Dept. of Alternative Facts: Liability

Liability (n): being responsible for something, especially regarding law and finances Continue reading

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Dept. of Alternative Facts: Sleeping While White

to sleep (v) a state of unconscious rest


When I read the local papers court reports, I notice a trend in the pattern of arrests of many suspects: the police/sheriff notice some small infraction (break light is out, 5 MPH over the speed limit, passenger does not have seat belt on, etc.) pull over a vehicle, conduct a search and find some larger crime (felony parolee possessing a hand gun, meth or heroin in the trunk, intoxicated driver, etc.). I’m sure some just turn out to be drivers who need to have a warning to get the tail light fixed. But, the general premise is that a small infraction may lead to a large infraction. Now that is fine when an actual public risk is thwarted. But, I have also heard the phrase “Driving while Black” as a small infraction for which people of color might be pulled over, then situations go awry.

Act I

I have a 60 mile commute. Most of this is on two-lane country roads, which I enjoy immensely. But, after getting up at 5 a.m. commuting in, working a 9 hour day, the drive home can see a bit long. I’ve tried having a cup of coffee… snacks…jamming with some tunes… but, about 45 minutes into the drive, some nights when I am alone, I get to a small town and am ready to doze off.

This rural community has a wide, gravel parking area with a couple of defunct businesses. For years, it has been a good place to pull off, recline my seat, and take a 5 or 10 minute power nap. Then, I am good to go for the rest of the drive home.

I have been a bit worried with the opioid crisis of the past few years, that someone might see me there, call 911, and the sheriff or rescue squad would be about to hit me with Narcan before I woke up. So far, I have been let be. I’m white.

Act II

A young friend tells about going to stadium style concerts. After several bands and several beers, as the concert lets out, he decides to recline his car seat and sleep off his buzz. The parking lot will take over an hour to clear out anyway. Why sit there idling and dozing, when he could get a good nap instead. He has his speech ready, in case he should sleep a bit longer and wake up to an empty parking lot with security checking him out. He just wants to wake up sober and drive home without traffic. As far as I know, he as been left alone. He’s white.


A few theatre seasons back, we are driving home about 11:30 on the same rural road that I described before. I got my power nap while The Mrs drove the first 45 minutes. I up and running fine. I am driving about 50 MPH, 5 MPH below the posted speed limit, because I have seen several deer standing on the side of the road. Other vehicles, less cautious and used to driving 60 MPH have passed me at appropriate passing zones.

Then this guy start tail-gating me. A passing zone comes along. I shift to the right to let him by. He stays there. The double-yellow line returns. I shift to the center of the lane. A couple more passing zones come and go. He will not pass, nor back down.

The blue lights come on. I pull over at a wide shoulder near the Pentecostal church. The sheriff’s deputy comes up to check on me. “Sir, I hate to trouble you, but I noticed that you have been drifting in the lane for several miles… I wanted to be sure that you are safe…Where are you headed…Have you had anything to drink.” All reasonable questions. “Thank you officer… I live about 5 miles up the road… Yes, I had one hard cider before the theatre at about 7 p.m. I finished it before 7:30. It is now 11:30, so I doubt that it should be an issue.” We exchange official information. I ask why he was following me so close. He could not tell whether my license plate had a “5” or an “S”. I explain that when I learned to drive, if someone wanted to pass you, they followed you closely, then when a passing zone come along, you moved to the right to signal that you would let them pass. Reasonable misunderstandings, on both sides. We say goodnight and head on our way. I’m white.

Act IV

An elderly relative, used to advise that if a burglar were climbing through your window, you should A) shoot him in the front, and B) if he fell out the window, go outside, push him back inside, and C) call the police. Then you could claim self-defense because the bullet entry hole was in the front, and he was inside your home. He was white.


Friday night, June 12, 2020, Rayshard pulled over to sleep in a fast food parking lot. The news report stated that he felt intoxicated and wanted to rest before being on the road. Someone called the police to report that he was asleep. He was black. When the police woke him and asked that he pull his car out of the dry-up lane that he was in, he cooperated. He was black. When they determined that he was intoxicated, they did not call for a cab, uber, or relative to take him home. They asked him to get out of the car for a sobriety test. He was black. When they pulled a taser, he grabbed it and ran. He was black. As he ran away, he was shot twice in the black. He was black. He died. He was black.

