on the line every day for their country and their countrymen. I just came back yesterday from Dover Air Force Base to join the family of Chief William “Ryan” Owens, as America’s fallen hero was returned home. Very, very sad, but very, very beautiful. Very, very beautiful. His family was there. Incredible family, loved him so much. So devastated — he was so devastated. But the ceremony was amazing. He died in defense of our nation. He gave his life in defense of our people. Our debt to him and our debt to his family is eternal and everlasting.

“Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.” We will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform, believe me. (Applause.) Thank you. From generation to generation, their vigilance has kept our liberty alive. Our freedom is won by their sacrifice, and our security has been earned with their sweat and blood and tears. God has blessed this land to give us such incredible heroes and patriots. They are very, very special, and we are going to take care of them. (Applause.)

Our soldiers understand that what matters is not party or ideology or creed, but the bonds of loyalty that link us all together as one. America is a nation of believers. In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget — so easily we forget this — that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success. I will tell you that. And I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success — the most material success. Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people. And I know a lot of people without that, but they have great families, they have great faith. They don’t have money — at least not nearly to the extent — and they’re happy. Those to me are the successful people, I have to tell you. (Applause.)

I was blessed to be raised in a churched home. My mother and father taught me that to whom much is given much is expected. I was sworn in on the very bible from which my mother would teach us as young children. And that faith lives on in my heart every single day.

The people in this room come from many, many backgrounds. You represent so many religions and so many views. But we are all united by our faith in our Creator and our firm knowledge that we are all equal in His eyes. We are not just flesh and bone and blood. We are human beings, with souls. Our Republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God. (Applause.)

It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty.” Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of, and totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that — remember. (Applause.)

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways. And I’ve never seen it so much and so openly as since I took the position of President. The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out. Okay? That’s what I do. I fix things. We’re going to straighten it out. (Applause.) Believe me. When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it. Just don’t worry about it. (Laughter.) They’re tough. We have to be tough. It’s time we’re going to be a little tough, folks. We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. It’s not going to happen anymore. It’s not going to happen anymore.

We have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion. Acts of wanton slaughter against religious minorities. Horrors on a scale that defy description. Terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom. It must be stopped, and it will be stopped. It may not be pretty for a little while. It will be stopped. (Applause.)

We have seen — and, by the way, General, as you know, James “Mad Dog” — I shouldn’t say it in this room — Mattis. Now, there’s a reason they call him “Mad Dog Mattis” — he never lost a battle. Always wins them and always wins them fast. He’s our new Secretary of Defense who will be working with Rex. He’s right now in South Korea, going to Japan, going to some other spots. And I’ll tell you what, I’ve gotten to know him really well. He’s the real deal. We have somebody who’s the real deal working for us, and that’s what we need. So, you watch. You just watch. (Applause.) Things will be different.

We have seen peace-loving Muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered and oppressed by ISIS killers. We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people. We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut off heads. Not since the Middle Ages have we seen that. We haven’t seen that, the cutting off of heads. Now they cut off their heads, they drown people in steel cages. Haven’t seen this — I haven’t seen this. Nobody has seen this for many, many years.

All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence. All nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously, if we have to. So I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land. America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure. We have to feel safe and secure.

In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal. Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world. But these are those and there are those that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear. We need security. There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle. Not right. We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation. You look all over the world and you see what’s happening.

So in the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination. We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values — not to hate us and to hate our values. We will be a safe country. We will be a free country. And we will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence. America will flourish as long as our liberty and, in particular, our religious liberty is allowed to flourish. (Applause.)

America will succeed as long as our most vulnerable citizens — and we have some that are so vulnerable — have a path to success. And America will thrive as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God. (Applause.)

That faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas, and to lock arms at home, to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land. It’s that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains, and the young people all across America to chase their dreams. They are chasing their dreams. We are going to bring those dreams back. As long as we have God, we are never, ever alone. Whether it’s the soldier on the night watch or the single parent on the night shift, God will always give us solace and strength and comfort.

