On Social Science Research

“Research” is a funny animal. What passes as social science research can be fascinating, funny, tragic, or maddening depending on its quality and presentation. To ensure high quality, there are standards researchers are ethically bound to observe which serve as guardrails to ensure they do not fly off track into the abyss of speculation. 

One of those is transparency. Researchers are expected to explain their methods in such a way that any other researcher could do the same study, using the same research methods, with a reasonable likelihood of getting the same results. Now, if they do, and they do not get the same results, it does not mean the original research was wrong. It could mean that there were important differences in how the method was used produced a different result. If it is determined that the methods were the same and used in the same way but with different results, it is time to consider other possibilities for the difference, including bias. Transparency makes it possible for researchers to keep themselves, and one another, honest.

Flowers for Fun! From my Saturday walk.

Another guardrail is integrity. An important aspect of integrity in research is the commitment to show the whole truth of the findings, even the inconvenient truth. Nobody is free of bias. Each researcher goes into a project with the expectation, or even hope, of finding certain results. However, we are disappointed as often as we are rewarded. Research results are usually a “mixed bag.” Some results we are pleased with and others we wish had not appeared. However, integrity means we are ethically bound to report the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

A third guardrail is peer review. An important function of professional peer-reviewed journals is to provide a rigorous review of research before it is published for the world to see. The peer review process means that a panel of other researchers examines the work of the author and determines the research and presentation is of sufficient quality to appear in the journal. The PhD dissertation process is essentially a very intense peer review process. A committee examines you at every step of the process and determines whether, and when, you are ready to present and defend your research. It is more than a rite of passage for the PhD, it is a pragmatic rehearsal for a process researches will go through again and again in their postdoctoral careers. 

The fourth guardrail has to do with research data. There are basically two considerations regarding data which researchers need to give attention to for producing solid research. One is the quantity of data and the other is the quality of data. Both are important whether the researcher’s methodology orientation is as a quantitative researcher or as a qualitative researcher. The standards are slightly different for each, but the concern for excellent data is common to both. The quantitative researcher, who is concerned with collecting and analyzing numerical data, usually needs lots of data (numbers) from reliable sources. The qualitative researcher, who is concerned with collecting and analyzing non-numerical data (e.g., interviews, text, videos, etc.) goes in-depth with fewer sources but those sources need to be highly reliable and verifiable. 

Here are two research secrets: Google and Wikipedia. Of course, if you cite either Google or Wikipedia in a school paper, you are likely to lose points and rightly so. Neither is considered a primary source. Researchers try very, very hard to use primary sources. So why do so many researchers go to Google and Wikipedia first? Because you can get a general overview of the topic and each leads you to primary sources. The links and citations in both will usually take you back to primary sources, if you are willing to patiently explore them. 

If you have read many of my blogs you will notice that I often include links to Wikipedia. If it is not a primary source, why do I link to it? Because, in most cases, I am simply trying to give the reader a basic understanding of the language, term, or concept. More often, though, I try to include the primary sources of information I am sharing. 

By this time you are probably wondering “What the heck does this mini-course in research have to do with anything?” Let me explain. 

I have been reflecting on my process of examining White Evangelical support for Donald Trump. I am using qualitative methods hence I am collecting and analyzing text, video, and audio. I had hoped to share more by this time but it is a slow process. Before I say much more about the topic, I want to feel confident that I am offering solid information and ideas.  

I do not have the benefit of a formal peer review process – though I do try to talk through some of my findings with friends and colleagues who are also researchers. When a peer review process is not readily available, it is even more important to have multiple, verifiable primary data sources. This takes time because you want to have the highest quality sources you can.

This is a similar challenge faced by journalists. A good example, from the news of last week, is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic concerning Trump’s denigration of veterans and the military. Goldberg has multiple primary sources for his article. Unfortunately, they are all anonymous hence they are not verifiable. Trump, therefore, has been pushing back on the article claiming he never said any of the things he is accused of saying in the article. Of course, he has also been waving his “fake news” wand over it too. What Goldberg needs is for his anonymous sources to step forward and claim their words in the article. The more the better but even if two or three of the key anonymous informants would own their words, it would dramatically tip the scales. As I wrote earlier, quantity and quality of data matters. Goldberg appears to have more than enough primary sources (quantity) but they are far more credible if they are not anonymous (quality). 

