June 27, 2020 – Connected by Music

Today is Saturday, June 27, 2020. This is also Sunglasses Day. I’m happy to say everyday is sunglasses day for me…kind of. I wear glasses with transition lenses that turn dark when I’m outside in the sunlight. I love but it doesn’t always set well with the papparazzi who follow me everywhere or the fans that swarm me when I’m in public and want a selfie with me. My automatic sunglasses, of course, hide my eyes. Which means I wear my sunglasses at night?


connected by music

Today Clemencia and I had to pick up Madison’s ashes. We had her cremated after she was euthanized about 10 days ago. (Just to be clear, I’m referring to the older of our two Miniature Schnauzers.) Her ashes came back to us in a beautiful wooden urn, with a nameplate, and a place to put a photo of her. To be honest, we aren’t quite sure what do to with her ashes. We’ll have to think about it a bit.

On the ride this morning to pick up her ashes, we were listening to music of the 1970’s on Sirius XM Radio. Two songs came on that made us realize something pretty cool. Though we grew up a language and two continents apart apart, we had some of the same music in common.

The first song was Terry Jack’s “Seasons in the Sun,” released in December 1973. When the song came on this morning smart alec me said, “You know, when I hear this song the only thing that comes to mind are groups of junior high and high schools girls singing along and crying with this song.” Clemencia’s response was, “Well, one of those was probably me.” “Oh…,” I sheepishly replied.

“Seasons in the Sun” was a one-hit wonder for Terry Jacks, a Canadian musician. The song is about a dying man saying farewell to his loved ones. Ironically, the “B” side of “Seasons of the Sun” was Jack’s original composition about burying a deceased pet dog. From a dying person to a dead dog…seems a bit of leap, don’t you think?

Originally, The Beach Boys had recorded the song with Jacks’ producing it. However, The Beach Boys decided not to do anything with it, so Jacks recorded it on his own label and released it independently.

Much to my shock at the time…and still today…it was a huge song. Within a month of its release it broke into the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and by March it rose to #1 and stayed for 3 weeks. It stayed on the Hot 100 chart until Memorial Day 1974. In Canada it did even better. By late January 1974 it went to RPM’s #1 position and stayed there for four weeks. It also held the #1 position on music charts in Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Now, if you do the math, that was a whole bunch wailing and sobbing young people out there! In the end, Billboard ranked it as the #2 song overall for 1974.

Not all of its fame was glorious, however. A couple of polls, including one conducted by CNN in 2006, rated “Seasons in the Sun” as one of the worst pop songs ever recorded. Seriously, and with deep apologies to all my good Canadian friends, I so agree with this poll.

Here is the version I remember. Keep you Kleenex close!

Colombians Ana and Jaime, recorded the song in Spanish. They were are a brother and sister duo from Bogota who were known mostly for ballads and protest songs. This is the version that Clemencia remembers.

The second song that came on which we both knew in our respective parts of the world in the 1970’s was “Rose Garden,” sung by Lynn Anderson. “Rose Garden” also did very well in the charts holding #1 positions in several countries, including the U.S. The song, however, is noted for being one of the very first “crossover” hits – from country to pop. It made Country Music Television’s list of “100 Greatest Songs in Country Music” in 2003. Just last year, 2019, Rolling Stone named it as one of the “20 Songs That Defined the Early Seventies.”

Here is the “Rose Garden” I was listening to in 1970. This version is from the BBC’s “Top of the Pops.” It features a live orchestra and a studio full of British teens doing an interesting variety of dances to the tune.

This is the version of “Jardin de Rosas,” by Colombian singer Maria Antonia, that Clemencia was listening to in Colombia. Enjoy!

Today’s musical exploration was a fun excursion into the past and the meaning of muic in our lives. It also reminded us of the power of music to connect people.


the view from jeff

Jeff Explains: With people moving from their curated studio spaces into face to face meetings I can only imagine that coffee shop power bills will spike due to people bringing their own optimal lighting sources.

chickenman – episode 71

Chikcenman had “issues” today and I could not create a link to him. Sorry about that! He’ll be back soon!


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

Tom

June 24, 2020 – It’s Weird Al Wednesday!

Today is June 24, 2020 and Log Cabin Day, founded by Virginia Handy, and the Bad Axe Historical Society in Michigan. It was first recognized in 1986. Log Cabin Day was created to promote the preservation of log cabins and increase understanding of life during the period in the United States when log cabins were widely in use. Seems like a good day to break out the Lincoln Logs! Interesting factoid: Lincoln Logs were invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.


weird al wednesday!

I confess. I am a Weird Al Yankovic fan. Weird Al’s real name is Alfred Matthew Yankovic, which explains the origin of his moniker. Yes, Weird Al is the guy behind so many of the song parodies we’ve heard or seen on video for over 40 years. I was a bit surprised, and you may be too, to learn that those song parodies have been far better to him than I ever imagined. He has won five Grammys (out of 16 total nominations); had four gold records; and six platinum records.

