My Survival Guide to Electioneering

It’s coming…and it will bring relief, at least temporarily. You know what it is: the U.S. general election on November 3, 2020. Until we get there, we have to survive the electioneering. You know what that is like: endless robocalls, a plethora of media advertising, pundits jabbering and nodding their heads like possessed bobbleheads, and a profusion of arguments on social media among people who really used to be friends. It could be argued that the electioneering never ended after the disastrous election of 2016 in which the worst candidate won.

Fair point, really. Maybe it didn’t actually end. Still, there has been a bit of a lull and things are about to ramp up again, especially as the conventions draw near for the two major parties. So, how do we survive the electioneering? Here’s my shortlist of things I’m considering.

Send myself to Canada

Seriously. I could call FedEx for pickup of an overnight delivery, quickly box myself up, and hang out inside the box watching my favorite Canada tutorial, The Red Green Show downloaded to my phone. It ran for 15 seasons so there should be plenty to keep me occupied while I wait to be delivered to one of my very surprised Canadian friends. (Jeff Logan, are you reading this?)

Of course, in the good ole days, before the United States became the Coronavirus Global Leper Colony, I would have just driven to Canada, flown, or taken a train. Nope. Can’t do that so easily now. Besides, the most direct route to Canada is through New York State but Marylanders have now been put on a quarantine list in New York. We show up, we’ve got to be quarantined for 14 days before we can engage with any actual New Yorkers. (But can we use the rest areas?)

That’s it then, eh? (Practicing my Canadian.) The only option is to FedEx myself to Canada. Care to join me? If you need further convincing that Canada is a great place to be, pandemic or not, take a look at the video below.

Follow traditional media delivered only in languages I do not understand

This idea leverages the “advantage” of American arrogance which downplays the value of learning any language other than English, also known as ‘Merican!, and of course “‘Merican!” it is always spelled with an exclamation point.

Finally, there really is an advantage! Because of my linguistic ignorance, I have a wide selection of media outlets featuring news and programs I cannot understand. I have to be careful with the BBC and CBC, though, because I usually can understand them pretty well, if I keep Google Translate handy. I also have to be somewhat careful of Univision or Telemundo because, by linguistic osmosis, I have picked up a little bit of Spanish from Clemencia. She assures me I have only enough to be dangerous which is all the more reason to avoid Spanish language news outlets. I could badly misunderstand something I hear and end up doing something more stupid than usual.

Fortunately, we also have a lot of media here in the DC area that features Asian and Middle Eastern language news and programming. I should have no problem finding media in a language I can’t understand.

Live under my bed until it’s all over

I can’t go anywhere anyway so I think I could make the space under our bed pretty comfortable. With the mattress above me and pillows stuffed around me, sounds would be muffled during the day. Any excess media noise would probably just sound like mumbling.

Living under the bed by day, I would become nocturnal. I could crawl out from under the bed at night to eat, shower, use the bathroom, and even get some work done. The media noise would be a bit less in the middle of the night…especially if I stayed off Twitter before Trump went to sleep…if he sleeps. The downside is that I would fear turning into a cockroach.

Wear a Handmaid’s Tale hat with ear protection

The iconic hat from Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale would work really well to keep my eyes focused on the the things right in front of me. This would make it a bit more difficult to get distracted by the electioneering advertising. The outfit is easy enough to get. All I have to do is go to Target and for $29.99, I’ve got the hat and the dress.

Then, add to that some stylish ear protection, and voila! It’s the perfect Fall look to get me through the worst of the electioneering season.

It could work, you know. I mean, I’ve had great success with the aluminum foil hat I’ve been wearing for years to protect me from Government mind control through radio waves.

Speaking of The Handmaid’s Tale, the new Season 4 trailer is out. Take a look.

Lean into it

Failing all else, I could just lean into the electioneering and do it myself. I could come out in support of a candidate and then vigorously campaign for that person. Of all of the possibilities, this is the one that seems to be most participatory for our democracy. Ethically it also seems the right thing to do as well. As partisan as things have become, it is not without risk.

Stay tuned…I’ll be making my choice by Labor Day, which, in the U.S. during a Presidential election year, is the “official” start of the campaign season. When it comes, I’ll be ready.


the view from jeff

Jeff explains: The Barbecuing Season is limited in Alberta if you don’t learn to grill in inclement weather.

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

July 23, 2020 – Magicicadas and Pingüinos

how do they do that?