I sleep in a parking lot because I’m tired from work and want to return home safely. No one calls the police. I’m white. My friend sleeps off a buzz in the stadium parking lot. No one calls the police. He’s white. I get pulled over because of false suspicion of driving intoxicated. We have a peaceful conversation and sort out the misunderstanding. I am never asked to step out of the car for a sobriety test. I’m white. I don’t know that the relative ever actually had a robber try to climb in through is window. I bet he would not have even been questioned if such an event occurred. He was white, and obvious defending his home.

Since George Floyd’s death by asphyxiation under a white police officer’s knee, we have been hearing a lot, and grappling a lot with the concept of systematic racism. Other’s have made the case better than I.

Maybe we need to stop Sleeping While White.

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The Empty Skies of Covid19

In case you are wondering what airports and flights are like these days as we enter into Phase 1 and 2 of Opening the Economy, I made some observations on my flight from National Airport across the river from Washington, D.C. to San Jose, CA.  It is an introvert’s delight.

First, when looking at flight options, I noticed that Soutwest had only a couple of daily flights form each of the three airports that we usually use, National, Dulles, and Baltimore-Washington.  Usually, I like to catch the early flight out of any of these, around 6 a.m.  But, 7 a.m. out of BWI was the earliest option, and the furthest drive for us.  The only other option was the 11 a.m. flight from National.  Dulles did not even have flights that day.

We left West Virginia around 6 a.m. as the drive usually takes about 2 1/2 hours, but theoretically, this is a Tuesday with Rush-Hour into D.C.  We arrived in 2 hours and 25 minutes.  One other car was at the drop off point.  One passenger was at the check in desk.  Four TSA officers and me at security (“Pease remove your mask for a second, sir”).  Seven passengers were at the gates (1 – 9).  Dunkin  Donuts was closed.  No was was browsing the merchandise aisle.  Most of the magazines were sold out and only a few books were lined up.  Good that I have a trilogy of Issac Asimov sci-fi novels to read (The Foundations series from the 1950… Red Scare dystopia, anyone?).

I have no difficulty taking a seat next to the electronic devise recharge station, and appear to frighten away the other passenger sitting on the other side, especially when I whip out my sani-wipes and clean off the seat before I sit down.  It probably has not been sat in since cleaning last night, but a little vigilance gave me an open area, as she wandered off to a seat about 20 feet away.  Just call me, O-Scare! (I also have my Wheeling Nailers hockey team hoodie for similar effect… Watch out, I’ll hip check you for that window seat).

The National to Chicago flight had about 30 passengers and 24 rows. The Chicago to Portland leg of the flight was “full” which meant that every aisle and window seat was filled, but the middle seats were empty (I suggested that the guy sitting in the aisle could put his backpack under the middle seat, as his legs were longer than mine). That Wheeling Nailer hoodie appeared effective as my row was the last filled on the plane. From Portland to San Jose, we had maybe 50 passengers, leaving me the row to my self. I just about finished volume one of he trilogy on that flight.

At Chicago airport, I saw numerous vendors whose stalls were closed with signs directing me to walk from terminal B to terminal A for shops that would be open. This turned out to be one Hudson News shop, a bar, a burger place, and pizza place. Of course the last three were next to each other, so rather than spreading us out, it congregated everyone from terminal B & A into the same 100 feet of terminal hallway. I walked back to the lone newsstand that had prepared sandwiches.

I arrived in bustling San Jose International Airport about 6:45. After stopping at the bathroom, where I had my choice of 3 stalls and 4 urinals, plus room to ballroom dance with mirrors and no audience… I came back to find two other people in the terminal. I had trouble finding the exit doors because there was no flow of departing passengers to mindlessly follow. After a cross country flight, who wants to have to think about how to get out.

My bro had no difficulty finding me or pulling up to the curb to pick me up. There were only two other parties and vehicles in front of the terminal.

Ironically, in the evenings around my family’s neighborhood, after dinner when the temperatures cool off, the Zombie-Stay-At-Home-Workers, with the spouses and children all suddenly emerge and walk around. I have never seen so many people out enjoying a stroll (except in Spain where they have the tradition of the evening passada). Maybe someday, they will feel comfortable greeting each other, and maybe even begin to recognize their neighbors. Let’s open up the economy, but not too quickly that we miss the opportunity to learn what community is about.

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The Window

Who is the that man
in the window,
Who rolls up
in a wheelchair,
Care-giver behind?

We stand outside;
he inside.
The pane between us;
masks concealing
Our smiles,
our whimpers.