My first acquaintance with his work was in the mid-1970’s on the Dr. Demento radio show. I was attending school at a tiny college in Western Kansas and Dr. Demento came on every Sunday night. I continued to follow Dr. Demento and Weird Al over the years. Each year now Weird Al appears live at Wolf Trap (well, not this year!) and it is still one of my “bucket list” wishes to go to one of his concerts.

Not that I need another reason to admire Weird Al but here’s one: he was asked to be the guest editor of MAD Magazine in 2015! Now I’m just jealous!

One of the things I learned about Weird Al is that he always asks artists for permission to parody their songs. In an interview in 2015 he revealed the only artist who refused his requests until that time was Prince.

I’m not sure why he came to mind today. Just for totally drivelous fun, I decided to feature some of my favorite Weird Al videos. Enjoy!


“Tacky” is a parody of Pharell William’s “Happy” and is one of my favorites. Weird Al’s singing the lyrics but it also features a number of guest stars lipsyncing the words.

Click here to see Pharrel William’s “Happy”

We don’t always think of Weird Al as a social commentator, right? “First World Problems” is an original Yankovic work that delivers plenty of commentary with humor.

“I Lost on Jeopardy” is one of the first Weird Al videos I ever saw and I loved it. Note that the host of Jeorpardy! in this video is NOT Alex Trebek but his predecessor, Art Fleming. Trebek started hosting Jeopardy! shortly after the Weird Al video was released in December 1983. Unfortunately, I’m not able to embed the video in the blog but if you follow its link, or this one, you should be able to see it.

“Ricky” was Weird Al’s first music video. It was a parody of Tony Basi’s “Mickey.” Again, YouTube is not letting me embed the video here but you can click on the hyperlink, or this one, and it will take you to it on YouTube. In Weird Al’s parody the song is about the “I Love Lucy” show. In it he appears as Desi Arnaz without his moustache, beard, and his hair straightened. He bears a striking resemblance to a young Desi Arnaz.

In the next video, recorded just as the pandemic was beginning in March, Weird Al plays the instrument he knows best – the accordion – in a cover of Classical Gas. Yankovic started playing the accordion on his 7th birthday.

In this last video, Weird Al faces off against Jon Batiste, music director for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It showcases the talent of both amazing artists. Enjoy!

Okay, that’s Weird Al Wednesday. I hope you enjoyed the tour and also developed a greater appreciation of this talented comedian and musician.


chickenman – episode 68

Benton Harbor (Chickenman, the Crime Fighting Capon) seems to have some challenges getting out of bed on the weekend. This could be a barrier to his weekend crimefighting!


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

Tom

Day 76 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Tomorrow will be my last in the series “Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place.” In it I’m going to reflect on this 77 day journey and give you a sneak preview of what happens next. I hope you will join me.

Saturday, May 30, 2020 – Live to Blog…Humbled by Beauty and Love

We had coffee again this morning with Alonzo and Starlee. They were camping in one of the most beautiful spots in the world this weekend and we connected on Zoom via their cell phone. The connection was remarkably good! Many people wouldn’t think the place they are camping is so beautiful. There were no mountains, no waterfalls, no beach nothing at all very exotic. However, there were no signs of human existence in their line of sight or within earshot, the stars glow and dance in an endless night sky, and they are serenaded by a symphony of nature sounds we could hear and enjoy even over Zoom. The Great Plains is a place of extaordinary beauty that too many people simply fly over. It has a kind of beauty that is so humbling. In a thousand ways it points to something so much greater and more significant than us. Thank you, Alonzo and Starlee, for sharing the sights and the sounds of where you are sheltering-in-place this weekend.


A Follow-Up on the Day 74 Blog

On Day 74 of this blog I wrote a posting about my own ongoing journey out of racist conditioning. In that posting I told the story of my friend Kevin and his role in my journey. I don’t believe Kevin knew he actually had a role until he and his spouse, Julie, read the post. He was simply being a friend and colleague to me. Actually, that was probably more powerful than any intervention he could have dreamed up.

My follow up to that blog is to share, with their permission, Kevin and Julie’s responses to it. Each sent me notes via Facebook messenger shortly after reading it. I asked if I might share these with you because I realize the blog leaves people to wonder, “What of Kevin?”

As you will see, Kevin is less expressive than Julie but he is thoughtful and makes his words count. Julie is eloquent and heartfelt in her response. However, what each wrote to me touched me deeply and, frankly, reduced me to tears.

From Kevin:
Nicely said. Being aware is good. Living your life with the works of caring to make a difference is another. You are living your life with the works that prove you are and have made a difference. I still have work to do in this area myself. Blessing to you Tom! And thank you!

