Day 75 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

We are fighting two pandemics simultaneously. One is COVID-19 and one is racism. Through science and medicine there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the former. There appears to be no light but a deep, dank, never ending tunnel for the latter.

Friday, May 29, 2020 – Live to Blog with A Little Good News

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

Today we learned two things. First, overnight there were no new COVID-19 deaths in Prince George’s County where we live. Second, the County Executive is going to move our county into Stage 1 opening on Monday, June 1. Both are good news…but only “kind of” thanks to my doctor. ūüôĀ


On Doctor’s Orders

This has been a week full of telemedicine visits! First, it was my opthamologist on the 26th. Then, it was my primary care physician today. I’m rather enjoying seeing the natural habitats of my physicians. In one case I watched a partner/husband/grown child come and go through a door behind the doctor several times. Finally, the doctor went to a different room. In the other case I could hear small children in the background. It is nice to see that all these folks who command such respect and who are often so aloof in their professional settings are also moms and dads with dogs, cats, and kids, who some sometimes “bomb” into Zoom.

My opthamologist has been monitoring a situation in my left eye that will eventually require surgery. Actually, it is time for surgery – but because of COVID-19 they are using their surgery suite only for emergencies. Bummer! Instead I have to go to an optometrist to get a new prescription that should allow me to see a bit better until I can have the surgery. The opthamologist typically does refraction (testing) but isn’t right now because the office doesn’t easily accommodate physical distancing. That is true. The exam rooms are tiny.

My primary care physician was following up on my annual exam (which is in October or November) and to order a follow up blood test just to make sure I still have blood. We also had a good conversation about how safe it is for me and Clemencia to go out, since our age puts us at risk and we both also have underlying conditions (Stupidity is not one of our underlying conditions, just to be clear.) Unfortunately, it was in this conversation that she broke the not so good news…because of our risk factors, neither Clemencia nor I should go out immediately once we enter Stage 1 of reopening on Monday. We should wait two weeks until about June 15th.

Her rationale was actually quite sound and I wanted to pass it on here. COVID-19 can be carried for days by people who are infected but do have not symptoms. It takes about two weeks from the point of exposure for symptoms to occur. Therefore, by waiting two weeks after reopening before venturing out, we will have a much better idea of how safe it is. If the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths spike within two weeks of reopening, then going out is not a wise choice. So, there you have it. Prince George’s County will re-open on June 1, but the Vargas Klaus House re-opening will not be until June 15. Of course, these re-opening dates are contigent on whether Stupid People decide to follow the rules and guidelines set out by the County Executive.


Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership…There Still Time to Sign Up!

Next week I’ll be joining my good friend and colleague, Liz Weaver, on a Tamarack Institute webinar titled Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership. The webinar will be on Tuesday, June 2 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM Eastern via Zoom and it is FREE! All you need to do is sign up here.


Registration is Open – ¬°Charlemos con Clemencia!

Are you ready to learn Spanish? Not Spanish to pass an exam, but functional communicative Spanish. Communicative Spanish is the Spanish most English speakers need to be able to simply chat with the people in their communities whose first language is Spanish. It is great for teachers, social workers and public health professionals, and anyone who wants to connect more easily and better with their Spanish-speaking neighbors.

Clemencia of ¬°Charlemos con Clemencia! is, of course, my spouse whom you’ve gotten to know through this blog. Be sure to ask about the special bonus lesson in Colombian Lip Pointing! To register for the Summer Session (June 15-September 4) visit www.charlemos.net. Cost is $85 per person for the whole summer session of 12 classes. Multiple class times are available.


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 42 – A youth organization representative attempts to recruit Benton Harbor (aka Chickenman) as a youth leader. Until he has to look for Benton in the Chicken Cave.


What’s Next?

Our days of sheltering-in-place are coming to an end this weekend. My Monday, June 1 posting of Stories of Covid-19 and Sheltering-In-Place will be my last. Well, unless, of course, things turn for the worse over the weekend and we get locked down again.

However, I have something in mind and I will debut it on Tuesday, June 2nd. I knew this lockdown would have to end sometime so I’ve been preparing for it. I hope you like what’s next! Stay tuned!


In Reality…and Thank You.

First, thank you. I’ve had some very sweet and kind responses to yesterday’s (Day 74) blog. I had two responses that were especially powerful to me and I will be sharing them soon. I have secured permission from the writers. They are currently reviewing the piece I have written to introduce them both to you. When they have given me the go ahead, they will appear in the blog. If you read yesterday’s blog, I think you will find these quite interesting.

Now, in reality. We are fighting two pandemics simultaneously. One is COVID-19 and one is racism. Through science and medicine there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the former. There appears to be no light but a deep, dank, never ending tunnel for the latter. The pandemic of racism in the U.S. is hundreds of years old and today it is even more obvious than ever. In 2016 Will Smith, an interview with Steven Colbert said, “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” Today the filming continues to confirm the reality of racism. While both pandemics are blazing away in our country – quite literally in some cities – the President is AWOL. There has been no comment about the 100,000+ dead of COVID-19, there has been only withdrawal today from the World Health Organization. In the midst of a pandemic? Really? There has been no comment about the protests and fires in Minneapolis (and other cities as well) except for threats of greater violence on Twitter, which Twitter had to sanction.

Mr. President, like I wrote earlier this week, we need you NOW to be the best version of yourself. Is this it?