But, we wave,
gesture hugs,
Blow kisses
to that man
In the window.

Can he see us,
through his
Reflection from
the inside?

Can he recognize
us at such
A distance,
we wave longer,

A smile, briefly,
then his gaze
Drifts off.
Who are those
people outside,
the window?

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Farm Life: First Cut

Now, I do wish to be clear that while working extra shifts at the hospital, we have had some time off.  With physical distancing, we have been keeping ourselves busy with preparing the garden, and wrapping up some winter projects.  For me that usually included the concept of “wood” somewhere.

There is the wood that I had some local farmers cut in February, which needed to be hauled up to our place and staged for stacking in the wood shed for 2020-21 winter heating season.  And, the 2 holes that turned into 16 holes, for new trees that we ordered (4 cherries, 2 pawpaw, 2 crabapples, 2 dogwoods, 2 hawthorns, 2 redbuds, and… hmmm, I cannot recall the last 2 trees, but I did dig 16 holes). And, there is always some trees to trim up or cut out.

I have gone through about half a dozen chainsaws in the past 30 years.  My last two, both Hasqvarna’s, were my favorite.  But, years of running them, they get gummed up and beyond my mechanical knowledge to fix, so I gave them to the farmers that cut wood for me.  They got them running fine. I was in the market for a new chainsaw.

My days of playing Paul Bunyon and felling 20 inch trees is past.  I have less ambition, more common sense, and maybe more fear of what an 80 foot oak can do when it starts to teeter.

Smaller trees are fine.  So, I wanted more of what I would call a limb-saw, around 16 inch bar.  And, I only want to use it for up to an hour at a time.  Otherwise, my arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms will be haunting me later in the day.

I decided to check out my favorite hobby-farm supply company, Country Home Products, with the DRPower line of tools.  I had seen that a few years ago that they carry lithium-ion battery powered tools.  Now, they have a 62 volt, 2.5 AH (amp hours, I figured out) battery which can be used on a variety of tools (chain saw, pole chain saw, lawn mower, leaf blower, weed eater, hedge trimmer… maybe even my electric toothbrush).  I could buy the chainsaw-battery set for about $300, and add on other tools without having to buy more batteries to run them… hey, I can only use one tool at a time, and the battery takes about one hour to recharge… I take longer than that these days.

So, I took some of my weekend/night shift differential pay for working odd shifts at the hospital and bought the chainsaw-battery set.  It arrived a couple of weeks later.

I charged it up while having a pot of coffee and breakfast.  After feeding the animals, I set out to give it a try on some standing dead trees, which I wanted to cut for late heating season back-up wood.

An hour later, I had cut 16 logs from a 10 inch oak, and more than I recall from a 4 inch oak, and two 4 inch dogwoods.  The four bars of power went to three bars, two bars, one bar, then off.    A few wheel barrows later and a run of the log splitter, I had a nice stack of wood.

The saw had plenty of cut power for these size logs, lasted as long as I was interested in working (this might be different if I were in the lumber or fire wood business, but I am not), ran smoothly, and best of all is about as loud as a pencil sharpener.  The Mrs. wondered where I wandered off to, as she could not hear the saw running, versus the usual two-stroke engine of my former saws going RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR down the road somewhere.  And, no fumes, no gas exhaust headache.  It does use chain oil, but this does not seem nearly as messy as my former experiences with gas powered chain saws (e.g. wood chips glued to my pant legs from chain oils spewed about when the saw runs).

Maybe I’ll get the battery operated pole saw for Christmas, and fruit-tree pruning seasons (yeah! end my rotator cuff strain from using the hand-held pole saw a dozen feet overhead).  I better be nice for the rest of the year.

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92 Days of March

Some years ago, during one of his Lake Wobegon monologues, Garrison Keihler described March as God’s way of letting dry folks know what a hang-over is like.  This year I think we had a bender, stopped cold-turkey, and went into the DT’s (delirium-tremons) withdraw for three months. In case you are wonder where I have been, and why I have not been posting… let’s just say, I’ve been in the hospital… working that is, not admitted… no Covid19 positive test.

While the rest of the country sheltered-in-place, put institutional settings into lock-down, and experienced panic runs on toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and baking supplies, we ramped up our work hours and went into a dizzying schedule as health care is a 24/7/365 business.