From Julie:
Tom, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the article you shared with Kevin this morning. In 28 years with my beautiful black husband there have been so many occasions when I have witnessed racism and white privilege.

I have experienced emotions that range from anger, to frustration, to sadness, to pity for such ignorance. I am about as closely related to the black experience as a person can be. And yet, at the end of the day, Kevin’s skin is still black, and mine is still white. Friends who I love say things like, “I don’t see color,” which, to me says one of two things: The person is blind – or they absolutely DO see color! Otherwise why make the statement? I love you, Tom, for being in the struggle. Recent events shine a bright light on the fact that racism is alive and well and on the rise. I am so grateful for your honesty and your willingness to admit your struggle. It brings me to tears to hear a voice that speaks to the reality of the struggle. We hear these voices so seldom.

A book that has enlightened my mind and encouraged me to stay in the good fight is Tears We Cannot Stop (a sermon to white America) by Michael Eric Dyson. Perhaps you have already read it. If not, I highly recommend it. I have offered to lend my copy to several of my white friends. To date, not a single one has taken the offer. Not one.

Thank you again, Tom. You have given me hope today…I confess that I often feel pretty hopeless in the current environment. I have said more than once in the past 3+ years: I would not be surprised to see a burning cross in our yard. I would be terrified, mortified…but not surprised.

Sending love to you and Clemencia.

Thank you, Kevin and Julie, for being our friends, for being so congruent in your lives, for your humbling love, and for letting me share it here.


A Couple of Nudges

Nudge #1: In just a couple of days I’ll be doing a Tamarack Institute webinar with my friend and colleague, Liz Weaver, who is Co-CEO of Tamarack. The webinar is titled Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership and it will feature a conversation between Liz and me exploring these topics, with an opportunity for you to be a part of the conversation as well. The webinar is happening on Tuesday, June 2 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM Eastern via Zoom and it is FREE! Please act today to register for it. You sign up here. When last I heard, over 400 webinar seats have been filled, but there are still plenty available.

Nudge #2: ¡Charlemos con Clemencia! is now receiving registrations for the Summer Session, June 15-September 4. This is Clemencia’s website and teaching Spanish to adults is her baby. I admit that I’m a bit biased when it comes to how I view her skills. Still, I’ve spent a good portion of my life in front of audiences as a trainer, workshop leader, and public speaker and I know what it takes to do it well. (That is not to say I have always done it well, just that I know good when I see it.) Clemencia is good! She is one of the best I’ve seen in front of an audience. Learning Spanish with Clemencia is an experience.

I hope you will check out the website, watch the other two brief videos in which Clemencia explains how the classes work. We invite you to consider whether you, or someone you know, is ready for an experience in learning Spanish.

The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 43 – The Winged Warrior is called upon to help the Mayor of Midland City retrieve a valuable possession which has been lost…is that stolen?

The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: I’m not sure if the shields are 100% germ proof, but they are at 65% sound proof. As a result I find myself unintentionally talking over them (at 6’3” I am tallish enough to not have stuff designed for my height).

Tomorrow – Day 77

Tomorrow will be my last in the series “Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place.” In it I’m going to reflect on this 77 day journey and give you a sneak preview of what happens next. I hope you will join me.


Stay safe. Be well. Keep calm. Keep washing your hands. Keep wearing your mask. And keep coming back, especially tomorrow to learn what is next.

Tom

Day 54 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

This blog series was started 53 days ago for one purpose…to provide a brief diversion to people who needed to take a small break from all things COVID-19. It seems to have succeeded for several people – well, okay, at least me…and Clemencia…and the Girls, but then, they are dogs and may not count.

Friday, May 8, 2020 – Live to Blog from Weekend Euphoria (Wait! Is it actually the weekend?)

#alonetogether

I feel funny today. No, not sick funny but funny funny. You know…it’s the way you feel like you want to be funny and think you are funny even if nobody else does? For too many people this is usually associated with having one too many drinks of an adult beverage. Me, I’m just drinking generic diet soda and still feeling funny. So, without further delay…let’s get on with “What I Think Is Funny Friday.”


COVID-19 Humor I Think is Funny from BoredPanda.com

A wonderful COVID-19 take on Grant Wood’s classic “American Gothic.” This one is for my friend Beth Howard, a former resident of that famous house and whom you met earlier this week.

What I Think is Funny from The Tonight Show (but with Johnny Carson)

This is a comedy classic. It makes me laugh everytime. Jack Webb was famous for his deadpan delivery on Dragnet. Here, working with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, his deadpan makes this whole sketch work.


What I think is Funny from The View from Jeff

Jeff and I met in the doctoral program at Eastern University. Reading, research, and writing are the three primary activities of any doctoral student – for years. Jeff captured the most frustrating of that triad of tyranny.

