Recovery

When Dolly left us in January, Clemencia and I were very clear with one another: “No more dogs.” Then it was, “No dog for at least six months.” Then we said, “Since we are not going to be getting a dog again, what can it hurt to activate a PetFinder account? We are suckers for rescue dogs but we are adults…we can just look and read their stories.” Then we saw Ebie.

He was a toy schnauzer. We have always had miniature schnauzers and did not want a smaller dog. He was a boy. We have always preferred females. He was not neutered…yet. That worried us. Even more worrisome was his description in Petfinder. Across the top it read, in all caps:

PLEASE READ. PLEASE READ. PLEASE READ. PLEASE READ.

The description read a lot like the side effects warnings you hear on pharmaceutical ads. You know what I mean. The announcer’s voice is usually sped up so fast no human can possibly understand them and when you can make them out you are tempted to conclude that the cure may be worse than the disease. Ebie’s description was full of those kinds of warnings.

Ebie in the first few minutes at home with us.
  • He is only 60% house trained.
  • He chews things…and seems to especially like power cords.
  • He was a bit snippy when he arrived at the foster family’s home…but he has not actually eaten other small pets or children…that we know of.
  • He’s not neutered yet but we think he will stop marking things once he has had the operation.
  • We don’t know how old he is but our best guess is that he is about 5 years old.
  • He is an extremely messy eater…and often pounces on all the treats before the other dogs can get theirs.
  • We think he’s a schnauzer…but we are not sure because he was terribly overgrown when he was rescued and he is still shaggy.

It was such an odd description for a rescue because it almost sounded like they were trying to discourage people from applying.

Ah, but they did not how much we like lost causes! It only made us more eager to welcome this uncivilized goofball into our home. “After all,” Clemencia said, “He’ll fit right in.” I was puzzled what she meant by that until I realized she was Colombian lip pointing toward me.

In the end, our application was approved, we were chosen by the foster parents, and we welcomed Ebie home on February 17.

When he came to us, we did not expect much except headaches but we were ready for it. We realized, after Dolly’s death, that we are hopelessly dog people.

Ebie falling asleep in Tom’s arms…just before getting his first schnauzer haircut.

We were pleasantly surprised when we realized there was more to Ebie than the description we had read. He has had very few accidents in the house. He is getting used to riding the elevator…even gets onto it by himself now, though he still cannot seem to reach the buttons despite our best training efforts. He has not chewed anything and we still have all of our fingers and toes. He has quickly bonded with us and become a loving pet. He got a clean bill of health from our vet yesterday. He really is a schnauzer; I gave him his first schnauzer haircut today and, wow, he is guapo (Spanish for “handsome”).

His foster family did an amazing job of introducing him to civilization again and helping him feel like a real pet and a member of the family. After a little more than three months with them, he was ready to come to our home. He has fit right in. He responds almost immediately to training (schnauzer’s are a very smart breed). He comes, sits, lies down, and rolls onto his hip – all on command….just like me! His leash training is going well and he loves to walk – which is really good for our health…just like me, though I am still not fond of the leash. He likes to play…a lot…just like me, but I prefer golf over the chew toys.

He is not shy about asking to crawl into your lap. This morning he asked to climb into my lap. He likes to lay in the crook of my arm (the same way you would cradle an infant) and fall asleep (see the picture above).

In a year that has seen so many of us traumatized by the pandemic, the critical illnesses and deaths of family and friends, electioneering, and the attempted violent coup of our country, all of us are in need of recovery…lots of recovery. Ebie is part of our recovery and we are part of his. We saw pictures of Ebie on the day he was rescued. He was unrecognizable as a dog and certainly not as a schnauzer. His living conditions were worse than anything we have seen on the ASPCA commercials.

Ebie was a dog looking for a chance to recover. So are we all.


Recovery of Sight

TheDailyDrivel.com has been silent for a while because I have had to take a little time off for an essential surgery and recovery. In late January I had eye surgery to remove a cataract and replace the lens in my left eye. The surgery was actually pretty cool…especially for a guy who hates any kind of cutting on any body part. It was painless and was mostly like attending a 45-minute firework show. That’s all I saw while the surgery was being done…fireworks. Yep, pretty cool and I did not have sit in the park swatting mosquitoes just to see the show.

From the moment the patch was removed from my eye 18 hours later, I could see again. The vision in my left eye was 20/40 immediately and everything was in brilliant, living color. For the first time in my life I had distance vision in my left eye. I was able to return to work on a limited basis within three days…and would have done so earlier except for one thing. My right eye is still very near-sighted, has a cataract, and trying to make visual sense of the world with one eye seeing distance only and one eye seeing up close only was a bit daunting. It took me about a week before the juxtaposition of the vision (is that even a thing?) began to work for me.

I am now a month out of surgery and am down to just one eye drop each day that I am required to use. My eyes continue to adjust and I’m getting accustomed to the new eyesight. What I am NOT getting used to is life without glasses. I have a hard time recognizing myself in the mirror and I keep trying to put on glasses. I did, however, enjoy having an eye patch for a bit. It inspired this meme that I created with a little help from my friends Lorenzo and Starlee who sent me the pirate gear as a post-surgery get well gift.


Recovery of a Kind of Faith

One of my favorite British comedies is The Vicar of Dibley. The show starred comedienne Dawn French as the first female vicar of a rural parish in England. It first aired as a regular series in 1994. Since 2000 it has aired intermittently with special episodes. What I always liked about the show is that it had lots of fresh British humor and it reminded me of the best of the Bob Newhart series’ in which he was the reasonably normal but quirky person surrounded by unusual, odd characters.

Recently I came across the latest release from December 2020, The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown on YouTube. The Vicar of Dibley always struck an interesting balance between matters of faith and matters of hilarity. French and her crew did the same again in this episode. I thought you might enjoy it.

Now, if you’d like more of The Vicar of Dibley, I encourage you to check out YouTube. It’s easy…just search YouTube for “The Vicar of Dibley” or, if you have Britbox, you can see most of the episodes there, or check with your local PBS listings as it is often in reruns on local stations.


Recovery of Sanity and Civility

This week a few items in the media caught my attention.

Two were in the The Washington Post. One had to do with the impact of the QAnon conspiracy cult on families. This is not the first time I have come across news items related to QAnon and its association with cult-like ideology and behavior. I do not have any good reason to argue against the framing of QAnon as a cult. It seems to have many of the same characteristics and the people who join it seem to be exhibiting the same kind of troubling and irrational behavior that is common among cult adherents. It is painful for their families, as this article highlights.

