News: A brief and brilliant piece on how crimes are just “youthful mistakes” for white folks

Krista Vernoff tweeted out a list of crimes she personally committed in her youth on Twitter, and how, in EVERY INSTANCE, she was escorted home, chided gently, and given a bottomless series of chances to change her life.

She knows that black people don’t receive these bottomless chances, and asks other white folks to reflect on this, and to change the system. Because: IT NEEDS TO CHANGE.

She wrote the tweets up into a piece for the Washington Post, and I’m sharing because it is worth a read:

Perspective | My list of youthful crimes is long. I survived because I’m white.

When I was 15, I was chased through a shopping mall by police while a store owner shouted, “Stop, thief!” I had thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise on me. I made it to the parking lot and hid between the cars before I was caught, booked, tried, sentenced to six months of probation, and required to see a parole officer weekly.

It is fantastic to read this as a first-person perspective: that may be enough to inspire others who were forgiven for their youthful “mistakes” to act on behalf of others who have not been so fortunate.

History: The Art of Complicating a Conversation Using the Internet

This has probably happened to you: you are trying to look up the date or location of some famous-but-ordinary event, only to find yourself still online, many hours later, learning about the knot-based recording system of ancient people of the Andes. The links of the Internet are catnip for the curious, and this can lead not only to unintended hours of indirect research online, but also some conversational derailments.

Curiosity can cause social problems, trust me on this. My Cousin forgave me immediately, however.

I will now briefly map how a conversation with my Cousin went from (a) focusing on the charm of some family photos relating to an ancestry research project to (b) the Japanese internment in the USA in just five topical steps due to interconnected links in the wonderful site known as Wikipedia.

MAP: My grandfather’s appearance as a light-skinned black man > his nickname Red > other Black people with the nickname Red, such as Malcom X ,who was a dishwasher with shared nickname holder Redd Foxx > Redd Foxx > Red Foxx’s friend (Noriyuki) Pat Morita (yes, Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid), who appeared on Redd’s popular show Sanford and Son with a TERRIBLE joke name > Pat Morita’s internment with his family at Gila River Internment Camp after his release from the hospital where he was recovering from surgeries for spinal TB.

(Yes, I would have continued if I hadn’t then realized I’d sucked all the charm out of the topic of my grandfather’s photo. OOOPS.)

Seriously, though, Pat Morita had a rough childhood. Imagine being paralyzed most of your youth, and when you finally get out of the hospital after years of painful surgeries and recovery, you are sent to join your family… in an internment camp.

Aside: Wikipedia is a great project, and you should consider sending some money to the Wikimedia Foundation (

Humanity: Fun in the Mail with Postcrossing

I have been a lifelong fan of “the mail.” I send and receive heaps of mail, and handwritten letters were my primary way of staying close to friends and relatives who are many hours away by plane. I’ve also have/had fantastic pen friends, with whom I’ve had friendships spanning more than 30 years.

I love sending heartfelt messages, and I love receiving them; the same with friendly notes.

Now that my grandparents (who were VERY dedicated correspondents) are gone, I’ve looked to other friends for the satisfaction of good mail. I have a couple fantastic, active pen pals. I also have some well-intentioned friends who thought they would make good pen friends. Despite their excellent intentions, and the way they wax poetic about the idea of written correspondence, they do not DO it. I’ve spent years encouraging them, but the effort has been one- sided: I write to them regularly, they thank me via text or phone for all the notes, but they don’t write back: it isn’t really important to them.

The solution to this is to only write letters to people who also write letters. Shocking, I know! 😀

My main source of postal joy and positivity in the past few years is Postcrossing. This project run by two fun people in Portugal, is a brilliant database/club. You sign up, get five addresses, and send them postcards. (Postcards are MUCH easier for people to finish than letters!) Once your postcards reach their destinations, the recipients register their arrival; your address is then given to a participant so they can send you a card; plus, you can request another address to send to. This is FAIR: you only get a card when you have successfully sent a card. (Intentions are irrelevant!) Gradually, as more of your cards reach recipients, you are allowed to send more. You control the pace, as you get to choose when to request another address.

Postcards connecting the world – Postcrossing

A postcard exchange project that invites everyone to send and receive postcards from random places in the world. For free!

I joined in early 2017, and have sent and received more than 700 postcards. I now have quite a lovely collection of them, and go out of my way to keep a good supply on a wide range of subjects for sending. It doesn’t take long, and it is FUN! I highly recommend it for mail lovers who want to both send AND receive mail; people who enjoy surprises; people who want to have an excuse to buy more postcards; and people who like to encourage random strangers far away.

P.S. Having a new card collection helped me let go of my last, tiny crumbs of resentment about a friend who unwittingly destroyed my postcard collection from friends in college. It was taped to the wall, and I asked for help to gather them while moving out. Rather than removing the tape (which he had watched me do), he stuck them all together, so each was taped with strong adhesive to the face of the next one. It was unsalvageable (even with steam, even with time), and the images AND notes from friends and loved ones had to get tossed out. So: fresh start!

P.P.S. Those friends I got as pen pals in 1984 from the International Pen Pal organization were GREAT – I met three of them, and am still dear friends with one of them (and saw her again last fall). I believe this link leads to their successor organization:

International Pen Friends (IPF) – Snailmail Penfriends – Penfriends From All Over The World – Penfriend Club

Have you ever considered that the greatest friend you may ever have could be someone you have never met, living in a country you have never visited? International Pen Friends has over 300.000 members in 192 countries and we can provide you with new friends in your own age group from most countries around the world.

