Let’s All Get into Good Trouble

Last Sunday I had intended to join Meeting for Worship via Zoom at our Quaker Meeting. Prior to connecting though I was watching Face the Nation on CBS. Just as I was about to “tune in” to our Quaker meeting, Face the Nation moderator, Margaret Brennan, announced the show would be moving to a special report on John Lewis’ final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I kept the television tuned to CBS.

For the next 75 minutes I watched as John Lewis made his final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It began this past Sunday at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, just as it did on “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965. This time, though, John Lewis’ body rode in a casket on a caisson pulled by two horses. After brief remarks from a legislator and a minister and a song, his casket was loaded onto the caisson by a U.S. military honor guard – which seemed odd for Lewis, a man who stood for nonviolence. Then the caisson made its way the 10 blocks to the Edmond Pettus Bridge. As it crossed the bridge the driver stopped the caisson at several points, stood, and kept silence in honor of John Lewis and the meaning of his walk across the bridge in 1965.

On the other side of the bridge, the casket carrying John Lewis was met by members of the Alabama State Police, just as it was on March 7, 1965. This time, though, they stood at attention and saluted Mr. Lewis. In 1965 it was members of the Alabama State Police that beat him so badly that he suffered a concussion. His casket was transferred from the caisson and placed in a hearse. From there the Alabama State Police provided safe passage and an honor guard to Montgomery where Mr. Lewis is to lie in state before having the same honor at the U.S. Capitol yesterday and today.

On March 7, 1965 I was 10 years, soon to turn 11. I still remember seeing the news reports featuring film of the marchers being attacked. I did not fully understand what it was all about at that age. Still, as I watched the film, I got the kind of knot in my stomach and sick feeling that comes from seeing something you know instinctively is so horrible and so wrong. It’s the same knot and feeling I got as I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered.

I didn’t realize how much the film of Bloody Sunday impacted me until many years later when I was working in Montgomery, Alabama. I remember driving out of the Montgomery Regional Airport on to Selma Highway (U.S. Route 80). To visit the scene of Bloody Sunday, all I had to do was turn left toward Selma. I had the time, opportunity, and inclination to visit the site. In the end, though, I remembered that film, the horror it triggered in me, and the traumatic memories of my 10-year-old’s fear won out. It is something I still regret.

Let’s get in good trouble

Earlier this month, on July 3rd, John Lewis: Good Trouble, was released. It is a documentary of his life and his work. It focuses on a core philosophy of Mr. Lewis, the idea of getting into “good trouble,” the kind of trouble that brings about change for the greater good.

On July 23 The Brookings Institution published a piece by Rashawn Ray that reminds us of the last time John Lewis led a commemorative walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 1, 2020. At that time, Lewis said in a speech: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.”

Ray’s article articulates five ways we can get in “good trouble.” This seems to be the time to cause a bit of “good trouble.” In fact, since 1965, I’m not sure there has been a better time. Here are Ray’s five lessons from John Lewis, with just a bit of commentary from me.

  1. Vote, always. In a pandemic or not, in primary or a general election, in local races or national races, whether you “love” the choices or not.
  2. You are never too young to make a difference. I‘m guessing John Lewis would also say that you are never too old to make a difference, too.
  3. Speak truth to power. Power doesn’t usually want to hear the truth, so don’t expect the powerful to come to you to hear your truth. Take it to them…again, and again, and again until they hear it.
  4. Become a racial equity broker. It isn’t enough to not be racist or even be anti-racists. Both of those things can be accomplished within oneself. To be a racial equity broker is to go beyond advocacy to take on the work of changing policies, practices, and protocols that inhibit racial equity.
  5. Never give up. Change at any level – personal, family, community, and societal – requires tenacity. Only the most tenacious will bring about change. They may not always live to see it, but it would not happen without them.

So, what do you say? Wanna get into some trouble…some “good trouble”? We’ve got time between now and November 3rd to find some and do it.

chickenman – Episode 84

Chickenman is finally contacted in his flight across the Atlantic but a debate ensues with Ms. Helfinger about who will pay for the collect charges.

June 10, 2020 – What We Miss When Going Too Slow

Today is June 10, 2020. It is also National Ballpoint Pen Day. On June 20, 1943 two Hungarian brothers who immigrated to Argentina, Laslo and Georg Biro, filed a patent for the ballpoint pen. The ballpoint pen was first sold in the U.S. at Gimbel’s department store in 1945 and cost a whopping $12.50 each. Today that would be $190 but it still wouldn’t be enough to buy a Montblanc StarWalker Ballpoint Pen on Amazon.

What we miss when going too slow

We left the house today. Really…more than just walking the dogs. We got in the car and drove to a doctor’s appointment about 10 miles away. Then, we bought groceries…at 2 different stores!

Four months ago I would not have believed that a two-hour outing to get my eyes checked and buy a few groceries would be blogworthy. It felt like a trip to the moon. I nearly messed up paying at the grocery store because it has been so long since I’ve had to use one of those credit card readers. At first I inserted the card; but panicked and pulled it back out of the machine. For a moment I couldn’t remember if I should have swiped it or inserted it. Of course my confusion in turn confused the card reader and it gave me a “card error” message for about 30 seconds. To be clear, it was neither the card nor the reader’s error. It was mine.

But this is what we’ve come to, isn’t it? We gotten used to a different pace and we get excited by the little things now.

Another little thing that I get excited about now when I go out is bathrooms. Why you ask? (Of course you didn’t but I know you were thinking it.) Because public bathrooms are not nearly as plentiful as they used to be. Since the pandemic not every business is letting the public use its bathrooms. When you get into a business and find it has a bathroom you can use it is like finding, excuse the really bad pun, the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow.

These have been slower times during these months of self-isolation. Not less busy, but slower. The pace has opened up space to try some new things. I’ve been doing more reading, I’ve been learning to build websites on Google Sites, I’ve been learning video editing, and I’ve been learning to play ukelele.