I have long been concerned about White Evangelicals and their love affair with the 45th president. On February 11th Christianity Today has reported something even more concerning about White Evangelicals. CT reported on a study done by the conservative American Enterprise Institute in late January that found 1 in 4 White Evangelicals were being swayed by QAnon conspiracy theories and report believing them. At 27% this was more than any other religious group but slightly less than the 29% percent of all Republicans who reported believing them. I find both of these percentages disturbing.

Speaking of QAnon, CNN Special Reports aired last night (February 27) “Inside the QAnon Conspiracy.” We recorded it and watched. It was…well…absolutely fascinating. I recommend you check the CNN listings and catch it in a future airing.

The other story from the Washington Post was the story of a man who has been attempting to engage in civil conversations with his neighbors in New Hampshire who are ardent followers of the 45th president, the Big Lie (and many little ones) he told, and, possibly, QAnon conspiracies. It is an interesting article and provides a bit of inspiration as well as reality testing if you are thinking about doing the same thing with friends, family, or neighbors.

If you are seriously thinking about how to engage with people who are different from you politically, whatever your affiliation, I suggest you consider connecting with Braver Angels, a group that is attempting to facilitate engagement and communication between people who are on different sides of the political divide…primarily the Democrat and Republican divide. For $12.00 per year you can join and have access to their debates, videos, and other resources. Also, they now have state coordinators throughout the United States you can connect with and who can, in turn, connect you with others who are part of Braver Angels.

I have joined Braver Angels. I do not know if the group has THE answer but I think it has part of the answer. The question is: How do we recover sanity and civility as a society?

No, that is not a misstatement. I really do think the two are linked. The Big Lie of the 45th president and the conspiracies of QAnon are not rational, have been widely and repeatedly disproved, and, therefore, it is not sane to cling to them as if they are real. They lie at the heart of the incivility we are experiencing as a country and, dare I say, society. They present a worldview that is unattached from reality and truth.

Civil discourse benefits from, and usually requires, agreement on the terms of reality.

As long as one part of our country is so detached from reality and the 45th president continues to empower them with his lies, we are going to struggle to recover our ability to engage each other productively, respectfully, and with civility again.

Our responsibility as Americans seems pretty clear. We need to renew and redouble our efforts to address the QAnon conspiracy cult and provide a way of recovery for family, friends, and others we care about. Are we our brothers’ (sisters’) keeper…even if that brother, sister, mother, or father has been taken in by the 45th president and QAnon? Yes, but, realistically, it will not be easy for them, or any of us, to recover from the lies, the insanity, and the damage.


The View from Jeff
Jeff Explains: I thought that my male pattern balding meant I would never have to worry about hat hair again… now those masks put creases in my beard!!

With appreciation to my friend and colleague Jeff Logan for allowing me to repost his work here. Be sure to visit Jeff’s Instagram page for more of his doodle and drawings.


One Year Later

One year ago, on February 6, 2020, when Patricia Dowd died in California, her cause of death was not clear. By the end of April it had been determined that hers was the first COVID-19 death in the United States. Today the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard shows that Ms. Dowd has been followed by 462,844 more Americans…and the number continues to rise. Yes, Coronavirus vaccines are now available and they are being provided in all states and territories. Still, even with universal masking, more than a half million Americans will be dead by the end of this month.

In our part of the world (Maryland) the roll out of the vaccine has been slow. One of us is eligible now for the vaccine as a “senior citizen” and the other of us will be eligible in March. However, attempts to schedule an appointment for the vaccine, even by our senior citizen, have been fruitless. We are not, however, frustrated, panicked, or feeling helpless and hopeless. Getting the vaccine will not change our behavior:

  • We will still mask up (actually, we are double masking)
  • We will still maintain at least 6 feet distance from people when we are out
  • We will continue to stock up when we shop to minimize trips out, connect with people over Zoom, and remain at home.

What seems clear is that getting the vaccine creates a false sense of safety and security for some people. These folks start planning in-person gatherings and are generally less careful about masking and distancing. Too many things are still unknown about the virus to justify this kind of confidence.

Even more, the great unknown is how much we will be impacted by the variants that have been identified – so far. “So far” because variants will always occur and there are likely to be more. For this reason, the best advice we hear is get vaccinated, then still mask up and stay away from other people.


Farewell to Dolly

On Monday January 25th we said good-bye to Dolly, our remaining miniature schnauzer. Dolly was diagnosed in March 2018 with Cushing’s disease and mass was discovered on her spleen. She was given less than 3 months to live if she didn’t have an expensive surgery to help her live…oh…maybe…another 3 months.

After consulting with my former vet and friend in Iowa, we decided to go with his recommendation to simply love her, make her comfortable, and put her down before she began to experience much pain. Since that time we’ve been expecting that we would have to let her go at any time. In fact, and this is a bit embarrassing to say, we made, and cancelled, three previous appointments with Peaceful Passage, believing her time had come. Happily, we were wrong.

We really believed Dolly would go before Madison. We were wrong. We lost Madison in June 2020. It turned out Dolly’s mass was not cancerous and she lived for nearly 2 years more.

We never really knew the ages of Madison and Dolly. They came to us through a rescue in Hagerstown, Maryland and the breeder where they got the dogs would not release any records on them. The breeder said they were “a couple of years old” but, of course, that could mean 2 to 5 years old. We had Madison 12 years and Dolly 11. Our best guess is that they were 14+ years old, which puts them solidly at the upper end of the life expectancy for miniature schnauzers.

Our house is quieter than usual now and we miss the opportunity to take a break to walk a dog. So, will be bring a new dog into our home? Probably, but we aren’t sure when that will happen.


I Can See Clearly Now

Nope, that’s not a reference to the Johnny Nash song but, of course, it could be as I haven’t done a music focused blog in a while. Oh, heck, here it is…go ahead and enjoy it. Great song for the Class of ’72.

Okay, seriously, I can see clearly now as I had cataract surgery in late January. I’m still in the process of recovery following a seemingly endless eye-drop routine. However, the change in my sight is remarkable.

There been another change, though. I no longer need glasses, and, in fact, I cannot see with my prescription glasses. That is a BIG change given I’ve worn them for more than 55 years. The most challenging part of this change is getting used to seeing myself without glasses. I am having some difficulty getting used to seeing myself THAT clearly.