Is this all you’ve got?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and, please, do everything YOU can to keep yourself and others safe in both pandemics.

Tom

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.

Tom

Day 73 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

For every Stupid Person who ignores the rules that keep all of us safe, another person cannot enjoy the freedom that Stupid Person feels they alone are entitled.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Sunny Cloud of Disappointment

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

Clemencia threw me out of the house today. Well, it wasn’t THAT dramatic! Actually, she invited me out of the house to go golfing. The golf course I play has been open since May 15th but I’ve been reluctant to venture out because of our risk level and the incredible spread of the pandemic in our community. However, with her encouragement I decided go play golf.


Join Liz Weaver and Me for Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership on June 2nd

I’m honored to be joining my good friend and colleague, Liz Weaver, on a Tamarack Institute webinar titled Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership. The webinar will be on Tuesday, June 2 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM Eastern via Zoom and it is FREE! All you need to do is sign up here.

Liz is the Co-CEO of the Tamarack Institute, an amazing social and community change organization based in Waterloo, Ontario. Their work on poverty reduction in Canada is extraordinary and if you don’t know them, you need to know them. Liz and I have collaborated on articles and projects in the recent past, but this is the first time we’ve done a webinar together. Anytime I get with Liz by phone or on Zoom, I always learn something new and come away with a stronger “can do” spirit. I’m honored and excited to be doing this webinar with her. Please check it out and please plan to join us. (P.S. Liz told me today that there are currently over 400 signed up. Come on in! The more the merrier!)


The Golf Outing That Wasn’t

When the golf course reopened on the 15th of this month I drove over to see how they were handling the re-opening. I was really impressed. No one was allowed in the club house. Golfers with memberships checked in on one side through a window and those who paid by the round signed in and paid at a window on the opposite side of the building. Everyone was required to wear a mask and everyone did. Distancing was practiced quite well by everyone. You could share a cart only if the person you were sharing with was someone who lived with you (e.g., spouse, child, family guinea pig, etc.). They were carefully following the protocols established by the state and the county. Remember, the golf course is in Prince George’s County which is the hottest COVID-19 hotspot in the hotspot that is all of the Metro DC area. Ironically, it is located less than a half-mile from the state’s COVID-19 temporary morgue, which you’d think would be a powerful reminder.

From that experience I decided it would be okay for me to try to play when the weather was warmer and I had a free day. That day was today. Early this morning Clemencia asked if I planned to go golfing. I was a bit non-committal because even though I did, I have been concerned about the risk and, even worse, bringing the virus home to her. When I got dressed, though, it was in golf shorts and shirt. By noon I was strongly leaning toward giving it a try. By 1:30 PM, after I had finished the “must do” work items for the day, I was actually anxious to go. Sensing that (well, actually, she caught me wearing my golf shoes in the house), Clemencia invited me to get out of the house. After I asked her “But are you sure?” about seven times, I finally left.

The parking was nearly full at the golf course, which was surprising for a Wednesday afternoon when most people are working. But, then, I realized many people were not yet back to work. In all, I was glad the golf course was getting the business.

However, as I got my equipment out of the car and started walking to the club house I began to notice the absence of masks, the absence of distancing, and the abundance of really Stupid People. I saw people whom I strongly suspected were not related sharing golf carts. I saw people standing and sitting around the club house in groups and without masks. To get to the check-in window I would have had be in the midst of them.

Then there was the straw – you know, the one that broke the camel’s back? One of the golf course maintenance workers was disinfecting the cars (which was good) but his mask was at or under his chin. It made for a lovely decoration but it was non-functional as a mask.

Without hesitation, I walked back to my car, loaded my golf bag, and drove back home. It was a deeply disappointing experience. I’m happy to report, I didn’t cry like a baby and pitch a tantrum. But a tear did trickle silently down my cheek.

What’s really amazing and which really infuriates me about this time we are in is not just that there are Stupid People – but that many are also selfish, self-centered, and seemingly entitled. For every Stupid Person who ignores the rules that keep all of us safe, another person cannot enjoy the freedom that Stupid People feel is their entitlement alone. Golf is not the only sport with Stupid People though. Tennis, pickleball, and basketball all have people who find ways around the rules to get on the court and play their games. This makes the also prime candidates for the Stupid People Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, while Stupid People think only of themselves…

Today, at about 5:00 PM Eastern, the death toll in the United States from COVID-19 hit 100,000.

After all the Stupid People I saw last weekend in the news who were on the beaches and at parties, after all the Stupid People I saw at the golf course today, and after all the Stupid People I heard about this week, I am losing hope that we will get out of this without a death toll rivaling the Spanish Flu in 1918-1919 (which was 675,000 by the way).

God help us? Maybe. But maybe we could help God out by being less stupid.


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 41 – Join Chickenman as he christens the new Midland City Hall…kind of.


Song Parody Wednesday!

Cheryl from Pennsylvania, and avid reader of this blog (or so she says…oh, wait, maybe I paid her to say that?) wrote me to say how much she likes the song parodies. So, Cheryl, this is for you and everyone else that likes these as much as you and I do.

Let’s kick it off kids with Chris Mann, whose song parodies I’ve featured before, a singer and musician who came in 4th in the 2012 season of “The Voice” (another reality TV show I’ve never watched). Mann is originally from Wichita, Kansas where he turned down a really great offer to be a lineman.