Summer is a curious time. It’s not my favorite time because I prefer cool weather over hot weather and, wow, is it hot right now. I’ve been a very fair skinned guy all of my life so when I spend too much time in the sun, I begin looking like the (boiled) Lobster Man from Mars. (The movie is truly awful, so awful it is actually pretty good.)

Cicadas make summer tolerable for me. They are among the ugliest creatures on earth but their songs are extraordinary. I’m probably one of those few odd people who long for the return of the magicicada, also known as periodical cicadas. These are the ones which tend to appear in 13 and 17-year cycles.

Magicicada are grouped into “broods” throughout the United States. Based on their last appearance, it is possible to calculate their next appearance. Here in Maryland we have a 17-year magicicada known as the Great Eastern Brood. They last sang for us 2004…well, not for me, I was still living in Iowa then…but they are coming back on tour in 2021. They will be appearing in 14 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Woo hoo! I can hardly wait!

I try to take daily walks for exercise and to get out of Clemencia’s hair for a bit. My usual treks take me along some wooded areas where the cicadas have recently been testing their songs. It is one of the most comforting sounds I know and it always takes me back home to summer nights in Iowa.

Not sure what a cicada song sounds like? Here’s a video of a cicada doing a solo. In the background you can also hear a fascinated young child who poses one of those questions bound to stump most parents.

The film version of the Broadway show, The Music Man, is one of our favorite movies. It is about Harold Hill, an unscrupulous salesman of musical instruments and marching band uniforms in the early 20th century. He plies his trade in River City, Iowa and, as usual, plans to collect the money and leave town before the instruments and uniforms arrive. In this way he isn’t found out as a phony music teacher and band leader. In one of my favorite scenes, Hill (played by the late Robert Preston, whose acting career did not usually include singing, by the way) teaches four battling school board members how to sing and they become an inseparable barbershop quartet. The video of this scene below is a bit grainy but the audio is good…especially if you turn it up a wee bit.

So, what does Harold Hill, The Music Man, and this barbershop quartet have to do with the cicada video and song? Remember, in the scene, when one of the board members objects that he can’t sing? Hill tells him, “You see, singing is just sustained talking.” Maybe this also helps the parent answer the child’s question in the cicada video. You know, when we hear the child say, “How’s he do that?” Perhaps the right answer is, “You see, the cicada’s song is just sustained flatulence.” Just saying!


speaking of penguins…

If cicadas remind me of summer, penguins remind me of cooler, happier times. Aside from just the fact that they are incredibly cute and always well-dressed, I love them because of what they are called in Spanish. In Spanish the name for “penguin” is “pingüino” (masculine form) and “pingüina” (feminine form). Don’t know why, I just love the sound of the word and it almost always makes me smile when I say it or hear it. Because it is not a common word to use, I have to work really hard to find ways to use it with my Spanish’speaking spouse. For example:

  • Would you like to go the zoo next year…when we can leave the house again…and see some pingüinos?
  • I know we watched it only two nights ago, but how about if we watch March of the Pingüinos again tonight?
  • Hey, Clemencia, did I tell you I got a phone call from a person who claimed to be a pingüino?
  • Can you believe it? I had another dream about playing basketball with an 8-foot pingüino last night!

My pingüino musings do have a point but only barely. Today’s Washington Post has a photo essay by a Dutch photographer, Albert Dros. He traveled to Antarctica and got some beautiful photos of pingüinos and lots of ice, which is perfect for the heatwave we are enduring at the moment. Enjoy!


One more thing…

Here’s a very fun but brief Instagram posting from Scott Hoying, one of founders and leads in the acapella group, Pentatonix. It is a tribute to Dr. Anthony Fauci based on a song from Hamilton. Enjoy!


chickenman – episode 83

Ms. Helfinger makes an emergency call to the Atlantic Ocean to recall Chickenman to help the Commissioner fight a Very Diabolical.


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

July 2, 2020 – Deciders and Doers

Today I had two very interesting conversations with people. The first occurred at the end of a round of golf. The second occurred at the end of the day. Both have put me in a reflective mood.


deciders and doers

Today I was at the golf course at 5:45 AM because it is the best time for an older guy like me with underlying health conditions to play safely. At the first tee I joined up with three other men and we played together. I did not know any of the three as is often the case at the course where I play. It is one of the most interesting and diverse golf venues I’ve ever played. It is racially diverse (nearly equal part Asian, Black, and White players) and professionally diverse (auto mechanics, doctors, Secret Service and CIA agents, etc.).

Of the three men I played with today, two were twin brothers (unfortunately for me they were identical and even dressed similarly in two shade of the same blue color and have similar sounding four letter names – Kyle and Kirk). The third, Paul, lives not far from me, as it turns out. We were not the fastest people on the course so we let people play through several times. However, we were quite likely the safest. We maintained at least a six foot distance and all four of us wore masks.