What I Always Think Is Funny from Chickenman

Episode 23 – Chickenman attempts to give two scoff laws (his grandparents) a parking ticket. How does that go down?


But, in Reality…a bit of Perspective

This blog series was started 53 days ago for one purpose…to provide a brief diversion to people who needed to take a small break from all things COVID-19. It seems to have succeeded for several people – well, okay, at least me…and Clemencia…and the Girls, but then, they are dogs and may not count. It is not intended, however, to distract us from our current reality. God knows there are a few people who work about 20 miles Southwest of me who would like nothing better than to do that.

Throughout this period we need to maintain perspective. I will not lie and say that it has been easy for me to do this. I tip off the rails too like many other people and sometimes it is a bit challenging to right myself. After all, we are in the midst of the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. Many people are dying. As of this moment that number is 76,368 in the United States. More than 325 of those are from the county in which Clemencia and I live. Over 275 of our neighbors in our small zip code have tested positive for COVID-19. Still, all of us have to find a way to move forward with our own lives.

Keeping perspective is something that helps us do this. One helpful perspective is this: we may be alone at home and we are sharing this experience together with many others who are staying at home too – either by choice out of fear or by mandate. Another perspective that we haven’t considered as much is this: we are not alone in history. I was reminded of this recently by something shared with me by my friend Cynthia. I tried to find a source for it but cannot trace it back to its origins. Each place I have found it also credits the author as being unknown and I will do the same here. Even if you have seen this before, it is worth revisiting. It reminds us that those who have come before us, including some of our parents, have “been there, done that,” survived, and we will too.

Imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war.

Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33.

The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.

On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, should have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.

When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that?

When you were a kid in 1985 and didn’t think your 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. And how mean that kid in your class was. Yet they survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art, refined as time goes on, and enlightening like you wouldn’t believe. Let’s try and keep things in perspective.

Author Unkown

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

Tom

Day 35 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

All of the golf courses in Maryland are closed. Philsophically I’m not opposed. I understand. It is for the greater good. Unfortunately for me…and more unfortunately for my neighbors…it means I have to stay in shape by hitting drives from our 4th floor deck.

Sunday, April 19, 2020 – Live to Blog from No Where Near the Golf Course


If I can just manage a full swing, I’m pretty sure I can clear the houses.

Not really…but sometimes I do fantasize about it. We live about a block from a park…a very quiet park…actually, its a cemetery. Clemencia likes to refer to it as a “park” so it doesn’t creep out anyone. But, hey, let’s call it what it is…a cemetery. Still, I’m thinking, I should be able to launch a good drive from the deck that clears the houses between here and the “park.” One thing is for sure…once it clears the houses it probably won’t hit anyone in the “park.”


Reflections on My First Job: Gravedigger

Speaking of cemeteries, my first paying job was as a gravedigger’s assistant in my hometown. My dad happened to be the town’s gravedigger so, yes, there was a bit of nepotism in the work place. Of the various job’s I’ve had over my lifetime, it is the one that tends to turn heads when I mention it.

Elmwood Cemetery – Where I did some of my best grave digging work.

The tools of the trade were short-handled drain spades and digging shovels. Of course we didn’t use the fancy terms. We just referred to the former as a “spade” and the latter as a “shovel.” The spades were actually used for digging the grave while the shovels were used for removing the loose dirt from the floor of the grave.

Once we measured off the width and length of the grave, we’d start digging. The width and length was not the same for every grave. It varied slightly by the size of the vault that was going to be put into the hole. However, the depth was always the same. We would go down four spade lengths, which would be a little more than five feet or at about six feet, depending on whether the spade had a 16 inch blade or an 18 inch blade.

The grave would be dug in layers. The first could be the most difficult because we’d have to cut through the grass and its roots. We’d use a file to sharpen our spade before going to work on the first layer. A sharp blade made it much easier to cut through the grass root system. Iowa has incredibly rich top soil so you knew the grass root system could be formidable.

A bit more ominous view of Elmwood Cemetery. Not quite sure what that light is, but I don’t think I’d want to find out.

Except in winter when it was more than formidable, it was nearly impossible. Iowa winters can be cold and the ground can freeze very hard and deep. Especially in the winter, it would have made a lot of sense to use a backhoe but, as I remember it, the use of a backhoe in my hometown cemetery was not permitted. When it was really, really cold, we’d borrow kerosene heaters to use at the cemetery. We’d set them up over the outline of the grave. Overnight it would usually soften the ground enough to let us at least get a good start. Then we’d keep the heaters running to keep us warm.

Even in the cold though, once you got one spade down, it was normal digging through the next three. I was always fascinated by that. Sometimes it felt so cold that I couldn’t imagine the ground wouldn’t be frozen all the way to the center of the Earth. However, that wasn’t the case.