We need to carry on and to keep carrying on. For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public according to his will. That’s why — (applause) — thank you. That’s why President Eisenhower and Senator Carlson had the wisdom to gather together 64 years ago to begin this truly great tradition. But that’s not all they did together. Let me tell you the rest of the story. Just one year later, Senator Carlson was among the members of Congress to send to the President’s desk a joint resolution that added “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance. That’s a great thing. (Applause.) Because that’s what we are and that is what we will always be, and that is what our people want: one beautiful nation, under God.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

9:30 A.M. EST

Tips for Enjoying the Bridge School Benefit Concert

Yesterday my husband and I had our first experience of the Bridge School Benefit Concert, held at the Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, California). The show ran from 2-10 pm, and we had tickets for open seating on the Lawn that slopes up beyond the assigned seats. There’s useful information on the Shoreline’s website, but here are some additional tips for other first-timers:

Dress in layers. The day was mild, high of 75ºF, to a low of 62ºF by the time the show ended. Consider wearing something bright so your companions can spot you. You’ll be in direct sunlight all afternoon, so bring a stylin’ hat, sunscreen, and cover-up clothing.

Seeing the Show. Carry a small flashlight (and maybe an extra battery) so you can find your seat again after dark, and make note of landmarks such as the large projection boxes on the Lawn, the screens, and the sections of regular seating that correspond with your place on the Lawn (we were straight back from seating sections 203/204). Bring binoculars if you want to see as well as hear. There are big screens, but you’re restricted seeing what the cameraman sees.

Lawn Chairs. Acceptable lawn chairs are low-backed. Friends with “pointed” ends on their chairs were required to check them and pick them up after the show. But chair rental is only $5, so you decide if it’s worth it to lug in your own chairs.

Grub & Hooch: Beer and wine are expensive — $12 for Lagunitas Ale, $13 for Blue Moon, up to $16 for a pint of craft beer. Food was a little better, with options for $8 tostadas and $12 sandwiches. After dark, a fellow circulated around the food area carrying trays with coffee, $5 each, with packets of sugar and Coffee Mate powder. If you have a long drive ahead of you, as we did, the coffee is worth it.

Bring Your Own Grub?: You may bring your own food in soft-sided coolers; no cans or bottles, with the exception of factory-sealed plastic water bottles. You are not allowed to bring in your own booze. (That said, a cracker box can hold more than crackers.) We brought a soft-sided cooler for food and water, and a soft backpack for clothes, binoculars, and such.

Parking: VIP parking cost $20, but we didn’t use it, since there’s no extra fee to park, surprisingly. If standard parking is taking too long, the Shoreline has some lots farther away, with shuttles to the venue. Note the number on the lot signs so you can find your car again. The parking lot is dirt, and your car will leave covered with dust, so plan to wash it the next day rather than the day before.

Checking in: We arrived at 1:30 for the 2 pm start time and were inside fairly quickly, but we were cutting it close; 12:30 or 1 pm would have given us more choices. There are two gates, so keep walking – the line at the gate farther in was much shorter. Friendly security people check your bags as you come in.

Seating: Where you sit will determine, in large part, the quality of your experience.

  • Arrive early. I asked a couple of people who were at the very front of the Lawn when they had arrived to get those seats. They got to the venue at 11:30 am, and the doors opened at noon.
  • The Lawn will fill up, so don’t expect it to stay uncrowded if you sit in the back. If you sit on the left side of the Lawn (facing the stage), you may have the sun in your eyes all afternoon. Go to the right side, or the center. Bring a lightweight blanket or grass mat to claim your territory. If you’re farther back and don’t want to be stepped on, set up your area with your back against one of the projector boxes.
  • Check your sight lines. We went as far forward as we comfortably could, then realized that our view was blocked by the metal cord handrailing along the walkway that separates the Lawn from the ticketed seating. We moved up the slope of the Lawn until I could see between the cords. People ahead of you may stand, oblivious to the fact that they’re blocking the sight lines of dozens of people behind them. As tedious as it may be to have someone’s backside blocking your view of the stage, resign yourself to your fate and adjust your position if you want to view the stage itself. Sitting farther forward reduces some of this.
  • Screens vs. Stage: If you want to see emotion on the performers’ faces, sit farther back and watch the action on the big screens – however, before dark, only the smaller screens on each side of the stage will be lit. The screen footage cuts around a lot, making the stage look more “active” than it really is, and you don’t get to see body language and how the musicians are interacting with one another. If, like me, you prefer your own personal experience watching the stage itself, get as close as possible and watch with binoculars.