The two brother had to leave early so the third guy, Paul, and I finished the round the together. Just off the 18th green we chatted for a while about the unique nature of golf.

Paul observed, “The thing I love about golf is that every time you take a shot, you have a series of decisions you need to make – club selection, how to strike the ball, where to strike it, how to aim it, and so on. You can’t play golf without making a lot of decisions.”

Then I said, “That’s right but then the tricky part is that you have to execute the decisions. It would be great if all I had to do is make the decision and then let someone else execute the shot. So here’s an idea…if we play again, how about if I make all the decisions about your shots and you just do the shot and then you make all the decisions on my shots and I just do them?”

We both laughed.

Paul said, “You know, that’s why the pros have caddys. The caddy’s know the skills of the pro better than anyone else and know the course, too. Often they tell the pro how to hit the shot and the pro just executes it.”

That brief conversation has been stuck in my mind all day. At one level it is a fun and funny idea for a golf tournament. (Much better than playing night golf with only a glow-in-the-dark golf ball to guide you, which I’ve done once and will never do again. Too dangerous.) Here’s how it would work: You play as a team and you each make the game decisions for the other. Because you are competing as a team, each is going to make the best decision for their teammate they can. At a minimum, everyone would need to have a great sense of humor about the experiment. Now, I need to try to sell that idea to my golf course management. Hmmmm…

At another level the conversation is useful for understanding how we work with others. One way can be very hierarchical and uses heavy positional power: one person decides, the other person executes without questioning. This is the way things have been for a very long time in many organizations. The boss decides, the workers execute. Of course, if things go wrong it is usually blamed on the workers because they didn’t execute very well. Heaven forbid the decision making might have been poor, right?

Another way to see it is for understanding collaboration. Collaboration has to do with syncing up and working closely with at least one other person and usually several others. It is important for both (or all) collaborators to assume a collaborative posture. Pragmatically, even in collaboration, one person (or small group of people) may take the lead in assessing the situation, providing analysis, and offering solutions. The other person(s), with primary responsibility for “doing,” offers feedback, suggestions, and additional information the “decider” needs. In the end they actually make a decision together and the decisions are executed. In this approach, both share success and both share responsibility and accountablility.

In fact, this is actually how collaboration happens on the golf course between a caddy and their pro golfer. Ironically, the pro is often just the “doer” and the caddy is more in the “decider” role. The pro has extraordinary talents in execution and the caddy has extraordinary talents in assessment, analysis, and decision making. At the heart of the pro/caddy relationship is a phenomenal level of trust and respect. Of course, the pro gets all the accolades and the money. The really wise pro makes sure she or he pays the caddy very, very well.

Remember when we used to travel? Sometime last year when I was traveling for work, I found a film on Netflix that was delightful and very interesting. It is called Loopers: The Caddy’s Long Walk. I need to re-watch it now that this conversation is rolling around in my head. Check it out. I think you might like it too.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I like the caddy and pro golfer example as a pretty powerful illustration of collaboration. What do you think? Maybe I should spend a bit more time on the golf course developing it, eh?


missing hugs

I’ve been meeting each Thursday afternoon with a group of friends via Zoom for the purpose of simply maintaining human connection during the pandemic. Each week we have a “conversation starter” to kick things off, though, actually, we usually don’t really need one. This week the conversation starter had to do with maintaining connection during these times of social distancing. More specifically, we wondered how to respond when someone wanted to shake hands or give a hug? Or, even, if we wanted to give a hug to someone. As has become the norm for this close group, it was an interesting and wide-ranging conversation…and it is always difficult to end at just an hour.

Today I had an “aha” moment in the conversation. Since February I have not seen my son in person more than twice. Both times I dropped something off at his front door, rang his doorbell, then quickly stepped away to sthe idewalk to maintain appropriate distance. He would come outside and we’d talk from about 10 feet apart, still with masks.