I wanted to give you an update on the process and progress on the White Evangelical research. I am hoping to have more on the topic soon. Stay tuned! 

A Message from Canada

My friend Liz from Canada sent me a Tweet that included a link to a very funny video but, unfortunately, I did not see the video. I thought she was just reminding me to vote in November and so I replied back, “Thanks! We’ll be voting for sure, Liz!” I think she figured out that I had not actually watched the video so she followed up with another Tweet that said simply, “It a fun video.”

I read that Tweet and immediately thought, “Video? What video?” So I dug into my Twitter feed to find the video she had sent me and then I found it on YouTube so I could embed it here. It is a really fun and funny video! Please take a 1 minute and 50 seconds to watch it.

Day 74 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

At one point, he laughed and said, “Tom, you are the whitest white boy I’ve ever known!” We both laughed, because some truth makes us laugh when it slaps us upside the head.

Thursday, May 28, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under Cover of Shame

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

Given all that is happening this week in Minneapolis, New York City, and, recently, in Brunswick, Georgia, I need to write about race – specifically the dynamics of white racism toward black people. I have never felt fully competent to offer a meaningful opinion on race. Even more, as a white male I wonder if I even have standing to offer an opinion given the horrific history of white male oppression of minorities and specifically black people which continues even to this very day. Let’s face, white men, we’ve blown it…again…and again…and again and we keep blowing it. Still, to remain silent is to ignore the racism in our country and to become complicit in it. While I often refer to this blog as being full of “drivel,” race is not a drivelous matter. For this reason I will move forward with this blog on race, but carefully, thoughtfully, and respectfully. I will save drivel for tomorrow.

A Little Context

My father figure gave me my first education about race. I vividly remember him often saying this: “I don’t so much mind the n****** and s****, but its the g**** that really get to me.” Unfortunately, that racist perspective defined or informed my view of nonwhite people and race for many years. Growing up in very rural Iowa, inhabited and surrounded by white, Anglo, Northern European people like myself, I had little life experience to challenge that understanding.

Only one time did I ever see black people in my hometown. In fact, they visited our home. It was a woman my mother worked with at a department store in a city about 20 miles away and her husband. They were out on a drive that Sunday afternoon and decided to drop in on us. My parents were wholly unprepared and I thought one or both were going to have strokes. They quickly ushered the couple into our house, all the time looking about to make sure the neighbors hadn’t noticed. We had a very awkward visit which I very much enjoyed. I was, after all, just at that age when teens enjoy seeing their parents suffer.

An Awakening

There was a time in my life when I was like Amy Cooper. Not long after I left my hometown I was working for a religious youth organization in a larger city in Iowa. I was meeting with a group of white youth in a park and we were playing volleyball together. A group of young black men came up and asked to join the game. My conditioning told me they were probably dangerous to the white youth, so I ended the game early and segregated my group from them by moving on to a Bible study activity for just them…the white kids. How ironic, eh? I have always felt embarrassed and ashamed of my actions that afternoon.

Though my social conditioning told me one thing, my conscience told me another. I began to wonder why I acted that way toward those young black men and, over time, the lingering shame I felt opened me to exploring it. At just the right moment of my life and career, two people helped me with my growth. One was Kevin, a black man who worked with me at a nonprofit organization in Iowa. Kevin was on my staff and by getting to know him, I got to know myself better.

A Transformation Begins

Both Kevin and I attended a diversity training sponsored by the local YWCA, but at different times. He attended it first. I attended it the next time it was offered. When I finished it, I came back to the office and was telling him all about my experience and what I had learned. At one point, he laughed and said, “Tom, you are the whitest white boy I’ve ever known!” We both laughed, because some truth makes us laugh when it slaps us upside the head. Even as I remember this and write about it today, I still smile with appreciation because his candor was so genuine, so refreshing, and so right on.

This week I saw this video going around on Facebook and it reminded me of Kevin. If you haven’t seen it, please take a moment to watch it. If you click on the image below, it should take you to a Facebook page where the video appears.

The other person who helped with my growth was Al Vivien. Al’s father is C.T. Vivien, a close associate of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, a Presidential Medal of Freedom Honoree by President Obama, and the creator and founder of the diversity work and organization Al leads today. Al was the facilitator of that diversity training I attended.