As a reminder, we work in an out-patient rehab clinic.  We treat mostly vulnerable clients who are the highest risk for faring poorly with any infections (flu/pneumonia season should keep these folks home for a few months if their issue is not acute).  As the news of Covid19 spread out of regions of China to regions of Europe, in February, we began to talk with our clients about transitioning to home programs for a few months.  By mid-March when the USA leaders acknowledged that Covid19 had dissembarked to our shores, we were discharge them. 

We went from our usual four-day per week out-patient schedule, to three, to two, to one.  We got a lot of our annual continuing education reading done and checked off. We were anticipating extended time in the garden, austerity budgeting, etc.  What we got was reassignment.

Our health care system (18 hospital alliance, numerous skilled nursing facilities and out-patient clinics) has a policy of full-employment/reassignment if your usual job is not available.  With the Payroll Protection Plans funds, they set up alternative jobs for staff.  We were given the option to train as PPE (personal protection equipment) Wingmen (sorry for the military and gender biased language…).

In anticipation of the strict safety and hygiene procedures, the PPE Wingman position was created to train a group of staff, mostly rehab therapist and radiology/imaging service technicians, to assist the nursing, respiratory, and medical staff to go into and come out of the closed rooms in a hyper-sanitized state.

When our new hospital was built about ten years ago, the administration wanted to create a welcoming image to patients and guests.  A policy of no-equipment in the halls was established.  Staff work was moved into behind-the-scenes stations of computers and supplies.  Niches were built into the hallways to store equipment that staff needed regularly (IV poles, scales, lifts, scanning equipment, etc.).  The visual would be more like walking into a moderate level hotel, with a floor to ceiling window at the end of the hall to give you a visual of the Shenandoah Valley and mountains at the end of the hall.

Covid19 required isolating the patients onto units that would take on very different, pragmatic, and maybe over-zealous units.  Three Covid19 dedicated units were set up.  CCU (Critical Care Unit) with 6 beds and potential for doubling beds in room as needed for patients with ventilator assisted breathing.  PCU (Progresssive Care Unit) for those with high-flow oxygen and other breathing assistance other than ventilators.  And, a regular unit for those who did not need oxygen or lower levels with nasal cannula assistance but would be isolated from the rest of the hospital.  Most of the rooms were negative pressure rooms (e.g. flow of air in room is outward to prevent airesolilng particles from flowing into the the hallways and rest of the hospital), which require that doors remain closed except for quick entrances and exits of staff.

Our PPE Wingman world was the hallway.  We never entered rooms.  Those hotel style hallways were now filled with everything that medical staff needed within arms reach:  carts staged with PPE (gowns, gloves, masks, eye-shields, hair nets), IV lines, syringes, lab tubes, O2 lines, glucose test supplies, etc.); trash and recycle bins (for N95 and procedure mask cleaning and re-use) lined the walls; IV poles were stationed outside the room to allow nurses to set up and adjust medications without having to go into the rooms.  And, us.

Then there was the silence… maybe the muffled sound of a patient’s TV… the blurt of unit walky-talky communication as staff requested supplies to be brought to the rooms to reduce their need to come out once set and up and working with clients… and the click of the doors opening and closing.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, I shall be forever conditioned to stop, turn, and look for which door was cracked open as staff requested some supplies.  We called it Covid19 Wack-A-Mole game when three to four rooms had staff in them and we never knew which would click and open.

Thus, on eight-hour shifts, we would station ourselves in the hallway between whichever rooms staff were preparing to go into or were providing treatments, and listen for the doors clicking of the walky-talky squawking.  Then the Easter-Egg Hunt for supplies would start.  Warm blankets, bath wipes, linens, trash can liners, easy-peasy.  Red tubes, Green and Yellow ring tubes, red top IV needles, 10mm versus 20mm syringes, ECG pads, dressings, Coban wrap, periwick’s… first try to figure out what unfamiliar words are, then try to find them in the supply rooms.  Fortunately, we are not authorized to set up medications, so we just found a nurse to figure out what someone just called for.

Depending on the shift, different events plotted the schedule of the day.  