A Little More Music

Here’s a really nice video from the Tacoma Refugee Choir which was shared by regular reader Maggi. The video is about staying safe in the midst of the pandemic. It is titled “Put it On.” Some great lines in this video, like: “It’s not fashion, its compassion.” Enjoy!

Tacoma Refugee Choir, shared by reader Maggi from Pennsylvania. Thanks Maggi!

The View from Jeff
Jeff Explains: I got an email that my school’s e-sport team is now open for faculty as well. There may be a chance for me to be a college-level athlete after all!! Unfortunately Zaxxon, Krazy Racers and Road Rash weren’t on the list of games being played!!

Accountability for American Carnage

When Donald J. Trump delivered his now famous “American Carnage” inauguration speech in 2017 we misunderstood it. We thought he was describing the United States as he saw it but he was really previewing the America he wanted. Last week, on January 6, 2021, we saw the spoiled fruit of Trump’s real vision for American carnage.

Of course, maybe we misunderstood because that was the first lie of his presidency. The recordings indicate he said, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” Could it be that he simply changed one word – “starts” to “stops” – to tell us the greatest lie of all?

Like most Americans this week, my brain cells have been working over time to make sense of what we witnessed this week. In this post I’m going to do my best to convey what I’m coming up with so far. In this moment, as a country, we are still on information overload so I will not try to cite everything. I think of myself as a researcher and essayist, not a journalist. However, I do rely upon multiples of time-tested, trustworthy journalists and other researchers for the information that informs my thinking and writing.

The question that has been rolling over in my mind is this: What does accountability and justice look like in the wake of the attempted coup on the United States last week?

To answer this question there are three legal concepts we have to understand: free speech, sedition, and treason. For my sources I am relying on the National Constitution Center and Findlaw. Both sites translate the Constitution, constitutional interpretations, and law into more understandable language for legal dummies like me.

Let’s begin with the concept of free speech. This is what the Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment, Interactive Constitution, National Constitution Center, January 10, 2021

However, there are three situations in which restrictions can be placed on free speech. You can go to the link and read it for yourslef and I will briefly highlight them here. Government can Constitutionally restrict:

  1. Certain types of speech including: defamation, true threats, “fighting words,” obscenity, child pornography, and false commercial advertising
  2. A speaker who is in a special relationship to the government, such as an employee or elected official “even based on content, when their speech is incompatible with their status as public officials.”
  3. Speech under a less demanding standard of “reasonableness.”

Now let’s turn to sedition. Sedition is legally defined as a conspiracy between two or more people to:

To conspire to overthrow or destroy by force the government of the United States or to level war against them;

To oppose by force the authority of the United States government; to prevent, hinder, or delay by force the execution of any law of the United States; or

To take, seize, or possess by force any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.

FindLaw, Seditious Conspiracy and Federal Law: The Basics. January 10, 2021

Finally, as unbelievable as this all is, we need to clarify the meaning of treason and how it relates to sedition. In this case, I’m going to let FindLaw make the point again:

Sedition differs from treason (defined in Article III of the U.S. Constitution) in a fundamental way. While seditious conspiracy is generally defined as conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state, treason is the more serious offense of actively levying war against the United States or giving aid to its enemies. Another way of looking at it is that seditious conspiracy often occurs before an act of treason.

Findlaw, Free Speech, Sedition, and Treason. January 10, 2021

How are free speech, sedition, and treason relevant to the issue of accountability? Simply put: Certain free speech can result in siditious conspiracy and that conspiracy can lead to treasonous acts. Justice can only be done when there is accountability and we have to be willing to hold people accountable. This may be the biggest problem of all in this situation and begs the question: Are we willing to hold everyone accountable who has accountability? That, my friends, is a really, really big group of people. Let’s look at just a few (or many) of them.

Donald J. Trump

Regardless of why he does it, Trump is on record ad nauseum pushing the boundaries of free speech and potentially engaging in seditious conspiracy. If we are willing to hold him accountable, despite all the risks of agitating his easily agitated Trumpists base, it is the purview of the Congress and the courts to determine his to determine his culpability and penalty. For this reason, the House is moving swiftly to act. But we must be willing for him to be held accountable.

The Republican Party/GOP
Could this be the portrait of the Republican Party from the Trump Administration?

To be clear, in my family, social, and professional circles I associate with Americans who have diverse political views: Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, Socialists, Monarchists, Anarchists, and, yes, even Trumpists. The Republicans I know are as appalled by Trump, his actions this past week, and his repeated failures as I am. However, it has to be said that the Republican Party has been, and continues to be in this moment, missing in action. This is a crucial time for the GOP.

The Republican Party is afraid of holding Trump accountable for fear of losing the Trumpists but it fails to understand the long game. Not all Trumpists are the hard core followers who attempted the coup at the U.S. Capitol last week and who came to DC with guns and explosives. Many just wanted the experience of protesting in Washington, not an invasion. We know that because of the number of people who have since abandoned Trump and the Trumpists. Some members of the GOP did it in the votes to certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (e.g. Loeffler, Lankford, and Graham). As Foxs News and other outlets have reported there has been a flood of resignations since the Capitol invasion: cabinet members, senior staff, and lower level staffers did it by immediately resigning. At least one Trumpist rioter says showing up was the worst decision of his life and, as identities are exposed, arrests are made, and indictments come out, many other Trumpists may also have second thoughts.

If the GOP thinks the Trumpists are a valuable part of their constituency at this moment, they are wrong. The PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll shows that while the country is divided about removing Trump from office right now, the vast majority of Americans condemn the attempted coup on January 6th. The GOP does itself no favor now or in the future by failing to hold Trump and the Trumpists accountable. Doing so means it will lose even more support from the “average American” which is the real silent majority. We must be willing to hold the Republican Party accountable for its part.

The Democratic Party/Dems

In the spirit of transparency, I identify as a Democrat. However, I am not a “Proud Democrat” because I do not always agree with what the the Dems do. So why do I identify as a Democrat? Because the Dems, though sadly imperfect, align with my core value and belief in the greater good for all better than any of the other options…so far. That being said, the Dems are also accountable. The Dems are accountable because they have been complicit with the Republicans in creating the sharp political division that exists in this country. There have been many missed opportunities for the GOP and Dems to come together to govern for the greater good. They failed to do so because of outside interests, internal interests (aka politics), and, sometimes, just downright stubbornness. The intractability of their positions have resulted in a Congressional stalemate and national division it will take years to heal.

The Republican Party has been as partisan as possible during the periods it has controlled Congress over the past decade. The temptation for the Dems will be pay back. At least, that’s how it appears the game is played, and the game has been “on steroids” for the last generation or so.