It would take many blogs to describe that experience as it was one of the most momentous and transformative of my life – hence my rush to share it with Kevin. I will only report now that I gained a lot of content but knowledge alone was not enough. The knowledge only provided context for me to understand what I experienced. It was the experience that Al facilitated – the experience of being skillfully transported, for a few hours, into a black man’s life – that impacted me.

Still, it was my friendship with Kevin that actually prepared me for what Al would teach me about the common humanity of blacks and whites. The stories we shared about our lives, the conversations we had, and the experiences we shared as co-workers prepared a place in my soul where Al’s message could be received and embraced. I have not been the same since.

The Need to Keep Moving Forward

Today it would be easy for me to pull a muscle patting myself on my back for how far I have come. I have a diverse group of clients – white, black, Hispanic, Latino and Asian. I live in a black majority county in a very diverse neighborhood. I have a very diverse group of acquaintances and friends. My Colombian spouse does not self-identify as a white woman.

However, I know my early racist conditioning was continuous and strong. I cannot and should not ever forget that that is how I learned to be. If I do, then I risk falling back because the racism of our culture today rivals that in which I came of age. Yes, we have a pandemic of COVID-19 that is stressing everyone and makes all things seem worse. It still cannot hide the pandemic of racism in the United States that has silently infected the souls of us white people througout my lifetime.

One reason I decided to tell this part of my story is so that people who care about me will hold me accountable when I fail to do it myself. You see, I’m a pretty nice guy. The “me” most people know today is very different from the “me” of years ago. They probably don’t know this racist past of mine because they have never seen it. At least I don’t think they have, except Kevin who is incredibly insightful and authentic, and was brave enough to call it out.

I know I’m responsible for my own life and for being the person I am. In asking others to hold me accountable I’m not asking them to be responsible. I’m just saying that I’m human. I can make mistakes. I can fail. When I do, I want people who care to snap me back on track. That’s all.

I do not want to be Amy Cooper, or the cop who strangled George Floyd, or the cops who watched him die, or the man who shot Ahmaud Arbery, or the man who instigated the shooting. I do not want to be a person who inflicts any level of pain on another person because they are black or a member of any other minority in this country.

As much I do not want to be that kind of person, I have to live daily in the knowledge that I am not so far away from it. My social conditioning, combined with our current racist environment, can call forth aspects of my still unconscious racism in the Unknown region of my Johari Window.

There are two kinds of deadly racists in our country. The first are those who know they are racist and are proud of it. They are the ones who show up in places like Charlottesville. They are dangerous but, frankly, not as dangerous as the second kind. The second kind are the socially conscienced unconcious racists. They are the people who think they are not racist and tend to deny its existence today, preferring to believe “we are better than that.” They are the ones who stand by and do nothing while racism kills people. However, afterward, they do stand around with friends like themselves and lament how bad things must be for “those” poor people. I do not believe I will ever be the first kind, but I am never far enough away from being the second.

If white folks were being honest, I think my reality is close to theirs. This, I believe, is what Don Lemon was trying to school Chris Cuomo on last night on CNN. This is a 9+ minute video clip from the start of Don Lemon’s show, as Chris Cuomo was “passing off” to him. It is a powerful, honest dialogue between two men who claim to be, and who I believe, are friends. Take the time to watch it now, and I’ll pick this up on the other side with a couple of questions.

Okay, thanks for watching the video. May I ask you a question: If you are a white person, did Don Lemon’s comments get under your skin? Did you feel for Chris Cuomo who was squirming just a bit? Did you squirm just a bit yourself? Did you feel even a little offended by Lemon’s comments? If you are a white person and answered yes to any of these questions, then you still have work to do.

You are not alone, though. I’m there with you. I still have work to do because I don’t like the alternative if I don’t remain attentive. In fact, all of us white people have work to do…lots of work…continously. The roots of racism – especially white racism toward blacks – run very deep in our country. We cannot allow ourselves to believe it isn’t there. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking we have, or can, iradicate it from our beings. These beliefs and delusions continue to kill black people and others who do not look, or sound, like us.

It is past time for us to wake up into the reality of our delusion.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and, if you are white, keep searching your soul for the unconscious racism that lies within. We only become better when we are willing to confront the problem and heal the illness.


Day 68 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Friday, May 22, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Beginning of a “Holiday” Weekend

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation Together in the Time of COVID-19

Ah yes! The Memorial Day Weekend! The unofficial beginning of Summer! How shall we celebrate? I’m going to fire up the grill and cook up some bratwurst. Then I’m going to sunbath on our deck – with apologies to all my neighbors. And, once again, I’ll try hitting a few golf balls off the deck. No. Actually, I won’t be doing any of that. I’m going to be at home watching the second season of Homecoming on Netflix.