Neighborliness. Get to know your neighbors, especially those on either side of you. Bring practical finger food to share around, such as sugar snap peas, nuts, chocolate, or other candy. Friendly neighbors are more likely to watch out for your spot when you’re gone. Also introduce yourself to the people ahead of you; if they know you, maybe they won’t stand up and block your view. Don’t forget the people behind you; if you don’t want to be a jerk, make it comfortable for them to let you know if there’s a problem.

Be Nice to Your Neighbors,  and They will be Nice to You
Be Nice to Your Neighbors,
and They will be Nice to You

Phone ring-tones are hard to hear over the music. Adjust your ring tone and text tones to something loud and high-pitched. Turn your  screen brightness down, or you’ll stand out like a beacon after it gets dark.

Bathrooms. There are plenty of bathroom stalls. Handwashing stations in the middle aisles of the bathrooms are circular; press the rubber ring around the base with your foot, and water sprays down all along the circle. Soap dispenses from little metal pumps on the underside of the rings for water.

Sneaking closer. At the end of the evening, just before Neil Young and Promise of the Real came on, our friends told us that the assigned seating ahead of us was open, with no restrictions, so we all moved forward to theater seats for the final set. We left our chairs and a soft-sided cooler on the Lawn, and they were still there when we returned, but my pith helmet, which had been on top of the cooler, had apparently been knocked off and then stepped on. Someone kindly put it back onto the top of the cooler, however.

I hadn’t been to the Shoreline in many years, having decided I hated the venue, but our wonderful experience at the 2015 Bridge School benefit concert has changed my opinion.

October 26, 2015

No, I Don’t Want a Free Copy of Your Self-Published Novel

A writer friend posted a rather rudely phrased article on her Facebook page from a successful screenwriter who declines the opportunity to read summaries and scripts of acquaintances to “give them feedback.” 

Hell, I’m only a bookseller, and they foist their self-published novels at me and tell me to please take a free copy, because “everybody who has read it loved it.” And that’s even after I tell them the bookstore will take 3 copies on consignment. ISN’T THAT ENOUGH FOR THEM?

It takes me 8 hours to read a novel, and it’s only hubris that makes someone think they deserve to dictate 8 hours of another person’s time. I’m already not going to be able to read even a fraction of the books I personally crave to read, so I’m not going to put off reading Boy, Snow, Bird or All the Light We Cannot See for a self-indulgent project that had to be vanity published for a REASON.

Look, guys, send that MS around while you’re working on the next one. If you do get published, and then if you’re lucky and talented enough that it sells, you’ll want some of your juvenilia on hand for a quick-rewrite follow-up.  

Comcast “Basic Cable” vs. “Limited Basic Cable” – a chat transcript

CHAT ID: 63E43DAE-8F91-4471-8C9D-A06CAEC61B35

Problem: What are the monthly costs for Basic Cable vs. Limited Basic Cable?

Gagan > Hello Ellen_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Gagan. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Gagan > It’s a privilege to have you here on chat and I am looking forward to provide you excellent service!

Ellen_ > My Issue: What are the monthly costs for Basic Cable vs. Limited Basic Cable?

Gagan > You want to know the price for Basic Cable vs. Limited Basic Cable?

Ellen_ > Hi.

Ellen_ > Yep.

Gagan > Alright!

Gagan > As I am from internet troubleshooting department.

Gagan > Please stay connected while I transfer to the correct department for further support. Before I transfer you, would there be anything else that I can assist you with?

Ellen_ > Tell the website folks that they didn’t give an option for my question! Sorry to go to you, but there wasn’t an appropriate selection. Have a good day, Gagan!

Gagan > Please stay connected while I transfer to the correct department for further support.

Gagan > Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst

Sama > You have reached Sales Department and I will be assisting you with your concern for today. Please give me 2-3 minutes to review your conversation with the previous representative. This will give me a better understanding of the issue at hand so that we can resolve it in the most efficient way possible. Will that be okay?

Ellen_ > Thanks.

Sama > You are most welcome.