This is a first time in the Fabulous Five for the Holderness Family. They are, well, a family that specializes in making music and music parodies and a bunch of other stuff. Strangely, they seem to make a living at it. More power to ’em!

The Kiffness, from South Africa, is no stranger to this blog though he does seem to be a little “stranger” than some of the other performers featured here. But then, they are all just a bit strange in their own way. This a fun one gang!

Whoa, look at that, the Holderness Family has another in this week’s Fabulous Five. I’m not really a fan of Disney music but this was fun to watch. I loved the costume changes midsong!

Finally, rounding out our Fabulous Five for this week is Ra√ļl Irabi√©n, from Mexico, who does one of the best COVID-19 parodies of Bohemian Rhapsody (my favorite song) that I’ve seen. Irabi√©n has a terrific acapella group Invoca you can check out as well.

Why stop at five? Here’s a bonus parody from Randy Rainbow, perhaps the most prolific and political of the song parody-ists. (Is that a word?) And remember, DO NOT ingest household chemicals!

Stay safe, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep an eye on the numbers as they go up. They aren’t stopping anytime soon.

Tom

Day 72 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

At about noon there was a knock on our door. I looked through the peephole and didn’t see anyone. I assumed it was a delivery left in front of the door as it is usually done these days. I opened the door and there they were – Bert and Ernie sitting there looking up at me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 Live to Blog from the Laundry Room

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

Thank you for allowing me to stray from the drivel track yesterday. I had to get it off my chest. I’ve been thinking a lot about character and ethics recently – for reasons I’ll explain below. Now, back to the drivel.


Idiocy Abounds!

When we last heard from Bert Left and Ernie Right, they were refusing to come in off the deck. There has already been so much loss and sadness in our world that I had been waiting for the right moment to tell you that Bert and Ernie had been lost. Last Friday morning I went to the deck to try to coax them back onto my feet but they were gone. There had been a strong breeze all Thursday and well into the night. I assumed they had been blown off the deck and were lying about somewhere in the Maryland National Memorial Cemetery, about a 100 yards from our house. I didn’t want to trespass over the holiday weekend but decided I’d go hunting for them today.

But I didn’t have to. At about noon there was a knock on our door. I looked through the peephole and didn’t see anyone. I assumed it was a delivery left in front of the door as it is usually done these days. I opened the door and there they were – Bert and Ernie sitting there looking up at me.

  • Ernie: Hey, bonehead! It’s about time you opened the door.
  • Me: Bert! Ernie! I thought you had been lost! How’d you get here?
  • Ernie: Nah, we ain’t lost. We know exactly where we are.
  • Bert: The Uber driver dropped us up here. Nice lady! But you should give us a key, you know.
  • Me: Uber driver?!? What were you doing in an Uber?
  • Bert: We had a little trip.
  • Ernie: Yeah, we got tired of just hanging on the deck and we definitely did not want to get back on your smelly feet.
  • Bert: So we went on a little trip.
  • Me: Oh really? How’d you get off the deck?
  • Bert: We just wiggled out of the clips and the wind carried us gently to the ground. Then we called an Uber.
  • Ernie: And the Uber took us to Ocean City, baby!
  • Me: Wait…you’re telling me you went to Ocean City? To be the beach? When did this happen?
  • Ernie: Real early Friday morning. We had all weekend at Ocean City!
  • Bert: Yeah, all weekend, bonehead, and it was great. You should’ve seen all the gorgeous yoga and tennis socks over there! Hey, Ernie, what was that cute little striped number’s name again?
  • Ernie: You mean Chloe? Or was that Maria? No, wait, it was Keisha, yeah, that’s right…Keisha! Oh man, she was somethin’ bonehead, but she wasn’t your type, you like wool socks.
  • Me: Are you guys telling me you spent the whole weekend on the beach?
  • Bert: Yeah, what’s it to you, bonehead?
  • Me: What’s it to me? You’ve got to be kidding! What’s it to me? Tell me something, did either of you geniuses wear masks and keep six feet apart from people?
  • Ernie (giggles): Hey, Bert, did you wear a mask and keep your distance from Keisha?
  • Bert (giggles back): Oh, yeah, Ernie I stayed just as far away from her as you stayed from Yvette.
  • Bert and Ernie erupt in laughter.
  • Me: Okay, I get it. So you did the same thing alot of other Stupid People did over the holiday right?
  • Bert: C’mon man, you’re really too uptight about this thing. I mean, jeez, it’s not a big deal. Look Mr. Trump doesn’t wear a mask and he’s always getting close to people.
  • Me: I really don’t care what Mr. Trump does because he doesn’t live here. You do. And now you can’t come back in the house until you quarantine for 14 days.
  • Ernie: What? What are you talking about? Where are we going to stay?
  • Me: I don’t know, but I can’t bring you into the house just to take you to the deck. You’d probably just wiggle free again.
  • Bert: Hey, that’s not fair!
  • Me: You know, I’m getting really tired of you two complaining that things aren’t fair for you. What’s fair for me and Clemencia? We are doing everything we can to stay safe and avoid infection. Then you two pull this crazy stunt. You are no different than some of our neighbors who don’t wear masks. You are the same as all those other people we saw in the news who went to parties and the beaches who didn’t wear masks and didn’t keep a distance. You are selfish and self-centered. And now, you leave me no choice.
  • Ernie: What do you mean no choice?
  • Me (lowering a plastic bag to the floor): Get in the bag. You’ve ruined it. I have not choice now but to wash you.
  • Bert: No you can’t do that! We are living beings! We are you!
  • Me: No, you aren’t me. I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier but I’m not stupid. You were safe here. You blew it. Get in the bag.
  • Ernie: No way! You can’t do this!
  • Me: Yes, I can and I will. You now pose a risk to us. In the bag. And if you don’t get in it willingly, I’ll nudge you in with my shoe.