Instacart Success!

I’m happy to report that my second attempt to grocery shop using Aldi and Instacart was an amazing success. Everything went like clockwork! The delivery window was 10:00 AM to Noon today, and it arrived at 10:07. We had the most delightful delivery person. Her name is Oluwafolakemi but she goes by simply Kemi. She was amazing! She was careful, thorough, fast, and efficient. She got a five star rating and a good tip! I wonder if Instacart allows you to ask for specific delivery people? I’ll have to check into that as I don’t see us going to stores again anytime soon. (P.S. I did not accidently double our order this time.)

COVID-19 Gets Closer

If you’ve been faithfully reading this blog (and, of course, I know you have…who wouldn’t want a daily shot of drivel?), you know that we live in the midst of one of the three biggest COVID-19 hotspots in the U.S. Don’t be jealous…there will be more! Honestly, it is difficult to see the rules relaxed around the country and our state when we see the devastation of the virus all around us.

Today our county, Prince George’s, has over 13,000 cases and nearly 500 deaths. If our county were a state, we’d rank 27th in the number of coronavirus cases, between Mississippi and Alabama.

COVID-19 got close in other ways as well this week. Two days ago I learned that a young colleague in one of my work projects was very ill with COVID-19 for several weeks. Late last night I learned that the mother of a good friend died of complications of the COVID-19. We heard that a woman in the building next to ours tested positive for the virus.

And still…people are being stupid. Look, I’m not talking about the people who have to go out to work. Most of the people I’ve seen doing that are wearing masks, especially if their work means they have to be inside buildings. Today Kemi from Instacart was masked up. Words cannot express how appreciative we are for her not only wearing a mask but also doing the shopping for us. Instacart better be treating her well. We did our part.

No, I’m talking about the people who refuse to make even the smallest concessions to preserve the health and well-being of others. If I could get all those people in a room together (of course, they wouldn’t be wearing masks…but some would probably be carrying guns…go figure), I would say something like this:

Look stupid people. It’s not about you though you think it is. It’s about you and everyone else. Maybe you think you’re immune. Fine, everybody is entitled to any delusion they like. Maybe you don’t believe this is a real thing. Okay, you also have a right to be wrong no matter how right you think you are. Maybe you don’t care if you get sick. Well, fine to that too. Even though I think you are stupid, it doesn’t mean I want you to suffer and die, but it is your choice. I won’t try to save you if you don’t want to be saved. However, remember, this is not about only you.

You have no idea whether you are an asymptomatic carrier and neither do I. That’s the problem with this virus. We actually can’t see it coming. For this reason, you and I both need to wear masks when we are in public and still keep a distance from each other. When we each give up a little bit of freedom by wearing masks, we can all have a lot more freedom to come out of our homes and resume a something-closer-to-normal life.

Is that really too much to ask that you faithfully wear a mask when you are around other people and keep a distance from them? Really? If it is, I pity you. You have not only misunderstood what it means to be free in America, you are clueless about what it is to be a decent human being.

A reader sent me a link to this article in The Atlantic, The Real Reason to Wear a Mask. It is an insightful, thorough, and instructive article. If you already “get it” and understand the most important things masking up does, you can skip the article. However, please forward it to anyone you know who doesn’t seem to get it yet.

A Drivelous Idea?

Here’s a thought…probably half-baked. People are dying and the economy is in shambles. What if we had taken that $3 trillion allocated by Congress and simply divided it equally by the total population of the United States? This would mean every person would get an equal piece of that humongous pie. If my calculations are correct, that would be $9,175 per person ($3 trillion/327 million). This would have enabled the vast, vast majority of people in the U.S. to shelter-in-place for a number of weeks and only the most essential workers would have needed to go out.

Now, if everyone who received that money but didn’t really need it, because they could work from home or were essential workers, refused it, think of the potential. Then the families that really needed it would have that much more money available to shelter-in-place, shop for groceries online, order in food, hire online tutors for the kids, and stay out the stores where they wouldn’t be tempted to buy up all the dang toilet paper. We could have extended shelter-in-place even longer. Instead, the money got sucked up by a lot of organizations and businesses that didn’t need it. They wouldn’t have needed it either, if the money could have been put back into the people’s hands so they could have purchased their goods and services.