The Dems have an opportunity to set a new standard of collaboration with Republicans. For the rational, non-Trumpists remaining in the GOP, collaboration will be especially important for helping establish the Republican Party again as an honorable, fair, and dependable opponent – not enemy. This, I believe, will be important for the healing of the country. For it to happen, though, we must be willing to hold the Democratic Party accountable for its part.

Individual Trumpist Legislators and other Trumpists

Accountability is already happening for this group but it is unclear how far it will go. Trumpist legislators (in both the House and the Senate) have unmasked themselves as Trumpists more than Republican. Major corporations are stepping back from financially supporting GOP Senators who objected to the certifcation of the 2020 election. It began with a trickle of three corporations early in the weekend, by Monday morning (today) there was a gush of corporations suspending support of Republicans who moved to de-certify the vote and even all political contributions. This trend is forecasted to grow and continue, especially toward others in the GOP if the Republican Party does not take steps to return the party to some semblance of what it used to be when it was really the Party of Lincoln.

How do we hold these lawless lawmakers accountable? You know the answer to that and it involves ballot boxes not bullets.

And what of the other Trumpists who were outside, then inside, the U.S. Capitol? It’s not looking very happy for them. There is a nationwide “manhunt” on for them. (Did they really not bother to consider that virtually everywhere in DC is in the view of surveillance cameras?) People have been arrested already from Hawai`i to Florida. Friends and family, who recognize their selfies and photos in social media, are calling the authorities.

Right now many of the charges may seem minor but there were five people who died. It appears the Capitol Police officer who died was struck on the head with a fire extinguisher by one of the Trumpist rioters. One day after storming the U.S. Capitol (by January 7th), there had already been 82 arrests. By the next day, January 8th, 13 had been charged in Federal Court and 40 more in Superior Court. The arrests and charges are growing and are expected to go into the hundreds. This does not even consider the number of people who are losing their careers and jobs as a result of this illegal action.

To add insult to injury for these folks, many of whom may have just been caught up in Trump’s rhetoric and the fever pitch of the Trumpist party atmosphere, their “fearless” leader betrayed them. He promised to march with them; instead he hid out at the White House. He said he supported them; then he denounced them on Twitter and described their behavior as “heinous.”

As sad and tragic as it is for these deceived Americans, we must be willing to hold Trumpists accountable.

The Media (as an entitty, both news and social)

In an age when the velocity of information is faster than our ability to fully comprehend it, two things must be true:

  • The Media – in all its forms – has to be responsible
  • We must be media-wise critical thinkers

The Media has to be committed to doing good research on its stories and to reporting its findings honestly. Overall, I believe much of mainstream media does this. Most media outlets will not release a story unless there are multiple sources. Ideally, those sources will go on record but that doesn’t always happen out of fear of retribution, especially during the Trump administration. For that reason, they need to have even more sources to ensure the credibility and consistency of the story. Using anonymous sources is not any cause for alarm as long as it is made verifiable through multiple sources who give the same story. We should not give a single second of consideration to the Media sources that fail in this most basis responsibility to truth and unbiased reporting.

Okay, look, everyone has a bias. When the Media is wise and honorable, it is upfront and clear about that bias so consumers can make informed decisions about whether to pay attention to it.

Social media has a particularly difficult challenge because it tries to provide an open forum for people to engage one another. That’s fine…but part of holding them accountable might be regular tutoring in the restrictions of free speech from the National Constitution Center. Also, I think it is a mistake for social media to be allowed to get into the “news business.” Most do not appear to have the expertise, infrastructure, or interest in vetting their stories as professional journalists. All of this to say that accountability does include regulation of the social media.

The Media, in all its forms, has the responsibility of shining a light on the most important issues, events, and figures of our day. Let’s be honest. Donald J. Trump has been important only because he has held the Office of the President of the United States. Period. Prior to his riding the escalator down Trump Tower in New York to announce his candidacy, he was thought of as unimportant if he was ever thought about at all. The Media treated him as a sideshow during his campaign but then, when he moved inside the big top, as the ringmaster, he had the spotlight. We can hold the Media accountable by urging them to avoid the next sideshow and stay focused on what really matters. I get it…they have to give the Office of the President their attention and it just so happened Trump was in that office. But now they have a choice. What matters is not Trump’s posts on social media, rants, conspiracy theories, temper tantrums, lies, etc. Media is accountable because it empowered Trump to become larger than life and more important than he ever was. Now they need to be held accountable for keeping the microphones and cameras off of him.

Now, what if the Media fails to be responsible and self and external regulation fails? What are we consumers to do? We have to be critical thinkers on our own. We have to recognize the valuable role Media plays in our society and, at the same time, scrutinize and evaluate what it tells us and call it out when it is gets the fact wrong and when it spews minformations, half-truth, conpsiracy theories, and other lies. We must be willing to the hold the Media accountable for honesty, integrity, and focusing on what really matters.

We the People

In the final analysis it is We the People – all of who live in the United States and its territories – who need to hold ourselves accountable for failing to:

  • Protect our fragile democracy from relentless attacks.
  • Live out the basic lessons we learned as children on how to play well with others…even those we disagree with (this is also known as “civility”).
  • Speak truth to power.
  • Build open, honest, and kind relationships with one another.
  • Listen thoughtfully, patiently, and seek to understand what is being said before we respond.
  • Assume and believe in the best intentions of all of us.
  • See and respond compassionately to the cries of any and all of us who feel marginalized and left behind – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, status, faith, or political leanings – not just at this time of an unprecedented pandemic but always.
  • Follow the “Golden Rule” of treating others like, no, even better than, we would like to be treated.
  • Seek truth – not just the convenient kind that supports our ideology but the inconvenient truth that tests our ideology.
  • Research candidates and being clear on our most deeply held values and ideologies to ensure our candidates are in alignment.
  • Vote in every election in any legal way available to us to ensure that our voice is being heard and considered.
  • Call for accountability for all those I’ve mentioned here.

But, of course, we must be willing hold ourselves accountable. We are not without blame for what happened last week. We can and must do better in the future because our future depends on it. Will we?


Photo Credits:

Featured Photo – Shot Sign in Front of U.S. Capitol – csp55167745 © Can Stock Photo / focalpoint

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil Owls – Peter Holmes on Pixabay

Aren’t We All?