By 1:00 PM Bert Left and Ernie Right were transported from the washing machine to the dryer. They were good friends to me and I miss them already. I’m very sad, though, for their stupidity. They were, too, in the end, apologizing profusely to me. Still, they had to be washed and disinfected. To be clear, I did not spray them with Lysol nor soak them in Clorox. They just needed a good washing. In fact, I think they appreciated it. I swear I heard Ernie say to Bert during the wash, “Hey, Bert, this ain’t so bad. In fact, it is little bit like that roller coaster we rode on last Saturday.”

If the opportunity arises for them to return, they’ve promised me they will. The next time, though, I hope they will be a little nicer to me and bit more humble. But we’ll see. For now, rest in peace in the sock drawer, Bert and Ernie – March 16, 2020 to May 26, 2020. Aged -I mean really aged! – 72 days. They will be missed but their stench – and attitudes – will not.


Pondering Character

Character and ethics have been on my mind a lot during the pandemic. I’ve been reading a couple of books and finishing up a long-over due project, which probably explains why.

One book I’m reading is a textbook entitled Ethical Leadership: A Primer. It is a college level book that examines and compares a variety of ethical theories. It is not the light reading I do at night before bed…but it is very interesting.

The other book I’ve been reading in a rather meditative way is David Brooks’ The Road to Character. It is a great book for reflective reading because the book is a reflection by Brooks on what he has learned about character. Brooks is a New York Times bestselling author, a writer for the New York Times, and a regular commentator on the PBS News Hours on Fridays. When I attend Quaker Meeting I sometimes need meditative reading material to help focus my mind and quiet my spirit. The Road to Character has been very good for this purpose.

The other thing that has been causing me to ponder character and ethics is work I’ve done recently to finish a project I started over two years ago. It was the WWJD Redux Project. I decided to self-fund a study to understand more clearly how people view the leadership of Donald Trump in light of the ethical and moral lapses he has been accused of. The study was accepted for presentation at the 20th Global Conference of the International Leadership Association meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida in October of that year. I had promised, as I was doing the study, that I would send the results to everyone who participated. However, that promise got away from me in the busyness and business of life. Over the past few weeks I shot a video of that presentation and am now am making good on the promise. This link, WWJD Redux Project, and the one above, take you to the project page on the Tenacious Change LLC website where you can find more information. If you are interested in watching the video presentation (its roughly 29 minutes in length), you can watch it on that page or below on the Tenacious Change LLC YouTube channel.

If you take time to watch the video and learn about the study, I’d be interested in hearing what you think. It is still relevant to our time…perhaps even more so in the midst of this pandemic.


A View of COVID-19

This image was taken from the website of the Johns Hopkins project that is tracking COVID-19. The view is of “Cumulative Confirmed Cases” worldwide. There is an old expression that seems appropriate here…let’s say it together: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 40 – Chickenman has followed the Teddy Bear into a party in the hotel, only to discover he is at a costume party hosted by the Teddy Bear. The Teddy Bear is, in fact, Scarfce O’Banyon, a highly respected Midland City dentist. When it was time to unmask, though, Chickenman found himself in a difficult position. But could he just fly the coop? Or just fly?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your face, keep wearing your mask, and, please keep being smarter than Bert and Ernie.

Tom

Day 71 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

I am a political person but I strive to be fair. I try to vote for the person, not the party, though my leanings are clear to most people who know me well. In trying to keep this blog as apolitical as possible I have weighed this question carefully: Would I be writing this regardless of the person and party of the President? The answer is yes because character and ethics are transcendent.

Monday, May 25, 2020 – Live to Blog on Memorial Day

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

Today is one of, if not, the most solemn Memorial Day in the history of the United States. The death toll for COVID-19 is nearing 100,000. It is possible that it could reach this mark before the day is through. It does not seem ethically or morally right to spend this day as we have spent so many other Memorial Day holidays – with outings at the beach, family gatherings, barbecues, or a day on the golf course. For this reason, today’s blog will be different from anything I’ve written before. Tomorrow I will return to serving the usual hot steaming cup of drivel.

Golfing in the Midst of a Forest Fire

I have spent this day reflecting on what it means to have lived to witness the death of nearly 100,000 people in my country in only 86 days. The first COVID-19 death in the United States occurred on February 29th. Since then the pandemic has been a wildfire burning through the country. When we calculate the numeric average, we find Americans are dying at the rate of 1,162 per day. Let’s put all of this in perspective:

Despite this devastation before your eyes and mine, our President appears to be unconvinced of the severity of the situation, uncommitted to full disclosure, and unwilling to model behavior that shows understanding and builds confidence in his leadership. All in all, Mr. Trump is simply golfing in the midst of a forest fire. For this reason, I’ve decided to make today’s blog an open letter to Donald Trump.