I know. I’m not an economist, I should stay in my own lane, and this may be the purest of drivel. I can’t help but wonder, though, what if we really believed in and practiced the Golden Rule or even just a Golden Rule? What if we really believed in helping our neighbors? What if we really lived by an ethic in which others were at least as important as think we are? Just wondering.

This video is required viewing by MBA students in my classes. We have to remember that the possession of money changes people. It is a very thought provoking video. That is why I assign it.

Funny Things from This Week

How tough has the sheltering-in-place been when a frozen pizza tastes like a fresh made, right-out-of the oven pizza?

No, I don’t mean a baked frozen pizza, I mean an actual frozen, frozen pizza.

In a Zoom meeting this week with about 25 people I asked this “icebreaker” question: “What is something you are learning during the pandemic that you hope to take forward and use in the new normal?”

One young woman, who is balancing working from home with homeschooling her children immediately responded, “How to ‘carry the 1’.” I’m guessing there are a lot of parents strengthening their math skills during the pandemic…as well as building their history, science, geography, and social studies knowledge.

The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 37 – Chickenman is tailing a teddy bear and contending with an obnoxious operator.

To End the Work Week…Some Good News

Well…not really. I was getting ready to run the 8th, and as it turns out, final episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News. This has been a free YouTube show that relied heavily on contributions from fans – who were not, as far as anyone knows, compensated for their contributions. He sold the show to CBS after a substantial bidding war and, of course, that means a lot of money. At this time, I haven’t been able to find out how much he made on the deal. Krasinski won’t be involved in the show except as an Executive Producer.

When I first heard about this show, I had doubts that a well known couple (his wife is actress Emily Blunt) could actually do something so selfless. Turns out my doubts were well founded.

Many fans, including myself, are not pleased. Of course, Krasinski can still redeem himself. Maybe he can share what he made on the deal with the many people who shared their stories and sent him their own material? Maybe he can donate his profits to organizations providing meals and other relief to families who won’t be selling shows to CBS and may not have incomes anytime soon. I’m a fan of Krasinski’s TV and movie characters, but I’m less a fan of him as a person today. Shame!

Okay, we are closing in on Day 70. Let’s see…OMG, that is ten weeks! How are we going to celebrate? How about this…

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and, this Memorial Day, remember the nearly 100,000 people who were in our collective lives in January but who are no longer here because of the pandemic and it’s horrifically bungled management.


Day 27 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

As a public service I’m going to discuss a very personal, sensitive subject today. Still, I hope my decision to do so will help reduce the need for many Americans to hoard toilet paper. Buckle up and let’s get to it!

Saturday, April 11, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Therapy of Fun

I’ve been thinking a lot about toilet paper today. (No worry, we have plenty, thanks.) It started with a news segment I heard on NPR this morning which examined the rationale for the current hoarding of TP. Then I was Zooming with my good friends Alonzo and Starlee about an alternative to toilet paper I had never seriously considered…until now.

To Bidet or Not Bidet?

So Alonzo was telling me that he and Starlee had recently ordered two bidets to use when they went camping. In my minds eye I imagined it was something like the Tushy Classic. I just couldn’t envision the two of them lugging their bidets along on their hiking and camping trips. However, they made the case that their portable bidets mean they don’t have to worry about having toilet paper at home in the midst of this pandemic crisis.

“Clever,” I thought to myself. “But I’m not sure I get how this works.” (I still had the Tushy Classic or BidetKing in mind.)

Alonzo and Starlee saw the puzzled look on my face and being the intuitive people they are, immediatly answered my unspoken confusion, “Tom, we’re talking portable bidets…small plastic ones you carry with you…that come in a handy carrying bag.”

“Ohhhhhhhhh…” I said. “I see.” But not really. So I did what I always do when I am trying to hide my ignorance…I Googled “portable bidets.” Thanks to Alonzo, Starlee, and PortableBeasts.com, I’m feeling much more confident in my ability to intelligently discuss bidets. I’m also quite fascinated by the possibility they offer for solving the toilet paper shortage. Good thinking, Alonzo and Starlee!