Playing ukelele has been my dream since I met Taimane Gardner. At the time she was about 15 or 16 years old and she was playing on the street in front of my hotel in Honolulu. It was my first work trip to Hawai`i and I was walking around Waikiki Beach in the evening. As I was returning to my hotel, I heard her playing and decided to stop, watch, and listen for a bit. While she played, her mom and dad stood close by selling her first CD, Loco Princess (which I still have, by the way). Between songs I talked with her parents and during a break I got to talk with her. She began playing at age 5 and is often described as a ukelele virtuoso. At that time she told me she hoped to travel to the mainland to study at Julliard. That didn’t happen but her career seems to have taken off. I will never play like her, but, wow, what an inspiration!

During this time of self-isolation I’ve also been reminded of life before the conveniences we enjoy now, like cable, cell phones, internet, satellite radio, and social media. However, when I reflect on how much slower we lived before these things, I think maybe I didn’t so miss much. I mean…

  • I still watched more TV than I should have with only ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS available over the air. (Our nearest TV station was 60+ miles away, which sometimes meant I’d have to go outside and turn the antenna by hand to get clear reception.)
  • I still got in trouble for spending too much time on our one family phone. (Rotary dial, no push buttons.)
  • I still got enough news about the Vietnam War from our local daily newspaper to feel depressed as I waited to turn 18 and be eligible for the draft. (My draft number? 364. Trump’s? Heel spurs.)
  • I still had one ear glued to the radio for my music. (Chicago’s WLS 890 AM and DJ Larry Lujack was a constant companion through my high school years in Southeast Iowa.)
  • I still saw enough cute cats and dogs living on a farm. (We always had a dog and way, way, way too many cats.)

On the other hand, I actually did miss a lot. We all did in those slower times. True, instantaneous news in a constantly online world can be irritating. However, it helps us see more things we missed when news moved slower.

Thanks to the velocity of news today, we were able learn quickly about the harrassment of Christian Cooper in Central Park in New York City by an entitled dog walker. We were able to learn about the murder of George Floyd before it could be covered up. We learned about, actually could see in real time, peaceful protester’s being pushed out of LaFayette Square to make way for Trump’s photo op. Unless we see and feel these outrages in real time and respond in real time, our efforts for change will always be too little, too late.

Sometimes we need a break from the rapid fire of information. Sometimes we need to step away from chaos, uncertainty, and the stress it can bring. Sometimes we need to go slow to disconnect for a little bit so we can maintain our sanity, perspective, and strength. At the same time we cannot allow our comfort in the slow periods to divorce us from the reality of our world and the part we need to play in making change.

Chickenman – Episode 54

The Winged Warrior seems to have fallen on hard times in Midland City. He is no longer as highly regarded as he once was. However, it turns out he has a fan club.

June 8, 2020 – Lady & The Baseball Bat

Today is June 8, 2020, today is Best Friend Day! It’s a great day to celebrate and honor your best friend! Since you are still social distancing, it might be a bit challenging to take them to lunch. But you can still meet up with them via Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, or just by phone. Do not underestimate the power of these platforms to strengthen friendships and to even make new friends.

let’s start the week with a little dance…

This video comes from Cynthia, a regular reader in Washington State. Thanks Cynthia! This is a fun flash mob dance from Russia to an 90-year-old tune by Irvin Berlin, Puttin’ on the Ritz, or, since it is from Russia, is that “Putin on the Ritz?” Sorry, bad joke…totally irresistible though.

…And a smile with chickenman – episode 52

Benton Harbor (aka Chickenman, aka “Yo-Yo”) is still at his high school reunion.

Lady & The Baseball Bat

When I first saw her she was just a few feet off the trail in the woods behind a house, which I presumed to be hers. She was bending down to tie a shoe and she had a small, metallic blue baseball bat with her. It seemed curious to me that she had the bat in the woods but I figured she had her reasons. I greeted her, she returned my greeting, and I continued on the trail.

We have a 2.12 mile walking trail that encircles our neighborhood. I know it is 2.12 miles in length because every tenth of a mile is marked for those of us who use the trail for exercise. The markings are also handy in case someone falls or takes ill on the trail. Emergency services will know more accurately where to go.

I didn’t think much about the baseball bat or the woman as I continued my walk. I just kept on moving, focused on making my goal of 3.5 miles in 60 minutes averaging 3.5 mph.

When I got to the opposite end of the trail I met the woman again. This time it was clear that she was walking the trail…with a baseball bat. As we met I moved slightly off the trail (out of range of the bat just in case) and I greeted her again and she returned the greeting again. This time, as I moved on, I found myself wondering why she had the baseball bat.

The baseball bat was a first for me. I’ve seen people carrying a lot of things on the trail, but not a baseball bat.

However, I’ve also heard of people having interesting experiences with wildlife on the trail. Some have reported being dive bombed by birds. Some people have even reported the same thing from bats at sunset – the rodent kind, of course, not those from Louisville Slugger. I’ve run into wild animals on the trail myself. Typically it is rabbits, squirrels, deer, turtles in the pond, and an occasional woodchuck. Of the more intimidating variety, I’ve also seen foxes and a coyote. The meanest I’ve encountered to date, though, are the Canadian geese who are tending to their young goslings on the pond. I give them lots of space when they are hanging out on the trail. One of the grown geese guards the family while the other parents it. The guard goose has a pretty nasty stink eye.

After seeing the coyote on the trail, I went out with a walking stick for a couple of weeks, so I can appreciate that someone might want to take a bat. But, really, a bat?

As I kept thinking about the bat I tried to remember what else I had observed about the woman in our brief encounters. First, I’ve mentioined it already, I noticed her gender. Second, I noticed, generally, her age…probably older than me, which puts her in the late 60’s or even in her 70’s. Third, I noticed she is black.

Mulling over those observations it suddenly hit me (a thought, not the bat) what all three had in common: vulnerability. Each, and together, gender, age, and race made the woman highly vulnerable. It would be easy to rationalize away the bat by simply saying she was protecting herself from the wildlife. I didn’t actually believe that to be the case though. This is a time when the most vulnerable among us are feeling more vulnerable than usual.

At this point the reflection turned inward. “What is there about me,” I wondered, “that makes me a threat to other people, especially to those who are already feeling vulnerable?” Of course, there is that I’m white, I’m male, and at age 66 I’m still in reasonably good shape. I suppose all of these could make me intimidating to some people.