The “aha” for me was the realization that both of these conversations ended in a way that they have never, ever ended before. From the time my son was born, I decided I would never let a day pass without telling him that I loved him and giving him a hug. To the best of my memory I never missed a day for as long as we shared a roof. Now that he is grown (soon to be 36), I don’t see him everyday anymore, however, each time I do see him our time together always ends with “I love you” and a hug. When we ended those conversations in front of his hous on those two times, the “I love you” was there but the hug was not. Today I figured out why it felt so strange and what was missing. I have a hole in my arms it puts one in my heart, too.

a holiday break…i think…maybe

Not that I’m obsessive or anything, but I have become a bit so with writing The Daily Drivel. I undertook this as personal therapy back on March 16 to help me manage my stress about the COVID-19 pandemic. After 109 (or is it 110?) consecutive daily blogs, I’m realizing four things:

  1. I really enjoy writing the blog. It has been an amazing exercise to try to create something each day that makes some sense and that people will actually read. The readership has grown, remained steady, and continues to grow, for which I’m really grateful.
  2. It really has helped me manage my own stress during this time. I can put down on virtual paper the things that are on my mind – whether they are rational or not. Then something magical happens: they vanish and, for the most part, are no longer stressful to me.
  3. I enjoy it so much that I don’t want it to become a chore. I don’t ever want to get to the point it it feels to me like I “have to” put out a blog. At that point it is no longer a joy but a chore.
  4. As much as I enjoy it, it is a lot of work. Plus, I also have a full-time consulting practice that takes about 8 to 10 hours each day, usually six or seven days a week and it is only getting busier. I usually take a writing break in the middle of the afternoon or I write at night when my other work is done.

To ensure that I continue to enjoy writing the blog and that it is relieving, not contributing to, my stress, I’m going to try to give myself permission to take an occasional break. “Try” is the operative word in that sentence because truly, I enjoy it.

The Independence Day long holiday weekend is a perfect time for me to experiment with trying to take a break for a few days. Therefore, I may be taking a break from writing The Daily Drivel over the Independence Day long weekend and will plan for the next one to appear on Tuesday. The operative word of this sentence is “may.” I will do my best but if I get inspired or bored or Clemencia needs me to get out of her hair for a while, you may get one on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

See you Tuesday…or maybe before…we’ll see.


chickenman – episode 75

Chickenman attaches himself to the passing airliner and tries to make pitstop on the plane.


This is that day

Today is July 2, 2020 and World UFO Day. Oh, wow, I love this kind of stuff! I grew up under the dark starry skies of the American Midwest. Each summer my friends and I, through 7th or 8th grade, would sleep out under the stars as often as we could to watch for UFOs. It was the era of the Bomb and UFO’s so anything was possible. We stay awake as long as we could hoping to see one. Never happened but we did, one night, cause an explosion so loud that it brought out the local fire department. But that’s a story for another day. Keep watching the skies!


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 28, 2020 – The American Crowbar Case: Huh?

Today is June 28, 2020, which is also International Body Piercing Day and the birthday of Jim Ward. The two are not unrelated. Jim Ward was reportedly the first person to open a body piercing studio in California in 1978. The day was established to celebrate his many contributions to the field of body piercing but it is not clear who established it. My guess would be: Jim Ward.

the american crowbar case: Extreme body piercing

Phineas P. Gage has to have the most remarkable body piercing story on record. Gage was a railroad construction foreman. On September 13, 1848 Gage was supervising workers preparing the roadbed for train tracks near Cavendish, Vermont. The work required the men to set up for the blast by boring a hole in rock, filling it with blasting powder, and then using a tamping iron to pack or “tamp” sand or other inert material above the powder to contain the blast’s energy.

Gage was tamping a blast hole at about 4:30 PM when he was briefly distracted by his workers. As he turned to look over his right shoulder, he opened his mouth to speak. At that very moment the tamping iron hit against the rock, creating a spark that ignited the blast powder. The tamping iron (1.5 inches in diameter; three feet, seven inches in length; and 13.25 lbs) was rocketed out of the blast hole.

The tamping rod went through Gage’s head, entering the left side of his face, out the top of his head, and landed about 80 feet away. Gage was thrown onto his back and after a few convulsions, stood up, walked around, spoke to his crew, and rode in an oxcart about three quarters of a mile back to where he was lodging. About 30 minutes after the accident, a doctor arrived at Gage’s hotel to find him sitting outside.

From that moment forward, Phineas P. Gage was a medical wonder. Not only had he survived having a tamping iron blasted through his head, but the tamping iron also performed a frontal lobotomy.

The Phineas Gage story is one of the most fascinating in medical history. I’ve only shared the beginning of it as a teaser. If you are not familiar with it, I hope you’ll check it out. To get you started, here are two short articles and a brief story from NPR:


Help with Math

Thanks to COVID-19, many schools have been shuttered across around the world. As a result, parents have had to also serve as teachers to their students. Several exasperated parents have expressed total confusion over trying to help their children with math.