P.P.P.S. No, Letter Writers Alliance has ended as a project. I have one great pen pal from them (whom I’ve met!), and would recommend them if they were still active!

News: University/Hospital Healthcare Worker Goodness in the Time of Pandemics

The University of California’s San Francisco hospital and university (UCSF) are sending a team to help out the Navajo Nation. UCSF is a top-ranked hospital, and where I go for care – I’m so proud of them for going to provide their expertise.

UCSF Health Care Workers to Serve in Navajo Nation

A team of UC San Francisco health care workers – seven physicians and 14 nurses – is traveling to Arizona and New Mexico on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, to begin a one month voluntary assignment providing urgently needed health care support for patients in the Navajo Nation, at the request of UCSF’s colleagues in the Navajo Nation.

This trip isn’t a one-off: UCSF has a program offering two-year fellowships to provide medical care in underserved communities. The program is diverse enough that it has alumni who can help in their own communities as well!

Forty-nine health care workers in Navajo Nation are current fellows or alumni of the fellowship. Twenty-five of them are Navajo themselves.  

How cool is that?

So yes, UCSF sent a volunteer team to NYC also, which gives me the warm fuzzies, but THIS fills my eyes with hearts and stars.

News: State Kindness in the time of Pandemics

I haven’t mentioned it before, but my home state has also participated in supporting not only New York, but other states that need ventilators by loaning out 500 to those states that need them.

Early last month, the San Francisco Chronicle’s article, California lending 500 ventilators to distribute to hardest-hit states by Alexei Koseff (April 6, 2020), had some good quotes about states doing right by each other, including a report on Oregon’s loan of 140 ventilators to NYC, and Washington’s return of those it borrowed from the federal government.

The quotes I like are:

“I wish I could solve that for everybody, and to the extent we can, we will,” Newsom said. “This is the state of California. We have an abundant mind-set and we’re a well-resourced state.”

I like the implication that, because we do well, we SHOULD use our position to help others. (The article notes that our early prevention efforts have been successful enough for us to step in for the later-acting states.)


“We’re Americans, first and foremost,” he said. “As a nation-state, we can do certain things, where we can punch above our weight. We carry a big weight. But to the extent that other Americans need our support, our largesse, to the extent that we have the resources, we’re going to be there for as many people as we possibly can.”

This acknowledges our size and strengths – we are a state with a bigger economy than the UK, India, or France the last time I checked (2018 in Business Insider and currently in Wikipedia’s Economy of California article), and this gives us the opportunity to be a force for good.

The world needs more forces for good.

News: Human Kindness in the time of Pandemics

I got the warm-fuzzies from seeing photos and reports on Twitter about all of the ambulances driving cross-country to help out in NYC. It restored some of my faith in humans. I should share that feeling, so here’s a flurry of general human goodness for you, just a sample of the volunteerism directed toward NYC. (I <3 NY!)


Emotional video: Cleveland man records EMT wife, crew members leaving for NYC in long line of ambulances

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – Many Americans are being urged to stay at home during this coronavirus pandemic. But many essential workers can’t – and some are so courageous that they’re volunteering their expertise to help on the front lines.


Scribner paramedics deployed to New York City to battle COVID-19 pandemic

Joe Roberts had never been to New York City prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He never experienced the shoulder-to-shoulder stuffy traffic that filled Times Square or the packed parkways that connected the city’s five bureaus.

He remembers state troopers pulling into the median to take photos on his phone as Robert’s convoy of ambulances crossed into New Jersey. He remembers the cars that would drive alongside the ambulances to honk and wave at the first responders as they entered the city.

“I get choked up just thinking about it,” he said. “People would walk up to the truck and just thank them for coming. To have people come up to you as you’re sitting on the corner and just saying thank you, it’s just so hard to put into words.”

-Joe Roberts, volunteer paramedic / regional manager of an ambulance company


Fredericksburg-area EMTs volunteering in NYC see warm welcome, ‘a lot of sleepless hours’

Matthew Hebert’s shifts as a volunteer EMT in New York City are supposed to be 12 hours, but he hasn’t worked a shift that “short” since he arrived April 1. “The shortest shift has been 16 hours and the longest was 26 hours,” said Hebert, 28, during a brief break before taking more 911 calls.

Two hundred and fifty ambulances and 500 EMTs and paramedics from around the country have traveled to New York, which has been a hot spot for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“People are here from California, Texas, Colorado and honestly every state in the U.S.,” Hebert said.

-Matthew Hebert, volunteer EMT

There are a lot of these… I’m just selecting a few.

It isn’t just ambulances, either: medical volunteers are arriving by convoy and bus. There are lots of hometown stories about one or two people volunteering, but here’s one complete with flags and police/fire escorts about a nurse convoy (one of several) from upstate New York – and yes, they got up on a crane and hung a flag, because they wanted to see them off in STYLE:

Area crews honor Upstate nurses headed to NYC | X101 Always Classic

(update 1:35 pm) Around 8:00 this morning, a caravan of 12 vehicles began a trip carrying 25 nurses from Upstate Medical Center to their eventual destination at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. The special escort began at the hospital and continued along Interstate 81 led by the Upstate Hospital Police and …