Then I wondered if the lady with the bat thought I might be someone she should fear. There was a part of me that wanted to turn around, catch up with her, and let her know that I’m harmless. However, by merely turning around, catching up with her, and telling her I’m harmless would likely only confirm some of her fear…especially the part that I might be a bit weird. Sigh.

We never really know how people perceive us, eh? I know how I want to be perceived, but threat is in the eye of the beholder. One of the things I’m revisiting in this time is how I am perceived and received by others. That’s not a bad thing at all. How I wish to be perceived is an idealized vision of myself. If I hold that vision before me and strive to attain it, then I think I could be contributing to making this a safer place for all after all. No baseball bat needed.

“what do you want to say?”

This is the question that was asked of people in Minneapolis near the area where George Floyd was murdered on May 25th. Photographer John Noltner documented their answers with words and beautiful portraits. The video below compiles and shares the answers to that question. I have attempted to embed the video via Facebook below. If it doesn’t appear, then simply click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1378217865699829

When you’ve finished watching the video, visit the National Conversation Project to learn more about ways you can keep engaged. Much appreciation to my friend Beth Howard for introducing me to this video, as well as the National Conversation Project and the photography and work of John Noltner. On May 31, 2020 Beth was in Minneapolis, two blocks from where George Floyd was murdered, giving away pie to members of the community. When we all do what we can, when we can, from where we can, it matters.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health.


June 4, 2020 – Tianamen Square to LaFayette Square

Today is June 4, National Cheese Day, an homage to fromage all day long! (So…I guess…that means…you know…it is also a day to cut the fromage?)

Tianamen Square to Lafayette Square

Today is also the 31st anniversary of what is known in China as the June Fourth Incident. Here in the U.S. we know it as the Tianamen Square Massacre.

At this moment we have a stand off between Federal forces and protesters in LaFayette Square in Washington, DC. Frankly, it is a bit difficult to tell the two apart. Take a look at the two pictures below. The first is Tianamen Square. Your clue is that this is now an iconic photo from that standoff which you’ve likely seen before. Of course, if more mature leadership doesn’t prevail in the White House, the second, from just outside LaFayette Square, could also become iconic.

Source: Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/126732527; Photo by Jeff Widener
Source: Retrieved from Bloomberg.com, June 4, 2020

As the protests at Tianamen Square were building in the Spring of 1989 I was getting ready for summer camp. In June I was at camp. No, not as a camper but as the director of the summer youth camping program. It was a Quaker camp and, as Quakers tend to be, we were very conscious of what was happening in the world, even while we were retreating from it at summer camp. Of course, in 1989 we didn’t have Smartphones nor did we have much access to the internet so we couldn’t stay connected 24/7/365. We did, however, have access to the daily news. We followed the protests and standoff in China with grave interest. Our interest turned to horror as the massacre began on June 4th.

It touched all of us – directors, counselors, staff, and youth. To process what we had witnessed, we decided to have an activity in which counselors and youth together would create posters and artwork to symbolized our care and concern for the protesters and solidarity with them.

I wonder…would any of us then ever have believed we’d be at a place today, in 2020, when we are holding our breath and hoping we don’t have our own LaFayette Square massacre? I wonder, too, what will we remember and memoralize about this day on future June Fourths?

View the Webinar: Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership

On June 2nd I joined Liz Weaver for a conversation in a Tamarack Institute webinar. If you were not able to be a part of the webinar live (it was over subscribed!), you can still view it here. Be sure to check out the other webinar resources from Tamarack Institute. Co-CEOs Liz Weaver, Paul Born, and their staff have been terrific partners with Tenacious Change LLC over the past few years and I feel honored to have been able to do this webinar with them. I love their work and their thinking! If you haven’t met them before, now is the time!

stories of covid-19

Hope Crenshaw, PhD leads Teen Health Mississippi in Jackson. On March 13 & 14, as the country was beginning to go into “lockdown” because of COVID-19, I was with Hope, her Board of Directors, and staff in Jackson and we were working on a new strategy plan for the organization. As we met we had no idea how severely COVID-19 would impact everyone and everything.

One of the things that leaders do in the midst in crisis is consider how their mission fits with the need of the moment. As Hope and her team saw COVID-19 roll into Mississippi they began to think about the needs of the youth they serve and develop a plan to help.

They quickly recognized that the impact of the pandemic on youth was not a priority for planners. Yet they knew that closures would mean that many youth would lose their seasonal and part-time jobs. For these young people the jobs meant they could save for college, help out their family, or even just simply eat. Though Teen Health Mississippi is an organization with the mission to provide youth with full, complete, and honest sex education, they knew the lack of income might also put some young people at sexual risk.

In response Teen Health Mississippi started the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for youth. Their goal is to award at least $100,000 in emergency relief to Mississippi youth. To date they have received nearly 4,000 applications for help and they’ve awarded over $7,000 in assistance to 125 of the neediest youth. As they consider the applications, here is what they are learning about the youth who are applying:

  • 63% are experiencing food insecurty
  • 41% are experiencing homelessess
  • 32% lack the proper technology for distance learning to stay in school

I know the needs are great at this time everywhere. You may already be doing a lot in your community to help meet the needs created by COVID-19 and to help right the wrongs of racial injustice. Still, I ask that you consider helping Teen Health Mississippi if you are able. In 2020 the State of Mississippi remains the poorest of these United States. For this reason, their need may be even greater than the rest of the country.

I have had the honor of working with Hope, her staff, and her board for over 2 years now. I know them very well. I can recommend them and this cause to you without reservation. Clemencia and I are planning to make a contribution to this fund to help them get to their $100,000 goal. It won’t be as much as we’d like to do, but it will be something and it will help. Thank you for your consideration.

To learn more about Teen Health Mississippi, visit its website, of course, but also learn more about the fund:

A clarification

A few weeks back I invited you and other readers to this blog with the promise that it would not be a partisan space. It may not always seem that way because I have been pretty outspoken, especially in the midst of the protests, against the presidency of Donald Trump. Let me explain: I do not consider criticizing Trump to be a partisan act, even though he identifies as a Republican (well, at least right now…he has changed his party affiliation five times since 1987).