Tom Lehrer is here to help! Lehrer, at age 92, is a retired musican, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician. He traveled the world for many years performing musical satire and made several albums. In the 1970’s he decided to leave show business to focus on teaching math and musical theater history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He retired in 2001 but his satirical legacy continues. Parents who have been trying to help their children with their current math studies may appreciate Lehrer’s “New Math” from 1965:


chickenman – episode 71 is here!

Chickenman pays a visit to the Police Commissioner’s office where he immediately begins to try Ms. Helfinger’s patience. But she has a suggestion for how he can spend some of his pent up energy.


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 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 25, 2020 – Halfway to Christmas

Today is actually June 25, 2020 – not yesterday as I erroneously reported. Today really is Log Cabin Day, yesterday was International Fairy (Faery) Day, and Tuesday, June 23rd was National Columnists Day. My bad. I skipped over it in my list of holidays and recognitions…I think maybe the fairies made me do it…must have played a trick on me. Of course, this is all very confusing to you because I write this blog on the day before I post it, using the date that I write it as the header instead of the date you receive it.

Regardless of the date, I want to take a minute for a “shout out” to National Columnists Day. It was created for two purposes. First, to honor Ernie Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Scripps-Howard news syndicate who died during the World War II Battle of Okinawa in 1945. He was best known for his articles about ordinary American soldiers during the war. Second, it recognizes more generally the value of writers and columnists in all forms of media. In an hour when “fake news” tends to win the day, writers and columnists are valuable for putting out truth, exercising the rights in the First Amendment, and preserving it for now and the future:

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

Article I, Contitution of the United States of America.

halfway to christmas

Today, June 25, marks six more months until Christmas. It has always been my family’s tradition to celebrate Christmas, given our Lutheran and Methodist traditions. My two oldest sisters were raised as Lutherans and my youngest sister and I were raised as Methodists. Don’t know whyit just was.

Specifically, we celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve which was our family tradition. Happily, Clemencia’s family tradition is also Navidad (“Christmas Eve” in Spanish), which means we can sleep in on Christmas morning.

My mother would stock pile baking supplies through the summer and then, in October, get really serious about baking for the holiday. She made all sorts of fudge, divinity, and cookies, including Zimmer and Springele, which are two types of traditional German cookies. Zimmer are spiced cookies and the Springele are more commonly known as as “Anise Cakes.” I’ve got both recipes but have only really focused on making Springele. I don’t usually fire up the oven to make them until November and, if I remember this year, I’ll take pictures and post them. They are not only tasty, they are also very artistic.

At Christmas, my brother-in-law Boomer would make the chili. Boomer, you may remember, was my biker/racer/father figure. He made a really excellent chili. I never knew what he put in it – and probably don’t ever want to know – but it was extremely good. None of it was ever left over for Christmas Day.

Boomer worked much of his life in the building trades. He learned cabinet making from a master carpenter in our hometown. Later, he transitioned to building steel infrastructure for buildings and worked for another man in our town who had a very successful steel and concrete business. However, he never gave up carpentry and woodworking.

He built two of the three house he and my sister lived in. In fact, my sister still lives in the second one he built. I remember he also built the kitchen cabinets in our farm house. To save money for my parents he built them out of plywood but they were naturally finished, very beautiful, and extremely strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still in use. In fact, they may be the only thing that is keeping the house standing (and it is still standing, by the way).

When Boomer was “in the zone” while he worked, he would whistle. Most often, he would whistle the song Mountain of Love. The song was written and first recorded by Harold Dorman in 1960. It is a memorable – some would say infectious – rockabilly tune that gets into your head and stays for a little while. It remains one of my favorites. The song has been covered by many artists over the last 60 years, including Bruce Springsteen – 12 times in live concerts!

One of the most successful covers was by Johnny Rivers. His 1964 recording went to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. His is the version I heard most often played and is the one that I think inspired Boomer’s whistling. Non sequitur alert…in 1993, on the eve of the Great Midwestern Flood, as the river was rising only a 100 yards or so away, I got to see Johnny Rivers perform the song live in Des Moines, Iowa. It was the night before the start of the Des Moines Grand Prix which was, of course, flooded out and never returned.

The artist who has had the most success with the song, though, is Charley Pride, a former pro baseball player turned country western singer. Charley Pride is also one of the few Black men to be successful in modern country music. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. In the 1970’s, he and Elvis were the best selling artists for RCA records. His country version of Mountain of Love is the only one that ever hit #1 and that was on the Billboard Hot Country Singles in 1982. Charley has a terrific voice and this is a great country version of the song.


chickenman – episode 69

Chickenman checks in at the Police Commissioner’s office only to be given a very special clean up task by Ms. Helfinger.