The toughest part of the digging was as you neared the end. First, you really couldn’t have two people in the hole digging anymore because they would continuously bump into each other. Then you usually began to run into clay, sometimes by the third spade but mostly by the fourth spade down. Also, you had to throw the dirt much higher to get it out of the hole. It got really, really bad if you hit water which sometimes happened.

So, there you have it! Your daily dose of mostly useless information. I hope that it never becomes useful to you.


And Now a COVID-19 Message from the Von Trapp Family

The Adventures of Chickeman – Episode 4

Chickenman (aka Benton Harbor) flies to Minneapolis but stops in at an airliner to ask for directions.


And now, to start off the week right, Some Good News with John Krasinski

You really want to watch the full 16 minutes of this episode. Especially if you are a “Hamilton” fan like Aubrey. Enjoy!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep clear of Stupid People.

Tom

Day 32 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

What is to be done when everyone in your world decides they need to “help” you see the light? Who knew the people you care so much about could be so dang irritating!

Thursday, April 16, 2020 – Live to Blog from Delirium


The Confrontation

#alonetogether

I was working peacefully in my office early this morning when I heard someone make one of those sounds you know is supposed to get your attention even though they try to make it sound like they aren’t trying to get you attention. It usually sounds like a little cough or a fake clearing of the throat. Writers typically portray it as “Ahem!”

So I turned around and they were standing in doorway to my office: Bert (Left), Ernie (Right), Beto, Enrique, and Matt Damon. Bert, always the mouthy one, started it off:

  • Bert (ever so rudely): Hey, bonehead, we need to talk.
  • Me: What? Who needs to talk?
  • Ernie: We do…all of us!
  • Beto and Enrique (together): Si! Nosotros nececitamos hablar!
  • Matt Damon: Definitely! What they said!
  • Me (puzzled): Why? What’s going on? (Then to Matt Damon) And, what are you doing here, Matt Damon?
  • Matt Damon: I’m not Matt Damon. I’m Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum. I only look like Matt Damon because you think you look like Matt Damon.

Okay, as an aside, Matt Damon did have a point. I sometimes introduce myself as Matt Damon because Matt Damon played a character in The Informant who was a dead ringer for me in the 1980’s, which was also the time period of the movie. See for yourself.

Not wanting to make too much of the similarity, I have carefully clarified to people, when they seem a bit taken back by my introduction as Matt Damon, that I can pass myself off as Matt Damon now because, when he is my current age (almost 66), he will look like me anyway. Seems logical, right?

Is it Tom or Matt? Ha! Gottcha! Was I right?
  • Me: Well, I do look like you, Matt, not right now…but when you are older…but, WAIT, what? You said you’re Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum? Why do you look like Matt Damon?
  • Matt/Winthrop: First, because I’m a handsome investigative news reporter. Second, because this is how you imagine me.
  • Me: Okay, that makes sense. Now, what’s this all about?
  • Ernie: Look, bonehead, we’re all getting fed up with how you are treating us.
  • Bert: Yeah, bonehead, we’re fed up. We don’t like it!
  • Me: What do you mean? What don’t you like?
  • Bert: What about us? Here we are hanging out with you and we don’t have any PPE. You’re an old coot. How do we know you aren’t infecting us?
  • Enrique: Si, bonehead! Lo que da?
  • Matt/Winthrop: What he said! We are essential employees and we deserve the PPE!
  • Me: First of all, you are not employees. You are volunteers.
  • Bert: What! We are not, bonehead! You think we are, but wait till you hear from our lawyers…and our union!
  • Me: You have a union?!? Oh, come on! You do not!
  • Beto: Si! Tenemos!
  • Ernie: Look, bucko bonehead, you are messing with the wrong people here!
  • Me: You know, this is ridiculous and you are ridiculous…well, maybe not Matt Damon…but the rest of you are. I’m going to get Clemencia to get you out of my office. (Calling out.) Clemencia! Clemencia! Clemencia!

Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my left side.

  • Me: Ow! What’s that for? What are you doing?
  • Clemencia: Tom, wake up! Roll over. You’re yelling in your sleep…and snoring.
  • Me: Well, I’m sorry about that but, geez, that hurt. I was just having a nightmare and I needed your help.
  • Clemencia (softly and sympathetically): Mi cielo, lo siento. I’m so sorry. What was your nightmare about?

So I told her everything, except that Bert and Ernie were unwashed socks. I also didn’t mention that Winthrop was a dead ringer for Matt Damon and me (in the 1980s). She listened patiently and quietly to my story. Looking lovingly into my eyes she said, “Que gueva!” and then rolled over and went back to sleep.

The alarm was going to go off in 10 minutes anyway, so I got up. Besides, I didn’t want to have to deal with those gueva and their union reps.