I am a political person but I strive to be fair. I try to vote for the person, not the party, though my leanings are clear to most people who know me well. In trying to keep this blog as apolitical as possible I have weighed this question carefully: Would I be writing this regardless of the person and party of the President? The answer is yes because character and ethics are transcendent. By the way, if the following letter speaks your mind, please feel free to share it with others.

A Letter to President Donald J. Trump

May 25, 2020

Dear Mr. President,

Should you ever see this letter and take time to read it, thank you for considering its message.

Mr. President, our country needs you to be your best self in this moment. I do not know you at all and so I do not know you well enough to know who your best self would be. I want to believe that your very best self is:

  • A person who genuinely cares about others more than you care about yourself.
  • A person who deeply grieves the loss of 100,000 souls and has shed tears, as so many of us have already, for those we love who have died in this pandemic.
  • A person who is self-confident enough to show us the grief he feels.
  • A person who is strong and brave enough to speak the truth about the nature of this pandemic, even if it is not popular with your political base or anyone else.
  • A person who trusts the public health and medical expertise that is availalble to you.
  • A person who is humble enough to admit when misteps have occurred, errors have been made, and failures have cost valuable time and lives.
  • A person who is willing to use his words and actions to for healing in our country.
  • A person who is willing to knit together the partisan political divides that keep us from working together as effectively as we could and as we need right now.
  • A person who understands the power of example.
  • A person who understands that leaders “go first” in setting that example by publicly following the counsel of rigorous science and our country’s finest public health and medical experts without complaint, pushback, or ridicule.
  • A person who shows no favor in who gets equipment, testing, treatment, and vacinations (when they become available) and how quickly they receive them.

All in all, Mr. President, we need you to be each of these things and more. We need you to be the very best idea of what it means to be fully human. I know it isn’t fair to put all of this on the shoulders of one person. However, that is the burden of the presidency in the United States. That mantle is a heavy one. From what I’ve observed in my lifetime, only those who are capable of being their best selves, and who are willing to be so most of the time, are able to carry it well. However, they don’t carry the burden alone. They enlist the support of the country and they do so by calling on us to similarly be our best selves.

We need you to be this best self and so much more at this time, Mr. President, because the majority of people in the United States have very little confidence in your honesty and most do not trust you. I know those are harsh words and I apologize if they offend. May I, however, illustrate them with a brief story?

Each week during the pandemic I have been meeting with a group of people for mutual support via Zoom. Last week we were talking about when a vaccine realistically might be ready. One person commented, “If the President announced it was ready today and that I could get innoculated, I don’t believe I would. I’m not sure I can trust anything he tells me to be true anymore.” Everyone in the group, yes, including me, agreed. None of us are anti-vaxxers but we don’t know that we can trust anything you say right now.

Mr. President, we need to be able to trust you. We want to be able to trust you, even if we didn’t vote for you or plan to vote for you in the Fall. Why? Because our lives may depend upon it.

But our trust has been broken. I know personally how hard it is to restore trust once it has been damaged. It is very difficult to repair and sometimes it can’t be fixed, especially when there has been so much destruction and grief related to it. However, we must always try.

You must try, Mr. President. By trying to repair trust you may actually save many lives. How do you try?

  • Start by speaking truth with humiliy, kindness, and compassion.
  • Call a truce on all political wars and be the first to walk to the middle of “no man’s land” with your arms extended and hands open.
  • Find it within yourself to believe the press and the Democrats have better intentions that you can imagine. Remember, just as you feel hurt by them, they feel hurt by you. Everyone is feeling wounded and sore right now.
  • Give us an example to follow in deed and speech. Wear your mask in every public appearance.
  • Keep physical distance between yourself and others in your public appearances and news conferences.
  • Only promote the treatments and solutions that your public health and medical experts tell you are viable when they are available.
  • In fact, step back and let them speak their truth.
  • Avoid denegrating the press. Though the American press is not perfect, they strive more often than not to be accurate and fair. They are still our best source of information.
  • Avoid all appearances that you or your friends may be benefiting financially during or from the pandemic.

Finally, from one golfer to another, put your clubs away for a while, please. There will be plenty of time to play golf in the future. Right now though, on this Memorial Day weekend, it appears disrespectful and, even more, highly insensitive. It suggests you don’t care at all about the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths we may be reaching today or tomorrow.

Thank you for your time, Mr. President. I wish you success in turning things around because our lives may depend upon it. I don’t know that there is anything I can do for you but I do promise this. If you will release this best self to help us, I will meet you with my best self.

Mr. President, stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask every day, and keep trying to be the best version of yourself that our country needs.

Respectfully,

Tom Klaus

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

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

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

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

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

So, Can You Gather with God Over Zoom?

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

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

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

George Fox, Journal, 1694

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Passing of a Friend

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

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

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


For Dog Lovers…

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

The View from Jeff

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

Jeff explains: I thought of this joke while sleeping and thought it was hilarious… Woke up and realized it‚Äôs just a mediocre pun based on the word ‚Äúadmit.‚ÄĚ But it still made me laugh.

The Adventures of Chickenman

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

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

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

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

Tom

Day 67 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Doing the mambo count up, we get to Mambo No. 8, again with Pérez Prado and his orchestra.

