Monthly Archives: March 2021

Varsity Blues forfeiture question

A few days ago I posted an update on the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal. The data I saw confused me. Four defendants were sentenced to forfeiture in addition to their fines. Combined they totaled over $700,000.

Only one of the four defendants was a parent trying to get her child into school. The rest were bribe takers or otherwise involved in the scheme. That makes sense. They profited and were required to give up their ill-gotten gains. My question is, what was the parent forfeiting and why? The Department of Justice (DOJ) press release says in her case it was forfeiture of the $400,000 she paid to get her child in. Why not do that for all the other parents? Perhaps her case was unique in that the government was able to seize her money before it was received or before the check was cashed. It still seems odd.

Despite the recommendations by the DOJ for restitution in every case, no judge has imposed restitution as part of a sentence in the case. The reason seems obvious: to whom would they make restitution? The universities weren’t hurt, and in some cases benefited financially. The real victims were the kids who didn’t get admitted because the slots were given to undeserving kids. But there’s no way to know who they were. You’re likely to see some inaccurate reporting on this issue. Typically, the parent agrees to plead guilty and the U.S. Attorney recommends restitution, then the newspeople report that the defendant has agreed to X days in jail, a fine of such and such amount, and restitution, all of which is true. Sometimes they even say the defendant received this sentence. But the judges have disregarded that part of the plea bargain and declined to include restitution. Check the DOJ website if you want to know the true sentence.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Magpie Murders (Susan Ryeland, #1)Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Susan Ryeland (randy, sensual?) is a book editor for a small London publisher. She receives a manuscript of a murder mystery from her star author. Only it’s missing the last chapters. A mystery without the ending is worthless. We are then given the manuscript to read ourselves. In it Atticus Pund is a German refugee turned private eye who takes on a last case before the inevitable end he knows he is facing based on bad news from his doctor. He travels to a small town in England and we find out about more than one death. But we are left hanging because of the missing chapters. When Susan seeks the missing pages, she is shocked to learn that the author himself has just died under suspicious circumstances. When she travels to his home town, a village much like the one in the book, she finds striking similarities between the book and real life. We are left to try to solve the book mysteries and the “real life” ones. That’s all I can say about the plot without spoilers.

If you haven’t figured it out already, that “randy, sensual” remark is an anagram of Susan Ryeland. Wordplay is sprinkled liberally throughout the manuscript, although that’s not obvious at first. I really enjoyed that part. The book as a whole was very fun even if the ending(s) wasn’t all that I had hoped. The author has produced too many suspects on both levels and could have picked any at random to be the guilty party, so it’s not a fair mystery for the reader to solve. That dropped it a star for me. Still, he writes very well and I was thoroughly entertained through most of the book. It has a real wit to it at times, too.

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Varsity Blues update

If you haven’t yet watched the new Netflix show on the Varsity Blues college admission scandal, you should. It’s excellent. Here’s a short update on the status of the defendants. Forty-two of them have pled guilty. Here’s the list. All are parents trying to boost their kids’ chances unless otherwise noted.

Diane Blake
Todd Blake
Elizabeth Henriquez
Manuel Henriquez
Douglas Hodge
Michelle Janavs
Lori Loughlin
Mossimo Giannulli
Felicity Huffman
Augustin Huneeus, Jr.
Davina Isackson
Bruce Isackson
Peter Sartorio
Stephen Semprevivo
Devin Sloane
Gordon Caplan
Gregory Abbott
Marcia Abbott
Jane Buckingham
Robert Flaxman
Marjorie Klapper
Toby MacFarlane
Jeffrey Bizzack
David Sidoo
Xiaoning Sui
Karen Littlefair
Peter Dameris
Robert Repella
Mark Hauser
Rick Singer (ringleader)
John Vandemoer (Stan. Coach)
Michael Center (Texas Coach)
Igor Dvorskiy (test admin)
Rudy Meredith (soccer coach)
Mark Riddell (test tutor)
Martin Fox (middleman)
Laura Janke (soccer vcoach)
Ali Khosroshahin (soccer coach)
Steven Masera (Accountant)
Jorge Salcedo (soccer coach)
Mikaela Sanford (Singer aide)
Niki Williams (exam admin)

Most of the above have been sentenced, but for some, like Singer, the sentencing will wait until their cooperation is secured in any pending trials.