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

June 12, 2020 – Who is Antifa?

Today is Friday, June 12, 2020 also known as National Jerky Day. Yes, it is a day to celebrate that chewy, severe-halitosis-creating tasty treat of dried meat. It is a fairly new “holiday,” created in 2012 by the Jack Links Beef Jerky company which is in full celebration mode. Interesting factoid: Jerky is an ancient food that has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. However, it was not until 1996 that it became a space food for astronauts. Finally, the astronauts have something they wash down with all that Tang.


who is antifa? (or, do you really know what your grannies are up to?)

The Washington Post had a fascinating article this week that I’ve been reflecting on for two days now. It is titled Know the Signs: How to Tell if Your Grandparent has Become an Antifa Agent. I’ve been studying the signs very carefully and have finally arrived at this conclusion: I must be an Antifa agent. I thought I qualified simply because I’m anti-fascist but that doesn’t matter much according to list of tell-tale signs.

For a while I thought I was the lone Antifa agent in our house then I saw this:

Gathers with loose-knit, disorderly group of figures you have never met to play “mah-jongg,” governed by mysterious “rule cards” issued annually from a nebulous central authority.

Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post, June 10, 2020

Now I know Clemencia’s secret identity too!


A Haircut!

Today I got my first professional haircut since February 21. That’s it. Just wanted to let you know. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I tried cutting my own hair in late March with a cordless hair clipper and a handheld mirror. What a stupid idea! I won’t say never again, but before I try that stunt again I’m going to have to be more desperate than I was at that time.


Chickenman – episode 56

The Police Commissioner sends the “emergency chicken” to summon the Winged Warrior to help save the world from the big, bad Diabolical.


News from back home

“Back home” for me is Iowa…you know, one of the mostly square states on a map of the U.S. found in the middle of the country and which appears mostly green when you actually fly over it? Somehow I started receiving the digital version of The Burlington Hawk Eye which was the newspaper I grew up reading. For the past several months I’ve been trying to read the paper to keep up with news from there. Plus I’ve always loved the Sunday comics section of the paper.

In today’s Hawk Eye there were two articles which illustrate so well the juxtaposition of ideologies in Iowa today. The first is an article about a move by the majority party (Republicans) in the Iowa Senate to restrict the use of mail-in ballots for the Presidential election in November.

I know. When we talk politics in Iowa you think of the notoriously racist Steve King who, thankfully, lost and won’t be on the ballot for the Republicans next Fall. And, of course, you think about the terribly botched Democratic caucuses last January. However, Iowa also holds primaries. Now, unfortunately, you may have a third befuddling faux pas to add to the list.

In preparation for the June 2nd primary, Secretary of State Paul Pate (Republican) mailed absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters in the state in an effort to keep voters and poll workers safe in the midst of the pandemic. Please note, he did not send them absentee ballots, only the request forms, which they would still have to complete, find a stamp, and mail back. Pate’s good work resulted in a record-setting 80% of all votes cast were by absentee ballot.

“My goal was to protect Iowa voters and poll workers while finding ways to conduct a clean and fair election,” Pate, a Republican, said in a statement sent to the Des Moines Register last week. “… I stand by my decisions.”

Paul Pate, Iowa Secretary of State

For this, Mr. Pate deserves a medal for keeping democracy alive in the midst of a public health crisis. So what did he get for his effort?

The Republican legislature decided to pass a law that now prevents him from sending any absentee ballot for the November election unless voters first request it on their own initiative. But wait…there’s more…the bill prevents county auditors from decreasing the number of polling places by more than 35% which some counties did to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19. And even more…this bill was a 30 page amendment attached to a bill that was only one page in length. Ironically, I could find no evidence in the story that Republicans raised an objection to the most obvious drawback of proactively sending request forms to all voters: the cost of postage. Hey, aren’t they supposed to be the fiscally responsible ones?

Democrats in the Iowa Legislature are now accusing the Republicans of trying to suppress the vote. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

One step forward: getting rid of Steve King. Two steps back: Make it more difficult for people to vote.

On the other hand, there is Kennedy Mitchum, a May 2020 graduate of Drake University (one of my alma maters). When she saw the video of George Floyd’s murder she was compelled to act on a matter that had been bothering her for sometime. As a public relations major, with special studies in law, politics, and society, she had been in numerous debates with other students where Merriam-Webster’s definition of racism had been used to defend negative behaviors.

Believing the dictionary did not have a significantly robust definition of racism, she wrote the editor. Her goal was to encourage Merriam-Webster to expand its current defintion of racism to include systemic elements of racism that oppress minorities.