There is little in the news that makes me laugh these days. Occasionally, though, I’m surprised. Yesterday morning was one of those occasions. I read a headline from The Washington Post that did it for me. Then it made me pause and think, “Hmmm, aren’t we all?” I think you’ll know what I mean when you read the headline below:

Honestly…aren’t we all?

To read the full article, just click on the headline above or click here.

Reading this fun, but very believable, headline made we wonder, “Hey, what other interesting headlines and stories are there out in the world today?” I visited the United Press International’s “Odd News” section to find out what I’ve been missing. Apparently there is a lot of “odd news” about animals:

Danish Zoo’s 41 Year Old Penguin Declared World’s Oldest – Not suprisingly the penguin’s name is Olde, which is Danish for “grandmother.”

Horse Skeleton Siezed at Florida Mail Sorting Facility – That’s just what we need! More ballots delayed by an influx of horse skeletons in the mail system.

Three Llamas Escape from Truck on Oregon Highway – Seriously, the articles says one of the llama’s was given medication to “ease her mama llama trauma.”

Aggressive Cougar Follows Man on Utah Trail for 6 Minutes – This is a pretty interesting video but, why was the guy shooting a video of a cougar that obviously wasn’t messing around?

French Couple Trying to Buy Savannah Cat get Tiger Cub, Instead – Good thing they weren’t being followed by a cougar; they probably would have thought it was a dog just trying to be friendly.

Beaver on the Loose after New Mexico Zoo Escape – Yes, Busy the Beaver is on the loose. And why is this a story?


A Musical Treat from the Late Late Show with James Corden


The View from Jeff

First a big, big shout out to my friend Jeff Logan for submitting his doctoral dissertation to his committee. Next up…defense! I’m proud to say that I was there on Day One of Jeff’s doctoral journey and I have been rooting for him ever since. This week’s cartoon from Jeff celebrates that achievement, with all the anxiety that comes with the accomplishment.

Jeff Explains: Having submitted my dissertation to my committee there was a (very) short window of elation followed by an immense sense of submission remorse (kinda like buyer’s remorse but much worse) as I can only think of all the changes I shoulda/coulda changed!!

One Last Thing…

If you have gone through all the Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Hulu shows that have been recommended as “must watch,” here’s one more. It is from the Discovery Channel and it is Dodgeball Thunderdome. Really. A reality TV dodgeball competition loosely based on the hit movie comedy, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

I occasionally enjoy watching American Ninja Warrior because it features people who are truly outstanding amateur athletes competing on an amazing obstacle course (and, honestly, because I love how the announcer growls out, “American Ninja Warrior!” at every opportunity). Dodgeball Thunderdome is nothing like that. It combines an obstacle course with flying red and blue dodgeballs. Getting hit by the red dodgeballs (which sometimes explode red powder) drives the score up against competitors and the blue dodgeballs…well…they just hurt…a little. Add to all of this competitors who are not athletes and wise-cracking commentators. What do you get? A truly chuckle-worthy, and occasionally laugh-out-loud, show that is highly distracting during these challenging times. Check out the trailer and then tune in:


One More Last Thing

Thanks to my Colombian spouse, I have become a big fan of Carlos Vives. Vives nearly single-handedly revived a form of Colombian folk music known as villenato. We have been to three of his live concerts and, honestly, I’ve never attended better live musical events. There is no warm up act and his shows go nonstop for two and a half to three hours. The music is all live and extraordinary. Originally a television star, Vives also creates a theatrical experience in his shows. If you’ve not heard him before, or even heard of him, I wanted to make sure you had a change to experience some of his music. Enjoy!


Suspension

I have decided to engage in a bit of suspension. I do not mean suspension in the musical or chemical sense, nor do I mean it in the sense of being prevented from playing a sport or stopping something. I mean it in the sense that Edgar Schein uses it as a technique for dialogue. I drew upon Schein’s work on suspension for my dissertation several years ago. I described Schein’s concept of suspension in this way:

Through the technique of suspension, individuals first listen to themselves in order to become aware of their perceptions and misperceptions of others, conscious of their own thought process by which the perceptions are created, and then aware of the effect of these perceptions and process on how and when they choose to engage the other.

Klaus, T. W. (2013). Leadership in an intractable conflict over public school sexuality education in the United States: A constructivist grounded theory study. Eastern University. ProQuest UMI Number: 3665017, p. 197.

Wow! Could that sentence have been any longer? You got to love academia!

The “noise” of the past six months has been nearly unbearable. It was noisy before the pandemic, to be sure, but it has been far worse since. Now, as we are approaching the November 3rd election, the noise is increasing. The announcement of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last night, September 18, will undoubtedly raise the decibel level as the political parties jockey over the appointment of her replacement.

This week I participated in two Zoom events that have encouraged my reflection during this period of suspension.

One was a meeting with others who have formed a community of practice around teaching followership as a part of our work in leadership development. What we all have in common is that we each have been trained by Ira Chaleff in the delivery of his Courageous Follower material in workshop, training, and classroom settings. It was interesting to learn some new techniques for teaching followership and to have my thinking expanded on the use of the material. Next week, in fact, I will be doing a Courageous Follower training for a public agency in New York – via Zoom of course, and hope to use a couple of the ideas I picked up in the meeting.

The other Zoom event was last night and it was a 90 presentation and conversation with George Lakey, a sociologist and fellow Quaker, who has been at the forefront of social change through nonviolent direct action for many years. His presentation last night focused on the question “What to do if there is coup?” around the November 3rd election. I received late notice about the presentation (as in yesterday afternoon). So I was surprised to learn that over 700 people in 34 states were in the Zoom webinar. It was an interesting presentation. In it Lakey called on people to reach out to the elected officials now with the request (well…okay…demand) that they refuse to accept the results of the presidential election until every vote is counted.

In addition, he asked people to go to ChooseDemocracy.us to take the pledge to engage in nonviolent direct action if it appears a coup is being attempted.

It seems so strange to me that we would have to be seriously concerned about a coup in the United States. However, I have been in three such discussions with different people over the past week. Obviously, we have taken our freedom and democracy for granted. It is far more fragile than we ever imagined.

Though George Lakey and I run in the same Quaker circles (those are pretty small circles, after all), I did not know as much about his work as I should have. Today I did a bit more research and came up with two brief videos that provided a deeper introduction to him as a person and his work in nonviolence. I have decided to include them here. The first is a 15-minute lecture he did for a class at Swarthmore College where he taught for many years. It is an introduction to nonviolent action.