There is a big difference in speaking out against the presidency of Trump and against or for any political party. History is going to report that Trump was not a Republican but a self-absorbed demogogue who would align himself with any party so long as he thought there was a personal benefit. He’d be a Democrat today if he thought it would have a greater benefit to him.

The realization that Trump is not a Republican is a fact that many Republicans are coming to, such as those in the Lincoln Project and Republicans Voters Against Trump, which launched its first national ad last week.

Why do I speak harshly about Trump at all? Why not just ignore him? Well, I’ve tried doing that. Unfortunately my conscience won’t let me. The line I use to describe my consultancy, Tenacious Change LLC, is this: Animating people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. This is a mission anchored in a clear ethical and moral understanding of our purpose in this world. It is to work for the greater good of all and that also requires us to stand for the greater good. To do anything less is to live an incongruent, divided life. Therefore, when I see the lawlessness of the president and the harm that is being done to so many by Trump, it is no longer ethical or moral for me to remain silent.

I mentioned in a blog last week that I have a diverse group of friends and, yes, that means politically as well. In my circle of friends, colleagues, clients, and collaborators most identify as either Republicans or Democrats but some have different political leanings from these. I hold ideas and viewpoints in common with each of them and I care about each person. I must confess though that I care a bit more for my Republican friends at this moment because I believe many of them are suffering deeply over Trump.

To be clear, when I write about Trump, I’m not writing about all Republicans. I know the differences among the Republicans. I know there are those who are just as appalled and disgusted by Trump as I am. I know there are those who follow him because he is an accomplished liar and they’ve been truly deceived into following. I know there are those who mistakenly yet truly believe he represents Republican values. I know there are those which are merely his “toadies” and who are following him to get whatever promises he has made to them. I know there are those who feign followership because they know they can use his inexperience and incompetence to their advantage.

I also know all of this may seem like splitting hairs to some of my readers. However, I can see a clear distinction and will do my best to continue to make that distinction in this space.

Chickenman – Episode 48

Uh, oh, Chickenman struggles to regain his memory after a big bump on the head. Even worse, the Police Commissioner is trying to help him. If it seems that only Ms. Helfinger has a clue about anyting in this series, you are right.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing you mask, and keep justice, peace, and health in your heart.


June 1, 2020 – Another Leadership Moment Lost

Welcome to The Daily Drivel!

Today is not only June 1st, it is Dare Day! Here’s a fun and interesting dare for any day – I dare you to think about somebody you’d like to know better and then ask them this question: “Tell me one story from your life that helps me understand better who you are today and how you got here.”

another leadership moment lost

We all need to be ready for those moments when our leadership is on the line and the fate or fortune of others depends on what we do.

…I take leadership to signify the act of making a difference.

Michael Useem, The Leadership Moment (1998)

Last night we watched another leadership moment come…and go…again. We were watching our local 11:00 PM news as it covered the protests and riots outside the White House, barely 20 miles from our home. We saw protesters and police, fires and rioters in an area of Washington we know well, only blocks from where I used to commute into work each day.

Posted on Facebook by MKW

The protests in Washington, as those in New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angelese, Miami, and a many other cities were against the brutal inhumanity that murdered George Floyd (be sure to watch this video of the timeline of Mr. Floyd’s death compiled from security and cell phone video). George Floyd died on May 25th – one week ago – at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Early that same day, the day Mr. Floyd died, I wrote an open letter to the President of the United States. In that letter, with reference to the pandemic, I asked him to be his best self for the sake of the country. It would not be fair to say he ignored me because I’m quite sure he never saw my letter. I would have been pleased if he had but I my expectations are realistic. However, sometimes things just need to be said.

At the same time, I did not expect the brutal death of Mr. Floyd and the extraordinary crisis upon extraordinary crisis in which we are now living. If any President were ever a real leader, these crises were leadership moments which could not be allowed to pass. But they did pass the current President of the United States.

The President has not only ignored or been unhelpful in healing the country wracked with the deaths of over 100,000+ people from COVID-19, he has done the same in the death of George Floyd. He has played golf on one of his golf courses, traveled to Florida to watch a rocket launch, and he has hidden in his underground bunker, he has berated governors for not “dominating” the protesters, and he has preened for a photo opportunity in front of a church he rarely attends, holding up a Bible so new looking one wonders if it has ever been opened or read. The church, a block from the White House, had to be cleared of protesters by Federal authories usings rubber bullets and tear gas to make a path for the President to have his photo op. However, he has not tried bringing people together, he has not tried comforting the grieving, he has not tried binding the wounds, and he has not tried to put out the fires of the pandemic and the racism he has fueled. He has missed, again and again, the leadership moment. He has failed and he continues to fail.

What’s Your Message Now?

CBS Sunday Morning had a very interesting segment on advertising this last Sunday. Many nonprofits do not actually “advertise” but they do “promote” their services. This segment looked at the ways advertising has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I found this to be a relevant and thought-provoking segment to recommend to nonprofit leaders and their organizations. Give it a look!

truth be told with winthrop dykstra-Baum

Winthrop Dykstra-Baum here with “Truth Be Told.” Today I’m interviewing, again, Tom Klaus.