Alonzo and Starlee are ahead of the curve on this. They actually ordered their bidets weeks before COVID-19 triggered the run on toilet paper. It appears they were even ahead of The Atlantic which ran an article, The Bidet’s Revival, on March 18th, which suggested American’s may be rethinking the bidet. At the risk of causing a bigger run on bidet’s by the millions of people who read this blog, it seems like a good idea. I’m even rethinking the bidet and, honestly, I never even thought about it before talking with Alonzo and Starlee.

There are a plethora of bidet’s out there – both portable and non-portable. However, it is the portable bidet that is fascinating me at the moment. PortableBeasts.com is one of more than a few websites that actually ranks the portable bidets…both manual and electric. On the PortableBeasts.com Top 10 list you’ll find:

  • The Brondell GoSpa Travel Bidet
  • The Palm TP70 by Bio Bidet
  • The Mobile Toilet Shower by Toto
  • The Panasonic Handy de Toilette portable battery-powered bidet
  • The HappyPo Portable Travel Bidet, and, of course,
  • The Happy Bottom Portable Bidet

The product ranked #10 on the PortableBeasts.com list had a most curious name: Cool Knight Travel Bidet. The unique feature which distinguishes it from the other portable bidets is the markings on the outside of the bottle so you can see how much water remains in it. Apparently, it has a capacity of 500 ml. Wow! That’s a lot of water! Despite the name, the Cool Knight looks like it could do the job.

There is one that understandably did not make the PortableBeast.com Top 10 list – both for its name and how it works. But you can find it on Amazon.com! It is the CuloClean 2x Portable Bidet. You’ll need Google Translate or a Spanish speaker to help you make sense of the name. And, apparently, you have to supply your own plastic bottle. I wouldn’t recommend the CuloClean but I would recommend you read the Customer Questions & Answers section on Amazon.com for the CuloClean. It is…well…interesting…somewhat informative…and highly entertaining.

So, the bottom line is this…I did order portable bidets for us today. They won’t arrive until sometime between June 1 and June22. They were inexpensive ($17.98 for 2) and they will quell the fear of running out of toilet paper. Happily, we have enough TP on hand to await their arrival in comfort and confidence. Thank you, Alonzo and Starlee!

For the Starved Sports Fanatics

My friend and colleague Forrest Alton retweeted this first video from an obviously bored BBC sportscaster named Andrew Cotter. Then, make sure to watch the “Breakfast Grand Final” Both will make your day!

Game of Bones

The Dog’s Breakfast Grand Final

Back to Reality…

Today we have a new milestone to acknowledge. We acknowedge it because it is not to be celebrated. We now have a half-million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. I have been following the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases dashboard and the IHME Covid 19 Projections on a daily basis. The Johns Hopkins site is where I got the half-million number mentioned above. This morning I heard of another site that tracks COVID-19 testing, The COVID Tracking Project. According to this website there have been 2,544,935 Americans tested for COVID-19. That’s a lot of people and it sounds impressive until you realize it is only 8 one thousands (0.008) of the total populaton of the United States (327,200,000 as of the last best estimate in 2018). I know…you are hearing about the great success we are having in testing for COVID-19 now. Not really. We haven’t even scratched the surface.

While I follow these tracking websites, I accept their numbers and projections with caution and so should you. You see, Johns Hopkins, IHME, and local and national journalists (who created The COVID Tracking Project) all stepped up because our Federal Government failed to do this work. I’m not laying the blame on the public health specialists at the Federal level. If they had not been marginalized and muzzled, they would be doing this more completely and with higher accuracy.

In the absence of the surveillence systems typically provided by CDC and others, private organizations had to step into the gap. This is what Johns Hopkins, IHME, and The COVID Tracking Project did. As a result, their data is not always as complete as it could be and their projections are not always correct. But they are the best we have at the moment.

For example…the Johns Hopkins dashboard only deals with confirmed cases of COVID-19. We know already the number of actual cases may be much, much higher than what the dashboard reports. To have more accurate numbers, we need to have testing. Unfortunatley, The COVID Tracking Project is showing us, as best it can based on reports from state, and sometimes local, public health authorities, that we still neeed many, many more tests to get a good handle on the scope of the virus. This data also, of course, impacts the projections from IHME. Note, though, that the IHME already has a significant limitation. It is based on the assumption of “full social distancing through May 2020.” In reality, not even all of the states are requiring full social distancing and where it is mandated, it is being followed and enforced inconsistently. We see that daily on our television and we experience when we have to go out for groceries.

We are still in big trouble.