The Adventures of Chickman

We need a hero today and I can’t think of anyone better than Chickenman – who was a radio superhero to me as a teenager. Chickenman had the super powers of distraction. He was born in the midst of the Vietnam War and was featured on stations across the country and in Vietnam on Armed Forces Radio. Chickenman always made me laugh, or at least smile. Today we need more smiles and less stupidity…unless it is intentional stupidity (like Chickenman) and it makes us smile.

Chickenman is Benton Harbor, mild mannered shoe salesman in a downtown Midland City. Please enjoy Episode 1, the 1 minute 33 second origin story of Chickenman and how he got his unique look and name.


Gotta Dance!

Here’s a video of a New Orleans performer I got to see live in the Fall before Katrina took it’s toll on the city. Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots. (Sunpie is the guy on the accordion.) I was attending a conference in the city and my friend (and CDC Project Officer) Kim Nolte was there. She had, if I remember the story correctly, been in college with Sunpie. She learned that his band was playing not far from the conference hotel. She convinced me and few other folks to go with her to see him perform and try some zydeco dancing. It was much fun and I fell in love with Sunpie’s music. It’s hard to keep your feet from moving when you hear this…as the little guy in the yellow shirt learned! Enjoy because sometimes we just gotta dance!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep smiling and dancing…even when you don’t feel like it!

Tom

Day 29 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Oh, nuts! Dog walking confusion and controversy again! Even Bert (Left) and Ernie (Right) didn’t quite get it. But they stuck with me (or maybe that’s to me) and we did our duty.

Monday, April 13, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Thunderstorm Warning

The Monday Morning Dog Walking Controversy

Keeping Social Separation
#alonetogether

We awakened this morning to thunderstorms and tornado watches throughout the day. At 4:00 AM we had a very heavy rain that awakened me. I went to the deck to check on Bert and Ernie and to make sure the wind was not blowing them about too hard (they were fine, by the way). At 6:00 AM, when the alarm went off, it was still raining very steadily. Clemencia looked out the window and started our conversation.

  • Clemencia: Are you going to take the Girls out in the rain or will you wait to see if it stops?
  • Me: I don’t think it is supposed to stop all day so I better just…HEY, wait a minute! It’s your job to take the Girls out! Remember?
  • Clemencia: Yes, but it’s Monday.
  • Me: Yeah, it’s Monday. So?
  • Clemencia: So you take the Girls out on Monday mornings.
  • Me: What? Since when? We just decided you were walking the dogs in the morning so I could get right to work.
  • Clemencia: That’s right, mi cielo. We did. And we decided you’d take the Girls out on Mondays.
  • Me: Oh, sure! Only the Mondays when it is raining and storming, right?
  • Clemencia: No. Every Monday. Including this one.
  • Me: What? Why?
  • Clemencia: Because I start my first online Spanish class on Mondays at 9:00 AM. We talked about it. You agreed to take them out on Monday mornings so I wouldn’t feel so rushed to get prepared.
  • Me: No, that’s not correct, mi amor. I’m so sorry. But remember you were annoyed that I took them out once last week and you insisted it was your job…each day…every day…rain or shine.
  • Clemencia: That’s correct, mi corazon. Except for Mondays. We talked about it and we agreed.
  • Me: I don’t agree and I don’t agree that we talked about it.
  • Clemencia (smiling sweetly): Yes we did. It is right here…in my calendar.

As I stood in the pouring rain waiting for the Girls to do their doodies I began to think about how I could get a look at that calendar. I hate that calendar!


Pardon the Interruption for…

“Truth Be Told” with Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum, public radio’s voice of integrity. This is a new segment in Tom’s blog starring me, Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum. It appears only when needed because Tom is being less than honest. “Truth Be Told” is dedicated to correcting the record whenever Tom feels it is in his best interest to stretch the truth a bit in his stories, especially where Clemencia is involved. Remember, there is always the story as he tells it and the story as it really is. “Truth Be Told” is my eyewitness account of the conversations he has with Clemencia.

In this case, he agreed, last week when they discussed it, to not only take the Girls out for a walk each and every Monday morning but any time it was raining, snowing, blowing, or below 40 degrees fahrenheit because Clemencia is a “tropical girl” who, after nearly 35 years in the Northern Hemisphere, is still not used to cold temperatures.

That’s the truth…and you can count on it because you can count on me, Winthrop Dijkstra Baum. I’m now returning you to Tom’s drivel.


Actual Humor

I’ve been doing this blog series as a diversion for myself and for anyone else who wants to ride along. My recipe is simple.

  • 1/4 Cup Attempted Humor
  • 1/4 Cup Personal Stories (at least inspired by true events)
  • 1/4 Cup Truth (see above)
  • 1/4 Cup Rant (though I try to make them coherent and rational)

All of this adds up to a whole cup of drivel, of course. But that’s the way it is today in the time of COVID-19. It is the drivel that sometimes helps us get through.