  • Me: Could you move away from me just a bit, Winthrop? When I agreed to do this interview with you, you said you’d be wearing a mask and keeping at least six feet from me.
  • Winthrop: Yes, but that was before I started taking hydroxycholriquine and now there is no danger.
  • Me: Um, that’s not true, Winthrop. You could still be a carrier and, besides, the best science says that hydroxycholoriquine could be dangerous for you.
  • Winthrop: Well, this is my show and I can do what I like.
  • Me: It might be your show, Winthrop, but if you aren’t going to mask up and keep a safe distance, I’m going to ask you to leave.
  • Winthrop: Fine! (Frustratedly putting on a mask). Happy now?
  • Me: Yes, now if you’ll take about two steps back, please.
  • Winthrop (stepping back): Satisfied?
  • Me: Yes, much better. Now, go ahead.
  • Winthrop: I’ll try but I can hardly breathe under this ridiculous mask. (Pause) I understand you are no longer writing “Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place.” Is that right?
  • Me: Yes, that is true, Winnie.
  • Winthrop: That would be, “Winthrop,” please.
  • Me: My apologies…yes, that is true Winthrop. I’ll still be including some stories of COVID-19 but I’m changing the focus a bit of the new blog, The Daily Drivel.
  • Winthrop: The Daily Drivel?” Already it sounds more realistic and accurate.
  • Me: I’m not sure how you mean that, Winthrop.
  • Winthrop: I mean that “Stories of COVID-19,” frankly, from a journalistic perspective, was pretty lousy. At least this blog says that right up front. What guarantee do we have that this new blog is going to uphold the highest journalistic standards, like I do?
  • Me: It isn’t journalism, Winthrop. It is more like a personal journal and you and others are invited to read it. I don’t make any claims to be a journalist. I like to write, I have a sense of humor, I have a life, I have opinions, and I like to write about them in this blog.
  • Winthrop: So it isn’t journalism, yet you still expect people to take it seriously?
  • Me: Well, you claim to be a journalist, Winthrop, but not everybody takes you seriously. I mean, seriously, any decent journalist knows you don’t take hyroxycholoriquine to prevent COVID-19. There is just no science to back it up.
  • Winthrop: This isn’t about me, you are the interview subject. You can stop dodging my question anytime you like.
  • Me: I’m not dodging your question. In fact I’ll answer it right now. I expect people to take The Daily Drivel for what it is…a place to begin or end the day, to hang out, get a smile, read a rant or two, and, on occasion, even learn something new.
  • Winthrop: “Even learn something new.” There it is, Truth Be Told! You expect people to learn something new hence you are covertly trying to pass this off as real journalism!
  • Me: Really, Winthrop, is that what you think? I’m making no claims of real journalism – just real drivel. You see things when they aren’t there, Winthrop, just to be able to shout “Truth Be Told!” in people’s faces. Are you sure the hydroxychoriquine isn’t getting to you?
  • Winthrop: No, I’m fine, but, wait…I need to wrap this…it is time for my next dose.

Chickenman – episode 45

Chickenman enjoys a dinner at one of his favorite Midland City restaurants.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and keep wearing your mask.


Day 70 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Do not imagine for a moment that they are asleep…though I must admit a couple of folks do look very relaxed.

Sunday, May 24, 2020 – Live to Blog (kind of) from Quaker Meeting

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19 – #alonetogether

We attended Quaker meeting again today via Zoom. I’ve been impressed with how seamlessly people have adapted to the new environment for Meeting for Worship. Thanks to Zoom, Clemencia and I have been able to attend Quaker meeting more than usual. She’s a bit camera shy so she sits off to the side but I am usually on camera to represent us both. Besides, being on camera is my incentive for avoiding nodding off.

So, Can You Gather with God Over Zoom?

This is the question the New York Times asked on Friday, May 22. To answer it they focused on unprogrammed Quaker meetings where Friends (the other term often used for Quakers) gather for worship. The article in the New York Times is filled with photos of Quakers sitting in silence with their eyes closed. Do not imagine for a moment that they are asleep…though I must admit a couple of folks do look very relaxed.

What Quakers all around the world are finding…no, rediscovering…as a result of their Zoom worship experiences is something we learned from George Fox over 300 years ago in his Journal:

The Lord showed me, so that I did see clearly, that he did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people’s hearts … his people were his temple, and he dwelt in them.

George Fox, Journal, 1694

Quakers have held since the beginning of their movement that God inhabits the hearts of people, not buildings or other sacred places. You can imagine this did not endear them to the Church of England, which the Quaker movement initially sought to revive and reform. In more recent years we may have drifted a bit from that ideal as our ancient Meetinghouses have caught the attention of various historical societies and become state and national historic sites. Our own Meetinghouse is a beautiful 200+ year old building which seems to breathe on its own infused by the lives of so many who have gathered there over the past two centuries.

The Zoom experience seems to have reminded us that God’s real address in our hearts – not at 17715 Meeting House Road, Sandy Spring, Maryland 20860. While many churches and faith communities around us seem anxious and distressed about whether they can worship outside their buildings, we are rediscovering one of the original tenet’s that sets Quakers apart from many other groups. We don’t need a building to commune with God because God is present in our midst whenever – and how ever – we gather in worship.

This in one of my favorite depictions of Quaker worship. All wait in silence yet one person, a woman, is hearing the still small voice of God. It is unclear, of course, whether this is a message for all, or a message for her alone. Throughout our history, the voice of women in worship has been welcome and encouraged. This painting is by James Doyle Penrose, 1864.

So when we gather we sit silently and listen for that of God within us to speak to us. Sometimes the messages we receive in this gathered meditation are to be shared aloud with others. Many times, though, the messages speak very individually and personally to our condition in that moment. In the years I have attended Quaker meeting I have rarely spoken in worship. However, I have been spoken to many times through messages from others and by the still small voice of God that whispers to me in the hush of the Meeting for Worship.

When I learned of the New York Times article today in the announcement period that typically follows Meeting for Worship, I wanted to capture a picture of our meeting to share with you. Taking pictures in Meeting for Worship is something we do not generally do nor do we allow. Fortunately, a Friend offered a way for me to capture a photo that was agreeable to all. Friends who did not want to be pictured in a screenshot were given a few seconds to turn off their cameras. When it seemed every one still on camera was fine with having their picture taken, I grabbed the screen shot below. Thank you to my friends and Friends at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting in Sandy Spring, Maryland for participating in this photo and allowing me to post it here.

On May 24, 2020 there were more than 40 Zoom sign-ins for the 11:00 AM Meeting for Worship with Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. Because several couples were on camera, attendance was likely well over 60. This is a sampling of those present.

The Passing of a Friend

A few weeks ago I shared with you that a friend had passed from complications of COVID-19. She was special to us because she was among the first people we got to know at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting when we first started attending. Actually, we met her at the Passion Bakery Cafe after Meeting for Worship where she and we loved to eat. It is less than 200 yards from the Sandy Spring Friends Meetinghouse making it a convenient place to stop for lunch after Meeting. In my previous posting I did not give her name.