Thursday, May 21, 2020 – Live to Blog with Mambo on My Mind

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

Clemencia and I love to dance. In 2006 we started ballroom dance lessons and learned to love a wide variety of dances. Unfortunately, all of the ballrooms are closed in our area so it will be a while before we are back out on the dance floor. Our favorites are cha cha, rumba, quick step, merengue, samba, and a little bit of salsa – which also encompasses the style known as mambo. Today I’ve got mambo on my mind…specifically Mambo No. 5!


It’s a Mambothon!

Let’s kick it off with the King of the Mambo P√©rez Prado! We’ve got Prado’s version of Mambo No. 5 (don’t worry the Lou Bega version is coming up). I really love the choreography that P√©rez Prado did with his orchestra. Not sure I’m wild about the outfits, but, ah, yes, great choreography and dancing!

Of course, there is the Lou Bega “Mambo No. 5” that was a huge hit in 1999. Bega’s version is a remake of the P√©rez Prado’s instrumental version you just heard. A couple of interesting factoids about Lou Bega. First, he is German (of Sicilian and Ugandan descent) and, second, his stage name is a respelling of his birth name: David Lubega. Bega was 24 years old when he got us all moving with “Mambo No. 5.”

At the risk of inundating you with too much Lou Bega and Mambo No. 5 (that’s really not possible is it?), you need to see this one…Lou Bega with Andr√© Rieu, live in Maastricht, Netherlands. Andr√© Rieu is an amazing musician. You’ve maybe seen him in concert with his Johann Strauss Orchestra. Rieu’s hometown is Maastricht and each year, in early July, he does a free public performance in the main square of the town. In 1999 I got to spend some time in Maastricht as part of a study experience and I fell in love with the city. I’ve often said that if I could live anywhere in Europe, it would be Maastricht. It is ancient city…it has 2,500 year old ruins dating back to Roman occupation. The square, which you’ll see in this performance, is magnificently beautiful. One of things on my bucket list is to be in Maastricht for one of Rieu’s homecoming performances. If you haven’t wanted to dance yet, this one will do it to you!

Doing the mambo count up, we get to Mambo No. 8, again with Pérez Prado and his orchestra. This appears to have been made for a movie. The set, costumes, choreography, and dancing is just a little bit more polished. Enjoy!

Rosemary Clooney, auntie to George, popularized “Mambo Italiano” in 1955. It was a Top 10 hit in the U.S. and France, going all the way to #1 in the U.K. It was hastily written by Bob Merrill in an Italian restaurant in New York – which explains the Latin/Italian fusion, right? He was under a recording deadline so he actually “phoned it in” from a payphone – lyrics, melody, etc. Mitch Miller was the conductor and producer for the song and he managed to put together a winning combination. The song is actually a parody of mambo music and utilizes a number of nonesense lyrics. Still, it is fun, the beat is good, and the tune is catchy.

This last selection was a tough choice. Both Perry Como and Nat King Cole recorded “Papa Love Mambo.” I’m a fan of both. However, I featured a beautiful Perry Como song in an earlier blog so I had the easier choice of going with Nat King Cole. This man makes anything he sings better, doesn’t he? Clemencia tells me that Nat King Cole is beloved in her native Colombia and many other Latin American countries because he was one of the few Americans to produce a Spanish language album. He made the album in 1958 and in 2007 it was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame. Clemencia tells me that his Spanish was not very good but nobody cared. They appreciated his effort and loved hearing his silky voice interpret some of their favorite music. You can hear the full album here. This says alot about simply making an effort doesn’t it?


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 36 – Chickenman undergoes surgery…and the infusion of chicken soup…in an effort to regain visibility, while the whole of Midland City eagerly awaits the outcome.


¬°Charlemos con Clemencia! Is Now Live!

Mi jefe (my boss) Clemencia gave a “thumbs up” to her new website. You can find it at www.charlemos.net. Now that you’ve met Clemencia through my blog, you need to meet her properly. I don’t know if you’ve noticed…but she always betters me in the stories I put in this blog. In fact, she is even better in real life. While I’m a doofus, she is a shining star!

And, of course, if you’d like to study Spanish, she is enrolling students for the Summer Session.

A Sad Reality…

Research out of Columbia University, reported widely this morning, indicates that a single week of inaction on the part Mr. Trump’s administration cost as many as 36,000 lives. This news comes as we are approaching 100,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. This same article reports researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst estimate 113,000 deaths by mid-June.

Throughout the article linked above there are some staggeringly sad numbers, estimates, and models. Despite having this information in hand, Mr. Trump plans a visit to Detroit (indicating he doesn’t intend to wear a mask despite executive orders by the Governor of Michigan, who just happens to be a Democrat); he is pushing Charlotte, North Carolina to move forward with plans to host the Republican National Convention; he is encouraging states to go forward with in-person voting for the primary elections; and he keeps self-medicating with hydroxychoroquine.

You know what is really sad? All of it. Everything. To the “Nth” degree.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and try a little mambo today!

Tom

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

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

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

#alonetogether – just the two of us!

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


A Day in Service

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

Clemencia – Headshot #1

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

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

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

Clemencia – Headshot #2

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

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

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

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

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

Clemencia – Headshot #3

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

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

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

Clemencia Vargas explains how the classes work at Charlemos con Clemencia

In reality…

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

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

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

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

Reid Wilson, The Hill, May 19, 2020

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

Oh, man, just give me some Chickenman!