15 others have been charged but not yet tried. They are:

Joey Chen
Amy Colburn
Greg Colburn
Wm. McGlashan
Marci Palatella
Houmayoun Zadeh
Robert Zangrillo
John Wilson
Gamal Abdelaziz
Elisabeth Kimmel
Amin Khoury
Gordon Ernst (tennis coach)
William Ferguson (volleyball coach)
Donna Heinel (athl. Dir.)
Jovan Vavic (water polo coach)

What3words dominoes

Here’s a game you can have fun with: What3words (W3W) dominoes. It works like this.

  1. Pick a famous or historical site and enter it into the website.
  2. Pick any square on that site and record or remember the three word address given.
  3. Search the adjacent squares by clicking on them to find a neighbor that begins with the same first letter as the last letter of the original three words. A common side or corner counts, so there are 8 neighbors.
  4. Keep going until you can’t find any further adjacent squares meeting rule 3. You can’t reuse any previous square.
  5. Start over to see if you can find a longer chain, but the starting point must be on the same site. As long as the starting square is on the site, it’s okay for the chain to go off the site.

As an example I chose the Golden Gate Bridge across San Francisco Bay. The longest chain I could find in about 15 minutes of searching was five squares:


See if you can beat that. Post your best result in the comments below. I’ll put this on Facebook, too, so you can post there if you prefer. Here’s a hint: S seems to be a good letter to look for both at the end and beginning.

Wreck Wreak Reek

Yesterday I heard one of the nation’s top health experts on national television say the pandemic has wrecked havoc on the economy, etc. That’s wrong and I hear it often, but you’d think a top doctor would be better educated. It has wreaked havoc. The havoc isn’t wrecked at all; it’s the normalcy (not normality!) that’s been wrecked. The havoc is doing just fine.

Wreak sounds just like reek, but one can’t reek havoc since reek just means stink. I suppose you could say it stinks to have all the havoc wreaked, so in a way it reeks, but reek is an intransitive verb. I’ll throw in that grammar lesson for free: intransitive means it doesn’t take an object.

The Forgers by Bradford Morrow

The ForgersThe Forgers by Bradford Morrow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Our narrator and main character, Will, whose name is first mentioned about 100 pages into the book, is an art forger. He considers himself a master, but the police and the art world consider him a convicted felon. He doesn’t forge paintings or checks. His specialty is calligraphy. He buys legitimate first editions of rare books and adds forged inscriptions to enhance their value. He’s in love with Meghan, a bookshop owner but her brother Adam disapproves. Will swears off forgery after his conviction and vows to be true to honest Meghan. Then Adam turns up dead one day and Will suspects another forger named Slader, a rather nasty character. But there’s no proof.

Morrow writes with a literary elegance, although he can at times lay it on too thick. He used cerulean twice, once describing the sky as a cerulean dome and the other referring to Meghan’s eyes. Cerulean is a word to be used only once in a book. There are other words for blue. He used hynagogic and hynopompic in the same sentence. Another long word, pretentiousness, comes to mind while reading this. Even so, it’s an enjoyable read, with lots of goodies for those enamored of all things literary and outdated – calligraphy, inks, manual printing presses with gothic print slugs and fine bond paper, and, of course, Irish poets and the like.

About halfway through the book a jarring turn of the plot had me scratching my head and turning a sour eye on the author’s abilities. It just didn’t make sense … unless …. well, I hoped he wouldn’t go there, but he did. It may have resolved the strange turn, but it didn’t make the overall reading experience better. In the end, I can say it was a worthy read even if the author took a lazy route in a couple of ways.

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