Nora Caplan – A Friend to All – 1927-2020 – Source: Washington Post, May 22, 2020

On Friday, May 22nd the Washington Post ran a wonderful article about our friend Nora Caplan. I hope you take the time to read it. It is quite brief. The article did a wonderful job of capturing her as we knew her. What I didn’t know until I read the article is that Nora was a native Midwesterner like me. She grew up in Springfield, MO, just a few hours south of where I grew up in Southeast Iowa. When I read that in the article I immediately understood her friendliness. We Midwesterners are, often to a fault, very friendly. Nora’s friendliness left a mark on us. It assured us it would be a good thing to return to Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. She left us on April 25, 2020 at the age of 93.

For Dog Lovers…

Ever wonder what your dog does when you aren’t at home? This dog owner, training his new Labrador puppy, Lucy, to handle being alone at home, wondered what would happen when he took Princess (his other dog) out for a walk but without Lucy.

The View from Jeff

Jeff Logan is my friend and was my cohort-mate in the doctoral program at Eastern University. He lives in Calgary, Alberta and is a cartoonist, educator, linguist, and co-pastor’s a Baptist church with his spouse. He has graciously allowed me to share some of his cartoons here. Enjoy!

Jeff explains: I thought of this joke while sleeping and thought it was hilarious… Woke up and realized it’s just a mediocre pun based on the word “admit.” But it still made me laugh.

The Adventures of Chickenman

How about a double shot of Crimefighting Chicken Goodness to “celebrate” Day 70 of our sheltering-in-place?

First, we have Episode 39 of the original Chickenman. He has finally found the Teddy Bear he has been tailing. But what will come of that?

Next we have a cartoon version of an early episode of Chickenman from animator Michael Wahlberg. Enjoy!

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep the faith – in whatever ways you express it.


Day 66 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Today I was in service to Clemencia…and I loved it! It was a wonderfully refreshing and fun day to do nothing but help her.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 – Live to Blog from a Better Place

#alonetogether – just the two of us!

Now, don’t read too much into the line above. By “a better place” I don’t mean in the sense of I’ve “gone on to a better place.” I’m just saying that I got out of the right side of the bed this morning. I was disappointed to see that none of this has been a really bad dream but, hey, it is what it is, right? And so it goes.

A Day in Service

Today I decided that I wouldn’t do any of my own work. Instead, I decided to give Clemencia a hand with her fledgling business.

Clemencia – Headshot #1

In January 2018 Clemencia started volunteering at our local library to teach Spanish classes to people in the community. She had been teaching “dental Spanish” to students at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry where she had taught classes and conducted oral health research for 20 years. The group at the school started quite informally about four years. A group of dental students had expressed interest in the language because they were seeing more Spanish speaking children and parents in the clinics.

That first experience with the dental students sent Clemencia down a path she had never anticipated following. She went back to school – after two doctorates, I thought she was a bit nuts. She enrolled in an online course through her alma mater – Arizona State University – to learn how to teach languages. Then it was a couple of online courses with universities in Spain and along the way she picked up many hours and certificates in teaching English as a Second Language and Spanish as a Second Language.

When she finally felt confident enough in her skills, she ventured into the public realm of Spanish instruction. That brings us back to January 2018. The night of the first class was very cold here in Maryland. She was quite sure no one would be there so she asked me to go with her so she wouldn’t have to sit alone in the room throughout the evening. She was shocked…and delighted…when nine people showed up for her first class. I was not shocked at all.

Clemencia – Headshot #2

Since that time, her classes have grown steadily, as has her passion for teaching Spanish. Her retirement dream was to teach for Prince George’s Community College at their Laurel center (only about five minutes from our house). More specifically, she wanted to teach adults and seniors. She reached out to the community college and they, in fact, did have an opening at the Laurel campus for a Spanish teacher for that group.

This past January she started her second year of teaching at the Laurel library and was preparing for her first year of teaching for the community college. She finally started her classes with the college in February and had two weeks of classes then…you…know…what…happened.

After the shock of COVID-19 passed Clemencia began to think about what had previously been unthinkable to her: teaching groups online. She contacted all of her students from both the library (which was also closed) and the college and asked if they’d be interested in online classes. All but two decided they would join her online group classes.

Now, nearly 10 weeks later, Clemencia has become on online teaching pro! Her students have become quite proficient at using Zoom and are loving the classes.

A few weeks ago it became clear that the “new normal” was not going to make it easy for groups to gather for classes again. Clemencia began to consider whether her teaching could actually become a career that paid a little bit. She had been excited about the community college position because it actually did pay some which helps in retirement.

Clemencia – Headshot #3

As long as I’ve known Clemencia she had been a studier and a decider. She does her research, gathers facts, and then, without waffling, make a decision. When she does decide to go all in, she goes all in. That’s exactly how we got to today and ¡Charlemos con Clemencia! (Let’s chat with Clemencia). After weeks of planning, she took the leap.

Clemencia is not as comfortable with technology as I am so she asked if I could help her with a website, setting up a payment system, putting together an online registration form, etc., etc. Because I will do pretty much anything she asks, I agreed.

Today I was in service to Clemencia…and I loved it! It was a wonderfully refreshing and fun day to do nothing but this. I tried to pull together all the things she needs to register students in her inaugural Summer Session – which is barely a month away. I can’t show you the website yet – it is still under review by mi jefe (my boss). However, I did use a few of the new website headshots in the blog. Plus, I have permission to share this video we shot using Zoom. Enjoy!

Clemencia Vargas explains how the classes work at Charlemos con Clemencia

In reality…

My friend Cynthia in Washington State sent me a link to an article today that is pretty disturbing. Researcher’s at the University of Washington are beginning to calculate the death rate for COVID-19. Here’s what they have learned:

A new study suggests the number of Americans who will die after contracting the novel coronavirus is likely to more than triple by the end of the year, even if current social distancing habits continue for months on end.

The study, conducted by the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics Institute at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy, found that 1.3 percent of those who show symptoms of COVID-19 die, an infection fatality rate that is 13 times higher than a bad influenza season.