Some folks…but not me…have been at home long enough that they are beginning to go a bit off the rails.

This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I felt a bit sorry for her but went back into our house, told our dogs anyway…and we had a good laugh.

About three years ago I saw a sketch on Saturday Night Live that made me laugh until I cried. I know…that is not often the case with SNL sketches, right? It may also be because, as I get older, this one had a certain ring of truth about it and so the only choice was to laugh or cry.


Back to Reality…

Used by Permission – Copyright 2020 Dave Granlund.com and Political Carttons.com

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

Tom

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

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

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

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

To Bidet or Not Bidet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For the Starved Sports Fanatics

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

Game of Bones

The Dog’s Breakfast Grand Final

Back to Reality…

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

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

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

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

We are still in big trouble.


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

Tom

Day 26 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Friday, April 10, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a New Haircut!

Today I gave myself a haircut! A COVID-19 haircut! And they said it couldn’t be done! (Well, Clemencia, the Girls, Bert, Ernie, Beto & Enrique all hinted that it was a fool’s mission.) Nothing stops a subborn fool from Iowa!


Tom Gives Himself a Haircut

Before My DIY Haircut

I couldn’t stand it anymore. It just couldn’t grow wild any longer. It had to come off!

Of course, that is not how I’ve always felt about my hair. When I was a teenager I really wanted to have long hair and dreamed of wearing it in a ponytail. Didn’t happen…mostly because my hair was too thick to actually tie into a ponytail. Also, it may been a little too risky for life in a tiny town in rural Iowa in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Today my hair is not as thick; but the few strands I have wouldn’t look so great in a ponytail now. Plus, it really bugs me now when I can feel my hair start to touch my ears.

When in doubt on how to do something, go to YouTube. I found a couple of good DIY videos there but my favorite was this one.

You don’t have to watch the whole video now. However, if you are sitting there wondering what you are going to do with your hair, you might want to invest the 11 minutes, 38 seconds it takes to watch it. I learned a lot and I basically just followed this guy’s instructions. However, I did not cut mine quite as short as his.

As I was finishing my haircut Clemencia came into the bathroom to watch me snip the last few strands. I asked her what she thought of it. She looked at me for a few seconds, smiled sweetly, and then asked, “You like wearing hats, right? And you have a lot them?” Sigh. Strike one.

A few minutes later, I made a sincere, heartfelt offer. “Mi amor, really, if you’d like to have your hair cut, I’d be happy to do it for you. It’s easier than doing it yourself and I’ll be very careful.” Clemencia started laughing and she laughed till she was crying. Strike two.

I decided not to risk striking out.

So, I’ll ask you – since I won’t hear you laughing anyway. How do you think it came out? Here are three views.


In Reality…We Keep Hitting Sad Milestones

Today we hit another milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic. There have now been over 100,000 deaths worldwide. At the country level, only Italy has more deaths now than the United States…barely. By tomorrow it appears the U.S. will have caught up with Italy and assumed first place. I’m not going to say anymore about this at the moment. The reality of the moment speaks for itself.


A Quaker Meditation

I’ve mentioned that Clemencia and I are members of a Quaker community in Sandy Spring, Maryland. I grew up as a Methodist, became a Baptist, and eventually settled in the Religous Society of Friends (Quakers). Clemencia, as many growing up in South America, grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition. My first affiliation with Quakers was in the Friends Church, which is a part of the Society of Friends that looks more like traditional Protestant Christianity. In the Friends Church there are paid ministers (pastors) and the worship services utilize music, corporate prayers, testimonies, and sermons. Over the years, though, I grew more comfortable in the unprogrammed Quaker tradition. Unprogrammed Quakers have no paid ministers, no liturgy, and no music in our worship service but we do have a whole bunch of silence. Occasionally the silence is broken by someone who feels led by the Spirit to share a (hopefully) brief message. Clemencia and I feel at home among unprogrammed Quakers because of the style of worship and the values of Quaker faith and practice (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship).

Though Quakers don’t go in much for big celebrations of religious holidays, there a tradition which has emerged at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting for Good Friday. Each year there is a meditative experience offered at our Meetinghouse titled “Meditations on the Meaning of the Cross.” This year, of course, it cannot be offered live because of the pandemic. One of our members, however, did a video recording of it. It is based on the Stations of the Cross, or Way of the Cross, but it is infused with Quaker faith, philosophy, and values.