The Adventures of Chickenman

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


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

Tom

Day 65 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Honestly, I can’t help but feel that our country is sleepwalking into disaster. Do people not really understand that this is not the same kind of pandemic we’ve faced before?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 – Live to Blog NOT from Anywhere But Home

#alonetogether but are we ALL in this together?

For quite a while now the news has been COVID-19 24/7. And this is as it should be. We are in the midst of a worldwide crisis and it is only appropriate. However, in the meantime, there have been other things happening in the world – some related to COVID-19, some not, and some that are just…well…interesting.


In Other News…

I’ll give you the headline and you can click on the link to take a closer look if the story grabs you.

Tractor Day Offers A (Slow) Dose Of The Freedom Every Teenager Longs For
Police hunting for a man who seems to really dislike fuel pumps…
This Guy Found Something Very Unexpected Staring Through His 3rd-Floor Windows
2 Men Rob Convenience Store Wearing Watermelon Rind Disguises: Police
Virginia Tech gives honorary doctorate to service dog
Oregon Police Remind Residents: Don’t Call 911 If You Run Out Of Toilet Paper
‘Trump Death Clock’ counts preventable US coronavirus deaths
Bouncing back: Restaurant debuts ‘bumper tables’ amid COVID-19
90-year-old ‘Gaming Grandma’ dubbed world’s oldest gaming YouTuber

There you have it!


Trying It Again…Instacart

We are still under shelter-in-place orders here in our community. We are running low on groceries but it has taken a while a for that to happen. You may remember that a few weeks ago, in my first experiment of shopping online for home delivery, I accidently submitted our order twice. As a result, we received, only forty-five minutes apart, two Instacart deliveries from our local Aldi store. Clemencia found a way to get all of the perishables into their appropriate places in the refrigerator and freezer and we just went with it. (Okay, I was pretty embarrassed and didn’t want to send the second order back.)

It actually worked well. We have not had to do any grocery shopping for nearly four weeks. Now, though, it is time. Wish me luck!


A Reminder to Reach Out Others At This Time


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episodes 34 – Chickenman (now invisible) reports for duty at the Police Commissioner’s office in Midland City. However, it appears has had too little sleep.


In Reality…

All you have to do is read the abstract of this study published five days ago in the BMJ to know what a fool’s errand Mr. Trump is on. This particular study showed no positive effect of hydroxycloroquine in a treatment group of COVID-19 patients when compared with a control group who did not receive the drug. Even more, published on the same day is this study that concluded, “Adverse events were higher in hydroxychloroquine recipients than in non-recipients.”

Still, Mr. Trump has somehow convinced his doctor to give him a prescription for it and he has been taking it for more than a week. How frightened must Mr. Trump be of this thing he insisted was just like and no serious than the flu only a few weeks ago?

Nonetheless, there is Mr. Trump and then there is the rest of us. Just as something was working, maintaining “social distance” (which, of course, was actually physical distance), Mr. Trump decided it was time to open up the country.

Honestly, I can’t help but feel that our country is sleepwalking into disaster. Do people not really understand that this is not the same kind of pandemic we’ve faced before? In this moment there are 91,570 deaths in the U.S. as a result of COVID-19 and we are headed to 100K and beyond. When that happens, in just a few days, we will have passed the number of deaths attributed to the 1968 flu pandemic. Then we will be closing in on the 116,000 that died as a result of the 1957-58 flu pandemic. What is next after that? The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19. In that pandemic there were approximately 675,000 lives lost in the United States. God help us that the COVID-19 deaths don’t reach that level or beyond.

Indeed, God must help us because help doesn’t seem to be coming from anywhere else. We might be #alonetogether but I’m not convinced we are all in this together.

A breadline during the Great Depression.
  • If we were, everyone would be wearing a mask.
  • If we were, we’d have plenty of tests, ventilators, swabs, masks, gowns, hats, etc. to go around everywhere they were most needed.
  • If we were, major corporations and large nonprofits (which really should know better) would not have scarfed up all of the relief money that was intended for small businesses.
  • If we were, we’d be finding a way to help people do meaningful work and pay them for it after they lost their regular jobs.
  • If we were, we’d not be seeing food and meal lines form to feed so many people out of work.
  • If we were, we’d come up with more bi-partisan, innovative, and truly unprecedented solutions to ensure people were cared for in all ways – mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually – during such an unprecedented situation.
  • If we were, Mr. Trump would stop promoting voodoo solutions and politicians on both sides of the aisle would shut up, sit down, start listening to one another, and work together to provide leadership that would benefit the whole of the country – not just their consituents.

Well, we know this last thing is NOT going to happen. It is an election year. What’s a few tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of deaths that they should – God forbid – get in the way of re-election? So we’re all in this together, eh? I don’t think so.

I don’t know if I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning or what. I know I did wake up at 4:30 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. I do know that today, when I read the real news, it is hard for me to see that all of us are really in this together. Tomorrow I’ll try to get up on the other side of the bed.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep trying to see a bright end to the pandemic of idiocy that is fueling COVID-19.

Tom

Day 64 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

The kiss was so light that most people thought it was an insect that briefly landed on them or may the wings of butterfly passing too closely.

Monday, May 18, 2020 – Live to Blog NOT from a Venutian Spaceship

#alonetogether

Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum, radio legend and Matt Damon doppelganger here. This is another edition of Truth Be Told. The source of COVID-19 is now known, and I’ve got the scoop.