The second is a bit more personal as it is from the QuakerSpeak series that highlights individuals within the Religious Society of Friends as they discuss key ideas in the faith and practice of Quakers. This video is less than a year old and it came out at the same time as one of Lakey’s most recent books, How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning. This video is about 8 minutes in length. By the way, in this video you will hear Lakey refer to a man by the name of George Fox. He lived in 17th Century England and began a reformation movement within the Anglican Church which became the Quakers. He was a contemporary of Roger Williams, another Brit, who established Rhode Island and founded the Baptist movement.

Both of these Zoom events this week supported my need for a bit of suspension. They also produced the unexpected benefit of bringing some sense and calm to the noise that has dominated for so long. I hope you find these to do the same for you this weekend.


The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: So I overheard my wife pleading with one of my kids to put a shirt on for his school ID picture (this semester they’re sending them in to the school instead of having them taken at the college). But his logic was: Why? 90% of his classes are done online so he will be shirtless for the majority of his classes! I think Juli watched The Middle too much while he was young. #raisingreallifeaxlheck

Coming November 3: The Great American Character Test

Elections say more about the electorate than the candidate. Since casting my first presidential vote in 1972 I have become more convinced of this over time. If I had any doubt left, the U.S. presidential election campaign of 2020 has erased it.

The American people know who Donald Trump and Joe Biden are. I am not talking about “know” as in name recognition. That is a given. We know about them as people too. We have a 47+ year record of public service on Biden. In the past 10 days alone one news story, two new books by Michael Cohen and Peter Strzok, and Trump’s own words on the record reveal a stark contrast in the character of Trump compared to that of Biden.

But wait..these “revelations” about Trump are not really news because We the People already knew it. We told the Pew Research Center that we understood the difference between Trump and Biden relative to character nearly three months ago.

From June 16 to 22, 2020 the Pew Research Center conducted a survey as part of its American Trends Panel research. This particular survey focused on assessing how a random sample of adults in the U.S. viewed the personal traits of Trump and Biden and their positions on major issues.

On the major issues facing American’s today, Trump edged out Biden on only one issue…barely: “Make good decisions about economic policy.” We the People give Biden the advantage on each of the other five major issues: “effectively handle law enforcement and criminal justice issues;” “make good decisions about foreign policy;” “handle the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak;” “effectively handle race relations;” and “bring the country closer together.”

This is useful information to be sure and it does seem like a pretty clear consensus that Biden could do a better job than Trump. But does it matter? Probably not because the issues seem to be trumped (no pun intended) by questions of character.

So, what about their personal traits and matters of character?

We the People told the Pew Research Center we perceived Trump to be more “energetic” than Biden by a wide margin and that we barely saw him as more “courageous” than Biden.

However, on the next four factors: “honest;” “cares about the needs of ordinary people;” “a good role model;” and “even-tempered” Biden has wide advantages…very wide advantages.

Here is what Pew’s research tells me: We the People did not need Mary Trump, Michael Cohen, Peter Strzok, or Trump himself to tell us about Donald J. Trump’s absence of virtuous character. We already knew it and we have known it for a long time. You know, it was on full display on “The Apprentice.” True confession…I saw one (and only one) episode, though I detest “reality” TV. Except I love “American Ninja Warrior” which is awesome because it is real people doing real things that require real skills. Oddly, the title has nothing to do with the show itself though.

So the election is about character? Yes, but not about the character of the candidates.

Where Trump and Biden stand on the issues and the nature of their character would be really, really important – if the election were about them. But it is not about them. It is about We the People.

Where the character of the candidates is concerned it is a very clear choice. Though both men are human with plenty of faults we know that Biden is essentially of virtuous character and Trump is far from it. Yes, we understand who they are and what they stand for – both on the issues and in their character. The choice is so clear, in fact, that on November 3rd the election is more a test of our character than of the candidates.

What is the character of We the People? Are we drawn to the more virtuous leader or the one who exhibits little, if any, virtue? Do we stand with the leader whose career has attempted to achieve the greater good for all or the one who has been, and continues to be, only concerned for himself and his own wealth? What do we honor? What do we value?

This election is a test of our character. As always, what we do speaks louder than what we say and it will make plain our virtue, or lack of it. When we choose between Trump and Biden we will be making a statement about our own character. Our own virtue. Our own tendency toward the greater good or toward self-interest because this is the choice the two men represent.

My hope for the future of our country, the United States of America, rests in a belief that a consensus of We the People still choose for the greater good. I have staked my life’s work on this belief and it is the founding principle of my business: to animate and equip people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. 

I do not believe my faith in We the People is misplaced…but I am worried.

This week a friend recommended a movie to us on the National Geographic channel, 9/11: Control the Skies. It is about the amazing effort Canadian air traffic controllers in Gander, Newfoundland to quickly and safely land 224 transcontinental passenger jets in the hours after the 9/11 attacks. We were so taken by the documentary. We tried to remember more clearly how the people of Gander (population of about 10,000 at that time) welcomed and comfortable stranded passengers that nearly doubled their population. This led us to a second film, the docudrama, Diverted. We watched that film last night and were moved by the deep caring, generosity, and character of the people of Gander. It has now gone on our “bucket list” of places we need to go when travel is allowed again.

We were reminded by these two films of what it means to be people of character. Under the ego and thumb of Trump we have been fractured, divided, broken, berated, misled, put a risk, placed in harms way, and, well, to put it plainly, killed. By Election Day well over 200,000 of us will have died because of the COVID-19 pandemic which we know did not have to be this deadly. (Just last night we learned that Trump is now trying to “cook the data” from the CDC MMWR reports to make him look better in light of the staggering COVID-19 statistics.) Others have died as a result of state sanctioned brutality and murder. I worry that, if we are not prevented from voting, too many have been brutalized into submission and compliance. I fear that too many will simply “go along to get along” or just stay away from the polls.

We can do neither.

Still, the election will reveal our character. When we vote this Fall it will be a statement of what we stand for. We must choose wisely for, as in every election, democracy hangs in the balance. In my lifetime this has never been more true.


The Meaning of a Life

When actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Black Panther in the wildly popularly movie of the same name, died of cancer, it had a powerful impact on the lives of many people. PBS recently had a piece on its website that helps us understand more clearly why Boseman’s brief life was so meaningful and his death such a loss. It is a sweet article and a brief read. I hope you will take time to check it out.