“I just stated my claim that it’s not just prejudice, it’s prejudice mixed with power,” she said.

Kennedy Mitchum

She very quickly received a response from editor Alex Chambers, triggering several email exchanges. In the end Merriam-Webster agreed that the expansion of the definition was needed. Mr. Chambers indicated to Ms. Mitchum that a revision of the definition for “racism,” based on her feedback, will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Thank you, Kennedy, for two steps forward. You did both Missouri (your home state) and Iowa proud! (To learn more about Kennedy, check out this CNN story.)


PRIVILEGE ILLUSTRATED

A blogger I follow daily is Seth Godin, an entrepreneur, author, and former dot.com executive. In fact, Godin inspired me to try this daily blog thing. His blogs are usually very short and quite pithy, unlike mine which tend to be long and drivelous.

You can sign up to follow his blog by following the link below the quote. And, of course, you can also sign up to follow this blog where it is says Follow Blog Via Email in the upper right hand corner of this page. 🙂 If you sign up for Seth’s blog and mine, we’ll both send you an email to let you know we’ve posted a blog.

Seth Godin’s blog this morning got my attention for how it explains and illustrates the concept of privilege.

I didn’t spend any time yesterday worrying about being eaten by a grizzly bear. Or that I would get cholera from the water in my house.

Over time, we’ve built layers of insulation between ourselves and the world.

Shoes make it easier to walk around. We can put one foot in front of the other without constantly scanning for rocks or rusty nails.

This invisible insulation is a form of civilization.

And when it’s unevenly available, it becomes privilege. Just as invisible sometimes, but to make things better, we need to look at it and realize that it’s there and do something.

If other people have shoes, it doesn’t make your shoes less functional. But if they don’t have shoes, then everything else they contribute (to you, to me, to everyone) is going to be different.

We’ve done a shameful job of offering insulation to far too many people. Access to health care. Clean water. Good schools. Freedom of fear from state violence. And the benefit of the doubt, which is easy to overlook. Because it all adds up, every day, for generations.

It’s almost impossible to make a list of all the things I didn’t have to worry about yesterday. We need to work overtime to make that true for more people.

Seth Godin, June 12, 2020 – Invisible Insulation

The Passing of the Shakespeare Lady

Earlier today we registered nearly 115,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. Many news outlets tell us about the famous people who have died of the disease. Some even try to make us aware of the not-so-famous who were still important to their families and colleagues.

Today I read the obiturary of a woman who died from complications of COVID-19 who was one of those marginalized members of our society. I won’t repeat the story here because I think you will want to read it for yourself. As with most obituaries, it is a quick read: Margaret Holloway, the ‘Shakespeare Lady’ of New Haven, Dies at 68.


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 8, 2020 – Lady & The Baseball Bat

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


let’s start the week with a little dance…

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


…And a smile with chickenman – episode 52

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


Lady & The Baseball Bat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“what do you want to say?”

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

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


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

Tom

Day 77 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

I have learned that I am full of drivel – enough to fill 77 daily blogs. In this period I have written more blogs than I did in the previous seven years. Since March 16th I’ve written nearly 90,000 words for this blog. By comparison, my doctoral dissertation was a mere 65,000 words.

Sunday, May 31, 2020 – Live to Blog with No Regrets and a New Focus

I can’t believe I’ve made it! No, not that we are still sheltering-in-place for 77 days. Frankly, I expected that. My personal epidemiologist (Clemencia) has repeatedly warned me this was going to be bad – really bad – and that we needed to get ourselves prepared mentally and physically for the long haul. What I can’t believe is that I made it through 77 consecutive blogs.


Looking Back…

When I started writing this blog series, I thought it was going to be for 14 days. That’s how long we thought the sheltering-in-place was going to last. I don’t know what the reality of being locked down has to do with quantum theory but it does seem to have messed with my sense of time. On the one hand, it doesn’t actually seem like it has been 77 days. On the other hand, it sometimes feels like it has been an eternity. All in all, the evidence around me, provided by the changing of the season, tells me it has been a significant period of time.

So what have I learned along the way?

I have learned that I am full of drivel – enough to fill 77 daily blogs. In this period I have written more blogs than I did in the previous seven years. Since March 16th I’ve written nearly 90,000 words for this blog. By comparison, my doctoral dissertation was a mere 65,000 words.