“COVID-19 infection is deadlier than flu — we can put that debate to rest,” said Anirban Basu, a health economist at the University of Washington who authored the study.

Reid Wilson, The Hill, May 19, 2020

Good thing it’s not as serious as the flu, eh?

Oh, man, just give me some Chickenman!

The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 35 – The Invisible Fearless Foul is still…well…invisible despite a rigorous regimen of aspirin. (Gee, maybe he should try Clorox, or Lysol, or hydroxichloriquine.) Anyway, he has to take a pass on saving the country. Wow, sounds like a lot of other folks today!

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep hoping Chickenman becomes visible again…maybe he knows what to do with this mess!


Day 60 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Even though she was wearing a mask, I knew there was a lot of lip-pointing going on. She was signalling me to be careful around them and to alert me when they were committing any quarantine faux pas.

Thursday, May 14, 2020 – Live to…WHAT? 60 Days and I’m still doing this? It was only supposed to be 14!


Sixty days! 60! Six-zero! LX! It was still Winter when we entered into sheltering-in-place and now we are halfway through Spring. In barely a month we’ll be starting Summer. This is bizarre! Truly, truly bizarre!

Don’t Mess with Her!

There are Trump’s lockdown orders. Yeah, right! Only until you get bored or need a Big Mac and, hey, I don’t need a mask!

There are Governor Hogan’s lockdown orders. Pretty serious and, you know what, we will shut you down if you try to mess with them. But, you know, we’re going to loosen them up a bit now so, be good…please. (Yeah, right, Larry. You have a lot more faith in Stupid People than I do.)

And then…there are Clemencia’s lockdown orders. Don’t try it…don’t even think about it…you will live without pizza.

Clemencia scared the bejeezus out of three young men who came to our home today. The first was an HVAC technician who came to do the semi-annual check on our system to make sure it was ready for the Summer. Yeah…the Summer…since we’re going to be in the house all Summer. The HVAC technician told us exactly what we knew he would tell us. Our system was old and needed replacement.

We shocked him by agreeing with him. He shocked us by having the salespeople at our house before we could get that sentence. They must have been parked around the corner.

This is the first time anyone has been in our home since early March and Clemencia was ready for them. We were masked up. They were masked up. She made sure they did not open or close any doors. She made sure they knew we expected them to keep at least six feet away from us. She was ready with a spray bottle of disinfectant for anything they touched.

Even though she was wearing a mask, I knew there was a lot of lip-pointing going on. She was signalling me to be careful around them and to alert me when they were committing any quarantine faux pas.

The first guy crossed her when he failed to keep his mask up over his nose. She had to remind him a couple of time to pull it up. After the second time, all she had to do was lip-point and he’d apologize and pull it it. Such fun to watch! The second two guys crossed her by staying too long. Unfortunately for them, the sales meeting took forever due to a glitch in their credit approval system.

Clemencia’s student knew she is very nice and formidable – something our visitor’s learned today.

Clemencia stepped away from a Spanish class at one point to motion to me…from behind them…to move them along. When “somebody” didn’t quite get what she was motioning about, she finally spoke up and said, “This is taking way too long for people like us who are at high risk.” That scared them, though it didn’t speed things up much because the things prolonging the visit were out of their control. Still, from that point on, they were aware that she could come back through the door at any minute and that would be it.

Three times after that they said something like, “We can take care of all of this later over the phone. We don’t want your wife to have to come back out.” Then, I seized the moment to become sinister and speak in a slow, spooky tone.

“Oh, no, no, no. I insist. Stay. Please. She wants you to stay…really. We don’t want to have to do all of this later over the phone. Oh, no, not at all! Let’s get it done while you still can…I mean, while you are still here. It will be fine…just fine,” then I chortled and smiled my best creepy smile. That seemed to help sharpen their focus on their task.

We finally got the deal done and we actually got a good deal. Let’s just say that in this scenario, I got to be the “good cop,” and Clemencia got to be the “bad cop.” She loved it!

When the two left, they assured her that they already had alerted the installation crew (which will be here at 8:30 AM tomorrow morning) about the house rules. Very wise, very wise, indeed!

We haven’t had so much fun in…oh…about eight weeks! And, they learned a few things about physical distancing, mask wearing, and a behaviors that need to go with staying safe in the time of COVID-19. They even learned not to mess with a woman empowered by the truth of public health. For my part, I may have debunked one or two COVID-19 conspiracy theories.

I sometimes refer to Clemencis as “Ms. CDC” because, for as long as I’ve known her, she has approached infection control and all things public health from a strictly Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standard. When she came to the DC area from Arizona it was to work with the Epidemic Intelligence Service. She leapt at that opportunity because she, and many others, saw the CDC as setting the “gold standard” in public health at that time.

That experience profoundly impacted her and it is what informs her insights today regarding COVID-19. So far, she is batting one thousand. She predicted COVID-19 to be bad, and it has been. She pushed and prodded me to buy more beans than I thought we’d ever need in a lifetime and an extra bundle of toilet paper at BJ’s Warehouse in early February. And I’m thankful we did. Her instincts have been spot-on about this thing and I listen very carefully to her counsel. I even do my best to follow it though I’ve not been perfect.

We learned this evening that we have a bit more time to spend in our home. The Prince George’s County Executive announced tonight that we will be sheltering in place at least through June 1 – even though many other parts of the state are opening up…at least just a little.

In addition to monitoring our health and COVID-19 behavior, Clemencia kindly lets me tell some stories about her in this blog. I feel very fortunate to be spending this lockdown with her. If we both make it through this without contracting the virus, it will be because of her.

Lessons from Mom for COVID-19

In my blog on Monday I invited people to send in pieces of wisdom they received from their mom’s in the past which now may prove to be useful during the pandemic. Thank you to everyone who sent me items.

I asked people to also let me know if they were sons or daughters as I wanted to see if Clemencia’s assessment might have been correct – that my list was more likely to be what son’s heard than what daughter’s heard. After reviewing the list of entries I think she might be right. All respondents were daughters. See what you think:

  • Always use the bathroom before leaving home. (Afterall, who knows what germs lurk in public restrooms these days!)
  • Don’t ever cut your bangs by yourself again!
  • Make sure you have clean underwear on.
  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Respect your elders.
  • Stop talking.
  • Don’t speak unless asked.
  • Be good to yourself, and in turn you can be good for others.