For many whose faith is within the Christian tradition, Easter week is one of the two most important in the year. This weekend it not possible…nor is it even responsible…to meet in worship together. For this reason, I’m including the link to our Meditations on the Meeting of the Cross below. It is not a Hollywood production but it is sincere and authentic 38-minute meditation. Whether you are of the Christian faith, another faith, or no faith, I think you may still find this to be a useful, calming reflective experience in the midst of a troubled time.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, and, please, keep wearing a mask. In this way you protect yourself and others.

Tom

Day 25 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Thursday, April 9, 2020 – Live to Blog from An Imagination Vacation

For those of you wearing masks (which should be everyone), please do NOT remove your mask to scratch your nose. You don’t pull down your pants to scratch your butt, do you?


Who’ll Take the Dogs Out?

Our day began with a little bit of controversy. Our alarm goes off at 6:00 AM and I’m usually the first up. I shower, get dressed, and take the Girls out for their first walk of the day. This is how the daily routine has begun for many years. (Except for the wake up time…before Clemencia retired we were up daily between 5:00 and 5:30 AM. Now we get to sleep in!)

Today, though, something wasn’t quite right. When the Girls and I got back, I gave them their “cookie” (doggy treat) and settled in to work for a few minutes before having breakfast. About 8:00 AM I met up Clemencia in the kitchen. I noticed she was more quiet than usual. This is usually not a good a sign and it wasn’t one today.

  • Me: Good morning, me amor! You seem awfully quiet this morning.
  • Clemencia: Really?
  • Me: Yes. Is everything okay?
  • Clemencia: Well, it’s the Girls.
  • Me: The Girls? They seem fine to me…I mean, they are old, but they enjoyed their walk and they did everything they needed to do.
  • Clemencia: Yes, but that’s not what I mean.
  • Me: Oh? What is it then?
  • Clemencia: Why did you take them out?
  • Me: Why? Because I take them out in the morning. I’ve done for years except when I’m traveling.
  • Clemencia: That’s not what we agreed to.
  • Me: What? When?
  • Clemencia: Yesterday.
  • Me: Yes, but that was for yesterday. Today is today so I’m back on morning walk duty.
  • Clemencia: No, that’s not what we agreed to.
  • Me (royally confused): I really don’t understand.
  • Clemencia: We talked about it long before yesterday. I’m supposed to take the Girls out in the morning.
  • Me: Okay…but you did…yesterday…I can’t see the problem here.
  • Clemencia (pulling out her phone): Here, in my calendar, we talked about it back in March, around my birthday. I’m supposed to take the dogs out so you can go right to work.
  • Me: That’s in your phone? In your calendar?
  • Clemencia: Yes. Everything is in my calendar.
  • Me (a bit worried): EVERYTHING?
  • Clemencia: Yes, everything.
  • Me: But doesn’t your calendar show that was a one-time thing? Just for that one day? I thought THAT is what we were talking about…to help me out that one day.
  • Clemencia: No. My calendar says we changed the routine back on March 26h. I’m supposed to take the Girls out in the morning now. You can come with us, of course, but I’m responsible.
  • Me (realizing I can’t argue with her Google calendar): Lo siento, mi amor. I’m sorry. I had misunderstood. I will no longer take the Girls out in the morning. Instead, I’ll go straight to work. I took them out this morning because it was raining and I didn’t want you to get caught in the thunderstorm that was predicted.
  • Clemencia: Thank you, mi amor…but it is my job.
  • Me: I sincerely apologize for keeping you dry this morning. I understand now that the routine has changed.
  • Clemencia: I appreciate that, mi cielo. Now, I found this other thing in my calendar I want to discuss with you…

That seemed like a good time to turn on the coffee grinder and turn up NPR.


Interview with Forrest Alton by Patrick Jinks

Last week I posted that I had worked with several other consultants to produce a blog and paper title Leading in Crisis. One of those consultants, Patrick Jinks, has a YouTube channel through which he offers brief videos for nonprofit leaders. He is interviewing each of the other consultants who worked on the blog and paper together. This week he is featuring a really terrfic interview with Forrest Alton of 1000 Feathers on the importance of mission alignment even during a sudden disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic. Take a few minutes to watch the video and then share it with a nonprofit leader who might benefit from it at this time. Over the next three weeks Patrick will also be featuring interviews with Cayci Banks of 1000 Feathers, Charles Weathers of the Weathers Group, and me…if I’m not out walking the Girls. Stay tuned!


In Reality…Good Advice on COVID-19 from Twitter

Caitlin Rivers, PhD is a professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. She is an epidemiologist and formerly with the U.S. Army Public Health Command. She specializes in health security. That’s an important point.

Recently she had a series of tweets about what comes next in the COVID-19 pandemic and what to expect. In between the lines there is an important message about why we should not get our hopes up too quickly about returning to normal life soon. They are worth reading and sharing. There are eight tweets in this series and each are short and easy to read.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and keep wearing you mask…but don’t take it off to scratch your nose, please.

Tom