First shift, 7a-3p, started with change of shift for unit staff.  This was a slow time for us.  We used this time to check and restock the PPE carts.  By 8 a.m. breakfast trays arrived.  Staff would then need to get gowned up, go in rooms, take glucose tests, then ask us to bring 2113’s tray.  We would be standing outside the door with the breakfast tray.  Then 2109’s, 2118’s, 2115’s, 2107… etc.  Once trays were passed, we sani-wiped down the meal cart & sent it outside the unity for dietary staff to retrieve.  As meals and self-care time ended around 9:30, and staff were out of the rooms, we did an inventory of PPE supplies for the next 24 hours, and made a trip to “The Store” where we requested supplies to restock “The Cabinet”.  Lunch arrived a little before noon, and we started the process over.  If all was quite after lunch, we would have some quiet time before wrapping up the shift.  Before we left, we checked all the PAPR’s (positive airway pressure respirators, I think…we’ll just call them moon-suit hood breathing devices used by some staff and for code-intabation situations) and sent a report that their batteries were charged and hoods in good order.

Second shift, 3-11p, started with checking the PPE cart supplies.  Dinners arrived around 5 p.m.  About the time that settled down, 7 p.m. change of shift occurred (most of the unit staff work 12 hours shifts, 7-7).  The new staff would then check on patients until about 9 p.m.  A lull in activity, end of shift-checking, emptying trash bins, and checking the PAPRs.

Third shift 11p-7a… The Night shift.  You might be surprised how much goes on over night in a hospital, and how many of the patient are awake at odd hours.  The mid-night run lasts until about 1 a.m.  Then silence and muffled coughing and TV’s.  I caught up on all my OT journals back to 2016, and most of my magazines from the last year to the present.  At 4 a.m. everyone awakes and starts lab-draws.  We stand outside rooms with clean lab bags (zip-lock style bags) to collect tubes of fluid, run them down the hallway, put them into The Tube (pneumatic delivery system) and send them away.  Meanwhile, the yellow alert light come on and The Tube, alerting us to check to in-coming medications, which often the nurse in the room is waiting for and wants delivered pronto so that she can administer it while gowned up.  At 6:30 a.m. as suddenly as it began, all the activity stops.  Change of shift is coming up.  Carts and PAPR’s can be checked.  E-mail reports sent.

Time to check Mr J’s Bagel menu to decide what will be on our minds for breakfast if we are driving home.

Now, you may have noticed the less-than-subtle implication that our reassigned job might be scheduled at times other than M-F 8-6.  I think that the most 11-7 shifts we did in a row was three, leading up to Memorial Day weekend.  And, we found the most efficient sequence was Friday 11-7, Saturday 3-11, with Sunday 7-3.  Eight hours on.  Eight hours off.  Fortunately, we have a friend who lives 10 minutes from the hospital who offered us the guest room.  We tried to get about 4 to 5 hours of sleep between shifts.  Did I mentioned that we are on either side of 60?  Old dogs, new tricks.  We keep our PPE Wingman clothes washed (with vinegar added to the load) and packed in our PPE Wingman suitcases for the next round of work.

Well, now you know where I have been for the 92 Days of March, 2020.

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Farm Life: Time

In the country, we do not measure time by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years as some never-beginning and never-ending line.  No, but by cycles.  Dawn-day-dust-night.  Phases of the moon.  Season.  Planting-weeding-harvesting-preserving. Rut-gestation-birth-survival-growth-death.  With time, and practice, we develop routines which fit the various spheres of these cycles.  And, eventually the wood gets stacked so that the winters can be warm.  And, the water bottles get staged by the porch so that we can sake our thirst mid-day in summer. Continue reading

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Theatre Review: Midsummer 90

Some updates for fans of the American Shakespeare Center.  They have extended the dates for the BlkFrsTV streaming of their 4 shows from the Renaissance Season (Much Ado About Nothing, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and A King and No King).  If you thought that you missed them because you were obsessed with cleaning the winter sweater closet out, you can still tune in.  Better yet, starting tomorrow (4/23/2020), they have educational webinars for all ages.  Sorry, we are working, so we will miss out on those.  But, you are looking for extra credit check out their website. Continue reading

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Theatre Review: A King and No King

P1110183The final show now streaming on BlkFrsTV, from the American Shakespeare Center’s Renaissance Season, is A King and No King.  Not familiar?  Can’t recall which Folio that came from?  Well, it is not a play by Shakespeare.  So, why is the American Shakespeare Center putting it on?  Let’s back up for some history. Continue reading

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Theatre Review(s): Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 on BckFrsTV

The American Shakespeare Center has released the next two plays from their Renaissance Season for BlkFrsTV (streaming videos of the shows that would have otherwise be playing in the BlackFrairs Theatre in Staunton, VA): Henry IV, Part 1 & 2.  We had planned to attend the shows but instead have watched them on-line. Continue reading

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