Sama > Based on your conversation with the previous representative I understood that you want to know the price of Basic cable and limited basic. Am I correct?

Ellen_ > Yes.

Sama > I will be more than happy to check the information for you, Ellen. You’ve certainly reached the right department! Please be assured I will do my best to help you with your concern.

Sama > Ellen, may I have your account number please?

Ellen_ > As I told the previous Analyst, Gagan, the website doesn’t give a link to Sales, so I ended up getting to you through Internet Troubleshooting!

Ellen_ > May I ask why you need my account number to tell me the package prices? Will they be different depending on where I live, for instance?

Sama > Correct Ellen, we need the account number to get the information and resolve your issue.

Ellen_ > Can you just give me ballpark package prices? Pretend I’m a new customer. 🙂

Sama > Sure.

Sama > Let me check that out for you. Would you mind waiting for a couple of minutes while I do the research?

Ellen_ > No problem. Thanks.

Sama > You are most welcome.

Sama > Based on the information you have provided, we have Limited basic at $25.90 per month.

Ellen_ > Cool, thanks. How about Basic Cable?

Sama > With this package you will get 10+ channels.

Ellen_ > Yes, the website page does tell me the features:

Ellen_ >

Sama > Ellen, Basic cable and Limited basic cable are the same package.

Sama > To view the channel lineup of this plan, please use this link:

Ellen_ > OK. What’s the cost for Expanded Basic Cable, then?

Sama > We have Digital Economy at $39.95 per month.

Sama > With this package you will get around 50 channels.

Ellen_ > There’s no Expanded Basic Cable any more?

Sama > Ellen, which specific channel would you like watch?

Ellen_ > SciFi. But that’s just me.

Sama > Let me check that out for you. Would you mind waiting for a couple of minutes while I do the research?

Ellen_ > Unfortunately, my time’s up. However, I have a message for whoever reads these chat messages:

Sama > No problem Ellen, you can chat back to us anytime.

Ellen_ > Dear Supervisor — Please let the reps answer questions directly and stop making them try to upsell me! All I wanted was to find out the difference between two cable packages, but what should have been a 3 minute conversation has taken 20 minutes of my time just so you can hit poor Sama over the head for not selling bigger packages!

Ellen_ > Thanks, Sama. I appreciate your help, and I can only imagine the frustration of having to use those canned lines. Have a good day, and tell your supervisors that customers know what they’re doing to us!

Sama > I understand your concern, Let me apologize.

Ellen_ > IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT, Sama. I blame Comcast for not letting you just talk to me directly.

Ellen_ > And they’re going to make you apologize, when they should be apologizing to YOU. I hope this doesn’t get YOU in trouble for THEIR bad policies…

Ellen_ > Anyway, I don’t want to get you in trouble, since you’ve been so helpful. Have a good day, Sama. Thanks again.

Sama > Ellen, we have Expanded basic cable but it is not a specific package it comes under Starter package and above than that.

Ellen_ > OK, thanks.

Sama > You are most welcome.

Sama > Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Ellen_ > No, thank you though. Have a lovely weekend!

Sama > Thank you for contacting Comcast! Here at Comcast, Customer Satisfaction is important. It has been a pleasure to assist you today. Thank you very much for your time and patience all throughout the chat. Have a great week and take care!

Sama > Good bye Ellen.

Malcolm Cowley – “ernest”


Go forth and do what you must do!

Dry Season - ernest panorama
“Ernest” by Malcolm Cowley, from “The Dry Season”



Safe is the man with blunderbuss
who stalks the hippopotamus
on Niger’s bank or scours the veldt
to rape the lion of its pelt;

but deep in peril he who sits
at home to rack his lonely wits
and there do battle , grim and blind,
against the jackals of the mind.


Red VW Beetle Convertible Karmann
Red VW Beetle Convertible Karmann
VW Beetle Convertible Karmann
Karmann emblem on a VW Beetle Convertible


I took my first drivers road test in Eureka, California, in my grandparents’ maroon Karmann Ghia, a sporty little car that I still miss. The Karmann Ghia was designed by the Italian firm Ghia and built by the German firm Karmann.
Here’s a convertible VW Beetle from Karmann.

(Thanks to Michael Marinacci for the background info.)