I’ve redisovered my love of writing. All of my life I’ve had to write – curriculum, reports, proposals, papers, dissertations, more proposals, more reports, blah-blah-blah, yada yada, ad nauseam. When I wrote my dissertation it felt like I had nothing else left to give. Ever since then writing has been even more onerous. In writing this daily drivel blog I’ve found joy again in the word play, creativity, and silliness that comes with writing what I want.

It’s been a great exercise for my brain. It has pushed me to creative experimentaion, especially when I have seemed to be running low. There were many days when I didn’t think I had anything in me to write. On those days, I’d just start writing, stream of consciousness, to see what came out. Sometimes it was weird as heck, but it made me smile, giggle, and sometimes laugh. So I’d just go with it. I have come to love the challenge of creating something out of nothing every single day.

My writing is more interesting and at its best when I don’t try to write for others. Truly, I started this COVID-19 blog because I needed to do something to manage my own pandemic anxiety. I decided to write for myself – as in a journal – whatever was coming up for me. I was surprised to find people reading the blog and responding to it. Some people tell me it is the first thing they read when they get up in the morning (it is automatically sent each day at 8:00 AM Eastern). Some people come to my website to read it, others just read it in the format in which it appears in email. I’m stunned and humbled to realize how many people are actually reading this drivel blog.

I can sometimes put into words what others think and feel but cannot articulate. I did not fully appreciate until now what an important thing that is. I’m honored to be able to do that. I’m even more honored when my voice has given permission to or empowered others to use their voices.

I’ve learned much more about how to use Word Press, which is where my blog and the Tenacious Change LLC website are housed. I would not say that I’ve been expert at it but I can do most things now without first watching a tutorial or Googling it.

I don’t want to stop. I really don’t. I’m having too much fun. I’ve realized that I could be immensely happy doing nothing but writing a daily blog and then calling it a day. Unfortunately, I can’t do it that way. I still have to work for a living…a lot…but…

Looking Forward…

Still, I’m not going to stop, though it will be a little bit different than it has been. Here’s what to expect.

First, here is a sneak peek at the new name and new masthead you will see at the top of tomorrow’s blog:

Second, I am going to do my best to write a daily blog, even if it is just a few lines. Since I will continue working from home for the foreseeable future, it will be easier to carve out a few minutes to tap out a posting. However, if I miss a day here or there, be sure to check back.

Third, the The Daily Drivel will retain some things I think are important and that I enjoy. For example:

  • The blog will continue to be a retrospective, like a journal. No breaking news here. The news will have already been broken, but I may have opinions about it.
  • Stories of COVID-19, under this or a new title, will now become a section of the blog that I will write as needed.
  • Chickenman will continue. There were approximately 100 original episodes of Chickenman and we are only about halfway through.
  • Winthrop Dykstra-Baum will appear occasionally because I just can’t rid of him. I expect he and I will continue to irritate one another occasionally.
  • Bert Left and Ernie Right…well, they may reconstitute themselves if I decide to do another experiment in non-stop sock wearting.
  • For better or worse, my occasional rants will continue because, more than anything else, this blog is still a means for me to stay sane in the midst of an increasingly insane world. Letting off steam here helps me maintain some perspective.
  • Stories of my life – past and present – will appear because the process of writing tends to remind me of stories and then I just tell them. I really can’t help myself, actually.
  • Cartoons and drawings from my friend Jeff Logan will also continue for as long as he is willing to let me publish them. (Hint, hint, Jeff.)

What will be new in The Daily Drivel will be occasional essays (which, of course, are just calmer rants), a little more integration of my professional life and work, and odd bits of trivia. Trivia has always fascinated me but not the kind of useful trivia you’d want to know for a game like Trivial Pursuit or trivia night at your local pub. I really enjoy totally useless, weird trivia which, when you throw it into a conversation, people look at you funny and say, “Huh?!?” Then they go silent because they really don’t know what to say or maybe they are just wondering if it is safe to be near you.

I would also like The Daily Drivel to be a place where we can have some open, honest dialogue about things that are important but not easy to discuss. I’m not exactly sure how to make this happen, but it is something I am going to work on. I may not always get it right, but I’m going to try. I am open to your suggestions.

In the end, what I want this blog to be is a place to have a dual purpose. I want it to be a place where people can come each day to have some fun to start their day or to end it. And I also want people to learn, to grow, and to feel motivated and encouraged to join me in making this world we share a better place for ALL of us. What greater good can we do together than this?

See you tomorrow!


Chickenman – Episode 44

Chickenman is hot on the trail of the Mayor’s favorite kite – the one with the rocket ship on it. Along the way, Chickenman is mistaken for an elephant.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and please keep meeting me here.

Tom