I wasn’t sure about the advice about clean underwear. Then, I remembered the blog I wrote recently about a question that is puzzling the scientific world. You know the one…does flatulence spread COVID-19? If underwear is the hiney’s mask, then, yes, this one does make sense. Again, thanks to everyone who contributed!

The Adventures of Chickenman

In Episode 29 Chickenman has an unfortunate incident with the Chicken Dissolver in the Chicken Cave.

A Different Side of Chris Mann

I’ve shared several of Chris Mann’s very funny music videos that he has created from his home, all related to COVID-19. This is one that is not funny but very touching. Enjoy and share – especially with someone you know who is on the frontline for us.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep doing everything you can to stay safe. The country may be “re-opening,” but Coronavirus has never stopped working.


Day 51 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

This morning I opened my email and found this subject line in preview: Love your daily posts. “Who could that fool be?” I wondered. After running through a list all the fools I could think of, I finally opened the email.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 – Live to Blog from a Hot Oven


Yes, it is Cinco de Mayo and it is also Tuesday – which at Taco Bell is Taco Tuesday so, I guess it is Cinco de Mayo Taco Tuesday but that all sounds way to confusing. So, I’m going with pizza…a taco pizza.

How to Avoid Being a Guava on Cinco de Mayo

Unfortunately, most of us Americans who are native born, white, and of Anglo Northern European heritage know very little of other ethnicities, cultures, and languages. Let’s face it and be brutally honest with ourselves. Overall, when it comes to any of these, we are ignoramuses. This is especially true with regard to what we know about Latinos and Hispanics.

Case in point: Cinco de Mayo is a strictly Mexican holiday because it remembers Mexico’s victory over France on May 5, 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. To be clear, it is not Mexican Independence Day. To be even more clear, over the years it has evolved to be a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture, not ALL Latino and Hispanic culture. Still, we wander around on Cinco de Mayo wishing a happy holiday to anyone with a Spanish accent or, we just appropriate the holiday as another reason for drinking beer and eating nachos.

Being an ignoramus, I risked my life when I once – and one time only – wished Clemencia a cheery Happy Cinco de Mayo! The first time I did this I earned a rather lengthy “explanation” (read “lecture”) on the origins of Cinco de Mayo, why it was not her holiday as a native Colombian, and what a gueva gringo I was for not understanding all of that already. Actually, she was right. We gringos are not very good at any history, geography, culture, or language other than our own – and, of course, we tend to think it is all vastly superior to any others.

While Mexico is a Latino and Hispanic country, not all Latinos and Hispanics are Mexicans. Also, just because people identify as Latino does not mean they are from Mexico or even speak Spanish. There is a difference between being Latino and being Hispanic. Latino is an abbreviation of latinoamericano, hence it refers to people living in Latin America. Hispanic, though, refers to countries which are Spanish speaking. Worldwide there are 20 Hispanic countries and 33 Latino countries. Here’s your puzzler for the week: How can a country be Latino but not Hispanic? For a hint, check out this fun video tutorial:

So, to all our Mexican friends, Happy Cinco de Mayo! We wish you a fun, joyous, and safe (socially distancing) celebration!

Love (And Pie!) Makes the World Go Round

I met Beth M. Howard as a result of reading this article in the New York Times. I was captivated by her story, immensely proud to see an Iowan in the news for something good, and decided to connect with her anyway I could. The article also reminded me of a period when, living in Des Moines, I was doing some work in the county next to the one where Beth and her Redheaded Farmer Doug live. My trips from and back to Des Moines would always take me by the American Gothic house and I always loved seeing it.

Intially I reached Beth through her website and then we connected through email. We corresponded for a time and then, on my last trip back home to Iowa in late 2018, I had the opportunity to have dinner with her and Doug. It turns out that Doug and I graduated high school at about the same time and were even on competing high school wrestling teams. We Iowans just love “it’s a small world” stuff like that!

What captivated me about Beth was how she was contributing to the greater good of our world through one of my very favorite things: pie. Beth uses pie and pie baking as instruments of peace and healing in the world. That’s as much of her story I’m going to tell you here because there have been articles written about her, she has a TED Talk, she has written books, and she has a YouTube channel – and most of these are accessible from her website. You can learn more about her in her own words. She has a wonderful story and I hope you’ll take time to learn more about her.

Actually, Beth and Doug have been on my mind a lot recently as I’ve been following the creep of COVID-19 toward my home state. I count them as friends and I’ve had good intentions to drop them a note just to check in but never got around to it with everything else going on.

This morning I opened my email and found this subject line in preview: Love your daily posts. “Who could that fool be?” I wondered. After running through a list all the fools I could think of, I finally opened the email.

I was delighted to find it was not from a fool at all, but from Beth. I felt honored, and a bit embarrassed, to learn she was reading my drivel. But the really exciting news is that she is back to caring for others through the power of pie during this pandemic. She has done six YouTube episodes to teach people how to bake different pies. In episode #7 (below) she features all the pies people have been baking using her lessons.

Check out Beth’s website and subscribe to her YouTube channel, The World Needs More Pie where you can find Episode’s 1 through 6…and start making pie! I bet your mouth is watering anyway so you might as well bake your own, right? Look, Beth has Doug to test the pie she makes and you need a taste tester too. Just sayin’! So, to help you out, I’m volunteering! Email me for my address and box up a piece of your pie. 🙂

Beth, thanks for all you do for the greater good through the power of pie and your caring spirit. At a horrible time like this, the world does need more pie and the love it conveys.

The View from Jeff

Jeff Explains: I have to admit that I feel self-conscious doing my regular “7-person family” grocery shopping trip. It may look like I’m getting ready for the zombie apocalypse but it’s just a normal week in a big family!!

The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 20

Our Fearless Feathered Fighter calls Ms. Helfinger from the Chicken Cave in dire need of her assistance. Will Ms. Helfinger be able to help?

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and bake two pies – one for yourself and the other for someone who needs a pie today.


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