On Thanksgiving Day in 2019, while millions of Americans were eating their turkey and pumpkin pie, a Venutian spacecraft hovered over Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province. While the citizens of Wuhan went about their daily shopping, an invisible landing party of 13 Venutian’s beamed down. They immediately began to infect people with a virus in the city’s wet market by running up and kissing people lightly on the forehead.

The kiss was so light that most people thought it was an insect that briefly landed on them or even the wings of a butterfly passing too closely. It would not be long before people became ill and the scientist’s would begin investigating. By the time the Novel Coronavirus was discovered, many more were ill, some were dying, and the virus began to spread outside of Wuhan.

Truth be told, COVID-19 was planted on earth by the Venutians as the first wave of an interplanetary plot to take over the earth and enslave all human kind. If we are to…

Artist’s rendering of Winthrop being beamed aboard the Venutian ship.
  • Me: WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! Winthrop, what the heck are you doing? I’ve told you before, many times, you are not welcome in this blog unless you are invited.
  • Winthrop: I know and I wouldn’t be here except it is a matter of life and death. I’ve not only discovered the source of COVID-19 but I have the cure as well.
  • Me: No you don’t, Winthrop. You have some idiotic story about invisible Venutians kissing people on the forehead. That almost as far-flung as some of the conspiracy theorys floating around out there.
  • Winthrop: No, it’s different. It is verified.
  • Me: What?!? Wait…wait…How?
  • Winthrop: By me!
  • Me (rolling eyes, shaking head): Of course it is…how did that happen Winthrop?
  • Winthrop: It’s a secret.
  • Me: What do you mean “it’s a secret?”
  • Winthrop: I can’t tell. I promised I wouldn’t.
  • Me: Who made you promise, Winthrop?
  • Winthrop: I’d rather not say.
  • Me (sarcastically): Oh, I get it. I suppose the Venutians made you promise?
  • Winthrop: How’d you know that? Who told you?
  • Me (now wanting to have some fun of my own): Who do think? The Martians! They always outsmart the Venutians, don’t you know that?
  • Winthrop: Who said that?
  • Me: Winthrop, I’m only messing with you. I made that up. I didn’t talk to any Martians because there aren’t any. And you didn’t talk to any Venutians because there aren’t any of them either.
  • Winthrop: Yes, there are.
  • Me: How do you know that?
  • Winthrop: They beamed me up in their ship. They had heard me on the radio and wanted to make sure a reporter had their story.
  • Me: Oh, yeah, that makes ALOT of sense now.
  • Winthrop: Good! I wasn’t sure you’d believe me.
  • Me (exasperated): Of course I don’t believe you, Winthrop! Why should I believe you? Look, buddy, I think the stress of all this is getting to you.
  • Winthrop: No, it’s not. I know what I know. You know what else I know?
  • Me: Oh, I can only imagine! What is it?
  • Winthrop: They told me the cure in case I got infected.
  • Me: Let me guess…I’ve heard this somewhere before…is it you drink Clorox or you inject Lysol? Maybe swallow a flashlight?
  • Winthrop: Those are all ridiculous and some would even kill you! No, it’s “Baby Shark.”
  • Me: What? That obnoxious children’s song?
  • Winthrop: Yeah, it is. You hold hands with one other person and you both sing it together three times. You’re cured!
  • Me: Okay, that’s it, Winthrop! Leave my blog and go take your temperature. Your fever must be really high today.

On Theories Like Winthrop’s

On the Media is a weekly radio program broadcast on many National Public Radio stations and a podcast. The May 15th program is titled Communication Breakdown. There were two segments which really grabbed my attention. One (Mixed Messages in the Heartland) is about the absence of Federal data and directives concerning COVID-19 in the Heartland of the U.S. This is something we have heard personally about from Alonzo and Starlee, our good friends from the Heartland with whom we have Saturday morning Zoom coffee. Both work in professional positions where that information is vital and it has become clear they are not receiving it. It is distressing to say the least. The other (What to Say When a Loved One Shares Pandemic Disinfo) is on conspiracy theories, and other whacky ideas, about COVID-19. Within that segment is advice on how to engage with friends and family who are convinced by them. You can find and listen to Communication Breakdown here on the On The Media website.


Just Sayin’ – Sheltering-In-Place Works

Everyone knows it is a real pain to be confined to your home for such a long period of time. But does it matter? Recent research from the University of Iowa College of Public Health found that stay-at-home orders do seem to be making a difference in the spread of COVID-19. The study compared five counties in Iowa along the Mississippi River with five counties on the other side of the river in Illinois. The five counties in Illinois issued broad shelter-in-place orders back in March while Iowa has not yet issued similar orders. When comparing the two sets of counties, the Iowa counties had 30% greater increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. This research is consistent with research that is beginning to emerge from other studies.


Hmmm…You Either Laugh or You Cry

This three minute video was produced by The Atlantic.


“Unprecedented”

You know comedian Jim Gaffigan. He is almost instantly recognizable. He does a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, usually in the closing minutes. This past Sunday he did a commentary on living in unprecendented times. It is fun, funny, and a bit wistful. Enjoy!


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 33 – The Invisible White Winged Warrior is receiving treatment for his invisibility as the Policy Commissioner is being asked by Washington to summon our Hero to help in a national emergency.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and don’t allow yourself to be kissed by any Venutians.

Tom

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