Meet Brittlestar

Brittlestar is a YouTube star from Canada. I’ve featured a couple of his videos in this blog and will be inserting more, including today. In real life Brittlestar is Stewart Reynolds. He has done voice over work and video campaigns for a variety of companies. Among YouTube producers who are over 50 years old, he is ranked #14 in the world (but #37808 among a YouTube stars). So, you wonder what it is like living next door to America right now? Brittlestar has some thoughts on that.


The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: I am halfway through delivering a 2-day training webinar online. That is a long time to stare at a computer screen. Fortunately they are fantastic learners. I keep waiting for the UN to break down my door and cart me off for crimes against humanity!!! Zoom fatigue is a real thing.

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.


Follow the Leader?!?

A few weeks ago I did a video interview with my long time friend Lamar Roth. The video told the story of how Lamar and his company navigated the tragedy of a workplace shooting and has been applying the lessons learned from that to the disruption caused by the current pandemic. Since posting it, along with a couple of short vignettes of key sections, I’ve had over 200 views on the Tenacious Change LLC YouTube channel. I know, that’s not a huge amount but it is about four times more than I had hoped.

It has inspired me to do additional video interviews. I’m in the process of lining them up now and actually do them in late Summer and early Fall. I’ve got three more that I plan to do this year. One is an interview with a young man from Baltimore who works in love, justice, and education. I’m anxious to talk with him about a concept he is defining and writing about as “the work of love.” Another is on community change in the time of the pandemic featuring a colleague from Canada with whom I’ve done considerable work over the past few years. Finally, for now, I’m lining up an interview with a woman who studies “toxic followership.” In her research she interviewed survivors of the Jonestown massacre in an effort to understand more clearly the dynamics of the leader/follower relationship which led to over 900 people taking their own lives.

This week, as I was focusing on all things media related in my work, I discovered that my podcast hosting platform had been inadvertently redirecting people who were trying to find it to a different podcast. Ugh! Hopefully I’ll have that sorted by next week as I’d like to also dive back into podcasting. I have some really good interviews on hand that I need to edit, produce, and upload before I do anymore.

All of this to say…stay tuned.


what if we shouldn’t follow the leader?

Speaking of “toxic followership,” at some point we’ve really got to talk about why it is that people find themselves stuck on following inadequate, inept, and inconceivably bad leaders. (Pretty good alliteration, huh?) You are probably rushing ahead to imagine I’m thinking about Trump here…and I am…but the phenomenon is not unique to Trump. We have seen it time and again: on sports teams; in clubs; in families; in faith communities; in organizations, agencies, and governments; in towns and cities; etc.

First it has to be recognized that every leader has “fans” who would follow them anywhere, even to death. Therefore it is difficult to assert that it rests solely on the shoulders of the person in the leadership role. Some very good, ethical, honorable, and highly effective leaders have such wildly devoted fans who are, really, just too devoted.

It is also true, though, that some lousy, unethical, dishonorable, and incredibly ineffective leaders have such followers. Sometimes that is by accident. The leader may be as amazed and clueless about the existence of such followers as we are. Frankly, they are probably also clueless about just how lousy they are as leaders.

However, sometimes accumulating such die hard followers is by design of some of the worst leaders. These scare me the most. They are leaders who want people to follow their every command. They seem to have an innate ability to latch on to folks who are most susceptible to their brand of “leadership” as control.

Within the larger field of leadership studies there is authentic transformational leadership (usually just known as transformational leadership or simply TL). Transformational leadership emerged through the work of James MacGregor Burns in his 1978 book Leadership. For Burns, his concept of leadership was not based in power over followers but in power with followers to accomplish the goals of both. Transformational leaders use four core strategies that are very positive and follower focused:

  • Attending to the needs of follows and acting as a mentor or coach (Individualized Consideration)
  • Engaging with followers and asking for and receiving their ideas and feedback (Intellectual Stimulation)
  • Articulating a vision to followers that is appealing and inspiring (Inspirational Motivation)
  • Being a role model with and for the kind of behavior that instills pride, gains respect and trust, and is highly ethical (Idealized Influence)

Then there is also pseudo-transformational leadership, which, as the name implies, uses the trappings of transformational leadership to gain power over followers. Pseudo-transformational leaders use the behaviors of transformational leadership to the nefarious ends of having devoted followers who will do anything they want them to do. They do this by appearing to regard followers in this way and acting as if they are doing the same four things but, in fact, they are being deceptive and using them only for their own ends. It is, to borrow the well-worn phrase, to be “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Pseudo-transformational leadership is defined by self-serving, yet highly inspirational leadership behaviors, unwillingness to encourage independent thought in subordinates, and little caring for one’s subordinates more generally.

Christie, A., Barling, Julian, & Turner, N. (2011). Pseudo‐Transformational Leadership: Model Specification and Outcomes 1, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41. DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00858.x

The challenge presented to followers is that transformational leaders and pseudo-transformational leaders may look very much alike – at the beginning. By the time we’ve figured out that we are following a charlatan we may be in so deep that it becomes impossible to extract ourselves. Or, once we realize that we’ve been duped, we may stay in because we are embarrassed and want to save face. Or, in a worst case scenario, we don’t want out because we have bought into the pseudo-transformational leader’s vision, regardless of how bad it is for us and others.

One of things I’m looking forward to in my upcoming interview with the woman who studies “toxic followership” is talking with her about why it is that people stay in line behind pseudo-transformational leaders. Truthfully, we’ve all done it, you know. We’ve all, at one time or another, got in line behind a leader who was not worthy of our trust and only wanted power over us. It would be a good thing if we could figure this out, don’t you think?


chickenman – episode 86

Chickenman returns to get his orders for dealing with the Very Diabolical: Go Winged Warrior fast!


the view from jeff

Jeff explains: On the first day of Biking Camp Matthew wished he had read Pastor Juli’s email a little closer!! Make sure you register for NewGate Baptist Summer Camps, sadly no Viking Camps (at least this year). (Jeff, and his spouse Juli, are co-pastors at this multi-cultural church in Calgary.)

July 16, 2020 – Dog Days and Dog Rides

According to Farmers’ Almanac (where else?) The “Dog Days” of summer” refers to that period of Summer from July 3 to August 11. I’ve always assumed it had something to do with the oppressive heat that usually comes during this period. For example, right now in Laurel, we are experiencing a heatwave of more than 20 days over 90 degrees. And, because of the heat, it seems the best thing to do is simply lie around, like the dog, on the cool floor. Not a bad idea, eh?