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


Day 22 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Monday, April 6, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Funk

Somedays you feel so low you only want to talk to your socks. Fortunately, Bert (left) and Ernie (right) were up for a conversation. Truthfully, though, they really do mumble and I cannot understand a word they say. So, I’m recreating our conversation based on my best guess at what they said.

  • Me: Hey, guys, can we talk for a bit?
  • Ernie: Sure! What’s going on?
  • Me: I dunno. Life is kind of sucky right now.
  • Bert: Well, speaking of sucky, have your ever spent a day wrapped around your foot?
  • Me: No, seriously, Bert. I mean it…
  • Bert: I mean it too, doofus. It ain’t a pleasure…
  • Me: Yeah, yeah. I get it…but you said we could talk…
  • Bert: That was Ernie who agreed, not me!
  • Me: Okay, fine. But would you mind being quiet while I talk to Ernie for a bit then?
  • Bert: Fine! I know when I’m not wanted…I’ll just wait here on your stinkin’ foot!
  • Me: Bert, look…
  • Ernie: Forget about him, Tom. Let’s talk.
  • Me: Thanks, Ernie. Look, this COVID-19 thing is so hard. I feel overwhelmed by it and I’m really nervous about it. Some days I just don’t want to get out of bed and, when I do, I have a hard time focusing on what I need to do.
  • Ernie: So, stay in bed then! It won’t bother me. I’ve got a great little place out on the deck, you know. The extra morning sunshine would do me good..I could work on my tan, man.
  • Me: I can’t do that, Ernie. I really do have work to do. I still have clients that depend on me. I’m trying to do some things to help others that are feeling even more overwhelmed than me. Today, especially, I had a hard time getting going.
  • Ernie: Why’s that? What happened?
  • Me: Well, you know, I’ve been watching the number of confirmed cases and deaths grow here in the U.S., and especially New York City, because our daughter lives there. Today, the number of deaths in the country went over 10,000. I know…it’s just a number but, jeez, that’s getting to be a big number and it was all so unnecessary! When’s it going to stop, Ernie?
  • Ernie: I have no idea, Tom, but I do know one thing for sure.
  • Me: What’s that, Ernie?
  • Ernie: You’re gonna drive me nuts with your whining! Come on! Suck it up and get to work! You can whine or you can do something. I’ve got an idea: DO SOMETHING and stop bothering me and Bert with this. It’s bad enough you haven’t washed us in over three weeks.
  • Bert (chiming in too gleefully): That’s right, Ernie! You tell him! Sock it to him!

Well, I guess that only goes to prove Bert and Ernie are NOT support socks! (Pa dum tss!)

In other news of the day, I’m going to link you to three things I think you will find highly entertaining, painfully inspiring, and a fascinating read…in that order.

Salut Salon

This is a German quartet of classically trained musicians who also do a form of “musical comedy” – no German language skills necessary. This piece is entitled “Competitive Foursome”

Notes from a Working Mom

Cayci Banks is Vice President of Strategy and Communications at 1000 Feathers, one of the organizations I partner with on projects. More importantly to me, she also my friend and colleague. Today Cayci published a blog on the 1000 Feathers website that is worth reading, especially if you are a parent…even more if you are a mom…who is trying to work from home, keep your kids from being bored, home school them, and yourself and everyone else in your household from giving into the anxiety of COVID-19. Her blog, Let’s Get Real: One Working Mom’s Prespective, touched me and also made me think of others I know who, like Cayci, are trying to do the impossible in this moment. Read it and pass it on, please, to someone you know who needs it.

Jon Katz on the COVID-19 Reality TV Shows of Trump and the Cuomo Brothers

Jon Katz is a blogger, former journalist, TV critic, and television producer. He has been watching the daily Coronavirus Task Force Briefings from the White House and the daily briefings from the New York State Governor’s Office. The first is starring Donald Trump and the latter is starring Andrew Cuomo. Katz offers a fascinating analysis of the two briefings. His perspective is not political as much as it is professional, watching the two “shows” through a television producer’s lens. The analysis, featured in his blog titled The Cuomo Brothers Versus the President: What a Show! is a compelling read. Be sure to reserve a few minutes of your day for it.

Earlier today I was describing my blog as one part humor, one part personal, one part truthful, and one part rant. Today you get to decide which is which.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing our mask, and keep away from stupid people without masks, including me if I forget mine at home.