Turns out there is an astronomical explanation for the “Dog Days.” Here’s how Farmers’ Almanac describes it:

The phrase is actually a reference to the fact that, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. This is why Sirius is sometimes called the Dog Star.

In the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the Sun. On July 23rd, specifically, it is in conjunction with the Sun, and because the star is so bright, the ancient Romans believed it actually gave off heat and added to the Sun’s warmth, accounting for the long stretch of sultry weather. They referred to this time as diēs caniculārēs, or “dog days.”

Thus, the term Dog Days of Summer came to mean the 20 days before and 20 days after this alignment of Sirius with the Sun—July 3 to Aug. 11.

Farmers’ Almanac, Why Are They Called the “Dog Days” of Summer?

That is all very interesting and good to know, but it is completely meaningless to our remaining dog, Dolly. (You’ll remember had to let Madison make her journey to the Rainbow Bridge about a month ago.) Dolly has this idea that “Dog Days” means “Dog Rides.”

My view of Dolly while on a ride.

Every time I take her outside to do her doodies (or “duties,” if you will), she finds a way to guide me to my car. She stands by the driver’s side rear door looking up at me until I either give in and take her for a ride or I become the Big Bad Doggy Daddy and slowly, but gently, drag her back into the house.

Those eyes! See what I mean??? I’m helpless!

Standing by the door of the car she looks up at me and kills me with those sweet, dark eyes. More often than I’d like, I give in and we go for a brief ride. Really, it doesn’t have to be long. I can drive around the block and she still feels like she has been around the world. Farmers’ Almanac, at the end of its article on the “Dog Days” of Summer asks this question: “So what does it mean to you?” For Dolly it means rides. For me, it means I’m driving Ms. Dolly.

P.S. I was going to use a photo of me with my head hanging out the window while driving down the street but that seemed neither wise nor terribly attractive.


chickenman – episode 81

Chickenman continues his flight across the Atlantic, Ms. Helfinger is back in the office, and the Commissioner needs to Wonderful Weekend Warrior. But how is Ms. Helfinger to reach him mid-flight?


July 13, 2020 – News and Info You May Have Missed

Stories of covid-19

So, how is the battle against the Novel Cornavirus going? According to the data, as of yesterday at 2:12 PM, it’s going just GREAT if you are trying to kill off a lot of people in the U.S. Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t the point of Trump’s inaction. Maybe he wins the election by reducing the electorate!?!? Seems a really odd strategy but…geez…weirder things have happened, eh?

Here’s a couple of graphics I grabbed yesterday. First, this one comes from the Harvard Global Health Institute, and you can check out the current data yourself by following the link or just clicking on the map.

This map shows, county by county, the risk levels for each. The redder the county, the higher the risk. In this way the Harvard Global Health Institute folks are trying to answer the question: How severe is the pandemic where you live?

Just a glance of the map tells us a couple of things. First, it’s much less risky to be in the Northeast and the Rocky Mountain region. Not a good idea at all to plan vacation travel to Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas or Alabama. Each of these states – as whole – are in the red (highest) risk level category.

The scond thing this tells us, because all of the these states are in the “sunbelt” in the midst of summer, the Novel Coronavirus is not being slowed by the outside temperature. You’ll remember this was one of the theories being floated by Trump a few months ago based on a Department of Homeland Security study, which was not peer reviewed. This is a great illustration of why good data matters and, even more, a good process needs to be used to get to the data. By the way, what IS the status of that study? Was it ever completed? Has it been reviewed? After Trump put it out there as yet another one of his “creative” solutions to the virus, it seems to have disappeared…you know…like the virus… in the sunlight, after you drink a gallon of Lysol, and take a few hydroxychloriquine.

I have one more graphic, this one from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Washington State. These are the folks who have been trying to project the number of deaths from the pandemic in the U.S. See below for their latest projection. They are now projecting over 200,000 deaths by November 1. Again, check it out for yourself at the link or by clicking on the graphic.

November 1 – in case you’ve forgotten, this is only two days before the General Election on November 3rd. Please, don’t forget…either this number and to vote.


news and info you may have missed

Maureen Dowd has not exactly been friendly to Joe Biden. She has called him out on some of the faux pas and bad choices he has made over the years. She has a realistic view of who he is. And she has a realistic view of who Trump is. Her column in Satuday’s NY Times is worth reading.

Also worth reading is Ashley Parker and Robert Costa’s piece in the Saturday’s Washington Post. The growing movement of Republicans working against Trump’s reelection seems to be gaining some traction.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of the public radio show On The Media. The July 10th show, 40 Acres, is particularly interesting and informative with regard to housing discrimination and the eviction crisis in the United States. Generally I’m pretty well informed but I do not know much about real estate, financing, and “redlining.” Listening to this show, though, gave me a much better understanding of all of these.

Jo, a regular reader from out West, sent me this great piece from NPR. She and I have worked in the field of sexuality education. She found this story from NPR and passed it on to me, knowing of that part of my professional background. The title of the article says a lot doesn’t it? Starting A COVID-19 ‘Social Bubble’? How Safe Sex Communication Skills Can Help.

Judy, a reader from really far out West, also sent me a piece about the disparties in enforcing stay-at-home emergency orders by Honolulu Police. The Hawai`i Public Radio describes Micronesians, Samoans, and Blacks have been disproportionately cited for violations. Violations in Hawai`i carry some pretty tough penalties – up to $5,000 in fines and a year in jail. However, Hawai`i also has a large homeless population which has further complicated the issue.


Bob dylan, DJ

Another regular reader, Mike, reminded me that Bob Dylan had a radio show on satellite radio back in the early 2000’s. It was called “Theme Time Radio Hour.” I don’t remember if it was on XM Radio or Sirius (before they were joined up and became SiriusXM). I’m inclined to think it was XM Radio because I remember listening to the show a few times and the only subscription I had at that time was to XM.

I found if you open the archive website link in Google Chrome, there will be a player that opens with it to allow you to listen to the show. Firefox may require you to download a player first. If the link above does not open in Chrome, you can cut and paste this link into your Chrome browser: https://www.themetimeradio.com/

The theme for the very first episode was Weather so it featured weather realated music from all genres. Dylan featured music by a wide variety of performers: Muddy Waters, Jimmie Davis, Joe Jones, Dean Martin, Sister Rosetta Tharp, Jimi Hendrix, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and one of my all time favorites, Fats Domino.

The show was on for three seasons. Seems like some good Summer time listening!


chickenman – episode 80

Ms. Helfinger continues her breakdown and her visit with the psychiatrist. However, she flips the couch on him!